The “Sexual Favors” Postpartum Podcast: Can We Please Stop Being Selfish?

by | Nov 25, 2021 | Bare Marriage, Men's Corner, Podcasts | 79 comments

Should Women Have to Give Sexual Favors Postpartum? A Podcast

Rebecca’s postpartum! So we thought it was the perfect time to look at the postpartum advice given in evangelical circles to women.

We found in our survey that sex lives can start to go off course with the way that sex is handled postpartum. Many people don’t recover a good sex life after having babies, even if they had a good one before. And from what we heard, it’s often because of how sex is handled. So we thought this was a good one to cover for a Start Your Engines men’s focus!

It’s the last Thursday of the month, so it’s time to talk to the guys. I know many of my American listeners are eating turkey today, but maybe you’ll have time to listen to this while you cook. Or maybe you can catch up on the weekend!

In this podcast, Rebecca and I read through the advice given in books ranging from Intended for Pleasure by Ed Wheat to Married Sex by Debra Fileta and Gary Thomas. And as we read these excerpts and talk about them, remember–Rebecca is who this advice is being directed to.

Rebecca, who just had a C-section; who isn’t supposed to walk up and down stairs very much; who shouldn’t be using any ab muscles at all–this is who this advice is geared towards.

And Keith joined too to give his perspective! We thought this would work as a Start Your Engines podcast, the last Thursday of the month where we try to give more of a men’s focus, because I think men need to understand these things.

So listen in!

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:


Timeline of the Podcast

1:00 The Perspective of Postpartum
3:30 Research!
7:00 Becca joins, with special guest Vivian!
16:45 Dad’s are NOT babysitters
19:30 Expectations of sexuality postpartum
41:45 Are we training women to ‘fake it’?
53:25 Postpartum comments from FB
59:45 Reader messages

Main Segment: Why Do So Many Evangelical Books Prioritize A Wife Giving Sexual Favors to a Husband Rather than Husband Helping His Wife?

This seriously flabbergasts me. It was the main reason we wrote chapter 11 in The Great Sex Rescue–because women should not be burdened with giving sexual favors when they’re not feeling well and need to focus on healing. How is this loving your neighbor as yourself?

Keith and I start with the findings from a qualitative study in Italy about postpartum sex:

Most participants reported reduced libido, experienced altered body image, and recounted resumption of sexual activity before feeling ready. A common finding was fatigue and feeling overloaded by the demands of the newborn. Partner support was described as essential to returning to a meaningful relationship.

"The meaning of postpartum sexual health for women living in Spain: a phenomenological inquiry"

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth

So most women are resuming sex before they feel ready, and their sex life is suffering.

On the other hand, with a supportive husband, things can go very well.

Our survey of 20,000 predominantly Christian women for The Great Sex Rescue found that 26.7% of women experience significant postpartum sexual pain.

Like this study, many feel as if they return to sex too early–and a lot is due to what we are being taught about what our priorities should be.

Rebecca and I read excerpts from a number of books, looking at what evangelical bestsellers are prioritizing about how a couple should navigate the postpartum relationship. And the emphasis? She should give him sexual favors.

Let’s start with Intended for Pleasure:

When you are not having intercourse as frequently as you were prior to pregnancy, you should offer manual stimulation to him—particularly during the period of abstention.

Ed Wheat

Intended for Pleasure

His Needs, Her Needs talks about how having to care for a baby makes the husband’s assessment of the marriage WORSE (though it doesn’t seem to affect her assessment.).

Then there was Kevin Leman:

There are times for whatever reason that a wife may choose to make use of what younger men affectionately refer to as “hand jobs”. A woman with heavy periods that last six or seven days, or who has just gotten through a pregnancy, or perhaps is simply not feeling her best, may genuinely feel that sex is more than she can handle. But with a minimum of effort, she can help her husband who feels like he’s about ready to climb the walls because it’s been so long. (p. 206)

Kevin Leman

Sheet Music

And finally, Gary Thomas and Debra Fileta in their new book Married Sex. Rebecca had some issues with how Debra talked about how the breasts were for sex even while nursing, since that just isn’t feasible or desirable for many nursing moms, depending on their milk supply and engorgement. Some things may need to be off the table, but there was no acknowledgment of this.

Then there was the bizarre advice from Gary, which said that the reason men like it when women give hand jobs postpartum is because of how aroused women get (I’ve highlighted the bits saying she’s getting aroused):

Alicia wants to know why her husband, Aaron, loves what are commonly called “hand jobs”—manually manipulating him to orgasm. It doesn’t happen that often in their marriage, but when a heavy period, pregnancy, or post-birth situation makes penetrative intercourse prob- lematic, Alicia is surprised at how grateful Aaron always seems….

Here’s the difference between a husband masturbating to take away sexual tension (something we don’t recommend) and his wife taking the initiative. It may seem to be the same thing, but it’s not even close. Wives, this is what your husband is experiencing:

  • the sound of your moans and whispers
  • the smell of your skin or perfume
  • the way your hands feel so completely different from his
  • the way your hair falls on his shoulder or chest
  • your feet touching his
  • the wetness between your legs brushing up against his thigh
  • your lips on his neck, ear, or mouth
  • your excitement as his excitement builds
  • your breathing
  • the anticipation of not knowing what’s going to happen next
  • the way you can shift your body—your legs or torso or buttocks—and suddenly everything feels so different
Gary Thomas

Married Sex

Finally, we went in to what healing looks like postpartum, and how all of this advice is so tone deaf when you consider a woman’s actual body (which should matter.)

Some stories from readers

I want to end with what our readers said. When I asked on Instagram if women would rather give hand jobs postpartum or have their husbands masturbate, 43% said they’d rather their husbands masturbate–but then HUNDREDS of these women messaged me saying they needed a third option–NEITHER. They want the option to do neither. Many women said they chose “hand jobs” because they didn’t want their husbands returning to porn. But they’d rather their husbands have self-control regardless. 

Can we please talk about this better? 

I’ll let these readers have the last word:

Birth of my 6th child.

First c-section.

Baby is taken in distress directly to NICU.

I wake up in recovery and am then taken directly to my room.

I am allowed to shower before I’ll be wheeled to see my daughter.

Hubby needs a release in the shower with me.

This isn’t his fault. It isn’t my fault. Our Bible for marriage was Love and Respect and we honored that because we were told that is what was done. It never even occurred to me in that moment to wonder what the crap was going on. It never occurred to him to negate the wind blowing.

We were taught the wrong biblical principles and as a result we didn’t even acknowledge our own emotional response to what we now understand is often abuse. The church needs to do better.

I didn’t know it was wrong until you. We literally had zero clue until I began following your page. You. You showed me it is wrong and I showed him and instantly we changed our then 15 year narrative and began to heal.

I was raised in that toxic mindset and was made to feel incredibly guilty during my two incredibly rough pregnancies (and a traumatic postpartum) for how little I was having sex or “relieving” my husband. It makes me so angry now. I literally feared him coming to bed at night because I didn’t want to say no to him but just could NOT have sex during that time due to illness and incredibly high anxiety.My husband (who is an incredible man, just raised with the same garbage) and I have since deconstructed a lot of our beliefs. We practice a mutual marriage, we lead our family together, and as a result our sex life is SO MUCH HEALTHIER.

I’ve gone from never wanting sex to enjoying it immensely with him (even desiring to be there for him in other ways when I’m not 100% needing it myself). He knows now that I will NEVER do anything I don’t want to do anymore. And he feels relief. He hated the tension between us but didn’t understand the problem until we educated ourselves outside of what the church had taught. It brought us from me wishing I’d never gotten married if this is what it looks like to truly loving and valuing each other (and our sexuality). The church needs to do better. We almost missed out on all of this amazing intimacy (and if we listened to teachings in our circles we still would be).

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.

Things Mentioned in This Podcast:

Should Women Have to Give Sexual Favors Postpartum?

What do you think? Did any of the books’ take on postpartum stand out to you particularly? What’s your experience? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

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

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  1. Meredith

    I think I’ve said this before, but all these authors who preach that men can’t possibly have self-control for more than a day or two are conveniently ignoring a huge swath of the population- military families.

    My husband was deployed for a *year*. He has also been on several TDYs that lasted nearly a month. Thankfully we never read any of these crap marriage books, but I can only imagine other military husbands who have. This kind of teaching is practically ensuring that they will watch porn or worse (strip clubs, prostitutes, affairs.) After all, it’s hardly their fault… poor little dears evidently can’t go more than a few days without orgasming or their penises will explode.

    • Ed

      Meredith, thank you for your husband’s service and yours as well. I was in the service myself and know that the sacrifices made are not easy.

      I don’t for a minute think that Sheila has now or ever promoted a misandric philosophy. Otherwise, I wouldn’t follow this blog (trust me). I’m a total supporter of the deconstruction that she is doing with these knothead Christian authors that for decades have been spewing the same drivel about men, women, sex, child rearing and gender roles (albeit with new twists these days).

      But once in a while, I feel that I’m being tonally affronted with some rather strong opinions from women who post here about how essentially screwed up men are and how some of the things that they want are invalid (while at the same time issuing disclaimers for their wonderful husbands).

      Case in point: Your comment at the end says “After all, it’s hardly their fault… poor little dears evidently can’t go more than a few days without orgasming or their penises will explode.” How demeaning. It could almost be interpreted as mocking satire if it wasn’t being presented seriously.

      Can you imagine if I posted something on this blog that said “After all, it’s hardly their fault… poor little dears evidently can’t go more than a few days without orgasming or their clitorises will explode”?

      • Jim

        I 100% agree. You can address and criticize incorrect teachings and not throw all men into the mix. There seems to be a pendulum swing effect.

      • Jo R

        Ah, tone policing. Well, that didn’t take long.

        You do realize that a ***man*** wrote in a “Christian” marriage book that men need “release” every 72 hours? (I’m sorry I don’t have the exact wording in front of me.) So the *content* of the snarky quote is not something Meredith made up; she just reworded it for emphasis.

        As for your rendition of snark, you do realize other “Christian” marriage and sex books greatly downplay women’s ability and even desire for orgasm? And a not statistically insignificant percentage of Christian women have NEVER orgasmed in their marriages?

        But yeah, I guess we women need to be much more polite in pointing out these inconvenient truths.

        • Ed

          Of course Jo R, I believe in everything that you are saying about the errors and inequities that have been disseminated by evangelical authors about men, women and sex (and I’ve stated as such). As a recovering legalist, I’ll bet that I have more disgust for their views than you do.

          But while we’re conducting a revolution here, perhaps we can be civil and respectful while we’re doing so? I never diss women, paint them with a broad brush or perpetuate stereotypes about them, even directly. And I’m very confident that emotionally intelligent women can pull it off as well in regards to men. What you call tone policing is just being respectful because how we say things and and the tone in which we do it is important.

          One of the objectives of this movement is to persuade as many men as possible into personally adopting this enlightened understanding of gender relations — not turning them off so that they tune out. We’re on your side after all.

          • Jo R

            Except that studies have shown that many (something like two-thirds, IIRC) husbands do not, in Gottman’s research terms, “accept influence” from their wives. For those men, it doesn’t matter HOW their wives say anything. It simply WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED. Will. Not. Be. Accepted. Where does that leave those wives?

            I would bet some serious money that in the church generally, it’s just as bad or even worse, numbers-wise, because men have appointed themselves as leaders and used Scripture out of context to keep women from aspiring to be anything other than baby factories and on-demand sex purveyors.

            How, exactly, are women supposed to be “nice enough” as they try to bring these matters into full discussion with men who have every reason to keep them from being discussed?

            Oh, and what TONE do you think Jesus used when He quite publicly called out the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees about their false teaching, their piling up of burdens put on people’s backs, their utter misinterpretation of Scripture? I’m guessing it wasn’t quite as polite as a school debating society.

          • CMT

            Jo where did that 2/3 number come from? Seems really high.

            I agree with you that anger, even a heavy dose of snark, are generally appropriate for this subject. Ofc tone is really difficult to judge in an online setting, so everyone has to leave space for that.

            I do wonder, though, if Ed is flagging something worth digging into. As I said before, I read the initial comment by Meredith as 100% ironic, as I think you did also. Ed and another guy didn’t.

            If people that agree on substance are getting totally different reads on the emotional content of a conversation, that makes me curious. What subtext are we reading that they don’t recognize? How do men and women’s necessarily very different experiences of misogyny affect how we are hearing each other? Rather than arguing about whether or not a particular reaction is tone policing, maybe it would be more productive to ask why people are having such different reactions to the same thing.

          • Jo R

            (part 1 of 2)

            From John Gottman, _The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work_, paperback (c) 2015, pp. 116–17:


            “Our study didn’t really find that men should give up all of their personal power and let their wives rule their lives. But we did find that the happiest, most stable marriages in the long run were those in which the husband did not resist sharing power and decision making with the wife. When the couple disagreed, these husbands actively searched for common ground rather than insisting on getting their own way.

            “To arrive at these findings, we looked intently at what happened when these newlyweds discussed an area of conflict and also when they talked about the history of their romance. When we analyzed the data, we were struck by a significant gender difference. Although a wife would sometimes express anger or other negative emotion toward her husband, she rarely responded to him by _increasing_ the negativity. Usually she either tried to tone it down or matched it. So if a husband said, “You’re not listening to me!” the wife would usually say something like, “Sorry, I’m listening now” (a repair which ratchets down the negativity) or “I’m finding it hard to listen to you!” which matched her husband’s anger but didn’t go beyond it.

          • Jo R

            (Part 2 of 2)

            “But 65 percent of men did not take either of these approaches. Instead, their response escalated their wives’ negativity. They did this in a very specific way: by trotting out out one of the four horsemen. If the wife of one of these men said, “You’re not listening to me!” the husband would either ignore her (stonewall), become defensive (“Yes, I am!), criticize (“I don’t listen because what you say never makes any sense”), or express contempt (“Why waste my time?”). Using one of the four horsemen is a telltale sign that a man is resisting his wife’s influence.

            “Rather than acknowledging his wife’s feelings, this kind of husband is using the four horsemen to drown her out, to obliterate her point of view. One way or another, this approach leads to instability in the marriage. Even if the husband doesn’t react this way very often, there’s still an 81 percent chance that he’s damaging the relationship.”


            Yes, I also took the “penises explode” as sarcasm and irony. Extreme language helps make the real, underlying meaning of the original “teaching” much clearer.

            As for what might cause a man to feel “tonally affronted,” perhaps it comes down to the fact that many men don’t like women to use direct language, especially Christian women who are supposed to always be sweet and gentle and not make waves and be deferential. A woman who speaks directly is usually considered “aggressive” or even “abrasive” (and a Christian woman might be considered “rebellious” if not “sinful”) while a man who speaks directly is merely “assertive.”

            Or, it could just be that the truth hurts.

          • CMT

            Okay. 65% in that study. Yikes.

            Well if a guy doesn’t like women to be direct, he better not hang around here.

            My other thought is maybe some guys who don’t like the “tone” are missing the purpose of the discussion for the female participants. If other women commenting on here are like me, they are not here to convince men of anything. They are looking for their tribe, or processing their own stuff. If it gets pretty raw at times, IMO that’s a function of the subject matter and the deep emotions and hurts it brings up. Sometimes there’s a little bit of venting going on, and that’s ok. It’s not all about persuading other people.

          • Ed

            CMT, do you think that Sheila herself would post an illustration referring to “exploding penises” in order to make her point?

            Also, do you think that she would find it appropriate, edifying and helpful?

          • Jo R

            Is hyperbole acceptable? Like cutting off one’s hand or plucking out one’s eye?

          • Ed

            Jo R, of course hyperbole is broadly acceptable as a means of artful communication — but context matters as well. Jesus never wasted one word trying to stir up the flesh of his listeners.

            Also know that hyperbole can be weaponized and can tear people down (either ignorantly or intentionally).

            Bottom line: no one wants to be on the receiving end of it, either female or male.

          • Jo R

            I’m trying to understand how it is possible to communicate in such a way as to offend absolutely zero people. Especially my trying to do so as a Christian woman, as some Christian men would automatically be offended by my having an opinion at all, let alone expressing it.

            If the topic and especially the content of my comments contradict and call into question the rectitude of some man’s deeply held beliefs as to the position, status, and proper place of women, for example, he’s gonna be offended, pretty much by definition. So what should I do? Just keep my mouth shut? Relay my comments to some second man who can then represent my words to the first man as though they were the second man’s own?

            And women know plenty about words being weaponized, believe me. We’re tired of God’s Word being taken out of context, and we’re particularly tired of the traditions of men taking precedence over Scripture. Half a dozen male authors have in the last five decades set up “Christian” marriage and sex in such a way as to effectively turn women into prostitutes in their own homes. I’m sorry if that description offends you, but it is, unfortunately, quite accurate. That message has been preached and taught repeatedly and caused unbelievable damage to both women and men. There’s no way to stop these teachings without offending some people, especially those who continue to perpetrate them. So I ask again, should the victims of this teaching stay silent? Find an unoffensive way of saying “I feel like a prostitute in my own home”? What vocabulary can sugarcoat that message into something pleasant to hear?

            Since so many of the female commenters here are trying to heal from the deep damage these false teachings have caused, perhaps you might refrain from reading the comments while we work through in language that the unaffected might not appreciate. But you might also ponder what would drive Christian women to use such terms, in an attempt to recognize the depth of our pain and suffering.

          • Ed

            Jo R, thank you for communicating your heart on this matter and sorry for all of the pain that you’re going through.

            Please understand that there are many men (myself included) that have never agreed with or been in sync with the patriarchal, man-focused system that you are describing. Personally, I’ve never treated my wife the way that you are describing and never will.

            I think that most of the problem is bad, horrible theology and most of the pushback that I’ve received is from legalistic Christians (both female and male), who’ve told me in the past “Well, that’s just what the Bible says, you know!”.

            I get it now. You’re not trying to persuade — you’re trying to vent. (we all vent to some degree). And there’s nothing wrong with venting except that it runs a greater chance of being misunderstood in a public forum. Especially from those of who are here to grow in our desire to understand the opposite sex better.

            I’ve taken your admonition to heart and going forward, will not be commenting when I perceive that venting is occurring.

            And I hope that you find the healing that you’re looking for.

          • Jo R

            Thank you for your kindness and understanding. They are a true balm.

            May I suggest that when you hear anything that even hints of patriarchy that you challenge it, preferably immediately? Since so many men simply will not hear anything any woman says, the main way to break the logjam is probably going to be that MEN who disagree do the speaking up. It won’t be easy. Because, as you yourself pointed out, there will be not only men but also women who will disagree with you. Become aware of how about five verses are taken way out of context and are used to trump the overall message of Scripture, not least of which is “do to others as you would have done to you.”

            Again, thanks for understanding that real women (and men) are and have been suffering for a very long time, many of us literally for decades. And since the authors, teachers, and preachers who have been pushing this message claim to speak for God, the victims are being spiritually abused on top of the wasted years and opportunities, the relationships damaged perhaps beyond repair, the utter heartache and loneliness that we’ve felt forced to put up with.

            It’s a real mess, but we hope the tide is finally turning.

          • Ed

            Sure thing, Jo R — I’m in total agreement with what you are saying and will proactively rebut any Christian man or woman who asserts that men are the primary spiritual and moral representatives of God on the earth. The most common opinion that I hear is that “Husbands are the spiritual leader of the home”. From there, I think that a lot of error occurs in Christian Evangelicalism.

            Unfortunately, I recently lost an opportunity to rebut someone when I had the chance:

            I’m in currently in EMDR Therapy/Counseling for childhood bullying, abuse from my parents and emotional abuse from my own wife (due to her own childhood physical and sexual abuse).

            My EMDR counselor is very good and happens to be Catholic. However, she recently told me that the problems in my marriage should be able to be dealt with easier “because as a Christian husband, I’m the spiritual leader of our relationship”.

            This patriarchy thing can be very subtle…

          • Jo R

            Yeah, the 65 percent is from his own decades-long research.

            As for your last two sentences, spot on! Sheila’s is the voice of reasonable argument, while many of us commenting are simply venting in a huge online therapy group, trying to recover from the cognitive dissonance of “Christian” teaching that isn’t actually biblical.

          • CMT

            Ha. Nice to know I’m not the only one 😆

          • Jo R


      • CMT

        “ “After all, it’s hardly their fault… poor little dears evidently can’t go more than a few days without orgasming or their penises will explode.” How demeaning. It could almost be interpreted as mocking satire if it wasn’t being presented seriously.”

        This IS satire. Of infantilizing beliefs about men. Not about men in general. At least that’s how I read it.

  2. Jo R

    If a husband can’t withstand the medically recommended six weeks of abstinence after his wife gives birth (whether vaginally or by C-section), I guess that means no Christian man should EVER have to endure an engagement longer than six weeks. Or else his fiancée should be required to have sex with him before the wedding. How in the world could he otherwise possibly survive such an extended time without sexual release? 🤔🤔🤔

    A note on terminology: I’m pretty tired of (and frankly pissed off at) the idea that a husband and wife do not in and of themselves constitute a “family.” What are newlyweds often asked? “When are you going to start a family?” Um, well, DUH, we started a new family on our wedding day. Those of us who wind up being unable to have children therefore are in this “family limbo” at church, like there’s something inherently wrong with being childless; those who are infertile not only suffer from infertility but are also treated as “second class.” Yeah, that attitude certainly doesn’t heap yet more sadness on those who are, shall we say, blessed differently than the majority who are able to have children. (Not picking on y’all specifically, because the whole idea completely permeates everything in the church, even the names of adult Sunday school classes 🙄🙄🙄.)

    If a husband is “ready to climb the walls because it’s been so long,” what does that say to his wife if she is one of the many women who has spent DECADES without ever having an orgasm?

    Since men can NEVER know what it’s like to have periods, be pregnant, give birth, and nurse a baby, I think male authors should just STFU about what a woman can or cannot do during any of those stages of her life.

    • CMT

      Preach sister!

    • K.R.

      I have to reply to the part of this comment about family. We just found out that my daughter was born without a uterus, shortened vagina and possibly only 1 ovary (MRKH Syndrome). If things don’t change in the church, she will be made to feel like she doesn’t belong because, barring some major medical advancements, she will never have her own children. She has an amazing heart for people and loves Jesus and church so much. It would break my heart if that changes because of an “emphasis” on this definition of family.

    • NM

      Oh my goodness yes to this!! When we were newly married I had a miscarriage and was devastated. Our church had an all-church retreat, and when we arrived we were horrified to discover that we had been separated and placed in the cabins for single men and women. It was so hurtful to me that because I didn’t have a baby yet, we weren’t considered a family. Fortunately some very gracious friends who had a newborn and a cabin with extra bunks let us join them.

    • Jane Eyre

      I am a biological mother and deeply resent the idea that we didn’t become a new family when we wed. The Bible is rather clear about “leave and cleave:” it’s marriage, not children, that makes a new family.

      It was very frustrating to hear a lot of garbage about marriage: we were “bringing two families together” or I was becoming part of my in-law’s family (with no mention that myself and my husband were ALSO a family).

      It’s not benign; a lot of harm is done in early marriage when people aren’t clear on the concept. Mothers telling their daughters that they still run the show and hubby has to get in line. Fathers picking on their sons-in-law and expecting their daughters to sit there and not cause a fuss. His family jabs at her and he thinks it’s a dispute between his family (e.g., his sister or mother) and his glorified girlfriend. Fights over where to have holidays because parents still believe that their adult children’s primary loyalty is to them.

      • Jo R

        And early harm (although we didn’t think of it in those terms) is exactly why we’ve always told young engaged or married couples to NOT travel to either one’s family that first Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, whatever big weekend, for the entire first year.

        Mean to the parents? Maybe. But if you don’t go back that whole first year, then when you do go back, it’s a treat. Otherwise, you’ll get “But you came home the first year” for the rest of your marriage. And let’s face it. She’s likely to be pregnant or nursing on at least one of those future major family get-together weekends, and since you’ve established the precedent of staying home the first year, you can’t get guilted into traveling.

        And um, aren’t roads paved in BOTH directions these days? It’s amazing that the roads we always traveled to visit family were paved for us on the way back to our home, yet how often did family come to us in two decades? ONCE. And frankly, we guilted THEM into it. 🙄🙄🙄

    • Amy

      On a similar note, the church also tends to treat single young adults as less than or as children because they aren’t married. Why are our churches set up so that married with children is the “right” way to be and anything else is “second class?” In this arrangement even Jesus, an unmarried, childless adult man, would be a less than, second class member in our churches.

      • Jo R

        Oh, ain’t that the truth? He’d also be expected to lust and use porn, and he would not be allowed to change diapers in the nursery, “just in case.” 🙄🙄🙄

      • Laura

        And what about the older, single adults over 40 (like myself)? Sometimes, I feel like there’s no place for me in church, except for women’s ministry.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          That’s really, really sad. I’ve been thinking about how, instead of emphasizing marriage, the church should emphasize emotional growth. As Marc Alan Schelske wrote, we can’t grow spiritually passed where we’ve grown emotionally. They’re intertwined.

          Let’s focus on emotionally healthy people who are equipped to do the work of God. Then some of those people will marry, and some may not, but we’ll all be equipped for a full life where God puts us. Isn’t that better?

  3. Jo R

    The two commenters used the phrases “wrong biblical principles” and “what the church had taught.”

    Unfortunately, these books and way too many churches don’t actually teach BIBLICAL principles, because they skip over all those inconvenient verses about what MEN are required to do:

    Matthew 20:25–28: Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.”

    Philippians 2:3–4: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

    1 Corinthians 7:3: The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife.

    Galatians 5:22–23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

    1 Corinthians 13:4–7: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

    And as y’all pointed out, these books and way too many teachers and pastors have inverted Ephesians 5 and made the wives be the ones that must do all the sacrificial giving of their lives.

    The context of the marriage relationship does not veto the rest of Scripture.

  4. CMT

    Happy American Thanksgiving!

    I just got to the part where you guys are getting brutally honest about postpartum life. I’m laughing along because I’ve been there. Good old peri bottle and boob pads!

    This could be its own piece. Postpartum Weirdness Nobody Warned You About.
    Such as:
    -Shaking chills in the middle of the night 3-4 days post (NOTE: actual fever or persistent chills postpartum=check in w your dr asap!)
    -Milk shooting literally 4-5 FEET if baby lets go at the wrong time
    -Getting a letdown if you see a baby/hear a baby cry/think about your baby/for no reason at all
    -Getting suddenly REALLY emotional when you have a letdown (I would get weepy sometimes, but some women feel a sense of crushing sadness or fear)
    -Postpartum OCD! Yes, there is a whole range of postpartum mental health disorders, not just depression.

    Even if everything goes well, this stage of life is a WILD ride!

  5. Codec

    This was super educational.

    I have so much more respect for moms now. I had no idea that nipples could blister. I also am convinced now that midwives are modern day amazonian warriors.

    I have to wonder if these obligation sex message folks have ever listened to Peter Gabriel or Cheap Trick or Pete Townsend. Seriously, i dont want someone to fake it. I want to be your sledgehammer. I want my love to open the door. I want you to want me. Those are good messages.

    What is more imagine the rage if a marriage resource said something like this.

    After a car crash Eric found himself unable to move his legs. His wife desiring her husband told him that as he was recivering he could give her oral. People would be rightfully pissed if someone said that. It is the same principle.

  6. Anon

    In response to women saying they wanted a third option, for men to have self control…

    I totally get the wife’s point of view as a woman who’s has three babies and am still
    breastfeeding. I pushed myself to give my husband “sexual favours” he was desperate for in the past, while horribly nauseous during pregnancy in particular. I remember feeling like I abused myself forcing myself to suffer for my husband’s sake. (He is the sweetest man ever and my happiness is always his goal.)

    But as a female who is in physical pain and climbing the walls without frequent sexual release (a week is torture) I am so upset with how people speak about men not needing orgasms. My husband was suffering horrible after two weeks and the message that it’s “sinful” to relieve a biological pressure on your body is just…. a hurtful message. It’s creating a situation where the non-sinful way is to hurt the marriage and have the wife suffer and really, that’s not God’s ideal is it? It’s not a loving way to handle it.

    I’ve tried to go long stretches without sexual release and it was utter torture, I couldn’t concentrate for the physical intensity, yet I had zero hormones or desire for a male so it wasn’t some lusty desire I couldn’t control.

    I think a lot of women don’t have a physical need for sexual release and just don’t understand people who do AT ALL.

    After our third baby I told my husband to take care of himself when necessary and that was loving to both of us.

    • Anon

      I need to edit that comment above because I’ve written it badly!

      My husband never put any pressure on me during pregnancy. I just wanted him to have his release after mine and to make that occur I had to almost vomit.

      I did FEEL the pressure after birth because he physically wasn’t handling waiting weeks and I saw the desperation towards me. (He had never really masturbated in his life and the Christian messaging had made him feel so sinful/bad/ashamed if he did that.)

      • CMT

        Hey, this doesn’t seem to be a popular opinion around here but I think you are on to something. My personal take is that this is an issue where a healthy couple should feel free to make their own call.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I really think we need to start talking about it more. I’d like to do more of a survey on this. If a guy is seriously sexually frustrated and he just wants to masturbate so that he doesn’t pester his wife, and it’s temporary, I would think that’s much better than pleading for her to give sexual favors, honestly.

          • Codec

            I dont think i would be comfortable doing that.

            I have enough issues as it is. I would not wa n t to hurt myself or my wife if i ever get married.

            Besides there is a baby in the oicture now. If you become a parent you should take care of your children.

            I have dealt with temprations and failure before. Sometimes it is within hours other times it is months. Excaserbated by loneliness. I figure if i were to get married even if it was hard I would not gave to be lonely. I could be with a wife and kid.

            I wouldnt want to use my wife or have her use me.

          • Anon

            💯. I also have a high sex drive and do feel a need for physical release as a woman. My sex drive kicked in at 30 (I was not married until 36), and I was like, “what the heck is this?!” My husband and I both have freedom to masturbate for release if we need to. Neither of us understand the appeal of masturbation over sex – of course we would rather be together. But particularly when we’re going long stretches with required rest for only one person – for goodness sake, let the other person relieve the pressure. It’s just a physical release that’s happening – that’s not what sex is. Sex is SO much better and deeper than that – it’s not about physical release but about intimacy. I think a different understanding of the *purposes* of sex and masturbation would help significantly. Because they are often seen as the same, then men think they are loving their wives by being faithful in asking for release, and women end up feeling like masturbatory aids.

    • Lisa M

      I don’t see anyone in the podcast saying a person can’t masturbate. There are fundamentalists who say masturbation is a sin–but fundamentalists say all kinds of things are a sin that aren’t. I’ve been told I’m going to hell for letting my kids watch The Polar Express or dress up as Strawberry Shortcake on October 31. Whatever.

      • Laura

        I totally agree! I don’t see anything wrong with watching Christmas movies or dressing up as cartoon characters once a year. Fundamentalists like to demonize almost everything under the sun like practicing yoga. So, does that mean “stretching and breathing exercises” are sinful?

        As for masturbation, I’d much rather have my husband do that than try to take advantage of me sexually. I dealt with that in my first marriage. My ex sexually assaulted me while I was asleep and his reasoning was that “masturbation was a sin.” But somehow sexually assaulting his wife was okay?

  7. Willow

    Wow, Married Sex has taken sexual favors to a whole new level. I’m convinced more than ever that Gary Thomas has lust/porn issues.

    • Elsie

      I was also very disturbed by the quote from marriage sex. It felt pornographic to me and was unnecessarily explicit. I know Sheila has already done a post on this and I absolutely agree with her that the kind of language in his book is not a proper way for Christians to talk about sex.

    • Lisa M

      That book told me far more about him than I EVER wanted to know.

    • Laura

      Definitely agree about GT and his lust/porn issues. It sounded like he was trying his hand at writing erotica.

  8. NM

    Gosh I just reread Gary’s description above, and whatever he is describing is NOT a postpartum desperation hand job! Wetness? First, ew, and second, she’s in a diaper so just no. And if you’re climbing all over him and moaning that’s sounds like just as much work as sex. It sounds more like a description of a fun “his night” that a couple might enjoy during a healthy time. He has kids, right? What in the world is he actually talking about?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I honestly don’t know. It’s very strange.

      It sounds like he’s describing what he thinks a woman normally giving a hand job is like when she’s all into it? But the context that he said above this paragraph was having heavy periods or postpartum. So I honestly don’t get it to be honest. (Again, I know some women postpartum really enjoy this, and more power to them! But we shouldn’t make this the expectation).

      • Lisa M

        And, if she actually is getting highly aroused giving her husband a hand job, then what? She’s left being extremely frustrated and that’s just fine? So, while she’s exhausted and bleeding, it’s perfectly okay if SHE is left sexually frustrated. Just so long as HE is NEVER sexually frustrated. Okay Gary Thomas, we understand your perspective. It’s ALL about you.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          That really does seem to be it! I think it’s that he’s never, ever thought about this from a female point of view.

  9. Sarah

    Oh my goodness, that story about the lady with her 6th child just made me boiling mad. To me that shows lack of concern for his child in the NICU as well as selfishness towards his wife while she was in physical and emotional distress! If it were me, that’d be grounds to say, ‘pack your stuff and leave, I can’t be with someone so unfeeling towards their own child and me.’ Guess that’s why I’m not married, I’m not a forgiving enough person :/

  10. Jim

    I am I the only one that is starting to think that this blog and website is becoming a misandrist community? I cannot remember the last time that there was a single post or podcast that put men in a positive light.

    I have listened to the podcasts and read the blogs, and I have read the Great Sex Rescue. What was a feeling has turned into a fairly concrete conclusion is that this community has a sharp bias against men. If I could sum up the message that I have received from this community it is that ‘men are bad and the Christian church is encouraging it’.

    I was introduced to this podcast and blog to try and learn about the blind spots that I have as a man. I have learned a lot that I did not know that women felt and experienced. However, it is getting to the point that I feel like men are no longer welcome here except to be used as scapegoats for women’s problems.

    Case and point would be this podcast. What women experience after childbirth can be traumatic, even life threatening. My wife and I have 3 children and we have been shoulder to shoulder thru it all and I have not been perfect.

    However, in this podcast the idea that dads have a hard time with a new baby is belittled, and it’s not just the change of sex frequency. The added stress of changes to the family dynamics, schedules, lack of sleep and financial strains can be hard to handle, especially for first time parents. There should be support for both parents, not just moms.

    As a man, husband and father of 3 boys, I would ask that this community, and the creators in particular, keep in mind that if you want to make things better for everyone, attacking men is not the way.

    • Jo R

      The ire and outrage are not directed at men generally. They are directed at that very small but unfortunately well-known and highly quoted subset of authors, teachers, and pastors who are ultimately teaching men (and women) that lust, porn use, and sexual sin in general are more powerful than the shed blood of Jesus and the omnipotent indwelling Holy Spirit.

      Sheila and the rest of the TLHV team, as well as the vast majority of commenters, call on men to rise above the incredibly low bar (seemingly set on the ground, or even underground) that these popular books espouse, which in fact infantilizes men and keeps them from being their best as husbands, fathers, Christians, and just flat-out human beings. These teachings tell men (especially) that lust can’t be overcome, so guess what? Men find themselves spiraling in deeper and deeper, thinking that there’s no point in even taking the first step to change and overcome.

      Do you want your sons to be taught that they can never, ever, ever have self-control? That the Holy Spirit is powerless in this area of life? That the blood of Christ can never heal them, that they’ll live their entire lives at the mercy of this sin? Do you want them to be good husbands to their wives, supportive and loving “in sickness and in health,” which might well include horrible periods and traumatic tissue damage during the births of your grandchildren, or do you want them to focus on what they themselves aren’t getting because they’ve grown up in a church that preaches unconditional male entitlement?

    • Codec

      I get where you are coming from.

      It can be incredibly agravating constantly hearing about men screwing up. There is a lot of that out there. Lots of bitter people.

      I do not think Sheila is a bitter person. I do not think she wants to put men down.

      I think she feels sad. Sad that men and women have been hurt. Sad that men have hurt women and women have hurt men.

      I do not know her personally. I doubt i would afree with her or people she knows on everything.

      I think men and women have problems to answer for. I think that folks are often pendulym thinkers. I find it annoying when folks put so much absurd blame on ” old white men”.

      I get it Jim. I really do.

    • Anon

      Attacking poor teaching isn’t attacking men. The reality is that the vast majority of teaching in the church has prioritized the experiences of men – to the point that during post partum the *primary* concern in these books is about the diminishing frequency of orgasms for men. That is the problem. Nobody is saying it is easy to become a new father – it isn’t. Parenthood is a difficult transition for everyone. Right now the teaching is so problematic it has to be addressed. The fact that it comes off as misandrist to you is concerning – because I will tell you that when my husband reads this stuff, he is honestly horrified by what men have been taught. To him, the misandry is in believing that men are sex crazed animals who can’t control
      themselves unless their wives are constantly sexually available. THAT is a low view of men.

    • Marian

      This is not attacking. This is correcting very bad teaching through which many women have been harmed and even abused for centuries.
      (Btw, the idea that dads have a hard time with a new baby is NOT belittled. Rather, this idea and practice is being rejected: the “hard time” women have through pregnancy, birth and postpartum is grossly, egregiously underestimated and subjugated to mens’ experiences. )
      **What is demeaning to men and misandrist:
      Christian authors and teachers who consistently portray men as stupid, boorish, helpless neanderthals incapable of self-control, emotional maturity, and so much more.

    • Anon

      What is REALLY misandrist is the belief that men are no more than helpless, overgrown toddlers who are totally unable to behave with any kind of decency, maturity or kindess to others. And that is what is being taught in so many Christian books today. And that is the kind of false teaching that Sheila is standing up against.

      I think Sheila’s ministry is the complete opposite of misandrist. By calling out this poor teaching, she’s not criticising men as a group. What she is saying is ‘we don’t just believe men can do better than that, we KNOW men can do better because so many of them DO do better. Please stop treating them as lesser beings who are unable to live Godly lives’.

      And if you read both Sheila’s blog posts and the comments, you will see a LOT of positive comments about men. Those of us who have been blessed with good husbands, fathers, brothers and sons regularly speak out in praise of their characters and actions. And one of the reasons we get so mad at some of this teaching Sheila is challenging is because we find it offensive and belittling toward the men that we know.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think it would be much more productive if you pointed out exactly what we said that you disagreed with. So do you think it’s a good idea to talk about women getting aroused giving hand jobs postpartum? Do you think it’s a good idea to tell women they’re required to help their husbands ejaculate as frequently as they were before they were pregnant once they are now in the postpartum period? Do you think it’s appropriate to talk about how having a baby makes a husband feel less warmly towards his wife, and imply that the kids are entirely her responsibility? Because that’s what we were talking about here.

      We were also very clear to say that what these authors are portraying is not normal father behaviour, especially among Millennial men. All we were doing was expressing what was wrong with the advice given to women. If you disagree, why don’t you tell us what you think is RIGHT about the advice we criticized, rather than just calling us misandrists?

      (And by the way, I totally think that men are capable of being awesome husbands and fathers–unlike what the authors of these books expect).

      • Jim

        Sheila, and everyone else that commented. Please re-read what I originally posted. I acknowledged that women can have a long and painful recovery time after birth and it is the job of the dads to do our best to support our wives. In my case, my wife and I have gone thru it 3 times. We have always worked as a team to meet the challenges of raising a family.

        For clarification, I do not agreed with nor do I endorse any of the messages from the books and teachings that were cited, they are not in keeping with Biblical teachings. Pressuring your spouse to do something that they do not want to do and then using a few Bible verses out of context and is abusive if not heresy.
        As a deacon, I am very careful what I endorse as Biblical or ‘correct’ teaching.

        My feeling of misandry comes from the apparent belittling and glossy over of what dads go thru. The way it was presented is that dads have nothing to complain about since they did not physically birth the child.

        Since this podcast was supposed to be for guys, I would have thought that some encouragement for guys and what they go thru would have been appropriate.

        Things like:

        – Disruption of sleeping schedules, sometimes for years.

        – Financial stress of adding another child to the family with costs like supplies, food and daycare.

        – Feelings of loneliness and being disconnected from family and friends.

        – Being disconnected with your wife. The first year a lot of moms feel burned out and rightfully so, but it can be hard to not feel resentful. I personally struggled with that, mostly from a history of depression and lack of self confidence. Lack of physical intimacy can enhance these feelings.

        – Changes in family dynamics. Each time we have had a new child, it has taken time to get into a new rhythm of life and no two have been a like.

        Frankly, I think guys would appreciate it if while there is calling out of incorrect teachings, which there are quite a few, that in general men are not lumped in with those that advocate for these ideas. The pendulum is swinging back but it cannot be allowed to swing too far the other way.

        Both husbands and wives need to work together to have a fulfilling life together in service to God. Unfortunately, I often see it presented as a zero sum game that one has to lose in order so that the other can win. That is not the life that Jesus modeled for us.

        • Jo R

          Maybe you should write a book!!!

          Frankly, I’m glad to see you irritated. Now perhaps you have just a tiny taste of what women have gone through for decades with the teachings of these books after being slit from stem to stern to have a baby—and being told that all that really matters is that they need to make sure their husbands keep having orgasms at the same frequency as before the pregnancy and birth.

          These books don’t describe fathers being actively involved with newborn care. These books don’t suggest that men need to make sure their WIVES orgasm during most sexual encounters (and the stats on women’s orgasm rates in Christian marriage are horrendous). The books never suggest, as you say, “The first year a lot of moms feel burned out and rightfully so,” because apparently the authors’ wives, mothers, and grandmothers never let the façade crack, and if the women in their lives could do it, then obviously every woman should be able to do it.

          Do you think that wives don’t worry about the finances, the loneliness and isolation (especially when it’s “just” a second or third child), the changes in family dynamics, the sleep disruption? Let’s face it. The way these books talk, the wives bear the brunt of everything you brought up as though their doing so is like the laws of physics and “that’s just the way it is.” And God forbid—almost literally, according to some of these books—if a wife dare suggest to her husband that she needs some help, because “he’s so stressed at work that he needs complete downtime from all responsibilities every evening and all weekend long.”

          Yeah, ire and outrage barely begin to describe it. So if it takes some of us a little time to get over our anger, I hope you can be patient. I also hope you’re encouraging young men in your circle with the areas you mentioned, helping them to see that they’re not mere sperm donors and paycheck providers, which is what all these books have been oh so subtly implying.

    • exwifeofasexaddict

      If you read “men should realize that women have suffered a physical trauma and need care after childbirth rather than coercion to provide sexual favors” and hear misandry and attack, you have a problem. Women are being abused and used, and “Christian” authors are encouraging it.

      You have a lot of power, as a father of 3 boys, to change this. I’m glad you want to learn about your blind spots and raise your boys better.

    • Lisa M

      Jim, how is criticizing the authors who say that men cannot handle these things misandry? It’s these authors who engage in misandry. Yes, having a new baby is hard. But if you go and read the book that was quoted, that author simply stated that having a baby is hard on the father and causes him to fall out of love with his wife and makes him much more likely to have an affair. The message in that book (I read it) that the wife needs to make sure that the husband’s life hardly changes at all when THEY become parents because HE cannot handle it. Unless she’s willing to let her husband go have an affair, she has to take on everything because he’ll just fall apart and start having sex with his co-worker who doesn’t have kids. What Sheila, Keith, and Rebecca are saying is that it is hard on BOTH and they CAN handle it together.

  11. S

    Here’s what I genuinely do not get: if I am aroused by providing a sexual act FOR MY HUSBAND only… And I’m truly aroused, that would be so incredibly frustrating sexually.

  12. Amy

    Thank you, thank you for mentioning that sometimes a woman’s milk doesn’t come in. I tried breastfeeding, did everything the breastfeeding clinic recommended, and I just never produced much milk. It didn’t help that my (now ex) husband was an overgrown man-child and wasn’t supportive of my issues in that area. He talked me into giving up after a week of trying. My daughter is now 13 and I still feel sad that I wasn’t able to breastfeed her and that maybe I still could have at least partially breastfed if I had had a supportive husband.

  13. M

    And then there is mastitis. Any breastfeeding mother can get it, but some of us are especially susceptible to it. In my 4 experiences with it, first there were the chills–not just little shivers, but body-wracking chills– for several hours. Then very abruptly, it would shift to a high fever, and significant body aches that would last for days. None of that was anything compared to the pain and swelling of my cracked, bleeding, engorged breasts of the infection. On which a newborn still learning to latch would clamp down.
    And then there are hormonal swings and the possibility of postpartum depression.
    The selfishness of the perspective of these “Christian” authors, and all who subscribe to their views, is just appalling, and anything but Christ-like.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      YES! I experienced that once with Rebecca (thankfully only once). It was awful.

    • Lisa M

      I had it with my 2nd child. It was like a horrible flu.

  14. Ray

    Just wanted to thank you Shiela for helping me shift my perspective on this. I have two children and for the first, my wife and I had the mind set that are described in these books that I can’t go too long without a release even during the post partum stage. The second child, we had the healthier mindset of letting her completely heal and have sexual desire before we initiated anything sexual. We had many intimate moments of exhausted cuddling and kissing though which was real nice. We BOTH preferred this way and even though it still was difficult at times for me, it was nothing compared to what she just went though. I know she greatly appreciated having time to heal and regain sexual desire slowly

  15. Rebecca Bourne

    I am so thankful that my husband and I never read these marriage books! I would probably have internalised those messages and felt guilty for being unavailable. When we first got married and we’re still in the “honeymoon” period, yes, my husband did find it a bit hard to wait for the 4-7 days that I was on my period – so did I! We were pretty young and newly married so it’s to end expected that we were pretty keen 😛

    But 10 years of marriage and 3 kids later – well we’ve learned patience.
    Plus we have less energy 😛

    I had only a small tear with our first child, and when we tried having sex again at about 8 weeks it was still too painful and so we didn’t try again for several weeks. Penetration also felt a lot different for at least 6 months which was frustrating for me! I feel for women who have believed these books – there is a bough to worry about as a new mum without worrying about your husbands “release” as well.

    As far as sexual favours go – I don’t mind doing something for my husband once in a while while I’m on my period or post partum. Sometimes I’m craving physical intimacy myself so I’ll initiate it. But a hand job on its own with nothing else – that just sounds like work. 😅 I am quite a sexual person but I don’t really enjoy giving hand jobs. A bit of touching that then leads to oral maybe? Yes that can be pretty fun. A hand job on its own is just tiring and not arousing in the least for the person giving it. Sounds like Gary Thomas was writing about his own fantasies 🤮

  16. L

    My husband just had a vasectomy. He’s been told not to have sex for at least 10 days.
    *Sarcastically* Shouldn’t I be expecting manual stimulation from him?
    You never hear the argument that men should fill their wives sexual needs after a vasectomy in the same Christian marriage books which advise women to give manual stimulation postpartum, on periods, etc.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think it’s because women don’t actually “need” sex, whereas men do. At least in the authors’ minds!

  17. Sue

    I am so disappointed in Gary Thomas.


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