Vol 3, Num 4 :: 2004.02.13 — 2004.02.26
On what models do you base your sexual expression? What do you think the example of Christ’s life offers us in this respect?
Throughout my teenage years, I was faithfully discipled/mentored by a number of outstanding older, godly men (variously in their mid-late 20s and early 30s). These guys strove the best they knew how to “catechize” me in both biblical teaching and living. We debated theology and continually talked-out our struggle to live it out in the nitty-gritty. They remembered what their own teen years were like, and they knew that they were now treading a path that I would follow. They knew they had to be honest about what they themselves were learning about how to live and how not to live. Some of them were more sexually sanctified than others, but they all faced the temptations “common to man.” From them I learned various ways to:
I did not simply learn that I should do these things, but I learned ways to do these things (certainly that is the key element of real discipleship/mentoring).
My circle of closest friends in college. We developed our own habits of talking out our struggle to live-it-out. Of course, there was positive and negative modeling. From some friends, we learned not to marry in haste. From others, we learned the power of the gospel to restore sexual “brokenness” and to sanctify the sexually rebellious.
My father did very little explicit sexual-expression modeling for me, at least not in a positive sense. He was not openly affectionate with my mother (or us kids), I am sad to say. He never discussed my sexual development with me (thus I am quite grateful to God for my teen-years discipling). But he did have a good old fashion birds-and-bees talk with me when I was 6 years old, after I had inquired about the meaning of the F-word. Besides explaining the absolute fundamentals of “intercourse” (penetration and fertilization!) the talk was short on technical “how-to” details. But his careful and natural explanation was long on the inexpressible awesomeness of God’s creative and good design for marital relations. I could tell Dad was speaking from experience. He made it appear to me that sexual intercourse was the most profound theological truth of them all, second only to redemption itself. Despite my father’s many, many other failings in this area, the big “sex talk” had a most profoundly positive effect on my future sexual development.
An observation about women with whom I’ve had a romantic relationship is that each one who was sexually promiscuous (and most of them were, for some extended period of time) had a poor emotional relationship with her father. It is sort of a psychological cliché, but few girls (or guys) seem to see the connection between their own sexual struggles and the problematic relationship they had with their parents. This is not to say that the parent-child relationship is itself sexual (a la Freud), but rather that the parent-child relationship involves the most basic intimacy and bonding factors in an individual’s emotional life. These essential factors influence later sexual development profoundly. The meaning of this connection is complex. However, among other things, it means that to effectively come to terms with one’s own sexual struggles, one must address the relationship with one’s parents. I cannot emphasize this enough.
I don’t think that Christ’s life serves as a model as such for sexual expression. I think there is good biblical support for the belief that Christ had full masculine-sexual-function potential. However, His unique mission as the Christ involved a life of utter celibacy (as Paul’s particular apostolic mission did for Paul, for instance). Christ was fully obedient to the Law, and so was perfectly chaste, and in that way His chastity is “exemplary.” But that, as Scripture clarifies, does not somehow entail that celibacy is “normative.”
As with all of our lives, I have realized that when it comes to sex, culture is not optional. People complain all the time about our culture being inundated with sexual information, or misinformation. However, what was somewhat disturbing for me was the fact that I am so influenced in my own sexual expression by my culture. As a psychology major, I learned that one of our largest sources of learning behaviors is modeling. When it came to time to express myself sexually, from hand-holding all the way to sex, the only source of modeling that I had was the media. When I kiss my husband, I imagine how it looks on the film. When I try to appear attractive, I find myself tipping my head sideways and hoping my hair falls around my cheek (when I see this in the mirror I realize how silly it actually looks—but in the movies…). Now, are these just “natural expressions” that Hollywood shows and I do also, or am I imitating the only modeling I’ve been given my whole life? I found that one of the most intimate aspects of my life was one in which I had no source of information other than Hollywood. Since in the rest of my life I try to make intentional choices, I have found this rather disturbing. However, I realize at the same time that through all history, sexual expression has been largely influenced by the culture surrounding it.
Christ embodied purity. Mixing sex and purity always seems to make things murky. Is sex after a wedding pure? Is sex before a marriage pure? Christ is the groom of the church. I’ve always loved that analogy. In time all will be fulfilled and we will be wedded with Christ. But aren’t we already intimate with him? We already know that he is our beloved and our spirits and bodies rejoice with the thought. I guess I’ve never understood how we can’t apply that to human sexuality.
What do you feel is the most destructive sexual choice you’ve made and how has that choice affected you?
Saying that having premarital sex was a destructive choice seems a bit harsh. It has most certainly affected me—I’ve struggled through the relationship it took place in, but I’ve also grown and developed a healthier view of sexuality because of it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have it all figured out.
Looking at porn in high school. It gave me a very unreliable idea of what sex was supposed to be. It emphasized the carnal and destroyed the beauty. It demanded selfishness in what should be the most intimate of sharing.
Do you think it’s okay for married couples to watch pornography together? Is there a difference between “pornography” and “erotica”?
I think all pornography is absolutely 100% sinful under all circumstances except (perhaps) where a husband and wife video/photo/sketch themselves exclusively for their own mutual use. But given the possibility of theft, I think it’s a super-dumb idea. There is no moral difference between porn and erotica (though there may be certain medium, genre, or general aesthetic differences). However, mere portrayal of the erotic in art is not “erotica.”
Tough question. Pornography explicitly demands unhealthy sexual feelings. I think it fundamentally destroys the true beauty of the process, not the orgasm, but the love. There is no love in pornography. Erotica can celebrate sexuallity without exploiting it. Erotica can highlight the physical act without destroying the emotional and spiritual side. That being said…there’s a fine line, and I don’t know where it is.
How can somewhat questionable activities such as role-playing, sadomasochism, anal sex, etc. enhance or corrode the relationship of a married couple?
I don’t think actual violence (genuine S&M, not “spanking” etc.) is ever acceptable. I think it is categorically anti-normative. Most everything else I can think of is fair-game when exclusively between fully consenting husband and wife. Corrosion in the relationship will occur if “communication breaks down” (it ceases to be a mutual full consent) or if it ceases to be exclusive (only husband and wife). In that respect, I suppose a marital relationship will be enhanced with increasingly satisfying mutual sexual expression.
What limits have you set for your physical intimacy in your dating relationships? Do physical limits get harder or easier to observe as you grow more mature?
It’s been a while since I’ve been in a committed dating relationship, so it’s hard to say that I have an idea of what limits will apply at this stage in my life. In the past, limits weren’t necessarily an issue, since I decided not to have them. This will likely end up being quite a test for any future relationships I engage in, since I have reconsidered limits but have also taken liberties at exploring my own personal sexuality outside of dating (yes, that means masturbation—the horror!). I guess what I’m saying is that I find it hard to set limits for myself when I’m not dating and can’t realistically know how I or the person I’m with will respond to sexuality. Especially knowing that I and many others at one time committed to staying virgins until marriage, until circumstances and relationships changed and that choice was compromised. I have a feeling overall that it will most certainly be difficult, though. I should probably just stay single.
My “limits” are: no overtly romantic touch unless in a “committed” relationship. In other words, simply going out on “dates” does not a “dating relationship” make. I “socially date” many women, and the rule is no “romantic touch.”
When in a committed relationship, the limit is no removal of (or going under) clothing, no kissing below the neck line (excepting upon the hands), no genital stimulation whatsoever, and perhaps even no “over shirt” breast stimulation if that is particularly problematic in the given relationship. Otherwise it’s a kissing/carressing free-for-all, although I also have a vague rule of thumb about not being in a horizontal position and not making-out for “extended” periods of time.
I particularly find genital stimulation to belong to the exclusive domain of marital relations. There are a million ways a couple can “get each other off,” so to speak, without genital-to-genital contact, and I think they all constitute fornication (or at least general sexual immorality) outside of marriage.
I have found such physical limits easier to observe as I grow more mature. For one thing, I have worked out such limits on the basis of practical experience (sad to say). I do not find such “limiting” at all arbitrary or artificial. I find these limits to allow me a God-given freedom in which I can fully express creationally normative sexuality.
What makes your partner “sexy” to you? How do you respond when you find someone other than your partner sexy?
Well, I’m not married… but I have found various women “sexy” (sexually desirable—in a chaste fashion or not) when they are simultaneously witty and flattering (towards me, of course). I also find unguarded, authentic expressions of a sense of defeat utterly sexy. The fact is, the empathetic intimacy created in such vulnerable moments are many times sexually appealing. I think Woody Allen is a master of portraying this in film, by the way. How “chaste sexual attraction” is differentiated from “lust” is difficult to articulate concisely. However, I think the regenerated conscience knows even when the intellect cannot quite “conceptualize” a definition. So, I’ll leave it at that. Those who have never experienced sexual attraction in a godly manner or do not believe such a thing is possible should give serious consideration to “Calvinist” commentaries on The Song Of Songs.
I find lots of other women attractive. What bothers me is that I’m actually attracted to some of them (and I think there’s a difference between those two things). Most of the time I think about how jealous I would be if I knew my wife was feeling the same way I was at that moment and that helps out a lot. I really am a lucky little ogre to have married my wife. I try to remind myself of that as often as possible. She is innocent. She is loving. She is caring. She is tender. She has a fantastic ass. Seriously. Her butt is absolutely gorgeous.
Why is the topic of sexuality such a difficult topic for Christians to approach and discuss constructively?
I blame the parents. Okay, not really. But I do believe that the way our parents, school systems (a Christian school for me), and other authority figures choose to talk to us about it at a young age can definitely affect how we deal with it when we’re older. Most Dutch [Christian Reformed] families that I knew growing up didn’t talk about it—it was just something we should have promised not to do until we were married. I’ve been lucky in the last few years because I’ve found friends who do discuss it openly and constructively—some are married, some aren’t.
Basically, because we are totally depraved and want to use the excuse of “socially taboo” to avoid radical obedience. In our rebelliousness, we don’t want Christ to be Lord of ALL. I think all other rationales stem from the root of this basic religious one.
So many references are given to sexual immorality in the Bible. I think church tradition dictates that because few specifics are given, the safer you make sex the better. For that reason we don’t talk about it, we’re fundamentally afraid of it (I really believe that) and we mandate waiting until marriage (which always implies a church wedding) before it happens. Why? This makes me feel uncomfortable. I know that the church’s heart (universally speaking here) is in the right place, but the position isn’t Biblically grounded. Some may say it’s implied in a particular passage but not explicitly stated (not that I’ve seen and I’ve looked). I believe that the church condemning pre-marital sex may smack of pharisaic tradition.