For centuries, many Church leaders and scholars have seen sex as dirty and a necessary evil. When it was encouraged it was encouraged only for its procreative value and not for the purposes of pleasure. Once a man’s wife was pregnant there would be no procreative value to sex so the couple should not engage in sex simply for pleasure. Also, once a woman passed her child bearing years there would be no need for sexual relations to continue because again it had no procreative value.
When it came to women the Church and society at large discouraged women’s enjoyment of sex even more so than men until the rise of modern feminism. If a woman enjoyed sex, she would have to keep that to herself otherwise she may be considered whorish – even by her own husband sometimes.
Anyone who reads this site will know I have no love for feminism. I believe it has done far more harm to society than good. The free sex movement was also born out of feminism and again that movement did far more harm to society than good.
However, in history sometimes good does come out of evil events. The holocaust was one of the most wicked events in human history yet this created the catalyst to finally bring Israel back as a nation. Like some other wicked events – the wicked feminist and then free sex movements did cause Christians to have to question their generally negative views of sexuality that had been held for so many centuries.
This lead to the rediscovery of the fact that the Bible has an entire book, the Song of Solomon, dedicated to celebration of erotic love in marriage.
“7 This thy stature is like to a palm tree, and thy breasts to clusters of grapes. 8 I said, I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of the boughs thereof: now also thy breasts shall be as clusters of the vine, and the smell of thy nose like apples; 9 And the roof of thy mouth like the best wine for my beloved, that goeth down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak.”
Song of Solomon 7:7-9 (KJV)
The previous passage from the Song of Solomon literally alludes to a man wanting to take hold of his wife’s breasts as he mounts her for sex and at the same time french kisses her while they are having sex.
The Song of Solomon even alludes to the desire for and the pleasure from oral sex within marriage:
Here the wife alludes to her desire to perform oral sex(fellatio) on her husband:
“As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.”
Song of Solomon 2:3 (KJV)
The apple tree was a symbol of a man’s genitals in ancient times and her sitting in his shadow displays the idea of her kneeling before him performing oral sex on him. It even shows that his fruit (his semen) was sweet to her taste.
In the following passage, the husband describes his desire to perform oral sex(cunnilingus) on his wife:
“Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense.”
Song of Solomon 4:6 (KJV)
The “the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense” is symbolic of a woman’s pubic mound. So literally the husband was saying to his wife – “I want to go down on you all night long”.
Later in the same chapter the wife expresses her desire for her husband to perform oral sex(cunnilingus) on her:
“Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.”
Song of Solomon 4:16 (KJV)
The “north wind” is speaking of the man’s head and specifically him using his mouth. She implores him to go “south” to her “garden” referring to her genital area. She asks him to “blow upon my garden” – meaning to perform oral sex so that “the spices thereof may flow out” referring to him causing her natural vaginal lubricants to flow. When she encourages him to “eat his pleasant fruits” this is directly equivalent to another phrase we use today to describe when a man performs oral sex on his wife.
There are many other sexual allusions in the Song of Solomon but you get my point.
The rediscovery of the Bible’s positive view of erotic love in marriage helped to spawn many Christian books encouraging Christian couples to no longer look at sex as a necessary evil only for procreation – but rather as gift from God to be enjoyed for its many other benefits.
In the last several decades scientific research has confirmed that regular sexual relations often bond couples together closer on a chemical level. They also found that regular sexual relations had a very positive effect on mental health and chemical balances in the body.
How sex became “dirty”
About 50 years after the last Apostle(John) died, a man who would later be regarded as an early father of the Church known as Clement of Alexandria stated this about sex:
“Our general argument concerning marriage, food, and other matters, may proceed to show that we should do nothing ‘- from desire. Our will is to be directed only towards that which is necessary. For we are children not of desire but of will. A man who marries for the sake of begetting children must practice continence so that it is not desire he feels for his wife, whom he ought to love, and that he may beget children with a chaste and controlled will. For we have learnt not to “have thought for the flesh to fulfil its desires.” We are to “walk honourably as in the way”, that is in Christ and in the enlightened conduct of the Lord’s way, “not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and lasciviousness, not in strife and envy.”
So Clement is saying when a married couple come together as an act of the will for the sake of having a child and not because of their sexual desire for one another their is no sin. But sex, even in marriage, simply for the sake of pleasure is a fleshly indulgence in Clement’s view.
Justin Martyr writing around 150 AD stated the same belief as Clement:
“But whether we marry, it is only that we may bring up children”
Augustine of Hippo wrote this in his treatise “On the Good of Marriage” around 400 AD:
“Further, in the very case of the more immoderate requirement of the due of the flesh, which the Apostle enjoins not on them by way of command, but allows to them by way of leave, that they have intercourse also beside the cause of begetting children; although evil habits impel them to such intercourse, yet marriage guards them from adultery or fornication. For neither is that committed because of marriage, but is pardoned because of marriage…
For intercourse of marriage for the sake of begetting has not fault; but for the satisfying of lust, but yet with husband or wife, by reason of the faith of the bed, it has venial fault: but adultery or fornication has deadly fault, and, through this, continence from all intercourse is indeed better even than the intercourse of marriage itself, which takes place for the sake of begetting.”
Augustine saw the desire for sex outside of “begetting children” as a venial sin that was better than the mortal sins of adultery and fornication. In his other writings he acknowledged that God made them “male and female” and intended on sexual reproduction but like Clement of Alexandria he believed it would have been an act of the will and not an act of passion or pleasure in God’s original design.
The 8th Century theologian John of Damascus wrote:
“Carnal men abuse virginity, and the pleasure-loving bring forward the following verse in proof, cursed be every one that raiseth not up seed in Israel. But we, made confident by God the Word that was made flesh of the Virgin, answer that virginity was implanted in man’s nature from above and in the beginning. For man was formed of virgin soil. From Adam alone was Eve created. In Paradise virginity held sway. Indeed, Divine Scripture tells that both Adam and Eve were naked and were not ashamed. But after their transgression they knew that they were naked, and in their shame they sewed aprons for themselves. And when, after the transgression, Adam heard, dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return, when death entered into the world by reason of the transgression, then Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bare seed. So that to prevent the wearing out and destruction of the race by death, marriage was devised that the race of men may be preserved through the procreation of children.
But they will perhaps ask, what then is the meaning of “male and female,” and “Be fruitful and multiply?” In answer we shall say that “Be fruitful and multiply” does not altogether refer to the multiplying by the marriage connection. For God had power to multiply the race also in different ways, if they kept the precept unbroken to the end. But God, Who knoweth all things before they have existence, knowing in His foreknowledge that they would fall into transgression in the future and be condemned to death, anticipated this and made “male and female,” and bade them “be fruitful and multiply.” Let us, then, proceed on our way and see the glories of virginity: and this also includes chastity.”
John of Damascus went further than Augustine believing that God’s design of “male and female” was not his perfect will but instead a concession based on his foreknowledge that Adam and Eve would eventually sin and need to create children through marriage and sex. In other words sex was never part of God’s perfect design but rather a concession he made because he knew sin would occur.
This just demonstrates the crazy lengths that Church theologians would go to in an effort to explain away the fact that God made them “male and female” from the very beginning.
What the Church fathers and their later followers taught regarding the condemnation of all earthly desires for anything that is pleasurable was part of a false ideology we now call Christian Asceticism.
The Apostle Paul confronted asceticism in the Church
The Apostle Paul saw asceticism on the rise within the churches and fought against it as is seen in this passage of the Scriptures:
“20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.”
Colossians 2:20-23 (NASB)
But almost immediately after the Apostles died the Apostles war against asceticism was lost and it spread through the church like a disease. While we would agree with the Church fathers that things like homosexuality, bestiality and orgies are “dirty” or fleshly forms of sex the church fathers went further in even calling normal heterosexual desires dirty and saw sex in marriage only as a necessary evil for reproduction. They also strongly encouraged celibacy even in marriage and called on husbands and wives to suppress their “fleshly” desires for sexual pleasure with one another.
So, in summary – if you condemn yourself as “dirty”, or other men and women as “dirty” for having pleasurable thoughts about sex or for thinking of sex as more that a procreative exercise you can thank many of the early church fathers for that false belief – but not the Apostles who opposed such thinking.
In stark contrast to the negative view of sex of the Church fathers the New Testament book of Hebrews tells us this:
“Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”
Hebrews 13:4 (KJV)
The Apostle tells us that “the bed” is “undefiled”. Literally sex which happens in marriage is both honorable and pure in God’s eyes. Neither Christ nor his Apostles ever restricted sex in marriage to be for procreative purposes only.
If we look in the Old Testament we find that a man is actually encouraged to be satisfied by his wife’s body and ravished with her sexual love:
“18 Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. 19 Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.”
Proverbs 5:18-19 (KJV)
Proverbs chapter five makes it abundantly clear that sex in marriage is not simply for procreation. It was also given to mankind for pleasure.
Clement of Alexandria’s writings on this subject of sex in marriage puts on full display the fatal flaw of the church fathers who falsely attributed the Bible’s warnings against “fulfilling the desires of the flesh” (Ephesians 1:3) as the Bible condemning the enjoyment of any earthly pleasures. They completely missed the spiritual application of the word “flesh” which applied to the sin nature in man and the fact that neither Christ nor his Apostles ever unilaterally condemned all human desires nor did they want Christians to live lives devoid of any pleasure.
Christ and his Apostles taught two important points. We as Christians should not live for earthly pleasure where the pursuit of earthly pleasure is the center of our life to the neglect of our service to God and our families. We also should not follow the desires of our sinful and corrupted nature (which is spiritually referred to as our “flesh”). But it is not a “fleshly desire” for one to desire certain foods and take pleasure from eating them. It is also not a “fleshly desire” for a man or woman to take pleasure from sexual thoughts or fantasies or to desire sexual relations with their spouse. These human desires are pure and part of our original nature as given to mankind in the Garden of Eden by God himself.
The church fathers were not perfect men. They were not inspired by God in the way the Apostles were who wrote the Bible. They were imperfect men writing imperfect commentaries on the perfect Word of God. But some of their misinterpretations and theological errors still plague the Church and Christians to this day.
I hope that if you view sex as “dirty” or even sexual desire and sexual fantasy as dirty you will reevaluate those kinds of thoughts. Our human sexual natures, especially our distinct male and female sexual natures, are a gift from God. They were given to mankind in the Garden of Eden as part of mankind’s original design. We as Christians should never feel any shame for these desires or for exercising our sexual nature within the bounds of Gods law.