Why We Need a New Definition of Sex

by | Mar 13, 2019 | Uncategorized | 78 comments

Changing what intimacy in marriage means to something affirming to BOTH parties!
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What does it mean to have sex with your husband?

That may seem like a silly question, but it’s what I’ve been building up to on the blog and in my podcasts for the last few weeks.

And here’s why the definition matters: I believe that sex is an intrinsic and vital part of marriage. I believe that God designed sex to be a marvelous expression of intimacy, and a wonderful gift for both of us, which miraculously is also the way that children are made.

Unfortunately, these things are not always present in many people’s sexual lives. Instead, their sex life in marriage is more about one person taking pleasure while using the other. It is about one person doing all the giving, and one person doing all the receiving. And that’s not healthy.

If I were to ask people to define a sexual encounter, though, that unhealthy version of sex wouldn’t be off the table. When it comes down to it, most people’s definition of sex goes something like this:

Man Inserts Penis Into Woman’s Vagina and Moves Until He Reaches Climax

I do agree that this is part of a healthy sex life. But it is only a part. And when that part becomes the whole, we miss out on what God meant for us.

Because we define sex this way, we can quickly run into problems.

If God tells us that we’re not supposed to deprive one another of sex, and then we define sex as a man putting his penis into her vagina until he climaxes, then women feel that they have to invite their husbands, and even welcome their husbands, to have very, very one-sided sex.

That sort of belief is what led to me forcing myself to have sex early in our marriage, even though I suffered from vaginismus and it hurt horribly. It was a sin to refuse sex, and sex was all about a man penetrating a woman until he climaxed.

That sort of belief has led to a lot of confusion in the comments lately. I’ve been suggesting different ways that women can try to communicate with their husbands that they need more out of sex, and that they don’t want to be treated like objects. I’ve suggested that women tell their husbands that they want to have passionate sex, but they’re no longer just willing to have intercourse without their needs also being taken into consideration. As I’ve done so, I’ve had a lot of comments and emails like this one:

I just think refusing to have sex with your spouse is kind of like giving them the silent treatment, and it inflames hostility and misunderstanding more than anything.

I absolutely agree. Flat out refusing to have sex with your spouse IS like giving them the silent treatment. It does often inflame hostility.

However, I was not advising that people refuse to have sex. What I was advising was that it’s okay for women to say:

I will no longer have intercourse with you when you penetrate me without any thought to my experience or any attempt to consider me in the process.

Do you see how that’s an entirely different thing?

Yet because we think that Sex = Man Puts his Penis Into Woman’s Vagina, we continue to believe that our own experience is more of an afterthought or an extra.

If women believed that our own experience mattered, then when we first married, we would be expecting that he would also pleasure us, or that he would start sex with a back rub, or that he would try to woo us. But because we tend to believe that our own experience is irrelevant compared to his experience (since sex consists of him moving and him climaxing), then we often get into this rut where sex becomes all about him.

And that’s why we need a new definition of sex.

Sex, the way that the Bible defines it, is not just Man Puts Penis Inside Woman’s Vagina Until Man Climaxes. Sex is intercourse, yes, but it is intercourse for the purpose of deeply knowing each other (see the Hebrew word for sex in Genesis 4:1), meaning that both people matter. It is intercourse with the expectation that both of you will feel pleasure from it and will desire it (see how sex in 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 is completely mutual).

If you were to tell your husband:

“I want to make love with you. I want to be passionate with you. I want to look forward to our times together because I feel as if we’re really close and having fun together. But I can’t do that if you rush through intercourse, don’t try to make me feel good, and don’t even talk to me. So from on, if we’re going to make love, I need you to spend some time helping me feel good, even if it’s just starting with a massage. And I’d like to feel as if you want to know me, not just that you want your body to feel good inside mine.”

you would not be refusing sex.

Let’s Change How We Think About Sex!

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

Feel like something’s missing?

On the contrary, you would be refusing to be treated like an object for the purpose of finally experiencing ACTUAL sex–the kind that God designed. All you’re saying is: I will no longer be treated like an object, but instead I would like to be treated as a person who is loved and who matters.

God loves you. You matter to God. And God wants you to experience that affirmation through making love as well.

And even more than that–that’s what God wants for your husband, too. God wants your husband to know the wonders of true intimacy. God wants your husband to feel real passion. God wants your husband to feel truly known and vulnerable and open with you, too.

Saying that you won’t be treated like an object is not refusing sex. It is refusing to be used.

If your husband does not go along with that, he is the one refusing sex, not you. He is refusing to treat sex in a mutual, intimate way as God intended, and he is preferring to have sex in an impersonal way where he uses you.

Do you see the difference? (Please tell me you see the difference!).

You’re not depriving him of sex. You’re depriving him of the chance to treat you like an object!

Saying that you want sex to be about both of you and you will no longer be treated like an object is not refusing sex. It is refusing to be used. If your husband refuses to go along with that, HE is the one refusing sex, not you.

The pushback I’ll get, I know, is that it’s good to be selfless and giving. Therefore we should let our husbands do this. And that would be true if God created sex only to be about physical release (as Emerson Eggerichs said in Love & Respect). But God didn’t. God created sex as the primary vehicle by which we would understand true relational intimacy and vulnerability. If we give to our husbands in such a way that we make sex only about physical release, then we actually deprive them of the chance to understand real intimacy.

I know this is radical for woman to hear. But as I have started to talk about this more over the last few weeks, I have had so many women come forward and say that they just can’t put those kinds of repercussions on their husbands, because their husbands wouldn’t take it well. That totally is your prerogative, of course. But let me just remind you that God’s vision for your marriage is of a mutual experience where you truly know each other. Allowing him to treat you like an object is not hastening that. It is making it less likely.

(You can listen to my podcast from a few weeks ago where I addressed this directly in the reader segment section–and told how you can have this conversation without attacking him, but affirming him instead! This doesn’t need to be an antagonistic conversation, after all!)

Working towards godly sex, though, is not something that only women are yearning for. Men are, too!

I have so many men on this blog who comment about how desperately they want their wives to understand what God made sex for. These men don’t want sex to be just about them thrusting until they climax. They want to know their wives intimately and to be passionate WITH their wives, but their wives refuse, thinking that by letting their husbands penetrate them while they lie there they’re “doing their duty”. No! It’s not about duty! It’s about passion and knowing each other. Enthusiasm matters, too.

God made sex to show us what it means to be both passionate and vulnerable at the same time.

He wants us to feel very intimate and close with each other. He designed women’s sexual response so that we usually take longer to warm up, and so that we usually need attention besides intercourse, so that the husband would have to cater to the wife in a way that doesn’t bring the husband direct pleasure. That way sex is about the relationship.

It takes vulnerability for a woman to open up and tell her husband what she likes and what makes her feel good. And it takes vulnerability for a man to try things to pleasure her, and admit that he doesn’t know entirely what he’s doing. He has to not just focus on what he’s feeling, but he has to open up and listen to her and think of her.

And then, as we do experience pleasure, we feel it only with that one special person. We feel bonded to them. And we feel like we truly “know” them.

That is God’s design. Unfortunately, our pornographic culture has wrecked it. Too often our Christian culture has wrecked it by teaching us that sex is only about a man’s needs–thus robbing both of us of the chance to be vulnerable. But vulnerability and intimacy are what God designed us for.

How can we achieve godly, biblical sex–which is mutual, passionate, and vulnerable?

A biblical sexual relationship should be about both people

While some individual sexual encounters might be about giving each other “a gift” (something which is also important in growing in love!), the relationship as a whole will be about both people feeling loved and cherished, and both people receiving.

A biblical sexual relationship should be about both people experiencing pleasure

The goal should be to help both of you experience pleasure. Sometimes she may have a hard time reaching orgasm, but her enjoyment should be pursued in the relationship as a whole (even if during some encounters she prefers to focus on him). The husband should consider it his job and privilege to unlock what makes her tick!

A biblical sexual relationship should relax both of you

Orgasm is relaxing. But if orgasm isn’t happening for her, then something else which helps her feel relaxed should. Maybe it’s stroking her hair or holding her. Maybe it’s giving her a massage. But you should both be able to drift off to sleep feeling cared for.

True godly sex should be an expression of how you feel about one another

While it’s true that sex and friendship are like the chicken and the egg–it’s not really clear which is first–sex should reflect emotional closeness as well. Both of you should feel cherished and loved through your sexual relationship, which means that both partners will go to lengths to help the other feel loved in the way that they need it. That may mean spending time talking beforehand; it may mean talking to him or her or saying “I love you” during sex; it may mean making time for each other outside of the bedroom.

True godly sex should be about both people being enthusiastic about joining together

It isn’t enough to say to your husband, “you can if you want to”, and then lie back and count ceiling tiles, thinking that you’re being a good wife. Godly sex is about embracing passion and intimacy, even if it takes a while to learn how your body works.

Just because the husband is putting his penis into the wife’s vagina does not mean that you are having biblical sex

If you understand that true sex encompasses much more than just this, then the “do not deprive” verses take on a whole new meaning, don’t they?

This doesn’t have to be a difficult conversation, though! If you work through 31 Days to Great Sex, you’ll both understand what biblical sex looks like without having to have a hard talk where it sounds like you’re angry. Go through the exercises, and you’ll learn to discard the lies you’ve believed about sex. You’ll learn how to make sure she feels good. You’ll learn how to flirt and be affectionate so you both feel loved. You’ll learn how to be passionate and try new things! But you’ll also be taken through exercises that will help you both feel.

Do you want MORE for your sex life?

Book Cover for "31 Days to Great Sex"

The 31 Days to Great Sex Challenge was written to help you spice it up in the bedroom! 

Try new things, explore each other, and turn on those fireworks!

Ladies, God never intended for you to feel like an object or to feel used. That’s not godly sex. That’s not making love. From now on, let’s agree that sex does not equal:

Man puts penis into woman’s vagina until he climaxes

But instead sex means:

Two people join together physically and emotionally and spiritually for the purposes of experiencing pleasure, expressing love, and feeling close.

That’s real sex. And that’s what we should not be deprived of in marriage.

Why we need a new definition of sex, that focuses on a mutual experience, not just a husband's pleasure.

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of 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

Related Posts

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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  1. Paul

    “If your husband does not go along with that, he is the one refusing sex, not you. He is refusing to treat sex in a mutual, intimate way as God intended, and he is preferring to have sex in an impersonal way where he uses you.”

    If sex equals unity/oneness/intimacy on both parties, then we need a term to describe what you said, that I quoted above. I suggest the old biblical word “fornication”, which covers all sorts of abuses and distortions of the original purpose of sex.

    So a man who demands sex totally on his own terms, and uses the woman for his own desires is committing fornication, and it is clear why so many women feel used by their husbands. We just don’t call it that.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I love this idea! And I think you’re right. THanks, Paul!

    • lavender

      Wow! This is a powerful statement.

    • Greg

      I echo Paul, and touching on a discussion launched on the Hot Holy & Humorous blog about “making love” vs “having sex”, we do need a new term that captures that unity, oneness, knowing—and for us Christians that point where the physical, the emotional and the spiritual meet.

      I’ve been using the word Communion, which is secularly defined as “the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, particularly if that exchange is on a mental or spiritual level.” That sounds like great sex to me.

      Now, in truth I say that I don’t ask my bride, “Hey babe, would you like to commune later?” because that sounds dopey. But in forums like this, I think Communion aptly, robustly captures how we should be thinking and considering sex within our marriages (and how we should be raising up the next generation).

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        That’s awesome, Greg! I really like that. I’d like to think about that picture more, too, about how communion is related to making love. I may ponder that on a walk today.

  2. Sarah O

    Sheila you are ON FIRE lately!

    I feel like I’m at a revival reading these posts – I probably sound like it too if someone was in the room with me.

    Get it girl!!!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Sarah! These have got me really fired up, too!

      • Sarah O

        Also – thanks for showing up on this one, gentlemen! It’s really encouraging to see a lot of guys on here saying “yep”!

      • Ryn

        My marriage started off to me finding out about my husband’s porn addiction and him just no longer desiring me. It took 2 years to get rid of the porn, but he still no longer desires me. I’ve done everything I can think of to get him to want me, but nothing works. I’ve had several talks with him clearly telling him that his lack interest in me, rejecting sex, lack of effort to fix anything and pursue me romantically hurts. Sex is on his terms only (which is once every 2 weeks) and it’s only about him. I’ve tried turning him down until he puts in some effort, but he gets angry or pesters me until I give in because I’m desperate and he knows it. He doesn’t even want to do anything with me execpt watch TV. He won’t take me on dates. I’m just exhausted, humiliated and heartbroken at this point. I tried to do your 30 days to better sex book with him and he didn’t want to do anymore after like 5 days of it. This is our 5th year of marriage and we will both be turning 25. My sex life sucks and I’m tired of being the only one trying.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Oh, Ryn, I’m so sorry! It sounds like your husband grew up with such a warped view of sex that he doesn’t understand what real sex is. Can you see a licensed counselor together? Or it may be worth saying, “No more sex until we work on foreplay and my pleasure.” It’s honestly okay to do that, because sex is supposed to be mutual. It may really be worth seeing a counselor, though.

  3. Karen

    Amen and amen! I am so so grateful that this has always been my experience in our almost 14 years of marriage. I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that there are so many who do not experience that and I don’t understand why? or where they get the idea that that’s ok and they don’t need to be enthusiastic about it?! So keep spreading the word and keep setting fire to marriages !!

  4. Lendon

    Sheila, this is an important topic that we all need to understand in our marriages. Mutuality is a key aspect of the sexual experience in marriage; however I would hope that you would provide balance to this topic. It is true that we see the focus of sexual experience imbalance and conflict as “man puts penis in women’s vagina until he climaxes,” but the other extreme holds true.

    I feel frustrated and upset because I feel that my marital sexual experience goes the other direction. I am willing to provide for my wife’s sexual excitement and need, but don’t feel that she is willing to bring that mutuality. It feels that she gets her “thrill” and then just wants to “get your climax over” without as you stated “enthusiasm.”
    Isn’t the shared (mutuality) supposed to be a interconnection of “oneness?” I would loved to see you write an article that brings these two sides together.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I totally agree, Lendon. I did mention it in the article that if women are thinking they can just “lie back and let him” then that isn’t mutual sex, either. And I hope women will read this post on enthusiastic sex (I’ve linked to it so much in recent articles, and I linked to it yesterday on Facebook as well). I don’t think this is an issue that just men have. I think women have it, too, because we grow up hearing that sex is only for men, so we think that as long as we’re “letting him”, we’re fulfilling our duty. And that leaves men really empty.

      Next week I’m going to conclude this series with an article on how to be a generous lover, and I’ll be mentioning this again, because it is so important.

    • Daniel

      Lendon: I find that open and honest communication is key. Talk with your wife and let her know how your thoughts. Periodic discussions about what you want to do in bed, how you can please her, how she can please you, and ways that you can spice things up are super important. Plus, ‘mutual’ isn’t meant to be used as a weapon… “it’s supposed to be mutual, and I pleased you, so now you need to please me”. If that’s your thought… your missing the point of mutual sex.

      Granted I know little about your love life, but it would seem that her getting her “thrill”, and then wanting you to climax is a typical response from women. And it seems mutual to me… If you are expecting something else, discuss it openly with your wife, and have a ‘plan’ for your next love making session. Don’t assume anything. Just as you can’t read her mind, she can’t read your mind.

      Something I’ve found is that when you blow your wife’s mind with amazing sex, she may be more enthusiastic the next time. So take it to the next level and make her beg for more, or beg you not to stop (find ways to stimulate her that shed begs you not to stop). There are few things in life as exciting as giving your wife multiple orgasms, and then seeing the pure joy on her face, and feeling her entire body relax with pure Ecstasy. That’s my $0.02

  5. Natalie

    Yes! Yes! Yes! to everything you wrote! 1000x’s yes! Now if only I could convince my husband that sex is more than just PIV. He doesn’t seem to currently have the same yearning for sex as God designed it to be as I do.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m sorry, Natalie! That’s so difficult. I do think that many of us (women included) are blocked off from our need for intimacy. I’ll say a prayer for you both today.

  6. Desire

    I love the principles here. Any man the treats his wife as a tool is not living what God intends.

    Also, all of this assumes that the wife wants to be sexually intimate and is willing to acknowledge that sex is for her too. Unfortunately, some have decided that because of (pain, body image, inhibitions, a brain that won’t let go of the day, … make your own long list), sex is not for her. And when that is decided, the willingness of the husband to engage in the process, to it’s fullest possible pleasure for his wife, is wasted and feels useless. Everything else in her life takes priority.

    I may be in the minority of men here, but my experience is that my wife doesn’t want to want. Wanting, desiring, seeking are part of the equation, and the most generous man can’t compensate when those things are missing in his wife.

    In no way am I trying to distract from the core message. The message is awesome. And there are always the edge cases. I guess I’m an edge case.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I don’t think you’re in the minority of men, Desire. I think that most men who are at this blog, at least, have women who have disengaged who have decided that it’s not worth trying. I’ll be trying to wrap up the series next week with what it means to be a generous lover, and how mutuality means that you have to throw yourself into it as well. I hope that helps. But, no, I don’t think you’re alone. I also think that if we changed this discussion, a lot of women would get more excited about sex. When you grow up hearing that it’s all for him, and that you really don’t matter–well, it’s really hard to get excited about sex, even if you’re married to a wonderful guy who doesn’t see it that way. It’s all about what we grew up hearing. So the more we can start talking about this differently now, the more we save future marriages (and our kids’ marriages!)

    • Daniel

      Desire: It’s not always a ‘decision’ that a wife can’t get past the; “pain, body image, inhibitions, a brain that won’t let go of the day, …”. They don’t ‘decide’ that pain makes sex ‘not for her’. They don’t ‘decide’ that they don’t feel sexy so sex is ‘not for her’. They don’t ‘decide’ to be inhibited. Sex is not something that we are just naturally good at. And women especially have to ‘learn’ how to have sex… and they learn from their loving husband.

      It is your responsibility to work with her to get past these inhibitions. She can’t, and won’t, get there on her own.

    • Brievel

      I’m one of those women who “doesn’t want to want.” I’m working on it – a lot of it is the messed-up perceptions I had growing up that I didn’t even know were messed up. So you could check into how much she was influenced by the purity culture.

      My other suggestion is track her cycle carefully. Women are always more open to it around ovulation – and it often feels better then, too! If you can convince her to engage around that time it may get easier.

      Also if she’s on hormonal birth control one little-advertised side effect is that it KILLS a woman’s libido.

    • Heidi

      If she’s willing have your wife get her testosterone levels checked. Mine was off the charts low and I had no idea. I also had no idea what I was missing.
      It’s made a HUGE difference for my husband and I since my levels are coming up to normal.

  7. Ashley

    Ugh, I feel like so much of the Church’s teaching about sex has been in line with the porn culture, and it just makes me sick. Teachings like women’s bodies are objects for men to use, and we shouldn’t have a choice, we should just suck it up even when it hurts. I think secular teaching on sex is often better than Christian teaching, because there seems to be more of a focus on the pleasure of both, not just one.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Unfortunately, I think you’re right. There’s so much that the secular world gets wrong about sex, but there’s so much the church gets wrong, too. And in some ways the world is ahead of us, and more in line with what God wants (mutuality). So we need to reclaim that space! We need to preach this loudly. What’s been taught a lot in Christian circles is not actually biblical, but we can turn it around if we speak up. And I hope that’s what many of us will start doing.

      • Natalie

        I’d actually hypothesize that the Church has had a “porn view” of sex since long before the rise of internet porn. I grew up on classical literature, which came from a time when the West was far less secular than it is today. Obviously, sex wasn’t discussed much then as it is today. But even then, when sex or sexual connotations were written about, I can’t say I remember one instance of reference or alluding to the woman receiving pleasure. It was either undercurrents of the “two becoming one” (which would insinuate mutuality, though not necessary. Becoming “one” could just mean PIV), or undercurrents of the man dominating the woman (I’m thinking specifically of instances where prostitution or rape were the topic). I think modern day porn & our pornographic culture, if anything, have finally shed a bright light on how we view sex, both secularly and in the Church. Thankfully, I feel like centuries worth of ideas about sex are finally starting to change, even if only ever so slightly.

        Also, I think this is probably the case with most of the world. The only culture I that comes to mind is traditional Jewish culture where the pleasure of the woman was specifically pointed out. I’m sure this was a tenant in other cultures, but “sex is for the man” is a far more pervasive concept in world history as a whole.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Very true, Natalie. And that’s quite insightful–did porn shape our view of sex, or did our view of sex create porn? I’ll have to ponder that!

          • Greg

            Though delicate, this could be worth exploring more in depth here, Sheila.

            I do feel that the some views and positions on sex as projected by church and the porn industry have amplified each other over time, particularly now as porn has become so easily accessible and concentrated.

          • Natalie

            Or instead of focusing on the church’s and porn’s views of sex and how they relate and contrast to each other, maybe we could have an article that focuses on the Christian roots of sex, which we inherited from the Jews. Personally, I’d love to see an article about the Vow of Onah and other Jewish traditions and beliefs about sex, since that’s the context in which Jesus would have been ministering about marriage, sex and relationships. I feel like so much – basically all – of that wisdom was lost several centuries after Jesus’s resurrection. Satan perverted Christian teaching of sex EARLY on, in my opinion. And why shouldn’t he? A biblical view of sex within marriage is the best description on earth of the oneness and knowledge that God wants to have with us. I don’t think there’s a more powerful and beautiful analogy, assuming your definition and experience with sex hasn’t been tainted by sin or sinful doctrine yet.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Yes, that’s really fascinating, Natalie! I’ll go looking into that. I wonder if I know any rabbis I could ask?

    • Paul

      The reason, I suspect, for the “porn” view of sex is that the church has had a low view of it–it’s dirty, a necessary evil–for ages (going back to the celibacy of monks and nuns, as a higher good). I suppose that grew out of the Roman perversions of sex (and certain early fathers’ views, due to their pre-conversion lifestyles).

      So, once you have a distorted view of sex like this, it is difficult to turn the ship.

    • Laura

      I’m currently walking along side a survivor of sex trafficking. We’ve lost count how many times we have been able to identify identical beliefs about sex and women between the church and the traffickers. It’s a sad discovery. The attitudes and beliefs are so similar it makes me want to puke.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Oh, Laura. That’s so, so sad–and I’m afraid so, so true. God, have mercy on us.

  8. Kate

    Sheila, your articles have been wonderful and full of wisdom lately. I’m learning a lot. I’m sad though for the hard hearted men/women who think your message is an attack on men. I see it more as you trying to help women to open their mouth and speak up for themselves. Like you are handing out back bones to all these timid women who have been either brainwashed by improper teaching of the Church or their own personality.

    I wanted to ask you this for a long time but i keep forgetting, a while back on your blog you used to have profile pictures next to the names of your commenters, did you remove that feature or is my computer acting up? Because i don’t see people’s pictures anymore. I’m just curious.

    • Greg


      I’m one of Sheila’s male readers, and I do not feel attacked at all. I’ve long cherished my bride and striven to give her pleasure. As I’ve deepened in my faith—which I came to after we married—and I’ve navigated a path to find where the Spiritual and the Sexual intersect (a journey TLHV has assisted), my desire to give my bride pleasure has only intensified.

      In so much of what I’ve read, it seems that 1 Corinthians 7.5 becomes the default position, but I sense that that particular verse has been ‘fortune-cookied’: a stand-alone maxim yanked from within a folded biscuit and held as absolute. I think what’s been lost is that 1 Cor 7.5 should be looked at through the prism of—and arguably built upon—The Greatest Commandment in Matthew 22. In the two parts of that Commandment, Jesus inspires and reminds us that *others* are first: Love God, Love your neighbor. And if we define ‘neighbor’ not only as the person on the other side of the fence but also as the person on the other side of the bed, how do we live out Jesus’ simple—but weighty—instruction to us? What does it mean to Love Our Neighbor within the setting on the marriage bed?

      1 Corinthian 7.5 does show that sex in the marriage bed is desired by our Creator, but excerpted out of context, what it encourages is Consent: Do Not Withhold.

      In context, 1 Corinthians 7.5 needs to be filled—as we all do—with the Holy Spirit, and particularly the Holy Spirit of Matthew 22.37, which, in a word, is Concern: Your neighbor is a person. Do not treat them like an object. Love them.

      For the marriage bed to bloom with delightful consent, it must be nurtured and tended with a Christ-like Concern.

    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Hey, Kate–about the profile pictures, it’s a really silly answer but it was slowing down the site! Because we get a lot of comments, it takes a lot of memory to load every single person’s photo. So it was causing the site to load slower and also used more data for mobile users. So we just got rid of them. 🙂 Not an exciting answer, but that’s how the tech side of the blog often is!

      • Kate

        Gotcha! It makes sense actually.

  9. Anon

    I guess I’m one of those people who believe in the power of “gift sex.” Which I also view as very different than duty sex. Quite frankly, I could try to push for my pleasure, but that would end in him feeling like a failure and me feeling broken yet again. Give me the pleasure of giving joy to my husband over the stress of trying to orgasm any day! I know he loves me and I’m healthier mentally when I don’t try for fireworks!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Totally get it. I’m all for quickies sometimes, too! And there’s nothing wrong with that.

      That being said, if this is the MAJORITY of your sexual relationship, I think you’re missing out on something important. Sex should be mutual. It shouldn’t always be one person giving. You can say that you enjoy giving; you can say that you don’t mind. And you really truly may not! But God made you to experience pleasure. There is something amazing about being carried away and about being totally vulnerable and beyond thought that comes with orgasm, and I do think that it’s something that God meant for us to have in marriage.

      Not saying giving is wrong; I think we should do more of it. But if we’re ALWAYS giving, maybe we should ask why it is that we don’t value our own pleasure, or don’t want to do the work to get there? And if there’s something in the way, so that it never seems to feel good, maybe we should try to solve that issue?

    • Andrea

      How can we talk about sex in a way that convinces women their pleasure matters just as much as the man’s AND that doesn’t put any pressure on them to orgasm? Even that can start feeling like it’s just for him in the sense that he wants to feel like a man who can give you that pleasure, but that just makes more work for you out of an experience you would otherwise enjoy even if it doesn’t constitute the height of ecstasy. It took me a while to get there (on my own, I’ve already revealed as much) because the feeling became so intense that it scared me and I would stop. I practiced and practiced, still enjoying all the sensations, and finally experienced it. When I did I understood what they mean by “if you’re not sure you had one, you haven’t.” As I look back on this now I think it is because we are taught that our sexuality is weaker than a man’s, so we just don’t expect the earth-shattering experience. And if you think about the fact that the clitoris has twice the number of nerve endings that a penis has, purely physiologically speaking, our orgasms are twice as strong as a man’s. It’s hard to allow yourself to experience that when you’ve been taught the opposite. So I think everybody should just take their time, with or without hubby, and enjoy ALL the sensations of the body without an end goal in sight. When it happens it happens.

  10. Rhonda Murphy

    This is such an important topic to me! Our marriages (Christian and non-Christian alike) are dying because of a lack of intimacy. Sex is the only thing that truly separates the marriage relationship from other relationships in our lives. When we lose that (or never find it) the marriage is doomed to end or be unhappy. I have been married 30 years and am blessed with a man that delights in pleasing his wife…multiple times 😉 but, it is imperative that I communicate with him so he will know how to do this! As women, our hormones and psyche change almost hourly sometimes and, although it’s not fair to our husbands, our sexual needs and desires change too. Talk to your husband! Tell him what you want. Where you want to be touched and in what way feels good to you. If he can’t understand from your words, show him! If you have no sexual desire, talk to your doctor, ladies, you may have hormone issues that need to be addressed. We are in our early 50’s and are amazed at how our sex lives get better and better! Thank you for your blog and broaching this subject.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      So important, Rhonda! So true. We need to be able to communicate. Many men honestly don’t realize that penetration, with no foreplay, does very little for most women. Their experience is so different. Unless we speak up, they will never know.

      • Daniel

        Rhonda: Yes!!

        Sheila: AND women may not know what gives them pleasure unless the man makes an effort to figure her out. (you have said this many times, but this feels like a great spot to be reminded)

  11. Sarah O

    Sorry for all the typos, I’m on my phone…hopefully you get my meaning

  12. Dylan Randall

    Overall, great post. I disagree with this though: “That is God’s design. Unfortunately, our pornographic culture has wrecked it.” As if it was good before porn? When was this? Where was this? I would guess that sex for most of history has been PIV until men orgasm, which is much sooner than women orgasm.

    • Natalie

      I’d agree, Dylan. I think that’s all part of sin nature and being selfish. And since men generally finish much more easily and faster than women, they’re the ones whose sex drive and pace becomes dominant in the relationship and culture at large.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Yes, I think that’s the issue. The man’s experience tends to be taken as the “standard”, and then women are supposed to catch up, and that just isn’t the way that God made us.

        • Dylan Randall

          Yes, but Sheila, you see how it isn’t the pornographic culture that has wrecked it, because this dynamic has been in place thousands of years (millions even) before pornography.

          • Mark

            Dylan, Porn is as ancient as civilization (look at the wall murals in Pompeii as an example, or the phallic gardens in Asia), as has been ritual prostitution in the temples, phallic rites, etc. Pornography is not a modern invention. The only difference now is how it is portrayed, and the anonymity of it today via a computer screen, vs. a more communal act in the past. It all fits under the biblical term “fornication” or sexual perversion.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, you’re probably right. I do think that the porn culture has accelerated the view that women’s experience does not matter. Even if you look at psychological studies of beliefs about sex of Baby Boomers vs. Millennials you’ll notice that millennials who have used porn have very distorted views of rape. It’s sad.

  13. Sheila Wray Gregoire

    I agree, Andrea. We need to tell boys that sex is meant to be intimate, not violent and certainly not degrading.

  14. Sheila Wray Gregoire

    Thank you, Natalie! And I’m glad God is doing amazing things in you. I’ll continue to pray for your husband.

    • Natalie

      Thanks Sheila. 🙂 In addition to all the great content you and your team put out, I also think it’s really wonder how you’re so involved in the comments section of your blog. I know if must be mentally and emotionally draining to go through so many and write thoughtful replies back to as many as you do! I think that’s just as ministering to your reader as your blog articles and podcasts are… I know it is for me. So thank you! 🙂

  15. Sheila Wray Gregoire

    Thanks, Kay! And glad you’re here!

  16. Anonymous

    Our stories are very similar, only I was “faking it” (and not knowing I was) for probably 4-7 years, until I realized that I felt like a prostitute every time we had sex. I explained what happened to my husband and he was angry as well- partly because he thought he was doing a good job and found out he wasn’t, partly because he didn’t know he was hurting me in that way, partly because I hadn’t been educated about sex enough to know the difference (thanks purity culture). It took him quite some time to get over it. I’m happy to report that he decided he would pretty much always climax, so he should focus on my pleasure. Then it took me years to get over my purity culture hang ups, with which he was very patient with me while I worked through that. (Actually, he enjoyed working through that. Particularly the the I learned about consent and we played a consent game…)
    It takes time. I’m praying your husband gets there. I’m there same commenter that encouraged you to find a recovery group. I’m so glad to hear you’re educating yourself about what’s out there. I’m doing the same, which is why I’ve become an advocate for women coming out of domestic violence. It’s all related, unfortunately.

  17. Ashley

    “And I could write a long article much different than this one about how in my generation boys were taught that we better go down on girls we are with or we are worthless, that we better last a long time during penetrative sex or we will be laughed at and mocked by our girlfriends and a group of her friends, and that our penis better be considerably above average size or we should take penis enlargement pills.”

    I’m guessing you weren’t taught this in Christian circles, at least predominantly, am I right? That’s part of the point some of us are trying to make when we say that in SOME ways, secular sources do a better job of saying that a woman’s pleasure matters than in the Church.

  18. Angela

    Thank you for this Sheila, I always enjoy reading your perspective as it’s both refreshing and encouraging. I’ll add some of my experience in as well, since I feel like sharing our story helps others feel like theirs are more normal.

    I’ve always found sex to be normal and exciting, but after making the choice that it wasn’t best confined to the marriage bed, I quickly acquired a layer of shame towards my feelings about sex. It didn’t help that I grew up in a predominantly Christian culture that essentially taught that a woman without her virginity was worthless to Christian men. I actually had my mom tell me that I’d be lucky if I ever found a good Christian guy who would take me now. This was after I came to my parents in repentance. Add in the delight that Christians seem to take in wallowing in guilt over forgiven sins, and I was a big mess of terrible views regarding sex.

    So I met my husband and we got married (we had sex before that happened so there was more guilt to take into our marriage). Thankfully we’re both open and neither of us gets quickly upset about things related to sex. So when he told me that he didn’t think laughing and having fun during intercourse were okay (because that doesn’t happen in the porn he’d been addicted to for 12 years), we talked about it. When I expressed that I didn’t feel comfortable being on the receiving end during sex, we talked about it. When he shared his pornography addiction, we talked about it. When I shared my pornography and romance novel addiction, we talked about it. See a theme here?

    What this willingness to talk without hurt has led to is a fulfilled sex life and joy in each other. Our kids see that and I can’t begin to tell you how their face lights up when they see us being playful and affectionate and romantic towards each other.

    I might have grown up in a shame based culture, but I refuse to pass that along to my children, and I refuse to accept it for myself anymore.

    Yeah, sure, we still have issues. I’m still really uncomfortable being on the receiving end, but I know it’s one of those things that gets better with practice, so we’re both practicing. Because the intimacy that God wants for us is so much more important than feeling personally offended that my husband was addicted to porn long before he met me. It’s not a reflection on me, it’s evidence of how easy it is to stumble into sin and how hard it is to get away from it.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Great story, Angela! Thank you for sharing.

  19. Mel

    Thank you so much for this post! I’m three years married and our marriage is having a difficult time. I have had sex before marriage and my wife was a virgin when we married. She seems afraid of sex and I’ve tried to get her to talk about sex and what she would like to try and she just says that if I want it I can ask her but she also experiences pain during sex on occasion. I give her massages, perform oral sex, cuddle etc. in hopes that it will get her aroused but it rarely does. Lately, I’ve stopped asking for sex or any sexual favors because I feel like she’s doing it strictly out of obligation and that’s not what I want. It’s been really tough lately and I’m not sure what to do. I believe that doesn’t want to be vulnerable and think that’s due to her upbringing and I’m not sure how to go about that, we’ve talked to out Pastor and she talked to some women at our church but I really think she has an issue with vulnerability and it interferes with our love making

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It probably does have a lot to do with vulnerability! If it’s pain, though, that is worth looking into. If it’s just that she’s not lubricated, taking more time during foreplay or using some lubrication can help. If it’s something else, it is worth asking a doctor or a pelvic floor physiotherapist. Can you get her to explain what sort of pain she feels?

    • Brievel

      If I may be allowed… I kinda have an idea what’s going on. My husband was my first, but he’d watched porn and been with other girls before me and while he was very sweet and tried to be understanding it was just wildly intimidating. And if her first time was bad that’s soured it for her pretty severely.

      Don’t withdraw. That’s one of the two worst things you can do. It will make her feel unloved and unwanted and if she is at best indifferent it will only reinforce that – if she actually wants to want it that feeling will crush her. Don’t compliment her only sexually – that will make her feel used – but make it plain you’re still attracted to her.

      Don’t give up. We’re approaching our secondanniversary next month and we’ve almost divorced more than once (and we have a son with another on the way) but somehow we’re not totally done with each other. So be patient with her and coax her and you’ll get there. 🙂

      • Brievel

        (I wasn’t very clear in my first paragraph. What is intimidating is that you’re experienced and she’s not and what if she’s disappointing to you and you liked your exes better or they were better in bed and *of course* she’ll never measure up after porn because how could she ever be as beautiful or sexy as those girls on screen were and are you just faking your pleasure to make her feel better or just sexing her because you’re married and you married her for other reasons and just have sex with her because she’s all you can get right now and – well, you get the idea. It’s hard to get aroused and enjoy it when that sort of thing is running through your head.) And for goodness sake don’t ever, EVER tell her your exes were better in bed. I don’t think we had sex for two months after he threw that one at me during an argument and it took months longer after tat for me to stop crying after every time.

  20. Rebecca Lindenbach


    There have been some lengthy discussions on this post that have come to their natural finish, and we have removed them because although they were likely helpful to the individuals who were talking, they were not directly about the topic of this post and were taking away from that conversation.

    Although no one crossed a line, the conversation was becoming quite explicit and sometimes when that happens it can take away from the experiences of others on this site. Again, we’re not saying that anyone crossed a line but we just want to keep the conversation to the main point of the article to ensure everyone is comfortable.

    I hope everyone involved had a good experience and learned about themselves and others!

    Thank you for your engagement and willingness to talk about these important topics!

    • KMS

      Thank you Rebecca! I was really concerned about crossing a line and offending someone yesterday (I was a commentor on the thread you’re referencing.) What you and your mom are doing here is awesome-you are so positive in bringing the Word!

      • Rebecca Lindenbach

        Thank you for being so understanding, KMS! 🙂 We appreciated the conversation that went on, and I am glad you’ve been encouraged by the blog!

  21. Corey

    Why were all my comments removed?

      • Corey

        Thanks for pointing me to your explanation; I missed that before.

        Still, I feel all the more hurt by this article. It seems that men who are on the other side of this article and not in the target audience must be silenced. This type of censorship is clearly not American and not Christ like.

        And to be fair, my original comments were almost all directly in response to Sheila’s article, so there was no reason to remove them. Again, thank you to the kind Christian women who responded to me before our side of view was silenced.

        In the end, I am wounded by this article and by being silenced by those who control this site. I never expected to be treated so offensively by my sisters in Christ, especially when I agreed with Sheila’s main point and am all for mutual pleasure during sex. I intend to spend some time in prayer now as only God can heal these wounds.

        • Rebecca Lindenbach

          Corey, it wasn’t about silencing you. The reality was that (a) the language used in your comments was quite explicit and (b) the conversation that followed both led from the original point and also included explicit examples. As a result, we felt that they violated our commenting policy for the reasons listed above in my original comment.

          If you would like to post a succinct comment that summarizes your experiences with the article, you are free to do so. But your original comment (both combined) was over 2,000 words long which did in fact take away from others’ ability to engage in conversation about the article, and, again, had the potential to make others very uncomfortable with the explicit language used. That’s why we allowed the conversation to go for a time, but then when the points had all been said we removed it.

          I am sorry if you feel wounded, however I do not believe you have been treated offensively. I am so glad you agree with Sheila’s main point, and I hope that the conversation was helpful for you while it happened.

          We have had women emailing us in the past saying that they feel nervous or unsafe commenting themselves when they see men in the comments using very explicit personal examples from their own sex lives. We’re trying to walk that fine balance between welcoming all and still allowing for fruitful discussion.

          I hope you’re able to look at this objectively and understand this is not personal or directed at you personally, it was just that the conversation as a whole was into explicit material (not only you, as well) and so we made the decision to remove the whole conversation.

          Again, if you would like to put in your two cents in a non-explicit way in a shorter comment, feel free!

          • Corey

            My main comment now is in response to what you just stated, about explicit material not being allowed and some women feeling uncomfortable about it.

            I am uncomfortable when women use similar type of language to describe their bodies and experiences, especially on what I thought to be a Christian site. There are some already on Shelia’s newest article. Are you planning to remove those?

            I want everyone to be comfortable on a Christian site personally, and I did not mean to make anyone feel otherwise. I hope you and Sheila and anyone else who controls this site also want men to feel comfortable here, but I’m not sure that you do.

            In all honesty, the way that some of the articles and the comments on them have turned out makes me want to never go to a marriage retreat/conference/seminar and makes me worry greatly about having a wife that goes to a women’s only small group- I fear it would turn into sex talk gossip. So my plan is to NEVER attend a marriage retreat/conference/seminar and for my wife and I to go to a coed small group together.

            Also, after my prayer time I thought that this sex for women’s pleasure idea can easily turn into “goddess worship” which the Bible alludes to, warns about, and strictly forbids. Therefore, I caution all of us not to make sex into an idol, whether it be our own pleasure or our spouses.

          • Rebecca Lindenbach

            Corey, I recognize you are frustrated.

            We allow all language referring to body parts, how body parts work, and techniques that may make orgasm more likely or sex more enjoyable as long as it is within the realm of helpful and not too much information than is required for instruction.

            E.g., someone talking about clitoral stimulation versus vaginal stimulation is perfectly acceptable even if it is relatively graphic because it’s instructional/their testimony of overcoming sexual discomfort. Similarly, husbands commenting about how they have learned to study their wives’ bodies that use graphic language but are not unnecessarily explicit are the vast majority of the time let through.

            The comments you left were not of this variety. They were recounting sexual experiences in a way that was not necessary to the conversation (you could have easily left out the explicit material and still gotten the point across) and the conversation that followed also became quite explicit without adding to the overall message of the post.

            A quick note about your fear of women’s groups, the reason people talk so openly on this blog is because, frankly, women DON’T talk openly in groups very often. This is a place for people to freely talk about sex in a helpful way. It’s not a place to recount sexual exploits or sexual experiences when it’s not helpful to the conversation. Many comments we delete are from women, too, for this same reason.

            Of course we want you to feel welcome here. But we do have community guidelines for a reason, and I hope you are also able to respect those and respect our judgment as people who have worked in this field for a very long time. That is why we allowed your comment to stay up for a few days, but then removed the thread when the points had all been made.

  22. Christine

    Sheila, you might want to research Pope John Paul II’s work “Theology of the Body.” Fascinating and very relevant to this post and many of the comments.

  23. Dr Grorge

    Thanks for doing a good job on this amazing gift God has given us. For way too long we have allowed the Enemy (Satan the Deceiver) to live up to his name.

    Thsnks for your input and insights. Your being open for input and dialogue is mature snd conducive for healthy growth for all!

    I’m a family physician that prescribes your blog and website for patients often!
    Thanks for giving us a great resource for us in the trenches!

    P.S. By the way, the hen and rooster did come before that fertilized egg!!!😆 (Please don’t be offended!)

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks so much for your encouragement! I appreciate it!

  24. Emmy

    This was a very helpful and interesting article. Thank you! And I have learned another new abbreviation in some of the comments: the PIV only sex.

    I found the abbreviation quite funny. Or…I would have found it really funny if I did not know that there really ARE people (men and women) who are convinced that PIV-only IS the biblical way of having sex. And because such people really exist and many of them are married, it is not funny at all. For many women, it’s bitter reality.

    I still liket the abbreviation and it made me laugh a little. For me, humor has always been an important means of survival. When you can laugh at something, it is not that dangerous any more. There may be a way to tackle it

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, yes, such people really do exist! It’s a very common belief. I’m glad you could find some humour in it, or at least find words to put to what you’ve been feeling, Emmy.

  25. Emmy

    What really puzzles me and keeps me busy is this: where does this PIV-only doctrine come from? What is the root cause of it? The purity movement may be one factor but it can’t be the only one. There is also something I would call the “pre purity movement” which was popular among the Evangelical christians in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. That was when we were young and got married. The pre purity movement practised Natural Family Planning and read books by Larry Christenson and Walter Trobisc and found books like Act of Marriage much too “wordly”. But even the pre purity movement must have got this PIV-only from somewhere, and I believe that fear is a big part of it.

    One of the commentators on this thread mentioned that putting too much emphasis on the pleasure of the woman might lead to idolization of the female body, or even to goddes worship. I don’t want to pick on another poster or attack anyone, but I did find that statement most curious because my husband says very smilar things when I try to explain him what I need and why. He sees PIV-only as the norm and he is afraid that we will end up on a slippery slope if we deviate from it.

    I in order to explain how it goes without being too craphic I made up a screen play in code language, but I’m sure you’ll be able to figure it out.

    Pudding time: Act I

    -Honey…I’d so much like to have some whipped cream with this pudding. That would be so lovely…
    – Whipped cream!? You can’t be serious!
    – Sure. Lot of people do that. t would fit really well with..
    – So you don’t like my pudding?
    – Oh, sure I do! Put some whipped cream would really give it the finishig touch and we…
    – So my pudding is not enough for you?
    – I did not mean it that way. The pudding is great, and some whipped cream on top of it would really help it to come to t’s full right, so I just wanted to…
    – Listen honey: this pudding is perfect. It has everything we need: proteins, energy, vitamine B and good fatty acids. If we put whipped cream on it, we may start like whipped cream more than the pudding itself. And I believe that would be wrong!
    – Oh, honey, I promise I will not start to like whipped cream more. It just akes the pudding BETTER!
    – OK then. If you insist. Here. (put’s two teaspoons of ahipped cream on top of the pudding). Happy now?

    Pudding time: Act II

    – Honey…I so much liked the whipped cream on my pudding…could i have some again…
    – What? Again? You had whipped gream last week.
    – But it really was so good and it fitted so well and it…
    – So you mean you want to have whipped cream EVERY TIME we eat pudding?
    – I sure would like it!
    – Listen honey…this is really too much for me. Tonight, it’s whipped cream. What will it be tomorrow? Jam? Chocolate sauce? Maybe even chocolate SPRINCKLES!?! Nooooo…we can’t begin with such things.
    – Why not?
    – Because if we give into that, where will it lead us? Before we know, we will be eating everything else but pudding. That’s NOT the purpose of having a desert together.
    – I admitt I’d love some vanilla sauce also. But if that’s too much for you, I’ll stick to whipped cream.
    – Why can’t you just enjoy the pudding like it is. Why is it not enough for you?
    – It IS good but it tastes so much better with…
    – I can’t see why. I don’t need whipped cream to enjoy my pudding. And is it not the same pudding we are eating? But if you really NEED it, well then, OK. Here. (put’s a teaspoon full of pudding on top of the pudding.) But this does worry me somewhat…

  26. Emmy

    Of course I meant to write: Put’s a teaspuun full of WHIPPED CREAM on top of the pudding. Not puding on pudding…

    Sorry for my messy spelling. Im sitting in a dark corner and can’t se the keybors really well.

    • Tony Conrad

      That’s really good Emma. One wonders what the whipped cream is though (naughty). Getting the whipped cream though would be as bad as the IC if it is just something he does reluctantly. I find IC boring if DW is not involved and just lets me use her. I want her to do stuff as well. Move her hands touch me etc. I think I have taught her foreplay which has become a major part of our enjoyment. IC is just to finish off although we do not always need that if we have both climaxed before that. I need my whipped cream as well and DW is comfortable with that although I won’t say what that is of course on here.

  27. Jenny

    I was married to a pastor for 21 years. With pure intentions on my part, I followed the “Love and Respect” model, which unfortunately created an incredibly entitled “monster.” For decades I asked what I could do to improve myself, improve our relationship, etc. The answer I recall him giving is that he wanted me to “want” sex. But I didn’t “want” it and I had no clue why! I prayed about it, I tried to want it, but it was not enjoyable to me. I had no clue what the big deal was and why people seemed to like sex so much. We had P in V sex because when I would even attempt to give him feedback about something I wanted or liked (even as simple as “kiss me softer”) he got his feelings hurt and he would shut down. I didn’t want to pay the price of that, so I just didn’t share what I wished for. I would actually pursue him to have totally blah P in V sex because of my warped mindset that he needed to have release to stay in a good mood and hopefully treat me decently. In the end, he admittedly did not love me and I told him I did not want him to touch me, hold my hand, hug me or have sex. We lived like that for 6 months before we separated and eventually divorced. Since then, I’ve had the most enjoyable sex with the most generous partner. Now I know what the big deal is. Sex with someone who loves you, who cares about you, who wants to enjoy you and give you pleasure is an incredible gift.


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