Parenting 4: Sexual desire: science, culture and the word of God

Posted by on Jun 4, 2016 in Blog: Doing sex God’s way

Parenting 4: Sexual desire: science, culture and the word of God

Love -’ said Shakespeare’s Romeo ‘- is a smoke made with the fume of sighs. Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers eyes. Being vexed, a sea nourished with lovers tears. What is it else? A madness most discreet, a choking gall and a preserving sweet.’

Many years later Professor Helen Fisher, whose research laid the foundations for the tripartite division of sexual desire, limerence and attachment says: ‘Everywhere people sing for love, pray for love, work for love, live for love and die for love. Nothing can extinguish the human drive to love.’

God, who enjoys giving good gifts to his people, made having sex fun and so he gave us sexual desire. It is part of our created goodness. Solomon’s Song of Songs is in the middle of the Bible; it’s basically a book of erotic poetry. Its eroticism is focussed on marriage (a wedding lies at the centre of the book in 3:6−11) but the point for us, is, that it’s unashamedly sensual.

Love -’ says the lover (Song of Solomon 8:6-7) ‘– is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away.’

What is this powerful, bitter sweet emotion? Where does it come from? Can we control it? Or, does it control us?

Come with me as we discuss the three stages of couple relationship: Sexual desire (here), Limerence (Romantic love) and attachment (sexual intimacy) (in following posts).

Sexual desire:

The science of desire:

Sexual desire starts simmering in the emotional part of the brain early in the teen years. It is a testosterone (and other feel good chemicals) driven feeling, that basically says to the rest of the brain, ‘I want sex.’ Not all people of all ages feel sexual desire at the same intensity. Some have lots of desire, some little and a few none at all. Not feeling sexed up as your friends doesn’t mean you are asexual[1].

Why do you desire what you do?

  1. Developing sexual scripts[2]: From a very young age, you watch and listen to what people around you are doing and saying, and your brain gets into patterns of thinking which you accept as ‘normal’. Some of these patterns are deliberately taught by parents, teachers and church. Others are subconsciously caught from the attitudes and actions of people around you. Still other messages work their way into the brain without anyone knowing or recognising them. These come from television, music videos, social media, YouTube and the internet, and importantly, from friends. Scripts become hard-wired in the developing brain. They are the mix of the life experiences and ongoing experiences (nurture) that affect the expression of the characteristics your genes carry (nature).
  2. Neuroplasticity[3]: Scripts are subconscious influences, many of which you may not have had control over. However as a child reaches preteen age, there is a voluntary choice in what is fed into the brain. Brain research tells us that what we feed the brain (especially in the developing ages) will affect the wiring of our desire circuits and reward system.
    • Is pornography a part of your entertainment repertoire? You will wire your brain to accept deviant and misogynistic behaviour as normal.
    • Do you find violent TV shows fun and blood and guts video games entertaining? You are wiring your brain to accept violence as a way to both solve problems and be entertained and stimulated.

Socio-cultural view of sexual desire:

The environment you live in, the advertising and media around us, and the values and attitudes of our friends and colleagues all form the immediate sexual soup you are swimming in. You need to understand it – so that you can both critique it as well as protect yourself and your family from the destructive influences it may bring.

Current western society expresses the view that sexual desire (in fact all desires) are not a want but a need.

When meeting my sexual desire becomes a need, then it is essential to my wellbeing, even becomes core to who I am – my identity and personhood (I am who I am sexually). Anyone or anything that challenges or threatens what I see as my right to have my desires met is biased, bigoted, and evil.

Who I have sex with, who or what I identify myself as, or even what I do with my body is my choice’.

Sadly, many school sex education programs are encouraging just this, especially in the area of gender. We need to carefully consider what this is doing to the scripting of children’s brains and developing neuroplasticity.

The Bible on sexual desire

God created sexual desire. Listen to Adams excitement when he saw Eve (Genesis 2:23) the man said, ‘this is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called “woman”, for she was taken out of man.’ Sexual excitement Garden of Eden style.

God created our bodies such that the act of procreative sex (a part of the command given to Adam in Genesis 1:28) is also pleasurable and bonding between the couple.

However, the Bible is clear that what we feed our brain is important The Bible tells us to think about things that are true, right, noble, pure, lovely and admirable (Philippians 4:8). God knows how Satan will tempt us and we can’t handle the seductive allure of sexual desire on our own.

In Song of Songs, we are warned (three times: 2:7; 3:5; 8:4) to not awaken the simmering emotions till the right time and place: ‘Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.’ That right time and place being that of one man and one woman in marriage (Genesis 2:24-25) ‘- a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.’ This is reinforced by Jesus (Mathew 19:4-6).

You are not a ball of hormones rolling uncontrolled along on a sexual superhighway. You make the decisions as to what you do and whom you look to for help. The Bible is clear, we need to flee from immoral thoughts and actions and immerse ourselves in God’s word and guidance.

1 Timothy 6: 11 ‘But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.’

And build up our self-control; which is a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:16-25) by learning, prayer and practice. Ask for help from people around you to support you and be accountability partners with you.

What should you as a parent do?

  • Talk to your children about their feelings and emotions.
  • Explain how to differentiate what is healthy and what is not
  • Explain how their brain works (see the blog on the developing brain)
  • Make a plan with them on how to deal with difficult situations (e.g. porn, violent video games, sexy pictures, music videos and advertising

Want more information?

Read ‘Teen Sex: By the Book’ by Patricia Weerakoon. Available from CEP: https://www.cepstore.com.au/teen-sex-by-the-book

[1] A term used for someone who feels no sexual desire.

[2] McCormick NB (2010) Preface to sexual scripts: social and therapeutic implications, Sexual and Relationships Therapy, 25,1, 91-95

[3] http://theconversation.com/explainer-nature-nurture-and-neuroplasticity-10734