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Grooming Your Wife?

I'd really like to believe this is a satire website, but its entirely humorless tone suggests it's not. It appears to be actually advocating something that it claims are "biblical gender roles".

In a recent post, the site author responds to a young husband named Robert who sent an email because he is having trouble disciplining his wife.

I read your article on 7 ways to discipline your wife and you recommend taking away her debit card.  I know I could do this, but in my view, that should be the last option.   I am considering starting spanking her.  I have mentioned it to her, not on the budget, but in general and she is against it.  She thinks spanking is treating her like a child.

Were he writing to me, I would suggest that there is a perfectly valid reason she thinks this, namely, because he is treating her like a child. Beyond that I'm not sure what I would tell him, but I do have some advice for her: Get away ASAP!

But the anonymous guy who runs the Biblical Gender Roles website (I'll call him BGR for brevity; I guess that acronym would be pronounced "Bugger") sees it differently. In his eyes, Robert's problem is that he lacks instruction on the technique of...well, I'll let him say it in his own words.

Whether or not he realizes it, what Robert is really asking is “How can I as Christian husband groom my young wife?”

I will give Bugger credit for this: He understands he is going to get pushback on this. But that's the only credit he deserves.

Before he begins his defense, Bugger acknowledges the negative connotations of grooming.

But humanists see grooming as one person conditioning another person to allow them or someone else to abuse them.  The term is often associated with pedophiles preying on children, sex traffickers conditioning women for prostitution or husbands conditioning their wives to allow them to abuse them.

This contrasts with what he claims is the biblical view of marriage.

But from a Biblical perspective, grooming when used in the sense of a husband conditioning his wife to be in complete subjection to him and molding her behavior to his preferences is not evil or immoral.  But rather, these actions are righteous, holy and required of husbands by God.

See the difference? Me neither.

In order to set the table for this dichotomy, Bugger searches for the biblical definition of grooming, which he finds in...Webster's Dictionary?

Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary defines the verb definition of groom as “to clean and maintain the appearance of (an animal), to make neat or attractive, to get into readiness for a specific objective” and this fits with the traditional understanding of this word.

Although I don't want to lose sight of the fact that he is equating his wife with an animal—we'll come back to that, I promise—I think there are even deeper problems with Bugger's approach here.

One thing I've observed from being around evangelicals much of my life is that, when they are confident their views can be found in the Bible, they turn first to a chapter and verse. When they can't make a clear case from scripture, they turn first to the dictionary and only then to scripture.

Anyway, now that Webster has defined grooming for us, Bugger looks to the Bible for elucidation. He quotes Ephesians 5:25-27.

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

This passage doesn't mention the word grooming, and wouldn't even seem to be related to the subject if Webster hadn't primed us to look for a connection. There is too much of a gap between "love your wives" and "maintain the appearance of an animal" to seriously consider this a good fit. But that won't stop Bugger from trying.

Look at the striking parallels between the way God requires husbands to love their wives as Christ loves his church and what grooming actually is.

He then fails to list any of these "striking parallels". He's not going to make the case himself; he expects us to make it for him.

So let's try it. Exactly how, according to this passage, does God require husbands to love their wives? The answer is found in verses 28-31 following Bugger's excerpt above.

In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body.  “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

So the husband will love his wife the way he loves himself. And, we can presume, he will groom her the way he grooms himself. Or something. I guess it's all clear now.

Oh, and remember the reference to grooming an animal? Bugger is fully aware of the, um, troublesome nature of that connection.

And one thing I want to mention for my humanist friends out there that are in major trigger mode right now.  Some of them may be hung up on the word “animal” in the definition of grooming.  If you look at the definition here you will see these examples of grooming “an impeccably groomed woman, was being groomed as a presidential candidate”. So no, this term is not exclusively used of animals.

Notice how he never says grooming your wife is different from grooming your horse. He knows exactly what he is doing. Having planted the association, he doubles down. You can groom your livestock and your wife! If he didn't want us to think he believes women are animals, he could have chosen a different dictionary. The Cambridge Dictionary at least puts personal grooming ahead of animal grooming in its definition:

the things that you do to make your appearance clean and neat, for example brushing your hair, or the things that you do to keep an animal's hair or fur clean and neat

And something called the Collins Dictionary omits animals entirely.

Grooming refers to the things that people do to keep themselves clean and make their face, hair, and skin look nice.

The Urban Dictionary goes in an entirely different direction.

When a sexual or other kind of predator sets the stage for abusing another, such as a child or other person (as in the case of sex and theory human trafficking).

Let's be honest, though: Despite his earlier denial, this is a lot closer to what Bugger is advocating.

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