Tag Archives: what’s okay and what’s not for Christians in sex

Married, Consenting Adults: Whose Okay Really Matters?

Have you noticed that in our current culture a number of historically problematic sexual activities have become No Big Deal or even encouraged? Most often, the reason I hear is that it’s between “consenting adults.”

We also hear this about marriage. After all, whose business is it if a married couple mutually agrees to engage in whatever sexual act they choose? They’re adults, they consented. Surely, then, everything’s okay.

Couple Lying On Bed Holding Question Marks & blog post title

I am disturbed by this trend in the larger culture, but among Christians, it’s particularly distressing. Even if husband and wife consent, there’s yet another vote that matters! Do you have the consent of your Lord and Father, the One who created sex?

So, what if you decide in your marriage that you want your husband to get his sexual needs met elsewhere? Or you’re both willing to couple swap, or “swing”? Our Lord says:

“You must not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14, Deuteronomy 5:18).

“You must not covet your neighbor’s wife” (Exodus 20:17).

“But the man who commits adultery is an utter fool, for he destroys himself” (Proverbs 6:32, NLT).

“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4).

How about watching porn, reading erotica, going to strip joints together? After all, you’re consenting to do it together. And what if it’s “just want to spice up [your] marriage”?

“I made a covenant with my eyes
not to look lustfully at a young woman.
For what is our lot from God above,
our heritage from the Almighty on high?
Is it not ruin for the wicked,
disaster for those who do wrong?
Does he not see my ways
and count my every step?” (Job 31:1-4).

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5, emphasis added).

And maybe you get aroused by striking your mate in the bedroom, by introducing intense S&M practices, by pushing your pain-pleasure limits? Isn’t it okay if you’re both consenting?

“The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion” (Psalm 11:5).

“From the fruit of their lips people enjoy good things, but the unfaithful have an appetite for violence” (Proverbs 13:2).

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12).

“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13).

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT, emphasis added).

Today, I am simply letting the Bible speak for itself. Soak in God’s Word and reflect on it.

When you consider what sexual intimacy in your marriage should look like, think not only about the husband’s consent and the wife’s consent, but the consent of the third partner in your marriage — God Himself. Indeed, I would argue God’s consent matters the most.

Setting Boundaries in the Bedroom

Marital intimacy advocates often advise wives to engage more and spice up the sex in their marriage. Plenty of wives could use gentle, or even more passionate, encouragement to be adventurous in the marriage bed. But some wives get cornered by their husbands with inappropriate requests . . . and then they try to balance that with all these suggestions by Christian authors and speakers to be sexually available and active with their husbands.

The result can be a sense of obligation and feelings of guilt to go along with sexual activities that make a wife very uncomfortable or even feel wrong.

I recently received such a message from a wife who explained how her Christian husband requested she watch porn and engage in multiple-partner sex. When she balked, he accused her on not being adventurous enough and even boring in bed. This wife genuinely wants to please her husband, so she’d gone along with some of his requests and felt sick about her involvement.

She was right to feel sick. What he’d asked her to do was sinful, damaging to their relationship, and eroded trust.

Woman holding up hand - Stop.Meeting your husband’s physical intimacy needs doesn’t mean you put up with any and every sexual request. If your husband is bullying you into sinful practices or painful activities, you have every right to set boundaries. God never expects us to submit to someone’s request when it violates His commands. Even if that someone is your husband.

So how do you set boundaries in the marital bedroom?

1.         Prayerfully consider your list of Do’s and Don’ts. Make sure your unwillingness to do something sexually has a legitimate basis in Scripture, personal conscience, or damage to yourself or others. Sometimes we erect false walls based on poor teaching or understanding, and we need to reconsider our reluctance. So first align your list of marriage bed do’s and don’ts with God’s perspective, your health, and common sense.

2.         Explain your desire to have healthy sexual intimacy. Communicate to your husband that you also desire to have fulfilling sex. Commit to prioritizing sex and working together to create satisfying, relationship-building sex for your marriage. Let him know you’re willing to try some new things, have sex more frequently, etc. Express in positive terms how you want to improve your sexual intimacy and increase pleasure (yours and his) in the bedroom.

3.         Let him express his desires. It’s only fair that you allow him to have some say. Let him tell you what he wants and why he believes he wants it. What is it he’s trying to achieve? If he’s suggesting truly sinful practices, this may be difficult to hear and you may disagree with every single word. However, some suggestions he’s made could tap into an underlying desire you could meet in some other way. For instance, if he’s asked to have sex in a public place because an outdoor location excites him, you might be able to find a secluded location that meets your need for privacy and respect for others while still giving him an extra thrill. Letting him express his desires and reasons will help you better understand where he’s coming from, and perhaps where he’s getting his information and ideas.

4.         State your boundaries. Let him know what you will and won’t do. Be firm yet calm as you explain which request you simply cannot comply with and why. If it’s a sin, let him know you will not dishonor the Lord—that your allegiance belongs first to God. Some husbands may push, try to make you feel guilty, claim you’re prude or boring, accuse you of unfairly denying him, or even trot out a few submissive wife scriptures in an attempt to get his way. Stand firm. Keep your cool, even if he loses his. If the tension gets too high, walk away for a while and gather your composure. You’re not denying him sexual intimacy, but you are setting reasonable boundaries for your marriage bed.

5.         Explain what your response will be if he crosses a boundary. This is an if-then statement such as “If you suggest watching porn, I will not have sex with you that night” or “If you bring home another couple for group sex, I will leave.” Such statements place the decision-making in proper hands: He makes his choices, you make yours. But he must understand that choices have consequences. And repeated attempts to put you at physical, emotional, or spiritual risk will result in a specific response from you that keeps him from gaining anything he wants. Note this isn’t punitive, but simply letting him know you will engage in proper ways but withdraw when he treats you poorly.

6.         Follow through. And this is the hardest part. Sticking with what you said you would and would not do. As any parent knows, consistency is key. If you said you’d do a if he does b, you’d better do a when b appears. Every. Single. Time. If the infraction is so extreme you have to pack it up and go somewhere else, have that plan in place. If you need a counselor or mentor on hand to help you follow through, find someone you can confide in, trust, and contact when necessary.

7.         Continue in love and prayer. Okay, maybe this is the hardest part. Because while setting up boundaries may work in the long term, there will likely be a time when you experience more conflict and more unhappiness in your marriage as the dynamics are shifting. Change can hurt. But in the long run, it’s the only way to grow and experience better sexual intimacy. While waiting to reap what you’ve sown, or perhaps as your marriage tumbles down further and further, you’re called to continue in love and prayer. Treat your husband as well as you can in other areas of the marriage, showing love and respect and concern. Pray for him and for your marriage. Keep your conscience when it comes to sexual intimacy, but also keep your conscience when it comes to how you treat others—including your wayward husband.

You may want to pick up a copy of Boundaries or Boundaries in Marriage, both excellent books by John Townsend and Henry Cloud, which explain in more detail how to properly set good and effective boundaries.

Strive for positive, active sex in your marriage. But remember you’re his wife, not his sex toy. Godly sexual intimacy should be forged together in mutual love and respect.

Has the Mainstream Embraced BDSM? Should You?

Have you noticed that BDSM is going mainstream? Or maybe “gone” is the appropriate word.

In case you don’t know what BDSM is, it’s an acronym that stands for:

B = Bondage
D = Domination/Discipline
S = Submission/Sadism
M = Masochism

Such practices have existed for centuries, but in most societies they have been considered fringe sexual activities. Or at least the hard core versions of them. (I admit a huge difference between tying your wife to the bedpost with a necktie and, say, “erotic asphyxiation” where one cuts off oxygen supply to achieve a more intense experience.)

But BDSM is all the rage now: in best-selling fiction, song lyrics (“Blurred Lines,” anyone?), sex toy sales, and water-cooler discussions. Not to mention bedrooms.

BDSM is no longer a fringe practice among many. It’s something they are contemplating, experimenting, or routinely including in their bedroom. Perhaps they’ve been inspired by something they’ve read, seen, or heard.

So what is appealing about some of the hard core practices that we’re hearing about?  What would make a person who’d normally denounce anything that smacks of mistreatment out in the real world fully embrace pain in the bedroom? Why is something that’s not okay (e.g., a man hitting a woman) in a hallway suddenly okay and even desirable when it’s placed in a sexual context? And why has this idea taken hold like wildfire?

Here’s one theory: Couples are bored in the bedroom.

God’s gift of sexual intimacy is intended for married couples to express and nurture deep intimacy that goes beyond the physical. When a couple lacks commitment, oneness, and a sense of the spiritual aspect, what’s left? The physical.

And when you play with simply the physical, ratcheting up your experience means getting more and more physical. Finding ways to stimulate your physiology and gain more sensation and pleasure from the experience.

Many BDSM practices trigger heightened awareness of physical sensations, stimulate a flow of adrenaline and endorphins, and may result in a more intense encounter. Of course, the negative consequences can be mild to severe. Regardless, is that encounter bringing about the intimacy that God designed for us? Or is it satisfying the flesh without considering the spirit?

Well, you can probably tell where I come down on this subject.

Look, I’m all for spicing up your sex life. I’ve had numerous posts, and will continue to write, about ways to add zing! to your marital bedroom. I’m also completely on board for sex feeling gooooood . . . physically. Sex is indeed a physical act. However, sex also expresses and nurtures something beyond the physical. It’s far more than kink.

So are any BDSM practices okay?

Looking through a glossary of BDSM terms, honestly there isn’t much that aligns with God’s definition of love: kind, does not dishonor others, not self-seeking, always protects, etc. (See 1 Corinthians 13). There is no indication in scripture that real pain is intended to be part of the sexual relationship between husband and wife.

Of course, couples must decide for themselves what they will and will not do in their marital bedroom. It’s up to you to keep your conscience clear before God and man (see Acts 24:16). But be careful about getting swept up in the cultural tide that is moving BDSM to the mainstream. If you’re interested in trying something out, hold it up against what God’s Word says.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). Sex with your mate is noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. God designed it to be. But not all possible sexual practices in the bedroom meet that standard. And ever-so-few BDSM practices meet that standard. Still, you’ll have to decide where to draw the line.

As to wanting to ramp up the sexy in your bedroom, don’t settle for boredom! Your married sex life should not be ho-hum, blah, meh, or zzzzzzz. It’s supposed to be fun! Explore sexuality with your mate through prolonged touch, flirtation, foreplay, oral sex (for her and/or for him), different positions, changing up location, game-playing, and investing in the intimacy you experience in other areas of marriage. And I’ll keep making suggestions here on Hot, Holy & Humorous for how to heat things up in the bedroom (thus the “Hot” in my blog name).

Also see Galatians 5:19-23 for another look at how to evaluate what practices honor God.

Uh, No: Off Limits Practices in the Bedroom

So God designs marital sexuality to be like a feast that delights the senses.  It’s beyond any meal we could prepare for ourselves, with course after course of succulent samplings, mouth-watering meals, and delectable desserts.

Imagine your favorite food.  Is it Chateaubriand?  Chicken enchiladas?  Seafood gumbo?  You look down at your plate in anticipation, ready to bring each bite to your mouth and savor its taste.  At which point, I dump a cockroach right in the middle.

Do you want to eat it now?  Uh, no.

Some things should be off limits — for food and in the bedroom.  Yes, I understand that some cultures eat roaches, but that’s disgusting.  And some people also partake in bedroom activities that are as repulsive as eating a six-legged exoskeleton.  It’s as if they’ve dumped a cockroach in the middle of an otherwise perfectly good supper.  Here are some OFF LIMITS sexual activities, in my opinion:

Viewing Pornography.  This is inviting a third party into your bedroom and supporting prostitution.  Remember that porn models and actors are paid to titillate their viewers.  It doesn’t matter whether they consented or whether your partner consents to using pornography.  Some people attempt to justify the practice by claiming there is educational value in watching films or viewing photographs, that they get new ideas from these sources.  May I point you to your nearest Christian bookstore where you can peruse the Marriage & Sexuality section for tasteful, godly ideas that do not involve third persons?

Reading Graphic Erotica.  Men have greater desire to view pornography, but women are given to reading erotic romance novels that are tantamount to inviting a third person into the bedroom as well.  Yes, the character that makes your eyelids sweat and that you imagine as your husband takes you in his arms is fictional, but he is taking focus away from the partner in your marital relationship.  Moreover, erotica also places an unrealistic ideal into the minds of the participants.  In a book, Mr. Rippling Muscles can spend three hours pleasuring his love interest until she explodes in a frenzied peak that makes her perfectly coiffed hair frizz.  By comparison, you might think, “Hey, where’s my earth-shattering climax?”  Hello! Your guy is, um, real.  You can get that climax, but it takes relationship, communication, true intimacy.  Not fictional shortcuts.

Anal Sex.  I will have some Christians who disagree with this one.  After all, there is no specific command against it in the Bible.  Listen, there are a lot of things with no specific commands against them that we shouldn’t do because they do not comport with God’s principles or could harm others.  This isn’t about trying to figure out how close to the “no further” line we can get.  Its about honoring God and your partner.  The rectum is not designed for penetration, and such entry can have negative health consequences.  This is supported by medical evidence, and Joe Beam of Family Dynamics does a good job addressing the potential harm of this practice. (See his post on Another Question about Sex.)   Moreover, any references to anal sex in the Bible are condemned (though some believe such condemnation is due to other issues God had with the relationship).

S&M.  That stands for Sadism & Masochism — like bondage, spanking, and a plethora of more intense activities.  The focus is on dominance and submission here.  And not the kind of submission discussed in Ephesians 5!  This is not God-honoring.  Domination, injury, and subjection play no part in godly sexuality.   Physical intimacy is for mutual pleasure, not pain.  Anyone who thinks that hard-core S&M is pleasurable needs to see a counselor immediately; your past may have imprinted negative thought patterns that will cause nothing but harm to your relationship.

Force.  Neither partner should ever be forced to participate in a sexual activity that is distasteful or unwanted.  That means that if your spouse does not like oral sex, don’t have it. If it’s been six months since you had sex together and you feel the need to take what’s rightfully yours, get thee to a pastor!  It is never okay to demand by physical force anything in the sexual realm.  Sex is supposed to be a relational bond, one that elevates your partner and reinforces closeness.  Force will never achieve that.  If you feel that your partner is withholding something from you, discuss that with them, your pastor, and/or a marriage counselor to resolve the issues.  But force is completely opposed to 1 Corinthians 13 love.

Now and then, we need a good dose of Thou Shall Nots.  The secular approach to sexuality wants to take this beautiful thing that God offers and pervert it.

But remember how much God does allow!  He provides His children the very best sexual relationship when they follow His plan.  Read the Song of Songs in its entirety, if you need a reminder.  Or make a list of all the great things you get to do with each other now that you are married.  Isn’t it nice?  (My post-vow self is having a lot more bedroom fun than my pre-vow self ever did.)

In fact, the best is to be had when we pursue sexuality that honors Him and our partner in every way!  Deuteronomy 10:13 says, “Keep the Lord’s commands and statutes I am giving you today, for your own good.”  That’s what all of God’s plan and commands are:  for our own good.

What do you think?  What’s okay?  What’s not?