Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places
Being a Marriage and Family Therapist, conversations on the topic of sex are almost a daily occurrence for me. So much so that I forget sometimes that this is not the norm for most people, and I find myself speaking about this topic in very frank and matter-of-fact ways to the shock of others. It has been said that the top three areas of conflict in marriage are: 1) Money 2) Sex and 3) In-laws, I can confer with this with the couples coming to my office. In fact, conflicts related to sex or sexual issues and addictions is probably the top issue I encounter with couples. It has been sobering over the years to listen to couple after couple express the pain that comes from extra-marital affairs, pornography addictions, masturbation, the fallout of experimenting with the “swinging” lifestyle, or years of no sex or affection. Jonathan Grant, author of Divine Sex: A Compelling Vision for Christian Relationships in a Hypersexualized Age, says it well when he states that “we quickly succumb to “exposure” when faced with the corrosive elements of our culture’s hypersexuality and its fatalism about lasting commitments. This combination of factors has turned romantic relationships from places of adventure and exhilarating risk into crevasses of death and despair.” The vast despair I see on a daily basis confirms how far we have come from God’s ideals for sexuality in relationships.
It was interesting how the author outlined his theory of how we ended up down this destructive road. He says, “The combined effect of authenticity and postmodernism has created a tendency toward hypersexuality, empowering social phenomena that threaten to entrap much of a generation.” Being entrapped is a good descriptor of the clients I meet with who are attempting to engage in relationships according to this postmodern era. I meet with middle schoolers who feel it is completely normal to have an extremely active sex life. I meet with middle-aged adults who have been married multiple times and are sleeping with everyone they go out with as they look for their next victim…I mean spouse. I meet with high schoolers whose best friend convinces them to try out a homosexual relationship, while the parents don’t know what is really happening during their “sleepovers”. I also meet with high schoolers who are trying to determine if they are gay, straight, bi-sexual, gender fluid, or transgender, and feel pressured to go public with this information before they even have themselves figured out. The other issue that seems to plague my office is pornography and masturbation addiction. It has risen to epidemic proportions and the addicts are getting younger and younger. So many men and boys see pornography as male entertainment and have no idea the brainwashing damage they are doing to their beliefs and values towards women, and also to their sexual relationship with their spouse. Grant says, “The meteoric rise and acceptance of pornography also highlights a stunning cultural contradiction. In an age where we expect our daughters to be treated with unprecedented dignity, respect, and equality by their male peers, we have handed the sexual formation of our young people to the sex industry with its dark vision of sex and relationships.” It also amazes me how naive women are of damaging effects of pornography on how they are treated and their sex lives. Some women tell me they used to put porn videos in their husband’s stocking for Christmas…this blows my mind.
The degrading effect pornography and the sex industry has had on the overall treatment of women is alarming. The #MeToo movement came to the forefront because women were sick and tired of being objectified and treated like the women in the videos. Sadly, according to their website, over 17 million women have reported a sexual assault since 1998. This continues to perpetuate the lack of gender-balance in workplace leadership due to the fact that women fear being mistreated by their male counterparts and men fear being accused of inappropriate behavior. This gives them a reason to maintain gender boundaries instead of fixing the gender discrimination and abuse. “Although our culture has sought to “level the playing field” between maleness and femaleness, there are critical differences between how men and women generally relate to each other. Only when we are attentive to these differences of sexual complementarity, free from hierarchical paranoia, can we build a strong foundation for intimate relationships.” I agree with this quote in that we are trying to level the playing field (which is far from it), and the fact that men and women are very different in what they bring to the field. I also agree with the fact that men and women are designed by God to beautifully complement each other (not in the Complementarian sense), and that promoting equality over hierarchy will have a dramatically positive effect on relationships. What I disagree with in the above quote is his reference to “hierarchical paranoia” and how we need to get free from it. To tell women they are being paranoid about the extreme male-dominated hierarchy they feel and experience in organizations and churches across the board is rather rude and disrespectful. Instead of getting free of the paranoia of hierarchy, how about we get freedom from hierarchy altogether so men and women can lead side by side as equals.
The idea of finding our soul mate has been around for centuries, and I have always had the view that we can create soul mate status with anyone we invest in bonding or attaching to. Although I never believed there is only one perfect mate for me on the planet (even though I think I found her :-), I did not realize how destructive this view has been on our culture. Grant shares that “this quest for a perfect soul mate combines fantasy and fatalism and butts up against some hard realities. A 2012 study by a group of US-based psychologists concludes that “people with a strong belief in romantic destiny are especially likely to exit a romantic relationship when problems arise, even when they are involved in rewarding relationships.” It seems that believing in soul mates tends to lead to what the researchers call ‘romantic dysfunction.’” This confirmed what I see in my office with people seeming to “upgrade” their partner every few years in search of that perfect mate whom they will never have conflict with or have negative experiences. This is a sad journey of repeated disappointment for many. I appreciated this author’s efforts in trying to right some of these wrongs and provide a healthier framework for sexuality and relationships.
 Jonathan Grant, Divine Sex: A Compelling Vision for Christian Relationships in a Hypersexualized Age, Baker Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 16.
 Tarana Burke, “me too.,” Me Too Movement, https://metoomvmt.org/ (accessed April, 2018).
 Jonathan Grant, Divine Sex: A Compelling Vision for Christian Relationships in a Hypersexualized Age, Baker Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 97.
17 responses to “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places”
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.
HA! You and I picked on the same quote. THANK YOU, Jake, for being sensitive to and aware of these subtle but unnecessary jabs, and as Mike for say, for “calling them out.”
Yes, the pornography epidemic is out of control. And I think that projects like yours can help to bring its roots causes to light. Great work, friend. Keep it up.
Thanks Jenn for your kind comments. That is funny that we both picked up on the same subtle jab, and yes we need to keep bringing these to people’s attention. I even miss these all the time, but thankfully I have a wife who is forever pointing these out to me. 🙂 I sure hope my project can help educate men and bring to light what women experience every day when it comes to gender discrimination. And if it all helps men have more respect for women and decrease their pornography use, it will be a huge win.
I have noticed a lot more family addiction scenarios that I used to. I mean there are always a part of society chasing the Dragon, but like you I have seen more Christian type families suffering from prescription abuse, partner swapping, pornography, booze abuse, divorce, and so forth.
As you noted, the author concludes generations are being entrapped in hypersexuality. Politely speaking, that is just hogwash! Societies, in increasing numbers, are getting worse at resisting Satan. I doubt we can correlate the ratios and percentages, but Sodom and Gomorrah practices sound like a lot of scenarios you hear in your practice and looks like some of the places we have both visited. While a terrible shame, we should not be surprised or worried that it is too great a problem for the Lord.
I think the steady and God honoring push for gender equality, especially in ministry-mission-business-leadership has positive side effects and eternal attributes that can improve the hypersexual problem and if you add some personal protection, like the armor of God (almost got you…) that these souls will improve on their abilities to resist Satan. (Eph. 6:10-18 of course).
I think you have a good handle on the problems here, even more so than the author. We should be reading your book and giving you a read-around with comments about your “comic” relief qualities or something like that.
Thanks so much Mike for your kind insightful comments. I couldn’t agree more, protection from the enemy is definitely an important piece to changing the course of this hypersexualized society. Ironically, I am constantly telling my clients to suit up for the spiritual battle and encouraging them to call on the powerful name of Jesus Christ if they want to have victory over their situation. This is definitely not a problem too big for the Lord and I hope mine and your work can make a difference in changing this secular tide. Blessings to you my friend.
Standing Firm, Jake
I was interested in your ordered list of problems in marriage being, in order, “1) Money 2) Sex and 3) In-laws”.
As a therapist, have you seen a tremendous change in problems from porn? Recently, Josh McDowell told me the new number one problem is porn and takes up more time in therapy and counseling than any other issue.
Would love to hear your perspective!
Thanks Jay, I thought you would like the fact that money was list number one. 🙂 Hopefully your study will help couples with that area as well. I would definitely say there are very few of my male clients of all ages who are not dealing with a major porn addiction. It is destroying lives and marriages left and right and it seems to be getting even worse. A great resource to help people wake-up to the major effects of porn is http://www.fightthenewdrug.org. I am also grateful to the local Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) group that has become a healing place for many of my clients. Blessings friend!
Because you are so comfortable with this subject and deal with it every day I believe that you have the insight to be able to lead in this regard. The church has largely ignored the issue of human sexuality which I believe has added to the issues you deal with all the time. Instead of leading and helping people to see how our sexuality is an important part of our persona the church has ignored it and been ashamed to mention sexuality in any affirming way. It seems it is more likely to denigrate physical intimacy but with little connection to how this frees people from bondage. How do you think the church should lead in this way outside of the individual counseling context in which you work?
Thanks for your thoughtful comments Dan. I completely agree with you, the church has been dangerously silent on the issue of sexuality and has left its members to learn from the secular world, which has been disastrous. I also think they bring out so much shame when they do talk about it that it makes everyone go underground with their questions and struggles. I think the church needs to wake-up and start teaching people about the beautiful part of our humanity that God created called sexuality and provide a safe place for men to go to get help with their sexual addiction that does not create more shame. The church hosting Sexaholics Annonymous (SA) groups would be a good start. Blessings to you friend!
Great post, Jake!
I can’t even imagine hearing story-after-story of people’s sexual ethics, or lack thereof, and being faced with the opportunity and challenge to realign their thinking. I’ve counseled a few people in the realm of sexual addiction and it’s a gruesome task. So many are submerged to the point of denial and they don’t see how their addiction is impacting the lives of their loved ones. It’s a hard task, but a much-needed one in today’s world.
I love your statement, “Instead of getting free of the paranoia of hierarchy, how about we get freedom from hierarchy altogether so men and women can lead side by side as equals.” Preach! When we succumb to the idea of hierarchical relationships as being normative, we automatically perpetuate an idea of patriarchy and matriarchy. Hierarchal dominance is unhealthy because it assumes a bias when leading – it presumes that age, relationship status, gender, and race entitle an individual instead of their ability. How can leadership stem from a stance of ability and not an assumption? For instance, many churches continue to perpetuate the idea of marriage and children as a hierarchal asset when it comes to hiring, instead of looking at a potential’s CV or experience. How do we get leaders to understand their bias, especially within the church?
Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments Colleen! I definitely was irritated with the author implying that the widespread hierarchy is a paranoia, and I think more of us need to speak out against it. So glad you are another strong female voice speaking into the sea of male dominance and gender discrimination. The only success I have had with bringing this bias you speak of to church leaders’ attention is to directly and lovingly bring it to their attention. 🙂 As far as the macro level, I think we need more materials and media highlighting this issue and giving leaders an alternative way to move forward and help them to see the long term benefits. Blessings to you and your ministry!
I appreciate your leadership on this file and thank you for patiently walking with men and women toward healthier sexual expression. 😉
It is truly ironic that our culture produced the #metoo movement reacting against objectification and abuse of women, and yet at the same time is the “girls gone wild” party type of culture where sexual libertarianism and experimentation is rampant. Talk about mixed messages!
Thanks Mark for your comments! I think that is a mixed message and I also think it is sometimes girls going wild because they think that is the way to get attention and exercise their freedom, all the while they are shooting themselves in the foot by inadvertently promoting the objectification of women. This is why this issue is so convoluted and difficult to address in this hypersexualized culture we live in. It seems we have lost all self-respect and decency. Blessings to you friend.
I really appreciate your arguments within this post. As a pastor I see the damaging effects of pornography within marriages and within the pastorate. I know of three who have left the ministry because of their addiction. I have such a confusion about how pornography can be seen as a norm with the damage it does to all involved. Especially with the new focus on abuse, it just is so frustrating to see. Thanks for your post brother…
Thanks for your comments Jason! I’m sure you, like many pastors, see lots of the damaging effects of porn in your congregation. It is definitely an epidemic and needs to be talked about without shame and men need a place to not only hear the truth about it but also get healing. I also notice many of the wives are extremely naive as to the damaging effects porn has on their husband’s brains and how they treat and see them. Blessings to you and your ministry brother!
Jake, my fellow therapist and dear friend – PREACH IT! We hammered the same points in our posts but yours went a better direction connecting the objectification of women. You know as well as I do the world is experiencing an epidemic of pornography and failed relationships. I’m so glad you are in the trenches reframing distorted thinking, helping people tap into their faith, and championing women! Thank you!
You bet my friend, thanks so much for the kind words. I’m also grateful that you are speaking truth to your clients and students as well and also being a strong female voice in the midst of a female degrading culture. Great minds think alike, not surprised we hammered the same points. Have a great week.
I love my country and love all religion and people.