Can you explain why you are drawn to the form of a woman or the form of a man? Beyond the specifics of what aspect of the body attracts you, have you ever considered why?
At the core, the stirring is because sex, gender, and sexuality are profoundly linked to intimacy and identity. They are profoundly linked to the true Goodness for which we’re made.
Sexual imagery has power because it taps into our deepest longings, our deep hunger to return to Original Intimacy (naked and unashamed) and Original Identity (made in the image of God).
We’re drawn to intimacy. In pornography and other forms of sexual fantasy, it is not really there, of course, but something in the image suggests it is. Nakedness suggests it. By God’s design, nakedness is a sign, an icon, an expression, an image of intimacy. It has always been so. And so we are drawn to nakedness. This in and of itself is not sinful. Not in the least. God has made the human body wonderful and glorious—“fearfully and wonderfully made.” Human beings are, as some have said, the crown of creation—and as such beautiful to behold. And the naked image of man or woman draws us because of our deep need and hunger for intimacy—to know and be known fully and without fear.
We might also think of this in this way: The naked body reveals the person without covering, without veil, without obstruction. If intimacy is knowing and being known fully, then of course nakedness would serve as a sign of more complete knowing than clothing would. Clothing veils, even disguises the physical person. Nakedness reveals.
And nakedness as a sign of intimacy goes further still. In nakedness, a man’s and a woman’s genitalia is exposed—the specific parts of the body by which we experience deeply intimate physical knowing and being known. The man’s penis and the woman’s vagina are the body’s means of an eternal and intimate connection—the two becoming “one flesh” with another.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined 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)
The truth is that wherever a man lies with a woman, there, whether they like it or not, a transcendental relation is set up between them which must be eternally enjoyed or eternally endured. (C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters)
Nakedness is a sign, an image, an icon of intimacy because it reveals the very bodies that God has so designed that they are able to become one flesh.
We are drawn to nakedness because we are created for intimacy.
Likewise, nakedness draws us because of its link to identity. We can read between the lines in the above discussion of intimacy to understand the inseparable connection between intimacy and identity. You cannot have intimacy without identity, and identity means nothing without intimacy. Counterfeit intimacy does not require identity. A man viewing pornography does not need to let the object of his desire know he even exists. Those engaged in phone sex or on-line chat can pretend they look, sound, and act different than they really do. Prostitution creates a false scenario for both people, where, aside from an exchange of money, both play roles far from who they in truth are. No man is exactly himself in his sexual fantasies. And adultery provides a forum to bring only a part of oneself (usually only the best parts as well as some additional parts that are not actually part of who the person truly is) to the relationship with the other person.
And a false, faulty, or frail identity bars authentic intimacy. This extends beyond the situations described above. When we fail to know and walk as the men and women we truly are, we cripple our capacity for authentic, life-giving intimacy (and we mean life-giving for both you and others). If man is not walking in the truth of who he is, he cannot bring himself fully to the relationship and so cannot experience the being known intrinsic in real intimacy. This goes both for the man or woman who is purposefully creating a false image to attract another and also for the one who, because of woundedness, simply does not realize who he in truth is. Ironically, many times those who create the false image do so because they does not realize who they is and the glory they already have.
And so, this brings us to the second reason we are drawn so powerfully to nakedness. We’re drawn because we’re drawn to being desirable. Just as nakedness is a physical sign of intimacy, so also is another’s nakedness a sign of our own unique worth, our desirability. How? Nakedness expresses a giving of oneself, one’s priceless self, to someone else. To give such a valuable gift speaks volumes about the value of the person to whom the gift is being given. At least this is how God intended it. When He brought Eve to Adam, He was affirming for both of them their great value in His eyes. No man deserves a woman to have as his wife. And no woman deserves a man to have as her husband. The gift is simply too valuable.
Every single human heart desires to know it is uniquely loved and desirable on the earth. This is why marital unfaithfulness is so painful—it says, “You are replaceable.”
The naked gift of one’s spouse is meant to be a sign of the other’s unique, irreplaceable worth.
In essence, God’s intent is that a spouse’s body would bear the image of His love toward the other saying in essence, “You are unlike anyone else I have ever met or ever will meet, and in order to know you even better, I forsake all others and choose you till death do us part.”
Lust visually grabs and grasps at naked images in an effort to gain a semblance of this kind of statement of worth. But in the end, lust leaves the person who has lusted unfulfilled because without intimacy (knowing and being known) it offers no real affirmation of his identity. God created the person with a unique, unrepeatable identity. His fingerprints and DNA are only the tip of the iceberg as to his unique place in all of creation.
But in using lust, he knows he is not the only one. The message is just the opposite: “You’re just one of many and I don’t even know your name.” (And the message he communicates through his body in lust does the same damage to those he treats as lust objects.)
In all of this, we are speaking of our ultimate desire for God’s original intent, our desire for heaven. We are truly speaking of our desire for intimacy with Him, our desire to have our identity in Him. And this is only fitting, for the naked body, man, woman, marriage, sex, sexual desire—all of these are meant to point us to heaven, to point us to God. Is it any wonder they hold such power? Is it any wonder God would give them such power? And is it any wonder those opposed to God would work so hard to use that power for such evil?
Finally, we cannot conclude without addressing the very real issue of conditioning. Our God-given needs for intimacy and identity play a key role in what initially and fundamentally draws us to nakedness and sex. But conditioning—what we have done over the course of many, many years, and what those actions have taught our minds, bodies, and spirits—has played a significant role. We discuss this at greater length in Quarter 1, but as we consider the underlying longing and pursuit of intimacy, identity, and eternity, we must recognize that we can condition ourselves to believe these are found in the illusion of fantasy. Although we end up empty again and again and again, we continue to pursue the illusion because on some level we have trained ourselves that what we are after is there, and this happens through the power of sexual titillation.
Earlier in this lesson, we asked the question of why does sexual sin hold so much power? Why does sexual fantasy in all its forms (mental, visual, emotional, or otherwise, physical), though it is illusory, hold so much power? We answered that the power is rooted in the goodness of sex—its God-given connection to intimacy, identity, and ultimately eternity. Now we find that the power is not in the pleasure, but the pleasure (the God-given pleasure—that which He intentioned to be connected to sexual intimacy between husband and wife) empowers the illusion. In other words, the sexual pleasure of orgasm trains the mind, spirit, and body that the illusion is real. And worse, the heavenly (and we use that word purposefully) joy of orgasm, when a result of sexual sin, trains us that sin is heavenly and that the object of our lust is godly—the source of intimacy, identity and eternity.
We have exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God—who alone provides for us our true identity, true intimacy, and real eternity—for an image in the form of a woman in the red dress. Did you catch that? We haven’t even exchanged it for a real woman or a real man, but for an image. The real points us to the Creator, the Artist, the Poet, the Designer, because the real bears His likeness. The image points to an illusion, that which cannot provide intimacy, cannot give us identity, and is nowhere near eternal.
And our longing for the real remains.