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Rape is Not Sex

By Barrington H. Brennen, October 22, 2009, 2021

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I just want to remind all readers that rape is not sex. Rape is violence and violence is a crime. Why is that so difficult to understand?   Rape is forced (emotionally, psychologically or physically), unwanted sexual intercourse.  Note carefully that "force" dose not mean that physical pressure is needed to be used to be categorized as rape.  A husband or single man can use intimidation or emotional subtleties to trick the woman to have sex against her will.  He might even use sacred scripture to manipulate her thoughts and to bring her to emotional subjection to have sex.   That is rape.  It is sex without the will or consent of another person.

Rape is also called sexual assault. Rape can also be defined as any action or behavior that violates another sexually even when sexual intercourse is not involved.

The myriad of responses to the proposed Amendment to the Sexual Offenses Act 2009 in The Bahamas to include rape by a spouse has revealed to me that too many either refuse to understand and accept that martial rape actually occurs in our country or are being misguided by so-called spiritual leaders that a husband cannot rape his wife. This misguidance is creating a toxic faith that gives a bad name to Christianity. This kind of spiritual or religious abuse is prevalent in our country. 

Why is it so difficult to understand that many of the laws we have inherited from the colonial days are not based on biblical teachings of equality of the genders but on the unscriptural notion that women are the property of men? An example of this is the description of marriage found on the legal books of some countries more than 150 years ago which read: “The husband and wife are one and that one is the husband.”  

Sin has really messed us up. Christ came to level the playing field that was made uneven by sin. However, many still want to keep the playing field rough or as an uneven terrain so difficult that only certain people (men) can maneuver or climb. Too many are uncomfortable with the “smooth surface” for all to walk on. 

Christ died and was resurrected so that both men and women can stand, on the “smooth surface,” at the foot of the cross, together, side by side, shoulder to shoulder, looking up with equally dependant eyes to a loving, caring, and merciful savior. This is what it’s all about. It is not about sex. It is not about marriage. It is about equality and accepting that God created both men and women to have “dominion” or power of the earth and not over each other. 

I am proposing that if we understood and accepted fully gender equality as a God-given right for all, there would be no debate on the proposed marital rape law. On the other hand, we need the law to protect everyone from those who refuse to treat others with respect and love.

Understood correctly, Christianity is the only faith in the world that teaches that both men and women have equal voice, vote, and power. Ironically, it is the religion that has done more damage and waged more pain on its people than any other faith. Today, this is evident in our debates about the proposed amendment to the Sexual Offenses Act. 

Why is it so difficult to believe the stories of real pain and misery experienced by so many wives in our country? Why is it so difficult to accept that many of the mental health professionals (including myself) and sometimes pastors, often listen to the painful stories of wives who have been raped by their husband? We see the tears. We see the wounds and sometimes life-long emotional scares.  Many of the raped wives have been laughed at by (some) police, family members, friends and spiritual leaders. Are the tears not enough? Are the visible scars insufficient evidence to convince you of the reality of this most painful violent act — marital rape?  What is it going to take to convince you?

I’ve seen the tears as they flowed down the saddened cheeks of countless women who felt trapped and confused. I’ve heard the wailing, painful cries of many women whose husbands treated them like trash and mere sex objects. The sad part is that many men have been educated and socialized to believe that women are to be used, hence they are not aware of their own abusive behavior. How sad!  


About 150 years ago, on July 19, 1848, a political and social movement was born. Three hundred persons, including 40 men traveled by horse-drawn wagons and by foot, from up to 50 miles away, to Seneca Falls, New York, to protest the legal bondage of American women and to demand full equality. It was the first women’s right convention to demand greater civil liberties for women, including the right to vote and to get an education.

They came together to rewrite the United States constitution and to sign the Declaration of Sentiments which proclaimed that all men and women were created equal. During this occasion the Declaration of Sentiments presented a list of evils against women. Here are a few of the facts stated in the Declaration of Sentiments 150 years ago. (Elizabeth Cady Stanton speech on July 19, 1848

  • He has compelled her to submit to laws in the formation of which she had no voice.

  • He has withheld from her rights which are given to the most ignorant and degraded men — both native and foreigners.

  • He has made her, if married, in the eyes of the law, civily dead.

  • He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education — all colleges being closed to her.

  • He allows her in church as well as state, but in a subordinate position, claiming apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and with some exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the church. 

These statements revealed 150 years ago how women were treated. Unfortunately today we are still dealing with the residue of such sentiments and practices. They seem to be embedded in our psyche. The one institution that should be able to solve this dilemma, the church, is at the heart of it.  

“If the problem of wife abuse is one of evil, the church can no longer avoid taking sides. A love which intends to be effective in terms of God’s kingdom cannot avoid taking sides,” says theologian Jose Bonino. “In fact the church will be in collusion with evil if it does not stand on the side of the victim. Only when it becomes an advocate for the oppressed can it fulfill its prophetic role.” — Alsdurf.

Three of the most shocking statements I’ve heard by those who oppose the proposed marital rape law are “my husband can take it whenever he wants;” “The Bible says my wife’s body belongs to me so she must never refuse me;” and “a husband cannot rape himself.” All of these statements are based on a false concept of the value of women and a misinterpretation of scripture.  

When a husband says in his defense against the proposed marital rape law that “the Bible says my wife’s body belongs to me so she must never refuse me” he is giving a number of negative messages. First, that his wife has no control over her body and that she is the property of her husband. Second, the sex drive is the dictator to one’s behavior and not reason. Third, that his opinions and feelings are always more important that those of his wife’s.”

When a wife says “my husband can take it whenever he wants” suggests that she has been mesmerized and duped in the teaching that she is only a piece of property. And also she has not been painfully raped by her husband. 

When a husband in his defense against the proposed marital rape law says a husband cannot rape himself, he is misunderstanding the meaning of oneness in marriage. He is suggesting that the “one flesh” in marriage takes away the identity of a woman. He forgets that there could only be a marriage when there are two distinct individuals. He forgets that a loving marriage can only exist when the two individuals remain distinct and unique. That’s the only way there can be reciprocal love. If the wife becomes non-existent after the marriage vows then the relationship becomes akin to a slave and a master. 

When a wife charges her husband with rape, it is usually after many years of abuse and feelings of hopelessness. If it is the first time he raped her, the rape is often at the end of many years of emotional, psychological and sometimes other kinds of physical abuse and intimidation. Remember that rape is not sex. It is violence.   

Husbands, if you are so enthralled by sex that you cannot understand or observe and appreciate your wife’s own pain and discontentment in the marriage then you are acting like an animal without reason — only instinct.  Several years ago one of my father’s female dogs died. Why did she die? One day when she was “on heat” more than a dozen dogs came around after being attracted by the scent she was giving off. They all lined up for their chance and one by one she obediently allowed each one to climb on and “mate” her.  It was as though they were acting like robots, animals with no brains. At the end of the day she was so exhausted and weak that she died. My father buried her with no funeral rituals. Too many of our men (sometimes women) are acting like these dogs — men who are “on heat” — men who are not allowing reason to guide them, but hormones and unguarded passions instead. 

A partner raping a spouse is real. Let’s put and end to it. Men, let’s control ourselves. Let’s stop acting and thinking of our wives as sexual property. Let’s love them with a passionate, Godly love, that elevates and does not destroy.


Barrington Brennen is a marriage and family therapist.  Send your question or comments to P.O. Box CB-11045 or email question@soencouragement.org or visit www.soencouragement.org or call 1-242 327 1980












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