Sexless in the City

Sometimes reading romance novels doesn’t quite prepare you for a love life...

For this 30-year-old urbanite, love is always a misadventure: The Harvard Lickwit, Hippie the Groper, the 5% Man, and the Ad Weasel. These and many other men wander in and out of her life — but never her bed.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Beating loneliness and evil could start with a movie ticket

Regardless of the scale of publication, one of the interesting things about making and sharing any kind of art is the reaction you get from your audience. Sometimes the difference between an artist’s espoused intent and viewers’ perceptions has led to conflict (I think of Serrano or, more recently, Renee Cox). Other times, it can provide illumination of certain themes the artist him- or herself may have overlooked. Thus, in my case, a friend’s observation that Sexless is a book about the search for community. It’s not exactly how I have been describing the book, but once she put it that way, I saw her point.

If your experience is anything like mine, one of the reasons you long for relationship and/or marriage may be a desire to put down roots and establish some kind of solidity in your community. Since not even most of our job commitments last more than a few years, marriage is probably one of the last remaining relational contracts we enter with the expectation — or at least hope — of relative permanence. Lacking such agreements, one’s social life can feel as stable as several unconnected buoys sharing little more than proximity. If the water gets choppy, they can’t provide any ballast to each other. Personally, I find that rather stressful — one of the reasons I try to maintain relationships with more than just my fellow single professionals.

Thankfully, I attend a church made up of many young families, couples and students. While we’re still working on the gray-haired contingent, at least we have some relational diversity. In the interest of trying to foster more community among we single folk, though, a few of us have also started organizing monthly socials that aim to foster more community than romance. We find that by keeping things open to both single folks and young married couples, and providing a low-key structure for each event, it provides a safe place to interact with those in a similar life stage, without things slipping into a yucky “meet market” atmosphere.

It’s also been a great way to come together for a purpose greater than just our own relational needs. One month the event was a beer benefit for cancer research; next month we hope to find a venue for holiday-related service of some sort. While all these events have been based on the local calendar, this month the cause is human trafficking, and the event that we’re supporting is the release of a movie you too can attend, if you live in Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Nashville, Orange County, Portland, Redwood City, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle or Washington, DC.

That movie is Call+Response, a groundbreaking rockumentary that uses songs by musicians such as Moby, Matisyahu, Imogen Heap, Natasha Bedingfield and others — as well as interviews with the likes of Cornel West and Madeline Albright — to expose the world’s multi-billion dollar human trafficking industry.

Personally, I’ve found the numbers a little overwhelming until recently, when I read an excellent four-part series from the San Francisco Chronicle, that followed one young Korean woman’s journey into debt and then prostitution in Los Angeles and San Francisco, after she was trafficked. You Mi’s story — set in city blocks I walk near or through almost every day — really made this issue real for me.

If you live in one of those cities, and go see Call+Response this weekend, your ticket could help propel the film to a deal for national distribution. If you don’t live in one of those cities, tell friends who do about it. And no matter where you live, visit to learn how you can join the 21st abolitionist movement.

For unmarried people in the church, the shape of relational life and commitments may look a bit different than it does for married people, but our call to lives of service and self-sacrifice is no different. If we focused more of our energy on the needs of others than on the sex and intimacy we’re lacking at present, who knows how much such service could do for our loneliness and longing for community? Whether it’s doing your part to fight human trafficking, or volunteering to babysit for friends who won’t be able to have a date night without you, a role for you is out there. Find it, and you may receive far more than you give.

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