Singles and Sexuality on The Field

One of my favorite days of the year was when we had the “sex talk” for people new to the field. I’m not kidding. The men were in one room, we women in another. The nervous and excited energy was palpable. A single spinster is an odd one to lead “the talk.” Or is she?

Fast forward to the present. In preparation for this post, I bought a book this summer with GOOD CHRISTIAN SEX written in large red letters across a mostly white cover. I was meeting a friend for lunch and arrived before she did. Not one to waste time, I thought I’d multi-task by walking back and forth in front of the restaurant while reading. She pulled up and yelled out her window, “Not only are you walking, you’re reading a book with the words GOOD CHRISTIAN SEX on the cover for the whole world to see. Wow, you are you, Amy.”

Hehe, sometimes I forget I’m not invisible. I also forget this topic might make people squirm.

I have much I want to say about singles and sexuality; too much for one post. So instead of saying all the things, I’m going to talk to two camps: singles and their member care providers.

 

Single friends:

1. Too often being sexual has been confused with an act. Acts are part of sexuality, but have you noticed how often sexuality is reduced to only acts? Sexuality was part of creation and was declared good with all that was good before the fall. You are a sexual being.

2. Your sexuality is not the most important part of you. We are bombarded (even by the church and our organizations) with messages that might make you wonder if the most interesting part of you involves your body, your breasts, and what happens between your legs. It is not.

3. Many singles have experienced sexual trauma. I’m so sorry if that includes you. I have heard too many stories of older brothers introducing you to sex. Too many stories of relatives or strangers taking what you were not offering. Just as being sexual is not the most important part of you, it is also not the least. If you have some sort of trauma in your story, parts of it will be triggered on the field. Based on my experience with people (not on a scientific study), you might need to do an average of three waves of healing work. One in your 20s, another in your 30s, and often a final big push in your 40s. The hard work of healing is worth it. It is.

4. Do not fear when you are attracted to someone you never anticipated you would be attracted to—be that attraction related to gender, marital status, culture, race, education level, even religion. Fear drives you to hide, and potential sin grows in the dark. Some categories on this list might merely catch you by surprise; others, you do need to flee. A few years ago I sent a text to two friends: “I feel a spark. He is married. This cannot go anywhere. The cost is not worth the fun of the spark. You may ask me anything at any time. I do not want this to grow and if you know, I feel the power of what could happen lessen.” Do not operate alone; have trusted people.

5. What about desires, pleasure (not just a euphemism for masturbation; again, too often sexuality is reduced to its least common denominator), and longing? What about loneliness? And barren wombs? What about being the odd one out in your culture? What if you are feared? What about celibacy? This recent article, How Celibacy Can Fulfill Your Sexuality, is to be read by everyone. In part the author says:

By foregoing marriage now, singleness is a way of both anticipating this reality [that marriage doesn’t exist in heaven] and testifying to its goodness. It’s a way of saying this future reality is so certain that we can live according to it now. If marriage shows us the shape of the gospel, singleness shows us its sufficiency. It’s a way of declaring to a world obsessed with sexual and romantic intimacy that these things are not ultimate, and that in Christ we possess what is.

Maybe too long for a tattoo, but man, that will preach!

 

Member Care Providers:

Thank you. Thank you for loving singles, for valuing us, and for seeing that shepherding us is more than just waiting “until we get married.” Some of us will get married, some will not. What we are—and will be—are beloved children of God. In addition to my thanks, I have a few tips for you:

1. Do not ask a single, “So, how are you doing with singleness?” Especially do not ask someone over 30. Do you know how many times I’ve been asked that question? Please mix it up a little bit. Again, I know you mean well, but I’ve been asked this exact question so many times I now hear it like this, “So, how are you doing with your left foot?” Um, fine. It is so generic it means nothing and is hard for me to say anything of value. Ask about my friends, my dreams, my goals, my spiritual practices, ask about my fears of aging, ask about my hobbies. My answers will tell you a lot about how I am really doing.

2. Be a safe person. Many a time I could tell someone was feeling me out to see if I was safe to trust with the junk of his or her heart or life. I tried to be worthy of their trust.

3. Do not be afraid to speak of sexuality directly. After enough years of seeing the damage of not speaking directly about sexuality, I got to the point that I asked every person the same question, “How you are doing with masturbation, porn, and sexual fantasies?” Chances are, if it is not an issue, they will say. And if it is a problem—especially as I found over the years, masturbation for single women—people don’t know how to start the conversation, but they want to have it.

4. If you are uncomfortable talking about sexuality, practice talking about it. Ask questions to yourself out loud in the mirror. Practice how you are going to bring up the subject. Be willing to say, “this might be awkward, but I’m trying to get better about these subjects” or “I ask everyone this question.” And then . . . ask!

5. Not that we rank sin, but know the difference between what needs to be addressed by your organizational leaders (i.e. sex with a prostitute) and what does not. Fear is rampant in this area—be safe, be helpful, and be praying for the singles you know!

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Often when it comes to singles and sexuality we are left with the extremes of sinner or saint. We are neither. Like everyone else, we are on a path of sanctification that includes our sexuality. Which is why a single spinster is indeed qualified to give the sex talk.

Singles, what would you add to this? Member care providers and friends, what caught your eye in this post?

6 Comments

  1. Elizabeth September 15, 2016

    THANK YOU, Amy, for a couple things here. First of all, thank you for talking about attraction and temptation. It felt really risky for me to talk about that as a married woman, so thank you for standing beside me and talking about it as a single woman. I feel the solidarity sister!!

    Also thank you for mentioning specifics like yes, sex with a prostitute needs to be reported to your org. I didn’t have time to talk about it in my article, but we know a man who did some research here in our city, and in the anonymous survey of Christian men in my city, fully 50% of the respondents would qualify as having a porn addiction and 10% admitted to having seen a prostitute. 10%. That blew me away. But to bring it closer to home, we’ve personally known of situations with both porn and prostitutes, so I know this survey is telling us the truth about sex and stress on the field. The man doing the study was trying to create better outlets for stress — if men have comaraderie and companionship to deal with the insane stress of living here, along with some accountability, perhaps they will be less likely to turn to those unhealthy outlets. Anyway, I’m just glad you went ahead and spoke it.

    1. Amy Young September 16, 2016

      Sister solidarity! Attractions and temptations and longings are all real and will ebb and flow for all of us! It makes me so darn mad at how these subjects have been ensconced in shame, making their power grow. YEs, they can be powerful, but fire is powerful and beautiful. That small line about a prostitute comes with such a heart breaking and necessary story for member care providers. YES the person was responsible, but sin often is not a singular as we which and in part if was also born by an organization that missed a huge opportunity (oh don’t even get me going because the story also involved at the least forced sex, if not down right rape) . . . and it could have been avoided!!!!! I think of that young woman and how her rape could have been avoided if . . .

      I had so much I wanted to say in this post. It was already long, so I had to massively cut parts short. Life is long, however, and I know we’ll circle back to this subject :).

      I love hearing your thoughts Elizabeth!

  2. gloria September 15, 2016

    Do you have advice for starting a dating relationship on the field?

    1. Amy Young September 16, 2016

      Gloria, my advice (for whatever it is worth :)), would be tailored to specific situations — how long has the person been on the field? Have they recently ended a relationship? What is the other person like (meaning, emotionally healthy? a Christian? employed?)? What is the cultural contexts (i.e. the country you are from and the country they are from)? Like most other parts of life, dating on the field can be wonderful and it can also be a hot mess :)! If you want to talk about this more, feel free to email me at amy.young (at) velvetashes (dot) com 🙂

  3. Elisa September 17, 2016

    What about when your a single woman member care provider…

    How do you speak to single men that you’ve been given to care for?

    How do you speak with married men you’ve been given to care for?

    When I was a member care provider I was much younger than most of the married men I cared for and I was just a tad older than the single men I cared for. This complicated things s ton! Also being single and a younger woman made me also acutely feel as if I couldn’t speak into marriages or to single guys. I found a way around asking the hard sexuality questions to the single guys by requiring them to talk to another single guy in the org or in the city bug both the single guy and I had to agree on the person (I didn’t want them to pick a pushover but someone who I knew would ask the hard questions and wait in silence and awkwardness for the answers.) Another thing I did often was identify the elephant in the room, my own singleness and age. That seemed to help but it didn’t always help. Also if I hit a problem with a married man I saw myself as more the person on the top of a mountain yelling and screaming with a red or yellow flag for someone else to come address this couple, or married man situation. I still felt comfortable talking to the wife but they didn’t always feel comfortable with me. And I often shied away from asking couple snout their sex life, in Fagg I don’t think I ever did this. But one thing I did do was asked each and every person in my care who “their person” was both back home and here in Our host country or at least in our area of the world. This clued me into tons about them. If they didn’t have someone on this side yet and were new that was something I encouraged them to find and quick! If they didn’t have someone and had been serving for a longtime that clued me into other possible issues!!! Amy how would you and Patty answer the questions above?

  4. Phyllis September 21, 2016

    (Have I asked this before? How do we do what it says below: “subscribe without commenting”?)

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