What if the reason sex doesn’t feel good for some women is that they haven’t had a chance to learn what arousal feels like?

It’s Rebecca on the blog today. We get a ton of emails and comments from women with low libido, and a lot of them are quite similar to this woman’s question:

Reader Question

So what do you say to the wife who has never had an orgasm, and for whom the physical aspect of sex is just unpleasant and uncomfortable? I really don’t understand how people enjoy this at all, but obviously my husband does. We have sex fairly often, sometimes I have a good attitude and sometimes I’m quiet but just hoping it will be over quickly because I’m so tired and being touched so much makes me want to cry. We married as virgins, there have been no affairs and no porn, I just don’t like sex.

It’s easy to blame low libido on external factors. If your husband uses porn and you don’t want to have sex, that’s very understandable and the porn needs to be dealt with. There may have been past abuse that is impacting you. Sometimes there are health factors that make sex uncomfortable or painful. Sometimes it’s just that the marriage isn’t great. But when the usual suspects are ruled out and we’re left with an awesome marriage and a woman with zero interest in sex, where is the problem coming from?

I believe that a lot of women enter marriages never knowing what being aroused actually feels like.

I don’t think by any means this is the case for all women who struggle with low libido or just a general distaste for sex. But we get comments and emails like the one above all the time–they did everything right, they got married, but she just never felt fireworks. And it makes sense.

Arousal for Women Often Takes Time: Maybe the reason sex doesn't feel great is because she's never learned how to be aroused.

We tend to think of sex like a switch, when really it’s a learning process.

Couples are told “don’t have sex” before marriage and then they get married and we say, “now have sex.” We don’t start with the basics; it’s like teaching someone to read by giving them Dante’s Inferno instead of The Cat in the Hat. Of course they’re going to hate reading–it doesn’t make sense and makes them feel stupid. Having sex before you’ve learned how to get aroused can feel the same way–it doesn’t feel natural, it doesn’t feel like you are built for it because it just doesn’t make sense.

For many women, sexual arousal happens in stages. First, there’s no sexual desire at all–it’s all just snuggling and hand-holding. Then you graduate to wanting to kiss. After kissing for a while, you start to want to make out. Once you’ve been making out for a while, it’s natural to want to touch him and have him touch you. Next the clothes start coming off. And it just escalates from there.

But here’s the thing: that process of arousal and wanting to go further, for women, often takes a long time. And too often we speed up the steps, so that we go from hand holding to sex in around 15 minutes on someone’s wedding night.

Many women get married having never done anything more than kiss or make out and then they go immediately to sex.

This means they end up skipping so many steps!

Now, many of these women may have been aroused before the wedding night and desperately wanted to go further but they’ve managed to practice self-control and so that they’ve been ready for wedding night sex for a long time and it’s finally here!

But for others? They got married and they weren’t ready for the final step yet. Their bodies haven’t actually craved it yet. Their bodies haven’t been taught, “this is how it feels to want your spouse; this is what it feels like to be sexually aroused.”

And then they get married, they have sex, and they feel nothing. And I’m not really sure why we’re so surprised.

I want to be clear: the answer is not to start having sex before marriage. 

It is clear in scripture that God’s best for us is to save sex for our spouses. I am not arguing against that whatsoever. But what I am arguing is that if you are part of a couple where the woman just hasn’t ever felt fireworks, can we re-think what sex looks like?

Sometimes the answer isn’t just to have more sex–it may be to go through those skipped steps to learn about arousal.

Perhaps the problem in your marriage is not that sex can’t be great–it’s that you’ve skipped too many steps along the way. So as a couple, maybe it’s time to work through those steps together. But here’s the thing: if you want to learn how to get aroused, the goal can’t be to have sex–the goal is only to get aroused. That means there’s no pressure to have sex. And if sex doesn’t happen, you haven’t failed–you’ve done work to go through those steps to train your body to respond to arousal. It’s not likely going to go from 0 to 100 in one day.

We tend to think of sex like a switch, when really it’s a learning process.

I cover a lot of great tips for building intimacy and arousal to improve your sex life in the Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex:

God made sex to be AWESOME!

It’s supposed to be great physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Feel like something’s missing?

For those of you who are engaged or dating now, can I ask you to re-think the wedding night and honeymoon?

What would happen if we started telling newlyweds that they don’t have to have sex on the honeymoon? To instead have baths together, to cuddle naked, to give each other massages while they kiss each other? To explore ways to please the other? And then to only do sexual things if they just can’t stop themselves? And that if one is ready and the other is not, there are other ways to be close sexually without penetration until both are ready.

Most women reach orgasm for the first time not through intercourse but through manual or oral stimulation anyway. If we determined to help her figure out how her body works before we went to penetration, we’d likely have fewer people like the letter writer wondering what all the fuss is about.

Obviously there will be many couples who are ready and rarin’ to go from the minute they say “I do,” but if you aren’t ready yet, there’s no shame in that. Be honest, and tell your fiance,

“I want to have an awesome sex life with you. And so I’d like to use our honeymoon to explore every inch of each other’s bodies and see how they tick and what makes us feel good so that when we have sex it’s great for both of us and I feel ready for it. I want to start this important part of our marriage off right.”

And if you aren’t sure yet if you are ready, be honest about that, too.

The great part, too, is that if you feel unsure but then there is a moment where you think, “I want this so much!” You can just have sex. You’re married! So as soon as your body says YES, then you don’t have to hold back!

What I wish people could understand is that you will have a whole marriage ahead of you to have sex. And I believe that if more couples spent the early weeks of their marriages figuring out just what makes the wife “tick,” we’d see a lot of women with much higher libidos. Because when you go from 0 to 100 with no warming up, it can be hard to understand what is supposed to be happening. But it’s something that comes naturally when it’s new, exciting, and your goal isn’t sex, but to learn how to turn your partner on.

My Sexy Dares have a lot of emphasis on the man learning how to get his wife aroused and draw out foreplay, so if you’re looking for some help, that’s a great place to start!

If you are looking for some more tips to improve your sex life, check out these posts:

What do you think? Do you think couples who are virgins feel too much pressure to go straight to sex on their honeymoon? Do you think a week focused on exploring rather than just “doing it” would help couples start off their sex lives right? Let’s chat in the comments below!

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