A proper understanding of sexuality is important. Since my last post critiqued the way that women are embracing 50 Shades of Grey, I thought it would be good to repost some articles I wrote three summers ago when the movie Friends with Benefits was released. Some of the material comes from Chapter 4 of my book, Housewife Theologian.
Real friends with honorable benefits?
We have settled. For so many of us, when we think of our sexuality we think of our ability to pull off bathing suit season one more year. And this is the bane of our existence. To be sexy is to emulate a cover model. Being sexually desirable is equivalent to tempting many men to fantasize about you. And here is the conundrum for the Christian woman, because this sexiness is not compatible with mature Christian behavior. We all know that it is wrong thinking, and that there must be a deeper explanation, but we keep settling for the world’s “genitally oriented view” (a term coined by Debra Evans in her book, The Christian Woman’s Guide to Sexuality ) of sexuality. Regrettably, we find ourselves rejecting our sexuality all together, or crossing the line as responsible Christians.
Sexuality is a very complex issue. It is also a theological one. I think one of our biggest blind spots in the Christian community is to reduce our sexuality to a private act in the bedroom of marriage. Sure, this is the fullest expression and consummation of our gift in this age, but there is more to our sexuality than sex. And by capitulating to this narrow, genitally oriented view that our culture markets, we are missing great opportunities to express ourselves as men and women created in the image of God.
We tell our sons and daughters that their sexuality is a gift that cannot be opened until marriage. And by all means, I am teaching my children purity. But I am afraid that we are not properly communicating the contents and eternal value of that gift. Some expressions of our sexuality are actually public. And that is good. To my neighbor, my sexuality says that I am glad to be a woman; to my husband my sexuality says I am glad to be your woman.
Our sexuality is part of how we communicate to the world. It is a body language that speaks an awareness of the gift and power of our gender. I want to properly communicate this endowment that God has given me as a woman. Like every other gift it demands maturity and responsibility. I am certainly going to communicate my sexuality differently to my husband than I do to my neighbor.
To my neighbor, I convey through my sexuality that I love being a woman. I give praise to God by showing my joy and pleasure in expressing my femininity. My sexuality is not merely for catching a man. Sure, in the creation account we learn that woman was created for man. This gives us a distinctly relational purpose in our vocation. But both the single and the married woman already have dignity and purpose in being created in God’s image, to glorify him and love him forever. Our vocational calling is to love and serve our neighbor in response. We are told that Eve was created as a helper, corresponding to Adam (Gen. 2:18). God created woman distinctly different from man, not only in appearance, but in her capabilities as well. In saying this, I am not appealing to a bunch of traditional stereotypes. I am recognizing that we need to take notice of how God has uniquely gifted and equipped us as women. When God declared that it was not good for man to be alone, it should have been apparent that He made woman to complement man, not as an exact clone of him.
Real Friends with Honorable Benefits
Paul explains to us that marriage mysteriously reflects Christ’s covenantal relationship with his bride, the church (Eph. 5:22-33). It is a great blessing to have a husband who models Christ in his vocation by sacrificing all of himself for the spiritual welfare of his bride. This initiating sacrifice warrants a submissive response from his wife. In the act of creation, we see Adam immediately having to sacrifice from his own body for the creation of Eve. In her book Girls Gone Wise, Mary Kassian explains how he poetically praises and names her Isha in relation to himself. Ish, Hebrew for Adam, means strength. By adding the feminine touch “a”, the meaning changes to soft. As these words come from the same Hebrew root, we can see how the words “man” and “woman” interplay. “He is ‘strong’ directed by inner softness. She is ‘soft’ directed by inner strength (63). And then God can say that his creation is very good.
Women are complementary to men—helping, enhancing, the perfect companion. Even in singlehood, this is part of our sexuality. Women are to be honored and protected. Are our daughters being educated to recognize and respond to male sacrifice and biblical leadership in an appropriate way? Are they taught expression of their femininity to the world in love and service to their neighbor? Do they know what qualities to look for in a man to whom they will give themselves over submissively in marriage to serve together? Even when we are blessed to be united to a godly man in marriage, and therefore completely share our sexuality, our full dependence is on Christ. That is what our men should be pointing us to. My strength is in the knowledge of my Creator and my Savior, in my gratitude for His love, and my trust in His plan. He is my strength.
Maybe, if we celebrate our femininity, receiving what God has distinctly given us and expressing it appropriately, we can teach and model real friends with honorable benefits. I’m not saying that this will curb and solve all improper sexual temptation, but it will show the world that our sexuality is a gift that is shared from day one of our birth. It is not a taboo that can’t be opened until our wedding day, but a gift that we will take into eternity. The act of sex, or even being sexually desirable, is not the only expression of sexuality. If we define it so obtusely, a virgin on her wedding day could be very disappointed (don’t believe me? Read this). A woman who better understands the beautiful dimensions and proper boundaries of her sexuality will celebrate its expression in marriage as a pleasurable communion in covenantal love.
Maybe then our girls won’t feel the need to physically over-share as an expression of their sexuality in their other relationships. Maybe then they will not need to feel physically desired by every man to feel like a woman. Our culture might pretend like our societal roles are androgynous, and that our sexual aim should be selfish pleasure. But the Christian knows pleasure in sharing our femininity within its proper boundaries to glorify God. Our sexuality is a priceless gift that’s worth protecting. But I pray that we can more deeply explore it’s saliency within proper boundaries before and after marriage before the unbelieving world.
So what do you think? What ways can we express our sexuality as men and women in our culture today in love and service to our neighbor? As girls are transitioning into women, what may be proper ways to embrace this rite of passage without over-sexualizing themselves?
Next article: What are we achieving in our sexuality? What eternal value does our sexuality have?