Are Women Passive? What History Says About Gender, Sexuality, And Christian Ministry -- By: Jason Eden

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 29:3 (Summer 2015)
Article: Are Women Passive? What History Says About Gender, Sexuality, And Christian Ministry
Author: Jason Eden

Are Women Passive? What History Says About Gender, Sexuality, And Christian Ministry

Jason Eden

Jason Eden teaches history at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. His wife, Naomi, is a licensed associate marriage and family therapist. Together, they continue to study how age norms, sexuality, and racial ideologies shaped relationships in Colonial North America.

Within both mainstream and Christian media outlets in the United States, the dominant message about sexual desire is that men want sex more than women do. Within marriage literature, in particular, Christian writers often urge wives to respond favorably to their husbands’ advances. Embedded within this advice is the assumption that women do not often want to engage in intimate acts. Authors suggest that it is normal and natural for men to desire lots of sex while women purportedly agree to sex on an infrequent and often reluctant basis. In terms of sexual relationships, men are supposedly suited for active pursuit while women are inclined toward being passive and responsive.1 These assumptions have profound implications, since they set up relationship dynamics that are often unhealthy. Such beliefs can also lead women who have strong sexual desires or assertive personalities to feel excluded or abnormal.2

In addition to affecting intimate relationships, unfounded assumptions regarding sexuality have profoundly, if subtly, shaped assumptions regarding who is fit for Christian ministry and leadership. Christian literature, both past and present, has often suggested that, because of their passive and accommodating nature, women are unfit for leadership roles. In terms of sexuality, simplistic analyses of biological copulation imply that women are reluctant and passive receivers while men are eager and active contributors. Authors have used this type of simplistic portrayal of the sexual act as evidence of consistency in the natures of men and women. Supposedly, the “fact” that men are biologically suited for being active leaders in the bedroom is consistent with the “fact” that they are suited for leadership activities elsewhere. Likewise, the “fact” that women are passive responders in the bedroom supposedly aligns with their passive and receptive role in other spheres of life, including Christian ministry.3

Contemporary authors, including theologians, have often emphasized the supposedly passive nature of women and the supposedly assertive nature of men. John Piper, for example, has identified initiation as a masculine trait and responsiveness as a feminine trait. In terms of both marriage relationships and Christian...

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