For his most recent book, Sheet Music: Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage (Tyndale), psychologist Kevin Leman researched the sex lives of married Christians to find trends, concerns, and questions in a subject that Leman says Christians don't talk about enough.
Leman is author of The Birth Order Book and How to Make Your Children Mind Without Losing Yours. He also hosts a daily TV show called Reality Talks.
What difference do you see in how Christians treat sex compared to those outside the church?
When was the last time you heard a pastor get up and say, "I've got a 12-week series starting next Sunday on Song of Solomon"? You don't hear that because we have allowed the world to pervert the word sex.
By not talking about sex to our kids and not honoring it the way we should in marriage, everybody ends up paying. The average marriage today lasts seven years. It's been sort of fun to watch support build in the Christian community for Sheet Music. People are saying, "It's about time somebody tells people the truth."
With sex being so polluted by the world, how do we take it back as something pure and beautiful in marriage?
The way you do it is to make sure that you are each other's lover. You should go out of your way to entice your lover. Ladies, when was the last time you seduced your husband? When was the last time you met him at the door? When was the last time you took him on an overnight?
Gentlemen, when's the last time you set something up for your wife to go away by herself? I wrote an article years ago called "How to make love to your wife without ever setting foot in the bedroom." When you're at the store and you call and you say, "Honey, I'm at the store. Is there anything you want me to bring home?" or when you take out the garbage, that's foreplay.
Now, if you're getting off into kinkyville, and think you've got to go get pornography and all that kind of stuff to enhance your marriage, you're barking up the wrong tree. I take a hard line on that in this book, because pornography, as you know, is a devastating force in society, costing us marriages and millions of dollars.
How did you conduct your research into married couples' sex lives?
I interviewed tons of couples from the Northwest. I wanted couples who didn't know me. We set up telephone interviews so it wasn't face-to-face. I was astounded at the honest and forthright way in how they described their sex life.
All of the people I talked to were in Bible study on a weekly basis. I was astounded at how active and how hip their sex life was. It was certainly different than mine was 36 years ago, when I married.
If there is a problem in the sex life of a couple, how does the conversation to approach it begin?
For many people there won't even be a conversation. But, for some spouses, it might start with taking the time to write a love note in the truest sense of the word to convey those type of feelings. Sex needs to be a part of your life. If it's not a part of your life, the chances of you staying married, quite frankly, are not real high.
What counts are the little things you do to try to communicate the idea that "I love you as you are." A tough part in marriage is realizing you're two different people who have came from two different backgrounds. We're commanded to become one. It's not just a good suggestion or a grand idea-it's a commandment.
I go to bed at 10 at night and what does God give me as a lifetime partner? He gives me a raccoon. My wife stays up until 1:30 in the morning, goes out and tips over garbage cans, and then comes to bed. So we're different. And the fact that we're different gives us a shot at becoming a couple.
Obviously, all couples have differences like that. But there are big differences inherent just between men and women. How do those differences manifest themselves?
What I've tried to do in this book is to tell women that their husband wants to be your hero. He'd take a bullet for you. St. Paul in Ephesians 5 said that we should love our wives as Christ loved the church, which means I gave up my life so the woman could live.
Women are relational by their nature. They have a lot of women friends. But men don't have a lot of male friends and we don't talk or share with anybody. So, in whose life do we want to be a hero? In our wife's. A lot of women don't get that.
What advice do you have for newlyweds?
I had a young newly married kid in my office years ago. I handed him a violin and said, "Here, play this." He said, "I can't play that." Again, I told him: "I want you to play it." Finally on the third time, he grabs the bow and he pulls it across the string. It makes the most ungodly sound you ever heard.
"That's good," I said.
"Good? That was terrible," he said.
But no, it was good. He made noise. That was good. Then, you just have to learn to make music. It is a journey. Practice is really important. There are people who practice with multiple partners. But if you've been sexually active with 12 people, and that person was sexually active with 12 people, then on your first night together, you just had sex with 4,095 people.
How should parents handle talking about sex with their kids? Or even oral sex that often is not talked about?
Teenagers today, since the President Clinton incident, have decided that oral sex is not really sex. Parents have to realize that [some] children in middle school are giving and receiving oral sex to classmates at school, on the bus, and in secluded places in schools. It's a real phenomenon today. Parents have got to get their head out of the sand.
Parents have to talk turkey to kids about sex, and don't tell your kids that sex is bad. Tell them it's the greatest thing in the world-but within the confines of marriage.
Copyright © 2003 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Visit DickStaub.com for audio and video of his radio program (4-7 p.m. PST), media reviews, and news on "where belief meets real life."
Recent Dick Staub Interviews include:
Why God is like Jazz | Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz, talks about why Christians need writers who honestly deal with their faults and why penguin sex is an apt metaphor for believing in Christ. (August 5, 2003)
A Gerontologist Gets Older | David Petty, author of Aging Gracefully, has long taught about the process of aging. Now, he is personally learning that one of the most important aspects is the spiritual side. (July 29, 2003)
Carmen Renee Berry's Unabashedly Consumerist Handbook to Ecclesiology | The author of The Unauthorized Guide to Choosing a Church helps seekers find their best congregational fit. (July 22, 2003)
Are Darwinists Immoral? | Benjamin Wiker says Darwinism isn't science per se: it's just a reiteration of a 2,300-year-old philosophy (July 1, 2003)
J. Budziszewski Knows That You Know What You Know | Even though you may not know it yourself. (June 24, 2003)
How Dan Allender Broke on Through (to the Other Side) | A former drug dealer who evangelized before he was a Christian talks about his efforts to bring healing from sexual abuse (June 10, 2003)
Paul Elie on 'the Holy Ghost School' | The author of The Life You Save May Be Your Own talks about the personal journeys of Flannery O'Connor, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, and Walker Percy and what we learn from them today (June 3, 2003)
Why We Are Drawn to The Matrix | Chris Seay, coauthor of The Gospel Reloaded, says the first movie was about finding belief and the second looks at walking that path. (May 27, 2003)
Remembering Francis of Assisi, the Crazy Genius | CT managing editor Mark Galli finds someone who lived the Sermon on the Mount. (May 20, 2003)
John Ortberg's Freak Show | Churchgoers' attempts to be average are killing them, says the Willow Creek pastor. (May 13, 2003)
Winning People, Not Arguments | John Stackhouse discusses the evangelistic need for humble apologetics (May 6, 2003)