Saturday, July 7, 2012

Christians and Sex

I'm not entirely comfortable blogging about this, but I've wanted to since before I got married and my hope is that it will help anyone trying to work through similar issues. I'm sorry if my somewhat candid opinion offends you. I don't really have answers, but I feel some of this needs to be said.

Christians in general are a little paranoid about sex. As soon as you become a teenager, you start getting it ground into your head that having sex before marriage is one of the worst things you could do in life. I got married in May, and my husband and I were both virgins. I am 100% for waiting. But the way Christians go about grinding this into people can be harmful. It's said over and over, "Sex before marriage is bad, sex before marriage is bad, sex before marriage is bad." When that's all or most of what you hear about it, it gets into your subconscious and "Sex before marriage is bad," becomes "Sex is bad."And it's not just sex. It's any form of touching that might conceivably lead to sex (ah, you front-hugged, you heathen!), as if having sex isn't a completely conscious choice you have to make before you do it (maybe I'm just naive and more self-controlled than most, but seriously, give people a little credit. We all have the ability to stick to our true convictions!).

As a result, some people have problems with touch when they do get into relationships or marry. We may know in our heads that physical touch (to varying extents of appropriateness at varying points in a relationship) is a form of communication and important, but the damage is done. I've heard of numerous cases, but I'll draw from my own experience.

In my teenage years, I thought any form of desire for the opposite sex was wrong and so I suppressed it. I trained myself to think physical intimacy was undesirable. Because that would magically go away if I ever got married, right? But it doesn't. I've had to work very hard at it. I was surprised by how hard.

Two examples: when Alex and I started dating, I was, on a conscious level, perfectly fine with holding hands. But the first time we did, I felt so afraid I could only stand it for a matter of seconds. Our relationship was long-distance so we only saw each other for a few days every month, which didn't leave that much time to work on it, but it was months before I was comfortable even holding hands in front of my family. It sounds ridiculous, but it's true. I'd decided before he came along that, despite the hype some Christians build up about saving your first kiss for your wedding day, I wanted to kiss after I got engaged because I seriously doubted I would be able to in front of a crowd of people if it was the first time (also, you don't have to go further on your wedding night, but first kiss to that in the same day would be a big leap). So we kissed for the first time shortly after we got engaged. And I freaked out and started hyper-ventilating. Yup. (Don't worry, I like it plenty now. ;-))

We're told that sex before marriage leaves you with emotional baggage, but the other side of the coin is completely ignored: being (however unintentionally) taught to associate sex with shame, fear, or negativity in general does the same thing. The baggage is just a different kind. They tell you sex before marriage will hurt your future spouse, but they leave out how much not wanting to touch them will. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I think sex out of wedlock is a good idea. But some Christians seem to be so afraid that if they say anything good about sex, we'll all go out and do it with the first person we have a chance with, so they overcompensate and we still end up hurt. There needs to be a much more balanced approach. Someone pointed out that for every book Christians write on the goodness of touch or sex, there are another ten warning us about it. We need to teach about healthy touch in healthy circumstances alongside the reverse.