Thursday, May 06, 2010

Strong Women Part 3

by Amber

Thanks so my conversation with Deb last week, I realized the importance of my addictions class and our topic for this week about sex addictions. Mind you, a 3 hour class was NOT NEARLY enough time for this serious issue, but I didn't write the syllabus. For those of you who will not have the chance to take addictions class this year, here’s what we learned today about sex addictions:

30% of sex addicts in treatment are women, 70% are men

Usually it’s while in treatment for another addiction (alcoholism, drugs, depression) that women realize they have a sex addiction.

In order for women to really focus on their issues, they need to be in a group with other women, and vice versa.

Sex and love are highly addictive! “Love addict/romance addict” sounds nicer than “sex addict,” but ultimately the dynamics are the same. Pornography, going from man to man, affair to affair, masturbation are all forms of sexual addictions. It should really be called a intimacy disorder, but we got stuck with the term “sex addict.” The behavior is usually the tip of the iceberg for other problems. Many sex addicts are untreated sexual trauma survivors. 1 out of 3 females, 1 out of 5 males will be sexually abused by 18 years old.

When you go to look for information about sexual addictions, you can’t get away from pop-ups on the side of the screen, porn on YouTube. How can someone get help when they can’t get away from it?

When a person enters treatment:

1. 60-90 days without sex

2. Talk therapy—let people talk about the addiction (often the stories of victimizations come out from their childhood). The addict gets to talk from the perspective of the victim.

3. Reconsider the role of victim now that they are an adult through the lenses of morality and ethics. Now, you are not allowed to be a victim. Oftentimes this is permission giving.

Dr. Patrick Carnes, director of Gentle Path in Mississippi. In the Shadow of the Net (Internet).

2/3 of kids watch pornography while doing homework.

Definition of an affair: Giving to anyone else what belongs to my spouse or partner.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


From the start of your series on Strong Women, you quoted that you were pursuing this series in an effort to detail and explain your own motivation for taking the class ‘Gender Issues and Preaching’ during the spring semester. In Part 1 of your series (posted on 04-22-2010) you write, “I want to learn how those women lead in such a powerful way (and get heard and respected) without taking on characteristics of men.” I had a few initial reactions to that motivation. First, it is sexist and relies upon an assertion of essential distinctions between the gender roles of the female and male sex. Second, it implies that there is an inherent undesirability in the way men lead, either through their use of power or the way they seek audience and respect. Finally, it also seeks to pursue a romantic sense of 'nobility' that wants nothing to do with the broad brush strokes used to paint men as, for the most part, tyrannical. I'm assuming, since there isn't evidence to the contrary, that you don't have a problem with the other responses of personal motivation concerning the subject matter that arose in your course. I'm assuming that you don't see anything wrong with men/women taking a course on gender and preaching with the intent to be a better preacher, teach and serve better amongst young females, and understand the female influence upon scriptural interpretation. There doesn't seem to be a tension between your implicit portrayal of masculinity as negative and these other motivations. I wonder how that will continue to play out. Although I have multiple problems with the goal you're pursuing with this series, I nevertheless am following it closely. I'm trying to operate with a hermeneutic of goodwill, assuming that perhaps you don't mean to work within a judgmental essentialist paradigm. Thus far, I'm sorry to say, I haven't been pleasantly surprised.

At the conclusion of part 1 of your series, you write that your "hope is to be in conversation with a few women here in the twin cities who [your] classmates helped [you] label as 'strong, powerful, successful, beautiful, and Godly.'" I wonder how much essentialism is present in your thinking about these characteristics. Do you suppose that there is something inherently male or female about being strong, powerful, successful, beautiful, and Godly? Are these characteristics that can only be 'possessed' by females? Only 'possessed' in a so-called positive way? Do you suppose that the pursuit of leadership "without taking on the characteristics of men" means avoiding the way in which males have been the sole 'violators' of these traits? Do men, in your thinking, corrupt these 'contemporary virtues?' What do you consider to be strong? Is that definition theologically or Christologically informed? How do you understand power, as a positive and a negative attribute of leadership and personhood? What do you label as successful? Is success about, to put it crassly, putting more butts in the pews or evangelizing to the so-called 'unchurched?' If it is not about these things, what is it about? What's all this about beauty? What is the measure by which you characterize, in the instance of your identification of communal female leadership, beauty? Are we talking about outward appearance here? If so, what physicality does that assume? Are we talking about inward characteristics or social relationality? If so, what goes into shaping that understanding of beauty?

(continued below)

5/09/2010 03:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Continuing on to your second part (though you say it's the first of four, I'm referring to the one posted on 05-05-2010), I would like to make it absolutely clear that my remarks are not meant to be received as disparaging insults of the women you will be interviewing/examining with regard to their gender and leadership. My remarks, questions, and concerns, are directed to you and your understanding of sexuality and gender and how those distinctly different things play a part in leadership, particularly within the Lutheran church. I do not wish to be read as someone who has a problem with women in leadership, my problem is with the misunderstanding of sexuality, gender, and feminism. Moving on ... Whenever you list the basics to be known about Pastor Deb, I find myself a bit confused. Why are these the chosen basics? Are you seeking to introduce her to us or to characterize her in a 'scientific' manner for later comparison amongst your other subjects? Are these basics listed because, at least within your thinking, they make up the primary way you/we understand identity (height, job background, first encounter with faith, recent employment, and current position/goal). I accept that I could be over-reading the presentation of this part. This could merely be an attempt at introduction. In my mind however, because it is done in the form of a list, it is received as a formulaic definition (e.g. - the basics of five point Calvinism are ...).

A side note about semantics. I wonder how it is that you, and probably most of us, want to go into our initial meetings with others 'without a blindfold on.' Why do we want to have a precursor, a preparation, for our introductory encounters? What does it say about you/us, that we need to have some sort of preconception in hand instead of allowing the other to live, speak, and act on their own introductory behalf?

Moving onto your reactions of your 15 minute conversation with Pastor Deb, you state that "the point of these conversations is to find out how to be successful, strong, beautiful, and have impact in ministry without taking on male characteristics." I seems that you're still operating with the essentialist perspective that females are essentially different from males. It also seems that you wish, implicitly or explicitly, to identify success, strength, beauty, and ministerial efficacy as things which are absent from the essential nature of 'maleness.' Now it is not my intent to defend males. Indeed there is ample critique from the feminist camp against misogyny in a variety of forms. What I do wish to point out however, is that through this implicit/explicity intent to 'discover' a 'ministerial femaleness' to leadership, you are in actuality perpetuating the so-called gender divide. If the perceived 'injustice of male leadership' is to have set up a wall/ceiling between the male and female sex, your counter to this injustice (by seeking to 'discover a ministerial femaleness to leadership'), does nothing to get past that wall/ceiling. The distinction, and therefore implicit value judgment, between the sexes is perpetuated.

(continued below)

5/09/2010 03:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Before I get too far into your first examination of a female public Christian leader, I would like to say that there needs to be some clarification on terms. You seem to be using gender as a sweeping term. This may or may not be appropriate. Gender refers to the social lived experiences that characterize one's sexuality. Sexuality, in my mind, is not equated to gender. This equation of the two, is yet another subtle form of perpetuating the so-called gender divide. The male sex may be biologically predisposed to individuation. Just as the female sex may be biologically predisposed to nurturing. Here it is useful to revisit the theological anthropology of Lois Malcolm. However it is unnecessarily prejudice to assert that males are incapable, or less capable, of being nurturing. Just as it is also unnecessarily prejudice to assert that females are incapable, or less capable, of individuating themselves. The uncovering of the implicit statements made within our terminology on this matter is complicated when we consider the emerging evidence upon transsexuality and intersexuality. In short, we cannot be hasty with our language in this matter. We must regard individuals as distinct irreducible others who have their own distinct sexuality and gendered personhood. Moreover, when we seek to examine the patterns or differences within sexuality, gender, and personhood, we must be very clear about our definitions which use these terms with regard to categories or characteristics.

I hope you, in your final project, have the chance to explore the significance of having a present or absent female (or male!) role model within one's faith formation. It looks to be a very large ingredient in your examination. I liked the way you discussed how inappropriate comments are handled within the ministry. Especially, I like how she responds to these critiques of "hair, clothes, mannerisms, make-up" in a direct matter. I would like to encourage this, not just for women but for men as well. When these critiques are made, we wonder the context from which they come. Is parishioner x sexist? Or does he or she have something constructive to say about a female/male Christian leader precisely within their critique? Is there something unseemly about one's hair, clothes, mannerisms, or make-up in their role of public leader? It could be that these critiques say more about the critique-r than the leader whom they critique. It could also be that, in the case of males as well as females, one forgets the unspoken language of presentation and its role in proclamation, pastoral care, etc. In any case, the confrontation and statement that one finds such critiques to be inappropriate should not be allowed to be dismissed as joking, these critiques (regardless of where the come from, what they intend, or what they actually illuminate) have a cancerous nature within communities. That cancerous nature must be confronted. I hope, and it doesn't appear that you are, that you don't think these critiques are 'female-only' thing. Male leaders get them too. You're right, many of these critiques are petty. But I wonder if we too readily dismiss these critiques from within our compartmentalized understanding of public Christian leader. How one's children behave says a lot about how one leads as a parent. And if one's leadership as a parent isn't perceived as well-founded, then one's leadership as a pastor, Christian educator, etc. is perceived in much the same way. Try as we like, there is an unavoidable permeable membrane between our private lives and our lives of public Christian leadership.

(continued below)

5/09/2010 04:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Continuing on to your third part (posted on 05-06-2010), I had a few questions (for myself, you, anyone else). These questions and comments seemed to be rather eclectic, given the nature of your third portion, so I've just thrown them all into one 'stream of consciousness' paragraph. My apologies if this is difficult to follow.

In your description of what you learned in class about sex addictions you state, "In order for women to really focus on their issues, they need to be in a group with other women, and vice versa." Although I agree, particularly in regards to comfort, focus, and boundaries, I wonder what the effect is of the absence of the other sex in these group treatments. Wouldn't it be helpful to have a 'token male or female' to speak into those contexts, concerning their own personhood, subjectivity, and irreducible otherness? I also heartily agree about the problem presented when one seeks honest helpful information for treatment of sexual addiction (and this problem probably impacts other addictions as well), and is bombarded with pop-ups or advertisements.

In closing, at least for now, I would like to say that although I am encouraged and inspired by your open and honest exploration into a somewhat new area of exploration for you, I am discouraged by the ease with which you suppose an essential difference between the way males and females approach leadership, Christian community, and life in general. It seems however, that you are making strides in uncovering this explicit/implicit essentialism insofar as you are aware of sexual mutuality concerning sex addiction and critiques of leadership. As you continue to encounter the interconnection between gender and preaching in your life, I would like to invite you consider that genderedness is something that encapsulates both sexes. Gender is not a code word for feminism. Preaching and Christian leadership need to take the critiques, constructs, and questions of male and female (as well as other emerging gender identities) seriously.

5/09/2010 04:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must say that, I like how your curiosity and attention are piqued when it comes to the matter of sexual addiction in society and the Christian community. This is a problem that gets overlooked and effects parishioners and pastors alike. What I did find disconcerting was your jocular dismissal of your instructor's advice on the matter. It is vitally important that, when one confesses their need for help with sexual addiction, that person find a therapist/pastoral counselor with whom they can work comfortably. This often requires, although the increasing awareness of GLBT relationships impacts the matter, a therapist/counselor of the same sex, so that the problem of addiction and the necessity of boundaries are not complicated throughout the process of rehabilitation.

I wonder how you understand identity. When, in the closing portion of your 2nd post in the series, you again mention the importance of role models (for women and men), you say that role models are importance because of the way in which they help us to piece together the puzzle of our identity. I agree, we do "feed off of [the] identity" of our role models. But you also say that in the absence of role models, we are forced to "[come] up with it all from scratch." Really? We do not only feed off the positive characteristics of our role models, but the negative ones as well. There's ample psychological and sociological evidence of this. We don't construct our identity in a vacuum. We're always influenced by those we love, those we dislike, popular culture's depictions of 'goodness' and 'badness,' the way we read these influences in the light of scripture, and the way scripture is preached concerning strength, beauty, power, and success.

I wonder about how readily you portray contexts as ignorant or dismissive of female leadership. There are female leaders within the LCMS, WELS, and (gasp!) even the Roman Catholic Church. The matter of female ordination is usually highlighted as a hallmark for how a denomination encapsulated power within the male sex, but it is not constitutive of denominational society or of the way leadership works amongst the laity. I also wonder if you unnecessarily qualify those who would be role models for females as necessarily female. Are women the only ones who can model female empowerment (whatever it is we mean when we're talking about that) to other women? Can a man tell or show a woman or (gasp!) another man how female empowerment is to be considered and manifested in communities? How present do you/we want to allow the traditional wall/ceiling between the sexes to be within our Christian leadership and communities of faith?

(continued below)

5/09/2010 04:02:00 AM  
Blogger Amber said...

Wow, that's a lot to digest. Not even sure where to begin. I appreciate your feedback, but can honestly say that I am not going to reply to what for the most part was a very harsh critique to an 'anonymous' writer. Not sure why someone would write all that and not identify who they are.

I can say that your critique on my notes in class are one you should take up with Dr. Gary Wilkerson. They are taken word for word from his lecture.

5/11/2010 05:47:00 PM  

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