catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 11, Num 5 :: 2012.03.02 — 2012.03.15


Body parts

Hello, my dear. I am a very feminine, loyal and romantic girl. At the moment I’m bored. You know, I’m a pretty interesting conversationalist, and you will not be bored. My name is Lidiya Kudryavtseva. Besides, I’m from another country. I am unmarried!! Talk? My friends say that I am frank and glamorous. Here’s a link to my webpage. There’s my favorite photos. Incidentally, I have a webcam and we can chat right now…  Be my friend!

As I looked around for photos to accompany this issue on sex and sexuality, I found myself looking for body parts — an eye, a breast, the back of a head, a hand.  As a timely accompaniment, the above spam message made its way into my inbox and I couldn’t help noticing how many abstracted parts of the human person the message attempts to appeal to.  Are you lonely?  Are you craving a submissive partner?  An enviable partner?  Or just a “friend” who lets you pleasure yourself in front of the webcam?  Lidiya is ready to be whomever you want her to be, to do whatever you want her to do.

Throughout this issue, in the face of Lidiya and all of the other specters of sexuality in our lives today, both named and anonymous writers are crying out for a Christian vision of sexuality that embraces each human being as a whole, broken, made-in-the-image-of-God person.  Part of the problem is that, for the most part and even in our most intimate communities, we are our clothed selves.  We selectively cover what we don’t want others to see: our most pleasurable fantasies, our efforts to overcome infertility, our attractions that we learned somewhere along the way were sinful.  My own ruminations for this editorial has involved deciding to keep some parts of myself covered for now, for various reasons.

Many authors speak here of a desire for change in the church, but I don’t think the solution is to become stark naked communities who blab about sex all the time.  “Diane, just a reminder that you’re on for nursery next Sunday.  And oh, by the way, have you ever had a vaginal orgasm?  Tom and I just can’t seem to make that work for us and I think there might be something wrong with me.”  While too much silence has stunted our sexual lives, too much talking has the potential to circle back on the same effect as sex becomes mundane.  There’s a good kind of privacy that goes along with something so complicated and important.

Rather, I think the greater need is to reclaim or create deep, meaningful rituals around sex and sexuality.  For example, it’s truly a shame that so much of the effort of bachelorette parties goes into plastic penis novelties made by children in China rather than cultivating significant sharing time by women of multiple generations.  Not that I’m arguing for taking all of the fun out of it — honestly sharing our stories about sex is likely to bring out plenty of squealing and laughter — but all of that literal and figurative plasticity obscures the true depth of both the joys and the struggles we experience as sexual beings.  How much frustration and shame could men and women avoid by going into a lifetime commitment with another person knowing they’re not alone in certain experiences  — and not just because they checked an online discussion board?

Bachelorette and bachelor parties, as well as wedding and baby showers are significant markers of sexual transition for those with partners, but there are plenty of other opportunities to engage in conversation as communities of faith, whether in groups or one-on-one.  The dreaded “sex talk” has so much untapped potential, as does youth group.  We might also consider how the rituals of confession in our lives might reinforce whole personhood with regard to sexuality, as well as rituals of gathering — whether within or across genders, life stages, sexualities and marital statuses.

As long as sex is associated with shame or a form of entertainment to ward off boredom, we’ll continue to be congregations of partial people — frozen, flat faces in our Sunday best locked safely inside the church directory.  But sex advice from the pulpit probably isn’t the way forward.  What opportunity for meaningful ritual could you anticipate or create in the coming year to encourage healthy, honest, compassionate conversation around sex and sexuality?  My guess is that there’s at least one person in your life who’s as eager as Lidiya to open up the lines of communication, but in a sustaining, life-giving way that could make us all just a little more human.

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