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The Death of Desire

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Wow. You mean it takes all that?

OK, so maybe I’m naïve, but that was my thought when I read Dennis Rodman’s account of sex with Madonna, which you’ll find in his 1997 autobiography, Bad as I Wanna Be. No, I don’t remember the details -- if you really want ‘em, Rodman’s book can be obtained for the princely sum of a penny on Amazon -- I just recall that the whole scenario was complicated and laborious and about as sexy as assembling particleboard furniture in the dark.

Seems as if the Like-a-Virgin lady needed a whole lot of preliminaries just to get started, and I thought, man, she must really be jaded about sex. Well, on second thought, it was Dennis Rodman.

Never mind why I was paging through that book looking for the sex scene in the first place. My little epiphany -- that a lot of folks in our licentious society are really, really bored with sex -- stuck with me over the years, and I started taking mental notes and compiling lists of cultural signposts, stuff I kept hearing about in the media and in conversations with friends:

Hookups. Sex divorced from emotion and intimacy.

The easy availability of partners. No more thrill of the chase. It’s not if you’re gonna have sex in a relationship, it’s whether dinner will even come first.

The mainstreaming of kinky sex. Sex toy parties. Folks videotaping themselves and posting the file -- everyone’s a porn star. The expectation that young women submit to anal sex, even if it does zero for them physically.

The pressure to perform in bed, with ridiculous standards and perverted appetites fueled by pornography.

The fascination with strip clubs and pole dancing, two things that the vast majority of women used to consider degrading.

I chatted with a friend the other night who’d just checked into a family motel, and she was flipping through the channels and landed on HBO, where she was presented with the image of a woman performing oral sex on another woman, head bobbing up and down.

Far from being titillating, all of these sexual pictures and practices reeked of desperation to me.

I don’t come across this stuff too much myself because I made a decision some years ago to rid my life of my sexy CDs -- mostly dancehall reggae and 1950s R&B, in case you want to know -- plus movies rated R for sexual content and the “serious” articles about sex that I so enjoyed reading and wallowing in online.

I’d wondered why my brain was always cluttered with ungodly sexual thoughts. I got a distinct impression from the Holy Spirit that I needed to “consecrate” myself, which means to set yourself apart for service to God. We could take our example from the Jews of the Hebrew Scriptures, who abstained from certain things and participated in purification rites before serving in the temple of God. While these regulations are no longer observed by Christians, who see Jesus Christ as the once-for-all fulfillment of Moses’ law, the principle remains: We take care to maintain a pure heart and a clean conscience. That means purging some of the junk from our lives.

A strange thing happened when I cut off those inputs. Not only did I find myself becoming more sensitive to the things of God, but my own sex life with my husband -- which, thank you very much, was already frequent, fun and satisfying -- became even more frequent, fun and satisfying.

Now that I’ve done a little research -- by the way, that’s a perilous thing to do, any online search involving sex -- I see that my husband and I are statistical oddities. After 18 years of marriage, we’re more sexually active than we were on our honeymoon. And, you know, after all this time learning to please each other, we got skilz we didn’t have before. Sex is sweet and easy most of the time.

Well, duh, God knew what he was doing when he established marriage as a permanent bond between one man and one woman. The truth is, sex outside of marriage is pretty crummy overall. You might get off -- you might, especially if you’re a man -- but you’ll never enjoy intimacy, or the relaxed, easy feeling of knowing your partner loves you, respects you, enjoys giving you pleasure and wouldn’t even put himself in a situation where he could end up cheating on you. You bear with each other, you aim to please. You can even laugh at the times you had really bad sex, like that anniversary when I was coming down with pneumonia, got strung out on cough syrup and … oh, never mind.

You think I’m wrong, that extramarital sex really isn’t anything to write home about? Have you tried the alternative -- a lasting marriage based on love, respect and faithfulness, with the sexual freedom and security that come with it?

My pastor’s wife has counseled many young women over the years, and quite a few of them had experienced hookup culture. Since she’s the kind of person who just cuts to the chase, she’d ask the women why they did it. Was the sex that good? Well, turns out none of these women found those encounters to be physically satisfying. Hurried liaisons in the dark with each partner trying to impress the other just don’t cut it for any woman I know, and if she tells you otherwise, she’s faking it. And maybe you’re just dumb enough to buy it.

So it goes in a society that suffers miserably from sexual ennui. Getting excited, staying interested, doing the deed requires multiple props and increasing provocations. While removing an item of intimate clothing might have got you aroused years ago, now you need to watch a pole dancer writhe in your face. While the prospect of plain old-fashioned sex used to make you hot all day, now you need to plug in the porn and feed some new perversion to get started.

Consider these recent news items: A study by a government-backed French AIDS agency found that French women now have twice as many partners as they had in the 1970s Tucked in an article about the findings was a fact I found more telling: One in five French men between the ages of 18 and 24 has no interest in sex at all.

Washington Post writer Laura Sessions Stepp reported in a 2006 story that campus clinics are treating increasing numbers of young men for impotence. Performance anxiety, binge drinking and plain old boredom with the ease of obtaining sex appear to figure into these “members of the Game Boy generation … losing their game.”

I can’t but notice the irony here, that the most sexually liberated generation ever has ushered in the death of desire.

You know, I have to pinch myself sometimes. My spiritual leaders weren’t fooling when they told me the greatest blessings come through doing things God’s way. The Bible offers clear guidelines concerning sex, and all I can say is that I’m not remotely bored with it.

I don’t want to gloat; I still struggle at times to keep my sexual thoughts reined in. I’m prepared to carry on that struggle for the rest of my life, even if it means I never listen to another Ruth Brown recording with those sexy saxophone breaks.

As for Madonna, Dennis Rodman kissed her and dissed her in yet another autobiography (he needs two?), but I’ll just leave that one alone. I noticed that the cover of her last recording features the 40-something dame in bondage gear, legs spread wide apart. I wonder, did she sign it for her kids, “Love, Mom”?

I guess it really does take all that. --Julie Lyons

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