Christians and Sex

* WARNING :: Read at your own risk. The following post is inappropriate for people of all ages. If you are uncomfortable with your sexuality or if a young white middle-class male’s detailed recollections of sex ed classes at a small private Christian school offend you, find another blog to read or subscribe to Joel Osteen’s podcast.

When I was in the first grade, I tasted my first croissant—delicate layers of buttery flakes. Narrow-minded Americans like to say crap like, “The French would be speaking German if it weren’t for us.” Or they’ll interpret that country’s reluctance to support ours in Operation Iraqi Freedom as cowardice. Sink your teeth into a warm croissant, and you’ll know that the French are doing exactly what they should be doing. They’re bakers.

Back to the subject at hand: not only did my friend Allie broaden my culinary horizons, but she also told me in the first grade that babies come into the world after a man’s sticks his thingy in a woman’s thingy and pees.

That sounded worse than eating a thousand bowls of my mom’s sausage and corn soup. When I turned up my nose at this, my least favorite of her creations in an otherwise delicious and satisfying lineup of dinners, she’d always say, “But you love sausage soup!” How is it that are parents are always telling us what we like? Imagine if I said, “But, Dad, you love to watch me try to beat Super Marios Bros. 3!” or “But, Mom, you love to clean up my vomit for me!” Sheesh. No, I don’t like your nasty sausage soup, and yes, I now know that the stork theory of procreation was complete bologna. Thanks for lying to me.

“Gross!” I said to Allie. “I never want to do that.”

“Me neither,” Allie agreed.

On the playground in front of W.P. Scales Elementary, we pledged never to urinate on our spouses. I hope to uphold that sacred vow until my death.

I still didn’t learn the “full truth” about sexual intercourse—or at least a simplified and distorted version of it—until I got to David Lipscomb Middle School. My parents never sat me down for a proper birds-and-bees conversation, but I don’t want to criticize them. I doubt either one of them got the sex talk from their parents.

Ordering a couple pizzas and popping in the Harry and the Hendersons or Swiss Family Robinson VHS was a much more comfortable way to spend a Saturday night than the following hypothetical conversation:

“Austin, pretty soon your body will start going through some changes and you’ll feel strange new urges. Girls won’t have cooties anymore. In fact, you’ll want to see them naked. I know, crazy, right? You’ll feel all hot and sick, and your stomach will be full of sloshy acid when the pretty ones are around. Just don’t get a girl pregnant. Now, run off and play ping-pong with Hunter. Dinner’s at 6.”

A void of real knowledge left me vulnerable to the slang, urban legends, and perverted humor that proliferated at David Lipscomb Middle School. Most of my friends knew as little about sex as I did. The two boys who gave me my schooling on the subject were the two who had access to a Playboy.

They were the ones who explained the euphemisms in movies like Billy Madison, which hit box offices when I was thirteen.

“What does [insert lewd phrase here] mean?”

“[Insert graphic explanation here.]”

“Oh. Oh!”

To their credit, my dad did present me with a thin, hardback volume on the same occasion that he asked, “Do you have any questions about?”—[awkward pause]—sex?”

[“God, if you’re up there, please end this punishment.”]

I could feel my heart beating in my face, and my dad was blushing. Seeing your father blush is like seeing him naked. It’s worse than seeing him cry. The conversation ended there. God does answer prayers.

I put the book in a drawer in the den. I most certainly did not want that thing in my room. Besides, the one or two times I need clarity about some piece of misinformation I’d taken away from the lunch table, it was about as helpful as watching a bull elephant mount a female on the nature channel. Guess I was on my own.

I’ve already written in part about the sexual education classes that I endured at David Lipscomb Middle School, thanks to Dr. Leeper. Happy for a break from our humdrum routine of recess, gym, classes, lunch, and chapel, our rambunctious group of boys spilled into “Multimedia”—what we called the room where such programs took place—to find an unembarrassed man standing beside an overhead projector in place and sheaf of transparencies.

Dr. Leeper wasn’t one for niceties or throat-clearing, so with medical detachment, he proceeded to outline the different stages of sexual development in both men and women. If he was aware that his audience was composed of adolescent males whose volatile bodies were teetering on the edge of some new change or animal desire at that very moment, he didn’t betray this awareness. He even left time for Q&A at the end.

My friend Jay decided to throw our guest a curveball and asked, “Is there any such thing as a queef?”

“I suppose,” the impassive Dr. Leeper replied, “that with repeated thrusting, air could become trapped in the vagina, and it might make some sort of sound upon release.”

Holy crap. Did he just say that? I need a shower. He didn’t even blink. He just stood there and gave us an honest answer. Trying to hold in the laughter felt like trying to keep a animal from clawing its way out of my chest. Forbidden laughter is always the best.

****

Our eighth grade Bible teacher took it upon himself to supplement our factual knowledge of puberty and sexual organs with sexual acts themselves and their spiritual ramifications. Apparently, just seeing some diagrams and bullet point lists wasn’t enough to keep all of us Christian young men from making mistakes in Ladytown.

This lesson plan was aimed at us boys. It was the girl’s responsibility to help us exercise self-control, seeing as they had no desires of their own. I think the girls may have had it even worse than we did. At least we knew it was natural for us to have sexual desires. For a woman to have libido was similar to one wanting a career—frowned upon. Women were supposed to be pure and chaste, which meant, in a word, sexless. Of course, this was never articulated, but silence on a subject can become its stigma. Why would be talk about something shameful?

On the chalkboard, he drew a horizontal line with tick marks at regular intervals, and then he divided the baseline he had drawn with a vertical dotted line. Next came a series of acronyms.

The finished drawing looked something like this ::

sexualintimacychart

The acronyms represented the following::

H — Hugging

HH — Holding Hands

LK — Light Kissing

HK — Heavy Kissing

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

HOSPOC — Hands On Sexual Parts Outside Of Clothing

HOSPIC — Hands On Sexual Parts Inside of Clothing

DH — Dry Humping

OS — Oral Sex

AS — Figure it out.

SI — Sexual Intercourse

I guess he hoped the chart would illustrate progressive phases of sexual intimacy, and the dotted line between HK and HOSPOC would clarify the boundary between sexual purity and sexual sin.

When he began explaining what the different acronyms meant, a ripple of laughter passed over the room. Just as quickly, it gave way to silence and extreme discomfort. Any ambiguity about the rightness or wrongness of what happened at the Halloween party last year or in the basement over at So-and-So’s house vanished.

I didn’t want to look around the classroom and see how other people were reacting. My first kiss didn’t even come until the summer after my eighth grade year, but I didn’t want to make eye contact and accidentally establish some kind of association with the dirty boys, and neither did I want to catch the eye of our teacher. I would blush, which he might take as a sign of my guilt.

How could I help but be uncomfortable? How often do you learn that Jesus’ blood only had thirteen chromosomes and listen to intricate arguments about what “counts” as sex in the same classroom? I’d just heard my Bible teacher use the words, “heavy petting.” That sounded like a way to accidentally kill a rabbit or gerbil.

If fixing those terrible acronyms into our memories was his objective, I guess that makes me one of his success stories. I could also sing the preposition song we learned in English class, but “until-by-into-after-from, across-against-with-toward-on-out” never made me break out into a cold sweat on a date.

O the Horror of that Dotted Line! No gray area, no indulgences, and no mulligans.

How was a red-blooded male supposed to survive on so lean a diet?

****

I was discussing this chart with one of my mentors the other day. It’s always good for a couple of laughs, but Jerry brought up a good question: “What should he have told you instead?” As it turned out, he’d led a whole retreat with some of the youth at his church and their parents. When asked the age when kids are ready to have sex, he told the parents, “When they’re ready to have a baby.”

Now that all my friends are getting married, we’ve started having honest conversations about sex. Apparently, it’s noisy, messy, and sometimes disappointing. It takes practice.

Hmm. No one ever told us that. Great sex takes practice. It’s this multi-faceted gem we’ve been given, a desire that’s both simple and complex. My best friend told me his wife hates to clean the toilet and thinks it’s sexy when he does it so she doesn’t have to—when he puts her needs, comfort, and pleasure before his own. Another friend told me that marriage is “the daily choice to serve.” When he doesn’t make that choice, his marriage suffers. When he doesn’t put his wife’s needs first, their sex life suffers. Why would she want to give herself to someone who has been selfish?

So, after twenty-seven years, my sexual education has brought me to this insight:

If you treat sex as just another appetite to be filled, you miss its profound beauty, mystery, and pleasure. It will become just another bodily function, and if even it doesn’t become an addiction and destroy you, it certainly won’t satisfy your need for intimacy, to know and be known, to love and be loved.

On the other hand, if you view sex as another opportunity to serve your spouse, then you will find fulfillment. Selflessness is the key to great sex.

I going to tell my kids about that. Maybe I’ll post a series of short videos on YouTube. My friends can hand a USB drive to their kids and say, “Watch these.”

We’ll also give them to our parents and say, “I hope you all are still having sex, but if you’re not, maybe these videos can help. I’ve also got Harry and the Hendersons on dvd if you prefer.”

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One Comment

  1. Posted August 17, 2009 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Wow Austin. I bet you get a lot of new visitors from Google after posting this.