Sexual Pleasure Isn't Shameful
God cares about your sex life. It may seem weird to see the words God and sex in the same sentence. Sometimes when I teach women on this topic, they have a visceral reaction to the concept of God knowing about their sex life. Psalm 139 tells us that God is always with us. There is nowhere we can go to hide from his presence—not even the bedroom!
Why is there such a disconnect for a woman to consider that God cares about her sex life? When I probe past the initial “That’s just weird!” reaction, I see that most women view sex as earthy, dirty, and shameful—everything that God is not. Inviting God into the bedroom seems as absurd as asking a Boston Red Sox fan to dress in a Yankee’s uniform. The two seem absolutely incompatible.
Most women learned about sexual pleasure through a shameful experience. Hardly a week goes by that I don’t get a question like this one:
Hi, Dr. Slattery. I need your advice related to my two-year-old daughter. It’s embarrassing to admit it, but I sometimes find her touching herself. She most often does it at night or when she’s sleepy. My husband and I have told her to stop, slapped her hand away, and used other punishments, but she keeps doing it. How can I get her to stop?
Why do loving mothers like this one automatically think of smacking their toddler’s hand away in this situation? Why is touching your genitals, even as a young child, considered shameful?
You may be surprised to find that there is nothing in the Bible that supports the assumption that sexual pleasure is innately dirty, shameful, and sinful. That may be Christian tradition, but it certainly isn’t biblical. God equipped both male and female bodies with the capacity to experience great pleasure through sexual touching and expression. He placed the greatest concentration of nerve endings in both the male and female genitalia. There is nothing inherently wrong with the pleasure that comes from sexual touch.
What makes sexual pleasure right or wrong is how we pursue it. While a young child doesn’t know the moral implications of her various body parts, as adults we understand that God has called us to honor God with how we exercise our sexuality.
Proverbs 5 tells us all we need to know about sexual pleasure. Outside of marriage, pursuing sexual pleasure is a dangerous objective. In fact, it can lead to death—the death of a ministry, a marriage, a testimony, and intimacy with God.
In this Proverb, Solomon presents a clear picture of the end of sexual immorality. Having sex with someone you are not married to or looking at pornographic pictures of a stranger is not only immoral, but also hazardous to your own emotional and spiritual health. Just think of how many lives you know that have been ruined by impulsive sexual behavior. The wisdom of Proverbs tells men and women to flee from sexual temptation. It is powerful and deadly.
My son, pay attention to my wisdom,
turn your ear to my words of insight,
that you may maintain discretion
and your lips may preserve knowledge.
For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil;
but in the end she is bitter as gall,
sharp as a double-edged sword.
Her feet go down to death;
her steps lead straight to the grave.
She gives no thought to the way of life;
her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it.
Now then, my sons, listen to me;
do not turn aside from what I say.
Keep to a path far from her,
do not go near the door of her house,
lest you lose your honor to others
and your dignity to one who is cruel,
lest strangers feast on your wealth
and your toil enrich the house of another.
At the end of your life you will groan,
when your flesh and body are spent. (verses 1–11, NIV)
These verses in Proverbs probably don’t surprise you. If you’ve grown up in the church, you know the warnings about sexual immorality. What comes next, however, may surprise you. There is an abrupt change in the passage:
Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love. (Proverbs 5:18–20, ESV)
All of a sudden, sexual pleasure has become a wonderful, God-given gift. A husband is told to always delight in the sexual love of his wife. Wives are to do the same.
The entire book of Song of Solomon validates the message of Proverbs 5:15–19. Within the covenant of marriage, erotic, exciting sex is a worthy pursuit for both the husband and the wife. The apostle Paul taught that a godly marriage should include frequent and satisfying sexual intimacy (1 Corinthians 7:3–5).
Men and particularly women struggle to make the shift between Proverbs 5:14 and 15. After years of warnings like “Don’t give yourself away," "Don’t think about sex," and "Sex is bad!” all of a sudden, a wedding ceremony makes erotic pleasure something holy and God-honoring.
It’s key to understand that a wedding ring doesn’t somehow redeem your sexual drive. Your body was created to be sexual and to experience sexual pleasure as part of the image of God. Your sexual drive speaks to the innate, God-given passion to connect, commit, celebrate, and share yourself in the most intimate way with another human being. While sexual restraint is the challenge before marriage, uninhibited sexual expression may be a challenge within marriage.
Somehow, many Christians believe it honors God to withhold or subdue sexual pleasure in the marriage bed. Nothing could be further from the truth! Within the covenant of marriage, you have God’s permission to throw off every restraint and enjoy to the fullest the gift of sexual expression with your spouse.
In the Bible study Passion Pursuit: What Kind of Love Are You Making? Linda Dillow and I suggest that God has given a married couple a “permission slip.” In other words, he tells a husband and wife, “You have my complete blessing to enjoy this gift I have given you.” Unfortunately, many married women don’t know how to accept that permission slip. Sometimes because of past wounds or mistakes they feel guilty about, women withhold pleasure from themselves. Other women simply can’t figure out how to enjoy sex. And still others subconsciously hold onto the message that sexual pleasure is shameful.
It has been quite a journey for me to embrace sexual pleasure in my own marriage. I had many barriers to overcome, including physical pain and confusion about God’s view of sex. I didn’t aggressively pursue healing in these areas until I understood that it actually pleases the Lord for a married couple to enjoy erotic pleasure together.
As a married woman, withholding sexual pleasure from yourself or your husband is not a God-honoring endeavor. In fact, you have the opportunity to redeem the beautiful gift of erotic love from the many ways in which it has been distorted in our world. Have you accepted the “permission slip” to enjoy sex in your marriage?
Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women
Sexual Pleasure Isn't Shameful
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