Now that I have your attention…….Somewhere along the line, we got this whole thing all turned around.

I had a girlfriend back in the mid 1980s who told me that her mother had counseled her about sex as follows: “It’s something you just have to tolerate, and hope that it doesn’t take too long so that you can get back to your business.” That reflected the mother having come of age in the day when the husband determined when sex would talk place, got what he wanted without much concern for whether his wife wanted to be sexual – much less whether the experience was pleasurable for her – and then went about his business. That was not a healthy time in terms of sexuality, and as proof I offer the mother’s advice about sexuality above.

The came the 1960s, the advent of effective birth control, the so called “free love” movement, and all that was associated with it. Some of what was associated with it turned out to be not so very good at all. Among the good things was that women were given permission to enjoy their sexuality, and men started to learn to respect a woman’s needs. Among the bad things, particularly as we moved into the 1970s, some women radically misinterpreted feminism and got the idea that sexuality could be used to manipulate men – or, even worse, as a weapon. Many women started using sexuality as a behavior modification tool. If a man did what women wanted them to do, they were rewarded. If they displeased their partners, they were “cut off”. In this way intimacy was removed from sexuality and it became little more than an act of mutual prostitution. This is a slippery slope from which we have not recovered, as is evidenced by this story.

I have a friend who works as a nurse. She frequently tells stories about one of her coworkers who “caught” her husband with pornography and how disrespectful that is. Inevitably, the coworker has, as punishment for her husband’s sin, decided to “cut him off”. After all, my friend says, “how could she have sex with a man who looks at that?” I assume by that she means the pornography, although she could mean the wife….

Now, I don’t intend to debate the pornography issue right now, although I will at a later date. I will say that, biologically and emotionally speaking, both men and women have sexual needs. If a woman decides not to be sexual with her partner it doesn’t take his sexual needs away. Let me restate that, because it is important. If you decide to not be sexual with your partner for an extended period of time, they will find another sexual outlet. In the grander scheme of things, would you rather find your partner viewing pornography or sleeping with the neighbor? If you don’t want your partner to view pornography, then you need to have sex with him. You can’t have this both ways, so you need to make a decision.

Lest you think this is one sided, I have a friend in Europe who has decided that she needs to have multiple boyfriends – one to have fun with, one to pay for things, and one to be sexual. While she says this at least partly with tongue in cheek, it reflects the truths that both men and women have problems in relationship and that no one can be all things to all people. In fact, Bishop T.D. Jakes speaks of what might be called the 80/20 rule for relationships. To paraphrase, if a partner is meeting 80 percent of your needs, they are doing about the best any human being can do in relationship. Jakes says that is a person leaves a relationship looking for the other 20% they may well lose the 80% they had.

That having been said, I think that which 20% is missing is important. For example, if the 20% that’s missing in a relationship is non-violence then the relationship needs to end regardless of the possibility of losing the 80%. Similarly, issues like sexuality affect many areas of a relationship including physical and emotional intimacy. If a partner chooses to use sexuality as a weapon they may well damage a relationship beyond repair. When that happens, the partner left behind can try to hide behind righteous indignation and woundedness all they want – but they have made their own bed, and chosen not to lie in it.

I’m not suggesting that people don’t have a choice regarding when and with whom they will be sexual. In fact, choice is exactly my point – and choices have consequences. It’s long past time that we move toward a healthy sexual ethic in this country, and to have a healthy sexual ethic, we need to actually be sexual.

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