The Old Testament has influenced western society for thousands of years and its fundamental ideas remain prevalent today.
The traditional stories from the Old Testament deeply ingrain beliefs into American culture and set standards for moral, social, and sexual behaviour. Even though some may argue that the Old Testament no longer has an impact on modern society, individuals have been trained unconsciously by these principles that to be accepted by God, and thus modern religious society, the expression of sexuality must be restricted.
Without even realizing it, concepts such as sin, ideal family structure, and heaven and hell, circulate within the modern individual’s life. The traditional interpretation of the Old Testament has set a foundation for modern Christian and Jewish worldview that restricts the expression of sexuality in women, between homosexuals, and within heterosexual relationships, which ultimately creates an imbalance of power between genders.
In The Writings of the Old Testament, proper feminine behaviour is revealed through the eyes of men. Judaism and Christianity, both faithful to the Old Testament, are patriarchal religions that seek to establish societies that are structured similarly. According to Kathryn Imray, a professor of religious research at Murdoch University, the woman in the Song of Songs is portrayed as seductress dangerous to men (Imray). The woman within the poem is confident in her sexuality with her partner and therefore is a threat of power. The Song of Songs can be interpreted as a warning towards men; showing the threat a powerful woman can be to their patriarchal ideals. The male lover is so obsessed with his female lover that he becomes enslaved to her.
This is also true in Genesis with Adam and Eve. Eve is portrayed as a temptress who distracts Adam from focusing on God. The woman who is able to own her sexuality induces the downfall of the patriarchal man. Both Song of Songs and Genesis reinforce the importance of a weak woman and powerful man through its threatening portrayal of a powerful woman and weak man.
Malcolm Gladwell, the inventor of the monthly birth control pill, risked the Catholic Church’s approval by introducing a method of birth control other then the “rhythm method”. However, in order to stay in good graces, he made the pill reflect the same pattern as the traditional method of the church. Although women were given the power to control the affects of their sexual behaviour, the unnatural monthly menstrual cycle the pill produces has proved harmful, with risks including clotting and breast cancer. Even in modern society, with new inventions like birth control medication, the Church remains extremely influential on women’s sexuality.
Becoming more open with ideas towards sexuality will allow religious society to grow and develop into a more understanding and respectful sub-culture. The contention being held towards “who may express love towards whom” and how it is done has become too clouded by the rules and regulations being taught to us by a biblical society. Both men and women are being restricted by the traditional standards of the Old Testament. Both genders are expected to fulfill an unrealistic character outline set by the ideals taught through biblical stories.
When men no longer feel responsible for being in control, women will no longer feel responsible for being submissive. This mutual recognition of imbalance between genders will further promote equality within sexual expression. The Old Testament has proven its importance by remaining so influential, even today. However, it must be understood that society is constantly evolving and even though the stories of the Tanakh are able to remain relevant in certain respects; views towards women, men, and their sexuality must evolve as individuals do.