Today’s post comes to us courtesy of the author at One For Jesus.
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When I was a kid, I couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t want to grow up to be a porn star. It seemed like the ideal job. Because even growing up in the comparatively innocent 1980s, when the raciest thing on TV was The Benny Hill Show, I got it that sex was the best thing going.
The adult men in my family—all good sons of the 1950s—had married young and missed the sexual revolution by about 15 minutes. As the eldest grandchild and first boy, I was to be their deliverer. I was to get out there and make all the sexual conquests they never could.
And so we had that time, on a big family trip to Disneyland, when I was taught how to spot a woman with no bra and sneak a look down her blouse. Or that lesson about the anatomical muscle action that makes sex feel so good. Or in junior high, when I overheard a remark that, with my blond hair and blue eyes, “I can’t believe all the pussy this kid’s gonna get.”
I was taught, with an enthusiasm bordering on fanaticism, that women are every bit as interested in sex as men, that any differences are just a puritanical myth. Movies and TV backed up the point in spades. Even women who started off overtly hostile to their suitors were having great sex less than 90 minutes later. (See Anthony Michael Hall in 16 Candles.) I went into high school fully expecting girls to be throwing themselves at me before I had even memorized my class schedule.
And then something funny happened. No one threw herself at me. My whole freshman year, no one went out with me (never mind that I was still too young to drive), and no one slept with me even once! A note of desperation appeared in the council of my elders. Maybe I wasn’t “trying hard enough.” Maybe I needed more “encouragement.” Maybe I was gay!!
I began to dread having any female friend over to the house. Without fail, my dad would beckon me into the other room and command, in an urgent, bad-breath whisper, “You should ask her out!” One Saturday morning, I got a phone call from a female friend. As I hung up, my dad came down the hall in a purple fury that I hadn’t asked her out. (He had been eavesdropping from the extension phone in his bedroom.)
Despite my outward resistance, I took the advice to heart and “tried harder.” Later, I found out that women were put off by my aggressive, overtly sexual advances, but I had it as an article of faith that they wanted the same thing I wanted, so that possibility never occurred to me. Instead, I cast about desperately for the right key to open the lock like other guys. I tried calling, I tried not calling, I gave enough flowers to put a florist’s child through college. All through high school, all through college, nothing worked.
I left college still a virgin and the shame of my family. I felt that I must be physically disgusting in some way. I contemplated suicide.
And then: it happened. A home run! A one-night stand! Only it wasn’t like I’d been told. Instead of a life-altering nirvana, instead of robbing me of speech, instead of validating my entire existence up to that point, it was just sort of…regular sex. I mean it was nice, but in the words of Monty Python, “it was no basis for a system of government.”
I became confused. What happened? Had I done it wrong? Was there something more? Something else? Years of searching followed, but society was so unanimous that sex was the answer. Even the advice from the religious right—how “saving it for marriage is what makes it so incredible”—seemed to underline the point that great sex is the ultimate goal of life.
The end finally came one night in Dallas. I was there on business, met a cute local, and asked her out. She said yes! My head filled with visions of not needing my hotel room that night. But no sooner had we reached the restaurant than she told me how she had just become a Christian and was off sex. “DAMN IT!” I thought. But I was stuck for the evening anyway.
With nothing else to talk about, I said, “So… tell me about this Christian thing.” And as she began to talk about her life, I realized she was also describing my life–the searching and disappointments–as well as the life I wanted: newfound freedom and joy. I thought I knew all about what Christians believed, but I’d never heard anything like this.
Especially when she talked about the Bible’s advice on sex. “Flee from sexual immorality.” That’s the phrase that pays. Though it’s been callously reduced in our times to nothing more than “save it for marriage,” in its life-giving prescription strength, it’s more akin to “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” After 26 years of serving Aphrodite, every fiber of my being sang out in recognition of the truth at hearing her called a false god.
The rest of my story is a year of deprogramming in therapy, two years of twelve-step recovery, a total moratorium on family news about my dating life, and nearly a decade of sexual abstinence while I figured out how much else there is to life.
I will never be one of those “anti-sex” Christians who think that sex is bad or who hide their children’s eyes when a movie shows people kissing. Like I said, sex is nice. It’s a good aspect of my marriage. But you will also never see me posting on Instagram with, “Check out my hot wife!” You will never see me inspecting my daughter’s wardrobe for forbidden spaghetti straps, or urging her to take “the pledge,” or buying her a purity ring. All of that is the same stuff, different day.
When your whole life is obsessed with sex, it doesn’t matter if it’s sexually pure or sexually active. What was destructive in my life was invasive over-involvement of adult male family in my sexuality from the age of pre-pubescence. Since then, I have read many accounts that resonate to my core of people victimized the same way by “purity culture.” My vow in recovery was, that stops with me.
Christian faith was my salvation; I am never going to reduce it to a public obsession with sex. Instead, the church should be the place where people, washed ashore and broken on the beaches of a sex-saturated society, can hear something else. “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone…” That cornerstone is not “being good;” it is not “sexual purity.” It is the love of Jesus Christ and him crucified to set us free. Any other message is a betrayal of our God-given purpose. Anything else is, ultimately, destined to collapse.
What a wonderful happy ending! Society and pop culture have all convinced us that we are doing everthing wrong. Could be sex, could be the laundry, could be raising your kids. So SORRY the men in your family were stuck in adolescence and couldn’t provide you with some rational guidance. It caused you so much unnecessary suffering. Wouldn’t it be great if we could make our churches more rational too? If we really could rely on them for guidance and not a guilt trip? Thank you so much for courageously sharing your experience!
Thank you, and yes, I feel very fortunate that God moved in my life to show me the true gospel message at the right time, especially after so many years of thinking I already knew all about it. Turns out, the way Jesus did it, talking about freedom from sin isn’t a confrontation, but a huge relief: http://www.oneforjesus.net/what-is-sin-its-not-that-simple/
Thanks again for the encouraging comment!
As a victim of child molestation and the decendant of two sexually terrified (read: having my wardrobe inspected for spaghetti straps, plus shorts more than two inches above the knee, nail polish, anything that didn’t look like a Pentecostal woman of the 50s…. While I’m being molested under their nose) parents……. This……. Is………. Amazing!!!!
Thank you for the encouragement. It has been a many-year journey to be willing to talk and write about this. Recognizing the community of others like yourself who have accepted and supported me, helped to honestly face my past. I wrote this story down for the first time here, mainly for my own process of releasing it. But, I did very much hope it would also connect with others as their stories have always connected with me. It means a lot that you took the time to respond and share. Thank you.
Reblogged this on Break Up the Fallow Ground and commented:
I was right there are men you get that sex isn’t the be all and end all it is just part of life, and beautiful, not meant to be made trivial and perverted.
“Christian faith was my salvation; I am never going to reduce it to a public obsession with sex.”
How incredibly refreshing to hear! Thank you for sharing your perspective.
Thank you for your comment! I actually stole that line from a secular editorial about the role that we as Christians could and should be serving in our battle-scarred society, “to serve as messengers of love, dignity, commitment, communion and grace”: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/30/opinion/david-brooks-the-next-culture-war.html
I truly believe that there will always be some part of the church doing the work that Jesus came to give us: binding up the broken-hearted and setting the captives free. Blessings to you!
I would like my children to abstain from sex for as long as possible and if until their wedding night then even better. But I don’t want them to feel condemed if they don’t or look at purity beyond the finished work of Christ. Besides Biblical reasons for wanting them to do so, I have many practical reasons like pregnancy, STDs especially HPV, disappointment especially for a daughter because at young ages no one knows what they are doing and also getting too attached at a young age where they should be traveling, enjoying life, going to college or trade school.
How is this possible without the hypocritical puritan doctrine. And are purity rings that bad?
I’m just not trying to throw out the baby with the bath water.
It’s possible by being honest about the reasons you want them to abstain. I call it encouraging sexual wisdom. 🙂
The problem among many Christians is that purity culture has become so ingrained in their thinking that they cannot conceive of a way to encourage abstinence without it. They say, “Yes, purity comes from Christ, but…you can’t just rely on that teaching alone! That doesn’t keep the kids’ pants on!” But I disagree.
My mom was clear with me about the reasons she wanted me to wait–mainly to avoid getting pregnant at an early age like she did. As much as I loved God and as heavily dosed as I was in purity culture, THAT ALONE was my main reason for delaying sexual activity. Knowing that sex had real-life consequences that could seriously affect me was enough to make me think. My mom was also honest about the different forms of contraception and how they worked…and how they weren’t foolproof. I didn’t trust my ability to get it right at 16 or even 20.
As far as purity rings go, we must recall what they represent. A purity ring is a symbol of “sexual purity”–in other words, a visual statement that one believes their purity is found in their lack of sexual contact. If that “purity” were to be “lost” through rape or assault, then the ring becomes a source of shame. For some, the ring is simply a reminder of their commitment to sexual restraint, but for many it becomes a public announcement of their virginity. Why is that a thing to be announced? Why would anyone think it wise to announce that to a world that is often vicious and schemes to set up stumbling blocks for the entertainment of mockers? I feel a bit like abstinence as Jesus did about fasting, giving and praying: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1).
Thanks! I appreciate your reply.
Yeah. But I still do not understand why the girls in high school did not want anything to do with super handsome you. You made it sound like every female in town was part of a vast conspiracy to ignore you. The girls in my high school were the same way. They loved the “idea of boys” and “giggling about boys,” but none of them seemed to want to have much to do with boys socially. There were exceptions, of course, but I thought it was just plain strange. How do teenage girls think about boys such that the pattern I observed was created. Yes, even here at 63, this old man is still trying to figure out the oddities he observed in teenage life.
And no one answered the question: “Do women want sex just as much as men do?”
I think, on the whole, women want sex as much as men. But sex for us is riskier, more expensive. There’s pregnancy to think about. And then there’s the stigma of being called filthy names or “getting a reputation” for sleeping with the wrong men or “too many” men.
I’m not surprised that the high school girls were standoffish. Sex at that age can be a scary proposition–especially with boys who seem too eager or aggressive. Boys are thinking about pleasure or impressing their friends with their sexual conquests. Girls are thinking about affirmation and acceptance. No one is impressed by a woman’s sexual conquests…least of all her parents, who can turn her home life into a living hell and make her dating life a complete misery until marriage.
Women of all ages want pleasure. But the stakes in getting it are far higher. In nearly every case, it’s just easier to wait until one has personal independence.
Yeah, I think that is about what the most important female person in my life would say too—and I would agree. What is this “affirmation and acceptance” that you stated. Can you define that? Thanks April.