PODCAST: Aiming for Arousal, Questions about Masturbation, and More!

by | Jun 13, 2019 | Sex | 15 comments

It’s time for a new episode of the Bare Marriage podcast!

I hope you all will listen, but if you don’t have time, I’ll have some links and rabbit trails below so you can read all you want as well!

And consider this podcast “extras”. If you want to go deeper into what I talked about in the podcast, here are some more things to help you.

But first, here’s the podcast:

Main Segment: Aiming for Arousal, Not Just Sex!

What if a big reason that many couples find themselves in a sexual rut is that they never figured out what made sex good for her from the start?

When you’re getting married, there’s this pressure to “get it done” that first night. And then your honeymoon is just supposed to be this crazed sex-a-thon. But this doesn’t always lead to great sex. In fact, for my research for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I found that only 20% of women said that their honeymoon sex was great! 60% said it was OK, and 20% said it was downright bad.

I suggest that part of the problem may be that we’re rushing the process a bit. If you get married and then it becomes all about “doing the deed,” it can be easy to skip over foreplay or learning how to simply turn each other on. Arousal isn’t automatic for all women–many have to learn how to listen to their body’s cues and get swept away. So we talk about how couples can use their honeymoon not just to have intercourse, but to enjoy a more full sexual experience that leaves both of them satisfied at the end. And you know what? Aiming for arousal will likely lead to better sex for both of you. We’re not saying don’t have sex–we’re just saying make sure you take time to be sexual together instead of just trying to get it done as many times as you can.

Millennial Marriage: What About Masturbation?

Whenever we’re talking about arousal and learning how your body works, we’ll always get questions about masturbation and if it’s a good idea in the quest to figure out how to orgasm.

Basically, this is a tricky subject. I definitely don’t believe this should be talked about in a shameful or condemning way or that masturbation is even necessarily wrong in and of itself, but I also don’t think it should be promoted since it can lead to intimacy issues in marriage. Listen to the podcast to get the in-depth take or read some posts I’ve written on related topics before:

Reader Question: When Do We Start Talking About Sex?

We recently got this reader question sent in from a woman:

When I get engaged, when and how should I start discussing sex with my future husband? I know I will feel embarrassed to even bring it up to him when the time comes and I worry about how he will respond. I hope to hear from you soon or see a post answering my questions.

Great question! Talking to your fiance about sex can be awkward and uncomfortable. That’s one of the reasons we created The Honeymoon Course–to help couples get through those conversations before the wedding without as much awkwardness. So few couples talk about this properly–even couples who are already having sex! Considering how important openness and honesty is when it comes to sex, we really want people to be able to talk about this in a healthy way!

In general, it’s a good idea to figure out what is wise to talk about a long time in advance and what things you should hold back until closer to the wedding. Things like past sexual partners, abuse, or attitudes you have towards sex are likely important to share ahead of time so that you can receive healing/counseling if necessary before the wedding. Talking about expectations for the wedding night and sex on the honeymoon maybe a little closer to the wedding as long as you know you’re on the same general page when it comes to sex based on past conversations. We talk about this more in the podcast, and have it really clearly laid out in the course, so if you are getting married and don’t know where to start, check that out for sure. 

Are you ready for the honeymoon you always dreamed of?

The Honeymoon Course is here to help you plan the perfect honeymoon and start your marriage (and your sex life!) off with laughter, joy and fun!

Don’t make the same mistakes other couples have–get it right from the beginning!

Comment: How One Couple Set Themselves Up for Success!

In the main segment today we read a comment that shows the benefit of focusing on arousal, not just intercourse:

A huge AMEN to #8 [arousal not just sex]. We have been married for 22 years and have had a happy, healthy, active and mutually satisfying sex life for the whole 22 years. For us it really did start on our wedding night. My husband worked at a paper mill when we were dating and got married and he heard how the men talked about their wives/girlfriends and was horrified. Basically they just used them for their own sexual pleasure. On the flip side was the women he worked with who talked about always being left hanging and felt like they were nothing more than “sperm toilets”. How awful! My husband vowed not to be that kind of man. Now we were not the christian couple who waited til the wedding to kiss so sexual tension was building up in our brief ten month dating/engagement period so we knew arousal to a certain point, however, we were both virgins on our wedding night. Most 23 year old virgin men are going to go right for the intercourse on their wedding night but not my husband. After some kissing and general foreplay the first thing he did before intercourse was give me oral sex. I will add that this was completely initiated by him. No, I didn’t orgasm but it sure did get me aroused and relaxed which made intercourse incredible the first time. It has been incredible ever since. I know this might be too much information but my main point is that a truly selfless man will make his wife’s pleasure his number one priority in sex and in reality be setting himself up for a great sex life as well. My husband’s putting my arousal and pleasure ahead of his own on our first night together really set the stage for what sex would be like for the rest of our marriage.

And that about speaks for itself.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s podcast, and let me know what you think in the comments below! 

Written by

Sheila Wray Gregoire


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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

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

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  1. Dindoll

    great podcast, i hav ebeen following your blog for a while now:)

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Glad you liked it!

  2. Arwen

    My motto regarding masturbation when single is: As long as you’re not lusting after another human it’s perfectly fine. Especially with the amount of people waiting longer to get married, in the secular world they just fornicate, but Christians can’t. So what are we to do with the pent up sexual frustration that married couples can fulfill by just rolling over and asking their spouse to ease such burden. However, it’s great to exercise Self Control if it has taken over your life and become your god. Masturbation is fine as long as you’re not violating another person for your own sexual release. It’s almost like mental rape. But i’ll stick with what the Bible says, lust.

  3. Anom

    I can testify to having the same experience on my wedding night & my husband was all about enjoying me and exploring and loving on me first! He may have been under the sheets so much that night I literally got a stomach ache from all the Os!
    I definitely feel like I hit the jackpot and praise God for a selfless and generous lover. It’s been 13+yrs of amazing that just gets better all the time! Good men do still exist!

  4. Anon

    Enjoyed this podcast. Our honeymoon was not what we’d expected sex wise. Having not had sex during our 2 year engagement (too long!) we expected to be at it like rabbits! However, it was just ‘meh’. Thankfully we’ve worked and studied hard and are reaping the benefits now
    However, I do have a question, your chat about masturbation got me thinking and I asked my husband this evening – ‘do you still masturbate?’ He answered ‘I don’t really need to’ and when I prompted him by saying that’s not a no, he admitted he still does sometimes.
    I’m really sad now. We’ve been married 13 years and I would say probably have sex once a fortnight. What upsets me is him masturbating means I lose out on a connection and orgasm of my own!
    He is an incredibly selfless lover, but once he’s had his release, he’s good for a week. So by masturbating when I’m on shift at work, I’m missing out.

    How do I get over my feelings of sadness without making him feel like he’s awful for giving himself his own release?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi Anon,

      Yes, I do think that is an issue. If someone is masturbating, and then the other spouse is feeling like they want sex more than they’re actually having it, then that is robbing that spouse of sexual pleasure. And it’s also cementing this association of sex with self-pleasure rather than intimacy. I think it’s worth talking about. It will be a difficult conversation, but maybe ask why he masturbates, and then come up with solutions about what he could do instead to wait until he’s with you?

  5. Natalie

    I think there is a great benefit for couples who both know what they like sexually/physically. When the wife has no idea and isn’t comfortable touching herself and expects her husband to do the exploring (which, like you said, Sheila, puts her in a very passive state during the sexual encounter), at least in my experience, that makes the husband feel not only pressured to perform sexually but also pressured to “figure out” his wife. If he fails, well, that must mean he either doesn’t care enough to practice his bedroom skills more and do better, or he must be a completely incompetent lover since he can’t even please his own wife. (That’s at least how my husband has expressed to me how he feels in our sex life). It creates WAY too much needless stress & self-doubt of one’s abilities.

    The Christian sex ed I received at my Christian school strongly discouraged masturbation and touching of the genitals in pretty much every form because masturbation was sex with self and God called for sex to only be between a husband and wife. I was told that anything sex related (since my peers and I were all unmarried then) was of Satan, and we are told to “resist the devil and he will flee from you”. Plus, I was a good Christian girl who didn’t want to sin sexually and displease God. So I “resisted the devil” and completely resisted/suppressed my sexual side. It totally worked! I got really good (like, scary good!) at totally shutting down my sexual side. Well, no surprise here, that sexual switch didn’t magically turn on the moment I got married. Thanks to that perspective going into marriage, it’s been experience after experience of my husband and I trying to figure out what I like sexually, but me feeling too much shame around touching myself to figure out what I like on my own, and my husband being like a deer caught in headlights when I try to have him help me explore myself in bed (since that’s the only context I feel comfortable in and don’t feel like I’m doing something wrong). Yes, you touching yourself feels different than your husband touching you. But I’d take that any day over me having no idea how to direct him and tell him what I like, and him having zero idea where to start, what to do, how to touch, etc because he has basically just as much experience with vulvas as I do and is so intimidated and overwhelmed by the female anatomy. I think for me and the married women in similar situations, practicing with masturbation would be very beneficial. Even though I’ve made attempts this past year, I find I still have not yet been able to totally put aside feeling like I’m sinning or doing something wrong or dirty every time I touch different parts of my anatomy. It’s hard to get into a sexual, erotic mindset and be open to sexual touch when you have that little voice in your head telling you you’re doing something wrong. I’m still not sure if, in my case, that’s the Holy Spirit convicting me or just decades of having it drilled into me that a woman touching her vulva in any way is wrong and displeasing to God.

    • Budgie

      I guess all I will say is that if you can masturbate without fantasizing, then knock yourself out. But I’ve found personally that I cannot. It’s a fantasy that always leads me to masturbation and if the fantasy goes, the point of masturbation goes.

      It’s not easy living without sex and I say this as a single woman, but in my heart I just don’t see masturbation being an alternative. If sex is meant to be one flesh then solo sex just misses the mark. Maybe it can do a little good, but the bad I think outweighs it by a lot. And it goes hand in hand with so many other things – for me it was strongly related to fantasies that came from romance novels first and later porn.

      Just my thoughts – I know the Bible doesn’t explicitly condemn it but it seems contrary to the spirit of sexuality intimacy as God designed it.

      • Natalie

        Maybe I’ve been trying to do it wrong (which is probably the case, since all attempts I’ve made have never resulted in orgasm), but the “masturbation” I’ve tried has been more about understanding how I personally respond to physical touch. It’s also been about learning what my own anatomy looks and feels like to the touch, since that’s not something I learned till only recently. Fantasy has never been involved. It’s always been solely focused on physical sensations and trying to find what feels good (or what feels better than what I’ve tried before). You don’t have to be thinking about anything erotic to find that “example A” type of touch feels better and more sensual/sexual than “example B” type of touch.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I think that’s very true, Natalie! But when trying to masturbate to orgasm, many women do end up fantasizing, which is different. I think learning how your body works is totally okay.

  6. Carrie

    Hi Sheila,

    First, I want to say that I was raised in a churchy home…..not one that really practiced honoring God in all areas….and yes, sex was never talked about except to say that God abhors fornication and adultery, but there was never instruction for healthy acceptance of how God designed our bodies to be emotional and expressive as sexual partners in marriage.

    I was one of those women who decided in my early 20s that I really didn’t want to be married due to all the problems I saw in other relationships, and also to what I experienced while dating another young 20 year old who was actually cheating emotioanlly with my best friend who was temporarily serving in the mission field in another country.

    So basically I stopped even accepting the appreciative gestures of admiring men, and treated all men as the “scum of the earth who only wanted one thing…”.

    I was a happy single virgin…but after living single, I started to feel lonely in my late 30s. That’s when I felt inside of me that God was telling me to get ready for a friendship.

    Now, I worked 12 hour days, 5 days a week, and had absolutely NO social life. So I had no idea how this would even be possible, but ok, God…..I’ll be open to a friend.

    And this is where it got interesting.

    I started receiving Facebook friends requests, and interpreted this as an interesting twist that God presented me with….and in the effort to sort out if the requests were real or fake I treated them all as scammers.

    The majority were fake accounts, but 3 men stepped up and tried to endure my questioning and to build a friendship.

    Long story short, I met my husband on Facebook!! He is from Nigeria, but was living and working in India while he took classes as a student.

    I treated an amazing man like a Nigerian scammer for 2 years before I relaxed and realized that this man was truly interested in me.

    (And yes, I’m sharing my story because I also needed to open up sexually before I could have enjoyed sex within marriage)

    I discovered 28 days to great sex in the 2 years that I was interrogating my husband…because I had so many questions about having sex, how our bodies worked, what to expect the first time, how to overcome fear, etc.

    I also searched websites that looked at sex scientifically and found some that tied the physical and spiritual side of sex within marriage together….addressing Male DNA found in women’s brains possibly as a direct result of unprotected sex.

    Long story short, I started to take note of the monthly rhythms of my body due to hormones, and also how beautiful God created the Male and female bodies.

    So, on my wedding night, my husband who knew I was a terrified 42 year old virgin, also experienced fear of breaking my hymen, but took so much time to prepare me for that moment.

    After reading and listening to your blog and podcasts, I am very thankful for having a little bit of help in relaxing my body and brain.

    I was able to be relaxed and comfortable talking about sex with my husband, and every day since believe even more that God wants us to trust him in every part of our lives, including every aspect of being single, dating, and marriage.

    I think what affected my experience of sex ultimately was trusting my husband and talking with him during the whole process. Now we enjoy talking about our wedding night, the following nights, and how each of us felt on a very deep emotional level. My husband was just as scared of the breaking of the hymen as I was because he didn’t want to cause me any pain…and when I started to enjoy sex for the first time, he thought he was hurting me until I told him, DON’T STOP!

    Thank you for your blogs Sheila! I love how you turn everything about how sex is viewed in the church into God centered guidance!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, what a wonderful story! I’m so glad that I could be a part of helping you build your new marriage. And I’m so glad you found me. Thank you so much for sharing!

  7. Ashley

    I also want to comment about masturbation. I know it can be a slippery slope, and it’s not for everyone. And it shouldn’t be coupled with porn and lust. But some people use it just to take the edge off physically, and I don’t see the harm in that, if you are single.

    I am in a support group for separated and divorced Christians. Being without sex is a huge struggle for so many in the group. There are some who have slept with spouses they are in the process of divorcing—so very harmful! In a case like that, using a finger is far better than further bonding with someone you are divorcing. And most of those divorces are for cheating or abuse over many years. I just think masturbation is the better if you absolutely have to have the release.

  8. Dean

    As the much-higher-libido spouse, I was masturbating almost daily in the beginning of our marriage. Then I stopped it, together with quitting porn, and have not done it for the last 9 years. I think that that actually led to some increase of my wife’s libido, over time. Maybe because she felt more desired, or because she felt more secure in our relationship and my dedication to her.

  9. Nov

    I personally believe that masturbation can be helpful for single people—that is separate from fantasizing and lusting. But for all you singles who hope to marry someday do know that it can affect your sex life to some extent. My husband would masturbate regularly before we were married, and once we actually had sex he had a hard time orgasming inside of me; he would have to finish himself. This was after hrs sometimes. That was devastating for me. I would orgasm-(ironically) and it was hard on us both to have the stereotype so backward. He felt like something was wrong with him and I was afraid I’d being a sex crazed woman or that there was something terribly wrong with us. That being said now it’s great. It just took some time for him to dissociate the manual stimulation, and be able to sense OTHER kind of stimulation. Masturbation trains you to be super specific in your stimulation.
    I also think that as a young Cristian man committed to sexual purity HE had a hard time turning the switch of sexuality. Now he need not turn off any sexual thoughts and mechanically relieve himself but he could feel.
    Another thing is that sometimes the way you master are can never be reproduced by your spouse.
    Again my husband would masterbate using a lot of pressure and fast friction that could never be possible in PIV. Literally seemed his nerves were desensitized. Our breakthrough was when he decided to quit masturbating cold turkey and and that allowed for sexual pressure to build up helping him rewire himself to enjoy all different kind of stimulation 😉, as well as helping him break the bad habit of being used to the Old stimulation, and also motivating him to be more aware of what he was feeling and to reach orgasm in other ways as the quick fix was off the table.
    Also just knowing that this was probably the problem(something that could be fixed, even if it took awhile) took alot of fear and anxiety away that we’re not helping either
    Sorry if TMI, but I hope someone finds it helpful


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