Consider yourself warned: there is mature content in this article. If you have a tendency to twitch or break out in hives at the mere thought of words like “sex,” “hormones” and (gasp) “climax,” do not read on.
This post has been brewing for years, galvanized by my work with young-adult believers and fomented by statements I’ve heard on reality TV, sitcoms, movies and talk shows—sad-faced tales of sexual deprivation: “I haven’t had sex in two months and unless I get some soon…” Or shaming shock about a friend’s sexual desertlands: “It’s been how long since you kissed anyone?!”
The message is clear: living without sex is like living without oxygen.
Living without sex is a scourge that inhibits happiness and disintegrates identity.
Living without sex is a horrific injustice.
And you must remedy your sexlessness if you care about anything at all. So get out there—seduce someone, assuage your hormones, unconstipate your libido.
Let me be clear.
I am neither dead nor deadened.
Nor am I immune to hormonal surges.
Nor have I subjected my God-designed and God-given sensuality to the paralysis of denial.
I am a sexual being—I was created a sexual being by God Himself. My life is full. Meaning-full, beauty-full, relationship-full and sensuality-full.
Yet I live without sex.
The lie embedded in every form of media saturating our world and influencing our minds—music, art, film, fiction and non-fiction literature—is widely accepted as truth: if you are human and you are celibate, your life is stunted. Worse yet—you are incapable of self-actualization (ie. fulfilling your potential and becoming all that you are capable of being). You are not fully human.
The lie is predicated on a shallow foundation: that sex is the only and ultimate expression of our sensuality, and that a life devoid seduction, physical intimacy and the Big O (euphemism used to protect the twitchers!) is really no life at all.
Here’s the problem—we’ve mistaken genitality for sexuality. Ronald Rolheiser, in a chapter of “Holy Longing” (p. 192) titled A Spirituality of Sexuality, puts it this way:
“The word sex has a Latin root, the verb secare. In Latin, secare means “to cut off,” “to sever,” “to amputate,” “to disconnect from the whole.” To be sexed, therefore, literally means to be cut off from, to be severed from, to be amputated from the whole. . .
“We wake up in the world and in every cell of our being we ache, consciously and unconsciously, sensing that we are incomplete . . . aching at every level for a wholeness that, at some dark level, we know we have been separated from…
“Sexuality is an all-encompassing energy inside of us… It is the drive for love, communion, community, friendship, family, affection, wholeness, consummation, creativity, self-perpetuation, immortality, joy, delight, humor and self-transcendence. It is not good to be alone. When God said this about Adam at the dawn of creation, God meant it about every man, woman, child, animal, insect, plant, atom and molecule in the universe. […]
“Sex is a wide energy and we are healthily sexual when we have love,
community, communion, family, friendship, affection, creativity, etc.”
So…we’re created for sex, right? Intercourse, the horizontal mambo, canoodling…whatever your squeamish youth pastor called it! We’re supposed to engaged in that, right? Not quite.
“Genitality (having sex) is only one aspect of that larger reality of sexuality, albeit a very important one. Popular culture today preaches that one cannot be whole without being healthily sexual. However, for the most part, it thinks of sex only as having sex. That is a tragic reduction.”
Rolheiser persuasively makes the case that sexuality is a hunger to connect and create, and that both are a far broader concept than mere intercourse.
“One can have a lot of sex and still lack real love, community, family, friendship and creativity, just as one can be celibate and have these in abundance.”
Sexuality at its core is a craving for connection, yet sex itself can leave us disconnected.
Author and theologian Skye Jethani further delineates that one of the purposes with which God has endowed us is to bring order and beauty to his creation. It is our sexuality (the instinctive impulse to experience, relish and “delight in”) that allows us to be thrilled by art, beauty and invention. It fuels our desire to “procreate” in broad and vital ways. Even without sex, creating and fostering beauty in the way for which we’re uniquely gifted feeds our senses and gifts us with a fulfillment that goes far deeper than a physical release.
Connection, creativity and delight are all non-genital expressions of our sexuality.
Rolheiser writes, “Sexuality in its mature bloom does not necessarily look like the love scenes in a Hollywood movie.” [Can I hear an amen?] It’s mothers and fathers, artisans and creators, big brothers and big sisters, nurses and healers, teachers and consolers, farmers and producers, administrators and community builders . . . co-responsible with God for the planet, standing with God, smiling at and blessing the world.”
A broad, thriving sexuality involves creating, investing in and savoring our physical and relational spheres.
Based on this definition, can a human being, contrary to popular belief, live a truly sexual/sensual life without the sex act the secular world tells us is essential to fulfillment?
Without a doubt!
But…as long as Christians perpetuate the myth that sexuality and sensuality are limited to genital exercises that end in orgasms, we’re driving an entire generation of believers to sexual atheism (belief in God, but not in his commands regarding sex), sexual atrophy (a denial and/or extinguishing of desire, longing and libido) or sexual dissolution (leaving a “restrictive” faith and Christian community).
None of those responses are pleasing to the God who created us as sexual, sensual and spiritual beings.
Do single Christians have natural sexual needs? Of course they do. Physical oneness is an innate yearning that can be intense and overwhelming. Do they crave physical touch and the full spectrum of relational intimacy? Yes—absolutely, yes. It’s the way God created all of us.
But the solution is NOT to instruct believers to “put a lid on it” and act as if the sexual compulsions aren’t there. All that does is cause frustration, shame and bitterness.
Instead, we must properly redefine (and exhibit) a healthy, biblical sexuality—in all its broad, beautiful and unconventional meaning.
There is so much in this world that touches our souls and sates our longings for intimate significance. Yet we ignore the fulfillment other expressions of our sensuality might afford because of the sex-messages saturating our media and our minds. As long as pop-culture declares that sexuality is merely “carnal knowledge” (and that living without it is unnatural and stunting), “sexual atheism” and its counterparts, “sexual atrophy” and “sexual dissolution,” will continue to grow.
Only when The Church persuades its members of the true meaning of sexuality and teaches them to invest and delight in “non-genital procreation”—only when we demonstrate that we can enjoy lives of healthy sensuality while keeping intercourse in its biblical place—only then will we raise up a generation of unafraid believers in tune with their sexuality, who understand their hormonal urges, celebrate the vast spectrum of sensual expression and commit their God-given reproductive (creative) drives to endeavors more lasting and significant than impersonal and damaging climaxes.
God created in us an elemental desire that, in its purest form, will make us inventive, artistic, relational, nurturing reflections of God’s heart in the wider expression of our sexuality.
In the absence of a context in which physical sex can occur in a covenant relationship, He has given us countless other means to express our spiritual urge for connection and creation in non-physical ways. If all we do, in an effort to be clear and efficient, is “put a lid” on our sexuality, we deprive ourselves of the motivation and blessings that come from acknowledging human impulses and aligning them to God’s purposes.
Can a single Christian live a fulfilling, truly sensual life without being sexually active? Yes—absolutely and resoundingly yes. But we must first redefine the meaning of sexuality, then recognize, foster and celebrate its various expressions.
Let me say this one more time, at the risk of inflaming your hives:
I live without sex.
And my life is beautiful.
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