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Sex guides for the religious give tips lots of us might benefit from

A while ago I wrote about an Orthodox Jewish sex guide designed for–and only for–married couples. I was really pleased there were resources out there for ultra-religious couples who often got no sex ed before they were married, and then were just expected to figure everything out afterwards. Writer Anna Broadway, one of our blog contributors, just sent me an article she wrote inspired by that post. She chose selected quotes from that book, The Newlywed’s Guide to Physical Intimacy, as well as Sheet Music: Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage, a book designed for Christians.

Granted, the books are intended for religious audiences that believe sex should happen 'according to God's plan,' in other words, only in heterosexual marriages, and so leave out a big chunk of the sex-having population (This is an issue that's been covered a lot on this blog already so I won't get into it here.) So, I'm not saying run out and buy it, but check out some of these useful and healthy thoughts, good for different kinds of sexual relationships, and most especially new ones:

On masturbation:

“It is important that each bride, through her exploration of her vulvar area, either alone or with her husband, gets to know the kind of caress most enjoyable to her so she can teach it to her husband.”

On unrealistic expectations:

“Nobody’s sex life is such that every experience is a ten.”

On entering a sexual relationship gradually:

“Spend as much time as you need just getting comfortable with each other. . . . No matter how much you know theoretically about how men and women are built, your husband or wife is different from any other person on the planet, so fitting together sexually may take you some time to figure out. This is done most easily with patience, gentleness, and understanding.”

This bit of advice on how and what to share was well-intentioned, but I had a problem with it:

“Going into specifics [of past experiences] causes far more problems than it solves. Generally speaking, don’t share past sexual secrets. All this does is raise insecurity; suddenly the conversation switches from ‘I want to know everything about you’ to something much, much uglier: ‘What do you mean you did it three times in one night?’ ‘I thought the hot tub idea was ours!’… It is a gift to your spouse to let some memories die in the past and remain only with you.” (Sheet Music)

Sharing past experiences is a thorny issue. Maybe we don't need to spill every detail of a five-some in Greece ten years ago, but sometimes we need to be able to share things from our past, and also importantly, to listen and hear to our partners' stories without judgement. There's way too much shame about sexual histories already. Let's not add any more fuel to the fire.