As we’re wrapping up the sexual confidence series today, I’ve been thinking about what the main message is that I want people to take away.
I would sum what I’ve been trying to say into three things:
- It’s okay to still be learning
- Accept yourself and where you’re at
- You matter
If you have all three of those mindsets, you’re likely quite sexually confident. It’s not about being able to do sexual gymnastics or even orgasm every time; it’s about not berating and blaming yourself but instead accepting that you’re important and you matter, and moving ahead with that.
I want to concentrate on that last one today–you matter. A number of things have happened in the last week that I’d like to respond to, and it makes a great wrap-up for the series. So this may be more of a “Sheila sharing” post than a “3 points you need to know” post, but I think you’ll track with me!
I got thinking about some of the arguments that have been railed against me this month as I’ve tried to argue for true confidence, and I think it comes down to this:
One of the big reasons women especially aren’t confident is that the female point of view is often seen as threatening.
I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again: The opposite of patriarchy (where men are preferred) is matriarchy, not equality. Equality is already the middle.
All we’re arguing on this blog is that, for true intimacy to occur, both of you need to matter.
The point of sex is true intimacy in every way.
That’s how God designed it–physical, spiritual and emotional intimacy, all wrapped up in one (that’s the basis for The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex and the revamped Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, coming in March!). Intimacy is about truly “knowing” each other in every way. But if one person’s needs are prioritized over another’s, then you don’t “know” each other, because one person isn’t allowed to really share. If one person’s needs don’t matter, then they are erased. It’s not real intimacy at all.
Intimacy requires equality.
And that’s the way that God designed it. He wants women to feel great in the bedroom (that’s why we’re capable of multiple orgasms and we have a clitoris!). He wants sex to unite us (that’s why we have oxytocin, the bonding hormone, that releases in huge quantities at orgasm). Sex is meant to bond us together.
That’s why sex can’t be about one person getting their needs met at the expense of another. Then it’s a using, a taking, rather than a knowing and a joining.
And what we found in our survey of 20,000 women is that one of the biggest roadblocks to women enjoying sex is believing that they don’t really matter–that sex is mostly about meeting his needs. When women are told to have sex under threat (because he can’t manage to go more than 72 hours without ejaculation; because otherwise he’ll watch porn; because he may be tempted to lust); then sex is no longer a knowing.
It’s an erasing of a person. And remember our characteristics of confidence? Accepting yourself and recognizing that you matter are two huge markers of that. The sad truth is that most evangelical sex and marriage books work directly against that (and then we wonder why women are insecure sexually!).
When we ask for women’s needs to be considered, that is not “swinging the pendulum too far.”
There is no better example of how egregiously the evangelical world looks at women’s needs than our books’ responses to the postpartum period. As we talked about on last week’s podcast about postpartum sexual favors, the only advice we could find about the postpartum period in our evangelical best-sellers was that the main concern should be that she realizes she needs to give him hand jobs, because he can’t be expected to wait. And, in the case of Gary Thomas’ book Married Sex, she shouldn’t just give him hand jobs; she should also be aroused doing so.
During one of the most difficult physical times in a woman’s life, she is told that his needs for ejaculation exceed her needs for healing. I sometimes wonder if the authors who write this understand how much what they’re saying will make women resent sex. And then they have to lecture women even harder on how they need to have sex with their husbands more, which just makes the resentment and “ick” factor worse. And it’s all a vicious cycle.
But if we talked about this in a healthy way to begin with, there’s no reason to think that women will resent sex.
Because, you see, women don’t resent sex. Women resent being used.
Incidentally, this is one of the big reasons why I’m so thrilled that Femallay is a sponsor of this blog–and one reason why I just love their vaginal melts. When you need a little extra help with lubrication while you’re postpartum, new to sex, going through menopause, or just experiencing hormonal ups and downs, yes, you can buy a lubricant at the drug store. That lubricant will make sex easier.
But it doesn’t actually do anything for her.
Yes, it’s great to be able to have sex. But it doesn’t address the underying issues. Femallay’s melts actually nourish the vagina so that it reduces discomfort overall, and makes you more elastic, more moisturized, just healthier. It isn’t just about making sure they still have sex; it’s about making sure that she feels better and is nourished while they still have sex! Do you see the difference? It’s saying that women matter, too.
Pointing out that women have been terribly hurt by current marriage advice is not “misandry.”
I have one guy who emails me almost daily telling me that it’s imperative that I address the very real concerns that I am becoming misandrous. (We have since blocked him; he can continue to write emails if he wants, but nobody will read them). I had many of those comments last week. But think about what they’re saying: they’re implying that if you say that women should be given time to heal rather than that men should be given postpartum hand jobs, we’re insulting men.
No. We’re simply standing up for decency and dignity. That is not misandrous.
I loved what Keith said in the last minute of the podcast last week, and this is call that we all need to heed:
Pointing out that men are more than capable of being generous and considerate, and have the Holy Spirit as much as women do, and are not made to naturally sin, is not “misandry.”
It is simply calling men to what the Bible calls men to–to be decent human beings who love their neighbors as themselves. This isn’t me saying this; this is Jesus.
Jesus would never look at a bleeding, exhausted woman who is trying to figure out how to feed her baby and literally sustain her baby’s life, and say, “the biggest need right now is for your husband to ejaculate.” Can anyone picture Jesus doing that? But that is what our evangelical best-sellers have done. And so it feels normal. And so, when we ask people to come back to the Bible, it feels somehow “off”, because we’ve actually trained ourselves to ignore biblical injunctions when it comes to sex in marriage. We’ve trained ourselves to expect the emphasis to be about men’s needs, rather than about shared needs.
When we are used to men being prioritized, equality feels like men are being erased.
They’re not. They’re simply not given priority anymore. We’re asking for intimacy rather than hierarchy.
When you prefer hierarchy, intimacy feels threatening.
That’s why people are so upset about The Great Sex Rescue. It’s not because we’re prioritizing women (we’re not). We’re simply asking for men’s needs not to be prioritized.
If women don’t feel like we matter, then there is no way that we can ever be sexually confident. There is no way that we will ever embrace our sexuality or feel true freedom in the bedroom, because sex will always feel threatening.
You know, one of these best-selling authors emailed me a few months ago, critiquing The Great Sex Rescue and said to me:
Your work has unleashed an anger and even a fury that concerns me–and Sheila, it’s not working.
Well, yesterday I received this Instagram message from a woman who had been struggling with vaginismus, and who had been doing some hard work with dilators to try to lessen the pain. She said:
Well, I started reading your book a couple weeks ago when a married lady sent it directly to me because I had shared my struggle with vaginismus. As I read the book, things started to click! We had a true Thanksgiving miracle two days ago-my husband could actually enter me without the pain being awful and he could ejaculate inside of me. I was so happy to finally see progress-it gave me hope that maybe we could actually conceive naturally! THANK YOU for your work. God is healing me bit by bit and you have been a huge part of that process.
(Again, I always recommend that women with vaginismus see a pelvic floor physiotherapist, but one of the things that we’ll be sharing at the American Physiotherapist Convention in February is that letting go of toxic beliefs can also be a huge part of the healing journey).
It looks to me like this woman thinks it’s working.
And we had some great news from our publisher last night! Our sales have been great, and we’re now on our fifth printing. Please keep spreading the word about The Great Sex Rescue, because I think it is setting women free!
And they’re not being set free because now they get to be in charge, or only they matter. No, they’re being set free because they’re learning they matter, 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.
When I say that women need to matter, I’m also not saying that men are the cause of all the problems.
In fact, the big thesis from The Great Sex Rescue is that in many marriages the problem is not the husband and it’s not the wife; it’s the teachings that we’ve internalized. It’s our culture. Reject those teachings, and suddenly sex works so much better!
And that’s often the problem with sexual confidence, too. What we believe is holding us back. That’s what I’m fighting against. Not men. Just teachings that tell women, “you don’t matter.”
When one group of people has been told they matter more than another group of people, there will always be pushback if people try to correct the imbalance.
That does not mean the pushback is correct.
And I am so encouraged by what I am seeing and hearing on the ground. That author likely still thinks what I’m doing isn’t working. He can keep thinking that.
But I’m going to keep saying that women matter, too. Not more than men; but they matter as well. Because that is what intimacy is.
I’ve experienced that kind of intimacy, and I can’t imagine going through my marriage, and my life, without knowing what it is. Once you’ve experienced it, you never want to go back.
So, everyone reading this, male and female, you matter. Now, in the benediction from Beth Allison Barr’s book (are you signed up for our “Tea and Tent Pegs” webinar yet?), go and be free.
What do you think? How can we help people not see this as misandrous? How can we help women understand that they matter too? Let’s talk in the comments!
Other Posts in the Sexual Confidence Series:
- 3 Markers of Sexual Confidence (especially in women)
- 4 Markers of a Sexually Confident Man
- Knowing that Sex is for You Too
- How to Feel Confident when You're Married to a Porn User
- Did You Grow up Embarrassed to Be Female?
- 5 Keys to Sexual Confidence after Menopause
- 4 Keys to Sexual Confidence as the Higher Drive Wife
- Sexual Confidence Doesn't Mean You're Willing to Try Anything in Bed
- Do you need to get angry at what purity culture stole from you?
- What We Didn't Know about the Clitoris
- Telling Women You Matter is Not Swinging the Pendulum Too Far (our wrap-up)
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Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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