Where Logic Meets Love

How Do Christians Have Sex?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

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How Do Christians Have Sex? | Faith Permeating Life

If you got here by Googling a question, you might like this follow-up post!

I've been mulling this post over for a while. Sometimes I feel like a broken record talking about how Christians need to stop treating sex as something evil, and then I come across something like this and it makes me want to tear my hair out. There's no way to know if this particular story is true, but it wouldn't be the first time that someone has implied, or even outright said, that "sex is evil."

Perhaps this person meant unmarried sex was evil. Or sex with condoms. That's possible. You can go back to this post if you want a reminder of just how many rules have been put on sexual activity in the name of Jesus, but the point is that this kind of thinking backs sex into a corner: It's only "holy" if you are a straight, married, fertile couple having intercourse without any barriers to pregnancy and you're not trying to pleasure each other in any way that isn't directly leading to the man ejaculating inside the woman.

Sounds like a ton of fun, huh?

And that's just the problem. Sex has turned into such a rule-laden activity that I think even people who are acting within the confines all of these various stipulations are made to be afraid of enjoying themselves too much.

What started me thinking about this was Emmy's post about an article (now unavailable) on changes to Francine Rivers' novel Redeeming Love, a romance based on the Biblical book of Hosea. Rivers had to make some changes from the original version, published by Bantam, before it could be published by Christian publisher Tyndale. You can go read the article for side-by-side comparisons of several changes, but what struck me most was that the references to sex, although between a married husband and wife, were... toned down. We get vague references instead of the burning sexual passion that is clearly evident in the original version.

And it got me thinking.

How often do you read about a Christian married couple having hot, passionate, explosive sex?

On the other hand, how often do you read about (or watch a TV show or movie about) a non-Christian couple having hot, passionate, explosive sex?

Exactly.

Here's another link for you, with this great quote from Jon Acuff:
I think to some degree we’ve bought the lie that the world gets to have wild, crazy sex and Christians, holy folks like us, get to have black and white, two dimension sex.
Now you guys know I'm not big into judging people for having sex outside of marriage, so I don't agree with all his premises in this article. But I agree with this: for all those Christian folks who are trying to keep sex limited to married couples, they're not doing themselves any favors if they're, at the same time, trying to sanitize any and all descriptions of married sex to be vague and, well, boring.

I've mentioned the One Extraordinary Marriage podcast before, but what I haven't talked about is how incredibly rare this couple seems to be in the world of marriage podcasts. They're a Christian couple who talk as easily about oral sex and sex toys as they do about Jesus Christ and God. They talk about the importance of sexual intimacy to a healthy marriage and aren't afraid to mention when they've had really great sex that week. It's amazing, and amazingly rare.

I'm grateful I discovered their podcast because when I was originally looking for a podcast on marriage, I only found two kinds of podcasts talking about relationships: the "wholesome Christian family" type ones that talked about having a Biblical marriage and wouldn't be caught dead talking about sex (unless they were talking about the evils of gay and unmarried sex) and the "explicit" sex podcasts that were all sex, all the time, and probably wouldn't be caught dead talking about God.

The two different categories were so clear that it was almost like you had to pick a side when choosing a podcast: Do I care about having a Christian marriage... or do I care about having good sex?

So many taboos have been put onto how Christian couples are allowed to have sex that somehow it's become sinful to speak positively about sex, to be creative in the bedroom (or go outside the bedroom!), or even to enjoy oneself too much during sex.

Think I'm exaggerating? Imagine living next door to a Christian couple. You see them going to church every Sunday. They're always doing kind things for other people, visiting the sick, and offering to pray for people. They talk openly about God and how important He is in their marriage.

If one day you heard them having noisy, wild sex, would it surprise you? Would you smirk and think to yourself, "Hm, maybe they're not that holy after all?"

But why? Why should their passionate married sex make them somehow dirtier or guiltier than before?

Like Jon Acuff, I don't exactly have a solution to this, but I think it's something that warrants more discussion. And I think that the more that Christians concern themselves with the sexual mores of others, the more that feelings of guilt and sinfulness and dirt begin to coat all aspects of any sexual activity. If we spent more time celebrating what is good and beautiful about sex and less time pointing fingers at the "wrong" ways to have sex, I think we'd all find a lot more joy and pleasure in our own relationships.

That's what I think. What do you think?

If you liked this post, check out some other posts I've done on the topic of sex.

21 comments:

  1. I love this. And it's really interesting, I'm reading the original of Redeeming Love right now and HOLY COW did they cut out A LOT of sex in the "clean" version. I'm sure once I finish the original there will be a post about it.

    But honestly, I think you bring up some really good points. Why shouldn't the Christian couples do hot sexy things? I remember in high school one of my youth leaders who was engaged was talking about how people in her family would give her different tips about sexy things to do in the bedroom, but she didn't want to hear about it because she wanted her sex with her husband to be "pure." WHAT? I mean... really? I'm not saying you have to get into really weird things like hurting each other or something, but being sexy and having hot sex in a happy marriage is not wrong. At least I don't think it is. SIGH. Oh people.

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    1. Emmy, I hate that that article isn't available anymore. Did you ever do a follow-up comparison blog of your own? If not, I vote you do! :)

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    2. I really need to! It's been awhile since I wrote that post, but maybe I'll do that soon. I've been needing some blog inspiration lately! :-)

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  2. @Emmy
    I'd love to read your follow-up post once you finish the original version!

    I wonder what exactly your youth leader's definition of "pure" sex is. One of the things I meant to talk about in the post was the idea of lust and whether people are maybe trying to discourage being lustful when they say those kinds of things... but I think lust has less to do with what you're actually doing with your partner and more to do with whether you're trying to detach the sex and physical pleasure from love and affection. A couple could have totally "boring" sex, but if they're just doing it because they each want an orgasm and they don't have any real affection for each other outside of that, then I'd say that's lustful. But if I were to dress up and act "sexy" for Mike, to me that's a way of showing my love for him and not because I'm trying to make him want my body separate from the rest of me.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your story to illustrate exactly what I'm talking about! I would love to talk to someone who thinks that having hot sex in a marriage is sinful and try to figure out exactly what's behind that kind of thinking.

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  3. I went back to your previous article about educating our kids in a healthy way about sex without fear and commented there too.

    I think most Christians and church denominations have an unhealthy view of sex for what it is supposed to be. They go to the extreme and remove the healthy emotion that is supposed to be present with it.

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  4. I have to say that I do not believe this is only a problem among Christians, because even within secular culture and in secular TV programs, I have noticed that sex is commonly equated with dirtiness. This goes for sex both in and outside of marriage. Someone might say, "Oh, that sounds dirty" in reference to a sexual comment. Also, there is the "I've been a bad little girl" concept, and while these things are meant to be playful, the ideas still employ negative language--see the word BAD, and dirty, of course, is also a negative term.

    Therefore, even among people who do not view sex in general or sex outside of marriage as morally unacceptable, they still attach sex to certain ideas about what is inherently wrong, whether or not they are bothered by the idea of it being--or possibly being--wrong.

    But why is this so? I think it is because we live in a world in which 1 in 4 women have been sexually assaulted and an estimated 80% of sexual abuse goes unreported. Therefore, how can we not, to some extent, view sex in a negative way? We all know someone who has been hurt by sex or sexual acts that happened or were taken in the wrong context. Whether or not we are aware of the situation, it is inevitable that we know someone who is hurting, because of sex.

    I do not believe that sex in general is inherently wrong but I do believe that sex in the wrong context is one of the most destructive sins of all. It ruins lives and causes trauma. And that's is why I am rather conservative in my views about sex and believe that it should be reserved for marriage. I think that it is worth doing whatever possible to protect as many women and children (and men, in rare cases) as possible. If everyone saved their sexual impulses for the right context-- a monogamous marriage--I think the world would be a better place. And we might finally be able to view sex as what it was meant to be--a gift from God.

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    1. Yes making love is a gift from God. As my husband and i of 16 years have found out. There is a Big difference between sex and love making.

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  5. @Dave Keller
    You hit on something I had missed: the extreme nature of the sexual restrictions created by religion. I think it's essentially erring on the side of having too many rules just to be sure no one is having "sinful" sex, as opposed to risking being too permissive. And I think that kind of view--that sex is this dangerous thing that has to be kept within strict limits--is such a distortion of the goodness that sex really is.

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  6. @Anonymous
    You're right that the notion of sex as something dirty extends beyond religious culture into secular culture, but I think it still has its roots in religious restrictions, not in sexual crimes. The Catholic Church was putting limits on sexual behavior well before there was any cultural notion of a woman being personally violated by a man, since women were considered property; rape was a way of men declaring domination over other men by raping their women. Mike and I watched a documentary about sex and religion earlier this year and there is a long, long history of restrictions being put on sexual activity in the name of God. I'm pretty confident that the secular language around sex stems from the original edicts about sex handed down from the Church.

    I'm going to save my response to your last paragraph for tomorrow's post because there's too much for me to say in one comment :)

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  7. Goodness. So many thoughts I don't know where to begin! I kinda took the opposite approach as you on my blog and wrote about how I'm sick of talking about sex (http://blueberriesforme.wordpress.com/2011/07/20/im-tired-of-talking-about-sex/) but maybe you have a point that we should be talking about it more! Just more about what to do instead of what not to do.

    Can I say what really, really, REALLY has pissed me off about the Christian community? (Disclaimer: I was pretty involved with a semi-evangelical group in college called YoungLife so this is more from that lens than the Catholic one) Christians treat sex like some kinda *reward*. Wait your whole life for the one and then sex is awesome! You did it! Have all the fun you want! If you had sex before marriage you'll be scarred for life but if you wait till after it's pure heaven!

    Then I was diagnosed with interstitial cystitis, pelvic floor disorder, endometriosis, and vulvodynia, so usually sex is pretty painful for me (or I can get through it OK and then it burns like hell afterwards. like HELL). Christians worked this sex thing up into this big reward, but no one is willing to talk about what happens when it doesn't work out. Plus *sex* isn't the reward for being a good Christian girl/boy, pleasing God is.

    What about those of us who fall outside of the norm? What about those who are infertile? What does the Church do with us?

    Also....we've talked about wanting to talk to a priest about this, because my health problems have left me kinda mad at God, but I kinda feel bad complaining about our lack of sex to someone who never has sex, haha. And also they are a dude. People who say priests understand sex because they've counseled so many couples.....yeah, no. I can't imagine telling a priest my vagina hurts during sex, what's your advice? Not gonna happen.

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  8. @Jackie
    You are spot on with the sex as reward thing. That's exactly what I was trying to get at in my "myth of amazing honeymoon sex" post. About the only time I hear Christians talk about sex positively is when they're trying to dissuade unmarried folks from having sex, by promising how spectacular their sex will be once they're married. Sigh.

    In terms of talking to a priest, it doesn't sound like you'd really be asking for clinical advice like from a doctor ("my vagina hurts during sex, what's your advice?"). It sounds like you want to say "My health problems have made me angry at God and caused difficulties in my ability to be intimate with my spouse. Can you help me work on maintaining a good relationship with God and with my husband?" That seems like a reasonable thing to discuss with your priest, and it doesn't have to get too detailed about the sex part, since that's not really what you want help with, right? (From your priest, I mean. Maybe from your doctor, yes.) Maybe I'm misunderstanding the situation, but that's what I'm hearing from what you said. That's a rough situation--I hope you can find whatever kind of support you need.

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  9. Haha no. Don't worry I talk to my doctor. I just mean more that it is hard to be honest when you're sugar coating everything. I prefer just being blunt about things.

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  10. @Jackie
    I figured you talked to your doctor :) Well, maybe it's a matter of finding a priest you can be blunt with, then! Haha. Best of luck :)

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  11. From someone who was raised that sex is for married couples only and was given that preconceived notion that it should be boring... Looking back, I can see ALL of the struggles that my ex and I went through because I was afraid of getting too "wild".
    Then after my divorce, being in a happy relationship where not only was the relationship was great but so was the sex, I was afraid that I was going against my Christian beliefs because I enjoyed what was going on in the bedroom.

    I thank you for this post!!!... some affirmation that you CAN have both.

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  12. @Dawn
    Thanks for sharing your experience, and I'm sorry for the difficulties you went through. I wish the positive side of sex was discussed more often in Christian circles (because there's plenty of talk of sex--just in a negative way), so that this kind of guilt didn't have to pervade people's sex lives :/

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  13. I love this! I so wish sex was a more open subject in the Christian community...or maybe it is with certain married couples, but all I ever hear about it is that sex outside of marriage is forbidden. (Although 90 percent of people who say this did in fact have sex outside of marriage..but that is a whole other can of worms.)

    I found your page from 20 something bloggers and I enjoy your writing so much I'm now a new follower! Thanks for posting! :-)

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  14. @Amanda @ Semi-Health Nut
    Welcome to Faith Permeating Life! Thanks for following!

    I would guess that some of the hypocrisy around discussions of sex in Christian circles goes back to the fact that it's easier to repeat the things you've heard a hundred times than to develop your own complex and realistic understanding of sex, especially if you don't hear anyone else talking that way. So I think there are many Christians who had sex before marriage but haven't really thought through why, so they fall back on telling other people to save sex for marriage. And the limits (both formal and informal) on what kind of sexual discussion is "allowed" just perpetuates this cycle. It's a shame, and I think it discourages people from understanding their own sexual needs, wants, boundaries, etc.

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  15. I so love this! My husband and I have a very similar view...I actually read a book called Sexual Satisfaction for the Christian Wife and it's main focus what the fact that God CREATED sex. He created our man and women parts to fit perfectly together and procreate! So why is sex a bad thing?! It's a wonderful thing! He created it for our pleasure. There's an entire book of the bible dedicated to God's blessings of the pleasure of sex! And most importantly...the KEY to a healthy marriage is a healthy sex life. Thank you for writing this...and I found Emmy's post on Redeeming Love incredibly interesting! I would love to read the original version!

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  16. @Lauren
    Thanks so much for your comment! You're right that a healthy sex life is an important piece of a healthy marriage, so that can't be swept under the rug if churches are truly trying to promote healthy marriages.

    I highly recommend One Extraordinary Marriage if you're into podcasts! They're refreshingly candid and talk about all forms of intimacy in marriage, from sexual intimacy to spiritual intimacy to financial intimacy.

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  17. the point is is that christians ruin your life. i remember going to youth group and hearing about the "guilt" you would have if you had premarital sex and the stds and the unwanted baby and how if i just waited i would be with "gods perfect woman for you" hahaha what a load of shit. i watched as a ton of christian people had horrible relationships and got divorced. i prayed to god to send a woman and waited till 25 to lose my virginity. he sent me a fucking drug addicted, chrons and bipolar suffering lunatic and i had the most half ass worthless sex for the first time in 25 years. why didnt the youth pastor just say this " god doesnt give a fuck about you and half the people in the world are broken and youre never gonna find miss right so just go out there and wear a condom if you dont want a kid or std and as for he whole guilt thing well hell god never had a fucking plan for you to begin with. you girls will be having your amazing righteous husband jizz in your face and you guys will have your righteous woman sit on your face. amen." i mean for real isnt that as sick and "special" as god ever fucking made it. theres nothing deep or special about it. its 2 sad lonely pathetic excuses of human beings trying to get sexually off on one another and yet for years christians made it about "purity" and "my special gift" wtf. humans act like animals god acts like he doesnt give a fuck and sex when it comes down to it is animalistic only because "the one" or "the love of your life" NEVER FUCKING COMES. so there. bring on the hatemail :)

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    1. hey johnny :) don't believe the lies when things don't work out right away. i still believe that a perfect purpose and maybe soul mate is waiting ahead for me.even if i make the biggest mess out of my life and the worst mistakes one can make,i will still be glad, for i have been given a one in a million life and a father who was prepared to be tortured and crucified just for me. i am so blessed to have a father who will forgive me no matter what. thank you for still believing that God exists. i trust that you will be strong enough to make the right choices in life and that i will one day see you in paradise. x

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