I recently watched "My Life in Ruins", the movie with Nia Vardalos (from My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame). It's actually kind of cute, and I love the ensemble cast of a bus tour group. It's so exactly like my experiences that it made me laugh the whole way through. It's not a brilliant movie, but it's not bad.
Except for one meme, which is so common in movies these days that we almost stop noticing it. But it really bugs me.
Basically, here's the situation: a woman is uptight. She's angry at the world. Slightly neurotic. And the solution? Everybody says, "she needs to have sex". Of course, they word it a little more crudely than that, but that's the general gist of it.
The worldview of our media culture is that if a woman is upset about her position in the world, most likely it's because she hasn't had an orgasm in a while. Get her to have sex, and she'll be fine.
That really, really bothers me.
You saw it in P.S. I Love You (a movie which actually made me cry, and few do). It's in so many movies these days it's hard to count them all. But it's the same idea: nameless sex will cure her many ills.
Here are my problems with this philosophy:
1. It diminishes the value of celibacy. Many of the most lovely, calm people I know are celibate. I think of some widows I know who have embraced life completely, and go out of their way to help others, embrace those who need embracing, and laugh at life. Celibacy can be a gift, and we should not denigrate it the way this philosophy does. There is nothing wrong with an unmarried person eschewing sex.
2. It ignores the harm that mindless sex can have. It seems to assume that if a woman jumps into bed with a man, she will experience fireworks and tremendous pleasure. Actually, the opposite is usually the case. In most instances of sex between virtual strangers, only the man achieves any kind of real pleasure, according to statistics. Women who are most likely to experience physical pleasure during sex are those in committed marriages, not those looking for a one-night stand to cure their psychological angst.
It reminds me of an awesome book I read a while back called "Unprotected". In it, Miriam Grossman (who originally wrote the book anonymously) tells of her experiences as a physician at a campus health clinic in California treating girls who are devastated by their sexual experiences.
It's just devastating, and so insightful. I urge every parent of teenagers to read it just to understand what messages our culture is selling our teens. And what I like about it is that it's not written by a Christian. She doesn't really use religious arguments as to why sex should be kept for marriage; she uses medical and psychological arguments. And so to those who aren't religious, it's more believable than the standard "God says it's wrong" that we often spout. It's really, really good.
But I came away from reading it feeling rather depressed. So many girls are being given this message--that sex should be easy and fun and frequent and guilt-free--instead of being told that it should be special and sacred. And in the end it tears their hearts apart.
Mindless sex is dangerous. It closes our hearts off to real love, and it closes our hearts off to God. Sex is a beautiful thing. I really enjoy it. But I'm married, and I pray that I have the privilege of only making love to one man in my entire life. I hope my husband and I have many more years together, so that I never have to think of anyone else.
3. It mistakes women's sex drives. The "she just needs to have sex" meme also makes women seem like men. We have drives just like they do, the thought goes, and we just need a physical release.
But women are hard-wired quite differently from men. For us, sex is also an emotional experience (it is for men, too, but in a different way). We bond with those we make love with in a way that men do not. We can't go around just sleeping with anybody without hurting ourselves.
But it also gives the idea that women don't need romancing; don't need relationship; don't need attention or affection. We just want sex. And that's actually not true. And the more society tries to bend us into the male mold--which is what is being done in this worldview--the more society misunderstands women. And then it perpetuates a view of our sexuality that isn't true. We start comparing ourselves to this view and think there's something wrong with US when we need snuggling, or when we'd prefer a bubble bath occasionally to sex. And men start to wonder why their wives aren't panting after them the way the media says we should be.
It's because the media is wrong, not us. It's portraying a message that is harmful to our souls, harmful to our relationships, and harmful to our husbands.
Now don't get me wrong; sex is an amazing vehicle for release of tension. But it only does that in the right context. Sex is supposed to be within a committed marriage relationship, and when it's done in that context, it does have those kinds of powers. Take it outside of the relationship, though, and there's so much more baggage that comes with it that it loses those benefits. Everything comes out as a wash.
I have a dear friend who was quite promiscuous before she was married (she wasn't a Christian then). She had sex to relieve tension. She tried everything under the sun. And she said that it did relieve stress!
But she'd also be the first to tell you that she wishes she hadn't done any of that earlier, because it's made sex in marriage so much harder. The excitement was in the novelty of everything; now that it's not novel, she finds it difficult. If she hadn't had that prior experience, she feels that sex would be much easier now. She wouldn't have flashbacks. She'd be able to concentrate on the intimacy in sex instead of just the physical aspects, because she would have trained her body in a different way.
If a single women is feeling uptight, and slightly neurotic, perhaps what she needs is to feel loved and cherished, not just to have sex. Perhaps she just needs someone to walk with her and tell her that she's important. She needs to feel connection. Sex, of course, is part of that, but it's not the whole thing. And by focusing on one, we diminish the other.
So next time you're watching a movie or a TV show and that comment is thrown out there--she just needs sex--remember it's a lie. Sex is too precious to treat so lightly. And I so wish that the world would understand that a little bit better. Subscribe to To Love, Honor and Vacuum
Labels: intimacy, movies