Does 1 Corinthians 7 Say that She Has No Sexual Autonomy?

by | Nov 23, 2022 | Theology of Marriage and Sex | 47 comments

Sexual Autonomy and 1 Corinthians 7

You will never have a healthy sex life if you don’t have autonomy over your own body.

You just can’t. Unless you are free to say yes or to say no, desire can’t build, because desire and obligation are at odds with each other.

Just as you can’t force someone to love you, or it’s not real love, so you can’t pressure or force someone to have sex with you and have real desire build.

This month we’re looking at how to dig out of the pit one of you, or both of you, have dug for your sex life. So often that pit gets dug deeper and deeper because it’s not just one issue; it’s several. It’s sexual trauma in our pasts. It’s the terrible books we’ve read that make sex a male entitlement and female obligation (see The Great Sex Rescue for more on how evangelical resources can wreck sex for couples!). It’s ignorance about how her body works. It’s the thought that she’s responsible to keep him from sinning. It’s the idea that men have insatiable needs, while women don’t really want sex.

It all gets mixed together in a toxic stew, and it’s poison. 

We’ve looked at some very toxic dynamics that can happen in marriage–when he doesn’t care about her pleasure; when marital rape is involved.

And we’ve looked at a 4-point plan for recovery, with the two first steps being the most important (redefining sex, and establishing safety).

But safety can be difficult, because to have safety, you need autonomy. And many of us think that goes against the Bible.

Does the Bible speak AGAINST autonomy in 1 Corinthians 7?

We have a hard time with sexual autonomy because of the way that we’ve interpreted verses in 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, which say that her body belongs to him, just as his body belongs to her.

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

1 Corinthians 7:3-5

If her body belongs to him, then she has no sexual autonomy! To think that she should have sexual autonomy becomes unChristian and selfish.

But let’s back that truck up for a moment. The point of those verses is not that he can do whatever he wants with her body. If that were the point, then the verses would simply have said, “The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband,” and then it would have stopped.

But it didn’t stop.

Instead, the next few words are super important: “In the same way…”

Do we see the significance of that? Any claim that he has over her body is matched by the claim that she has over his, which means that neither of us can use our bodies in ways that the other doesn’t want.

The point of this passage is not to say that the husband can use his wife’s body, and she has no rights to it. The point of this passage is not about one person being able to overpower the other.

The point of this passage is that sex should always and only ever be mutual.

The idea of a wife having authority over her husband’s body was the revolutionary part.

We focus so much in the church in telling women that they don’t have authority over their own bodies, but instead they give that authority to their husbands.

Do you realize that in doing so, we’re doing the exact OPPOSITE of what Paul was trying to do in this passage?

In the context that Paul was writing, husbands already had authority over their wives’ bodies. In fact, it went further than that. They owned their wife’s body, to the extent that they could kill them and not face punishment.

When Paul wrote, “The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband,” everybody would have said, “Well, D’UH!” Of course that’s true!

But then we get to those four revolutionary words: In the same way… (in Greek it’s not four words, but you know what I mean!).

That would have shocked his readers. Wives didn’t have any authority over their husbands at all, and yet here Paul is saying, whatever authority husbands have over their wives’ bodies is matched by the authority that God gives wives over their husbands’ bodies.

Paul is saying that men no longer have the upper hand. Men can’t just use their wives. No, instead Paul is equalizing things and insisting that mutuality rather than obligation and force be the principle in sexual relations. If she has claims to his body in the same way that he has claims to hers, then he can’t use her. He can’t do anything she doesn’t want. Paul is equalizing things!

And yet, instead of understanding Paul’s intention here, we have used 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 to put women in the exact same position that Paul was fighting against. We have completely ignored the context and the principle behind what he was saying, and focused merely on one phrase. And it has done tremendous damage.

Did you know that this is the only place where Paul explicitly talks about authority in marriage?

That’s right! The only time that Paul writes about any kind of authority in the marriage relationship is in 1 Corinthians 7–and it is completely and utterly equal and mutual. We may think that Paul is talking about it in other places where he calls husbands the “head” of the wife, but the Greek word he uses for head does not have a connotation of authority, but rather one of unity.

Paul’s overall point, when he’s talking about marriage, is to flip the script on its head and preach mutuality, two people living in intimacy and mutual servanthood as they follow after Jesus. He was speaking into a culture where men had complete authority, so every opportunity he could, he told husbands that they were actually supposed to serve sacrificially. He told couples that the wife needed to be considered in the same way. He called for mutuality, and yet we have used his words to reinforce the same power dynamics he was trying to fight against.

What does this mean for body autonomy?

It means that you matter.

It means that you don’t have to do something you don’t want to do.

It means that your spouse can’t use you or pressure you and tell you that you can’t say no because your body belongs to them.

It means that sex is supposed to be something which is freely given.

But don’t we have sexual responsibilities to each other?

Yes–in the sense that this passage is telling us that mutual sex should be a normal, frequent part of a healthy marriage.

But here’s the thing: The order that we do things in matters. 

Desire can’t build with obligation. If we want desire to build, we must get rid of obligation. We cannot tell people that they have a responsibility to fulfill their spouse’s sexual needs BEFORE someone’s desire has built and before sex has been experienced as something which is mutual, intimate, and pleasurable for both.

Paul is telling us that sex should be mutual–that both people should want it. Elsewhere in Scripture we read that sex should be an intimate experience (Gen. 4:1) and should be pleasurable for both (Song of Songs).

We cannot talk about sexual responsibilities to each other UNTIL these conditions are met, because sex is not merely one-sided intercourse.

And to make it worse, if we stress someone’s responsibilities to be a “lawful sexual outlet” (as Doug Wilson calls women), then we kill desire and sex will never be mutual, intimate, and pleasurable for both.


do you know your favourite book's healthy sexuality score?


That’s why the route to mutual, passionate sex is actually through body autonomy.

Until the pressure is off and desire can build; until she especially can understand what feels good and what she likes with sex; until sex can be an expression of how she feels, rather than an obligation regardless of how she feels, then true desire can’t build and she can never freely give herself anyway.

Ironically, if we want frequent, mutual sex, we need to stop talking about frequency. We need to stop talking about obligation.

When we let desire build naturally, and when we discover what passionate sex is supposed to be, frequency tends to take care of itself. But when we focus on frequency and obligation, we kill passion and mutuality. And that’s the opposite of what Paul was writing in this passage.

I’ll write more about what it looks like to regain your autonomy (I have a feeling this series is going to go into December because I have so much more to say!). But for today, I wanted to stress that: sexual autonomy is not anti-Christian; it is actually what Paul was stressing and it is a prerequisite for mutual, passionate sex. If we truly understood that and internalized it, so many of our sexual problems could be cured!

Who has authority over her body in 1 Corinthians 7?

What do you think? Why have we taught body autonomy so wrong? Do you think the message is changing? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Sheila Wray Gregoire


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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. Nathan

    > > The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband.

    Funny thing. I’ve often seen people quote ONLY this part of the passage, and “forget” the rest of it.

    • Jo R

      An excellent point, Nathan, and one not to be discounted too quickly.

      It quite reminds me of this blog post, which, though touching a quite different subject, is still used in the exact same way you describe: selectively reading the parts that benefit one person or group at the expense of others:

      Thank you for speaking up, as it’s very helpful for MEN to help tear down all this wrong teaching.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Me, too!

      • NC

        I discovered this blog tonight and have been reading through the articles on sex and consent. As someone who is just now recovering from 4 years of vaginismus, which was so painful we didn’t have penetrative sex for 3 of them, it’s been pretty eye opening. However, through it all, 1 Corinthians has been my constant source of shame and the reason I still feel like a bad Christian. I had hoped this post would address my concerns, but this interpretation seems wrong to me:

        “If she has claims to his body in the same way that he has claims to hers, then he can’t use her. He can’t do anything she doesn’t want.”

        Based on the actual words in 1 Corinthians (“does not have authority over his/her own body, but yields it”), wouldn’t a more accurate reading be that the husband can do anything he wants with his wife’s body, when it comes to marital duty (ie, sex)? With the wife having the same ability, of course, though statistically she’s less likely to use it due to higher pain and lower libido.

        Or, to put it another way, 1 Corinthians says you have authority over your spouse’s body. It says nothing about you having authority (ie, authority to consent or withhold consent) over your own. Am I missing some connotation from the Greek that didn’t get translated properly?

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Just use some common sense and what you know of Jesus. Do you think Jesus would ever say to a woman, “your husband is allowed to do anything he wants with your body”? If you think so, then may I suggest that your view of Jesus is skewed.

          Paul would not write anything that does not line up with the personhood of Christ.

  2. Jess

    You have a way of taking a verse and making it say the exact opposite of what is says.

    There is no way I would ever want your theology in my marriage. In fact, it would be a deal breaker.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      So it would be a deal-breaker for sex to be mutual, rather than something a man can take from his wife?

      • Jane Eyre

        Jess may be referring to the autonomy part?

        My read of “authority” here is that Paul was giving a G-rated explanation of what should happen in the marriage bed.

        Who is responsible for touching a husband so he gets aroused? His wife. Who is responsible for using touch on him to demonstrate love and passion? His wife.

        Who is responsible for caressing her, kissing her, and stimulating her? Her husband. Who is responsible for bringing her to climax? Her husband.

        “Authority” may not be the exact way I would phrase it, but as a married woman, I understand what Paul is driving at.

      • Jess

        Your teaching is not about mutuality. The woman decides everything. The quality of the relationship and the frequency of sex, amongst a dozen others. A woman’s feelings is the ultimate truth according to you. In your teaching you’ve gone as far as saying everyone around you- husband, church, parents, friends, counselors-may not agree with you but…And if I had a dollar for “trust your body” or trust your feelings in the comments- which are either spoken by you or your daughter or not refuted.

        No, simply no. You’ve gone of the deep end. This has nothing to do with mutuality. In fact your teaching has nothing to do with wives responsibilities to husbands (mutuality) at all- unless it is to correct them based on their feelings.

        As my wife says every time your name is mentioned, “I don’t want to be her on judgement day.” Because she sits through the womens bible studies, the long conversations over coffee with girlfriends and she’s seen it hundreds of times. Women are easily deceived and are more than able and even enthusiastically will tear down their own house with their own hands with their selfishness.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Do you think women are more easily deceived than men? Can you provide proof for that claim?

          (Also, a quote that seems apt here–“when you’re used to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” You think I’m arguing that women should be in charge; I’m simply arguing that both people matter, and that consent matters.)

        • Anna

          Aw, Jess, you’re singing a familiar song. Or one that rhymes a lot with songs sung by a few regular commenters. It does feel like talking to granite, but…

          The definition of consensual means, obtaining the consent of all parties involved. HE is a party who’s involved; his consent must be obtained. SHE is a party who’s involved; her consent must be obtained. The OTHER kind of sex (one in which one party’s consent is missing) is rape. Toddler level reasoning is all that’s required.

          I wouldn’t want to be an obligation sex-pushing, pimping, rape apologist on judgement day.

        • Joy

          This entire series is how to heal from being hurt and wronged in your marriage due to how sex has been handled. It’s not about “feelings.” During the healing process you do have to follow the lead of the injured party.

          Do you love your wife as Christ loves the Church? Do you want to care for her body as your own? Would you allow her the time and space to heal from these sorts of injuries if she needed to? What would your level of empathy be if, say, your daughter came to you with these hurts and concerns needing help?

          I have to ask how you got from helping marriages to heal from trauma to women and their “feelings” messing everything up (complete with the tired idea that women are easily deceived).

        • Rebecca Lindenbach

          Hi, Jess, here as the moderator–I just want to say that we do not allow rapists to comment on our blog. You have said your piece, but you said that a marriage where consent matters would be a “deal-breaker” for you.

          That means that you are a rapist.


          (Also, as something coming from me, Rebecca, not me, moderator on behalf of Bare Marriage, you being so aghast at the idea that women listen to their body because it means they’ll never have sex… says a LOT more about you in bed than you’d like to admit.)

          • Rebecca Lindenbach

            Also, your wife is always welcome back here whenever she needs us, if she ever processes whatever trauma she may have from being in a marriage where her consent is a “deal-breaker.”

        • redrising

          When you remodel a home, parts must be torn down. And, in the process of remodeling, sometimes you find there are lead pipes, knob and tube wiring that is corroded, or rotten under-flooring. Sometimes, one of the partners is served well by, and therefore is comfortable with, the less than great aspects of their house. When the other spouse starts sledgehammering the tub it comes as a great shock and may look like they are enthusiastically tearing down a perfectly good house. However, the black mold under the tub has been growing and has been making the other spouse sick this whole time. It didn’t bother the first partner so they didn’t understand how it could possibly bother their spouse so much till the tub is smashed into porcelain pieces and the darkness is brought into the light.

          Many marriages have significant filth under a clean facade.

          I have learn when I am a witness to a woman “tearing down their own house with their own hands” to come along side softly, there may be mold under the tub.

        • Bekah

          So what you’re saying is that silly, unreasonable, emotional women, will ruin everything if given too much leeway? That even though they may feel used, they’re really being loved. They need to just do what they’re told because their ability to make decisions and run their lives is severely compromised due to their emotions? Is this correct?

          • Anna

            I don’t think that’s what red rising is saying, but someone correct me if I’m wrong. I read that comment as supporting women who point out foundational changes in their marriages that must be made, even though to the patriarchalists weighing in, it looks like she’s getting rid of something good and functional. Instead of good and functional, it may be rotten, but only the disadvantaged partner may realize that. Anybody else read it like that?

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I think Bekah’s comment was in reply to Jess! I need to get the comments to nest better. 🙂

        • Brambonius

          Eh, isn’t wanting or not wanting sex always a form of ‘“trust your body/trust your feelings” for both men and women?

          How on Earth is a man wanting sex less following his feelings and his body? Sex is by definition a matter of body urges and feelings and stuff like that. Maybe with a deeper layer of intimacy and unity, but in the end it’s purely bodies and hormones and feelings and all that irrational stuff that comes with our animal bodies that come together with our souls as humans.

          I seem to be missing something. Any ‘I need/want sex’ is 100% following your hormones, and anyone who says that and then says that women are emotional or influenced (I’ve seen men do that) must be either completely oblivious to their own contradictions or completely happy with extreme cognitive dissonance.

          I personally think there’s no need to gender anything here. Sure, a marriage is expected to be a sexual relationship, but it sounds quite evident that people will have only sex when both of them want it. If either partner doesn’t feel like it there is no sex, also because sex should always be a giving thing as much as a receiving thing.

          (Personally I cannot make sense of the idea of enjoying sex without being able to give, and enjoying sex knowing that my partner doesn’t enjoy it is a horrible idea. I really don’t see if you love your partner how you can get enjoyment and pleasure out of that.)

          Plus there is the golden rule part. Jesus sums up the scriptures (‘the law and the prophets’) in treating others like you’d want to be treated. Especially in what should be our most intimate relationship we should always consider our partner before ourselves. The way in which the basic teachings of how Christ sums up the scriptures in the golden rule and love your neighbour as yourself are completely ignored by some even in marriage is rather worrying. If people who claim to be Christians don’t even live like that in their most important ‘love relationship’, how will they have that fruit elsewhere in their life???

          • Laura

            Well said Brambonius!

            The verses you talked about at the end never seem to get mentioned in marriage conferences or sermons about marriage. Nope, the speaker/pastor only wants to talk about the few Bible verses that mention marriage and act as though those are the ONLY verses applicable to marriage.

          • Brambonius

            @Laura: They should be the basis of a Christian lifestyle, the fundament even, if Christ sums up the scriptures in them (and Paul says similar things that complement them, as do the other apostles). It should be the lens through which we see scripture and life, and thus also other verses about marriage.

            How can anyone speak of ‘loving your wife’ and not even caring about treating her like you’d want to be treated yourself? Christ and the whole New Testament are quite clear on things like that, and how we treat everyone should be based on that.
            There’s no place in that for selfish entitlement, especially in something as intimate as sex. Anyone who doesn’t see that hasn’t understood anything of the whole thing, and is thoroughly ‘worldly’ in the most sad and destructive way possible.

            After all, if you can’t even love your wife that you sleep next to as yourself, how can you love God whom you can’t see?

          • Em

            Good point!

        • Jane Eyre

          “As my wife says every time your name is mentioned, “I don’t want to be her on judgement day.” Because she sits through the womens bible studies, the long conversations over coffee with girlfriends and she’s seen it hundreds of times.”

          Hey, I cannot judge your wife’s awful attitude, because lack of orgasms makes me really bitchy, too.

          Just throwing this out there, though – make sex mind blowing foe your wife and see if that helps both of you have a better perspective.

        • Marisa

          “The woman decides everything. The quality of the relationship and the frequency of sex, amongst a dozen others. ”
          This is something that BOTH people decide. You seem to be suggesting here that if a woman has a say in what happens to her body that doesn’t align with her husband’s, she is the one who is deciding what happens. BOTH people decide. You only have sex when BOTH people decide to have sex. You have sex at the frequency BOTH people decide to do it. This is how sex with another person works. If you cannot handle another person having a say in when, how and how often they have sex with you, then you aren’t cut out for an intimate sexual relationship with another human being. This is not hard.

        • Shoshana

          I doubt your wife said any of that. Sounds like the same canned answer a lot of men of your ilk claim the women in their lives say. OTOH, if your wife really did say this, she is probably the one deceived by you and male hierarchy of your church.

      • John

        Jess isn’t saying it would be a dealbreaker for sex to be mutual. She’s saying your method of interpreting scripture would be a dealbreaker. Seems like an extreme reaction to me, but ok.

        Paul was concerned about two things. 1. Making sure that neither spouse make a unilateral decision to be celibate without the other’s consent (as that would increase the risk of fornication). 2. Making sure that the concept of adultery be applied equally to the both the man and the woman. Both must be faithful.

        Mutuality is absolutely consistent with the passage, but a marriage that was sexless for an extended period definitely would not be.

        People would also do well to look at verse 6 where he says the admonition is offered as a concession and not a demand.

    • Joy

      I personally admire how Sheila keeps bringing to light what the Bible is actually teaching instead of what people biased with a favor towards men have made it into. I appreciate the resources shared that discuss how the Bible has been purposefully translated into English in a way that props up the thoughts and ideas a culture accepts rather than what the original writers were saying.

      If you actually are a “biblical Christian” these revelations should curdle your blood. You should be trying to find out where this has happened in your own Christian tradition and weed it out. The fact that you shoot the messenger instead of do that shows me that you are actually a cultural Christian. Sure, the form of evangelical Christianity that you follow feels like a “faith” to you, and you have the Bible on hand to hold a high view of and defend decisions that you make. But what you really like is all of the certainties, practicies and “realities” that have been handed down to you from evangelicals before ensuring, among other things, that you can get sex on demand from your wife and belittle her into thinking that it’s okay. Really it’s a very carnal way to live. And to think–people use the Bible to do this.

      Wouldn’t want to be them on judgement day.

      • K

        This series couldn’t have come at a better time for me. It has been very encouraging that I am not being selfish by trying to heal after marital sexual coercion. My husband has finally agreed to give me space and take my time, but still doesn’t understand why I need it. Looking back at all of the sexual coercion and emotional abuse in our marriage he says I can see how that would be annoying but not how it could cause trauma. I never forced you into anything. And I’m sure in part it’s natural to not want to admit to certain things. He doesn’t want to feel like a monster. And I get that. But I do hope he can gain enough knowledge and understanding to believe that coercion does not have to be physical.

    • Jo R

      Sheila has no need to make this verse say the opposite of what it says, since Paul himself gave the wife authority over her husband’s body in the second half of the same verse.

      It says a lot about a man who thinks that a Christian, who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, is LESS capable of respecting his wife’s body than men in OT times, who were COMMANDED to be so that the husband would avoid sinning.

      As for which sex is more prone to deception, the way so many men are in absolute enslavement to their penis kinda makes the question a toss-up.

  3. Cynthia

    Not only are these two passages together, but they are part of a much longer passage on whether or not someone should be celibate. Paul thought it was great for people to be celibate and able to concentrate solely on God, but not if they wouldn’t be able to handle the temptation. He was also not encouraging people to break up existing marriages. The “do not deprive” part makes more sense when you read the entire chapter, since it seems to refer back to the idea of celibacy and is instructing husbands and wives not to unilaterally declare that they are celibate for religious reasons if the spouse isn’t also agreeing to that.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      This is exactly what the passage is about!

  4. Jane Eyre

    This passage is so obviously mutual and equal that there is no other way to read it. And instead of demanding their due, maybe men should ask themselves what their obligations to their wives are. If it were merely “stick magic penis in vagina,” there would be no need to give instructions to both like this. Instructions would simply be to have frequent intercourse, perhaps with a aide helping of berating wives for not putting out enough.

    So why the additional requirements and the explicit mutuality? Maybe because God thinks there is more to sex than “insert magic penis into vagina.” Maybe men have an obligation to bring their wives to climax, and not just on occasion. Maybe it says that they are each responsible for the other’s pleasure.

  5. Laura

    Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

    The “do not deprive” verse was shoved down my throat during my marriage, yet he never could quote the rest of this verse. I struggle with the mutual consent part and that last sentence about coming together again so Satan will not tempt. Obviously, there are times of the month when sexual intercourse cannot happen due to monthly cycles and other seasons in life such as post-partum, health issues, etc. So, when I was on my period or did not feel like having intercourse, I was obligated to give my husband oral sex or hand jobs which I detested. I wonder if it was expected that marriages had some kind of sexual activity every day or several times a week. And the whole devote yourself to prayer bit? Was Paul referring to a fast from sex?

    “Come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” As Christians, we have the fruit of the Spirit which includes self-control, so I wonder if the people of Corinth that Paul was talking to struggled with controlling their sexual urges. From what I read about Corinth, there was a lot of sexual immorality which included people having multiple sexual partners. Is this what he must have been referring to? In L & R, Eggerichs talks about how sex needs to be frequent so husbands will not be tempted by Satan.

    There’s really a lot for me to unpack in these two sentences above.

    As I had mentioned on here yesterday, I expressed how the sexual assault in my marriage took away autonomy over my body. It’s definitely a God thing that this post on bodily autonomy happened to come up today. Before I remarry (if I am ever meant to), I want to learn what it means to have autonomy over my body. For years, I built up walls without realizing it. When I got into a relationship with my ex-husband, I was 22 and eager to have a boyfriend so I did not set boundaries in our relationship. When I gained the courage to say no to sex at times during our marriage, that was taken from me when he began assaulting me while I was asleep. So, after I left him, I was so determined never to let another man take advantage of me like that again, that I subconsciously put up walls. I thought I was setting boundaries, but that was not the case.

    Thankfully, in the last serious relationship I had a few years ago, my ex (still friend) respected my boundaries.

  6. Sedge by the Lakeshore

    It’s horrible for your ex-husband to have treated you like that. I’m glad your safe, now.

    You bring up a good point about how Corinth had a lot of sexual sin going on.

    Did you know that Koine Greek had no punctuation? So when St. Paul quotes from a letter, translators have to guess how long the quote goes on, because no ending quotation marks.

    I’ve always wondered if it should be “Concerning the matter on which you wrote: ‘It is well for a man not to touch a woman because of sexual immorality.’ ” And then St. Paul talks about how marriage is good, and so is sex, as long as it’s mutual. (At least, I think he’s saying marriage and sex are good, and sex should be mutual).

  7. Monk

    i am a husband who was addicted to porn and went into sulky silent bouts of moping when my wife did not want to have sex with me. I used to use this scripture to pressurize her into more frequent sex without thinking about her own needs.
    Since repenting and going through some therapy and reading Sheila’s work, my eyes really opened to reality and I discovered I did it all wrong all those wasted years. Still a long way to heal, but I just want to thank Sheila for her insights and explanations. It suddenly all make sense, especially the thing about frequency taking care of itself if you respect each other and pursue each other with love and understanding and sensitivity instead of pure selfishness.
    I still need lots of healing and change, and my wife as well because she has been traumatized unnecessarily by me, and she has been brainwashed into believing in duty sex. so still a long road ahead, but its already so much better as before. Its as if she intuitively wants me more these days than before, because I am not putting any pressure on her anymore.

    • recoverymode

      Keep up the good work! Healing take a lot of time, patience, and hard work. Happy for you that you are both seeing positive results. We have had similar experiences, and it’s so much healthier, richer, and fulfilling on the other side.

    • Jo R

      Bravo, Monk! Well done.

      If it’s not TMI, would you be willing to share what got you to the point of repentance?

      • Monk

        it was a few things: 1. the desperation/shame/guilt of struggling to overcome porn use lead me to a very good app based program where I discovered some secular feminist writers of the 1970’s, when reading them I tried to see life from a woman’s point of view.
        2. a kind of epiphany during a really dry spell in our intimacy as a couple, where I wrestled with God, and realized I dont need sexual fulfillment per se to be fully human and have a joyful productive meaningful life.
        3. and just reading a few of Sheila’s articles on all the wrong and/or toxic content my own church circles and christian culture in my country have fed their folk over the years, eg Tim la Haye’s book, everymansbattle, i kissed dating goodbye etc. and discovering my thinking has been affected by that whole notion of men who just have all these needs that need to be catered for by their wives, which is not true and which totally ignore the wife’s own need.

        • Jo R

          Wow, Monk, that’s great! Thank you so much for your openness and vulnerability, first with yourself, then your wife, then us.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Yes, I agree! It is so wonderful to hear these stories. It’s extremely encouraging.

  8. Boone

    As a man I’m a bit amazed at some of the comments put forth by other men in this post. I’ve been married going on 34 years now. I’ve always considered my wife to be my equal. I purposely chose a woman that was intelligent, capable and fearless. I no more have the right to force her to do something against her will than I do to slap her if she disagrees with me. To take the opposite position simply makes a man a bully.
    Now, I’ll admit that I’ve not paid a whole lot of attention to what was told me in church over the years but the idea that your wife is your slave seems to strongly go against that do unto others thing I’ve heard about.

    • Anon

      Well said. This comment makes me think of the episode “The Feminine Mistake” from Laverne & Shirley. For anyone who hasn’t seen the show, Laverne was a tomboy while Shirley was a girly-girl, and they did an episode where Laverne tried to play “girly-girl” for a guy she liked – however, it turns out this jerk just wanted a helpless little girl on his arm and didn’t want a strong woman like Laverne. The episode is here if anyone’s interested.

      • Nathan

        There was a similar episode on MASH. Houlihan realized the guy was a jerk, also

        • Anon

          I love older shows and films because people really knew how to write strong female characters without making them raving “girlbosses” like we have a dime a dozen today. Laverne DeFazio, Margaret Houlihan, Jennifer Hart, and Julia Sugarbaker are just a few I can name!

  9. Healing

    Here’s a question that popped into my head today:

    Do some Bible verses carry more weight than others? Meaning, do some verses mean more than others?

    Reading through the comments, some people touched on a similar idea.

    For instance, 1 Corinthians 7: 3-5 is the typical “weaponized” Do not deprive verse. The higher drive spouse will use it to get the lower drive spouse to have sex with them.

    BUT reading a little further in the Bible we get to 1 Corinthians 13 verses 4-7 says that Love does not insist on it’s own way (love is not SELF-seeking).

    Is it just me or is using the “DO NOT DEPRIVE” verse actually self-seeking?? You are seeking your own sexual gratification, your release.

    Or how about 1 Thessalonians 4:4-5 “control your own body, not in lustful passion like the Pagans”… Aren’t those using the “do not deprive” verse as a weapon, in actuality, NOT controlling their bodies? Aren’t they acting on their lustful passions like the Pagans?

    It’s just like some verses are used and others forgot about. Even Ephesians 5:21 talking about submitting to one another is glossed over to get to the next verse about wives submitting to husbands (which we NOW know isn’t a command for wives, thanks Cynthia Westfall). So, I’m confused, who is verse 21 talking to? So if a husband doesn’t have to submit to his wife (bc the Bible doesn’t specifically say he has to), who is this verse for? By that logic, a husband doesn’t have to submit to his wife (bc it isn’t specifically written) but he has to submit to say, his female next door neighbor… as long as it’s not his wife?

    Maybe it’s just me but sometimes this all doesn’t make sense. Do people not question the inconsistencies in their warped thinking?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      You raise some great points! I think that when we look at the entirety of Scripture we get a better picture of how to interpret it. I mean, I agree that people shouldn’t vow celibacy once they’re married (which is what Paul was addressing in 1 Corinthian 7), but I think interpreting this through “love is not self-seeking” and “put lust to death” is the right way to go!

  10. Kathy Haecker

    I think “obligation sex” falls into the category of “the Law”. As I was reading this post, I was reminded of this verse in II Corinthians 3:6c “for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life”. Isn’t that true for sexuality as well? When sex is not a duty or a demand, but freely given because one is loved, everything changes.


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