Has faith changed how I view sex?

CW: Mentions of abortion, spousal abuse and religious themes.

It’s something that’s not uncommon when one decides to follow a faith. I remember seeing in a documentary once, the host saying that “converts can be notoriously zealous”. And that is true. Some can indeed become zealous to the point of a zealot.

And one of the biggest subjects in those change of views? You guessed it: Sex.

Whether it’s no sex before marriage, views on homosexuality, or birth control, some folks’ views can drastically change when religion gets involved.

So, have my views on sex changed?

The short answer: No.

I’m still doing what I usually do and still think the same. I’m still an LGBTQ affirming, pro-choice, comprehensive sex education supporting woman. That’s never going to change.

For context: I have found a home in being Anglo-Catholic. For those of you who don’t know what that is, basically I’m Anglican (Church of England, as I’m in the UK) but still follow some Catholic traditions. Anglicanism is a spectrum, and Anglo-Catholic is in the liturgical, “high church” end. Me personally, I pray the Rosary, pray for intercession of the Saints etc. but in other theology I am firmly in the Anglican camp. A notable Anglo-Catholic would be Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury.

Keep in mind, no two people of faith are the same. There are plenty of topics I’m sure me and another Anglo-Catholic would disagree on. I’m fully supportive of women in the clergy, others may not. Though most Anglicans today do support it.

I’m also yet to be baptised, as I don’t wish to rush things. I want to study, learn and discern before taking that important step. To make sure I am indeed, making the right decision for myself.

So no, my faith has not changed my views on sex. It has however, reinforced a lot of my previous beliefs on healthy relationships, a healthy sex life, and made me more mindful about sex and relationships as a whole.

FAITH SHOULDN’T MEAN ABANDONING COMMON SENSE

I feel like this shouldn’t even need to be said. But sadly, it does. Regardless of whether I would or wouldn’t have an abortion, that gives me no right whatsoever, to dictate whether someone else should. As far as I am concerned, that is between them and their doctor. It is a medical issue and nothing to do with me. It is their choice and nothing to do with me.

In the past, I have been jumped on online for saying that. But it is a decision I firmly stick by. In order to keep as safe as we can from STIs and unplanned pregnancy, learning about consent, healthy relationships, noticing red flags of abuse, healthy sexuality etc. we need to learn about it. We can’t use religion to keep ourselves in the dark, regardless of how we choose to approach sex, birth control and/or marriage. The less we know, the more vulnerable we are to being taken advantage of, and abusive behaviours being normalised.

Sadly, I’ve seen this in hyper-conservative, far-right religious circles reported on the news and in documentaries, where a literalist, patriarchal interpretation of the Bible runs supreme. From men and women within that community encouraging women to avoid college and university educations, to advocating women being rescinded the right to vote. This also ends up in a viral screenshot on social media, that then finds itself on my feed.

The truth of the matter is, we cannot live our lives in ignorance to important matters. Regardless of our beliefs, I firmly stand by separation of church and state, and that religion should never dictate who gets medicine or procedures and who does not. Medical issues should not and never be a religious issue. That is between the patient and their doctor.

It can be easy, if one has always lived a traditional religious life, or have gone down a particularly zealous route of some converts, it can be easy to see important matters in black and white. All or nothing. But real life just doesn’t work like that. Every person’s circumstances are different.

A DIFFERENT VIEW ON MARRIAGE

Some people, upon entering a faith, will make the decision to abstain from sex until marriage, as a dedication to their faith. While I have nothing against that, (providing that decision was made informed and without fear or shame) I have not made that decision myself. Granted, before faith, I am one of many that has romanticised marriage. However, as I’ve got older, the more I understand that marriage doesn’t necessarily equate happiness.

I do believe that weddings have become commercialised. I feel, to a certain extent, our society has put more focus on the trimmings of the wedding than the actual marriage. While I’m not all-or-nothing enthusiastic about religious marriages, seeing the significance of a marriage woven in with faith, for those who wish that, it is beautiful.

It may come across as stuffed shirt and outdated, but in further understanding the spiritual significance, it really reinforces for me, the importance of a healthy, loving relationship. A relationship where you are a team, where communication is central and built on healthy understanding of relationships.

Two people (regardless of gender, as I support same sex marriage) who love each other, making a vow to each other in the presence of God, with their faith guiding them in love? It hits different. Not the dresses, the suits or the size of the cake, but love. And this applies to everyone regardless of belief. As Bishop Michael Curry preached at Harry and Meghan’s wedding, “Love is the way.”

I don’t believe everyone needs to get married. Like most of us, sadly I have heard accounts of, in religious and non-religious communities, of horrific abuse. Including those using religion to justify this vile behaviour, or not allow someone to get divorced. I firmly stand against this. It desperately needs addressing and confronting. My mother is one such survivor of abuse by her ex-husband.

As a result, I was raised with the staunch teaching of getting to know someone as thoroughly as you can before getting married, including cohabiting. Of course, this is no sure-fire way of avoiding abuse, as abuse can happen to anyone. My mother was doing her best to protect me and my sister from men like her ex-husband, so that was what I was brought up learning. So, I can understand the many reasons why someone wouldn’t want to get married. I might not get married. I might, but I might not. Let’s see what happens.

I admit, I used to have a one-dimensional view of religious marriages as outdated. I have since changed my view and I’m trying to adopt a more open mind. Reading parts of the Songs of Solomon recently, I can attest it can read like Biblical era erotica. It’s poetic in its depiction of two lovers and how they feel about each other, how sensual metaphor can depict the physical side of love and marriage.

So, no, I have not changed my stance on sex. But I certainly feel my faith is enriching how I see it, how we treat our partners and how love plays an important part in it.

Religious or not, the message is universal: Be good to each other. Love one another, and don’t be a jerk.

*Stock photo – Pexel – Jonathan Borba

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