Edward Cullen. As you read that name one of three things happens: 1. You think, “Who the heck is that?” 2. You swoon, or 3. You say, “Thanks, but no thanks. I prefer Jacob Black.” Edward Cullen has captivated the audience of hundreds of thousands of women (and men) worldwide as the lead character in the Twilight series. He is also the face of sexuality for a generation. He is immortally stuck at age 17. He is handsome beyond all reason, chivalrous, and has been waiting nearly 100 years for his soul mate. Oh and he’s a vampire.
After seeing a ton of “Cullen” paraphernalia on Facebook and pestering my students about what the heck this movement was, one of them finally just went out and got me the first book. “We can talk about Twilight after you’ve finished reading it” she told me. So I proceeded to read the first one, then second, third and finally the fourth one, oh and the Edward version online as well. It is a great story, a little weird, but addicting. There is something to be said about a young, well-mannered man who has self-control and eyes for only one girl.
But I couldn’t help but grimace and wriggle in my chair * NOTE: spoiler ahead if you haven’t read the books * at this undying (literally) pressure for Edward and his human girlfriend, Bella who is 18, to get married. I’m not saying that getting married young is bad or wrong, but after talking to a handful of my girlfriends, it would seem to us that for Bella, other than her desire to become a vampire out of this love for Edward, the other huge factor driving the wedding decision appears to be sex. And sure enough, the wedding takes place and they quickly set off for the family’s private island for their honeymoon. When they get there, it turns out that sex is the one “human” activity vampires still enjoy, but it is heightened to the umpteenth power. There isn’t a lot written about the actual escapade, but Bella is left on cloud nine come the morning despite the major body bruising due to her now husband trying to refrain himself from killing her – oh the romance of it all.
It is a lot women’s fantasies – rich husband or at least financially secure, fancy cars, private islands, lovely stable family, moral and upright, spending eternity with the one you love. But the issue is when the lines between fantasy and reality become blurred. Fantasy is all well and good – trust me I love Disneyland, but we don’t live there. And this strange deception has crept into bedrooms across the world. There is a reason why Matthew McConaughey gets a paycheck and books like Twilight sell millions.
In the perfectionist realm sexuality is the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about, even in the church it is not a healthy discussion. In the past 2 years, I’ve heard of one church doing a 30-day sex famine and another doing a 30-day sex-periment. Both brain childs of 40 something white males who did press junkets after their announcements. I understand that at their inception, these ideas are not evil things. But the good intention goes to waste if there is not education and safety around these issues. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) in America 1 out of every 6 women will be raped in their lifetime as well as 1 out of every 33 males. In 2007, there were a quarter of a million women raped who reported it. Approximately 60% of rapes go unreported. It is true that reported rapes have gone down in the last 15 years, but that doesn’t mean the problems go away. Every two minutes someone is sexually assaulted in the US and 73% of the victims know their assailant. It was estimated 15 years ago that 10% of all rapes were martial rapes where the perpetrator was her husband (Patricia Easteal). Ten years ago nearly one-third of American women report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives (Commonwealth Fund Survey, 1998). And 40% of women report some kind of sexual dysfunctional that may or may not even have to do with abuse or assault. The church is oftentimes not a place you will hear these statistics, but this is a community problem. The church has bought into the marital fairytale too. To preach a sermon on sex and not include the dark side is naïve and dangerous. We need to know both sides of the matter and not just the prince charming with roses. This isn’t a scare tactic; it’s facts from the US Department of Justice. It’s the reality of a fallen world and the lives of our mothers, daughters, sisters and friends.
The pressure is there for marriage and sex, but at what cost? What about the women in the audience who are hurting either from abuse or a pain disorder? What about when all the people hoop and holler at the minister when he says “get it on for 30 days” and there is someone desperately needing to leave her abusive husband? What if there is a couple needing to work on their intimacy and sex is part of that and minister tells them to stop having sex for 30 days? There are women in congregations and in your neighborhoods that are victims of these disgusting crimes and have disorders, but yet the church for the most part has been silent, leaving the work up to non-profits, therapists and medical facilities while leaving plenty of women with a huge burden of shame and guilt.