The PODCAST Post: What if Giving Sexual Favors, well, Hurts?

by | Aug 20, 2020 | Uncategorized | 51 comments

When Oral Sex or Manual Sex Becomes Physically Uncomfortable Podcast

What if you find oral sex or manual sex difficult because it causes muscle spasms?

We talk about all kinds of weird stuff in our podcasts, and this one came up in some discussions earlier in the week on sex during your period. So we thought it was worth tackling!

Listen in to the podcast first, and then there are some extra links below.

And, of course, you can watch it on YouTube now, too! (And, yes, we’re still recording in my closet. What can I say? The sound is better there).

On Monday, we were talking about how Kevin Leman told women to give husbands a “simple” hand job or oral sex during their periods since it took a “minimum of effort”.

The quotes from Sheet Music are in Monday’s post about periods and sex, but in the comments, several women responded that it wasn’t so simple.

A hand job takes minimal effort? Seriously? I used to do them all the time early in our marriage when we were still stuck in all those bad thought processes. My hands would ache so bad, and be throbbing by the time I was done. I will Not do them anymore.

Another woman echoed her:

I am so glad I am not alone in finding hand jobs physically painful. My arm would be on fire and my hand would hurt by the time it was over as I silently pleaded with God for it to be done. And my husband would kindly offer me breaks for my arm, and I was too scared (till recently) to say that it still hurt. He is a pretty good guy and wasn’t trying to make me hurt, but so clueless. His initial response to me saying my arm hurt was to ask whether I was doing any exercise to strengthen it. (And I am not out of shape). Because his mind set, like so many is that a hand job is “easy”.

Now, not all women feel this way! One woman commented yesterday that she loved doing this for her husband!

I may be the minority here, but I love giving them. I actually feel like my hubby unwinds for once. I’m by far the higher-drive spouse so sometimes I feel like I end up cheating myself out of my own rare opportunity for pleasure, but I like being able to see him just relax and take it in. Typically that opportunity happens if I’m on my period or postpartum, etc.

But we did want to do a podcast on: What if giving sexual favors is actually uncomfortable?

That doesn’t seem to be acknowledged in the Christian sex books we read for The Great Sex Rescue (and Kevin Leman definitely said that it’s a “minimum of effort”), but for some women it is quite uncomfortable. Even for some men! (And I’ve done a discussion of that before, too).

Basically, any repetitive motion done over a long period of time can cause muscle spasms. And oral or manual sex on a man does this more than on a woman because of anatomy–there’s gripping involved. If a husband takes a long time, it can be very uncomfortable, and we do think there should be some acknowledgment of that.

In the podcast, we tried to look at this from all possible angles (pardon the pun?)

In a healthy marriage, there will be times when you give each other sexual favors with nothing expected in return. And it is kind and generous to figure out a way to do this for your spouse (and it may mean switching things up rather than doing the same thing for 10-15 minutes straight).

We could have spent the podcast talking about how to make this easier, and maybe we can do that in the future.

What we really wanted to address, though, was the expectation that she has to do something that causes her pain or makes her uncomfortable.

Rebecca got very worked up over this, because we’ve just read too many things lately which chastise a woman for not giving a husband sexual release, without requiring a husband to think about his wife in any way whatsoever–or even to take consent into account.

You’ll want to listen!

And there were flashbacks in this podcast to our previous podcast on marital rape, consent, and obligation sex.

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We also talked about our new book, The Great Sex Rescue, coming out in March, where we look at the results of our survey of 20,000 women, and see how these teachings have affected women’s sexual satisfaction and rates of sexual pain. And then we point us all to a better way of talking about all of this. I wish that book were out now so we could get it to you, but we’re excited to share it with you when it is out!

For now, though, listen in. And then let me know what you think!

Do you feel pressured to do sexual favors? Do you feel uncomfortable with it? How can we handle this better? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of Bare Marriage

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

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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. Harriet Vane

    I hate oral sex. I don’t like giving it, I don’t like receiving it. I have a sensitive gag reflex and giving it to my husband is super uncomfortable, plus the whole idea of bringing him to climax that way absolutely grosses me out. So very occasionally I might warm him up that way but he has to finish inside me.
    For a while my husband was almost pushy in trying to give me oral sex. He would get me wound up and then offer it to me. I felt guilty saying “no“- after all, he’s trying to do me a favor, right? Shouldn’t I be grateful? It wasn’t until I’d been in therapy for many months and internalized the idea that my body belongs to me, that even my husband doesn’t get to touch me without my consent, that I stopped feeling guilty about saying no.

    • Laurel B

      I appreciate your emphasis on mutuality in sex. That’s so important. We have a great sex life but I know if my husband ever demanded anything that would shut my desire right down!
      My husband often has to give me manual so I can finish, and does so with no complaints. So I feel like I definitely want to give it to him when he wants it! My hand does get tired but switching positions helps. I don’t mind giving him oral but for some reason when he tries to give me oral it tickles & I have to tell him to stop. I liked it on our honeymoon, but I’m not sure what changed. Any ideas on why this might be & how I can get past it?

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Hi Laurel!
        Not everyone likes the same things. Also, if the attention is given too low down on the clitoris (like closer to the urethra opening) it can actually be not that comfortable. It needs to be right on the clitoral hood to feel the best. One thing that often helps is to play the “1” or “2” game (think about when you’re getting your eyes checked at the optometrist). Have him do two slightly different things and then say which one is better. Then have him try the best one and combine it with something else that’s slightly different, until you find what you most like.
        (And if you don’t like anything–then it’s honestly okay to pass on it!)

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi Harriet (who has my favorite fictional persona online!)
      That’s awesome that you’ve learned that you do have a say over your body. Do you find that this has helped you feel free to enjoy sex in other ways, too? We had a number of women say that in our focus groups–when they realized they could say no, it freed them up to enjoy otehr things more.
      I often tell women who just can’t give oral sex very long or are very worried about “ending” that way that you can start that way for a short amount of time, and that’s great.
      But you just need to find something that you both like!

  2. AJ

    If your arm is on fire and your hand hurts while giving him a hand job then your doing something wrong. Husband’s and wives should seek to please each other. If your husband demands you give him a hand job in such a way that causes physical discomfort to yourself he is being very selfish and inconsiderate. Assuming there are no serious physical conditions that prevent it, if your husband likes hand jobs then you should learn the right technique so you can please him and not hurt yourself. He should be accommodating to your methods and techniques. Learn to like what your spouse likes. My wife has always loved giving me oral sex. She says nothing arouses her as much as giving me oral sex. For the first decade or so of our marriage, I never liked receiving oral sex. It just felt inappropriate and “dirty” and it was very difficult for me to relenqish total control to my wife. Because my wife made it clear to me how much she enjoyed it, I learned to be okay with it and eventually I learned to LOVE receiving oral sex. No sexual act should cause discomfort for either spouse, but you should seek to please each other and learn to love what your spouse likes.

    • Kay

      How do propose giving a hand job or oral sex on a man without it being painful? I have carpel tunnel in my wrists now. I didn’t used to. But I have not found any way to do either of these tasks for more than a minute or two without pain. The teachings I received then were very problematic, because they basically told me my pain didn’t matter; I had to do *something* to “tide my husband over” until my period ended.
      This was especially damaging when I became ill. I would force myself to do sexual favors even when I was sick, because I was taught that he *needs* sexual release and my needs don’t really matter. So toxic.

      • Kay

        I should note that this was not pressure from my husband. This was internal pressure because of all the bad teaching I received.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Kay, this is exactly the point. For many people, this isn’t comfortable, no matter what they try. And we are not obligated to do something that causes us pain. We do matter.

      • AJ

        One other suggestion for wives who have physical difficulties with their hands, wrists, arms etc, (carpel tunnel) have you ever tried using your feet? My wife and I have had a lot o fun with this!!! It was her suggestion!! If you’re not into the feet thing there are other parts of your body tat can be utilized. Get creative!! The point is, that if you genuinely enjoy pleasing your husband you’ll find a way to make it happen. If you view pleasuring him as a chore then it’s going to be uncomfortable and no fun at all and you’ll find every excuse not to.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          AJ, carpel tunnel is a legitimate medical thing. Maybe the question is not, “how can she give him a hand job?” Maybe the question should be, “how can they both figure out how to have mutually enjoyable sex?”

          • AJ

            This is exactly why my post contains the statement:
            “Assuming there are no serious physical conditions that prevent it”

  3. Amanda

    It would be great if you would acknowledge that not everyone believes it’s morally right to do these “favors.” When you say they’re necessary in a healthy marriage, you’re saying Catholics (whose theology teaches that male orgasm is acceptable only during intercourse and female orgasm is acceptable only in the context of intercourse) can’t have a healthy marriage! I know you disagree, but that’s a pretty blanket statement when people don’t all share beliefs about the topic.

    • Doug Hoyle

      That is actually pretty simple to address. Just because someone believes something, it doesn’t mean they are right, and you or I are under no obligation to alter our own beliefs, or to entertain theirs. You can just agree to disagree, and actually do so in a civilized manner. Granted, the civilized part seems to be greatly lacking these days.
      If someone has a strong moral belief that Shelia is wrong in that statement, then all that is required is that they stick to their own beliefs. There is no reason to take offense, or to feel that a correction must be made.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Amanda, I’m sorry for any offense.
      Question, though: Do Catholics consider it wrong if he brings her to orgasm in a way other than intercourse? I understand in Catholicism ejaculation outside of the vagina is wrong, but what about her? Especially when so many women can only reach orgasm through ways other than intercourse, how to Catholics feel about that? Do they permit that?

      • Amanda

        Yes! Women can teach orgasm before, during, or after intercourse. It just can’t be completely separate from intercourse, like on a different day. It struck me as odd before I converted, but it’s actually very intimate and loving to make love this way 😊
        My objection isn’t to the whole article – you’re allowed your beliefs. It’s to the statement that a healthy marriage always includes them, when a lot of Christians see it differently.

  4. AJ

    I guess you didn’t read my entire post where was stated:
    “Assuming there are no serious physical conditions that prevent it”

  5. Doug Hoyle

    I am going to try to respond to this post, and it is going to be a bit tricky because I suspect that I will offend some. It truly is not my intent to offend or to call anyone out individually.
    First, let me preface this by saying that if my wife was doing something for me and it hurt her, I would be mortified. I would absolutely not enjoy anything of a sexual nature that caused her pain or discomfort. What I am going to say next will make me seem like a total hypocrite. I regularly put aside my own pain ad discomfort if I know it is bringing her pleasure sexually, or even in non-sexual contexts. Making the bed hurts, when I get on my knees to tuck in the sheets. In military parlance, I just suck it up and drive on. If I am even more honest, I might even speak up about my aching knees when making the bed, but if I was providing a sexual favor, I might ask for a position readjustment or something, but she would absolutely not know the extent of my pain. I hope this isn’t TMI, and I trust Shelia to edit or delete anything that crosses the line, I have on occasion struggled to breathe while performing oral sex, and more than once I have torn my lingual frenulum (look that up if you are not sure what it is) while performing oral sex. At no point did I indicate any discomfort or stop what I was doing. I don’t think I am especially unique. As I said, I would be mortified to know about it, but I strongly suspect that my wife has done the same on occasion without me ever knowing.
    The motive should be clear, but if it isn’t, I will spell it out. It is worth it to me to suffer some discomfort to provide that pleasure.
    I don’t think anyone should be forced to endure pain or discomfort to provide a sexual favor to their spouse, but I think everyone should be willing to on occasion.

  6. Elsie

    This is a great discussion topic, discomfort during non-intercourse sexual activity is rarely discussed. I completely agree that wives don’t owe their husbands on demand sexual favors and that this type of theology has been very damaging.
    On the other hand, as a higher drive wife, I wish my husband would be more willing to have some kind of physical activity with me even if he doesn’t want intercourse. We have a pretty big desire gap (I want sex 2-3 times a week and he wants sex 1-2 times a month) so it’s really hard to go so long without some kind of sexual intimacy. So I think there’s something to be said for lower drive spouses being generous (and of course for higher drive spouses to be loving and patient and not treat their spouse like a sex object).
    It’s important to find ways that don’t hurt though. My husband used to have a lot of discomfort when manually stimulating me but we figured out better positions that would be comfortable for him. It’s definitely important for both people to be comfortable

    • Adam

      Great podcast. My question would be, if a wife is unable to “give favors” and also unable to have sex often or at all due to physical reasons, should the husband accept this and try to suppress his sex drive? I would say yes, as you were talking about at the end, men need to learn more self control. But I feel like a lot of men would not accept that, or would say it’s not possible to do so. I also have a theory that men’s sex drives are too high due to the sexualized society we live in. Would you say that’s true, or is it really a biological “need”? Thanks. I also agree that if it’s taking so long that it hurts, you need to switch it up or so something different. I think a lot of women don’t know how to make their husband finish quicker because the husband doesn’t explain what he likes, and just expects her to know that to do. And if she’s already uncomfortable doing that, it just makes it awkward. Being in a relationship where you’re able to talk about these things without fear is key.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Hi Adam,
        Certainly a lot of sex drive is cultural. Cross-cultural studies of masturbation habits of teens/young adults, for instance, find that the amount of time between encounters varies significantly by culture, meaning that it isn’t simply biological. That’s not a perfect analogy, but we did think it was interesting!

  7. A Little Birdy

    So, I am one of those rare women who you couldn’t find for your survey, sort of. My husband is really good about bringing me to orgasm whenever we have sex. He’s even said how he enjoys bringing me to that point. Of course, there are times when nothing works, for either of us. And often I have to “go first”, before he does. The problem comes in that it takes us so long to have sex. Like plan on this being a 45 minute appointment, and if we go less, great, but we could go over, too. On top of that, thanks to your husband’s recent article here, I learned (after 20 years!) that I have a responsive type libido. On top of that, it’s pretty low. I’m almost never consciously “in the mood”. The movies/TGIF TV, lied. So sex isn’t as frequent as he’d like it, for sure. I do try to be conscious of when I may be more receptive, but that doesn’t always work. With short nights, and teens/young adults living at home, opportunities are already somewhat limited. It’s a challenge.
    To the favors aspect, we both have taken matters into hand, so to speak, often to help the night along, if you will. I can’t imagine a hand job being quick and minimal effort.
    Thankful for you, Rebecca, your husband, all speaking truth to healthy sexual relationship.

    • A Little Birdy

      Edit…forgot to say, it’s not never… it’s 2-3 times a month on average…

  8. Courtney

    Hi Sheila and Rebecca!
    I love this podcast! And this episode hits me. Currently my husband and I are separated, underlying issues there, but that’s another story. During most of our marriage I could orgasm almost everytime we had sex, my partner was attentive and good about listening to my needs during our encounters. However we only averaged sex about every other month. So I do belong to that group you said was not large enough in your research for your book. My husband holds some deep shame, and lives with mental health issues, but there were also a lot of deep-seated issues to do with how he viewed women. Neither of us wanted to initiate sex. I was seldom in the mood until I was in the middle of making myself have sex with him. In our earlier years I’d try to initiate sex often because I loved sex, and he’d shut me out. There were a lot of underlying issues. I just wanted to let you know that women who can orgasm “easily” through intercourse can definitely have sexless marriages. It’s not always our”fault” either, which is what I read in almost every Christian book. Thank you for speaking to these issues, thank you for championing women and healthy sex lives!!!
    I HATED performing oral sex and hand jobs unless I was in JUST the right mood (and maybe a teensy bit drunk) it just hurt, it was uncomfortable and he took FOREVER to orgasm. Plus, I just don’t love having his genitals in my face unless I’m really really turned on.
    Again, thank you. I listen to you every week and wish your podcasts were whole hours. Love you guys!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi Courtney! I’m sorry, we should also have specified that the group that we didn’t expect to find were sexless marriages where HE had the higher sex drive and where she orgasmed every time. If she has the higher sex drive and the marriage is sexless, it’s usually more due to the husband than the wife. So sorry that we didn’t explain that properly!
      I’m sorry that you’re going through this difficult period of life. I’m sure that must be really hard.
      We’ll try to make some longer podcasts one day! (It gets really hot in that closet. 🙂 )

  9. Jeff

    When I think of the many dozens of hours each month I’m willing, and gladly, do things that bring me discomfort and so often hurt to sacrificially love my wife I would be greatly saddened if she didn’t have the same attitude. But she does and I’m grateful. I believe Jesus taught us the love is sacrificial and even hurts at times. But just as when serving Him hurts can be done joyfully and with a smile, so can loving my wife. Often my greatest joys are loving her when it costs me so much. I’m so glad she believes and feels the same. I ran this and the other days post by her and she was mortified someone would teach this (“with an almost celebratory type of language” to quote her).

  10. Natalie

    I discovered your podcast a few months ago, and really appreciate it. I found this episode to be full of God-honoring, intellectual, and valid discussions. I want to share some of the content with my husband, my mother, perhaps even some church leaders! However, one of the major reasons that feel like it would not be taken seriously, is because of Rebecca‘s occasional “snarkiness” as you call it. This is wonderful information for women, but I feel like the people who would truly benefit from it, are the same people who have rather traditional values. The people who would equate sarcasm with disrespect. It’s already going to be a stretch for them to accept new ideas and truths, even more so when these ideas are presented as “this is a no-brainer, you idiot!” I mention this not to tear anyone down – I personally enjoy the fun banter – but if you are wanting to change the opinion of an older or more traditional audience, I think this should be kept in mind.

    • Andrea

      I understand what you’re saying, but I just don’t see those old men ever listening to a woman. I could definitely see them using Rebecca’s snarkiness as an excuse for why they won’t listen, but Sheila was super-professional and respectful in her letter to Focus on the Family and they did not listen at all. Just look at how they’ve treated Beth Moore or Aimee Byrd… We can be all cute about Rebecca’s rants and call it snarkiness, but I call it “from the mouths of babes.” And it’s a bit personal for me, I’ll confess:
      I really feel Rebecca even though I’m much closer to Sheila’s age because I was that snarky young woman who couldn’t believe how pervy and power-hungry male church leaders were and 20 years later, in the middle of the #ChurchToo movement, all that teenage cynicism of mine seems to have been justified. These men claim their duty is to protect women, but when Sheila shows them how much women have been hurt by their books, they do nothing. They are not interested in dialogue and they’re in need of rebuke anyway; they’re just not used to getting it from women, especially young ones.

      • Rebecca Lindenbach

        Thanks, Andrea. That means a lot, actually.
        And yes, Natalie, I totally understand your point and I think you’re actually very, very right that they will never listen to us. But we as a Church body have been mollycoddling these traditionalists for so long and at a high cost. We’ve been nice and stood by while marriage books spout marital rape theology, demean women, and stunt men’s emotional maturity because if we’re not nice enough, no one listens. But if we’re nice enough, they don’t listen, either. So I’d rather be clear that this is not appropriate, not acceptable, and if they do not listen it is not on my shoulders, rather than being too sweet or gentle to a point that they are not adequately warned of the harm and inappropriateness of these beliefs. Also, frankly, change is not going to come from changing the minds of those who are harming others. It’s going to come from equipping those who are being harmed to stand up for themselves and not take it anymore.
        If our church had a wave of empowered women who knew, truly knew, their worth in Christ, these kinds of books could not be published anymore because women (who buy the VAST majority of books, by the way) would say “HECK NO” and they wouldn’t get any sales. But as it is, women have been so conditioned to believe, “I don’t matter as much as him” that when they read something that doesn’t sound quite right to them they push down the Spirit’s voice in their hearts because they’ve been taught, “Men simply understand this better than I do.” So I see my job as teaching women to trust that voice that calls out to them saying, “That’s not of Jesus, you deserve more” more than I see my job as convincing those in power to give it up.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yes, exactly. This is something we’ve talked about a lot in the background. We’re quite aware we’re not going to change the powers-that-be (it would be nice; we pray for it; but we don’t think it will happen).
          But there is an army of Generation Z and Millennials leaving the church right now, largely because of how the church views power and treats others. And we want to tell that HUGE group–“hey, just because the church you went to taught crazy things does not mean that Jesus is crazy. Far too many evangelical churches do not represent Jesus (some do, but many don’t), and there’s another way.”
          And we want to tell those who are still in the pews, still following Jesus, still praying, “Hey, you’re of infinite worth. And true intimacy IS possible. But it’s only possible if you realize you matter, too.”
          If we did that, then the book sales for these types of books would evaporate. And the power that these ideas have in the evangelical church would erode, even if the leaders themselves don’t change.

          • Natalie

            Sheila, Rebecca, and Andrea,
            I thank you all for your kind and wise responses! Since I am new, I have not had read about the Focus on the Family issue. How disappointing.
            Thank you for sharing your hearts Rebecca and Sheila about the intended audience of this blog and podcast. You are exactly right. I shouldn’t have been expecting the presenter to change the way they present to appease the ears of those who are receiving the information. That is not your job. I can see that now.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Oh, Natalie, no problem at all! Thank you so much for your graciousness.
            Our next book, The Great Sex Rescue (which we talked about in this podcast) is our attempt at presenting these things to a wider audience in a common sense, down to earth way (not overly sarcastic 🙂 ) that hopefully people will be open to!

        • Meghan

          Girl you’ve been on fire lately and I love it! Keep bringing that spark. We need more passionate strong women who are unafraid to speak up.
          P.S. your rants are my favorite

  11. Dani

    In this podcast you mentioned your audio books and I am loving audio books as a busy mum!
    I’m so interested in 9 thoughts that can change your marriage but I looked on both audible and Apple Books and can’t find it there…

      • Dani

        Thank you. That is very strange! When I search for you on my audible app the only thing that comes up is 31 days to great sex and I have a copy of that. I was disappointed to find you didn’t have more audio books available but very glad that is not the case.

  12. Catherine

    Wow! Loved this episode. Such an interesting idea about how the self control that we develop before marriage, doesn’t get left at the door when we get married but is just as necessary in marriage as out of marriage!
    My question is: I feel that I’m treading a fine line of our sex life being ‘satisfying enough’ for my husband. He’s the higher drive spouse and even though we have sex 2-3 times a week, he would prefer more. Also he would prefer us to be more varied and spontaneous than I feel able to be. So… I do often feel that I should provide an alternative if I am too tired/not feeling well enough to have intercourse, if it’s been a couple of days since our last time of making love.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Catherine, that’s a tough one, and I’d actually like to write a post about this, because having sex 2-3 times a week is really pretty above average, and I think at some point we need to ask higher drive spouses to be content rather than making their spouses feel like they can never be enough.
      Do you enjoy sex when you do have it?

      • Catherine

        Thanks Sheila. It usually takes me a while to get my brain in gear and I often find sex uncomfortable until then. I also find foreplay uncomfortable too so I try to rush though it until we get to intercourse as I know then the ‘end is in sight’ and I can relax into it a bit more. But I do orgasm (through clitoral stimulation) almost every time.
        I think with the frequency, we rarely leave it long enough for me to notice if I myself actually desire sex, because I almost have a ticker in my head which says ‘ooh it’s been 3 days… better have sex tonight so as not to let him down or make him feel depressed about our sex life’. So it’s hard to note my own natural libido or desire, and stop it from feeling like a duty.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Catherine, that’s very interesting. Almost all the Christian sex & marriage books we read mentioned the 72-hour rule, but the only source we could find for it was a book written by James Dobson in 1975. There isn’t any medical study that says that men especially need sex at 72 hours. But so many women who talked to us said that they feel very guilty if they go longer than 72 hours.
          And that guilt and obligation message is highly correlated, in our studies, to lack of orgasm or to not enjoying sex or just having sex out of duty. It really does mess us up. In our new book, The Great Sex Rescue, we want to talk about how to get away from obligation and then tap into women’s natural libidos, which we’ve systematically been destroying with the way we talk about sex. I think you’ll like it! (It’s out March 2021).

          • Catherine

            Thanks Sheila! Yes I’m really excited to read the book! I can really see how that feeling of obligation does mess with arousal and enjoyment!

        • unmowngrass

          Catherine, it’s so hard to change what you can’t measure! How are you ever going to find your own sex drive if you don’t get chance to… find your own sex drive? If I were in a position with a big disconnect, I’d need some data. Hubby to initiate any time he wanted sex for the next 3-5 times, to see his natural frequency, and then I’d do the same. And I know sometimes people visit a family with a very grouchy man and think “… I know why you’re grouchy”, and it can’t be pleasant to live with either, but deciding to have sex so one’s husband is not a real grouchy bear is not the same as actually wanting to have sex. So I would also make that part of the terms going in, “hubby, it is YOUR responsibility to remain in a good mood even if it has been a while”. Afterall, if you broke up, even if he started sleeping around, there would still be times where it’s going to be a while, plus he’d have a lot of other problems, so to me it’s reasonable that he can go a while right now whilst still getting all of the other benefits of being married to an awesome wife like you 🙂 Short term pain, long term gain. The goal of this is to eventually bring you guys more in sync, but also to bring more understanding and grace between you. Then when you have the data, you can make a plan, to bring it together by increments,
          s l o w l y. That’s what I’d do, anyway.
          Because you do matter, sweetie, and you are valuable enough that your own sex drive is worth finding.
          God bless.

  13. Natalie

    This was the first of the podcasts that I’ve actually watched the video for. Just wanted to say the video editing was on point (like Rebecca’s “ever… ever… EVER” haha. That had my rofl). Do we have Connor to thank for this gem? 😉
    Great podcast, ladies.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Actually, my daughter Katie is editing the video podcasts now so Connor can do more technical things. 🙂 But she used to run a big YouTube channel, so she likes doing those things. 🙂

  14. Anon

    I really enjoy so much of your content, but I’ve really struggled with how you categorized Leman’s comments (and men in general) in Sheet Music about “hand jobs” in your podcast. I’ve listened to you come down hard on Leman’s book several times, and I took your words at face value. When I listened to your podcast, I decided that I wanted to see this horrific thing that Leman was saying and to be horribly offended by his words like you both were in this podcast. When I read the paragraph in question, the one containing the “minimum of effort” portion that you all seem so offended by, I was offended too, until I read the paragraph that directly followed it. He gives the same advice to men: “Please your wife in some form or fashion even if you’re not in the mood, have some sexual dysfunction, or are having health issues that preclude sex.” So upon reading what Leman actually says in the context of the chapter in question, I came back to listen to what you guys were talking about. I was bothered by the fact that you’ve decided that a man needing a hand job or oral sex is simply looking for a physical release, and he should “get some self-control.” Sex is how (most men, my husband included) men feel loved and show love, and I think it’s incredibly shortsighted (and mean) to say that a man wanting to feel loved by his wife is him being selfish because it may interrupt a woman’s life for a bit of time. It feels like you’re looking for a reason to be offended. I can’t imagine that a loving, non-abusive husband (considering that you make a point of saying that what you’re talking about on your blog isn’t for people in marriages where abuse is taking place-get help from a licensed therapist, etc.) would be asking for these sexual favors moments after you’ve given birth (as Rebecca seemed to intimate). Most doctors want postpartum women to have pelvic rest for at least six weeks, and I do think it’s unrealistic for a husband to lack sexual intimacy (in some form or fashion) during this time. I also don’t like that it can be boring for me or hurt my hands when it takes longer than I’m willing to give. HOWEVER, I want my husband to feel loved and cared about in a way that only I can. He doesn’t push the issue, and I greatly appreciate that fact. But I’ve been convicted by the Holy Spirit as of late that (let’s try not to be offended by this phrasing) that I can put forth a “minimum of effort” for my husband to feel loved and cared about. And if you don’t like performing oral sex (as I don’t), there are other ways to help your husband to feel intimate with you and to reach a physical climax. I would just like this conversation to be a bit more even-handed, especially in how we characterize what Leman says TO BOTH SEXES and in how we characterize a husband’s desire for sexual intimacy when vaginal intercourse is off the table.
    P.S. Can you tell me where Leman advocates marital rape in his book? I think he was the author that you were talking about. I’ve read the book nearly in its entirety in the last few days (I have about three pages left), and I can’t find the passage that you’re talking about.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi Anon! Those are great questions.
      Let me tackle a few of them: ” Most doctors want postpartum women to have pelvic rest for at least six weeks, and I do think it’s unrealistic for a husband to lack sexual intimacy (in some form or fashion) during this time.”
      I just want to say that GOD HIMSELF said that men should wait that period without any sort of sexual release. In the Old Testament laws, women were unclean for between 40 and 80 days (depending on whether it was a boy or a girl) and they weren’t supposed to be approached for sex during that time (in any way). They were to stay separate. So God Himself doesn’t think it’s unrealistic, and I do find it interesting that in modern evangelical culture we seem to have a lower view of men than God does.
      What we were talking about here is during a wife’s period or postpartum phase, and Leman specifically says that if sexual favors aren’t given, he can be tempted to use porn.
      In our study of 20,000 women, we found that feeling that you are obligated to have sex or he may be tempted towards porn has a devastating effect on women’s ability to reach orgasm. So much of evangelical teaching essentially threatens women into sex, and that’s not a healthy dynamic. It reduces sex to sexual release instead of a deep knowing that it’s supposed to be.
      Leman also says that women should have sex, even if they feel forced or as if they want to push him away, because that is what obligation in marriage looks like.
      We have absolutely no problem advocating for frequent sex, awesome sex, passionate sex! That’s basically every book that I’ve written, as well as my course on how to Boost Your Libido. And I think that’s what sex should be–an exciting, intimate, mutual knowing of each other. Who wouldn’t want that?
      The problem that we found in our survey is that when we talk to women about sex in ways that sound threatening (do this or he’ll watch porn) or in ways that make sex sound like a duty, then achieving that exciting, passionate, mutual knowing becomes much, much more difficult. Rates of sexual pain skyrocket (primary vaginismus is much more likely if you believe an obligation sex message) and rates of orgasm plummet.
      So I’d like to call people to talk about sex in a positive way, celebrating it as a way to experience passion and intimacy and love, rather than in a coercive way.
      Leman himself talks about women having to force themselves as if that’s a good thing, but most of the worst instances of marital rape in the books we studied were in The Act of Marriage or in the Every Man’s Battle series of books.
      Again, if we are giving “sexual favours” out of love, that’s awesome. But if we’re giving them because we feel coerced, or if it’s something which is harming us, then that’s a problem.
      I also hate the thought that women feel as if they have to give sexual favors or their husbands can’t control themselves. That must be terrible and scary living in a marriage like that! What if he’s in military service? What if she gets cancer? Or what if a child gets cancer and she’s away with the child in the hospital for a time? If you add to all of that the stress that your husband may have an affair or watch porn, that’s awful.
      So by all means, give sexual favours! Have sex a ton! Have fun! That’s what it’s meant for. But if something is actively harming someone, that’s no longer okay (and if they feel pain, that does matter). And if someone is doing it under coercion, that’s no longer okay, either. And now we have the data that shows why (and it will all be out in March in our new book).

      • Anon

        Thank you for such a lengthy and thoughtful reply. Much of what you’re saying makes sense, so I won’t dive into all of that deeper in reply.
        I will, however, ask you for clarification on one point. The Old Testament also says that men and women weren’t to have sex during her periods, but you advocate that (if both partners are amenable). Why is the 40-80 day rule not just a hygienic/safety requirement for the time period just like your interpretation about periods rather than an indictment of modern-day men and their sex drives or the higher drive wives whose husbands refuse sexual favors during periods of erectile dysfunction or other health concerns when they’re unable to perform vaginal intercourse?
        I promise that I’m not trying to be difficult. I truly want to understand your views on this.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          No, that’s fine! Great question.
          My issue is simply that from what we know of the Old Testament laws, it is clear that God believed that men could last 40 or 80 days without any kind of sexual favor from their wife. Like men were capable of self-control then, and during her period (and she was actually unclean for seven days after the last appearance of blood, so it was more like 12 days a month).
          My point is NOT that we should abstain during those times (I think sexual favours are fine in the postpartum phase if both want it, and period sex is entirely up to you!). My point is simply that God did expect men to be able to have self-control, and so we should not now say that men are not capable of it. They are. What matters, then, is what you want as a couple, and what most builds love. And here we have to look at the total picture, which means that her needs matter as well. So often in these books, only his needs matter (or at least they take priority). And yet, as our survey showed, when women feel that way about sex, their enjoyment of sex plummets. So we must find a way to talk about sex in a more biblical, holistic way: that it was meant to be mutual and passionate, which means both people matter. That it’s meant to be a deep knowing. That it’s vitally important, yes. But it should be a celebration, not an obligation. So let’s figure out how to make it a celebration more, rather than berating women about their obligations. We know one approach works while the other doesn’t, so let’s do the one that works, and is more biblical!

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Oh, and one other thing about Leman’s take on this: I know that he says that if a guy has erectile dysfunction he should still give sexual favours to his wife. But that’s not analagous to a woman’s period. Erectile dysfunction means you can never have intercourse (in the cases Leman describes); your period means you can’t have sex for 4-7 days (should you choose to abstain), but the rest is fine. They really aren’t comparable.

  15. Bettina

    Thank you for the podcast! I appreciate that you always say it’s ok for women (and men) to experience things the way they do. That doesn’t mean feelings can’t be changed if you decide that you want to change. There is so much generalization going on in books about the subject that it creates a lot of unnecessary pressure for women. I am sure the main reason is, that these books were written by men who think they are in a position to explain to us how women experience sex or at least how they should feel. And that’s just plain wrong.
    I just wanted to add: I wasn’t good with giving a hand job until my husband brought home an essential massage oil infused with lavender. After a body massage we of course had to try it out and it works great and smells awesome. It’s like massaging the rest of the body, much more comfortable, easier and faster bc the hands glide over the skin easily. I hope this could help some women who feel like it takes so long. . Massage oil, baby oil or water-based lubricant all work in the same way.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, absolutely, Bettina! That can make it so much more comfortable for everyone–although I’d tend to go towards a water based lube. I’m always worried about essential oils on the you-know-what!!! But I think lavender is quite harmless. 🙂


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