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Considering Consent

There’s been a flurry of articles recently blowing about the Evangelical blog-o-sphere about how rape is bad. Apparently, there are some Christians out there who didn’t know this and who were unaware that this has no place in a holy marriage. They have now been duly informed.

What is Consent?

If by saying that spouses ‘must give consent’ our self-appointed internet guardians simply mean that rape in marriage is damnable, then there is no disagreement. If they are arguing that rape victims need the support of their faith communities, there is no disagreement. If there are trying to point out medical conditions can affect things, well, yes. I don’t personally know of any minister of any theological stripe that says otherwise. Granted, if we search the internet we may find a loud redneck preacher somewhere saying rape is ok. But from the way the blogs were written, you’d think these messengers were giving the Christian world a fresh revelation.

One of the reasons that these articles are so tedious to read is that they’re so vague. Most of them never defined ‘consent’. If by consent they mean that the two spouses look at each other and one asks ‘So dear, would you like to have sex now?’ and the other replies, ‘Yes, I give my consent for us to have sex’ then we can assume that these bloggers are still single or in need of marriage counselling.

Christians who have been married for more than five minutes know that initiating lovemaking is rarely formal. Signs that one is in the mood can be given in a number of ways, some direct, some indirect. They may range from a gentle footsie under the table to simply saying, ‘I really want to jump your bones now.’ Both are equally holy.

But what these blogs lack in clarity, they more than make up for in bad theology and misandry.
Theology

It’s hard to count all the times these bloggers write, ‘a woman’s body is her own’. Now in a sheer practical sense, this statement has some truth to it. Our bodies are ours in the sense that they don’t belong to the government or to Mao Tse Tung. But still, the statement is not strictly true.

As Christians, our bodies don’t ultimately belong to us – Christ owns them. We are his slaves. We offer up our bodies a living sacrifice to his service to do as asks. We must go where he calls us to go and do what he calls us to do.

But it doesn’t end there. If we choose to get married – and Scripture tells us we can be happy and unmarried – then we also yield our bodies to our spouses. It is written that ‘A wife does not have authority over her own body, but her husband does. In the same way, a husband doesn’t have authority over his own body, but his wife does.’

What does that mean practically? It means that if my neighbour Mark knocks on my door and asks me for a back rub, I can say ‘no’. My hands do not belong to him. But if my wife asks me for one, I am obliged. My body is not just for pleasing myself anymore, it must serve her even when I don’t feel like it.

Misandry

Feminist theological bloggers usually have little use for the terms ‘husband’ and ‘wife’. The usage of these words implies a distinction and therefore opens up the door to affirming the anathematised gender roles which they have declared jihad against. For that reason, they normally keep with the term ‘spouse’. But if they can further their ideological agenda by making all women seem oppressed and all complementarian men look like sex-trafficking oppressors, they’ll pull the terms back out of retirement. 

Which they do HERE and other places.

In every insistence in these articles, it was always the wife who had to give consent to the rather aggressive, intellectual boorish, and undisciplined husband. None of their examples implied that a wife might want to knock boot with her husband when he wasn’t up for it. 

Biblical Consent

Scripture is amusing for a number of reasons, not least of which is how it deals with the concept of consent. In the Old Testament, sex was seen as a wife’s right. Much is written to say that a husband does not have the right to withhold sex from her. In Exodus 21.10 Moses describes one of the regulations put on polygamy, ‘If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing and her marriage rights.’

According to this, a man has a role before God to keep the kitchen full of food, to make sure she has all the clothes she needs, and to be available for her sexually when she should require. Though polygamy was allowed in ancient Israel, laws like this discouraged the practice. If the obvious financial obligations in regards to the food and clothing weren’t enough to discourage a man from taking four wives, then having to be available to perform anytime for four wives would be. Remember, all this was before the invention of the little blue miracle pill.

Genesis records just such a situation. Jacob had two wives and two semi-wives (long story). One day, when he returns from a hard day’s work, he’s greeted by Leah, one of his wives, saying ‘You’re having sex with me tonight. I traded my son’s mandrakes for you!’ (Gen 30.16).

Really. You can’t make this stuff up.

Having four wives may sound like a seventeen-year-old boy’s wet dream, but the reality was unpleasant. Though Jacob was a righteous man who went to heaven, he got a good taste of hell in having to live with four competing, hormonal, pregnant women who would trade him around. At the end of his life, he would say ‘My days have been evil.’

A Biblical view of consent can teach us men three things:

1.    Sex is to be done in an atmosphere of love and affection. This means that rape is in not compatible with the way God designed sex to work, that sexual activities should be agreed upon and that churches should support victims of abuse - male or female. 
2.   We cannot deny our wives physical affection (whether its back rubs or intercourse) just because we don’t want to. Stop surfing the internet and start satisfying your wife. 
3.   You’re not a barbarian for anticipating the same treatment back. That’s equality – a concept most theological feminist wouldn’t know from Adam.

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