Evangelicals are not as anti-sex as outsiders think. There is a lot of pro-sex messaging that one can find in evangelical communities. But the ways that evangelicals praise idealize sex are often as problematic as the ways they infamously demonize it. Libby Anne has a superb post which resonates deeply with my experience having grown up evangelical:
I was given the impression that when I got married sex would automatically be AWESOME. Without, you know, even talking about things like sexual preferences beforehand. I was woefully uneducated about sex (largely because, you know, all that mattered as a single was abstinence, so that’s all I needed to know about). I totally didn’t get why people said you should have sex before marriage to make sure you’re sexually compatible because, well, I thought sex was just…sex. I didn’t realize there were different preferences or different types of sex. I didn’t know there were different sex positions. I didn’t even know it was something that took practice! This does not make for a healthy sex life!
She also explains:
When I was growing up, so much emphasis was placed on the idea that being a virgin on your wedding night will ensure that you have a perfect marriage that, well, that’sbasically the only thing I was taught about how to have a good relationship. (Well, that and “practice wifely submission.”) For people who claim to be appalled with modern culture’s “obsession with sex,” evangelicals and fundamentalists do a very good job of reducing everything to sex on their own. How do you have a good dating or courting relationship? Don’t have sex. (Also, have the guy ask the girl’s father’s permission to date her.) How do you have a good marriage relationship? Have regular sex. (Also, the wife should submit to her husband’s leadership.)
I never heard the terms “healthy relationship” or “unhealthy relationship.” I was not taught anything about the importance of communication. Or cooperation. Or compromise. The emphasis when looking at a guy-girl relationship is not “is this a healthy relationship” or “are they practicing good communication skills.” No. It’s “are they having sex? no? are they french kissing? because that’s dangerous territory to enter.” It’s all about staying pure, and if you do that, you’re set. It’s easy to become so fixated on purity, on whether or not you’re having sex, that things like how to have a healthy relationship takes second place or becomes pushed under the carpet entirely!
And her takeaway:
The alternative is to teach young people to find their value not in whether or not they’ve had sex but rather in themselves and their own beliefs, values, and dreams, and to value others in the same way. The alternative is to see sex as a normal part of life and to educate young people about it, and how to make sexual choices responsibly and ethically. That is the alternative.
There’s more. Read it.
In response to another great Libby Anne post, a year ago I talked a bit about the ways evangelical messaging warped my own views of sex, love, and relationships as a Christian teenager and young adult. I also addressed my former evangelical views on love and sex in my post on how they related to my views about sexual equality when I was a Christian.