Have you noticed a trend toward women being portrayed as having less intimate but more sexual relationships?
Consider the HBO series about four promiscuous girls. No, I’m not talking about “Sex and the City.” I’m referring to its spawn, “Girls,” the new sit-com about four women living in New York City. The main difference between the two shows is that the latter is set in the 1920s. In the words of New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, “The colors are duller, the mood is dourer and the clothes aren’t much. It’s ‘Sex and the City’ in a charcoal gray Salvation Army overcoat.”
“Girls” comes on the heels of two 2011 movies, “No Strings Attached,” and “Friends with Benefits,” having sex-without-intimacy themes. Add to this the skyrocketing success of the mom-porn book, Fifty Shades of Gray.
A lost twentysomething female recently defended her practice of pursuing more sex and less feeling: “I’ve had casual sex and it hasn’t destroyed my self-esteem, [or] my health, [and] I haven’t gotten knocked up.” But notice she defines success not in terms of what she has gained but only in terms of what she has not lost. She makes no claims that casual sex has brought her true intimacy.
We used to say women engaged in less sexual theater because they had less desire. But as it turns out, both men and women are capable of pursuing pleasure without intimacy and women probably lacked only access and power. Until now.
As Christian women we know God abhors such practices. But if we’re honest, we’ll admit the culture has still influenced us. So how can we maintain purity, dignity, and a long-view perspective on pleasure? Here are some ideas.
Teach healthy sexuality. We have the truth, and the world needs to hear it from us right out of Genesis 1, 1 Corinthians 7, and Song of Songs, to name a few.
But limit what you share with your church and the world. Have you noticed how many Christian leaders are sharing personal details about their own love lives? I don’t mean sermons on sex. I mean details of their private lives. Doing so may actually add to the problem. We need to model drawing a line between secrecy and privacy. We call sex “intimacy” because it’s supposed to be intimate.
Think about how you/your church uses technology. God is invisible, but does that mean we can have internet churches and “virtual communion”? If so, why would He need to send Jesus? Be wary of interactions that leave people with a false sense of relational depth.
Seek partnership. The world pits men and women against each other in a struggle for power and sexual conquest. But Jesus redeemed us from that. Genesis casts a vision for man and woman partnering in the work He has given us. The Spirit gives us the power. We must intentionally model healthy male/female relationships.
Be the parent your kids need. Subscribe to cell services that will let you know who your child texts and when. Have your teen give his or her phone to you at bedtime. Have a “no internet in the bedroom” policy. And perform random checks so you know to whom they’re talking. And as for teaching sexuality, recognize that you can’t leave the job of teaching to the sex-ed teacher or the youth pastor. School friends, billboards, YouTube videos, Facebook pictures, magazines, movies and sit-coms expose kids to lies. Be the accurate, candid go-to source for their information on sexuality.
Make human connections. We must treat our bodies and the bodies of others as temples in which the Spirit can or does dwell. And people need healthy touch. So show up with meals. Make hospital and nursing-home visits. Get out of your chair and meet people face-to-face. Humans need solid, not just virtual, connections.
Take time for reflection. Everybody wants to feel good; sex and self-gratification are often the most accessible ways to make that happen. But sex is not the only escape. Overuse of alcohol, a feel-good spirituality, addiction to sports, porn, masturbation, uncommitted sex, spending hours and hours playing video games, Pharisaism, and a host of others all serve as substitutes. Build a time into your day when you can stop and feel something, even if it’s pain. God sent us the psalms of lament for a reason.
Analyze what you watch, read, and text. In the dominant culture’s stories, men and women enter into so-called relationships that are mere acquaintances built on instant gratification. They’re often absent of actual relationships. Coming through mainstream media as they do, such stories desensitize us so we hardly notice. So we must stop and take stock. Some questions to ask include, “Will this show help me glorify God?” and “Will this book help me build more intimate relationships?” and “Does this text honor Christ?”
Offer ministry to the porn-addicted and their spouses. Porn is to intimacy what junk food is to morbid obesity—it’s a slow killer. Viewing porn expands imaginations in a way that usually leads to selfishness in bed. In contrast at the heart of true intimacy lies Christlikeness—kindness, love, joy, holiness, and the ability to think of someone other than one’s self. Studies suggest that the best way to beat sexual compulsions is for believers to have the power of Christ and group accountability. Offer both.
In the same way the Slow Food movement shifts thinking to local, sustainable connections, we the church must offer a Slow Sex movement, which encourages committed, sustainable, long-term monogamous connections. If “Supersize Me” taught us anything, it’s that “fast” works for a moment, but nourishment over the long hall requires us to eat more than dessert. A diet rich in nutrients makes us healthier in the short term and improves our odds of living, really living, long and well on the earth.