How Can We Talk about Men’s Sexual Needs in a Healthy Way?

by | Jun 22, 2017 | Libido | 122 comments

Let's talk about men's sexual needs in marriage in a healthy way

What do you do if you’re a husband, and your wife really isn’t interested in sex? How do you get her to understand men’s sexual needs?

This has been a really heavy week on the blog. I’ve been attacking the message that we often hear in certain conservative circles that men are so visually stimulated that they will lust, and that we women must therefore cover up to help these guys.

I believe that message is the wrong one.

But I also think that, if I were a guy in a sex-starved marriage reading all of these posts, I’d get really nervous.

It was never my intention to “let women off the hook” from having sex in marriage this week, and I tried, in each post, to put a disclaimer to that effect and point to more posts where I did encourage a healthy sex life.

And today I want to continue this series with this: I’ve been talking about what we SHOULDN’T be saying about men’s sexual needs. But, then, what’s the solution? What is the RIGHT message?

Men's Sexual Needs: How Can We Talk About Them in a Healthy Way, that Doesn't Make Women Feel Objectified?

To you guys who may have felt uncomfortable this week, please, please understand that I’m actually on your side! I do think sex needs to be more frequent and passionate in marriage. But here’s the truth: I think that the way that we often portray men’s sex drives and talk about lust actually makes the sex-starved marriage problem worse.

And so I want to explore that dynamic today, and then present you with what I think is a much more positive message that honours God, honours husbands, and honours wives.

First, though, let’s go back to that guy in that sex-starved marriage (or at least sex-deprived marriage). He’s desperate. He feels as if he’s tried everything. He’s begged and cajoled. He’s done the housework, put the kids to bed, given her a massage. He’s tried talking and learning love languages. And still sex isn’t happening. 

So what is he supposed to do?

Well, in the last twenty years sexuality has become a much bigger topic in churches, largely because it’s become such a huge topic in the wider culture, and the church has had to respond. And pastors talk to these men all the time who aren’t getting enough sex. And so pastors ask themselves, “How can we solve this sex-starved marriage problem?”

Maybe if women just understood how their husbands were feeling, and understood that sex should not be an optional part of marriage, then they would have more sex! So sermon series are done on how bad a problem lust is for men, and how men need wives to have sex. Pastors focus on 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, on the “do not deprive” verses.

At the same time, the church has been rightly concerned about the plague of pornography. And so we start preaching about porn and lust, and we start warning everybody what a HUGE problem this is–it’s “every man’s battle”. And we tell teenage girls and women that they need to make it easier on men by what they wear. Then, to wives, they say, “you need to have sex more so he won’t lust.”

Now wives will start having sex, right? Because now they understand men’s experiences! So things will be better.

What I contend is that, by and large, this approach actually exacerbates the problem.

And to explain this, I want to share what women experience. We’ve heard about men’s experiences being visually stimulated and having to withstand pornography and stay pure in this culture. Now let’s talk about women’s experiences.

To start, a question to the men reading this: How many of you have a rape prevention strategy?

If you ask that question to any female over the age of 12, she will tell you all the things that are going through her mind constantly, whether she’s in a subway, walking on a road at night, or in the parking lot of a grocery store walking to her car. She is always aware of what’s going on around her, and always trying to avoid rape.

I taught my girls how to know when to cross to the other side of the road; when to turn around and start walking in the other direction; how to hold your keys to protect yourself. These are things that we women do automatically. It is constant. It is pervasive. It never, ever goes away. Sexual violence is always in the background of our lives.

So let’s picture a young teenage girl, who is forming her rape prevention strategies. She simultaneously has to accept living in a culture which completely objectifies her. In the grocery store magazines blast pictures of women’s breasts, and she knows she’ll never measure up. She develops body image issues that never entirely go away. And she also knows that men look. A lot.

This girl then goes to youth group, where she and her friends are separated from the boys for “purity talks”. She is told that boys will lust after her, and so when they go to pool parties, she needs to wear a T-shirt to stop all of the boys from stumbling. She’s told that she has to watch what she wears in church, because she can cause her brothers in Christ to sin, and not just her fellow teens, but adult men, too. And that presumably includes even the pastor and the elders. They must be staring at her chest, too.

How women feel when they grow up being objectified.

Then there’s a good chance that this girl is also a victim of sexual abuse, sexual assault, or date rape.

In college, she starts serving on the praise team, playing guitar. She is told to wear pants, and never skirts, especially ones at the knees, because men in the front row may try to look up her skirt, and all men will be distracted by her legs. Oh, and don’t ever let cleavage show, or else men won’t be able to worship while she’s standing up there. She wonders whether she really wants to be on the praise team after all.

Fast forward a few years and she gets married. For any number of reasons, sex isn’t going very well. Maybe the two just never figured out how to make it feel good; maybe she’s ashamed of sex; maybe she doesn’t have much of a sex drive; maybe she’s always exhausted. Whatever the reason, sex becomes not very frequent. In fact, to be honest, she finds it a bit of an invasion. There are times when she knows that he “needs” it, but it feels very wrong that he can get that much pleasure when she’s just lying there. It feels like he’s using her. He’s actually inside of her, and she quite often feels absolutely nothing. But this is supposed to be the ultimate “act of love”. It doesn’t compute at all.

Then she starts to hear sermons about how if she doesn’t have sex, her husband will lust after other women. She’s told that God made her to fulfill her husband’s sexual needs, and if she doesn’t meet them, he’s likely to look elsewhere, or at least be really, really, really tempted to look elsewhere.

And let me ask you men, honestly: If you were her, given her background, would that message make her more likely to want to have sex, or less likely to want to have sex?

She has spent her whole life in this culture being objectified and having sexual violence as a constant background noise. And then she is told that God wants her to let her husband use her, so that her husband won’t sin. Now it feels as if God is objectifying her, too. It feels as if God is coercing her into sex. It feels as if no one actually cares that this is HER body (in fact, she’s told again and again that her body belongs to her husband).

So now sex is something very distasteful. It isn’t about her at all. It’s absolutely and only about her husband getting his needs met so that he will stay happy in the marriage. No one actually cares about the fact that he is literally entering her body. She is completely and utterly alone.

Believe me, that is what many women experience when the church starts stressing the “men will always lust” message.

Part of my contention in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex is that the church has come to see sex with the same error the world does: they are framing sex as solely a physical thing. The world obviously portrays sex as only about pleasure and not about commitment. But when the church then gives similar messages–about men’s sexual needs, and about lust–it makes the same error.

I am not saying that men don’t  have physical needs. They absolutely do! But that is not the whole story. 

And to have a message that will help couples have a healthy sex life, we need to start telling God’s whole story.

I did that in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, and I’m going to vastly summarize it here.

What’s the Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex About?

Billions of people have had sex. I don’t know how many have really made love.

Let me show you how God intended sex to be intimate in three ways: spiritually, emotionally, AND physically. And I’ll show you how to get there, too!

If you’ve struggled with figuring out what all the fuss is about, or you feel held back in marriage because you just can’t embrace your sexual side, then check this out. You were meant for more.

But if I were that pastor, talking to men who were legitimately desperately for more sex in marriage, and women who were ambivalent about sex in marriage, I would say this:

God created us to be passionate. One of the ways He did that was to create sex–that ultimate “knowing” of someone else, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually, too. God created us so that physically, we can actually lose control and feel the height of human pleasure with one single person. And that unique, personal experience is so intimate.

The problem is that this isn’t automatic. He made women so that they would actually take a little longer to warm up, so that husbands would have to learn to woo their wives and wives would have to communicate about what feels good. He made women so that they’re not physically aroused as easily, so that the couple would have to work on communication and affection so that they felt close in all areas of their lives before sex actually works. That way sex will never become only physical, which is its danger. It will be able to be all of those other things, too!

The danger for many men is that sex is so easy that they may take shortcuts, and miss out on the passion that God really designed us for–mutual passion where it’s about far more than something just physical, and it’s a true “making love”, not just having sex. The danger for many women is that sex can be so difficult that they may give up altogether, or figure that it’s just not worth the effort. 

But let me ask you this: If God made something to be this incredible, why would you want to miss out on that? God created you for passion; never, ever settle for less!

If sex isn’t that in your marriage yet, that’s okay. It can be the most fun research project you’ll ever do together! But let me assure you: even if it takes time to get there, there is nothing as beautiful on this earth as feeling totally and utterly physically and spiritually connected to another human being who loves you and cherishes you.  Don’t miss out on it. It will keep your marriage so strong. It will help you feel so loved and so relaxed. And it will be one of the best parts of your life, if you both give it the attention it deserves and you both learn to give. 

To be honest, if I were a guy reading that message, I’d still be nervous. I think I’d rather have that guilt message, because it sounds more urgent. Women need to hear how big a deal this really is, and all this “airy fairy sex can be lovely” message doesn’t have the same punch.

But let me assure you, as a woman: This is a far better message. It calls us to something higher, something better. It points to a God who loves us, not a God who wants us to feel guilty or used. It points to mutually satisfying sex that is for both of us, not sex that was created primarily for one person.

It is not only more effective from a female point of view;  It is kinder. It is more loving. And it is also more in line with how God made sex.

Women have been asked to be so sympathetic about men’s struggles. We’ve been asked to understand what it is to be a guy. What I’m asking for today is some balance. Please, men, try to understand what it is to be a woman, trying to have a healthy sex life, when all the messages we hear from the culture and often from the pulpit do everything to undermine that. And then ask: could we possibly start talking about this in a different way so that we can honour women, too?

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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122 Comments

  1. Anna

    You don’t know what a huge relief it is to see some of those words on the page. I was beginning to think no one would ever possibly feel them, let alone express them. I’m not actually in a sex-starved marriage, and I’ve never really had any problems with orgasms. But that’s NOT the same thing as saying that I’ve never had any problems enjoying sex. What the current message can do (and I’ve never even had to put up with it from my HUSBAND; just the pervasiveness from other sources) is foster and nurture an anger so deep inside you towards your husband that it takes serious therapy and and a backhoe to dig it out.

    I

    Reply
    • Sheila Gregoire

      Exactly, Anna! And I just want people to understand that. I’m glad I could put words to it.

      Reply
    • Susan P

      Yes!! The rage I feel over that issue (and some similar) has almost caused me to abandon my faith.

      Reply
  2. Gaye @CalmHealthySexy

    Wow, wow, wow – you are knocking it out of the park with this series, Sheila!

    “She has spent her whole life in this culture being objectified and having sexual violence as a constant background noise. And then she is told that God wants her to let her husband use her, so that her husband won’t sin. Now it feels as if God is objectifying her, too. It feels as if God is coercing her into sex. It feels as if no one actually cares that this is HER body (in fact, she’s told again and again that her body belongs to her husband).”

    This is so sad, and so true for many, many women. Thank you for taking on this difficult topic AND for presenting a different way of approaching and talking about sex in marriage, one that values women as partners and as people designed for pleasure, rather than as objects.

    Reply
    • Sheila Gregoire

      Thank you, Gaye. This is really what I was leading up to. This is the point of everything I’ve been saying all week. I hope people hear it well! There is a better way. The pain we’re causing with our shame and guilt based messages is just all so unnecessary.

      Reply
    • Taunya

      Sheila.

      This. This is amazing. As an abuse survivor having someone say that God doesn’t require my body to just be an object to be used or entered because a man needs it…oh my goodness that’s some good news. This is a excellent series.

      Reply
  3. Nicole

    I loved reading this! Thank you for exposing the harmful message the church gives women. I have heard often “women need to give their husbands sex”, but making it solely about his pleasure takes the desire away, especially coupled with “if you don’t, your husband will sin”! I’ve even heard “men need sexual release every 72 hours”, please show me the science behind such an absurd claim! I can tell you my husband doesn’t want or need sex that often, in fact it can be every 4 or 5 days, even longer sometimes, as he gets tired from working. The key to a good sex life in marriage is kindness, understanding, love and compassion. Demanding your conjugal rights has NO place in a marriage. Somehow I just cannot see Jesus acting like that!

    Reply
    • Sheila Gregoire

      I can’t see Jesus acting like that, either. I think it’s sometimes phrased more this way: “Women, you love your husbands. I know you do. And Jesus wants you to love them. What if part of loving them is giving them frequent sex?” And I get that. There’s definitely a lot of validity to it. But even if we’re going to take that approach, then we simply MUST pair it with the idea of mutually satisfying sex. Otherwise sex becomes something that women only ever give for SOMEONE ELSE, not for them. And then it will never have the mutuality that it was supposed to have. And it’s just sad that it’s come to this in the church, because the church is the one place that should understand God’s design for sex.

      Reply
    • Kay

      I have adopted a 3 day “guideline” (not a rule) in my marriage, but once again, for MUTUAL reasons, and I think this timeline will indeed look different for every marriage. For your hubby it sounds like 5 days is good, and I think that’s perfectly normal for a lot of men. My guess is the author of that book figured it was better to give a shorter window if it gave men a better chance at getting more sex. *sigh*

      In my marriage though, yes, I notice that my husband gets grumpier quicker if it’s been longer than 72 hours. Yet I learned that I *too* am more likely to be annoyed with HIM when we have not connected sexually. So for MUTUAL reasons, we aim to connect sexually in some way every 72 hours or less. I think the timeline is going to be different for every couple, and we don’t always succeed, but having this guideline on the table has been very helpful for both my husband and me. He isn’t left wondering how long between sexual encounters, and we both know that it is high on the priority list if it has been more than 72 hours, and we make accommodations for that.

      Now that I think about it, perhaps this rule is somewhat fear based for me? After going so long without sex, I do start to feel insecure about our relationship. I don’t know if this is because of the damaging messages I receive from my church that he will lust or stray or if that’s just me and my own insecurities coming out. But all I know is that I *too* feel more secure in my relationship with my husband when we are connecting frequently, and I don’t see that as a bad thing. But I also feel like purity culture has made lust a much harder struggle for my husband than it had to be, because he seems to have been taught that if you see something sexually enticing, you’re already lusting. I do want to help him with that. But I also have been very careful to make sure sex is for me too more often than not, if that makes sense. We have “just for him” nights on occasion, but I’ve been somewhat “selfish” (I’d say by Christian standards) by insisting on making sex for me too. That sounds selfish, but my husband isn’t complaining. ? And I think it only feels selfish because of the harmful messages I hear that sex is for him, so clearly I am selfish by insisting that I enjoy sex too. Nope. I just think that’s what God meant it to be, and I’m not afraid to chase after that.

      Reply
      • Keelie Reason

        I highly recommend having a number of days you aim to have sex with each other. It really helps keep it a priority.

        Reply
  4. Kay

    YES YES YES!!

    Every year at my church’s Valentine’s Day dinner my father-in-law (the pastor) gives an “encouraging message” that inevitability includes something about the husband’s need to get plenty of sex. When our church decided to do The Art of Marriage DVD series, it thought *finally* we could have a healthier conversation! Nope. My FIL chose not to use the book that came with it and ask his own questions. We talked about how sex is more than physical (good start) but then how men need it to feel loved, so if you love your husband you need to give him lots of sex. UGH. I chimed in to say something about God’s design for a MUTUALLY satisfying sex life and how God designed sex for women TOO, that unlike men, women have a part of our bodies designed for the SOLE PURPOSE of sexual pleasure (referring to the clitoris). Everyone in the group just blinked at me, and the awkward silence went on so long that my FIL just cleared his throat and asked the next question.

    NO NO NO!!

    This is the problem!! Sex is for WOMEN too! It is all mutual. A beautiful “knowing” and loving and connecting and seeking to find the best pleasure for BOTH! I know I’ve gone off about nursing on yesterday’s post, but I hope I didn’t sound like “my breasts are for my children and my husband gets nothing.” Because that isn’t it. My breasts primary function is to nourish my children, but my husband and I *both* get a whole lot of pleasure from them in the bedroom. I make frequent sex a priority in my marriage (even when the bra has to stay on because of spraying milk!) because *I* need it too! My *marriage* needs it. Do I feel spontaneous arousal? Nope. Pretty much never. But I get started knowing my body will catch up. God meant this for me too, so I pursue sex for ME TOO. I always tease my husband, “Life is just happier when everyone is getting laid.” ???

    The problem with the “men need sex; ladies, you have to give it to him” is that it set up a supply and demand problem. (I think I stole that from Paul Byerly, so I can’t take credit for this thought.) The husband has a need, and the wife has to give him something. Aka, he is TAKING something from you. And when you have little kids and feel like you have nothing left to give? Guess what. Sex won’t happen. Let’s start talking about what God meant sex to be for BOTH men and women, a BLESSING AND GIFT to *both* husband and wife, and maybe we can change the conversation.

    Reply
    • Sheila Gregoire

      Exactly, Kay! And I’m really concerned about all the things your FIL teaches. I feel very sorry for the women sitting under him. That’s just so sad!

      Thanks for summing up what I’m thinking so well. This really needs to get out there!

      Reply
      • Kay

        He has great theology in a lot of areas, but I think sexuality is NOT one of them. Church is the number one source of conflict in my marriage and I am so incredibly discouraged. But it’s complicated when it’s his family. And when the church is so small right now (for good reason, in my opinion) that if we were to leave the church would literally close and I would be putting my FIL out of a job.

        Reply
        • Tee

          Honestly I think sexuality isn’t something that most churches do well. They are almost ashamed to discuss it at all so it turns into a lecture instead often consisting of what you described. It’s unfortunate. And it needs to change. But I think it’s hard to reach the ‘powers that be’ in almost all cases.

          Reply
          • Chanda Locklear

            My church has never that I know of addressed this issue ever in any way, shape or form and I’m 51 been there all my life. It has never come from the pulpit at all and unless the pastor consults pre marital couples I don’t know if it has ever been addressed. That’s sad as well! We are on the other end of this spectrum!

        • Doug

          The Christian ministry tends to attract men that have an aversion to romance, and erotic, mutually satisfying passionate sex. To them sex is a mechanical act for procreation. This plays out in their ministry. I remember sitting in one of my technical college classes many years ago which consisted almost entirely of men. Our instructor was a man who was about to leave for seminary. Said he’d been called to the ministry. This was a secular college and one of the male students asked him directly what he thought of cunnilingus. His emphatic reply was “That’s gross!” Everyone died laughing. Most likely he’s leading a congregation somewhere this day. I’m sure he’s not unique. Truth is Christian men get little instruction.

          Reply
    • Amy

      Exactly, Kay! I’m so tired of the message in the Christian circles that sex is for men and we women need to make sure they get it on a regular basis or not only will they be tempted elsewhere but they will be in excruciating pain.

      Sex is meant to be a mutually satisfying experience for both the husband and wife, and honestly, the “for him only” thing really gets to me. I guess I’m selfish too because on occasion we’ve done that I’m left feeling so unsatisfied for what can turn into a week or more since sex is very infrequent for us due to my husband’s long work hours.

      I would love to see more messages like Sheila’s that sex is meant for BOTH man and wife! And I think if more women hear that message they will start demanding satisfaction too in the marriage bed! And I guess that sounds pretty selfish huh?! LOL

      Reply
      • Libl

        Oh my goodness, yes! When my husband was denying me orgasm, I was basically told that he wasn’t doing anything wrong because we were still having intercourse and “sex isn’t just about orgasm.” Ummm…I think if a wife refused to let her husband come to orgasm the church would have a LOT to say about it!!

        Reply
        • Amy

          Yeah, no kidding! I’ve always said that if we told men they don’t need an orgasm to enjoy sex or we women had an orgasm during sex and said to our husband that hopefully next time he will get there too, wow, can you imagine the outcry from men! LOL

          And God obviously had the female orgasm in mind when He gave her a clitoris since there is absolutely no over reason for it except orgasm. 😉

          Reply
    • Samantha

      I highly recommend Dr. David Jeremiah’s sermons on the Song of Solomon. He is definitely not shy about talking about God’s intention for love, appreciation, romance and sex in the marriage relationship. They are wonderful sermons and they can be found on youtube I believe.

      Reply
    • B

      Thank you for your insight Sheila and thank you so much Kay, you have hit the nail on the head. I absolutely hate it when my wife says she will “give” me sex. I realise, after reading this article, that having grown up with this same Church teaching about sex, that’s been referred, that in her mind she probably thinks she is doing her ‘duty’ by giving me a beautiful gift. But it really irks me and turns me off completely when she says she will ‘give’ me. I feel as if I am violating her, I have felt so guilty at times thinking that I have done something against her will, because she will reject so often and then suddenly one day it’s ok and yes while I do get immense physical pleasure, I’m then left feeling guilty afterwards that I did something very wrong because she didn’t really want to do this with me, I coerced her into it. And that’s not the marriage I want for us. But I have also realised over the years that when we make love, that is when I feel the deepest connection with my wife and I almost feel that I never want it to end. I’ve told her this to try to get her to understand that the total and complete immersion in each other, both mentally (away from all distractions), and physically (through touch and looking into each other’s eyes and at each other and being totally trusting and exposed in every way to each other ) and not just penetrative sex, makes me truly feel at one with her. around me (at least I think I am) but it’s probably the subconscious awareness of rejection that slips us into this cycle of anger with each other. I always thought I was just embarrassed when she rejected my advances, and it does make me question whether she finds me attractive, but I’ve come to realise that more than anything it is deeply hurtful when any advances are repeatedly rejected and then I start my pattern of avoidance: I cannot seem to help myself and I start to behave in ways that keep her at a distance both mentally and physically so that I don’t get my hopes up only to be batted away. It gets to the point where even holding a conversation takes a massive effort and I won’t ‘let go’ and allow myself to be vulnerable to any remote chance of rejection.

      Reply
      • Tonya

        Thank you for being vulnerable, B. My husband and I are going through the same things you’re describing. I wish we could figure out how to fix this cycle.

        Reply
      • T.F.

        I know others have mentioned the same thing, but…EXACTLY THIS.

        “She has spent her whole life in this culture being objectified and having sexual violence as a constant background noise. And then she is told that God wants her to let her husband use her, so that her husband won’t sin. Now it feels as if God is objectifying her, too. It feels as if God is coercing her into sex. It feels as if no one actually cares that this is HER body (in fact, she’s told again and again that her body belongs to her husband).”

        Somebody understands! I want to cry with relief. Now finding this as my starting point, I need to figure out how to make it out of this pit my husband and I find ourselves in. Nearly 25 years of marriage, and I hate, hate sex, but have it often for his sake. I want to change. He wants change. I just don’t know how.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I’m glad it spoke to you, TF. I’m so glad. If you haven’t read my series from March yet, I’d recommend taking a look at it, too, on how we have to redefine sex.

          In terms of where you go from here, I wrote 31 Days to Great Sex for those who feel like they need a reset, and they want to go back to the beginning and be slow about things but figure them out. It gives you lots of opportunities for conversation, and works on affection and intimacy as well as sex. Perhaps that can help you.

          Reply
    • Emily Louis

      Kay, I love how you framed that supply and demand. I know Sheila has said similar things but that is so well put. Sex is not me trying to give something, it’s mutual getting and giving. 👌🏻

      Reply
  5. Angie

    Bravo, for taking on this series. I’m all for more effective, kinder, loving, and in line with God’s view.

    I understand this series is targeting something specific and all things can’t be addressed in a post or series. Christian literature is also riddled with the idea that “women take longer”, she needs to first communicate or connect physically for sex, women aren’t as aroused, etc. and that just doesn’t bear out in real life. It’s not reported because it’s not culturally acceptable, particularly from the Christian subculture for all the reasons you state in your post and more. Because of the Christian subculture’s message about sex and womanhood, there is shame associated with Christian women who enjoy and desire sex more than their husband.

    You are a brave woman, and I admire you for tackling this topic. May you not grow weary in doing well.

    Reply
    • Sheila Gregoire

      Thank you, Angie! I appreciate that.

      Reply
    • Angie

      I wish there were an edit button. That should say, “doesn’t always bear out in real life….”

      Reply
  6. J. Parker

    I loved this post! I immediately had two thoughts:
    (1) How I was recently re-reading 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, and the WIFE’s conjugal rights get mentioned first. Suddenly, I thought, “Wait, the emphasis is usually on her meeting his needs…but she’s mentioned first!” I don’t want to make too much of this, but it was fascinating to me to think that God thought our sexual needs were worth mentioning before the husband’s. So maybe we ladies are quite sexual after all; it just looks different from the sex drives of men.
    (2) How I always feel for higher-drive wives when they read the typical male-female sexual relationship, with him wanting sex more often. I know you’ve spoken plenty to those women, but being me, I just want to wave at those gals and say, “We know. Sheila and I both know. And other than the not-wanting-sex-much, all of this applies to you.” Hope you don’t mind me piping up with that, Sheila!
    Wonderful post. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Keelie

      I think it’s really interesting that the Bible leads us to the conclusion that women have high desire for sex. What do you think happened that many women are so dampened in this area. Is it the sexual objectification that’s increased? Shaming? Something the church has done? General perversion of what God intended for good? How do we help our brothers and sisters in Christ to truly lean into intimacy with each other in marriage?

      Reply
    • alchemist

      I’ve read posts on both Paul’s (the generous husband) and The Curmudgeonly Librarian that is Jewish tradition and law the wife is seen as the more sexual being.

      Deuteronomy/ Leviticus (I forget which) says that the husband is to be excused from civil duties, including going out with the army, so that he can make *his wife* happy. Not that she could make him happy. He make her happy (presumably this could be read as sexual happiness. Obviously the wife is also obliged to be celibate if the husband is at war). The rabbis had prescriptions about how often the *husband* should perform his conjugal rights based on how physically demanding his job was. Even caravan drivers and sailors had a minimal amount (every month and every 3 months respectively, if I remember correctly). There is no mention of the wife “owing” her husband sex.

      The CL also has a series of posts where he argues that sexual refusal is a biblical ground for divorce. He goes into an interesting analysis of Jewish marriage contracts. The thing is, either party could bring the refusing spouse in front of the Rabbis on charges of sexual refusal. This would result in an intervention (including a fine) and eventually a certificate of divorce if the offending spouse refuses to repent and the couple cannot be reconciled. Notice that the wife can instigate these proceedings against her refusing husband.

      Reply
      • Kay

        I was just going to mention the Curmudgeonly Librarian! I think about that every time I read the Corinthians verse, that I just DON’T think it was an accident that the wife’s sexual satisfaction is mentioned first. Great thoughts!

        Reply
        • unmowngrass

          Take this with a huge pinch of salt if you like, but I think I read that the very reason men started telling each other to “take their wives in hand” and so forth — the beginnings of what has now come full circle into rape culture like Sheila said at the beginning of the post — was because the women just wanted sex all the time and were distracting the men from getting on and doing any work! tee hee.

          Probably also not a coincidence that Song of Songs admonishes *women* — *just* women, IIRC — “do not awaken love until the time is right” (or however your translation puts it). I’ve read that in several ways over the years, not least of which is “women, stop being so overtly sexy(1) that you wake up a *man’s* ‘love'(desire) before the time is right”
          (1) y’know, like a provocative lingerie model, or whatever, the kind culture is tripping over itself to use in advertising, or at least was 10-20 years ago. That’s what I mean by “overtly” sexy.
          But I’m sure it does also refer to women awakening their *own* ‘love’ (desire) before the time is right, too. Not even just about thinking that if they have sex then their boyfriends won’t leave them, or whatever, but like, when you’re already deeply in love but just not married yet, it seems from my experience that it’s the women who are the ones who will be more inclined to say “well, I know emotionally we’re already in this for life anyway, so isn’t carrying on with the rest of the wedding planning just a formality?” etc. (And then there’s also the way that young girls push each other into being more ‘forward’ with guys than each individual girl may have quite been ready for, if they’d been left to their own devices.)

          So it means a lot of things, potentially, depending on who you think is speaking it (I don’t think the original is actually all that clear, so different translators make different choices). But in some ways it is just speaking directly to us. And where I started this comment is quite possibly the reason why. 😉

          Reply
  7. Phil

    Sheila – wow thanks so much for sharing that. I really felt God stirring as I read this post. What a week you have had. Standing up delivering this message that seems so controversial. My childhood Pastor told me once. The sex problem is the oldest one in the book! I want to say something simple that is somewhere buried in all the comments that some one put out there this week. There is an element of responsibility for both the man and the woman. I learned this the hard way. I blamed others. At the end of the day it is MY RESPONSIBILITY to keep myself in check with what I do when I see/interact with a woman. REGARDLESS of her state of dress or her words for that matter. What she does with her body and her brain is HER RESPONSIBILITY. If she chooses to dress in ways that are provocative well then she just might get what she is looking for. I am not trying to feed into the message you are arguing against…..but there is a responsibility factor on both sides. The post from yesteryear on the 20 some odd old kid’s position on lust and how he handles women in his life was fascinating to me. Wow if I could have had that wisdom at 20 years old. I used to be the guy walking around looking at his feet and because I didn’t like that idea I would actually look at the ceiling until one day a woman actually asked me why I was always looking up? LOL. WOW I had to do those things to get were I am today. Maybe not everyone has to but I did. You know what I do today? I look straight at there eyes just like I do a man. And if something should take me out of context I tell myself this is God’s child. I actually started using a new one that I learned here for the glancing problem when eyes just aren’t available. “This woman’s body is for her husband to enjoy not me.” I have been writing here and talking with my friends in confidence a ton lately. Many things have come out for me lately. See, the love you mention in this post. That is the ticket.

    Your best line EVER:

    But let me assure you: even if it takes time to get there, there is nothing as beautiful on this earth as feeling totally and utterly physically and spiritually connected to another human being who loves you and cherishes you. Don’t miss out on it. It will keep your marriage so strong. It will help you feel so loved and so relaxed. And it will be one of the best parts of your life, if you both give it the attention it deserves and you both learn to give.

    This is the solution. I am starting to witness this is in my marriage. It has happened fairly fast in the last multiple weeks to months….after all these years. It is awesome! 🙂 my wife and I actually said to each other last week this is what we always wanted. I am so grateful. I have spent 22 years of my life numb. Acting out sexually. Unable to accept love from others and God. Then I straightened myself out and I was able to receive love from others and God. And for many years I have been able to receive that love. But there was something missing. I was doing loving things but unable to feel it. Last week this all came out for me. I can actually give love to someone and feel it. It has been pent up in me for 44 years. Now it is out of the bag. So awesome. I am so thankful for the help I get from the people in my inner circle, my wonderful loving wife who waited for me an most of all my GOD. See this is the most hurtful thing that occurred to me as a result of the porn problem and for me it was sex addiction. Unable to accept and give love from God and others. Since I came out of my shell here on your blog I have had this argument that you have not offered the solution but rather just told men to stop looking at porn for XYZ reason. For guys like me that doesn’t work. We can’t just stop. But what I have come to realize is the answer is the same if you are an addict or not. We must stop. LOL. Better yet don’t start! This may seem like a stupid statement but really it is the same for both the guy who just looks at porn and the guy who looks at it addictively. It just takes the addict guy a bunch more punches to the gut to get his attention. So I was talking to a friend of mine about this yesterday and he wacked me with well, I don’t really know if my spiritual being is responsible for me stopping the lust. I was like huh? The conversation became what came first the chicken or the egg? It made me realize that both God and I have a part in this. and if I do my part the rewards are beyond my imagination. Having a marriage that is what I have today from where I came from? You gotta believe in miracles if you are me. Sheila – I don’t plan on going any where. Sorry to the person who wants this to be just woman here….unless you kick me out I am sticking around to see what is next. I get so much from reading and writing here. Someone clocked me over the head with the Identity in Christ comment here a while back. I think my new friend Jesus has been helping me out. 🙂 So awesome. Thanks so much for what you do. Really. I am not sure you have a clue how much I appreciate.

    Reply
    • Sheila Gregoire

      Oh, Phil, thank you so much for sharing your story! And I definitely don’t want only women commenting–on this post, especially, I really appreciate men’s comments, too. We all need to be part of this discussion as we look at how we can get back to God’s story about sex–that is mutual, intimate, passionate, and lovely. We have made it so many other things, and it has hurt so many people. There is a better way! And I am so, so glad that you and your wife are finding it. It’s exciting to read that after following your comments over the last little while. I’m so happy!

      Reply
  8. Anonymous

    Everything you have written is so beautiful and so important. I know that wasn’t the whole point with the message but the part where you talk about men’s and women’s sexual need it sounds so beautiful so pure and sadly so far from the reality I live in. I have to long lived with the idea that men can’t resist. I fell at an early age into pornography and masturbation and other kind of things growing up in a Christian home and a church that never talked about sexual. The times it was mentioned or whispered about it was only as something evil before marriage. I had vowed to love pure, meet my passionate for Christ girl and be the best husband in the world but failed really bad. I met a girl that had been a Christian for some years and had a very broken sexual past. Both pretty alone in a small village and no other Christians in our age. We both got interested but I wasn’t sure. She got very physical immediately and I was a guy who staved after a relationship and I fell into it. We kissed to early witch lead to confusing feelings and whether I was really in love or only liked the touch. That sadly led to more than that. We became a couple and she who had had sex and been in a relationship before and sadly was taught that a good way to keep a guy through sex seduced me. We started to do everything but intercourse. She really didn’t want to but felt it was hard when we were alone. She was convinced I was the one for her I wasn’t sure(and still aren’t) because of her lack of passion for Jesus(which I had but was losing).She pushed me to ask her to get married and I was to much of a coward to say no and to say the truth, that I didn’t feel the passion that you are talking about. That love that will make a man pursue a woman. She knew I didn’t pursue her, she pursued me and won me over. She knew I had doubts but still wanted to get married. We got married. In the beginning it was ok but the sex wasn’t the same. She didn’t have the same interest in sex as before. I started to realize that I don’t feel the passion or that love for her that I read about in other marriage and about other husbands. The porn addiction I and she thought would pass by with marriage continued after some months. Tried to fast and pray but got spiritually burnt out and could barely pray. Three years has passed. I do feel love for her but that passion you write so beautifully about is just not there. I try sometimes to act like it was but that passion that makes you do anything for her isn’t there. I do things, believe me,I try to do all I can for her but I always feel something is missing. I want to have sex and sometimes think that’s what’s missing but then we have sex, it’s great but I still feel something’s missing. It’s so sad. I am fighting to be free from the porn addiction but I can’t say that my passion for her is a motivation. I want that so much. I sometimes read about beautiful couples who married after having such a love and passion for each other and I envy them so much. I want that too but I was to stupid to wait. I wish I would have read this blog then or that someone would talk about marriage in our church. But sadly there was nothing. I for a long time have thought that sex has been the problem because my wife hasn’t been so passionate about sex after but I guess with what you have written I see that it is the lack of that love and passion. Just sex that actually is lust doesn’t give anything lasting. It’s that love and passion that really makes a marriage wonderful.I really hope youth leaders and pastors will read what you have talked about this week and use it and apply it so that others may understand what it’s all about.
    Thank you for being bold and talk about this. God bless you!

    Reply
    • Sheila Gregoire

      Oh, I’m so glad this post has helped you see that sex can be something far more! It really can be.

      And God can bring such healing and passion into your marriage. Maybe you’ll be able to talk about this post with your wife. I’ll say a prayer for you!

      Reply
    • alchemist

      If your wife was taught that sex is a good way to seduce and get a man, then it’s not too surprising that she lost some of her interest after you married. She has you now after all. Both of you have some sexual baggage to work through.

      The good news is, you can work through it.

      The way you write your comments makes me think that you mourn for this great sweeping romantic passion that is portrayed in movies and books. You seem to feel like you could have had that, if only you had waited.

      I think your desire to be a passionate husband, have wonderful sex with your wife and to serve God are all good. However, your expectations that you would have felt wonderful burning life long passion if only you’d married another women might not be realistic. Let me explain what I mean. The type of thing you are describing, or seem to be describing, is movie love, infatuation, being in love. No-one has that forever. That kind of thing burns out in about 18 months. The thing is a much deeper, quieter but stronger, more durable and committed long grows up to replace it. This kind of love is a choice and you and your wife absolutely can still have that. You will need the help of the Holy Spirit for the fullest expression of it.

      I encourage you to read “The Four Loves” by C.S. Lewis. He does a very good job of describing the kinds of love. He breaks it down into 4: familial love, friendship love, erotic love and charity or Godly love. It’s not something the modern mind is used to thinking about, but I think it is very useful and important. The thing is, all four of them are intertwined in marriage, especially a Christian marriage. So if you work on increasing the other loves (with the help of God), you may find your erotic passion increases as well.

      Keep fighting brother. Get rid of the porn. Run after God. And then ask God to help you love your wife more. Mourning past mistakes is one thing. But don’t give up on your marriage that you have now for pining after what might have been. Don’t give up on your wife.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        Thank you alchemist for responding. I really get what you say and I also thought that for a long time. When the marriage was due I was like well people say that love is a choice so I just have to choose and everything will be ok and the feelings will come. That’s what people told me and that’s what u thought. The thing is that even if I love my wife I don’t feel that I love her with the ” I really feel this is the right one” love that I see in other people’s coments. It’s not just the sex thing. I mean that love where you feel a spiritual connection because you both love Jesus so much that you would do anything for Him. I had that and I was waiting for the one who had that but I blew it. And I understand love is a choice and that is preached often but I still wonder doesn’t feeling have any part? I mean isn’t the being in love part important? Something to remember, something to look back on and remember? Instead of the feeling of regret everytime you think about your relationship and your marriage? When I think about our relationship before marriage I only remember the falling in sin, the anxiety and the falling in pornography because of all of this(I had been free for some time but fell back with all the stress). I know I was an idiot but I was insecure and afraid of hurting her. She had been through so much death and loss and had left her country so I was the only one she had and I was to afraid to hurt her so I didn’t do the right thing. I have always been afraid of conflict so I didn’t dare say anything. It didn’t get better because others were saying she was the gift from God and she was very persuasive. So I understand what you mean but after these years where I have to fake passion. I do all the right things, I provide, I help out at home with everything, take care of our daughter, but her things, do things for her without waiting anything back , I do romantic things but it doesn’t come easy I really have to force myself to come up with romantic ideas (something I never had to do in a previous relationship because it came so easy because I like doing romantic things) but still I feel like something’s missing. It’s really hard. I have a lot of baggage and issues I need to take care of but where do I start. I write here because there are no marriage counselours where I live and how do I tell something like this to my wife? She knows I didn’t want to get married because she knows she pushed me to it but also because I after our wedding in my sleep started to shout that it all was a mistake. She didn’t tell me for two years. Everytime she asks if I knew she was Gods will for me I have to lie because I still don’t feel that. It’s so horrible and I have asked God for forgiveness many times because after my marriage it’s been hard to be a passionate Christian. She isn’t so much so I don’t find help there. I hate it and miss my old self. It’s really hard but I have to continue because I made a promise before God and can’t take it back and I have a lovely daughter that I dont want to hurt so I guess I just have to be glad and have a “holy” envy for those who found the right one.

        Reply
        • Matilda

          Pray for your wife, daily, as much as possible, that she will fall madly in love with Jesus and that you can both have the marriage you dream of. Prayer works, and especially the prayers of a man honouring & loving his wife. I would completely ditch the porn though, as that will hinder God hearing & answering your prayers.

          Reply
    • Lisa

      Passion for your wife will not motivate you to quit porn. The porn will never let you develop love and passion for your wife. You have to decide to quit it because it’s wrong to use people for your own gratification, because much of the porn you see was done without the woman’s consent, and because it’s adultery.

      You have to fully acknowledge what you’re doing and get help.

      Love and passion are waiting for you on the other side. Decide you’re done with a sham of a life.

      Reply
  9. Man Who Left a Sexless Marriage

    Thanks for tackling this issue Shelia and your response to me yesterday.
    I definitely understand that “obligation sex” part is a message that is at times very non-productive. I think what man – women want in a marriage is to feel accepted, respected, and loved. I believe, in simple terms, that women need to feel loved in order to desire sexual relationships and men desire sex in order to feel loved. That is the dance that make both partners grow and hopefully have a satisfying and rewarding sex life that BOTH partners enjoy.

    My “man” point is that when the wife makes all other things priorities (kids, friends, church, kids school activities, candles, etc.), had pre-martial sex with many partners, and then even after discussing the issue continuously rejects the husbands sexual advances again, and again, and again ………. there is a HIGH probability that most men will start to look elsewhere because they aren’t feeling respected or loved at home. I certainly did and in the end, I left the marriage and I have no regrets except the impact on my kids.

    Women can obviously make whatever choice they want with their sexuality and in no way am I preaching “obligation sex”. However, I hope women can understand that by continuously rejecting sexual relationship and turning a marriage into “room mate” status, it certainly makes it easier for a man to consider that as a “room mate” ….. he can and possibly will get his desire to feel wanted (sexually) from others whether that is pornography, an affair, prostitutes, etc..

    Reply
  10. Keelie Reason

    I completely agree here! I personally have dealt with tons and tons of sexual harassment over the years because i grew up in a rough neighborhood. I was constantly hollered out to by men I didn’t know. I dealt with sexual harassment in the workplace to the point I had to report it to management. If my parents had taught me that sex was solely for my husband so he could not sin- I’m not sure I would’ve bothered getting married. I’m thankful my mom talked about how great sex felt and how good it was. She never told me I had to have sex because my husband my lust or look at porn.

    The truth be told, I think many men and women are shocked that porn and lust problems actually don’t go away once they get married. Those are heart issue that have to be addressed. This idea that simply having access to a naked person and sex all of the time will get rid of sin habits is ludicrous. It takes true repentance to God and submission to Him to turn from sin and live according to His commands.

    I’m so glad that you are helping men and women see the other side. Great series Sheila. You’ve had Austin in me in great thoughts and discussion all week. You’ve crystallized a lot of thoughts we’ve had for the past few years.

    Reply
  11. Libl

    It is really scary how pervasive the idea that whatever women,do is for men is. I remember commenting on a fellow marriage blog that I cut my hair and my husband didn’t like it. I cut it because the length was giving me daily head and neck aches and I was ready to leave my high school hairstyle behind and adopt a more grown up look. The author of the blog countered that if a wife changes her appearance contrary to her husband’s preference, then she must be doing it to attract the attention of other men.

    I wrote back that women do it FOR THEMSELVES! I don’t wear red toenail polish to attract men. I wear it because seeing my cherry red toenails makes me smile. I don’t wear makeup to flirt. I wear it because my face is a blank canvas and makeup is my fun medium! I didn’t cut my hair to be more attractive to other men. I cut my hair because I not only wanted to, but needed to!

    I don’t wear yoga pants to show off my booty. I wear yoga pants because they are soooooo comfy.

    It kind of blew the author’s mind that women do things for themselves and not to attract male attention.

    Frankly, I think we have taken some of these patriarchy verses way too far. Women were created to serve God with man. Not to serve man for God.

    Reply
    • K.

      I hear the yoga pants are so comfortable excuse all the time. Why not wear shirts to cover the butt then? Problem solved. I remember when I those type of pants were all the rage years ago. Difference was we wore tunic shirts over them. So different from today.

      I wore a pair that I had bought to the grocery store once. That was all it took. Any time someone got near me I was trying to hide my butt. My shirt was not long enough to cover it. Those things have sat in my closet everyday since. I just can’t wear them knowing how upset if makes men and women.

      Reply
      • Libl

        I don’t wear yoga pants to the grocery store or to my kids’ school. They are for fitness or lounging. I don’t do yoga in grocery stores, nor do I lounge in my kids’ school.

        However, if I am wearing yoga pants in the comfort of my home and hubby has an impromptu visitor, or the UPS guy is delivering a package, I am not going to change or hide.

        Reply
        • k.

          Libl,

          Thanks for answering.

          I wouldn’t change in those situations either. Unless in my pj’s.?

          Reply
      • Lisa Manske

        It’s ridiculous to wear a long shirt when you’re exercising. If I need to stop at the store after a workout, I don’t need to change my clothes first.
        Women’s pants are very fitted these days. If I changed into jeans they wouldn’t look much different than my fitness pants. Fitness wear doesn’t really upset as many people as you think. The vast majority of people I know, men and women, think the “yoga pants war” is absurd, if they’ve even heard of it.

        Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      So true, Libl!! Why is it so crazy to think that women may just want to feel pretty solely for the reason of feeling pretty? 🙂

      Love that last sentence, too: “Women were created to serve God with man. Not to serve man for God.”

      Reply
  12. Tom Hillson

    I have SO much to say about today’s post. (Big surprise, huh?) Some of it is complimentary, some of it critical, and some of it just to let out my frustration. So expect a slew of comments again from me today.

    But first, let me be complimentary: I think Sheila is an amazing writer. I’ve written a book also (theological, no less), but Sheila can write circles around me.

    Reply
  13. MMM

    I love this series and this post is the best so far! I know you’ve gotten a lot of flack from some people but I know you won’t let them get you down. Keep speaking this truth in love! You’re doing a wonderful job!

    Reply
  14. Tom Hillson

    So, my first question stems from what Sheila writes here: “The danger for many men is that sex is so easy that they may take shortcuts, and miss out on the passion that God really designed us for”. Why did God make sex so easy for men?

    Reply
    • Kacey

      Possibly for the same reason he made it more difficult for women – so they can work on it together.

      Reply
      • Molly

        I love this response. Plus, there are things that come easier for me than my husband, like communication. So i have to help him work on communication So we can have a solid marriage, like he has to help “work” for us to have a healthy sex life.

        Also, i think it helps men become more giving. They really need to put someone else first to make it beneficial for both parties.

        I’m not saying men arent giving, but to make it awesome like it can and should , there can’t be any cutting corners.

        Reply
        • Tom Hillson

          But the fact that it’s so easy for guys, and that guys are so visual, is a big reason for their widespread use of porn. Likewise, I’m sure that that’s one big reason why women aren’t attracted to porn nearly as much – sex isn’t easy for them, and they’re not too visual.

          Reply
    • Phil

      Mr Tom – You are a fighter man. Keep up the fight. Sooner or later I pray you accept the Will of God and the way we were created. I know lots of guys who are theologically informed, know the bible like the back of their hands and have all the arguments you pose…..yet…..they struggle with lust and their lives are pitiful. Sooner or later you will figure out that the fight takes you deeper until you decide not to fight. How do expect anyone to answer your posed question? Keep fighting man..it will bring you closer to God. Strangely enough you are on the right path. Glad you are here.

      Reply
    • libl

      Scientifically, one could say it is easy for men because we need male orgasm (generally speaking…yes, I know about pre-cum) to get pregnant. But female orgasm is not needed for procreation. It may help or serve a purpose, but is not the main catalyst for impregnating a woman.

      Reply
      • Tom Hillson

        libl, good point: male orgasm is needed for making a baby. But boy did God make it difficult for men to be obedient. Why was he unfair and make it so hard for men? I can’t get past the fact that God didn’t make anything as hard for women to deal with. Maybe God doesn’t exist. Maybe that’s the only way to make sense out of all this.

        Reply
        • Four Under Four

          God didn’t “make” it hard for men. He does allow us to make our own choices with what He has given us, and those choices make it hard. Also, we all tend towards sin and selfishness, which can make any area of life a challenge. You think men have it hard because their bodies are designed to want sex and can enjoy it so easily that they are frequently tempted to use their sexual desires in a way that displeases God. Well, I think women have it hard, because our bodies are designed to not crave sex and we struggle to even get turned on, yet are still under the Biblical command to perform for our husbands whenever they want. To me, it seems like a pretty heavy burden for both sexes to bare.

          The thing is, I’m not God. I don’t understand what He was thinking when he made us this way. I know I would be tempted to sin in some other way, even if my low libido was magically fixed. Selfishness is at the heart of who I am, and of who you are. I don’t like it, but there it is. And I choose to believe that the God who made me this way, loves me. He gave His Son for me. He has a plan for me. He can help me learn through this, He can help me grow through this, and someday I will have a perfect body in Heaven that will not give me the frustrations this one currently does.

          Whether or not you believe those things is to to you. You can keep fighting the design and the Designer. But you will not change it. Freedom comes with acceptance. My low libido self is who God made me to be, not so that I could sin, but so that I could yield to my Creator and watch Him work in me.

          I hope you can come to that kind of submission to God. I realize that until you do, everything I’ve said will just sound silly to you, but I wanted to let you know that it is not just men who struggle with their sexuality. You are not singled out for it. Women struggle too! You may think you would trade my struggles for yours any day of the week, but I guarantee you would find mine as heavy of a burden. I have secretly cried myself to sleep after fulfilling my “sex duty” many times. Life is hard. But I know there is a good God who wants to turn these things for good in our behalf.

          Reply
          • Tom Hillson

            Four Under Four, you probably won’t see this reply from me, since it’s June 28 now. Anyway, here goes:

            I don’t understand what you wrote first: “God didn’t “make” it hard for men. He does allow us to make our own choices with what He has given us, and those choices make it hard.” Huh? God didn’t make it hard, but the choices are hard? I don’t understand.

            Then you say women have it hard in the sexual arena too because of the Biblical command to perform for their husbands when they want sex. Well, what about the many years past puberty until most people get married? There’s no Biblical sexual pressure on women during these years, and yet men still have their struggle. It’s even worse during this time for men because they are close to puberty, when their sexual drive is the greatest. Also, this Biblical command to perform, how much is this harped on to women? Don’t the Church and Church leaders admonish men far more regularly for their sexual sins?

            I was saved back in 1992. Total repentance. I was extremely, extremely, EXTREMELY sincere back then! I was playing no games with God. None. You couldn’t find a more serious person then about getting right with God than I was. Honest! And yet I find myself in 2017 (and for years now) feeling that it is VERY unlikely that God exists. And, no, what you write doesn’t sound silly to me. I just don’t think you can equivalently compare women’s struggles to men’s in the sexual arena.

        • Anonymously

          Tom,
          “I can’t get past the fact that God didn’t make anything as hard for women to deal with.” Interesting. I was under the impression that women ARE dealing with the the exact same thing men are. Everyday. Hence this article.
          Male sexual reputation has made it so hard for many of us to learn to appreciate God’s design. Many women go through life in fear of men’s sexuality.
          Yet, the responsibility to control the wild beast is dropped in our laps the day we sign the marriage papers.
          Fear, responsibility, and guilt does not equal mutual pleasure.

          Reply
        • Lisa

          Don’t discount women’s temptations. They may be different, but they’re just as powerful.

          One tiny example– there were YEARS of my life when I could not accept help or even a mundane comment about how cute my kids were from a man (unless he was twice my age or something). And heaven forbid if an attractive man was openly kind to my children. My marriage was in a really bad place. My husband had little time for me or the kids. Something as simple as the bagger boy at the grocery offering to help me with my enormous purchase (seeing that I was saddled with toddlers and a newborn) could trigger days of fantasies if I wasn’t 100% vigilant. An attractive man telling me I had cute kids … a HUGE battle to stop the fantasies.

          Don’t believe the lie that men have it harder.

          You are not tempted more than women.

          Reply
          • Blessed Wife

            YES!!! THIS IS SO TRUE!!

            Not that I experienced your specific struggles; mine were very different, and primarily occurred when I was single. But from my perspective, the idea that any one group of people suffers from sexual temptation more than another group is laughable! Worse, it pits Christians against each other: men vs women, virgins vs divorced people, married vs single. All looking at each other whining, “I have it SOOO much worse than you! You just have no idea because you’re (X).” There’s a verse that applies here, which I can’t quite remember. Something like “no trial comes upon you but what is common to man.” We must, all of us, look to Christ, for in Him, and Him only, is our deliverance! Whatever our temptations, our calling is the same- unity in Christ!

        • Blessed Wife

          Tom, if I may ask, what is your love language?

          Your posts remind me of some of my journal entries from my single years. I had a freakishly high libido, coupled with intense frustration because of the Biblical command for premarital celibacy. My love language was touch, and physically and emotionally I felt like I was starving! Add to that, I was extremely responsive to visual and physical stimuli, including intense sexual response to nonsexual stimuli. I avoided porn, including the “romance” novels that are essentially the women’s version. But the sexual deprivation left me very hungry and hurting, depressed and occasionally suicidal.

          Also, because I am a woman, I seldom enjoyed the sexual safety men take for granted, and that made me angry! Angry at the men who groped, licked and harrassed me against my will, and angry at the other men who acted like I shouldn’t consider this behavior a problem! Frankly, I was a mess. For years!

          Told you all that to tell you this: I found healing in God, and in His message for sex, and it makes me very sad for you to see you pushing that away because you’re angry and defensive about your mess. Again, Tom, I pray that you find (or have found) peace in the Holy Spirit!

          Reply
  15. FollowerOfChrist

    Like most areas of discussion, I agree with some of the points in this week’s articles and disagree with others. However, your description of a women living life in a state of paranoid fear (Sexual violence is always in the background of our lives) is concerning. Neither my wife nor my adult daughter live like this. Neither do other women I know, including one who did experience sexual assault. Yes, we all need to be aware of our surroundings, but danger does not lurk around every corner. Perhaps you did not intend to give that impression, as I hope you don’t live in constant fear of being abused.

    Reply
    • Kacey

      Woman in her 20s commenting here. I wouldn’t say I live in constant fear of being raped. However, the older I get, the more aware I become of the multitude of other women who had much harder backgrounds than me. I haven’t had to deal with more than the occasional comment about my butt, which is unpleasant enough. But dozens of women I know have been negatively impacted by attitudes about their body and yes, sexual violence.

      I’ve realized a relaxed upbringing with solid Christian parents where I didn’t have to deal with unhealthy sexual attitudes was a gift I don’t want to take for granted. One of its benefits is that I can see just how broken some of this stuff is. It doesn’t have the stink of familiarity for me – being told I’m responsible for another’s sin, or that men don’t have self-control, or that sex with my husband is simply to fill his hunger all sound like the big, fat, hollowly echoing lies they are.

      Maybe all women don’t live in fear of being raped. But I think we all know someone who has had reason to – and that should inspire us to compassion and to call out the truth about sexual attitudes.

      Reply
      • Sheila Gregoire

        Very well said! I also think that having a rape prevention strategy doesn’t mean one is in constant fear. One is just always on alert. So we check the backseat of the car before we get in. We know if we’re being followed. We speak on the phone if we’re walking alone at night. We carry our keys between our fingers as a weapon if we’re by ourselves. It’s just habit. It’s what you do for safety. And I don’t think men fully understand that.

        Reply
        • FollowerOfChrist

          Actually I do understand it, and what you wrote in your response is what I recommend to my daughter. I even purchased pepper spray (a legal variety for my area, check the laws before getting some) for my daughter to carry. Your response comes across as a more reasonable, in my opinion. I don’t want my wife or daughter to live in fear, but I also don’t want them to be naive.

          Reply
          • Libl

            It is just a sick shame that women, just by virtue of being women, have to be prepared.

            Men seem to shrug it off rather than be outraged.

          • FollowerOfChrist

            I want to address two things regarding the response by Libl. First, yes it is a shame that women have to be more alert than men simply because they are a woman. Sin in this world does not effect everyone equally.

            Second, I find it sad that you have been around men who shrug this off. I am certainly not saying one should not be prepared or that one’s safety should be taken lightly. As a husband and father, it is my responsibility to help my wife and daughter stay safe. There are days when this responsibility is almost overwhelming, even though my daughter is an adult now (some of her choices put her in dangerous positions). However, there is a difference between being prepared and living in fear. I have seen both, and living in fear prevents enjoying life. Being prepared helps one avoid being fearful. I hope that makes my comments a bit clearer. My intention is certainly not to belittle anyone’s safety.

    • Anna

      I think she was talking about the fact that being aware of your vulnerability, and always having to live a cautious lifestyle, are part of the background noise of female lives. I’ve already read comments on here that come across as kind of rape-y.

      Reply
    • alchemist

      Not constant fear. But vigilance.

      You don’t go out alone at night, you walk quickly away from groups of young men, you don’t go on unlit streets, you lock your car when driving, you never, ever take a drink from strangers, you don’t leave your drinks unattended, leave no girl behind, stay in groups so that men are less likely to harass and grope you (specially in bar/ club/ party settings with lots of strangers). Why do you think we go to bathrooms in groups? I’d never dream of going certain places without my husband. I wouldn’t pick up a strange man in my car. Where I grew up we were even told to not pull over for police unless it was at a gas station or some other public place. Women were also instructed to treat red lights as stop signs when driving at night. Sitting stopped at a red light is just not safe.

      I might be worse than some since I grew up in a country with very high violent crime rates. When I was in 8th grade my class was called aside because a girl in our class was gang raped in her home. The intruders climbed over their probably at least 10 foot fences, tied up her brother and father and raped her. She was 13. My sister’s friend was raped in a bathroom at the mall.

      It might not be constant paranoia. But the awareness is not insignificant.

      Reply
      • Karin

        You must be from South Africa, just like me!

        Reply
    • Kay

      I am going to second Sheila here. I moved to a big city for college, and one of my graduation presents was a pepper spray key chain. I’ve been taught basic self-defense moves. There is a very real level of vulnerability that I am aware of. I used to get catcalled, honked at, whistled at before I had kids with me, and I’ve always been a very modest person. I’ve walked home from work and had a truck full of men pull over and ask if I was available tonight. Combined with this horrible message from conservative churches about men and their struggle with lust and that they are essentially animals who can’t control their urges, yes, it’s scary out there. These messages have been so damaging to talk about lust as we have.

      Reply
      • Phil

        My wife just recently suspended our membership at the YMCA for the summer. Instead she is biking, running and walking. I can not go with her all too often. I have been after her to get some mace. It’s an unfortunate reality that women live with. I am scared for her. I love her and don’t want anything to happen to her. She told me she walks with her keys in her hands for protection like was shared earlier….really good to feel the compassion for what women have to endure….the strength you must have…..

        Reply
  16. Bekah

    I read this series to my 25-year-old fiance last and night and he said, “she is SPOT ON. Lust is a battle that can be won.” Thanks for the encouraging message 🙂

    Reply
  17. Ashley

    You have done such a great job with this series, Sheila. I hope it causes everyone to really think.

    I’ve never thought of myself as having a rape prevention strategy, as I think you called it. But I do check the back seat of my car. I have had my keys at the ready a time or two to use as a weapon at night. I remember being really upset at my husband a couple months ago because he parked in the one spot in front of our apartment, and I had to park either on the street or in the back parking lot after dark getting home from Bible study night, and I felt really vulnerable. So even though I don’t live in fear, things like that are just part of the life of a woman.

    The church I belong to doesn’t really talk about sex, which is a problem of its own kind. But at least I don’t keep hearing “do it for him.” I have heard that at a marriage retreat, and I wanted to raise my hand and say, “But what about us? We need to have sex too! And some if us want it more than our husbands!” But it wasn’t a time for questions, and I didn’t cause a commotion.

    Reply
  18. Ruth

    Sheila,
    Thank you for an awesome series this week – starting with taking ownership for our own actions rather than blaming someone else.
    When I teach classes, we use Song of Songs as evidence of the roles of women vs men in the marriage bed – equally expressive, involved, asking for what we want, and initiating. Contrast that with the roles of women in culture when Song of Songs was written, and God is trying to make a point. Within the marriage bed, husband and wife are supposed to be equal – very different, but equals. The church and culture has brainwashed women to believe that sex is just for men and we are missing out on an important gift from God. Thank you again for this article. I hear it from almost every woman in every class.

    Reply
  19. Losing Hope

    It kind of sounds like it’s all our (men/husbands) fault. If we would jus be the ones who change then our marriage and sex lives will be better.
    You started off talking about men that feel they’ve done and do all these thing to show love and yet still no improvement in the bedroom. My wife and I have made love twice in the past two months.
    “First, though, let’s go back to that guy in that sex-starved marriage (or at least sex-deprived marriage). He’s desperate. He feels as if he’s tried everything. He’s begged and cajoled. He’s done the housework, put the kids to bed, given her a massage. He’s tried talking and learning love languages. And still sex isn’t happening.” This is me.
    But, then it seemed to go into saying that it’s our fault still.

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Sheila’s not saying it’s your fault as much as she’s saying, “There was a problem. A very legitimate problem that needed to be dealt with. But the way we dealt with it in our churches hasn’t fixed the problem–it’s made it worse! So here’s how to make it better.”

      It’s not about whose fault it is–the problem was there to begin with in many of these marriages. But after you try one course of action and it doesn’t work, the logical step is to re-evaluate, see what went wrong, and then try something new. That’s what Sheila’s proposing. The plan B that encompasses all of what sex is supposed to be–not just the physical.

      Also, even though this one blog post may be more directed towards what men can do, she’s written 2,500 blog posts in total and the vast majority of them are about what women can do to improve their marriages and challenge women to have a lot more sex! So if anything, she’s usually easier on the guys! 🙂 If you’re having those problems with your wife, I’d advise reading this post and seeing if there’s any way you can share it with her (because a sexless marriage is not what God intended): Why Your Husband Wants You To Read This Marriage Blog

      I hope this helps–she really isn’t meaning to throw on any guilt. More open up pathways to talk about this in a way that women will actually feel heard and understood so that marriages become healthier.

      Reply
    • Mb

      I definitely left this post with the feeling that it’s our cultures fault and the churches fault women feel this way. I’m sorry your marriage is struggling but instead of thinking she’s trying to blame you, Sheila is trying to show you what may be the root heart issue happening with your wife that technically has nothing to do with you! If your wife feels like she’s an object and that she constantly has to protect herself from the world, it’s a hard shift into being vulnerable in a marriage. Safety can be so important. So when the message at church and home is one of guilt that she’s not doing enough for her husband, that’s not motivation, it’s overwhelming and another burden on her. As a wife whose marriage has been where you shared (my husband was doing everything right and I still didn’t want to have sex), reading this just resonated with all those reasons I didn’t know how to name as to why I didn’t want it. And I always knew I’d enjoy it when we got there but it took work to get there and that was exhausting.

      Please be patient with your wife. Encourage her to read this and ask her if any of it is true for her. And don’t give up. Often, when our husband is doing all the right things just to get sex, it feels like we’re still being used because that’s just their “payment” and I understand how it can be all done out of love but doing to get sex makes it cheap and selfish and not an act of love. Doing those things because you love her without the expectation of sex really matters.

      Reply
  20. Anonymous

    Sheila, THIS is the article I have been longing for. So often even when I come to your webpage I go away feeling guilty. And just yesterday I looked at a link a friend had shared on social media and it was written by a man about how we women just need to give our men more sex. He even went so far as to say how excuses were so lame and he specifically used the line “it hurts” and kind of mocked it. Well, if sex hurts, is not doing anything for you and for most of your marriage it is just you feeling like a receptacle for your spouse’s “need” you don’t really enjoy it much. I’m not saying it has been all bad for me but certainly the unenjoyable times absolutely outweigh the enjoyable ones. I feel like you finally gave voice to women like me who are struggling to be a good wife but just DO feel like giving up because it is just an act and not a relationship blessing.

    Reply
  21. Keith Schooley

    This is a really excellent article, and a great cap to the series.

    I think that although there are some churches and situations that are really overtly sexist and where the message that “women must put out regularly to keep their husbands from straying” is actually the message intended, I think that there are also some churches where women are receiving a message that is more sexist than intended. I think that in some cases, the intent is to counteract a past in which the church communicated a sex-negative “necessary evil for the purpose of procreation” message. So they’re using 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 to say what it says, which is that both husbands and wives should be satisfying one another. In youth groups, this comes across as the “Wait until you’re married and then sex will automatically be awesome!” message. Among married people, it’s just assumed that everyone likes and wants sex but they all feel ashamed and embarrassed about it, and they’re just promoting, “Hey, married sex is cool, knock yourselves out!”

    What they’re not doing well is dealing with sexual dysfunction. No one wants to get into the nitty-gritty of “Doing what comes natural isn’t going so well for me,” and so the problems continue. Your article is a great step in the right direction.

    Reply
  22. E

    Best Post Ever! I have thoroughly enjoyed this series, and this is an amazing way to cap it off! I can’t wait to get home to my husband tonight!

    Reply
  23. Natalie

    The summary of what I have read this week is: Men control your thoughts no matter how we dress, act, treat you, or folks tell you because we cannot and do not want to control our own thoughts or actions. I am not saying the message being taught is perfect, but this is not the answer.

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      I really don’t know what posts you’ve been reading. What Sheila’s saying is this: “Men, you’ve been told there’s no escape. The Bible doesn’t say that at all. The Bible says there is deliverance. The Bible says that Jesus is big enough to cover your sin–including your lust. And the Holy Spirit is in you and can help you battle this.”

      And she’s also said to women that we need to be making sure we’re not dressing to cause men to see us as sexual, or to attract guys in the wrong way. Instead, we should only dress to be approachable, look put together, and be respectful of ourselves and others.

      I’m just disappointed that you don’t seem to be able to see the message of hope that these blog posts have offered. Jesus says that women aren’t responsible for men’s lust, and men don’t need to be enslaved by it. That’s a message worth celebrating!

      Reply
  24. C

    Thank you for this post. I really appreciate it.

    My question is this: my husband sat me down this week and told me that we need to make sure my oldest son, who is 11, is never alone with his sister who is three. He said this because he has struggled with pornography in the past and he told me that boys and men have a “deep” need for sex and are visually stimulated. My husband is concerned that something could go wrong. What are some ways we can teach our sons to seek after the Holy Spirit and not be tempted in this manner, when all around us women are sexually objectified. I am sorry if this opens up another can of worms.

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Hi, C–

      I’m so sorry that you’re dealing with that. But I think a lot of this is about conversation in the house and modelling that behaviour. Is your husband comfortable being alone with the three-year-old? Because he should be. Let your son watch your husband interact with his daughter in a way that is loving and respectful!

      I do want to make this very clear, though: it’s not normal for boys to want to fondle or molest toddlers. Or even to find them sexually attractive if they’re naked. Full-blood sibling incest is extremely extremely extremely uncommon. It is, quite frankly, very concerning that he is worried about this. And the more it is an expectation or fear in your home, the more likely it is that it will even enter his head as a possibility. When it does happen, the perpetrator has usually been sexually abused themselves.

      But I have to be honest, if your husband thinks that being visually stimulated by three-year-olds is a “normal” thing I highly suggest therapy. That is the definition of pedophilia and it is not normal.

      For some practical tips, Sheila wrote a post about 12 ways to help men not lust. I hope it helps.

      Reply
  25. Tom Hillson

    Here is the man-shaming part of the article: “It is not only more effective from a female point of view; It is kinder. It is more loving. And it is also more in line with how God made sex.” Sheila is actually saying that the way WOMEN want to do things is the more GODLY way of doing things. You know what – she might be right – but now that means that men are scum in comparison to women. How did this happen? Was it the sin of Adam, the sin of David with Bathsheba, the sins of so many terrible men throughout history? Whatever it was, we find ourselves here today, in 2017, where men’s proclivities are subpar compared to women’s. The way women NATURALLY want to behave, act, and think about sex are more in line with the way God wants us all to behave, act, and think about sex. Boys are born, grow up, and find they are way out of line with what God wants. Yet their sisters line up much more closely. That sucks for us men. It wasn’t my fault that I was born a boy, but that doesn’t matter – as a guy, I have the wrong belief set. God would much prefer it if I thought like a woman. Rats. I didn’t want to piss off God, but I have, just because I am a guy and not a woman. (I hope this all doesn’t sound like sarcasm, because that’s not how I intended it to sound. Honest! I’m just frustrated that I find myself so far away from God’s ideal because I am a guy and not a woman.)

    Reply
    • Cecilia

      So, in your mind, how do men want to do things? Sheila was addressing men selfishly using women for their needs and guilting them into accepting that. You can’t possibly be defending that, can you? Do you seriously think using someone else’s body while they lie there and pray for it to be over is God’s design for sex in marriage?

      Reply
    • Phil

      Tom – I work with a guy who struggles with a similar problem. Maybe not the same but similar. He struggles with the fact he is attracted to men. Yet he is fully aware that God does not have that intention for him. I view his problem this way. For me I am attracted to women – beyond just my wife. Yet God does not intend that for me. So I must use him to help me not go there. I failed for 22 years and now I am changed….once I decided I needed to stop I made that choice. Now, that being said my story does not involve the challenges my friend or you have. To say the least “it’s complicated” in ways I can not understand. I also know a Gay man who was married to a woman for a very long time and once he blocked out that part of his being he was able to stay married – and be happy. He died a few years ago. He was my friend Rick. He had claimed to have a “Silver Cord” to God. I loved his way. What a great man he was. Unfortunately I do not have many answers for you. I can tell you this though. You are not alone. There are many people out there with your struggle. I could go on about the people I know and their scenarios similar to what you described. What helped me was to find people just like me to work with. Having that common acceptance from someone who struggles with similar issues works. Common understanding is a way of showing love. If you need help I can direct you. Keep fighting Tom.

      Reply
    • Ruthie

      Hi Tom,

      I’m sorry you’ve taken Sheila’s post to be shaming you as a man. I really think you have misinterpreted her point here. So two things…

      1. Sheila did not say that a women’s perspective IS more effective or right or holy. She said that the perspective that she is presenting (where sex is mutual and spouses work together and treat each other with compassion and consideration) is more effective FOR women. In other words, this perspective she is teaching helps us to want to have a healthy and thriving sex life with our husbands – not the teachings, which are unfortunately so prevalent, which communicate they we should want to have sex because our husbands have physical needs and it just might maybe prevent them from lusting. We women are just as broken and messy as men. I am not sure what you imagine a women’s ‘natural’ way of behaving and thinking/feeling about sex is – but I can assure you our fallen state as women is no more ‘in-line’ with God than fallen men. We all need Christ.

      2. You talk about being created as a male and experiencing lust/struggles with sex as if they are one and the same. You were created to be an image bearer of God as a man and this is a very good thing. You were not created to lust. Just as you were not created to engage in idolatry, deceit and pride. Your sin is not tied to who or what you are created to be. You are not ‘pissing God off’ by virtue of being a man. We are all his precious children and his desire is to bring about restoration in our lives.
      Sheila has explained over and over that it is a good and normal thing for men to be visually stimulated. And she has explained over and over that this is not the same thing as lust.

      I can see that you are wanting some compassion and wanting someone to fully understand your struggles. A blog is not going to help you with that, is it? But I think you know who can. You have a Saviour who knows you and is no stranger to unbearable struggles. In Jesus you will find the compassion and help that you need. And I say that as someone who also needs Jesus very much!!

      Reply
    • Keith Schooley

      Tom, you may never agree with Sheila on this subject. But perhaps you can at least recognize that the very feeling of being shamed by this blog post–simply by virtue of being male–is exactly the way many women have felt: that they were being shamed simply by virtue of the fact that they don’t respond to sex like men do, that there was something wrong with them, something sinful, because they didn’t just naturally want to attend to all their husband’s desires. And you’ve felt it from one blogger, or maybe a few. They’ve felt it from churches and from a large chunk of society in general.

      Honestly, the only thing I think you can object to in the paragraph that you cited is that Sheila said, “from a female point of view.” But that was just shorthand for what I’d call the “wooing” language of the paragraphs above, as opposed to the “obligation” language that many women feel they’ve been presented with. That sex is an emotional and spiritual experience with only one other person, not just a physical means of release. I don’t think that’s just a feminine point of view. (As a matter of fact, a lot of women who aren’t Christians don’t share it.) If all men wanted was physical release, masturbation would be a lot less hassle. But we want something more too. There’s nothing unmasculine about kindness or tenderness, a little patience and a little wooing. That’s what the word “gentleman” used to mean, before our culture decided that if you’re not a leering brute you must be gay.

      What exactly is wrong, or unmasculine, about the words, “Even if it takes time to get there, there is nothing as beautiful on this earth as feeling totally and utterly physically and spiritually connected to another human being who loves you and cherishes you. Don’t miss out on it.” What exactly is she saying that’s supposedly so threatening to masculinity? She’s trying to reach out to women who struggle with sexual desire in their marriages as she once did, in terms they will find relatable. Why are you fighting her on this? She’s trying to let us guys know that the “obligation” message is counterproductive. Shouldn’t we listen? And if we really look at 1 Corinthians 7, when the Bible talks about us “not depriving” one another, don’t you think that not depriving your wife of her needs–for romance and tenderness and wooing and kindness–is just as important as her not depriving you of yours?

      Reply
    • Sarah

      Hi Tom, Phil and Ruthie gave very good responses. I wanted to add one thing as well. I think we could look at the issue of one person in a relationship desiring sex a lot more than the other person (in many, but not all cases, the first would be the man and the latter would be the woman) in more general terms and that might make it easier to absorb. I think when we focus specifically on sex and gender, it’s so emotional and personal and we cannot separate ourselves from our feelings because the feelings are about our true identity.

      Anyway, that’s my preamble, here goes the real thing I wanted to say in regards to your comment. What if when we’re talking about sex, we’re actually talking about all of our desires and behaviors. There’s a problem with any desire that is too much our focus or if we try to fulfill it in the wrong way. You can see this all the time in people who are overly needy in totally non sexual relationships. So there is the sin of, let’s call it “over need.” Then there on the other end of the spectrum are people or people in certain situations who try to cut themselves off from others or from their true desires (even desires that could be be filled healthily). Let’s call this the sin of “over isolation.” CS Lewis actually talked in one of his books about how his primary sin before getting married was the sin of wanting to be left alone. He didn’t want to depend on anyone and he didn’t want anyone to depend on him. And that’s not how we were made to be either.

      When Sheila talks about the mutuality of sex, the dance, as it were, that lens could be applied to all sorts of relationships in our lives. It could be parent to child, business partners, or even a married couple as they try to sort out how to meet each other’s emotional needs. In the gender typical relationship, probably many women come across as way more emotionally “needy” then the men. Whether its having sex or talking about your feelings, the partner with the stronger need has to recognize that that is a need within themselves, not an external thing to themselves and to learn to patiently woo the other, while the person who might tend to experience the need as an inconvenience has to learn that we are made to be drawn outside of ourselves.

      I think the women who’ve chimed in this week who have higher sex drives or are very visually stimulated demonstrate that it’s not about maleness or femaleness, but our own personal desires and view of those desires.

      If you want a real mental exercise, think about same sex couples. Whatever your view of homosexuality, the same sex couples that I’ve known who are in long yer committed relationships have many of the same challenges as heterosexual couples. One has more emotional needs, one wants sex more, one wants the kitchen cleaner, etc and they have to sort that out and they can’t just dismiss the other person based on gender.

      Anyway, that’s my thoughts. They’re maybe nothing you can use or nothing all that groundbreaking. But I think it helps to think through these ideas outside of the often inflammatory realm of sex and gender

      Reply
    • Misty S

      Dear Mr hillson. Perhaps you will never read this because it’s 2 years later. I remind you that sin (Adam’s and Eve’s) has damaged everything from God’s original design. Christ by his death gave us freedom from the eternal punishment of sin, but the restoration of the physical world has not yet happened, meaning that we struggle with being fallen creatures. We get sick, tired, hungry, we are tempted. Yet we have Jesus interceding for us as one who knows our weakness from experience. May you know his grace and mercy to help in your need.

      Reply
  26. Ruthie

    Sheila thank you for this series, you have said what needs to be said and you have said it so well. Thank you for all of the thoughts, prayers, research and tears that I imagine must go into a series like this. You are such a voice of hope and truth.

    I think you’ve highlighted in this post that men and women alike are all broken humans who desperately need the restorative presence and work of God in our lives. What a messy state we live in where we have been created to be sexual beings and our sexualities are therefore good, but because of the fall we are broken and so are our sexualities. Fortunately it doesn’t stop there! As Christians we are redeemed and being restored. Jesus can bring healing in our lives and marriages! I think this is important to say, as trying to overcome lust and sexual dysfunction in marriage by just changing behaviour will only be a short term fix – if a fix at all. What we really need is heart change, which only Jesus Christ can bring. Your spouse cannot fix you. Your spouse cannot stop you from sinning and your spouse cannot bring the healing you need. Having a loving spouse sure helps 😉 but ultimately it is Jesus that we need.

    I believe Paul would be absolutely livid to learn that some of his writings are being used by some churches in this era to shame, discourage and enable people to continue sinning. (I’m talking about verses that get flung around like ‘do not deprive…’)

    It is just so important that we women (and men) hear and understand the truth that God created sex to be mutual and a beautiful part of our marriages. That he made us to bear his image – we are not to be ashamed of being female! A woman’s experience often leaves us feeling like we possess something (our bodies or even our whole selves) which is shameful and perhaps even dangerous. That is an incredibly difficult lie and struggle to heal from even when you have a loving, considerate hubby and you enjoy sex. I cannot comprehend how difficult it must be for women who don’t enjoy sex or their husband is unaware of this struggle or believes that what matters is his physical sexual needs being met.

    Thanks Sheila

    Reply
    • Lydia purple

      Beautiful post, Sheila.

      Two thoughts I wanted to add:
      1. It just recently occurred to me that the culture to which paul wrote Corinthians and Epehesians was not that far from where we’re at today. In both cities pagan worship included temple prostitution. So most of the gentile believers in those cities had sexual baggage either being abused, raped, betrayed or abusing and using the temple prostitutes. Sex was to a great extend part of idol worship. Now paul writing to these churches who keep having trouble to live godly marriages and he gives them clear instructions to how it should be. He always addresses both sides, addresses the needs of the wife’s and what husbands can do practically and likewise addresses the needs of husbands and what wife’s can do to fill those needs. This is in fact how it’s meant to be and what you try to say in this post and on the blog over and over again. Mutual. Marriage is mutual, sex is mutual. Fulfilling each other’s needs is mutual. We need to stop taking one side and bash and shame the other. We need to start communicating our needs and listening for our partners needs – and then work on fulfilling them together. It seems like though we are afraid that if one sided states their need first, we won’t get a chance to hear the other sides needs and so we panic and get defensive because we’re afraid of loosing out. if we could just get that we are on the same side and try to figure out a way to meet everybody’s needs together, we’d be far better off.

      2. I think I mentioned it before, but to stop lusting one needs to change the thinking at its heart. I think that’s what you are trying to say here by offering a different message and I also seen it in some comments. Recently I had a moment where I felt insecure and I asked my husband if I was the only one on his mind. You know what he said: “of course. You are my gift of God. I would never dishonor you or God in this way!” I think that exactly is the way of thinking men need to overcome lust. When you get married you made a choice. You choose your wife to be your only subject of love and sexual desire and at the same time you choose not to show this kind of love or desire to any other woman on earth. I think with this mindset you actually direct the God given passion and desire to the proper place and time without trying to quench it. Does that make sense? I actually did something similar when I was a teenager. Since I wanted to take relationship serious and wanted to wait with sex for marriage and I couldn’t legally get married until 18 I just decided that I wouldn’t play with the fire. So when confusing feelings came up in a situation I wasn’t so tempted to follow the urge of the moment, because I had made a choice before that which didn’t allow me to fall for the momentary temptation.

      Reply
  27. Anonymous

    I could just cry right now. Big time racking ugly sob type cry. I love my husband. I love the man he is and who he desires to be. I don’t love sex right now. I do feel used and icky any time we try to have sex right now and it makes me feel sad and broken. Sometimes I cry myself to sleep because I know he’s confused and filled with desire for me, but I just…….can’t. It makes me feel empty and used and cheap. I desperately want things to be different. I ask God to change me, to help me not feel so empty and broken. Thank you for this series. We desperately need help. I fear every day that he may just give up on me and tell me he’s going to leave me.

    Reply
  28. Doug

    “The problem is that this isn’t automatic. He made women so that they would actually take a little longer to warm up, so that husbands would have to learn…”

    ???

    “Lust” entails fantasizing, and nothing remedies fantasy like focusing on reality. Perhaps this is why husbands are commanded to love their wives. But what about young, unmarried men? I believe much of the problem is that young men are never taught about the nature of women, or how to confidently relate to them. The vacuum is filled with fantasy. Their only instructor is porn.

    Reply
    • Sheila Gregoire

      Isn’t that the truth. So sad.

      Reply
  29. Heidi

    Sheila,
    You are a blessing to so many people. These posts have been the best articles I’ve ever read on this topic.
    Thank you for following what I know is the Holy Spirit guiding you in this ministry.

    Reply
  30. Anonymus

    Hi Sheila,

    This December, my wife and I will be married 25 years. The lack of a frequent, fun, passionate sex life has been an issue for our entire marriage. She doesn’t seem to have much of a sex drive. It is not a priority. I have try in many ways to discuss this with her often very good ways, but also handled it poorly on multiple occasions. She thought birth control might be affecting her labido, but was too embarrassed to discuss with her doctor. Finally, she talked with her. At the same time, I had a vasectomy. She ended up having a hysterectomy, but had the complication of blood clots. So other therapies put her at a greater risk.

    I have read many books and applied them. I have learned how to bring her to orgasm almost everytime. I would be content that it be the rule that she must get there before me or stop.

    I tried to be a great husband for many reasons. I want to help out at home. I want to help out with the children. I want to be a good communicator. I have read and followed Gottman’s books.

    I have tried to develop a family vision. I sent calendar invites for vision planning meetings only to have my feelings hurt when she “forgot”.

    I am a very good provider. I own my own business and it has done well. We live in the house that she wants and vacation 4-5 times a year. I work with a financial planner and we are on schedule to a secure future.

    I have taken the initiative to go to Christian counselors individually and as a couple. It usually focused on pretty minor things that I accepted and tried to change. Later, she confided that maybe I shouldn’t have to make my own sandwich one day a week after working 60 hours.

    Our last counselor, that was very logical basically said I might just have to learn to accept it. He was able to convince me with scripture. I did.

    BTW, my wife swears there is no history of abuse or promiscuity in her past.

    Over the past 2 or 3 years, I have allowed bitterness and anger to take root in my life. We no longer attend church on a regular basis. I don’t read my Bible or pray on a regular basis. I no longer attend mens’ Bible studies. I hate Christian counselors. They never once suggested that she see a doctor or try this or that. I am angry at God. I know enough that this is not a biblical attitude, but after 25 years, I have fought the good fight and I have been long suffering. I am reaching the age where my own body is starting to decline. I can’t imagine the years being restored.

    I am still going to be a good husband and father. Not for God’s sake. But for hers, I do love her…although I wish I didn’t. Also, for my sake. It is how I believe that I am suppose to live. Also, for my children…although they know that our marriage has not been good for us. Lastly, for our extended families, employees, friends, etc.

    It hurts.

    I wish my wife would put in some effort to read, talk to doctors (multiple, if needed), talk with counselors, pray about it, whatever. Her priorities seem to be personal time, pets, and our children.

    Thanks for reading. I don’t expect a response or a solution. I am at home today with Strep and feeling sorry for myself.

    Reply
    • Sheila Gregoire

      I’m so sorry. So sorry! I’m sorry for you, and I’m sorry for her, that she’s missing out on something so great that God made for her.

      Have you ever talked to her in terms of intimacy and losing out on what God made her for, rather than talking about how you both should be having more sex? Sometimes that can inspire conversations. Or even ask, does she feel like the intimacy is missing? Like she’s missing something? I have a post that can help spark that conversation, if it’s never been framed that way. I really hope it helps! I feel like marriages like yours are why I’m here. I just hope that helps.

      Reply
  31. Four Under Four

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You have so clearly expressed the heart of my own struggles with sex. Thank you for this series.

    I find it appalling to read the comments and see men trivializing the lifelong fear of bodily harm with which women live. If it were a silly, unfounded fear, I could understand their careless attitude. But it’s not. The rape statistics are staggering. One commenter in particular stated that he would gladly take unwanted sexual attention any day over the male reality of having to pursue a woman to get attention. Well yes, yes he would rather. Because for any man in earth, unwanted female attention would not put him in danger. It would not even occur to him to be afraid. He would not be surreptitiously clutching his pepper spray with sweaty hands while trying look as normal as possible walking to his car in the poorly lit parking lot with the grinning stare of some perverted female ogling him the whole way. He wouldn’t because, however disgusted he felt be such a woman, he would not ever be afraid she would attack him, force entry into his body and hurt him. A woman in that situation most certainly fears that, and legitimately.

    Anyway, I do appreciate your balanced and brave approach to a difficult issue. Thank you!

    Reply
  32. Ali

    Oh Sheila, I don’t think I could possibly relate more to these words!!

    “She has spent her whole life in this culture being objectified and having sexual violence as a constant background noise. And then she is told that God wants her to let her husband use her, so that her husband won’t sin. Now it feels as if God is objectifying her, too. It feels as if God is coercing her into sex. It feels as if no one actually cares that this is HER body (in fact, she’s told again and again that her body belongs to her husband).”

    THANK YOU for sharing this. For speaking the truth of nearly every female heart on this issue. I couldn’t have put the feeling, the hurt, the worry into words if I had tried, yet you put years of struggle so easily… it couldn’t be more true! Thank you so much. I don’t feel so alone now.

    Reply
    • Sheila Gregoire

      I’m so glad! And you’re so welcome!

      Reply
  33. Jj

    Interesting read. My wife rang my bell when she told me that she had felt “used” for sex. I was taking by surprise as I didn’t realize it from her view because we both had mutual satisfaction. And I’m truly sorry. Today, there is no sex and I miss my wife dearly. I’m taking contrary actions, I pray for God’s mercy, and I’m trying to be the best husband. When we go to bed I say an evening prayer and I give my wife a kiss and I let her know how much I love her. I do ask if I can touch my wife. The answer is generally no as she says she us not ready. And I don’t cross that boundary. But again, I pray that she sees the changes i am making to cherish my wife and God opens her heart. To my wife i tell her I miss her, I love her and that i miss what i thought was intimacy. I say show me and teach me how you want to be loved today.

    Reply
  34. Ivan

    Hi Sheila! First of all let me say that it’s remarkable that you have the courage to talk about a topic such as sex in marriage, which in some circles is still somehow considered taboo (and yet we are in 2017?) It seems that sex is still such an obsession for many men and women for the very fact that in many society it’s still stigmatized. If we accepted that sex is one of the greatest gifts from God, we wouldn’t place so much importance on it. All perversions would disappear. Sex would just be another piece of the puzzle in a marriage, it would lose that “forbidden” tag and we wouldn’t be here discussing how to talk about it in a healthy way, because it would be natural to talk about it, as we talk about our culinary taste or our hobbies. I’m curious to know your take on this. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  35. Amiunforgiving?

    Thank you for writing. Thank you forgiving voice, Sheila, to so many things I could never put into words. I will try to make my thoughts brief. 16 years and several children into our marriage, I realized we had not been intimate for several months. I had had a baby and a rough pregnancy, but had initiated with my husband several times having been rejected. It turns out he had been masturbating. He didn’t even want me anymore. He swears no porn just dreaming of me, but I have been crushed. We were in the midst of raising our family. I was completely absorbed and after several hard births, he was terrified to be with me. I was clueless. It had been going on for FOUR years. Devastated. We have worked through the issues and seem to be doing better after five years, but I am so sad inside. How could this happen? I loved him so and trusted him. I thought that since we were both seeking to serve our Saviour and reading our Bibles that God would protect our covenant. I feel so on alert now. All. The. Time. I miss feeling secure and loved. I cannot keep him from sinning. I cannot make him love me like I thought he did. I cannot make him value me. I feel lost. Alone and clinging to Christ. He is a good man who seeks to please Christ in all things. He fell and sought forgiveness. I know God has forgiven Him and so have I, but I feel so empty inside my heart. I think I selfishly want to be cherished. And I am not sure where to turn from here…

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Are you upset because he masturbated after you had difficult births? Am I missing something?

      Reply
      • Sheila Gregoire

        Yes, that’s what I was thinking, too. So basically you had a rough delivery and couldn’t have sex, and then you threw yourself into your kids, and your husband ended up masturbating because you weren’t interested?

        Now, I don’t think masturbation in marriage is a good thing. But at the same time, it sounds like your husband’s motivation was to be loving towards you. I wouldn’t dwell on that being sin. He simply wasn’t able to live in a sexless marriage. He may not have dealt with it in the best way (he likely should have talked to you more, and insisted that you listen), but he couldn’t live like that and he was trying to deal with things.

        The more you worry about trying to forgive him, the more you perhaps are missing out on the fact that you may have things that he needs to forgive, too? Why not just agree that you both did things wrong, and then just try to rebuild now. It sounds like your definition of him cherishing you is that he should have utmost patience and never need sex if you don’t want it. But that’s not really feasible, either, not for months or years at a time. I wonder, what would your definition of cherishing him be? If you want him to have cherished you, do you think that you also cherished him in those times?

        I’m not trying to be harsh, it’s just that I read so much anger and sadness, and I think you need to be jolted out of that and made to see that it sounds like you have a great husband (from the little you’ve said here) who was just trying to deal with a difficult situation. Now the question is: what can you do going forward so that you both can cherish each other?

        Reply
  36. Lisa Manske

    Fabulous series, Shelia. Thank you for tackling difficult topics. These topics need to be addressed.

    Reply
  37. BM

    Have you read the book “Everybody Lies”? It is about big data. According to google searches made over time, women are more likely to search google for problems with sexless marriages than men are. The problem I see in my friends’ relationships and those of my loved ones is not lack of sex, but lack of sexual compatibility. One partner is just more sexually driven than the other, and sometimes that partner is the woman. As someone who was raised evangelically and now, who is on the outside looking in, I notice that a lot of women tend to repress themselves. Because they arent’ “supposed to ” really enjoy sex like men, they don’t allow themselves to do so. Because they aren’t “supposed to” experiment with their partner, they stay uptight and vanilla. But men are just as bad…. they are “supposed to” marry a “nice girl” who they have to “convince” and “win over” and then later on, they wonder why she doesn’t turn into some wild bedroom tiger with loins a-fire. She never had it in her, dude…. You should have found someone who did instead of worrying about what people were telling you to do.

    Reply
  38. Amy F;)

    Sheila,
    well said! well said! well said!

    Reply
  39. Amanda

    Thank you so much for this❤this is the first marriage blog post ever that doesnt make me feel defensive and misunderstood. I agree with everything you said, women are objectified everywhere and sadly many men in the church turn this objectification into something God supposedly commands. And to me ist just so disgusting that men stand up there teaching us (because women should keep their mouthes shut in church, its all about the men) what we should be doing with our bodies. Porn teaches men that women are there to be used whenever you want, the church teaches that wives are there to be used whenever you want. Ist the same message only with one woman instead of many. Its despicable. And so convenient for men. They can just blame everything on women. Lusting? Her fault, she should cover up. Cheating/Porn? Her fault, she wont have sex with me as often as I want it. Ist just the height of misogyny. But just because many men are like this doesnt mean I should take it out in my husband (who isnt like this at all). Its very difficult, especially as a survivor of abuse. I have to actively learn that my husband is not my enemy.

    Reply
    • Sheila Gregoire

      That is a hard lesson, isn’t it, Amanda? To not take things out on your husband. I know many women have struggled with that over the years. And I am sorry for all the horrible messages that you’ve heard about God, men, and sex. It’s heartbreaking.

      Reply
  40. Amanda

    Oh and I think the whole “I did the dishes, put the kids to sleep, have her a massage” thing is actually the worst. I dont think that deserves applause, ist what you’re supposed to do if you love somebody, live in the same house and have kids together. Thats Not something you her an award for. And the most disgusting thing about it is that these “chores” are then not driven by love, but the expectation of getting something out of it. You are basically paying for sex. I did this and this and now I am entitled to sex. That is sickening. Why is it so hard to love someone for who they are and not what they can give you? I think many women would feel differently about sex if they felt loved for who they are. No strings attached. If I know that my husband does not expect sex from me in order to love me (cause thats a transaction not love) then it would make me feel safe to open up to him. Doing everything in order to “earn” sex is just going to push your wife further away.

    Reply
  41. High school sweethearts

    Firstly this post was the first time I’ve heard this ever!
    My husband and I waited till We were married but I was molested and abused in my childhood which I didn’t even remember until nearly adulthood when I met my now husband because I had suppressed memories. I went into my marriage thinking I’d crossed the finish line and was ready to party. Turns out sex was painful and not worth the hype (or so I thought at the time) and filled with so much emotional turmoil I almost couldn’t breathe. But I trudged on forcing myself to always say yes even when it hurt and or I didn’t want to and many times cried myself to sleep after my husband slept so he would never know (cuz that’s what good wives do right?) I frequently felt just like an object to satisfy my husband and that I had no voice. It built up in me with such bitterness that I finally lashed out and “dump trucked” on my husband all the pain. I told him I have to force myself to have sex because the church says if I don’t I’m disobeying God and allowing Satan a foothold in my marriage where my husband could stumble.
    My husband was so mortified by what I said. His first response was if you are hurting I absolutely don’t want to be having sex. His second response was I don’t care what anyone says if you don’t want to have sex you do not HAVE to. He said I want you to want me not be obligated to me and if that means I have to wait and be patient so be it. He viewed it as me lying to him about an intimate part of our relationaship that he always wanted honest and pure. We waited together and he wanted us to enjoy and learn together. And I understood where he was coming from. I thought I was doing it for him but not being honest in your relationship is never healthy and certainly doesn’t build trust.
    I struggled with his thoughts on this though because I still felt we were being unbiblical in our actions by not having regular sex, but with time I came to appreciate being allowed to have a voice and feeling respected which gave me security and made me desire him more. We got better at sex and my body acclimated to it and the pain went away. Though I still occasionally have adverse reactions in my mind to sex I am able to recognize I am in a safe place and my husband loves me and those thoughts are from a past experience. He is always patient and understanding and that is so special and priceless to me. But until this moment I never thought my thoughts of disagreeing with how I should be a “good wife” were understood by anyone else besides my husband. A life of growing up being told my body is bad, to cover up and men only want one thing from me and experiencing it first hand many times had me feel like I was drowning in my quest to be a godly wife. Thankfully my husband is amazing and has been from when I married him at 18 till now 16 years later. I can honestly say Sex has become a beautiful regular thing that I look forward to instead of dread. So thank you Sheila for speaking my heart on what obligatory sex can do to a marriage.

    Reply
    • Sheila Gregoire

      Oh, wow, thank you so much for sharing your story! Your husband sounds like an amazing guy. What a gift God gave you to help you heal, too!

      Reply
  42. Blessed Wife

    Thank you so much, Sheila, for being a Godly voice on this issue!

    I got so many crazy, conflicting messages about sex growing up and in my dating years. The most destructive was that non-penetrative sexual assault is to be expected, and that I should just accept it as part of my dealings with boys and men. Thankfully, the Lord blessed me with a terrific Christian therapist who spoke truth to me, a loving husband with whom I am always safe, and a high appetite for loving sex that has fed my marriage! There is tremendous healing power in God’s plan for sex, and I so thank you for sharing the truth in a dark world!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so glad you found me! And that is AWFUL, by the way, to teach people that sexual assault is normal. How terrible!

      Reply
  43. Anna Schrock

    I really appreciate this article. It’s definitely a subject that should be addressed a lot more.
    It seems our culture as a whole thinks that men cannot help it if they lust, and it’s up to the women to make it go away. I get angered by how many girls/women get raped and no one does anything but blame the victim.
    We have a problem, and more people need to rise up and address the issue.
    Thank you for having the courage to speak on this subject.

    Reply

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