A couple of weeks ago, I gave an interview to The Irish Sun in the build up to Like A Virgin, a documentary about sex and virginity airing on Network 2 on Thursday, November 7th. When the article came out yesterday, I gave it a read and, though I wasn’t overjoyed with it, I felt ok about it. Over the next couple hours, however, it begin to nag at me. When I went back to it, I realised that, though most of the quotes are accurate, they imply things that I didn’t and, depending on the tone with which one reads them, make me sound like someone I hope that I’m not … a judgmental douchebag.
I understand the reaction a lot of people have had: ‘It’s the Irish Sun. What did you expect?’ But, though I can see their point, my experience of the interview was not what you would expect. I found the interviewer to be engaging and insightful with good follow up questions and a real desire to understand my perspective – and I want to give her the benefit of the doubt.
One reason for the misrepresentation, as in any situation, may be that I misrepresented myself. I’m not always as articulate as I like to think.
Another reason may be that it’s hard to boil any 40 minute conversation down to a few hundred words without losing some of the tone, subtlety and nuance.
Finally, I may just be over-sensitive to how parts of the article are written because I live in the constant tension of being part of the language and perspective of a Christian subculture in Ireland while also hoping to communicate and embody my faith in a relevant and compelling way to Irish people who don’t live in that world.
So here are my clarifications:
1. Quote: He’s an attractive, successful and red-blooded 30-year with a girlfriend of three years – but Scott Evans is not your typical Irish bloke.
Clarification: It should be pretty clear that I didn’t say this … but I just want you to know that I didn’t say it.
Attractive? I’d say that's pretty generous.
Successful? That’s definitely an overstatement.
Red-blooded? Scientifically true ... though I wouldn’t exactly put it on my Twitter bio.
2. Quote: Scott and his girlfriend have been in a relationship for over three years. They enjoy intimacy and foreplay, but never go as far as full intercourse.
Clarification: I never said the words ‘foreplay’ or ‘full sexual intercourse' because they’re not descriptions I would use and can be taken to mean a variety of things. I have no problem saying that there is a physical side to our relationship and that we have established boundaries that we’re comfortable with. Words like ‘foreplay’ and ‘full sexual intercourse’, however, put a completely different story in the mind of the reader, something that I find really frustrating.
One of the things that I want to be clear about is that I’m not interested in the ‘How far is too far?’ conversation. When youth leaders or pastors give specific examples of this, their answer often just becomes a yardstick for people to judge themselves and others. It stops people from having to talk about these boundaries and the values that define them. It can so easily become another rule by which we live rather than a growth process of understanding our hearts, weighing our consciences and measuring them against our values.
3. Quote: I have had orgasms before and I’ve had a couple close calls – it’s not like my life is the Irish version of 7th Heaven.
Clarification: Anyone who has read Closer Still will know that I have no problem discussing my story in terms of struggles with lust, masturbation and pornography and I had no problem discussing the area of orgasms in these interviews. I just want to point out that this was the answer to a question … I didn’t start a section of the conversation by busting out with ‘I HAVE HAD ORGASMS’ … as hilarious as that would have been.
For the record, the close calls that I’m talking about were from my teenage years when I was less sure about the decision I was making and whether or not I wanted to.
Finally, my apologies for using a cultural reference to 7th Heaven. It’s a 90’s TV show – for those of you too young to remember – and it really shows my age.
4. Quote: Irish society is very judgmental when it comes to sex. I think we went from living under the thumb of the hyper-controlling Catholic Church to this sexual liberation which means we can do whatever we want now without thinking about it. But if we’re sexually free in a physical way, I certainly don’t think we are emotionally free when it comes to sex.’
Clarification: I believe that my actual words were ‘under the thumb of the hyper-controlling Catholic Church of the 50’s and 60’s.’ I don’t want anyone to think that this is what I believe about the Catholic Church in Ireland today because it’s not. Some of the most exciting ministry partnerships I have at the moment are with Catholic priests and lay people doing amazing work.
The point that I was making is that the pendulum has swung from sexual repression in the name of religion to sexual liberation in the name of progress and enlightenment. What I feel both extremes are lacking is an open, vulnerable and holistic conversation about what we believe sex to be. Is it just physical? Is it emotional? Is it spiritual? What do we believe and why? And how can we come to make healthier decisions around sex that flow from deeply held, well-informed value systems?
5. Quote: I don’t want to be a role model, I don’t want to force my opinions on anyone, I just want to make healthy decisions for myself.
Clarification: I do want to be a role model … of sorts. I want to be a role model as someone who is deeply weighing up their thoughts and beliefs around sex (and everything in life) in order to make the best decisions. I don’t want to be a role model in terms of people copying my decisions without thinking them through. That’s just as destructive as the extremes I was talking about above. In short, I don’t want to be a role model for a different lifestyle. I want to be a role model for a different conversation.
6. Quote: A big gang of us meet up at the Holy Trinity Church in Rathmines regularly, about 120 of us, with an average of probably around 25. We just talk and play music and have some fun. We also go out together, and it can be a situation of falling home at three or four in the morning. I would be lying if I didn’t admit to having a few late nights in Copper Faced Jack’s, but we look after each other and we try to keep our lives in balance, and drink for the right reasons like socialising and not making drunkenness an excuse for something.
This (and the ‘foreplay’ misquote) are the bits of the article that I am most frustrated about. This was a few minutes of conversation boiled down into three sentences that completely give the wrong impression.
Firstly, we do meet up regularly … because we ARE a church. Holy Trinity is a really exciting fresh expression of church that I’m delighted to be a part of.
Secondly, we don’t ‘just talk, play music and have some fun.’ My point was that our church service is stripped down to music, someone giving a talk and enjoying conversation over tea and coffee before and after the service.
Thirdly, many of us from the church will go out together on nights out. My point was that it’s not with the intention of falling home at 3 or 4 in the morning … because I’m worried that people will take ‘falling home’ to mean ‘drunkenly staggering’. The point I was trying to make was that, as Christians, we don’t seek to live ascetic lives of disconnection from our world, culture and community. We enjoy partying and a good night out and many of us are fine with having a couple drinks. What we seek to avoid is using alcohol to numb pain, to ignore internal issues or to excuse things we wouldn’t do sober.
Finally, much to my shame, I’ve had a few late nights out in Coppers … but I don’t want that to bring shame to my church community! I was young and foolish when I believed that Coppers was the place to be.
Thanks for reading the clarifications here (even if you haven’t read the article). I’m still really nervous about the documentary that comes out on Thursday. From what I gather, my section is about eight minutes long … but we shot over two hours of footage … So I’ve no idea what will be included and what won’t. My prayer is that it comes out right and that I didn’t make any outrageous mistakes …
Here’s my biggest fear:
Finally, don't forget you can download the audiobook of Closer Still here. (Scroll to the bottom of the link.)