Over the years, perhaps courtesy of the “purity” movement, sex has become a little bit like fight club. What’s the number one rule about fight club?
We don’t talk about fight club.
What’s the number one rule about abstinence? We don’t talk about sex.
At least that’s how it seems. Especially among the girls.
When I was a teenager, attending church and addicted to pornography, it seemed like the only ones who weren’t talking about sex were Christians. In fact, it seemed forbidden.
In church, there was cryptic code for anything sexual (which usually just got addressed as “lust”), and there were no questions. You could ask questions during premarital counseling, once you were engaged, basically a week before your wedding. Anything before that could lead to “temptation.” Good Christian kids were pulled from sex ed class and human anatomy was taught in gender-segregated classrooms, if taught at all.
And there was a verse to back all of this up, a Christianese phrase from the Song of Solomon: “Do not awaken love until it pleases.”
The entire premise was that if you started talking about sex, you would cause people to want to have sex.
We say talking about sex could awaken a young person’s sex drive, as if that’s not essentially exactly what puberty is- a sexual coming of age.
Tip: Our sex drives are primarily biological.
That goes for guys and for girls. It’s like the guys got that message, but the girls didn’t. After all, it was in church that I heard “guys think about sex every 3 seconds.” The only reason they said that was because they were teaching girls they needed to be modest. “Guys are sexual, but girls have to be ‘turned on.'” (If one more person likens all women to crock pots…)
That quote from the Bible is not talking about keeping sexual desire in check until it is the appropriate time. In fact, when that phrase is used in chapter 8 verse 4, it is immediately after this verse:
Let his left hand be under my head and his right hand embrace me.
Which several Biblical scholars believe is describing a sexual position. Even if it isn’t (which I believe it is), it’s still not a man and a woman practicing the six-inch rule.
So, clearly this verse is not saying, “Don’t talk about sex” since it just finished talking about sex. Using this phrase as some Biblical proof-text for why Christian teenagers shouldn’t know about sex is a misapplication.
Yet, that seems to be the idea the purity movement hinges on. Sex is likened to a present at Christmas time- some secret that you aren’t supposed to know about until your wedding night. We use scary terms with it like “robbing children from their innocence.” I never understood that phrase. It’s as if sex is some devastating, scary, and crushing blow to them. As if it will forever ruin their lives.
When you approach it like that, is it any wonder that we’re in the cultural sexual mess we’re in?
The answer to a culture of twisted sexuality isn’t silence or fear; it’s truth.
We have tried the silence thing. Maybe if we tell them not to do it, don’t talk about it, don’t let them watch movies with it in it, keep them out of sex ed classes, we won’t have to worry about them.
We have also tried the fear thing. The result? Look around you.
When we don’t talk about sex at all, we still communicate a message. It says, “I am not comfortable talking about this. I am ashamed of it. You need to find your information somewhere else.”
And that is exactly what people have done.
If we want to see a change in sexual culture, we have to start redeeming the sexual conversation. Right now it is so full of negativity, shame, and judgment- and that’s not how it’s supposed to be. No, it’s not enough to say, “It’s good, so just wait.” We’re constantly bombarded by sex through advertising, current events, websites, social media.
You can’t white-knuckle through this barrage, you have to know how to actively fight it.
Obviously, I’m comfortable talking about sex, even though I’m a single virgin. I understand what it is, and yes, part of that is because of pornography, but there are many ways to learn about sex that aren’t pornographic. Not to mention, pornography is a wretched teacher. I learned more in from honest discussion with married friends and fellow Christian speakers on the issue.
That comfort on stage also carries into my every day life. I talk to my friends- single or married about sex all. the. time. I have married friends text me for relationship/sex advice- not graphic but “What do I do if I’m just not into it anymore?” kind of questions. It’s not all we talk about, but we don’t shy away from it. We talk about our bodies, our cycles, our drives.
Why wouldn’t we? There’s no shame in that, and there shouldn’t be. Are we graphic or inappropriate? Of course not. Are we honest? Absolutely.
That’s the key: a healthy sexuality isn’t silent; it’s honest.
I feel like honesty has been lacking in the conversation for so long, especially involving girls. Our approach with girls is really to scare them out of sex and the effects of this are devastating. We don’t want them to know about their bodies because then they might want to have sex.
No, that’s wrong. When a woman doesn’t understand her body, that’s a problem. Silence tells her her body is bad, when the message we want to send is that her body is sacred. There is a difference. Sacred is a level of goodness. She will never understand sacredness if she doesn’t hear about goodness.
When there is shame and fear and silence, how is that communicating the goodness, awe, and wonder of God’s design and intent?
So, yes, Christians need to start talking about sex. We need to start talking with our girls about sex, because, here’s the thing:
They are already talking about it.
I spoke at a conference in Texas earlier this year and shared my story of my struggle with pornography and a 12 year old girl in the audience went to her friend’s mom and said, “I don’t understand the big deal. Every girl watches porn.” She was twelve.
If we don’t start talking about sex with our girls, we are going to lose a generation of women. I believe that with all my heart.
That’s why I advocate for open discussions on sexuality. That’s why I believe we have to start talking about sex. If you are looking for a great, relevant, modern resource to do that, check out this course by my friend Sheila Gregoire. She and her daughters have put this together to help parents talk to their daughters about puberty, sex, abstinence, modesty, etc. It even covers topics like pornography and masturbation.
This is perhaps the most up-to-date tool on the market, and while I haven’t seen it myself, I’ve shared some of Katie’s videos in my posts on this site. They have a fresh, grace-filled, good approach to sex, and that’s what we need. That’s the truth that drowns out the lies of culture and sets people free. If you are a mom or dad dreading talking to your daughter about puberty and sex, check it out. The have a preview video on that page and it’s hilarious. (Use this code to get 25% off the price: harris).
I get that as a parent you might not be comfortable talking to your daughter about sex. You were raised in a culture of silence. But silence doesn’t fix this.