"God is a Woman": What Men (and Women) need to learn

Ariana Grande’s song “God is a Woman” (2018) is a cultural tour de force. A stunning symbol of female empowerment at the 2018 MTV VMAs.

“God is a Woman” appropriates religious language – “let’s pray … save your soul … you might get blessed” – and applies it to sex. In this sense, the song is a homage to Madonna’s 1989 song – “Like a Prayer” (1989) – that similarly pushed the boundaries by finding double entendres in religious language.

Basically, in “God is a Woman”, Ariana Grande is boasting that after she makes love to you, you’ll believe that God is a woman. In other words, sex with her will be so good that only a god – Ariana Grande – can make sex feel that good. No mere mortal can pleasure you that much!

The YouTube video has Ariana Grande in godlike proportions towering over puny little men. In the midst of multiple suggestive images of vaginas, Ariana appropriates the biblical language of God (Ezekiel 25:17) – in a homage to Samuel L. Jackson in “Pulp Fiction” (1995) – as she smashes a glass ceiling, paving the way for other women to follow.

I’m sure that Ariana Grande is being ironical and not taking the video and the lyrics too seriously. If so, it’s a fun little joke which has already reaped 125 million views on YouTube.

Once upon a time, rightly or wrongly, religion, science, and evolution emphasised the link between sex and procreation. The purpose of sex was to make babies! To pass on DNA and ensure the survival of the human species. But now, “God is a Woman” links sex with pleasure, flourishing, and empowerment.

Once upon a time, in the 2nd wave of feminism, women found liberation through equal access to the workplace and other rights. Bras, heels, and stockings were symbols of male oppression. But, in “God is a Woman”, representing the 3rd and 4th waves of feminism, bras, heels, and stockings are now symbols of female empowerment.

Once upon a time, equality was found in flattening out the differences between men and women. But in “God is a Woman”, it is found in the caricatured exaggerations of the differences between men and women — Ariana Grande in her heels in contrast with the men who are either Captain-America-bods or plump, balding, middle aged, dad-bods. The women are hyper-feminized and the men are hyper-masculinized.

But the problem with empowerment is that it is often framed as an us-versus-them. If we don’t become the aggressors we will become the doormats. We better throw the first punch or we will be punched. There are only oppressors and victims in this narrative.

Whereas men once used to be the oppressors they now need to be the victims. For those who were once the victims, this is an understandable gut reaction. But aren’t we only continuing the cycle if we ourselves become the oppressors? Aren’t we now creating another “Other”?

And this is the uncomfortable dissonance in “God is a Woman”. In the lyrics, she promises to pleasure her lover, but in the YouTube video, she is indifferent and bored towards the men. If the sex is supposed to be so intensely personal and intimate, why is she so distant and aloof? What sort of god is this?

The Bible also uses sex as an image of the intense pleasure and intimacy that we enjoy when we know God. Jesus – the Son of God – is the archetypal lover in the Bible. He is the Groom and we are his Bride.

But Jesus flips it around. When we are loved by him, we will know that God is Jesus. But more than that. He is the God who serves us. He is the archetypal lover because he sacrifices his own needs. He dies for us to serve our needs.

We love and serve him because he first loved and served us. Not the other way around.

And so if we want to boast that we are like God as a lover, it should be because we served and sacrificed everything for our beloved. Not the other way around.

When we are loved by Jesus, it will be enough to make you believe that Jesus Christ is God.


Ephesians 5:25-33

Philippians 2:3-11

Revelation 21:2

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