Conventional purity culture wisdom is not talking about sex with your fiancé until the week before the wedding at the earliest. In fact, don’t even research sex on your own until close to the wedding. You won’t be able to handle it.
I think that’s well-meaning and ridiculous.
When I got engaged, I joined a Facebook group for engaged and newlywed women — one of the best things that ever happened for my marriage. We talked about sex a lot, and as we all grew up in the purity culture, we all struggled with feeling shame, embarrassment, and guilt about our sexual desires. I was shocked to discover that countless Christian women struggle with sex in marriage because of the purity culture’s negativity towards sex.
In extreme but all too common cases, some women develop vaginismus, a mostly psychological condition where the vagina contracts, making penetration impossible or extremely difficult. It can take years of physical therapy and counseling to even allow for sex. For the rest us, we just battle against feeling like sluts or missing a sense of joy and freedom in our sex lives. Sex is such a mental game for women, I’ve found, and when we’re feeling dirty, guilty, and even just embarrassed about sex, the desire for it drys up.
The thought of chronic pain, vaginismus, or guilty sex sounded awful to me. It couldn’t be healthy to view sex this way, and it seemed far too coincidental that many women in conservative religions developed this unhealthy thinking. I was determined to block such a residual negativity from my bedroom.
So I broke the purity culture rules and talked to Erich about our future sex life. There didn’t seem to be a good reason not to. We’d already discussed every other detail of our lives. Sex is a crucial component to a happy marriage. Sex is a good, beautiful, and intimate thing — not something to be shunted away and hidden from the person with whom you’re intimate. I wanted to work out our expectations for sex before marriage and well before the wedding night, particularly because I was so nervous and embarrassed about sex.
In order to talk about sexual issues intelligently, I researched. I spent hours on the Marriage Bed and its forums. I Googled random questions. I studied up on condom brands and alternative barrier methods. I shared my fears and more particular questions with my Facebook group. I talked about it with my married friends (newlyweds and long-timers), and even my single friends. I wanted to bring sex out in the open as a valid, good thing to learn about, talk about, and care about. I wanted to take the shame out of sex.
Then Erich and I talked about it, at first awkwardly. We used technical terms — sex, penis, vagina, etc. — not euphemisms, because there is no shame in body parts or the actions those body parts can perform. And we asked each other questions about our future sex life. What birth control/barrier method should we use? What brand of condom? How often do you expect sex? How do you feel about this or that kind of sex? Is there something you would refuse to do? And the most relieving question — are you as nervous about sex as I am? Well before the wedding night, we shared our fears, excitement, and questions about sex with each other.
The uneasy/embarrassed/slutty feelings? They eased up significantly after talking with my fiancé in particular and with others in general.
I can’t imagine going into the wedding night without having researched, talked about, and made peace with sex. Erich and I never felt tempted to jump into bed during these conversations. Honestly, the more open Erich and I were about sex and the less of a big deal we made out of remaining pure for marriage, the easier it was to cool our sex drives and save up our excitement for after the I dos. I have no regrets.
When did you talk about sex with your fiancé?