Sex and Racism (or Culturalism, Nationalism, Classism or Whatever You Want to Call it.)

Strom Thurmond’s Daughter

Ubiquity of Racism

In response to my statement “It underscores that the real horror behind the anti-miscegenation laws was never simply about sex between the races. It was about keeping black men away from white women. White men have had sex with black women from the earliest days of slavery, sometimes raping them with impunity.”

A Sister asked: “I didn’t understand this part of what you wrote, Bob. What was so important about keeping black men away from white women? Why was it so important?”

This was my response.

The Trent Lott-Strom Thurmond Controversy

Reflections on things Political


Dealing with Racism Christianly


My statement reflects an historical reality, rooted in the fact that some kind of underlying racism has been part of human history from time immemorial, as well as the biological differences in males and females. It is an historical fact that conquerors have almost always protected their own women, but with rare exceptions, they have raped the women of conquered peoples, siring children for whom they often had no regard.

Given the “racism” (culturalism, nationalism, classism or whatever you want to call it.) that generally characterizes human relationships down through the ages, the sexual differences between men and women leads to an even greater form of sexism when the relationship is between a male of the dominant race (culture, nation, or class.) and a female of the conquered or oppressed group.

We must never forget that we live in a world that is not as God created it. Sin colors our whole existence and all of our experiences, including our sexuality. The unending conflict between the sexes, even in good marriages between earnest Christians, is implicit in Genesis 3:16: “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Thank God that this is somewhat tempered by God’s grace in Christ to believers.) But Genesis 3:16, at least in part, means that the godly differences between males and females put within us by our Creator, have been gnarled and twisted through the Fall of our first parents. No one this side of Eden has complete health, either spiritually, mentally or physically. In a fallen world most people have feelings of inadequacy and inferiority, and their sense of sexuality is impacted by the Fall in no small measure. That means that people bring their neuroses into their sexual lives. The more sexual partners people have, the more complex their sexual experiences will tend to be as life goes on, and the more that a society drifts from God’s Law, the more twisted will be its sexual expressions.

A Digression on Gender Differences

I need to digress on some of the differences between males and females. (Some of what follows I’ve taken from another article that I’ve written.)

The most erotic part of a man’s body to a woman is the ear. I’ve come to that conclusion after over thirty-five years of marriage and listening to hundreds of people with sexual problems. (In listening to people talk about marriage problems, I never talk to women by themselves, and I would never talk about human physiology or sexual technique with a woman present. If a woman has problems in that area, my wife talks to her without my being present.)

What I mean by the ear is this: at the most basic level, women are looking for emotional intimacy and security in a relationship. When a man is tuned in to his wife’s heart, when he gives her his undivided attention and listens to her, she will positively respond to him in many ways, including sexually. Many men seem never to understand this. They imagine that a woman’s sexual response is fundamentally genitally centered, and so they pursue an erotic quest, studying everything from David Reuben to Tantric Hinduism. They waste gobs of money on stuff that never seems to work, from anatomical enhancers to very bizarre paraphernalia. I’m not denigrating knowledge of human physiology or sexual technique; I’m just saying that if a woman has a wounded spirit, no sexual contrivance is going to get her truly to open herself to her husband, and the more he focuses on erotica instead of communication and romance, the more tightly her soul is locked up away from him. And when the soul is locked up, so is the woman’s deepest sexuality.

In stating this, I am not implying that people should never read a manual about sex, because I believe that most couples would benefit from better knowledge about human physiology and sexual technique. My concern is that if things are not right in the relationship itself, then merely focusing on sexual matters is not going to produce the desired sexual response. That is because female sexuality is different from male sexuality in many ways, one of which is that sex for a woman is much more a part of the totality of who she is and not as focused on the physical dimension as it is for a man. It certainly is a physical act for both sexes, triggered by hormones and external stimuli, then nurtured by the stimulation of nerve ganglia, particularly in erogenous zones. It can be just as physically intense for both sexes, but it begins and ends differently for a woman than it does for a man.

Someone said that women are like electric stoves and men are like gas stoves. The electric stove manifests what is happening more subtly to start with and reacts more slowly than the gas stove. And when the switch is turned off, the electric stove cools down more slowly. But both stoves cook the food just as thoroughly. Most men can be engrossed in something else, like balancing the check-book or having their devotions, and then, almost instantly, turn their whole attention to matters of reproduction. Lots of things can blunt the edge of that, especially depression, but for the most part that’s how it is for a man. Women are generally different—and that’s the point that I am trying to make with my remark about the ear—their sexual response is part of a bigger picture that includes their understanding of who they are in relation to the world around them, especially to their sense of being cherished. That is why it is so important that men learn to continue the acts of courtship throughout their marriage, because the mystique of romance is much more important to many women than it is to men.

As a general rule in the world God created, reproduction begins with the female who responds to hormonal changes within herself in light of her environment. The male picks up on these clues regarding the female’s receptivity and almost instantly begins reproductive pursuit. In most mammals the olfactory nerve is the primary cranial nerve that triggers the male response, but in human males, it is the optic nerve. It’s why a man can be absorbed in the pathos of Jeremiah’s Lamentations, look up for a moment to reflect and pray, notice his wife walking across the room in her negligee, and drop his Bible.

Furthermore, in a fallen world, males tend to be polygamous, continually taking an instant, generally unconscious, sexual inventory of everyone they meet, while females tend to be monogamous once they have found a secure and satisfying relationship. Of course that’s a glittering generality, and there are plenty of exceptions, but I have found that pattern to be true in males and females, even among homosexuals. In fact, I would characterize homosexuality as an exaggeration of the sexual differences in men and women. Male homosexuals tend to be notoriously polygamous, while lesbians tend to be the opposite. I have yet to minister to a lesbian that did not have a wounded spirit, and behind most lesbian relationships is a pathological bonding of “You and me against the world.” When a homosexual male acts on a younger male, as a general rule, something overtly sexual will manifest itself very quickly. When a lesbian acts on a younger female, nothing overtly sexual will happen for a very long time, and if her partner is under aged, nothing felonious may ever happen. Instead, there will be an unhealthy obsession between them.

We tend to understand others in light of our own experience. When men approach women, thinking that their sexuality is fundamentally alike, they only exacerbate the distance between them. Perhaps that is one reason that Peter urged husbands to live with their wives in a sensitive way (literally, “according to knowledge”), because, unlike men who are rough clay pots, women are exquisite, delicate vases: “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7.)

However, even when everything is going great in the overall marriage relationship, a woman may find herself having difficulty sexually responding to her husband. There can be lots of factors, but one can be that her hormones may drop while she’s nursing a baby. Breast-feeding often not only lowers a woman’s likelihood of getting pregnant, it can also lower her psychological and physiological need to do that which produces a baby. Dirty dishes in the sink, financial problems, anxiety over her children and many other things can lower a woman’s sexual response, too, because a woman’s sexual openness begins with hormonal changes within herself that are deeply related to her environment—her primal sense of security with her mate in successfully raising offspring. These environmental things rarely affect males the way they do females, and so men often figure it must be rooted in something else, and off they go again down the erotic path, missing the real cause of the problem.

(Back from the Rabbit Trail) Violence and Male Sexuality

One of the major reasons behind these differences lies in the impact of a particular hormone called testosterone. The testes produce a chemical that alters many physical things in a male, and it sometimes washes the brain, producing a chemical imbalance that seeks rectification. But testosterone is not only the principal male sexual hormone; it is also a hormone that produces aggression and competitiveness. Contrary to popular thinking, that’s why rape is both a crime of violence and an act of sexual desire.

While the thought of being raped is horrific for a woman, not a few men have naively entertained the idea that it might be sexually exciting to be raped by a group of sexually aroused women. I know that sounds bizarre, but the fallen male’s sexual response is often characterized by the bizarre. That’s one reason why rape is a common part of war, especially in societies not tempered by the leavening influence of Christianity.

Every natural born human has a fallen, sinful nature.  When a person sins, he is simply doing what comes naturally, and sin is the normal state of man in our abnormal world that has not yet fully experienced the redemption of Jesus Christ.  War may sometimes bring out the best in a person, but it generally brings out the worst. In a fallen world, during the escalation of the kinds of violence that war incites, rape is a normal and natural thing, as judged by the historical record. Please notice that I didn’t say that it was a good thing, nor did I say that it would be natural and normal in an unfallen world, and I don’t in any way mean to infer that it is such in peace time; it is so in the “hell” of war.

The Old Testament recognizes the likelihood of this historical “accouterment” of war and tempers the brutality of this sin with a kind of enforced marriage as over against the simple rape and abandonment practiced in the pagan world:

“When you go to war against your enemies and the LORD your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife. Bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife. If you are not pleased with her, let her go wherever she wishes. You must not sell her or treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her.” (Deuteronomy 21:10-14.)

The word translated “dishonored” in verse fourteen is translated “humbled” in the King James Version.  It is the piel form of the Hebrew verb that sounds like ahnah.  This is the verb form used elsewhere to indicate out and out rape.  In Genesis 34:2 it is rendered “violated”:

“Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land. When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and violated her.” (Genesis 34:1, 2.)

Protection of Hearth and Home

These differences in males and females have sometimes produced a view in males about the females of their families as almost non-sexual creatures. To many young males, the thought that their mothers actually engaged in sexual intercourse in order to conceive them, and may have enjoyed it, seems incongruous, almost perverse and blasphemous. This idea was reinforced as Victorian era mothers sometimes taught their daughters that sex was a painful, almost dirty duty that they had to perform for their husbands. Perhaps one of the roots behind this may have lain in a twisted outworking of the natural barrier God erected within us against incest. Even in a fallen world, there is a natural sexual barrier between a person and the members of his immediate family. Outside of an openly degenerate society, most males are not sexually tempted by their mothers and daughters. True incest is not only ungodly, it is unnatural, even in a fallen world—but I’m not talking about a “blended” family, where a male has a brand new, braless step-daughter, blossoming with sexuality, scampering around the house in a tee shirt, while her mother is away at work.

Males have a natural instinct to protect the females of their families from danger, including that of sexual predators. Furthermore, throughout history it is not uncommon for dominant classes to view their subordinate classes as somewhat less than human. (Such “racial” or “cultural” superiority makes for a great conscience salve in ignoring moral categorical imperatives.) In the White, Southern society of my upbringing, Black males were often almost assumed to be animals, especially when it came to sex: sexually aroused higher order apes, lusting for the opportunity to rape a White woman. That’s a bit hyperbolic, but you probably get my drift. A chivalrous male must be willing to lay down his life to protect the females of his class from this herd of latent rapists.

Within the Southern Presbyterian Church of my youth, especially among the older members, race was a most significant issue. The Southern seminaries used R. L. Dabney’s Lectures in Systematic Theology as a text well into the twentieth century. Dabney had said the ‘radical social theory asserts, “all men are born free and equal”’ and that this is ‘an attack on God’s Word.’ I have read the prophetic Dabney’s “In Defense of Virginia and the South,” in his Discussions Evangelical and Theological. There he makes the following comments: “The black race is an alien one on our soil; and nothing except his amalgamation with ours, or his subordination to ours, can prevent the rise of that instinctive antipathy of race, which, history shows, always arises between opposite races in proximity.”

“ . . . the offspring of an amalgamation must be a hybrid race . . . incapable of the career of civilization and glory as an independent race. And this apparently is the destiny which our conquerors* have in view. If indeed they can mix the blood of the heroes of Manassas with this vile stream from the fens of Africa, then they will never again have occasion to tremble before the righteous resistance of Virginia freemen; but will have a race supple and vile enough to fill that position of political subjugation, which they desire to fix on the South.”

* (This nineteenth century Virginian who later moved to Texas was referring to the Union Army of the victorious North in the War Between the States.)

This blatantly supremacist thinking was pervasive in Southern circles, not only for the last part of the nineteenth, but also for much of the twentieth century. To a mind imbued with such thinking, the idea of consensual sex between an African-American male and a European-American female was not only abhorrent, it was perverse and almost as unnatural as bestiality.

However, at least from time to time, especially when a man was married to a refined and delicate White woman who was trained to exhibit little if any sexual response, a “hot-bloodied,” dark beauty down the road, “full of animal passions” (at least in the imagination of the male.), must have looked pretty good. This reminds me of the Rodgers and Hammerstein “Soliloquy” from Carousel. Though set in New England with Whites, it underscores the sexual dimension of classism:

“And I’ll be damned if he’ll marry his boss’s daughter
A skinny-lipped virgin with blood like water
Who’ll give him a peck and call it a kiss
And look in his eyes through a lorgnette
Hey, why am I takin’ on like this?
My kid ain’t even been born yet!”

I think this may explain the grossly contradictory actions of Strom Thurmond. Like many White men of his time, he was probably quite fearful of an unbridled, Black male sexuality, yet at the same time he lusted for the sexually ripe, fifteen-year-old, Carrie Butler, who worked in his parents’ home. You can hear the venom in Mr. Thurmond’s voice by following this link. What he said in 1948 was: “But I want to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that there’s not enough troops in the Army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the N.i.g.g.e.r. race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes and into our churches.” But he said nothing about keeping pretty, young, sexually ripe, “N.i.g.g.e.r.” women out of White men’s beds.

That’s probably more of an answer than you were looking for, and I hope that you will excuse some of the less than delicate ways that I have spoken of these things.

Bob Vincent