Have We Made Sex into an Entitlement?

by | Mar 13, 2020 | Sexual Intimacy, Theology of Marriage and Sex | 93 comments

Has Sex Become a Male Entitlement in Evangelical Christianity?
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What happens if we tell women that husbands are entitled to sex–no matter what?

I’m a big proponent of sex in marriage. Most of what I write is about sex. I have a revamped version of 31 Days to Great Sex coming out this summer with Zondervan. I’ve created a course to help women Boost their Libido. I have a super fun product for couples called 24 Spicy Dares, that can add some heat and passion to your marriage!

I believe that the ideal is for sex to be fun, passionate, and frequent.

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But I’ve also found that one of the big things that wrecks sex in marriage is treating it like an entitlement, rather than as a mutual expression of love. 

On Fridays I like to feature some comments that came in during the week, because often the best parts of the blog are in the comments section, and sometimes people miss that!

And this week we’ve talked about community, and screen time, and doing family well.

But the comment I want to focus on came in this week, but it was in response to a post from a few weeks ago on sexual trauma–The Body Keeps the Score. 

Mia wrote:

Reader Comment

My husband and I have been married for four years, and used to enjoy sexual intimacy and never had any problems – until after the birth of our first child. It could be a mix of things that caused it but I definitely know that the pressure I felt early on to please my husband did something very negative to my overall view of sex. When we did try intercourse it was extremely painful. We have unsuccessfully tried several times since then. It has almost been two years. The sexual dysfunction exposed underlying issues in our relationships that we have not been able to repair. We are heading toward separation. My husband has a very fundamentalistic view of the bible (I used to as well) and I think he would like me to suffer through the pain and fulfill my duty for his sake. That duty-mentality completely kills any arousal and does not help fix my problem of pain. I just cannot do it. That’s not to say I am not open to other to different ways of being sexually intimate, it is just that all this tension and hostility between us makes it seem impossible to do with a sincere heart. I most definitely blame christian culture and purity culture. We were taught that if we stayed pure – sex in marriage would be fantastic. Which it was for some years, but then we were hit with reality. My husband has been in denial and admitted that he never thought something like this could even happen. His relationship with God has drastically gone downhill. Perhaps questioning God’s goodness for allowing this situation to happen. My husband went three years before our marriage without any sex or masturbation, to please God, so I know he is capable, but he says it is different in marriage. Which I can understand to a degree, but still. It is interesting to me that when it is my body that got injured during birth (pelvic organ prolapse) and my body that has changed and now experiences pain during intercourse – that he acts as if he is the only one hurting. I know he loves me, but I feel so objectified, like you mentioned, a “penis home”. The fact that my husband wants me to have sex with him despite intense pain disgusts me and I really questioning who I chose to marry.

Wow. Please listen to this again:

It is interesting to me that when it is my body that got injured during birth (pelvic organ prolapse) and my body that has changed and now experiences pain during intercourse – that he acts as if he is the only one hurting.

When we talk about sex as something that women must give men with no caveats, we treat men’s need for sex as a bigger need than anything else.

This is the problem with books like Love & Respect, Every Man’s Battle, The Power of a Praying Wife, or others treating sex like something that a woman must give, without ever giving any caveats about pain, vaginismus, nausea during pregnancy, grief if a parent or a child dies, emotional abuse, physical abuse, addictions, porn use, or anything else. By saying that women must give men sex, and not ever mentioning a time when this may not be a good idea or when her needs might supersede his, then readers are left with the impression that no matter how badly she is feeling, he must still be feeling even worse. 

When pastors talk about sex as a duty in marriage, rather than as something which is meant for both of you and that grows out of your relationship with one another, it can leave women feeling exactly like this woman does–that she doesn’t matter.

I believe that men who would otherwise be very giving in every other area of their marriage are taught that their needs here are so great that she is sinning if she doesn’t meet them–no matter what is happening with her.

I know men who are super generous, and very kind, and very giving in every other area of their lives, but they simply feel entitled to sex. And if she can’t provide it, because of pain or physical problems or grief or anything else, they become very angry and resentful. In this one area, there is a tremendous amount of selfishness. And, ironically, they think they’re being Christian, because 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 says “do not deprive“. How sad it is that their wives are not listening to Jesus, in their minds.

They try to live a holy life and obey God, and they have also been taught that part of a woman obeying God is providing them with sex. So if she doesn’t, for whatever reason, she is sinning. And so it’s easy to feel as if you are in the right and she is in the wrong–even though that attitude completely ignores a really important Biblical concept, putting others’ needs before your own:

Philippians 2:3-4

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, rather, in humility value others above yourselves. 

Not just that, but:
Jesus called them together and said,

Matthew 20:25-28

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must become your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

When we think about sex as a male entitlement, we change the very nature of sex.

Despite what much evangelical teaching says, sex is not just about a husband’s physical release. In fact, that, in and of itself, is not the point at all. Sex is about a mutual “knowing” of each other; a mutually satisfying, passionate encounter where both partners feel seen and cared for. When we make sex into something that she owes him, we erase her entirely.

We don’t just erase her sexuality, either. We erase her personhood. If sex is supposed to be a deep, intimate “knowing” of each other, then if he is saying, “I deserve sex no matter what you think or feel”, he is actually rejecting knowing her. He isn’t only using her; he is rejecting her as a person.

It may not feel that way to him, but that is exactly the way it feels to her, and that is exactly what his actions are saying.

By perpetuating the idea that sex is an entitlement, we change the very nature of faith, too.

She writes:

My husband has been in denial and admitted that he never thought something like this could even happen. His relationship with God has drastically gone downhill. Perhaps questioning God’s goodness for allowing this situation to happen.

This breaks my heart. People are walking away from Jesus because sex isn’t going well in marriage. It’s all part of treating sexuality like a prosperity gospel–if you do all the right things, God will give you amazing sex.

There’s a huge problem with the way that we are discipling young people today. Too much of the evangelical church is trying to “bribe” teenagers and young adults to stay with Christ because the world has terrible relationships and terrible marriages and terrible sex, and if you do it God’s way and don’t have sex now, then everything will go well with you. The reason you follow Jesus is because when you live like a Christian, you don’t have all the struggles these people have. Your life is good.

The reason you follow Jesus is because Jesus is Lord. You follow Him because He’s good, and because the kingdom that He ushered in is built on the kind of principles that are life-giving. You follow Him because He loves you, and because through the Holy Spirit we have power to live the kind of life we are called to live. We follow Him because He gave the ultimate sacrifice for us.

He does not guarantee us ANYTHING on this earth. We need to get that through our heads.

What would I say to this woman?

First, I’m so sorry. What a terrible burden and heartbreak to carry. On a physical note, please see a pelvic floor physiotherapist to deal with the issues, because they likely are fixable.

But about marriage, please talk to a licensed counselor about this. Don’t back down, but fight for your marriage. Don’t let him go without a fight. Call him to more. He was not called to live a selfish, entitled life, thinking that this is the picture of Christianity. He was called to follow Jesus. At one point  he likely fell in love with the real Jesus. Remind him of that person he once was. If you can, take the attention off of sex and onto Jesus, because that’s the root of the issue. Our life is not about entitlement but service. So let’s learn how to serve each other better, and that means understanding what sex in light of Jesus, even if that sounds weird. Jesus was about serving and passion. Jesus was never, ever about entitlement. If we make one part of our lives diametrically opposite to Jesus, then we’re actually showing we don’t understand our Savior.

If you see a counselor who doesn’t understand the problem with entitlement sex, then find another one. But most will see how dangerous this is.

You have children now, and I pray that you can work this out. But I understand your heartache, and I’m so, so sorry that the church set you both up for such a profound disappointment and betrayal.

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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93 Comments

  1. Anon

    Excellent post. While my situation is not nearly as extreme this articulates so well what I’ve been trying to put my finger on in my own marriage. My husband is wonderful, sacrifices for the family in so many areas. But has a blind spot with sex and entitlement. Thanks for writing this

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      This really was one of our findings in our survey–how destructive this message was. It’s a big part of what we’re writing in The Great Sex Rescue. As I’ve been going through some of the bestselling books on marriage, it’s just amazing to me how centered they are on this message. I don’t know how it became one of the central messages with sex, but it seems to be in most of the books. I hope we can change that conversation. It looks like women enjoy sex more when they don’t feel as if it’s an obligation.

      Reply
  2. Separated

    I wish I could believe that most counselors would see the issue with entitlement, but sadly I’m not sure they would. It might be better for her to see an individual counselor First. Seeing a marriage counselor would mean seeing someone who is looking for the fault of both people. When dealing with entitlement, there can be a person who desperately wants to do the right thing and is therefore manipulated by the entitled person. It may take the counselor talking to each person individually to unravel it. Because of the fundamentalist teachings, women often don’t believe they can tell the truth with the power-over spouse in the room. bottom line- same as what we tell children to protect them from predators- if someone doesn’t listen or believe you- Kee trying until someone does.

    Reply
    • Wife

      Or use a secular counselor. A Christian counselor who has Love and Respect on their bookshelf is a.red flag.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Yes! Completely.

        Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Very true. I think it’s generally a good idea to see a counselor yourself first, anyway, and to have the husband see them individually BEFORE you see them together regardless. I think many counselors have bought into the “entitlement sex” idea, absolutely, especially, tragically, biblical counselors. Not all; but the seminaries that teach the counselors also often teach entitlement sex in marriage, and hierarchical marriage tends to be the way that they see marriage. You can even just take a look at our list of 98 ways women can sin against their husbands which includes all kinds of sexual red flags–and this was given out by biblical counselors.
      That being said, I know some biblical counselors who are wonderful, so asking the right questions is important. And many licensed therapists have been trained appropriately. But it is a big problem, and, again, I’m just hoping we can change the conversation.

      Reply
      • Kelly

        Between Sheila’s resources and an individual counselor, I have come to the realization that this is what I am experiencing in my marriage. We are now working on repairing it in couples counseling with an excellent Christian Psychologist. I’d also like to caution the use of secular counseling, or at least, be very, very careful. My husband and I have tried addressing our issues with a sex therapist before and things got much worse. Then, we individually saw therapists to try to heal from the damage of his sex addiction. We were told effectively everything is ok, and even though I was describing the emotional abuse, it was never called out or addressed. It wasn’t until I started seeing the Christian counselor that I recognized the abuse. Now, after 18 years we are finally moving in the right direction!

        Reply
    • Kelly

      Between Sheila’s resources and an individual counselor, I have come to the realization that this is what I am experiencing in my marriage. We are now working on repairing it in couples counseling with an excellent Christian Psychologist.

      Reply
  3. Wifeofasexaddict

    In addition to sex, my husband also feels entitled to a sexy, young body to look at. He was genuinely shocked by how my body changed when I had babies. He is angry about the weight I have gained . Because every message he has ever heard, both church and secular, has told him women exist for him and his viewing pleasure. Gross.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, dear. I’m so sorry. That is one of the problems with the “men are visual” message as well.

      Reply
      • Wifeofasexaddict

        Yes. I hate that message too. Women are visual too.

        Reply
    • Meghan

      Oh hon I am so sorry you’re dealing with that. Your body is an instrument, not an ornament. I hope one day your husband can see that.

      Reply
  4. Nathan

    Separated writes
    > > I wish I could believe that most counselors would see the issue with entitlement,
    Many “Christian” counselors might not see the issue with entitlement, but some might.
    The woman who wrote to you mentioned that there were some other underlying issues in the marriage. My advice to them would be to address these first, THEN approach the sex issue. Visit doctors and therapists to see what physiological/emotional issues may be contributing and how to overcome them.
    Sex is a wonderful thing, but if we start saying “I’m entitled to sex, and you exist to serve that need of mine, even if you’re in pain and suffering”, then that’s destroying her personhood and basic humanity

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It really is destroying, Nathan. It’s just so sad.

      Reply
      • Susanna Musser

        I have a genuine question.
        If there were some way to separate the physical problem from the marital problem this wife is experiencing, and if I could ask her one question without it being misunderstood due to the relational baggage, I’m curious why they didn’t pursue medical help long before two years had passed. That just blew my mind. If a man was unable to have intercourse with his wife, wouldn’t we counsel him to have himself medically checked out and pursue treatment, so as not to deprive his wife of her marital rights? I’m uncomfortable any time I feel like we’re beginning to apply a double standard in either direction.
        Now, the relational problems that have been revealed by the physical problems have muddied the waters. The wife will understandably feel reluctant to address her physical problems if she feels used and unloved.
        But what if her husband asked her way back then to pursue medical treatment (should start with a urogynecologist), and she has put that off for two years, knowing it means no sex for either of them indefinitely? At what point does it become deliberate deprivation for one spouse to fail to address treatable medical conditions that prevent sex?
        Thank you for considering my question. I appreciate your thoughtful replies when it would be easy to give knee-jerk reactions.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I think that’s a great question, and I certainly would have told her to get medical help (it was actually the first thing in my reply directly to her). I honestly don’t think a lot of people know that there’s help for this, because in general the help you get is from a pelvic floor physiotherapist not an OBGYN, and a lot of OBGYNs aren’t even familiar with pelvic floor physiotherapy, especially in the US. It’s far more common in Europe, and getting more common in Canada, but in the U.S. it doesn’t seem to be as widespread, at least from what commenters have told me.
          But I also think that the way that the husband acted probably made it less likely that she wanted to work on this. I do hope that they are able to separate the two issues, and that she does get medical help. But I also hope that he understands the harm that he has caused by his attitude, because this is toxic. And because they have kids especially, hope they can repair.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Susanna, just thought of something else.
            I’ve written before that if we have issues that are making sex difficult/impossible that can be fixed, that we do have an obligation to fix it, whether it’s seeing a physician, a trauma counselor, a physiotherapist, whatever. Absolutely.
            But I think the issue with this husband was that he wasn’t approaching it that way. It wasn’t, “let’s get you healed, because you shouldn’t have to live like this,” or “I don’t want us to be deprived of something that God made for us”, but it was instead, “I am owed this, and so you must provide it regardless.” That attitude is just toxic. I would hope that if you’re married to someone who has an issue that is making sex difficult, that you would join with your spouse in trying to get it fixed for your spouse’s sake and the sake of the marriage, and not just yourself. Does that make sense?

          • Susanna Musser

            Sheila, that does make a lot of sense; thank you for this reply.

      • Mia

        I am the person who wrote this readers comment. Thanks for sharing it and having this conversation Sheila. I just noticed this now one year later. Probably not much use in my commenting on this now but I want to anyway.
        We are thankfully doing so much better. Just a couple of months after I wrote that comment things started improving for us. The key was to feel safety in the relationship again, to rebuild trust that my husband actually cares about me. He wholeheartedly repented for his behavior and this allowed the healing to begin.
        As for the painful sex, my prolapse was not the main issue for my pain, but hormones due to breastfeeding, and also a tense pelvic floor. I also developed a bladder condition called Interstitial Cystitis which can often cause pain during sex. The biggest contributor to my pain was likely my body protecting me from what felt unsafe at the time. I have learned more about trauma and the brain lately and it all makes sense now. I am now able to have pain-free penetrative sex at least a few times a month, and will hopefully continue getting better. Letting go of the harmful religious beliefs around sexuality was also a huge stepping stone for me. This experience completely shattered my conservative Christian faith, although I still consider myself a Jesus-follower. I am thankful to you Sheila for all your posts and podcasts, you have been an inspiration to me, and without Christians like you, I am not sure where my faith would be today.
        I wanted to clarify for those who asked in the comments that I did seek medical help early on. At 6 months post partum I sought help specifically for painful sex, both with doctors and pelvic floor physiotherapy. I was in on-going therapy for a long time. Unfortunately my body needed more time than a few months to get better – which goes to show how important the emotional and spiritual aspect is as well.
        I have come to learn since that this whole situation was traumatic and led to some form of PTSD. My therapist would also classify it under Religious trauma. It is one big mess with many factors involved. I do not wish this experience upon anyone.
        I am forever thankful to people like Sheila who are educating Christians about the harms of these toxic beliefs. Reading your posts was my first step to freeing myself from these burdens.

        Reply
    • Matilda

      There is so much immaturity out there. Christians really don’t get that Jesus was never married, Jesus never had sex and He is our role model! The church wonders why we seemingly have no voice or authority in the world. How many Christian men genuinely love Jesus enough to be single forever & never expect anything else? How many women? How many Christians are prepared to give up the blessing of children? To pick up their cross daily and follow Jesus? Never to experience sex, marriage or children… and to STILL passionately love God? I’m also concerned that so many men really have no clue the sacrifice and toll pregnancy & childbirth has on women & their bodies. I absolutely love that Jesus never got married or had sex, as a woman it makes me feel valued.

      Reply
      • Naomi

        That’s an excellent point. It’s ironic that even though Christians are called to be ‘in the world but not of it,’ most Patriarchal/fundamentalist Christian books act like sex-addicted male behavior is just normal and operate within that paradigm when advising wives. Our culture absolutely stokes the fires of sexual appetite as young as possible in boys to create lifelong consumers of sexual material and sexually charged ads and entertainment. This is not ‘normal’ or healthy or the job of women to try to keep up with or compete with. If we expect so little of men and teach them they’re going to fail and that it’s normal, no wonder so many dysfunctional men are writing these ‘Christian’ books and making such a mess of this subject. Jesus set the standard, not the culture!

        Reply
  5. Bethany

    This is a wonderful article. My husband was actually the one who got me out of this weird mindset that I somehow absorbed from the church (I don’t even rightly know where it came from, just kind of a general worldview thing somehow). I’m the one who tends to think “no matter what I owe you this” (though I’m honestly horrible at actually making myself follow through on that) and he is like “this is a good thing for both of us and not something to plow ahead with when you are feeling crappy.” I’m super thankful for him.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m in your camp, Bethany! I think at this point I still have a lot of the residual “obligation sex” guilt, and my husband is totally not into that. Sometimes we women do it to ourselves, because of what we’ve been taught.

      Reply
      • Anon

        In my experience with going to a Pastor for marriage help the first question is “are you having sex” as soon as my husband says no or complains that it’s not enough for him that’s all the sessions focus on.
        No questions about other areas in the relationship need to be addressed.
        It’s the equivalent of saying
        “Your husband isn’t happy with your sex life. No wonder you are having marriage problems.”
        Misses the mark in so many ways

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          It really does. I think that in the church we have focused so much on sex that we forget the context and purpose and meaning, and it’s sad.

          Reply
    • Bethany#2

      Hello other Bethany! You just said what I was going to, but better! He came from a childhood of abusive partners of his mom’s. He is determined to never hurt his wife, in any way. He’s a wonderful husband.

      Reply
    • Hannah

      Same. I have so much residual guilt, and my husband keeps trying his darndest to make sure I know he values me, not what he can get from my body.

      Reply
    • Meghan

      I feel you so much on this! Every once in a while I’ll keep going with sex even though I’m starting to hurt a bit, because my husband is so aroused and close to climaxing that I feel bad cutting him off, you know? And when he notices he stops immediately and insists we use another position or move to manual stimulation because he loves me and doesn’t want me to hurt even a little. Why do I do this to myself?

      Reply
      • Phil

        Meghan – I have been watching this conversation closely and what you share hits home with me. Long story short – my wife and I had sex and the next day I said something about it and she informed me that there was pain during part of our encounter. My response was why didnt you tell me? I would love to discuss this topic more maybe in another post or if Sheila might jump in here more. WHY? Why as you say would you do this? My response to my wife was Why didnt you tell me? I told her she needs to tell me because I dont want to hurt her. There has been discussion that this message comes from the church and maybe so….but there has to be other factors. Social messages or something. For me when something is painful….I just want to so the work whatever that is and change it. Man I hope someone reading this can just speak up and say I dont want to be hurt. I am worthy of better. Certainly Jesus would want you to speak up. Thanks for reading my rambling….this topic has my attention.

        Reply
        • Ina

          It’s quite simple, really. We’re told (rightly so,) that love is sacrificial and giving. We think: “what’s a few moments of pain? I can handle that.” We mistake the real call for sacricial love for a spirit of martyrdom that is NOT life giving or truly helpful in a marriage.
          Besides, it just feels unfair to cut him off once the end is in sight, even if that’s the right thing to do. The message that “men NEED sex” is so heavily pushed by both society and religion that if takes years of unlearning.

          Reply
        • L#2

          Phil, I think there were a number of reasons for me, and I still don’t fully understand. One reason (as I came to realise later) was that I had this underlying belief that sex was mostly for the guy – a NEED for him, and therefore my pleasure was secondary and incidental to the whole process. Therefore my pain didn’t matter as much as what he was receiving. Which is really saying I didn’t matter – as Sheila said. Another reason was that I didn’t want to hurt him. I’m not even completely sure what I thought would hurt him, but that thought was definitely there. I didn’t want him to feel like he couldn’t approach me for sex. I knew it was important to him and didn’t want to take it away from him, even though I was hating it, and I knew if he was aware of how bad it was he wouldn’t want to pursue it. Which is good! I just felt really bad about that. If we were in the moment and it was hurting, I didn’t feel like it was fair to stop him, and later on, after I’d somewhat recovered,I downplayed it enough to convince myself I didn’t need to talk to him. And also I was confused. Like utter-emotional-turmoil confused. Because the physical pain doesn’t come in isolation – it comes with guilt and body shame and ‘spiritual’ shame and obligation and anger and more guilt. I could barely separate one thought from another to myself, so how could I explain everything to him?

          Reply
    • L#2

      Yes, similar for me too! This is not a message that has come from my husband, but it’s wreaked havoc on our sex life (and by extention the rest of our marriage) even so. Other than one particular sermon which told me I would lose a little of my husband every time I said no, I’m not completely sure where I got it from either. But I can’t seem to get rid of it. There is always a little voice in my head saying, “Love is supposed to serve the other. If you loved him the way you’re supposed to you’d be happy to do this for him, even if it was hard for you. It shouldn’t feel like obligation. If it feels like obligation you’re a terrible wife!” I don’t know how to stop doing this to myself, but I’m very thankful my husband isn’t adding to it!

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I really think this is just such a common feeling. In reading many marriage & sex books, it definitely is taught in the Christian world. I don’t think that means that guys necessarily believe it; but it is taught. And it does wreck the way we think about sex.

        Reply
  6. Natalie

    Yes! Spot on! The church has 100% made marital sex a male entitlement. Female pleasure isn’t even a thing in the church. In fact, when I realized I didn’t orgasm after the first several months of being sexually active with my husband, I resigned myself to the “fact” that I must just be one of those anorgasmic women, and that that was just the way it was. But that didn’t mean I should stop having sex, so sex became all about my husband’s pleasure. 5 minute quickies became the norm for us newlyweds. And when that got boring and emotionally burdensome, it became one every few weeks, then once a month, then once every few months or as frequently as my husband voiced that he needed sex.
    How helpful it would’ve been to me then to have a husband who looked at the situation critically and decided to initiate making sex pleasurable for me, or at least trying everything he could think of and everything he read about online. Instead, he just accepted that I must be one of those women who doesn’t like sex, so he was just gonna take what he could get. But thankfully, the Lord brought me to a place of extreme enough frustration with my sex life and relationship that I was the one to start initiating that change, in large part thanks to your ministry, Sheila. It’s taken A LOT of work to undo all the damage I was taught verbally and non-verbally about sex from the church and Christian culture, not to mention the secular culture at large.

    Reply
  7. Sarah O

    I get that this teaching has become widespread and all, but honestly I feel like that is an excuse and not even a great one. I refuse to believe that men are dumb.
    How do you reconcile “loving” someone while disregarding/ignoring their pain, or worse – actively hurting them? How is there a situation where you can say to your spouse, “It will feel sooooo good to me to hurt you,” and somehow miss the selfishness bordering on malevolence?
    Maybe I am missing something or being over harsh, but I don’t think demanding painful sex is an issue that education and counseling can overcome. And I don’t plan on normalizing it to my kids.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I don’t understand it either, Sarah. But I have heard this taught from so many men, and with so many marriage counselors, this is the first thing they go to: “Do not deprive”….
      I really don’t want to think that the men who believe this are necessarily malevolent. I think they’ve grown up hearing “Every Man’s Battle” about how men will inevitably lust if they don’t get sex, and how women are their methadone treatment (as the book actually says). I think they’ve grown up hearing “do not deprive”. And so they think that it’s a major sin issue on her part if she doesn’t protect him from sin. It’s all just very unhealthy, and we have to start talking about this right, because this thinking messes up everything–your marriage; your sin life; your relationship with God. It’s brutal.

      Reply
      • Sarah O

        It’s just discouraging to have to explain this 101 caveman stuff like “Pain Bad. No hurty wifey.” I don’t know what to think. I Just know when my husband is in pain and I can’t focus on anything but getting him OUT of pain as quick as possible. And I know he would say the same. Like…dudes…do you not know what pain is?
        I want to assume the best and I have known so many fascinating genius men who know and do better. I just can’t imagine what teaching I could swallow that would make me able to enjoy sex that physically hurt my husband.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I know, Sarah. It just shows how far we’ve fallen.

          Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          “Pain Bad. No hurty wifey.” Oh, my goodness, that made me laugh. And I needed it!

          Reply
      • Karyn

        Sheila, did you mean “sex-life”? It says “sin life”…

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I did mean sin life–as in it affects how we see sin and also makes us sin when we don’t even realize it. But I don’t think I was clear. 🙂

          Reply
  8. Arwen

    Christian men being entitled to sex is just one of the many entitlements the Church teaches them. Other entitlements Christian men are taught are: Marrying the hottest Christian woman they can find, marrying the skinniest Christian woman, the Christian men however are entitled to look however they want, 300 lbs and all, they are entitled to marry a Christian woman who will serve him hand and foot, he’s entitled not to lift a hand around the house, etc. etc. Many religions cater to men and their entitlements. Christianity does not however, the male teachers in Christianity miss use the Bible to feed into the pride and ego of your everyday male.
    So it’s not surprising her husband’s faith is teetering when he’s not getting his fleshly desires fulfilled. There is a bigger issue going on in this marriage. Sex is just the symptom they need to get down to the root cause of the problem here.

    Reply
    • Lindsey

      I don’t think that the church actively teaches that Christian men are entitled to the hottest/skinniest woman. I think the real issue lies in the fact that for men ”shopping” for a mate, it’s a ”buyer’s market”.
      There are simply so many more women in churches than men that they selection is much larger. And – just like every other decision, we subconsciously attempt to maximize the utility (to use the economic term), or pleasure that we get from our choice. We all make decisions that way, we want to get the ”best we can afford” so to speak. No one had to teach them, it’s just the result of being the more ”in demand” gender within Christianity.
      Women absolute behave the same way – on the whole – when their are more men to chose from than women to be chosen.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        There definitely are more Christian women than Christian men. I think it’s always been the case. Even in Roman times, they called Christianity the religion of “women and slaves”!

        Reply
    • Natalie

      Honestly, I don’t really think that’s something the church teachings. I think it’s something Christians on social media promote. So when you’re following other Christians and they’re talking about how “blessed” they are by their sexy amazing wives who are perfect, it’s putting her supposed “perfection” as the focus. Their godliness is often tied with their physical hotness and domestic/mothering abilities. At least that’s been my observation. And I do think that’s the same for wives talking about their husbands. I don’t think fat husbands are promoted on social media at all!!! All the Christian husband I’ve seen bragged about are all generically hot. Humble bragging online is still bragging, even if you use the word “blessed”.

      Reply
      • Emmy

        Natalie, this is something churches have been teaching. They have been doing it before any social media even existed. Not all churches but some of them. It is old stuff. It has been going on for years and years. For decades. For centuries.
        So now and then, there have been people like Tim LaHaye who have written books on sex with a much more balanced view, but after them, there have beed this Eggerich guy, and Mark Driscol, and others, who have got everything back to the Stone Ages again.

        Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Oh, so true!

        Reply
  9. CP

    I cannot tell you how timely this posting is! I have spent the last 25 years of a very oppressive and emotionally (and sometimes physically) abusive marriage to a Christian man, giving into sex because that is supposedly what the bible says to do and what all the Christian marriage books told me I had to do, no matter how unpleasant it was for me. We actually did come across only one book that did stress that it should be pleasurable for women and offered “techniques” for increasing pleasure for the woman, which were so unhelpful. Mainly because the real issue was the way my husband was treating me. More foreplay or using vibrators did not appeal to me and certainly didn’t help me to find pleasure! Oddly, none of the well-meaning Christian books on marriage and/or sex thought to explore the possibility there may be reasons outside the bedroom for a woman not enjoying sex with her husband. I think out of everything we read, the most damaging advice was implying if you are not sexy enough or giving your husband sex whenever he wants it will tempt him to pornography or adultery (therefore, making it the woman’s fault). Again, not addressing the fact that there could be grievous issues in the marriage that could cause the woman to shut down sexually. Also, not taking into account childbirth and health issues later in life that can cause women to put on weight (that is not related to lack of exercise or overeating), but being compared unfavorably to young 20ish girls who have never given birth. And YES, I was told by most people that we sought help from in the past that it was MY SIN that I didn’t enjoy sex. And a few of them were actually women! Due to my husband’s complaining to our current pastor about this issue, we are now getting counseling from him about this. THANK THE LORD that he doesn’t follow the standard line of thought. He assured me that it was not my sin that it is totally normal for a woman (or even a man) to shut down sexually when they have been habitually mistreated by their spouse. So, my encouragement to anyone going through this, whatever the reason, is to keep praying and looking for the right person or resource(s). This blog is a fantastic way to start! Thank you, Sheila for being a voice for all of us!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      CP, I’m so glad that you found this helpful! And I’m so glad that your pastor has been so helpful, too. That’s so encouraging to hear (especially since I hear horror stories all the time, so now I can’t recommend that people talk to their pastors anymore). I know what you mean about the books. I’ve been very disheartened, too. But I do think we’re changing the conversation! I pray that you can get past this and that your husband can see you as a whole person and treat you well. And I pray that you may find the intimacy that God does desire for you!

      Reply
  10. Lynn

    I just wanted to say that it could have been me writing the comment about extremely painful sex after marriage. I’m in the same boat and my husband acting hurt towards me, even though I’d force myself to have sex regularly and then lay awake for literally hours after sex in extreme pain. It was frustrating and made me feel angry & resentful. Thank you Sheila for working on changing views on the subject of marriage and sex! Your books and blog have been a God send!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so glad they’ve helped, and I’m so sorry you’re going through this! I hope that you’ve found a good physiotherapist, too. It can get better!

      Reply
  11. David

    Sheila,
    The church I attend (and others in the past) don’t talk about sex with exception of when it involves sexual sin outside of marriage.
    So I’m not familiar or have witnessed husbands being entitled to sex, especially in Mia’s circumstances.
    I do feel saddened to read about Mia experiencing pelvic organ prolapse. I never heard of it until reading your post.
    I actually googled to see what it was, but also the remedy if there is any as she deserves as much normalcy as possible whether or not she is able to have sex again.
    I notice in a Harvard website that explained possible treatments of pelvic organ prolapse, which includes Kegals.
    Though if Mia attempts doing Kegel’s she has to be careful not to overdo it, (and avoid heavy squeezing excerises) otherwise her muscles may get extremely tender, whereas I’m sure doing them 3 times a day with light squeeze and hold for 5 seconds, no more than 5 reps each time doing those 5 reps just 3 times a day. I think my wife, learned how to do Kegals by stopping the flow of pee, when she was using the restroom. After that she could do them watching tv or simply relaxing.
    But also it sounds like her husband is too rough with penetrative intimacy, it didn’t even sound like he was applying an unscented water base lubricant and enter slowly. But if Mia is unable to experience penetrative intimacy at this time, he should discover ways of being more mentally nurturing, even it means that he can’t feather touch her clitoris, if that is too painful to her.
    Here’s what is in the Harvard article:
    The first treatment your doctor might recommend is pelvic floor physical therapy, which may include Kegel exercises. You squeeze and release the muscles you use to hold in gas, which strengthens the muscles that help to support the pelvic organs.
    It’s important to do Kegels the right way, Dr. Wakamatsu says. A physical therapist can use techniques like biofeedback to help you find the right muscles to squeeze. Physical therapy with Kegels may be enough to relieve prolapse symptoms.
    Your doctor might also recommend a device called a pessary. Pessaries are made from silicone and come in many different shapes. The pessary is inserted into the vagina to help support the prolapsed organs. It is usually fitted to you, and it’s removable.
    Surgery is an option for women who aren’t comfortable with the idea of using a pessary, or who have tried it and found it didn’t relieve their symptoms.
    There are several different types of surgery, based on the location and severity of the prolapse and other health issues.
    For women who have uterine prolapse, often a hysterectomy (removing the uterus) is recommended. Women who are at high risk for repeated prolapse may have a procedure called sacrocolpopexy, in which the surgeon works through small incisions in the abdomen to reposition the pelvic organs back where they should be.

    Reply
  12. Emily Shore

    My husband even brought up a good point! In going for my MA in justice and reconciliation, I’ve learned how much we are embodied and how much a holistic approach is needed. He pointed out how all of this trauma going on with the battle over sex could also be impeding her healing!!!it makes sense. If she’s is spending so much energy on this spiritual, emotional, and physical battle with her husband, then she cannot heal from her pelvic pain. You are absolutely right to refer her to a professional counselor! I wish the best for her.

    Reply
    • OldManWinter

      My wife had an epesiotomy (spelling?) And developed granular tissue as a result. I had a hard time with the pain she had. I desired the connection with her, but could not bear to cause her pain. It honestly made me feel rejected. As a result of the feeling of rejection and the sexual pain, I felt like a terrible person.
      This goes back to the sexual abuse I faced as a child. Now I have the extreme opposite to entitlement. I feel that if I ask for sex, in anyway at all from being insistent, to a simple request, to initiation, to even hinting makes me feel like I am forcing her. I wish this wasn’t so, but it greatly effects our sex life. She is a twice monthly and I am a thrice weekly person, psied with my gears it leads to friction. But we are trying to work it out.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        That’s so hard. Has she seen any medical personnel that may be able to help with this? I’m not sure about that condition; I’ll have to look it up. I know many women have scar tissue after episiotomies/tears, and that can be stretched and massaged. I understand feeling like you’re a terrible person for wanting sex. It is a hard situation. What about doing things other than intercourse, and work on arousal for both of you? Would she be open to that? I think it’s important that she feel good, too, because if she’s only having sex for you, that will solidify the bad feelings in your mind, but also in hers.

        Reply
        • OldManWinter

          They cauterized the tissue and it fixed the problem, however even day to day I face my issues

          Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, absolutely. In fact, that’s one of our findings in our survey. If pain is worse when women feel like sex is an obligation, then the answer can’t only be physiotherapy. You also have to deal with the underlying belief. It’s my prayer that more medical researchers will see our survey findings once they’re published and work on a holistic approach to healing. We’re hoping to publish some academic papers just on this aspect of the survey especially (although others on the whole thing) because I think it’s an area that needs further study.

      Reply
  13. Myra

    Thank you so much for writing this. In my marriage this is one of our biggest disagreements. ‘My husband is deep in addiction to alcohol. When he drinks he gets very angry and verbal abusive and yet expects me to have sex with him. I have tried telling him when you hurt me like that it makes it hard to want to be intimate.. His response is usually we are married, a man needs sex to connect with his wife, sex shouldn’t be such an issue when married, I wouldn’t be mean if you would have sex. Then to add to all of i found out he had tried to solicit his ex. for sex., sexting his sisters friend. Thankfully the ex said no. It still frustrating and mind boggling how he can be so selfish. I tell him I feel objectified. I believe the sexting demonstrated that but he still won’t take full responsibility. I’m at my wits end. I truly hate sex as a result of all this mess. Even after the birth of our 2nd child, I had hormonal issues, exhausted from taking care of a newborn at the same time a 15 month old, body image issues:, I came to him and opened up about my struggles and apologized for the affect it had on him and to please walk with me through these struggles. His response you could have given me a blow Job , hand Job. His response further crushed me.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Myra, that’s heartbreaking. You do NOT have to have sex with someone who is drunk and verbally abusive. This sounds like a very unhealthy relationship. I’d suggest joining an Al-Anon group and getting help from other family members of alcoholics, and seeing a counselor yourself. And you also need to figure out if your children are safe around him. It’s okay to draw boundaries, and this is not a good situation at all.
      It’s also okay to say, “I am happy to make love to you when it’s about both of us, and when you’re not drunk. But I will no longer be used when you are drunk, and I will no longer let you use me just for your own pleasure with no thought to me. That’s not what sex is supposed to be about. It’s either about love for both of us, or I will no longer be participating.” You do matter, Myra. You really do. I hope you can find a counselor to talk to who can help you through this, but this is not a healthy situation.

      Reply
  14. L

    Reading through the article and comments, it seems like ‘ Christian men’ are the most unchristian-like. How can causing hurt and overlooking the needs of a person be biblical in any terms? When I was looking for a husband, this is the very reason I stayed clear of men who were too ‘Christian’. Those men seem more obnoxious and wanting to dominate to me. Sad but true.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      This grieves me so deeply. I really don’t think that it’s Christians as a whole–because if you have the Holy Spirit in you, you really won’t act like this. But there are strains of modern evangelicalism that are not kind to women. I think it’s important for young, single women especially to find churches where men understand and value women. There are so many of them. But it doesn’t need to be like that. I think people are waking up. People really embraced my critique of Love & Respect, even in very conservative churches. I believe that the tide is turning!

      Reply
  15. Ina

    My heart breaks reading all these comments. I wish none of us went through the challenges here. At the same time, it is incredibly freeing to read stories so similar. I am not weird or alone in this.
    We. Are. Not. Broken.
    We have been taught a pile of lies and garbage. But that is not us. The blame is not on us (though the responsibility to grow and seek healing is.) The blame is fully at the feet of the king of lies snd destruction who is using every means he can to undermine healthy sexuality and marriage. And he is not going to win.
    I’m so grateful that God is using you, Sheila, to expose the lies and twisted thinking that Satan has so cleverly woven into the church.

    Reply
  16. Chris

    Poor Sheila probably cringes when she sees my name pop up in the comments. But I read this a little differently. I think that this woman’s husband is just frustrated with the situation, not with her. She has internalized it to be about her but really it is not. There is also clearly a communication problem between these two as well.
    I also think the term “entitlement” is being misused. Sex IS an entitlement in marriage. For both people. Not just him but her too of course. Sheila herself did a post once about how maybe its women who are actually the ones who are deprived of the entitlement. But I think the specific problem here is just that she is reading his frustration with the situation as being frustrated with her.

    Reply
    • Phil

      I find trouble with your view here Chris. If the husband was just frustrated with the situation then they wouldn’t be headed for seperation. They would be working it out. Selfishness and self centeredness is the root cause here. The woman has pain during sex. Yes she has the responsibility to try and figure that out but hasn’t. She has offered other ways and apparently thats not good enough. Sounds like there may be some help for this woman if its not too late. Because, her husbands true identity has come out. He wants sex even if it hurts her. Thats a crap sandwich!

      Reply
      • Chris

        Phil, reading her post it makes me think there is a massive communication issue going on here. Her use of the phrases “it could be” and “i think” a few times makes me wonder how much talking they have really done. I think its a bit of a character assasination to say “his true character is coming out” when i would not feel confident making such an assumption without hearing from him.
        This couple is only two years into the sexlessness. So they are in the begining stages of it and he is probably in the grieving and anger phase. My wife and I were in a similar (but not identical as there were no injuries involved) situation after our last child was born. Haven’t had sex since. That was nearly nine years ago. I went through all those phases too. I internalized a lot of it. Wondering what was wrong with me or what was wrong with her that was causing the sexlessness. But as the years went on I began to realize that it had nothing to do with me at all. It just wasn’t something that was important to her. I think the original commenter will discover that her husband wants to be intimate with her but he can’t because he doesn’t want to hurt her. So thats made him frustrated. What lesson does she walk away with? She has come to believe the exact opposite, that he wants sex regardless of her pain. I really don’t think thats what he wants.

        Reply
        • Phil

          I am sure there are communication issues in this relationship too. It is hard to make judgement with this small snap shot comment. Regardless, One massive message the woman is receiving is that her pain during sex is not important. And apparently she is receiving that message from her husband. Thats what we are talking about here. The topic isn’t sexlessness. That is secondary to what we are talking about here. Women receive this message that pain during sex doesn’t matter from the church/religion and society. And in some cases even their own husband.

          Reply
          • Phil

            And thats sad

          • Chris

            Phil, the message that she is receiving is sad. Yes. But that does necessarily mean that that is the message he is sending. Also, she is the one who said that tbe marriage is sexless because of her pain, and that before the medical issue its quite clear that they were having sex.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Exactly, Phil! Thank you.

        • Kim P

          From the original post:”It is interesting to me that when it is my body that got injured during birth (pelvic organ prolapse) and my body that has changed and now experiences pain during intercourse – that he acts as if he is the only one hurting.”
          That’s not a communication issue, that’s a self-centered view of the world issue that needs to be repented of. We could go in circles for days – who did what first, did they really talk, etc. What I’m seeing here is an extreme lack of care for a wife in pain! If another part of her body was hurting or broken, would he have this same attitude? In this case, I truly wonder…. and I’m sad for her.

          Reply
          • Kim P

            Phil! I didn’t see your comment before I hit send…
            The topic isn’t sexlessness. That is secondary to what we are talking about here. Women receive this message that pain during sex doesn’t matter from the church/religion and society. And in some cases even their own husband.
            Thank you, thank you for getting it!!

        • Kim P

          I wrote a long comment but somehow it was deleted. I’ll try again and make it short. Sheila, this is KEY. Thank you for sharing. It means the world to us who have been abused or confused!
          When we make sex into something that she owes him, we erase her entirely.
          We don’t just erase her sexuality, either. We erase her personhood. If sex is supposed to be a deep, intimate “knowing” of each other, then if he is saying, “I deserve sex no matter what you think or feel”, he is actually rejecting knowing her. He isn’t only using her; he is rejecting her as a person
          YES. Erasing and rejecting people – the opposite of Jesus’ ministry! I pray the church wakes up to this gross abuse of power!

          Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Chris, absolutely sex is an important part of marriage, and I do hope that she gets medical help.
      But, again, let’s define sex. Biblical sex is not intercourse. Biblical sex is a mutual, physical experience of deep “knowing”, which is intimate physically, emotionally, and spiritually. That is what marriage should include. Now, if she cannot have sex physically, then biblical sex cannot happen. She is not depriving him. And in this case, she actually CAN have biblical sex–just not intercourse. But he is not wanting that, because he would rather that she be hurt (which shows that he is not interested in biblical sex, but only in intercourse).
      He is erasing her as a person. And that matters.
      If she had a broken pelvis and couldn’t have intercourse, we would understand that. But when it’s “just” vaginal pain, and she’s physically capable of it (just not without pain), we think somehow she should do it anyway.
      That’s, to put it mildly, evil. Why should she endure pain so that he can ejaculate–especially when she is willing to be sexual in other ways? His attitude is not of God.
      A godly husband would support her, love her regardless, and help her get medical help.

      Reply
      • Chris

        Sheila, I understand. In this case i just think there’s more to it than we know. The guy could be a total neanderthal but i just don’t think so in this case.
        Sheila, a lot of men have had their personhood erased from their marriages. And there is no one to turn to for help. If you go to your pastor, they tell you to wash more dishes. Similar things have been expressed on this blog.
        Last week I was at a youth sports parent volunteer event to work on the sports facilities. This one guys wife came up and yelled at him in front of us all. He just stood there and took it. After she walked away, he mumbled that they had not had sex in 3 months. All the other men there laughed and said three months was nothing. And that he should do more chores. Said mostly tongue in cheek. Its a common problem, and well, God hates divorce.

        Reply
    • Matilda

      Sex is not an entitlement it is a gift, something to give. As Christians we have no rights, no entitlements. Jesus told us to die to ourselves daily.

      Reply
  17. Victor

    No we have not.
    A marriage without sex is highly at risk of divorce.
    It takes 2 (TWO) to tango.
    It’s in the Bible.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Victor, there’s a huge difference between saying, “sex should be a part of marriage” and saying, “she should have sex whenever I want, no matter what she is feeling.”
      In this situation, what is the Christlike thing to do? To make her have sex with him, even though she’s in incredible pain? Or to do sexual things other than intercourse while you investigate medical options for healing? What sounds more like the kingdom of God to you? Basically raping her, or supporting her?

      Reply
  18. Robert Brooks

    I don’t know what church is saying that sex is an entitlement. Mine sure doesn’t. The Bible speaks to men and how we should behave and how we should love our wives as Christ loves the church. I wholeheartedly agree with that message. I guess I have yet to hear message towards women attempting to explain a man’s desire for his wife and how terrible constant rejection can cause real problems. I know this is a women’s forum so maybe I don’t belong hear.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Robert, I’m glad that your church doesn’t teach that! I will tell you, though, that the vast majority of marriage books do teach it. Love & Respect, Every Man’s Battle series, Power of a Praying Wife, Sheet Music, etc. etc. etc. And from our surveys, we know that that message reduces libido and reduces women’s sexual satisfaction, while increasing the chance of experiencing sexual pain.
      My goal is to change the conversation so that both men and women see sex as a vital, life-giving part of marriage, where sex is about a mutual, passionate, intimate, physical encounter. If we can have that conversation, I think we could fix some of the negative dynamics around sex so that fewer women would lose libido altogether. I think so many women see sex in a negative light, and that’s what’s causing a lot of the problems, combined with how men often see it. If we can just change the conversation so it’s healthy, I honestly think that both genders would get so much more out of sex, and would enjoy a more frequent and passionate sex life. But sex can’t be about obligation. It has to be a mutual thing, or we miss the whole point. So let’s figure out how to have that conversation!

      Reply
  19. AJ

    Asking the question “is a husband entitled to sex” shows a very negative attitude toward sex. Sex should be viewed as a marriage essential not an entitlement. Any decent man would never expect to have sex with his wife when it causes her pain or she has some other physical or emotional ailment which prevents her from enjoying sex. A good woman will realize how important sex is to the relationship ship with her husband. She will then be willing work to communicate her issues with her husband and work to resolve her issues so sex can be enjoyed again. A good man will want to understand his wife’s issues and help help her resolve them and be patient and loving with her. My marriage (and sex life) got a lot better when my wife and I began discussing sex more openly. I’ve come to understand much better how she feels about sex and when she most desires and enjoys it. This has drastically increased the frequency and enjoyment of sex for both us. For the past few years we have great sex almost daily. So no sex is not an entitlement but great sex is an essential to a great marriage. If your sex life is awful and you hate having sex with your spouse then your overall marriage relationship is probably not good (even if you think it is). I read before “sex is not a need for your husband, he won’t die without it”. This is true. Your husband won’t die without sex, but your marriage relationship will. As a man I can say it would be impossible to have an emotionally intimate relationship with my wife without a good sex life. When my wife is physically vulnerable to allow herself to enjoy the physical pleasures and connection that comes with great sex it opens up an emotionally vulnerable side of me that only she is allowed to see and know.

    Reply
    • L#2

      AJ, I’m really glad you’ve worked out how to talk about all this and things seem to be going so well for you and your wife. What would happen, though, if one partner was physically unable to have sex? Would that automatically mean that the marriage had no hope of being a happy and fulfilling one? I’m feeling a little like this view perpetuates the underlying belief that sex itself is of greater importance than the marriage partners (or at least the one struggling with it). I don’t think that’s what you’re trying to say, and I appreciate the way you comment on both partners looking to love the other by actively trying to resolve the issue. One other flag for me was the use of phrases like “a decent man will…” or “a good woman will…” Forgive me if this is a side issue, but in my experience a lot of the pressure and obligation we’re talking about came through phrases like that which spoke to who I was, or SHOULD BE. My thoughts were often along the lines of “If I was a good, loving wife I would be happy to give him sex even if it was hard for me. A good wife would give him an enthusiastic sexual partner. I am a terrible wife.” Or, “A good wife would do all she could to address this problem so she and her husband could enjoy sex again. Right now I’m feeling so hurt and confused I don’t feel I have the capacity for that. I am a terrible wife.” I’m not advocating staying in that place of not doing anything. Just wanting to caution the use of value statements in an area that is already so tied up in who we feel we are. When we feel we ARE terrible it’s easier to give up hope.

      Reply
  20. J

    I’m sorry Shiela but have you read the entire Every Man’s series because if you have you read a different one than I did. The message is that as a Christian husband (and guys in general) need to direct all their sexual energy towards ONLY their wives (present or future). And if you do she will want to be intimate with you.
    Every man’s marriage talks about being your wife’s bond servant and how you are to submit to her in every aspect of your life to her (second only) to Christ. To paint every Christian book series about sex entitlement is misleading and dare I say arrogant.
    If there are other underlying issues (such as physical pain) then there needs to be accountability on both sides. If the husband ignores it that a completely different issue.
    I love reading your blog but you appear to be on a biased tirade recently.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      J, the advice given to women in the book was VERY different than that given to men. Women were told that they were the “methadone vials” for their husbands. Women were told that men needed sex, and would stray and use porn if they did not get it regularly, and that they could not fight porn without it. I invite you to reread Every Man’s Battle and ONLY read the parts that are directed at women.
      Also, ask yourself this: In our survey of 22,000 women, Every Man’s Battle (or other books from the series) was the 3rd most harmful book mentioned. It isn’t just me. There’s a reason for it. A large part of that, I believe, is that the way that it portrays lust is as a sin against God and against purity, but not about devaluing women. The word objectification is never really even used in Every Man’s Battle (though it does appear twice in Every Heart Restored).
      I’d also encourage you to reread Every man’s Battle and look at how the authors describe all the women in the book. Note how they talk about their physical attributes, and really very little else, unless they’re talking about wives. Think about how this makes women feel.
      Then go back and read the two anecdotes about sexual assault, which they didn’t even really call sexual assault–the super creepy one about the man masturbating while his sister-in-law is asleep, and the one about the statutory rape and clergy sex abuse of a 15-year-old girl, where she is described as “looking 20” and “being flirty” and basically being on the same level as the adult male. Even though she interpreted this as rape (because she told her parents straight away), it wasn’t portrayed that way. It was “He was lusting, he got into trouble, and now he may even be arrested!”. No sympathy was shown for the girl at all.
      This is highly problematic, and I encourage you to go back and look at the book through those eyes, and ask yourself, “If I were the wife of a porn user, or a victim of sexual abuse, how would this book make me feel?” The number of emails I have had from women after I wrote this post telling me their own stories of trauma from Every Man’s Battle could fill a book itself, and yet it’s only a part of one chapter in ours. I’ll never do it justice, but I hope I can try.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        By the way, the “methadone vials” was their words, not mine.
        How do you think it makes women feel to be told that they are “methadone” for their husband’s porn addictions? Do you see how that may be harmful?
        I think their approach to asking men to own their sin was admirable. But it came with so much baggage and with such a low view of women and sex that it ended up doing quite a bit of harm to women. If they had given the same message while also acknowledging that men should see women as total people made in the image of God, rather than as dangerous beings to “bounce their eyes”, and if they had talked about how sex was meant to be holistic and intimate, then the message would have been balanced and healthy.

        Reply
        • J

          I don’t think we’ll agree on this and this is why I don’t have social media. Because it sucks you into this back and forth.
          I’ll just say that it was a book written FOR guys. As a recovering porn addict it was extremely helpful in how I was seeing my wife as and object or “sperm repository” if you want to pull directly from it. So I guess it’s terrible and unhealthy resource.
          The examples you pulled are meant to show the extreme sin guys and husband’s can get pulled into; it wasn’t meant as a marriage counseling session or to dear down woman either . They are extreme because sexual sin is extreme (as yes they are super creepy and disgusting)
          I just think that just because it doesn’t “fit” into a certain mould when it comes to sexual balance in a marriage does not make it wrong. It wasnt written in that context IMO
          Woman and wives are to be treated a “God’s daughters” (as per the books) Guess you missed that part too.
          I appreciate what you are saying and having different perspectives but let’s make sure we’re viewing it with the right lense.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            J, as we said in the podcast last month, the problem with our approach to fighting lust is that it treats lust as a sin against purity instead of as a sin against women. And research has shown that the antidote is to see women as whole people. Not even as “God’s daughters”, but actually as “fully human, made in the image of God, and having thoughts and feelings.” When we reduce them to body parts, which is what “bouncing the eyes” does, we compound the problem.
            And there really is no excuse for not explaining that the 15-year-old truly was raped.
            But I think that, on the whole, the advice given to men was MUCH better than the advice in the same book that was given to women. Again, I encourage men to only read what was written to women in the book. It is not helpful, and is actually quite harmful.

  21. Melanie

    Love this and all of your material so much!
    I’m wondering about your last paragraph and what them having children has anything to do with your hope for them being able to work things out. Are you insinuating she should stay just because they have children?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      No, Melanie, I definitely don’t think that, and I’m sorry if I gave that impression. I just mean that the best case scenario, especially because they have children, is that she forces the issue, they go to counseling, and he understands he’s being a jerk. Research shows that in high conflict/abusive marriages, children do better if parents divorce. In low conflict marriages, children do better if parents stay together. My hope is that this can be a marriage that can be saved, but if it can’t because of abuse, the children will be fine.

      Reply
  22. Anon

    Sexual entitlement has ruined my sexuality and my marriage. I never had any pain after my 3 kids, but I was exhausted. My husband worked long hrs, was 6-8 drinks deep and after a stressful day with the kids expected sex at 10pm when I had gone to bed. Or expected me to share my shower (my first moment of reprieve from the kids and chaos) at the end of the day. He would yell at me, pout and sulk for days if I said no. After 2 yrs of this, I communicated how broken I felt. He moved into a different room, but I feel there is no coming back from this. The thought of any sexual experience from him (hand holding, hugging, anything) makes me want to throw up.

    Reply
  23. Stephanie

    I know this is an old post, but I just wanted to say that reading your paragraph (close to the end) about “fighting for your marriage” — by pointing to Christ, striving to emulate him, and getting therapy — moved me nearly to tears. Because every other time I’ve heard “fight for your marriage” directed to wives, it’s meant “wear makeup, flirt with your husband, cook his favorite meal, and give him lots and lots of sex so he realizes it’s in his best interest to stay with you.” To see you redeem that phrase to something truly Gospel-centered is beautiful. Thank you.

    Reply
  24. Amy

    I also grew up with the obligation-sex message. Naive me thought that would be totally fine and I would just push through anything that would stop me from it. I was ready to be my husband’s release when we got married, not realizing how dehumanizing that really was. Now, of course, almost nine years and one kid later, there are things which weigh me down and leave me emotionally unavailable, like little spats that get me out of the mood. I know that having sex is still the “right” thing to do, but when I’m emotionally unavailable I end up feeling used. I approached this conundrum with my husband and he said it sounded like I was keeping a record of wrongs and I just needed to let things go. Im all for bettering myself as a person but that sounds like it’s all my responsibility and obligation and I’m not sure what to say to that. Since intimacy is a two person deal I don’t want to be left feeling it’s all up to me.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Amy, if you’re not feeling close, and if you feel like sex is all for him, that is something to address. We found that women who feel used in the long run eventually stop having sex. If you and your husband want a good sex life long term, this is something that needs to be looked at.

      I’d suggest going back over my series in November about how to dig out of a sexual pit. I think you both may need to work on steps 1 & 2 together–redefining sex (so it’s not an obligation) and then making sure that you feel safe. Sex is supposed to be for you just as much as it is for him!

      Reply

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