Not Quite Right Messages about Sex

I’m a big advocate for speaking up more about sexuality in our churches. While I understand the need to maintain the privacy of the marriage bed, the topic of sex itself is dealt with rather often and frankly in the Bible. So I’m happy when Christians broach the subject and try to teach what sex in marriage should look like.

Unfortunately, at times, I’ve heard some not-quite-right messages about sex conveyed at our church gatherings. I’ve been thinking lately about those and what my issues were with the teaching. Here are a few:

Your husband needs to have sex, so just give in. On the face of it, perhaps you think I’ve said something similar on my blog. Indeed I encourage lower-drive wives to engage in sex because their husbands do naturally desire this form of intimacy. However, the underlying message in this statement is that sex is something for a husband, not for both spouses, and that a wife is making some big sacrifice to surrender her body to her husband.

Well-meaning women have suggested that men cannot control their urges, so we must help them out by giving them a God-approved outlet. Okay, I get that, but sometimes we make men seem base and immature and overlook the pleasure and importance of sex to wives.

God created sex for both of you — husbands and wives. Regardless of who is the higher or lower-drive spouse, you both benefit from healthy sexual intimacy. You both can — and should — experience pleasure, connection, and generosity in the bedroom. It’s not about sacrificing yourself on the altar of martyrdom to have sex with your husband; it’s about enjoying this special gift from God for your marriage.

If there’s no specific verse against a sexual activity, it’s absolutely okay. Yet again, this one sounds good. Didn’t all those Pharisees get into big trouble with Jesus for adding regulations to God’s Word? So we want to be careful about adding restrictions where none exist.

But honestly, this makes no sense to me. I cannot find a verse specifically denouncing cocaine use, but it’s clearly not okay. We make judgments all the time in life about what’s good and not good based on our understanding of biblical principles. Not adding restrictions, but applying our understanding of God to current situations. And as we deepen our knowledge of the Word and God Himself, we can better address circumstances and questions that were never specifically raised in biblical times.

Using an extreme example in the sexual realm, where’s the verse against erotic asphyxiation? Hopefully, no one would suggest that suffocation as part of sexual arousal has God beaming down at the participants with a proud grin. We understand at some level that some sexual practices, while not specifically denounced in the Bible, are not God-honoring. Now of course, we can debate which sexual practices those are, but freedom in Christ does not mean freedom from the application of reason, conscience, and love.

Give him what he wants, and he’ll give you what you want. Once again, there’s a shred of truth here that we are certainly more disposed to treat others well when they treat us well. If a husband helps a wife out around the house, most would be more inclined to have the time, energy, and eagerness to make love. But the message often conveyed with this statement is that sex should be used as a bartering chip.

I’ve heard many Christian women happily claim they use sex as a reward for their husbands doing what they want. That puts all the cards in the wife’s hands, diminishes her pleasure and involvement, and makes for duty sex — which is not as good for either of you. Sex is meant to be enjoyed for its own sake, even if a few items on the honey-do list remain undone.

I’ve joked with my own husband that I can’t get him to do anything because he knows I won’t forgo our sexual intimacy long enough to effectively dangle that carrot. Which is a good thing. Because when he does something for me, it’s simply because he loves me. Exactly the way it should be in the bedroom as well.

Thankfully, our teaching in the church about sexuality has definitely improved in the course of my lifetime. I pray that we will continue to make great strides to share good messages about God’s gift of sexuality for marriage.

What not-quite-right messages about sex have you heard at church or church-related gatherings? Where do you think our teaching about sexual intimacy in marriage can improve?

8 thoughts on “Not Quite Right Messages about Sex

  1. Dan

    J-Thanks for addressing those issues. As you said, you see and hear those messages delivered so often and the grain of truth behind them lets them be co-opted into tools of manipulation in relationships even when manipulation was not the goal by espousing them.

  2. Nathan

    Great post! Churches need to make sure and send the correct message to marriages. Thank you for a well thought out message.

  3. Jed

    Great Article – but then again most of your’s are great!

    I agree with you, some of the messages we hear in church are not really helpful. I don’t think the Pastor has thought things through very well. He has looked at the activity, not at the heart of the people involved or the importance of having proper motivation.

    I was thinking also about Paul’s words in I Cor 7:1-5
    Now regarding the questions you asked in your letter. Yes, it is good to abstain from sexual relations.[a] 2 But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband.
    3 The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. 4 The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife.
    5 Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

    This one seems like a good text to use, but I fear I may be missing something. What do you think?

  4. Jay Dee - SexWithinMarriage.com

    From a dear friend of mine who happens to be a pastor:
    – That PIV is the only sexual activity that God has blessed/wants us to engage in/we shouldn’t want anything else (wanting anything else means something is wrong with us)
    – Specifically that women who either give or want oral sex must have something mentally wrong with them
    – That women who like anal sex must like pain / feel like they need to be punished, because there is no possible way it is enjoyable for them

    I didn’t know what to say…

  5. Tracy

    These examples are spot on. There are many bad messages for unmarried people about sexuality too. In a teenage class when I was younger we were taught the old expression “Boys give love to get sex, girls give sex to get love.” Which may be true of some couples, but that gives the impression girls cannot be tempted by physical pleasure and are simply doing it to make the boy like them. What a shame.

  6. Larry B (larrysmusings.com)

    J, this essay needed to be written. This is an important topic.

    “And as we deepen our knowledge of the Word and God Himself, we can better address circumstances and questions that were never specifically raised in biblical times.”

    I agree. And, this applies to other actions and activities in life beyond what goes on in the marital bed. It is troubling that some who claim to be Christian will cherry pick Bible verses and even take these out of context to justify or support their choices. (I recently posted an essay addressing this.) People need to be honest in their thinking. The Bible does not address every issue or circumstance, but we can make use of the higher principles in it to make proper choices (that are in keeping with the spirit of the law).

    Tracy, above, makes a good point. We can now admit that, yes, women and even teenage girls have a physical sex drive. Mature recognition of this can help parents, pastors, and responsible teachers to tailor their messages to young women appropriately.

  7. Alan

    Excellent post! After reading a few marriage/sex books recently I agree that sex is under-discussed in church. And might I add – Don’t just have sex with him. Find out what he likes in sex and do it with abandon! My wife rocks!

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