Tanya Luhrmann: Christian prohibition against premarital sex has its benefits

July 7, 2015 • 10:30 am

For reasons best known to the editors of the New York Times, they continue to give Tanya Luhrmann a paycheck (supplementing her funding from the Templeton Foundation) to write an apologetics column on evangelical Christianity.  While refusing to divulge her own religious beliefs (she’s an anthropologist, after all), she tells the rest of us why we should have sympathy for the delusions of Christians who talk to God.

Now, in a new piece, “The appeal of Christian piety“, whose title is self-explanatory, Luhrmann chastises the rest of us secularists who mock or criticize the evangelical Christian cult of “purity” and fear of premarital sex. This is not an anthropological report, but simple apologetics. In particular, Luhrmann is enthusiastic about a fairly new (published last November) book on Christian sexuality:

A recent book on evangelical sexuality gives this Christian insistence on the reinterpretation of experience a particular bite. “Saving Sex: Sexuality and Salvation in American Evangelicalism,” by Amy DeRogatis, an associate professor of religion and American culture at Michigan State University, describes the surprisingly rich and briskly selling literature of evangelical sex manuals.

I’m not sure what “surprisingly rich,” means, but it’s surely not “rational”.  Here are the main points of Christian sexuality as Luhrmann sees them. At first her descriptions seem like criticisms, but it turns out they’re plaudits:

It encourages “purity”.

Some of these manuals call on women to stay pure until marriage. (A 2008 documentary, “Virgin Daughters,” claimed that one in six girls in America takes a purity pledge.) They describe a world in which young girls in evening gowns take their fathers as their date to purity balls, and publicly commit to remaining virgins until they find a “gallant and godly husband” of whom their fathers approve.

The authors of what Ms. DeRogatis calls “the princess purity books” present as empowering a young woman’s decision to leave all decisions in the hands of others.

That’s “empowering”? I thought it was empowering to make your own decisions!

It encourages submission to one’s husband. As Lurhmann says,

What Ms. DeRogatis calls the “helpmeet” literature, by contrast, celebrates sex with one’s husband — but does not portray that husband as a fairy-tale prince. In fact, the books admit that sometimes he is loathsome. But they insist that God has given the husband the job of leading the family and that it is the wife’s role to accept this. “It is far better that the job be done poorly by your husband,” one book explains (in bold), “than it be done well by you.” When a wife accepts her man as he is, the books say, she feels God’s grace. She has become a warrior wife.

This kind of language infuriates secular observers, who say these ideas are not only antiquated but can even be harmful.

. . . Add to that the fact that this literature portrays feminism as a menace to godly families, and you can see why secular observers see nothing here that empowers women.

One would think Luhrmann would sympathize with those critical secularists, but guess what? She doesn’t! That’s curious in the face of her admission that not only are half of the purity pledges broken, but the rate of sexually transmitted diseases is higher among “pledgers,” who don’t take proper precautions during sex.

Luhrmann’s point is that if women choose to make their sexuality and sex lives subordinate to religious dictates, that’s a form of empowerment. After all, Muslim women choose to wear the veil:

And yet there is an appeal in this kind of piety. The act of submission, when consciously chosen, can feel empowering, and even politically empowering. Anthropologists have seen these dynamics among Muslim women. In the 1990s, when young women in Java increasingly chose to wear veils, despite the harassment and mockery of others, the anthropologist Suzanne A. Brenner set out to understand why. She found that they saw themselves as activists: as people who were creating a new social order, free of the corruption of the West. They saw themselves as modern but godly. Choosing to submit to Islamic law made them feel powerful, independent and effective. It gave them a sense of control.

It may look to secular readers as if these women who think they are being empowered are merely deluded. But that’s not how they understand themselves.

I wonder, if that kind of submission is so empowering, why do so many Iranian women take off the veil when it’s “No Veil Day”, why do so many Saudi women want to drive, and why do so many Muslim woman, at risk to their lives, protest their second-class status as chattel and breeder cattle? Could it be that Luhrmann is mistaking childhood indoctrination as voluntary submission? This is religion-coddling doublespeak—submission is empowerment! Adherence to ancient norms of behavior is radical!:

Just as some newly observant Muslims see themselves as political activists, the evangelical women who buy the Christian sex manuals are also led to see themselves as political activists. Ms. DeRogatis writes: “Young people are told that they are standing up for Christ and resisting America’s sexualized culture by claiming virginity as a countercultural, radical stance.” Their choice to submit is a choice to create a new social order from within.

Indeed, that may be partly true, but it’s still screwed up, for you could consider any retrograde, pro-religious stance, like denying rights to gays, as a form of political activism that stands up to modernity (or even America’s “sexualized culture,” which includes acceptance of homosexuality).

And if you want to see something truly disturbing, especially in view of the fact that this stuff appears as a regular column in the Times, read Luhrmann’s ending, where she extols the rise of evangelical Christianity and imputes it in part to this kind of “radical” sexuality:

Evangelical churches are gaining converts more rapidly than they are losing any who grew up in the tradition. I’ve always thought that the primary appeal of these churches was the vivid immediacy of their God. The sex manuals remind us that another factor is the sense of being a countercultural activist who sets out to remake the world.

That’s heady stuff. The mainstream churches offer nothing like this edgy rebellion, this nose-thumbing at ordinary expectations. Paradoxically, it may be this invitation that makes what seems like passivity feel so effective.

“Heady stuff”? Maybe in Luhrmann’s world, but not in the world of enlightened people. What we have here is simple apologetics, and an inversion of worldview that makes Luhrmann see repression and submission as “radical acts.”

I’m not sure why the Times continues to publish this kind of stuff, but I do know this: they should allow a secularist the same type of column to counteract the drivel regularly peddled by Luhrmann.

102 thoughts on “Tanya Luhrmann: Christian prohibition against premarital sex has its benefits

    1. Purity culture and the BDSM element is pretty disturbing.

      This happened recently – A Quiverfull man argued that wives owe their husbands sex, whether or not they are interested. And that forcing sex on your wife isn’t rape, because your wife’s body belongs to you:

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nolongerquivering/2015/05/quoting-quiverfull-part-1-have-sex-with-me-or-else/

      A husband ought not to feel guilty for having sex with his wife when she is not in the mood if she yields, even grudgingly.

      A husband needs to use prayerful discernment to discover if her reasons for “not being in the mood” are for legitimate physical or mental health reasons or if the problem is wrong thinking and wrong attitude on the part of his wife. If her reasons are legitimate, then she needs to seek medical or psychological help as soon as possible.

      Now in this post we will talk about how to handle the sexual refusal of a wife when it is because she has a wrong attitude and wrong thinking about marriage and sex.

      1. H-O-L-Y SHIT!

        It is always mind boggling to witness such screwed up minds. You know people like this are out there, but to see them state such rancid shit, particularly in such a mundane way, really brings home the fact that the barbarians are still among us and if we are too lax opposing them they could still drag us all back down.

  1. How can it be progressive to “remake the world” into something that it already was once in the past, and isn’t anymore because it didn’t work the first time? Isn’t her whole argument undone by the statement that “Young people are TOLD (my emphasis)that they are standing up for Christ and resisting America’s sexualized culture by claiming virginity as a countercultural, radical stance.” So they aren’t coming to that conclusion on their own – it is the spin of the people doing the telling. Just because impressionable young people believe what the self-serving adults in their lives tell them hardly means that what they are being told is true.

    1. “How can it be progressive to “remake the world” into something that it already was once in the past, and isn’t anymore because it didn’t work the first time?”

      Another great comment!

  2. Religious submission is, in many cases, powered by the same emotional mechanism as submission in BDSM role-play. The veil is the socially acceptable costume representing it. It’s another area where religion reifies behavior that would otherwise be considered weird and/or unhealthy.

    1. Might it not be that BDSM role-play is rather the reification, channeling the behavior into a benign (assuming strict consensuality and that neither party suffers injury) outlet?

    2. I am fairly ignorant of BDSM, but aren’t a couple of key features supposed to be that 1) all parties understand and agree that it is play, and 2) that there are prearranged safe words, or similar mechanism, for signaling that you are becoming uncomfortable and want to stop the current activity?

      Christian purity culture, hell Christian beliefs in general, are orders of magnitude less ethical than that.

      It does seem that there could be a common emotional mechanism at play in both, though.

      1. Yes, exactly.

        BDSM stops the moment you want it to. These religious sects do not provide ‘stop’ or ‘out’ as an option. That makes all the difference in the world.

  3. “Heady stuff”-yes, since they are “led to see themselves as political activists”, “told that they are standing up for Christ and resisting America’s sexualized culture by claiming virginity as a countercultural, radical stance”. This is normal teenage rebellion twisted around to rebel against normal teenage rebellion rather than against normal parental control. Those kids! They’ll do anything to be different! – and it doesn’t work, other than to work rebellion out of their systems. After all, how many of our counter-cultural compatriots have continued the hippy lifestyle? Most are now (fairly happy) 9-to-5 working stiffs (with rebellious kids).

    1. “This is normal teenage rebellion twisted around to rebel against normal teenage rebellion rather than against normal parental control.”

      Ha, ha, brilliant!

    2. As a teen, my observation of “normal teenage rebellion” in some of my peers was not a “carrot” prompting me to want to have children. (And that was back in the “ancient days” when there was a different, lesser “normal.” At least that was my subjective impression and experience. I guess I was “spoiled.”) I’ve never wanted to have children.

      I guess in the eyes of parents the rewards the rewards during their offspring’s childhood nominally outweigh the burdens imposed during adolescence. Yet I’m in teaching (where the state legislature in its omniscience imposes an “in loco parentis” responsibility) over time gravitating from middle/high school to K-5, having had my fill of obstreperous, occasionally vile, adolescent behavior. Am again reminded of Hitch’s “half a chromosome away from a chimpanzee” remark. (Check out Anita Renfroe’s “The Mom Song” online, set to Rossini’s “William Tell Overture.” Sample line: “Can’t wait till you have a couple of children of your own.” The words seem to ring true, regardless of ones philosophical/religious worldview.)

  4. This is profoundly evil.

    Women should let a “loathsome” husband make all their decisions for them, even if they could make better decisions themselves?

    Um, hello? This isn’t a ringing endorsement of wife beating and other forms of spousal abuse…how, exactly?

    This woman needs to be fired from the Times for such blatant encouragement of domestic violence — and whatever editor gave this piece the green light should go with her.

    b&

    1. Absolutely. That bit might — just might — backfire on her in a big way in todays’ world of ‘witch hunts’ on Tw*tter. Those things start when something triggers it and when people are at a tipping point. And lately things have been tipping in the feminist & humanist direction.

    2. My thoughts precisely. This is justification for giving a male the right to enslave a woman…many ill behaviors are possible under this rationale.

  5. These “purity balls” and “purity pledges” — pursuant to which a young woman’s maidenhead essentially becomes the property of her father — instantiate the same ugly instinct, in a less malignant form, that gives rise to honor killings.

    1. Exactly. The daughters are the property of their fathers until they become the property of their husbands, and thou shalt not covet another man’s stuff – it says so in the Ten Commandments.

      At the end of the day, this is not about sex, it’s about power and control, just like rape. I suspect this Tanya Luhrman is in a relationship with a man who is re-educating her as to women’s “proper” role.

      It has been my experience that men who are scared of female equality are invariably inadequate in their character in some way.

  6. It may look to secular readers as if these women who think they are being empowered are merely deluded. But that’s not how they understand themselves.

    Hilarious and stupid at the same time. Of course deluded people don’t think they are deluded.

    1. I had a WTF moment reading that line as well. Sort of is included in the word “deluded” already.

    2. Same reaction with me. Isn’t that the definition of delusion, that you don’t realize it?!

      1. Well, maybe some people wake up and think “Ah, today I’m going to pretend I’m deluded about sex and chastity, but of course I’m really not”. No, that’s probably not likely. Heather’s right: those who are deluded probably haven’t a clue that they are.

  7. “The act of submission, when consciously chosen, can feel empowering, and even politically empowering.”

    Something something Orwell. Something something totalitarian monotheism.

    Sorry, it’s early. But I think y’all know what I’m getting at.

      1. Or the joyfulness of the head sisters in The Handmaid’s Tale as they hang a perceived enemy of the state.

        1. It’s also just what monks and nuns say about taking their vows – the “freedom” they feel when all decisions about their lives are left to someone else.

  8. “It is far better that the job be done poorly by your husband,” one book explains (in bold), “than it be done well by you.”

    I part company with the value system that says it’s more important to have a dick than it is to have a mind. L

      1. No, but she is one.

        A dick, that is.

        In the same sense that we’re told we shouldn’t be dicks, she’s being one by telling women to take whatever their male owners deign to dish out to them and do so with a smile. Damned hard to get any more dickish than that, in any pejorative sense of the word.

        b&

        1. “Kick us again, if you please, Your Majesty.”

          – Rodgers and Hammerstein, “The King and I”

    1. I read one of those books once. It was called ‘Better than Rubies’. One of my staff bought it after it was recommended to her to help her marriage. It was presented as someone’s personal journey. Early on the woman’s husband gives her a black eye. The response of her “friend” who teaches her the right way for women to behave is, “What did you do wrong?” It deteriorates from there.

      My boss read it too. He thought it was great, and asked if he could take it home for his wife to read. I already had no respect for him – my opinion dropped even further at that point.

      It included the stuff about it being better to be done poorly by her husband. One example given in the book was a woman who was a senior partner in an accounting firm that saved her marriage by handing all the family finances over exclusively to her husband, who had dropped out of high school at 15.

      Growing your hair long is another requirement – just so you know!

        1. Definitely! Shaving legs and armpits is also essential, although I was tempted to stop doing that and cut my hair short after reading the book.

          1. I think I’ve got the title wrong because I’ve just tried to find it on-line and I can’t. I know “rubies” was in there somewhere because of the Bible verse, but don’t know now what the full title was.

      1. ‘Early on the woman’s husband gives her a black eye. The response of her “friend” who teaches her the right way for women to behave is, “What did you do wrong?”’

        I guess what she did wrong was to hit him in the fist with her eye.

  9. No Lurhmann, I’m pretty sure that it’s not just secularists who are horrified by the attitude that no matter how abusive or incompetent the husband is that’s he’s always right and his way is always best. You’d probably find evangelicals who find those manuals to be full of disturbing suggestions too if you actually looked for them.

  10. 2 things:

    1)
    “The act of submission, when consciously chosen, can feel empowering, and even politically empowering.”

    That’s crap. We’re not talking about submission as in a power exchange between two consenting adults in a BDSM relationship. Many people in the BDSM lifestyle, both women and men, describe the conscious choice to submit to a dominant partner as empowering. Luhrmann is talking about bronze age gender politics in which the choices offered to women represent no real choice at all.

    2)
    In my life I’ve never met an atheist who needed a sex manual.

    . . . just sayin’

    1. The modern.. uh.. hobby dungeons are much nicer then the bronze age dungeons too. Especially the whole consensual aspect of them.

  11. If you want to see some of these sex manuals, you can go to Amazon and search for the title ‘The Act of Marriage’. That one and several others will pop up. They are very strange.

    1. Tim Hunt got fired from UCL for a silly joke during an unguarded moment (probably 12-hour jetlag). Luhrmann’s antifeminist “joke” is 3 orders of magnitude worse. Where are the feminists?

  12. I’m not wasting a New York Times read on this, so I can’t know for certain that you aren’t selectively quoting it. If you aren’t, this is just appalling. It’s like suggesting that slavery provided security. Come to think of it, that’s not an unknown evangelical claim.

  13. The other problem with valorizing virgins in a “purity” culture is the inverse implication that someone who’s had a sexual relationship is “impure”. It assumes that not having a sexual relationship is notable for being THE right thing to do rather than, say, one acceptable personal choice among many.

    To put it bluntly, religions totally suck at sexual ethics, and Luhrmann is either foolish not to see that, or deliberately being evasive. Either way, her position is terrible.

    1. And a real irksome point is that all the negative pressure and prohibition and finger wagging is aimed at women. Women are the pure/impure ones, and its women who need to toe the line.

      1. Women also shouldn’t have free access to birth control. Though Viagra is a given for men with ED. Such hypocrisy makes me nauseous. Either way, virginity is overrated.

        1. I agree, I’ve never really understood the attraction, in a sexual sense, of virginity.

          I can see perhaps why it might make sense to some, in that as I understand it there used to be a belief that “throwbacks” came from previous sexual encounters (which defies modern knowledge of biology afaik). I still comes down to men owning women’s reproductive rights.

  14. I wonder if Suzanne Brenner considers the (obvious, it seems to me) possibility that the more fundamentalist Muslims who “chose” to wear the veil despite the “harassment and mockery of others” did so to avoid even worse harassment and mockery at the hands of their family and peers. “Political activism” seems like a flimsy rationalization, if you ask me.

    1. Yes- in many Muslim societies in the West, wearing the hijab is considered the moral choice, and not to wear it a sign of immorality. It’s not just in predominantly Muslim countries this is an issue.

  15. The act of submission, when consciously chosen, can feel empowering, and even politically empowering.

    There is no accounting for taste, but I personally prefer the traditional form of empowerment. You know, the kind that gives me power rather than taking it away from me.
    Just sayin’.

    1. Speaking of taste…I bet Luhrmann would pat the head of the cake baker per my description below with the same clueless encouragement and misplaced understanding that she has directed towards Christian women embracing purity pledges and the such:

      “I want to bake a cake. But I only have access to very poor ingredients: moldy flour, rancid butter, vermin-infested sugar, rotten eggs, and curdled milk. It will be a really lousy cake, probably the worst in the universe, but I will be empowered by the fact that I myself made the decision to submit to such a mess.

      1. My mum used to say sour milk made the best scones. Mind you she held some pretty whacky beliefs too. Dunno if she was right about the scones, but she was off the planet with the other stuff.

  16. Didn’t take long for Jerry & the WEITians (alas, probably NOT a good name for a rock band) to decimate Luhrman’s idiocy with the obvious responses, Orwellian-ism being the most obvious. I have only one more diagnosis to offer, in light of passages like these:

    Anthropologists have seen these dynamics among Muslim women. In the 1990s, when young women in Java increasingly chose to wear veils, despite the harassment and mockery of others, the anthropologist Suzanne A. Brenner set out to understand why. She found that they saw themselves as activists: as people who were creating a new social order, free of the corruption of the West. They saw themselves as modern but godly. Choosing to submit to Islamic law made them feel powerful, independent and effective. It gave them a sense of control.

    Stockholm Syndrome.

  17. It may look to secular readers as if these women who think they are being empowered are merely deluded. But that’s not how they understand themselves.

    Well, no shit, Sherlock. The internal dynamics of totalitarian systems and their appeals to both “traditional values” and “edgy rebellion” have been studied by many. Submission to authority can feel just like empowerment. In bowing down and giving yourself completely to a higher power only then do you stand tall… blah, blah, blah. We got it a long time ago. Stop presenting this stuff as if it were all a new and surprising revelation to the “secularists.”

    Tanya Luhrmann has gone full Anthropology Mode. She’s apparently forgotten that to understand all is not necessarily to forgive and/or accept all. I daresay she could do the same sort of intensive psychological study of fascists, street gangs, racist lynching parties, and high school bullies and come up with the same “heady” discoveries about how – when you really look closely at what’s happening here –deep human needs are being satisfied. It “works” for the people who use it. That’s why they use it. Whoa, dude. So deep.

    Lurhmann is being published because she satisfies the accomodationist need to view religious belief as a form of identity, with no right or wrong if you understand sympathetically enough. The religious are sincere. Sure. Sincerity is over-rated.

    1. Right on. This reminds me of a line I once heard in a movie, or maybe I read it. Something like, “Oh, he is sane enough. He’s just too evil to be allowed to live.”

    2. The job of an Anthropologist is to be a “participant observer” to integrate themselves to a large extent into the culture they are observing. When I was studying Anthropology the first warning to the fieldworker was about the danger of “going native”, being converted to the observed cultures worldview. It seems that this is exactly what has happened to Lurhmann.

      It’s fine to describe sympathetically and try to understand your informants points of view, which she does, but you must ultimately draw back and analyse the material. Once you become converted all your work becomes useless.

      1. I don’t know if she’s so much ‘converted’ as firmly fixated on the idea that the nonjudgmental stance of cultural anthropology is the wisest approach to other people’s religions. Analyze the material not in order to change The Natives — but so we can learn to appreciate and accept them as they are. After all, they’re getting something they really, really like.

        It’s like watching old footage of the Germans sobbing in joy when Hitler passes by and ruminating on how there’s just not as much thrill in the rational approach to politics. The up side doesn’t really weigh equally with the down side.

  18. This offers some insight into why so many Christians find gay marriage such a threat to their “traditional” marriage: if it’s not between a man and a woman, how can you have a (biblically proscribed) dominant and submissive partner? Marriage as a union based in love and not on “traditional” roles, as gay marriage necessarily exemplifies, is an affront to these cherished patriarchal values.

  19. Churches are bleeding people…yes there are many really big churches, which might suggest growth.

    But it’s just a form of cannibalism….kinda like when Walmart used to build a store and put all the local retailers out of business.

    So there are about 2.1 million Evangelicals compared to about half that number a decade ago. But overall church attendance has declined steadily. With the recent Evangelical sex scadals, I expect the growth of Evangelicals to follow suit.

  20. Odd that the “savages” the missionaries “saved” in Polynesia had no words for “steal,” “mine,” “crime” etc. More interesting yet that their moral center was that “the sun shall not set on a child alone,” regardless of the fact that they were all “bastards.” No word for that either, of course.

    But now they have become ENLIGHTENED! Praise Jesus (who helps me with my yard–and has dark skin, by the way–he saves me every week)!

    1. Not all as ‘enlightened’ as you might think, fortunately. See my comment at #31 below…

      cr

  21. Anyone who makes a blanket statement that muslim women want to wear the veil needs to take a trip from Saudi Arabia via Saudi airlines to anywhere in the west and watch the Saudi women leaving the toilets as they leave Saudi airspace. They are wearing short skirts, tight jeans. low cut tops and no bin bags.

  22. Luhrmann appears to be making the unfounded assumption that ‘Purity Culture’ actually causes less premarital sex, not simply to making bad choices when having sex due to lack of adequate education on the subject.

  23. It’s hip to be square. Radical, edgy Jesus.
    It’s been tried before. Luhrmann must think she can get Millenials to buy it. Does she know any?

  24. I’m amused by the unspoken assumption that the Judeo-Xtian no-sex-before-marriage is somehow the universal norm, or at least the ideal.

    Polynesian society (at least in the Cook Islands, I wouldn’t speak for other societies) is almost the opposite. Although they’re very religious, the Church’s teachings have got, shall we say, reinterpreted to suit local conditions.

    It’s considered normal and quite advisable for young people to have several boy/girlfriends before they settle down and get married. Ideally, after they’re married, they shouldn’t have affairs, or at least not on the same island. It’s also sensible for a couple to live together for while before they get married, to make sure they’re compatible before they make it official (and not waste a wedding).

    This can lend a quirky flavour to conversations. The wife’s cousin got married recently, the wife told me “It was shocking, she was pregnant”. I thought, wtf?, that’s very odd, “Does she have any other kids?” “Yes, two” (about what I expected). “Well, were they there?” “Yes, as bridesmaids” (also as expected). Ummm. “Would it be better if she had the kid first, then got married?” “Yes of course!” So, what was wrong? “It was disrespectful”. Ah, the penny dropped. The church preaches celibacy before marriage, so although everybody knows that’s quite impractical and inadvisable, it’s rude to actually flaunt the fact that their teachings have been ignored.

    cr

    1. It is completely irrational to not have sex and live with someone for some time before deciding to marry them. Of course, my premises are a bit different than what Christian purity culture is based on.

      In my view getting married is unnecessary to my relationship. It didn’t change my relationship with my wife at all. If my wife hadn’t decided to ask me to get married, years after we had been living together, we might still not be married to this day. But we would still be together.

      Our marriage was a fun celebration. In that sense I think marriage is great. As an excuse to get friends and family together and have a good time. We spent about 5 minutes on a ceremony and then had one hell of a party. Epic even.

      1. We were together for about 3-4 years before we got married. We decided to buy a house first as house prices were going up much faster than inflation (or wedding costs). We ‘had to’ have a church wedding, but the reception (we ‘borrowed’ the cafeteria at work, preferring to spend $$$ on food and drink rather than hall hire) was great. After a few hours we adjourned home to continue the party – we figured 80% would have other things to do, the hardcore 20% were about the right number for a good party.

        We left on our honeymoon next day – way preferable to the customary leaving from the reception, which means leaving a good party and trying to drive somewhere while tired.

        Oh, and I took the precaution of appointing a good friend (a headmaster) as Master of Ceremonies on the day, which worked great, I was able to get nicely drunk and relax and have a good time.

        cr

  25. Nice. Identify the reasons that people join cults, and then suggest that it is okay, there are some nice cults you can join.

    “It may look to secular readers as if these women who think they are being empowered are merely deluded. But that’s not how they understand themselves.”

    That is a pretty good definition of what being deluded means. No delusional people think they are deluded. Thinking they are empowered when they are not is pure delusion, and exactly what these religious cults are trying to get them to think. And by natural selection, they have evolved some pretty attractive lures by now.

    All such cults, even if they are not violent or suicidal, cause psychological harm. It is not a good way to live, and shame on Luhrmann for suggesting otherwise.

  26. Ugh. I was too angry after the first half to keep reading. Took a deep breath, glanced at the second half with my head half-turned away. Didn’t get better.

  27. “They describe a world in which young girls in evening gowns take their fathers as their date to purity balls,”

    I can’t be the only person who finds that a bit creepy. Still “there once was a chap called Oedipus Rex, you may have heard about his odd complex…”

    “The act of submission, when consciously chosen, can feel empowering,”

    There are BDSM clubs for that.

  28. “It is far better that the job be done poorly by your husband,” one book explains (in bold), “than it be done well by you.”

    No. Just no.

    1. I try to explain the fallacy of that to the wife when it comes my turn to wash the dishes, but she isn’t having any. 😉

      cr

  29. Re: infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted July 8, 2015 at 1:41 am

    I have not read widely on the subject, so I’m interested in information from those who have done a better job.

    #ucking is just one aspect of a bond. But sometimes the glue is nurtured and sometimes it isn’t. That’s just the way it is.

    Breakups used to be painful, but when it is just sexual and the other aspects just don’t fit, figure that you dodged a bullet and move on, preferably keeping the previous sex partner as a friend or occasional entertainment, given that the consent is mutual.

    The early Polynesians didn’t worry, they just lived and laughed and loved, without artifice.

    Chill.

    1. Not sure which subject you mean, but I wouldn’t claim to have done a ‘better job’.

      Re Polynesian approaches to morality, I’m only familiar with aspects of the various Cook Islands ones. On the whole they seem to take a fairly pragmatic approach to such questions and religion adapts to follow it.

      Re marriages in general, from my observations of my circle of acquaintances, I couldn’t even start to predict what factors make for a successful marriage. I’ve seen the most apparently successful ones come unstuck and the most unlikely ones succeed.

      cr

      1. Marriage is just a legal contract, mostly to do with money and property. Pair-bonding is another story.

        Remember, Jesus just threw the money-changers out of the temple; he didn’t keep them from changing money. One way of looking at this parable is that he didn’t want to MIX money with love.

  30. Readers of The New York Times would greatly benefit from a regular column by Jerry Coyne as a logical counter to the all too usual religious apologetics and woowoo mumbo jumbo.

    1. That oughta stick their feet into the clay if anything will–as if they weren’t there already.

  31. PS: Am I the only one who never gets notification of new posts via email despite checking that box until I gave up in frustration?

    1. Hasn’t happened to me lately, but I’ve had that in the past. It sometimes helps to use the Follow box to sign up again, even though you’ve been signed up before.

  32. “They describe a world in which young girls in evening gowns take their fathers as their date to purity balls”.

    That really is creepy and makes me feel very uneasy. It brings up a mental picture of the world of the 50’s which I think was a horrible and hypocritical era when so much that was self-evident couldn’t be spoken about.

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