Paul over at The Generous Husband recently wrote a post entitled Defining Sex and it got me thinking. Now, he was looking for a straight, all purpose definition of sex. But, I don’t think we can use that. Actually, I wish he had separate works to define sex.
Because sex changes depending on what we’re discussing, depending on what the context is. Let’s look at some of these.
Sex and adultery
This is one of the examples Paul brought forward. He had mentioned that he had experience with men who had done “sexual” things with women other than their wives, but since they didn’t have “sex”, they didn’t consider it adultery.
But, as I wrote yesterday, the relationship is more important than the rules. When discussing adultery, I think we have to bear in mind Jesus’ words on the topic:
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. – Matthew 5:28
I think Jesus was pointing to a deeper truth: that adultery is less about the behaviours engaged in, and more about the mindset. If you are having a relationship with anyone that mimics the one you should have with your spouse…then you’re committing adultery.
In the case of physical adultery, that of course includes sex, including, but not limited to, intercourse, oral sex, manual sex, mutual masturbation, passionate kissing, and a host of other things. In fact, if you are holding hands in a way that only you and your spouse do….then I’d say that’s adultery.
In the case of emotional adultery (emotional affairs), this can include how you communicate. If you are texting someone intimate (which may or many not include sex talk), if you are thinking more about this individual than your spouse, if you are sharing more deeply of your self with them than your husband or wife, then I’d consider this a form of adultery.
This can also happen in our minds, which is what Jesus was speaking of. If you are fantasizing about someone in a way that you should only fantasize about your spouse, if you are thinking of them in a way that should be reserved for your spouse, if you give them the attention that you should only give your husband and wife…then you are committing adultery in your mind. They don’t even have to be real people. Watching erotic cartoons is not okay just because they are drawn figures (I’ve heard that excuse).
Dealing with pre-marital relationships
When you are a couple, but not yet married, or perhaps engaged. What is sex? In these cases, I think the definition switches a bit. You start taking steps towards being a married couple (if you are engaged at least). Some of the boundaries blur a bit. Especially in the mind. You can’t stop thinking about them, focusing on them, being attentive, and these are good things, I think. They should be allowed to happen.
Being engaged, many find themselves thinking about what sex will be like (especially if they are virgins), and I think that’s perfectly normal and acceptable, so long as it doesn’t consume them. If you are starting to make mental porn…that’s probably going too far.
But physically there are boundaries too, and each sort of defines their own. I know couples who never kissed until their marriage. I know others who wouldn’t hold hands until they were engaged. I honestly don’t know if those are boundaries everyone would be wise to adopt or not. What I do know is that things like heavy petting (touching erogenous zones through clothing), oral sex, manual sex, intercourse, mutual masturbation, these should all be off limits until marriage. Oh, anal sex too. Yeah, you’re not a virgin if you’ve had anal sex. Don’t try and fool anyone with that one.
Dealing with sex and marriage
And then we have sex within marriage. Defining sex is still complicated then. I think sex refers to a physical intimacy that should be unique to marriage. Intercourse is certainly a part of that, but it’s far more encompassing. For example, if a wife prevented from having sex because of a pregnancy complication, and so all they have is manual, oral or mutual masturbation sessions, are they having sex? I think so. There is still a shared sexual experience.
But, still, it’s deeper than that. It includes an emotional intimacy as well. After all, a husband or wife can acquiesce to sex multiple times a day, but if there is no shared connection, if it’s just a physical act…then I think they’re missing the boat on sex. Arguably, I’d say they’re not having it. Not in a “sex within marriage” sort of way. What they’re having is penetration and orgasm(s)…not sex.
Because, ultimately, what spouses want is more than just intercourse…they want an intimate, mutually generous, mutually beneficial, mutually … awesome relationship, and that includes a healthy sex life, even if it doesn’t include “intercourse” specifically.
So, defining sex is very difficult in these different situations. We get too hung up on the definitions, we focus too much on the rules, and not enough on the impact it’s having on our relationship. I think that’s where we should focus. So, I guess this post is really just a “part 2” of yesterday’s post.
Focus on the relationship, forget about defining sex. If we could teach our kids how to “have good relationships” instead of “don’t have sex until your married”, and teach them what that means, then I think we’d be further ahead. If we could teach married couples “have good relationships” instead of “don’t have sex with someone other than your spouse”, then I think we’d be doing them a better service. If we could teach husbands and wives to “have good relationships” instead of telling them “don’t say ‘no'”, then I think we’d have better marriages.
The problem is that it takes a lot more communication, and often embarrassing conversations, to teach them what “have good relationships” means. Rules are easier…they’re a convenient way to shirk on our duties as parents, as teachers, as pastors, elders, and generally fellow Christians. Don’t do a half-baked job. Tell people what “having a good relationship” means, instead of focusing on the “do’s” and “don’ts”. Because sex, ultimately, is not what happens in a bed…it’s what happens in your head.