Most Christians are doomed to have horrible sex lives. Obviously, they’re not the only ones, as intimacy is difficult for a lot of people, but Christians have a perceived religious mandate to have terrible sex. This despite the fact that the bible contains some pretty awesome examples of sexuality in the Old Testament, including an entire book devoted to love and sex. When I say “horrible” I mean in a relative sense. I grew up in church and we always cringed whenever an older pastor, always a male, declared to the world that sex was beautiful, and that he thanked god for the amazing, loving sex life he had had with his wife. Women were never allowed to make such declarations. And this is what I’m talking about.
Christians may tell you that their sex lives are great, and they may really think they are telling the truth. Sex is perfect for them because they believe their sex life, such as it is, represents following god’s will. This means the man is exercising his rightful dominion over his wife, and the wife is happily and lovingly giving herself to her husband with little to no expectation of her own pleasure. Just serving God through her submission is reward enough. You can confirm this in Christian books like His Needs, Her Needs and most books on marriage in a Christian bookstore. Or at any church or Christian university when they tackle the subject. And there are many couples retreats that reinforce variations of these concepts.
I’ll give you a minute to shake out the disgust and revulsion coursing through your veins.
And now I’m going to do something really crazy. I’m going to give you a peek into my book about APU. SSShhhhhh.
In the chapter about sex, I talk about class discussions I remember vividly. Classes often discussed the topic of homosexuality, but these discussions revealed more about the moronic perceptions the boys had about sex and sexuality.
In the minds of most good evangelical boys at APU, sex is their penis being allowed to take center stage at a worship service where the wife joyously and piously does to it everything he wants her to as an expression of her admiration, love, and desire for him and for Jesus. And his penis. Mostly his penis. And his penis is her command.
There are countless examples of how I intuit this notion, but the most telling is a conversation that has taken place several times over the years. Inevitably, the topic of homosexuality would come up. The students would make appropriate faces of distaste or disgust, as any good evangelical should. Students always remarked at the sin or the depravity or just the grossness of the idea of being sexual with a person of the same sex. On a few occasions, a precious boy with a furrowed brow would raise his hand.
“I don’t get it,” he would say with complete sincerity. “How can two ladies, like, have sex? There’s no man. So, there’s no...you know...man parts.”
Some other boys always nodded in agreement, and it would become clear just who had watched porn and who had not. Some students would look horrified at such stupidity, as any normal person would. The question is layered in male-centric narcissism and ignorance. In these boy’s minds, sex is only possible if a penis, their penis, really, is present and given top priority. Without their penis, how can two women have sex?
One semester when this tragic notion was shared by an eager freshman boy, the tattooed woman sitting in front of him turned around and said, “I feel so bad for whoever you marry.”
I wanted to high-five her, but I resisted. I just nodded at her and gave her a thumbs up. I was saddened, but not surprised, when she told me she needed to get the hell out of APU at the end of the semester.
I was aware of all of this contradictory awkwardness in christianity’s view of sex, and I knew that Christians were not the only people to have unhealthy views of sex. They just actively work harder to justify and perfect their views, as they feel the lord commands.
But it is these views that made me see the inherent sexism in today’s Christianity. I know there are churches scattered here and there with a sex-positive theology. Some rebellious APU kids used to tell me about a church in Claremont with a transgender woman pastor who preached all manner of sex, kink, and “alternative” lifestyles. I would guess such churches make up less than .1% of churches in America. We never thought about going to such churches because we didn’t need or want validation of our own sexuality from a pulpit, not even one with a tattooed and pierced pastor.
Stop reading now if you often say or write, “TMI.” Too much information coming your way.
In all my years of church, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship in college, camps, retreats, bible studies, revival meetings, etc, I never once felt the kind of elation, spiritual high, closeness to the divine, or clarity of purpose in life that I did after having sex. And that’s just the regular sex on a Tuesday sex. The great sex makes you question everything and feel thankful for everything all at once. The great sex comes from the seemingly impossible collision of two (or more…or less) people completely open to all possibilities within the confines of mutual love and respect. I know this is a limited definition based solely on my views.
Also in my book I talk about religious ecstasy experienced by people “slain in the spirit” or just praying. I’m sure their repressed sexuality allows that to happen, and I’m not saying it’s a zero-sum game between spiritual and sexual ecstasy. I just never experienced the spiritual kind. Jesus never made me orgasm. Judging by some hymn and worship song lyrics, though, I may not have given him a proper chance. See below.
Last thought for now. One contributing reason I don’t believe in modern-day Christianity: Every semester. Every. Semester. At least one female student would say something to the effect of, “I don’t need a boyfriend. Jesus is all the man I need.” This statement is rooted in about 25 popular books on Christian dating and “womanhood.”
I never, ever, heard a male student say the same thing. Oh sure, the most popular break-up line boys used was, “I need to spend more time with the Lord.” But no male student, straight or gay, ever referred to Jesus as being any kind of reasonable substitute for an intimate/sexual relationship. (I never had a gender non-conforming or transgender student self-identify in my class)
The closest male-equivalent to the Jesus substitute I have heard were a group of 40-50-something virgins in bible study lamenting that God may not have a woman for them in His infinitely wise and crushingly cruel plans for their lives. Some even said they were saddened by this notion, but they were ok with it. Yeah. I didn't believe them either, even when they cited Paul basically saying marriage was for the weak. Sometimes the Apostle Paul can be a real asshole.
So...while Christians (I know, I know…not all Christians) beat themselves into holy submission to texts and religious concepts, both actual and imagined, that they don’t understand regarding their sexuality, I have found my “church.” It’s a sweaty, euphoric, spiritual, physical, experience we have created. And every time (nods to Genesis 1 and Pentecostals)…it is good. Very often it is fucking amazing. If I prayed, I would pray everyone could find this "church."
I leave you with a lovely song by Michael W. Smith. I can't read these lyrics without giggling.