In the past week, I’ve read two blog posts about sex and, while they didn’t change the way I think, they articulated what I thought in a different way. The first came from Jamie Wright (aka “the very worst missionary) and was titled “Sex Pt. 2, Why Wait?” (for an excellent overview on what purity culture does to young women, check out “Sex Pt. 1). The second, “Sex and the Path of Holiness“, was by Rachel Held Evans. The styles of these two ladies couldn’t be more different. Jamie is funny and snarky while Rachel is more thoughtful and introspective. I love them both, and never more so after reading these articles. Both of which advocate waiting to have sex.
In her piece, Rachel talks about her views on this subject being misunderstood and I get that; mine are, too. Not at the same level or even in the same way. Rachel is one of the most popular Christian bloggers on the net, while I am…, not. She’s going to catch more crap than I do just by virtue of her higher profile. And, while she still thinks it’s best if sex is reserved for marriage, I don’t think that matters so much. For me, the yardstick shouldn’t be a religious or civil ceremony, it should be the fruits of the act. Bet you never thought you’d hear me use that word, did you?
To understand what I mean by “the fruits of the act”, we need to look at the definition of fruit. You have to dig down in the entry to find one that fits this context, but Merriam-Webster defines fruit as “the effect or consequence of an action or operation.” So, what might be some effects or consequences of sex? Well, on the good side there’s the fact that it is freakin’ awesome! And, nothing builds intimacy between a couple like knocking boots. Also, there’s that whole reproduction aspect of it. On the downside, there’s unwanted pregnancy, STD’s and the emotional damage that can come from the baggage associated with irresponsible sex. All of which makes sex what you might call a double-edged sword.
I’m not a fan of making marriage the criteria for having sex for a couple of reasons. First, people say sex should be reserved for marriage because the Bible says so. The problem there is that marriage has changed quite a bit since that instruction was given. Marriage in the ancient world was more a business transaction than an act of love between two people who want to share their lives. And, it was one in which women had no say. Now, if we’re going to use the biblical standard for when to have sex, it stands to reason we should also use the biblical standard for marriage. I doubt any of us really want that.
The second reason I don’t agree with marriage being the sole criteria for sex is because you can get married waaaay too young in all too many places. In 30 American states, the age of consent is 16. Did you hear me? 16! A 16 year old can barely wipe their ass on their own, much less make the kind of adult decisions required for sex and marriage. Travel outside the U. S. and it gets worse. There are places in this world where the age of consent is as low as 12. See what I mean? Marriage alone is not an appropriate determining factor for when you should get busy.
Just because I don’t think marriage is the be all, end all when it comes to sex and when to have it doesn’t mean I think people should be going at it like Bonobo apes (some of the freakiest animals on the planet). In the fifth chapter of Galatians, Paul talks about the fruit of the spirit and around verse 19, he talks about sex, saying
“It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness“
That’s from The Message and, while I don’t always like the way it puts things, this is one time I do. Paul makes it pretty plain that”repetitive, loveless, cheap sex” isn’t the best way to go.
So, what do we do? If virginity, purity and marriage aren’t the way we should approach this intimate act, what are supposed to do? I like the way the good Ms. Evans proposed: holiness. In her words,
“Perhaps instead of virginity…or even purity (which carries something of an either/or connotation, I think)…we ought to talk about the path of holiness…Holiness isn’t about sticking to a list of rules. It isn’t something you either have or don’t have, keep or lose. It’s a way of life, filled with twists and turns, mistakes and growth, uncertainty and reward. And, (to make matters even worse for the fundamentalists), a holy lifestyle often looks different from person to person, though the fruit of the Spirit is the same.”
Yes, true love should wait. Just not for what you thought it should.