Janeway Voyager Year of Hell

Year of Hell, Remember Nothing, & The Wish: lessons on hope

Only hope that is robust enough to engage with the reality of death is worthy of the name. [1]

I’ve always loved science fiction and fantasy for its way of playing with ideas – and there are plenty that play with dystopian alternate realities from which heroes and innocents are saved.

Three such SF&F stories have stayed with me over the years: from Star Trek: Voyager, Xena: Warrior Princess and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (And consider this your spoiler alert if you carry on reading.)

With their different qualities, each story says something about hope – a topic that I keep coming back to and whose mention was no accident in my Twitter name @hope4greyplaces. However, what is also intriguing about these stories is some of the ways in which their understanding of hope differs from the Christian understanding and the theology of Juergen Moltmann. And, I dare say, the implications are far-reaching.

Continue reading Year of Hell, Remember Nothing, & The Wish: lessons on hope

To the evangelical couple considering sex therapy

I recently wrote a post in which I mentioned that my husband and I went for psychosexual therapy (you can find it here). Much to my surprise, I was soon contacted by someone asking about the therapy – because they and their spouse were also thinking about it. Our correspondence was only brief, but in that time I learned that they, like my husband and me, were Christians and that they came from an evangelical background. Now, I don’t currently identify as an evangelical, but evangelicalism certainly influenced how I was brought up and how I thought about sex. So perhaps it was unsurprising that I felt for this person and ached to tell them something that would be of benefit to them. So I went away, thought about it, and wrote this collection of thoughts.

Continue reading To the evangelical couple considering sex therapy

His name is John: Elizabeth writes to Mary

Bible pages open at Luke chapter 1
Luke chapter 1 from the pocket New Jerusalem Bible, published by Darton, Longman and Todd

I was contemplating what it must have been like for Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist. She went  through childbirth in her old age, knowing she would not live see her son minister and having to wrestle with the religious and political tensions of her culture. It can’t have been easy. This is an imagined letter written from Elizabeth to Mary (her cousin and the mother of Jesus), inspired by the events told in Luke’s gospel chapter 1, verses 5-25 and 57-80.

Elizabeth, a delighted mother whom God has mercifully remembered in her old age,

To Mary, my dear cousin and blessed mother to be,

Peace be with you.

It seems but a day since you returned to Galilee, and yet I know it has already been some three months. Please forgive me for taking so long to write to you.

When the time came, John was born with mercifully little difficulty. As much as I was overjoyed to know that I would bear a child, and that I could be certain of this because the message had come from an angel of God no less, I have not always had confidence in this promise. I have had to entrust myself to God’s faithfulness each and every day that my frail body would have the strength to carry and deliver this little life into the world. But now it is done and he is here.

Continue reading His name is John: Elizabeth writes to Mary

On the receiving end of sex – why it’s not just about giving

EDIT: People find this post as a result of searching for “giving and receiving” in sex. Yes, absolutely you should be able to both give and receive in sex. If you want a good post about consent and negotiating for mutual enjoyment as part of a long-term sex relationship, I recommend this post on Ashley Easter’s blog.

This particular post is about my personal experience at feeling slightly guilty about being pleasured by my husband, when I wasn’t also giving to him. But you know what, it’s OK to be pleasured.

Every now and then I read something that suggests that if you’re not on the giving end of sex, you’re doing it wrong. The argument follows a few leaps of logic:

  1. It is better to give than to receive;
  2. Therefore, to desire your own pleasure is to put yourself before your intimate partner;
  3. Therefore, if you’re not giving, you’re abusing.

Now I will say that if you’re in a sexual relationship and you’re never at the giving end of sex (or not nearly as often as your intimate partner), then that points to an imbalance and imbalances raise questions about the overall health of the relationship. But I cannot reconcile myself to a model of sex where the expectation is that you must always be giving. Or, to put it another way: I cannot reconcile myself to the idea that a healthy sexual relationship means you should always be contributing to the pleasure of your intimate partner.  (After all, sex is a shared experience not a commodity/object even though we often talk of it in such terms.)

To explain, I’ll need to tell you about some of my sexual history. Deep breath.

Continue reading On the receiving end of sex – why it’s not just about giving

About the “steamy action” in 50-Shades-the-film

OK, I want to throw my two cents in when it comes to the portrayal of sex in the film of 50 Shades of Grey. This is partly in response to the rather sarcastic indictment of the film offered by the Honest trailer for it (here if you’re interested), in that the “steamy action” includes contracts, negotiation, clauses, conditions, emails, texting, non-disclosure agreements… Continue reading About the “steamy action” in 50-Shades-the-film

A message to Muslim teens on 50 Shades

As I consider myself to be a person of faith, I’m often interested in how other people apply their beliefs to sex. I recently read a post by a Muslim writer and mother who says:

I cannot discuss all the points in the book thoroughly in just one article. However, to highlight some major issues, I want to tell my dear teenage daughters…

My only caveat on this article is that the author criticises a particular practice that labels itself “Christian” in the Christianity sense. Her criticism of the practice is justifiable in my view, though it seems strange to me that her single reference to a religion other than her own picks this out – particularly when a great many Christians, including me, would describe the practice as anything but Christian. [Edit: you can read her response to this below]

That said, what she makes a number of excellent and concise points. You can read them here: What Muslim teens need to know

Did you find this post by clicking on a pingback on the MuslimMatters site? You might be interested in this review of the film of 50 Shades of Grey from a Christian(ity) angle.

Christian is creepy like John Travolta. Or have I got it all wrong?

OK, I confess.

I was all up for writing a piece about consent and victim blaming and the difference between allowing an action and accepting an action, and I was going to do an analysis comparing the recent Oscars encounter between John Travolta and Scarlett Johansson with Ana and Christian in chapter 12.

And then Scarlett Johansson turns round and says John Travolta wasn’t being creepy.

Fine. I’m not going to pretend I have a case that says she’s been bullied into defending him.

But let’s think for a moment about chapter 12.

Content note: this post describes some of the stuff Christian does in chapter 12. I wouldn’t describe it as really violent, but some of the behaviours would be consistent with a rape. And if the idea of mouth-to-mouth creeps you out, don’t read on. Continue reading Christian is creepy like John Travolta. Or have I got it all wrong?

YesMeansYes: What coercive people look for in a “No”

This isn’t a post directly about 50 Shades but the concept behind it is one that is, I think, relevant to how Christian interacts with Ana in the first few chapters in FSOG. It’s about how coercive people aren’t interested so much in what potential victims have to say, but in how they it – and from that they make inferences about whether said potential victim is an easy or hard target.

The YesMeansYes blog primarily focusses on rape and the writing I want to recommend to you is titled “Mythcommunication: It’s Not That They Don’t Understand, They Just Don’t Like The Answer“. My favourite bit is right near the end:

I tell my niece, “If a guy offers to buy you a drink and you say no, and he pesters you until you say okay, what he wants for his money is to find out if you can be talked out of no.” The rapist doesn’t listen to refusals, he probes for signs of resistance in the meta-message, the difference between a target who doesn’t want to but can be pushed, and a target who doesn’t want to and will stand by that even if she has to be blunt.

Content note: The post contains a few pro-rape exhortations though the author warns about these before they come up.

Did you find this by clicking on a pingback from YesMeansYes? You might be interested in:

The myth that love cures abuse

I personally believe that fearless, compassionate, sacrificial love is one of the most transforming things anyone can ever receive. But I dare say there are a lot of fanciful and quite wrong ideas about what that really (I mean really, really) looks like in action. I’d love to explore that theme later down the line (and hope to do so) but in the meantime I think the point needs to be made:

Ana’s feelings and actions towards Christian is not what it looks like. 

The 50shadesisdomesticabuse blog makes this point really well in a myth busting post they wrote. Not only that, but it points out the reasons why this is such a dangerous myth when it’s believed by victims of abuse.

The relevant post is quite long (though worth a read) but the bit about this particular myth is after the image of a bookshelf and under the heading “But her love cures him in the end. They both have to learn, compromise and make sacrifices and that’s what a relationship is about.

Did you find this by clicking on a pingback from the 50shadesabuse blog? You might be interested in:

Telling the difference between kink and abuse

There’s great piece of writing about the difference between kink (that is, BDSM) and abuse on Scarleteen –  an independent, grassroots sexuality education and support website. My favourite quote is this:

Any responsible kinkster (any respectful and caring person, period, IMO) will take a step back upon finding out that someone they would like to pursue is completely inexperienced. They will give the other person the time and space to make their own decisions, rather than “educating” them on what those decisions should be based on what they, themselves, want from that person. This is true not just for BDSM, but is just generally good etiquette for any situation in a relationship where one partner is far further down a road than the other. One partner is ready for intercourse and the other isn’t? You wait until they are. One partner wants to move in together and the other prefers to have more alone time? You keep your separate places for the time being.

You can find the full article hereContent note: Has a dash of colourful language – but only where she’s quoting 50 Shades. 

A message to S-Types – What you REALLY need to know

This is essential reading for the would-be Ana’s out there who are curious about BDSM (and for anyone looking to be more informed about BDSM in general). As you’ll see from the sign off at the end, it’s from someone at the total-power-exchange end of the BDSM lifestyle. Content note:  Contains a couple of a brief references to things sadists might do. Continue reading A message to S-Types – What you REALLY need to know