Separate is not Equal & Together is Awesome

1010073_10151428607366735_362495096_nThis is a concept you have heard over and over if you were raised in church; you may have even heard it in some other marriage book or seminar. It is a distinction without a difference (a type of logical fallacy where an author or speaker attempts to describe a distinction between two things even though there is, in fact, no actual difference) and that as my wise husband said upon seeing this meme, “I don’t know whether this is accurate or not. But it seems to me that if men do derive more self-esteem by being respected instead of loved, this is likely due to men’s psyche evolving in a patriarchal society. And it also seems to me that many Christians have taken one small comment made by Paul and blown it up into an entire doctrine. I think everyone should be loved and respected and everyone wants to be loved and respected. Mutuality is the way of Christ.”

Because of this doctrine we as Christians (and others) often divide up like junior high kids at the roller rink or a school dance, boys on one wall and girls on another. So without further ado, here are my top reasons why all this division stinks and why togetherness is effing awesome.

1. Separating the genders fosters misunderstanding and fear and also contributes to the “battle of the sexes”. Togetherness shows us that we need not be afraid of each other and that men and women should not be in competition. Moreover it shows us that we should be in cooperation and community with one other. ONE BODY. Not two bodies, one male and one female.

2. Separation of the sexes during bible study fosters the idea that men and women are not equal in God’s eyes and that women cannot teach men about the Bible. For TONS of amazing FREE material on this check out CBE’s Biblical Equality 101 page. Penis≠Power.

3. Separation also confirms the fallacy that we have nothing to learn from hearing how others feel and encourages us to “tune out” when we are together and someone from the opposite sex is speaking. We can all benefit from another person’s point of view no matter what equipment they have.

4. Keeping boys and girls apart (or single men and women apart) will not stop them from having sex. Take a gander at these bullet points lifted from a Christianity Today article…

  • Three surveys of single Christian adults conducted in the 1990s determined that approximately one third were virgins—meaning, of course, that two thirds were not.
  • In 2003, researchers at Northern Kentucky University showed that 61 percent of students who signed sexual-abstinence commitment cards broke their pledges.
  • Of the remaining 49 percent who kept their pledges, 55 percent said they’d had oral sex, and did not consider oral sex to be sex.
And this is with keeping the genders separated most of the time. If we put the genders together in almost every context what we would find is less fear, more respect and more understanding. When we have that, we may not have lower rates of premarital sex, but we probably won’t have higher rates either. At the very least we will have people who are able to communicate, love and respect one another, which will make (at the minimum) casual sex rates decline.
5. But what about separating when it comes to talking about the deed itself? Surely then Michelle you think we should divide up based on parts, vaginas to the left and penises to the right. But seriously…my answer is no, not even then. When we discuss sexuality separately it encourages secrecy and says that sex and sexuality is something to be ashamed of. We train our kids and ourselves to be ashamed/afraid to discuss intimacy with even our spouse. I know for me (and most of my friends) the way we were raised to keep such issues quiet and certainly not to discuss them in mixed company. It took me YEARS to undo the effects of this training with my husband and I am STILL working on it. When we stigmatize sexuality the way we have we do serious harm to our marriages. All we teach our girls right up until they are engaged is only how to say no. Oh wait, we also teach them how they are like a chewed piece of gum or a glass of water every boy in the room has spit in and no one is willing to drink if they fail to do so. And then we condemn these same women when they are sexually clueless and have nothing but negative thoughts about sex. Also, separating the sexes by parts has another issue. NOT EVERYONE IS HETEROSEXUAL. Sooo, yeah. There’s that.
6. Lastly, for now, it plays into the myth that women cannot be understood by men and/or men cannot be understood by women. Perhaps the reason we can’t understand each other is because we have been separated since the day we were born. Ironically, especially at the times it matters the most. Do you want to know a secret? The way to get to know someone is to SPEND TIME WITH THEM! Shocking, I know. We learn about each other when we stop dividing ourselves into us and them, boys and girls, mars and venus. We learn about each other when we listen and speak even when we are uncomfortable or afraid or even mad. We must overcome the awkwardness that we feel because of how we have been taught and allow our children to know a better way. The way of togetherness.

9 thoughts on “Separate is not Equal & Together is Awesome

  1. Thanks for that! Reading this was like hearing encouraging words.
    On #5, or really #4-5, I think it becomes more difficult to objectify and potentially manipulate the opposite gender if you learn about sexuality together. The sex education I received was in church at the end of elementary school, co-ed throughout, and very frank and direct. It led me to a strong monogamous relationship a decade later, not some “sexual rampage.”

    The other factor relates to honesty and positive examples of genuine, healthy interaction.
    Here is a comparison: my wife and I found a restaurant/pub with a huge collection of artisan whiskeys behind the bar a few weeks ago. Both our kids are in college and staying at home, but my son is the younger and still under the drinking age. We noticed that this pub was in a shopping area that had a movie theater, shops, and several hotels within walking distance. So, we decided to be spontaneous, pack a bag, and stay on the other side of town for the night. It gave us a chance to sample more food and drink without worrying about driving at all.

    The question my wife asked was, what to tell my son. “Do we include the part about drinking samples of scotch and bourbon?” Her worry was legitimate, not wanting to flaunt such experimentation. My answer was that we were faced with a unique opportunity to model appropriate behavior. What better way to stand up for designated driver programs than pre-planning at some detail when you don’t have one! Rather than a “keg party” level of disrespect for alcohol and what it can do, I figured our approach would demonstrate the right blend (pun intended) of caution and care.

    Caution and care. That detailed sex education I received in a United Methodist Church in a very conservative state in 1976 had the same impact. We learned together, both genders, about body parts and stimulation, contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, fetish both harmless and dangerous (and how to protect yourself against a pedophile, for example), pregnancy and childbirth … all in a two-day session where no questions were off-limits and every voice was treated with equal respect.

    What happened between 1976 and today? I believe the world would be a much better place if we ministered to our children now as I experienced back then. I’m quite sure that my wife and all of my friends (male and female) would agree.

    Thanks again!

  2. As someone that didn’t grow in the church, in a school system where boys and girls weren’t separated, where we were taught about sex in a mixed sex classroom, and pretty much everything was integrated except for bathrooms and locker rooms… I hate to tell you, the awkwardness and misunderstanding and fear and “battle of the sexes” still existed there. Pretty big time, actually. Those are all societal attitudes that are pervasive as much outside the church as they are inside of it. Educational research has shown that separation or integration of the sexes is pretty irrelevant as far as teaching respect for all. Its more in what is taught and how it is taught and – most importantly – modeled in informal learning situations. You see, all of the “respect” we were taught in integrated school classrooms went out the door when we hung out as a group of boys and the older boys started talking bad about the girls. Informal learning is usually more powerful than the formal settings we try to force everything into. We should be more concerned with getting through to the social leaders of society (not just the church) to get them to model better behaviors.

    Also, that awkwardness you spoke of at the end is usually not taught – otherwise, no one in my school would have been awkward because we all had exactly what you said is needed to overcome all of this. This awkwardness just exists because there is attraction there, and psychology tells us it takes many. many years to figure out how to process those attractions into healthy interactions. Ever notice that homosexual boys/girls (even if they haven’t figured it out yet) are rarely awkward around the opposite sex, even if they were segregated from them most of their life? No attraction, no awkwardness.

  3. Woww! great post. i thought about it lately a lot, about the separation of sexes in many contexts including various church settings. it brought me to questioning God, and out of those questions I wrote 2 posts that are scary similar to what you wrote 🙂 to me it was both a revelation and revolutionary that we actually dont have to be separated….

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