Category Archives: Sexuality

You are worth more than your body or your sex appeal.

One of the central themes of holistic body theology is cultural discernment.  Our culture has many valuable gifts to bestow, but there are also many lies and harmful beliefs perpetuated.  That’s why media literacy is so important.  We have to recognize the messages around us and decide for ourselves whether we will accept them as truth or not.

But before we can even develop that discernment, we have to first know who we are.  If our identity is not sure, then we are so much more easily swayed by others’ attempts to tell us who we are or who we should be.  As Christians, we identify as children of God.  The foundation of our identity is built on Jesus, the incarnate divine being, perfectly holy and fully flesh.

Holistic body theology, then, is about realizing our embodied holiness in our everyday lives.  This is hard enough for those of us who live out our lives in quiet and relative obscurity.  How much greater the struggle for secure identity and wise discernment among the many messages of our culture when in the unique opportunity to create those messages for ourselves.

I don’t usually engage in ongoing conversations about the latest thing in popular culture, but Sinead O’Connor’s open letter to Miley Cyrus carries too important a message to worry about getting caught up in current debate.  Regardless of the various opinions floating around about Ms. Cyrus’ motivations, etc., Ms. O’Connor’s effort still gets kudos from HBTB for being willing to speak hard truths about the reality of sexual exploitation of women working in the music industry.

Here are some highlights from her letter:

[…]Nothing but harm will come in the long run, from allowing yourself to be exploited, and it is absolutely NOT in ANY way an empowerment of yourself or any other young women, for you to send across the message that you are to be valued (even by you) more for your sexual appeal than your obvious talent[….]
I’m suggesting you don’t care for yourself. That has to change. You ought be protected as a precious young lady by anyone in your employ and anyone around you, including you. This is a dangerous world. We don’t encourage our daughters to walk around naked in it because it makes them prey for animals and less than animals, a distressing majority of whom work in the music industry and it’s associated media.

You are worth more than your body or your sexual appeal. The world of showbiz doesn’t see things that way, they like things to be seen the other way, whether they are magazines who want you on their cover, or whatever … Don’t be under any illusions … ALL of them want you because they’re making money off your youth and your beauty…

Real empowerment of yourself as a woman would be to in future refuse to exploit your body or your sexuality in order for men to make money from you[….] And its sending dangerous signals to other young women. Please in future say no when you are asked to prostitute yourself[….]

Whether we like it or not, us females in the industry are role models and as such we have to be extremely careful what messages we send to other women. The message you keep sending is that its somehow cool to be prostituted … its so not cool Miley … its dangerous. Women are to be valued for so much more than their sexuality. We aren’t merely objects of desire. I would be encouraging you to send healthier messages to your peers … that they and you are worth more than what is currently going on in your career[….]

The value of Ms. O’Connor’s open letter is that her message is for more than just Miley Cyrus and other women in the music industry.  It is also a message for those relative-obscurity-living-in people like you and I.  We have a responsibility to engage wisely in the world around us.  When we buy magazines or watch videos on Youtube or tune into entertainment news, we are telling the media and the world what we are interested in.  “Sex sells” is a well-known and proven marketing adage for a reason.  Sex sells because people buy it.

So, my dear lovely readers, here is my open letter to you:

Know who you are.  Make choices that reflect your identity and honor your worth.  Live a life that sells what is truly worth buying.  Live a life worthy of the precious, beautiful, unique, beloved child of God that you are.

You, dear readers, are worth more than your body.  You are worth more than your sexual appeal. You are too valuable just because of the simple fact that you are a human being on this earth to believe anything less about yourself or about any other human being on this earth.  You are worth more than the low, base messages in the media.  You and I, and Ms. Cyrus and Ms. O’Connor, and every other person deserve better.  We all deserve to be known and honored and valued and loved for our whole selves — mind, body, and spirit.

Let’s sell that for a change.

Advertisements

Helen Fisher on Why We Love and Cheat

I ran across this video and wanted to share it here. Back in 2006, Helen Fisher shared some of her research on the brain chemistry of love.  It’s a bit longer than most TedTalks, so if you’re running short on time, I recommend jumping to minute 7:45-13:20 where she talks about the impact of women in the workforce and gender differences in the brain or to minute 13:20-18:00 where she talks about sexuality, love, and marriage.

Cameron Russell on the power of images

Today I thought it would be fun to share this TedTalk by Victoria Secret model Cameron Russell on her experience winning the “genetic lottery” and benefiting from a social system that oppresses so many people based on how they look.  It’s a little awkward, very honest, and definitely thought-provoking.

So, what did you think of Russell’s talk? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Eve Ensler: Suddenly, my body

Today I’d like to share with you the beautiful, honest story Eve Ensler shares of her journey with her body.  (Fair warning, you’ll hear the words vagina and rape.)

Poet, writer, activist Eve Ensler lived in her head. In this powerful talk from TEDWomen, she talks about her lifelong disconnection from her body — and how two shocking events helped her to connect with the reality, the physicality of being human.

Rilke on the connection of spiritual and physical through sexuality

Well, lovely readers, I am back in California and getting back into regular life after my second and final session of training in spiritual direction.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the last three weeks of guest posts as much as I have! We will continue to have Five Questions on… every Friday for as long as we still have willing participants.  Everyone is welcome, so please feel free to share your responses and add your voice to the conversation.

I had some grand ideas for launching back into regular posting here at HBTB, but I’m afraid I’ve suffered from technical difficulties (three laptops in three weeks!).  For today, let’s enjoy this little snippet from the ever-wise Rainer Maria Rilke on the connection of the spiritual and the physical through experiencing our sexuality.

In the Fourth Letter of Letters to a Young Poet, Rilke writes:

We can recall that all beauty in animals and plants is a silent and enduring form of love and longing.  We can see the animal just as we perceive the plant, patiently and willingly uniting, multiplying, and growing, not from physical desire, not from physical grief, rather from adapting to what has to be.  That existing order transcends desire and grief and is mightier than will and resistance.  The earth is full of this secret down to her smallest things.  Oh, that we would only receive this secret more humbly, bear it more earnestly, endure it, and feel how awesomely difficult it is, rather than to take it lightly.

Oh, that we might hold in reverence our fertility, which is but one, even if it seems to be either spiritual or physical. Spiritual creativity originates from the physical. They are of the same essence — only spiritual creativity is a gentler, more blissful, and more enduring repetition of physical desire and satisfaction.  The desire to be a  creator, to give birth, to guide the growth process is nothing without its constant materialization in the world, nothing without the thousandfold consent of things and animals.  Its enjoyment is so indescribably beautiful and rich only because it is filled with inherited memories of millions of instances of procreation and births. In one thought of procreation a thousand forgotten nights of love are resurrected and that thought is fulfilled in grandeur and sublimity…

Perhaps the sexes are more closely related than one would think.  Perhaps the great renewal of the world will consist of this, that man and woman, freed of all confused feelings and desires, shall no longer seek each other as opposites, but simply as members of a family and neighbors, and will unite as human beings, in order to simply, earnestly, patiently, and jointly bear the heavy responsibility of sexuality that has been entrusted to them.

Thoughts? Questions? Reactions? Share in the comment box below.

The Illusionists

You may have noticed this picture trending on Facebook and Pinterest this week.

screenshot

I ran across it myself, which led me to discovering The Illusionists, a documentary that is currently in post-production and promises to be a balanced and informative look at the commodification of the human body.  That’s right up our alley here at HBTB, so I thought I’d do a little plugging for them.  Check out the video below.

I’m in no way affiliated with The Illusionists, but I’m looking forward to their finished product!  You can also find out more about body image and media literacy on The Illusionists blog.

Will I Be Pretty?

I know this doesn’t have anything to do with Holy Week or Easter or anything in our theme last week and this week, but I couldn’t resist.  If only we were all so enlightened, there would be no need for blogs like HBTB!

What is body theology? another definition

This week we’re exploring the various definitions of body theology out there.  Read HBTB’s definition of body theology. Read James B. Nelson’s definition from Monday.

Now let’s consider an excerpt from Introducing Body Theology by Lisa Isherwood and Elizabeth Stuart. Take some time to read and reflect on the passages below.

[B]ody theology…creates theology through the body and not about the body.  Working through the body is a way of ensuring that theories do not get written on the bodies of “others” who then become marginalized and objects of control. It is also a way of deconstructing the concept of truth that Christianity used to hold so many falsehoods in place.  Once one moves from the notion that there is absolute truth into which the bodies of people have to fit, the way is open to begin questioning and we soon realize that truth is not the issue in relation to prescriptions about the body, but power.  Christian history shows us the extent to which power has been exerted over bodies in the name of divine truth and the crippling results.  If the body is given the space and power to speak what will be the consequences for both the body and theology?

… Body politics have exposed the underlying power games at work in sexuality and society and by so doing have become a source of inspiration and liberation for many.  Christianity is an incarnational religion that claims to set captives free, it tells us it is a religion of liberation.  Yet it underpins many of the restrictive practices that body politics expose.  In some cases Christianity has been the instigator of these practices because of its dualistic vision of the world.

The questions being posed in our time are to do with the body, that of the world as well as the individual.  Can body politics ever become body theology in a truly radical and transforming way?  This might mean for example, that the Christian religion…risk taking the bodies of women seriously as sites of revelation in the creation of theology….That it develop a sexual ethic that takes seriously the desire of all and integrates it into a mutual and freeing celebration of embodiment.

…The Christian faith tells us that redemption is brought through the incarnation of God. A redemption that could not be wished or just thought, even by God herself, she had to be enfleshed.  Therefore, it can be argued that until the body is liberated from the patriarchal ties that bind it, many of which have been set in place by Christianity, creation will never understand the truly liberating power of incarnation.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!  React to and engage with the quotation above in the comment box below.

An August of Selah

 

Hello, lovely readers!  It’s been about six months since I began blogging regularly here at Holistic Body Theology, and I’ve decided to take the month of August off from blogging and dedicate the time to praying, planning, and preparing for the future of the blog.

Although I won’t be posting anything new, I’ll still be around, so feel free to connect with me and let me know what you’d like to see here in the future.  Leave a comment in the box below, or hit me up on Facebook or by email. I would love to hear from you.

In the meantime, here are some of the most popular posts from the past few months to tide you over until I get back.

Sex is Good, Even When You’re Not Having Any

Reflections on Body Theology: 10 Things that Annoy Me about Being a Woman

My Body Is Rebelling

Choosing Church: A Lament (Part 1)

What Is Body Theology?

Conversation: Are You an Ender or a Starter?

Bathtub Spirituality: Getting Naked Before God

Gender-Inclusive Language; Gender-Inclusive God – Part 1

Why Jesus Taught in Parables

It’s Holy Week! Part 3

The Spiritual Practice of Sleeping

Against the Flesh: Part 2

See you all in September!

 

Guest Post: Inside Out

Tammy Waggoner is a recent grad of Fuller Theological Seminary. She enjoys writing about the things that affect her life and ministering to women who have been abused. She is a trailblazer in this area and enjoys helping other people understand the complexity of sexual abuse as well as helping survivors get freedom and true healing.  For more from Tammy, check out her ministry, Fractured Wholeness, and read her blog.

This post is in response to Monday’s post, “Against the Flesh, Part 1.” In this post, Laura talks about the lies that people believe about their body. I had mentioned to Laura that if we want to get freedom from the lies, we need to not only understand where the Bible stands on such issues but also acknowledge and dig into the root of such issues.

Society tells us what the ideal body image is and until recently, with the influx of plus size models, that was size 0 without curves or blemish. Who really wears a size 0? Even plus size models are the ideal at size 14. As a woman with curves I have had to embrace my curves and really step into that but society alone is not to blame.

How we see ourselves on the outside is directly related to how we see ourselves on the inside.

Some people’s insides are damaged or broken. As an abuse survivor I can tell you that I have some distorted views of my body. My body reacted to abuse when my mind was screaming that it wasn’t right. My body let me down and in some instances I am plagued with ideas that my body is bad.

To admit that the first time was hard but now I know that my body was not to blame. Do you blame yourself for attraction? Do you blame yourself farting? Our bodies, made in God’s image, have natural functions that we cannot blame ourselves for.

Poor body image is directly related to self-hatred. I hate myself so I also hate my body. Women who have been abused spend lots of time trying to hide their bodies, the idea being, “If I can become ugly or invisible no one will try to take advantage.” This outward need to become hidden is sad but when this is broken it is beautiful to watch.

In my ministry I have seen women go from wearing all black and covering their bodies from head to toe to wearing bright colors and new cuts and no longer hiding behind dark clothing but stepping into who they actually are. It is the rewarding part of my job and my ministry. Watching women come out of the shells they have hidden behind is awesome.

How you view your body is directly related to how outside forces have told you to view your body. What did your parents tell you about your body? Often parents who scold their children when they catch them masturbating instill in them the idea that their genitals and their sexual drives are bad.

What did your first boy/girlfriend tell you about your body? What happened in the locker room in middle school? What have past dating partners told you?

Each person we interact with tells us something about our body and we take that image in. Sometimes we are lucky and the people in our lives nurture our love of our bodies but often times we are not as lucky and each interaction further distorts our body image.

So how can we possibly see beyond our distorted body images? It takes time, a good support system full of loving people who see us as we actually are and a loving God to guide you along the way.

Letting go of lies and self-hatred takes time and is not a quick process but it is totally worth it.  Letting go of self-hatred and the lies we believe about our bodies can open us to the freedom of loving ourselves and seeing ourselves as God sees us.

%d bloggers like this: