On Sex, Girls, and the Church: Are we being honest?

Warning: This article is about sex. Proceed at your own discretion.

Valentine’s day is Friday, and we all know what that means. Flowers, candy, packed restaurants, and sex. Lots and lots of sex. If you’ve watched TV at all in the past week, you’ve noticed that the KY and Durex commercials have been in full swing. This isn’t by happenstance. Valentine’s Day and Christmas (yes, Christmas) are prime time for sexual adventure, and many of the new explorers are teenagers. That’s right, teens, some of which are in your youth group, small group, community group, home group, and congregation.

I’m concerned, but not for the reason you may think. I enjoy long talks with young women. I believe there is so much power in that demographic to change our society and the world. I love to hear about their dreams and see their eyes light up when they share their most recent accomplishments. They give me hope and encourage me to reach my own goals. I especially appreciate when they share their personal lives with me—struggles with friends, college and career options, their new boyfriends. But my heart never ceases to crack a bit when I sense their struggle with sexual sin. More than that, my heart breaks when they hesitate to share the truth with me because they think they know how I’ll respond.

These days, churches are making the effort to more effectively address the topic of sex. If they can find an adult who can talk about it without crumbling into a red, awkward, babbling pile of embarrassment, they’ll say how we’re sexual beings with desires that are best experienced within the confines of God’s plan for marriage. A few congregations have successfully figured out how to go a step or two further, while others avoid the topic, altogether. Some will even break the guys and girls into separate groups to talk about sex, and this is where the real fun begins.

I’ve been in countless meetings like this, and there are a few quotes that are as organic to these assemblies as green is to grass. All three of these concepts were foreign to me until I was halfway through college, and even today, I wonder how honest we’re being with young women when we teach these things. Let me explain.

1.“Girls are turned on by what they hear, not by what they see.”
I was shocked to learn that I wasn’t supposed to be “turned on” by what I saw because, up until I was told this (and after; it didn’t change the truth), if a silent set of thick biceps or chiseled abs strolled by me, lust ensued. He didn’t have to say a word. In fact, it was better if he didn’t, because talking might have subtracted from his mystery and made him more…human. Once this concept was pushed enough times for me to openly question it, I was informed that I was turned on by a man’s physical attractiveness simply because I had too much testosterone. The more I questioned and got people to answer me away from crowds, it was confirmed that I wasn’t an anomaly. Girls everywhere, Christ followers or not, had lust in their lives. Don’t believe me? Ask a girl who watches porn (there are many) if she watches it for the shocking plot twists or compelling dialogue. Better yet, do you know anybody who’s listened to Magic Mike on audiobook? Me either.

2.“We need to be careful how we dress as to not become a stumbling block to our brothers.”
I am going to say this once as a precursor to the rest of my exposition on this topic. THERE IS MUCH VALUE IN NOT BECOMING A STUMBLING BLOCK TO THE PEOPLE AROUND US. Don’t email me about this. I know it’s true. I also know that it’s not primarily anyone’s responsibility to keep me from sinning except my own, and that goes for each and every one of us. Here are my problems with pushing this concept as a primary reason to maintain modesty and purity:

a.It reduces young men to animals who have no self-control.
This kind of thinking is characteristic of rape culture. Read up on it. Relinquishing responsibility for your own mental and physical purity is childish and dangerous. It makes sinners victims, and we need to get past this thinking in order to come to true repentance. Sin, regardless of circumstance, is always a choice. Job made a covenant with his eyes that he wouldn’t look at a woman lustfully (Job 31:1). How about that for a role model?

b.Keeping other people from sinning, in my opinion, should not be the main reason for practicing purity in dress, talk, and other actions.
Instead of looking in the mirror and asking, “Will this cause my brothers to stumble?” the conversation should instead go like this:
i. Is the way I look/talk/act acceptable to a holy God?
ii. Am I accurately representing what I claim to believe?
iii. Will my appearance and behavior be a problem for young men and women (because, like it or not, girls lust after other girls)?
Truthfully, if you answer the first question of these three honestly, the other two become non-issues.

c.Where do we draw the line of being so careful about keeping others from stumbling?
I know a man who said women in baseball caps turned him on. Baseball caps! At some point, we have to recognize that men like thinking about sex, and while we can take several measures to attempt to ensure we’re not on the receiving end of these thoughts (for those who even want this to be the case, because, in reality, some girls’ entire purpose in life is to get men to see them sexually), there’s only so much we can do. I once knew a man who was very clear about his desire for black women. What was I supposed to do about that? If you have an answer, I’ll wait for it.

d.This thinking exposes a double standard in the church.
I wonder how many sessions Christian men have sat in that encouraged them to put on a shirt while they worked out as to not be a stumbling block to me. I know that one has existed, for sure, because I was the one to say it. However, after I made such a statement, an older man interjected, accusing me of behaving like a loose woman, claiming that his mother’s and grandmother’s generations didn’t struggle with lust, and neither should I. Apparently his matriarchs were older than Potiphar’s wife.

3.“Girls give sex to get love; boys give love to get sex.”
It won’t take long to explain this one. Boys like sex. Girls also like sex. We’re sexual beings. I know women who like sex simply because they like it. They have healthy relationships with their dads, they’re not looking to fill a void, they just simply enjoy the act of sex. While many, many girls sleep with people so they can feel loved, this is not a blanket situation, and we can’t approach it as such.

When teaching our girls about sex, if we refuse to approach the topic with complete honesty, regardless of how uncomfortable it may make us feel, we are taking a massive risk that we can’t afford to take. One day, I had a conversation with a friend of mine who works in the adoption industry. She frequents an abortion clinic to try to convince girls to walk away from the crushing choice they’re about to make and to meet them at the door with love once they’ve made a life-ending, life-altering decision. She informed me that the abortion rate among preachers’ kids is high because they don’t want to ruin their dads’ careers with a pregnancy, or they don’t feel comfortable telling Christians that they’ve made a sexual mistake. How ironic is that? The very place a person should feel welcome to come clean and turn away from sexual sin is the very place they run from to hide it.

So, where do these girls go for healing, instead? Nowhere. If they couldn’t talk about lust, sex, or a pregnancy with fellow Christians, they’re certainly not going to talk about an abortion! And why do they feel like they can’t bring these mistakes to the church? Because lust is expected among young men and approached accordingly, but it’s detested among young women.

I used to struggle with lust because I’m a person, not because I’m a whore, and not because my testosterone level is off the charts. And honestly, it wasn’t always a struggle; sometimes it was straight up submission. I turned away from this sin because I knew it was displeasing to God. Unfortunately, there weren’t many people I could talk to about it, because I knew there weren’t many safe places to discuss sexual sin for women. My hope is that this will change. I pray that the same way young women feel at ease discussing recipes and wedding plans, they can also feel at ease going to other Godly women about wanting to turn away from sexual struggles without being met with concepts that don’t apply to them or with condemnation.

Agree? Disagree? Comment!

To read more of my views on church culture, click to buy my book, Shift: Finding True Faith Beyond Church Culture.