THE POWER OF SEX
Let’s talk about sex baby! It kind of seems that is all anyone is talking about these days, and maybe that is really good. It is also sad. It is certainly needed but at the same time it is a bit disturbing. Surely no one of any mature years can be shocked that sex causes us so much trouble. We are in a period of calling out old sins, old sexual assaults and harassment, even old rapes. We are always (always) in a period of current sexual exploitation, brokenness, confusion, aggression, and need.
We live in a media atmosphere where, on the same day, we hear about someone guilty of rape that was never reported and a man who just spent 45 years in prison for a rape he didn’t do, but has now been exonerated. Given the right context and circumstance, (especially of race and income) we have brought the hammer down hard on suspected rapists but let other rapists go free; usually because they were rich and powerful.
We have lived in an age of sexual hedonism where Hugh Hefner gave an apologetic for how free, frequent, and multiple partner sex means freedom from a puritanical life of constraint and up-tightness. We live in an age of feminism whereby women want control of their own bodies, to have sex when and with whom they wish, to dispose of pregnancies when and how they wish, to dress how they wish, to drink and drug when they wish, and yet seem to expect men to act with restraint and take control of their own impulses. Yes, they should, but men are as stupid as women when it comes to sex, and along with their stupidity often have the power to take what they want and cause great and lasting harm.
We live in an age where people seem to think it is okay to grope other people, whether it be on the street where women grope attractive men who might be total strangers to them (and vice versa), to the office or studio where male supervisors and bosses think it is okay to grope employees. We live in an age where teachers sleep with their students and pregnancy results either by them or in them. We live in an age where female teachers go to jail for child sexual abuse of their teen-age boy toys.
I am sure I don’t have to tell anyone the law, or what is right, or what God demands but can I say simply…Keep your hands off of other people’s bodies if they haven’t given you permission, and especially if they don’t belong to you in marriage! Do not make sexual advances, remarks, innuendo, gestures, or remarks to anyone to whom you are not married! Does that sound limiting? It ought to, and it will keep you out of trouble.
We live in an age of open homosexuality and yet live in an age of denial about how behavior might be connected to HIV/AIDS and STDs. Education and protection and advances in medications are the answer but not morality, not self-control, and certainly not censure for behavior. We condemn human trafficking and indulge the porn industry. What the hell is going on here?
There is hypocrisy everywhere; in religious leaders who get found out as child sex abusers or as excuse-rs of the abusers and in politicians who call for legislation regarding various sex or gender related issues and then are found out to have skeletons in their own closets. We live in an age of media “gotcha” for every celebrity, politician, priest, or leader whose failure may be a moment of indiscretion, a circumstantial and stress caused illicit relationship, or a hidden life of a stalker looking for prey.
There are victims; they never asked for the abuse, they were never seducers, and they never thought it might happen to them. Some of these of course were children or teens, some fearful about their livelihoods, some afraid of a closed door for advancement, some afraid of a counter-attack of reprisal, some physically afraid, and some just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some of these vulnerable folk live with a scarred and damaged psychology for the rest of their lives, a damaged view of their own sexuality, a perverted view of how to relate to members of the opposite sex, and some live on to recycle the abuse.
Who among us can be pure? Who among us has the right to speak? If I am a sexual being can I reflect on these issues without admitting to my own desires, my own fantasies, my own failures, my own frustrations, my own recklessness to fulfill my own pleasure and exploit others? No, not if I am honest. I know how I have thought about women, my objectifying of them, my secret plans for using them, and I know how worse I would have been without the restraints of my own conscience, the reality of criminal prosecution, the reality of social and community condemnation and abhorrence. I blame God for my not being worse than I’ve been. The restraint of grace is what I count on the most.
We are not pure, but we must speak. Even if we have all failed, we must speak. We must seek to protect our children, our neighbors, our spouse, our community, the vulnerable, and our future. Sex is a great gift, but oh how twisted it has become. Sex is a great need, and how powerful its desires are within us. Sex is such a great comfort, a witness to confidence, an intimacy of love. It is so damn dangerous.
The attempt to attack either gender, alone, for sexual abuse or sin is both disingenuous and delusional. The tendency to attack institutions, such as the church, either as institution or religious theology, is simplistic and a little too easy. Of course there are failures in churches, in church leadership, in how they have dealt with abusers, in how they have sheltered them, in how they have failed victims. This is true in every social institution where there are sexual beings. The church however should have done better, and it must do better, and when caught in its failure ought to be called out.
Yet, again, wherever there are institutions made up of people, and those people are sexual beings, there will be sexual trouble. The military which counts on professionalism to inhibit sexual misbehavior, finds out again and again that professionalism in and of itself cannot do it. The news media, which is the mouthpiece of this very story, finds corruption in its own ranks. Every industry and business, educational institutions, and the arts, all have sordid stories.
There are lines which must not be crossed, for those are the things which protect and enable society to function. Yet, we are all in need of compassion. We all have to have some sane understanding of the temptation in many of us to cross those lines. This has always been hard for societies, how do we draw clear lines of safe and right conduct without producing self-righteousness, self-deception, and hypocrisy? Which value system will win in how we live our sexual lives with one another in this world because it is a value system that decides where the lines will be drawn? Without those lines, those borders of decency, we produce a license for predation and with that the fear and determination to protect and revenge our own, and that leads to violence.
How do we deal with people’s shame, both of the abused and the abuser? How do we deal with people’s guilt? How do we deal with the reality of sexual passion without denying that we all pretty much have it and, for many of us, go through times, periods, years, and a lifetime of not quite knowing what to do with it?
I come back to grace. The powerful mercy of God, the grace of Jesus who died for sinners, the mercy of God to forgive the failures, the power of God to heal the victims, the power of God to change an evil heart, the merciful power of God to deliver the addicted and sexually imprisoned, the free adoption of God to make those who feel like orphans realize they have an identity as sons and daughters of a God who loves them. We dare not “put a cork in it” because we were not made to simply suppress it, but we dare not fail to surrender its passions to a loving and gracious God who knows how to help us use it for his glory, and our joy.