Consent: a word so bland I once found it almost ugly. Why would I base my framework for romantic relationships on a word as flippant and perfunctory as a waiver to have my photo taken? Bodies and relationships are deeply important to me as a Christian. Naturally, sex is also deeply important to me. Even after I left purity culture behind, I still searched for a rich, God-honoring sexual ethic. Consent seemed like a pretty bare standard for behavior.
Dating is difficult in today’s culture. As I have counseled single women and men through the years, I often heard pleas for help to find a Christian person to date. And let’s be honest. There are many different kinds of Christians. How does one get help to find a similar kind of Christian? One who values mutual submission and servant leadership in marriage?
Do men want to date smart women? This was the question behind a 2015 study published by the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.1 What the study learned is that men like the idea of dating women who are smarter than them, but when they meet an actual woman who fits the profile, they suddenly become much less interested.
When Justin got down on one knee—on the day we chose months before—and opened the box to reveal the ring we picked out together, I didn’t feel a rush of dumbfounded amazement. But I didn’t miss that at all. The joyful expectancy of our special day was a tremendous gift—as was the chance to pour my energy into creative expressions of my love for Justin. He and I also kept our plans a secret from each other, so surprise still marked the day.
It can be disorienting to grow up with such strong messages about men, women, and “biblical” roles. At times it feels like an inescapable pressure. Because very little is overt, the pressure feels phantom.
You’re not pretty enough. I’ve heard that voice in my head ever since I was a little girl. It didn’t matter if I got straight A’s, if my poem won a contest in school, if I succeeded in a spelling bee. As I grew older, the voice became more shrill when I realized that, according to culture, beauty was destined to define my relationships, as well as my inherent worth.
Does the Bible really teach that men and women are truly opposites, with differing needs, desires, roles, and communication styles, as so many of these books argue? Are these gender stereotypes (which are clearly modeled after medieval concepts of chivalry or princess fairy tales) biblical and essential for godly relationships?