domestic violence, psychology, religion

“Grooming” your wife…

A few days ago, a friend of mine shared a blog post with me. He shared it because he knows I am fascinated by fundies– particularly of the Christian type. The post, which I have now seen passed around on Facebook on Duggar Family News and now on YouTube, has a lot of people in a tizzy. Here’s a video done by Jimmy Snow (aka Mr. Atheist) about this very blog post.

Jimmy Snow talks about a blog post entitled 7 Steps to Grooming Your Young Christian Wife.

Jimmy is clearly shocked by the contents of the blog post, which was written by a guy who thinks he ought to be treating his wife like a child. The article, as well as the comments, even includes references to spanking the wife for disciplinary transgressions. For example, the author of this piece includes an example of a man named “Robert” who is 24 years old. His wife is 18. He wants to be in charge of her, but she won’t get with the program. He’s asked the blogger for advice in getting his wife to accept her supposedly “Biblical” role as submissive to her husband’s leadership.

What follows is a list of seven steps to indoctrinate young women into being “godly”, submissive, disciplined wives. And he does specify that she must be young. Prerequisite #3 is exactly that. See below.

And why is this? I think I know…

As Jimmy points out in his video, people under age 25 tend to still be in “development”. It’s a fact that most human brains aren’t fully developed until people hit their early 20s. A person’s judgment is still forming when they are in their late teen years. They are physically mature, but mentally and emotionally, they’re still a work in progress. Which isn’t to say that a person can’t be “progressing” emotionally and mentally beyond their early years. It’s just that a lot more of it is going on during the time in which a person is maturing. The author of the “Biblical Gender Roles” blog correctly points out that a woman in her 30s or 40s is a lot less likely to accept that her husband must be in charge. I would add that even though young women might accept this condition of marriage, some of them will eventually reject it when they get older and are more mature.

So then, after listing three prerequisites, the blog author continues with his seven steps to “groom” a Christian wife. As he delves into this post, he even points out how creepy the word “grooming” is to many people, and he specifically calls out “secular humanists”.

Many of us cringe when we hear the word “groom”, when it’s not pertaining to personal hygiene or cleaning up an animal.

But then the blogger goes on to explain why “grooming” is okay when it’s your “Christian” wife. Then he goes on to write about why spanking wives is okay.

I probably have a controversial opinion about so-called “domestic discipline” in that I don’t always consider it abuse. If the people involved are consenting adults and they have truly consented to living that lifestyle, knowing the potential risks that could befall them in surrendering their personal power to, or accepting total responsibility for, another person, then I don’t figure that it’s any of my business what they do at home. If they don’t consider it abusive that their husband is head of the household, who am I to tell them they’re wrong, even if I disagree?

What I find especially interesting is that so many people are quick to call spanking one’s adult wife “domestic abuse”, but they have no problems with spanking children. Even if a wife is being abused by her husband’s spankings, she is always in a better position to seek help than a child is. And yet, many people don’t have an issue with spanking children, and a lot of folks even think that if we spanked children as often as we did back in the day, there would be fewer social problems.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you probably know that I am not a proponent of spanking children in most situations. I see it as a last ditch thing that should only be used when every other measure fails, and even then, it probably shouldn’t be used. My father spanked me a lot when I was a child. It was pretty much the only method he used to discipline me, besides yelling at me (also not very effective, although often employed by frustrated parents). He’s been dead for six years, and I’m still angry with him about some of the things he did in the name of teaching me wrong from right. In my case, the spankings were usually abusive. They were always terrifying because he was almost always enraged when they happened.

Although I don’t remember being spanked once I got into true adolescence, I do remember that my dad was fine with hitting and slapping me until I was about 21 years old. The last time he did so, I told him that I would have him arrested if he ever laid a finger on me in anger again. It took considerable courage to tell him that, especially since I still relied on him at that point in my life. But it was a groundbreaking day for me. I decided on that day that anyone who hits me without my consent had better kill me. Children have no say over what an adult does to discipline them, and they are mostly unable to ask for help out of an abusive situation the way an adult can. Adults are usually bigger and stronger than children are. Women are also often smaller and weaker than men are, although there are certainly exceptions.

It always surprises me when I see people like Jimmy Snow flatly condemning domestic discipline as “abuse”, but so many other people are perfectly fine with physically punishing children. If you do a little sleuthing on the Internet, you’ll find that there’s a large population of people out there who are a little bit kinky and they enjoy exchanging power with others. As long as it’s safe, sane, and consensual, they don’t see it as abusive, even if other people think it’s “sick”. Some of those people also align these practices with Christianity. Again… not my cup of tea, but the brain is a fascinating and powerful thing. Some people, like it or not, get off on it.

A person who is legally able to get married can consent to “domestic discipline”. I may not agree with his or her decision to allow a spouse to discipline them with spankings or other punishments, but it’s not my place to tell them they can’t or shouldn’t. Ultimately, it is their decision. What’s sad about these fundie Christian marriages, though, is that a lot of the people who are in them don’t know another way. They have not been exposed to life beyond the religion they were born into, and a lot of them have not been taught critical thinking skills– hence the blogger’s comment that “grooming” a wife to be a disciplined Christian helpmeet is not going to work unless she’s young, and from a very sheltered upbringing. If she’s been exposed to another way, she probably won’t accept it.

In any case– I’m not sure that what the author of the Biblical Gender Roles blog is proposing is really the same thing as two consenting adults entering into a “domestic discipline” relationship. It sounds to me like his advice to “Robert” and his ilk is to “manipulate” their young wives. That practice, probably IS abusive, because it’s done in a deceptive, underhanded way. The very fact that the women have to be “young” and therefore naive and tractable, is kind of sick and creepy. These men simply want to marry children who have reached legal adulthood and will do what they say without question. That’s abusive.

In a weird way, because they have been on TV, I think the Duggar women might have escaped worse fates than they would have otherwise. If they kept being raised in an isolated community, with no exposure to “normal” people and worldly ideas, the daughters, especially, might have wound up being stuck in marriages in which they are treated like children and expected to obey their husbands without question. I think that being exposed to the world because they’ve been on TV has made them a little less subjugated than they could have been.

Look at some of the choices the Duggar daughters have made since they’ve been married. Jill Dillard wears pants and has a nose piercing, and she’s been photographed wearing what most women would consider modest swimwear but, for her, is probably scandalous. Jinger Vuolo moved to Los Angeles, where she wears pants and has had her hair cut. She’s only had one child so far, although she’s pregnant with her second. Her husband doesn’t take orders from JimBob Duggar, nor does Jill’s husband, Derick. Jessa Seewald is still close to home, but she obviously has a strong personality and is not being controlled by her husband, Ben, who has a milder personality than she does. I don’t know about Joy Anna Forsyth’s situation, but her husband makes his own money flipping houses, rather than working for Boob. Had they not been on TV, God knows who they would have married, and what they’d be expected to tolerate. And it would all be behind closed doors! Since they’re famous and a lot of “normal” people are watching, there’s somewhat less secrecy and weird shit that would go unnoticed or called out. On the other hand, Michelle Duggar had a somewhat normal upbringing and she willingly submitted herself and her children, especially her daughters, to what many might consider an oppressive lifestyle.

Anyway… like a lot of people, I was kind of grossed out by the Biblical Gender Roles blog and its tips on “grooming” a Christian wife. It’s definitely not something I would be interested in, and I’m grateful that I was raised by people who would not want that for me, either. But, I must admit that it makes for interesting speculation and a temporary diversion from all of the other doom and gloom headlines that are currently circulating. And now that I’ve written today’s tome, I think I’ll take Arran for a walk and get some fresh air… then practice my guitar.

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