Can we all just stop pretending like it’s not there?

 ‘I literally mean that I’ve been praying, for nine whole long tiresome beautiful months, that God would somehow smite me with the gift of singleness. as if it was a disease you could catch. i was so sure that if i tried hard enough or prayed long enough or pretended not to ever see men that God would give me what I begged him for.’

~*~*~*~*~

It’s all on Tumblr,

just like everybody else’s dirty laundry,

and if you look far back enough you can find me,

struggling against my flesh or whatever,

documenting the 9 months during which I tried to give myself the gift of celibacy.

Pretty sure that’s not actually how gifts work, but you can’t really fault me when my sexual identity was the thorn in my side, the shackle mooring my mystic soul to this cumbersome flesh and bone.

And the trouble is that I still can’t look in a mirror and see a whole body.

In its place there are a thousand disjointed parts that I can’t quite make sense of. All of its little flaws and scars and weirdnesses are immediately apparent to me; the little memories and frustrations associated with each of them crowd my eyes until all I can see is a pile of limbs and appendages that supposedly make up me.

Three years after I stopped trying to force celibacy upon myself, I’m still celibate. Looking back on my [more] youthful ignorance, I can’t really blame myself for trying to enjoy it. I chronicled (and Tumbld!) in poetic detail all of the times that I accidentally “felt something” for boys and I promised to myself and the great void of Internet to do better next time. I even turned away the boy I’m crazy about today in pursuit of this elusive, somehow holier gift of singleness.

After all, my 20-year-old sexual identity was purely a matter of passive happenstance:

I had made no conscious choices,  but a couple had been made for me.

None of The Rules had broken, though, you can put your mind to rest on that account: any of the well-known, oft-detailed

STEPS TOWARD THE EDGE OF THE CLIFF

that purity culture so carefully lists in all of the very divinely inspired dating books had been carefully avoided by all of my choice-makers.

It’s ok to make out with Hannah as long as her mouth is not involved. (Yes, that is in fact A Thing.)

It’s ok to threaten to kiss her, as if it were some sort of crime that you’d be willing to engage, given the right time and setting and carefully described dress, of course.

It’s ok to suggest sexual encounters via text message as long as they never actually happen.

It’s ok to inform her that she hugged you the wrong way. That she lingered just a tad too long.

It’s ok to lure her into your bedroom in the middle of the day and kiss her without warning,

get up and run to the kitchen when she unceremoniously blurts out that it was her first,

carefully avoid eye contact with her until she stops apologizing and informs you she’d “well, better get going”,

and then delete her from all possible forms of social media just in case she might possibly get it into her naive little brain that something

was actually

“there”.

It’s ok to mention, as she begs you to look at her,

 

while you fumble over some all-important pot of coffee,

that you really hope she can forget all of this and not go spreading rumors that you “used her” in any way.

(Kiss-rape is ok, but gossip, no! Heaven forbid.)

It’s ok to laugh and pull away when she tries to kiss you back.

 

So much protection!

So much care!

So much kind, thoughtful, chaste behavior on the part of my would-be suitors!

With all this respect in my life, I can’t think why I would try, as a love-starved just-older-than-a-teenager, to rid myself of sexual desire completely.

Oh dear! This was meant to be a funny post.

Because it is! It’s hilarious! It’s laughable that I could ever think that God, in His infinite wisdom, would ever enable me to actually alter my physiological makeup to such a degree that I could forget sexual desire altogether! It’s sort of adorable to think that I ever thought there could be a way out.

Is it wrong that I’m tired of being “respected”?

Of being “protected”?

Of being “looked after”?

Of assuming that just because you happen to be male that you somehow know how to do those things for me better than I do for myself?

And so today,

tired, defeated, world-weary,

I’m finally taking back my sexual personhood. I’m just gonna own it, I guess.

Because after all I AM this,

this strange fusion of mind and skin,

of urges and hopes,

of tears and failures and screams and smiles;

of stomach-sickness and lovesickness and deep soul stirrings that show up in my eyes and sometimes in my hugs.

And there’s nobody else who’s allowed to make my choices for me anymore.

If you want to treat me with respect, maybe start by affirming that right there.

And I submit the revolutionary idea for your consideration that maybe we all just need to TALK ABOUT IT A LOT MORE.

Boyfriends! Girlfriends! Normal friends! Broach the subject already!

Can we all just stop pretending like it’s not there?

You both have got bodies and no amount of careful abstinent thinking is going to make those go away! You need to know each other’s triggers and hurts and history. You need to know what each other needs and when. You need to know when to touch and when to pull away. Those choices need to be made in light of your faith and in light of scripture and in light of THE ACTUAL LIVING, BREATHING PERSON IN FRONT OF YOU.

I’d also like to suggest that maybe a good deal of the sexual dysfunction within marriage  –

supposedly only an issue when you get a little too hot and heavy before the big day –

happens because SEX IS A SIN before marriage, and THE ONLY THING YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO DO ANYMORE after the dress and the tux both come off.

You can’t yell “Sex is beautiful!” and “Sex is a sin!” at us at the same time and at the same volume and expect us not to grow up a little sexually deformed;

a little too fearful, a little too passive;

a little too unable to see

a thoughtfully created,

a fearfully and wonderfully formed,

a beautiful, sexual, precious, WHOLE body in that merciless mirror.

 

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5 comments

  1. msP

    this was beautiful. and poignant. As someone who is close to 30 and “abstinent” I understand where you’re coming from — we all want to be free. To acknowledge the sexual parts of our in a healthy way, even if it seems “dangerous” to others. I believe we can do it. The Lord wants us to be holy, not “sanitized” of our humanity.

  2. cateiam

    This is beautiful. I wish at 20 I had been this mature or had this epiphany. I think the church needs to teach us how to sit with our desires. To live with them, in them and through them. And maybe we need to stop cluttering marriage with the entirety of sexual expression???? We need to learn to live in the tension.

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