'Batteries' photo (c) 2008, Jamie McCall - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

I receive a lot of emails asking questions about sex in marriage, and one of the most frequent one I get is on whether or not it’s okay to use “novelty” items to spice up your marriage.

I dealt with this in bothΒ The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, and my post “Can Christians Use Sex Toys” and I had a hard time doing so. I gave my opinion, but I know that many Christians feel differently. If it’s two married people, no one else is involved, and you’re not using porn, what’s wrong with just having fun?

And there’s nothing wrong with having fun. Absolutely not.

Which is why I wouldn’t call sex toys sinful. I think the Bible gives a lot of freedom to people who are married to explore sexually, and I think to draw a line about some issues and say, “this makes God mad”, when it really can’t be found in the Bible, isn’t helpful.

At the same time, while I wouldn’t call such things sinful, I do think of 1 Corinthians 10:23, which says (New Living Translation):

You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is beneficial.

A lot of life falls into this category. It’s not necessarily sinful; but is it beneficial?

So in order to answer that question, let’s step backwards a minute and ask: what is beneficial about sex? What are the unique aspects of sex which make it great, and what is sex really for?

1. Sex is Fun

Absolutely! Sex is supposed to make us feel great, and feel relaxed, and sleep better, and feel absolutely and totally alive.

2. Sex Enhances Intimacy

Sex is meant to help us “know” each other. It’s not meant to ONLY be fun. It’s also supposed to draw us together. We should feel united through sex, as if it’s something that we’re experiencing together, and expressing love through, and not only something which is making us feel great.

And it’s the latter part that I think is so important to our discussion. Sometimes couples really lose out on this because they’re focusing so much on the physical that it’s almost as if you’re experiencing two separate, parallel sexual encounters. You’re “using” the other person, not experiencing and giving pleasure with the other person. You’re not really thinking about the other person, but you’re fantasizing or thinking about other things during sex. And so sex is actually quite selfish.

I received an email yesterday, for instance, from a woman whose husband would rather watch her using a toy on herself than actually make love. She doesn’t know what to do. He’s a Christian, and what she really wants is intimacy. But he’s always coming up with new and weirder things that they can try, and he doesn’t seem to focus on how they can feel close to each other.

I received another email this week from a woman whose husband is about to be deployed for a year, and before they left he wants to buy her something to tide her over, if you get my drift. She’s uncomfortable with that, because she wants to keep sex a mutual experience, not a selfish one (which is what she sees this as). But when your husband really wants you to do something, what do you do?

Finally, I received a further one from a woman with a unique problem: they had gone together to purchase a toy because she only orgasmed very rarely during intercourse. They thought it could “train” her body what to do. But now she finds she can reach the pinnacle really easily with the toy, but never through intercourse. What was once sporadic is now completely gone. And she doesn’t know what to do, because her husband is having fun with it, but she’s worried that she’s further wrecked her sexual response.

I know some women want me just to come down hard on this and say, “don’t use them! Tell your husband they’re evil and stop!” But I don’t believe it’s that simple. And let’s face it: a lot of women really enjoy them, too! And is there really anything wrong if you just use them occasionally, and you can still totally enjoy intercourse with your husband?

Again, I’m not willing to say that you can’t. But I would just offer this warning: if you end up in a scenario like one of the three I mentioned, where it seems as if the toy is being used to replace intimacy, then you have a problem. And because toys often lead to this kind of thing, it’s likely best to think twice before you introduce them, even if you do already have a great and intimate sex life.

So what do you do if you feel as if the toy has become a hindrance, but your husband really wants to keep using it? I’m afraid I don’t have great answers, but I will say this: intimacy and friendship go hand in hand. When you are close friends, you can talk about these issues more, and you can often come to a compromise easier. You can express reservations, and you can make suggestions, when you can talk more easily.

Like most things in marriage, then, I’d suggest working on your friendship. Make sure that you can laugh together everyday. Make talking a natural thing you do together, either by taking walks after dinner, or taking up a hobby together, or cooking together, or anything. Just talk and laugh. And, if he’s a Christian, add prayer to that, too. The more you are spiritually intimate through prayer and Bible reading, the more God can work on both on you to bring you together.

And then, work at making your sex life as physically stupendous as possible doing the things that you are comfortable with. When you’re showing that you desire to make love, and that you look forward to it, then you give him a big boost.

Once you have these two things in place, it’s easier to talk about things that you’re not comfortable with. I wish I had an easier path to a good answer, but like most things in marriage, it can be hard work! So pray it through, and make intimacy your number one goal in the bedroom.

If you’ve ever been through something like this, where you were involved in something you wish you hadn’t started, or where your husband asks for something you don’t want to do, how did you resolve it? Or do you have something else to share? Let me know in the comments!