We’re used to hearing about the problem of sex being everywhere: nudity, music videos, promiscuity, clothing and advertising. Sexualisation that is over the top, out-of-place and inappropriate is a common issue – in the media, schools and our workplaces. The problem of porn informing young people about sex acts, the objectifying of particular body parts – especially women’s  the images of fast and/or perfect sexual encounters in movies where a couple have just met; can all be criticised for dis-embodying sexuality from the whole person, for locating sexuality in only body parts, sex acts and brief encounters. Furthermore, many sex and relationships educators criticise strategies that are focussed on infections and pregnancies rather than considering the whole person.

Christians and the Church are particularly known for passing comment, judgement and instruction about sex and pointing the finger at how awful and damaged the world is because of sex.

While it may be predictable to look at anti-sex rhetoric in the Church and associated Christian sub-cultures such as jokes and comments about virginity and masturbation and the idea that people are only meant to have sex when married, more commonly now you will come across pro-sex rhetoric – sex is good, sex is important, sex is to be enjoyed by everyone.

Yet the Church and its teaching and trends have created an equally dis-embodying narrative in reaction to the ‘worldliness’ and ‘consumerism’ of sexualisation. It’s become something that people are given a lot of words about, stuff that goes into the head but there’s a disconnect from the actual bodily experiences of attracting to, relating to and arousing with each other that is a normal and healthy part of being sexual beings. We’re currently living in a Christian culture where broadly sex is shut down, talked about lots but in a wholly disembodied way; until marriage that doesn’t engage the whole person, at least often not the whole couple, in making decisions about and with their whole-body-self.

Many friends have said over the years that they once talked about sex all the time but when they started having sex or were at least ‘allowed’ to or ‘allowing themselves’ to they had no one to talk to either because the ‘rules’ of marriage made stuff permissible but private.

For those hiding their sexual experiences because they knew they were ‘breaking the rules’ they had no outlet to talk about the experiences in their body and what happened when and where. And similarly for those who had got married, all of a sudden everything natural they’d suppressed for so long was okay, celebrated and part of their wider community’s assumption or collective knowledge  and this could sometimes feel a bit messed up.

I was talking to a friend recently who drew a really clear line between those who are ‘married’ i.e. having sex and talking about it and those who are ‘unmarried’ i.e. not having sex or talking about it in their church. It was an honest summary of the boundaries that no one highlighted but everyone knew were there, and to me it’s an example of this disconnect based on principles that we’ve learnt to only hold in our heads.

Our sexuality is our daily living and breathing life experience and if we’re not talking well about our bodies, our attractions and sexuality, we’re broken; we’re not whole.  Sexual healing has got to be about drawing in the isolated, those who are struggling in or outside of marriages in healthy body and sex-positive ways; but it’s also got to be about creating a space for those who are enjoying sex to share their stories.

I’d be really keen to hear stories, experiences and comments about these issues in your own, your friends’ and/or your church life either in the comments section or via personal email.  Please get involved in improving the conversations about sexual healing and recovery in the Church.

Image by Ivanmarn via stock.xchng images.

Written by Harriet Long // Follow Harriet on  Twitter //  Harriet\'s Website

Harriet Long is a writer and speaker from Belfast, Northern Ireland. She is passionate about gender, sexuality and how these themes and identities intersect upon and within the body. She works for a small LGBT charity supporting victims of hate crime. As a community activist and she gave up hectic youth drop ins, in the inner city to welcome foster babies and children into her home. She is committed to the issues of marginalised sexuality within the church, and the loneliness for those enjoying sex when they ‘shouldn’t be’ and for those who aren’t enjoying sex when they ‘should’.

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