Now, it could be argued that being married gives you the right to have sex. 1 Corinthians 7:5 would support this claim, and I think it’s perfectly reasonable to expect, when you get married, that sex is on the table (chair, rug by the fire, bed, or whatever). But, what about specific sexual acts? Does being married entitle you to a set of sexual activities?
Like I said, I think the Bible supports a position that you have the right to sex, and if your spouse is refusing to have sex on an ongoing basis, then it’s legitimate to rebuke them. But I don’t believe that applies to specific acts.
From men, the one I hear the most often is probably oral sex. I have, on occasion, been asked “Do I have the right to blow jobs from my wife?” Sadly, for many, oral sex was part of their sexual experience, together, before they got married (not something I suggest), and once they get married, it no longer offered, or given upon request. In cases like this, I agree, that’s a bit of a cruel trick to play, a bait and switch, as it were. Even if he’s not entitled to it, I think he might be entitled to feel a little disappointed at least.
But for others, it’s never been offered nor given upon request, and more often than not, they just want to know if they have a right to expect this, or if they should just drop it and be happy that they’re having sex at all, because too many of their married Christian friends aren’t.
From women, the question typically revolves around sex toys (although some ask about oral sex as well). Many men don’t like them because they feel replaced by them, or in some way inadequate.
But it’s not only those two. We’re written about a lot of activities in the past: blindfolds, honor bondage, massages, mutual masturbation even some scarier and taboo topics like anal sex and clitoral slapping. Are we entitled to any of these activities once we’re married? Do we have the right to expect our spouses to at least try them, no matter how outrageous or strange our requests are?
I don’t think so.
I think sexual intercourse is one thing. I think everyone who gets married (except perhaps some edge cases where there are serious issues at play) fully expects that sex is going to happen, that sex is part of the agreement, a vital component to marriage. Sometimes the attitude towards sex isn’t good, but I think they all know it’s happening.
But I don’t think we have the right to expect oral sex, or bondage play, or really anything beyond sexual intercourse. Because our spouse may think it’s morally wrong (rightly or wrongly), they may think it’s unhealthy (rightly or wrongly), they may just not be comfortable with the idea (now, or perhaps ever), and to force those activities is not only wrong, but potentially damaging (I mean force through entitlement or rights, not with physical force, though that’s wrong as well, obviously).
That’s what I say to the spouse that’s wanting to expand the sexual repertoire in their marriage. Typically it’s the higher-drive spouse, but not always.
However, I have a different message to the other spouse, the reluctant one, often, but not always, the lower-drive spouse:
I think they do have a right to expect that you will challenge and test your boundaries, and if you find they are not grounded in moral or health reasons, then you should work to expand those boundaries. Because marriage isn’t about being safe. I know that might surprise some of you, but it’s not. Marriage is about being vulnerable, about get naked, not only physically, but emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, and all the ways we can. It’s about trusting that your spouse will not hurt you when you are vulnerable, but that they will protect you. And when that happens, it’s amazing and awesome, and you get a glimpse of what it was like in the Garden of Eden, being naked and unashamed, but because we are fallen humans, it’s dangerous, not safe at all, but it’s imperative that we still learn to do it.
Why? Because that’s how we grow, and marriages that fail to grow, stagnate and die. Sure, they might not end in divorce, but they cease to be productive, they fail to bring joy into the lives of the spouses and those around them. We need to grow in all facets of our marriage: emotionally and spiritually as well as physically, and it’s hard to grow physically when you’re penned in by tight boundaries that don’t need to be there.
In my course for Christian wives who want to learn to be more sexually engaged, I challenge participants in one of the modules to do something new in their marriage bed. Something, anything. Be it having sex with the lights on, making noise, trying a new position or activity. It doesn’t matter what, just something. Something that’s going to be uncomfortable, that’s going to stretch them (mentally or emotionally I mean), that will cause them to grow. And it’s not only for their spouses benefit, it’s for theirs as well, because trying something new causes an increase in Dopamine, which helps in achieving orgasm and teaches your brain try that thing again, which leads to more sex, a good impulse to have for someone trying to be more sexually engaged with their husband.
What activity should you choose? I can’t say, but you may want to lean towards one that your spouse is interested in, or find one that is a baby step towards that. After all, if you know your spouse wants oral sex, but you’ve never even touched their genitals with your hand, let alone your mouth, maybe start there.
So, do we have the right to expect specific sexual activities? Are we entitled to them? No, I don’t think so, and if our spouse decides to try and grow into that direction, you had better be patient and encouraging, not pushy or expectant. With every small step, you need to be cheering them on and not asking why they didn’t go further.
For the reluctant spouse, assuming the request isn’t immoral, check your boundaries, see if they’re tied to anything solid, and if not, try pushing them back a bit. That’s how you spice up your sex life.