Archive for January, 2013

Anne and Eve and Beastiality…oh my!

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

After reading these three selections, I was instantly grateful that I am not living during that time period. That gratefulness, however, was quickly diminished when I realized that society’s tendency to blame the victim and to furiously gossip about alleged acts are still relevant today. It seems as if the excuse that a rapist sometimes uses of “she had it coming” (in more or less terms) has stood the test of time.

Unfortunately, in rape prone cultures, the responsibility of avoiding rape is mostly on the victim. Whether it be a female or male or even animal, being the victim of rape does not alleviate them of fault and (back in the 17th and 18th centuries when these readings were set in) subsequent punishment for their part in the rape.  The part of the Eve reading that struck a chord the most with me is when it is stated “Outside of family and community government, males were carnal, sensual, and devilish. Puritan writers were amazed at the sexual restraint of Indian men, who never raped their captives”. It was if rape was expected and that it was up to the potential rape victims to take precautions to avoid rape. Societies, for many centuries, have developed and maintained a “culture of fear“. That same “culture of fear” is what places blame (if only partial blame) on the victim for not protecting themselves better. Even in last week’s reading about the Amerindians, the Indian women were expected to protect themselves from being raped by the Spanish soldiers by no longer moving “about with freedom and ease” and “scattering…at the sight of Spaniards”.

Gossip in all of this of this week’s readings was the catalyst in which all of the accused parties were taken to trial. As in today’s society, perception is often reality and many of the accused were convicted in the courts merely by hearsay. Governor John Winthrop brought Anne Hutchinson to trial and used the gossip of 6 ministers to convict her. Gossip has been and always will be a very powerful element of society.


Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Talking about bestiality makes me very uncomfortable, not because I think it’s gross, but because I think it’s gross. I can provide arguments for why I think that it’s wrong (inability of animals to provide consent,etc.) but in the end my real sense of outrage would be coming from a much deeper and less rational part of me. If I were being completely honest, I’d have to say that I oppose bestiality in the exact same way many people oppose homosexuality, as a knee jerk reaction to something I find physically disgusting and have been raised with an unconscious prejudice towards.
Still, I think it is very interesting to cover the topic of bestiality, something that is as morally unacceptable to many people today as it was in the time of the Puritans. Although it has lesser legal penalties today, it’s still utterly taboo. Most people I know support gay rights, or at least don’t care, but I’ve never encountered anyone openly supporting bestiality. Reading about how big of a problem it was thought to be back then,(and keeping in mind that, even taking into account false or obviously hysterical accusations, most of the cases really did seem to be based on fact) made me wonder how prevalent it is today. I’m sure it wasn’t as widespread as some of the Puritans seemed to think it was, and I’d like to think most of it was caused by factors not mirrored in our society today (isolation, intense sexual repression) but I do feel that human nature remains the same despite social changes.
Unfortunately(?) I couldn’t really find anything in the way of legitimate statistics about the prevalence of bestiality today (although this article did make an interesting read:). Still, I’m more interested in my reaction to the concept then actual statistics. I think that it ties in not only with the Puritans’ attitudes on homosexuality but also the way they treated Anne Hutchinson.They were getting rid of a perceived threat to their social order. Anne Hutchinson was someone who, form their perspective,advocated immoral, offensive, and potentially dangerous things. While we don’t take legal action against people for their beliefs in America today,we still morally condemn them. I’ve noticed that when people talk about prejudice in the modern world, it tends to be a kind that they think of themselves as mostly above and want to squash out elsewhere (racism, homophobia) while we ignore our actual prejudices. In order to see our actual prejudices we need to know the actual reasons that we believe what we believe (as opposed to just the justifications). While our beliefs may be very justified, we usually have very different or incidental reasons for actually holding them. Only by examining these can we hope to approach rationality.

Puritans who has the power?

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

When the Puritans set off to America they aimed to create a society that stood out among all societies. A society that shinned so bright, that it would be like a city on a hill.  An example to the rest of the world, a place for people to look for moral guidance. However, things went downhill quickly for the Puritans and before they knew it people were sleeping with their animals (and not in that cute cuddly way), causing social disturbances and practicing witch craft right and left. The Puritans did what any good society would, they freaked out.

In the articles that we read this week the, there were many examples of the Puritans trying to regain social control. In the article that discussed bestiality it was difficult to discern how many of the people accused where actually guilty. People were being accused and killed for these crimes with very little evidence. The idea of sexual deviance worried the Puritan society and they wanted to make an example of these people.  The authorities scarred people so much that men didn’t even want to go into the barn with the cows in fear that they would be accused. Interestingly, this is very closely tied to social class. The people who were being accused tended to be poorer and the accusers were land owners.

Anne Hutchinson is another example of the Puritan society trying to control the people. The church accused Anne of not following the beliefs of the church and trying to indoctrinate others. One of their main concerns was that Anne was slandering the name of one of the local pastors. They saw this a great threat to their power, thus felt that it was necessary to banish Anne altogether. In both the situation of the people being accused of sexual misconduct and the trial of Anne Hutchinson, it all comes down to power. The religious authorities where afraid of losing their power among the people so they asserted their dominance in these situations.

Puritans in the Chocolate Factory

Thursday, January 24th, 2013


This guy’s face is all I could imagine as we were reading about the Puritans and bestiality.  This isn’t to say that Willy Wonka condoned human and animal relations (or whatever an Oompa-Loompa is).  I feel that the whole idea behind the Puritans campaigning against sodomy and bestiality is a lot like our dear Mr. Wonka.  If you recall the story, the protagonist Charlie inherits the factory because he is malleable.  “I want someone that will do it my way” Willy says.  The Puritans are very similar in their rearing of children.  They have such insane guidelines and strict moral etiquette so that they can create the next race of clones.  I would go as far as to say that God and heaven may have had little to do with their pedagogy.  The cold, hard truth was that the Puritans were in a wilderness.  They were running from hostility in Europe and they encountered more hostility in America.  The ultimate strategy was to take their children and create someone that would “do it their way.”

How can this be?  The Puritans were clearly incredibly god-fearing and desired nothing more than to see the pearly gates!  These are valid counter-arguments.  However, a closer look at the bestiality article shows otherwise.  There are instances of obvious homosexual relations in open view of the public.  Why would such a religious people miss such an obvious part of the bible?  There are only trials and convictions for bestiality and forced sodomy.  Yet in the bible, in Leviticus, states that “Thou shall not lie with mankind, as well with womankind, it is an abomination.  Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things.  If the Puritans were the bible thumpers they claimed to be, wouldn’t they condemn all forms of sexual deviancy?  It would appear then, the Puritans picked select parts of the bible to interpret and then apply to the proselytizing of their children.  Perhaps there was a large homosexual community in Puritan times, and they just wanted the Chocolate Factory to stay the way they like it.

“Get Out of My Life!”

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

King Herod’s reaction (“Get out of my life!”) in “Jesus Christ Superstar” to Jesus not playing into what he wanted was all I could imagine when I finished reading the transcript from Anne Hutchinson’s trial.  If you haven’t seen that movie, you should check it out.

The reaction of the government officials prosecuting Anne Hutchinson reflected what we spoke about in class on Tuesday; the Puritan communities living in New England had rigid rules about sex and gender, the transgressions of which were rigidly punished, even if on a less-than-rigid basis.  The communities’ reactions to instances of homosexuality, rape, and beasteality in Murrin’s “Things Fearful to Name” seem conflicted, as some cases are accepted and others are severely punished.  My only exposure to the Puritan Christianity existing during this time period has been the readings for this class, so my expertise on them is somewhat lacking, but my observations thus far have led me to the following conclusion:

Colonial Puritan Christianity needed perfect Christians in order to fulfill their role as a perfect society.  As human nature is admittedly much less than perfect, it became important to maintain the image of perfection in the face of obvious deviations from it.  Because rules regarding sex and gender were taken from the Bible and societies as well as teachings in the Bible were patriarchal, these laws were patriarchal as well, placing women in a subservient position to men.  It would seem less sinful for a woman to act more “manly,” or “dominant,” than for a man to take on the position more “womanly,” or “passive.”  However, because of what was perceived to be the natural order of things, a man could never be more passive than a woman, and a woman never more dominant than a man.  In their attempt to maintain appearances, failures to keep with this natural order were able to be swept under the rug (though not necessarily forgiven) so long as they didn’t become too public, whether through increased public affection or through disputes resulting from non-consensual acts.

In the case of Murrin’s “Things Fearful to Name,” the people who were punished tended to be involved in either public displays of affection, in nonconsensual sexual acts, or in bestiality.  All of these were interactions, if witnessed by someone other than a participant,  became unavoidable to the public, and they were forced to take action.  In the case of Anne Hutchinson, Anne defended herself and stood up to the men prosecuting her, challenging the male-female natural order.  The men, even if she could have convinced them of her innocence, could not have lost the case to her because it would have challenged her subservience to them.  In the end, she lost the case and was ousted from the society.

Beauty and the…Bestiality

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Just kidding! I will not actually be addressing bestiality much in this post at all, since that seems to be the theme most people have run with thus far, and I would like to add something a little different to the discussion. But I just really wanted to use that title, so there you have it!

What I actually wish to address for this week, however, is the ultimate “Catch-22” in Puritan Massachusetts (and, let’s be real, for much of history in many place globally): to be a woman. Oh, all right, we can nit-pick and excuse the “bawds” and official prostitutes from this category, although their lives were hard enough as it was. But for the most part, girls “were taught to please, to smile and fetch and carry, to stand on the table and sing” (95).

From this description, it seems as though females were regarded kind of like useful dogs: able to be of service to men when necessary, and be pleasant while doing so, and that they were indeed considered property, and therefore less than autonomous. The rules should have been clear if they [females in the community] were actually considered in this reductive of a manner, and there would be no question of whether one were committing a moral sin if she were only to behave in a way that is like that of a servant, pet, or child, and nothing more.

But of course, things are not that easy; on the contrary, the following paragraph struck me as confounding at best, downright befuddling (and harboring great punishment as a result) at worst:

“…A respectable woman did not undress before her male servants, nor did she lie under the covers with a man not her husband, but she might sleep in the same room as either. She did not sing or drink with strangers in the tavern, though out of hospitality she would certainly smoke at her own hearth or doorstep with any of her husband’s friends. She did not sit on her neighbor’s lap or kiss him in the barn, but with good conscience she could share his horse” (95).

As in our current age, the role of females here is a complex one– if a woman is capable of sharing a man’s horse, but culpable of adultery if she hugs him from behind in any other circumstances, where is it appropriate to draw the line?

I will probably do a follow-up blog post after tomorrow’s class, because there is a lot more that needs to be said regarding this topic, but I want to hear other people’s reactions first before I proceed any further with my tirades!



Anne Hutchinson; The wave-maker for women in the church.

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

I think Anne Hutchinson was born in the wrong era and instead should have been born in the late 20th century, when all different types of movements sparked up. Hutchinson felt she could speak and hear the voice of God even though she was a woman. She was a progressive leader for women within her church, encouraging them to study the bible. In her time she was seen as a person who practiced heresy but today she is recognized as a woman who set the path for women’s rights in a religious context.

In Anne Hutchinson’s trial, she was accused for hearing God and holding meetings where she would help women think about their spiritual lives. This kind of thing was unacceptable because only men, specifically those ordained, had that type of relationship or privilege with God. This was not only something believed by the Puritans but by all Protestant religions in the 1600’s and even much after. Women in ministry were not even recognized until the late 1900’s. With much struggle, women were accepted into major roles within the church in many Protestant denominations.

When I think of Anne Hutchinson I think of a woman who stood up for her beliefs. She was one of the few women who made their opinions heard, especially in a time where religion and nothing else was life. I think she was something like a foundation for women in the church to fight for appreciation and equal rights.

I’ll Never be Your Beast of Burden

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

“My back is broad but it’s a hurting, All I want is for you to make love to me…” Rolling Stones 1978


Inour readings for this week we’ve read about Bestiality, Anne Hutchinson, and an article titled “Eve”. All of these readings give us a Calvinist/ Puritan viewpoint on sex and sexuality. To sum up their viewpoint sex and sexuality all together was considered evil and bad. That said, it was also understood that it was needed in order to populate the world and this mission fell in line with their religious agenda of populating the world with more Calvinists and Puritans.

In our first reading we learned that Bestiality was considered a sin along with sodomy. Reading this you may think “Duh” but it was not as simple as that. It was easy to accuse a man of “buggering” an animal and it was in his best interest to plead guilty or face harsher punishment. The most problematic aspect of the Puritan/ Calvinist viewpoint was in regards to the victim, in this case we will address them as those who were “buggered”. Those who were “buggered” either animal or a rape victim (usually male) where further victimized. The animal was usually slaughtered  because it was believed to be full of sin, the rape victim was also victimized again and thought to be full of evil and sin and therefor was flogged or punished in some manner. Anne Hutchinson’s case showed us the power of a woman word. Her case showed us how judgemental the Puritan/ Calvinist world was. One of the most admiring aspects of Anne Hutchinson was the way she she fought back. Her words were not her words but words from Biblical text. Unfortunately she was arguing logically with religion as her voice against men who saw women as subordinate to men. As for the “Eve” article we see how a woman responds in a mans world that is controlled by religion. She was faced with religious persecution, community persecution  and social order. Navigating the Puritan/ Calvin world is extremely complicated and extremely problematic.


The Guilty Ones

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

All I could think of while reading Colonial Bestiality was my old friend, Kim. I know, I know, it seems random, but hear me out. I met Kim when I fist entered the youth group in my church, at age 12. Kim was 14: older, wiser, and much cooler. Kim’s mother was a staunch woman–firmly convicted in her beliefs, and holding tight to her daughter’s virginity like it was the last good thing on Earth. Kim was repressed. She was grounded every other day, and when she wasn’t being grounded, she’d be getting in trouble for something else she may or may not have done.

I liked Kim because she was a rebel. She wore black and spikes. She would always find a way to bring up the topic of sex during our Bible study. She had a boyfriend who was sixteen. I wanted to be just like her.

After a few months, however, Kim was gone. She was found by our friend Lindsey having oral sex in a closet in our church with her boyfriend. Humiliated and shamed by this lascivious act, Kim’s mother took her daughter and left the church, never to be seen again.

There you have it, folks: sexual repression at it’s finest. When I first read the article, I thought, “how ironic that such a conservative culture has such a widespread sexual perversion.” And yet, recalling what I knew about Kim, it all made sense. These people were Calvinists–raised in the very essence of self-loathing and repression. There was no sex (pre-marital or homosexual), masturbation, or God-forbid talk of either. And while I’m sure people engaged in these activities behind closed doors, they certainly weren’t condoned. In fact, they were made to believe that they were probably already sentenced to eternal damnation because of their perverse and sinful nature.

The confusion, self-hatred, repression and guilt that goes along with being a 17th century Calvinist cannot be overstated. Because of this constant guilt, accusations were flying everywhere. People, many whom were guilty themselves, were accusing or “ratting out” others on their “perverse” behavior. The scenario also reminds me of the controversy with the Catholic Church regarding the rape of underage children. It is amazing the scandal that arises in the most conservative of environments–the more conservative, the bigger or more shocking the scandal. It is no surprise that the Calvinists, the high-and-mightiest of them all had a bestiality, and overall sexual perversion problem.

Believe Me Woman, Just Believe

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

The separation of church and state, however difficult and convoluted a task we find the separating, provides a beneficial separation.  While the notion of a state church is interesting to me, I would not desire to live in such a society.  I fear the potential double corruption of the state bound to religious conviction and/or the churches conscious curbed by political necessity.  I do not believe the needs of either are best met in this way.  Call me a Jeffersonian, but I believe that religious freedom as expressed in our First Amendment such that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” is a beneficial and noble goal.  This might explain why I have such a difficult time understanding the case against Anne Hutchinson.

She is being tried for her beliefs.  Specifically, she is being condemned for aiding young women in breaking the fifth Mosaic commandment to honor your father and mother.  Another charge includes slandering the ministry of many ministers of good standing in the community and charging them with preaching a gospel of works instead of grace.  The case goes on and on, but the point to take away is that she is being prosecuted for her beliefs.  But would these alone be reason enough to expel her from the community?  During the proceedings it comes out that at least two other ministers- remember there were three who did not cheer upon the courts verdict- defended her witness.  In fact, she believed Mr. Cotton to be one of the few to preach a gospel of grace for salvation.  If his and possibly other ministers views were so similar to hers, then why were they not being interrogated in trial and under oath?  The only substantive difference I can discern is that she is a woman.  It must be that established men of good repute were allowed room for error or disagreement.  Men of good standing must have been allowed to exercise some freedom of thought granted it did not upset the community’s harmony and integrity.  This might also explain, in part, why sodomy between consenting men was largely overlooked despite, and we can be sure the well read and pious Puritans were very familiar with the Biblical prohibition against sodomy out of Genesis, Leviticus, and Romans.  So, in effect she was condemned because of her beliefs and because she was a woman.

A deeper issue here for me, and the reason why I believe a separation of church and state is beneficial, is the coercion of belief.  Clearly the Massachusetts Bay Colony and colonial New England in general was maintained and operated by a fear.  The external, communal environment acted as a check to sinful, godless heathenism that was sure to pour in like water through a broken dike if order were not maintained.  So, I understand that they were genuinely concerned about the well being of their community but is belief so cultivated in an environment of fear genuine belief?  Would I not, having been born and raised in such an environment, simply agree, for the sake of maintaining community and family ties, that I believed in Jesus Christ and whatever else my minister preached?  I suppose religious options were limited at the time.  You were either Puritan or outcast.  Even so, a religious belief coerced sounds disingenuous.  I am sure that many if not most members of these colonies did genuinely believe, to varying degrees of zeal I am sure, their confession however, I find it difficult to accept the notion of a belief being genuine and genuinely understood when you know if you do not accept the prevailing orthodoxy you will be cast out.