Let’s Talk About Sex – Those First Preconceptions


Before I get started, please know that we have all the time in the world. We can take this conversation slowly. Also, don’t forget to consider joining this conversation with !deaCamp in Las Vegas!

Now here’s my post:

Let’s start at the beginning, with original ideas about sex, and consider what foundational notions we received or interpreted that may have influenced us and the way we think about sex today.

Like for example, there’s me and that one time

I walked in on my parents after my 8th birthday party. I was camping out in the back yard with all my friends. My BFF, Jenell, came really late and gave me the most awesome hypercolor Ocean Pacific t-shirt that ever existed, so I ran in to show my parents, and there they were, making my eyeballs want to fall right out of their sockets.

I went back out the tent, got in my sleeping bag, and pretended to sleep for the rest of the night. I honestly thought I would die, and I thought my parents might die, too. I wasn’t sure. After we dropped all my friends off at their homes, Mama gave me “the talk.” She drove and asked me questions, asked if I had questions. I reminded her that one time in front of her friends I asked her what Horny was (kids at school were singing 2LiveCrew), and she popped my back-side because it had startled her so much. She said she was sorry and finally explained.

She told me that SEX is not wrong when you’re married. I heard the words, but it was still an undiscussed topic. It still made her flinch. It was one talk, but then the playground and television took on the topic in an ongoing conversation.

I learned more on the playground in a week than I did from trustworthy resources in years. Mama had bought me a book that I read from cover to cover within minutes of its being shoved in the mailbox, and that just gave me graphs on what exactly would happen to my body once a month.

And Madonna? It wasn’t a secret with her, and I desperately wanted a pair of lace gloves and a Marilyn Monroe beauty mark. I desperately wanted to look like the older girls at church, with the big bangs and boobs, the ones that the Fine guys liked to hang on.

It became clearer to me than anything I’d ever understood: Sex equals power. Attention. Gain. Sex is the currency of the world, and with it, I can manipulate a room and quit possibly become famous.

Then puberty, and my boobs didn’t really grow, and I found that my hips were much wider than I wanted. Suddenly, my validation was being threatened by my own non-Barbie body-type.

The very idea of sex equaling oneness and unity in marriage was completely overshadowed by my fear of not being sexy enough, because without sexy, how could you like me, much less love me?

These roots grow deep, and weeds from those thoughts pop up all the time. I am in the constant process of handing my past conceptions over to God as I realize them, seeking restoration and redemption. In regard to sex (and also in regard to Christ’s relationship with the church), I am in the slow process of learning unity and intimacy.

If we haven’t already received one, we need to pursue a new beginning.

Have you gone back and offered up the preconceptions on which you’ve based your definitions of sex? If you have, how did you do it and what came of that surrender?

amberhaines
About me

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23 Comments

Amber
Reply July 2, 2010

If you would like to submit a post for Let's Talk About Sex, please email your submissions to nightlightguide@gmail.com. There's a lot to cover, and I do need your help.

Kelly Langner Sauer
Reply July 2, 2010

you were into the fine guys, huh? i crushed on geeks and rednecks and never thought too much beyond kissing, which made the getting-married highly interesting. I should send you a post about that sometime.

(warning: rambly comment coming)

I started out with great preconceptions from "the talk" my mom had with me, but they got retooled and by the time I got married, I ended up actually mourning the loss of my virginity ON MY HONEYMOON.

I've spent five years married learning what sex really means, and I told my husband this morning that two aren't meant to become "one vision" or "one ministry" or "one goal" but "one flesh." I understood that sex was beautiful when I was younger, but it simply didn't exist for me until I was married, and then it was such a shock that I had years of body-protecting-habits to overcome before becoming that "one flesh" that God meant for us.

Like I said, I should send a post. This is getting embarrassingly long.

Corinne
Reply July 2, 2010

Amber... I'm so thankful for your openness, your honesty. Your willingness to talk about, and make taboo topics less so.
I've been on a long journey regarding sex. Am thinking of a post to send you... because it's painful, but you can learn so much from all the painful experiences if you take a look.
It's incredible to see the beauty of sex after years of looking at is as a means to get something. To feel something. To be something.

deidra
Reply July 2, 2010

We didn't talk about sex in my house. That was "personal." At least that's what my mother said. She told me enough to be pretty grossed out about the whole thing and that's where the conversation ended. She was doing the best she could with a subject that apparently made her very uncomfortable.

Anyway...in my little Christian High School I learned (or maybe I should say mislearned) a TON about sex. What I heard shocked me and amazed me and made me gaze at my much more experienced friends with awe. And it scared me to death. How would I ever compete?

So...sex in marriage has been a journey. With me trying to be someone I'm not for so many years, and thinking that someone was always looking over my shoulder and condemning this physical love between husband and wife. Kudos to my sweet, patient husband for never giving up. For waiting with me while the untruths fell away. And celebrating together as the beauty of it all revealed itself to us both.

    Amber
    Reply July 2, 2010

    Oh friends, I do so much welcome the submissions from you.

    Deidra, you guys have made me start thinking about something. I'm sure it needs prayer, but what about this question:

    How can we prepare the hearts of young women for sex in marriage?

Jane Anne
Reply July 2, 2010

I cannot remember a "talk" about sex. I know I got information about my body given to me but no heart to heart talks about sex. I learned. I learned in the most backwards way possible. As a 30 something now, it seems absurd, but I learned too late that sex isn't sex based on the completion of pleasure. You can have sex without that. What a surprise to me to have a boyfriend explain it to me... and then recognize my experiences for what they were.

The best way to prepare the hearts of young women is to be open about sex, unabashedly open. Maybe it's difficult because we are uncomfortable but we need to work through that. It's hard to talk to a peer openly about sex so it's even harder to talk about it with younger women. Our daughters will benefit from our openness and honesty about our bodies and experiences. The trick for me is, I can't plan to have a heart to heart with my daughter one day if I haven't developed that kind of relationship. No matter the relationship (struggles or not), I will not avoid being honest. I plan to be real with my daughter. It will be hard. But, learning the way I did was difficult and disappointing.

The first way to prepare the hearts of young women is to pray. I know that sounds cliche' but I believe it. I'm praying now for my daughter's future husband. I'm praying now for her physical experiences. I'm praying now for my ability to connect with her.

Katie
Reply July 2, 2010

Hi Amber and all,
Thanks for your honesty and vulnerability. Seems like I'm similar to a lot of you in that I had a pretty strong sexisbad reflex and only later learned that there's a difference in healthy sex and destructive sex. Sex is really morally neutral, isn't it? Like digestion or the sense of hearing. The good and bad comes in the way we use and contextualize it.

I didn't even realize I was joining the conversation over at the Catbird Seat when I put up this post: http://catbird2.wordpress.com/2010/07/02/on-dirty-jokes-and-love-songs/. Would be interested in what you guys think, if you have time to pop over.

Cheers.

Joy
Reply July 2, 2010

I remember discovering, at age 6 or so, that sitting on the corner of my bed felt good. I had no idea what was going on until years and years later. My mom read me a book too, and I remember reading that the man lies between the woman's legs and seeing them making a plus sign on the bed, not lying parallel, one on top of the other. The whole idea sounded bizarre and not fun at all.

But as I got into puberty, everything changed and I became totally fascinated by anything I could read or learn about it. It was the great forbidden, the great unknown, and I just knew it had to be awesome because of all the secrecy and barriers.

Sometimes I think that all set me up for failure. I am having to unlearn so much because everything I got my hands on is about being satisfied yourself, not about satisfying and giving yourself over to your spouse. The giving over part has proved to be an incredibly difficult thing.

Great topic, and I look forward to reading more! (and if you think there's something in this comment to elaborate on in a post, I'd be happy to consider it.)

Caitlin
Reply July 2, 2010

I think we all agree this is a very complex topic that needs to be discussed.

Yes, girls need to learn about the positive and negative attributes of sex through communication rather than learning and exploring on their own (which unfortunately happens and leads to what someone said above-destructive sexual behavior). But even when taught, it seems things go awry. My parents talked to me, but that didn't keep me from making mistakes. Society today often guides youth on unhealthy detours. I'm still struggling and repairing damage from mine.

I am not sure what the sole purpose of sex is. I struggle with that definition still to this day. Women and men view its purpose very differently, and that's why damage often occurs. Especially with young girls. I think men think about it very mechanically and we view it very spiritually- and we are left very unfulfilled. This is my personal opinion.

If I were to start with any recommendations on how to prevent this sort of dysfunction...I'd say prepare girls and teach boys. I do hope that if we communicated to our male children more, the problems would decrease.

Cassie Boorn
Reply July 2, 2010

I think this is the perfect place to begin this conversation. Caitlin, you bring up such an interesting topic when you say I don't know what the sold purpose of sex is.

The Christian tradition focuses on the idea that sex is what bonds a husband and wife and that sex is the mean to an end. (bearing children)

However, if you have sex before marriage do you lose the special bond you are supposed to gain with your husband. And if all sex was about was bearing children then I don't think it would be such a shameful embarrassing thing for people to talk about.

Which brings me to the nature of sex. Which is very physical. Which Amber talks about in her post this idea of her body and the way that she viewed it and how she really wanted it to look.

I guess the issue is where the physical part ends and the emotional/soul part of sex begins.

This comment is absurdly long and doesn't have one single answer in here. Just questions.

misty
Reply July 2, 2010

4th grade: a friend comes over and allows ken to hump barbie. i had no idea what the word meant, but the visual made me tingle.
5th grade: my father begins petting me, brushing breasts and inner thighs, i once catch a glimpse of his penis (which i'm not sure i even knew the clinical name for)
8th grade: have playground knowledge of what IT meant, and the first girl to get pregnant quits school.

these are some of the shame-binding and fear-inducing introductions i had towards sex. i stayed a virgin in high school out of fear and lack of opportunity, but i was not prepared at all for the emotional/soul repurcussions of giving my body away later on.

the other side to the coin is my husband's version: young mom who got pregnant herself at 17 who then in turn handed him a box of condoms and a commandment (not on my bed) when he was 14. he did not have sexual intercourse in high school for fear of getting a girl pregnant, but learned you can invite other physical pleasures that rob a little of the intent of sex. we've both come a long way, but we've also only been married 4.5 yrs and it's been HARD at times.

a piece of advice i heard on some talk show that is not even remotely christian (or even spiritual) was this: if you can say the words, "i want to have SEX with you" outloud, then you could possibly be ready to engage. i know that if that had been my only prerequisite i would NOT have had sex when i did. it takes to much to be able to give voice to your own desires and to own them.. that's heavy. like i said, not necessarily christian advice, but i think it would be an intruiging factor in a conversation w/ a young woman.
sorry i got long as well.

~love
Reply July 2, 2010

amber...
i'm so thirsty for this conversation. my husband and i have been entrusted with 5 little lives and all i know for sure is that i don't want the way i learned anything about sex to be the way they do.
i only remember one "talk" at around 6 years old. i remember it not being a big deal to me. i just wanted them to say it. it wasn't gross or wrong or bad to me, but i felt they wanted it to be. finally, i said, "well, he couldn't do anything with THAT. it would get stuck." my dad exclaimed, "you're exactly right. it would get stuck!" and the conversation was finished. on a lie.
i'm not saying that every detail needs to be shared at the age of 6, but that's our only talk? i think it is so important to remember as we pass on knowledge to our children, they have no pre-conceived notion about it. they don't know that sex appeal is power in America. we need to be careful to separate our fears from the facts.

aside from all the logistics.....the part i'm so thirsty for is how on earth do we do it? how do we give a Biblical picture of sex and marriage and relationship without it being the typical, "sex is wrong outside of marriage and you had better save yourself for your husband" talks?

how do we prevent them from seeing their sexuality as power when we live in the place we do?

how do we grow them to embrace exactly the way God has made them and not waste precious minutes wishing that smaller or this bigger?

how do we help them get through these years of hormones, and let's face it: i want him to like me and this feels really good years??

how do we get through these years without letting down their guards on their wellsprings....their hearts?

how do we guide them to a healthy, full marriage then instead of feeling guilty about it [even in marriage] because they've felt that way for so many years before??

i'm praying, i'm reading and i'm talking.....even with our 3, 5, & 6 year old.
i know it can't be perfect, but i really don't want to screw this up. i'll be reading. thank you for opening up this discussion.

emily
Reply July 3, 2010

What a great post, Amber. I can relate with Kelly...I spent so much of my high school and college days taking such pride in my virginity that when I got married, I had a hard time defining myself for a while. I was supposed to be the virgin one, the pure one, the one who didn't do it with boys. And now I was married. Married people do it. So who was I now? It is so important to teach girls to guard hearts and minds and bodies...but how do we do that without letting that good girl reputation define them? My good girl reputation defined me, absolutely. And then I had to grieve the letting go.

Just shows how even the girls who hang on to that virginity have crazy, twisted ideas about what it all means.

Elizabeth @claritychaos
Reply July 3, 2010

I am the fourth of five sisters. I can't remember a time, growing up, without teenage sisters in the house. And their teenage boyfriends. We talked about sex - or at least sexuality -- pretty openly, for a moderately liberal Christian family.

I think I was confused by lines. Everything riiiiiiiight up to HERE is Ok, and after that it's wrong. Right? right? Oh...wait. Maybe not? Hmmm....

Interested to see where this goes. I felt a lot along the lines of what you wrote, Amber - about knowing that sex (-iness) gets you attention, love, power. I mimicked my sisters a lot without realizing what I was doing. But overall, I don't have a lot of regrets.

Definitely have more to contribute to the conversation, but not sure this comment box is the place to think out loud. I'll keep my eye on where this goes.

(good on you for raising the topic, amber.)

Christy A.
Reply July 3, 2010

Of course I heard all about sex on the playground...none of it accurate, but what do you expect from little kids running around trying to be thugs in the ashtray of California?

My first real notion of what sex was all about (not the mechanations, but the play that unfolds between men and women) came shortly after I started to develop. I was walking home from the store, and some guys yelled out their car windows at me. I remember feeling shocked, sideswiped, and vaguely dirty, as if something had been taken from me without my permission. But I also felt strangely elated; I'd had my first taste of sexual power.

That was the baggage I brought into the relationship that eventually evolved into my marriage. I equated sex with power. Since marriage was never in my plan, I could simultaneously tie guys to me while keeping them at arms length by using my blossoming sexuality to make them want me so much more than I wanted them. As long as I was the one in the drivers seat, I had control. It is so telling - looking back - that as active as I was (though I never did 'go all the way') my first experiences of actual sexual pleasure were with my husband. It was only ever about power with me. Being desired was how I got affirmation, how I felt beautiful, and how I knew that I mattered.

When I was dating my husband, God did some serious overhauling on my heart, and we both became convicted that what we were doing was NOT OK. Long story short, we cut our our messing around and had to learn how to connect without the crutch of sex. I don't know who it was tougher on; he had his own baggage God was working out, but I had to learn how to really love and let myself be loved. By my (husband) boyfriend, but even more so by God. I had to learn to let Him fill up the hallow places in me that had been fed by men's lust for so long. It was painful, but in the way that finally making love for the first time on your wedding night is painful: it stretches you beyond what you think you can handle, but ultimately - since you know you are being held by The One who loves you perfectly - you know in the core of your being that it is good.

Like many of you (I'm sure), there is so much more that went into shaping me feeling that my worth was measured by the cups of my bra. But the healing that came from giving that lie up to God it what has made all the difference. For me, and for my marriage.

Amy Mitchell
Reply July 3, 2010

My question is. . .what about us spinsters? I'm almost 30 and have given up even the remote hope that I could sucker someone in to marrying me. I'm not a virgin. I held out until I was 22 years old, and gave it up to someone I thought I was about to marry. That being said, you can probably assume that I don't sleep around, and you'd be correct. The people I've chosen to give into are very few and far between. Is it your opinion that it's bad that I've chosen to share myself with a person that I feel very strongly about, dare I say love. . .or do spinsters get a free pass to do that because no one wants to spend the rest of their lives with us?

sara
Reply July 3, 2010

Amber, I follow your blog, and I was so happy that this topic was on the table for discussion.

When I was going through the marriage preparatory course with my husband, a woman leading it said, "Did you know that the prayer that often we use for thanks before sitting down and eating, was originally used for couples?" She said she knew of a couple who had this hung above their bed to remind them of it: Bless us oh Lord, and these thy gifts for which we are about to receive, by the bounty of Christ Jesus. Amen. It was a nice sentiment, but it took a while for it to click. That the act of sex is a gift to be given to each other. Although I wasn't unaware of sex before I married, I certainly wasn't aware of intimacy. And that good sex goes hand in hand with all good things that comes of a good marriage. But like everything else, it takes work. And communication--like talking about what is good and what isn't. If we have come to a place in our relationship where we aren't afraid to ask for other things we feel we are due: help around the house, more time to ourselves, etc., why shouldn't we ask for this. (As I say this, I realize, that I need to take a dose of my own straight talk here.) Esp. since I am probably one of the only women I know who wants sex more than her husband does--the complete opposite of every sitcom out there. And I have been way too shy and embarrassed to talk about this with close girlfriends (I'm an only child, my mom died 6 years ago, so no sisters or mom to turn to about this). So I prayed about it a lot, and the answer I got was to openly and honestly talk about it. Is it better--yep, but we've got a long way to go.

I think it boils down to this: we have come to feel that sex is dirty, and that only "bad" girls think about it, and the more you want it, the "badder" you probably are. To reverse this thought, to believe that you are worthy of feeling good about it, to know that you wouldn't be feeling good during it if your body wasn't designed to receive pleasure--it wasn't an accident, God really made us this way. To reverse that would mean completely crushing every model we have (if we have one) about sex education.

I agree if we can't talk openly about it to our children (and I have three boys, all under the age of 5), then how can we expect them to talk about it openly with us or with their future partners. What I feel now is that having things go right sexually can help (not heal or fix) a marriage in almost every aspect. But only if you are open to letting that happen, and only if we stop making it such a taboo. What I am babbling about here is that I am really glad to be having a forum to address this.

Angela @AngEngland
Reply July 3, 2010

I think I was fortunate to grow up in a household with affectionate parents who had no shame of their delight in eachother. I grew up hearing that Adam and Eve's TOGETHERNESS was the first thing that God ever called "very good". And so it is. :-)

Angela <

Becca
Reply July 3, 2010

Over and over, I hear young Christian women (my own past voice included) saying the same thing: I've learned for my whole life that sex is bad, either explicitly or implicitly. How am I supposed to turn that off the moment I get married?

No matter how many times we're told that married sex is good and healthy, what we *hear* is that (unmarried) sex is bad. For decades... Sex is bad. Then one day, sex is healthy and wonderful and exactly what you've been wanting and waiting for. Right? But we are complicates beings... We don't make the switch like that. Or at least I didn't.

I don't have the answer, just more questions. Like Amber said, how do we prepare women's hearts? How do we keep this unsuccessful "switch" from plaguing generations after us?

joann
Reply July 3, 2010

I love your post Amber. It hints at the root of a problem for we women: Identity.
Where are we getting our "identity" from? Where should we be getting it from?
What defines us? What should define us?

"...their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body."-Phil 3:19b-21

This verse has been on my mind as I deal with body issues (which are really sexual issues too...especially when you are married)...though I'm dealing with less "glory" after two kids and more, 'stomach".
I think the point is: JESUS. We are children of God, not bound by cultural standards, free to enjoy it for the good in our marriages, free from the past and free from the evil photoshopped magazines that tell me I'm FLABBY aka NOT worthy of sex.

Sometimes, when you aren't perfectly sexy and wear an A cup (or whatever your past trauma is), good sex can mean dying to your self. It's not about being worshipped, it's about loving someone.

p.s. AHHHH! REALLY! Happy Birthday to you!

Kathy
Reply July 4, 2010

So glad you're starting the conversation. My momma is still around and I have girlfriends, but there's no one I can talk to about sex. And oh how I want to talk about it, although I don't know where to start. Enjoyed reading the above comments, maybe I'll add more from me later. Just wanted to say thanks.

Tamara
Reply July 4, 2010

I think it's a little like The Wizard of Oz... there's this great mysterious thing that's both sacred and withheld... and then when the veil is lifted, there can be a huge 'anti-climax'. Like, that's it? We spend so much time preparing our bodies and our minds for sex, but so very little preparing our hearts. What would that look like? Practicing vulnerability. Practicing trust. Practicing patience. Practicing communicating. Practicing honesty. Practicing respect for other people's needs. If we taught our children that these things were necessary for a fulfilling sexual relationship.. infinately more necessary than removing body hair or mastering technique... maybe that would be a start? It took me YEARS to stop sucking in my stomach in the dark with my husband. But even that is part of the growing together and the building of intimacy... realizing you've reached new places of trust and security. It's all part of the journey of it, and the growing together. No need to rush it.

Dina
Reply July 6, 2010

hi, amber! I just popped over from somewhere and had to comment. I too was the little boobed girl with bigger hips, leaving me feeling a little less desirable. it's all good now though...I eventually snagged a super FINE guy who I offered up my virginity to (after marriage, of course. what was allowed before marriage did seem to get a bit fuzzy, especially for my husband who was done with waiting! there's an interesting topic: what about engaged couples? what constitutes purity then?) and we are still loving it! ;) funny that I should read this today after I just wrote yesterday about the act of love, wanting to title it "praying for an orgasm" but wasn't sure if my gma would survive after seeing that word in print on my blog!

my oldest daughter, only 8, has already asked some tough questions and it's hard for me to answer because I fear that putting too much visuals in her head will leave her fantasizing on them earlier than she ought.

eager to hear/read more!

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