On Vulnerability, Sex, and Women’s Erotica

How Women's Erotica Distorts True IntimacyUp in my neck of the woods, in Ontario, our license plates switched over a couple of years ago to the format four letters and three numbers. And every time a particular community office in the Ministry of Transportation needs more license plates, they get sent 1000 at a time–a complete run of a certain four letter pattern. So about 10 years ago Belleville, where I live, got AFVL. Drive around town and you’ll see all kinds of AFVL license plates.

Well, Ontario has worked through all of the As and we’re now on Bs. And Kingston, close to our little town, got sent the BDSM license plates. I’m not sure why someone higher up allowed them through. Surely somebody must have said, “Ummm, perhaps that’s not the best combination.” But there you go. And right next door to my aunt is a family with a huge mini van and a ton of kids and a license plate that begins with BDSM.

(For those of you who may not know why this is so bad, BDSM are the acronyms for a particular sexual practice that involves bondage and inflicting pain. And I’m not getting any more detailed than that.)

Anyway, the thought of all these minivans driving around advertising this got me thinking last week: BDSM has really become mainstream. It used to be a fetish, whispered about in “bad” circles. Certainly no one talked about it in polite company. It was taboo. It was twisted. It was warped.

Yet it is also the primary plotline of most women’s erotica today, including the harmful 50 Shades of Grey series, which I have written about at length.

Why? What’s the allure?

Now I do think a part of the allure to that series is that deep inside people like “traditional” roles. We women like having a man who is a MAN, who leads, and men like having a woman who submits. And hence the current BDSM acts this out in the extreme, because we’re not getting it in relationship. That’s been written about at length, and I won’t add to that commentary here, because I have something slightly different to add to the conversation, and it’s this:

Deep inside, we know that sex is supposed to be a deeply intimate experience.

It is not supposed to only be physical; there’s supposed to be an emotional and spiritual element to it as well. We’re supposed to truly “know” each other when we make love. In fact, it’s part of “knowing” each other. Trust and vulnerability, then, become part of a healthy, intimate sexual relationship. In order for it to work well, we have to be able to trust our spouse, and to be vulnerable enough to tell him what we actually want. We have to be able to open up. And that’s all part of what makes sex great.

There’s that one person that you are totally vulnerable with. You bare your soul with them in a way that you don’t with anyone else. It’s completely private, and completely exclusive, and completely vulnerable.

We’re hard wired for that.

But what happens if sex becomes only about the physical, and not about the other connections? If sex is taken outside of the marriage context, then there’s no more real spiritual intimacy because there’s no commitment. And that means that at heart there can’t be true vulnerability. You don’t know if you’re connected to this person for life, so you don’t have real trust.

That doesn’t mean that people who aren’t married never really enjoy sex; obviously people can have a truly pleasurable time physically. But there will always be something missing.

And what is that something? It’s that trust and vulnerability connection.

Where does BDSM come into all of this? The whole theme of BDSM is that you become truly vulnerable to someone else. You take on a uniquely vulnerable position with one other person–something you don’t do with others. There’s a level of trust there. The difference is that it’s focused almost entirely on the physical. And as you become physically vulnerable, it takes on an emotional and spiritual bond, too–even if that bond is warped.

So why is BDSM so attractive to so many?

I think it’s because people are searching for that vulnerability and trust connection.

And when they can’t find it in their sexual relationship (because it really is only available in a committed marriage), then they take on a pseudo-vulnerability and a pseudo-trust by confining sex to the physical, and not emotional or spiritual, realm. It’s trying to experience that immense closeness that we all know sex is supposed to give us without actually committing to someone for life.

I’m not saying that married people never engage in this, by the way; I’m just saying that the reason that it has become so attractive to so many is because it attempts to fill a very real sexual need and drive that God gave us in a whole other way. It’s as if everybody knows there’s something missing with run of the mill sex outside of marriage, so they’re trying to search for that missing something without actually doing it the way that God said to in the first place: keep sex inside of a committed, marriage relationship.

It’s pseudo-vulnerability and pseudo-trust.

And it’s transforming the whole way that sexual relationships are now seen in the wider culture.

I just find it sad that it’s all become so mainstream, because going down that road will never really fill and satisfy. Pseudo-vulnerability cannot replace true emotional and spiritual vulnerability. That you can only get from marriage, and unlike BDSM, that truly is a beautiful relationship.

The Mainstreaming of Porn

'speed reading' photo (c) 2006, Pedro Figueiredo - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

When I was young, it was hard to come across porn by accident. It was all sold in special stores, or on high shelves in magazine racks. Novels weren’t really raunchy in the same way. It wasn’t as if porn could just jump out at you, by accident.

But today I’ve had a rather distressing experience. I went into Shoppers’ Drug Mart, a big drug store chain up here in Canada. The vast majority of what they sell is beauty products and medicines. But they do have a magazine aisle, and the “top 20″ book section. And there, in a large display, was 50 Shades of Grey. Then my daughter and I went to our grocery store, which sells–you guessed it–groceries. But even they have a new “top 20″ book section, and there was 50 Shades of Grey, too.

The books are at eye level, or lying on a table. Anyone can pick them up. They’re mixed in with Hunger Games and the latest mystery thriller. They look so, well, NORMAL.

I’ve already written on what I think of the trilogy. I completely believe that 50 Shades of Grey is bad for marriage. It’s a dangerous trend. But what makes me even more sad is that it’s now completely mainstream. “Pick up your milk and eggs, and grab a copy on the way out!” Browse for some beach reading on the go, and grab a copy along with the latest bestsellers.

It’s just sad, that’s all.

Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Still 30% off at Amazon!

On another note (but a related one), my sales for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sexspiked last week for some reason. I don’t know why exactly, but I’ve been detecting a trend. Most books sell by word of mouth (that’s what happened to 50 Shades of Grey!). And as people read it and like it, they tell friends about it. And I’ve been getting emails from people telling me they’ve recommended it to friends, so perhaps word of mouth is building!

I know that we in the church aren’t always completely comfortable talking about sex. But honestly, if you want a great, fun sex life, pick up The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex! And if you’ve already read it, please tell someone about it. Let’s get a trend going of GOOD books to spice up your marriage, not books that will kill intimacy. So if you hear women talking about 50 Shades of Grey, tell them about this instead! And ask your local library to order it, too.

Read some reviews here. Pick up the Kindle edition here. Or buy the paperback!

How to Spice Things Up without Fifty Shades of Grey

Spicing Things Up without 50 Shades of GreyYesterday I wrote about why reading 50 Shades of Grey can be harmful to your marriage: basically, it causes you to fantasize, so that it’s harder to stay “present” with your spouse.

But in reading some of the comments here and on Facebook, I think that the book is filling a need (albeit in a harmful way). Women are saying:

Sex is boring! I’m not excited by my husband. I’ve lost my libido. And I need to find a way to get in touch with the sexual side of myself again.

Ladies, I totally understand. And I want to help you do that in a PURE way!

You see, as I said in a whole section in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, “pure” and “hot” should really go together. Why? Because pure sex is when we feel deeply and intimately connected. And when you feel deeply and intimately connected, you’re going to lose control. You’re going to be vulnerable. Your walls will come down. You’re going to feel like you want to be “taken”. Those are all “hot” things!

And you can have hot without needing erotica. In fact, the more you read erotica, the less able you’ll be to experience real “pure and hot” intimacy because you’ll be living more and more in a fantasy life. Just like some people need a drink or two before they can be comfortable in public, many people need to look at porn or read erotica before they can become aroused. And that’s not good.

So how can we find that route to arousal again without erotica, if our sex lives have become boring? Here are a few thoughts:

1. Dream About It

Fantasy in and of itself isn’t bad. Fantasy about weird things or about other people can be dangerous, but fantasies about what you’d like to do with your husband, or what you’ve done in the past, are quite fine. In fact, I think we’re supposed to think about these things! So during the day, let yourself think about sex. Get in the right frame of mind. If you want to feel sexy, you don’t need to pick up a book to do it. Just start thinking of some scenarios you’d like to do with your husband, too.

Then take some control and bring them to pass! Tell him about them, or better still, just initiate them yourself at night. When you become more energetic and take the initiative in bed, you’re more likely to feel sexy. And for many women it’s also more likely to be pleasurable, because you angle things so they work for you.

Now, if you try these things and he isn’t receptive because his sex drive is much lower than yours, then please read this series. But let me also say that in your case, in particular, these kinds of books can be very dangerous, because you already have reason to be dissatisfied. Don’t make it worse!

2. Have Sex More Frequently

Want to turn up the libido? You may just need to make love more often. Libido is a “use it or lose it” phenomenon. If you want to get in touch with sexy, try making love every night for a week. But don’t do it the same way every night. Have a rule that no two times can be in the same position, or done the same way.

And if you take this challenge, you’ll find another habit change is probably coming, too: you’ll start going to bed at a decent time, so that you can actually have some fun. When we start going to bed on time more regularly, that, in and of itself, can make you feel sexier!

Spice Things Up without Fifty Shades of Grey!

3. Reawaken Your Body

Speaking of “use it or lose it”, yesterday commenter Doris said this:

I understand the lure of erotica but to “recharge your libido” or enhance your love making or focus your mind, I found the solution. Yoga. Why? First of all, it made me more aware of my body and helped me focus my mind. I learned to be happy with my body and it became stronger. When you feel good about your body, you feel sexy. This makes you less self conscious. I also was more in tune with how my body felt which applies directly to sex. Forget kegel exercises, yoga even replaces these. It also increases your stamina. All this and add a husband who loves you and if you’re really lucky like me, also started doing yoga…well, you won’t need the erotica. He also won’t need the porn. Instead you’ll have a very loving, and intimate relationship that will strengthen your marriage.

I know that some people steer clear of yoga because of the eastern mysticism associated with it, but honestly, I haven’t had any of that in the classes I’ve taken at the Y. Just be on the lookout for it. Yoga is mostly learning how to stretch, relax, and pay attention to your breathing, if that’s all you do, it doesn’t go against Christianity at all (and if your teacher brings it around to eastern mysticism and meditation, find a new teacher!).

And Doris is right! When we start doing yoga (or any exercise that stretches you and helps you pay attention to breathing), you’ll start to feel sexy, too!

4. Give Up Some Control

Part of the allure of 50 Shades of Grey is the BDSM nature of it (bondage, sadomasochism, etc.) For many women this touches a cord, because the idea of being completely helpless and at someone’s disposal can be attractive (often it’s more attractive in fantasy than in real life, but still). I think sex is supposed to be mutual, and so the idea that someone is hurt so that someone can get pleasure, or that only one person gets pleasure and the other always gives it, isn’t biblical to my mind. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with giving up some control. You could say to your husband, “for tonight, I’m yours.” And let him decide what you do (within limits, of course. Read here for more).

And I’ve written before about how letting him touch you, without you moving, can help you figure out how you actually like to be touched. It can be quite arousing.

I’m not one who believes that sex has to always be done the same way, or that each episode has to be one in which we’re having sex simply to say “I love you”. It’s wonderful to express tenderness and love while we’re making love, but let’s face it: sex is supposed to mirror our relationship with God. And that is not always tender. He loves us fiercely. He loves us possessively. And I believe He created sexuality to be the same way.

So sometimes you may want things to be a little more about being “taken”, and a little less about making love while you kiss gently. That’s okay. All of those things are part of a great marriage. So if this is something you want, tell your husband!

31 Days to Great Sex5. Play Some Games

Finally, I’ve written a post as part of my 29 Days to Great Sex series about how to spice things up! Lots of ideas there, including things to do with dice, how to create “his” and “hers” nights, and more! And I’ve turned that series into a book called 31 Days to Great Sex, with even more ideas.

A lot of women are using 50 Shades of Grey to help them get aroused. May I suggest instead that you simply use your husband? That’s what he’s there for! So fantasize about him. Tell him what you’re thinking. Flirt with him. Play some games. Get more active. When you turn to erotica, you take the easy way out. You become aroused from a story, not from actually making an effort in your relationship. Our society gravitates towards quick fixes and short cuts, but in the end it’s not fulfilling. Try to make that effort and make sex stupendous between you. That, in the end, is much hotter!

My book, The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, has “Good Girl Dares” throughout it that will help you jumpstart your libido WITH your husband, rather than WITHOUT him!

Have you ever had trouble with erotica? Or do you understand the lure for many women? Tell us your story about how to get over these ruts in your marriage!