Can men (and women) control their often strong sex drive? We imply “no” by teaching women to protect themselves rather than teaching men not to rape. The church implies “no” as well when it promotes keeping distance between men and women.
Are sexual desires a strong force? Absolutely. However I think they are more so in our culture than what merely comes naturally. Not only are we constantly bombarded by sexual stimulation, the narrative in our culture is that sex is normal, acceptable (expect for “cheating”), and basically unavoidable (think “The 40 Year Old Virgin”, “40 Days and 40 Nights”, and about three-quarters of major movie releases and TV shows come to think of it). We believe this story because it’s what we’ve been fed. And it is difficult for us to imagine it isn’t true, or at least not entirely accurate. But this is because we live up to the story we know, in part because we don’t think there is any other possible outcome and haven’t been encouraged to aim for a different goal.
In response to this, Dan Brennan says, “Sacred friendships are about something radically different.” The idea here is to swim upstream and create a new narrative. Is it difficult to believe now? Yes, it may be at times. But we believe that people aren’t animals and can learn to control themselves. (Come to think of it, we can even train animals to control themselves…) If we can begin to give people models of men and women who learn to control their desires, and begin to give people a new story and inspire them to new standards, then I believe we’ll find that these things aren’t unattainable.
Is this to say that self-control isn’t difficult? No. Is this to say that no one will ever fall and make a mistake? No, not this either. It simply means that the better, healthier answer lies in cultivating the learning of self-control rather than avoidance. (I don’t have all the answers as to how we achieve this. One thing I do think is healthy is to be honest about our desires, as Jonalyn describes in her blog.)