Monthly Archives: May 2018

What I Wish I Had Been Taught Instead of Purity Culture with Rebecca Lemke

Rebecca Lemke

I met Rebecca Lemke when she contacted me about appearing on her podcast, The Scarlet Virgins. Her book about her experience in the Purity Culture shares the same name. And I was impressed with how she was speaking up about her experience, both the good and the bad.

We had a wonderful discussion, which will appear soon on her podcast. But in the meantime, I asked her to return the favor and talk to my audience about what she wished she had experienced instead.

This is great information for two reasons:

  1. Even if you didn’t grow up in the Purity Culture, many churches embraced its underlying message in subtler ways, and you might need to rethink what it really means to be pure before God.
  2. We married folk often have children, who should be our students when it comes to sex, and we should think through what messages will point our kids in the right direction.

I hope you’re entirely convinced now to read every word below, because I’m eagerly turning things over to Rebecca.

Blog post title + male & female symbols on chalkboard with chalk beside them

My husband and I are currently making our way through the book Making Chastity Sexy by Christine J. Gardner. A generous friend sent it to me because of my interest and extensive work on purity culture. This book has sparked some discussion between my husband and me about the way we would have liked sex and relationships to have been approached in our youth and some of the ways in which we hope we can approach these things with our son.

A point my husband made recently is that much of what we learned was through the Christian pop culture. Yes, there was a lot of in-your-face rhetoric with the purity rings and conferences and concerts, but the fear we learned was subtle in a lot of ways. It crept in on us more through the subtext within the culture and the way people acted than what was actually said.

Which, to be sure, was fear-mongering in many respects. At least in my case, where crushes were considered an emotional STD and therefore you were to marry your first one to avoid contaminating anyone else or yourself.

The number one thing I wish there had been more of is a culture of practicality surrounding sex. One point Gardner’s book makes is that sex was sold as a product, specifically amazing honeymoon sex, if you paid the price of waiting until you were married. A virgin body on your wedding night was made into a commodity to sell abstinence until marriage.

It seems abhorrent to me that information about precious gifts of God (our bodies, our sexuality, our marriages) was spun to produce an outcome rather than just giving us the facts and the Word of God. Why, on God’s green earth, was that not enough?

Instead of trying to make false promises and add to Scripture to up to ante to gain compliance, I wish the Powers That be would have spent time teaching us about how sex and marriage actually work.

Instead of trying to make false promises and add to Scripture to up to ante to gain compliance, I wish the Powers That Be would have spent time teaching us about how sex and marriage actually work. - Rebecca Lemke Click To Tweet

For example:

1. How our bodies work.

Things like hormonal changes, male and female reproductive systems, things that impact libido, what influences attraction, etc.

Purity culture has made sexuality this big bad thing that only becomes good the moment you say “I do.” Even going so far as to say noticing beauty is inherently sinful, which has caused problems for many people in the path of this idea. The body is bad, the spirit is good (amazing how tenacious old gnostic ideas are). Except when you get married, then somehow the body is magically good.

This kind of odd rhetoric combined with lack of any education on puberty, attraction, sex, etc. makes it easy to see sexuality as this conceptually blurry, overpowered bad guy. Appropriate information contextualizes sexuality so you know and believe it is a good thing. With this foundation, you also happen to understand why it is prudent and God-pleasing to exercise it in the proper place within marriage.

2. What healthy sexuality looks like.

Numerous men and women have contacted me since my book came out to tell me that, since being fed a diet of purity culture’s high expectations, they have been extremely disappointed with the realities of sex. This is an issue compounded by exposure to pornography, which is something many of these individuals have experienced as well (oftentimes as the result of an attempt at sexual self-repression that backfired).

Sex isn’t always wild and crazy. You don’t always break a bed frame or wake all the neighbors up. Sometimes pregnancy complications arise and pelvic rest is ordered. But to hear the talk at a purity event, you wouldn’t know this! The existence of this blog and others like it helps to combat this issue, but nothing can replace having practical expectations laid at the beginning.

My husband and I have made it a point to be an open book with our son so he doesn’t have to wonder or feel ashamed or scared about sex. We make it a point not to idolize sex or manipulate its importance in his mind by downplaying or overemphasizing its role in our lives.

Instead of growing up in a subtext and culture of fear and lack of knowledge, I wish we would have had the opportunity we are trying to afford our son, to be surrounded by stability, certainty, knowledge, and respect for sex within the context God created it to be.

The Scarlet Virgins Book Cover

Rebecca Lemke was a Good Christian Girl who wanted a Good Christian Husband and a Quiverfull of kids. The sort of blessed, picturesque life promised to people who followed The Rules.

The Scarlet Virgins is a memoir of Rebecca’s journey through the ramifications of spiritual abuse and purity culture, wrestling with the temptation of apostasy, the descent of herself and others into the depths of addiction, alcoholism, anorexia, depression, self-harm, and suicide. She outlines the dangers of finding your identity in your purity or ability to follow the Law rather than in Christ and what he has done for you.

For more information about Rebecca, the book, and her podcast, visit The Scarlet Virgins.

Related posts:
Talking to Your Kids about Sex: No More One & Done
Is “Don’t Have Sex” Enough for Teens?

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5 Ways to Unlock Your Libido with Bonny Burns

If you’ve listened to our (wonderful) podcast, Sex Chat for Christian Wives, you’ve heard my friend Bonny Burns giving fabulous tips to wives, especially those who struggle with lower sexual interest. Her blog, OysterBed7, is dedicated to helping these wives.

The following post was on my blog in 2015, but since it’s been a while, I thought it would a fabulous resource to bring out for my Saturday High Five series. Bonny covers five great ways to unlock your libido, or sexual interest.

I may not always have a zing running through my veins when my husband and I start to engage, but I always have a zing in my heart for connecting with him in a way that has ended up being meaningful for both of us!

Consistent, satisfying sexual intimacy is possible in spite of struggling with low physical sex drive.

After my husband and I had worked on our marriage and improved the frequency of our sexual relationship, I realized that I still had one challenge to address: my low libido.

I scoured ideas to help ramp up my physical sensation. There was a bit of success in the physical realm.

My biggest ah-ha moment was when I discovered low-libido wives can be high drive when desiring to emotionally and spiritually connect with their husband’s through sexual intimacy.

Low libido is not a permanent condition. If you are a low drive wife, there is much hope.

Here are five thoughts to help unlock your libido:

1. Embrace God’s view of sexual intimacy.

Bible verses I’d read about sinful sexual immorality leaked into my thoughts about marital sexuality. Sex within marriage isn’t dirty or wrong. Although slippery and messy at times, it’s perfectly God approved!

Satan likes to create a false notion that sex is all about the physical climax. Yes, orgasm is really really nice, but it is not the whole of sexual intimacy.

In my ice princess days, I only saw my husband’s pursuit of me as one-dimensional. All he wanted was a place for physical relief. God showed me that sexual intimacy is my husband’s most intimate conversation. Sexual intimacy seals an emotional and spiritual bond that was created by God for marriage.

Sexual intimacy seals an emotional and spiritual bond that was created by God for marriage. ~ Bonny Burns Click To Tweet

2. Pray

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6, NIV).

God truly cares for all areas of your life, especially your marital sexuality. Thriving sexual intimacy keeps many forms of temptation at bay for both of you.

God designed sex and it’s okay to pray about your marriage bed!

God designed sex and it’s okay to pray about your marriage bed! ~ Bonny Burns Click To Tweet

3. Expect God to show you things. 

I’m not discounting God’s abilities to perform miracles. However, I found that my low libido was a place where he was nurturing maturity. I couldn’t just wish for a little more oomph in the sexual craving department. I had to actively seek through prayer and action. I had to follow God’s lead when he showed me resources and tools. Expect God to show you things!

4. You are perfectly normal.

There’s nothing wrong with you if you are low drive! Yes, you may want to have a full physical work-up to check hormone levels and general health, but you are not tainted in some way or being punished for having a low drive.

Every marriage is different. Every season in marriage is different. Who knows? You may have an upcoming season of life where you and your spouse desire equally or you may even be the higher-drive spouse. 

Don’t compare your experience with anything you read or see (TV or movies). How lovemaking unfolds between you and your husband is going to be unique and normal for the two of you. Great moments in lovemaking can be quiet, calm or klutzy. The klutzy spells usually become priceless inside jokes with your husband. 

Check out Sex Chat for Christian Wives, Episode 25: Sex Is Funny.

5. Give yourself permission to be a sensual woman.

Open your heart to see that sexual intimacy is an asset to your marriage and to you personally, not just your husband.

Give yourself permission to BELIEVE your husband when he says you’re beautiful, in form and face.

Give yourself permission to let go of worries and just be in the moment, concentrating on the physical sensations of your husband’s touch.

Open your heart to the possibility of seeing yourself warm with desire as the Shulamite wife in the Song of Solomon. “….It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame” (Song of Solomon 8:6). Okay, a blazing fire might seem optimistic, but just open yourself up to a firm maybe.

Give yourself permission to be a sensual woman. It’s okay to look inside yourself and contemplate your physical, emotional and spiritual sensations. It’s okay to want to fire up the old cravings of first romance. It’s okay to have sexual feelings!

This doesn’t mean all of a sudden you’re installing a pole in your bedroom. This just means you are willing to have faith in God’s design. He designed marriage to include sexual intimacy. It’s how he made marriage different and more bonded than any other relationship on earth.

Final thoughts

You may think all problems in your marriage need to be fixed before you can even consider bolstering your sexual activities.

I used to think this way, too. However, that logic is wrong. You really can work on re-connecting through sexual intimacy as you work on other problems. I even think it helps the healing process. I’m here to attest that this is true.

Not all wives are the low-drive spouse. I think much of what is written here can be applied to the low-drive spouse, no matter which gender. Marriages I refer to here are generally good-willed. If there is any kind of abuse, please seek guidance through a Christian marriage counselor.

Would you like to read more ideas on how to Unlock Your Libido?

Although not a Bible study, Unlock Your Libido: 52-Week Sex Drive Transformation is an ebook based on scripture, a bit of science, and my own journey. It’s a simple method that may have profound results.

♥   ♥   ♥

Bonny Burns encourages the low-libido wife through a Christian lens at the oysterbed7.com blog. She writes gently and with a nurturing heart because sexual intimacy can be a raw topic for some. She knows all about this struggle from personal experience.

Bonny and her husband, Dave, raised three sons and have been married for more than three decades. When friends say they can’t imagine the two of them arguing, she snorts. Because, they’ve had some doozies and they were usually about sex. Her marriage story evolved and yours can too. Low libido and hard marriages do not have to be a permanent condition.

Q&A with J: A Wife Struggling with Lust

Today’s reader question is from a woman struggling with lust and/or discontentment. Here it is:

I am a woman who considers herself to struggle with thoughts of lust, though many would disguise this cringe-worthy term with simply “discontentment”.

…I never thought of myself as attractive growing up, because my two older brothers were verbally abusive to me, which I believe was an effort in ensuring I wouldn’t be a slut (solely to not make them look bad… not because they cared). My perspective of it, anyway.

So to the point- I am not out looking for guys… but I know that there are men out there with attractive personalities that would be compatible with mine. I sincerely don’t have any attraction to them if they don’t express any interest. However, if some guy who is potentially attractive were to hint at being attracted to me, my mind goes wild. I begin to really wrestle with getting these thoughts out of my head. Essentially I am going insane wondering, “does he think I am attractive? Is this in my head? I don’t think I’m making this up…”, and can go as far as wondering what life would be like if I was married to said guy (my thoughts are thankfully not sexual in nature, but still covetous).

I’ve talked to several close friends and everyone is appalled when I say that I struggle with lust… and then when I explain, they pretty much all admit that they often wonder what life would be like with another man… but never do they consider it to be a real issue in their life… Help!

A wife asks about how to deal with her lust or covetousness toward other men, and J. Parker of Hot, Holy & Humorous answers.

First, let me say what she describes isn’t what some might immediately call “lust.” But if you read my post on What Is Lusting? I think you’ll agree her use of this term is fairly accurate. As she says, “my thoughts are thankfully not sexual in nature, but still covetous,” and the Greek word that gets translated at times as “lust” can also mean “covetousness.”

As to the question itself, I really wanted to answer this one. Partly because I’ve had lust issues too and been in circles with Christian women who act like that’s a shocker. “Seriously?” I want to say, “Have you never taken a longer look at a hot guy than you should have?”

But this really isn’t a problem for me anymore, so I’ll tell you from personal experience what I’ve learned.

1. Attention feels good, but it’s pretty meaningless.

If you grew up thinking you weren’t pretty and then discover some guys think you are really attractive, the attention can be heady. Growing up, I was puny, awkward, and the brainy type. Believe me, the profile photo you see on my website now is so much cooler than the complete dork I was in 8th grade, right when boys were noticing girls — but not me. So I understand that having guys looking, now that you’re an adult, can feed your self-doubt and longing for acceptance.

But this is false attention — it’s pretty meaningless. I’ve concluded that any guy who’s ogling a modestly dressed woman wearing a wedding ring is the kind of guy who ogles a lot of women.

I’m not saying you’re not gorgeous, but I started reminding myself in the moment this guy’s attention didn’t matter. Rather, it was my husband’s desire for me that filled me more and what I thought about myself that really mattered.

2. Instead of looking away, maybe look deeper.

I tried bouncing my eyes, but that didn’t really bounce my mind. What has helped instead is actually looking more closely at guys I find physically attractive.

Is he wearing a wedding ring? Then I think about how he’s probably a family man and at the store shopping for his wife and kids. Is he sporting a tattoo? Then I wonder why he got the tattoo and why that particular image. Is he wearing a T-shirt with a message on it? Then I consider what I think about the message, the team, the image he’s chosen to show to the world.

I take my mind off the man-as-an-image and find ways to see the man-as-a-whole. Then the potential for lust just fizzles. He’s a whole person, I’m a whole person, and we’re just going about life.

3. Maintain reasonable boundaries.

I maintain boundaries about being alone with men. Knowing how my past has been, I have pretty strict rules for myself—no extended or private alone time with a man other than a family member. If I have to meet with another man for professional reasons, I do so in a public place like a restaurant, and that’s rarely the case anyway since I can mostly do those things through other means like email or a phone conversation.

I don’t share any personal information one-on-one with a man. If I feel any spark of attraction to someone, I avoid them. Chemistry is not destiny, and it goes away if you don’t feed it.

In conversations with men, I bring up my husband or his wife positively, giving off the clear indication that I am happily married and he is married and that is that.

4. Focus on gratitude for what you have.

Finally, I think a lot about what’s so great about what I already have. Sure, it’s not perfect—no marriage is—but it’s pretty darn good.

I have a husband who loved me enough to marry me, have kids with me, and keep coming back for 25 years. I think he’s rather hunky too, so I’m certainly attracted to him.

And as others have said: “The grass isn’t greener on the other side. It’s greener where you water it.”

A wife asks about how to deal with her lust or covetousness toward other men, and J. Parker of Hot, Holy & Humorous answers.

I simply want to add here that there’s been a bit of talk in the past on my blog about husbands and lust, but lust happens to women too. It’s our temptation as well. But it can be addressed and quelled by taking intentional steps to lessen the temptation and embrace what we have instead.

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The Lamest Excuse for Your Sexual Problems

Blog post title + illustration of rubber stamp that says "NO EXCUSES"

I love the movie “Say Anything.” It came out when I was in college, and I remember being so struck by its story and characters. Looking back, I think what I liked most about this film was how the main character, Lloyd Dobbler, was what we often call an alpha guy — that is, he was 100% masculine — but he changed how he did things and upped his game in the sensitivity and caring department to woo and win the girl he loved.

But as he’s contemplating his own struggles to be the kind of guy who can get the girl he longs for, he has this a conversation with his angsty fabulous best friend, Corey Flood, and this exchange between Lloyd and his friend Corey has stuck with me for nearly 30 years:

D.C.: Lloyd, why do you have to be like this?
Lloyd Dobler: ‘Cause I’m a guy. I have pride.
Corey Flood: You’re not a guy.
Lloyd Dobler: I am.
Corey Flood: No. The world is full of guys. Be a man. Don’t be a guy.

Corey Flood & friend talking to Lloyd Dobler

The world is full of guys. Be a man. Don’t be a guy.

I think of that every time I hear someone say, “That’s just the way I am.”

Especially since I believe it’s the lamest excuse for not improving your marriage and sexual intimacy. Although it’s one I hear all the time.

  • “I just don’t need sex, so I’m done having it.”
  • “I need sex almost every day. It’s how I’m made.”
  • “He wants me to talk during sex, but I’m just not like that.”
  • “I’m inherently visual, so if she doesn’t show me her body, I can’t help but look elsewhere.”
  • “I can’t do without sex. So if intercourse can’t happen for a season, my spouse still owes me sexual release.”
  • “I can’t just flip a switch, and if I’m not in the mood, it’s not happening.”

Maybe you see yourself in one of those, maybe you don’t. But I think a lot of spouses, even ones with minor issues in the marriage bed, fall back on the excuse of “That’s just the way I am.”

Well, Corey Flood and I have some advice for you. Yes, you may be that. But if it’s not working for your life, you can make a different choice. You can choose to be something better.

You don’t have to surrender to your natural tendency. Good gravy, the Gospel is all about us not surrendering to our natural tendencies and instead pursuing a better, more fulfilling life in Christ Jesus.

The Gospel is all about us not surrendering to our natural tendencies and instead pursuing a better, more fulfilling life in Christ Jesus. #marriage Click To Tweet

For Lloyd Dobbler, it was Don’t be a guy. Be a man. But for spouses with marriage bed struggles, it’s about not being the person who’s causing or contributing to your spouse feeling terrible about sex in your marriage or to your marriage itself becoming a place of conflict or despair.

Is it really so important to hold on to some aspect of yourself that you believe to be inborn if it costs you your marriage?

Honestly, all of my examples hit on real issues that would need to be dealt with if they are in your marriage. I’m not saying that you just sweep that problem under the carpet and pretend it doesn’t exist. What I’m saying is that it’s a lame excuse for keeping the status quo to say, “That’s just the way I am.”

What if you could be something else? What if you could view sex in its right perspective for your marriage? Neither the be-all-end-all, nor an optional experience in your relationship. What if sex in your marriage could be mutually pleasurable? Intimacy-building? Emotionally and spiritually satisfying?

Let’s figure out how to be that, starting simply with the first step toward growth.

5 Reasons to Love a Quickie

Quickie (n). a brief or spontaneous episode of sexual activity.

Quickies should not comprise the majority of your lovemaking. If they do, you’re not giving your sex life enough time and attention. Because the ultimate goal of sex in marriage is intimacy. And you can’t get super-intimate with your spouse in 5-10 minutes.

That said, when you’ve invested a lot of time with someone, those brief encounters can be great touch-base moments. I’ve seen this with texting my best friend in between seeing one another, quick greetings at church with people I later sit down and talk to at length, and quickies with my husband when we also have longer lovemaking times.

With all that in mind, let me tell you why you should embrace—even love—the quickie!

Stopwatch illustration + blog post title

1. You can take the edge off.

One of the primary reasons to have a quickie is because one or both of you is feeling edgy about not having had sex in a while. A while could be a few days or a week, but for higher interest spouses, the longer they go without, the more the desire translates to physical tension.

Some spouses report getting antsy or cranky without both the physical release and intimate connection sex in marriage provides. Having a quickie can sate that hunger until you have more time for a longer lovemaking encounter.

2. You can avoid little-people detection.

When you have young children in your home, it can be difficult to find time to eat a decent meal or take a shower, much less have extended nookie time. Sometimes, 5-10 minutes is all you have, so you make the best of what you’ve got.

Nearly all kids can be left alone for the time it takes to have a quickie. Yes, you might need to put the baby in the playpen, turn on a kids’ show, or drag out the craft supplies and hope glue doesn’t end up on your walls, but you can figure out how to safely make it happen. And then you can figure out how to make the quickie happen.

3. You can bless your spouse.

Quickies don’t necessarily mean sexual intercourse — any brief sexual activity counts. That means you can take a short period of time and use it to bless your spouse by taking care of their sexual/emotional needs or by just making this time all about them.

Specifically speaking, give him a blow job or a hand job. Give her cunnilingus (aka oral sex) or manually bring her to orgasm. You may need to bring out your best plays and a bit of lube to accomplish what you want, but you might well be able to get in a sweet blessing in only a few minutes.

4. You can have it in places other than the bed.

Quickies are great for the shower, the closet, the car… Wherever space is limited, quickies are wonderful option. You may need to get creative enough with positions to make your bodies come together, but check out Christian Friendly Sex Positions or the Ultimate Intimacy app for ideas. CFSP even has the best sex positions for in a car!

By the way, couples often ask how they can still have sex while on a family vacation, and this might be your best bet. You may not be able to get the hotel room all to yourselves, but even a small hotel bathroom could work for a quickie.

5. You can express true familiarity.

Yes, a long, lazy time of kissing, caressing, and lovemaking is an absolutely beautiful, and crucial, experience in marriage. But the quick, playful moments of a quickie also express how well you’ve come to know each other and your bodies. By cutting to the chase of what he/she really likes, you express the familiarity you’ve come to have.

You know just where to touch her. You know just how to stroke him. Even if it’s not that easy to get revved up yourself, you know how to bless your spouse. We’re better at quickies now than when we were younger, because we’re just better with each other.

What do you like about quickies? And what tips do you have to make quickies go well?

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Yes, quickies are covered more in the book!