The 72-Hour Rule Isn’t a Thing: How Evangelicals Coerced Women into Sex Every 72 Hours

by | Mar 6, 2024 | Libido, Research | 74 comments

Why the 72 Hour Rule for Sex is Bogus

The 72 Hour Rule is Made Up by Evangelical Authors. 

Yep. This month on the blog we’re “fact checking” common sex beliefs, and one of the biggest ones in evangelical circles is the 72 hour rule: the idea that a wife must have sex with her husband every 72 hours, because otherwise he’ll be in a lot of pain, and he won’t be able to resist lusting after other women or watching pornography.

And this rule extends into one’s period and into the post-partum phase as well, telling women that they must give sexual favours when their vagina isn’t able to be used.

This is taught so regularly to women, but often men don’t even realize it’s a thing. 

When we wrote The Great Sex Rescue, we tried to find the origin of the 72 hour rule.

I had heard it taught in conferences and in women’s Bible studies my whole life. I had seen it on women’s blogs. And I just thought that was common advice. Then when I read the best-selling Christian marriage books, I saw it taught there too. Here are a few examples:

When you agreed to marry this man or this woman, you put yourself in a position to meet a need in his or her life that no other person can legitimately meet–sexual fulfillment. I’m blunt with premarital couples: If you’re not willing to commit yourself to having sex with this person two to three times a week for the rest of your life, don’t get married. Certainly, pregnancy and sickness and a few other unforeseen problems will alter this–but in general, to get married is to commit to a regular time of sexual intimacy.

Kevin Leman

Sheet Music

At least he left room for saying no during pregnancy, though Leman also said this:

The most difficult time for this man was during his wife’s period, because she was unavailable to him sexually. After about ten years, she finally realized that pleasing her husband with oral sex or a simple “hand job” did wonders to help her husband through that difficult time.

And later:

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

 

Kevin Leman

Sheet Music

Here’s how we talked about this rule in The Great Sex Rescue:

Great Sex Rescue

From The Great Sex Rescue

When we were reviewing the Christian sex and marriage books, we found this seventy-two-hour rule peppered throughout almost all of them, like this: “A normal and healthy man has a semen build-up every 48 to 72 hours that produces a pressure that needs to be released.”And there was this advice from Every Man’s Battle:

In relation to your own husband, understanding the seventy-two hour cycle can help you keep him satisfied. Ellen said, “His purity is extremely important to me, so I try to meet his needs so that he goes out each day with his cup full. During the earlier years, with much energy going into childcare and with my monthly cycle, it was a lot more difficult for me to do that. There weren’t too many “ideal times” when everything was just right. But that’s life, and I did it anyway.”

We saw the same ideas in multiple books, but Every Man’s Battle actually gave us an idea of where it came from: James Dobson in his 1977 book Love for a Lifetime. The authors of Every Man’s Battle say:

For most men, this buildup to heightened sexual desire takes only about seventy-two hours. “Many women,” Dr. Dobson notes, “stand in amazement at how regularly their husbands desire sexual intercourse.”

Steve Arterburn and Fred Stoeker

Every Man's Battle

Now, I suspect Dobson may have picked it up from Tim LaHaye, who was writing about the same time. But regardless, this rule seems to trace back to Dobson popularizing it.

Then we wondered: Did Dobson base this on anything scientific?

Here’s how we explained it in The Great Sex Rescue:

Great Sex Rescue

From The Great Sex Rescue

We scoured medical and scientific journals but couldn’t find anything that proved men got sexually frustrated at hour seventy-three. The closest we could find were studies on how men’s sperm replenishes usually within seventy-two hours, but none of them mentioned male discomfort. Though some men’s testes may get a little testy after seventy-two hours, we have no proof that this is the case for all or even most men. In fact, studies on masturbation habits show that preferred length of time between emissions may be more of a cultural difference than a biological one. So how did this seventy-two-hour rule become gospel? It seems like Dobson set a timeline, and then everyone followed suit.

The 72 Hour Rule Has Real World Consequences

It’s one of the big drivers of the obligation sex message, telling women, “no matter how you feel, no matter what’s going on in your relationship, no matter if you’ve just had a baby, you need to help him ejaculate in some way.” 

The highest concern in the marriage, then, becomes how many orgasms he has rather than her own well-being. That isn’t a safe or healthy relationship. We talked to so many women about the negative ways obligation sex affected them, and it simply needs to stop.

Then there are also stories like this one, that we shared:

Great Sex Rescue

From The Great Sex Rescue

When Janet married Chris, she went into her honeymoon equipped. Every three days, on the dot, she’d get naked and get busy because that was how she was supposed to satisfy her unquenchable man. But after a few months, she realized she was the only one initiating and started to feel miffed: “What, am I not attractive enough or something?” So she confronted Chris and said, “Why don’t you ever initiate?” Perplexed, he asked, “Well, I’ve just been trying to keep up with you.”

As they discussed it, they each realized they had incorrectly assumed the other had the higher libido. In fact, both were quite happy with sex once or twice a week (and for them, less- frequent sex actually led to better quality because it allowed desire to build). Chris originally thought this was funny until he realized that part of his wife’s motivation to initiate was out of a fear that if she didn’t, he would be vulnerable to sexual sin. He assured his wife that he was fine, and they could just go with what felt right.

The 72-hour rule simply needs to be ditched. It’s not based on anything, and it’s okay for your sex life to reflect  your actual life and what’s going on in it. 

So let’s do what Dobson, LaHaye, Leman, Arterburn, Stoeker and others didn’t do. Let’s actually look at science!

How often should you actually have sex?

In The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex Keith and I go over this in a lot more detail, in our chapter “When You Want More.” 

But here’s the synopsis:

How Much Sex is Enough?

 In general, more sex tends to result in less sexual frustration and more sexual satisfaction, and more marital satisfaction. But it’s not a linear correlation, where more sex is automatically better and equally better.

Daily sex actually can hurt marital satisfaction, likely because people don’t naturally tend to have sex daily. If you’re having sex daily, then her needs and how she’s feeling are likely irrelevant. 

Then there’s this: we see a huge jump in marital satisfaction with weekly sex, but after that the jump is quite minor. So again, more sex is good, but it’s really weekly sex that makes the most difference. 

We are not the only ones to find this, either. Amy Muise from York University has several peer reviewed articles looking at how sex frequency affects marital satisfaction, and she finds that the magic amount, again, is weekly sex.

Does that mean you don’t need to have sex more than once a week? 

No, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m going to summarize our argument from The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex here:

Having sex less than once a week, statistically, seems to signal that there will be problems in your marriage.

Having sex weekly or more seems more like a preference. Some people want more, and some people want less, and on the whole this does not affect marital satisfaction that much.

But here’s the thing: When you treat a preference like a problem, you will create a problem, because constantly being dissatisfied makes a person feel like they are never enough; that they are not sexual enough for you; that you only care about one thing. And their libido will plummet. We talked with so many people who told stories like this, of starting out marriage having sex twice a week, and being told it wasn’t enough. And now they have sex only once every few weeks or months.

So to summarize: Address problems. Honor preferences. 

That seems to work well!

Sheila and Keith Gregoire

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When you have a great marriage, you can negotiate on frequency preferences. 

When people had high marital satisfaction, they also were far more likely to have the same libidos, meaning that they just fell into a natural rhythm of sex, and it wasn’t really clear who initiated or wanted it. But this tended to stem from a relationship where each cared for the other, and desire had room to build.

That’s what creates a great sex life!

So no 72-hour rule. No obligation. If there’s really low frequency, be curious about low libido

But please, let’s ditch this stupid rule once and for all.

What do you think? Did you hear the 72-hour rule? How can we change this idea? 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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74 Comments

  1. Angharad

    Wasn’t Dobson the guy who also came up with the idea that women talk twice as much as men, so when a guy gets home from work, his wife shouldn’t expect him to talk to her because he’s already ‘used up’ his words? If there is an award for conning people into believing ‘scientific facts’ that are based on absolutely no evidence (and which go against common sense) then Dobson should get it!

    This thing is so ridiculous that I don’t even know how it was accepted for so long. If men are going to be in excruciating pain or forced to lust/use porn after 72 hours ‘without’, then no Christian man should ever have a job that requires him to be absent from home for more than 72 hours (so no Christians in the armed forces for a start!). And what about men who get widowed? Or whose wives end up seriously ill and in hospital? Either these teachers are saying that it’s ok for CHRISTIAN men in these circumstances to use porn or to lust, or…they have to explain why the widowed guy can go longer than 72 hours and the married one can’t…

    The thing I find really funny is that most of the guys who spout this garbage also believe that women are illogical and incapable of thinking things through…yet they OBVIOUSLY haven’t thought through some of the key problems with this ‘fact’!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Exactly! It absolutely never made any sense. But then, maybe it wasn’t supposed to.

      Reply
      • Jason

        It really seems like a lot of evangelical sexual teaching about men seems to be just about telling them and women, that they don’t really have self control. and I really think this teaching actually causes men to have less confidence in their ability to actually have self-control. And if they believe That they don’t have self-control or self-control is really hard ,they are less likely to actually exercise sexual self control.

        Reply
        • Jason

          I used to get angry when I saw a Christian girl date a non-Christian guy but after learning about all these really dangerous teachings are coming from the church and all these Christian authors now I’m starting to wonder if at least some of this is contributing to women wanting to date non-Christians and then try to convert them. I know there’s not happening in every situation where a Christian girl decent non-Christian but at least some of it. The 72 hour rule in a lot of other teaching that comes from the church evangelical teachers I know is contributing to very creepy behavior and a lot of Christian single men.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I think it’s a large part of it, from the emails I get from single women, yes.

          • Angharad

            Jason, I think you are right – a lot of single Christian girls are very wary of dating Christian men because so many ‘Christian’ guys are real creeps – and it can be hard to work out who is safe to trust. This kind of teaching doesn’t just harm women – it also harms the good men.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I absolutely agree!

          Reply
    • Rune

      The way I guessed James Dobson had something to do with it just from the blog title. The guy has certainly left an impression…

      Reply
    • exwifeofasexaddict

      Well, Pat Robertson said it was understandable if men taking care of their wife in a long term illness cheated. so.

      Reply
  2. Marina

    Honestly, with messages like this, I wonder how many people (especially females) take their advice to heart and never marry or even bother trying for a relationship. It reminds me of that post about South Korea you did. And these writers so often complain about people not marrying! Gee, I wonder why?😓 I know I myself will probably never marry because I’m not sure I’m comfortable enough with sexuality in general to “be there” for someone. No past abuse: just no desire for children, terrified of pregnancy due to family history of complications, and like my dignity too much. Yes, I know there’s ways for marriage but no children, but there is always the slight risk of pregnancy short of more permanent means I’m not comfortable asking someone to commit to essentially first thing. Plus, one major branch of Christianityr would not consider a marriage to me valid because of no-children-desire, and others from even my own branch would consider the union suspect, so my pool of candidates would probably be small.

    Reply
    • Erin

      Nice to hear from another unmarried, childless/free woman. I am very content in my singleness, but in the event I were to get married later in life, I am deeply grateful for Sheila’s work.

      Reply
      • Maria

        My husband uses this excuse, and for years, I thought it to be true until reading your article today. I lived in fear most of our marriage (because I’ve read these books) thinking that if I didn’t meet his sexual needs, I was to blame for his porn and infidelity. He claims that he has severe pain (due to having a vasectomy) if he can’t finish. Does your research include these findings?

        Reply
  3. Lisa Johns

    As to Kevin Leman’s “minimum of effort” — does he realize just how uncomfortable on the wrists giving a hand job is? And a tired post-partum mom does NOT want to stay awake when the baby is asleep just so her pathetic husband can experience an orgasm; she just wants to sleep when she can so she can take can wake up when the baby needs her. (And so her body can heal!) Seriously, has he ever talked to a woman and listened to her answers?

    Reply
    • Carla Eble

      You assume that he would think her opinion mattered.

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      No, I don’t think he has talked to women. He talks down to women so much in Sheet Music, as if we’re children. It’s pathetic.

      Reply
    • Laura

      I HATED giving my ex hand jobs or oral sex because I was doing it out of obligation. If he went a certain amount of time without sex (one or two days without was too much for him), he would behave like a jerk and if I couldn’t give him intercourse due to period or not feeling up to it, I needed to give him a “favor.” Well, that “favor” often made my wrists hurt and sometimes oral sex made me want to gag.

      Reply
      • Lisa Johns

        My ex never wanted sex but was constantly pestering for hand jobs or oral. And yeah, sore wrists and. … <>…

        Reply
  4. Jenny

    It should certainly be ditched! And I always thought it sounded odd because single adults exist and masturbation is a wicked and vile unnamed sin (or so it was presented to me growing up). So… what are bachelors? Secret eunuchs? It never added up, but everyone was so insistent! Then I supposed sex must be like alcohol – once you start, you can’t stop because you can’t exercise moderation with demon liquor!

    Really, I think starting by not shaming, guilting, and threatening girls into “purity” and then not presenting sex as a four letter word and tying a mountain of obligation to it would go a very long ways in fixing things. I mean, there’s a lot more that could and should be done, but I think if that became the new absolute baseline normal, a lot of things would clear up. Add in a message or two about us being sexual beings and that being perfectly normal, good, and God designed (that needs to be sanctified by the Holy Spirit and fruits of the Spirit like every other aspect of ourselves) would be huge!

    Reply
  5. Jen

    “The highest concern in the marriage, then, becomes how many orgasms he has rather than her own well-being. “

    Yep, married to an out-of-control orgasm addict, and had so much sex I didn’t want. I felt like a whore having to get him off so that he didn’t cheat. I ended up hating my husband, and then he confessed to cheating the whole relationship. So I was regularly hurt so that he wouldn’t cheat, but in reality he was using that teaching to get orgasms from me AND was still serially cheating.

    Unfathomable levels of coercion and gaslighting.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so sorry, Jen.

      Reply
    • Nessie

      That was amazing! Amazingly accurate, amazing disheartening. 👏

      Dobson is disgustingly egregious imo. He was the same man that believed that a woman driving in the next car over, decades younger than himself, was after his body and he just knew she was signalling him to meet him in the next alley because she smiled at him, right?… but he was oh so wise enough as to not take the bait? If I’m wrong on this, can someone correct me?

      This dude needs a hobby besides self-aggrandizment and making up “facts” in men’s favor.

      Reply
        • Nessie

          Haha, exactly so! I apologize for not being better at finding things like that myself. Thanks for the help, Jo R!

          Reply
        • Nessie

          Lol… I had my teen listen to that podcast, and his response was, “Moving your lips [into a smile] is not consent!”

          My teen son is safer than an “adult” man who has written books about raising boys.

          Reply
    • Angharad

      That is pure comedy gold – thank you for sharing. And the comments just make the whole thing even better – I especially love the one about the importance of texting your wife a photo of your open wallet at regular intervals during the day so that she’ll be excited for you to come home 😂😂😂

      Reply
      • Erin Burnett

        It is bizarre that men are taught purity for the 10+ years between first having sexual desires and getting married, but as soon as they get married, they NEED to have sex every three days??

        Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That was classic!

      Reply
  6. S

    I swear to God if I see that scumbag Steven Arterburn in person, I’d have a hard time not spitting in his face. He has dedicated his life to dehumanizing and degrading men as insatiable perverts and has twisted biology and research in order to achieve this. The damage he has done to boys and young men is incalculable.

    Reply
  7. Graham

    I heard this idea tossed around when I was a teenager and it caused a lot of confusion in my teens and early twenties when I really struggled with masturbation. If this 72 hour rule was true, what was I as an unmarried person supposed to do? I was told that men need sex every few days, but I was told that masturbation was wrong as well. You’re taught that this is why you should get married, but you’re also told that marriage won’t fix it and that in marriage you won’t always be able to have sex whenever you want. So the only hope presented is to pray and memorize Scripture and practice self-control, but that doesn’t really work either. So it’s a pretty hopeless and confusing place to be. Even now in my late twenties in a happy marriage where we don’t believe these messages I’m still having to undo the patterns and beliefs I learned during those years. It really sets even many good men up for failure

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It absolutely does! It hurts men too, and that’s what we’re going to talk about on our podcast when we go into all of this. I hate that. They’ve created such a cycle of shame and hopelessness.

      Reply
    • Ladybug

      That’s a really good way to explain it, Graham.

      Reply
  8. Laura

    As one of the commenters here mentioned in another post, this organization really should be called Focus on the Phallus because that “supposed” 72-hour rule sounds like the foundation of JD’s organization. Instead of it really being about the Family, it’s really about the Phallus (Penis worship). Even though I didn’t read much James Dobson stuff or most of that Christian marriage garbage during my first marriage, I unknowingly lived it out. The ex and I attended church and went through a premarital class with His Needs, Her Needs book as part of that curriculum. I remember in one of the sessions about sex, the pastor wrote on the board: Tri-weekly, try weekly, and try weakly. Tri-weekly referred to the newlywed, before kids years so it was assumed that the couple has sex 3 times a week. Calculate that and it’s basically once every 72-hours so that can add up to sex three times a week. I wonder if that’s where this pastor got the idea from. Then try weekly applied to couples with kids and busy work schedules. So, he was getting a bit realistic knowing that once kids and busy work schedules enter the picture, having sex once a week is realistic enough. Then when couples get into the golden years where there’s health issues, try weakly applied.

    I remember my ex telling me to strive to be “tri-weekly,” but really, if he had it his way, we would have had sex twice a day every day. No wonder, I felt so used.

    I do believe that when a couple is insync with one another, then sex flows naturally regardless of how often they have it. My fiance and I are holding out until marriage (in 2 months and 5 days) so we don’t yet know how often we’ll have it. It’s hard to predict now.

    Reply
  9. Shannon J

    Sheet Music is actually the reason I found the Great Sex Rescue. My husband and I had been given Sheet Music when we were first married and we both thought it was great. Twelve years later, after kids and a much greater understanding of my own sexuality, I picked it up off my shelf and read it again and realized…there is absolutely nothing in this book for me! Most of the direction to women seems to be trying to convince them that it’s okay to want to have sex with their husband. That learning how to orgasm will please their husband. What about husbands pleasing me? I like sex, I don’t need to be convinced about anything! So I wondered, “What are some current Christian books about sex?” I went to Amazon and found your book that had just been released that day! It was great! I also really appreciated your rating of several Christian books since it allowed me to find some GOOD ones that actually spoke to ME. So thanks!

    Reply
  10. JG

    Unfortunately, so many of us accepted what was said by “the experts,” we assumed that they had done the research to verify what they taught was valid.

    When I did research papers in college and graduate school, I was required to back up what I said with valid research and reliable sources. It seems that “the experts” don’t hold themselves to the same standards. They just don’t like the fact that they are finally being called out on their faulty statements with no scientific or research basis for their assertions.

    Reply
  11. CMT

    Do these guys have any explanation for why celibate guys’ testicles don’t explode?

    It seems to me there’s something very insecure and andolescent about the “logic” behind the 72 hour rule. It’s like the way “struggling with lust” is sometimes a proxy for “manliness” in evangelical circles.

    Reply
  12. Clifford Knelsen

    First of all, thank you for all of the work, research, objectivity, and clinical legitimacy that you are bringing to the Church in this arena! It is so needed – and embarrassingly overdue!

    I know that the genesis of the 72 hour rule in evangelism was placed primarily on the shoulders of James Dobson, PhD with his didactic writing. And it lives on almost unquestioned. Now you are questioning it! Thank you! And as you’ve discovered, it was not scientific research that founded his statements. However I do believe that there are 2 pieces of research that you have not considered.

    1st: we know that men and women produce and respond differently hormonally. There is research out there that indicates all the ways that women get oxytocin – the bonding hormone. Which is why they bond and feel connected in a variety of ways (as do men, but in far lesser quantities). Men get a huge surge of oxytocin during sex – making them feel very connected to their wives. According to the research, the maximum length of that oxytocin boost has been depleted by 72 hours. So men that want to feel connected are pursuing sex again. Does that make it a rule? Hardly. Is that a consideration? You decide.

    2nd: According to the journal of urology, the risk of prostate cancer in men reduced by 50% if frequency of ejaculations is increased from 2/wk to 3/wk. And the optimal is actually 4/wk. Again, is that a rule? No. Will anyone die tomorrow if someone can’t? No. Is anyone obligated to “give sex”. No!!! Is anyone entitled to receive sex? No!!!!! Should we consider these things? You decide. But there is information to be had.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Clifford, the prostate cancer risk is interesting, but from what I read they’re recommending that to really see a difference you’re looking at 5-7 times a week. “In all, men who averaged 4.6–7 ejaculations a week were 36% less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer before the age of 70 than men who ejaculated less than 2.3 times a week on average.” Honestly, 5-7 times a week is simply not reasonable for a wife to provide. It just isn’t. So if a guy wants to do this himself, that’s his prerogative.

      As for oxytocin, again, what I can tell you is that marital satisfaction does not significantly go up after once a week. It’s just not that important compared to other factors (like how much housework is done, which is far, far, far more significant). So feelings of emotional closeness are just not affected that much after you reach the once a week threshold.

      Again, we did find that the happiest couples were in the 2-3 times a week category, which I have repeatedly said. But it is not significantly better; it is a little bit better. And we know the obligation message is so terribly harmful (increasing women’s sexual pain and being largely responsible for evangelical women’s outsized burden) that we really need to get rid of this message.

      Reply
      • Clifford Knelsen

        Sheila, that’s interesting. The research that I’m familiar with is that 4 times per week is optimal, and it did not matter how those were broken up re: days “off/on”. I would assume that if you were only engaging 5-7 (or even 4!) times per week because of your fear of developing cancer, the enjoyment would be lost on both parties anyways.

        I thought it was a worthwhile addition to the discussion. But I would be interested where the 5-7 times per week comes from.

        Reply
    • CMT

      Clifford, it’s interesting you bring up oxytocin. It’s talked about most with mother-infant bonding, but it’s involved all close, affectionate relationships. It’s not even human-specific (there’s a study of pet dogs and their people showing both had increased oxytocin after a positive interaction). As you point out, it surges with an orgasm with a partner (for everybody, not only men). Also, people get some oxytocin release to a lesser degree with cuddling, hugging, and even eye contact. Do you know of any research suggesting men and women experience these effects differently? In other words, can’t men experience affection through nonsexual means, and can’t women experience it through good sex? I don’t see this being a rationale for anything like a male 72 hour rule (especially as oxytocin surges are measured in minutes, not days). It’s a reason for couples to create lots of different ways to share affection all the time, rather than relying heavily on an artificial rule for sex frequency.

      Reply
      • Clifford Knelsen

        CMT, I do believe there is credible research available that does indicate that men and women do in fact experience bonding differently when it comes to oxytocin in various contexts/relationships. Women just experience more of it in most situations than men do. And of course women experience a surge with orgasm as well, that is certainly not uniquely male. But women do have a higher level of oxytocin as a “walking around” hormone than men do.

        Reply
        • Chris B.

          Clifford you are wasting your time by mentioning anything here that is not significantly slanted towards a woman’s benefit. Not sure how long you have been reading on this forum. Lots of good information and discussion here but most of the audience generally has sharp edge toward anything that may come across as justifying a male thing or idea. Not that I think it’s reasonable for a wife to be willing to make love 4-7 times per week. Lots of bad teaching out there as you alluded to.
          I am just a dumb country boy who believes the Bible. Even though I don’t have a degree in psychology, physiology etc. It still amazes me that as whole the way God created us is the best life for us. It is not surprising to me that God would have given us a desire (sex) that has a lot us healthy benefits. It brings us closer to our spouse through ways I don’t understand, health benefits I don’t understand. Thats how good God is.

          Reply
          • Jo R

            Yeah, women wanting an orgasm once in a while, or at least more often than never, IS a big ask, I guess. 🤔

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Again, Chris, are you saying that God intended women to give men orgasms every single day of the woman’s life, even when she is sick, postpartum, etc.? Because that’s what this research says. Is that what you mean? If a man orgasms only 2-3 times a week we don’t see benefits with prostate cancer. So she can’t take any time off. Is that what you think God intended? Even with the Old Testament Laws?

          • Chris B.

            Intended for Shelia. NO I do not think God intended for women/wife to be sex slave to man/husband. Thats how I would view a daily sex offering. By Cliffords conversation, he does not believe that either. I was simply stating the obvious. You responded to me asking for clarification on what I thought/ believe. Everyone here does not show grace as you have.

            Intended for JoR. Women having consistent Orgasm is not too much ask. Regular Orgasm should be the norm. Men, Society and Church circles in many cases have failed to give Women the right message about sex. I have been wrong in the past about how I viewed sex. I have been reading this site for some time and realize where I have been wrong. Even when I had some wrong ideas about sex, I still believed that my wife should be taken of first. In my view husbands should be willing to be last in all things including sex.

    • s

      Should we consider the things that are still far from proven, when it puts a huge burden on women and leads to obligation sex? No. Diet, exercise, genetics, and age are also contributing factors to a man developing prostate cancer. Correlation does not equal causation and while frequent ejaculation “may” reduce chances of prostate cancer, using it as a reason for sex, even as a should women consider it is wrong. Men can easily handle it themselves if that is something they want to add to their own to do list.

      Many studies also say a woman feels more bonding with the hormones released from her orgasm, not just being used for a mans, and men have a different blend of hormones that lead more to pleasure feelings than bonding feelings. So again, should it be a consideration leading to sex every 72 hours, NO.

      Reply
      • Clifford Knelsen

        S, this is not a “may” situation. There are several studies available in medical journals that make this clear. I am a medical professional. I fully understand that there aren’t any guarantees that anything you or your wife does will ensure that you don’t get prostate cancer. But in the age of evidence-based medical practice we do the best that we can with the information available. As I responded to Sheila above, if you or your partner are only engaging in sex because of your fear of getting cancer it is going to be a miserable encounter. It’s obligation sex at its worst. But I do think that it has a place in the discussion about “The 72 Hour Rule”.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Clifford, I’m going to push back here. Telling her that he may die if she does not give him an orgasm EVERY DAY, which includes when she is sick, postpartum, on her period, etc., is simply not wise or fair and will create really negative dynamics in the relationship. If he honestly wants to have an orgasm everyday, he can take care of that. But to tell her, “this is important so I won’t die”–I can’t think of anything more obligation worthy. When she is postpartum–just no.

          Reply
        • s

          Sorry Clifford, but no, their is no discussion needed when a man is trying to guilt his wife into something like how often she needs to make him ejaculate because it may possibly, not for sure, but maybe, keep him from getting prostate cancer. If a man is concerned, he can take matters into his own hands and not burden his wife. That discussion itself is obligation and coercion.

          Reply
        • Corie

          Well, Clifford, you can site whatever “research” you wish but the bottom line is that, by relying on sex for the ‘oxytocin release’, you’re quite literally encouraging men to rely on sex for mood and mental health management. Anyone that knows a thing about “medical research” is well aware that’s a lot of ways to manipulate it. To start with a conclusion spin the data to “back it up”. I don’t care what you use to support your claim. It’s been tried and this is still the same misogynistic crap men have been trying to use to obligate and coerce female partners into having sex. Your mood, relationship status, and “prostate health” do no entitle you to access your partners body on demand and/or a certain number of times a week.

          Reply
      • Nessie

        “Correlation does not equal causation.”

        Yep. I could easily see men with more frequent ejaculations having a lower risk of prostate (and possibly other) cancer *because they lead a much less stressful life* because they are the men who are pushing obligation sex on their wives and the wives are complying in that and every other way. I would lead a much less stressful life if I almost never ran into opposition of any kind and was obeyed and served as well as many men are who push patriarchal standards.

        I’d love to see a study alongside that research to follow the health of the wives of these men- how miserable are they? Do they have greater risk of cancers and other illnesses because they have been coerced into obligation sex, as well as other things, for years and so they have inordinate stress levels? And this is just exploring one direction of other possibilities.

        There’s certainly not enough info worth risking coercing a wife/partner into increased intercourse frequency for the average person as Sheila’s citation suggests.

        (And to everyone reading, I apologize for commenting so much on this post. I just have a lot of feels/thoughts on this. I’m holding back a lot, I promise.)

        Reply
        • Jo R

          “I’d love to see a study alongside that research to follow the health of the wives of these men- how miserable are they? Do they have greater risk of cancers and other illnesses because they have been coerced into obligation sex, as well as other things, for years and so they have inordinate stress levels? And this is just exploring one direction of other possibilities.”

          Yeah, for example, what’s the rate of evangelical women having autoimmune diseases compared to the genpop?

          How many women are “depressed” when they’re really just having a completely expected reaction to ongoing trauma from spiritual, emotional, financial, and other abuse?

          If orgasm is so great for men, do we assume women don’t need orgasms for the best possible health outcomes, even though the clitoris is capable of multiples, because “men and women are completely opposite”? 🤔 🙄 🤮

          Oh, and notice the reduced risk to men at AGE 70. So a woman has to put out daily for half a century to reduce the risk of something men mainly die WITH, not OF.

          Reply
    • Nessie

      Clifford, I’m not taking you to task or impugning your motives. However, I do want to point out that sadly, the way many research results such as this get spun is like so:
      “Wives, don’t you care that you could help your husband avoid cancer?? How uncaring and far from God you must be to not be willing to help prevent this cancer in your husband! She that knows the good she ought to do yet does not do it sins. -a variant of James 4:17”

      That may sound bitter but considering how so much other stuff has been twisted and reworked to suit the husbands in these books, I really don’t think it’s a stretch to believe they would go there.

      Reply
      • Clifford Knelsen

        Nessie, I sincerely hope my words didn’t come across like that! I am 100% with and for Sheila and her message about the harm of obligation sex! I am also against women who use sex as a tool of manipulation! I did think that it was a worthwhile component to bring up in the discussion about the “rule”. I’m a medical professional and understand very well the concept of evidence-based practice. And as any medical professional can tell you, some of what your were taught way back in school was didactic and the opinion of your professor or clinical advisor. As time went on and the volume of evidence available increased, some of what you were taught was found to be incorrect. But some of what you were taught as opinion was confirmed with solid research. Again, is this a consideration? Probably. Do I want any couple engaging in sex for the sole purpose of avoiding cancer? Where’s the fun in that? It’s just another form of obligation sex, and nobody wants that!

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          But as soon as you say it’s a consideration (that she needs to help him ejaculate as close to everyday as possible so he won’t die) you’re getting obligation in the extreme. Especially because there isn’t a lot of evidence that sex 2-3 times a week is that effective at preventing cancer. It needs to be more often that that, and that would include her postpartum time and her period.

          Reply
          • Clifford Knelsen

            I am so sorry. I in fact am the owner of a private allied medical practice (for those who were wondering) and didn’t realize that there was more discussion on my comments. The link requested for the frequency is here:
            https://www.health.harvard.edu/mens-health/ejaculation_frequency_and_prostate_cancer

            This study is formatted per month rather than per week.

            Again, I am for what Sheila is doing! I don’t want obligations sex. I don’t want my wife to feel obligated. And I can assure each of you that I have never knowingly coerced, forced, manipulated, or in any way obligated my wife into sex. That being said, she was raised in the cutting edge (bleeding edge?) of an extreme faction of the purity movement, and due to what she had been taught she would probably answer that she has had sex only because she felt obligated. That’s not what I want!

            Regarding the oxytocin effect, I am sorry. I have not found that research. I did hear it on a podcast several years ago (I don’t think it was TLHAV – but it was on a Christian podcast (that’s all I listen to) and, at least on that episode, was discussing sexuality. But I do not recall which one it was, or which episode…. So I apologize. I did some brief research with no success.

            And I totally agree, sex isn’t the only healthy way to release oxytocin. I am all for cuddling, holding hands, hugs, playing with my dogs, and my grandkids!

          • Nessie

            Thanks, Clifford.
            Worth consideration- if the podcast you heard the 72 hour oxytocin depletion thing on was a Christian one about sexuality several years ago, I’d wager there is a high chance there was some proof-texting and liberality of findings going on with the duration of oxytocin and 72 hours to back up the fictitious 72 hour rule Dobson devised.

            I’d also put forth that many women’s chemical/homone levels are more about the overall balance than straight up levels compared to men, so it isn’t really a fair comparison to say that men’s levels were higher then lower… Women’s may not be as high/low but it may have the feel of a higher/lower level because of how it interplays with her other hormone/chemical levels. If a man has a lower level of X hormone, then that gets adjusted. For women, if she has a lower level of X hormone, that gets adjusted, then often she must tweak others to create a better balance overall compared to male counterparts.

            Also, if women have more “walking around” oxytocin (the “bonding” or “happy” chemical), then why do so many doctors jump straight to prescribing antidepressants for nearly all ailments remotely in that ballpark? If we have more consistent oxytocin, it seems like we wouldn’t need so many antidepressants.

        • Nessie

          Hi Clifford.
          No, your words did not. I just wanted to share how many of the toxic spaces and people in them would take just what you had written in your comment and easily turn it into something spiritually abusive.
          People who haven’t been inundated by that type of thinking probably wouldn’t even think to consider it with that spin. Those of us who have been in these spaces may find it all too easy to see how it would be used against us. That’s all I was getting at.

          Reply
        • Corie

          As soon as you throw in “I’m against women using sex as a tool of manipulation”, you’ve already shown where you stand. According to Sheila’s research, it is much, MUCH more common that women are manipulated and coerced into sex than the reverse. Yet, you make this statement? You’ve lost credibility and shown that my initial assessment of you was correct. BIG Red Flag. HUGE.

          Reply
          • Jo R

            You dropped something, Corie: 🎤

          • Nessie

            “BIG Red Flag. HUGE.”
            Corie- Don’t know if you were referencing Julia Roberts’ character in Pretty Woman (“Big mistake. HUGE!”), but it made me think of that.

            And absolutely agree with Corie’s observation. This is also an example of where the tone police would be called on if the genders were reversed.

            Clifford- I’m trying to give you the benefit of the doubt, but you not citing your sources when a few of us have asked does not look good on you, especially when you claim to value evidence-based practice. Most of what you’ve given us is that you’re a “medical professional” (which could simply mean you work in a pharmaceutical store stocking shelves) and have found research.

            If you had presented the initial information and suggested that a husband and wife *discuss* him taking care of his prostate health on his own, then I’d be able to track a bit. But you left it wide open to criticism with your suggestive, “you decide.”

        • Ni

          I would be interested in a study of evangelical men who follow the 72 hour rule or whatever it is, vs orthodox Jewish men, who traditionally abstain during their wives’ menstrual periods and postpartum times. Is there a difference in prostate cancer rates? That would give a more clear indication of the risk of abstinence, because as far as I know Jewish men are forbidden to masturbate.

          Reply
    • Jo R

      I wonder what kind of research is out there comparing health outcomes for women who orgasm regularly (and even multiples regularly) versus women who endure, oh, three or four decades of pleasureless penetration as living masturbatory aids for their husbands? 🤔

      I’ll make a SWAG and put the number of studies in the single digits, and that’s being generous.

      Reply
    • Nessie

      Clifford- If you could link to the resource for the oxytocin depletion after 72 hours, that’d be great. I’ve not found anything as yet to indicate that number at all. I’ve found all kinds of ways to naturally boost oxytocin levels though. Touch- especially long hugs, petting animals, acupuncture, supplements such as: Vit. C & D, melatonin & caffeine, listening to soothing music, massage, yoga, eating a meal with a loved one…

      So if a man feels his oxytocin levels are depleted by hour 72, I’d suggest he fill the 71 hours after sex (and beyond) with several of these other activities/options.

      I also saw a lot of ties to increased oxytocin levels increasing male competitiveness and jealousy in certain situations, so it isn’t always a “happy” chemical.

      Reply
  13. M

    A few thoughts…

    Lehman specifically uses “man or woman” and “his or hers” when he references sexual needs. But how does he talk about sex in the rest of the book? I haven’t read it, so if it’s mostly a man’s need, he flubbed or lied with his verbage there.

    Also of note: he states “certainly pregnancy, illness, and a few other unforseen problems will alter this…” to talk about a time when sex is less than two per week. Interestingly he lumps “unforseen problems” in with pregnancy and illness, which are either exclusively or more statistically likely with women than with men. And lumping these with “problems” indicates that he sees these as barriers to sex, rather than either a happy celebration that takes a lot of work, or as something that could be as intense as life-threatening.

    A theme I’m seeing is that they focus on removing barriers to orgasm, whether that be a healthy thing like taking a libido or orgasm course, or something more coercive and disgusting such as telling women to ignore their crying infant or perform sex acts they don’t want to. People have said this before, but it gets scarily close to a sex cult.

    Reply
  14. Amy G

    Considering that Jesus and Paul did great with a celibate lifestyle, where do these creeps get the idea all men need sex as bad as water? And why do they think using a fellow image bearer as a pleasure object is better than just taking care of it themselves in the bathroom? Just don’t think disgusting thoughts while taking care of the physiological urge. And why do they seem to think all women are asexual? I’m not interested in doing yucky mating stuff, so I’m not getting married.

    Reply
  15. Kay

    I recently realized something. I didn’t view the 72-hour rule as obligation sex at the time because I was using different language; I told myself frequent sex was a “gift” for him.

    But I think gift sex (at least in this context) **is** obligation sex. If it is something that I give and he receives, that makes it a net negative for me.

    Either way, the 72-hour rule turns sex into a care task.

    Care-task sex isn’t sexy.

    Reply
  16. Kay

    Shortly after marriage is when I heard this 72 hour rule, and oh the shame I felt the whole of our marriage until I found you! I got pregnant and had a baby soon after our marriage and babies change things! Nevermind that he worked two jobs and I may have had a bit of ppd— or just definitely felt so alone in navigating marriage & a baby away from family. I kept track of when we did it and from what I remember, rarely ever was it more than once a week, but then throw in periods and NOT wanting to get pregnant again…. Sometimes it was less. Then periods of a lot less! So much guilt & shame!! Self induced by listening to marriage “experts”. Shame & guilt & obligation are a recipe for disaster!

    Reply
  17. Jo R

    (Preface: Wow, I have such great thoughts in the shower sometimes [if that’s not TMI].)

    Will someone please help me reset my evangelical teaching decoder ring?

    So marriage is supposed to make you holy, not happy

    -and-

    Husbands are supposed to have orgasms on demand

    -therefore-

    Husbands’ on-demand orgasms are making them holy, not happy.

    Right?

    (I guess it’s just a lucky coincidence that orgasms feel good.)

    But since women don’t like sex and it’s too much work for husbands to bring their wives to even one orgasm, let alone the multiples that many women are more than capable of, then that MUST mean that wives not having orgasms is making wives holy, not happy.

    Right?

    Because why would women WANT to forego all that pleasure when they could be holy instead?

    I’d 🤣 if it wasn’t so 😭 .

    Reply
  18. JoB

    I had this “rule” presented in a different way during premarital church counseling: since the Bible says don’t deprive each other of sex except for the purpose of prayer and fasting, and most people wouldn’t fast more than 3 days, ergo, you should make sure to “come together” about every three days to “stay close to each other.” I thought it was strange logic at the time, but, hey, I was the counselee, not the counselor. In retrospect, I see it was that particular church’s adoption of the 72 hour rule, but running it through their own mill of making everything “biblical” so that they only had church members use materials developed by the church itself.

    Reply
  19. Valerie Bock

    I think there is a whole lot of unhappiness that is caused by this “rule” and by the incorrect ideas people have about what is “normal” and what everyone else is doing. I truly appreciate that you have taken the time to do this research. “Once a week seems important, a little more often is a little nicer but not earthshakingly so” tracks with my personal experience over the last 40 years. These days, we need to plan our sex lives a little bit more because there is medication to work around. I have to say, that’s been kind of nice, in that our shared expectations are necessarily more aligned.

    Reply
  20. Renea

    Young men “affectionately “ call it a hand job?!?!? AFFECTIONATELY??? What kind of language is that????

    Reply
  21. M

    In a lot of ways it sounds like leadership found it easier to implement a “48-72 hour rule” than to teach or help people actually communicate and have uncomfortable conversations. Which is mind boggling. My partner and I try to simply talk about our needs and desires and be realistic about expectations. So some weeks we might not get anything but a quick cuddle before sleep and other weeks we get some good loving every day. Because life fluctuates and so do we. I think we would have much higher satisfaction rates if we taught people how to talk and listen than by giving arbitrary and capricious “rules”.

    Reply
  22. Aaron Maurice

    I find the arguments in this article compelling. I would also like to see prostate cancer risk for Orthodox Jewish men who regularly abstain for several days at a time as compared to those with higher frequency of orgasm.

    I’m also surprised that no one has mentioned the quote from Martin Luther as a possible genesis for the 72 hour rule – “twice per week seems to be enough to stave off the tempter.” A little bit longer than 72 hours but still in the ballpark. That’s honestly where I learned it from early in my marriage and unfortunately set us down a bad path which we’re recovering from now.

    Reply

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