Sexuality and Freedom

Posted by Karen Soole Karen Soole
Charlotte Church added her voice this week to the concern being raised by many at the sexual exploitation of young women in the pop industry.[1] Others such as Sinead O Connor, and Annie Lennox have joined in with concerns about the overtly sexualised performances required of young women in pop videos. I welcome this long overdue debate but not everyone is keen; some feminists struggle with these women’s views believing them to be in Laurie Penny’s words part of an ontology of ‘slut-shaming’ by worried middle-aged women claiming:

Bland sexual performance is still the only power this society grants to young women, and it grants it grudgingly, rushing to judge and humiliate them whenever they claim it. [2]

This is a tragic understanding of sexuality which was never created for us to achieve personal fulfilment and individual autonomy but rather given to us by God as beautiful complementarity for the sake of the other. Seeing sex as about a claim for power is just another outworking of the Fall which has enslaved every generation. However Laurie Penny is rightly concerned for our young women:

How are young women meant to grow up free and brave in a world that covets our commercial potential and despises us when we demand control of our own destinies? [3]

The problem will never be resolved until we understand that we are never in control of our own destinies. However when we submit to the rule of our Creator we can discover not only what it really means to be free but also to be confident and brave because in Christ we are children of God.

It is not just young women who are subject to the pressure to exploit their sexuality. In a perverse reversal from the Carry On films and the Benny Hill Show in the 1970’s family television now finds it quite acceptable to ogle young men - just watch Strictly and listen to what they say about Ben Cohen or the desire to unbutton Ashley Taylor’s shirt.

I accept that I write as a middle-aged woman (which in some quarters automatically disqualifies me from having a voice) but I wonder how we can engage with this debate? I think Christians should be involved in campaigns against pornography and leading the cries for help to educate our kids about sexuality in schools but we will need to do more. We need to point our young women and our young men to Christ. How can we do that? We probably will find the door of schools closed to us if we try to speak of the only place where sexism is totally defeated. We should not be afraid of discussing these things in youth groups, in bible studies, in our families and also in our evangelism – there are so many people hurting because of the trap that false ideas about sex and sexuality creates.

It matters how we deal with the issue of sexuality in our churches, in our homes and in own lives whether we are married or single. We must not be influenced by our fallen society but in doing so avoid falling into the trap of creating a weird version of what it means to be a godly young person and stereotype our children into some kind of nineteenth century fantasy of manhood or womanhood. It is Jesus that matters - we need to help them find their identity in Christ and true freedom.

[1] In the John Peel Lecture First broadcast BBC Radio 6 Music, 12:00AM Tue, 15 Oct 2013.

[2] Laurie Penny, The New Statesman, 11 October 2013 8:55.

[3] Ibid.