Only hope that is robust enough to engage with the reality of death is worthy of the name. 
I’ve always loved science fiction and fantasy for its way of playing with ideas – and there are plenty that play with dystopian alternate realities from which heroes and innocents are saved.
Three such SF&F stories have stayed with me over the years: from Star Trek: Voyager, Xena: Warrior Princess and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (And consider this your spoiler alert if you carry on reading.)
With their different qualities, each story says something about hope – a topic that I keep coming back to and whose mention was no accident in my Twitter name @hope4greyplaces. However, what is also intriguing about these stories is some of the ways in which their understanding of hope differs from the Christian understanding and the theology of Juergen Moltmann. And, I dare say, the implications are far-reaching.
I recently wrote a post in which I mentioned that my husband and I went for psychosexual therapy (you can find it here: On the receiving end of sex – why it’s not just about giving). Much to my surprise, I was soon contacted by someone asking about the therapy – because they and their spouse were also thinking about it. Our correspondence was only brief, but in that time I learned that they, like my husband and me, were Christians and that they came from an evangelical background. Now, I don’t currently identify as an evangelical, but evangelicalism certainly influenced how I was brought up and how I thought about sex. So perhaps it was unsurprising that I felt for this person and ached to tell them something that would be of benefit to them. So I went away, thought about it, and wrote this (quite long) collection of thoughts. (If you’re after something short and sweet on what sex is about in the first place, try this: The key to lifelong sex? Get the right advice.)
I was contemplating what it must have been like for Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist. She went through childbirth in her old age, knowing she would not live see her son minister and having to wrestle with the religious and political tensions of her culture. It can’t have been easy. This is an imagined letter written from Elizabeth to Mary (her cousin and the mother of Jesus), inspired by the events told in Luke’s gospel chapter 1, verses 5-25 and 57-80.
Elizabeth, a delighted mother whom God has mercifully remembered in her old age,
To Mary, my dear cousin and blessed mother to be,
Peace be with you.
It seems but a day since you returned to Galilee, and yet I know it has already been some three months. Please forgive me for taking so long to write to you.
When the time came, John was born with mercifully little difficulty. As much as I was overjoyed to know that I would bear a child, and that I could be certain of this because the message had come from an angel of God no less, I have not always had confidence in this promise. I have had to entrust myself to God’s faithfulness each and every day that my frail body would have the strength to carry and deliver this little life into the world. But now it is done and he is here.
EDIT: this post is aimed at people who feel guilty about being pleasured. If you want to read about consent and negotiating for mutual enjoyment as part of a long-term sex relationship, I recommend this post on Ashley Easter’s blog.
The ‘always be giving’ myth
Every now and then I read something that suggests that if you’re not on the giving end of sex, you’re doing it wrong. The argument follows a few leaps of logic:
It is better to give than to receive;
Therefore, to desire your own pleasure is to put yourself before your intimate partner;
Therefore, if you’re not giving, you’re abusing.
If you’re in a sexual relationship and you’re never or rarely at the giving end of sex (or not nearly as often as your intimate partner), then that points to an imbalance and imbalances raise questions about the overall health of the relationship.
But I cannot reconcile myself to a model of sex where the expectation is that you must always be giving. Or, to put it another way: I cannot reconcile myself to the idea that a healthy sexual relationship means you should always be contributing to the pleasure of your intimate partner.
OK, I want to throw my two cents in when it comes to the portrayal of sex in the film of 50 Shades of Grey. This is partly in response to the rather sarcastic indictment of the film offered by the Honest trailer for it (here if you’re interested), in that the “steamy action” includes contracts, negotiation, clauses, conditions, emails, texting, non-disclosure agreements…Continue reading About the “steamy action” in 50-Shades-the-film→
As I consider myself to be a person of faith, I’m often interested in how other people apply their beliefs to sex. I recently read a post by a Muslim writer and mother who says:
I cannot discuss all the points in the book thoroughly in just one article. However, to highlight some major issues, I want to tell my dear teenage daughters…
My only caveat on this article is that the author criticises a particular practice that labels itself “Christian” in the Christianity sense. Her criticism of the practice is justifiable in my view, though it seems strange to me that her single reference to a religion other than her own picks this out – particularly when a great many Christians, including me, would describe the practice as anything but Christian. [Edit: you can read her response to this below]
This isn’t a post directly about 50 Shades but the concept behind it is one that is, I think, relevant to how Christian interacts with Ana in the first few chapters in FSOG. It’s about how coercive people aren’t interested so much in what potential victims have to say, but in how they it – and from that they make inferences about whether said potential victim is an easy or hard target.
I tell my niece, “If a guy offers to buy you a drink and you say no, and he pesters you until you say okay, what he wants for his money is to find out if you can be talked out of no.” The rapist doesn’t listen to refusals, he probes for signs of resistance in the meta-message, the difference between a target who doesn’t want to but can be pushed, and a target who doesn’t want to and will stand by that even if she has to be blunt.
Content note: The post contains a few pro-rape exhortations though the author warns about these before they come up.
Did you find this by clicking on a pingback from YesMeansYes?You might be interested in:
I personally believe that fearless, compassionate, sacrificial love is one of the most transforming things anyone can ever receive. But I dare say there are a lot of fanciful and quite wrong ideas about what that really (I mean really, really) looks like in action. I’d love to explore that theme later down the line (and hope to do so) but in the meantime I think the point needs to be made:
Ana’s feelings and actions towards Christian is not what it looks like.
The 50shadesisdomesticabuse blog makes this point really well in a myth busting post they wrote. Not only that, but it points out the reasons why this is such a dangerous myth when it’s believed by victims of abuse.
There’s great piece of writing about the difference between kink (that is, BDSM) and abuse on Scarleteen – an independent, grassroots sexuality education and support website. My favourite quote is this:
Any responsible kinkster (any respectful and caring person, period, IMO) will take a step back upon finding out that someone they would like to pursue is completely inexperienced. They will give the other person the time and space to make their own decisions, rather than “educating” them on what those decisions should be based on what they, themselves, want from that person. This is true not just for BDSM, but is just generally good etiquette for any situation in a relationship where one partner is far further down a road than the other. One partner is ready for intercourse and the other isn’t? You wait until they are. One partner wants to move in together and the other prefers to have more alone time? You keep your separate places for the time being.
You can find the full article here. Content note: Has a dash of colourful language – but only where she’s quoting 50 Shades.
This is essential reading for the would-be Ana’s out there who are curious about BDSM (and for anyone looking to be more informed about BDSM in general). As you’ll see from the sign off at the end, it’s from someone at the total-power-exchange end of the BDSM lifestyle. Content note: Contains a couple of a brief references to things sadists might do.Continue reading A message to S-Types – What you REALLY need to know→
This post is about a problem I have in chapter 8 of 50 Shades of Grey, which is that it is unrealistic to portray virginal Ana as responsive as she is. Yeah, OK, so this is meant to be erotica and/or fantasy, and lack of realism in those genres is often not a problem. BUT… Continue reading Touched like a virgin→