Sexual Desires and the Pursuit of Holiness

(click here for Chinese version 情欲天所賜)


© Melvin W. Wong, Ph.D. 2001 All Rights Reserved

(Chinese version submitted to Pastoral Sharing, a CCCOWE Journal for May  2001)

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Biblical Perspectives of Sexual Desire

 The psychological and physiological mechanisms of sexual desire are extremely complex. The author considers this an eternal mystery that modern technology may not be able to decipher this adequately.

 What we know is that a person starts to have sexual desires when puberty is reached when sex hormones enhance secondary sexual development of each person. At about the same time, the interest in the opposite sex takes place. The sexual desire aspect of this development is primarily driven by physiological factors while the direction (heterosexual or homosexual) of this desire is determined by gender-identity formation early [i] on in life, in most cases by around the age of four. What is evident is that sexual desire was intended to be for reproduction as well as pleasure.

 Genesis 1:27-28 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." (NIV)

Song of Solomon 2:6-7 His left arm is under my head, and his right arm embraces me. 7 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. (NIV)

 

What is implicitly clear from the creation records in the book of Genesis is that God created people for the need of fellowship. Apparently, the wisdom in the design of God’s creation of people includes the completeness of interpersonal with each other and with God.

Genesis 2:18     The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." (NIV)

 

Later on in the creation account, God’s design of marital relationship was also made clear in that a person was to first separate from one’s parents, then joined to someone of the opposite gender and eventually be involved in one’s spouse in physical and sexual union.

 

Genesis 2:24-25 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. 25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. (NIV)

 

What transpired prior to this mechanism of parental-detachment and spousal-attachment was the account of how Eve, the first woman was formed from the first man Adam. There is a deep and complex dynamic of how the leaving, cleaving and becoming one flesh brings about a closure or a completeness and fulfillment of a man and a woman’s development [ii]. While the perspective of Eve was not discussed in this passage, her contribution to this intimate relationship was key, for without Eve the first man Adam could not have fulfilled God’s design for happiness and satisfaction. 

Genesis 2:22-23 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23 The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man." (NIV)

 This complex mechanism may explain the reason why men as so drawn and physically aroused by women visually. This was originally intended to be good for the first man’s development to notice and be intrigued by the differences found in the physical characteristics of his woman because God designed Adam to find Eve so attractive and irresistible. However, when they sinned against God, they started to feel shame about themselves and they used coverings to hide themselves as well as used blame to reduce their sense of personal responsibilities in sinning. From that day on, falsehood came into the world and this changed the original sexual design between a man and a woman forever. What we see today in this twenty-first century is the result of this sin affecting sexual desires between men and women. Although the original Godly design was present, the depravity of humankind rendered sexual relationship and sexual desire degrading, shameful and unfulfilling.

 When our ancestor sinned, they were driven out of Eden where they were out of fellowship with God the creator. This set the stage for social alienation and the propensity for people to not know how to fellowship intimately with each other openly because of a sense of personal insecurity rooted in shame. (This is analogous to the mechanism of our ancestors’ original sin.) This shame may be real or false in that in early parenting of a child some dysfunctional families resort to use shame and blame to emotionally manipulate and control a child. When this child grows up, there is a distorted sense of his body image as well as low self-esteem that define and destined his interpersonal relationships in insecurity.

Psychological Perspectives of Sexual Desire 

Many parents often wonder when should be a good time for sex education. This author has been proposing an informal teaching of sex education as early as when language is taught. This begins with the acceptance and affirmation of a child’s gender identity by frequent holding the child by the same-sex and opposite-sex parents. The anomalous [iii] development of homosexuality in boys and girls is a direct result of early same-sex parent rejection, whether it was intended or unconscious.

 In a healthy family with a mother and father raising a child, the son and daughter will have to be weaned by his or her mother’s nursing around the first year of life or earlier. Then they will also learn to walk and talk and experience a new found independence. Psychologically, a boy separates from his mother and attaches to his father. Mother becomes less involved with her son and the female body becomes less familiar for this boy. When a daughter separates from mother, she attaches to father and because there is a difference of sexual features and anatomy, the daughter will rejoin mother psychologically later. Father becomes a man that confirms a daughter’s gender identity by drawing a physical limit and emotional boundary from her.

 When a son and daughter grow up reaching puberty in a healthy two-parent home, they will be socialized into the heterosexual world where they develop an interest with someone they like and admire of the opposite sex. The son will tend to be intrigued by the female body and there is a curiosity over women while the daughter will tend to long for the respect and relationship found in a man. The male-female sexual differences become more obvious at this point when boys are more visual and sexually aroused while girls’ sexual socialization is more emotional and relationship based.

 

Unhealthy [iv] Sexual Development

 When husband and wife are not matured or well equipped as a person to handle the responsibilities as a person and the marital roles, children become the casualties. The age old wisdom of illegitimacy as a key predictor of difficult personality development is still true today although out-of-wedlock births are very common in this post-modern age. As much as we do not want to talk about it publicly, illegitimacy is still a destructive aspect of social phenomenon that accounts for poverty, illiteracy and crime.

 

As previously discussed in this article, sexual desire is really a psychological need for intimacy, sexual identity completion and socialization. In the common term this is about love and relationship. What happens when the original Godly design of sexual desires are not respected? Instead of acknowledging the emotional needs for intimacy and socialization, the post-modernists believe everyone is free to pursuit his or her sexual desires for satisfaction. Socialization and relationship building is often complex because it is not possible to have meaningful sexual relationship without monogamy [v].

 While non-monogamous sexual relationships may meet some short-term genital pleasure needs and the illusion of a good relationship, other aspects of a deep relationship are not as easy to develop. For example, there is an American cliché that states: “Men give women emotional relationships to have sex, while women give men sex to achieve emotional relationships.” Sexual relationship is the apex or epitome of an effective communication cycle. Without the other levels of communication, just having sex leaves a person empty and unreal because a person strives on the other levels of interpersonal related whether a person is conscious of it or not. In more serious terms, sex without effective relationship is dehumanizing because it degrades a person when deep emotional feelings are not shared honestly and with vulnerability.

 Seven Levels of Emotional & Physical Communication

© Melvin W. Wong, Ph.D. 2001 All Rights Reserved

 

Intimacy Levels

Relational Characteristics

Emotional Features

7

Sexual Experience

Sexual Intimacy

(Orgasmic-Secure Feelings)

6

Physical Closeness

Physical Intimacy (Familiarity-Safety)

5

Commitment to share Truth

Deep Trust (Vulnerability)

4

Sharing of Personal Feelings

Trust and Honesty Development

3

Sharing of Personal Judgments

Deeper Personal Interests

2

Factual Information Exchange

Mutual Interest Explored

1

Small Talk

Safety in Socializing

 

Promiscuity

Promiscuity, or the myth of a person “being over-sexed” is really about a person in dire need for real deep and intimate social relationships. The less matured person in his or her psychological development, the less self-awareness and understanding they have for this dynamic. Thus when they are desperately seeking sexual relationships, they are really desperately seeking for a deep and vulnerable intimate experience. In order to have a secure and permanent relationship, they need to develop healthy social skills to achieve a life-long monogamous relationship with a spouse.

Extra-marital affair is a manifestation of promiscuity because a spouse is inadvertently deprived of emotional intimacy even in the presence of regular sexual relationship between spouses. The sexual acts themselves are not good measures of intimacy skills. The real measure is actually in the ability of a spouse to feel comfortable and secure with vulnerability and personal exposure of weaknesses. For example, a husband may have regular sexual relationships with his wife but at the same time hides a same-sex or opposite-sex lover elsewhere.

 

Pornography and Sexual Addiction as a Psychological Disorder 

Pornography is about men who want a quick and simple way to achieve control and orgasm without the involvement of a real person. They can be heterosexual or homosexual. This is again about loneliness and the dire need to relate to someone as a sexual obsession. A man derives “pleasure [vi]” from the anticipation of this “acting-out[vii]” behavior in that there is an intrigue phase, fantasy phase, the hunt and finally emotional satiation in the orgasm. Initial pleasure may just be the experience of an “altered state of awareness” that gives a person a “buzz” when a person is bored or feels insecure about himself or herself. Sexual acting-out is really an antidote to boredom, rejection, failure and depression. Like the effects of alcohol, a sexual experience gives a person a short-term “fix” so he or she may feel right again. The short-term nature of casual sexual relationship or masturbation do not satisfy any long-term needs, so a person will go back for more and more in trying to find a total and long-term satisfaction. Not knowing the psychological dynamics involved, this person will become somewhat like the alcoholic who drinks more and more to try to satisfy a deeper need. This person will eventually lose control of his addiction and the addiction will control him. This is idolatry.

 Since men are visually aroused, so pornography mainly affects men and not women. When a man is addicted to pornography, he is degraded by it as much as his spouse is also adversely impacted by this addiction. There is a hidden victim as well; this is the men and women portrayed in these pornographic materials. Some readers will contend that these people get into the pornographic industry willingly and they are paid for their “services”. This author contends that this may be considered “business” in some countries like the Netherlands and Thailand, and “legitimate business” alone does not make it morally right or Godly.

 In addition to the factors mentioned above, there is a greed factor connected with pornography and illicit sexual fantasies and behaviors. Greed and avarice is a common sin that affects all people. In the pornography industry, the customers yielded to the sins of the eye in terms of voyeurism, which is the first stage of a sexual addiction. Like the snares of a viper, this is the bait of greed that eventual will capture a person’s volition into sexual addiction.

 

Holiness and Sexual Desires

Sexual desires were intended to enhance the heterosexual intimate relationship within the monogamous marital covenant as designed by God. The depravity of humankind caused this to be adulterated, thus causing hurts and pains in our spouses, our children and us. We need to return to God’s original design although this is against the current secular culture and political correctness.

Enhancing healthy interpersonal relationship in churches and families will help this society toward more healthy ways of living out our Godly sexual desires. When people learn how to relate to each other in a genuine way with vulnerability, inappropriate sexual desires will less likely to take root to control them. When spiritual leaders could role-model healthy interpersonal relationships of forgiveness and reconciliation, the congregation will learn how to make bad relationships good again in terms of their repair.

When marriages are stronger and effective, husbands and wives are emotionally satisfied with each other within the marriage bounds and there will be no temptations from outside the marriage that cannot be overcome. When children are reared by two loving parents educated in using respect and discipline in child rearing, they will grow up to have a healthy sense of sexual development and sexual desires.

Having sexual desires is not a sin and it is Godly since we were created in the image of God. The manifestations of these sexual desires must conform to the Biblical principles of within a heterosexual-monogamous-marital relationship. When there is lingering sexual desires outside of the marital relationship, these should be considered as symptoms of something deeper within the person and professional help [viii] is recommended.



[i] Melvin W. Wong, Ph.D.  Separation-Individuation, Psychological Understanding of Sexuality. Paper presented at the Exodus International Conference, Swanwick, England. August, 2000 (Available online at www.ChristianMentalHealth.com or by email at: papers@ChristianMentalHealth.com)

 

 

[ii] Public health research recently in the United States seems to support the decade old findings that marital relationships benefit men more than women in many aspects. For example, married men have a higher quality of mental health and physical health compared to single men. Whereas for married women and single women, the differences are not as statistically significant.

 

[iii] Based on the years of clinical experience of offering therapeutic treatment of gender-identity-disorder children and their parents as well as same-sex-attracted adults; this author has come to the impression that people’s original sexual desire is heterosexual and not homosexual. However, in many unhealthy conditions such as early sexual abuse in some cultures and broken families, a child has learned to reject his or her gender identity. For example, a mother wished to have a daughter as a child while she was pregnant because she thought boys are rough and she did not want a son to grow up like her irresponsible husband might be disappointed by the birth of her son. She later may subconsciously try to raise her son to be like a girl by dressing him as a girl and exposing him to feminine environments so when this boy grows, he prefers to play with girls and dolls. This mother inadvertently set her son up for gender identity confusion by confusing his sex role socializing. If untreated, this son becomes easy prey for pedophiles that prefer softer, more feminine boys as their sexual victims. These boys eventually would endure years of humiliation and ridicule by their peers at middle school and would grow up without a secure masculine identity. These adolescent boys will grow into homosexual boys because they will experience an irresistible obsession with the body of a muscular and good-looking man.

 

[iv] “Unhealthy” is a term to describe “self-defeating” or unsatisfying sexual relationships resulting from unhealthy family up bringing in broken families. Relationships often end in tragic outcomes.

 

[v] Although this author acknowledges that a statement like this is really consider a very “politically incorrect” and too conservative a position, I would like the opponents of this position to research history to realize that out side of a monogamous relationship, sexual satisfaction is only genital pleasure wreaked with issues of rivalry, envy, jealousy and competition. With polygamous sexual relationships, a troubling factor of comparison between partners takes place consciously or unconsciously which gives rise to personal insecurity.

 

[vi] “Pleasure” is not only limited to the orgasmic phase of autoerotic feelings. The planning and completion of an episode of pornographic use encompass it. This is a form of distorted achievement similar to someone with an impulse disorder of stealing where the object of the act is not only about the stolen merchandise, but in the thrill that precedes the act.

 

[vii] “Acting-out” is a psychological terms that means a person uses behavior to achieve the expression of an internal feelings that could not be expressed by words. For example, using the illicit services of a prostitute is an acting-out since the customer tries to establish an intimate relationship with someone through sex. What this person is seeking for may be the complex emotions of self-hate, domination, control, low-self esteem, emotional closeness, insecurity, acceptance and care through a visit to the prostitute.

 

[viii] Help for the sexually addicted or the sexually broken is available through these websites: www.ExodusInternational.org, or www.ChristianMentalHealth.com.

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