If your husband wants you to do a striptease or send him sexy photos, doesn’t that mean he’s perverted? Do you have to indulge him?
Every Monday I like to post a reader question and take a stab at answering it, and today I have two women with similar questions about how much of a guy’s fantasy we have to submit to.
One woman writes:
My husband wants me to send him naked photos to him while he’s at work. I really feel uncomfortable and harassed by this situation and think it’s getting out of control.
We’re in our forties and have been married for over 20 years. Our relationship isn’t very good as I always get thrush every month.
If I don’t send the photos he ignores me and blanks me out. I told him I don’t love him anymore and to get out of my life but he will not listen to me. He always says he’s sorry and then makes up but then he’ll start all over again.
Another woman asks more of a philosophical question:
I equate my husband’s asking me to wear uncomfortable and unattractive lingerie as well as perform lap dances and strip dances as an overt and palpable manifestation of his fantasies. Men do this without question using the mantra that “men are visual”. And as wives, we are required to satisfy those visual fantasies. No matter that they arise because he has seen something on TV or in a magazine or in a movie (or even porn) that has caught his eye. And no matter that they are very uncomfortable for the wife to perform. When the husband watches the wife, he is fantasizing about the image he has see that prompted the performance, not the wife. That is overtly forcing the wife to participate in his fantasy. It is very hurtful to know that your spouse is fantasizing about some obviously hotter, sexier image and even more hurtful to have to perform it. Somehow, this is viewed as normal male behavior.
All right, let’s try to unpack this, because I think there are several issues at play, and I want to tease them out separately.
Ready? Let’s go!
Being Treated Like a Sexual Object is Wrong
The first letter writer is really concerning to me. He’s asking her to do something which is potentially harmful to her–how does she know other people won’t see those photographs? And why is he more interested in seeing naked pictures of her at work than he is at working on their relationship when he’s at home?
As I’ve said before, sex is supposed to be mutual, and when we treat sex like it’s all for him and that women need to do whatever he wants, we diminish the power of sex to bring us together as a couple. We make sex into something which only physical–animal even–instead of something which is also intimate.
That is so harmful to the marriage and to the woman’s libido. You should not be treated like a sex object.
I guess what I’d say to this woman is that she needs to decide what she wants. She isn’t drawing very good boundaries. He blows up at her, she blows up at him and says it’s over, he apologizes–and she takes him back.
If someone is truly sorry, they will confess to someone else, get accountability, and change their behaviour. Sometimes the worst thing we can do is to rush forgiveness before we give God time to work on the person’s heart.
The husband here has issues where he’s not valuing the wife; he sees sex as only physical; and he violates her personhood. He needs to start feeling the consequences of his actions, and I’d recommend reading Boundaries in Marriage or my book 9 Thoughts That Can Help Your Marriage to help you sort out how to resolve something like this and refuse to participate in him going down a dangerous sexual path.
Enjoying Watching Someone Is Not Wrong or Abnormal
Okay, so I obviously agree that a husband wanting the wife to indulge a fantasy where she is objectified–when there is no intimacy in other parts of their relationship–is absolutely wrong.
If this is the case in the second letter writer’s situation, then I would give the same advice to her.
However, I do see some red flags in the second letter that I want to address. She’s making some very blanket statements that I see frequently that are not necessarily true. They may be true in her own marriage, but they aren’t necessarily true.
…asking me to wear uncomfortable and unattractive lingerie as well as perform lap dances and strip dances as an overt and palpable manifestation of his fantasies. Men do this without question using the mantra that “men are visual”.
If a guy wants you to perform lap dances all the time, and if sex is really focused on him being served rather than being something intimate, then this is definitely wrong.
But men ARE visual, and the fact that a guy would enjoy watching a woman do a lingerie fashion show or watching her slowly take off her clothes does not mean that he has porn issues or that he’s a pervert. He may just love you and enjoy being with you and want to have some fun!
Just Because Strippers Do Something or Porn Stars Do Something Doesn’t Mean it’s Necessarily Off Limits
There are some acts that definitely are wrong–anything involving a third party, watching porn together, role plays which are really odd (acting like a child, etc. etc.), some physical acts that are harmful. But that doesn’t mean that everything a stripper does or everything a porn star does is wrong. Of course, I hope you haven’t all been in strip joints or watched porn to figure out what those things are, but hopefully you know where I’m coming from!
I think we need to be careful, then, that we don’t assume that because a husband may want to spice things up or because he may want to look at you taking your clothes off that he’s by definition a gross porn addict.
The letter writer says, for instance:
When the husband watches the wife, he is fantasizing about the image he has see that prompted the performance, not the wife.
This may very well be the case, especially for this woman. I’ve written before, for instance, that it’s okay to say to him, “I’m not going to have sex with you after you’ve gotten aroused watching Game of Thrones.” And if your husband wants something you think is gross, that may indeed be a red flag.
But when a husband watches a wife do a little striptease it doesn’t mean he necessarily is fantasizing about something else. Most guys enjoy watching a women getting undressed. That doesn’t mean he’s bad. Most guys would love it if we tried some new positions or did some interesting things.
One thing I often advise couples to do is the “His Night” “Her Night” bargain. Take the Saturdays in a month and declare two of them “His nights” and two of them “Her nights”. On his nights you do the things he wants, and on her nights you may start with a long, drawn out massage. That way if he likes seeing a lingerie fashion show, you can provide one. But on all the other nights you just do things regularly, so you don’t have to feel pressured that every night has to be a big production. He knows he gets what he needs sometimes, and you know you do as well.
The Issue is the Heart. Always.
Some men, because of past or current porn exposure or the way they allow themselves to think, do view sex as primarily a physical thing where they can get their own needs met, rather than as an intimate encounter where they please the wife and feel close to her, too.
If that is the case in your marriage, then absolutely you need to talk to him about it. You may even need to bring in a third party, like a counsellor or mentor couple, to help you draw some boundaries and say, “no more”. You may have to get something like Covenant Eyes to make watching porn more difficult and give him some accountability.
But sometimes we become so focused on the evils of porn that we think anything that is the least bit risqué is therefore off limits.
The issue is not the act; the issue is the heart.
The closer a couple gets to each other and the more intimate they become, often the more passionate and more fun their lovemaking grows. Hot and holy can go together!
If you have a history of people using sex as a weapon against you, or if you’re just completely grossed out by our culture, it’s easy to start seeing sex as something distasteful that we need to get through–a sort of “missionary position is the only acceptable thing”. But it’s not. And let’s be careful that we don’t throw passion out the window with our attempt to get rid of the influences of pornography.
What do you think? How would you tell the difference between a guy who just enjoys looking at his wife and a guy who wants his wife to indulge fantasies he’s fuelled by porn? Let’s talk in the comments!