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It’s very weird. I know this culture exists but despite having grown up in a massively fundamental conservative church, my wife and I have never thought it was acceptable to deny the intimacy of marriage. I’m constantly shocked by the fact that my generational peers feel this way or have these issues to discuss.
Thanks for bringing it up, that sort of anti-intimacy based on bad doctrine needs to be rebuked and rebuked hard.
Thank your lucky stars…
Glad I missed growing up in that sub culture. I was raised Presbyterian, and I remember the pastor, who was adored by the congregation, giving a sermon one day about the sin of withholding affection, be it emotional, spiritual or physical (including and especially sexual) from your spouse. He preached on how married men and women each belong to the other, and that withholding yourself from your spouse is sinful. He did clarify that one couldn’t take from the other what wasn’t freely offered, but it was a very direct sermon. And that teaching, along with others preached upon (both by him and by the example my parents set in their marriage), instilled a healthy idea of marriage, not a warped one.
I’ve always viewed the act of intimacy as a communion of the souls and bodies. And why would one want to withhold that from the person you love the most?
Sorry if this is rambling…just my thoughts.
No, good thoughts.
There need to be more sermons like that. Now, I’m not taking 8-part sermon series about this stuff. But at least one sermon every year or two touching upon these themes doesn’t seem too much.
“Sex is to a marriage as water is a garden. It’s life-giving, preserving the vitality that remains strong or reinvigorating what has begun to wither. Yes, it meets physical needs but it’s so much more than that. Sex renews the emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual union between a husband and wife.”
– Excellent stuff there, bro. Good post; to the point and honest.
Thanks, Rich. My hopes are modest but I hope it causes some people to re-think some things.
I can only say that we were counseled based on Paul’s advice in 1 Cor. I have not run into circles where the importance of healthy sexual relationships was not emphasized and encouraged. It is based on mutual respect and consideration. Do you think it is explicitly taught or something that is just not adequately addressed?
BTW that was 40 years ago, but the same advice came up in discussions, marriage conferences, etc. over the years.
That’s an interesting question. It seems to me… and I could be wrong… that it’s not so much what is explicitly taught but what is implicitly taught. Let me give an example.
Growing up in fundamentalist Pentecostal churches, I don’t ever once recall hearing the doctrine of the Trinity taught. Instead what I heard was a lot about the Father in the Old Testament, the Son in the Gospels, and the Spirit in the rest of the New Testament, all of which was framed in a distinctly Dispensational theological schema. The teaching was about the distinctive nature and work of the three.
Result? No one ever taught Onenness Pentecostalism, but I’ll bet you quite a few people were actually Modalists. I know I was. In that case it wasn’t just what was taught and what wasn’t taught adequately, although that’s true, it was how things were emphasized that really taught some unintended stuff. Make sense?
I think the same happens with sex in evangelical churches and evangelical families. Too often fathers tell their sons to keep it in their pants, but they don’t tell them about honoring women, how sex renews a marriage, etc. In this way the emphasize is on what not to do and how it’s wrong. Consequently, sex gets associated with guilt…….
This whole idea of implicit teaching has been a motif in the back of mine for years, by the way.
I haven’t ever had a girlfriend. This is because i was taught, first and foremost to only consider Christian girls.
Christian Girls tend to be frigid. I’ve had a hard time not directing my sense of anger at the class of women as a whole or even the class of Christian women as a whole, when it is in fact the American Evangelical culture which molds them that way.
The girls who do not express themselves frigidly are shunned and punished as over-sexual.
I share your rage. It’s a massive contributing factor to why I’m alone. I don’t have any interest in women who may possibly be one half of a sexlesss marriage. And in this culture, one is given no legitimate way of finding clues about that beforehand. Christian girls are taught to suppress expressions of sexuality so much that You can never know.
“The girls who do not express themselves frigidly are shunned and punished as over-sexual.”
Sadly, that’s very true. For the longest time I’ve felt ashamed of my desires. I have many non-chiristian guy friends who I really like and respect and see as brothers, but no christian ones, because they always think I’m in love with them (and if I was, chill the heck out dude, and take it as a compliment, even if it’s not mutual).
My biggest confusion is how do Christians expect people who have been taught their entire lives that sex is wrong and sinful and any sexual desire must be repressed to suddenly become sex gods and goddesses once they are married? There is something horribly wrong in the way we talk or don’t talk about sex in our churches. Actually the only thing I’ve ever been taught was DON’T!
We have to PRETEND, as loudly as possible, that it’s wrong and sinful and that we don’t do it or think about it.
There are those who believe it, and those who don’t, but those who don’t, they have to pretend like they do. And pretend like you do long enough, and it becomes a part of you.
And of course, I can’t pass up the opportunity to ask if you happen to live in the Phoenix area?
No, I don’t. I actually grew up in Romania, but now live in Germany :). The attitude towards sex and relationships is pretty similar in evangelical churches over the world though, from what I’ve experienced at least.
Yes, there’s a lot of pretending going on in churches and not just when it comes to sex, but that’s the biggest issue. Growing up I was taught to see sex in all it’s forms as the unpardonable sin and to hate myself for having sexual desires and I wondered why God forgot to give me an off-switch button for them. That’s so sad, isn’t it?
Why not use your real name? I’ll be honest. I’ve a different time trusting people who comment on blog posts but don’t have the courage to say who they are.
Also, just telling Leo that his comment isn’t true… Ehhhh. I would instead recommend employing phrases like, “In my experience” or “It seems to me” or “My sense is that.” Don’t invalidate Leo’s experiences because yours differ. Yours may challenge him, which would be good and helpful, but don’t invalidate him. That’s manifestly not good or helpful.
Re-read her comment. She said, “Sadly, that’s very true.” What’s more, she went on to affirm his statements with her own experiences. If you’re going to be belittling of others, it would come across better if you were actually correct about what you were belittling.
Hmm, actually I really appreciated you for the article before your comment… I suppose you were expecting to read judgement and that’s what you saw. I was totally agreeing with Leo here and was sharing a similar experience from a female point of view. But anyways…
And I choose not to disclose my name because I care about my privacy and don’t want my name posted on every website and blog out there, but I’m a real person and no, i don’t know you. I have no idea who you are, I just saw this article posted on a friend’s fb.
and that was actually a reply to carsontclarck, not mrylesampson, sorry for the confusion
Please see my comments above.
Hey. Sorry. I misread the comment and sincerely apologize for doing so. I’ve had a whole lot on my plate recently–it’s some serious stuff–and simply made a mistake in my rush. That’s no excuse, but it is an explanation. Again, I do apologize.
If it helps to know, I’ve received about 20 emails from people who’ve been caustic about this post. I probably unintentionally read that in here, which is unacceptable. My bad.
My sincere apologies. You are right. I misread that. That’s my fault. Again, sorry.
I’m sorry, man. That’s all I can say. Sorry.
Wow Carson. This is bold. I know somebody’s going to be offended but it seems pretty reasonable to me what you’re saying as direct and taboo as it is.
Thanks, man. I appreciate that… I’ve already received a few, eh hem, unpleasant emails.
I think the argument that this is an “Evangelical Sub-Culture” issue probably is too narrow a view of marital problems. It assumes that all marriages (or even most) outside of the sub-culture enjoy romps between the sheets more often and without the same frustration. Incompatible sexual desires are an affliction of all (or maybe most) marriages — though this seems to be an extreme manifestation — which can be caused by biological problems (hormones, blood flow, etc.), psychological problems (previous abuse, misconceptions about sex–at least part of the problem here–,etc.) or maybe she just doesn’t want sex that often.
No doubt, this is a tragic situation. The pain, loneliness, sorrow and subsequent bitterness, anger and hopelessness has gotta be suffocating.
The wife absolutely has a responsibility to her husband but it is never that simple, as evidenced by your post
One last thought:
Re:1 Cor 7 – Your final point on this sounded like a veiled threat something like, “Well, who would blame this guy for finding comfort in pornography, masturbation or an extramarital affair? I mean SHE’s not putting out and hasn’t for a while. SHE’s left him no other recourse.” Men (Christian or not) are not dogs, who unless their needs are satiated, are allowed to defile every poodle and tear up every garden. We have impulse control. Christian men understand that the Gospel frees them to be slaves of Righteousness even under the most harrowing of circumstances, like say, persecution — much less, the sexless marriage. I guess my point is this, a sexless marriage is not responsible for whatever “lack of self-control” he may be considering enacting.
Another word for “lack of self-control” is sin.
It’s not a veiled threat. It is an honest acknowledge that there are consequences to actions or inactions, which I would suggest is precisely why Paul taught what he did in 1 Cor. 7.
Can you show me a text in which Paul condones sin in reaction to less than ideal situations?
Can you show me a text in which Paul says the answer to sin is more sin?
Would you condone the sin of your friend if he had an extramarital affair?
Would you encourage sin in your friends life because his wife didn’t serve him?
Paul isn’t making the argument you’re making. It’s not an absolution of responsibility. Note that Paul says Satan tempts but leaves the responsibility of the sin on the one lacking self-control.
All sin has consequences personally and with others but there is no absolution of sin in response to the initial sin, no matter how painful
I’m more than out of mental, emotional, and physical energy. Time to go to bed. Maybe somebody else will be willing to engage with you. Best of wishes.
Paging Leo Staley… Who I trust to represent my perspective fairly well.
It’s not Evangelica Sub-Culture, is that lady. She just skips some passages from the Bible which do not suit her. The question is, does she want to save her marriage? Does she understand what she does to her husband by keeping him at bay? She’s better read 3 good books on that subject and go to a counselor is she admits loving her husband.
Regarding the advice of the author to talk in details about oral sex I think that is totally out of line, in this way we should settle the angle of the pillow arranged in bed. Let’s face it, marrying someone is taking chances and after 14 years of marriage I am surprised even by myself of what an ugly person I became in some aspects.
Greetings from Romania.
If it’s the lady, why is this a recurring theme among so many ladies who all grew up in the same sub-culture? It seems to me you’re minimizing the realities and complexities of the trend.
Maybe he’d better stop talking to other people and start talking to God. Jesus said “With God nothing shall be impossible” and that includes his wife’s attitude toward sex. It’s astonishing to me how Christians advocate every sort of solution to problems except the prayer closet. But God does hear and answer prayer. If we truly believe that sex in marriage is God’s will, then why are we not encouraging prayer instead of commiserating with someone contemplating divorce, why on earth is this man (and others in the same boat) not laying hold of the promise in 1 John 5:14-15? “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”
Please have the courage to share you full name if you’re going to comment, and especially if you’re doing to make a critical comments. Thank you.
By the way, my friend is a pastor. You’re not giving him the benefit of the doubt in your interpretation of the post. The man prays all the time. It was an unspoken assumption. The conversation ended with my praying for him, bro.
At least I presume you’re a bro by the tone…
I’m sorry, but of all the answers out there, this one is less helpful than most. The world, the church, and probably hell itself are littered with people who prayed desperately for resolution to this and similar problems. Confronting a real hurting person with “just pray about it” makes me at least as mad as Carson was at the beginning of the post. God doesn’t always fix broken people … especially if they don’t think they’re broken or don’t want fixing.
Preach it, my quasi-Anabaptist brotha!
What’s frustrating is what to do about it. Breaking the “sex problems are not the kind of problems you bring to the Church” training is not something done quickly or easily. You (I) have to overcome the assumption that something you’re doing is wrong, because that’s the training. If she isn’t receptive, it’s some need you are not meeting. Even if they scream to the heavens it’s not that, you still feel that way. Because you’re trained that if your wife isn’t happy, it’s your fault because you’re missing her signaled needs.
If you are male and brought up in this same culture, there’s an equally destructive level of training that you aren’t allowed to complain about it.
Sorry I don’t have any great, additional insight for you. I just agree.
I am a late middle-aged woman and I resemble this post – hence the Anonymous posting. I honestly do not hate men and I love my husband with all my heart.
Here’s the deal. Vital parts of our brain that connect our emotions and thoughts develop when we are very small. This is the biological time when we learn to make connections that help us to control our impulses.
I was taught my entire life that the act of sex was the worst thing I could ever possibly do. I am not joking that, at an emotional level, I felt it was equal to or worse than murdering someone.
I was also taught, by word and by example (remembering that I am probably one of the older people posting here) that I was made in the image of the male who was made in the image of God. I was taught that women were unreliable, hysterical, emotional and not to be trusted.
So you feed these two ideas into the female brain from Zero until 25, and our lymbic system is wired to think “I am not quite human and I will be even more subhuman if I have sex.” You don’t just then send me to a pastor or a psychiatrist and tell me to believe that sex is a beautiful and God-given thing and then, alright, I’m eager for sex.
You need an entire cultural change here. The first thing you have to change is the wrong and almost hyperorthodox idea that everyone is always and entirely evil and what is needed is to repress sex at all costs because everyone will want sex the minute the repression is lifted. We know that doctrine damages males as well as females, only in different ways. The high propensity for internet porn among Christian men isn’t only because their wives aren’t having sex with them enough. Same effect, different expression.
Oh, and you guys may not like this, but I don’t think it’s due to anything to do with any teaching: Most women just don’t hard-wire together sex and love. I notice the original post seems to imply that the normative meaning of lack of sex always and everywhere is “lack of love.” I understand you want sex. But you might torture yourselves less if you accept that a woman can love you with all her heart even if she was taught to dislike sex. Take it from Grandma.
Don’t agree with everything, but I do agree with the vast majority. Thanks for sharing.
I feel that I must respond with a couple of articles written some number of years ago. The following quote I think summarizes part 1.
“First, women need to recognize how a man understands a wife’s refusal to have sex with him: A husband knows that his wife loves him first and foremost by her willingness to give her body to him. This is rarely the case for women. Few women know their husband loves them because he givesher his body (the idea sounds almost funny). This is, therefore, usually a revelation to a woman. Many women think men’s natures are similar to theirs, and this is so different from a woman’s nature, that few women know this about men unless told about it.”
” Why would a loving, wise woman allow mood to determine whether or not she will give her husband one of the most important expressions of love she can show him? What else in life, of such significance, do we allow to be governed by mood?
What if your husband woke up one day and announced that he was not in the mood to go to work? If this happened a few times a year, any wife would have sympathy for her hardworking husband. But what if this happened as often as many wives announce that they are not in the mood to have sex? Most women would gradually stop respecting and therefore eventually stop loving such a man.”
The essence of what I am trying to say is that men view this very differently than women. How surprising is that. You are right, there needs to be a cultural change, and it doesn’t happen overnight, and 25 years of indoctrination is very difficult to overcome.
As another Grandma, I am well aware of that “total depravity=sex” mentality. I am also aware of the flexible brain. We may be “wired” in a perverse way, but neurologists are now seeing that brains can in fact be “re-wired.”
Besides the physical brain re-wiring, there is also repentance/mindchanging. I’ve found that repentance can sometimes be a gradual transformation of the mind, rather than the “Damascus Road” “eureka” moment.
Hey carson. I am so sad for your friend. I pray that his marriage is one day healed and that he gets the support he needs to survive this.
To me, perhaps the most distressing sub- phenomenon you have alluded to is that your friend has been trained to blame himself for his wifes behavior. We need to start pastoring our people toward differentiation as part of wholeness in christ. Your friends wife will have to experience the consequences of her choices – not, one hopes, by your friend finding inappropriate sexual fulfillment elsewhere. Your friend will have to decide what those boundaries are, and hopefully have the support to institute them.
Good grief commenting on phone takes forever
“I am so sad for your friend. I pray that his marriage is one day healed and that he gets the support he needs to survive this.”
“To me, perhaps the most distressing sub- phenomenon you have alluded to is that your friend has been trained to blame himself for his wifes behavior.”
“We need to start pastoring our people toward differentiation as part of wholeness in christ.”
“Your friends wife will have to experience the consequences of her choices – not, one hopes, by your friend finding inappropriate sexual fulfillment elsewhere.”
Yep. He’s a good and faithful man. I don’t think he would ever step outside his marriage. But he may end his marriage.
“Your friend will have to decide what those boundaries are, and hopefully have the support to institute them.”
That’s almost exactly how I counseled him… after just listening.
“Good grief commenting on phone takes forever.”
This is why I still rock the flip phone.
Lol. Well husband and I agree that a refusal to have intimacy or to try solving the problem would merit separation. Biblically and emotionally. But thats his call.
I agree with you.
Good thoughts. Sorry for your friend.
I have lots of jumbled thoughts and not much time to organize them, but here are some main ideas.
You know I’m from a conservative group. We stressed sexual purity in all aspects of life (before and during marriage). As a teen, I only heard “don’t do it.” So as a teacher and adult, I decided to stress the positive call of God. “Sex is a great gift from a great God to be used as He outlines” That was met with approval and agreement. Anytime anyone gets unbalanced in a view, like your friend’s wife, parents and church, it’s unhealthy, has disastrous consequences and is just flat wrong.
Second, I’ve only known one or two couples in the situation you described. I’m really surprised to hear there are so many. I do understand, like the lady who posted, how hard it can be, especially for girls (who rightly or not seem to have it drilled into their minds more) to automatically switch thinking from “this is wrong” to “this is right and good.” Even my wife, who had great parents and good teaching, said she had some trouble with that. But, because she knew sex was a gift from God, she overcame that.
Third, not judging your friend at all. But, in our years of marriage counseling, we’ve seen many times that the guy shares some blame. Wives will tell us that before the wedding, he was attentive, romantic, etc.. Now that he’s conquered and won the girl, he moves on to other tasks, forgetting the way he used to treat her. So, sex loses the romance, foreplay, etc.. for the woman and becomes a “slam, bam, thank you mam.” thing for her. Often, this leaves her feeling like a whore and thus not as sexually open to her husband. Men like this would do well to read Song of Solomon too and see what the guy did that made his woman so receptive.
I’m too lazy and don’t have time to look up the studies. But, I remember seeing that committed Christian couples reported having more frequent and much more satisfying sex lives. I believe that is too. Sorry in some cases that other baggage keeps that from happening.
I truly believe what I said earlier that making love is a great gift from a great God. Thanks for trying to help people see that.
I reckon we got a stranger here…
HEY, RICH! Great to hear from you.
As I quite mistakenly misread someone’s comment below and feel terrible about it, I’m going to do my old quotations and reply approach. Sorry for the length.
“Sorry for your friend.”
“I have lots of jumbled thoughts and not much time to organize them, but here are some main ideas.”
“You know I’m from a conservative group.”
“We stressed sexual purity in all aspects of life (before and during marriage).”
“As a teen, I only heard ‘don’t do it.’ ”
“So as a teacher and adult, I decided to stress the positive call of God.”
Well done, my good man!
” ‘Sex is a great gift from a great God to be used as He outlines’ ”
“That was met with approval and agreement.”
Kinda hard to disagree with that much…
“Anytime anyone gets unbalanced in a view, like your friend’s wife, parents and church, it’s unhealthy, has disastrous consequences and is just flat wrong.”
Preach it, Brotha Dolan! … Also your my friend’s father, so perhaps I should go with Fr. Dolan. But then you’re Church of Christ, so the Anglican/Catholic/Orthodox implications would probably would make you feel exceedingly uncomfortable. I’ll stick with Brotha Dolan.
“Second, I’ve only known one or two couples in the situation you described.”
Really? Huh. That surprises me. I know 20. No, literally, 20. I counted.
“I’m really surprised to hear there are so many.”
I’m surprised in the other direction, so I suppose we’re even.
“I do understand, like the lady who posted, how hard it can be, especially for girls (who rightly or not seem to have it drilled into their minds more) to automatically switch thinking from ‘this is wrong’ to ‘this is right and good.’ ”
Yeah, I too understand. I cannot empathize with the female perspective, but I do sympathize and have tried my best to understand in non-judgmental ways… although no undiscerning, either.
“Even my wife, who had great parents and good teaching, said she had some trouble with that.”
“But, because she knew sex was a gift from God, she overcame that.”
And that, right there, is where I think personal responsibility comes in, which is precisely how she responded.
“Third, not judging your friend at all. But, in our years of marriage counseling, we’ve seen many times that the guy shares some blame.”
A pastor made an interesting comment the other day. He said, “Yes, it do ‘take two to tango’ but it also takes two to make it work.” This is where I think discernment comes in. Sometimes–probably even most of the time–there’s enough mistakes to go around. But it seems to me we ought not presume that offhand. Sometimes that’s not the case, and it harms the innocent party when we do. Instead I think we need to do our best to approach each situation with wise discernment and fresh eyes.
“Wives will tell us that before the wedding, he was attentive, romantic, etc.. Now that he’s conquered and won the girl, he moves on to other tasks, forgetting the way he used to treat her.”
Pardon me while my blood boils… That’s true. We’ve all heard it. It just makes me angry. Dude needs to keep responsible for his half of the marriage.
“So, sex loses the romance, foreplay, etc.. for the woman and becomes a ‘slam, bam, thank you mam.’ thing for her.”
“Often, this leaves her feeling like a whore and thus not as sexually open to her husband.”
*somehow shaking head and nodding at same time*
“Men like this would do well to read Song of Solomon too and see what the guy did that made his woman so receptive.”
Preach it again, Brotha Dolan!
“I’m too lazy and don’t have time to look up the studies.”
Man after my own heart
“But, I remember seeing that committed Christian couples reported having more frequent and much more satisfying sex lives.”
Yeah, I’ve heard that. Honestly, I’ve been struggling to reconcile that with my anecdotal experience. There’s some cognitive dissonance there for me.
“I believe that is too.”
I’m open to that possibility… and hope that is indeed the case.
“Sorry in some cases that other baggage keeps that from happening.”
“I truly believe what I said earlier that making love is a great gift from a great God.”
“Thanks for trying to help people see that.”
As an un-married, seriously dating, evangelical woman this roils a lot of insecurities and questions in me. Honestly, (and personally,) it’s difficult to nail down your
sex drive as a completely chaste woman. This is not just a grab-bag
for the guy of what he happens to get, but it’s a possibility that it’s a mystery for her too.
My main question becomes: How do I *not* become that wife?
Repeat “sex is great in marriage” every day? I’m not sure that’s the solution…
Do a lovely book study on Song of Songs? Head knowledge to combat previous churchy threats of damnation. Possibly helpful.
Increasing length & depth of sexual conversations with serious boyfriend (/wait ’til fiance level is reached)?
me, your “engaged tips” reads like wanting all the pluses of having a
girl with sexual experience while still having a virginal, spotless
woman. I can talk about what I’d be willing to try, but I’ve got no clue
if I’ll like it ’til I do. The only things I know about my sexuality
come from borderline experiences I probably shouldn’t have had — are they good,
because I learned important things about myself? Were they sin and
tainted my purity? (Which is actually an ongoing, burning question of mine.) Finding a way to have all of that knowledge without any of the experience sounds wonderful, if you’ve got an action plan for achieving that please share.
An increasing level of
physicality with boyfriend: 1) I kissed kissing hello? 2) Evolving
physicality that increases with relationship depth? Sin/not
sin/good/bad/…confused…/a teenager’s forever question: “how far is too far?” …Also, doesn’t seem to have been a good
measure for the relationship this blog refers to.
self exploration? (i.e. masturbation – your last post.) Perhaps helpful
for human flourishing/perhaps sin/NEVER talked about in church in
relation to woman.
I wish I had good, simple answers for you. I don’t and I’m not going to pretend that I do. My one immediate thought is that, at the very least, it’s good for you to be thoughtfully considering and wrestling through these things. In my experience, engaging ideas is always better and healthier than deflecting ideas.
Adriana, great questions.
As a newlywed with both of us from the evangelical subculture and both having waited until marriage, I can’t offer THE way to do it, but can tell my story.
Basically, we started the relationship with open, honest communication about our past relationships, how far we went, and where we wanted the relationship to go (marriage, potentially). We also went into it expecting increasing physical affection going up to marriage. One of us wanted to go faster than the other, but we talked it through and generally deferred to the one who wanted to go slower. Talking about sexpectations (sexual expectations) is pretty important during the engagement, and you’ve got to be on the same page about how much, what kind, etc., but it’s good not to get into toooo much detail until veeeery close to the wedding, or it makes things harder. Basically being flexible with each other, willing to try things out, not being grossed out by experimentation, and willingness to be vulnerable (aka look foolish) in front of your significant other are all key. A sense of humor also helps; be willing to laugh at yourself and each other all in good fun.
And above all, a desire to please the other: if you think oral sex, feeling up, or whatever is weird or uncomfortable, simply being willing to endure strange sensations to pleasure the other speaks volumes. Self-sacrifice occurs IN the bedroom, too; being other-centered is the glue that holds the whole relationship – and really all of Christian life – together. Such are my thoughts, hope they’re helpful.
Look for really good sex-positive Christian resources and authors, like Sheila Wray Gregoire and Shannon Etheridge.
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Carson, while I completely agree with your basic premise that Christian teaching on sex (it’s dirty, don’t, don’t even think about it, etc.) is way out of line and leads to broken relationships, I’m troubled a bit by the implication of some of your prescription. Some of the pre-talk you’re talking about (I’m going to want oral sex, I’m going to want lingerie, etc) sounds to me like the sort of thing that can only come from a couple of (mostly unhealthy, I think) sources … either that at least one partner if not both enter the relationship sexually experienced, or else the queues/desires/standards are being taken from porn or the porn-lite of modern entertainment.
Please understand carefully what I am, and am not saying here. Sexual exploration in marriage is a good and wonderful thing, and a couple that’s going to be healthy needs to be ready, willing, and able to explore, fool around, laugh at each other, say “well, that didn’t work,” try something else, say “I used to like that but I don’t now,” say “I never thought I’d like that but it was awesome,” etc. Believers need to be taught to expect that when/if they get married, the gift of each other’s bodies, and the gift of what each can do with the other’s body, is truly awesome and healthy and God-blessed.
But healthy sexuality is a learned relationship. It’s something a couple discovers together. The richness of a physical relationship is not because of any particular thing a couple does or doesn’t do.
Whether that process includes lingerie, or toys, or oral, or different positions, or talking, or places, or whatever else, is not something that should be listed off in a contract or chosen from a menu, I don’t think. And it’s very important that it not be driven by what other people have decided is titillating. Besides the damage it does to the people participating in it, one of the worst things about porn is the way it dulls the consumer’s ability to be aroused by and enjoy the real thing. Porn is ultimately a lie, but it’s a lie that can make the real thing less attractive or stimulating.
And that’s my worry with what you said about making sure, before marriage, that your partner’s going to be willing to go down on you, enjoy kinky toys, or whatever. It sounds dangerously close to allowing the sex industry (which really *IS* dirty and unholy) to define a sexy relationship.
My second worry is this: Premarital horniness (or the lack thereof) is not necessarily an indicator of a healthy sex life. People can and do discover desire as they learn to live with each other. I would hate for your criteria to suggest that any girl who isn’t as desiring of sex as the average teenage boy, is going to make a frigid wife. I happen to know that isn’t true.
I disagree with much of what you said here, but don’t have the time or energy to carefully reply right now. Maybe when the dust settles in a week or so. In the meantime I wish you the best.
“For the longest time husbands could force their wives to have sex and few really saw this as a real problem. A marital rape culture existed. Just awful. But today I think we’ve unwisely polarized to the other extreme. … Few of these women are ever told, ‘It’s not OK to not fulfill your sexual responsibilities.'”
Coercion via biblical texts and a sense of “duty” is still rape.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Yeah, that’s not an opinion. It’s basic fact. Anything less than a standard of enthusiastic consent is rape.
I was raped as a child. Don’t lecture me about that subject… Good day.
I didn’t read Dianna’s comment as “lecturing” you, and what she said in no way invalidates your experience as a survivor. You can be a survivor and your post can STILL reinforce rape culture by saying that it’s not okay for married women to say no to sex.
Gohl. I’m not reinforcing the dang rape culture. Could you guys please give me the benefit of the doubt? I’m reminded of the quote by Richard Mouw, “Too often in life we proceed with a hermeneutic of self-assuredness and criticism of those for whom we disagree rather than a hermeneutic of self-criticism and grace for others.” What’s annoying about Dianna’s comment is that she led with the least charitable interpretation possible. This world would be a better place if blog commenters made fewer declarations and more inquiries.
Of course a wife has the right to say, “No.” That’s why I wrote, “For the longest time husbands could force their wives to have sex and few really saw this as a real problem. A marital rape culture existed. Just awful.” At the same time (not “But”), there are consequences for a woman’s marriage in rejecting her husband all or most of the time. Having sex is the primary act that distinguishes roommates from spouses. To remove the sexual union, especially when it’s not by mutual consent, is to seriously harm the marital relationship. That’s not coercion. It’s an acknowledgment that behavioral choices have real relational consequences.
Don’t worry about the infamous Diana Anderson. She’s a very confused individual with a chip on her shoulder. Having her hysterically disagree with you means you’re on the right track.
not really helpful to ask for charity and then reply to posts calling her very confused and hysterical as hilarious.
That was Marcus, not me.
nope pretty sure you’re the one who referred to marcus’ remarks as hilarious.
Ah, I misread your comment. My bad.
Yes, I find Marcus’ “confused” and “hysterical” comments to be hilarious.
As a hardlining moderate, here’s my perspective:
She didn’t sound hysterical at all…
Anyone who uses the word ‘hysterical’ to put women down is automatically wrong.
Anyone who has rules about such things is someone whose perspective I’m skeptical of. I much prefer principled discernment to automatic declaration of right and wrong.
I don’t think calling someone ‘hysterical’ is showing ‘prinicpled discernment’. As for myself I have many prinicples though whether I’m discerning I’m not so sure, especially when interacting online is an easy medium for impulsiveness.
Any personal insult is off-putting and the word ‘hysterical’ has a centuries old history of being used to put women down. However I’m afraid I’ve shown my cards as a feminist and so may be viewed with contempt. I’m not even a Christian any more I just stumbled across your blog through some links so perhaps I shouldn’t be commenting here?
Ok, this is bs, Carson. “Hysterical” is a slur word used to silence women. You can call it extremism or whatever, but Haney is right. It is mockery and isn’t very civil of you.
Honestly, the thought never occurred to me. That’s because I don’t ever use that word to silence women and don’t have a lot… much of any?… experience hearing it used in that way. In now considering it I can imagine that being the case and can see how others would perceive me to be insensitive because of it. I just found it hilarious because Dianna was being, well, annoying. Very, very annoying. That being said, I apologize for the implicit endorsement of “hysterical.” At the same time (not “But”), I maintain my view that Dianna is and was being annoying and unreasonable. I went to her blog and do not have a high view of her work, which is probably the exact perspective she has of me. And I’m OK with that.
I appreciate your variance on the term. But I think the fact that you haven’t had to consider what terms like “silly” and “hysterical” mean as applied by men to women should give you pause to further reflect on what you’ve written as it relates to women, for starters.
And, fwiw, Dianna is a studied expert in this field that you’re treading. I would heed her words here.
I am reflecting.
I am learning.
I am nuancing.
I am apologizing (where I believe I’ve erred).
I have never and will never use the term “hysterical” or any former thereof to attack and/or dismiss women.
Dianna and I have a number of fundamental disagreements on which neither of us is likely to budge. That doesn’t mean we can’t learn from one another, but I highly doubt we’ll ever see eye to eye. That same general pattern holds true with a number of my atheist friends. What I will not do, however, is stand back and take this crap of being accused of contributing to the rape culture of which I myself suffered. Ah hell no. Ain’t gonna happen. I’m shuttin’ that crap down. And so long as she or anyone else is intent upon making such assertions toward me, little civil dialogue is possible with those persons. That’s not pouring salt on a wound. That’s grinding salt down deep into a wound. Uh uh. Expertise or not, not gonna tolerate that. Ever.
I’m a hardlining moderate. Experience tells me that so long as progressives and traditionalists are both uncomfortable and criticizing me, I’m probably on the right path even if I’m not going down it perfectly. Judging by that standard right now I’m sittin’ pretty good.
Hectoring, then? Certainly misrepresenting and twisting. Definitely dishonest.
“enthusiastic consent”–how do you dare raise the bar to such an impossible level? As a woman over 65, I can’t give such consent to much of anything–I haven’t the excess energy!!!
I’m commenting on this anonymously because I’m going to reveal some things here that I do not wish to be known, other than anonymously.
My wife and I have been married for almost 3 years. In all that time we’ve had sex maybe once. We’ve done some other stuff, but mostly it’s been a nonsexual marriage.
During our engagement, and our dating, I was very physically intimate, almost a little forceful as to how I pushed her boundaries. She didn’t want to kiss before marriage, and we did at least keep to that, but I pushed in other ways. She constantly forgave, and I felt truly guilty, but I had the impression that I couldn’t control myself. No one had taught me about controlling myself. No one had taught me that sex is not a big fulfilling Hollywood experience that results in constant ejaculation and orgasmic pleasure. I knew how that felt from masturbation of course, and I was the unfortunate norm for most guys, obsessed with naked female bodies.
Sex was one of the primary reasons I married my wife. I wanted to finally get in her pants. I wanted to stop being told no, and get those clothes off.
There is a problem with many men in evangelical subculture, and that’s that they’re all obsessed with sex. Partially because of what you’ve said, but also because of the fact that there is nothing taught about male self control in non-shaming non guilting ways.
Sex is not only ignored as a wondrous gift of God, it’s also ignored as something we need to learn healthy boundaries, and strong self control on. And if it is explored in the latter way, it’s only explored in shaming ways.
So what happened? I took the clothes off, I lay with my wife, and I found out sex isn’t what I thought in my head…and I found out many other things that I guess I won’t get into here. But I found out I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I’ve found out that sex actually brings up things in me, fears of physical intimacy, introversion, anxiety, that I’m having to work through.
And in that whole time my wife has stood by me. She’s understood my struggles, and she’s not pushed me for sexual intimacy. We kiss, and hug, and hold hands, and other things. We are close in many many ways. In fact I’ve found that a sexless marriage can actually be a pretty happy marriage.
Now I don’t want this story to be prescriptive to everyone, this is my story. But I’d like to point out that many couples struggle with things other than just “prudish” wives. In some cases it’s the husband who can’t have sex. In some cases the wife has anxiety issues due to past trauma, and needs to work through it. Sometimes, sometimes, the couple still have a lot of getting to know each other to do first, and slowly work towards sex, as they explore each other intimately in other ways.
To use the bible as a sort of enforcement is not I think what it was intended for. Sure we should celebrate sex as a great and wonderful thing, but we should also be honest about the fact that sex is not all marriage is about, and I -highly- disagree that it’s the primary thing marriage is about, and the primary difference between a roommate and a spouse.
There is much intimacy and love between a married couple that has nothing to do with sex. And in that way my wife and I have grown in leaps and bounds. We didn’t need sex to grow in that.
And in many cases it’s made me a better man, not obsessed with her naked body, and getting in her pants, but getting to know her as a person, and a human being, and a friend, a best friend, and as who she is in deeply intimate ways, while STILL being able to appreciate her beauty in physical ways, and not see sex as somehow gross or evil
And it’s helped me see other women better as well.
I’ll end it with that. I just wanted to share with you a story that might push up against your worldview a bit, and show you that it’s not really all that black and white as you make it.
I cannot say that this has been my testimony. My wife had never been touched by anyone when we married. She is not frigid, and she enjoys intimacy. In addition, in today’s culture, I find it quite hard to believe that there are that many “ice princesses” and “de facto eunuchs” jumping the pews and brooms in church today. If it is the case, that seems to be a problem, not of the preaching of the Gospel, but of Euro-Evangelical culture.
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My wife is asexual. All your ideas aren’t valid. She’s not gay, no medical issues, no problems talking about it. Sex to her is like an introvert at a loud party; draining. Been married 13 years. Really lonely here man.
It’s like being married to a lesbian who isn’t into girls. Not going to force her to have sex with me, though. That’s rude.
Not sure what to do. Badass marriage otherwise.
Evangelical men are also taught sex is shameful. I’ve been in a sexless marriage for 25 yrs, and it was not at all my doing!
I’m sorry. There are no words. Sorry.
I think this anti-sex climate is affecting our politics, especially in regards to women’s access to family planning, sex education, and the treatment of poor families. I was just in a discussion on Facebook where a guy said he didn’t understand why people had more kids than they could afford. I rattled off about 8 including religious beliefs, sudden change in health or employment, partner death or abandonment, poor understanding of the financial means necessary for children, and lack of affordable birth control. His immediate answer was basically, “Abstinence is free.” I’ve encountered that flippant answer so much, it just infuriates me.
I’m a guy and I empathize with the woman here.
I accepted Christ as Savior in 1998, but Christ’s words about sexual thoughts in Matthew 5 made me view my sexuality as a constant source of sin and shame, and after reading up on things like the Purity Movement of the 90’s, I know I’m not the only one. The guilt and fear those passages brought about was enormous. It’s only been in recent months that I feel that God is delivering me from that mindset, but even so, I’m pretty much asexual at this point. Being single and celibate for life sounds a lot better than it used to.
I often wonder with admiration how content Christian couples were able to keep their God-given sex drives (that still sounds like an oxymoron to me) on Life Support during their season of singleness.
This article is password-protected, but I’m very much interested in seeing it. Could you e-mail me a link?
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