My First Lessons About Sex Came From R&B
My first lessons about sex came from R&B albums. My father taught me many things about discipline, responsibility, and education, but R. Kelly and Dru Hill taught me about sex. Sometimes I’ll hear an old song from the nineties (the golden era of R&B) and think, why in the world was I listening to this as a kid? For example, on R. Kelly’s first album, he actually had a song called “I Like the Crotch on You.” I’ll just leave it at that. Surely my parents had no idea what was spinning on my portable CD player.
It’s hard to remember exactly what I thought about sex at that time. It may not have clicked with me that some of these songs were inappropriate for my young moldable mind. I remember one time that my mom, sister, and I were in the car and we played something we called the singing game. We would take turns singing a song during our drive to and from school or wherever we were going. There were no winners in this game, only losers, because we all had to stomach off-key renditions of popular songs.
My mom sang some old song by Phoebe Snow, and my sister probably sang Brandy’s newest single. As they belted out their selections, I thought carefully about what song I should sing. I decided I would sing my new favorite song, “Nice and Slow” by Usher. I had gotten the CD recently, and I’d studied the lyrics from the booklet inside the jewel case. The first verse was going well until I got to a part about putting your hands in unseen places. My mom quickly stopped me and encouraged me to pick another song. I gave an awkward smile and sang a Michael Jackson song instead. I would pay money to go back in time and watch that moment.
Without even noticing it, sex had already become a part of my life. I watched sitcoms with sexual themes and story lines, and I inhaled music that described sexual interaction in imaginative detail. I had long ago stumbled upon late night cable viewing, and I had been the willing victim of sensual pop-ups on the computer. And I know I’m not the only one.
Whether or not we seek them out, our eyes and ears are assaulted by sexual messages all day every day. Maybe you’ve been learning from romantic comedies or teen fiction, or maybe from TV shows and discussions over lunch. Our culture’s insane obsession with sex has been in the air for some time now, and you can’t help but inhale it. I’m starting to wonder if the pollution is permanent.
Many of us are accustomed to thinking of sex as something enjoyable, but we rarely think of it as something meaningful. We rarely think about our sexuality as something created by God to play a unique role in the story He’s telling about Himself. But sex does indeed have such a purpose. Now I don’t want to suggest that sex is the most important thing in the world, but I also don’t want people to treat it like it’s meaningless and stupid. Your sexual desires are not an accident. God gave them to you for a reason, and He intends to bring Himself glory through them.
If sex is about more than just personal pleasure between two consenting adults, what is it about? Sex is meant to be a physical expression of a greater reality: the coming together of a husband and wife in marriage. It’s not that God only “lets” us have sex in marriage, it’s that God created sex for marriage. We should not think of sex and marriage as different things, but one as part of the other. Just like studying is part of college, sex is part of marriage.
Sex is beautiful, but outside of marriage it loses everything that makes it that way. I’m not naive enough to suggest that sex outside of marriage feels bad. I’m not questioning whether it feels good; I’m asking if it is good. Sex is special, but when we pursue it outside of marriage it loses its meaning. While it should be a beautiful chapter in God’s story, it’s degraded to something ugly and foolish. From glorious storytelling to barbaric thrusting.
Not only that, but marriage itself is a symbol of an even greater reality: Christ’s love for His church. Ephesians 5 tells us about that mystery. The depth of intimacy and joy felt in sex is only a small picture of the joy waiting for those who will be united with Christ for eternity. And thus the joy of sex is a means to the end of joy in Christ.
When we consider the glorious role marriage plays in God’s world, it seems even more foolish for us to tarnish that picture. A lot is at stake, so we should think twice before treating sex like our servant instead of God’s.
Every now and then I’ll turn on the radio as I drive around DC, and there will be some new R&B song on. The songs are just as raunchy as they were when I was growing up, but I’m different. I know what sex is about now. It’s not just about my experience or owning my own sexuality. It’s about God.
R&B is constantly lifting up sex, but in its obsession, R&B has actually done the reverse. By making it mean everything they’ve made it mean nothing, and that’s a tragic waste of a great gift. Only in Christ can our sexuality rise back into its proper place.
This is an excerpt from RISE – Get Up and Live in God’s Great Story by Trip Lee.
©2015 by William Lee Barefield, III. Published by Nelson Books. Used by permission.