Postpartum Hand Jobs, Webinars, and a Pornified View of Women

by | Dec 3, 2021 | Uncategorized | 25 comments

Merchandise is Here!

This was a week where postpartum hand jobs were debated on Facebook a TON–and it was super interesting.

On Friday I’m starting to do a round-up of the best of my social media platforms this week, for those of you who may have missed it. Often the best content is on social media, not just the blog, so here goes!

Last week we kicked it off on the podcast talking about the advice given to women in far too many evangelical books about giving sexual favors postpartum. At the point where we recorded it, Rebecca was a few weeks postpartum, so she was the one this advice was aimed at, and it made it far more personal.

Well, on Facebook I decided to post some of our concerns in longform, and boy did that go big! I started with a general post about our podcast (which got a ton of comments), but then I elaborated.

(Warning: I’m being explicit in this update)

In porn, women are often shown getting sexually aroused not by RECEIVING sexual stimulation that tends to feel good for them, but by GIVING sexual stimulation or by being used.

Women are shown in raptures simply because HE feels pleasure. His arousal is all she needs to get turned on or climax.

That’s because porn tends to revolve around male fantasy about being in control. It’s not about sex; it’s about using someone.

Okay, now let’s turn to the recently released Christian book Married Sex. Author Gary Thomas depicts women who are postpartum, having heavy periods, or pregnant as being super aroused simply by giving her husband a hand job while receiving nothing in return. He describes her “moans”, her excitement as her husband’s excitement grows, her “wetness” against his thigh. (Hint: if she’s postpartum or having a heavy period, that “wetness” is blood, not lubrication).

He does this in the context of encouraging women to give sexual favors when they can’t give intercourse, to help their husbands with sexual frustration.

My question: Why are we not more alarmed that evangelical books like Married Sex have pornified expectations of women? And they don’t even seem to realize it?

(I know that some women do get aroused giving sexual favours in these situations, which is great. It’s even more wonderful if they’re feeling well enough that the sexual favours can be reciprocated. But here’s the thing: women who find giving sexual favors arousing even while bleeding, recovering, or nauseous don’t need to be convinced by books to give those favors. They’d be doing it naturally. So the audience for this advice IS NOT women who feel sexual desire while postpartum, during heavy periods, or while pregnant. The audience instead is women who need to be convinced to focus on his sexual needs instead of prioritizing their own healing or well-being. And if they have to be convinced to do it, then all the moaning and excitement isn’t real. They’re being pressured to fake it and act like porn.)

Facebook Post

(Read the comments on it!)

From that, people started asking Gary Thomas on his page some specific questions, and he responded, and I thought it made an interesting teaching moment about how advice can SOUND fair and impartial, but it’s still not good advice if the situation really is one where one party needs protection.

Over the last few days, we’ve been talking about how Gary Thomas, in his recent book Married Sex, presented it as normal that a woman who can’t have intercourse because she is postpartum, pregnant, or having heavy periods would give a hand job instead–and get aroused doing so.

When challenged on his Facebook page about this, he has doubled down. One woman presented the opposite scenario, where a husband had surgery. Should he be expected to give ‘sexual favors’ while recovering?

In a now deleted post, Gary responded (pics below) saying that he doesn’t believe in giving “shoulds”, and it’s about the two of you deciding, and if he wants to he can.

On the surface, that looks like a good answer–let’s honor the couple figuring out what works for them! But what is being emphasized is that he may want to give sexual favors despite the pain, rather than emphasizing that self-control and abstinence should be expected.

So let’s answer this better:

If one spouse is ill, in pain, or recuperating, this is not an issue to figure out “between the two of you.” The person in discomfort takes precedence, always. Any sexual activity must be at their initiative, and their initiative alone, without ANY expectation, pressure, or manipulation. The one who is healthy must exercise self-control and make their spouse’s well-being their priority.

Gary says he doesn’t want to give “shoulds.” Well, in this case we SHOULD. We need to. There is too much coercion and manipulation in Christian marriages. We need to set the expectation that women’s well-being and recovery matter; not reinforce a pornified view of married sex that women get aroused giving hand jobs while they are bleeding heavily.

Besides, Gary has no problem giving other suggestions in his book–like women texting nude pictures to encourage their husbands to fixate on their wife’s body rather than porn; or women flashing their breasts to reset power imbalances; or women cooking naked.

He also has no problem with “shoulds” in other areas–he says that sex SHOULD feel like a sacrifice at least sometimes, and women should give sex when they may not want to, in a similar way to how parents should feed a newborn in the middle of the night.

I would simply ask that he clearly say that, during the postpartum period, there should be no expectation, pressure, or manipulation used to make women feel they should give sexual favors. And, please, stop implying women get aroused giving sexual favors when they are uncomfortable or in pain.

Over this last week, so many women have commented that sex was great in their marriage until they had children–because the pressure from their husbands during the postpartum period made them feel used and turned them off sex, and changed how they saw their husbands. In many ways, how husbands act during the postpartum phase is just as important, if not more so, than how they act when first married. This SHOULD be talked about better, for everyone’s sake.

(And I also acknowledge that I haven’t always talk about this well. But I have listened. I have learned. I have grown. My prayer is that other authors with platforms similarly listen, learn, and grow–and teach in a healthy way).

Facebook Post

People really responded to this one, and picked up on a number of things, including the wisdom (or lack thereof) of cooking naked. Comments are great on this one too!

Two assume webinars are coming next week!

Our Tea and Tent Pegs webinar with Kristin Kobes Du Mez, Beth Allison Barr, and me is Monday night at 9 EST! And there are only 250 out of 3000 slots left. So grab them while you can!

Tea and Tent Pegs

Then next Thursday our Tide Has Turned webinar lands!

I’m moderating this one with a panel of six abuse advocates, including Sarah McDugal, Patrick Weaver, Andrew Bauman, Anne Blythe from Betrayal Trauma Recovery, Gretchen Bakerville, and our own Rebecca.

We’ll be talking about where we see Christian publishing going and how to influence things for the better.

The Tide Has Turned

I decided to “fix” Doug Wilson.

I usually try to reserve my “Fixed it for you” memes for people who have big blogs or mainstream marriage ministries or royalty published books and are seen as more in the mainstream.

I don’t try to take on the fringe because then I’d be taking on everyone, and the fringe people are easier to see when they’re offensive.

But Doug Wilson’s influence is getting bigger, and so many people asked me to, that I decided to dive in with just one quote!

Usually the place to be is Instagram, but this week it was Facebook! But I hope you’ll join me in both places and keep up with some interesting conversations.

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.

Finally, on the number 1000 and 1,000,000

I’ve shared this before, but we’ve recently passed 1000 reviews on Amazon for The Great Sex Rescue! Thank you! And they’re so encouraging!

And Katie tells me we could hit 1,000,000 downloads of the Bare Marriage podcast by the end of the year! So keep subscribing and downloading. We’ll have a big party in January when we get there!

Thanks everyone, and have a great weekend!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of Bare Marriage

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

Related Posts

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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25 Comments

  1. CMT

    Ugh. Doug Wilson is literally frightening. Notice how almost nothing of his original wording remains in the fixed version of this quote. It’s all crossed out. The fact that he can say the things he says about power and gender and still be respected by some evangelicals is incredibly disturbing to me.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It is VERY disturbing. The fact that John Piper platforms him and John Piper’s church is run by people trained by him is terrifying.

      Reply
      • CMT

        Exactly. They don’t really have a problem with WHAT he says or does, even if they occasionally distance themselves from HOW he goes about it.

        Reply
      • Anonymous305

        It’s also disturbing that some John Piper quotes sound compassionate to women because that makes women unaware of the danger.

        Reply
    • Anon

      Yes. I’m trying to see what difference there is between a rapist and a husband who follows Doug Wilson’s teaching. So far, I haven’t come up with anything.

      Reply
  2. Codec

    On the Wilson Quote.

    I find it weird how folks hyperfixate on the man penetrates the wife receives.

    A man has to open himself up to a sexual experience as does a woman.

    Sex is by its very nature a very vulnerable experience. I would not want people to take advantage of me dealing with nonsexual stuff and I would not want it with sexual stuff either.

    All of the four loves are supposed to help bring us out of selfishness and I believe that Eros love is supposed to do that as well.

    Reply
    • CMT

      It is absolutely weird. It reveals a lot more about the psychology of the people who think this way than it does about anything essential to human sexuality.

      You’re spot on about vulnerability. That’s one of the many missing ingredients from this view of sex.

      The fact that so many guys also see that this is utter nonsense is heartening!

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I’ve said for a long time that vulnerability is the key to passion! I think this all ties into the fact that men are raised to not be supposed to have emotions, so they end up channelling them into sex, and emotional vulnerability is very difficult.

        Reply
        • Codec

          It is not that men are raised to not have emotions. Rather it is the idea that emotional displays have a time and place.

          This in and of itself is not a bad thing. It is based on ideas of temperance and self control.

          The problem comes in when people do not know how to express or rationalize what they are feeling in a healthy manner.

          Bottling stuff up eventually it either explodes or implodes and it is not good either way.

          Reply
          • Lisa

            I’m glad you weren’t raised to not have emotions but many men are. In his book, Emerson Eggerichs says that a man isn’t going to sit a little table in a coffee shop talking about his feelings with his best friend. According to him, there is NEVER a time and a place for a man to discuss his emotions.

            Women completely understand the difference between emotions and having “emotional displays.” Women have self-control. This is not a gendered issue.

            What is a gendered issue is that women are often socially coerced to never experience anger and men are often socially coerced to never experience any emotion except anger.

  3. Jo R

    Why don’t these authors just come out and say explicitly what they apparently think all men are thinking (sarcasm alert for those who might find straight talk offensive):

    “We’ve been dating for long enough that I think we should get married. All I want is for you to cook and clean and do laundry, take care of any future children completely on your own, and provide me with the hottest sex possible so that I can orgasm as often as I want.

    “As for any kind of emotional relationship, well, I’m a man, and I don’t need that, so you’ll have to get that stuff somewhere else. Isn’t that why you have girlfriends? And please don’t ever think to bother me with all the awful side effects of having a female body, with all your gross discharges and imaginary issues during periods, pregnancy, postpartum, and menopause. I’m really not into knowing about any of that at all, assuming any of it is even true in the first place. I will, however, expect you to carry on as though none of that is happening, especially the part where I get to orgasm frequently.

    “So, in summary, I want a housekeeping nanny sexbot who never bothers me with any difficulties of day-to-day life. That way I can have all my evenings and weekends free to do what I want, while you remain constantly at me beck and call. Only people who earn a paycheck like I do have perks like sick days, paid vacation days, weekends off, and legally mandated paid holidays. You will be on the clock 24/7/365, until death do us part.”

    Reply
    • Codec

      Sounds like Stepford Wives.

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that’s really sad. But that’s what so much of the advice amounts to. Interestingly, there’s what starts out as a really good anecdote in Married Sex about the difficulties of mental load (he actually explained it well!), and how it can make a woman not want sex because she’s carrying too much.

      But then the anecdote ends horribly, because what they decide is that ON THE DAY THAT THEY’RE SCHEDULED TO HAVE HOT SEX every week, he will take on the mental load that day, so that she can relax and then give him hot sex.

      Like, why doesn’t he just take on the mental load in general? Why is it just that day?

      Reply
      • Codec

        That sounds like a great way for the guy to get incredibly frustrated as he now has work he is not used to.

        The wife gets frustrated that it is temporary and that this routine does not really solve anything.

        Reply
      • Lisa

        Exactly! Gary Thomas actively encourages transactional sex. Husband, start acting like an adult parent on the days you want sex. The other days, go ahead and act like a single guy with a job and a live-in girlfriend.

        Reply
  4. Andrea

    Let’s remember that Gary Thomas is a complementarian of the tie-breaker mentality. So he is, once again, being duplicitous, when he says that “it’s about the two of you deciding” because it’s the husband who makes the final decision. Oh, he’s supposed to take his wife’s view into consideration of course, they’re supposed to discuss it together, but whether she gives him a handjob while postpartum is ultimately his decision.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, that’s how the tie-breaker issue can play out in these areas. To be fair, I don’t think Gary would advocate that. But he’s also not preaching against it, and his biblical interpretations do support what you’ve said.

      Reply
  5. Jo R

    Actually, it’s pretty easy to make PIV an “egalitarian pleasure party,” especially if the wife is of the 60 percent or so of women whose anatomical geometry means she finds it nearly impossible to orgasm that way.

    However long he needs to orgasm, she stops the proceedings about a tenth of the way through. Then neither of them orgasms during PIV.

    That would be pretty equal, with a little “do unto others as they’ve been doing to you for a decade or two” thrown in for good measure. 😉😉😉

    (And yes, that was sarcasm. But I have a real hankering to hear the results of such an experiment by women who find themselves in that situation.)

    Reply
    • CMT

      Oh, come on, cut the guy some slack. He did TRY to work out how to be egalitarian. I’m sure he really gave it his all, too. He’s just so pure-minded he doesn’t know there’s more than one “sexual act”, so he couldn’t quite figure it all out. Also maybe he doesn’t know the clitoris exists? Or apparently, how conception and pregnancy work, either. A basic sex ed refresher course should do the trick!

      Oh, but maybe we shouldn’t mention the multiple orgasms thing. He might fall into the sin of envy, and we wouldn’t want to cause anyone to stumble, of course!

      Reply
  6. Anonymous305

    I feel really bad for the women who didn’t see their husband’s disrespect until after childbirth because they lost more trust than those who never had it, and they were betrayed at an extra hard time!!!! I was never forced to do anything, and the problems he had came out soon after marriage. It was hard compared to what I’d hoped for, but not as bad as some of the heartbreaking stories on this blog!!!!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      I agree. It’s horrific to think about, let alone experience.

      Reply
  7. D

    I am glad you are speaking out on these harmful teachings about expecting women to be sexual when they aren’t ready during the postpartum period.

    Women rarely hear supportive messages about this time period from many of the big name marriage authors. They just hear how they should jump back in to the marriage bed as soon as possible.

    I’m really surprised that most marriage books give little attention to this vulnerable time period for women. Why wouldn’t we want to tell husbands what the mothers of their children need in the postpartum period?

    I think if a woman doesn’t feel cared for during this time period, especially if there is unrealistic demands about sex, it can cause lasting resentment and damage to a marriage.

    We all had/have moms. Wouldn’t we have hoped that our moms were being properly cared for as they(our moms) took care of us as infants?

    Reply
    • Anonymous305

      I would want my dear, sweet mommy to be cared for as she cared for me (not sarcasm), but does that even matter since I’m female (sarcasm)?

      I think my brother would want the same, but he’s “weird” because he doesn’t use women like methadone.

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think it does cause long term issues for sure. I have heard from so many women for whom sex died after having kids–because they couldn’t reconcile how their husbands treated sex afterwards, and put so many expectations on them when they were healing. It felt empty, and they never would have believed that their husbands would do that. It broke something significant.

      Reply
  8. Sue

    I have not read Gary Thomas’s current book, although I have his previous ones. The way he talks so explicitly makes me wonder about him. If he has changed somehow, if he has an underlying sex addiction.

    Reply

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