Christian Couples Engaging in Kinky Sex, Including 'Anal Play,' Say It's OK if It's in Heterosexual Marriage, Researcher Finds

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(Photo: University of California Press)The cover art for Kelsy Burke's new book 'Christians Under Covers: Evangelicals and Sexual Pleasure on the Internet.'

In her new book, Christians Under Covers: Evangelicals and Sexual Pleasure on the Internet, University of Nebraska-Lincoln sociologist Kelsy Burke offers a small peek under the covers of the sex lives of evangelical Christians and her findings reveal a lot of kinky behavior, including "anal play."

The book, which reflects Burke's findings from a nearly two-year ethnographic study of 36 websites where tens of thousands of Christians have sought sexual guidance during the past decade, focused on couples who were heterosexual, married, monogamous and did not look at pornography. Website users concluded that an array of sexual activities qualified as "godly sex" that strengthens Christian marriage.

"The websites I study draw from popular Christian sex advice books (like those authored by the LaHaye's, Wheat's, Young's, Douglas Rosenau, Shannon Etheridge, Kevin Leman) to set the terms, as website creators and users see them, for 'godly sex,'" said Burke to The Christian Post on Thursday.

And what Burke, who does not identify as an evangelical Christian, found in her study was that even within the confines of Protestant heterosexual norms, Christians still found creative ways to explore a cornucopia of sexual interests.

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(Photo: University of Nebraska Communications/Craig Chandler)Kelsy Burke, an assistant professor of sociology, is the author of "Christians Under Covers."

"For some this means oral sex, anal sex, masturbation, the use of sex toys, the list could go on. … In online blog comments and message boards, website users sometimes debate whether or not a particular sex act is 'OK.' But the prevailing attitude is that if a believer is in open communication with God and a spouse about his or her desires, then those desires are permissible.

"One website user told me 'It's not my job to be the Holy Spirit and convict people.' In other words, the people I observed and talked to who use Christian sexuality websites are respectful of fellow believers' individual relationships with God. Where they draw the line is when sex is not heterosexual, non-monogamous (including pornography), extra-marital, or not consensual," Burke said.

Burke explained that her study is based on 50 interviews with creators and users of Christian sexuality websites, extensive content analysis of about a dozen sites over the two-year period, and a survey with 768 respondents who asked questions about sexual attitudes and practices and religious beliefs.

In one survey highlighted in the book, Burke notes that some 38 percent of married men indicated that they found passive anal sex to be "somewhat" or "very appealing." While the survey is not a representative sample of website users, or Christians more generally, she noted that "male anal play seems questionable at best within a conservative Christian context."

"In analyzing online discussions on Christian sexuality sites, I found examples of men who identified as conservative Christians and who also enjoyed being anally penetrated by their wives. I develop the term in my book 'gender omniscience' to describe how these men justify their interests despite critiques that these interest might signal gender or sexual deviance/sinfulness. Instead, they emphasize that both God and their wives know, with certainty, that they are heterosexual men enjoying this sexual practice within their godly marriage," said Burke.

(Photo: screen shot via christiannymphos.com)A screen shot of the website, christiannymphos.com.

"Though many would disagree with their interests, what I find interesting as a sociologist is how some users of Christian sexuality websites push what might be considered 'normal' within conservative Christianity by relying on the basic tenants of conservative Christian beliefs," she added.

Christian sex toy shops like Covenant Spice, notes Vice channel's Broadly, caters to sexual activity utilizing all orifices in marriage including toys that promote "anal play as straight-friendly" for Christians.

"We believe that sex between a husband and a wife is a gift from God, and is meant to be enjoyed in all of its wonder and passion. We believe that according to the scriptures it is acceptable for a husband and wife to explore whatever options bring them pleasure as a married couple that do not cause harm, do not violate a scriptural command, and do not cause either spouse to be uncomfortable. We are aware that many things on this site may come as a surprise to someone from a traditional or more formal Christian background. We would encourage you to pray together as a couple and seek the Lord's wisdom," urge the husband and wife team that operates Covenant Spice.

According to Broadly, the site "sells regal 'bendy beads,' an anal chain cutely named 'Fun Factory Felix,' and even a sizable prostate massager that vibrates with a specially angled tip. There's also some cautious but nevertheless evident support for pegging."

"Some of the men justify it by saying, 'Well, God wouldn't create this pleasure gland if he didn't want me to use it,'" Burke told Broadly.

(Photo: Screen shot via bedroomblessings.com)A screen shot of the website bedroomblessings.com

George, who runs the site "Bedroom Blessings," told Broadly, however, that he wasn't comfortable with this idea of pegging.

"I don't want to judge people, but I don't sell any anal-type products," he said. "Marriage is a great thing for anyone, but for Christians it's a covenant between us and God. It's just different for us. We have different responsibilities," he said.

In addressing the issue of anal sex between husbands and wives, though not in the context of pegging, one Christian advice website called biblereasons.com comes out strongly against it.

"While it is true Christian couples don't have a sex limit on what they can and can't do in regard to sex positions and oral sex. Sex is the male's penis into a female's vagina. Anal sex is penis to anus, which is sodomy. You might say how about if it's between husband and wife, but God didn't intend men to put their penis inside an anus period," it advised.

Focus on the Family, a global Christian ministry dedicated to helping families thrive, argues that the Bible does not address practices such as oral sex but cautions against anal sex.

"With regard to your specific inquiries, the Bible never addresses the question of oral sex in marriage, and for this reason it's our opinion that this issue must be left to a couple's own judgment. (We realize, of course, that some Christians have strong reservations about oral sex, and we respect their point of view.)," the organization noted.

When it comes to anal sex, however, Focus on the Family encourages couples to avoid the practice for several reasons.

"It is crucial to add that we have special concerns about this practice. Renowned Christian sex therapists Clifford and Joyce Penner report that the majority of women who engage in anal sex with their husbands admit that they do not enjoy it and feel violated. In such cases, anal sex would appear to breach the biblical concept of mutual respect and enjoyment between partners. There are also serious medical risks associated with anal sex, including the danger of bacterial and viral infections of the vagina, penis, rectum and anus. That's not to mention that rectal tissue is more delicate and thus more vulnerable to tearing and abrasion than vaginal tissue. With these points in mind, we would strongly caution couples against this practice," Focus on the Family added.

Burke told Broadly that she first became interested in how Christians navigate their sexuality when she was in a women's Bible study meeting and overheard a woman express her irritation with the modest dress she was supposed to wear. "She told all of us, 'I think God likes it when I show off some cleavage and wear red lipstick.'"

When asked Thursday if she thought the woman was joking, Burke said she was very serious.

"This was almost certainly not said in jest. This woman was annoyed that the Bible study on that day was harping on the importance of women dressing modestly, when she wanted to point out that she believes God celebrates sexual expression (within certain contexts) and that God approves of her dressing in a way that appeals to her husband," Burke said.

Asked if she thinks her research is reflective of a broader sexual revolution in the evangelical Church, she argued that the variety of sexual practices Christians seem to engage in within the confines of heterosexual marriage threatens their stance that heterosexuality is "exclusively normal."

"One of the recurring themes in Christians under Covers is how believers negotiate a religious logic about sexuality amidst a secular (and sexualized) world. Website creators and users overwhelmingly oppose sex outside of marriage and homosexuality, but they support a wide range of sex practices within monogamous, heterosexual marriages, like women's pursuits of pleasure and even sex practices deemed 'kinky' (like male anal play)," she said.

"Yet, as Christian sexuality website users may push the boundaries of gender and sexual norms in their own marriages, they may lose the ability to rely on those norms to justify heterosexuality as exclusively normal and natural. They write about sexuality in an era of legalized gay marriage in which monogamous, married lifestyles are not the sole territory of heterosexuals.

"Religion provides a foundation for heterosexuality, which has largely lost its other familiar attributes: gender, monogamy, and marriage. This may mean that conservative Christians will hold steadfast in their exclusive support for heterosexuality, or it may mean that they may gradually accept non-heterosexual practices and identities. Christian sexuality websites are one place where this future unfolds," she added.

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