I'm tired of being told I'm missing out on great sex.
I am a 38-year-old very happily married man with two boys who have frequent flyer miles at the emergency room, a baby girl who is listed as "Head of the House" on tax forms, and a home with revolving doors for neighbor kids. I'm in good health, eat well (as long as chips are considered a food group), and work out at TaeKwonDo (with my boys) several times a week. My wife is a loving, beautiful woman who excites me more today than when we married ten years ago.
So what's wrong with my sex life? According to the cultural messages that bombard me, I couldn't possibly have enough self-esteem to fully enjoy a sexual relationship because I don't have a wash-board stomach, my teeth are not whiter-than-white, and, worst of all, I have a receding hairline. And, since my wife has never had laser resurfacing for wrinkles or any type of breast augmentation, my sexual satisfaction score just couldn't be that high.
You may have guessed that I am not a poster boy for the Hair Club for Men. One of their ads shows a young man lamenting his hair loss. "Whenever I stopped at a red light," he says, "I felt like everyone around me was staring at my bald spot." Give me a break! I have never felt that anybody was staring at my ever-lengthening forehead. If my fly was down, maybe. Still, all the ads end with some statement about increased self-confidence and then (tah-dah) show the formerly bald guy with a half-naked woman on his arm. The moral? Get a full head of hair, you'll get a "beautiful" girl who is more than willing to have sex with you.
It's bad enough for men, but I have much more sympathy for women. Every magazine cover greets them with a waist-starved, breast-enhanced model who supposedly typifies what men want. Plastic surgery clinics with slogans like "You could be so much more" show women who have paid for perfect breasts. The moral? Guys like ultra-slim women with large breasts. The implication? Be that way and sex will be great for everybody.
Does a woman really want a man who is attracted to her because of her cup size? Does a man really want a relationship with a woman who wouldn't give him a second thought if he were bald? And is sex really better with someone who has a full head of hair or breasts that threaten to burst out of their restraints? Sadly, many do believe it. Ninety thousand American women received implants in 1996; hair-loss programs are now a $1.5 billion industry. Even more sad, those spending the money are dead wrong.
When Adam first saw Eve, he didn't say, "God, thanks, but could you change her body a little?" No. To paraphrase, it was "WOW, God, thanks! She's everything I need." Then Genesis gives us the true key to great sex: "The man and his wife were both naked and unashamed." Did you catch that? Naked. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. Unashamed. "Here are my dreams, my thoughts, my prayers and my body. I take comfort in knowing you accept them just as they are." That type of unconditional acceptance leads to great sex.
Studies show that those who are most satisfied sexually are not the wild-and-free single crowd, the young crowd or even the "mistress on the side" crowd. It's not a crowd at all. The most satisfying sex is occurring between two people who are married, over 30, faithful to each other and who enjoy marriage. Our culture asks, "How can that be?" God answers, "It's the way it's always been."
Our obsession with—and definition of—a great body is truly cultural. To the Japanese, the sensual part of a woman is the nape of her neck. To the Renaissance artist, a beautiful woman had average-size breasts and looked like she had actually eaten a meal in the past 24 hours. The happiest lovers are those who take a proper view of the body. It is neither worshiped nor despised; it is simply accepted for what it is. And it's shared in the atmosphere of a loving marriage where one can be naked and unashamed.
I hate to disappoint Madison Avenue, but I'm not missing out on a thing.
Dr. Tim A. Gardner is author of Sacred Sex (WaterBrook) and Director of The Marriage Education and Policy Center at the Indiana Family Institute (an affiliate of Focus on the Family).
1998 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine