The Tanakh is not immune to stories of sexual violence and sexual objectification. Many stories in Tanakh deal with the beauty (or simply the body) of a woman leading to objectification and violence. Obvious examples include:
The Torah also includes two stories about women who sexually harass/seduce/objectify men. The most well-known is Potiphar’s wife – a powerful, immoral woman who continuously verbally assaults Joseph. Joseph has to flee leaving his shirt in her hand, ending up with him being framed and sent to jail. The second less-known story is about Lot’s daughters who intoxicate and sexually take advantage of their drunk father, with the older sister coercing the younger sister in order to perpetuate the human species.
It seems to me that the Bible is very aware of what the danger of objectification of others represents. Almost all of the stories can be read as a warning to society and critique of the behavior. While written thousands of years ago, the patterns presented through these narratives sadly resonate with us today. Each one presents an opportunity for framing discussions about abuse and objectification and the consequence for both perpetrator and victim. It is imperative that rather than skip the more violent and disturbing stories or tone them down as is sometimes done, they instead be used as they are, to encourage young and old alike to recognize that the Torah acknowledges the good and evil that lie side by side in people, and that each person is responsible for the choices that they make.
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