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Do you have sexual integrity?

It’s one of the concepts that often hang in the air without a concrete meaning. What does sexual integrity mean? And is it enough if you promise not to sleep with other men?

You and the other women in the office look twice when a new male colleague walks past you. He has youth and a good body on his side. And a pair of dimples that makes it difficult to peep at him secretly. He stands at the coffee machine and you stare openly. Hmm, you are sure he knows how things work in the bedroom. He has a ring on his finger and you wonder if his wife looks like Salma Hayek, because she must be a looker to have been able to hook this one. Yes, yes, you are also married, but so what? A woman may look at the menu, as long as she eats at home . . . or may she?

Table-top sexuality
To understand the concept of sexual integrity better, you must look at the concept of “table-top sexuality”, explains Shannon Ethridge in her book “Every woman’s struggle”. No, she does not refer to naked games in the kitchen, but to an example that she uses to help women to understand the concept of “sexual integrity” better.

“Just as a table has four legs on which it stands, our sexuality also has four clear facets. If one of the legs moves or is broken, the table is off-balance and becomes a slide,” she explains. “Then your life can become a slippery downhill to discontent, sexual compromise, self-expectancy and emotional brokenness.”

The four legs . . .
“The four dimensions of our sexuality are the physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual,” explains Shannon. “Most people make the mistake to think that our sexuality is limited to the physical and that we are sexual only when we are having sex. That is a lie. God created all people as sexual beings, whether they have sex or not,” she explains. “Our sexuality is not what we do. Even people who have decided to be celibate are sexual beings. Our sexuality is who we are and we are created with a body, a mind, a heart and spirit, not just with a body. Therefore sexual integrity is not just involved with physical purity. It goes about purity in all four facets of our being (body, mind, heart and spirit). When all four facets are in balance with each other, then our table-top (our lives) will display balance and integrity.”

The secret of perfect balance
It’s easy to neglect one of these four facets. When you are so overworked that you don’t have time for your husband, you flood your intellectual facet while your emotional and physical facets are neglected. If you are so eagerly involved in your church activities that you are not really interested in your husband, you flood your spiritual facet and neglect your physical facet. It makes you a woman who is sexually and emotionally unfulfilled. “Sexual integrity is finding a perfect balance between the physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual dimensions of our being.”
Sexual integrity means different things for different women. For a married woman it means to have a bond with her husband physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually, and with no other man outside the marriage. “Any compromise (physically, intellectually, emotionally or spiritually) influences her sexual integrity as a whole. One affected facet will eventually influence all the other facets, or will rob the woman of her sexual wholeness that God wants her to experience.”

Not so easy . . .
“Many women think that they can protect their sexual integrity by staying pure and not having sex with other men. The problem with this is that we believe commitment is only physical, and that we allow ourselves to be gradually drawn in emotionally and then we realise it only when it’s too late. It’s easy to rap the Adams on the knuckles when they can’t keep their eyes off a beautiful pair of legs walking in the street, but women put up the boundaries of sexual integrity in other ways,” explains Shannon.

“When we have an emotional relationship, fantasise in our imaginary world and make unhealthy comparisons, we move the boundaries of sexual integrity, and then we undermine God’s plan to give us the deepest sexual and emotional fulfilment with our present (or potential) spouse.” The secret is not to ask: “How far can I go?” or “What can I get away with?”, because these questions are based on cultural and socially accepted behaviour.

“The answer does not lie in legitimacy, but in Christ-like love,” explains Shannon. “Don’t focus on what is allowed, but on what is the best for everyone involved. Let all your questions filter through the ‘laws versus love filter’. Ask for example if the attention and concern that you want to give a man will build him up or will lead him into temptation.” Shannon explains that sexual and emotional integrity for a Christian woman means that her thoughts, words, emotions and behaviour reflect her inner purity and true love for God.

It does not mean that she will never be tempted to think of unsuitable things, but that she will try to resist them and stand by her convictions. “She doesn’t use men to try to fulfil her emotional needs and she doesn’t pamper sexual or romantic fantasies about men who she is not married to. She doesn’t compare her man to other men, she doesn’t belittle his value and she doesn’t hold back parts of herself in order to punish him for his shortcomings,” explains Shannon.

“She doesn’t choose clothes to get attention from other men, but she also doesn’t limit her clothes to dresses that hang to her ankles only. She can dress according to the latest fashion and can look fantastic and even sexy (as with beauty, everyone knows what is sexy for themselves), but her motivation isn’t self-interest or to be seductive. She presents herself as an attractive woman because she knows she is representing God.”

Shannon explains that a woman with integrity lives the standard of love, rather than the laws. “A woman with integrity lives out of everything that she believes about God, and it’s visible in every facet of her life – from the boardroom to the bedroom.”

•    The article is based on chapter 2 from the book “Every woman’s struggle” by Shannon Ethridge (CUM). Read in the next Intimacy4us how you can keep your sexual integrity.