You don’t have to. – An Epistle for “Low Drive Wives”

[Image description: Photo is of clusters of bright red and purple flowers.]

Content Notice: Abstract discussion of rape culture and sexual coercion. This post is just a start to discussing a very complicated issue. Bear with me.  

Beloved, I don’t know about you, but when I try to want something more, I usually end up wanting it less. “How can I learn to like sex more?” is a question that I see all the time on Christian sex and marriage blogs, usually posed by married women whose interest in sex doesn’t seem to match their husbands’. The usual answers have some helpful information. Among Christian sex bloggers easily found on Google (which I won’t name specifically here), answers like “Check with your doctor” or “Get more in touch with your body” or “Reframe sex as good and holy” are common. 

They’re not wrong; sexual desire can absolutely be affected by factors like hormonal changes, past trauma, relationship issues, and regular old stress. I want to stress that I respect the work that these bloggers do to make sex a ‘speakable’ topic in heterosexual Christian marriages. 

That said, posts for low drive wives tend to make me really uncomfortable. Because these Christian sex bloggers sometimes believe that spouses owe each other sex, pointing to Paul’s epistles for evidence. This notion of ‘owing’ underpins the rest of their advice.

One blogger states that “Biblically, we are not to withhold sex from our spouse.” Another writes, “Let me clear that while I believe that 1 Corinthians 7:5 instructs spouses that they have a sexual duty to one another, God doesn’t want you to approach sex in your marriage as a chore.” 

What does this mean, “a sexual duty”? As a Christian, I believe that we do have certain duties in life, to show care for one another and to promote justice (because life isn’t just about us as individuals; we’re supposed to be a team). Sex should be a caring activity, rooted in respect and concern for the well-being of everyone involved. I enjoy sex. I enjoy helping partners feel pleasure. But do I ever have a divinely decreed “duty” to have sex with anyone? Hell no. 

I’m troubled by the apparent attitudes of the spouses in these posts who want more sex, especially husbands. Describing a conversation about how much her sex life had improved, another Christian sex blogger recalls that her husband’s “face showed a surprising look of disgust as he said, ‘Yeah, even when we did it back then, it was like you couldn’t wait to get it over with.’” I have to wonder, if he thought his wife wasn’t enjoying the sex, why did he keep going? Did they really have to “get it over with”? Or did they just think that they had to? 

These bloggers sometimes use language and concepts reminiscent of the Sex Positive Movement, rhapsodizing about how wonderful and sacred married sex is. They promote pleasure and object to rape. Yet, they treat it as a given that married people should have sex and that low desire, even hatred of sexual activity, is an obstacle to be overcome. Sex is ultimately a duty that we must learn to like, or else we are not following God’s plan for marriage. That’s not sex-positive. That’s rape culture. And it disturbs me. 

So how would I respond to a ‘low drive’ wife who asks how she can learn to enjoy sex with a ‘higher drive’ husband? 

First, here’s what I’m NOT saying: 

  • I am Not saying that mismatched sexual desire isn’t a frustrating or even painful issue.
  • I am Not saying that sex isn’t a valued part of many relationships. 
  • I am Not saying that people shouldn’t seek answers if they want to enjoy sex more. 

In fact, I encourage people to discuss sexual issues with their partners, medical professionals, therapists, and coaches. Sex is meant to be a mutual activity that you and your partner(s) choose together. You need support and good information to make that choice (here’s where I recommend my Resources page again). 

Here’s what I AM saying: 

Christians, we don’t have to apply the Apostle Paul’s marital standards directly to modern relationships. I will say more on dear Paul in future posts (long story short, I read and appreciate him, but I can safely say that his take is oft misinterpreted, irrelevant on some issues, and dead wrong on others).

Wives, if your husbands know that you don’t enjoy sex but keep initiating it anyway, you are not frigid or “withholding.” They are trying to get you to do something you dislike for their pleasure. That is selfish, not patient or kind. If you are trying to get your partner to have sex when they don’t want to, you need to STOP immediately. 

People of every gender, if sex feels like a chore or a pain, it’s okay not to have it. I will have more to say about how to have great sex soon, but I can’t say any of that without first saying that you don’t have to.  

To all God’s Beloved…

Welcome to Unbuttoned Epistles, a queer kinky Christian’s thoughts on faith and sex in the American South! 

Here you’ll find…

  • Reflections on my journey with kink, sexuality, and faith,
  • Biblical interpretation and Bible studies,
  • Feminist, sex-positive and LGBTQ-friendly resources,
  • Sex education and how-to’s,
  • Media reviews and recommendations,
  • Stories and erotica,
  • And other queerstian rants and raves. 

For more detailed info about my purposes here, see “About the Epistles,” “About Me,” and “My First Epistle.” 

If you’d rather not see sexually explicit writing, choose the “Non-Explicit Epistles” category. Please heed the content notices at the tops of posts, and use the tags to find the topics you’re looking for. 🙂 

Be of good courage!

Perpetua Fox

She/her/hers

Masturbation Monday – On Chronic Pain and Periods

[Image description: Photo is of a colorful silicone dilator set from Pure Romance arranged on top of its packaging box.]

I’ve decided to participate in the Masturbation Monday weekly blogging meme run by prolific sex blogger and freelance writer Kayla Lords! Please note, gentle readers, that while this post is not an erotica, it is sexually explicit and contains details about my own sex life, including masturbation, periods, and chronic pain. You can opt out of explicit posts by selecting “Non-Explicit Epistles” under Categories. 🙂 

So. My period started this morning. Huzzah! (Not really. I felt like my uterus was about to fall out.) Fortunately, I didn’t have to go anywhere. I had a silly thought while microwaving a heat pack: “I should’ve gotten off last night while I had the chance.” And then I realized “I still can.” 

Period masturbation takes a little extra work; I’ve turned it into a ritual. I started with a period-focused yoga practice to soothe my cramps and help me settle into my body. After spreading a towel out on my bed, turning on some ambient music, and assembling the implements (a handy little bullet vibe, an aloe-based lube, toilet paper, and a colorful silicone dilator set), I was ready to practice vaginal penetration. 

I have a chronic pelvic pain condition called vulvodynia that makes vaginal penetration difficult-to-impossible, so I don’t receive penetration with partners at this time (except for one time when I was riding my sub’s face; his tongue slipped right in without incident and felt good). Dilation is one way to retrain tight pelvic floor muscles to unclench, and it’s easiest for me when I’m relaxed and *drumroll* on my period. So I lay back, lubed the second-smallest dilator, and teased myself with it before starting to ease it in (technically, you can just lube, insert, and leave it be, but dilators work best for me when I treat them like sex toys). 

I didn’t get very far at first; I could tell that my left-side pelvic muscles were especially tense today. Rather than push harder, I turned on my vibrator and let it pulse lightly against the dilator. I let myself fantasize about being fingered by a mysterious dominant lady (I’m a switch). I don’t like getting fingered at this point in life, but I hope that I will someday. I love the idea of being physically open to a partner in that way. 

As my orgasm began to build, the dilator gradually slid further in. It’s always interesting to me, how the dilator reminds me that my orgasm is an internal and external process. When I finally came, I felt myself spasm around it, not in a painful, clenching way, but a wet, luxurious, full-bodied way.

After I built back up and came again, I turned off the vibe and rested for a moment. I removed the dilator very slowly–it had gone in about halfway. Then, I stretched like a cat, rose, cleaned up, and went downstairs for a bowl of macaroni-and-cheese. Not so bad for a period day. 

End-note: If you have pelvic pain (a very common and, sadly, under-treated issue), I highly recommend that you look into getting treatment with a pelvic pain specialist. You shouldn’t have to just live with it. Your pain matters. 

For anyone curious about vaginal dilation in consultation with a specialist, here’s a link to the dilator set I use. I used the red one this time (oddly enough, it has been easier to use than the smaller yellow one. I think my vulva likes its shape better). 

Masturbation Monday

Be Whoever You Are – An Epistle on Feelings

[Image description: Photo is of a glorious sunset silhouetting trees, buildings, and light poles.]

Note: This post deals with some difficult feelings and anxieties related to sexual orientation. If it hits you hard, remember the Resources page! 

Greetings, Beloved!

After yesterday’s bear of a post, I thought I’d make today’s a short one, inspired by a recent conversation with a friend about sexual attraction and identity. My friend shared that they felt some anxiety about how to define their sexuality (essentially because their feelings don’t appear to fit neatly into a particular box). It reminded me of a worry that I used to have that sometimes crops back up (thanks, brain). 

In college, I experienced a lot of anxiety about whether the sexual orientation label I used matched what I thought I should be feeling (it didn’t help that I was very aware of the social and political consequences of identifying as queer and bisexual). At the end of my first romantic relationship, an ill-timed long-distance relationship with another woman, I worried that I had deceived myself into thinking that I was attracted to women at all. I read every resource I could find, trying to make sense of my experience. Internally, I cycled through a host of possible labels, even flirting with the idea of asexuality before eventually concluding that ‘bisexual’ still suited me. 

I struggled that year with a cocktail of hard thoughts and feelings: guilt and shame about my apparent inability to just get over the relationship, worries that I would never love again, and the nagging fear that I could be lying to myself about this whole thing. I thought that I couldn’t enter a sexual relationship without harming my partner(s) because my feelings seemed all wrong. Can you tell I was a perfectionist? Seriously, bless my heart!

Perfectionism can turn feelings (in themselves neutral) into reasons for self-judgment and shame. In hindsight, I was so busy measuring and judging my feelings that I couldn’t fully live my beautiful queer life. I had to get help. Fortunately, my college had a free counseling center.  

Through therapy, the support of great friends, some true tea from Brené Brown, and the healing influence of time, I gradually began to make peace with the fact that feelings are weird and finicky–including those related to sexuality and attraction–because people are weird and finicky. 

Here’s some informal advice that I gave my friend about attraction:

  • Attraction Is fluid and complicated.
  • It may change and expand…but you can’t force it to change.
  • You get to choose how you identify. 
  • You don’t have to force yourself into any label or situation that you don’t feel right about. 

So, feelings don’t come from nowhere, and it can be worthwhile to reflect on “why,” but at the end of the day, you feel what you feel. Your feelings might not be what you expected. They might not fit the mold. They might change. That’s all fine. What you choose to do with them is a more complicated matter, but whatever your feelings are, they’re okay. Let’s start with that. 🙂 Music for your consideration: “Be Wherever You Are” by Rebecca Sugar

Diversity is Chosen – Pride Sunday Thoughts

[Image description: Cover illustration from picture book A Church for All, showing a dark-skinned pastor blessing a congregation of people of all races and genders. Rainbow banners and welcome signs are displayed on the walls.]

CW: Minor mention of church bigotry

I woke too early this morning. Dragged myself to Sunday School with wet hair. Struggled to warm up my voice while we sang the first hymn. I love my home church. It is pretty much “the little brown church in the vale.” I hop right back into the choir when I visit (of course, the fact that my mom is the pastor has something to do with that).

The members of that church are my family, and I wouldn’t trade them. When I’m sleepy, church can feel like a chore, but seeing queer friends visit (and noting today that almost half the adults sitting in the congregation have grown LGBTQ children whom they affirm) reminded me of why my church community is so valuable, how it’s so freely yet painstakingly built. 

In my conservative Southern hometown, my little church is becoming a place of haven for LGBTQ people and our families. A couple of years ago, I felt safe enough to come out as bisexual to my Sunday school class (mostly middle-aged adults) because I just wanted them to know who I was. More on that story later. It wasn’t always this welcoming a place. 

When I was a child, nobody talked about queerness in my church community. The only occasion when I remember anything being said about homosexuality was one Sunday when an older male church member, substitute preaching while my mom was away, listed homosexuality as a sin during the regular Prayer of Confession. In a sense, my mom limited the conversation around queerness, not because she disapproved but because a fundamentalist segment of the congregation always overwhelmed the discussion with bigoted views. Saying “We’re not going to talk about it” was the lesser evil. 

What eventually broke the silence was a 2014 PC(USA) General Assembly ruling that allowed same-gender couples to marry in the churches. You see, in my denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), big changes are made by a national governing body and ratified by Presbyteries. As we say in the Presbyterian Church, “We do it decently and in order.” 

This constitutional change tore my home church apart. More accurately, most of the fundamentalist faction broke off and joined other churches. They perceived a church that was more welcoming to me as less welcoming to them. For a church our size (fewer than fifty members), it was a significant loss. We were sad to lose them–it was like losing aunts and uncles–but their absence made room for needed change in the community. It also allowed me to be open about who I was without feeling like I would be causing trouble for my parents. We lost a bit of our theological diversity to evangelicalism but created space for people like me to participate more fully (after coming out, I felt confident enough to get confirmed). 

Today, I was reminded once again that ‘diversity’ is chosen. It usually doesn’t just happen; the kind of diversity that appears in a church community depends on the values and consistent work of the people involved. What a refreshing feeling it is not to be made expendable in the name of theological diversity, not to have to shrink for the comfort of people who think I’m hell-bound. Can someone who isn’t ‘affirming’ be part of this community? Sure. But I’m not expected to hide who I am to make them comfortable. 

With its steady welcome, my church community is becoming more sexuality and gender-diverse, and its children are being raised to understand that they are loved and have something of value to share regardless of how ‘normal’ or ‘different’ they are. When one of my grandfriends makes a Pride month announcement, when my mom gives thanks for LGBTQ people in the Thanksgiving Prayer, even when a little boy in the congregation gets to be an angel in the Christmas pageant (yes, that is actually an issue for some people), I can tell that my little church is doing the work.

We’re all still learning, but we’re working together to build a community that welcomes everyone who wants to participate. If that offends our fundamentalist siblings enough that they leave, then it’s a loss for everyone, but it won’t stop us–and it won’t stop me–from building and celebrating our community. 

That’s what gets me out of bed early in the morning (to drag myself to Sunday school with wet hair). I have the opportunity to be a full member of a church that works to reflect the love of God more fully each day, and I won’t squander it. 

Be of good courage,

Fox (she/her/hers)

PS–For Christians (especially faith leaders) looking for ways to help folks to see the beauty of a church with people of all ages, races, genders, abilities, etc., I recommend the award-winning picture book A Church for All by Gayle E. Pitman and Laurie Fournier.

“Herod, They’re Lesbians!” In Praise of Biblical Fanfiction

[Image description: Photo is of a stack of weathered old dark green and brown books, including works of Shelley and Shakespeare.]

As a divinity student, I read and write a fair amount about queerness and sexuality in the Bible. A lot of it’s depressing or just needlessly complicated. There will be a time and place for me to dig into the nuances of biblical meaning, the authors’ intentions, etc., and recommend scholarship here, but not now. 

Right now, I want to give some love to a genre that most people can read, even outside the academic world: fanfiction! In short, a fanfiction is work based on a piece of pop culture, like a book, movie, or show. A fic author might ask “What happened after the end?” or “What if this had happened a little differently?” or “What was happening behind the scenes?”

Most fanfiction is archived on websites like FanFiction or Archive of Our Own. While fanfiction based on the Bible may seem like sacrilege, it’s been around for quite a while. The Prince of Egypt, Jesus Christ: Superstar, and Milton’s Paradise Lost are all fanfictions. Other works, like Harry Potter, use biblical themes to tell new stories. 

The point is, the Bible inspires all manner of creative work. Some of it invites us to see ourselves in the stories, to reimagine them as we learn. For people accustomed to seeing the Bible used as anti-queer purity culture propaganda, fanfiction can be a refreshing oasis of healing affirmation. And most of it’s free. 

It helps us see the Bible not as a dusty old rulebook or tool for bigots but as a living collection of stories that we’re still in conversation with today. It helps us bridge the gap. 

Here are a few Bible fanfic gems that I enjoy: 

Mature/Sexually explicit works:

“…Jonathan became one in spirit with David…” Quintessential David/Jonathan slash fic based on 1 Samuel 16-2 Samuel 1, written beautifully in the literary style of the Hebrew Bible

“Afterwards she blamed the serpent. It wasn’t a lie, really, because the serpent had been there, and the serpent had encouraged her. In fact it was quite possible that the serpent had arranged the whole thing. But, truthfully, it was not the serpent’s urging that made her lips part uncertainly and her teeth slice into the skin of the fruit.” Juicy and poignant Eve/Lilith femslash based on Genesis and Jewish tradition

Works for teens and older: 

“Stop telling me to leave you, because it’s not going to happen. I’m not turning away from you. Wherever you’re headed, I’m headed there too. Where you stay, I’ll put down roots. The tribes of Israel will be my tribe. Your God will be my god. Because the only thing that’ll keep me from you is Death, and even then, I’ll be right there at your side.” It’s Ruth/Naomi…in Space.

  • Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett 

This book (now a charming miniseries on Amazon Prime), is especially fun for me right now. It contains a queer bond (not necessarily sexual but deeply loving and subversive) between an angel and a demon who team up to try to stop the Apocalypse. It raises good questions about the nature of God, humans, redemption, and the “Divine Plan.” It’s also spawned some fanfiction (great but not always appropriate for all ages ;)). 

General Audiences: 

“The Exercise of Virtue” by tree_and_leaf

“Exegesis! fic, to invent a new genre label, on the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman (Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30), who may be anonymous, but is the only person in the Bible who changes Jesus’ mind.” No pairings, but good retelling. 

Do you have any favorite fics to recommend? Have you ever been encouraged by a story? If so, let me know in the comments! 

Endnote: In case you didn’t catch the reference in the post title, it’s a play on the “Harold, they’re lesbians” meme. You’re welcome. 😉

An “About Me” Epistle

[Image description: Photo is of an Acrylic painting on canvas roller shade in blue, black, white, red, and purple of a red boat with white sails and a red moon.]

It’s hard for me to write about myself as a person without sounding like a series of dictionary entries. My life in academia and activism has taught me to identify by a set of labels, rattled off like a list of terms and conditions. Labels don’t encompass a person, but they do matter, so I’ll start with a few bullet points. 

I am a…

  • Young: millennial, grad student, stressed out, open-minded
  • Middle-class: somewhat protected by the financial safety net that my family provides
  • White: learning every day about how my race makes me a beneficiary and enforcer of an oppressive system that advantages white people at the expense of people of color 
  • Cisgender: my current gender happens to match the sex that I was assigned at birth
  • Bisexual/Queer: I’m sexually (and, rarely, romantically) attracted to people of my own gender and others 
  • Christian: part of the shrinking Protestant mainline in the American South; preacher’s kid who still loves the Church
  • Woman: privileged but fearful of loss of agency, healthcare, and other rights 

In conclusion, I’m a WASP with WASPy baggage. In church life, I’m a Presbyterian. We are sometimes known as “the Frozen Chosen.” In my kinky life, I’m a “switch”–I can enjoy power exchange as a dominant or submissive player. I have a wonderful collared submissive who helps me to grow as a Dominant and a few great play partners and friends in the kink community. 

All of my labels affect the way that I see and interact with the world, especially as an able-bodied U.S. citizen. I try to be mindful of them when I discuss issues of sexuality and gender. 

But a self that’s just a bunch of labels strung together looks pretty bland on the page, so here are five things that I like to do/have done that show my personality, in no particular order:

  • As a four-year-old, my idea of a great party was to pull all my books off the shelves and fall asleep on top of them. 
  • My sub has to do homework every day. Hot, right? Last week’s topic was racism in the criminal justice system. 
  • I hate driving and don’t have a car (I am a stereotypical queer that way). But I did buy myself an adult-sized kick scooter recently to help me get around. That’s a joy. 
  • In the process of building this website, I accidentally locked myself out of WordPress. My web hosting provider (shout-out to Stress Free Hosting) subsequently took pity on me and gave me extra software for free. 
  • I sing to myself almost constantly when I have the chance. Recent favorites include “Be Wherever You Are” from Steven Universe, assorted Hildegard of Bingen chants, “Why We Build The Wall” from Hadestown, and the Muppets’ version of “Ode to Joy.” 

So that’s a little of me. As I continue this journey, I’ll get into greater depth about the more salacious parts of my queer, kinky Christian life. I will tag and content-warn accordingly! 

Be of good courage,

Perpetua Fox

She/her/hers

@Perpetual_Fox on Twitter

I can’t believe I’m doing this – My First Epistle

[Image description: Photo is of a small cross with intricate Celtic designs and a small faux-leather flogger draped over a red wax candle in a glass container.]

Greetings, World! 

I wish that I could keep the WordPress default “Hello World!” post here as a placeholder because I’m not quite sure how to begin. I could say “Hey! Let’s talk about sex in the Church! I’m technically a virgin, and I have feelings about it!” *Nerd Energy Intensifies* 

Yes, I’m a queer, kinky Christian nerd, and I have a lot to say about sex (and Christianity). But who am I to say these things? Why don’t I just read what others are saying about sex, ignore what I don’t like, and leave it at that? 

That’s what I would have done a few years ago, back when I wrote erotic fanfiction but wouldn’t dream of publishing it. Then again, Donald Trump wasn’t president of the United States a few years ago, and I lived with the illusion that things would just…progress in a positive direction over time. 

I’ve learned the hard way that silence and civility won’t protect me or the people that I love, especially those who fall through the cracks in the discourse about Christianity and sex. 

Now, I’m in divinity school, learning about the Bible, religious history, and “the care of souls.” It’s been devastating. The most vulnerable people in our society, vulnerable in ways that I didn’t always understand, are suffering, largely because of a form of Christianity that turns people into shame factories.  

So I have to speak, and I have to write. And I have to write about the things that most people are ashamed to write, including the things that make me feel ashamed. It’s not going to be perfect, and that’s okay.

This is not going to be a ‘good Christian sex’ blog, though those have their place. This isn’t an apologetics blog–I will spend a little time on the so-called “Clobber Passages,” but making the Bible seem less horrific isn’t my main purpose here. For now, consider this a buffet of thoughts about sex, faith, and justice from my Christian perspective, ranging the technical to the deeply erotic, from the mundane to the (hopefully) profound. I will tag posts accordingly.  

More soon! In the meantime, check out the Resources page (in progress), email me at unbuttonedepistles@gmail.com, or find me on Twitter as @Perpetual_Fox. 

Be of good courage!

-Perpetua Fox

(She/her/hers pronouns)