The other day I heard a saying that I’ve never really quite understood. I mean, I get why secular psychology would use this saying, but I heard it at a church service. I can’t really remember the context, I know it was said in passing, but right when I heard it the “always look out for blog ideas” part of my brain went off and I set a calendar event to remind myself to write about this saying. What is this saying?
Women give sex to get love.
Now, I understand what the saying is trying to communicate: that men are typically less emotional and value sex over emotional connections, and that women value an emotional connection more than sex. So, it’s trying to say that men give what the women need so that men get what they need. While I really take issue with the whole premise, I think we arrived at this point because we’ve lost the meaning of what love and sex really are.
Each of these could need books written to deconstruct the way that culture views the concepts of sex and love, but I’m going to do my best to point out a few things that I think we’ve missed or let go of that led us to this point.
I’ll start with the easiest: sex. Granted these two are often intertwined concepts, as they should be, but I feel that we have largely divorced them, even if subconsciously.
In a world where most of us are single well into our 30’s and even 40’s, and in which shows like Friends, Coupling, and The Big Bang Theory imply very casual sex, we have reduced sex to being merely a physical act. Even in the Christian world, many men use their wives almost as a tool for masturbation during sex instead of really trying to connect with them. What’s worse, their wives know it and feel it. It’s about getting a physical release instead of a mingling of souls, which is the meaning behind dod, the Hebrew word for marital connective sex.
We’ve tried to remove the invisible attributes of sex and leave only the visible, leaving men and women strung out on physical highs trying to recover from broken hearts from being used in a way God never intended because our divorcing the mingling of souls from sex is, in part, why our culture so easily accepts sex outside of marriage. We’ve removed serving one another and made it all about getting pleasure, and even when we give pleasure it’s for the sake of getting something in return. And in doing so, we’ve removed the worship from sex. Yep, you read it right. If we’re really supposed to do all things as unto the Lord, that certainly includes the act that He designed to bind a man and woman together for eternity.
I believe it’s also a big reason pornography is so prevalent, because we view sex as satisfaction rather than emotional, spiritual, and physical connection with our spouses. This may be a two way street in that porn definitely serves to cultivate this self-gratification view of sex, but I can’t help but think that we held this view at some level before porn became prominent otherwise it wouldn’t have been able to become so pervasive within our culture.
As touchy and complicated as developing and trying to communicate a Theology of sex is, I think love is actually more complicated. I say this, because we use the word “love” for everything. We “love” french fries and we “love” our parents and we “love” our spouse. Yet, each of these is different.
However, Biblically speaking, real love always has a couple things in common. Love isn’t shallow. We often say “I love you” and really mean “you make me happy” or “I really like you” or “I am infatuated with you.” But love is so much deeper than that. Love is sacrifice, with the culminating act of love being willing to lay down one’s life for another. In John 15:13 Jesus is talking about him laying his life down for his friends, for us, and Paul connects this sacrificial love in Ephesians 5:25 when he tells husbands to “love their wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her.” The Greek word for love here is agape, a gratuitous love—given to the undeserving. It’s similar to ahava, the Hebrew word for love of the will.
That’s not romantic. That’s not TV material. No one wants to watch the TV show where the husband has cancer and the wife fights through all kinds of emotions to stay with him even though she doesn’t have all of her emotional and physical needs met. No one wants to watch the movie where the wife is crippled and isn’t able to have sex with her husband anymore and the husband falls on his knees every day begging for strength to be faithful to God and his wife even though he can’t emotionally and spiritually connect with his wife the way that he used to. But that’s real love. Romance is great, but the love of the will is the love that matters in a marriage and in life.
This is why that saying doesn’t make any sense to me, and why the gospel turns it on its head. When “love” has its proper meaning, that says that “Men act selflessly to get physical satisfaction.” Really? They act selflessly in order to satisfy their own physical desires? Seems like a contradiction to me. When both love and sex have their Biblical meanings, it means “Men act selflessly to connect with their wife through physical intimacy.” That’s a saying I’m much more comfortable with, but it completely conflicts with why culture uses this saying. And the notion that women have to give physical satisfaction to receive love, even at its basest form of simply being affection, couldn’t be more anti-gospel. Christ loves the Church whether we show love to him or not. It’s a love given to the undeserving, and any spouse is far more deserving of a human’s love than we are of God’s. There is nothing short of Christ’s own righteousness that can satisfy him, and he still loves us. He loves us to the point of laying down his own life so that we could become his righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21).
So, let’s pursue purity in singleness. Let’s pursue dod in marriage. Let’s pursue ahava in our relationships. Let’s confront ourselves with the gospel so that we might agape our spouses sacrificially, men and women alike. Maybe then we can be part of God’s redemptive work in showing the lost and broken what marriage is, what Christ and the Church is. Maybe then we can display what love is.