Sexuality & Holy Longing – 5

Chapter 5 of Lisa McMinn’s book, Sexuality and Holy Longing, is titled “Mysteries of Marriage: Bone of My Bone, Flesh of My Flesh.” A central and expanded section in the chapter is titled “Myths About Marital Sex.” In it she identifies five myths:

 

1.   Marital sex is boring

2.   Marriage is all about sex

3.   Good women do not enjoy sex

4.   Men are always ready, interested, and capable of sex

5.   Good spouses are not attracted to others once they get married

 

McMinn then turns to the topic of how marriage and singleness reflect aspects of God’s love, which she views as “one of abundance” (p. 138).

 

Singles reflect the abundance of God’s love in the inclusive open way they can relate to everyone. To live with a view of scarcity is to focus on a moral restraint or need to sublimate the desire for genital sexual fulfillment rather than finding abundance in the freedome to love intimately and inclusively, recognizing they can give and receive more because of singleness. Married couples reflect God’s faithful covenantal love that puts down roots and grows deeply into multiple dimensions of abudant love with one person. [p. 138]

 

For reflection: Which myths stood out to you and why? How do you respond to the ways in which both married love and single love reflect dimensions of God’s abundant love?

8 Comments

  1. Two myths that stood out to me (although all struck me as very accurate and rather sad) include the “marital sex is boring” and “good women do not enjoy sex”. I think these myths grabbed my attention because they are more relevant to a married woman, which I happen to be. We’ve discussed in class the design that God has for sex in marriage, and this chapter talks about this as well. Sex was created by God to give us a view of true intimacy and great pleasure at the same time. I think that it’s tragic to view marital sex as boring, because it is the one place where sex can mean all that is intended to. Premarital and extramarital sex might be exciting because they are forbidden and elicit, but marital sex is like diving into the deep end when you’ve been wading in the baby pool. It’s an opportunity to learn the true meaning of sexual intimacy and to enjoy the fullness of it with one other person. That’s also why I think the myth about good women and sex is tragic as well. Sex was designed for two people, one of each sex, which includes women. Women are to share equally in the joy and intimacy of sexual expression within marriage.

    Married love reflects dimensions of God’s abundant love by allowing us to participate in one of God’s greatest analogies for his relationship to us. The intimacy we can experience in marriage parallels the intimacy that we ideally have in our relationship with God, and this is reflected in a physical sense in marital sexuality. In marriage, we come as close as we can to fully knowing another person, and to being fully known ourselves. The risk and vulnerability and, ultimately, incredible trust involved in being fully known illuminates the surpassing love and faithfulness of God, that He knows our very inmost being and still loves us. It’s scary to open oneself to true intimacy in marriage; yet by pushing myself to be vulnerable with my husband, and receiving his unconditional love in return, I can begin to understand the infinite love and safety of the God who knows me.

  2. The myth that struck a cord with me was the myth that marriage is all about sex. This myth I believe is still waxing strong and has resulted in great suffering and disappointment that have also led to divorce. It is important that there is an understanding that marriage is a place to experience self-sacrificial love and a place where individuals are challenged to grow to become more Christ-like. Through growth, each day can become better than the previous. Understanding that growth is really want is needed to get us from our temporary home (model of marriage) to the permanent home in heaven. When the expectations of sex are far from ideal then disappointments are sure to come and the door to unfaithfulness is more likely than not. There is also the issue of the changes that occur as the physical body ages. The various changes that occur can be unsettling and marital infidelity can result when the myth of marriage being all about sex is perpetrated.

    God’s abundant love is experienced both as a single person and as a married person. In both marriage and single hood, the key is being aware of all deceptions of ideals. Every human has strengths and weaknesses and when this is taken into consideration we can be more forgiving of our weaknesses and the weaknesses of others. I believe that singleness enables the practice of a self-control love through abstaining from sexual relationships for the benefit of those involved while marriage enables the practice of self-sacrificial love, dying to self for the benefit of the other; the same way that Christ surrendered himself through humility, self-control, and self sacrifice. When viewed this way, then contentment is found in whatever state one finds self, be it single or married.

  3. The fifth myth stood out to me the most, “good spouses are not attracted to others once they get married.” I read this section more intently than the others and it has been going through my mind. I think the cause of this is that was the only myth I had/maybe still do believe. It is difficult to combine the wedding vows with the understanding that attraction may still occur. I understand that vows do not change who you are as a sexual individual and therefore of course your attractions do not leave, but that message of what ‘good spouses’ do and don’t do is played loudly and often. I wonder what it would look like to train couples more about this topic and how to accept each other’s attractions and one’s own attractions without them leading anyone into an affair. I appreciated how McMinn tied this myth into an individual’s desire to remain attractive. I remember a friend I had would always explain how she would not ‘let herself go’ once she got married and would always shave and wear makeup for her husband, which can be a nice way to love and honor your husband. But many times the husband may rather the wife not spend the time on herself and rather with him, therefore that drive to remain attractive may drive them further apart.

  4. “Good spouses are not attracted to others once they get married” was a myth that stood out to me. McMinn seemed to describe this myth as a fearful hope of women.
    I liked the message to woman that you can either strive to keep up with the endlessly more attractive women in a society where young and thin is beautiful, give up and let your bodies go hoping your husband will stay with you because of the marriage promise, or you can look at aging in a different way. Her description of aging as a journey together meant a lot to me. I liked her idea that softer bodies after having children is a memory of the childbirth or wrinkles around the eyes and mouth mark memories of laughter and tears. Aging together is something you share so you don’t have to let society dictate your view of yourself. The church must be willing to counter the culture. I think that the church often speaks of how to make it within the culture by focusing on wrongs and rights of living (don’t commit adultery, don’t look lustfully at people, etc). Imagine if the church openly talked about the culture’s view in contrast to the Christian view. What if the church said that our society paints aging into an obstacle rather than experience and used that to share a new view on aging? We could be fighting together against the lies our culture.

  5. The myth that really stood out to me was the myth that married sex was boring. I have heard this “standard” belief so much that I was shocked as I read the myth section that I had apparently subconsciously incorporated this belief about marriage into my belief system even though I consciously would not agree with this myth. I felt her insight regarding the safety and security afforded in a committed covenantal relationship does provide context for a stronger & more enjoyable sex life, even more so than the Hollywood image of the “new hot first date sexual encounter” we see in media.

    In general, I am really glad that I read this chapter & this section in particular because I felt like McMinn offered so much practical wisdom and tools to couples who may need practical guidance on how to guard their relationship within a greater community relational context and successful suggestions regarding healthful confession and healthful responding to relational wounding. Overall, I just cannot get over how enlightening and practically helpful this text has been for me both professionally as well as personally.

  6. During the course of our class discussion on this topic something occured to me. Though it might be slightly tangential I think it’s very relevent.

    As many of you I’m sure know, the movie “Sex and the City” recently was released in theaters. I’ll admit that I haven’t seen it yet, but I have seen the show a fair amount. Sure, it’s funny and enjoyable at times, but unfortunately it also reinforces many negative societal messages. I’m not talking about the promiscuous sexual behavior that many Christians might focus in on, but the relationships.

    In sex and the city friendships between four women are portrayed as being far more rewarding and intimate than relationships with any men, whom are objectified. This relates to the point someone brought up in class about how sometimes women share more intimate information with their friends than spouses, even information highly relevent to the relationship. I understand that this is sort of the point of sex and the city, since the idea is that these types of attitudes empower women. I also understand that much of the male dominated culture has for a long time encouraged men to relate to each other and objectify the women in their lives. Unfortunately, I don’t think either perspective will cultivate a strong marital relationship, and it’s disturbing that to feel empowered some women believe they must act the way men have for decades instead of fostering a new healthier way of relating.

    As for the original question, the good spouses must not be attracted to anyone else was most impactful on me, since that was really the only one a part of me still believed. Even being single, sometimes I used to fear that being attracted to someone other than my girlfriend was an indicator that she “wasn’t the one for me”, but I’m realizing how foolish that is.

  7. I enjoyed reading this chapter and found many practical suggestions to use professionally and personally. I thought it was interesting to reflect on the culture in which we live and the contradictory messages about sexual intimacy in marriage. Myth number one is “Marital sex is boring,” and in contrast, myth number two is “Marriage is all about sex.” How interesting to see two contradictory statements that misguide the culture in which we live. To me, both myths sound like extremes on a spectrum. Myth number one is suggesting little to no sex and lack of enjoyment in marriage. Myth number two contrasts it with the suggestion that sex occurs very often and is the focus of a marriage. These two myths are quite contradictory and send misguided messages about the marriage relationship.

    McMinn includes a section of the ways that both single and married relationships are symbolic of God’s love for us. Singles can reflect God’s love in their relationships with many people which is similar to the way that God extends his love to everyone. Married couples reflect God’s love showing the commitment, acceptance, and faithfulness of love for one person.

  8. I think all 5 of the myths stood out to me. One of which was the men are always ready, interested, and capable for sex. I think that this myth is largely brought on by the media, as are most myths. Sometimes it seems to reduce men to mindless sex machines. I can’t remember where I heard this quote but it reminds me of this, “God gave men a brain and a penis but not enough blood to flow to both at the same time.” This picture of men removes a great deal of responsibility from hands. It further exemplifies the stereotype and expectation of girls remaining sexually inactive while it is socially acceptable for boys to be sexually active.
    I can see how this myth would also be quite damaging for men who deal with erectile dysfunction and other sexual disorders.

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