Have you ever run into a new take on something that you've been reading forever that makes you sit back and notice assumptions that run so deep you never noticed you were making them at all? I do this from time to time and it's funny to me how many assumptions I really do have.
In this case, I was reading this article on the Huffington Post: 2 Samuel 11:1-15: The Story of Patriarchy and HIV/AIDS.
It's an interesting article but the thing that struck me, apart from the tragedy, was the portrayal of Bathsheba as a victim rather than a complicit seductress. I read through the article thinking that the author was stretching things; that yes, while it is absolutely possible and common for men to abuse positions of authority in order to gain sexual favors from those beneath them that it's very clear in the story of David and Bathsheba that she was seducing him.
Then I went back and reread the chapter. Below is just a portion of the entire event, of course.
2 Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance. 3 So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 David sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her; and when she had purified herself from her uncleanness, she returned to her house. 5 The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, and said, “ I am pregnant.”
I read and reread, expanding my parameters until I had the entire event on the screen.
Nowhere is there any indication of what Bathsheba thought or wanted. Which shouldn't really be a surprise since the majority of the Bible is written from men's points of view and we rarely get the thoughts or motivations behind the actions of the women in the Bible.
It really set me back on my heels though because I was left wondering how I'd never seen it before. The written account doesn't give us any clue, so I will immediately admit that this is simply a *possibility* and I am not claiming that this is exactly what happened. But from what is written, the argument can be made that David raped Bathsheba. It's the same scenario that can be seen in the 'relationships' between slaves and their masters, or any man in a position of power who decides to abuse it.
David was the king. It's not a concept that we're intimately familiar with, at least not in the West any longer, but the king had absolute power or the next best thing. Bathsheba could not have refused to go before him and once there, the power imbalance is so great that even if Bathsheba did not actually want to have sex with David, she was in no position to refuse him. Rape doesn't have to be violent, though it most often is.
Is it just that I was raised in a rather conservative church and so was only presented with the most traditional understandings of the stories in the Bible? Or is it that the idea of David as a great king is so deeply ingrained in our minds, even when we cease to believe in Christianity itself, that it never occurs to many of us to look at his actions in anything less than a positive light? Or is it the same old story - the base assumption that the woman is the catalyst, the seducer even when she's done nothing but take a bath in her own home?