Photo by Amber Chen/ THE CHIMES
(This story was originally published in print on Feb. 14, 2019).
The smell of melted chocolate consumed the air as students filed into the Alpha Hall lobby to receive a sweet treat and have their relationship questions answered.
In anticipation of Valentine’s Day, Alpha’s residence life staff hosted the event “Sex & Chocolate” on Feb. 12, which was put on in conjunction with the Center for Marriages and Relationships. The conversation involved eight panelists in different stages of relationships—married, engaged and single—answering anonymous text-in questions from the audience. The community created a space to talk about sex, masturbation, shame, loneliness, dating and love.
INTIMACY WITHOUT SEX
During the event, a question came from the audience about building intimacy without sex.
“There’s a saying that goes sex really is only 10 percent of your relationship, but, oh, what a 10 percent. But that still leaves the other 90 percent of your relationship, and where you build that is there are a lot of different ways but we all have deep-seeded emotional needs,” said CMR co-director Alissa Grace in the panel.
Alissa Grace shared that intimacy also comes from meeting those emotional needs. This happens by building communication and learning a partner’s likes and dislikes, love languages, dreams and fears. Intimacy, she said, occurs when couples embrace their vulnerability together and even the mundane, such as how a partner likes their sandwich.
INSECURITIES AND SHAME
Chris Grace, CMR director and associate professor of psychology, also served on the panel with Alissa Grace, his wife of 30 years. Together, they spoke about dealing with physical insecurities in a relationship as well as handling shame from sexual sin.
“If you messed up even before, I’m going to tell you something, that is a lie of Satan that you got to get rid of, that you are somehow busted or flawed or broken… That’s your enemy,” Chris Grace said during the event. “You are forgiven, and you are loved. And [God] cares for you, and you are his child, and that sin is gone. It’s wiped away, and when you keep bringing that back, you keep fishing for something that he throws as far as the east is from the west.”
While Chris Grace acknowledged asking “taboo” questions on campus can be somewhat nerve-wracking, the anonymity allowed for students to openly ask and have their deeper questions answered about pursuing a godly relationship.
“For me, it’s all about creating a safe environment, where you can talk about things that can be somewhat vulnerable, and it just leads to stronger community. I think one thing we talked about was shame hides, and the way you break shame is to talk, and you do it through community,” Chris Grace said.
Building a community of vulnerability can allow for students to know that they are not alone in questions according to Lexi Stefani, resident advisor in Alpha East and senior political science major.
“I hope people [walked] away from this more comfortable with asking questions and just realize the scope of questions that people have, and just generally how we can glorify God in relationships,” Stefani said.