See also: intro.
So one of the reasons that The Act of Marriage was such a ground-breaking text in the mid-70s was that it was one of the first modern Christian fundamentalist, evangelical books on marriage to be all “whee! sex be awesome and of the Lord!” And that’s really the message of chapter one: Good Christians can make with the sexytimes.
In “The Sanctity of Marriage” I learned that:
1. God’s okay with
people married, hetero couples doin’ it. “Some people have the strange idea that anything spiritually acceptable to God cannot be enjoyable” (15). But nope. Sexual intimacy outside of marriage is “condemned” and people who commit the “sin” of pre-marital sex will likely have to confess and receive forgiveness before they can proceed along the path of righteousness orgasms.
2. God made our bodies, and therefore our bodies are good. “God designed our sex organs for enjoyment” (11). I’m not actually going to snark about this one, because if you’re going to believe in a creator I don’t think it can hurt to believe that the creator looked upon human embodiment as something positive, rather than negative, and gave us our bits for a reason. Especially the clit. Because I’m fond of clitori.
3. “Spirited” sexytimes are all over the Bible. Old testament, new testament. Everywhere. Adam and Eve were likely getting it on in the Garden of Eden before the Fall. (For true!) All I could think about reading this section was the episode of Futurama in which Leela and Zapp Brannigan crash land on an Edenic planet and Zapp tries to convince Leela she has a duty to make it with him in order to re-populate a supposedly destroyed Earth. There are fig leaves and everything.
4. When supporting your argument that sexual intimacy is Christian, and proof-texting is the way to go. This isn’t surprising, because the cultural of evangelical fundamentalism encourages this sort of behavior. If you make an assertion, you need a bible verse to back it up.
5. Have I mentioned sex outside of marriage is a no-no? Well it totally is. In any way, shape, or form. In fact, according to the LaHayes’ interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7: 2-5,
1. Both husband and wife have sexual needs and drives that should be fulfilled in marriage.
2. When one marries, he forfeits his control of his body to his partner.
3. Both partners are forbidden to refuse the meeting of the mate’s sexual needs.
4. The act of marriage is approved by God.
I love how these four tenants are such a surreal combination of yeah, I’m down with that and ohmyGODwhatareyouTHINKING. It’s like a sandwich made with fresh-from-the-oven artisan bread and with a filling that carries botchialism. Both partners, male and female, have sexual needs? The act of marriage (sexytimes) comes with the God-stamp seal of approval? Well, hooray! Particularly if you’re coming from a God-saturated worldview, and from a patriarchal religious background, those things are babysteps toward a way better place. But then OH MY GOD it’s so full of NOT OKAY in the middle!!! “Forfeits control of his body”?! “Forbidden to refuse”??!
And I’m totally not distracted by the “he” and “his” pronouns here. Because (I peeked) chapters two and three are about male and female “lovemaking” needs? And men totally want more sex than women. So even though the language is neutral, paired with the universe of wrong that is gender essentialism this is about making the ladybits 25/8 accessible for the magic, randy penes.
IN SUM: The “adequate lady-spouse metric”
My friend Molly commented on the intro post that she was looking forward to learning how she measures up as a lady-spouse. And in honor of her, I decided to give myself grades after each chapter according to how well I have/will perform as a lady-spouse myself (a girl’s gotta have something to strive for, right?). So here’s my score for chapter one:
+15 –> in agreement that mutual pleasure is key to sexual intimacy
+10 –> down with the idea that God made flesh and flesh is good
+10 –> down with the idea that, since flesh is good, sex is also good in the eyes of the Lord.
-20 –> and yet I’m a pre-marital slut
-5 –> who’s not guilt-ridden about it
-30 –> and oh wait, I’m also a dyke*
-5 –> who’s busy enjoying “spirited” “acts of marriage” with my (almost) lady-spouse**
-25 –> and plans to retain “control” over my body and right of refusal re: sexytimes post-vows
Chapter 1 score: +35/-85 = -50
Watch this space on Sunday for the gloriousness that will be a comparison (with tables!) of “What Lovemaking Means to a Man” and “What Lovemaking Means to a Woman.”
Let’s just say … I’m doing it wrong.
*Technically, I’m probably worse being bi/omni/fluid whatever. I could be making myself available to the magic penes, but I’m not ’cause my almost-lady-spouse doesn’t happen to have one.
**Does committing acts of marriage with an almost-lady-spouse technically make them “acts of pre-marriage”?