July 02, 2013
Erika Rae knows a lot more about the Bible than most people. She was a devoted and educated Evangelical Christian for all of her childhood, adolescence, and early college years. Today she is a devoted memoirist whose writing is frank, humorous, compassionate, and tolerant of all people. Like many smart women I know, Erika writes and thinks about sex, too. If you haven’t read Erika’s hilarious and insightful memoir, DEVANGELICAL, yet, check it out soon!
Who is the sexiest person in the Bible?
I suppose the most obvious answer is the dude in Song of Solomon. He’s tall, dark and handsome (5:15), the joints of his thighs are like jewels (7:1) and he doesn’t toss and turn and steal the sheets at night (1:13). It’s kind of surprising to find such a bodice ripper in the midst of this collection of holy texts, but this doesn’t seem to nullify its masturbatory hold over the helpless Evangelical adolescent—despite the nearby cautionary tale of Onan in Genesis. After all, the book itself reads a lot like pillow talk with two lovers talking back and forth. While he’s busy fondling her breasts which are like “two twin roes,” she’s spouting all manner of do-me-now lines like: “Come… blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.” I’ll warn you though, things do a get a little out of hand for these two and the book does become a little X-rated: “My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.” I don’t know. That’s a bit much, even for me. I don’t care how bedazzled his thighs are.
Wow. That’s truly disgusting.
As someone who has fooled around on both sides of the church, can you say which is more fun: forbidden, sinful sex or liberated, guilt-free sex?
Well, if you’re looking at the act of sex itself, the forbidden kind is obviously the most exciting, but you have to take the whole experience into account. The pre-guilt helps along the excitement, but the guilt that follows plays a huge role in negating what happened earlier. Which is why as adolescent youth groupies, Scott and I had to wait until our wedding night before we actually did it. Of course, what we discovered was that there were loopholes that kept us dancing around that forbidden line for years without actually crossing it. I like to think this is what sex for Sting is like with his nine-hour orgasms. Only ours lasted four and a half years.
Can you explain to our readers the governing rules and ideas about sex for an Evangelical Christian?
Basically, the idea in the particular Evangelical church in which we were raised is that sex is a beautiful thing as long as it’s kept within marriage. If you had sex outside of marriage, it was the exact opposite, and would land you in eternal, white hot teeth-melting torment should you accidentally walk in front of a cement camel and die before you had the chance to ask for forgiveness. Also, we were supposed to be “hot for God,” not each other. We were His bride, or some such analogy. Which is why we had youth group. Youth group was a place where we teens could run around doing crazy games like ‘wall ball’ or ‘hit me in the face with a pie’ so that we were too tired and/or messy/sweaty to go sneaking off in the backs of each others’ vehicles. Unfortunately, I think youth group leaders underestimate both the energy and hygiene tolerance levels of young adolescents.
How much sex or what kind of sex did you have in that time of your life and how did you feel about it then?
When we were in college, a visiting pastor named “Pastor Smart” came to our school to talk about sex. In “Devangelical” I describe how he handed out a card to each of us in the student body—he called it the “Smart Chart”—detailing how far we could go before we crossed the line and made an irrevocable nosedive into Hell. The Smart Chart was color coded, with hand holding next to a green rectangle, closed mouth kissing at chartreuse, open mouth kissing at yellow, and on up the color wheel as the bases progressed. Oral sex was orange-red and sexual intercourse was a scarlet, demon red. We thought the cards were a little hokey, occasionally pulling them out at steamy moments and giggling, but we generally held to those guidelines, frequently attempting to stay in the yellow. We also frequently failed at yellow. Actually, the Smart Chart made knowing “how far to go and when to say no” quite convenient, knowing that we weren’t both feet in Hell if the color wasn’t scarlet. Being pre-Clinton helped, too. We had specifically and expressly NOT had sex before we got married.
On an unrelated note, I hate the colors yellow and orange on their own. They sort of have to be mixed with another color to be palatable. Say, for example, in stripes or argyle.
When you see sex (in movies, TV, porn, etc.) or talk about sex with friends, are you experiencing what you see/say on two levels: as an Evangelical and as a former Evangelical? Or do you view it from a single point-of-view?
It’s difficult to completely detach from the way I thought back then, but it’s fair to say that I see it as a former Evangelical. As an Evangelical I would have felt guilty and likely judgmental about the two(+) people on screen. These days, I have a much more liberal view of sex, that’s certain. Today, I believe sex is a beautiful thing and that it should be wielded responsibly with people who trust each other. Before marriage, after marriage . . . the decision should be left up to individuals to decide. I don’t believe it will land a person in Hell anymore—largely because I no longer believe in Hell. (I am not convinced “Hell” as we think of it is even a biblical concept. I explain my stance on this better in the book.) I DO think, however, that sex used irresponsibly can land a person in another kind of hell, say, the car seat aisle of Walmart; shunned from a trusted friend (in the case of an affair); and/or the hospital with some pretty bad diseases. Responsibility and restraint in many cases are not bad things. Hence, I think the idea of having crazy, illicit, consequence-free sex can sometimes be more exciting than actually doing it. Which is to say I love a good sex scene on film. It allows the imagination to run wild, and not the sores.
Will you tell our readers the connection for you between The Rapture and sex?
As an Evangelical, I was groomed to be ready for The Rapture—the time when Jesus would return and snatch us up into the air, leaving the non-believers behind to suffer the consequences of being heathens—at any moment. If Jesus came back in the middle of getting busy with my boyfriend, we might get left behind. Almost equally problematic, if we were taken and miraculously forgiven, we would be taken with our pants down for all to see. In 1988, there was a small pamphlet released called 88 Reasons the Rapture Will Be in 1988. I didn’t want to miss out on going to heaven without having to die, but at 15, I didn’t want to miss out on sex, either. Still, I had to fly right or suffer the potential consequences. That book was a huge conflict of interest for me, and while I may have mostly believed The Rapture was set to happen right before the second season of The Wonder Years, I also wanted it to fail. When that date turned out to be a flop, I found myself pretty eager to get married as quickly as I could…to beat the next possible window. It was a race against The Rapture, so to speak. Hey, there have been crazier reasons for two 19-year-olds to get married.