Tag Archive: christians and sex

My friend, Michael Toy, who lives in Americaland and is a real person writes some incredible poetry that speaks deeply into things and as i am slowly working my way through his book i thought it was time to share another gem – this is taken from the book, ‘Blame it on the Huehuetenango’ which you should order online cos he has such an incredible gift at this kind of thing:

christian men and christian women

christian men and christian women

often hae sex, and find it to be

an excellent sort of thing to do

we are very careful, however,

to never discuss this activity

using any language which

might bring to mind

the slightest hint of

the remembered or anticipated

the emotion or the experience

even words like “evocative” and “nuance”

are avoided, being a little bit

too dangerous.

christian men and christian women

often stand in a room with

a thousand strangers singing

all unfettered adjectives and adverbs

of overwhelmed beauty and

longing for a completion

which shatters the secret soul

and fulfills creation

stretching out their hands

to touch the divine

oh, to be the beautiful bride

on the night she finally

gives herself to her lover

christian men and women

this is one reason why

people sometimes

don’t take us seriously

= = = = = = = = = =

[For another great poem by Michael Toy called all human, click here or head on over to his site over here

For this final part of my series on lies I believed about sex I want to talk about the false expectation many people are given that because sex is intended for marriage, as soon as you get married you will be able to fully express yourself sexually without experiencing guilt or shame. Of the four things I touched on in my Relevant article, this was the one people seemed to resonate with the most.

Many of us who were raised in Christian communities heard some version of this line in an attempt to convince us that sex before marriage wasn’t worth the potential baggage. We were told stories of people who had sex before marriage and how this negatively affected their sexual relationship with their spouses. The message was clear. If you don’t wait, you are setting yourself up for heartache in your future sex life. If you wait, you will enter marriage guilt and shame-free and be able to enjoy sex the way God intended.

I’m not saying that this isn’t true to some extent. I’m incredibly grateful that my husband and I haven’t had any sexual experiences apart from one another. I think it’s a sweet and sacred part of our relationship and I love knowing that it is something we two have uniquely shared only with each other. But in many cases, our hyper-vigilant attitude towards pre-marital sex is very hard to shake once we’re married and it can take a great deal of time to get over the emotional barriers we put in place before marriage.

My struggle with guilt and shame wasn’t because I went into marriage believing that sex was dirty. I had been told since I was a teenager that sex was intended to be a beautiful thing. But when you spend so much time and energy trying to avoid it or being afraid of it, it’s hard not to let those experiences override simple statements like, “Sex is intended as a beautiful thing.”

If you think about it from a basic psychological standpoint, it makes no sense for us to expect people to be able to make such a huge change all in one instant. Many Christians have spent years – from the day they hit puberty until their wedding day- focusing their energy on keeping their sex drives in check. Then suddenly, in the space of just a few hours, they expect to be able to stop feeling like their sexuality is something they must carefully control and instead be able to express it freely. And not only that –but express it freely with another person.

Many of us have programmedourselves to feel guilt towards sexual feelings – this is how we keep ourselves in check throughout our dating relationships. But that “red light” feeling we train ourselves to obey doesn’t always go away just because we’ve spoken some vows and signed some papers. I have always enjoyed having sex with my husband, but it still took me several months to stop having that sick-to-my-stomach guilty feeling every time we were together.

As bizarre as it seems, I was actually embarrassed that I was no longer a virgin. Even though the whole reason for being a virgin was to enter marriage as a virgin, it had become such a crucial part of my identity that it was hard for me to give up. I had to tell myself over and over, “It’s ok. You aren’t supposed to be a virgin anymore.” But there was a part of me that was sure people were looking at me differently. If losing my virginity before marriage would have made me “like a piece of chewed up gum”, unsuitable for my future husband, how was losing my virginity to my husband supposed to feel different? Wasn’t I just my husband’s chewed up gum? (This is one of many disturbing and objectifying analogies I’ve heard before about why it’s important to save yourself for your spouse.)

Not everyone experiences these feelings,but for the many people who do, it is terribly isolating. Because, once again, we are experiencing something our churches and communities never acknowledged as a possibility. And we feel alone and broken and filled with a profound sense that this isn’t the way it’s meant to be.

Several people commented on my original article to say, “This is why you shouldn’t wait. Why would anyone want to live that way? It sounds like this totally ruined your ability to enjoy sex.”

I would say to those people that the problem isn’t with the waiting. Waiting, in and of itself doesn’t cause any of this. The problem is this huge gap between how we talk to teenagers and young adults about sex, purity, and abstinence and the expectations we put on marital sex. My husband’s and my difficulties in our sexual relationship stemmed largely from taking what we’d been taught about sex as teenagers and trying to apply it to a marriage.

The problem is two-fold. First, I think our churches need to re-examine how they communicate with teenagers and young adults about this (which I touched on in Part 2) and secondly, churches need to find a way to address the gap between “Don’t do that,” as a young single person and “Sex is the greatest” as a married person. In many churches, there is no mature discussion of sex directed at adults and no conversation whatsoever about how we move from the way we treat sex as singles to the way we’re meant to treat sex as married adults. By not addressing it, we act like this transition will happen naturally, leaving a lot of people isolated, hurt and confused when it doesn’t.

We need to start doing the hard work of addressing these issues instead of ignoring them.

[Lily Dunn is an ice cream connoisseur, a Disney fanatic, and a fellow raiSIN hater trying to live an authentic, grace-filled life. She lives and teaches with her husband in Daegu, South Korea and blogs at https://lilyellyn.wordpress.com. Follow her on Twitter @LilyEllyn]  

 [To catch up on the rest of this series, click here]

There is this pervasive myth, particularly prevalent in the evangelical Christian subculture (though I’d argue it’s present in other parts of society too) that boys are sexual and girls (at least good girls) aren’t. In my article for Relevant  I called this the lie that “Girls don’t care about sex.”

If you are anything like me, you have countless times heard things like “Men think about sex all the time” and “Men are very visual so it’s up to you to keep them from seeing something that will make them stumble.” “You probably think kissing your boyfriend is very innocent because you aren’t thinking about sex, but he definitely is.” “Boys only want one thing.”

There are just so many things wrong with this. First off, I think it’s very degrading to men as it paints them as some sort of sex-fueled animals that must rely on women to curb and control their otherwise uncontrollable urges because they have no will power and their brains are too busy thinking about that one thing to engage with their actions. That is its own (necessary) conversation, but since I’m a woman I want to spend more time tackling the damage this does from a woman’s perspective.

These kinds of statements reinforce, directly or indirectly, that sex is a distinctly masculine thing. And this isn’t restricted to pre-marital sex. How many times have you heard a joke that is some riff on the woman who is not interested in sex and the man who wants it all the time? Many girls grow up believing that this is the inevitable reality they will one day experience.

And even if girls are looking forward to sex, they are very rarely free to admit it. Young Christian MEN are permitted, sometimes even encouraged, to look forward to sex within marriage, but when a young Christian woman expresses excitement about sex, she is perceived as crude and unfeminine

In fact, the only acceptable, feminine alternative for a young woman seems to be cultivating a fearful attitude towards sex. It’s something you are supposed to be able to enjoy in marriage, yet most of the married women you know only talk about it being uncomfortable or a sacrifice they make for their husbands. And worse, It’s something boys want and something you must protect yourself from. It’s something you can bring on yourself unintentionally by being careless about how you dress or present yourself. For most women there is a lurking, subconscious awareness of the potential correlation between sex and violence.

Without a model for how to be a woman who can embrace her sexuality even while setting boundaries, young women are faced with two options: admit to having sexual curiosities and interests and be seen as “slutty” or build up fear to protect ourselves from it. Many Christian communities are lacking a model for how to live purely without rejecting or denying our sexuality.

For years I was told that “girls don’t care about sex.” Well, as it turns out, I do. This has been a deep source of shame for me. I felt so unnatural and unfeminine for having a sex drive. In my experience, my youth leaders and pastors never really talked about girls’ sex drives at all. We preferred to pretend they didn’t exist. It wasn’t a “nice” thing to talk about. So naturally, I assumed no one else felt this way. For a long time I felt like a freak until I started to realize that I wasn’t the only one, not by a longshot. I just had never heard anyone admit it before.

Here is the truth: Many girls (yes, even Christian girls) think about sex. Many girls (yes, even Christian girls) like sex. If you are one of those girls, I want to tell you something no one ever told me. It’s OK. You are not a freak. You are not unfeminine. You are not unnatural. God created us, both men AND women, as sexual beings.

[I want to be very clear about one thing – I’m not trying to suggest that anyone, man or woman, should feel free to indulge in whatever kind of sexual fantasizing they want to. That’s not the point at all. I’m talking about an attitude I’ve witnessed that I believe builds shame in young women.]

Being a woman who cares about sex doesn’t make you dirty and it doesn’t make you less of a woman. It makes you a human being created by God, in the image of God, with the capacity and desire to love – physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and sexually. God has given us both the desire and the ability to express love with our hearts, minds, souls, and BODIES. How cool is that?!

[Lily Dunn is an ice cream connoisseur, a Disney fanatic, and a fellow raiSIN hater trying to live an authentic, grace-filled life. She lives and teaches with her husband in Daegu, South Korea and blogs at https://lilyellyn.wordpress.com. Follow her on Twitter @LilyEllyn]  

[For part IV looking at the Life of how Waiting for Marriage means Guilt-Free Sex, click here]

“I’ve heard people say that growing up as an evangelical Christian meant they never talked about sex. That wasn’t my experience. I grew up in the thick of evangelical purity culture and we talked about sex A LOT. We just spent all of that time talking about how and why NOT to have it.

As someone who followed all of the rules and waited until I was married to have sex, I was assured that I would be guaranteed an easy and rewarding sex life. When reality turned out to be different than what I’d been told, I was disappointed and disillusioned. I blamed myself, convinced no one else had experienced what I was experiencing. But when I timidly started to bring it up with my married friends, I realized that many others also felt let-down by post-marital sexual experiences that weren’t everything they’d been led to expect. I started to wonder if maybe the expectations themselves were wrong. Maybe what I’d been told or inferred about post-marital sex simply wasn’t true. “

Lily Dunn Bio

A few weeks ago I wrote an article called “4 Lies the Church Taught Me About Sex.” that was published by Relevant magazine online.

Many people wrote to say that the article had hit a nerve for them. They too had experienced churches, youth groups, and other Christian communities that used guilt, shame, or the promise of future rewards to encourage abstinence. Many also said they had experienced similar disappointment, disillusionment, and confusion after marriage and had felt alone in those feelings.

I used the term “the Church” because this experience was not restricted to my particular church – I saw and experienced this kind of language in my friend’s churches, at youth conferences, in books and Christian magazines, and even from missionaries in other countries. Perhaps honing in on the evangelical subculture would be more appropriate, but I don’t believe this is something only a narrow margin of Christians have been affected by. When I refer to “the Church,” I don’t hold myself outside of that. I too, am the Church. And because I am part of the church, my desire is to work towards her wholeness.

I didn’t write the article out of bitterness or regret, and I certainly wasn’t making the point that waiting isn’t worthwhile. I wrote it because I deeply believe that the reasons WHY we do things matter. In fact, they might matter as much as the actions themselves. I wanted to call into question the way much of the evangelical Christian community has handled its discussion of both pre and post-marital sex. Restricting sex to marriage is a value we hold, but the way we talk about it matters. The reasons people are waiting (or not waiting) matter.

I believe the Church is meant to spread truth, but some of the teachings I encountered about sex simply weren’t true. Much of the struggle and disappointment I did experience would have been avoided had I simply not been given false expectations and unhealthy ways of viewing sex and sexuality.

The article received a lot of attention from Christians and non-Christians alike and I was able to respond to some of the questions and concerns it sparked in a follow-up post on my blog, but this is a big topic and there’s a lot more that can be said. Brett has graciously given me the opportunity to expand on some of my points from the article. I’ll be doing a series of posts that flesh out my original four points and hopefully address some concerns that have been raised. In my next post I’ll talk about the idea of physical contact as a “gateway drug” for sex — how this language and attitude about our physical relationships can be harmful as well as some thoughts on better ways to think and talk about setting necessary boundaries.

[Lily Dunn is an ice cream connoisseur, a Disney fanatic, and a fellow raiSIN hater trying to live an authentic, grace-filled life. She lives and teaches with her husband in Daegu, South Korea and blogs at lilyellyn.wordpress.com You can also follow her on Twitter @LilyEllyn]

Lies about Sex: Part I – Physical Contact and Boundaries

Lies about Sex: Part II – The Myth of the Magical Wedding Night

Lies about Sex: Part III – Sex is for Boys

Lies about Sex: Part IV – Waiting for Marriage means Guilt-free Sex

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