I’m teaching the 12-14 year old girls this Sunday. The lesson is about the law of chastity and the textual basis is
David and Bathsheba’s adultery David’s rape of Bathsheba and subsequent cover-up.
While I understand that the correlated Come Follow Me™ curriculum writers need to shoehorn LDS rules and commandments into lessons that purportedly draw from ancient texts, I am troubled that a story of rape, deceit, and murder is being treated as if it is about chastity. I’m troubled by the message that sends to youth about the “greater sin” of David’s misdeeds as well as its complete ignorance of the fact that Bathsheba in all likelihood could not and did not consent to King David’s entreaties. At worst, this was a rape; at best, David is a Harvey Weinstein of his day (although with actually quite a bit more powerful than even Weinstein). An opportunity that could be used to teach students about consent and integrity is instead being used to hammer home messages around sexual purity as if David and Bathsheba’s relationship was a consensual if adulterous affair.
I’ve also been thinking a lot this year about how much sexual violence LDS folks are exposed to through our study of the scripture. The Old Testament certainly takes the cake, with horrifying sexual violence casually described in story after story after story and, worse yet, an extended metaphor where God is a husband and Israel / Jerusalem is described as a sexually promiscuous wife whose infedility is harshly punished (including by public shaming and physical and sexual violence).
But the Old Testament hardly has a monopoly on sexual violence. Carol Lynne Pearson’s essay “Could Feminism Have Saved the Nephites?” outlines numerous examples of problematic treatment of women in the Book of Mormon. While some of this treatment (like rape and murder) is at the hands of “the bad guys,” there is still an astounding amount of sexual shaming and women-silencing even among “the good guys.” Of the only three women characters unique to the Book of Mormon, one is a “harlot.” In the Doctrine & Covenants, Section 132 is essentially canonized abuse of Emma; By Common Consent did an excellent, detailed series on it last year here. And even the New Testament, which supposedly presents a kinder, gentler God, uses sexual violence as a metaphor (or to some interpretations, literal) way that God punishes the unrighteous.
This point of this post isn’t to do a feminist analysis of these books of scripture. What I have been thinking about instead is: what impact does it have on LDS women (and men) to read stories of sexual violence and exploitation of women dozens or more times over their lifetime, including during formative years where they are crystallizing their own concepts of gender and sexual identity?
To make matters worse, since we encourage members only to view “clean” media and to avoid media that makes immorality look “exciting”, many LDS folks do not grow up with any sex-positive models in the media or otherwise. Don’t get me wrong–I am not suggesting that we all go out and watch pornography, or that sexually explicit content in the media is a good thing–it’s certainly not when it exploits women. At the same time, I have to wonder how any LDS woman who follows all of the rules–which means she’s reading tons of accounts of sexual violence and zero accounts of sexual encounters that were pleasant for the woman–is going to develop a sex-positive view or an image of herself as a sexual agent. While I think on the whole we are getting better at saying it’s OK to have sexual feelings and not shaming those feelings, where are we actually demonstrating that? What positive role models or stories do we have of that at all?
I’ve listened to plenty of podcasts by LDS sex therapists like Jennifer Finlayson-Fife and Natasha Helfer Parker. Finlayson-Fife and Carol Lynne Pearson have both addressed ways that polygamy (even our currently-practiced spiritual polygamy) drives a wedge in intimacy, and other ways we talk about chastity that can increase shame and anxiety around sex. But in my research, I’ve not heard anyone address the specific issue of our continued exposure to stories of sexual violence-as-scripture with no countervailing sex-positive literature.
We also lack role models or instruction on consent. I’ve sat through MANY lessons on chastity – some better than others. But I cannot think of a single time, ever, that I heard a Church lesson on consent. So we teach kids that premarital sex is really, really bad–close to murder–but we don’t actually teach them they have any choice in it or how to exercise that agency (before or after marriage).
Of course, this is all the worse for queer folks for whom there are also numerous accounts of scriptural violence against them and no positive talk around queer sexual relationships whatsoever. In fact, apparently some religious folks who seem to have no problem exposing their kids to extensive sexual violence in scripture object to a chaste on-screen same-sex kiss between married women.
Anyway, I don’t have any answers so look forward to hearing you chime in on this topic & the questions below. I’m looking forward to teaching my YW this week, but we will be using David & Bathsheba as an entrance point to talk about consent, not chastity, and my chastity materials will be coming from an LDS sex therapist who wrote a helpful outline (including carefully editing some of the quotes from conference talks so that they aren’t anti-queer but still use some of the materials from the manual). It’s the least I can do.
- Do you think David & Bathsheba are an appropriate text for teaching chastity? If you were teaching this week, what would you focus on?
- Have you ever heard a chastity lesson about consent? What could we do better to teach LDS kids about consent?
- Do you think often-casual treatment of sexual violence in continued study of the scriptures (without critical analysis) leads to negative views of sex and sexuality? If you’ve seen any resources on this, I’d love to see – please share.
I’d like a lesson on consent but I’m at a loss to build it out of the scriptures we generally recognize. Also, I think there’s a cultural resistance to talking about consent for fear that any such discussion will register as or be remembered as permissive.
If I have to chance to construct a lesson about David, I’m going to focus on the lure of and abuse of power. I could take it in a feminist direction, but I’d probably generalize because I think we all have to work through our own relationship to power and we all are likely to have power position(s) at some times in our lives.
As a long time professor of secular religious studies (full disclosure–my expertise is Medieval Arabic, which is close to Biblical Hebrew but not the same), I have made it my point to discuss women in the context of all of the religious traditions of the world. A discussion of women as agents in any sense, either as being “chaste or an agent of consent, especially in the Torah is mostly irrelevant, because, because women are property–chattel. And that is not a debatable point. It says not to “covet” your neighbors wife, maidservant, or ox. Covet does not mean “lust” in this sense because it does not assume you are lusting after your neighbor’s ox, notwithstanding the apparent need to make a prohibition against beastiality. If a female in your household is raped, you are owed monetary compensation because your property is damaged, more if the girl or woman is a virgin, because she is now worth less. Also noteworthy is that there is no prohibition against lesbian activity in the Torah Sexual activity between two women is no more noteworthy than what two female sheep you own do. Is there a highly correlated lesson that puts anything in the scriptures in historical or theological context? You sound like you have some good leads on how to discuss this already, and I would definitely steer clear of the OT in particular. As for consent, best of luck. Truly. It’s such a slippery slope and all our youth need to understand it. Would hate to have to you deal with an angry parent, saying you were advocating pre marital sex.
If you’re interested, there is a very good read by a Jewish feminist Judith Plaskow entitled “Standing Again at Sinai.” A lot of good stuff there including her central idea that women can’t really be Jews. She bases this on the incident where Moses instructs the “people” to prepare for God to come down from Sinai. This preparation includes purification by not ejaculating for 3 days. Then they could make a covenant with God. Obviously that doesn’t include women, so are women incapable of making this covenant? Or are they merely the property of someone who can? She also notes that in the Talmud there is a huge section entitled “Women.” Where is the section entitled “Men?” It’s because the Talmud is not for women, but for men, who understand their purity/impurity in relationship to women (primarily, but not exclusively).
Again, best of luck. The youth in your ward are lucky to have you.
@englecameron, thank you!!! Those are really interesting (and distressing) points. I think we can get value out of scripture but only if we are honest about what it really is. Pretending it’s something it’s not (like not recognizing that the way the OT treats women is just plain not OK) just gets us tied into knots.
Having just binged the Netflix series last night “Keep Sweet Pray and Obey” (I never binge watch but I found it very interesting), this topic seems relevant. As englecameron notes above, the prevailing view in some religions (and even in some circles outside religion) is that women are property. We have to move beyond that view.
For this week’s lesson (I’ll be out of town on vacation; yay!) I would focus on David. He saw something. He chose his reaction. He could have stopped looking. He could have looked and then moved on. He could have taken care of his reaction to what he saw on his own. He literally could have chosen 1,000 different paths than the one he chose. We need to make sure the youth (and adults quite frankly) understand this. Bathsheba is not at fault; not even a little. Women are not responsible for men. Men are responsible for men. David was responsible for his response, and unfortunately, being a man of power and privilege, his response destroyed many lives.
I have never had a lesson on consent at church. I will be teaching my children consent. I will not rely/wait for the Church to do so.
I like the consent angle. If you choose, as the lesson suggests, to compare and contrast Joseph in Egypt and David, you can look at consent in a female on male assault scenario.
But something @Chadwick said struck me. David could have done something else. If I read the story correctly, he had at least seven wives before Bathsheba entered the scene (and maybe more, since the Bible isn’t clear on how many unnamed wives and concubines he may have had). Ignoring for a moment the discomfort of women as chattel that @englecameron mentions, David had a choice between at least 7 women to legitimately have sex with. If you happen to catch site of a naked woman, you start to feel a little randy, why does it have to be that woman and not one of the other women you’re married to?
Sometimes when I read/think about David’s story, I wonder how much of it is really about sex, and how much of it is about greed and pride. I often notice that the prophet Nathan, when he confronts David, approaches it with the “hypothetical” I know a guy who is pretty well off. Seems to have more than enough for his station in life, and yet he cannot seem to stop steeling from his neighbors. I sometimes wonder how much of David’s moral failing here is less about an out of control libido and more about growing greed to accumulate more stuff (and, as noted above, women/wives are just another thing to accumulate/hoard).
@MrShorty, that’s a good read on the David story. I think another read is that it’s about integrity. There’s a big contrast between David and Uriah in terms of them fulfilling their duties with integrity, and obviously it’s a story of David making a mistake and then instead of owning up to it, making another mistake to cover it up.
I actually think chastity and integrity are closely linked and chastity is really a subset of integrity. Chastity is about keeping to your values and about treating other people in accordance with those values / respect. About being honest with yourself and other people. I think it is much better to look at in a values / relationship / integrity framework than a purity framework.
As for David vs. Joseph in Egypt, I think it’s an atrocious comparison unless you view the story as you mention. But that’s definitely not what the manual presents.
@chadwick I need to check out that series. I agree I won’t be relying on Church to teach my kids consent or really much of anything. But if I’m in a position to help a kid whose parents might not teach it, I’ll certainly do it.
The lesson you’ve planned sounds wonderful.
I do think the story of David and Bathsheba is an appropriate text to teach chastity. David’s rape of Bathsheba was, for David, adultery (also sexual violence). But I agree the correlation committee should make it clear this was David’s sin, drawing attention to the power differential between the king and a common citizen.
I don’t ever see the church teaching consent, because as christiankimball mentions, teaching consent would be seen as permissive. So it falls on parents to make sure our kids learn consent from a young age. When my boys got old enough to start dating, their mother made them watch the short video “Tea and Consent (Clean)”. Now, as they’re going on a date, they’re less likely to get a reminder to “Remember who you are” and more likely to hear, “No giving unwanted tea.” This style of parenting may not keep them chaste, but it keeps them from becoming sexual predators, a win in my book, even if the Correlation Committee disagrees
From the CFM teacher manual for Sunday School (p.51): “You might use 2 Samuel 11 to discuss the dangers of pornography and other sexual sins.”
Elisa, I like your approach much better.
I can’t think of anywhere in the scriptures that we get a story or even a hint about the modern notion of consent. Consent implies a woman has a right to say no. The scriptures are so patriarchal that a woman’s virginity is something the father safeguards until she’s married and then the husband has a right to father children on her. The idea that a woman can say ‘no’ is a product of a society that treats women as individuals and not just a man’s property.
The law of chastity is based on patriarchal values. The historical reason for protecting women’s virginity until marriage was so that men absolutely knew that any child she bore was his. Since the firstborn son inherited from the father, the father wanted a guarantee that the son was genetically his. Kudos to the Church for extending teachings about chastity and fidelity to men, both before and during marriage.
If women were consulted in creating a law of chastity, I believe it would focus more on consent and respect, rather than solely on chastity and fidelity. The current law of chastity is just the one sentence: ‘no sexual relations except with your spouse to whom you are … married’, or whatever the exact wording is. We ought to have four or five sentences to bring women’s experiences and priorities within the boundaries of the law, but those sentences would have to come from modern sensibilities because there isn’t much of anything in scripture about chastity from the woman’s point of view.
Shout-out to Ben Spackman who posted “Who put Bathsheba on the roof?” I think I would examine how the story has been treated over time and clearly teach the context… Bathsheba was not a seductress (David was on the roof) and likely could not resist the king’s advances. This was rape.
I’m convinced that some devil has infiltrated LDS correlation like a dark sorcerer, and is poisoning the congregation by contaminating the figurative wellspring, by way of Come Follow Me manuals.
Come Follow Me manuals read like a manipulation of neurocognitive science and behavioral managment–like an MLM curriculum for the Bible.
I disagree with the idea that the church cannot teach consent without seeming permissive of pre-marital sex. There are all sorts of interpersonal behaviors that the church is generally ok with that still should require consent (kissing, taking someone on a date, borrowing someone’s car, etc). It would, at minimum, be good practice for asking for consent for sexual acts in marriage.
The problem is we teach young women to say yes to dates but we don’t teach them to say no (One of my stake presidents at BYU have a whole talk about how young women should say yes to dates when asked). We don’t teach boys how to take no for an answer. We don’t teach missionaries how to take no for an answer. It’s an outgrowth of our entire patriarchal, paternalistic mindset: the only people allowed to say no in our church are authority figures.
@kirkstall I agree. We can teach consent without it seeming like we are telling people to go have premarital sex. And consent matters in marriage too.
@Kirkstall: Yes, that’s a great point! I remember overhearing conversations at EFY about girls being told to accept any dance invite from any boy. I have discussed with my oldest daughter how to think about a dance request and be polite in how they choose to respond.
@Elisa: I should amend my comment. I WOULD send my kids to your church class on consent. But not a correlated one, should it exist =).
Regarding the feminism aspect of this post, I have struggled somewhat to understand God’s view of women. englecameron points out that there are scriptural evidences across religions that describe women as property, and without looking into the evidences myself, it still seems pretty convincing that this was the case throughout most of history. I don’t recall any references in the New Testament of Christ treating women like property, or second-class citizens. Are there any? Then there are modern day prophets and GAs who I have heard say in essence that man and woman are equal partners in a marriage. They also have spoken quite plainly and harshly against men who abuse their wives. There are periods of time anciently and recently when polygamy was okay in the eyes of God. There are references in the BoM that indicate God is aware of the tears of his daughters and values their chastity. He chastises the husbands for breaking the tender hearts of their wives.
There seems to be lots of contradicting information on this subject. Does God view women as property? I personally don’t think so, but why is there so much of this in our history as human beings on this earth?
A complication in the topic of consent is the difference between no means no and yes means yes. It’s a non-trivial discussion but I am a strong advocate of the latter, the yes means yes version. I believe it can and should be taught within a religious framework, but is much more likely to trigger “permissive” concerns for those who worry about such things.
@bwbarnett because patriarchy is why :-).
If you’re interested there’s an excellent podcast series called Breaking Down Patriarchy, the first three episodes of which lay this out really clearly. Highly recommend.
@Elisa – Thanks I’ll have a look. Any thoughts on how God views women?
@christiankimball I guess I don’t see what’s permissive about telling kids that they get to choose what people do to and with their bodies, both before and after marriage; that they should feel empowered to say “no” to anything that doesn’t fit with their values / standards or desires both before and after marriage; and that if their No isn’t honored and they are assaulted, they aren’t sinning; that if their partner tells them no and they do it anyway, they are sinning / assaulting.
I agree there’s no mean no and yes means yes but I wouldn’t get into that level of granularity in this kind of lesson. Just the idea that consent matters is, to me, something basic we could teach.
@bwbarnett, all are alike unto God.
See related discussions of Mormon’s use of the word chastity/virtue when it was wartime rape in Moroni 9:9. We still have this possession idea; recently illustrated in the new Mormons and Muslims interfaith comparison pamphlet, which has a section on the Role of Women but not a complementary one on “Role of Men”: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/muslims-and-latter-day-saints/12-the-role-of-women?lang=eng
I’m not offended but I’m LOLing that someone thumbs-downed “all are alike unto God.” It’s literally a scripture.
Not a fan of the OT and the more I have read from archeological essays many of the stories we take to be fact don’t measure up – for example David, Saul and Solomon and the actual size and breadth of their kingdoms. Even the great exodus of Jews from Egypt doesn’t seem to exist on the scale that we have come to accept as fact. All stories to impart some type of lesson for the times but I don’t see that they are overly relevant to our current lives and experience. But the CFM committee will work hard to wring out a modern application from the text somehow 🥴
Good for you for formulating something that is hopefully helpful and relevant to the lives of the young women this Sunday – I don’t envy you.
I’m with Di, I don’t see much value in studying the OT. Some of it is great literature, but the vast majority isn’t worth the time spent reading it. The story of David and Bathsheba is just a spin on the modern-day “live’s of the rich and famous.” Yawn.
For example, what are we supposed to learn from the Great Flood, where God killed all the men, women, children, and animals? The OT is a mess. That’s why Christ came to earth, to correct or enhance the path.
There are much better lessons to be learned than those cobbled together from the OT. LDS scriptures need to reduced. Eliminate the OT, severely edit the D&C.
I agree that this is presented poorly for adults and youth but am completely baffled as to why it’s in the primary discussion at all. At the very end of the suggested topics for children, there’s a section entitled “I Can Overcome Temptation” and it asks teachers to review 2 Samuel 11 with children. “Ask the children what good choices David could have made.” Ummm… not used his privilege and power to rape a woman. I was planning on skipping this and discussing it later but if my kids are going to get a discussion about how this is a story of resisting temptation, looks like we’ll have to talk about it now.
It’s worth mentioning the role of the prophet Nathan here. He was the one who eventually confronted David, albeit with a story of property rights, no less. As a king in an ancient patriarchal culture, it would not have occurred to David that he could be the bad guy. But, “Thou art the man!” Speaking truth to power is an essential role of the prophets, as it is for a prophetic people in our day. It’s everybody’s responsibility to discern what’s good/bad, right/wrong and speak up. That’s what to teach our children.
Elisa, I don’t disagree with your lesson plan on consent. It’s just that if it were my curriculum to plan, that would be pretty much my boys and girls mixed class at age eight. My lesson plan for 12-14 yo young women would be granular and explicit.
I’m quite sure I will never be given curriculum design for the LDS church.
If I understand your dilemma correctly you are making two assumptions.
Your first assumption is that your interpretation of the story of David and Bathsheba is the correct interpretation. This interpretation is at the root of your problem because, as you said, it doesn’t align with the standard purity narrative you are expected to teach. Leaving aside your first assumption for a moment, the conflict between these two narratives leads to your second assumption, which is that your calling gives you permission to teach what you think.
I would suggest that the solution to your dilemma is to simply announce the theme of your lesson beforehand. If you do this and you let the parents, and by extension your students, know ahead of time what you are going to teach then they can decide what they want to do.
If, on the other hand, you proceed unilaterally you will be doing exactly what you are arguing that David didn’t do, which is to get permission before he and Bathsheba engaged in sexual intercourse. If you do this then you will do both yourself and your students a disservice.
@Bob, did you read the lesson plan I linked to that I said I planned to use? It is 100% consistent with Church doctrine and is based on the CFM manual and resources (including a boatload of David Bednar quotes). It simply doesn’t mention David & Bathsheba at all. And if you read my comment to Christian Kimball, I clarified that the only thing I would say about consent is that it’s a thing :-). I don’t plan to go into detail about rape or even mention it (again except to say that if you’re a victim of sexual assault you don’t need to repent – that’s also consistent with Church teachings).
I can understand why based on my post you think I’m going off the reservation, but this post isn’t my lesson plan. It’s other thoughts based on my experience with the lesson plan. The ethics of going off-plan is an interesting concept but I don’t even think this is the right jumping off point for that. Certainly I would appreciate it if people didn’t constantly go off-plan in my kids’ classes (generally by turning literally every lesson into an anti-gay marriage diatribe, including for 8 yr old classes).
As for whether I’m misinterpreting the story, I don’t have it in me to get into the back and forth on the theology, but would point to these resources and reiterate that I truly don’t know that a king’s request to a subject is one the subject could ever truly freely decline:
http://ldswomenproject.com/sunday-school-supplements/telling-her-story/ (this one makes the inaccurate assumption that Bathsheba was “on the roof” which isn’t true but still contains some good insights)
Plus see some of the comments above.
@englecameron, in light of today’s SCOTUS news can’t be help but think that women are still property. The property of the state whose bodies can be commandeered to populate the nation.
I just want to clarify that my comment isn’t that teaching consent is necessarily permissive. I think the church COULD (and should) teach consent and I’m sure it could be done in a manner consistent with the law of chastity. I’m just saying that I don’t think the correlation committee sees it that way.
@MTodd, the correlation committee does not see a great many things my way 🙂
Consent is great, but it is a lower law, a lower standard than the law of chastity. Chastity is consent + other gospel principles.
@M I’m not really sure what you mean tbh. I agree that consent isn’t the same thing as chastity. It’s certainly not a “lower” law though. Nobody’s being chaste if they’re actions are nonconsensual.
I find it bizarre that so many conservative Mormons almost don’t care about rape or sexual harassment, dismissing concerns about those issues as “wokeness.” They only seem to care about “chastity” in the sense of don’t have sex before or outside marriage. It’s a misogynistic blame-women phenomenon, I guess. Mormon men are overwhelmingly setting the curriculum, agenda, and course of discussion and like to blame the women for dressing too little, “tempting” the men, acting like “sluts”, etc. As if men have no accountability. As if they can’t control themselves. A rape happens or act of sexual harassment happens and too often I hear Mormon men (often the douchy Vivint bro types) say, “well, it’s a two-way street, hard to know what happened.” Then they turn around and thump their chests about abortion, family, etc. I just don’t get it. Let’s talk more about rape and use the word rape. Let’s talk more about sexual harassment and call it that. A culture that freaks out about “necking” and “petting” can’t bring itself to condemn sexual harassment. Truly disgraceful.
We have a family friend who is a primary school teacher, she has childre 5 and 8. They are being taught that they are responsible for their body and choose who is allowed to touch them and how. Consent. They are enthusiastic and joyfull, and give hugs. Sexual consent will be an ongoing part of this process.
Last years Australian of the year Grace Thame is a young woman who was groomed and repeatedly raped by her school teacher. Once she left school she started campaigning for sex education to have more about consent. We now have enthusiastic consent and coerced consent being discussed.
The church has dealt itself out into irrelavence on this important subject.
We just had a federal election in Australia. Women in particular believed they were not being heard by the conservative party, and voted them out. With the ruling on abortion, and guns, I would think women (even republican women) could organize to vote against republicans in the mid term elections.
Bob Cooper, you sound scared that students might be taught Bible stories about how David was a rapist and murderer. Well that’s what the story is whether you like it or not. And that’s not the only story about rape and murder being glorified in the Bible. Maybe we could just stop teaching students the Bible. Or perhaps we could compromise and reject most of the Old Testament and focus on Jesus.
@John W – “so many conservative Mormons almost don’t care about rape or sexual harassment”
Where are you getting your statistics? I’m a conservative Mormon and I do care about those things. I hang around with lots of conservative Mormons, and I don’t know of any who don’t care about those things or dismiss them or blame the women for them. I can also admit that in all likelihood, David raped Bathsheba and that he murdered her husband. I don’t glorify those acts, nor David.
@bwbarnett appreciate your comment.
I didn’t make John W’s comment but it’s very possible he’s referring to the number of Mormons who voted for Trump despite plain evidence that he is gross about women.
I think most everyone cares about rape and sexual harassment. I think where we see problems are people who don’t believe women about such things or have a very different definition. “Sure rape is bad but that wasn’t rape”.
The number of Mormons running into defend David (not you) in conversations I’ve observed is also telling on this point.
@Elisa – I can see how someone could draw conclusions about people who voted for Trump, but I still don’t believe it’s a very valid conclusion. The proposed logic that I don’t necessarily agree with is:
1. Trump is gross about women.
2. I voted for him.
3. I must also be gross about women.
This is bad reasoning in my opinion. There is much more to a vote for Trump than that, or a vote for anyone I suspect.
Regarding Mormons running to defend David, I’ll admit that I feel terribly sorry for him, based primarily on his deep sorrow and regret, his weeping and anguish, all his prayers asking for forgiveness, solace, peace, etc. This feeling of sorrow for David should not signify to others that I don’t also feel sorrow for Bathsheba due to what David did to her (rape and killing her husband). I will admit that I don’t think as often about Bathsheba as I do about David. Maybe because the story of David continues in the text but Bathsheba’s doesn’t — because it was written by men in a patriarchal society 😉
BTW – I’ve listened to some of the podcast on Patriarchy that you suggested. It is very interesting and worthwhile — thanks!!
One more thing I forgot to mention: There is no excuse for what David did. There is nothing to defend, just that I feel sorry for him.
@bwbarnett, I agree that voting for Trump doesn’t mean that a person thinks it’s ok to, for example, “just grab her by the pussy” as he said. It does mean that him saying that isn’t a dealbreaker, though, which to me is really upsetting because it means a person is prioritizing many things over the respect and safety of women. Maybe a Trump voter respects women but apparently not quite enough to vote against a misogynist for the actual highest position in the land.
I get that many disagree about what I’m reading into it, but I think it’s a valid interpretation of a person’s voting behavior.
Thank you for listening to the podcast episodes & glad they are enlightening.
And I’m not talking about people who feel sorrow for David. It’s fine to feel sorrow for him. I am talking about people who still claim Bathsheba was some kind of temptress or at fault and that the encounter was simply adulterous.
@Elisa – I suspect that many men running for office, including Biden, are misogynists. Trump just happened to “get caught”. Some of the footage of Biden, while not as egregious as what surfaced about Trump, is highly suspicious regarding his views about women. So between the two misogynists running for the highest position in the land, the decision had to be about something other than their views on women.
@bwbarnett I don’t want to turn this into a side debate, but (1) in 2016 Trump was running against Clinton, not Biden, and I’m not aware of her being a misogynist, and (2) I disagree there is equivalence in Trump and Biden’s behavior. Not just the pussy grab comment (which NO ONE came forward against Biden with anything resembling that, so Trump “getting caught” isn’t that compelling to me a difference) but also multiple bullying tweets and speeches mocking women’s appearances etc etc. There’s a line between gender bias and misogyny that Trump has so clearly crossed I don’t think it’s even close. Both sides does not work here.
Not to mention with Trump you get the Pence package (who doesn’t think men should be alone with women) and with Biden you get a pretty non-misogynistic Harris.
Brief videos about consent (okay I admit I added “Herbal” to the Tea and Consent video just for fun):
IF YOU ONLY WATCH ONE VIDEO, watch:
“If A Robbery Report Was Treated Like A Rape Report”
“Cycling Through Consent”
“Consent, you’ve all heard of it, here’s six simple ways to understand it (with a sandwich)…”
“[Herbal] Tea and Consent”
I was kind of shocked to see how backwards some of my own views about consent were when I watched these videos–some of you may have more forward thinking views than I did, but for me it was an eyeopener.
@Elisa – fair enough, yes I don’t want this to turn into that either. And in all honesty, nobody here needs to explain or defend to anyone else why they voted for whomever they voted. We all have our reasons. Along those same lines, nobody here should be saying that I am stupid, dimwitted, etc., simply because I voted differently or have differing opinions, which was the catalyst for many of my comments to begin with.
I want to jump back to using the OT is lessons. @Elisa, I know I said steer clear of the OT on a lesson that hints at consent, let’s not throw the OT out with the bath water. Like @christiankimball (how the heck are you anyways? It’s been many years since our “salad” days in Hyde Park!) nobody has yet to call me for advice on curriculum. Like the old country western song “If the phone still ain’t ringing, I guess it still ain’t you.” But even if you didn’t spend years doing a doctoral program at the University of Chicago’s Department of Near Eastern Languages, (and I did) there are books you can read, that can help you understand the generally accepted scholarly arguments surrounding the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. Then you can compare it with your own understanding of the Gospel. Hopefully the first thing you will do is reject biblical literalism. If you need help with that google “Spencer Kimball, ” “Adam and Eve,” and “symbol.” I dare the most closed minded person in your ward to take a whack at President Kimball, and say he is wrong. These books were never written to tell us what Moses or Jesus did on any given Tuesday. Most of the events in the OT, and to a lesser extent the NT, were textualized hundreds, if not thousands of years after the events they purport to describe. Eventually, at different times and places, and for different purposes, these books became “canonized” and we already know how the differences in translation impact meaning. Now imagine the OT is written in biblical Hebrew, and like Latin, or Quranic Arabic are dead languages. They are not spoken anymore. Although their “descendants” are. To further complicate the picture, Hebrew and Arabic are written in consonants, with no markings for vowels In fact, if you pick up a Hebrew or Arabic newspaper, you will see just a bunch of consonants. Because of the importance of the Hebrew Bible, and Quran respectively, vowels are now written, although it was a long, ugly argument to reach consensus, because different vowels within a group of consonants rendered a different meaning, Complicated by the fact that some consonants have the same form, and are distinguished by weeny teeny diacritical marks, sometimes omitted. This is what Jesus means when he talks about thee “jots and tittles” in the Sermon on the Mount.
Now I realize I’ve gone too deep in the weeds, and might be defeating my original purpose which was to say read the Bible, reject the literalism, and even in English you can recognize the anachronisms, contradictions, cultural contexts etc and with a certain degree of stealth, make comments and teach lessons that bear this thing in mind. A very easy read, written by an Episcopalian nun who had a nervous break down and the became an academic called “The Bible: A Biography” by Karen Armstrong. Her “History of God” is also a good read. In The Bible, Armstrong lays out the likely manner in which the OT and NT were assembled, and how that effects their meaning. We can (and I certainly do) believe the Bible to be the word of God. God attempting to reveal His will to imperfect humans, which will be bound at times by events (sometimes repugnant to our modern sensibilities) that must be flatly rejected (the JST is an interesting take on this idea). Where’s the good news in this? Modern day revelation–I know, could be a blessing or a curse, depending on whose giving it! But with our collective good will, and a lay ministry, we actually have a chance to influence what direction those “revelations” take. Eventually Hopefully.
@englecameron I like the OT. I will need to check out the resources you’ve mentioned but I’ve read and loved books on taking the Old Testament seriously but not literally from people like Marcus Borg and Rob Bell plus things like the History of the Bible.
I will say, though, that while I started the year strong studying the OT with my own family, the repeated and pervasive mistreatment of women really wore me down and I felt like in my family we were spending more time explaining why the things in the story were wrong than gleaning actual wisdom. So we petered out some.
bwbarnett, good on you for being willing to call David a rapist and a murderer.
I speak from anecdotal experience admittedly.
But there are many stories of BYU admin and church leaders failing to discipline sexual abusers. Consider Joseph Bishop, the former MTC president who sexually assaulted a sister missionary in the basement of the MTC. Never excommunicated.
Sterling Van Wagenen, the director of the temple movie, was sentenced to six years in prison for sexual assault of a minor. Never exed. Only disfellowshipped.
Maddy Barney was kicked out of BYU because she filed a report that she was raped.
Richard G. Scott gave a 1991 conference talk about abuse in which he blamed the victims.
There seems to be a pattern of victim-blaming in the church culture and of letting perpetrators of sexual abuse off the hook or going light on them.
Trump’s election, too, shows that conservatives largely don’t care about sexual harassment. Heck Roy Moore wasn’t that far away from a victory in the Alabama Senate race, in spite of all sorts of revelations that he had a long history of pedophilia.
Liberal Mormons and liberals in general just seem to care more. Obviously, they aren’t perfect, acceptance of Bill Clinton being a huge example. But, is it any wonder that the #MeToo movement is mostly led by liberals and slandered by conservatives?
I would just note that this story is more about murder than sexual sin. Yes, what David did to Bathsheba was wrong and reprehensible, but he essentially murdered her husband so that he could claim her as his own. That was the reason Nathan confronted David. I feel like we get it all mixed up in Mormon culture. It was never about pornography. Teaching consent here is kind of slippery because she was married. It should be assumed she is not willing. I’ve always thought that Isaac and Rebecca is a better lesson to talk about consent. I hate that it is spun to talk about temple marriage.
How much does this affect laws in Utah?:
In 2021 and again in 2022, a Utah legislator (Carol Spackman Moss, D Holladay) ran a bill “to include information about consent, which the bill defines as “freely given, informed, and knowledgeable agreement” either “to do something” or “for something to happen”.” (The Guardian)
Other aspects of relationship risks were covered, as well.
In 2021 it was HB177. It didn’t make it out of committee, even after Moss removed the word “consent” (except for parents’ consent for their child to receive sex ed as part of the health curriculum).
In 2022 a Republican senator (Kirk Cullimore, R-Sandy), added his name to the proposed legislation, HB274. It passed in the House 43-25. It appeared to be passing in the Senate, until quite suddenly, many legislators changed their votes. I would guess Gayle Ruzika and her Eagle Forum put a stop to it. Sadly.
As it stands, “But in the state’s schools, current sex education standards focus on “refusal skills” to prevent sexual misconduct, a reactive tactic that puts the onus on victims instead of perpetrators.” (The Guardian)
There were two interesting podcasts I listened to that made some points about consent that I think are worth mentioning. One was about the relationship between Jefferson and Sally Hemmings. From a current perspective, this is another relationship where the power differential is so unacceptable as to put it into a “rape” category because consent is not possible. He owned her. But the historian on the podcast pointed out a few things, including the common justifications at the time for these types of relationships, that Jefferson could see himself as one of the “good” slave-owners because there is no record of him ever personally beating a slave (although without a doubt, his employees used the whip). Also, miscegenation laws prevented him from marrying Sally. Lastly, even if he had married her, wives were essentially financially dependent property of their husbands and marital rape was not only not illegal, but a term that most men at the time wouldn’t have even acknowledged was a rational concept. How could you “rape” your own property? It was yours to do with as you pleased.
The next point was from an earlier podcast that talked about the problem with talking primarily about consent. She pointed out that if *all* we talk about is consent (which as Elisa points out is at least a step up from *not* talking about consent or worse, making up crap like “nonconsensual immorality” which makes being raped an immoral act!), that restricted conversation has two negative side effects: 1) we never get to talking about pleasure parity between men & women because pleasure is a whole different ball game than consent, and 2) there’s pressure to normalize and consent to things that are potentially objectionable or rare like fetishes, BDSM, etc., because our “consent” was verbalized as a precursor, and there’s social pressure to agree and not to “kink-shame.” As to the first point, if there’s a scale, maybe it runs from sex-negativity<consent<sex-positivity<sex-parity. Since so much media has been historically created by men, we have a lot of issues in how "female sex positivity" is portrayed. The most common example that springs to mind is that most consensual / pleasurable sex acts are portrayed showing women climaxing through vaginal penetration, which is not even physically possible for more than about a third of women (I think it's really around 26%). To put it another way, if we just talk about consent, sex is whatever you can talk/pressure another person into agreeing to do or have done to them. So, while it's obviously far worse if consent doesn't even figure in, as the post-Roe debate brings up quite rightly, there's a whole crapton of sex happening out there that women have been pressured to have or agreed to for reasons that have nothing to do with our sexual pleasure, and now the law in many states (including Utah, one of the first piggies to the trough) codifies that this coercive sex act, if it results in pregnancy, will have devastating impacts to her financial life for the next 20 years, and to her health for even longer than that, often with zero consequences for the man who irresponsibly impregnated her. He got what he wanted. She probably didn't. Yet we are told that it takes two to tango, without regard to the fact that in many cases, particularly with such selfish partners, only one even gets to dance. The church has a pretty terrible track record on female pleasure, although credit where due, there have been some general conference talks promoting sexual consent within marriage.
@Angela, your point re: parity and pleasure is really important.
Personally, I think the Church should just butt out of trying to teach people about sex because it’s doing a terrible job and I’m not sure anyone wants Church leaders to be teaching about sexual pleasure and parity – probably should leave that to somebody else. But if we’re going to insist on chastity lessons, the LEAST we can do is try to teach in a not-shameful way and not use what is actually a rape story as a “chastity” story.
FWIW I taught this lesson on Sunday and it went well. We didn’t end up talking about Davi & Bathsheba at all. I did have a big piece on sexual abuse / non-consensual things NOT requiring repentance (but potentially requiring professional help and healing), but I didn’t use the scriptures to ground that comment in. Overall, using scriptures to talk about healthy sexuality & equality is just about as useful as looking to the 17th and 18th centuries to find evidence of an “abortion right”. In other words, useless.
Excellent post, Elisa. I think you raise such a great point with this in particular: “I have to wonder how any LDS woman who follows all of the rules–which means she’s reading tons of accounts of sexual violence and zero accounts of sexual encounters that were pleasant for the woman–is going to develop a sex-positive view or an image of herself as a sexual agent.”
I really don’t know what to even suggest. Our scriptures are shot through with patriarchy, as noted often in this thread, with the idea that women are property. For women to be the subjects of their own lives, including their sexual experiences, is just so far outside our scriptures that they seem utterly useless for this topic. This seems like a great argument for us to maybe have some new scripture, although sadly no scripture that addresses how women can positively own their own sex lives is going to come from the Q15. It feels to me like by raising this question, you’ve shown just how gaping the gap is between the Church as it stands and any type of organization that really cares about women’s lives at all. Sure, there have been changes and updates since Joseph Smith’s time, but it all seems like so much window dressing.
@ziff, that’s what I’m realizing, too. It’s one thing to try to look at feminist interpretations of scripture, not take them literally, etc. to mitigate the harm. But harm mitigation is not really the thing I want to aspire to. When it comes to actually teaching POSITIVE things, our canon is just not enough. And thinking that scriptures that were written when women were property contains all the wisdom anyone will ever need from God / for life is very problematic.