4 Characteristics of a Sexually Confident Man

by | Oct 25, 2021 | gsr, Men's Corner | 98 comments

4 Markers of a Sexually Confident Man

What does a sexually confident man look like?

Sheila here!

We’re in the middle of our sexual confidence series. We began that series looking at the 3 characteristics of a sexually confident woman.

Today on the blog I’ve asked my husband Keith to chime in and write about what a sexually confident man looks like.

So here’s my husband with today’s post!

When Sheila asked me to write this as part of her sexual confidence series, I felt a bit overwhelmed by the topic.

These days, so many conflicting opinions exist about what masculinity should or should not be. And typically, when someone offers their perspective on the question, people tend to react rather strongly. Add to that the natural tension between a Christian worldview which stresses gentleness, patience & self-control and the typical view (found both inside and outside the church) that frames male sexuality in terms of conquest and power and…yikes! It does not matter what I write; any post on this topic is likely to offend somebody.

Frankly, I am also reluctant because it seems every time I post something about how men should treat women decently, I get lambasted for being “limp wristed” or a “beta male”.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I care about those men’s distorted view of masculinity. It is that I honestly want to reach even those men (both for their sake and for the sake of the women around them). In fact, it is those men that probably need to hear it most and that is ultimately why I decided to write this. I just really feel the weight of having to describe things in a way that helps men be better, but doesn’t trigger insecurities.

So what are the markers of a sexually confident Christian man?

1. A sexually confident man is not threatened by opportunities to learn and to grow.

The people I most admire whether for their abilities or for the things they have accomplished in life have all shared this trait: they are always willing to learn how to do something better. Even if they are at the top of their game, they are constantly scanning for opportunities to improve, including listening to others – even others who are not quite at their level.

In contrast, the people who shut themselves off from feedback, who refuse to see different perspectives or who simply assume they know more than the person talking to them always seem to end up floundering in the long run.

Sheila gets comments on her blog all the time from wives who say something to the effect of: “My husband has told me sex works for him and that I need to figure things out for me on my own.”

These men think they know all there is to know about sex because it feels good for them with minimal effort. They have completely failed to see sex from a woman’s perspective. Not only that, they have completely missed the boat about God’s view of sex, which is meant to be mutual. Rather than learning to be good lovers of their wives, they choose to coast along the easy road that says “sex works for me, so you must be broken”. Do they honestly not care about their wives? Alternatively, perhaps their total lack of knowledge about how to bring their wife pleasure is too heavy a burden for their psyches to handle. Either way, it is a terrible tragedy for both of them, but especially for the wife.

However, a sexually confident Christian man doesn’t assume he knows everything about sex.

He recognizes there is always more to learn in the bedroom and that does not make him feel less masculine. He is not threatened by his wife telling him what feels good (or what doesn’t!) because he honestly wants to be good in bed, not just feel like he is good in bed. He sees the chance to make sex with his wife better and better each year as an amazing opportunity for growth, which he welcomes with anticipation. He knows she is the best resource for him as to what makes her feel good and he mines that resource for as much knowledge as he can possibly glean. He doesn’t beat up on himself when he learns he has done something wrong in the past because now he knows more than he did yesterday! And he looks forward to knowing even more tomorrow.

2. A sexually confident man doesn’t need to feel a sense of entitlement (because he knows he has something to offer).

Sheila has written extensively about how God designed sex to be mutual, pleasurable and intimate. In contrast, the vast majority of Christian resources have taught that sex is a male need that wives have a God-given duty to satisfy.

A typical example is Emmerson Eggerichs’s Love and Respect where he tells wives that their husbands have “a need you don’t have” and that if a wife doesn’t satisfy that need her husband will come under Satanic attack and maybe divorce her. But that is only one example of many. Sheila’s book The Great Sex Rescue proved just how widespread the “obligation sex” message really is. (Sheila has actually been teaching this for years; it is just that the book finally proved what she has been saying for so long!)

As a result of these messages, it is fair to say that many (if not most) Christian men have adopted an entitlement mindset.

In their defence, it is a natural conclusion if you accept this message. After all, if sex isn’t for her, if it is just for me, then it follows that as long as I do stuff for her, I should get sex in return. Some go as far as to phrase it as a demand “First Corinthians 7 says you can’t deprive me” (Although Sheila has a great blog post about how that’s not what 1 Cor 7 means). But most of the time, I see it phrased more as a transaction where a husband feels that if he “helps out” in the kitchen early in the day he should be “helped out” in the bedroom at night. (Sheila wrote a great article for Fathom magazine about why this doesn’t work either)

I don’t know any good Christian man who would actually want “obligation sex” over mutual, passionate sex. Yet any time Sheila talks about increasing passion in your marriage by getting rid of the obligation sex message, the outcries come pouring in.

So I have to ask: Why are some men so threatened by smashing the “obligation sex” idol? Sadly, I think it is because many Christian men are worried that if demanding, cajoling and bribing are off the table, then their sex lives will dry up entirely.

In contrast, a sexually confident Christian man is not worried.

He embraces the mutuality inherent in God’s design for sex, starting with a baseline assumption that sex is not just about him, but about them as a couple. If she doesn’t want it tonight, he does not pout and feel hard done by because he has learned to balance passion with self-control. He does not see sex as a need he is dependent on her to fulfil, but sees it as a gift they can give to each other. He has studied her and learned to be a good lover so he knows she will want to another night because he has confidence that he has something to offer. He has learned how to awaken desire in his wife, so he does not need to command it or to beg for it.

And if she doesn’t respond and still doesn’t want sex?

Then he is so committed to serving their relationship that he tries to figure out why. He doesn’t assume she’s broken; he wants to figure out why her libido is subzero. He willingly goes to counseling (and even takes the initiative) if necessary. He talks to her, and most importantly, he listens to her. He knows she may have her own wounds, and he is committed to helping her find health, too.

3. A sexually confident man has a healthy view of his own sexuality

“Men don’t naturally have that Christian view of sex.”

I was appalled and offended when Sheila told me those words were written in the book Every Heart Restored. One of the things that constantly puzzles me in the Church is why men allow themselves to be characterized in such base terms.

But then I realized that I shouldn’t have been surprised, because I had at one point allowed the same thing to happen to me. I had read another book in that series, Every Man’s Battle, where I read the words “we find another reason for the prevalence of sexual sin among men. We got there naturally – simply by being male”. At the time I was a young Christian, so I didn’t know to be appalled. Instead, for a brief period, I did what so many other good, young Christian men did; I internalized it.

Like so many Christian men I spent time in bondage to the idea that there is something innately wrong with me “simply by being male”.

When I noticed a woman was beautiful or had nice curves, I thought, “Oh, woe is me! There I go lusting again!” The idea that “lust is every man’s battle” is so prevalent and we are taught about it so much that most Christian men don’t even recognize any more that there clearly is a difference between noticing a woman is beautiful and lusting after her!

This whole teaching then becomes doubly diabolic because it shames good, healthy men for having normal biologic drives while simultaneously excusing wicked, unhealthy men (who actually DO lust) with the whole “boys will be boys” mentality. The good men suffer, the bad men get a free pass and in both cases women live in fear.

In contrast, a sexually confident Christian man has a healthy view of his sexuality.

He does not feel guilty for simply being a man because he does not falsely equate his sexuality with the objectification of women. He admires the beauty in God’s creation that he sees everywhere (including in women), but he also knows what lust actually is and he takes every thought captive to Christ.

He learns to not see women as objects, as “less than”, as “other”. Instead, he sees them as people and he treats them accordingly. He does not bounce his eyes from them, but instead chooses to truly see them for who they are: fellow image-bearers of God. And he does not feel that being a man makes him better or worse than his wife (or other women), but simply tries to be who God made him to be and works to create a world where she can do the same.

The Great Sex Rescue

Changing the conversation about sex & marriage in the evangelical church.

What if you’re NOT the problem with your sex life?

What if the things that you’ve been taught have messed things up–and what if there’s a way to escape these messages?

Welcome to the Great Sex Rescue.

4. A sexually confident man sets and polices his own sexual boundaries

Another thought that accompanies the “all men lust” idea is that women need to adjust their behavior in two specific ways to help men combat their natural proclivity toward sexual sin. They need to:

  • dress “modestly”
  • have more sex with their husbands.

The “modesty message” has been so damaging to women.

The specifics are well detailed in The Great Sex Rescue. However, the toxicity of the message hasn’t stopped it from being spread far and wide through the Church. Maybe this shouldn’t surprise us. When a view takes root in the Church that is blatantly unbiblical, I doubt the fact that it harms some people will matter to those who espouse it.

The fact that it is unbiblical is really not debatable. Jesus did not say, “If your eye causes you to sin, make sure nothing comes within your view that will cause you to stumble”, nor did he say, “When a man looks at a woman with lust in his heart he has already committed adultery….unless she was dressed provocatively, in which case the poor guy had no choice.” Jesus consistently put the onus on men for their own thought lives as did the apostle Paul.

This is in no way meant to say we should have no sympathy for men who struggle with sexual sin. It is simply to say we should help those men get the help they need to do the hard work of healing rather than making everyone else around them feel the weight of it instead, including the victims of their sin.

The “wives need to have more sex” idea is even worse, because it tells women not only in their outward appearance, but even in the most intimate areas of their lives, they must bear the weight of something their husband cannot shoulder. Whether it is a blog post about how a wife can help her husband with his porn addiction or a book that talks about how a wife contributed to her husband’s affair, the message rings loud and clear: men can’t help it, so you women have to adjust. This is your God-given duty.

In contrast, a sexually confident Christian man knows that the purity of his actions and his thought life are not dependent on the choices of others.

He remembers that he can take every thought captive (2 Cor 10:5) and that he can put lust to death (Col. 3:5), because he can do all things as Christ gives him strength (Phil 4:13). He draws enough from the deep well of the love of God that he does not need the easy validation that comes pornography – or at the very least he sees it for what it is: a superficial counterfeit of the true intimacy that God designed between a husband and wife.

It is not that he is not sinless or that he never struggles; he is still a work in progress! But he knows that if he falls that it is because he has settled for the easy road that leads to death rather than following the difficult road that leads to life – – and that it was his feet that took those steps and no one else’s. He takes responsibility for his own actions and his own thought life. When he stumbles, he gets back up. He does not live in shame; he repents and returns. He learns to live in the forgiveness of Christ, even as he learns to live by the Spirit, putting to death the deeds of the body (Rom 8:13). He does not depend on his wife to manage his sin, he depends upon the Spirit who is transforming him day by day (2 Cor 3:18).

That’s what I think a sexually confident man is, and what all men should aspire to.

I hope these thoughts are helpful to some of you. Please know that I myself am still on the journey to being a sexually healthy Christian man. I offer these thoughts as a brother in Christ, not as the expert. I myself have struggled with some of these strongholds in the past (particularly the entitlement mindset).  I know what is written in a blog post like this can sound very simplistic even when you are honestly trying to have a healthier view. So I encourage you to click through to some of the links to go into further depth on those topics and to seek good help from trusted sources for areas in which you struggle. And, of course, feel free to leave any thoughts you have in the comments below.

4 Markers of a Sexually Confident Man

What do you think? Are those markers the right ones? Are they common? Relatively uncommon? Let’s talk in the comments!

Other Posts in the Sexual Confidence Series:

You may also enjoy:

 

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Blog and Podcast Contributor, Co-Author with Sheila of two upcoming marriage books

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

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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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98 Comments

  1. Jen

    Wonderfully done! Calling men to be selfless, responsible, and aware of how they affect others – sounds like stuff Jesus said. Go figure!! This statement was especially meaningful to me: “The ‘wives need to have more sex’ idea is even worse, because it tells women not only in their outward appearance, but even in the most intimate areas of their lives, they must bear the weight of something their husband cannot shoulder.” This is a crushing weight, and to bear it while he’s cheating/lying AND telling you how great a husband he is is like death. Thanks for sharing these far healthier ideas about personal integrity.

    Reply
  2. Jonathan

    As a confident “beta male” with a twisted and wickedly snarky sense of humor, I dream of exposing the “alpha male’s” weakness. Like is he “man enough” to touch a tampon?

    Reply
    • Lisa M

      Love it! Is he man enough to buy them at the store for his wife? Or does he have to buy 50 other items and hope the cashier doesn’t notice the tampons?

      Reply
      • Jonathan

        “My dear sir, since your masculinity is so fragile that a tampon’s touch can shatter it, perhaps you should refrain from promoting it.” (spoken as he shrinks away in terror).

        Reply
  3. Jo R

    If you are a male reader who thinks “sex” simply and only means “penis in vagina until the man orgasms,” I’m wicked enough to wish you early and permanent erectile difficulties such that “all that other stuff” type of activities would be what YOU need to orgasm.

    Then your wife can just sweetly smile and say, “Welcome to what MY sex life has been for the last umpteen years/decades when you said that PIV is supposed to be enough.”

    Yeah, I’m that wicked, sinful, unrepentant, whatever you want to call it!!! On the other hand, maybe that’s also one implementation of the law of sowing and reaping. If that’s all your wife was supposed to have ever needed, then that ought to be all YOU need, even if you can’t get or keep an erection.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I just hope that more people hear that sex is more than just intercourse, and that both people matter (and that God didn’t put the clitoris UP the vagina, but outside the vagina, meaning that men are supposed to serve women for a time sexually in a way that doesn’t necessarily directly stimulate themselves).

      I do think that most men want to bring their wives pleasure, but all too many don’t. I hope that women start learning that it’s okay to speak up and ask for what we need as well.

      Reply
  4. Owen M

    Spot on Keith. Very well written. I think being a sexually healthy and confident man begins with our commitment to follow Jesus and to become like Him. This path teaches us humility. Humility is often seen by men (both Christian and non) as something that makes you less of a man because it’s a sign of weakness. I see it as a great strength. Humility is what enables us to hit all 4 points you mention. I don’t see how dominating or using our wives and ignoring their sexual needs is manly. A sexually confident man doesn’t need to feel like he’s a good lover. He can know he is by all the orgasms his wife enjoys.

    Reply
    • Lisa M

      Yes, being in tune with Jesus makes it impossible to use or abuse another person.

      Reply
  5. Sue R

    Thank you, Keith and Sheila. This should be required reading for every man in this universe and the next. Men should know themselves first, just as women should, which allows us to relate to other people. If men want to have more sex, they should strive for the behaviors and thoughts that Keith has expressed above. That would make them so attractive to women that I bet most wives wouldn’t be able to keep their hands off!

    Reply
  6. Guesr

    Two questions for you Keith.

    First, do you believe considering your and Sheila’s early struggles that if you hadn’t kept pushing or felt “entitled” that there would have been incentive for her to change her perspective on sex?

    Second, let’s assume a husband is all for loving his wife and making things mutually enjoyable but she is not into meeting his needs like he is hers. Do you support divorce in such instances? And if so how many years and after what attempts and efforts have been made?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Okay, I may tell Keith about this comment later (he’s at work right now), but are you serious? You think I only changed my perspective on sex because Keith was pressuring me–and if there was no pressure I wouldn’t have changed?

      You do realize that women want good sex lives too, right? That women are sexual as well? That women don’t actually like sexual pain? That most of the negative dynamic around sex was not because I didn’t want or like sex, but because it had been so ugly? Like, you sound like you’re arguing that men SHOULD pressure women, or else women would never change.

      Also, in your last scenario, I will repeat what we found in The Great Sex Rescue, and which I have said ad nauseum: in marriages where she frequently orgasms; she feels close to her husband during sex; there is high marital satisfaction; there is no porn use; and there is no sexual dysfunction, frequency almost always takes care of itself. It is a myth that women just up and give up on sex for no reason. Can it happen? Yes. But it’s exceedingly rare. And when it does happen, it’s likely that there is trauma in her past.

      Frequency is usually the symptom; it is not the problem. Identify the problem, and work on that. Chances are it’s something to do with marital satisfaction or porn use or a pornographic style of relating.

      (And again–most women, aside from trauma issues, actually do want sex. They don’t abandon sex for no reason. They don’t need to be coerced or cajoled into having amazing sex. If they don’t want sex–figure out why).

      Reply
      • Guest

        It almost sounds like you think everything wrong with sex in marriage then is men faults? Like selfishness and sin can only run one way? Because all the factors why sex is not great in a marriage listed you attribute to men- except the very rare case when you say there was likely past trauma (easy to take that as men’s fault again).

        And I will ask again, to you this time, had Keith been willing to have almost no sex when you got married you really believe you’d of come to a place where you are now? Again, it seems to go against what you’ve written so many times over the years. It almost seems like Keith’s frustration, hurt and even instance is what made you re-examine your beliefs about sex.

        So yes I’m serious. Your beliefs in marriage are about equalitarianism. That men and women likely have the same value, needs and responsibilities in marriage. But when you lost fault it seems like it’s on men and that women if treated correctly will respond Christlike.

        I can only draw two conclusions to that. One that women are likely good naturally and are not the sinners men are or that women are responsive to men- which goes against the equalitarianism you teach.

        I just can’t square the teaching to what I read in the Bible- Proberbs alone has a lot to say about problem wives- or what I’ve seen with my own eyes. I know for a fact that women can be every bit as selfish and destructive as men. So how can this all be laid at men’s feet?

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I want to get this straight. Are you insinuating that the best way for a husband to deal with a wife with vaginismus is to pressure her and tell her she’s being selfish and she needs to meet your needs?

          and NO, emphatically NO, that is not the answer. My issue was NOT that I was being selfish. My issue was that I was IN PAIN. That’s not being selfish. The reason that it was hard to get over at the time was that everyone was blaming me. There wasn’t proper therapy back then. Had I been given proper therapy, I would have gotten over it much, much faster. And I was looking for it. I was the one who instigated getting therapy, not Keith. I really, really resent the idea that you are giving here that it is better to make a woman feel guilty when she is in pain than it is to help her with love.

          The therapy made everything worse because it was badly done. The only thing that made it better was learning that I could trust Keith anyway (after years of a negative dynamic) and then me deciding that I was going to figure this out on my own since nobody else could help me. I’m so grateful that women don’t have to go through that anymore because there is real help available.

          Yes, I believe that both men and women can be selfish. And I have written multiple books to help women develop a positive view of sex. The Great Sex Rescue is all about helping women combat the negative views of sex they’ve been given and embrace sex again.

          But just because men and women can both be selfish in general does not mean that there are not areas in marriage that we know are more male issues than female ones. For instance, we know that porn, and the pornographic style of relating that often (not always) accompanies it, is primarily a male issue. Does not mean that women don’t participate, but it is primarily a male issue. And it has very traumatic outcomes on women.

          We know that sexual entitlement is mostly a male issue, especially in the church.

          It’s interesting, but many secular studies have found that women’s libidos are actually higher than men’s, especially in younger generations. In the church, it is not the case, because our dynamics are very different. Women’s libidos are being artificially lowered, largely (as we have found) because of the negative messaging about sex that is being given to both men and women and the dynamics that grow out of it.

          I am not saying that women are not selfish. But what I am saying is that our study of 20,000 women found that selfishness was not at the root of lack of frequency around sex. There were other issues. Now, marital issues can be caused by both the husband and the wife. It isn’t automatically caused by the husband. But if men want better sex lives, it is good to ask, “are any of these things at play in my marriage?” Because chances are there is something.

          Yes, there may be some where that’s not normally the case.

          But think about what you’re saying. You’re saying that women just up and give up on sex for no reason. That insinuates that women just don’t like sex. That’s actually not true on the whole. Women have sex drives too. To insinuate that women just don’t care about sex out of selfishness–well, who are they actually hurting? They’re not just hurting their husbands. They’re hurting thmselves too!

          Do some women do this? Yes. But it’s not the majority. And if it is the case in your marriage, then I strongly recommend seeing a licensed counselor and helping her get to the bottom of what is making her not want sex. Because WHY would she not want to do something that is fun, that helps her feel connected, that helps her sleep better, that she was designed to want and dream about? Why would she not want that? Ask those types of questions, and you’re more likely to get an answer. If you start with the idea that women are just selfish, then you’re likely starting with the misconception that women just don’t like sex. And maybe THAT’S part of the problem.

          Reply
          • Guesr

            First, I didn’t say you were being selfish. I said you had the wrong beliefs about sex. Which is your admission, not mine. But you still didn’t answer the question- do you believe you would have changed had not Keith not been okay with little to no sex life?

            It took you 3 years to change your beliefs on sex. How long is a man to be kind, gentle, patient, communicate, be a full partner, want his wife’s good and also pleasure?

            I believe you’re telling a one sided story of the fault here. And as such I will ask this you’ve listed some of men’s faults or blame on the line- what do you then believe women’s are today? Can you give me a top five of what you think the 2021 women are selfish and destructive?

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I believe that I would have changed MUCH FASTER had the negative dynamic not been there. I am not willing to say much more than that publicly (Keith can if he would like to). But that negative dynamic, both within our marriage and with therapy, significantly lengthened the problems that we had. That’s why I (and EVERY pelvic floor physiotherapist who treats this) tells women that they have to get sex off of the table for a while to work on her getting better. She needs to be the focus.

            I wouldn’t say that all five of the issues that I brought up are about men’s selfishness. Again, marital dynamics can be caused by either spouse. Her not feeling close to him during sex isn’t necessarily due to him; it could be trauma on her part, or, as we found in The Great Sex Rescue, wrong beliefs about sex (including the obligation sex message). Her inability to orgasm may be caused by lack of foreplay, but it can also be caused by wrong beliefs about sex, or by not valuing her own pleasure. And she could be using porn as well (although husbands seem to use it at roughly 8 times the rate of wives).

            The important thing is to get at the root of the issue. Many women’s libidos tank after kids. In some cases this is because she doesn’t prioritize the marriage anymore; in others it’s because she’s dealing with far too much mental load and not enough sleep, and she simply needs some help.

            It’s not about blame–it’s about looking at what goes into a good sex life. What makes everyone feel relaxed, enthusiastic, eager to have sex? If those things aren’t there, why not? Is it wrong beliefs? Is it marital dynamics? Is it mental load? is it exhaustion or illness? Is it obligation? Just ask the right questions. It’s often multi-faceted. But ask the right questions, and you’ll get there.

          • Guesr

            I want to further question your line of reasoning that women naturally want good sex lives and wouldn’t do something that would effect that on their own. Does this not go against everything we see pretty much everywhere? In other words people- men and women- make decisions about every aspect of their lives that are self destructive and destructive to others? Whether it’s what we eat or how we spend money or how we treat others? The list is a mile long What makes this one aspect (women’s sex lives) immune to what is visible in the majority of people everywhere?

            Secondly, you have already said in your comments now (while I think it’s not super rare) that whole rare what I say happens. Does this not mean your teaching violates your own teaching that it should harm no one ( even if you believe it’s a small number, which I dispute, but even if so it’s small do you not care about men out there being Christlike for years and decades to continually blame them?)

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            No, I don’t think I’m harming anyone, because the whole point of this blog is to say to prioritize your sex life.

            And, yes, people can go against their natural instincts. But I’m still not sure what you’re trying to get out of this discussion. Do you want me to say that most of the time when women don’t have sex it’s merely because they’re selfish?

            What is the problem with saying that it’s likely a marriage dynamic (and I have said repeatedly that this dynamic may be caused by her). And it is that dynamic that should be looked at, because that will likely help libido to grow.

            I’m wondering why that’s such a difficult message–especially when I have never said that the marriage dynamic is his fault?

            I’m merely saying that women don’t tend to give up on sex in a vacuum, for no other reason (especially because women were designed to actually like sex). If your assumption is that women give up sex for no reason, totally in a vacuum, then I think you may not understand how sexual women were made to be?

          • Lisa M

            Of course women can be selfish. Sheila has LOTS of blog posts encouraging women to be better wives.

            In the conservative church, men have been taught that sex is their entitlement, they have been taught to be selfish. Women have been taught that their very existence is to serve men and that sex isn’t for them, it’s for their husbands.

            If women weren’t interested in sexual pleasure, why do you think so many women have hand held shower massagers or sex toys? This is a thing. Lots of women use them because they are so sexually frustrated and their husbands don’t care.

          • Rachel L.

            It seems to me that you are exceptionally frustrated (and to give you the benefit of the doubt, it could be warranted). However, this blog is designed to help marriages. It’s quite possible that your marriage is beyond the kind of help this blog offers.

            No one, and I repeat NO ONE on this blog is going to give you a timeframe for when you can reasonably say, “Okay, I tried hard enough, so I’m free to go.” That benchmark is determined by each couple or individual alone, and if THAT is what your endgame is, this is not the forum to get that question answered. No one here has had 1-on-1 counseling with you. No one here knows the details of your marriage. It is therefore not fair of you to demand Sheila (or Keith) put an arbitrary number of months, years, failed attempts, etc on when you have cause to leave your wife. And if they DID respond with such a thing, it would be grossly out of bounds and unprofessional.

            Sir, if you are in an abusive relationship (mentally, emotionally, financially, physically), then the proper way to handle it is to SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP from a licensed counselor, so that you can get to mental/emotional safety. Only they can adequately determine if it is best for you to leave. If your wife has violated her vows, chances are that behaviour didn’t start with “depriving you” of sex. Chances are, if she’s really as bad as you imply, her abuse and control of you started long before. Which means you have a LOT of recovery work to do. It’s unfortunate that victims of abuse have to do the work to heal themselves, but that’s the fact.

            And that work can be supplemented by the teachings of healthy relationships here, but cannot actually heal your wounds. So please stop trying to get the TLAV team to give you an “out.” You are an adult. You have the legal right to divorce. You know your relationship. God is bigger than divorce, and some divorces can be God-bkessed & life-saving. So take ownership of your life, and stop expecting to gain permission for the true desire of your heart (validation or justification of separation/divorce?), from people who are not qualified to give it to you.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Very well said, Rachel. Thank you. Yes, please seek professional help.

          • Connie

            Let me jump in here. No one is entitled by God to have a perfect life. We have trials. Curated by God, according to Scripture. If your sex life is bad, Sheila is giving you ideas and resources to pursue. But even if you are not getting what you believe you deserve right now, you are not entitled to be bitter nor are you entitled to be unloving. You ARE entitled to seek solutions, loving and respecting your wife in the process. You DO not get to insist you must have your pleasure no matter what. No one is entitled to an orgasm. It is a gift husbands and wives give each other. As long as you focus on yourself and not the relationship as a whole you are gonna be pretty frustrated. PS lots of times issues in the rest of the marriage show up in the bedroom. Those issues could be the fault of either spouse-or both. The MARRIAGE as a whole is more important than an orgasm.

          • Court

            Guest, others have replied by now but I wanted to add some thoughts. If you have been trying in your marriage for many years with no response from your wife, and being Christ-like in your patience and kindness, then chances are you might have to shake things up by doing something different. There comes a point with abuse and neglect, where we have to believe that the Lord cares about us personally as well, just as he does our spouse. Something sounds very broken in your marriage but that is not for any of us to discern, other than to encourage you to seek further help. I don’t know your situation, but if what you have tried isn’t working, then by all means don’t keep doing the same things you are doing because it isn’t leading to healing. Seek healing for yourself and the wounds you have incurred from your marriage. As you heal and are tended to by God and by the help of others, you will be able to see clearer the state of your marriage and whether it can be saved.

          • Lisa M

            They BOTH had to change their beliefs about sex. Re-read what Keith wrote.

          • Ryan

            Guesr, much has been said here in recent days, but I was especially struck by this question of yours: “How long is a man to be kind, gentle, patient, communicate, be a full partner, want his wife’s good and also pleasure?”

            I believe a man is to always be kind, gentle, patient, communicative, a full partner, wanting his wife’s good, and also pleasure. There’s no deadline when it comes to kindness. I committed to being a full partner to my wife no matter what, in a wide range of circumstances. I am not perfect in implementing that, but I can’t imagine not wanting to be her full partner and wanting her good. I did not vow to love her, cherish her, honor her, and stick with her only insofar as she kept me sexually satisfied.

        • Anonymous for this

          So you think women ought to just put up with lousy sex.

          My husband thinks so, too. There is a reason my long term plan involves divorce.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            To be fair, he did say mutually enjoyable sex, so I don’t think that was the issue.

        • Anon

          I find it really odd that you seem to be suggesting that a wife would be more likely to respond to a husband who made her feel guilty, who pressured her to tolerate pain as long as it got him what he wanted and who was totally self absorbed than to a husband who was seeking to love her selflessly.

          I have a couple of health issues which make sex difficult, painful and sometimes physically impossible when they flare up, depending on how bad they are. We both went into marriage knowing this would likely be the case. My husband has never once put any pressure on me to do anything I wasn’t happy with. And that has definitely made me far more enthusiastic about working on my health issues, because I WANT to be intimate with someone who is so loving, caring and accepting.

          If he were to act ‘entitled’, I can tell you I would be way less interested in fixing things or in having sex even when I feel well. Why would I want to be intimate with someone who didn’t care how I was feeling or who regarded me being in pain as unimportant as long as he got what he wanted?

          Reply
          • Andrea

            I recently read this in an excellent article (link at end):

            “There’s a very particular sadness to watching a partner (especially one you love, like a husband, who ostensibly cares about you) take pleasure in your body while you’re in agony. Particularly when he knows you’re in pain and continues anyway. Even if you’ve consented.”

            https://theweek.com/articles/754626/fifty-shades-secret-compromises-women
            (The article take a compassionate view of women who enjoyed the 50 Shades of Grey franchise by pointing out how much they have to endure in their real life relationships already.)

    • Lisa M

      Asking someone whether they support divorce is a given circumstance is irrelevant. Divorce is a legal proceeding available to anyone who is legally married. Whether or not other people support it is not relevant. Each person needs to make their own decision. Evaluating other people’s divorces is such an absurd practice in the conservative church.

      Reply
  7. Karen Olayo

    I believe part of the reason some men don’t want to give up the narrative of “obligatory sex” is because they have an incorrect view of Father God. They don’t understand grace. If they can’t believe that true transformation takes place in the heart because of God’s love–not because of the law or rules, then they cannot fathom that a wife would be more excited about sex when she is released from the obligation or rule that she “has to”. Truly most don’t believe it’s the love of God that transforms us independent of rules. In fact, the rules actually keep us stuck in sin and condemnation. Likewise, the root of a good sex life is love, not feeling obligated. Then, the natural fruit of being loved is desire for sex.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      This is really interesting, Karen. I think you’re right. Many of us are far more comfortable operating under law than under grace. And yet God chose grace–free will, love.

      Reply
  8. M.Dizzle

    I really like your work and am so supportive of your mission. I have recommended your book to several people and even bought two copies to place in the church library.

    But here is why sometimes your articles on men listing can kinda send me into a spiral:

    1. My husband used porn for the first several years of our marriage. I believe this has cursed me with a heightened sense of fear and anxiety when it comes to him looking at and “appreciating” the beauty of any other woman. We have found some great success in healing our marriage, but certain things trigger my heightened and near-irrational anxiety about his mental fidelity, including pregnancy hormones (I found out about his porn use when I was pregnant, so I think being pregnant makes me have flashbacks). So all of this is to say you have done nothing wrong and I’m not an angry or embittered reader, and I am perhaps a teensy bit over sensitive to this issue in particular at this moment in time specifically.

    2. I have found GREAT comfort in how you address the difference between lust and “noticing”. So please know that what I am about to say deals mostly with semantics, and not your overall message, which is greatly healing.

    All of that said, if you can give me any help or clarity with the following, please let me know, BUT: I do struggle sometimes to understand what you mean in articles like these when you say we shouldn’t shame “good, healthy men for having normal biologic drives”. Now, I think I get what he’s going for, but by constantly stating that noticing a woman is a “healthy biological drive,” and (in past articles), stating that you can find someone “sexually attractive” and not lust, I get really confused. Is this to be understood to mean that it’s normal and healthy to feel sexual arousal in the presence of a beautiful woman and not have anything to work on emotionally/relationally? If i could know with 100% certainty that my husband wasn’t fixating on body parts and wasn’t mentally undressing a beautiful woman and wasn’t masturbating to her memory, but was simply feeling a small uptick in his breath, a slight quickening in his pulse, every time a beautiful woman was near because of his “normal biological drives”, I’d give up on all romantic aspects of our relationship and maybe even invite him to resume his porn use so he’d never touch me again. And in other articles you’ve both authored, what do you mean when you say a man can be sexually attracted to a woman and still feel nothing at all for her? It feels like you’re talking out of both sides of your mouth. If he’s sexually attracted, then that isn’t nothing.

    I’d like to posit an alternative, and please tell me if you agree: When you say a man can be “sexually attracted”to a woman, you mean a male might be more likely to notice an attractive female over an attractive male and vice versa. (I might argue that God designed us to notice beauty in all its forms, and both men and women notice both men and women who are beautiful, but given society’s overemphasis on female beauty and the myriad of tools and surgeries more often used by women to achieve that beauty, it might seem to your husband like he notices women’s beauty more often because he is male, when perhaps it’s because he notices them because there are more beautiful women than beautiful men. But that’s just a theory. I find myself, even before the revelation of my husband’s porn use, noticing beautiful women more often than beautiful men.). But what you MIGHT mean is that POTENTIAL for attraction is biologically based. Not that attraction itself is automatic and always involuntary, though involuntary attraction can still occur in slightly less mature people because they have not yet learned to master that impulse. (You have covered how a man can put his arousal into context, and even if he sees a fully nude underage young woman, a good man will feel literally nothing but pity for her). I find myself in full agreement with this so long as what you don’t mean is that by finding someone attractIVE means you are therefore attractED.

    This is another discussion my husband and I have had a lot. I have the potential to be sexually attractED to an attractIVE male, but I’m not because I’m attractED to my husband. Just like I can say a woman is “attractIVE”, but there is no potential there for me to be “attractED” to her because as a heterosexual female, I can only be attractED to men I find attractIVE. But just because a man is attracIVE doesn’t mean I feel attractED. Is this what you mean?

    There is fear on my end that by what you mean when you say it’s a biological drive of men to find women “attractIVE,” you are communicating that men are actively “attractED,” meaning there is a pull or a draw toward that person, an active working, however slight, on dividing the attention of the attractED from their partner to the attractIVE, a quickening of the breath, a raised pulse, maybe even a slight flow of blood to the penis unrelated to sexual thoughts. So when my husband says he recognizes a woman is attractIVE but does not feel attractED, no draw or pull toward that woman, no quickening of the breath, no subconscious subduing of a drive to pull toward her (and therefore subconsciously away from me), no desire to stand taller to catch her notice or to wonder if a woman like that would ever be drawn to HIM, then I don’t feel threatened by that in the least bit. But when he says he is sexually attractED to another woman, I feel myself shriveling up on the inside, knowing that he will forever be white-knuckling his fidelity to me. He is always drawn, however slight, to other, more beautiful women, of which there are many. He will be faithful for as long as he is willing to constantly battle within himself in a struggle that will only worsen as I age, and with the new marks on my body from this new child I’m carrying. His love and attraction for me can never be sufficiently robust that he can’t fathom desiring another woman, because despite his love for me he will still biologically and against his better will be drawn, however slight, to the beautiful woman in the coffee shop.

    So can you please clarify these terms and phrases that muddy the waters a bit when you say men have normal, healthy, biological urges that cause them to notice beautiful women and be sexually attracted to them, and explain why this isn’t just the same old Egrich apologetic arguing that sexually desiring the beautiful women around you is just the way God made men, and that’s a good thing and we women just need to understand it and not be threaten by the idea that our husbands will only ever ALSO want us?

    Because even that message makes me want to give up entirely. My husband has not used porn in two years. Our relationship is more than I ever thought it would be. I’m deliriously happy with him. But articles like this trigger something in me. Please help. I am so very, very tired.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi, M! Those are great questions, and I’ll encourage Keith to try to chime in later.

      But I just want to point out that we’re not talking about arousal. On the sexual response cycle, arousal is WAY up there. I’m not saying it’s normal to get aroused by women in public. Not at all. It’s just that we do tend to notice people who are beautiful, and heterosexual men are more likely to notice women, and heterosexual women are more likely to notice men. But that doesn’t mean that it has any bearing on their thought life (or their arousal for that matter!).

      I can think a man is attractive and still be totally grossed out if he tried to kiss me or hold my hand, because I don’t want to do that with anyone but my husband. Does that make sense? I’ll ask Keith to chime in later.

      Reply
      • NM

        I am so sorry for what you have been through with your husband, and I’m so glad the two of you have gotten to a good place! I echo what Sheila said, that noticing should not involve actual arousal. That said, I can totally see why the term “biological drive” could be confusing. I took a class on attraction in college that was really fascinating. Basically, factors that increase a person’s reproductive potential make them more attractive to the opposite sex. That’s why youth, facial symmetry, developed breasts, etc are attractive. If you can think of your brain as a computer that has a built-in “attraction meter,” and that is part of God’s design to make sure we successfully reproduce. Getting married does not “delete the program,” so to speak, which is why we can always tell when someone is attractive. But no, that does not need to progress to “feelings of attraction” or a desire to be with anyone else. I am pretty visual and I definitely notice when a man is handsome, but I do not fantasize about other men, or compare my husband to them. He is the only one I want to be close to. I believe men have the same ability to control their thoughts, even when they notice a beautiful woman.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yes, this is really well explained. I think we need to realize that there’s a huge continuum, too. There’s:
          Registering there’s a woman in your presence
          Noticing she’s attractive
          Staring at her for a minute
          Imagining her body
          Becoming aroused
          Picturing her in various states, etc.
          Thinking about her later

          Etc. But you can do #1 and #2 and never progress anywhere else. Really and truly. In fact you could register #1 and #2 and then be really put out by the idea of anything else, because it feels weird since it’s not your spouse.

          I think that’s what we’re trying to say. A lot of people have made it sound like #1 and #2 automatically lead to #6 and #7, but they really don’t.

          I know, though, that when this has been a source of trauma in a marriage, it’s so, so difficult to process. I’m so sorry about that. I truly am.

          Reply
        • NM

          I also wanted to add that I think changing the conversation about lust will help good Christian men from falling into the pornography trap to begin with, so maybe the next generation will have an easier time. That’s what I’m praying for!

          Reply
          • M.Dizzle

            Thank you, NM and Sheila. I totally get and am on board with the idea that you can see a woman, notice she’s attractive, and do nothing else with that information. I am grateful to God that this is so, and I believe you.

            I guess I just see phrases like “biological drive” or hear that men find women “sexually attractive” and I think of all the articles I’ve read where the same phrasing was used, but as an argument as to why we should overlook the lust issues of men. Those phrases just automatically get my defenses up, and I am 99% certain that’s not what you mean. But that 1% of me that worries that no man can be trusted reads those phrases and worries you’re about to pull a bait and switch on us. I do think a well meaning but struggling man could look at this article and think, “Well, but even Keith says that when I notice a woman is attractive, it’s biological and involuntary for me to begin to feel the inklings of arousal. But I never take it further than that, and I mentally fight to keep from lusting, so my work here is done.” I guess I would just hope that maybe nudging married men and women (because many women do this same thing, I know) in the direction of feeling nothing for the attractive person is something to be encouraged. Because I know noticing is not lusting. But it is a challenge to know that your non-lusting husband still has a small physical reaction to any passing beautiful woman. Even just a bit of nerves, like some men get around beautiful women. So many Christian blogs and resources argue that this is the case! I found comfort in one blog where the guy seemed very clearly to love his wife and have no lust issues, but then he talked about how no man can help but feel some internal “ping” when he sees an attractive woman. My God! Does that happen inside my hisband too? Is it another one of those things I’ll never understand about men? Because I don’t feel a “ping” when an attractive man walks in. I usually notice he’s good looking and then I notice the cat in the corner and then I notice the barista is taking forever….. there is no “ping.”

            But I get that a “ping” is not lust. I get that attraction, in and of itself, is not lust. But can we agree that it’s not healthy if you’re married? Agree that it’s not ideal, and that it, too, can be overcome? Because temptation is not sin. But I’d feel a lot more secure in my marriage if he wasn’t tempted.

            Maybe Keith’s next article could be about that distinction? Or the distinction between recognizing someone is attractive and being attractED to them (perhaps what I classify as attractED you might call the beginning stages of arousal?). Just spitballing. These articles Keith writes are very anxiety inducing. Lol. Is THIS the time he tells men it’s okay to be overcome by the beauty of another woman, so long as you don’t lust? (And Keith, this is not an accusation. I think you’re tackling a tough issue with a lot of land mines and a lot of VERY sensitive people like me who still have knee-jerk reactions to any perceived threat. I’m just glad you’re writing these articles, even if I take issue with a couple of the phrases.)

          • M

            M. Dizzle, thanks for your thoughtful commentary and questions. Just a few thoughts.

            “I guess I would just hope that maybe nudging married men and women (because many women do this same thing, I know) in the direction of feeling nothing for the attractive person is something to be encouraged.”

            As a married woman in a monogamous, porn-free relationship, I strongly disagree with this sentiment. Our marriage suffered when we tried to live this way, and we have found so much freedom in normalizing these feelings and talking to each other about them. From my angle, I have a very specific ‘type’ of man I find truly attractive. This ‘type’ is defined more by character qualities and demeanour than by physical characteristics, although those can weigh in. I have met fewer than 5 of them in the last 10 years. But when I am in the presence, of men with that kind of strength, kindness and intelligence, my heart rate spikes, I struggle not to blush, and I get a mushy brain. Completely involuntarily. I do nothing with those thoughts, except to realize that I am wired a certain way and to thank God that my husband shares those qualities. I can then tell my husband about it later and have a laugh. Similarly, thanks to the Gregoire’s teachings, my husband has begun to tell me (maybe once every month, or less) when he notices that a woman is attractive. I don’t know what physical responses he feels in these situations, and I really don’t care, because I *know* his love and faithfulness are there, and that he loves me deeply.

            For us, normalizing these feelings has *reduced* our anxiety.

            So from my tiny perspective of one, I would *guess* that your fears arise from trauma, and not from a healthy place. This is not to shame you! But I think you *could* arrive at a different place entirely. And from our experience, telling others to suppress instantaneous physiologic and emotional responses because those are sinful is to recreate the legalism problem that paradoxically makes those things more important than they actually are. An “oh well, guess he/she’s my type” response makes the attraction feel *way* less powerful for us. And for me as a woman, that actually includes physiologic responses like increased heart rate.

          • KM

            I think there’s room for each couple to decide what works best for them. Trauma, especially betrayal trauma, does change the dynamics in a relationship. The relationship can be healed and healthy, but different than one like yours that was never fractured. To me, it’s not that being attracted to someone else without lust is sinful so much as disrespectful and hurtful. My husband agrees and that’s how we live our marriage, which is different than yours, but that’s ok.

          • M

            “…but different than one like yours that was never fractured…To me, it’s not that being attracted to someone else without lust is sinful so much as disrespectful and hurtful. My husband agrees and that’s how we live our marriage, which is different than yours, but that’s ok.”

            Our marriage was initially affected by betrayal, so I count myself in the camp of betrayal trauma recovery. 🙂 The point of recovery is not to control the spouse’s thoughts, but to relax in their deep love and commitment, regardless of thoughts.

            And I respectfully disagree that it is possible to live life without such thoughts and physiologic responses, unless something important is broken. Scripture is clear that there is a very real difference between temptation and action. It doesn’t teach us that Jesus was “disrespectful” to the Father when he wanted to turn stones into bread because he was hungry.

            But I think for those in active healing and not yet recovered, that it is legit to pray that God would grant grace for a blindness to others until trust is restored! It’s just that once healing takes place (for us at least), being attractED is a complete non-issue (if next steps are avoided).

            All this to say, I just worry this perspective heaps burdens that people can’t actually bear. And simultaneously increases anxiety about lust if such thoughts do pop up.

          • S

            I can sympathize with you. This is my biggest hurdle I’ve had to overcome as well. Worrying about my husband’s thoughts about other women. I want to be “it” for him. The all men lust message from Christian culture (which is not necessarily something I was ever taught at church) +porn use for several years crushed my soul.

            But my husband and I have had good conversations about how his porn use wasn’t about me not being enough of anything but rather him not being okay with himself.

            As Keith has shared the noticing is not lusting message, a part of my heart has healed.

            I notice. I even get a “ping” if you will. I actually described it to my husband once almost exactly like that. And I said “If that’s what I do and I’m not ‘visual’ like men, what more are you doing?”

            He was surprised that I knew the “ping” feeling because he assumed women weren’t visual. Then he said that’s pretty much it. He says it takes active effort to progress to arousal/fantasy.

            It’s not an instant progression much like it isn’t for me.

            Since I notice but don’t lust this message has been so healing for me. I find that I’m much more comfortable with beautiful women and I see them not as competition now that we’ve talked openly about this message.

            Thanks to you Keith. I told my husband he needs to open his mouth more. He told me women aside from me wouldn’t believe a man they don’t know. I told him that I don’t know you and your message has helped God heal my heart.

          • Court

            I think all the things you are describing are normal for what you have been through in your marriage. Some of the anxiety we can have in marriage are trauma responses from the betrayal of trust, for example, when your husband was using pornography. As we rebuild trust in our relationships, our brains start to heal as we find trust and safety again. You are very self-aware of your own anxieties and taking responsibility for that and that is a good sign because it shows you are open and not blaming. Something else that might help, in addition to working on the relationship with your husband, is working on the relationship with yourself. You are beautiful too. Being confident in yourself and knowing that even though other women are beautiful and attractive, what my husband and I share is one of a kind. There are no other women your husband sleeps with and has sex with. It is your body he knows and your soul he loves. Sex heals people and bonds people too when done in the context of safety and trust. Nothing can replace that.

          • OKRickety

            NM, I will suppose you believe Christian men “fall” into the pornography trap because they think lust is inevitable. I doubt that is a significant factor (but certainly a popular belief here). What reasons do these Christian men give for using porn? I haven’t found any real explanation.

            Overall, I think all wives should ask themselves this: “Why do I believe that my interpretation of his behavior is more accurate than his description of it?”

            On a related note, what is the explanation for Christian women using pornography? (Yes, it’s lower than for men but it is growing more rapidly.) I don’t think the “I’m going to lust regardless” argument applies. At least, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone arguing that many Christians teach this about women, only about men.

          • NM

            I would say that both men and women use pornography because it feels good and it’s readily available. And as the first generation of married folks with porn easily accessible with the internet, I think the Christian response has been botched and entirely unhelpful. Human nature is what it is…young people have sex drives and a lot of curiosity. But I do really believe that if we talk about it openly, teach healthy attitudes about sex, explain why porn will harm their emotional maturity and their future relationships, they will feel equipped to handle the temptation. The men currently in their 30’s & 40’s were unprepared by the church for what they were finding online and then got trapped in a cycle of secrecy and shame. I have sons and we talk about pornography. I know from talking to my husband that his parents never so much as mentioned it. I am not “assuming my interpretation” is more accurate, we have talked about it.

        • This is a Pseudonym

          So if factors that increase a person’s reproductive potential make them more attractive to the opposite sex, then why don’t hairy legs and armpits attract men? That’s a sign of reproductive potential as much as developed breasts.

          So according to your built-in “attraction meter” theory, a husband couldn’t be biologically attracted to his wife in the same way if she had gone through breast cancer and had her breasts removed?

          Reply
    • Soup + Celery

      I have so much sympathy for you, M! What has been done to you is SO grossly unfair.

      I appreciate your insight on attraction, etc.

      One of the main issues *I* have with this article is the fact that Keith uses terms like “beautiful woman” and “nice curves”. I find these objectifying, but also a healthier and more truthful way to phrase it would be “a woman I find beautiful” and “a body type that I personally find myself drawn to”.

      ALL humans are beautiful with great bodies. That’s how God sees us. And I think making even small changes in how we talk about other people’s bodies can help us to look at each other the way God does.

      Reply
    • Keith Gregoire

      First off, let me say that I am sorry for what you have had to deal with. I am also sorry if anything I said has triggered a trauma type response in you. I sincerely did not mean to do that. In the article I also said I am on a journey. I’m still learning. I think you and I agree that there is a difference between finding a member of the opposite sex attractive and actively lusting after them, which is all I was trying to say. Can you teach me how I might say this in the future in a way that would be more helpful to women in your situation?

      Reply
      • M.Dizzle

        Oh, you don’t need to apologize! You did nothing wrong! And you and Sheila are so sweet to even respond to my rambling comments. I think all I’d ask, if it someday fits into any of your plans for the future of this blog, is to hear a little bit more about that middle grey area between feeling nothing at all for a member of the opposite sex and lusting. Because you guys do draw some strong and clear distinctions with those, and that’s wonderfully helpful and a message that is desperately needed in our churches. I think you’re right, feeling attraction for someone is not the same as lusting. But is it wrong of me to prefer to be married to a man who does not FEEL attraction for other women? Who does not WANT to look at other women, but for whom there is no shame if he is walking downs the street and notices one? He doesn’t linger, he doesn’t marvel, he just recognizes a fellow human being and keeps going? Because it seems sometimes like the message from Christian men (not specifically you) is that we should be happy that they’re not masturbating to the thoughts of other women, but that they should never be expected to feel nothing for a beautiful woman because WANTING to look is naturally male, and women will never understand. Men will always be haunted by the temptation, even if for some men that temptation is stronger than it is for others. Can a man feel his pulse quicken in the presence of a beautiful woman who is not his wife and that is expected and good and okay? Is there not some obligation we have to our spouses to outgrow this response to the opposite sex? Does that make sense? If I’m being unclear, I apologize.

        Reply
        • KM

          M., I feel the same way as you. I don’t want my husband to evaluate the attractiveness of other women. It is not acceptable to me for my husband to find other women beautiful. Like you, I’m a betrayal trauma survivor and reading that it’s normal for married men to notice attractive women, even without lusting, gives me anxiety. Thankfully, my now-recovered husband agrees and has said he’d be hurt if I found other men attractive or handsome. We read an article early in recovery about making your wife your standard of beauty, then no one else can ever compare. It’s a choice my husband and I made to simply see people as people and not evaluate their physical features. Every day we set each other as our standard of attractiveness and only have eyes for each other.

          Reply
          • M.Dizzle

            Okay. I’m done. This conversation was not helpful even a little bit. KM, you are the only one who has said anything to make me feel remotely better. I don’t like being shamed for not celebrating when my husband comes home and tells me how he was a bit overwhelmed by the hotter younger chick at work. I guess that makes me legalistic. I’m practically a Pharisee. I’m so glad my husband sexually desires other women, even if he doesn’t lust after them! It’s how God made him! He can’t help it, nor should he be expected to! I should rejoice, and crawl back into my hole in shame.

            KM, my husband and I have also agreed the internal “ping” from either of us would make the other uncomfortable and insecure. It WOULD be disrespectful. We don’t want that for our relationship. So glad everyone else was here to wag their fingers at me, let me know that my response was not a healthy one but was born out of the twisted wreckage of my “trauma”, and that I should repent like the sinner I am. Thanks, guys. I’m out.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I’m so sorry, M.Dizzle. I haven’t been in the comments much. I understand that this is really traumatic for you.

            I just want to pick up on something you’re saying–he’s TELLING YOU that he was overwhelmed by the “young chick at work”? That’s not normal. That’s not even remotely what we’re talking about. I’m so sorry if you thought that was. He should certainly not be overwhelmed by anyone at work. If he is, he still definitely has some healing to do. And he should not be bringing that message home to you. That isn’t okay. Have you talked to a counselor about this? Or is he in a recovery group?

            I will also say this, and I hope this doesn’t come off wrong. I mean it as something comforting. But it could be that the reason that he feels “overwhelmed” is similar to what people were trying to say yesterday. When we equate even noticing a woman is beautiful with lusting, then a man can feel like he’s sinned simply by seeing. So what does he do? He tries so very, very hard not to see or notice. But as soon as you try not to notice something, and put all your energy into not noticing something, what happens? You become completely preoccupied with the thing (or person) you’re trying not to notice.

            I think this is what people were trying to say. If we could normalize someone finding someone else beautiful, AS LONG AS THAT’S AS FAR AS IT GOES, then it loses its power. The problem is that it has so much power right now because we don’t know how to distinguish between noticing someone is good looking and entertaining thoughts about that person’s body. The two aren’t the same thing, but when you’ve been taught your whole life that they are, then the battle seems impossible. The only goal is not to notice, and when that becomes the goal, life is overwhelming.

            I’m not sure if this is what your husband was getting at, but from interviews we’ve done with other people, it may be. We’re not trying to accuse you of legalism or anything like that. Please understand. It’s just that the way that we’ve talked about this can seem overwhelming and impossible to so many men because a woman entering his peripheral vision now poses an existential threat to his soul. We have to get beyond that or we’ll never recover.

            Again, this does not mean that people are allowed to entertain thoughts about other people sexually. It’s just that maybe the reason that he’s overwhelmed and the reason this is so hard is because we’ve made it more difficult than it needs to be? I hope that isn’t adding to your burden. I’m really not trying to. But it sounds like you’re in such a rough place, and it really sounds like it could just be that your husband feels as if he has to not notice, and because of that, he’s completely paralyzed and hyper focused on everyone’s bodies. Are you seeing a good counselor who is trained in sex addictions who can walk you through this?

          • Jo R

            Sheila, I wonder if “aroused” and “sexually attracted” are both being used in at least some instances and/or by some people to mean “gets an erection.”

            If so, then that’s quite different from “aroused” and “sexually attracted” coming at the tail end of the six or seven steps you listed in another comment.

            Is it even physically ***possible*** for a man to control whether or not he gets an election? 🤔🤔🤔

          • M

            Thanks for articulating things so well, Sheila.

            M.Dizzle, I meant to convey a message of hope, not judgement. Likely not the wisest words for your situation–I was speaking to a concept, not a person. I am sorry that I caused you pain.

            While telling each other about our ‘noticing’ has really helped (my husband especially), maybe this is because it’s been a form of cognitive therapy for the “all noticing is bad” indoctrination he got. So maybe it’s not where we’ll end up when *we* are fully healed.

            Thanks for making me think. And I am really very sorry to have hurt you.

          • M.Dizzle

            Sheila, and KM (and ONLY those two):

            My husband and I are better than great. Like you, KM, we’ve had a LOT of work to do, but he sinned, he repented, and he has grown so much and now is a husband who cherishes and loves and I am deliriously happy with him. He does not still struggle with lust.

            Like you, KM, we’ve talked a lot about not just lust, but what it is like for him when a beautiful woman is near. He said he feels literally nothing. He can recognize that the woman is beautiful in much the same way you can recognize there is a cat in the corner, and that his socks match his shoes, and the day is growing hot. It’s incidental. I get what you mean about not “evaluating” the beauty of others. He can’t help but see women, but he does not evaluate her, compare her to me, or to other women. The good looking woman is just there, without him having any mental, emotional, or physical reaction. No half second where his brain lingers on her face. No butterflies in the stomach. It is a CHOICE when he takes it any further than merely seeing her.

            My goal is not to heap judgement on men for simply seeing a woman and finding her attractive! That is not my argument. I think shame has contributed to the lust problem, because shame makes you lonely, which makes you search for validation, and can motivate people TOWARD porn rather than away from it. I get that. I really really do.

            But Sheila, I’ve read so many “Christian” resources where men are encouraged to “celebrate” the beauty of the women around them (whatever that means) because as men, they are hardwired to look, NOT LUST. So when your husband takes a second glance at that gorgeous young barista (not at her butt or her breasts, but maybe at her silky hair and sly smile), he’s just doing what God hardwired him to do. When he feels schoolboy butterflies in his stomach (again, NOT LUST, but that middle area you mention but never address), it’s perfectly normal, all men do it, and I should be thankful God blessed me with a man, even if his days of feeling “butterflies” for me are long past.

            I would argue that no, none of these are sins. But they are a sign of immaturity. Just like how not having saved a lot of money in your savings account is not a sin, but might be a bit unwise and you want a man who knows to save for a rainy day. Feeling schoolyard butterflies in your stomach that never rises to any level beyond a schoolboy’s nerves around a gorgeous girl is not sinful at all, and in single men it can perhaps inspire him to pursue a woman who may become his wife someday! It can actually be a good thing IN THE RIGHT CONTEXT. But once you are a grown man married to a wife who loves you, it’s time to put away childish things. And I get that that might not be an automatic response for most people when they first get married, but we have to learn how to be married! Part of learning to honor your spouse is to set aside behaviors that are not in and of themselves sinful, but that might be unwise, or even slightly unhealthy in the context of a mature, loving relationship.

            Keith (or maybe your daughter?) even said once in a podcast there is a reason guys react repulsed when they realize a girl they’re scoping out might be underage. Because CONTEXT in the realm of sex and relationships is EVERYTHING. Once a man realizes he’s been scoping out someone it is not healthy or natural or normal for him to scope out, he can shut down that attraction at an instant. So married people, too, should not feel ashamed for noticing a beautiful person, but they should train their brains not to feel attracted.

            That, Sheila, is the thing I was hoping to get your feedback on.

            And I know I get heated. I know I have probably been less than pleasant to deal with. I am a fiery personality that is actively working on keeping my anger and impulsivity in control. You deserve none of my anger. You and your husband are doing good work. I have nothing but respect for you. If you disagree with me on all I’ve said above, I will not change my mind, but I will not think any less of you or your ministry.

          • KM

            M. Dizzle, you explained that very well.

            The message seems to be “Looking isn’t lusting. But all men look and find women other than their wives sexually attractive. But wives shouldn’t care as long as husbands don’t fantasize.” My husband and I weren’t victims of purity culture so maybe that’s why this message doesn’t help us. We thought The Great Sex Rescue was wonderful except for this message. My husband read Every Man’s Battle in his 40’s and now we see how damaging that was. After reading the other comments on this post my husband suggested we stop following the blog or listening to the podcast. I think it would be helpful to include that some men stop at noticing a person is a woman and never go to “noticing she’s attractive”.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Hi KM,

            I understand the confusion, because it’s very hard to say this well. I would actually argue that what we’re mostly talking about isn’t even looking; it’s just seeing. And we’re not saying “as long as he doesn’t fantasize.” We’re just saying, You can notice and then totally go on with your day and it doesn’t take up time in your brain.

            I can only tell you that this is what studies show–people tend to notice attractive people. They just do. It’s kind of wired into us. It’s involuntary. But what we do with that information is then up to us. And studies also show that you can notice and then just go on with your day. it isn’t a big deal.

            But are you saying that the expectation should be that a person never notices that someone else is attractive? I’m not honestly sure how that’s possible. I mean, I notice when other WOMEN are attractive, and I’m not even sexually attracted to women.

            Can you explain why it matters if someone notices an attractive person–but then moves on with their day and doesn’t think about it again? Do you not notice that one man may be more attractive than another man? (Again, it doesn’t mean you do anything with that information, or think about it, or obsess over it, or want to have a relationship with that man, but doesn’t your brain register that a certain man may be more attractive than usual?)

          • Soup + Celery

            “I can only tell you that this is what studies show–people tend to notice attractive people. They just do. It’s kind of wired into us. It’s involuntary.“

            I’d have to know a lot more about these studies before I decide if I think they’re relevant. Do people from all different cultures find the same body types/facial features etc. attractive? People in North America have the same types wired into them as Asians or Africans? Or are different races wired differently?

            I don’t believe that we’re wired to notice a certain body type. Unless by “wired” you mean trained by our culture and the media we consume. There’s a pretty narrow body type shown in movies, on tv, in comics, in porn, etc. If we’re always presented with one body type as the ideal, I think it makes sense if we notice it more. If you’ve been online shopping for a red scarf all month, you’ll probably notice if you see someone wearing one on the street. But maybe you won’t notice the green or brown one. Doesn’t mean the green or brown one is less attractive.

            “But are you saying that the expectation should be that a person never notices that someone else is attractive?”

            I guess I take issue with this idea that this one person “is attractive” …and maybe that other person isn’t? Like, objectively. God thinks we’re all beautiful. And I think we should work to have a Godly view about each other’s bodies.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Studies have shown that, across cultures, certain hip ratios are universally found to be attractive, likely because they’re correlated with better fertility, researchers think.

            Again, this is just that very preliminary noticing. What we then do with that information, or whether we decide it’s anything worth dwelling on, is entirely up to us. But we’re wired to notice the extremes in anything–our gaze tends to go to extremes. So if someone is extremely beautiful (whatever that means in our culture), we’ll notice. If someone is very very tall, or very very short, we notice. If a bird is more brightly coloured than another, we notice. Things that are on the extreme, we notice.

            Again, though, that has no bearing on any weight that we give it. It doesn’t mean that we consider this important information. But I think we need to be careful about expecting that no one will notice that someone is attractive. Noticing is not a deliberate thing. It’s just automatic. But then God tells us to take every thought captive. We choose what we do with those thoughts–but sometimes we have thoughts that we don’t particularly like or care about. But when we make the standard that people shouldn’t notice–well, that’s got a lot of potential to cause a lot of shame, and to actually create the problems that we’re talking about.

            When people are told they must never notice anyone’s body, they’re more likely to struggle with lust than if they’re simply told, “it’s not a big deal.” I’m just arguing for the latter. I hope that makes sense!

          • Soup + Celery

            *DO* certain hip ratios correlate with fertility?

            I don’t think we need to tell people to never notice someone’s body. Seems like if you mostly notice one particular size/shape of body part, you might have some growth to do. I agree with M Dizzle’s assessment that it seems like a sign of immaturity.

            I *think* you’re agreeing that beauty is in the eye of the culture (except for hips, certain ratios of which are just objectively more attractive)?

            I don’t know about being wired to notice extremes. And even if that’s true, shouldn’t we work against that? If we see a tall person or a disabled person or WHATEVER kind of “extreme” you’re thinking about, wouldn’t it be best to work towards just seeing them as a child of God, made in God’s image?

            I understand not wanting to shame people who don’t think it would be valuable to work towards seeing others as children of God first and foremost. Maybe you should write non-shamey articles for people who are ok with themselves noticing “nice curves” etc., and put a trigger warning for betrayed people at the beginning? And then you could write an article that doesn’t shame betrayed people for the confusing feelings and trauma responses they have, but put a trigger warning at the beginning for people who might feel shamed by validating how the betrayed feel?

          • This is a Pseudonym

            I find it misogynistic that we’re discussing a woman’s attractiveness based on how well she can make babies. Why aren’t we discussing what makes men attractive based on how well they can make babies? The man’s DNA matters just as much. And actually the quality of sperm affects the baby.

            I haven’t done any research into the science, but it seems to be a general consensus that women don’t care as much about looks as men do: they tend to look at a guy’s character to determine attractiveness more than men do. So are we really expected to believe that God put a program in men’s brains to select a mate based on good DNA, but he didn’t put that program in women?

            You’re okay with telling a woman who isn’t conventionally attractive, “It makes sense that you’re being overlooked! After all, God programmed men to not want to have sex with someone that doesn’t have good DNA. So since one of your eyes is lower than the other and one nostril is bigger than the other, you’ll have to wait for a guy that’s willing to overcome his biology in order to want to have sex with you. It’s just how God designed us!”

            I think that M. Dizzle, KM, Soup, and I are agreeing that if your brain automatically finds someone attractive, it’s not a sin. But if you notice that you’re automatically evaluating women based on their appearance, or you’re automatically attracted when a woman has a certain body type, shouldn’t you get curious? Why is that your automatic response? Our brains are neuroplastic, so you can train yourself to see people less as bodies and more as whole people. Why do we have to conform to what our culture says is “extremely” beautiful?

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I think you’re assuming that this is what I think is happening. I’m not. This is simply academic literature. There have been so many cross-cultural studies of what people find attractive, and there are certain markers that are pretty much universally attractive, and the thinking is (by psychologists) that much of it is linked back to fertility.

            I’m not saying that this is how it SHOULD be. I’m saying that this simply IS. Like, we know that babies, for instance, in their first days tend to stare at faces. They’re instinctively attracted to faces. And we know that children, even under 2, are more attuned to attractive people.

            These are just studies. There are some things that are instinctual.

            But the thing about the Christian life is that we’re able to rise above instinct. We’re able to CHOOSE what we think about. That’s the whole point of 2 Corinthians 10:5–you take every thought captive. And when we do that, instinct doesn’t matter. So what if you instinctively think someone is more attractive than another? It only matters insofar as we lend any value to it. And if we don’t lend value to it (which we shouldn’t) than it doesn’t matter.

            I believe that we totally can get to a place where it doesn’t matter. Where we don’t dwell on it. Where it’s just factual information.

            But we cannot say that we won’t notice. And we should never, ever make people feel shame for doing something instinctual.

            And, no, I’m not saying it’s okay to be overlooked. But that’s what I’m saying! Instinct doesn’t have to impact how we act. Instinct is not a deliberate action. The only things that we control are deliberate actions. And God doesn’t judge by outward appearance; he judges by the heart, and he asks us to do the same. So if someone is following Jesus, and has the Holy Spirit in their lives, THAT is what is going to impact how they think and act.

            But please–don’t shame people for noticing. It’s a blink of an eye. It doesn’t need to register. But don’t shame people for noticing. That’s how toxicity gets started. Let’s just ask people to control their thoughts, not their noticing.Those are two different things.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I want to understand what you are saying, though, with one more question: Do you think it’s wrong for someone to notice that objectively one person is more attractive than another, if they assign absolutely NO moral value to that, and if they don’t consider someone “better” or “nicer” or anything superlative? If it’s simply “they’re attractive” in the same way “they’re wearing green.” Are you saying that this is wrong?

            Like, let’s say they notice someone is physically attractive, but at the same time what they really care about are other qualities when it comes to a mate. Are you still saying that it’s wrong to even know that someone is physically attractive?

          • Soup + Celery

            I guess when it comes down to it, I’m just saying I don’t think God looks at us and notices the people with the “best” hip ratios or “most symmetrical” faces more than the people without those features. Am I that unbiased when I look at others? No. Will anyone achieve that this side of heaven? No. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for that.

            And I really find it hard to believe that God would wire something like that into us. That’s your choice to interpret some studies in that way. I’m guessing you could interpret those study results in a different way as well, though.

            Sheila, I’m very grateful for the way I’ve grown – in part from your work. If I’d never found your work, I might be in a different and less healthy place. So thank you.

            I’m really not feeling seen and heard here lately, though. I think it’s time I moved on to other sources that are safe and healthy for everyone. Including betrayed spouses.

            I wish you all the best. <3

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Oh, I definitely doesn’t think God looks at us that way! But then, God isn’t trying to mate with anyone. 🙂 And the Bible definitely calls some people attractive.

            The question is: What value do we put on attractiveness? We can notice, but then what value do we put on it? It’s fine to get upset if people assign value to it; but I don’t think it’s okay to get upset when people notice, because people universally do, according to huge studies. And women even notice attractive women! We just notice attractiveness. But the question then becomes: what value do we put on it? That’s what we should be teaching out kids–that attractiveness is not where the value lies. That’s what God says too–that true beauty is elsewhere, and that’s what we should learn to cultivate for sure.

          • M. Dizzle

            KM, I really do appreciate you. The conversations you’ve had with your husband sound very similar to the ones my husband and I have had. He’s told me that if I were to come home at the end of the day and tell him, “I found this man at work sexually attractive, but don’t worry, I am 100% into you only,” he’d be bothered. He and I both agree you should train your brain to feel literally nothing, whether it be emotionally or physically, for anyone but your spouse, and that’s how we are living now. Because our spouse should be the only one to provoke a reaction. You can’t help it when a beautiful person crosses into your eyeline, but if you experience a “ping” or a flutter in your stomach or an increase in your heart rate, that’s a sign that perhaps you can grow a bit more as a person into maturity and wisdom. It is absolutely not a sin to feel those things. But for the health of your marriage, should you indulge it? I think no.

            Anyway, just wanted to let you know that you’re not alone. I feel you.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Hi M. Dizzle,

            Thanks for replying again! It sounds like we’re still talking about two different things though. Your husband says he notices a woman is beautiful, but that’s just information.

            YES! That’s what I’m talking about. I’m not talking about celebrating how beautiful another woman is or taking a second look at a gorgeous barista or anything like that. We’re just talking about noticing.

            I don’t think that crosses into sin; no. But like you, i’d argue that much of that is immaturity.

            I don’t think Keith ever said “scoping out” on a podcast, though, because he NEVER scopes out. He just said that if you notice that a girl is attractive, but then you also notice that she’s underage, you’re creeped out. But it’s simply noticing. It’s not checking out. It’s just information that your brain is registering, that’s all.

            It actually doesn’t sound like we’re talking about really different things. But I do believe that we can create problems when we tell men that noticing a woman is attractive is a problem, because we do know from studies (our men’s study showed this too) that this causes hyper-vigilance and shame that can make the whole problem worse. No one should ever be “scoping out” another. Absolutely. But again, we’re not talking about behaviour but simply reaction.

            There’s noticing someone is attractive–which is involuntary. Everything after that is voluntary. And all I’m saying is that the involuntary should not be considered a problem.

            Does that make sense?

            (Also, am I to understand that your husband DOESN’T come home and say he’s overwhelmed by the hot chick at work, like you said in an earlier comment? I’m glad he doesn’t say that, but again, if he does, that’s not normal, and that should be talked about with a counselor.)

        • M

          “But is it wrong of me to prefer to be married to a man who does not FEEL attraction for other women?”

          —>My take: yes, this is a legalistic expectation that accentuates the lust problem by making men anxious about automatic neural circuits.

          “Because it seems sometimes like the message from Christian men (not specifically you) is that we should be happy that they’re not masturbating to the thoughts of other women, but that they should never be expected to feel nothing for a beautiful woman because WANTING to look is naturally male, and women will never understand.”

          –> fully agreed

          “Can a man feel his pulse quicken in the presence of a beautiful woman who is not his wife and that is expected and good and okay?”

          –> yes. This is not temptation unless he purposefully fantasizes.

          In my view, there’s a moral chasm between experiencing things that zip through our brains and dwelling on those things. I used to struggle with OCD-type thoughts as a tween. “You want to murder her” is *not* sinful, and it’s not temptation. It’s just a thought, and one that can be minimized by talking back to it.

          Similarly, thoughts like, “Wow, that guy is amazingly attractive”, whether experienced as words or as physical responses like increased heart rate, can be shot down with, “I guess I’m someone who’s still got it”, or “Let’s have a good laugh later when I tell him I blushed beet red today”, or “Wow, God–you did a great job with this one”.

          Personally, I find it reassuring to know that my attractometer still works. If I lose my husband, that faculty won’t be dead and buried. I don’t think God meant for us to suppress our ability to notice others after we exchange vows. He intended for us to live out faithfulness of mind, heart, and actions. Noticing kindness, intelligence, health, beauty, or strength in the opposite sex, and experiencing a response to those qualities, should not be shamed or discouraged…or we run into awkwardness problems, a never-ending “battle” with thoughts that validates “Every Man’s Battle”, etc.

          Reply
      • Emily

        Keith, I want to thank you for this gentle, respectful, and humble reply. It’s so encouraging to see your heart and attitude in action.

        Reply
        • Kelly

          I concur with Emily! Thanks Keith for showing humility & kindness!

          Reply
      • LH

        Soup + celery did suggest an alternative, ie. ‘teach’ you.. Say rather, “a woman I FIND beautiful” and “a body type that I personally find myself drawn to”. Doesn’t have to typically have “curvy” figure or “nice curves” or ‘American beauty’ the way popular media blatantly touts.

        Reply
  9. Anonymoose

    I agree with 1, 2, 3. My question is on 4.1. I agree that a man or a woman is entirely responsible for how they respond to any temptation. My question is based on the story of Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38 and Proverbs 7: Do you agree that a man or a woman can choose to dress like a prostitute (whatever that means in their culture) but that a believer should not normally do this in public?

    Reply
      • Anonymoose

        I have read that article before and read it again to make sure, but there was no discussion about my specific question except perhaps in general ways.

        In my interest wanderings I have seen no discussion by any believer about what it means to “dress like a prostitute” per those Scripture texts and that this is something to not normally do in public. But I have seen claims that anyone can wear whatever they want and if someone reacts it is of no concern to the wearer. You did not do that, but instead gave what your guidelines are. I agree 1 Timothy is discussing economic modesty. But I think you will agree that there is an increasing amount of sexual displays today, so that what is normal in some cases would not be appropriate, even if most people are doing that. This area might be appropriate for a new article. Thoughts?

        Reply
        • Rachel L.

          I don’t have all the biblical backing here, but I’m pretty sure that in all cultures that the Bible was written in, “prostitutes” had certain symbols, colors etc that indicated their profession/enslavement.especiay when we get to Greek/Roman occupation times. There were temple prostitutes who were considered “priestesses” of different gods and also had very clear indicators for what their role was.

          Reply
        • Anon

          Tamar deliberately dressed like a prostitute – she went out of her way to attract attention. But Judah still had a choice as to how he responded to that.

          I’m responsible for what I wear, other people are responsible for how they react to it. If I’m dressing inappropriately to try to get lots of attention, I’m in the wrong – but so is anyone who has a wrong attitude toward me because of what I’m wearing.

          It’s time we stopped using the whole ‘modesty’ thing as an excuse for male bad behaviour – ask just about any woman who’s been sexually assaulted in church and you’ll find she was dressed super-modestly but STILL got the blame for ‘being a temptation’. ‘Modesty’ is the card than any lecherous male knows he only has to produce to be let off – ‘oh, the way she was dressed meant I couldn’t help myself’. Seriously, unless I went to church in a burkha, I couldn’t have been dressed any more modestly, but it didn’t save me from numerous extremely unpleasant experiences growing up.

          Reply
        • NM

          I think there are 2 separate issues here. One is the sin/conscience of the person wearing the clothes. She can choose to sin by wearing something intentionally provocative. That’s an issue in her heart. Then there is the separate sin issue of the person who sees her, which is their own responsibility. So if she dresses to tempt on purpose, she is in sin. And if a man lusts after her, he is in his own separate sin. He could also see her and choose not to sin. And a woman dressed with innocent intentions (sinless) could be lusted after anyway. We need to stop blaming others for sin!

          Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Again, I’d point you to that article, because it was not just about economic modesty. It was just look appropriate. But I agree with what every one else has also said further down. No matter what someone wears, you are still responsible for how you respond, and the emphasis should likely be put there.

          Reply
  10. Heather King

    What a dynamite couple you two are!

    This is so refreshing to read, Keith. Thank you! You restore my faith in male Christians

    Reply
  11. Heather King

    Thank you so much for this post, Keith. You have restored my faith that there are good Christian men out there. You and Sheila are a force to be reckoned with. God bless you!

    Reply
  12. Codec

    I have to admit I would not want to get married and think I know how romance and sex works when in reality I do not know what I am doing.

    It would be akin to having a surgeon do a coronary bypass if they knew nothing about the cardiovascular system.

    I find it sad the ways that christians have failed to live up to Christ. I admit though that things are not all bad.

    I think about the Song of Songs sometimes perhaps the most famous poetic work on sex matched perhaps only by the Kama Sutra. It portrays a couple that seems pretty happy with each other. I mean the woman even says she is on fire for this man. They find creative ways to compliment each other and it is clear that they had healthy libidos.

    I find the idea of learning to be a great gift. Socrates Aquinas and C.S Lewis spoke of education as being one of the greatest gifts you could give someone.

    I remember learning about how the clitoris has more nerves than the penis. I found that fascinating.

    I have seen a lot of bad marriages. The good marriages i have seen however gives me hope.

    Porn can make you feel like a big shot. I mean if you are constantly given a lot of novel stimulus designed to get you aroused and appwal to a multitude of fantasies it is hard not to. In the end though you are still lonely. It broke my brain at first to think that someone could have sex and be lonely.

    I think folks are often scared of being vulnerable. Romance honestly seems pretty complicated. Sex itself as i have learned looking into it is actually a lot of work.

    I think entitlement is scary wether it be men or women.

    I am just as much a fan of Kenshiro and Conan as I am the works of Rumiko Takahashi. Men and women are multifaceted. King David was a poet warrior sheppard etc.

    I am happy to be hear at all.

    Reply
  13. Laura

    I cannot say this enough, “Yay!!! This is my husband!”
    He had been sober from porn for at least three years. I have seen major growth in these areas of this life. Especially now, as we have just learned that I disassociate during sex. (Because of years of obligation sex message, which lead to martial rape- I say the church did it because my hubby didn’t realize he was doing it. I had been trained to never say no. And we were never taught about consent.) My husband is taking the time to only pleasure me and take nothing for himself, as my sex therapist has recommended we pursue this therapy for a time, until my mind and body have sufficiently recovered and are able to participate and receive pleasure without negative associations.

    I have repeatedly asked him if he is okay. I have cried. I have told him it can be for him tonight. I have begged. My internal timer, while we are making love, goes off and says, “it’s his turn” and then everything stops. Without his continued and consistent gentle reminders that I did this for him for years and it’s his turn to do this for me, I wouldn’t make it through. The other day he was sad and I said, “Do you need sex?” And he looked at me and said, “What?! I’m supposed to deal with my own emotions like an adult. I don’t need sex for that. We’re not doing that anymore.”

    Last night we figured out that I don’t even call it “sex” unless he climaxes. I said, “You haven’t had sex in a long time.” His response, “Yes, I have, we just did the other night.” I was like, uhhhhh…

    Keep going. We all need this so much.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, wow, Laura, that’s so interesting! What a great therapy you’re doing! I totally understand about the need for recovery from all of this. It sounds like you’re doing it so well.

      Reply
  14. M

    My husband is reading this article. He keeps saying, “whoa”, “great point!”, and “so true”.

    Thanks for your transparency. If *this* were the message Christian men grew up receiving, the world would be such a different place.

    Reply
  15. Chris

    Have I been blocked? I tried to comment three times yesterday and they were all blocked as being spam. Hope this one goes through. I would hope that if I had been blocked I would have been told.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      No, you haven’t, Chris! A number of people are having trouble commenting. We used to have a whole bunch of people who had trouble, so Connor updated and used a new plugin, and now those people can comment–but it’s kicking out some others. We’ve ben trying to get to the bottom of it for a while now. It’s really hard.

      Thankfully we’re heading over to a new domain soon, and that should solve the problem. But in the meantime–I’m really sorry if that keeps happening. We really are trying to get to the bottom of it!

      Reply
      • Chris

        It might have something to do with privacy/cookies settings. May have solved it.

        Reply
  16. Doug

    I don’t understand what a Christian man is supposed to do when a beautiful work of God is clothed in very skimpy outfit. My first thoughts are wow that is beautiful and attractive and how was she raised to wear something like that.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Why does it matter how she was raised though, Doug? Why is that your concern? Can you see her as a whole person and just not fixate on her body?

      Reply
  17. Tory

    I sent this wonderful post to my husband. He read it and responded to me, “why did you send me this? Is it because you think I have some work to do in this area?” I said “no, I sent it to you as a way to encourage you because I think you have all of these characteristics, and you should consider yourself to be a sexually confident man!”

    Reply
  18. Laura

    Keith, thank you so much for your post. It is informative and helpful! One thing about women dressing modestly….. I live in Texas and have very hot weather in the summer. I see you are in Canada, and probably cover up much of the year for good reason!! It’s cold! There is a culture of women I see here who wear almost nothing— literally almost naked with nothing but biking shorts so short that show their bottom cheeks and a tiny see through sports bra to go to Target or a skin tight dress with no panties and (saw it with my own eyes) bending over to see it ALL in a grocery store. I’m a woman and I don’t want to see that. Is that a separate issue???

    Reply
  19. John Powers

    I appreciate the honesty served up here. It is served up in a caring loving with sensitivity. I am glad to learn more at 60 years of age

    Reply
  20. Frustrated

    Having been sexually abused and abandoned, I suffer lots of inhibitions and don’t enjoy certain kinds of sexual acts. My husband tells me that because I’m so inhibited and reluctant to enjoy certain things he sees on porn and has experienced with other women and prostitutes that he feels I’ve tied his hands for his full sexual enjoyment. That’s why he feels justified to lust and use any other willing woman or masturbante to porn even though we are married. He says if I were freeer with my feelings and would choose to enjoy sex like him, then he wouldn’t need to go elsewhere to take care of his own needs. I haven’t told him no to having sex; I’ve only expressed how I feel about the different acts of it and how uncomfortable (and even painful) these are for me. He shames me for only preferring the missionary position and not enjoying oral sex with him. My sexual abuse makes me hesitant to open myself fully to these things and frankly I don’t know how to undo the hesitations or make myself enjoy. He refuses to go to couples sexual counseling because he says I’m just holding back on purpose. Therefore, I’m in constant competition with all these other women which further compounds my issues. Are there any online Christian counselors you can suggest to me? I’m ready to quit everything at this point!!!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Frustrated, that is simply not all right! Not all right at all.

      I’m so sorry that you’re going through this. It sounds as if he has a very pornographic style of relating. Can you look up Andrew Bauman on Facebook and join his group? He talks about this a lot. This really isn’t okay.

      Reply
  21. Captain Nemo

    Marriage is a reflection of Christ and the church. Christ sacrificially loves His church without any demands. Christ didn’t give up His life in order to get His church to do something. (That would be conditional love.) His love is complete and sacrificial. In faith, the church responds to His love with works. NOT out of obligation and duty, but out of thanks. The works that flow from Christ’s love are a result of the union between Christ and His church.

    Christ loves, the church responds.

    The husband loves, the wife responds. I think it’s best to think about sexual intimacy as a result of the love between husband and wife. The husband doesn’t need to worry about the intimacy… it just naturally flows from a loving relationship. A husband is to love. Even when it hurts and he feels rejected. A response should never be forced. He doesn’t love just to “have sex.”

    I’ve found the Christ/church picture works best. I think it simplifies the discussion. It’s changed my marriage and I feel desired by my wife again. She even wanted to have sex with me after loosing sleep two nights in a row since one of our kids were sick! I didn’t expect her to. I haven’t initiated for the past 6 months and our intimacy has been amazing!

    Reply
  22. Captain Nemo

    I think for every wife, what feels like a demand or obligation is different. For a wife who has depression, even a husband initiating or expressing a desire to try something different can feel like a demand. I think there’s situations where it’s hard for the husband, because it feels like his desire is wrong. But desire doesn’t equal demand. It’s ok to desire to have sex with your wife and to try new things. But letting her lead takes the pressure off, and meets her where she’s at, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. If your wife has mental health issues, it can be sort of like asking your wife for sex when she’s got the stomach flu.

    Just another thought since I commented already…

    Reply

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