Posts tagged ‘Intimacy’

When Not Practicing What You Preach About Sex Is a Good Thing

Holding Hands

It’s no secret that we live in a sexually infatuated society.  In an article for The Federalist, Shane Morris cites research showing that 92 percent of the 174 songs that made it into the Billboard Top 10 during 2009 included references to sex.  What’s more, in another study, researchers found that from the 1960s to the 2000s, songs with sexual subject matter sung by male artists went from 7 percent in the decade known for its “make love, not war” attitude to a whopping 40 percent in the 2000s.   In another compelling factoid, Morris mentions that out of Billboard’s top 50 love songs of all time, only six are from the year 2000 or later.  Why?  Because artists just don’t sing about love like they used to.  Instead, they boast about sex.

And yet…

For all our boasting about sex, it turns out that actual sexual intimacy between real human beings is down.  In a study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, researchers found that “American adults had sex about nine fewer times per year in the early 2010s compared to the late 1990s” due primarily to “an increasing number of individuals without a steady or marital partner.”  Even those who are married reported “a decline in sexual frequency among those partners.”  Interestingly enough, these same researchers found that, out of all the recent generations, it was the generation born in the 1930s that enjoyed intimacy most often.

As Christians, we know that part of our culture’s quandary over what we say and what we actually do about sex comes because sex has become largely decoupled from its biblical context – that of marriage.  Our culture’s vaulted sexual revolution has not led to more or better sex.  It’s just led to the enshrinement of sex as an idol.  And anything that is idolized inevitably becomes counted on for too much, which, in turn, makes it deliver less than it could if it was kept in its proper place in the first place.  Thus, it is no surprise that our near-worship of sex has not led to an increase in sex.

There are some hopeful signs that we, as a society, know, even if only intuitively, that we have taken a wrong turn when it comes to sex.  In a post for National Review, Max Bloom notes that for all of the avant-garde attitudes Millennials might have about sex, in their actual intimate lives, they are trending toward the traditional:

Millennials are more than twice as likely to have had no sexual partners in their early 20s than those born in the 1960s. In general, Millennials have about as many sexual partners as Baby Boomers and considerably less than Generation X-ers – those born in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.

It turns out that, when it comes to sexual partners and practices, what is old is new again.  There is still plenty of room for monogamy and abstinence.  Bloom notes that Millennials are trending traditional in other ways, too: “They are less likely to drink, smoke marijuana, or use cocaine than previous generations.”  But for all their traditional habits, one non-traditional trend continues:  Millennials continue to increasingly drift from traditional religious practices such as worship and prayer.

So, what does all this tell us?  First, it tells us that even as our culture drifts from any understanding of or appreciation for Christian orthodoxy, natural law, à la Romans 2:14-15, seems to still hold some sway over our concrete propriety.  Second, our trending sexual traditionalism also tells us that our God really does have, even for a society that can be as misguided as ours can be, what the Calvinists call “common grace.”  Regardless of whether or not our culture believes in traditional sexual mores, the very fact that so many of us live by a more traditional code of ethics that protects us from the pain, fear, and heartbreak that sexual egalitarianism inevitably brings is a testament to God’s broad, gracious protection of society.  To those who have walked down the road of sexual anarchy and have had their hearts and bodies broken in the process, Christians must be prepared to offer love, understanding, guidance, and grace.

Hopefully, the materializing rupture between what we as a culture believe and what we as a culture do when it comes to sex will lead us to try to reconcile our curious pockets of orthopraxy with a much-needed orthodoxy.  Our culture will be better for it.  And who knows?  We might just be able to stop boasting about sex in songs because we’ll actually be enjoying more love in life.

July 24, 2017 at 5:15 am 1 comment

The Baylor Scandal: Reflections on Human Sexuality

He manufactured one of the most remarkable turnarounds in the history of college football.  And now, he’s out of a job.

Art Briles began his career at Baylor in 2007 when the football program was the pitiable laughingstock of the Big 12.  But since 2011, Briles led the Bears to a 50-15 record.  The team went from being the doormats of the Big 12 to being the darlings.  But while he was winning games, Briles was also covering up sexual assaults by his players.

The details of Baylor University’s sexual assault scandal are shocking.  ESPN’s Outside the Lines reports that, in several instances:

School officials either failed to investigate, or failed to adequately investigate, allegations of sexual violence. In many cases, officials did not provide support to those who reported assaults, in apparent violation of Title IX federal law … Baylor did not investigate a sexual assault report made against football players Tre’Von Armstead and Shamycheal Chatman for more than two years, despite the school’s obligation to do so under federal law. They never faced charges.[1]

In another report, Outside the Lines told the story of a victim who, when she reported to university officials that she had been assaulted, was told, “There is nothing we can do, because the assault happened off campus.”[2]  In a particularly disturbing twist, it was also revealed that Baylor recruited defensive end Sam Ukwuachu, even though “officials either knew, or should have known, that Ukwuachu had a history of violent incidents at Boise State.”[3]

All this has led not only to Art Briles’ dismissal, but to Athletic Director Ian McCaw’s sanctioning and to University President Ken Starr’s demotion.  It seems as though a desire to win football games overshadowed the basic moral imperative to make sure the players of the team behaved nobly – both on and off the field.  Human dignity and decency was sacrificed at the altar of winning seasons and bids to bowl games.

It is a tragedy that the university administration did not address these horrific acts of sexual violence quickly and forcefully.  But it is an even deeper tragedy that such acts happened in the first place.  That any person is ever raped betrays the fact that our society fundamentally misunderstands and distorts sex.  It is time for us to remember what sex is and what it is for.  So let me state this as a clearly as I can:

Sex is meant and designed by God to be a servant.

All too often, sex is treated as an end to itself.  It is a pleasure to be chased.  It is a thrill to be had.  In the case of these Baylor football players, it seems as though it became a right to be demanded.  In the wake of the LGBT movement, sex has become a cornerstone of a person’s identity to be celebrated.  But sex is none of these things.

Sex is meant and designed by God to be a servant.

Sex was never designed by God to be an end all or a be all.  Instead, it was given to us by Him to serve other, greater purposes.  Here are three of those other, greater purposes.

1.  Sex is meant and designed by God to serve unity.

There is a reason why, when the apostle Paul warns against committing sexual immorality with prostitutes, he asks, “Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body” (1 Corinthians 6:16)?  Paul asks this because he knows that sexual intimacy unites people in a powerful way.  Despising such unification by sleeping around before marriage or committing adultery while married does not empower people sexually.  It diminishes their dignity.

2.  Sex is meant and designed by God to serve procreation.

The biology of this statement is self-evident enough, as a bit of reflection on our very existence, in conjunction with a visit to the maternity ward of any hospital, will reveal.  But this biological reality has its roots in a divine creative arrangement.  When God creates men and women, He commands them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28).  God gives sex, at least in part, for procreation.  And though sex does not always result in children, to casually reject sex’s procreative possibility altogether is to reject one of God’s goals for sex itself.

3.  Sex is meant and designed by God to serve your spouse.

This, finally, is why rape is so dreadful.  Rape is heinously and hideously selfish.  An intimacy that is meant to be a way to serve, honor, love, and cherish one’s spouse is taken as a way to engorge and indulge a lustful desire.  Such a use of sex is tragic – and evil.

Ultimately, the Baylor sexual assaults – along with their concealment – are only symptoms of a deeper problem.  Our culture’s view of human sexuality has turned selfish.  We don’t want to serve unity, so we have sex outside of marriage.  We don’t want to be bothered with children, so we go to extraordinary lengths to prevent – or even to terminate – pregnancy.  We don’t even want to serve the very person with whom we are being intimate, so we rape or, at the very least, engage in listless, loveless, mechanical sex.  This is where selfish sex has gotten us.

Baylor’s administration covered up sexual assault.  And now, many in that administration are forced to pay a steep price for their sins with their jobs, their reputations, and their futures.  Perhaps it is time for us, as a society, to stop making excuses for and covering up selfish sex before we too incur a steep price for our sins.  For selfish sex cannot only take a toll on our bodies in the forms of pain and disease, but on our souls in the forms of broken hearts and regret.

Sex is meant for better than that.  And we are in need of better than that.

________________________

[1] Paula Lavigne and Mark Schlabach, “Police records detail several more violence allegations against Baylor football players,” ESPN (5.19.2016).

[2] Paula Lavigne, “Baylor faces accusations of ignoring sex assault victims,” ESPN (2.2.2016).

[3] Jessica Luther and Dan Solomon, “Silence at Baylor,” Texas Monthly (8.20.2015).

May 30, 2016 at 5:15 am 1 comment

The Price of Shame

DCF 1.0I’m not sure the framers of the sexual revolution of the 1960’s ever envisioned this.  What they dreamed of was the freedom to sexually express themselves without having to answer to what they thought were the stifling restraints of a traditional – and, in their view, outdated – sexual ethic.  What they wound up sowing, however, were the seamy seeds of sexual objectification and oppression among subsequent generations.

Cole Moreton, in his article for The Telegraph titled “Children and the Culture of Pornography,”[1] offers a disturbing peek inside a generation who has managed to shake itself free of the moral manacles which once guided the intimate encounters of yesteryear.  I must warn you:  the frank tone of his article is not for the faint of heart.  He opens with the story of a thirteen-year-old girl named Chevonea.  A boy had pressured her into performing a sex act on him, which he recorded with his cell phone’s camera and subsequently showed to all his buddies.  Chevonea threatened to a jump from a window if he did not delete the recording.  But before she could have second thoughts about her desperate threat, she slipped and fell sixty feet to her death.  Chevonea’s story is nauseating.  But her tale is, devastatingly, one among many spawned by a culture gone sexually mad.

The majority of Moreton’s article discusses the ease of access to pornography and how it distorts our children’s view of themselves and others.  Indeed, many of our young people have gone from consuming these illicit materials to creating them with nothing more than the video recorders on their phones, as in Chevonea’s case.  And many of the children who home grow these pornographic videos aren’t even teenagers yet.

So what are the consequences of growing up in such a so-called “sexually liberated” culture?  Moreton explains the effects are especially severe on girls:   “Sexual pressure can cause girls to contemplate suicide, self-harm, develop eating disorders, or try to lose themselves in drugs or alcohol.”  For a movement that began as one of liberation, this hardly sounds like freedom to me.

The Scriptures remind us that sexual freedom can only be truly found within the context of sexual commitment.  God’s created order for intimacy rings as true today as it ever has:  “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).  God sets a clear pattern:  sexual intimacy which results in the joining of two fleshes into one is to take place only after a man is willing to “hold fast to” (i.e., commit to, or marry) his wife.  Such commitment, in turn, results in true freedom:  “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25).

As I read those final words from Genesis 2, I can’t help but think of Chevonea and the overwhelming shame she must have felt after a pushy boy devastated her dignity and betrayed whatever little trust she may have had in him by flaunting a sickly conceived video.  This young man may have used his sexually liberated sensibilities to pressure a young girl to engage in acts completely outside the bounds of common decency, but such sexual freedom turned out to be nothing more than a Trojan horse in which were hidden the stifling shackles of shame.

Ultimately, when it comes to our sexual behavior, we must answer a fundamental question:  To what do we want to be beholden?  Because we will be beholden to something.  We will either be beholden to the slavery of shame that masquerades as sexual liberation or we will be beholden to the constraints of divine law which free us to live without shame because we are within the comforting assurances of God’s will.

I know which one sounds better to me.  Which one sounds better to you?


[1] Cole Moreton, “Children and the culture of pornography: ‘Boys will ask you every day until you say yes,’The Telegraph (1.27.2013).

March 4, 2013 at 5:15 am 2 comments

ABC Extra – Knowing and Being Known

In 1754, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the preeminent Genevan philosopher of his day and pictured in this blog, wrote a book titled Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality Among Men.  In it, Rousseau opines longingly for man’s primitive state.  Contrary to the restrictions and mores modern society thrusts on us, primitive man, Rousseau declares, was carefree, without any language, any personal property, and any need to live in committed relationships.  Rousseau declares, “Males and females united fortuitously, according to chance encounters, opportunity, and desire…They parted just as readily.”[1]  In other words, primitive society was the ultimate free love society, that is, minus the love part.  Rousseau continues, “Man’s first sentiment was that of his existence, his first care that for his preservation.  The earth’s products provided him with all necessary support, instinct moved him to use them…There was one [instinct] that prompted him to perpetuate his species; and this blind inclination, devoid of any sentiment of the heart, produced only a purely animal act.”[2]  According to Rousseau’s primitive, paradisiacal world, sex was only a brute, animal act, devoid of any pesky sentiments or connections.  There was no affection, no emotional warmth – just skin against skin, flesh against flesh.

Rousseau’s vision and version of primitive man, of course, is diametrically opposed to the Bible’s account of our origins.  Sex, according to the Bible, is not the result of brute, animal instinct.  Rather, sex is a gift from God, bestowed on humans to connect husbands and wives in every human way possible: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

The Old Testament uses an interesting euphemism for sexual relations.  Rather than using the word “sex” as a verb, it will speak of people “knowing” each other.  For example, when Adam and Eve come together as husband and wife, Genesis says, “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain” (Genesis 4:1).

This euphemism of “knowing” for sex gives us some insight into the depth and profundity of human sexuality.  Contrary to Rousseau’s assertion, sex is not just skin against skin and flesh against flesh devoid of any commitment or compassion.  Sex unites people – not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well.  The apostle Paul explains it this way: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh.’ But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:15-17).  As I mentioned in ABC, the city of Corinth boasted a temple dedicated to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and sex.  At the temple, there were over one thousand prostitutes who serviced so-called “worshippers” in wild orgies celebrating Aphrodite.  Apparently, even the Corinthian Christians developed a penchant for participating the temple’s debauchery.  Like the pagans of Corinth, the Christians too began hooking up and breaking up.  It was a Rousseaurian dream.  But Paul knows that this kind of sexual looseness is not God’s dream.  “Sex,” Paul says, “unifies one person to another in body.  Thus, if you have sex with a prostitute, you are unifying yourself to her bodily.”  But sex does not stop with fleshly unification.  Paul also speaks of being “one with the Lord in spirit.”  This too is a part of sex.  This is why the Hebrew writers use the word “know” as a euphemism for sex.  For sex creates a deep, emotional bond between two people.  This is why divorces hurt so badly.  Two people are being ripped apart who have been connected at the deepest levels of their being.

The apostle Paul writes concerning eternity:  “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).  The knowing of sexual intimacy is deep and abiding.  But it will pale in comparison to the richness and depth and breadth with which we will know our Savior in heaven.  This is the true and greatest knowledge for which we hope…and for which we wait.

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[1] Jean-Jacques Rousseau & Victor Gourevitch, The Disourses and Other Early Political Writings (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1997) 145.

[2] Ibid., 161.

October 10, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


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