Is it normal to think about sex as often as I do?
Almost two years ago I nearly gave my virginity away to the first guy who asked for no other reason than loneliness. Since puberty, I’ve had sex on my brain. I’m a 23-year-old Christian woman, and it just doesn’t seem normal for me to think about sex as often as I do. Most recently I noted that I tend to fail more in this area during certain times of the month. Could part of my problem be hormonal?
Sometimes I think I am a sex addict and that the only reason I am still “pure” is that after that near-miss, I just knew that I shouldn’t date until I was ready to get married. I guess my main problem is that during my weak times, if I get overtired, overstimulated, or overstressed, I’ll give in to more than just the thoughts. I’ll read a heap of those secular romance novels then repent and pray that when I am half asleep I won’t touch myself in an inappropriate manner. Last night was on of my failures and I’ve yet to repent because I am afraid I’ll do the same thing tonight. There are times that I feel like my prayers go unanswered because my behavior is nearly habitual. I may only fall in this area six or seven times a year but I’ve been going on like this for at least eight years. There is supposed to be no limit to the number of times one can repent of the same sin, but …
I also have mixed feelings about marriage because of my family history. Some days I am mad that God made me a woman. I probably need professional help, but I don’t trust many people. In fact, I don’t even have one confidant. My life is segmented with little crossover: One part revolves around campus (work, studies, Bible studies), another is family (they’ve never met any of my friends, coworkers, or associates), and last comes non-family relationships. I don’t own a dress, I avoid everything girly, I refuse to cry except when I repent, and then can’t seem to stop myself.
I have enough issues without adding a relationship into the mix, but I want to have guilt-free sex, so I guess I’ll get married sooner rather than later. Which means that I’ll have to date in order to meet someone — but what Christian guy wants to date or marry a chick who thinks and acts like me? Recently I’ve met some guys I’d like to be friends with — but I got this funny feeling that I am setting myself up for a fall.
HELP. I’m very confused.
I realize that you’re deeply discouraged about your sexual thoughts and about your occasional sin of fondling yourself in a sexual way. What strikes me, though, is that for a single person in a sex-obsessed society, you’re doing pretty well. What I suspect is that your underlying issue isn’t sex, but sadness; you write very much like other young women who come from troubled families and who have felt the lack of a secure and loving relationship with one or both of their parents.
So often, three things happen to young woman who have suffered that lack. They long for the love they missed as children; because they didn’t get it then, they feel that nobody could love them now; and yet, desperately reaching out to fill the gap in any way they can, their imaginations turn to thoughts of sex. No wonder you almost gave in to the first guy who asked! I think you’ve done very well to have held out.
It’s also very good that you did hold out, because sex outside of marriage wouldn’t have taken your loneliness away. It would only have made it bigger, and then you might have found yourself in a vicious circle. You mentioned sexual addiction. Now from the information in your letter, you’re not a sexual addict, and I want you to stop beating yourself up with that thought — but using sex in a futile attempt to fill loneliness is one of the ways that some people do acquire sexual addictions.
Although I may be correct in some of these guesses, no doubt I’m far off base in others. Can you bear with me a little longer? Would I be right to guess that the troubled family history that you mention includes a troubled relationship with your mother? A feeling that she didn’t understand, or that she was insecure in her own female role, or that she didn’t appreciate you as a female? (Or perhaps that your father didn’t?) Might that little girl have felt misunderstood and not genuinely accepted as the female which in fact she was? If it was something like that for you, it’s not at all surprising that you don’t own a dress; that you avoid everything girly; that you refuse to cry (but when you start, can’t stop); that you have mixed feelings about marriage; and that sometimes you feel angry that God made you a woman. The problem isn’t with you; your femininity and intrinsic lovableness are just fine.
You worry that no Christian guy would want to date or marry a young woman like you. I’m sure you’re mistaken about that. But it is true that you shouldn’t rush into things. Secure love leading to marriage wouldn’t be “setting you up for a fall” — but getting married just to escape from loneliness might well fit that description. You need to work a little first on the causes of your insecurity about your femininity and about being loved.
It’s understandable that you don’t trust many people. Lack of trust is part of this package! But I think you are going to have to trust a Christian counselor anyway — one who understands the particular kind of loneliness and insecurity that you’re feeling, who understands its causes, who can help you to be secure about your femininity, and who can help you to gradually start building trusting relationships with trustworthy men. I’ve taken the liberty of asking the editor of Boundless to refer you to the Focus on the Family Counseling Department. The people there should be able to suggest someone in your own area with whom you can talk.
As you work through the issues that are troubling you, I think you’ll find yourself trusting God more, too. He understands better than anyone.
Now about that self-fondling. Naturally it troubles you; but if you’ve repented, then God has forgiven you (yes, really), you needn’t listen to the Accuser, and the practical issue is what you can do avoid it in the future. The idea going through your head right now — that even though you’re full of regret about last night, you shouldn’t repent because you might fail again — is just another of the Accuser’s tricks. In fact there are several things you can do. If you think a bit, you’ll find that you have certain habits that awaken the temptation to touch yourself in inappropriate ways. You mention two kinds of awakeners just in your letter: One of them is letting yourself get overtired and overstressed, the other is trying to get a loneliness fix by reading secular romance novels. Exhaustion is the enemy of virtue, and those novels are the feminine equivalent of Playboy. I’m sure you can think of other such awakeners. It will be much easier for you to avoid wrong behavior if you first identify, then learn to avoid, the things that tempt you to it.
Grace and peace,
Copyright 2002 Professor Theophilus. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Professor J. Budziszewski is the author of more than a dozen books, including How to Stay Christian in College, Ask Me Anything, Ask Me Anything 2, What We Can’t Not Know: A Guide, and The Line Through the Heart. He teaches government and philosophy at the University of Texas, Austin.