“Sexy: sexually suggestive or stimulating:erotic”
This just in! Did you know that one of your main goals as a human being is to be sexy? No? Well then you clearly haven’t been paying attention! Being sexy i.e. appearing sexually appealing and sexually available – whether you are or not – is supposed to be the highest priority in all of our lives! If you’re not sexy, you should at least be trying to be sexier! Be careful that you’re not too sexy though. That will get you a reputation (especially if you’re a woman). But just remember that your personal value is directly linked to your sexual value and you’re actually less valuable as a person if nobody finds you sexually attractive.
What a load of utter, utter rubbish.
Now, all that might seem silly written down but that’s the way our culture thinks and talks about sex. Sex is a god and so the more you bear the image of the deity, the more value you possess in the eyes of men and women. Our media and advertising are the strongest pulpits for this message but we convert to it wholesale and quickly become evangelists, spreading this message to others and preaching it daily to ourselves in the mirror. If unchecked this voice grows louder and louder.
It rings in our ears when we’re shopping for clothes or when we’re looking at the dessert menu in a restaurant. It whispers to us when we’re meeting someone of the opposite sex for the first time or when we’re going on a date. For many it grows into a cruel slave master dictating every part of their day down to the minute gestures and motions they make. There’s not many places we can go to escape it and it’s even found its way into the Church and this is what I’d like to discuss.
In the Church, conversations about sexuality (yes, that words means more than just whether someone’s gay or not) tend to go one of two ways. We either a) run for the hills (sometimes literally to live there, separate from society) and cover it in so much shame and secrecy it’s not talked about at all or b) we don’t address it at all and so Christians begin to think like and therefore live like the rest of the world. Romans 12:2 tells us this is not cool. Hear me out on this one. I know we can get really weird about this but I do think it’s something we need to talk about. So leaving out shyness at the door…let’s jump in!
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
– Romans 12:2 (NLT)
Think back to when you were a kid. Most of us remember life being a whole lot simpler. Difficult dilemmas usually consisted of crayon colour options and injustice was being sent to bed before you were tired. Maybe you had lots of friends, maybe only a few, maybe none at all. But life was generally less complicated. Up was up and down was down.*
Then all of a sudden, BOOM!!! Puberty crashed through your bedroom window like a trained assassin and proceeded to raid your anatomy and generally smash up your life! It grabbed you by the childhood and dragged you into a whole new realm of thinking you hadn’t experienced before and the next thing you knew, you were a teenager! Your thoughts began to transform along with your voice and your body and you knew nothing would ever be the same again. You started noticing certain people more and feeling weird sensations when you did. Crude jokes on TV started making sense and conversations at school shifted. One moment you’re ranking Pokémon in order of awesome and learning Spice Girls routines then suddenly you’re ranking people in order of sex appeal and learning how to attract them.
In the wake of this awakening a new culture awoke and a new pecking order was
established. Some of us shot up to the head of the class and some of us watched as our security began to crumble beneath us. Meanwhile others gave up on the impossible dream that they’d ever sit on the throne of the Beauty Queen believing that because their skin was too spotty or too pale and feeling as if they were just born to fail. Our satisfaction in ourselves began to die and we began to forget what the Voice that spoke the stars said about us.
We’re all awakened to the world of sexuality at different times and in different ways. Some through violent and tragic means, others through quiet and natural means. This all might have happened much sooner or much later for you but at some point you realised that you were no longer simply valued for being yourself but you were now on a scale being compared to other people with an increasing pressure to appear sexy in some way.
You may have found yourself high on the scale or you may have considered yourself at the bottom but whether you’re willing to admit it or not, it affected your heart and started to shape the way you felt about yourself. And others.
If you’ve grown up in a church or met Jesus young like me, you may have picked up some mixed signals about sexuality and sexual activity. The word sex was likely spoken with a whisper if spoken at all and was usually preceded or followed by a sermon summarised by the word DON’T! Simultaneously for others of us in church, sex has been championed as the ultimate trophy of a life of celibacy that is honourably bestowed upon you on your wedding night.
At the same time you probably heard at school or through the media that sex is simultaneously a recreational activity, a meaningless biological act to satisfy a biological craving and fulfil a biological necessity while also being the pinnacle of human experience without which you live a lesser life. Living in both the world and the Church you may have found yourself in a kind of no man’s land dodging bullets from opposing sides while trying to pick one!
As human beings we’re made for relationship. We’re social creatures. The desire to be loved and valued is part of our design. Most of our society however has taught us that sexiness (or at the very least attractiveness) is the measure, at least in part if not in full, of our value and so the quickest and best way to feel valued is to present yourself as sexually attractive or available. As a result it’s not hard to get demoralised. Without wanting to fully demonise mainstream media, it has been and is increasingly responsible for shaping the thinking of our culture towards this end and as we buy into its lies we develop a new relationship with ourselves and others using this new measuring stick.
In 2Timothy 2:22 Paul tells Timothy to run away from “youthful lusts” and implies that age is a factor in this conversation. Our adolescent years tend to kickstart our sex drives and it’s quite a while before they start to slow down. In the midst of a hormonal tsunami, a big sign saying DON’T looks more like a lead weight and pursuing the Sexy Lie feels more like freedom and empowerment. You may have discovered that though you lacked the physical components needed to appeal to the opposite sex, but possessed other tools to get the same results.
Personally I’ve found it tough to know how to walk this one out as a Christian. As a kid I wasn’t too bright in school. I didn’t have much going for me in the looks department either. I was good at most sports and that was about it. I was mostly ignored in conversations about which guys and girls should get together. After watching the Rocky movies with my big brother, I developed a love for working out, along with a pretty sweet six-pack while I was still in primary school (elementary school for my American friends). I had found my secret sexy weapon! If TV had taught me anything, it was that girls lose control around a guy with a washboard stomach and now I had one, ready for high school!
I became the guy who wore tank tops to everything. As I got older and became more aware of its effects I used to walk around shirtless a lot in the summer and take every opportunity to proudly show off my rippling abs to any lucky lady who happened to see. At one point there was actually a group of girls that used to meet me at the bus stop in the morning just to get a peek. I kid you not. I actually remember meeting one girl for the first time with some of friends and she actually said “Oh you’re Tony. Can I see your six-pack?”
I’d fully prescribed to the world’s philosophy of “If you’ve got it flaunt it!” and was fully enjoying my validation on the basis of my body. Being a Christian however and pursuing God, I began to discover everything the Bible has to say on this topic and following a 6 year battle with pornography addiction I had what I’d describe as a revelation of modesty. Sounds cheesy I know. It wasn’t based on legalism or prudishness but was grounded in a love for God and a value for my own body and purity. Over time I started to change the way I thought about myself and about being sexy.
When we allow our culture to shape our thinking while trying to follow Jesus, we will always end up living a double life. A very confused double life. It may be that we begin walking, talking, acting and dressing one way during the week and then putting on a super-spiritual disguise ready for Sunday morning. It may be that we begin trying some of our newly found seduction techniques on the unsuspecting church girls because hey, we need to know if we’re powerful or not right? It may be that we begin to feel weighed down or just plain judged by the guy who keeps going on and on about dressing modestly and we can start to feel the desire to let go and rebel.
If you can relate to any of this, I hope you’ll keep reading.
This is about more than just whether or not you have sex. Don’t get me wrong, I believe sex is a beautiful thing that God blesses in marriage but that’s not the topic for today. This is about the oversexualisation of our culture that leads us to believe that in order to function normally and be valued as a person, we need to present ourselves to others as sexual objects to arouse sexual desire in them. This is about us learning to not see our ability to turn people on as a mark of our own significance or power and truly finding our identity in Christ and His love for us. I think there are definitely some underlying lies we believe that are rotting the foundations of our identities for people inside and outside the Church. They need to be uncovered and destroyed.
“When we allow our culture to shape our
thinking and behaviour while trying to follow
Jesus, we will always end up living a
double life. A very confused double life.”
The Journey Ahead
Living in two worlds at the same time can often be tricky, especially when our ideologies become predominantly influenced by our culture rather than God’s Word. This happens pretty easily when our only meaningful spiritual input happens for an hour and a half on a Sunday morning and we spend the rest of the week eagerly learning in the pews of Western society and consequently bowing at its altars. It’s easy to get confused.
I’m hoping to continue to expand this conversation in a way that will be helpful to Christians who love God and who’ve never had the space to engage with it in a healthy way. I hope to share some more stories from my own life and maybe some others and to share resources that have helped me to grow and think about this over the years so please check out the Resource Section at the end of each post.
The epic prophet Isaiah spoke of a Highway of Holiness, a way of life with God and a walkway that rose above the “way that seems right to a man.” I believe there is still a higher call than selling our bodies in return for cheap compliments or lustful stares. I believe there is still a higher call than resigning ourselves to feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing on the basis of people’s opinions. I believe there’s a higher call than cursing our sex drives and living at war with biblical restrictions on sexual practice. Don’t you?
If so, let’s head off on this journey and see where we end up…
Thanks for reading! Share this post if you found it helpful or challenging!
*This wasn’t entirely true for me as you’ll soon see. Some of us had a much more chaotic childhood full of far more confusion and hurt. I don’t want those people to feel alienated in this conversation but I believe you’ll find hope, healing and wisdom for life as we go on!