Pulling the Victoria’s Secret Dance

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on October 27, 2013.

Fundamentalist and conservative evangelical Christianity is weird.

Women are taught to dress modestly in public, to stay away from pornography or premarital sex, etc. Prostitutes and strippers are derided, along with everyone who dresses “like a whore” (i.e. less modestly than they’re supposed to). But in private, within marriage? Women are expected to perform.

They have to somehow go from reserved modesty to being, well, a man’s personal supermodel.

Take this blog comment, for instance:

I understand that the woman who are not in favor of woman as homemakers mainly had a history of sexual abuse or neglect or have a lack of suffering and salvation with Christ of some sort. This is a fallen world and even if [a] woman is married to a man who is fallen . . . we woman [sic] may have to pull the Victora’s [sic] Secret dance for our husband to keep him in line.

I’m not even sure how a woman who has remained abstinent and has shunned any hint of or look at immorality is supposed to know how to “pull the Victoria’s Secret dance” for her potentially cheating husband.

There’s an enormous amount of pressure on a wife to perform sexually.

Many fundamentalist and conservative evangelicals would place at least some blame on a woman if her husband cheats. Was she putting out? Had she let herself go? Was she giving him the fulfilling sex life he needed as a man? Sure, they would say the fault ultimately lays with the husband, but they would also scrutinize whether his wife was doing her proper job keeping him fulfilled.

In fundamentalist and conservative evangelical circles, a woman is to keep her husband sexually satisfied. It’s part of her job description as wife. In fact, not a few leaders would go so far as to tell women that one way to cure a cheating husband is to put out more, and better, to become a porn star in the bedroom so that their husbands are no longer tempted to cheat.

Except, it doesn’t work like that, and the pressure—and guilt—created is enormous.

Now I do want to be fair. An increasing number of evangelical leaders do place an emphasis on female sexual pleasure, and some have been doing so for decades. However, there is still generally this idea that sex is more necessary for men, and less necessary for women. Because “Women spell romance R-E-L-A-T-I-O-N-S-H-I-P. Men spell romance S-E-X.” Amirite? This shouldn’t be surprising, as this idea is also widespread in culture at large, but the increased emphasis on female sexual pleasure in evangelical circles does occur within this context.

My second concern has to do with the amount of baggage surrounding sex that so many young women who grew up in fundamentalist or conservative evangelical homes find themselves with. Switching from zero to one hundred overnight can be a problem for many of these women. Without any experience or knowledge, they’re expected to become a man’s personal Victoria’s Secret model and perform well in bed.

Of course, to be fair, it’s generally accepted that there will be a learning curve. Still, going from seeing sexual urges as sinful to seeing them as good, and then going beyond that to sexually perform in an effort to keep a husband uninterested in other women, all without outside experience even knowledge or information? Ugh.

In the last decades many fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals have been doing more to preach the goodness of marital sex, and in some cases are writing guides.

I still can’t help but feel like at least some of these read like “how to perform for your husband” manuals, rather than “how to have mutually-fulling sex with another individual” manuals (to be clear, I haven’t read them all, and will check back with you on some of this if at some point I do).

I guess I can’t get over the feeling that many fundamentalists and evangelicals don’t see a woman performing sexually for a man as in and of itself bad. It’s only bad if that man is a paying client rather than a husband you’re trying to keep from cheating.