Sex. Everyone wants to talk about it, yet no one speaks up. At least not without a wink or two and a few elbow nudges.
At a recent youth group function where I co-lead, my team member (who is married) and I (who am not), opened ourselves up to questions from the teens. We watched a video about the spiritual nature of sex and tried to host a discussion. “Ask us anything,” we said, steeling ourselves for the very, very worst.
Crickets. Total silence. The horniest age group on the planet had nothing to say, nothing to ask.
So why are people afraid to talk about sex? I mean really discuss the meaning of it? Pastors address it once every few years, but always in lofty language. Teenagers joke about it. The elderly often shush discussion of it. I suspect the silence on the subject stems from the fact that sex is deeply personal and discussing it is a little like the act itself—it lets people inside.
More than touching between two people, sex is a physical manifestation of an emotional event—entering into the inner recesses of another’s soul and accepting the enter-er into yours. In cases of abuse, sex feels violating for exactly this reason. It’s an emotional invasion expressed through physical contact.
Sex within marriage offers a mutual, respectful sharing that symbolizes love—an invitation and an acceptance to permanently participate in each other’s whole personhood. It plays a key role in God’s plan for married unity. Sex outside marriage results in eventual pain because that “invitation” will ultimately be returned to sender. The acceptance note receives a “decline” in response. A blended soul rips apart, back into two pieces.
Discussing sex puts us in a vulnerable position, as well. Revealing our deepest thoughts about humankind’s arguably deepest act opens our souls to others in a unique and personal way. And vulnerability is frightening. It creates an opportunity for others to hurt us.
This is why God intended sex for the safety of marriage and discussions of sex for the safety of close community.
Perhaps the teens in my youth group felt insecure in a large group setting. Perhaps we caught them off-guard. I’m convinced they have thoughts about sex. (If I do, they must!) But they didn’t feel they could vocalize those thoughts.
Could this be the key to the Church’s struggle to discuss sex with believers?
To have meaningful conversation about a personal subject, believers need personal connections where it is safe to be honest. Support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous build upon such a rapport so that participants can share openly and fully with each other. Close group connections conceive a bond of trust that ends in results: alcoholics stay on the wagon, porn addicts turn off the computer, battered women leave abusive relationships. Within a group lies conviction and empowerment.
For that reason, the young Church met frequently to grow, bond and share in their new faith. The book of Acts portrays small groups as central and foundational to the growth of Christians. And, to an extent, Christians have embraced this concept. We meet for Bible study, for prayer, for the ever-popular potluck. But too often we are silent about sex. Are we really content to let generations grow up with a tagline? “Sex can wait," “Meant for marriage” or my favorite, “It don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got the ring.”
The rest of the world is talking about sex. Loudly. But not clearly. If others are to understand God’s design for sex, Jesus followers have to talk about it. The repercussions of not sharing are frightening and long-reaching—life-altering STDs, pregnancies, emotional scars, baggage beyond belief. Maybe a sermon series from the podium isn’t the whole answer. Pamphlets left on Welcome Centers can’t do it alone. Youth commitment ceremonies need backup.
The Church can’t afford to be silent on this subject. Without close, small group interaction when discussing God’s plan for sex, a crowd of horny individuals will quickly become a crowd of hurting ones.