Today’s post is a little out of the ordinary for Thriving Home, we know. But with the opening of the movie 50 Shades of Grey this weekend, we wanted to share this thought-provoking and candid post by our friend Kelley. She co-leads the 20 Somethings Ministry at our church with her husband, has been married for over 15 years, and is mother of three. We hope you’ll find her post helpful to your marriage.
Guest post by Kelley Wampler.
A few years ago, Dr. Oz, the physician turned popular talk show host, did a show on the success of the bestselling book 50 Shades of Grey. Oz’s goal for the show was to uncover the reason behind its crazy popularity. I’m sure there are many reasons why women are reading this book trilogy and are going to line up for the movie that comes out this weekend. But, at least one significant one he suggested was that women were finding it helpful for their sex life. The show went on to make the case that “erotica” is a great solution to increasing a woman’s libido. But is that really true?
Why Women Are Drawn to 50 Shades of Grey
I want to take a step back for a moment and consider why so many married women are finding 50 Shades of Grey “helpful” for their sex lives, especially women in the “soccer mom” demographic. I hear reports from women all the time saying their libido has decreased, particularly since they’ve had kids, and that their disinterest in sex is a somewhat frequent source of conflict with their spouse. Why the decrease?
Experts all agree that arousal is different for women than it is for men. It’s complex, requiring a mental and emotional component in addition to physical attraction. If that’s the case, then no wonder moms suffer. Most of our heads are filled with grocery lists, job to-dos, kid activities, and a myriad of other life details. Sex isn’t something that just pops into a woman’s head as readily as a man’s. And when it does, it can often get crowded out by what seem to be more pressing matters.
Which brings me to the point of why 50 Shades of Grey is striking a chord with women. The story immerses its readers in sex. It is reminding them that they are sexual beings. When women who have put sex on the back burner have a steady diet of steamy sexual encounters within the pages of a book, they’re bound to think about their own sex life and how to spice it up.
The Good in Oz’s Show and Why 50 Shades Isn’t the Answer
The aspect of the Dr. Oz show that I thought was noteworthy and want to affirm is that it’s not good for married women to put their sex life on the back burner. It is good for them to consider their sexual health and if it needs more thought and attention. God created the sexual component of humanity and said it was good. Numerous places in the Bible esteem marital sex as the greatest source of intimacy and closeness two people can share. But how we go about arousing sexual desire is a crucial question.
An article in New York Magazine entitled “He’s Just Not That Into Anyone” from January 2011 stated that being aroused by something outside of your relationship may actually decrease the amount of sexual satisfaction you find within it. Statistics are starting to show that people who are being turned on in this manner eventually develop a problem being aroused with their partner. According to the article, eventually your spouse can’t measure up to the image that was made in your head.
A compelling quote from a Covenant Eyes post entitled “Watching Porn Decreases Sexual Satisfaction” describes why this is the case.
Neurobiologist Peter Milner explains that our brains are wired to be attracted to that which is unfamiliar and novel. This inward drive is what helps us to learn new things and adapt to our environment. But, he explains, it is possible “to become addicted to novelty and uncertainty.” Over time the brain that feeds on erotic media is trained to equate sexual excitement with the novelty and variety of pornography. Eventually the familiar face, body, and sexual performance of a spouse doesn’t arouse the way it used to.
So…50 Shades of Grey (and other erotica books and movies) not only won’t enhance your sex life. They can actually cause damage to your marriage.
The Biblical Solution to Sexual Disinterest
So what, then, is the solution to a woman’s disinterest in sex? The Bible tells us to direct our attention wholly to our spouse while at the same time discouraging us from looking outside our marriage for sexual arousal.
- Proverbs 5:18-19 says, “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer—may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love.”
- The Song of Solomon is a whole book of the Bible where the husband and wife are each other’s mutual object of affection.
- Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount instructs the crowd that even looking at another person lustfully is the same as committing adultery in your heart (Mat. 5:27-28).
These and other passages tell us that we need to be cautious when we look to anything outside our marriage to arouse ourselves, whether romance novels, an attractive guy at the gym, or erotica and pornography.
Ways to Grow Your Desire for Your Spouse
But who are we kidding? It’s hard work to stay infatuated with your spouse when the years go by and time has bred familiarity. So how can we get our sex lives off the back burner? What are some biblical ways we can grow in our desire for our spouse?
1. Spend time thinking about your husband.
If part of the turn on with erotic fiction is just thinking more about sex and romance, then spend time thinking about the special and wonderful qualities about your spouse. We all have a tendency to be critical, and it’s much easier to let your mind wander to the negative and skip over the positive. So reminisce about some of your favorite times together. Whatever your favorite aspects of his personality are, the ones you fell in love with, think on those. Maybe even take the extra step to write them down and express your gratitude to him. Where your mind is, your heart will soon follow.
2. Spend time together.
I mean real time together. Not at the ball field. Not in the car on the way to the hardware store with kids screaming. Real time away from the distractions, where you can connect. When is the last time you spent quality time with your spouse and had an honest discussion about how you feel about your marriage? When have you had time to talk at length (and without being interrupted) about something you have been thinking about or experiencing in life? Date nights and even an occasional overnight can help foster this more meaningful interaction together. Good relationships and feelings of connectedness require time.
3. Be honest with your spouse about the state of your sex life.
Maybe the reason that you aren’t interested in sex is because it’s never been that great, but time has passed and you have just accepted that this is the way things are. This can be hard because you feel like a pattern has been set. Have an honest discussion with your spouse and consider reading a book together on God’s view of sex. It’s never too late to grow closer together in this way. A couple of helpful books are Intended for Pleasure by Ed Wheat and Intimate Issues: 21 Questions Christian Women Ask About Sex by Linda Dillow.
4. Pray about your intimacy with your spouse.
I know you’re saying: “Really, did she just say to talk to God about sex?” I know it might seem weird to pray to God about your sex life. But, this is the God of the universe who made both you and your spouse, gave you this incredible gift of sexuality, and wants you to enjoy it. Just like I might pray that God would help me to use the good gift of food rightly (not depriving, but not overindulging), I can ask God to help me be a better lover and to give me wisdom and desire in loving my spouse. Confess the ways you are tempted to find delight in something other than your spouse and thank God for the blessing that your spouse is to you.
50 Shades isn’t the answer. Erotica literature and entertainment only hurt a marriage. That’s because arousal shouldn’t be a magic pill that requires little effort to conjure up. It was made to lead to oneness in sex, connecting a husband and wife in a very powerful way. It should be something we have control over, deciding whom it is directed toward and what stirs it up. Taking the time to foster it and direct it toward your spouse will help create the kind of sexual fulfillment and satisfaction that so many are looking to achieve.