“Should I have sex with my husband when I’m fasting?”
The question was delivered to me earnestly, without forewarning or a natural segue. At a recent book reading, I mentioned to the room that my husband is a pastor (which is passive and has different connotations than the title Pastor’s Wife) and I woman with whom I’d begun to converse with privately just three minutes prior dropped this question at my feet. I laughed – a little out of nervousness – but when she refused to break eye contact with me, I knew that a thoughtful answer was anticipated.
So what’s the best way to approach such an intimate question from someone you’ve never met, the details of whose faith you are unfamiliar with and whose sex life you have no notion of? I mean, is she fasting and praying for better sex? To never to have sex with her husband again? Is it okay to even ask these questions? What – in all seriousness – would Jesus do? Since I’m not the Almighty and possess no powers of mind reading, I did the natural thing: I deflected.
“I think that’s a conversation you should have with your husband.”
She looked taken aback. Astonished. As if the idea of conversing with her own husband about the conditions under which they would participate in intercourse was an absurdity, completely out of the question.
“Okay…but I’m asking YOU if it’s okay to have sex when you are fasting.”
Me, myself, personally, as I am, I don’t do the double backed monster when I’m fasting. Fasting leaves me weak, irritable and with bad breath. I only have energy for my prayers and my bed…which is kind of the point of fasting. To focus on a godly pursuit and holy goal. So I told her this (not the part about my bad breath) and she was still confused.
“So, let’s say you are fasting from 6am-6pm. Is it okay to have sex after 6pm until 5:59 am?” (Tia and MX5, I see y’all reading this, and yes, for real!)
I tried to temper my tone to sound gentle and nonjudgmental. “It sounds to me like you are getting a little bit into legalism. Like you’re trying to find loopholes. But the reality is, you really have to talk to your husband about this. This is your arrangement. You guys are in this marriage together.” A thought occurred to me. “Sometimes, men use the circumstances that prohibit their wives from engaging in sex – like an illness or fasting – as an excuse for cheating.”
She became very animated. “Yes! That’s what they say when they have finished cheating!”
Okay. We were getting somewhere.
“If you’re husband is a Christian – is he a Christian? Yes? – then he should understand the principles of fasting as well. And if having sex during that time – you said one week, yes? – will cause you to fail at achieving your spiritual goals, then he needs to understand that abstaining for a brief time is important for your success.”
She did not seem convinced, but desperately wanted to be. I have my suspicions as to why.
Although the reading was for my book Madness & Tea, a tome that has nothing to do with the topic of sex, the fact that I’d mentioned that I was also a sex/relationship blogger coupled with the knowledge of my husband’s occupation makes me an approachable “expert” on the subjects of pleasurable sex and religion. And let’s be honest, Christian women are not stones, although they appear woody in public. They want wet panties like the rest of womankind. I digress.
So because we are talking about a Christian woman in the Ghanaian context, chances are she’s been downloaded with very damaging messaging about sex, submission and agency. That is, she most likely believes that after marriage she has no right to sexual agency. In 2019, new brides are still advised by their female elders never to wear shorts to bed or deny their husband sex for any reason. Marital rape does not exist in Ghana; not because men don’t rape their wives, but because the law does not recognize sexual assault from one’s partner as a crime. The notion that a good Christian woman (not a bad one like me, mind you) would talk to her partner about what she likes, is displeased by or gets pleasure from is just incredulous to far too much of population; educated, classed or otherwise. Add to this, the burden of holiness is often laid on the breasts of Black women. Carry the family in prayer, serve in the church, manage the budget for giving, fast and seek the Lord’s strength and still have to question if temporary abstinence for your own soul’s sake is permissible.
I have never been asked if it was okay to have sex during a period of fasting, nor have I had to ask. The ministry I come from flat out told us “No sex during this period of fasting!” And yet every so often, a birth announcement would be made 9 months afterwards. Hilarious. Who am I to judge? If it weren’t for my yummy birth control pills, I too would’ve been caught.
I shared all this with the woman (not the part about the birth control pills) and asked if it made sense. She said it did.
“Anyway, I’m not married. I was just curious.”