Alex and I were both virgins when we got married. In a fact that will surprise no one, I had never even come close to having sex. I made one boyfriend wait almost a year before kissing him and he still asked me to marry him (this was the fiancee before Alex if you’re trying to keep track of my many sordid love affairs…(snort)).
So, here was the promise: Save yourself for marriage and the sex will be amazing. Books (I Kissed Dating Good Bye, anyone?), church camps, any number of Christian sources said this was the trade-off.
In the absence of any real sex education from the church, I had to glean most of my knowledge about sexpectations from media, which as we all know, is always accurate and balanced and not sexist at all. What I gathered was that orgasm for women was quite easy and thus, women loved having sex often. Good sex didn’t require much effort or communication, as one-night-stands could satisfy you. Easy, peasy.
Between the church’s promise and the media’s portrayal, I expected big ‘lady in the streets, freak in the sheets’ energy on my wedding night.
Spoiler alert: it was actually kind of awkward.
After the limo delivered us to our hotel, we explored a little bit and then went back to the room. Both of us expected to have sex but how do you initiate sex when you’ve never had it before? There was a moment where we both kind of just stared at each other and I finally clapped my hands together and said, “Welp. I’m gonna take a bath. Wanna join?” and that broke the ice.
Over the first few years of marriage, I learned that my libido is not stellar and the sex that we were having was never what was promised. And before anyone blames Alex’s lack of sexual prowess, let me remind you that he grew up in the same culture. Here is the church’s logic:
- Don’t have sex.
- Don’t think about sex.
- Don’t read about sex.
- Don’t watch anything related to sex.
- After you get married, have great sex.
Where are we supposed to get our information from? We can’t watch porn. It’s not wholesome talk to discuss sex with friends. It’d be fucking embarrassing to ask our parents for sex advice. I’ve never heard a sermon about how to give your lady pleasure. Apparently, the words “I do” are supposed to unlock the next level of sexual knowledge but our keys must have gotten lost.
It was frustrating for both of us.
In 2018, Brittany Cooper’s Eloquent Rage caught my eye at the library. (I wrote about it here.) She talks specifically about disentangling herself from her conservative Baptist upbringing and its regressive view of sex. I am not exaggerating when I say that the chapter was life-changing. It got me thinking for myself about what sex is and what it should be. It got me questioning things I had learned in church about things like masturbation. It made me question a whole lot of things.
Shortly after reading that chapter, I had a church ladies night at a friend’s house. We were sitting around her dining room table and I shared that I was reading this book and all of a sudden, these women that I’d known for a couple years now started talking about sex. Not in a lewd lets-share-dick-pics kind of way but a real talk kind of way. Literally, this was the first time I’d ever had a discussion like this with other women. At that point, I’d been married for 11 years.
I shared that my libido wasn’t great and I didn’t really enjoy sex. Someone affirmed that they felt the same way and that sex got better as you got older. Someone else mentioned a discrete vibrator that could be easily used during sex. Ya’ll. My mind just cracked wide-open.
I went home and told Alex and he was excited for me. We ordered the vibrator. I borrowed Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski, which was the sex-ed book I needed in high school (seriously- let your high schooler read it). She discusses sex in a frank, easygoing way but it’s deeply informative. Here’s a little tidbit that might interest you.
70-90% of women are unable to orgasm with penetration alone. (source)
That stat alone blew my mind and made me say, “OH. NOW I GET IT.” Come as You Are talks about all of the external factors that women bring into the bedroom- stress can affect sexual pleasure (PARENTING ANYONE?), expectations can put the kibosh on pleasure. In reality, women’s sexuality is incredibly complex and it’s not as simple as, “Save yourself for marriage and you’ll have great sex.”
I’m happy to report that our sex life has gotten better because I’m now armed with the knowledge, attitude, and tools to know what my body likes.
Truthfully, I’m still processing alot of anger because I feel like purity culture stole something from me that I’ve only just recently begun to reclaim. I didn’t have an orgasm or good sex until I was 32 (despite that being what was promised) and I’m angry about that.
I needed to hear other women’s stories to start to think about sex differently and my hope for this series is that it gives other women the knowledge and permission to start processing these things for themselves.
If you’re reading this and wanting to know more, I recommend Eloquent Rage and Come as You Are. I liked this vibrator because it wasn’t a glittery neon pink dildo. It’s very discrete and works well. Good luck. There’s a whole wide world out there. 🙂