"I am an Ann Summers rep and my husband is currently training for leadership in the church. However, the church is taking a dim view of my job and is not letting me organise the mother and toddler group. They are also threatening that my husband will not be able to continue with his training. I do not want to give up something that I have become very successful at, but also I do not want to come between what my husband is doing and the church. At the parties I only show underwear, nightwear and sex toys. The majority of the catalogue is these items, but on one page there are some restraints, a spanker and a couple of soft porn DVDs. I make it clear that I am not happy selling these items because of my Christian belief, and my area manager is fine with that. I feel that as a Christian woman I am bringing my faith into a world that the Church has hidden from for many years. I also bring confidence to women, especially those who want to explore more with their partners."
This situation provokes those around you to apply the logic of their beliefs as to whether sex really is good or ‘smutty’. Truth is, many Christians deep down feel that sex is intrinsically shameful and/or they are understandably afraid of the power of it. If we truly believe that it is a God-given gift built into all human beings, then our role in all aspects of fallen humanity is to be forces to redeem, purify and enhance that which is good. I suggest the products you are promoting are predominantly neutral; it’s the attitude and spirit with which you present them that is all-important. I respect and endorse your open decision not to sell things that bring in potential pain and degradation. Communicating that provides a fabulous opportunity to invest life-giving values to how people approach sex. If the tone you set to the parties downgrades sex as something cheap, without commitment to their partners and honouring both people’s bodies, then I would see this as inconsistent with the gospel. However, if the products are presented in a spirit of bringing fun and creativity to respectful and intimate relationships, uniting a couple in meaningful love, then I would see this as wholly consistent with God’s good gift of sex. This will be dictated by the tone you set, though the design of the clothes will also invoke sexual attitudes. Clothes that introduce fantasy role plays can be divisive to true intimacy, as they can leave a woman feeling that she is only sexy to her partner in the role.
However, encouraging women to wear clothes that make them feel more sensual to me is something positive. Women have often been worn down by the responsibilities of life, losing their ability to celebrate their femininity and sexuality. In this way, they have been robbed of God’s creation gift. If we can give this back to them in a beautiful, non-sordid way, then I believe that reflects God’s longing for his children to know that they are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Psalm 139:14). Regarding sex toys, I believe the context in which they are used is very important, as I outlined in my November 2010 column. If they detract from a couple bonding together, then they are undermining their relationship and therefore not to be recommended.
However, if they are mutually used to help stimulate an orgasm, then I see little to worry about. More often they are used by single people wishing to manage their sex drive. If this becomes addictive then it is unhelpful, but if it helps them to abstain from indiscriminate partnering, then it is probably playing a protective role. Remember that in reality many women are intimidated by Ann Summers products, as they create a pressure to perform sexually in a way that is beyond their natural self-expression. That is why they drink alcohol to get through the evening. This is damaging. It will therefore be crucial that your presentation endorses the guests to stay within what is truly consensual and comfortable for them, and resources them in expressing touch as a love language connected deeply with their emotions. Touch and sexual displays that are disconnected from the love and confidence of the heart kill off the soul, and with it our long-term libido. I don’t believe it is our place as Christians to impose our sexual ethics on those who choose to currently live outside of Christ. However, I do believe that the attitudes and values behind biblical sexual ethics lead to greater wholeness and happiness; I would therefore want to coach people in these. It is these values and attitudes that make how we present sexuality to a secular world life-giving and appealing. I believe the dividing line with your work as an Ann Summers rep is going to be in the attitudes, values and context you breathe into the products, more than in the products themselves. If you can help people think about what sort of quality of sex life they want to build, inspire them to choose which products will add to a quality of intimacy and sensuality that strengthens the bond of their relationship and their mutual self-esteem, then you are a true evangelistic discipler. However, if you allow the parties to deteriorate into trivialising the wonder of our intimate relationships, our bodies and emotions, then you are enhancing a lust fire that destroys people’s souls and self-confidence.