to start at the beginning of this series, go here
i think my next step in this conversation is to think some more about what is at stake in this conversation.
here are a few true things about me, for some context:
– i am female.
– i am twenty-seven.
– i am single.
– i have never had sex.
these things color my perspective and my perception, so i feel it is necessary for me to name them before i go much further. this is where i am speaking from, take it or leave it.
everyone has sex.
as a christian, i believe that we – all humans – are created in the image of God. this statement is loaded, with different meanings for different people. i think there are a lot of things that we can say are “normal” elements of human experience, but there are few core things that are common to all. i don’t believe having sex is one of them.
certainly, having sex is a normative human behavior, an experience that most people have within their lifetime. but there is an inherent danger in saying that everyone has sex. saying this makes it something that is essential or foundational to personhood. but…
what about people who choose not to have sex, who choose to be celibate?
what about people who die before they have sex?
does not having sex take anything away from them being human? no. they are still fully human.
when someone tells me everyone has sex, it holds with it the implication that not having sex puts me in another category, takes away from my humanity somehow because i don’t. does this seem like a big leap? let’s reason it out for a second:
every person has sex.
i do not have/have not had sex.
therefore, i am not a person.
this argument is valid, the logic checks out. but i think it is unsound. i reject the conclusion as false, and have to reject the first premise, because i know the second premise to be true.
this is the danger in saying everyone has sex, in universalizing an experience. this is the danger in making the physical act of intercourse something that is essential or basic or fundamental to being human.
i don’t think this means that sexuality has nothing to do with our personhood, with what it means to be human. i just think we can’t limit our understanding of sexuality to simply having intercourse. sexuality is about much more than the act of sex. it is about how we relate to each other, how we connect with one another, how we treat each other, how we love each other. and this, this capacity for relationship, for connection to another person, this is part of what it means to be human. sex is just one manifestation of this capacity for relationship. friendship is another.
a person can be sexual without having sex, because it is about relating to and connecting with another person. a sexual relationship and a friendship both involve interest, vulnerability, intimacy, care for the other, and so much more. those things, whatever the context, evidence our humanity.
aside from our capacity for relationship, another piece of what it means to be made in the image of God is that somehow, mysteriously, we are a union of body and spirit. sometimes we try to exist within each of these elements separately. we don’t realize that maintaining physical health, eating right and exercising for example, actually impact our spiritual health, and vice versa. because we exist as a mysterious union of body and spirit, they are connected…always.
having sex is not just a physical decision. what we do with our bodies is spiritual. sex is spiritual. to see sex as a purely physical act is to deny its impact on us as spiritual beings. it is to create an unholy and dualistic notion of what it means to be human. it tears us in two.
most people would say that all humans have (or should have) freedom. however, most people think of this as free will, or the freedom of choice. meaning, i have the right – you have the right – to do whatever you please. some people caveat this with an “as long as it doesn’t infringe on someone else’s free will.”
but lets think about freedom in terms of the image of God. God’s freedom does not come from God’s ability to do whatever God pleases, though God certainly can. God, in God’s infinite freedom chose to create: the entire cosmos, the earth, the animals, and us. God is free for us. God created a special little space for us, and when something happened to separate us from God, God came in after us. God, in God’s infinite freedom, chose to be for us by becoming one of us.
so by possessing the image of this God who was so free that he chose to be for us, we too are free. not free to do whatever we want whenever we want. but free for God. free to be all that God made us to be. free to be for the others around us who bear this image as well.
our freedom is related to how we approach sex as well. if we understand freedom in terms of free will, then sex becomes something purely about us – we do it whenever we want, with whomever we want, however we want. but if freedom is a freedom for what we were created to be, freedom for God, and freedom for others, then sex is a culmination. an ultimate act of union, consideration, and honor. it is something to be respected and not engaged in lightly.
sex is a meaningful, common experience. not everyone has this experience, and that is okay. i am okay. while having sex is not what it means to be human, it is still connected to our humanity, to our personhood.