How often have you heard the “Do Not Deprive” verses, from 1 Corinthians 7, used to tell women they’re not doing enough as a wife to keep their husbands sexually satisfied?
Last month I conducted a poll on Twitter, where I asked: Which message have you heard more often in church, studies, or Christian books?
- Do not deprive your husband
- Women’s sexual pleasure matters
The results? 95%-5%.
Here’s the Facebook version of the same poll, with remarkably similar results:
I’m starting to get really worried. Like, crisis-sized worried.
I’ve always been worried that people don’t talk about sex well in the church. I wrote a while ago on my series about Every Man’s Battle and how that messes up the message about sex that we need to find a healthy way to talk about men’s sexual needs.
I wrote last month about how messed up and biblically wrong the message of sex was from the book Love & Respect, which taught that sex was all about men needing physical release.
And so I wanted to do something about it. I wanted to spend the month of February talking about how to make sex better for women! Let’s figure out where your G-spot is, or how to have multiple orgasms! Let’s start kissing again. I created 24 sexy dares with heavy emphasis on awakening her sex drive, drawing out foreplay, and making sure that she feels good.
Does your marriage need some spicing up–and some fun?
But frankly, I think we need a bigger conversation about this, because something is seriously off. And so, for the next few Wednesdays, I’m going to look at how we can have a healthier way of looking at sex that takes both the husband and wife into account, and that does look at what the Bible says about mutuality in sex.
As we start that discussion, though, I want to say something that may be radical. Let me start with some background.
I have heard the “Do Not Deprive” passage used a lot about how husbands need sex, and how women need to not deprive them.
Those verses are here:
1 Corinthians 7:3-5
The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Do you notice anything about that passage, though? It’s not directed at wives, telling them not to deprive their husbands. It’s directed at BOTH spouses. In fact, if anything, the wife’s sexual needs are mentioned first. The Bible does not assume that the norm will be wives depriving husbands, and so we need to drill down on wives to give husbands sex. No, the Bible tells us that both genders need to look out for the other.
I want to submit that the sex that is the most likely to be deprived is not actually husbands. I believe that it is wives.
Let me put a HUGE caveat on this to begin with. I understand that many, many wives downplay sex in their marriage and leave their husbands in sex-starved marriages. I have written at length on how wrong this is. I have created a course on how to boost your libido. I have written a 31 day sex challenge to help couples rediscover great sex. I have created dares to spice up your love life. I have written a book to help women understand what sex is supposed to be like, and one of the chapters in that book is dedicated to helping women understand how important sex is to their husbands.
However, I’m asking you to bear with me for a moment, because I’m going to share something with you.
In my surveys for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I discovered that, among professing Christians, 20% of women report that they rarely or never reach orgasm. Another 18% report that they only sometimes reach orgasm. Around 44% usually reach orgasm, and only 18% always do.
That’s a lot of women who aren’t really feeling much pleasure when they have sex.
And that’s normal.
Now, I’m also very aware that many men would love to bring pleasure to their wives, but their wives don’t seem to care, they push their husbands away, they rush them through sex, or they just can’t seem to reach orgasm, no matter how much the husband tries. I know that this is not necessarily a husband’s fault. And I encourage you to check out this story of a woman finally reaching orgasm after 26 years of marriage. She had her own issues that she had never properly communicated to her husband, and she had to get over those first.
Nevertheless, let’s put that aside for a moment and ask this question: How would men feel if, when they had sex, only 18% of them always had an orgasm?
I understand that it takes longer to figure out what women need in bed, and that women just aren’t automatically orgasmic the way that men are. I actually think that God did that with a purpose, because we women would have to learn to communicate and be vulnerable to tell our husbands what we want, and husbands would have to learn to be giving to for her to receive pleasure.
But all that aside, the simple fact is that with the way we talk about sex, men’s pleasure is the aim, and women’s pleasure is an afterthought.
May I please suggest that this has to change.
No, women do not have to have an orgasm each time they have sex. I know it’s hard to learn to orgasm. I know that sometimes, no matter how much you want to, there’s too much going on in your head and you can’t shut it off.
But if, in your marriage, one person is doing all of the giving sexually, and one person is doing all of the receiving sexually, then that is wrong.
Now, sometimes the giving could simply be him giving her a huge backrub so that he makes sure she feels relaxed and pampered, even if she doesn’t orgasm. It may mean him giving her tons of affection and going out of his way to help her feel loved, even if she doesn’t have a lot of physical pleasure. Giving does not need to mean orgasm; but it does need to mean that BOTH partners, in their sex lives, are routinely giving of themselves for the other person, and are routinely ensuring that the other person receives something wonderful out of sex.
In what I have read about couple’s sex lives, I think women are just as deprived, if not more so, then men are, simply because their pleasure and experience is not often prioritized.
That is not the way that God intended.
As I said in my podcast last week, the fact that God created women’s bodies so that we are most likely to experience orgasm through clitoral stimulation rather than through intercourse means that God intended for men to pleasure their wives in a way that did not result in men’s direct stimulation.
God created us sexually so that, for a woman to receive pleasure, the husband would have to be giving.
Yet this is not what we are taught. Instead, we are taught that women are depriving men if they don’t give them sex. I think it’s time for a bigger message about what sex is supposed to be, and consider this post the first part of that.
I’ve been having a broader conversation on social media about this, and I shared recently on my Facebook page part of my reply to a guy where I was debating this. I wrote:
As you all know I’m hugely in favour of more frequent and better sex in marriage, and I think not having sex is so sad in a marriage. But we simply have to talk about this differently. Here’s part of what I said in a recent comment thread to a guy I was debating with:
“As for whether you should have sex when she doesn’t feel pleasure, why do you jump to the “do not deprive” verse? Why not instead try to figure out how to make sure she has pleasure? Why is her pleasure her responsibility? Why not try to figure it out together?
Maybe if men stopped telling women “you need to have sex with me” and started saying, “You know, women are capable of deeper and more intense orgasms than men, and are made for multiple orgasms. Maybe we should figure out how to satisfy our wives more.” That would be far more helpful.
You may think what I’m saying is off base, but think about it this way: For YEARS women have been told from church pulpits “Men need sex and you need to give it to them or you’re depriving them.” What’s happened? A crisis in low libido among women.
What I’m saying is that this approach doesn’t work.
You can double down on it if you’d like; you can say that women need to understand men, and how much they need sex, and how they struggle with lust, and how women need to help them.
What I’m telling you is that women DO understand men. We know men need sex. That’s not the point. Yelling about that louder won’t help.
What we need now is for men to understand women.
If that happened–if men did understand women’s need for intimacy, and women’s need to experience pleasure, and if churches started talking about mutuality, you would awaken women’s libido. So it’s your choice. You can keep talking about how women need to have more sex or else their husbands will lust. Or we can start a different conversation, more focused on how the Bible portrays sex as a mutual thing, and as pleasure for both of them, and as about intimacy, and then I think you’d see things change.”
THAT’S what I’m trying to do. I desperately want more couples to be enjoying the sexual side of their marriage. I want more women to know what great sex is like, and not to miss out on it. I want to help this generation of women awaken their libidos! But I truly think that can only happen when we start hearing about sex in a different way, rather than just “do not deprive or else he’ll lust.” THAT’S one of the big reasons for low female libido. It’s a terrible message, and it kills her heart.
So get ready for this conversation–because I truly believe God designed sex to be a beautiful, mutual, passionate, stupendous thing–and it can only be that if we learn to talk about it in the right way.