What if male Christian authors are digging the very hole they’re trying to climb out of–and killing women’s libido?
Welcome to June, everybody!
And in June, our focus is going to be on libido, asking the question: “What’s killing women’s libido?” Now, I know there’s a sizable minority of women with the higher libido, and I’ll devote some time to that as well.
But one of the biggest issues I get asked about is how to revive your libido when it’s been lagging so long.
A few years ago we created a Boost Your Libido course, and we’re massively overhauling it with all of our new data as we speak, so that should be available in a few weeks. (And those who have already purchased it will have access to the full, updated course!). So we’ve been thinking about this question a lot behind the scenes of the blog lately–what specifically is killing our libidos?
We’ve got a number of theories, but right at the top of it is how we talk about sex.
Next Monday I’ll write about all the ingredients to a healthy libido, but I want to start with just the way we frame the issue.
Yesterday afternoon I shared this on Facebook:
People who keep supporting Love & Respect apparently think it’s okay to write an entire chapter about sex saying that women are obligated to give it or their husbands may stray, and never once mention that women should feel pleasure too.
How is it possible that so many people don’t see a problem with that? Or think it’s just an innocent oversight?
It still completely blows my mind that people think it’s okay to talk about sex and NEVER ONCE mention women’s pleasure.
How do people not see the problem with that?
Yesterday a comment came into the blog in response to an older post about how to talk about men’s sexual needs in a healthy way (instead of all of this obligation stuff that wrecks women’s view of sex). I thought it was really insightful. She writes:
These mainly male pastors (and authors) that have been spreading the message of “wives do not deprive your husband” have basically been shooting themselves in the foot for years now. Do they not see that pushing this message IS NOT HELPING THE SITUATION?!?! How, it might be, ummmm… making it worse?? The mutual aspect, meaning the first part: “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife” is either glossed over OR do these men think that by simply “putting it in until the man climaxes” IS giving their wives their “dues”. Like, just by having intercourse, the man fulfilled his part of 1 Corinthians 7??
Yes, we all get it. Men love sex… but maybe women would love sex (MORE) if the message was changed from “this is for him” to “this is for both of you.” And not with the typical “sex is a gift from God” because I can attest, there were YEARS when that gift for me was that ugly sweater that got shoved to the back of the closet and never worn. The message has to be mutual. For women to love sex, they can’t feel that it’s their duty. They can’t feel obligated. They can’t feel like if they don’t have sex, their husband is going to cheat on them or watch porn. They can’t feel negative pressure to simply have sex when they don’t want to. They can’t be made to feel like the husband’s needs are more important than their own. I mean, it has to be true mutuality.
I don’t know if these pastors/authors thought that if they didn’t make women have sex out of fear or coercion that they wouldn’t have it? Unfortunately, their message is backfiring… big time. Maybe they should have used the opposite message?
I don’t recall many sermons about sex over the years. My husband grew up Catholic and NEVER remembers hearing about sex in church at all. Yet, he’s the one that had the idea how he was owed sex as soon as we got married.
So the message needs to change and I HOPE AND PRAY through people like Sheila, there will be a shift.
I thought that was perfect. Just perfect. And that’s really what we were trying to say in The Great Sex Rescue, too! If authors want women to have more sex, then stop talking about sex like it’s such a duty and obligation and entirely for the guy, and start making sure that it’s good for her too!
What if you're NOT the problem with your sex life?
What if the messages that you've been taught have messed things up--and what if there's a way to escape these toxic teachings?
It's time for a Great Sex Rescue.
But the commenter brings up something I’ve long thought, and considered saying on a podcast, but I’ve been too chicken to. But I wonder this ALL THE TIME, and Rebecca and I talk about it behind the scenes too:
“do these men think that by simply “putting it in until the man climaxes” IS giving their wives their “dues”. Like, just by having intercourse, the man fulfilled his part of 1 Corinthians 7??”
I wonder if these male authors think, and excuse the crassness here (this is why I’ve been afraid to say it) that their penises are so amazing that simply by letting the woman experience his penis, he’s giving her his dues? Like she has the privilege of experiencing his “manhood”, and what more could she want? Because his manhood is so amazing?
I just can’t think of any other reason that they would talk about sex the way they do.
Do they honestly think intercourse where she doesn’t climax and where she feels basically nothing is still an amazing “gift from God” for her? Because otherwise how could you write an entire chapter on sex, like Emerson Eggerichs did in Love & Respect, and never once mention that women should feel pleasure?
Yet it’s not just male authors who do this. Both Shaunti Feldhahn and Stormie Omartian received low marks on our healthy sexuality rubric because they didn’t talk about women feeling pleasure either.
Here’s what we said in The Great Sex Rescue about a passage from Shaunti Feldhahn’s book For Women Only:
Instead of saying “no man should be satisfied unless his wife is also regularly satisfied,” too many books have said, “men feel more satisfied if their wives are satisfied, so wives—make sure you’re satisfied,” without any charge to him to care for her needs. The responsibility for her satisfaction is put solely on her—and not even for her own sake, but for his. Instead of telling men to satisfy their wives for their wives’ benefit, women are told to make sure they’re satisfied for their husbands’ benefit. This is really backward.
In the book For Women Only, Shaunti Feldhahn warns wives that just having sex is not enough—men need to feel wanted. “Having a regular, mutually enjoyed sex life was critical to the man’s feeling of being loved and desired.” But then, in that same chapter, Feldhahn says, “If responding physically is out of the question, let your words be heart words—reassuring, affirming, adoring.” The wife has to affirm her husband, even if he is not tending to her needs in bed. Feldhahn does acknowledge that some women will have a hard time responding physically, but then she frames this as being a personal issue that may need counseling rather than the far greater likelihood that he has never learned to prioritize foreplay or her pleasure. We find it problematic to tell a woman she must enjoy something without also telling her that she can expect him to make it enjoyable.
So it isn’t just the men that are peddling this. It’s women too.
As we start this month talking about libido, I want to start by saying loudly: if there is how you were taught about sex, it would be a miracle if you DID have a higher libido!
And again, that’s not to disparage those who do have high libidos. That’s wonderful! It’s good to want and desire sex, and I hope we can raise everyone’s libido this month.
But I want to reassure women who have always seen sex the way our commenter says: that ugly sweater you hide away in a drawer. Sure, technically it’s a gift, but it’s one you didn’t ask for and you would have referred chocolate truffles. No wonder you feel that way! Seriously, no wonder!
That’s really what The Great Sex Rescue is all about. These authors of all of these books keep trying to tell women how important it is to have more sex because their husbands desperately need it, and in doing so they’re simply making the problem worse because they’ve misdiagnosed the problem. It’s not that women don’t understand how much men need sex. It’s that women have never been encouraged to see sex for them too–and men haven’t been taught that women’s experience matters as well!
As we concluded in our final words in The Great Sex Rescue:
For years women have been told from church pulpits, “Men need sex, and you need to give it to them or you’re depriving them.” And what’s happened? A crisis in libido and sexual satisfaction among women.
This approach doesn’t work. Authors and pastors can double down on it if they’d like; they can say women need to understand men, and they can talk about how much men need sex and how men struggle with lust and how women need to help them out.
What we’re saying in this book is that women do understand men. We know men need sex. Yelling louder about that won’t help.
What we need now is for men to understand women.
If men understood women’s need for intimacy and women’s need to experience pleasure, and if churches started talking about mutuality, we would awaken women’s libido and sexual response.
We believe that the time is ripe for that new conversation. And we believe that this new conversation is about not only how we see sex and marriage but how we see relationships in general. Let’s stop talking about entitlement. Let’s stop talking about rights and hierarchy and power. Let’s put Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve, back at the center.
Spur one another on to love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24). And take heart, for he has overcome the world (John 16:33).
That’s the conversation I’m hoping to have in June about women’s libido.
Let’s figure out all the ingredients to a healthy libido, and get rid of all this toxic teaching that has been actively hurting us.
And as we go through this, one final thought:
It’s okay to be angry and it’s okay to grieve what’s been taken from you by these teachers and by Christian leaders.
Sometimes we need to grieve and feel that anger in order to get to the other side. Sex was meant for you too. You were meant to enjoy passion, to be carried along, to desire that intimacy in every way. But instead all too often it was turned into an ugly obligation where your needs were erased. That wasn’t okay. It really wasn’t.
And I hope that in June we can try to right that wrong.
What do you think? Let’s talk in the comments!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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