Pulling Back the Sheets: Genuine Dialogue Among Christians about Oral S.ex
Posted on Thursday, September 9th, 2010
Here's a question. When was the last time you were in your small group or out to breakfast after church, and someone casually offered up this as a conversation starter: "What do you all think about oral sex?" Let me guess. Never, right?
It's not that the topic of oral sex isn't a worthy one to explore. It's just that the thought of such a discussion creates not only extreme discomfort, but also a spectrum of opinions. It touches upon something incredibly personal. If we are honest, we recognize that even within individual marriages, opinions often differ, sometimes to the point of tremendous discord. Call it deeply-engrained human nature, but we tend to not run with enthusiasm into contentious (or potentially embarrassing) conversations. So, oral sex remains a rarely-discussed topic among Christians.
Then there's me, a Christan gal who actually wants to generate dialogue on controversial sexual topics. (I know. I'm a freak of nature). I just want to keep it real (even if it means I'll get spam-listed, relegated to hang out in people's email junk folders).
In all seriousness, I believe that the questions we fervently avoid will undoubtedly torment us -- either in our own minds or within our marriages. I don't know about you, but I'll take some uncomfortable out loud dialogue any day over silent isolation. I don't want to talk about oral sex in a disrespectful way, but rather in a way that gets at the heart of bewilderment causing angst within marriages.
Is Oral Sex Okay in God's Eyes?
Before we dig into that question, let's first try to get on the same discussion page.
As the term implies, "oral sex" is indeed sex, contrary to the opinion of some singles (particularly teenagers) who try desperately to convince themselves otherwise. Search all we want on the relational landscape for a way to experience and/or give sexual pleasure and still "technically" abstain, and we will always arrive at the same reality: Human-derived "technicalities" will never give us a God-approved pass on sin. Never. Oral sex is sex, and sex outside of marriage is a sin.
(I find it a little ironic that there is even a debate over whether oral sex is really sex. Any act that is described with the word "sex" is... uh... sex).
So let's talk about if it is okay in marriage. That is the lens I am peering through: Is it permissble for a married couple within the privacy and exclusivity of their marital intimacy to give and receive oral sex? (For definition purposes, oral sex is a husband stimulating his wife's vagina and clitoris with his tongue and mouth, and a wife stimulating her husband's penis and testicles with her tongue and mouth, sometimes to the point of orgasm, but not always).
Is Oral Sex Okay Biblically?
Christians collectively will never definitively agree on this. Bum deal. No clearly-spelled out command exists in the Bible regarding oral sex, which means we are left to our own prayerful interpretation. I am not opposed to oral sex within marriage, but I simultaneously respect that some people do not share my sentiments. That's cool. We can all be friends on the playground. No hard feelings. (I personally believe it's okay to baptize babies too, and none of my "by- immersion-only-when-you-can-proclaim-faith-on-your-own" friends have banned me from their barbecues.)
As theological and spiritual debates linger about oral sex, here are some points to consider:
Some argue that oral sex is not permissible because it cannot create a baby. I think this is a weak argument, because...sorry to state the obvious... but we often have sex when there is no possibility of creating a baby. In fact, the vast majority of our sexual encounters in marriage do not create a baby.
If sex could only happen when a life could be created, then we wouldn't have sex during pregnancy, or when we are not ovulating, or if we are infertile, or after menopause and so on. Yet, we have sex during all of those circumstances (as well as many others). We have sex because it is about so much more than procreation. And we know this.
Some would argue that the book of Song of Songs in the Bible (nestled between Ecclesiastes and Isaiah) is the strongest scriptural support of oral sex. Most Christians believe that one interpretation of this book is a beautiful depiction of marital intimacy. It is within this book of the Bible that we find verses that some people believe celebrate oral sex as a valid sexual expression in marriage (Song of Songs 2:3, 4:16, 5:1, 6:2-3 and 8:2). The book itself is not a lengthy read, and Christian authors have written commentaries on it, if you want to dig deeper into it.
Regardless, though, on whether someone feels Song of Songs supports oral sex, I think another barometer offers even better clarification. If we can rationalize that it is allowable to kiss and be kissed other places besides the lips, then how do we arbitrarily draw a line where no visual line exists?
Here's what I mean -- if we feel it is okay for a husband to kiss his wife's neck...or her breasts...or her hand...or her navel...or her forehead... then how can we rationalize that her entire body is not permissible ground (and vice versa for her expressing herself orally with him)? How close is "too close" when the mouth nears the genital region? There is nothing that would indicate such a line exists. Sex is much more of a full-body (and heart and soul) experience than it is a compartmentalized experience. One need to look no further than the role of foreplay in our sexual encounters to know that sex is rarely about the simple physical act of intercourse. This is especially true when sex is a valued and nurtured part of a marriage.
Yes, I have both feet firmly planted in the camp of oral sex being permissible within marriage. Even so, I do think wisdom is in order. I believe adamantly that sexual intimacy that honors God to the fullest is built upon a foundation of sacred covenant love, trust, respect and kindness. That being said, if one spouse is forcing another to perform or receive oral sex despite their reservations or convictions, then the foundation is crumbling badly. Healthy intimacy is not about forcing anything sexually. Ever.
Some readers have asked me about oral sex beyond the biblical angle, wondering about the physical aspects.
Is Oral Sex Okay Medically? Can It Hurt You?
I'll begin this with a disclaimer that I am not a doctor, so don't take any of this as official medical advice. I do feel at liberty, though, to offer some common sense insights. As for whether oral sex is harmful physically, obviously it is harmful if sexually transmitted diseases are involved. Oral sex involves the exchange of bodily fluids and close skin contact, which is often how sexual diseases are transmitted. Speak extensively to your doctor about any concerns you have that oral sex could cause you or your spouse physical harm.
Also, it is extremely important that a husband not blow into the vagina, particularly if his wife is pregnant.
When disease does not exist, is semen harmful if swallowed and are the fluids and bacteria within the vagina harmful if swallowed? I've yet to read or hear anything from a medical professional that would even remotely suggest that it is harmful to ingest semen or vaginal secretions (when no disease exists mind you). Semen is essentially made up of proteins, enzymes, vitamans, sugar and sperm. Sure, it's not a pina colada, but it's not liquid acid either. It is harmless if swallowed.
Why is Oral Sex Such a Difficult Topic in Some Marriages?
In my conversations with many wives, the debate happening in most marriages about oral sex usually is not a moral one. Most wives aren't wondering, "Is it okay in God's eyes for me to do this?" Most who have reservations are thinking, "Do I really want to do this?" Or, they have already made up their minds that they "definitely don't want to do this."
Husbands, on the other hand, generally are in the camp of wanting oral sex -- receiving and giving. I haven't read any studies as to why this is, but I am guessing it is because husbands who have experienced oral sex generally enjoy it (or they have heard it feels good and want to experience it). And, if you talk to wives who enjoy receiving it as well, it's usually because their spouse has figured out how to do it in a way that is incredibly pleasurable.
Which brings me to another point. If a couple determines oral sex is a welcome aspect of their sexual intimacy, are there suggestions on what can make it enjoyable? Here are some ideas worth pondering:
- Shower before hand (maybe even shower together, which is fun). Concerns about cleanliness and odors of the genital area can quickly be resolved by coming to bed clean.
- Ask for and give feedback. As simple as oral sex seems in theory, in practice the intensity of pleasure can vary greatly depending on how oral sex is performed. Unfortunately, husbands and wives don't intuitively come into marriage knowing what their partner is going to prefer sexually. You don't need to run out and buy Cosmo to figure out how to give pleasure. You and your spouse simply need to specifically and lovingly guide each other and communicate. "I like it when you ____________" or "It feels really good when you ___________." The key is to be specific. The clitoris and the head of the penis sometimes need more pressure and stimulation than we realize. (Some Christian sex books actually address in detail how to give oral sex).
Finally, my last suggestion is that oral sex not become the only form of sexual intimacy in a marriage. There is something tenderly unifying about a husband's penis within his wife's vagina, so to completely toss such encounters aside would be foolish in my book.
I believe God has granted us tremendous freedom for creativity within our marital sexual intimacy. As long as no third parties are involved and neither spouse is being hurt (physically, emotionally or spiritually), then I think God delights in a couple fully embracing their sexual experience, going to sacred depths of vulnerability, love and pleasure.
For more reading on oral sex, there is a great page over at Paul and Lori Byerly's site. It addresses oral sex and a wide variety of other topics that compel couples to ask "What's Okay? What's Not?" The Byerlys are really forerunners in talking openly and thoroughly to Christians about sex.
I also really like how Marla Taviano talks about oral sex in her book "Is That All He Thinks About" (one of my favorite Christian sex books, by the way. Just to clarify -- Taviano talks about all aspects of sexual intimacy, not just oral sex). Nearly all of the other Christian sex books also address it, so you are not lacking for resources.
As with any controversial topic, there are not easy solutions. If the issue of oral sex is a source of contention in your marriage, I encourage you and your husband to seek God's wisdom, to pray, and to honestly discuss how you each feel. I'm not saying this is a guarantee that you will arrive at a place of unity on it, but I do think your odds are greater when you press into God's heart and Word.
Let's be about shedding light and generating dialogue, even when the conversations get uncomfortable.
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