I saw this article yesterday on BeliefNet and there are a few things that I do not fully agree with, so I’m going to offer some commentary. I like the artcile in general and I will note that when it’s the case. Oh, and by the way, the title of the article is about sex and I don’t usually pull any punches, so prepare yourself to read some mildly explicit content.
5 Lies Single Christians Believe About Sex.
Lie #1 – Sexuality Serves No Purpose Until I’m Married
Sexuality has always been God’s idea and He uses it to be glorified through singles and married couples. John Piper said, “The ultimate reason why we are sexual is to make God more fully knowable.” Our sexual desires reflect a deeper spiritual intimacy that God longs to have with us beyond what we can attain physically. Sexuality is therefore meant to be embraced and then properly stewarded. For singles, this means practicing abstinence.
Response #1-Given this definition, I struggle with how to embrace sexuality as a single person. I do not disagree that one can be brought closer to God through various expressions of sexuality with one’s partner. There is a great quote in Patrick Cheng’s “Radical Love” that looks at this. “[Robert] Shore-Goss wrote, later on, during ‘passionate lovemaking, I felt Christ in a way that I only experienced in my solitary erotic prayer.” (Patrick Cheng, “Radical Love: An Introduction to Queer Theology,” 19) Looking at the Piper quote and comparing it to the last sentence, to me, effectively means that there can be no expression of sexuality among the unmarried because there can be little doubt that “abstinence” is confined to only a lack of sexual relations. It certainly has a much more broad definition. The truth is, given this definition of sexuality, the idea “make God more fully knowable” is unattainable because there is a lack in ability to begin to know one’s own self. Now, I’m not trying to offer comment or necessarily advocate that a single person should begin to “know” himself or herself sexually prior to marriage, but given this definition, it would seem that the writer is trying to say that we can’t begin to know God better prior to knowing ourselves and/or our partners better. It’s almost like the writers sees sexuality in single people like a car that you own, but can’t drive. One day, you’ll be able to use the car for its real purpose, but for now, it just has to sit there as you maintain its beauty and luster. I’m not sure that I can express what I would consider to be a better way, or a way in general, to express sexuality before marriage, but I do not like this particular definition, as I read it, and I certainly do not think sexuality in general, not necessarily sexual practice, should be stifled and repressed before marriage.
Lie #2 – If I’m Tempted, There’s Something Wrong
Temptation will come, expect it. In Genesis God tells Cain, “sin is [always] crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” God is more concerned with how His children respond to satan’s schemes. Don’t allow condemnation to set-in, instead grab hold of the Holy Spirit and allow Jesus to be made strong in your areas of weakness.
Response #2-I agree with the heading and much of the definition. I think we need to work with young folks to show them that sexual attraction, thoughts, and even feelings are not bad things, but that they are natural parts of life. Sure, there is the quote from Jesus below about adultery in the heart, and I’m not attempting to say that one should let his or her thoughts become uncontrolled. But there is a way that we can teach young and single folks to balance everything in such a way that they can progress spiritually without stunting themselves physically and emotionally to the point that there can be sexual dysfunction in future relationships.
Lie #3 – Sexual Purity Depends On The Physical Act of Sex
Big misconception here. Watching porn, lusting after a crush and consuming sexually driven media all work to give the enemy a foothold in a person’s heart and mind. Jesus put it another way in saying, “I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Sexual purity begins with the heart, not just in the action.
Response #3-To me, this needs to go farther. What do we define as sex? When does a sexual event actually start? Some, possibly apocryphal, stories from Brigham Young University show some of these misconeptions, or a simple disregard of reality, of what is really “sex.” Stories of women who only want to have anal sex because as long as there is no vaginal penetration it’s not “sex” and they’re still “virgins.” Couples who will go so far as to be entirely naked, the girl perhaps sit down on the guy, full penetration, but then they just don’t move any. For however long that is fun, I suppose. Supposedly it’s called “docking.” That’s not sex either…they’re both still “virgins.” Now, I’m not trying to make fun of BYU or these kids, it’s just that I am familiar with the school a bit. I suspect the same kind of stuff goes on at other schools. So, beyond the idea of not watching pornography and such, what do folks think that “sex” means? Maybe we should try to define sex to our young folks so that they know for sure. This way, there can’t be nonsense where folks can think that penetration without orgasm is not sex or that anal sex is not really sex. I’m not one to tell someone what to believe as to what counts as sex, but I do think it should be known. If you want to tell young folks that oral sex is OK, that’s fine, at least they know what is what. Now, I do have slight issue with the “lusting after a crush” statement. I think this ties to the next Lie. Where is the separation between unrighteous lusting and righteous sexual attraction? I’m not sure that I have an answer to that. I’m also not sure if any answer is beneficial to the younger single person because if I, a 32 year old who has been married for going on 7 years and will shortly have 3 kids, cannot tell the difference, then I highly doubt that a 19 year old man or woman can tell the difference. That can, I think, lead to the situation where they attempt to bury all desire because they can’t tell which is good and which is bad, they just think it’s all bad. This can, as I mentioned with response #2, lead to sexual dysfunction.
Lie #4 – Holiness Is About Getting Rid of Desire
The very fact that God created our desires is proof that ditching them is not His plan. This idea fosters a stoic, legalistic mindset that prevents Christians from enjoying their season of singleness. Holiness is allowing the Spirit to govern natural desires and sin is when natural desires are allowed to run the show. Desire is good, but without discipline it can lead you down a path full of unnecessary hurts.
Response #4-I agree with this. Desire has to be there. I think if I were to counsel someone in a pre-marriage situation and he or she said that they had no problem keeping their feelings in check, no problem not having sex, and so forth, I’d have a lot more questions to ask him or her. While there is certainly more than two answers, my initial thought is that the person is either lying because they think that is the right answer or that perhaps they are not the right fit for each other. In my view, there should certainly be an attraction and a desire that must consciously be restrained from both parties.
Lie #5 -Once You Get Married Sex Won’t Be An Issue
The idea that once you say “I do” you won’t ever have to worry about sex issues throws many newlyweds off in those early years of marriage. Primarily because the challenges are different and unexpected. While being married means you’re free to have sex, it doesn’t exempt you from dealing with sexual temptations such as: extramarital flirting, marital sex conflict and past sexual memories. Whether you are single or married, bringing your sexuality under the submission of Christ will be a lifetime ongoing effort.
Response #5-So, yes, you will have to deal with flirting, having conversations that go too far, knowing and recognizing boundaries with others, and so forth. I think if a person is being honest with himself or herself, just about everyone has had a time when they did something, didn’t recognize at first what was going on, and then looked around and said “holy crap, what am I doing here?” Now, that’s not to say that “just about everyone” has had an extramarital affair or something of that sort, but I would go so far as to say that a huge majority of people have exceeded a boundary at some point in time. A conversation that went too far. A business meeting that could have led to something else. Or whatever. Some people catch themselves and, sadly, some don’t. That is a significant issue, to be sure. But one thing that writer does not discuss the very real problem of marital sexual dysfunction. I think this is something that can and should be discussed in premarital counseling, but often is not. Do partners talk about their desires? Do they have someone that they can talk to openly about their desires? Can they REALLY talk to their Bishop or Pastor about sex? The real answer might be yes, but I suspect most people would say no. However, there can be very real problems when married couples have an imbalance in desires and have no way to discuss this. Who can the couple speak with if one of them desires sex twice a day and the other desires it twice a month? Is this an issue they were told about before marriage or does each partner think that something is wrong with the other? What about types of sexual satisfaction? Obviously, I could go on. If you’re reading and sexually active (or have been), whether married or not, you understand what I mean, you may have been through some of this. If you’re single and don’t understand what I mean, well, we can converse by email if you want.
So, I think this is a fair article. Obviously there are things that I think it misses that do not adequately address the issues that single people face. As a church, we need to be a place where people can discuss this, even if not in public or across the pulpit. Do our youth feel that they can talk to parents about sex? Do they feel feel that they can talk to church leadership about sex? If not one of those two, who is left? Older siblings, friends, etc. And, of course, a sixteen year old kid is going to be highly experienced and knowledgable to teach our fourteen year old what’s going on. We need to talk about these things openly. Sex discussions need to go beyond “don’t do it, don’t touch it, don’t even look at it” and into what words really mean. That’s part of why I don’t worry about words. Penis, vagina, breast, oral sex, anal sex, penetration, orgasm, and it goes on. Encourage conversation. Make sure that young folks know what is going on. That they know that desire is completely natural and OK. That they don’t have to repress feelings and stunt their own emotional growth. Certainly, we should make sure that folks who are preparing for marriage understand that there might be sexual dysfunction in marriage, no matter how much love they share. This is pretty important stuff.