The Problem with Virgin to Vixen: A Personal Story

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hobbs’ blog Lana Hobbs the Brave. It was originally published on October 28, 2013.

(If anyone around here is uncomfortable reading about sex, drop out now!)

In “Pulling the Victoria’s Secret Dance”, Libby Anne tackles the conservative Christian culture’s strange demands on women, that they go from being perfectly virginal, pure, and innocent to becoming their husband’s personal porn stars after saying “I do”.

I imbibed enough of Debi Pearl and other Christian writers (not to mention my mother’s advice to ‘not say no too often’) to get this idea in my head that while I could enjoy sex, it was for me primarily about performing for my husband — in part to make him happy, and in part so he would never cheat.

And boy did I perform.

And I think I did a pretty decent job for someone who had never seen so much as a sex scene in a movie — since my husband hadn’t seen anything like that either, he didn’t know any better. ;)

And I enjoyed performing. Mostly. I would sometimes get flashbacks during sex of being touched by other people, but i would push past that — I would disassociate. My mind felt like it was leaving my body and it felt odd but i didn’t stop because I believed that to stop was basically to invite my husband to leave me.

And when I say performing, I mean it. I was acting. When i didn’t feel sexually attractive, I was pretending I was.

It was all an act.

That only gets you so far. It can be fun, acting, but doing it every time is draining and regularly having sex while disassociating left me feeling a little sad and confused.

I finally realized this year that I was performing — like I was taught — instead of really being there myself.

I’ve started saying ‘no’ when I start to disassociate. I’ve started being a little less sexy, and a little more myself. I’ve started learning about what I want.

I’m relaxing more and forcing it less.

This is the part where i would love to say that everything is better than ever now. Well, that isn’t quite so. It was easier when I was acting. I knew exactly what to do and my feelings didn’t matter. I could even manufacture a version of the feelings if necessary — growing up where your ‘attitude’ and emotions are under constant scrutiny makes you good at that.

So it isn’t all a bed of roses now. We have a lot of rebuilding to do, trying to get rid of my emotional baggage and start over from a new, healthier perspective in which sex comes out of love and desire instead of duty and insecurity.

But we’re working together, connecting instead of acting, and I think it will end up being a beautiful thing.

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.