We seem to have a love-hate relationship with rules. On the one hand, we resent being told we can’t do something or have something we want. But on the other hand, rules make us feel safe—there is security in knowing the boundaries. For example, children who are anxious and chaotic in a permissive home often turn into model students in a school setting in which the expectations are clear.
I’ve found the same applies to women within the arena of sexuality. While we hate to be told “you shouldn’t do that,” we also crave guidelines. There is insecurity and shame when everything is presented in nebulous shades of grey. That’s why women have so many questions about right and wrong related to sexuality. Single women want to know what God says (if anything) about fantasy, masturbation, and how far is too far. Married women have their own questions. Is oral or anal sex acceptable in marriage? What about role playing or sex toys?
When we don’t have a clear understanding of biblical, sexual morality, one of two things can happen. Ironically, women either feel no guilt when they violate God’s standards, or they feel tremendous guilt when they have done nothing wrong.
Without a clear understanding of Scripture, some women will wander into dangerous sexual territory. The most recent example of this is the Fifty Shades of Grey series. I’ve spoken with many Christian women who can’t discern why reading erotica is harmful or immoral. Christian couples live together before marriage, fantasize about men other than their husband while having sex, and excuse porn in marriage. These are each things to which God says, “Don’t go there”—not because he is a kill-joy but ultimately to keep us from harm.
At the other end of the spectrum are women who react to grey areas with legalism. Because they aren’t sure about what is right or wrong, they deny themselves (and often their husbands) pleasure and blessing. They equate sexual desire and pleasure with shame and sin. God designed the marriage bed to be a place of great freedom between a husband and wife. Once you know where the boundaries are, you are free to explore and have fun.
This is why Linda and I devoted an entire week of Passion Pursuit to the question, “What’s okay in the bedroom?” Women need more than our opinion on specific sexual questions—they need God’s wisdom. After all, sex is his creation!
God hasn’t given us a complete list of sexual acts with a “yes” or “no” right next to it. While there are some sexual questions he is very clear about, many others are not addressed at all in the pages of Scripture. In fact, a specific sexual act may be great for one couple but off limits and destructive for another couple. This is not moral relativism! It is applying biblical principles to our life circumstances.
Let’s take, for example, “outercourse” within marriage. This refers to sexually intimate acts that do not include intercourse, like mutual masturbation and oral sex. The Bible does not speak to this issue specifically. There is nothing to indicate outercourse is inherently wrong for a couple to enjoy within marriage. For some marriages, outercourse is a wonderful way to be sexually intimate when intercourse isn’t possible for medical or other reasons. For other couples, these acts may trigger painful memories from the past or may be a way of avoiding intimacy.
God, in his love, has given specific guidelines but has also left some things unclear. In those circumstances, he prompts us to seek his wisdom and discernment for our personal circumstances.
God’s guidelines for us are an expression of his holiness as well as his love. The modern sexual ethic of “anything goes” may not be so progressive after all. Since Creation, Satan has worked to convince people God’s rules are oppressive and limiting. He’s up to the same old tricks in the 21st century, fooling us into believing we know better than God does. As the Bible warns: “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant” (Galatians 6:7). Ironically, the absence of sexual morals in our culture has led to less sexual satisfaction and more sexual dysfunction!
The TCW article “Guidelines for Christian Sex” gives some practical steps to help you find his wisdom for your specific questions.
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