lies about sex

You are Not a Gift to be Unwrapped: A Letter to my Daughter (Guest Post by Briana Meade)

Briana BioFor the second part of my Sex and the Church series I am so honored to have my dear friend, Briana Meade contributing this beautiful letter to her daughter. I am so moved by her vulnerability in this post. Briana and I went to Wheaton College together and even did a study abroad together one summer, but somehow didn’t really connect until we both began writing years later. I am a huge fan of her writing and an even bigger fan of her heart. Briana is currently working with her agent on a book about millenials and blogging at http://brianameade.com

If you missed the first post in this series, you can find it here. You can also subscribe to or follow this blog (see the Subscribe via Email box on the side) to make sure you catch the rest of the awesome guest posts in this series. I am also still accepting guest posts. If you have a story you want to tell you can email me at lily.e.dunn at gmail.com.

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Dear Zoe,

I want to tell you a story. It starts out with a group of boys and girls. They are handed thick pledges that look like business cards.

“I promise God…” the cards begin.

There is a 5th grader in the corner. She has sparkly tennis shoes. She bites her lip in concentration, doodles sparkly pen onto the card. She whirls her signature carefully, dotting the “I” with a little star.  She giggles and turns to the girl next to her.

I remember exactly where I was. It was an air-conditioned room with pillows strewn on the floor. I had a crush on the boy next to me—another fifth grader with a cowlick haircut. I determined, in my heart, way before I knew the obstacles I would face, that I would meet my husband at the altar. That I would be proud.

That same day, I was told that I was a gift, waiting to be unwrapped. I imagined myself as a silver present with a droopy silk pink bow. What a beautiful gift I would be. My future husband would round the corner to see a shiny treasure bound with perfect execution, tiny triangles folded and taped on the edges. That was virginity. Me wrapped in a box.

This was the beginning. Over the next eight years I learned more lessons from the church – that my womanly body was dangerous and shameful and needed to be hidden.

That my body was a commodity – a wrapped gift, a perfect rose, an un-chewed stick of gum. And along with that, that I had no agency in the matter of my sexuality. It was something that would be “opened” by or “given” to someone else.

That there are two kinds of girls in the world –girls who adhered to modesty/virginity requirements and those who didn’t. That those girls would be separated like grain from chaff. That this was the ultimate value judgment. And we did not discuss what it meant in cases of sexual abuse and rape for girls to be “unwrapped” without a choice.

I lost my virginity at sixteen. I heard every single one of these messages communicated loud and clear. But I also heard very gentle messages from my parents that were affirming and compassionate.

This was a message I received from the church—your body belongs (as a gift) to your future husband, your parents, Jesus, the church.

I want you to know, darling, that this was a lie. My body belongs to me. It is me. I am my body. My self cannot be separated from it.

You are a beautiful gem. Your body is yours. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to learn to steward it but you are not a gift for any human being, nor will you ever be. You are not a bouquet of roses or dahlias or sunflowers waiting to be “given” away. You are purely, ultimately, only you.

You with your ability to jump a foot in the air. You with your twirling on the tile at your daddy’s work like a ballerina. You with your laughter and underwater bubbling in the soapy tub. You as a stomping teenager. You someday as a spectacular, beautiful adult with a body.

The real gift, my dear, is sex. Sex is the gift, waiting to be unwrapped. Sex is lying on the table wrapped in blue paper hearts, waiting for the perfect occasion.

If you open sex early, you are still loved. You are still body. You are still you.

If you open it on time, the celebration will be easier and it will be good.

This gift is for you, dear. When you open it early, it is often disappointing. It diminishes the power of perfect timing.

Could it still be disappointing if you wait to open the gift? Maybe. I can’t promise you anything. It’s entirely possible.

Wrap your heart around the receipt of the gift and the true giver. That celebratory day will have streamers and confetti and cake.

You’ll join the person you love the most, who has shown up to enjoy your gift with you.

This man who will carry the treasure side-by-side—from apartment to house—for the rest of this remarkable short life.

What a holy, surprising, and beautiful adventure.

It is good, this gift that God has given you of sex.  I’m sorry if anyone’s told you differently, but you are not the gift. Your body is not the gift.

Don’t let anyone tell you anything else.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Briana Meade is a twenty-something mother of two toddlers who is passionate about singing “Royals,” Starbucks Salted Caramel Mochas, and learning that she is not a special millennial snowflake. Though not in that order, exactly. She writes at http://brianameade.com  and tweets @BrianaMeade.

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Tag, You’re It! (I Want to Hear Your Story)

The last few weeks have felt like swimming through fog. Since the beginning of July I’ve felt like I was just trying to get by, just trying to push through my days as quickly as possible until our trip back the the US on August 12th.  We all need a break from our routine and from our work  now and then, and in my case, I also need a break from living in another culture. I need a few weeks where I can relax the part of my brain that’s always on the alert, trying to figure out what’s going on. A few weeks where everything is just easy.

This last week has been a perfect storm of  emotions, both good and bad – the stress and then relief of finishing up my English camps, the sadness of saying good-bye to friends who are leaving Korea permanently, the incredible joy of welcoming our dear friends’ daughter into the world, the helplessness and distress we’ve felt learning that one of our indoor cats has gotten out and is missing, and of course all of the planning and excitement and stress of preparing for our trip. As someone who feels all the feels, I am reaching the point of complete emotional exhaustion.

We leave Korea tomorrow morning and, after a series of long flights and layovers, will arrive at my parents’ home in Louisiana where we will spend 5 days before heading on to my in-laws in Ohio. We are very much looking forward to seeing our families and enjoying the familiarity of home. We are also interested to see how living abroad for a year has changed our perspective on home – will we remember how to drive? Will we bow to greet people on accident? After Ohio we will fly back to this part of the world where we’ll spend a few days exploring Bali before settling in for a new semester of teaching.

(I know, I know, that sounds incredibly extravagant and exotic, and of course, I feel very blessed to have this opportunity, but before you give me the stink eye, keep in mind that Indonesia is quite close to Korea, and the entire country of Korea is the size of Indiana, so from here it’s more of an ordinary vacation spot, like living in the Midwest and going on vacation to Florida. Also remember that I did not complain (much) when you put up your pictures from all over Europe and the Caribbean while I was teaching school ALL SUMMER LONG).

With all of the upcoming travel I will likely be away from the blog for the next few weeks, but in the meantime I am hoping to hear from some of you. I am working on a new project related to my recent work on purity culture, saving sex for marriage, and the way the church handles pre and post-marital sex. I am collecting stories. Specifically, I want to hear about your experiences in your churches and faith communities – what you were taught about sex and abstinence (as many specific examples as you can remember), and- if it applies to you-how that positively or negatively affected your understanding and expectations of sex and sexuality in marriage. I will ask permission before using any information you share with me and am happy to change your name if you are uncomfortable using your own.

You can leave a comment here, link to a blog post you may have written on this topic, or send an email to lily.e.dunn at gmail.com. I can also provide a questionnaire with specific questions to answer if that would be easier.  Looking forward to hearing from some of you!

We-all-have-a-story-to-tell1

 

Lies About Sex Part IV: Married Sex = Guilt-Free Sex

It’s time for the final part of my Lies About Sex series hosted by Brett Fish Anderson over at Irresistibly Fish. In this final installment I talk about the difficulty of trying to transition from a guilt-based pre-marital view of sex to a free-and-unashamed married experience of  sex and the huge disconnect between those two thing.

“Waiting, in and of itself doesn’t cause any of this. The problem is this huge gap between how we talk to teenagers and young adults about sex, purity, and abstinence and the expectations we put on marital sex. My husband’s and my difficulties in our sexual relationship stemmed largely from taking what we’d been taught about sex as teenagers and trying to apply it to a marriage.” 

You can read the rest of the post HERE and if you missed any of the previous posts, you can find those there as well.

Big thanks again to Brett for so graciously hosting me and letting me spin my wheels a little bit and for all who have contributed to the discussion.

Image credit: weddingsandwhatnot.com

Image credit: weddingsandwhatnot.com

Lies About Sex Part III: Sex is for Boys

Head over to Irresistibly Fish, my friend Brett “Fish” Anderson’s blog, for part three of four in my guest series on lies about sex. In this part I tackle that constant, subtle implication that sex is a distinctly masculine interest and concern.

“Without a model for how to be a woman who can embrace her sexuality even while setting boundaries, young women are faced with two options: admit to having sexual curiosities and interests and be seen as “slutty” or build up fear to protect ourselves from it. Many Christian communities are lacking a model for how to live purely without rejecting or denying our sexuality.”

Read the rest of the post HERE.

Image from: www.elsevier.com from a presentation by Dr. Ute Habel

Image from: http://www.elsevier.com from a presentation given by Dr. Ute Habel

Lies About Sex: Physical Contact and Boundaries

Check out the first part of my “Lies about Sex” series over at Brett “Fish” Anderson’s blog, Irresistibly Fish in which I talk about three major problems I have with using metaphors like  “physical contact is like a gateway drug to sex” and other similar phrases.  I also  offer some suggestions for some truer and more helpful ways to talk about sex and physical boundaries, especially with teenagers.

“I have seen and heard many Christian leaders try to produce “purity” in teenagers by building fear. The message is often something along the lines of “If you take one step down this road, you will lose control and not be able to stop yourself.”

I have to wonder if this isn’t a little bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy with teenagers. If you are constantly being told (directly or indirectly) that you are incapable of making good decisions, eventually you will start to believe it…”

Read the rest of the post HERE.

boundaries