Reclaiming Sex in the Church

The first time I saw the f-word, I was in the bathroom stall of a dirty Mexican restaurant. It was in messy handwriting, scribbled among other words and pictures that have faded from memory. The f-word stuck out somehow. So when I got in the car, I innocently asked my mom what it meant. I watched as her face turned an alarming shade of red. Like, “Oh no, I’m about to have that talk with my 9-year-old daughter” red. And right there, in the middle of the parking lot, with the AC counteracting the heat from our faces, we had the sex talk. She asked me what came to mind when I heard the word sex, and I sheepishly described two naked people lying next to each other in bed. Nothing more, of course, because to a 4th grade girl, the idea of two naked people in bed is promiscuous enough. But my little mind grew a little bigger that day as she explained sex, marriage, and everything in between.

To this day, I thank God for a mother who willingly went there with me and continued to go there as I had questions throughout my developmental years. She met my curiosity with sound, honest answers. I never felt ashamed or embarrassed to ask her about sex because she allowed it to be a safe topic.

Getting older, I’ve realized that this wasn’t the case for many of my Christian peers. They never heard about sex from their parents or only heard not to have it. Sex became a taboo topic, a concept mixed with fear and shame and sin. Some of these people got married and were met with difficultly engaging in the very act they were taught to suppress for all of those years. Looking at this pattern, I became aware of the sad gap in singles’ understanding and knowledge of this beautiful and complex gift God has given us. And it leaves me longing to advocate for greater sexual education within our influential Christian communities. Here are four areas we must focus on in order to restore a healthy view of sex. 

Remove the Shame

For starters, a healthy knowledge of sex would remove some of the shame attached to it. It’s easy to link sex with sin in our minds, as we are so often fleeing it before marriage. As an unmarried believer, I still find it amazing that I am to avoid sex all of my life only to have the freedom to enjoy it the minute I’m married. What a mind shift! It’s no wonder that for so many newly married couples, even showing each other their naked bodies stirs up feelings of embarrassment. And for those who have not freely discussed sex in a safe environment, I can only imagine feelings of fear, confusion, and even frustration mixed in with that shame as they attempt to enjoy it.

Have Realistic Expectations

A fuller knowledge of sex would also help to diminish those unmet expectations and help married couples enjoy it. Did you know that only 1/3 of women experience orgasm through direct penetration alone? Or what about the fact that it’s really messy and probably awkward and painful at first? The romance novels and pornography don’t teach you that. Not knowing this type of information before marriage could cause feelings of inadequacy or embarrassment in both partners and lead to decreased intimacy.

Know God Better

More than anything, knowing our God better gives us a greater understanding of His design for our sexuality. I think it’s crucial for single believers to understand why God created sex — not just that He created it and it is good (although that is a huge start). God created sex as a way for us to celebrate His binding covenant with us — His intricate design of the human body and our ability to admire, love, and serve each other through our bodies is a testament to the glory of His creation. The gift of orgasms reveals only a glimpse of the sheer ecstasy of enjoying our God. That it is a small reflection of a greater, deeper, fuller intimacy we get to experience with Christ spiritually.

These things may make you blush, or make you mad, and that’s okay. But we can’t continue to tiptoe around the topic of sex as a single. I do not believe being married is the only qualification for discussing sex in an honoring, glorifying way. I am not advocating for an expression of sex apart from the context of marriage. Sex is a beautiful declaration of two separate beings coming together as one and confirming an already existing covenant. Anything outside of marriage is a cheap, sad substitute for the true intimacy, security, and purpose offered in marital sex. I am only advocating for more discussion before marriage so that it can be better understood and appreciated in marriage.

Talk about Sex

More broadly, I am pleading for the topic of sex to become less taboo in the Christian realm.

And I think it starts in the home. Parents are the most powerful agents in helping their children explore, clarify, and understand sexuality. Even in choosing to be silent, parents are reinforcing confusion around the topic. I am not a parent, and I cannot imagine the discomfort I would feel walking in on my 10-year-old child masturbating or watching pornography. I would most likely want to avoid the topic at all costs. But discomfort is not an excuse for avoidance. I believe parents have the privilege, and simultaneous responsibility, to create a safe place for their children to discuss all aspects of sex.

Beyond parents and caretakers, there is a real need for church leaders to push past uneasiness and speak truth and honesty into God’s design for this gift. As the silence of those who uphold the Biblical view of sex remains, the noise of those who degrade it in our society only increases. And yet, I believe the Church can be uniquely influential in this topic. If Christian leaders taught singles to honor sex in healthy way, instead of resorting to silence or condemnation, there would be a greater willingness and joy to uphold the boundaries God placed around it before marriage. If marriage does come, there would be less shame attached to it and more understanding and enjoyment of it. In doing so, we set it in its proper place: not as an idol and not as a disgrace — but as a small glimpse of the beauty and intimacy found in our Creator.