We’ve talked before about how telling pregnant/postpartum women they should give “hand jobs” to their husbands is just icky and wrong.
It was something we felt really strongly about, and we wanted to include in The Great Sex Rescue, but it didn’t really fit with any particular bad teaching that we had measured. So we created a separate chapter and called it “Just Be Nice” and said, “this advice doesn’t qualify as kind.”
We found other things that fit in there as well, and a chapter was born.
Here’s part of what we said in The Great Sex Rescue:
One such topic is whether or not wives “owe” their husbands sexual release during inconvenient times, like when she’s on her period or in the postpartum phase. Sheet Music, for instance, says, “The most difficult time for this man [who was tempted by porn] was during his wife’s period, because she was unavailable to him sexually. After about ten years, she finally realized that pleasing her husband with oral sex or a simple ‘hand job’ did wonders to help her husband through that difficult time.”
Leman elaborates on this advice later with,
There are times for whatever reason that a wife may choose to make use of what younger men affectionately refer to as “hand jobs.” A woman with heavy periods that last six or seven days, or who has just gotten through a pregnancy, or perhaps is simply not feeling her best, may genuinely feel that sex is more than she can handle. But with a minimum of effort, she can help her husband who feels like he’s about ready to climb the walls because it’s been so long.
Let’s think this through. Is it kind for a man to ask for a hand job when his wife is unwell? How unwell does she have to be before it’s not kind anymore? How crampy does she have to be for her physical well-being to take precedence over sexual expectations? Do we really believe that the kindness that flows from the Holy Spirit working in our lives would ask an exhausted, torn apart post-partum woman for a hand job?…
Some women have periods that cause cramping, fainting, pain, nausea, and more. Leman’s portrayal of this as a difficult time for the husband, ignoring the far more difficult physical symptoms many wives deal with, is highly problematic. Men, if your wife is feeling unwell or just plain icky, your emphasis should not be that she needs to “help her husband through that difficult time.” Just be kind. Telling a woman who is cramping and whose genitals are engorged in a way that makes touching them feel very off-putting that she should give him a hand job shows no consideration for her experience and is very unkind. Rather, be Christ to your wife and recognize that this is a difficult time for her.
I’ve talked about this on a bunch of podcasts as well–it’s just icky.
But there’s a little twist in the story that I want to get your opinion on.
i’ve read something else recently that gave the same scenario–he has sexual tension but intercourse is off the table because she’s postpartum or having a heavy period. So she gives him a “hand job” (there is no indication that this is reciprocated at all, so it is one-sided).
But it also portrays her as getting physically aroused.
I have no doubt that giving “sexual favours”, for lack of a better term–bringing your spouse to orgasm in a way other than intercourse–can be arousing. In fact, we’ll be talking about this a little bit next month for the Sexual Confidence series. Seeing the effect you can have on your spouse can be a big boost to your confidence and can make one feel powerful! And especially if abuse is in your past, sometimes taking the reins can help someone feel more in control, and that can be a good thing.
But a very different dynamic than “he has sexual tension and she’s postpartum.”
So I’d love to know–would you find giving hand jobs during the postpartum phase or when you’re having a really heavy period arousing? (and I know some women will! That’s awesome. I just want to see how common it is).
I asked on Facebook and Twitter as well, and some really interesting and heated conversations started.
I’d really love it if marriage/sex books just simply stopped talking about the postpartum phase.
Seriously, just shut up about it.
Why do we even need to talk about it?
When she is postpartum, there should be 0 expectations on her sexually. The main need in the marriage is not for his sexual release.
Besides, a dad who is fully involved and invested will likely be almost as exhausted as the mom! And our need for sleep does come before our need for sex. If mom is absolutely exhausted, but the husband is very sexually frustrated, it could be a sign that he should be doing more with the baby to lighten her load, and take some of that exhaustion on him!
BUT, on the other hand, some women do have bursts of hormones that make them really sexual. And women who feel hot and bothered can likely figure out something to do without a book needing to tell them to do it, because after all–she did get pregnant in the first place. She knows how this works. And she can likely figure out sexual favors too.
The Great Sex Rescue
Changing the conversation about sex & marriage in the evangelical church.
What if you're NOT the problem with your sex life?
What if the things that you've been taught have messed things up--and what if there's a way to escape these messages?
Welcome to the Great Sex Rescue.
The only reason to talk about postpartum sex is to convince women who don’t want to do it to do it.
Nothing needs to be said to the women who DO want to do something–except maybe that you should wait for the doctor’s all clear to attempt intercourse; that many women aren’t ready even at the 6 week mark; that postpartum pain affects over 30% of women; and that you have to resume things slowly.
So I just don’t see why this is in books at all. Seriously, if you want to do it, go for it! But by talking about it so much in all these books, we set up the expectation that she WILL do it. And quite frankly, that’s a problem. And then to assume that this will actually be AROUSING for her? That’s just weird.
I hope one day this is a conversation we can stop having. But in the meantime, I’d love to know what you think! Why do so many books talk about this? What do you think would be the best way to talk about it?
And, of course, would you find giving a hand job while you’re postpartum arousing FOR YOU? Let me know!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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