This week on To Love, Honor and Vacuum we’re going to be looking at how God made sex to be awesome (this is going to be a fun week!). I’m going to start it off a little differently, though. Every Monday I like to post a reader question and take a stab at answering it. This week’s isn’t a question–it’s a criticism that was left for me when I wrote the post on sexy questions to ask your husband.
A reader writes:
I’ve read more of your posts than I’ve read any other Christian writer. I even own your 31 Days book. I hope that by saying this you’ll see that this is not left casually, especially since I can tell you take your comments to heart.
I want to say that I find that your blog headlines are very sensational and are reminiscent of a Christian version of a Cosmo mag. Making statements like, “because marriage should be steamy!” is a dangerous thing to do. Marriage should be sacred. Sacred sex is not always “steamy” – in fact I think that description alone is the dangerous part as it is a contemporary word we often see used to describe scandalous, depraved sex.
I have read SO much of your writing. I recall your mentioning accidentally buying “panties that came up to your navel” in another post, and feeling old and frumpy, and that was the day I thought I wasn’t sure about your writing anymore.
Please, Sheila, I am urging you to consider that your message may be more influential than you think, and that it borders on the very things you say you abhor. Slapping a Christian stance on articles about dirty talk and lingerie can give a confusing message.
I am married. Our sex is absolutely glorious and I am always orgasmic thank God. But I own no special undies, I slip no dirty notes in his briefcase, and we do not experiment with strange positions. I just LOVE him so much, and I recognize that he and I are in a covenant -one shared flesh-, so experiencing sex with him, inside that understanding, is on a level that no pair of red lace superthongs will ever achieve.
Please, please consider your influence, and think hard about how you describe “normal” sex in a Christian marriage. Not everyone has to spice anything up to experience truly Holy Amazing Lovemaking.
I really appreciate the heart behind that comment. I think this woman honestly DOES have great sex, and she’s worried that we’re emphasizing sex in a way that isn’t godly but is actually worldly. So I’d like to address these concerns today, because I think they’re important ones. And I appreciate, too, her heart and her manner in writing this, because it wasn’t a personal attack. It was simply a concern that she had.
So let’s look at it!
Is steamy sex the same as worldly sex?
She seems to be setting up a dichotomy with “dirty talk”, lingerie, flirting, and different positions on one hand, and covenant, one-shared flesh on the other hand.
Is this a fair distinction?
To figure that out, let’s do a little bit of history.
One of the biggest theological struggles that Christians have had throughout two thousand years is the idea that the body is bad and the soul is good.
This isn’t actually a Christian idea; it came from the Greeks, and it somehow seeped into the Christian church. Certainly Paul talks about the flesh being bad, but he didn’t mean the body itself; he meant the sinful nature, which is actually inside of us. And so too often Christians have seen passion or anything that is “base” as being against God.
Actually, the opposite is true. Passion is of God; life is of God. It is boredom, lethargy, emptiness that is not of God.
It is not that the “soul” is somehow better than experiences here and now in the flesh; they are all a part of who we are. The fact that Jesus came and took on human flesh meant that He redeemed human flesh. The fact that we will have resurrected bodies means that the body is important. The fact that Jesus did so many miracles that were primarily physical, rather than just spiritual, means that He cares about the physical, and that the physical and spiritual are intertwined. So let’s not believe this false dichotomy.
But isn’t there such a thing as sacred sex?
Absolutely, there is. But I think we misunderstand what it actually means.
If I were to ask you to define sacred sex, I think people would say something about, “sex where you show absolute love to one another; sex where you solidify the one flesh covenant.” It would be about the feelings the two of you have for each other and the meaning behind sex.
But how did God actually make sex?
Take the female orgasm, for instance. It serves no real purpose other than pure pleasure. And at the height of orgasm we completely lose control. We can’t think clearly. We simply experience. And, in fact, the inability to turn one’s brain off and just experience is one of the hindrances to achieving orgasm.
C.S. Lewis wrote that at the height of sexual pleasure, in a way you cease being yourself and you almost become primal–just Man and Woman. All the things that make you essentially YOU disappear, because you can’t think, you can’t even act, all you can do is experience. And perhaps God made it that way to show us that when we are united with Him, it is not something that we can control. It is about being carried away by Him.
Sacred sex, then, isn’t about an absence of passion but rather an intimate knowledge of one another at the height of passion. And it’s something where we really do lose control.
Let’s remember the three-fold nature of sacred sex: Physical, emotional, and spiritual.
I spent most of The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex explaining this: God made sex not to be primarily physical, but also spiritual (where you feel like you’re one) and emotional (where you just plain have fun together and love each other). And the neat thing is that they all feed each other. The more intimate you are, the more your body will respond physically. Sex was meant to be both hot and holy at the same time!
But that also means that all three facets of sex are good. None is better than the other.
I believe that something isn’t right sexually if it emphasizes one aspect of sex while stealing from another aspect of sex. That’s why I’ve spoken out so loudly about so many things.
I’ve also written posts showing why I think these things can be harmful (please read them for more context!):
- Pornography (over 99 articles and counting!)
- Erotica like 50 Shades of Grey
- Taking sexy photos for your husband
- Christians and sex toys (or sex toy parties)
- Masturbation in marriage
I agree with this commenter that we do sometimes forget the profound beauty of sex. In fact, I shared one of my most personal stories in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, about the night that my son died. My husband and I turned to each other then, and it had nothing to do with wanting to have an orgasm or wanting to feel aroused; it was simply that I had a gaping wound that needed to be touched, and he did, too. That was a beautiful experience. It was something very difficult to share, and I didn’t want to, because it was really personal. But I knew it was important. And now, when I give my Girl Talk, I share that memory, too–and pretty much universally everyone cries.
The spiritual aspect of sex is vital.
But at the same time, de-emphasizing the physical aspect of sex is not healthy, either.
While we’d all agree that things which steal from spiritual intimacy are wrong, we’re far less likely to see that things that steal from physical intimacy are also wrong.
This woman accused me of promoting things that were “dirty”, for instance. Yet in the post that she was writing about, the only thing I was ever advising women to do was to start conversations about what their husbands found sexy or to talk about what they’ve enjoyed sexually. I never advocated profanity, weird fantasies, or anything.
I think we often forget how “base” Song of Solomon actually is. The majority of the time that the lovers are declaring what they admire about each other it is mostly on very physical terms. It isn’t about feeling holy together; it is about wanting each other. He talks about her breasts, her hips, even her genitals. So does she! If my post was dirty, then the entire book of Song of Solomon is dirty, too.
She also seems to equate “dirty” with lingerie or with different positions, because we’re to fight against how the world sees sex.
Yes, we are to be the enemy of the world. But sometimes I think Christians fight so hard to be an enemy of the world that we equate anything resembling passion and fun with the world, and anything resembling seriousness with God.
Yet that is not in line with how God created sex. He created it to help us lose control, to help us enjoy our physical bodies, to help us feel the height of pleasure.
Flirting with your husband, or drawing attention to a certain part of your body in front of your husband, is not being “dirty”, nor is it emphasizing the physical over the other aspects of sex. It’s emphasizing the emotional connection, too, because my husband is the only one who is allowed to see this side of me. So when I do that, it cements our friendship because it’s like a little secret. It makes us laugh together!
No one needs to wear lingerie or try new positions to have great sex.
I completely believe that this woman has great sex without thongs or without different positions. And you know what? If they’re both having fun and enjoying it and loving each other, then that is great!
But most of us could do with a good push in a more “sexy” direction because we’re not comfortable with our bodies. We’re not comfortable in our own skin. We’re not comfortable with just having fun when we make love. And so we’re living our sexual lives with a lot of insecurity. And when we’re insecure, it’s much easier to label things “dirty” and ignore them than it is to address why we’re so scared.
What I want to look at this week is how to get rid of a lot of that insecurity and open yourself up for passion–which really is sacred sex (and also steamy sex!). I hope this made some sense, and I hope you enjoy taking this journey with me as we look tomorrow at 10 amazing and surprising things about how God made sex, and then look at how we can become more sexually confident.
But for today, what do you think? Is sacred sex the same as steamy sex? Where do you draw the line?