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Posts Tagged ‘women’

Note 1: This topic is too big for a single blog post; I know that. I can only address a few aspects of sex in order to make a point.

Note 2: As a heterosexual female, I can only reasonably speak to sex between men and women. Not to necessarily discount the rest, I am simply unfamiliar with other practices, nor do they help in my argument about the relationship between longing, sex, and unwanted pregnancies.

Spoiler Alert: If you have trouble with the words vagina, coitus, sexual intercourse, orgasm, ejaculation, or copulation, you may want to skip this post.

Random Facts and Processes

  • Sex is noted throughout the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments. Most of the time, it’s a warning. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immortality;” [I Thess 4:3, ESV]
  • Sex (as a word) has become, over time, an over-arching term for the whole she-bang (no pun intended): foreplay, coitus, and recovery.
  • Sexual intercourse can be a pleasant and satisfying experience often culminating in orgasm. In some cases, both partners (the ideal) have orgasms, but far too often, only one does, generally the man.
  • When two people agree to have sex, the immediate outcome is often pleasant.

However–

  • In the case of non-mutual consent, sexual intercourse is primarily one-sided with the male forcibly entering the female for personal satisfaction.
  • A male can also weaponize sexual intercourse, commonly called rape.
  • A woman, in these situations, is an “object.”

Nonetheless–

  • In all cases, if the man has successfully ejaculated inside a woman’s vagina, sperm laden semen will move through the vagina and into the cervix and beyond. In the case of withdrawing, also known as coitus interruptus or pulling out, it is possible for some sperm/semen to find its way up the path.

Long Term Outcomes

  • If either the man or the woman has an STD (sexually transmitted disease), that disease will likely pass to the partner.
  • Depending on the female cycle, a single sperm can successfully travel into the cervix and fertilize a waiting egg, create a single cell zygote, and in essence, create a pregnancy.

Why Do People Engage in Sex if One of the Key Long-Term Outcomes is Pregnancy?

  • They want to have a child together.
  • One or both use contraceptives to prevent a pregnancy. In other words, they don’t want a child. Unfortunately, they tend to forget that a surprise pregnancy can still happen. No contraceptive is completely foolproof.
  • Sex is fun.
  • Sex, particularly orgasms, release a number of hormones that specifically impact the partners. [see https://www.sciencealert.com/here-s-what-happens-to-your-brain-when-you-orgasm] Among them are:
    • dopamine: releases feelings of pleasure, desire, and motivation.
    • oxytocin: releases feelings of bonding (the same hormone releases during breastfeeding), a sense of love and attachment. Note: after orgasm, oxytocin continues to be release in women which often explains their desire for post-coital closeness and “cuddling.”
    • prolactin: releases feelings of satisfaction.
    • serotonin: releases feelings of happiness and sleepiness, a good mood, and relaxation.
  • Having an orgasm stimulates the brain in the same way as “doing” drugs or listening to your favorite music.
  • One of the chemicals released during sex can even desensitize a person to pain.
  • All of these feelings and “hormone releases” are a “reward” for sex.

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the Father’s love is not in him. For everything that is in the world does not come from the Father. The desires of our flesh and the things our eyes see and want and the pride of this life come from the world.” [I John 2:15-16, NLV]

Is There Any Wonder?

  • In review, my previous post about “longing” was the set up for this simple truth: sex fills a lot of longings.
  • If a person is sad, lonely, anxious, afraid, disappointed, insecure, unloved, or just have any number of unmet needs, sex can fill the bill. For those moments, it all goes away, just like a drug-induced state of mind.
  • In a time of loss or deprivation, sex is usually still available. For such a reason, total strangers will have sex, like a drug, to forget their circumstances.

Historically–

Because, we must remember, for centuries, women were possessions or slaves (although some cultures have female goddesses and have created myths about women). But in practicality, ordinary women had many social restrictions, few rights, and lived in the home at the whim of men. There have been pioneer women in every age who stepped out of the norms, but true self-discovery for average women came in the last century, beginning with the right to vote.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” [Genesis 1:27, ESV]

What I really want to highlight is that, in this modern era, sexual relations are different. Earlier, women were used for a man’s pleasure only, and at his demand, in addition to bearing children. Today, more women believe they should have equal say about when and how and with whom they have sex and they also want control over the outcomes.

For some people, this change for women is too brazen, outrageous, and merely sets the stage for widespread sexual immorality. For other people, this change for women means the freedom to experience intimacy in a variety of different ways.

But whether sex is forbidden or permissible, it is the drive to have sex and it’s “rewards,” that puts women at the locus where pregnancy can happen. The man plays a vital role and yet, a resulting pregnancy is still primarily viewed as the woman’s responsibility to carry.

So, in this era, most women want to have a say. They want a full participation and mutual responsibility. And yet, whichever partner has longings, needs, or desires, if a child is created, it’s still regarded as “her” problem and in some circles, her “sin” or “punishment.” In my mind, this view is held both in and out of marriage (a topic to be considered at another time – that of fidelity and infidelity).

I believe too many people have lost the ability to recognize sex as an intimate expression of love and a medium for spiritual union. Sexual encounters have become physical and hormonal experiences exclusively. Whether that’s good or bad, the result is a monumental disconnect between sex and the production of children.

“Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” [Genesis 2:24, ESV]

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It was supposed to be such a big put-down to Barak, who Deborah, the prophet, called up to gather forces and attack Commander Sisera of Canaan. She was assured of their victory and yet Barak, although willing to go, would not go without Deborah. He must have believed that her presence would give me more credence. He didn’t care that he might be seen as a less of a leader by bringing a woman along.

“Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” [Judges 4:9a]

But here’s where I cringe, just a little. We haven’t gotten much better in this culture. Oh, we’ve made some inroads, but truthfully, I still think people are surprised that a woman did this or that. It’s one of the reasons that Americans still hedge at the idea of having a woman president, as though her decisions might somehow be impeded by her sex. The glass ceiling still exists.

And the scriptures don’t help much. I am grateful for the many times that Christ, himself, opened doors for women in his age that were never open before. Women were called upon to be leaders and encouraged to embrace the Gospel fully, a promise of full participation. And yet, old laws held on to people’s minds, even Paul, who taught the old ways for women, to be silent and submissive and unengaged outside the home.

It’s still an insult to “run like a girl.”

 

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women and storyAbraham protected himself by claiming that Sarah was his sister in the land of Abimelek (Abimilech) and here, Isaac does the same thing, in the same geographical area, with another king (perhaps a son?), also called Abimelek (Abimilech). Scholars are not in agreement about these accounts since they are mirror of one another in so many ways. But for my purposes, they cause a completely different resonance: one that makes my blood boil if you want to know the truth.

When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” because he was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.” [Genesis 26:7, NIV, emphasis mine] (See Genesis 20 for Abraham’s version.)

In some quarters, commentators have said that these parallel stories show God’s protection over the patriarchs and the beauty of their women. How swell. But in neither story, as told by the Old Testament historians, is there much information about the women and the circumstances in which they found themselves as a result of their husbands clever misinformation (lies). The reason for their deception, in both cases, was to protect their own lives because the ruler might kill the husband to acquire the wife. But a sister? Piece of cake, just hand her over (with gifts from the household of the King to the patriarch, I’m sure).

And so the women, beautiful they may have been, were thrust into the households of foreigners. Nice. Convenient and cunning.

I am more than aware that culturally, in those days, women were a type of property or chattel. They were owned by their husbands and subservient to the lord of the house. Despite these restraints, many women of that period still accomplished great things and often, with courage, they turned their world, the Esthers and Abigails and for all we know, many who went unnamed. But these accounts are few and far between.

Women are a often strong and flexible and most tenacious. They can take a bad situation and make it better. They can tolerate much. They are survivors. But not all women. Too many other women fall in the face of men who strike with force to gain their will. Other women self-medicate to beat back emotional pain. And still others eat until their bodies betray them altogether and beauty is no longer apparent.

I suppose Abraham and Isaac could be commended for their clever little deception. They both gained immeasurably by it and found much favor from the Abimileks in their sojourns. But for the women, it was a sacrifice. And I want to remember that.

As a contemporary reader of scripture, I often remind myself that it’s critical to look between the lines, to pray and contemplate the untold story. So often, scripture time is compressed into a single phrase but it’s really months or years. And in those time frames, there are women living, crying, hoping, and maintaining their faith, often in the face of trial. whats_your_story

For my sisters in faith today, I challenge you, don’t read like a man. Read from your unique femaleness. For it may only be us who hear and see and can recognize those underlying truths. In the centuries since those days, many women’s stories have been lost. We need to remember and we need to repeat our own narratives, to our daughters, to our nieces, to our girlfriends.

Tell your story. No one else is more qualified than you.

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Here we go again. That’s all I could think about while reading this chapter where the current Patriarch (in this case Isaac) lies about his relationship with his spouse in the name of “protecting the household” [i.e. himself]. The story is  almost identical to the Abraham ruse including the same Philistine players. What’s the point?

Genesis 26:7
When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” because he was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.”

In Wikipedia, a “Jewish Encyclopedia” article states that the parallel stories in all likelihood were used to dramatize and accentuate the beauty of the women involved. In other words, the best way to explain a woman’s beauty is through the machinations men go through to possess her or to be near her or to know her.

What is beauty? We all know, it is in the eye of the beholder. What do we go through today to be beautiful?

One of my favorite plays is the Rainmaker by N. Richard Nash in which a charismatic charlatan is able to draw out a young woman’s belief in herself and her personal beauty. If only every woman could see her own beauty and not depend on culture for approval or confirmation.

 

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Photo by Victoria Potter

Anger is not a disease, it’s a choice that eventually builds into a habit. I should know, I’m really good at it. I’m getting better at the outside version of anger but it’s a cover up for what’s happening inside.

James 1:19b-20
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s [and woman’s] anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

I think of anger as a bus because it’s always taking me somewhere, and rarely if ever, does it take me where I want to go or where I should be. It’s not always a bus; I also ride the anger subway, the anger jet and the anger canoe. Each one goes a different speed, but the results are the same.

And most of those trips leave a wake or trail of damage that takes much longer to repair than it does to destroy.

When I lived in New York, I took the subway a lot. At first, it was confusing and I’d have to watch the map and keep checking the walls for the name of the stop. But pretty soon, I got so accustomed to the subway that I knew where I was just by the look of the station.

Just because anger is familiar doesn’t make it a good thing. I know that intellectually.

I know that “anger management” talks about transforming feelings of anger into healthy expressions, like assertiveness or redirecting it into some kind of constructive behavior, or intentionally and rationally calming oneself down. I’m sure these are all good mechanisms and I should look into them.

But I would like to get better at catching the moment BEFORE I get on the bus. What is it that makes me want to jump. One of my previous pastors said it was “fear” and I can certainly agree with that in many cases: fear of loss, self-esteem, worth, value, control, etc. I think there are other moments too that are driven by something else than fear. Maybe it’s disappointment.

I have written and talked about the power of disappointment before, particularly in women. It’s wrapped up in expectations and hopes and dreams and when that disappointment comes, particularly repetitive disappointment, I think it mutates into anger: displaced, misplaced, and often illogical in appearance.

No easy solution, but certainly, the advice from James is sound: be slow to speak. Maybe, just maybe, if I could slow the process down, just a little, I could recognize my triggers.

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I confess, I can’t get through this section of Timothy without copping a little attitude. In particular I find the “Adam first” argument weak, at best. If Adam was so perfect, why did he need a helpmate or companion? Both were made and both were needed. No, this conflict is about power.

I Timothy 2:11-14
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.

Apparently, Paul encountered issues with strong women; why else would he bother to write this mandate? It wouldn’t be necessary to write that women were not permitted to do something unless they were doing it. That’s how I read it: women were not quiet, not in full submission, and were teaching at will to both men and women. Several of the early house churches were in the homes of women (I’m thinking of Lydia and Priscilla). So, what happened? We’ll never really know but controversies have raged as a result and women have been selectively silenced.

Previously, I have written about women and silence. I believe God has given me words to say and to write. I have gifts in the performing arts and in public speaking. I have experienced blessings in my roles as teacher and prophet. I have been blessed and I am humbled by the touches of God. I cannot go back.

I place my inability to follow these words of Paul at the feet of God. If I sin, then it is God who will judge and no other.

I will not play the power game nor will I try to justify my choice. I will not pretend these scriptures do not exist nor will I try to manipulate what they say.

True power is from the Holy Spirit who is no more gender specific than God is. If we, both men and women, used the gifts of the Holy Spirit, then dominance would be a non-issue.

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Can’t do it. I can’t be silent. I won’t. And that doesn’t make me less fond of my beloved Savior nor He of me. Nor does it mean the Bible is so full of holes that it’s unreliable or useless. In fact, I’m not even arguing with the truth of it. I’m just not going to do it.

I Corinthians 14:33b-34
As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.

There are certainly cultural and historical bases for this verse (and others) about the roles of women in the church. I understand that.

And yet, on one hand, New Testament women were free to worship and participate equally in the promises of Christ and even perform as leaders (e.g. Lydia & Priscilla) and yet, on the other hand, great limitations were placed on their authority within the church.

Some liberal-leaning Bible historians have explained away this verse by saying it refers to the disorder of the Corinthian church and that women were calling out across the room asking for explanations and the like. Good luck with that one. Maybe so.

And yet, I tend to agree with the more conservative approachs: Paul meant what he said. So be it.

But I cannot keep silent. I don’t cover my head in church and I still wear jewelry and I don’t always “submit” to my husband’s point of view. These things are also part of who I am and I come to Christ honestly.

I have been gifted to speak and even, on occasion, to write well. There have been anointings. The Holy Spirit has flowed through me and I have spoken out of that secret place. I have experienced the pleasure of my God in His creation–me. And although I love the scriptures and all that those words have given to me and revealed to me, I will not allow this verse to condemn me.

So, I’ll wait. And on that great day when we no longer “see through a glass darkly” [I Corinthians 13:12] but understand the greater meanings of our three-dimensional life on this earth, it will all make sense.

I trust God and lean on His grace and that grace is sufficient, even for this intentional rebellion.

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