“Love and sexuality can be a source of great joy or deep grief and pain. As children become adults and discover their sexuality, and as couples move into marriage and seek to understand each other, it is imperative that they have guidance in this area of life that is so crucial to psychological adjustment. The Bible itself would be incomplete if it only spoke of sexuality in terms of prohibitions and did not give positive instruction to enable the reader to discover the joy of healthy love. (Garrett, D. A. (1993). Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (Vol. 14, pp. 367–368). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.)
One of the core, foundational truths of running a business that God has entrusted to us is that our personal sanctification has a direct impact the financial success of our business and our ability to fulfill God’s purposes for business (Products, Passions, Profit and Philanthropy). I’ve discussed 2 Chronicles 7.14 on this site, which is the context in which I write this post. When we live with private sin, God is unable to bless us in our business. Whatever success we might have is muted compared to what God could have done had we been living righteously before Him.
The consumption of pornography by Christians is well-documented (other examples are here, here, here and here) . None of us, including myself, are immune from pornographic temptations and failings. Nearly all men and a growing number of women consume pornography on a consistent basis. Along with a lack of tithing, over-eating (gluttony), materialism and a near addiction to comfort and convenience, American Christians are weaker and less available for powerful ministry because of our consumption of pornography.
Hence, I’m going to discuss the Bible’s view of eroticism by contrasting the deceptions of pornography and the truths of Biblical eroticism presented in the Song of Songs. It is my belief that Scripture can cleanse our minds, which is one way we are transformed (Romans 12.1-2). If we can cleanse our minds and hearts through the transforming power of the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit, then we can live righteously before God and God can start blessing us again and bring us out from beneath the curses we bring on ourselves.
We need Christian Business Owners to be living in righteousness if we’re ever going to see revival in the United States.
So, we’re going to look at how love, sensuality (pursuit of sexual pleasure), eroticism (arousing sexual desire) and sex are portrayed in the Song of Solomon and contrast that with how those elements are portrayed in pornography. This will not be an exhaustive study, but one limited to several prominent themes in The Song of Solomon.
The Deceptions of Pornography
I will assert that most Christians us pornographic constructs to discuss sex and sensuality. I say this because I would suspect that most Christians equate the words “sensuality” and/or “eroticism” with the word “sin”. But the Bible has a positive view of sensuality and eroticism when certain conditions are met. But first, let’s look at the common and pervasive decisions of pornography.
By the way, pornography degrades women (here too). Behind all of these deceptions is a trail of human female debris that is undeniable. Happily, Christ can redeem us all from any sin (here, here, here and here as examples). In pornography, women are objectified and valued only for their body parts. They are dehumanized and are treated as animals. They are not equal to men in any way and should not be viewed as equals. Some will disagree, but I don’t see how women are elevated and esteemed in pornography. I really don’t.
Deception #1: Your Deepest Fulfillment in Life is to Experience Hot Sex with Intense Orgasms
Pornography teaches that the orgasm experience is the highest thrill a person can have. It teaches that the best sex is entirely physical and focused on achieving an orgasm. This is best experienced when you’re performing with another person who passionately pursues sex and orgasms. While some experiences are thought to be better than an orgasm, pornography teaches that the end goal and the ultimate sexual experience is an orgasm. There is hardly a pornographic video that doesn’t end with the orgasm. The meta-message is clear: one you orgasm, you’ve experienced it all and it’s time to quit (or try again, see below).
Deception #2: Marriage Ties You Down: One Person Can’t meet all Your Needs
If your spouse doesn’t have a high level of need for sex, then consider augmenting your marriage with other partners. Swingers (here too) are those who are (usually) married but have agreements where both spouses can “hook up” for sex with one or more partners to make sure all of their needs are satisfied. They usually have detailed agreements and rules that must be followed, but the outcome is this: getting your “needs” met through multiple partners. The assumption is that the full enjoyment of sex cannot possibly happen with only one person for an entire lifetime. Swingers are usually cautious people and often become friends first. Open marriages are thought to be successful only when they are strong marriages to begin with (here and here). But over time, swinging can kill relations too.
The Bible teaches the opposite, as we’ll see in a moment.
Deception #3: Marriage will Kill Hot Sex
In many instances, pornography will teach that if you want hot sex, then don’t get married. There are few, if any, pornographic videos or images that are shot within the context of marriage unless the wife is being shared with other men. It’s the violation of traditional marriage vows that makes it titillating and arousing.
You see, in a normal marriage, women are not always ready for sex and they usually don’t want to share their husbands – ever. But in pornography, they are always ready. In the real world, women want more than sex – they want love and commitment. But pornography teaches men to only want sex. Don’t get entangled with emotions and relationships – that will only tie you down.
This deception – that marriage is a constraint of great sex and romance – is causing some to rethink why love and marriage are even connected. Esther Perel (pictured), noted speaker on erotic intelligence (seriously?) and author of Mating in Captivity, proffers that monogamy and love don’t necessarily have anything to do with each other—and that it’s not always unhappily married people who cheat. Happy people cheat, too, she finds. Monogamy used to mean one person for life. Today, we define monogamy as one person at a time (citation) [emphasis added]. As Hugh Hefner
said in 2007, “One of the great ironies in our society is that we celebrate freedom and then limit the parts of life where we should be most free.”
We’ll learn in a moment that the Bible teaches that the best sex is found within the context of marriage – a concept that is totally foreign to those in the pornographic industry and laughable to many in America today.
Deception #4: Happiness is found with Multiple Partners
Pornography preaches a philosophy of no commitment: there is no commitment in pornographic thinking. In some ways, it’s really a distancing technique: you can have my body but not my real self. The core of who I am doesn’t get shared with anyone and so those living with porn tend to be emotionally isolated and disconnected. It concerns itself only with the body. Emotional, mental or spiritual intimacy isn’t even considered in pornographic philosophies:
“What is most surprising about the debates that surround pornography is how much the various sides agree upon. Pornography is banal, predictable, convoluted, and fundamentally impoverished intellectually. Rarely would a sex-positive academic or practitioner of pornography dispute this.” (The Philosophy of Pornography: Contemporary Perspectives (p. 199). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.)
No relationship commitments mean that you can have sex with as many partners as you wish – the more, the better is what we’re taught. The king of pornography, Hugh Hefner is thought to have had sex with over 3000 women – probably not as many as Solomon did – but still, a number that boggles the mind. Holly Madison is quoted in Cosmopolitan:
Q: Can you quantify how many girls went through that revolving door?
A: Oh my god, while I was there, no, I couldn’t even. I’d have to sit down and count how many went out and make an average, there were so many.
Was Hefner really happy? It seems he probably was empty on the inside. His addiction to pot and alcohol, his controlling behavior and his addiction to pot and alcohol point to a guy who was not happy, not fulfilled but rather in bondage to these things (here). Time Magazine wrote:
Hefner did terrible things, and got rich off of them. But it’s still hard not to feel a little bit sorry for a man so clearly uncomfortable with himself that he built an empire on a commodified and empty casing of male sexual desire, a man who threw legendary parties to bond with other men over bikini-clad women, and who paid beautiful women to live in his house and have sex with him so he wouldn’t have to be alone. He was a man who didn’t even believe his “girlfriends” would come home at the end of the day if he didn’t make a rule. If Hugh Hefner wasn’t Hef, the founder of Playboy — if he was just Hugh Hefner, the man – all of the things he confused with love would have never come to him. Not the sex, not the girls, not even the men he considered friends.
He built an empire on male desire, but never seems to have been truly desired himself. He sold a new kind of masculine aspiration, of which he was the paradigm. It was the women he claimed to love who bore most of the cost, but now it’s easy to see the price he paid, too, the things a callow and shallow little man will trade for some time in the spotlight next to a blonde with a great rack. How fitting that, in death, Hef doesn’t evoke hope or ambition, but that simplest and most patronizing of emotions: Pity.
Deception #5: Sex is Natural, so it can’t be a Moral Issue
Sex is all “natural”, the porn industry will say. It is only concerned with titillation and physical resolution. And since it is a natural, amoral act, after there is an orgasm, the only thing left to do is to do it all over again. Rinse and repeat.
Porn leaves us with not only with no connection between our physical bodies and the rest of our being, but a difficulty in integration of our bodies and souls after pornography is consumed. Dan Gray (LCSW, CSAT) writes:
“Pornography compulsion or obsession has a huge negative impact on relationships. As humans, we are wired to have relationships and build connections with others. We need the social interaction and sense of community, not the fake intimacy that pornography provides. The more people become hooked to pornography, the more they start missing out on building those connections.”
Porn leaves you wanting more and more to the point of total dissatisfaction. Some question if you can become addicted, but the scores of testimonies to porn addictions and their difficulties in overcoming their addiction cannot be ignored.
To sum up, the deceptions of pornography include:
- Your deepest fulfillment in life is found in an orgasm
- One person cannot possibly meet all of your sexual needs
- Marriage will kill great sex
- Happiness is found in multiple partners
- Sex is natural, so it can’t be a moral issue
Truths of Biblical Eroticism Presented in the Song of Solomon
The Bible gives us truth that we can count on. Take it to the bank. The Biblical eroticism presented in the Song of Songs is exactly the opposite of the deceptions offered by pornography. Let’s learn what the Song of Solomon teaches.
Truth #1: Only Deep Intimacy is Expressed Physically
Biblical eroticism involves the whole of the person – mental, emotional, spiritual and physical. While you can experience the physical response of orgasm in a passing relationship, you cannot enjoy fully the other person or give yourself fully without the full commitment of marriage. When sex is combined with deep commitment and the safety of full acceptance by the other party, then the experience is satisfying beyond measure. It is the sharing and acceptance of the entire person within marriage that turbo-charges the physical sensualities. Pornography kills all of this.
Great sex is found within the context of marriage. Interestingly enough, one of the most comprehensive studies on the subject of sexual frequency was released in 2010 by the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University. Their study compiled statistics on sexual attitudes and habits of 5,865 people between ages 14 and 94. An average of 61 percent of singles reported that they hadn’t had sex within the past year, compared with 18 percent of married people. Looking specifically at those between the ages of 25 and 59, 25 percent of married people reported that they were still having sex two to three times per week versus less than five percent of singles. The University of Indiana found what the Bible has taught for centuries: get married if you want to enjoy great sex.
Throughout the Song of Solomon, we find one young man with one young woman entering into marriage and consummating their emotional and mental intimacy with physical intimacy. We don’t find the Daughters of Jerusalem entering into their most private moment or his friends coming to join the couple on their wedding night.
Truth #2: Man and Woman are Equals
The Song of Songs (1.2-4) opens with these verses:
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—
for your love is more delightful than wine.
Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;
your name is like perfume poured out.
No wonder the young women love you!
Take me away with you—let us hurry!
Let the king bring me into his chambers
What we immediately notice is that the woman speaks first and sees herself as an equal to her man. In that time period, that was unusual. She’s not primarily focused on how she’s going to service her future husband or how he will service her, but instead on enjoying him physically. The Song of Songs is filled with innuendo and indirect references; using analogies to reference the physical delights is common in this book. But make no mistake – throughout this book, the woman and the man are equals in every aspect – physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Truth #3: Self-Control and Delayed Gratification are Essential to Enjoying the Act of Marriage
Three times in the Song of Songs we see this phrase: “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires” (2.7, 3.5 and 8.4):
2.7: Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you
by the gazelles and by the does of the field:
Do not arouse or awaken love
until it so desires
3.5: Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you
by the gazelles and by the does of the field:
Do not arouse or awaken love
until it so desires
8.4: Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you:
Do not arouse or awaken love
until it so desires
The meaning is clear when read within context: The charge is that our sensualities and sexuality should not be aroused until the proper time and person arrives. The natural joy of sexual awakening is ruined by premature experimentation. Delayed gratification leads to deep gratification.
David Elkind wrote a book All Grown Up and No Place to Go. In it, he argues that for many young people, by the time they reach the age of 18, they have already experienced all that life has to offer – including sexual relations. The resulting problems range from common alienation to self-destructive behavior. When life’s most important experiences are experienced at the wrong time and/or with the wrong people, they become experiences that can destroy rather than build or encourage. Sex and sensuality is no exception.
Pornography screams instant gratification. It assumes little self-control. Unfortunately, there is a niche in pornography that glorifies the taking of a girl’s virginity and other “first time” acts. Immediate gratification coupled with the loss of purity is celebrated. Sex while your husband is at work or sex with a virgin is celebrated as an experience all men should have. Just like the movie Taken where Kim Mills, the daughter of Bryan Mills (played by Liam Neeson), is sold to an Arab sheik at a high price because she is a virgin, pornographic producers love to find young virgins and then film them live while their virginity is taken from them, often by men who couldn’t give one rats’ behind about these girls. There is no shame, no sense of appropriate timing and no sense of treating that which is sacred as anything other than purely sensual. No delayed gratification. There is no concern for the long-term effects on the virgin.
Truth #4: Love Persists Even to Death
In Song of Songs 8.6 we read:
Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death
The love expressed here symbolizes both possession and unbreakable devotion: “Love is as strong as death in the sense that its power cannot be resisted. It never releases those whom it has once seized”. (Garrett, D. A. (1993). Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (Vol. 14, p. 426). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.) The wish expressed here is that the joy of love go on forever. And because their deep love is abiding and strong, their physical attraction and sensualities will persist for the balance of their life together.
Truth #5: We Give All to One Person, not Some to Many
Pornography teaches us that sex without love can be fulfilling, exciting and “hot”. But it is ultimately unfulfilling:
“The thing I noticed the most about having sex with someone I loved for the first time was that there was real humor and happiness involved. Like, we joked and smiled the whole way through. The sex was super satisfying of course but I remember afterward saying ‘that was fun’ and actually feeling joy [emphasis added] instead of worrying about how I’d performed, etc. That was a real shock for me.”
The Song of Songs teaches us that love leads to deep, fulfilling sex and that both can persist for a lifetime. Biblical eroticism is far different from the sensualities we find in modern day pornography. This point is driven home later in Chapter 8.11-12:
Solomon had a vineyard in Baal Hamon;
he let out his vineyard to tenants.
Each was to bring for its fruit
a thousand shekels h of silver.
12 But my own vineyard is mine to give; [emphasis added]
the thousand shekels are for you, Solomon,
and two hundred are for those who tend its fruit
Commentators often note that the thousand shekels Solomon received from his vineyard may be a cryptic reference to his three hundred concubines and seven hundred wives. The larger point is this: the love between a man and a woman is better than the sexual extravagance of Solomon. Biblical eroticism is not found in the plethora of partners, but in the deep love between one man and one woman. And such love cannot be taken, it must be given voluntarily.
This affirmation of exclusivity is expressed earlier on the Song of Songs in 6.2-3:
My beloved has gone down to his garden,
to the beds of spices,
to browse in the gardens
and to gather lilies.
I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine;
he browses among the lilies
The browsing in the gardens and the gathering of lilies is metaphorical for the Act of Marriage. It is lovemaking expressed in tender, lovely and pastoral ways. She is affirming that she and her lover belong to each other. She is asserting the exclusiveness of their relationship. It is within this context that she is able to fully give of herself and express it in such beautiful tones. She had earlier invited him “in” (4.16):
Awake, north wind,
and come, south wind!
Blow on my garden,
that its fragrance may spread everywhere.
Let my beloved come into his garden
and taste its choice fruits
In short, this is her invitation to her new husband to consummate their marriage. Again, the use of tender, beautiful word pictures conveys the deep purity and desire they have for each other. Pornography has none of this, no matter how much they gloss it over with words like “love” and “beautiful”. It’s not even close to the same thing.
In summary, Biblical eroticism teaches that
- Only deep love and intimacy should be expressed physically
- Men and women are equals
- Self-control and delayed gratification are essential to fully expressing love in marriage
- Love and sensuality persist to death
- We give all to one, not some to many
As a final thought, let’s remember that Christians should celebrate the physical enjoyment that marriage provides. While it’s a small part of being married, it is an important part. If you’re caught in the addiction of pornography, consider working with the XXX Church or Covenant Eyes. Getting free of porn and finding wholeness in Christ will free you up to be all that God is calling you to be.