Why Aggressive Rhetoric Hurts Real Dialogue

By Jason Soucinek 

SONY DSC

I debated whether or not to write this post.

I’ve sat on it for some time. However, the further I think about the ramifications of this political cycle on the dialogue we have with one another the more I feel compelled to share.

I am worried that we’ve lost the ability to have civil dialogue.

And why do I care about this as someone whose profession is to share a message of sexual integrity? Because I’ve seen this same thing happen around the topic of sex education. One person shouts their view and then the other shouts their opposing view even louder.

A barking dog only attracts more barking dogs.

I’ve learned over time and mostly from my own mistakes yelling louder doesn’t make our message more accessible. In fact, it usually misses the very people we are trying to reach.

I’ve watched both up close and from afar how those in the same field as myself, on both sides of the sex education issue, spend more time fighting one another than helping the students they want to aid. They spend more time telling others what they are against. I for one am tired of this. I’ve always believed telling people what we are for works much better.

A year ago I had the opportunity to sit down with several people around the country who opposed the work and the message I share on sexual integrity. However, I was not met with hate filled dialogue. Why? Because I was willing to listen and engage the points they shared. I sat side-by-side and built relationship.

My posture dictated the nature of the conversation.

In 2000 the Boston Globe conducted a “public conversations project” where they asked three pro-life and three pro-choice leaders to sit down and have conversations around the issue of abortion. This conversation grew out of a need to deescalate the rhetoric which had grown to a fever pitch after a shooting of an abortion doctor in the area.

The amazing reality of these meetings is that they worked! Posture changed what was said and how it was shared. Everyone who sat at the table learned to treat each other with dignity and respect. In fact, genuine friendships formed.

I find this radical compared to the world we live in at the moment.

Violence through our speech and especially through our action should never be acceptable. If we are going to contribute to a more civil dialogue we need to be willing to model it.

As a follower of Christ, I want my work to contribute to a more civil and compassionate society. This does not mean I have to compromise on my beliefs. In fact, the individuals who participated in the public conversations project grew more convinced of their own worldview, not less.

Our love for another should not be dependent on our affirmation of their worldview.

I don’t want to be another barking dog when it comes to sex education, nor politics for that matter. However, I do want to stay true to my convictions. I think both are possible and without violent rhetoric or action. But we must be willing to listen and sometimes that requires sitting side by side rather than going toe to toe.

 

“Give Me Sex Jesus” Debuts on Vimeo

By Julia Feeser

give me sex jesus

Patrick and Bonnie, a married couple who appear in the film and saved their first kiss for marriage.

A few weeks ago, a documentary was released on Vimeo called Give Me Sex Jesus. 

Give Me Sex Jesus is a fascinating look at the rise of purity culture during the 80’s and 90’s and how this movement impacted young people growing up during that time. The film highlights the stories of several different people, all ranging in age, relationship status, sexual identity, and sexual orientation.

In popular culture, the lingering effects of the purity movement are just now coming to light as those who were teens during that time are now adults navigating their sexuality. I find myself reading article after article (mostly by women) describing how the purity movement negatively impacted their views of sex, caused a confusing amount of shame, and often didn’t accomplish the intended outcome of waiting until marriage.

I was someone who had some exposure to purity movements through a conference I attended with my youth group at 15 years old. During the conference (which included a lot of flashing lights and popular movie clips) I learned from an energetic twentysomething about why waiting for marriage to experience sex was the best choice I could make and would keep my “purity” in tact. After the conference, I received a silver ring I could wear as a reminder of the promise I had made to wait.

I ended up wearing my ring for a few years, finally taking it off my junior year of college. It wasn’t that I had decided not to wait anymore, but I realized the ring was really just a ring, and the promise I was making had grown into a deeper purpose rooted in obedience to Christ.

Even though I wore a purity ring, I always struggled with the idea of “purity” itself. The rules and ideas surrounding purity felt cheesy and naive, and not at all practical for real dating relationships. To me, to be pure meant my virginity was in tact and I would inexplicably be overwhelmed with the desire to run through a field of wildflowers wearing a white dress, not caring about boys in the slightest bit (but I cared about boys, a lot).

While I have experienced first-hand the struggles created by purity movements (both in my own life and the lives of others), I truly believe that the idea behind purity movements came from a Christ-centered place and somehow became less about honoring the beauty of sex and more about an attempt to manage sexual sin in the lives of others.

Give Me Sex Jesus highlights one movement in particular; True Love Waits. 

True Love Waits was an abstinence-based movement founded in 1993 that promoted sexual purity, which they defined as abstaining from sex, sexual thoughts, sexual touching, pornography, and actions thought to lead to sexual arousal. The main component of their program was the signing of abstinece pledges by teens as a symbol of commitment to remain “pure” until marriage.

True Love Waits came under criticism for a couple reasons.

First, a 2003 study of the results of this program found that 6 out of 10 college students who had taken the pledge had broken it. Second, True Love Waits (whether inadvertantly or not) created a culture of rigid sexual rules that reinforced that all sexual activity was deeply sinful and devalued the person engaging in this sexual activity.

However, even though True Love Waits has received a lot of flack over the years (some of it justifiable and some not), I truly believe that the original intention for True Love Waits and similar purity movements came from a desire to give young people the means to experience sex in the best and safest way possible: marriage.

Looking back on movements like True Love Waits, we now have the opportunity to grow from where they faltered; leaning into conversations surrounded waiting not through a set of rules or pledges, but purpose in Christ.

It is not about signing a paper card, hoping this signature will still be relevant to us through the years and relationships we encounter.

It is not about adhering to strict rules regarding physicality, but rather understanding ourselves and the holiness God has declared already exists within our desire to be physical.

It is not about a fear of what we may do wrong, but rather a freedom in knowing waiting for sex isn’t really about waiting for sex and more about obeying God’s design for sex because we know He made it good, and we long for what He has declared to be good.

You can watch the full documentary below:

Convincing Has No Place in Conversations About Consent

By Amy Juran

Consent

I was watching a spoof about sex ed by John Oliver the other night.

While a lot of the content was primarily humorous, I was very intrigued when they took a good chunk of the segment to talk about consent.  They showed some hilariously outdated clips about a boy asking a girl to have sex and the girl answering with various versions of “no.”  Each time, the boy responded with either a plea to reconsider, or an eye roll of irritation.

Though my views and opinions aren’t completely aligned with Oliver’s (to see what I mean, watch the spoof here *Graphic language and some content*), I was impressed by his reaction to the videos. Like me, Oliver was appalled by the fact that this girl was getting coached as to how to say “no”confidently, while no one was reprimanding the boy about being disrespectful of her wishes.  I think our culture has emphasized how to stand up for ourselves while failing to teach us how to recognize the signals we are getting from others.

When it comes to sex and physical intimacy, convincing someone to do these things should never be part of the scenario.

You shouldn’t have to talk them into being on board with something, nor should you take it upon yourself to interpret their words how you think they might have meant them. Under no circumstances does “no” translate to “yes.” Saying “no” isn’t being coy or playing games. “No” means no. Period.

And this goes for having sex, kissing, or holding hands while walking down the street; if one person isn’t totally comfortable with something, that is the final word.

An article from Love is Respect defines consent as “communicating every step of the way.”  Even if you have established boundaries as a couple, it’s possible feelings can change. It’s important to continue having open conversations even if you’ve been together for a while.

If you are the one who is uncomfortable with the direction that a physical situation is going, you must be assertive. Dropping subtle hints or passively protesting a behavior may not get the message across entirely.  Even if you feel that you are past the point of no return, you are never obligated to continue any activity you are not okay with.

On the other side, don’t ever assume that a behavior is consent to go further.  Even if someone is wearing suggestive clothing, or being flirty and forward, that is not code for what they are willing to do sexually.  Verbal communication is the only way to confidently know what both people are comfortable pursuing.

All of this talking and checking in can feel akward, but ultimately it will lead to the freedom that comes with confidently knowing the other person is comfortable. When no boundaries are being crossed or feelings being hurt, it can make relationships so much healthier and stronger.  It builds trust between both people, and completely eliminates the possibility of someone misinterpreting the other’s actions.

How have you handled conversations about consent? What worked well? 

How To Deflate Your Porn Addiction

This comes from our partner, XXXChurch, and highlights a serious issue and steps to free yourself:

deflateWhat we’ve learned from this DeflateGate controversy.

1. If you cheat or lie the truth will always come out.

2. It’s better to confess than get caught.

3. Your legacy matters.

4. Consequences are real.

Below are 10 Things you can do to deflate your addiction.

1) Prepare for discomfort.
Let’s be honest, if you’re going to learn to live without porn and masturbation, you’re going to experience discomfort on many levels. Some people are so addicted that experiencing sobriety leads to withdrawal symptoms (like depression, irritability, etc). If this happens, it will be especially important to press through the pain. God will provide much-needed strength as you learn to persevere through the trial and temptations ahead. (Forest Benedict)

2) Practice self-forgiveness.
Many people can receive God’s forgiveness but are unable to forgive themselves. Feelings of shame and self-criticism can surface constantly for those addicted to porn, and many people think that beating themselves up will lead to change. Ironically, the truth is that self-criticism and shame play key roles in perpetuating addiction. Thus, learning to relate to yourself with the kind of grace that God extends to you will contribute to a victorious year. Forgive yourself for past choices and when you go astray next time, and then forgive yourself again.  Then get back up ASAP and keep moving forward. (Forest Benedict)

3) Don’t trust willpower.
Will power always fails eventually. Trust the tools and people in your life to keep you accountable. (Dave Willis)

4) Find at least one person who you can trust with everything.
It feels so natural to hide our struggles in order to appear like we have it all together. As long as your junk stays hidden though, it will fester. It will continue to control and torment you until you deal with it. Luckily, God has given us a plan for bringing that junk into the light: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed (James 5:16).” It’s a simple plan, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Be courageous though. Find at least one person who you can share your junk with so that nothing in your life remains hidden. Dig it up, talk about it, pray about it, and bless on another as you share your victories together. (Stephen Kuhn)

5) Keep stats.
Take note of the times when you’re tempted to watch porn the most. Is it when you’re stressed? Is it when you feel insecure? Is it when you’re bored? Knowing your “triggers” can reveal a lot about the root of your interest/addiction. It can also help you to figure out what you should do in place of porn. Stressed? Exercise. Insecure? Pamper yourself. Bored? Watch an appropriate movie. (Shellie R. Warren)

6) Understand what “Fleeing” really looks like today.
If porn and masturbation are a temptation for you, avoid porn gateways. Let’s be real: who can watch a two-minute soft-porn sex scene in Game of Thrones without lusting? If sexual temptation is your struggle, then don’t play dumb and go see 50 Shades of Grey. In fact, take a realistic peek at the times you’ve failed in the past and retrace your step to locate lusting gateways and “triggers.” The apostle Paul didn’t say, “be a little bit careful” of these things… he said “RUN AWAY!!!” (Jonathan McKee)

7) Recognize your God-given nature.
Embrace, accept, and celebrate the fact that God has created us as sexual beings and that the desires that come with this aspect of ourselves are to be honored. Honoring our desires does not mean denying them (that is a form of dishonor). Rather, honoring our sexual desires means lining them up with God’s intent for them – to draw us into committed, loving relationships with God, with others, and even within ourselves (Matthew 22:34-40). (Randall Ajimine)

8) Start asking the right questions.
When you feel tempted, locate that temptation within your body and ask yourself, “What am I medicating?” The truth is that “acting out” isn’t the problem – it’s the medication for the real problem. Let 2015 be the year where you plunge below the surface, shed the guilt and shame, and start asking the deeper questions about yourself. (Seth Taylor)

9) Change your outlook.
Stop dwelling on the negatives and start focusing on the positives. What’s good in your life? What could be even better? Then ask yourself how porn use or masturbation is limiting you in these areas. Stop making it so much about why you need to stop these negative things and more about why you want to increase these positive things. Envision a better life and then go for it. Knock down those things that are stopping you from the full realization of what life has to offer by taking advantage of the tools and resources you have available to you. (Carl Thomas)

10) Do it one day at a time.
Any lifestyle change begins with a daily commitment to live differently. Don’t focus on having to abstain forever. Focus on living today free from porn. You can do it. Then, you can wake up tomorrow and do it again. One day at a time you will overcome. (Dave Willis)

x3watch.pngWhatever you do, you can’t do it alone. You need people in your life to help you, to love  you, and to hold you accountable. If you want to go fast – go alone. If you want to go far – get accountable and open. Download X3watch Premium today for the BEST online accountability software and filtering solution.

5 Thoughts on Sexual Integrity

Bells have started ringing once again in the hallways of America’s schools. By now kids have worn out their new back-to-school clothes and the sniffles are starting to invade the hallways of our homes. And with the start of the school year we are starting to get back into the swing of things here at Project Six19. Something we will talk about a lot this year is how to engage in the conversations on sexual integrity as both parents and as youth workers. Here are five things to consider as you engage this subject with your son, daughter, or student.

First, it’s not about saying NO. Often we think that when we talk about abstinence, sexual purity, or as we say it, sexual integrity, we are training our youth to speak in the negative. However, I think we miss something important when all we do is teach our youth to say, ‘no’.

This generation desires to know what they stand for, not against. If we don’t do a good job pointing out all the reasons for waiting, then someone else (our culture for instance) will point all the reasons not to wait. This is not only important semantically but also logically. Often times the church culture we surround ourselves in can be more about sin management. However, as a Christian, choosing to wait should not be a primary decision, but secondary one as a Christian. It should come out of our desire to say YES to following Christ which means saying YES to scripture which leads to a particular way of living.

Second, be clear with your values. Sometimes we think we’ve clearly spoken what we believe only to find we haven’t. Or, and this is common, we just expect our kids to know what we believe. Well, yes, that last statement could be true if we learned through some sort of osmosis or vulcan mind mold. But as of this writing I am not aware of anything like that. So words and living our life in a way that reflects these values is our best way of communicating these truths.

Live out LOVE. This is a phrase we’ve been kicking around the office this summer. Sometimes our expectations go un-communicated. However, if I’ve never spoken my expectations then how can I ask for those things to happen? Often our biggest disappointments come from unmet expectations. Therefore, be sure to share yours with your son, daughter, or student. Then make sure your life also reflects the expectations that you are holding others to.

Third, we are not the sum of our past choices. This is important for both parents and teens to understand. Parents need to be careful not to lay down the law based on their own hurt or pain. Understanding past mistakes, knowing you are forgiven, and clearly being able to articulate why you believe your choice was a mistake is one thing. Teaching or sharing a value that you believe only because of your own pain, hurt, or shame is another. When we discuss a subject as sensitive and as important as when and where we choose to have sex, we need to be aware of how it is shared. Most times our past experiences influence this discussion.

I also share this because we might have students that have already made a different decision. Or even worse, that decision was stolen from them. We need to make sure that when we are sharing our values we also let our sons, daughters, and students know there is nothing they can do to separate them from the grace and forgiveness found through Jesus Christ.

Fourth, we are also not the sum of our future choices. Shame is one thing but pride is another. Shame communicates that I am a mistake. Pride communicates that I am without mistakes. Both are detrimental to our emotional and spiritual health. Even though our students might be making a choice to wait does not make them better or even more ‘pure’ than the next person. They are simply making a choice that is best for their sexual health. And yes, they are honoring God with their bodies which is an incredible testimony to the culture we live in. But let’s be sure we recognize this does not make us better than anyone else.

Finally, where we find our identity is where we will find our choices. In his letter to the Philippians Paul writes, ‘Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.’ (Philippians 1:27) When our identity is cemented in something or someone our choice will pour out from that one source and others will notice. When we are speaking to our sons, daughters, and students, Jesus Christ should to be the one place, one choice, one relationship we need to be pointing.  Identity can be found in so many things in our culture but none are as powerful as the transforming power of Christ.