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We know that sex is vulnerable to women. But is it vulnerable to men, too?

I received this reader question recently which I found really insightful. She asks,

reader question icon - Is Sex Physically Vulnerable to Men?

Reader Question

​I am currently going through the book, “Rethinking Sexuality” by Dr Julie Slattery. She quotes Timothy Keller from a sermon called Love and Lust in regards to sexual intimacy being a celebration of the covenant promise. Part of the quote reads “In marriage when you’re having sex, you’re really saying, “I belong completely and exclusively to you and I’m acting it out… I’m giving you my body as a token of how I’ve given you my life. I’m opening to you physically as a token of the fact that I’ve opened to you in every other way” “

I agree with everything I have read in the book so far. However, I am still struggling with wrapping my head around the above quote from a husband’s point of view. Maybe you can help me process this in my head? I do not see how a man “gives” his body to us, nor how he “opens” physically to us. I asked my husband if he was able to explain it. If there was ANY part of our sex that caused him to have to be vulnerable to me (except the possibility of me saying no)? He could only explain it from a mental or emotional way. The act of physical intimacy feels SO vulnerable to me, as I am the one offering and opening up to him. I don’t see any “risk” from his end. I am not fighting the intimacy, just trying to figure out from the husband’s side, the risk. I hope that question makes sense? Any input?

Great question! I wrote last year on the theology of the penis and the theology of the clitoris, and what our genitalia tell us about what God intended for sex, and for the relationship between the sexes.

But this takes it even further. So let me try to answer her question.

Yes, sex is vulnerable for a woman in a way that it never can be for a man.

Women are literally being entered, and with that is the potential for pain. There’s the potential that it will be rough, which can hurt. Because men also tend to be physically bigger, there’s the potential for a lot of discomfort of different types as well. For sex to work well, he has to care for her in a way that she doesn’t necessarily have to care for him. While it’s quite easy to hurt a man in his genitalia, this doesn’t tend to happen during sex. So the act of intercourse itself is far more physically vulnerable to women than it is to men.

That’s why sex often means slightly different things to men than it does to women, and why together, those meanings create real intimacy.

When a man makes love, he’s essentially asking “do you accept me?”

And the answer isn’t just in whether or not she’s willing to “let” him have intercourse with her. The answer lies in whether she actually wants to, and in whether she enjoys it. I know that’s a difficult one for lower-drive women, because we think, “seriously, not only do I have to do it, but I have to work myself up and love it, too, even when I’m not in the mood?” But that’s what he’s wondering. Are you doing it out of duty, or do you really desire him? I’ve got more about why enthusiasm matters here.

When a woman makes love, what she’s essentially asking is, “are you trustworthy?”

She needs to know that he will care for her, that he will care about her, that he wants HER and not just her body. Before she opens up to him, she needs to know that she is special to him.

That’s why I said in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex that, in general, men make love to feel loved, whereas women need to feel loved. And that’s why we often approach sex differently. It’s not even about libido only, either. It’s actually what sex represents.

Together, it works. He’s motivated to help her feel safe, and she’s motivated to help him be affectionate.

GoodGirlsGuide1 - Is Sex Physically Vulnerable to Men?

God made sex to be AWESOME!

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

Feel like something’s missing?

Sometimes this dynamic, though, can cause friction and unhealthy sexual patterns.

For instance, I had a woman comment this recently, on an older post:

My husband has always had a healthy sexual appetite, but I have NEVER been able to keep up. This is the one thing we have always fought about. He wants it in some form every day and is unapologetic about it. I have tried to express many times that I need more intimacy to want more sex. He gets angry and said I’m the one that sends mixed signals, when in actuallity, I’m the one that has to initiate it every night. But if I don’t, we don’t have sex, and then he gets mad. I’m so freaking confused and feel like I’m not being heard at all.

I have heard from so many marriages where the husband has the higher drive, but he simultaneously will not initiate sex. He demands that she does, and gets upset if she doesn’t.

Sometimes this is because a guy has turned off his sex drive after being rejected so much, and so simply waits for her to start. But other times, like in this reader’s case, they are having sex frequently, but he only enjoys it when she starts it. He doesn’t want to get emotionally vulnerable; he wants her to do the emotional work of sex while he gets the physical benefits. This won’t help her feel emotionally safe, and is a really bad dynamic.

When a man makes love, he’s essentially asking “do you accept me?”
When a woman makes love, she’s essentially asking is, “are you trustworthy?”

For some guys, it’s a protective mechanism. But for others it’s because he’s being selfish and doesn’t want to do the work of wooing her. He is expecting her to do everything, and if she doesn’t, she’s being selfish. In a marriage, BOTH parties need to initiate, or else sex will feel like one person is doing all the work.


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And sometimes, of course, the guy is the lower-drive spouse, and the woman can feel rejected. Then other dynamics are at play.

But in answer to the reader’s question, sex is more physically vulnerable to women, but it is also very emotionally vulnerable to men, in ways that perhaps women don’t understand. It’s certainly emotionally vulnerable to us, too, as we long to feel loved and not just objectified, but men also want to know that they are accepted and loved, too.

Do Men Feel Vulnerable During Sex - Is Sex Physically Vulnerable to Men?

So that’s my theory about how sex works. What do you think? Is sex vulnerable to men and women differently? And what role do different libidos play? Let’s talk in the comments!

SheilaSidebarAboutMe - Is Sex Physically Vulnerable to Men? 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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