I saw a tweet link to (a Facebook post to a useless “don’t go onto the wild internetz!” warning page to) this blog post at Pharyngula regarding some marital sex advice from a Christian mega-church pastor who conducts marriage seminars with a “comedic approach”. And I’ll grant you that there’s some comedy gold in this paragraph quoted with disapproval by Pharyngula:

As I said, sometimes sex is just sex; it’s what you do when you are married. Just like cleaning the toilet is what you do to keep your house clean…and I bet you don’t have this great desire or huge emotional connection to scrubbing the porcelain! You do it because it needs to be done and that’s the way it is with married sex… it does need to be done! It’s the glue that God gave us to bond us to one another. The bible is very clear that it is your responsibility as a spouse.

What’s weird about this is the “worst analogy ever” aspect. The Christian reputation for being anti-sex is not going to be refuted by by an analogy that compares married sex to cleaning toilets. Married sex, after all, is the only kind Christians approve of; and if that’s supposed to be an unpleasant duty, what other conclusion are we to draw?

And if all you saw was the Pharyngula paragraph instead of reading the whole article, it would be understandable for you to walk away shaking your head and muttering “Wow, this bigwig pastor really does hate sex, he thinks it’s a filthy unpleasant marital obligation, his poor wife!”

I concede to you that my first thought — which I have not yet entirely discarded — is that this pastor must indeed have some deep ambivalence about sex in order to even conceive of such an unpleasant analogy.

And yet, and yet, I try to be fair. And it turns out, he was at pains to explain that his analogy was about the “necessary duty” part of the toilet cleaning task, not its inherent unpleasantness. From the next paragraph, which Pharyngula did not quote:

Don’t feel badly if you aren’t overwhelmed by all the over-the-moon feelings and passion ahead of time. There is nothing wrong with you. If you can enjoy sex once you start and have a good time, that’s all that matters. Just break the mindset that you won’t do it unless you feel like it. Let not your hearts be troubled. Just enjoy the deal without all the fuss and worry over the desire and emotion.

That rescues him, a little. He’s not saying that “spouses” (of course he means “wives”, but he’s savvy enough to encode his wifely duty message in language that’s beyond gender-reproach) have a duty to have sex even when it’s a nasty and unpleasant job.

Thus does context matter. The toilet analogy remains telling, but in its fuller context, he’s not actually saying “Suck it up, Buttercup, and lick his dirty toilet no matter how much it makes you retch.” He’s saying something like “If you can enjoy licking his toilet, you ought to get after it pretty regular, instead of waiting for the perfect fairy-tale toilet-licking moments that aren’t gonna happen so often when you’re married.” Or, to give him the words he actually uses instead of my sardonic paraphrase: “After you’ve been together for a bunch of years, not every time is going to be the ‘ground shaking, heaven bending down to kiss the earth, lights exploding from the sky and angels singing the hallelujah chorus’ encounter!”

And y’know, I think he’s actually right when he suggests that sex in marriage is necessary. Oh, not for everybody; if I said that, the first comment after this post would be “My wife and I have been married for 23 years and we don’t need sex any more; we love each other deeply and have a fulfilling marriage even though we haven’t fucked since 1996.” It happens, sure. And sometimes when lightning strikes your dog, he doesn’t die. But it remains an oft-told tale that sex declines in marriage, and when it does, the marriage is over (or in horrible trouble) soon after that. Encouraging married people to keep having sex even after some of the initial passion (or, as he rather disturbingly calls it, “all this desire and emotion nonsense”) has faded? It’s not actually a completely crazy idea.