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Here’s the scenario: You can’t make love for an extended period of time (say, more than just 3 or 4 days) because of physical issues. So do you need to give your husband sexual favors anyway?

We’re winding up the Sizzling Summer Sex Series, and I needed to end it with two of the thornier questions that I get, because they’re important–before giving one final “Rah Rah You Can Do It” post on Monday (okay, I didn’t intend the double entendre there).

Yesterday I was talking about what to do when sex is off the table, almost permanently.

Today we’re looking at something different. It’s a temporary situation, and your sex life will return to normal soon. But in the interim, what is your obligation?

A woman wrote this really insightful email:

I am nursing our fourth baby and an newly pregnant with it fifth (that’s five babies in less than 7 years, from what I can gather from her email). Typically I have had a very healthy libido during pregnancy, but this time, not so much. As much as I want to be with my husband, my body simply will not respond.

This has brought to the forefront something that was only a minor issue in the past, and that is: Is it my job to give my husband sexual favors if I can’t have intercourse? I know I am probably wrong here, but I went into marriage believing that sex was a mutual giving and receiving of love, not just a legal physical release. I know he has needs (and we have sex at worst twice a week, except during my cycle), and sometimes I would like to satisfy him when I can’t fully participate, but the idea that it is my job, that I was created to be his sexual outlet or “tool” if you will, without a choice (as he believes the word help meet means), that sex, in his own words, is about using each other for our own pleasure, and not about love… Well, this creates pretty deep feelings of resentment, self hatred, and loneliness.

If I do favor him, at his urging, I struggle that much more the next time we have reciprocal sex. So, he has stopped asking. Last night he said that makes me the “boss” of our sex life, and that makes him feel like less of a man. I hate that I make him feel this way, but I also don’t know what to do with the powerful negative feelings evoked by my favoring him. I guess my issue with it all is, the sex desire I’m fulfilling in those cases has nothing to do with me, or our love, or a relationship, and everything to do with just physical urges. I don’t say this from a selfish desire to achieve my own climax, as I don’t always even during intercourse, and I’m ok with that. I just strongly resent being a tool, and I know my husband believes my view on the subject is sinful. How do I change? What do I do with the feelings? How do I submit to being used, without resentment? 

How do I submit to be used?

Oh, honey. We’re not ever to submit to being used. This letter just made me so sad. Why are we believing these things? No wonder so many women are hurting!

You were not created to be a sexual tool.

Now disgraced pastor Mark Driscoll once wrote that women were created to be “penis homes”. That this is our worth–to be used by men and completed by men.

The Good Girls Guide to Great SexNo, my precious sisters, you were created in the image of the living God.

You were designed for beautiful intimacy, which is what sex was created to provide. It was to be a mirror of the deep longing for true connection that God has for us. It is not simply physical; it is emotional and spiritual, too. I explained this at length in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, and that was my point in writing it: one of the reasons sex is so lousy for so many women is that we see it as shallow, as only about the physical, and we miss out on the beauty of true intimacy. That intimacy is life affirming and life giving. It is saying: you are worth knowing. You are worth exploring. You are worth loving. 

These are Jesus’ words for you, and they should be a lover’s words for you, too.

In fact, look at that very word–“lover”. We call someone that we have sex with our lover because we are sharing something so deeply personal and intimate. Reduce it to something far less than that, and it is no longer two lovers in bed with one another. It is a master and a servant. And there is no intimacy between a master and a servant. 

It is not doing sexual favors that poisons sex. It is reducing sex to obligation and physical release.

Let me clear here: the problem is not with her manually or orally stimulating him sometimes (there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that! Giving a gift can be fun!). The problem is that her husband is turning sex itself into an obligation, reducing sex to merely physical release. It’s rejecting the whole idea of “knowing” someone.

And then you tell your spouse, “You’re not really worth knowing.”

Sex should be about intimacy

Make sex only about obligation and sexual release, and you tell your spouse 'you're not worth knowing.'Click To Tweet

(Now, both spouses can do this. Women who think of sex as only physical, and aren’t enthusiastic about sex, tell their husbands the same thing. When women think that sex isn’t important, we make our husbands feel as if they aren’t worth knowing–because if we wanted to know them, why wouldn’t we want to make love? But in this post I’m addressing this woman’s question from the point of view of the husband who is diminishing sex. If you’re a wife who is feeling as if perhaps you’ve been letting sex fall by the wayside, especially once kids come, you may want to read this post on how to keep sex alive once kids arrive, and this one on pregnancy, breastfeeding, and sex.).

What right do we have to criticize our culture for objectifying women if we’re going to do the exact same thing and treat women like sexual pawns of their husbands?

We dress the idea of “sexual favors” up in Christian language. We’re “not to deprive” one another. Sex is made for marriage, and marriage is made for sex. God made men with sexual needs, and marriage is the outlet God designed for men to get those sexual needs met.

It’s like the church is saying, “the problem with the world is that they have sex outside of marriage!”, as if the world’s approach to sex is just fine, except for that marriage thing. No, we need to redeem sex itself from the debasement that our culture has done and make it about intimacy, vulnerability, and love, not objectification.

What happens when we objectify sex? We ruin sex for both of us, but especially for women. She writes:

If I do favor him, at his urging, I struggle that much more the next time we have reciprocal sex.

She wants sex to be making love, feeling as if they are two people joining together. He’s making it only physical. And that wrecks everything. It wrecks her libido. It wrecks her enjoyment of sex. It wrecks sex itself, because it tears up this beautiful work of art and replaces it with a cheap substitute.

It is okay to recoil at something which is not God’s plan

When my daughter Rebecca was eight years old, we were vacationing in Jamaica. The resort where we were staying had shows around the pool every night, and one particular night a magician came who was going to swallow fire. Rebecca turned pale and turned to me and said, “We have to leave. There’s something really really really bad here.”

She had no words for it, but she knew something was deeply wrong, and everything in her little body wanted to flee.

When you know that something is deeply wrong, you do not have to be able to produce a three-pronged argument to show why you are right. Sometimes you just know. When you say no to something that others may be telling you is your duty, it is not always that you are being rebellious. Sometimes it is that you are standing up for what is right–that you are standing up for Jesus.

Our letter writer says,

The idea that it is my job, that I was created to be his sexual outlet or “tool” if you will, without a choice (as he believes the word help meet means), that sex, in his own words, is about using each other for our own pleasure, and not about love… Well, this creates pretty deep feelings of resentment, self hatred, and loneliness.

When we treat sex like it is only physical, we make a mockery of God’s precious design.

When we treat sex like it is only physical, we make a mockery of God's precious design.Click To Tweet

Resentment, self-hated, and loneliness are natural and good responses when God’s plan is tossed aside.

Treat sex as if it’s all about rights that can be demanded, and we do the opposite of the Lord’s prayer. We don’t bring God’s kingdom on earth; we try to replace what is holy and good with a cheap substitute. Remember God in the Old Testament crying and pleading with Israel to stop turning to wooden idols that couldn’t do anything for them and turn to the living God? I think God’s saying the same thing here.

Does that mean you should never “lend a hand”?

Of course it doesn’t! There’s such freedom in the marriage bed, and loving each other and giving to each other is a great thing!

But when that giving is only one way (she gives despite her physical discomfort, and he doesn’t exercise self-control) and when that giving is coerced, then it is no longer about two lovers giving. It’s about one person taking from another. And that has no place in a Christian marriage. No place at all.

I firmly believe that sex should be awesome in marriage. That’s why I did this Sizzling Summer Sex Series! I firmly believe that women especially need to be challenged to go outside of our comfort zones and embrace our sexual sides (more on that on Monday!). I firmly believe that if you don’t have much of a libido, that you need to work on that, because why would you want to miss out on something so great? Your marriage will thank you!

But I also firmly believe that sex is supposed to be something that binds you together in an intimacy unlike any other, not something that denies your humanity, reduces you to mere tools, and ends up pushing you further apart.

When a woman is exhausted, especially because of pregnancy and nursing, and is in physical discomfort, for a man to tell her that God wants her to let herself be used for his enjoyment cuts her to her very soul.

And it is not because she has to do something she gets no pleasure from. No, it is instead that:

It robs her of the beauty of sex that she was designed to experience.

Do we get this?

Until we treat women like objects of love, rather than objects to be used, we will never experience the beauty of sex the way God intended, because we will kill her spirit. And when her spirit is killed, the ability to even experience that kind of intimacy is wiped out.

Let’s get this right. It’s important.

Let’s love. Let’s be giving. Let’s excel in generosity! But let’s never, ever demand something in selfishness, or we undermine the beauty of sex itself.

Your Sizzling Summer Sex Challenge Day 20:

Practice truly “knowing” each other.

The next time you make love, start with praying together for your family (coming before God helps you to feel really close!). Or start with a long massage, where you each take turns massaging each other, preferably while naked. Make it not only about physical release, but also about feeling close. And then hold on to that feeling!

Find other posts in the Sizzling Summer Sex Series here.

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