As you may or may not know, this past Saturday we hosted our first ever Shameless Online Live Workshop Experience. This project was something we thought up about 6 months ago when we decided to come up with an event that would be challenging, engaging, live-giving, and different from your typical church events.
Our goals were simple. Shameless had to:
- Focus on having healthy conversations about sex, porn, and masturbation.
- Prove beneficial for individuals, couples, and parents.
- Be something one didn’t just watch, but actually participated in.
- Push the boundaries of comfort and apathy.
- Feel like a breath of fresh air for those tired of having to dance around when it comes to their sexual challenges, frustrations, and questions.
Now admittedly, we didn’t do any sort of focus groups or polls. We just took a stab and gambled on what we believed to be generally true of our culture (particularly Christian culture)…
People don’t feel free to talk about sex in a meaningful way openly and are tired of it.
Needless to say, Saturday was a gamble. Maybe this thing would hit home with everyone attending, or it would fall flat on its face and prove to be a colossal waste of time and money. Imagine our surprise and relief when we saw so many people show up and decide to share their questions, feelings, and struggles.
More importantly, they didn’t just show up… they stayed!
Now to fully appreciate why that is meaningful, understand that in today’s online world people don’t tend to stick around very long. In fact, a recent study of Facebook videos viewers revealed the following:
“According to Socialbakers 2019 Q4 Trends Report, which analyzed 19,622 Facebook brands Pages worldwide, the average Facebook video watch time is 4.57 Seconds. Audiences made it through nearly 30% of videos that were less than 30 seconds long.”
Shameless was going to be about 2.5 hours!
Yet despite the fickle nature of online audiences, those attending Shameless stayed with us an average of 90 minutes or more!
Very cool. Yet, kinda sad. Here’s what I mean.
While it was awesome seeing so many people get help and find a degree of healing in their lives, it was sort of depressing knowing that as a church and culture we’ve done such a bad job of approaching the topic of sex in general, let alone porn and masturbation. I can confidently say that because if we were all killing it in this area of our lives, we wouldn’t have seen the level of engagement we did.
Which brings me to some things that surfaced during our Shameless breakout sessions that can serve as lessons to us all.
1) We just need to talk about sex more (PERIOD).
One message that was resoundingly heard in our online chats during the event was that people overall did not feel welcomed to discuss sexual challenges and issues with their friends, spouses, and church families.
Because they’d be the odd one out and very likely would invite some unwanted scrutiny and even judgment. Consequently, they like so many others have stayed silent and even continued to suffer with their sexual struggles because doing that is easier than violating the sacred status-quo.
Key takeaway: If we don’t welcome healthy conversations about sex, there will be no conversations about sex, only secrets.
2) We need to stop lecturing and start listening.
Another frustration we heard from many was that when they did dare share their struggles or “sexual failures” with others, they were often treated to a morality lesson rather than an empathetic ear.
One woman shared a heartbreaking story about how when she was a child her mom called her a “pervert” and other things when it was discovered she had struggled with masturbation. This unfortunate experience served only to heap more shame on her, making the idea of asking for help from anyone else an unappealing option.
Key takeaway: When people come to you about their sexual struggles, they need love and empathy more than a fix and definitely more than a scolding finger.
3) The church needs to wake up and get off their butts when it comes to sex.
I have to tell you; probably the most frustrating and common theme we heard was that the local church was not a “safe place” for sexual conversations. Yes, many people said they loved their church and felt it was a safe place for most things, just not “this thing.”
In fact, one guy asked about how he could get a recovery program started in his church when it seemed that no one was willing to step up and lead it. I asked him, “Well before you go there, does your church even talk about sex and porn openly in the first place?”
His answer? Sadly, no.
I find it ironic (and on some level infuriating) that Christians are so quick to bemoan the moral state of our society, casting shame and blame on others even to the point of boycotting certain brands because of their “stance” on certain sexual matters, yet they are extremely tight-lipped when it comes to the subject of sex (let alone porn and masturbation) in the church.
Key takeaway: The church is meant to be the light of the world. This includes being a light when it pertains to the matters of sex and sexuality. Consequently, the church should be leading these conversations (not condemnations) and not running from them.
4) Couples need to share their frustrations and pains more, not less.
Admittedly, this is a topic that could take many posts to cover, and we will be doing that in the coming months. But something that really stood out to me was that many couples have a hard time sharing their questions, concerns, or disappointments (and even disagreements) with each other because they fear that doing so will only serve to make the marriage even more fractured.
The truth is quite the opposite.
When we learn how to lovingly and honestly engage each other on difficult matters in the interest of growth and unity, we create opportunities for more intimacy and trust, not less.
Key takeaway: Your marriage will continue to feel stagnant if you are unwilling to speak up and take it in a new direction.
5) Parents are often doomed to repeat the failures of their predecessors.
Again this is another subject that could fill pages of a very thick book. But when we brought up the topic of talking about sex with our kids and asked if they had parents who were willing to discuss these matters almost everyone agreed that their parents had been silent on those subjects, leaving them ill prepared to do the same with their kids.
Key takeaway: If you want your kids to experience sexual health and wholeness, you can’t protect them by staying quiet. Rather, you must have these difficult conversations, so they are better prepared to face the real world.
Now I know that these takeaways may come off as negative, but they aren’t. These are just the realities we all face and the good news is we have the ability to change things. That’s what this event was all about, starting and/or changing the conversation around sex, porn, and masturbation.
And like we said to those who joined us Saturday, things won’t change overnight. But they can begin to change with you and that’s a start.
By the way, if you missed our Shameless event we will be doing one in the future. However, men can access a recording of the whole thing in the Live Free Community app and all the topics we talked about are covered in more depth in my book When Shame Gets Real.