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What happens if we tell women that husbands are entitled to sex–no matter what?

I’m a big proponent of sex in marriage. Most of what I write is about sex. I have a revamped version of 31 Days to Great Sex coming out this summer with Zondervan. I’ve created a course to help women Boost their Libido. I have a super fun product for couples called 24 Spicy Dares, that can add some heat and passion to your marriage!

I believe that the ideal is for sex to be fun, passionate, and frequent.

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SPICY 1 - Have We Made Sex into an Entitlement?

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But I’ve also found that one of the big things that wrecks sex in marriage is treating it like an entitlement, rather than as a mutual expression of love. 

On Fridays I like to feature some comments that came in during the week, because often the best parts of the blog are in the comments section, and sometimes people miss that!

And this week we’ve talked about community, and screen time, and doing family well.

But the comment I want to focus on came in this week, but it was in response to a post from a few weeks ago on sexual trauma–The Body Keeps the Score. 

Mia wrote:

reader question icon - Have We Made Sex into an Entitlement?

Reader Comment

My husband and I have been married for four years, and used to enjoy sexual intimacy and never had any problems – until after the birth of our first child. It could be a mix of things that caused it but I definitely know that the pressure I felt early on to please my husband did something very negative to my overall view of sex. When we did try intercourse it was extremely painful. We have unsuccessfully tried several times since then. It has almost been two years. The sexual dysfunction exposed underlying issues in our relationships that we have not been able to repair. We are heading toward separation. My husband has a very fundamentalistic view of the bible (I used to as well) and I think he would like me to suffer through the pain and fulfill my duty for his sake. That duty-mentality completely kills any arousal and does not help fix my problem of pain. I just cannot do it. That’s not to say I am not open to other to different ways of being sexually intimate, it is just that all this tension and hostility between us makes it seem impossible to do with a sincere heart. I most definitely blame christian culture and purity culture. We were taught that if we stayed pure – sex in marriage would be fantastic. Which it was for some years, but then we were hit with reality. My husband has been in denial and admitted that he never thought something like this could even happen. His relationship with God has drastically gone downhill. Perhaps questioning God’s goodness for allowing this situation to happen. My husband went three years before our marriage without any sex or masturbation, to please God, so I know he is capable, but he says it is different in marriage. Which I can understand to a degree, but still. It is interesting to me that when it is my body that got injured during birth (pelvic organ prolapse) and my body that has changed and now experiences pain during intercourse – that he acts as if he is the only one hurting. I know he loves me, but I feel so objectified, like you mentioned, a “penis home”. The fact that my husband wants me to have sex with him despite intense pain disgusts me and I really questioning who I chose to marry.

Wow. Please listen to this again:

It is interesting to me that when it is my body that got injured during birth (pelvic organ prolapse) and my body that has changed and now experiences pain during intercourse – that he acts as if he is the only one hurting.

When we talk about sex as something that women must give men with no caveats, we treat men’s need for sex as a bigger need than anything else.

This is the problem with books like Love & Respect, Every Man’s Battle, The Power of a Praying Wife, or others treating sex like something that a woman must give, without ever giving any caveats about pain, vaginismus, nausea during pregnancy, grief if a parent or a child dies, emotional abuse, physical abuse, addictions, porn use, or anything else. By saying that women must give men sex, and not ever mentioning a time when this may not be a good idea or when her needs might supersede his, then readers are left with the impression that no matter how badly she is feeling, he must still be feeling even worse. 

When pastors talk about sex as a duty in marriage, rather than as something which is meant for both of you and that grows out of your relationship with one another, it can leave women feeling exactly like this woman does–that she doesn’t matter.

I believe that men who would otherwise be very giving in every other area of their marriage are taught that their needs here are so great that she is sinning if she doesn’t meet them–no matter what is happening with her.

I know men who are super generous, and very kind, and very giving in every other area of their lives, but they simply feel entitled to sex. And if she can’t provide it, because of pain or physical problems or grief or anything else, they become very angry and resentful. In this one area, there is a tremendous amount of selfishness. And, ironically, they think they’re being Christian, because 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 says “do not deprive“. How sad it is that their wives are not listening to Jesus, in their minds.

They try to live a holy life and obey God, and they have also been taught that part of a woman obeying God is providing them with sex. So if she doesn’t, for whatever reason, she is sinning. And so it’s easy to feel as if you are in the right and she is in the wrong–even though that attitude completely ignores a really important Biblical concept, putting others’ needs before your own:

Bible Icon - Have We Made Sex into an Entitlement?

Philippians 2:3-4

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, rather, in humility value others above yourselves. 

Not just that, but:
Jesus called them together and said,

Bible Icon - Have We Made Sex into an Entitlement?

Matthew 20:25-28

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must become your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

When we think about sex as a male entitlement, we change the very nature of sex.

Despite what much evangelical teaching says, sex is not just about a husband’s physical release. In fact, that, in and of itself, is not the point at all. Sex is about a mutual “knowing” of each other; a mutually satisfying, passionate encounter where both partners feel seen and cared for. When we make sex into something that she owes him, we erase her entirely.

We don’t just erase her sexuality, either. We erase her personhood. If sex is supposed to be a deep, intimate “knowing” of each other, then if he is saying, “I deserve sex no matter what you think or feel”, he is actually rejecting knowing her. He isn’t only using her; he is rejecting her as a person.

It may not feel that way to him, but that is exactly the way it feels to her, and that is exactly what his actions are saying.

By perpetuating the idea that sex is an entitlement, we change the very nature of faith, too.

She writes:

My husband has been in denial and admitted that he never thought something like this could even happen. His relationship with God has drastically gone downhill. Perhaps questioning God’s goodness for allowing this situation to happen.

This breaks my heart. People are walking away from Jesus because sex isn’t going well in marriage. It’s all part of treating sexuality like a prosperity gospel–if you do all the right things, God will give you amazing sex.

There’s a huge problem with the way that we are discipling young people today. Too much of the evangelical church is trying to “bribe” teenagers and young adults to stay with Christ because the world has terrible relationships and terrible marriages and terrible sex, and if you do it God’s way and don’t have sex now, then everything will go well with you. The reason you follow Jesus is because when you live like a Christian, you don’t have all the struggles these people have. Your life is good.

The reason you follow Jesus is because Jesus is Lord. You follow Him because He’s good, and because the kingdom that He ushered in is built on the kind of principles that are life-giving. You follow Him because He loves you, and because through the Holy Spirit we have power to live the kind of life we are called to live. We follow Him because He gave the ultimate sacrifice for us.

He does not guarantee us ANYTHING on this earth. We need to get that through our heads.

When we think about sex as a male entitlement, we change the very nature of sex.

What would I say to this woman?

First, I’m so sorry. What a terrible burden and heartbreak to carry. On a physical note, please see a pelvic floor physiotherapist to deal with the issues, because they likely are fixable.

But about marriage, please talk to a licensed counselor about this. Don’t back down, but fight for your marriage. Don’t let him go without a fight. Call him to more. He was not called to live a selfish, entitled life, thinking that this is the picture of Christianity. He was called to follow Jesus. At one point  he likely fell in love with the real Jesus. Remind him of that person he once was. If you can, take the attention off of sex and onto Jesus, because that’s the root of the issue. Our life is not about entitlement but service. So let’s learn how to serve each other better, and that means understanding what sex in light of Jesus, even if that sounds weird. Jesus was about serving and passion. Jesus was never, ever about entitlement. If we make one part of our lives diametrically opposite to Jesus, then we’re actually showing we don’t understand our Savior.

If you see a counselor who doesn’t understand the problem with entitlement sex, then find another one. But most will see how dangerous this is.

You have children now, and I pray that you can work this out. But I understand your heartache, and I’m so, so sorry that the church set you both up for such a profound disappointment and betrayal.

Sex as a Male Entitlement - Have We Made Sex into an Entitlement?
SheilaSidebarAboutMe - Have We Made Sex into an Entitlement? Sheila Wray Gregoire has been married for 27 years and happily married for 22! She loves traveling around North America with her hubby in their RV, giving her signature "Girl Talk" about sex and marriage. And she's written 8 books. About sex and marriage. See a theme here? Plus she knits. Even in line at the grocery store.
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