“Your body is a wrapped lollipop. When you have sex with a man, he unwraps your lollipop and sucks on it. It may feel great at the time, but, unfortunately, when he’s done with you, all you have left for your next partner is a poorly wrapped, saliva-fouled sucker.”
I cringed behind the wheel, appalled at the words I heard coming from my audio copy of “Half the Sky” as authors Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristoff discussed this statement uttered by Darren Washington, an abstinence educator, at the Eighth Annual Abstinence Clearinghouse Conference.
Sadly, it wasn’t too far off many Christian messages I’ve received about sex.
Growing up, we didn’t talk about sex in my family. Truth is, I kinda wish my parents did. Not in a lecturing way or in an embarrassing way incorporating stick figure drawings, but honest talk about human sexuality. When you give youth freedom and a framework for values that don’t demand or shame, they are generally receptive to what you have to say.
According to the 2010 National Campaign report, eight in 10 teens (80 percent) say it would be much easier for teens to delay sexual activity and avoid teen pregnancy if they were able to have more open, honest conversations about these topics with their parents. Similarly, six in 10 teens (62 percent) wish they were able to talk more openly about relationships with their parents.
I remember first being presented with the birds and the bees in 6th-grade health class. I didn’t quite understand it, but “The Miracle of Life” video in 9th-grade biology class certainly helped clear up a few things. Then came my freshman year of college in which my Sexuality in a Diverse Society professor had the class write a list of as many words as we could think of for “penis” and “vagina.” There were lots of giggles and guffaws, plus a few phrases I never thought to associate with human genitalia, leaving me utterly baffled and slightly disturbed.
Generally speaking, you can’t be a teen in America and not hear something about sex during the course of your education, but the content may vary greatly depending on your state, locality, whether the school was public or private, or whether it had a religious affiliation.
But I've heard the most appalling — and the most beautiful — messages about sex in the church. Too often, the church is silent and bashful about sex — that's one reason, I suspect, that youth look to society and friends for answers to questions that they fear are not allowed to be talked about in religious settings. And when the church has spoken out about sex, many messages I heard have either been shaming or repressive.
Here's a list of the 10 worst things I was ever told about “Christian sex.
10. “In the past, teenagers heard lessons or sermons with theologically suspect object lessons–involving simulated plane crashes, cupcakes with mangled frosting, boards with nail holes in them, roses with missing petals, and wads of chewed gum–meant to be analogies for sexual sin and its consequences.”
-Linda Hoffman Kimball, “Teaching Saintly Sex”
9. “Give your husband sex whenever he wants it, even if it hurts you; menopause is no excuse.”
-Debi Pearl, “Created to be his Help Meet”
8. “It is your role to lead your wife into a fuller understanding of what Scripture teaches about your sexual relationship.”
-CJ Mahaney, “Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God: What Every Christian Husband Needs to Know”
7. “Many lesbians were once actively, unambivalently heterosexual, whether promiscuous or faithfully married. They might have conceived, borne, and raised children without much questioning of their sexual identity. But over time the men in their lives proved disappointing, violent, drunken, uncomprehending, or unfaithful. Perhaps during the unhappiness of a slow marital disintegration, or while picking up the wreckage after a divorce, other women proved to be far more understanding and sympathetic friends. Emotional intimacy and communication opened a new door. Sexual repatterning as a lesbian came later. The life-reshaping ‘lusts of the ﬂesh’ were not initially sexual. Instead, cravings to be treated tenderly and sympathetically—to be known, understood, loved, and accepted—played ﬁrst violin, and sex per se played viola.”
-David Powlison, “Making All Things New: Restoring Pure Joy to the Sexually Broken”
6. “We women were designed by God to be helpers and to make men successful.”
– Carolyn McCully, “Sex and the Single Woman”
5. “We need to discover what makes us attractive to our husbands. What clothing, hairstyle, or makeup do they ﬁnd most appealing? As always, the standard of “modesty and self-control” set forth in 1 Timothy 2:8-10 applies. And we should strive to care for our appearance—not only when we go out, but also at home where only our husbands see us. As my childhood pastor used to say, ‘If the barn needs painting, paint it!’ Well, what color should that barn be painted? The answer is, whatever is attractive to our husbands!”
– Carolyn Mahaney, “Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God: What Every Christian Wife Needs to Know”
4. “When we choose to obey God and give our bodies to our husbands—even if we don’t feel like it—God will reward us with pleasure.”
-Carolyn Mahaney, “Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God”
3. “Let her breasts satisfy thee at all times, and be thou ravished always with her love.”
2. “You’re not married: Sex is bad. Sex is bad. Sex is bad. Sex is bad. Oh you’re married? Sex is good. Sex is good. Sex is good.”
1. “Sex is solely for procreation.”
Tomorrow: the 10 best things I've ever heard.
Melissa Otterbein is an HIV/AIDS behavioral researcher, writer, and triathlete. A self-ascribed “recovering evangelical,” she ponders the intersections of faith, hope, and love on her blog “Like Birds on Trees”