It’s not your fault

Must be sexy © Paul Fleet | Dreamstime.comParis Hilton has been quoted as saying that she is “sexy, but not sexual.” In The Paris Paradox: how sexualization replaces opportunity with obligation, Hugo Schwyzer says:

“Young women with the Paris Paradox were raised in a culture that promised sexual freedom, but what they ended up with looked a lot more like obligation than opportunity. It’s not hard to understand why the pressure to be sexy so often trumps the freedom to discover one’s authentic sexuality. As Levy and Martin and others have been pointing out for the past decade, we’ve begun to sexualize girls at ever earlier ages…”

I have seen this happening in the USofA since I was a teenager in the 70’s, and it’s only getting worse. Girls grow up being told they have to be “sexy” to be pretty, to be accepted, to be popular, to get a date, and to get a husband. Being sexy is like playing a character in a play – it’s a costume, words, and actions that may have nothing to do with how the actor feels or thinks. Beyond the public persona of sexiness, women are also expected to have some form of sex with any man with whom they become seriously involved.

Stop for a moment and think about that. Think about the pressure this puts on a woman. Think about the choices a woman has to make; doing things she does not like or want seem necessary to have a good future. Think about how difficult this is for a woman trying to follow Jesus; it must seem following Him is giving up so much.

I think all women suffer from this situation to some degree. Those who give in fully suffer, those who resist fully suffer, and those in-between the two extremes suffer. In particular, I think great harm is done to a woman’s desire for sex and her ability to enjoy sex. In the part she plays, desire and enjoyment are not important – only playing the role well matters. What a woman actually wants it irrelevant; it’s about what she is supposed to do, how she is supposed to do it, and what she is supposed to feel (or at least say she feels) when she does it. She is supposed to be a puppet with her strings being pulled by society, doing what she “should” regardless of what she feels or wants.

Your bride almost certainly came into marriage with some of this in her past. It doesn’t matter if she was a pure virgin, a total “slut”, or somewhere in-between, she had struggled with these issues and had a ton of wrong expectations in her head. She had been set up for sexual problems in marriage, and more than likely that is what happened.

What blame do you have for the sexual problems that showed up early in marriage? I would say virtually none. She was set up for problems, and it’s unlikely you could have prevented problems from happening. Sure, you were imperfect, and no doubt there are things you should have done differently, but what you did is like writing a few $5 to $20 checks on an account that is $10,000 overdrawn. The problems would have happened without your contribution, and you added a very small percentage to the problem. She had been building up sexual problems for years, ignoring the overdraft letters from the bank. When she married, it all caught up with her.

However, your bride probably did not see it this way. She likely saw things catching up with her at marriage as your fault. She was doing fine, then got married, and then it was horrible; it must be your fault. She can find a few little things you did less than perfectly and hang all of the problems on those things. This frees her from responsibility, and puts the blame on you. Don’t judge her too harshly, it’s human nature, and society has programmed her to see it as your fault.

So, you are not to blame; that’s all well and good, but it doesn’t help your sex life. Telling her it’s not your fault is not likely to make things better, and trying to put it back on her is almost certainly not going to go over well. The best thing you can do it to try to see the big picture and then do what you can to show her that picture. See what society does to women sexually, and learn to hate it. Find ways to discuss this with your bride in situations beyond the two of you. Tell her you are sorry she grew up in a world that had such horrible sexual standards for women.

I would also encourage you to do all you can to avoid adding to the problem. Not because it’s your fault, but because her seeing you on her side requires you not adding to her problem.

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3 Comments on “It’s not your fault

  1. Very well put! The third-to-last paragraph pretty much describes what happened early in my marriage…

    Thanks to God’s grace and much hard work on both our parts, things are much better for us now, but the fact is that because of that situation, the first several years of our marriage were essentially passion free. I really think the only reason things have turned around for us is that I have chosen to give her grace and let God work in her life. My hope is that we can as a couple be better than we were before. As hard as it is to wait on God, it is in His timing that our wives will experience healing for the sexual pain of their past.

    Thank you for your ministry. It has been a real blessing to me and my marriage.

  2. Hi, any thoughts on what this does to our daughters… and how we can talk to them to counter what society (and their friends??) is telling them. My 5 year old is already talking about being ‘sexy’ and striking poses. It scares me, but I am not sure how to tackle this without giving her too much information. She is very ‘pretty’ and I am worried about the message people are giving her. Any comments?

  3. @Cobus – My daughter is 33, and it was not as bad when she was young – but still scary!

    I’ve read that most eight year old girls today are worried about their weight – even those who have nothing to worry about. I see girls younger than that dressed “sexy” and very aware of how they move and show themselves. Argh!

    I see two things we must do – limit the wrong message, and send the correct one. The limiting is the tough part, as we can easily isolate, and we can bring our kids up in a protected environment that does not prepare them for what they will face when they leave that environment. In general that means a lot of “sheltering” when they are very young, with more “exposure” to the world as they grow up. Doing it right means being aware of each child, and allowing things as they are ready. Easy with one daughter, more difficult with several.

    Sending the correct message starts with our marriage, with how we act with our wife. We communicate a lot about sex and sexuality to our kids – far more than most of us realise. How our wife deals with these issues is also a major factor. If she struggles, her daughters will struggle even more.

    And there is how we, as men, view women. A girl too young to have any clue about what it means will be aware if daddy stares at women dressed immodestly, or it more friendly to women with big breasts. She learns who daddy is attracted to, who he likes, who he wants to be with, by this, and she tries to emulate those things so she can be loved and pursued – first by daddy, then by other males.

    I saw a sadly funny cartoon of a little girl praying. She ended with “and please help the women on daddy’s computer who are too poor to buy clothes.”

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