I Need Volunteers for a Sex Survey

When I was a child I naively assumed that most of the adults around me: my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, school teachers, pastors and church leaders etc., were NOT having sex before marriage. We were told not to, therefore I simply presumed most couples had abstained.

Listen to these American statistics:
50% of men and 13% of women born in 1890 had sex before marriage
58% of men and 26% of women born 1890-1900 had sex before marriage
66% of men and 50% of women born 1900-1909 had sex before marriage.

These statistics aren’t even talking about Woodstock or how many people are having premarital sex today, these implicating my grandparents and great grandparents.

I need volunteers to take part in a survey about your sex lives and sexuality. I am not here to judge you. I am here to learn. I will keep your answers anonymous and will write only generalities and statistics about the data I collect.

What is my motivation?
Abstinence was a difficult battle for me. I felt guilty about masturbation as an adult, and felt invalidated as a sexual being until much later in my twenties, only to discover that the people implying I should abstain, for the most part did not abstain themselves. It shocked me and has caused me to ask a lot more questions about sex. I am still somewhat angry that very few people talked to me about my sexual struggles in my twenties and I am adamant that this is a topic we need to stop avoiding particularly in the Christian world and throughout society!

(Statistics taken from “When Sex goes to School” by Kristin Luker)

Abortion, Contraception and IVF

It may shock you to learn that I am not anti-abortion. I try to take a neutral approach and say that I am neither for nor against, but there are some circumstances in which I am pro-abortion and in all instances I aim and desire to be pro-grace.

I know many women who have had abortions. I know women who have had ectopic pregnancies and while some have not admitted to having an abortion, it seems that this would have been the doctors only course of action. Another reason I have heard for having an abortion was that the mother had cancer while she was pregnant and needed to undergo treatment for cancer. As the treatment would have been harmful to the baby, she terminated the pregnancy.

Every woman who has an abortion has a story and reasons why. It may be that the woman is not in a relationship with the father of the baby and the father doesn’t want anything to do with his child. Another may be because the circumstances in which the child was conceived were abusive. In some cases the baby is very sick and the mother is advised by doctors to abort. In other cases the mother is sick and not likely to survive if she has the baby.

Many women who have abortions never dreamed that they would do so, or would want to do so, or would need to do so. But then the circumstances seem exceptionally bad to them and they feel that this decision is the best one for them. Who are we to judge? I wouldn’t be surprised if some Christians and Muslims have abortions because their religion tells them that if they are caught pregnant out of wedlock, they will be shamed in their churches and families, potentially rejected, disowned, mocked and hated. I used to wonder if I were ever raped as a teenager (because I had no intentions of having sex before marriage) and became pregnant, would I abort to save face? I don’t know the answer to that.

If Christians would judge one another less it is possible that abortion would decrease. If we listened to one another’s stories and showed grace, then people who have had abortions out of necessity or desperation, would be able to be honest, safely, instead of harbouring a secret that may be detrimental to their emotional health.

For all the anti-abortionists out there who think they are better than people who have had abortions, I suggest you take the log out of your own eye. What log am I talking about? One would be contraception and the other would be IVF.

Using contraception is no more natural than having an abortion. Let me state again that I am neither for nor against abortion. In the same way, I am neither for nor against contraception or IVF. I simply feel that if a person is going to stand against abortion, they should stand against the whole kit-and-caboodle.

I personally use contraception. I got married at age 32 and in preparation, went to a natural family planning centre. They taught me how to chart my vaginal temperature and recognise when I am ovulating. Being a Catholic centre, their idea is that couples abstain from sex leading up to and during ovulation and then engage in sex after ovulation until the woman’s next period, if she doesn’t want to conceive. They do not recommend contraception, but rather abstinence except during the time when you cannot conceive. My husband and I decided we would use diaphragms and condoms up until I’ve ovulated and then go without contraception until my period. So far, to my knowledge, I haven’t been pregnant. I love this method and would encourage couples to look into it – if the woman has a regular cycle – simply because it doesn’t involve taking hormones.

However, I am well aware that a lot of women out there take the pill, use an implant or IUD (intrauterine device) while they are trying to avoid conception. What many of them don’t realise is that these three forms of contraception cannot 100% guarantee that a woman won’t conceive. And if she does conceive, the egg will have great difficulty implanting in the uterus because of the supplemental hormones in her body. These forms of contraception are designed to trick the woman’s body into thinking she is already pregnant, so that any fertilised egg will not implant in the uterus. This means that the fertilised egg is aborted from the body unbeknownst to the mother. I have met many women who have conceived while using contraception. If you can conceive a baby while using contraception, then you can also naturally abort (miscarry) a baby while using contraception. It does not mean that this happens to every woman or that the woman’s body is conceiving and aborting every month. Perhaps some women never conceive while using contraception at all. But it is POSSIBLE to conceive and therefore POSSIBLE to abort because of the contraception in the body.

Some would even argue that the barrier method (condoms & diaphragms etc.) is equivalent to all other forms of contraception because people using it are not letting nature take its course. We are “playing God” or prohibiting the plan of God – if you will. And in extreme Christian sects they would say that learning about ovulation and natural family planning are also prohibiting the plan of God for your future children. While I think this is extreme, I have to admit that up until 100 years ago, people made do without most of the current forms of contraception.

But we live in a different world where contraception is available and I would most likely have taken the pill had a married a lot younger. I also want my husband to have a vasectomy after we’ve had our family, and this is yet another form of contraception. I don’t have the right to judge the decisions of a woman who became pregnant as a teenager and decided to abort because she didn’t intend to start a family until she was in her thirties. I too am delaying my family by using contraception.

The second “log” I mentioned, is IVF. If you did not know, when couples go through IVF, more than one egg is fertilised. Sometimes multiple eggs are implanted into the women in the hopes that at least one will survive. Sometimes more than one survives. Other times there are fertilised eggs left over. These eggs are frozen so that the woman can have IVF again … or not. If the woman does not use the fertilised egg within seven years, it is disposed of. Aborted.

I understand that women who struggle to conceive, resent other women who have abortions. They resent that someone else conceived without really trying, while they have struggled so hard to conceive and it makes them feel angry that the baby was aborted, when they feel like they would kill to have a baby. But they don’t realise that in some circumstances they are, in fact, killing to have a baby of their own.

Why judge someone for having an abortion, when you may end up having one yourself with or without even realising it?

Why I am not against Gay-LBTIQ marriage

America has legalised gay marriage in all 50 states. My gay and bi Uncles were quick to rainbow colour code their profile pictures on facebook and these were the first of many posts in my newsfeed that announced this fact to me. Australia is yet to follow. Both of these Uncles–two of my mum’s brothers–are Australian and at least one has been campaigning to legalise it here in New South Wales.

Some of you may accuse me of being biased. You may say I’m not against gay marriage because I have gay and bi Uncles whom I love, very, very dearly. Perhaps to a small degree, this is so, but there is a lot more to it than just supporting my Uncles. Let me tell you the story of my experience and then explain my reasoning.

I was raised in a Christian family and I do not remember when I learned about homosexuality, but I do know that I was taught it was wrong to be gay. I was also taught to love everyone. So I made it my goal to love gay people as a teenager, before I was aware that my Uncles were gay and bi. I always believed that we were all equally sinners and that LGBTIQ people needed to be loved–not judged–just as much as I did.

When I was 18 I became friends with a male teenager around my brothers’ ages who was the first guy to ever admit to me that he was gay. I was excited to have gay friend. To my knowledge this did not cause me to treat him any differently. We still hung out as friends. He came to church with me a couple of times and I told him God loved him as he was.

Meanwhile, my homosexual Uncle was married to a heterosexual Canadian and they lived in Canada with their three children. When I was 22, I went to visit my Uncle and his family and one day I happened to be talking about my “gay friend.” My Aunt and Uncle gave me these strange looks and I had no idea what to make of them. That night, my Uncle and I took a long drive from Owen Sound to Toronto and he told me that he was gay. I honestly had no idea. I was surprised, but I also felt incredibly privileged because I was the first person in the family apart from his wife, one brother and father (my grandfather), to know.

That same year, my grandfather passed away and our Canadian and American relatives came to Australia to say their goodbyes and some were able to attend the funeral. That was when my Uncle started to talk more about his sexuality. Several years after that he was able to come out publically. The whole family knew and our Uncle was no longer trying to fight his homosexuality with heterosexuality. He and my Aunt divorced but remain friends. In fact my Aunt is a Pastor and is fighting to protect LGBTIQ Christians in Canada by educating other Christians from her own unique experience.

A lot of people look at this situation–my Uncle lives in Australia with 2 daughters and my Aunt in Canada with their son–and they presume that this is a terrible mess that has ruined their family. But I don’t see their family as ruined at all. I see 5 people who are extremely passionate about LGBTIQ issues, because they all love each other, even after divorce and the distance of two countries.

Over the past 10 years, since my Uncle told me and the rest of the family that he was gay, I have grown a lot. I have always been passionate about love and grace. I’ve made many LGBTIQ friends, have always believed in loving all people and have tried not to judge people because I fully believe we are all equal no matter what different behaviours / actions / sins / mistakes–whatever you want to call them–we have performed.

And over the years I have debated and studied and tried to determine whether it is actually a “sin” to be gay. I have questioned this because I was raised to believe that it was a sin, but I see little–if any–Biblical evidence for it. I like to think outside the box and my conclusion is that I DON’T KNOW. Two thirds of the way through my theology degree, I do however, have some theological opinions to share about the topic:

Let’s address the Old Testament first. There are two verses in Leviticus that reference two men having sex:
Leviticus 18:22 Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, this is detestable (NIV).
Leviticus 20:13 If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads (NIV).

Jesus’ response to Old Testament law in the Gospels is intriguing because Jesus seems to pick and choose how things apply. He abolished “eye for an eye” and replaced it with “love your enemies.” He elaborated on “do not commit adultery” by showing us that lust of the heart is just as bad. Jesus and his disciples both broke Sabbath rules or expectations. By law Jesus was supposed to stone the woman caught in adultery, but he went against the law and walked away without stoning or punishing her, quite the contrary: he forgave her. Jesus came to fulfil or complete Old Testament law and prophecy, yet in doing so he overrode and rewrote much of it (see Mt 5:17, Rom 10:4, Eph 2:15).

In the book of Acts, Peter sees a vision of meat on a sheet. Unclean animals that he is given permission to eat. Animals that he was not permitted to eat as a Jew according to Old Testament law, he was encouraged to see as clean for New Testament Christians to eat. In the same way, when we read about homosexuality in the Old Testament, we should treat it as being part of the old covenant and therefore no longer applicable to Christians who do not come under OT law.

There are many laws in Leviticus that Christians deliberately overlook today. One law says that women must not have sex during their period or for seven days after their period (Leviticus 15:19-28, 18:19). I have done both and yet the church is not going to stone me for it. It was a law concerning hygiene, but we have better hygiene today and have discovered that women can, in fact, have sex during their period (with ready access to a shower afterward), and certainly the days following menstruation. These Old Testament laws are outdated and the New Testament affirms to us that we are no longer under these laws. We read them to understand the Jewish culture that predates Christian culture and the ideas the writers had about the coming Messiah. Then we look to the New Testament to see how Jesus treated these ideas, and more often than not it was in ways Old Testament Jews did not expect!

Turning to the New Testament we find three passages that seem to refer to homosexuality. Let me address these two first:
1 Timothy 1:9-10 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers … for the sexually immoral, those practising homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers …
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were.

The word translated “homosexual” or “sex with men” in the above verses is the Greek word “arsenokoites.” It has at least 3 possible translations including: “sodomite,” “pederast” and “homosexual.” We do not know exactly what sodomy included back when Sodom existed. We know from Genesis 19 that the sodomites were sexually violent, wanting to rape women and men so I tend to lean toward this as a definition for sodomy. Pederasty similarly describes men sexually abusing young boys. It is arguable that we should change the translation of this word to sodomite which brings across the point that we do not really know exactly what Paul meant when he used this Greek word, but that it seems to involve sexual abuse.

It is interesting, that regardless of how we translate this word, these passages still list sins that we have probably all committed. We’ve lusted, therefore we have committed adultery. We have all told lies and we are probably all greedy. So these passages require explanation regardless of whether they apply to homosexuals specifically or not, in that they apply equally to us all because we are all sinners. The key is found in 1 Corinthians 6:11 “That is what you were.” These sin lists are meant to be a blanket that cover all people. But those who know Jesus no longer identify themselves as sinners but as the saved. So sinners do inherit the kingdom of God (including the sexually immoral, sodomites / pederasts / homosexuals and liars etc.) because they now identify as the Lord’s people, not as their sinful-selves.

So we are left with Romans 1:
Romans 1:26-27 Because of this God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

This is where I must address the notion that the Bible is inerrant. Not only did Jesus re-interpret the Old Testament for us, picking and choosing what he agreed and disagreed with, but we, through the wisdom of the Holy Spirit are to do the same. The Bible never claims to be perfect, nor does it claim to be the word of God. These are things that Christians claim about the Bible. These are also things that Muslims claim about the Quran and yet Christians disagree with them, right? It is dangerous to view any one book as the infallible word of God when the book was clearly written by fallible human beings. What we need to look at is what the Bible claims about itself and about the word of God. The Bible claims to be inspired by God and claims that Jesus Christ is the word of God. So we can trust that the Bible is relevant and has great truths within it because it is inspired by God. It is not dictated by God and it should not be viewed as inerrant when it has blatant historical and scientific errors. Matthew, Mark and Luke did not agree about the number of men and whether they were men or angels at the tomb after the resurrection of Jesus. The book of Joshua says the sun stood still when in fact the sun was already stationary and it was the earth that stopped rotating. These are small human errors that show us the Bible is imperfect. But the Bible is still good, “useful to teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” as it claims to be (2 Tim 3:16).

Jesus Christ being the living word of God, is our exact representation of the Father according to Hebrews 1:3. So who Jesus is revealed to be is our ultimate understanding and model for God himself. In Matthew 19 Jesus said that some “eunuchs” were born that way. The Greek word here “eunouchoi” can refer to a man who has been castrated, or as Jesus said a man born with some reproductive or sexual abnormalities, or perhaps an emasculated or effeminate man. This at least suggests that we have Biblical precedence for people not being born simply male and female. If a man can be born as a eunuch, then likely people can be born gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, intersex or questioning.

Perhaps Paul struggled with this concept when he wrote Romans 1. His culture taught him that homosexuality was wrong and perhaps he did not deviate. But when Corinthians says “every women who prays with her head uncovered dishonours her head,” most Christians today place this into its cultural context and say it is irrelevant now because hair does not have the same symbolic meaning. Or we talk about the husband being the head of his wife and say this has nothing to do with hair (even though the text is clearly talking about head shaving and hair cutting) or we say that it was a Corinthian slogan (this argument I like). But basically a minority of Christian women keep their hair literally covered every time they pray. In the same way, we should acknowledge that even if Paul was speaking literally about homosexuality being sinful in his understanding … he may have been culturally biased.

The Bible promotes love above all else. “The greatest of these is love.” “Love your neighbour as yourself.” “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” It is far more important that we as Christians love and accept LGBTIQ people for exactly who and what they are, as they are, than that we stand against some behaviour we can’t unequivocally prove to be either right or wrong.

At the end of the day, we are all sinners who sin every minute of every day. No amount of legislation is going to change that. Making it illegal to be overweight, won’t stop people from overeating, laziness, gluttony etc. and it doesn’t mean that skinny people are actually eating healthy just because they are not overweight. In the same way, prohibiting gay marriage doesn’t stop gay sex from occurring, and doesn’t make the heterosexual person’s sex-life any healthier.

I am not against Gay-LBTIQ marriage because I believe in the higher law of love and that my sins are just as bad as anyone else’s. I’ll happily attend my Uncle’s weddings if they choose to remarry. I believe they should have the option to do what they feel is right for them. For these reasons I vote in support of Gay-LBTIQ marriage.

Premarital Sex

My mother passed away 4 years ago, when I was 28, on the 5th of May 2011. She had bowel cancer for four years prior and it was not a huge shock when she died. Even though I had that preparatory grief for four years, I had no idea how much grieving there still was to do. For a year I could barely manage to do more than: eat, sleep, work (when I had to) and do one jigsaw puzzle after another, after another while watching episodes of Smallville or some other DVD. My Mum loved jigsaws and part of my grieving process was to spend time most days doing puzzles because it made me feel close to her.

I also remember crying on the way to work every Thursday for the first few months after her death, because Mum died on a Thursday. It slowly decreased to about once a month and after a year I felt that my grieving had significantly lessened.

But there was another aspect to my grieving process that I did not expect. There was a tremendous increase in my desire to have sex. To be close to someone physically and emotionally so that I wouldn’t be grieving on my own. My masturbation increased and I started to resent my virginity.

Up until that point, the most I’d done apart from masturbate, was to experience a small amount of petting and dry humping during make-out sessions. I had phone sex once or twice – and even those were things I did not engage in before the age of 27. But within that first twelve month period after Mum died, I let my guard down a lot further. I had this friend whom I knew was sexually active, who asked me one day if I was still a virgin, but I indicated that I was no longer sure I wanted to be one. He jumped on this opportunity and started coming to visit, probably with the goal to break me down over time and conquer my virginity.

So I let him into my life because I had just lost my mother, and my best friend, and the man I was dating, in the space of about 9-12 months. I felt rejected, lonely, horny, resentful toward myself for succumbing to my “religious obligation to maintain my virginity” and somewhat desperate. We started by making out and petting in the lounge room. Before long we moved to the bedroom, gave each other massages and started taking more clothes off. It took me a long time to touch his penis, but not long to move from that to giving him blow jobs.

A part of me wanted to have sex with him just because I wanted to experience sexual intimacy. I was getting really tired of waiting and had no guarantees that I would ever marry and experience sexual intimacy the way I really wanted to i.e. with a loving husband. So I had a conversation with my Dad when I was 29, just before he re-married (I was so jealous that he was about to have sex with a second person when I hadn’t had sex with anyone) and I told him that I was thinking about having sex. I asked him if he would forgive me if I had sex before marriage. My Dad said he would still love and forgive me if I did, and encouraged me to wait for a man that I loved who loved me.

That was a powerful conversation to have. I knew that if I had sex with the guy I was secretly doing sexual things with, it would not affect my relationship with my Dad: he would still love me. My Dad allowed me the freedom to be myself, make my own decisions and live out the consequences. And freedom has power. Even though I continued fooling around with my friend, and actually started fooling around with another friend as well, over time I became stronger in my resolve to wait for love. Not necessarily marriage, but love.

The temptation to have sex after my thirtieth birthday was high. I still resented never having had sex in my twenties, I probably blamed God for keeping me single all that time. But within three months of my birthday, I met my future husband on facebook. Not long after that I stopped fooling around with both of my friends … and started fooling around with my husband over skype and whenever we spent time together in person.

Not everyone has a story like this. Some Christians are very strong in their resolve not to have sex before marriage. My sister didn’t have sex until her wedding night – at the ripe old age of twenty-one. I secretly call any age between 18-24 “twenty-nothing” and used to make bitter remarks like “they got married when they were twenty-nothing and I had to wait until I was 32.”

I grew up in a Christian household where waiting for marriage was held up as the sexual ideal, only to find out that my parents had sex for the first time a week before they got married. Mum was 19 and Dad 23 – so they were both twenty-nothing! One of my brothers had three kids before he was married and the shunning he received from a lot of our church friends was awful!

On the one hand, I was much older than Mum, Dad, my sister and my eldest brother when I got married and had sex for the first time. But on the other hand, I doubt any of them have done sexual things with anyone other than their spouses like I have. We all have our own sexual journey.

I have read that statistically, most Western Christians are engaging in premarital sex. This has partly to do with the average age of marriage increasing, and probably a lot to do with Western culture. If we continue to hold up the ideal of waiting for marriage, without also upholding love, acceptance and freedom, then premarital sex will only increase, behind closed doors, in secret, with contraception so that people are less likely to get caught. But if we, the church, become more concerned about accepting each other’s sexuality, experiences, decisions, regrets, mistakes and lessons learned, than about upholding an ideal (that most people are failing), then we are much more likely to set people free from sexual bondage, to encourage healthier sexual decisions in the future generations and in our own.