Patriarchy and the notion that sex is worse than murder

A man kills in an attempt to eliminate sexual temptation. But isn’t murder more heinous than sex? And is sex heinous?

How does one arrive at such a mindset? 

Much has been said about evangelical teachings that, while rarely inciting murder, drew Robert Aaron Long to kill eight people, six of them Asian women who worked at spas in the Atlanta region. The teachings commonly reduce a man’s worthiness to his skill at keeping his mind off of illicit thoughts and reduce a woman’s worthiness to modesty — so as to keep men from sinning. Because if he sins it’s her fault, really. The next logical step in Long’s mind was to eradicate evil, immodest women.

Read more at The Good Men Project or Medium.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on June 9, 2021, in violence against women and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.

  1. I grew up in a Christian household and I was raised being told that sex before marriage was a “sin” and it was just not okay. There were many examples my dad told me about that had to do with having sex before marriage but one being, let’s say you have a fresh apple and someone takes a bite out of and you turn it around and the apple is bitten and of course, you don’t want to eat the apple anymore because it is already bitten by someone else so its gross to you now. Meaning that the apple is the women’s virginity and the bitten part is when a woman has sex before marriage with someone who is not their husband and you do not want to eat the bitten apple meaning that when you get married and your husband finds out you are not a virgin anymore he won’t want you or have sex with you since you already lost your virginity with someone else in your past. With that being said sex is a part of our nature and our normal lives it should not be a “bad” thing or “disgusting” there is nothing wrong with having sex, I started to realize this as I got older. In this article it mentions if a man were to have sex with a woman then if he were to sin then it would be her fault and in the church, I grew up in had actually said this a lot and it was very disgusting and sad to hear men talk about us like this but I remember that it was always if a woman comes into church dressed with clothes very tight or very short and a man in the church were to look or act on their thoughts or feelings that it would be the woman’s fault for wearing what she wore but not the man’s fault because it is the “man’s nature”. It is most definitely not the women’s fault for the way men act and choose to do things, men are responsible and should be taken responsible for their own actions and not blame women or shame, women, for their choices. It is also really interesting about the ancient Hawaiians this is the first time I have read about this it is actually really interesting.

  2. I think men killing women in an attempt to eliminate sexual temptation and women being sexually assaulted being blamed on them go hand in hand. In both situations, it is seen as the woman’s fault for tempting men, not the man’s fault for his lack of self-control. Men cannot blame their internal issues on women, and it is not a woman’s job to make sure men won’t be sexually attracted to her. In all actuality, women have no control over this; women are harassed and assaulted no matter what they wear.

  3. I believe that regardless of religion, when a person decides to kill another, it is because there is madness involved. I was raised in the Catholic faith, but it never made sense to me that the priests couldn’t have sex and get married, so I started questioning the Bible since I realized there were other books of truth. Unfortunately, many people decide to interpret the holy books like the Koran or the Bible to kill. For example, many Muslims believe that they will go to heaven if they kill the infidels. Who are the infidels? Catholics, for example. Sex before marriage in most religions is a sin, but the religion also affirms that we are all sinners. The truth is that regardless of religion or spiritual belief, we must respect human life over any faith.

  4. Being raised in a Catholic home I was always told that sex is something you wait until after marriage. I was also raised to believe that premarital sex is a sin; however, growing up I never thought of it has a sin. Sex being a sin or not will always be up for debate and that will be due to large part in religion. Despite how I feel about premarital sex that is not a be all end all argument for how I feel about being raised Catholic. It is interesting reading how sex has been accepted as normal in different cultures prior to European contact and the ancient Hawaiians. In addition, it was interesting reading how before contact Native Americans were okay with have multiple partners. In movies, you can see Western influence in regards to sex just by how they portray different cultures.

  5. I agree with this post that many religions have practiced the belief that sex is a sin, and that people will be punished severely by their gods. This fear of being punished has been passed on to generation to generation, instilling the belief of sex as a sin. Because of this, many heinous acts have occurred such as  murder and honor killings to minimize the notion of sex, which is very arbitrary and unnecessary. The ideology behind sex should be normalized, as it is part of human nature as well as animals to procreate. This should also be taught in religious practices and to children to acknowledge such entity exists between humans. 

  6. In my opinion sex isn’t sinful but other people might have different opinions based on their religion or the way they were raised. Sex can be a positive thing if its consensual between two people. Older people believe sex is a sacred thing and you should wait until marriage but a lot of them didn’t even wait themselves.

  7. Patriarchal dominance over women is both hypocritical and counterproductive as your article reasons. I completely agree and have constantly found it disturbing how a women’s basic reproduction or desires are controlled by a gender that has a fundamentally different understanding out of chosen ignorance. Sex negativity in media has been associated with slut-shaming, but it goes deeper to respecting a woman’s autonomy and individualism. As western societies become steadily more atheist or agnostic, the Puritan and Catholic undertones will continue to survive if we as feminists don’t get involved with sex education and acknowledge/call out gender bias when we see it.

  8. To begin, I believe that consensual sex should be a celebrated thing. It should not be seen as sinful, especially with women. Throughout the years, we have been told that sex should happen when we marry the love of our life; however, I view sex as a celebratory thing. All sorts of sex should be celebrated. It is made for us to reproduce, but it helps us feel good, we can gain confidence in our body, and it is a great stress reliever. As the new generation becomes adults, I believe we should show older generations these views. Sex positivity is important for women. Sex positivity is for all sex, such as vaginal sex, oral sex, anal, masturbation, and so much more.

    This topic, of course, should be for an older age group. The conversation of sexual introduction should be an open conversation for adolescents who are curious or have questions about it. Cutting off the conversation would make young ones feel unable to ask certain questions that can save them from certain situations. You just never know where they might turn for the answer to that question.

    Comparing sex to committing murder is absolutely horrendous. Unlike sex, murder is taking the life of someone. Sex is the creation of human life. It should not be stated that it is as bad as murder. If anything, it is better. Murder and non-consensual sex are absolutely disgusting. Consensual sex is a beautiful thing to experience. And men making the topic of sex seem odd for women to speak about sex should make us women feel more motivated to talk about it. Unlike men, we have been able to show that we are able to make things possible. Making sex a positive thing to talk about is a new social goal I am personally excited to see grow, especially for women and older women.

  9. I find it so fascinating how easy people will justify heinous acts of murder incited by sexual desire by placing a large portion of the blame on the victims. Most of whom happen to be women. There is this concept I learned in psychology called “Just World Phenomenon” which explains how people believe bad things only happen to bad people and good things happen to good people. Based on this logic, people will find excuses as to why the victims of murder deserved to be murdered. If they were women the response is typically how they dress, act, and how that forces men to commit crimes.
    In regards to religion, it needs to be taught the multiple interpretations of religious teachings exist and all are not wrong or right. The specific ones that were taught to Robert Aaron Long probably made him feel as if he was a freak controlled by his desires. Does this mean he should go on a murder spree? No. Those teachings also emphasized how a women’s dress and sense of style is the reason for men’s sexual impulses, the same impulses that are shamed upon.
    I am religious person myself, but I make it a point to explore the different interpretations of beliefs in my religion and take into consideration any possible and likely biases that exist.

  10. I myself am not too religious but I have my relationship with god. In my house hold sex is natural as long as we’re safe. To take anothers life because of a sexual temptation sounds more of a mental health issue, whether that was on how he was raised and on the long run that affected him growing up. but if knowing killing a person is a sin, why do it as well, when if you have sex and you believe its a sin, isn’t there a way to ask forgiveness for the sin and still have that relationship with whom you believe in?

  11. I find it interesting that a man would choose to end someone else’s life based on their own morality. Obviously, a God- fearing person would want to remain devout and focused on the holy scripture. Which doesn’t condone killing and asks for forgiveness, but I doubt Long was interpreting it in that manner. Instead of focusing of the positivity from religion, he chose to follow the negative, at the detriment to several lives.

    Sexual temptation is an odd concept, with women and girls being told to be chaste and pure. Virginity is the hallmark of modesty and obedience. To be thought of as soiled or evil for having natural instincts and wanting sexual gratification is ridiculous. People are biologically animals and there is no shame or harm in wanting to feel pleasure. By strictly limiting behaviors of others based upon what is deemed to be immoral regarding consensual sex between unmarried or same sex persons is biased and irrational.

    Additionally, Long and others are merely berating women into the same old, outdated role of being an object. She is only good if virginal. She is a thing which must be avoided because her body is sensual and will lead the man to betrayal. The evil temptress trope is ridiculous. It pushes the agenda that women are dangerous beings with magical powers to destroy. I am sorry and sad to think that some people are disillusioned to believe that the source of evil and chaos incarnate would be a woman. A woman didn’t murder those eight victims, a repressed man did.

    • Agreed: I find it interesting that a man would choose to end someone else’s life based on their own morality.

      And I find it even more interesting that someone thinks that murder is less bad than having sex.

      You make some good points.

  12. I have always found certain belief systems’ denigrations of sex to be quite puzzling. I wasn’t introduced to religion per say until I was 8 and consequently was able to take my introduction to Lutheranism with a grain of salt. By that age I had already consumed so many Fantasy and Sci Fi novels of an adult level that I was able to think about how religion(s), world view(s), culture(s) etc are kind of in the eye of the beholder. If an author can construct, albeit only on the page, an entire planet’s worth of cultures and religions then why am I being instructed to hold just one religion and it’s tenets above everything else? That being said, 8 is still a young age and I have been influenced through the years by Lutheranism’s ( Catholic Light?) ideas about women and sex in a very general way despite consciously assigning many parts to the “not useful” bin in my head. Our culture here in America is also very demonstrably against women as well so there’s that as an influence in addition. I do not understand how murder of another human being can be construed as less heinous than sex – even under a religion’s influence- but from a biological standpoint I can see how the conflicting urges of wanting to be true to your worldview but having your body constantly urge you otherwise might become a crazy-making refrain that could drive certain people who cannot either resolve the two urges or live with the contradictions to such extremes of thought and action. To circle back to American society, our culture doesn’t teach men how to deal with their emotional side too well. I believe there is a severe dearth of acceptance of being in touch with emotion in the decidedly male/patriarchal parts of our society that leaves men with no skills to reconcile all that they deal with in their day to day lives- biologically, emotionally, religiously. And furthermore- in order for patriarchal ideas to take root and flourish the leaders, as such, have to disconnect from what I believe are innate tendencies of humans to connect, empathize and cooperate. This then means that in order for patriarchy to function, men, who are at the top of the heap ostensibly, must learn to disconnect from seeing and feeling how women ( and others) are treated in order to reap the benefits of their position without constantly coming into conflict with themselves.

  13. “Often the worst of behavior in the wake of calamity is on part of those who believe that others will behave savagely and that they themselves are taking defense measures against barbarism” Rebecca Solnit, author of A Paradise Built in Hell

    Women endure most of a man’s sexual frustrations. God creates Eve from Adam’s rib as a companion for Adam. It is Eve who tempts Adam into partaking in the forbidden fruit. Adam is seen as weak for succumbing to Eve’s temptations. Eve is depicted as selfish, weak minded, and deceptive, the overall the downfall of humankind. The system is rigged against women from the start. There is a sense of power in our feminism and our sexuality that begs to be reconned with. Men desire it, but as soon as there is the slightest indignation on their part, women are deemed overtly sexy, lustful, and sinful. It is a large burden to carry a man’s guilt for his own actions or inability to control himself. We are blamed when he cheats, we have been blamed when were raped, we have been blamed when were abused due to social norms that have long been defined by religion. Regarding religion, there is a sense of the do-gooders that must protect society from those who pose threat to our personal beliefs and ways of life. This sets a dangerous precedent.

    • Yes, everything you described emerges from a patriarchal culture that values and privileges men over women.

      It’s interesting that the Adam and Eve story could be interpreted completely differently, and I should write a post on this sometime. But consider that all Eve wanted was to know the difference between good and evil, which is what churches are supposedly meant to teach us as well. That’s a bad thing to be punished for?

  14. It is so refreshing to know the relationship between gender equality and sex positivity. It is sad to think about sex is still portrayed as a sinful act in some cultures even today. I have always believed that sex negativity is one of many ways patriarchy objectifies and controls women, but never really thought of its harm for men as well since it is a natural desire for all human. I know men have a natural privilege in patriarchal societies, but masturbating in some religions is seen as a sin for both men and women. Though the demanding level is different, like covering skin for women but not the same for men. So my question is, men are the people with vested interest in patriarchy, why would the system take a toll on them as well?

    • Patriarchy takes a huge toll on men in so many ways. They are less likely to go to get physical health check ups and mental health help because they don’t like to be seen as weak. They are less likely to have close friends because they can’t be emotional. They can’t be there for selves because their feminine side is considered shameful. They get less sex because they shame sexual women. I could go on!

      Basically there is a cost to an attempt to feel superior. And domination cultures that teach men are ahead of women, wiser ahead of blacks, straight are better than gay etc. to create a sense of superiority for some white straight males. But domination cultures also set up the same man to be at the bottom of the pyramid. Because most men will end up at the bottom.

      A partnership culture is so much healthier for everyone.

      There are some powerful men who benefit and enforce the status quo. But mostly, once you have a patriarchy of men and women are born into it and internalize it unconsciously, so that they re-create the problem without even realizing they are doing so.

  15. This is such an interesting post. It is so interesting to me that sex is still a taboo topic nowadays. I know it is rooted in religious beliefs and sometimes cultural traditions but it is also a natural desire. Also, in many cultures, women are seen as the caregivers and their primary duty is to bear children (not saying this is a morally correct stance, in my opinion), so it is odd to me that “sex is worse than murder.” I’d also like to point out that murder is a crime while sex is not. In our governed laws, at least here in the United States, one would be sentenced to prison for murder but there are no laws against consensual sex. With that being said, it is clear that when a man justifies murder to prevent sinning, patriarchy and a sense of dominance is instilled in society.

  16. Before the cultural and sexual revolution of the sixties, a man and woman living together without being married were considered to be “living in sin”. Discarding religious shackles gave people the freedom to do what do comes naturally and to be normal. The shackles were man-made and most religions are male dominated.

    The hippie era was egalitarian and about peace and love, to my way of thinking, that is what religion should be about. Your reference to the ancient Hawaiians and American Indians reminded how sex-positive the sixties and seventies were. Men controlling the biology and minds of people through the “words of God” can only have a negative impact, because it goes against instinct.

    I mentioned to you previously that when I was being brought up to believe that sex was something beautiful, my Catholic friends were being made to feel guilty about it. Enforcing control over people, especially indoctrinating children, is at the root of a lot of problems throughout the world. Unfortunately, there will always be a segment of society who want to control the rest of society, one way or another.

    I had not really seen it as a system of patriarchal male dominance until I discovered your blog. I think people should question the validity of their own belief system, and not go through life believing what they were spoon-fed as a child. The most successful mind manipulation of the masses has been implemented by man using religion.

    • Yes, I grew up in a very sex-negative religion which had very negative consequences for me. And then I was reading a book – I think it’s called “sex in history“ — and saw that there was an actual pattern of patriarchy being associated with sex-negativity. And kind of often times against joy generally, because they seek a lot of control and joy and joyful sex are not very controlled. I always wonder what it would have been like to have been raised in a sex-positive religion/culture. It’s actually hard for me to imagine.

      • Although I consider it wrong to criticise anyone’s religion, I have disdain for any man who becomes powerful by surrounding himself with the words of God and subsequently gains control over the way other people live their lives. He has then become powerful with words alone; he is no more spiritual than anyone else. Founders of religions and cults impose restrictions and abnormal censorship on their followers.

        There is a need for children to play and also for adults to play. Any suppression of that need is not a good thing. People should be free to do whatever they want to do as long as it does not have an adverse effect on anyone else.

        The last two sentences of your reply really resonated with me, because I see it as you having been deprived of experiences that you should have been free to enjoy. (Please correct me if I am wrong). Although I had an extensive knowledge of the Bible when I was young, I do not consider that I gained any benefit from it. Whereas reading books like Nancy Friday’s “My Secret Garden” when I was a young man, gave me a greater understanding of the world I lived in, and supplemented the knowledge I was gaining through practical experience. Books like “My Secret Garden” also helped women with “impure thoughts” realise it was normal to have all sorts of fantasies and not to feel guilty about it.

        There are far too many women who go through life without experiencing the pleasure that they are capable of receiving, and two common sources of the problem are religion and men who lack sexual knowledge.

        For most people life is difficult and for others it is downright hard, if it is not interspersed with joy and whatever pleasure you get, particularly unbridled passion, what’s the point of it all?

        “But pleasures are like poppies spread,
        You seize the flower; it’s bloom is shed;
        Or, like the snow-fall in the river,
        A moment white, then melts forever.”

      • Thank you for including that poem. It makes the point so beautifully.

  17. An interesting perspective. I’ve added Raine Eisler’s book, The Chalice and The Blade to my To Read List. Thanks for sharing.

    • It’s strange that I didn’t get any alerts that people were commenting on this post. I went to approve some other people and,voila, people have commented!

      Yes, she is such an interesting scholar. Definitely recommend!

  18. Vilifying sex is irrational by itself; deeming it to be a crime more heinous than murder and opting for latter as a safeguard against the former can only be another obnoxious form of sociopathy, arising from a warped patriarchy. Through education and empowerment of women, communities everywhere must resolutely progress towards equitable gender balance and humane social order. It is useless to ask who will set the ball rolling. The change must happen from our own homes.

    • Yes, I agree!

      Sorry about the late response. I never got any alerts that anyone had responded to this blog post and then I went to my comments and there are several there! Thanks for chiming in!

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