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.

11 comments

  • I wrote about my perrsonal experiejce with ‘virgin to vixen’ after seeing Libby Anne’s post. https://lanahobbs.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/the-problem-with-virgin-to-vixen-a-personal-story/

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    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.

    Speaking as a guy who HAS a bad case of Virgin/Whore Dichotomy, I’d phrase it a little stronger: They have to instantly morph from Virgin Unto Death to My Personal Porn Star (fulfilling every built-up fantasy of mine 24/7) on the wedding night. (And when you stand back and look at it, That Makes No Sense. At the very least, it sets up some VERY unrealistic expectations, and when pent-up fantasy collides with reality, something’s got to give.)

    Some of this is probably the Christianese Purity Culture bribing their boys to save themselves for marriage with promises of Barn-Burning Swinging-from-the-Chandeliers 24/7/365 Dynamite Married S*E*X if they only wait. If not a cause, that’s definitely an aggravating factor.

  • No kidding. 5 years into my marriage, and three children later, I still struggle with this. How do you go from “sex is bad” to “sex is awesome.” I’m told I need to flirt with my husband. I was taught NOT to flirt, and it was so ingrained in me that I don’t have the first idea of how to do it now! So what do we purity ring married survivors do? Go to WikiHow? You would not believe some of the books I’ve had put in my hand… or maybe you would. All to try to undo years of indoctrination. There’s got to be a better way…

  • Libby Anne, this was a fantastic article. As a woman who was once in a fundamental-evangelical marriage for several years, I can say that what you shared was spot on. Even when one acts like a ‘whore’ (I have disdain for that word) and performs for her spouse, her partner can also become suspicious of her activity outside of the marriage bed. In other words, “were did you learn that from?”

    I used to be a Christian ‘counselor’ for women, both in church and on Christian radio. The number one complaint with women was that their husbands had sexual hangups and there was a lack of genuine intimacy. *raises my hand, too*

    I also remember being involved in Christian wormen’s groups (evangelical) where women in leadership positions would tell other women to not bring out their husband’s ‘base passions’ in bed. “Don’t be too naughty.” That God was a jealous god, and to always remember that there is a third party in the marriage bed. God.

    So many mixed signals. Thanks so much for sharing.

    My thanks to H.A. as well for re-posting Libby Anne’s article. This is a very important issue that needs to be addressed and given more exposure.

  • Why should all the desires of a man be fulfilled. I have desires that involve big houses, vacations and wardrobes. I would love to eat 6 times a day. We all have desires that have to be channeled and given over to the Spirit. Pleasing my husband pleases me, but he does not demand that every thought he ever had be explored. Rather, he surrenders his thoughts to be captive to Christ.

  • This is such a good post. I have come to realize the dichotomy of being raised to guard my heart and mind and virginity at all costs till marriage… And then? Magically become a sexual person? I’ve been married for three years and I’m upset with myself that I still have hangups. I can’t magically think about and get excited about sex with my husband all the time because my whole life I was taught not to think about sex at all. It’s not my husband’s fault, but I’m doing him a disservice. He’s not expecting what this author is talking about or anything–the problem is all in my head. I wish there was a better way to navigate that line pre-marriage. And I wish for my future daughters a better way to look at purity.

  • My perspective as a 71-year-old Secular Humanist woman who insists on owning her own sexuality: CELEBRATE YOUR LUST ON YOUR OWN TERMS! Lust is NOT a character flaw created in the mythical garden of eden by (of all impossible things) a talking snake. It’s an ancient part of our DNA passed down through thousands of generations of successful evolutionary experiments. I personally see it as a necessary and delightful gift from Mother Nature (aka the Laws of Physics) to life to ensure its continuation and create its diversity. The physical universe is awesome enough as it is; no paranormal overlay from a scripture is needed.

    Google “Carl Sagan’s quotes” to understand why we non believers don’t need any gods. Richard Dawkins is another reliable source.

    A young fundamentalist man and I were talking about why the Bible’s impossible stories should be viewed as metaphor, not literal truth. I said, “You need to bring me a talking snake for me to consider your Bible with any seriousness.” After lots of silence and subject changing, he finally asked, “Why can’t snakes talk?” I was dumbstruck: Of COURSE! He knew nothing about life’s engine: Evolution: Nothing about how physical life is shaped by genes, DNA, RNA, TGCA, mutations, etc. He thought a snake could talk if an important book (the bible) said so. The Bible is the opposite of scientific knowledge.

    Please investigate evolution; it’s NOT a lie but the basis for our current knowledge of biology. I say current because science is always finding game-changing information that forges other completely new avenues of investigation. Did you know, for example, until the Neanderthal genome was recently completed,, we didn’t know that most people throughout the world have NEANDERTHAL ancestors? But because the purpose of science is to discover truth NO MATTER WHERE IT LEADS, we can accept this new knowledge and watch as researchers discover through the scientific method how it fits into human evolution. Fascinating stuff, guys. Come join the party.

  • I myself have always wondered about this. If these girls and women are raised in environments that lead them to be completely squeamish about sex and probably feel the same way about nudity, how on earth are they going to suddenly be fine with having sex with their new husbands?

    • They’re not fine with it… I personally know of several virgin girls who got physically ill on their wedding nights. (Puking, fever etc.) The stress of being “raped” was just too much. I even know of one girl who upon her new husband unzipping her dress for her, freaked out, ran crying into the bathroom and locked herself in. 😥
      That’s what we were saving ourselves for….

  • Pingback: Virgin, Whore, Christian Scientist | kindism

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