Madonna vs. Whore

Having been raised in a conservative Christian family, I’ve observed sexism and the objectification of women from two different vantage points; a photograph and its negative.

In much of conservative Christianity, it is taught that women are to “remain silent” in the church. They are not allowed leadership positions, most certainly can not be ordained as pastors, and are to “submit” to their husbands, who are “the head of the family.” Men are discouraged from being alone with other women in professional settings, which means having their wives along for any meetings, and this mindset puts women in a perpetual state of sexual objectification. (Try to imagine the reverse, where a woman brings her husband along to a professional meeting with a man.) This is necessary, they say, because men are viewed as unable to control themselves with women (either she will seduce him or he will seduce her). There is no professionalism—even in an office setting she is still first and foremost, a sex object (rather than a person and a colleague).

In marriage, she is expected to always keep her figure and be as physically attractive to her husband as possible. She is discouraged from withholding sex, as this would be seen as a “weapon” or a “punishment” to him during times of marital strain, making him vulnerable to the temptation of adultery or porn (read: if he cheats, it’s her fault for holding out). But when do these marriage books and speakers and seminars ever instruct the husband to remain physically attractive and to not withhold sex during conflict? Instead, the burden of healthy sexual relations in a marriage is placed squarely on the wife’s shoulders, first and foremost.

This leaves wives in an interminable state of anxiety about their physiques and libido. Any imperfections in her body, any weight gain she can’t shake, too many nights without intimacy, and she fears he will eventually have an affair with a more attractive woman. Doesn’t matter how imperfect he is, or how much weight he might have put on, that “more attractive” woman is still going to be waiting in the wings somewhere. But when do we ever hear about women leaving their husbands for “more attractive” men or a “younger model”? Now, that’s not to say they don’t, only that it’s seldom mentioned—by anyone.

A woman’s primary role in marriage, therefore, is as a sex object. Everything revolves around the marriage bed. She is a sex provider who is to be in constant submission to her husband, who is her “authority” and “head.” In the church she is also to be in submission to the male leadership, with the understanding that she will always be considered a potential seductress to them, so be wary. And if she dresses in an arbitrarily-deemed immodest way, she is to blame for his lust and lack of self control.

Contrast this to the secular, liberal world where we find the obverse:

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Mother’s Angel

A short story by Bekah Ferguson

“Ghosts are the superstitious nonsense of heathens, son,” Pa used to say, but I’d been haunted by one in the forest behind our homestead through much of my childhood.

I was about five years old the first time I saw it. A white entity moving deep within the trees at dusk. Then again one grey afternoon a couple of years later when I was mucking out the stable, and heard a crackle of movement on dead leaves. Gripping my shovel in front of me like a protective spear, I peered into the nearby treeline from whence the sound had come.

We lived in a forest in Upper Canada, trees furrowed and thick, undergrowth prolific and tangled. In some directions you could trailblaze for days without encountering a single trading post or homestead. Yet there it was some fifty feet within and as tall as a man: a flash of white appearing for a second between tree trunks, disappearing behind others, and reappearing again as it seemed to float along. However, though I strained to see its contours, I could not piece together its form; and as soon as it was there, it was gone.

These apparitions occurred only once or twice a year and always in the same manner: at dusk or predawn, and only when I was working quietly by myself. The times when I helped my father chop wood and gather kindle from the forest, I always kept an eye out for it, but whether due to the reverberating splitting sounds, or the trampling of twigs beneath our boots, it never showed itself when I was with him.

One harvest when I was around twelve years old and unable to contain my growing paranoia any longer, I confessed it all to my father, barely able to lift my eyes to his face. I’d been right to fear his response. He scolded me for my fright and told me not to indulge in such nonsensical fantasies again. My face grew hot and I tugged down on my cap in a futile attempt to hide the blushing.

“Don’t want you soft in the head like your mother,” he grumbled, securing a harness to our two horses, and fastening the wagon behind them as he talked. “She’s giving you ideas, I reckon, with those angel stories of hers. Claiming there’s an angel out there what wears a white cloak, and has big white wings on its back.” A sharp laugh and the scowl deepened on his scruffy face.

“The heathens believe in ghosts,” he went on, “and the Christians, well they believe in angels, that’s how it goes. Now here’s what I say. I say, where were the angels when Ma and Pa traveled here from America to build this here homestead, only to have a falling tree crush my mother’s skull? And where is her ghost, having left my father to raise what remained of our humble family all by his lonesome? If she could’ve stuck around to make sure we was all making it okay, surely she would have done.”

He lifted a sack of threshed wheat into the back of the wagon and reached for the next one in the pile. “Why a spirit would wander around out there in the woods anyhow I should like to know. What’d be the purpose?” He slapped my shoulder and I stumbled forward. “Nah, your imagination’s fooling you, that’s all there is to it. Now get yourself back to work, you know your mother’s busy with the baby. And son,”—he met my eyes with a stern look—“no more silly talk, understand?”

I nodded and he continued loading the cart for what would be a half days’ journey along corduroy roads to the village where the closest gristmill was located. There he would spend the night in an inn and return the next day. We’d nearly run out of last year’s store by this time and were eager to increase our bread consumption again. In the meantime we still had plenty of small game and root vegetables to keep us going, fruit preserves, and milk and cheese thanks to the cow.

Father was right, my mother did sometimes speak in a reverent, hushed tone about an angel she thought she’d seen in the trees; but apart from the first time when I was five and ran fearfully to her for comfort, I kept subsequent sightings to myself. First, because I didn’t think it was an angel: To me angels were in the same class as fairies and trolls. But ghosts on the other hand, being human spirits of the deceased, did seem like a metaphysical possibility. And since I could think of no logical explanation for an opaque mist weaving its way through the woods—whiter than any fog I’d yet seen—I feared it was indeed some sort of phantom.

Second, though I loved my mother very much, she was a woman after all, and I had gradually learned while tending the farm and field with my father, that he viewed women as simple and gullible, even hysterical at times. Gentle and warm to embrace when comfort was desired, but not to be trusted with matters of higher reasoning. Therefore, especially as I grew older, I did not join her in soliditary. Instead, by fearing my father’s withering disapproval—that way he had of shrinking me with nothing but a curled lip—and wanting to please him, I nurtured and feigned an outward toughness I did not feel in my heart.

In those days there was no schoolhouse close enough for me and my younger sister to attend, so mother taught us at home while caring for the baby, milking the cow, tending the vegetable garden, sewing and washing our clothes, and preparing all our meals and preserves as well. There were days when she was up before dawn and still working after dark, though her burdens did ease somewhat as my sister grew older and shared in most of her work. Particularly during planting and growing seasons, I spent my days outdoors with father working the crop field where we grew wheat and oats; only returning to the cabin to eat and sleep. But whenever and wherever she could, mostly within the heart of winter when we had a lot more time at our disposal, Mother taught us from her crate of books while the snowdrifts climbed the outside walls of our cabin and the fields slept till spring.

My paternal grandparents had brought along a collection of textbooks and storybooks with them when they crossed the Niagara border, as well as some Alphabet cards, slate, and slate pens. From these precious commodities, along with a collection of her own, Ma taught us to read and write, along with a decent amount of geography, history, and basic arithemetic. Yet it wasn’t until my adolescent years that I took notice of the difference between her speaking ability and Pa’s. You see my father was illiterate and nowhere near as eloquent. Though my grandmother had journeyed here fully equipped to teach her children, her untimely death resulted in the school supplies remaining nailed up in a crate for twenty years, until my father married.

I’d also come to realize that far from being simple and gullible, my mother, who came from a clergyman’s family and had been taught at home as well, was quite knowledgeable—in fact, far more so than was typical for her sex—and to a degree my father could never attain due to his lack of education. His skill was in farming and mother hadn’t had much choice in eligible suitors. If not for her, I too would have been an illiterate farmer: the first schoolhouse within walking distance was not to be built until the baby was seven years old, and two more had passed through the cradle.

While my father approved of the schooling, picking up moderate amounts of knowledge himself whenever he happened to listen in, he did not seem aware that by making extra jars of preserves and medicinal herbs each year (among other things), my mother was building a small enough income to occasionally order books from the general store where we did our trading. Books that were brought in from both America and Great Britain.

Our collection grew and receiving a new book was a magical experience for my sister and me. We’d run our fingers over the cover, turning the book over slowly in our hands, inhaling the scent of the pages; and savoring every single word again and again. Sometimes I even felt a sense of sadness for my father, aware that these glorious, world-expanding words would never be anything but black marks on a page to him. Ma read to him, to all of us, of course, which he greatly enjoyed, but though she offered to teach him to read as well, he refused: not wanting to be taught by a woman “like some common child.”

Another memorable sighting of the specter took place during a harvest when the moon was full and honeyed, hanging low in the sky, and my sister had come along with a lantern to let me know that dinner was ready. I was about fourteen then if I recall, and she eleven, with a braid coiled at the nape of her neck and an apron over her dress. Father had gone inside the barn with the last sledge of stooks to be stored, and she intercepted me on the path leading away from the field. I’d no sooner spoken a word of greeting when her eyes widened and she gasped, pointing behind me.

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PORN: Rape by Proxy

**Trigger Alert – Some descriptions of sexual violence.**

A Focus on the Family Poll (October 1, 2003), found that 47% of families surveyed admitted that pornography is a problem in their home.

Porn usage is viewed by many Christians as a lust issue which can destroy marriages, and is discouraged as a form of sexual immorality akin to adultery. The mainstream public, on the other hand, may find porn distasteful in some regards but useful in others. It is not uncommon for magazines and therapists to recommend porn usage as a means of “spicing up” a dull sex life. It is viewed by such as an acceptable form of adult entertainment as long as it doesn’t become an addiction or involve children.

In general, both Christians and mainstream assume that women in the adult entertainment industry are there by free choice. The majority of Christian articles I’ve come across are focused solely on the sexual immorality of the end user, and that’s as far as it goes. Now, if all porn stars were truly in the business willingly, then porn usage would indeed be a matter of chastity only. But if the women posing for both camera and film are actually sex slaves, in a manner of speaking, then the use of pornography is far more sinister than lust.

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Free Love: Is It Really Free?

Webster’s dictionary defines free love as:

1: the practice of living openly with one of the opposite sex without marriage; and 2: sexual relations without any commitments by either partner.

Many people consider their choice to have sex an act of freedom—Freedom to make their own decisions, freedom to express their love to another, freedom to enjoy physical pleasure without commitment, or the freedom to feel independent and in control of their own body. Webster’s dictionary defines freedom as:

1: the quality or state of being free: as a : the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action b : liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another : Independence.

3 common reasons why people start having sex:

1) “We’re in love.” There’s nothing like the euphoria of falling in love. When he kisses you, the world around you disappears. You can’t imagine life without him. Expressing your love through sex seems only natural, so why wouldn’t you take that next step?

2) “I’m afraid he’ll leave me for someone else.” Are you sleeping with your boyfriend out of obligation? Do you worry that he’ll be bored with you if you don’t? Does he pressure you to sleep with him to prove your love?

3) “I need to have sex to feel loved and to feel confident.” Does having sex make you feel more attractive? Does it make you feel wanted and accepted? Do you question your self-worth when you’re not having sex?

Are these 3 reasons “acts of freedom” by definition?
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