Sex and the millennial Christian couple: A bird’s eye view

I’ve been blogging for many years, and when an idea for a post like this one comes to mind, I always feel conflicted about how much I really need to share, what I should say, how I should phrase it, who it will appeal to and for what purpose… If you’ve been following me for a while you’ll know that with any topic I write about, I choose my words very carefully. I’m always overly conscious of the fact that my blog is accessible to people I wouldn’t necessarily choose to have such open conversations with in every day life – my younger brothers, my parents, to name a few. I’m also aware through my analytics that my posts are being read and shared by people on every continent, and therefore as much as I enjoy sharing aspects of my life on what I consider to be my very own ‘safe space’, this medium is paradoxically everything but safe.

On the other hand, talking about sex isn’t one of those things I want to shy away from, especially as a Christian. I see people complain on social media that Christians aren’t open enough about it; aren’t having raw and honest discussions surrounding all aspects of sexual intimacy, pleasure, libido, contraception, etc. I’ve seen people debate whether this is really the type of conversations we should be having within church settings, whether it really is the role of the Church… I’ve heard people complain about the culture of silence as well as the one-dimensional take on sex in Christian marriages, often dominated by patriarchal ideas of what wives should do to ensure their husband’s satisfaction. I’ve heard men misquote the scriptures to fit that agenda, and get away with it.

I’ve read stories of women who have gone through the purity movement; and once out of it, condemned the absence of any healthy dialogue surrounding sex. I’ve read about how some of them were so consumed by this movement that when it came to experiencing intercourse for the very first time on their wedding night, their vaginal walls would completely close up, leaving them in excruciating pain and emotionally scarred. I’ve experienced and seen with my own eyes instances where pastoral guidance was highly ineffective, reductive and judgmental.

Perhaps it’d be good to talk about the period in my life when I turned away from God and started developing an interest in sex before I was even of legal age. Back then, we were told to abstain from sexual immorality (“fornication”) but we weren’t given the practical tools to deal with the realities of temptation, our changing bodies, hormones and the sexual triggers present literally all around us; not to mention the peer pressure, from people at school, college or university but also fellow church members dealing with their own similar struggles.

This rampant demonisation of sex is what led to my curiosity, and it was only a matter of time before I began to explore it in my own naive and misguided ways. Having had very little sex education prior to this, and very few meaningful conversations about it with my parents, I took it upon myself to uncover the mystery behind ‘the act’ and turned to ‘the world’ to teach me what the fuss was all about. After a few years of living completely out of God’s will, I felt the need to approach one of my youth pastors to ask him for forgiveness, along with the promise that I would never ever stray again. But this emotional outburst didn’t just come out of nowhere. It was born out of a fear and belief that I owed him an apology for dishonouring God and undermining my position as an active member of the ministry. He “accepted” my apology like a father would, and I lived the rest of my teenage years with all the guilt, fear and shame this new commitment to purity came with.

Perhaps it’d be good to also talk about the judgement I endured when said commitment was broken again, this time with the man I was set to marry, and I became pregnant before walking down the aisle. In addition to the disappointment caused to my family, I can recall the uneasy feeling that ensued every time I attended church, painfully aware of the Chinese whispers and my tainted reputation, which eventually led me to distance myself from a ministry I loved so dearly.

Whilst I will always take responsibility for my own choices, I think that for a lot of us today, the narrative around sex in our Pentecostal and Evangelical churches simply doesn’t cut it anymore. There’s a generation of Christians who want more transparency, more honesty, more down to earth discussions about every aspect of sex. Some of us wish we were better equipped for the challenges faced not just as young adults battling sexual temptation but also in the bedroom as married couples.

Some of us struggle to understand the Bible’s definition of “sexual immorality”; I mean just the other day on Twitter I came across a conversation about sexual immorality and what it actually consists of. It turns out Christians can’t even agree on the basics!

Some of us married Christians simply want to engage in healthy conversations with other Christian couples, both old and young, on everything relating to sex. It’s not that we’re uneducated or don’t know how to use Google. It’s not that we’re prudes and need to be spoon-fed the very basics of sex. We’re grown and we’re smart. We just find comfort in the shared experiences.

Some Christian women want to talk freely about orgasm, we want to talk about the frequency of sex in marriage, we want to understand changes in sex drive, we want to discuss contraception – because this is also a very touchy subject among some Christians… Some of us no longer want to get our information from COSMO or Glamour. And many, many Christian women are determined stop turning to porn for, erm, “educational purposes”.

So what we look for instead is a safe and understanding space where these things can be expressed, where questions can be asked, where married couples can actually open up (as much or as little as they feel comfortable) about the things that are perhaps too explicit for the church pulpit, yet too important to brush under the carpet. And believe me, there are ways to address these things while retaining the level of privacy you want to retain, out of respect for your significant other.

The point is, whether we resort to YouTube, blogs, forums, trusted married friends or a group chat… In the same way that we’re told how to prepare for university, or a job interview, a new role, a move to another country, 9 months of pregnancy, or whatever new challenge life throws at us… Christians everywhere are longing for deep, honest and godly conversations about sexual intimacy in judgement-free zones.

I am by no means an expert on this; I am no sexologist or marriage counselor. I can’t even claim to be a bedroom goddess of any kind, and I’m certainly not about to unleash a series of tips that will literally turn your marital bed around. What I can share is my own experience as a 33-year old woman who has been married for 11 years and has gone through her own journey of sexual discovery, both before and during marriage, without and with children. In this post I will not advocate for anything that goes against my core beliefs as a Christian, but bear in mind that as a flawed individual, I come with my own story, including my shortcomings. And Lord knows it hasn’t always been pretty. Despite all this, I hold my own convictions and objections on what sex in my marriage should look like. And it goes without saying, I come with a huge amount of vulnerability – putting myself out there in this way is never an easy thing for me to do.

First of all, there’s freedom in coming to terms with your past.

Learning to leave your baggage at the door isn’t always going to be easy. Contrary to my husband, I entered my marriage with a lot of baggage. I have had to overcome quite a lot of guilt and shame; some self-inflicted, but most of it has been a result of my conditioning. I’ve also been through some trauma following a horrific experience at the age of fifteen. Months and months of therapy to undo some of the damage it caused to my self-esteem and mental health didn’t necessarily fix all my problems, but it gave me tools to ensure it didn’t affect my future relationships. I came into my marriage with all of these experiences, including the very painful ones, knowing fully well the road to recovery was going to be long and exhausting.

So I mean it when I say that it will not always be easy to leave your baggage at the door. If you’ve gone through sexual abuse, or any form of violation that you feel may be an issue once you get married, I would recommend you seek help and counseling before entering marriage.

But the type of baggage I’m referring to also includes our past relationships. Millennials seem to attach so much importance to ‘body count’. Marriage is supposed to be a union between two people who decide to come together as one, as described Genesis:4. When Adam knew eve, to me this signifies a lot more than their coming together through sexual intimacy. This verse also tells me that as husband and wife we must be willing to know each other for who we truly are. Not our past, not our mistakes, not our previous partners but who we truly are now as individuals; and embrace this.

At times, you will struggle to adapt to each other’s sex drive.

Discussions around libido are helpful and important because Christianity teaches us that sex is meant to be consumed the moment you enter marriage – and that is, in theory, with very little insight into your husband’s sexual appetite.

So if you’ve chosen to go down the route of celibacy, there’s an element of surprise there when it comes to what drives you both sexually. His sex drive will be completely foreign to you unless you’ve discussed it at length, and even then, I wouldn’t necessarily count on conversations had during the dating/courting stages to get a clear idea of it. Sexual desire is something you will work out over the course of your marriage, alongside his preferences in bed, your own likes and dislikes, his precoital and postcoital habits, how you like to be touched, what turns him on, the lingerie you feel most sexy in, his favourite positions, how giving you both are during foreplay, intercourse, oral sex, etc.

It’s a beautiful journey of discovery, but I’ll be honest, it is one that can be equally challenging and frustrating. As you grow closer to each other, you’ll find that different things can affect your sex drive in different ways. From sickness, occasional lack of desire, to having children, a busy schedule, stress… it’s undeniable that our desire for sex can be determined by what goes on in our personal lives. Children, for example, shouldn’t be an interference to sexual intimacy, but the reality is that if you let them, over time they will become just that.

Also as a side note, can we talk about how make up sex may work on paper, but isn’t always as straightforward in practice? I find it astonishing when couples say they enjoy make up sex. Some of us need a good 24 hours to heal from an argument or a disagreement that has caused us to momentarily drift apart – and that’s okay!

The point I’m trying to make is that marriage requires you to adapt to these changes, but also be respectful and understanding of each other’s needs. The passage in the Bible that talks about spouses giving up authority over their own bodies and handing their bodies to one another (1 Corinthians 7: 3-5), I find, can be interpreted in different ways. The revelation I got from this passage is that in sexual intimacy, the aim should be to attend to one another in ways that are loving and pleasurable but also caring and respectful of each other’s needs. This includes, in my opinion, discerning when there’s a need for rest, and surrendering to that. It also means learning to accept the occasional decrease in desire and acting accordingly. E.g. Not being forceful, not resenting your spouse, not seeing the refusal as rejection, but rather as a perfectly valid reason to abstain on that occasion.

And where the Bible encourages couples to not deprive one another, in verse 5, it goes on to say “…except, perhaps by agreement for a limited time to devote yourself to prayer, but then come together again.” Paul was addressing the Corinthian Church, hence the reference to devotion to prayer. What I take from this passage is that there will be instances where sex won’t be the priority – and that is absolutely fine. But as you navigate this with your husband, you’ll find that communication is key. Never just assume, and never expect him to ‘guess’ how you’re feeling that day.

Pleasure derives from the willingness to go over and beyond.

Notwithstanding any of the things I listed in the point above, I have learned that giving, as a selfless act in sexual intimacy, is fundamental.

Being intentional about intimacy, by encouraging variety in and out of the bedroom, is easier said than done. But for sex to be truly special every single time, I have had to not only set aside all of my inhibitions, but also go the extra mile. As human beings we’re often more inclined to receiving than giving. There’s something about receiving that excites us more, because it doesn’t require much effort on our part. But when Jesus himself says in Acts 20:35 that “it is more blessed to give than to receive”, I’m convinced this can be applied to pretty much anything in life.

Since I’ve been married, for me the notion of giving has taken on a whole new meaning – one that evokes going over and beyond for the good of our relationship. One that reminds me of the importance of going the extra mile just so my marriage can continue to thrive. I always ask myself what I can do to spice things up, keep the fire burning. Oh the clichés! But yes, the truth is my husband and I are constantly on quest to make things feel ‘new’ everytime, because it’s so easy to become complacent. And let me be real with you, we don’t always get it right, we don’t always invest as much effort as we really should. But it’s an ongoing desire of ours and one that we do not take lightly.

Hygiene and comfort as prerequisites to pleasure.

Now I bet you didn’t expect me to go there. But honestly, how often do you hear conversations about this? Where I’m from, there was a time when brides-to-be would learn from women of the older generation about the realities of sex before their wedding day; particularly things relating to hygiene; they’d go through details of what to do, what not to do, what to wear, how to wash before sex and other ‘rules’ to abide to in the bedroom. I’m sure this is still being done. But the problem with that approach is that it is often centered around the man’s needs.

I still occasionally come across Youtube videos by Congolese women dedicated to the art of ‘pleasing your husband’. They love to demonstrate positions, ‘tricks’, along with very questionable personal hygiene routines. It seems as if the woman’s comfort is barely taken into consideration, let alone her health. And it also seems as if not as much emphasis is placed on male hygiene. Yet from a female point of view, all of these things are essential to enjoyable sex. Without good hygiene and comfort (and by comfort I mean sex that isn’t excruciatingly painful) there can be no ‘good sex’.

Orgasm as the ultimate goal of lovemaking?

…Hell yeah! So why is it that so many women are still unable to climax? I often think of the marital bed as a learning space. It is the place where, as young newlyweds, my husband and I found ourselves constantly studying each other, getting to know each other on that level. Whatever I had learned prior to us getting married had been thrown out of the window, I wanted to look at my husband with a fresh pair of eyes and start all over again.

I re-discovered sex and from that moment on it became sacred. I can’t say it was the case before then, because I was so blasé about it. I even rediscovered pleasure, because again, up until that point I had almost been desensitized to it. You’ll hear different things about the G-spot. And you’ll learn that as a woman, you may even have to play your own part to reach the climax you’re after. There are certain positions that’ll be favourable to orgasm and some that won’t. There are erogenous zones that will help the process if stimulated, and other moves that’ll cause nothing but frustration and impatience. Again with everything, developing good [bed-friendly] communication skills is the secret to getting things right.

Sexual incompatibility is more of a state of mind than a physical predicament.

But who do you turn to when things just aren’t working out in bed? A difference in sexual desire that seems too big to overcome? Who do you call when you just can’t seem to enjoy the ride? I’m certainly not the type to get my Bible out every time my husband and I are about to get intimate. And if I do get on my knees right before we make love, it isn’t to cry out to God and break into an impromptu worship session. But one thing I’ll say is that as a Christian woman, I have found prayer to be the answer to a lot of my issues, alongside the practical things I’ve learned to apply over the years.

My friends, pray for your marriage. Pray that God will bless your marital bed. Pray for mutual understanding and for clarity. Cite the areas where you’re struggling, name them, ask God for restoration and healing if necessary. And of course, if you want to be given specific tools to deal with some of the issues you’ve been experiencing in the bedroom, it might be worth investing in some sex therapy.

As you go through this journey, know that things in bed won’t always be one hundred percent perfect. You won’t always manage to please each other, to understand each other. Sometimes there’ll be discordance; there’ll be times you wished you hadn’t even bothered taken your clothes off. At the risk of repeating myself, there’s power in communicating these things to your spouse. Silence won’t fix things.

Can you relate with any of the points I’ve raised in this post? I’d love to hear from you, let me know in the comments.

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