Sheila, where did the book idea came from?
A couple of years ago my husband and I started speaking at marriage conferences. I never thought I’d be known as the “sex lady,” but we loved doing the sex talk — we could lay it all on the line. And people reacted to that.
All of this stuff that I assumed everybody knew, most people don’t know because there is very little good information out there. I thought, A woman needs to write a book from a woman’s perspective on what sex is really like to prepare women for marriage. It’s about time women heard it from a “big sister” — that’s what I’m trying to be in this book.
You’ve been writing on this topic for some time . . .
I’ve been writing my To Love, Honor and Vacuum blog since 2008. Some of the emails I receive are heart breaking and I thought, Wow, if people are really dealing with this, then we, the Church, need to start talking about it more openly and provide some real teaching. There’s this taboo that we’re not supposed to talk about sex. I don’t believe that.
Tell me about your research.
I conducted three surveys, which included several thousand men and women — it was quite eye opening.
What were those surprises?
When I was a young woman about to get married I read a bunch of Christian books that talked about the honeymoon and how to make your wedding night wonderful. They were all focused on how to have an orgasm. It made me so stressed. I thought, I don’t want my wedding night to be something that’s a failed experience. I don’t want all this pressure. I decided to check into how many women actually do have a good time on their wedding night and the number was surprisingly low. Very few people have physically good wedding nights. But that doesn’t mean that their sex life is doomed.
The women who were virgins who had a horrible time physically on their wedding night were as likely ten years later to have a good sex life as those who had a great time.
Your wedding night makes no difference — we’re putting way too much emphasis on it. For me, I think if I were a young bride getting married that would be a big relief to know. So, relax, have fun, get to know each other with no pressure.
How would you set expectations for a couple on their wedding night?
I would say to them: Do what you want to do and don’t plan a whole lot. Don’t worry. Let what happens happen and remember that you’ve got years to figure this out.
Some women suggest that you don’t do anything that night because you’re so exhausted and to wait till the morning. But I’m not sure that’s realistic for a lot of guys. Some people have wonderful wedding nights from a physical standpoint and some don’t. But it doesn’t matter. Enjoy being together and the rest will come together. Every women needs to get that simple message.
When you’re together for the first time, the man doesn’t always know what he’s doing, which means it’s not going to feel very good for her. And if it doesn’t feel good for her, she might wonder if something’s wrong with her body — which is not the case.
We need to understand it’s a learning curve. Instead of measuring sex by each individual encounter, look at it over the course of a lifetime. It’s going to be getting better.
The second surprise from my research — and this one was quite sad — was that about 42% of women reported making love less than once a week. I thought, Okay, that’s a problem; I’m pretty sure that most men would rather make love more often, and that’s when I decided to survey the men and see what their perspective was. Sure enough, they agreed. About 42% said they’re making love less than once a week and the men were very frustrated by this. I think that’s something that women really don’t understand.
We’ve heard from women frustrated because their men are withholding. Did your research agree?
Yes, that was a surprise. I found 30% to 35% of men want sex less than their wives do. Frequency of sex is still a matter of contention for couples.
I think for women the big problem with frequency of sex is that women do not understand their own sex drives. There is this big misconception that in order to make love I have to be in the mood and that sounds perfectly natural. But it doesn’t work that way for women.
What research has shown is most women when they start to make love, they are not aroused at all. The arousal only comes while you’re making love. If you put your mind to it — and decide to jump in with everything you’ve got — even if you aren’t in the mood, chances are you will get in the mood once you start.
And you say Christians have more fun?
My research revealed Christians tend to have better sex than non-Christians. In a Christian marriage, you know it isn’t all about the physical. There’s also an emotional connection and even a spiritual connection that comes through. Sex can be deeply emotionally satisfying and that’s often what makes it so great.
I found people who do it God’s way — the women who were virgins on their wedding night — they tend to have better sex later on. The research does show the more we understand God’s design for sex, the better it’s going to be.
I would love for people to understand how wonderful God made sex to be in a marriage. I saw a saying on the Internet: “Life is using every crayon in the box.” We’re supposed to experience everything, and I’m really afraid that so many people have chosen to put certain colors away because sex is too much. It’s a chore. It’s messy. It’s dirty. We’re always fighting over it. My life would be better if it didn’t exist.
And that’s not true because God wants us to live a passionate life with sex. Pray about it and move in that direction. If you believe it in your head — believe that’s what God has for you — I think He can make it a reality in your body and in your bed. But if you don’t believe it in your head, it’s always going to be lousy. It’s your choice whether you’re getting onboard with God or whether you’re going to decide to have a lousy sex life. Who wants that when it could be so much more?
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