A few minutes into a rousing conversation about why women should try new sex positions, four sensible-sounding mom-types explain why “missionary” isn’t ideal for orgasming. (The angle is all wrong.) The debate moves on to having sex on household furniture to keep things fresh and the pros and cons of “doggy style.” One woman advises, “You have to be willing to laugh when you try something new, and you have to be willing to fall off the bed.” Eventually, someone asks: What does the Bible have to say about sex positions?
This is Sex Chat for Christian Wives, a new biweekly podcast hosted by four conservative Christian sex bloggers — all of whom have been married to men for more than two decades, all of whom have grown children — dedicated to exploring “the naked truth about godly sexuality.”
Grounded in the belief that a strong Christian marriage includes a mutually satisfying sex life, Sex Chat — whose hosts worship at a mix of Evangelical or Methodist churches — covers topics from sex toys and mismatched libidos to erotica and personal grooming. But more than just talking dirty, the hosts offer something that feels quietly radical, given conservative Christianity’s long, sexist history of teaching women to obey and serve their husbands: a kind of empowerment. The podcast encourages women to speak up for their sexual needs and desires, educate themselves on their anatomy, and explore what brings them pleasure. According to the hosts, it has been downloaded 30,000 times.
“I fully admit that the church has not done a great job with sexuality,” host J. Parker told me over the phone. “And certainly, I was raised in a culture where there was ‘don’t have sex before marriage,’ but there wasn’t a lot of explanation of what God wanted you to do instead.”
Parker, who also maintains a Christian sexual-advice blog at Hot, Holy, and Humorous, says her role as a Christian sexpert grew out of having one-on-one chats with other wives in her hometown of Friendswood, Texas. The daughter of a preacher, she always felt comfortable talking about sex and, after a while, grew to believe God was “nudging her” to speak to a bigger audience. “When you start thinking, ‘God gave me a clitoris, and it’s only purpose is for me to orgasm,’ I’m like, ‘Thank you, God!’” she says.
But the goal of this distinctly conservative brand of “sex positivity” isn’t to defy the church or its doctrines — it’s to increase sexual intimacy by closely following the Bible’s teachings. While most churches have avoided preaching pleasure from the pulpit, Sex Chat goes all-in, asking, in every episode: “What does God really want for the sexual intimacy in our marriage?” and looks to the Bible for sexual guidance.
So what does God really want? Throughout the series, the hosts point to a range of scripture, but in episode after episode they return to the Old Testament’s Song of Solomon, which they say holds answers on everything from oral sex to bikini waxes. Christian tradition interprets the book as both an extended metaphor illustrating Jesus’ love for his people and a steamy sex sequence between two married lovers — which the hosts consider an endorsement of sex for pleasure, not just making babies. (“It’s pretty erotic, if you know what things are,” Parker told me.) In one verse, the bride says of her groom, “Let his left hand be under my head / And his right hand embrace me,” which, one of the hosts points out, “doesn’t sound like missionary to me!” In another passage, the bride says, “Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits.” If it’s alluded to in the scripture and it isn’t seemingly prohibited elsewhere in the Bible, it’s fair game in Sex Chat for Christian Wives.
But the Sex Chat hosts’ apparent interpretation of the Bible, which reflects the views of the Christian traditions in which they worship, comes with some hard stops — rules that, to an outsider, can seem both confounding and discriminatory.
In an episode called “50 Shades of Here-We-Go-Again,” timed to the release of the movie Fifty Shades Darker, the hosts warn against the dangers of erotic novels and films, which can lead women to fantasize about men who aren’t their husbands. (Not allowed.) In an episode that debates the proper use of sex toys — or “marital aids,” as some Christians call them — the hosts support using the devices to occasionally spice up your marriage bed, or even as a means of figuring out what you like sexually, but they stop short of endorsing masturbation. They are flat-out against pornography. And they suggest through their respective blogs and recommended resources that sex is only “godly” when it’s between two married, heterosexual, cisgender people.
While Sex Chat’s efforts to encourage listeners to prioritize their own pleasure is commendable, for an outsider it can be hard not to flinch at any form of “sex positivity” that deems so much sinful; that ascribes certain desires and choices to the work of Satan. On the podcast itself, the hosts don’t discuss LGBTQ sexuality one way or another, but some light digging on the hosts’ blogs turns up disapproving posts that would make any progressive — or really, any of the 62 percent of Americans that support same-sex marriage — feel queasy. Meanwhile, Parker and her co-hosts also believe in remaining “pure” — that is, not having sex — outside of marriage. The reality, though, is that most young, unmarried Christians have had sex, setting up many religious women to enter into marriage burdened by feelings of guilt or worse.
Parker says her mission is simply to encourage the church to speak more openly about sex as a sacred part of (heterosexual) married life, and to provide wives with practical advice. “There’s still a disconnect in the world, of thinking [Christians] are prudes,” she said. “Well, we’re very pro-sex. We just believe in a particular context. The fact that there are rules around something doesn’t mean that you’re against it.”
Still, it’s these rules that have led women like Linda Kay Klein, a former evangelical raised in the Midwest, to leave the conservative church behind. Klein is currently working on a book, to be published by Simon & Schuster, chronicling the ways “purity culture” — which shames Christians for failing to remain “pure” — damages women, plaguing many with adult sex lives filled with fear and anxiety.
“It’s confusing,” she says of Sex Chat and the world of Christian sex blogging, “because the sex positivity is there and it’s real … But then there’s also this purity culture stuff that’s part of it, that lives side by side, and they’re really intermingled throughout one another.”
But she still sees value in the Sex Chat hosts’ work. “What they’re doing is inviting women to have conversations in a way that brings them into the space of questions,” she told me. “And from within the space of questions, suddenly, so much more of the world is available to us.”