Why do you keep asking about boundaries?
Picture this: God is sitting over here to the left. God is good. We like God.
Now, the line between good and bad is lurking here on the right hand side. This is a bad line. We don't want to cross this line because then we will get in trouble.
So why are you trying to see how far you can go? Why are you trying to get as close to the line as you can? Wouldn't you want to run in the opposite direction and get as close to God as possible?
No. I want to have sex.
This is the illustration that was put to me (minus the sarcastic undertones) as a teenager at a church youth camp. Needless to say it didn't really resonate with someone in the process of discovering that there are more entertaining ways to swap saliva than double-dipping your fries.
Next I learnt about temptation. The antagonist in this story is – shock horror – evil society, forcing everyone in its wake to instantly lose their morals and their pants. I was told to arm myself with the sword of virtue and fight against everything telling me I Must Have Sex Now.
Eventually it was admitted that temptation isn't the only issue. There's this thing called desire that dances through your veins, trading secrets with your hormones and throwing parties in all the local hotspots. The problem was the desire was not my own.
Instead I was told about how guys are different. I was told about how you can turn a guy on at the touch of a button. I was told that guys are very visual. I was told how hard it is for a guy to think straight once his motor is running.
On the other hand, lady-libido seemed to fit into the same category as periods, flatulence and under-arm hair – it's better for everyone if we just pretend it doesn't exist. I was warned against causing a "brother in Christ to fall" – in other words keep your hands to yourself, don't bend over in public and wear a giant onesie at all times. Somewhere along the line I became the boundary police, because I don't have those pesky man parts to make me lose my mind.
"I need you to stop me, because I can't help myself."
It may seem ridiculous, but I've been there. I've been in the relationship where I was told I had to be the one to stop it; where I felt like an evil temptress leading boys astray; where I blamed myself for any 'slip-ups' because I was the one that was supposed to be in control.
Whether it is explicit or not, when we talk about sex the emphasis becomes on a man's desire and a woman's responsibility not to provoke it.
One of the many problems with this is that it doesn't take into account a woman's sex drive. Maybe we don't go from 0 to 100 in 2 seconds flat, but that doesn't mean we want it any less. We are built to respond and when shenanigans start it creates a need that, for want of a better phrase, needs to be filled. Certainly not the qualifications one might hope for in a human chastity belt.
Even more troubling is that it implies that a guy is not responsible for his actions when he is turned on. That if he pushes the boundaries or does something he knows his partner doesn't want, it's because he 'can't help it.' When did we start thinking so little of man's self-control?
Drawing the Line
I'm not going to tell you how to live your sex life. I'm not going to tell you where your boundaries should be. But I do know that boundaries – and strategies for sticking to them – must be decided together. Men and women might be built differently, but both parties are equally responsible, both have an equal part to play.
Because let's be honest, it's just not the same when you go it alone.
Casey Murray works in marketing for a company that sells nail guns, where she eats large amounts of chocolate and wears pretty dresses in an attempt to avoid becoming 'one of the boys.' In her spare time she likes having inappropriate conversations with friends and writes to try and make sense of it all.
Casey Murray's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/casey-murray.html