I cringed a bit when I heard it. Not because it was strange and confusing, but the exact opposite: it was relentlessly and undeservedly popular. And what made it so cringe-inducing wasn’t just the phrase itself, but more so the unquestioned wisdom and axiomatic authority with which it has been carried by generations of men:
“Sex starts in the kitchen”
I’m sure somewhere between (unsolicited) marriage advice or the Christian version of locker room talk after men’s ministry, you’ve heard that sentence repeated and endorsed like John chapter 3 verse 16. For the benefit of those of you who have not yet heard this ‘nugget of wisdom’, let me outline the premises on which it is based: Wives are usually the ones doing most of the housework, e.g. washing the dishes or cooking. If a husband wants to have sex with his wife, a wise move is to help ‘in the kitchen’ by doing the chores. By doing so, he will win her favour and she’ll be more open and interested in having sex with him.
The trouble is, it actually works. Selfless, thoughtful acts always move the heart of a woman. They can be as necessary and routine as household chores or as fanciful and spontaneous as her favourite flowers, or a walk on the beach.
Role over Reward
What irked me wasn’t the logic of the saying, but the motive, especially when it’s followed by Christians.
Yes, there are practical, commonsense rules to follow to keep a marriage going irrespective of religion. But as Christians, we are called to something higher and deeper than what the rest of the world blindly follows. Being compassionate, sacrificial and tender towards your wife should not come with calculated, ulterior motives. Her very role as your wife is enough reason to serve her. The dignity of that role is cheapened when service to her is conditional upon a reward (sex).
The Chicken or the Egg?
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church and gave himself for it” (Ephesians chapter 5 verse 25).
Usually people read that and focus on the nature of Christ’s love: unconditional, selfless, sacrificial even unto death.
But what eludes many of us is the chronology of Christ’s love. This isn’t a chicken-or-the-egg scenario. Scripture is abundantly clear: Christ loved the church first, and not the other way around. Romans chapter 5 verse 8 says, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Before we were His bride. Before we became one with Him through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Before we ever uttered one word of worship or praise, God lavishly poured out His love for us and at great cost to Himself.
If Christ would do that before we became His bride, how much more should a husband lavishly love a woman after she has become his bride?
A Woman’s Worth
Every woman – in the kitchen or in your bed – is immeasurably valuable.
God was willing to suffer the vagaries of human limitations and an excruciating death just for the chance at a relationship with your wife. And even then, God gave her the choice to reject despite that tremendous sacrifice. She is the daughter of the Most High King; even powerful, supernatural angels come to her aid (Hebrews chapter 1 verses 7-9). God deems her as precious and worthy of bearing His image in the Earth.
With your wedding vows, you committed to spending your life striving to value her as God does in everything you do, including having sex with her.
Sex involves someone far too precious and represents something far too glorious to be reduced to a cheap perk for doing the dishes. Its consuming physical ecstasy is but a feeble shadow of a wondrous spiritual joy of Christ’s heart for His church. This powerful, beautiful mystery of becoming one flesh calls upon every inch of you to be absorbed into the fullness of union with a soul worth more than the whole world (Mark 8:36). It is an astonishing honour to bestow and enjoy.
“What about me?
If this feels lopsided, unfair – maybe even too feminist – just remember that Christ died for you too. God’s love for His daughters is matched only by the love He also has for His sons – like you!
The reason God’s Son, Christ, could “resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (Luke chapter 9 verse 51) to sacrifice Himself in a brutal and humiliating way because He “entrusted Himself to the one that judges justly” (1 Peter chapter 2 verse 23).
As a husband, resolutely set out to serve your wife, not just to get sex in return, but out of the love God has placed in your heart for her. As a son of God, confidently entrust yourself to your Heavenly Father to “set joy before you” as you walk a path of sacrifice and servanthood (inside and outside the kitchen).
Sex starts at the cross
You are already seated in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6), so see your wife through heavenly eyes. Those same Eyes that saw the brutal, bloody cross and still thought your wife’s presence was a joy worth resolutely pursuing.
My dear brothers in Christ, let’s leave the shallow flattery, ulterior motives and transactional tactics to the world that doesn’t know any better. Sex doesn’t start in the kitchen. It starts at the cross.
Kacy Garvey is a Christian poet, speaker and activist. In 2011, she launched "Rahab", an outreach to prostitutes in Geneva, Switzerland. She is a USAID certified HIV Testing and Counselling Provider and has also successfully completed training in Trafficking in Persons conducted by the International Organisation on Migration (IOM). She performs original pieces of spoken word poetry to various audiences, and in 2014 and 2018, she launched “Undone” and “Water Jar”, the first and only Christian poetry albums published in Jamaica thus far. As a founding member of the Love March Movement (since 2012) and #MarriageMattersJA (since 2018), she is a regular presenter on the science, politics and biblical worldviews on sex and sexuality. In January 2021, Kacy launched Caribbean Christian Response, an online movement that reviews the news from a biblical worldview and gathers millennials across the region to pray together and seek God’s heart on these issues.