Yes, it’s another post for married grown ups.
Since the last one, a few people have admitted that they were MUCH more likely to click on an article about sex than anything else. Let’s be honest, there are more than a few of you. You know who you are.
Is Sex a Big Deal?
Yes, it sure is.
That’s what she said!
Phew! I’m so glad that I got that out of the way. Now I can discuss the issue like the mature, serious adult that I pretend to be.
As many of you know, Glen and I worked for many years in the “marriage enrichment industry” helping put together conferences, websites, study materials and even a tv show at one point. With 3 little kids at home, my contribution mostly consisted of the occasional opinion and a willing subject for Glen to try out whatever advanced marital skill his latest article was about. Definitely a job with perks! The old joke was, he must be a marriage expert at this point, because, “after all, he wrote the book.”
I remember one session for wives that I attended. I was distracted by the details, making sure there was enough water, ensuring the power point was visible to everyone, dealing with that bothersome hangnail… but I perked up when it came to the sex talk. Ya, I know, I’m kind of like you people who clicked on this just because you saw the word “sex”. You understand.
Perhaps I missed some crucial prelude to this portion of the talk. Perhaps I misunderstood. I kind of hope so, because it was just so discouraging for me to hear.
The speaker (who is a lovely, amazing woman I admire) offered everyone a multiple choice question:
Your spouse has made some indication that he is interested in sex.
(At this stage in our life this often consists of: “so, you ready to head to bed?”, eyebrow waggle, aaaaaand leans in for a kiss. Try not to be jealous; for parents whose kids stay up almost as late as we do, these are some wicked moves.)
Anyway, the stage is set. Now, as a wife, you do which of the following:
a. pretend not to notice (you are tired and want to be left alone).
b. complain that you have a headache (or cramps, or toxic internal multi-system fatigue syndrome).
c. grudgingly give in (might as well get it over with).
d. put your husband’s needs before your own and cheerfully give him the gift of yourself.
That was it. Those were the choices.
Do you see the problem here?
I hope I’m not the only one. The best option (apparently) was d. And I didn’t get the impression she meant “give yourself” in a sense that included chocolate sauce or wearing only a ribbon to bed; more of a grin-and-bear-it dynamic.
e. enjoy some special grown-up time for all you’re worth.
Because I have needs too!
Is that weird? Am I some kind of freak because I enjoy sex? I sure felt like it at the time.
This caricature of the horny, insensitive husband and the prudish, longsuffering wife is really big in religious circles. It’s pretty common in sitcoms and stand-up comedy too. And I’m sick of it.
Must we accept this stereotype that men want sex anytime, anywhere and with any old person and nice women just really aren’t that into it?
Of course there will be times I put my husband’s needs first. As I expect him to do for me, in the bedroom (but that’s a whole different kind of post). Yet, even the occaional quickie does not seem like a one-sided thing to me. And I would hate to see the day that sex becomes a chore to either of us (whether it is cheerfully delivered or not).
Here’s something that may blow your mind: sometimes it is the woman who wants sex when the husband doesn’t – a problem made significantly worse by this stupid stereotype.
I understand that there are a whole range of problems which can affect this dynamic: sexual abuse, hormone levels, past trauma, porn addiction, unhealthy baggage, compatibility issues, etc. I am not naive. Sex can be a place of great conflict and frustration in marriage.
But it isn’t hopeless. We live in a day and age with a great amount of information and help for those who are willing to look. I firmly believe that a sex life characterized by MUTUAL PLEASURE is worth the effort, even if it doesn’t emerge overnight. This is the ideal we should expect: physical intimacy that is about giving, but also enjoying.
God designed us to enjoy each other, and not just in a platonic way. Sex is what sets marriage apart from every other friendship, and it should be amazing! Study after study shows that married people have more sex and are more sexually satisfied.
So here’s me, picking option “e”, every time!
February 23rd, 2012 at 9:46 am
I love this!!! Because I also love sex, insert eyebrow waggle. Do you mind if I send this post along to my pastor… He may use it for illustration in the future.
February 23rd, 2012 at 10:01 am
Go ahead… anything to challenge the old standard. I knew we had a lot in common!
March 2nd, 2012 at 6:46 pm
I absolutely agree that those four options are awful! That said, I do think that the stereotype has at least a small basis in reality, mostly because of the female menstrual cycle. We’re naturally created to be more interested in sex for part of the month, and aren’t as much so at other times. Men don’t have that cycle influencing their desires. Further complications come if the couple is practicing NFP, which basically means that sex isn’t an option when the woman is most interested.
I hope that makes sense. I really loved your post, just adding a thought!
March 2nd, 2012 at 8:44 pm
Thanks Emily. I totally agree. There are too many complexities to make broad sweeping statements about sex that fit everyone, at all times. You make some really good points!
Like most things in life, it ebbs and flows, but it depresses me that some women think polite tolerance is the best it gets.
March 3rd, 2012 at 6:17 am
Although I always shake my head about the desire-in-the-fertile-time thing, because it reads as if those using birth control have the advantage. But those using birth control don’t HAVE the fertile time, so they don’t have the unevenness in desire, either, right? I think this is just one of those “that’s the way it is for everbody” things.
I want to echo the part where you said “sex life characterized by MUTUAL PLEASURE is worth the effort, even if it doesn’t emerge overnight. This is the ideal we should expect: physical intimacy that is about giving, but also enjoying.” Not all women do have a desire for sex, and the act of self-gift and self-emptying is learning to get into it. We have to have our heads in the game so that we *don’t* turn it into something to be borne because we love our husbands and we’re supposed to. That dynamic is also important to affirm.
March 3rd, 2012 at 11:18 am
I think that’s a really smart way to look at it. Option d is a step along the way and sometimes neccessary. Option e is the finish line. You make a really good point. Thank you!
In the day to day sense this can also be true. Often I don’t feel “in the mood” right away and that’s pretty normal. I’ve had enough good experiences to know that I will enjoy myself, so it’s not as hard to get there.
I think there are a lot of women (and men) who have to work harder than most to build a healthy sex life and I totally admire them for it. There are SO many reasons libidos may not line up (hormones are just the tip of the iceberg). I hope I haven’t made anyone feel like this is supposed to be a simple thing, but it is totally worth it!