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.