Sex is more like eating than it is like playing baseball in the sense that it is more about nourishment than recreation. Eating food, especially when you are hungry or when the food is good, is enjoyable. Fun? Maybe, but I’m not convinced that’s the best adjective for it. “Fun” is like an accessory—a cool and good thing that most people like and want. It’s more of an add-on than something of inherent value.
Sex is not really about having fun. First of all, having fun is all about you. The other people involved in the fun of playing baseball are necessary for the sake of the game, but the fulfillment you get out of playing is about you. Your love of the sport, the way you feel when you play well, what you hope to accomplish or receive from the experience. Sex is not like that. We act like sex is like that and people get hurt. But sex is more important than that.
I am not going to say that sex is not fun, because I think that communicates the wrong thing. It can be fun, but I always feel a little gross when I hear someone say “sex is fun!” to someone who doesn’t know any better. Especially in Christian circles, I hear things like, “You should be excited for marriage because sex is fun!” which I think is a strange way to sell marriage. Maybe you should just be excited for marriage because marriage is pretty awesome all around. Communicating about sex this way seems to be about combatting the “sex is bad” message that conservative communities have perpetuated through their awkwardness and prudishness. “Sex is good! You should be excited to have sex (when you are married) because it is super fun!” is an enthusiastic over-simplification of what sex actually is. I hear this and always think, what…the…fuck…?
I understand wanting to create a positive association with sex for young Christians who might be confused about the topic because, NEWSFLASH! SEX ACTUALLY IS GOOD! Not just good feeling, but actually a good thing. It is healthy and satisfying and natural and very human. Sex was built into us. But when we start saying its “soooooo fun” as a way to convince people of something it gets a little creepy.
Sex is also work, and you know what they say, nothing worth having comes easy. I am not talking about the twenty-first century American definition of “work” that resembles slavery to a machine, but “work” in the sense that it is intentional. That’s not to say that professional baseball players don’t work at baseball, but when we talk about sex as “fun” I think it communicates that sex is casual and easy, and that you don’t have to do it on purpose. I was recently a part of a conversation about the female orgasm where I was stunned to find that most of the women present didn’t really enjoy sex with their partners. Not only does this not sound fun at all, but it sounds like a major lack of intentionality.
In my marriage we just don’t really have “bad” sex. No, I’m serious. For example, we agreed early on not to have drunk sex because let’s be honest, it isn’t going to be that good. Drunk sex is pretty much only about fun, and nothing else. The result of treating sex like something to be done on purpose is that we both enjoy it! Of course this means that we don’t have sex a thousand times a day which was a bit of a disappointment when we were first married and under the impression that “we could have sex whenever we wanted (how fun?)!!!” Turns out the fun comes from having great sex as the inevitable result of a great relationship where two people are always putting in effort. This is so much more profound than entertainment!
Okay, what’s my point? I think when we say “sex is fun!” as a way to try and communicate its value we actually totally cheapen something that has great value. Sex is valuable because it is a unique representation of relationship. It requires more than one person which assumes vulnerability and intimacy, and when done with care it feeds a relationship in the way that only that level of intimacy can. Kind of like how food is food, and when you eat plastic instead of food you get cancer because nothing feeds you the way food does. McDonald’s is fun, but not inherently good. Broccoli is much better in every way, and ultimately more enjoyable.