Without Form and Void by Iain Lovejoy

But isn’t Genesis God’s almighty Word of which every dot and comma is the absolute inerrant truth? Yes, but then again we know too that the Earth fixed in place (Psalm 93:1) or on pillars (1 Samuel 2:8) in the midst of the sea (Genesis 1:9), with a great solid arch over it keeping back the waters above (Genesis 1:7) on which the sun, moon and stars are fixed (Genesis 1:17).

I am a Christian; I believe in God and the Bible, but I also accept the overwhelming scientific, geological and genetic evidence that the Earth is several billion years old and that life on it, including us, evolved from the most basic of forms over those billions of years.

Actually no, that’s not quite true: I don’t just “accept” it as an inconvenient fact to be worked round so I can keep right on believing my fairy stories1: I embrace it as a revelation of God’s purpose and a fundamental ground of my faith.

creation

But isn’t Genesis God’s almighty Word of which every dot and comma is the absolute inerrant truth? Yes, but then again we know too that the Earth isn’t a circle (in the sense of being a circular disc – Isaiah 40:22) and fixed in place (Psalm 93:1) on pillars (1 Samuel 2:8) in the midst of the sea (Genesis 1:9), with a great solid arch over it keeping back the waters above (Genesis 1:7) on which the sun, moon and stars are fixed (Genesis 1:17). The authors and compilers of the Bible knew full well that in describing creation they were delving into mysteries they knew little about. Their purpose was not to write a science textbook but to use and adapt the then conventional description of creation to deal with what the Bible is always and ever about: the saving power and plan of God in the world. If you don’t get too hung up on the standard tropes of ancient Near East creation myths, Genesis 1 and 2 are basically the evolutionary story.

Genesis 1 as an evolutionary narrative

In Genesis 1:1-2, we are not told of a world formed whole in its final form, but one which progresses, in which each new stage is formed from and developed out of the last. It starts with a description of the heavens and the earth at the moment of their creation: dark, formless and void. If you read with an understanding of Hebrew grammar, the whole of Genesis 1:1-2 is arguably scene-setting, not narrative, and one may read:

In the beginning when God had created the heavens and the earth, when the earth was empty and waste, when there was darkness on the face of the deep, and God’s Spirit flitted across the surface of the sea, then God said…“ (my translation from the Hebrew text)

And after which the narrative begins.

The author then deliberately has God halt at each stage and admire his handiwork and pronounce it good, and has time pass before he continues: “and evening came and morning came, one2 / a second / a third day etc”. They describe a continuing development of greater order and higher orders of being culminating in the creation of man. Although the author cannot have known the sequence or detail, he has intuitively seen a progression being played out of ever more complex order which we can now begin to grasp in our study of cosmology and evolution.

Genesis 2 as the fall of man

Genesis 23 must be seen as a companion piece to Genesis 1, not a straightforward continuation of the narrative. The authors / compilers of the Bible were not stupid: they must have known perfectly well that Genesis 1:11-12 had already introduced growing plants and 1:20-22 and 24-25 animals before 1:26-28 introduced man, and that Genesis 2 restarts and reverses the sequence, but they did not care. The new story shifts the focus from the whole of creation to man specifically; the details are conventional.

In Genesis 1’s overall narrative arc, the Eden narrative takes place at day 6 when the developing Earth at last produces man as a conscious, thinking being.

Genesis 2-3 is in fact is the story of Israel transformed and universally applied to mankind. The man (Israel) is chosen to be God’s image in the world, is given a beautiful land to dwell in but is exiled from it (as warned) because he has not obeyed God. If this story is to work as an archetype for Israel, Eden must be, like the land of Israel, a special place set aside (and walled off) for the man, and the man must be a creature chosen from out of the rest of God’s creatures for God’s own special purposes.

fall of man 2

The story tells us man is a creature formed from the dust as a creature amongst creatures, but chosen as a race to be God’s image to the world. When he opens his eyes in understanding looking on creation God has built it as a garden for him, until he falls into sin, when he is thrown back into the life and death evolutionary struggle God raised him up to escape from.

The fall of man in Genesis 3 as a figure for creation’s fall

Adam and Eve eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. To truly know and understand both good and evil must be to be able to contemplate both and choose either: to possess conscious free will. The price for this is that life should not be be eternal perfection but a struggle for resources until death (3:18-20) and to continue on in the next generation in one’s offspring, which Eve will now struggle forth (v16) as the mother of all living things (v21).

If Adam and Eve are taken figuratively for not just the first humans but also for infant creation as a whole, then Genesis 2-3 is not just compatible with evolution, it confirms it: it is natural selection, the struggle of life through the generations, that allows free-willed conscious beings to evolve.

(And there is no doubt that, like Jesus’ parable of the vineyard, Genesis 2-3 is a story, figure, a parable: the authors have left a talking snake in it, for heaven’s sake, how much more of a clue do you need?)

The Seventh Day

If we read in the light of the “book of creation”, the natural world and evolutionary theory, in Genesis 1’s overall scheme we are in day 6, and day 7, when God rests from his perfected work, is yet to come. Reading the Bible through the evolutionary lens, I see mankind as God’s image on Earth, ensouled beings capable of knowing and responding to their creator, responding not only on our own account but as representatives and head of the great sea of life from which we emerge. We are the product but also aim of evolution, as Christ is the end product and perfection of mankind. We were made to evolve into an ever-closer connection with God, and to raise up creation with us, striving towards that glorious seventh day when all will be perfected and at peace.

Iain Lovejoy

1 © Someone On The Internet

2 In Hebrew verse 5 says “one day”, not “the first day”

3 Strictly speaking Genesis 2:4 onwards

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Guest Feature: Mansplaining the Bible by Iain Lovejoy

First off, there is no such word as “helpmeet”: “help” and “meet” are two separate words, with “meet” meaning “suitable”: the phrase means “a helper suitable for him”, “help meet for” coming from the King James version of the Bible: if you can’t read 17th century English, leave the KJV alone.

Christians who can’t be having with all this “women’s rights” malarkey are very fond of mining the Bible for “proof texts” about how women should shut up and do what their menfolk tell them. Non-Christians, too, are happy to help and point out how terribly sexist the Bible is, and Christians who don’t think having a Y chromosome brings you closer to God often get accused of ignoring the Bible in order to pursue a personal agenda of their own.

This is aided and abetted by the fact that the Bible is written in Koine Greek, which nobody speaks any more and which is not fully understood and men looking for justification for lording it over women have had centuries to dig out all the helpful out-of-context little snippets they can find to support their case.

It’s also very easy to take passages explaining how to be a Christian in 1st century Rome and creatively misinterpret the bits that explain how to be a 1st century Roman as bits on how to be a Christian.

Now, although you might think as a man I would have a vested interest in preserving a Biblical justification for ordering my wife about, I have no particular desire to do so (and Tracy wouldn’t let me anyway) so I have, as a public service, set out below some of the most common “clobber” passages for misogynists and what, in fact, they say.

(I have no doubt some people may disagree with my interpretations, but I don’t care.)

Women are just “helpmeets” for men?

“God said, It is not good that man should be alone; I will make a help meet for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

Creation of Eve from Adam's rib

First off, there is no such word as “helpmeet”: “help” and “meet” are two separate words, with “meet” meaning “suitable”: the phrase means “a helper suitable for him”, “help meet for” coming from the King James version of the Bible: if you can’t read 17th century English, leave the KJV alone.

Secondly, “help” is a translation of the Hebrew “ezer” which of the 19 times it appears in the Bible not referring to Eve, 17 are referring to God as man’s “helper”, so if you think being man’s “helper” means being man’s obedient little servant, you might try explaining that to God.

Man rules over woman?

“To the woman he said “I will greatly multiply your labour and your pregnancy, in pain you shall bear children, and you shall desire your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16)

See, God says man must rule over women: case closed!

Cobblers.

For one thing, this isn’t a command from God, but part of a warning as to mankind’s future now they are cast out of Eden: God doesn’t say man is obliged to rule over woman, or that it’s actually a good idea.

For another, I’m not at all sure the above is what the Hebrew says, anyway.

The last phrase doesn’t fit: the verse is about Eve bearing children, then her desiring her husband, and then an unconnected bit about Adam “ruling over” her.

In Hebrew the word for “and” is “waw”, but it can also mean “but”, “ when”, “or” or “because” depending on word order and context. The word order suggests that “and you shall desire your husband” might in fact read “when you desire your husband”, and the whole thing may read something like:

To the woman he said “I will greatly multiply your labour and your pregnancy: in pain you shall bear children, when you desire your husband and he has his way with you.”

and have nothing to do with men being the boss of women at all.

Husband as head of his wife?

“The head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3)

Now, obviously, this is a heirachy, with God at the top, then Christ, then men, and with women bringing up the rear: another slam-dunk for the penis-worshippers, right?

Nope.

For one thing, Christ is God and not some kind of servant or subordinate to God, unless you want to re-write all of Christian theology.

For another, the above fairly standard translation is a bit wrong: the middle phrase actually says “the man is head of a woman”, or, more accurately, head of a wife (since in Greek they were the same word). This is directed at men, not women, and reminding men that they are accountable to Christ as their head, and also (if married) have responsibilities as the head of a household (and that even Christ has responsibilities if his own).

Sure, in Paul’s time, the Romans had hubby legally in charge of everything and everyone in his household, and he had responsibilities accordingly, but then the Romans also had gladiatorial games and crucified slaves who rebelled against their masters and child prostitution was legal, and we are not commanded to copy them either.

Keep Your Hat On

“a man is the image and glory of God, but a woman is the glory of a man” (1 Corinthians 11:7)

hat

The problem with trotting this out as a quotable quote for misogyny is that it, and the preceding and following verses, have nothing to say about the relationships between men and women, but in fact purely and exclusively about hats (seriously!).

Paul’s problem in 1 Corinthians 11:4-16 is that women have been worshipping in meetings with their heads bare in the same way as the men were. He sees this as a problem because, to the Romans, wearing a veil or headcovering was the sign of a being a respectable woman, and for a woman to be going around bareheaded in public was seen as something of a scandal. Indeed, a woman who had committed some offence against society (e.g. adultery) would be humiliated by being forced to parade through the streets with her head uncovered or, in extremis, even with her head shaved completely. This was still done in Europe fairly recently: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2009/jun/05/women-victims-d-day-landings-second-world-war

What Paul is trying to do is put a stop to this, while being very careful to say it’s not because women are somehow less in God’s eyes than men.

So what he says is, is that while men are required to pray without their heads covered, as it is a sign they are unashamed before God (verse 4) the same rule doesn’t apply to women because having their heads uncovered would actually signify the exact opposite (verses 5-6).

The rule for women, Paul says, is that they instead should cover their heads (and here we reach v 7, quoted fully): “because, while a man ought not to cover his head being the image and reputation of God, a wife is the reputation of her husband.” (NB “Glory” in this verse is really “reputation” and, as usual, the words for “man” and “husband”, and “woman” and “wife” are the same.)

It’s hopefully clear that Paul isn’t saying that a woman isn’t the “image and reputation of God”, but rather that she doesn’t need to keep her head uncovered because of it. But what’s all this “a woman is the reputation of her husband” stuff?

What Paul is saying is that while a woman doesn’t need to uncover her head out of consideration for God, she should cover it up to avoid embarrassing her husband, whose dependent she is. Not exactly “woke”, but a piece of realism in 1st century Rome.

But what about verse 11: “For this reason a woman ought to have power on her head because of the angels.”?

Again, nope. What this says is: “For this reason a woman ought to wear an exousia on her head because of the angels.” Although exousia means literally “authority”, in this case all the commentators are agreed it is here either a veil or other kind of headdress, and all Paul seems to be saying, as he says all along, is women should, out of respect as being in the presence of God and his angels, keep their hats on in church.

No talking at the back

Women should be silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” – 1 Corinthians 14:34-35

Tittle-Tattle; Or, the several Branches of Gossipping

This has nothing to do with women preaching, and everything to do with conducting orderly meetings, which is what Paul has just been writing about in the immediately preceding passage, and which is what this bit too is actually about.

In the above, almost every word is translated a bit “off” to get the result wanted:

The Greek word for “woman” was the same as that for “wife”, and the fact that Paul goes on to talk about “their husbands” means that is what we have here.

“Be silent” is actually more accurately “be quiet”

The word translated “speak” actually principally means “talk”, and while Paul could be saying women should remain completely mute throughout, not even praying, saying any responses or singing hymns or participating at all, this would be completely contrary to everything we know about Christian practice in the early church (and indeed ever since).

“Be subordinate” is the Greek “hupotassó” which as a technical military term meant to line up in order or place oneself behind a commander, but in civilian use had a number of meanings, none of which were exactly “be subordinate”: the most applicable one here is “keep oneself under control”; and, finally

There is no known law, Jewish or Roman, which forbids women from speaking in churches, but the same word also means any kind of rule generally, and Paul has just set out a rule that meetings should be conducted in orderly fashion without everyone speaking at once.

If the above is taken into account, what Paul is actually saying is:

“Wives should keep quiet in the churches, since they are not permitted to talk, but rather they should keep themselves under control, as this rule indeed requires. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a wife to be talking in church.”

What Paul is objecting to is believers’ (non- or only nominally believing) wives who have been dragged along by their believer husbands not participating at meetings but chatting at the back instead. (Non-believing husbands, of course, got to stay home…)

What do you mean, “submit”?

“Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord” – Ephesians 5:22

wives-submit

First off, the word “submit” doesn’t actually appear in this verse: it just says “Wives, do so to your husbands …”. That what they should do is “submit” is read in from verse 21, which is a bit of a problem, since verse 21 is a general instruction to all Christians which says “submit yourselves to each other in the reverence of Christ”. Now, it’s kind of hard to submit to someone if they then insist on submitting right back at you: it creates a bit if an impasse.

Fortunately, “submit” is completely the wrong word. This is our old friend “hupotassó” again, and one of its civilian uses is to place oneself at the use or disposal of someone else, or place their interests first, and is the only sense that sensibly can be mutual, which is what is required here. A wife’s duty to her husband, then, is part of the general duty of all Christians to serve each other and place each other first: it doesn’t mean a wife is supposed to be at her husband’s command. (After all, if her husband is Christian, he should be placing himself at her service too.)

Don’t get hung up on “as the Lord” either, and try and read it as “as if the Lord”, as if women were supposed to abandon God entirely and served their husbands instead. It means “equally as the Lord”, and all Paul is saying is that women shouldn’t neglect their responsibility for running the household for their husband for the church. Sure, it was a bit unfair that Roman husbands left their wives to do all the housework, but that’s 1st century Rome for you, not the Bible.

Not that sort of head

“For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church” – Ephesians 5:23

This verse runs straight on from the last bit we have been looking at.

There is a further last bit of verse 23 after this which is variously read “his body of which he is the saviour”, “the body of which he is the saviour”, “his body, and of which he is the saviour” and other combinations, but what it actually says is simply “he is the saviour of the body”.

Now this only makes sense if you take into account that sneaky “for” at the beginning of the verse, which everyone ignores: Paul is saying that it is a husband, not Christ, who is the saviour of the body”, or rather that a husband’s being his wife’s sustainer in material / bodily things (which is what the Greek can also mean) makes him her “head” in worldly matters, in the same way that Christ is the church’s spiritual head because he is its saviour in matters spiritual, and so a wife ought to do her duties at home for her husband accordingly (there tended not to be that many married career women with househusbands in 1st Century Rome, as I understand it).

But what kind of head?

“However, in the manner that the church places itself under Christ, so also in the same manner are wives under their husbands in every respect.” – Ephesians 5:24

Having made a concession to 1st century Roman realities, this is where Paul gets radical. The key word in this verse (which of course everyone ignores) is the “however” at the beginning.

Roman law, society and custom made the husband the head of the household in the sense that the wife was basically his slave or subject, existing for his convenience and at his command. In this verse and in the rest of the chapter Paul turns this in its head. Paul says that although custom and law made a husband head of his wife, the way a husband should be head of his wife is in the way that Christ is head of his followers: not as a monarch or lord and master but as a servant who gives himself up in service to them. Between Christ and his disciples, which one of them washed whose feet, do you recall?

Women, know your place!

vintage-ads-that-would-be-banned-today-14

“Let a woman learn quietly with all due submission, but I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man.” – 1 Timothy 2:11-12

First off, this isn’t Paul responding to the alarming news women were in fact being taught with a reminder that if they do so they must still be properly obedient to men as their divinely-ordained superiors, but rather Paul responding to a question about whether women should be allowed to learn at all by saying that they should be if they show the appropriate respect to their teacher (a respect which would be required by the standards of the time of male pupils too). ‘

You can tell this by looking at Paul’s but (will the dirty minded note the spelling!).

Most versions of the Bible pretend the “but” isn’t there, but it’s a very prominent and important “but”, and can’t be ignored. Without the “but” it sounds like Paul is saying women should firstly keep their traps shut when learning, and furthermore shouldn’t teach at all. The “but” means that in fact the first half Paul is instructing that women should be permitted to learn, while setting out the limits of his permission in the second.

But what exactly is Paul prohibiting women from doing?

What it isn’t is “exercising authority”. The Greek actually says something more akin to “take over”: it may even mean “usurp”. What Paul is in fact saying is that while a woman should be permitted to join in and learn with the men, that doesn’t mean she should be allowed to come in and take over the class. (Quite what was going on in Timothy’s congregation that Paul felt he needed to say this, God alone knows: I have visions of gangs of hacked off women excluded from Bible classes turning up en masse and heckling…)

What is clear, however, is that nothing here suggests that once the woman has completed her study, she can’t go on to teach herself. There are plenty of mentions of women in prominent positions in the early church.

Weaker vessels?

“Husbands, likewise, live with your wives out of consideration of them as a weaker vessel” – 1 Peter 3:7

Savior on White 2

This is a fine example of a determination to read the Bible as it is wanted to be read, rather than what it actually says. The verse comes right after Peter exhorts wives to stay with non-believing husbands, and says that “likewise” husband should stay with their wives. That “out of consideration of them” is just two words in Greek, and in fact says “in respect of / with regards to understanding” – Peter is describing nonbelievers as “in respect of knowledge weaker vessels”: it has nothing to do with their being women.

Conclusion

The Bible isn’t a feminist tract, and its central theme may not be the overthrow of the patriarchy, but it makes it quite clear all are equal before God. As Paul himself says “there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28): when we were made in the image of God, God created us male and female, and if you think God’s image isn’t female too, she might want to have a few words.

By Iain Lovejoy

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Worldviews Round-up: 6 October 2017: How Not to Be A Boy, How Tina Got Trumped, Divorce and the Real Head of the Marital Home

The head structure [for marriages] falls down for me because I can’t understand how you can love and value someone and still hold the view that your opinion is inherently more valuable than theirs.

Tina and Trump

A lot of people are being horrible about Tina Campbell and it’s all because of President Trump! The rumblings started when she posted a Facebook message shortly after the inauguration of the President earlier this year. It was an open letter which essentially said, although she hadn’t always agreed with Trump up until then, now that he’s president, she chooses to have faith that God can use him for the good of the United States. A simplistic approach, perhaps an infuriating one both for those who were vehemently opposed to Trump or for those who don’t have faith – we’re stuck with him now, lads, no point moaning, let’s hope for the best!

tina c

What people objected to most was her declaration that she has chosen to “stand with Trump” but I understood this to mean despite his shortcomings and not to be an endorsement of those shortcomings. Yes, from a faith point of view, Christians ultimately rely on God and not on human beings. However, I do think we should try our damnedest to make sure the best and most just human structures are in place – for instance, try a lot harder than voting for Trump and hoping for the best.

In an interview last month with theRoot.com, she confirmed that she did indeed vote for Trump. She didn’t really like Clinton or Trump but she chose the latter because of some of his Christian views. Now that he’s in office (and cocking everything up massively – she didn’t say that!), she still chooses to pray for him rather than bash him.

Like I say, she’s receiving a lot of abuse and criticism on social media. The fairest basis of this abuse would appear to be that it is irresponsible to vote for someone who appears to be both incompetent and objectionable and say “But don’t worry, God will sort it out!”. Other people question her understanding of Christianity if she was convinced by Trump’s apparent faith . Still others think she has more sinister reasons for choosing Trump – which involve supporting some of his more controversial illiberal polices.

I didn’t pay a lot of attention to Trump’s campaign from the start when I dismissed the idea of enough people being stupid enough to vote him in to when it became apparent that he had a fighting chance and it was too distressing for me to watch. It seemed obvious to me that he lacked the experience, competency and something else which some American politicians have labelled ‘statemanship’ to be a president. The latter relates to a certain lack of integrity and tact combined with an unhealthy vanity that made me think people would avoid voting for him to prevent the United States becoming a international joke. However, I obviously didn’t spend too much time researching this point and accepted my lack of understanding as to why he had a big following among the American people.

I wouldn’t have voted for him if I was American and I couldn’t at the time imagine anyone voting for him but it’s also true that I never imagined he would be as bad as he appears to be now. I thought a lot of his ‘eccentricities’ was posturing to make himself stand out from the average politician and that when he was elected, he would do things I didn’t approve of but not in such blundering ways. I also didn’t think he would follow through on some of his more controversial policies.

I can’t understand why Tina Campbell would vote for him but I can understand why she or anyone who voted for him would be surprised that he has carried out certain policies or sometimes behaved as bizarrely as he has. I suppose people also thought that if he was bad, the ‘system’ would protect most citizens. Clearly, he still has his supporters so some people must think he’s doing a good job.

I think the media (including the leftist media and social media) has to bear some of the blame for the success of Donald Trump. The problem is they villify anyone they don’t like with the same level of hysteria – from George Bush, to Mitt Romney and even Hilary Clinton herself when she was up against President Obama. It’s easy to see why Clinton wasn’t popular during the elections– her political career had taken a major bashing at least 3 separate times. First, due to irrational sexism, when it transpired that her husband was serially unfaithful to her and when she stood against Obama and then Bernie Sanders in the democratic primaries. Like the boy who cried wolf, when the press is justifiably outraged about someone, previous concerted attacks will mean that not enough people pay attention . They are now memes comparing Trump to Hitler. I still have hope that Trump won’t get as bad as Hitler but what will happen if an actual Hitler arrives (assuming such a person can sit side by side with a free press), what are they going to compare him or her to then?

As for Tina Campbell, if she did have to admit she voted for Trump (and that’s a big if. I have a few friends who voted for Brexit and their secret is safe with me), her best bet would have been to say ‘Look, I didn’t think he would be this bad. I’m now sorry I did it. I pray God helps out of this mess that we got ourselves into’ instead of tying herself into knots trying to defend her decision. Anyway she voted in California, I think, and Clinton took California so none of this is her fault. Anyway, I don’t care what none of y’all say I still love her (in my Kanye voice).

How Not To Be A Boy and the ‘D’ word

I’ve recently finished reading Rob Webb’s memoir/manifesto ‘How Not to Be A Boy’. It really is excellent and contains genius insights on the negative effects of the gender stereotyping on society. One of my favourite passages, discussing relationship self-help book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, that exploded into our consciousness over 20 years ago, is this:

The slight downside to popular books about relationships is that all of them are wrong. Wrong because they all start from the premise of difference: that men and women are so fundamentally, innately, mentally and culturally different that they might as well be considered as two different species from two different planets. If you start from there, you give yourself permission to accept every stereotype you’ve ever heard about men and women. So books like the one mentioned – ….are there not to question the different expectations placed on men and women: they’re there to excuse and reinforce them, usually with a truckload of hokey metaphors and dodgy-looking science”(page 295)

I knew (even without reading it) that Men are from Mars book was crap! Now I have a well-articulated reason why (and why I’m stubbornly recalcitrant when someone starts a conversation or point with “Well what you have to understand, Tracy, is that men and women are different in that….” I bloody well do not have to understand anything of the sort! )

This article, however, is about something else in the book – how divorce changed Webb’s dad for the better. To summarise, Robert Webb’s father was not an atypical working class man in small town (well village really), 1970s and 80s England. Maybe he drank more or was more promiscuous than some but one gets the feeling that the town was not flooded with “New Man” types as they were termed in the 1980s. He was a working class hero who showed little regard for his home, wife and kids, often terrifying the latter.

Had Webb’s dad stayed married, would he have continued to violently discipline his sons and be completely useless around his home? Would he have turned his wife into a nervous mental wreck and drank himself to an early death? Instead he became this self-sufficient man who not only possessed physical domestic skills; he took on mental and emotional tasks domestic tasks. He could run a home! As feminists have been telling us for…well since that woman did that clever cartoon in the Guardian (just kidding forever!), running a home is so much more than handling one or two jobs around the house a day.

Personally I found the fact that he had put in place house rules when 17-year old Webb moved in a heart warming sign that he was a changed man. Also, later in life, he actually had the emotional intelligence and confidence to have a conversation with Webb about his sexuality.

Some Christian leaders, particularly in Nigeria, often denounce divorce as Satan’s plan for your marriage. Anything should be endured to avoid that colossal failure. This is not even about the adultery loophole – something which some Christians either ignore or view as a last resort (presumably after both of your legs have rotted away with gonorrhoea, otherwise you’re just not trying.).

I’ve heard the same sentiment repeated in the West. Fewer people will say to me that a woman or man should stay in a horrendous marriage or relationship but when they start citing the ills they blame on divorce or single motherhood (not on the underlying reasons for the same) – gang culture, violent or sociopathic youth, the drain on public funds – I can’t help but wonder what they are advocating the woman (or man) does in those circumstances.

It seems to me that marriage (and divorce) are not magic words or formulas. Clearly, the ideal that marriages should last forever can’t refer to marriages where one spouse is beating the other to a pulp, humiliating them with continuous infidelity, passing on STDs or abusing the kids. Clearly God didn’t mean for us to stick around through that.

Funnily enough, when I was younger and people told me repeatedly that marriage was hard, required compromise and sacrifice and I would have to be TOUGH and focused for my marriage to survive, I thought they were talking about the regular stuff. That is, two different people, most likely different personalities, coming together with their life experiences and baggage, struggling through life with its ups and downs – jobs, money or lack of, illnesses, kids, caring for elderly parents, the lot.

I knew how often my close friends pissed me off (and how often I annoyed them – something that I can’t really understand even today if I’m honest). I imagined that if you had to live with the same person for 30 to 50 years, you’re bound to take a deep breath once or three hundred times during that time period. I thought the ‘struggle’ was learning to handle conflict and hard times with love, patience and kindness.

Imagine my shock when I realised that what these fools were hinting at was that as a woman I should be prepared put up with my husband’s deliberate and calculated efforts to hurt me. I think, for me, that may be taking Christian literalism to the limit and beyond. Incidentally, the converse way these people found to irritate me was to tell me (with what my paranoid mind thinks is a hint of a threat in their voices) that, because my husband is not a dick, that I am very lucky indeed that I found a ‘good’ man. I find this additionally annoying because I think my husband is wonderful, BUT NOT BECAUSE HE MANAGES TO RESTRAIN HIMSELF FROM CHEATING ON AND BEATING ME. And not even because he shares the domestic load in the home that he lives in. This is no less than what is expected of me. But I’m lucky because Men are from Mars.

Marriage (in Nigeria): Head, shoulders, knees and toes

The issue of submission in marriage has come up again, this time in response to a singer stating that, while it’s acceptable for women to pursue success in their careers,  they need to realise that the man is the head of the home. The usual derision, via Twitter, has ensued. There is also a lot of support for her point of view with people asserting that no organisation or institution can function without a ruling head or quoting ‘God’s word’ (or Biblical text twisted and misinterpreted by patriarchal society – article loading on that one).

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Feminists have expressed dismay questioning what makes a man qualified by default to be the head of the family and stating that a lot of men aren’t fit to head anything, much less a home. Of course, I’ve been in people’s mentions like a social disease and of course said people have been ignoring me like said social disease. Hmmph!

I have so many questions starting with why does anyone have to be the head? What decision is so important in a marriage that it requires someone to surrender their status as an equal adult human being and not just as a one-off – the idea is to maintain the woman’s inferior status at all times to be ready for that critical decision which will be the making and breaking of the marriage and which has to be made by the head of the home? In fact, what decision or indeed any process of marriage is made better or more efficient by this blatant inequality?

I’m not sure why marriage is being compared to a business model, but it should be obvious to anyone that the head/neck business structure is not the only structure in the world. In fact now that I think of it, I’ve heard of partnerships, companies and directors, employer and employer but I haven’t heard of the head and neck structure. I suppose it’s comparable to senior manager and junior manager if I’m to avoid being obtuse about it.

People keep saying ‘you can’t have two captains in one ship’ but no one explains why. There is no reason for or logic to the head/neck structure and the only consequence seems to be gross unfairness, equality and the reduction of the woman’s humanity. It provides an excuse for the man’s rage when a woman – who is also an adult and has comparable qualifications and life experience as him and in fact often times does the practical job of running the home – dares to defy him. It creates a situation where a man is waited on head and foot because of arbitrary biological reasons; it allows us human beings to indulge our dark side that derives pleasure from treating fellow human beings as if they are less than us. It also allows women to irrationally blame men for circumstances beyond both their control because as the ‘head of the family’ they are somehow magically supposed to fix things.

There has to be above all love, respect and kindness in any marriage. If you don’t have that, the marriage is probably going to be knackered no matter how many Fortune500 business models you put in place. The head structure falls down for me because I can’t understand how you can love and value someone and still hold the view that your opinion is inherently more valuable than theirs. How you can know that they fundamentally disagree with something or have deep concerns about it but ‘put your foot down’ because it’s your right.

Respect comes in because you value and trust your partner’s judgment. Incidentally, the whole head thing starts to unravel at an intellectual level when people start saying things like, choose a good ‘head’ but even if you don’t remember he’s still the head. Therefore if your husband is prone to making bad decisions, you should submit to him driving you and your family into rack and ruin because he’s the head. Oh I forgot! If all else fails, pray. Pray that he starts making good decisions. In the meantime, watch your children suffer. This rarely happens, doesn’t work and is the reason why this head thing is a crock of crap.

If it’s compromise and sacrifice is required, I still don’t understand why people have to add that extra layer of discourse and oppression which is involved in labelling the male partner ‘the head’. I don’t always agree with my husband’s viewpoint but I consider him to be inherently sensible and to be acting in good faith. He feels the same about me. We always manage to resolve our differences in a way that we can both live with – sometimes I convince him; sometimes he convinces me; sometimes one of us gives in. Neither of us would be comfortable doing something that the other has a major problem with. Not many decisions are worth overriding someone’s concerns and esteem. If we can’t agree, the priority is our relationship and not the decision.

Worldviews Round-up: 9 September 2017: Politicians on Abortion, the Art of Criticism and Simisola the Album!

Jacob Rees-Mogg recently made some frank statements about abortion on the programme ‘Good Morning Britain’ and other news…

Politicians on Abortion

Jacob Rees-Mogg recently made some frank statements about abortion on the programme ‘Good Morning Britain’.  The most controversial was admitting that he thought abortion was wrong even in cases of rape and incest, in accordance with his Catholic faith.

His statements remind me a little of Tim Farron’s resignation from his position as leader of the Liberal Democrats earlier this year. Tim said he found it impossible to live as a Christian and lead the party. According to him, the press hounded him because of what they considered to be prejudices that inevitably flow from his evangelical Christian faith.

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There was some evidence of this alleged hounding. In a number of interviews he was grilled about his views on abortion and gay relationships. He wasn’t allowed to get away with saying he supports people’s freedom to do what they want to or that he voted for this or that freedom or  that it was his political views, not his personal beliefs, that were relevant to his campaign.

Nope. He was asked to state categorically whether he thought these things were wrong. He was quoted scripture and asked whether he believed and accepted the quotes. Just answer the question, Tim, do you believe in this, yes or no. Simples. Perhaps a bit too far but the silly, sad and immature part of me chuckles inside when (some) Christians decide to graciously and liberally admit something or the other is a matter of personal conviction and not state or even societal censure. To our bitter amazement, we find that our new position is not enough, times have moved on and we are now required to endorse whatever it was that we thought went against Christian teaching. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN I’M STILL A BIGOT?!? I ALREADY SAID GAY PEOPLE WOULDN’T NECESSARILY BURN IN HELL!!!” (silent, internal screaming of course). I’m working on being a better person.

I suppose Rees-Mogg’s answer had the superficial merit of dealing with the abortion issue precisely although I note that he firmly shifted the responsibility for his response to the Catholic church and its teaching instead of his personal understanding of Christianity and the Bible.

Being a Christian, I’m not going to pretend to be shocked by Rees Mogg’s views (even though I strongly disagree with them  – let’s make that clear from the outset!).  Neither will I pretend that I’d find it easy to answer a question on abortion.  If I was asked about abortion, I’d have to say that my answer has 6 parts and I’m afraid I’d have to dogmatically insist on outlining each part in every interview.

The first is what the Bible says about abortion. Nothing, as far as I know. It does affirm the sanctity of life, starting with the commandment “Thou shalt not kill’ – but this is in the context where many many lives are taken seemingly with God’s permission or complancency (much like today but it’s more complicated than that really). There is also a strange story in the Bible of a man ejaculating outside his dead brother’s wife (while having sex with her obviously or else the story wouldn’t really be strange at all).

The second (and third) is I would describe myself as pro-choice but (apart from the obvious exceptions like health of the mother, rape etc) probably also a little anti-abortion. I absolutely do not want to live in a society where choice is taken from women but would rather they chose not to abort. I don’t think, for example, it’s wrong to speak to a woman about other options if she has asked for an abortion and wants to listen. I don’t think abortion is killing a baby; I do think that provided a certain age of the foetus – it’s ending life – or at least a tiny spark of life.

Incidentally, extreme members from both the left and right don’t think you should mention exceptions. The left think that any mention of exceptions suggests that some abortions are more deserving than others and chips away at the inalienable right to the choose and the right think that nothing justifies ‘killing a baby’ – not what happened to or what would happen to the mother. Both sides are mad.

Fourth: Abortion shouldn’t be but is politicised and I do not want to live in a world where the people who want to criminalise abortion get their way. A lot of them are largely interested in controlling women and with their constant campaigning for removing or reducing  welfare, sex education and access to contraception;  they are also mad.

Fifth: My views on ending a life involve, I must admit, a healthy dose of ignorance on my part especially the science bit. I’m very vague on this issue. I don’t for instance think taking the morning after pill is ending any sort of life. I start thinking that way when the embryo/foetus is around 6-8 weeks and has passed some kind of test in my head.

The second area of vagueness has to do with late abortions (which I understand are very much in the minority) and the brutal way it has been described. I can’t help but wonder if the foetus suffers pain. I ought to look it up but I’m afraid if I do, I will be drawn to one of the more extreme camps – probably the anti-abortion people. I think the law in the UK probably contains the right balance:

“Subject to the provisions of this section, a person shall not be guilty of an offence under the law relating to abortion when a pregnancy is terminated by a registered medical practitioner if two registered medical practitioners are of the opinion, formed in good faith –

(a) that the pregnancy has not exceeded its twenty-fourth week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family; or
(b) that the termination of the pregnancy is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman; or
(c) that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated
(d) that there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.”

Yes, a foetus’ life may be important but so is the mother’s, in terms of the physical and mental effect of continuing the pregnancy. And also,  at the risk of sounding dramatic (and unoriginal),  I do think we have to question the outrage at a Western rape victim terminating a pregnancy if we are willing to accept the risk of refugee children, babies and unborn babies perishing at sea because of  immigration laws and statistics.

Finally: An analogy. Between my children, I had a miscarriage. I opted to remove the foetal matter by a D&C. So muddled was my mental state that I actually wondered if I was in fact having an abortion. I’m mad.

It became clear that the embryo/foetus was dead when I was 11 or 12 weeks pregnant. It turned out, from its size, that it had in fact died at 5-6 weeks. The reaction to my miscarriage is probably how most people would reasonably react to the termination of a pregnancy if the thorny (and very relevant) issue of choice wasn’t involved.

Even my most Christian, anti-abortionist friends (I’m not going to call them pro-life because really who isn’t pro-life?) didn’t treat me like I had lost a baby. Even the most convicted pro-choice/abortion people didn’t act like I had simply removed a bunion. There was a recognition that a huge part of my grief was about my hopes and aspirations for the pregnancy and baby. But there was also an acknowledgement that I had lost something outside of myself – the beginnings of a life or a child.

I suspect that had I had a still birth (defined as losing the foetus after 28 weeks of pregnancy) and the closer I got to term, the more  I would have been treated as if I lost a baby. And if I had lost a baby, then I guess I would have just lost a baby.

I wonder, had I chosen to terminate at the same time, say between 5 and 11 weeks of pregnancy, because of the viability or health of the foetus, would my (alright!) pro-life friends have accused me of killing a baby? I usually try to be even- handed but I can’t think of a comparable example for my pro-choice friends.

The Art of Criticism

M. I. and Osagie Alonge’s discussion on the recent Loosetalk podcast episode  has caused a bit of conversation. When I write about people, I try to imagine them reading it (even though at the moment there’s not a hope in hell…never mind) and I hope this helps me to avoid being too vicious. For me, in that episode, M.I. was a vivid reminder of the human face at the other side of every critical article or review.

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So I know what I got from the discussion  but I’m still trying to understand what either party achieved, especially by airing what appeared to be an unedited version.  M.I. obviously came out better than Alonge in many respects. I don’t think there’s any need to dwell on Alonge’s sweary outbursts as I’m sure he’s still ‘conking’ himself in private about that. I did find it amusing (alright, very funny), that when M.I. started to criticise one of Ayomide Tayo’s articles, he was met with loud hysterics before he even got to line 2 of his critique.

OA

No one really likes criticism.   It’s disingenuous to pretend that despite his friendly, chilled online persona, M.I. is in reality a raving egomaniac (just) for objecting to the treatment his music has received from Pulse Magazine. Some of the same people tweeting that if M.I. cannot take criticism, then he shouldn’t release music, will either send you a snappy retort (along the lines of ‘go and write your own!’) if you disagree with their tweet or produce a long thread on how you are trying to erase the validity of their experiences and existence. No one likes criticism. It’s just that we have accepted or assumed that part of a viable music industry includes a credible music critiquing/reviewing arm.

However, I don’t agree with M.I. when he says that critics should 1) understand the difficulties he has gone through to produce a record 2) somehow pay homage, in every critique, to his or 2face’s legacy in pioneering the current Afropop/beat/hip hop movement and 3) should criticise with the objective of supporting (not ‘bringing down’) the Nigerian music industry.

All that is suspiciously close to sycophancy. Music review in Nigeria should be the same as everywhere else. It’s not easy to define but, apart from avoiding gratuitous rudeness and insults, what I expect is some expertise both of music and the market and some level of objectivity. I’m not saying a reviewer is not allowed to have an opinion of the artist but I’m a bit cautious about reviews when it is clear that the reviewer either adores, idolises or hates the artist.

Alonge is very knowledgeable and unrivalled in his passion for hip-hop (particularly African) but some of his statements about M.I. and other acts  make him sound like a deranged obsessive fan. I’m very familiar with ‘the deranged fan’ being one myself (and currently having an object of my obsessive fandom). The deranged fan has moved on from simply liking, loving or approving of the music and now wants the artist to do exactly what he or she thinks they should be doing (despite, like me and perhaps unlike Alonge, not having a clue about making music). I mean he was talking to M.I. like M.I. was losing him, personally,  money by the way he was running Chocolate City record label.

I’m also not convinced by the justification for harsh criticism which is that it is needed “to make our artists do better”. The “we love them but we just want to make them better” narrative is bit too paternalistic for me. I suspect that we don’t all really have any vested interest in making artists better as such. If we don’t think they produce good enough music, we are free to drop our opinion and spend our money elsewhere. Presumably, it was this instinct to make our artists “do better” that drove Nigerians in their hundreds to Simi’s Twitter page during the AMCVA awards earlier this year to tell her they didn’t like her dress.

Speaking of Simi, I’ve bought the album Simisola and it’s  fantastic! Now I’m off to  listen to the album obsessively until I can find something in it to write a good, long, moany article about. Have a good weekend!

simisola

Whose Vagina Is It Anyway? – a discussion on Christianity, feminism and the concept of virginity

Choice or Wrong choice? What position should faith feminsim take on the V-word?

The scandal!

Twitter is up in arms again (at least it was when I decided to write this post)! It’s all about actress and comedian’s Yvonne Orji’s decision to wait until she’s married before she has sex. Yep! She’s a card carrying Christian virgin and proud of it!

 

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The feminist outrage

Some people, feminists included, are somewhat annoyed at this news. They profess not to have a problem with celibacy as such, they just condemn the idea of holding on to one’s virginity as a patriarchal concept of preserving oneself for ownership by a man. Just in case, like me, you’re not sure what that means, I think it has to do with presenting yourself as a gift to your husband on your wedding night, unspoiled and (relatively) untouched. I guess it does imply ownership and potentially more worryingly, your husband’s control over your sex life even before you’ve met said husband.

Others are concerned about the unrelated link between a ‘woman’s worth’ and her virginity. Somehow being a virgin means a higher value should be placed on a woman. Still others lament religion as an oppressive force bullying women into repressing their natural sexual urges. Finally, I have heard criticism of the concept of sexual purity – the implication that sexual activity soils and therefore damages.

In all honesty, there is some truth to these criticisms. Historically various cultures, whether Christian or not, have placed value on a woman’s virginity and chastity . There is for instance the practice of virginity testing on the wedding night. Even in cultures where the wedding did not take place until the woman became pregnant (I understand that this was the practice when Mary married Joseph – the sequence was engagement, pregnancy and then wedding to avoid childlessness), few of them would have celebrated or even agreed to take a (previously ) sexually active wife.

One has to take into account that in historic times, girls were married off at a fairly young age. Perhaps sexual activeness at that age carried the risk of some kind of physical damage. Or perhaps ancient cultures were also bastards to women (like everyone else) .

A big part of feminism and sexual liberation (apart from tackling sexual harm to women) continues to be to (1) ending double standards between men and women when it comes to sexual activity (2) reversing the thinking that a woman’s personal sexual choices and sex life are matters of public shame – slut shaming and his evil twin brother who decides whether a woman is a victim of sexual assault based on how she’s dressed and how many sexual partners she’s had in the past (3) allowing women to acknowledge and express themselves sexually (4) and yes, ending the practice of determining a woman’s ‘worth’ by her sex life, past or present.

I must confess, I take issue with the whole ‘woman’s worth’ concept. It makes women seem like commodities and plays into the good woman (or ‘queen’ – a word I’m beginning to despise when not used to refer to actual monarchy) /bad girl division. People make commitments, behave honourably or badly, are compatible with you or not. That’s how you decide whether you want to be with them. They are not priced or awarded points as if they were on display in a supermarket. Anyway!

The Christian perspective

It is likely that the reasons for Orji’s decision are nowhere near as sinister as the above. In modern charismatic churches, both men and women are expected to abstain from sex before marriage. The thinking is that sex is a special expression of a certain type of love (romantic, I suppose, but that word feels too shallow) that God intended for us to undertake with one person in the context of marriage.

As to how some Christians apply it beyond their own personal standards and stray into ‘judging’ others, most (media-savvy) people would say “It’s just my personal belief. I’m not imposing these standards on anyone” then (in what seems to me like a slight shift in position) “I’m not judging !”  In reality, it often goes beyond personal belief. Just like choice feminism has been roundly condemned in relation to this issue, ‘choice Christianity’ is, I suspect, not really credible in many charismatic churches.

The general belief is that if sex before marriage is wrong, it’s wrong for everyone or at least every Christian. Some churches may see at as a personal conviction, in that they do not expect individuals to account to some deacon or pastor about their sex lives, and may even tacitly accept that some church couples who are in a long-term relationship may be ‘doing it’. But generally in these churches you are not supposed to announce and publicly celebrate the fact that you are having sex before marriage.

I started attending the Church of England after I got married (so the whole sex before marriage wasn’t really my problem by then ha ha ha). I’ve not heard the prohibition against sex before marriage actively advocated in C of E . Much will depend on the individual church of course -for instance Holy Trinity Brompton is one of the biggest and most charismatic congregations of the C of E, as far as I know, its founder, Nicky Gumble, believes that sex should take place within the confines of marriage.  In the churches I’ve attended, it’s not unusual for the vicar to be openly accepting of people living together and producing babies before marriage. Perhaps someone has a word in private.

The issue is not without difficulty in the church. There is some discontent among Christians who reject promiscuity but wonder, when they find themselves involuntarily single in their late 30’s and 40s, whether the rule against sex before marriage has prevented them from forming compatible relationships. Some women (especially as there always seems to be less men in churches) find themselves completely disillusioned with the whole thing and wonder if they have wasted the ‘best years’ of their lives waiting for this ideal of a sex-less relationship (their mood, I suspect, turns especially sour if it turns out the married pastor has been schlepping the single choir mistress the entire time but I’m hoping that, despite the media sensation such events generate, that this is relatively rare) especially when there appears to be no direct Biblical authority for the rule (although plenty of implication and Biblical context).

It doesn’t help that some pastors take it too far and preach all kinds of weird analogies for the consequences of sex before marriage. My favourite went something like this: when two people come together in sexual union, they somehow mould together so that they are incomplete and damaged when they are ‘ripped apart’ – a bit like cookies or cakes which, meant to be separate, have (wrongfully and annoyingly!) migrated towards each other on the baking sheet while in the oven, formed an unsightly whole which you first try and break apart and disguise the flaw with icing then abandon the idea and end up eating them standing up, cursing, in the kitchen.

The above is to demonstrate their belief that sex is an act which invariably has emotionally and spiritual consequences as well as long term effects. My main problem is with presenting these theories as if they are undisputed Biblical law when at best they are interpretations sometimes tenuously based on scripture.

My general perception is that a lot of active Christians have managed to overcome whatever reservations they had about having sex before marriage although few would defend promiscuity as being within Christian beliefs or ‘God’s plan’. It continues to be a difficulty in the church, especially in light of the very different standards of secular society, and I’m not sure how consistently or effectively the rule is followed.

Most importantly….my opinion!

I’ll get to the two things that disturbed me about the feminist outrage. The lesser is the hypocrisy of some feminists in supposedly rejecting choice feminism in this context. An example is a tweep (she may even be what another tweep described as a ‘thought leader’ with her 19k followers – I’m not jealous at all) who has been pro choice feminism about a number of sex positive things. Such were her bizarre conclusions that she had me exploring radical feminism like:

giphy

I was shocked (shocked!) to hear her condemn choice feminism when it came to Orji’s virginity (I don’t know if Orji is a feminist but the issue is whether feminists can justifiably assert that her position is inherently patriarchal or whether this is one of the choices that feminism should absolutely protect ).

This tweep was quoting anti-choice-feminism threads with not a hint of irony or qualification – as if her previous pro choice/sex positive feminism tweets didn’t exist. Perhaps I’ve misunderstood her. I regularly follow and unfollow her out of exasperation/sneaky admiration/envy (I’m afraid I’m one of those ‘unfollow and scroll’ people. I’ll unfollow because some tweet annoyed me, check on the tweep’s timeline to see “wha’ gwan”, follow again because “ah she/he doesn’t seem that bad”, get annoyed by another tweet…ad infinitum).

The bigger issue is linked to my own personal experience. I never fully accepted that a sexually active person/woman was soiled or that sex before marriage was necessarily damaging. I have been and am a bit suspicious of the claim that it is a sin because of lack of a direct Bible quote.  I am a bit wary of promiscuity, partly because I’d like my partner to be faithful and I think what keeps you faithful is commitment and self-control, which is built through life experiences (as opposed to ‘love’ and the fact I’m so much woman he won’t go elsewhere).

However, what really bothered me was the fact I never felt I owned my sexuality. I always felt that when I was dating, I owed it to society, to men, to be sexually active when they decided I should be sexually active. I never even got a chance to make my own objective decision and (much like my eating now) after a while I had completely lost anything resembling a natural instinct in my 20s and early 30s.

I was completely unreasonable for ‘making him wait’ for any period of time/until I felt comfortable, I was manipulative, I was withholding, I was wasting his time, I was trying to force him into a serious relationship/marriage. I was too easy (when I finally said, “ah screw it/me”). I wasn’t making enough effort. As soon as I expressed an interest in a guy (not all my exes), I felt he was watching my vagina with a proprietary eye, waiting for me to give him what was rightfully his.

It wasn’t just the men. From my ‘non-waiting’ girlfriends, the advice seemed to be you had to have a strategy for determining whether he was serious or not. Once you decided he was serious, give him the most exotic, exciting booty he had in his life in order to ‘keep him’.

My waiting friends advised me to resist, resist, resist so that God would reward me with a good Christian husband. The problem was the potential Christian husband seemed to come from a pool of arrogant young men, subject to sexist indoctrination of expecting submission from their wives, who were very much aware of their special-breed status and WHO DIDN’T SEEM TO LIKE ME.

I was completely lost and I behaved very strangely, and sometimes badly, indeed during those lost years. All these people that say Orji should make her sexual decisions free from patriarchy, religion or this, that or the other; I wouldn’t have known where to start. From the moment I entered into a relationship, I felt burdened with the job of managing other people’s expectations about my sex life.

I didn’t know what I wanted until I said to myself “HALT! I am what I am. I am a product of my contradictory upbringing (my mum wanted me to be fairly chaste but not so ‘frigid’ (a sexist, entitled, rapey term) that I drove away a prospective husband), personal experiences and my religious beliefs. If I’m going to change, dismantle everything about the above, it’s not so some man can have access to my vagina or so some women can have some kind of collective validation about their own lifestyle. I YAM WHAT I YAM. Feminism felt natural to me. This does not”.

This is why I am bothered enough to write this post about some of the feminist discussion on this issue and on sex generally.  I’ve seen tweets describing the decision as sad. Before Orji, I’d previously seen a tweet saying that women should grow up and accept they are sexual beings (it’s the ‘should’ that bothers me). The brilliant ‘Dear Ijeawela/Feminist Manifesto’ says it is disingenuous to pretend sex is an “only in marriage” act – it is for some people (through choice obviously, most people are physically capable of having sex outside marriage).

There is of course the type of sex. One feminist suggested that a girlfriend who does not digitally/anally manipulate her boyfriend is not a real girlfriend (I bloody well hope she was bloody well joking – as an aside, I’m led to believe by Twitter that if I was young and dating in 2017 I would regularly be expected to ‘eat ass’. I’m ashamed to say that it took me a very long time to realise that this is not just crude slang for oral sex and personally the thought of it has shaken my liberalism a bit).

There’s probably nothing wrong with the  bum stuff and I’m a complete prude.  However, the serious point is that I’m alarmed to see that feminists and entitled men (from the left and the right unfortunately) saying some of the same things. Give it up (and in accordance with some pornographic fantasy of what is supposed to constitute good sex – I recently re-tweeted the article by Jean Hatchet about the pressure teenage girls are under to have anal sex) at THIS point or you are damaged/brainwashed/being bloody difficult.

My fear is, under the guise of a collective war on patriarchy, we are attempting to force on Orji our own ideas about sexuality and to be totally dramatic about it, co-erce her into sexual activity. I wouldn’t describe myself as a choice feminist – I think feminism is a global tool to fight inequality and oppression against women (and I don’t think sex work is ’empowering’ FFS) but individual sexuality needs to be left alone. It can be so complex and scary with so many people trying to lay claim to female sexuality. So much harm has been done in the execution of the idea that a woman’s vagina is collective property, of collective interest. There is so much entitlement in that area that feminism must march towards individual choice, in my view.

Patriarchy and sexism has done more harm to women’s sexuality than feminists can probably conceive of. But for me, there is something inherently terrifying in trying to co-erce a woman into sexual activity for her own good and for the common good.