First off, it feels a little weird as a married person to tell you that sex is not a right. It feels a bit like a person gorging on cheesecake telling a person who’s fasting that dessert is not a right. It’s true, but it feels a little weird to say currently. That’s not to say this issue isn’t still relevant to me (more on that later), I just want to acknowledge the awkwardness.
Regardless, in our own sex-saturated culture, the fact that sex is not a right or essential to life is a difficult concept to understand. We so value sexual fulfillment that asking anyone to give up the sexual expression of their choice is seen as the cardinal sin. However, Jesus never had sex.
Sex Is Not Essential to Life
Jesus’ life shows that sex is not an essential part of the human experience. It is not that sex is dirty or sinful, it’s simply not necessary for one’s healthy development or fulfillment (despite what Maslow’s hierarchy of needs might tell you). Jesus lived a full and perfect life without the benefit of a sexual experience. He never had sex and he was okay.
Can I be very honest with my virgin friends here? Sex is not a world changing as movies and TV make it out to be. I expected my world to be completely changed and to see new colors after I got married and finally had sex. It didn’t happen. That’s not to say that sex isn’t great or beautiful or powerful. It’s all of those things. However, I think we WAY overestimate sexual experience. It really doesn’t change life all that much. It’s like having a birthday. You expect it to feel different each year, but it never does.
Let’s also be real and admit that sex is a very small percentage of everyone’s world time wise, another thing I totally overestimated before I got married. It’s not like most people are just banging 24/7. We’re talking a couple of minutes a day in most cases, maybe an hour if you’re really taking your time. It’s a powerful experience, but only effects a small amount of your time percentage-wise. It’s influence and effect is not what you would think from watching romantic movies.
What Do We Do with Unmet Desires?
Just because sex isn’t a right doesn’t mean we don’t have sexual desires. That’s the hard part. As Christians who believe in a loving God, t can be difficult to understand why God gives us sexual desires when he doesn’t also give us a way to satisfy them that isn’t sinful when we’re single. First off, we should admit that God doesn’t always give us the things we want (Remember, God never removed Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”).
Secondly, I think the difficulty here has to do with a misunderstanding of our sexual desires. In their book Soul Virgins, Christian sex therapists (one of whom is single himself) write about the meaning of “sexual surging”, when you had an intense desire for sex. They remind singles that “the sexual ache is the divinely created vehicle God uses to give you a longing for intimate connection with himself and others.”
God does not remove the desire of sexual fulfillment (even in His own son) because this desire is central to the human drive for intimacy. God gives us these desires to make sure we have motivation to connect with other people. Sex is about more than just sex, it’s about being known intimately. Sexual desire can be a sign that we’re not having that need met.
I think God can also be doing something else when He leaves us with unmet desires. It forces us to rely on Him in new ways. He doesn’t want us to be defeated by these desires, He wants us to depend upon Him to fulfill them. Often in the Bible this is how God draws people back to himself (the nation of Israel in Exile is a good example of this).
Though the Bible does not tell us in detail how Jesus dealt with his sexual desire, we do know that as a human male, he had to deal with it. He knows the ache and has lived through it. His life shows us that God does not guarantee sexual expression to any person, even his own son, and that life can be lived to the fullest without sexual experience.
Instead of looking to a spouse to meet his needs for intimacy, he looked to God and to those around him. While this is difficult and often painful, Jesus himself has lived through the difficulty and the pain. He is able to walk with you through it too.
Sex Isn’t a Right to Married People Either
This idea of sex as neither a right or essential to life isn’t relevant only to single people. I’d like to point out too that, contrary to the popular opinions of youth group kids everywhere, sex is not a right even when you’re married. Even after you’ve said “I do” and all that fancy stuff, you may still have to deal with unmet sexual desire.
Sometimes it’s a short-term thing (like one spouse is sick or in a particularly demanding period at work or you’ve just had a baby or you in the midst of a fight). Other times it could be a long-term issue (such as if your spouse becomes permanently disabled or terminally ill).
Regardless, you are called to be faithful to your spouse whether or not they are able to perform sexually. Sex is an essential part of marriage, but marriage is about so much more than sex. That’s why the marriage bond lives on even if the ability to have sex is gone.
Sex is not a right that God guarantees to anyone, married or single. Sex, like marriage and life itself, is a gift of God’s grace given to those He has blessed with it. So don’t get mad at God because you’re not currently able to have sex (I say this though I have often done this very thing in the past). He never promised you that and He never will. What he does promise is that whatever you experience He will be there with you and He understands.