The Gift of Sex, by Clifford and Joyce Penner

This book was given to me by a friend at my bachelorette party. She called it a “classic” although it had only been published in 2003 and I’d never heard of it before. But the more I read, the more I could see how The Gift of Sex could easily become one of those “classic” books that get gifted at bachelorette parties, much like What to Expect When You’re Expecting being a staple at baby showers.

The Gift of Sex is written by a Christian husband and wife team, writing to fellow Christians about how sexuality is a gift to humankind from God, what that means for our marriages, and how we can fully embrace the freedom of sexual pleasure. Anyone regardless of faith tradition can gain something useful from their message about healthy expressions of sexuality, although if you disagree with some of their religious philosophies, you may find yourself skipping through a lot of pages.

Clifford and Joyce Penner are a doctor and nurse, respectively, and Christian sex therapists who have written a number of books to help couples find fulfillment in their sex lives. They offer a refreshing biblical pro-sex and pro-pleasure perspective, for both husband and wife, and they strike a wonderful balance between spiritual and physiological wisdom. They are proponents of sex being experienced only in the safety and commitment of a loving marriage, and they are also proponents of sexual freedom, exploration, and experimentation within those marriages, as long as agreed upon by both husband and wife.

I was surprised a couple times by the freedom they encouraged couples to have in the bedroom. It was a refreshing surprise, though, not a shocked or ashamed one. It made me realize how much I’d absorbed unfounded judgments from a Christian subculture that frowned on anything that veered away from the standard “missionary position.” Putting aside those archaic (and not actually biblical) judgments allowed me to be less afraid of crossing a line and more free to just enjoy my time with my husband in every sense of the word.

So if you are a Christian who is married, or who is getting married in the next year, I’d especially recommend this book to you. Some of the contents may surprise you if you also grew up in an environment that was either uncomfortable talking about sex or restrictive in its application. May you and your spouse find great joy and pleasure in the bedroom (and anywhere else you choose to “come together”).