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I rise because consent matters, and casseroles do not

Today is the 4th day of our "Why I Rise " blog series.  This series serves as an opportunity for women involved in the Boston Community Production of The Vagina Monologues to share their experiences and reasons for their commitment to this movement.  Tori Jameson is a seminarian and a cast member. She grew up in the southern United States in a conservative evangelical Christian community, and left when her call to ministry was denied because she is female-bodied. She is learning to love Boston and its people, but still misses sweet tea and cheese grits.     

I rise because you can love Jesus and love your vagina at the same time.

As I selected my shirt this morning, a purple shirt with nice scalloped edge, I eyeballed its length and then as I slipped it on, I checked for modesty by the "hallelujah test". If you are unfamiliar, the hallelujah test is done by raising your arms straight above your head as high as you can while wearing your shirt. If you see any midriff, your shirt is inappropriate and you need to add layers until no midriff can be seen. My shirt this morning passed, but some of my belt loops were visible, so I grabbed a cardigan as a back-up. There is a similar test for modesty of the décolletage.and if it has a catchy name I am unaware. Find the nape of your neck, and place three fingers horizontally below the nape. If your neckline falls under this line, yiu have much too much cleavage and you clearly need more layers. Watch also for too much collarbone- men find that irrestisable and therefore if more than the edge is visible, you are tempting "the brothers" to sin against you with lustful intentions... enacted. At least, so went the teaching and thinking of the fundamentalist Christian community in which I spent many of my formative years.

        I was a virgin when I got married, and proudly so, as we were taught to proclaim this at every conceivable opportunity. How many times had I heard messages of shame for those that had had any sex before or outside of the marriage bed? Hundreds of times had I heard the pastor say to the women "why would a man buy the cow, when he cantoriblog1.jpg get the milk for free?", as if it wasn't problematic to compare people to cattle, as if a man would only marry me for my utility, and a body that would only grow saggy as the children came and the decades went.  Two weeks before we got married, a well meaning friend gave us a book that had some informative diagrams, and lots of bible verses too, of course, and the day before the rehearsal we had dinner together and talked through consent and mechanics for about five minutes. I did not kiss my husband until we were pronounced as such because we were taught that kissing led immediately to the bedroom, and that was deplorable.

        Five years have gone by since I left the fundamentalist Christian community that formed me, and four years since my husband died. I learned to live my life alone, and a year ago I moved across the country to Boston to attended graduate school and begin my studies to be a different sort of minister,working on the most liberal edge of the Christian and Unitarian-universalist traditions to create safe, affirmative communities for all people to find and experience deep meaning, including the hard process of healing by reclaiming that which has scarred them so.

I rise because you can love Jesus and love your vagina at the same time.

        I have sat with many women over my years, and their scars run deep. One keeps having children hoping that maybe with this baby her husband will finally love her, another that maybe this time it won't hurt so bad when he uses her like a rag. These women, who are taught and then vow to submit and obey their husbands endure cheating, endure domestic and sexual violence, endure sex every time he wants it because that is what godly wives do is submit.

        What are these women told, if they do get brave enough to actually speak to one another about problems in the bedroom, hint at the violence? These woman are told that they must win their husbands back to The Lord, to be more modest and meek in public and to prepare for his weekday homecoming with a casserole and a negligee. Her own wants and desires, in the bedroom or especially outside of it, are not considered in the formula to obey. If only, they are told, if only you could be more godly, this wouldn't happen to you.

I rise for these women, I rise because I am these women.
I rise as a definitive no to cycles of violence and shame.
I rise because consent matters, and casseroles do not.

        A colleague recently remarked, that what liberal Christians really need to do and so often fail but often put too much focus on everything else, what progressive Christian ministers need to do is to tell adults to have all the consensual sex they want, but just feed the poor, clothe the naked, and stand against the oppressor. In that spirit, I offer this as my toriblog2.jpgbenediction:

Vaginas will do what they do, so call them forth, let them loose, and go seek out the places that haven't seen justice yet.
Have all the four decades of marriage every Tuesday and Thursday after the news sex you want, and ask for consent anyway
Have all the one night at a club sex you want, and then go and clothe the naked.
Have all the romantic first time sex you want, and when you make your breakfast, figure out how else to feed the hungry man sitting by the subway.
Have all the young, old, straight, gay, queer, alone, group, sex you want, but stand up against violence, speak out against abuse.
It is not unholy to love in any consensual way.
 So may your love flow freely out into the world- to the poor, the stranger, the other.
May it flow freely to your partners.  But most of all, love.

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commented 2014-02-07 09:24:14 -0500 · Flag
Well stated, Tori!