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The Sexualization of Our Culture, Part 1

You may remember a few months ago when two female high school teachers were accused of having group sex with a male high school student. I was concerned because 1) I’m a human, 2) I work with teenagers, and 3) this is the school Elle (my 14-year-old daughter) attends. When the news broke, we spent some time talking with her about things. The most troubling observation was her comment, “Dad, students are calling this kid a ‘legend.’”

I’m not naïve; I know why teenage students view the young man involved as a legend. But observing conversations about this reported incident had adult men saying similar things in online news media outlets:

  • “The young man learned an important lesson here. When you are lucky enough to fall into that situation, keep your mouth shut.”
  • “When are the ladies going to learn that young men could never keep their mouth shut after snagging a teacher. Much less two at the same time.”
  • “In all honesty they were doing him a favor. He is now catapulted to demi-god status.”

These conversations revealed a sad trend in our culture that brought us to a place where accusations like this were trivialized and reduced to locker room one-liners. I’m talking about the sexualization of our culture, where sexuality is viewed as a commodity to be used, leveraged, experienced, and shared with anyone we feel is right at the time. I believe spirituality and sexuality are intricately linked, and the place our culture is going is dangerous and damaging to the students in our lives. If you think I’m making too much of this idea, consider the following:

  • Katy Perry sang, “I Kissed a Girl,” during the Superbowl halftime show (which actually seems benign in today’s culture – further illustrating my point), the most watched television program in the United States.
  • The Sports Illustrated “Swimsuit Edition” is a celebrated rite of passage for boys and an aspiration for girls, published in one of top US magazines by circulation.
  • 50 Shades of Grey is widely embraced in popular culture – even in the Christian community – in the trilogy of books and current blockbuster movie.
  • Primetime programming includes shows like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette that market sexualized young adults to one other in the name of love and commitment. It also includes offers for a night in a “fantasy suite” so the final few contestants can “fully experience” one another. (On a sidenote, in 18 seasons of The Bachelor and 10 seasons of The Bachelorette, three of the “winning” couples are still married.)

My goal here isn’t to add to the numerous voices criticizing culture’s permissive view of sexuality and the danger it poses to adolescents and adults. Honestly, I’m not sure anyone should be surprised about much of anything as our culture is far removed from any sense of a healthy moral standard. Instead, I’d like to challenge the youth ministry nation to think about what alternative views of sexuality – Jesus-centered, kingdom of God-focused alternative views – we are offering for our students to embrace. Too often, well-intentioned followers of Jesus have focused on criticizing what is bad instead of highlighting what is good. And while I agree some things need to be warned against, Jesus seemed to spend considerably more time offering kingdom-centered solutions rather than pointing accusatory fingers at people genuinely struggling in sin.

Students are growing up in a culture that has radically different values than the kingdom of God. I believe youth workers should follow Jesus’ approach – which challenged the thinking of the popular culture at the time – and echo his words, “You’ve heard it said…but I say to you…” I believe Paul understood what Jesus was doing when he wrote in Romans 12, “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (NLT). How can we hope students choose to live differently unless they are offered a new way to understand their world?

Next week we’ll look at some specific things that may be helpful in framing conversations with students about sexuality.

What do you think?puresex_resourceimage

– Tim and Tasha

Need help teaching students about sexuality from a biblical perspective? There are great resources on this topic from Simply Youth Ministry. Check out Pure Sex and other resources for your youth ministry!

8 thoughts on “The Sexualization of Our Culture, Part 1

  1. Avatar

    Great post, and very timely. A group of youth ministers from area churches and I were talking last night while planning for a True Love Waits event and we all agreed that it’s such a passive thing to teens today. We need to get them back to the heart (literally) of what God’s word says about it. Our culture is convinced that the physical and emotional side of sexuality can be detached from one another and so it can be nothing more than a handshake or high five in their thinking. But Jesus said that sexuality begins in the heart. It’s not a physical issue of “don’t do this,” but rather a heart issue. Looking forward to the next post.

    • Avatar
      Tim and Tasha Levert

      Thanks for the comment! What I like about True Love Waits is that when it was introduced, it made it possible for youth leaders to begin a conversation about a topic that had been largely ignored in most churches. I remember signing cards and taking pledges and even going “through the roof” of the Atlanta Dome (this is a test of your age)! My approach today is different, but I’m thankful for folks thinking through the need to teach our students (and challenge ourselves) to think more critically about sex and our spiritual life. Have a great weekend!

      Tim

      • Avatar
        Erik w/a "k"

        I was there with my youth group when we put the cards through the dome!

        • Avatar
          Tim and Tasha Levert

          Erik, that means you’re old like me!! (Unless you were a student … ugh…)

          Keep loving students!

  2. Avatar

    the comments about the student being a “legend” not only trivialize sexuality, but reinforce our culture’s false view that girls got it and guys want it. if a girl had been raped by two male teachers, the conversation would be very different. but the truth is that this male student who was raped by two female teachers is just as emotionally, spiritually, and sexually damaged and traumatized as if he were female. not only that, culture’s push to him being a “legend” is going to make it that much more difficult for him to get the help and healing he needs.

    i totally agree that the key to challenging the sexualization of our culture is to prevent sex from being divorced from intimacy…specifically marital intimacy. that’s number one. but i think breaking down these gender issues is pretty huge as well. i’ve seen guys come out of silver ring thing with statements like, “i’ll never push a girl farther than she wants to go,” rather than realizing he’s the one that needs to be setting the boundaries.

    • Avatar
      Tim and Tasha Levert

      Thanks for the good word Nathan. The issue is so very complex, with lots of interwoven pieces. I totally agree with you with regards to intimacy – I believe that desire is at the core of our humanity. And while physical intimacy is amazing, it’s not required to be intimately connected with someone.

      Keep loving students!
      Tim

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The Sexualization of Our Culture, Part 1

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