I was raised in a Christian home and this is what I heard about sex: sex is very good – it was one of God’s many brilliant ideas.
Sex is for marriage, because it joins two people together in a profound and mysterious way that mirrors our ultimate union with God himself. And sex outside marriage is potentially very harmful. This last message was possibly overstated in the hopes it might function as a form of chastity belt woven of the spectres of STDs, unwanted pregnancies, and irreparable heartbreak.
The messages I was hearing were counter-cultural at the time and have become more so. Since the so-called sexual revolution of the 1960s, who, what, when, where, and how is all up for grabs.
How has this panned out for us? The Next Steps project, which has tracked 16,000 people born in 1989-90 since they were 14 years old, has discovered this cohort is strikingly more likely to be virgins at the age of 26 than the previous generation. ’They are the generation who came to adulthood with the ease of being able to find a lover — or hardcore pornography — at the swipe of a phone. But millennials have been revealed to be shunning sex in unprecedented numbers,’ reports Nicholas Hellen in the Sunday Times (May 6th, 2018).
The media response has been to turn to therapists and social scientists for an explanation of what is universally construed as worryingly dysfunctional. This is, they cry, a sign that Millennials are afraid of intimacy.
There are, no doubt, many and varied reasons Millennials are avoiding sex. Could one of them be that rather than being afraid of intimacy they crave it, and at some level understand that they will only achieve it by reclaiming the sanctity and solemnity of sex? The great irony of the sexual revolution is that by bulldozing the river banks of committed, exclusive relationship, it has allowed sex to become a shallow, muddy floodplain.
The Bible contains some of the most erotic poetry ever penned: ‘Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth – for your love is more delightful than wine… My beloved is mine and I am his… Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death.’ (Song of Songs 1:2, 2:16, 8:6). This is God’s desire for humanity. Anything less and we are being sold short.
Jo is Director of Church Communications for CPO and a writer, editor, and speaker. Her latest book is Home: the quest to belong (Hodder) out in paperback June 2018. She blogs at www.joswinney.com.