I think a lot of people read my blog because they can’t talk about sex in real life.
Seriously, we just don’t talk about this stuff. Do you know which of your friends has trouble reaching orgasm? Which ones are battling an erotica or porn problem? Which ones are high libido, married to low libido husbands?
Likely not. And maybe that’s a good thing. I’m not actually a big proponent of knowing enough about the people in my life that I can picture anything, if you know what I mean.
But I do think that we should start talking about some things far more openly. Not necessarily about our own experiences to everyone, but certainly about information that you’ve learned and that you’ve found helpful and that others need to know, too.
This month, on our Monday series, we’ve been talking about community, and how to foster a healthy community at church. Last week we looked at 10 ways to find friends at church. But I want to change focus for a moment today and look at why it is that we want that community in the first place. And one of the big reasons, I think, is that sometimes we need a safe place to go to get help and direction, and a healthy community should provide that.
However, often we’re in a healthy community, even with healthy people, but certain talk is still off limits. I’m hoping I can change that. So let’s jump in!
UPDATE: I wrote this post last week, before the coronavirus had become as bad as it is. I’d like to say some things about that, too, and I likely will tomorrow! Kind of ironic that this month’s series is on community, eh?
First, I think it’s a myth that Christians are uncomfortable talking about sex.
We believe it’s true, and we often act as if it’s true, but in my experience, I have found women extremely open to talking about it–desperate, in fact.
But here’s what happens:
We set the expectation that people won’t want to talk about sex, or that Christians hate talking about sex. Because that’s the expectation, then in large groups we tend to fudge the topic. We act embarrassed, because we figure other people must be uncomfortable, and so they would think we’re weird if we bring it up. In so doing, we create a culture where it’s assumed that Christians are afraid and offended if anyone talks about sex.
But I firmly believe that’s not where people are at.
Last Saturday night, I gave my sex talk at my daughter Katie’s church.
One of the interesting parts of the evening is the anonymous Q&A. We always take a break around the halfway point, to give people a chance to eat some goodies and chat, yes, but also to put some anonymous questions in the basket. I don’t screen the questions; I just read them live and do my best to answer.
There are always so many. They’re often very detailed; it’s clear that women have wanted good answers to these questions for ages, and they’ve never had a good place to ask them. Whether it’s a conservative Mennonite community; a conservative Bible belt community; or a progressive downtown urban church, the questions are remarkably similar.
- Are sex toys okay?
- What about oral sex?
- What if I have no libido? What if he doesn’t?
- He’s emotionally abusive and wants sex all the time.
- What do I do if he’s addicted to porn? What if I am?
- Why can’t I reach orgasm?
- What if he doesn’t take very much time?
- And more…and more.
At my book table after the event, women flock to share detailed stories about something they’ve gone through in the bedroom, and I’m always honoured, because I know that I’m likely the first they’ve ever told.
And there is always one woman hanging back, waiting to talk to me, desperate to be able to put into words something that she has been carrying around.
Because sex is so vulnerable, our sexuality often affects more than other parts of us. So when we can’t talk about it, it’s as if we’re cutting off a part of ourselves. And we suffer in silence.
How can you become a community that talks about sex?
Have a strong marriage ministry, youth ministry, and young adults’ ministry at your church
I’ve written before about a blueprint for a good marriage ministry, but let’s not restrict the talk about sex to just married couples. Singles are dealing with this, too. So are youth. So are those who are divorced!
Hire people on staff who are confident and capable of talking about this in detail, including helping couples and families navigate porn use; helping people find medical personnel and counselors in the area who are trained in specific aspects of sexuality and sexual problems; have resources in your library that talk about healthy sexuality, and don’t reinforce negative stereotypes (like Love & Respect or Every Man’s Battle, for example).
Talk to friends/young people you know who are getting married with basic information
Whenever people get married now, I tell them three things:
- First, the assurance: Sex is a journey; it gets better with time for most people. And most people really do enjoy sex! For some, right off the bat. For others, it gets good still pretty quickly. Relax, and don’t worry too much about it.
- Second, the advice: Aim for arousal, not just intercourse (it’s important to help her to feel aroused and associate good things with married sex, rather than just rushing through intercourse)
- Third, the warning: If sex is difficult or painful about a couple of days, or if you’re having trouble with UTIs, etc., don’t suffer in silence. Seek out help. And if something goes wrong on his end, seek out help, too!
Of course, I also give them a copy of The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, which is wonderful for engaged women, and I sign them up for The Honeymoon Prep Course. But telling people far and wide when they get married these basic three things helps them so that if things don’t go well, they know they’re not strange, and they know that help is available.
Are you ready for the honeymoon you always dreamed of?
The Honeymoon Course is here to help you plan the perfect honeymoon and start your marriage (and your sex life!) off with laughter, joy and fun!
Don’t make the same mistakes other couples have–get it right from the beginning!
Tell young newlyweds that if they ever have any questions, they can ask you, and you won’t tell anyone else.
And be specific! I’ve let friends of my daughters who have gotten married know that if they ever have any questions about orgasm or sex or anything they can ask me (just saying the word “orgasm” lets people know that you’re serious.) Don’t just say, “if you ever have any problems in the bedroom, let me know.” Be more specific. Then they know they don’t have to be embarrassed about saying the real words to you.
In your peer group, make it clear (without giving details) that you think sex is great, and that it’s important to talk about
In a small group Bible study with other moms? Do you join other women for a jogging group or a craft group? If the subject of sex comes up, say something like, “Well, I really enjoy sex, though it wasn’t always that way, and I’d be happy to give some advice if anyone ever asks!” Again, you don’t have to give specific details. But use the opportunity to let it be known, “I’m a safe place.”
I don’t think Christians are as hung up as we often think. We assume that Christians don’t want to talk about sex, but the truth is that most Christians simply aren’t comfortable with the way our culture treats sex in a rather crude manner. But most of us would also love more safe information about dealing with problems, about techniques, about what’s okay and what isn’t, and so much more.
We create our own communities. When you talk openly about something, you give other people the opportunity to talk openly about it. Even if you do and someone else gives you the evil eye, chances are 2-3 others will seek you out individually later, because women are craving to talk about this.
Let’s not cede the ground of sexuality to the world. We have a lot of great stuff to share. So speak up. Let others know you’re safe. If you see people with super bad books that will hurt their marriage and their sex life, tell them, and explain why, and then present an alternative. I think the reason that so many books took off that treated women’s sexuality so badly was because women were afraid to speak up and say, “this is all wrong and I find it deeply disturbing that people thought this was normal.” It’s okay to speak up! And the more we do, the more churches will be a place where healthy sexuality can be promoted.
Other Posts in the Community Series:
Being Lonely in a Group of People
10 Ways to Break Into A New Church and Find Friends
PODCAST: Are You a Community Giver or Taker?
How to Foster a Community that Can Talk about Sex!
Real Community Lets You Be Real: A Look at the Duggar Family Rules
PODCAST: Should We Re-Think the Way We Do Church?
> > but the truth is that most Christians simply aren’t comfortable with the way our culture treats sex in a rather crude manner.
I think you got to one of the core issues here, Sheila. We don’t like how sex has become some crude, disgusting joke when it’s supposed to be a beautiful and wonderful thing within marriage.
Definitely! And I don’t think we know how to talk about it without it being crude.
So I like to take and share screenshots of articles and comments on here, and post thoughts on my Instagram page. And I think the highlights of my life are the handful of people who have told me that the material recommended helped them! I know that for most people, I’m just blowing wind about sex and how the conversation needs to more educational to reality. Cause coming into marriage expecting something on cloud 44, but getting something nice on cloud 9 instead, is jolting.
I’m not sure I’m comfortable being the go to person, but I’m very comfortable with pointing to the material that helped me.
I’ve still got it in mind for asking my women’s ministry, to host you because I think it’d be incredibly good! And for me to talk to, I’ve got a sister-in-law, that we have a very honest relationship. She got married only 1 1/2 years before me, so we are learning at similar pace…..but our husbands are very different! My brother has a strong personality while my husband is laid back.
I have found it to be very true that people are uncomfortable talking in person about sex. My own husband can barely talk about sex with me because he’s so embarrassed to say the necessary words that he can’t frame a sentence. When our church has marriage seminars, you can hear a pin drop when the topic of sex comes up. Everyone sits there squirming. When the youth have a speaker come to talk about sex, the old ladies get very angry and opine that it’s a private topic no one should discuss, even to the exclusion of discussing premarital sex beyond “no”.
Maybe it’s just the culture where I live, but it’s very pervasive here. There are people who use cuss words to discuss the topic (quite freely), and people who treat the entire topic as if it’s a cuss word. People who try to discuss the topic appropriately and rationally when it comes up? Well, the latter group treats us as if we’re the former group. Women in particular are discouraged from discussing sex with anyone but their husbands, and it’s considered a betrayal of the husband to say it isn’t going well, especially to other women or in public. Women are basically expected to take male dictation on the subject, and are stigmatized if they disagree, ask questions, or pursue the topic.
I wonder if that mindset may also be part of FOTF’s problem with you, Sheila. You aren’t afraid to discuss sex openly, and teach other women to do the same. Definitely not the model commonly found here!
I salute your efforts to make Christians comfortable talking about this topic, because it is much needed! I had nowhere to go for answers when I first married and encountered problems. Even the people comfortable enough to talk about sex with me didn’t know enough about my issue to be helpful. So I’m very glad blogs like yours are available! It’s a huge blessing!
As much as I’m not a fan Focus, this is one thing they aren’t afraid of actually. I discovered Sheila through them interviewing her before the Love and Respect fiasco. Through them I discovered several helpful women discussing sexuality like Juli Slattery. Focus needs to stop promoting bad sex advice, but they do promote some good stuff which is why the bad is so dangerous because you get lulled into thinking everything they share is safe.
EXACTLY! That last sentence is it exactly. That’s what I’ve been trying to say. It’s like they do a bait & switch. They give some great advice and have on some great people, but then they turn around and market Love & Respect to you, even though they earned your trust through advice that is diametrically opposed to it.
Our church quit using them sometime back, but throughout my growing up FOTF was our main resource for teaching on marriage and family life. I’ve never found their programs on the radio here, so maybe I’ve only been getting a very limited part of their offering.
I get the idea of wanting to communicate that sex should be great, so people don’t suffer in silence, but there’s a downside to that.
About a year ago, I asked one of my married friends for some advice because sex is so miserable. She suggested that I think about how awesome it feels at the end and asked if I needed a sex buddy to motivate me to do it.
Um…. yeah… so not helpful. In fact, actually counterproductive, when the reason I don’t want to have sex is because I really hate how I feel during and after.
My husband was similarly bullheaded about it, too. He didn’t “get it” when I was being kind, did not “get it” when I was upset, and only “got it” when it damaged our marriage.
We need to accept that a lot of women have downright lousy experiences, and we shouldn’t make women choose between being gaslit or engaging in nuclear warfare in order to articulate the depth of the problem. You can say that it *should* be great, but that’s a far cry from saying that it *is* great, or good, or always intimate, or whatever. “Sex is great when a couple really learns to please the other” is not the same as “Sex is great!”
I was thinking more about this and was wondering if you’d amassed a list of Christian sex therapists across Canada, Sheila. While reading this blog (among others) and books recommended by women I’ve talked to has been helpful, clearly there are still struggles! No one I know seems to have waded into the terrifying waters of sex therapy. Have you come across any resources or directories in your work?
That would be great,I have gone to public services and I am appalled by what they suggest and what are society is getting as “help”. I had a counselor tell me after I said I wanted to stay with my husband that why would I want to stay with him if I wasnt getting what I wanted out of it. Another one suggesting that we watch porn together or go to a strip club together for hubby to learn how to touch me. More christian resources need to be out there, cause the alternative is terrifying.