I’m part of an online support group for Christian women who have experienced pregnancy loss. It’s a safe place where women who have been through the heartache of losing an unborn child can share their struggles and offer hope to others.
Recently, a woman wrote a comment saying that since her loss, she has avoided having sex with her husband. To her, femininity, sex, and making babies were inexplicably intertwined.
Many of the comments to her where sympathetic and understanding, but one comment made me angry. A well intentioned woman in the group made the comment that “not having sex with your husband would be like him not talking to you” in reference to this article called Your Sex-Starved Man which basically states that husbands need sex and wives should provide it.
There seems to be a crisis of marriages in which women see sex as a chore and men see sex as a marital right.
Personally, I am lucky to have married a man who I am compatible with on many levels, including sexually. Our sexual appetites are about equal, and we do our best to meet each other’s needs in and out of the bedroom. When we go to bed, we both leave satisfied every time. So perhaps I am missing something here but this idea that so many women see sex as a chore has always bothered me immensely.
God created sex in the context of a loving, committed relationship, like marriage so that both men and women could benefit from the physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits of sex.
If a woman doesn’t want to have sex with her husband, something is wrong. I understand that sometimes we get tired and may not be in the mood but that isn’t what I’m talking about. There have been many times when either my husband or I wasn’t in the mood, but there have been maybe two or three times in our 6 years of marriage where we have turned each other down. This is the kind of sacrificial marital love that Christians often speak of when they quote scripture, (1 Corinthians 7:3-5) often taking it out of context. However, giving in when you’re “not in the mood” is very different from giving in when you feel pressured to do something that’s supposed to be so sacred and special but that your heart and soul is not a part of.
How many women are being given the advice to “just do it” when what they really need is to talk to their husbands about how broken and hurt they feel?
I understand the pain of the woman who posted in the online support group. I felt the same brokenness after my miscarriages. For several months after my losses, sex was a painful reminder of the life that was no more. I cried to my husband about how I felt and it helped. He listened, and he comforted me. He couldn’t possibly understand the pain I was feeling but he tried and he was patient.
The advice to “satisfy your man” is so much a part of our culture that it’s become a part of the cultural milieu, and it bothers me on so many levels.
First, it suggests that sex is a chore. If sex is a chore, you aren’t doing it right.
Secondly, it suggests that women are responsible for the sexual needs of their husbands, without taking into account differences in libido, personality, and a host of other factors. If a man wants to have sex every day and his wife can only get in the groove once a week, why should she be responsible for satisfying him the other six days? He should respect his wife enough to satisfy himself without making his wife feel like a machine.
Third, this kind of language reinforces the idea that masculinity is associated with hyper-sexuality and femininity is associated with purity, innocence, and fragility. It makes women feel like they shouldn’t want sex as much as men; that they should be charitable with their sexuality rather than owning it as an essential part of being a woman.
Lastly, and most importantly, giving women the advice to submit to sex with their husbands without understanding the context of the relationship can make marital problems worse. If a woman is avoiding sex because she is depressed or because she feels hurt, used, or neglected by her husband, having sex is not going to fix the problem- it’s going to drive it in deeper and cause a well of resentment to fester. God created sex to be a union of the body, heart, and soul. When sex becomes merely a physical act, the relationship will suffer.
Women who avoid sex with their spouses should be encouraged to figure out why they don’t want to have sex in the first place. The gift of sex is one that should be treasured, not taken for granted and only once barriers to true intimacy are removed, sometimes with painstaking work from both spouses, can the gift be realized.