Last week Rachel Pietka took the Christian internet community by storm when she wrote a column in Relevant online magazine called, “Christians are not called to have amazing sex“. She claimed that Christians had bought into the world’s view of the importance of sex too much, and were writing all these books on how to have amazing sex, and in the meantime we’d lost the real purpose of marriage, which is a commitment, whether or not the sex was great.
She’s Right: Christians do not have great sex off the bat if they stayed virgins before they were married
Sometimes we give kids the message “wait, it’s so worth it” a little bit too much. They think that sex will be this amazing thing as soon as they get married, and most likely it won’t be. And she gave the example of a couple who married at twenty, not realizing they would be sexually incompatible. And they ended up divorcing. The reason? Because Christians never talked about the fact that you could be sexually incompatible, and that you shouldn’t get married just to have sex.
Okay, perhaps I should have said she’s MOSTLY right. I completely agree that too often we give people the message, “sex will be great right off the bat if you wait!” That’s one of the reasons I wrote The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex–to show young women that often the honeymoon isn’t the best, but in the end, it makes absolutely no difference. After a decade, whether your honeymoon was great or not, you experience roughly the same levels of sexual satisfaction. Sex is a learning curve, and the best thing to do is just relax and be happy that you can truly be intimate. Don’t worry too much. Things will happen and will get great with time.
My book is meant to help people think of sex as a journey, not as just the honeymoon. And that’s one of the things new brides thank me for the most.
She’s Wrong: People aren’t “sexually incompatible”
She claimed that Christians that talk up amazing sex are buying into the world’s view, but I think she gives far too much credence to the idea of sexual incompatibility. She says that because Christians aren’t to have sex before we’re married, we never know whether we’re compatible or not. Thus, sexual pleasure, or compatibility, is not the main purpose of marriage.
This gives the impression that in a marriage SHE by herself is a static sexual being, and HE by himself is a static sexual being, and the two may not match. Not true. God designed sex to be a relational thing; it’s not two individuals coming together as much as it is a couple experiencing something together.
Personally, I hate the word “incompatible”. I simply say that people have differences in the bedroom, or problems in the bedroom, because that’s the truth. You’re not incompatible; you just have things you need to work out. It’s an entirely different emphasis. Incompatible makes it sound like you will never meet in the middle. Problems are just obstacles that need to be overcome. And that’s the more biblical view. Where in the Bible does it ever say that two people can’t be compatible, in any aspect of their relationship? When people are chasing after God, they will be transformed to look like Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). And that makes us compatible on pretty much any level.
Not compatible? Then you’re simply having problems that need to be worked out. They’re not insurmountable; they’re not static. They’re just issues, that’s all. The world talks up “compatibility” as a way to say that we should try each other first. Nothing can be farther from the truth, because it emphasizes the physical aspect of sex over all else, and leads to tons of heartache. Let’s not go down that road.
She’s Wrong: Sex is not only physical
She also gave absolutely no credence to the fact that God made sex to unite us on more than just a physical level. It’s also a spiritual intimacy and an emotional intimacy, not just a physical intimacy.
And because of that, Christians SHOULD have amazing sex, and indeed DO have much better sex than the general public, according to my research and others. Why is that? Because we understand the power of commitment. Because we are also already spiritually intimate. And when you truly are one, sex is something far more powerful. The spiritual intimacy feeds the physical side, and sex can be much more stupendous.
But it’s not just this: God created sex for a reason, and it wasn’t just so that we could have children, and it wasn’t just so that we could enjoy ourselves. It was also so that we could get a glimpse into the deep passion that He has for us. He uses sexual imagery to discuss how He feels about his children. And He put this sexual drive “to know” each other inside of us, so that we would get a taste of true intimacy.
If we deny that, or say that it’s really unimportant, and people should just live with lousy sex, then we’re not just missing out on marriage. We’re missing out on understanding the whole nature of intimacy and passion that God has for us.
I’m not saying that only married people can understand this. Single people can certainly understand intimacy and passion, too. But when we married people have access to the most intimate experience people can have this side of heaven, and then we say “it doesn’t matter”, I think we’re closing ourselves off to intimacy and passion in general, and that can be dangerous.
She’s Wrong: We shouldn’t put up with a marred sinful nature
Ms. Pietka attributes bad sex to our sinful nature, which is true. But she seems to think that this is inevitable, or at least something that is not worth doing very much about. If people find themselves married, with sexual problems, they should realize it’s just part of their sinful nature, and work on other aspects of their marriage.
I find this extremely strange. On the one hand: yes, the problems we have in the bedroom are all caused by our sinful nature. If one spouse wants to make love much more than another, and this causes hurt, it’s sin, because one (or both) are not loving each other as Christ did. If one is being selfish in bed, demanding unreasonable things, or refusing to learn how to pleasure the other, it’s sin. If one is using porn or erotica to get aroused, it’s sin. If one is feeling ashamed of sex, that, too, is sin, though it may not be theirs. Perhaps they grew up in a house where their parents made them feel ashamed of the fact that they were sexual, and now they need healing. Or perhaps they were abused (someone else’s sin) and that, too, has impacted their ability to enjoy sex.
All of our problems stem from either from our own sin (selfishness) or from being sinned against (brokenness). And so we need to go to God for healing and restoration.
And that last part is so important. She seems to be saying we should be content to live with the marred sinful nature. In what other area of our lives do we do this?
Take Christian community, for example. We, as Christians, are notoriously bad at finding unity. But did Jesus say, “you’ll find it really difficult to act as one body, because of the marred sinful nature, and you just need to realize that”? No, he said, “they will know you by your love for one another.” Paul wrote a whole book (1 Corinthians) on how Christians should get along with each other.
Is getting along difficult? You betcha. Does that mean that we should give up and say, “on this side of heaven, we won’t achieve unity”? Nope, God doesn’t give us that escape clause. He wants us to keep working towards unity.
And He wants us to do that in our marriages, too. Will our marriages ever be perfect? No. Will all of us have amazing sex? No. But on this earth, we are to seek Jesus in everything. We are to seek restoration, and renewal, and healing. We are to aim to be more selfless and more understanding. And all of these things apply just as much to sex as anything else. In fact, perhaps they apply more so because our sexual identity is so close to our personal identity. Everything is really intertwined. If we start to deny our sexual being, we tend to cut ourselves off from true passion.
Ms. Pietka said that by emphasizing amazing sex we’re emphasizing the wrong thing. We should be emphasizing a marriage based not on sex but on commitment. I agree that commitment is vitally important. But to deny the importance of sex, or to downplay our responsibility, once we’re married, of making it the best it can be for both of us, is also to distort God’s plan for marriage.
She’s Wrong: She gives people an excuse to say, “you shouldn’t expect more”
Here’s my real concern. Let’s say that you’re a woman with a low sex drive. You find sex a hassle. Your husband is always saying he needs it more, and you’re sick of it. Then you read her article. And now you have an excuse to go to him and say, “see, Christians emphasize sex too much, and you just should just live with it.”
That is not biblical. Paul said, in 1 Corinthians 7, “do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time….” (I’ve written a three part series on what that verse really means here). There’s a whole book in the Bible (Song of Solomon) celebrating sex.
So what I want to say to Ms. Pietka is that I agree that Christians perhaps sound too glib about how easy it is to have amazing sex. But the simple fact is that we SHOULD have better sex than others because we know the author of sex. We know a level of intimacy that others don’t, and that should already make sex better. And if we still have a ways to go (and don’t we all?), then we should be working towards that, not settling for less. Jesus called us to an abundant life. If something is not abundant, why would you not want more of God–selflessness, passion, intimacy–in that area of your life? Why would you settle for less?
What advice do you have for us today? Link up your own marriage post in the linky below! Just leave the URL of your post, and be sure to link back here so other people can read all these amazing marriage posts.