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Faith Born of Seduction

Sexual Trauma, Body Image, and Religion

Jennifer Manlowe

Publication Year: 1995

How do survivors of sexual and domestic violence relate to religion and to a higher power? What are the social and religious contexts that sustain and encourage eating disorders in women? How do these issues intersect?

The relationship between Christian religious discourse, incest, and eating disorders reveals an important, and so far unexamined, psychosocial phenomenon. Drawing from interviews with incest survivors whose sexual and religious backgrounds are intimately connected with their problematic relationship with food, Jennifer Manlowe here illuminates the connections between female body, weight, and appetite preoccupations.
Manlowe offers social and psychological insights into the most common forms of female suffering—incest and body hatred. The volume is intended as a resource for professionals, advocates, friends of survivors, and most importantly, the survivor of incest herself as she attempts to understand the links of meaning in her mind between her incest experience and her subsequent eating disorder.

Published by: NYU Press


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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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p. v

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p. vii

I am most grateful to the nine women who participated in this study. Without their courage, insight, and openness this book would not have been so full. I am indebted to psychoanalyst and historian Charles Strozier, who taught...

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pp. ix-xiii

Since 1983 I have been exploring the theologies of female survivors of sexual and domestic violence. At the same time I have wondered about the social contexts that sustain and encourage eating disorders in women. In what follows...

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1. Who Are We?

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pp. 1-9

We are everywhere. We are your daughters, sisters, friends, partners, coworkers, lovers, and mothers. We sit next to you on the bus. We're behind you in the line at the checkout counter. We sit beside you in church. We walk in front of you...

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2. A Horror beyond Tears: Reflections on a History of Abuse

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pp. 10-41

Incest is generally thought of as a rare occurrence in society, yet, it is extraordinarily common. Within the patriarchal nuclear family, approximately 38 percent of girls and 10 percent of boys are sexually assaulted.2 Every incest survivor with whom I have spoken...

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3. A Pyrrhic Victory: Contemplating the Physical Cost of Surviving

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pp. 42-58

Anorexia and bulimia are multilayered problems that have no singular cause. Psychological and social factors are generally thought to play key roles in their development. Many psychologists and psychiatrists believe these disorders arise...

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4. Disenchanting Faith and the Female Body: Deconstructing Misogynous Themes in Christian Discourse

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pp. 59-78

Patriarchal religious messages have been passed down through the ages to define and reinforce women's "natural" inferiority. Such meanings condition women to crave paternal, spiritual, and bodily redemption. Female redemption...

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5. A Thinly Veiled Skein: Exploring Troublesome Connections among Incest, Eating Disorders, and Religious Discourse

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pp. 79-99

Paternalistic theology that instills the need for female redemption and promises it via an external rescuer has failed survivors of incest. Yet such a faith still lingers in the language of the survivors. Discern through the following case studies...

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6. Self-Help or Self-Harm? Analyzing the "Politics" of Twelve-Step Groups for Recovery

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pp. 100-126

All of the women I interviewed for this project were involved with Twelve-Step spirituality groups at one time. Such groups are based on the program of Alcoholics Anonymous (see Appendix D). Seven of the nine are still involved...

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7. Summary of Key Findings

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pp. 127-135

I have come to recognize sexual trauma as a common theme among women who have eating disorders. My results reveal that the particular form of the eating disorder not only expresses the particular conflicts born of the sexual trauma...

Appendix A: Sample Questionnaire (Voices)

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pp. 137-142

Appendix B: Research Protocol for Interview Study: "Incest, Eating Disorders, and Religious Self-Descriptions"

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pp. 143-145

Appendix C: The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous

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p. 146

Appendix D: Brief History of Twelve-Step Groups

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pp. 147-148

Appendix E: The Feminist Steps

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pp. 149-150

Appendix F: Profile of Male Perpetrators

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pp. 151-155

Appendix G: Incest Laws

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pp. 156-158

Appendix H: Letter to Politician

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pp. 159-160

Appendix I: The Quality of Experience: A Feminist Method

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pp. 161-175


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pp. 177-203

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 205-216


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pp. 217-225

E-ISBN-13: 9780814763148
E-ISBN-10: 0814763146
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814755297
Print-ISBN-10: 0814755291

Page Count: 225
Publication Year: 1995

OCLC Number: 859685939
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Faith Born of Seduction

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Adult child sexual abuse victims -- United States -- Religious life.
  • Incest -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
  • Women -- Mental health -- United States.
  • Eating disorders -- United States -- Etiology.
  • Body image.
  • Sexism -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
  • Christianity -- Controversial literature.
  • Twelve-step programs -- Religious aspects.
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