Jeffrey Epstein was a high-flying celebrity money manager who liked to hang out with the likes of Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. But according to a new federal indictment, Epstein created a huge network of girls that he repeatedly sexually abused in New York and Florida.
While Epstein, already a registered sex offender, is no doubt an extreme example of America’s sex-obsessed culture, he is hardly alone as someone who will use any means necessary to get what he wants—sexual satisfaction without regard to relationship or commitment, no matter who is hurt. Just ask the victims of Harvey Weinstein, R. Kelly, and Bill Cosby—and the multitudes of others brought out of the shadows by the #MeToo movement.
Another manifestation of our sexual entitlement culture is the social-media-inspired “incel” movement—a group of men who label themselves “involuntary celibates.” These deeply troubled souls seem to think that the opposite sex owes them a roll in the hay. As disturbing as they are, they’re the “logical” conclusion of our culture’s obsession with sex.
Tragically, many women also have jumped onto the sexual entitlement bandwagon. Advocates of legal abortion used to talk about it being a “sad, even tragic choice.” No more. Now they shamelessly celebrate abortion—even right up to the moment of birth—complete with tote bags and T-shirts. Nothing must stand in the way of their right to obtain sexual pleasure—not even the young lives conceived as its natural outcome.
Such attitudes are the air we breathe and the food we consume in postmodern America. Sexual entitlement culture, coming at least in part from a philosophy that says life is short and we must indulge in all the physical pleasure we can before it’s over, says everyone is available for sex, as long as, usually, there is mutual consent. And we want our share.
The Pill has made sex cost-free, at least so we think. Now, we cannot turn on the radio or television without being deluged with ads for “male enhancement” or a cure for the new plague, “E.D.” No matter how old you are, there’s a sexual fountain of youth to turn back the clock. Sex is now a bought-and-sold commodity, not a sacred expression of man-woman marriage under God. Any talk of the threefold purpose of marriage is incomprehensible. As National Review’s Kyle Smith observes, “Hugh Hefner fired up a flare lighting the way to an almost anything-goes view of female sexuality.”
It would be a surprise if such casual sexual selfishness hadn’t gotten past the gates of our churches, which after all, are populated by all-too-fallible human beings. But I must admit to genuine shock over how quickly, indeed shamelessly, Christ’s people have waved the white flag. We don’t even blush about it. A recent “reality TV” star claiming to be a Christian boasts that she “can do whatever” but it’s OK because Jesus forgives her. Yes, thank God that forgiveness and restoration are available, but they come at a steep price—the death of His only Son.
When Christian marriages fall apart, we are no longer stunned. When our priests and pastors use their positions to steal forbidden fruit and ruin young lives, we shake our heads and move on. Some of us even cover up their crimes “for the good of the church.” We somehow believe the comforting fairy tale that if we just “save ourselves for marriage,” God promises us perpetual sexual bliss. When reality turns out to be considerably more complicated, we feel cheated. “Purity culture” is derided.
Divorce and adultery rates among Christians remain embarrassingly high, with porn use at alarmingly high levels, even among pastors. When was the last time you heard a sermon upholding God’s life-giving standards for marriage and sexuality, which have been shown over and over to provide far more satisfaction than our sad, even tragic hook-up culture? When was the last time a wayward brother or sister was called upon to repent?
Even those of us who assume we have escaped these snares must not allow the sexual entitlement culture to poison our relationships. Too many Christian husbands love the first part of the verse that says, “Do not deprive each other of sexual relations,” while studiously avoiding the next part, “unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time.” It’s about “we,” not just “me.”
As a husband, let me speak briefly to husbands: Let’s take sex back from the pagans. Your wife is not a porn actress, a sexual plaything, or—heaven forbid—a sex slave. She is your God-given helper, made in His image and deserving of respect just as you are. If you think otherwise, you need to repent. In the marriage bed there is to be no demanding or taking, only giving and receiving. No one is grading you, so you don’t need to “perform.”
Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that when many eager young men are newly married, they don’t always understand these kinds of nuances. Some figure that if it’s legal, it’s worth trying. But, much to their surprise, they quickly discover that their brides don’t see things in quite the same way. Probably because the sexual entitlement culture had infected their redeemed but not wholly sanctified soul unawares, they’re shocked when their wives decline to go along with their whenever-however mentality.
Like the easily mocked incels, these Christian men get frustrated, even angry. God forgive them, they feel entitled. This failure to see the truth of the Christian worldview regarding sexuality is causing great harm to many Christian marriages.
Christian husbands need to understand marital sexual relations as intimate connection and communication, not as a medal sport in the bedroom Olympics. As we commit to growing closer to our wives, our attitudes can begin to morph from griping to gratitude, from entitlement to contentment. In listening to our brides, we Christian men can begin to discover the wonders of the gift of sex that God has given humanity—a gift, not an entitlement.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. – Genesis 2:24-25
Stan Guthrie is a life coach and a licensed minister, as well as an editor at large for the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Stan is the author of the forthcoming book Victorious: Corrie ten Boom and The Hiding Place.