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.

When you were reading Shakespeare in high school you may not have enjoyed it to the fullest extent if your teacher didn’t explain the Bard’s sexual wordplay. It seems that many people find Shakespeare to be dull, but his writing is edgy and sexual in a subtle way that rewards deeper examination.

La petite morte is French for “the little death”, and the phrase has been a common idiom for orgasm and sexual ecstasy since at least the early 17th century. To “die” is to climax, and understanding this single metaphor leads to a new level of appreciation for Shakespeare’s highly sexual scenes. Let’s look at a few examples from Romeo and Juliet — this is by no means exhaustive… the whole play is full of sexual wordplay.

Juliet in Act III, Scene II, waiting in eagerly for Romeo’s arrival that night:

Come, night; come, Romeo; come, thou day in night;
For thou wilt lie upon the wings of night
Whiter than new snow on a raven’s back.
Come, gentle night, come, loving, black-brow’d night,
Give me my Romeo; and, when he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.

Romeo in Act III, Scene V, insisting that he must leave Juliet because the sun is rising:

It was the lark, the herald of the morn,
No nightingale: look, love, what envious streaks
Do lace the severing clouds in yonder east:
Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.
I must be gone and live, or stay and die.

“Stay and die” both literally — discovered by Capulet — and figuratively.

Capulet in Act IV, Scene V, upon discovering his daughter Juliet’s body on the morning of her wedding to her fiance Paris:

FRIAR LAURENCE
Come, is the bride ready to go to church?

CAPULET
Ready to go, but never to return.
O son! the night before thy wedding-day
Hath Death lain with thy wife. There she lies,
Flower as she was, deflowered by him.
Death is my son-in-law, Death is my heir;
My daughter he hath wedded: I will die,
And leave him all; life, living, all is Death’s.

Again, death has taken Juliet, both literally and figuratively. (Though at this point Juliet is only unconscious from a sleeping potion.)

Finally, the climactic scene in which Romeo and Juliet take their own lives, each believing the other to be already dead. Romeo drinks poison from a chalice (a symbol of female sexuality) and Juliet stabs herself with Romeo’s knife (a symbol of male sexuality). Act V, Scene III, Romeo kisses the chalice:

Here’s to my love!
Drinks

O true apothecary!
Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.
Dies

And Juliet, upon discovering Romeo’s body:

O happy dagger!
Snatching ROMEO’s dagger

This is thy sheath;
Stabs herself

there rust, and let me die.
Falls on ROMEO’s body, and dies

It sure beats sparkly vampires. Do you have any sexual literature to share?

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

I’m going to do a series on the sexual passages of the book Song of Solomon (which, if you didn’t know, is in the Bible). This post is about chapter 1. The book is commonly understood as a celebration of marital/sexual love and it contains a lot of rather graphic imagery. It’s an especially important book because it’s very sex-positive and provides a powerful illustration of the joy God takes in the sexual relationship between a husband and a wife.

The book is written in the form of a dialogue between  the Lover and his Beloved, with occasionally interjections from the wife’s Friends. The language is dominated by agricultural metaphors that can make the book difficult to understand for modern readers who aren’t familiar with the context (which certainly includes me). I’m going to do my best to untangle the imagery, but some of it is guesswork.

The couple is not yet married at the beginning of the story and are fantasizing about each other. The book begins with the Beloved initiating sex rather explicitly.

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—
    for your love is more delightful than wine.
Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;
    your name is like perfume poured out.
    No wonder the young women love you!
Take me away with you—let us hurry!
    Let the king bring me into his chambers.

Nothing ambiguous there. Note especially the “let us hurry!” This woman needs some action. The Beloved continues:

Do not stare at me because I am dark,
    because I am darkened by the sun.
My mother’s sons were angry with me
    and made me take care of the vineyards;
    my own vineyard I had to neglect.
Tell me, you whom I love,
    where you graze your flock
    and where you rest your sheep at midday.
Why should I be like a veiled woman
    beside the flocks of your friends?

She works hard and takes care of her family, but her own needs have been neglected. The Beloved wants to find her Lover — why should she wander around like a prostitute (“like a veiled woman”) searching for him among the flocks?

Her Lover replies:

I liken you, my darling, to a mare
    among Pharaoh’s chariot horses.
Your cheeks are beautiful with earrings,
    your neck with strings of jewels.
We will make you earrings of gold,
    studded with silver.

The “mare among stallions” imagery is pretty hot. We read above that the young women adore the Lover, and the Beloved is no less in demand. The Lover will array his Beloved in jewels befitting her beauty.  (Some have interpreted these jewels to be the Lover’s semen shot onto his Beloved, but that may be a stretch.) When the Beloved replies she again turns the conversation to sex.

While the king was at his table,
    my perfume spread its fragrance.
My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh
    resting between my breasts.
My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms
    from the vineyards of En Gedi.

These three verses focus on the fragrances of the Beloved and her Lover. While the Beloved is spreading her… fragrance… her Lover is feasting. Her Lover is a packet of perfume (“csachet of myrrh) between her breasts. Women commonly used henna as a beauty product (as a component of make-up or hair coloring), and her Lover makes the Beloved feel beautiful.

The Lovers go on to praise each other:

Lover

How beautiful you are, my darling!
    Oh, how beautiful!
    Your eyes are doves.

Beloved

How handsome you are, my beloved!
    Oh, how charming!
    And our bed is verdant.

“Verdant” is “green with vegetation; covered with growing plants or grass” — but figuratively: alive and fruitful. The Lovers’ marriage bed is full of primal, natural life. This is a joyous picture that always makes me smile.

The Lover closes the chapter with a metaphor that must transcend the ages.

The beams of our house are cedars;
    our rafters are firs.

That’s a lot of wood. Beams and rafters create a rather girthy image in my mind, but given the intimacy of the moment I suppose we’ll excuse the Lover if he brags a little.

The chapter break isn’t fluid here, so let’s finish this post with the first two verses of chapter 2.

She

I am a rose of Sharon,
    a lily of the valleys.

He

Like a lily among thorns
    is my darling among the young women.

If wood is the ancient metaphor for the penis, its equivalent for the female is the flower. The Lover’s member is a massive cedar, and his Beloved’s girly bits are a beautiful lily — compared to her, the other young women are thorns and thistles.