Lets talk about sex

Doctor: “There is a powerful biological drive, at times almost impossible to resist. Species are driven by these urges in order to survive”

Kes: ‘But isn’t that why we have minds? To look beyond biological urges, to consider the consequences?’ 

Star Trek Voyager, Season 2, Episode 4 (first aired September 18th 1995)

 

Sex. It’s everywhere; movies, internet, TV, adverts.  It’s also pretty fundamental to the survival of any species since you can’t make more of your kind without it (though with technology anything is possible I guess). It’s probably why the desire to have sex can be very strong, especially when the hormones are in full flow. This, according to some Christians, is the sole reason people (and boys in particular) are having sex; they just go with the hormones. Added onto this is the notion that girls are tempting the boys with sex, and suddenly it’s all the girls fault. I don’t want to overplay it but social pressure to have sex is immense on teenagers nowadays. It’s considered weird to be in a relationship and not be having sex, and it’s weird if you’re not having non-committal sex if you have the chance. The rules aren’t exactly the same for men and women. If you’re a man and you sleep with loads of women, you’re perceived to be a stud and looked up to. If you’re a woman and you sleep with loads of guys, you’re perceived to be a slut and looked down on. The response of some Christians to this situation is to suggest that chastity until marriage is the only way to go, and that any girl who doesn’t is used and tainted. Very much gives the impression that sex within marriage is going to be amazing even if it’s your first time, and that a woman’s value is found in their virginity.

Are these really the only options we have to offer? Sleep around or be hidden away until marriage? Blackmail celibacy or make them feel like discarded trash? By absolutely no means. For starters, a persons worth is not measured by their virginity. Sex, whilst an important part of a relationship, is not the be-all-and-end-all. I’m not married and I’m not a virgin. Do you think I have nothing to offer my fiance?  Trust, respect, love, friendship, commitment, loyalty; these are the basis of a relationship, these are things I can offer. This doesn’t mean I simply give away sex as a side. When I first had sex, it was something my girlfriend of the time and I talked about beforehand. We talked about what it meant and why we wanted to do it.  It wasn’t a rush of hormones or her being a temptress, it was a honest open conversation between 2 people who loved and respected each other. Imagine that. If you’re expecting it to be mindblowing first time out then, unless you’re very talented and a natural, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Our first time was a little awkward and stop/start, and I have no doubt the first time with my fiance (who will be my wife then) will be the same. Men just aren’t going to be like James Bond right off the bat, and women aren’t going to be either. Like most things in life, you get better with time, practice and experience.

Julie Gianni, a character in the movie Vanilla Sky said “Don’t you know that when you sleep with someone, your body makes a promise whether you do or not!”  If we just look at the mechanics there is a huge amount of intimacy required which may suggest the character is on to something. I’m not going to go into too much detail (I’m too shy for that) but think about how vulnerable a woman must make herself in order for man to enter her. Think about how a man has to be ready before he even gets to be allowed to do so. As John Eldredge poetically put it in his book Wild at Heart:

“The man comes to offer his strength and the woman invites the man into herself, an act that requires courage and vulnerability and selflessness for both of them. Notice first that if the man will not rise to the occasion, nothing will happen. He must move, his strength must swell before he can enter her. But neither will the love consumate unless the woman opens herself in stunning vulnerability. When both are living as they were meant to live, the man enters his woman and offer her his strength. He spills himself there, in her, for her; she draws him in, embraces and envelop him. When all is over he is spent; but ah, what a sweet death it is.”

Some may have issues with the suggestion in the quote above that sex is more about the man, that’s fine, but I think overall it shows the level of intimacy involved when 2 people have sex. That closeness is bound to have an impact on someone psychologically.  Hollywood, the internet; all often give the impression that sex is a consequence-less act, and we like to think that we should have what pleasure we want and have no consequences, but life rarely works that way. Even if people want to underplay it, having sex is a big deal.  People may also have issues with the religious undertone of “living as they were meant”, as well as the spiritual connotations of “making a promise even if you don’t” but as Bonnie Fuller wrote; You don’t have to be religious to be religious about thinking you deserve to wait for a man, who cherishes you and might want to spend a lifetime with you.

Teaching the value of sex is not a bad idea, I fully encourage discussions about the full meaning of having sex. Teaching that it’s for marriage only (if you believe that it is) is not a bad idea. Hooking the idea that if they have sex before marriage they are worthless onto it is blackmail and has devastating consequences. Teaching girls that if they had sex it was their fault for tempting the man is just nasty. Teaching that the man is simply a slave to their hormones is offensive. Dealing with having sex can be hard enough without having that heaped on them too, especially when it’s not even true. Saying no is hard, hormones and pressure are a potent combination, add in being in love and it’s even more powerful. We need to be alleviating pressure not adding to it. Surely a better way would be education about what sex means and involves and helping them develop a sense of worth that is based on just who they are, not what they do or don’t do. If you want to ground that worth in being a child of God, then absolutely go for it, but God won’t love them any less or value them any less if they do have sex outside marriage; and neither should you. I think you’ve also got to trust them to make the right decision and go about it in the right way.

I don’t regret not waiting until I was married. I made a clear decision with the girl I loved and we went into it fully knowing everything involved. Yes talking about it can be awkward and may get some sniggers or the stiff upper lip treatment, but it needs to be talked about and it needs to be done in a far better way than it is now. As Proverbs_8 on Twitter put it; “The saddest form of encouragement is the kind that uses shame”

Intolerance isn’t always bad; my brief comments on Mozilla

Brendan Eich, CEO of Mozilla, has stepped down in the wake of his comments about same-sex marriage. Mozilla initially defended him, but obviously have now stopped doing so after some pretty heavy backlash. Some people are claiming this is intolerance, that opposing viewpoints on same-sex marriage in particular, are being silenced. They claim that it’s those asking for tolerance showing intolerance and that its hypocrisy. I’m not totally convinced by that.

People, as customers, can choose which company they give their money to. This is one of the benefits of living in the “free world”. If a company or its management hold views they disagree with, they are free to choose another business; but business bosses get unhappy when they lose money and their reputation suffers. Reputations are extremely important, a company’s ethos is built around maintaining a good reputation. If one of the CEO’s is seen to be speaking against equality, that’s not going to go down too well and may well be in breach of that company’s values and code of conduct. With the internet, it does not take long for views to get around and a reputation can be left in tatters in a matter of minutes.  It’s not just individual consumers that have freedom and power to make choices about a company’s ethos. Jacquelline Fuller, director of corporate giving for Google, has resigned from the board of World Vision after they reversed their decision to hire gay people in same-sex relationships. OkCupid, an online dating site, wouldn’t let users view their site using the Firefox web browser and made no secret as to why:

“Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OkCupid.”

If people no longer being prepared to accept discrimination is considered intolerant, then I’m all for intolerance. I was angry at the World Vision situation because certain Christians would rather a child in need went without support than give money to a company who supported equal rights for gay people. I’m all for being intolerant to those actions.  We need to be more intolerant to certain other issues like poverty and modern-day slavery. Since when did everything have to be tolerated? Why should discrimination be tolerated? Why should views that promote discrimination be tolerated? Massive changes in society with abolishing slavery and women’s rights have come about because people were no longer prepared to tolerate the discrimination. I’ve heard the retort of “other viewpoints are being silenced as they are losing their jobs over a viewpoint”. I’m assuming those who’ve said this don’t vote then because this is what politics is about. You vote for the person you agree with so they get into power, and the person you don’t agree with is removed. People are entitled to express their viewpoints, but no one is immune from criticism, or the consequences of expressing their viewpoint. When things change, there are always those who oppose it, and they feel like they are being marginalised and forced out. I’m really not sure what can be done about that.

That being said, I’m not massively comfortable with the thought that someone has lost their job over voicing an opinion and exercising his rights (he did a bit more than just voice an opinion, he made a donation in 2008 in support of Californian anti-gay marriage law Proposition 8 but that was his right to). In the larger scheme of trying to encourage equality, this is not going to help. It’ll just entrench the views even further. It does feel like he has been hounded out in the name of progress, or because he went against what the majority of society believes. Money talks, and if you go against what the majority of society believe, you risk losing a lot of it. I’m not saying this is right, but this is the result of a money driven world. If discrimination has no place in society, then by extension, neither do the people who discriminate. What does that look like? Mozilla may have added to the answer. The implications of that are wide reaching.

The World Vision and the Mozilla situations have showed that companies are very protective of themselves, and that consumers wield a lot of power and are not afraid to use it. If you cheered when World Vision reversed their decision due to pressure, you can hardly complain when other companies do things when their customers take action. Either both instances are intolerance, or they’re both instances of a company protecting itself. I’m under no illusion that Mozilla took this decision due to the financial implications, which is the same reason World Vision reversed its decision. There are also implications for freedom of speech, and questions of “what if he had said x” etc.  I don’t have answers to those, we do need to tread carefully when it comes to how we act.

The idea though, that we need to be intolerant to discrimination and injustice, I’m all for it.

Yes, I walk by

A young man in a hooded top is walking down a high street, eyes on his phone, earphones in his ears listening to whatever is on his MP3 player. He looks up and sees a man in ragged clothes, wrapped in a blanket, with a piece of cardboard in front of him, asking for money to buy food. The young man stops, reaches into his pocket, puts whatever change he happens to have, bends down, puts it on the cardboard, and continues on his way without even acknowledging who he’s just thrown money at. He feels a sense of satisfaction that he’s helped someone and thinks to himself “that wasn’t hard”, not realizing that the reason it wasn’t hard is because he did  the minimum possible.

That young man, is me.

I wish I could be writing this and say that it was me in the past, but I do still walk by. Sometimes out of lack of time, sometimes out of not knowing what they will actually do with the money, all of the time with some excuse that I think is justified. Being grateful and appreciate what you have doesn’t change the fact that some people have nothing, or excuse my actions. Even though when I buy a copy of The Big Issue I have no intention of reading it, but I buy it because part of me is thinking “They’re trying to do something about their situation”. Does it matter if they’re actively trying to help themselves? It does seem easier to help them though.

People being homeless is a massive problem in itself, it’s just one of many problems that seem to afflict this world. I have an odd sense of guilt that by focusing on one I’m ignoring the others. The problems seem so huge I can’t see what I can do, and I don’t want to make the situation worse so I effectively do nothing. When I do have a chance to give some money to a charity, I still have my hood up, earphones in my ears and walk by the charity representative in the street who’s desperately trying to get my attention. Again I justify it with “not much time” or “don’t have much money” or its just plain inconvenient. The latter is possibly more understandable at the moment with many struggling with money, but whilst I’m not overflowing with cash I’m not exactly struggling either; I’m sure I can afford a couple of pounds a month, though a couple of pounds multiplied by half a dozen charities it soon adds up.

It feels like I’m making excuses, it feels like I’m walking by, and I can’t exactly criticize others when they do the same.

 

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