Tigers, or dead fish?

tigersordeadfish_headerFidelity is the best aphrodisiac

by Mark Buchanan

When my editor at SEVEN, announced the theme for this issue, my heart fairly leapt: “Sex and the Canadian Male.”

“It may require some research,” he said.

“I can do that,” I answered. “Is there a travel budget?”

Sex is one of my favourite ideas. It’s one of my life themes, really. So I warmed quickly to the topic. I think of an early Steve Martin movie, The Idiot, where as a man-child he discovers sex, and excitedly phones his mother: “Mom, I’ve found my Purpose!”

It’s not quite that bad for me, but close. I grew up pagan—meaning, I had a vague and superstitious belief in some god. It was more a notion of god-ness, some capricious ill-defined force out there that needed indulging, appeasing and avoiding. I did these things—indulged, appeased, avoided—in the wild hope that the god might increase my windfalls and decrease my pitfalls. Make me thin, rich, and happy. I neither worshipped this god nor loved him. I feared and tried to use him.

But everything I believed was soaked in the brine of my superstition. My ideas and attitudes about money, family, career, self—all were formed and informed by it. And sex: sex was a talisman of the god. It was his power made manifest. It was a way of touching the Great Deep, or something like that.

At 21 I met the true and living God, incarnate in Jesus Christ, and was astonished beyond all recovery. And thus began a massive rethinking of virtually everything: money, family, career, self.

And sex.

Before, I would have argued, with force and conviction, that sex was too good a medicine, too potent a magic, to be confined to monogamy. It was to be shared widely, explored diversely. To put boundaries on it was to destroy its sacredness. Why put in a cage what was meant to fly the ocean?

Christianity, such as I understood it, was out-dated, repressive and altogether Victorian on this score. The only ethic governing sex should be love, loosely understood. Strong feelings, for instance, could be deemed love, and so the line between lust and love grew vanishingly thin.

I see it much differently now, and not just because I’m “supposed to.” I’ve been a pastor long enough to have seen the downside of sexy. Sex outside the context God created it for—a loving, faithful, lifelong marriage—is like fire tumbling out the wood stove: inside, it is a thing of beauty and great usefulness; outside, it is a thing of terror and great destruction.

I think of—oh, let’s call him Robert. Robert was molested by his babysitter at age 10, and thus began a life of dark secrets and scavenging addictions. He’s the poster child for Eros Unbound. Like Solomon, he denied himself nothing his eyes craved.

At 42, it’s not a happy story, not a pretty sight. Robert is haggard and sick. He is so filled with shame and remorse that a good day for him is getting to the end of it. He is desperately lonely. Terrible thoughts taunt him. But he keeps returning to the same broken cistern because, though each visit makes him feel worse, it’s all he knows to try to make himself feel better.

Isabella St. James, a former “playmate” in the personal harem of Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner, wrote a book a few years ago. Bunny Tales is an expose of Hefner and his empire of sex. It is a withering portrait. Hefner, the grand chieftain and high priest of Eros Unbound, needs strong drugs and a steady stream of gay porn to even engage in his twice weekly orgies. These involve, every time, 12 of the loveliest creatures you’d ever set eyes on, but it’s not enough. Isabella describes Hefner in bed as a “dead fish.”

So much for touching the great deep. I believe this with all my heart, and have proved it in real time: Fidelity is the best aphrodisiac. It is love potion number 9. To give oneself exclusively to one woman your entire life, and she to you, makes sex sweeter and more mysterious by the day. To be a one-woman man is to be a tiger with a tigress. Leave the dead fish to Hefner and his ilk. I’ve been married 26 years, and every time (which is often) my tigress ravages me, I wake again more whole and holy than ever.

It was never this way in my pagan days.

Mark Buchanan is an author and pastor living on Vancouver Island. The author of several bestselling books, his most recent title is Spiritual Rhythm.

The article above is featured in the January 2012 issue of SEVEN magazine.