Single, Saved, and Sexin’: The Gospel of Gettin’ Your Freak OnLike most conservative Christian folks, I grew up believing, that sex was reserved for marriage. For years my sexual experiences were laden with guilt. I routinely went years at a time with no sexual contact, until I would finally, in a fit of weakness give in to my urges. I was caught in a continual cycle of self-denial, self-indulgence, guilt, confession, rinse and repeat, topped off by five years of celibacy. I was treating sex as if it were a bad habit that I desperately needed to break.
All of that is a prelude to a confession: I’m single. I’m saved (as in born-again Christian). And I have sex. Unapologetically.
At my former church, I spent at least one Friday a month, hanging with the dynamic, beautiful, thoughtful, educated sisters of faith who did ministry work. These women were not stuffy; they were totally real: about how lonely it is without someone; about how they never saw themselves at 35 or 40 still being alone with no prospects; about how frustrating the prospect of perpetual celibacy is. But I respect these women because they decided that “doing it God’s way is best,” even if that means an indefinite period of celibacy. And so inevitably there would be the roll call of who had been celibate the longest. 5 years, 10 years, etc… And because these women believed strongly in the Bible as a rule book, no extramarital expressions of sexuality are permitted, not even masturbation.
I, however, have had a long-standing off-again/on-again relationship with more than one B.O.B. (battery-operated boyfriend). And I simply don’t believe that someone else should get to touch my clitoris when I don’t.
So while I love these women and while I believe we love the same God, I do not love their sexual ethics. I do not think one can live and thrive in them. For me, Christianity is too much about grace, too much about freedom to engender the continual guilt, frustration, and anxiety, which I continually confronted merely for expressing my sexual selfhood. Surely there must be a better way.
But when it comes to the sex life of the single Christian, it’s hard to take the Bible as the gospel truth, because for us, their ain’t no good news in it. Song of Solomon’s erotic imagery notwithstanding, no scriptural loopholes permitting me to get my much-needed freak on presented themselves.
But a loophole is not what I needed. I needed a bigger view of God.
For so many women, the biggest faith struggle of their life has been “believing God for a mate.” Year after year, these women serve, pray, and live chaste, believing that God just requires more faith, or alternately, that God is still working on them. And the Black church, in its refusal to consider the impact of over-incarceration, poor education, underemployent, violence, and AIDS, on Black families and heterosexual Black marriages, only makes it worse by reinforcing Black women’s feelings of personal and relational inadequacy. The Church’s parochial sexual politics and double standards have made it even harder for Black women to find the kinds of relationships they so desperately seek. My sister friends want dudes who are in church often, “know the Word,” love God, and are willing to court them for as long as it takes with little to no physical contact. Most preachers don’t adhere to that standard, and while there are some men who would, there are many many, legitimately good brothers who won’t. Our churches rarely even preach celibacy to men.
So when I recognized the way social conditions and religious guilt shaped my options for partnering, I began to ask different questions about my relationship to God, to the Bible, and to faith. Because my friends were following the rules, to a tee, and yet the rewards elude(d) them.
I don’t want the good stuff, sexual or otherwise, to elude me while I’m over here dutifully following the rules, so I’ve actively and painfully gone in search of a better way, filled with life affirming principles and enough grace to let me enjoy my life and some good sex, too. ‘Cause frankly, now that I’m over 30, getting some, getting it good, and getting it on a regular basis is non-negotiable.
I refuse any longer to live a fear-driven life, based upon a set of rules that mete out punishment and reward based on how well I perform. I think Jesus came to free us from performance driven living. As women, we are no stranger to performance driven lives, which often leave us empty and unfulfilled as we try to be all things to all people. And then we turn around and try to do this same thing in our faith, and it isn’t working. For Black women who are already forced to be superhuman in every other aspect of the world, our faith space, personal and communal, can only be liberatory when it permits us to be fully human, sexuality and all.
If we choose to be honest and intentional, we can build life-affirming intimate relationships, both inside and outside of marriage. But our conservatism has stripped women of the right to be intentional about engaging and enjoying their sexuality, even causing some women to avoid condoms and birth control, so they don’t have to acknowledge their choices. AIDS is real, fam.
Sex is a form of creative power. And it is in the literal fact of its creative aspects that we feel alive, fully human, and connected. I think God wants nothing less than this for us, and that requires regular, intimate connections of bodies, or at the very least a very regular, intentional and unapologetic intimate connection with our own body.
So sex is back on the table for me in an emotionally safe intimate connection with another person. Because marriage or no, I am clear about this one thing: celibacy is not for me. I need connection. I need intimacy. I need sex. Period.
That’s why I’m unapologetically single, saved, and sexin’.
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