Stay Sexy or Else? Well, Please Forgive These Mommy Hips
Some Christian marriage conferences and self-help books tell us it's up to the wife to stay looking great and try new things in the bedroom, to keep her husband satisfied and her marriage strong.
Mary DeMuth recently critiqued the popular "smoking hot wife" line, pointing out that for the many Christian wives recovering from experiences of sexual abuse, this kind of imperative makes the difficult path towards healthy intimacy even harder. For a woman trying to find a way to lower defenses, shake off memories, and find true, godly communion with a spouse, being told to act the part of the sexy wife is 11 steps in the wrong direction.
But the real problem with all this evangelical sex talk is even bigger than that. Any woman trying to live intimately with her husband gets damaged by these sorts of claims, not just those who are recovering from abuse. It's antithetical to the Christian view of marriage altogether.
As we remind Christian couples to "stay in shape and try new things," we can play into a broader cultural premise on sex—that it's all right to leave a spouse once the spark of sexual excitement and attraction has dissipated, that couples who don't find sex exciting anymore don't, won't, or even shouldn't, stay together. An adventurous sex life becomes the unspoken requirement for lifelong monogamy.
Once that idea gets in a woman's head, it's hard to shake it. In the back of her mind, she knows the choice to have children also means changing her body forever. Her shape will become different. The sex will be different. Amid the vulnerability of pregnancy and childbirth, women face the fear of becoming less attractive to their husbands, who are meant to find them sexy for years and years to come if they want their marriage to last.
In other cultures, motherhood is seen as the self-sacrificial, dangerous, and difficult role that endears a wife to her husband, solidifies the family unit and elevates her. This used to be the story in America too, but the more we buy into this cultural mandate, the more pregnancy comes with baggage. Motherhood, with its extra stress and pounds, can begin to lessen a woman's esteem, making her seem less valuable to her husband, and putting her at risk of being left behind if he chooses to move on. Forget about the veneration of motherhood, having babies makes you look frumpy in lingerie.
Even more, the stay-sexy-or-else message ultimately admits that marriage may be a conditional arrangement. The bottom line: Your husband can leave at any time… unless you give him a reason to stay. What effect will this even tacit admission have on the relationship? I think of Anna Karenina. As the story progresses, no amount of sensual passion and no amount of beauty can act as cement in Anna and Vronsky's relationship. All the pleasures of beauty and sensuality become tainted.
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