Sex. It permeates our world, our culture, and our consciousness. It sells us goods, compromises our consciences, gives us leverage, and makes for an entertaining evening. We think we’ve got a real hold on the nature of this beast, from the articles in magazines explaining how to do it, to the TV shows and movies illustrating why to do it, and birth control determining when to do it. But have we really got sex down… or have we got sex all wrong?
From the years I was 19 until about 22 – the golden years of college – I had a particular view of sex. I had given up my virginity to a man I thought I’d one day marry, and when forever turned out to be 18 months, sex changed its nature as well. I began to view it as a mutually gratifying means to express affection, which could be a fleeting pastime (when out of a relationship) or a right that comes with the territory (when in one). Then, with a freely ended engagement and a new lease on life, my entire view and understanding of the world shifted, and at the center of that change was my view of sex.
I used to see sex as a way to gratify selfish desires. Now I see sex as a way to give selflessly to another.
Have you ever had a fight over sex? Perhaps it’s not happening enough? Or it’s happening too much? Or it didn’t go quite right? Consider for a moment that sex is not about the perfect position, the satisfaction of an attraction, or even the accompanying pleasure. While pleasure is an intricate and incredibly important part of the experience, to place all value of the act on that aspect would be selling it short. Consider, rather, that sex is giving of your very self to another – your essence as a person, expressed through your body – and receiving the precious gift of that person’s self in return. The mechanics of it become much less important when you consider the experience as a somewhat divine intermingling of souls. And, of course, when it becomes about the other person, the mechanics are likely to fall right into place.
I used to see sex as a fleeting pastime. Now I see sex as a commitment.
Quite literally, sex is a commitment. When two people come together as one, a hormone called oxytocin is released, which binds the two people together. One becomes part of the other. So often, though, we don’t honor that commitment. We have a night or even years with a person before we break up or go our separate ways, and we wonder why there is so much hurt in the world and somewhat of a cynical view of relationships. As I wrote in a previous article referring to broken sexual relationships, “Of course I would feel something was missing after my body physically bound itself to another person, and then that person was not with me the next day. Quite literally, a part of me was missing.”
I used to see sex as a right or obligation. Now I see sex as a freely-given gift.
As I mentioned, sex is a gift of one’s very self to another. Unfortunately, that gift is often manipulated out of another person in one way or the other. Have you ever found yourself thinking that you “owed” it to a person to have sex with him or her – perhaps because you had had X number of dates? Or because he was nice enough to marry you? Even for married couples, sex is not a right or an obligation. Each time it happens, it should be given freely from one person to the other. Knowing that there is nothing requiring you to give the gift of sex to the other person makes your decision to give that gift even more powerful.
I used to see sex as a way to prove or create love. Now I see sex as a way to demonstrate love that already exists.
Our culture tends to condone using sex as a way to build compatibility with a person. At the end of a date night, it can perhaps get you a next date. In a relationship, it can be seen as a way to prove your commitment to each other. But when it comes down to it, sex is not meant to prove or create love. It is meant to be a demonstration of a love that already exists. Imagine if you waited to have sex with a person until you were already in love with that person inside and out and fully committed in a permanent way. It would no longer be a way to prove or create – it would be a beautiful demonstration of something that already exists, and that would even exist whether or not you freely chose to demonstrate it with sex. What freedom to love!
I used to see sex as something I had the right to enjoy without the risk of “complications.” I now see the potential for new life as an end that is inextricable from the act of sex.
After using artificial birth control for five years, and now practicing natural family planning with my husband, I have seen both sides of this coin. I have come to understand that sex has two inextricably intertwined sides of its nature – one is to bond a couple together through a pleasurable act, and the other is to bring forth new life. The way I understand sex, stripping one of these natures away robs it of its full integrity. Artificial birth control puts a chemical or physical barrier between one’s spouse and oneself while simultaneously defying the life-giving nature of sex. Rather than a selflessly giving act, it becomes a “me-centered” act. On the other hand, having sex without such barriers creates true and complete unity and an awe-inspiring understanding of the power of the act. Even choosing to abstain from sex during a woman’s naturally fertile week of her cycle (if a couple could not support a child at that time) demonstrates due reverence for the power of the act.
This view of sex has changed the way I view love, marriage, and even life itself. Somehow, viewing sex this way makes it much less casual than the world would have you believe it is. Viewing a person as a precious gift given to me makes it unfathomable to use him as a way to satisfy my itch for pleasure and then discard him the following morning. Knowing that a new life could spring forth from our union restores power and awe to an act that the culture has destroyed by making it somewhat of a routine pastime or game. It puts into perspective what’s important in the sexual relationship and casts off any anguish that I experienced from such relationships before.
I encourage you to examine your own understanding of sex. While you may not agree with my view, perhaps there are pieces of your own that, if altered, could change your life in ways you never imagined.