Ethos Education

No Strings Attached: Can love and sex be separated?

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Learning Objectives:

  • Understanding of a Christian view of what sex is and what it is for.
  • Awareness of different Christian views of pre-marital sex.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect upon the implications of ignoring one part of a recipe.
  • Evaluate the merits and disadvantages of treating sex solely as a physical act, without reference to emotions or commitment.
  • Analyse Bible passages to determine Christian understandings of the relationship between sex and marriage.
  • Synthesise learning by writing a continuation of a scene from the film No Strings Attached.


Ask the students to make a list of all the things that they would need if they were going to make a pizza, and list them on the board as they are suggested. Once they have finished, ask what would happen if you were to try to make the pizza if you took out the dough (if, as is quite possible, nobody thought to suggest dough or some kind of alternative base, then this illustration will work even more effectively). Point out that all the toppings would dissolve into a gooey mess on the bottom of the oven, the pizza would be impossible to eat and all the tasty toppings would be wasted. If you want to reinforce the concept, you could break the class into small groups, giving each group the task of thinking of something else (not necessarily edible) which fails to work if you take out one essential ingredient. If you use the group work, allow the groups to feedback and make sure that you reinforce the main point of the exercise as they do so.

Explain that in this lesson you are going to be thinking about sex (there’s probably a joke in here about teenage boys, but we are far too classy to mention it). Explain that Christians believe that sex without both love and marriage is a bit like the baseless pizza – a horrible mess that falls a long way short of the ideal, and which makes it impossible for people to enjoy things the way they are meant to.


Introduce the first clip from the film No Strings Attached (Paramount, 2011, certificate 15). Click here to buy the DVD from Amazon.

Explain that Adam (Ashton Kutcher) and Emma (Natalie Portman) are childhood friends who bump into each other at a party and begin a casual sexual relationship. Ask the students to pay particular attention to the deal they agree on in the clip, and to reflect on what the students see as the positives and negatives of that deal.

  • Start time:     0.31.09 (in chapter 5 of the DVD)
  • End time:      0.33.11
  • Clip length:   2 minutes and 2 seconds

The clip starts with Adam and Emma in bed. Start showing the clip after Adam rolls over towards Emma, prompting Emma to say, ‘We probably shouldn’t snuggle’. If you start before this, you will include a post-coital discussion of their sex, which would almost certainly be inappropriate and unhelpful for a classroom setting. The clip ends after Adam sees Emma to her car and tells a passing dog-walker about their ‘friends who have sex’ arrangement. The last line is the dog-walker saying, ‘That’s not possible.’

Ask the students whether or not they agree with the dog-walker – is it impossible for two friends to use each other for sex without feelings developing and getting in the way? What do the students see as the plusses and minuses of the arrangement that Adam and Emma have come to?

Encourage the students to see the pitfalls and disadvantages of the arrangement, and explain that the theory can only work if sex is seen as a physical act with no direct connection to emotions or to commitment. Point out that many professional health workers would have a difficulty in separating the physical and the emotional connection inherent in the sexual act

Explain to the class that this is a subject where Christians, even within individual denominations, will hold a variety of views. Nevertheless, the traditional Christian perspective goes further (so to speak) than many others in regards to sexual behaviour. Not content with seeing sex as belonging within committed relationships, traditionally Christians have seen the proper home of sex to be within a marriage. Certainly, most Christians would agree that marriage represents God’s ideal context for sex, and the development of Christians endorsing sexual activity outside of marriage is a relatively recent one, historically speaking. The key to understanding the Christian point of view is wrapped up in the teaching that when a man and woman unite sexually they become ‘one flesh’. That is to say, Christians believe that there is a bonding that takes place in sexual union which is permanent, and which is designed to only occur within a committed, life-long exclusive relationship. This is described in the Old Testament (Genesis 1: 28) and is then restated by both Jesus (Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9) and Paul (1 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 5:30-32). Christians believe that the purpose of this one flesh relationship is to promote the benefit of both partners.

Give out Bibles and read through 1 Corinthians 6:12-7:12 with the class (or have them read it for themselves). Split the class into small groups and ask each group to work together to draw out from the passage reasons to support the Christian belief that sex should be exclusively carried out within marriage.


Ask the students to write a continuation of the scene from No Strings Attached. Ask them to write a discussion between Adam and the dog-walker, where the dog-walker is a committed Christian who seeks to explain his understanding of the nature of sex and the appropriate context for it.


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