I am a 43 year old woman, married 23 years (or thereabouts) and I have great sex. So does my husband, coincidentally. We’ve been having this great sex for some time now, probably since we got back together after being separated for a year, a while back. Before that, the sex was not so great. Because while we were having problems, fighting and separated, there wasn’t any. I consider absent sex bad sex, because I happen to like it. Although I haven’t asked Ben about it, I’m pretty sure he feels the same. I can just tell.
Now, I don’t consider good sex necessarily to be frequent sex, just in case you’re wondering about that. It’s not how often it happens, it what happens when it does that makes it good, I think. And I do think about it, because good sex is cerebral. That means to do with thinking, for those who don’t know, or presumed it was something dirty. I’m going to be over-cautious when it comes to explaining things here, lest anyone think I’m going to stoop to double entendres. That means double meanings, one of which is usually to do with sex, for those who don’t know. Wow, this may take longer than I think. That, by the way, is not a double entendre, so stop looking. And neither is that.
Anyway, I think the sex we’re having now we’re middle-aged is a lot better than the sex we had when we were younger. I put this down to a couple of factors.
- Less pressure to perform
- Less energy to perform
- Less time spent sucking in my stomach to try and appear skinny (sucking in your tummy takes a lot of energy and attention)
- Less time wasted guessing whether the other really wants sex or is just after a cuddle
- Less time fighting because someone really just wanted a cuddle
- Fewer interruptions by children crying, vomiting, falling out of bed, sleepwalking, or calling out “Are you okay mummy?”
- Less anxiety about possible pregnancy – I had my ovaries fried with chemotherapy a few years ago
- Less of the kind of emotional turmoil which usually leads to comfort sex
- Less time actually spent awake in bed, because we’re approaching middle age and need our sleep
- Less obeisance to the social pressure that dictates how frequently we should be doing it as a normal, healthy married couple in their forties (i.e.: we don’t give a shit what others are doing)
So why am I even bringing this up? Why would anyone be interested in reading about the sex-life of a white, middle class, Christian married couple with children rapidly approaching mid life?
Well, this week I’ve been following the discussion around one particular U.S. pastors statements about culture, gender, sexual behaviour and orientation. I haven’t weighed into the discussion because he’s actually so damn wrong and it’s so damn obvious he is, and also because others such as Rachel Held Evans in her blog “Mark Driscoll Is A Bully” have done such a great job addressing it that there was no need. However, one little part of this discussion really piqued my interest, because it’s a topic that’s lain in the undercurrent of church culture and Christianity for the past twenty years or so.
This would be the particular part about about how the responsibility for a Christian man’s fidelity lies with his hot Christian wife.
Actually, it’s about the popular belief that the infidelity of certain Christian men could partly be the fault of their perhaps slovenly, definitely ageing and maybe even prudish wives. Or it could be about how many men are being taught by other men in the church that it’s a wife’s responsibility, and not his, to maintain her husbands sexual interest for the duration of their marriage. Well, more specifically, my issue is with the fact that many churches and pastors are teaching that Christian women must have the hips of a teenager, the breasts of a porn star and the facial features of a supermodel to ensure their husbands ongoing marital fidelity, and that if he strays, the fault lies not with his lack of moral integrity, but with her non-compliance to this ridiculous, misogynist, hot-mama-for-Jesus program.
I went on a a paper chase looking for something that the particular preacher I mentioned previously, a senior minister at Mars Hill church in the U.S., is said to have made on his blog, along these lines; “At the risk of being even more widely despised than I currently am, I will lean over the plate and take one for the team on this,” (Driscoll writes) “It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either.” (Salon -The Pastor’s Wife Made Him Do It - Pastor tells flock that Haggard had gay sex because his wife let herself go. BY LAUREN SANDLER)
But the whole article this quote is said to appear in has been removed. Smart move. I know where you live, punk.
Now, I’ve heard it all before; in church, in Christian women’s ministry, and in hundreds of books by Christian authors and ministers, male and female. I once believed it myself, thus the spending about ten years sucking in my tummy whilst having sex. I even went through a long skirt and headscarf phase, in the desperate hope that overt modesty might serve the same purpose as overt sluttiness (which I’ve never been terribly great at) in keeping my husbands sexual interest exclusively in my boudoir. And then there was the lying in bed awake at night on the other nights worrying about whether it would be my inverted nipples or my cellulite that would in the end drive my sweet, loyal, Christian husband away to a brothel, or to the arms of some sexy young thing. I believed he would be absolutely helpless to resist any woman hotter than I was, and that I’d better be prepared to haul my flabby ass to the gym, the beauty shop and perhaps even to the local adult toy-store to keep my man. I was never in any doubt that his very mortal soul would probably at stake if I ever “let myself go”.
You know, I think this whole thing is really a thinly veiled attempt at keeping the gender/power imbalance alive and high-kicking in the Christian church. What is at stake here? What have the men to lose in this? And what exactly is it that these women are afraid will happen if they don’t keep attracting their husbands sexually?
I am of the belief that God never, ever uses our insecurities or our fears to get us to do what he wants. However, the same apparently cannot be said of many Christian pastors today, who feel that bullying women into certain behaviours by threatening them with their greatest fears and sources of anxiety is perfectly all right, and even Biblical. In order to have Christian wives meet their husbands capricious sexual needs, they are threatened with the two things they dreads the most; the infidelity of their husband, and their ultimate abandonment. If you don’t continue to meet my sexual demands, I will leave you, and it will be for another, sexier woman. So you’d better do it, or it will be all your fault.
I am very blessed that I married a man not given to openly lusting over other women, or who likes his women tottering about in high heels and mini-skirts like a hooker or pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen. But you know what, even if I once might have cared that he liked these things, I couldn’t care less any more. As far as I am concerned, my husbands weirdo, sexual depravities, and any misogynistic tendencies, are really his problem – not mine. I’m not about to change to meet the worst parts of my husband. I married him to benefit from his strengths; his moral integrity, his humour and honesty, and his masculinity. Why would I then allow my own strengths, my moral integrity, my authentic self and my femininity, to be compromised, perverted and frightened half to death by the worst parts of him?
Ben has not been unfaithful to me, and it’s not been because of my attempts to maintain his interest. It’s because of his own. I remember when Ben and I reconciled, I was able to accept him back despite all the terrible things that had happened because of something God said to me. “I am,” said God, “a rewarder of those who diligently seek me. And Ben has diligently sought me. You, my dear one, are his reward.” This is how God sees us, the wives of these men. We are our husbands lovely, precious reward. Do not these words just melt your heart? Isn’t it just like God to woo me back to the husband of my youth like this, and not telling me I would need always to fight his weaknesses and my anxieties?
Things change when you grow up and mature, not just as a person, but as a Christian, and in a marriage. When Ben and I were younger, we placed a lot of emphasis on each other to meet our needs, thinking that if our needs went unmet, it indicated a deficit in the other. However, as we’ve grow up into adults, we realised that for the most part, it wasn’t the other that was the problem, it was those needs. I.e.: we had too many of them, and we expected the other person to meet the ones we had. Now we are older, and wiser, and we both realise that the person we married wasn’t put on this earth to meet our needs, make us happy, or pander to our vices and anxieties. If Ben had to compromise his own morality and propriety to keep me sexually interested in him, I think he would be justified in wondering whether I had married him as a whole man, or merely as a need-meeting sex toy.
You know what I think the best part of mid-life, Christian sex is? Familiarity. The best part of sex for me is that the bodies we share are ones that we know welll. I know every curve and angle and divet and bump. I know the width of his shoulders and where the bony parts are. And I know his body knows mine. I know it forgives my tummy, and enjoys my…well, enjoys me. And it accepts me. And it loves me. And that, my dear readers, is what it’s all about. Keep your perky tits and your smooth, flawless thighs. I love my body, with all its flaws, and my body is loved better because of it. So there.
Perfection isn’t conducive to great love, or great loving. The harder you push someone toward an ideal you have in your mind, the further away you get from relationship. Remember grace? The greatest gift you can give your husband or wife is grace, and that includes not just relational, but sexual, love, forgiveness and acceptance. Your idea of what is sexually attractive is just that – your idea. That person you promised to love is not an idea, nor are they obliged to conform to your freaky ideas. Unless that’s a special game you like to play together. And hey, woah, that’s none of my business.
This is not a specific rant against anyone in particular, although boys, or pastors as the case may be, if the shoe fits. It’s more a statement of defiance against this ridiculous culture of over-sexualisation and under-appreciation of women in the church that’s been going on for God knows how long, and which obviously isn’t going to end any time soon. Can I just say to women, if you love and respect yourself, then don’t “let yourself go”, but not because you’re afraid to lose your Christian husband. His staying with you is his responsibility as not just your husband, but as a man before God. You should keep yourself healthy and well-groomed because you want to avoid the plethora of health issues which will face you if you don’t look after yourself, and because it’s fun to buy nice clothes in nice shops and dress up. Do it because you’ll need good bones and a strong heart your whole life, and because you like to see your collarbones showing, you know you like that. Take care of yourself because you don’t want to have to go buy a new wardrobe, that’s just a waste of money, and because you don’t want to waste any more time sucking in your tummy whenever you’re naked. But hey, want my honest to goodness advice? Just let go your tummy. Life’s too short to make love with your tummy sucked in.
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