Day Nineteen: Sex
Let’s go full-on taboo today and talk about sex. Those of you who don’t know me are probably eager to hear me dish details, while those of you who know me are either A) cheering me on because you know what my stance is, or B) rolling your eyes because you know what my stance is.
Here’s the deal: I’m not going to tell anything because there’s nothing to tell. “What does that mean?” you ask. Well, it’s none of your business. I will, however, tell you about what I hate about sex: the societal pressure to have it and the religious pressure on women’s role in sexual attraction.
Strap in, ladies and gentlemen – or else leave your seats – because I’m about to take on religion and sex.
Even before I dated, my church taught that we young people had to be wary of the sexual temptations we would face as we traversed puberty. It’s going to be difficult to resist, they warned. God wants you to stay pure until marriage. I’ll be the first to say that I totally agree with that. What my agreement does not mean is that I think I’m better or holier or closer to God than everyone who doesn’t agree with that statement. Just had to get that out of the way to prevent accusations such as I’ve received in the past over what I believe.
But as I entered high school, a notion came down from the leaders at a church camp I attended that seemed awry to me; that girls should dress with the guys’ wandering eyes and weak sexual control in mind. In other words, we girls were to cover ourselves up and/or drape ourselves in loose-fitting clothes at all times, mindful that our clothing could cause a brother in Christ to stumble (way to make girls feel like they’re being hunted and sex is the lethal weapon that puts them down).
I get where that comes from:
So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live – for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble. – 1 Corinthians 8:13
HOWEVER. There was no mention of the guys’ role in all this. I grew up in the 1990s and 2000s, and no one gave the guys the same specifics they gave the girls for being sexually pure. About the extent of it was, “Guys, be respectful.” It’s anybody’s guess as to what that means in the mind of a 15-year-old boy. Or even a 45-year-old man.
At church, almost anytime marriage comes up, this passage is read:
21 And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of His body, the church. 24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.
25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. – Ephesians 5:21-25a
So Christians are taught that marriage represents Jesus and the church. The husband is the symbol of Christ, and the wife is the symbol of the church.
I’ll be honest, I had trouble accepting that symbolism. I thought, “If the man represents Christ, that’s like saying he’s better than his wife, holier than his wife, holds more authority than his wife, is in charge of his wife. We ladies are kind of getting a raw deal. The church serves Christ, so it sounds like we’re supposed to serve our husbands.”
Countless books and blogs debate this issue, so I’m not going to get into that point specifically. I will, however, share what I realized upon reading that passage for myself the other day. I’ve read the passage no telling how many times, but I never realized what was always right there in front of me: the man’s role that no one pinpoints.
He [Christ] gave up His life for her [the church] 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27 He did this to present her to Himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. 30 And we are members of His body. – Ephesians 5:25b-30 (emphasis mine)
Whoa, whoa, whoa! If the husband represents Christ, that doesn’t necessarily mean that what he says goes; it means he has a heavy responsibility. The husband is the one charged with the task of keeping the wife an honest woman, not making her one, as they say. (I know some of you may not agree that this passage addresses sex, but I think it does. Plus, it supports my opinion that the church should do more to make sure the guys are acting right, rather than telling the girls to protect themselves from the guys and shaming them when they “fail.” I think we can all agree that’s not cool.)
Yes, we should all strive to do right. As Christians, that means we strive to do what God has asked of us in His word, the Bible. I think that includes having respect for ourselves – men and women – and our bodies, such as in instances involving or related to sex. But in this passage about marriage, nowhere does it say that the church/wife is to clean herself up and maintain sole responsibility in the relationship for staying pure. In fact, the Bible makes clear time and again that God’s people (the church, represented by the wife in this biblical analogy) cannot attain holiness alone.
So no, a teenage girl should not bear the sole responsibility of keeping her boyfriend’s hands off her body in her decision to remain a virgin until marriage. He bears the brunt of that responsibility. Before marriage (He presented the church to Himself, indicating no union had happened previously), as well as after.
Christ presented the church “to Himself…without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish.” That sounds to me like Christ was the one in the relationship who made the church pure until their union. He didn’t violate. He didn’t ask. He didn’t pressure. He didn’t trick. He didn’t antagonize. He didn’t beg. He didn’t tell the church everyone else was doing it. He didn’t push the boundaries. He didn’t barter. He didn’t tell the church He couldn’t hold out. He presented the church to himself without blemish.
So, if the fellas represent Christ… Yep. That’s it. This was the explanation I’d been looking for.
The passage goes on to say that husbands should love their wives as they love their own bodies. While I know that humans (guys especially, it seems) desire sex, Christians don’t want to think of themselves as blemished. Since the guys don’t want to be blemished, they shouldn’t ask the girls to be blemished. If they are to truly represent Christ, as the Bible they follow tells them to, then they must bear the burden of keeping the relationship sexually pure.
Even if that girlfriend isn’t the one who will be his wife, that doesn’t let him off the hook, because she’ll be someone’s wife, just as he’ll be someone’s husband. The responsibility before marriage to prevent impurity still stands.
But this isn’t just a church youth group problem. It’s a societal problem. No, it’s not that girl’s fault she got pregnant in high school, because she’s walking proof that someone else had a hand – among other things – in the process. No, it’s not that woman’s fault a man at the bar pinched her butt when she was out with her friends and feeling pretty because she finally lost enough weight to fit into a size 8 skirt. No, it’s not even that young Christian woman’s fault that she had sex before marriage. It always takes two to tango; and even though I’m not a dancer, per se, I know that the man always takes the lead.
I grew up seeing girl after girl ashamed and ostracized and refuse to come back to a church she wasn’t welcome in after word got around about what she had done. And yes, I was among the judges at one time. But no more.
I doubt many non-Christians or non-religious people agree with anything I’ve said, but I’m not interested in getting into the premarital sex argument. Ladies, if you’ve decided to save sex for only your husband (or even if you haven’t, or tried to and didn’t make it), hear me on this: when you find a man who’s a real man and knows his role as the Christ symbol and RESPECTS your decision – regardless of whether or not he’s made the same decision – or even if you at some point say you want to have sex before marriage and he assumes his duty to keep the relationship pure, hold on to him. Those men are getting rarer every day.