Social conservatives who object to marriage licenses for gay couples claim to defend “Christian marriage,” meaning one man paired with one woman for life, which they say is prescribed by God in the Bible.
But in fact, Bible writers give the divine thumbs-up to many kinds of sexual union or marriage. They also use several literary devices to signal God’s approval for one or another sexual liaison: The law or a prophet might prescribe it, Jesus might endorse it, or God might reward it with the greatest of all blessings: boy babies who go on to become powerful men.
While the approved list does include one man coupled with one woman, the Bible explicitly endorses polygamy and sexual slavery, providing detailed regulations for each; and at times it also rewards rape and incest.
Polygamy. Polygamy is the norm in the Old Testament. Biblicalpolygamy.com contains pages dedicated to 40 biblical figures, each of whom had multiple wives.
Sex slaves. The Bible provides instructions on how to acquire several types of sex slaves. For example, if a man buys a Hebrew girl and “she please not her master” he can’t sell her to a foreigner; and he must allow her to go free if he doesn’t provide for her (Exodus 21:8).
War booty. Virgin females are counted, literally, among the booty of war. In the book of Numbers (31:18) God’s servant commands the Israelites to kill all of the used Midianite women along with all boy children, but to keep the virgin girls for themselves. The Law of Moses spells out a ritual to purify a captive virgin before sex. (Deuteronomy 21:10-14).
Incest. Incest is mostly forbidden in the Bible, but God makes exceptions. Abraham and Sarah, much favoured by God, are said to be half-siblings. Lot’s daughters get him drunk and mount him, and God rewards them with male babies who become patriarchs of great nations (Genesis 19).
Brother’s widow. If a brother dies with no children, it becomes a man’s duty to impregnate the brother’s widow. Onan is struck dead by God because he prefers to spill his seed on the ground rather than providing offspring for his brother (Genesis 38:8-10). A New Testament story (Matthew 22:24-28) shows that the tradition has survived.
Wife’s handmaid. After seven childless decades, Abraham’s frustrated wife Sarah says, “Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Her slave, Hagar, becomes pregnant. Two generations later, the sister-wives of Jacob repeatedly send their slaves to him, each trying to produce more sons than the other (Genesis 30:1-22).
Other slaves. A man should not have sex with a slave if she is betrothed to another man - but if they do, she is to be scourged (beaten) and he must sacrifice a sheep (Leviticus 19:20-22, KJV).
Rape victim. A Hebrew girl who is raped can be sold to her rapist for 50 shekels, or about $580 (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). He must then keep her “because she has been “humbled”.
Note: Apart from forcible rape, female consent is simply irrelevant in the Bible, from the time that Eve gets made from Adam’s rib onward (Genesis 2: 18-22).
Love and sex news: in pictures
Love and sex news: in pictures
1/13 Timetable of Love
A new study has revealed that Sunday at 9am is the most popular time of the week for Brits to get busy in the bedroom. Our weekends tend to be a lot sexier than our weekdays, with three of the top five most common times for sex falling on a Saturday, at 11.30am, 10.30pm and 11.30pm
2/13 Singletons judge potential partners on their phones, says new study
A new study has found that women are 92 per cent more likely than men to judge a potential partner negatively for having an older phone model.
3/13 Online dating risk
A new report by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has found that last year, singles were conned out of £39 million by fraudsters they’d met on dating sites and apps. Con artists are increasingly creating fake online profiles and tricking people on dating sites into handing over often large sums of money.
4/13 Sainsbury’s sells same sex valentine’s day cards for first time
For the first time, Sainsbury’s is selling a range of Valentine’s Day cards that represent same-sex couples. The simple designs feature illustrations of a woman and a woman, and a man and a man, with the caption ‘You + Me.’
5/13 Mother's blood pressure before conception could influence sex of child, study suggests
Pregnant woman measures the blood pressure with automatic sphygmomanometer.
6/13 Couples oversharing on social media do so to mask relationship insecurities, expert suggests
Couple sitting on couch with their phones in their hand
7/13 Injection of ‘romantic’ hormone could help treat psychosexual problems
8/13 One in ten British women experience pain during
9/13 Erectile dysfunction 'linked to risk of early death'
Men who suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED) are 70 per cent more likely to die early, a new study has found. US scientists believe that the disorder may be linked to poor cardiovascular health, and suggested that men with ED should be screened for health issues that could cut their lives short
10/13 Watching porn does not cause negative attitudes to women
The average porn user may have more egalitarian views towards women than non-users, a contentious new study has suggested. Researchers at Western University in Canada have even argued that many pornography fans might be “useful allies” in women’s struggles for equality in the workplace and in public office. They reported in the Journal of Sex Research that the 23 per cent of people who said they had watched an “X-rated” film during the previous year were no more or less likely to identify as feminists than those who did not watch porn.
11/13 The characteristics of men who pay for sex
Men who pay for sex share similar traits to rapists and sex offenders, according to new research. A study from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), claims that men who have sex with female sex workers feel less empathy for them than men who do not buy sex. Part of this reason is due to the fact that they view them as "intrinsically different from other women,” according to the authors.
12/13 Heartbreak can actually change the rhythm of your heart
Losing a loved one really can break your heart, research suggests, although not for ever. People who lose a partner are at an increased risk of developing an irregular heartbeat for the next 12 months, scientists found. The risk seems to be greatest among the under 60s and when the loss of the partner was least expected
13/13 'Weird' sexual fetishes are actually very normal
A number of sexual fetishes considered anomalous in psychiatry are actually common in the general population, a study has found. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), sexual interests fall into two categories: normal (normophilic) and anomalous (paraphilic). Researchers asked 1,040 Quebec residents, representative of the general population, about their experiences of sexual behaviour considered abnormal by the DSM-5. The study, published in The Journal of Sex Research, found that of the eight types of anomalous behaviour listed in the DSM-5, four were found to be neither rare or unusual among the experiences and desires reported by men and women
New Testament endorses Old Testament
Lest someone claim that the Old Testament doesn’t apply to modern Bible believers, please note that none of these norms or rules—is reversed or condemned by Jesus. Quite the contrary:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke or a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (Matthew 5:17-18)
Bible believers or simply change-averse?
For centuries, Christian leaders disagreed about concubines and polygamy, just as they disagreed about slavery more broadly. The nuclear family so prized by America’s fundamentalists emerged from the interplay between Christianity and European cultures, including the monogamous tradition of Rome.
As humanity’s moral consciousness has evolved, coerced sex and marriage have become less acceptable. Today even devout Bible believers oppose sexual slavery. Marriage, increasingly, is a commitment of love, freely given.
Gay marriage is a part of this broader conversation, and opposition by conservative Christians has little to do with biblical monogamy. Many who call themselves Bible believers are simply change-resistant. What really concerns them is protecting the status quo, an ancient hierarchy with privileged majority-culture straight males at the top.
Freedom to marry will expand, as will other rights related to sexuality, reproduction, and family formation; and some conservative Bible believers will adapt to these changes as they have others: reluctantly and with angry protests, but in the end accepting the new normal, and perhaps even insisting that it was God’s will all along.
Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She completed her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Iowa and postdoctoral studies at the University of Washington. valerietarico.comReuse content