Have You Ever Wondered Why We Treat Sex As Something Sacred?

It seems like our culture is obsessed with sex. It’s at the heart of TV shows like Sex in the City, The L Word, Sex Education and Heartstopper. Scandals about illicit romantic liaisons of the rich and famous always make the headlines. Naked Attraction, Love Island, Celebs Go Dating and Married at First Sight are typical viewing fodder because they are guaranteed to boost ratings. Advertisers cynically use sex to flog cars, perfumes and even bread because sex sells right? Magazine problem pages and online forums are full of sexual angst. Are we getting enough? Too much? Are we doing it right? How can we improve our performance?

Have you considered why we idolise, worship and obsess over sex? How has it become the god of our age? And have you wondered why – if sex is venerated so much – we also cheapen it by having one-night-stands and meaningless encounters, treating it like a simple bodily function akin to eating a chocolate bar?

Our relationship with sex is complicated, but most people spend a considerable amount of time thinking about it and worrying about it even if they’re not doing it. Most of us have an instinctive desire to be found sexually attractive. It seems that we often look to sex to complete us and validate us. We even call our sexual partners our ‘other half’. We seek sexual fulfilment to prove that we matter and are beautiful or handsome. It gives us confidence and makes us feel loved. Sometimes it makes us feel macho, powerful and in control. We often want to have sex so that we don’t feel we’re missing out. We want to feel desired.

Our twenty-first century culture isn’t unique in idolising sex. A quick survey of ancient Greco-Roman art and literature highlights the array of erotic practices that were widespread in those civilisations. We may think that we live in the most sexually liberated era, but, as the writer of Ecclesiastes wisely puts it, “There is nothing new under the sun”[1].

In some ways, this obsession is natural. After all, none of us would be here if it wasn’t for people having sex. But unfortunately, so often it doesn’t deliver what it promises. Sex can bring about a great amount of pleasure, but it can also cause a huge amount of pain and disappointment, especially when we use it selfishly or expect it to perform a role it was never designed for.

The reality is that the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s – which promised more sex and better sex for all – hasn’t delivered. We’re having sex (at any age) on average two to three times a week when in previous decades it was five[2]. Half of women aged 25 – 34 don’t enjoy sex[3]. Half! National libido is in decline. Sexual satisfaction in decline. Over just six years, the number of people who rated themselves as good at sex dropped from 55% to 33%[4]. The average number of sexual partners a person has in a lifetime has gone up, yet Nicholas Wolfinger, a sociologist at the Institute of Family Studies, observes that the evidence suggests that the more sexual partners you’ve had, the less satisfying you find sex to be”[6]. It seems like the reality for many people doesn’t match the marketing and Hollywood glitz.

As humans, we all need intimacy. We’re made for deep connection. We long to be completely known and unconditionally loved and yet many of us look for that love in human sexual relationships that will ultimately disappoint us. Marriages end, people have affairs, orgasms are illusive, sex is often painful or disappointing. Even in the best romantic relationships, one partner will die before the other. Sex is often great but it can never deliver everything we expect or hope from it. So what’s the good news? Are we doomed to chase a satisfaction that is always just out of our reach?

People often think that Christianity is squeamish about sex or that it’s incredibly restrictive because God is some cosmic killjoy. In fact, the opposite is true. There’s a whole book of the Bible (Song of Songs) that graphically and poetically depicts the joy of a sexual relationship between two lovers. God made sex as a beautiful and enjoyable thing. There is something so powerful in the act of sex. It fuses together two souls in a moment of ecstasy and unity.

But here’s the even better news for all of us, whether we’re in a sexual relationship or not. Sex is just a reflection of something bigger and even more profound. Sex points beyond itself to the exquisite joyful union that we can all experience forever with the God who made us and loves us intimately. It is a very deliberate picture of the depth of relationship that God wants to enjoy with anyone who will turn to him. We are loved and desired and we don’t need a sexual relationship to experience that. Only Jesus can meet our deepest desire for intimacy. We can confidently look forward to experiencing an eternity enjoying the full depth of God’s love, but we don’t have to grit our teeth in the meantime. A deeply satisfying and rich relationship that meets all our deepest needs and longings is available to us right now. Or as the Bible puts it: “as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.”  (Isaiah 62: 5b)

So if you really want to enjoy the greatest possible connection that will ultimately satisfy, why not explore God’s heart for you by checking out Christianity.

[1] The Bible, Ecclesiastes 1:9

[2] British National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, 2014

[3] Public Health England, 2018

[4] The Observer Sex Survey 2008-2014

[5]  The average is now 6 – 10 with the mean being 9.5.

[6] In Olga Khazan, ‘Fewer Sex Partners Means a Happier Marriage’, The Atlantic, 2018.