Today I want to revisit a rather controversial topic. Except “want” is really not the right word. I’d love to run as far away from this one as possible. But I keep being asked about sex toys, and I haven’t written about them in a long time, and my thinking has evolved a little bit. And so I’m going to jump in.
So here goes: Can Christians Use Sex Toys?
I want to make it clear from the outset, though, that I am giving my opinion. I do not claim to speak for God. When I was researching The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I had to think about this and give my opinion in the book, and I did. So what I have to say has been the conclusion that I have come to after speaking at marriage conferences, reading, and praying.
First, the context.
I believe that God created sex to connect us on three levels: the physical, the emotional, and the spiritual.
And sex works best when all three are involved! That doesn’t mean that every time you make love the earth has to move and you have to feel like you don’t know where one of you ends and the other begins, but the sum total of your sex life should connect you not just physically, but spiritually as well. You should feel connected when you make love.
As I’ve been thinking through some of the most common thorny questions I get, then, like masturbation or sex toys or whether a certain sexual act is permitted or not, I tend to come back to principles, not to rules (because I actually don’t think there are a lot of rules for this stuff). So let’s start with a few principles:
We’re talking about wisdom, not about sin
I tend to rely on Paul’s logic when he said:
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.
In fact, Paul meant that so much he said it twice! (He says something very similar in 1 Corinthians 6:12–everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial).
Because we’re talking about wisdom and not about sin, we each need to come to these answers ourselves. You don’t have to agree with me; you should wrestle through it. And what works for some may not work for others, because we all have different weaknesses and different strengths and just plain different circumstances. So I’d like to focus on how we can think this through with wisdom.
Why are Sex Toys So Popular?
Maybe that’s a dumb and naive question to ask, because likely a lot of people are saying, “If you don’t understand, maybe you should try some!” And I get it. But let’s just take a philosophical step back for a minute.
Sex without intimacy is only about orgasm.
Now, orgasm is great! Everyone wants great physical highs. But when we disconnect the physical from the intimate we lose something.
I have a theory about what’s happening with sex in the wider culture, and it revolves around this intimacy aspect of sex. We know that vulnerability is the key to passion. When you’re able to truly bare yourself in every way, you feel closer on every level, and that fuels desire. We found, for instance, in our survey for The Great Sex Rescue that women who felt emotionally close to their husbands during sex were far more likely to orgasm and have a higher libido. But vulnerability can’t just be produced on command. You need to have trust, and you need to have emotional and physical safety in a relationship. When that’s missing, sex won’t seem as passionate. And in the wider culture, many having sex do not have that emotional and physical safety because there’s no commitment.
So what’s one to do? Push the physical boundaries to try to recreate that erotic high that’s missing because vulnerability is missing. Incidentally, I think this is often why BDSM and physical vulnerability plays such a huge role in sex play. You recreate physically what should be true emotionally, but isn’t. And you get that erotic high in another way. (Again, that’s not to make a pronouncement on BDSM in your relationship; only to say that I think there’s a bigger picture going on here).
Now I’m not saying it’s wrong for for christians to have fun, or to stretch your limits, or even to stretch during sex :)! I’m just saying that our culture emphasizes the physical, and misses out on the deep spiritual connection from sex that we should experience.
Because the culture emphasizes the physical, it’s easy for us as Christians to start thinking that way, too. And if we’re concentrating just on the physical, it’s also easy for sex to become shallow. Where you don’t feel valued or loved; you just feel used.
That’s the background. Now for some questions to help us navigate this ourselves.
1. Do sex toys detract from intimacy or enhance it?
Are you having a great time in your marriage, but you just want some spicing up? You feel super close to each other, but you just want to increase the fun quotient, and you find sex toys do that? That’s great.
Or are you suffering from some physical issues that make certain sexual acts, like intercourse, prohibitive? And sex toys (in this case I’d almost prefer the archaic words “marital aids”) help things happen? Or help you feel like you’re still connecting? That’s awesome.
But I still have a few more questions:
2. Are sex toys enabling shortcuts in our marriage?
Most sex toys (not all by any means) are really masturbatory in nature. They help you have an orgasm.
Now, like I said, orgasms are great! But if sex toys are allowing you both to avoid doing some serious work in your sexual and emotional relationship that needs to be done, then they’re actually detracting from intimacy.
Are sex toys allowing you to take physical shortcuts?
We talk in The Orgasm Course about how it’s really important to know what an orgasm feels like in order to learn how to reach orgasm regularly with your husband. If you’ve been married 15 years and you’ve never had an orgasm, and you want to go buy a vibrator so you just find out what it feels like, that can help you learn to reach orgasm because at least you know what feelings to look for.
But just because a woman can orgasm to a vibrator does not mean that she can orgasm to anything her husband is doing. And if he finds it easier to use a vibrator on her than to figure out how to actually stimulate her, in the long run that’s probably going to feel empty. (And I’ve got a longer post on vibrators specifically, too).
Similarly, many couples where he suffers from premature ejaculation will use sex toys to help her get hot and heavy before they start anything that will stimulate him. Again, that can be a good plan. But if they then don’t put the work in to find exercises to help with premature ejaculation or explore any treatment options, then eventually this may feel like it’s a poor substitute.
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Are sex toys allowing you to take emotional shortcuts?
Some sex toys are so powerful you’ll orgasm pretty much no matter what. Some are used in “play” that create a scenario where you don’t feel like yourself and you’re able to enjoy sex almost as someone else (or at least with a different dynamic with your spouse).
This means that sex can technically “work”, and everyone can feel physically great, even if there are major problems emotionally in your relationship. You won’t have to feel emotionally or spiritually close for sex to work. You won’t have to be emotionally vulnerable, but you can hold back.
And that can end up widening the gulf between you.
The need for emotional intimacy to make sex great is one of the drives that helps us bridge our emotional gaps. If we want to connect sexually, we’ll have to connect emotionally too. Make sure the dynamic in your marriage is not one where you’ve avoiding having those hard conversations, but you’re still having hot sex, so you feel connected when you’re actually not.
3. Are sex toys fuelling dissatisfaction with each other?
Most guys aren’t that big. And they can’t vibrate like that. You don’t ever want to start preferring something else to your husband!
Or is sexual play revolving so much around role play that you’re starting to worry that you don’t actually want each other anymore?
Or is one of you way more into them than the other, and once you’ve said yes to one thing, suddenly a big catalog on a website keeps being pulled up and more packages are arriving in the mail, and the other is feeling distinctly uncomfortable. If consent is becoming an issue, then step very, very far away from them. If a spouse uses a sex toy on you without your consent, even if you orgasm from it, that is still a form of sexual assault, and it isn’t right. We talked about this at length in The Great Sex Rescue as well.
4. Are sex toys dehumanizing?
This is a hard one to explain, because there is such a primal element to sex where it gets “hotter” when you are just using each other sometimes, or feeling used. When you become pure pleasure. I get that.
But when power becomes its own aphrodisiac–either having power over someone else or someone else having power over you–there is a disruption in intimacy. Intimacy means that you are completely seen. As I said, that vulnerability can be recreated with sex toys, but it can be a false vulnerability. Intimacy is two people wanting to truly know each other, which means both people matter. If sex becomes primarily about one person degrading the other, or treating the other like an object, that can become a problem, especially if this becomes the main way you relate to each other.
If you have to humiliate someone else, or make them feel uncomfortable, to get aroused or truly enjoy sex, there is an underlying issue there that needs to be addressed.
So there you have it: my big picture questions about sex toys.
For some of you they won’t be great, and for some of you they very well may be! I’m not saying you shouldn’t use them. You may be even thinking to yourself, “the thing that I want to use wouldn’t even fall under those categories”. Again, wonderful! I’m not trying to pronounce a blanket statement. I’m just trying to issue a cautionary warning: remember, studies have shown that what feels the best is two people in a committed marriage feeling emotionally connected during sex. It’s not two people stretching more and more boundaries.
There is nothing wrong with fun; fun is good. Driving your spouse wild is great! But there is something wrong with making sex into something that’s purely physical, or that’s degrading or detracting from intimacy. How you find that line is really between you and your husband. But I just urge you to think about those things, and make sure that intimacy at all levels is always the focus.
If you really want to make sex hot, think about trying 31 Days to Great Sex! There’s lots on how to feel connected in every way, how to talk about fantasies, how to spice things up–but all while feeling very intimate.
Do you want MORE for your sex life?
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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