nudity does not equal sexuality

I saw a lot of peeps and boobs at Burning Man this past week. After a 10-hour drive in an RV Saturday night after the man burned, a 4-connection flight on Sunday, and a 5 hour drive home on Monday to Cleveland after picking up Reuben in Ithaca, I’ve had a lot of time to begin processing my experiences at the Burning Man arts festival.  Even now I’m in a hazy-tired-ear-plugged up from changes in elevation but I wanted to begin writing before I forgot all the cool stuff.

So- back to the peeps and boobs.  Burning Man is a quintessential post-modern experience in community- “whatever works for you” is truly the mantra of the tribe there- in regards to everything.  One of the reasons Dave and I wanted to go together was that we knew we’d see a lot of nudity and sexual stuff and wanted to be together as a couple to pray and process together when we encountered weirdness. We also wanted to be able to honor our marriage covenant together and celebrate by getting bizzay with no one else except each other!

my one and only!

I was curious how I would deal with the nudity (would I want to cheat? go lesbian? go native & rock the birthday suit?) and also how Dave as a red-blooded visual dude would deal with seeing boobs, thong-clad butts and all manner of beautiful women walking around that weren’t his wife.  Surprisingly my view on nudity and why people went nude at the festival changed mid-week.  The first time I saw people nude it was shocking. By the end of the trip when I was in the airport I commented to my friend/professor Rick, “boy it’s weird seeing people with clothes on!”

As an evangelical Christian I believe God created the body to be a beautiful, joyous thing to be used to serve others, enjoy and honor God.  I asked the questions above not because I feel especially tempted to cheat on my husband with a man or woman or join a nudist colony, but because I know that though Jesus has saved me from the selfish darkness that so easily consumes, it still can rear it’s ugly head and try to convince me to do things that would break promises to God, my husband, and to the community I’ve committed myself to and dishonor who God has created me to be.

At some points the nudity was amusing- seeing a dude ride a bicycle naked was perhaps one of the most disgusting and seemingly uncomfortable things I’ve ever seen. Guys- I must say, I am impressed that any of you ride bicycles and can still have children.  There were lots of old hippie women that my new friend Alex & I joked about that they could have a saggy boob contest and that the prize would be a support bra.  There were people who offered to do body paint to decorate the body and there was actually some amazing art covering men and women though they were nude.

want to play piano in your briefs? go for it!

At other times nudity seemed like a radical statement in self-acceptance.  The only thing you can buy at Burning Man is coffee, ice, water & other caffeinated drinks. One one of the days I wanted an iced chai & as I sat to enjoy it, an entirely nude woman walked past me.  Most of the women went topless (I still can’t believe I’m writing this and am a Christian minister- wow, Jesus is funny!) so to see her entirely naked seemed to be such a statement of the lack of self-judgement and societal judgement to in some ways echo what God always intended for us- to be naked and unashamed of how we were made. At one point Rick asked a person in his son’s camp why she went naked during the week after she shared that had he arrived earlier she would have been entirely naked.  “would you have wanted to be admired?” he asked “well” she replied, “I suppose if someone wanted to admire me, I would have received it as a compliment, but really going naked is more for me- to accept who I am and be comfortable with that, to challenge the fear I have of what others think of me”  It was like a lightbulb that went off for us uptight evangelicals who assume that if you see the bank-tellers cleavage you’re going to become addicted to porn, if a man is handsome, looks like James Franco and is wearing a pair of skinny jeans you’ll leave your husband to jump his bones.  Please don’t construe this as minimizing the horrific statistics of divorce, infidelity in and outside of the Christian community, but I think a big part of it is that sexuality, honoring our bodies and lust isn’t talked about so people resort to secrecy, which results in sin and brokenness when they can no longer feel “naked and unashamed” emotionally, relationally or spiritually with their spouse, friends or community. I feel like that’s pretty messed up.

the "bliss" sculpture a 50 ft. celebration of the female form

Being in a semi-nude community for a week made me feel surprisingly un-selfconscious about my own body though I was fully clothed the entire time.  The soundtrack that usually plays in my head- “do my thighs look too big? Did I really gain 10 lbs this summer, is she prettier than me?” was amazingly silent. (that’s right- eff you negative self-talk!) I became more thankful for the unique gift that only I can offer to this world- myself, as God created me- body mind and spirit. It has challenged me to be more thankful for my body and to stop being such a judgmental jerk of other peoples bodies.

I’m going to be blogging about Burning Man all week & I’d love to answer any questions you have about my experience, about what I’ve written, to encourage or challenge my thoughts on this.  I know there is a wide variety of people who read my blog; some who are likely uncomfortable or offended that I went to burning man in the first place to people think it’s super awesome and wish they could have gone. I want my blog to be an interactive, respectful place where people can voice their thoughts and opinions- so if you don’t agree with something I’ve written or someone else has commented on, please take a deep breath before typing out something reactionary in your comments and know that this is a public place to share thoughts and ideas.

the toys in your room

This post is exactly about what you think this title means.

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One of my friends hosts an adult equivalent of a tupperware party for people who want to liven up their marriage and try some new things. All the ordering and shipping is done completely privately and the hostess shares the products which range from tame to things I’ve never even heard  in fun and informative ways.

I brought this subject up with a friend who is married and a Christian. I said that I thought it would be fun to host a party like this for my married friends and would be great especially for Christian people who often feel so uncomfortable talking about sex even though God created us as sexual beings! This sparked a huge debate about everything from the theology of sex, the comfort level of Christians talking about sex in marriage and why couples might want to add anything into their marriage bed besides their own bodies. My friends thought was that it was too controversial of a subject for me to host a party that dealt with this topic.

I should say that I know that even bringing up this subject I might offend someone- I’m not writing this to be vulgar, to disrespect sex or to condemn anyone who may or may not want to use whatever might tickle their fancy. If I offend you, I’m sorry. I thought twice about posting this blog since this is an edgy and controversial subject. But since I believe that Christians should engage in thoughtful ways in every area of life- including sex and anything related to sex I wanted to see what others thought about this topic. I know this could spark more debate but here are the questions I’m wondering:

  • Is it appropriate for Christian married couples to use whatever they might enjoy in their bedroom as long as they’re both comfortable with it & agree that it enhances their relationship rather than degrades it? Awhile ago, a friend of mine who was engaged shared the website book 22 which shares:

    The twenty-second book of the Bible is Song of Solomon. We believe that God intended that such love, as spoken of in Song of Solomon, be a beautiful and normal part of marital life. Unfortunately this gift from God has been grossly distorted and abused by both ancient and modern people. Book22 is offering quality products to enhance the intimate life of God’s children. Our hope is that our products will serve as intimacy enhancers for your marriage.

    It seems like part of the difficulty of this topic is that sex has been so distorted and degraded by each of us that it can be difficult to know what is helpful and what is harmful. Even things that  may be innocuous can become harmful because of our own areas and history of sexual brokenness and distortion. It seems that part of what needs to happen in marriage to cultivate intimacy is to talk, pray and ask for healing in these areas of brokenness.

  • Is it appropriate to host a party for married Christian women to explore options of what might enhance their sexual relationship with their husbands? Is it o.k. to have fun, laugh talk about and be inquisitive about sex- one of the most wonderful gifts God has given us?
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I'm sure there are even people who would say that red satin sheets are of the devil! crazy.

  • Here’s a more personal question- would you go to a party like this? Would you be offended if someone invited you to a party like this? If you’re a person of faith what do you think about this topic?

Sometimes I hate that I think about everything so much. Would life be easier if I just responded and dealt with the consequences later? A post like this reminds me that sometimes questions like this only spark more questions rather than answers. But maybe, if you’re married this post will spark something else for you…..;)

 

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Marvin's philosophy on sex: "If the spirit moves you, let me groove you."

 

 

We should mate, uh, I mean date!

Doesn’t dating make you crazy sometimes?  I was out with some girlfriends awhile ago on a Saturday night at Republic and as we were watching the brigade of mini-skirt clad ladies make their way upstairs, primly holding stems of martini glasses to make sure not to spill, we mused on life as married women who have taken ourselves off the meat market.

I’m so glad that I don’t have to get hooched up anymore hoping to hook up with a guy when I go out!” quipped one of my friends as she popped a salted edamame out of it’s fuzzy pod and into her mouth. “Yeah, it gets so tiresome hoping you’ll find someone- I don’t miss that at all” chimed in my other friend.  “true- but remember the anticipation of getting ready to go out? Not knowing what will happen, who you’ll meet, where the night will end up? I replied. Now when we get ready to go out, we’re usually with our husbands and there’s no anticipation. You know you’ll go home, have sex and then go to sleep.” We all were silent for a minute, listening to the clink of glasses and the soft thump of  techno music in the background- probably thinking about the difference of how it felt anticipating a night out with your spouse instead of a night out with, well anyone you might meet. “yeah” said one of my girlfriends nodding wistfully. “true” said another one smiling.

Despite the feelings or ideas that single people are having more fun, better sex and are free to generally enjoy life more, there has been numerous books written on the topic of married sex from all sorts of perspectives- sociologial, psychologial and spiritual.  A quick amazon search of “married sex” yielded these books results:

The Case for Marriage: why married people are happier, healthier, and better off financially

Intended for Pleasure: Sex Technique and Sexual Fulfillment in Christian Marriage

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex

One of my friends Lorilee has written books on “how to keep the spark alive” once you’re married, and especially if you have kids in books like Date Night in a Minivan and the one below:

check out http://www.lorileecraker.com/ for more of her books!

check out http://www.lorileecraker.com/ for more of her books!

The truth is that sometimes when you’re married it can feel a lot like the quote from Ben Stiller’s character in Dodgeball that I used for the title of this blog “we should mate, I mean date” than the exciting gut-wrenching anticipation of dating as a single person. Though research claims that Married People have better sex than single people- a bunch of data doesn’t really do much to spice up your love life!

Lorilee and I joked awhile ago that shows like The Bachelor or Bachelorette should throw couples in real life situations rather than these crazy idealistic and romantic situations! How’s this for a plot line: “a bachelor sees which 12 women he best connects with as they figure out how to divide household chores, cook dinner together and babysit a toddler.” I think it’d be like a cross between SuperNanny/WifeSwap/and The Bachelor 🙂

Last week Dave and I went on a date to the sixth street bridge park in Grand Rapids.  We packed a picnic of sandwiches, veggies and dip, homemade dilly potato salad that Dave had made earlier that day. Rather than just doing paper plates and plastic forks, we wrapped our real plates, glasses and cutlery in blue cloth napkins and tucked a blanket into the bag to sit on while we enjoyed dinner.

there is a sweet little park overlooking this bridge and the river of downtown GR

there is a sweet little park overlooking this bridge and the river of downtown GR

As we sipped wine from the vineyard in Ithaca, NY we visited on my birthday we enjoyed the sunlight glinting off the Grand River, the clouds drifting through the blue sky and the sound of cars creaking over the historic bridge. I simply felt content and happy.

six mile creek vineyard is such a quaint place- check it out at http://www.sixmilecreek.com/

six mile creek vineyard is such a quaint place- check it out at http://www.sixmilecreek.com/

It was so enjoyable to sit and relax uninterrupted conversation, take a break from the routine of life, catch up with things we’d been thinking about and just savor each others company. Thank God for grandparents who love to babysit! We walked around downtown GR & listened to some music that was playing outdoors & then headed to dairy queen where we got some dessert.  This date cost a total of $4.51! Sometimes I think that the things that are the simplest can be the most enjoyable because there isn’t so much hype around them to have them “feel special.”

So, if you’re married what are ways you’ve enjoyed “dating” your spouse? Whether you’re married or single, what has been one of your favorite dates lately? If you’re not dating- what did you do with a friend lately that made you feel loved and appreciated?