Sexual Pleasure: Why Equality of Effort Won’t Get Us There

by | May 10, 2022 | Libido, Making Sex Feel Good | 27 comments

Equal Sexual Pleasure
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Just a super quick post today on why “equality” sometimes misses the boat when it comes to sexual pleasure.

I use Tuesdays either to take a day off from writing the blog, or to share something super quick that’s on my mind and I just want to write it out.

I’m hoping this will be super quick–but we’ll see!

Basically, here’s the issue: I’ve had some pushback on different social media platforms and in emails/reviews lately that what we’re calling for in The Great Sex Rescue isn’t fair and isn’t biblical.

Why? Here’s the general argument:

The Bible tells us that we’re EACH supposed to care about the other person. And yet in The Great Sex Rescue Sheila and the other authors make everything the man’s fault. They say he has to pay attention to her in a way that she doesn’t have to pay attention to him. They say that if she doesn’t reach orgasm it’s his fault. It’s always his fault! And yet the Bible says we’re each responsible, and we each should be giving to one another. This book isn’t balanced.

All right, let’s do some basic definitions here.

We can have:

  • Equality of effort
  • Equality of outcome

Sometimes those things may coincide, but often they don’t.

Here’s my question: Which one are we prioritizing? Equality of effort, or equality of outcome?

In the case of sexual pleasure, equality of outcome would mean that both people experience pleasure and reach orgasm.

To me, that’s the goal. Both of us are capable of sexual pleasure; both of us were created with a sexual drive; women were created with no refractory period and with a body part that is only for sexual pleasure. So the aim should be that both reach orgasm.

Now, here’s the tricky bit:

Equality of effort usually means that equality of outcome will not be achieved. 

Why?

Because the amount of effort that it takes for him to reach orgasm will usually not be enough for her to reach orgasm.

And that’s the way our bodies were created.

That’s why we have a 47 point orgasm gap, where 95% of men almost always/always reach orgasm, compared with just 48% of women. When men go into a sexual encounter they’re pretty much guaranteed an orgasm. When women go into a sexual encounter, they’re not.

Men’s bodies were made so that the act of intercourse alone is usually enough to bring on orgasm; women’s bodies were created so that only a minority of women regularly reach orgasm like that. Most need a lot of foreplay first, or they find other routes to orgasm more reliable.

It’s like this: men start off with an orgasm advantage, and women start off with an orgasm disadvantage. 

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If we want equality of outcome, then, it means that men are going to have to put in more effort. That’s just the way it works.

That’s not me being sexist. That’s not me putting more of a burden on men. That’s not me letting women off the hook. That’s just the way it works. 

Yes, women still need to communicate what they want. Yes, women still need to slow down and allow themselves to enjoy it. Yes, women still need to deal with any trauma in their pasts. Yes, women still need to deal with any negative messaging about sex that they have heard throughout their lives (and The Great Sex Rescue will help with that immensely!).

But for her to reach orgasm, he’s going to have to put in major effort.

One of the problems I had with Tim Keller’s book The Meaning of Marriage revolved around this concept. He writes about how sex was stressful as they were aiming for orgasm, and often they’d both end up disappointed. So instead, they both decided to just focus on what they could give, rather than what they could get.

But as I’ve said before, if they each focus on what they can give, he is still pretty much guaranteed an orgasm, while she is not.  In order to orgasm, she actually has to focus on what she can get. She has to practice mindfulness and focus on her own pleasure. That’s why researchers have found that for her to receive pleasure, one of the most reliable indicators is that they’re both focused on her. 

It is not unfair to ask the person with the advantage to put in more effort.

Does that sound unfair? It might. But again–what’s the aim? Is it equality of effort, or equality of outcome?

If we focus on equality of effort, we can say that we’re each called to be selfless, and that includes women. So if women are selfless and they don’t orgasm, that’s okay, because that’s biblical.

Is that really okay?

Right now men can put in almost no effort and still orgasm, and women are being told, “he needs this. Don’t deprive him.” My message instead is, “Sex was meant for both of you. It’s mutual, intimate, and pleasurable for both. So do what you can to make sure it’s a passionate experience for both of you!”

That may mean he has some work to do. But I’m not the one who put the clitoris where it is. So perhaps the issue isn’t with me, but with God.

And PS: Maybe they need to reread The Great Sex Rescue! Or take the Orgasm Course if this is a real problem. Or read The Good Girl’s/Good Guy’s Guides to understand the sexual response cycle better!

Both reaching orgasm means he does more work

What do you think? 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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27 Comments

  1. Codec

    Equality of outcome is a term that to me at least is rather uncomfortable.

    It brings up Tall Poppy Syndrome, Harrison Burgeron (A grwat short story) and episodes of the Twilight Zone.

    I know however that is not what you mean.

    What you mean is that men and women have different thresholds and that to meet the womans threshold requires more deliberation. It is not bad it is just different.

    Reply
  2. Jen

    And let’s not forget that a woman who feels pleasure during sex is more likely to want to have sex . . . Which means more pleasure more often for both. Once you get that wheel turning, the laws of the universe take over.

    Reply
  3. M

    It seems sad that we have to have this conversation…. (But we do)
    Why is bringing a wife pleasure- the pleasure the husband is experiencing- a burden, or work, or unfair. My heart hurts. I wouldn’t want to have sex at all if my pleasure and my body was a burden to my lover. If bringing me pleasure doesn’t bring him joy I would feel very very inhibited and awkward and sad. I would totally withdraw. Probably my attachment style 😉.

    Reply
    • On board for her pleasure!

      It’s also a challenge when the wife thinks it’s a burden, but the husband wants nothing more than to please (pleasure) his wife. I love giving my wife pleasure! As long at is takes, whatever it takes. She feels it’s a burden, and regardless of what I say or do, it doesn’t seem to change that. Probably an attachment style thing . . . Is it selfish for a wife to not want to let their husband give her pleasure because it’s too hard / much work for the wife?

      Reply
      • Jo R

        It’s not selfishness in the sense that the word usually means. But it IS a TON of work to let yourself just FEEL and RECEIVE when you’ve spent your entire life being told you’re supposed to always take care of others at the expense of your own needs.

        How many girls grow up learning to cook, clean, do laundry, and take care of younger siblings while their brothers are just sent outside to play? How many girls as opposed to boys do babysitting for a job? Thus begins the lessons in selflessness.

        Most girls—and grown women—are made to feel tremendous shame over their periods, a perfectly natural and necessary bodily function. We’re supposed to just power through no matter how badly menstruation affects us, when for not a few of us it’s on par with the symptoms of mild or even severe food poisoning for one week a month. That further disconnects us from our own bodies, both physically and emotionally.

        For the more introverted personalities, when they’ve either been in the office or had little kids hanging off them all day, being expected to get very up close and personal with their husbands can just put them over the edge in terms of needing to be physically alone as well as being left alone with no further demands on them.

        So yeah, it can be extremely hard work to shift gears for some women at some times, and for other women at many times.

        You’ve probably heard that it takes five or even ten positive remarks to override the effects of just one negative remark. When a woman is letting her husband near her groin, one negative comment or even just a negative facial expression from him over “how long it’s taking” is going to require WAY more than five or ten positive affirmations of his willingness to spend as long as necessary. Newlywed men, be warned.

        Reply
      • M

        Maybe she doesn’t feel she deserves it… ot that it’s selfish to be the center of attention… did she read TGSR? It’s great that you want to put her first. Maybe be curious as to why it’s difficult for her to receive… for her to be free and blessed…

        Reply
  4. Phil

    This is interesting. Did you know that when you have two people rowing a canoe the person in the back steers? The person in the front guides and adds power to the boat with strokes. The goal is for them to both end up in the same place. They have to work together. Their jobs are different and their workload is similar but yet different. Sometimes the person steering has to stop to allow the person in the front to catch up or make an adjustment. Sometimes the person in the front has to stop and wait for the person in the back. At the end of the day the person in the back is in the drivers seat. But they have to work together. They have a choice also. If you are in the back of the canoe and you play your cards right you can make the person in the front work more. It is not nice to do and they will notice. There is a clear advantage of being in the back of the boat. Man or woman doesn’t matter. You could switch em up in the boat. That is not the case for sex. Man has penis woman has vagina. Doesn’t quite work like a boat. I think the primary problem is that people who make this argument that blame is put on the man do not understand the science behind sex, don’t care to and they are laser focused on looking outward at self and others rather than looking inward at self and others. I change the rod outcome to FRUIT. If you honestly looked inside your self it is quite easy to see that in most cases men need to focus on the woman for her to orgasm during sex. What is wrong with that? That is fun! Sure there are women out there that can orgasm quickly and through intercourse. The numbers say that is the low percentage. I was thinking about the comment made in the podcast last week about the answers to the survey regarding foreplay. This is how I answered: 1. Do you focus on your wife during foreplay? Yes 2. Do you spend enough time on foreplay? No. I fall into the confused category. What? How does that makes sense? Why is that? Well for me I fall into the category of my partner wants to move on. So I answered the question on my preference not hers. Interesting eh? Me?<—- I like the movie theater timing. Lets draw it out. You can actually sit in a canoe and the person in the front does not have to do any work! If you have two people in the boat and you make the person in the front do all the work you can get there but it doesn't usually go that well. Either way It takes longer to get to your destination. My wife has read The Great Sex Rescue. She says she is not that person and is satisfied with the way things are. That is just her story. I have accepted it. That may not be your story as a man or woman so you need to investigate and find out. We are in the boat together. Have you ever rowed a swamped canoe? What's cool about a canoe is it will still float completely swamped. It actually still works almost identical to a canoe on top of the water. Except, IT IS MUCH MORE WORK! So when people start throwing blame instead of looking at facts and looking inward, they have put themselves in a swamped canoe. You need to stay on top of the water folks. It is so much easier. What needs to be done during sex that can't happen in a canoe very easily is you need to switch positions! LOL & Have fun!

    Reply
  5. CMT

    Here’s a thought: how many men complaining about being asked to do more “work” in the bedroom would also endorse male headship? Somehow I suspect the overlap is substantial. So given that a big justification for complementarianism is that men and women are supposedly so radically different, and men are made to protect and “sacrificially lead” women… does it make sense to be upset when women are different?? And they might be asked to “sacrifice” a little bit of time and effort to get their wife off?

    Reply
  6. Jane Eyre

    Define “effort.” It isn’t time. I hate sex because it sucks for me. Saying that we are putting in the same “effort” is like saying that all-day dental surgery is the same “effort” as going to an amusement park, because they both involve the entire day.

    Please your wives or you will fast find that the effort of pleasing YOU is too much.

    Reply
  7. Nathan

    > > Equality of outcome is a term that to me at least is rather uncomfortable.

    When you apply it to business and financial things, I agree. Marriage is a bit different, though. We’re SUPPOSED to work for each other, and in a marriage, equality of outcome is a good thing, even if it means an unequal share of work.

    Now, that inequality may be different in various aspects of marriage. Maybe men need to work harder for both to experience equal sexual pleasure, while women may need to work harder in other areas.

    Reply
    • Jane Eyre

      I agree. You can’t take family norms and implement them on an entire society.

      People will voluntarily work themselves to the bone for their kids, but things then into human rights violations when we require that people-in-general do that for “the greater good.”

      We walk more slowly so that our toddler can keep up. Imagine requiring that walking speed be no more than 1.5 miles per hour!

      People take time off from work and cancel vacations to help ailing family. Start requiring that people do that and it looks a lot like totalitarianism.

      Reply
    • Codec

      I have never had sex or even been on a date with a girl but if this blog, The Addams family, basicly every Rumiko Takahashi anime, just about every ghibli film, and what I have gathered of Jane Austen and The Brontes have taught me anything it is that relationships are collaborative. You win by helping others win. The love you give is not diminished by giving but rather it increases.

      I figure sex and relationships should have an element of play to it. I also figure that much like a good negotiator one must find ways to adewuatly communicate finding zones of agreements and best alternatives that result in win win situations.

      Reply
      • Anon

        Seriously, more people need to watch both of the Addams Family movies. Gomez and Morticia had the kind of marriage I want – passionate and romantic, and both partners are equal and respect each other. I’m not joking – Gomez Addams was an awesome husband. He loved Morticia deeply and couldn’t look at another woman, he respected her, and he prioritized her pleasure!

        Reply
        • Codec

          Actual marriage therapist put Gomez and Morticia as one of the healthiest marriages in fiction. There relationship is as famous as the friendship between Frodo and Sam or Lupin iii Jigen and Goemon.

          Besides Gomez is awesome. He gets to swordfight people and people love it. Hes dapper. He is super fun. Hes awesome.

          Reply
          • Anon

            Not to mention he’s a terrific father! He loves his kids and spends time with them.

            Let’s take a closer look at “Reasons Why More Men Should Be Like Gomez Addams.” Gomez is dapper and a lot of fun, as you said. He loves and respects his wife and treats her like a queen – and sees her as his equal partner, not a slave. He’s an amazing father. He’s generous, intelligent, warm and welcoming (look how easily they accepted Margaret into the family when she married Cousin Itt), and cheerful. He’s not domineering in any sense and he never belittles anyone, and he’s funny on top of it all! Not to mention one line says everything about his feelings for Morticia: “I would die for her. I would kill for her… either way, with bliss.”

      • Courtney

        I have nothing of value to add, I just wanted to tell you that you have exquisite taste in entertainment lol.

        Reply
  8. Kay P

    My husband LOVES to spend a lot of time and effort for my pleasure – that brings his pleasure to a whole new level!

    Recently we spent a little time taking a break from sex and started working on how we related to sex individually, and then as a couple, and that has made a huge difference in both of our pleasure. Now that sex is about our intimacy rather than his physical pleasure, we have a lot more trust and safety with each other so that we CAN experience mutual pleasure together. And yes, typically he puts in more effort, but he has zero problem with that. He knows that I have, and would, do the same for him.

    Reply
  9. Wild Honey

    May I just say, it makes perfect sense that women (in general) need men (in general) to put in a little more effort to achieve orgasm, whether you’re talking “Biblically” or “evolutionarily.” Women are the ones putting in the brunt of the effort when it comes to pregnancy, childbirth, and a child’s infancy (at least until the advent of formula). So women need to know they can count on a partner to listen to their needs and help meet those needs during times when they are particularly physically vulnerable. Whether or not he (in general) does his part to help her orgasm (in general) is at least one screening tool to help decide if he’s worth procreating with, if I may put it bluntly. All other things (lack of trauma or negative messages around sex, for example) being equal.

    I’m with Sheila on this. If you don’t like the way women are designed, take it up with the designer, not the women.

    Reply
    • CMT

      Agreed. “I didn’t put the clitoris where it is” *mic drop*

      Reply
  10. Deedra

    My husband enjoys seeing me have pleasure in it as well! I’ve never had much trouble having an orgasm as long as I’m actually in the mood for it and I didn’t realize that was an issue for so many people. My issue especially when I was younger and having babies was the drive and desire just wasn’t there. Any good man should want their wife to have pleasure too and be willing to do what it takes to get there!

    Reply
  11. Ray

    I agree with some of the commenters that if a wife has a responsive desire and requires foreplay and time to warm up this is such a blessing, not a burden! It extends the time and connection of each sexual encounter. It allows the husband to get to know what she really likes and what turns her on the most. It’s almost like she is MORE sexual because of this.

    Why is taking showers together, giving full body massages, making out, cuddling looked at as a burden? Or cleaning up the kitchen while she takes some time to get in the right mind set to make love? These are good things! Shiela also provides resources for those who are more responsive to boost desire too.

    Reply
  12. Sue

    This reminds me of a line in a book my husband and I read in the early ’80’s when we first married–‘Intended for Pleasure ‘ by Ed and Gaye Wheat. The general sense was that during lovemaking each person should go after his or her own pleasure. And, as a woman, I could never figure out what that meant. Possibly because of my husband’s previous experiences before marriage, he stated the foreplay I needed, was abnormal. Our marriage was pretty miserable the first 25 years…

    Reply
  13. Katy Didd

    This obsession with equality is crazy because as much as the fight for equality is about everyone getting treated equally, it just creates more and more lack, poverty, division, etc. Why? Because we’re all different!

    What if we gave everyone the same amount of food and the same kind of food? It’ll be too much for some, not enough for others, those with different dietary needs may not be able to eat it at all! That’s equality, but that’s not fair.

    People hate the verse about women being the weaker vessel, but for that time in Biblical history it was a call to husbands to be equitable, loving, giving, and understanding to their wives in very vulnerable and different-from-him positions in life. Education, technological, and medical advances have closed that gap quite a bit, but we are still, in general biological and sociological terms, the more vulnerable sex. Denying biology in the face of equality only creates less fairness and charity.

    And this obession with, “well, I shouldn’t have to give or do more than someone else” is the opposite of the love that God called us to. The number of Christians slipping into humanism is scary. But, what I am seeing are the patriarchy guys who expect a wife to do exactly that…give sacrificially of herself for his exclusive benefit regardless of how it affects her…are the same ones whining when we call for them to out a little more effort into her pleasure.

    It’s like Christianity went back into Roman times and dudes don’t want to listen to Paul.

    Then, we toss in modernist feel-good equality tropes and expect it all to work. What works is God’s way.

    Reply
    • Anon

      No, they want to “listen to Paul” in the sense that they twist the submission verses totally out of context. Otherwise, their ears have more wax in them than Madame Tussaud’s.

      Reply
  14. Angharad

    As you have commented before, people often don’t realise how what they say is ‘telling on themselves’. My husband can’t get his head around why any man would WANT to have sex with his wife if she weren’t enjoying it just as much as he was. ‘That would be just using you, not loving you.’

    Those guys who are bleating about how ‘unfair’ it is that they are expected to help their wives enjoy sex should maybe spend a few minutes contemplating what that actually reveals about their characters…

    Reply
  15. Shan

    Is it selfish for me not to want my husband to pleasure me? To me it’s a win-win. He has tried to pleasure me for many years with no positive outcome. It’s better if we skip that part and focus on him. I don’t experience irritation and disappointment nearly as deeply when I focus on him and he still gets something out of it.
    The selfishness I’ve been struggling with is telling him I don’t want to have sex anymore. Marriage is not 50/50 but 100%. I am not being selfish if I give 100% of myself expecting nothing in return. I can’t deny the person I love and who loves me the things he enjoys and desires the most.

    Reply

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