Redeeming Paul? Disruptive Masculinity, Sexual Autonomy, and Sexual Freedom in 1 Corinthians 7

Johnathan Jodamus

Abstract


Sex and gender ethical norms, especially those found in Pauline texts, continue to inform sexual and reproductive choices of contemporary Christians because Christians understand Scripture to be regulative for their day-to-day living in the present-day society, despite the temporal and cultural separation of our world from the world of the New Testament. To avoid the impasse created by the temporal and cultural separation, people often resort to “but it was a different time and context” argument. However, what if Paul was actually being counter-cultural and counter-temporal, offering more radical perspectives than those that have been promoted as the norm through simple and face-value interpretations. This essay suggests precisely that – that a deeper investigation of the rhetorical performance of Paul’s instructions to, and his relationship with the Corinthians, could produce transgressive and possibly transforming interpretations. What seems on the surface to be Paul’s views on sexual autonomy (via singleness), sexual purity (via marriage), and gender hierarchy (through reinscribing masculine roles) can all actually be regarded as subverted in 1 Corinthians 7. Drawing on a sociorhetorical gendered analytic to read these texts, I will demonstrate that Paul’s views on sex reflect an implicit gendered argument that plays a role in constructing and representing (un)masculinity, sexual autonomy, and perhaps even sexual freedom. This reading certainly offers a departure from traditional Pauline readings and calls for a discernment regarding who the real Paul may have actually been – perhaps even calling “for the real Paul to ‘please, stand up!’”

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References


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14426/ajgr.v26i2.72

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