Today’s question comes from a lovely woman on the brink of new marriage. With just weeks until the vows, here’s what she wrote:
hi, im getting married in [a few] weeks, my husband to be has usually been a little reluctant to talk about sex which we always said was good to keep us from going too far before married. we did some sessions of premarital counseling a while ago and our pastor suggested looking at the site the marriage bed shortly before our wedding. I have read quite a bit on their site as well as yours which has helped me be less scared about sex, but now that he has read some things on their site he says he is super weird about the idea of sex. I asked if there was anything in particular that scared him and he said “putting my hands and face where they don’t belong.” I told him that I will never make him do anything he isn’t comfortable with but just the idea of sex is still scaring him. he is a very very logic driven person so has a hard time understanding why anyone would want to do any of the things he read about (even just normal sex). …
I don’t want him to be scared of sex and both of us have a really good understanding that sex is a good thing from God and its not dirty, it just is best within marriage. do you have any suggestions on ways I could make him less scared? I have told him its ok if we don’t have sex right away, we can spend time just becoming comfortable with each other and I will wait until he feels ready. I want to know how to love him best.
I love that last line: “I want to know how to love him best.” Isn’t that a great way to approach your spouse, no matter how long you’ve been married?
But I wanted to tackle this question because it gets at a few issues that people often don’t consider.
Men also absorb the purity message.
Last year, Sheila Gregoire wrote 10 Things That Scare Me About the “Purity” Culture. One of those ten was “The Purity Culture can make women afraid of sex.” Now Sheila was writing specifically to women, but her point is valid for both genders: Well-intentioned Christians can preach sex as such a huge no-no that they create fear about engaging in the act even when married.
Here are clues that suggest this young man has been exposed to, and absorbed, some purity culture messages:
1. He’s highly uncomfortable talking about sex, but then they decide that’s a good thing so that they won’t go too far.
Except that talking about sex generally and talking about sex specifically are very different. As Christians, we need to be able to comfortably talk about our sexuality, our temptations and challenges, our longings for the future, etc. Silence isn’t always golden. Indeed, teens that have parents and mentors willing to discuss sexuality honestly and in the context of values tend to wait longer to have sex.
When and how should much should you talk about sex before marriage? Check out this guest post from Eric and Heather Viets of Preengaged.com: How Much Should You Learn about Sex before the Wedding Night? Also, Lauren Hanna also guested here with Let’s Talk About Sex, Shall We?
2. He’s worried about “putting my hands and face where they don’t belong.”
Who said they belong there? I’ll deal with this issue more thoroughly below, but suffice it to say that I wonder if he’s absorbed the sense that godly sex involves a pretty narrow repertoire. It’s a message you get in some Christian circles, but it’s not what God’s Word says.
3. The questioner insists that they don’t believe sex is dirty, just best within marriage. That might be a completely innocent comment, or it could be that this young man is still trying to convince himself.
You know how we do that — tell ourselves something over and over so that we’ll eventually believe it. But if the belief is embedded deep, it can be harder to genuinely feel something is true, even when you know logically it is.
Men are simply not immune to the messages many Christian singles received about sex — that it’s dangerous territory. As being such an off-limits activity or even discussion before marriage, it’s hard to flip the switch after the vows.
What can you do? Here’s my go-to on this one: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). To me that means that we get what we want when we want what God designed for us to have (see Aligning Your Sexual Desires with God’s Plan). You, as a couple, must learn to delight in God’s design for sex. That can take some time, but it’s worth the study, communication, prayer, and perhaps even counseling you may need.
Sex IS weird.
Let’s just be honest: The act of sex is a strange thing. You get naked, put yourselves in all kinds of positions you wouldn’t get into otherwise, and you match up body parts in unusual ways. I’ve often wondered what God was thinking when He created this act. Wasn’t there an easier alternative?
But if you think we‘re weird, go look at the animal kingdom. I’m fascinated at all the ways reproduction happens among creatures, like the female praying mantis that sometimes eats the head of her mate after copulation or the argonaut octopus that has a detachable penis. You can really get lost in articles about the strange mating rituals out there. I don’t know why God made it that way for some species, but it sure makes me grateful He chose our way of doing things for the creatures made in His image.
It might make your fiancé feel better to just accept that sex IS weird. But just because something is strange doesn’t mean it isn’t also natural and enjoyable. There’s a lot of strange stuff in nature that’s pretty cool. (See Travel & Leisure’s World’s Strangest Natural Wonders.)
So yeah, sex is weird, but give it a fair shot … because it’s also quite wonderful.
Where do your hands and face “belong”?
I grew up on the rural side of Corpus Christi, Texas, where my high school let out for the local livestock show and rodeo because too many students were involved to continue holding class. Those of us not involved still attended to check things out and cheer on friends.
After one livestock show ended, a friend shared how she’d been walking past the hog stalls where two hogs lay head to toe. A romantically involved couple just ahead said something like, “Hey, those pigs look just like us!” (referring to the 69 position). My friend was way creeped out and ranted for a while about oral sex, wondering why anything would do such a thing … right up until a married woman nearby calmly responded, “You’d be surprised what you’d do.” You could have heard a pen drop … or maybe me snicker — one or the other.
Anyway, it’s not unusual for sexual acts to seem really strange as well and even off-putting before you do them. Hey, I remember wondering when I was young why people would touch tongues together and how that could be enjoyable. Turns out, French kissing is quite enjoyable, but I didn’t know until I tried.
Of course not every sexual act is a good idea. So how do you know where your hands and face really belong — from a Christian viewpoint? Here’s the upshot:
- God clearly wanted penis-in-vagina intercourse to be part of sexual intimacy in marriage. Just think of the number of times something like “he knew her, and she became pregnant” occurs in the Bible.
- The vast majority of our bodies is hygienically clean enough for hands and mouths. One exception is the anus, but our skin and genitalia are pretty much fair game. It’s a wide, wide playground God gave us to work with.
- If oral sex is among the concerns, I — and quite a few others — believe it’s specifically referenced in Song of Songs: “In his shade I took great delight and sat down, and his fruit was sweet to my taste” (2:3) and “Let my beloved come into his garden and taste its choice fruits” (4:16). Check out Hot, Holy, and Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design for more in-depth treatment of oral sex and other sexual activities.
Essentially, your hands and your mouth belong on your spouse’s body where God says it’s okay, where your spouse says it’s okay, and where you want to go. God gave us a lot of freedom in the marriage bed.
How do you deal with your mate’s genuine anxiety in the bedroom?
Actually, I think you’re on the right track. You need to nudge, but not pressure; communicate, but not nag; request, but not demand. The beauty of sex in marriage is that you get a lifetime to figure this whole thing out.
Unfortunately, some people think their first few experiences of sex together represent the destiny of their married sex life. And they don’t.
Just because of how life works, you’ll have seasons when things are better and when things are more challenging. But you also have the opportunity to grow together in intimacy in all areas, including the physical.
However, you need to be intentional in pursuing a good sex life together.
In addition to what you’re already doing, I’d suggest that you read a few books together, which you can probably do now since you’re so close to the wedding. For couples, here are a few recommendations:
While I wrote it for wives, it could also be very beneficial for you two to go through my devotional book, Intimacy Revealed: 52 Devotions to Enhance Sex in Marriage. Each devotion is brief, steeped in a biblical perspective, and includes questions that can help you communicate better and find out where you need to grow.
Take it slow, but don’t stop progressing. And many blessings for your upcoming nuptials!