Public Talking about Sex; Is it uncultured?

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In another posting, I raised a question for discussion on the use of condoms and the AME Church. Thank you very much for the comments and insights.

Clearly, the high rates from sexually transmitted infections, especially HIV infections, is globally understood to be as a result of people engaging in sex. At least, here in South Africa, 87% of HIV infections are accounted for as a result of unprotected sexual contacts.

If sex is the major route of infections, yet what God provided for procreation and pleasure for the married, why is it that very little, if not anything, is said and taught about in public? Why is it that sex is the highly privatised issue when the public dies from the consequences of sexual activity.

Are there pastors who have taken time to publicly teach and preach on sex and sexuality? If there are, help us know; what it means for doing so and what a the biblical, cultural, ethical and theological resources do you employ to achieve this?

I trust you find it helpful to contribute. This is not a South African problem, it is global. Therefore, we all need a global strategy and tools to deal with.

-- Anonymous, March 09, 2005

Answers

I preached my Women's Day message three weeks ago with sex and sexuality as the major topic. On the subject of marriage, I suggested, no not suggested but declared that if our young ladies would keep their knees closed, our young men would be more interested in marriage. My text came from "Adam named his wife Eve, the mother of all living." I tod them that Eve was not a "bitch" a "ho" a "strumpit", she was a wife. Adam did not go into Eve until they were married. One old woman castigated me for "cursing" in the pulpit, but the rest received it gladly.

Be Blessed

al paris

-- Anonymous, March 10, 2005


Parson Paris opines -

"On the subject of marriage, I suggested, no not suggested but declared that if our young ladies would keep their knees closed, our young men would be more interested in marriage."

I suspect your comment about closed knees will certainly stir the nest on this MB. Actually, a few years ago, I heard Bishop Vashti McKenzie declare that women should make clear that the "candy store is closed". This was an obvious sexual euphemism aimed at "denying access".

I have no problem with your frank "gender" terminology from the pulpit but I am a bit puzzled about one thing. Did I read your note correctly that you preached the Women's Day sermon? Not to be chauvinistic but isn't a message on Women's Day more effective if the messenger is a woman as oppossed to a man? I don't think the men in my local Sons of Allen group will think too well of me if I recommended Revs. Elaine Flake, Brenda Payne or JoAnn Browning to speak at one of our programs :-) QED

-- Anonymous, March 10, 2005


Yes brother Bill I preached Women's Day. My sister was scheduled to preach the message but she went home to be with the Lord in June 2004. So the Lord gave me that message and I preached it. We almost always have a woman preach on Women's Day but I have no problem with a male preacher or a female preacher on Men's Day. After all S. Paul says there is no slave or free, male or female, etc. They are just preachers (smile).

Be Blessed

al paris

-- Anonymous, March 10, 2005


I want to thank Rev. Klaas for your very well timed and thought- provoking post. I believe that if we are going to deal with the very real issues of HIV/AIDS and other STDs, and the myriad other negative mental, social, and emotional effects of the misuse and abuse of sex, then we must be able to discuss sex openly and honestly in the church.

But all to often, the discourse on sex and sexuality is characterized largely by a "declaration" by clergy and others for women and girls are to "keep their knees closed." The problem with this kind of statement is that it places the majority of the responsibility for the sex act on the shoulders of women. Much of the sexual rhetoric in the church is directed toward making sure that women and girls are dressed "modestly" (the meaning of which varies greatly by individual), that they don't make themselves too available to men, that they present a challenge to men, and ultimately that they don't give in to men's desire for and pursuit of sex. The underlying assumption, then, is that men have no control over their sexual libido and their desire. "Boys will be boys," so the girls have to make sure that the boys don't get out of hand.

This type of rhetoric is harmful both to girls and boys. It places way to much responsibility for sex on girls, making them responsible both for their own sexuality and for the sexuality of boys as well. It also communicates to boys that it is impossible for them to keep their own desire and flesh in check, and that they lack self- control. We implicitly give sexual license to boys and men, and place the responsibility of control and restraint and our girls and women.

Rev. Paris stated, "...if our young ladies would keep their knees closed, our young men would be more interested in marriage." Well, perhaps if our young men were more interested in marriage, in loving a woman for her intellect, for her spirit, for her talents, she wouldn't feel that she has to open her knees to get him to love her.

The point, here, is not to shift blame. I don't want to go back and forth on who is more responsible. The point is to elevate the discussion beyond simple tropes and cliches. If we want to really effect change in the sexual lives of people, both young and old, unmarried, and married, we must discuss sex in a way that affirms the agency of both sexes, and allows us to dig deeper into the emotions, issues, and customs that underly our sexual behavior.

-- Anonymous, March 11, 2005


Parson Maynard opines -

"If we want to really effect change in the sexual lives of people, both young and old, unmarried, and married, we must discuss sex in a way that affirms the agency of both sexes, and allows us to dig deeper into the emotions, issues, and customs that underly our sexual behavior"

First, let me extend a proper "British" welcome to your arrival on this Message Board :-) Your thoughtful commentary in this thread is a well-timed contribution to this important subject. Your comments in quotation marks read more like a neo-Fruedian scholar or a researcher in the famed Kinsey Institute than a member of the clergy. I'm in full agreement with open dialouge on sex, sexuality and sexual behavior but I have my doubts our churches can accomplish this goal. Just exactly what are you suggesting? QED

-- Anonymous, March 11, 2005



Thank you Prof. Dickens, for your welcome. I've actually been a "lurker" on this site for some time now. And I don't know what to gather of your assessment of my post. Perhaps my background in psychology betrays me, though its roots are neither in psychoanalysis nor human sexuality. Maybe by the end of this post, I'll sound more to you like a preacher, but then again, maybe I won't. :)

With regard to discussion of sexuality in the church, I am suggesting that we first be mindful of the way in which our typical discourse is ineffective and/or harmful. As stated in my previous post, I believe much of our talk places too much burden on women and girls. In addition to that, much of our talk is erroneously focused toward young people. While adolescence is most certainly a time for the proverbial raging hormones, those hormones don't cease to rage at 25 or 30. In fact, studies have shown women experience their sexual peak somewhere around 40 (something I'm looking forward to :)), the incidence of HIV/AIDS is growing steady among those over the age of 60 in the Black community, and we all know anecdotally, though I'm sure there are some statistics somewhere, that there are high incidences of cohabitation, extramarital affairs, and premarital sex among middle aged people. I am suggesting that we stop framing this issue as a problem particularly of the youth and young adults of the church. Get the whole church talking.

But this is very difficult, as you have alluded, in your post, Prof. Dickens. The main problem is that there is an ethos of shame around sexuality that makes it taboo. This stems in part from the cognitive dissonance that most people experience when their beliefs come into conflict with reality. As Christians, we believe that we ought to wait until marriage for sex, yet not many of us do. Instead we force our sexuality underground (though not really), and effectively teach our children, "Do as I say, not as I do." I commend you, Prof. Dickens, for admitting in the first thread that Rev. Klaas started about condoms that you engaged in premarital sex. Thats the first step. We can't talk openly about these issues if we always try to talk about it from a presumed place of perfection. But more important even than open discussion, is healing. God cannot heal us, nor can we foster a community of sexual health, if we're not willing to be real about our own stuff. 1 John 1:9 teaches us that it is if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive our sin and purify us from all unrighteousness. But I believe confession to God is not enough for widespread change. Weve got to confess to each other so that we can help each other achieve wholeness.

But are churches ready for this? Unfortunately, not many are. This requires the church to be a safe place where we can feel that we will not be persecuted for our actions. Understandably, many of us are concerned with maintaining the image that we have so meticulously crafted in order to be accepted by our brothers and sisters in Christ. Weve got work to be done, but it takes people willing to put their own stuff out there, to draw others out of their caves of isolation.

Anyway, I could go on and on, as Im sure you can tell. This is indeed a fascinating subject. I hope this clarifies things a little more for you Prof. Dickens, and others.

-- Anonymous, March 12, 2005


I in no way intended to place the responsibility for refraining from sexual activity on the young (or old) ladies. "Just say no" applies to both male and female. The "lusts of the flesh" must be crucified daily according to St. Paul and I fully believe and understand that. Having spent a large part of my ministerial career as a single minister, I know what the Adult Christian Single must face each day.

God Bless

pastor paris

-- Anonymous, March 13, 2005


Parson Maynard -

Thanks for the thoughtful and balanced response. I guess the reading list at HDS includes more than just the seminal scholarship of Rudolph Bultmann, Karl Barth or Harvey Cox. I didn't know today's leading Divinity Schools offered specialized programs in psychoanalysis :-). Perhaps when you complete your program at HDS you will enroll in HMS and pursue a clinical degree in pyschiatry to compliment your theological training. Much of the emotional disequilibria we witness in society is due largely to cognitive dissonance. Please give my best regards to Preston Williams at HDS. His sister-in-law and I were on the faculty together at Hampton University. QED

-- Anonymous, March 14, 2005


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