I have had the privilege over the last two weeks to read the dissertation of a brilliant woman who has been studying how adult conservative Christians in Northern Ireland manage their sexuality and intimate relationships prior to marriage. I will leave later next week to go over and be the external examiner as she defends her research.
There are stunning similarities between how Christian’s are taught (or not taught) to understand and cope with sexuality here in America …
1. Adults are marrying later there as well – mid to late 20’s early 30’s.
2. Just like here, they have no approved access to sex education and no safe place to go to ask questions when they have concerns about how to manage their sexual desire or sexual decisions. They believe if they were to seek out information or ask questions they would be judged as not faithful, Godly, serious about their faith, strong, or trusting of God. In their ignorance, women feel afraid of their wedding night, men feel entitled to sex, both are filled with misconceptions and assumptions of each other, themselves, bodies, sexuality, gender and how to pleasure each other.
3. These adults desperately try not to become sexually involved, may attempt to delay involvement once they ‘fall in love’, eventually find themselves sexually crossing ‘boundaries’, shame themselves, hide their involvement, condemn themselves and each other, and then believe that anything negative they experience (pain, low sexual desire, sexual dysfunction, abuse … even conflict in their relationship) is a byproduct of not being faithful enough. They then feel more shame and hide even further; (sound familiar??).
4. And then, like here, when people get married, the years of saying no, of deadening desire, of shaming their body and its wants, of monitoring the passion in their partner, yields low sexual desire, obligatory sex, confusion, and still so much that is misunderstood … the assumptions never corrected. Women are taught to put out and men are taught to take what they can get. Neither know how to show up to each other with their heart open, body open, secure and aware of themselves first – sexually or relationally. So neither receive the love they crave. She gives obligatory sex that is destined to kill her desire. And in receiving obligatory sex, he is destined to never receive the heart, heat and desire of her he craves. Both are left lonely and alone.
Why is it that we have turned a blind eye to the anguish felt by our young adults? They desperately want to be given REAL information, REAL guidance, REAL vision for how the sex God created and desires for us stands up against the sex the world offers … and yet we give them … DON’T and DO and NOTHING. It’s pathetic and heartbreaking.
For more on this subject here is an interview with colleague Jonalyn Fincher from Soulation (it’s more light-hearted than my little rant above …)
In 7 minutes, Dr. Sellers covers:
- the connection between the purity movement and sexual abuse (minute 3:48)
- why the Christian idea of “my body is a temple” includes your genitals (minute 1:23)
- and how sexual stewardship before marriage plays into sexual pleasure after marriage (minute 2:58)
Pay close attention at minute 6:11 when she talks about what men want the most in bed. It’s more honest than what I’ve read in Cosmo.