Sexuality is powerful. In profound ways it connects the eyes, heart, mind, will, and emotions of a person. Stewarding our sexuality well is a life-long endeavor which actually begins in childhood. We live in a very sexualized culture, yet sexuality is generally a taboo topic, especially in the Christian church. We need to normalize conversations about it in order to become the ally our kids need.
In our last post we shared about the sacredness of sexuality. Now let’s turn our attention to sexuality’s power for both good and evil. This topic might be one of the most important we cover in the Ally Series, so read on.
At a retreat for a local Christian high school football team, a senior asked if he could address his teammates. He boldly shared, “I have struggled with porn, but I’ve found freedom from it. I’ll bet a lot of you guys struggle too, and I just want you to know that you can find freedom from it also.” The coach was surprised and asked for a show of hands. “How many of you guys struggle with porn?” All but two of the young men raised their hands, along with two coaches. Later the other two boys came and privately confessed their porn struggle. One hundred percent. At a Christian high school with very involved, caring parents.
This is not an indictment of young people today. This is a wake-up call to parents and to Christian leaders.
In a small town south of Atlanta I was invited to speak to a group of moms. One of them recounted an incident in their local high school that shocked me. While the teacher stepped away for a few minutes, two students performed a public sex act.
What would drive children to view porn, perform a sex act in public, send a nude photo, or ask for one? Something very powerful.
- Statistics vary but it appears the majority of Christian Millennials are sexually active before marriage. One survey even revealed only 11% are waiting until marriage to have sex.1
- According to one survey, about one in four girls and one in six boys will be abused by age eighteen, which is devastating for both the abused and the abuser.2
- About 75% of younger Christian men and 64% of all Christian men are regular users of porn. It’s about the same for non-Christian men. And about 42% of younger women (ages 18-30) are regular users of porn.3
Sexuality is powerful. What makes it so powerful?
Brain chemicals release when we encounter sexual things. Seeing a risqué image, experiencing sexual touch, or even reading an erotic passage in a book can be arousing and intriguing for both children and adults. Though there are many “chemicals of passion,” we’re going to focus on two: dopamine and oxytocin.
Dopamine is often called the pleasure chemical. It reminds us of all kinds of pleasurable things, even simple things like water and food. I love chocolate. I love how it makes me feel. Through dopamine, my brain reminds me of chocolate often!
Dopamine releases can be triggered by social media “likes,” playing video games, taking drugs like cocaine and heroin, and of course, during sexual encounters. Dopamine is a useful brain chemical, but as with most good things, too much can be harmful. Extremely high doses of dopamine release in response to watching porn, higher than the brain is designed to experience. In many cases this can lead to addiction, meaning over time it may take more or riskier experiences to get the same “high.” Porn is powerful.
Another significant brain chemical is oxytocin, which is the bonding chemical. It releases with many things such as positive skin-to-skin touch, kissing, or breastfeeding. Oxytocin helps the brain “pair” experiences, kind of linking them together. During sex, oxytocin bonds each partner to the other. A husband and a wife bond through sex, creating a deep attraction and longing for one another that remains through the years even with the natural physical changes age brings. It creates the potential to mate for life. Sex is powerful.
In God’s design, dopamine and oxytocin related to sexual encounters are reserved for the safety and security of marriage. They are powerful chemicals which bring couples together sexually and bond them deeply, revealing the power of sex for good. But sexual pleasure and bonding can also happen outside of God’s design for sex through various forms of counterfeit sex such as watching porn, sexting, reading erotica, hooking up, sexual abuse, or having sex outside of marriage. In these cases a person bonds with pixels on a screen, words on a page, a friend, or a stranger.
The enemy of our souls uses the power of sex to lure us into many ungodly expressions of sexuality. Sexuality can be powerful for evil.
Sexuality is sacred, reflecting the relational nature of God and His covenant love. Because of its sacredness and power, sexuality is also a target for the enemy of our souls. Psychologist Dr. Dan Allender writes about healing from sexual abuse (Healing the Wounded Heart) and how quickly we can be changed by sexual encounters, especially if they are unexpected or unwanted.
Evil delights in sexual abuse because the return on investment is maximized. It takes but seconds to abuse, but the consequences can ruin the glory of a person for a lifetime. 4
Within seconds a person’s entire world can change through a sexual experience. Seeing porn changes us. Sexual experiences are powerful at every stage. We have all had our sexuality impacted by various things we encountered in a broken world. Your sexuality is being shaped still, and your child’s sexuality is also being shaped in powerful ways through experiences mostly outside of his or her control.
No doubt at some point in your journey you experienced the power of sexuality. Perhaps you’ve experienced its power both for good and for evil. Sexuality is a core part of our design as humans, leading us to connect and form relationships. It is very good even though the enemy has used it in virtually every life for evil.
Recognizing the sacredness and power of sexuality is important for all of us but especially for someone desiring to become an ally to children. Our children need to know that we can relate to their struggles, even if times have changed and temptations present themselves differently.
At our core, we are all sexual beings living in a sexualized culture. Let’s journey with each other, banish the judgment, share truth, pray fervently, and ask God to reveal what’s needed for each of us wherever we are on the journey. If you need some ideas of how to do that, read some of our earlier posts in the Ally Series. God has so much more for you than you can even imagine right now. Trust Him.
Are you finding this series helpful? Please share it with a friend.
Let me learn from you! I welcome your comments or suggestions! In addition, if you’re in the Atlanta area and you’d like to hear or host my talk: Gatekeeper: A Guide for Parents in a Sexualized Culture, email me.
Founder and CEO of TrueNorth Freedom Project in Atlanta, Georgia. firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo Credit: Frank McKenna