Godly Sex is Mutual Sex: It’s Not Only About a Husband’s Needs

by | Mar 6, 2019 | Uncategorized | 57 comments

Merchandise is Here!

When I was first married, sex hurt. And I felt terribly guilty about that.

Have you ever looked back on your younger self and thought, “what in the world was I thinking? Why did I do that?”

I have. And there are parts of me, deep parts, that I am still trying to figure out.

Last month, when I wrote my review of Love & Respect, and saw how that book presented sex as solely about a man’s physical release, a lightbulb went off inside of me, and a little bit more healing happened. The book itself didn’t heal me (far from it; I feel that the book is dangerous); but instead, by recognizing the utterly false doctrine that I had unwittingly picked up, I understood more why, when we were first married, I felt that my pain did not matter.

A few weeks ago a reader sent me a link to an amazing article about how the price of men’s pleasure so often is women’s pain. It looked at how, for women, sex is often uncomfortable, painful, or coercive, and what is considered “bad” sex to men is merely boring sex, whereas “bad” sex to women is far more harmful. And so men really have no frame of reference for a lot of what women go through.

The article was mostly written about sex outside of marriage, and it’s easy to think that that article really has nothing to say about Christian marriages. But I’d like to tell a little bit of my story–even more than I revealed in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex and in 9 Thoughts that Can Change Your Marriage–because it’s only recently that I even began to recognize why I did some of the things I did. So here goes.

As I have shared at length, our honeymoon night was awful.

We couldn’t even consummate our marriage because it hurt so much. I was beside myself. Keith was disappointed, and I was panicky. I was crying. I was devastated. And the next morning, before we left for our honeymoon getaway, I was determined to do this thing.

And we did. I grit my teeth and cried all the way through.

Over the next few weeks and months that pattern continued–I grit my teeth and cried and swallowed my pain every time we had sex.

But here’s what I want you all to understand: Keith was not guilting me into having sex. I was forcing myself to.

Keith has his own stories about what was going through his mind at the time, and that’s for another day (and he shares that a lot in our marriage conferences). But looking back, I know that I was the main instigator of making sure that we had sex, even if it hurt me.

When I started seeking counselling, they told us that we should take some time off of sex, and just do other things to have fun while I worked on what was causing my vaginismus. I couldn’t do that. I remember sitting on a couch in front of a counsellor, who gently said that the best thing we could do for our marriage was to pledge that over the next few months, we wouldn’t try intercourse. We would just do other things while we worked at getting to the root of the issue. He was kind. His voice was soothing.

And my my heart beat wildly. I could feel the panic rise. I broke out in a cold sweat. How could I go several months without having sex with Keith, even if sex hurt? I just couldn’t do that. We had to keep trying.

Why? Why couldn’t I agree to what was obviously the right course of action, to what was obviously best for both of us?

Other people were giving me permission not to have sex with my husband until we could figure this out. My husband was giving me permission not to have sex with him until we figured this out. Why could I not give myself that permission?

When I read the book Love & Respect last month, I finally understood why I was determined to do something that hurt me.

I grew up hearing the same message:

Men need physical release. They experience sex as love. Without sex, they can’t love. Without sex, it isn’t a real marriage.

And I desperately, desperately needed to feel loved. And not just that, but:

Your husband has sexual needs that you, as a woman, can never, ever understand. He needs it so badly, in a way that you totally will never relate to. You just have to trust us on this, ladies. He really, really needs it.

There was little 21-year-old me, so desperate to have a marriage that worked, so desperate to have my husband love me. And no matter how many voices told me that it was okay, that we could work on this, that it would get better if we gave me some time, I couldn’t get that fear out of my mind.

If we don’t have sex, Keith will leave me. He won’t feel loved. This won’t be a real marriage.

And so I lay there, and I grit my teeth, and I tried to keep the tears in, and I tried to keep the sobs in, and I told him that we had to keep trying, no matter what.

Ultimately, I believed that whatever pleasure or physical release that Keith got from sex was far more important than any pain I was feeling.

His needs were more important because, as a woman, I could never, ever understand them. They must be so overwhelming that they would dwarf anything I was feeling.

That is what I grew up hearing. That is what the marriage books all said back then. And, as we learned in looking at Love & Respect, that is what the marriage books say today, too. (Except mine, of course! Yes, most men need sex. But sex was created for both of us, not just him!).

Too often we hear sex portrayed as being about a husband’s physical release, so that her experience is completely irrelevant. Love & Respect erased women’s pleasure, or even women’s comfort, from the equation. It said that there was never a reason to say no.

  • Men experience physical release as respect;
  • Men need unconditional respect;
  • Without respect, a man can’t love;
  • Thus, you can never say no to sex.

I believed that. And at the same time, I was so, so hurt by it.

How could God create us so that the only way Keith could feel love was by hurting me? Why did I have to feel hurt so that Keith could feel pleasure? What is right about that?

(To reiterate, Keith felt really awful about this, too, and it was he who often put the brakes on things, far more than I did. But I was desperate to have sex work, and I often pressured him, because otherwise I felt like I would be a bad wife).

I want to go back to that young, 21-year-old wife and give her a different story.

I want to tell her that she matters. I want to tell her that sex is not about a man’s physical release; sex is about mutuality, about a deep intimacy that is physical but it’s also emotional and spiritual. I want to tell her that by concentrating only on the physical, we cheapen sex and devalue that emotional and spiritual connection. I want to tell her that without that deeper connection, we miss God’s design for sex. I want to tell her that sex that does not equally consider a woman’s experience is not sex as God designed. I want to tell her that sex is not about the husband; but that sex is about both of you, together.

 

The biblical message about sex is not a gendered one, but a mutual one. We have made it a gendered one.

Last week I talked about how the “do not deprive” verses are often used to pressure women into giving husbands sex–even though women are the ones who are more likely to be deprived of sexual pleasure. We read those verses wrong. They’re not about a husband’s lust; they’re supposed to present an even-handed look at sex.

The biblical message about sex is not a gendered one, but a mutual one. We have made it a gendered one.

Yes, the genders do relate differently to sex. Yes, the genders tend to have different libidos (but remember that in 24-30% of marriages SHE is the higher drive spouse).

But the main message from the Bible is mutual. “Do Not Deprive” is written as complete mutuality, with equal and identical concern being shown to both people. “It is better to marry than to burn” is addressed to “the unmarried and to widows”–so it seems to be talking to women who may have passions. In the Old Testament, sex is referred to as a “deep knowing”, a deep intimacy that is about both of you feeling connected to each other. It’s not a one-sided taking.

We need to educate people on how the genders approach sex differently, yes. But if our main message about sex does not equal the Bible’s main message about sex–that is about a deep intimacy between two people, and it was designed for both–then we are going off track.

  • If sex is about two people, then both people matter.
  • If sex is about a deep intimacy, then both people’s experiences matter.
  • If sex is about a deep knowing, then sex can’t work if it’s only about one person taking.

 

It’s supposed to be great physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Feel like something’s missing?

We simply have to find a more biblical way to talk about sex than having it always be about men’s physical needs. This month, I want to have that conversation in a more in-depth way. I want to do this not to “let women off the hook” so they don’t need to have sex. I believe that sex is vitally important, and that we miss out on something amazing when we don’t have sex. I believe that the sexual drive is a real one, and needs to be considered. I believe that sex-starved marriages are very wrong.

But in all of that, the bigger picture must never be forgotten, and it must never be subordinated to a much smaller message. Sex is about both of you. Both of you matter. Both of you should give and receive; both of you should feel loved and cherished. If those things are not true, then something is off. And it’s more important to figure out what is off than to just keep going through the motions, thinking that this makes your marriage biblical and godly, like I did.

You matter. Your spouse matters. Now let’s figure out how we can have a sex life which honours both of you.

Godly Sex is Mutual Sex: Sex is supposed to be for both of us, not just for husbands.

What do you think? Can we come to a more even-handed definition of what sex is? I’ll be talking about that next week, but I’d love to hear what you think first!

More help to make sex feel great for women, too:

31 Days to Great Sex

The Best 31 Days of Your Marriage!

Read a few pages. Do what it says. Have incredible fun!

Learn to talk more, flirt more, and even explore more! You’ll work on how to connect emotionally, spiritually, AND physically. And the ebook version is only $4.99!

Button Great Sex Life - 10 Reasons Why Rushing Forgiveness Ruins Intimacy.

SheilaSidebarAboutMe - 10 Reasons Why Rushing Forgiveness Ruins Intimacy Sheila Wray Gregoire has been married for 27 years and happily married for 22! She loves traveling around North America with her hubby in their RV, giving her signature “Girl Talk” about sex and marriage. And she’s written 8 books. About sex and marriage. See a theme here? Plus she knits. Even in line at the grocery store.

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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57 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    I can SO relate to this. I didn’t have pain with sex, but I did have those same feelings of panic. I truly believed that if I didn’t offer sex frequently, even insist on it frequently, that my loyal and devoted husband would get that release somewhere else. I gauged our entire marriage on whether or not we were having sex often enough for my husband to be satisfied, and therefore stay with me. To be honest, I am still fighting it. I see the dangers and logically know it’s wrong but it was so completely ingrained in me from this false teaching, that I allowed fear to dominate our relationship. The Love and Respect book played a large role in wrongly teaching an entire generation of women who were trying to be godly in their marriage. Instead, those women developed fear and panic over “keeping their husband.” Sad. I’m so grateful for this series!

    Reply
  2. Emily

    (this comment has been removed due to abusive language)

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      Emily, if this bothers you so much, maybe you should find a different blog?

      Reply
    • Phil

      Well Now Emily – I believe that you mentioned Jesus in your reply. Apparently you are quite angry. Your insults are not what Jesus would do. Praying for you sister.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Thanks for jumping in, Phil! I didn’t actually see the comment–Rebecca deleted it earlier. I’m sitting in the Toronto airport right now so I may not be in the comments much today as I’ll be in the air most of the day, but I just wanted to say thank you!

        Reply
  3. Phil

    Good morning Sheila – I totally don’t have time for this today…and I am saddened by the insulting comment that was left. Regardless, Thank you for all you do. Can I please start out by saying this: I wish Keith would hang out here more often. I would love to hear more from him. It seems he is here mostly when you are in some sort of fight with another reader – usually male. It happened to me when I was going at it with you during the love and respect piece. I didn’t reply to him because I want my first interaction with him to be pleasant not controversial. I think his point of view would be helpful to all. Mind you Grace and I cross paths with our work sometimes and I generally don’t get involved with her stuff but I do usually hear more about problematic issues than the main content…..anyway I would love to get to know Keith more and I have tried a little where I could….anyway just my 2 cents. I have made no secret that Grace and I have been in a struggle of bit with our sex life since December. Our health issues in the house and my bipolar crap hasn’t helped much either. Here is the thing. I have historically been the taker of sex. She has been the giver. I have sought change in that area and have tried relentlessly to give to her but she just hasn’t let me. But you know what else? By giving to her it makes me feel wanted when she accepts it. This morning I was surprised by her laying under the covers (fully clothed) asking me to come lay with her. We laid together for an hour (hence why I don’t really have time for all this) And just talked and held each other. No sex. But you know what? SO SATISFYING. That is all I am asking from her. just participate. Just make me feel wanted. Lets make it mutual. She pretty much hasn’t had to do anything for 20 years because I chase her. All she has to do is be present and I am hooked into her. My eyes are on her at all times, I devour her. My hands are constantly on her (non sexually) except I do love her butt and my hands always find my way there! My Gracie is trying and I am quite grateful. The conversation is changing and we are talking and I didn’t know I was one of those guys that she has been telling me the same thing over and over again about don’t touch here or like this during sex. So talking about sex not during sex is where we are learning. I SO want mutual engagement with my wife. Emotionally, Spiritually, and Physically. This is what I have honestly been trying to do since 2011. Yes I have a ton of issues. I have shared a lot of them here. I also work my butt off to address myself too. The bottom line is my wife has issues too..and I have come to believe that her issues aren’t necessarily all caused by me. I believe that she does have the wrong messages about sex and mens needs and she’ll be slutty if she does X. etc. So she has to do work too. I am grateful that she is working on it now. I will complain and say it seems sometimes she is in the slow class….but you know what? I can see the progress now. I got her to listen to your podcast on Valentines day. And that night we had a conversation about it. It was not only helpful to our relationship it was fun…cuz we like Becca’s point of view…and we like to debate her too. 🙂 Looking forward the plan is for us to listen too the podcasts and then discuss them. So far I have had to push her which I don’t like…..so we shall see. But what I see with this post is more of what I have been pushing around here since day 1. BOTH PARTIES MUST DO THE WORK. PEOPLE – Don’t deny the gift that God has intended for you. Do the work with your spouse and you will have abundant joy and you will be blessed. Thanks Sheila – have great day…. and everyone else too!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Totally agree, Phil! Both parties must do the work. And I think it’s very easy for women especially to do basically nothing. We do need to be challenged to go outside our comfort zone a little more!

      Keith would likely comment more if we weren’t so darn busy. Also, he’s the kind of person who agonizes over every sentence, and doesn’t understand how I can just type without thinking about it for quite a while first. So it takes him a long time to write a comment because he feels like he has to be very exact (it’s likely the doctor in him!). But I’ll tell him that you’d love to hear from him more. 🙂

      Reply
      • Phil

        Thanks – I hear ya on the time consuming issue. If you knew how many times I pour over my comments and edit and rethink and how long they take to compose sometimes, you would ask me if I actually did anything else. I hope youre not flying Air Canada. Phil waved to Keith. 👋🏻

        Reply
  4. Becky

    I can SO relate to everything in here. It took us 4 tries to consummate on our honeymoon, because it was so excruciating for me. My poor husband has often gone for 4-6 weeks at a time or more without sex, mostly without complaining, while I’ve tried to work on my vaginismus. And I’m sorry to say that, more often than not, when we have had sex, it’s been largely out of guilt on my part, because I feel like I’m failing him. It’s hard to ignore all those messages about “his needs” when you grew up in the church, and especially after spending the entirety of my teens and twenties hearing that thinking about sex when you’re single is sinful, and I basically just needed to turn all of that off until I was married, because all of that energy and wishful thinking just somehow needed to be channeled into ministry or something. (I didn’t meet my husband until I was 30, so that’s a LOT of time to absorb that.) Changing the conversation is definitely a good thing for the younger generation, but I think there also needs to be some attention to undoing the damage for those of us who have had to live with this, and I’m glad that you do spend time on these issues. I wish more marriage bloggers did, since most of the information I find there goes back to sex all being in my head, and it’s so much more complicated than that when physical pain is involved.

    Side note, I read the article that you linked to. It’s appalling, but really not surprising at all, how little attention has been paid to studying female sexual dysfunction. Especially considering that it often causes physical pain for us whereas men just have embarrassment. No wonder I’ve had so much trouble finding information, let alone practical help, for my vaginismus.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi Becky! I do think of you often, and wish I could help you more with what you’re going through. I, too, was really saddened by that article and what it said about the difference between medical research regarding premature ejaculation/erectile dysfunction and actual physical pain on the part of women. Yes, women’s pain doesn’t seem to be considered very much, and it is very, very sad. So much so that most women don’t even realize vaginismus is a thing, and then when they experience it, they don’t realize that it’s actually relatively common and they’re not alone! But even many physicians don’t know what to do with it. So sad.

      Reply
      • Becky

        It actually has gotten much better than when I started commenting here! I still haven’t figured out how to orgasm, or often just making it feel good, but I can manage pain free most of the time now, and that actually is a huge step. I’m thankful that my doctor took me seriously enough to send me for physical therapy. And I think my husband is more willing to understand now, though he’s always been good about not being pushy. Of course, every time we’ve gotten to a place where we feel.ready to really work through it all, I get pregnant and throw it all.off again, lol.

        Reply
      • Natalie

        I just read that article too, and honestly, I think a HUGE reason why men raised in the past 20-40 years think women’s pain during sex is normal or acceptable is because of porn. The more I learn about porn, the more I’m convinced that porn’s roots in our culture (&, really, our world as a whole) run WAY deeper and are more damaging than anyone realizes. It’s not only affecting men’s sexual development mentally and emotionally and how they relate to their sexual partner(s), but also how they view and interact with women as a whole on a daily basis. Even if the woman isn’t being harmed per se in a specific porn video, it’s almost always still the man inflicting control over the woman. It’s his right to use the woman’s body for his pleasure. And plus, she’s moaning so she must be liking it, right? (I think a lot of men misinterpret moans of pain or being physically or emotionally uncomfortable with moans of pleasure due to watching porn which rarely distinguishes between different types of moans).
        And that doesn’t even touch extreme porn genres that are terrifyingly on the rise, like violent porn (choking is standard, run-of-the-mill stuff now that’s commonplace in “non-extreme” porn), gangbang (which imo should really be called gang rape porn), women being penetrated by more than 1 thing at a time, etc. In porn, men are so fixated on dominating a woman and her orifices that I really don’t think they could care less if the woman is experiencing pain or pleasure. And whether men in real life want that to translate into their actual sex lives, I think it is. It’s carrying over just as the Love & Respect message has harmfully carried over into the lives and marriages of Christian women.

        I don’t see our culture at large getting better on this topic anytime in the near future. And I think no matter what we do, at least a little of that will carry over into Christian spheres simply because we’re in the world even if we’re not of it. And when it comes to Christian marriages, I don’t know how to correct this issue. I have no personal experience with this in my marriage, which has been porn-free for only several months but in which the residual affects of porn are still strongly being felt in our sex life and relationship as a whole. But I know God works miracles, and thankfully we have great people out there like you, Shiela, who are helping to turn the tide and views on sex within the church (which is so desperately needed!).

        Reply
        • Madeline

          I totally agree that porn is wreaking havoc in a lot of peoples’ lives and its especially unhealthy and wrong for Christians. But dare I say, I don’t think that porn is the root cause of so many men’s misunderstanding or lack of empathy toward women. Many of us grew up hearing from Christians that sex is for the husband to have physical release and while obviously some of these men may have a closet porn issue, I really think many of them probably don’t. I think the problem is much larger than that. The disproportionate research being devoted to men’s erectile dysfunction vs. women’s *pain* during sex is another example that I doubt is motivated by porn.

          I just also have to say..if a man is really confusing your moans of pain for moans of pleasure or just assuming that it is supposed to be painful for you (a woman), he probably isn’t just confused from porn…he may have worse character flaws than he watches porn. A man should not be uncaring that you are in intense pain while he’s having sex with you.

          Reply
    • Janean Fuller

      As a Christian Sex Therapist I see lots and lots and lots of Christian wives with vagunismus. Mostly because of the disservice we’ve done in the church’s teaching on sex and perfectionistic or legalistic teaching. Vaginismus is just as much a spiritual and emotional problem as it is physically. A woman who has Vaginismus needs to see a Christian Sex Therapist as well as a pelvic floor specialist if needed. Most doctors just prescribe lidocaine and tell her to just relax. As if she can!

      Reply
      • Becky

        Janean,
        Do you have any resources on how to even find one? I’ve looked into it before, but all I’ve been able to find are secular counselors that are over an hour’s drive away. I’m pretty sure I’d have to take an airplane to find a Christian one! And I seriously doubt that a local church counselor would be equipped to deal with this sort of issue, based on my experience.

        Reply
  5. Kathryn

    This is so great Sheila!!
    It is so sad to me how messed up our talk about sex has become in the church’s, and like you said we need to start talking about sex in a different way. Thank you so much for being that person to step up and giving a new message! We all need it. I love all your posts!! It has helped me a lot in my growth of looking at sex in better way, rather than what I was raised with and heard all my life that sex is for men and we need to give it to them. So thank you very much!!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      You’re so welcome, Kathryn! And I’m so glad you’ve found this helpful

      Reply
    • Janean Fuller

      Kathryn,
      You are so right! I love all of Sheila’s posts. I’m amazed at her deep wisdom, love and care for the church. As a Christian Sex Therapist myself I have never once disagreed with anything she’s ever taught! Keep it going Sheila!

      Reply
  6. Csab

    It took 3 months for us to have sex after wedding.

    The trick was to love my wife unconditionally. After feeling her safe it worked.

    The more I wanted sex, the less it worked.

    🙂

    Reply
  7. ThePhilZone

    Sheila, I am so sorry to read more about your early marriage difficulties. You married a good man. Personally, this whole topic saddens me on many levels. As a generality, I view most church and book advice on sex written by men to be solely for the advancement of the male sexual agenda. And an immature agenda at that. I’m a guy and I am saying this. I’m proud to say that I read and take seriously the words of a christian, female blogger. My wife thinks it’s awesome. Bottom line for me is that until men and women understand that sex was set up to be mutual, physical, emotional and spiritual, there will be problems. This should be a given and demanded by both spouses. This is the goal. For physically healthy couples out there, I believe this goal is reachable. Educate your man. Let him know this is the way you want it, and the way God created it. Let him know you expect satisfying, mutual sex. Deep down good husbands want this. Now if mutual orgasm is the goal, ladies, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. I’ve read a lot around here about body issues, dislike of touching, kissing and various foreplay maneuvers. I don’t pretend to understand these issues or discount them. However, I believe most husbands want to please their wives but they either don’t know how or the wife won’t let them. The ladder is the saddest of the two.

    Reply
  8. Natalie

    While sex wasn’t painful for us at first, I knew that he’d watched porn in his past and didn’t know whether or not to believe him when he said he no longer watched it. I felt like I had to say yes to every time he wanted sex so he wouldn’t go back to porn, even though sex only lasted 5-10 minutes including foreplay (usually 1-3 minutes of him furiously rubbing my crotch) and did nothing for me physically and very little for me emotionally and only in the right, perfectly romantic situations. I almost always felt like a body to be used. But based on what I’d been taught about sex and how a wife should not refuse her husband unless she has a really good reason (which I didn’t feel like I had), I gave in most of the time unless I was seriously not in the mood or very tired or he didn’t proposition me until we are already half asleep. I think also a part of me felt like only sexually promiscuous secular women were the ones who had orgasms, and like that wasn’t something Christian women had because married sex was more about the man’s release and the woman finding emotional satisfaction from the interaction.
    Since we’re still having issues with me orgasming from my husband’s touch, I’ll admit, I often still feel like what’s the point with all this trying and trying. It takes forever and never ends in my orgasm anyway. It’s just easier to finish him and go to bed. At least one of us gets satisfaction then that way. And now that we’ve introduced a vibrator, my husband will just use that so I’m not frustrated. But even though I orgasm now, I’m still frustrated. It feels not intimate and I still often feel like a body being used, probably cuz my body doesn’t respond to him as I wish it did. And I think a deep root of that is because it’s still embedded in my brain that my pleasure is secondary to his. That is SUCH a difficult teaching to unteach!!! Especially when it’s been in there since I first learned anything about sex around age 9 or 10 and I’m 29 now. Reading this blog daily really helps to chip away at those damaging teachings, but it’s still a difficult task.

    Reply
  9. I desire mutual

    “Both of you should give and receive; both of you should feel loved and cherished. If those things are not true, then something is off.”

    I assume that when you say “Both of you should give and receive”, that should include sexual orgasm, not just a back-rub for one, and an orgasm for the other?

    The term “mutual” has meaning, and redefining “mutual” to mean something that doesn’t look mutual (90% of the time one spouse climaxes, and the other spouse doesn’t even get aroused, but is “satisfied” with a conversation), is helpful to an intimate relationship. It certainly can make the person who is hesitant to change feel more comfortable, but it doesn’t move the needle in the relationship.

    For me, mutual means both spouses experience the highs of the sexual experience on a regular basis. Is that your feeling as well or do you find exception to that? I’m not saying both spouse always have to climax, but if it’s a 10/1 or 20/1 relationship, is that really mutual? Or does that mean that there’s something to work on?

    Reply
    • Phil

      Ill answer that – for a while over the past couple years my wife and I were 10/7 and then 10/5 then 10/3 then 10/1. Me beng 10 ofcourse. See the problem? I felt it happening. I would think you would want it be no less than 10/7. To me anything less than that says you need work unless ofcourse you are both honestly ok with your arrangement. I would love 10/10 but then again I am an over achiever and my wife tells me she is ok with not having the big O all the time. I hear that from some healthy women around here too. Then there are the women and men who are so blessed where its 15/10. Woman being 15. Now that would be awesome. Now There is a gift I wish I could give.

      Reply
    • Daniel

      I desire mutual: I’m a man, and I do everything I can to ensure that my wife experiences sexual highs on a regular basis. For us, the sexual satisfaction ‘rating’ for wife/husband is 10/10… the climax ‘ratio’ is something more like 5/1… and not because I don’t O every time ;). Mutual means give as much as you can. It’s never about what I can get out of the experience, it’s always what can I do please her. Practicing this for many years has brought us to a place that I can do whatever I want with my wife. Since I put her needs first, I never find myself in a place that will violate her trust, and because of that I truly believe that few couples on earth enjoy sex the way my wife and I do.

      Sex is one of those areas in life that we should never stop trying to give more. My wife and I have incredible sex, but we are constantly looking for ways to improve. Every year we have a conversations that ends with both of us wondering how it could possibly get better?! But we always find a way (like a wedge pillow!). Or by me helping out more around the house. Or simply saying nice things that lift her up.

      You cay be “satisfied” with a nibble of a bakers chocolate, but a slice of costco’s 4 layer chocolate fudge cake takes things to a whole new level. Make your wife feel proud to call you husband, friend, and lover, and your marriage will be taken to a whole new level… and sex along with it.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Love it, Daniel!

        Reply
      • I desire mutual

        That is a wonderful story. I believe it can be real, but it really does take both partners to make it that way. My wife believes the lies, and had given up on having sex be good for her also. She therefore falls back to giving it for me because that’s better than nothing. And nothing is the alternative in her mind.

        Reply
  10. Janean Fuller

    It is so refreshing to see a blog about this. Unfortunately, women in the church are taught to give “duty sex” and not really listen to their own desires and needs. Instead of it being mutually satisfying, she’s feeling good that she’s being a good Christian wife, but she ‘s killing her own desire long term! One of the first things we do as Christian Sex Therapists is tell a couple no more doing the duty; both of you need to be all in! Or at the very least there needs to mutually satisfying touch for both physically during a lovemaking session. Maybe she wants a back massage…

    Reply
  11. Kate

    Sheila, I have learned so much about myself and sex in marriage from your blog, as a single woman. This weeks topics have made me look at sex and depriving in a whole new light. Amazing! How did we go from don’t deprive EACH OTHER to WIVES don’t deprive your HUSBANDS. It’s shocking how i missed that. I need to be careful in reading scripture because this is how we’re are easily deceived.

    I’m also going to an OBGYN soon. Reading your wedding night horror story broke my heart. I fear that will be my story too so i need to see a Doctor to affirm whether or not actually have vaginismus. You have no idea what a blessing your blog has been. You were the first Christian marriage blog i found and through you i found other bloggers, males included that i enjoy to read. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Natalie

      Yay! I’m glad you made a gyno appt, Kate! Hope it goes well & you gain more understanding.

      Reply
  12. Chris

    I am saying a prayer right now for all the women who come to this blog seeking healing advice for their marital relationships and a special prayer for Emily above and the Gregoire family.

    Reply
  13. Kate

    I also need to add how cruel world is to women. The constant fire breathing down our backs about threats of husbands leaving us for all sorts of things, i.e. not having enough sex, gaining weight, stretch marks, cellulite, etc. etc. My word no wonder so many women have insecurities! The fall has equally affected men too, their beer guts, most are average looking at best, they have stretch marks, cellulite, etc. and yet women don’t run around telling me to have chiseled bodies and handsome faces or women will leave them.

    I mean no offense when i say this, i went to the grocery store this morning and the amount of unattractive, unfit, unkempt, average looking men walking around i saw compared to women who were beautiful was shocking. Men can look like slobs while women aren’t even allowed to look below 9/10. THEY should be the ones greatful we put up with their below average looks. Seriously! If you don’t look like Brad Pitt then don’t request an Angelina Jolie. Simple! If you will leave your wife over things like this make sure you’re a GQ model otherwise learn to love and cherish the wife you chose.

    I’m sick and tired of women having to operate on this earth with constant fear because sinful men demand perfection out of them. Sick of it!

    Reply
    • ThePhilZone

      Kate,
      I totally get your double standard objections but the tables are indeed turning. When I listen to my collage daughter talking to her friends I am thankful I’m not a 20 year old male any more. The average Joe doesn’t stand a chance. Pay close attention to tv, movies, ads etc. Both sexes are unfairly portrayed. My life is so much happier now that I don’t watch cable news and any media objectifying men, women or glorifying sex outside of marriage. I turn it all off. I don’t want my head filled with crap. I feel bad for the younger generations because they generally value the wrong things imo.

      Reply
      • Kate

        I’m going to be honest with you Phil, there is a wicked sense of pleasure in me seeing the tables being turned. I know we’re not to pay evil for evil, but sometimes seeing people reap what they sowed, makes me smile in vindication. To see men getting judged like they once judged us women get no sympathy from me. I’m not trying to brag but i myself am an attractive woman, people tell me this everyday, and modeling agencies have recruited me. However, it’s shocking how the most average looking Joe demands that i should be with him just because he is lusting after me.

        These are the same men who wouldn’t have given me a chance had i looked average like them or who would divorce me the moment a stretch mark is seen on my body after carrying a life. Maybe if men operated through their heads and not their penis like Christ commanded perhaps they wouldn’t be reaping what they sowed. Don’t get me wrong for me personally i have no problem with the average Joe, as long as he loves Christ, but what i’m saying is i sympathize with women who are using the same measuring scale to judge men that was once used against them.

        You’re right men nowadays by my gender have it hard. I’m 28 and hear women wanting men that resemble what they see in media. Handsome beyond average. And men have themselves to blame for that. I mean look at that ugly dude, Gavin McInnes, he has the never to make a video scoring women 1-10 when he himself is barely 1/10. I feel like it’s God’s punishment on men for their failure to obey his command not to lust after women, and now He’s letting them know how it feels.

        Reply
        • Dylan Randall

          Kate, there’s something you said that doesn’t add up to me. If average men demand hot women more than average women demand hot men, then why does an average woman get more attention than an average guy? As long as a woman isn’t extremely unattractive, she will get some attention. But an average guy often gets NO attention.

          And a lot of the reason that women may look better than men on average is because women try to look good for other women, for some strange, bizarre-as-heck-to-us-men reason. We men don’t care how we look to other guys. But that being said, there are as many overweight women as overweight men, are there not?

          Reply
          • Madeline

            Dylan, I think that women tend to get more attention from men because men are usually the ones who show initiative to approach the women, ask her out, etc. Some of this could be men’s nature. Like maybe men are wired to be the ones to pursue? But I also think its largely engrained in us by society and culture, because when I worked in restaurants I noticed that guys of different ethnic backgrounds approached me differently and some were just more likely to actually ask me for my number. (Is that okay to say?? Not trying to make it weird) I think this too is a clue that culture plays a role in how the genders relate to each other.

            As far as why we (women) care about what women think of us (sometimes even more than men!)..I really don’t know what that’s about. My husband and I were also talking about that earlier this week. Men care that they look attractive to women and (straight) women care that they look attractive to women as well. Ha!

          • Kate

            Because men peruse women traditionally. However in today’s Western culture where women are encouraged to pursue they also tend to pursue good looking men. Why do you think on every female erotic books, the men are handsome 10/10, chiseled, six packs, etc. It’s because when women have equal opportunity to pursue men they are just as look obsessed as men. Average guys get far more attention than average women. That’s why people often say, how did she end up with him! It’s a running joke for a reason. Just look around you and observe the amount of ugly men married to women who are out of their leagues.

            And yes you men do care about how you look to other men. That’s why you fight to have the hottest chick on your arms to show off to the guys around you, as a trophy. Women try to look attractive to other men not women. Nowhere is the more evident than at women Bible study. Where women come casually dressed since there will be no men there or mommy gathering groups. Why do you think the stereotype women “let themselves go” after they marry, exists? it’s because once they have the man they don’t need to compete any more. But if they were dressing for women they would continue to dress even after marriage.

            Again, usually the only single men on earth are those who are looking for Angelina Jolie when they don’t look like Brad Pitt. If a man is single often he chose to be single. If a women is single it’s because usually no good man is perusing her. The ball is in your court first before it gets to the woman.

    • Madeline

      Weird, just the other day my husband and I were saying how “dad bod” is pretty acceptable for men; some women even have a thing for it (not saying this is good or bad, just a thought). It occurred to us that there is not an equal acceptance for “mom bod.” Sure there are good looking moms, but those moms don’t have the “mom bod,” they’re usually the ones that look effortlessly young and fit..double standards for sure.

      Of course, I have to add that I really don’t feel any pressure from my own husband to look ultra thin. I put pressure on myself to keep up my appearance..actually it has been incredibly healing that since we first got together I’ve definitely put on weight, and he told me he really likes me having more..ahem, cushioning and such. Sometimes I look in the mirror and think wow I need to lose ten+ pounds. My mom is very petite in build. But for many years while I was growing up she would say “I’m chubby” or “I need to lose weight,” even though she was 5’6 ish and weighed about 110 lbs…that is a trim person! I think my own body build is supposed to be a little bigger than her’s, but when I noticed I was filling out more, as many people do when they reach adulthood, I felt like I was turning into a pig or something. My husband sat me down and made me repeat after him – my mom’s build is not the *norm* for most women. I am a normal weight and I am attractive at the size I am.

      I know that was a weird tangent, but maybe someone else needed to ponder how their upbringing has caused them to believe something about their weight or appearance that isn’t true. I thank God that I was never bullied by my mom to stay trim – I had friends whose moms did that to their perfectly healthy daughters and it was so sad. But sometimes we pick up on messages that weren’t even explicitly taught to us.

      Reply
  14. Anonymous

    I think one of the problems is defining mutual sex. My wife of nearly 40 years defines it as one or two times a month sexual intercourse. I, on the other hand, would define it as at least once a week. For the past 20+ years, we have followed her definition….I will not impose my desire on her because I love her.

    Reply
  15. Stephen

    Well done Sheila! As a loving husband of 20+ years I have often struggled with the “man needs sex” paradigm, and it nearly killed our sex life at one point. Since I have come to terms with the fact that I don’t actually need sex to love and respect my wife (who, bless her soul, has loved me regardless throughout) our marriage has improved dramatically – and so has our sex life!

    Men need to know this just as much as women do. We are brought up with this “fact”, and we take it into our marriages and destroy what is meant to be a wonderful union. Thank you for putting it down on paper, as it were. Now if we could just get the hubbies to read… 😀

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks, Stephen! And, yes, you’re right–men need this message too. I think men are missing out on the wonderful intimacy that God really intended sex to be. And wen we make sex into something that’s only about fulfilling his physical needs, we turn it into obligation sex, which can absolutely kill any desire for it that she has. It hurts everybody!

      Reply
  16. Andrea

    I went to a Christian college where it was common for young brides to be anywhere from disappointed to disgusted by sex. Their new husbands thought porn was real and they, having been raised in the purity movement, didn’t know where their own clitoris was, let alone being able to show their husbands how it works.

    Fortunately for me, I got a clue that it could be different from a secular friend’s story about her first sexual experiences with her boyfriend. (Before this I wondered if secular girls were only pretending to like sex.) She also found intercourse painful, but he would stop immediately and they would finish each other off by other means. Over time she was able to take him in for longer and when he finished inside her for the first time they high-fived in bed. It was such a cute story and I thought, why not take this approach that seems so much kinder to women and just apply it in Christian marriages? Sheila mentioned in another post that she gets treated more respectfully by men in secular environments than in Christians ones and I’m afraid the same is often true in the bedroom. Why are Christian kids being taught that “a man’s need is so strong, once he gets going he can’t stop” while secular sex ed classes teach the rule that “the partner who is getting penetrated is the one who sets the pace”? Which one sound more rape-y and which more Christ-like?

    How can a man maintain his erection and keep thrusting while his wife is crying in pain underneath him, even if she is the one insisting on it? (I’m close to women who are currently going through this, so if I sound angry, it’s on their behalf.) I suppose that men are also victims of the system that views women as inconveniently sentient sperm buckets (or in the euphemistic language of Love&Respect, “your husband has sexual needs that you, as a woman, can never, ever understand.”). Is it their fault for believing what their pastors told them? Are there any men out there who knew those messages were wrong even though as kids they couldn’t articulate why? I’m glad we’re focusing on women for a change, but I think we also need to talk about how these harmful messages dehumanize men as well and turn them into unwitting (marital) rapists.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      Agree wholeheartedly.

      On our wedding night, after a lot of awkward struggles, I asked for him to just push hard, and then grimaced for the next few minutes. To me, that was a necessary step in our marriage, and I am a huge believer in just ripping the band-aid off and getting the bad stuff over with. (Nothing against women wired differently!)

      But it’s been a struggle since then to get my husband to understand that my pain is something that we both need to deal with, proactively and with some sense of urgency. It’s not that he doesn’t care… he just sort of pussyfoots around on fixing it, if that makes sense. (Also, I have never climaxed.)

      I wish men understood how much power they have in bed. Except for women who enjoy intercourse in almost all circumstances, the sum total of the pleasure we receive is the pleasure they are willing to give us, while asking for nothing in return while doing so. (Is that a ladylike way of saying something rather R-rated about our clitorises?)

      It takes two to make it work, and men… can take far too long to understand exactly how much they need to change. Forget porn – even mainstream movies portray sex as inherently and easily pleasurable for the woman, so long as the man is loving and tender.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Very true! We spend a lot of time telling women not to ever reject their husbands, and very little time telling men how to be good lovers (or even that they should).

        Reply
        • Anonymous

          I don’t mean to sound like my husband does not care, but he feels very adrift and without guidance on how to be a good lover. He actually googled it before we got married, and was appalled by the results (essentially, lots of porn).

          Reply
          • Daniel

            Anonymous: If your husband truly wants to learn how to be a good lover, have him read as many articles as he can on this blog. Sheila knows her stuff! Even a couple who has been married for 30+ years can learn new ways to show love. (if that doesn’t work, perhaps I can talk with him 1 on 1? I would be willing to do that in a heartbeat)

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Andrea, honestly, one of the things that I grieve about the most, and that I struggle with the most, is that it often is non-Christians who understand this better. In my surveys, though, Christian women do enjoy sex more (and other surveys have also found that!). But I think that non-Christians sometimes do have a better way to talking about this regardless. And it makes me sad. It should not be this way.

      I have always felt like this to a certain extent, but over the last year it’s like a veil has been lifted. It started with all the stories of sex abuse in the church, and I just thought–“these people who are giving all this teaching–they have no right to even be up there!” I’m just mad. I know God is mad and that God grieves. And I think it’s time to start speaking out more.

      This teaching does dehumanize men, too. It hurts both men and women. And I do believe that both men and women ultimately really need intimacy. Any teaching that turns sex into something that is impersonal taking rather than intimate sharing hurts us all. It’s not a women’s issue; it’s a person’s issue. And it needs to be said, loudly and clearly.

      Reply
      • ThePhilZone

        Sheila, I believe most/many men are narcissists. I also believe most/many women are attracted to that personality profile. You know, alpha male, confident, dominant decision maker, very social, athletic, all that stuff. But along with it comes a complete admiration of themselves, with no regard toward anyone else. I don’t think most men ever break out of this mold, However, many women do and find great guys. I can’t stress enough how important it is to choose wisely. If your partner, male or female can’t communicate intimately at all 5 levels while you are dating, why would they change once married. If they can’t make the time and effort to communicate intimately once married, why would a women be shocked when a man is selfish in bed. He has been selfish his whole life on many levels. Do you see what I did here. I correlated levels of intimate communication, personality profile and a man’s desire for mutual sexual satisfaction. In other words, if they don’t talk and are self centered out on the bedroom, why would things change once inside the bedroom. That’s the rub. Many women get swept off their feet in the beginning and actually reward this narcissistic behavior. Once real life sets in it may be too late. Moral of the story, choose wisely and do your homework on your potential spouse. Study him. Project your life into the future with him and imagine what it looks like. You’re bedroom happiness may have been foreshadowed years earlier in something very obvious but unrelated.

        Reply
        • Dylan Randall

          I agree with Phil when he writes that most/many women are attracted to narcissists, the “alpha male, confident, dominant decision maker, very social, athletic, all that stuff.” And that “many women get swept off their feet in the beginning and actually reward this narcissistic behavior.” I often feel that women complain how selfish men are, and yet are the ones ensuring that men as a group remain selfish.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I think that many women aren’t really taught what is good for us at all. And that has to stop. I hope this blog is part of that.

          • Lindsey

            I don’t think most men are narcissistic, that’s a serious personality disorder. I think most men (and most women) are inherently selfish. Society (and hormones) condition women towards being nurturing. Unfortunately many men don’t get the same training.

            As far as being an “Alpha male” and “athletic”, this doesn’t make someone self- absorbed. Some of the best guys that I knew growing up were athletic, “alpha” types. And an attraction towards this type of male is as biologically hard-wired in women as sexual attraction to the female form is in men (and just like there are variances in what guys think is attractive, there are different alpha characteristics that stand out more to certain women.). When a woman is ovulating she prefers men with facial hair, because it’s a sign of masculinity. But even more than that, women want to be with “strong” men and strong leaders because women desire security. We just need to teach girls to look for emotionally strong men as well. But I would never encourage my daughter to marry a guy with no motivation or drive, who lacked the characteristic masculine traits – anymore than I would encourage my sons to marry a nagging, manipulative woman. I don’t think that’s women looking for the wrong thing, I think sometimes we just don’t look deep enough to see if that strength translates to strength of character, as well.

  17. EM

    Sheila, your story broke my heart! I’m so sorry you went through that. I too wish I could go back to my 21 year old newlywed self and tell her it was ok to take a break from sex when it hurt. I didn’t have vaginismus, but I did have dryness from the pill and just a lot of soreness that I kept pushing through, never giving myself a chance to heal. My sweet husband would go slow and ask if I was ok, but I always said yes. Just the other night we had a conversation that ended in me sobbing. I had been looking forward to an at-home date night after the kids went to bed, but he had an upset stomach and said he’d rather just go to sleep. In that moment I realized he had NO thought of guilt or that I might fantasize about other men the next day because he said no to me. For the first time ever, I explained to him the fear that most Christian wives live with – that if we don’t have sex often enough, or husbands will be unfaithful. I surprised myself at how deep that fear ran and how hard I cried once I said it out loud. I don’t think I have EVER said no to him our entire marriage. I do really enjoy sex now, but I told him I want to feel the same freedom to say no if I need to that he feels. I haven’t tried it yet, but I think it will be a big step for me!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Wow, what a breakthrough, EM! It sounds like your husband is very open and sympathetic, though, so I’d say trust him and let his love for you lend you some healing as well!

      Reply
  18. Rockstar

    I listened to the podcast about this topic and it prompted a question. I absolutely agree that we do men a disservice by telling them they will always struggle with lust, and it’s women’s responsibility to help them. So my question- what are some resources other than the “Every Man’s Battle” series I can give my teen son?

    Reply
  19. Ange

    The more and more I think about Eggerich’s claim that men have a “need for release” that women do not have, te more illogical it seems.

    Do men have a “need to release” switch that turns on after the say ‘I do’ and become a husband? How is this need to release satisfied righteously before marriage or in singleness if it is an all encompassing male need?

    In my thoughts, its illogical.

    Reply
  20. Kayla

    Sheila, I’m so sorry you went through that pain! Personally I wasn’t able to handle it and we settled for “close enough” (not fully connecting) for over 7 years!! And yes, it wasn’t his fault, I’m the one who initiates. Finally I found out all it took was lubricant.

    Reply
  21. DK

    Sheila I just want to say thank you for this beautiful and freeing article. So FREEING. It’s like my eyes are being opened to see all the ways I’ve been brainwashed by the typical Christian teachings about men and sex, and it’s sad because I genuinely read a lot of those things (before marriage) out of a desire to be a good wife. But I’m also seeing that there was also an underlying fear driving me to get as much information as I could about sex in marriage because I was afraid of losing love. Now as a newlywed, I’m seeing how the mix of the fear and wrong information has resulted in causing me anxiety around sex. But God is using your words to help shine light on my darkness, and cleanse my mind, thank you! And God bless you <3

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, I’m so glad this is helping you! That’s wonderful!

      Reply

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