What the Bible Doesn’t Say About Your Sex Life

What the Bible *Doesn't* Say About Your Sex Life // jessconnell.com

Ever wondered if the Bible has something to say about your sex life? 

It definitely does.

And let’s be clear: it’s not simply a list of “thou shalt nots.” Beginning way back in Genesis, we get peeks into various couples’ marriages. Throughout Old Testament stories, we see how one’s choices about sex and marital intimacy affect their entire family, community, and lineage.

Beyond Old Testament narrative passages that give us perspective as to the significance of sex, Proverbs encourages delight and pursuit within the marriage relationship. I’ve always found it interesting that the only place the Bible speaks *positively* about being “intoxicated” is in regard to a husband’s sexual delight in his wife.

And we all know the obvious one I’m going to mention, the one we all giggled over in junior high: the Song of Solomon. God saw to it that one whole book of the Bible would give insight into the unique joys of romantic love and intimacy within marriage. 

LET’S FLIP A SCRIPTURE PASSAGE ON ITS HEAD

In 2011, I took my first biblical counseling class, and one session focused on the “Anti-Psalm.” The goal of this exercise is to better understand what a text is saying by carefully thinking through the exact opposite meaning. It can be insightful to see the “opposite” of a text, and this often gives an excellent way to clarify the actual meaning.

I’ve written a few of these “opposites” over the years:

Even though there is obviously no biblical weight behind my “anti-translations,” this always helps me to understand the REAL passage better.

THE OPPOSITE OF 1 CORINTHIANS 7:1-5

Here’s my attempt at writing the opposite of a classic New Testament passage about sex within marriage:

“It’s perfectly fine– beneficial, even– to sexually touch and connect with people before, and outside of, marriage.

Because of how tempting sex is, no one could expect one man to stay with one wife, or one wife to be faithful to one husband. Sexual immorality and temptation is normative, and just can’t be helped.

Inside marriage, if a husband doesn’t feel in the mood, no one can blame him, and likewise, there’s no reason for a wife to have to connect sexually if she doesn’t feel like it. Sex isn’t in any way connected to roles within marriage, so you should never have a sense of obligation or duty.

Wife’s body, wife’s choice. Husband’s body, husband’s choice. No one can ask or expect anything sexually of their spouse; that’s totally wrong!

If you don’t feel like having sex, it’s up to you. No limits or constraints on this… take as long as you need. No matter what the distraction or feeling is that keeps you from sex, it’s understandable. Every marriage gets stale, and hits seasons with no sex at all. You don’t owe an explanation for this, and there doesn’t have to be a reason for not having sex with your spouse. There aren’t any consequences, so you can still fully expect that both partners will have full self-control, joy in the marriage, and not give in to sin. No matter how long you go between sexual interactions, nor how often you deny your partner, it’ll all be fine and temptation-free.”

Here’s the actual version:

1 Corinthians 7:1-5 (Amplified version):

“Now as to the matters of which you wrote: It is good (beneficial, advantageous) for a man not to touch a woman [outside marriage].

But because of [the temptation to participate in] sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.

The husband must fulfill his [marital] duty to his wife [with good will and kindness], and likewise the wife to her husband.

The wife does not have [exclusive] authority over her own body, but the husband shares with her; and likewise the husband does not have [exclusive] authority over his body, but the wife shares with him.

Do not deprive each other [of marital rights], except perhaps by mutual consent for a time, so that you may devote yourselves [unhindered] to prayer, but come together again so that Satan will not tempt you [to sin] because of your lack of self-control.”

1 Corinthians 7:4-5 // jessconnell.com

A few observations:

  1. Our culture looks way more like my anti-translation than like what 1 Corinthians 7 prescribes.
  2. Unfortunately, some women’s advice even within the church can sound like the anti-translation. Lots of excuses, explanations, groaning, and feet-dragging. We need to actively combat this, in our own marriages, and in the counsel we offer to one another.
  3. 1 Corinthians 7 won’t come naturally to us. I think it would do us good to remember that it WILL feel against the grain for us to do these things. We have all been trained, from movies, books, attitudes we pick up from parents and other adults, jokes, and more, that “good sex happens outside of marriage; once you get married, sex all but stops.” But THIS IS THE EXACT OPPOSITE of what the Bible says should be normative.
  4. It’s interesting that the passage indicates that we can be tempted to SIN, not merely to *sexual* sin, when sex is infrequent. We have observed this in our marriage, that, when we go beyond our normal frequency (even for non-selfish/non-sinful reasons like *having the flu*), we are more apt to argue with each other, and feel emotional and irritated toward one another, etc.
  5. According to the Bible, regular sex should be happening WITHIN marriage; it should work like a tonic… offering us not just delight, but also bolstering our self-control and giving us a RIGHT place to act on God-given sexual desires. 

 

IN THE COMMENTS: 

  • What do you think? Did I do a faithful job with my anti-translation? Anything you would change/add?
  • Have you seen these dynamics at work in your marriage?
  • Will anyone make any comments at all? (haha! One of the long-observed truths about my sex-in-Christian-marriage articles is that tons of women read them; very few comment. Will you be the one?) 😉 

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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9 Responses

  1. Jessica says:

    Really agree and appreciate the “anti translation” brings out a lot of good points. I hope a lot of couples read this together!

  2. Jamie Butts says:

    Ok I will take the challenge! I like how you encouraged us to be faithful to scripture in our own marriages AND in our counsel to others. It’s so easy to counsel based on what would make the hearer happy or ease her troubles. But love means speaking the truth – in love, of course but the truth! I also agree that when we slow down below our normal frequency even for the right reasons it created tension and poor communication. I would love to see some more anti- forgot what you called it and one handed w nursing ? on Scriptures about parenting. That would tell our culture’s ideas for sure!

    • Jess Connell says:

      Good thinking! I’ve got some Opposites/anti-translations I’ll be working on in the next few months. I’ll add that to the pot of ideas. Thanks!

      And YES, it is easy to want to give the easy advice: “of COURSE you’re tired,” … etc… but it’s not faithful to what Scripture says.

  3. Charisa says:

    Reading the anti-translation totally made me think “sounds just like our culture!” And I agree about number 4, having observed the same for us, that it’s easier to sin (irritated/angry/selfish etc) towards one another when sex is infrequent. So true, but I hadn’t even noticed that the “sin” 1 Cor 7 could be beyond the obvious of sexual sin.

  4. Britt says:

    I never thought of sex bolstering self-control in all areas, but I have seen that same scenario (being more irritable/emotional/impatient with each other in times of less frequent sex) work out in our marriage as well. I’m glad it’s not just me. :) Hopefully even the awareness of that tendency can help me combat the negative reactions during those times when we aren’t able to be intimate as often.

  5. Danielle says:

    I just had twins, so that makes 6 kids for us in 6 years. Yes, you read that right. Our oldest is 6, then we have 5, 3 1/2, 1 1/2 & 3mo old twins. I needed this reminder tonight as our life has been crazy….#4 especially rights true. Thank you for sharing it.

  6. Katie says:

    Thank you for that – it was a helpful way of thinking about the issue.

    For us, sex works like a tonic for my husband – the more often we have it, the happier he is. But it’s the opposite for me: the more often we have sex, the more irritated I am at all the time it takes up when I could have been doing useful household jobs instead!

    I’ve always felt that Corinthians seems a bit unfair to chronically-low-libido women like me: our husbands get a say over our bodies so we have to have sex because they want it, but we basically don’t get to choose our preference – not to have sex, and then we also feel guilty because the Bible says we should, and that we should be enjoying it – when we aren’t. I think that’s one reason why frequent sex makes me feel worse about life rather than better. (My low sex drive is due to health / nutritional issues which I’ve been trying to fix for about 4 years – much better than they were, but my libido is still zero.)

  1. January 9, 2017

    […] that only you know best about your sexual needs. Forget 1 Corinthians 7. Forget all that “one flesh” business. Don’t listen to your husband’s […]

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