In Part D of this series we made some reference to the use of masturbation for sexual development, and in this part we are going to expand on that concept further.
In Part E, the previous post of this series, we discussed at length sexual devotion. Sexual development is somewhat different, but we can see on looking through the discussion of sexual devotion, that it is a form of sexual development. It provides the opportunity for Christians to undertake sexual development in a time of devotion so that they can better serve other people around them with their sexuality.
Sexual development for most people begins at adolescence and is the time in which the use of masturbation should first be recognised as valuable in the lives of Christians. Although it is commonplace for pre-adolescent children to discover masturbation, they should not be placed in a position to have knowledge of the sexuality aspect of masturbation before reaching puberty. During adolescence, Christian teens should be informed about the relevance of masturbation to their lives of faith as well as being educated on the need to abstain from other forms of sexual activity and live lives of sexual purity in preparation for a continuous faith journey into adulthood. What we need to ensure is being attended to properly is the overall sex education message that is being taught to Christian youth, whether it comes from the church, parents or a Christian or secular education provider. Dropping purity programmes based on complementarian theology is a big step in the right direction. As our Christian youth grow in their faith and tackle the challenges of sexual development along with everything else that they experience on their transition to adulthood, they will be much better equipped than they have been with purity programmes in understanding their sexual development and how it fits into godliness and the quest for sexual purity.
Sexual development is something all Christians should make use of in their everyday lives. Singles (including adolescents) need it because they need to maintain sexual purity whilst at the same time being prepared to serve others relationally with their sexuality in a way that is appropriate for each situation. The most appropriate example is of course marriage, for those who are able to enter into it, which is the majority. However for those who are in the position of remaining single for an extended period of time, for whatever reason, then their sexual development remains ongoing and relevant to other relationships in their lives. For married couples, sexual development is also important for maintaining healthy relational sexuality for their marriage and also the service of others whether in a shared or individual capacity. We have talked in Parts C and D previously about the need for women and men to practice a regular form of sexual therapy in their lives in order to reclaim their core faith objectives of godly sexuality and sexual purity from the pressures created by our highly sexualised societies. This is a kind of sexual development and would basically involve “repossessing” sexual ownership of the relevant body parts that people feel most pressured or shamed in relation to. We suggest specific steps to be undertaken in such a process would include receiving personal sexual pleasure from touching, stroking or caressing those body parts, simultaneously speaking words of blessing and ownership over the sexual aspects of these parts and the right to possess these parts exclusively for one’s own sexual pleasure, and renouncing body shaming or attempts by other people to possess or misuse the body parts for their own sexual gratification. We would expect this type of sexual development to be undertaken in an individual time of devotion, because godly sexuality first and foremost involves the recognition that each Christian believer owns their sexuality in the same way as they own other aspects of their body and are individually responsible and accountable before God for it, at a higher level than responsibility or accountability to anyone else. This concept was explored more fully in Part E of this series on sexual devotion.
Sexual development for married couples can in addition to times of sexual devotion as individuals, encompass marital relational development in the shared duties of a husband and wife, for example in the maintenance of the marriage itself, parenthood and family life. Both spouses must ensure they have times of private sexual devotion to reflect the state of their sexuality against God’s perfect reality and continue to develop at a personal level in order to be able to bring their best into the marriage and all other relationships around them. Sexual development undertaken prior to marriage is very important for the marriage to go smoothly. There are many examples where people have not been prepared sexually for marriage and do not have the knowledge of how their body functions sexually, who then find it difficult to relate in a healthy and productive way within the marriage. This can include where there has been sexual trauma in their lives prior to marriage. This especially is a problem where the sex instruction given in the single period of a spouse’s life conveys a negative view of sexuality, such as when it is based on purity culture. It can be very difficult for a wife who has received such a teaching with its very negative shaming view of female sexuality to be able to respond appropriately sexually in marriage. However, Linda Kay Klein in her book “Pure” detailed some personal healing journeys undertaken by herself and friends escaping purity movement teachings, and although Klein now worships at a liberal church, we found some of the accounts extremely moving and easy to relate to inasmuch as they described processes of sexual development similar to the ones we have attempted to document in this series. The fact being that those processes were much delayed until such a time as the participants had managed to repudiate the negative teachings they were given, even if they had had to leave the church to do so.
There is one more issue that we will tack in here that is appropriate to sexual development and that is clothing choices. We believe that in the egalitarian spirit, that men and women’s clothing styles should be equivalent. It is inconsistent with the rest of the principles we have stated to insist that women must be buttoned up to the nines and have next to no skin visible when men are able to go out on the beach wearing only briefs. We are not going to use that as an example of how everyone should be able to dress on a beach but we have simply used it to highlight the double standards that traditionally have existed with clothing. Learning about a preference for the type of clothing worn (for example if a woman prefers to wear a skirt or pants, and whether she prefers to wear a bra or not) is something for each Christian believer to determine as part of their own sexual development.
To summarise Part F, it is important for all Christians to focus on sexual development throughout their lives, and find personal private time regularly in sexual devotion to address any development issues. Sexual development for Christians should commence at adolescence and be appropriately addressed in sex education and church teachings to enable all believers to be suitably prepared for the development of significant relationships in their lives and the possible phases of adult life that they will encounter. Sexual development is important as part of preparation for marriage.