This quarter I took a class on gender and sexuality from Fuller’s Marriage & Family department, and while I enjoyed the class, I have to admit I was a little bummed by its shortcomings. It surprised me that a program in a field which prides itself on a relational focus—rather than the more individualistic approach of traditional psychology—spent so much time on physiology and sexual dysfunction. Yes, we did talk about the important emotional and relational aspects of various sexual disorders (which might be either causes or effects). But there was little discussion of the dynamics of sexual relationships beyond pathology—a glaring omission in my mind.
This gap in my coursework, together with my general ambivalence towards most Christian books on sex (which incidentally, also seem to focus on mechanics and sexual dysfunctions more than anything) put David Schnarch’s Passionate Marriage on my summer reading list, and 80 pages in, I am really enjoying his thoughts so far. I don’t know much about Schnarch, except that he draws a great deal from Bowenian thought on differentiation, and he is known as a pioneer in the fusion (bad pun for those of you who know Bowen theory…) of sex therapy and marital therapy.
Here is one of the jewels of the book so far, which I wish to goodness I could frame for the office walls of all the Christian therapists who have written their sex books with such a stereotypical “his needs,” “her needs” focus (Schnarch, 2009, p. 80):
“Men trade love for sex and women trade sex for love.” This common belief reflects the fact that girls are socialized to associate sex with love and intimacy, while boys focus on genital sensations. This folk wisdom enshrines an infantile view of ourselves, confusing sexual immaturity with gender differences. The reality is that as women mature, they become more comfortable with their own genitals—they enjoy sex for their own pleasure. Meanwhile, men become more interested in intimacy and emotional connection. Actually, as men and women reach their respective sexual potentials, they become more similar sexually and more “sexually compatible.”