We need to talk. I’ll warn you—this may not be a comfortable chat. But it’s necessary, and important. Maybe if you’ve got young children, don’t let them read this bit. But it’s for their sake we need to talk. Because the world is changing and the Church and society are struggling to keep up.
We need to talk about sex. I acknowledge the topic is taboo in many of the cultures in the South Pacific, including older generations in the West. But with a proliferation of porn and the “sex sells” mantra all around us, the problem is not going away.
Even those who have no moral objections are recognising the problems porn is causing and politicians, in the face of the rampant growth of the online porn industry—three of the top 10 US websites are porn sites—bemoan the fact we still have analogue laws in a digital age.
According to a recent ABC News report, around 90 per cent of boys and 60 per cent of girls have watched porn, while 88 per cent of the most popular porn is classified as “violent”. Experts realise that the porn being consumed is having a further reach into society than first anticipated, with the content having a de-humanising effect, objectifying women and causing young people to experiment to recreate the high of what they have seen, leading to serious injury, abuse, relationship breakdown, lack of trust, poor intimacy and performance—even within marriage (see Pornography: What are we doing about it?).
While we may feel the Church is also outdated in this respect, we actually possess the Creator’s blueprint. We could be promoting a healthy, biblical understanding of intimacy and marriage, while not shying away from compassion and care for the realities experienced by those who don’t share our worldview.
"Religion has, in many ways, abandoned the field, leaving it to culture and education."
Yet we have often failed to provide this alternative.
It’s no surprise that Satan is at war with godly sex. Like many of God’s good gifts introduced in Eden—Sabbath, marriage, life, food—sex was very good. Intended by God for pleasure, intimacy, procreation, transparency and closeness, Adam and Eve were naked with each other and unashamed.
Then shame, secrecy and darkness were introduced—the enemy’s weapons. But when things are uncovered to the light, the enemy loses the ability to twist and corrupt.
We, the Church, must take some of the blame for leaving our young people on their own in this arena. Religion has, in many ways, abandoned the field, leaving it to culture and education.
After school I had acquired knowledge but no understanding. I knew sex was “bad outside marriage”. But real life brought temptation and experiences that I was not equipped to deal with.
The Church just says “No”. But there have been problems with purity movements. And youth pastors saying things like, “if you wait till marriage, it will be mind-blowing!”, leads to unhealthy, unrealistic pressures on young, married Christians who discover that, even in marriage, sex can be hard. Hang-ups and bad habits, porn use, unhealthy role models, abuse, lack of appropriate or too much inappropriate affection—all these problems and more we bring into a marriage.
Experience is a hard teacher but my local church gave me biblical principles, non-judgemental counsel, and the raw and authentic experiences of others, shared to lift others up and stop them from making some of the same mistakes. It has been marriage saving. I wish all churches had this right.
But it’s not all bad. Young people today are open to honest conversations (even appreciate them). Many of our youth leaders are willing to tackle the topic, as well as men’s retreats and cell groups.
We must trust our young people enough to have difficult conversations. We must take away the inherited shame and the cultural prudishness about sex—a screen the devil can play behind. Instead let’s lead the way—teaching sex as an important function of a healthy relationship and a God-given gift—and be open about the difficulties sex brings in a fallen and broken world.
We need to reclaim sex.