The Common Good

Spirituality and Sexuality: Deconstructing Boundaries

When my intoxicated friend leaned in to kiss me, I didn’t think I was just the most readily available girl. No, I convinced myself that his true affections for me were coming out. But the next morning, when I realized what it actually meant, I felt less worthy of being loved than I did before.

Photo by Lilly Roadstones/Getty Images
Photo by Lilly Roadstones/Getty Images

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This wasn’t the first time I lied to myself in the moment and felt awful later, but I wanted it to be the last. I told my friend that wasn’t going to happen again, but I didn’t attempt to process why it happened. Then I was asked to organize an event around the intersection of spirituality and sexuality.

As I began reflecting on my past sexual interactions with men, I tried to bring God into the conversation for the first time.

It was easier to punish myself with guilt, follow youth group-style sexual boundaries or just say, "forget it" and do whatever I desired. I was reluctant to process my sexuality. Not only would it be a lot of work and uncover a lot of past hurt, but what if it unraveled foundational faith and lifestyle beliefs?

Up until six months ago, I had never questioned my decision to not have sex until I was married. I just did what I thought I was supposed to.

Once I began to reflect on it, though, I realized I was angry that God was asking me to wait. Or maybe it was OK to have sex, and God hadn’t told me sooner! I envisioned what would happen if I didn’t wait.

I decided that I would give my current relationship six months. If we were in love, I would give in.

But no matter how I attempted to deconstruct sex outside of marriage, I still felt that this change in my standards would result in me putting an unhealthy amount of expectation on that man to marry me. I knew that I would feel all those years of waiting were cheapened. Because, for me, sex holds an intense emotional and spiritual association.

I didn’t know all this until I questioned. And now, the only way I can envision having sex with someone is in a safe and committed context. This has also led to the more recent realization that I needed to revise my sexual boundaries in dating.

I listed all the events of the past year: what I enjoyed, what made me feel used, and what I needed to allow myself to enjoy. After I processed the last year, I thought about how my desire to be loved and accepted by a man was rooted in a desire to be love and accepted by God. If I first believe that I am God's beloved, then I would be confident in my interactions with men, knowing I’m already loved and accepted.

So I drafted another list: this one of boundaries self-confident me would ideally want and be able to stick to. A week later, I met a guy who walked me home and kissed me good night at my gate. Rather than slam the gate in his face to make sure he didn’t come upstairs, I told him I was interested in him but that I wasn’t going to invite him in. When I woke up the next morning, I felt great.

I didn’t expect that deconstructing my sexual boundaries in the name of faith would cause me to develop boundaries. But these new ones aren’t oppressive, because they come from an understanding of myself. No one else came up with them but me. Now when the temptation to get a momentary intimacy fix is there, I’ll have my own voice and story reminding me to not give in and wait for something rooted in love.

Dani Scoville lives in San Francisco and is an editorial assistant, storytelling blogger and an active member of ReImagine, a community focused on integrating the teachings of Jesus into daily life.

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