What does it mean to have sex with your husband?

That may seem like a silly question, but it’s what I’ve been building up to on the blog and in my podcasts for the last few weeks.

And here’s why the definition matters: I believe that sex is an intrinsic and vital part of marriage. I believe that God designed sex to be a marvelous expression of intimacy, and a wonderful gift for both of us, which miraculously is also the way that children are made.

Unfortunately, these things are not always present in many people’s sexual lives. Instead, their sex life in marriage is more about one person taking pleasure while using the other. It is about one person doing all the giving, and one person doing all the receiving. And that’s not healthy.

If I were to ask people to define a sexual encounter, though, that unhealthy version of sex wouldn’t be off the table. When it comes down to it, most people’s definition of sex goes something like this:

Man Inserts Penis Into Woman’s Vagina and Moves Until He Reaches Climax

I do agree that this is part of a healthy sex life. But it is only a part. And when that part becomes the whole, we miss out on what God meant for us.

Because we define sex this way, we can quickly run into problems.

If God tells us that we’re not supposed to deprive one another of sex, and then we define sex as a man putting his penis into her vagina until he climaxes, then women feel that they have to invite their husbands, and even welcome their husbands, to have very, very one-sided sex.

That sort of belief is what led to me forcing myself to have sex early in our marriage, even though I suffered from vaginismus and it hurt horribly. It was a sin to refuse sex, and sex was all about a man penetrating a woman until he climaxed.

That sort of belief has led to a lot of confusion in the comments lately. I’ve been suggesting different ways that women can try to communicate with their husbands that they need more out of sex, and that they don’t want to be treated like objects. I’ve suggested that women tell their husbands that they want to have passionate sex, but they’re no longer just willing to have intercourse without their needs also being taken into consideration. As I’ve done so, I’ve had a lot of comments and emails like this one:

I just think refusing to have sex with your spouse is kind of like giving them the silent treatment, and it inflames hostility and misunderstanding more than anything.

I absolutely agree. Flat out refusing to have sex with your spouse IS like giving them the silent treatment. It does often inflame hostility.

However, I was not advising that people refuse to have sex. What I was advising was that it’s okay for women to say:

I will no longer have intercourse with you when you penetrate me without any thought to my experience or any attempt to consider me in the process.

Do you see how that’s an entirely different thing?

Yet because we think that Sex = Man Puts his Penis Into Woman’s Vagina, we continue to believe that our own experience is more of an afterthought or an extra.

If women believed that our own experience mattered, then when we first married, we would be expecting that he would also pleasure us, or that he would start sex with a back rub, or that he would try to woo us. But because we tend to believe that our own experience is irrelevant compared to his experience (since sex consists of him moving and him climaxing), then we often get into this rut where sex becomes all about him.

And that’s why we need a new definition of sex.

Sex, the way that the Bible defines it, is not just Man Puts Penis Inside Woman’s Vagina Until Man Climaxes. Sex is intercourse, yes, but it is intercourse for the purpose of deeply knowing each other (see the Hebrew word for sex in Genesis 4:1), meaning that both people matter. It is intercourse with the expectation that both of you will feel pleasure from it and will desire it (see how sex in 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 is completely mutual).

If you were to tell your husband:

“I want to make love with you. I want to be passionate with you. I want to look forward to our times together because I feel as if we’re really close and having fun together. But I can’t do that if you rush through intercourse, don’t try to make me feel good, and don’t even talk to me. So from on, if we’re going to make love, I need you to spend some time helping me feel good, even if it’s just starting with a massage. And I’d like to feel as if you want to know me, not just that you want your body to feel good inside mine.”

you would not be refusing sex.

Let’s Change How We Think About Sex!

It’s supposed to be great physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Feel like something’s missing?

On the contrary, you would be refusing to be treated like an object for the purpose of finally experiencing ACTUAL sex–the kind that God designed. All you’re saying is: I will no longer be treated like an object, but instead I would like to be treated as a person who is loved and who matters.

God loves you. You matter to God. And God wants you to experience that affirmation through making love as well.

And even more than that–that’s what God wants for your husband, too. God wants your husband to know the wonders of true intimacy. God wants your husband to feel real passion. God wants your husband to feel truly known and vulnerable and open with you, too.

Saying that you won’t be treated like an object is not refusing sex. It is refusing to be used.

If your husband does not go along with that, he is the one refusing sex, not you. He is refusing to treat sex in a mutual, intimate way as God intended, and he is preferring to have sex in an impersonal way where he uses you.

Do you see the difference? (Please tell me you see the difference!).

You’re not depriving him of sex. You’re depriving him of the chance to treat you like an object!

Saying that you want sex to be about both of you and you will no longer be treated like an object is not refusing sex. It is refusing to be used. If your husband refuses to go along with that, HE is the one refusing sex, not you.

The pushback I’ll get, I know, is that it’s good to be selfless and giving. Therefore we should let our husbands do this. And that would be true if God created sex only to be about physical release (as Emerson Eggerichs said in Love & Respect). But God didn’t. God created sex as the primary vehicle by which we would understand true relational intimacy and vulnerability. If we give to our husbands in such a way that we make sex only about physical release, then we actually deprive them of the chance to understand real intimacy.

I know this is radical for woman to hear. But as I have started to talk about this more over the last few weeks, I have had so many women come forward and say that they just can’t put those kinds of repercussions on their husbands, because their husbands wouldn’t take it well. That totally is your prerogative, of course. But let me just remind you that God’s vision for your marriage is of a mutual experience where you truly know each other. Allowing him to treat you like an object is not hastening that. It is making it less likely.

(You can listen to my podcast from a few weeks ago where I addressed this directly in the reader segment section–and told how you can have this conversation without attacking him, but affirming him instead! This doesn’t need to be an antagonistic conversation, after all!)

Working towards godly sex, though, is not something that only women are yearning for. Men are, too!

I have so many men on this blog who comment about how desperately they want their wives to understand what God made sex for. These men don’t want sex to be just about them thrusting until they climax. They want to know their wives intimately and to be passionate WITH their wives, but their wives refuse, thinking that by letting their husbands penetrate them while they lie there they’re “doing their duty”. No! It’s not about duty! It’s about passion and knowing each other. Enthusiasm matters, too.

God made sex to show us what it means to be both passionate and vulnerable at the same time.

He wants us to feel very intimate and close with each other. He designed women’s sexual response so that we usually take longer to warm up, and so that we usually need attention besides intercourse, so that the husband would have to cater to the wife in a way that doesn’t bring the husband direct pleasure. That way sex is about the relationship.

It takes vulnerability for a woman to open up and tell her husband what she likes and what makes her feel good. And it takes vulnerability for a man to try things to pleasure her, and admit that he doesn’t know entirely what he’s doing. He has to not just focus on what he’s feeling, but he has to open up and listen to her and think of her.

And then, as we do experience pleasure, we feel it only with that one special person. We feel bonded to them. And we feel like we truly “know” them.

That is God’s design. Unfortunately, our pornographic culture has wrecked it. Too often our Christian culture has wrecked it by teaching us that sex is only about a man’s needs–thus robbing both of us of the chance to be vulnerable. But vulnerability and intimacy are what God designed us for.

How can we achieve godly, biblical sex–which is mutual, passionate, and vulnerable?

A biblical sexual relationship should be about both people

While some individual sexual encounters might be about giving each other “a gift” (something which is also important in growing in love!), the relationship as a whole will be about both people feeling loved and cherished, and both people receiving.

A biblical sexual relationship should be about both people experiencing pleasure

The goal should be to help both of you experience pleasure. Sometimes she may have a hard time reaching orgasm, but her enjoyment should be pursued in the relationship as a whole (even if during some encounters she prefers to focus on him). The husband should consider it his job and privilege to unlock what makes her tick!

A biblical sexual relationship should relax both of you

Orgasm is relaxing. But if orgasm isn’t happening for her, then something else which helps her feel relaxed should. Maybe it’s stroking her hair or holding her. Maybe it’s giving her a massage. But you should both be able to drift off to sleep feeling cared for.

True godly sex should be an expression of how you feel about one another

While it’s true that sex and friendship are like the chicken and the egg–it’s not really clear which is first–sex should reflect emotional closeness as well. Both of you should feel cherished and loved through your sexual relationship, which means that both partners will go to lengths to help the other feel loved in the way that they need it. That may mean spending time talking beforehand; it may mean talking to him or her or saying “I love you” during sex; it may mean making time for each other outside of the bedroom.

True godly sex should be about both people being enthusiastic about joining together

It isn’t enough to say to your husband, “you can if you want to”, and then lie back and count ceiling tiles, thinking that you’re being a good wife. Godly sex is about embracing passion and intimacy, even if it takes a while to learn how your body works.

Just because the husband is putting his penis into the wife’s vagina does not mean that you are having biblical sex

If you understand that true sex encompasses much more than just this, then the “do not deprive” verses take on a whole new meaning, don’t they?

This doesn’t have to be a difficult conversation, though! If you work through 31 Days to Great Sex, you’ll both understand what biblical sex looks like without having to have a hard talk where it sounds like you’re angry. Go through the exercises, and you’ll learn to discard the lies you’ve believed about sex. You’ll learn how to make sure she feels good. You’ll learn how to flirt and be affectionate so you both feel loved. You’ll learn how to be passionate and try new things! But you’ll also be taken through exercises that will help you both feel.

Do you want MORE for your sex life?

Book Cover for "31 Days to Great Sex"

The 31 Days to Great Sex Challenge was written to help you spice it up in the bedroom! 

Try new things, explore each other, and turn on those fireworks!

Ladies, God never intended for you to feel like an object or to feel used. That’s not godly sex. That’s not making love. From now on, let’s agree that sex does not equal:

Man puts penis into woman’s vagina until he climaxes

But instead sex means:

Two people join together physically and emotionally and spiritually for the purposes of experiencing pleasure, expressing love, and feeling close.

That’s real sex. And that’s what we should not be deprived of in marriage.

Why we need a new definition of sex, that focuses on a mutual experience, not just a husband's pleasure.

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find BIBLICAL, HEALTHY, EVIDENCE-BASED help for their marriage. 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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