Sex

Posted on November 21, 2019

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Here’s the script from the college of marriage session on sex.  This is a fairly candid discussion.  Consider it PG-13.

Welcome to the college of marriage session 8.  In this session we are going to talk about sex.

We need to have a candid conversation about sex.  This is a topic that I talk about all of the time for work, so I am pretty comfortable having the discussion.  I will do my best not to take for granted that others are also comfortable.  If there is one session in the College of Marriage that I would really like the Body of Christ to hear, it is perhaps this one.  Sex is wonderful for couples when it is going well and a tremendous point of pain when it isn’t.  Along the way here, I want to talk about some things you should know that nobody tells you, that you wouldn’t know who to ask, and that you might not be comfortable asking if you did know who to ask.

Christians often seem to get portrayed in the culture as being anti-sex.  Hopefully, that is not an accurate portrayal because that is not what scripture teaches.  Scripture is clearly pro-sex, but also indicates that there are implications to how we express our sexuality.

Let’s look at God’s intent for sex.  Let’s talk about what scripture has to say about it.  In Song of Songs 5:1, scripture says, “Drink your fill of love.” That does not sound like just do what you gotta do to keep the species going.  It is supposed to be great, and couples are supposed to drink their fill.

In 1 Corinthians 7:5, husbands and wives are told not to deprive each other.  What a concept.  If we aren’t having sex, we are being deprived.  The one caveat I would add here is that this is not license to demand sex or pressure your partner for sex.  We are commanded to love our mates with agape love.  Demanding sex is not loving.

One of my favorites verses comes from Proverbs 5, verses 18-19.  I’ve thought about making this my life verse.  It is “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.  A loving doe, a graceful deer— may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love.”  Couples are supposed to desire each other.

I often quote the wife of a retired pastor friend of mine, “If God had not cranked up the sex drive in men, they would be completely undomesticatable.”  Human beings have a powerful sex drive.  This is not a bad thing.  It is God given.  It is supposed to be great.

The loving God who made us, did give us an owner’s manual for the proper use of this gift.  He did that, not to be a cosmic killjoy, but because he loves us; he knows what is best for us, and he wants his highest and best for us.

So we need to talk about the real thing vs. the Counterfeit.

Culturally, great sex is about performance, physical perfection, seeking novelty, and achieving a higher high.  This is the counterfeit.  If great sex were about these things, there is only one direction your sex life can go across a lifetime together, and that is downhill.  You might look like Barbie and Ken when you get married, but eventually you won’t.  The years will take their toll no matter how hard you work at maintaining yourself.

Great sex is really about intimacy, attachment, connection, and mutual pleasure.  If sex is about these things, your sex life can become richer and more satisfying across a lifetime together.  Let’s look at those components of intimacy, attachment, and mutual pleasure.

Intimacy.  We often hear intimacy used as a term meaning sex.  Great sex is an expression of intimacy, but sex, in and of itself, is not intimacy.

When you hear the word “intimacy,” how do you define it?

My definition (without consulting Miriam Webster) is this.  Intimacy is knowing and being known.  At your wedding, the friend who just missed the cut for being in the wedding party probably read 1 Corinthians 13:4-6.  You know it.  “Love is patient.  Love is kind…”  etc.  As Paul is dictating, he quickly segues to a vision of our future in heaven.  When he gets to verse 12, he says, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”  This is a description of intimacy.  It is showing up and allowing yourself to be seen. It is knowing and being fully known.  Great sex happens when we are fully present to the person in the world who knows us best.  When we experience that kind of sex, it is a foretaste of heaven.

Attachment.  At the risk of sounding unromantic, sex is an attachment behavior.  Humans are made for attachment.  As we discussed in our first two sessions together, the first time something wasn’t good in creation was when the man was alone.  The natural state of what it means to be human is to seek connection.

During sex, some things happen with brain chemistry.  There is an increase of endorphins and dopamine which gives us a sense of well-being.  There is also a hormone called oxytocin that gets released into your brain.  Euphemistically, this is called the cuddle hormone.  It tells your brain that this other person is your partner.  It is a bonding agent.  In marriage, this is a really good thing for reinforcing attachment.  In casual sexual relationships, oxytocin can be the hormone of really bad decision making.  Your brain may be trying to attach you to someone who is not a good partner for you.  Further, if you are having multiple partners, you are hijacking the system.  Your brain chemistry is trying to tell you that multiple people are your partner.

But we are talking about marriage, where this hormone is really helpful.  Keeping the sex life going is helpful to keep you two bonded.

Mutual Pleasure.  Sometimes we act like humans are the ones who figured out that sex was pleasurable.  We act as though God is going, “Hey, wait a minute.  I just intended that for procreation” (with a nod there to Jonathan Acuff who wrote Stuff Christians Like).  If you want my weigh in on what are acceptable sex practices, I would say that great sex is whatever you both find mutually edifying.  You are supposed to be enjoying it so have fun together.

 

Gender Differences.  Before we leave the subject of sex as an expression of attachment, we should talk about gender differences.  In addition to their being differences between genders, there are also differences within genders so this won’t apply always.  It does apply often enough to be worth discussing.  A man will often seek sex to establish or reestablish intimacy.  A woman will usually have sex as an expression of the intimacy she is already feeling.  Consequently, after a fight, he wants to have make-up sex so we can be okay again.  She might be thinking, “after what you said to me two hours ago, there is no way I want you in my body.”

 

Talking about sex.  According to the research, one of the things that separates the masters of relationship from the disasters is their ability to talk about sex.  The masters of relationship are able to express what they enjoy.  They can initiate and it is also okay for either partner to say, “I am not in the mood right now.”  The flip side of that is that if you decide to engage anyway, you might find you are glad you did.

 

Locked out of Heaven.  We have a short time together so don’t get me started on Bruno Mars as a lyricist.  His song, “Locked out of Heaven” is a lament about a lack of sex in his relationship.  My experience has been that if a couple is not having sex, it is usually reflective of what is happening in the relationship (assuming there are no medical issues).  Securely attached couples usually enjoy sexual intimacy together.

 

At this point, I have a few questions for you to discuss with you partner.  We will put them up on the screen so you can pause the video and talk.  Discuss the following questions with your partner.

  • Do you feel the gender differences described apply to your relationship?
  • What new insights does that provide for how each respond in your sexual relationship?
  • Are you comfortable initiating sex in the relationship?
  • Do you feel like it is okay to decline?
  • Is it okay for your partner to decline?

 

Welcome back.  I promised you when we started this session, that I would talk with you about some stuff you need to know that nobody talks about.

So let’s talk about Sex and Aging.  The thoughts I offer here assume that the partners are in reasonably good health and there are no medical issues or risks around the couple’s sex life.  I am going to be fairly explicit here, so I hope you will be okay with that.  I want us to be able to talk about some things that nobody ever talks about because I think it is important.

First let’s talk about Men.  As men age, we do not become erect as quickly, and we are not as turgid as when we were younger.  In your teens and 20’s, you may have been blue steel as soon as you had a sexual thought.  In your 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, it takes longer and you are not as firm.

Additionally, no one will ever tell you this, but it is normal for all men to have erectile issues on occasion.  All it takes is for him to have something else intruding on his thoughts (e.g. problems at work, financial issues, everything he needs to do tomorrow).  There are two real dangers when this happens.  First, he freaks out.  Once you start worrying about your erection, the worry gets in the way of getting an erection.  You actually end up working against yourself.  The more you worry, the more problematic it becomes.

Second, she freaks out.  It often happens that when the husband has an issue with his erection, the wife takes it as an editorial comment about her desirability or lack thereof.  She believes that his penis just told her that she is no longer arousing to him.  If this happens, now the pressure is really on for him to get an erection which further works against him.

When the time happens that he does not get an erection or loses his erection during sex (and it will happen at some point), the best thing you both can do is just be okay with it.  If you both just relax and don’t panic, his erection will probably recover.

Further, I would suggest that your motivation for sex changes as you age.  When you are a young man, there is more of a feeling of a need to relieve the sexual drive.  For older men, it is much more about connection and pleasure than it is about relief for the pent up sexual energy.

Women.  As a woman ages, particularly after menopause, she will tend to not lubricate and dilate as quickly or as much.  Again, assuming there are no medical issues, this can be overcome in a few ways.  First, she may need more foreplay to give her enough time for her body to respond.  Second, he may need to be particularly gentle and slow going when entering her.  Third, a lubricant may become a regular part of your sex life.

A final thought here is that sex is not just about intercourse.  When you make sex just about intercourse, it can create some performance pressure which gets in the way.  When sex is about connection, intimacy, and mutual pleasure, intercourse tends to happen.

Was that too much?  Is everyone still okay?

 

Let’s talk about The Porn Trap.  While I could certainly raise many a moral objection to pornography, I do not have to in order to say that the effects of porn are all bad.  There has been extensive research demonstrating the detrimental effects of pornography.  Brain scans reveal that the brains of regular pornography users look roughly the same as the brain scans of regular cocaine users.  The same areas are over stimulated and the same areas are deadened.

Our brains were designed to respond to sexual stimuli.  It is in the hard-wiring.  They were just never designed to handle the amount of stimulation that is available at the click of a mouse.  It is not wrong or pathological that you are aroused by sexual stimuli.  Men are particularly aroused by what we see.  Where it is problematic is when your brain is being affected by being bombarded by visual sexual stimulation.

There was a study done almost 50 years ago with butterflies.  The male butterfly would respond to the coloring of the female butterfly when choosing to mate.  The researcher then created cardboard butterflies with brighter colors than the real females.  What happened was that the male butterflies would try to mate with cardboard females even when a real female was available.  Human males are now doing the same thing.  We are trying to mate with the image on the screen when a real woman is available to us.

We have talked a lot today about intimacy.  Pornography is the antithesis of intimacy.  It is totally anonymous.  It is a solitary experience.

Porn use has also been linked to erectile dysfunction in young men.  Increasingly, young men who use pornography are finding themselves unable to obtain or maintain an erection with a real woman.

Another rather odd study was done in which subjects were asked to rate their mate in number of different areas before and after viewing pornography.  Viewing pornography was found to cause you to view your partner less favorably.  This is not just in the area of sexual desirability, but across the board.  The bottom line, if you want to keep the love going in your marriage, don’t watch porn.

 

At this point, I have a short video of the effects on the brain of viewing pornography.

 

If you are using pornography and your partner does not know it, this is a form of infidelity.  Any time you are keeping secrets in an intimate relationship, your partner is going to feel betrayed when it comes out.  In my practice, it is more often the husband who has been using pornography.  When the wife finds out about it, she often feels that 1) she can’t compete with what he is looking at; 2) he wants something that she is not or does not want; 3) that his real longing is to be with someone else; 4) that in his mind he has been with someone else; 5) she wonders if when they have been together, if he is really fantasizing about what he has been looking at.

Some couples report that they like viewing pornography together.  You don’t need to do anything that I say.  However, my opinion is that this does not build intimacy.  If you want to get creative together, I don’t really believe you need to watch others having sex to get ideas.  You can figure it out.

Finally, the pornography industry preys on the vulnerable.  Most little girls and boys to not grow up aspiring to make a living by having others watching them having sex.  If they got into that industry, they either suffered some trauma or fell on hard times.  What you are watching is not real.  You are witnessing someone’s trauma repetition.

If any of this discussion has pushed you into shame, let me remind you that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  There is nothing you can do to make God love you more, and there is nothing you can do that will make God love you less.  The reason to avoid sexual sin is that God wants his best for you, your spouse, and the generations that follow.  The point here is that pornography use is not God’s highest and best for you and may get in the way of God’s highest and best for you.

Also, if you have been concerned about what you have been doing to your brain, there is some good news.  Our brains have neuroplasticity.  That is to say, they can change.  If you stop doing whatever it is you have been doing for arousal or numbing out, your brain begins to heal.  If you have tried to stop and have been unable to, seek some professional help.

Wrapping up.  I don’t want to leave us on a down note.  Here’s the thing.  Sex is a wonderful gift from God.  You two should enjoy it together as much as you want.  It is worth making time for in your relationship.

Let’s talk about the homework:  For homework this week, Talk with your partner about what you enjoy about your sex life.  Are you happy with the quality of your sex life?  Are you happy with the frequency with which you have sex?  What would be ideal for you?  What things get in the way of us enjoying the sex life we want?

 

That will wrap us up for this session.  Sex is a great gift.  Enjoy it together and we will talk next time.