The Falcon | Volume 83, Issue 53
By , Guest Writer
Published: November 14 2012
Before I launch into my thoughts about the column “Women Should Read Fifty Shades of Grey” from the Nov. 7, 2012 edition of the Falcon, I first want to thank Ms. Castle for opening up the conversation of sexuality, women’s sexuality in particular, and inviting us again to stay “in conversation” about this important aspect of the human experience. I agree, we are far too silent about this topic, and this silence comes at a great price – ignorance, shame and condemnation leading to isolation and being ill-prepared to understand and care for one’s sexuality, and how, if, and under what circumstances you wish to share it. There are few subjects as explosive inside the Christian church as sexuality. The level of reactivity with which people discuss sexuality, parent around sexuality, silence sexuality, judge and shame sexuality has no equal. Melissa is right – we need to talk about this!
But Fifty Shades of Grey is no more the beginning point to understand the complexity of female sexuality than skydiving is to dealing with your fear of heights. One’s curiosity about what makes a BDSM relationship safe and healthy and when sexual relationships are abusive and manipulative, is hardly a primer to sex and relationship education. However, there are many redeeming aspects of Ms. Castle’s invitation to our SPU community to acknowledge, speak about, and understand our sexuality. Many that far exceed what can be gleaned from a reading of the Fifty Shades trilogy.
Your sexuality is a central place of integration of all that you are – your body, your soul, your passions, your desires, your hopes, your loves, your thoughts, your values, your vulnerabilities, your faith. Our sexuality is woven through the whole of us, and the whole of us is woven through our sexuality. There is a mysterious and powerful way our sexuality is entwined with our spirituality – in ways we may never entirely understand.
This is why sexual abuse hurts someone so deeply. It is also why sexual hook-ups eventually leave people feeling numb and cynical about the reality of love, trust, safety, fidelity, respect and integrity. It is a wound to the soul. It is also why in the context of a loving, committed, deeply known and trusted relationship, people can heal deep sexual and spiritual wounds.
Here’s what you need to know to care for and cultivate a healthy appreciation of yourself as a sexual being:
You are beloved of God.
This is your core nature – whether you believe it or not. All of you. This includes every remarkable inch of your body – all that it feels, all the information it gives you, all that it allows you to do, all the ways it supports your calling in the world. This body, this gift, is to be well cared for as a demonstration of your gratefulness to God for creating you and calling you his beloved. The more you believe God’s love for you, the more you will ensure that you treat yourself well and that you are treated well. You will desire to be cherished, listened to, taken seriously. You will also believe that others are beloved of God – and thus they too deserve to be treated with compassion, honesty, integrity, care. This includes your sexuality every wonderful, mysterious, tingling, compelling part of it.
However, secular and religious culture tells you that in our culture, men are acknowledged to be “sexual.”
A woman is expected to be asexual – focused on the guy, fearful of her attractiveness, fearful of her sexual power – which she is told insights male sexual aggression that she is then responsible for. She is told she is to be enticing, but not too enticing, sexy, but not too sexy, sexually aware, but not sexually experienced. She is shamed for her desires, for her looks, for her power, for what she has done and what she has not done.
Women’s bodies, desires and sexuality have been under such attack in mainstream Christianity in the last 20 years that the vast majority of young married Christian women I counsel are so alienated from their bodies that they are completely unable to access their sexual feelings. Significant sexual dysfunction, arising from deep and profound religious sexual shame, is on the rise in this population. They exhibit the same symptomology as a person who experienced childhood sexual assault.
God’s grace and love help us both heal and learn.
When women believe that they are beloved, that their sexuality, their bodies – including their breasts, their genitals, their arousal and sexual responsiveness, their sexual power, their passion and desire – they both learn about their body and begin to use their wisdom and intuitive abilities to discern the character of another. They hold themselves accountable to appreciate and manage their sexual longing, and they hold all others to do the same. They learn to become no more ready to invite an unknown other into their sacred spaces as they are to invite this person into their bank account. They discern and let a relationship grow in trust and trustworthiness, care and commitment and unfold commensurate levels of vulnerable sharing. Sometimes this discernment is learned through experience, through heart ache, through mistakes. But this is often how we learn the challenging paradoxes of life. Anastasia Steele, the heroine of Fifty Shades, walked away from her relationship with Christian Grey when she realized that the relationship she wanted – one of reciprocity and love – was not one Christian knew how to give or wanted to give. She listened to her wisdom, asserted her voice and left the man she loved. She was not willing to compromise. While BDSM gets the spotlight in this book, it was reciprocity and love with all its uncertainty and vulnerability, that defined the relationship of Anastasia and Christian by the end of the first book and throughout the remaining two books. With all his fear of pain, with all his struggle with unworthiness, Christian led with his heart and not with the dominance and sexual preference he had known before.
Religious culture teaches women that their sexual desires, attractions, desires for touch and intimacy are a mark of a “bad girl.” Many earnest, precious women have learned to feel alienated from their bodies – they see it as something to distrust, to disdain, to tolerate, to dislike. Women do not have models in secular or religious culture of sexually and spiritually integrated women – dynamic, spiritually grounded women who are alive in their bodies, passionate and embracing of their sacred beauty, integrity, choices and values. Women need these models!
Get support, begin to talk and understand your beloved-ness.
Find women who are grounded in their faith and grateful for the gifts from their loving God – who both celebrate and protect all the sacred gifts they are given, including their sexuality, and, who in their compassion and love, are not willing to compromise. Find women who offer grace to themselves and grace to each other -- who are more interested in helping each other learn from their mistakes and choices than they are condemning other’s while hiding their own.
Women have many wisdoms – intuitively, often it is women who know the value of relationships – and who understand both the Jesus who loved the woman at the well and the woman at the well. Women, let yourselves be invited to bring this wisdom to each other, and call forth all others to see the value in embracing our core nature of being God’s beloved and our core calling in life. To love … while learning to see your sexuality as a sacred, delicious part of this beloved-ness.
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