To Date or not to Date? That is the Question.

Last night a Christian friend was telling me about the date he had planned for the following day. He told us about how he’d met her on a Christian dating site. We asked, would you recommend it? He said, to begin with it was a nightmare because he’s get around 50 women a day. I was not surprised by this in the slightest.

Growing up in pentecostal church the question of dating is one thwart with all kinds of magical nuances, innuendo and metaphor.

At pentecostal school (oh yes, I was that deep in the hole) I was lucky enough to have one of the more progressive Christian science teachers. He told us like it was on a lot of issues that other teachers would lace with guilt and shame for even thinking about. So when we were talking about sex and relationships, he likened sex outside of marriage to pie. If you keep giving your pie away you’re going to run out of pie. Apparently you have never ending pie within marriage, but at 15 and having a crush on him I didn’t come up with that at the time. And while this may have been aimed at sex before marriage it also felt like it was also aimed at dating and making sure you don’t run out of love pie. Or at the least, don’t make yourself unavailable to the person God has for you by dating someone you shouldn’t.

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I was a teenager in the days of Joshua Harris‘ ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye.’ I myself never read it but the Christian girl I thought was my long distance friend and whom I admired the most made me feel like a backslide heathen at the mere mention of dating that I learnt this is clearly not what we do as young christian women. However, the same friend when she came to my town to visit her sister, prioritised meeting up with a boy rather than even call me to tell me she was in town.

My own mother had given us strict instructions we weren’t allowed to date until we were 18, and then when I was 18 till I’d finished university. I understood this came from my mother watching her sister get pregnant at 16 to a youth leader. I only had two boyfriends behind her back but couldn’t deal with the guilt. Also, they weren’t very good boyfriends so I’m glad the guilt took over.

At 21 after coming to the end of an emotionally abusive relationship, that wasn’t even a relationship but I was staying with him because, how else was he going to know Jesus? A more mature friend of mine recommended I only group date from now on, because coffee is never just coffee. Her advice protected me through a lot of potentially hurtful situations but I could never figure out, if I’m group dating, how do I actually end up with one person?

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And then there was the wonder of Soul Ties. Now, people laugh when I talk about Soul Ties but I swear I had to stop hugging men at church because too many of the crazies thought I was into them. And why wouldn’t they when they get to press their chests against my boobs and call it ‘building community’?

In the year or so before I met my husband I was in a long distance relationship that I knew served no other purpose than to be a plaster on my loneliness and physical touch when we happened to be in the same city at the same time. I didn’t worry about Soul Ties, because I knew God was faithful to break them, and when the time came he would. I wasn’t worried about love pie running out because God is my eternal source of pie. I even dated other people in that time because I wasn’t worried that I might be making myself unavailable for the person God had for me. God knows the time and the place and the person and I had to trust that.

When my head and my heart started getting confused about the long distance relationship, I cut off and decided that I would have 3 months as just me and God. Three weeks later God sent me my husband.

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So where do I stand on dating. The same place as Nike: Just Do It. I think I got given the right advice at the right times in my life but I don’t think it was universal for everyone or every season of life.

Know that not everyone you meet is going to be the one. Know that sometimes the other person may not be feeling what you’re feeling. That will hurt but God will get you through it. You need to practice saying, ‘I Love You.’ You need to practice not hearing it back. Don’t be guilted into dates.

There is nothing wrong with you if the only people who are interested in you are non-christians. I feel like this up until I met my husband. I had never dated a christian. Ever. And then I met my husband, a man only just finding God. I broke up with him because he needed to go on his own journey but God told me to go out with him again because I would remember why I fell in love with God in the first place. But if I hadn’t dated those other guys before I wouldn’t have recognised Gods voice in the situation. And God wouldn’t have known that I’d be prepared to give up anything for Him.

Obviously, the biggest issue is getting those Christian boys to ask you out but most of them are just as scared to ask us out as we are of them. So just go for it.

As always, this is my experience but I’d love to hear what you have to say on the issue. Do you agree? Do you disagree? Please leave me a comment or get involved by filling out the survey on Christian Sexuality at this link.

A Woman’s Right to Choose

IMG_6488 I recently read an article in Stylist magazine by Lucy Mangan about men video taping consent from their prospective sexual partners. I searched the web for it and couldn’t find it but I swear it existed.

Coming from a UK teaching background where I had to evidence just about everything that happened in my classroom without actually video taping the class room I initially thought, well done to these proactive men and women, entering into a contract which, growing up in church and having NO SEX BEFORE MARRIAGE shoved down our throats without full explanation of why we should, makes total sense. Marriage is legally binding and so is a video confession. Yep, I’m on board.

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As I read the article I realised Lucy was against the concept, and I realised I still didn’t fully grasp the concept of consent.

It was a mixture of wanting to be the best christian in the world and a fear of having children that kept me from having sex before marriage. After getting married I realised my fear of having children was part of the reason it took a month and a half before my husband actually got to penetrate me.

I had many opportunities to have sex and I let myself get very close to those experiences but I said no from the first kiss. The first guy that I dated got me down to my knickers before I started having the panic attack that made him realise he may have convinced me to get this far but if he took it any further he was raping me. Thank God he stopped. After him I had two rules for any bedtime fun that momentarily made me forget how lonely I was: CLOTHES STAY ON AT ALL TIMES AND YOU ARE NEVER ON ME. Sure, a hand could slip up my shirt, down the back of my jeans; if you lay down the law like that most don’t try to slip it down the front, however I did find that they’d try fingering me through my jeans. Men have no idea that actually feels like cleaning out your nose with sand paper, making it very easy to say, you need to stop that.

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As clothes were on, you could have fun but nothing could happen that you’d really regret. You couldn’t talk about it at church connect group because someone would make you feel guilty for being the everything but girl, but you’d remember those passionate kisses the rest of your life.

As I continued reading Lucy’s article she pointed out that all though I would say no, and continue to say no until the guy realised I wasn’t playing hard to get and fall asleep and leaving me awake the rest of the night full of sexual energy, other women, including christian women, get to a point where they feel confident enough to say, yes I will have sex with you. Just like I had the opportunity to say, ok I’ll let you take my top off, she has the opportunity to say no I don’t want to do this anymore. If he’s got her consent on video he could rape her and get away with it because he’s already got her consent on video. It was at this point I realised what a wise woman Lucy Mangan is.

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How many of us have gotten into the position where we have thought, well I let this happen so I deserve this. Imagine if you have video evidence of something you regret saying, even just a few minutes before. You already feel vulnerable and now it’s being used against you. If that first guy had a camera phone back then (I’m a millennial but I was ‘active’ pre camera phones) I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have been a virgin when I got married. He was so good with the emotional abuse he would have put that in my face and I would have felt responsible and let him take those knickers off.

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I’ve had a lot of friends describe sexual experiences to me where they felt like they’d been coerced into ‘trying something new’ or hadn’t really ‘felt up for it’ but followed through because she felt bad. You see it on their faces as they realise, “I was kind of raped”. They quickly dismiss it as a bad experience because that’s easier to deal with.

It’s only since I’ve been married that I understand why sex should be saved for marriage. For us ladies it’s invasive, we’re sharing our bodies. Depending on what sort of hymen you have (follow the link to see the different types) the penis will either slide in nicely or rip you apart. I was ripped apart. If I’d experienced that with anyone I’d been with before my husband, I think I would have hated sex and been so self conscious the whole time. Even without the addition of sex in my earlier experiences I spent the whole time in bed with them thinking, are they bored of me, do they actually like me, how long are they actually going to be in my life? My husband can’t escape. He had to put up with a good 6 months of me not knowing what the hell was going on with my body. Turning sex into a science project while I figured out how the inside of my vagina worked. Most importantly, how do I get that penetrative orgasm? But we got there. I knew that he loved and supported me in every other aspect of my life and he did exactly the same thing in the bedroom. But it was hard to begin with.

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My prayer is if you are a christian and you have had sex before marriage, please don’t feel judged by this. Remember, Jesus has 2 prostitutes named in his family tree. That a woman is mentioned at all is incredible, that a prostitute is mentioned is meaningful. I’m also not calling you a prostitute.

Whether you find yourself in a position where a guy wants to film you giving consent or if you feel coerced or guilted into doing something that doesn’t feel right, you have a right to say no. Even if you did it the last time you were with that person, you can still say no. You have a right to choose. God gave us freedom of choice. My pastor likes to quote Jeremiah 29:11 that God knows the plans he has for you. Plans. That’s plural. He’s got plan A, B, C, D… all the way to infinity. Romans 8:28 says, all things work for those who love the Lord and are called to his purpose. You may have done something that you know wasn’t right for you and, on reflection, could be counted as sexual assault but God has a plan and a purpose for you and He’s working it all together for your good. So go ahead and change your mind. God gave you a woman’s right to choose. And, for my fellow Sex and the City fans, a woman’s right to shoes.

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I hope that this has encouraged you and blessed you. If it has please leave a comment below. If it hasn’t please leave a comment as well and we can chat it out.

We’d also love you to be part of an ongoing study we’re doing into christian culture sexual paradigms. If you’re up for doing a survey to add to our research please head to this link.