Now in the past, I’ve always made a distinction between the complementarianism of groups like The Gospel Coalition and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and the hard patriarchy of groups like Vision Forum and the FIC Movement, assuming that the latter was much more legalistic and patriarchal than the former. But in recent years the two seem to be getting cozier. I know many complementarians who, although they believe men should hold authority over women in the home, church, and society, make an exception for the marriage bed, acknowledging the Apostle Paul’s teachings on mutuality in this regard (1 Corinthians 7:1-5). So I was surprised and disturbed to see a mainstream complementarian organization—The Gospel Coalition—endorse male authority and female submission in sex.
UPDATE: Rachel Held Evans has followed up to her original post. Here’s her final point:
And finally, amidst all the impassioned rhetoric on both sides, we seem to have lost the main point a bit. I have yet to receive a straight answer from Jared or Doug regarding what it means, practically, to preserve the complementarian ideal of male authority in sex? The two have insisted that they advocate mutuality in the bedroom, and yet, according to Doug, “the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party,” but instead “a man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants” while a woman “receives, surrenders, accepts.” What does he mean by that? What’s wrong with an “egalitarian pleasure party”? (Sounds like fun to me!) In other words: How is complementarian sex supposed to be different than egalitarian sex? Does preserving male authority mean that a man must always initiate sex? Does it mean that the missionary position is the only acceptable one for Christians? Is it too “egalitarian” for both a man and woman to be pleasured? Does “submission” mean that a woman must perform sex acts she doesn’t like in order to please her husband? The Wilsons have yet to clarify what they mean when they assert that “true authority and true submission are…an erotic necessity.” They’ve said a lot about what they don’t mean, but not what they do mean. As one commenter put it: “If an appropriate sexual relationship within marriage is not an ‘egalitarian pleasure party’ but is not legalized rape, what exactly is it?” A clarification here would really move the conversation forward.
A clarification would indeed be helpful.