Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Let's Talk About Sex, Baby!

Religions have been built around it.
Societies have been founded on its expression.

Human sexuality has been adored, hidden, shamed, placed on a pedestal, worshipped, hated, exploited, depersonalized, despiritualized, over-spiritualized, glamourized, over-analyzed, ignored ... and the list goes on and on. Sexuality (though not necessarily gender) seems to be a part of our nature from the beginning stages in the womb; we are hard-wired to feel sexual pleasure and to experience sexual drives. An argument could be made that even asexuality is an expression of sexuality. Regardless, it seems reasonable to start with the premise that, if you are human, you are a sexual being.

I could get into all kinds of theories, philosophies, arguments and speculations as to whether our sexuality is a part of how we are made in the image of God. Our ability to participate in the creation of "one flesh" from two (both in the sex act itself and in conception) is a unique invitation to participate in the divine with God. He even seems to command us to be sexual creatures in Genesis - as if He knew that this would be good for us and for the earth. At the same time, however, the whole story of Adam and Eve seems to be more about family than sex; it was not good for adam (the human creation) to be alone, so God separated the adam into ish (male) and ishah (female) so that adam was no longer self but community. We are created to be in relationship. It's not about sex or marriage or the mysterious one flesh so much as it is about the fact that if we are not touched as infants we literally die. Our idenity is formed in relationship and it is not good for us to be alone.

But I don't want to talk about whether sex is a necessary part of being human or being a reflection of God. I don't care if Genesis is about one or the other or both or neither. Sometimes I think we want to ask the big theological questions either in an attempt to justify what we want to be true, what we want to do, or simply because in our hearts we are desperately asking the question, "Am I alright?"

I want to address sex, instead, as a very real part of being human, partially to answer the cry of our hearts, and partially for practical purposes...

Because sex seems to be this crazy physiological, spiritual, and emotional thing that is meant to draw us to God and to relationship - because if we do not have relationship, we will die (or worse yet, we might live but live in isolation from God and others, which, in case you haven't made the connection, is hell). Sexuality is a good thing meant for our good. Unfortunately, it can also be the source of a great deal of shame, trauma, pain and destruction. Understanding and stewarding our sexuality seems vitally important and pertinent, then, to caring for our bodies, our spirituality, our relationships, our society, and our world.

Most people do not know that sex apart from relational bonding - mental, emotional, spiritual intimacy - literally destroys our brain tissue. That's right: self-stim and casual sex floods the brain with dopamine which, by itself, is acidic and eats holes in the frontal cortex (the place where personality and impulse-control reside) damaging a person's judgment, ability to connect with others and eventually resulting in personality change over time. It also creates a dopamine "crash" after which it takes the brain chemistry ten days to establish "normal" again.

Sex is not necessarily meant for our selfish, personal gratification; it is not meant for the harm or exploitation of others; and it is not meant to be expressed as we see fit, the way we want it, when we want it, how we want it. We are not entitled to sex or particular forms of sexual expression. Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. And frankly, simply because we are born as sexual beings does not mean that we have any sexual rights or permissions from God.

People need to hear that we are sexual beings. Denying or ignoring it isn't very productive or helpful. Demanding or abandoning ourselves to it isn't good, either. We need to integrate and steward it as a part of being human, as a part of being called of God, as a part of being mature and loving and healthy and alive. I believe that there has to be a healthy way to embrace this aspect of our personhood. And in the hopes of striving for that good thing, let's talk about...

~ The physiology of sex, purity, addiction, and recovery
~ The healing nature of God and relationship
~ The seasons of sexuality and sexual stewardship

Let's talk about sex, baby!