Ladies, start your engines

November’s UP CLOSE topic is sexuality. This post is about understanding female sexuality. If you’re not comfortable with the topic, please don’t read the post.

A couple of weeks ago I was concerned about some psychological symptoms I’d been experiencing, so I sat down for a chat with my psychiatrist. “How are you feeling these days?” he asked.

“I think I’m a bit manic,” I said. (I have chronic depression and occasional hypomania, diagnosed as Bipolar Disorder II.)

“Really?” he asked. “You appear to be doing really well–why do you suspect mania?”

I will not quote my exact response, because I’m confident it would be TMI. But it boiled down to this: sex. Feeling sexy. Especially, unusually sexy. Hypersexuality is a common symptom of mania, so I figured that was the most likely explanation for my consistently ardorous (is that a word?) mood.

But surprisingly, the psychiatrist disagreed.

“How old are you again?” he asked.

“Thirty-eight.”

He smiled and nodded.

I raised my eyebrows.

“This is one of those things they never told me in medical school,” he explained. “It’s commonly said that female sexuality peaks in the late twenties and early thirties, but I’ve found that estimate is about a decade off. I see a lot of female patients around your age who feel the same way you’re feeling.”

“Really?” I said. “So I’m not pathological?”

“On the contrary,” he assured. “You’re completely normal. Now, go home and attack your husband.”

And that’s where the scene ends, dear readers. But I hope this is where the discussion begins. I’ve been continually surprised, and often dismayed, by the lack of information I’ve received about female sexuality over the years. Pretty much everything I know has come from “independent research,” whether textbook-style or in the lab. And I think there’s something to be said for seeking and finding according to one’s personal level of (ahem) desire, rather than being systematically force-fed sensitive information. But when I look at my sixteen-year-old daughter, I’m not content leaving her to fumble around in the dark–literally, or figuratively.

So, talk to me. What do you know now that you wish you’d known sooner about your sexuality? What might be some effective and appropriate means of conveying that knowledge to the rising generation? Please feel free to comment anonymously. And rest easy–any trollish remarks from immature readers will be moderated.

About Kathryn Soper

(Founding Editor) is the author of the memoir The Year My Son and I Were Born (Globe Pequot Press, 2009) and the editor of four published anthologies. She contributes to Mormon forums from Meridian Magazine to Sunstone on a variety of topics including gender issues, disability, mental health, sexuality, family life, and spirituality.

87 thoughts on “Ladies, start your engines

  1. Thanks so much for this post. This is a topic nobody seems to talk about. I’ll be thinking about a response, and I look forward to comments from others.

  2. I spent the first several years of my marriage thinking I had some kind of sexual dysfunction, but apparently the real problem was that I wasn’t 38 yet.

    Seriously, I wish female sexuality wasn’t such a mystery. I remember reading a Newsweek article on female sexual dysfunction a few years ago, and the upshot was that nobody knew what caused it or how to cure it, and I just thought, “Bah! What good are you, Newsweek!” (And what good are YOU, Science?)

  3. This is a topic of constant conversation with my friends. They commonly feel that what they were taught (or actually not taught) has effected there sex lives with their husbands. They feel dirty and guilty because their parents basically said “sex is bad” to detour them from sexual feelings. They come to me and ask me how I can help them understand it differently; I converted when I was 16 and even though my parents weren’t exactly strict they did teach me to wait till marriage, but they didn’t enforce it, after I was baptized and the lessons said, wait till marriage I knew that was my new goal.
    I have two daughters and I teach the laurels at church, I try and make sure I’m saying that Heavenly Father gave us this wonderful gift to connect to our eternal companion and to create life on this earth, sex is essential, God expects us to participate within the bonds of marriage. Does that make sense? My friends have read (and re-read) the book, “And They Were Not Ashamed” and one of my friends says, “I get what the words are saying I understand that I shouldn’t feel guilt…but I do, reading it and understanding it is one thing, but applying it is totally different, I can’t get over these feelings.”
    My point to all of this is that the sex talk starts at home, you yourself have to comfortable with the topic and talking about it (at a young age) and to teach with the Spirit and not fear. This is a prayerful topic.

  4. Wow…that is fascinating about women’s sexual peak. I am in my early 20′s so I’m glad I have something to look forward to, in about 15 years. Now I’ll try to worry less that there’s something wrong with my sex drive. However, it seems rather unfair and backwards- men peak in their early 20′s. So my husband will be winding down when I am winding up? Whose faulty design was that??

    Thanks for this post– people who speak candidly do so much good for people who normally have no one to turn to for delicate topics.

  5. So my poor husband should have married an older woman?

    Just kidding. :) But seriously! Isn’t there some magical drug that a 20-something woman can take to be more 38-ish? I’d pay good money for something like that!

    I have 2 small children and one on the way. I can’t remember what “well rested” feels like, hence, I haven’t felt sexy since, I don’t know, my honey moon?

    I feel bad for my husband though. His love language is definitely touch–and not just sex. He’s more romantic than I’ve ever been. He needs to hold my hand and kiss me and hug me. It’s not that I don’t like that stuff, I just plain forget about it most of the time. I don’t seem to have any “need” for it.
    But oh how happy he would be if I did.

    Any advice ladies? You know, other than waiting for my thirties?

    And please spare me the, “You can’t expect to feel sexy/intimate until your children are older.” Our Bishop tried that one. I didn’t believe him.

    Thanks! :)

  6. My parent’s were converts, and were really lax and liberal in their teaching about sex. I think I was the only one of my siblings to get married still a virgin. So I never had any hang-ups about sex being bad, and I’m hoping I’m not conveying that to my kids. I don’t think the church is pushing the sex-is-bad idea, but I think parent’s – desperate and well intentioned – are trying to scare kids to stay clean.

    On a personal level, I often need to just trust that the enjoyment will come and let myself be led into intimacy. If I can relax and let go, I always do have a great experience. And it really does make my entire marriage better. But I rarely have the urge to venture into sex spontaneously, and I’m almost 40. I didn’t think that was an uncommon feeling. I still hope it isn’t. I’d hate to feel like an outlier.

    I decided it was a commitment I wanted to make because I love my husband, and so we are intimate a lot more than I would be naturally inclined. But if I let myself immerse in the experience, it’s always always worth it. We’ve talked openly about it, and the entire thing has made us a stronger couple, I think.

    But honestly, there are so many variants of normal, I don’t think we could pin down an ideal.

  7. wishing for female viagra, it’s common for a mother of young children to feel sated with physical touch—you’re holding little ones all day, after all, and getting plenty of physical contact—and therefore to not crave touch from your spouse. You’re also tired most of the time and feel stretched thin, so sex becomes one more demand on you. The best remedy is taking a break yourself, when you can, and trying to get away every once in awhile with your husband so you can focus on your relationship with him. And remember, this too shall pass. :)

  8. Shortly before each of us daughters got married, my mother handed us a book called, “The Act of Marriage” by a Christian minister and his wife. It’s very open and uses all the vocabulary and everything, and it has a great Christian viewpoint on the importance of sex PLUS the how-to.

    I admit it was also very embarrassing reading it aloud with my fiance, but it made things much smoother come honeymoon night. That’s not to say that there hasn’t been a learning curve and more discovery along the way, but I’m SO glad I went in with that basic knowledge–stuff NO ONE had ever told either of us.

    (As a side note, my mom, who at the time was like the mother hen of her office, also gave it a young coworker who apparently had been rather down and had confided that he couldn’t please his wife. He came back to work about week later with a bounce in his step, because he’d finally learned a few very simple things about female anatomy that neither of them ever knew before reading it.)

  9. I say don’t listen to “the world”. It tells us that we should feel sexy 24/7 and if we don’t we’re frigid.

    I used to feel a pressure to have sex at a certain frequency, for my husband’s comfort if not my own. All this did was make me tense and caused more negative associations with intimacy. Over the last few years I’ve had health issues, you can imagine how this made me feel about sex. My husband has been so patient and sweet, and not just in the bedroom. His love for me in all areas of our life creates a greater desire in me to be physically close to him.

    Our marriages are so unique and personal, and thus so is our sex life. I think taking precise advice from anyone can be harmful. I believe we are meant to work it out together, man and wife, what works best for the two individuals involved.

    My un-precise advice is to relax, be patient, work on your marriage in all areas, talk about it, experiment and have fun. Good sex is one of the payoffs for a lasting relationship. Great things take time.

  10. madhousewife, you’d think curing female sexual dysfunction would be a high priority for the male-dominated scientific community. :)

    Christa, I’m glad you’re in a position of influence for the YW in your ward (as well as your daughters, of course). Very wise words.

    Jenna, I said the exact same thing to my doc: “I’m going this way (upward slope) while he’s going that way (downward slope)? Who came up with that bright idea?”

    I was talking with a friend about this, and she pointed out that there’s definite benefits to the different peaks–one spouse or the other will (theoretically) have strong interest over a long period of time, rather than them both fizzling out early on in the marriage and possibly drifting apart. Still, the disparity can present many challenges, to be sure!

  11. My parents are very open about sex (to the point that it’s kind of embarrassing) so I thankfully didn’t have any hangups when I got married. One thing I think I’ve learned that is helpful is to realize that both men and women experience ebbs and flows in their sex drive. Sometimes I’m feeling great and ‘ready’ and my husband is having a difficult month and just not feeling into it; then the next month it is reversed. Thankfully after a few years I’ve learned to talk about it a lot more openly with him–I’ve also learned that for us subtle hints don’t always work so well. We’ve also learned that after a few years of marriage and two little kids (and one on the way) planning is our friend. At first it felt restrictive, but for both of us it works well to say something like ‘Thursday night’ or whatever. Mental preparation is a big part of things, especially right now when we are both tired, busy, and have small children.

    I think that it helps to have some basic education about anatomy (yours and his),hormones/drives (another great book for women is Taking Charge of Your Fertility–about hormones and cycles), and the spiritual aspects of sexuality. After that, I think that experimenting on your own and discovering what works for you and your husband is best. Too often we can become discouraged by comparisons with others when what we need or want is so personal.

  12. I wish my husband had known what a clitoris was, and how it worked. For years I was frustrated. I finally told him I was so sexually frustrated that I didn’t want to have sex. It wasn’t fun for me if I wasn’t having an orgasm! We worked at it. It has been so worth it.

    Years ago as I was trying to find out more about sex through books, etc.–and talking to my sisters and mom to find out what “worked,” my mom tried to tell me her best sex was when she felt emotionally connected, and then it just happened. Nice. I feel emotionally connected to my husband in the temple, but I’m sure not having an orgasm in the celestial room. It takes more than emotions. It takes body parts and the correct use of them.

  13. I think what Christa said is a big part of it. We teach our young people solely that “sex is bad” rather than teaching them the true doctrine of “sex is for marriage.” And then they have to deal with guilt and all kinds of other problems when they get married. But because “sex is bad” they don’t seek help about it. It’s teaching only half the law of chastity and it can do a lot of harm.

    And that’s if they even say the word “sex” at all! In our “preparing for a celestial marriage” institute class we had a lesson on “intimacy in marriage.” All of the students are married, or will be within a few months, and the teacher did not say the word “sex” once. And she blushed every time she had to say the word “intimacy.” How is that helping!!

  14. I think diminished sexual desire is due to lack of sleep. I’m 35 years old right now. I don’t see adequate sleep in the near future. Maybe in three more years? It always seems like I weigh consciously or unconsciously the sleep cost. When you are desperately trying to bank at least 6 hours and praying for 7 hours and having fantasies about 8 hours, well it doesn’t leave a lot of room for anything else in the desire department. Maybe a regularly scheduled nap would help?

    I went to my doctor a few years ago complaining of exhaustion and general malaise. He said that he thought it was due to sleep deprivation he thought that a young mother’s brain and body never completely go deeply to sleep. So even if she were getting the prescribed time in she could still wake up feeling tired, in his opinion it was an instinctive mama thing, always having one part of the brain reserved for that cry in the night.

    Would be nice if there was some sort of quick fix but perhaps it is a little bit of a biological self limiting reproduction thing. Something that we don’t think about in that we have a lot of control over our fertility in our day. If generally females were as sexually interested as males in those earlier years it could have unforeseen implications for the woman’s health generally, by not allowing enough time between the birth of children for her to adequately heal and recover, seriously compromising her health.

    I don’t judge anyone who has had their children very close together, children are a blessing however and whenever they get here, but I do know a couple of women who have had their children very close together and it was very physically trying experience.

  15. Recently during a diaper rash incident my daughter (who is currently learning to talk) decided that her girl parts must be called an “owie.” This kind of made me a little ashamed of myself, because I distinctly remember having my first playground talk about sex in the first grade, and already feeling too embarassed to talk to my parents about it. So, I am determined to teach my kids correct information about how their body works from the very beginning, and that includes teaching correct names for things. Since then whenever my daughter points out her “owie” during diaper changes I correct her and say it is her “vulva.” I feel incredibly silly doing it, but I’m pretty sure it’s worth a little discomfort on my part to make sure that she feels comfortable talking to me about her body, with the hope that when she had questions she’ll come to me instead of talking about it with friends on the playground.

    I definitely wish I could have talked to anyone more about sex when I was growing up. Now when I think about how little I knew when I got married I’m a little amazed. Sex is such an important and sacred part of our lives, surely talking about it in a respectful and informed way must be a good thing!

  16. Kathryn,
    I think fertility peaks and begins declining in the late twenties. But surely sex doesn’t.

  17. #6, I think one of the big reasons why some moms feel sexier as they get older is because their bodies are finally “their own.” I spent my twenties and half my thirties either pregnant or nursing. And I have no regrets–it was what I wanted, and it was the best possible time to make such demands on my body. But like Melissa said, I was seriously “touched out.” There was always at least one person–and usually several–tugging, chewing on, kicking, or otherwise touching me. Even hugs and kisses from my kids felt like too much at times. After a day of being the kid’s literal “touchstone” I’d head to bed exhausted, only to find my husband waiting there for his turn!

    It was hard. Really, really hard.

    I don’t agree with your bishop, though. I think many many moms of young kids feel the way you do (and the way I did), but that doesn’t mean it has to be that way. If you haven’t read Brotherson’s book, I recommend it. I also recommend Natasha Helfer Parker’s website–she’s an LDS sex therapist. (I should mention that her approach is very frank, even more so than Brotherson’s, so those who are uncomfortable with super-straight talk might not appreciate the site).

    http://mormontherapist.blogspot.com/

  18. This discussion reminds me of a funny line from the show West Wing. There is some discussion about some money being misspent to study female sexuality, it being a waste of taxpayer dollars etc. Another very straight laced male character pipes up and says something like “How can we afford not to spend money on this!”

  19. Dovie, thank you for that information. My world is making so much more sense! I had a couple months inbetween the child’s teething episodes that I actually had desire. The last couple months he’s been waking up at least once, long enough to wake me up and him fall promptly back to sleep.

    But why is it that a man can be woken up at night and still want sex the next night?

    Luckily I had a roommate right before I got married that was going into Marriage and Family Therapy. She pretty much told me what I needed to do to prepare myself and what my now husband needed to do to prepare himself. Bless her. She sat me down, gave me an anatomy lesson, and then instructed me to read _And They Were Not Ashamed_ so I could have discussions with the fiance. And made him read it too. Best thing that could have ever happened for our sex life.

    If I’m ever called into Young Women’s, I will do things differently from my leaders. You just have to be honest and frank with those kids. They don’t want to hear that it’s bad, another thing that’s a ‘no.’ They want the ‘why’ and how it’s a choice and a good understanding of the whole concept.

  20. I’ve been shocked to learn all the emotional aspects of sex – I always thought it was just a fun thing married people finally got to do. I went into marriage hearing all the stories about couples who either didn’t know much about the mechanics of sex or had so much negative association with sex that they could just never enjoy themselves. And so I read all sorts clinical and practical information about sex and considered myself very sex-positive and informed. And given what a struggle it was to stay temple worthy while engaged I didn’t think libido would ever be a problem. was sure that we would have the best married sex life ever. Pride cometh before the fall I guess.

    I was shocked when we couldn’t get any of the mechanics to work on our honeymoon. Even after we figured out the mechanics, it still wasn’t/isn’t smooth sailing. I was shocked to find my once put of control libido plummet any time I was even slightly upset, stressed or otherwise less than perfectly happy with our marriage. I was shocked to learn how much sex meant to our overall marriage – just how close we would feel when everything was working and how often we would fight for hours over nothing, only to find at the end of it all that we were really upset about sex. We’ve had many long, deep and really intimate conversations trying to better understand each other and find ways for everything to just work – and it’s been worth it, we’ve had some wonderful times when everything just clicked, but it seems like every time I turn around there’s some new problem.

    I’m not sure what advice I would pass on – probably just that that sex is more important to the emotional health of marriage than I ever thought and that just like every other part of marriage takes work, sex is no different.

  21. Annette, FoxyJ, and anon #13, thanks for pointing out the value of basic anatomical information. And I’m not talking just about “how babies are made.” That’s the usual anatomy lesson we get, but when it comes to female sexuality, that lesson is woefully inadequate because it leaves one of the most important “parts” out!

    jendoop, that’s fantastic un-precise advice, and an important point about its value. I think we need specifics when it comes to basics like anatomy, and we may benefit from practical advice in other ways as well, but it’s vital to emphasize that what defines a good sex life for a given couple is a highly individual matter.

    I also love how you pointed out the connection between physical intimacy and emotional intimacy. I think this is another reason why many women grow into their sexuality as their marriage developsover time–the greater the level of trust and intimacy in all other areas of the relationship, the more freely physical desire can flow. Great things do take time!

  22. I’m on the same boat as most individuals here, “If I’m ever a YW leader, I’m going to do things differently than my leader.” I’m getting married in a month, and my fiancé and I just recently started having conversations on expectations of our first night, honeymoon, etc. And suddenly I realized, “Wait. I’m not mentally prepared for this sudden shift in everything.” I didn’t realize that until I started trying to figure out exactly what was bothering me about that aspect of being married. Somehow my YW leaders managed to ingrain into me, “Sex isn’t bad, but virginity is better.” Sigh. So much false doctrine in that concept. Thanks, leaders. Now that I know where the problem lies, I can start focusing on shifting my views, but that’s more easily said than done. For now? Lots of independent research and a few conversations with a fiancé. For later? An understanding husband.

  23. I agree that for mothers of young kids, the exhaustion does play a big part. And for me, that has meant trying to do what I can to get sleep. When they are young and waking several times a night, there pretty much isn’t an answer, but as they’ve gotten older, I’m still tired, but I nap instead of cleaning, go to bed as early as I can manage, and don’t put off sex until the end of the night when all I want to do is crawl into bed–we try to schedule the fun stuff for as soon as those kids are asleep, and then deal with whatever chores we have energy left for after. Like others have said, the scheduling isn’t quite as fun as spontanaity, but its way better than just going weeks without which is usually the alternative.

    And for me, I can usually manage to turn my brain off of my to do list eventually, so I try not to wait for that before being willing to start, and just know that I’ll get there after a few minutes. Its made a big difference for us because I used to wait until I was in the mood, but as is discussed in “And They Were Not Ashamed”, women get in the mood once things get going, not the other way around. And that is something I wish I’d known from the beginning. We just don’t work the same as men.

  24. Oh, and I have always heard that around 35 is the peak–that’s great if its even later. I’m approaching 35, and as someone who is still doing the baby thing as I near that age, I can say that it really is a biological factor, and not just the kids being older. Maybe if our kids were older, it would be even better, but I’m just happy to see the shift that has happened the last few years.

  25. The Act of Marriage made a huge difference for us when we were first married. Education was key as well as learning a balanced perspective. We were also lucky to be at BYU where we could go to LDS marriage seminars. Being open to learning more about each other–and a lot of that was just basic differences between men and women in general–really helped.

    At one seminar, taught by Dr. Robert B. Miller from BYU, he talked about how it is the husband’s duty to create a “safe harbor” for the wife. That really put things in perspective for me. As a young woman, we are taught to guard our chastity and the sacredness of our bodies constantly. The paradigm shift that marriage requires is difficult, and I think it’s okay that it takes time. That image of a safe harbor really helped my husband and I. It gave him a good goal of how he wanted to make me feel and helped him understand where I was coming from.

  26. As a 38 year old I can say it gets better with age! I think it has more to do with hormones and your monthly cycle! Some months my hormones are all screwed up (thank you ovarian cysts!)and I don’t even like my husband and other months I get a week when my husband is the best thing, he smells better, looks better! Best advice I’ld give is talk to your partner about what you like and don’t like and if he forgets gently tell him again. Men prefer their partners to be happy and not just participating for their benefit.
    It was hard to be sexually active when I was a new Mom in my twenties and early thirties. It’s important to still make time for it though because men feel loved through sex. Women feel loved through being listened to. Men listen when they get sex. : )
    Don’t feel guilty about sex with your spouse. It’s a gift Heavenly Father gave us to connect with each other.
    I feel lucky that I was never taught to be ashamed. My husband had a hard time when we first got married. It took a while and lots of talking before he was truely comfortable. Then he was too comfortable and it took a while for him to learn it had to be mutual. We worked it out though and now we say if only we new then what we do now!
    I think good sex happens over a life time and is not what you see in the movies and on TV. It’s about really knowing each other inside and out and celebrating all that you know! Especially when your husband smells like candy!

  27. there are so many variants of normal, I don’t think we could pin down an ideal.

    Well said, Tina.

    Regarding the anecdote in the original post: I hope it brings some reassurance to other women who may be wondering if something’s wrong with them for feeling so sex-y. At the same time, I hope it doesn’t cause any harm on the flip side. While the general trend for most women may be an upward slope in desire until mid-forties or beyond, that doesn’t account for the significant and completely normal variations between individuals. Alas, 38 is not always a magic number. :)

  28. I think the main thing is to relax, relax, relax…and have fun…and tell each other what you like. Guessing doesn’t always work, and if it does work, it may not work as well.

    I had a big upswing in my interest around age 38 or 39 as well. That was definitely my peak, and a wonderful one, I might add.

    Things can get a bit more difficult after menopause with issues like dryness, etc. But that, too, can be remedied with a lovely drugstore item called Replens.

    And finally, I should say that my interest used to flag all the time when I had small children. My friends felt the same. We just weren’t as into it. Period. You know what, though? If there were such a thing as a do-over on this, I would have made a greater effort to push through my tiredness on more nights, making time for that intimacy that often seemed so physically overwhelming when all I wanted to do was sleep. Let’s face it. Being together in that way needn’t take all that long (on a “tired” night), and the difference it makes in the relationship is well worth it. This is especially true for my husband, who is like a different person in our marriage when things are going well in that department. At 57, I’ve finally figured the whole thing out.

    It makes him feel loved.

    And that is a very good thing. For BOTH of us.

  29. PS. I LOVED your book, Kathryn. I even reviewed it on my blog yesterday. Thanks for sharing your experience so fully and so meaningfully with your readers.

  30. To start with, who says men’s sex drives decline as they age? Not happening! I feel like the Grandma here in this discussion~we are in our 50′s and I remember feeling all those things you are talking about as we raised our family. But what has been brought to light in my life through sometimes painful means is that keeping your relationship as husband and wife first and foremost is the most important part of raising a family~the two of you are the center and all else forms aound that. Make it happen~leave other things undone, laundry, phone calls, TV, and yes, sometimes sleep.
    A very helpful book is “His needs, Her needs” by Willard F. Harley Jr. he talks about how to build an “affair proof” marriage and how to meet each other’s needs–so good and helpful!

  31. sex is more important to the emotional health of marriage than I ever thought, and just like every other part of marriage takes work, sex is no different.

    Well said, Gwen (#21). Sex can seem like such a simple, automatic process, and on a surface level it can be. But it’s one of those things that has layers and layers of meaning and depth which are only revealed as you journey along. To a great degree, the real truth about sex can only be learned through experience (as with so many other truths in life).

  32. The biggest help I found was after I went to a Slumber Parties party and bought an ointment that I refer to as my jumpstart juice which helps me actually enjoy sex. And having a husband who doesn’t mind me using a vibrator to finish up when he’s done is a big help too!

    But I remember on my wedding night sitting on the floor in the hotel room thinking there is no way that guy is going to touch me because I was terrified! It wasn’t okay yesterday but it is today? That makes no sense!

  33. LOL on the wedding night story, #34. Talk about whiplash!

    I’m sure there are wildly varying views amongst our readers regarding sex toys, and I don’t want to take the subject any further at this point. But I’m glad you brought it up.

    And yes–adequate lubrication is a must! If there’s one thing every mother should do for her engaged daughter, it’s to hand her a tube with a smile.

  34. This might sound a little bitter, but I mean it to be realistic, not bitter.

    If you look at the mechanics of sex, it is very invasive for a woman. The invasion can be nice if welcome, and very unpleasant if not in even the smallest way. Unfortunately, our society places so much emphasis on sex that I think women tend to pressure themselves to be other than what they are, to feel other than what they do.

    I, at least, tried so hard to please my spouse in this regard, I ended up with no choice but to fake it for him to meet his needs. Mine were lost by the wayside. All that did was knot up even casual intimacy with such a level of expectation, I came to like it less and less.

    Sex should never be something you do only to please your spouse. If he wants it, he should be willing to do what it takes to help you want it, too.

  35. Females seem to have the most emotionally aimed teachings when it comes to sexuality – usually “sex is bad, you are bad if you do it, you are really bad if you enjoy it.” As others have commented, it can be really damaging to try and align what you have been taught/told and the reality. I reckon it takes years to fully overcome – the topic is certainly raised among my friends in one form or another.

    I wish I had known earlier that there is nothing wrong or forward in initiating intimacy. That it was important and worth it to schedule sex in if life was hectic – sure, it’s not spontaneous, but it’s affirming (and great stress relief!) I wish that I had known to more fully appreciate my body to more fully enjoy the physical side of marriage, which lead to appreciating my body even more…

    As for teaching the next generation – I’m not going to teach or tell my sons that sex is bad. I’m going to tell them it’s great – when you are married to/with a person that trusts you as much as you trust them. I’m not going to leave their education to the world or the school ground, and if I’m called to teach the youth, I’ll do the exact same thing.

    I’m glad I converted as a married adult and missed the chastity lessons I’ve heard of – some sound appalling. I’m going to teach my sons (and any other youth that asks) about reality – not the perfected ideal without blood, sweat and tears. If we teach our kids that marriage isn’t easy and perfect, but able to be worked at and successful, and that the physical side is the same, then chances are everyone will be more prepared to work at making excellent marriages and amazing love.

  36. I second the recommendation for Brotherson’s “And they were not ashamed”. I already knew what I wanted and needed, but I needed better ways to communicate to my husband. It was a great one for him to read and it keeps things in the right context and perspective. I plan to give it to my mother when she re-marries because I think her ignorance of the joy that sex can be was a big part of what ruined her first marriage.

    Sometimes, even when we know that it’s allowed, it’s just so hard to feel good about figuring out the details that are necessary to make it a fulfilling experience for women. Even once “technical sex” became permissible, I struggled to discover for myself that the *extras* could also be welcomed and used as a wholesome addition to the experience. Without which, I would be very frustrated to this day. It’s hard not to feel that the things some women have to do to enjoy sex aren’t “wrong” and more closely related to masturbation than intimacy. But there is still a line between kinky and satisfying, and I think this book helps define it. Some women just can’t get by with the traditional model of sex, and it needs to be okay to talk about “all the rest”.

    And as far as desire, I’m a big fan of “fake it til you make it”. Even when I’m not totally in the mood, if I pretend that I am and I take on the role of instigator with my husband more often, I find that I almost always GET in the mood by the middle of it all and I enjoy it a whole lot more when it’s my idea to start in the first place.

  37. Forgive me if I’m over stepping but I say get rid of the vibrator and ask your husband to continue the intimacy. It will benefit your relationship. It will probably take time to get used to the change but it will be worth it. As your husband gets to know your body better you might ‘hit the mark’ together. It is better to build the relationship and truly know each other, caring for each other’s full needs.

  38. jendoop, I think you spoke with the best of intentions. But as you said earlier, due to the personal nature of a couple’s sexual relationship, giving precise advice (particularly when unsolicited, I might add) is less helpful than sharing general principles. That said, your main idea is right on–the more time and effort and care we invest in our sexual relationship with our spouse, the more rewarding it will be.

  39. Someone once told me (YW leader? Mom?) that I shouldn’t do anything sexually that makes me feel uncomfortable. What bad advice! Just about everything sexual feels uncomfortable the first time. If I’d heeded that advice I’d still be a virgin! But after I’ve tried different things a couple of times I’ve found that there were things that I LOVED, that seemed . . . peculiar at first. I guess my advice would be don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.

    And secondly, I love my various vibrators and so does my husband. They have opened up a new and amazing world for both of us.

  40. Great comment, Selwyn.

    SilverRain, you said: I think women tend to pressure themselves to be other than what they are, to feel other than what they do. And in #10, jendoop likewise pointed out that society creates unrealistic expectations regarding women’s libido. These are important observations.

    Women used to be split into two groups: the “good girls” who don’t like sex and the “bad girls” who do. As mainstream society grows more and more lewd, the split is reversing in some constructive and some destructive ways. It’s great that our culture says it’s now okay for women to like sex; it’s awful that this concept is quickly moving toward the opposite extreme. Real women don’t act (or look, for that matter) like porn stars.

    This social change creates a real trap for LDS women, because as sex is flaunted in increasingly graphic and perverted ways, it becomes all the more difficult to delineate between healthy and destructive sexuality. Several comments have mentioned how important it is to tell our husbands what we enjoy, but thanks to the mixed and twisted messages we receive, even the bold souls among us might feel somewhat sheepish doing so.

  41. Jennie, I love you.

    I agree that “Don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with” can be problematic advice in the sense you described. (How many of us felt comfortable losing our virginity?) But it’s vital for women to retain the right to say no. There’s a big difference between experimenting because you’re curious and succumbing to pressure to engage in sexual acts that give you the creeps.

    In short, stepping outside your comfort zone can be great as long as you WANT to.

  42. m2theh, I apologize if my comments seemed directed at you specifically. I don’t know you or your experiences to comment in that way.

    It is my opinion, from my own experience, that finding alternatives to actual physical contact with the one you love harms your relationship. It is difficult to face these things head on and discuss them openly, but it is well worth the effort.

  43. I second recommendations for “The Act of Marriage” and Laura Brotherson’s book. A couple of things I love about her book are that she talks about praying about this part of a relationship, and she helps women see that physiologically, sex is often a sort of ‘leap of faith’ thing. Our bodies are made differently. I think that is for a reason. (She also addresses the ‘bad girl’ thing, for those who struggle w/ that.) And she explained more about the female body which I appreciated. (If you don’t know about the G-spot, read her book!)

    Something that BUGS me to no end about this topic? I have really strong feelings about packaging sex as a male thing. (Being in the late 30s can debunk that notion, right Kathy?) I have too many friends whose husbands felt entitled, and the women felt pressure, used, etc. Too many women in generations before (lack of education, imo) saw sex as a duty, not a blessing of partnership, something to be worked on and enjoyed together. Our society sees p*rn as a ‘normal’ outlet for men. etc.

    As an example, I was talking w/ someone in general about how hard this can all be w/ chronic illness. I *cannot* get pregnant or I very well could die, and yet I cannot take bc, and have not felt right about permanent solutions. Not hard to connect the dots there. This person said, “My husband would DIE!” Well, my husband is not dead, and we have grown together sorting through this. I get SO tired of hearing that men simply cannot. live. without. sex. I think that is a lie, plain and simple…even as I hope no one has to live the kinds of extremes we have had to (especially now that I’m in my later thirties, thankyouverymuch).

    On the flip side, some women just reject sex as something they might enjoy because they think it’s a man thing (Laura Brotherson also talks about how God made women’s bodies to enjoy this, too!), so they put up with it or push their husbands away.

    This is a team thing. It’s an important part of partnership. It’s not just a gift to a man that a woman is obligated to give. If it’s used as a pawn in unrighteous dominion either way (demanding on one end or withholding on the other), something is wrong.

    I second jendoop’s thoughts — it’s so important to emphasize the personal nature of this part of marriage. I think too many people think they have the answers that work for everyone. e.g., I think I have heard that Dr. Laura says along the lines of “10 minutes a day for your man.” I have heard other women say, “You never say no.” (I’m not talking to anything out of the ordinary, but just to engaging at all.)

    I say NO! to such notions. Again, not to feed women’s withholding, but to say that both husband and wife need to be sensitive and reach and and work together. Marriage should be a safe harbor, and this? This part of of marriage should be the safest part of all. That takes real work and constant communication, because life and bodies and circumstances change. And agency MUST be respected. Force or control on either side should not be a part of it, and I think there is often too much of this.

    One last thought. I think the law of chastity is one of our higher laws. I think a healthy sexual relationship in marriage in this way can also end up being a high law to live. It requires sensitivity, unselfishness, communication, partnership, flexibility, etc. etc. etc. Just when you think you figure it out, life changes. It’s one of the things that can either pull a marriage together or break it apart. It’s an amazing thing when the former happens, and that is something that I will talk to my children about openly…we already do.

  44. Going along with what M&M said, it’s important to realize that there is way more to sex than just intercourse.

    Sex has the power to be the glue that seeps into all the cracks of a marriage. It can smooth the rough spots over, and tighten up the relationship.

    But sex without having actual intercourse can be fantastic and rewarding for both husbands and wives.

    Is sex absolutely vital to a marriage? I guess not. But sex sure makes it a lot better. Unless it’s crappy sex. That just seems to make it worse.

  45. I love what M&M said, there are a lot of myths that men like to portray that just aren’t fact. My husband said Blue balls are a myth and that it feels the same with or without a condom. I feel bad for these women whose husbands act like cavemen when it comes to sex. My husband gets just as tired as I do throughout the day and doesn’t want to have sex just as much as I do sometimes!
    I think sex is an amazing tool we’ve been given to have an incredible bond with our eternal companions, to create life, what a wonderful Heavenly Father we have that’s given us such a precious gift to connect to our spouses!

  46. What a terrific discussion.

    After I had been married for a year or two I came to appreciate the comment from my BYU marriage prep class, that sex was the oil that kept a marriage going smoothly. Like one other poster mentioned, my marriage goes better when our sexual relationship is more regular. When we hit a dry spell, we just don’t seem to be quite as in sync as normal.

    Several years ago one of my sisters introduced me to a product called “Finally,” available in my area at Walmart (with the lubricants) and I think at Target and Walmart in Utah. It is applied to the clitoris and really helps things get going faster.

    My husband & I have also found that a vibrator is sometimes helpful.

    To those who might think that products that assist the sexual experience are not as good as having sex without, my skin is sensitive enough that enough manipulation (by hand or penis) to produce an orgasm is also often very irritating to my skin.

    Lastly–the secret I wish I had known from the beginning–quick sex. My husband, a kind and thoughtful man, always wanted me to have an orgasm. But sometimes I knew I was just too tired, or not in the right hormonal moment, or whatever. I felt pressured by his need for me to experience that. We finally talked this out, and I told him that sometimes I would like to have sex just to be close to him, but without having feel pressured to have the “right” response myself. He initially felt guilty about this, but I reassured him that because quick sex was only mine to offer (not his to request) there wasn’t a possibility of him being selfish. When our children were little it was a great option on those nights when I was too tired to want sex that was great for me, but still wanted to be close to him.

    Lastly, I hope that I never forget Dr. Laura’s comparison–that depriving a man of sex is like depriving a woman of conversation. That really hit me hard, because I’m a woman who needs a lot of conversation!

  47. Oops–obviously I’ve already turned my brain off for the night–I shouldn’t have put “lastly” in there twice!!

  48. #45 jendoop

    You said, “It is my opinion, from my own experience, that finding alternatives to actual physical contact with the one you love harms your relationship.” I think what you meant to say was “harms MY relationship” and if you had, I wouldn’t have felt uncomfortable with your comment. Your experience will be different from mine and anyone else’s. What bothers you won’t bother other people. What you like others won’t. I relate to the notion that finishing up on your own ALONE doesn’t really add to MARITAL intimacy but I’m not sure the commenter meant that. And if she did, I feel like that’s her own territory to discover, you know? :-)

    After reading all these comments, I don’t really relate to any of them and I think this is just one example of why I tend to pull away from LDS circles. Who knew that being a convert would make me so different??

    I was raised with no direct teachings about sex other than what I learned in Health class. I found books my mom had and read them at an early age. And my single mom had many partners. So, sex was NEVER taught to me as sacred. To this day, I just don’t view it that way. Never once have I finished up and thought, “Oh, that was so sacred.”

    Of course, I intellectually understand the sacredness of sex but I just don’t feel like it’s sacred. It’s fun and has almost always been fun. There were times when it was less fun but it wasn’t because the mechanics weren’t working. It was because I felt less emotionally connected to my husband, or because I was super sleep deprived.

    So, here I am in my late 20s and if this isn’t my peak then I’m in big trouble. For me, this peak has coincided with my increased self-confidence in general, and with my kids being a bit older.

    And for me, it’s totally vital. I can’t imagine marriage without sex. I’d have to take some drugs JUST TO reduce my libido if we couldn’t have it for some reason.

    So, I guess, for me… hmm. I don’t really want to change anything. I was going to say that I wish I had been taught better by my mom and that I’d been raised in the church but the problems I have from not having been taught appropriately I wouldn’t want to trade for the problems described here and worse problems I’ve heard directly from my LDS friends.

    As for my kids, both my husband and I are adamant in agreement that we’ll be frank with the kids from an early age. I plan to skip any sound bytes like, “Sex is great… when you’re married.” Because, for one thing, if sex wasn’t great to some degree outside of marriage, people wouldn’t be having it. (Mormons who think sex is only good and special and uniting and deeply fulfilling when it’s in marriage… probably have nothing by way of comparison.) So, I think kids just roll their eyes at that. I also plan to skip the whole “save yourself for that one special person” talk. I know that really, really means something to some people, that their spouses waited for them and I totally respect that. But I don’t relate to it so I can’t teach it with credibility. My husband waited for me too, and I don’t really care. I suppose I can tell them that I know that really meant a lot to other people I know. I plan to teach my kids to wait until marriage because it’s what God wants them to do and that they need to care what God thinks of them. I will also let them know of some of the practical problems that can come about if they have previous partners, like comparing your spouse to an ex-partner and being dissatisfied. (Not a problem I have but lots do.) And of course, most importantly, I plan to teach them about my aunt who got pregnant with twins on The Pill and my friend who got pregnant on an IUD– ONLY abstinence is 100% and even if there’s no penetration, there could still be pregnancy! And as a child born to a teen mom who wasn’t ready to have me, I think I can really get the message across that having kids when you’re not prepared sucks. It can be really hard on the child.

    But I really want my kids to save themselves for themselves, not for anyone else. I want them to focus on how they want to love and respect themselves, and how they want God to be pleased, not how they want to receive respect from someone else as though their value is dependent upon how their future partner sees them (because it’s so totally not).

    I think the reason so many youth go astray is because they’ve been taught to do what’s right out of fear and not out of love for themselves.

    I plan to teach my kids the mechanics sometime before they marry and to keep sex a safe topic in our house. This whole idea that it’s so sacred that we never talk about it except for during formal sit-downs I think is… a bit overdone? I think we show its sacredness by not being crude, not making jokes about it. But to talk about it matter-of-factly at the supper table should be appropriate.

    I feel like if my kids are uncomfortable talking with me about anything, then it’s because they’re ashamed or embarrassed. And they should never feel that way about anything. I should be a safe haven for them about everything, ideally.

    Really sorry this was so long. I had trouble articulating my thoughts.

  49. I should correct this statement:

    “Mormons who think sex is only good and special and uniting and deeply fulfilling when it’s in marriage… probably have nothing by way of comparison.”

    Actually– I know people who DID have something by way of comparison and still felt that way. So, I retract that presumptuous statement.

    I only meant to make the point that it IS possible to feel that way outside of marriage. Lots of people do.

  50. 1. Communicate.
    2. Get over expectations. You and your husband should not expect your body to be respond like you think every other woman’s body responds. We are not robots, we are unique individuals.
    3. Enjoy the journey. Sex is a way to spend time together. Enjoy it. Don’t worry about doing it right or figuring your body out the first few weeks (expect it to take years and still be figuring it out). Sex changes as your life changes and we find that it generally gets better as we get to know each other (see above tip about communication) but it has ups and downs (pregnancy, nursing, cycles, chemotherapy, stress) over 17 years but I can honestly say we have way better sex now than we did the first few years of marriage before kids.
    4. Anything worthwhile usually takes effort. Make it a priority, spend time and mental energy on it.
    I don’t expect that every woman feels like this, but I tend to rarely want “sex.” If I think about cuddling, though, I want that. If I cuddle for a while and think about doing more, I can easily start doing that. And so on. However, my mind/body can’t skip straight to sex. My husband and I have found our own way to deal with that. I think we’ve been successful because we worked on it. We didn’t want it to turn in the proverbial “I have a headache” scenario.

  51. Vibrators in no way negate personal contact. When my husband and I use one, we are very much still touching each other in very intimate ways. That is the only time it is used.

  52. Wow, “start your engines” is a more appropriate title for this thread than I thought! :)

    We’re done talking about vibrators. Good points have been made from a variety of perspectives, and I appreciate those who have been willing to take the risk in commenting. Let’s quit while we’re ahead.

  53. I’ve been married for 6 years and have yet to have an orgasm. Not for a lack of trying, though. It just doesn’t seem to happen for me. We’ve tried lots of things, but nothing seems to do it for me. Or I get close, just to have it fizzle out. I don’t know what my problem is.

    If my husband had his wish, we’d have sex 3 times a day. He seriously wants it that frequently. And I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s not even that I hate sex — I’m just apathetic towards it for the most part. There’s always a part when I start to enjoy it, but that only lasts for a moment. I could probably never have sex again and be okay.

    It’s quite depressing, really.

    I look forward to more on this topic from Segullah!

  54. WRT #52 and #53

    I got married very late, as my libido was really starting to get out of control. I had waited, and finally I decided waiting was for the birds. Then I met my husband, so I was a virgin on our wedding night.

    I regret that.

    And I resent having waited all that time for…what I got/get.

    I’m relatively orthodox, but… I totally relate to #52 (albeit from the opposite direction) not wanting to give her kid the speech, and I’m not giving it to my kid, either.

    My husband is wonderful, magnificent in every area of our lives except…that. I wouldn’t trade him for the world.

    But I wish I had a healthy sexual history to fall back on and remember.

  55. #57, you are certainly not alone, and it’s brave of you to speak up.

    As much as my heart goes out to you, this thread isn’t the place to directly address your concern. But there’s lots of good information available. Brotherson’s book has two entire sections on “The Symphony of the Female Sexual Response.” There’s info on her website, too, particularly in the “Straight Talk Q&A” section: http://www.strengtheningmarriage.com/qa.php#QA28

    Additionally, I hope there’s a trusted woman in your life that you you can speak with about this concern. And if the situation is creating considerable stress in your marriage, professional help may be worth pursuing, too.

  56. Wow, lots of comments on this one! I agree with so many of them, too.
    I had zero information from my parents. None. Nada. I had the input from movies, tv, music, and kids at school. This is the bad way to educate the youth on sexuality. It’s how we wind up with “issues.”
    My husband and I have learned over the years that sex is fabulous and that we love it. We have committed to teaching our sons the facts about their own sexuality. We began having little talks with our oldest when he was 7 1/2. He is now twelve and our efforts have paid off. He will talk to us about anything and doesn’t seem to be too self-conscious about it.
    As a YW leader, the message I give them is that sex with your husband is great and lovely and beautiful and fun, and they are going to love it when they get married. That before marriage is not the right time.
    I am now hoping that my boys grow up and fall in love with someone who has been as educated as they are. If they are that fortunate, imagine the intimacy they will have in that marriage.
    Which brings me to the other point I agree with. There are times in your life when you really do get enough contact from kids, etc. It’s okay that there are those years that sex just isn’t that high on your list. But you do it anyway because it is an expression of love. That’s why marriage helps.

  57. I’m closing comments for now because it’s time for me to turn off the computer, but I’ll reopen the thread in the morning and we can continue the conversation. Thanks, everyone!

  58. Okay, we’re back.

    #52 and #58, I agree that it’s disingenuous to teach kids “only married people enjoy sex.” That’s a different message than “God intends sex for marriage only.” Certainly we can teach the latter without the former. Also, we can teach that sex within marriage has potential meaning and significance that sex in any other circumstance does not, however enjoyable it may be.

    #58, you already know that the law of chastity is a central tenet of the gospel that we endorse and uphold in this forum. LDS make all kinds of weighty sacrifices to keep it, and I don’t want to discount the reality and difficulty of those sacrifices. But we are to make them nonetheless, having faith that we will come out ahead in the end, even if the benefits are elusive here and now.

  59. I like some of the ways Dr Laura champions men. But all men are not the same. Depriving me of conversation is like depriving me of conversation. I would much rather live life without sex than without good conversation. Of course, I’m not 17 any more. But I find the stereotyping of men regarding sex just as off putting as when I hear that all women are dainty comfort angels.

  60. Kathryn, I certainly hope you took your psychiatrist’s (excellent) advice!

    For wishing for female viagra, I’ve heard good things about the female testosterone patch as an effective means of increasing female libido. It might be worth looking into.

  61. One thing that has a real effect on my libido is the way I feel about myself. Although I do like it when my husband looks particularly attractive, it’s on days where *I* feel extra good-lookin’ that I feel most amorous. (Men, really–complement your wives. There are tangible benefits.)

    I realize this sounds kind of shallow, but it’s amazing how much my desire and my ability enjoy sex fluctuates with even small changes in the way I perceive myself. Also, the more I’ve learned take my husband’s word for it (that he really DOES find me attractive even though I could stand to lose 15 pounds) and relax and feel free with my body, the better my sexual relationship with my husband has become. I’m also in my late 30s, though, and have noticed a real uptick in my libido as well, but it has coincided with my having a more accepting relationship with my body.

    And one more thing: I know lots of women really are “tired” or “not in the mood” (I certainly have been) . . . but I also know lots of women who use sex as a weapon. They withhold sex as a way to get back at their husbands, or as a way to keep them in line, or as a way to make their husbands “appreciate” them more. Don’t do it! Sex *is* sacred, in my opinion, and using it as a way to mete out revenge can have calamitous results in a relationship. I’ve seen it (unfortunately) too often. Mad at your husband? There are plenty of ways to let him know, but using sex as the default means of “punishment” isn’t good for anybody.

  62. Something we haven’t discussed yet is how women treat each other over this topic. I have heard some really cruel things said by Mormon women who are proud of their great sex lives about other Mormon women who struggle. The assumption is that if you don’t have the sex life (or drive) that I have, you are stifled, hung-up, shallow, whatever. We have to be careful about how we judge others. Women who have unsatisfying sex lives are ALREADY hurting about it. Often it is due to illness or other factors out of her control. Being “liberated” doesn’t give anyone an excuse to laugh at other women. I have been in groups where this goes on and have had to hide my pain to be seen as going along or in on the joke; I’m sure there are other women who feel the same.

  63. For years intimacy for me basically consisted of me “thinking of England” because my husband wanted it more than I did. I assume that I’m not the only one that has been in that situation, and it’s very sad. But we really don’t have open communication about sex, and I am fairly uncomfortable talking about it.

    Side note–my SILs brother was extremely offended and refused to let his wife go to a marital aid party because it wasn’t appropriate for LDS women. He is very anti in his views, which made it even weirder. My SIL found it offensive that he felt LDS women shouldn’t be allowed to enjoy sex.

  64. 38, huh? I went on a VERY memorable trip with my hubby a few years ago that just happened to coincide with my 38th birthday. ;)

    I’m in the “fake it till you make it” club. I DO enjoy sex with my hubby but just not at the frequency that he does. I was nursing and pregnant for 12 years straight so I had to say ‘yes’ even when I just wanted to roll over and sleep. We have a very strong, intimate marriage, but I frankly don’t know if our relationship would have survived the many financial, parenting, health and extended family problems of the past 19 years if I hadn’t said, yes, yes and yes again. Both my brothers are divorced and you’d better believe that lack of intimacy/sex was a huge factor in those failed relationships.

    I’m afraid, #67 that I’m a bit smug about my sex life and your comment was a much-needed light-bulb moment. I am sorry for your pain. But I also see far too many women bragging about going weeks and months w/o sex. Is that just a defense mechanism?

    And one more question– do your husbands have friends that they can talk to about sex? I don’t think men talk about sex with their friends as openly as women do.

  65. #66–You make a very good point. I’m sure it can be painful to hear people brag about their good sex lives. I agree with Michelle, though, that I’ve been a part of many more conversations where women brag about how often they say no, how long they make their husbands wait. There’s a weird kind of shame to admitting that you’re willing to have sex with you’re husband even though you aren’t in the mood–like you’re a pushover or a doormat or, even worse, being sexually objectified, and that a strong independent woman would never do such a thing. But so much of having a strong marriage depends on being able to give things to a spouse even if it’s inconvenient or not on the top of our “favorite things to do” list at the moment. I also agree with so many who say that as far as sexual desire is concerned, it often ignites *after* things get going. I do realize that for many women there might be deep-seated and painful reasons that it’s harder to have sex if you’re not in the mood than it is to, say, make dinner if you’re not in the mood. But I also think it’s very worth it to try and work through whatever it is that’s making a woman reluctant to have sex, because a healthy sexual relationship has so many important benefits.

  66. And also, #66, I’m not speaking about women who are sick or have other serious problems that make sex difficult. I’m sure it’s very painful to want to have that kind of relationship with a spouse and to not be able to have it. My thoughts are more directed toward the tendency I’ve seen among some women are proud of the lack of sex in their lives—that it shows that they’re in control of their husbands and enjoy making them “earn it.” Those are two very different circumstances.

  67. I seem to be the opposite of most the women posting — and I feel like the odd one out. I guess I’ve never been in a conversation like #66 describes, where women with lower sex drives are ridiculed. I feel like the weirdo that I actually initiate more than my husband. Think about reading all of that literature before you’re married that says, “your husband may have a stronger desire for sexual intimacy and you may have to go along for the ride” etc. Then come to find out you enjoy it a lot more than anyone ever thought to tell you you could. You feel like a freak, like you are doing something dirty or immoral. Virtually all of the lessons I heard about sex inside marriage were along the “you may not love it but be a sweetheart and do it for your husband” lines. I struggled with that for a long time, thinking, what the heck is wrong with me? I did not expect this at all, I did not anticipate having these feelings and being the more amorous partner.

    I guess that is what I wish I had known — I wish someone would have told me that I might actually like it a lot and not to feel badly about it.

  68. Mary AA, you make an excellent point. I also think some women are ashamed to admit that they like sex or initiate it. But I like sex, and even though I don’t initiate as often as my husband, I initiate plenty.

    Sex drive is just like any other aspect of human behavior: there are so many variations within both males AND females that the whole “your sex life will be like THIS” conversation can be more distressing than illuminating once real sex actually happens. Right after I got married I’d heard so many people mention the “put a quarter in a jar every time you have sex the first year, then take one out every time in the years after the first and see how long it takes to empty the jar” folklore (do any of you remember hearing that?) that I was seriously concerned that something was wrong when it wasn’t happening twice a day. The truth for me (and for many of my friends) is that for the first year or two sex wasn’t all that great. For either of us! Yes, my husband was at his sexual peak, but neither of us were very experienced and it took me a while to get comfortable and more willing to experiment. So it took a few years to really figure each other out, then it was pregnancy, pregnancy, pregnancy (although sex during pregnancy can be pretty good, imo), and now finally, in my mid-30s, we’re having more sex than we did as newlyweds. It’s so important to realize that everybody’s different and that your sexual relationship will change depending on the time of life you’re in.

  69. I said it earlier, but in reading more comments I want to say it again. I agree with #72.
    Sex will have two unique individuals. You can’t assume all the comments and jokes about men always….or women always…..are the way you will be or your spouse will be. Reading and learning about general trends is helpful, but then you get to know each other.
    I no longer consider that there must be something wrong with me if (insert whatever here).
    I now bask in the joy that I am NOT INTERCHANGABLE with another woman. My husband is enjoying sex with me, and me with him, and we have taken the time and effort to create an enjoyable sex life.
    Enjoying a great sex life with your spouse doesn’t usually happen after a just a week long honeymoon. I’ve been married 17 years and sex is better than ever. (Although there have been some stretches of downs).
    I urge our society to quit portraying sex as something that is most wonderful if it is a one night stand, or if you found the chemically right person.
    We are talking years and years of marriage. There are no one night stands here. What we have is a great sex life that we have worked on. To work on it all you need to do is communicate, don’t pressure each other to perform a certain way, make it a priority, relax and enjoy being with each other, quit expecting it to be like the movies, be loving and kind and supportive, etc.

  70. I divorced at 34. Prior to that time I was “shy and reserved” in the bedroom. Not that I didn’t have “experience”, but it just took me awhile to warm up. KWIM? Then I divorced, and went through my own personal sexual revolution. Now I’m 42, and totally at my peak. DH, on the other hand is 52, and clearly on the down-word slide! He has ZERO sex drive. It doesn’t even occur to him that sex is an activity to consider at certain times, “Hey! The kid is gone for the weekend! Let’s romp!” Nope, doesn’t even cross his mind. I told him I was going to sue for false advertising. (we met online. LOL)

  71. frankly don’t know if our relationship would have survived the many financial, parenting, health and extended family problems of the past 19 years if I hadn’t said, yes, yes and yes again.

    Michelle, thank you for saying that. Since I was one who was talking about the possibility of women being able to say no, I just want to say that I appreciate this perspective a lot. I do NOT want to be misunderstood as someone who feeds the women who use sex as a weapon, who withhold to punish or control, etc. I think sometimes it is something that should be chosen, even if not highest on the list — it’s an act that should be rooted in love, and that means a lot of give and take. Just don’t want to be misunderstood there. I was responding to a different extreme. Hope that was clear.

    It really ends up being a complex thing, something that can go lots of ways. I, too, agree w/ 72.

    I also think there is so much irony folded into this aspect of life. There is a lot to work through w/ male and female differences — just even in the usual cycle of climax, etc. Then there is often mismatch of desire and energy that varies through the life cycle, and varies for each couple’s life. I think of inexperience that means that early years of marriage can be hard — all the more so when children are part of the picture. Then women peak in their 30s when perhaps men’s drives might be declining in some cases. Then you have menopause and who knows what else coming into play as the body gets older.

    It’s a journey, a journey that ends up changing a lot. Nevermind all the other stressors and challenges that could enter a marriage.

    To those whose sex lives have been hard, I just think that it’s important to know that my sense is that sex is often hard for a lot of people, for various reasons. One challenge about the fact that this is so personal is that we really don’t usually know what others’ lives are like. I have a sneaking suspicion, though, that if we somehow did know more of what goes on in others’ lives, we would come to see that ‘the ideal’ is likely not lived by many people out there — it’s like everything else, imo – life is very often a lot messier than the movies, a lot harder than we sometimes think it should be, and not ideal for most (or at least many) people, at least not all the time. As jks said, it takes a lot of work.

    I also think that it’s important that it be kept in proper perspective. I think sometimes sex is seen as such a NEED that those who don’t ever get it (either because they are single, or because of something in their marriage that isn’t working) are somehow so hopelessly deprived. I know what it’s like to be single and know that deep ache for intimacy (in every way). It’s real. It’s hard. But sex is not a necessity for a full and rich life. I think our doctrine demands that we hope for and believe in that, because it demands that people hold to a strict standard of sexual purity. It also reminds us that life is often not ideal, and it’s how we deal with that that is our test.

    It also promises that no blessing will be withheld from the righteous. I have NO idea what that means in terms of sexuality (I’m not trying to guess what procreation might look like in the next life), but I do believe God’s promises are sure, and that no one will be disappointed eternally who holds on to covenants here. In our world of instant gratification, that can be hard to hold onto, but I think it’s important to bring to the conversation. My heart goes out to those, married or single, whose life is not fulfilled in this way. But I just say hold on. There is more to life than sex, and God’s promises are sure.

  72. Did anyone watch Dr. Oz today? He claims there is a “sexual famine” in the U.S. He has decided that needs to change and is addressing the issue. Today he gave some “tips” on the subject and said he will continue to address the issue. (The tips were simple–talk with your spouse–reconnect for 10 mins/day, kiss and cuddle for 10 mins/day without that kissing and cuddling leading to sex and SCHEDULE sex 3 times/week.

    Personally, I have never felt comfortable discussing my sex life with anyone BUT my husband. I’m fine with that. I’m curious whether those that do discuss sex with friends were comfortable discussing it with others from the beginning? Do you ever feel like you are violating your “marital privacy”?

  73. If it were up to me, we would probably go months in between intimate moments, just ’cause I don’t have any drive/desire for it. Not trying to punish DH, just not interested.

  74. Does anyone else ever wonder in amazement that this stuff is legal? I mean, isn’t it marvelous that -within marriage- our God allows, sanctions, and even endorses it?

    Of course, it isn’t always perfect, but it changes things between us. I love how it helps me to see him in a whole new light again, how I feel more womanly, how little annoyances evaporate.
    Honestly, it feels like our reward to offset the many hassles of being a grown-up.

  75. Anon. Today, I have never felt that comfortable talking about sex with anyone but my husband. And yet, one of the few conversations I’ve had with someone else proved to be very helpful to me personally, so I don’t necessarily think it’s wrong. Just that I want to be careful, you know? I do feel like it can be a betrayal to take something so very private and personal and discuss it; the circumstances have to be just right.

    Part of this is that I really don’t like to think about other people having sex. When I hear about someone else’s intimate life, it’s hard for me to not imagine that, just for a second, and I would prefer not to go there. Heaven knows, I’d prefer that they not go there with me too. I understand that there are wide variations in comfort level of talking about sex. For me, though, it’s been helpful to work out any issues I have with my husband. I appreciate as well that he does not talk about this aspect of our life with his friends. I feel like there is something to be said for keeping private things private; it’s so easy to embarrass others or make them feel that their intimate life is not up to snuff. The less I know about what anyone else is doing, the less I need to feel like what I’m doing is not good enough. Not having a basis for comparison is very helpful to me.

    On the other hand, if I ever get to teach a Relief Society lesson on marriage, I am going to mention sex! I’ve read so many articles on marriage that did not mention sex at all, only talked about “unselfishness,” which covers it I suppose, but still. And I’ve sat in lessons on improving your marriage which don’t mention it either. I think this is at best silly, and at worst the squandering of an opportunity to help someone in their marriage. At the very least, we can quote the Family: A Proclamation to the World, and say “We declare the means by which life is created to be divinely appointed,” and then point people to the Brotherson book, or Between Husband and Wife, or Purity and Passion, or the Tim LaHaye book. There are a lot of respectful, honest resources out there, and they can make a huge difference.

    My favorite quote from this comment thread: Kathy, #42: “This social change creates a real trap for LDS women, because as sex is flaunted in increasingly graphic and perverted ways, it becomes all the more difficult to delineate between healthy and destructive sexuality.”

    I’m still learning, and maybe I guess that is what I wish I could tell teenagers: sex is not so much an event as a journey, it’s a lifetime thing, and after ten years I am still learning and growing. And life (and creating life) is good.

  76. Hi Everyone,

    A friend suggested I stop by and check out this interesting conversation here and share a thought or two. I am the author of the book, “And They Were Not Ashamed — Strengthening Marriage through Sexual Fulfillment.”

    There are many things I’d love to share, but for the sake of time I thought I’d just share two areas that we tend to be the least knowledgeable about with regard to sexual intimacy. These are (1) the intricacies of the female sexual response, and (2) the male and female sexual wiring differences. For instance, the clinical model of the sexual response tells us that the first stage is “Desire.” Well, for many women they do not experience the emotion of desire until there is at least some degree of mental, emotional and/or physical arousal. So, for women the stage of “Arousal” precedes “Desire.” This is important information for many women who wonder why they are never in the mood.

    If you can get a hold of the book “And They Were Not Ashamed” and read chapters 3 and 4 which walk you through the intricacies of the female sexual response and then read chapter 5 that lists 18 of these critical differences in how women are wired differently than men sexually I think it will be helpful.

    The topic of sexual intimacy in marriage is an ongoing subject on my Strengthening Marriage Blog: http://strengtheningmarriage.com/blog/

    …as well as the topic of my weekly online show “The Marital Intimacy Show” on The Women’s Information Network (The WIN):
    http://www.TheMaritalIntimacyShow.com

    Sexual intimacy is such an important part of strong marriages that I hope women continue to develop greater comfort with the subject and work to embrace this God-given part of their beingness. I wish us all God’s speed in understanding His designs for sexuality — not only for our dear husband’s sake, but for ourselves, our children and our society.

    Laura M. Brotherson
    http://www.StrengtheningMarriage.com

  77. Sex was always an open topic when I was growing up, though Mom would blush like fury every time. I remember one weekend night, one of my brothers had some friends over, and everyone was laughing and talking. One of the guys started bragging about some girl who was “hot” for him, and Mom looked up from her knitting, and quite nonchalantly said, “She’s probably ovulating. It’s a normal chemical reaction. You might want to avoid her this week.” My brother nearly wet himself laughing at the shock on his friend’s face… but my siblings and I went out into the world with accurate biological information!

    We also saw my parents being physically expressive of their love for one another… one could be washing dishes, and the other would snuggle up for a quick kiss on the neck, or they’d hold hands while watching TV, or leave the house for a drive up to the airport alone.

    With my kids, we’re trying to avoid that all-too-common “Sex is dirty, save it for the one you love” attitude. I see it around us, but there’s no way I want to communicate that to them! Instead, we’re openly affectionate, with hugs, hand-holding, cuddling, kissing, right in front of the kids, no problem. As our oldest is getting older, she’s shown that she’s comfortable talking about romance and emotions hypothetically at least, and that’s a good start. We’re also very realistic about the negative things one can avoid by being chaste before marriage, and faithful after, including disease and unwanted emotional baggage.

    Myself, I had NO problem transitioning attitudes with marriage (at 21, to man who was 30). Of five very good friends, though, I’m the only was who didn’t feel traumatized at all. But, I’m also the only one who waited long enough that the transition was my choice alone, with no pressure from my partner. He didn’t expect things to be instantaneous. He hoped, of course. :)

    It did take time to get used to one another, but because we love and trust each other, the exploration is safe and fun. Everything in life waxes and wanes–I have noticed that when we both make efforts to keep our relationship in the “waxing” phase, we’re a more united front, with more expressions of genuine fondness for one another. That’s well worth a bit of my day, and I definitely sleep better. :)

    I definitely don’t like the attitude that men are just ravenous beasties who can’t control themselves, so we better just “think of England.” :) I married a really lovely man. Our mutual needs for physical affection, from hand-holding and passing pats on the backside, and on from there, are expressions of fondness. We’ve each had to “do without” in different seasons of our life together, but after those seasons, it’s nice to do as scriptures indicate, and “come together in joy and thanksgiving.” We each CAN exercise self-control and even denial of self. It’s just more fun not to have to. :)

    I do think it takes good and frank communication between husband and wife to learn one another’s preferecnes and needs. If one is a slow-burn, and the other is a bottle-rocket, then the bottle-rocket needs to try and pace things a bit more, to give the slow-burn a chance to keep up; slow-burners can be a bit unselfish and enjoy a bottle-rocket encounter just because.

  78. Liz, this was hilarious. Your mom is awesome.

    “I remember one weekend night, one of my brothers had some friends over, and everyone was laughing and talking. One of the guys started bragging about some girl who was “hot” for him, and Mom looked up from her knitting, and quite nonchalantly said, “She’s probably ovulating. It’s a normal chemical reaction. You might want to avoid her this week.”

  79. Hi Everyone,

    A friend suggested I stop by and check out this interesting conversation here and share a thought or two. I am the author of the book, “And They Were Not Ashamed — Strengthening Marriage through Sexual Fulfillment.”

    There are many things I’d love to share, but for the sake of time I thought I’d just share two areas that we tend to be the least knowledgeable about with regard to sexual intimacy. These are (1) the intricacies of the female sexual response, and (2) the male and female sexual wiring differences. For instance, the clinical model of the sexual response tells us that the first stage is “Desire.” Well, for many women they do not experience the emotion of desire until there is at least some degree of mental, emotional and/or physical arousal. So, for women the stage of “Arousal” precedes “Desire.” This is important information for many women who wonder why they are never in the mood.

    If you can get a hold of the book “And They Were Not Ashamed” and read chapters 3 and 4 which walk you through the intricacies of the female sexual response and then read chapter 5 that lists 18 of these critical differences in how women are wired differently than men sexually I think it will be helpful.

    The topic of sexual intimacy in marriage is an ongoing subject on my Strengthening Marriage Blog as well as the topic of my weekly online show “The Marital Intimacy Show” on The Women’s Information Network (The WIN).

    Sexual intimacy is such an important part of strong marriages that I hope women continue to develop greater comfort with the subject and work to embrace this God-given part of their beingness. I wish us all God’s speed in understanding His designs for sexuality — not only for our dear husband’s sake, but for ourselves, our children and our society.

    Laura M. Brotherson
    http://www.StrengtheningMarriage.com

  80. Thank you Laura. We got your book some years back, and it has made an appreciable difference in our marriage. You are so right that this is a critical and important issue to a strong marriage.

  81. I appreciated #75′s comments to those who are single. In my case, no real education from my parents. One time my Dad told my Mom to tell me a Judy Blume book I had wasn’t good (true- it was Forever about a girl’s first time). And another time I was looking at a romance novel my mom had, she told me those type of books aren’t good due to creating a desire to do. And that was basically my sex ed.

    I joined the church in my teens- currently I’m in my early 40s.

    Single, chaste- never been loved or in a position to violate this law. I’m proud of remaining faithful, despite the fact I long to be loved and have a man love me and hug me,etc

    Whatever- I think my lesson to the next generation is that one strive to be happy in life w/o being loved by a man. Also to teach them to be strong in maintaining their standards.

    Some time ago a coworker told me one must have sex prior to marriage as it is so essential..she said you have to know this specific area. She disagreed. I told her there are many types of intimacy, I told her about one of the LDS marriage books that reviews the various types of intimacy (ie emotional,etc) but never got around to bringing her that book.

  82. I followed the link here from mormontherapist and am sorry that I missed the discussion. As a man, I have enjoyed reading the perspectives of so many women on this topic.

    I could write volumes but will try to be brief. I am impressed that so many here seem to place a high priority on their marriage and on maintaining all types of intimacy with their partner. I have been married for close to 20 years now and for the past several years have unsuccessfully tried to establish a more connected relationship with my wife. As m&m mentioned, we rarely really know what any other marriage/family relationship is like besides our own, but I admire and am jealous of many of you that seem to be unitedly working together with your spouses for a strong marriage.

    While neither my wife nor I can be totally responsible for the state of our marriage, I will say that her apparent disinterest in improving intimacy is challenging my ability to have a high level of trust in her, which results in somewhat of a negative, eroding cycle that is difficult to break.

    So, to answer at least the first question, I wish I had understood more clearly that the “goal” is not just a satisfying physical relationship and that physical intimacy is only meaningful when accompanied with trust and emotional closeness.

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