Monday, October 15, 2007

Discovering the Balance of Consistent Intimacy

I need to get laid.

There are many days when i'll call or text my close friend and the two of us will joke about that. We're joking because we're serious. It's fun to have a friend that I can be that honest and raw with who totally understands the feeling of just wanting to get %*$#@!@.

LOL, okay that's a bit crude, but still. It's true. There are times when that's what I want and that's all I can think about. But I suppose the question for me would be "In what context do I want to have sex?"

Is pre-marital sex okay? What about for those of us who can't be legally married either by the state or in most of our churches? What is marriage even? Is it okay to have casual sex? Can I just have a "hook up"? Is it wrong to have a f*ck buddy? Is there anything wrong with having 'friends with benefits'? If i'm having sex, will that just help me get my mind off being in a relationship? If and when I am in a relationship, when is it okay to have sex? Do I have to wait that long? Is it okay to have sex with two guys I care about? What do I consider sex? Is oral sex . . . sex?

No, in case you were wondering, I'm not writing about this because Eric's been getting "it". Sure, i'll admit, at times I'm horny as hell. But no, i'm not getting any action. Over the past two weeks, I've been having conversations with numerous people about these very questions . . . .

I was reflecting on some of my previous posts about sex and it's interesting to see my very first post on the subject two years ago and how my perspective and approach to sex has evolved.

Sexual morality.

I don't use that lens anymore. It's attached to judgment and there's tons of baggage attached to the words. (Ah! So the critics are right! The gay Christians don't have real morals!)

No. That's not what I mean.

I just think that sexual purity is not the goal of my journey. My exploration of sexual freedom isn't the goal either. The goal of my journey is and has been about exploring my authenticity. And part of that is sorting through the questions of sex and relationships.

My lifestyle is characterized more by my faith than my sexual orientation. So while I can be honest about my very real urges, decisions, and actions, I think it's important for me to process these things with my God. Therefore, I no longer use the lens of 'morality' in asking these questions. When I was a churchian, I held to morals defined by what I read and what people told me. But I could never fully own those morals because they weren't really mine. So now, I use the lens of 'genuine expressions of love' in examining these questions. I have found that this lens is more effective in discovering what I can and can't own about my faith, beliefs and lifestyle.

I used to hold my virginity up like a trophy. When I lost it (years ago when I was still in the closet and so happened outside of a loving context), I felt regret. It was a virtue that I held on to for so long and after having that sexual encounter I felt like I gave in and showed my weakness.

I don't think that way anymore. Abstinence doesn't hold much substance for me if I can't own why it makes sense. And so I no longer see the choice not to abstain as a weakness. I see it as an experience that requires interpretation.

Keep in mind, I say all of this in the context that I'm not just freely having sex. Yes, I've had sexual encounters in my life but for me it's not about giving myself the freedom to do whatever I want. It's about giving myself the freedom to walk and learn from God the life intricacies of sexual intimacy and relationships.

It's not about a license. It's about a lesson.

Here's what I've learned so far. Asking questions and framing the issue in terms of whether or not certain sexual conduct is moral doesn't help me. What does help me is reframing the question in terms of What expresses genuine love most authentically?

The first thing I ought to own up to is assessing how I actually feel towards a person. Do I actually love him? Am I lusting him? Am I just crushing over him? Is this infatuation? These are things that I need to be honest with myself.

The next thing would be assessing how I choose to express those feelings. It would be inauthentic to express physical or sexual intimacy in a way that is inconsistent with the level of emotional intimacy that I have with him. What do I mean by this?

It's not about morality. It's about having balanced and consistent levels of emotional and physical/sexual intimacy. Is it okay to have sex before marriage? Well, if I reframe it with my new lens, I would say let's examine our intimacy levels. If i'm still getting to know a guy, then I am still in the early process of developing trust. This means that I have minimal emotional intimacy with him. If I then choose to have full-on sex with this guy, then my level of physical intimacy with him is way off. I barely know the guy, much less trust the guy. If I don't know him or trust him, then how can I actually be loving him?

However, if we've gone on a few dates with each other and we're both mutually discovering an emotional connection with each other, then it would make sense to kiss him because that form of physical intimacy is consistent with the level of emotional intimacy that I have with him. As the two of us continue to develop our emotional intimacy with each other, it would also make sense for our level of physical intimacy to increase accordingly and at the same pace.

I think that physical intimacy is a tangible expression of genuine emotional intimacy. I also think that emotional intimacy is the intangible substance of physical intimacy. I think marriage is a covenant that describes a relationship that has realized (and is committed to keeping and maintaining) emotional, physical, and spiritual intimacy. If full-on sex is considered to be the highest form of physical intimacy, then it would be most consistent to do it while in a relationship that experiences the highest form of emotional intimacy with him. Marriage.

I know, i'm not exactly providing proof-texts for any of this. I'm just trying to unpack how I see the process and development of genuine love. I don't think it's realistic to say that a person completely loves someone in the beginning. It takes time. And balancing levels and forms of intimacy seems like the healthiest way to experience love in a relationship.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't have all this down pat. I don't always keep it all balanced. But i'm not afraid of making mistakes or discovering for myself where those lines of consistent intimacy are. These are just things I'm thinking about - things that i'm learning as I try to figure it all out for myself. It's direction. I'm not having tons of sex. But when I do have a sexual encounter, i'm not feeling super guilty because I had the sex. I simply sit down with God and talk it through - this is what I did, this is why I did it, this is how it made me feel (emotionally, physically, spiritually), this is how I think it made him feel. And I try to use the lens of authenticity. If I was just plain horny, then I'll own up to it. If I actually had feelings for the guy, then was I physically expressing what I emotionally felt for him. If yes, what does that mean? If no, what does that mean? Did I do this out of temptation or out of affection?

This just has me honestly evaluating the emotional, physical, and spiritual consequences of my intimate relationships.

So after all of this, I guess what i'm saying is that i'm not concerned about morality as much as I am concerned about authenticity.

Yes, there are times when I really feel like getting laid. Sometimes it's because I'm lonely. Sometimes it's because I had a really bad day and would like a distraction. Sometimes i'm just freaking horny. Sometimes it's because I'm longing for an intimate connection.

If i'm going to have sex, I want to at least be authentic with myself about why I'm doing it. It is these lessons that help me discover what I can and can't own about my faith, beliefs and lifestyle.

9 comments:

Mark said...

I think the way you're approaching this is very healthy, sane and god-pleasing.

just me - titration said...

thanks for sharing this! It makes me wish I was brave enough to post on this type of topic. Maybe someday...

D said...

There is a post in the GCN Sensitive topics area on FB's and friends with ben..., sex, etc... I think it co insides with your comments read it, if you get a chance.

D.

Peterson Toscano said...

wow, so many important queries you put out there. this is an area where I think we could have a whole conference for discussion and discovery.

With your posts it makes me wonder about the question, What are the different types of sexual expression? not sex acts, but the different areas in our lives where we can experience sexual? Something I have been musing over for some time.

Bryan said...

I like this, although i'm still a fan of the term "sexual morality" for many reason, a big one being that for me it best conveys the idea that sexual integrity is not always relative (i.e. i feel ok so it's all ok), but that there is a such thing as sexual morality which is not just based on what i want, but on what God desires for me. Your general point of understanding why one does what one does (or doesn't do) is very important. Those are muddy waters that I find myself trying to navigate as well.

Eric said...

thanks for that Bryan.

hmm...sexual morality. sexual integrity.

is it relative? what grounds me?

yes, muddy waters not so easy to navigate.

i'm chewing on this....

Steve said...

Eric,

This post is amazing because it's exactly what I've been dealing with for several months. I've come to a place of peace in my own journey, but it's kinda the discussion I can't have except with a few friends who I share the journey with.

I appreciate your transparency and the emphasis that you've placed on authenticity. These discussions are some that I feel we MUST have. We've avoided the truth and the authentic for too long, IMO.

Here're some thoughts of mine in a recent GCN post...it's on Friends with Benefits, but shares my thoughts on sexual "morality" or "ethics" or "values" or whatever catch phrase one wants to use.

http://gaychristian.net/community/showtopic.php?tid/13824806/tp/3/

Blessings and love,
-Steve

David said...

I very much like what you've said, Eric. It makes a lot of sense, I think, and reflects my own thoughts on the issue. However, I do believe that there is a morality, and it supersedes authenticity - in fact, I think authenticity and morality cannot be disambiguated.

I flinch a little when I hear what could possibly be construed as relativistic morality, but it seems to me that you're having reasoned morality: Here's my beliefs, and these are the principles upon which I base them (rather than just a grab-bag of morals you inherited). I hope you're able to walk in that by grace - and as you've noted over and over, that doesn't mean beating yourself up for screwing up sometimes.

Steve said...

I guess what i'm saying is that i'm not concerned about morality as much as I am concerned about authenticity.

Amen, brother.

We are different, and yet the same. I am 50 - you're, well, a lot less than that. You've been "out" much longer than I have. I've been married, and divorced. I think that last part has the most effect on my "sexual morality"...

I want "it" to mean something. I've had "just get off" sex - albeit with women - and it was basically masturbating into someone else's body. The whole Queer As Folk "do it with whoever, whenever, whatever" thing would be hot for about a week - like maybe The White Party, or something. But after that, what's left?

Is the man I'm dating "the one"? I have no idea. But if I really believe that God is "I AM" (and not "I WAS" or "I WILL BE"), then my job is to bring as much beauty, and joy, and love into THIS day as I possibly can. Not waiting until some time of perfection in thought and heart, that's for sure. And not some cheap emptying of body fluids, but a symbol of deep affection, if not endless love. I'll leave the possibility of that to God (and Lionel Ritchie...).

One thing I know - I'm sure not going to argue sexual morality with most str8 Christians. They cannot possibly understand how it is for us, with no social constructs for an enduring relationship.

I'm not suggesting "Live for today, for tomorrow we may die," but trust me - I'm done waiting for "the one."

Just know that though I'm decades ahead of you in age, we are side-by-side in this little adventure, Eric. I love the raw, thoughtful, even prayerful way you've addressed this.