My name is Patricia Weerakoon, and I am a Christian sexologist. After 23 years in the University of Sydney, I retired from my academic position as director of a graduate program in sexual health to bring my twin passions together: God and Sex.
What better place to start than with sexual desire. Let’s look at a real life problem.
A letter from Harry, a 20-year-old single male: “I find it so hard to control my desires. I wish God would just take it away—at least till he sends me the girl I am to marry.”
What is sexual desire?
Sexual desire (sex drive, libido) is a testosterone fuelled drive deep in the emotional system of our brain. It is powered by a cocktail of neurochemicals (dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin). Sexual desire is a drive—an urge for sex. It is a fairly non-specific appetite, and we can appease it with a variety of sexual activities, from fantasy to intercourse and masturbation.
It kicks in at puberty. There’s no getting away from it. And, since the testosterone levels in boys are about ten times higher than girls, boys do have a higher sex drive.
This is the main reason Harry is all turned on: it’s biological.
In our teens and early twenties, we have a unique brain situation: bubbling sexuality with low control. This is because the cognitive decision making frontal and parietal cerebral cortex matures at a much slower rate than the emotional sexual parts of the brain. The control systems don’t complete till the mid-twenties. The teen brain is very much still under construction for adult life.
So 20-year-old Harry, like most other guys his age, struggles with this disjunction.
What turns our desire on?
Once testosterone sets the scene, the stimulus that turns on sexual desire varies from one individual to another. In the rapidly developing teen brain, stuff that is fed into it will determine what turns a person on sexually. The nerve cells at this age are in an active state of establishing connections, wiring and rewiring.
Pornography will set up Pornified circuits. In a young man it will lead to his seeing women as sexual commodities. Turned on by the super-sexualized images, his spiking desire will crave for the rapid and instant orgasmic high of masturbation. He has pushed down his still developing control mechanisms. A voluptuous body and the hint of lace lingerie send his desire chemicals raging. Maybe this is Harry?
Is it any wonder that the apostle Paul advises the Philippians (4:8): “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Harry would do well to follow this.
Why doesn’t God just ‘take it away’?
Sex and the sex drive (or desire) is part of our created body. In Genesis 1 and 2 we read that we humans are created male and female and together given the command to procreate and fill the earth. Procreation needs sexual intercourse. And sexual desire kicks off the sexual response of arousal and consummation.
We need sexual desire. God made it powerful for a purpose. Sexual desire will make Harry look for a woman whom he could marry in that wonderful one-flesh-naked-and-no-shame relationship (Genesis 2:24-25).
But sex comes with a handle-with-care warning. We are warned repeatedly by the lover in the Song of Songs (2:7; 3:5; 8:4), “Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” Watch out, she says, there is an appropriate time, place, and person. Harry needs to learn to control his sexual impulses till the appropriate time and place—marriage.
Marriage is the place for sexual intimacy. But we need to realize that marriage is more than sex. Marriage will bring a male and female into a relationship of one-flesh sexual intimacy; but sex as every other part of marriage will have thrilling highs and deep frustrating lows. Every couple needs to watch out for the temptation to idolize sex and marriage.
Waiting for a ‘soul mate’
Finally, Harry seems to be waiting for God to send him that special person to marry. The Bible gives us a couple of conditions for finding a marriage partner. Make sure your spouse is a Christian (2 Corinthians 6:14), of the opposite sex, and not a close relative.
Finding someone sexually attractive is one motivation to marry them. It shouldn’t be the only motivation—it should be coordinated with other desires, like wanting to care for them and bring up a family with them. But sexual desire is part of the “package” that motivates us to seek marriage in general, and marriage to one person in particular.
Today’s society is highly sexual, but postpones marriage. Puberty’s happening earlier and earlier, marriage later and later. So there’s this long time gap of feeling desire and not being able to consummate it in marriage.
God calls us to surrender our desires. It’s part of building Christian character and walking by the Spirit. We should view the challenge of managing our sexual desires as an opportunity to develop godly, healthy character and habits that please God and our good for us and the people around us: love God and neighbor.
Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/14511253@N04/4411497087
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Patricia Weerakoon is a medical doctor turned Sexologist and Writer. She is an evangelical Christian. She is married to Vasantha. Her son Kamal is a Presbyterian minister. As a Sexologist she has translated her passion to bring good holistic sexual health to all people into practical sex education, sex research and sex therapy.