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Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity Paperback – July 1, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Winner, author of the critically acclaimed memoir Girl Meets God, weaves an intriguing tapestry from sociological, autobiographical, pastoral and historical threads. She balances a journalistic report of how difficult chastity is for American Christians; a personal account of how she and her friends have approached premarital and marital sex; a survey of what the Bible, pastors and good Christian books say about the topic; and an overview of how chastity has been understood throughout Christian history. The candor with which Winner writes about sex may alarm some Christian readers, but those who follow her arguments to their conclusions will find themselves rewarded with fresh insights about an overdiscussed but still deeply entrenched problem among Christians. Interestingly, some of Winner's best insights are about married sex. She states early on that "in Christianity's vocabulary the only real sex is the sex that happens in marriage; the faux sex that goes on outside marriage is not really sex at all... [it] is only a distorted image of sex, as Walt Disney's Wilderness Lodge Resort is only a simulation of real wilderness." Winner places real sex not in the passionate world of one-night stands and dating relationships, but in the ordinary, domestic life of married couples. As such, she helpfully and perhaps even radically reframes both the Christian and cultural discussion of chastity and sexuality. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
Winner, author of the critically acclaimed memoir Girl Meets God, weaves an intriguing tapestry from sociological, autobiographical, pastoral, and historical threads. She balances a journalistic report of how difficult chastity is for American Christians; a personal account of how she and her friends have approached premarital sex and marital sex; a survey of what the Bible, pastors, and good Christian books say about the topic; and an overview of how chastity has been understood throughout Christian history. The candor with which Winner writes about sex may alarm some Christian readers, but those who follow her arguments to their conclusions will find themselves rewarded with fresh insights about an overdiscussed but still deeply entrenched problem among Christians. Interestingly, some of Winner's best insights are about married sex. . . . Winner places real sex not in the passionate world of one-night stands and dating relationships but in the ordinary, domestic life of married couples. As such, she helpfully and perhaps even radically reframes both the Christian and cultural discussion of chastity and sexuality.--Publishers Weekly"[A] carefully presented Christian approach to sexuality. . . . The book gives practical ideas for living a chaste life, portraying chastity as a spiritual discipline. One of the book's strengths is its treatment of singleness and ways in which the chruch could better incorporate singles into the Body of Christ. . . . Readers will appreciate Winner's intellectual, spiritually sound, and engaging approach."--Joseph Bentz, CBA Marketplace"With a winsome, direct, and engaging style full of beguiling humor and verve, Winner forcefully argues that chastity is themost unnatural of Christian virtues. The church must teach us who God has created us to be, must inculcate in us the practices and disciplines that we require if we are to be chaste in a world where it seems like everyone is hooking up with everyone else. While much of the current infatuation with 'spiritual practices' is rather thin, in reclaiming chastity as a spiritual discipline Winner gives substance to the notion of practice and thereby gives substance to the notion of church. . . . This book is a great resource for pastors and congregations. Winner defends marriage as a clench-fisted, revolutionary endeavor that is against just about everything we have been taught to believe, and her defense of singleness as the primary vocation of Christians is equally defiant. She also offers practical ideas about what churches can to do support us in our vocations of marriage and singleness. Real Sex is destined to be one of the most useful books for churches to be published this year."--William H. Willimon, Christian Century"A candid, readable, intelligent, and deeply Christian reflection on the meaning of sexuality and the generally unpopular and misunderstood virtue of chastity. Speaking most specifically to people who are young and single, Lauren Winner is the friendly and informed guide many are looking for in living the Christian alternative in a culture of erotic disorder. Although the author is not a Catholic, there are clear intimations of what Catholics call the theology of the body."--First Things"According to Lauren Winner, chastity is no walk in the park--not for single or married people. It involves unceasing prayer, diligent discernment and a fierce battle against the lies thatour culture and church communicate to us related to sexuality. Real Sex is the fruit of this sometimes-faltering quest in Winner's own life, a continual movement toward wholeness, as well as an ongoing conversation between herself, God and her readers. Real Sex is full of hope--hope that frank discussion will triumph over platitudes, that sexual wholeness can be recovered even after virginity has been lost and that we can all relearn what authentic sexuality is even in the face of cultural mythology."--Jenny Schroedel, Boundless.org "Lauren Winner exposes the half-truths the church and the world have told us about sex. She then proceeds to help us develop a Christian understanding of sex that is biblical, historical and God-honoring. Real Sex is an invaluable resource for college students who queries cannot be answered by 'True Love Waits, ' Christian communities that desperately long for a return to sexual fidelity and pastors who want to speak a good word about sex into this postmodern context. A remarkable resource!"--Christianbook.com"[This book] is a delight. Lots of people can write about sex; some people can write accurately about the value of restraint. How many can do those things in a candid, strikingly insightful and, yes, entertaining fashion? . . . You may not buy into all of Winner's conclusions--indeed, one wonders if she may rethink a couple of the nuances after a few more years of marriage and a child or two--but Real Sex is definitely worth the time."--Alan Cochrum, Fort Worth Star-Telegram"[Winner] bring[s] honesty and integrity to matters concerning sexuality and faith. . . . She shares authentically about a challenging time of life with which many will identify andempathize. . . . Read [Real Sex] to help you engage the immediacy and earthiness of sexuality and spirituality today."--Wayne A. Holst, National Catholic Reporter"An epidemic of sexual perversion is sweeping through our generation. Lauren Winner tackles this topic with wit and a directive to confront cultural lies about sex and challenge how we talk about it at Church. . . . This book will help [church leaders as they] talk about sex and the issues that surround it with singles who are weighing chastity and married couples who are committed to monogamy."--Relevant Leader"Winner reached a kind of evangelical stardom with her first book, Girl Meets God, a brazenly honest autobiographical non-autobiography, a mold-breaking story of spiritual pilgrimage. Winner wrote about her own sexual experiences in Girl, and she returns to the topic in a fuller way here. . . . Instead of do's and don'ts, Winner develops a rich theology of the body and of marital sex, and in addition to listing some of the lies that contemporary culture tells about sex, she lists the lies that the church tells about sex. . . . Real Sex is always honest, sometimes profound, and hip enough to give to your teenage daughter. This is a very satisfying book--and not just because it's about sex."--Peter J. Leithart, Touchstone"[Real Sex] makes a strong case for biblical sexual morality."--Gene Edward Veith, World"I found Winner's book to be a unique and fresh look at an oft-visited subject. Her approach and honesty about her own past is compelling. As someone who made a name for herself defending a Christian's right to sex outside of marriage, it was powerful to read of her own transformation in thought and rebuttal to herprevious beliefs. She systematically works her way through all the arguments, demonstrating God's plan for sexuality in the place of marriage and the beauty of chastity as a spiritual discipline. Rather than simply stating how we are to be, Winner paints a beautiful picture of why God's plan truly is best. As someone who's read way too many books on dating, sex, and chastity, I believe this is one of the best. A must read for those who are single, whether they're 13 or 47."--Matthew McNutt, YouthWorker Journal"An attempt to craft a theologically based and culturally aware case for returning sex to what Winner believes is its divinely intended place: marriage. Real Sex, however, is far from an uncomfortable, prudish lecture about the evils of the body. In a straightforward and conversational style, Winner shares her own sexual history and speaks frankly about often-taboo topics such as pornography and masturbation. Agree or disagree with the author's faith-based conclusions, Real Sex is a timely, thought-provoking work."--Shala Carlson, Gambit Weekly"Written in a readable, scholarly style that suggests C. S. Lewis was invited to speak at a 'True Love Waits' seminar, Real Sex covers an exhaustive waterfront of sexually related topics. . . . One of the most appealing aspects of this book is the explanation of the title. Outside of marriage, sex is not only wrong, it is inappropriate on a deep and cosmic level. Two people coming together for 'casual sex' may not intend anything profound, but sex is always profound. Here Winner hits the nail on the head in a new, refreshing way. . . . Winner's concept of the church's role in helping its single members stay chaste is central to the book. . .. Anyone interested in staying sexually pure or helping others in the church do so will find much food for thought in this intriguing book."--Kathryn Atwood, Having Church"Winner's broader theme, about shifting our focus from the individual to the community, is compelling and well-made, refreshingly free of the righteous scolding and guilt-tripping that makes most books praising 'community' such an awful bore. . . . Most importantly, Winner offers precise, practical advice for those seeking to practice chastity. . . . Winner wisely notes that attempts at living chastely fail unless they are entwined with daily prayer and Bible study. . . . Real Sex is very impressive overall, thanks to Winner's honesty and humility. It packs a real punch in a slender package."--Kathy Shaidle, Catholic Register"Lauren Winner wrote Real Sex for the whole Christian community (as well as for singles) in order to provide helpful tools and resources about chastity. Her purpose in writing was also to define the biblical vision for sex and the real challenges of living within that vision. . . . The author offers tools of accountability and community dialogue to assist in determining good boundaries. . . . It looks honestly at the current views and actions of the church and offers suggested changes; it encourages honest and intentional discussions about sex (we would add: emotional boundaries); and it urges supportive communities f
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Shares data, shares stories, examines clothing, fasting, and how far couples can...go. Insightful.
You're familiar, no doubt, with the statistics on Christian sexuality. We don't stand out as very different in our sexual behavior, which means our basic beliefs and ideas about sex must not be that different either. If all those books in the "Christian living" section of the bookstore aren't helping us develop ideas regarding our sexuality that differ from social norms; if they aren't helping us believe that what the Bible has to say about sex is relevant and true, something isn't right. So what makes Winner different? Real Sex offers an alternative to the magazine-like "Seven Secrets to Sexual Purity" by stretching beyond spoon-fed "dos and don'ts" derived from proof-texted Scripture, and instead, presents the case for sex within marriage from a holistic, biblical view of who we are and how we relate in the world sexually.
From the creation-fall-redemption narrative presented in the Arc of the Gospel, Winner posits an important part of who we are is that we are embodied, and the main way in which we relate in the world sexually is communal. Chapter three is aptly titled, "Communal Sex: Or, Why Your Neighbor Has Any Business Asking You What You Did Last Night," and helps remind us that community is a part of the creational order. Winner reminds us that Scripture flies in the face of our over-individualized, over-privatized American way, exhorting the community of the faith to be intimately involved in one another's lives.
Already we're presented with a meaty alternative to the false views of sex, or we could say, unreal sex propagated in force by our surrounding culture. The next two chapters speak truth against the lies about sex we hear both from our culture and from some of our churches. These chapters give readers an opportunity to take a step outside of their everyday, cultural surroundings and consider them.
Winner points out that society tells lies like "sex can be wholly separated from procreation" (64), cohabitation is a good practice-run (68), modesty doesn't matter (71), and "good sex can't happen in the humdrum routine of marriage" (77). And despite an effort to do right and protect the biblical ethic of sex within marriage, and with honorable intentions, "the church tells a few fibs of its own" (85). Winner chooses to discuss four of these fibs: "premarital sex is guaranteed to make you feel lousy" (85), "women don't really want to have sex anyway" (90), "bodies (and sex) are gross, dirty, or just plain unimportant" (93), and finally, if we've gotten over the idea that bodies are bad, now we're obsessed with technique (97), as obsessed as our secular counterparts.
The last few chapters of Winner's book touch on topics such as kissing, pornography, and masturbation, and dish out practical, and I think rather good and helpful, ideas to guide us in practicing chastity within our caring Christian communities. Winner reunites chastity with the other spiritual disciplines, and talks about what marriage, children, sex, and singleness teach the church, why each is important in God's economy, an economy of repentance and forgiveness. Placing sexual purity back within a story that's bigger than itself makes the issue of chastity important again, re-giving it meaning by re-giving it context.
Based on her writing style and literary references, Ms. Winner is obviously an intelligent and well-educated Christian woman. She's not a super-functional guru in the cult of virginity who is so heavenly minded that she's no earthly good. Instead, she is refreshingly honest about her weaknesses, including her brushes with fornication during her BC days and as a new believer. However, she doesn't try to whitewash or justify her failings, nor does she engage in self-flagellation. Instead, Ms. Winner evaluates her actions (and subsequent growth) within a Biblically based context. She does a much better job defending the Scriptural ideal of chastity via her thoughtful approach than the shock and awe crowd does with their "God says it; that settles it" attitude.
That doesn't mean Ms Winner forsakes the authority of the Bible. Instead, she expands on the reasons why God would decree that fornication and adultery are sin, and why chastity is a spiritual discipline, much like fasting and prayer. For example, adultery damages the family, which is the foundation of any community. In addition, it creates disharmony in the larger community due to broken friendships and mistrust. In contrast, practicing chastity benefits the community by strengthening trust and grounding relationships in love and respect. This kind of reasoning shows the universal truths that Scripture contains, thus demonstrating it's relevance for us today. Also, I appreciated her defense of singleness and celibacy, especially using Christ's life as an example. As one who is still unmarried in his late thirties, I've felt more and more marginalized by the typical family-oriented church. Ms. Winner brings this problem out of the shadows and confronts the church to appreciate its singles and tap their potential instead of shunting them off into singles' groups.
There are a couple spots where Ms. Winner's reasoning was a bit too academic for my taste (understandable, since she's working on her Ph. D. in American religious history at Columbia). In addition, I would have liked her to deal with chastity as it relates to homosexuality. But these are minor complaints, and overall this is a fine and necessary work. It's safe to say that over time she'll take a high place in the pantheon of Generation X Christian writers and thinkers. "Real Sex" is the real thing when it comes to addressing the Christian discipline of chastity. Bravo to Ms. Winner for her take on this controversial subject.