I’ve spent a lot of time discussing our feminist household in practical terms: how we parent our daughter, who does which chores, how we solved our name change dilemma. But now I’m going to wade into a stickier, more ideological topic—like the more intimate aspects of our marriage.
A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a woman’s blog. This woman is Christian, and believes in obeying her husband. In one of her posts, she referred to her submission as “his power over me.” I won’t comment on Christian wifely submission on a larger scale, but I remember feeling very sad after I read this.
In our marriage, there is no power dynamic. We have built our relationship on mutual love, respect, appreciation, and admiration. If we can’t agree on something, we talk about it until we DO agree, or can at least compromise. I struggle to even imagine a situation wherein we couldn’t come to an agreement over time. We are very much equal partners.
Of course, our egalitarian approach to marriage also extends to the bedroom. I’ve seen it argued that a woman should have sex with her husband whether or not she actually wants to, because men connect through sex, and women connect through conversation. Suffice it to say that if Jason and I aren’t both enthusiastic about the prospect of sex, it doesn’t happen.
For one, we both take issue with the notion that men think and feel only with their genitals. I give men much more credit than that. Additionally, I think this kind of attitude speaks to a larger cultural notion that not only do men always want sex more than women, but that their sexual feelings and desires are more valid than womens’. I’m certainly not arguing that sex isn’t important (it is), but that recommending that women (and it’s always women) have unwanted sex is absolutely the wrong prescription.
I have a long history of PTSD. On the few occasions when I’ve been guilted into sex out of a sense of “duty” (not necessarily by Jason), it has resulted in severe flashbacks. My husband loves me, and thus doesn’t wish this upon me. Seeing as at least 1 in 6 American women have been raped, I highly doubt I’m the only woman who’s triggered by having sex she’s not excited about.
Lest you think I’m some kind of harpy who holds a strange power (there’s that word again!) over my husband, here are his thoughts on the matter:
I grew up in a fairly egalitarian household and my relatives were also generally in egalitarian relationships, so an egalitarian relationship has always seemed natural to me. That said, I have had some experience with the reverse. Without going into too much detail, I’ll say that before Cate, I had a few relationships with women who always seemed to defer to me. What I wanted to do mattered most and opinions were withheld or altered to avoid disagreement. I found this, in a word, dull.
I know that I don’t have all the answers. The most interesting, productive, and stimulating relationships in my life have been those where there has been an open exchange of ideas, and where each learns from the thoughts and experiences of the other. This is the kind of relationship I’ve sought in my romantic life.
In short, my relationship with Cate is exactly as I would like it. She is strong-willed, smart, and opinionated. She keeps me on my toes and doesn’t allow me to skate by when I haven’t really thought about something. I do the same thing with her. Together, I have no doubt, we are much better than we would be apart or if one of us were considered in any way less than the other.
We are a nonreligious family, but are both very familiar with theological arguments. Please don’t assume that I just “don’t understand” biblical reasoning. I understand it quite well, but find extreme fault with it as it relates to my own life and marriage.