I have a friend with whom I have frequent conversations about sex. This friend was recently describing folks he knows who are quite sexually promiscuous, and while my friend is not so interested in that sort of a sex life, he suspects God doesn’t really care all that much either. This prompted an email conversation about sexual ethics, and here’s what I wrote (in the all-lower-case type I often use in casual emails):
here's the sum total of my sexual ethics (and, i like to think, god's):
do whatever feels good, but do it with intention and care so as not to harm yourself or others. i'm suspicious of a lot of promiscuous sexual activity such as what you describe, but only because i think often folks are trying to feed themselves in unhealthy ways, without being careful of the emotional/psychological/spiritual lives of themselves and their partners -- but i don't view it as any more of a sin than any sort of mindless and careless consumption.
i also think anonymous sex is pretty problematic, because if you know nothing about your partner, by definition you can't be intentional about not doing them harm. what if this anonymous encounter is actually an act of self-hatred? i'd kinda like to know about that before i get sexually intimate with someone....
lots of folks say their needs are being met by all sorts of unhealthy stuff, so self-reporting that needs are being met is not so persuasive to me. having said that, i'm equally sure that i'm in no position to judge or to know whether someone's needs are actually being met. i'm just suspicious when someone tells me that, say, shopping or mcdonalds is good for their emotional and spiritual lives; likewise i'm a little suspicious of multiple, secret sex partners.
but i think pointing fingers and lecturing, even if you're pretty sure you're right, gets you almost nowhere. and often folks are doing the best they can with the resources they have, and taking care of themselves in the small ways they can -- and a god who loves them (and our god does) understands that. sexual promiscuity is not an unhealthy way that i feed myself, but there are plenty of others, and i'm just really grateful that there is love and salvation and forgiveness and LOVE at the end of the day and the beginning of the next one.
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As they say in my kids’ school, I’m ready for questions and comments.