Competition and the Fall
The first hint of the competition between men and women occurs immediately after the fall. Instead of finding their maleness and femaleness a source of flourishing and blessing, the man and woman now find their differences a source of temptation. In Genesis 3:16 God warns the woman: “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” Theologians offer many different interpretations of this text (some more convoluted than others), but you don’t have to be a theologian to understand the real-world implications. You must simply look at how men and women use their biological differences—how we use our bodies—to compete.
Generally speaking, men are physically stronger than women and so their natural temptation would be to use their strength to control women. We see this every time a man physically abuses or assaults a woman. We see it every time a man uses his power to harass or intimidate a woman. But we also see it every time a man walks away from a woman who is pregnant with his child. When he abandons her, he is taking advantage of the fact that an infant grows inside its mother and not its father. In a broken world where might makes right, the physical makeup of a man’s body gives him an advantage that a woman will never have.
To compensate, women may be tempted to capitalize on the one thing they have that men want. A woman may not be as physically powerful as a man, but she alone has the capacity to bear life. Her fertility (and by extension her sexuality) is a potential source of power. Because men desire her, she will be tempted to objectify herself to capture their attention. Instead of deriving her worth, value, and authority from being made in God’s image, she will be tempted to derive it from men. When a woman flaunts her sexuality, she does not necessarily want to be reduced to a sex object, but she’s learned, if only by instinct, that this is how a woman can rule in a broken world.
These gender dynamics play out in larger, systematic ways as we collectively celebrate unrestrained masculine power and encourage overt displays of female sexuality. We cheer for men who can beat other men to a pulp; and we applaud women who use their bodies to compete with each other. And the very things that were given to unite us—our biological differences—now divide us.