Where Logic Meets Love

Ask Google Jessica: The Christian Sex Edition

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

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Ask Jessica: The Christian Sex Edition | Faith Permeating Life

Last December I wrote two posts that have received more traffic every month over the past year than any other post I've written. The posts are "Stop Telling Me I'm Too Skinny" and "How Do Christians Have Sex?"

They're the most popular posts not, as far as I can tell, because people are linking them and sharing them, but because people like to enter a lot of personal questions into Google.

I've collected some of the most interesting questions that have led people to Faith Permeating Life (to those two posts and others) and attempted to provide brief answers to each. Today's questions all have to do with Christian relationships and sex, and I'll save some others for a future post.

Please chime in with your own responses in comments!

Do some Christians have sex?
Given the number of babies running (crawling?) around in certain denominations, it seems some Christians do nothing but have sex! But I'm guessing what you mean is, do some unmarried Christians have sex? And the answer is yes, they do. Not everyone looks to the Bible and sees clear-cut prohibitions on premarital sex for modern couples. But my question to you is, why does it matter? I don't personally recommend making decisions about something like sex based on what other people are doing, whether or not they belong to your faith. What's most important is figuring out what sex means to you and what decisions are congruent with your values.

How do you tell a guy you are not kissing until marriage?
I honestly don't remember exactly how this conversation went with Mike, except that it came out of reading Joshua Harris' book and was part of a larger conversation about what our relationship was going to look like. I definitely recommend having this conversation early on, so you don't end up having to make a split second decision about sticking to your guns when he leans over to kiss you and potentially making him feeling terrible for crossing a boundary he didn't know you had. Is it possible you'll scare a guy off by telling him this? Yes. Do you want to be in a long-term relationship with someone who don't care enough about you to respect your boundaries? Um, no. Honest conversations about intentions and comfort levels are important at all stages of a relationship, from "defining the relationship" initially to navigating sex, and one way to open a conversation like this can be, "What are your thoughts on...?"

How do you get a Christian girl to have sex with you?
No! Stop! I don't care if she's Christian or not, if she doesn't want to have sex with you, then you don't get to have sex with her. This is exactly why I say I don't care if people having sex are married. People who think their sex drive should override respect for whether or not their partner wants to have sex are doing way more to distort the beauty of sex than a loving, consensual, unmarried couple. Another person is not an obstacle to be conquered to appease your sex drive. That is a terrible way to view not only sex but your fellow human beings.

Should Christian couples talk about sex?
Yes! Check out the fantastic One Extraordinary Marriage podcast for tips on having conversations about sex with your partner. If you're not yet having sex, you should be on the same page as your partner about when you're waiting for and why. If you are having sex, then of course you should talk about it. There's nothing dirty about talking about sex with someone you're having sex with! It's the best way to make sure you're having a healthy, fulfilling, and trusting sexual relationship.

Why do so many Christian marriages not have healthy sex lives?
Because they don't talk about it? :)

Well, that's part of it. For Christians especially, sex is rarely discussed positively, and girls in particular can get some extreme and bizarre messages about purity that may create a strong mental association between sex and sinfulness. It's hard to see sex as a wonderful, beautiful act of love if your brain is telling you it's bad and you're a bad person for doing it. The same messages people use in a desperate attempt to keep teenagers abstinent can screw people up once they start having sex, even if they wait until marriage. So while I obviously can't say why any individual couple might be struggling with sex, this is certainly a theme I've heard over and over again in Christian circles.

Should married Christians not have sexual relations?
Really??? It's bad enough that there's so much guilt and shame piled on sex that many people who wait until marriage struggle to accept themselves as sexual beings. But people actually think they shouldn't have sex with their spouse at all if they're Christian? No, please -- go for it. And enjoy it! There's no shame in that.

Are honeymoons just sex?
Ah, the myth of the Christian honeymoon, where the shackles of abstinence are thrown off and you just have sex with wild abandon for days on end.

Look, if you want to spend your honeymoon having lots of sex, more power to you. But if you're both virgins, there's probably going to be a learning curve, and it might be frustrating at first. It's perfectly OK if you don't want to spend all day in bed. Plus, you could do that at home, right? If you're on vacation, enjoy your vacation together! Mike and I took an Alaskan cruise for our honeymoon, and we went on several shore excursions (wedding gifts!), did karaoke, played trivia, ate delicious food from the all-hours buffet, and spent a ton of time drinking tea and playing Scrabble alongside lots of old couples. It was a great way to kick off our new life together and just enjoy focusing on one another for a week before going back to school and work.

What is a Christian honeymoon like?
There's no one-size-fits-all answer for a question like this since not all Christians are the same. If you're wondering about (or worried about) it being all sex all the time, see the answer above. Beyond that, it seems like some Christians are so used to having rules put on them that they want guidelines for everything: What is the proper way to have a honeymoon if you're Christian? But I don't have an answer for that. Your honeymoon is what you make it. I do suggest discussing ahead of time with your spouse-to-be what their expectations are; when Mike and I were picking excursions to put on our registry, I asked him, "Are you hoping to get out and do a lot of different things at each stop, or would you rather spend more time on the boat and pick just a few things we really want to do?" And if your partner says, "What? I thought we were just going to have sex the whole time!" then that's a great time to talk through that expectation!

Is talking dirty off limits for sex for Christians?
Ah, more rules. Always looking for rules. I get a lot of interesting variations on this search term, asking what specific words Christians can say during sex. I think these kinds of questions, like many looking for "rules" about sex, miss the point somewhat. What you say during sex should reflect love and respect for your partner, and it's definitely possible to "talk dirty" while still doing this. Telling your partner what you'd like to do to them or what you'd like them to do to you? Great. Telling your partner how awesome what they're doing feels? Fantastic. Telling your partner what you're going to do to them, even if they don't want you to? Not so good. Talking in a way that is degrading or makes your partner feel uncomfortable? STOP. Remember that sex is one part of your larger relationship with your partner and should be a way of building up and strengthening that relationship, not tearing it down.

How should Christians have sex?
And there it is, the number one search question that brings people to my "How Do Christians Have Sex?" post. Truthfully, if you're looking for rules, your particular denomination probably has lots of them. Will they lead you to a happy, healthy relationship and a fulfilling, wonderful sex life? Not necessarily. Keep in mind that the rules have almost certainly changed over time, and they'll probably change again. I tend to ascribe to what Tony and Alisa DiLorenzo always say: "What you do in your bedroom is between you, your spouse, and God." If you are comfortable with it, your partner is comfortable with it, and you feel that it builds up the God-centered love you have for one another, then have at it.

Interesting questions, huh? What would you add to, or disagree with, these responses?

12 comments:

  1. Great post, whether you're non-religious, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Islamic, Pagan or belong to that pasta religion, sex should be about sharing your love with your partner in an intimate way.
    As long as it's fun, you both enjoy and want it, then to me it doesn't really matter 'how' you do it, whatever floats both your boats. I don't think God had a rulebook on how people should have sex. If sex was only meant to make babies, then it wouldn't feel as good as it does and we wouldn't have the need to have sex after we've stopped having children.

    I definitely agree people should talk more about it. We could do with a little less in your face nudity in magazines and on tv perhaps, but educating people about sex, and not making them feel like it's sinful is the best thing. I feel like keeping teenagers is the dark is exactly what makes them so eager to try it.
    But what's extra important is being able to talk to your partner about wants and needs. In the beginning it's a bit of a confusing mess, and you don't always know what you're doing. Being able to talk about it, is the best step towards having a good sex life.

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    1. So much boils down to communication. I wonder if some people reach for rules simply because having to talk through things can be so awkward! But there's no set of rules that can completely eliminate the need to discuss things with your partner.

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    2. I agree with all that you've said but let's admit it, I want her to enjoy herself too... I try to enhance her before we start and try to prolong my ejaculation so that she can orgasm. We don't just do it missionary.. From behind, her on top and quite frankly, we do it alot. I am almost 43, she 40. We have 3 kids and have been married a long time... am I wrong for my way of thinking here?

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    3. I can't tell if this is a serious comment. Is there something in this post or comment that makes you think you're doing something wrong?

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  2. I like this idea- answering the bizarre google search terms that have led people to your site. I certainly get some weird ones on my blog too.

    It seems like you emphasize a lot how every relationship is different, and people have to determine what works for them individually. I agree with this, but it's also kinda scary- if someone just tells me rules, then I can follow rules, but if I have to evaluate myself and my own feelings, what if I'm wrong? How will I know if I'm being unreasonable?

    And since I have a boyfriend right now, I'm trying to figure those things out- what exactly do I want, how do I feel, etc.

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    1. Well, I don't think you have to start completely from scratch. You can take any given "rule" about sex and ask, "Why was this rule made? Does this make sense for me, based on what I know about myself, my partner, and our relationship? What have been other people's experiences doing this or not doing this?"

      If you grow up with Christian messages about purity, etc., then the idea of developing your own boundaries can be scary; it's as if, if you accidentally go "too far," then you'll be ruined for life. And that's completely false. If you have a loving and respectful relationship with open communication, then there's always the option of saying, "You know what? I wasn't really comfortable with that, and I don't want to do that again."

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    2. "if you accidentally go 'too far,' then you'll be ruined for life." Indeed. Or you'll be so emotionally attached that you will no longer be able to make good decisions. That's what I've always been afraid of.

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    3. Yeah, and I certainly don't want to downplay that because there are some people who have a harder time letting go of a relationship after they've started having sex, though certainly not everyone. I had a friend in college who claimed she could tell when a couple had started having sex by the way they acted, at least among her friends. But your judgment can also be clouded by straight-up infatuation without getting sexually involved. In my opinion it's more a combination of self-knowledge and honest friends that will help you stay true to yourself than having or not having sex.

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  3. Great answers!

    About the honeymoon being one big sex-fest: I know a number of couples who abstained until marriage and, for that reason, spent the first few nights after the wedding in an ordinary hotel near the wedding location, then LATER went on an interesting trip. In addition to preventing them from missing any part of their vacation because they were busy having sex, this prevented them from being tired out by travel when they finally got to be alone together. It makes sense to me.

    On the other hand, in addition to the points you made about other things to do on a honeymoon, a lot of women have some pain after their first intercourse and need to rest a bit before the next time. That's certainly a possibility to consider when planning to lose your virginity. Especially, it's something men should think about in advance so their feelings aren't hurt if their new wife needs some rest.

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    1. I may have mentioned this before, but Mike and I spent our wedding night in our apartment and went on our honeymoon two weeks later. People found both of these things very strange, but they made perfect sense for us. I had been living in the apartment for several weeks at that point, and "home" was the place I felt safest being vulnerable (naked, sexual) for the first time. And we spaced the honeymoon out because I was in Phase 3 (infertile) after our wedding, then got my period, then I was in Phase 2 (fertile/horny) for our honeymoon! Also we didn't even try to have sex on our wedding night, knowing (as you pointed out) that it might be difficult and/or painful at first. All reasons I'm in favor of bucking traditions surrounding weddings when they don't make sense for you.

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    2. Do you mean you didn't have ANY kind of sex on your wedding night, or you didn't attempt intercourse? I can understand the latter. In my experience, it's good to try other pleasurable activities first rather than "go all the way" the first time, because of the pain possibility for women and the performance issue for men--it is nice for a guy to be able to enjoy his first experience without worrying about his partner's pleasure simultaneously (especially if worrying that he's hurting her is also part of it!) and it seems to be a real WORRY for many men.

      Of course, official Catholic teaching forbids any sexual encounter that doesn't involve intercourse. Here's to bucking tradition! :-)

      I like the idea of timing your wedding and honeymoon to your cycle, if you're predictable enough to plan it that way.

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    3. We decided ahead of time that we'd be tired on our wedding night and that all we wanted was to see each other with our clothes off. Then the next morning we'd be rested and have plenty of time to do whatever we wanted. I don't remember exactly when we first attempted intercourse.

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