Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby. (No, really — I need your thoughts.)

I’ve been invited to speak at an event for moms of young children this month, and the topic will be sex, which makes me ECSTATIC. The topic makes me ecstatic. And sex done well makes me ecstatic. I meant the former, then I realized it sounded like I meant the latter, then I realized both apply, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Whatever. We’re just going to leave it as is and go with it. 

Now, USUALLY when I speak, it’s about topics like adoption and faith and waving in the dark and finding magic in the mess when life goes, well, a little off plan. Last time I spoke with this group, it was on the reality of marriage — beautiful and brutal and, if we’re lucky, beautiful again. I’m an expert on zero things, and so I don’t approach speaking gigs from a “how to” or “what you should do” perspective. Instead, I simply share what I’ve learned and what I’ve experienced — even the parts that aren’t all that pretty — and invite the audience to pick and choose from my life lessons to see if they might use any bits for themselves. I’m less like high end, boutique, carefully curated shopping and more like bargain basement, hand-me-down shopping. You’re welcome at my event in your yoga pants and messy bun, and we’re going to rummage through the bins together, laugh at some of the offerings, recognize there are a few things that could use a good washing, pick up some useful items we were missing, and maybe even find a treasure we want to take home and keep forever.

It’s less like attending a lecture or a class and more like hanging out, chatting with friends about the stuff that may be harder to admit out loud. 

And, over the years, I have DEFINITELY hung out and chatted with friends about sex because, to be honest, there are things you can learn from friends you’ll never learn from books or magazines, and there are ways friends help normalize sex that no trashy novel is going to replicate. Not that one can’t get fantastic ideas from bodice rippers. 😉 As the direct beneficiary, Greg always loves it when my reading material goes downhill from literature to smut. 

So I’m deep in preparation mode at the moment, working through what I want to share with this group. And, really, I’m working through what I wish I’d heard earlier in my relationship and building a family. I know some of the stories I’m going to tell. I know which ideas I’ve clung to for my almost-25-year marriage, and which I’ve patently discarded. 

But I’m also one person with one person’s experience, and I feel like, especially with this topic, it’s important to share what others have learned, too. Or what others wish they’d known. 

If I’m going to tell the whole truth as I best understand it (which I am because it’s my best flaw), I’m feeling both excited and cautious about the topic. I’m excited because an opportunity to unpack something so integral to most relationships but so hush-hush in many circles is a privilege and a sacred trust. And I’m cautious because I want to be as vulnerable, authentic, and open as possible while also honoring the women in the room who don’t share my experience. Not everyone there will be heterosexual, or married, or monogamous, or cisgendered, or sexual at all (hello, ace friends), and, while I feel no need to apologize for my background, I also want anything I share to be as sensitive and inclusive and non-assumptive as possible. And the very best way to do that, I believe, is to include others’ experiences, as well.

So I’m asking you, friends. 

If you had the opportunity, what would you share with a group of moms with youngsters?

What do you know now that you didn’t know before and wish you had?

What did you always know that still feels essential and true?

Or, for bonus points, share a story with us. When did you have an “ah ha!” understanding about sex? What conversation or book or article stands out in your mind as instructive? Who’s the person you can ask All the Things? What has that human shared with you that would be fantastic for the rest of us to know? Or share something else entirely. It’s up to you.

I’ll go first so you can see the kind of stuff I’m talking about, but I’ll be very brief because no one has time to read through an entire speaking engagement transcript. Here are a few of the tiny things I’ll be sharing:

1. I’m really grateful to my mom for the way she framed sex. She came from a family that didn’t talk about sex but she chose to change that for her children. She was always open with us and couched sex as something wonderful and not gross or sinful. She used correct terminology for body parts and I never felt I should be ashamed of having a vagina any more than I was ashamed of having lungs. They’re just body parts with different functions, and it’s OK to use them for their intended purposes.

2. I have a lot of Big Feelings about growing up in the Church and the messaging about sex from modern, American Evangelical culture vs. what’s actually in the Bible. To be clear, those two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. There’s overlap, obviously. And the Bible is also not an Instruction Book or Blueprint for Life-ing Correctly; it’s much bigger and broader and more nuanced than that. But both the evangelical subculture and that culture’s interpretation of the Bible had an enormous influence on what those of us who grew up in the Church were taught about sex and our bodies, so they have a long reach as we consider sexual health. 

3. I carried a LOT of assumptions about sex into the early years of my marriage. That’s both OK and normal. It’s also OK and normal to reevaluate what we think about all aspects of seasons of our lives after we actually begin living them. That applies to marriage, sex, parenting, money, and more. Infinite things, really. We simply CAN’T KNOW EVERYTHING going into a new era so the wisest course of action is to take what we knew (or thought we knew) and assess it based on what we’ve learned since. Case in point, I believed (truly and completely) that I should receive 100% of my sexual pleasure from my husband after marriage and 0% from myself. I already felt somewhat embarrassed and ashamed of masturbation prior to marriage — like, I thought it might be OK since the Bible didn’t mention it, but oh my gosh, what if self pleasuring led to obsessive and objectifying thoughts?? — that would be TERRIBLE. I was conflicted to say the least, but I was pretty positive any Sex for One activity was downright reprehensible post-vows. Now I think it’s rather silly to expect anyone to have a fantastic sex life without figuring out how their own body works. We were 4 years into marriage before I sheepishly asked Greg if he ever did it and confessed I might have once or twice and hoped he wasn’t mad. Can I just say?… we’ve come a LONG way since then about openness and bodies and sharing valuable, helpful information, and now I think we were ADORABLE. Repressed, but adorable. What we thought we could and couldn’t do early on was less than helpful. Bless our earnest and well-intentioned hearts.

There are approximately 100 other stories and personal life-lessons I’ll be sharing (presuming they don’t read this, gasp in horror, and cancel the engagement 😂), but I’ll sign off for now. 

Tell me, folks. What are your thoughts? What are your life lessons? What do you wish women with littles could know that they might not know yet?

With love (and waving), 

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
29 comments
  1. I have never had a big sex drive. I had no idea how to even give myself an orgasm until after meeting my future husband, who was also a virgin, and him trying to figure it out without any help from me. I have no desire at all to masturbate and honestly feel I’d be fine if I went through life never having sex again. That being said, my husband is an incredibly patient man and a completely generous, selfless lover who sees the half hour it takes to get me warmed up as just as enjoyable as the actual “act.” I’m always 1,000 per cent into it once he gets me to that point and I am so thankful he doesn’t take it personally that I just don’t get horny on my own. I wish I had a bigger sex drive for his sake, but we are still able to have a healthy sex life. He doesn’t get as much as he’d like and I get more than I like, and we are both understanding of that.

  2. There’s been a lot of good stuff already addressed, but I’ll just add that sex for a person with a vagina doesn’t have to be penetrative to “count.” There are more ways to be intimate than just the penis in vagina variety. The most important aspect of sex is being open and communicating your wants/desires and what’s working/not with your partner. What works for me won’t necessarily work for someone else, so it’s important to know yourself and speak up. Also, my mom told me on the eve of my virginal wedding to never say “no.” It was well intentioned, but it led me into have sex a lot when I was hurting due to my extreme endometriosis. Navigating sex while having physical limitations is something I’ve had to figure out with my husband over the 13+ years we’ve been married. I think this is an aspect of life that gets ignored—at some point most of us will experience something that limits our sexual capabilities be it childbirth, injury, or even just age.

    1. I think this is really important Megan. One of the things I struggled with and lots of my friends too is “how often is normal” and I think that changes so much depending on where you’re at – post birth with my first child which was a traumatic high forceps delivery I didn’t think I’d ever want to have sex ever again.. It took a long time to heal both physically and emotionally (and several operations) but ten years on (and another baby, now aged 5) I feel in a much better place both sexually and in accepting that my body has gone through huge changes and accepting myself as a whole person.

      I think ageing is a big and complicated thing in our society and we’re often as women expected to be trying to be 20 when we’re not and so self-acceptance is a big thing for our own sexuality. Listening to ourselves. And our significant other.

      When I discovered eventually, when we talked about it because I was feeling guilty that I didn’t want to have sex, that my husband had been “helping himself” after the birth of our first child because I was not in a fit state to even consider sex for a long number of months (9+, maybe over a year in the end?) I was so glad and grateful that he’d “got it” and hadn’t even asked me during that time. He was so kind. I felt cherished and loved and that he saw all I was doing to heal and look after our son. Communication is a big one and the good news is it can get better and better the more at ease and older we get.

      And my last pearl of wisdom(?!) to add to all the great things previous posters have written is to say in the vein of knowing yourself if you have had conservative/difficult/conflictive messages growing up it can truly be difficult to discern what you want. So starting baby steps (and with therapy for some of the bigger life stuff if necessary ;)?!) is good – so for me for example it has taken me a long time to recognise that although sometimes I might be on fire hormonally and all “let’s go right now” – mostly I am a calm tidy person who really likes to have had a shower first to wash off the day and if my other half has too then that really helps me because nice smells and clean skin equals more turned on. But it took me forever to own that this is a preference actually and I have a right to have a preference and just like to have sex after showers – that I don’t obligate myself or my OH to do it it’s just a nice thing. But I felt so guilty that I was repressed for ages, that I should have been wanting to have “down and dirty sex” and why didn’t I like the smell of sweat?!.. That’s what I mean – your head can get so messed up that you feel wrong for doing one thing or the other thing – you’re hearing messages from TV/Ads etc etc you’re supposed to be wanting to do it in a hay barn/outside in the snow/covered in mud or whatever and you’re also supposed to be doing it for three hours with candles and a romantic essential oils massage in a beautiful boudoir – you can’t live up to all/any of it! – I just want a shower – and understanding that it’s not that big a deal/a bad thing is great 😉 – that tuning in to what you really want is a stage by stage thing and it’s a good but hard path for some of us..

  3. 1. Your partner likes to see you naked no matter how unattractive you might feel or how much your body has changed.

    2. I have been divorced twice, including when one of my children was a baby. Both marriages ended less than favorably. When I began dating i had satisfying (excellent) sexual relationships and encounters that built up my confidence and helped me reclaim who I knew myself to be. If it is compatible with your beliefs, I think brief encounters or a longer non-marital relationship can be healing.

    3. If you find yourself single with young children it can seem intimidating to be with someone new. See #1.

  4. I second the advice from Allison to use gender-neutral language when talking about sex with your children. You never know who your children will end up being attracted to and you don’t want to make assumptions. It’s also really important that children know the scientific/correct names for all their body parts and that they are comfortable talking about them at home. The research shows that children who are able to talk about their bodies correctly and without shame are less likely to be sexually abused/exploited. My children are still young, but we’ve talked about masturbation. My children know it’s a normal, healthy thing to touch yourself and make yourself feel good, as long as it’s done in private. We’ve also made sure our children know how babies are made. At this point they don’t quite understand why on earth you’d want to have sex without making a baby, but they know adults do this because it feels good and because it’s a way to show you love someone. Our plan is to talk about how different families have different rules for when you have sex (age) and with whom you have sex and that it’s important to respect these rules. We plan to have regular conversations about consent, and we currently do this by making sure to stop immediately when asked during tickle fights, etc.

  5. I grew up in a conservative church where the assumption was – guys will always want sex, and girls don’t really. Sex is something you give your husband because he has a higher sexual need than you and because it’s how he will feel close to you. You won’t really want it like he does, but it’s a good idea to still give it to him anyway. Also, never masturbate because that’s lusting, and later your husband won’t be able to give you orgasms.

    Fast forward to my early 30s when my sex drive kicked, and I was single, still a virgin and absolutely horny. I went to counseling and worked through my guilt about masturbating because my body needed to – and also I learned to orgasm then. I got married (still a virgin) at 36, and low and behold – we have a MASSIVE orgasm gap in my favor because it turns out that masturbating can actually help you know your own anatomy so that you can orgasm with your husband A LOT. It’s awesome, and I’m so grateful that I learned to listen to my own body. Also, our sex drives are similar – but I still have a higher drive than he does. All the instruction about “give your husband sex because HE needs it” doesn’t makes sense to a high drive woman – and if you’re not careful, divergence from that norm can make a high drive woman feel like her husband isn’t attracted to her, which is NOT true. Fortunately I had done therapy and listened to a lot of therapy – and so I knew that when I got married. But I would say some of the gendered instruction is alienating to women who don’t fit that mold. Instead of – your husband has a need, and sometimes it’s good for your marriage to meet that, how about “people have different natural drives and desires for sex. It means ZERO about the other person’s personal attractiveness – and it’s just something you talk about and figure out in the same way you talk about and figure out the difference in desire for cleanliness or money or time together or all the things.”

    Also, I would tell women – for goodness sake, it shouldn’t HURT. I found out recently that one of best friends has had pain in sex for TEN YEARS, which she endured because she thought this was something she needed to do for her husband. If sex hurts, tell someone, talk to your doctor, and get help. ❤️

    Also, thank you for talking to women about this topic. ❤️

    1. This is me and my husband.

  6. As a society we have normalized the idea that sex is something the male pushes for and the female rejects until she wants it. It sounds great for the single folks and makes for titilating tv. This idea carries into marriage where it can be toxic. In a marriage, the needs of both partners should be considered. Men need sex. They need the release, the physical connection. When you feel distant, which has the side effect of making us ladies NOT want it, sex can actually close the gap and bring you back together. As wives/partners we should be willing to give it to them more often than not – and, if he does it well – it can end up being great for both parties! Of course, if you get the chance to address the men – explain to them that stepping up and sharing the load of child caring and house cleaning and everything else is the best foreplay and as much as a woman is wiling to give of herself to her husband and kids – he needs to be just as giving.

  7. “As the direct beneficiary, Greg always loves it when my reading material goes downhill from literature to smut.” OMG, girl, SAME! My Jake has been getting a lot of good fallout from me reading Star Wars fanfic focused on Rey and Ben Solo. He teases me about it, but also asks why I didn’t start reading this stuff years ago.

  8. I’m in my early 50s and menopausal. 5 kids ages 13 to 23 in the house. That means we have to be creative and also assertive (lock the door and make some kind of statement like, Mom and Dad are going to bed. Goodnight! so they know not to come in.) Cause no teenager wants to think about their parents that way.

    I wish I had known when my kids were younger how important sex is to my husband. Not like he’s an obsessed pervert or shallow, carnal beast. Just that it’s an important part of how he feels deeply connected to me. I was sometimes distracted by my own perceived post-baby unattractiveness or perpectual tiredness. I doubted his attraction to me, and this focus on myself made me unable to fully give myself to him. Over the past 25 years of marriage, I’ve learned to ask God to take away any/all thoughts about myself during intimate moments, and instead focus on being fully present in the moment–which by the way, makes sex way better and more fun. Our sex life has gotten more exciting, creative, and fulfilling despite our bodies getting older, less attractive, and less limber. I’m grateful we’re here; I just wish I had started sooner.

  9. So many interesting responses, and I have very little time to read them all. When my kids were little, we felt like we had no time for intimacy of any kind, let alone sex. But we decided to plan that one night a week we would have sex if we could. The same night every week (Tuesdays, I think), after kiddo bedtime.
    It was a little like auto maintenance. We were in a deeply physical point in parenting and it was easy to put off anything else physical, but we both needed that kind of connection.
    Now we have teenagers and it is SO MUCH HARDER to find time to have sex. They are up late, they are up early, they are always around, they are never around, they want us to leave them alone, they are hurt when we do things without them. This is a whole new challenge for us.
    But beyond talking about when we might have sex, my partner and I don’t really talk about sex. And that is disappointing, but it feels just so fraught. There is so much baggage and really, when are we ever going to have this conversation? There are so many other conversations that always get priority.

  10. My husband and I just celebrated our 40th anniversary! I was a virgin and 21 when we married. I did not grow up in a christian home but called myself a christian so I imposed certain restrictions on myself regarding sex growing up. In my marriage, sex was great before kids and after still great but just different at times. There are seasons for sex and whatever your experience is at the time, it’s right for you. Once a week, once a month, once a quarter, it’s all normal! I also used to think that if we didn’t have sex at least once a week, something was wrong with our marriage. This is total crap! Finding the time for sex when the kiddos are little is tough but doable. Telling the kids “mommy and daddy are talking about their christmas list lol,” or whatever to steal some alone time works great. Even if short on money for date night but someone can watch the tiny humans for a little while, get in the car, drive to a secluded spot and have sex in the car. Be creative! Not being really informed about sex, I was pretty naive about orgasms and that I could have more than one and while I did feel a lot of guilt about masterbation, I do think it’s very important to know how your body works and what you like. As a christian couple, I totally believe that whatever happens behind that bedroom door loving each other, is encouraged and accepted by God. He made our bodies and made them to receive pleasure! Just read Song of Solomon, and even if, when you are much older and one of you can’t have sex anymore due to medical reasons or whatever, that’s ok too. It might sound horrible, sex ending in your marriage but it’s not. We have such a loving close relationship, we wouldn’t trade it for anything. Sex doesn’t make the relationship and really is just a small part of it all but even if you are in this season of life, there is nothing wrong pleasuring yourself when your partner can’t provide that anymore.

  11. First of all, I’m a 60 year old juvenile, so when I was reading this I read “preparation” as “penetration.”
    Anyhoo… the most helpful thing I’ve read in recent years is an article a friend shared with me about loving our husbands, and not feeling “less than.” Which is something akin to what Peter said, and something that my husband reinforces all the time. I tend to push his hand away when he’s caressing my flab, but he LOVES me, and wants that touch. Although we may all wish we were size 6 models (which would actually be overweight for a model, I believe) we are the women that our SO wants, and they want us to want them back. My husband has shared with me that he also needs to be wanted.
    As for the other stuff, I was raised in a conservative church where sex was considered for married people only. It took me awhile to come to terms with all that guilt.

    1. Haha I read penetration, too.

  12. Ooo… so.many.things.
    First of all, I grew up in the church, but it was a liberal church so the messaging was more like, “Don’t have sex until you’re married… or you know, really in love or something.” I’ve got pretty much zero baggage there.
    I had sex with several people before I got married (including a 2 year relationship with a woman who ended up throwing my engagement party BTW), and with the exception of a few bad choices that I made based entirely on trying to prove I was something I am NOT, I don’t regret any of it. I don’t feel like used goods, or that my husband of nearly 20 years and I don’t have something special to share.
    What I’ve taught my 16 year old daughter about sex (and plan to teach the other 4) is that sex is great (except when it isn’t, and that’s ok too) and natural and hardwired into us. Wanting to have sex doesn’t mean you’re naughty or sinful or anything other than an animal – which let’s face it – we are.
    That said, the most important thing to remember about sex with another person is that it is in relationship (regardless of how long that relationship is) and any kind of healthy relationship requires that we respect ourselves and the other person.
    Also, as far as married sex goes – it’s ok to have sex when you don’t really want to once in a while. It doesn’t mean you’re anti-feminist or a doormat or being simply objectified (things that always worried me). Though mutual desire is a wonderful thing with fantastic outcomes, sometimes, especially if you have a partner whose primary love language is physical touch, you can just have sex as a favor. As long as you aren’t all grumpy about it it’s totally legit! Like a foot rub, except your hands don’t get so tired. 😉

  13. Ah, you are reminding me that I am overdue to have a for real talk to my daughter instead of just little check-ins… the one thing that I always have promised myself I would tell a daughter about, should I have one, is masturbation. Because I did not know it was a thing until well into my 20s and I feel strongly that if more young women knew that they could give themselves an orgasm they would not be giving themselves in backseats to young men who have no clue what they are doing. I say young men, even though I am married to a woman now, because that’s what I did because I had no voices telling me that there were any other options to explore what my body was feeling. That was in the late 80s/ early 90s and it’s a lot different now (in mostly good ways, I think!) but I still think that’s an important thing to pass on. An honest and non-judgmental discussion of your female body and pleasure. Males seem to figure out how to do it on their own, for whatever reasons… Also I think consent is something that our children need to be educated on early and often– both giving and making sure the other person has given their consent. Thank you for all you do!

  14. Don’t be afraid to schedule sex. It sounds boring and forced but sometimes it’s necessary. Now we wait until the kids are at school and can fully relax and enjoy ourselves. But we’ve also resorted to on the floor next to the baby sleeping in our bed. We have three kids and co-slept for years. You’ve got to get it when you can in those situations.

    Also sometimes I’m resistant because my mind has a million other places to be. But if I give it five minutes then I get over my brain and into the action.

    Also yes to masturbation.

  15. Most, decent, grown up men aren’t looing for a size 6 supermodel. They’ll look at them for sure but what most men want is a woman who’s okay with how she looks, confident in themselves and they have something in common with. Most of us are just pleased and amazed that a woman wants to be with us. So don’t beat yourself up because you’re carrying baby fat or crap like that. Be happy in who you are and the guy you’re with will most likely be too. We’re not all shallow bastards, mostly we’re scared and insecure but too dumb to be honest about it.

  16. Masturbation. That one’s huge…
    I taught both my kids that it’s perfectly normal and healthy to explore and learn your own body. Treat it with respect and kindness, and do the same when you connect with a partner.

    I can’t tell you how many grown men, both inside and outside the church, have dated my daughter and pressured her for sex because they feel inadequate or “dirty” about self-pleasure. One guy gave her a disgusted look and actually said “I don’t touch myself. That’s just gross.”

    We do our kids a huge disservice when we pressure them into a corner in which they can only recieve this kind of pleasure from another. It’s unfair to them and unfair to their future partners.

    You, my friend, are a hero. Keep on keeping on. <3

    1. Amazing response. Love it.

  17. A paraphrased quote from a book, Five People You Will Meet in Heaven, I read when I was in my 60s said about parenting, “The best you can hope for is that you do as little damage as possible.” I read this at a time when I was looking back over my life as a parent of four children and of course remembering every single thing I had said or done that was hurtful or not positive and then there was that quote which all of a sudden made me feel a little better about myself as a parent and maybe even possibly a good parent.

  18. You are NORMAL. That’s what I’d tell them. If you don’t have sex for 6 months after the baby came, that’s NORMAL. Somebody somewhere will be experiencing what you are going through too. If you jumped into bed right after you came back from hospital, that is also normal.

    But I second the comments above about communicating. Sometimes it feels like we’re having a business meeting about our sex life, and that’s ok. Talking about sex with our clothes on and the lights on, literally saying, ‘My hormones are going crazy and I love you and I want to have sex with you, but I’ve got a baby hanging off my breasts all day so by night I just want my body back and to be MINE for a few hours’. Otherwise how does he know what’s in my head?

    I hope your lecture/seminar/thing goes really well, and thank you for agreeing to do it. Not everybody would.

  19. When my husband and I got married, we took a premarital counseling class. It was mostly good.

    But the teacher/counselor said about sex – you should be having it often, regularly, and if you don’t, there’s something wrong. That you need to fix. That sex once a month or less was a “sexless marriage” and unhealthy.

    That advice has haunted me and stressed me out for years, and I finally have had to tell myself that he was just wrong for me and my husband.

    We have sex, we enjoy sex, but there’s no quota for a healthy sex life. Sometimes it’s twice a day, sometimes it’s once a month, but as long as both spouses as happy and talking and working together, it’s good.

  20. So a couple of things pretty basic.
    First not a single person told me that sex after having a c section might be painful. I was shocked and let down because good lord I was excited.
    Second someone somewhere told me there were three kinds of sex
    1. Fast Food Drive Through sex. You are starving and running late it’s what you can get and it keeps you from starving.
    2. Your dine in sex. It’s not fast food but it’s not elaborate. You have the time to enjoy your meal and maybe have some ice cream but you still need to keep moving along.
    3. Fine dinning. Ah the kind you see less of when you have kids because come on you just don’t have time for 4 courses and getting dressed up, but boy when you do it’s wonderful it tastes amazing and the planning it took to pull that kind of dinner off was so worth it.

    Each of these meals servers a purpose each very important and none more right than the other. My husband and I still talk about this and will plan fine dinning. But with kids it’s often dine in or drive through and that’s ok it’s all ok.

    Oh ya and it is totally ok for sex to be just for fun! This was a hard truth it took me a year to come to terms with after infertility, having a baby and then having my tubes tied. To realize sex was now literally just for intimacy and fun. What a freeing truth that was! Blessings to you and good luck.

  21. I think it’s super important not to use sex as payment in new marriages and relationships. As in “You’re so sexy when you do the dishes!” *wink wink or “I’ll buy you that sexy outfit if you let me take it off you anytime I want.”

    This is romanticized in movies and TV and even memes. But that is fiction not real life.

    It is not supposed to be a task to trade but an expression of feelings. Treating it like a thing makes it hard to remember that. Also, we are capable of doing dishes without bribery, but sometimes not without conversation. If you want your partner to do the dishes then say so in those words. You’re equals and I hope you respect each others ability to cope with normal everyday tasks.

    If you trade sex for things then eventually you find yourself feeling like you have to have sex because the thing was done. And that leads down a dark path for relationships. Don’t manipulate each other with sex because it really cheapens a thing that should be emotional and loving. It also makes it hard to put aside the tasks of life and be completely present with your partner. And some days I’d like to strangle my husband in his sleep but I also have needs

    Don’t get me wrong, if it’s really teasing make that clear and have fun. If soapy dishes actually does it for you and your partner then enjoy. Playfulness is the best part of my marriage. Also, if you’re happy with less commitment in your sexual encounters I have no room to judge. I am speaking specifically about long term partnerships.

    One last way this is important is as an example for young people. Things like kissing or holding hands or more can become trophies to be earned or goals to reach. I don’t want my son taking someone on a date just so he can claim to his friends to have touched breasts. (Or other body parts. I’m struggling with gender inclusion here but he happens to be attracted to girls so this matches his pronouns and preferences. Adjust to match your child as needed please.)

    In our family the rule is you can date or have a exclusive relationship whenever you feel like you’re ready. But that person has to spend time with our family before we agree to alone dates. It is harder to think of someone as a checkmark on a list if you’ve played Xbox with their siblings and eaten their mothers cooking (or take out) around their family table. This applies to all three of our children and not just my son. This also reenforces the idea that just because you like someone that doesn’t make them trustworthy. You need to get to know people a little to be sure.

  22. I also grew up in the Church (Baptist, although pretty liberal baptists) in the era of I Kissed Dating Goodbye (which is now hilarious as the author regrets his book and has left the church completely!). I turned out to be a big ol Queer kid and I thank the universe every day for saving me from the hell that is Marriage At 19 Cuz You Wanna Get Laid And Divorced By 25 that some of my church going friends and peers endured.

    Anyways, my advice to parents of littles is to use gender neutral language (partner, they/them) and to continuously challenge the notion that their kid is cisgendered and/or heterosexual. This is SO scary for some parents because our culture is so hell bent on shoving people into boxes that to be and do something different can make you more vulnerable… (in my case it prevented me from turning into an insipid know it all!). Most teens now identify as something other than exclusively heterosexual.

    Also I discovered Dan Savage (he writes Savage Love, a sex advice column) as a teenager and it BLEW everything wide open. I will be handing my kids his books when they are ready. It was pretty mind bending as a Newly Out Still Christian teenager in the early 2000s (I came out May 2001!).

  23. Quote from and text related to a book by Peggy Orenstein, author of Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape. “All young people—girls especially—need open, honest discussions about sexual ethics, including talking about pleasure, respect, decision-making, and reciprocity, or we are leaving them at the mercy of the messages they get from both the mainstream and ‘adult’ entertainment industries.”
    From an article in the book:
    Orenstein’s book—required reading for parents of girls and boys—drives home the need for comprehensive sex-education programs emphasizing the giving and receiving of pleasure. In the absence of sex-ed programs that empower girls to see themselves not just as instruments of another’s pleasure but as autonomous individuals with a right to experience sexual pleasure—with a partner or on their own—girls wind up having a lot of consensual but crappy sex.

    Chads comment :
    I heard Orenstein interviewed on NPRband Savage Love when hwr book came out and it struck me as important to recognize that not just in the church, which handles these issues terribly, bur also in American culture, women’s body autonomy, freedom, pleasure, etc are not respected the way they should be. As the parents of three sons we are trying to instill in them the idea of a balance of needs for BOTH partners in a relationship and the idea that women have just as much respect and just as much if a good time as they do.

  24. For me and my marriage, it was rocky at first. We married quick, we were apart for 2 months, 1 month into our relationship and married only 5 months when our son was born, 9 months and 3 weeks from when we started dating.

    I think what I wish I’d known, was that I needed to communicate. I had massive depression for about the first 3 years of our marriage…which killed my sex drive. I had gained weight, we were stressed with money, I had so much messed up messaging from my conservative upbringing. This nearly broke us. Once I finally really started talking to my husband we were able to find a way to get through the dry spells (they could be months at a time, and we were still newlyweds!) I felt like all he wanted was sex…when all I wanted was to be held. He thought I was no longer attracted to him, when I really just hated my own body for the 80lbs weight gain and felt gross, but he found me as attractive and sexy and ever and wanted to show me that. But I couldn’t see that.

    Once we broke the seal and spoke about everything, we both realized how much we had been dealing with alone when we could have helped the other. It can feel embarrassing, it can be difficult, even funny at times. But discussing what you both want / need helps! We’ve been married 15 years, and sometimes it’s still hard to open up with when it’s a bad inner monologue day. But talking things through always helps…

    I also would say, that some times, when you are just feeling distant from your partner, that having sex can just fix it. Even when, ESPECIALLY when you don’t feel super sexy or into it. It truly helps to just jump start the energy flow between you and can also then make you feel closer and able to open up about other things that might be bothering you…sexual or not.

  25. Post-baby-birthing sex is just the weirdest thing. Your body is doing all this mind-boggling changing. Your hormones are putting roller coasters to shame and everything feels a little different. I had the hardest time getting even slightly in the mood. But I think one of the best things my therapist ever told me was to just go with whatever works initially and don’t worry too much about the why. It likely won’t stick forever just like that poopy PPD. So, turned on by a little grocery stock-up and a little house on the prairie-esque full pantry? Go for it, baby! Adult cartoons got some clever word play that is strangely revving you up?! Embrace it!! Not every bod to bod jam sesh is candles and caresses. Sometimes a quickie because you took a shower AND remembered deodorant and feel like you are kinda, sorta keeping it together can be the best sex in weeks! ‍♀️

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