On Writing Sex as a Christian


When I was sixteen, I stopped reading a story for a writing class because of the word "hardon." I got in trouble for it later with the head teachers, R and G. When I admitted to them that I'd finished the story because our class teacher had been nice about it, they called that "mature."

They were dicks.

They knew I was Christian and made assumptions about me based on that, both political and personal. They assumed I had a problem with "hardon" because of strict religious beliefs when, in truth, it was because I was reading it right beside my mother, and I used to have this weird paranoia that people could tell when I was thinking about something I shouldn't.

See, I wasn't offended by reading "hardon," like they clearly thought. I was embarrassed. If I hadn't been beside my can't-actually-read-minds mom, I would have been able to handle it. A minor bump, but I'd have managed.

For years, I wrote with the knowledge that my family would read it, so I stripped anything that might embarrass me out of my work. No profanity, less romance, no sexual situations. Characters basically didn't have libidos because I'd been taught abstinence by the church and that translated into the fear that I'd be a bad Christian if I let my characters have sexual urges.

It handicapped my work.

See, I love romance. There doesn't even have to be sex. But you can't create romance if your characters have no sexual urges. Sexuality is what makes us want to hold hands and kiss and gaze into each other's eyes. It's that catch-your-breath feeling, the skipped heartbeats, the skin-too-tight, stomach-swooping anticipation that builds tension so that even a small romantic gesture can make you swoon.

My characters were essentially castrated. They were wooden puppets. They didn't feel real because I'd taken away an essential part of what it means to be human.

Personally, I feel as if the way the church approached sex harmed me. It isn't that I think waiting for marriage is bad, it's that abstinence was promoted by trying to get young people to shut down their sexuality. Instead of understanding it, we tried to cut ourselves off from it.

And that isn't natural.

It's harmful.

Because when you do cut yourself off from your sexual side, or even just suppress it, it doesn't magically bounce back after marriage. It continues to handicap you, often for years.

What does that have to do with writing sex scenes?

Many Christians will have an opinion on writing explicit sexual situations, but I'm going to give you the answer most writers will give you: do what you feel comfortable with. Some writers might say "do what's right for the story" but those people are assholes. Art is not more important than the artist, and you shouldn't make yourself uncomfortable trying to live up to someone else's ideals.

For myself, I don't know if God approves or disapproves of some of the things I've written. I've tried to be true to the nature of humankind, the nature he designed, and choose not to worry too much about it. I trust his grace to hang onto my soul, and that frees me to take chances in my work.

I am also weary of the old ways of thinking, the ways I learned as a girl. The ways that cut sexuality out of me and made me ashamed for ever having had it in the first place. I'm in my thirties. I'm not a kid anymore, and I'm done worrying about what others think of me. I need to be able to respect myself and respect my work, and I will not allow anyone to treat me like a recalcitrant child just because they don't agree.

Also, R and G, if you stumble across this and think I've matured or become a hypocrite or something because "hardon" made me squeamish twenty years ago and I've since used it in my own work? Fuck you. You're still dicks.