Updated: Jul 28
A friend asked me once what my religion taught about sex and how we viewed it. I gave him what I considered to be a very conservative answer: sex is a sacred act that should be used utilized to solidify a relationship between 2 people. He paused for a moment to think, then carried on what he was doing. I am not sure if my answer satisfied him or gave him a new perspective on the subject, but I know it made me realize that nobody has a straight answer to the questions: “ what is sex?” And “what is the place it is meant to have in our lives?”
The truth is that, on the subject of sex, religions, in general, condemn having it unless married. One can argue that the resistance to sex between unwedded partners is purely preventive: to prevent the spread of diseases and unnecessary heartbreaks. Someone else might say that sex should be used only for the purpose of procreation. But, religion never addresses what we should do with our sexual urges; after all, desiring sex is almost entirely physiological and often has nothing to do with making babies. Does God really want us to ignore or resist what He/She/It has put in us? If yes, what does He/She/It expect us to do when we are stricken with the desire to be intimate with another person? After reading and researching the subject, I have come to some understanding.
If the religious teachings around sex don’t satisfy you, allow me to offer a more tolerant and inclusive perspective. Sex is sacred, there is a way to enjoy it without breaking the natural laws of the universe and possibly not hurt anyone in the process. I can already see you raise your eyebrows. Nonetheless, I believe we shouldn’t be afraid of sex and can learn to enjoy it responsibly. How?
The answer is found around us and in us. First, let’s recognize that we make a lot of decisions based on the opinions of the people closest to us, the way we have been brought up, and sometimes even strangers influence our decisions. But there are also times when we turn to our own set of values or rules to decide which direction to take. Second, we have to acknowledge the fact that there is no “one size fits all” approach to sex: we all have different needs, even when it comes to this almost taboo subject. That said, for a person to decide what sex really means, he or she must look inside first. Every individual must decide the kind of person he or she desires to be first. Knowing ourselves and the place we want to hold in society is necessary to reduce the chatter of other people’s opinions and truly be in sync with ourselves.
It is also true that we yearn to belong somewhere to the point that “fitting in” becomes our default mode when we meet new people. So, it is no surprise that we often engage in relationships that are similar to those of our friends. We even compare our experiences to ensure that our reality is not different from that of our friends’. Some people share details of their sexual experiences and exchange tips the way Martha Steward or Rachael Ray would exchange cooking tips. Others promote the benefits of celibacy or abstinence to their friends to maintain their sense of adequacy. But nobody will deny that there comes a time when what we really want surfaces and challenges the “group standard of living” and suddenly what we knew all along becomes clear: our sex life is personal. And, to the question of which line we shouldn’t cross, it might help to refer to our inner moral compass the same way we should gauge which jokes are ok to say and when to say them.