Sex ·u·al·i·ty ; capacity for sexual feelings.
Welcome to the first post in a four-part series we are calling “What’s sex got to do with her? Exploring deeper elements of female sexuality among Christians”. The church, in its entirety, has shied away from speaking on the topic of sex from the pulpit. The few times the church has attempted to address sex in sermons, seminars, and marriage books, rarely do we hear a female perspective on teaching meant for the whole church. Even more, censored is the conversation on single women and their sexuality.
In the four-part series, I hope to speak openly and freely on our sexuality as single Christian women. The conversation has multiple layers and dimensions to it. I pray that the Holy Spirit will bring finality to the confusion and concerns we have and experience in all things.
DISCLAIMER: The word “Sexuality” used in this post refers to straight/heterosexual relationships.
Part I: FREEDOM TO EXPRESS HER SEXUALITY
“Clitoris, female erogenous organ capable of erection under sexual stimulation”
Let start here; God had every intention to let you as a woman express and enjoy your sexuality. Admittedly the context for expressing and enjoying your sexuality as a single woman is not the same as that of a married woman. Sexuality is a part of your being, your existence, your essence. At this point in our relationship with God, I am optimistic we can all agree that HE CREATED US!! ALL OF OUR INDIVIDUAL PARTS WERE FORMED BY HIM TO PERFORM A FUNCTION. Mouth to eat and speak, ears to listen, eyes to see, legs to walk, hands to touch and feel, hair for beauty, nose to breathe and the clitoris for sexual stimulation! See what I did there?
Growing up in sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana, to be specific, we were exposed to particular cultural practices that suppressed the sexuality of the female. The female was punished for merely being a sexual being. The two primary cultural practices were the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and the “Birago) or DIPO.” The FGM is basically female circumcision, except in this case, the part of the vagina responsible for sexual arousal and stimulation is mutilated or cut off, i.e., the clitoris. The motive for cutting off the clitoris is to prevent the woman from experiencing any form of sexual pleasure. In so doing, the woman will be faithful to only her husband because “she can’t miss what she has never experienced.” “Birago) or DIPO” (they do not have English words) is the outdooring of a young girl who has reached puberty and is culturally regarded as “ripe for marriage.” On the surface, that looked like an acceptable way to promote chastity and dignify the girl until the young girl gets pregnant before she is “out doored.” She is regarded as a disgrace, disowned by family, and banished from the community. In some cases, she becomes an outcast with the man responsible for the pregnancy, in other cases alone.
I cite these two examples to set the tone for the conversation on our freedom to express our sexuality healthily, without prejudice, judgement, or punishment. One may ask, what exactly do I mean by expressing our sexuality? We will get right to it; in the meantime, I want to spend some time calling our attention to how the church culture has promoted passivity regarding single women and their sexuality.
The Church culture has been unnecessarily critical of the sexuality of women for all the right reasons but with the wrong approach and motive. The right reason is to prevent pregnancies outside of wedlock. Most sermons on Chasity, purity and sexual immorality were directed at the female. We were told, “God does not want you to do such and such,” but then the question of “What does God really want me to do with my sexuality before marriage” was never answered. The closest way out would be “wait till marriage.” But what if I can’t wait? What if I was raped? What if?
One of the most toxic and harmful narratives perpetuated by the church culture is that for a woman, sex matters to you only when it is to pleasure your husband or to have children. While I must admit that it is changing significantly with feminism and all types of advocacies, it is not easy to unlearn something fundamentally ingrained in your orientation. For my twenty-something years of being in existence and being in the church, I have not for once heard an honest, open, and transparent conversation on female sexuality. The church has failed woefully in that area, but not to be harsh on the institution as I believe they only promoted what was handed down to them. The result of the failure is a gap between sexuality and spirituality. Questions like, is it okay to want to talk about sex in a healthy context? Can I pray to God about my sexuality and not only in the context of fornication or sexual immorality? What part does my sexuality play in my spirituality? How can I intersect the two, or is it appropriate to be a tongue-speaking, Holy Ghost-filled Christian and be knowledgeable about my sexuality as a woman?
It wasn’t until I clocked mid-twenties and my hormones developed more that I began to experience a heightened need for sexual encounters or intimacy. I am probably a late bloomer as some women experience it as early as puberty. Also, for a while, I was ignorant that a female could be sexually aroused just as a man could. It didn’t have to be because a male touched her necessarily. But why don’t we talk about the woman’s sexual wants or cravings? Why are we “hush-hush” on the subject? Why do we make it seem that sex only appeals to the male? Why do we make it seem like the man is the only one who can want or enjoy sex, but for the woman, it is solely for reproductive purposes? Why do we excuse men for sexual immorality in the church but punish the woman? Are both not expressing their God-given right?
God created sex! God created sex in the context of marriage! God created both man and woman as sexual beings! That means both man and woman can express their freedom to want and enjoy sex without judgment or condemnation within the proper context. And both man and woman have a part to play in reproduction. It also means that if God wanted to excuse the man for sexual immorality, the woman would not have been made a sexual being. The argument that only men suffer unthinkable sexual tensions or desires is debatable. I have come to know that women suffer the same too, but the only difference is we are not allowed to own it, talk about it or even think about it. What we as a people have done is to tell the woman, you cannot desire a man. You cannot want intimacy. You cannot enjoy intimacy. The only time you can is for reproduction or to please a man. And we act surprised when women demand to be paid after sex, and I am not speaking in the context of harlotry. But the irony of that situation is that we have a culture where the man is excused for his unbridled sexual desires, and the woman is punished for having sexual desires. I highly doubt that was God’s intention. One person can explain themselves, and the other shamed for having a passion and a desire that both experience.
Even though God created sex in the context of marriage and knowing fully well that before then is a long, humbling period of singleness, I am optimistic that He still wants us to experience freedom in our sexuality. Definitely not in the same context as marriage. So now the question is “How can I express my sexuality freely as a single woman in Christ?” or on the flip side, “What is the freedom to express her sexuality?”. Let’s go with which one of the two sounds better for you.
How can I express my sexuality as a single Christian woman?
How about we start from the point that we need to disabuse our minds from the school of thought that having healthy conversations about sex is a sin. Women can chat about anything… relationships, careers, social justice, theology, politics, religion. Yet when it comes to sex, our chatter turns thin. Sure, we’ll discuss sex as a reproduction: using birth control, getting pregnant, or our married friends struggling with infertility. We may even bring up regrets from our sexual past or lament a sexual abuse trauma, but that’s about it. The danger is once we get to the point of heightened hormonal changes, armed with little to no information or knowledge, we get out there to seek that information by being experimental. And we end up, most of the time, engaging in the very act the church was endeavouring to avoid, have pre-marital sex. One of the most powerful tools one can ever have is knowledge and insight into relevant topics. Sex is a pertinent topic for single Christian women too. Being deliberately ignorant is not prudent. The reason for which sex conversations have been non-existent within the context of singlehood is that the church likes to think “they will not engage in what they do not know.” But not when our bodies have been wired in a way to desire that.
Contrary to popular opinion, I find that the woman’s body is particularly desirous of intimacy during the ovulation stage of the monthly cycle. The woman’s body is literally ripe for pregnancy during that period. The God-ordained way to get pregnant is through sex. So hence, the woman is desirous of intimacy, particularly during that window. But I did not read this; neither was I told. I staggered into this insight through experience.
The best way to prevent something from happening is not through ignorance instead through knowledge, insight, and information. The best way to avoid being broke is through financial literacy. The best way to have good health is through medical information or research. The best way to encourage single women within the context of their sexuality is to welcome healthy conversations about the topic in the church. Pretending the sun does not exist does not mean the sun doesn’t really exist.
In the same way, pretending that single Christian women are not burning with sexual desires does not mean it is not a reality. The very act of sex is preserved for marriage Yes! But the knowledge of sex is not exclusive to the context of marriage. Sex must be demystified from the pulpit and within the four walls of the church.
Secondly, the single woman should not be punished by Church culture or any culture. The punishment may not be as evident in our world today as it was sometime back. However, the passive-aggressive way of belittling women in the church because of sexual immorality is not deterring. Instead, it breads an unhealthy environment of hypocrisy. Women are shamed, called harlots or prostitutes, for sexual immorality, but the man is given a pat on the back. That is some ridiculous level of double standards which is not reflective of the fruits of the spirit. The church culture is quick to forgive a man who has a history of sexual immorality but will nail the lady who was caught once in the same act of indecency. The woman caught in the very act of adultery in scripture was almost stoned to death, if not for the mercies of Christ. But I bet the man caught in adultery with her also picked up a stone, ready to call for her blood. (John 8 v 1 -11)
Additionally, we, as single Christian women, need to repent. We need to repent for not accepting that we are sexual beings. We need to repent from the idea that our sexuality was for two reasons only, to pleasure the man or to bring children into the world. We need to repent from also enabling the church culture to get away with belittling us and our sexuality. We need to repent and come to an understanding that if blood flows through our veins and breath in our nostrils, we are sexual beings. That we, too, will be tempted. That we, too, will experience sexual tensions. That we, too, can own these conversations within the proper context and with our circle of trust. But ultimately, the goal is not to give in to the temptations. And one way to do that is to accept that we, too, experience these tensions. Being oblivious or ignorant will not serve us well.
Next: THE MYTH OF VIRGINITY, OR NOT?