I think a lot of people read my blog because they can’t talk about sex in real life.
Seriously, we just don’t talk about this stuff. Do you know which of your friends has trouble reaching orgasm? Which ones are battling an erotica or porn problem? Which ones are high libido, married to low libido husbands?
Likely not. And maybe that’s a good thing. I’m not actually a big proponent of knowing enough about the people in my life that I can picture anything, if you know what I mean.
But I do think that we should start talking about some things far more openly. Not necessarily about our own experiences to everyone, but certainly about information that you’ve learned and that you’ve found helpful and that others need to know, too.
This month, on our Monday series, we’ve been talking about community, and how to foster a healthy community at church. Last week we looked at 10 ways to find friends at church. But I want to change focus for a moment today and look at why it is that we want that community in the first place. And one of the big reasons, I think, is that sometimes we need a safe place to go to get help and direction, and a healthy community should provide that.
However, often we’re in a healthy community, even with healthy people, but certain talk is still off limits. I’m hoping I can change that. So let’s jump in!
UPDATE: I wrote this post last week, before the coronavirus had become as bad as it is. I’d like to say some things about that, too, and I likely will tomorrow! Kind of ironic that this month’s series is on community, eh?
First, I think it’s a myth that Christians are uncomfortable talking about sex.
We believe it’s true, and we often act as if it’s true, but in my experience, I have found women extremely open to talking about it–desperate, in fact.
But here’s what happens:
We set the expectation that people won’t want to talk about sex, or that Christians hate talking about sex. Because that’s the expectation, then in large groups we tend to fudge the topic. We act embarrassed, because we figure other people must be uncomfortable, and so they would think we’re weird if we bring it up. In so doing, we create a culture where it’s assumed that Christians are afraid and offended if anyone talks about sex.
But I firmly believe that’s not where people are at.
Last Saturday night, I gave my sex talk at my daughter Katie’s church.
One of the interesting parts of the evening is the anonymous Q&A. We always take a break around the halfway point, to give people a chance to eat some goodies and chat, yes, but also to put some anonymous questions in the basket. I don’t screen the questions; I just read them live and do my best to answer.
There are always so many. They’re often very detailed; it’s clear that women have wanted good answers to these questions for ages, and they’ve never had a good place to ask them. Whether it’s a conservative Mennonite community; a conservative Bible belt community; or a progressive downtown urban church, the questions are remarkably similar.
- Are sex toys okay?
- What about oral sex?
- What if I have no libido? What if he doesn’t?
- He’s emotionally abusive and wants sex all the time.
- What do I do if he’s addicted to porn? What if I am?
- Why can’t I reach orgasm?
- What if he doesn’t take very much time?
- And more…and more.
At my book table after the event, women flock to share detailed stories about something they’ve gone through in the bedroom, and I’m always honoured, because I know that I’m likely the first they’ve ever told.
And there is always one woman hanging back, waiting to talk to me, desperate to be able to put into words something that she has been carrying around.
Because sex is so vulnerable, our sexuality often affects more than other parts of us. So when we can’t talk about it, it’s as if we’re cutting off a part of ourselves. And we suffer in silence.
How can you become a community that talks about sex?
Have a strong marriage ministry, youth ministry, and young adults’ ministry at your church
I’ve written before about a blueprint for a good marriage ministry, but let’s not restrict the talk about sex to just married couples. Singles are dealing with this, too. So are youth. So are those who are divorced!
Hire people on staff who are confident and capable of talking about this in detail, including helping couples and families navigate porn use; helping people find medical personnel and counselors in the area who are trained in specific aspects of sexuality and sexual problems; have resources in your library that talk about healthy sexuality, and don’t reinforce negative stereotypes (like Love & Respect or Every Man’s Battle, for example).
Talk to friends/young people you know who are getting married with basic information
Whenever people get married now, I tell them three things:
- First, the assurance: Sex is a journey; it gets better with time for most people. And most people really do enjoy sex! For some, right off the bat. For others, it gets good still pretty quickly. Relax, and don’t worry too much about it.
- Second, the advice: Aim for arousal, not just intercourse (it’s important to help her to feel aroused and associate good things with married sex, rather than just rushing through intercourse)
- Third, the warning: If sex is difficult or painful about a couple of days, or if you’re having trouble with UTIs, etc., don’t suffer in silence. Seek out help. And if something goes wrong on his end, seek out help, too!
Of course, I also give them a copy of The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, which is wonderful for engaged women, and I sign them up for The Honeymoon Prep Course. But telling people far and wide when they get married these basic three things helps them so that if things don’t go well, they know they’re not strange, and they know that help is available.
Are you ready for the honeymoon you always dreamed of?
The Honeymoon Course is here to help you plan the perfect honeymoon and start your marriage (and your sex life!) off with laughter, joy and fun!
Don’t make the same mistakes other couples have–get it right from the beginning!
Tell young newlyweds that if they ever have any questions, they can ask you, and you won’t tell anyone else.
And be specific! I’ve let friends of my daughters who have gotten married know that if they ever have any questions about orgasm or sex or anything they can ask me (just saying the word “orgasm” lets people know that you’re serious.) Don’t just say, “if you ever have any problems in the bedroom, let me know.” Be more specific. Then they know they don’t have to be embarrassed about saying the real words to you.
In your peer group, make it clear (without giving details) that you think sex is great, and that it’s important to talk about
In a small group Bible study with other moms? Do you join other women for a jogging group or a craft group? If the subject of sex comes up, say something like, “Well, I really enjoy sex, though it wasn’t always that way, and I’d be happy to give some advice if anyone ever asks!” Again, you don’t have to give specific details. But use the opportunity to let it be known, “I’m a safe place.”
I don’t think Christians are as hung up as we often think. We assume that Christians don’t want to talk about sex, but the truth is that most Christians simply aren’t comfortable with the way our culture treats sex in a rather crude manner. But most of us would also love more safe information about dealing with problems, about techniques, about what’s okay and what isn’t, and so much more.
We create our own communities. When you talk openly about something, you give other people the opportunity to talk openly about it. Even if you do and someone else gives you the evil eye, chances are 2-3 others will seek you out individually later, because women are craving to talk about this.
Let’s not cede the ground of sexuality to the world. We have a lot of great stuff to share. So speak up. Let others know you’re safe. If you see people with super bad books that will hurt their marriage and their sex life, tell them, and explain why, and then present an alternative. I think the reason that so many books took off that treated women’s sexuality so badly was because women were afraid to speak up and say, “this is all wrong and I find it deeply disturbing that people thought this was normal.” It’s okay to speak up! And the more we do, the more churches will be a place where healthy sexuality can be promoted.