And when I say church, I mean the “church.” The Bible didn’t take away anything. In fact, reading the Bible has given me back some of my sexuality. Song of Solomon, anyone? The “church,” however, with all their good intentions and attempts to protect, have crippled me in my marriage. They have locked up my sexuality and thrown away the key.
Harsh, you might say. And for those of you who know me, you might be rolling your eyes. Yes, I did have sex at 18. Does that mean I have a free sexuality? No. It means I participated in the act. The Medical Dictionary defines sexuality as “the condition of being characterized and distinguished by sex.” I am most definitely not that. And to be honest, it sounds pretty awkward and uncomfortable for a blog topic. Think about this, though. In ancient India, they had a profoundly different outlook on sex. They were a sexual people. (Think Karma Sutra and some of the temples over there, decorated high to low with images celebrating the act.) They were characterized and distinguished by their acts. To them, enjoying sex didn’t make them nimphomaniacs or sluts or “guys being guys.” It made them human and provided a way to join themselves more than just physically.
Do we have that in today’s culture, especially Christian culture? No, no we do not. At least, I didn’t get that message as a youth group member. The message I got was that sex was sacred, do everything to avoid it until you’re married, and then flip a switch. Were we taught why it was amazing? No. Were we taught how to enjoy it? No. Seems like something you might not be taught in church, but I think it should be. Sex was created by God. He told Adam and Eve to populate the earth, and saw that it was “good.” So if God says it’s good… we should not talk about it at all, because it’s a weird, awkward topic and not safe for church? And we should teach our young women to completely hide themselves for fear of tempting our young men “before it’s time?” And we should, even moreso, teach our young men that their desires are evil and wicked? What??
The church is creating future marriage issues for its people. By ignoring or shaming an act that God created, it is fostering an aversion and a desire that is altogether unhealthy. The young women of the church (using myself as an example) are raised to believe that our bodies are not a temple, they are a brothel. If our shirts are slightly too baggy when we bend over, we are a temptress. If our skirts show our knees, we are a temptress. If you see a bra strap, because God forbid we let people know we, as adolescent and grown women, wear bras, we are temptresses. On our end, we’re constantly told that we need to wrap ourselves up and hide from the world to preserve ourselves for our husbands. And then we get married. Suddenly, 20+ years of indoctrination is supposed to magically fly out the window? Yeah right!
The young men of the church fair no better. Men, God created you to be visual. There is so much biologically that is hardwired in you to be visual. And in the moment. And of a one-track mind. All the marriage books point out that one of your biggest needs is sexuality, once you are married. So why then does the church tell you that’s wrong? The young men of the church are raised to believe that their eyes are inherently sinful. If they think about women sexually, they are lechers. (For those of you who don’t know what a lecher is, it’s a guy “given to excessive sexual indulgence.) If they wonder about sex, they’re lechers. If they desire sex, they’re lechers. They cannot even touch it, for the church’s fear that it will spiral out of control. It’s almost like that old superstition that speaking a thing’s name will cause it to appear. “Sex.” BAM! All the guys suddenly are mad, raving sex fiends. I beg to differ. I wonder if the majority of the sexual issues we have within the church have arisen because we try to stifle what is God-given. I have no answers, and I could be totally wrong, but I wonder what it might look like if older men stepped up with younger men and said, “Hey, your desire is totally normal and ok by God, as long as you use it to get ready for your wife.” Otherwise, we have a man who is also supposed to flip magically on the night of his wedding from snapping his wrist with a rubber band at every lascivious thought to adoring and wanting his wife.
Titus 2:3-4 says, “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children.” I want to take that and perhaps twist it a little. Older women, we younger women need you to teach us. We need you to step up beside the teens and college-age women around you and mentor us in how to be wives. We need you to show us. It might sound taboo, but we need you to explain to us how to use our bodies and how our husbands will desire us. To teach us, “Someday you can give all of this unexplained and forbidden stuff you have to hide and not learn about to your husband,” is more than a little ridiculous. That’s like taking remedial math and saying, “Someday, you will go into Calculus and you’ll use these numbers to do math problems, and we expect you to do it wonderfully.” It won’t happen. We’re being tossed into marriage unarmed and unaware, and then wondering why we encounter hardship.
I am so desperately hoping and dreading that I am not the only one out there with this issue. I hope I’m not the only one, because this blog post is otherwise incredibly embarrassing and horribly offensive. I dread that I’m not the only one, because that means I’m at least partially right, and some other woman is struggling like I am.
In my own marriage, we have had to face some other hurdles due to our pre-marriage sex. In a strange twist of fate, my husband does not have many of the sexual vices Christian men seem riddled with. Does he have his moments? Yes. Do some of the things he watches hurt me? Yes. But I take offense and get jealous over a pair of boobs on a movie in theaters. I’m weird like that. Is he addicted to pornography and the other sexual deviations out there? No. And what is more, he adores me. He wants me. He has no problem channeling his innate desires to what they were created for. I, on the other hand, feel dirty and slimy and wrong when he does these things. Why? Because I have been taught that sex is bad.
That needs to change. I am NOT advocating that the church begin promoting sex at any time. Trust me, sex is much better within the protective walls of marriage. But we can’t send our youth into such a huge commitment unarmed. Older women, you know the ins and outs of men. You know what pleases them and what doesn’t. The Bible doesn’t shy away from sexuality, and neither should we. Teach us younger women how to value our bodies. Teach us what we can do to please our men and feed their desire. Teach us that our body is a temple, and that we dress ourselves in a way not to keep from tempting men but to show off our God-given beauty. Teach us that it is ok and absolutely deserved and necessary to be adored and wanted. Teach us, and give us the framework. I wish so desperately that I had had a woman to step up along side me and say, “You don’t have to give your body away to be adored. You have so many things that you can give to them. Let me teach you how, so that when the time is right, you are ready.” I spent years giving away nothing (literally, I gave hugs to boyfriends. And then they left. Because hugs are lame, apparently.) and received little to no affection. Senior year, I began trading small physical things for that affection and adoration I so craved. The first used it to his own ends and then cut me off, since I was his dirty little secret. The second played me, refusing to say I was his girlfriend and going so far as to cheat on me with two others and say it was normal. The third adored me. He cherished me and wanted me and held me when I was hurting. Is it any surprise then that I did what I did? Does it make it right? Definitely not. But I was lonely, dismissed, and couldn’t even use what the world said was the “currency of love.” WHY, church? Why did you let me believe such a lie? The only thing I can say about it is that for some reason, I was blessed enough to make that choice with a person who does cherish me the way God intended, in a sexual way.
And I can’t do the same.
When I have a daughter, I will raise her seeing my husband and my affection. I will raise her knowing that there are “mommy and daddy” times. I will raise her with as much confidence and self-worth as I can, teaching her that her body is not something to hide. Clothes are not meant to “wrap up the present.” They are meant to high-light the person. Like Audrey Hepburn, I want her to accentuate her beauty with dignity and grace, not shame and worry. And my sons… Oh, my sweet sons… I want to raise them knowing that God made them to have those desires. I want them to learn how to channel those desires, giving them to God perhaps or talking to an older role model, rather than feeling ashamed of them. I want them to be men fully aware of their potential and their place and the adorer and leader of their sexual household. I want them to love as their father loves, because their wife might be like their mother. That love might be the only thing to save her from the church she was raised in.
The church stole my sexuality from me. I hope I am alone, because it’s a very sad place to be, stuck with my chastity belt on and struggling to be the woman I am supposed to be.