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real sex 2

so i've finally gotten, and gotten around to reading, this book [if you don't know what i'm talking about, browse here]. it's quite interesting so far.

    "A story that my friend Carrie shared with me may illustrate. Carrie was two years out of college, living in Minneapolis in a funky, rambling Victorian with six other Christian women. Her boyfriend, Thad, lived down the block. Carrie and Thad were not having sex, but they were doing everything but having sex, including spending the night with each other regularly. And of course none of Carrie's roommates knew for sure that they weren't having sex -- all they knew was that Carrie and Thad spent a lot of nighttime hours together in his apartment. But not one of Carrie's roomies ever asked her a single question about what was going on behind closed doors. No one ever posed a loving inquiry, or a gentle rebuke, or even an oblique offer of an ear. Probably Carrie and Thad's friends were simply made uncomfortable by the prospect of raising the tough issues of sex and chastity. They probably did not want to intrude, or seem nosy.
    But the Bible tells us to intrude -- or rather, the Bible tells us that talking to one another about what is really going on in our lives is in fact not an intrusion at all, because what's going on in my life is already your concern; by dint of the baptism that made me your sister, my joys are your joys and my crises are your crises. We are called to speak to one another lovingly, to be sure, and with edifying, rather than gossipy or hurtful, goals. But we are called nonetheless to transform seemingly private matters into communal matters. Of course, premarital sexual behavior is just one of many instances of this larger point. Christians also need to speak courageously and transparently, for example, about the seemingly private matters of Christian marriage -- there would be, I suspect, a lot fewer divorces in the church if married Christians exposed their domestic lives, ther fights and tensions and squabbles, to loving wisdom, advice, and sometimes rebuke from their community. Christians might claim less credit-card debt if small-group members shared their bank account statements with one another. I suspect that if my best friend had permission to scrutinize my Day-timer, I would inhabit time better. Speaking to one another about our sexual selves is just one (admittedly risky) instance of a larger piece of Christian discipleship: being community with each other.

- Lauren Winner, Real Sex, p. 53

living in today's individualized western society, where relativism is the status quo, these are insanely counter cultural thoughts. outright asking fellow brothers and sisters? about their sex lives? goodness, no. there have been situations with good friends where i toyed with the idea -- part of me did indeed feel the pull, the concern of sharing responsibility for their well-being that lauren points out -- but the part of me that felt oddly voyeuristic about asking such personal questions ultimately kept me from following through.

i could go on but i'll stop for now. anyone out there: thoughts on sex? accountability? community?

Posted on Tuesday, April 5, 2005 at 11:24PM by Registered Commentermdog | Comments11 Comments

Reader Comments (11)

Ugh... I had a "carefrontation" about the exact same situation with a former roommate. It started out with her not coming home every now and then -- it happens; I can respect not wanting to drive home after a super late-night movie fest or something. Then it became a situation where she spent the night there more often than at our place, and through conversation, it became clear that they were having sex. (This was the Purity Pledge girl who said that he wasn't going to convince her to give in until they were married.)

When she finally emailed me one day at work to inform me that she was looking for apartments closer to his place and asked for my opinion, I gave it to her. I tried to gently encourage her to really think about what she was doing and to evaluate whether she was selling herself short with this guy. (She had previously expressed concern about his excessive drinking and regular pot smoking.)

Turns out she was just asking for my opinion on the apartment complex that she was looking at... but she said she appreciated my loving concern. As far as I know they are still unmarried and are now living together. Meh... would I unload all my thoughts on the matter to her or someone else again? I don't know.
Apr 6, 2005 at 12:03AM | Unregistered CommenterDanielle
That is so strange. Look what I posted on my blog! I did this moments before I went to yours.
Apr 6, 2005 at 10:54AM | Unregistered Commenterpaul
great minds think alike, eh? i fear that this all may backfire and people will be sick to death of talking about sex! or... not?

danielle - i'm wondering why you feel that way [the awkwardness? was there a fight? did you feel ignored?] though you don't have to share. from this perspective your sharing sounds appropriate... but then, i'm not you, so i don't know.
Apr 6, 2005 at 11:02AM | Registered Commentermdog
Yeah, I don't know what I was expecting. Maybe it did make her think for a second about everything, but that didn't stop her from taking that path. And it was such a multi-level situation. Him not being a Christian. The drugs. The sex. Everything.

I guess one part of me is so unbelievably non-confrontational that being the one to bring it up is extraordinarily hard for me. But now that I think about it, the other part of me thinks... well, we're all adults now. Why can't we be frank about the topic?
Apr 6, 2005 at 03:35PM | Unregistered CommenterDanielle
Yes, Danielle, you are non-confrontational.

Was the can't we be frank comment a pun?

Anyway, all jokes aside, being open about the issue and with your personal life is good with people you trust. It can become a gossip issue. I don't like discussing my issues with certain people because it becomes an issue to people who use and interpret the information for their own dilusional purposes.
Apr 7, 2005 at 12:12AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve
"Carefrontation"--hehe. That's great.

I too have mixed feelings on this matter. I like that the author's calling for transparency and all that, but it's hard because in most cases that doesn't seem like a two-way street. The "sinner" is expected to be painfully honest, but the "rebuker" can hide behind their Bible verses and righteous admonitions.

If someone confesses that they are honestly struggling with sexual temptation (whether in the acting or contemplating stage), then I think they typically get the "you're sinning and you need to stop now!" response. I think the rebuker honestly feels like he/she is being courageous with the truth, and probably gives him/herself a pat on the back for that. But, as the writer points out, sex is intensely personal. So are the private battles we fight with sin. So if I tell you about my sex life and my deepest temptations all in one fell swoop, that takes quite a bit of vulnerability. And to have the immediate response be "sinner! how are we going to fix this?" makes it really hard.

The confessor is revealing one of the most intimate parts of his/her heart, and it's horribly invalidating to have that met with words that more or less say, "Ewwww. I have seen into your heart and I have found what I see to be unacceptable and dirty." I mean, isn't that how Satan tries to get us, by convincing us that we are unworthy and beyond hope? So if the rebuker's words reinforce that perception, then I think that makes it that much easier for that person to be drawn deeper into shame, which makes it easier for that person to fall victim to temptation, etc. And the cycle repeats itself.

So do I think that you should never confront someone about sexual sin? Well...I don't particularly like that solution either. There's got to be a middle ground, probably one that involves a large helping of grace. I just am not sure I know what that middle ground is. Signing off before I get any more hyper-spiritual...
Apr 8, 2005 at 03:47PM | Unregistered Commentermeegs
i think a HUGE key regarding this is the "sinner/rebuker" relationship. it can't be a casual acquaintance. i think there has to be an established intimacy, trust, respect. and i think it has to be mutual... both parties should feel that they can both confess to, and confront, the other about burdens and sins in the lives of both. this goes for anything, not just sexual matters. i think that's the middle ground, of sorts... it has to be a two-way street. certainly no one of us is perfect... we all have issues that we need to be called out on. if you can find someone you are willing to be real with, and who is willing to be real with you... this is key.

of course, this requires that we seek out and desire such community with other human beings. perhaps this is why community is more of a buzzword these days instead of an actual practice... because it requires for us to open up. community takes work, and it requires vulnerability.

i recently confessed a long-standing, shameful struggle to the kind of person i described above. and though i myself felt unacceptable and dirty, the reaction made me feel anything but that. there was no recoiling in horror, no disgusted gasps, no self-righteous comments. the response i received was one of love and of grace and of understanding and of hope and, most importantly i think, of accountability. a sort of "yes it is sin, and as a friend i stand with you in this and will help you through" feel. no condemnation here; only care. shame was lifted, not created.

but then maybe i'm just extraordinarily lucky to have such a person in my life. i dunno. enough from me for now.
Apr 8, 2005 at 05:57PM | Registered Commentermdog

I talk about sex a lot with friends...who are married. And most of whom have children. Taboos kind of get thrown out the door when you've had a dozen (or more) people who have poked and prodded their way around your sexual organs. (think dooce)

But, as far as sexual sin in the single world and confrontation....

I had a friend in college who made some pretty sweeping statements about sexual sin and she had never been in the position of temptation to do things with a boyfriend. (She'd say:"well...you just shouldn't lay down near him so kissing won't be as intimate." Thanks, sister, not as simple as that.).It's damn hard to judge something you don't understand.
Apr 11, 2005 at 11:45PM | Unregistered CommenterVal
ah... and i think this is what lauren is getting at. shouldn't we as the church be throwing out some of those taboos, no matter the marital status? the earlier we become comfortable talking about sexual issues, the more equipped we might be to actually deal with them...
Apr 12, 2005 at 09:02AM | Registered Commentermdog
Aah. But what a tough thing. Especially for people who 1) have never had sex 2) are misinformed about sex and 3) don't even know what the issues are.

Granted, there are issues that present themselves pre-sex. But they are sometimes different than those dealt with in the midst of a sexual relationship (preferably marriage).

So, I would invite any questions you have. What do you want to know?
Apr 12, 2005 at 11:27PM | Unregistered CommenterVal
true, true.

questions! well, nothing specific at the moment from me. but i'm diggin' the openness and comfort around here... yesssssssssss.
Apr 13, 2005 at 10:24AM | Registered Commentermdog

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