Privacy or Secrecy? The Truth of Why Christians Don’t Talk About Sex

by | Feb 18, 2020 | Theology of Marriage and Sex | 19 comments

The difference between privacy and secrecy: Why don't Christians talk about sex?

It was the first time I’d heard of the term, “heavy petting,” among other things. Some friends had let my sisters borrow a book. It was a Christian book about sex, and honestly, though I devoured it from cover to cover, I don’t remember much, if anything, about the message of it. I just remember sneaking it from my sister’s bed, and in my 12 year old mind, I felt like this book was letting me in on a great big secret.

The Secret
Why was it a secret? Is sex supposed to be kept secret? If you grew up in the purity culture, you would definitely feel that way. Read the Bible honestly, however, and you’ll get a very different picture. Sex is commanded by implication in the very first chapter, when mankind was told to be fruitful and multiply. That was before there was sin in the world, by the way, which means that sex is a good thing! 
Sex is discussed with such frequency in scripture, that any parent who has tried to read the Bible aloud to their children has had to make a choice. “Do I skip the verses that talk about sexual immorality? Should I read them really fast and muffled? Or should I just read, trust the Lord, and accept whatever questions arise from the kids?” It’s easier said than done, but when you look at it that way, the answer is obvious.
For further reading on what is appropriate for children, you can check out, “How Far is Too Far In Front of the Kids.” 

The Shame
God clearly created sex, and boundaries for it, but just as clearly, He did not intend for it to be treated like a big secret. We treat it that way out of confusion, insecurity, and shame.
Hollywood shows us a digitally touched up, professionally acted portrayal of sexuality that adds to our feelings of shame, because we have such a dramatically different experience. It makes us feel like something is wrong with us. We have problems in our sexuality, but there is no one to ask, because the church doesn’t talk about that kind of thing. I’m not here to bash the church, I’m a conservative Christian too, and I know the struggle well. I’m here to lovingly point out where the problem lies.

The Truth
The truth about how we should handle sex becomes clear when we understand the difference between secrecy and privacy. Secrecy hides. It hides our insecurities, and our baggage, and it’s a safe place. This urge to hide goes all the way back to Adam and Eve at the fall. They hid in shame, and we all follow suit. Not only do we close our bedroom doors, but our entire discussion of sex is closed too. 
Privacy, on the other hand, protects something that is good and sacred. We close the bedroom doors for privacy, and behind the doors, love, glory, and grace thrive. Then this love leads us to open discussion that is candid, healthy, and produces more growth.
Much of the church has failed to differentiate between secrecy and privacy. We’ve hidden from the topic of sex, because we feel shame. We feel the world’s shame, as the world continually abandons privacy, and flaunts a distorted picture of sexuality. We feel our own shame as we measure ourselves against that picture and fall short.
There are few people in our relational circles who will discuss it with honesty and integrity, or help us nurture it into the beautiful thing that God intended it to be. The enemy tells us the lie that everyone else has it all together anyway, so that we’ll remain feeling alone in our struggle.

Walking in Truth
Whether you currently have struggles in your sexual relationship or not, it’s important to talk about sex. Nobody has a problem-free sexual relationship. If you can’t find a friend who will talk openly about it with you so that you can help each other grow, then perhaps a therapist or some counseling is in order. Healing can happen. Take up the battle against shame, and pursue God’s healing.
It can be a hard process to heal from the myriad of personal struggles we have with sex. There are times when you may feel like giving up. Times when you will start hiding again. But glimmers of change start to show, and the light of truth shines on the lies we’ve believed. With work, it gets better, and its worth it.


Melanie and her husband Brad have been married for 14 years, and have 3 children. Through the their blog, they share the tools and tips they’re learning as they pursue deeper intimacy together. They believe no one should struggle alone. At Love And Stand Together you’ll be energized to move past the places you feel stuck. You’ll find ways to tackle struggles from new angles, for a marriage that thrives. Come on over to to get a FREE copy of 7 Keys to Better Love Your Spouse!

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Sheila Wray Gregoire


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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Joe

    The way I view this is in the breakdown of the many answers to this question I see two very different types of people/personalities.
    Those that tend to be more introverted
    Those that tend to be more extroverted
    I have not done a study to prove the next belief, so I can only say it’s a belief I hold: I believe that more Christians are introverted/conservative than extroverted/liberal. I definitely fall into this as an introverted Christian who belongs to a very conservative Lutheran Synod. I don’t talk about such things openly. I feel extremely uncomfortable when these topics come up and quickly change the topic, or move on to a different group of people if this is a social gathering.
    We are seeing more non-denominational churches pop up all over the country that are more extroverted/liberal. That’s fine as long as they are following Biblical truth. I might be wrong, but I tend to see this website as a more extroverted/liberal extension of the Church. I might be totally wrong on that, but it’s how I perceive it. I stumbled across this site in a search I once did years ago and pop in from time to time to see what the other side is saying. It’s truly fascinating to me, but way outside my comfort zone. That said, I think it’s wise to try to understand all sides. You may not agree, but understanding these beliefs is a bridge.
    These people have very different emotional needs. Introverts tend to be more content with the status quo while extroverts in my life always need change. Are either wrong? Likely not. What I struggle with is again a trend I feel I see, but have not done any studies to prove. I feel pushed by extroverted/liberal people to accept and live the beliefs they have, especially on sex and morality issues. If they want to have retreats, and group discussions on sex I don’t have a problem with it, but do not look down or ridicule me for not wanting to be a part of it. I have strong beliefs that sex is private and only between husband and wife. If one party is being abused, then of course they need to seek outside council and help.
    One group of people might be fine with sex once a month (or less) while the other group might feel anything less that three times per week is wrong. I find nothing in the Bible that puts a required quantity on sex, other than saying don’t deprive your spouse. What does that mean? Does that mean if I want sex three times per week but my spouse wants it once a month I’m being deprived? I think not. What about the feelings of the person that wants it less, for any reason.

  2. JoyLiving

    What helpful thoughts!!! Thank you so much for sharing them!
    I think the application of these words have even greater relevance to those survivors of sexual abuse bc the abuser often *purposely* confuses these two ideas in order to keep the threat of silence that the victim is expected to live under. It takes a very patient and compassionate partner, intentionality and sometimes a helping therapist to untangle those ideas when they have been so ingrained.

    • Melanie

      So true, JoyLiving, and I am glad you enjoyed it! Secrecy is one of the abusers first-drawn and most powerful weapons. So sad.
      It’s also true about a helping therapist. Perhaps it’s another discussion, but sometimes Christians discount psychology due to its twisted history. But God created psychology and in the hands of his people, it is a powerful tool He uses to heal wounds.

  3. Mara

    Another angle on this important discussion it that of dealing with the “Mark Driscoll” type preachers and their followers that still haunt some blogs. I found that if you didn’t agree with them concerning certain commands they drummed up from the scriptures concerning certain sex acts, they would accuse you of being the bedroom police.
    Instead of respecting the privacy of each bedroom concerning what was mutually acceptable and pleasurable and allowing sex or the beloved to wake up when she pleases, they steamrolled over women, including sexual abuse survivors, saying certain sex acts are commanded by God/Jesus without any respect for the privacy of each bedroom.
    I know this is a bit of a tangent and apologize. But it is important to continue to defend the privacy and boundaries of couples in their bedrooms as they work through these things. I think a lot of boundaries were mercilessly trampled during the MD heyday and that the church may still be suffering from the repercussions that those days brought.

    • Andrea

      I have never heard a better descriptions of Mark Driscoll’s sex teachings than Sheila’s brilliant “porn theology.” That whole organization (Acts 29) has a real problem with bullies because the guy who replaced Driscoll was asked to step down just this month on account of his abusive leadership style. I would venture to guess that bullies in the pulpit are also bullies in the bedroom.

      • Mara

        I tried to find “porn theology” on this site but couldn’t. Does anyone have a link?

    • Melanie

      Yes, privacy and boundaries are needed. It’s important too to be able to have these discussions within the body of Christ so that we can grow and sift all the teaching through scripture. I’m so thankful for that foundation that I’ve been given my whole life. We didn’t have everything right growing up of course, but the habit of sifting things through Scripture was emphasized by my parents, so with that, God helps us work through the lies we start to believe. Even if it takes us a while. 🙂
      I’m loving the Greatest Commandments that Jesus talked about. All that we do, including our sexuality should spring from that love. Love does not harm another. It seeks the good of the other. It leads us to protect each other’s purity, protect each other’s privacy, and encourage growth. And so much more.

  4. Missy Robinson

    I focus on this distinction with my children – my parents were really great about being open regarding sex, I knew they had sex, I knew most people did and would. So it was a normal part of life. There was a bit of mystery, but no scandal.

    • Melanie

      I think for me most of the scandal was in my own head. Not the fault of my parents. We talked some, I wasn’t in the dark… but the association of sin with sex and the expectation that waiting for it would make it the best thing ever thanks to some of the prominent books and trends of that time, left me confused when it still carried struggle with it. So for me culture opened the door for my struggles in spite of the best efforts of my parents and what I thought I knew. That’s great that it was a normal part of life in your house… the best any of us can do is strive for balance and trust God for our inadequacy.

      • Elizabeth

        Yes, my daughter has said the same thing. Despite the fact that I thought we had open and honest discussions. But she tells me we did a poor job. I did SO much more than my mom did, though… Sigh. I think as a parent you just cannot win. I really tried. Honest I did.

  5. Jr

    My issue I have is everyone want to blame the purity message on everything and my thing is not everyone was raised in the church. Twenty years ago there were alot of Marriage Teams who taught about the purpose of Sex in a Positive way. The main issue I see is so many point fingers at this and that and my thing is there need to be more Marriage Teams who teach together on relationships and Sex. I learn from people like Kevin Leman and Jimmy Evans about twenty years. The insight was excellent. I don’t expect people to agree with me

    • Lea

      I’m not actually sure what you’re saying.
      Is purity culture a huge part of ‘marriage teams’ in a way that you think is positive?
      The church has gone hardcore at it, but there are a lot of teachings outside the church that women are ‘sluts’ while men are lauded for having and/or enjoying sex. It’s a culture wide problem.

    • Melanie

      Jr, I agree, there was good taught too. I think largely the intent was good. Purity is good. The issues I take against the purity movement are the false expectations of perfect marital sex, the lack of healthy conversation in much (not all) of the church, and absolutely anywhere that it turned legalistic or led anyone to believe that one mistake would ruin everything forever. When love and right understanding guides our decisions, we choose purity in consistency with our love for God and our neighbor. Legalism (which there was some of, but again not all of it was that) May lead us to make the same choices but they also lead to bitterness and/or pride.
      I am not familiar with Jimmy Evans but I do like what I’ve read of Kevin Leman. Mostly his parenting books. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I discovered him. Thanks so much for being a part of the conversation!

  6. Lea

    I have learned that in relationships Secrets are bad, privacy is good. Sometimes you go with secrets too long because you are inclined towards privacy…I think that has negative consequences if you are in a bad relationship – whether it is about sex itself or the relationship. Cheaters hide with secrecy, for instance, and call it private.

    • Melanie

      True. Most of the time, an inclination to hide should be a red flag.

  7. Nathan

    Definitely a difference between secrecy and privacy, and secrecy definitely enables abusers and cheaters.
    As for the purity culture, obviously no one thing is the cause of everything bad in the world, the the purity culture does have some good things going for it. Sadly, some aspects and interpretations of it have caused some problems

    • Melanie

      Well put. It’s not to blame for everything but it had some problems.

  8. Emmy

    This was a very thought provoking and interesting post. I have the hunch this secrecy thing has played a part in my husband’s unbringing and it has had consequences on our marriage all the way along.
    I can’t remember having an honest, open hearted conversation about sex with him, not once, even I know he does believe sex is good and created by God. Perhaps he never had an honest conversationd about sex with his parents. I can’t know for sure and I cannot ask. His father dies years ago, and I do not have that kind of relationship with his mother that I’d feel safe to ask. But I have the feeling my husband was brought up in an atmosphere of secrecy, and it is kind of radiating through.
    I’m not sure how to approach this or what to do about it. It does however feel a little bit better to blame his upbringing than to blame him.

  9. David

    Making love is so personal and to talk about or seek guidance and sharing technique ideas even in a site like this can raise a few eyebrows.
    Some may be appreciative, some may find it offensive.
    So I can see the reluctance as the types of questions I have is personal that only a female or a doctor can answer.
    I have questions of my own about intimacy myself about the different types of female orgasm my own spouse experiences.


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