The voices in the marriage chamber

Do not disturb © Sabino Parente | This is part of a series – post links at the end.

You would never invite someone to join you and your bride for sex, but in some ways most of us do that regularly. What we desire sexually is a result of many things, with what we have seen and heard about sex influencing us significantly. Some (much, most?) of what we defend as “our desires” is not about us; rather it is a result of all the things society has put into our minds. What our parents said, what our childhood friends said, TV shows, movies, magazines, and books all helped make us who we are sexually.

This is unavoidable – we have all been exposed. Is this exposure bad? It depends on what we are exposed to, and how easily our sexual programming is modified. It also depends on how different our wife’s programming is. If, for instance, you went into marriage convinced rear entry is by far the most enjoyable way to have sex, and she went in convinced anything other than missionary is sinful, you have a big problem. She will think you are a pervert, and you will feel cheated for not being able to have the “best sex”.

It is interesting to look at what society in general accepts sexually, what most say they want, and how those have changed over time. It is even more interesting scary when you include what porn portrays. When oral sex became big in porn, men started wanting it more, and pushing for it more. The popularity of removing some or all of the pubic hair tracks with less and less pubic hair in porn. Surgery to change how the vulva looks also tracks with what porn shows. Growing numbers of people engaging in heterosexual anal sex follows increased anal sex in porn. Clearly, porn changes the sex of our culture, and even those who don’t look at porn are affected.

What of this is good and what might be bad or wrong is not where I am going today. What I want you to understand is your sexuality has been deeply compromised by society. What you desire, what you think is normal, what you feel deprived about not getting, are all influenced by what culture has told you sex is supposed to be. In the same way, some of what you (or your bride) finds wrong, gross, or otherwise unacceptable is a result of cultural messages.

If both of you can accept the fact your sexuality has been manipulated, then (and only then) do you have a chance to move beyond manipulated sexuality. Realise you have probably placed too much emphasis on some things, and not enough on others. Realise some of what you think you desire strongly you may desire for cultural reasons, not something originating from your mind or body. Likewise, some of what you have written off, you have written off because of society’s influence.

If you and your bride can both hold your sexuality loosely, and explore together, you may find what you have been doing is not what either of you wants, and not what you both enjoy.

In this series about how normative influence shapes our lives:

Why we follow the crowd
Letting others influence your actions
The smallest cultural group
Your marriage as a tool to being a better person
Is your social group inbred? 
Is artificial society influencing you? 
The voices in the marriage chamber
Wrap up on social influence 

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13 Comments on “The voices in the marriage chamber

  1. Great post! My wife and I were discussing this in terms of how we will teach our kids. It’s definitely going to be a challenge.

    But I am glad you pointed to both sides of the equation. I do have a porn past, and it has been really hard to differientiate between my natural desires, and maybe something I got from porn. For example, anal sex – I really think it was a desire before I even saw porn…but I don’t know. Not sure how to deal with this….

    • Chris – The reality is you can never know. Even if you had the desire before porn, you might have gotten that desire from others who got it from porn. And regardless of where the desire came from, I would think porn made it stronger.

  2. I’d ask you to prayerfully reconsider your casual references to specific acts portrayed in porn. You are exposing concepts (surgery to change how vulvas look???) that those of us who work hard to avoid porn may wish to not become exposed to.

    • Love Letters – My comments were not casual. I removed one thing in my rough draft, and edited the others.

      The one you mentioned I see as particularly important. Men need to understand that porn so deeply affects women that a growing number are resorting to surgery to look like the women in porn. This is to me, a powerful and disturbing way of showing what porn is doing to us as a society. That his wife might be tempted to have herself mutilated might help some man better avoid porn. Porn is not just naked pictures, and it’s not just a moral issue – porn hurts people and ruins sex lives.

      I am sorry if my comments caused you a problem, and you have my prayers for the ongoing struggle.

  3. I have not seen one story in the popular media about women having genital mutilation surgery to resemble porn stars to meet the sexual expectations of their porn addicted mates, and you’ve written about it here at least twice. It’s quite preposterous really, and I don’t think it is an issue causing problems in your readers marriages. In fact, I am confident you have introduced more men to the disturbing subject than you have helped men who have actually encountered it.

    • Dear Love Letters.
      There is a surgery and it has been discussed in popular media and it is not female genital mutilation.
      It is elective surgery to make them look better.
      So let me get this straight, you, who have never heard of the procedure in question, are calling “preposterous” someone who for over 10 years has been doing extensive research into such things and sticking his neck out on his blog for all to see and call him out on it if he is wrong. That makes Paul very brave and dedicated.
      What do your words make you out to be?

      • Bill – Actually I was the one who first called it mutilation. It’s a strong term, but I think it’s not really an exaggeration. The goal is to look like something which is far from the norm for adult women. Beyond that, there can be long term pain and lost of sexual function. All to look like a porn image. Sad.

        • A few days ago you and I had an exchange concerning “myopic and inbred” do you recall?
          Well this is one of those times and with your permission I will show it to you.
          You just called a surgery, hereafter called LMR, mutilation. I am sure many of those around you would also call it mutilation. For fun let’s look at it from a little greater distance. (notice the clever myopic reference)
          An elective surgery done by an adult for a specific goal that removes a small amount of flesh that generally has few side effects you are classifying as mutilation. Now tell me, what do you think is the first thing that jumps to the mind of a non-believer?
          Well I’ll tell you. Doesn’t that beg the question of “how does that compare to circumcision?” A small amount of flesh from your son’s penis is removed to show fealty to the god of Abraham. In the final analysis where pre-tell is the actual difference?
          (Disclaimer, I am circumcised and my son is as well so this is not about me but about how you (Paul) are perceived.)
          Calling it mutilation diminishes the meaning of the word. So when you claim that a Clitoridectomy is mutilation you can actually mean it and not look like a fool.
          I am just pointing it out, don’t kill the messenger.

          • Bill – I get your point. I would argue that side effects are far more common than you realise. I am also concerned that it feeds the thought that how we look is so much more important than who we are or how we act. What society does to women, what they feel the must do to be “acceptable” is horrible. You have pre-teen girls on “diets” because they are not skinny enough, and older girls and women who are anorexic. I see this as more of the same, as telling women that how God made them is wrong and they need to fix it to be lovable and desirable.

            Just how I see it.

    • Love Letters – I will admit I am far more aware of such things that most, but I’ve seen it in major US newspapers and it’s been mentioned on broadcast TV in the UK and the States.

      We’ve had a few emails on this, so it is an issue in the Christian community. Sadly people in the church seem to be only about a decade behind the world in trends like this, so it’s going to be more and more an issue.

  4. In defense of TGH…
    I have seen a few stories in the media regarding this (the vulva). IMO, I am not convinced that a mention of it is likely to encourage male readers to try to convince their wives to do this. The emphasis on moving beyond our “manipulated sexuality” makes it clear what the response needs to be from us (husbands) – not just blindly accepting our desires as good and right!

  5. Bill, I guess it makes me ignorant and closed minded. I read this blog because I want to learn to be a better husband and sow love into the marriages around me. I avoid pornography. I don’t want to come to my safe places to see authors I respect writing about what is in porn. Maybe it is just me, but the concept of me seeing female genitalia that looks prettier than my wife’s leading to me wanting to have my wife have surgery to replicate the porn image, and then my porn driven desire leading to my wife now feeling so unwanted that she would feel enough guilt to actually go have the procedure done IS preposterous. And I’m THRILLED that I am ignorant enough to feel that way. I respect Paul, I feel like he crossed into dangerous territory with the specific graphic nature of his descriptions of images common in porn, and I shared my thoughts with him. I respect him to do with them what he will. As a Christian I don’t feel I can sit quietly anymore. Paul, I hope while we may agree to disagree, that you can respect the position from which I spoke.

  6. Love Letters – I do respect your position, and I will keep it in mind.

    My intent here was not to describe what is in porn, but to show how damaging porn is. I’m sorry that is not how it played out for you.

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