Let’s Talk…About Sex?
A Gathering Voices Post
This weekend I’ll be leading workshops on some hows and whys of talking about sex(uality) and embodiment in our local congregations. It’s a tricky subject and one that, though I’ve somehow managed to acquire a “local expert” label, makes me uncomfortable every time I prepare to talk about it. Creating the slides, choosing the right words, preparing the handouts – in all of these things, I catch myself fighting back anxiety by holding my breath. Which, of course, begs the question: If you’re so uncomfortable, why talk about sexuality at all?
Seriously, should we talk about these tough topics in church? I not only believe we should, but also that we must – and here’s why:
- Because sex(uality) and embodiment make us uncomfortable. Avoiding and repressing things that make us uncomfortable inevitably creates space for those things to twist up and fester. Whether the topic is money, or power, conflict or sexuality, when conversation is taboo it becomes all the more likely that abuses will flourish.
- Because sex(uality) is about more than just sex (that’s what the parentheses are all about!) – it is about relationship with self, with others and with God. It is about how we feel in our own skin, how we love and relate with our own bodies. It is about being completely vulnerable with another human being. It is about a sensual nature woven within us by our Creator. To only talk about sex(uality) in terms of individual sex acts is neglectful, inaccurate and even dangerous!
- Because sex(uality) and embodiment are matters of life and death. Often this reality gets condensed down to a simple “sex kills”. Yet while that can be true, there is even more at stake than potentially life threatening STIs – there’s also the fact that shaming others about sex, sexuality and their bodies has the power to kill. Too many GLBTQ people in our communities, young and old, have taken their own lives or been murdered because of both our words and our silence about sexuality. Too many people (across lines of age, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation) have taken their own lives because they either hated their bodies or hated themselves for past sexual choices. When we refuse to discuss these topics openly, we are complicit in the violence – and when we create safe space for open and loving conversation about sex(uality), we are given the power to save lives.
The truth is, we are going to disagree – especially when conversation leads us to questions about “the” biblical understanding of sex. Some of us will insist that the “traditional way” is the only biblical way, and some of us will point out biblical passages that don’t fit neatly into that traditional understanding. Some of us will advocate for programs that teach about everything including contraception, and some of us will demand abstinence-only curriculum. At times, our conversations may will be painful and frightening – but none of these realities are an adequate excuse for not talking about sex(uality) in our congregations.
So I wonder:
- How are you making these conversations a part of the life of your faith community?
- What part of talking about sex and bodies makes you the most uncomfortable? Or, is this not a source of discomfort at all?
- Are you willing to risk discomfort and disagreement for the sake of greater spiritual and sexual health in your faith community?