Sex is not a magical unicorn, part 1

Warning: Sex stuff inside. Open at your own risk. It’s a rather touchy topic and it might be a bit hard to wrap your hand…er, mind around it. This one might arouse your interest. You should read something else if you don’t want to penetrate the depths of this subject. (Okay, okay, I’ll stop.)

As teen and young adult, so much of sex always seemed like a mystery. The way many Christians speak of sex is like it’s the most incredible gift, just waiting for the right moment to be opened. It’s like knowing your birthday present is sitting, wrapped, on a shelf in your parents’ closet. You don’t know what it is, but you know it’s there. Its presence looms over you. You know you’ll find out what it is on the big day, but you’re not allowed to peek. Except, not only are you forbidden from sneaking a look at the gift, you are also not even supposed to think about opening it, because thinking is the same as unwrapping.

And then, when the moment comes, all this build-up has led you to believe that you are about to open the world’s most amazing gift. This is it, the moment you have been waiting for. You are tearing the paper off a present that should have all the eye-popping, heart-stopping, mind-blowing glory of a magical winged unicorn.

But what if it turns out not to be as awesome as you imagined?

On our wedding night, I was expecting this:

but it was more like this:

It was a lot more Charlie than Princess Celestia. It was okay, but nothing like I thought it would be. It was disappointing. Opening the gift didn’t reveal what I’d longed for. It was like anticipating a diamond bracelet and getting a silly band.

I absolutely do not blame my husband for this. There is no way he could have anticipated that. And I had no idea how to tell him. I didn’t know how to talk about sex. Sure, I’d read some magazine articles, all of which suggested that couples should tell each other what they like in bed. But I didn’t have the words to express myself, nor the courage to admit that anything was wrong. I felt like a failure.

The weird thing is, going into marriage, I thought I was completely prepared. I thought we would just kind of know how it worked and it would be awesome and special and holy and perfect. Not one person explained reality to me, other than that nearly everyone said it would hurt the first time but I would “get used to it.”

Wow, “get used to it” is kind of a crappy way to view sex.

There was a lot no one told me. No one explained that being on oral contraceptives can kill your sex drive and mess with your body, making everything more painful. No one said that it’s best to use lube or lubed condoms, especially the first time. No one clued me in that it’s possible to prepare your body before you have sex so that it doesn’t hurt. (If you want to know how, message me and I will link you up with a great video in which a sex educator explains it.) No one shared that I would have to know my own body so that I could help my husband learn.

Nothing.

Heck, I didn’t even know that I was actually supposed to like it, even though I’d heard it was supposed to be life-changing. I had heard all about how “the world” had perverted sex and how an “unbiblical” view of sex had taken all the joy from it. I never once heard an adult woman talk about it like it was something she enjoyed. Most of the sex talks I heard were from men, and there was definitely a fixation on porn addiction and “lust” (translation: if it makes you hard, you’re lusting). Basically, it sounded bad and scary, yet that was all supposed to change when I said “I do.” I was terrified that someone—including my own husband—might find out that I wanted to enjoy it.

I am fortunate that I have a patient, loving husband who was willing to walk through this with me. We’ve been married for 15 years now, and we’re still finding our way. I don’t think this happens for every couple, there are plenty who have different experiences than we did. But for too many of us, this is what has happened as a result of uptight attitudes and purity initiatives. I hear from friends (and strangers, via Twitter or this blog) that they feel as though they’ve been let down, usually by the church or by Christians. They suffer in silence, believing they’re the only ones who think of sex as their “duty” or who feel shame about their sexual history to the point of being unable to enjoy intimacy with their spouses. They keep hearing that sex is good, sex is beautiful, but their personal experiences say otherwise.

Sadly, many women can’t even talk about this with friends. When the topic of sex comes up, there is always at least one person who blushes furiously and admonishes the others to stop talking about it so casually. At the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s always one who brags that she and her husband have the best sex. Both of those things cause women who are struggling to shut down.

Maybe this is you. Maybe you’re married and you’ve carried fear and shame around with you. Or maybe you’re not yet married but you are having trouble making sense of the conflicting messages you hear. You are not the only one, and you don’t have to walk this road by yourself. If you feel you can’t talk in “real life” with anyone, you can message me. You can post a comment and hear what others have to say. Or you can be brave and share with your friends. Be the first to confide, to be real, and see what it leads to.

You’re not alone.

Join me tomorrow when I continue this topic. Up next: My thoughts on the documentary “Orgasm, Inc.” (Yeah, that title sounds really porny. Trust me, it’s anything but.)

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4 thoughts on “Sex is not a magical unicorn, part 1

  1. Hi Amy,
    Just add sex to the list of things “we don’t know what we are getting into” ie: marriage, adulthood, parenthood, etc. As life continues I can add to that bodily changes with peri-menopause, aging both personal and parental, having daughter-in-laws/sons-in-laws and the dynamics of those relationships, what life will be like with my husband as we both get older/retirement/illness. Can we really be prepared? First it is all so subjective, secondly, it is different for everyone, and third, how much can we really know? People can only share what they know and if the opinions of other women’s thoughts about sex don’t fit your opinion, you can’t blame them.

    I do agree with you that it is difficult to discuss sex in the Christian environment which is a shame, because I think it has been an important part of our marriage. Perhaps it is also difficult because so many women don’t even know how their own bodies function. Sex is a learning process of ourselves and our partners.

    When it comes to real life I think many Christians have a hard time discussing their struggles openly because they want to be seen as faith-filled examples to others. Here is another thing that cannot be openly discussed. How can we explain that there are non-Christians of other faiths that have peace and direction? Cannot tell you how many times I have heard said “I don’t know how they (non-Christians) get through life without God.” Yet somehow they do and sometimes with much more grace than many Christians.
    Just some thoughts.
    Sue

    • Too true! Most of life is unpredictable.

      I do think there’s a difference between being fully prepared in every way for something (probably impossible) and at least having a working knowledge. If a person goes into marriage thinking things will just fall into place, and doesn’t understand that there’s a learning curve, that’s definitely not so good. Maybe part of being prepared is having parents and other important adults talk about the fact that there’s a learning curve.

      And I definitely hear you about how we don’t talk about a lot of things. I have many fine friends and family members that are not Christians and yet have been inspiring to me with their lives. I remember being surprised that the majority of Andy’s high school friends weren’t Christians, because I had learned that being friends with non-Christians was only acceptable if you were trying to “reach” them. Otherwise, it was considered being “unequally yoked.”

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