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Let’s Talk About Sex

Written by: on April 5, 2018

In August of 1991 a female hip hop duo Salt-N-Pepa released a song entitled “Let’s talk about sex”. It depicted a story of a woman who was able to get any man that she wanted but was left feeling empty because it was “just sex”. No love, communication and lacked safety. The song addressed to the fact that women were no longer subordinate in the sexual act. A woman, much like, men could freely engage in the act of sex and could seek out any suitor that they desired. It spoke to a generation that was awaken to the fact that sex was not about procreation but recreation. It was not necessary to be tied down through a union or covenant to enjoy the pleasure of it. It also recognized that sex without intimacy lacked fulfillment beyond the moment of pleasure.

A year into a new decade this group had hopes to encourage women and men to talk about sex and not have it be a taboo topic emphasizing the importance of safety through the promotion of contraception. Aids had gained awareness and the epidemic of the disease due to lack of sex talk was problematic. Despite what some felt was an inappropriate subject matter to be discussed in this manner, especially by women, the song became a late summer anthem and quickly climbed the charts.

Fast forward 20 years later and the topic of sex continues to be an important subject matter. In this week’s book God, Sex and Gender by Adrian Thatcher he methodically discusses the tensions with the theological complexities that exist in the discussion of theology and sexuality in our society. Historically, sex was reinforced solely through the framework of marriage. Thatcher highlights some of the problematic ways in which we justify marriage as a framework for sex. In doing so, he is not negating it as an option or the ideal but he provides different reasons as to why it can be so. He gives an example from the “Forms of Solemnization of Matrimony in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. In it the priest is instructed to provide these reasons for the purpose of marriage: [1]

  • First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.
  • Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body.
  • Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity. Into which holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined.

I have had my own challenges with the way in which Christianity defines marriage. Not that I do not agree with the covenant of marriage as it relates to Christ, love, mutual submission, equality and a unified purpose. But  I do believe that the way in which we communicate our belief can be problematic in nature.

Challenge with #1- Not every marriage produces children. Some people choose not to have children and others are unable to conceive. Some may say it is a repercussion of sin in this world but I struggle with ever accepting that as a reason a woman or man is not able to conceive as such. Furthermore, the marriages that do not have children what then is their purpose for marriage or even sex besides avoiding sin and fornication?

Challenge with #2 -I remember as a youth being in the crux of what the Church reinforced about sex and marriage and what was being reinforced in society through shifts in the culture. I recall struggling with the way in which sex was only mentioned in the context of marriage. It was not discussed in a way that discussed intimacy, desire, connectivity and love but more of an obligation a husband and wife had to one another. Despite the lack of depth in the manner by which it was communicated it still resonated with young people in as much as once I am of age to get married I will do so , so that I can have sex. This became evident when I had turned 19 and many of my peers were getting married to either their “high school sweetheart” or a person they met a year before in youth group that they felt “called” to marry. It was unfortunate because so many people were rushing into such a serious commitment to avoid fornicating. What I found even more disheartening is that once they were married they didn’t know how to build intimacy, share their desires and find meaning connection with their spouse. Many just had sex and began having children. Some would say that marriage provided them the opportunity to have sex without conviction but I would disagree. To just engage in the act without love, intimacy, etc. should be just as convicting as being worried about engaging in the act outside of marriage.

As the book progresses, Thatcher begins to break down how identity, mutuality, and equality play a role in our theological understanding of sex and marriage. He illustrates how Jesus in the New Testament provided a renewed framework for marriage and how that transforms how we define what it means to be married and the purpose of marriage. I would highly recommend this book. It is one I will read in more depth and wrestle with as I grow in my discernment and theological understanding as it relates to God, Sex and Gender.

 

[1] Adrian Thatcher, God, Sex, and Gender: An Introduction (Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011).

 

About the Author

Christal Jenkins Tanks

9 responses to “Let’s Talk About Sex”

  1. Jim Sabella says:

    Christal, thanks for your great post. You make a very powerful and meaningful point in– Challenge with #1. It honestly breaks my heart to hear that people may consider or even be told that the reason they are not able to conceive is because of the repercussions of the sin of this world. Like you, I sincerely struggle with accepting that kind of reasoning. I do appreciate your well thought out and balanced post. Thank you, Christal.

  2. Mary says:

    Thank you, Christal. Pastors definitely need to do marital counseling a whole lot differently from even a generation ago.
    Your points about love and intimacy are especially important. As Christians, how about two serving together as a beautiful privilege?
    What about our singles who are called and willingly give their whole lives to Christ? Angie once gave me a list of all of the singles in the Scriptures and it was eye-opening!
    I really appreciated your summary of this very important topic.

    • mm Katy Drage Lines says:

      Amen, Mary (and Christal). The American church has so “focused on the family” that we’ve relegated those who are not married to a sub-class. Unfortunate and unChristlike.

  3. Stu Cocanougher says:

    Christal, there certainly have been some unbiblical views of sex in marriage (only for procreation, the woman is the property of the man and must do whatever he says, etc.). We can see that these contemporary views were based more on the popular opinions of the day and not on sound hermeneutics. Could it be that the looseness of Thatchers view of sexuality is a similar reflection…theology where scripture is interpreted to meet the expectations of the culture?

  4. Christal,
    Thanks for this post…..musically a ‘blast from the past’, but so much more than that theologically.

    All of this was great, but your ‘Challenge with #2’ was particularly good. One of the most important things you highlight is how severely lacking honest discussion about sex and sexuality is in our churches. Because of this, many either assume or act as if the church has nothing relevant to say about these foundational issues, or that they ‘have to rush into what are supposed to be life-long commitments so that they can ‘scratch an itch’ if you will.
    We – the church – have better answers, but we have to be willing to engage in the discussion and be honest about it to have the opportunity to share them.

    Thanks again.

  5. mm Jennifer Dean-Hill says:

    Great post-Christal- I really appreciated the challenges you listed with marriage that are felt by many but not well addressed by Christians.
    Yes, I couldn’t agree more: “What I found even more disheartening is that once they were married they didn’t know how to build intimacy, share their desires and find meaning connection with their spouse.” In my world, I would say, “they didn’t learn how to make purple!” Years ago I discovered anyone can get married, but few truly understand or grasp the concept of how to become one without losing yourself. I call it “soulmate status”. And just when you start to have some sort of a grasp on merging two lives, life throws you a curve ball that keeps you guessing like a birth, death, a move etc… I have enjoyed studying how couples and people can have authentic connections, and have been fascinated by the science behind it. But one thing I know to be true: no couple can connect without them both having the will to work on a connection. The human will hijacks or directs the process more than any science or methodology applied. That’s why I rarely work with couples unless they are both highly motivated to connect. Not much good comes from the process. Do you know many couples who have that deep connection? If so, how do you think they got it?

  6. Lynda Gittens says:

    Well your post was true to your title. smiling

    Today, marriage is no longer a prerequisite for sex. It is culturally acceptable to have sex, give birth and then just maybe marry or maybe not.

    I glad you found this book enjoyable, I am still on the fence.

  7. mm Katy Drage Lines says:

    For much of history in many contexts, marriage was a transaction between two men: a woman’s father and her new husband (and/or his family). Marriage was for economic and relational purposes between two families, not simply a man and a woman (well, mostly the woman was viewed as the property of the transaction). There is much that’s problematic about this model, of course. But one truth in it, I believe, is the reality that a marriage is not simply between two people, but brings their families (and other social relationships) into new relationship as well. We’ve done a disservice, I believe and you stated so well, to the role of marriage when we limit it to sexual intimacy and procreation (as great as they are).

  8. Kristin Hamilton says:

    Yes, Christal! The church has many troublesome and frustrating sub-conversations about marriage and sex that leave people feeling left out, confused, or walking away. I have seen some pretty damaged marriages that could have been helped by healthy conversations about sex as they were growing up.
    While I sincerely hate you for getting that song stuck in my head, I remember the shock people expressed due to Salt-N-Pepa’s willingness to put that anthem out there, but also the appreciation many of us had for the way they elevated the topic to freedom in intimacy and not just sex. It was a scary time for so many people because we had the freedom to pursue sex, but we quickly learned that there could be a heavy price to be paid with the HIV/AIDS crisis.
    I think that is part of what Thatcher is trying to address. Not talking about sex and gender and God’s view of it all exposes us to the danger of lost intimacy and even death (ours or those we judge).

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