Monday, November 21, 2011

The Birds and the Bees (Part Two)

[If you haven't read Part One of this post, I can guarantee you will be more than a little lost if you attempt to start with this one! So, take a few minutes and read the last post. It will make much more sense that me!

Oh yeah...and that last post was the cheeky one. This one is the sappy one :) ]

2. Sin not only twists our fears and vulnerabilities into a desire to control, but also seeks to pervert our pure, God-given desire as women to be beautiful.

Song of Solomon 4:6-7 reveals some powerful truths about the nature of both men and women...

"The sweet, fragrant curves of your body,
   the soft, spiced contours of your flesh
Invite me, and I come. I stay
   until dawn breathes its light and night slips away.
You're beautiful from head to toe, my dear love,
   beautiful beyond compare, absolutely flawless."

Here, a husband is speaking to his wife. He expresses just how much he loves seeing and experiencing his lover's body. Beauty is essential to him--a comfort and an unspeakable blessing. And how incredible of God to design women in such a way that they genuinely and purely enjoy BEING beautiful. The hopeless romantic in me lets out a sigh just reading that verse. I want my husband to read that verse to me someday...because I long for that verse to be about me...

Yet, it aches to be that vulnerable. It seems childish to just want to be thought of as beautiful (singing like a Disney princess awaiting her prince). Because such heart vulnerability can be so easily crushed, young women turn to society for answers as to how they can (or how they should according to the world) express this desire. Replace "beautiful" with "hot," and "true love" with "attention" or "hooking up." It's as simple as that...

The tragic fact is, because of the overwhelming prevalence of porn in our society, women today feel as though their pure beauty simply isn't enough. Having literally seen it all (from the likes of surgically-enhanced/airbrushed/eating disordered models/actresses/porn stars), it seems it takes more and more to make a man aroused. Back in the day, a woman revealing her neck or bare ankles were thought to be "too much" outside of closed doors. But now, with skin everywhere, how can we compete?

I once heard a preacher offer an extremely wise statement about the nature of male and female lust. Although some might dismiss it as a male/female stereotype or see it as perhaps "too extreme" to be true, the more I think about it, the more I realize just how much insight lies behind it. The preacher said: "The big temptation for men is to want to look at porn. The big temptation for women is to want to BE porn."

Wow! While even the speaker himself admitted this was a generalization (women can/do struggle with looking at porn as well), as a woman, I have to be honest with myself to admit that I DO struggle with that temptation (to be, not just view). That temptation to be is there even for women who have never looked at porn, because we know that GUYS have. All of us have seen glimpses of this type of seduction, from semi-covered magazines on newsstands to risque scenes in R-rated movies--enough to give us a little clue as to what we're "competing" with. When we know that men are drawn to women who look/act a certain way, we suddenly want to be THAT. Thus, we expose the sexual parts of our bodies to random strangers (any tight jeans or short skirts in your closet?) because we want to be noticed. We push sexual boundaries with men who are not our husbands, not just because of our own hormones, but because we long to be desired. The temptation to "be porn" is simply the twisted, sinful manifestation of a deep desire to be beautiful.

And of course, our Creator (never doing anything "by accident") designed that desire to serve a very important purpose. Women get aroused knowing that men are aroused by them in order that they would feel free to show and give their bodies to one man (their husband!), that he (and he alone) would be aroused by and enjoy them fully. To paraphrase from Mark Driscoll's sermon series on the Song of Solomon, the ideal sex life in a marriage is that the wife would be visually generous to show her husband her beauty and body (often), and in turn, the husband would be verbally generous towards his wife to tell her how beautiful she is and how aroused he is by her (often). Marriage, by God's design, is THE place for sexual desires, visual cravings and verbal longings to be satisfied. This union is meant to guard both spouses and keep them away from sexual sin, because all three of those deep desires were designed to be fulfilled in a pure and pleasing way by the other spouse.

Yet, we live in a broken world. Our sin keeps us far from this ideal. Marrieds screw it up by withholding from each other, engaging in fantasy about someone else, or even having an affair. And singles screw it up by impatiently looking at porn, fantasizing, masturbating, pushing sexual boundaries with significant others, or just plain having sex. (Even those who ARE waiting, it seems, don't actually want to the truest sense of the word).

And if we are are bold enough to be honest with ourselves, none of the above is actually worth it. Sure, there is pleasure for a time (why else would we do it?), yet all of those things...lust, attention-getting, affairs...are so unbelievably empty. Whether it is in the immediate wake of our sin, or in the delayed contemplation of our actions, we can't deny the raw truth that digs deep in our spirit-- these things are only a shadow of the real thing. There IS more! We are meant for more...

They say that Satan's biggest strategy when it comes to lust is to get single people to have sex before they are married...and those same people to stop having sex once they get married. How messed up is that??? This is society's stereotype (singles are getting it on all over the place, and marrieds sure as heck aren't making the best use of their king size beds)--one we know, unfortunately, is often true. Satan seeks to attack our sexuality because he knows just how powerful it is when sex is actually engaged in as it was designed to be--within the marriage bed, between one woman and one often as possible! ;)

Sex is meant to show us God's incredible goodness and love towards us. He wants us to experience wonderful pleasure and intimacy with our spouse! I've said it before, but it bears repeating: In marriage, sex actually brings GLORY to God! How amazing! Now do you see the POWER in sex as it's meant to be?

So, class, your homework for the day is this: Take a long, hard look at your habits (whether you're married or single) and ask yourself whether or not your selfishness is really worth the price you're paying for it.

The truth is, you can choose to leave behind the excuses, sin and counterfeit intimacy. You can choose to embrace the best that God has for you. Because that ideal for amazing/pure sex isn't just a fairy tale--it's God's desire for us to experience on this earth.

If we choose it, that is...

Will you?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Birds and the Bees (The Revised Female Version)

Women want sex.

People laugh at such a statement for one of two reasons, either because they know it's true ("Duh...") or because they actually do find it laughable ("Really?"). In a multi-generational setting of women, the ones who find this statement all too obvious tend to fall in the younger half of the room. Unfortunately, the ones doling out the sex advice (the birds and the bees spiel) tend to come from the other half. Hmmmm. How problematic for a generation that was taught to be sexually reserved (having been fed the "Just lie on your back and wait 'til it's over" advice) to be educating a new generation raised in a porn-saturated, highly-sexualized society. That old sex ed just doesn't cut it anymore.

And besides, most of it was lies anyway...

Based on the stories of many friends (not to mention the stereotypicial societal tradition), I think it's safe to say that the majority of "talks" given to young girls have traditionally (and mistakenly) begun with a discussion of male hormones. Phrases like "Guys just have a one-track mind" and "Don't let him pressure you!" imply that the guy is the only one with the desire. A girl's desire is rarely (if ever) mentioned, as it seems to pale in light of THE most "vital" piece of sex education for females (i.e. How to resist his advances and keep yourself from getting knocked up).

But if I, as a rather candid (yet conservative) Christian woman, had the chance to educate young girls en masse about the topic of sex and sexuality, I can guarantee you that my "talk" would begin with a completely opposite premise: "Girls want sex just as much as boys. Sometimes more..."

This is not merely personal experience, mind you (although it was my idea to write this post, so you can deduce my opinion...). I cannot even tell you how many stories I've heard from teenage and twentysomething Christian females embarassingly confessing that they, in fact, are the ones sexually pressuring their boyfriends/fiances, NOT the other way around. (I would like to pause here to point out something rather interesting. It's no secret that in this day and age, men are constantly being bashed for not "stepping up and taking the initiative." Yet, given the information I just offered, I would just like to give praise to all the young Christian men who have the balls to put on the brakes in the backseat (especially when the girl is asking for more). It seems crazy because it rarely gets mentioned that guys have often been the protectors of purity and the preventors of pregnancy. Let's hear it for those boys...).

I was recently talking to a friend about this whole phenomenon of women pushing guys for sex and I pointed out how no one ever talks about the girls being the ones who need to keep it in their pants. I guess it's embarrassing for good little Christian gals to admit that they are equally as sexually driven, if not more so, than their male counterparts. Instead, we just lie and stereotype the guy as the jerk doing all the pressuring (it seems easier to shift the blame to males in order to make the whole scenario a bit more predictable...maybe even more excusable). Yet I had to laugh when my friend, in that same conversation, blurted out the sudden realization of her own (pressuring) actions towards her boyfriend: "Ugh! I'M the jerk!" true! Girls can be the jerks and guys can be the ones exercising the self-control (What??? No one ever talks about this!). The truth of what goes on behind closed doors simply isn't as black and white as you thought it was. Yet, I think there are actually several factors that contribute to this interesting phenomenon of female sexual aggressiveness. Humor me for a moment as I give you a preview of one of my (forthcoming...someday) sex ed classes...

The first factor, as previously stated, can be chalked up to pure carnal desire on the part of an otherwise demure young woman (hahaha...there's definite truth to the whole "lady in the street, but a freak in the bed" line). Due to the nature of female sexuality (generally not aroused visually, needing foreplay, etc), it's easy to assume that women aren't as interested because they usually aren't physically "ready to go" as quickly as men are. Don't be fooled! The female libido is still strong and seeks to be satisfied. After all, female mammals are the only ones with an organ that has no practical function aside from sexual pleasure (yet another topic for discussion in my sex ed class). Women aren't supposed to enjoy sex? What the crap is THAT all about? Sounds like a lie straight from the pit to me...

The second contributing factor to the sexual agressiveness of women (in my humble, virginal opinion) is not just our sexual lust, but our lust for control. Don't even think dominatrix here; this is true even on a much subtler scale. I'm talking about that sense of power that a woman gets when she realizes she can use her body to make her man powerless. Take away some clothing here or touch there...and boom...he's at your mercy. That's tough to admit so bluntly, but I'm just gonna say what so many girls are afraid to: That sense of control is compelling!

But why? Allow me to offer two thoughts--both straight from Scripture, shockingly enough...

1. Genesis 3:16 offers us incredible insight into the female struggle for power, as we learn of God's punishment for the original sin of Eve:

 "...And you will desire to control your husband,
      but he will rule over you"

Makes so much sense now, doesn't it? This punishment for sin has been passed down from generation to generation, and has sprung up in some way in every female ever since. (Okay, okay...I understand there are a lot of theological implications here which I don't intend to debate right now. Yes, we are no longer under the curse because of Christ. Yet, when we rebel and submit ourselves to sin, we can't deny that our sinful tendencies lead us straight to this...).

For some, that desire to control comes through incessant nagging of their husband ("Why can't you do things THIS way (aka MY way)?"). For others (like us unmarried chicas), we relish the opportunity (albeit often unconciously) to exercize sexual power over other men in our lives. It doesn't necessarily have to be a boyfriend--simply attracting attention from guys at the mall (you know, show a bit of cleavage, turn some heads...) will do the trick. We suddenly feel our confidence surge as we regain some sense of power in a world that otherwise feels chaotic and outside the realm of our control.

Hmmm. Consider that last part of the verse: Women seek to control what they can because they know that they ultimately aren't in control. I think that women use their sexuality (looks, seduction) to manipulate because they are all to aware that men are (generally) able to overpower them physically. Thus, we feel vulnerable in the world. We can't walk down the street alone at night (at least not without a gnawing in our stomach and a constant looking over our shoulder). Even for the strongest of us women, the world can be a scary place.

Yet we don't have to have this constant fear of rape in order to feel vulnerable to men. On a far less dramatic level, our more conscious fear is to be rejected by them. And a woman's traditional method of rejection prevention? Seduction. (Women "giving sex to get love"? Sounds about right). Women will often use their sexual power to keep a guy's attention, jealously seeking to secure his affections on them alone in order to avoid abandonment. This fear of rejection leads us to selfishly seek control, as we strive to awaken lust in our "weaker brothers."

Ladies, this is our sin...

(To be continued)