diminishing the value of sex

In my experience, conservative evangelicalism and Christian fundamentalism (and I'm sure other types of conservative, fundamentalist religions but evangelicalism is what I'm familiar with) tend to give far too much power to the sex act. And the irony is that in doing so, they actually end up cheapening it just as much as the "secular society" they constantly bemoan.

In my upbringing, sex was seen as some sort of holy grail. The message sent that if you waited until marriage to have sex, on your wedding night, and every time thereafter, angels would sing their praises for the wonderful thing that was happening between you and your spouse. It would be wonderful and holy and would hopefully produce a "quiverfull" of children who would "rise and call you blessed".

Sexuality was limited to the act of intercourse or any sort of physical contact that might lead to intercourse and sex within marriage was the most amazing thing a young christian youth could hope to experience. And it was assumed that you could suppress your sexuality until that moment and then turn it on like a light switch as soon as you were married.

Were you to have sex one day before that marriage license was signed, insertion of penis into vagina had the power to destroy your marriage and maybe even send you to hell.

I have come to believe anything presented to me as carrying THAT much weight and having THAT much power is suspect.

On the "other side of the tracks" were friends who viewed sex as so powerless that they consumed it like water. They had it whenever they wanted, with whomever they wanted with very little awareness of the significance of the act beyond "insertion of penis into vagina". Sexuality was about the act of intercourse (or for the especially enlightened, this might include oral or mutual masturbation). While most of my guy and girl friends were fairly enlightened and mature individuals, they had very little knowledge of how great sex could be if they'd just stop having it for a little bit and grow up.

The christians were terrified of sex. It was so powerful that they would create all these walls of protection – modesty, purity, abstinence – in the hopes that it would help sex remain "pure and holy".

The others were so terrified of sex in a different way that they threw it up on billboards and in magazines and online as an "in your face" declaration that they had conquered sex and all the emotional ramifications that went with it.

Both have cheapened human sexuality, reducing it to the human flesh that causes arousal and whatever act ultimately gives a person an orgasm. Both have created false expectations, arbitrary rules, poor education and ultimately generations and generations of generally screwed up people who then go screw people. True love waits is bullshit, as is free love. And as long as religious progressives continue to just side with one or the other because it's easier, an alternative view of human sexuality will never arise.

13 thoughts on “diminishing the value of sex

  1. Love this, Mak!! My single Christian girlfriends and I have talked about this quite a lot… we’re thinking it’s time to write a book on The Single Christian Girl’s Guide To Not Waiting… we’re raised with no information on how to handle things if you decide not to wait, and it can be very, very damaging.

  2. This is such a topic of interest to me and yet I am not quite sure what to think about it. I have similar reactions to how much of Christendom makes sexuality, the act of sex, and even physical expression of affection dirty and the “ultimate” sin to be condemned. I also find the rampant oversexualizing and objectifying expressions of sexuality that turn people into vapid sex machines to provide gratification disturbing and destructive. I personally waited until I got married and am happy to only share that part of myself with my husband, but I am curious to know more in depth what you think this third way should look like? What is the healthy balance and how does it fit in with what we believe as followers of Christ?

  3. Dave and Amy – I would LOVE to see that book published. I can write the chapter: “true love waits demystified: the view of a ‘good girl’ who DID wait” – it will put the panties of both sides of the issue in a bunch.

  4. Tia – I don’t have a lot of answers, my post was less about me telling everyone the solution and more about provoking thought and conversation on this matter.for starters I think a third way is more complex and nuanced with fewer die hard dogmas and would also by necessity involve more than just the “man+woman=(lots of sex + happy marriage) + kids = happy God” equation.

  5. hm, actually, that gives me a book idea – a compilation of stories of those who lived through the height of the “true love waits” campaign and were in some way disillusioned or damaged by its message. The first half being stories, the second half being a “way forward”

  6. haha, now that would be a book I would definitely read. I’ve definitely seen people burned by the true love waits–especially in the courtship crowd. I had one friend who married a guy she never kissed, held hands with or shared much “personal” information with, because that ALL had to wait til after marriage. So she went to bed on her wedding night with a stranger. It was years of fear, loathing, guilt, awkwardness, and anger before they started to heal. And your’re equation made me laugh out loud…that is what sexuality has been reduced to much of church world.

  7. I came across this blog entry, and your word are very validating. I am 28 years old and single, I have grown up in the church and have continued to struggle with how my sex life integrates with my christian faith. I remember that I signed a covenant in middle school at youth group to my family and church that I would wait until marriage. This has stayed with me almost 25 years later, almost like some sort of reminder of how I am impure! I am still single though not promiscious I must admit the covenant that I signed i my youth has been broken. I am still at a place of tension where I question how to live my life according to God’s love and grace and yet with the judgement of my brothers and sisters for not being able to maintain a celebate lifestyle all the time. I am made to feel guilty for this sin over and over again along with many of my peers who have grown up in the church and have lived with the lie that, “I am the only Christian having pre-marital sex, and none of my fellow believers even struggle with this. They are all pure, and able to flee from tempation, there is something deeply wrong with ME.” Meanwhile, little do we know, that this is something that most other people are strugglng with too.

  8. Thank you for sharing your story. I think the biggest tragedy in this is that we COULD be helping one another live out a sexuality that is honoring to God, self and other without putting up these rigid walls of uniform compliance. Some might choose celibacy – and we can honor that – but not all will. Instead, only those who have chosen celibacy are supported … everyone else is left on their own feeling ashamed and without support. It's all so unnecessary. What often ends up happening is people leave their communities of faith leading to increased isolation.

  9. I know quite a few young adults who were raised to believe that having sex outside of marriage was the worst sin they could commit, and thus, when they broke this “commandment,” that it was impossible for them to continue to be a Christian. They felt like they had to choose between being in a sexual relationship or being a Christian, the two were mutually exclusive… that seems tragically messed up to me.

  10. Yep, I've known a few young people who felt the same way – and it IS tragic. The more tragic thing is that pastors I know would say "well, that's not the church's fault, they probably just wanted an excuse to live in sin"

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