Marc Angenent is never without someone to talk to. He talks to God as easily as he would to the cashier at his supermarket. The day he asked God the burning question he was on a blue bus, line eight to be exact. The minister was on his way to his Protestant church in the center of Utrecht, Holland for his Sunday sermon. His question that day: "Dear God, what's your take on eroticism?"
God, Angenent says, said nothing.
Minister Angenent is a firm believer. He was sure he was on the same page as God when it came to eroticism. God made bodies and with them came lust. Why then were so many believers unsure?
Marc Angenent is 56 years old, a Christian with a gray beard and gray eyes. He lives in a brick house south of Utrecht. As he answers the door, he steps over 20 boxes of dildos ready for shipping, which he stores in his narrow hallway.
Angenent sends erotic goods on demand: condoms, gels to protect against premature ejaculation, dildos, prostate stimulators, erection rings and more. The battery-powered, 22-centimeter-long purple silicone "Iris" vibrator, at €99.95, is currently his best selling product. His Christian website Liefdestuin.nl or "Love Garden" has been live for four weeks now. With it, Marc Angenent is conducting a private crusade against lust phobia.
No to Whips, Yes to Lubricant
Before he set up his business, Angenent sat on his sofa with his laptop on his knee and clicked from one erotic shop to another to find out what kind of products he should include in his inventory. Latex? Leather? Whips? Lubricant?
No to whips, yes to lubricant. And he also decided to take orders. Any request he gets, he simply orders from his supplier. It's profitable, he says. But for him it's not about the money. What's important is his mission: Lust.
His Free Church is an open community, says Angenent, who was a minister for 23 years. Every Sunday he used to stand in front of his congregation in jeans and a sweater. The congregation was young: baptisms more common than funerals.
When Minister Angenent visited members of his congregation at home, he would ask questions other ministers didn't. He sat perched on kitchen chairs of people he barely knew and looked into nervously darting eyes. He would take a sip of tea and ask: do you have a satisfying sex life?
Many were grateful for his directness. They told him they were no longer having sex and when they did, it was boring. Marc Angenent counseled them to try something new, to allow lust into the equation. He knew from experience what helped. He had married his wife Heleen in 1976. They were only in their early twenties and they weren't really satisfied -- until they started to act out all of their lustful desires. No more sticking to the missionary position for them.
No Naked or Pornographic Images
Angenent had already been a minister for quite some time when he began his training to become a sex therapist. In the winter of 2011 his first patient, a pilot, sat at the glass table in his living room. He was a good-looking young man wearing shades, someone who could set a woman's heart flying as high as he could a Boeing. He suffered from erectile dysfunction. Marc Angenent told the pilot to stop demanding top performance of himself all the time. A penis wasn't an airplane: a delayed take-off wasn't a disaster.
Angenent encountered a variety of sexual problems, from the pilot who wanted to perform like the men in porno films to Christians, who thought sex was something dirty. One married Catholic couple wrote Marc Angenent a despairing email. They hadn't slept together for five years. They thought they could only sleep together when they wanted to conceive a child. That's how they interpreted the Humane Vitae, the papal dictate of 1968. Angenent decided that he wouldn't just help those that came into his living room.
Recently he's given up his post as minister. He has now found his true calling as a sex therapist and on the side he has his erotic business. His decision not to stock whips and fetish articles is not meant to be prescriptive. He just didn't want to shock the Christian community. That's also why he doesn't show naked men and women or pornographic images on his website.
Online Angenent has an even bigger flock of followers than before. He has received grateful emails as well as those spewing hate, claiming that he is possessed by the devil. But from God, Angenent says, he hasn't received any such messages.