Homophobia and Masculine Domination in Judges 19-21

James Harding

Abstract


Judges 19:1-30 has played an important role in the rise of feminist exegesis due to its exceptionally graphic account of the violent death of the Levite’s concubine, a victim of sexual violence wholly without voice, and almost wholly without agency (see esp. Trible 1984). The narrative is also frequently discussed in connection with biblical attitudes to the homoerotic, largely on account of its strong similarity to the better known Gen. 19:1-29, on which it may be dependent. As such, it is not only an example of the kind of gendered subjective violence with which the Hebrew scriptures are replete, but also a key part of the process by which the scripturalization of works such as Judges has helped to shape the later attitudes and prejudices of those who hold it to be Scripture. In this case, it is part of the genesis of the symbolic violence of Jewish and Christian homophobia. Yet to focus on the anal rape threatened against the Levite, and its role in the construction of certain kinds of religious homophobia, would also be to limit the significance of the text for understanding the nexus between religion and violence in all its complexity. For the threatened rape of the Levite, and the actual rape of his concubine, cannot be separated from the subsequent abduction of the virgins of Jabesh-Gilead (Jdg. 21:8-12), and the abduction of the virgins of Shiloh on the day of a religious festival (Jdg. 21:19-24; cf. Pausanias, Description of Greece 4.4.1-3; Livy, Ab Urbe Condita 1.9-13), both of which are later scenes within the same narrative. All of these elements of the narrative reflect the pervasive influence of what Pierre Bourdieu has called “masculine domination” ([1998] 2001), which is not only at work within and behind the acts of subjective violence in the text itself, but also shapes the symbolic violence that is a key part of the text’s effect.


Keywords


homophobia; rape; masculine domination; Judges

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Bible and Critical Theory: ISSN 1832-3391