(Click here to read the whole Sex in Song of Solomon series.)

Song of Solomon, Chapter 7.

In chapter 6 we read the Lover and his Beloved praising each other, and chapter 7 continues that theme with the Lover’s admiration of his Beloved’s physical attributes. The imagery here isn’t hard to interpret.

How beautiful are your feet in sandals,
    O noble daughter!
Your rounded thighs are like jewels,
    the work of a master hand.
Your navel is a rounded bowl
    that never lacks mixed wine.
Your belly is a heap of wheat,
    encircled with lilies.
Your two breasts are like two fawns,
    twins of a gazelle.
Your neck is like an ivory tower.
Your eyes are pools in Heshbon,
    by the gate of Bath-rabbim.
Your nose is like a tower of Lebanon,
    which looks toward Damascus.
Your head crowns you like Carmel,
    and your flowing locks are like purple;
    a king is held captive in the tresses.
How beautiful and pleasant you are,
    O loved one, with all your delights!

The Lover delights in the beauty of his Beloved: her feet, thighs, stomach, breasts, neck, eyes, nose, head, hair. So what’s he going to do about it?

Your stature is like a palm tree,
    and your breasts are like its clusters.
I say I will climb the palm tree
    and lay hold of its fruit.
Oh may your breasts be like clusters of the vine,
    and the scent of your breath like apples,
and your mouth like the best wine.

And the Beloved’s response isn’t coy or shy — she invites her Lover into her fields and vineyards, where she promises to give him her love.

It goes down smoothly for my beloved,
    gliding over lips and teeth.
I am my beloved’s,
    and his desire is for me.

Come, my beloved,
    let us go out into the fields
    and lodge in the villages;
let us go out early to the vineyards
    and see whether the vines have budded,
whether the grape blossoms have opened
    and the pomegranates are in bloom.
There I will give you my love.
The mandrakes give forth fragrance,
    and beside our doors are all choice fruits,
new as well as old,
    which I have laid up for you, O my beloved.

Mandrake root was believed to be an aphrodisiac that would also enhance fertility. The Beloved has laid up all the choice fruits of her sexuality for her Lover, both new and old. The image here is that the Beloved is eager to ravish her Lover with her body, ready and willing share with him the beauty that he has admired for so long. The Beloved offers everything to her Lover and holds nothing back.

Only one chapter to go!

This passage from Genesis 30:14-17 cracks me up. The sisters Leah and Rachel were two of Jacob’s wives — Leah was Jacob’s first wife, and Rachel was Jacob’s best-loved wife. Leah had already borne Jacob four sons, but now both she and the childless Rachel were unable to conceive. Mandrake roots were commonly believed to be aphrodisiacs that could cure female infertility.

In the days of wheat harvest Reuben went and found mandrakes in the field and brought them to his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” But she said to her, “Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son’s mandrakes also?” Rachel said, “Then he may lie with you tonight in exchange for your son’s mandrakes.” When Jacob came from the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come in to me, for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he lay with her that night. And God listened to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son.

I’m sure this situation was fraught with emotion for everyone involved, as for anyone struggling with infertility, but from several thousand years away the conversation strikes me as quite humorous.

Both women eventually have children, so from then on I’m sure all was happy and peaceful in their household.

We’ve gotten enough emails on the topic that it’s worth addressing: is it ok for Christians to engage in swinging or wife swapping? (None of the emails we’ve received are suitable for quotation.) I suppose we get these emails because it’s obvious from our blog that Sexy Corte and I are pro-sex and enjoy some kinky stuff that isn’t discussed at church. I’m not sure if the folks who email us are genuinely wondering what the Bible has to say on swinging or if they’re looking for someone to help rationalize existing behavior, but I’m going to give a sincere answer.

Swinging or wife swapping is a sin called adultery, and is never acceptable to God. It doesn’t matter if you, your spouse, and the other couple all consent — God doesn’t consent. The Seventh Commandment is short and to the point:

Exodus 20:14, “You shall not commit adultery.”

Jesus raises the bar set in the Old Testament:

Matthew 5:27-28, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

A person might claim, “It’s not adultery if my spouse knows about it and approves.” However, the definition of adultery makes no such distinction, and never has throughout human history.

voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than his or her lawful spouse.

The bottom line here is similar to an earlier Q&A on threesomes:

God’s will is that sex should be reserved exclusively for a husband and a wife. So, while there aren’t many limits on what you and your wife can do together, you can’t bring someone else into your sexual relationship. Neither spouse can give the other spouse permission to commit adultery — adultery isn’t just a sin against your spouse, it’s a sin against God. Permission from your spouse doesn’t make adultery acceptable to God. It is never acceptable to have sex outside of your marriage. See also: Proverbs 5, “be intoxicated always in her love”Hebrews 13:4, and Proverbs 7.

If your marriage is happy, swinging won’t strengthen it; if your marriage is unhappy, wife swapping won’t fix any of the underlying problems. We strongly exhort every married couple to keep their sex life exclusive to themselves. This is what God commands through the Bible, and worldly experience says the same thing.

See also: Are There Any Sexual Limits or Boundaries in a Christian Marriage?

Please use the contact pages for Sexy Corte and El Fury to send us your questions. We will only share your question if you give us permission, and we’ll never reveal your name or any other identifying information. You can ask questions anonymously, or use a free anonymous email server like Mailinator.

When I look at the New Testament, and Paul’s letters, I notice a common theme. He writes frequently that there are divisions in the church. Divisions. Among the brothers and sisters of Christ. How relevant is this for us today? When I consider the American church, “divisions” definitely comes to mind. We are so eager to point to what is wrong, and who should be right. It doesn’t take long in reading the news to notice that there are a lot of issues our country and our world face. When the rest of our country looks at us, I’m sure they know what we stand against. We try desperately to hold the world to our standards. We expect the dark to act like the light. Rather, instead of pointing out what they are doing wrong, why don’t we point them elsewhere? Jesus. That’s it. Instead of trying to change the behavior of our society, we should try to be changing their hearts through the saving power of the Gospel. When you consider that Christ, who is God, stepped out of heaven, came here and lived a perfect life, then died a horrible and brutal death on the cross so that we might be reconciled to God and have the hope of eternal life, there is nothing else that we should be pointing at!

It starts at home. Love your spouse. Love your children. Branch out from there. Love your church, and your community. Jesus said people would know we are his disciples by our love for one another (John 13:35). Instead of trying to make a point, or prove that you are right, humble yourself, let go of your preferences and love God by loving people. Be so focused on Jesus that people see nothing else.

Two Salvation Army officers wrote to the organization’s founder, evangelist William Booth, expressing frustration and discouragement with the ongoing failure of their ministry and requesting his permission to shut it down. General Booth replied with a two-word telegram: “Try tears.”

Sexy Corte and I receive a lot of emails from people who are frustrated and discouraged in their marriages, and especially with their sex lives. We try to offer practical, Biblical advice — some sexual, some relational, and some spiritual. In many cases, we’ll go back and forth with someone who has “already tried everything” we suggest, with no positive result, and it’s in these situations that I’m reminded of Booth’s advice: “Try tears.”

Not tears of self-pity, frustration, or anger — those are all-too-easy to come by when your marriage is hurting. Those tears are generally selfish: I’m not getting what I deserve.

We often think that God wants us to be happy, but he doesn’t — he wants us to be holy. The process of becoming holy is difficult and often painful. Consider James 4:1-10:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Godly tears are the result of humility before a holy God. Instead of focusing on how your marriage and spouse are failing you, humble yourself before God. Weep and mourn for your own sin. God’s will is for you to become holy, and for your marriage to become holy. That includes a marriage with humility, joy, gratitude, and yes, awesome sex. But those things are the result of holiness. Jesus says in Matthew 6:33:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Get on your knees and beg God for your marriage. Turn your laughter into gloom. Fast, pray, and meditate on God’s Word. Let your heart be broken for God’s will. Learn to see yourself, your spouse, and your marriage the way God sees them: infinitely precious, and in the process of being perfected through fire. Let God bring you to tears like Jesus’ in the Garden of Gethsemane as he faced his crucifixion. Luke 22:39-46:

And [Jesus] came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow,  and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

Try tears.

Even when you have a healthy sex life there are sometimes outside circumstances that can prevent you from coming together with your spouse. El Fury and I recently went through one of these periods. We had family staying with us, both of us were sick, I was on my period, one of our kids was up all night for a few days in a row. We were both exhausted. Our sex life got out of whack for a few weeks and it made our relationship feel strained. We both felt stressed and like we weren’t connecting. I felt like I was being short with him and with our kids.

First Corinthians 7:5 says Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

Now this verse is obviously talking about prayer, but the point is the same. You need to come together regularly with your spouse. If you deprive one another of sex it leaves you open to temptation. This could be temptation other than sexual immorality. When I feel like my relationship with EF is “off”, I am much less gentle, kind and loving toward everyone. I am more easily angered, selfish and self-pitying. Sex with your spouse sets the tone for your marriage.

EF and I were able to get back on track once things slowed down and we were healthy and well rested again. Coming together was a sweet reunion. But I hope we learned from this experience. No matter how crazy your life may seem at the moment, it’s not asking much to find 30 minutes to connect with your spouse. When you do, you can handle all the crazy with a much more gracious attitude.

We get a lot of emails along the lines of, “Can we *blank*?” Generally, the answer is yes, you can *blank* *blank* *blank* with your spouse. The three requirements we point to for sex are exclusive, consensual, and satisfying. If *blank* meets those requirements, then have at it.

(Side note: if you think our blog is explicit, you should see some of the emails that we don’t write about.)

So, while our opinion is almost always yes, we also like to append an encouragement: no matter what your *blank* is, we think it’s important to prioritize plain-old vanilla intercourse — penis-in-vagina. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:23:

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.

In your marriage, every sex act that is exclusive, consensual, and satisfying is lawful, but not every *blank* builds up your marriage the same way that traditional intercourse sex does. Here are some advantages to intercourse we think you should keep in mind.

  • Intimate. There is nothing more intimate in the human experience than when your body joins together with your spouse — when your spouse desires you, accepts you, embraces you, and your bodies intertwine and move as one flesh. Traditional intercourse is sometimes considered vanilla and boring, but if so, perhaps we’re taking the intimacy of marriage for granted after years of familiarity. On the other hand — if you’re thirsting for intimacy — tender, enthusiastic love-making with your spouse is the oasis you’re longing for. There’s a reason that the Hebrew word yada` is used for sex; the word means to know. Genesis 4:1: “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived…”.
  • Primal. Intercourse touches the very essence of our being in a way that other sex acts don’t. It’s how we reproduce. Penis-in-vagina sex fulfills the most basic sexual urge that each of us felt when we first noticed that girls and boys are different. We have been created with a primal, biological need for intercourse that no other sex act can satisfy.
  • Simple. Traditional intercourse doesn’t require a lot of planning, talking, convincing, or preparation. You don’t need any props or toys. You don’t need any explanations. You don’t have to wonder if your spouse will be “into it”. You can be anywhere, at any time.
  • Unifying. The Bible says that men and women were created from one flesh, and in marriage we become one flesh again. Penis-in-vagina sex is the method that God created to unify two separate people into one single flesh. We have ups and downs in our marriages, and we don’t always feel united, but intercourse brings us together again, over and over. We separate ourselves from every claim the world has on us, and we hold fast to each other. Genesis 2:22-25:

And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
    because she was taken out of Man.”

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

So, try every *blank* you can think of! Explore your sexuality with your spouse, and have an awesome time. But don’t make novelty into an idol, or your spouse into a sex toy. We encourage you to do everything crazy thing you want to do, while not neglecting to come together regularly for simple intercourse.

What do you think about “vanilla” penis-in-vagina sex? Leave a comment and let us know!

(Click here to read the whole Sex in Song of Solomon series.)

Song of Solomon, Chapter 6.

In chapter 5 we read about the Beloved’s longing for her Lover, and we see her fantasize about his return. At the beginning of chapter 6 we hear the Chorus ask: where has your Lover gone?

Where has your beloved gone,
    O most beautiful among women?
Where has your beloved turned,
    that we may seek him with you?

And the Beloved responds that her Lover has returned, using flowers again as a sexual metaphor. What is the Lover’s garden? Where is he grazing? I think you know.

My beloved has gone down to his garden
to the beds of spices,
to graze in the gardens
and to gather lilies.
I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine;
he grazes among the lilies.

As a parallel to the Beloved’s praising of her Lover in chapter 5, we now see the Lover’s admiration for his Beloved.

You are beautiful as Tirzah, my love,
    lovely as Jerusalem,
    awesome as an army with banners.
Turn away your eyes from me,
    for they overwhelm me—
Your hair is like a flock of goats
    leaping down the slopes of Gilead.
Your teeth are like a flock of ewes
    that have come up from the washing;
all of them bear twins;
    not one among them has lost its young.
Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate
    behind your veil.
There are sixty queens and eighty concubines,
    and virgins without number.
My dove, my perfect one, is the only one,
    the only one of her mother,
    pure to her who bore her.
The young women saw her and called her blessed;
    the queens and concubines also, and they praised her.
“Who is this who looks down like the dawn,
    beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun,
    awesome as an army with banners?”

The Lover is overwhelmed when he meets his the eyes of his Beloved! As beautiful as the Moon and as bright as the Sun, she is the only one for him. You’ll also notice a technique common in Hebrew poetry: the passage ends by repeating the same metaphor it began with — the Beloved is as awesome as an proud army flying its banners. Definitely an image drawn from the mind of a military man.

In response to this praise, the Beloved is stirred with passion and… goes down… to see if there’s any budding or blooming going on…

I went down to the nut orchard
    to look at the blossoms of the valley,
to see whether the vines had budded,
    whether the pomegranates were in bloom.
Before I was aware, my desire set me
    among the chariots of my kinsman, a prince.

And she is overcome by desire to ride the Lover’s chariot.

The chapter finishes with a reflection of its beginning — the Chorus is now asking, where is the Beloved?

Return, return, O Shulammite,
    return, return, that we may look upon you.

And the Lover responds:

Why should you look upon the Shulammite,
    as upon a dance before two armies?

Sorry Chorus, my Beloved is currently unavailable. Two armies are dancing.

Are there any sexual limits or boundaries in a Christian marriage? Long-time readers of our blog may not be surprised at the short answer: no! But, of course, there are a few caveats worth discussing. In general, God has given us a wide field of freedom that is fenced with a few rules for our protection. Some rules are precise and explicit (example: “do not commit adultery”) while others require discretion (example: “love your neighbor as yourself”), but I think the principles are pretty easy to apply to sex in marriage.

  • Sex in marriage must involve only the married couple. The only holy sex is sex between a married husband and wife. Spouses cannot agree between themselves to bring other people into their sexual relationship. Any sexual practices that involve anyone other than the husband and the wife are sinful. There are numerous passages in the Bible that command strict monogamy; consider this post about Proverbs 5, “be intoxicated always in her love”Hebrews 13:4, and Proverbs 7.
  • Sex in marriage must be consensual. The Bible is pretty heavy on love and humility, and there’s no place for non-consensual sexual activity in a loving relationship between humble spouses. You’re free to play at non-consensual sex if both spouses desire it, as long as it’s play that is founded on real consent. Power exchanges, like bondage play, can be quite fun, as long as it’s play. Consider Philippians 2:3 and 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
  • Sex in marriage must be satisfying for both spouses. Sex in your marriage must satisfy your sexual needs and your spouse’s. One aspect of satisfaction is frequency — sex needs to be as frequent as is required for each spouse to avoid temptation into sexual immorality. When one spouse is feeling angsty, the other spouse must satisfy that need (to the extent possible, given health, distance, etc.). Each spouse must also make a good-faith effort to satisfy the other’s specific sexual desires, as long as those desires don’t violate one of the other bullet points in this post. 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 says:

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

  •  Sex in marriage must be done in faith. It’s beyond the scope of this post to explore the topic exhaustively, but consider Paul’s teaching about eating food offered to idols in 1 Corinthians 8. Some of the Corinthians believed it was a sin to eat such food, while others knew that the idols had no spiritual power and that therefore the food offered to the idols was no different from any other food. Paul instructs each person to follow his conscience with regards to such food, but to be careful that the strong do not cause the weak to stumble. Applying this principle to sex: as long as you don’t violate an explicit command as described in the points above, you can have sex however you want in your marriage — but don’t push your freedom on others and thereby cause them to stumble. See also 1 John 3:18-21 and Titus 1:15.

1 Corinthians 8:8-9 — However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.

We get a lot of emails asking, “can my wife and I do X, Y, and Z?” The purpose of this post is to give couples a framework they can use to decide that for themselves. As long as the activity is only between spouses, is consensual, meets both spouses’ needs, and is done in faith, then the answer is yes, you can do it! In fact, my prayer is that as your marriage matures spiritually you will agree with each other to push back your boundaries and enjoy the full breadth of sexual freedom that God has given you in your marriage.

Finally, Sexy Corte and I want to give you our personal recommendation: don’t forget to prioritize traditional intercourse — penis-in-vagina.

The first half of Proverbs chapter 5 contains warnings against adultery — what will happen if you succumb to temptation. The second half of the chapter, verses 5:15-23 are an exhortation to delight in the joy and sexuality of your marriage. The imagery is beautiful and erotic, which shouldn’t be surprising since it was written by King Solomon.

Drink water from your own cistern,
    flowing water from your own well.
Should your springs be scattered abroad,
    streams of water in the streets?
Let them be for yourself alone,
    and not for strangers with you.
Let your fountain be blessed,
    and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
    a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
    be intoxicated always in her love.
Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman
    and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?

The encouragement here is directed at husbands, and the first metaphor is the wife as a fountain overflowing with fresh water. Why would a man drink from another person’s well, when his own is overflowing? Likewise, why would he share refreshment that is meant for him with another? Water sustains, refreshes, and purifies. A husband’s desire for his wife is like a man trudging through a desert who comes home to an oasis.

Then the husband is reminded of the love he had for his wife in their youth, when the first blush of romance was fresh on their hearts. Both husband and wife have matured over the years and experienced all the ups and downs of life, successes and disappointments, children, illnesses, separation, reunion, hopes and fears. They’ve fought and made up, surprised each other, lifted each other up, and let each other down.

The relationship is far more complex now than it was when you first met, but remember the joy you felt when you first kissed! Remember the excitement of your first all-night conversation, when you shared your hopes and dreams with each other. Remember when you proposed, got married, and first made love. Don’t let the passage of time steal your joy.

Instead of fantasizing about some forbidden fruit, be intoxicated by your spouse’s body! And on the flip-side, intoxicate your spouse with your body. The responsibility goes both ways! Husbands, if you don’t put in the work to learn your wife and give her orgasms, how can she be intoxicated? Wives, if your husband rarely gets to see or touch your breasts, how can he be filled with delight?

You are each other’s fountains! Be a flood, not a trickle.

(Side note: what young Christian man hasn’t been filled with longing by verse 19? “Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight.” Yes, please.)

And the final three verses of the chapter are again words of warning. Which would you prefer? Joy and delight, or aimless wandering and ultimately death?

For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord,
    and he ponders all his paths.
The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him,
    and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.
He dies for lack of discipline,
    and because of his great folly he is led astray.