An unfortunate history of misinterpretation and abuse has surrounded 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. It has been taken out of context and used to suppress women’s involvement in the ministry of the church. The egalitarian interpretation, however, finally perceives this verse, not as a tool of oppression, but as one with a helpful cross-cultural message.
The struggles of Christian women with sexuality, food, and their bodies reflect the Church’s historic ambivalence towards the body—particularly the female body. The embodiment of God in the Incarnation, Jesus’ embrace of lepers, prostitutes, and women, and Jesus’ bodily resurrection establish a radical foundation of body affirmation. Yet the history of the Church demonstrates a decidedly negative view of the body and sexuality.
In Wild at Heart we find a space in which sexism and male dominance are not only vibrant, they are nurtured. The pervasive dual-sexism in Wild at Heart draws from complex cultural norms recapitulating modernist ideals about gender and perpetuating consumeristic attitudes toward women.
In terms of sexual relationships, men are supposedly suited for active pursuit while women are inclined toward being passive and responsive. These assumptions have profound implications, since they set up relationship dynamics that are often unhealthy. Such beliefs can also lead women who have strong sexual desires or assertive personalities to feel excluded or abnormal.
The extent of appropriate sexual interest and involvement outside of marriage is an important question young adults face. It is also a question of concern to any Christian regardless of age or marital status. Our sexuality, in all its dimensions, is a wonderful gift from God, to be enjoyed and appreciated. Indeed, it is much more than a gift: it is an essential component of our personality and is as ever-present as our consciousness. The physical expression of our sexuality, just as our use of any gift, needs to occur in the right contexts.
The occasion for writing the following article is this: at a recent summer convention [probably 1893] a young lady missionary had been appointed to give an account of her work at one of the public sessions. The scruples of certain of the delegates against a woman’s addressing a mixed assembly were found to be so strong, however, that the lady was withdrawn from the programme, and further public participation in the conference confined to its male constituency.