The Pornification of Marriage

So, what’s the deal with Christian women and stripper poles?

Apparently, Christian women learning to pole dance is no big deal because, you know, it’s “good exercise.”

I mean, seriously. Has pornography so infiltrated every corner of society that now even Christian women think pole dancing is a cute, fun way to “spice-up” their exercise routine?

The other day I saw a young girl proudly sporting a glittery Playboy bunny T-shirt as if it were somehow a symbol of her female empowerment. And my heart just broke. You know pornography is winning when little girls start wearing pornographic merchandise.

And that’s our fault. When adult women refuse to decry the objectification of women and instead normalize it by calling pole-dancing “good exercise,” we send the message to our daughters that pornographic behavior is OK. No wonder our little girls are confused!

As the womanizing character from the movie “Crazy, Stupid Love” said: “Men won the battle of the sexes as soon as women started doing pole dancing as exercise.”

So, where did this come from? How did pornographic ideas about sex manage to infiltrate Christianity? I have an theory about this:

It comes from pastors who preach that sex is primarily recreational.

Here’s what I mean: I’ve heard pastors preach that since the “marriage bed is undefiled” any sexual act is permissible and sanctified within marriage. In other words, as long as it happens within the context of marriage, ANYTHING goes.

By preaching that “anything goes,” a pastor unwittingly promotes pornographic ideas about sex; ie. that it should be available 24/7, that a wife should strive to present herself as a fantasy-mate, that sex is utterly detached from its life-giving, soul-creating power.

Is that what that what “the marriage bed is undefiled” really means? Because I’m not sure that verse is license for installing a stripper pole in your bedroom.

Could the marriage bed being undefiled mean that since it is undefiled, Christians ought not defile it by dragging in a bunch of pornified ideas about sex?

I think Christians should always be on guard when the “spice-up-your-marriage-advice” takes its cue from our porn-ified culture.

My guess is that many Christians have bought into the idea that the purpose of sex is primarily recreational. When sex is primarily recreational, it’s really quite easy to start justifying any lustful urge–as if the fact that it happens within marriage somehow sanctifies it.

Here’s the thing, if my husband wanted me to do a stripper-pole routine for him (which he never would), I’d say no. Why? Because the stripper pole is a symbol of female objectification and I fail to see how that changes just because we haul it into a Christian bedroom.

Sure, I want to remain beautiful and attractive for my husband but I refuse to believe that that somehow means I have to degrade myself by adhering to a standard set by strippers and prostitutes. Just because Jesus dined with prostitutes and tax-collectors doesn’t mean He started acting like them!

When pastors preach that ANYTHING goes in the marriage bed, I feel like this is an interpretation shaped by pornography and not by kingdom values. It’s a sad irony that we Christians bristle at the suggestion of letting God into our sex lives, but we gladly fling open the door to pornographic ideas about sex.

I guess I thought the general consensus among Christians was that purity within marriage was an obvious requirement. Has this changed?

Should there be boundaries for Christians seeking to “spice up”
their marriage? Or is EVERYTHING permissible?

See also: Don’t Call Me a MILF.

  • Rachel

    THANK YOU for this, Elizabeth!

  • No. 17 Cherry Tree Lane

    So 100% on target.

  • Rebecca


  • Stitching Seams

    I tend to think of it more from the viewpoint of 1 Corinthians 7 – my body is my husband’s, not mine, and his body is mine, not his. That is certainly heavily weighted by our love and respect for one another. If something makes us uncomfortable sexually, we say so. For instance, poledancing makes me uncomfortable – but if that’s someone else’s thing, I’m not going to say anything against it. Not my cup of tea, I too find it degrading to myself and so I wouldn’t do it. But I don’t think I can say from Scripture that it’s wrong.

    Plus, there’s a good chance I may not be able to have children…so sex likely cannot be primarily procreational for me. But neither is it simply recreational…it’s what I think is one of the primary ways of connecting with my husband on a physical, emotional and spiritual level.

    I hope my tone comes across as conversationally as I mean it to – I don’t mean to be dissenting.

    • Sarah

      Not that there would be anything wrong with offering a dissenting view on a topic like this but no, I don’t think you were!

    • Nicholas

      ” I too find it degrading to myself and so I wouldn’t do it. But I don’t think I can say from Scripture that it’s wrong.”

      Isn’t this sort of blurring the can/should barrier? Because a legalized document (the Bible as ‘what-is-ok’) doesn’t say no, we can’t say it’s wrong?

      And of course the purpose of sex isn’t just procreation. But do we really expect Jesus to somehow homogenize all sexual acts into “potentially loving acts” in a water-into-wine manner? Our bodies aren’t temporal prisons, they’re real parts of us; there are ways to use them that kink off communion and ways to use them that enhance it.

      Just some thoughts.

      • Nicola

        The purpose of sex isn’t “just procreation” but it’s purpose *is* to be *open* to procreation.

      • Stitching Seams

        I guess I don’t really see that as blurring the can/should barrier. Should you do it if it enhances your marriage in a way that doesn’t make either person feel degraded, used, or unloved? Is that really my business if it’s not my marriage?

        Different things work for different people, whether we’re talking about marital sex or communication in general or meeting together with God’s people or eating or what-have-you. I simply don’t think that I have any business or right to tell other people what they can (or should) do in regard to their sex lives, because it is wholly and completely not my business. If they can do [insert something other than a clearly-from-Scripture-wrong activity] with a clear conscience before God and it brings them closer together as a couple, then awesome and more power to them.

  • Calee

    You are on a roll!

  • Stephanie Mumpower


  • Heidi Stephen

    EE, I am SO thankful for this post, you have NO idea!
    Recently, they opened an OC Pole Fitness right next to where I work – and my curiousity was instantly engaged.
    My gut instinct was that it was NOT ok and had so much potential to lead down to inappropriate thinking, bevavior, relationships, etc…
    but I was still so interested (if I’m being honest).
    Thoughts like these have been circulating in my head for the past week, “it be a safe environment of women to learn” and “it would improve my confidence and know-how” and “i’d only use it in the bedroom” and “it’s more for exercise and female confidence than anything.”
    Your post has just snapped me out of that mental tug-of-war and reminded me WHY I knew it was not appropriate. I have always desired to be a woman of purity (before, and now IN, my marriage) and I was surprised at my own struggle with being drawn to this form of “exercise.” )especially since I knew that I wanted it for more than better abs…)
    I really appreciate your passionate reminders today! I already feel a small weight of deception lifted off me and I know I will be walking in joy today rejoicing in the true beauty that God has given me as a woman :-)
    thanks, EE :-)
    On the website of the place that opened by my work, there is a picture of a young mom with two daughters in jazz clothes wrapped around the pole. It was one thing to see the mom but yet another thing to see two innocent little girls being exposed so young to something like that.

  • Joi

    It seems to me that mainstream Christian culture has taken secular society’s ideas about sex and simply slapped a “wait until marriage” sticker on it without addressing any deeper problems. As someone who has decided to pursue a life of permanent singleness, I’ve found that a lot of Christians simply can’t process the fact that a life without sex is not only an option, but can be very fulfilling as well. We’ve become so saturated with secular ideas about sex that we’ve become blinded to many things that we used to know.

    • Brianna

      Joi I think what you said about taking the secular idea of sexuality and putting a “wait until marriage” sticker on it is SO insightful, and true. For awhile now I have been bothered by the fact that there is little place for a life of singleness within evangelicalism–and you are right, it does come down to the ridiculous notion that a life without sex is somehow less fulfilling. Good for you for pursuing God’s call for your life, even when people don’t understand!

    • elizabeth

      Joi: you really nailed it. The de-facto assumption among lots of Christians is that living without sex is practically the WORST fate ever. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard Protestant Christians say that the REASON there are sex scandals in the Catholic Church is because, DUH, the celibate priests aren’t getting sex and everyone “knows” it’s impossible to live without sex. The thinking goes like this: unless you’re having sex, you’re probably going to become a sexual deviant. How come we never ask: wait, have OUR ideas about sex have been influenced by movies, fashion magazines and porn? Living a celibate life isn’t some grim fate. Thanks for pointing that out.

  • Shirley

    I completely, 100% agree with you! Great post!

  • Alise

    I admit, I’m one of those who is firmly on the side of “everything is permissible” when it comes to what married folks do in their bedroom. If it’s not bringing a third person in and no one feels degraded, it’s a go. I don’t think pole-dancing is, in and of itself degrading. What is degrading is that people put on display for everyone, that which is meant for one person.

    Porn uses everything from ordinary, run of the mill, Tuesday-night-sex-after-American-idol sex to stuff that I can’t even begin to imagine. I’m not going to throw out something because it’s been perverted by porn. We see the Shulamite dancing before Solomon – so it’s certainly nothing new.

    I’m in favor of abandon in all areas of my life. And I refuse to look at how I pleasure my husband (or how he pleasures me) as impure simply because the same thing might be used in an unseemly way by others.

    • elizabeth

      Thanks, Alise! I always appreciate your thoughts. I guess I think certain sexual acts ARE inherently degrading even if they are performed consensually.

      • Holly

        Me too, EE

        Thanks for this post. Thanks for saying it.

    • Stitching Seams

      Thank you for saying what I was trying to say, but 100% more eloquently and clearly =)

    • Crissy

      EXACTLY what I was thinking!

    • Tamara Out Loud


    • quietpanther

      Saw this article in my RSS reader and came on here to comment, but you just said it for me.

    • Restless Pilgrim

      The issue for me focuses around two questions:

      1. Is there a concrete difference between love and lust?
      2. If Yes, should lust be present in a marriage that has Christ at its centre?

      As with most questions of this nature, the difficulty comes in definitions. Yet, I think that if we can agree that lust should not be present in a marriage, we have a good starting point.

      “The opposite of love is use” – JP2

      • Alise

        I would absolutely say that there’s a difference between love and lust, but lust is simply strong desire. And while lust without love is bad, I think lust where love is abundant is a-okay.

        And I’ve written before at my blog about what I think of the phrase Christ at the center of our marriage. (FTR, not a fan.)

        • elizabeth

          Hmmm. I realize maybe I’m playing with semantics, here, but I would say that lust is more than strong desire. It has the connotation of unholiness and is often used within that context. There is holy desire and there is unholy desire. I think most of us would say that lust fits in the unholy category. In fact, I once asked my husband if he “lusted” for me. He was horrified and said, “NO! Never!” I was not offended by this, I was actually glad that he didn’t look at me lustfully.

        • elizabeth

          Here’s the thing: I’ve had men sneer at me lustfully. I’ve gotten tons of cat-calls and nasty remarks from men on the street. I hated it every single time. I was *not* flattered. If my husband gave me those same lusty sneers and cat-calls, I STILL wouldn’t be flattered just because it was my husband. I want to be treated with more respect and dignity than that. Make sense?

          • Alise

            That makes total sense. I think when we start looking at connotation, it’s definitely negative, and I’m not in favor of that. Also, not being the target of lustful grossness out in the world probably colors my view in a different way. Because I mostly just giggle if Jason gives me the, “Hey baby.” I imagine if that were something that I heard unsolicited a lot, it would probably squick me out.

            That said, I still think that there’s something “more” than just love that comes into play in the bedroom. And I like it. ;-D

          • Scott Morizot

            I would tend to attribute some of the confusion to a weakness in the words we have available in English. We use ‘love’ for multiple and often unrelated applications. Similarly, we use ‘lust’ in a lot of different ways. The fathers are generally clear that sexual desire in marriage is good and healthy. The word they typically use that we translate ‘lust’ meant “appetite” in a more general and unhealthy sense. When we are ruled by our appetites, that’s a form of passion (in the sense of something we suffer) and not good. It’s the way of death and not of life.

            (Eros is often described today as physical or sexual love, but I believe that is a reduction. I seem to recall Pope Benedict XVI redeeming the word ‘eros’ and even writing about the ‘eros’ of God in his first encyclical on love. “God loves, and his love may certainly be called eros, yet it is also totally agape.”)

            I heard Dallas Willard phrase it particularly well in one recorded lecture I heard some years ago. To love is to actively will the good of the beloved. To lust is to seek to possess, to consume, to control — to use. Thus we don’t ‘love’ chocolate cake. We want to eat it. Similarly, if we are attempting to use a person for any reason, we are not acting out of love.

          • Linda

            I think lust is something that is purely selfish, where as there is a healthy sexual desire that is giving and generous and at the same time personally gratifying.

      • Restless Pilgrim

        I’m glad to see my comment sparked a thread. I think there is a definite difference between love and lust and the two things are of utterly different character. Linda and Scott I think really sum up the point – lust is self-focused and sees the other as something to be used (“What can I get out of it?”, whereas love is self-donation and sees the other as something to be honoured (“How can I give?”).

        As JP2 said – the opposite of love isn’t hate, but use.

        • Lynn

          I think lust involves objectification of the other. And that’s always wrong, in any context.

    • Darcy

      Thank you! I came here to comment and voice my disagreement but you said exactly what I was thinking. I personally would have a blast pole-dancing for my husband. Or stripping. :) I don’t care who uses it for what. But if it makes someone uncomfortable, then don’t do it. But don’t go and diss the sex life of every married couple that enjoys these things between them by saying they’re somehow less holy than you and using “the world’s” means. As if that makes your sex life more Godly than theirs. :P Sex for recreation? Hell, yeah. :) The porn industry didn’t invent that, btw.

      • elm

        How does one come to know about pole dancing? Is is by being a voyeur to another’s actions? Can you pole dance in front of your husband without fantasizing about someone else’s actions?

        Also, a holy marriage gives all, including fertility. To lust after a spouse is to leave out the aspects of cooperation with God in the action of conjugal love. Is the Holy Spirit in the bedroom or is He left out in the hallway?

        • elm

          A real eyeopener for me was “and they were naked and without shame”.

          Christopher West has a series out by that name. Lovely, lovely way of looking at married love as well as the single life.

        • Darcy

          I prefer He stay in the hallway. I like to think that even God gives us a little privacy now and then. ;)

          • Joe K

            We may all prefer something but that doesn’t mean it’s true.

          • Darcy

            Did I comment on the truth or falsity of this? No. I only answered the question, which asked “which do you do?”. If you want to invite God/Holy Spirit into your bedroom to watch you have sex, be my guest. I don’t. Which was what the question asked.

  • KatR

    I don’t really get the whole stripper pole for exercise thing. I find the whole “pole dancing for Jesus” thing eye rolling, but that’s mostly because of Christians who put “for Jesus” on the end of everything. “I’m brushing my teeth for Jesus! I’m getting a bikini wax for Jesus!” Ah, no.

    I also have a problem with preachers who teach that if wives aren’t hot ‘n sexy 24 hours a day, their husbands might turn into gay meth users. (Hi Mark!)

    But I’m not comfortable with putting labels on “kindgom value” sex v. “pornographic” sex. Then you start getting into “A Christian woman would NEVER do _________ with her husband!” And honestly, that’s just none of my business.

    • elizabeth

      Bikini wax for Jesus! LOLOL.

      But here’s the thing: can you see how when we say everything is permissible we’re actually agreeing with the preacher who teaches his wife needs to be hot n’ sexy 24/7? If EVERYTHING is permissible, then it’s not wrong for a husband to require that his wife be available 24/7–after all, that’s his rightful prerogative!

      • KatR

        Sure, but if everything is permissible, she is free to tell him that he needs to get a blow up doll. :)

        I guess I’m looking at the “everything is permissible” idea in a marriage where the husband is NOT “He Who Shall Be Obeyed”.

        And here is the other thing, who gets to decide what is and isn’t “Christian sex”? If you polled 50 Christian women and asked them what activities they found “degrading”, I’m betting there would be some things on that list you don’t have an issue with.

        • Nicole

          I agree with your last point, KatR. Who is to say what is “Christian sex”? It’s very true that what is degrading to one Christian woman might be totally acceptable to another. There are definitely Scriptural lines that need to be drawn, but beyond those Scriptural principles, we need to be quiet. Good thought provoking article, Elizabeth!

      • kr

        I think we have to balance what 1 Corinthians 7 teaches with what Ephesians 5 teaches about the sacrificial love of a husband to his wife. When my wife had our second child I realized that her needs were more important than mine. So while we should be ready to meet each other needs its not one sided. I think its appalling that a pastor would preach something like the wife being available 24/7, maybe the flip side should be then he should be ready 24/7 to do some house work, lol.

        As a general comment, there is no such thing as lust in marriage (meaning how I feel about my wife) it is completely pure for me to desire my wife. However I agree with KatR, what Christians do in the bedroom is there business, at the same time looking to pornography for spicing up your marriage is, if I can use this term, a very worldly approach to sex. At the same time secular educational resources are helpful!!

        • Alise

          “At the same time secular educational resources are helpful!!”

          Totes. My all-time most favorite marriage book is Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch. Absolutely brilliant and one that I would recommend heartily for all married couples. Not Christian (and it shows in some areas), but the principles are absolutely sound.

          • ShackBibleGuy

            Agreed 100% on Schnarch! His ideas have been hugely important in my journey toward healthy sexuality. Can’t recommend him enough!

        • elizabeth

          Husbands should be available for housework 24/7! LOVE THAT! lololololol.

      • Holly

        And I hate to say this, because I’m a prude, really….but…Mark says that anal sex is permissable. I think that’s horrible, and the result of a pornified society – even among Christians. I’m friends with women whose former husbands forced them into this activity (and a submissive wife has no option but to agree so anything is consensual, right? No joke…) and their bodies paid a horrible penalty for the repeated act: bowels that don’t function properly, bleeding, pain, etc. That is harmful to a woman – it just can’t be good for her or for the marriage.

        Again, thanks for being bold, EE.

    • Brianna

      Bikini wax for Jesus–that is fantastic. Ha! Love it.

  • Mara

    Thanks you EE.

    You are right.
    More adult women need to be raising the alarm against the Pornification of marriage.

    The problem with gender teachings that say that women are more easily deceived than men is that in the areas where men are more easily deceived, such as sex and porn, those areas get out of control and out of hand and aren’t balanced out.

    Mark Driscoll followers who have sucked up his message are some of the most perverse men I’ve ever dealt with on discussion boards.
    Sex is not just treated as recreation, it is treated as a need and a certain inalienable right.

    Joi, I really appreciated your point that sex is not a need like food or water.

    But you would never be able to tell this by the teachings of porn-brained men obsessed with sex and doing their darnedest to convince women that sex is their primary purpose, that sex is the first and most important thing that God made women for, to please men.

    So much is being lost concerning the Christian experience because of the over emphasis on men’s needs and threatening women into making sure that 24/7 need is never neglected.

    • Alise

      See, here’s my thing.

      I don’t think we women need to downplay the importance of sex to men, but rather, we need to embrace our sexuality a lot more. I agree, the teachings are that men have X sexual needs. But we’re totally ignoring that women have a lot of sexual needs as well. Yesterday (or the day before, I don’t remember), Rachel Held Evans tweeted something to the effect that anyone who thinks that men are more visually oriented than women haven’t been on Pinterest and she’s 100% right.

      I think women have completely missed out on how freaking awesome it is to BE a sexual woman. To be wanted sexually by her husband and to desire sex right back. I don’t think that men and women are the same when it comes to sex, but I think that we’ve been told that sex is all about him (our availability for sex, our need to “be sexy,” our need to give pleasure), but there is no balance about the importance of sex to women. Who is telling men to be sexually available for their wife? Who is telling them to be sexually appealing for her? Who is talking about the wife’s right to pleasure (whose capacity is, generally speaking FAAAAAR greater than a man’s)? We’ve focused on men because their junk hangs outside and we can see if they’re turned on, but we’ve completely missed women.

      Personally, I’m not okay with that.

      • elizabeth

        Ah, I love this. OK, and I totally agree with you on this: what we learned in Sunday School (ie. boys just want sex, girl’s don’t) is just as faulty as the pornified ideas about sex. Women ARE visually stimulated and I definitely think too many of us feel guilty about enjoying sex with our husbands. I’ve never felt guilty about it, myself, but I have to say that I was also sheltered from a lot of harmful images: no fashion magazines, no TV, very few movies, etc. I DO think this helped me enter a sexual relationship with my husband w/o a lot of baggage–in other words, I never felt less-than or “not pretty enough.” We’ve always had a very good sex life and never felt the need to spice it up with, say, pole-dancing or French maid costumes. Also, we’ve had a pack-load of kids so most of our energy has gone toward tending them and therefore, sex is always special. It’s never boring or dull.

        • Alise

          FTR, I don’t think one has to have a lot of bells and whistles to have a good, fulfilling sex life. Bells and whistles just wake up the kids and then NO ONE has any fun. ;-D

          • elizabeth

            BA HA HA! great point!

        • Holly

          Hear hear. It’s incredible! Wowza! :) Long term, committed love is amazing. But it’s beautiful, too, respectful at this amazing gift – not pornified.

      • Rachel

        I agree with Alise. I think she hit it spot on when she said, “I don’t think we women need to downplay the importance of sex to men, but rather, we need to embrace our sexuality a lot more.”

        Men are very simple in their sexuality (for lack of a better description). They tend to have a primary switch to arousal. Women on the other hand tend to have a more complex path to sexual enjoyment. Studies have shown that is the reason more men seem to be drawn to fetishes than women and the reason it is harder to make a viagra for women. I think this difference plays into the social and religious reaction to sex.

        I also find it interesting that Jesus has next to nothing to say about sex. I scoured scriptures for quotes from Jesus about sex. Even though he lived during the Roman Empire the closest I found was: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” – Matt 5:27-28.

        He never speaks about the purpose of sex and actually talks about divorce more than sex. Furthermore, in most instances he talks about the intentions behind what we do more than specific actions. I wonder if maybe that is because what matters when it comes to sex is the intention.

        I think it is easier to condemn or promote specific actions however it is harder to deal with intentions because we can only encourage one another toward good intentions and only God can judge the intention of our heart. As a result, I think we as woman would be best served by talking about how important it is to honor who God made us, both in and out of our bedrooms.
        We are valuable. We are precious. We are allowed to enjoy being who we were individually created to be. We should honor that we are not all created the same. None of us should be forced into doing things that we feel dishonored us. We also should also not feel guilty for doing things that work for us individually and for us as a couple. The primary reason for sex is procreation and loving connection to our spouse. As long as one of those is the intention, I say have fun!

        • Lisa C

          If you want to read about the Christian’s faith true understanding on sexuality, might I suggest
          Blessed Pope John Paul II : Love and Responsibility.
          His teachings best known as Theology of the Body are amazing. Plus on the Vatican’s website you can read his encyclicals.
          Obviously I’m a Catholic and this may offend some of my Protestant Christian brothers and sisters; however I find it a very slippery slope to suggest that because Jesus hardly mentions sexually in the Bible, then sexuality is an “anything goes” gray area. For even the Bible says that not all of what Christ is in scripture. I believe that the Church guided by the Holy Spirit carries Christ’s teachings in tradition too. One has only to read BJPJ II writings and see every word is meant to bring us closer to Christ.
          So there is no way that one could conclude pole dancing and lust for a spouse is acceptable as Christians. God loves us far too much for that!

          God Bless,

      • elm

        @ Alise:”Who is telling men to be sexually available for their wife? Who is telling them to be sexually appealing for her? Who is talking about the wife’s right to pleasure (whose capacity is, generally speaking FAAAAAR greater than a man’s)” Pope John Paul II in Theology of the Body. It’s about being self-giving, male and female.

  • suzannah {so much shouting, so much laughter}

    i hear you on how far porn culture has permeated. my husband and i were just talking about this after watching the show Chuck, which has almost no sex in it but objectified women to a disturbing degree with camera angles and fantasy sequences. porn culture is everywhere, and we should speak a different and better sexual narrative.

    but i’m more of a fan of individual discernment than concrete rules when it comes to how marital sexuality *should* be expressed, because where does it stop? i’ve read arguments that sexy lingerie is too “pornified” for married christians, and i just don’t think it’s helpful–or necessarily God-honoring–to make those sorts of universal rules. the Church has guilted people out of enough pleasure in the bedroom.

  • ShackBibleGuy

    As a man who has struggled with pornography and objectification of women in general, I am inclined to agree with EE here. It would be unhealthy for me to have my wife present herself to me as an object. Because she is a person, not a thing (and being in a “marriage bed” doesn’t change that). It might turn me on if she objectified and pornified herself for my enjoyment, but that indicates that I have a problem. I think it’s a sign of sexual un-health when someone is aroused by de-personalization of another human being.

    • elizabeth

      Oooh, and this brings up another good point: since the proliferation of pornography is SO rampant, couldn’t we say that for some men, a wife presenting herself in a “stripper-ish” way would not be healthy for him? Thanks for your comment, ShackBibleGuy.

      • ShackBibleGuy

        My current thought is that objectification is always unhealthy for everybody. Is it possible for a person to act “stripper-ish”-ly without triggering the other into objectification? I can see it being possible; I just know it’s not possible for me. I don’t want to relate to my wife like I would relate to a prostitute. She deserves better than that.

        • elizabeth

          Agreed. I really think some aspects of our culture are just so totally corrupt that there’s no point in trying to redeem or Christianize them by saying things like: well, now, let’s not get legalistic about pole-dancing! LOL!

        • Jen

          I thank you for your comment, which I truly appreciate. At the risk of sounding critical, I do want to say that both your wife and the prostitute deserve better than that. Neither should be objectified by anyone. I think that’s sometimes a false dichotomy that gets made in people’s minds, or perhaps I’m just ignorant seeing as I don’t firsthand know how a husband thinks of his wife as compared to other women. : )

          • ShackBibleGuy

            Jen, good point. Jesus is our example of how to properly relate to sex workers. They deserve better than they get.

  • Tara S

    I read the title of this article in my Google Reader and thought, “YES, THANK YOU!” before I even got to the article.

    It seems that there is endless harm to be done in the “anything goes” mentality. The idea that if we can just wait…just wait until marriage and then all our carnal fantasies can come true! It doesn’t do much to promote actual chastity, which is why so many of us seem to think that a life without sex is some kind of unimaginable deprivation (and does this promote a stronger temptation to pre-marital sex and multiple partners, or what?). Sex is a part of what makes life go on. If we didn’t eat, we’d die. And if we didn’t reproduce, we’d die as a species. And, like eating, sex is a wonderful, pleasurable thing. But think how easy it is to be disordered in how we eat….to place too much value on good food, to binge, to use it for comfort, to have it always on our minds, like Roman epicures drinking pearls in vinegar!

    In my own youth, I was surrounded by the idea that thinking about sex, fantasizing, etc, etc, was perfectly healthy….period. There was no caution toward restraint whatsoever. This kind of coaching did not do me any favors. I built up a pattern of thought and internal lusting in those years (because it’s all in my head, it doesn’t count, right?) that I’m still struggling to set right today. I can’t help but draw a parallel with the “It’s all in my marriage, it doesn’t count, right?” ….I am, by experience and necessity, very wary of that train of thought.

    Chastity is humble restraint in thought, word, and deed. If we are just waiting for marriage to get our “get out of jail free card,” then is it really chastity?

    • elizabeth

      Wow, Tara! YES!! “Just wait until marriage and then alllll your carnal fantasies can come true!” Such an important insight. I love writing about this stuff if only because my readers come up with the most awesome insights!!! Thank you!

    • ShackBibleGuy

      Thx for sharing, Tara! Like you, my upbringing has made it hard for me to have healthy sexual boundaries. I was always told marriage would fix that, implying that sexual boundaries are unnecessary in marriage. They were wrong.

      Love your definition of Chastity! Sign me up for that vow!

  • Brianna

    EXcellent post. So, so true. I think this is one of the differences between a Catholic and Evangelical understanding of sexuality: the Catholic Church teaches that women and men must be chaste, EVEN WITHIN MARRIAGE, and that lust is never acceptable. Sex is both unitive AND procreative. Protestants on the other hand would generally say that sex CAN be purely recreational and, as such, can include whatever the couple is comfortable with. It’s funny how what seems like such a small distinction ties into deeper theological beliefs about humanity and sexuality.

    • KatR

      Not sure I fully buy the idea that Catholic couples never consider sex “recreational”. If that is the case, what is the purpose of Natural Family Planning? Is that not Catholic couples (the ones who aren’t just using artificial birth control anyway) saying, in effect, “we want to enjoy sex, but we don’t want to have children right now”? I understand that idea is the heart is supposed to be always open to children. But you can have that heart whether you use artificial or natural methods of birth control.

      If the Catholic Church teaches that sex it to be both unitive and procreative at all times, why is NFP permissible, unless the Church believes that NFP isn’t all that effective?

      • Peony Moss

        Sex needs to be both unitive and OPEN to procreation. (Couples can’t guarantee the procreative part – that’s ultimately up to God.)

        NFP is permissible because it doesn’t try to separate the unitive from the procreative, to have one without the other.

        • KatR

          Forgive me if I’m wrong, if you practice NFP isn’t the point to avoid sex during times you could conceive? Isn’t that separating sex from the procreative? Shouldn’t the Catholic Church be saying instead, “have sex whenever, trust God for the size of your family” or whatever?

          • Peony Moss

            Not quite the same thing. God gave us the fertility cycle. If you have sex during the infertile period, you’re just having sex during the infertile time that God gave you. It’s not the same thing as trying to artifically disable the fertile period He gave you.

            This isn’t a perfect analogy but think of sex as a very rich, very nutritious food (like lasagne or a milkshake): it’s yummy (unitive) and nutritious (procreative.)

            You could be in the happy situation where you can have as much lasagne or milkshake as you want. So you eat it and enjoy it both the taste and the nutrition.

            But let’s say you find out that you need to avoid the nutrition for a bit – maybe your doctor says your stomach needs a rest or you’re still digesting that last super-rich milkshake you had.

            You don’t try to alter the milkshake. Instead, you hold off until you’re ready to drink the milkshake.

            Similarly, when using NFP, you’re saying, Since we’ve prayerfully discerned that this isn’t a good time to get pregnant, we’re going to hold off on enjoying God’s gift of sex until we’re in the infertile period He gave us.

            (As opposed to the contraceptive approach, which is to take the milkshake to the lab and use chemicals to leach out the nutrition while leaving the taste.)

          • Peony Moss

            The Church does teach that a married couple should have good reasons for avoiding pregnancy (as opposed to avoiding it out of avarice, fear, or selfishness). In years gone by, couples who needed to avoid pregnancy for a while would just not have sex at all. NFP refines that using modern knowledge about the fertility cycle.

          • PD

            That is what my wife and I did for the most part. We enjoyed being together and did not worry about getting pregnant. We viewed children as a blessing from God and he blessed us with eight! Now we also practiced the family bed and breastfeeding on demand, so my wife did not ovulate after giving birth for an average of 15 months. So our kids are spaced out approximately two years!

  • kd sullivan

    This is a word in due season. One of the reasons my first marriage failed is because my ex-husband expected me to be beyond Christian in the bedroom. Because I would not engage in pornified sexual acts, I was no longer attractive, submissive or considered a good Christian wife. Sex is meant to be a love act. Not a fulfillment of lust. I am supposed to eat. I need to eat. I need to eat what is healthy for me. When I pig out on a bunch of food, I have now made the act of eating an act of gluttony. When we expect the bedroom to become a place where we simply act out our sexual lusts and fantasies, we have debased ourselves and turned the sex act into a lust fulfilled rather than an act of love. It becomes all about ourselves rather than all about an expression of God’s love for His Body, the Church. Once again, this is an example of the world creeping into the church. If I thought that the idea of pole dancing came to an innocent couple who had never heard nor seen of the idea elsewhere, it wouldn’t bother me. But the fact that most likely any such ideas have come from one or both spouses having dabbled in ungodly, worldly sexual ideas before they were married causes me to wonder.

  • Sarah@EmergingMummy

    Boom. Truth bomb. Thanks, EE. Totally in agreement with you. (Also have you read this post about how our society’s views of sex are just another form of consumerism? Very interesting…. )

    • elizabeth

      Yes, I read that when you linked to it and I thought it was absolutely FASCINATING. On a related note: is it any wonder, then, that sex trafficking is so rampant these days? Tragedy!

  • Michael M

    Thank you so much! The reality is that anything that takes us away from God is sin. I know I struggle as a male these days with pornography at times that seem to be everywhere! When couples give in to that pressure of what ‘society’ deems as sexy or attractive then they may just lose what made them fall in love in the first place. Thanks for this blog

  • sharideth smith

    i think the majority of sex between married folk is recreational. unless you are baby-making mode, you are not trying to produce a child every time you have sex.

    most of the sex my husband and i have is for fun and connection. especially now. after 18 years, every time we have sex is recreational. if i got pregnant, i’d be convinced God hates me.

    that last line was a joke, btw. mostly.

  • Young Mom

    Your going to get a lot of affirmation from the Catholic crowd here, because what your saying is right on with their theology. I don’t think that this reasoning applies outside of that church though. Sexual preference is a largly personal thing. So pole dancing makes you feel icky, maybe someone else is just a really good dancer and loves showing off for her husband. If pole dancing is bad, I’m assuming strip tease, lap dances, lingerie, belly dances etc are bad too. Even though I’m sure women were doing those things for their husbands long before our culture became so “pornified”.
    I don’t get the slippery slope arguement of “anything in marriage is fine” = “husband demanding his wife be a sex slave”. If your marriage is a partnership founded on mutual respect, both partners should be equally able to communicate what they find pleasurable and what make them uncomfortable. What makes women or men less capable of communication and comprimise?

    • Tara S

      I think part of the issue is that many of the major tenets of Christianity (giving of self, self-sacrifice, etc) which are also some of its major strengths, require a more carefully considered line of conduct than what is felt to be pleasurable or acceptable in the heat of the moment. If our lives are meant to be marked by personal restraint so that we have more energy, attention, and means to help and care for other people (be they spouses, friends, our children, or people in need), it is necessary to have a really coherent and rational system of conduct which is geared to keep our minds and hearts on God, instead of being unduly distracted by things that we didn’t know are (or could lead to things that are) unhealthy.

      That is not to say that pole dancing is inherently bad (I don’t feel qualified to make that call), or that enjoying the pleasurable things in life is bad…on the contrary – “a man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work” and all that! It’s merely to say that the theology is built with a purpose in mind, and in the case of marital chastity, it is geared to give us the freedom to enjoy and express physical love, with the least danger of losing that energy and attention, and that denial of self, which is meant to allow us to be of the most use to our fellow human beings and to our own souls!

    • rain

      I was thinking the same thing…mutual respect and unconditional love are beautiful and proper sexual boundaries in marriage. To me the argument (no disrespect, EE, I love you!) resembles the thinking that because there might be some “satanic” music out there, Christians shouldn’t listen to rock ~ even Christian rock.

      Personally, if God has convicted someone of not listening to rock music, or a couple of not having a pole in their bedroom, then they should follow their convictions and obey God. However, to say that couples who have poles are pornifying their marriage is uncomfortably black-and-white for me. Creative erotica for your spouse is a beautiful thing.

    • Valerie

      Well put. Once you start to make these things ‘rules based’ you take away the whole ‘living and functioning out of relationship’ that makes life with Jesus so good and freeing. I’m not saying anything goes, but surely within a respectful, healthy marriage there is a certain amount of freedom?

  • priest’s wife

    I think that any Christian would really benefit from reading Pope John Paul II’s ‘theology of the body’

  • Callie

    THANK YOU for this post! So much truth! This summer, my good Christian friend got married, guess what her idea of a great bachelorette party is? Yes, pole dancing lessons. I struggled with this as I am passionate about human trafficking and prostitution issues and desire to see a shift in our society’s view of sex. How can I justify going to my friend’s bachelorette and learning to pole dance? That’s the very thing I speak out on.

    I have been struggling with the question as to WHY Christian women believe it is alright to learn how to pole dance? (well, women in general and especially Christian women) I told my friend I didn’t want to go, she said “It’s not that big of a deal, it’s fun, it’s at a recreational place, we all just want to learn how to be sexy for our husbands.” I have a problem with that last part. As women, we don’t need to LEARN how to be sexy, we ARE sexy and we already know how to be sexy. I was appalled that all these Christian women (and their parents) were so accepting of pole dancing. I will admit, I went to that pole dancing lesson, I didn’t want to let my friend down and fell into peer pressure. I am not proud of it. I did not have fun, I felt like a robot and I felt incredibly awkward. Now, I firmly believe that we should not be bringing elements of prostitution and sexual exploitation into our marriage beds. Pole dancing is a spectacle, objectifying women. Why would I want to learn how to dance like a stripper and place myself as a spectacle? Why would I want a husband who finds that attractive? I want a husband who respects me and finds me attractive no matter what I wear or do.

    • Alise

      I think maybe learning to be sexy is the wrong word, but maybe it’s instead to learn to be uninhibited with our spouse.

      The fact is, when I got married, I had some janked up ideas about what kind of sex God approved of, and that kept me from truly enjoying sex the way that he intended. I bought into the idea that my pleasure didn’t matter as much as my husband’s because I was just in it for the closeness. I bought into the idea that I wouldn’t want sex as much as my husband. I bought into the idea that I wasn’t supposed to be aroused visually. All of the negative messages about female sexuality – I heard them in the church and I owned ‘em all.

      And they’re all lies. Women are every bit the sexual creatures that men are. Different in how it’s expressed, but still sexual. And while pole-dancing isn’t my cup of tea (really, that would be ALL dancing for me – me and coordination aren’t on friendly terms), if it helps a woman bring her brain around to a place where she can truly be free to be herself and to be truly free with her spouse, then I’m very in favor of that.

      • Rachel


      • Elizabeth Larson-DiPippo

        second! I am with you 110% percent! I think the church already gives women & men enough wierd messages about sex and who should/shouldn’t enjoy what that it really can sometimes be helpful for some people to break out of those boxes. I don’t know that I go for an EVERYTHING is permissible ideology but I guess I prefer that to having someone tell me that x, y, &z is only for “slutty” girls.

    • PD

      Help me understand? Where is the pole dancing movement coming from? Is this a Mark Driscoll thing and women are doing what the pastor is teaching? Is he teaching this?

      In other words, what is the source of this idea?

    • Em

      “As women, we don’t need to LEARN how to be sexy, we ARE sexy and we already know how to be sexy. ”

      I disagree strongly with this. Many many Christian women have been taught from a young age that their sexuality is bad, and are ashamed of it.

  • Scott Morizot

    I watched the ABC clip and some related ones. I don’t see any direct relation to stripping or porn. Maybe I’m strange, but a room full of fully clothed women (or men, since as one clip showed pole dancing as exercising is being taken up by men) exercising doesn’t make me think of a strip club even if they are doing acrobatics with a pole. I guess I got the whole “group exercise” thing out of my system between high school football and the army. I’m not at all attracted to any group exercise class and they all look equally strange to me. But while acrobatics on a pole do look really hard to me, they don’t look inherently sexual.

    I am with KatR, the “for Jesus” part is weird. But in a culture where people already do everything from cage fighting to motorcycle riding “for Jesus” I don’t know that it strikes me as particularly out of the ordinary.

    As far as the bedroom goes, I’m having a hard time thinking of anything a husband and wife could do that is both truly consensual and desired and “degrading”.

    • Scott Morizot

      Should have been “mutually desired”

      • Sarah

        EXACTLY. Even engaging in role play of acts that without consent would be degrading, isn’t degrading. It’s shaming people’s bodies and actions to think otherwise.

        Often, it’s these acts that require more trust and honesty and communication than ‘vanilla’ sex because of the way it’s perceived. People think that you can’t be degraded because the sex wasn’t considered a kink? Wrong.

        I want my husband to be able to tell me about the things that he finds attractive and I trust him enough that if I say I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing it then he will drop it. And vice versa.

  • Mary Michaud

    Elizabeth, normally I agree with your posts, or disagree but it’s not a big deal.

    This is.

    To say that pole stripping for your husband is wrong… IS WRONG. You are certainly right in pointing out how it can be objectifying. You are right in saying that “for Jesus” is complete b.s. You are right in protesting about pole dancing as just another exercise at the gym is contributing to the pornification of american culture… but to take all those points to say that pole dancing in private is wrong? I have to call b.s. on this.

    I think a key aspect of what is permissible and pure in the marriage bed is what is not damaging to either spouse. It will vary for each single marriage. Because of all our different backgrounds, cultures, makeups, personalities, weaknesses, etc… for some women, for some men, pole dancing is objectifying and degrading, and would be hurtful for that relationship. If I personally pole danced, it would not be… it would be my husband and I enjoying the sexual beauty and seduction of my body (as a caveat, in our relationship, it’s not all about my body, I am totally in love with his body). Enjoying the sexual nature of our bodies can be a natural and pure part of a healthy marriage.

    I think it’s totally missing the point when we try to draw specific lines between what we can and can’t do (besides the obvious, like threesomes) in the marriage bed when we try to do it as an absolute for all couples (instead of giving principles and guidelines). Frankly. Yes. It’s called legalism.

    And that is partly why I had to speak out so strongly, because that’s the last thing I expected on your blog.

    • elizabeth

      Thanks for sharing your dissenting opinion.

  • joy

    I don’t have time to read all the comments, so maybe this has been covered. I agree completely that the pornification of our culture in general–secular and religious–is harmful to women. The one thing about your essay that bothered me, though, was these lines, “I refuse to believe that that somehow means I have to degrade myself by adhering to a standard set by strippers and prostitutes. Just because Jesus dined with prostitutes and tax-collectors doesn’t mean He started acting like them!” Please remember that the “strippers and prostitutes” don’t set the standards. They, too, are victims of a culture that demeans and degrades women, all of them are abused and exploited, many of them were trafficked (domestically or internationally), and most started when they were underage. Reserve your judgment for the buyers.

    • elizabeth

      Great point, Joy. I appreciate you pointing that out to me.

  • Jessica

    I haven’t read all the comments (usually try to if responding but a crawling 6 month old gives me limited time now) :)

    I think you raise up some good points. I do think that many pastors mean well when they say “anything” goes. I think that for many Christians sex has been very confusing and restricted. People haven’t participated in things that they could with their husband or wife as consenting, loving adults. I have heard the “anything” goes approach from pastors before; most of whom were trying to say “go and enjoy sex, love your spouse, relish each other, take joy in it”. While I agree it is not just a recreational act it was meant to be enjoyed fully and I think many have stuck to the limited view of sex – wham bam maam, missionary position, man’s enjoyment is focus, only in the bedroom, only on Fridays, etc.

    I also think most pastors who say don’t mean “anything” and it has to be taken in the context of the whole message. I realize some do mean anything literally but the sermons I heard are best understood in the context of the whole sermon. Having heard this from pastors and teachers, men and women alike, there isn’t one of them that I think would say pornography or the use of stripper pole is okay. I can think of maybe a couple that might say the pole isn’t wrong but they would argue that it is unwise, for many of the reasons you do.

    But I think what you wrote here sums things up best and asks the best question:

    “Here’s the thing, if my husband wanted me to do a stripper-pole routine for him (which he never would), I’d say no. Why? Because the stripper pole is a symbol of female objectification and I fail to see how that changes just because we haul it into a Christian bedroom.

    Sure, I want to remain beautiful and attractive for my husband but I refuse to believe that that somehow means I have to degrade myself by adhering to a standard set by strippers and prostitutes. ”

    I think this is what we have to ask with just about everything we do in sex – from even our old traditional, morally appropriate methods of sex – am I intentionally or unintentionally objectifying my spouse, am I directly or indirectly lower the holy view of sex, am I aware of the connotations of many of the actions we take and how those affect my sex life, my marriage, my spouse and myself, am I considering how these actions will filter out into my every day life and affect those around especially the younger generation?

    I think when you answer questions like that the issue becomes more simple and the answers more complex.

    It’s not about sex. It’s about what glorifies God and edifies my spouse and nourishes my soul.

    And the answers – the list of what is wrong and what is right, of where the line is drawn or should be drawn – is blurry and gray and requires us to see the Holy Spirit for wisdom and guidance. Yes let’s pray in our lingerie and underwear. :)

    Thanks Elizabeth. You’ve got me thinking ……..

  • Nish

    I understand what you’re saying. And I agree with the pole dancing exercise classes.

    But, I think bedroom activities between married couples should be left up to each couple & what works for them in the context of their sex lives.

    If pole dancing for your man isn’t for you, then by all means, don’t.

    But if pole dancing for my man brings us both pleasure, we enjoy it, and it strengthens our intimacy in our marriage, then maybe it’s a good thing. (For the record, I’m not much of a pole dancer. I’m way too awkward & clumsy. But you get what I’m saying.)

    When I got married, all of my baggage made it incredibly difficult to figure out intimacy & healthy sexuality. The last thing I needed was feeling like I had the church rulebook in the bedroom with me.

  • Lindsey

    I thought you’d find it humorous to know that in a quick conversation with a friend about your article — we actually think it’s quite nice to know that women now have two purposes: 1. To bare children, and 2. To be sexually available for their husbands at any time. (Of course, you could consider those to be the same purpose)

  • Kellee

    Great post! Thank you for writing what has been on my mind and heart for so long, yet not had the right words to say.

  • Amber-Lee

    I don’t want to pole dance, but I don’t mind women who do in their bedrooms. Whateves. However, there are other things that I do LOVE to do, and it’s my prerogative. I’ve told my husband “no” plenty of times, and he respects that. Sometimes I surprise him. Again, whatevs.
    I am part of that mid-twenties, early 30s generation. As far as I can tell within my seminary circle and church girlfriends – none of us feel objectified. Actually, we’re all excited that the Church is starting to catch on that we’re allowed to say “no” to our husbands, and that we get to dictate a lot more of what goes on in the bedroom.

  • KatR

    @Peony Moss Thanks for your explanation regarding NFP and Catholic teaching. That does help clarify it for me. And from now on, I’m going to refer to having sex as “drinking the milkshake”. ;)

    • Peony Moss

      So glad it was helpful! :)

  • Handsfull

    I watched the clip… well, I watched some of the clip. When I got to the bit about how they play Christian music while poledancing and feel that it brings them closer to God, I had to stop. It was just too weird! Poledancing as a form of worship – hmmmmm. I keep thinking about prayer. The only regular prayer times I have every day are while I’m in the shower and while I’m moisturising my face. Anything else is on the run during the day. I know of some people who will only pray on their knees – to them, any other posture is irreverent, and they would be horrified at what I do. My take on it is that it’s not ideal (2hrs a day, with complete silence around me apart from a worship cd would be ideal, but that’s not going to happen anytime in the next 4yrs!), but it’s all I’ve got at the moment, and I figure God would rather hear from me a little than not at all. This is not how I would chose to live my prayer life, but I am because of necessity. Why anyone would chose to worship God while poledancing is completely beyond me, and I can’t think of any circumstances under which it would be necessity!
    Unless, of course, you were a professional poledancer.
    I don’t know that it’s wrong… but DEFINITELY weird! As for poledancing in the bedroom? Wouldn’t do it myself, but is it wrong? I guess I’m of the opinion that it’s not forbidden in the Bible, so it’s one of those things that is up to individual preference and conscience.

  • Heather


  • Nancy

    A lot of the reasons I object to the idea of pole dancing in a Christian relationship can be found in the “why?” of it. *Why* does a man think it’s sexy? Because he’s seen it on TV, or in a movie, or in a strip club? I want my husband to think I’m sexy not because I imitate sex workers, but because he loves me — just as he wouldn’t want me to think he’s sexy because he makes a lot of money, but because I love him.

    I’m pretty sure our grandparents would think this conversation is ridiculous. Our grandfathers didn’t have this kind of pre-set “sexy” image in their minds, because they had never seen it before (unless they lived in a big city). Now, those kinds of images are TAME in a culture where porn has grown more violent and debasing.

    My husband and I didn’t become Christians until we were 21, and there was plenty of exposure to unhealthy images from mainstream sources like TV and movies. I don’t want the things we do in our marriage bed to remind my husband someone else, or of a movie or TV show. I think I deserve to have him be engaged and present with plain old ME, not the contrived images of sexiness that our culture drills into men and women. There are plenty of nuances, creativity and fun to explore with each other without imitating porn.

    • Holly

      Nancy. Yes! You said this so well! How do people even feel compelled toward some of these things, if not from pornography? I’ve wondered this myself. I was abused as a child while pornography lay open in the room – I was supposed to do what the grown up women did. I wonder if people realize that there has been a shift in the trends that were acceptable even in pornography 35 years ago to now – and those same trends have shown up in the mainstream and many are now openly embraced by Christian couples? Hmmm. Porn statistics among Christians, anyone? They are shocking! The last thing women should do is accept them as good, right and okay within their marriages.

    • Alise

      Can’t a man find his wife dancing for him sexy because it IS sexy? Because it represents her being unashamed with him? Because it represents her being comfortable with her own body and sexuality? Because it allows him to feel desired?

      Given that dancing for your spouse is talked about in Song of Songs, I’m going to say this is not a new idea at all, nor is it only porn-hungry men who are interested in this.

      • Mara

        No, Alise, the scripture that certain preachers CLAIM talk about naked dancing has nothing to do with pole dancing or naked dancing at all. That is itching ears teaching.
        The verse that is used is talks about the dance of the two companies and is referring to Jacob’s vision of the ladder and the angels ascending and descending. It was an awe inspiring vision. Not a sexy one.
        Don’t take my word for it. Look it up for yourself with a good concordance.
        Such misrepresention of scripture is only possible because itching ears prefer to be itched rather than to do their homework and check to see if the preacher is teaching or itching.

  • Holly

    Here’s the thing. My husband and I have been married for 22 years – we’re in our forties. We still think and act like we’re newlyweds – almost crazy with giddyness that something like THIS is ours to enjoy. It’s just an amazing gift in the middle of a crazy life of raising a family. (And no, although we have nine kids we’re not Catholic.) Of course we’re supposed to enjoy sex within marriage. That’s a given, no argument from me. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy! :)

    But our society is simply too focused on sex, on lust, on instant gratification. There’s such an objectification of women, even in marriage. Because of porn, wives are supposed to look a certain way, have a certain wax job done, have surgery so they don’t look like they’ve had kids. There are websites (linked to and mentioned by Mark Driscoll) about being a Christian nympho. There are Christian parties where you can order sex toys…sorta like Tupperware. (Eww. Bad mental image, here.)

    Honestly? Although sex is a wonderful gift there’s just so much more to a good marriage. I loved Joi’s comment above. Such insight and truth! My husband went thru a devastating illness last year – sex suddenly wasn’t really all that important. Getting him well again was. Providing stability for our children was. Loving each other, serving each other – that was what was important. Sex was the icing – not the main course of our lives. If we were to never be physical again, it would be a horrible loss, but we would still have each other and our love would still be incredible and worthy. I feel like even in church circles these days there is way too much focus on providing “Sizzling sex.” Well….when it is, it is. :) When it’s not, it’s still pretty amazing – a real gift to each other. There is so much more to do in this life, really, so much more to the kingdom of God. (And that’s not to set me up as super holy. I’m not.) I just feel that we need to reprioritize a bit, and not clamor for the same thing that the world clamors for – at least not in the same way. :) My thoughts are that we are to enjoy that part of our marriage – then move on with the rest of the day and see what God has for us to be doing. Anything that requires me to take a class or buy something plastic or electronic or pornographic? Meh. Not for me.

    I asked my husband the same question as you asked yours, EE. He answered the same way. That surprised me at first – but it honored me too. He finds me exciting just because I’m me – not because I try so hard to be someone or am perfect or do something specific. (Although I surely do love to find ways to please him.) He has loved me through the trials and bodily changes of 9 pregnancies, deliveries, and through many, many years of breastfeeding and sharing my body with a nursing baby. When we are together, I have such deep respect, trust, and love for him. He touches my soul. Married love is such a deep connection – yes, it is recreational I suppose and fun too! – but it’s more than that. It is souls touching, lives shared, memories made together – any practice that takes away from that or degrades that is not good for a marriage, in my opinion. I wouldn’t want to set rules – I’m just not *about* that – but there are some things that cross the lines, I think. (Scott could not think of any. I can. Maybe I know too much. I wish I didn’t – and I don’t feel comfortable even mentioning some of them here.)

  • Feather Wilcox

    I agree with this post 500%.

    It’s a topic I have only started recently exploring. There are a lot of Christians out there buying into satan’s lie regarding sex. The most sickening aspect for me are some of the “sexual metaphors” that people insist are in Song of Solomon. :( I am so thankful for a husband who loves God and respects ME.

    • Elizabeth Larson-DiPippo

      You don’t think there are sexual metaphors in the Song of Solomon??

    • amber lee

      The Song of Songs is nothing BUT an erotic love poem! Anyone with one semester of meso studies can tell you that.

  • Sarah in GA

    i haven’t had time to read through all the comments: but this post made me think of a book that a friend of mine recommended to me called “Soul Virgins.” i haven’t read it myself but she said it really led her to think about keeping her soul/body etc pure for her husband even in the context of marriage. i think that ties into what you are bringing up here.

    i struggle with feeling beautiful and attractive. a friend suggested i take a class like this. i thought about it for a little bit, but felt completely uncomfortable about it. then i realized that i needed to do more inner work on myself. that i needed to see myself how God sees me, and that i needed to start believing my husband when he calls be beautiful and sexy.

    i read this morning in Philippians: And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and in discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. -Phil 1:9-11

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  • Chuck Anderson

    I work as a psychotherapist, primarily in the Christian community (but don’t call me a “christian counselor” – there’s no such thing, IMHO), and primarily with issues of sexual integrity (like porn addiction).

    I completely agree with you about the pornification of marriage. In fact, I’ll even take things a bit further by saying publicly here something I’ve often said privately elsewhere…

    Porn for a man is (imagined) sex with a woman who will not or cannot say “no”. There is no emotional risk involved, and no expectations on him for any kind of relationship. In short, it’s sexual violence. Porn for a woman is (again, imagined) sex with a man who will not or cannot fail her relationally. He will always be “romantic” and “make” her feel special (like anybody can actually force somebody to feel anything??) It’s not love, because there is no risk.

    So what do we do in most of our “Christian” marriage conferences and seminars? (BTW, I HATE using the word Christian as an adjective – that’s why it’s in quotes – but that’s a whole other deal…) I those conferences, men are told to be more romantic, get out the candles and the soft music, send cards, make her feel special. Women are told to be more sexually available and assertive, “give him your body,” and for heaven’s sake, NEVER say “no.” In short (using my definitions above): be more like porn for each other.

    How in GOD’s holy name (and I mean this prayerfully!) does that honor His image and likeness, in which we are made? How does it invite us to think about sexual union being one of the highest forms of worship that humans are capable of? “Two becoming one in the presence of God” is, IMHO, the closest we can come to experiencing, celebrating, and yes, worshipping Trinity. Our loving, relational GOD.

    OK sermonette done. Thanks for this wonderful post!

    • Brianna

      Chuck thank you for sharing these insights–they make such good sense and offer a new way of looking at it. And I have to say, I agree.

  • Wade St. Onge

    So many great posts here.

    Chuck Anderson is correct – popular Christian teaching is simply contributing to the problem rather than correcting it, and as a young adult, I see the effects of the popular Catholic chastity speakers when it comes to how they interact with the opposite sex and go about finding a partner for marriage. Part of it stems from the fact that we have ignored everything written before Vatican II on this issue and pretty much every other issue as well.

    Joi is bang on. And I see in popular presenters and presentations of Theology of the Body the tendency to take secular society’s ideas about sex (i.e. the glorification and exaltation of sex) and slap a “Sex is holy” sticker on it so as to “Christianize” and “baptize” it. The popular presentations of TOB are not what the Catholic Church actually teaches about sex; rather, it is a mishmash that is fundamentally more secular than Catholic, even though we have said “No” to certain sexual expressions as demanded by Catholic doctrine.

  • GE

    I think very few Christians adequately grasp what huge standards the Christian faith sets for chastity. From St. Paul and all the way up through the Church Fathers it can be seen what an enormous value the early Church ascribed to celibacy and to chastity both outside and within marriage. It was taken for granted, not only that it was best for a person to abstain completely from sex, but also that God would frequently give the grace to do so. It seems that it was not unusual for married couples in the early Church to abstain from sex for long periods of time, even permanently. The Church Fathers all teach that persons must not allow themselves to be ruled by their sexual appetites, but that these must be subject to reason (in the same manner as one’s appetite for food must be restrained lest one grows fat); this goes for married and celibate persons alike. According to the unanimous consent of the Fathers, the prime end of sex is the creation of new persons, and lust, wanting sex for the sake of pleasure, is always sinful to some extent, even if committed against one’s spouse.

    It is certainly the case that modern Protestantism considers all forms and amounts of sex OK, as long as it takes place within marriage. I used to buy into this. Yet I knew there was something wrong. For how come it is wrong to lust after and thus objectify a total stranger, but in the case of your spouse, whom you are supposed to love above all others, it is perfectly OK? The ancient Christian teaching on the ends of sex has provided me with the answer: of course it is NEVER right to lust, to want sex with someone simply for pleasure, even if they consent to it and the lust is mutual. Sex must be willed for a higher goal, something beyond both spouses, namely the new life that might spring from the union.

  • Magister Christianus

    Your comment about the little girl in the Playboy shirt is right on. I teach high school, and several years ago one of my female students wore a Playboy bunny necklace. She is African-American, and I asked if she would wear a Klan shirt. She said no, and I asked her why. She rightly observed that the Klan oppressed Blacks. I then asked why she would wear the symbol of a company built on the degradation of her own kind, i.e. women. To this she had no answer.

  • Bethanie Ryan


  • Mr. Curious

    Is it difficult being a woman? OK, perhaps that’s a bit tongue-in-cheek. But, I earnestly ask, do women find the need to be strong and feminine difficult to balance? Because I do not see these as mutually exclusive attributes, and most godly men I know appreciate and respect these qualities in women.

    Perhaps the difficulty comes from expectations. It seems (from the comments and personal experience) that men know their desires, for better or for worse (and some truly are worse, due to the very nature of perversion). The world knows what it expects of sex and sexuality and the Church (through the guidance of the Holy Spirit) should generally know what is to be played out in godly marriages, and doesn’t often try and dictate the specifics of a couple’s sexual expressions. But do women know their own expectations of sex?

    There are some very fascinating comments here, but there are also a few too many that sound an awful lot like, “More sex on women’s terms!” – I use ‘more’ here qualitatively. Surely this is very nearly as selfish and damaging as men who demand to set the boundaries of proprietary in their marriages? If men at times need to temper some of their wilder expectations of sex (and they do), surely women need to let go of some of their inhibitions if there is to be any hope of mutually satisfying one another?

    I just want to caution readers to think carefully before rushing to judgement just because Ms. Esther’s ideas (which I don’t necessarily disagree with) appeal to their own desires. Or else how are you any different than the men who rush to agree with Mark Driscoll because it appeals to their desires? I don’t want to see objectified women any more than I want to see whipped men.

    • Mary Michaud

      Thank you. Even though I doubt EE meant for people to take it this way, I could easily see how wives might use this and the next post to justify denying and shaming their husbands. It’s healthy to say “You know, hubby, I don’t feel comfortable doing that, it makes me feel degraded.” But (unless the situation seriously warrants it) it’s wrong to say, “How dare you suggest that? I’m not a porn star! Stop trying to fulfill your ungodly lusts on me and make our marriage bed impure!”

      (Incidentally, the former invites discussion between the spouses, the latter doesn’t)

  • Maggie Dee

    Thank you. Thank you. I don’t have time to read the comments but just wanted to say I absolutely HATE the fact that pole dancing/strip club attitudes have become normalized. There was a time when people would be embarrased to be associated with any of that. Why in H… would any woman with an ounce of self respect think it’s great to act like a stripper? Sigh…I cringe when I think about will be considered normal, healthy behavior when my daughter is old enough to date/marry.

  • Hannah C.

    I just wanted to say that I really appreciated this post and the one you posted after it. (I also appreciate your whole blog, and your tag line. Haha :))

    I’m still wrapping my mind about the Catholic ideas on sexuality etc. etc. They are pretty hard to wrap my head around. This is a bit easier. ;) Very very thought-provoking post and comments. I have nothing profound to add, however.

  • Maria

    Very true, and let’s not forget, that now that football season has arrived, men will be involved in this pornographic event called a “sport”, as pornographic immodest females, without any sense of decency, will be entertaining on the fields and in commercials, all the males with their invisible poles. Since they dress like prostitutes, how many males will have their souls exposed to sinfulness, instead of guarding their souls?

  • Chris

    Great post. There is no way that having a stripper pole in the bedroom helps realize the vision of sexuality in marriage. I know that people think that they are having fun and spicing things up, but what’s really happening is that women are inviting their husbands to sit back, watch, lust and objectify them. Remember, men are geared towards possession and ownership, and much of male sexuality is driven by the urge to “get some of that.” When you start dancing around the pole, you gratify that desire and divorce the spiritual/relational aspect of sex from the physical.

  • mortimerzilch

    you are onto something with this post/subject. You don’t seem Catholic…in the last 20 years the Popes have been putting out some good theological background on the use of the body and our sexuality. Sexual relations are supposed to keep chastity intact. I like that. There is no personal violation of the other. Artificial birth control is a big part of the problem. People mistakenly think they can turn reproductive organs into impotent instruments of pleasure. Not only is that inherently selfish, but it is just plain not possible, according to God’s blueprint. So, keep returning to this topic, much needs to be said. Feminists used to be against pornography because it exploited women and turned them into objects. Now the feminists are saying: “Exploit me! Objectify me!” Who bought them out?

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  • Plain Jane

    I think I was messed up by the Evangelical Protestant “anything goes as long as you’re married.” It’s a pretty impoverished vision of sexuality that certainly does take its cues from secular culture. The Catholic Church is RIGHT about sexuality. It is to be pure, especially within marriage. Evangelical Protestantism just doesn’t have a coherent theology of sexuality, and is far too dependent on celebrity culture. I remember this AWFUL book from the 1970s called “The Total Woman” by Marabel Morgan. It was all full of stuff to spice up your sex life, including greeting your husband dressed only in saran wrap. I left Evangelicalism a long time ago, partly because of the mindless embrace of baloney like this.

    • Tara S

      “Greet your husband dressed only in Saran Wrap.” Good gracious! I’d need half a dozen surgical procedures before I felt like *that* was an attractive thing to do. And I’m pretty nice looking.

      I think you’ve just rooted out the other inherent danger of over-sexualizing society and allowing that to creep into our marriages. Suddenly we are in grave danger of our bodies never being attractive enough. Jennifer Fulwiler actually had a great article on that idea about four years ago. (

  • dymphna

    But on the other hand I’m seeing a number of Catholics going the other way and turning sex into a rather dreary sacrament. It isn’t. It is fun and I don’t see what’s so terrible about adding some spice to the meat and potatoes.

  • Anthony S. Layne

    This was an excellent post.

    I couldn’t help noticing that many of the dissenting posts took the tack, “Women have sexual needs, too.” With respect, that’s exactly the wrong angle to come from if you wish to put forth a Christian response.

    If you’re trying to say, “A Christian husband should try to please his wife in bed,” I’ll agree with that, so long as the wife isn’t “pleased” by something inherently spiritually and/or physically unhealthy (S/M and so forth). But the argument as stated comes off as though the wife’s primary focus is satisfying her own desires (they’re not “needs”; need is a highly misused and abused word). Rather, St. Paul’s emphasis in 1 Cor 7:1-7 is concern for the other spouse, to help them keep their physical desires pointed in a legitimate and healthy direction.

    Moreover, it’s a mistake to confuse the physical euphoria of good sex with “freedom”. It’s precisely this error that begs a comparison of orgasms with drugs and alcohol, that leads people into a life of risky sexual behavior. Sexual addiction is a recognized psychological dysfunction, and it’s fed by the current culture of barely-restrained hedonism that currently surrounds us.

    Once again, EE, this was a great post, and I hope to pop by more frequently.

    • Anthony S. Layne

      “But the argument as stated comes off as though the wife’s primary focus is satisfying her own desires ….”

      Slight correction: the line should be read as “gender inclusive” … “But the argument as stated comes off as though the husband’s/wife’s primary focus is satisfying his/her own desires ….”

  • iJoy

    While this post has given food for thought, I have to be honest that some direct statements and implied statements vastly hurt what good is in it.

    For some couples, sex is only recreational. Recreational sex does not equal porn and it does not allow, by virtue of being recreational, what *you* consider porn to enter a marriage bed. In fact, countless children are brought into this world via “porn” acts both through procreational and recreational sex.

    On the subject of what is porn and is not… Who is to say where the line is drawn? Before, and to be frank also after, my husband and I found out all sex would be purely recreational, we enjoyed a very active sex life both in and out of the bed/bedroom, in many positions, and (gasp) in other people’s homes while guests there. We have used oils, feathers, other items. Neither of us ever felt degraded or got our ideas from watching or discussing porn. Contrast this with a friend who kissed her husband for the first time at their wedding and won’t French kiss him even after marriage. In her mind, I exhibited “pornographic” behavior with numerous boyfriends. Or another friend (actually, ex-boyfriend because we obviously had different views) who will only have sex in the missionary position with his wife, in their bed, with the lights off. (Granted, I have not spoken with him regarding his sex life since college, before he even met her. But that was his notion of the only chaste way to have sex.) What makes any other position, havings lights on, or being in a tent porn-ish?

    What is chaste for one, is not for another. Assuming a pole is degrading for someone other than yourself might be an incorrect assumption. Some feel unholy in a tube top. I had a strapless dress on for my wedding. So I guess for some people, I’m just porn-ish and unholy all around. But my husband and I will enjoy our marital sex life before heading to church on Sunday morning. And I’ll continue to not judge and stick my ideas of porn-ish and non porn-ish acts in others’ marital activities.

    • Mandy

      I really appreciate what you’ve said about this.
      I believe that the sex industry has made sex sinful. Having a fun, open relationship w/ones husband is not “sinful”.

  • Rose K.

    Lot can be said for and against the subject. But read Tobit. Also think of LOVE to one’s wife/husband and then LUST will be less and LOVE will occupy the space where God will be present. Our approach should not be purely materialistic. Let us ggo beyond and become one flesh as God commanded

  • Ron Conte

    “The pornification of marriage should be resisted as vigorously as the pornification of our culture.” — Alice von Hildebrand

  • Cathy

    It seems some years ago that people cried out that God, the Church and the Pope had no right to what goes on in their bedrooms. Yet, with that plea, under the guise of “privacy”, it seems to me that what goes on in the bedroom has been taken very much out of both the private and intimate realm of the marital relationship and has become, too often, debased information in the public realm, something to sell and something that sells. I guess, to me, the intense focus in regards to the sexual union as something that is just a function without boundaries has undermined the realm of mystery for the single person and the joy of trust and mutual respect for man and wife. In such a reality, it has left the realm of integrity even with respect to age and no child is to be left behind.

  • Patrick Carriveau

    Wisdom from the Catholic Catechism: “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.”
    “Conjugal love involves a totality, in which all the elements of the person enter – appeal of the body and instinct, power of feeling and affectivity, aspiration of the spirit and of will. It aims at a deeply personal unity, a unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul; it demands indissolubility and faithfulness in definitive mutual giving; and it is open to fertility. In a word it is a question of the normal characteristics of all natural conjugal love, but with a new significance which not only purifies and strengthens them, but raises them to the extent of making them the expression of specifically Christian values.
    “Sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, is not something simply biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such. It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and woman commit themselves totally to one another until death.”
    “The acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the spouses takes place are noble and honorable; the truly human performance of these acts fosters the self-giving they signify and enriches the spouses in joy and gratitude.”
    The spouses’ union achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life. These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple’s spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family.
    The conjugal love of man and woman thus stands under the twofold obligation of fidelity and fecundity.
    The married couple forms “the intimate partnership of life and love established by the Creator and governed by his laws; it is rooted in the conjugal covenant, that is, in their irrevocable personal consent.”
    Both give themselves definitively and totally to one another. They are no longer two; from now on they form one flesh. The covenant they freely contracted imposes on the spouses the obligation to preserve it as unique and indissoluble.
    “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”
    Fidelity expresses constancy in keeping one’s given word. God is faithful. The Sacrament of Matrimony enables man and woman to enter into Christ’s fidelity for his Church. Through conjugal chastity, they bear witness to this mystery before the world.
    St. John Chrysostom suggests that young husbands should say to their wives: I have taken you in my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself. For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us. . . . I place your love above all things, and nothing would be more bitter or painful to me than to be of a different mind than you.

  • Mara

    Alise, I’m addressing this to you and all who have been misled by certain teachers who have pornified the Song of Solomon.
    I’m not coming against couples who dance in front of each other for sexual gratification. I’m ONLY coming against twisting scripture to claim that the Bible basically commands or even recommends it.
    The Scripture that is used to promote pole dancing or other forms of sexual dancing is the second half of Song of Solomon 6:13.
    “Why should you gaze at the Shulammite, as at the dance of the two companies?” (King James says “Company of Two Armies” and the word in the original Hebrew is “Mahanaim.”)
    This is the same word that can be found in Genesis 32:2 “And when Jacob saw them, he said, ‘This is God’s host’: and he called the name of that place Manhanaim.”
    [Please, look it up for y0uself in a good concordance. I recommend Strong's Exhaustive Concordance.]

    • Mara

      Another thing to keep in mind when you read the Song of Solomons is that you SHOULD NOT just look at the “Good bits” as defined by certain preachers, the tantalizing pieces while neglecting the context and overview of the story, which certain preachers have completely ignored, preachers who have built their little, earthly kingdoms the same way Hugh Hefner made his millions.
      The context of Songs 6:13 also has references to the Shulamite as being as awesome as an army with banners and her being set over the chariots of her noble people.
      This is NOT, I repeat, NOT a sexual reference but rather a statement of how being loved by the Lover has exalter her to a high position in the land. There is nothing sexual about it.
      Especially not when the word Mahanaim is used. Because Mahanaim has to do with God’s host… Not sex.
      [Again, please look it up yourself. That is the best proof. This way you are not taking my word over a preacher or his word over mine. You are being a Berean and searching out the matter for yourself.]

  • Suellen

    The marital act is not meant to be either recreational or procreational. It is meant to be unitive and procreative. Whether you are able to have children or not, it will be procreative if you are open to life. It will be unitive if you are present to one another and not doing anything that degrades your humanity. The recreation that occurs is a fruit of being open to each other and to new life. I completely agree as to the pornification of sex even within marriage. God provides us an incredible banquet and we choose dumpster diving instead. Thanks be to God that His Mercy endures forever!

  • David Carlon

    Wonderful post… in our self worshiping and addiction prone culture some of us delude ourselves by rationalizing every sin until it becomes a virtue… when the wicked among us remove the sublime creative purpose and charity from sexual intercourse and focus instead on satisfying a disordered drive for pleasure, the sexual act simply becomes another form of masturbation… a temporary respite or escape from suffering with no long lasting prescription for happiness or satisfaction… and some fall ever deeper into the pit of self delusion and sometimes despair.

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  • Mandy

    So what about a woman doing a strip tease for her husband? Is that wrong too? Or is it just the pole that poses a problem?

    • Tara S

      I think there may be a fundamental disconnect here. It seems like you are suspecting that we (“we” being those who agree in large part with the original post) have some detailed and concrete list hidden up our sleeves of “the acceptable marital practices for our neighbours.”

      If this were the case, a question like yours would make a lot of sense, because eventually (through the increasing ridiculousness of our answers) you would ferret out that we were full of total and arbitrary nonsense. But the truth is, there’s no list. Rather it’s a philosophy that lays out really clearly what a physical relationship ought to be about, and from that philosophy, we get big red flags about certain things that seem to be either inherently or potentially opposed to that philosophy. I hope to high heaven that nobody here could answer your question distinctly, as to the relative merits and demerits of poles vs. strip teasing, and exactly *where* the line is for the General Acceptability of Marital Sex Acts For All Couples.

      When we are talking about certain behaviors being likely to be unhealthy, it is because, in relation to the philosophical implications, they raise those red flags. It is not because we know all the mysteries of sexual behavior and have a cross-referenced tome of their Canonical Acceptability. Such a thing sounds kind of porny in the first place, anyway. I wouldn’t want one if they were being handed out.

      • Mandy

        I see what you are saying, but that does not sound like the general consensus of this blog.
        I do not and will not have a pole in my room, however, to pass judgement on others on this is wrong and to expect men to want the exact same thing as women is wrong. Men are visual and there isn’t anything wrong with that unless they use it for sin, and watching your wife dance and enjoying it is not a sin.
        The problem is that the sex industry has tainted sex. The problem is not married couples having fun and enjoying each other.

        • Tara S

          It’s interesting that we can have such different impressions of the same discussion! I guess for me, because I have seen and experienced so much fallout from modern sexual mores, my main concern is how I can keep that kind of damage out of my marriage, so it’s really easy for me to see the above comments as helpful suggestions and things to think about, rather than anyone sitting in judgement.

          I really wasn’t joking about about the pornographic nature of sexual legalism, though. If anybody has actually sat down to make an exhaustive and detailed list about what is okay and what is not in marital relations, you can rest assured that they are probably a good deal less chaste than you are anyway, and you probably need’nt worry about their opinions! And that’s the spirit I’m taking this discussion in – I don’t suspect the participants (including myself) of having an overly developed sense of what is generally “okay” vs. “not okay” in practice… I think we are honestly just trying to fight against the tide of the sex industry (you are right, it’s a huge taint!) and complete sexual license (anyone, any time, for any reason), and have no interest in personally judging anybody.

          I hope this makes sense, and is not just a silly rehashing of what I said yesterday!

          • Mandy

            I just want to add that I do realize that each situation is different. People can have very distorted views of sex from the world around them which can lead to unrealistic expectations as well as abuse, and I would never want to be insensitive toward that view point. I just also know a lot of women who can’t have a healthy sexual relationship w/their husbands because they have been taught that its “naughty”, and that breaks my heart just as much.

            Btw..I am enjoying the discussion..thank you!

          • Tara S

            Yes! It’s such a shame, and such a testament to our broken condition, that no matter which side of the spectrum we come from, we can still be damaged by a lack of love or understanding in the places or people we got our ideas from. And I think people who were given a sense of shame or naughtiness about sex have been lied to every bit as much as I have been (in a totally different way). Shame comes from fear – not God. We don’t need shame to “keep us in line,” if we’re given all the information in its proper context.

          • Tara S

            I am enjoying the discussion too! :-)

  • Sisterlisa

    I think that a couple needs to have a discussion about what is good for them and what is not. Every individual is different. I think we each have the freedom AND responsibility to establish our own boundaries for our own marriages. I personally don’t have a pole in my room, but I don’t object to women who do. A couple might mutually agree upon that. So what would be the problem with say.. a waterbed? or lingerie? How about walking around in the bedroom with a bra and bikini lace panties on? Is it wrong because strippers walk around like that, so now a Christian woman can’t? I have a friend..whose husband was crippled (God rest his soul).. he needed a bar above his bed to help himself get out of bed..and the wife took advantage of that pole so they could continue making love..since otherwise his lack of legs would have halted their intimacy forever. I think we need to be careful to not judge a couple by what they do in the privacy of their bedroom. We never know why a couple decides on something..ya know? Women who have had damage done to their vagina from child birthing, may need tools to help develop those muscles again. Women who have lost the firmness of their breasts due to a variety of issues may go in for breast implants or a lift. Another friend of mine lost both her breasts due to cancer and her husband bought her a special filled bra so she would look proportioned and she was so thankful that he understood her desire to still look like a woman. There’s nothing wrong with looking, and being, sexy for our husbands. If a Christian woman WANTS to dance for her husband, naked or otherwise, pole or no pole, I think she has the freedom to do so.

  • Bob

    Not sure quite how I got here (I’m a total atheist, materialist, but “some of my best friends are Christians… ;-) ), but anyway I think it’s an interesting discussion for sure. I guess my reason for commenting is just that it seems like a bit of “cherry picking” to focus on a pole. Everything else that happens in the bedrooms of Christians also takes place in porn. Just because a pole has become a porn or stripping metaphor can’t possibly mean that it shouldn’t happen in a marriage. Taken to extremes this could proscribe everything beyond procreation (the hole in the sheet idea?) as pornographic because porn uses it. Part (most? all?) of the reason that porn is popular is that it turns people on; part of the reason that your husbands love you (and vice versa) is that you turn them on. There’s a lot more I could add here about the kind of fun we have now being influenced by “perversion” and media, but maybe this isn’t the place… anyway my main point is: don’t let dodgy industries ruin anything!! for you because “they got there first”!!

    PS. I think a pole in a bedroom is quite silly, and a young girl wearing a bunny motif is a much much different issue for me… Although of course I see the link… Anyway, keep up the very nicely written and polite discourse!

  • Jenna

    I k now the discussion is basically over, but I couldn’t leave without commenting. I think Elizabeth’s point that the banalization of sex and porn in general have permeated our thought process is spot on–we DO absorb what we hear and see and read. But I disagree with her belief that some mutually desired activities (like pole dancing) are degrading, simply because one person is inciting the desire of the other. In marriage, I fail to see how that is in any way degrading, if both parties are comfortable and enjoy it. To me, this “inherently degrading” bit quickly goes down a legalistic road, in which all sex acts outside missionary position basic run the risk of being labeled unholy. Desire for your spouse isn’t lust. Lust is an illicit or uncontrolled desire for someone/thing…if it’s not uncontrolled, and it’s not for someone else, the marriage bed is fair game for the imaginations of the couple!
    Also would point out, as other commenters have, that the very fact that some sex acts are seen as “unclean” would indicate how modern culture has shaped us, rather than Biblical thinking about marriage. It goes both ways…

  • Deborah

    I think that this is a matter of communication between husband and wife. It’s a heart issue. Pole dancing isn’t bad. Lust is bad. Women using their bodies to “control” men is bad. As long as sex and it’s purpose is in the right place, then I don’t think it matters what kind of foreplay a married couple does. Let the Holy Spirit lead each couple.

    If my hubs requests a pole dance, it doesn’t mean he is bringing porn into our marriage. I’m his wife. I’m his ONLY righteous outlet for sex. Christians have enough guilt to deal with about sex. In the marriage should be the one free area to do whatever they both want.

    God’s not defiled by a sexual dancing in a marriage. He made us sexual beings. Christians already have a reputation for being prude, and this just perpetuates it.

  • Annalea

    hm. i guess i’m not surprised that no one has touched this post via commenting. then again….

    i seriously never thought about the “pornification” of marriage but when you lay it out like this then i totally get it. man, satan is a crafty one. full of the most believable stealth when keeping it under the guise of it being okay as long as it’s in the marriage bed and both partners agree.

    seriously though, how many men would disagree to it especially with the church giving it a “biblical” okay?

  • LS

    so. . . .love this post.  :)