Why Atheists Say “God” When They Have Sex
This NSFW post is part of the blog book tour for Greta Christina’s book of erotic short stories, Bending. Also, this was more than partially inspired by Chelsea Cain’s reading of her story on Bitch Magazine’s Popaganda podcast.
Once upon a time, a veiled girl grew into a decidedly bare-headed young woman. As criticisms based on sexual pleasure were usually levied against, rather than by, the religious, she paid attention when religious folk criticized atheism in that way. Namely, certain theists claimed that without taboo, sex couldn’t possibly be as much fun. If they had been serious, she would have pointed out that the argument was the more benign cousin of the notion that sex is only good and healthy within the confines of monogamous, heterosexual marriage (her old religious, pedantic habits had yet to truly die).
As they were generally being playful, her mind went in a more pleasant direction. This isn’t to say that all of her religion-tinged sexual memories were good ones. She felt no goosebumps on her skin, just a wry smile playing upon her lips, when she recalled how her first partner once insisted she wear a headscarf during sex. She ended up feeling overheated and annoyed, not aroused. Darker were her memories of a tortured adolescence, one where an injunction against masturbation was delivered to her all too late to break the habit but soon enough to instill guilt. Flick, fret, flick, fret.
But she didn’t want to dwell on that. She recalled how lovely it was to feel the gentle warmth of the spring sunshine on the back of her neck and shoulders as she awaited a date for the first time. The accompanying breeze added to the tingling already coursing its way up and down her spine as she waited for her date to show up. Later, the fear of being caught fed the hunger with which her mouth tore into the one against it as the movie credits rolled.
Suddenly, she realized that she hadn’t violated a sexual boundary in years. Well, fuck, she thought. How could she get her spine to tingle like that again? She had no boundaries left that weren’t truly based on ethical considerations. Her feminism couldn’t provide any for her, either, since it was intersectional and sex-positive. It was clear that she needed to go on a quest for answers.
She first asked a hedonist, who said that she should just relax and enjoy it. She did so, and it was good, but not good enough. She next asked a philosopher, who said that she could always attempt to set up universal rather than contextual ethics. Such rules, the philosopher declared, were bound to lead to actions that could be considered wrong at some point (drowning babies, amirite?). Try as she might, though, she could not feel that she had willfully broken any meaningful rules. The same thing happened when she attempted to follow the advice of the kinkster who told her to set up power exchange rules with her partner. While the games were great fun, she could ultimately control the situation and opt out at any point. The next person she asked, a sex worker, told her to feed off of the invariably married clients’ deep wellspring of cheaters’ remorse, but the impersonal nature of the transactions enforced too much of a distance for that to work. At her wits’ end, she finally asked a therapist, who said that just as she had eliminated rather than accommodated her god-shaped hole, she needed to destroy her guilt-and-shame-shaped hole.
“But,” she pleaded. “I worked so hard to fill that god-shaped hole! And really, part of what plugged it was the shameless, sin-free sex!”
“Indeed,” nodded the therapist sagely. “Welp, time’s up, and I’m on vacation for the next two weeks, but feel free to book with me for after that.”
Drat, thought the young woman. What now?
Never one to Hamlet her way out of sex, she found her sweat mingling with another’s not too long after the therapy session. Hoping to fuck her way to the elusive thrill with the most intense sex she could muster in herself (and coax out of her partner), she let herself go. She swallowed and was swallowed, touched and was touched, pounced and was pounced upon, bit and was bitten. At the very height of her pleasure, she cried, “Oh, God, yes!”
Suddenly, the sheets at which she clutched were a deeper red, all that she was pressing into her lover and what her lover was pressing into her felt heartbreakingly beautiful, and the eerie light from the monitor that provided the only illumination in the room threw everything into sharp focus.
Maybe it was the fact that she was taking a deity’s name in vain in the throes of decidedly heathenish sexual congress. Maybe it was the naughty recollection that saying “God” was safer than saying a name, since it would be all too easy for her to moan the wrong one. Perhaps it was the implicit deification of her partner (“god” rather than “God”) or of the sex itself. It could have even been the very meaninglessness of what she was crying out.
Whichever way it might turn out to be, it felt great.
Well pleased, she spread the word as far and as wide as she could. After all, she argued, the non-religious should be able to do whatever ethical things that they needed to do to get there. What was the harm in invoking a non-existent being? Others heard her words, and some tried it out, and for many, it wasn’t good — it was great.
And that’s why, to this day, more than a few atheists say “God” when they have sex.