I promised a post on sex. The way the question came about is a bit sad to me, “you always blog about love and biology, but not sex.” R-i-g-h-t, because in today’s world sex has nothing to do with either love or biology??
The idea that we can compartmentalize sex today as if it is something that exists outside of anything else, completely unrelated to biology, love, reproduction, marriage, the economy, or even politics, astounds me. The way my brain works, everything is connected and related to something else. Sexuality is a huge part of the human experience and it impacts every aspect of our lives. We are biological creatures, we are all about the birds and the bees, but we are also something more, something higher than our own biology.
First the religious aspect of sex, frequently I am told Christians hate sex and view it as nothing but sin and shame. That kind of baffled me because here we have this book, the greatest love story ever written, that begins with two naked people in a garden and ends with a wedding. Who do people think designed sex? We’re wonderfully and fearfully made, in the image of our Creator. It’s not like He made a mistake in our design. Sex is fun, lighthearted, playful, joyous. Sex is an awesome thing, it creates life, builds intimacy, leads to spiritual union with another, helps us catch a glimpse of what spiritual communion with our Creator is like. Sex is a beautiful thing. On Earth as it is in heaven.
I finally encountered some really confused (and hostile) Christians on the internet and understood what people were complaining about all these years. Oh, ick! That kind of shame based nonsense is rare among Christians however, it took me nearly 50 years to find it. Yeah, they do tend to taint the whole loaf, something in there about leaven…
A while ago I learned that a lot of preaching used to go on, (probably still does) that tends to promote this idea that the greatest sins of all are sex, smoking, and rock and roll. Oh, as if one cannot hear all the parental angst sneaking into that message! That’s not based on scripture, that’s based on parental fears.
The sad thing is that there are people who now believe they can’t be a Christian because they smoke. Or they had sex outside of marriage. Or lots of sex. Or perhaps they just love rock n roll and cannot reconcile themselves with following a God who seems to hate music. These are all deceptions, falsehoods of our own thinking, others people’s tainted words, but I can empathize. If I had such a negative perception of God as a judgmental, authoritarian parent who dumps us at the slightest sign of biological disobedience to a list of arbitrary rules, I’d probably resist, too.
Shame, not sex, is a real problem in our culture. America especially has some odd ideas, we’re very pornographic, with sex in your face 24/7, and yet we’re a bit prudish. So the message is, “sex is everything, in fact it’s our entire identity….but don’t do it because it’s bad.” Confusing to say the least. Now, that message comes mostly from the secular world, from how sex is used to sell products, from pornography, from endless entertainment springing forth from a sex crimes unit, to our strange obsession with sex gone wrong, as in the case of rape and child sexual abuse. Hardly a day goes by without the news presenting us with a story that totally encapsulates the horrors of sex gone wrong, and presents sex as something always involving victims and perpetrators, predators and prey, shame and criminal activity.
So it’s the secular world that really presents these constant messages that entwine sex with shame, not the Christian world.
Feminism has contributed to even more sexual confusion and shame. Consider this conversation I had with a feminist girl on the internet. She believes all sex is oppressive and demeaning towards women, and yet she is still engaging in it casually with a series of men. Consensual! Why? Where’s the payoff there? Are you carried away by lust? No, she assures me all sex is pretty much awful and not something she really desires. She does it because it’s expected and she seeks the approval of men she does not really like, so they won’t think poorly of her. So, if you’re doing something you don’t like to try and impress people you don’t even respect, and it’s making you miserable in the process, just say no! I’m not going to do that, she tells me in horror, I’m a sexually empowered woman!
Ai yi yi. That is the opposite of empowered. In fact, that is downright confused. Also, incredibly common thinking among many women. I am empowered! I have choices! Like the choice to have crappy sex with people I don’t like for reasons I can’t fathom. Believe it or not, those women are actually answering to a higher authority, culture, feminism, social pressure, advertising, what’s expected. But expected by whom??
So now we have this aspect of our culture where people are actually shamed for not having sex. Women are thought to be prudes, we relentlessly mock men who are virgins, and we have brought sex completely into the material world, as if it is separate from everything else, as flat and two-dimensional as a pornographic image on a piece of paper. Sex is totally meaningless and casual…and yet so powerful it is now a lifestyle choice, even the epitome of our very identity.
We harden our hearts to the full implications of sex and sexuality, we take something beautiful and mangle it into something ugly. We are not healthy and open-minded about sex at all, in fact we may be even more confused than our ancestors were. That’s what I see when I look about, a lot of shame and sexually confused people. Men who don’t know what their role is anymore and women who don’t know where their value lies.
Sex is not shameful, but neither is it casual. It’s that hardening of our hearts to the idea of sex that disturbs me. A hug is not casual, it has profound implications. It can entirely change the course of someones life. Heck, just a wink across a crowded room can make your whole day. A handshake used to mean your word, entire business transactions could be made over nothing more than a handshake.
But sex means very little?
It is this hardening of our hearts to the profound meaning of human contact and connection with each other that worries me. There are huge spiritual implications there, consequences that come from not being soft hearted towards the idea of human contact.
I am very down on shame and have written dozens of posts about it. Shame is a really toxic thing that tends to spread like and infection and separate us from each other and our Creator. Sexual shame is especially appalling because it confuses us and slithers about, doing even more harm than the original harm we’ve already done to ourselves. Shame is also a powerful component of addiction and when combined with biological urges, it can create a real problem.
It’s a complex and paradoxical message that I attempt to present here. Sex is natural and healthy and beautiful. It is anything that taints that beauty that is the problem, not sex itself. There are limits to sexual behavior not designed to shame people, but rather to prevent sexual shame and to support that idea of healthy sexuality. Sometimes people say things like, “the problem is other people are shaming me for what I’m doing, so make this acceptable and then it will be acceptable.” It just doesn’t work that way.
The problem is our spirits never lie. They know. You can remove the social stigma and the shame from a set of behaviors and somewhere deep inside of us we will still feel the harm, reap the whirl wind.
Consider the feminist girl I was chatting with on the internet, having crappy sex with people she doesn’t like for reasons she can’t fathom, all in the name of female empowerment. It’s her spirit that is crying out to her, not society’s shaming, not anyone elses judgements. She is doing exactly what is supported among her social group, but somewhere deep inside she knows she is not being true to herself.
Not long ago I read yet another article about the supposed need for us to remove the stigma of pedophilia. This is the natural progression, the place we will eventually arrive at as we go down this path, a path that seems to believe that morality is an external thing based on nothing but socio-sexual mores.
We’re living in a time and place where sex and shame are so entwined, people actually directly link sex to shame, so in upside down world, if it feels shameful it must be sexual, and if it’s sexual it must be good, and so to be good it must be shameful. That doesn’t bode well for anyone.
So there you go, a long winded post about sex, sexuality, and sexual politics. It’s sad that it has so many negative themes, but that is simply unavoidable when you try to take sex out of the realm of love and biology.