As our congregation at Broad & Dauphin will tell you, sex is a topic I frequently broach. Somebody at my cell last night asked if I remembered the time I said “penis” ten times in a speech (I think that was an exaggeration). Another time two of my buddies were wondering if I would say “orgasm” more than three times. My belief is that if we don’t talk about sex and fill it in with meaning, the culture will just fill it for us. I’m committed to making sure we are conversant about the topic.
Though I generally read Salon for political news, I recently stumbled upon an article that enlightened me even further when it came to how we view sex. It was actually encouraging. It was all about the “dudebro” and the hook-up culture that surrounds him.
The stereotypical “dudebro,” (think white, college student, into Greek life—like Matt Stafford, QB of the Detroit Lions here) kind of gets a bad reputation. Obsessed with sex, interested in sleeping with as many women as possible. The stereotype is that they view sex in a quantity over quality fashion. I still remember my high school year book having end-of-the-year notes with jocks counting the women with whom they had hooked up with that year. And of course, our sex-obsessed culture and the availability of pornography might make sex so void of its meaning, that such sex robots might exist.
But the article goes on to say that we shouldn’t believe the stereotype and form conclusions on any sort of sexuality, especially when we try to force it into a binary, doesn’t really make sense. Here’s what Joshua Rosenberger, assistant professor of global and community health at George Mason University, told Salon:
“The way we set up this conversation is often a very binary way of approaching and thinking about sex. We say, ‘Oh, women are not experiencing pleasure in the same way as men,’ and it brings with it the assumption that men are enjoying sex all of the time and these other hypermasculine stereotypes about pleasure.”
I’ve encountered this often as a man, and have resisted such categorization. The truth is that the way that men are socialized in the U.S., it seems like such stereotypes should hold true. It seems like we truly can’t be intimate with one another in a non-sexual way.
A friend was recently telling us how he met a woman in a bed store and became of her friend. He said, “There we were, lying in bed, becoming the best of friends.” The people listening laughed because lying in bed—even though they were in different ones, with their clothes on—implies sex, somehow. Of course, my friend said, “We got so close, we might have slept in the same bed!” It doesn’t have to be sexual.
Neither does arm-linking or hand-holding, actually—even greeting each other with a holy kiss like Paul mentioned five times in the New Testament. (All of these things are comfortable in the Middle East, a culture that’s influenced me to a great degree as an Egyptian).
We group people, men apparently in particular, into stereotypes and over-sexualize them. Men have less negative connotations with “no-strings attached sex” (like suxh a thing exists) than women, and apparently the only reason women do is because of the stigma, according to the study.
The research actually shows that despite being over-sexed, sex still means something to them and their souls haven’t completely eroded. It turns out that “dudebros,” despite their image, are actually nervous about sex. Men often feel inadequate about their sexual performance—either because they are achieving an orgasm too soon, or are so nervous they lose their erection altogether.
Men are preoccupied with the pleasure of their partners, not surprisingly because the images they are consumed every day indicate they should be Supermen in the bedroom.
The solution, the researchers say, is for people having casual sex to be able to talk to each other about how they get pleasure.
To me, sex within a committed, covenantal, trust relationship is simply best. Why worry about having a vulnerable conversation with someone you don’t know, when you are naked, about what you desire in sex? That conversation seems almost impossible to have in relationship that lacks commitment (it’s hard enough in a marriage).
Not surprisingly, the emotional connection that we have with someone with whom we have sex is incredibly meaningful. And the more sex we have that doesn’t result in a marital bond, the more damage we do to our soul. Sex is not just a physical exchange of fluids. It’s more than that. It has meaning. Sex means something more than a handshake, right? Our desire to do it, is indicative of that. It’s natural, it’s human, but it’s also emotional and spiritual.
What the research gets wrong is that sex is all about orgasms and talking about how to get them. In a relationship where trust and love rule, sex is about a new and serious expression of intimacy.
Even though there are plenty of people having bad sex who are married, the foundation of marriage is the best place to start when we are talking about having meaningful, good sex. A relationship with someone you’ve just met? It’s a soul-sucking place to begin.