"Seahorses, Egalitarians, and Traditional Sex-Role Reversal"

A dispatch from the Christians for Biblical Equality conference
A couple of smitten seahorses arrested my attention recently at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium. The male and female fishes entwined their tails, their skins blushing in a love dance. As their bellies arched gracefully, it seemed both of them were pregnant. But only one of them was.

The male.

The female seahorse deposits her eggs on her partner's underside, the aquarium volunteer told me. The male then fertilizes them and provides them with food and oxygen. After ten days to several weeks of pregnancy, the male's brood sack bursts forth with tens or hundreds of newborns.

Within a day, the male gets pregnant again. The cycle repeats itself throughout his lifetime, giving the male a few hours to recover between pregnancies. The same faithful female will visit him every morning for several minutes of affection. Leaving her lover in the same one square meter, she travels perhaps a hundred times that area, ignoring all other males. She's back to visit her partner the next morning.

"How endearingly egalitarian!" was my initial thought/gasp, soon followed by its amendment. "Nah! Unless the male for some reason relishes his pregnancies (which could be true; I don't know), his freedoms seem much more limited than the female's." But even if fundamentally unegalitarian, the reversal of the traditional sex roles—not the oppression of the male—brought to mind the men I met at Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) conference in Dallas at the end of June. In both cases—the seahorses and the egalitarian men—the culturally sanctioned gender-role reversal is warranted by divine endowments. In case of the seahorses, it's their God-ordained anatomy and instincts. In case of egalitarian men, it's their and their spouses' gifts and talents. Even so, both ...

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