Why Bragging About Your Sex Life Isn’t Just Annoying

Sharon Sex 15 Comments

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This past week, pastor/blogger Tim Challies published a post titled “Keeping Intimate Details Intimate.” In it he discussed the potential dangers of a married couple talking too openly about their sex life. Though he does not instruct Christians to avoid these conversations altogether, he encourages Christians to enter into them with wisdom and great caution, especially when it comes to the topic of frequency.

I tend to agree with Challies. I have written similar messages myself–once when I was single and another two after I got married. I won’t rehash old ground here, but in both my posts and Challies’, we consider the reality that intimacy is a little less intimate when shared too openly. We also explore the repercussions of exposing our married relationships to unnecessary pressures, comparisons, and even competition if we are not careful about how we talk about married sex.

Today, I want to mention another pitfall of speaking too openly about our sexual lives–especially in the form of bragging–and that concerns the larger cultural ramifications of this practice.

Americans exist in a culture that prizes sex as a high good, if not one of the highest goods. This priority evidences itself everywhere: between language about sexual orientation and marital rights, to a woman’s right to choose, Americans want to have as much sex as they desire with as few hindrances as possible. We not only believe this is our right, but some would compare sex to a “need” as basic as eating.

In a culture where sex is such an integral aspect of human flourishing, Christians seems to agree. Just look at the way we talk about sex. Christians want non-Christians to believe we have the very best sex lives of all, and we are not only committed to making this goal a reality, but we brag about it when we succeed. If good sex is a competition, it is a competition we are committed to winning.

As a result, holiness practices such as abstinence and monogamy are re-conceived as mere players in the game. They are frequently discussed within the context of their service to better sex. For example: “If you wait until marriage, your sex will be better,” or “If you remain faithful to your spouse, sex will be more meaningful than empty promiscuity or serial relationships.”

Now it’s not that these statements aren’t true, to some extent. Although neither practice promises a mind-blowing sex life, they certainly pave the way for trust and intimacy between two people, while minimizing the potential for complicating baggage. Because God designed sex to exist in marriage, there are indeed benefits to honoring His design.

But that does not mean the point of abstinence or monogamy is good sex. Nor does it mean either practice requires validation based on its sexual merits. Premarital abstinence and marital monogamy are good, not because they foster great sex lives, but because they reflect the character of God.

All of that to say, talking too openly about sex–especially bragging about our great Christian sex lives–is not necessarily accomplishing what we hope. Even if we win the competition, we are ultimately in the wrong game. Although Christians certainly affirm that sex is a good gift from God to be celebrated, we cannot affirm the culture’s unhealthy obsession with it, an obsession that ultimately contends with the primacy of God. If we play into the culture’s belief that sex is a primary good, then we will struggle to maintain coherence and credibility when we simultaneously oppose our culture’s application of this good.

Sex must be rightly ordered in the Christian life, and our language about sex should reflect that ordering. That is not to say that we should return to the approach of previous generations and avoid talking about sex altogether. There is so much brokenness attached to sex in our world, and the church should be a safe and open place where people can seek healing in their sexual lives. As Challies said, it is healthy to have trusted confidants with whom one shares their struggles, when necessary. There is also a time and place for a pastor to address this topic from the pulpit.

But I echo Challies’ exhortation to both caution and wisdom. Sex is a terrible master, an idol whose desires are just as insatiable as any other, and whose wake is just as marked by brokenness as that of all false saviors. This is nowhere more evident than in the terrible fallout of our culture’s “sexual freedom.”

Let’s not stop talking about sex; let’s not stop celebrating sex either. But let’s honor sex in a way that honors God and honors one another. And let’s talk about sex in a way that reflects its true priority in the Christian life. Sex is good, but it is not God–not even close!–and our language about sex needs to align with this truth.

Comments 15

  1. Dorothy Greco

    AMEN! Love this. In a world that has come to confuse honesty and vulnerability with scintillating YouTube posts, I heartily agree that somethings are better left unsaid – or confined to appropriate settings.

  2. Tim Challies

    That is very well said, Sharon. You’re absolutely right–in so much of what evangelicals say, they are joining into the competitive nature of unbiblical sexuality.

    Thanks for joining in and improving upon the conversation!

  3. Adam Shields

    I agree, as long as appropriate discretion does not mean lack of conversation. I think we need to talk about sex (appropriately and positively) more. And I think that it should mostly be in small group or in couples mentoring as opposed to larger group settings.

    My wife and I have led newly married small groups for the last couple years and have been continually surprised by both the widespread sexual activity before marriage, and the lack of basic sex education (odd that both seem to be true at the same time among the same people.)

    It drives me nuts when Christian assume that sex in marriage, is automatically good. It isn’t. And I think that is one of the problems with not talking about it.

    In a similar way, I think that many people my age (in their mid to late 30s) believe that there is a huge increase in miscarriages. But from the evidence I have seen it is just that people are now talking about it openly more often (and aware of pregnancy earlier).

    I want to encourage couple to be appropriate in their expectations, while at the same time encourage couple to work through problems. I don’t think that means that I need to talk about how often I have sex, but I do think that when appropriate to the discussion and the issue, that I should be willing to talk about my sex life with other young couples (assuming that no bragging, no inappropriate situations and the best interest of the couple are present).

    1. EMSoliDeoGloria

      I know not everyone agrees, but I think I’m kind of with Adam here – there can be appropriate mixed company conversations about this topic, as well as appropriate couple-to-couple and single sex conversations, but conversations need to happen – and happen in a way that does not assume there one couple’s frequency, preferences or flirtation tendencies are / should be universal. Sex is an integral part of romancing and loving your spouse. While the specific details should generally remain private, there is room to learn from each other. It’s nice to say that parents should do this but the bottom line is that they often don’t – or maybe they experienced unhealthy marital patterns such that you don’t want to repeat what your parents did.

      Christians should be very positive about our sexuality – within appropriate (marital) boundaries – and without making an idol out of it. It is a good gift that should be celebrated.

      But that’s just my opinion. There is a lot that is cultural about this conversation. Our generation has the luxury of a higher degree of privacy than most. We don’t live in multigenerational homes, for the most part, and often separate master bedrooms with doors we can lock and music that allows us to be more discrete when others are in the house. We have fewer children (overall) and healthcare is better.

      All that to say that for all the oversharing and made for TV portrayals out there, it’s entirely possible to know less about actual, real life intimacy than other generations might have. Which makes real, vulnerable, tasteful conversations even more important.

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  5. Carol J. Marshall

    Sharon I am always impressed by the way you take relevant issues head on with a thoughtful, transparent and –most importantly–a God-honoring manner. This post is bold and very necessary for our Christian community. The hyper-focus on sex, from purity to pleasures, has sometimes seemed to usurp other areas of our human lives that need addressing. Brava!

  6. Kim Shay

    I came here through Tim Challies’ link. I liked your comment about abstinence until marriage for the purposes of having great sex. If that were the case, then the myriad of blogs about the difficulties Christian couples have with sex would not be a reality. I have seen of late numerous younger women, under 30, blogging about how difficult their sex lives are despite having waited until getting married. Many of them now see that it is their understanding of God’s design for sex that was the root of the problem.

    I’m over 45, and probably an old fogey by now, but bragging about sex is just a violation of the privacy that ought to exist between a couple.

  7. Suzanne

    Sharon, thanks for some good insight. It reminded me of a postcard we received from a local church advertising an upcoming sermon series. The postcard showed a couple in bed from the vantage point of their uncovered feet (with the rest out of focus) and basically promised that “Jesus makes your sex life better.”

    Adam stated that there should be a conversation. I disagree that the conversation should take place in small groups. I agree that limited conversation should take place with a mentoring couple, but I think we have to be very carefully about the content of what is discussed. I’m not sure how details of my sex life can edify someone else, especially someone of the opposite sex.

    Ideally, parents should be better preparing their children for marriage. I’m thankful that my teenaged daughter and I seem to be laying the foundation for that even now.

  8. yankeegospelgirl

    Hey, I really like this post. I’m a young single woman, but I already have strong opinions on things like propriety and privacy when it comes to these issues. I think you hit the nail on the head when you discussed how some Christians want to pollute the goals of sanctity and chastity in worldly terms. I wondered if you had any thoughts on this post from the popular “Stuff Christians Like” blog, which says that conservatives are obsessed with taking the “fun” out of sex, and we need to emphasize its “untamed awesomeness” more often. It seems like this is exactly the sort of misguided attitude you’re addressing here:

    http://www.jonacuff.com/stuffchristianslike/2010/08/3578/

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    Sharon

    yankeegospelgirl, great question! I think that Jon is right to an extent. He is right that our larger, secular culture has separated God from sex. That truth is so evident in so many ways. He is also right that some conservatives have taken the fun out of sex. There are certainly many conservative Christians out there who seem almost afraid of sex, and don’t really celebrate its beauty at all.

    However, that stance is not true of all Christians, or even all conservative Christians. I have found that in an effort to overcome the negative stigmas, some Christians have over-reacted by emphasizing sex too much. Although this over-correction has resulted in some positive change, I’m not satisfied with it as a resting point. There is a middle place between celebrating sex and guarding its sanctity, and Christians on both sides of that divide should aim for that balance.

  10. yankeegospelgirl

    Although I agree with you that some of Jon’s basic points were technically true, his approach and attitude kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I felt this particularly with the section about a Christian sex songs playlist… I mean seriously, can we say TACKY?

  11. Natasha

    Hello! I thought your insights were interesting, but I was wondering if you have read the book Real Sex by Lauren Winner? I highly suggest that book in learning to approach the topic of sex in our culture, regardless of how you might feel about her, I do beleive many church communities would greatly benefit from reading and practicing the applications found therein.

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    Sharon

    Natasha, I HAVE read Real Sex, and I really liked it! In fact, I usually recommend it to others. Like you, I really liked her approach in that book.

    1. Faith

      Your website is really refreshing to read . I recently came across a website called Christian Nymphos supposedly a Christian website dedicated to help christian women in their sex lives with their husbands, but in my opinion the women commenting were being way too explicit and there was a whole list of different sexual positions described in detail on one page( which borders on being pornish in nature to me. ) they even said sodomy was ok
      As long as you’re married. They said it was about having sexual freedom in marriage but it seemed more of a website that focused on letting worldly sexual ideas or behavior into our Christian marriages. I was really disheartened and turned off by that webpage . It’s nice to see someone else agree that some discretion should be used.

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