Sex In A Box

This week I’ve been talking about the various boxes we live in, or that others want us to live in. One aspect of our lives with an abundance of boxes is sex. 

You have sex boxes. There’s the (possibly too small) box of things you and your wife do, and the box of things you would like to do. There is probably also a box of things you’re trying not think about.

And then there are your wife’s boxes.

Sex In A Box

People have been boxing her sexuality since before she knew what sex was. She’s been told certain acts are gross, or wrong, or only done by a type of woman she’s not supposed to be. Doing, wanting to do, or enjoying certain acts puts her in a box she doesn’t think she should be in. Likewise for you doing, wanting, or enjoying certain things. On top of all that, it may seem to her you want to up-end all the boxes, and that’s rather scary for her.

Here’s the thing, women are usually much more concerned than men about what others would think about their sexuality. They are taught that what they want, do, allow, and enjoy defines their character, worth, and value. And if they are going to make a mistake, it’s far better to err on the side of not doing than doing. Basically, being called a prude is better than being called a slut. This is more of an issue for Christian women, but those who grew up in the world are not free of it. The line is different, but slut-shaming is a real thing among secular teens and young adults.

What makes all this particularly difficult is that it gets internalised. So when you suggest trying something new she’s not thinking “I can’t do that, it will make me a slut.” Instead, she is reacting as if she is personally opposed to that sex act. She is opposed to it because she doesn’t want to end up in the slut box, but she may not see that. When you push for the act, she feels you’re trying to make her a slut, or you think she’s a slut, or you want her to be a slut. If you see it that way, do her reactions to your suggestions make more sense?

The bad news is there’s no fast, easy fix for this. Her feelings about sex have been infused with all kinds of opinions, lies, and fears, and she can’t just set those things aside because they’re integrated into her thinking. Imagine if her first awareness of oral sex was her mother making a negative remark about it, and about women who do it. Her mother’s opinion was not added to how your wife felt about oral sex; mom’s opinion was the starting point for how your wife felt about oral sex. Or perhaps she learned about some sex activity talking with friends. That would mean their attitudes helped form her initial thoughts. 

The only way to unravel this is to get her to think about it. Talk with her about how her view of sex was formed. What positive and negative sexual influences did she have? What examples, both good and bad, were held up for her? Was she told to be more like someone who was seen as pure? Was she warned about being like someone who was seen to be a slut? Did her parents use shame and fear to try to keep her in line sexually? Did she do things she felt were wrong just to be rebellious? Did she go along with things she didn’t want to do because she was afraid of losing a guy. Did anyone ever claim she did something she didn’t do to hurt her?

By the way: Can you see why it’s a bad idea to talk about being naughty, or playfully call your wife a bad girl, or joke about how she is acting slutty? Even if she laughs or goes along with it, things like this could be hurting or confusing her.

Resources: I’m aware of a couple of resources that can help your wife work through these things:

Awaken Love course: This is a six-week video study designed for a small group. It uses the same curriculum, homework, group discussions, and daily emails used with their live classes. Lori sat in on one live class and has been through all the material. This course directly deals with the kinds of things I discussed above. (There is a men’s class too, but it’s not yet in video.) 

Boost Your Libido course by Sheila Wray Gregoire: The course is a series of modules. It includes an e-book, videos, worksheets, links to extra resources, and more. It’s a very thorough collection of information about how her body and sexuality work. This course covers a wider array of things and does touch on the ideas I discussed above.


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8 Comments on “Sex In A Box

  1. I don’t get this. I am married. How is there a slut box? Can’t women make that distinction between unmarried and married sex?! I grew up under purity culture, but had no problem understanding the difference.

  2. My wife, and my friends wives seem much more sensitive to cultural opinions on something than their husbands do. Something being “weird” might stop her from doing something, most of the guys just care about whether we like something or not, are indifferent about what others think. Both ends of the spectrum cause problems. I know as a kid, of my parents didn’t want me to do something I was immediately interested in figuring out what they were hiding. It will definitely impact how I parent my kids. My wife would just accept that her parents didn’t want her to do something and assume it was for her best interests.

    With sex I was so dumb as a young husband I just assumed “ok, we are married, nothing can make you feel slutty anymore”, it did not register to me that you can’t just switch off 20 years of programming by putting a ring on. I guess partly because I personally didn’t care what my parents or church thought about sex, which was my own box I live in

    • See, that’s just it! I did turn that switch. I did switch off 20 years of teachings. I even looked up porn to see what the heck my husband might like, because I was clueless and couldn’t find Christian resources.

      It was/is hubby who is more reserved and vanilla and limiting.

      I hate to be unkind about this, but I swear the problem is far more a culture of female-victim mentality and trying to prove a man loves them no matter their faults and limits. It is so Hollywood. I really really don’t understand this whole “blame the purity movement.” A simple making up of your mind is all that is needed.

      • Libl, I understand your frustration! Much of what’s being written about on this subject comes from a gender stereotypical point of view, and it can be quite frustrating to those of us who are not, or don’t behave or perceive things in that gender stereotype. It sounds to me like you are not a stereotypical woman in this area. For most women it is not easy to flip that switch! Could it be perhaps that you were actually raised in a very healthy “purity cultur”, were the message was not so much “good girls don’t do this or that” but more that “this or that is meant for marriage and is good to do in marriage but not before”.
        And it seems to me that your husband is also not a stereotypical male. Most men I know are very adventurous and love an adventurous wife in bed. But an unhealthy “purity message” is not totally lost on men either. Some are not able to shake that message quite so easily and it affects them greatly down the road.
        While I applaud you for being able to flip that switch at the point of marriage, it seems that the vast mayority of girls/women have felt a significant negative impact from the “purity movement” that started about 20 years ago with Josh Harris’ book “I kissed dating goodbye”. And I found it interesting and admirable that in 2017 he publicly recanted some of what he had said in his book because of the noticeable negative effects that he personally had seen and now that he is raising teenagers, some of his message has changed.

  3. I think there’s another issue to be considered – how does a request for something outside the box make her feel about the relationship, and about you?

    Some things that might come to mind:

    1) “Is this a sign that he’s bored with me?”

    2) “WHERE did he get this idea?” (Her go-to answers will probably be pornography or locker-room talk, neither of which are likely to give her a warm happy glow.)

    3) “If I say ‘yes’ to something I’m still uncomfortable with, will that make it harder to refuse even weirder ideas?”

    I may be totally misreading the female mind, but here’s an analogy to #2 – I was working on a Glock awhile back, and after putting in a 3.5 lb disconnector, the trigger wouldn’t release the firing pin. Everyone (wife included) thought the disconnector was the problem and should be swapped back; I had it in mind that I could do some work on the firing pin catch boss, but no one (again, wife included) believed that I came up with the idea on my own. It worked, and resulted in a really, really good trigger pull, long travel and a clean break, tactically just what’s right.

    But, that narrative goes, I had to read about it SOMEWHERE…sigh.

  4. @Andrew Budek-Schmeisser – I’m like that with mechanical things – sometimes I just have a feel for it.
    As for sex, I don’t think most woman can imagine how much time men spend thinking about sex. Coming up with something new on your own is likely given the amount of thought.

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