Join me this week as I take you on a little journey of comparisons. . .with food. Each of us wants and needs a healthy relationship with food – and that goes for your sexual relationship as well. I want to share some analogies with you concerning repression or compulsion of your sexuality and how men and women typically respond differently to thoughts of intimacy. Your marriage will better thrive when you understand how your human brain, full of beautiful curiosity, will play a leading role in the sexual side of your relationship.
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Maybe you’ve heard me talk about food as a metaphor for our sexual drive. It’s a great metaphor for understanding that drive a little bit more. I liken our sexual drive to being hungry or not. We are naturally hungry sometimes and sometimes we are not. But just because we aren’t hungry, doesn’t mean that we can’t eat. Or sometimes we don’t even realize that we’re hungry but once we start eating we realize that we are. We also don’t expect our spouse to be hungry at the exact same time we are, and we don’t expect them to eat if they aren’t hungry, but sometimes we want to entice them to eat with us. Our sexual drive is much the same way.
But, that isn’t what we are talking about today. That is a metaphor for sexual drive. Today we are talking about sexual anorexia.
Let me back up just a minute and explain. Men and women have been socialized in our church and in our communities to divide themselves from their sexuality. It is done differently based on traditional feminine and masculine qualities, but it happens to both parties.
With women, we are taught that we can’t have our own desires while accommodating, serving, and meeting the desires of those around us. Our own desires are secondary to those we serve. That our sexuality is there to satisfy our spouse and help tame him so that he doesn’t use his sexuality in a way that is destructive.
With men, we tend to view them as more hedonistic and we are comfortable with them having desires. But we also give men the notion that they are entitled to sexuality and a good wife should and will accommodate it. That sex is something that you DO to a woman and you can hurt women through your sexuality, which can create a lot of guilt and anxiety in men.
With both of these sexual constructs we are kind of doomed to fail, which is why so many people struggle with their sexuality and with the sex life in their marriages. When men have this dual message that it’s normal for them to have these desires, but they have to be careful they don’t hurt someone with them, it drives them to the elicit and the pornography.
As humans, we were designed to be curious. If you think about things back in the caveman days, we needed to be curious so that we would eventually leave the cave and figure out how to build a fire and a house. We’ve come a long way in the world because of curiosity. Children are naturally curious. They are interested in what surrounds them and experimenting with new things. Curiosity is a basic instinct to learn, grow, mature, and survive.
As children, prohibition becomes a very intense curiosity about knowing what lies beyond the known, and therefore, becomes very attractive and almost irresistable.
As children mature into adolescence, seeking after the forbidden is often a way for them to differentiate themselves from their parents and the ideals that were ingrained in them. So, what is forbidden becomes more attractive as they look for whatever will differentiate us and reaffirm that we are someone different and unique.
As adults, we are attracted to what is “off limits” out of a desire to show the world that we are the masters of our lives and that nothing can or should decide things for us. They call this the Forbidden Fruit Effect. It occurs in everyone. It is a result of man’s desire to learn about the unknown and the consequences of things that are supposed to be dangerous. As humans, we greatly dislike prohibitions and impositions, since it makes us feel as though our freedom is threatened.
As humans, we were also designed to be curious about sexuality. Again, when we think about how our brain developed back in the caveman days, of course we needed to perpetuate the species, so we needed to be curious about sex and sexuality. We are drawn to it. And when that curiosity is linked to the forbidden…that is like a hit of drugs for our brain.
So, knowing what we know about curiosity, sex, and the forbidden, we basically set men and women up to be in a compulsive or repulsive relationship with sex, sexuality, and even pornography. Females are more likely to go into repression and males are more likely to go into compulsion. But it can work either way.
So let’s get back to our food analogy. If you were taught throughout your youth that you were not allowed to think about, look act, or partake in any sweets – that by thinking about sweets it made you bad, it was dangerous, and you shouldn’t do it, you are going to develop either a repressive or compulsive relationship with sweets. Anorexia or compulsive eating. There is very little moderation. It’s usually one extreme or the other. The same goes with sexuality. We are getting one extreme or the other – either sexual anorexia (which I often refer to as sexual repression) or sexual compulsion, which often looks like compulsive sexual behavior like pornography usage. Neither one of these extremes are compatible with a sexually healthy and mutually beneficial experience. Just as anorexia or compulsive eating isn’t a healthy way of dealing with food.
I looked up some information on anorexia and this is what it said: Anorexia is an eating disorder characterized by markedly reduced appetite or total aversion to food. Anorexia is a serious psychological disorder. It is a condition that goes well beyond out-of-control dieting. Over time, the weight loss becomes a sign of mastery or control. The drive to become thinner is thought to be secondary to concerns about control and fears relating to one’s body. The individual continues the endless cycle of restrictive eating, often to the point of starvation. This becomes an obsession and is similar to an addiction to a drug. (Medical Definition of Anorexia)
Ok, now I want to read the same paragraph but substitute it for sexual anorexia.
Sexual Anorexia is a disorder characterized by markedly reduced appetite or total aversion to sex. Sexual anorexia is a serious psychological disorder. It is a condition that goes well beyond no desire for sex. Over time, the sexlessness becomes a sign of mastery or control. The drive to repress their sexuality is thought to be secondary to concerns about control and fears relating to one’s body. The individual continues the endless cycle of restrictive sexuality, often to the point of sexual starvation. This becomes an obsession and is similar to an addiction to a drug.
Now, I want to reiterate that this is my analogy. A metaphor. This is not an actual diagnosis or an actual disorder. I’m trying to help you relate to this in a way that you might understand. I’m trying to come at this problem from a lot of different angles to help people understand what is going on for them and their spouse.
So, how do we fix this? How do we fix this sexual anorexia and compulsivity. By reframing what it means to be sexually healthy and reshaping the relationship that you have to your sexuality. Just like you have to reframe your relationship to food if you don’t have a healthy relationship with it. That it is NOT something that is bad or wrong. It so not something forbidden. It is something good and right. It something that your Heavenly Parents want for you. That it is FOR you and for your personal benefit, as well as for the benefit of your marriage and your relationship. All of this reframing isn’t easy, and it takes time. But it is totally possible. Some are able to do it on their own, but most need a professional, like myself. Let me help you reframe your sexual anorexia into a healthy, wonderful relationship with yourself.