Pleasure refers to the experience of feeling good. Pleasure contrasts with pain and suffering and is related to value and desire. Why does pleasure matter? Pleasure is a birthright to enjoy the best of life…good food, great art, natural beauty, and great sex. Great Sex? Yes, great sex is a God-given birthright embedded into the cells of our being. We being fantastic messed up humans complicate and ruin the natural order of our creation and our sexuality especially when religion is involved.
For anyone who grew up in and around the 90’s, the purity culture was a faith-based movement in the answer to the rise in promiscuity among teens of that time. There were tons of different faces to the movement. True love waits, I kissed dating good by, and the courtship method. All of these well intended movements were implemented in different faith cultures and hammered into the willing teens of that time urging them to wait for marriage to begin their physical intimacy journey. Like a lot of well-meaning movements, the byproduct of the purity movement not only left a lot of people frustrated and rebellious, but also led to a lot of shame and disfunction in marriage. Divorce, infidelity, body shame, sexual shame, porn, and emotional abuse have been factors in many marriages post purity culture.
For Sam and I, many of those lessons started to unravel after we got married. As a couple of virgins we waited to have sex until marriage. We were assured that if we just waited, we would be guaranteed an easy and rewarding sex life. My Christin college ethics professor even told us one day in class that “statistically Christian women have the best sex lives because they have the security that their husbands won’t leave them.” I bought that hook line and sinker without any thought as to how Christian women might struggle with relating to their bodies and turning the switch from purity patrons to married vixens in the bedroom.
Many of us heard similar things from parents, teachers, church leaders and books. In some churches, it was common for people to pledge not only to save sex until marriage, but even to save their first kiss for their wedding day. “Don’t start the engine if you aren’t ready to drive the car” and other similar metaphors warned that any physical contact was a slippery slope straight into the jaws of fornication. Sam and I don’t regret waiting until we were married to have sex, and we’re not advocating that churches stop teaching that sex is designed for marriage. But we do think there is something seriously wrong with how the church has handled conversations around sex, sexuality and intimacy.
It’s 1997, I was an impressionable 13 year old sitting in youth group at church feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders. We were learning about the sacredness of sex and how all good Christians wait to have it until they are married. We signed a purity agreement, wore our rings and took pride in our decision to remain pure. I’m still proud I didn’t give myself away to any Joe Schmo but I’m just now learning that there are negative effects of carrying that much pressure. I carried a lot of pressure to be perfect and pure which turned into a major anxiety disorder and years of disordered eating. I was a product of the movement we now call “purity culture”. My dad came back from a “Promise Keepers” mens conference where he had learned that it was his job to give me a “purity ring” and impress on me the heavy job of staying celebate until marriage. I don’t regret my dad giving me a “ring” because I felt incredibly loved and valued. My dad pursued me and showed me the attention I needed during those awkward years when many fathers avoid their pubescent daughters. My dad’s involvement in my life as teen made me feel worthy and valuable. I say this all the time: DAD’S DATE YOUR DAUGHTERS! They need your attention and if they don’t get it from you they will find it somewhere else.
It wasn’t until I was 37 sitting in my therapist’s office talking about my current anxiety and struggle with panic attacks that we put the pieces together. My young psyche learned to please and protect itself through perfection and purity. The purity culture of the 90’s and early 2000’s told Christian women that if we weren’t pure then we weren’t as valued and that a throng of men and mistakes would be standing behind our true love on our wedding day. The cherry on top: “If you make a man stumble” because of your two piece swimsuit at church camp or your spaghetti strapped cami at youth group his sin was all on you sister! THAT IS WAY TOO MUCH PRESSURE TO PUT ON ANYONE not to mention so confusing. “If I’m too sexy I’m sinning, but if I’m not sexy enough I won’t find “the one” and I’ll be left alone to be a celibate spinster my entire life! What the heck am I’m I going to do with all these sexual desires if I’m never chosen?!” Those were just a few of the thoughts that fueled my anxiety, perfectionistic tendencies, OCD behaviors, over exercising, restricted eating, anorexia nervosa and binge eating. The purity culture influence primed me for major anxiety in my adult years.
It wasn’t until I met my husband Sam that I really felt beautiful and loved for who I really was. Sam taught me that it was okay to enjoy food, fluctuate in weight, feel sexy and have great sex….once we were married of course. We checked all the evangelical purity boxes before we got married…. virgins that were ready to hand in their V cards with no clue on how to have good sex. They didn’t teach that in the youth group sex talk and the closest advice in this genre that we received in our premarital class at church was to “light a candle by the side of our bed.” Ha ha don’t worry we that that was bonkers too and knew that if we couldn’t tell each other when we felt amorous then we were doing something wrong as husband and wife. All that to say, it has taken Sam and I 10 years of marriage to learn, explore and adventure into the world of good sex. Here’s what we have learned and some resources that have helped us.
1. Getting married doesn’t automatically gift you the ability to immediately fully express yourself sexually without guilt or shame.
When you spend years keeping your sex drive in check just saying the words “I Do” doesn’t mean you will be a fully embodied person with the ability to have an immediate fulfilling sex life.
“Many Christians have spent years—from the day they hit puberty until their wedding day—focusing their energy on keeping their sex drives in check. Then, in the space of a few hours, they are expected to stop feeling like their sexuality is something they must carefully control and instead be able to express it freely. And not only that—but express it freely with another person.” – Relevant Magazine
2. Bringing toys into the bedroom isn’t a sin.
Last time I checked, the penis doesn’t vibrate. Women have spent far too long caring for the sexual needs of men to the detriment of their own. Buy yourself or your wife a vibrator. Mic drop, nuff said. But there are so many other toys and items you can bring into the bedroom that can enhance your sex life. Do some research on the websites below, browse around and see what sparks your fancy and give it a try. You might not like everything but that’s part of the fun. You get to try new things with your partner and have fun. Did I say fun enough because sex is supposed to be fun!
3. Just because your partner wants sex doesn’t mean you owe them that.
Growing up in church we were taught once we are married our bodies aren’t our own and that as husband and wife we are one. Sam and I believe we are one, but we still remain individuals with different needs and desires and in no way does that mean one of us has control over the other person. Sex and intimacy starts way before the bedroom. Most women need more time to warm up to the idea of sex and opening her self up to another. Find out her love langue and speak it way before you take your clothes off. Same goes for men, men aren’t just visual creatures that can turn it on and get it over with. In an intimate relationships each partner wants to know they are desired. In my personal experience I wasn’t able to desire my husband because I didn’t desire myself. When I feel sexy and am living in my body instead of my mind I am way more open to receiving and giving love. How did I do this you might ask? Therapy, research, mediation, nonlinear movement, playing around with fantasy, taking a dance class, joining a women’s group, having a glass of wine, taking CBD and playing some “sexy time” music…. yes I created a playlist on my phone of all the songs that get me in the mood.
4. It’s okay to be sexy and feminine.
This one might seem like a no brainer, but for many women femininity and sexuality was/is dangerous. Modesty has its place for sure but when you’re 11 it doesn’t. I was in 5th grade skipping into AWANAS at church one night when I was stopped and told my biker shorts were too tight and could make a man stumble. I was confused, annoyed and ashamed. I had no idea why I couldn’t wear my new florescent biker shorts to casual night church. How could my body-something that God made be bad? How could my body be the source of a man falling and sinning? It didn’t add up to me and it didn’t seem fair. It is not a woman’s job to protect a man from the dark areas of his mind. This mindset is degrading to men as well, labeling all men as visual horny toads that can’t be trusted around the female form. We are teaching our boys that they do in fact have control over their thoughts and behaviors… their first thought might not always be the best thought but we can choose which thoughts we give attention too. Men are not helpless and women are not dangerous sirens. Being sexy and enjoying femininity is part of being a balanced female.
It’s been 11 years of marriage, 3 kids, a mortgage, and a thriving relationship both physically and mentally. How did we do this? Therapy, lots of therapy, books, therapy, toys, therapy, and shattered expectations. Did I say therapy? Both Chrissy and I had to do a lot of work both separate and together to get to this point. But if we can do it, anyone with the motivation for a better relationship can do this. It involves taking off the cultural lens of what you used to know and identify what isn’t working for you or serving you.
I was almost 32 years old when I got married which was considered “old” for the church culture I grew up in. I was a product of the purity culture which was great in some ways and bad another ways. I met Chrissy at a BBQ, I like her legs and carefree demeanor so I found her on MySpace and asked her out…. the rest is history.
Getting married was great, but I felt there was a lot of expectations and pressure to be a great man, husband, father, and provider. I realized that I felt a ton of pressure to be “the perfect Godly man”….. purity culture pressures don’t just leave when you get married. Unfortunately, they didn’t teach us how to navigate sexual intimacy issues in our premarital counseling at church. It was really hard was feeling like I was failing our relationship. I felt like I was failing when it came to navigating intimacy… kids and stress and life just added to the pressure. I got tired of living this way and asked myself, ” Is there has a better way?” That’s when my search began for a better way of living.
After our last child Ruby was born, both Chrissy and I realized that sex up until this point in our marriage had been mostly for procreation not recreation. We forgot that intimacy was suppose to be fun. It was work. It was stressful. It sucked. We felt like we were just checking sex off a to-do list. Together, we started to unpack the different things that we each needed to work on. One thing we noticed was how disconnected both of us were from our bodies. We lived for so long learning to suppress desires and sexual thoughts that we successfully disconnected our mind from our body. Even saying this from a guy’s perspective sounds so weird. We are men. We are taught to be hard, cold, warriors. The problem is when we are taught to live in our mind, we view everything from that one part when our soul is so much more.
A huge growth area for me was listening to my body and learning how to enjoy being present in not just intimacy but all parts of life. Think about this, we guys don’t go to the doctor until we are almost dying right? When you can reconnect with our body, healing happens. When you start to reconnect to the body, you can feel more pleasure in your body. Pleasure is a birthright and part of healing for both men and women. It’s important as well to learn the language around healing and these experiences. When you learn how to express yourself and be vulnerable you become a better partner.
It’s paramount to learn how different bodies respond to physical tough… something I knew nothing about in the early years of being a married man. If only they thought how be a conscious partner in health class! As a guy that grew up in the purity culture, I was told that sex was bad and that most of it was all related to porn. Watching porn can be really damaging to both partners because it sets a foundation of false images and expectations….not to mention sex trafficking! Some of the books and resources that we linked in this post do get graphic, but can be helpful in learning the anatomy around two consenting and of age partners. If you struggle with porn, some of the books and podcasts are really good for helping you communicate and learn how to create a more satisfying experience with your partner without the digital images. I promise you can have great sex without pornography. If you are triggered by images, please explain that to your partner and find resources that better serve you in learning without having issues that can compromise trust and vulnerability for both partners. Remember, information and education around intimacy is super helpful and should be fun; if it’s triggering seek help from a mental health professional. I can no recommend therapy enough!
If you are a female reading this who is in a long term relationship with a partner that identifies as male (with a faith background or not), PLEASE be very gentle in these conversation with your partner. Believe it our not, our psyches are fragile especially when we are feeling like partner who is failing sexual intimacy. The slightest careless comment or criticism can completely damage and shut down our openness. Staying open and vulnerable in communication around sexual intimacy is crucial in improving this area of your relationship.
Resources for Releasing Sexual Shame and Having Fun!
Books & Articles:
- The Wild Woman’s Way: In The Wild Woman’s Way, Michaela Boehm shares practical rituals and exercises drawn from years of experience as a celebrity relationship and life counselor and an expert in tantric yoga. She reveals the power of different types of touch, while also training you in forms of meditation and stretching that increase activity and sensual pleasure.
- Becoming Cliterate: Laurie Mintz this book is a must read for men and women. It breakdowns stereotypes around the physical response for women and the men that love them. if you have a vulva or love a vulva owning partner, read this book.
- Beyond Shame: We all carry sexual shame. Whether we grew up in the repressive purity culture of American Evangelical Christianity or not, we’ve all been taught in subtle and not-so-subtle ways that sex (outside of very specific contexts) is immoral and taboo. Psychotherapist Matthias Roberts helps readers overcome their shame around sex by overcoming three unhealthy coping mechanisms we use to manage that shame.
- She Comes First: Ian Kerner offers a radical new philosophy for pleasuring women in She Comes First—an essential guidebook to oral sex from the author of Be Honest—You’re Not That Into Him Either. The New York Times praises Kerner’s “cool sense of humor and an obsessive desire to inform,” as he “encourages men through an act that many find mystifying.”
- Mating In Captivity by Esther Perel: A New York City therapist examines the paradoxical relationship between domesticity and sexual desire and explains what it takes to bring lust home.One of the world’s most respected voices on erotic intelligence, Esther Perel offers a bold, provocative new take on intimacy and sex. Mating in Captivity invites us to explore the paradoxical union of domesticity and sexual desire, and explains what it takes to bring lust home.
- The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk Md. : This book is the Bible for understanding how the body stores and processes trauma at a cellular level which leaks into every area of our lives.
- The End Of Purity Culture by Relevant.com
- Four Lies The Church Taught Us About Sex by Relevant.com
- Intimacy Deck by Skin Deep: 150 engaging conversation starters for couples to strengthen their relationship, romance, trust, openness and vulnerability…. It all starts here folks so open up and get asking! These are great for date night or any night of the week to change up conversation.
Our Moments Couples: 100 Thought Provoking Conversation Starters for Great Relationships Love Language: Card Game – 150 Conversation Starter Questions for Couples – to Explore & Deepen Connections with Your Partner – Date Night & Relationship Cards
- The We-Vibe Vibrator: Can be used solo or with a partner during intercourse handsfree.
- The Magic Wand: Every woman should have this in her nightstand…really great for use in foreplay with a partner.
- The Amour Mini G: A petite g-spot vibrator with a satiny-smooth body and slender curved tip that’s perfect for shallow g-stimulation as well as external use.
- Moxie by We-Vibe: Another great couples vibrator.
- Womanizer Liberty By Lilly Allen: This pocket-sized powerhouse features patented Pleasure Air technology designed to connect to your body in a way that you’ll have to experience to believe. Ergonomically designed to fit comfortably in your hand, this vibe features a choreographed balance between suction and massage.
- Manta: Vibrating silicone wings encircle the penis, adding targeted stimulation and intense pleasure. Can we used as a couple or for solo pleasure.
- Winni Vibrating Ring: The Winni is a waterproof, rechargeable penis ring that can be controlled with a wireless remote control–enjoy hands free pleasure. Ergonomically designed to fit comfortably on the body, its vertical motor placement lets you enjoy maximum sensation between you and your partner.
- The Atom Plus: The Atom Plus is an innovative design that delivers deep perineum stimulation as well as intense vibrations to the top of the shaft, leading to an incredible climactic experience.
- Foria Intimacy CBD Massage Oil: Enjoy extra-relaxing touch and massage for him or her with Foria’s certified-organic CBD massage oils. Use this moisturizing oil-based formula for intimate or whole-body massage, or as a daily body moisturizer. Formulated to deliver anti-inflammatory CBD to muscles, nerves and capillaries, which can enhance tissue oxygenation and release muscle tension.
- Uberlube: Stay slippery without needing to reapply with long-lasting and healthy Überlube. Überlube also works as a massage oil, leaving the skin soft and moist, never sticky.
- omgyes.com: This site is not for the close-minded…But again, if you own a vulva or love a vulva owner, this is a great science-backed website about women’s pleasure. It does contain graphic material, so use your own judgment.
- Laylamartin.com: Layla is the founder of the Tantric Institute of Integrated Sexuality and has spent over 10,000 hours teaching people how to experience epic sex and legendary love. This website has great info and sends out invaluable weekly information to her email list.
- Chrissy’s Creating Your Calm: Releasing anxiety and trauma from your body
- Michaela Boehm’s: Awakening The Pleasure Body
- The Foreplay Radio, Couples and Sex therapy: This is the motherland of resources. Short, and incredible podcasts with an Anglican Sex therapist Dr. Laurie Wastson, and several EFT therapsits. They cover all the sex and relationship subjects there EVERY couple faces. Tasteful and so educational.
- The Michaela Boehm Podcast: Michaela Boehm teaches and counsels internationally as an expert in intimacy and sexuality. Born and raised in Austria, Michaela combines degrees in psychology and extensive clinical counseling experience with her in-depth training in the yogic arts as a classical Kashmiri Tantric lineage holder. Michaela’s approach empowers her students through an eclectic mix of education, experiential exercises and guided explorations. Known for her work with high-performing individuals, her ongoing private clients include Academy Award–winning actors, producers, business pioneers, and multiple Grammy Award–winning musicians. Michaela lives on an organic farm in California where she rescues and rehabilitates animals.
- Where Should I Begin Podcast: by Ester Perel. This is a great podcasts about real couples facing the hard, everyday issues.
- Head to Heart Podcast: Thoughts on The Devine Feminine
- Sure, Babe Podcast: How To Be Sexy As a Mother
We hope this post is helpful in releasing shame and that it helps you connect more deeply with yourself and your partner while igniting more passion and fun in your relationship.
Follow us on Instagram @chrissyjpowers and @superdangerpowers for weekly LIVES on this subject Pleasure and Purity. If you’re interested in a couples intensive with Sam and Chrissy please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With hope and helping,
Chrissy + Sam