There’s been a saying in Christian circles that’s been driving me crazy for a while now. You’ve probably heard it. I know I did many times before I got married. “Sex is not that important. It’s just icing on the cake.” Or some variant of that saying.
I don’t know who made this horrible saying up, but the people perpetuating it need to stop. Sex is not the icing on the cake, it’s the eggs in the cake.
For those of you who are bakers, you know what eggs do in a recipe. Eggs are the glue. They’re the bonding ingredient. They hold the cake together. You know what happens when you make a cake without eggs? It falls to pieces. You know what happens to marriages that don’t have healthy sex lives? Yeah, they fall to pieces too. See, pretty good analogy.
After all, you can have a cake without icing. It’s still a cake. No one will argue that it’s not a cake. It may not be a fancy cake, but it’s still clearly a cake. But a cake without eggs, well it falls apart.
Sidenote: For all the people who are going to argue with me about making cakes without eggs, yes, I know, you can make a cake without eggs. I try to eat vegan, so my wife has made some amazing egg-free cakes. The point is, you need a binding ingredient. Eggs, chia seeds, silken tofu, yogurt, applesauce, bananas, flax seeds, agar agar, whatever. Let’s not get off track here. The principle remains, you need something to hold the cake together. It’s not considered “extra”, it’s a core ingredient.
Icing implies “extra” and non-essential
When someone says “sex is the icing on the cake” they’re implying that sex is not necessary. That it’s not required for a marriage. That without sex, the marriage can still be whole, healthy and thriving. It’s a license for gatekeeping spouses to continue in their gatekeeping ways. It’s a license to sin.
It also flies directly in the face of the Bible:
Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. – 1 Corinthians 7:5
If you think I quote this verse too often, it’s because it’s a really good verse. I don’t mean what it says, but how it says it. It’s so concise and perfect. Yes, the implications are complex and far-reaching, but the directive is clear. You may not unilaterally decide you don’t want to have sex. Why? Because sex is not icing! It’s not trivial! It’s not “extra”!
In fact, biblically, the core reason we get married is to have sex:
But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. – 1 Corinthians 7:2
Because we are so drawn towards sex as a species that we better have a spouse in order to exercise this desire out on, or it’s going to get us into trouble. The temptation to exercise our sexuality without a spouse is too great.
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. – Genesis 2:24
In Genesis, we’re even told explicitly that the reason a man will leave his parents and join with a wife is so they can “become one flesh”, a clear euphemism for sex. This is so strong a statement that both Jesus and Paul quote it in the New Testament. It’s fundamental to the very concept of marriage.
Marriage = sex. Sex is not icing. It’s not optional, and it’s certainly not decoration.
Sex is the glue that holds the marriage together
Sex binds a marriage together in so many ways.
From a pure biochemical stance, sex releases neurotransmitters that help in our relationship. Oxytocin makes us feel bonded and loved. Vasopressin makes us want to protect our spouse. Dopamine makes us feel excited to be with them. These all create a strong bond in our mind, they chemically link us to our spouse in a way no other activity can.
From a psychological perspective, sex is a baring of our very selves. It is when we are naked, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. When we get aroused, our defences drop. The “real” us comes closer to the surface without as many fears. We are more willing to be open and vulnerable. We let our spouse see, experience and be intimate with the core of who we are.
It gives us a chance to release stress, to be at rest. It allows us time with our spouse to be an oasis from the world. A temporary reprieve from the constant stress of simply existing.
Sex is not frivolous. It is the glue that holds our relationships together. It’s what nurtures our intimacy. When marriages have unhealthy, or stressed, or unengaged sex lives, you see their marriages start to unravel. It starts coming out in how they communicate. How they look at each other. How they talk about each other. Without sex, the marriage starts to crumble because relationships naturally drift apart. People never drift closer together. Without that glue, it’s hard to tolerate another sinful human being so close to you in your everyday life.
But with that bonding ingredient in marriage, what a difference. It’s not hard to tolerate them. It’s a joy. Sex not only holds the relationship together, but it makes it a marriage.
So, the next time you hear “sex is the icing on the cake”, speak up and correct them, please. Let them know “No, sex is the egg in the cake. Without it, the cake falls apart.” Who knows, they might actually ask you how to pull their marriage back together.