Sex Is Not Sexy

Sex Is Not Sexy

I think it was my second year at Bible college when I first had this mini-revelation.

Like most young red-blooded Americans (especially of the virgin persuasion), I had this notion that marriage and sex would assuage all feelings of emptiness and quell all my upset desires. I looked forward to finding and marrying that one person who, once found, would satisfy me once and for all. As I’ve written about before, I have awoken from this misguided belief and cultivated more realistic expectations.

I specifically remember where I was this one night in college, though, when the seeds of this realization first took root. I had grabbed a couch from the sidewalk in Chicago and used it as my bed for an entire school year. At the time, I was reading Sarah F. Winner’s book Real Sex, which argues for a holistic and healthy view of sex and chastity, so the topic was heavy on my mind. I was grappling with this question of whether or not to continue pursuing a girl who was in my life at the time, and there on that tattered couch-bed, it hit me.

Sex will not satisfy me once and for all.

This ethereal entity which seemed like a haven of ecstasy and satisfaction would leave me no more permanently satisfied than a good meal fills up my stomach once and for all.

Give it enough time and the well runs dry again.

This thing which, since middle school, had seemed like the finish line to the human race would not satisfy me once and for all. I specifically remember the scene playing out in my imagination. I imagined myself married to a woman, regardless of how beautiful and (ahem) sexy, once the act was over, I would be in the same place I was in reality: just trying to fall asleep, get a good night’s sleep, and go on with life.

The act of sex would not permanently fill the elusive voids within my soul. After the act, physically speaking of course, I’d be content for a while but life would continue madly on, and the urge would return again. I realized it is not a permanent fix-all for whatever ails the insides of me.

You could say I realized that sex is not sexy.

I mean, what sort of terms come to mind when we think of the word sexy? Isn’t it some sort of glamorous, polished and unrealistic ideal which is constantly sought after but never actually grasped?

Sexy is arousing.

Sexy smells nice and doesn’t have morning breath or hangnails.

Sexy is airbrushed and may or may not have had some plastic work done.

But then I stir from this fantasy long enough to look around and tame my wild expectations. I look at those elderly couples who have weathered 50+ years together and are anything but sexy. Yet there is something that keeps them together all those years. There is something deeper and more attractive that draws him to her and vice versa for all those decades. In their essence, ‘sexiness’ and pornography depend on novelty. There are always new people and new bodies and new, flashy ways to turn someone on. Intimacy, however, is the opposite. It depends on getting to know the same person over a long time.

I remember something an older mentor told me a few years ago that has stuck with me, which I turned into a poem (read the full thing here):

he said,
sure sex is great
and a good body is exciting at first,
but eventually,
it’s just good to be naked,
it’s nice to be naked with the same old person.

Of course, this nudity runs far deeper than a physical lack of clothes. It’s a raw, performance-less sort of nakedness. Unlike Adam and Eve who realized they were naked and ran and hid, this sort of intimacy reveals itself to another in a beautiful and unabashed way.

Real sex is not a one-and-done sort of event, but an ongoing, dare I say, boring and mundane practice between a husband and wife. If we single people go into marriage expecting a cinematic (read: pornographic) experience every time we come to the marital bed with our beloved, we will be sorely disappointed. This is why thousands of married men and women still struggle with pornography after the wedding night. Because sex is not a cure-all for all of our desires and fantasies. No one person can satisfy all of our deep longings, as they have been programmed by media and magazine covers.

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Ethan Renoe
Ethan is a speaker, writer, and photographer currently living in Los Angeles. He has lived on 6 continents, gone to 6 schools, had 28 jobs, and done 4 one-armed pull-ups. He recently graduated from Moody Bible Institute. Follow him at ethanrenoe.com.