Amy Frykholm, See Me Naked: Stories of Sexual Exile in American Christianity (Boston, Beacon Press, 2011), 200pp.
Why do Christians have such a hard time talking about sex? What, if anything, does sex have to do with our spiritual lives? How and why has the Church failed to help Christians integrate sexuality and faith?
Amy Frykholm, associate editor for The Christian Century, and author of Rapture Culture (2004) and Julian of Norwich: a Contemplative Biography (2010), explores these difficult questions in her 2011 book, See Me Naked. She argues that the Church has had a long history of denigrating the human body (especially the female body), tacitly condoning sexual exploitation and abuse, and refusing to weave human sexuality into the whole fabric of spiritual and religious life.
The results, Frykholm suggests, have been tragic. By way of explanation, she offers detailed life narratives of nine American Protestants who have found themselves in “exile” because of sex. In their own voices (albeit mediated through Frykholm, via extensive interviews), these men and women delve into a range of topics related to sexuality, faith, and the body. Among them are premarital sex, abstinence, queer desire, pornography, prostitution, anorexia, sex addiction, and sexual abuse. Some are stories of dwelling in the lonely “wilderness” beyond church walls. Others are about “Incarnation,” — the reuniting of body and soul into an integrated religious life. And still others explore “Resurrection”— the movement out of trauma and into a new life that blesses others.
Each story combines personal experience and theological wrestling, and offers a powerful critique of American Christianity’s anemic and even harmful approach to sexual formation, pleasure, and fulfillment. Frykholm’s main argument is that the Church needs to move past its fear-based, rule-bound, and consumerist approach to sex, and embrace human sexuality for what it is: a beautiful and God-sanctioned vehicle for the holy.
Frykholm’s book is not only impressive; it’s essential. An essential entry point for any church, religious community, or clergy that desires to move past rules and taboos and bring sex home from its long exile in the wilderness.