What happens when you feel as if you have to be the sexual gatekeeper when you’re dating?
I am living, eating, and breathing our book The Great Sex Rescue right now. I take time off to eat and to cook, but that’s it. I’m even writing it in my sleep (seriously, last night I dreamt our whole lust chapter).
It’s due in at the publishers next Friday, and we’re writing like crazy and trying to find stories and Joanna’s running stats and it’s exhausting. But I feel like it’s starting to really come together!
Here’s what I really like about this project: I don’t have to prove why an idea is wrong. I just have to give data.
I’ve been talking for years on this blog about why the idea that all men lust and that lust is every man’s battle is a toxic message. We’ve talked more recently about how the problem is that lust objectifies. We’ve talked about how noticing is not lusting. My husband even chimed in about lust and respecting women!
But what I can do in this book is sum up those arguments quickly, to be sure, but then say: When women hear the every man’s battle message, they’re less likely to orgasm. They’re more likely to have sexual pain. They’re more likely to feel distant from their husbands. They’re more likely to divorce. Etc. Etc. Etc. We’ve got the numbers. (And what’s cool about this particular belief is that it’s not just believing it that’s harmful; even hearing it is harmful.) It’s just toxic all round.
There’s another message that we’ve found to be quite harmful: being the sexual gatekeeper before marriage.
Well, actually, there are plenty of messages that we’ve found to be harmful! But I thought I’d throw this one out today, because we haven’t talked about it much, and Rebecca and I are likely going to record our podcast on it next week.
When women feel as if they have to be the sexual gatekeepers, to make sure that as a couple you don’t go too far before the wedding, it impacts your sex life after marriage.
That gatekeeper role is very hard to discard.
Here’s what happens: you start making out, and the guy’s really into it. But you’ve been taught your whole life that guys can’t control themselves, and that they will want to push your boundaries. So you have to stay alert and make sure that doesn’t happen. You are the one who is responsible to make sure that it doesn’t get out of hand.
While you’re making out, then, he’s totally enjoying himself, getting into it. But she feels like she’s standing back, as if she’s an observer, looking at the whole thing from the outside.
Should I be stopping him yet? How about now? How about now? How about now?
And on and on and on it goes. She teaches herself to never give in to the moment, and to never allow herself to just feel. She must always be hyper-vigilant, or things will get out of control.
In my weekly email, that goes out on Fridays, I’ll be sharing some of our stats that we found regarding gatekeeping–including how it affects orgasm rates.
I often share extra information in those emails–info that doesn’t appear on the blog. If you’re not signed up yet for the emails, then hurry on over and sign up now!
When she marries, that “observer” role isn’t so easy to toss aside.
She’s so used to always judging what’s going on–“am I doing this right? Am I doing this right? How about this?”–that she can’t just let go and feel.
That’s often why women can have such difficulty learning to be aroused, we found, in both our survey and some focus groups. When you’ve trained yourself to be on alert, your body doesn’t automatically relax (of course with some women it might; but not all).
By the way, if you’re having trouble getting aroused, do try our 24 Sexy Dares! The 8 dares that the husband takes the lead on are focused on spending a lot of time on foreplay and helping you figure out what feels great to you. So they might help unlock that piece for you!
Does your marriage need some spicing up–and some fun?
How did that gatekeeper role get started?
I think there were two twin beliefs:
- Boys are likely to push your sexual boundaries, and boys can’t control themselves
- Your purity is your most precious treasure
The purity message was largely aimed at women, and not men, too. Sure, guys were told to wait until they were married for sex, but it wasn’t phrased in the same way to them. We read one book that was big in the purity culture about finding a spouse, and twice it described a situation where two Christians were dating and they “went too far”, but their conclusion was that SHE had ruined her life. SHE had lost her most precious treasure. What about him? There were two people there, but the book assigned shame to only one.
I don’t have time to write all my thoughts on this (and I’d like to save them for the book), but I’d also love to hear your thoughts on this.
Did you feel you were in the gatekeeper role when you were dating? Do you think that affected your marriage? We’d love to hear your stories, so let’s talk in the comments!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of Bare Marriage
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