How do you know when you’ve done enough foreplay?

We’re starting a new series on the blog right now, leading up to the release of the Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex and the TOTALLY REVAMPED AND REWRITTEN Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex on March 15!

Gregoire Guides Launch

You can Pre-Order The Guy’s Guide and the Girl’s Guide now, and we’ll have pre-order bonuses and the launch team all set to go next week! (You just have to email us your receipt. It’s easy peasy!).

I was thinking of a way to introduce the books leading up to launch, and I decided to go with a number of the day–

a piece of interesting data that our surveys of women, and now our survey of men, found.

I wanted to start this series with a number that would encapsulate the need for both books, and explain what the books are for. And I came up with this number:


What does it mean?

Well, when women frequently reach orgasm, 94% of men and 88% of women say that men do enough foreplay. So that makes sense, because women are actually reaching orgasm, and so it’s clear that one of the big goals has been met (though some women would prefer that husbands do more!).

But here’s where things get interesting.

Even when women don’t frequently reach orgasm, 71% of men say they do enough foreplay.

And what do women think? Well, let’s just say for now that it’s far too high a number too, but you’ll have to get the pre-order bonus (Our Evangelical Sex Report Card) to read the rest of the story, or pick up the books!

I thought the number 71, then, told an interesting story that explains why both books are needed.

Two years ago Zondervan offered us a contract to write The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex together.

It was a bit of a stretch for Keith, because he’s never written before, but it turned out so well (I actually think I like the Good Guy’s Guide better than the Good Girl’s Guide!).

For years I’ve been asked if I had a companion book to the original Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex that the men could read, and I always had to say no. So it was a big passion project to have two books that went together.

The problem was that I wrote the original Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex in 2012, before we did our huge survey of 20,000 women. And I wrote it for a very different audience–younger women coming out of the purity culture where the main problem was shame of sex. Today’s young couples have slightly different problems. It’s not that they’re ashamed of their bodies or sex in the same way; it’s that they often have a skewed picture of what sex may look like. When Zondervan asked us to write the guide for men, I begged to also be permitted to totally rewrite The Good Girl’s Guide to be in line with what I teach now. Even though the original version would score really highly on our rubric–46/48–I still didn’t like how gendered it was, and I felt it needed more emphasis on the sexual response cycle and orgasm.

It took a bit of pushing, because the original version still sells really well, but they agreed to let me write a new one (even though I didn’t get paid for it!). I just wanted something I could recommend wholeheartedly.

So now let’s talk about that 71%, and how it fits in.

Why is it that we think “enough” foreplay has been done if she’s not reaching orgasm? Here’s what I said in the new Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex:

We asked both men and women, “Do you think you do enough foreplay?” When women frequently orgasm, men overwhelmingly say they do—and women tend to agree (though not in quite as high numbers; seems like many women would like more foreplay regardless!). But when women don’t frequently orgasm? Men still say they do enough foreplay—and so do the majority of women. That makes me wonder, “Enough for what?” Let’s say I decided I needed to get a part-time job so I would have enough money to buy a small car. How would I judge when I had earned “enough”? Likely when I had enough money in my savings account to match the sticker price on the car, right? So why do women in such large numbers think their husbands have done enough even when they don’t reach orgasm?

One woman explained it like this:

I’m worried that I have subconsciously taught myself not to experience any pleasure during intercourse because I usually don’t get even mildly aroused until my husband is almost done. I’ve thought about this a fair bit, and I think it’s because I know that stopping at a bit of arousal every time, and not getting to orgasm, leaves me feeling so unsatisfied. I suppose I’ve convinced myself that it’s more satisfying to watch him have fun than it is to start having fun myself, but then not finish. Yes, we have tried to focus on me after he’s climaxed, but then I always feel bad because he’s obviously spent, and then my “feeling bad” stops it from happening anyways . . . so subconsciously I go back to square one: “Why bother allowing myself to get turned on in the first place?”

We feel like it’s selfish to want more. We figure we don’t work right. But, my sisters, sex will never feel good until you decide that you’re worth it. It is okay to want your husband to pay attention to your pleasure.

Sheila Wray Gregoire

The All New Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

How did we get to a situation where both men and women think “enough” foreplay has been done even if she doesn’t orgasm?

Quite frankly, we tend to assume that her experience is secondary to his. And we think he is simply more sexual and better at it, and she is somehow broken.

For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you may have seen two videos I posted yesterday from Pastor Ed Young of Fellowship Church. Last Sunday he and his wife Lisa preached on sex, and before the sermon he recorded a rather disturbing one minute video comparing a man’s sex drive to a bedridden woman who asked her husband to give her water, and he refused. That analogy is problematic on so many levels (I listed 7 in my post), and thankfully the clip of his actual sermon wasn’t quite that bad.

But in that second clip, they did say that if you don’t enjoy sex, you should see a counselor. This is similar to what Shaunti Feldhahn said in For Women Only–if you find yourself unable to physically respond to sex, see a counselor.

Now, I’m actually all in favour of seeing licensed counselors, and recommend them frequently. But is this really our first course of action? Think what the underlying assumption is with what they’re saying:

She should be enjoying sex. If she’s not, there must be something wrong with her. She had better go get it checked out and work on it.

So the fact that she’s not enjoying sex means that there is a problem with her. 

But what we found in our surveys of both men and women is that the #1 predictor of lack of orgasm in women is lack of foreplay.

This does not mean that there aren’t other issues; we identified so many of them, including wrong beliefs about sex; past trauma; relationship issues; even too much mental load! And what so many women have told us is that reading The Great Sex Rescue finally helped them have an orgasm breakthrough because they got rid of toxic messages.

But nevertheless, we should always address the most likely cause first.

And the most likely cause for women’s lack of orgasm is lack of foreplay.

Yet when we hear that a woman isn’t orgasming, what do we do? We assume there’s something wrong with her. Authors and megachurch pastors tell her to see a counselor to sort herself out. 71% of husbands think the problem is with their wives. And so do–well, you’ll have to pre-order the book to find the actual number–but so do a lot of women. 

Where are the calls to men to help their wives experience pleasure? Where are the calls to couples saying that if sex doesn’t feel good for one of you, you should figure this out? Where are the assurances to men that they actually CAN figure this out and can rock their wives’ world?

So what would happen if we changed the narrative about foreplay and sex?

What if, when sex worked easily for him and didn’t work easily for her, we didn’t assume that she was broken and needed to work on herself, but we instead assumed that God made women to be more complex, in general, than men, and this was a good thing?

What if we understood that sex was not made primarily for men, and that men did not need it more than women (even if more men have a higher felt need for sex than women), but instead understood that sex is about connection, which means both of you have to matter?

What if we saw sex not as something that he needed and she had to provide, but something that they were designed to experience together?

What if, just because he reached orgasm easily, we didn’t consider that we “knew how to have sex” until we also figured out her arousal cycle?

What if we understood that the sexual response cycles can look different for men and women, and that there are actual reasons for that which, if you understand them, can even make your relationship better?

Wouldn’t that be better?

Most books on sex in the Christian market have three main messages:

  1. Sex is an amazing gift from God.
  2. Men need sex really, really badly in a way that women will never understand.
  3. It’s important to have sex as frequently as possible.

What if we changed the way we talked about sex? What if we instead talked about sex that is PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL, and SPIRITUAL, all at the same time–and that all elements mattered? What if we saw sex as something which is MUTUAL, INTIMATE, and PLEASURABLE FOR BOTH, and that we’d see red flags if one person didn’t want it or enjoy it, and realize that this meant not that one person should demand sex regardless, but instead that we had a fun journey of discovery ahead of us as we learned to connect in every way with each other?

That’s what The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex and the all new Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex do.

We’re going to change the conversation for new couples getting married–or for couples who have never understood what sex was supposed to be or how it was supposed to work. Unlike The Great Sex Rescue which tore down the bad messages and tried to reframe those messages into something healthy, these guides start from the ground up, building a healthy message about sex.

We think it’s time. And then maybe, if both men were asked, “does he do enough foreplay even if she doesn’t orgasm?”, we’d see far, far fewer people saying yes!

When you pre-order the books, you get the guaranteed lowest prices! If enough people pre-order, Amazon will lower the price. And then, on the day the book launches, they’ll charge you the lower price! And when people pre-order, it helps us, because bookstores tend to stock books that do well on Amazon. And the more people pre-order, the more Amazon orders!

How Much Foreplay is Enough

Why do you think we assume he does enough even if she doesn’t orgasm? Why is our go to that there must be something wrong with her? 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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