Sex is supposed to be exciting and fun. When Christians talk about sex, it usually sounds neither. A lot of men go nuts at marriage enrichment retreats because all the language about sex is soft, lacy, and babyish. It sounds nothing like the sex we want to have.

This leaves Christian men with the technical terms — the biological terms, like coitus, penis, testicles, vagina, fellatio, cunnilingus, and ejaculation. None of these words are sexy. None of them are fun. These words make sex sound about as exciting as a trip to the urologist.

The other alternative is making sex sound superspiritual. While the best sex is always a spiritual experience, we sometimes describe it in ways that exclude the fun and erotic aspects. In church the words we’ve most often heard in reference to sex are holy, powerful, union, and sacred. While every one of these words is appropriate, they still don’t adequately describe the sex most of us want to have. It sounds like part of a liturgy or a mystic ritual. Good stuff, but still nothing that makes you think of getting hot and heavy with your wife. The spirit is emphasized at the expense of our God-designed flesh.

And forget about being funny, lest you’re accused of being disrespectful. It’s a shame, because humor makes sex so much easier to talk about, as long as it’s not degrading. Christians might sound smart or wise about sex once in a while, but we’re almost never funny unless it’s by accident.

We don’t have a good vocabulary for sex. Once again, the pornographers and Puritans spoiled it for us. The pornographers came up with crass words for sexual acts and parts of the body. Though some of these words are harmless, the pornographers claimed them for their own. The Puritans followed up by slapping an “obscene” label on them. It’s sad because a few of these words aren’t degrading at all. Some are even kind of fun. But culture considers them profane, so most Christians never use them unless they’re out of earshot of anyone who would care. You and your wife might have even spoken them on a night when things got a little wild, but you wouldn’t dare use them in the light of day.

Talking about sex is important for great lovers. First of all, you have to talk to your wife about sex. It’s important to communicate with her before lovemaking even begins so you both understand each other’s needs and desires. You’ll also want to talk to each other while making love, expressing your passion out loud, and telling one another what you like. During such times, a word like coitus won’t express the passion you feel. It might even do the opposite. Your wife could break out in a fit of laughter, and all plans for coitus might go out the window.

A great lover also talks with other men — his sons, brothers, and friends — about sexuality. It’s different, of course, than the conversation he has with his wife, but he’s not ashamed to discuss sex with other men. When he does so, he probably doesn’t want to use words like penis and testicles. Just as he wants to use words that are sexy and fun with his wife, he’ll want to use words that are casual and even humorous with other men.

Because of this, many men resort to “dirty” words. That might be okay if a man avoids the degrading words, but it’s still pretty lame. He has to borrow words from the pornographers, and great lovers deserve better than that. But if he doesn’t borrow from them, he’s left with the medical terms that make sex sound technical and boring.

Late one night I pondered this problem while preparing a talk on sexuality for a group of seminary students. I wanted the talk to be direct and specific, but the last thing I wanted to do was stand in front of them using words like testicles. Of course, I wasn’t going to use secular slang either, if I ever wanted to be invited back. I realized that Christians need their own language for sexuality, something new and exciting. I had no idea what to do.

When the solution hit me, I felt stupid that I hadn’t realized it sooner. I’d known all along where the answer lay. My mistake was trying to think of something new, when what I really needed was something old. God gave us a vocabulary for sex long ago. It’s been there for millennia, staring us in the face, waiting to be used. The fun, sexy vocabulary we need is in the Bible, in our old friend the Song of Songs.

Sexy talk was in the Bible long before the pornographers crafted the first four-letter word. In other words, Christians had a vocabulary for sex before the Puritans or pornographers started messing up the works. We have only to avail ourselves of these words. Below is a glossary of biblical images for sexuality. Use it with your wife to be sexy and fun, use it to have fun discussions with other men, and use it to make talking about sex a lot less awkward.

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We didn’t take liberties with Scripture to come up with these terms. Most of these references were common in erotic poetry during the period when the Song was written. Readers of the time would have gotten the double entendres. Though our exegetical work is solid, no one can be 100 percent sure what the author of the Song intended. In rare instances, we made educated guesses guided by research.

This glossary isn’t exhaustive. We encourage you to read the Song of Songs and pick out some of your own fun and sexy terms. Even if your interpretations aren’t 100 percent accurate, the words you pick will still be better than the crude attempts of the pornographers or biological terms from sex ed. We hope you enjoy this new (but old) biblical language for sex.

And feel free to laugh, with delight, surprise, or amusement.

apples: testicles
clusters (of the palm): breasts
dew: male sexual secretions
entering the garden: sexual intercourse
fawns: breasts
feed among the lilies: oral sex or sexual kissing
foxes: interruptions or obstacles to sex
fruit: genitals, male or female (usually female)
garden: vulva and vagina
garden of nuts: penis and testicles
gazelle: penis
know/knowing/known: sexual intercourse
lovesick: horny
mountains: breasts
myrrh: female sexual secretions
orchard of pomegranates: vulva and vagina
palm: woman’s body
pleasant fruits: pleasure coming from the vagina — the Song likens entering the garden to entering paradise
round goblet: vulva
stag: penis, sometimes the whole male body
towers: breasts
twins of a gazelle: breasts
vine: penis, sometimes the whole body
vineyard: the woman’s body or genitals
wine: symbol of erotic pleasure


You can use these words to make fun, sexy phrases that you and your wife share. Here are a few of our favorites:

 “I think the stag is ready to   play in the garden.”
“I feel like getting some fruit from the orchard.”
“The vine is definitely growing in the garden of nuts.”
“I’m in the mood to climb the palm tree.”
“We should let the gazelle and fawns out tonight.”
“Would you like me to feed among the lilies?”

We could go on, but you get the idea.

Have fun with the language God gave us for sex in the Song of Songs. By using these words, we’re reclaiming sex as something from God. We’re showing the Puritans that it’s okay to be playful and sexy. It’s putting the pornographers on notice that the Bible has better words for sex than they do. And it’s honoring God’s gift of sex in its fullness — something sacred, erotic, and fun.

And one last idea: invite your wife to read the Song of Songs with you. It provides a wonderful model for passionate intimacy, something to which you can aspire. You can use the principles of the book to inform the ways you treat each other and to enrich your sex life. However, I recommend setting aside more time than usual for Bible study while reading the Song. Things might get hot. You could end up doing “life application” of biblical principles right away. I hope you do. Imagine God’s delight as you use the Bible for foreplay.

Taken from What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Sex, by Howes, Rupp, and Simpson.

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