Sexual abuse is back in the news, but this time it comes with a solution and it goes like this: Women should return to the traditional Gender Roles of wife and mother, says John Piper, a prominent voice in the evangelical community. He told the Huffington Post that if they will yield to the authority of men, then men will take on their traditional role and protect “these weaker vessels.” Weak vessels? Did he just call women cardboard containers?

Pointing the finger

Of course, the pastor's view is not new. In the 1500s, theology professor Martin Luther wrote something similar: “Women should remain at home, sit still, and bear children.” Sit still?

Who'd mind the kids? Apparently, there was a restlessness in the ranks during his time, even though gender role-playing was the norm. (More about these roles in a moment). Given the choice of words used by Piper and Luther – calling women “vessels” and telling them to “sit still," they seem to have some hostility going on. And this seems true not just for theologians. For centuries, abusing women and raping them, was a popular subject in painting and sculpture and was even held as heroic. Maybe this was because the rapists were Greek and Roman gods.

Besides heroic rape images, you even get the worshipful kind. “The Kidnapping of the Sabine Women” by sixteenth-century sculptor Giambologna, has the look of a religious experience.

With both male and female figures extending their arms upward - he to grab her, as she tries to get away - they look like they're reaching heavenward in prayer. And you end up with a monument to misogyny.


And if not heroic or devotional, historians have spoken of sexual assault in art as fun-loving – an “ebullient romp” as former Ringling Museum curator once put it.

Sublime and divine are other accolades heaped on the imagery of women being defiled. .And speaking of praise for hateful acts toward women, no writer in the English language has penned more negative feeling about them than William Faulkner. His novels suggest he viewed the opposite sex alternatively as either combative, senseless or immoral.

An often-quoted line of dialogue uttered by a character named Henry Bon in “Absalom, Absalom” goes like this: “You can't beat women if you are wise and dislike trouble and uproar, you don't even try.” Did you get that? Men shouldn't beat women up because it will upset men's lives, not because it would upset women.

Paradise lost

One can't help wonder if returning to traditional gender roles could ever be an answer to sexual abuse given that submission to male authority may invite it. Victim-blaming, then, seems merely a way to excuse abusers. Eve was the first scapegoat for offering Adam the forbidden fruit and bringing about the expulsion from Paradise. But overlooked in the tale is Adam's complicity. He didn't have to eat the fruit. No one was holding a gun to his head. And if a woman was the corrupting influence, doesn't that make man the “weaker vessel”?