• Ava Hoffman

let's talk about sex

CW // sex, graphic language, body image TW // sexual assault, spiritual abuse, mental health




I was always fascinated by sex growing up. As a child in the Christian church, most of my exposure happened through shared testimonies that included sexual sin by others in my congregation. When I was older, I read everything I could get my hands on, and in my childhood home, that meant fiction of all kinds. It was nothing erotic of sorts, but every scene that even hinted at sex or romance or a crush or a fling, I would read and reread and reread again. The paragraphs that were particularly compelling caused me to dog-ear the pages for easy finding later.


I always felt ashamed of being drawn to those scenes. My understanding of sex was that it was bad. It was not for me – I was a girl. I was a Christian. I was raised better than that. I was too young, and I wasn’t married.


As a teen, the guilt was so great that I stopped reading certain authors (ahem Karen Kingsbury) because their stories were chock full of teen romances, adult romances, and all things bordering on sensual love. I thought if I cut it out, the shame and the guilt would be eradicated, too.


My grandparents are the generation that do not discuss “bedroom matters.” Anything from periods to penises to sex is taboo. They still blush when anything in this realm comes up in conversation! Sex education for them was non-existent. They were all married by age 18 and having babies not long after.


My parents grew up in the sexual revolution of the 90s. Their high school and college sex education consisted of abstinence and the dangers of HIV and AIDS. Their youth groups were rife with purity culture euphemisms. As parents, they didn’t discuss sex with us regularly.


I remember a tween Bible study with my mom – we always went to a cozy coffee shop to read our books and talk about "girl things." My primary learning was that I am a China cup. I should not let men treat me like a throw-away Styrofoam cup. I still have that China cup! My dad and I never talked about sex! My siblings and I were pulled from most sex education in our public schools, and my mom provided well-researched and respected books to walk me through puberty. I think I had the freedom to ask questions, though I felt too ashamed to do so.


As a science-brained gal, I understood sex much more in the biological and anatomical ways than anything else. And yes, friends, as of 11 months ago, I believe sex far supersedes the biological and anatomical workings.


Eleven months ago, when I read a book that elaborated on what I hadn’t been taught as a child, a tween, a teen, and a young adult, my life was radically altered. After the many, many months of unlearning, relearning, and rebuilding; after announcing this passion of mine and this calling on my heart; after making space for it in my public life, there is really only one thing left to do…


Let’s talk about sex!


Let’s talk holistically about sexuality and bodies. Let’s combine clinical psychology, peer-reviewed research, and Biblical theology and apply them to all things sex ethic. Let’s have honest conversations where all are welcome, shame is non-existent, and no guilt will be hoisted on you.


Come, friends. Sit with me!


 

I couldn’t get that Salt-n-Pepa song out of my head as I was preparing to write this. I think I went hunting for the year it was released, and I ended up in the Wikipedia blackhole reading the lyrics, the reviews, its effect on culture, and the way it reflected the culture of that day. No matter what information I found, though, I kept going back to the lyrics.


As I kept reading them, I couldn’t get over how these words apply to our world today. Thirty years later…and I think we are still stuck in the same mantras, identical mentalities, and destructive lies that this song so adequately displays.


I won’t lie, friends, I really find these words both prophetic and deep. While I can skip the audio of this song (listen to it once and maybe you’ll feel me!), the lyrics are very apropos for this conversation.


“Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be”

I’ve come to believe we have such a one-dimensional view of sexuality. It has become so bound up in religious rulebooks, secular rites of passage, and cultural chains of “do whatever feels good.” It has become plagued by female empowerment movements, taken advantage of by men okay with being infantilized.


It is HIGH time we talk about sex ethics wholly and fully.

It is time to include the singles, the same sex attracted, the divorced, and the widowed. It is time to discuss sex while embracing the molested, the abused, the assaulted. It is time we look at sex as more than just an anatomical and sexual act.


I believe sex is good. In fact, I believe God said that sex is “very good.” I believe sexuality was also deemed beautiful and perfect in the beginning. I think that humans were having sex before they were sinning, and I think that sex is one of the most beautiful examples of Christ’s love known to man!


I also believe that our world has disfigured sex. I think we have corrupted something beautiful. We have cheapened it, exploited it, and in turn, I think we have unwittingly cheapened and exploited ourselves. What we do with our bodies is not always good, and what we do with our sexuality isn’t, either.


We must look at the original design of the Biblical sex ethic, and we must examine how we have gone astray. We need to chat about the ways sex is good and right and beautiful and needed. We need to talk about the ways the Church is hurting folks through false sex ethics. How sex outside its design is harmful mind, body, and soul.


Quite frankly, it is time to actually talk about sex, y’all!


“Let’s talk about sex for now to the people at home or in the crowd”

Our lives – young and old, conservative and liberal, male and female, every label ever – are all touched by the sex ethic of the world. TV shows depict illicit encounters and normalize visual sexual stimuli. Movies flash sexual scenes, encouraging certain mindsets towards each gender. Music celebrates casual sex, multiple partners, and the degradation of other humans. Books paint expectations of what romance looks like and what to look for in a partner. Billboards sexualize the human body and promote risqué sexual behavior. And social media…well, it does all the above and more!


Beginning in childhood, we absorb gender roles and differences, and often, gender dysphoria and body distortions have roots here. Some research estimates that the average age of pornography exposure is around 10. STDs run rampant in both middle schools and high schools. Sexual expression in college is encouraged. Extramarital sex is the number one cause of divorce. I could go on and on…


Friends, sex is for every single one of us.


It’s for the children wondering about their body parts. It’s for all those questioning the gender they were born into. It’s for the ones in the world wrestling with what happened in childhood, the ones trying to reconcile what was forced on them. Sex is for the teenagers, the newlyweds, the single folks, the widowed, the divorced, and the couple who were high school sweethearts.


Sex is for the Muslim, the Jew, the Christian, the Catholic, the Mormon, the one who claims no religion at all. Sexual ethics are for the white person, the black person, the brown person, the one from a never mentioned ethnicity. It is for the Republican, the Democrat, the Independent, the one with no political affiliation. It is for the men, the women, the non-binary, the straight, the homosexual, the bisexual, the queer. It is for the neurotypical, the non-neurotypical, the able, the disabled.


Friend, if you have a body, sex is for you.


Talking about sex is needed for those in today’s world! We need conversations that are well-rounded, aware of what is happening in the world. Compassionate, kind, gentle. Conversations that ask more questions, impose less rules, and focus on the whole picture.

Regardless of your story, the identities you hold, what you believe about sex ethics, or who you are – chats about sex are for you! There is a place for you.


“It keeps coming up anyhow”

When was the last time you saw a picture of a woman in a bikini? A man taking a gym pic? Name the last time a show you watch had a sex scene. Last time you received (or sent) an explicit text or Snapchat? When was the last time you masturbated and/or looked at pornography? When was the last time you hated how you looked? Name the last time you thought about getting married.


I’m gonna guess that your date wasn’t that long ago.


And hey – that’s okay! Let’s be honest, we cannot escape sexuality. It cannot be carved out and thrown away. It cannot be separated from who we are. We cannot run from ourselves. We cannot hide from the world.


Here’s a radical thought – perhaps we shouldn’t.


Sexual ethics are not going anywhere. I believe the failure to address it has contributed to so much of the ugliness in the world, and I think refusing to acknowledge it going forward will only enable destructive tendencies in our societies.


Timidity serves no one in this realm. Avoiding, being evasive, and shrinking from it serve only to damage. Today, almost the entirety of a person’s life is shaped by sexuality and their corresponding sex ethics. We must begin introducing these topics as they come up, in sensitive, ongoing, age-appropriate ways.


Sex will continue coming up…ask my grandparents or parents. Ask yours! They will all tell you that sexuality is an ever-recurring hot topic, sweeping generation after generation. Silence serves no one. Let’s talk about sex.


“Let’s tell it how it is, and how it could be; How it was…how it should be”

Amen! For a hip-hop song written in 1991 challenging the sexual censorship in mainstream America…man, this rings true today.


While it might not look like it, the sexual censorship in both mainstream America and Christian America is substantial. Our culture loves to minimize the effects of casual sex, pornography, masturbation, and the effects of forced sex. Our churches love to minimize their support of rape culture, endorsement of man-made rules, and separation of bodies and souls.


No matter where you look, you cannot win sexually. As women, we’re either modest, quiet, and religious, or we’re sluts, bitches, and tramps. Men are often free from labels, but perhaps they may be referred to as prude or a player; gay if they don’t have sex, a man-whore and fuckboy if they do.


The cultural norm – have sex whenever, wherever, with whomever – is in direct contradiction with many faith narratives – don’t have sex unless you’re going to marry this person or don’t have sex outside of marriage.


Perhaps no matter which sphere you tend to walk in most, you have felt this tension – I’ll be made fun of for having inhibitions, and I’ll be made fun of if I talk about it. Friend, you are not alone!


“She had it all in the bag so she should have been glad”

This line intrigues me. The entire song is about safe sex, positive sexuality, freedom to have sex – it was touted as a “playful safe-sex anthem.” And yet.


The woman in this song was running around in a body that would “make any man’s eyes pop.” She was sleeping with men of high standing, men in powerful positions of authority, wearing the most expensive jewelry. She is praised for her “boomin’” body, her ability to “get next to” any man regardless of status. And yet.


She is described as “mad and sad and feelin’ bad.” All the sexual freedom in the world for our girl and she’s depressed. Her heart is full of rage. The hurt is real. She cannot help but wonder what she is missing, wonder if there is better. Her life of sexual freedom is no match for the gaping hole in her soul.


Perhaps it is simply correlation, but could research be right? Could the sexual revolution, exposure, and freedom we experience today actually be contributing to the increased depression, anxiety, and self-debasement in society? It is certainly worth a thought.


If sex, sexuality, and sex ethics makes your heart drop into your stomach, you’re not alone. If you feel an empty hole that nothing (sex, shopping, food, porn, work, etc.) fills, you’re not alone. If there is a constant mental battle revolving around your body, you’re not alone. And if every sexual encounter creates a greater sense of loss, you’re not alone.


“And why not? Everybody havin’ sex”

There are a lot of assumptions in this line…and a really big lie. Not everyone is having sex. I daresay there are quite a few people abstaining!


We are so good at seeing what is in front of us and making meaning from it. Often, this means we lump it all into the stereotypes we are accustomed to. Everyone has sex in college. No one else struggles with masturbation. No one waits until marriage. Casual sex doesn’t hurt anyone. Porn is a harmless pastime.


Big statements like those are rarely accurate. Contrary to what we’d think, categorical assurances rarely apply to the majority. And when it comes to human sexuality and sex ethics, there is no place for false truths, half-truths, and glossed-over truths. When it comes to human dignity and worth, nothing but the Truth will suffice.


 

Hear me, friend – no matter where you stand on any sex issue, there is no shame.


Regardless of how you view any of these topics inside sex ethics, there is no condemnation here. If you celebrate your sexual prowess and conquests, you will find no debasement here. If you staunchly proclaim sex is for marriage, there is no ridicule for you to bear.


No matter what your story holds – or what it does not hold – you are welcome in this space we are calling Taboo Talks, friend.


You’ve heard pieces of my story. It isn’t pretty. You do not have to have it together to enter into this place. Our messy and our ugly can freely exist together. I promise we won’t run out of space to lay our baggage down.


Later this week, we’ll talk about why this is so important, and we’ll walk through a framework designed to give a little structure and a lot of safety to these chats. I hope the more information you have, the more comfortable you are deciding if this is a space you can engage in.


I know these topics are heavy – we each have a limit. We each walk with our own experiences. Take what you need and leave the rest. It won’t go anywhere. Shoot me a DM, comment, or email, if you have questions.


This little nook is for you. Period. I want you here. This is only the beginning ❤

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