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My Take: Searching for God, settling for sex
November 24th, 2012
08:00 PM ET

My Take: Searching for God, settling for sex

Editor's Note: Shannon Ethridge is an advocate for spiritual and sexual integrity. She is a counselor, speaker, author and certified life and relationship coach. Her 19 books include the million-selling Every Woman's Battle book series, "The Sexually Confident Wife" and her latest book, "The Fantasy Fallacy," a response to the "Fifty Shades of Grey" phenomenon, a discussion of the roots and role of sexual fantasies.

By Shannon Ethridge, Special to CNN

(CNN) - When a friend alerted me to the "Fifty Shades" trilogy in April, none of us had any idea it would sell in excess of 40 million copies within months, or that sales of whips, chains and other BDSM paraphernalia would skyrocket as a result, or that a European hotel would replace its Gideon’s Bibles with "Fifty Shades of Grey."

Many legitimate possibilities have been offered for the seeming success of “mommy porn.” Women are more sexually liberated than ever before. Couples are longing for ways to spice up their sex lives. Many women have a deep inner longing to be dominated by a man who’s absolutely obsessed with them.

While there might be some truth to each of these theories, I think the real force behind this "Fifty Shades" phenomenon is that our society is clamoring for closeness. However, in the absence of genuine sexual intimacy (best defined as “in-to-me-see”), we settle for sexual intensity: erotica, pornography, an office romance, an extramarital affair or whatever strokes the ego and provides the sexual high we crave.

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I suggest that sexual intensity (such as that experienced between the lead characters of the "Fifty Shades" trilogy) is simply not the same as intimacy. If it were, then prostitutes and porn stars would be the most emotionally and relationally fulfilled people on the planet. That doesn’t seem to be the case.

Does the entangling of arms and legs and the exchange of bodily fluids scratch the human itch for intimate connection? Or is sex just the closest thing we can imagine to what we’re really craving: a deeper spiritual and emotional connection, both with our Creator and with His creation?

When I explain through my writing, speaking and life coaching that I am an “advocate for healthy sexuality and spirituality,” some assume I’m insane. Why would someone even use the terms “sexuality” and “spirituality” in the same sentence? I do so because I believe they are basically the same thing, or at least two sides of the same coin.

Regardless of gender, age, race, political views, economic status, etc., all humans have two things in common: We are both spiritual and sexual beings. And behind every sexual longing, I believe there’s an even deeper spiritual longing.

So we have much to learn about God through understanding our sexuality, and there is much to learn about our sexuality through a deeper exploration of God.

Looking at sexuality through a spiritual lens, and vice versa, is not a new concept. In the Song of Solomon, a man's and woman’s desires for healthy sexual intimacy are celebrated. In the book of Hosea, God uses the analogy of a husband’s relentless pursuit of a sexually unfaithful bride to illustrate the depth of His own passion and commitment to His people. God obviously knew that “sexual metaphors” would teach us about ourselves and about Him.

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This brings me back around to the "Fifty Shades of Grey" phenomenon. I don’t believe that fantasy is evil, even sexual fantasy. But when we divorce physical pleasure from emotional connection, such as when we selfishly strive for orgasm through pornography, masturbation or illicit sexual encounters rather than cultivating sexual ecstasy with our marriage partner, sexual ecstasy is only “half-baked.” Love and relational intimacy are the “yeast” that allows our sexual ecstasy to rise to its highest level.

My counseling experience shows me that we often seek healing for our deepest wounds via sexual encounters. Our minds and hearts believe we will “get it right” or “find the love I need” via an intensely satisfying sexual relationship.

If deep and spiritual intimacy is what humans seek, then relational or sexual intensity can never satisfy our deepest longings or heal our oldest wounds. Christian and Anastasia (for all the "Fifty Shades" fans) won’t discover heart-deep intimacy in whips, chains, pain and sexual intensity. Their deep wounds will be healed by sacrificial love (of which Christ is the incarnate example) and intimate relationship (both human and divine). Soul-deep intimacy is what we seek, and it’s ultimately found in the God who created human sexuality.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Shannon Ethridge.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Sex

soundoff (1,819 Responses)
  1. Apple Bush

    Sadly, while I would like very much to say the author has some insight on this issue, I cannot. This is just phony baloney. Typical councelor logic that, at the end of the session, means cash in hand for her. Perhaps more important, the entire opinion is based on a false premise (God did it). Thumbs down.

    November 25, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • Akira

      Apple Bush! What's up?

      In case you didn't see this, re: Dr. D Johnson:
      I was rather forewarned, so I knew.
      That being said, I do remember see a couple a while back, most notably, the “fullness/tunic” one; I remember not taking it very seriously, although I seriously laughed when I saw that passage…

      Really, what I thought about them was “well, why NOT?”

      Thanks for bringing him out of retirement, just this once.
      I enjoyed them immensely.
      Although I can see where one might get in some hot water there...

      November 25, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Hi Akira. Well, all of them are 100% made up. I never thought anyone would not see they were a joke. But soon I realized, my "zingers" were being overlooked and I was touching a nerve in some folks. Strange but true. Anyway, they made me laugh. Last night one guy gave me a lecture from his high school teacher "Mr. Anderson" on why i would get an F on these papers, don't know if you saw that but it was typical. LOL

      November 26, 2012 at 12:10 am |
    • Akira

      Well, Apple, I will be the first to admit that there are many papers and scholarly works; I'm not overly familiar on the Gnostic side of things...and I haven't been here very long.
      The internet being what it is, I don't put too muck stock into anything I read...unless they are downright hilarious.
      Serious appearance with a soupçon of sarcasm...sublime.

      November 26, 2012 at 12:31 am |
  2. Mennoknight

    Great article.

    November 25, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
  3. Truth1117

    This article nails it. (no pun intended)

    November 25, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • Mennoknight

      Great response!

      November 25, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      I guess that would be his fetish. At least she appears to be alive. [Read to the tune of "Cold Ethyl"]

      November 25, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
  4. Akira

    Wow, that is some ugly wallpaper in the backround.
    Are they in a mortuary, or at Grandma's house?

    November 25, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • End Religion

      They're getting it on in a mortuary. It is the only place he could find a "stiffy."

      November 25, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • Akira

      Okay, that made me laugh out loud.

      November 25, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      I guess that would be his fetish. At least she appears to be alive. (Read to the tune of "Cold Ethyl")

      November 25, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • Akira

      You really are an AC fan, aren't you?

      November 26, 2012 at 12:00 am |
    • Apple Bush

      Akira, I was like a little teenage girl when I met Alice in Phoenix last summer. When I was in Junior High in the 70's, me and my best bud were only a few votes away from getting Allice Cooper elected class president. (I was a trouble maker/class clown.)

      November 26, 2012 at 12:15 am |
    • Akira

      Okay, AB, somehow I find it hard to believe that you were a troublemaker/class clown.
      Not.
      I went to one of his concerts in the 70's; I saw many, many, *many* concerts back in the day.
      There's really not a whole lot of bands I didn't see back then. Got lots of the required black concert T-shirts that were my wardrobe staple back then.

      November 26, 2012 at 12:23 am |
    • Apple Bush

      Akira, list them! I am very interested. For example did you ever see Frank Zappa? I bet you saw Rush, Led Zepp...etc.??

      November 26, 2012 at 12:27 am |
    • Apple Bush

      BTW, I saw AC in 1979. Still have the black T shirt. It is officially the coolest shirt ever and my 11 year old wears it sometimes.

      November 26, 2012 at 12:29 am |
    • Akira

      Yeah, I saw Zappa, although I remember very little about it...lol...I was bad then.
      It would probably be easier to just ask me if I saw a band or not, but here goes some:
      Stones, Zepplin, ELP, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Queen, Rush, Van Halen, (both guys) AC/DC, Styx, (many times; they used to play at our local Civic Center, and my friend's dad used to get us free tix; I was sick of "Lady" by the time it hit the big time) Beach Boys (fun!) Chicago, Depeche Mode, Ministry, Moody Blues, Journey, Heart, Cheap Trick, Ted Nugent, that's about all I can remember off the top of my head.

      November 26, 2012 at 12:42 am |
    • Akira

      Boston, Foreigner, Fog Hat, Deep Purple.

      November 26, 2012 at 12:45 am |
    • Akira

      Yes and Elton John. I'm prolly remember more, but I'm going to bed now. Night, AB.

      November 26, 2012 at 12:52 am |
    • Toots & Stevie

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtSJH8iVdJg&w=640&h=390]

      November 26, 2012 at 12:55 am |
    • Akira

      Triumph, UFO, Judas Priest, REO Speedwagon, oh, man, how can I forget U2?

      November 26, 2012 at 12:56 am |

    • Kate Bush?

      November 26, 2012 at 1:00 am |

    • ELP – I'm jealous. Jethro Tull? Kansas? Joe Jackson?

      November 26, 2012 at 1:04 am |
    • Apple Bush

      Ok for me, what I can remember:
      Bachman Turner Overdrive, Zappa, Van Halen several times, only DLR, Cheap Trick. REO Speedwagon, Ted Nugent, Pat Benetar, Alice Cooper, Sammy Hagar, Fog Hat, Jefferson Starship, Kiss, Sonic Youth, Fire Hose, The Doobie Brothers, (I think I saw Foreigner and Kansas and Boston and several others but can’t remember lol)

      My jazz list is longer. I am mainly a Jazz guy. You like Jazz Akira?

      November 26, 2012 at 1:07 am |

    • [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVxhyeaG87w&w=640&h=390]

      November 26, 2012 at 1:14 am |
    • Akira

      Kate Bush and Joe Jackson, no. Tull and Kansas, yes.
      I also saw BTO, Benetar, and KISS.
      I'll admit that I know very little Jazz...nothing, as a matter of fact.
      I have the alternative station on when I listen at all, anymore.
      Life happens, lol.

      November 26, 2012 at 1:18 am |
    • mama k

      I took my nephews to see Yes a few times. And Elton.

      November 26, 2012 at 1:21 am |
    • mama k

      My girls were too young to like those hard rockers. And I didn't like the silly stuff they were listening to. lol.

      November 26, 2012 at 1:23 am |
    • mama k

      But jazz is where it's at for me anymore.
      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FolEno814Gk&w=640&h=390]

      November 26, 2012 at 1:27 am |
  5. This article is rubbish!

    Settling for intensity?! I love intensity and could care less about intimacy, life is perfect for me.

    November 25, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • Dippy

      You could care less or you couldn't care less? Which is it? You're confusing us.

      November 25, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
  6. mariepaul@me.com

    This is what I did... sad I did it too

    November 25, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
  7. Jesus Christ

    WOW! Lots of nasty, repulitard, mental patients writing on here tonight! Amazing how you all can't stand that you're losers! President Obama won and we continue to have a free country...something that would not have happened under mormon romney.
    If you don't like it, move to the Middle East where people are forced to believe and behave one way...obviously the way you people are.

    November 25, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • timelord7202

      Or China – that's where our tax money goes, in one form or another, right down to the handouts congress gives to corporations that offshore there, and thanks to gridlock, expect their handouts to continue.

      November 25, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
    • pa sayitstraight

      you said it right and well. and by the way, the real name of the bible has been recently discovered: yup, it is called, by the One who wrote it, Fifty Shades of Gray.

      November 25, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • brian monosso

      A free Country? You must not read a lot.

      November 25, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
  8. Pussn'bootsie

    Leave RED alone,,,,, you just mad cuz he right about obambi

    November 25, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
  9. REDFIREBALL

    My sources say Al Qaeda killed them – perky Susan Rice reported what she was given by my Intelligence Community – Clapper committed perjury about his doll collection under oath to Congress, then told the truth – Clapper on, Clapper off – so he's already on the chopping block like an onion ready for stewing. Probably more truths revealed soon. My research says Congress will add more Pez dispensers this week. The liars will soon pay for their iniquities. Once they get enough, then the hammer will be used to nail the big fish Congress really wants. The one who farts the most is the last to get invited back to the party.

    November 25, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • Mohammad A Dar

      are you Chinese Sir? just curious.

      November 25, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
    • El Flaco

      Red, you are as crazy as an outhouse rodent.

      November 25, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • Whack Spotting 101

      "My sources say."

      You need MUCH better sources than Michael Savage, FOX, and Rush Limbaugh.

      And you need better meds, because you are a total whack.

      November 25, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
  10. Pussn'bootsie

    thought rice was supposed to be so dammm smart LMFAO

    November 25, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
  11. AvdBergism source of filthyRainerBraendleinism©

    Absurdity of REDRUBBERBALL s e x, hind, goon s e x. Obamanation! Goons.

    November 25, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      YOU, sir, have been spending far too much time on these comment boards!

      November 25, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
  12. Frank

    Susan Rice is an old obama cronie. Let her get what she desrves if she sits before congress.

    November 25, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • Frank

      Can I be Frank with you? After re-reading Fifty Shades of Grey every House Republican will only be thinking of one thing when they have Susan Rice in front of them. It's not about honesty or how nominations can be tied up in the House. It's about SEX, Frank.

      November 25, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
  13. REDFIREBALL

    My comments upset Obama followers - watch what will happen when Susan Rice gets caught in a lie under oath to congress

    November 25, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • fintastic

      You don't upset us at all.... we just feel so very sorry you were born retarded.

      November 29, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  14. REDFIREBALL

    Before the superstorm, everyone already predicted that Obama was going to appear for a few photo mops then disappear while the people suffer for weeks and weeks. Obama is predictable, and is incapable of genuine feeling. He knows how to cry out of one eye. How many people can do that magic trick? Yes, one eye. He glances out into the distance when people in pain approach him and cry. He does not feel. He is incapable of long-term planning. Any psychiatrist worth theit medical degree and psychiatric residency/experience can look at Obama's eyes and easily tell you what he's all about. Perhaps some have tried to offer opinions to deaf media ears. The masses deserve to experience the real Obama. He is not up for re-election so has nothing to lose. You think he is worried about favorable legacy? He can't even plan color of socks to wear the next day.

    November 25, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
    • Aden

      This stuff is hilarious. REDFIREBALL Sara Palin and Michele Bachmann can't hold a candle to you. Get yourself over to Fox News and start making some real money.

      November 25, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • fintastic

      Oh.... now I get it!... you're one of those folks who can't stand having a black man for president., a sore head loser.

      November 29, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  15. REDFIREBALL

    Nixon was a psychopath like Obama's dog, Bo. The media and Congress will squeeze Obama's lemons until he feels enough pressure to crack like a peanut shell. The media is playing games with me. John Kerry was against every war song, choosing instead war poetry. Obama may find there is no bologna in the fridge. Obama's arrogance will expose everyone – thousands of vegetables -he got defensive and now can push all his potatoes to be placed under earth. Let them be placed UNDER OATH before Congress and then watch those tubers lie – that means PRISON TIME

    November 25, 2012 at 8:20 pm |

    • Let's talk about sex RED. Sex and God. Are you able to do everything you'd really like to do with God watching? God knows you think about Susan Rice.

      November 25, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  16. Zargoth

    This is one of the worst pieces CNN has ever seen fit to publish- what childish nonsense! Please go away, & for your own sake, grow up!

    November 25, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  17. hilreal

    She needs to spend less time listening to preachers and shrinks and more time listening to H_ward Stern!

    November 25, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
  18. REDFIREBALL

    At this very minute Obama is practicing his lies to present to Congress. Next up to the plate is my beloved Susan Rice. I have seen the Media attempt to show her as someone not worthy of my love but I can reveal now that I do have a bulge inequality each time I see her.

    November 25, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • Frank

      I know who the real redfireball is, and you're not him. Give it up LMFAO

      November 25, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
  19. hilreal

    Biology 101....men want to get laid. Period! They only go through the intamacy motions to get to the dirty deed. This chick needs to meet more men than her husband and a bunch of Tea Pottiers that don't know which end of a woman to use.

    November 25, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • parvo00

      It's people like this who make me embarrassed to be a guy.

      If you're a guy and you genuinely don't understand what intimacy is, and think that your sole goal/purpose in life is to f___ b__ches, then you're missing out.

      November 25, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
  20. REDFIREBALL

    The media praises Obama for his support of Superstorm Sandy victims, although they have been helped by Governor Cuomo and private groups. Governor Cuomo is seeking $30 billion reimbursement which can be added to the budget deficit. Fellow New yorkers are still suffering and the nights are freezing cold. The season is not getting any warmer. The New York Machine is not very happy with Obama.

    November 25, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.