Let’s talk about sex

Romance Academy are running a series of road shows over the next couple of months called ‘Let’s talk about sex’ which are aimed at equipping adults to talk about sex with teens.

I wonder if we need a parallel series to help adults talk to each other about sex. Because it’s not really something we do particularly well. Maybe it is just because I am single and therefore not privy to the conversations of married couples who talk among themselves about the permitted relationships that I am not to know of. Maybe it is out of fear that we will corrupt one another with talk of illicit liaisons. I don’t know, I just know it’s considered off limits for polite conversation.

Even a very brief conversation in the office which flirted with the topic seemed awkward and hedged, and out of place. The hesitancy of asking someone who is married to write a guest post marked the inbuilt challenges of the topic.

It is not that I want to know the intimate details of people’s personal lives, or that I think it is essential to be fully informed about how each and every aspect of married life works out behind closed doors. But maybe it would be helpful if we knew a bit more, and if we were willing to talk about it with a bit of openness that might help those of us this side of the Rubicon know what lies ahead.

There’s two aspects to this, one for those who are soon to get married, and the other for those for whom it seems a distant concept not really related to our everyday lives. In terms of marriage prep I’m assured that for some it is talked about and discussed well, but for others leaves gaping holes that become problematic after the glitz and glamour of the wedding day has faded away. This is not something I’m going to delve into but if you’ve got either a good or bad experience of marriage prep and are willing to write about it please get in touch, I’d be happy to feature something along these lines.

One day I hope to get married. I don’t know when that day will be, and it is possible it will never come. And it will change my life. Admittedly probably not as dramatically as having kids, or at least that’s what I’ve been told. So many parts of my life which I like the way they are will have to change: I will no longer have sole charge of my destiny (and my delusions that I do now will be even more abruptly shattered). I can visualise what it might be like to live in permanent commitment to another person, I can toy in my mind with the concept of a brutal crushing of the ego as the focus of my attention turns from me to another.

But then there is something else. Something that I have been told not to do. Something that I have reacted so strongly against in adherence to the creed that it is sinful and wrong. That thing which for so many years has been wrong suddenly becomes right.

And that is the problem. I’m not arguing for leniency or encouraging sex before marriage, in fact I think a more brutal openness about sex could lead to less sex outside marriage. At the moment it is so hushed up and secured in a lead-lined box of secrecy that it ferments activity in private that betrays the values we hold to in public. We’re told not to think about sex because it will lead to lust, and therefore are aided and abetted in covering over the temptations we face. We do not talk about it, we remain British, we are stoic and polite and proper and pretend that sex is something that only ever happens between married couples.

I’ve heard stories about couples who struggle to have sex after they get married, who are paralysed by fear that they are doing something wrong. The doctrine of sex as sin has been etched so deeply that the sanctity of marriage does not erase it.

How should we go about talking about sex in a more open and honest manner? How do we educate and inform each other about the joys and the frustrations, the license and the limits? How do we understand the love that sex is part of, and the lust that remains despite it?

4 thoughts on “Let’s talk about sex

  1. Ask direct questions would be my advice, with close friends. That’s a great start. I’m married and don’t mind sharing information with my close female friends.

  2. Spot on. There’s a book you might be interested in – See Me Naked: Stories of Sexual Exile in American Christianity by Amy Frykholm which talks about the weird attitude the Church has towards sex. Especially the idea that the ‘forbidden’ suddenly becomes a good thing after marriage and the difficulties that causes psychologically. Will bring it in. Was the awkward office conversation with me…??

  3. I’ve definitely experienced the guilt/”just don’t do it or think about it” approach to talking about sex in the church. Minimalist, “sex is bad, conversation over.”

    I’ve also been through a lot of, “sex is THE GREATEST THING, but only within marriage and if you have sex before marriage you’ll screw up your entire life and everyone else’s.” People seem to be trying to talk about sex, and even remove the guilt that’s been associated with it, but to make sure we still don’t do it they replace the guilt with fear.

    I don’t know that that fear is any more helpful in the long run. It makes relationships all weird and difficult and still doesn’t really answer anybody’s more… uncomfortable questions. What I really long for is a positive conversation that’s not just about how bad sex before marriage is, or even about how great sex within marriage is. More that is deep and hopeful, about what sex is designed for and how to channel our sexual energies as single people and what is good about “denying” ourselves. I would like to see less frustration and fear, more contentment and trust.

    • I read a good book called Beyond Singleness by Helena Wilkinson and she covers this in a chapter called Sex and Sexuality. It’s the only thing I have founf that addresses sex and sexulaity in a pratical God Glorify way.

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