“Zimzum of Love” review: 45-95, “Dynamic” and “Exclusive”

zimzum

One of the reasons why I was initially hesitant to write a review of a book I knew I’d essentially agree with was that I’d move through the book and think ho-hum, or well, duh, or this is just common sense why did we need a book about this. And then I’ll remember– oh, wait, there’s a zillion books out there that actively contradict what I think is “common sense,” so yes, we do need a book like this one. Desperately.

Chapter three, “Dynamic,” was a pretty good reminder of this, because I can’t help comparing this book to others like Real Marriage and Captivating, and I’m bumping into things that are surprising to find in a Christian book about marriage. It’s a little sad that I read a sentence like “And human beings are endlessly complex and surprising” (48), and I want to draw a little heart in the margins because I’m happy they said that out loud.

So often the messages you get from books like these is that men and women can be understood as men and women and we just have to learn what makes your husband a man or what makes your wife a woman and then you’re set. You just have to get “what makes women tick” in order to have a happy marriage– but Zimzum doesn’t go there. They dedicate a whole chapter to the idea that people are different and complex because they are people and it’s what I’ve been shouting during all these reviews and it makes me just so happy that someone else is saying it.

I also loved this paragraph from Kristen:

We all know women who have lost themselves in marriage– giving up their dreams and goals and losing their sense of self in the process. Sometimes women absorb messages from their family or the culture around them or especially certain religious environments that tell her — in subtle ways, not always with words– that she’s not an equal and therefore her needs and desires and aspirations are not as important as her husband’s.

I wanted to jump up and down about a few things she says here. First, she explicitly says how women can “lose themselves in marriage,” which is an idea I’ve seen other Christians reference in books like this but they never go on to say what they mean. Kristen lays it all out– one of the ways we can lose ourselves is to “give up our dreams and goals.” Many complementarian-minded Christians could never actually admit to this reality because they want women to give up our dreams. That is sort of the point. Unless of course our dream was to serve our husbands and be barefoot and pregnant and do whatever he needs to support him and his job or his ministry.

And then she blatantly contradicts the complementarian message, and she is clear that what complementarians say and what complementarians actually mean are not going to be the same.

I didn’t get out as much from chapter four, the “Exclusive” chapter, because to me they make observations that apply to marriage but also seem to easily apply to long-term friendships; except, they seem to be making the claim that these things are different from what happens in friendship. For example, one of the ideas they build the chapter around is that shared experiences are important– that building a life together means creating memories together, and that your marriage is enriched by these memories. Which is true … but I also think the same thing could be said of pretty much any relationship. I get why it’s especially important to do this in a marriage, but it doesn’t seem that different.

I also disagreed with the message on the last few pages of the chapter– that it is “toxic” to “put another person into the space between you.” I get why they said this, as involving other people in a personal conflict can be an extremely unhealthy and harmful thing to do to your partner. However … sometimes it is necessary, and I think this is a fairly common idea upheld by American culture: “keep your marital problems private” isn’t something they pulled out of thin air. However, I think the heavy emphasis on this can be dangerous, as it is one of the things that keep people trapped in unhealthy, toxic, or abusive relationships. If they can never talk about the problems they’re having, they will never have access to someone willing to say things like whoa that is not ok and not normal and not healthy.

They do acknowledge that if things get bad you should get counseling … but people in abusive relationships don’t know that “things are bad”– that is how they’re in an abusive relationship.

So while I don’t disagree with the general thrust of their “Exclusive” chapter, I’m again reminded that people tend not to write books like this while keeping the realities of abuse and domestic violence constantly in front of them.

on disguising logical fallacies in “feminist” arguments

basil in disguise
[art from The Great Mouse Detective]

While the following may not be a completely universal experience, in my experience it tends to be a common one: when a rape victim starts talking about their experience (especially on the internet), inevitably someone somewhere is going to say something along the lines of “you need to take responsibility for your own choices that led to this.” And then they are shocked– shocked, I say– when someone responds with “stop victim blaming us.” After all, how could they be victim blaming? Didn’t you just hear them argue for agency and autonomy? They are the real feminist in this conversation because real feminists “acknowledge that women have the power to make their own choices.”

I got this the other day on my Fifty Shades of Grey article– someone told me that I obviously had “self-esteem issues” and that I had ignored red flags because I was “obsessed with what was on the outside.” Because of that, they argued, I need to stop finding other things to blame because it was really my fault that it had happened. My choices led to that. The comment has since been deleted (because The Mary Sue has some pretty great mods), but you can read my response to that person here.

That argument isn’t unique– during my Real Marriage review, someone left this comment on my facebook page:

She [Grace Driscoll] sinned in having premarital sex, but more pertinent, she made an unwise choice that put her in harms way. She believes she is a whole person and holds herself accountable for that choice. That doesn’t change the man’s guilt in her eyes or mine. Giving us the accountability for those choices also gives us the power to choose. That power is precisely the same power that ultimately let me choose to remove myself from the abuse entirely, turn away from the lie that I’m not a real person with real worth, and prevent my past victim-hood from defining me. Responsibility for your own choices is empowering because it empowers you to make different choices in the future.

See the language she used, describing this victim-blaming argument as “empowerment”?

Now that I’ve established that this happens, I’m going to talk about why this argument is hilariously wrong. It’s a logical fallacy. Specifically, it’s post hoc ergo propter hoc, which is a kind of false cause fallacy. These people are literally making this argument:

You chose to be in this relationship.
You were raped in this relationship.
Therefore, you chose to be raped.

Put into stark terms like that, it should be apparent why this is a false cause fallacy: choosing to be in a relationship does not mean that you chose to be raped. Because one followed the other– because he raped me after I decided to date him– does not mean that one caused the other. What caused him to rape me was his decision to rape me, and just because being in a relationship with him gave him the opportunity to rape me in particular does not mean that I am to blame. This argument has the same problem as “if you don’t dress provocatively, you won’t get raped”– all it really says is make sure the other girl gets raped; the problem isn’t the clothes or my decision to date someone, it’s the rapist running around raping people because he or she wants to.

An argument that usually goes along with this is that people like me– people who say “it is not my fault that I was raped, I am a rape victim,”– get told that we’re living with a “victim mentality” and we should learn to shoulder the “mature responsibility” of a full-grown woman with “agency” and “autonomy.”

First of all, most of these people have no fucking clue what “agency” means, especially in a feminist context. When feminists say “women should have agency,” it’s a declaration about the ways that oppressive structures limit our choices. We’re saying “women should have as many open avenues as possible.” For example, often it is the female partner in a heterosexual relationship that gives up their career to stay home with the children. While every woman who does this is choosing to, she is making that choice inside of a social context that could be cutting off other options, such as the perception around stay-at-home fathers or the fact that statistically her husband probably makes more money than she does. These factors mean that her agency in that choice is at least somewhat limited (which is one of the reasons why I have some problems with “choice feminism.” If you’re interested in reading more about that, you should start with bell hooks. In fact, everyone should start with bell hooks.) To have agency means that we can vote, we aren’t barred from career fields (even dangerous ones like combat duty– I don’t need your benevolent sexism, thank you), or educational opportunities.

Autonomy is the reason why women should have agency. Autonomy is the ability for an individual person to make independent decisions, and it’s something every single human being has. It’s part of what makes us human beings. The fact that our culture has denied women agency was based on the idea that we didn’t have as much autonomy as men. We shouldn’t be allowed to vote because we can’t, went the argument. We couldn’t be trusted to make that sort of decision. We were too weak, too stupid, etc.

So when someone like this starts throwing around “women have agency and autonomy, y’know!” in arguments about victim blaming it should be clue number one that they don’t have any idea what they’re talking about. These ideas don’t belong in a conversation about how we were raped–regardless of sex or gender– because we weren’t the ones choosing. Someone else made the decision to rape us.
While I’ve been talking about the specific context of “you chose to date him, idiot” arguments I’ve run into, the same problems exist with

You chose to get drunk.
You were raped while you were drunk.
Therefore, you chose to be raped.

and all the others that are like it, and saying that “women have agency, therefore we have the power to choose to be raped” is especially hilarious in the “don’t get drunk” argument. In the “don’t get drunk” argument you are limiting her agency. Women should have the same agency as men– men can get drunk in public and not have to worry about being raped. The fact that women have to even consider rape as a possible “consequence” for getting drunk means that we don’t have the same options as men. Getting drunk and not being raped isn’t supposedly a legitimate option in the “don’t get drunk” narrative. Telling women “don’t get drunk” is telling women you don’t have agency.

Hopefully this post clears up some confusion on what makes all these arguments victim blaming.

despair and fury: being a woman in rape culture

anger
[art by Liza]
[content note: rape, sexual assault, depression]

This is an extremely difficult post for me to write. The words have been simmering inside of me for a long time, and I hope that getting them out of me will … help. I wrote a post a little while ago that talked about the depression I’ve been struggling with, and as you can probably tell from my lack of regular posting, the past two weeks have been rough.

I consider myself fortunate in that my depression has always been situational– while it certainly isn’t fun, that it’s been a rather normal reaction to life events means that when life settles down, so can I. I’ve never worried about being depressed because I knew there would be a bend in the road, a light at the end of the tunnel, and I’d come out of it. Eventually. All I had to do was buckle down and muscle through it.

This time, though … I’m not sure how to get around this depression because while it’s still situational, the “situation” isn’t ever going to go away. This time, I’m depressed because rapists get away with it.

I don’t think that’s a fact that’s going to change at any point in my lifetime … and that’s just fucking depressing as shit.

I came to the realization of why I’m depressed shortly before Christmas. I was speaking with my partner about a man we both know to be a sexual predator when I just … snapped. I was remembering all of the times this person had grabbed my ass without my permission or the times I’d watched him drunkenly grope and forcefully kiss his way through a party– and the fact that he was surrounded by a community of men who find this behavior acceptable and will call any woman who complains about it a “bitch.” And, suddenly, I couldn’t handle it anymore. I’d removed myself from that group of people, but the group still exists and that behavior still happens, and nothing is ever going to happen to him.

I hid myself in the closet and beat my head into the wall until everything in my vision was a little fuzzy and dark; I wanted to claw out of my skin, to rip my heart out of my chest so it would stop hurting so badly. My rapist, the last time I heard anything about him, was a youth pastor, and married to the woman he’d cheated on me with– a woman, because of what he told me, I suspect he might have assaulted. By all accounts he’s happy and successful and chances are he will never be brought to justice for all the women he’s harmed. And that … was overwhelming in a way that I can’t put into words. That night, I hated this world and everything about it. I was hysterical with fury and pain.

Since that night I’ve been struggling to deal with this reality that I’ve been able to emotionally ignore for so many years. I can’t escape it now, and the burden of waking up to a world where the men I know to be rapists are happy and hale and will– almost absolutely– never see the inside of a prison makes me want to shrink as far into my bed as I can bury myself.

Today it took me three hours to drag myself out of bed, and all I ended up doing was moving to the couch, cuddling with Elsa, and crying myself to sleep again. I thought I might be getting better, that surrounding myself with tea and good books and good movies and cuddling with Handsome was working.

But, last Wednesday, I was riding the DC metro and I watched a man violate every single one of a woman’s boundaries while she was helplessly trapped on a train with him with no where to go. I stood there, helpless and enraged, not knowing what to do, while I watched him slowly escalate his behavior until he attacked her and she tried to fight him off and I start yelling at him to stop, but he ignored me until Handsome grabbed his shoulder. And then he spends the next five minutes yelling at every single last person on the train about the “dumb bitch” who interfered.

And I stood on that train until he got off, and I sobbed, because I saw that other people had noticed, and I and Handsome had been the only ones to even move when he attacked her. I cried harder when another passenger confronted my partner and told him that he should have “left it alone.”

I don’t know how to live on this planet. I don’t know how to live on a planet where Fifty Shades of Grey is a box-office success and women tell me that I need to take responsibility for being raped because obviously I ignored the many neon-billboard signs that my rapist was an abuser because I thought he was hot. I don’t know how to live in the same country as a woman who tells rape victims that they need to repent. I don’t know how to live in a world where it’s rare and unusual for someone to step in, even when a sexual assault is obviously happening right in front of them.

And while I know this is a bit melodramatic… I feel like Elijah saying “I am the only one left.” And of course that’s objectively ridiculous. There are so many incredible people out there fighting for the same thing I am, who speak up when they see something happening. It’s just difficult to remember that when you’re the only “bitch” at a party telling someone to quit it, or the only person on a train willing to speak up.

It makes me angry, too, because it’s not as though being a feminist takes any of my fear away. I am just as embarrassed and awkward and afraid of rocking the patriarchal party boat as anyone else. I am just as terrified of confronting someone on the train and making myself a target. The difference is that I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t do something, and it infuriates me that so many know that people around them are being harassed and assaulted, and they care … they just don’t care enough.

In the end, that is what I find truly depressing.

So, I’m throwing this post out there, hoping that it could make someone understand exactly what is at stake when they keep their head down and “mind their own business,” when they are bothered by that guy at a party who just won’t leave that woman alone but don’t want to get harassed for saying something about it. If these words do anything, I hope that it convinces at least one person that taking all the heat and flack and cursing and raging is worth it.

kink 101 for purity culture survivors

blindfolded
[note: links may include NSFW material]

There are many amazing resources out there for people who think they might be kinky or into BDSM, and I’ll link to some at the bottom of this post. However, if you’re anything like me … a lot of what’s out there seems conflicting and confusing, and because I grew up on the rather strict end of purity culture I didn’t have the tools to start sorting any of it out. I didn’t know anything about sex, and many of us don’t. Someone I met in college thought that semen was green because of a joke they’d heard about grass stains, and I thought that “going through the back door” meant doggy.

And that’s just regular sex. If you think  you might be into kink, things are going to be exponentially harder, because while “safe, sane, consensual” seems like a spectacular phrase, purity culture survivors may not have a personal baseline for “safe” and “sane” and heaven knows we’re not given any sort of education about what consent actually is.

So, I’m going to do my best to give people like me the baseline they need to move on and explore BDSM/kink if they’d like to. I only really have my experience to draw upon, so please keep that in mind. I’m coming at this from the perspective of being a sub/bottom, but hopefully what I share here is applicable to both bottoms and tops.

~~~~~~~~~

The Most Very Important Number One Thing You Absolutely Need to Understand is consent. For all forms of sex, I strongly encourage everyone to rely on the idea of enthusiastic consent for a variety of reasons: first of all, the absence of a “no” does not make a “yes,” which is why I disagree with the “no means no” approach to educating people about consent. Second, making sure that your sex partner definitely wants to have sex with you instead of trying to manipulate them into bed means that you’re not a creep. Lastly, when everyone involved enthusiastically wants sex, it just makes it better all around, and I am very much in favor of people having the best sex possible.

However, if you’re going to explore BDSM with someone, you need more than enthusiastic consent– you need informed consent. If you don’t explicitly lay out everything that you’re interested in and what it all means and what all your expectations are, you’re inevitably going to run into something like this:

Person 1: (thinking about spanking) “Hey do you want to have kinky sex with me?”
Person 2: (thinks “kinky” means “oral”) “That sounds like fun. Sure!”

Me and Handsome have this lay-it-out-there conversation all of the time. He’s actually much more interested in the research side of things, so he’ll come to me with an idea, explain everything it would include, and I, especially since I’m almost always the bottom, get to say yay or nay.

A little bit ago,  we were talking about a bunch of different equipment we could experiment with, and possibly using a collar came up. Me, knowing myself and that I’ve been freaked out by high-collared shirts, turtle necks, and choker necklaces since I was a child, didn’t like the idea. Handsome also wasn’t enthused with the visual of me looking like I could be on a leash, so we decided that collars weren’t for us.

But, in that particular situation, I had to know beforehand that I wasn’t going to be ok with collars, and Handsome knows that he’s not interested in the domination aspect that some play with. For other things I’m open to the idea, but I’m not sure how I’ll react to it while we’re in the midst of things, which leads me to …

Very Important Idea Number Two: boundaries and safewords.

Most boundaries should be set before you enter the “scene.” For example, Handsome and I are not, and will never be, ok with using a belt to spank me. However, let’s say for the moment that Handsome is actually really into spanking someone with a belt. If I say “no, I am not comfortable with that,” it should never even come up during a scene. Ever. For any reason. Period. End of story. This could be what us kinksters refer to as a “hard” or “soft limit,” or it could just be “meh, I’m not into that today.” Subs/bottoms aren’t the only one with limits, either, and all boundaries should be respected. If I said “I don’t want to be spanked with a belt,” or “I don’t want to be spanked with a belt today,” Handsome is not allowed to bring it up during the scene. It is not acceptable for anyone to try to manipulate, pressure, or coerce someone– and while that applies to pretty much any human interaction, it especially applies to kinky sex.

Other things can be negotiated during a scene. For example, I knew I was open to the idea of a riding crop, but I wasn’t entirely sure where he could use it, or where I would like it to be used. In this particular case, I consented to exploring it, and was open to it used almost anywhere. When we began using it, I relied on my safe words– which for us, since we don’t usually do any role play, is “ouch,” “no,” and “stop.” Some people use “yellow” and “red,” but there are a variety of things to use safe words for: such as “I like being hit that hard and this often, I just want you to use that thing somewhere else for a while.”

The most amazing thing about BDSM in my opinion is how communication works. It relies upon complete and total honesty at all times, and if you feel as though you cannot be explicitly honest with your partner, you are not with a good partner. If you feel that you’ll be ignored, you are not with a good partner.

This whole “set and respect boundaries” idea isn’t something that conservative Christians are real good about teaching and modeling. In fact, people who come from a purity culture background were probably taught the exact opposite. You have the right to have boundaries, and you have the right to have those boundaries respected. When people cross your boundaries, you absolutely have the right to tell them so and to enforce those boundaries. If you say “you crossed my boundary, don’t do that again,” you are not being mean. You are not being “unkind” or “uncharitable” or “ungracious” or whatever word was the one that got tossed around in your Sunday school room.

I also want to make it very clear that you don’t have to have a “good reason” to say “no” to something, whether it be equipment, an act, or a scenario. Feeling “eh, not really interested or turned on by that” for no particular reason is the only reason you need. I’ve found that women who were brought up in purity culture tend to believe that we have to justify and rationalize every decision we make, and I’ve found that’s actually really sort of ridiculous. “I don’t want to” is the only reason anyone needs. If that’s not a good enough reason for your partner … get a new partner.

And lastly, Very Important Idea Number Three: know thyself.

This is probably going to be the hardest one for purity culture survivors to get used to, because it goes against everything we’ve been taught. The only thing most of us know about sex is “just say no,” until we get married and then we’re supposed to Instant Sex Monkeys/Porn Goddesses.

The reality that we struggle to understand every single day of our lives is that being a person means having to come to terms with our sexuality, and that sexuality is a part of our identity in a way that “SEX OUTSIDE OF CISHET MARRIAGE IS A SIN” doesn’t quite cover. There’s no room for gay people, or bi people, or asexual people in this narrative, firstly, and there’s barely any room for straight people, either.

But, if you want to explore kink, it’s important that you explore yourself first of all, and that doesn’t just mean masturbation. It also means embracing your fantasies, whatever they are and however weird you think they might be. Thanks to the teachings I got about “fantasizing about any person living, dead, or fictional is a sin,” I ended up resorting to … well. Google The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife when you get a chance and … yup. There’s a whole wide world out there full of people thinking up interesting things, and I think you should go out there and find them. Honestly, most of my sex education came from a website dedicated to Star Wars and Star Gate fan fiction– and through writing a ton of my own.

Fantasy, thankfully, is a safe way to figure out what you think you might like, and the sky is the limit.

There’s also an element of just being comfortable in your own skin. “I want to be tied up and spanked” is something that takes some confidence to say, and of knowing who you are and what you want. Purity culture is dedicated to the idea of abstinence, of denial, of building our lives and our ethics around refusing to do what we want. Because of that, it can be difficult for us to admit that we might want something. BDSM is the opposite of that– it’s built at least partly on knowing and doing exactly what you want exactly the way you want to do it. That can take some getting used to.

~~~~~~~~~~

Anyway, this has gotten long, so I want to stop here. I wish it wasn’t so necessary to talk about such fundamentally basic things, but it is, and we all need the occasional reminder. Feel free to ask me anything you’d like in the comments, or send me an e-mail (my contact information is at the top).

Further reading:

“BDSM” category at Frisky Business
“Stay Safe” category at the Submissive Guide
Clarisse Thorn’s list of BDSM resources
A Submissive’s Initiative “BDSM Basics” archive

Honestly, though, the best stuff is in books. The Ultimate Guide to Kink by Tristan Taormino is a good book to start with.

I dated Christian Grey

ana in front of window

I watched the film adaptation of 50 Shades of Grey last Thursday, and … I could talk about that atrocity of a film for a very long time, but did my best to condense some of my thoughts into an article for The Mary Sue, which you can find here. It’s generated some interesting discussion in the comment section there, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

It’s interesting to me that many of the people who supposedly “read” the post somehow think that I’m just anti-BDSM, which y’all know why that is hilarious. But, just to make sure it’s super-duper clear, none of Christian’s actions that I critique in that post have anything to do with sex– surprisingly, I was pretty ok with the actual sex that happened, although there was a shocking lack of orgasms.

And, honestly, if this is where the plot actually ended and we didn’t have two more books to turn into movies, I’d be tentatively thrilled-ish. The last shot of the film before it cuts to the credits has a note of finality to it. She’s given back the laptop, the car, and she’s leaving after she told him to never touch her again. I mean, if that was where we were actually leaving it? I could maybe almost be ok with it.

There’s a bunch of other shit that happened that makes me not ok with it, but a part of me hopes we all collectively forget there were ever books and that the two other movies don’t get made.

#misandry and male tears: in defense of mockery

male tears mug
[content note: discussions of online harassment, threats]

A little while ago, me and some friends created a pantheon out of our group, and each of us got to choose what we would demand as tribute. I declared that I desired the hot, red blood of The Nice Guy. I wasn’t entirely sure what I would do with it once I had it– maybe bathe in it?– but I liked the way it sounded. I enjoyed the dark humor of my disciples beginning quests in search of the fabled Nice Guy in order that they may sacrifice him in my temple.

This isn’t the sort of joke I routinely make. It happens almost exclusively in very private settings, among people I trust and who know that I don’t actually want people to find and kill Nice Guys, no matter how odious and frustrating they can be.

But, on occasion, I do make these sorts of jokes in public. For example, if you’re mansplaining to me in my own comment section, chances are I’m going to respond to you with nothing more than this:

you know nothing

The vast majority of the time I ignore assholes and trolls. I roll my eyes, sigh heavily, delete their comment/email, and take whatever steps are necessary to block them– and report them, if need be. I have a somewhat loose “don’t feed the trolls” personal policy, although I disagree with people who try to tell others that’s the only way to deal with them.

But there are days, like last Monday when I read an article where some dude was screaming about how it just sucks that women enjoy watching football these days. It’s absolutely horrible and we women ruined everything. Football used to be sacrosanct to men. Sunday afternoons was one of the few days when Men could be Manly and not be bothered by those supercilious, greedy women. But not anymore. Now, women are jumping on the bandwagon and buying team jerseys and it’s just the most awful thing that’s ever happened in the history of ever. How dare we.

My reaction was to stomp gleefully in the three-inch-deep puddles created by his “male tears.”

The first couple of times I made that particular joke around Handsome it made him uncomfortable, which I understand. Things like “can I get a refill of your male tears, please? thanks” are very much feminist inside jokes, and I can understand that if you’re not a woman writing about feminism on the Internet you might not really understand why we cackle about male tears as we scroll through the #misandry tag. I’ve even cultivated a very nice Morgana-from-The Sword in the Stone-esque cackle for this express purpose.

A friend asked me recently why I thought it’s ok to make jokes like this. Aren’t I just engaging in the same sort of dehumanizing and belittling behavior that I fight against when it happens to women? Why am I ok with mockery when it’s directed at men, but be offended if it happened to a woman?

First of all, when your options are 1) be constantly enraged by everything all the time always, 2) be filled with despair that the world is horrific, devastating place, or 3) laugh at the misogynistic idiots, I think the healthiest option is laughter. It’s not always possible to ignore them, especially when they’re in your inbox or your twitter feed telling you that they’d love to rape you up the ass until your eyes bleed. Sometimes I get angry and do my best to turn that anger into something productive.

But, recently, it’s extremely difficult for me to fight off the despair.

And so, instead, I choose to laugh.

I think it’s important to point out that mockery isn’t always acceptable– it can be used as a bullying tactic, for example, and I don’t think that anyone should be bullied. However, while mockery isn’t nice, or gracious, or kind, and certainly not enjoyable when you’re the target of it, it can be an extremely effective way to communicate.

Mockery, like satire and other comedic tools, has its place.

I don’t think it should be directed primarily at an individual person, or for their identity that are parts of kyriarchal oppression. Mocking someone for being “overweight”? Not ever cool. Mocking a blind person? You deserve to get sucker punched for that. Gender-based mockery, like “get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich” should be obviously wrong. Likewise, I’m not going to mock my partner for having freckles, or a friend for having a “small” cup size, or anyone else for not being funny, etc.

However, when mockery is primarily directed at an idea, it can be useful. Mockery is saying “The emperor has no clothes,” and when I laugh at someone for complaining about women enjoying football, I’m not exclusively laughing at the male writer who penned that argument– although I partly am. Mostly I’m mocking the very idea that anyone considers “football is for men, no girls allowed, WAAAAAAHHHH!!1!” to be a legitimate argument.

Mockery says, quite simply, your argument is not even worth a rebuttal.

That, I believe, can be a powerful statement.

how in the world did I change my mind?

King James Bible

If you’ve been here for any length of time you should be pretty well aware of that fact that I grew up in Christian fundamentalism. It was everything, my entire world, for the bulk of the aware-of-Jesus-and-could-understand-sermons portion of my life. And then I grew up and decided that I didn’t agree with … well, pretty much all of it. Except for the God and Jesus part, which even believing in he/she/they was a struggle for a few years. A while after I’d decided well, I think I’m still a Christian but what does that even mean I started a blog to sort it all out and here we are.

Handsome and I have had a few conversations about this, because there’s a not-insignificant part of me that wonders how is anyone still a fundamentalist? It makes no sense, and is based on a lot of claims that are … well, in retrospect, I find it more than baffling that I ever accepted those claims as true, although I give myself a little wiggle room because I was a child and the second I was exposed to real information I started investigating and bam I wasn’t a fundamentalist anymore.

And that’s when I sort of stumbled into the answer to the question “how did I ever manage to change my mind?” After all, it’s not something that everyone easily does, especially when it comes to politics and religion. I was explaining my thought process to my partner and realized that I had some things going for me that a lot of grew-up-in-fundamentalist-Christianity people don’t have, and it wasn’t actually a “BAM! YOU’RE NO LONGER A FUNDAMENTALIST!” it was more “well, hello piece of information that seems to contradict something I’ve been taught, let’s look into thi– … whoah.” It has been, as the subtitle of this blog suggests, an ongoing journey.

Thing I had going for me #1: I was not a man.

I’ve casually mentioned this in a few things that I’ve written over the past few years, and talked about it in my BBC radio interview a few weeks ago– as a woman, I faced a lot of things that a man didn’t have to face. I was forbidden from doing things I deeply loved. I was shamed and mocked and belittled for being the sort of woman I am– feminine, but rambunctious. Introverted, but outgoing and occasionally loud. Ambitious in directions that no one approved of. I was told no an awful lot.

If I had been a boy and then a man, I wouldn’t have faced any of that. My rampant curiosity, my deep interest in theological discussions, my ability to stand up in front of people and shout about things– all of that would have been directed toward turning me into a “preacher boy.” I would have been one of the most amazingly privileged people in the fundamentalist community, and everything about who I am would have been nurtured and praised. Leaving behind a system that affords you a lot of power and opportunity is a lot harder to abandon than a system that is hell-bent on squashing you.

Thing I had going for me #2: I was not straight.

I was doggone terrified during high school because I thought I might be a lesbian. I thought the boys around me were repulsive (I was right: they were all, without exception, horrific misogynists and would have been controlling husbands) and combine that with the passing fanciful thoughts I had about kissing my best friend and I was in serious trouble. I rarely ever let myself think about it and when I inevitably did, I forced all those thoughts under the bannerhead of “I AM NOT A LESBIAN WOMEN ARE JUST PRETTY THAT’S IT.”

But that whole not-being-straight thing compounded with the not-a-man thing and by the time I got to college I was more likely than my straight male peers to think that this whole fundamentalist Christianity thing was total bunk.

Thing I had going for me #3: I was curious.

This isn’t to say that fundamentalists can’t be curious. Of course they can be. But their curiosity is … restrained. It has limits. The nature of fundamentalism means that there are some answers that they’re indoctrinated to reject out of hand, without investigation. But, because I was a bisexual woman and less averse to some answers than they were, I was predisposed to ask more meaningful questions and more willing to accept answers that disagreed with what I’d been taught.

I was also lucky.

During my sophomore year I had to take an Old Testament Survey class, and one of the assignments was to write a review of this book that was dedicated to how the King James Version is the Only True Bible blah blah blah. I’d grown up in this movement. Every church I attended or even visited until I was 23 was a strict King James Only church. One of the assigned textbooks I had to read every year since fourth grade was about the topic, and it was something that I was pretty interested in. It was a sticking point between me and some of my friends, and I even got into some late-night fights with roommates at summer camp about how it’s impossible to become a Christian if you read a different version of the Bible. Yeah, I know, I was that person.

Anyway, the book they assigned us was ridiculous– and that was coming from me, a staunch KJV-Only Supporter. At the time I was writing that paper, I stumbled across God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible by Adam Nicolson and … well, nothing was ever quite the same. I’d picked it up at Barnes & Noble because the back copy made it sound extremely favorable toward my position (“It is the greatest work of English prose ever written”), and in fact, Nicolson is rather enamored with the Authorized Version and its history. But he approached it not as a theologian invested in defending the Textus Receptus, and was completely uninterested in proving that the KJV is superior to all other translations, or that the Sinaiticus was worthy of the trash heap and nothing more. That perspective allowed him to tell the story of how the Authorized Version was compiled and translated and it was … eye opening, especially since some of the verifiable facts he related blatantly contradicted several fundamentalist positions concerning Scripture and its interpretation.

That single book is what started this whole deconverting-from-fundamentalism process, because once you’ve opened your world to the idea that maybe some of the things you’ve been taught are wrong, Christian fundamentalism will inevitably collapse. It can’t stand up to rigorous questioning.

But, you have to get to the place where you’re willing to question it, and in a sense I’m rather fortunate. If the circumstances of my life had been different– if I hadn’t belonged to an abusive cult, if I’d had male privilege, if I’d been straight, if any one of a number of things had been different, I might have been happy in my ignorance and unwilling to rock my own boat.