The Truth About Sex
Telling less than the whole truth hurts people. This is important to me as a Christian college professor, a fertility awareness instructor, and a married woman. Together with my academic colleagues and students, I strive to critique American culture with both biblical and social science insights. Despite these efforts, I sometimes find that my behavior reveals hidden belief in these lies. I sometimes see a similar disconnect between belief and behavior in my students.
Sex Is not Easy
On TV, people often engage in sex spontaneously, without forethought or verbal communication. On Temptation Island, three women in committed relationships were separated from their partners to be tempted by buff men. One woman was asked to choose her favorite from the available bunch. "I choose Dave," she said, "because he gives the best impromptu striptease." Her choice, like hundreds of others made in popular film and TV, bases attraction and affection on visual signals alone, suggesting that sexuality is a trait separate from relationship, character, or commitment. Similarly, masters of technique are shown as the best sexual partners, while virgins, awkward lovers, or people with sexual dysfunction make for great humor. Even nonsexual things like clothes, food, and music become subjects for sexual innuendoes, joking, and arousal. If sex isn't easy for you, or if you think too hard about sexual choices, something must be comically wrong with you.
An engaged couple, one of whom was my student, came to talk with me about their upcoming marriage. The woman worried that she might not have enough sex drive to make her marriage happy. "On TV, most everyday events are sexual," she said. "Cooking, eating, coming home from work—all these commonplace things spark sexual desire. I'm not like that. I think about sex sometimes, but not all the time. Am I supposed to want it all the time once I'm married?" Though she believed in virginity and abstinence, her immersion in American culture caused her to believe the lie that sex is easy. Because she lacked knowledge of and conversation about normal, real-life sexual frequency, she worried about her possible failure.
Sometimes sex is easy, but whether easy or difficult, it always requires work. At the very least, it requires more verbal communication than pop media lead us to believe. Questions of when, where, how often, and how must be negotiated and renegotiated throughout a marriage. Beyond this basic relational work, many people have deeper difficulties with sex. Many newly married couples find sex painful, awkward, or even boring. They often feel ashamed, because they believed the myth that married sex will be easy and erotic from the first time on. They see "failure" mocked in popular media, and they often remain silent and alone. Sexual pain, dysfunction, emotional stress, or changes in sexual interest associated with illness, parenthood, or other life stresses are the stuff of real life. In real life, women with hacking coughs and achy bodies don't seduce their partners with decongestant medication.