Buckle up...we're going there.
Raised in church, I was taught by my Jesus movement mother that sex was bad until I was married, and then it becomes good. I've been a Christian most of my life, but after studying the bible, attempting to date, and questioning some pre-existing notions about sexuality, I've come to think that there is perhaps a problem within church culture and it looks something like suppressed sexuality. The intention behind certain teachings is not off, but maybe our dialogue has been.
Prior to my mom passing away when I was 26, we had ongoing conversations about this area of the Christian walk. She began to see what it was I was seeing -
Some of us have been trained to think that men and women are unable to have healthy relationships outside of marriage...meaning, a man and woman are unable to have a healthy friendship or non-romantic relationship because of their burning lust that disables them from doing so.
I am now 31 and have dated within the church and have been a part of my friend's lives who have both successfully and unsuccessfully done so. I have a younger brother who is currently traveling with a missions organization. I'm trying to put into perspective that I have witnessed what is happening, and what I can see is that men and women are now manipulating each other through social media and unhealthy behavior that is so extreme, it's beyond what I see in the 'secular' world.
I have non-christian male friends who are like protectors to me. We have conversations, they don't stare at my boobs, we talk about life and often with their girlfriends, and there is nothing unhealthy about that. I was dating a guy in a missions organization and was told that we couldn't be in a room alone without the door open. It was not allowed. I was 25, the guy was 30. I understand the intention behind this, to protect against sexual mishaps, but really, a man and woman are unable to be alone without ripping each others clothes off? A grown man can't contain himself from staring at a woman's boobs when he is alone with her? A grown woman can't stop herself from being too seductive in that setting?
C'mon, we need to go deeper here.
I have church guy friends who I adore. They are healthy, respectable, and they do not do anything weird like send me snapchat requests for sexy photos. We have been alone and we have been in a group and nothing weird has happened. No one has confessed their love and no one has been flirty. It's platonic. Some of you may think, "well good for you but not everyone is like you". I beg to differ. I think that we don't give "Christlike" men and women enough credit. The mindset of 'you can't be trusted' puts it in our heads that we are uncontrollable beings who are incapable of respecting each other.
I think within dating, there are a whole other lot of issues to address. It is a strange concept to think that 'sex is bad' prior to marriage, and then expect you and your significant other to have a healthy sex life when you're married. What if sex, in and of itself, is very good. God created it. Sexuality is good. God created that too. The thing is, managing your sexual desires while viewing the opposite sex as beautiful and human are necessary to have healthy relationships in and outside of marriage. Outside of marriage, there is more you probably need to be aware of to manage your actions and behaviors. Thinking a woman is hot is not a sin. It is possible to think a woman is hot and have an honorable relationship with her. It's about recognizing your sexual passion and managing it. I think women and men have to do this with the help of each other.
It's about a culture of honor.
I like how Pastor Kris Vallotton tackles this area. In one of his sermons, he tells men that their sex drive is good. He then articulates how a man should be able to honor a woman, and vice versa. Women struggle a lot with comparison, especially because of things like Instagram...so often women will post photos that make them look sexually attractive because they think that's what it takes for the opposite sex to find them datable. It's not the photo per say, it's the insecurity behind it.
What is the balance between body confidence and posting out of insecurity? Is it okay either way? Does it really matter? I'd like to open that dialogue.
What if there were more men out there who were like, "girl, you are gorgeous, with or without an instagram selfie" and more women who were like, "dang boy you are hot and I don't need you to be this super masculine alpha male". I wonder what would happen.
I have this thing where I believe that our church culture around sexuality is changing, and it's changing because men and women are doing it together. I don't believe it can be done separate from one another. You can't put men in one room and women in one room and solve all the identity and sexual problems pervading the church walls. I would like to suggest that we need to really go after the repercussions of suppressed sexuality and try to cultivate a healthy dialogue around it. One of the most recent movies I've seen around this conversation was The Heart of Man. I highly recommend. It's gut-wrenching.
If you're interested in this topic, join us June 3rd at the Mansion Orange County for some comedy and co-ed talk on this stuff and much more. It's going to be fun and there will be wine. Ticket link below!
What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear!