It is with ironic amusement that the Roman Church should have subscribed to the notion that the missionary position ought to be THE Christian sexual position; while other positions were deemed as greater venial sins with their appropriate penances.
“Thus the sexual act must be performed in only one position, and numerous penalties were prescribed for using variants, the approach “more canino” – which was held to afford the most pleasure being regarded with especial horror and calling for seven years of penance. Confessors were required to ask specifically about these and every other possibility, and the manuals with which they were later supplied contain questions concerning every imaginable variant of the sexual act: in the present condition of the laws against obscenity it would be inadvisable to quote them here.“1
However, it has long struck me that as those who are stronger, ought to support those who are weaker; symbolically, they ought to be perceived as foundation, bottom and root of social entities.
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”2
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.”3
“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.”4
In contrast to the masculinist Roman concept of husbands and rulers lording over their conquests, with the missionary position having an appropriate historical connotation to that effect; a scrupulous, legalistic Christianity should find woman-on-top, the appropriate sexual expression of the Christian ethos.
The whole point of this exercise is the absurdities in insisting on a seal of approval on sexual positions, techniques and the like, which the God of Scriptures deliberately, in my opinion, neglected to inscribe.
(From upcoming book - In Defense of Christian Marriage)
- Gordon Rattray Taylor, “Sex In History”, 1954, Chapter 3 – The Medieval Ideal
- Ephesians 2:20
- Matthew 20:25-27
- Romans 15:1-2
6 thoughts on “The Approved Christian Sexual Position”
I’m thankful that the Bible is likewise silent—at least in an explicit sense at least—w/r sexual positions. Nevertheless, someone could indeed make the argument for woman on top as the appropriate position in that it’s one position that seems to be uniquely human and hence one that sets us apart from the animals. Also, in Genesis 2:22 God brought the woman to the man—not the other way around. This can be re-enacted each time spouses make love if the woman comes to the man, which implies she taking the initiative. Also, finally, we have Jeremiah 31:22—-“a woman shall encompass a man.” Granted, that verse has given Bible scholars much trouble over the centuries in trying to interpret, but I guess one thing to consider is that the “new thing” God created was the woman—-a unique and graceful creation that concluded the Creation story before God rested on the 7th day. Whereas the animals all pretty much mate in a manner where the male takes the initiative, God created a woman in a manner that physiologically and psychologically permits her to “encompass” her man so they can make love in a uniquely human manner that becomes something much more than simple copulation. A “new thing,” in other words.
My discovery of Jeremiah 31:22 several years ago caused me to begin to see sexual intercourse in a truly new and different way that has given me a deeper appreciation for the beauty, dignity and wonder at what God created when he created us male and female
Nevertheless, God in His wisdom has permitted us to find our own way about some of this and reach our own conclusions based on expreiences and in some cases special circumstances (in other words, it shouldn’t necessarily be “one position fits all.”
This (Jeremiah 31:22) is a brilliant and timely gem that you have brought to my attention; one which I have missed because I have relied too much on the pathetic NIV translation for many years; and one, which seems consistent with the Hebrew.
It perfectly fits with the actual physical manifestation of Eros; of the female member enveloping the male member. It can certainly justify the dorsal position (woman on top), which the Medieval penitentials denigrated and some declared as venial sin. (I actually haven’t found a direct source that declares this so. However, multiple sources (i.e. James A. Brundage, Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval Europe, (Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1990) have indicated that dorsal sex received 3 years penance and lateral, seated, standing and Coitus retro only 40 days. Albertus Magnus named five sexual positions and ranked them from most acceptable to least acceptable: 1) missionary, 2) side-by-side, 3) sitting, 4) standing and 5) a tergo. Dorsal wasn’t included; although one has to wonder as to what sitting implies.
As per the woman taking the initiative, I am not sure that this passage is as pertinent to that argument as the Shulammite woman in the Song of Solomon who chases her husband around town for affect.
As you have implied in the latter part of your response, there is an enormously rich metaphorical language in the “act of marriage”; that of hard and firm core overlaid with tenderness, which relates to the different natural male and female psychological proclivities. I say proclivities because I subscribe to a substantiated view that the propensities of male and female are radically different; having learnt the way because I bought into the Second Wave feminist perspective that masculine and feminine natures are social constructs. However, although a subscriber of complementarianism, (primarily on the basis of social order – 1 Corinthians 14), it is complementarianism of natures and not of roles. Specialized natures might lend to certain roles being better served by one sex or the other. But in ruminating on the wife of noble character in Proverbs 31, I don’t see the ‘role’ distinction as anything but vaporous, except in those areas explicitly delineated by Scriptures.
What I do find true, through the study of Scriptures, history, psychological observation and introspection is that psychological natures are mutable. And rather than seeking to establish these distinct roles; we, as husbands and wives, are supposed to acknowledge, accept, mutually discover in a conscious way, embrace and finally incorporate that of the Other into ourselves. This relates back to Genesis 1:27 and the creating of man (generic) in the image of God, but male and female, created them (generic man) and correspondingly, to achieve a fullness of our humanity, implies an incorporation of those elements of the other. This is a long exegetical discourse, not appropriate to a blog.
Where I find the actual physical manifestation of Eros image useful, to which the Jeremiah 31:22 gives validation, is in this mitigation and incorporation of hard male and tender female propensities into each other. I think herein lays the best argument against same-sex marriage; in that intimate lives between same-sex couples lends to an exaggeration of those proclivities, rather than a mitigation.
I have had to work in my later years in factory settings with the working class folks. I am struck by the substantive difference in outlook between them and the middle and upper classes. But I am also struck by how ‘masculinely’ hard and harsh, the working class male seems to be, especially in earlier ages of life. It is not appealing at all. And as is sociologically substantiated, the lower classes have much greater difficulty keeping relationships than their richer neighbours. I think that the more distinct (and stubbornly resistant to change) nature and role differences in psychological propensities have some part to play in this.
I am sorry for rambling on. Your comments set my mind on fire. And I am very appreciative to you for pointing out a more correct understanding of the verse.
Don’t apologize for your ramblings. Actually, if you want some rambling, I wrote an entire essay about WOT and Jeremiah 31:22 around the turn of the millenium. I’m still not absolutely sure if it’s fully correct theologically or otherwise (I come across as a little too dogmatic at time w/r it all as well), but I definitely think there might be at least something to it all. That site is part of an overall website of mine that I started back in 1999 and it includes a whole series of potentially incongruous subjects at times, and overall I’m not sure how theologically/morally correct all the stuff is at the various pages, so if you disagree with or are uncomfortable with any of it and if I come across as a possible nutcase—that’s OK. I wonder/worry about that possibility as well. Nevertheless, the page having specifically to do with WOT and Jer 31:22 can be found at http://www.eingedi.org/j3122-2.html
A couple of comments.
If you have never been to Eingedi, (I always spelt in Engedi. However…), do not miss it. There apparently are two Eingedis. Go to the Dead Sea One. It is one of the most luscious gardens with small waterfall, you can stand behind, and a nice pool. Only problem is that it is busy with mostly local tourism. You can take in Masada 20-30 Km south. Do that in the morning sunrise. However, the Dead Sea used to extend south past that point. Now it is dried up salt land. I went to Masada when there was only a goat path and no local hotels. We slept at the foot of the hill. The absolute stillness and quiet was quite disquieting. One doesn’t realize how insidious is the background hum in our lives.
I hope that you understand that I was being tongue-in-cheek. By your comment on your blog entry, “I truly believe that spouses should use the woman-on-top sexual position exclusively”, it seems that you are only replacing one legalism with another. I get it about preference. However, in subscribing to the view that the soul of marriage involves a full exploration of each other (both body, which prefigures psyche or soul), we ought not to add limitations, which Scriptures do not explicitly circumscribe unless they are really reasonable. I know this myself. In the early part of my marriage, I invented absurd personal limits because of the typical idiosyncrasies of the natural human ideas about religiosity. It took a decade to get it in the mind but decades to fully get it in the heart.
The idea of marriage is to create a safe oasis of confidentiality and intimacy where everything is explorable. That becomes difficult in an environment of distrust and judgment. It is not that certain things are not wrong. It is that working out our frailties and inclinations are helped by a supportive spouse who does not make such disclosures difficult. A free and easy sexual intimacy and availability prefigures the psychological. It also prefigures the intimate and informal spiritual relationship man is supposed to have with God in Christ. The problem I have with Origen, who allegorized the marital (Song of Solomon) is that to truly understand that which is signified, one must personally experience fully the signifying elements.
I found the site at eingedi before this one and this is better since it includes more than one vs….ironically eingedi is written by a catholic
Also I thought of SofS 1:16-17 where the girl says theie bed is green like she is looking down…hence on top…and the man looks up at the cedars.