Christians Need a Better Understanding of Consent

by | Nov 18, 2022 | Abuse | 61 comments

Consent in marriage Evangelicalism

What does it mean to be “unwilling” to have sex?

We’re in the middle of a series on the blog about how to dig out of the pit your sex life is in, when one of you, or both of you, keeps digging that pit deeper.

One of the big points I was making is that we cannot rebuild without safety. She especially needs to feel safe; that her wants and desires matter; that she is not just a body to use.

This week we started looking in particular at marital rape–what it is, why marital rape is so common in many evangelical circles, and what she needs to recover.

Today I was going to turn to what men can do when they realize they’ve been coercing their wives (even if unwittingly). But something happened in the comments yesterday that so shocked me, and that shocked people on Facebook and Instagram when I talked about it, that illustrated one of the big problems. And I thought it was worth dealing with first.

Yesterday, a man left a comment showing he didn’t understand consent.

He was very polite, and was trying to have a dialogue about what sex really is. Commenting on our post about redefining what sex is, he wrote in part:

The sense i get is that you would say to that same couple (to the man) preparing for marriage, ‘if you’re not willing to give up any hope or expectations of sex until your wife is willing, then don’t get married.’ This is the message i hear (as a man) reading your article (which has the tone of a rant at times). I’m sure (i hope) you would not want to be quoted like that!

That’s what I mean about the article presenting an unbalanced view and being unnecessarily (IMO) critical of other Christians.

Quite honestly, I was shocked reading that, and I responded to him and then wrote on Facebook

Would I want to be quoted like this?

A comment just left on the Bare Marriage blog said:

“The sense i get is that you would say to that same couple (to the man) preparing for marriage, ‘if you’re not willing to give up any hope or expectations of sex until your wife is willing, then don’t get married.’ This is the message i hear (as a man) reading your article (which has the tone of a rant at times). I’m sure (i hope) you would not want to be quoted like that!”

I want to say for the record that I would ABSOLULTELY LOVE to be quoted saying,

“If you’re not willing to give up any hope or expectation of sex until your wife is willing, then don’t get married.”

YEP. That’s it. Men should not hope or expect sex with someone who isn’t willing.

To expect to have sex with someone who isn’t willing means that you are expecting to rape her.

So, yes, I absolutely will stand by this statement.

Sheila Wray Gregoire


I was so flabbergasted I even did an Instagram Live on it!

But here’s what’s interesting: I started to get some pushback that “you can’t expect people to go into marriage not knowing if it will be sexless or not.”

People were asking on Facebook, “But why would you want to get married and not have sex?”

This flummoxed me (and many commenters), until I realized what was going on.

People were assuming that if a prerequisite for sex was that she was willing, then sex would likely not happen. 

Let that sink in for a moment. This original commenter, and many on Facebook, assumed that if you need a woman to be willing to have sex, then marriages would likely become sexless. Because the only way for there to be sex in marriage is if women have sex when they aren’t willing.

What in tarnation is going on?


I believe we have such a terrible understanding of consent, and such a warped understanding of libido, that we have wrecked sex for many.

I talked on our post on Monday about marital rape some of the reasons that evangelicals don’t understand consent. When you portray sex as a male entitlement, the idea of consent is irrelevant. 

I’ve realized, though, that there’s another aspect beyond merely entitlement and obligation, and I’d like to lay it out. To simplify this, let’s create three broad categories of attitudes towards having sex tonight.

Three Categories of Attitudes Towards Sex

1. UNWILLING: I actively want NOT to have sex.

(the consent line)

2. NEUTRAL: I don’t really feel a need for sex, but I may be open to it.

3. WANTING: I want to have sex.

As I explained in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, there’s a difference between wanting NOT to have sex and not particularly wanting to have sex right now.

Sometimes we may not particularly feel in the mood, but we have more of a responsive desire, and we know that sex would likely be fun if we started; we know our spouse is interested and we honestly care about them; we know that sex is good for you in particular and for you as a couple. And so you decide, “Hey, I’m going to jump in and put my all into this, because I know desire will kick in!”

(And if you want help with that, we have our Boost Your Libido course available!).

But that “throwing yourself into it” really only works if sex is good for you too.

That’s why we tell people not to buy our Boost Your Libido course if you don’t regularly reach orgasm. If you’re not enjoying sex, that should be the first priority! You don’t need to throw yourself into something that does nothing for you, because that’s not the answer to your lack of desire. Figuring out your roadblocks to great sex is the answer! (And that’s why we also have an orgasm course).

So let’s just think through the logic here that people are using. Do you remember when we listened in on Emerson Eggerichs’ podcast where he advised the woman crying in the shower before sex that she was being a godly, amazing wife by having sex anyway? He totally missed marital rape. And he said that you couldn’t really tell if a woman was turned on, and that doing housework gets  her aroused.

But doing housework does not get her aroused. Doing housework merely may make her think, “okay, I owe him now,” and so she decides to “let” him have sex with her. But she gets nothing out of it.

I think many of the people who are confusing being unwilling with “not particularly wanting sex right now” do so because they don’t actually believe sex can feel good for women.

If you don’t think that women actually physically enjoy sex, or that women are sexual at all, then it kind of erases some of the difference between #1 and #2. If she is never going to enjoy it; if she is only ever going to do it because he wants it; then she is never actually going to want it.

So the only time she has sex is because he wants it.

So it’s assumed, then, that she never really will want it. And so each and every time she has sex she is having sex she doesn’t particularly want.

That is still horrendous–but having sex you don’t particularly want is still different from being unwilling to have sex.

I don’t actually believe women should be having a ton of sex they don’t particularly want, because I do think women are sexual; I do think women can enjoy sex; I do think that we should be working towards making sex mutual, intimate, and pleasurable for both. And women shouldn’t be “giving gifts” for years on end, never getting anything out of sex. If she is not reaching orgasm, then for him to keep having intercourse with her, year after year, is selfish. They need to figure out how to make sex good for her too. (More on making sure sex doesn’t become one-sided here).

nevertheless, We should never minimize the significance of someone being unwilling to have sex.

I cannot believe so many people missed the significance of this language. Being unwilling means you actively want to NOT have sex right now. You are not consenting. 

To say that women should get married assuming they will have sex even if they aren’t willing is rape language. It eradicates consent.

And language matters.

How can we stop this confusion around consent from happening?

First, let’s remember that unwilling means lack of consent.

It should never be normalized.

Second, let’s set the standard that women are sexual and should be enjoying sex too.

We should assume that women will feel pleasure from sex, and that sex is not just something that a woman gives to a man, but something that a woman receives as well. If we truly believed this, then we’d stop assuming that women will always need to be bribed or threatened into sex, or that the norm is for women to have sex they don’t want.

Third, let’s understand that a healthy sex life is something that both of you work towards. 

It is not something anyone is owed. A healthy sex life is the culmination of your relationship together. It is the physical expression of everything you are. A healthy sex life is a vital part of a healthy marriage, but if the marriage isn’t healthy, then sex cannot fix it.

If we began marriage with men assuming that their primary goal is to figure out how to make sex pleasurable for her, and how to create conditions where she will want it, then we wouldn’t see sex as a male entitlement. And if she understood that sex was for her as well, then we’d give libido and responsiveness a chance to flourish and grow–and you know what? It actually does!


The All New Guides to Great Sex!

Available now!

Imagine building a great sex life--from the ground up!

What would it look like to build a picture of sex that was MUTUAL, INTIMATE, and PLEASURABLE FOR BOTH--with no harmful messages?

Welcome to the The Good Guy's Guide to Great Sex and the ALL NEW Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex.

Get them NOW!

And let's make these the go-to wedding shower gifts!

Most women do enjoy sex. Most women do want sex. If someone is talking like it’s the norm for wives to have sex when they’re unwilling, they’re revealing a lot about themselves that isn’t pretty.

Sex is something that should be life-giving in a marriage. When we talk about sex like it’s something that is always forced from her, then we’ll never, ever have healthy sex lives or safe marriages.

Why Don't Christians Understand Consent in Marriage?

Written by

Sheila Wray Gregoire


Recent Posts

Want to support our work? You can donate to support our work here:

Good Fruit Faith is an initiative of the Bosko nonprofit. Bosko will provide tax receipts for U.S. donations as the law allows.

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

Related Posts

What Does It Mean to Lament After Betrayal?

With thanks to Brazos Press for sponsoring this post. Forgiveness is possible only after we’ve had the opportunity to name our losses. That’s how Susannah Griffith opens the chapter on lamentations in her book Forgiveness After Trauma. We talked about the book on the...

6 Surprising Things About Biblical Forgiveness

Why does our doctrine of forgiveness and healing often cause so much pain? We’re told the problem is our hearts, that we’re just bitter. But what if it’s not that? What if our teaching on forgiveness has gotten things all wrong? This week, on the podcast, I introduced...


We welcome your comments and want this to be a place for healthy discussion. Comments that are rude, profane, or abusive will not be allowed. Comments that are unrelated to the current post may be deleted. Comments above 300 words in length are let through at the moderator’s discretion and may be shortened to the first 300 words or deleted. By commenting you are agreeing to the terms outlined in our comment and privacy policy, which you can read in full here!


  1. Angharad

    So basically, that guy thinks that saying “women shouldn’t be regularly and repeatedly raped” is something you should be ashamed of?!!! And wouldn’t want people knowing you think?!!!

    I can’t even…


    My husband can’t get his head around how any man could WANT to have sex with an unwilling partner. Yet this guy seems to think that sex with an unwilling partner is the only option for a Christian husband. I really, really, REALLY hope your commentator isn’t married. Because if he is, I can’t imagine the trauma and pain that his wife must be going through.

  2. Brambonius

    Anyone who is able to enjoy sex with an unwilling partner, or even a completely disinterested partner, has no clue of what intimacy is, and is a creep who isn’t ready for a sexual relationship.

    • S

      Yes! This.

      When I share things I read on this blog with my husband he has a difficult time believing me. He does not understand someone having sex and insisting on sex with someone who doesn’t want it. He says that would never be sexy or arousing to him. I’ve never been able to even offer him “just for him” sex etc. He would just rather table it until I’m in a better place with my energy, interest, etc. (I am the higher drive spouse so I’m sure that plays a part.)

      How is this not deeply disturbing or creepy to more men.

  3. Greta

    What about frequency? So my husband makes sure I consent, but my libido is lower than his (used to be higher before we got married but now I get frustrated because my body doesn’t react the way it used to). We’ve been married 1 year. He’s admitted he’d love sex every day at least, whereas I’m more every 2-3 days. Sometimes I feel pressured to initiate more often then, since he gets disappointed, and I wonder if that makes my libido worse… I bought your libido course and will work through it, but any other advice?

    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      If you are desiring sex every 2-3 days, that is NORMAL! Actually, it’s on the higher end of normal! Wanting sex every single day is not “better” than wanting sex twice or three times a week, wanting sex every single day is actually the abnormal one, based on tons and tons of survey data (not ours).

      Sex is not an all-you-can-eat-buffet, it’s a relationship. If you’re feeling pressured and like you’re failing your husband when you’re having sex really quite frequently, that’s something I would talk about with him. His expectations are unrealistic, and you guys will likely be a lot happier if he can learn to focus on quality rather than quantity (since your natural baseline quantity is already so high!)

      • RIR

        I think your confusion of the words “normal/abnormal” and “average” is misleading, especially when I have yet to see anyone discuss age. Nor have I seen mention of blood tests. You cannot tell a young man he is abnormal for wanting once a day sex if his T levels are higher than average. Neither can you say an older man is normal for wanting sex once a week (simply because that might match his spouses desires) when his T levels are unusually low. It needs to be a whole person approach with properly defined and used terms. Fix the body, as well as the mind.

    • recoverymode

      your libido seems very OK. Every day is A LOT. Yes, he might be able to and might enjoy it that much — but needs to grow in some self-control and divert some of his energies into other things (hobbies, spending non-sexual time with you doing fun things together, building things, take a course, etc.). It’ll make those 2-3X/week more special. Have some conversations about why he’s getting that level of arousal… ensure it’s not coming from feeding the mind from outside sources which is priming the pump to arousal that often. Maybe some guardrails need to be set up around that.

    • Laura

      Just putting this out there- when my husband wanted sex daily, he was heavily into porn. Is he guilting or shaming you, coercing you, making you feel like you can’t or shouldn’t say no? Is he less of an ass if he gets sex daily? All of that are signs of entitlement and possibly (if not definitely) abuse.

      My husband acted like all of that when he was using porn.

      It’s taken us a long time to work through it. And I should have said no more. I had no idea what consent was. Please look up “consent & tea”. There’s this really great cartoon that shows what consent really looks like using tea as an example. It helped me understand that I was a person who has value and does not need to be treated like property. I’m not his toy. I’m not his “outlet”.

      I hope that helps. I really hope he’s not into porn, for your sake.

    • Kay

      Correct me if I’m wrong on this, Sheila, but I think research also showed that there is not much added benefit to having sex more than once a week.

      Indeed, it sounds like trying to force yourself to want sex more often than you do is actually **hurting** you and your feelings about your relationship, not benefiting you. Pushing yourself to have more sex than you want will always backfire. I promise. Every two to three days is still a lot of sex, and more isn’t going to be benefit either of you if it’s only out of guilt or the desire to be someone you’re not. You are already having enough. Seriously. Give yourself permission to let it be enough, because it is.

      Listen to the wisdom in your body. Having more than you want will cause your body to shut down and stop responding positively. In fact, it sounds like that is already happening to you, no? The more you fight against this, the harder it will be for your body to respond. Having LESS sex right now might actually help your body to relax more, to build up desire, and be able to respond more positively.

    • Zed

      Greta, just to summarize your points:

      1) your libido was higher before marriage, indicating a drop since you got married, which was only a year ago,

      2) your body isn’t reacting to sex the way it used to

      3) your desired level of frequency is 2-3x a week (which is actually more ‘normal’ than his), and

      4) you are feeling guilty because you don’t feel adequate, and this is making you feel pressured into having sex.

      You are absolutely right to think feeling pressured to have sex might affect your libido, because it WILL. Your body instinctively understands safety and consent, and there’s nothing positive about being pressured into an intimate act. That will eventually cause you to disassociate, and connect sex with the feeling of being used. Your sex life will become miserable and abhorrent. You will never want sex. If you feel pressured to have sex, and you don’t want sex, the correct response is a firm NO.

      I would suggest some frank discussions with your husband. It is quite possible he has an issue connected with sex, that might need to be unearthed. This could be anywhere from doubting his masculinity (and trying to prove it to himself with sex), to being a porn addict. Perhaps he struggles with expressing emotions becasue he’s been taught men shouldn’t do that. It could be a wide range of things. Please don’t blame yourself and absorb this problem as purely your own. If you need help, please find a good licensed counsellor to work through the issue with. You deserve a happy and truly intimate sex life ❤️

  4. Laura

    Shelia and team-
    This message is so freaking important.

    Because of intense job stress, my pelvic floor had locked up this summer. My doctor said it was basically like I had clenched my jaw. My response was, “I taught myself not to clench my jaw…” She said, that’s why your body did this instead…

    So I landed in pelvic floor PT (which honestly I have wanted to do for a while because of your recommendations). It has opened my to a whole new world of inhibitions and built in “rules” that the church/my mother taught me, that I didn’t realize were there, but my body was holding.

    Meanwhile, I’ve been in sex therapy for about a year now. We’ve come to realize that I’ve had very very few, rare orgasms in 20 years of marriage. What I mistook for orgasming was either fatigue (I just didn’t have the physical energy to continue), emotional release (emotionally too tired to keep trying), or just disappointment and frustration, which was fairly normal.

    This year I learned what an orgasm was. I know there are different types, so the first level I achieved was fairly basic. But the PT is now requiring a level of massage that includes all the layers of the muscles of the pelvic floor… Since getting all those layers relaxed, I can now have an orgasm that includes the spasmodic climax!!!!

    So after this discovery and sharing this discovery with my husband, so he could experience it as well…

    We had a conversation about how this should be more typical of what sex looks like. My husband seemed to think it was no big deal. So I said… Imagine not climaxing in 20 years of marriage… He couldn’t take it in. Absolutely couldn’t figure out this should be what he should be attempting to achieve with my response.

    It hit me…

    The more I talk to my deconstructing friends or my friends in the “secular” world- men that are having sex in the secular world had better learn how to please women. If they don’t, they’re not going to get follow up dates, etc.

    Whereas evangelical men get to have sex whenever they want it, without having to work at it or make themselves consider their partner in any way.

    I thought I had a good man. Really. At one point in our marriage he said he realized he was going to climax every time, so he should focus on my climax. But he never ever figured it out. He didn’t even know my anatomy until I gave him my nursing school textbook this summer. 🤦‍♀️ This is insane.

    Btw, when I asked my husband- would you like this to happen for me every time? His answer was an enthusiastic yes. I said, “The system failed you. This is not a personal, shame filled, lack. The church, your school, your parents, none of them educated you on what should happen for women. I didn’t know, you didn’t know. It’s not our fault. It’s the fault of the system we were raised in.” We discussed that he should be placing the shame where it belongs, which is not on him. He said that was a huge relief to think that he really did want what was best for me, he just literally had no idea what was possible or that he could achieve it for me.

    (I want to mention we have a significant history of martial rape, because I was taught to never say no. It’s actually very shocking I’m still willing to have sex, considering our history. But I think that shows how high my own sex drive is- that we never ever could tap into because he literally didn’t know my anatomy or how much time it takes to get there.)

    Please please please keep up what you’re doing. It’s so important. I hope my children do not have to go through the pain that we have. I hope that the next generations will be willing to talk about sex and make it less mysterious.

    I hope evangelicals come to realize the harm they are continually perpetuating on women.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Wow! Thank you so much for sharing this story! It’s so important and so interesting. I’m so glad you guys are on a good road now–but I’m so sorry it took so long to get there!

  5. X

    12 years of total relational isolation (I’m talking not even being allowed to call him, ask him a question or have a conversation with him unless he was willing), only treated me well when he wanted it (if I wanted it and he wasn’t in the mood I would be rejected, but I had been taught I wasn’t allowed to reject). I finally drew a boundary. No s*x until i felt emotionally safe and connected again. He agreed to the boundary. But the cried every 2 days in front of me. Cried hard. Told me I was depriving him of his love language, physical touch. Angrily tossed and turned at night and noisily j***d off in the bathroom. Cried some more. Finally I said, I will not be accused of withholding. If you want me to lay there and take it when I’m not into it, I will. I was confident he would respect me. 2 days later he said he had thought about it and he wanted me in bed. I don’t even know how to process.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, X, that’s not safe. That’s really, really not safe. I’m so sorry.

      Your boundary is reasonable. If he is upset, he is bearing the consequence for how he treated you. You are not doing this to him; he did it to himself. The only way he will grow as a human being is to understand this. Please talk to a domestic violence hotline or a licensed counselor if you can, but this is not okay. IT just isn’t.

    • Lisa Johns

      X, he is manipulating and attempting to coerce you, plain and simple. Please contact a domestic abuse hotline (or Natalie Hoffman!), because his behavior is completely unacceptable, and you deserve all the help and support you can possibly get in deciding what you want to do with your situation. Much love to you.

  6. Connie

    Well you should be proud of yourself, Sheila. Isn’t that the same thing that the Pharisees said to Jesus? “Then it would be better if a man doesn’t marry.” Just because He was trying to tell them how God intended it to be from the first. Makes me think that you are on the right track. I know you are, it’s just so heart-breaking to think about the fairy tale of good sex.

    With my first (supposedly Christian) husband, after 22 years of obligation sex (I did have some orgasms, but when I would tell him I liked something, he would not do it again, when I told him I didn’t like something, it happened more often), I cried out to God, then told h that he could have all the sex he wanted. He would have to choose whether I was a slave or a bride. If a slave, I would lie there and let him do his thing, if a bride, he would have to work to win me back until I was an equal partner, like Christ loves His church. Up until then we’d done sex about every other day. After that, 3 years in the same bed, nothing. He was too proud to admit he was a slave master, and too ‘something’ (I don’t know) to do the work. Then he divorced me. That was over 20 years ago and he still tells people, “She wouldn’t let me touch her for 3 years.” And they believe it. I’m starting to wonder if the porn mindset makes it somehow more exciting for them to do an unwilling partner. Power over others is a very strong lust of the flesh, and someone who is a bully might just prefer being able to have someone to rape regularly. It’s a strange world. Second husband is not different. Sigh. Should have stayed single.

    • ES

      This quote from Christopher West popped right into my head when I read your post today. “If you don’t have the freedom to say no, your ‘yes’ means nothing.”

      From Christopher West – Theology of the Body:

      Why do people spay or neuter their pets? Because animals can’t say no to their urge to mate. Despite what the typical prime-time sitcom would have us believe, we can.

      Herein lies one of the key differences between animals and human beings: the gift and responsibility of freedom. We’re not bound by instinct. We can determine our own actions. We can say “yes” to a given behavior or we can say “no.” If we can’t say no, we’re not free.

      Society has much to say about “sexual freedom.” But sexual freedom, in the popular sense, means the license to have sex without ever having to say no. This is not sexual freedom. This is bondage to libido.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi Connie,

      I’m so, so sorry for what you went through! Yes, we did hear a lot of stories from women where their husbands only wanted sex if it was inconvenient or uncomfortable for the wife. So if she was initiating at a good time for her, they’d turn her down, but then insist right as she’s trying to get to sleep (or wake her in the middle of the night), or, even worse, demand it right as she was trying to get out the door.

      It is the porn mindset for sure. I’m so sorry you experienced it.

      • Laura

        I have definitely experienced this in my former marriage. My ex would tell me that he wished I’d initiate sex more often. Well, every time I did, he’d turn me down and say, “Now you know how I feel when you tell me no.” Yet, he’d wait until I was asleep and start assaulting me sexually. Sounds like it was a power trip and not sure if he ever wanted intimacy.

    • Stefanie

      I’m so sorry.

  7. redrising

    The preferred and preached vision of a godly wife is one without personal autonomy: stripped and voiceless.
    We are to be beautiful dolls, devoid of internal agency, a yes painted over our lips with eyes that can not cry.

    And, the audacity of it all, we are to be grateful.

  8. recoverymode

    Man oh man, I am embarrassed and ashamed for my Gender. What an utter mess and monster has been created! I have certainly learned a lot from this blog over time. I would have previously been under the impression that marital rape isn’t really a thing (other than in truly abusive, physically restrained, absolute non-consent situations), but now definitely see it’s much more nuanced and really comes down to straight-up consent. I think so many of us have been influenced by bad teaching (men have need that women don’t have, blah blah blah), and that is why you are getting these types of push-back comments. The underlying belief is that Woman won’t want it all that often, or the stars have to align for that to happen, so to have any semblence of frequency, there has to be that “expectation” that the wife will deliver even when not necessarily in the mood, etc. It’s a toxic mumbo-jumbo. Having worked through major sexual issues in our own marriage where this dynamic was alive and well — I can confirm that this dynamic is not conducive or successful in the long-run, and has dire consequences. I think this dynamic is far more common than we think. Sex is reduced to a thing that is bartered — he wants it, so engages in transactional things that she wants (do good external things — help out around the house, treat her well, do things with the kids, be agreeable, etc.), and she engages as a token for good behaviour or because it’s expected (obligation message), or she feels guilty if not providing, etc. It’s truly sad that things sour to this level, but I think that is what happens in many relationship, vs. sex being a natural expression of what the relationship is when it is healthy (close friends who value each other, know how to emotionally validate each other, know how to emotionally self-regulate in healthy ways (IE. not use sex in a dysfunctional way, but rather be able to come back to centre via hobbies, preayers, quiet time, processing things out, friends, socializing, etc.). I admit that as a man, when I first started following you and reading your material, I thought it was overly critical (take-downs of authors, harping on how bad some of the teaching was, etc.) — but more and more I have come to realize so much of it is spot on. Largely because it has been so helpful for my own relationship with my wife. We have had to unpack and deal with A LOT, and it has been very very tough at times, but we are coming out on the other side now. It takes both to be willing to do the hard work though. Men, we can absolutely do better than this. To read the stories of some of the experiences on here is just gut-wrenching. We were there too in some respects — my wife was a women crying in the shower preparing for sex. Never would I have forced her or pulled scripture verses on her, but it was all these underlying beliefs of her believing she needed to do it because it was her duty, etc. Bottom line, if sex is not an outflowing of a strong, emotionally close bond that already exists —- back the truck up, take a break, go back to fundamentals, resolve underlying issues/resentment, rebuild emotional intimacy first, the rest will take care of itself in most cases. Breaking out of these negative cycles might be among the hardest things you’ll ever do, but so so SO worth it!

    • Lisa Johns

      Oh my goodness! Thank you for your honesty, humility, and wisdom! This is such a beautiful response to such a difficult situation, and I really appreciate what you have to say!

  9. FE

    This website has become harmful, destructive and almost criminally liable for the teaching, liability it implies and negligence in getting the complete story.

    Here are several examples:
    1) you cannot claim your husband is selfish, a bad lover, let alone a rapist if
    A) you yourself don’t know if you’re having an orgasm for 5, 10 or twenty years. And even worse can’t bring yourself to an orgasm. How is he supposed to know and fix your body and mind when you can’t?

    B) you cannot claim your husband is a rapist for pressure to have sex when you are married and not having sex. Sheila herself has taught pressure sexually a dozen different ways. If you aren’t having very regular sex he SHOULD be applying pressure , along with a whole lot of love, care and understanding.

    C) no one should be forcing anyone to have sex. In the same respect if you can’t say yes the vast majority of the time to sex your guilty of not honoring your vows. Many will claim on this site that a man should be able to control his drive. But that facts are most didn’t, couldn’t, and they married so they wouldn’t burn. Now your asking him to love, provide, care for and sleep next to a woman and her control his drive. Clearly spoken by someone who has never lived inside a 18-50 year old male body. If you aren’t having sex your guilty of abandonment, plain and simple.

    D) a man wanting daily sex is EXTREMELY normal for a 18-35 male. To teach otherwise is just false.

    Despite your claims of wanting egalitarian marriages all you’re doing is-
    1) blaming men in many instances where you are not claiming responsibility for your own issues, lack of knowledge or willingness to fix & heal.

    2) you’ve said sex in evangelical marriages is run by men for men but all you’ve done is do the exact opposite. You’ve cross dressed headship and called it godly.

    3) failure to admit that sex just comes harder for women then men. That you won’t orgasm every time. Some women even with the most generous lover won’t orgasm but a quarter or half the time due to hormones/stage in her cycle alone. But you phrase your stats as the orgasm gap the last time you had sex did you orgasm and magically come up with 48 points or some garbage close to that. For some women even with the best of husbands it can take years to orgasm- this accounts for say 10 points. Then you get 1/4 of women who are at a point in their cycle that makes it difficult there’s another 20 points. Menopause, pregnancy. Your stats are just complete BS
    Almost every study says evangelicals are having more and better sex than everyone else. Yet Christian men are constantly thrown under the bus in favor of secular men. It a load of garbage. Most women will never be a sure thing for orgasm. In fact a lot of women are fine not orgasming much of the time. They like the closeness, the love expressed and happiness it brings their husband even when their own body does not cooperate.

    This is a site that whispers in the ears of women and feeds discontent, hatred and sows the opposite of the fruit of the spirit. You flunk your own tests for the fruit of the Spirit, for safety and for doing no harm.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m not going to respond to everything you said, but I’ll just put this out there:

      When masturbating, women can reach orgasm just as fast as men. And it is only women in heterosexual relationships who struggle with orgasm, pretty much. The only time women have trouble with orgasm is when they are with men. Note too that in this same study, heterosexual women have higher orgasm rates in the general population than in the church. (I’m simply conveying what many large scale studies have shown) (you can look up further data in the footnotes there).

      We need to start raising men to understand that women can feel pleasure, but men need to figure this out.

      If you think this is too much, or turning the tables so that women are in charge, or feminist extremes, or unfair to men–then I don’t think the problem is with me!

    • Angharad

      You’ve completely missed the whole point of this article. Go back and read the comment which prompted this article to be written:

      ” ‘if you’re not willing to give up any hope or expectations of sex until your wife is willing, then don’t get married.’ This is the message i hear (as a man) reading your article (which has the tone of a rant at times). I’m sure (i hope) you would not want to be quoted like that!”

      This guy thinks there is something embarrassing or shameful about saying “Men, you shouldn’t be forcing your wives to have sex when they are unwilling.” Do you not see that as a problem? Forcing someone to have sex against their will is rape. Yet he thinks that Sheila wouldn’t want to be quoted as saying that rape is wrong…

    • Mara R

      FE: “This is a site that whispers in the ears of women and feeds discontent, hatred and sows the opposite of the fruit of the spirit. You flunk your own tests for the fruit of the Spirit, for safety and for doing no harm.”

      Sigh. So much baseless accusation.

      The truth is, common Evangelical teaching on marriage and sex is the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit. Common Evangelical teaching on marriage and sex is done by pharisitical men who lay up heavy burdens on the backs of women while not lifting a finger to help. Common Evangelical teaching on marriage and sex is done by men in power (false shepherds) who what to hold onto their power by garnering favor with the rams (by tickling their ears) and abusing the ewes.

      Or to put it differently, Common Evangelical teaching on marriage and sex is not in step with the teachings of Jesus and is NOT living water for women and marriages. It is bitter waters that have been mislabeled as biblical or divine. Women have drank it for decades having blind faith in their male teachers who are out of step with the fruit of the Spirit.

      And the years of drinking these bitter waters is what is causing bitterness in women. The bitterness of false teaching on marriage and sex is causing discontent.

      Sheila is one of the most gracious people you will ever know. She’s not flunked the fruit of the Spirit. She is just exposing the false teachings of big name evangelicals who don’t get Jesus or the fruit of the Spirit.

      And I dare say, your ridiculous tirade above proves nothing against Sheila. But it says a lot about you and your devotion to the sacred cow she is exposing.

      • Cynthia

        For what it’s worth, the Pharisees actually taught that sex was the husband’s duty and the wife’s right. They forbid a husband to compel his wife to have sex. (Talmud, Eruvin 100b)

    • recoverymode

      Bro, do you even listen to yourself? Are you married? Your wife must be lucky to have a guy with your attitude. LOL. Sounds like your are the type to be OK with the scenario where a woman should just continue to put out even if; it does nothing for her, it actually hurts her, she feels abused/debased, etc. Sheila and team are not anti-sex in the least — they highly promote healthy sexuality when it is mutual, pleasurable, and life giving to the relationship. Why wouldn’t you want that? If you are having one-sided sex, be careful — the tap will probably shut off at some point. People don’t typically want to continue repeating things that aren’t pleasant or enjoyable. Yes, sex brings lots of challenges, yes sometimes it can take long to figure it out — but you know what helps? Love, patience, seeing it as something to address as a team. Having the obligation/duty message might get you action, but it’s not life giving, not satisfying, and will very likely backfire at some point. I speak from experience. There is a much better way.

      • FE

        Don’t call me your bro.

        Married 25 years. Have sex 3-4 times a week for 25 years. People still think we are newlyweds. Had this battle and won it already.

        Men like you are destroying their families and the church.

        Sheila dangles a little sex in front of fools like you because you’re that desperate and that way she gets her radical agenda. It has nothing to do with God, nothing to do with marriage. It has to do with Sheila. That’s who it’s good for.

        Women like my wife know women will tear down their own house with their own hands fighting biology, demanding the perks of the other sex while forgetting and taking for granted the perks of being a woman.

        Do men need to be good lovers? You bet. How many guys you know don’t want to rock their wives world but soon find out it’s impossible because of her own attitude or worse body? How many women on pills that kill their libido? Is this their husbands fault? How many women not healthy due to their own habits that kills their libido? Is this their husbands fault? I could list half a dozen others.

        A lot of talk about Pharisees on this site. Seems like they don’t realize they are the Pharisee.

        • recoverymode

          Oh good FE, your such a man’s man throwing out the frequency. I don’t know your situation, but you can enlighten us if you wish. If I had to guess, your situation probably looks something like this — not a ton of physical touch affection outside of the bedroom, because you don’t have a super close emotional connection. Your sexuality gets channeled into quick encounters where she endures it for a couple of minutes, and you get your satisfaction but she doesn’t get a whole lot out of it. Just kind of fallen into a pattern that works — the barter system. You provide the “perks” as you call them — home, family , security, and she repays them with “perks” in the way of sexual availability. Does that sum it up? Are you each other’s best friends, do you love spending time together, are you each others champions? Or is it more like — your the big man, make the big decisions, and she’s just along for the ride, and to be your little playmate? Does that sum it up?

        • Jo R

          “because of her own attitude or worse body”

          Which was largely taught by MEN claiming Christ in CHURCH.

          Plenty of women here will tell you that the “joy” of “emotional closeness” during PLEASURELESS PENETRATION wanes, and often wanes quickly.

          How much would you enjoy sex if you only got half the stimulation you need to orgasm? And how quickly would you complain to your wife if she stopped intercourse before you were done?

          Exactly. Now lather, rinse, and repeat THAT scenario for a decade or three.

        • JoB

          Let me fix this for you: How many guys you know don’t want to rock their wives world but soon find out it’s impossible as long as the guys expect it all to be fixed in a relatively short period of time, and are impatient and shortsighted and fixated on orgasm and frequency, rather than arousal, and only want to imitate things they’ve seen in R rated movies or pornography. They don’t want to spend extended periods of time with “boring” kissing and touching that doesn’t end with their own orgasm, even if that’s what a wife needs to learn arousal. They don’t want to put their own orgasm aside for more than a day or two, even if that is what would help their wives to become more in tune with their sexuality. They want their wives to point to a magic move or body parts that will flip the orgasm switch, instead of saying gently, “Let’s take as much time as you need to figure this out together .” They don’t want to deal with their own anxiety, insecurity and impatience. They are the sexual experts and their wives are broken. Because men only need five minutes, that is all it should take and anything else is excessive. They don’t want to relieve their wives of the libido killing pills by using condoms or getting a vasectomy… or abstaining during her fertile period.

          Jesus called a married couple “one flesh.” It is such an accurate picture. Sometimes one part of a body has to restrain what is “”quick”, easy” and “instinctive” in order for the body to learn how to work effectively and safely. A couple years ago I started working out with a trainer, and I started discovering muscles I never knew I had. It is often time consuming and definitely never easy to train my body to do a new exercise— instinctively, I usually want to lift with my back rather than engage my core, overextend certain joints, or commit similar errors. A few people may be natural athletes who avoid these errors, but most people don’t know how to have their muscles work in harmony. They get by on youthful enthusiasm for a while… until something starts hurting. And what do you do then? Does the untrained, paunchy core tell the back, “hey, you get the “perks” of being the back, don’t you dare stop doing all the heavy lifting?” No, that’s when you stop, rest the back, and start some physical therapy to teach the back and the core to work in harmony, rather than the back just “serving” the core. If you don’t, you risk even more serious and long term injury.

        • Anna

          You just called sexual frequency in your marriage a “battle” that you’ve “won.”

          You just told us everything we need to know.

    • Matt

      FE, your comment says more about yourself than it does about Sheila and her teachings.

      I am a male that’s in the middle of the age range you gave and, yes, most of us will probably have a higher drive than the woman we are with (I have a higher drive than my wife). But where I disagree strongly with you is your very low view of the self-control that we men are capable of. I came across this website, Sheila and Rebecca, and The Great Sex Rescue while searching for answers as to why sex was unsatisfying for us and why we were constantly struggling with sex. I came to realize that I had been taught the lie that men’s sex drives were like a wild, bucking bronco – incapable of control. Self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit, and so to teach otherwise is to be unbiblical.

      Once I understood that I was fully capable of self-control, I started re-teaching myself and re-training my mind to wait and just to enjoy the relationship without any need to affirm my self-worth with sex, things have gotten markedly better. I no longer have anxiety, self-doubt, or, yes, even anger. My libido hasn’t changed, but it has gotten quieter. It is a trained horse, being able to be directed where I want it when I want it.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        That’s an amazing analogy, Matt! I’m so glad.

      • recoverymode

        Great story Matt! Similar experience for me. Learning how to be in control of libido/desire vs. it having control of you allows one to grow into emotionally connected sex, which also makes it so much richer and fulfilling, vs. being fixated on frequency and having anxiety over having your needs met. It just changes the whole picture.

    • Em

      “ In fact a lot of women are fine not orgasming much of the time. “

      Considering God gave women a clitoris, which contains more nerve endings than a penis and whose sole purpose is to make a woman feel good….do you think it’s okay that the status quo for women is to be “fine” with not experiencing their body as God intended? Not experiencing what their husbands experience every. single. time. they have sex?

      Side note. “Most” women? In your experience? In your social circle? In the Christian “research” you mentioned? Sheila’s survey was TWENTY THOUSAND women! Largest sample size EVER for this subject.

    • Brambonius

      I really don’t see what you’re trying to defend here.

      Do you really don’t believe in male selfcontrol? While invoking the fruits of the spirit?

      In the name of some kind of biological realism? That’s even going further than Freud and other weird worldly philosophies, and completely unchristian, do you realise that? Christianity is not about being slaves to our body. There’s such a weird anti-male sexism here (that also comes in handy for entitled men) that I’m actually baffled every time I encounter it.

      What about all unmarried men then? Including Christ and Paul. All not-yet-married men?

      Are you able to have sex with a woman that isn’t interested or even doesn’t want it and enjoy it? Could you enjoy that without feeling like a creep, and use words like ‘making love’ and intimacy for it?

      Also, how do you see the golden rule in this context? Treat others like you want to be treated. Doesn’t that apply to what should be the most intimate relationship in our life? (as well as all other relationships we have if we are to consider ourselves Christian?)

    • EOF

      On the contrary to what you said — this site brings great FREEDOM to women! I have not been to therapy for the marital and spiritual abuses I suffered, but this blog has brought me a lot of healing.

      Reading the stories of what others have gone through, being taught that my abuse was not my fault, being given the vocabulary to define my sufferings, and even being able to share pieces of my story in the comments have ALL healed parts of my heart.

      Shiela is doing a great thing for harmed women, and the only people I’ve seen take offense to her writings are those who are actively causing harm to others. Something to think about.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Thank you, EOF. I’m so glad I could help you on your journey!

    • R

      I orgasm at least 95% of the time. The times I don’t, it’s usually because I am too tired, but still wanted to have sex.
      I have strong doubts that I am abnormal. Instead, I believe it is because every intimate experience with my husband has been a positive one. There are no negative associations to impact my ability to become aroused or orgasm.
      Hormones etc can definitely affect my ability to become aroused – NOT my ability to orgasm. Generally hormonal changes just means we have to take things a little slower and spend more time on foreplay. If husbands were taught to be more considerate, loving, and affectionate to their wives – and taught that they should make sex enjoyable for their wife, then perhaps people would have less difficulty with intimacy!

    • Bekah

      I’ve been able to have up to six orgasms since I was young. Also, have you ever read vibrator reviews online? The women aren’t saying that they just can’t orgasm. They’re saying the opposite. I’m not sure you know the female body as well as you think you so.

    • Lisa Johns

      FE, did you do a survey that was answered by 23,000 women? Because Sheila et. al did.
      Did you run the stats on all those answers? Because they did (and continue to do so).
      Have you made a point to continue the research and not rest on those laurels? Because they have.
      Have you made a point to continue to think through and question to find out if our conventional “wisdom” truly is wise? Because we’re all benefiting from the fact that Sheila et al do this every day.
      Who benefits from what you do?

  10. Nathan

    This reminds me of a post on here from a while back. Somebody quoted somebody else about their reaction to “do not refuse”. This person (who was not on this site, got quoted by somebody else) basically said

    “If I give my wife permission to say no, then she’ll ALWAYS say no”.

    That gives a good hint into that person’s marriage.

  11. Nathan

    > > Do you really don’t believe in male self control?

    I wonder if this is due to differing definitions of “self control”. Some people can likely have and enjoy sex with an unwilling partner. My guess is that most (both genders) wouldn’t. I can’t imagine enjoying sexual activity with somebody who’s constantly crying out in pain. for example.

    On the other hand, though, some people say that self control means totally turning off ALL sexual thoughts, feelings, desires and urges. My guess is that some people may be able to do this, but not most (again, both genders).

  12. EOF

    I’m catching up on the blog for this week, and I’m really happy you’re addressing this IMPORTANT topic.

    Teachers, authors, and church leaders need to STOP teaching that nonconsensual sex is okay. As a young married I was taught that it was not okay to say no to anything in the bedroom, and that I could not ask for something different from what my husband wanted. If I didn’t like something he did, I was to LEARN to like it. If I didn’t like something he did, I was to praise him and tell him how amazing he was doing because that would make it better. I was told NOTHING about how if I didn’t like something, he needed to stop. Consent and rape were never brought up because apparently I signed away my rights when I got married.

    These leaders and authors are teaching husband to rape, and women to live with it!!

    Aside from being coerced many times, there are times that were blatant rape. One time early in our marriage when I initiated, he started being a jerk and I said I wasn’t going to have sex after all. He then told me, “You wanted sex, we’re having sex!” Then he went on with the act — “we” did not have sex. Another time a few years later, someone very dear to me was in the hospital, likely to die. When we got home from seeing my relative like that, my husband made me have sex because earlier that day we had decided to have sex before we got that call to go to the hospital. He made me agree to having sex verbally, but I knew the consequences if I would’ve said no, so I said yes and let him have his way with me. He even had the audacity to be shocked that I didn’t want him to try to make me orgasm! It took me many months to stop hating him after that (and that doesn’t touch on trying to rebuild a sense of trust or relationship).

    None of this should be okay. But Christian leaders think nothing of women, so it’s okay as long as the husbands get what they want.

    • recoverymode

      Wow, these types of experiences show the real-life result of these flawed teachings. So sorry you went through that. Hopefully things are better now.

      • EOF

        Thank you. Yes, things are a lot better now. We still have plenty of work ahead of us, but he would never do anything like that now. He had a real wake up call some years ago and changed.

  13. Lyndall

    I know Sheila’s whole thing is about sex in marriage, but I wanted to comment about this question, ‘People were asking on Facebook, “But why would you want to get married and not have sex?”’, because I’m annoyed by the idea in Evangelical circles that marriage = sex. Just because you believe sex shouldn’t happen outside of marriage that doesn’t mean you should automatically assume the inverse would also be true, that marriage means you get sex. To reference Christine Woolgar, marriage means you get to APPROACH each other for sex, but sex is not a guarantee.

    But why would people want to get married and not have sex? Plenty of reasons.
    – For companionship
    – Because of disabilities
    – Because one or both people are asexual
    – Because of sexual trauma
    – For money
    – For raising kids from another marriage
    – For immigration purposes
    – For sharing household and emotional labour

    I mean you can debate the ethicality of certain reasons, but I don’t believe sex is what makes marriage marriage. And I think the way the Evangelical Church has taught about marriage and sex is reductive and ultimately unhelpful when it conflates marriage with sex.

    • Angharad

      It also bugs me that for so many people, sex=intercourse. They completely ignore the many married couples who are no longer able to have intercourse due to health issues, but who still enjoy being sexual together. By reducing sex to simply PIV, and saying there is ‘no point’ in being married without that, they are dismissing the intimacy between spouses with health issues as worthless.

      It also makes me quite sad for them that they think a marriage has to be EITHER living together as asexual housemates OR having regular PIV sex. I mean, I do a LOT of things with my husband that are not intercourse, but I’d never dream of doing them with anyone I wasn’t married to. It does make me wonder what kind of ‘marriage’ these people really have.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I totally agree!

  14. Amanda

    Can the next course you make be on rebuilding safety in a marriage? I have thought about the orgasm course, but I am not even really interested in that yet… I want to enter it in the knowledge and lived experience that I am safe.

    • Lisa Johns

      I would take that course!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I can definitely put that on the list! We’re hoping to do a vaginismus course soon, and we need to make a course to go along with our new book that’s out in April for moms of daughters. But I will try to prioritize that!

  15. Mara R

    I was reading my Bible this morning and thoughts of FE’s words were still in my brain. And it made me want point out to FE that what Sheila is teaching is, in actuality, in line with the heart of God and the overall teaching of the Bible.

    But the comment would have been way too long. So I just made a new post on my relatively inactive blog and will link it here.

    FE, the discontent and brokenness in women here is not being caused by Sheila. But rather, she and her team are working tirelessly to make a place of healing. There is a need for such a place because of the brokenness that has been caused by decades of misguided teachings. You have, unfortunately, accepted these false teaching as gospel. Please reconsider your position because you are on the wrong side of this debate.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Mara!

  16. K

    I realize that none of what I will say is different from what you are teaching, but man, I just feel so SEEN…. And I just need to rant ; ).

    This whole idea of consent/ willingness is also marred by what you share as transactional sex and what your husband mentioned in latest podcast in that, something along the lines of…. A woman isn’t “obligated” per say, no a “good Christian woman” wouldn’t think of it that way because her *good* Christian man is working SO hard to provide financially for them; again her “good” Christian husband works, plays with kids, cooks some meals, helps around the house…. I mean what more could you ask for?! So how on earth could she not be willing?!?! I mean look at all he does!

    Nevermind that the relationship itself is VOID of shared emotions, understanding, compassion, & connection.

    He is a *good* man and he chose me to be in a relationship that is different from any other relationship—marriage, so why, oh why wouldn’t I be willing whenever/ wherever?!?!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, that transactional view of sex is definitely there!

  17. Cynthia

    This whole obsession with frequency just seems so weird to me.

    There is no “right” frequency as a general rule. The “right” amount is how often BOTH spouses want to do it, and that’s probably not going to be the same each week. It might be higher on vacation, lower if someone is sick or life is just busy.

    Not to get overly graphic, but do some of these guys have any idea of the difference between simply making time for sex to happen, and physically finding that it is too much? Do they have any idea that if you get micro-tears, things get really painful?

    • K

      So true, Cynthia.

      Although as a wife who constantly felt like I “dropped the ball” in this area bc I can’t think of one time in our marriage that the 72 hr. Rule was maintained. I remember hearing that at a women’s conference and not until years later realized that the woman speaking had no children, was likely on birth control, had a hubby who didn’t work weird hours and many other situations that; for many reasons it’s just not practical.

      But I would get drawn to these types of questions in homeschool groups mainly to see if there was anyone like me that maybe had frequency much less than that and hardly ever did anyone say such…. Those mamas were taking care of kids & rockin hubbys world many times a week…. What was wrong with me?!? Thus it would lead to a downward spiral of “I am an awful wife”, which would just make me mad & pull away— not draw me to him.

      So yes, let’s stop the frequency talk. That is no indicator of a healthy marriage relationship.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *