Considering sexual identity

Tonight I’m talking to a large group of teens at Monmouth Chinese Christian Church in NJ on the topic of sexual identity. Unlike a good sermon, I have four points: Is sexual identity important? Does God have anything to say about it? How does it get formed and deformed? What can we do to protect our identity and desire.

Should be fun. I’m going to start them out with this question: What words, ideas, images, characteristics, etc. come to mind when you complete the sentence, “A man is…” or “A woman is…”

We all have images and words and ideas that pop into our heads. We have an image of a “manly” man and a “womanly” woman. I want the audience to think for a bit about where those images come from.

What images pop into your head? How do these effect your own evaluation of your manhood or womanhood? Where did that script come from?


Filed under Identity, sexual identity, sexuality

19 responses to “Considering sexual identity

  1. Scott Knapp, MS

    I’ve heard women often complain in these words (or similar), “He expects me to be Martha Stewart in the kitchen, and Madonna in the bedroom!” The metaphorical image one has for masculinity or femininity sometimes depends upon the utilitarian function (what is it you want the woman or man to be doing?). I think if Arnold Schwartzenegger if I need a “commando” to fight my battles, I think of Albert Einstein if I need technical problems solved, and I think of Josh McDowell if I need an intellectual warrior for the faith. I won’t go into the female archetypes that come to mind (at least not in print where it could be held against me later!). Sad to say, though, but my images of what I consider truly masculine or feminine are usually based on what I hope those characteristics can do for me if they were employed by that masculine or feminine person for my benefit…or…if I apply the masculine archetypal traits to myself, they’re the traits I wish I could possess so as to command, manipulate and impact my world in such a way as to benefit myself most. Somewhere beneath that is the truly godly desires inherent in my “image of God” design to have masculine impact and tender intimacy upon/with others. Once warped by sin, my legitimate desires to impact my world with my masculinity became distorted, along with my understanding of what masculinity was truly all about.

  2. judi lemay-lusk

    i would love to know how the class turns out and how you went about teaching it. working now for harvest usa, i’ve found myself wondering the same thing: what does it mean to be a woman/man, created in the image of God? what is femininity/masculinity? are there really such things???


  3. A while back I went to a camp for men where the teaching was based on the work of popular christian writer, John Eldrege. In his books Wild at Heart and “The Way of the Wild Heart Eldrige has developed a model of what a “real” man is, and how masculine identity develops. Reflecting on the camp afterwards I found Eldridge’s model of masculinity to shallow, one-dimensional, and overly linear. He assumed that what was true for him in his own journey of discovering his masculinity was true of every male. Thus the made the error of overly generalising from a sample of one. The development of gender identity is a complex process which is still, from what I’ve read, poorly understood, particularly the interplay between genetics and environment. While the work of writers such as Eldridge may be popular, they tend to underestimate the complexity of their subject and therefore result in overly simplistic conclusions.

  4. “A man is…” or “A woman is…”

    Good plan.

    I think equally good statements to complete are:

    “Because I am a man…”

    “Because I am a woman…”

  5. A man is………unafraid to cry, fall on his knees before God in prayer and thanksgiving, will hug his wife and kids in public. Will help in the kitchen after the dinner party. Will know he can dig a hole to plant a new tree, however, will step aside as his wife attempts too. Isn’t afraid to say “I’m sorry” or, “That upsets me” without making a verbal battle out of it. Oh yeah, he knows the bedroom is not all about him either 🙂
    A woman is……….not ashamed to say she is submissive to her godly husband. Prays daily for ALL of her children, doesn’t complain about how hard she worked to pull the dinner party together and now has a mound of dishes and crumbs to clean up. Isn’t afraid to work outdoors and sweat beside her husband because a shower is the most refreshing part of it all, well maybe not the most refreshing, if she knows the bedroom is not all about her needs as well……..

  6. judi lemay-lusk

    grahame, thanks for the mention of ‘wild at heart’. i had heard some rumblings recently about it. i’m grateful for your opinion on the book, even though i find it disappointing, there was so much hoopla about the book.
    i don’t think anyone can put any woman or man into a box, we are all created as individually as snowflakes, and bear the image of God. Some of us may be ‘too pink’, some of us ‘too hairy chested’… or neither… it seems to me that we need to glory in who God has made each of us and accept each other as the stone that is helping build the temple. does this make sense?

  7. Scott Knapp, MS

    Actually, “Wild At Heart” spoke deeply to me as a man, and I really connected with it. I’ve taught it as a small group curriculum, and got a mixed response from the participants, mostly positive but a few were put out by it. With the men I’ve worked with in ministry, it has for the most part been helpful to stimulate thought and conversation. I plan to continue to use Eldredge’s materials, and even hope to lead a woman’s group through “Captivating” some day…my wife cried all the way through that book, and told me it was one of the most meaningful reads she’d picked up in years!

  8. Scott and Grahame, both of your responses give us a good reminder that what speaks to one may injure another. The reality is that popular authors speak or write out of experience and partial truth. They have a good point. These books or authors become dangerous when they are used as a generalization for all individuals. While Eldredge may strike a chord for many, others feel left out or marginalized because they do not fit his picture of manhood. I do have to say that some of his writing since Wild at Heart leads the reader to believe that men are victims of cultural castration and are going along for the ride if they don’t want to get out and bang some drums.

  9. Judi,

    Here’s a good quote from Crabb on the topic of masculinity and femininity:

    “Masculinity and femininity are whatever comes out of a man and a woman as they do not try to excuse their self-centered-ness, but repent whenever they spot it, and as they learn to relate to others as Christ does with an increasingly passionate concern for [the other’s] well-being. More can be said about our sexual identities, but nothing more important.”
    Larry Crabb, Men & Women: Enjoying the Difference. p. 155-6.

  10. judi lemay-lusk

    thanks for the quote, phil.
    scott, thanks for the thoughts on eldridge. did you say that *you* are going to lead a women’s group on ‘captivating’???
    i was in a group that used that book also and can understand why your wife cried. although i found it liberating, there were some parts that were ‘too pink’ for me.

  11. Scott Knapp, MS

    Hey Judi, yeah, I would like to lead a women’s group through “Captivating.” I think the stereotype that males just “don’t understand women” and should leave the helping efforts to female counselor’s is bogus. I once worked for an agency in Philly that ran a homeless shelter for “damaged” women, and forbade any male staff from working there, guided by the assumption that “men created the problem, women need to solve it.” I think the same kind of reasoning also forbids single counselors from helping married couples…”they just don’t understand.” “Captivating” can be a helpful tool for guiding someone to really examine her heart (guys, too, if they’d read it!), and wouldn’t that be a truly refreshing experience for a group of women to be guided there by a strong but sensitive male counselor? Surprise is a powerful element of counseling.

  12. judi lemay-lusk

    sorry, scott, i do not agree with you whatsoever… i doubt very much that it will ever happen.

  13. Scott Knapp, MS

    And on what basis do you disagree, if you don’t mind me asking? I love a vigorous dialog amongst colleagues.

  14. judi lemay-lusk

    well i’m not sure that phil’s blog is the place for it…it is his place and i don’t want to go off tangent here. i’m not a counselor or MSW, but i do work with women who are dealing with sexual issues in their lives and the lives of their husbands. and women’s issues, especially in the church, are a front page item for me.
    if you have a blog, we could take this there?

  15. Scott Knapp, MS

    No blog, sorry. I guess we’ll leave it as we disagree. Keep up your good work with struggling women, though…you’re work is very much needed.

  16. Scott Knapp, MS

    Judi, by the way, since you work at Harvest USA, ask Penny Freeman what her response to my assertions is…I’d be curious. She knows I’m a bit off the wall, anyhow! She’ll probably roll her eyes when you ask her and mention my name! 🙂

  17. judi lemay-lusk

    captivating is definitely written for a woman who is struggling with who she is and what it is to be a woman. these issues are quite personal and private to women, and are usually things they talk about with close women friends. a book about women for women led by a man would be like me leading a group of men on ‘man in the mirror’, say. it will not work. first of all, it is cross-gender and in my opinion, an extremely bad move. it will not generate open conversation because, yes, you’re a man. i don’t care how sensitive you are, it will not fly. cos you just ‘aren’t there’. and frankly, it is my slightly sexist point of view that there are some places that men (and women) just don’t go, and this would be one of them.
    i hope to carry on at harvest, i’m thrilled to be there, and just love the staff. it’s not traditional ministry which is why i just gravitate towards it!

  18. Scott Knapp, MS

    Well said, Judi. I will keep your words in mind. Thanks for your perspective.

  19. judi lemay-lusk

    thanks for your kind reply, scott.

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