This post was originally posted to Facebook on September 29, 2013

What are your sexual expectations, and where do they come from?

Since the 70s, sex moved from a more quiet aspect of human relationships into the spotlight of modern society. We called it our sexual liberation. It wasn’t just an activity that husband and wife executed and told relatively few people about, it was now (or again, looking over the history of our culture) a topic for public debate, scrutiny and admiration. Perhaps the more accurate word is “obsession”. You had the hippies pushing for doing it with anyone you wanted, male, female, friend, stranger, whoever. At the same time, you had a “sexual revolution” in the big push of TV and cinema, as well as through magazines and the written word. Sex was everywhere.

Fast forward to today and the same is true and even moreso. Where as before it may have been a bit more spaced out and not mentioned as frequently, sex is now a centrepiece of almost all human media today. Look at the ads on your Facebook as you’re reading this. Look at the TV shows that are currently the biggest across the world today. Look at the movies and books that have the greatest success with men (and women).

In all of this, people have some pretty strong sexual expectations. There are articles going around about having your greatest sex ever, making sure you do it well, making sure you maximise your pleasure, and so on and so forth. People in sexual relationships have certain expectations of their partner, and themselves. People who aren’t yet in sexual expectations have some strong ideas on what their “first time” or their “first proper time” will look like.

So what are your sexual expectations? And where are they coming from?

I guess the topic that cops the most blame, and perhaps rightly so, in the debate is the issue of pornography. So you have your Cleo and your Cosmo and your late night talk show who tackle the subject of sexuality, but it’s never in as much visual detail as the P word. They called it airbrushed fantasy, and once upon a time it was viewed as a very destructive and very degrading medium. Today though, you will see counsellors recommended couples view it to get ideas on how to stimulate each other.

What often does end up happening is one or both partners end up having to rely on having some form of it in the bedroom in order to be turned on. The results can be pretty destructive when a man or a woman sees their husband or wife more sexually stimulated by the image on the screen than the person in the bedroom.

And for single people, it’s even more of an interesting issue. Masturbation takes the images of pornography and produces a sexual result, even without anyone else around. Oh I’m sorry, I forgot people don’t like to talk about that, silly naive Christian Matt. Typically assigned to men as a male problem or issue, it is actually a pretty universal issue, with both men and women calling upon its power. The same could be said of pornography. It was once considered a male pasttime (after all, Playboy would probably be one of the original sources for the growth of the industry). It’s no longer true – porn is a pretty universal issue.

But how do you actually define pornography? Most people would label it the things that come from “porn websites” or “porn magazines”, but let’s think about what it is for a second. It’s a sexual escape where you get to explore a fantasy you have about the opposite sex. The images you view could take on all sorts of forms. Do they have to be naked for it to be pornography? Does it have to be produced by a porn producer for it to be pornography?

The perceived issue with the Big P is that it is seen to detriment and destroy people’s expectations of the opposite sex. Body shape and size, level of make up, body hair or not, big or small, short or stout, willing or unwilling, duriation of the act, constantly ready to go for it. Well, as most people find, the reality is completely different. Real men and real women actually look and act very different to their pornographer counterparts. They may not be “the right shape”. They may not react the same way to you taking your clothes off and getting together than may be inferred by the medium (that every man and woman is just ready to go for it at the drop of a hat). 

But you know, it isn’t just a porn website that produces this expectation in people.

The movies and TV shows we watch nowadays are just as bad. They produce the same result. They portray the same picture. Sure, they may have regulations about how much detail they can show, but the same effect is there. This is what a man looks like, this is what a woman looks like, this is the simultaneous climax that awaits your every perfect sexual encounter, and anything less is a failure. You can watch an R rated movie that produces the effect, you can watch an MA rated movie, you can watch an M rated movie – heck, you can even watch a PG rated movie or TV show that is just as pornographic as its “extreme” medium, and perhaps they are even worse because they portray a situation that is meant to be more relatable and “realistic”.

No wonder people are unhappy and discontent with each other.

And so people have a view of the importance of sexual compatibility. After all, how can a couple stay together if they aren’t sexually compatible? Don’t you need to try before you buy? Isn’t it going to drive a huge wedge in our relationship if he or she won’t dress up and conform to the image of a fantasy that we once saw?

And so, even as a criteria for dating, people have “would I have sex with them” at the top of their list, when in reality that could be something that develops over time. That because you love them, the physical becomes more natural.

Ladies and gentlemen, let us have a return to form here.

The reality is, if you’re male, and she’s female, you are sexually compatible. Sure, all your positions or experiences might not come immediately, but it is something you can learn together. Your bodies indicate that a man fits inside a woman. It’s just biology. The two organs seem to have been perfectly designed for each other. Sure, you can probably do other things with other people and other parts, but the make up of man and woman doesn’t lie. Our views of what a wonderful sexual experience is are so distorted by the images we have exposed ourselves to that we no longer have a healthy or realistic view of what it is.

Sex is two people working each other’s bodies out and making the experience the best for the other person as possible. Call me traditional, but this is why marriage is the setting for it. There is a commitment and a complete acceptance there that extends from the marriage vows into the physical act. In fact, the physical is a reflection of the spiritual commitment between two people. I will look after you. I will take care of you. I just want to make you happy. *This* is what sex is intended for. This is what it’s supposed to look like.

Scripture is pretty profound in its description of sexual expectations. Just check out Song of Songs. It is passionate. It is physical. But it is also poetic and beautiful. Two people being themselves, fully accepting each other, and fully going out of their way with their bodies to please the other person. How’s that for a new standard of sexual realism.

Something can also be said of the Christian fairytale about the honeymoon night. Jon Acuff, author of the blog series Stuff Christians Like and a number of books now, points out sarcastically but accurately that many Christians are looking to the honeymoon night to be some ridiculously blissful and perfect night of passion comparable to the second coming of Christ. Bup bow. Let’s ask the married couples what it’s really like, shall we? That stuff takes time. And that’s ok. You have a lifetime to enjoy and discover that component together.

So let’s remove our warped sexpectations and come back to reality. In the words of Song of Songs, there are little foxes that seek to enter and corrupt the sacred garden of sexuality. Let’s not invite other unrealistic images into our expectations, but let’s be real. We’ll all do much better for it.

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