They Do Exist.

Sex

Dealing with STDs in Marriage

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Editor’s Note: Today’s story is SO bravely shared by Emily Sledge. She tweets at @JustSledgified and if you’d like to email her, please contact lauren[at]goodwomenproject.com for her information. Pay close attention to the information she gives about HPV. You may need to get tested and have no idea. I know I didn’t. – Lauren

No one really knows what they might do if someone were holding a gun to their head. Plead with the shooter, plead with God, blame God, blubber, sweat, sob… I’ve always hoped that I would be totally calm, at peace, and unwavering in my faith in God. With all the shootings the past month, I’ve brooded over how I would actually respond. A few weeks ago, I dreamed that it happened.

* * *

I was in a crowded, dark room, and the gunman was pacing in front of us, deliberating on who his victim would be. Suddenly, he stopped right in front of me and said, “You.” My heart was pounding as I moved slowly toward him. He grabbed my arm and yanked me around to face the crowd. Then he whispered in my ear, threatening me, giving me an ultimatum. I took a deep breath, smiled gently, and said, “God, I trust you.” A wave of exhilarating joy washed over me as I thought, my faith is real! Nothing will shake me!

Photo by Shelby Savage / / Design by Lauren Dubinsky

The dream cut off when I woke up the next morning, and I instantly forgot the scene just playing in my head. I got up and went about my morning, thinking and feeling nothing unusual. A friend came over for breakfast, and we chatted about life. Everything was happy and as it should be when the sound of my phone echoed through the room. As I talked to the person on the other line, my friend tried not to invade my privacy but noticed as tears instantly welled up and began to spill over. My voice was very matter-of-fact and composed, contradicting the pain and fear on my face as I said “OK” a lot and thanked the woman for her call.

“What’s wrong?” my friend asked as I laid down the phone and wept.

I’ll try to explain a bit of the back-story, though it’s hard to know where to begin. It feels like my whole life has built up to this moment. I believed at an early age what Christ had done for me on the cross in paying for everything I’d ever done and will ever do. I went to church, sang all the songs, lead Bible studies, attended every possible mission trip, and God was real to me – but very much in a box where I had no intimacy with Him.

When I got to college, my cognitive faith did little to cushion the transition, and the depression which crept in my senior year in high school took over my world in full force. I quickly found a church and desperately tried to find God in my pain, emptiness, and self-hate. I begged Him to take away the chasm in my soul, but heard no answer. I began to question His promises, His goodness and love, His very existence. Was my faith even real? Was I believing a lie?

* * *

He finally broke through my walls of fear, sorrow, and defeat one night at the Passion Conference my sophomore year in college. He told me simply that He was mine and I was His, and He loved me more deeply than I could imagine. He also gave me the simplest and most powerful gift: hope. He helped me believe He hadn’t abandoned me, and that I wasn’t going to stay stuck forever, which was my greatest fear.

Over the next four years, my ravaged trust in my Savior slowly healed and began to grow again, and I finally discovered what trusting God truly felt like. He showed me later that while seeing my suffering was painful for Him, too, heartache was the only thing that would strip me down and bring me back to ground zero. From there, He and I could explore the depths of my soul, bringing healing and freedom where there once were chains. He gently and patiently rebuilt my faith entirely anew without the legalism which once stood in the way of a relationship with Him.

But still I wondered… Nothing horrific has ever happened to me, so what would I do if it did?

My mom had a heart attack when I was little and my dad had a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lung). Both brushed hands with death – but both survived. I’ve also lost two extended family members to cancer, but no immediate family. So I just couldn’t be sure. If I were to lose my health, a parent, a sibling, my husband…? Would my faith survive such a beating? I’ve always hoped and prayed so. But you never know until you get there, and you’re faced with that much fear and grief.

* * *

A few days before that phone call, I had gone to the gynecologist for my yearly check-up. I let her know my husband was my first, but he had been sexually active before our relationship. She performed the normal tests, and told me she would call with the results in the next week or two. I left, and it barely crossed my mind again over the next week and a half.

When she called Friday morning, she went straight to the point. My results had been abnormal, and confirmed that I have human papillomavirus (HPV).

Through a haze of fear and shock, I heard her explain how the immune system fights HPV like any other virus, and destroys it in about two years for most healthy people. But occasionally, it can turn into cancer for both men and women. There is no treatment for the virus, only the reactions it causes. She assured me it wouldn’t be dangerous since we caught it early and could monitor everything carefully.

I had known for a long time that getting HPV was a possibility, as 50% of sexually active Americans have it. Ben (my husband) had gotten tested for everything, but there is no test for HPV for men. I was really anxious when he laid out the possibility, but my worries waned soon after marriage. Now, all of a sudden, I had to face the reality: my husband and I have an STD.

As I cried on the phone, I listened to what she was saying, trying to process everything, trying not to break down completely. The fear and sorrow pressed down like an avalanche on my heart, and I felt I could barely breathe. The conversation didn’t seem real. I realize that having a gun to your head can be more life threatening, but the intensity of the emotional trauma can seem just as crushing. My life, my health, my marriage as I knew it was at risk in a split second, and I had no idea what came next.

Suddenly, something deep within my soul silently cried out, “God I TRUST you! No matter what happens, no matter where this leads, I trust you, I trust you, I trust you!!” Instantly Jesus reminded me of my dream from the night before, where I had declared the very same words. Peace slowly trickled in through the shock as He reassured me that even with the proverbial gun to my head, my faith would not give out, and He would not let go.

I don’t have to be afraid. I needn’t fear the collapse of my world! Come what may, HE would be my Fortress and my Deliverer.

Over the next few days, I was attacked by fear, shame, anger, resentment, and grief by turns.

With each jab at my faith and marriage, I resisted. Hope surged through me as my God and I fought in the spiritual war waging for my soul. Ben and I prayed often and earnestly, not allowing lies to gain any ground in our hearts. Fear hits us most often, causing us to dwell on the terrifying possibilities. Anything could happen, or nothing. We might not even see a single symptom our entire lives. It’s just the “what if” dangling before our eyes that we must face and defeat.

I admit, we don’t have a debilitating disease at this point. There are FAR worse things I could have heard on that phone call. But I’m not afraid anymore. I do not doubt that God will bring me through to the other side, even when I fail and fall, even if my health or my husband is taken from me. I have a hope that is secure, which may flicker in the storm but will never go out. Psalms 62:2 is my mantra – God alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

Oh, and for anyone wondering why I would share such a private, vulnerable, and culturally “shameful” story? This is for anyone else going through something similar or worse.

No one ever talks about STD’s in the Christian world, so I want you to know: You’re not alone. You aren’t dirty, worthless, or tainted.

You aren’t damaged goods. Your purity has not been lost. You don’t have to be afraid or ashamed. You don’t have to hide what you’re going through. We are clean, forgiven, and loved because of what Christ did on the cross. He took that shame, and we no longer bear it! “There is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus!!” (Romans 8:1). Any shame that others see in it is not our reality. Any shame found in it is dead and removed from us.

God is still good, even when our circumstances are horrible. He still loves us so deeply and desperately, even when we run straight to sin and fall flat on our faces. Anything less than this is a lie, and that’s the truth.

And friend, He will never let go. Even, no especially, when the gun is at your head.

NOTE: If you have not been tested for HPV, please do so if you are able. Even if you’ve only had oral sex! Most local clinics offer testing for free or very cheap if you do not have health insurance. There are vaccinations available to prevent HPV; ask your doctor to tell you more about your options so that you are informed! There are no HPV tests for men, as the woman in a dating or married relationship, it’s important that you get tested.


Lessons On Boys, Fantasies, and Casual Relationships.

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Editor’s Note: Today’s post is anonymous by request of the author. Make sure you come back tomorrow (Tuesday), as we’re hosting a beautiful giveaway by Lionhart! – Lauren

It started in my head, and the image was only there for just a split second. He laid over me, looking down into my eyes. I hardly knew him aside from a few short conversations about building houses and being a musician. That made him more attractive to me; the less you know about a man, the less you have to feel bad when you don’t respect him. I am four years older than he, which makes me more attractive to him just by age alone. I closed my eyes and he bent his arms to lean down and kiss my lips. And then it was over. The fantasy, that is.

Fast-forward three weeks and despite the numerous times we have been around each other now he still calls me by a name that is not mine. I shake my head about how I ever could have thought I was attracted to him – even if it was only long enough for a short fantasy. I know nothing about him, and he knows nothing about me.

Photo by Branden Harvey / / Design by Lauren Dubinsky

To me, he is just a silly boy with a poor memory. He is fit, quiet, and cocky, young and surprisingly irritable. He is not my type at all, but I know nothing about him. And about me – my heartache, my brokenness, my struggles – he knows nothing. My conquests, my achievements, and the battles I have won: nothing. He does not know how gently to hold my heart. He does not know when to push and challenge me past what I think I can endure. He does not know what a far way I have come from the mess of a girl I once was, to the woman of God I have fought so hard to become. He does not know me. To him, I am just un-sunned skin covering bones to a medium set frame with a mess of long, graying-black hair on my head and a pair of blue eyes.

To him, I am just breasts and a nice butt, a little less fit than I ought to be and a tiny bit shorter than most girls. He knows nothing about me.

So why is my fantasy a problem?

Well, I’ve realized it is a little bit like the culture of pornography. It allows me to create an ‘other’ in my mind that is completely suited to my desires (in this case sexual) and nothing else. He caters to my needs and politely goes away when I am distracted by something else. But I have a connection with him. And this particular fantasy, ‘him’ represents a real man. With real characteristics and a real personality, real struggles and a real heart. And now I have mucked up the reality of who he is – a creation of of the Most High God, made in the image of the Lord – and I have made him into something he was not created to be.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28) 

Ladies, these words apply to us as well. So I ought to have repented for my lustful thoughts and adultery, and leaned into the Holy Spirit for strength to hold this man to the respect he deserves as a child of God. But instead I ignored it, assuming nothing would come of only a few desire-filled thoughts.

“…but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers.” (James 1:14-16)

Rewind to last night. I just wanted to flirt. I just wanted a little attention. And those desires, those silly thoughts, those fantasies…still lingered. The maturity I have found in the four years since I was his age told me that I shouldn’t have anything to do with this. Everything started innocently, moving slowly enough that I could stop before anything went too far. Just a foot rub, from a man who is not mine. Just a lean on his shoulder. No need to drag me away, I had already been enticed. And suddenly the exact image I had created of this boy in my mind had become my reality. I closed my eyes and he bent his arms to lean down and kiss my lips.

As he did so, the most peculiar thought popped into my head: “This is the problem with culture of pornography.”

I played the thought over and over in my mind, wanting to shout it out, but the boy I barely knew filled the space that was meant for those words with his tongue. Like every other time with other boys, I catered to his needs and desires just to the point of making me uncomfortable and then distracted him elsewhere. Like every other time, I became a slave to this man’s fantasies and images that he has collected of sexy women. I am still working through why I did not stand up, smack him in the face for taking a foot rub to a butt grab and go inside, but that is not the point I am making.

This is the point: my random thought about the culture of pornography came from the realization that this boy has never and will never love me. I am nothing to him. Just a face he will see for the next month or so, and then likely never again this side of Heaven. I was his live porn, of sorts. The kind you get to touch, except when she asks you to stop for a bit. An even better way to get off, and still not have any emotional ties.

The culture of pornography teaches us that human beings are to use each other for our own pleasure.

It teaches a man that he can satisfy the nagging erection without ever having to listen to the girl bitch about picking up his socks or putting down the toilet seat. It teaches a woman that men like her sexy, and after that, she’s useless. And it teaches us to come together and use each other’s bodies for our own selfish pleasure without any care or concern about how the other is doing. The culture of pornography creates sexual disunity between men and women.

I looked the boy in the eyes and shook my head. “You don’t know anything about me,” I finally mustered up the courage to say to him. His response? “Is that such a bad thing?”

It is easier to use the girl next door to satisfy your needs if you do not know anything about her life, just as you do not know anything about the girl on the screen. And real life is better isn’t it? And it is easier to use the boy down the street to satisfy your unmet desire for just one kiss if you know nothing more about him than you know about the boy inside your mind.

I walked away from this with a new understanding of my sexual sin and the struggles of my past. By God’s grace, I have grown so far away from a lifestyle filled with hook ups and late night make outs that I forgot how long I would need to shower until I stopped feeling dirty. By God’s grace, I hope never to return to a place where love is absent and sexual immorality is abundant.

I still haven’t figured out a nice way to tell him that my name is not Kim.


Debunking The “Only Men Are Visual” Myth

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Editor’s Note: I’ve spoken with so many women who ask, “What is wrong with me??” right after admitting their pull towards sex or the male (or female) form. As if only men were the ones allowed to desire the sensual or beautiful. I can assuredly tell you that nothing is wrong with you. And I’m so grateful for Kait Wright and her words today. Kait blogs at a alovelyforgotten.tumblr.com. – Lauren

Sometimes I can’t stand ‘Relationship’ books. I want to use the author’s own creation to beat the tar out of them yelling, “You don’t know me!” in some ghetto slang that’s hood-worthy.

This is the curse I suppose, of being an abnormal woman in the marital world. You see, most material suggests that men are image driven while women are emotional. But in my case?

My husband can wash all the dishes we own, tell me how great I look, and save a baby from a runaway train, but it still won’t have the effect I experience while watching him change the oil in our car shirtless.

According to these books, I’m a cold-hearted mutant. Apparently the male physique in all of its glory isn’t supposed to impact my hormones as a romantic dinner should.

The interesting part of my theoretical alienation from the female masses is that I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not alone. And that is not a reference to a few closet ‘horndogs’ out there.

Photo by Branden Harvey / / Design by Lauren Dubinsky

I’m suggesting that we’ve been playing along in this mystical fairyland where women are all but immune to visual aids. And the majority of Christians have adopted it.

Well, fancy that… because I just found proof that they are wrong.

“Magic Mike”, an explosive Testosterone-Fest of a film, was released this past month. In a nutshell, there are men sculpted like Greek gods ‘shakin’ their groove thang’ every which way imaginable, all for the sake of a strip club’s female patrons’ delight. It made 40 million in three days.

Oh yeah, we don’t get off on the male body at all.

I don’t think that sipping a large Pepsi or popping M&M’s disguises it well either.

In a practical sense, “So what? We are women, right? We aren’t like men, it’s not the same. It’s not supposed to be.”

Wrong.

You can’t split humanity down the middle and make generalized statements based purely on which side you fall on. We can be exactly like men.

The worst part is that we don’t have the integrity to be honest about it. Hollywood doesn’t need our admission to confirm what they already know. Producers are making billions off of our denial as we speak.

I don’t know where leaders in our communities got the notion that us chicks aren’t affected by similar things that so obviously haunt men, but I must say – it was an irresponsible assumption. Yes, we are complex creatures, and to varying degrees are influenced by kindness and loving tendencies when it comes their promotion of our libido. But to turn a blind eye to an unacknowledged ingredient in our wiring is beyond just unwise. In fact, it’s doing criminal-level damage.

When we choose to silently pretend immunity to the consequences of visual stimulation, we literally rob ourselves of two co-existing truths:

We can be equally stirred by physicality. And secondly: We are just as susceptible to lust as men are.

The importance on the first truth is so elementary, it baffles me how oblivious some are to the female psyche. When we live in denial as to how we are motivated sexually, we are not only lying to ourselves, but to our mates. How can my husband speak to all of my facets, if he isn’t even aware of them? Especially if he was raised in an environment where this reality has been continually neglected.

No wonder most men don’t go to the gym after 30. Why would they, when they think their wives only get off on a nice card, flowers, and a lobster dinner? Those things are really appreciated, of course. I’m just speculating that it’s irrefutably unfair to passively allow our partners to believe that visual qualities have minimal weight, while we’re secretly seeing ‘Magic Mike’ with our girlfriends for a Ladies Night Out, or watching the trailer five times in a row.

We are stealing a potentially powerful element from our marriages, and sharing it freely with blockbuster.

Worse actually, because we are paying ten dollars for it while our husbands sit at home, clueless to the lure of Channing Tatum’s man thong. (So I’ve heard, at least.)

The second truth, which carries immeasurably more significance in our lives, is the one I am more concerned with. If we opt to feign irrelevance to the fact that women are prone to physically-triggered lust, remaining ignorant of the likely consequences that come with it, we are robbing ourselves of the capability to act against those consequences. A soldier can’t fight against something he doesn’t acknowledge, and neither can we.

What gets me so riled up is that many authors completely ignore the countless testimonies of our own susceptibility. The Bible refers to a woman’s lust plenty of times. In fact, God uses a lustful woman the majority of the time in analogies of Israel’s unfaithfulness. It’s not a “wayward husband looking at ‘nudey pics’” that God painted, it was a woman as in Jeremiah 2:24:

“You are like a wild donkey,

sniffing the wind at mating time.

Who can restrain her lust?

Those who desire her don’t need to search,

for she goes running to them!”

I don’t think that the women in these analogies were panting after men for their kind words, or because they liked roses. Bare feminine lust is just as a powerful propeller for women as it is for men.

I love when the Bible proves the modern world wrong, and that it’s relevant in our culture. The last time we went to see a movie, my husband and I walked past a line of women waiting to catch their glimpse of Mathew McConaughey’s booty. And ironically, they embodied the point Jeremiah made at the end of this verse. They stood in the middle of the theater like a jittery, sex-craved pack of hyenas in the middle of heat.

The point, my lovely hyenas, isn’t that our animal-like response to ‘studly’ men is inherently wrong. The point is that if we don’t accept that side of ourselves, then how will we prevent Satan from coming and tainting it for his own agenda?

The longer we separate femininity from the mental wanderings of men to the extent of denial, the more time he has to use our secret like a pin cushion. Stabbing it with shameful pins until we have no choice but to bury it, or simply give it away. Until we come to terms with the ‘caged animal’, we won’t be willing to accept Christ’s forgiveness, His guidance, His understanding, or His liberty.

The worst kind of bondage is one where the captive cannot admit it exists, and therefore cannot be freed.

I don’t think there’s anything special about ‘Mike’ at all. I think that there is something special about you. A hidden chemical makeup both powerful, yet just as sensitive to the images our culture wishes to drown it in. I’m suggesting, or rather urging, that we buck up and acknowledge the truth. We can be the wild hyena, but keeping her on a leash for our spouse is a choice that requires boundaries. That way, when we let her run free, there is no shame. Only shared opportunity to be the complex, wonderfully intoxicating beings God created us to be.


Sex, Hunger, and 50 Shades Of Grey

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Editor’s Note: Today, Jonalyn Fincher has graciously allowed us to republish this piece. She blogs at rubyslippers.com and has also written a second review of 50 Shades of Grey and her thoughts on BDSM here. You can follow Jonalyn at @jonalynfincher. – Lauren

A man walks past your office, he’s eating a sandwich that smells like heaven. You notice it’s past lunch. You want your own. You don’t steal this man’s sandwich, instead you go out looking for your own. You eat. You are satisfied.

A hot man walks past your office. You notice him and you notice your own desire. Not for him, but for your husband. You recognize the rhythm, it’s time. After work (or lunch break?) you go home. You make love. You are satisfied.

But what if this man is a co-worker. What if he greets you regularly and you start to notice that he has become the fire behind your love making with your husband? Is this good?

It all depends.

Appetite

Our appetite for sex, like our appetite for food, reveals how similar and different we are from each other.

When eating, we each prefer different portions, different times, different table manners. We all have unique cravings.

We each have different triggers of our sexual appetite, different amounts of sex we want, different ways we want to do it. We all have things (a scent, a song, a photo) unrelated to sex that turn us on.

Despite our different appetites, we all have lines we don’t want to cross. We all know some sex, like some food, is not good for us.

Sexually Hungry

With E.L. James’ Fifty Shades trilogy topping the New York Times’ bestseller list, it’s rather obvious to me that women are sexually hungry. If you haven’t had good sex in years, you will do a happy swan dive into Fifty Shades of Gray. Thirty to fifty-year-old women are recommending the series as the jump start to mommy libido.

The male lead, Christian Grey, is reminiscent of Mr. Rochester (Jane Eyre). Despite the more than adequate proof that Grey is good in bed, I found myself uninterested in finishing the book. Grey’s fetish for sadomasochism, while erotic, is also troubling. Punishment turns him on in a way reminiscent of sexual and physical abusers. Even the compassionate female protagonist, Anastasia Steel reaches her limit and (spoiler alert) leaves at the end of the first book.

Still it’s easy to relate to Ana and her hope to save Grey from his darker side. I could relate to her fixer-upper hopes and yet, Fifty Shades of Gray felt both boring, a somewhat predictable S&M Cinderella story.

So why are so many women intrigued?

Christian cares about knowing Ana. If the man you’re with no longer wants to know you, Christian Grey is a very handsome substitute.

Whenever a man studies you to bring out your pleasure, from the herbal tea to the music to the brown leather whip… do you really care what he’s doing, so long as you tumble into another orgasm?

Sexual boredom can make S&M look like a fairyland. How?

Nothing feels so good (to woman or man) as intentional service for your pleasure. But Christian Gray isn’t serving me, he’s serving Anastasia Steele.

And I’m watching.

What Makes Sex Good?

Most marriages are like a hot bath. They’re great when you first get in, but after awhile they’re not so hot anymore (The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What it Really Takes to Stay Married).

The key ingredient to keeping marriage hot is desire.

Fifty Shades of Gray works, for some, because Gray was written as desirable. E. L. James explained on The Today Show, “I put all my fantasies out there.” You read enough sex scenes, you imagine that being done to your body and you put the book down and go hunting for your husband. No wonder husbands love the book.

So what can be wrong with a book that’s helping couples do it?

It all depends. Once you’ve found your husband, who are you really making love to? Him or Gray?

It turns out you cannot judge your sex life simply by how easily or how often you get turned on. You gauge your sex life by how much you desire your spouse.

The goal is to be turned on by the person you have married. To cultivate a taste for him.

Sex and Knowledge

As followers of the God of Israel, we want more than tittilation in bed. We want what Adam had with Eve.

We want knowledge, vulnerability, safety… and sex.” And Adam knew his wife” (Gen. 4:1).

Good sex is about wanting and feeling known. Even Ana craves that with Christian Gray: “Do I know Christian intimately? I know him sexually, I figure there’s a lot more to discover.”

I have little doubt the next two books will find Ana discovering. But if the first book is any indication, it will be through co-dependently offering her body for more beatings so she can unlock Christian’s fear of being known. Then, they’ll live happily ever after.

Personally, if I need a jumpstart to my desire I’ll read Passionista: The Empowered Woman’s Guide to Pleasuring a Man or Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Relationships. Or I’ll recall how the man I married makes love to me.

He knows me better than Christian Grey.

Fifty Shades of Grey is easy arousal because it doesn’t ask anything. You simply consume.

But I want my sexual cravings met with the real thing.

A husband with his body and soul in my bed.


Sex Is A Big Deal And I Wish Someone Had Told Me

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Editor’s Note: Today’s post was written by Alyssa Piazza. If casual sex has broken something inside of you, in the words of Alyssa: there is nothing wrong with you. Sex can either build our hearts or break them, and when love is absent, it breaks. Sex without love never heals. Thank you, Alyssa, for sharing your story. – Lauren

There I sat on my bathroom floor, curled up with my knees pressed to my chest, trying with all my strength not to cry while my heart was aching in deeper ways than I ever imagined it could.

This became a fairly frequent occurrence for me throughout my high school and college years. What was the cause of this deep brokenness? Later, I knew it was the result of my search to get a love fix. I was someone who never really dated guys. I mean sure, I liked boys, and there were even a few I guess you could say I was ‘seeing’, but as soon as it came close to anything serious, I dropped them and ran.

This was the ‘dating’ norm for several of my friends. But we didn’t see that what we were doing was far from dating and relationships.

I grew up not having a positive male influence in my life. I guess you could even say most of the men in my life were pretty awful representations of how a man should treat a girl/woman. This left me with some serious cracks and gaps in my heart, along with some really warped beliefs and thoughts.

Belief #1 : I wasn’t worth loving. Worthless, disposable, and unlovable. That was who I was.

Belief #2: Since I am not worth anything, the only thing I have to offer is my body.

Belief #3: By doing sexual things with someone, I get a love fix, minus the painful emotions found within relationships.

These three beliefs and many more shaped who I was for years to come. It seemed like my “dating life” consisted of the same two cycles.

1. Meet boy 2. Hook up with boy 3. Boy leaves, or I run away 4. I am left broken

OR

1. Get drunk 2. Hook up with random boy 3. Wake up feeling empty

These cycles are what left me continuously broken over and over. Once again, I was sitting on my bathroom floor or in my bed feeling ashamed,empty, and confused as to why I felt this way.

My friends and everything I saw in the media told me, “Casual hookups are okay! You’re just figuring out what you want!” and, “It’ll make you feel better!” So why was I left feeling this way? Was there something wrong with me? What was I not getting? What was I doing wrong?

The media instructs us to have sex with no consequences, but our heart and bodies are left with the repercussions the media rarely mentions. Sometimes we know about STD’s and physical risks, but why is it that seldom we discuss the heart’s risk in all of this?

Each time we fool around with someone, we give a piece of our bodies, souls, and hearts to them, and sometimes it can take years to be put back together.

No one ever talks about the casual dating and casual hook up aftermath. Instead, it is glamorized and a fun, sexy, effective fix-all.

If you have been in the same position I was, sitting on that floor wondering “is there something wrong with me?” because you felt hurt, or shame, or brokenness from something we’re told is normal and amazing – let me tell you something: There is NOTHING wrong with YOU!

How I wished someone would have told me that years ago! We were not created for that, and just because the media says it’s no big deal doesn’t change the fact that it is a big deal! We were made to be in real relationships with one another, not just have relations.

Thankfully, after years of this I was healed from these scars by the One who loved me the whole time. I discovered that no matter how hard I tried to fill these aches and breaks, only God could step in and heal them for me. That I had to love and respect myself, before any guy truly could! Let the One who created you and first loved you fill those voids, and show you your real worth. Don’t casual date, or hook up just to have someone, or to fill your love tank.

You are WORTH more.

You are MORE than just a sexual object.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made .(Psalm 139:14)

You are.


What I Learned In 2011 About Love, Sex, & God

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Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Kelsee. She shares her story through years of struggling with sex, abandonment, beauty and men – and what she learned this year by the grace of God. – Lauren

I grew up never feeling beautiful or lovable. I always felt out of place and awkward and at 5’10″, I am somewhat taller than the average woman. I have struggled with that extra fifteen to twenty pounds as long as I can remember.

I did not grow up with a good relationship with my dad. My dad, while around, was never present. He was busy, he was an adult, he was working. Constantly. Our interactions were limited to him yelling or lecturing and I never felt affirmed as a beautiful daughter.

My older brother left for the Marine Corps when I was 16. We had a rough relationship. He ridiculed me and never defended me. I was never affirmed as a beautiful little sister. He and our father had a rough relationship too, which affected his with me, as I know now, but this is my story, not his.

My parents are both Christians and my mother is the most courageous and graceful, gracious woman I have ever met in my life. I grew up basically living at my church in southwest Ohio. I was there four to five times a week: Sunday morning, afternoon, night, Wednesday night, and usually Friday and/or Saturdays too. I met my best friends at that church and today we are still very close – but when I was sixteen, my parents moved the family to Michigan, to my grandparents’ house.

I was a junior in high school and I felt like God was punishing me for something, but I didn’t know what, because I was good kid. The perfect kid really; I didn’t drink, do drugs, smoke, rebel in any way, or have sex. I was trustworthy, responsible, got amazing grades, and played sports. So when we moved, I became angry, so angry. When I went to my new school, I was nasty with my words to anyone I didn’t like and shot icy glares at anyone who crossed me. I did not speak to God. And I did not participate at any church we went to. I was going to show Him.

My mom says today that I handled everything with such grace and that she is so sorry and so proud of me for what I had to go through. She doesn’t know that I cried myself to sleep at night, that I was miserable, that I cursed God.

When I was eighteen, my dad went to prison. February 2, 2006. I will never forget the last conversation I had with him. I will never forget visiting him in prison. I will never forget sobbing uncontrollably the night my mom told me where he was. I will never forget my incredible friend Hope, holding me in her arms on the floor of the school bathroom for three periods the next day. I was a senior and my dad missed my graduation, my open house, my first job, and my first day of college. He missed all of it. And I was heartbroken and angry. Again. Once again I felt ugly and unlovable and a now, a new one: abandoned.

I got a job and went to college and started drinking and smoking and ignoring my grades and flunking out of classes. I wanted to be noticed and loved and God noticed me and God loved me but I still held onto my grudge and ignored Him.

At my first job I met lots of boys who liked me and I didn’t understand why. I never grew up feeling beautiful or lovable because I never felt my father’s presence in my life. I did not know how to accept love from men. I was embarrassed when they would compliment me. My father never complimented me. He did not express his love for me in a way that I understood.

Then one day, I met a boy and this boy liked me. A lot. He broke up with his girlfriend because he liked me so much. And I liked him, but I was terrified of what letting someone love me would mean. So, for six months I kept this boy at arm’s length. I partied instead, never letting him get within reach of my heart – until one day I decided that I was ready take a chance. May 1, 2009.

I was 21 years old and had never had a boyfriend in my life. I had never been kissed. Never held a boy’s hand. Nothing. And I did everything with this boy. Everything wrong because I did not know any better. I knew in my head not to sleep with this boy but my heart was so thirsty for affirmation that I ignored the Truth and fell for every single lie Satan told me.

Lies that said I was not a good girlfriend if I didn’t sleep with my boyfriend. Lies that said I wasn’t good for anything but sex. Lies that said sex is the ultimate fulfillment in a relationship. Lies that said even God did not love me. Lies that said I was not beautiful and not lovable.

I got pregnant, but God had other plans for that child and I had a miscarriage. September 3, 2010. 4 days later my boyfriend broke up with me because “God told him to”. Yes, he really used that; he brought his Bible with him and everything. Yes, I hated God in my heart. And the next weekend, my ex-boyfriend had a new girlfriend.

Satan reiterated the same lie that he had fed me from childhood: I was not beautiful and I certainly wasn’t lovable and I was abandoned. And again, Satan added something new; I was also a failure as a woman because I had lost a child. I was devastated.

I struggled with my guilt and mistakes for several months, dwelling on Satan’s lies and drowning myself in alcohol and cigarettes. I had the typical rebound and a one-night stand. Mid-January, 2011.

And then God did something. He spoke to me. He whispered softly to my heart and took hold of my hand. He stopped me dead in my tracks and gave me a choice. Point blank. He said very clearly, “Kelsee, either you trust and believe in me this day, like you’ve been saying you trust me your whole life, and you follow me and serve me and turn away from this sin or you don’t believe in me at all. And you need to choose. NOW.”

And I did. I chose God. I chose life. I chose love and I choose love.

That was almost a year ago. In that moment of choice, I felt God and I knew God and since that moment when I finally sought His forgiveness and healing, He has been blessing me. He has been renewing me daily and saving me daily. He has been pursuing me and loving me and washing me with His blood. He has taken away my guilt and shown me that I am beautiful and I am lovable and I am not alone and I am not a failure as a woman.

I am now 24. December 5th. I am once again a student, but this time I have a clear path with God’s blessing, and I am not flunking out of any classes. I quit smoking back in June. I have abstained from sex since that one-night stand and I am saving myself once again for my future husband. My dad has been out of prison for a couple of years now and our relationship is much better. We had a discussion full of tears and apologies awhile back and we still fight (we’re both pretty stubborn and determined) but I know that he loves me and that he thinks I am beautiful. And by God’s grace and renewing love and mercies, I am learning to love myself and others from the inside out.

I still struggle with my past and wrestle with my demons, but God is faithful and God is strong and I am learning every day to trust Him.


My Greatest Mistake Wasn’t The Lying, The Cheating, or The Sex

Editor’s Note: We are getting ready to wrap up this month’s topic of dating and introduce November’s topic of pornography. If you are willing to help us begin the woman’s conversation of struggling with pornography, please send in your coveted words. Thousands of girls and women are fighting a solo battle against the lure of pornography and have no one to turn to, and believe they are completely alone. Today’s post is anonymous, but if you would like to get in contact with the author, please send me an email! – Lauren

Tell me, how do you get from a confident, Jesus-loving sixteen-year-old who is madly in love with her Pastor’s-son boyfriend – proud of her virginity, never tasted alcohol in her life, blonde hair down to her waist – to a depressed, angry eighteen-year-old who constantly cheats on her boyfriend, drinks, parties, short black hair and uses her body as a way to control men?

It started with small compromises and my desperation to break away from my large, conservative, Christian family and small town. Despite growing up in a Christian family, attending church and youth group, going to a Christian school, being a leader in my youth group and surrounding myself with solid friends, it only took three days from when I moved away for university before I showed up on the party scene. Here I was, this confident girl who had never before cared what the world thought of her, desperate to prove myself as fun and worthy.

This desperation led me down a dangerous path. I started drinking, staying out all night, and one night after a huge fight with my boyfriend, I cheated on him. A few days later I came clean and promised him that it was only one night and would never happen again. We had been together for two years by this point and I was desperate to keep this guy who treated me like gold. He loved me unconditionally, saw me for the woman God had created me to be, constantly encouraged and challenged me, and made me want to be the best possible version of myself. I’ll never forget the tears in his eyes as he told me that I wasn’t the girl he fell in love with and he saw so much more in me. Even though he spoke truth into my life and attempted to call me back to God’s heart for me, I retaliated in anger and pain over his perceived “rejection”.

On the surface, I kept trying to “fix” things with Jeff. But I would kiss him goodnight and go straight to another guy’s bed, trying to replace the intimacy that I had lost, with men who only wanted to use and abuse me. Jeff and I were severely broken and although we tried hard to deny it, we both knew that we were going down fast.

Having become something that I no longer recognized (and hating myself for it), I was grasping for something, anything that would keep Jeff’s attention. I was so desperate to get things back to the way they were before.

I began to use my newfound sexuality as a weapon of control. If he didn’t love my heart anymore, then fine, at least I knew he still thought I was hot. Let me warn you, ladies, no matter how steadfast and strong and Godly your boyfriend may be, don’t think that nothing is going to happen when he finds you taking your clothes off in his bed. Our formerly PG-rated relationship was quickly rolling downhill. I did my level best to break his resolve and threw every power of seduction that I had at him day after day. I hated myself, I hated him for giving in to me, just as I also hated him when he denied me.

At the same time, I continued to cheat, and to lie about the cheating. I found myself in a dark hole of depression. I cut off twenty-two inches of my golden blonde hair and dyed it dark, just because I knew that Jeff loved it long and blonde. I was self-sabotaging my relationship. I was lost and I was quickly losing everything – the guy who would have laid down his life for me, the new college friends that I thought cared about me, my reputation, but mostly, my faith.

If you thought that my greatest mistake was the lying or the cheating or the sex, it wasn’t. It was losing sight of God.

Without knowing Him, I didn’t know who I was or what I was about. I believed the lie that my body was the only thing that I had left to offer. In cheapening myself and using my sexuality to control, I was trading my body for sweet little lies that I was worth something. I refused to go to church or to pray or to journal, because I couldn’t handle the conviction and I didn’t think I deserved to talk to God anyway.

So now tell me, how do you get from rock-bottom at eighteen to loving life and alive in Christ at twenty-three?

After that first year of university, I knew that something had to change. I said goodbye to Jeff and decided to come home. It was there that God recaptured my heart. He began to pour truth into me about who He is and who I am. He lifted the shame and guilt off of me and gave me a peace and joy that I had never known before. He began to heal me, slowly and carefully. He showed me that no man can validate my worth; that is His job and His job alone. I learned that intimacy with Jesus is hard work and that there was nothing I wanted more than to fight for His heart and to be delighted in by Him.

Today, I am twenty-three, I have a degree, I have a great job and I serve in youth ministry. I have amazing friends, and have lived, studied, traveled and served in missions all over the world. Jeff also has a degree, also travels around the world serving in missions, has worked in government, and is about to start his masters degree. Most importantly, although we’re not together and never will be, God has healed our friendship and our hearts. We are both single and being used by God in ways that would have been impossible had we been together.

I give you this picture of now, because I think it’s the most important part. It is the picture of God’s great redemptive and restorative power to transform our lives. It is only by Him and through Him that we find ourselves healed and whole and equipped to serve Him.

Some days I wake up feeling like it’s all a story that happened to someone else.

Because that’s not me any longer. And it never will be again.

I am loved and cherished and worth so much more than one night or a cheap thrill. I understand now that my body cannot be used as currency for love. It is impossible. We are simply not created that way. I am the Bride of Christ.

I will one day be another man’s wife and I choose only to date men that treat me as such.

But above all else, I keep my eyes fixed on Christ. I’ve made many mistakes in dating since that time, but losing sight of Christ is not one I can afford to make again.


Being Single: Are Christians Allowed To Be Sexy?

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Ruthie Dean, and she wants to ask you a question: Are Christians allowed to be sexy? How does this affect your singleness & attempt to “catch” a man? How do YOU dress? We would love to hear. You can follow Ruthie on twitter at @_ruthiedean and read her blog at RuthieDean.com. – Lauren

I think the church has misled us.

I grew up as a Georgia Peach in a conservative Christian home. I entered the 9th grade not knowing people had sex outside of marriage. Yes, true story. I heard about sex at youth group—but all I can remember is WAIT UNTIL MARRIAGE. So I made a commitment to wait until I found the one — even if he never came along. (I tied the knot this past June with a man I knew as a little girl. It was unspeakably worth the wait. Keep it up singles. You will thank yourself later.)

But as I entered college and went on mission’s trips and such, I started to notice other messages Christian groups were sending through their mandates for one piece bathing suits and for longer skirts. I didn’t walk with Christ until I was a sophomore in college, so naturally would show up to church and groups on campus my sophomore year in tank tops and short skirts–because that’s what everyone else on campus was wearing. I was pulled aside by some gracious women and some not so gracious and told to dress differently. Their reasoning? I am beautiful and don’t want to make men stumble.

I pushed back, as I tend to question everything most things I’m told. “Are you saying I can’t be beautiful? The woman’s body was created by God FOR BEAUTY—and you want me to cover it up?” And as soon as I would start dressing more modestly, I would move or join a new Christian group and have someone pull me aside for “The Modesty Talk.” It made me feel dirty and cheap, but I wasn’t sure why.

Were they wrong? Why did I feel so cheap?

Now, the older, married me has more clarity on the issue. The Bible tells us not to cause our brother to sin (1 Cor. 8:13). It is important to dress appropriately so the men around us can have a better chance of not thinking about what we look like naked. But unfortunately, many churches and church leaders have twisted these passages around to blame women for men’s lust. We all need to take responsibility for our actions and STOP BLAMING others for our sin.

What is an appropriate way to dress and act as Christian women? I believe we need balance between either extreme. I’ve seen Christians showing copious amounts of cleavage and Christian women completely forsaking their appearance (i.e. baggy jeans from 1998). Neither extreme is good, because God designed us for beauty—to please our husbands and create beauty in the world around us. We are beautiful and we are called to celebrate the beauty God has given us.

I’ve noted a general fear about sexuality because of all the problems it causes, but I want the church to do a better job of tackling issues like abuse, pornography, and sex within marriage. As women, we don’t need to be fearful of beauty. It is a gift to be treasured.

Song of Solomon references a wife dancing seductively [nude] for her husband. It references breasts and curves and other unmentionable areas. It talks about making love outdoors. I never heard these passages in church. Are the passages contradictory to the messages I’ve heard most of my life in the church?

Are Christians allowed to be sexy? What does beauty look like, dress like, act like in the single life?


The Church Needs A Different View Of Sex & Singleness

Editor’s Note: In May 2010, Leigh Kramer intentionally uprooted her life in the Chicago suburbs by moving to Nashville in an effort to live more dependently on God. She writes about life in the South, what God has been teaching her, and her ongoing quest for the perfect fried pickle. She is currently writing her first novel. You can follow her adventures on Twitter and her blog LeighKramer.com. – Lauren

I wish I was the kind of person that could get laid.

It’s been one of those weeks. I’m overloaded with emotions about several situations and I’m in need of release. And let’s be honest: exercise or a good cry is not going to cut it.

I rarely talk about sex in such stark terms. In fact, any discussion of sex, for me, is purely hypothetical.

You see, I am a rare breed. Some might even say an endangered species. I’m a 31-year-old virgin.

Rest easy. I’m not dating anyone right now, nor am I going to bed with the next guy I encounter. I’m committed to seeing my virginity through to marriage or death. Whichever comes first.

I can’t say I’m happy to be a virgin. I mean, I’m happy that I’ve been obedient, but trust me that there was a period in my life when it was more God’s protection than my will alone.

I’m not ashamed of my virgin status, but I don’t broadcast either. Most people assume that I have had sex because that is true of most women in their 30′s. Abstinence, chastity, whatever you want to call it, is no longer the norm.

I honestly never thought I’d still be single at this point in my life. I can’t help but wonder if I would have made the same choices had I known what lay ahead.

Does that shock you? It shocks me a little. We live in an age where premarital sex is accepted and often expected. It’s difficult to be countercultural when it comes to sex. There are even churches that don’t take a hard line on the matter.

Grace and forgiveness are extended to those who had premarital sex – and rightly so. Secondary virginity is an option. On the other hand, I’ve had friends that purposely had sex knowing they’d ask for forgiveness later.

Then there’s me. I love finding other ‘older’ virgins. Solidarity and all that. But also because I want to know why they waited and continue to wait. What do they do on the hard days?

Because hard days, or weeks, happen. Sex is best reserved for marriage but it’s hard being the odd woman out. I fervently hope I’ll be able to experience sex in the context of marriage someday. Now is the time to do the work of being faithful so that when I am in a relationship, regardless of my boyfriend’s sexual history, I will not falter.

I’m not alone in this. The church must start having a different conversation about sex and singleness. Here are a few suggestions of what I’d like to see.

1. Explore the framework of chastity.
Telling people to save sex for marriage is not enough when marriage isn’t a guarantee. Chastity is a way of life, looking at our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. It’s not solely focused on the physical act of sex. We need to get away from “how far is too far” and move toward respecting ourselves (and our partners) as men and women made in the image of Christ.

2. Recognize that singles are sexual beings too.
What does this look like within the context of church? How can you be someone who is sexual without acting out sexually? For me, it’s appreciating who I am as a woman. I don’t need a man to affirm my femaleness, though it’s nice when it happens! I’m mostly comfortable with my body, but more importantly, I’m comfortable with who God created me to be.

3. Don’t teach that sex is a reward.
First, it’s not the best way to motivate someone toward obedience. This might also explain why many Christians marry young, only to divorce later. Marriage is about more than sex. Second, what message does that send to those who are obedient but don’t receive the ‘reward’? Have I somehow been a bad virgin? I don’t worship a God who would punish people in this way.

4. Don’t elevate marriage over singleness (or vice-versa).
The amount of people who are single, divorced, or widowed is roughly equal to those who are married in most congregations. Yet sermons tend to be directed toward those who are married and parenting. This leaves a good portion of the congregation feeling left out – and these are the unattached who continue to go to church. Many simply choose not to go anymore. We all have much to learn from each other, no matter what our stage of life.

5. Recognize that those practicing abstinence don’t have super-human self-control.
I’m not a better Christian because I’m still a virgin. I do have moments of weakness and that’s when I need accountability and support more than ever. We need people to speak into our lives – and not just about our attitude toward sex. Married folks, please support the single people in your life. Let them be a part of your family gatherings but also schedule one-on-one time as well. Single folks, identify the people in the trenches with you and continue to build those relationships. Having support in place now means you’re more likely to be ready when temptation hits.

What else would you add to this list?


Being Single: What Do I Do With This Sex Drive?

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Editor’s Note: Today, we’re asking a question we want YOU to answer, as originally asked by Kristin (@kristin_rea) on her blog Dirty Treasures. We know your sex drive doesn’t go away just because you’re single, so we all want to know – how are YOU handling it? Leave your answer for Kristin in the comments. – Lauren

It is everywhere: a unnaturally large chested, blonde girl is on a billboard next to the highway advertising a club; it’s something found in almost every movie or TV show in some capacity; attractive half-naked people are on ads for selling clothes. And naturally, sex is on our minds.

I grew up in a middle class conservative-minded home and a Southern Baptist church. I attended a fundamentalist Baptist school for twelve years. Sex was never a frequent topic.

The “s word” was never mentioned at school except in the context of adultery, and other perverted forms of sex that eventually ended up in punishment and eventual death. At church, it was talked about more, but only at True Love Waits weekend retreats, or, when sex was a big no-no. And sometimes around February when the pastor decided to do a series on Song of Solomon. At home, I wasn’t allowed to watch certain movies until I had reached a certain age. And, I was an only child so there was no one to bring “it” up around the dinner table except me, and that obviously wasn’t going to happen.

My mom took preteen me on a weekend trip where we listened to some tapes about sex. Later, I would realize that this was “the talk.” I had known for a long time boys had penises and I had some inclination about genital interaction, but still held on to the belief that babies were made by kissing. I was now informed.

Fast forward about ten years. I am now more informed about sex. I have gleaned what I know from movies, the news, conversations, etc. I am not going to claim to know a lot about sex, but for not having any, I know a lot about it.

My question is… What the hell do I do with this sex drive?!

The stereotype is that guys want sex more than girls. Well, I guess I haven’t been in a guy’s mind to know, but I’ll just say that I want sex, and I want it a lot. And no, it’s not just when I’m ovulating.

For some people this really isn’t an issue—just go get some! But for me, this is issue. I am virgin, and have the conviction to stay abstinent till he, whoever he is, “puts a ring on it.” But with this sex drive, I have had plenty of thoughts of abandoning this conviction.

What I’m trying to say is that I want to know how to have healthy sexuality when I am single and unmarried. I don’t want to know how to suppress it, but how to live within as a complete spiritual, emotional, physical, and sexual being.

I’m not blaming others for my lack of knowledge, but I wish that those who I had looked to for mentorship when I was growing up would have shared not just the “when you’re married” or “sex is bad and here’s why” info, but they would have shared what lies in between the two extremes.

Other people are giving advice how to be “healthy”: condoms, masturbation, and oral sex “because it’s not really sex.” But what does the church say about healthy sexuality? How do I as a single young woman who is trying to follow Christ, do this?

Church, we need your educated and spiritual input. We need your mentorship.

I’m raising the issue, because I am naive. And that’s kinda my point.

 

Question: How are YOU handling your sex drive, if you are looking to wait until marriage? How do you view your sexuality, and what advice to you have to offer to Kristin?

Note From Good Women Project: Please note that GWP does not support or standby all opinions represented in the comments. We are merely seeking a place to hold open, honest conversations in the safe community of women we strive to develop here.


From The Men: A Woman’s Role In His Fight Against Porn

Editor’s Note: I am beyond thrilled to have Preston Yancey launch our “From The Men” month. For the rest of August we’ll be hearing things from the men’s perspective. First up? Preston gives women some phenomenal advice on how to handle a man’s struggle with pornography. You can read Preston’s blog here and follow him on Twitter at @prestonyancey. – Lauren

Lauren asked me to write some advice for women who are dating men struggling with pornography. Men who have made great progress, but the bite of this bitter fruit remains part of what they battle.

How does a good woman support a man she is falling in love with while maintaining good boundaries and respect for herself?

Before I attempt to ink anything of value across this page, there is something essential and fundamental that must be addressed first: are you the kind of woman who knows when to leave and when to stay? And are you the kind of woman who can stand by a man who is struggling with pornography?

You need to answer this frankly. It is my sincere hope you are a woman who is willing to tough it out alongside their struggling partners, and also to know when to end the relationship when it’s the hard choice that needs to be made. We need strong women of faith as much as we need strong men.

There is no way around how awful this is. Any addiction, pornography included, is deep-seated. As a woman, you should know how you will handle this in your own heart long before it is addressed. If it smacks you between the eyes one day that your boyfriend or husband is actually a human male, fallen and sinful in his own right, and you haven’t prepared your response, the damage to both of you can be devastating.

So let’s get down to the dirty details.

UNDERSTANDING PORNOGRAPHY

The most important thing I can tell you is that pornography isn’t about you.

When a woman discovers that he struggles with pornography, the common move is to place the crisis in terms of her own worth. She wonders if she’s not enough for him, if she isn’t fulfilling his needs, and she feels cheated on.

But this is the kicker: Porn is less to do with the lust of the flesh as it is to do with the lust for power and the ancient trickster cheat of pride.

The power of pornography is in the illusion of absolute control and submission. A posed woman excites the feeling of acceptance. Where other things in life are beyond a man’s control, this woman has submitted herself to him exclusively and without rejection. Or so it seems. Never mind that he’s not the one participating, nor is he the object of her attention and pleasure.

It is this sense of power and ultimate validation of manhood which makes porn so controlling and attractive. A man has no responsibility to this woman, but she nonetheless gives herself completely to him. So while the appeal of the flesh (sexual attraction) is certainly there, the true grip of pornography is the sense of complete fulfillment it promises.

It’s an empty promise, but you can’t simply reason your way free from it.

Porn isn’t as simple as a battle with lust; it’s a battle for validation. The fantasy is intoxicating, because it immediately affirms you – and simultaneously detaches you from all the real pain or disappointment in your life. It’s a cheap stress reliever. It’s instant availability, immediate and unrestrained.

Which is why no woman—let me be clear—no woman will ever save a man from an addiction to or struggle with pornography. She can be a motivator, but she will not be a savior.

We have a Savior. The only way a man overcomes pornography is by wrestling through it with Jesus – wrestling through his past, and with a continual determination to fight against the lust of his flesh and the desire for power.

Too often a woman’s reaction is to try and fix the situation, but she has no ability to do so.

Why?

Because this has been going on for a long time. Well before her. Because pornography has nothing to do with the real, present woman in the equation.

No matter how much a woman tries to make herself more beautiful and desirable to her man, it will never be enough. Never mind what pastors have tried to do in modern Christian circles by turning the marriage bed into a circus act of sexual delights. It will never be enough. The lure of pornography transcends the sensuality of the present, because the heart has been ensnared in a fantasy far beyond. Porn callouses a man and hardens his heart. It sets its roots deep and a woman isn’t enough to tear the wretched thing up by its roots.

Only Christ is our victory in sin, and sexual sin is one of the most obvious places where this is true. Dear woman, you cannot have victory over his sin. You have not caused it, and you cannot remedy it.

This makes things hard when in a dating relationship. As Christians we’ve done a real shabby job on some aspects of romantic relationships. Often enough, we turn dating into trial marriage. It’s not. That’s just crazy. Dating is the process of discerning if the other person in the relationships fulfills and strives toward the reasonable hopes you have for a future with that other person. If they don’t end up meeting the criteria, then it’s time to move on.

If a criterion you have is that a man be pure in heart, struggling with porn isn’t something you should take lightly.

GAUGING HIS STRUGGLE

Accordingly, there are a couple of questions I tend to pose to women who ask me about this: What does he mean by an addiction to pornography?

If a guy says he’s browsed some Internet porn four or five times in the last year, that’s one thing. He’s owning up to a blip, a stumbling – but isn’t confessing an addiction. Crap happens, repentance comes with it, he moves on. If a guy tells me that his struggle is at the place where he has an accountability partner but still needs to be actively involved in a support group, that’s something completely different.

My best friend is my accountability partner and I’m his. But we’re not in support groups for addictions to pornography. Why? Because we experience blips, not habitual failings. And because we have other sins that bother us beyond just sexual ones.

But a man who is so hardened and consumed by pornography that relies on a support group indicates a far more serious problem than a simple wrestling with lust. That is serious addiction. Legitimate addiction.

And here I repeat that a woman has no ability to fix this.

Addictions are not fixed by external forces; it’s best to let the professionals handle it and stay out of the way. An addition to pornography creates a massive stronghold that is not easily cracked.

I follow with this: How has he demonstrated a consistent desire for this to change, and how are you being wise?

Support groups and accountability partners are wonderful. But they are easy to fake. So if a man is serious about defeating this evil in his life, he will have taken steps beyond them.

There are programs/software (Good Women Project recommends X3Watch) available that will keep a record of all suspicious websites visited and email them to designated recipients. In the early stages of dating, that report should go to a man’s accountability partner. In a committed relationship heading towards marriage, this should be going to the woman, and then should go to her for the rest of their life together.

A good man should be able to demonstrate to you that he has restrained himself for you in preparation of the vow he will make that says, “forsaking all others.” He should set visible safeguards to he’s remind him of what he stands to lose (you!) if he stops fighting for what’s worth it.

That’s the big part of this whole mess. As a woman, do you know your worth?

If a man cannot keep his word to you and stay porn free, get the heartbreak out of the way now and walk away. There will be heartbreak later if you don’t and that heartbreak may have a ring on it that doesn’t simply slip off.

Again, a woman can propel a man to overcome his struggle, but he will only overcome it truly by surrendering to Christ.

Which brings me to two ground rules I think essential in this whole process.

GROUND RULES

The first: When you are dating a man, protect yourself by not asking questions that you have no business asking. It’s one thing to know that he is struggling. If he is demonstrating to you a commitment to change, that should be enough. You don’t need the details of what kind of porn he’s looking at.

That’s not your business; and, trust me, you don’t want to know.Porn is an easy evil. The things a man can end up imagining or engaging in mid-passion would horrify him if he considered it outside of the fever of lust.

As a woman, all it will do is cripple your soul and make you question your worth. Women should know what kind of evil pornography really is, but there’s a world of difference between understanding what it sells, how it works & the grip it has – and knowing the painful details. Save yourself that destruction. It’s hurt enough to know it exists, but suffocating to know more.

Second: Never, ever, ever, ever, ever get engaged to a man who is still consistently struggling with pornography.

I’m not talking about a mistake made every once in awhile in a year. I’m saying that if he’s still struggling regularly – or if you are uncomfortable with his Internet habits, then you need to pull yourself right out of that trap before it even begins.

He will not “get better” once you get married. He will not change for you if he hasn’t already. And you will hate yourself for the rest of your life because you will forever perceive your own body as your betrayer, because you couldn’t keep his interest. This is the ultimate heartbreak, because against porn you never had a chance. To fight in battles you’re guaranteed to lose.

WHAT DO YOU DO NOW?

The best gift a woman ever gave me came about 5 months into dating. She sat me down and said directly that she understood that guys struggled with lust. She understood that porn existed. She wasn’t going to tolerate me thinking that meant I could view it and she wouldn’t care, but she wanted me to know that she was willing to forgive me the same way I forgave her, provided that I committed to her my fight against pornography. She wasn’t going to try to be more sexy to keep my interest. She wasn’t going to compromise herself to compete with something she couldn’t compete with.

She didn’t even ask if I struggled. That wasn’t the point. She wanted me to know that she understood that this was a real problem. She wanted me to know that knowing this did not mean she thought less of herself, but that she already knew her worth. And when to draw a line where it needed to be drawn.

That gave me the chance to tell her that I had an accountability partner, that I struggled on occasion with it, and that I appreciated how she was willing to address it frankly and honestly. It only made our relationship better.

Honest discussion does not have to be explicit. Sometimes it’s enough to simply acknowledge the elephant in the room before you try to teach it to fly.

So what’s a girl to do?

A girl becomes a woman.

A woman knows her value and worth, she does not put up with a man who isn’t willing to commit to her faithfully. A woman decides her boundaries and puts herself with a man who is willing to defend them. A woman stands beside her man in so far as he is willing to keep his stand next to her.

A woman is first wed to Christ, who has never desired another in place of her or settled for a fantasy in her stead. A woman is then wed to a man, who has imperfectly desired another in place of her but has committed to perfecting the desire he has for her.


Slaves To Sex: On Feminism & Sexuality

Editor’s Note: Few women have such a thorough understanding of the history of feminism as Caitie Hlushak. I am THRILLED to have her share her thoughts on what it has meant for women in 2011 and how we handle our sexuality because of it. It’s a punch in the face, and a reminder that we are worth so much more than we know. I encourage you to read this attentively – and more than once. – Lauren

Our great-great-grandmothers dreamed of seeing their daughters and granddaughters stand side by side with men; equal in dignity, respect and achievement. Our culture tells us that the Women’s Rights Movement, the Feminist Movement and the Sexual Revolution unlocked our cages and set us free to be man’s equal. But have we really achieved such equality?

These past hundred years did a lot for us as women. Newly enfranchised, we rose to the top of every profession and academic field available. We receive more diplomas then our male counterparts and outperform them at work. We don’t need help lifting boxes, opening doors or starting world-changing organizations.

As women, it seems we’ve reached the heights of equality. But, what’s really happened is that our prisons were simply relocated. Chained no longer to husbands and children, we are slaves to sexuality.

As Twenty-First Century women, we are oversexed and underdressed from the time we are tall enough to walk (toddler bikini’s and MTV’s Skins, anyone?). Abstinence and modest attire oppress; the girls who choose that lifestyle must hide their purity or accept being high school outcasts. Nothing less than skimpy, sexy and skinny gets noticed, and nothing is worse than going unnoticed.

Walk into the junior’s department and you’ll stumble into a lingerie shop; sweet 16 has lost its sweetness. Look at the time, money and effort women devote to looking like the perfect image they cannot afford to not be. Get in line, sweetheart, if you have an eating disorder—and while you’re waiting absorb these tips on making your sexual relationships last through the second hookup.

Where is a woman’s right to choose to be more than the sum of the sexual pleasure she gives?

The Porn industry is quickly becoming one of the most lucrative industries in the world, along with human trafficking (sexual and labor) and illegal sales of drugs and arms. Our culture verbally condemns sex trafficking but physically consent to it by indulging in easy-access porn and consummating one-night stands with strangers. The idea of a woman is now hardly more than a sexual object of satisfaction. Instead of broadening our horizons with our own careers, our own 401Ks, our own pursuits of income equality, we have accepted our prison bedrooms and vowed to be better performers and hung large signs that read “Will Trade Sex for Attention.”

But casual sex is freedom from restraint, some cry. It is consummating our freedom from oppressive husbands and forced motherhood. We have the freedom and the legal right to choose our own destinies.

But are we really free?

On some level we are. A woman’s right to choose is a brand new freedom and idea. Easy access to contraceptives and no-questions-asked abortions allows us to take off our pants at a moments notice because we don’t need to make sure that each man is provider. Our identity and value in our families and society used to be tied intrinsically to our production and rearing of multiple (male) children. In this last century, however, the ability to chose a pregnancy became a right as birth-control technology and the realization of our independent rights became more solid. The feminist movement unlocked the front door and let us leave our husbands’ homes to venture on career paths and to carve out respectable identities based on our own achievements. For the first time in history, a woman can be more than her ability to produce children and to iron pants.

Easy access to abortion makes it easier for men and women to have sex without the natural consequences and responsibilities: babies, families, relationships. But the easy access we have all enjoyed to legal contraceptives and abortions in the United States has led to easier and easier access to our bodies. How is that what once cost men flowers, dinner, and a verbal pledge to a lifetime commitment now only requires a look and a nod to the bathroom at the back of the airplane?

We don’t even ask for verbal affirmation anymore. Love-making has been reduced to what we can do with our hands, and our mouths, and our bodies. Sex has lost its sacred dangerousness, and women have lost their esteem and value.

Historically, women have been the moral gatekeepers of society. Now, many of us are raped, sexually abused, or endlessly harassed by the time we reach our early 20’s. Our fractured beings are unable to keep society’s moral gate shut, so it is a sexual free for all whether we want it to be or not. The mindset of abuse is so pervasive in our culture that even women who have never been abused walk with a limp, because we no longer know what unbroken sexuality is like.

“The Most dangerous place for African-Americans is in the Womb.” This slogan appeared for a few days on a billboard on an obscure corner in New York City’s Soho neighborhood. The billboard was part of a campaign funded by Life Always, a Texas group whose Board of Directors includes pastors Stephen Broden and Derek McCoy (both successful, black men), Abby Johnson (former director of Planned Parenthood who resigned in 2009), and Brian Follet (founder of Life Foundation). Many commenters argue that this billboard is offensive and racist. But, if we only focus on the use of race, we risk ignoring the central message of this billboard.

It was designed to be a provocative image of an even more provocative fact; that roughly 50% of all pregnancies end in abortion. These statistics clearly reflect a culture that craves sex but does not want any children. The fulfillment of this desire is impossible; no birth control works that well. Sex and babies are like up and down; forever linked in a consequential relationship. Easy access to abortions decreased the cost of sexual intercourse and increased access to the female body.

Why is there so much sex for its own sake? Because nobody looks at a woman as more than her ability to enlist ecstatic shudders from a man. There is nothing special about being a woman anymore. Our emotions are mocked, our intelligence judged, our bodies appraised and our sexual skills advertised and rated.

In the Feminist movement, we sought to compete with the men on their own turf. In doing so, we conceded our gifts and powers to the subjugation of men and have lost our own sense of being.

What must we do to recover our dignity? We must stop judging ourselves by our girlfriends and movie stars. We must not be skinny or trade our bodies for attention. We must stop seeking to beat the men and engage them respectfully as peers.

We must be ourselves at all costs–no one else can give what you alone can give. We must believe in our selves and our individuality.

I once heard sexy described as simply being comfortable in your own skin–we must be sexy like that. We must not stop doing our hair and fixing our makeup and caring about our appearances. We must not stop pursing careers and the passions of our hearts and being highly successful in whatever we do. Those things we must continue. In continuing to be free in ourselves, we allow and encourage others to be free in their own beings. We are Women. Sacred creators of life.

Our right to choose must come before the pregnancy, before the reach for contraceptives and before that first, sweet kiss. Our right to choose must come when we look in the mirror and remember that we are more than the next hook up, more than our sexuality, our bodies, and our achievements. We were once allowed to be only wives and mothers, but now we parade as half-naked slaves–blindfolded and chained to mere carnal pleasures.

O beautiful woman, pick up your dignity. Become more than a low-cost sex toy.

Claim the right to choose how your body is spent.


How Pride, Virginity & Abstinence Messed Up My Sex Life

Editor’s Note: This submission was written by Prisca, and good grief. She brings up something about virginity & abstinence that I’ve never heard talked about. Why are you waiting? Do you have the right view of sex? Are you having trouble ‘switching gears’ now that you’re married? I’d love if you left your thoughts in the comments below. Prisca blogs at PangsOfCreation. – Lauren

Prior to getting to married, I was an overzealous advocate of abstinence. This did not mean that I organized True Love Waits rallies, attended purity balls or brandished a purity ring (mine was placed in a ‘safe’ location in my room never to be seen again after my 13th birthday). But it did mean that I took the decision to save sex for marriage very seriously.

For one, I was determined to heed my mother’s early admonishments not to “make the same mistakes she did.” I would learn from the heartache of her unwanted pregnancy at 19. I would protect my heart and my body.

My commitment to chastity also became entrenched due to the highly sexualized nature of North American youth culture. It disturbed me to my deepest core that remaining a virgin past the age of 16 was deemed an unrealistic goal. So I took it upon myself to be the exception. I would show that it was possible to remain ‘pure.’ It is here that the seeds of pride were sown in the fertile ground of good intentions.

I embraced the image of myself as the radical abstinence practitioner until I became engaged at the age of 24. Up to this point, my pride had deluded me into thinking that I had a balanced, Godly view of sexuality. I assumed that because I had ‘fought the good fight’ to remain chaste, I would be able to seamlessly transition into a healthy sexual relationship with my husband.

However, as the wedding night approached, I found myself reluctant to have sex and growing ever resentful at the idea that I had to surrender 24 years of hard won virginity. I did not see sexual intercourse as a gift from God or a wonderful way to gain intimacy with my husband. Instead sex signified a loss. To me, it meant nothing more than deflowerment. The fact that I would even view my husband as a ‘deflowerer’ should have been the sign that something was seriously wrong about my attitude towards sex. But my pride did not allow me to challenge this viewpoint.

And so I spent a very disappointing honeymoon trying to have awesome sex but just feeling empty. I tried to be sexy (wear lingerie etc.) but it felt extremely hollow. I was going through the motions but not owning my sexuality. I knew that I was blocked inside somehow. I couldn’t recognize that it was my own pride that had twisted my commitment to chastity into chains that confined my married sexuality.

You see rather than let God shape my sexuality; I made it all about me. My dedication to chastity was egocentric – it centered on the steeling of my will, and the impressiveness of my ability to have a serious relationship without physical intercourse.

I loved the respect I got from being a virgin and I did not see how being a wife gave me any honor. As often goes with pride, the more I made my commitment to abstinence about me, the more I became distanced from the real me – a sexual being God created for pleasure. I did not want to be sexual and I divorced myself from that identity. I refused to make peace with my vagina (you just stay down there and do your thing –I’ll do mine) and I viewed Biblical examples of sexual pleasure as embarrassingly crass (“Breasts like ripe melons”?! Keep your mind out of the gutter Solomon!).

Ultimately, the squelching of my sexuality only led to heartache and frustration for me and my husband.

It can be very hard for a dedicated virgin to ‘switch gears’ into passionate married sexuality. If the transition is difficult for you, you are not alone. But God can heal you and help you realize that your chaste self is not that far removed from your sexual self. After all, chastity is meant to prepare you for intimacy, be it with God through bodily purity or with your husband through the physical act of sex. I would like to encourage others to embrace chastity but not to do so at the expense of their own God given sexuality.

It is possible to turn chastity, one’s virginity- into an idol. By prizing our own purity too highly, it is possible to hurt married sexuality.

Do not let abstinence become an idol in your life, like I did.


Sex: A Story About Being Chosen.

Editor’s Note: Sometimes stories need to be told. And sometimes they’re a little long. This is a story worth sharing, worth reading, worth hearing. This is Rachel’s story. And at least a little part of it is your own. Rachel blogs Learning To Whistle and tweets at @r_moneyduh. – Lauren

I don’t remember the exact moment when I decided to “save myself for marriage,” but I do remember it being a constant theme in my upbringing. Though my parents failed to ever sit me down and give me the scoop on the birds and the bees, I was surrounded by people in my high school youth group who helped me establish this idea in my mind. “Save myself” was my mantra. And I stuck to it. Because losing myself? That would be the worst.

I became an abstinence advocate within my friend group, and largely underestimated how hard it is for some girls not to have sex. My naivety made me arrogant, with tendencies toward invincible.

I got a great boyfriend who picked me flowers, told me he loved me and held my hand as we skipped off into the Hills of Innocence Lost. He was admirable, honest, strong, kind. Years later, he broke my heart, with special attention to Infidelity and A Web of Lies. I could spend an entire post on the hardships of being betrayed, but frankly, no good comes from re-living the past over and over. I’m practicing that whole “write injuries in the dust” thing.

But, you need to know that I trusted him when he told me he loved me. I believed him when he said I was beautiful, perfect, and going to be his wife eventually. And I gave him the deepest level of intimacy possible. The aforementioned “myself” that I was supposedly “saving.”

And every time I felt him pulling away emotionally, I gave more physically.

And each time, that kept him around a little bit longer.

I became a trained expert on the art of seduction. Every time I convinced him, I felt like I had won. I felt victorious.

I felt like I was in control.

Perhaps now you see the problem with this particular phrasing. All of “myself” had been poured into this one act, this one thing. Imagine my dismay when I gave that up. “Myself” was gone, in a moment. And the point isn’t really that in that moment, I felt empty and different. The point is that after that first time, I stopped letting myself feel empty and different; I convinced myself that those emotions were not happening. 

After that first boy, I stopped feeling really anything during sex. It was most definitely fun, and gave me a rush of adrenaline and excitement, pleasure and empowerment. But after the Boy Who Loved Me became the Boy Who Betrayed Me, I stopped understanding sex in the way it was created to be understood.

The biggest lie I took away from the entire thing was that I would not be chosen. Sure, I was funny enough and charming enough and sometimes even pretty enough. I said enough, did enough, laughed enough, and eventually even gave enough. But once compared to Someone Better, I would not be chosen.

I wandered off into the arms – and beds – of more boys, none of whom loved me. None even professed to love me; that was no longer required by my standards. All I needed was to be chosen, even in this small act. Because even though there was the First Boy who didn’t choose me, I was able to find a few who would.

While I think what happened over the course of that next year is technically referred to as “sexual addiction”, I can honestly say that it’s not the sex I was addicted to. It was the before, and the after.

The moment before, when there is hesitation mixed with urgency, splashed with fear and unknown. I was addicted to being in control of my body and another’s. I knew what to do to cause him to lose control, which made me feel successful.

And then there’s the moment after. When the sheets settle and the breathing slows and the eyes slowly open and man plus woman lay in their perfect nakedness, feeling all the safety in the world. Before anyone speaks, or nervously shuffles back to their clothing, the serenity of that moment is deafening. And as soon as someone spoke, as soon as I was ushered to leave, I felt even dirtier, even emptier than before. And it caused me to want sex all over again.

Truth be told, I can’t quite recall a time when I actually enjoyed sex. It has never been tender, it has never been sweet, it has never been pleasurable. I have never made love to anyone. Every time I have ever had sex, I have eagerly anticipated the end, so that I could stop. I think I actually hated it.

I knew I was creating a huge hole in my being. I knew it deep inside of myself, but I refused to acknowledge that. Instead I pushed that voice down to a place where I could not hear it, and I would be back in the arms of another lover soon enough. I’d be back at my place of control.

“While we’re young and beautiful” became my new mantra, and I felt entitled to the lifestyle I led. I felt like I needed it. Like I had been missing out during all those years of “saving.” I placed my identity in the attention I could get and I felt sexy for the first time in my life. I knew that every boy I was with was simply attracted to my appearance, and I ignored the ache that it left within my heart. I had spent my time with a boy who loved my soul, and he screwed everything up. So I might as well get my kicks. Doesn’t matter if their heart is in it, it just matters I have fun before it all goes up in flames.

Nothing noteworthy triggered my turnaround point, but my world finally came crashing down. I am equally ashamed and grateful for the moment I woke up, and realized that I could not, should not, be living this way.

My healing has come from several different sources, but one in particular was in the moment when I confessed my past lifestyle to my current boyfriend. He knew pieces, but not the whole thing; we were waiting for an appropriate time to talk about it. Talk about “fears: realized.”

We sat on the ground next to lake and I guided him through those few years of my life. I realized something vital as I spoke that day; I had felt guilty for my mistakes. I had repented. I had felt forgiveness. But I don’t think I had ever felt sorry before. And while I told my boyfriend everything, I felt sorry, truly remorseful for the first time in my life. Because I painfully realized that my previous lifestyle did not only affect me, it affected him.

The look on his face is hard to forget – pain and surprise and anger and hurt, all in one pair of bright blue eyes. As I wept uncontrollably, I felt sorry in every nerve on my body. My hair felt sorry, my arms felt sorry, my body was heavy with sorry. It made me understand sin in a deeper way: what I did was selfish in more ways than I knew. I was repeatedly hurting someone who, though I didn’t know him then, I now love very deeply. And then he held me and rocked me as I sobbed away my fear and sorrow.

And as my breathing slowed, and my eyes opened, I felt the safest I have ever felt. No amount of safety I ever felt in the after-moments of sex before could ever compare to the heights and depths of safety I felt in those arms by the lake that day. And that’s when I understood forgiveness on a deeper level. I know that I am forgiven. But this is one of the consequences of not guarding my heart. My sweet, tender, strong boyfriend has to suffer my consequences. He chooses to.

I didn’t give “myself” away. My identity was not lost in the arms of a boy, it was not given up in the heat of a moment. Something sacred was given up, absolutely. But “myself” is still intact. I am chosen by the King of Kings, just as I am.  My identity is partially found in the crevices of my story, but it is fundamentally founded on who I am in Christ. My beauty enthralls Him; He has crafted me together from day one. He is nowhere near through with me, and rejoices over me with or without my mistakes.

I did not lose myself by giving up sex. But I am finding myself every single day in the arms of safety, forgiveness, and love. My whole life, my every day is better than any “after-moment” I could ever experience, because I get to dance around in the freedom of grace – getting that which I do not deserve. Thank God.


Sex: I Want It More Than My Husband

Editor’s Note: Hollywood puts sex outside of marriage on a pedestal, and Christians have done the same – but with sex inside of marriage. As Christians, we try to take sex out of our life, minds & conversations while we’re single – but expect sex to be already-perfect the day we say I Do. While Hollywood & everyone else are talking about sex every single day. This month is part of Good Women Project’s attempt to share the real stories about sex, both inside & outside of marriage. Lyssa writes about sex with her husband, and how both the world & the Church have influenced her view of herself, her sex life, & how a woman should view sex with her husband. – Lauren

I have a confession to make. I like sex. No, I take that back. I don’t just like sex, I love sex.

I crave that physical intimacy with my husband almost every day. This shouldn’t be a problem, right? I mean, that’s the way God designed me to be, right? I should feel blessed that I don’t ever have to deal with not wanting sex, right?

I did nothing wrong and everything right. I waited until I was married to have sex and now I have a high sex drive (sometimes higher than my husband’s) and instead of viewing it as a blessing, I feel like something’s wrong with me.

I feel like I’m defective. I feel guilty when I want it and he doesn’t, like I have no right to want it when he doesn’t. That as a woman I’m not supposed to love sex or want it this much. I’ve even heard someone suggest that there’s something medically wrong with me for wanting it so much.

Why can’t I want it? Why can’t I crave the very oneness with my husband my God designed me for? What’s wrong with that?

But then I get caught up again, with all the messages that I see in society about how there’s something wrong with women who enjoy sex too much and I don’t even have to tell someone else about it to feel shame.

I shame myself. I tell myself that I should even teach myself to enjoy it less; that if I could it would somehow make me a better wife, a more acceptable woman. Even though my husband has never said one bad thing about it to me and has been the most supportive husband he could ever be, I have still found myself thinking “Yeah, but I would be a better wife if he didn’t have to put up with this insane sex drive of mine.”

But it helps me when I keep open communication with him. My husband is not a mind reader – he can’t know what I’m feeling. It sounds a little silly, because of course I know he’s not a mind reader, but sometimes I treat him like he should be. So I keep open communication with him – I tell him what I’m feeling, when I want it, when I’m struggling with wanting it, and we see what we can do, how we can make things work.

And by opening up to him instead of keeping it in, he has that chance to show me his love, he has a chance to take my vulnerabilities and make me feel safe.

With his support and the strength of my Lord, who loves me dearly and created me to do this very thing, to love my husband, to crave that oneness of flesh, I’m taking a stand today. A stand that’s not easy to take, even anonymously, because I know very well that tomorrow these feelings could tear me apart again.

Because it’s a seesaw. It really is. I go back and forth between wanting to own my high sex drive and loving the fact that I enjoy and want sex so much – to feeling like I’m a shameful woman and there must be something wrong with me.

On my worst days, I’ve even cried over it. It’s a battle I have to fight every single day and you’d never know it by looking at me.

But today, today I can take a stand before you.

I want sex with my husband and I’m not ashamed of that.

I love sex with my husband and there’s nothing wrong with me.

I am exactly the way God made me and there is nothing wrong with that.

If you are like me, I want you to know: there is nothing wrong with you either.


Let’s Talk About Sex: Love Vs. Morals

I didn’t grow up in a home that practiced the Christian faith, apart from attending services on Easter and Christmas. That being said, I didn’t grow up without morals, but I grew up without knowing the love of God.

I saw my parents marriage fall apart as they left each other for other people and many times I was the child placed in the middle of their communication problems.

Within that time, I had my first serious relationship with a Christian boy who came from a strict Christian family. When we started having sex a few months into the relationship, I thought nothing of it in relation to my faith other than it was something I needed to repent for if I wanted to go to heaven.

I thought it was a natural part of any relationship when you loved the person you were with. Bringing in the emotions that come along with a sexual relationship at the age of 16 and 17 brought about a downward spiral to the relationship.

It brought in controlling, jealous, emotional abuse that I felt the only way could be stopped was through sex. This is where I developed the biggest misconception about pleasing someone with love. It became a crutch, a quick fix, a “if I give you all of me, it will be good enough to make you love me for who I am.” But it never was.

I was stuck in a period of time in my life where nothing I did for anyone was ever good enough. It slowly developed into self destructive behavior because it was the furthest cry for help I could find. Once I was finally able to step away from the relationship, I tried emotionally disconnecting myself from any sexual relationship that occured after that. I was still attending church every Sunday, accumulating more and more guilt everytime I went.

At that point, I told myself it was a physical need that I could be 100% emotionally detached from, yet the tears fell harder and I felt emptier. I got to the point where I asked God why? Why isn’t anything I do ever good enough?

And that’s when He showed me, slowly. He showed me how much He loved me. That I, and every daughter of God, is His lily among the thorns. That no matter how much I tried to make God dissatisfied with me, like the people in my life were, He wasn’t. He never stopped pursuing me, loving me, offering to hold me as I kept digging a deeper hole.

Ladies, He wants you just as you are and He wants ALL of you.

I am 24 now and finally dating again. I have found an awesome boyfriend who supports me even in my weaknesses and if that isn’t a Godsend, I don’t know what is. It can still be a daily challenge to understand God’s ultimate love for me, but I am seeing it more clearly everyday.

Once you understand God’s love for you, you can understand what a man’s love for you should be.

Like Max and Lauren’s “A Good Woman’s Guide to the 21st Century,” says- good men do exist, and they want good women. I hope any young girls struggling can believe and have enough faith to wait, and if not, I hope their experiences can be used to witness to others who want to hear it.

“Like a lily among the thorns is my darling among the young women” Song of Solomon 2:2 (NIV)

“Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires” Song of Solomon 3:5 (NIV)


Sex, Secrets & Being Sought After

Editor’s Note: This was written by Emily. She tweets at @EmmersKate and just started blogging here! – Lauren

“…and you will be called Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted.” Isaiah 62:12

I don’t think any book about purity or sex that was shoved my way at church camp did justice to the truth in this verse. I fight back tears each time I read it, and let them fall as I savor its reality.

I remember the exact moment I became aware of my own body. I was a seventh grader at the pool with my best friend when she pointed out the boys our age looking over. At first I was delighted at the thought of male attention. Receiving it up until that point had never really occurred to me. To my great disappointment however, it was obvious that they were much more interested in her hour glassed figure than my boyish, flat chest had to offer, and in that instant, I began to allow my imperfections to define me.

This was only the beginning. My lack of interest in sports growing up had kept me from developing much athletic skill, so my parents were a little curious about my sudden interest in exercise, but it was nothing abnormal at first. I begged them to join a gym, and started counting calories, but I still wasn’t satisfied. Something was missing.

At about 100 pounds I entered my junior year of high school at an extreme self conscious level. I had not developed a full scale eating disorder, yet was unnaturally plagued with thoughts of looking fat in my size 0 jeans. A few months into that year, I met a boy who for the first time, seemed to enjoy how I looked. A few weeks in he was pushing the limit physically.

No one had prepared me for this. I had grown up in a church and knew that rules: no sex before marriage. I am not blaming the church for my ignorance, yet often wonder if further precautions would have aided me at that time.

Needless to say, the boy’s interest was fleeting, and I found myself entering into an even deeper state of insecurity. This time, dieting or exercise wasn’t enough. I had to have the physical affirmation.

This craving for attention left me spiraling into the hands of guy after guy. I would wake up in someone’s bed crying, and leave before they ever woke up. Other mornings, I remember leaving their bed for church or to go lead a bible study, and pulling myself together with a prayer for forgiveness in my car.

My world was a complete secret to my friends and family. Everyone except the guys involved. Looking back I sometimes wonder how those encounters arose so quickly. It was like I had entered into this network of people who wanted me for one thing alone, and otherwise could care less if I were alive or dead.

In an effort to break the awful guilty cycle I would try deleting numbers or blocking certain guys from calling. Instead, I would drive myself crazy and start initiating things myself if they didn’t contact me fast enough. This continued on for several years with more guys than I care to remember.  On the outside, I was the happy, popular college girl who had it all together at church and at school. On the inside, I was broken.

I wish I could say there was a huge moment of transformation for me. Like one day I woke up and realized that God was bigger than this or that I was meant for more. Those things are undeniably true, but waking up one morning changed is not what my growing looked like.

For me, leaving this cycle of sexual sin and despair has been a process of believing the truth about myself and who God has made me to be.

I never doubted God’s love, but I doubted the vastness of it. A God that loved me enough to give Himself up for me does not sit idly by as I give myself away.

He fights for me.

Because I was created for satisfaction of my very soul, anything less than a Savior that fills that is worthless.

He is all.

Because I am designed to take part in the Glory of God, and because the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord lives inside of me, my soul will never be at rest until it is content bringing Him glory.

His plans for me are great.

The same Lord who is including me in His glory is also crazy about me. Not only is He in love with me, but He has changed my name. I am not broken, I am His.

I am Sought After.

The first time someone said some of those things to me, I stood unconvinced. The first time I read passages describing those truths, I felt convicted, but my promise to change was not kept. I am telling you that because I want you to be encouraged and hear that HE IS ENOUGH even when you don’t believe me yet. Even when you’re sitting there saying “yeah I know but I’m the exception.” You’re right. I don’t know your situation, but Jesus does and He is seeking your heart.

He is at work in you, and He won’t rest until He has you in His arms.

Be encouraged, sister, because Jesus is better.


I’m In Love With Sex

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Amber Louthan. She blogs here & tweets at @amberlouthan. She’s not afraid to say that she loves sex, and not afraid to share her experience. I love it. She preceded this submission by saying it’s for the single ladies, but I beg to differ. It’s truth applies to everyone. Also, Amber admits a lot of this was inspired by the book, Sex and the Soul of a Woman – and we both wholly recommend it.  - Lauren

 

Ah sex – Is there a more taboo subject for a twenty-nine year old, single, divorced Christian woman to talk about?

Oh well, I kind of think it’s the elephant in the room and I hate those, so I’m talking about it. If you’ve talked to me more than once, we’ve probably discussed sex. It’s kind of a big deal to me. It’s kind of a big deal period.

I spent the first year or so after my divorce trying to figure out a way that I could love and follow Jesus and also have sex outside of marriage. And I don’t mean that I casually thought it over in my head every once in a while. I argued, whined, researched, questioned and complained pretty much relentlessly.

When you are married at eighteen and divorced at twenty eight, and you live in this world at this time, not having sex seems like a non-option. Also, lets say you think sex is the bees knees and you’re used to doing it whenever you want- having to stop seems damn near impossible and the opposite of appealing. But you guys, I never figured out a way to make the concept of sex outside of marriage jive with loving Jesus.

As a matter of fact, if I was being quite honest I would say, the only thing harder than not having sex outside of marriage is having sex outside of marriage. If I were telling you about my own experience I would say it is beyond reckless and destructive. If I were sharing about my own life, I would say that I found it to be extremely harmful. If I were divulging details of my own life this is where I would get defensive and say something dumb like, “I’m a Christian so I didn’t have like, a whole bunch of unmarried sex. I just had like, a Christian amount of unmarried sex.”

But let’s keep this hypothetical and say, it might have broken my heart, stole a piece of it and left me feeling empty. And also, it separated me from Jesus.

Lucky for me, Jesus is okay with broken and empty.

I took myself to Him, put everything on pause and asked Him to help me regroup. I stopped asking Him how I was going to make it without sex and started asking Him why He wanted me to. And He answered. He is pretty good about being Himself, I just needed to turn everything off for long enough to hear Him.

And He is a big picture kind of God, so He showed me the Best Metaphor Ever. Sex is supposed to be a picture of intimacy with Him. It’s not just a fun thing He gave us to pass the time with, it’s not even just a beautiful thing that happens between husband and wife. It is an earthly, bodily representation of union with Him.

Honestly, that is all the answer I need. I mean, I really, really, really enjoy sex. I might like it enough that the threats of it eventually breaking my heart and leaving me feeling empty wouldn’t keep me from trying it again. Fear is a pretty terrible motivator. Love though, it is a phenomenal motivator. And He has revealed His Love more completely and intimately as I have given over this part of me.

Pausing and reevaluating sex and intimacy reset something in me, allowed God to do work in me that He couldn’t have done before. He not only revealed lies that I believe about sex, He showed me what it is like to be in more intimate relationship with Him. He has pointed out areas where I feared to let Him in and aspects of our relationship that I just completely misunderstood.

Because one of the main lenses I see my God through was so distorted by messy relationships and sex, it not only clouded and misrepresented sexuality, it misrepresented God and His love. In doing my best to listen to His heart for me, I have been able to really experience a revelation of His Love and grace. I realize I’m overstating this, but you guys, it’s just so wonderful.

So yes, not having sex at all outside of marriage, or doing any activity that is not honoring to God, as hokey and boring and prudish as that might sound, is where I have landed. Because it is totally not worth messing up my relationship with Jesus. I know abstinence is a foreign concept to some people. I also know there are probably some of you who are shocked that it is not where I landed immediately. Truthfully, I wasn’t actually looking to be stopped in my tracks or for a big spiritual lesson when I started asking Him why. I was mostly hoping to stop getting myself wrecked by heartbreak and loss.

My plan was to stop all sexual activity in order to keep from doing anymore physical and emotional damage, maybe even figure out how to have a more whole view of sex. His plan? To restore wholeness and redeem my soul, to give me a more whole view of Him and His love. So. Much. Better. It is immeasurably more than all I could ask or imagine.

Also, if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment. I would love to keep a dialogue going and if I can’t help you, I’ll pass your question along to an actual expert


Let’s Talk About Sex: He Is Touch

Editor’s Note: I wish I had read this 5 years ago. My love language is physical touch, and in my desperation for “touch” I have sacrificed much. As did Amanda. The story she shares about her experience with touch, sex, & God is healing. Amanda blogs here and tweets at @runninmandy. – Lauren

“I am Touch.”

The statement ricocheted through me like an earthquake.

I stood in the upper row weeping. Tears from the years seeped through my eyes and my soul.

God is Touch.

To understand the weeping I will have to be very transparent. I accepted sex when I wanted love. As you pick your chin up at the boldness of that statement, stay with me.

I grew up in a home that was devout, substantial, and tried their best. My parents were not by nature “affectionate,” but intricate to my personal DNA, I longed for touch.

So, at the age of 15 I became sexually active. And it began. Accepting sex as a replacement for love.

For the record, I have had 4 sexual partners and full sexual relationships were only with my husbands. Not exactly promiscuous by society’s standards, but damaging and ultimately soul shattering none the less.

Our sexuality is linked with our soul. It is the ultimate giving of our most vulnerable self as a gift to another. I was vulnerable with those that were not able to mirror my vulnerability, and protect me.

I received sex when I wanted love. I wanted intimacy. I traded my sexuality in a desperate attempt to connect with unavailable intimacy. It didn’t (and doesn’t) work.

But that night, in a moment that I will never forget and possibly never fully comprehend, I healed.

HE is touch.

I did not, and do not need touch outside of Him.

I cannot adequately do this wrecking of my soul justice, except to say I was instantaneously healed of the need for what I had come to know as “love.” For “touch” in a unhealthy manner.

I grasped and received the revelation that “He is.”

There are no words to describe the sacredness of this divine interruption: I was freed. I am free.

He is Touch.

No longer must I accept sloppy human leftovers to my broken soul from other broken souls. Humanity cannot provide what we were created to fill with Him. It’s a sacredness. It’s “Touch” that can only be felt when administered by THE lover of our soul.

He. Is. Touch.


Sex, Honeymoons, And Things I Didn’t Know

Editor’s Note: This month, we are tackling the topic of sex. We’ll be sharing our stories on sex – from addictions, abuse, pornography, honeymoons, marriage – all of it. The good and the bad. Haley from Tiny Twig shares what she didn’t know about sex, the honeymoon, and all things related. She blogs here and tweets at @thetinytwig. – Lauren

Husband and I met when I was 16. I felt deep down that things were different with him, even though I didn’t have enough sense to know the weight of that insinuation. We met on a Youth Group retreat–and how cliche, except that I had never gone on a trip like that before. See, he was a born and bred “church boy”…and I? Well, I was brought up in a home where Sundays were for washing cars and doing yard work. The Easter Bunny lorded over Easter and I was always confused as to why Christmas Carols had nary a mention of Santa. Our childhoods were worlds different, even though only a few miles apart.

When we met, Husband was drawn to the fact that I was “different” than the girls that he knew from his private Christian school. And, for my part, I was drawn to the fact that he was honest and true. There weren’t games with him. I didn’t feel used or like somehow the joke was on me like I did with guys I knew from the past.

The same weekend I met my Husband I coincidentally really met God. It was like the quote from C.S. Lewis of his conversion, “When we set out I did not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did.” I joke if we had met one week later, I would have been too “goody-goody” for my husband and he wouldn’t have stood a chance because I would have been too busy “dating Jesus”. Oh, man.

Well, a few years later found us still dating and attending the same Christian university. It was there that I heard the well-meaning lie that would color my views on sex for years to come.

A handsome preacher with a southern drawl was speaking to the student body during Chapel, his credentials and authority on sex being that he was a man and he was a “Man of God”. In an effort to combat the encroachment of culture and make sex seem so utterly and completely worth waiting for, Christians can unintentionally spin lies of their own.

His was, “Don’t bother packing anything for your honeymoon. You don’t need clothes. You just need a jumbo pack of Gatorade to stay healthy for all the amazing sex you’ll be having. You can get dehydrated you know.”

Having been dating my someday Husband for 3 years, I desperately wanted to believe that the sex we were waiting for would be the unicorn-like experience I had been promised.

And. Sex was good. Sex was intimate and bonding in all the ways I think Scripture intended. But, it wasn’t a sweat-drenched, strobe light, made for movies, all day marathon on the kitchen table I had been led to believe it would be by all the well meaning married Christians I knew. As I get further into marriage, I realize, that’s not bad.

However, it would have saved a lot of frustration if I wasn’t sold a false bill of goods by a well-meaning, Matthew Mcconaughey look-alike, southern preacher. I felt like something was wrong with our marriage because every night wasn’t fireworks, throbbing music, and banging headboard.

Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me:

*Slipping that ring on his finger doesn’t make you an instant sex-expert. Don’t get frustrated that he hasn’t become one either. Learn each other…you have a lifetime to figure it out. Sex doesn’t have to be amazing at first. Don’t let that get you discouraged. Stick with it. Stay open to your spouse.

*Don’t let bad habits form in the early days of your marriage. They can be difficult to break. Those habits don’t have to be “sinful” or awful, but things like not speaking up about what you like and not being emotionally present need to be dealt with and worked through, not ignored.

*Deal with the hangups you have about sex (and EVERYONE has some…) consistently as you go. Don’t stuff them down. They only amplify, they don’t go away.

*Be sexy. Discover what you think is sexy.

*Sex is a marathon…but not in the gatorade-at-every-turn kind. It is a marathon with changes of seasons, ebbs and flows, victories and challenges. It is beautiful, just like all of creation.

*It gets better and better, just like any great story.


An Affair. And Being The Other Woman – By Raeanne

Editor’s Note: This is a recounting of a young woman’s affair with an older man, and what it’s like to be the Other Woman. In sharing this story with me, she told me, “The only thing that broke and saved me was hearing other women’s stories. Hearing that I wasn’t crazy, that I wasn’t the only one.” It’s a hard truth, but affairs will weave themselves to make you feel like you are a special case, but in actuality, they are cookie cutter. In all the love in the world, I ask you to find yourself somewhere in this story. Give yourself grace, and then find the strength to fight for The Best. You are not ruined, you are not alone, and The Best is attainable. And so worth it. – Lauren


I wore the mask for a while. Except instead of covering what was underneath, it exposed the ugliness and desperation inside.

It was innocent at first. He complimented me. I began to notice him. The compliments began their slow turn into minor harassment. I never acknowledged it because I secretly craved the attention, deciding to dismiss it as regular work banter. The tension mounted between us, turning into an ugly distraction from my job. Yet I thought about him often, as unhealthy as it was.  I tried to ignore him. I ignored his undressing stares, his enticing eyes, his remarks about my beauty. The more I denied my attraction to him, the stronger it grew. It left me overwhelmed, confused, and ashamed because I was dating a man who I loved completely. How could I love my boyfriend and have such a strong pull towards someone else? Someone who was fifteen years older, married, and a father of two beautiful girls.

That tension between us grew over the course of the year. He continued to ask me out, I repeatedly refused. He kept reassuring me it was just a meal, innocent, and that his wife would know. I refused. I even took some time off, but when I returned to work the heat between us had escalated. He and I became the dump for each other’s garbage. He’d complain about his rocky marriage, I’d complain about my dissatisfactions with this life.

Then, the relationship with the man I loved ended.

One night soon after he invited me out with a friend. I somehow convinced myself it would be okay to go. And it was. We sat at a bar. We talked about ourselves. Two unhappy people enjoying simple bonding, right? Maybe he did just want to me by friend. Maybe he wasn’t trying to just sleep with me.

The lies started. My lies. I began inviting him out. Our conversations quickly became about the sexual tension we had felt over the past year. He said things like, “I always think about you.” That, “You made a man who others claim has ice in his veins quiver with nerves.” And my beauty, my smile, made him unsure of his surroundings. These words shook me. How could this be happening? I wanted him more with every sentence that rolled off his tongue. I fell for every word, every pause, every breath. Oh, how he was so enticing. I was needed. I was wanted.  I was desired. He touched me, kissed me, in all the right ways. (more…)


Emotional Pornography & a Q&A session with Joy.

Hey readers!

Joy Eggerichs of LoveAndRespectNOW.com has graciously agreed to do a Question & Answer post with the Good Women Project. Instead of giving her a list of my own questions, I wanted to let you women (and men) ask the questions yourselves.

So, if you could ask Joy one thing, what would it be?

Please leave your question in the comments below.

And, if you aren’t familiar with Joy, go stalk her now.

She also gave me permission to share her videos* on emotional pornography with you. The first (she does Q&A on her blog) is her answer to a woman’s question on having an emotional connection with her first boyfriend arise years later into her healthy marriage. The second is her breakdown of emotional pornography; what it is, what it does, & how it can affect our relationships just as much as sex addiction and traditional pornography.

I’ll be honest with you: It was a slap in my face. It’s definitely worth 10 minutes of your time.

>> Joy’s original post on this here.

>> And Joy’s original post on this one here.


*Videos: Joy Eggerichs references some biblical concepts & verses in her discussion on emotional pornography. Regardless of your spiritual or religious beliefs, I firmly believe that our hearts, minds and lives are still affected by emotional pornography, so it is my hope that you will consider it appropriately.

Much love! – Lauren


Sex Expectations – by Claire & Aaron

Editor’s Note: Alright, women. We’re talking about sex today. Claire volunteered to write this (and her husband Aaron helped!) to share with all of you. You can follow Claire at @lovliestweets & her blog at Glitter & Grunge. They are almost 10 years into marriage and crazy in love with each other, but they’ve had a hell of a time in the bedroom. If this hits home & you would like to speak with Claire, she has made herself available to you. Please send me an email at goodwomenproject[at]gmail.com & I will put you in touch with her. I don’t need to say anything more. Go read.


My husband, Aaron and I are very different people. We always joke about what a free spirit I am, ready to drop everything for an adventure anytime any day, responsibility be damned. He will never take a sick day unless he is really sick regardless of what spontaneous adventure I have cooked up for us. I am a creative, always thinking of the next project I want to work on, even if it never gets done. My husband is logical, likes to plan and prepare, unfinished projects haunt him. I have a tendency to say and do what I think when I think them with little regard to those around me, while he carefully chooses his words and actions. I like things to always be rosy and happy, lets not talk about our problems! He likes to sit down and really hash out our issues and get those suckers resolved.

You can imagine how these attributes could lead to a little bit of friction in those first years of marriage, can’t you? Now imagine if one of your biggest issues after the wedding day is sex. For many of you that might be the case. Your past, unmet expectations, unvoiced worries or fears can and will collide in those first few months (sometimes years) of marriage and your sex life will probably be at the center of it. (more…)