I have been thinking a bit lately about how taboo the topic of sex is, even within circles of close friends. A few conversations I have been a part of about sexuality, gender, politics, etc. have all [un?]intentionally avoided talking directly about sex. David Grossman, who wrote the book On Killing, introduces his book by saying that the act of sex has been dissected, deconstructed, and demystified expertly and that the same should be done toward the act of killing (hence the title; lots of books ‘on sex,’ here is one ‘on killing’).
Grossman makes a good point. There is something ultimately vulnerable and exposing in an act of violence, in a weird inverse way that sex too expects perhaps another incredibly intimate exposure and vulnerability. The problem with not talking about either of these acts is that they become sacrosanct in a way that maybe they shouldn’t be. We convince ourselves that those who have killed are mysteriously and tragically different than the rest of us. In a distantly related way, sex, when paired with married life in Christian discourse, becomes venerated and exalted, a state that all Christians are implicitly expected to attain (unless they orient themselves toward the equally mystified monastic life).
In Christian communities, we don’t seem to have been able to really discuss sex in a way that is honest, up front, and transformative. A lot of us grew up in traditions that spoke in binary terms as far as sex (if it was even discussed at all). That has left many of us in a kind of sexual ambiguity. When we look to the Bible, it doesn’t really speak to our contemporary focus on mutual attraction and the perils of passion that are now intimately tied to courtship. This has left a lot of people I have talked to asking very basic questions like, “What’s up with abstinence? Does anyone [else] actually practice it?” or “Is divorce always a bad thing?” The fact that the questions are being asked points to the fact that Christian communities are not places in which these questions are being regularly addressed. My bet is that married Christians are asking the same types of questions too, like “Is missionary really the only acceptable position?” or “We want kids, just not yet. Is that selfish?”
I sure as heck don’t have the answers. I have thought some about sexual ethics, and I suspect that my own interpretation of what is ok and what is not will be deficient until and unless I sharpen myself in conversation with other mindful Christians who are honestly seeking some satisfying theological responses to these very basic questions. The next couple of blogs I post will be dedicated to the issue of sexuality. I think that if we can open ourselves to dialogue about this kind of thing, in ways that reflect our lived experience, than we have set ourselves up for success in relationships both romantic and platonic. All of this right in time for Valentines Day… J