Since I’ll both have AND be, well, I decided the best thing was to read both chapters just to be sure I had all my bases covered. I have a few overall observations about the differences between the two sections and the overall assumptions being made about what makes for positive sexual intimacy and martial relations. But first, the nitty-gritty details (you know you want them!).
Here’s what one must do in order to sustain one’s marriage:
|1||Learn as much as you can.
Quote: “Since skilled lovemaking is not instinctive, a wise husband will learn as much as he can from a reliable, Christian source.” (i.e. the last two chapters of this very book!)
Adequate lady-spouse metric (8/10): I love learning about sexuality, but I can’t say I depend very heavily on “reliable, Christian source[s]” so why don’t we say five out of ten for this one.
|Maintain a positive mental attitude.
Quote: “Three areas in a woman’s sexual thinking pattern are very important to her: (a) what she thinks about lovemaking; (b) what she thinks about herself; (c) what she thinks about her husband.”**
Alsm (10/10): Lovemaking = awesome, self = good enough to be getting on, wife = sexy, compassionate, smart, and kick-ass. Think we got this covered.
Quote: “Be careful not to overdo it, but concentrate on something that will delay your ejaculation and give your wife sufficient time for her emotional build-up.”
Alsm (2/10): I’m all for paying attention to where my partner’s at and making sure she’s enjoying herself – but I’m not sure how that jives with delaying orgasm by thinking about football.
|Relax! Relax! Relax!
Quote: “It should come as no surprise that a virgin will be rather tense in anticipation of her first intercourse.”
Alsm (5/10): While I’ve got the relaxing bit down, I think I probably lose 50% for not actually being virginal on my wedding night.
|3||Concentrate on your wife’s satisfaction.
Quote: “Since a woman’s orgasm is much more complex than a man’s, it takes her longer to learn this art.”
Alsm (5/10): With two complex lady-gasms to worry about, you’d think future-wife and I would have it extra hard! Maybe that’s why the fundies are against same-sex marriage — because they worry lesbians won’t achieve enough simultaneous orgasms?
|Chuck your inhibitions.
Quote: “Though modesty is an admirable virtue in a woman, it is out of place in the bedroom with her husband.”
Alsm (4/10): I’ve got the bedroom covered, but what about the living room or kitchen? And the whole we-aren’t-actually-technically-wedded-in-holy-matrimony-yet thing might move my lack of inhibitions from the “admirable quality in a wife” column to the “shameless hussy” column.
|4||Remember what arouses a woman.
Quote: “Men are stimulated by sight whereas women respond more to other things — soft, loving words and tender touch.”*
Alsm (10/10): Not gonna be a problem, so much.
|Remember that men are stimulated by sight.
Quote: “The sight of a bedraggled wife may engender sympathy (though it’s doubtful) but it will rarely inspire love.”
Alsm (0/10): Oh, god, I’m always bedraggled. Future Lady Spouse despairs.
|5||Protect her privacy.
Quote: “Men are far more inclined than women to be sex braggarts.”
Alsm (5/10): Since I’m a woman, you’d think I have this covered but I write a blog in which I talk about stuff like orgasms and erotica and how much I enjoy both, which probably makes me a braggart on some level.
|Never nag, criticize, or ridicule.
Quote: “Nothing turns a man off faster than motherly nagging and criticism or ridicule of his manhood.”
Alsm (6/10): I agree that “ridicule” and treating one’s spouse as if they were a dependent to be controlled*** rather than a person to be respected as an equal it’s time to re-evaluate what you’re doing with this person as a spouse. But I don’t agree that avoiding confrontation, substantive argument, or asking for change is wrong.^
|6||Beware of offensive odors.
Quote: “A thoughtful lover will prepare for lovemaking by taking frequent baths, using effective deodorant, and practicing good oral hygeine.”
Alsm (10/10): I have it on the authority of Future Lady Spouse that she is in favor of my odors.
|Remember that you are responder.
Quote: “Except for those occasions when a wife is particularly amorous and initiates lovemaking, a husband makes the first approach most of the time.”
Alsm (0/10): We don’t have a husband, so there’s a technical difficulty here. Oops!
|7||Don’t rush lovemaking.
Quote: “The time spent lovemaking varies with the culture. Researchers have indicated that the average experience runs from two minutes in some cultures to thirty minutes in others.”
Alsm (10/10): I just gotta say I find it really amusing that “more is better!” is something that has to be spelled out here.
|Observe daily feminine hygiene.
Quote: “Every woman must be careful of body odors for two reasons: first, in some women the vaginal fluids … can emit a strong odor unless they bathe regularly; and second, she may become immune to her own smells.”
Alsm (8/10): While I’m a fan of the daily shower, and enjoy our wide and indulgent array of Lush products, I’m deducting points here on principle ’cause I think our ladybits smell just fine thank you.
Quote: “I have been appalled to learn that even well-educated people find it difficult to discuss their love lives frankly.”
Alsm (10/10): I hyperverbalize and I love sex … need I say more?
Quote: “Unless a man has read the right books or sought knowledge in the right places, much of what he knows about women is likely to be wrong when he enters marriage.”
Alsm (10/10): <– See left.
|9||[I guess men aren’t responsible for prayer?]||When all else fails, pray.
Quote: “I’m convinced that God never intended any Christian couple to spend a lifetime in the sexual wilderness of orgasmic malfunction.”
Alsm (5/10): While I’m all for a pro-orgasm God, I … what? (Although bonus points for phrasing!)
Notice how the instructions for men involve practical things (keeping clean, gathering information, controlling ejaculation) and are largely confined to the specific situations of sexual intimacy. Men are encouraged to slow down their love-making, learn how their lovers bodies work, respect their partner’s privacy, and to communicate with their partners about sex. So far, so good! Except for what it leaves out: men’s emotional lives. Men are assumed to want sex basically whenever their wives take their clothes off, and all of the instructions in the husband’s section are geared toward getting him to control his bestial (physical) urges and pay attention to his partner’s needs.
Now notice how much emotional work is expected from women. First on the list is the admonishment that women get into the right headspace for sex, which in the chapter involves three sub-sections worthy of discussion. Women, not men, are expected to have emotional baggage around sex being shameful, their bodies being shameful, and their partners being undesirable. In addition to basic bodily hygiene, women are expected not to look “bedraggled,” not to “nag,” and to pray (attend to the spiritual health of the couples’ relationship) when all else “fails.” Men have no analogous last-resort advice.
Finally, although none of these specific points touch on it, I want to recall from chapter five the argument that the best lover is an unselfish lover who attends to their partner’s needs and desires above their own. I think this assumption continues to play out in chapters six and seven: Husbands are instructed to subordinate their physiological response to the course of their wife’s arousal, while wives are instructed to tidy up all messy emotional and psychological issues so their husbands will be able to love them. While mutual empathy is, obviously, a major indicator of any successful relationship (sexual or otherwise), there’s a serious case to be made for the notion that selfish sex is the best kind of sex. That is, learning and owning what you enjoy, how your body responds, and how to communicate your desires, is key to pleasurable sexytimes. While focusing on your partner’s pleasure is laudable, knowing what you want and need and how to ask for it is equally important. And that’s one of the key pieces I see missing in The Act of Marriage.
Ability and willingness to fulfill the duties of being a wife: 48/90 = -42
Chapters 6-7: -62
Chapters 4-5 score: +30
Chapters 2-3 score: -33
Chapter 1 score: -50
Cumulative ALSM Score: -115
*Having experienced first-hand what seeing my wife’s nakedness does to stimulate arousal, I’m baffled by this assertion.
**Aren’t these a good rule of thumb for anyone in sexually-intimate relationships, regardless of sex, sexual orientation, or gender?
***This isn’t the place to unpack the “motherly nagging” assumption, but if you’re treating your kid through passive-aggressive control and shaming ridicule, you’re doing it wrong.