So a little while back I came across an article which put me on edge and really demonstrates why the Christian church in the West is so impotent. The article is called “Your Sexual Past Doesn’t Make You Damaged Goods” and it really does represent the out of touch nature that many modern Church theologians have with humanity as a whole.
My first grievance is that this article was written for women, though not explicitly so. Yes, there are men who have some hang-ups on their past flings, but not many. The vast majority of men don’t regard their past sexual history as something to really cry about and, more important, most women don’t view it as a weakness but a strength in the men they date. This applies to Christian, Godly women as well.
This is a stealth tactic that many church leaders use in an effort to shame men. They write general articles about the nature of sexual relations as if the sexes are equal in these regards but with a wink and a nod to the fairer sex. In this particular case, the idea is to try and shame men into marrying a former slut who has “found Jesus” now that she all used up.
I know, that’s a bit crude, but I suppose that is the worse-case scenario. More likely, a woman has had 3-4 past partners, a low-level career of some kind, and is looking for a provider and not a husband. Does that make her a slut? Probably not considering that 3-4 is the Median average. But had she not delayed marriage to go to college and build a career, would she have had that kind of sexual history?
I know the point of the article is not to change the world, but to deal with the situation as it stands. But the way in which Paul Maxwell deals with the situation is distasteful and ultimately merely serves to empower women to deny the reality of their sexual history.
Paul Maxwell highlights two key emotions with regards to past sexual history and dating: impatience and embarrassment. With embarrassment, he states:
There are a few practical things to remember for those embarrassed by their sexual history. First, don’t play the comparison game. Lack of a sexual history does not equal purity of heart. That’s just not the way the heart works (Matthew 5:28). Nor does lack of sexual history bring relational security. To seek the person with the “cleanest” story is an attempt to control a future—it’s not a search for holiness, but a divine coup d’état, striving to micromanage our own safety and power. It can also belittle the sovereign and sanctifying grace of God. Your history says less about you than an accuser might have you believe. If you’ve truly put your hope in Jesus Christ, and given yourself to a lifelong pursuit of his holiness, your history cannot condemn you anymore.
While I agree that lack of sexual history does not equal purity of heart (Hell, look at some of the Internet Social Justice Warriors as an example), his second point is simply not true. Lack of sexual history does bring relational security, especially for women:
For his “embarrassment” section, he goes on to suggest that you guard your heart against another person’s manipulation and that you are forgiven by God (or can be) for your past sexual sins.
Again, these are things are true: God does forgive those who repent in the name of Jesus and your shouldn’t be manipulated by people because of a past you have repented from.
But none of that means you won’t have to face the consequences for the things you’ve done in this life. If I were to murder someone, God would forgive me if I asked for forgiveness in the name of the Son, but I will still end up on death row in order for justice to be served.
No, murder and sexual sin are not the same thing, but I am merely highlighting the truth about our lives. We can be forgiven for our sins but it does not absolve us of the consequences of those sins. If you feel embarrassed or ashamed of your sexual history, that’s okay, it means you are human.
Embrace the guilt and the shame and figure out what you need to do in order to resolve it. Don’t look to other people to assuage your guilt. Recognize it as a part of your life.
In the second part of his article, Maxwell discusses the impatience that comes from telling your dating partner about your past sexual history. I’m not going to quote too much here, but the main point of it is that you should be patient with your dating partner after revealing your sexual history.
The trouble with this is that Maxwell offers no advice on whether or not the dating partner leaves. Generally, I’d expect a man to simply stop dating a woman if he found out she has a very checkered history. Recall the scene in Clerks where Dante finds out about his current girlfriend’s numerous oral pleasuring of men in her past. This makes him seriously reconsider his relationship with her.
Yes, that is a movie, but it is very true to life. If you have a long-term dating partner and you are looking to get engaged, then you will have to disclose your past. And that may very well mean you lose your partner.
To his credit, Maxwell does address this in his final section. But he sugar coats it, even using the pagan concept of “Karma” to highlight his point.
There is fallout that we all have to deal with when it comes to our sins. This is especially true with regards to sexual sin.
One final point I have to make is that Paul Maxwell disregards the true nature of marriage in all of this and instead makes it out as that thing you do at the end of long-term dating. Marriage is not a social dating contract but a sacred covenant between a man and a woman with the man providing protection, resources, and moral certainty while the woman provides sex, home management, and children. Yes, that is the ideal case and doesn’t happen in the real world in a perfect way, but ideals are things we strive for in this life.
By glossing over the sexual history of people, Paul Maxwell is really setting up a lot of people for ultimate failure in potential future marriages. He uses language designed to appeal to women, even though he deceptively targets both men and women. He also doesn’t really address the standards of Godly dating versus worldly dating and ultimately fails to properly address the issues and hardships that many people, especially women, face when dealing with their sexual history.
In short, your sexual history does make you damaged goods and while this is unfortunate, it is a reality which needs to be faced and dealt with accordingly by both partners.