Women have a unique perspective on marriage and sex–because we have unique experiences!
Yet sometimes women are missing from the conversation, because most pastors and big name marriage authors are male. So I invited six of the best female marriage & sex bloggers to join me today to talk about the 10 things we believe are missing from the conversation. And please do check these wonderful women out! They write great stuff, too.
And men–this isn’t meant to be a criticism. This is just all of us, collectively, asking you to listen to women’s voices, too, because when it comes to sex, we need both perspectives included! We appreciate you. We know you have a tough job, especially from the pulpit. But we ask humbly that you consider these things as well.
1. Sex is not just physical.
Likely the #1 thing that I would love it if male bloggers, authors, and pastors would talk about more is that sex was designed to be more than physical. When the conversation always revolves around how much men need sex, and how sexually frustrated many husbands are, it sounds as if sex is mostly a physical thing. And many teachers frame it that way–men need physical release!
Now, sex totally is physical. But what I found in my research for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex is that the couples who felt more spiritually connected also had wives who were more sexually responsive. Yesterday in my Ask Sheila video I was talking about a man who wanted sex everyday, and just used his wife for sex, like a receptacle. I guess I would want pastors to ask themselves, “Would women in my congregation know that this is not what God intended, based on what I say? Would men know that?” Because this woman thought that it was normal, and I think the reason she did is that sex is almost always talked about in terms of a man getting his sexual frustration relieved.
2. We need to stop saying men have high libidos and women have low libidos – because that’s not always the case!
You’ve read it in books, heard it in conversation, watched it in TV shows: Unless something is seriously wrong with a man, he wants sex more than his wife does. That perception’s so widespread, it’s gotta be true. Right?
But it’s not!
Nothing in Scripture says a wife can’t or won’t be as interested in sexual intimacy as her husband, and for 15-30% of couples the wife has greater sexual interest. My Facebook group of 600 higher-drive wives are real-life examples. Unfortunately, these women regularly feel left out of the conversation, and I can only imagine how lower-drive husbands feel.
These husbands are not just low-T guys but, like lower-drive wives, have various reasons why they’re not as eager as their spouses. We do these marriages a disservice when we don’t acknowledge their existence and challenges.
No, it’s not the majority situation. But it’s a large minority of millions of couples. Let that sink in and influence how we as Christians address the overall topic of mismatched sex drives.
I love how dedicated J is to this topic! She wrote a post for me a while back, too, on what to do when the wife has the higher sex drive, and it was great.
3. Women are more likely to be the ones who are sexually deprived.
Often pastors and writers use the “do not deprive” verses from 1 Corinthians 7 to talk about how women need to make sure that their husbands are not sexually deprived by giving them sex often.
However, my surveys for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex found that only 18% of women have an orgasm every time they have sex, whereas pretty close to 100% of men do. Combine this with J’s point that up to 30% of women have the higher sex drive, and you have a whole host of women who are sexually deprived.
It is women who are not the sexually satisfied ones in our pews, and many don’t even realize it because they don’t know that they’re supposed to feel pleasure! We need to let both men and women know that women’s pleasure should be a top priority.
4. Women don’t respond sexually the same way men do–but we’re still completely normal
Women’s sexual responses, although often very different from men’s, are completely normal. These differences simply reflect the way God designed her mind and body.
So when you’re talking or teaching about sexuality, here are some things you need to know:
Women’s sexual interest tends to be responsive.
Most women don’t fall into bed at night, ready for sex. Instead, they need to transition into feeling aroused and interested, which is why touch, conversation, and foreplay are so important. This is normal.
Women rarely orgasm through intercourse.
Men almost always orgasm through intercourse, but that’s not typical for women. In most cases, thrusting doesn’t do the trick, and most women will need clitoral stimulation in order to reach orgasm.
It takes time for women to reach orgasm.
Most men can thrust for a few minutes and boom – orgasm. But that’s rarely the case for women, who may need 20 or more minutes of stimulation. So husbands who want to enjoy a great sex life are going to have to invest some time and effort into her orgasm.
These are just 3 of the many differences between men and women. They aren’t good or bad, they’re just different. So encourage husbands to learn about their wife’s sexual response, to recognize that differences are normal, and to make changes that will enhance their marriages.
Exactly! So often we take the man’s experience of sex as “normal” and figure that women just need to catch up so that we’re like men. Nope. We were made differently, and that’s okay! So any talk about sex has to take these differences into account, not just assume that women need to change to become more responsive like men, or more quick to orgasm like men.
5. Men don’t automatically know how to please a woman.
There is a myth still lingering out there that keeps taking a toll on marriages. It’s this idea that a man automatically knows how to please a woman sexually simply because he’s a man. Whether it comes from inflated locker room banter or inaccurate message perpetuated in media, a man is often led to believe he carries all the responsibility to make a sexual experience great not only for himself, but also for his wife. She may have bought into the myth too and is “waiting” for him to take the lead sexually. Poor guy is left trying to navigate the female body with no input. He feels insecure but can’t admit it, because society has told him that as the man, he should intuitively know more about sex. A better approach? A husband and a wife BOTH should embrace a humble willingness to communicate, learn, and offer and receive feedback. Let go of the myth. Speak up. Show each other what feels good sexually. Your marriage will be better for it!
6. Please talk more about quality of sex over quantity!
I can sum up the last few points in one here: please, pastors and authors, talk more about quality of sex than quantity! When the main focus of conversation about sex is stopping a husband from feeling sexually frustrated by having sex a lot, then it seems as if what God really cares about is that women “give” their husbands sex a lot.
But is quantity the main thing? I think if we talked more about quality of sex–meaning that it’s for both of you, and that she should feel good, too–the quantity problem may take care of itself. But when sex is always presented as something that a wife “has” to do frequently, then neither understands that sex is supposed to be mutual. And that’s why it becomes a duty that she doesn’t really want.
Pastors and authors: If you’re going to talk about sex, here are 10 things that female Christian bloggers really beg you to include!
7. Sex should not be a bartering tool
“Keep your husband happy inside the bedroom, and he’ll keep you happy outside it” is a typical one-liner given to couples on their wedding day or premarital counseling.
Serving each other is a gift that can keep on giving, but when a remark such as above is doled out without explanation, the newlywed wife hears; sex is something you barter – you fix your husband’s base need, and he fixes yours. Sexual enjoyment is not for you, sorry. Oh, and when “you do your part,” your husband will automatically know to do his.
But here’s the truth newlyweds should hear – and perhaps a way to tidy-up our clichés. Intimacy in marriage takes two; it’s not intimacy if only one part of the marriage is enjoying it. Sex is the most vulnerable area of a couples life and great sex, and consequently deepening intimacy is not instinctive, it’s a journey.
I love this! I don’t think that many pastors and writers realize that the cliches they make about how the sexual relationship works really makes women feel instinctively that they’re not sexual beings. We need to change and challenge our cliches.
8. Women struggle with porn – ACTUAL porn too.
One thing I see missing from the conversation about women and sex is the fact that more and more Christian women are struggling with pornography. For years, we’ve followed a ‘script’ that says women struggle with romance and fantasy while men struggle with porn, and it’s simply not true. Women can and do struggle with hardcore pornography, sometimes even violent or homosexual content. There is so much shame surrounding it because there’s so much silence. When we constantly brand pornography as a man’s problem or something that women turn to only when they’ve experienced trauma, we alienate and shame the pastor wives, teachers, worship leaders, student group leaders, and other women who actively struggle with it. They feel shame for their struggles and even their sex drives. We have to recognize women are sexual beings too and, as such, are subject to the same sexual temptations as men. That’s the only way we can start the conversation to help them experience grace, freedom, and sex as God intended.
I love that Jessica writes so well about this! Every time I talk on pornography, I always mention that women struggle with porn, too, and I always pray at the end of the night for the women that are in bondage. I think over the next 10 years it will become a more normal conversation, but right now it’s shrouded in secrecy, and that’s too bad. That secrecy can also stop teenage girls from getting help when they start down that road as well. They figure there’s something wrong with them.
That’s another reason it’s important to have Covenant Eyes on your computers at home, just to make that temptation a little less powerful. When porn’s not just a click away, there’s time for you to listen to the Holy Spirit. So check out Covenant Eyes! And let’s keep having this conversation.
Find freedom from porn!
9. Sexual trauma and sexual problems don’t heal overnight–
But just because it takes time doesn’t mean she’s not trying or that she’s not committed to change!
Many women who carry past trauma or even baggage of their own making struggle with sex in their marriages. We should always encourage hurting women to pursue healing for their own sake—and their marriages are likely to benefit, too!
Here’s the thing: healing is a process that takes time. A woman may be genuinely committed to her healing. She may put in serious and persistent effort to pursue that healing. Her progress may be slow, and it might not even be visible, especially at first.
Sadly, sometimes we expect significant visible progress, practically overnight. I’ve heard from husbands who expect sexual problems to be fixed only one month after their wives begin counseling. We can’t expect women to put their healing on a speedy schedule. When we do that, we add pressure and stress to the equation, which makes it take even longer for her to heal.
Yep! Our sexuality is so close to our identity that wounds there are deeper than other wounds. The length of the healing process bears very little correlation to the woman’s commitment to healing.
Finally, I’ve been on a rampage to try to change our conversation about lust in the church. Too often it’s presented that if a man notices that a woman is beautiful, he may start imagining her sexually. And that’s a sin. And so it’s better not to notice by “bouncing your eyes”. Men are told so much that noticing is lusting that it makes it impossible for teen boys especially to go through life without feeling sinful.
But a guy can’t help noticing. If he feels like he’s sinning just by living, and there’s nothing he can do about that, then one who has to change is the woman. All the responsibility for curing his lust problem falls on her. That’s just wrong. It’s so much better to teach teens and men to treat women with respect not by ignoring them or separating from them because they’re dangerous, but by seeing them as whole people. It is possible to talk with a woman who is beautiful and not lust after her, and I’ve got 12 suggestions for churches on how to help the men in their congregation beat lust. And not one of those suggestions has to do with men “bouncing their eyes”, because that doesn’t work. Plus it’s highly demeaning to women.
UPDATE: I’ve just thought of two more really important points about what pastors need to understand about sex, which I should have included! So here are two bonus thoughts:
11. Wives refusing sex don’t cause most porn addictions, and wives having more sex won’t cure them, either.
Most porn addictions today have nothing to do with the marriage. To say they do misunderstands both the effects of porn on a guy’s brain, and the dynamics of a marriage where porn is a factor. Most guys start addictions to porn in their teens, long before they’re married, and porn rewires what they find arousing. Most men highly addicted to porn also have low libidos for their wives. Thus, a wife did not cause her husband’s porn addiction.
My personal theory is that pastors misunderstand this because pastors who AREN’T addicted to porn still feel tempted by it, and that temptation is worse when they’re getting less sex at home. So they extrapolate from their own experiences to the guys in their congregation. But a true porn addiction is caused by something different and changes what men find alluring and attractive, and the porn needs to be dealt with before the sexual side of the marriage can be rebuilt.
12. Consent matters, even in marriage
When pastors preach on the “do not deprive” verses as if Paul wrote “do not refuse”, intimating that a wife must never say no to sex, they give women the impression that their own experiences and desires are completely irrelevant. The husband must be allowed to “use” his wife’s body whether or not she wants it. That’s actually the opposite of what that passage says, since that passage makes sex entirely into something that is mutual. But when women hear, over and over again, that men need sex and that she must not refuse, it makes us feel like objects. That makes sex into something very distasteful, demeaning, and objectifying. It makes us feel used.
Sex is supposed to be a deep “knowing”, where two people are completely joined. Making it a one-sided obligation where she doesn’t matter eradicates God’s design for sex. So, please, be careful that you don’t make it sound like women are objects. Yes, marital rape can occur. And yes, there are legitimate reasons that women may say no to sex (and here are 10 of them!). Let’s keep the focus on real intimacy, not just on men’s ejaculation (which is sometimes what it sounds like).
Okay, now that’s really it!
Does your marriage need some spicing up–and some fun?
There you go! 10 things that we all want pastors and authors to know, so that when they talk about sex they can do it in a way that acknowledges and validates women’s experiences, too. When we only talk about men’s experiences, then sex isn’t going to end up being very good in the relationship.
But now I want to know: Did we miss one? What would #11 be? (or I guess it’s now #13, since the update!) Or is there one that surprised you? Let’s talk in the comments!
See what else we’ve written on how the church needs a more balanced view of sex: