Christian Rock Thursdays: DC Talk don’t want your sex

DC Talk might be the most successful evangelical Christian group ever. Their 1995 album Jesus Freak sold two million copies in the US alone. And, if I might have a Christian rock hipster moment here, I liked them before they were famous.

Still, I was recently reminded (by an amusing list called “Top 10 Christian songs that also work as parodies of Christian songs“) of DC Talk’s all-time low point, “I Don’t Want It”.

Lyrics

Yo, s-e-x is a test when I’m pressed
So back up off with less of that zest
Impress this brotha with a life of virtue
The innocence that’s spent is gonna hurt you
Safe is the way they say to play, then again safe ain’t safe at all today
So, just wait for the mate that’s straight from God
and don’t have sex ’til you tie the knot

(This rap was so good they included it in the song twice)

Everyone [here meaning “all the people I grew up with”] knows [here meaning “was indoctrinated to believe”] that your ‘purity’ is the most precious gift you can give your spouse. Because they care so much about their fans, DC Talk wrote a song to help them stay pure: playing “I Don’t Want It” to a potential suitor is a foolproof way to ensure you don’t get laid.

God, this song was so embarrassing. I was eight when this album, Free At Last, came out. I was in Year 4;  kids at my school got sex education when they were in Years 5 and 6. I didn’t know much about sex but I’d heard playground whisperings and I was curious as hell. So this song was both weirdly titillating (in a pre-pubescent sort of way) and utterly cringeworthy. It’s a bit over four minutes long, but the CD came with a sensor that could tell when a parent was listening and make the song fifteen times longer.

I remember telling a friend at school about this song I had that WAS ABOUT SEX!!!! I don’t think that’s necessarily the effect DC Talk intended, but when information about sex was at a premium, “I Don’t Want It” appealed to my prurient interest.

Particularly amusing (with hindsight) is the song’s breakdown (at 2:50) which goes:

I don’t. WANT. IT.
I don’t. WANT. IT.
I don’t WANT IT
your SEX for NOW

Whatever musical genius was hired to mix this track, they decided to pan every other word hard left and right, so if you listen with just the left headphone (or you turn your stereo’s balance control hard left) you hear:

I WANT
I WANT
I WANT
YOUR SEX FOR NOW.

This, of course, was the era of True Love Waits and the Purity Ring. The lyrics to this song hint at the message that I received loud and clear in my teens: If you’re not pure, you will spoil your chances of future happiness. Not only will you cause short term pain, but your future marriage will not be the pure and holy thing God intended. By having sex now, you’re cheating on your future spouse AND ruining your own chances of happiness.

For many people, this will deprive them of the opportunity to enjoy mutually fulfilling sexual relationships. For others, it’s much worse. According to RAINN, someone is sexually assaulted in America every two minutes, and 44% of those are under 18. Imagine what the purity culture message does to someone who’s been raped.

I still know a lot of evangelicals. They’ll say here that I’m twisting their words. They would tell a rape victim that it wasn’t their fault, that Jesus will wash everything white as snow and make everything brand new. For the victim, they have only good news.

Perhaps. Of course, they might also say that it is sin that takes out of the hedge of God’s protection. So even though the rapist is undoubtedly to blame for the rape, if the victim hadn’t sinned, this wouldn’t have happened to them.

Even if they don’t say that, it’s still quite likely that a teenage rape victim in a youth group will then attend dozens of youth rallies where the preachers will say again and again how vital purity is, how much better your marriage will be if you wait, how many blessings there are for those who remain virgins until their wedding night. At the very least, there are mixed messages.

And then the kicker: if you look at someone with lust in your heart, that is the same as committing adultery, according to Matthew 5:28. Just hitting puberty? Good news: You now face ten years of crushing guilt, followed by a hasty marriage because it is better to marry than to burn with lust.

If you want to wait until you’re married to have sex, great. But when people say that’s what they want, I’m always skeptical. I suspect you’ve been fed propaganda about damaging effects of sexual relationships. This propaganda is robbing you of the possibility of some of the greatest mutually pleasurable experiences humans can have. It’s stopping you from experiencing something that feels physically incredible and experiencing a connection with another human.

“I Don’t Want It” is the kind of propaganda I’m talking about. When DC Talk sang “The innocence that’s spent is gonna hurt you”, that was a lie, and I’m sure it influenced kids to miss out.

The lie that ‘spent innocence’ can hurt you can act as a self-fulfilling prophecy, though. One of my best Christian friends was, by our absurdly conservative standards, slutty. And she felt shitty about herself. Last time we went out for drinks, she told me that every guy she’d kissed was a bit more baggage she was carrying around with her. There’s no reason it needed to be that way. She hadn’t done anything wrong. If she wanted to kiss boys, or more (and clearly she did), she should have enjoyed it. Instead, she was wracked by guilt. She’d been told, by songs like this, that she was sinning, and this would come between her and God, and one day between her and her husband.

She’d been told the way she acted was sin. So she felt like a sinner.


Before they were cool. DC Talk in 1991.

Before they were cool. DC Talk in 1991.

By the way, DC Talk also did the original version of ‘Nu Thang‘. That, in turn, led to this video, which sums up Christian rock:

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About jonnyscaramanga

I grew up as a Christian fundamentalist in the UK. Now I am writing a book and blog about what that's like, and what fundamentalists believe.

Posted on October 2, 2014, in Atheism, Christian rock, Christianity, Fundamentalism and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. Horrible irony: When I was still extremely sheltered, I saw classmates in DCTalk shirts, which had a different artistic style from the other band shirts I saw around.

    Except for one band: Nine Inch Nails.

    For a couple years, having not listened to either band, I was under the impression that NIN was a Christian band.

    • I think I briefly thought this too.

      I guess that’s because Christian music adverts always carried “Recommended if you like:” comments.

      “Stryper: Recommended if you like Poison” etc etc.

      And I remember one band being RIYL Nine Inch Nails, and being as I hadn’t figured out that those comparisons were usually for secular bands, I assumed NIN were Christian.

      Since Christian bands usually have some kind of Biblical reference in their name, I figured that the nine-inch nails must have been used to crucify Jesus.

  2. I had completely forgotten about this band. I can’t believe that I listened to that at a young age. It took nearly a decade to overcome that type of messaging…but I definitely thought they were the bomb-diggity at the time.

  3. By the time I got into CCM as a teen, DC Talk were long gone, and TobyMac was doing his own solo act. I knew people who loved him, especially the song “City on Our Knees”, but I thought he was cheesy even then.

    I liked Third Day and Casting Crowns as well as the praise and worship stuff like Chris Tomlin and Matt Redmond.

  4. This is a harmful message to send; that if you’ve ‘given it up’ to a guy that you’re somehow damaged goods. The song comes across as if guys don’t want sex and girls are throwing themselves at guys. That’s not usually how that happens.

    It’s such a double standard because, while purity is preached at both sexes, guys aren’t generally made to feel like they’re somehow used up or second-hand thrift store cheap if they’ve lost their virginity. Now, if they have, how did they accomplish that without some girl being willing? Then suddenly she’s used up.

    • Great to hear from you again Ruth. I totally agree.

    • I never got the sexist tones. I can see it happens, but for me as a horney 20-something struggling with the issues, I felt filthy dirty and unclean. It never entered my mind that the mechanics of sex somehow made it easier or less bad for the man.

      That aside, when I look back i can see just how damaging this message was. As a young adult I was bombarded with the don’t have sex message. When I started dating the future Mrs limey we constantly felt guilty and frustrated because we were not allowed to act on our feelings. We often felt we were being pre judged for even thinking about doing it.

      There was very little positivity given us about intimacy. It’s hardly a wonder sex became an unhealthy issue later in our marriage. I look around now and I don’t think the church’s message has changed much.

      That actually makes me angry.

      • I can see it happens, but for me as a horney 20-something struggling with the issues, I felt filthy dirty and unclean. It never entered my mind that the mechanics of sex somehow made it easier or less bad for the man.

        You are not the first man I’ve heard express this. So perhaps it’s just from a woman’s perspective but it appears that, even outside of the church culture, there’s a lot of slut shaming. Like a woman who is experienced is damaged goods but a man who has experience has ‘come of age’. But within the church culture, itself, I can definitely see what you’re saying. It just feels as if there’s a double-standard that makes it somehow worse for a girl to have lost her virginity. Maybe this stems from the OT law?

        I spoke with a Jewish Rabbi as I was deconverting, and he explained to me that within Judaism, if a woman has lost her virginity it makes her undesirable for marriage, but it is not a sin.

      • Oh yes. Our culture is definitely male skewed. The white wedding dress is evidence of that. I’ve heard a man say he won’t date a woman of she’d been with another man in the previous month. This betrays exactly what you were saying. I have no idea if there are women who feel the same.

        I guess my point was I’m not aware I had any Christian teaching on sex that was similarly skewed. But then being a man I might not even notice! That’s possible I guess 🙂 . Either way the teaching still sucked, sexist or not.

      • I guess my point was I’m not aware I had any Christian teaching on sex that was similarly skewed. But then being a man I might not even notice! That’s possible I guess 🙂 . Either way the teaching still sucked, sexist or not.

        Perhaps being a woman I didn’t notice the shaming of boys in that culture. But, yes, it’s harmful all the way around because either way both sexes are made to feel as if desire in general is a sin.

      • archaeopteryx1

        Our culture is definitely male skewed. The white wedding dress is evidence of that.” – far more significant than the white dress, is the custom of the father giving the bride to the groom – it’s a property transfer.

      • True. I picked the dress example because of the virginity implication and the subject of sex. I remember being at a wedding where the bride wasn’t in white and there were mutterings of “is she or isn’t she?”.

        The ownership issue is interesting, I wonder if we’ve moved past that now. Certainly in the circles I move, I don’t think any man really thinks he owns his wife or daughter. We’ve just kept the traditions of the past. Of course not all cultures are so enlightened.

      • archaeopteryx1

        It’s simple, Ruth, the men who made those rules, didn’t want their girls to have a standard of comparison. A REAL man doesn’t concern himself with such trivialities.

        Then too, there’s the egoism of the whole bloodline thing, which is why Jews have genetic predisposition to certain diseases not found in the general population. Genetic mixing strengthens a population, while inbreeding locks in those genetic abnormalities.

      • It’s simple, Ruth, the men who made those rules, didn’t want their girls to have a standard of comparison. A REAL man doesn’t concern himself with such trivialities.

        Actually I’m going to be a bit more cynical about it. I’m fairly certain those laws are an outdated proprietary disclaimer.

      • Actually, in the fundamentalist circles in America, this ownership idea is still alive and well. The Quiverfull Movement and others of that variety still strongly believe in the notion that daughters are for marrying and bearing children. So she still belongs to her father until he passes ownership to the man of [usually] his choosing.

      • Thanks for the classification. I wonder if here in blighty there are equivalents. I suppose there are. So glad I’m not exposed to them.

  5. archaeopteryx1

    It never fails to amaze me how anyone can think that a god, capable of creating this vast, seemingly endless universe, with all of its wonders, could possibly give a rat’s ass what we do with our sexual organs.

  6. I’ve written a bit about this subject myself, the whole purity movement that is. As a woman, it amazes me that more girls/women don’t realize how truly insulting that whole culture is. It reduces your entire value to your virginity, a.k.a. your sexuality . . . Or should we say lack thereof? Furthermore there are the issues of victim-blaming in relation to rape & abuse as you mentioned. The horrible stories I’ve read about rape & abuse at fundamentalist universities & how the victims were treated is just downright sickening. I really have no tolerance left for this type of culture b/c it’s just so insulting to any woman who has the sense to realize her own worth. Besides if God is so wonderful & all-knowing, how could he begrudge us for enjoying sex when clearly He must have known we would like it?

    • archaeopteryx1

      Besides if God is so wonderful & all-knowing, how could he begrudge us for enjoying sex when clearly He must have known we would like it?

      Which begs the question, if god is a “he,” does he have a penis, and if so, why?

  7. Whilst I cannot defend the terrible lyrics and I have never liked rap anyway, I wholeheartedly disagree with your attack on the ethics behind the DC talk song. The Christian view on sex only within the safe confines of a trusting, lasting, loving, caring environment that marriage was always meant to be, is admirable. Indeed the opposite message most young ‘are indoctrinated by’ through contemporary pop is far more worthy of criticism. The have sex with whoever you want when ever you want culture has resulted millions of teenager pregnancies and abortions and the divorce rate in the UK soaring to nearly 50%. Furthermore many young people I work with are suffering from the emotional trauma of family breakdown and/or the emotional baggage from so many sexual partners and broken relationships and the resulting issues of self harm, depression, even suicide are terrible to witness. Such is the fruit of our so called ‘sexual liberation’!

    • David,

      The facts on teenage pregnancy are actually more interesting: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/vsob1/conception-statistics–england-and-wales/2012/2012-conceptions-statistical-bulletin.html

      In particular, on p5 you can see that the teenage pregnancy has been roughly stable since at least 1990, and in fact fell by about a quarter from 2007 to 2012, so I think it’s a mistake to point at teenage pregnancies as a sign of moral decline.

      I don’t know anything about the young people you work with, but you only have to read this blog (or any of the other many ex-fundamentalist blogs on the Internet) to hear about the debilitating effects of fundamentalist teachings on young people

      • thanks for you reply, I am aware of the statistics but sadly the only reason for the fall in teenage pregnancies over the past 5 years is not sadly because young people have decided to be more restrained in their sexual behaviour but that abortion is now so widely accepted and available that more and more are taking this route after unwanted pregnancies. The increased sexualisation of young people in the UK is undeniable both in terms of sexual activity of teenagers and the age at which young people become sexually active. I know dozens of youth workers across the county where I work, Devon and I know of none, whatever their faith background, that would deny this. Can I ask whether you work amongst young people at all? If not please volunteer at a local youth group and you may well be shocked by what you discover

  8. I’m struck when I read this by the preacyness of the song.

    I mean, do secular songs do this? Are there secular songs that give “advice” or “commands” for a person to follow, like in this song, where it says “So wait until you’re married”? I’m having trouble thinking of many other songs that try to teach morals…unless they’re written for five-year-olds.

    I mean, I hear some bands singing about sex, but I never can’t recall Ozzy or the Rolling Stones ever lyicizing about how “you should have sex, it feels real good.”

  9. ‘Heaven Bound’ remains DC Talk’s opus, in my opinion. That trumpet in the beginning is just so grand.

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