I’ve begun, deleted, walked away, and come back to this post for weeks. I’ve changed the title, purpose, and even audience for this post more times than I can count. I can never figure out where to start. And maybe there isn’t really any good or easy place to begin such a topic. I was talking yesterday with my sister about what I was going to write on for my next post.
“I’m going to write about sex,” I finally decided.
“You can’t write about sex,” my sister says. “You’ve never had sex, so there isn’t much you can say about it.”
Thought 1: Challenge accepted.
Thought 2: If only that were true.
She’s right, I have never had sex. I am, after all, the good Christian girl. As such, I’m not supposed to think about sex, want sex, imagine sex, crave sex, or exude sex. Sex is off limits, a sin, a perilous path paved with lust, desire, shame, and guilt. Sex is evil. Sex is fraught with heartbreak and disappointment and the possibility of an unplanned pregnancy.
Until you get married. Then sex is the embodiment of love, the coming together of a man and woman’s soul. Sex is a gift from God, absolutely beautiful. Sex is allowed, expected, the physical expression of an emotional communion. Sex is passionate, mind-blowing, positively amazing. Sex births life.
… Thank you so much, Church, for clearing that up.
As a young, unmarried, single woman, my relationship with sex is the definition of “it’s complicated.” I just don’t know what to do with it. My sexuality is even more foreign to me. I’ve never been taught how to deal with it. Everything about my passions, desires, and cravings have been locked up in the recesses of my occasionally lustful mind, because that seems to be the only place for them.
And if I do let them out, if I cavort about with those thoughts and feelings, I immediately feel guilty and ashamed. I gave in. I let my body rule my mind and heart; I let sin win. And then I feel dirty, tainted, and no amount of prayer and apology can wipe that away.
The Church has adopted an approach to men, women, and sex reminiscent of Paul. Single people should stay single… unless they don’t have self-control… then they should just get married, because it’s better to get married than to “burn with passion/lust” (depending on the translation).
Such excellent coping skills.
But sexual sin as the Church sees it has been handed over to men. Men struggle with lustful thoughts, with premarital and extramarital sex, with pornography, with sex addiction. Men are slaves to their testosterone, libido, base physical desires, and masculine drive to conquer something. The Church expects those sins from men.
Women, however, are seen as the moralizing force between men and their lustful wanderings. Women are good, pure, and virtuous, and we are told it is our responsibility and burden to counter the bad in men. I think the Church kind of hopes our goodness will just rub off on the guys. (Not inappropriately, come on people.)
We are told that women, good Christian women, don’t struggle with sex the way men do. We weren’t created that way. Women are made into some sort of Wonder Woman who bounces impure thoughts and sexual desire off her magic alien silver bracelets, living to fight another day. We are impervious, set apart, above the animalistic drive that is sex and our feminine libido, slaves instead to our need for emotional intimacy.
And yet we watch movies like Magic Mike, sighing (and hopefully not drooling) over the sight of perfectly toned men dancing around on stage looking pretty freaking hot. We watch television shows like True Blood, convincing ourselves the sex is integral to the storyline, and it’s a crime for anyone to look as gorgeous at Alex Skarsgaard. We read books like 50 Shades of Grey, because we have to know how ridiculous the story is, pretending the various and excessive sex scenes don’t play around in our minds. We pick up Cosmo magazine for sex tips. We watch porn in secret, whether as a means of coping with loneliness or as a part of a stronger addiction.
We may be good Christian women, but we are in denial.
The Church has told us we shouldn’t have any of these desires, but not because they are wrong, but because we are women. So we convince ourselves that we aren’t subject to lust, sexual sin, and all the baggage that comes with it. We live in denial, confusion, and frustration. We have to shove it into some secret, dark, shameful compartment, because that is the only way we can continue to function in the Christian community and society we live in.
To say that women, Christian or not, are lacking in sexual impulse comparable to men is a gross understatement. It is naïve and quite frankly destructive. And I can say this because I am a Christian woman who disproves the lie. I think about sex. I get turned on. I crave physical intimacy, even if it’s just a means of ending the loneliness. There are days when it’s almost crippling in its insistence that I recognize it, give it the attention it wants. I hate those days. Nothing makes me feel less Christian than when I can’t stop my mind from wandering and fantasizing. Nothing makes me feel more like a whore than being a virgin with sex on the brain.
When you’re told you shouldn’t have thoughts you’re having, what’s the first thing you do? You keep it to yourself. You hide it, lock it away, and try to forget about them. When parents, friends, youth leaders, mentors, or pastors ask if there is anything you’re struggling with, you shake your head. No, you try to convince yourself. No, you don’t have any weaknesses. No, you’re doing fine.
So here is my confession: sex is probably my greatness weakness, the thing I struggle with most. I have to actively work to not dwell on such things. Watching movies like Magic Mike and reading books like 50 Shades only makes it worse, and sometimes I can’t say no (I have seen and read both). But the worst part? Feeling as if I was the only one struggling with all this pent up sexual frustration, and having no one to just sit with and express my feelings and concerns, explain what I’m dealing with, and find support. The worst part is feeling alone in these situations and being told I shouldn’t be feeling them at all.
On top of the burden of goodness and the burden of our apparently existent libido, women have taken on the burden of silence. We live in a mess of denial, guilt, and shame swirling around our traitorous sexuality. We don’t know what the hell we’re supposed to do with it. So we try to cover it up, hide it, and forget it under a mask of modesty, chastity, and spirituality. We keep quiet.
God can’t help us with our struggles or burdens if we don’t admit we have them. God can’t take them from us, fight them for us and with us, if we refuse to acknowledge they exist. And God knows what we struggle with. Besides the fact that He’s God and just knows everything, He created us. He gave us our sexuality. It’s a mistake to believe that everything about your sexuality and your desires is sinful. Lust, what we allow our wonderings and imaginings to turn into, is a sin. It comes down whether we let those thoughts control us, or if we face them head on. But the moment we try to ignore them, we give them power over us, over our heart and peace of mind.
God also gave us a choice: suffer under the sin, or find peace and forgiveness in His loving embrace. Ladies, we can try to live up to a false ideal of what a Christian woman should be, or we can recognize that we aren’t all that perfect, we have improper thoughts, and we no longer want to live in shame. We can admit to ourselves that we are sexual beings who have issues with lust. We can give it all over to God as He helps us sort out the rest.
And we can go to our friends, mentors, leaders in the church and talk through our frustrations and find support. Christians and the Church need to finally acknowledge that sexual sin, struggle, and addiction are not limited to men. Women are just as susceptible. The Church needs to be a safe place for men and women alike to come with their frustrations. The Church may not have all the answers, but they need to allow the questions. We need to stop pretending that the best method of dealing with sex is to simply not talk about it. We need to stop ignoring it. We need to let go of the shame and realize we aren’t alone.
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Feel free to let me know what you think. I’m always around if you just need to talk.