SWM 083 – What is “feeling naughty”?

Today we’re going to talk about what “feeling naughty” is, which seems oddly suited for the Christmas season.  I got a great question in our anonymous questions from last month that I started writing an answer to, and it just got so long that it seemed worthy of its own post.  

What is feeling naughty?

Here’s the question:

Hi Jay,

Just a general question, what is the feeling of “feeling naughty”? And I guess there are other questions attached, is it sin? Are we describing something that’s simply “different” as “naughty” as maybe we don’t have another reference point in our vocabulary? There’s no great issue in our marriage or anything around the topic, just curious for your thoughts. But as a little context that got me thinking – my wife and I had a night in a hotel recently to celebrate our anniversary (which was actually 6 months ago, better late than never). As a treat and for fun, I bought her some lingerie that had a hole in the crotch area. It was very sexy and she loved them and we made love while she wore them. To which she exclaimed “It feels so naughty!”…which I had to agree with, but I’d probably describe more like lots of “fun” whether naughtiness was an element or not. Thanks for your good work! 

Why is it called feeling naughty?

So, first off, let’s talk about the term “naughty” itself.  Why do we call it feeling naughty?  I think it’s a holdover from the era when people believed that anything sexual was sinful, that sex was a necessary evil mitigated only by procreation.  Did you know that at one point the church had basically outlawed having sex except for some 40 days of the year?  And even on those 40 days, pregnancy had to be a possibility or else it was considered too sinful without any mitigating factors.

Thankfully we managed to reform that way of thinking, however, this idea still pervades.  As well, unfortunately, during our formative years, we often get implicitly taught that sex is sinful, wrong and shameful because in the context that we’re in at the time, it is sinful, wrong and shameful.  If you have sex in your formative years – it’s sinful, wrong and shameful (apart from abuse of course, in which case someone else is doing something sinful, wrong and shameful).

I think we need to be very careful about how we teach our children about sex.  We need to stop saying “don’t” and start saying “wait”.  We have to be clear that in the proper context, it’s not only not wrong, but it is actually right and good.

Many of us grow up with this general sense that sex is wrong, but when we say something is naughty, we tend to mean a specific feeling, and what generates that feeling shifts over time, and that’s because of what exactly we mean when we say something is naughty.

What does feeling naughty mean?

Because that feeling is not just being aroused.  It’s excitement and arousal mixed with the feeling of breaking a taboo and engaging in something adventurous.  And those two last parts are important – they are what give that naughty feeling that we don’t really have another name for.  It’s that mix of dopamine and adrenaline that makes it more than just erotic.

The best word I’ve found that actually describes that particular feeling is “transgressive”.  In other words, it’s exciting because it breaks a cultural norm in a way we’re not used to – it transgresses against a social construct of polite behaviour.

This is why some things are naughty in some situations and not others because context matters for social norms and repetition matters for our respect for them.

For example, sex before marriage, particularly for Christians, feels really naughty because you’ve broken a rule – no sex before marriage.  In this case, the rule isn’t constructed by society, but we’ve adopted it as a societal norm, so it has the same effect.  When you break it, it’s exciting and adventurous.  It’s transgressive.  Once you get married though, it loses that feeling.  It’s no longer new and exciting, especially if you’ve been having sex for a while.  Plus, now you’re married, and so you aren’t breaking any rules.  That sense of naughtiness is gone.  

Sadly, this devastates a lot of marriages because when one spouse or the other doesn’t get that same feeling, sometimes they struggle to reach the same level of arousal.  In short – sex becomes boring for them because it’s now “allowed”.  But there are other ways to get that feeling.

Sex outdoors feels naughty for most, because we’ve been societally conditioned to believe sex should happen in a bed.  So, if you have sex in a field for the first time, it may feel transgressive, because you’ve done something that “shouldn’t be done”.  But if you make a habit of doing it, then you begin to realize there’s no reason for it to be taboo, and then while it’s still fun, it’s may lose that feeling of naughtiness.

So, what feels naughty isn’t static.  It can change, go away and come back.  Sex with the lights on might feel naughty to some, but if you always have sex with the lights on, then sex in the dark feels a bit naughty.

That’s why, in the reader’s question, sex with your underwear on might feel naughty – because it’s not something you do, so It feels wrong but in a good way.  As well as the idea that underwear sort of “protects” your genitals, so to intentionally wear underwear that gives access is taboo.  Add to that the idea that women are supposed to be the passive gender when it comes to sex, not look forward to it, make it happen, initiate or otherwise show a desire for it, and crotchless panties violate that entire mindset.  In short, she’s checking a lot of taboo boxes with that simple choice in clothing.

Is it wrong to feel naughty?

Now all this together presents a bit of a problem because in order for you to get that feeling, you have to first be taught that what you’re doing is wrong in some way, but then not believe that it is so that you can go ahead and experience it.  And that feeling is … well, it’s really exciting.  That’s why people like things like Our Sexploration List because it’s full of activities that are taboo, but not morally wrong.  As such, many of them straddle that line between feeling like it’s naughty but believing that it’s okay to break a given rule because while many of the activities in it break cultural norms, they don’t break biblical principles.

"Feeling naughty" means engaging in some erotic play that transgresses some cultural dictate of what is acceptable behaviour.
Which doesn't mean it's necessarily violating a biblical principle.
Engaging in an activity that is socially unacceptable but biblically permissible can be really arousing.

All that to say, no, I don’t think the feeling necessarily means something is sinful.  It can be because some social norms are built on moral principles, but others are just holdovers from bad theology, philosophy or psychology, but it’s certainly not the case all the time.

I think if your wife enjoys feeling “naughty” and you understand what that means and you’re sure you’re breaking a cultural norm and not a biblical principle, go for it.  Have fun!  

Now, if you’re reading this and want to experience that sense of “naughtiness” for yourself, check out some of the products in our shop like our Sexy Coupons, which are great for Christmas, our Introduction to Talking Dirty ebook, or follow us on Instagram where we’re going sharing one of our Intimacy Advent Calendar cards each day until Christmas and some of them will give you the same feeling.

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