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.
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.