Sexual Integrity Messages Must Improve as Marriage Age Increases

By Jason Soucinek 

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I didn’t marry until I was 34.

To some this seems old. Others think this is the perfect age to marry. Either way, I am not alone in the trend of marrying later in life.

For the last several years the age at which people get married is getting older, and fewer individuals are getting married altogether. 

This is not because this generation doesn’t want to get married; data continues to reveal high numbers of individuals who still want to marry later in life as a capstone to other achievements like education or career. However, when you couple this information with the fact that the marriage rate is at an all time low, hovering around 50% (compared to 72% in 1960), you can begin to understand the difficulty of speaking on sexual integrity.

Delayed adulthood, cohabitation, changing attitudes about sex, and a Christian culture mostly unwilling to talk about sex and sexuality are some of the many reasons sexual integrity has become a virtually defunct practice. Even among self-identifying Christians, our views of God’s intent for sex have shifted, leaving us in a place of little clear understanding about what to do with our bodies and how to speak honestly about sex.

Sexual integrity needs to be more than just a message about keeping your pants on.

For years the church has simply responded to the culture’s definition of sex. American culture says, “Do whatever you want, with whomever you want, whenever you want.” So what has the church done? It’s responded by saying, “Just wait.” But this is only responding to the definition set forth by the culture and not giving the definition from Scripture.

The definition of sex found in Scripture is based on “oneness” with our spouse. This is seen in verses all the way from Genesis through Revelation. Sex is meant to unify. In fact, when it says in Genesis 2:24 the “two will become one flesh” it is literally saying the two will be fused together, creating this “oneness.”

Procreation, pleasure, and protection all need to be part of the conversations surrounding sex in the church.

Often we are willing to talk about the power of sex as it relates to new life. But why are we afraid to talk about the pleasure associated with it?

Pleasure is not something Scripture hides from and neither should we. Our God is a God of pleasure. We see this in the first verses in the first chapter of the first book in Scripture, Genesis 1, when God declares creation (and thus sex) was “very good.”

Scripture also reveals sex has boundaries but these boundaries exist for our own protection. Because sex has the power to create life and fuse two people together, it requires protection. That is one reason we have marriage. It acts as a crucible.

Clear and consistent dialogue, not a list of restrictions, are needed for sexual integrity to be practiced more often.

Maybe you’ve seen some of the data suggesting young adults are leaving the church in droves. Although I don’t see it quite this way I do recognize a frustration with established religion, particularly when it comes to the attitudes the church communicates regarding sex.

Recently I was listening to a podcast from the show This American Life. The episode was a discussion about collected date showing people’s mindsets changing over the course of a 20-minute conversation. The reason for the change was simple: the parties involved had vulnerable and honest dialogue.

Most of the young adults I speak with are filled with frustration because few people are willing to have difficult conversations about our culture’s view of sex and sexuality. However, I’ve found taking time to listen leads to better and more in-depth conversations, which give opportunity to reveal God’s grand design as the sex-maker.

Let’s have more vulnerable and honest dialogue and make sexual integrity a part of the culture in our churches once again.

How Playboy Can Shape Our Conversations in Church

By Jason Soucinek

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Last week Playboy announced that it would no longer show nude photos of women. Apparently nude no longer sells.

And that is a big deal. Why? Because in our sex-craved culture, nude is not enough!

I’ve heard some rejoicing for this decision and I can understand why. These voices believe Playboy disappearing means the demand for pornographic magazines is changing. In some ways they may be right, but not for the reasons we might think.

As our culture continues to be exposed to more graphic and salacious images, Playboy just doesn’t fit the script any longer. What we are now exposed to on a daily basis is the same or worse than what just a decade ago people were hiding under our beds, away from the eyes of parents. We now live in a 24/7 porn-saturated culture. Whatever your passions could possibly desire we can now find online instantly.

Playboy themselves acknowledged this fact by admitting they have been overtaken by the changes the magazine itself brought to mainstream culture. “That battle has been fought and won,” said Scott Flanders, the company’s chief executive. “You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passé at this juncture.”

Sadly, he is right. They have won and are winning.

In fact, Playboy reported an increase in online readership when they choose to remove nudity from their website last August. As a result the average age of Playboy’s reader dropped from 47 to just over 30, and its web traffic jumped from four million users per month to 16 million per month. 

I think the reason for this increase lies in our desire to reignite the imagination many have lost. Think about it: most porn today leaves little or nothing to the imagination. Today’s porn is raw, in your face, and incredibly unrealistic. Don’t believe me? Check out the multiple studies found here and here.

We are so over stimulated with pornographic images that when we are asked to use our imaginations once more, the rush and excitement feels new again.

Research is showing we are becoming more and more radical in our pornographic addictions. At some point our brain becomes numb to raw, little-left-to-the-imagination images. Playboy has figured this out and wants to once more entice an audience by showing less skin, leaving the reader to use their imagination once again.

Porn is not the same as it was. It has changed. And so must our conversations surrounding this topic.

We must be bold, in the church and outside of it, because if we don’t we are going to lose some great opportunities to bring light into the darkness of so many stories. The church, better than anyone, has the ability through the work of the Holy Spirit to spark the imagination of the human brain as it relates to sex in powerful and new ways.

But this can only happen if we are willing to talk about the difficult stories (including pornography use) that often come as we talk about our sexual brokenness. The only way someone trapped in the cycle of habitual porn watching will hear the good news of the Gospel is if we are willing to talk about this bad news in their life.

While Playboy is adapting to show less skin, we need to be more raw, open, and transparent in our conversations about pornography and sexuality. In order to heal, we need to expose our struggles in ways we might not have ever thought necessary (or possible) a few short years ago. It is only through bringing our own weaknesses to light that we fight off the darkness.

We can be the ones winning, if we only start the conversation.