The church needs to do a better job of talking about sex, and it knows it.

The evangelical church (in general–every time I paint the church in broad strokes like this I get people who share church experiences that look nothing like the picture I’ve just created, and that’s awesome! I love hearing about your positive church experiences!) needs to do a better job of talking about sex.

I think we all know that. I think even most churches know that. In fact, a lot of churches will admit it up front.

I went to a church once where the preacher even began his sermon by saying, “The church needs to do a better job of talking about sex.”

Of course, his version of “doing a better job of talking about sex” involved playing an artsy video that included a Salt N Pepa soundtrack (“Let’s talk about sex, baby!”), and then proceeding to say (I took notes, so this is word-for-word):

Sex is the best gift you can give your spouse, so don’t let anyone else unwrap it before marriage.

I believe many evangelical churches take a similar approach. “We need to do a better job of talking about sex” usually means “we need to dress up the same  discussions we’ve been having so that they seem more modern and cool and appeal more to young people.” But here’s a news flash, churches:

Young people aren’t stupid.

We know these types of churches aren’t doing a “better” job of talking about sex. They’re doing the same job, but with cooler music or flashing lights, or some newlywed preacher with a fauxhawk who mentions every five minutes how hot his wife is and how great his sex life is because he waited.

That’s not what this young person wants, and I think I speak for many others. So, here’s a few ways in which the church can really do a better job of talking about sex:

*Stop acting like people are ruined when they lose their virginity

*Stop blaming women’s “immodesty” for men’s lack of control

*Stop saying, “The Bible is clear about premarital sex.” It’s not.

*Stop saying, “The Bible is clear about homosexuality.” It’s not.

*Stop telling us that men are visual and women are not. Seriously.

*Stop talking about lust and porn as if they are men’s issues only.

*Realize that marriage is not a reasonable option for some couples. Many cannot afford to get married in this economy. Others are not allowed to get married. It’s not as simple as, “Well, just get married and you don’t have to worry about it.”

*If you want people to view pregnancy as a gift, stop talking about single mothers like they’re being punished by God.

*Don’t pretend that marriage is like pressing a magical, “All sex for the rest of your life will be great!” button.


*Quit opposing sex education in schools.

*Quit pretending that abstinence-only programs are sex education.

*LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN to young people.

These are a few of my suggestions. Anyone have any to add?


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  • alisewrite

    “*Stop talking about lust and porn as if they are men’s issues only.”

    OMG, YES!!!!

    I’m so sick of the unending stereotypes perpetuated in church about sex. When you act like women don’t REALLY want sex, you end up with women who don’t really want sex because they think they’re not supposed to, or women who really do, but feel EXTRA shame because they must not be all that feminine if they want to get all down and dirty.

    Wrote about this some in my “let’s get real(ish)” post. If we’re going to get real about sex, we can’t just say the same old, same old.

    Great post.

  • This whole post is great, but I want to give a special amen to a few in particular:

    1. “Realize that marriage is not a reasonable option for some couples.”

    Especially if you’re queer like me!

    2. “Stop saying, “The Bible is clear about homosexuality.” It’s not.”

    Once again, being a bi guy, amen! Ethiopian eunuch, anyone? According to Old Testament law, his lack of . . . certain parts . . . would make him unclean for temple worship. Well, after Philip baptized him, nothing grew back on the eunuch, did it? So I don’t buy the whole, “Jesus welcomes gay people once they repent.” Can’t really make yourself straight, can you?

    3. “Stop talking about lust and porn as if they are men’s issues only.”

    Anne Jackson has written about her addiction to pornography.

  • KatR

    I would change the “stop acting like people are ruined when they lose their virginity” to “women”. There are no “purity balls” (that I’ve ever heard of) for teenage boys. All of the lovely stories taught in youth groups about apples and lollipops and necklaces are mostly geared toward girls.

    • Yeah, you never hear about boys pledging their virginity to their moms. Which is just as creepy as girls pledging their virginity to their dads!

  • Oh great, now I have salt’n peppa stuck in my head…

    Please get realistic about marriage. Stop equating it with sex for example. Every marriage will have times without sex, when one of the partners is sick, or too stressed or just had a baby, or whatever. That’s natural too.

    Singleness is an option too. It should not be pushed upon people like the catholics do with whomever wants to be a priest (and is lucky to have XY chromosomes) but it can be the calling of some people (Jesus and Paul, anyone) and should not be looked down upon… Or it can be a healthy phase in someones life to remain single, without having to be pushed to find a partner all the time. Like Shane Claiborne’s (celibate) mentor said ‘you can live without sex but not without love’.

    Maybe I should add the existence of asexuality as a sexual orientation (hey Aydan!) and intersex/trangendered people. Pleaase just let them be who they are, and let us love them!

    and oh, I’ve never been that interested in porn and I’m man. I might be visually interested, but nearness and toch do much more for me…Much porn is just repulsive and I don’t even see how it could exite anyone. I guess I’m lucky or just an alien if I hear all that ‘every young man’s battle’ stuff…

  • Abe

    We’ve already had this conversation, but I’ll throw this out for anyone else who might have some insight. My thought was that this is mostly a list of things the Church should stop doing. What are some ways the Church could begin to talk about sex more positively? I certainly see that we need to start listening to each others’ specific needs and questions regarding it, but how does the conversation begin for us to talk about sexuality positively as a community?

    • I think that the conversation should be more holistic and honestly, from my own experience, the people I’ve seen do this well are feminist :o) How about we start with sexuality. What is it? What shapes it? It is very complex. And a conversation like this can not be had without discussing the media and how it shapes one understanding of what it means to be a sexual human being, and what people are learning is not always good. Traditional views of masculinity and femininity must be discussed and the stereotypes, sexist crap, and bullshit has got to go. It is a conversation that has to be open minded, inclusive, and where people’s differences are respected. It will be messy and uncomfortable for everyone. The reason why Christians don’t have conversations about sex that includes these elements is because people will have to admit that they were/are wrong and honestly, it would be a worldview shattering moment and that is terrifying to some people. There will be a lot of wigs being flipped and that requires patience from the people who want to have a legit and honest conversation. I find it odd that some Christians don’t realize that people have sex because they want to (and I understand how complex a decision like this is for some and the circumstances aren’t always positive or safe). But I have friends who have had sex outside of marriage and they are so guilty about it and won’t simply just say, “I wanted to have sex and I did”. I think many Christians (single and in relationships), just want this part of their human selves to be acknowledged and not dismissed.

  • kisekileia

    I’d go further. I’d add “Base sexual ethics on the presence or absence of free and informed consent,” “Masturbation and porn use aren’t sins,” and “Get rid of the ‘no sex outside of marriage’ thing.”

  • MaryKaye

    A positive value the church could teach is truthful and honest communication between sexual partners or potential sexual partners. Actually I’d start with truthfulness and honesty with yourself. If you don’t know what you want, you are in a bad way entering into any kind of sexual activity–or abstinence from sexual activity.

    How many relationships have we all seen ruined by lying? And yet how much time does the church spend teaching people how to make honesty work? (Hint: it’s not just saying “it’s a sin to lie”–you have to have a relationship structure where honesty *works*. If you don’t have that structure honesty is too dangerous and people naturally lie.)

    I count myself very lucky to have a relationship in which it’s possible to say “That other person turns me on,” “I don’t want sex right now, I’m too upset,” “I want more sex than I’m getting, can we negotiate?” etc. I think this has a lot to do with why we’ve been married for 21 years. If the church is serious about wanting marriages to work they need to teach these skills, but too often they teach the reverse. If women “aren’t supposed to” want sex how can they honestly communicate when they do?

  • I agree – the church tends to take a far too simplistic view. We (all of us) need education based on, dare I say it, more worldly wisdom (not forgetting God’s grace and wisdom) – not these perpetual dogmas, assumptions and misinterpretations.

  • This is excellent. I am familiar with the Christian dating scene having grown up in it and how f-d up it can be. The church seems bent on giving us these pat answers that don’t do anything to effect real life. And when you try to point out reality they say stuff like “well its just the truth, thats what the Word says and we need to live by it” – sure there are good churches out there but most people who have think church is doing a good job of sex education are either brain washed (highly suseptible to falling into the sins they think they never would do, pride comes before a fall) or they have a very good but limited view of what the church in America is really like.

  • Fortuna Veritas

    …Being sane and good would defeat the entire point of trying to control young people and women.

    😛 I don’t think you understand *why* Evangelical Churches talk about sex. In order to do any good you’d have to introduce a fundamental paradigm shift and somehow get rid of the culture of fear that motivates and rules over the Evangelical movement.

  • Lauren

    I would add–just because you’re a pastor and you have a *great* sex life does not mean you’re a sex therapist who can write a manual about what “biblical” marriage and “biblical” sex is supposed to look like!

  • Rebecca Trotter

    If i can add an entirely different angle, I recently wrote a blog post talking about inviting God into our sexual lives. Not as in letting him tell us what to do with whom, but to actually bring that part of ourselves to him in order to share and struggle with the way we do our other emotions, desires, needs and passions. I starting thinking about this after reading a quote from an Eastern Orthodox monk talking about how unhealthy it would be for a celibate to repress their sexual passions or ask God to take them away. Instead, they sought to bring their sexual desires to God with an attitude of “you gave this to me and I wish to share it with you.” Over time their physical passions would become tools for growing oneness with God. Obviously, few of us are monks or nuns living in isolation on a peninsula off of Greece. But it occurred to me that this could be related to Paul’s instruction that husbands and wives not deprive each other except for an agreed upon time of prayer. It also made me wonder if perhaps this idea of bringing our sexual selves to share with God could help us overcome the sense of shame and uncleanness that many of us carry deep down about our sexuality. And further, if we do this during times when we are not in sexual relationships, won’t that make us far wiser about when and with whom we would be sexual with? Strange ideas, I know. But honestly neither the church’s or the world’s ideas about sex have turned out so well. Perhaps it’s time to really bring sex into our relationship with God and see what happens.

    • That’s perfect, Rebecca. And when we expand that out, we start seeing the holiness of the Temples that are our bodies. We respect each others boundaries – personal, physical, emotional, and otherwise. And we start to experience sex as a sharing in a creative process with the Creator (um … like the old words “making love”), rather than as a possession (having sex), or a right/obligation (a mere benefit). God created our bodies as His dream house with the full intent of moving in … when and if we let Him.

      Let’s see what happens. Indeed!

  • Lucient

    Lucient says:
    July 18, 2012 at 11:49 am
    “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
    “Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. Now to the unmarried[a] and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. 9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
    That is for:
    *Stop saying, “The Bible is clear about premarital sex.” It’s not.
    “‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.” “‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable.”
    That is for:
    *Stop saying, “The Bible is clear about homosexuality.” It’s not.
    “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”
    That is for:
    *Stop saying, “The Bible is clear about premarital sex.” It’s not.
    *Stop saying, “The Bible is clear about homosexuality.” It’s not.
    As for:
    *Realize that marriage is not a reasonable option for some couples. Many cannot afford to get married in this economy.
    Believe me, that didn’t stop me from getting married but I did research “common law” marriage and it was nothing like it is (or was) now. There was no “payment” or “seven years of living together” you simply (when someone’s word meant something over having to now have everything in writing) said “This is my wife.” “This is my husband.” and you were married. It’s interesting what the US government recognizes as an “official” marriage.
    Others are not allowed to get married. It’s not as simple as, “Well, just get married and you don’t have to worry about it.”
    Depends on who are trying to get married and why… Those that follow Jesus need to love one another that “by this all men will KNOW you are my disciples…”