This post builds on what I said last week in A disturbing trend in female sexual preferences. I noted a growing number of women are reading “erotic fiction”. I also discussed how the genre is becoming both more sexually explicit, and is moving more and more beyond the bounds of usual sexuality. It is not just young single women who are reading these books, growing numbers of middle age and older women, married women, and mothers are all reading novels with graphic sexual content.
Is this fiction changing what women want sexually, or, as some claim, is the genre becoming popular because women are waking up to what they “really want” sexually? While I have no doubt reading such things can change what a woman wants sexually (its basic brain science) I think the bigger issue is why a woman would be drawn to this kind of fiction – a very complex issue. I think this is an issue for you even if your bride never picks up erotic fiction. Why would a woman be drawn to sex where she is powerless, where she is totally submitted to the urges and whims of a man?
Some argue this is how women were created; they want to be dominated – either sexually or in all ways including sexually. The claim is women can’t enjoy sex with a man who lacks passion – she needs him to have a raging hormonal force behind his desire. Thus, the theory goes, a man who knows what he wants and will have it no matter what is a huge turn on, and such men are difficult to find in our current world. I think this comes close to a true difference between men and woman, but it’s not dead on, and it takes it too far. I would agree most women are not turned on by wimpy, and are turned on by a man being masculine. I think the kind of things found in erotic fiction are an exaggerated caricature of what women want, but close enough many latch onto it as the best they have found.
Now let’s take this past fiction; what if your sweet bride asks to be spanked, or restrained, or for you to decide to have sex with her and not take no for an answer? What if she wants something more than vanilla sex? Should you go along with what she wants?
I don’t think we can draw a line here – things on this side are okay for all married couples, while things on the other side are wrong for all married couples. I think some acts are fine for some couples, but wrong, harmful, or even dangerous for others. I think why couples want to engage in those acts matters.
It has been well documented women who have suffered sexual abuse have a variety of reactions. Some shy away from all sex, while others become promiscuous and seek “sexual novelty” – things most find “kinky”. Some gravitate towards the kind of sex involved in their molesting, some to other acts. Sometimes it’s a simple matter of what they know from experience, and it can end up being much like a fetish. Other times their preferences are a way of dealing with happened to them; if they ask for something, they are in control and it hurt less. Others want the “freedom” of not being in control, and thus not to blame for what happens, or for their enjoying it. Regardless of why, the real issue is this: does doing those things in their sex life help them move on, or does it keep them stuck – or even make it worse?
What we do when we are sexually aroused becomes rooted in our brains as sexually enjoyable. If we climax, the connection is even stronger. This is not theory: studies have been done in which people are conditioned to be sexually aroused by inanimate, non-sexual items by having them incorporate those items into their fantasies or by masturbating while watching those items. This “arousal conditioning” works well for making things erotic, but tends to fail at making things stop being erotic. It’s easier to add “turn-ons” than it is to remove them.
Engaging in any sexual behaviour forms a feedback loop, making the behaviour more enjoyable and more desired. If a couple is healthy and balanced, this is not a big deal because it won’t go too far. However, if either husband or wife have things they need to work out, getting into certain sexual behaviours can make it far more difficult to deal with those issues. In short, is her desire for a sex act an attempt to escape something, suppress something, or make something bad in her past seem okay? If it is, fulfilling the desire may cause even more problems in the long run.
Another factor here is how far she wants to take something. If a woman gets aroused by a few firm swats on the rear (most don’t) it’s not a huge issue. The pain and pleasure centres are very close in the brain, and arousal can blur those boundaries. What’s more, the buttocks are a sexually sensuous part of the body. This means there is a biological reason why a light spanking arouses some women. What if she wants more than a mild spanking? What if it starts out mild but she wants it be harder and harder? I’ve spoken with a couple of men who went down this path. At first, it was fun, but after a while she couldn’t enjoy sex if it was not preceded by a spanking that left her with marks for days. One man told me he becoming so concerned he was finding it difficult to get an erection. Initially the spanking seemed to help, but there was a limit to how far it could go, and then things were even worse than when they started. I have no idea what was going on with these women, but I suspect a good psychologist would have found something in their past that explained their desire for increasingly harsh spankings.
One imperfect way to think of this is to liken it to drinking. Many can drink socially and never get drunk, but an alcoholic can only say no to the first drink. If your wife is not the sexual equivalent of an alcoholic, it is unlikely you will have problems if you explore various non-vanilla forms of sex. On the other hand, if she is the sexual equivalent of an alcoholic, things can easily get out of hand. The first few times may lead to some of the best sex the two of you have ever had, but then it could get ugly.
The bottom line here is there are no easy one-size-fits-all answers. I believe God has given us a great deal we can enjoy sexually, including some things beyond what many think of as “normal”. Some things are good for all couples, some are wrong for all couples, and some are good for some couples but not good for others. You have to understand your bride, and yourself, and deal with things prayerfully.
Two other related issues:
Some have suggested erotic fiction is a good way for a woman to explore her sexuality and find what she likes. Funny, I’ve heard the same things said about visual porn! Issues of sin aside, the problem with this is exposure to erotic images and words does not help us find what we enjoy; it causes us to start desiring things we previously would not have enjoyed. Wrapping things into a strongly arousing package takes it past just giving us something to consider and pick up or put down as we like. The arousal bypasses some of our usual thinking and clarity, leaving us vulnerable.
If you are sexually frustrated, it’s tempting to try anything your wife suggests sexually. If you try something and it gets her aroused, or helps her climax faster or stronger, it’s very tempting to see it as a win and just keep doing “what worked”. Sometimes these things are fine and can help a couple develop a better sex life. However, sometimes it starts out great then becomes a problem. Just be smart and alert so any problems can be addressed while they are small. Go slow. If slow is a problem consider it a warning sign.