I've read a couple of strange articles on the web lately concerning Christian young women and chastity. One of them was by a woman lamenting that she had remained a (technical) virgin until marriage and the second was by a self-proclaimed Christian that had given up on chastity and decided that sex outside of marriage was not only ok, it was superior to chastity.
While both of these young women make ridiculous claims about both Christianity and sexuality, they also both are exposing something that I do believe is a genuine problem within the modern, western Church. That problem is a wrong, completely wrong view about human sexuality. And they both claim that they were taught this at church, which I believe. We are not excused from knowing and acting on the truth just because we were taught a falsehood at church, however. We, believers, have the Bible and Holy Spirit, so if we are ignorant, we are without excuse. As an older woman and as a mother, I would like to offer some counsel to younger woman about sexuality and God's design for it.
First, what is this wrong belief that is held by so many within churchianity? It is simply that sex is bad. Sex is icky. Sex is a necessary evil. Only bad girls want to have sex. Only men enjoy sex. Along with that goes the equally wrong belief that sexual desire is evidence of sin. It is time for Christians to acknowledge the obvious; all people are sexual beings. Sexuality is one of the characteristics that belongs to all people, particularly from the onset of puberty.
Why is it dangerous to ignore, or worse to deny, the sexuality of all humans? It causes us to do stupid things. It causes us to make bad decisions. It harms people. It destroys marriages. Pretty serious accusations, but I think I can defend them.
How does denying the sexuality of young men and women cause us to do stupid things? Primarily it causes us to push young women and men together while expecting them to behave as non-sexual beings. This is stupid. A better practice would be to embrace the sexuality of young people, to encourage them in it and to train them in how to use it properly while keeping men and women mostly separate. This is how most societies have dealt with sexuality throughout history and it has worked rather well. Men don't have women for friends. Men and women don't work together in offices or go on business trips together. They don't hang out together on the couches in the youth group meeting.
What we need to realize is that God actually designed women to respond in a sexual way to men. There are all sorts of hormones involved and possibly pheromones (although this has not yet been proven). There are certain frequencies of sound, certain smells, etc. that actually cause sexual arousal on varying levels in women. The same is true for men, of course, but I'm not talking about that here. The purpose is rather obvious, when a woman is given to a man to be his wife one of the first things that they are going to do is exercise their sexuality to the maximum by becoming one flesh. In order for that be pleasurable, as designed, both bodies must prepare physically for the act. These preparations are not limited to the time they spend in bed. Which is why it is stupid for men and women to be interacting closely outside of a marriage relationship. We don't WANT Susie getting all hot and bothered by Roger's arm brushing up against hers on the youth group couch. Susie may not want it and Roger may not want it, either. But we can't make it NOT happen. So the best thing to do is keep them apart.
As an American, I have always been curious about other cultures. Those people over on the other side of the world are so foreign to me, that it is sometimes impossible for me to reach any sort of understanding about what they are doing. I have made it a life-long practice to judge them for their primitive ways when the truth is, I have absolutely no context for analyzing what I was seeing. For example, I have seen photos or videos of groups of girls in other countries. I know they are not in America because of the dress of the girls. In some countries, those gals are really made up. They have jewelry or painted hair and brightly colored printed dresses, scarves or wraps of some sort. Sometimes they have their heads covered or even have veils on their faces. But what I notice is that they are not mixed with boys, and when boys pass by, or they are talking about a group of boys, the girls will giggle or laugh and blush and lift a veil across the lower face. These young women are very, very aware of their sexuality. And they seem to know that those boys in that group over there are going to become their future lovers and husbands. They are clearly excited about it, they seem to look forward to it without fear. But one thing is certain, they are kept absolutely apart from those young men until the time is right for all that sexuality to manifest itself.
In the past, I would have used my own experiences and attributed my own sort of feelings to those girls. I would have thought that they were like the group of wall flowers at a junior high dance, waiting and hoping that a boy would come ask them to dance. But the stakes for these girls is much higher than a dance. They are waiting for husbands. And they are not waiting in the sense of "I sure hope one of them picks me." They are waiting for the right time when the husband who has already been picked will be permitted to come get her. They wait with anticipation and with joy. Not with dread or fear.
How is this different from and really superior to the way we do it here? The typical church-raised girl in America will be doing very different things in her post-pubescent years. At the time when her sexuality is rising to its peak she will be thrown into mixed groups of other pubescent folk. She will be told to guard her own chastity and to suppress her sexuality. She will be told to "just be friends" with boys, the same as with girls. She will be forced to compete with her girl friends for the attentions of boys, because woe is the one who gets left behind in the marriage race. No one is making sure that she gets picked. No one is guarding her chastity for her. She will be permitted, like Jacob's daughter, Dinah, to go down to town to look around. She may or may not be warned that men will want to seduce her, but what good is a warning against the charms of a man? We are so incredibly stupid.
We will expect an American Christian young woman to carry on like this for a decade or more. From perhaps the age of 12 to the age of 20, 25 or even 30. We will expect her to date and spend time alone, in the dark, with men. But we don't want her to rush into marriage. Not when there are so many other important things she should be doing for Christ. Like getting her college education. Like getting settled in a career. Like setting up her own home. Like getting her first cat. Then when her best child-bearing years are behind her and she is losing the bloom of youth, we may permit her to entertain the idea of marriage, if there is a young man perfect enough for her.
Let's say, for the sake of argument, that at the age of 28 she does find Mr. Perfect and he agrees to make her Mrs. Perfect. What does she have to look forward to now? Her sexuality is finally going to be let out of the bottle, but she has spent years and years beating it down. When it attempted to rise up, perhaps she gave in to fantasies or self-pleasuring, and then felt so much guilt for her in ability to contain. She shouldn't be having sexual desire outside of marriage! And she has learned to associate sexual desire with bad feelings, with guilty feelings. She is like Pavlov's dog. She thought an impure thought and WHAM! guilt. Now what happens when her husband approaches her? She recoils. It makes her feel dirty to accept, it makes her feel dirty to say, "That feels good.", so she doesn't. She let's him do what he needs to do, but she can't bring herself to enjoy it properly or to encourage him, so he feels rejected. Their marriage is not off to a good start.
Dear sisters, let us not so mistreat our own daughters. Let us not teach them to despise God's gifts. Let us not teach them to suppress their desires. Instead, let's encourage our husbands to find husbands for our daughters as soon as is practical. Don't make her wait until she has done X or Y or even Z. Don't reject suitors for being too immature. How mature was your husband at 19 or 20?
If they cannot contain, let them marry. So says Paul, and so say I.
And to any of you who do not enjoy the marriage bed to the fullest, contact me. I may be able to explain what you are doing wrong. Because you are definitely doing it wrong if it isn't fun.
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