I’ve been a Christian marriage blogger since 2008, but a Christian sex blogger since 2012. That’s when I really changed how I saw myself.
And around 2010 or 2011, when I started transitioning to writing more about sex, I found J, a fellow Christian marriage blogger. She had a great blog focused only on sex, and we quickly became blog buddies. We even met in real life when I was in Houston a few years ago!
Recently J and I were talking about the things that surprised us the more we wrote about sex, and we thought we’d share 10 of those things with you today for Top 10 Tuesday!
1. J: Higher-drive wives aren’t an anomaly; they’re fairly common.
For most of my marriage, I’ve had a robust libido. Which puts me in contrast with the majority of wives. I’ve felt this acutely in conversation with female friends who were clearly lower-drive than their husbands, often complaining about their husbands wanting sex “too much.” As the lone high-libido wife in the group, it would have been easy to feel like a freak. Yet I strongly suspected I wasn’t alone.
Then I began blogging, and oh my goodness, I cannot tell you the number of wives I’ve heard from who are the higher-drive spouse. It’s one-fourth to one-third of my email inbox at any given time. So you high-drive wives out there: You are not weird, and you are not alone.
Sheila: I remember when I wrote the 29 Days to Great Sex series leading up to the release of my book The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, and the most common criticism I got of it was “what about us wives whose husbands don’t want sex?” When I did the surveys for The Good Girl’s Guide I found that about 25% of wives have higher drives than their husbands. So I’ve written a TON about that side of the equation since then, too!
2. Sheila: To some (a loud few) of male commenters: Do you understand how creepy you sound?
I have a ton of male readers, and the vast, vast majority are wonderful and I really appreciate them. Many are trying to get through their difficult marriages with grace and love. But then there are those who use the Bible as a weapon, and who are, quite frankly, super scary.
I always thought that version of Christianity where the men order their wives around and demand things based on Scripture verses was a caricature, but it’s really out there: The men who claim that women can never deny their husbands sex, including in the six weeks after childbirth (because that’s just what a doctor says, not what God says); The men who say that marital rape can’t exist (because women can’t deny their husbands); The men who say that women have no right to question their husband’s authority or else they’re usurpers. I found such freedom when I decided to just ban such people! They’re still a small minority, but they’re so loud, and I won’t have those comments on my blog misrepresenting God to others who would visit here.
J: I’ve also been shocked at some of the comments I’ve received, especially about rape and porn. Thankfully, they’re the minority, but I hate thinking about those people representing Christianity out in the world, because it’s not the message about sex that God longs for us to spread.
3. J: Sex research has largely been wrong about women.
For a long time, the prevalent view was that the sexual response cycle looked like this:
Desire (thoughts, fantasies, and motivation to engage in sex) à Arousal (physiological and emotional responses) à Orgasm (ta-da!) à Resolution (sliding back into reality)
While that’s what it looks like for the majority of men (and perhaps high-drive spouses generally), it doesn’t represent female arousal well. For many wives, you can take those first two and flip them. Maybe even add the word “Decision” in the beginning, so that you have: Decision à Arousal à Desire à Orgasm à Resolution. Once you know this, it changes so much about how you address low libido. And if this is a better description of you, check out Sheila’s new course on Boost Your Libido.
Sheila: Oh, this is one of the BIG things that I talk about in the course! (and thanks for bringing that up!). This was probably the biggest revelation that changed my own sex life, too. I remember just lying there letting my mind wander, thinking, “If he just does it right then I’ll be in raptures.” But I’ve found that I have to engage my brain to enjoy sex. And when I do–it really does work!
4. Sheila: It’s sad how common vaginismus is (pain during sex).
I had it for the first few years of our marriage. I really thought I was the only one. But as I’ve written about it, I’ve heard from so many women who are also struggling with it. Before I married I never even knew such a thing existed, but it is common, and I’m so humbled that I can help people who are going through just what I did.
J: I’m glad you’ve talked about this. Sex shouldn’t be painful! After my first child was born, attempting intercourse felt like being sliced by a sword. Turned out I was way low on estrogen, and tackling that solved the problem.
5. J: There’s a difference between marital aids and sex toys.
When I first wrote about sex toys, I didn’t have much of an opinion. I didn’t use them, but I was open to others using them in their marriage bed. However, since learning more and more, I’ve become far more cautious about recommending their use.
Sex toys can genuinely help married couples who have a specific and persistent problem, like a penis ring for a husband with trouble maintaining an erection or a vibrator for a wife who cannot reach orgasm any other way. I think of those as marital aids, and it’s good that we have those options.
But too often, spouses are just grabbing the sex toy because it’s new or easy or kinky, instead of figuring out to arouse and pleasure their partner with the body parts God gave them. And, as Sheila has often said, that treats sex as merely physical when it’s meant to be more. Most couples are better off focusing on relationship, communication, and skills to improve their sexual intimacy, rather than just grabbing the latest toy.
Sheila: I love this distinction between marital aids and sex toys, J! I’ve come out saying “let’s be careful about sex toys“, too, because I think sometimes we’re looking in the wrong place for what really makes sex hot. But at the same time, I do know that there are some things that may be useful in some situations.
6. Sheila: A lot of people have no idea what should be Red Flags when it comes to a person’s sex life.
We don’t talk about sex enough I think when kids are growing up, and then when they get married and bad things happen, they think, “Oh, this must be one of those marriage problems everyone deals with.” And then they tell me the details and I freak out. “Oh. My. Goodness. That is terrible!”
I’ve had a few women just this week talk about how their husbands secretly photograph women working out at the gym and then crop those photos to show just cleavage or crotches on their computers. That’s not normal! Or guys who can only perform sexually when the women are play-acting or dressing in costume. NOT NORMAL. We need to prepare people more to say, “No, that’s not right, and you need serious help.” So many have no idea that “this honestly is not what most people experience.”
J: My heart breaks when I get an email from a wife who wants to please her husband, but then she tells me some insane thing he wants to do in bed and asks, “Should I do it?” I’m thinking, “Let’s see, would you poke yourself with an ice pick? Because this is analogous to that.” Of course, I tame my actual response back to the wife, but it’s sad they don’t feel confident about setting reasonable boundaries.
7. J: We’re really selfish about sex.
I’d now guess that 90% of conflict about sexual intimacy in marriages is due to one or both spouses being selfish. Before you get mad at me for saying that, let me assure I’ve been guilty too. But we tend to view sex in terms of what we want, or even that we don’t want it, without putting ourselves in our spouse’s shoes and understanding what’s going on in their mind and heart.
I spend a lot of time trying to get readers to see the other side of the coin. Like if your spouse is refusing sex, instead of focusing on Woe is me, I haven’t had any in a week, find out why they don’t want to have sex with you. And do it with compassion. I’ve known of couples where a wife finally revealed that she was sexually abused as a child or a husband admitted a porn problem, and that becomes the beginning of healing. But if a spouse doesn’t feel safe with you to express their struggle, you’ll never get to the bottom of it. We’ve got to get outside ourselves and reach out to our spouse with love. You know, Jesus-style.
Sheila: Absolutely true! I’ve found that in marriage, pretty much all problems are caused by two things: selfishness or brokenness. And often the two feed each other. I’m still really saddened by the comments on this post about a woman not comfortable with her breasts being touched. It shows the selfishness dynamic so much, and we need to get past that.
8. Sheila: Far too many women got married without realizing what they were getting in to.
The truth is we can’t fix marriage. A marriage is only as healthy as its unhealthiest spouse, and so many women have married guys who are psychologically and emotional unhealthy, or at least very self-centered and immature. Yes, God can change them, but what they’re going through in the interim is really awful. We need to prepare young women better to make good choices. Just because a guy professes Christ does not mean that he has good character. And so many of the marriage problems I see could have been prevented if we had spent more time really looking at character and not listening to all the messages around us about how “God loves marriage” and “God wants you to get married”. Yes, that’s true–but no one should feel rushed into something.
J: I also think marriages are only as happy as the unhappiest spouse. We need to choose mates who will be intentional about holiness, health, and happiness.
9. J: Christians are okay with talking about sex.
I was anonymous for maybe three years after I began my blog, going by simply J with no identifying information. Then Sheila came to town. Actually, I was moving toward revealing myself anyway, but it all coincided with her bringing her Girl Talk to Houston. It took a bit more time for my friends and church family to learn what I’d been up to for a while.
But you know what? I’ve gotten way more atta-girls than side looks, and no one has personally scolded me for talking about sex. In fact, I’ve had candid conversations with friends happy to discover they knew someone to talk to about sexual issues. My church also supported me teaching a Sunday morning women’s class on God and Sexuality. Because most Christians are not only willing to talk about sex; they’re hungry to talk about it from a biblical perspective and get answers.
Sheila: YES! So many yeses! I hear from so many people that “Christians just aren’t comfortable talking about sex”, but I think that’s a misconception. Yes, we can’t talk about the details of a person’s sex life from the pulpit, and some things are best shared online or in single-sex studies. But that doesn’t mean that Christians are uptight. And in fact, the response I get when I bring my Girl Talk to churches is overwhelming! People really love the anonymous Q&A especially because they have so many questions.
10. Sheila: You really can build a community online.
I’ve gotten to know so many bloggers and so many of my regular readers, and I’ve had the chance to meet with so many of them (including you!) as I’ve spoken around North America. We really do form bonds. People talk about the internet as only quasi-community or false community, and to a certain extent there’s some truth to that. But I also know I’ve met friends here, and I pray for so many of my readers, and that’s been great.
J: It’s funny how well you really do know someone after interacting with them online (assuming you’re both authentic, which we are). I can attest that the Sheila here on the blog is the same Sheila in real life. I do wish there was a way to have a coffee date with all of our readers, because that’s how I often picture my posts—chatting with a friend over coffee.
Now it’s your turn, readers. When it comes to sex in marriage, what shift in perspective have you experienced?