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… feels sorry for any man, who after discovering my views on sex, decides I’m not worth talking to. I’m not the problem, your view of intimacy and a woman’s worth is. If you think someone is worth having sex with 24 hours after you meet them, knowing nothing about them, then you may want to re-evaluate your life and not mine. The stakes in life are too high to be so foolish…

Last night I was scrolling through my countless Facebook posts over the years when I stopped at the post above. I remembered it like it was yesterday…

Man and woman at bar

Image courtesy of Introverted Playboy

I met a guy at a friend’s birthday party who I thought I connected with. We had a good conversation filled with laughter and innocent flirtation and decided to exchange numbers. He texted me the next day and we commenced to getting to know each other. Our conversation started out innocently with all of the perfunctory “getting to know you” questions but it shifted when he asked me, “What is your fantasy?” Wanting to believe he asked me that because he wanted to know my vision of the ideal life, I told him something to that effect. Sadly, he wasn’t satisfied with my G-rated answer, so he asked me again. “No, I mean your sexual fantasy.” I was angry at the sight of his words and thought to myself, “How dare he ask me about my sexual fantasy? We just met yesterday!” I told him that I thought that it was inappropriate for him to ask me that so early in our knowing each other and that I felt disrespected because he jumped so quickly to wondering about my sexual imagination. I told him that if having sex with me is all he is interested in after knowing me for a nano-second, he could lose my number. He responded once more trying to justify his actions but I ignored his response and deleted his number.

Last night I looked at that status and felt a little sad for my 2010 self. On one hand I understood where I was coming from. I was a 29-year-old woman who was abstinent and taught to frown upon pre-marital sex and the people who had it. This meant that even talking about sexual fantasies was out of the question–not to mention the fact that I barely had any that I didn’t immediately want to send to the pits of hell after laughing about it with friends. Therefore the idea that a man could meet me and want to talk about my sexual fantasies after a day of knowing me was inappropriate and sinful. To be fair, I shouldn’t make myself out to be a saint and this man the sinner. I had my fair share of “everything but sex” sexual activity in college while simultaneously believing that what I was doing was a sin and wrong in the eyes of God. I made out with people and participated in heavy petting and woke up the morning after feeling dirty and begging for forgiveness. I consistently made promises and broke them because, as the scripture we are wont to quote says, “The mind is willing but the flesh is weak.” I even went as far as telling God that I wasn’t quite ready for a committed relationship with him so that I could have fun like everyone else; partying, drinking, and having (almost) everything but sex. So, by the time I met the young man in question, I was back on my promise to save myself for marriage and I had been resting firmly in that promise for half a decade. I couldn’t see how anyone, having met me hours before, would be interested in talking about sex with me. I judged this young man as wrong in his actions and as not viewing me as a person with intrinsic value but an object to gain pleasure from. I viewed him as putting his life in danger all for the sake of sex. All of these were snap judgments based on our little exchange. But what a difference three years makes…

I am a 32-year-old woman who has spent the last three years grappling with the Bible, my theology, and my sexuality in the contexts of theology school and my personal life. In this time my hardened heart and mind have gone soft. This is a result of time spent in reasoning, research, experience, and reflection that has lead me to shift on some of my more conservative views. Three years ago I demonized that young man for announcing his desires to know my sexual fantasies. Three years later, I have the work of Alain de Botton in How to Think More About Sex to give me food for thought. He suggests, “It’s time for the need for sex and the need for love to be granted equal standing, without an added moral gloss. Both may be independently felt and are of comparable value and validity.” Some may shudder after reading that but I think de Botton presents a fair reading of the issue of love and sex. Some of us want love before sex and some of us want sex before love, but assessing the morality of an individual based on which one of these they want first is unfair.

My three-year-old status update also alludes to an issue with premature sexual attraction, but is there even such a thing? As human beings we greet each other interacting–primarily–with our physical selves or, the “physical envelope” as de Botton calls it. He suggests that these physical envelopes play an important role in our destinies and desires. Even the most spiritual or spirit-minded of us may interact with a person and be sexually attracted to them. This is not an absolutely negative thing. This is natural for many people. de Botton argues that sexual attraction is actually something we don’t have control over. We may see someone and be sexually attracted to them or see someone who we’d love to be sexually attracted to but we can’t will ourselves into sexual attraction. Considering this, could the young man help being sexually attracted to me–or attracted enough to want to know my fantasies? There may be a chance that he had no control over it so it, so why lambast him? However, if we are going to follow the claim that sexual attraction is a product of nature, we must then take responsibility for our actions. Being sexually attracted to someone doesn’t give you any right to be reckless in your actions toward them. Instead it holds you responsible for what you do with that attraction which includes discerning whether the person you are attracted to is ready to share their sexual fantasy with you or ready to hear that you want to have sex with them. Sexual attraction and desire, as part of human nature, requires that we live in the tension of–more often than not–being sexually attracted to people who aren’t attracted to us or people who are attracted to us but aren’t ready to participate in a sexual relationship and vice versa. Being sexually attracted to someone isn’t a bad thing and I dare say it can be spiritual and not sinful. But where we err is what that sexual attraction leads us to do. Sexual attraction is not the gateway drug to fornication if we are taught about healthy ways to handle that attraction–and that is a post for another day.

Three years later and I am open. Not open as in available for promiscuous activity, but open as in available to learn and exercise more than tolerance in regards to differing opinions on sex and sexuality. I say “more than tolerance” because tolerance rubs me the wrong way. It implies a “putting up” with a different perspectives instead of a real shift and the shift is what I am looking toward. This may result in some calling me unorthodox but it’s ok because I know who and what is holding this openness together.

So what would I say to that or any young man who asked me about my sexual fantasy not too long after meeting me? Maybe something along the lines of, “I’m flattered that you are interested in what they are, but I’m not interested in sharing that part of myself just yet. Hopefully you’re ok with that and you’ll stick around so that you can find out one day, but if not, it’s been nice knowing you.” No judgment.