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Let’s talk about SEX

A playboy model and a pastor walk into a reality show and begin to talk about sex.  I know, it sounds like the beginning of a joke doesn’t it?  But there it was on the Bachelor Canada, the two talking about their perspective views and experiences.  What I found interesting in this exchange was that the drama of their conversation did not centre on the Playboy model but the Pastor.  A contestant who happened to earn her living in the porn industry was not as controversial as a 25 year old Pastor who happened to be a virgin.

This revelation led to several on camera comments, both by Melissa Marie and Chantelle herself.  It was discussed how Chantelle’s virginity could easily ‘scare guys off’; and how this was such a ‘major secret’ that Chantelle should disclose it to Bachelor Brad.  In all these discussions, Chantelle’s sexual purity was seen as a strike against her in her quest for love.  It didn’t matter if the other women had a string of lovers, were divorced,  or had any other dirty little secrets, none of these were as relationally damaging as being a virgin.

It’s odd when you think about it. Chantelle is on the Bachelor because she is a single woman looking for love. She wants romance, intimacy, and passion.  She wants to find someone to love and settle down with.  What is more she is on the show precisely because she has not had those things in the past.  She even confesses that her last kiss was 4 years prior. And yet, even in this long absence of romantic relationship, one gets the message that she should have been having sex.

Sadly this is the message that many adopt today.  Sex is divorced from romance or intimacy.  It is seen simply as a talent or a skill that one must have in order to attract a suitor.  Just as typing may be a marketable skill in terms of employment, one’s sexual proclivities are that which garners them dateable.  Chantelle may be a remarkable young woman.  She may be smart, talented, compassionate and kind – and in fact, on the show Chantelle shines as the most likable – but her lack of sexual activity in the past seems to count for more than any of this.  This message comes through loud and clear: If you want to be loved, you better be willing to have sex.

Our culture likes us to think that purity is the last thing needed in any relationship.  If a relationship is to be truly loving, says the culture, it must involve sex. After all why else would magazines like “Cosmo” and “Self” run endless articles of “10 ways to please your man’ and ‘Sexy secrets to heat up the bedroom!’  Why else would television shows like ‘Sex and the City’, and ‘Gossip Girl’ glamorize sex and depict it as consequence free.  Sex is marketed in terms of one’s independence, freedom and personal enlightenment.  Of course, when sex is marketed so are the consequences.  Enter “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom”

But here’s the truth that the culture never communicates:  if your relationship with your boyfriend or girlfriend is not enough without sex, then it will never be enough with sex.  Regardless of the many ways that the culture says ‘it’s not real sex if . . . ‘, the truth is if sex is the only thing that maintains your relationship with your boyfriend or girlfriend, then you relationship is already over.  And no amount of physical activity will mask the lack of emotional and spiritual connection between you.

Sex is not just an activity to engage in.  It’s not a pass-time to fill up your nights.  Sex, truly understood is a spiritual act of self offering.  It is connected not just to our bodies but also our souls.  It touches the deepest part of who we are as beings created in the image of God.  Furthermore, the self offering of person to person is reflective of Christ’s own act of self offering for us.

This is why the biblical understanding of sex is truly radical. St. Paul isn’t putting forward a puritanical ideal when he says that the sexual union reflects Christ’s love for his church.  What Paul is saying is that we deserve to have someone who will love us so much that they are willing to go to hell and back for us; someone who will love us sacrificially; someone who will give of themselves in humility and self-offering..  If you think about it, the linking of sex with Christ’s love for his church is quite remarkable precisely because Christ offered himself not for his own pleasure.  He offered himself in order to secure a church without spot, blemish, ridicule or insult – so that the church could be pure.

The romantic relationships we find ourselves in should do the same.  They should honor our boundaries, protect our frailties, preserve our purities, and care for our vulnerabilities.   Our partners should be concerned less with what sexual activities they can elicit from us, and more on how they can love us sacrificially.  They should care more for the emotional and spiritual connections born through conversations and time, then any empty physical connections that come through a romp in the sack. Because in the end, all those sweet nothings that someone may whisper in our ear is just that . . . nothing.  And no matter how many roses we are given, trips we take, and romantic nights we spend, nothing communicates love more than a knowing that our partner offers us their entire selves unreservedly.

Because after all, as people created by God and redeemed by Christ, we deserve nothing less.

Kyle Norman

About Kyle Norman

I am a Priest in the Diocese of Calgary, serving the wonderful people of Holy Cross, Calgary. I watch reality television, I drink Starbucks coffee, and I read celebrity gossip columns. I am also a magician and often use magic tricks to teach the children at church the lessons of the Bible. I believe that God is present in the intricacy of our lives, and thus I believe that Pop Culture can provide intriguing lessons, examples, and challenges for our lives of faith. Connect with Kyle on
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0 Responses to Let’s talk about SEX

  1. Afra Saskia Tucker

    Kyle, I appreciate that you are tackling this topic because I feel the taboo nature of discussions around sex and sexuality can be quite damaging to the development of a healthy understanding of how these gifts shape us.

    I can’t say I agree with all of your points. First, if Chantelle really “wants romance, intimacy, and passion…to find someone to love and settle down with,” is a reality TV show a promising venue to launch such a search? Second, the issues surrounding virginity versus sexual promiscuity are particularly poignant when applied to members of the female gender. Women have long suffered second-class citizenship with regards to sexual agency and identity; porn and abstinence are extremes in a spectrum that many women are trying to negotiate in light of their own perceived body needs as opposed to doctrines that wish to purchase conforming bodies (yes, sex has a spiritual side, but it is, importantly, a very embodying act). I don’t deny that you offer some interesting ways to connect Christ and the act of sex, but I’m very wary of this sort of elaboration  due to the complicated history of sexuality under which women continue to struggle.

    Ultimately, I agree with your comments on sex as an act of self-offering; and the deep intimacy and quality of ‘selfhood’ that define the act means that individuals should be encouraged to discover what and how it can and should be meaningful to them.

  2. Kyle Norman

    Yes the issue of sex and sexuality is quite the complicated one. I have to admit that it was a challenge to write this post for several reasons.  For one, I wanted the post to be about how the culture promotes sex to both males and females.  While I agree that women have a particular tough time with sexualization in today’s culture (I think your point of virginity vs. sexual promiscuity is righ on), the fact is that sex is also targeted to males as well.  Males are bombarded with as much pressure to have sex in relationships than women.  The cultural model to males is: if you can’t have a string of lovers, and be the be best lover that woman has ever had, then you are not a real man.’ 

    The issue for me was the blatant message that in some way virginity was wrong.  It was that which struck me in the last two episodes of the show.

    Maybe part of the issue is that we in the church today don’t actually have very much of a theology of sex  beyond a  “do this, don’t do that’ mentality.

  3. Afra Saskia Tucker

    “Males are bombarded with as much pressure to have sex in relationships as women.  The cultural model to males is: if you can’t have a string of lovers, and be the best lover that a woman has ever had, then you are not a real man.”

    I completely agree with your observation. I think men’s sexuality suffers just as much as women’s given the social conventions of the day, although the way the problems manifest are quite different. I think it’s great that you have raised the topic and are interested in discussing it in a way that transcends simplistic moralization.

    To push the topic even farther, I tend to agree with those who call for an honest review of the simple dichotomy of man/woman as applied to sexuality, since the better we understand how human sexuality is as diverse as the humanity it inhabits, the sooner we can figure out how to relate to the issue on a unique personal level. Here’s an brief but interesting clip that I came across the other day:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=xXAoG8vAyzI

     

     

     

  4. Kyle Norman

    Thanks for the video – that was quite interesting.  The presenter does a good job in presenting the murkyness of the topic.

    And yet, the question does remain ‘is our association with sex’ simply a matter of personal preference.  Am I the one who choses how I relate to sexuality, and sexual activity – or do I need to go back to divine intent here?  

    One of the most probing questions (which was beyond the scope of the article) is: is there a point when our personal sexual preferences (that we may feel passionately about) step away from the intent for which God created us as sexual people?

  5. Afra Saskia Tucker

    How is God’s intent revealed, in your view?

  6. Kyle Norman

    Well that’s part of the question isn’t it?  Perhaps it is easy for me to say what I do NOT believe the divine intent for sex is. 

     I do not believe that sex is just about procreation. 

     I do not believe that ‘sexual righteousness’ is simply about the person we marry. 

    I do not believe that our attitude to sex is simply about where we choose to stop (or not stop) regarding intercourse.

    Ultimately, I believe God’s intent for sex is found in scripture. But here’s the funny thing, we can’t just look at the versus that talk about sex.  To only look at the ‘sex’ verses is to make the Chrsitian response to sex just a list of do’s and don’ts.  It falsely sets up a check list of ‘well I didn’t do THAT, so I guess I am being righteous!’  Um . . .. no.  I think it’s much, much more complex, and deeper than that.

    I would say that God’s intent for sex is strongly revealed and linked to God’s intent for ourseselves. It is indistinquishable from who we are.  What is the cheif end of humanity? To worship God and enjoy him for ever?  For me, sex is entwined with our worship of God.  It is a spiritual act by which we uniquely offer our  unhindered, raw and (on many different levels) naked selves to each other – and in doing so we offer ourselves to God.

    But true self offering is done in commitment, relationship, and as a means to strengthen the bonds of community. God’s sacrifice was to create a body pure and spotless – a body redeemed through his blood with ‘the intent that though the church the manifold wisdom of God should be made known” (ephesisan 3:10).

    I think that sex serves the same intent.  God’s intent is that through sex, the committed relationship, which is only strenghtened by the act of giving and recieving each-other’s self offering, makes known the power, love, wisdom and grace of God to each other, and to the wider community.

  7. Afra Saskia Tucker

    Fair enough!

    A lot of what you say makes sense to me. I like the fact that your usage of scripture for guidance is not literalist. I agree with your point that sex and sexuality is, when framed by the question of God’s intent, indistinguishable from ourselves and God’s intent towards/for us. I also like how you’ve stated that “true self offering is done in commitment, relationship, and as a means to strengthen the bonds of community.” I’m not sure I subscribe to descriptions/language of purity,  only because I intuit that the terminology could lead to misunderstandings, particularly with the topic of sex. However, I don’t deny the underlying meaning you are advancing.

    I don’t feel I have anything additional to add, other than I have appreciated this exchange and the opportunity it has provided to look at the issue. Thanks!

     

     

  8. Let’s talk about SEX!  Well sure, why not?  Where shall we start? Of course nothing as sacred as the Holy Bible would have anything to say about (gasp!) sex!

    Um, what’s that you say? Adam ‘knew’ his wife Eve…. well of course he did, dummy! no he wasn’t formally introduced at her ‘coming out’ party – huh? oh, that rib stuff, well I suppose she ‘came out’ -sort of . but what does that have to do with ‘knowing’ her. Alright, KJV back on the shelf, Jerusalem down on my desk. Goodness gracious! ‘ had intercourse with her’  ?? must be a faulty text.  Well, yes, Cain and Abel were human chi — oh! you don’t mean?

    Well, more sex. Angels this time with men ,oops! (wo)men, of course . No telling what that was like, although Leda is supposed to have enjoyed her dalliance with the swan (Zeus).

    Now hustling right along, a different kind of non-procreative sex. Here’s this guy Lot, living in Sodom – has a couple of strangers drop in – what’s that? yes I know it says “know” again; what? JB says that? are you sure? wellwellwell ‘abuse’. And Lot’s going to what?! with his own daughters?! talk about weird!   Those people don’t get burnt anymore, by the way, they get stoned.

    Lot got his comeuppance from the girls later on; they thought they weren’t going to find any husbands in their new land, so they got their father drunk and well, you know, sort of…  Oh for sure all in the Bible!

    So where have we got so far? just the ‘usual thing’, then various forms of polygamy, (turns up all over the place) then the “angels/titans’ , then the real angels who were protected by Lot from the abuse of men and the displeasure displayed by God for that sort non-procreative sex.  Incest? well, doesn’t show up in the Ten Commandments – but it’s in the Bible!

    But of course, these are just little odds and ends. Myth, you see – meaning ‘don’t let this happen to you.’ Yeah, right, tiresome aren’t they? every word literally true…

    Now let’s get right along to the non-procreative banned from the bookshelves (can’t? – oh right – it’s the Bible!). The erotic anticipation of the bride for the bridegroom! Lots of detail, simile, metaphor, and well, why beat around the bush? And the Groom’s response, equally excited and anticipatory and a Chorus! very Greek! tends to be skipped over in School Scripture classes, well, when we even had Scripture classes – in private schools, even.

  9. Sorry Kyle, I can’t go along with what you say – Sex IS just a physical activity; sex IS NOT a spiritual act of self offering. You’ve mistaken the name of the latter; it is Love. (which includes sex, to be sure. The Greeks made the distinction quite clear, the one was ‘eros’ – from which our word ‘erotic’ is derived; and ‘agape’ – the intense spiritual love of man to his fellow man; and to God. ‘greater lover hath no man than this…’  — ‘faith, hope, and love’ and ‘…love the Lord thy God…’  both agape.

    Kyle, did your thought that sex need not be procreative come from the ‘preamble’ to the Marriage Ceremony in the BAS? the man and the woman know each other with delight and tenderness in acts of love in heart body and mind. (I’ve re-ordered the wording but maintained the sense..) The concept of procreation is placed in brackets – perhaps to cover the marriage of those of an age beyond the ability to bear children, or perhaps, who have no interest?                                                                                                                                                     later on in the Vows, the word Love is used in its ‘agape’ sense so the whole Marriage Ceremony is both Agape and Eros; as well as ‘Pro’/’non-Procreative’ . It treats us as we are and for what we are – human beings with souls and with physical bodies with the needs and desires of our physical bodies.

    ‘God’s intent for sex is found in scripture’ – yes, indeed it is. But; who except for clergy and theologians reads the Bible these days. Peace friends if I’ve ruffled some feathers!  The BIble? well, maybe we have one around somewhere, but what for? EVERYBODY knows it’s not RELEVANT these days…..    (I just had to get a dig in at that ‘R” word 🙂   )

    Anyway, here I am in my ivory tower; somebody want to throw some harsh realities at me?

  10. Kyle Norman

    Thanks all for the encouragment – and for the sensitivity for which we have discussed this topic.

    Charlie, not to discredit your ivory tower, but I have to disagree.  Sex is spiritual. It cannot be anything else.  It was even for the greeks.  We know this through temple prostitution which was a pretty big thing in that day (and before a la Hosea and Gomer).  As every part of our lives is as ‘living (reasonable) sacrifice’ then how we approach ahd engage in sex is as much a spiritual offering as anything else.

  11. OK Kyle, right ! 🙂  btw I wonder if you’d just note the time my contribution was posted – and yes, I do live on the West Coast – even so it was after midnight.  Sure, Hosea was very irked, but that was ‘spiritual’ temple sex. As I recall by that time, even God was getting a little annoyed…. quite annoyed in fact. (this was the ‘J’ God – the anthropomorphic one – the ‘first Creation story- Genesis 1)  – the One who likes to “walk in the cool of the evening” . But there’s quite a different, and truly non-spiritual side of sex; I don’t know what you call it it Calgary, but I suppose ‘red light district’ is as good a generic term. Sorry, not spiritual!

    Let me know when you come to Vancouver – it would be terrific to spend some time together.

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