A great book for ex-Christians especially survivors of fundamentalism

Job: A Comedy of Justice by Robert Heinlein

A romp through worlds, heaven and hell.  Very funny, and people who were brought up by literal Bible-believers, with Christian threats of hell, may especially enjoy it.  A slightly mangled version can be found online.  
Some favorite quotes:
"Heaven’s okay, if you’re an angel. It’s not a planet; it’s an artificial place, like Manhattan."
 "Crying in your drink is bad enough, crying into a hot fudge sundae is disgusting."
 "One community church serves all sects, The Church of the Divine Orgasm."

The downside is his repeated "jokes" about beating his lover, which in the book are attractive to her.  Repeated enough that one might wonder if Heinlein beat a woman and was trying to justify himself.

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Obviously, you're talking about Job: A Comedy of Justice, one of my favorite Heinlein novels.  But jokes about wife-beating?  Hergensheimer / Graham speaks jokingly to Margrethe about the biblical injunctions about wife-beating, but only once that I can recall, and it's clear (to me, at least) that he doesn't mean it, certainly not as regards Margrethe.  He IS pretty badly screwed up as regards his own religion, and getting him unscrewed is, as the dust jacket suggests, "one hell of a solution."

As to Robert himself, I won't claim intimate knowledge of his relationship with his second wife, Ginny, but all the secondary evidence I've inferred from his writing tells me he loved her to pieces.

He "jokes" about beating his lover about three or four times, and it makes her fall into his arms at least once.

Also, it's quite unrealistic and a mindfuck to portray the woman as actually appreciating such talk.

A woman once told me she'd told a previous husband that if he ever hit her, she would whop him so hard he would be knocked out. 

Not that she would necessarily be able to do that, but it's a defensive thing to say, and it gets a woman's real feelings across.

Okay ... you're gonna have to cite page numbers for me, here, or location and scene references.  I've read Job several times and own the hardback (and maybe the paperback, I think), and I recall all of ONCE when the issue came up.

And while I'm at it, I may have to break out my copy and reread it again.

"If you are ever naughty enough, I may beat you"


‚Woman, if you’re joking, I’m going to beat you.’
‚I’m not joking.’
‚In Texas it is legal to correct a wife with a stick not ,thicker than one’s
thumb.’ I held up my thumb. ‚Do you see one about this size?’
‚I’ll find one.’


"The beating can wait."


‚Woman, remind me to beat you.’
‚Yes, dearest. You wouldn’t have to force her. Make your intentions plain and
she will burst into tears and surrender. Then both of you will have the best
time of your lives."


"Alec. Don’t be angry.’
‚I’ll do no more than give you a fat lip. What is it?’ ...
I decided not to beat her."


I searched by "beat", but there may be more such talk using other words. 

I edited my previous reply btw.

And had Alex had actually done so, so much as once, he would have ruined the relationship between him and Margrethe, and I'm pretty sure he knew that.  I suspect more likely it was his brand of black humor or a kind of familiarity he established, if in ham-handed fashion, with his "Danish Zombie."  This is reflected in Margrethe's reaction to such comments, which, I'm pretty sure, don't reflect any disturbance on her part.

As alternative example, I regularly tell my wife I'm gonna eat her up ... yet she hasn't a tooth mark on her.  WHYIZZAT?

It reflects a lack of empathy with women, to portray a female character that way.  Real women, hearing a man talking in the way that Heinlein's character does, would - if not too intimidated, say something back like "Don't talk to me that way" or "playfully" say something about "you do that and I'll whop you upside the head".  If intimidated enough, they might take it in silence - but that kind of relationship may well actually include the man hitting the woman. 

Women understand quite well that "jokes" about aggression are expressions of genuine aggression, and in a heterosexual relationship, they are suggestions of a genuine threat, because the male almost always has a LOT more upper-body strength than the woman.  Women sometimes hit men, but when they do, they aren't nearly as likely to cause serious damage.  

Stephen King, a writer who really does "get it" about women, said once something like, he admired the courage it takes for a woman to be around a man, because generally he's so much stronger. 

Women don't like to think in those terms about a man they love.  But if the man talks the way Heinlein's character talks, it brings that unpleasant reality of their physical inequality to the surface - that frightening reality that, if angry enough, he could do serious damage to her - and relationships do make people angry sometimes!  It's a kind of threat, and it's why "gentlemen" don't talk that way. 

You might ask yourself, if it all really means nothing and it's all "just a joke", why Margrethe never says an aggressive word towards Alex. 

She also is an unreal character, a female lapper-up of sexism and Heinlein's wish-fulfillment, in another way:  she likes going almost naked and eliciting sexual interest from random men.  Women rarely actually enjoy sexual harassment, because the threat of rape is too real. 

And jokes about eating aren't the same.  Women are hardly ever actually eaten, but violence against women - rape, women on the run and hiding in battered women's shelters, women who get into abusive relationships and are beaten or even murdered - such violence is all too common and plays a big part in our media - news, movies, etc. 

Heinlein is an unregenerate sexist.  At first I thought that being sexist might be part of his fundamentalist-religious character, but I didn't think so at the end of the book, because the issue was never brought to the fore the way other aspects and problems with his Christian-fundamentalism were. 

ps I called Heinlein's portrayal of women a "mindfuck" because of his lack of empathy for women - the female characters are his wish-fulfillment, not actual human beings. 

I adore and love my wife with all my heart and, I hope, she adores and loves me as well. We give each other a hard time and threaten to beat each other senseless on a regular basis. It used to freak our friends out, but now they know this is our way of play. I would never lay a hand on my wife in anger and never would she with me. It's all play.
I have read Job several times and have always taken his threats of violence against his lady travel companion as similar to mine and my wife's play threats. In fact, read it again and pay attention to the sacrifices he goes through for her.


But you are BOTH jokingly discussing beating each other.  I mentioned such a case above, as being a realistic reaction on the part of the woman - where the woman reacts by herself making threats of beating.  So it becomes a kind of raillery. 

In the Job novel, Alex "jokes" about beating Margrethe and she acts like that's just fine and never says anything back. 

Heinlein is pretending that violence against women is OK by portraying his female character as being just fine with it.  That's why his novel is a mindfuck for a woman reader, and unrealistic. 

A writer could have any kind of person in a novel without being sexist.  They could write about sexist men, or women in traditional roles.  The sexist part is when the portrayal is distorted by the author's prejudice and psychological needs.  When the author doesn't see into the person. 

Where it gets sexist and turns into a mindfuck is when he puts his own sexist ideas into the woman's mouth.  When the women are portrayed as being just fine with the world as Heinlein wants it to be.

Margrethe being supposedly fine with "jokes" about beating her up - and even with what looks like serious information that he might beat her in the future - is a mindfuck. 

Similarly in Stranger in a Strange Land one of the women characters says at one point that almost always when a woman gets raped, it's her fault.  I haven't read that book in decades, but I saw something about that online. 

That is a male point of view, because what people so often want to do is to Blame Someone Else.  Very few real women would say that.  Possibly a judgemental old woman who feels unattractive might say that about young women she's envious of - but somehow I doubt it was like that in Heinlein's novel - rather, he was using his female character as a sock puppet for himself.  In a mindfucking way. 

And similarly when Heinlein has "strong" or unconventional female characters, that doesn't mean he's not sexist.  I haven't read such books by him, I was bothered by SIASL - probably by the sexism, although I didn't articulate it at the time -  so I stopped reading Heinlein. 

He is quite witty to be sure - and in a frisky giddy way that's similar to my own sense of humor, and it was amusing enough that I bookmarked really funny comments. 

I just wish he could see women for who they are. 

@laura,I haven't read the book but I understand where you're coming from. As men, though some try hard, I don't believe they can ever grasp the reality of the threat women live with. Men's physical strength has a good deal to do with it.
That and the very real threat of rape.

Yes, I was thinking of translating it to male psychology.  The closest thing I can think of for men, similar to the threat of rape, being beaten etc., would be getting kicked in the balls. 

Suppose - for men -

when you're outside alone, you know at any time a woman might appear.  She looks like a regular woman, only the women in this world move 10 times as fast.  If she hates men, she might kick you in the balls and then when you're on the floor, kick you a few more times in the balls. 

You hear in the media all the time about men getting kicked in the balls. 

Whole horror movies are constructed around men getting kicked in the balls.  Or getting a Lorena Bobbitt bob.  This is a major part of your culture. 

Sometimes even a gang of (very swift) women will converge on a man who's drunk in a bar, get him apart from the rest, and then they spend an hour kicking him in the balls. 

Your best male friend went out at 2 AM once, gave you a cheerful goodbye.  Then the following day, he was back, having been kicked in the balls.  He'd stopped at a gas station to get gas, and a very swift woman snuck into the back seat, and once they were going she held a gun on him while she gave him swift kicks in the balls. 

When you're a boy you don't know about being kicked in the balls.  But when you get to be about 16 or so, you have your first experience with a (very swift) woman following you, telling you over and over how she would like to kick you in the balls.  After that, you live in fear. 

The FBI tabulates victims of Lorena Bobbitts - however the statistics are underestimated because the men are too embarrassed to report it.  They're afraid they'll be blamed for it. 




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