The “Obligation Sex Message” is toxic.

The idea that a woman is obligated to have sex with her husband when he wants it was the most toxic belief that we measured in our survey of 20,000 women for The Great Sex Rescue–and our survey of men.

On Tuesdays I don’t write a full post, but for the last few weeks I’ve shared some data from questions I’ve asked on Instagram. Yesterday in my stories I asked who the obligation sex message affected more, and who believed it more.

So far, 86% of women say it was them. They were the ones who believed it. They were the ones who felt they couldn’t say no, they had to initiate every 3 days, that sex was mostly about his needs.

Just a few of the messages I received:

I believed it more. My husband was surprised when I told him how it was affecting me, because he has never, and I mean never, treated me this way. But the obligation belief affected the way I viewed sex, even if I was the only one who believed it.

My husband has never once thought that this was the way things should be. Things I’d heard across the years – and I have to say, not just in church circles, but all those magazine articles regarding ‘what he wants’ etc – plus various relationships before I met him, things exes had said (for example, one guy who said ‘I’m a guy in the prime of my life – if I’m not getting it from you, you’d better believe I’m going to get it elsewhere’ 😳) made me feel like I absolutely had to have sex as often as possible, whether I wanted it or not, in order to hold my husband’s attention and ‘be a good wife’

And a husband chimed in:

Well, I think it really affected both of us. And we lived in that reality for years. Now we are slowly working our way out of it. I always wanted her to enjoy sex, always took care of her needs, but also thought it was my “right” to have sex even when she didn’t….that God gave our bodies to each other. I was very very confused and wrong. I wasn’t being mean on purpose, I thought I was in Gods will. Thanks to this book and learning more about Gods love for us we are changing the narrative.


Here’s the thing that we found in The Great Sex Rescue, that I have reiterated over and over again:

The problem is not men. The problem is teachings that prioritize men and make sex seem ugly and threatening to women, and make it into an entitlement for men.

It’s the teachings that are the problem, the authors that are the problem, the evangelical system that keeps these books best-sellers that is the problem.

I think most men want passionate, mutual sex with their wives. And I have heard from so very many men (like the one who commented above) who, as soon as they heard another way of seeing things, realized how wrong they had been and changed.

Yes, some men are selfish (as are some women). But the problem is not men. The problem is the teachings. And that means we can change it. Reject the teachings. Reject the books. Speak up when others recommend things like Love & Respect or Every Man’s Battle or For Women Only or Married Sex. And then we’ll see this message affecting fewer and fewer people–and more and more couples thriving.

And tell others about The Great Sex Rescue and set more couples free! It makes a great Christmas stocking stuffer. And we just heard it’s in its fifth printing, and sales have been really brisk. It’s making a difference. Let’s keep it going!

Great Sex Rescue

What do you think? Did the obligation sex message affect your marriage? Who believed it more? Who did it affect more? Let’s talk in the comments!

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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