In the recent Seminar for Men, I quickly referenced the different engagements with sexuality – erotic, illicit and intimate. I have gotten questions about it, so I decided it would be best to explain what a healthy understanding of sex is. Here are the basics of what the treasure principle is, and this treasure article is a good foundation for what we are talking about now. So, with no further ado: Thoughts on the different facets of Experiencing Sexuality.
There are at least two different ways to engage sexually… at least these two different ways of experiencing sex, and maybe three. I have to start somewhere, so here is as good a place as any… First, a person can engage with sex in a way that is primarily erotic.
I have already explained the Greek concept of eros, as I understand it, in the article about 5 different Greek words for love. In this usage, I am more closely aligning the word with our common modern English treatment, though the Greek certainly still applies.
In this expression or experience of sexuality, the sex is experienced for its own sake, and for the sake of the excitement, pleasure, and/or emotions of it. One erotically engages with another person sexually in order to experience sex, and to receive (and give) the pleasure that can come with it. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, so far as I can see, but it must be understood as limited…
…like icing… or candy… or dessert. It can be a wonderful thing; but if someone tries to live on it, they will eat more and more and more and the more they eat, the more malnourished they become. The erotic experience of sexuality is meant to be enjoyed, but it would be wise to remember that it doesn’t have the ability to nourish long term. That is why if it is the only way that a person engages with sexuality, they always have to keep working at making it more, different, more extreme. To reiterate yet again, there is nothing wrong with the erotic experience of sex any more than it is wrong to have dessert as a part of a meal.
There is, however, a subheading under eros that is pretty much always based in sin…
… the illicit experience… the hidden, shameful, or guilty experience. In fact, this can be one of the most powerful aspect of erotic sexual experiences. Some people are addicted to it. It is extremely powerful, but it is always short-lived. This is the power of pornography, affairs, sometimes even just the pursuit stages of a relationship.
It is toxic to a healthy sexual relationship. In fact, this may explain why God’s Word calls for premarital abstinence… most early and virtually all pornographic expressions of sex are illicit in nature! Hidden, shameful, abusive, selfish sexuality is common before marriage – especially in adolescence (or earlier), when most people experience “adult” sexuality for the first time. If you suspect that you are somehow addicted to the illicit expression of sexuality, one great resource is http://www.pinegrovetreatment.com/. Carnes is the expert on these issues.
Erotic sex is essentially what our culture understands, and virtually (and sometimes literally) worships. Even though I believe that most of the erotic aspects of sex are a wonderful gift of God, like all things connected to the flesh, it has little power across time. It must be re-fed in always newer and better ways… like food and drink. When engaged with in wisdom, humility, and submission, they are sweet. When made a part of the overall sense of nourishment, they are a wonderful pleasure… but when worshipped or idolized, they are eventually poison to the system.
I mentioned that this is the expression of sex that the World understands. It prefers the illicit but understands the erotic. One of the most clear evidences of this can be found in the world’s solutions to any sexual problems.
Grab any magazine from the checkout lines, or purchase a merely secular book on helping with sexual problems (don’t, by the way). “Sixteen ways to spice up your sex life” on the cover of a women’s magazine will involve virtually nothing but new ways to bring more eros (like lingerie or something a little kinky) or even more often, illicit expressions of sexuality (pornography or other ways of involving other people). The world’s assumption is: if there is something wrong with your sex life, it must not be erotic or illicit enough.
That assumption, in my experience, is almost always inaccurate.
Generally, in my experience, when someone has a dissatisfactory experience of their sexual life, it is because they ONLY have illicit or even erotic expressions… so, to paraphrase the Apostle Paul, let me show you a more excellent way… (check back for the rest of the article tomorrow)
You’re not alone and we would love to join you as you take steps toward a stronger, healthier future.
I believe we all need a safe place to explore the issues that may be preventing us from experiencing a full and satisfying life. My greatest reward as a therapist is helping my clients examine ways to make the changes in their lives that will allow them to look forward to the future with hope. I am a bilingual (Spanish-English) LPC.
Our team will reach out to you soon!