Sex is wonderful and can be one of the greatest parts of life if we do it right. It is a gift to us given from God and when we practice it in the right space in the right way, it can be truly amazing! There is always going to be a lot of variation in people’s sexuality and everything that goes with it. Because of the media, we think we should fit a mold in our sexuality, but we are all very unique. Coming together in a marriage, you will have sexual differences. We need to honor each other’s differences, which can sometimes be very difficult. This is where sexual agency comes in, and we will see how important it is to our sexual lives.
What is Sexual Agency
Sexual agency is the idea that every person gets to choose how, when, and with whom they engage sexually. This is something that we always have, regardless of marital status. We find it a lot easier to understand and respect sexual agency before marriage, but it doesn’t change in importance or relevance once you are married. Our spouse’s body is their own and they get to choose how they engage with you sexually, just the same as you should be able to choose how to engage with them sexually.
In a relationship where sexual agency isn’t being respected, there is likely some coercion, manipulation, and working to convince your spouse to do things sexually they don’t want to do. One partner may feel forced into having sex more often or in ways that they don’t want to. There is nothing that kills desire or sex drive faster than feeling like you have no choice in the sexual act that is being performed or that you are performing. Discussions will need to be had to find a middle ground so neither partner feels neglected, but if there is coercion or manipulation, then sexual agency is not being respected.
When there is respect for sexual agency in a relationship,we respect our spouses desires, likes, and dislikes. If your partner doesn’t want to have sex, you don’t force or manipulate them into having sex. Perhaps there’s something you really want to try in the bedroom but your spouse doesn’t feel comfortable with it. Until they are comfortable with it, you should respect their sexual agency and they should never be forced, manipulated, or coerced to do that thing. Respect their no, and expect your no to be respected as well!
Seeking novelty in a relationship is a great thing that can help keep your sexual relationship fresh and exciting. However, like mentioned above, we have to be careful not to use our pursuit of novelty to coerce our spouse into doing things they don’t feel comfortable with. If there is something that you really want to try that they aren’t comfortable with, take a minute to reflect. Why is this important to you? Is it the novelty of it? Does this thing seem really new or exciting to you? Do you think it will improve your relationship? Once you figure out the root of what it is that is important to you, talk to your spouse and find a compromise. Something that will fulfill that need in you, while still feeling comfortable for them.
In every area of our lives, we like to experience excitement. We like to try new foods, we like to go to new places, and try out new jobs. The same is true in our sex lives! It doesn’t mean that something is wrong in your sexual relationship if you want to try new things, novelty is simply a way that you can learn together and introduce some excitement into your relationship, change things up, etc. Seeking novelty is a good way to keep the passion alive in a long term marriage. Don’t be afraid to try out something new. Respect each other’s “no” and remember that you are allowed to change your mind on how you feel about sexual matters at any time. If your partner likes something new you tried the first time, but then decides they aren’t comfortable with it in the future, respect that as well. We are beings that are constantly changing, so it stands to reason that our sexual tastes would change over time as well.
Finding More Emotional Connection During Sex
The emotional connection you have with your spouse outside of the bedroom will largely translate to inside of the bedroom. Focus on that connection, pay attention to the way that your spouse feels loved and find ways to help them feel that love. When you are actively working to improve your emotional connection outside of the bedroom, your bedroom connection will naturally follow suit.
How much you care about your partners experience during sex is really obvious and plays a big role in how they feel loved by you in the bedroom. Take an interest in their pleasure. It is totally appropriate for each partner to invest in their own pleasure and care about it, but it is equally important for you to be invested in your partner’s pleasure. Words of affirmation after sex go a long way toward helping your partner feel loved and appreciated in the bedroom.
Sexual Desire Patterns
Sexual desire patterns shift. Things that used to excite you don’t anymore. How can you navigate that with compassion? Change is inevitable in our sex lives. We should EXPECT change. When we have that expectation then when the changes happen they don’t feel so jarring. There is never a more vulnerable situation than sex. You have more power to love them and to hurt them in that setting than in any other setting because it is so incredibly vulnerable.
When you have more compassion, especially for your partner, sex will be more enjoyable. For a lot of couples, sex right now seems like a job or a chore. As we work on this compassion with our spouse, sex will become something filling, that helps us feel loved nad excited in our marriage, instead of feeling like a chore. Both the higher and the lower desire spouse needs to compromise. As the lower desire spouse, it is a chance to help your spouse feel loved by regularly having sex. As the higher desire spouse, it is a chance to allow your lower desire partner to contribute to the decision.
Spontaneous vs. Responsive Desire
Exploring your type of desire can really help your relationship flourish. Figure out what type of desire you experience and experiment with it so that the higher desire spouse doesn’t feel neglected and the lower desire spouse doesn’t feel forced to have sex all the time.
Spontaneous desire- a person who experiences spontaneous desire experiences sexual desire throughout the day. They may randomly have a thought that they want to have sex and feel a little arousal when they think about sex. This can happen at any time for them, and makes them feel aroused very quickly.
Responsive desire- people who experience responsive desire need physical arousal before sex sounds appealing to them. If you try to just jump into sex with them, it likely won’t be pleasurable for them for quite a while. Foreplay is the best friend of those who experience this type of desire.
Connecting Better Physically
Really understand the sexual functioning of your partner. You should be an expert on your partner’s body and sexual functioning. It is very helpful to understand your own body and sexual functioning as well, but you need to know what feels pleasurable to your spouse in order to allow your spouse to enjoy themselves in the bedroom! Without understanding your partner’s functionality, you are experimenting with zero knowledge.
It’s a common misconception that intercourse is the most pleasurable thing for men and women. Both men and women have very sensitive areas. For men it’s the penis, for women it’s the clitoris. For most women, about 75%, intercourse will not help them reach orgasm. So, learn to understand your spouses functioning better! We shouldn’t expect our spouse to teach us everything we need to know about their sexual functioning. We need to seek out other resources as well.
Don’t be afraid to explore. Not just with each other in the bedroom, but by finding quality resources to learn how to improve your sex life. Often as Christians we are scared to do research because we don’t know what we will find and we don’t know if it will align with our values. That’s a very valid fear, but there are so many great resources now provided by people with values that align with yours. So be willing to explore great resources as far as you’re comfortable!
Black Belt Sex Tips
- Ask your spouse “what things are really appealing to you that we haven’t done before, or haven’t done in a while?” “What’s something that you really want to do in the bedroom?” That can be something that is very vulnerable to share. Unless asked, it might not ever come up! So ask your spouse what you can do to improve their sexual experience.
- Pursue a sexual relationship where both partners orgasm regularly. Doesn’t have to be something that happens every time or simultaneously. But focus on pursuing a sexual relationship where it’s equally pleasurable. This is especially hard for women. But, research has yet to identify women who aren’t actually capable of orgasm! It just takes some time to learn how to orgasm. Really dedicate yourself, both of you, to learning about women’s orgasm and pursuing that.
- Don’t give up on the sexual relationship that you hope for. It takes work. Life is crazy and we can get tired easily. But this can be one of the most meaningful parts of your relationship. It can be so so good! If you’re feeling discouraged in your sexual relationship, keep trying. It doesn’t always have to be this way. There is always hope. There is so much room for improvement and it can get so much better.
Carlie Palmer Webb
Our interview with Carlie Palmer-Webb taught us so much about sexual agency. If you want to hear more, listen to the full podcast episode here. You can check Carlie out on Instagram at the username @carliepalmerwebb or by searching for The Christian Sex Educator.
Like what you read? Be sure to listen to the full podcast episode and download the Intimately Us app, the fun and sexy app for your marriage! It’s full of games, connecting activities, and ideas to increase connection and pleasure in the bedroom.