Talking About Sex, Part 2: A Post for the Celibate

coupleTo pretend that those are two virgins walking down the aisle, approaching the coital bed for the first time is uncommonly naive  And it seems to me that Jesus was lots of things, but he wasn’t naive to the world in which he lived. He did, however, both preach and live prophetically within that culture. He didn’t take it as it was, without pushing back against it. In his day, it was that tax collectors were ostracized and that men shouldn’t pluck heads of grain on the Sabbath. Today, sex is everywhere. It’s unavoidable.

A new sexual ethic for Christians is desperately needed.Tony Jones

I stand by what I said in last week’s post on “purity culture”. I reject shaming Christians because of their emotions, sexual desires, or even sexual history. Remember that as you read what I’m about to say.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t say “no” to sex.

Yes, statistics tell us that 80% of Christian young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 have had sex outside of marriage. But that still leaves a significant number of you who are not having sex, and my guess is that for many of you that is a deliberate choice.

We live in a culture that delivers loads of unhelpful messages about sex.

Denying yourself sex is repressive and unhealthy.

Adult virgins are socially backward and emotionally stunted.

Sexual desires are too powerful resist.

Everyone is having sex.

All of those messages are wrong.

Some of you have been shamed outside the church for not having sex, and worse – some of you have even begun to hear from the church that you are fighting a losing battle. You are trying to live with integrity and you feel undermined by the very faith community you hoped would support you.  I’m sorry for that, and especially sorry if anything I’ve said sounded like you might as well just go ahead and have sex, because you will eventually, and it’s not that big a deal, and why bother?

No one can make decisions for you about whether you will or will not have sex. Not your boyfriend or girlfriend, not your pastor, not your parents (although we sometimes wish we could), not bloggers who love to pontificate but don’t walk in your shoes. This is your decision to make.

If you choose to wait to have sex, for however long, don’t let anyone tell you that you have set an impossible goal for yourself. It’s not impossible. It’s also not easy, but “easy” is not the measure of good decision making.

Many people before you have waited for marriage to have sex, or have lived entire lives of celibate singleness. They are not freaks of nature, or failures as whole human beings. Our sexuality is more than what we do with our body parts.

And here’s the thing: when we talk as if sex outside marriage is unavoidable, we are saying that we are powerless over our sexual desires. Do we believe this? If so, I suppose we should stop frowning on adultery, stop expecting monogamy in marriage. If my sexual desires rule me, then I cannot be held in any way responsible for my sexual behaviors.

You and I, all of us, we are sexual beings. This is a feature, not a bug. It is who we were created to be. But if my sexual nature is in some way hardwired into me, my sexual behavior is not. I am free to make choices; I am accountable for the choices I make. By God’s grace, I have the power to live up to my choices. So do you.

Note: Some of you have been sexually violated. Perhaps you were molested as a child, or raped as an adult. That doesn’t change anything that I’ve said. Decisions about your sexual behavior are still yours to make, and what has been done to you doesn’t make you “damaged goods”. I don’t want to diminish the trauma of sexual assault, but you need to be able to make this distinction: there is you, and there is what has happened to you. Don’t let anyone, especially not your offender, take away your agency.

I agree with Tony Jones that the church needs to have a new conversation about sex, rooted in the person and teachings of Jesus.  I also agree that we need to push back against the culture of our day, but one of the things we need to push against is the assumption that the couple walking down the aisle can’t possibly be virgins.

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About Sharon Autenrieth

Wife, mom to 5, homeschooler, Christian Education Director, idealist, malcontent, follower of Jesus.
This entry was posted in religion, sex, spirituality and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Talking About Sex, Part 2: A Post for the Celibate

  1. Laura says:

    Wonderful post, thank you!

    Like

  2. Kay Waldram says:

    agree agree !
    it may not be easy but “easy” is not the measure of good decision making.
    Thanks for a clear and encouraging message Sharon!

    Like

  3. Pingback: After we stop shaming, how will we talk about sex? | Strange Figures

  4. jubilare says:

    Well said. You know, a good friend of mine whom I would describe as an agnostic theist, not raised in a church environment, was bowed down with pressure to be sexually active and was extremely hurt and frustrated by it. When she met me (I am a little older than she is) she assumed that I wasn’t celibate because “nobody is.” When she learned otherwise, she was stunned and we had a good conversation. By the grace of God I was able to empower her to make her own decisions based on what she wants/feels is right rather than what society tells her is “normal.” The hard truth is that the hyper-sexuality of our culture is as repressive, in its own way, as our sexual mores of ages past. People are getting hurt, and being told that they are not in charge of themselves.

    Like

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