Category Archives: Sex

Advice to Young Marrieds? Why Michelle Duggar’s Newlywed Sex Advice Hurts Women AND Men

A couple of days ago my social media sites were all a rage about some advice given by Michelle Duggar (19 Kids and Counting fame) in one of her blogs. Here’s the oft-quoted part,

She told me: “Michelle, I know you’re so excited. You’re a bride-to-be, but some day you’ll be at this point. I’ve been married three years and I’m still happily married. I have one child, we’re expecting our second and I’m big pregnant. You’ve got to remember this. Anyone can iron Jim Bob’s shirt, anybody can make lunch for him. He can get his lunch somewhere else. But you are the only one who can meet that special need that he has in his life for intimacy. You’re it. You’re the only one. So don’t forget that, that he needs you. So when you are exhausted at the end of the day, maybe from dealing with little ones, and you fall into bed so exhausted at night, don’t forget about him because you and he are the only ones who can have that time together. No one else in the world can meet that need.”

“And so be available, and not just available, but be joyfully available for him. Smile and be willing to say, ‘Yes, sweetie I am here for you,’ no matter what, even though you may be exhausted and big pregnant and you may not feel like he feels. ‘I’m still here for you and I’m going to meet that need because I know it’s a need for you.’ ”

No wonder the rage. The message is quite simply awful in its meaning. Here’s my take on what she really says:

Your husband’s sexual need is so great you can never turn him down or bad things will happen. Always be ready no matter what has been going on in your life. Put a smile on and do it! The only way he’ll really know you are “there for him” is your sexual availability.

Okay, a little context is in order for those, like me, who have never seen the television show. The blog, entitled, “Michelle Duggar’s Advice to Newlyweds,” begins with a fan question: What advice will you give Jill [her daughter] as a newlywed wife to keep in mind throughout her marriage? She gives three points: be available (quote above is from that point), talk about disagreements in private, and get marriage advice when you need it. And while the context is all about what she wants to tell her daughter before her wedding, she does conclude with a single sentence to the guys about not approaching marriage as if they are all “macho” and above the need for advice and help.

The problem

The problem with this advice is there is a bit of truth in it mixed with a significant dose of false conventional wisdom. It is true that we need to pay attention to the desires of our spouses. It is true that sex can be more important to one spouse than the other and so it if you are the lower-desire-for-sex spouse, it means you one form of love for your spouse is to care about their desires. But notice that “care about desires” does not mean you have to do whatever they want when they want. That is the false conventional wisdom in her post. Men have this need, so the thought goes, and a godly wife will always meet it because that is what love does.

Some Better Sex Advice for Young Married Men

Sex is not the (sole) definition of emotional connection. You want a good marriage and the probability of a decent sex life? Connect with your wife’s emotional and experiential life. Regularly explore her dreams, fears, and aspirations. You may be shocked to find out that you didn’t marry someone who thinks exactly like you. Allow her to have her own thoughts and feelings. It won’t diminish who you are.

When you come home at the end of the day, seek her out. You may have had a hard day at work but your wife still needs you to be present. Ask about her day. Notice what needs to be done around the house and do it, without being asked. And when you see she is burdened with care for the kids, the house, or her own health, step it up a bit without looking for a pat on the back. Only you can offer that kind of support.

Remember too, sex is a great thing but it isn’t intended to be an antidote to herb (or your) boredom, sadness, or tiredness. Find out what helps her to be ready for sex and yet be understanding when she says “not tonight” (note: when you want sex, be sure to ask not hint). She’s not a vending machine that always responds because you put in the right amount of money. When she declines, stay close to her. If she says yes only to avoid your cold shoulder, you are ensuring that sex is all about you and not at all about her. Do not make sex the requirement for your love, compassion, and interest in your wife.

Finally, and most importantly, remember that sex is a want, not a need. Sure, it is a powerful want and a good desire. But that does not mean it is a must-have. Treat it as a right and you will kill your love life. 1 Corinthians 7 doesn’t give you the right to demand sex. Notice that your body is not yours to control. That control is given to your wife. Yes, the point of the passage is mutual care for each other. But in a broken world, that does not mean that we mutually care for each other in the exact way we want to be cared for. And so we will have times of unfulfilled desires. Do not believe for a moment that her lack of availability is what tempts you to porn, masturbation or other forms of infidelity. It’s not her, it’s you!

Obviously, there is much more sex advice to be given to young married couples. Find a good book and read it together. Stay away from blog posts (even this one!) as your final source. But if you are in need of pithy bullet pointed sex advice, try these:

  • Don’t be selfish
  • Laugh a lot (especially at yourself)
  • Don’t keep a record of wrongs
  • Do repent quickly
  • Make and keep a tradition that is something you both love
  • Don’t ignore or withhold what makes your spouse feel safe and significant

You do these well and I would bet your sex life will be just fine.


Filed under marriage, Sex

Rape Perpetration Statistics: How common is it in SE Asia?

Just saw this UN funded study in the Lancet (you can download full-text as well) after reading this news item about the study. Stunningly, 1:4 men in the large cross-sectional study indicated they had forced sex on a woman, whether girlfriend, spouse, or stranger. They did not use the word “rape” in the study in order to get at the issue of consent. For some, rape conjures a violent act at gunpoint. However, when it is used to describe (as it should!) sex with those who are unable to consent (inebriated, too young, etc.) or those who consent unwillingly (forced spousal sex), you can see the numbers show a common belief that men need to find sexual release and that females must comply.

I also found the re-offending rates stunning. Those who commit one rape are much more likely to commit a second rape. This is of course not surprising if the society does not punish the first one nor give women the possibility of seeking justice after rape.

Does anyone know of a recent similar study done here in the US? I would like to see that too. One might hope that attitudes are different here but I suspect there is a similar if less frequent pattern here.


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Filed under Rape, Sex

[A version of this post was first published here on February 24, 2009. Given the content of my previous post, I decided to place it back at the top by republishing today]

Now for the matters you wrote about: ‘It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.’ But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. 1 Cor. 7: 1-4

In the past year I have had several conversations with men about these verses. In every situation one spouse (not always the woman) had refused to engage in certain sexual practices with their spouse. These they found unappealing or disconcerting for a variety of reasons (e.g., a husband did not wish to use sex aids, a wife did not wish to receive oral sex, a spouse found a position brought back memories of abuse, or either found themselves undesirous of any sexual activity).

And so the frustrated spouse remembered these verses and wished to use them to compel their spouse or at least remind them of the duty to provide sex.

So, whose desires trump if the gist of the passage suggests that neither has full ownership of their own body nor has the right to demand in the bedroom? 

Sadly, I have listened to  men argue that women must submit to their husband’s sexual requests. She should fulfill her marital duty, should abstain only for prayer, and that her body is her husband’s. They appeal to this text and to Ephesians 5 which commands women to submit to their husbands.

Here is what is missing in that argument:

1. The husband is commanded to sacrifice everything to love his wife. That would include his desires.

2. This passage clearly states that the wife has control over her husband’s body and thus gets veto power over how he wants to use it in bed.

Some other things from the text that get neglected:

1. The Corinthian church wanted Paul’s opinion about sex and marriage. Paul does not affirm their position. In fact, he says that given the problem of immorality, couples should not unnecessarily tempt each other.

2. Sex is not the highest good in life or in marriage. It would be better to not marry and no, not everything is beneficial. Thus our desires cannot be a god to us.
2. The mutuality of sex is obvious. No one gets trump. The goal of the passages is to encourage each other to look out for problems of temptation.
3. And yet, these aren’t commands but advice (v. 6).

Now consider these application Q & As:

1. Should a spouse comply to a request for sex if they aren’t interested?

Interested is a key word here. Some spouses may wish to engage in sexual activity even as they know their own level of desire isn’t nearly as high as the requesting spouse. But the one who wishes to please their spouse ought not feel compelled or asked to do something they find distasteful or compromising. Couples that can talk through sexual desire differences in a manner where both the asker and the assenter feel heard and supported should not face much difficulty here. It is only when either the asker feels rejected or the assenter feels forced/guilty does differences in sexual desire create trouble.

2. Should one ever use these verses to urge their mate to engage in certain sexual behaviors?

There is a big difference between asking and urging (aka compelling). Lauren Winner says that God oriented sex is unitive and sacramental. It is about giving rather than getting and/or performance. It is hard to imagine how a person would use these verses  in a manner that wouldn’t violate the law of sacrificial love. Recall that these texts are not providing “rights” for either party. The entire Christian life is a “dying to self” experience.  

3. Are there situations that might cause a couple to abstain from sex other than for prayer?

Absolutely. The text doesn’t cover every situation. Health factors obviously limit sexual activity. These may include non-genital disease, STDs, and even past or present traumas. Generally speaking, married individuals enjoy sex. So, if one is resistant to sex or to certain sex practices, it probably won’t take much time to uncover problems in the relationship or other illnesses. Note here that this 1 Corinthian text focuses on the problem of sexual immorality. Paul gives several pieces of advice (give yourself to ministry, avoid marriage, get married, watch out for each other, etc.) but nowhere does he command any of these activities. His goal is to help the church avoid the sins of idolatry and adultery. When we take the text and look for a passage to defend our “must-haves”, we miss out on the larger context and purpose and fall into the very sin Paul is exhorting us to avoid–idoloatry.


March 8, 2013 · 5:07 am

Why “sexy wife” language hurts so many women

Maybe you’ve seen this post: If not, you should read it to learn just how painful and destructive and superficial the “be a sexy wife for your husband” is, especially when combined as “biblical teaching.” Now, the feeling of being sexy isn’t the problem. What is the problem is the failure of speakers/writers to account for the large number of women (and men!) whose sexuality was stolen from them via abuse and other forms of oppression. In addition, these “be sexy” speakers/writers seem to ignore how Scriptures have been distorted to demand sex from spouses (someday I should write a post about the number of times I have been asked during public Q and As about 1 Cor 7 and the demand it makes on women to please their husbands).

Can you imagine giving a talk about the joys of giving birth to an audience where 1:3 women were infertile? Can you imagine NOT acknowledging that a large portion of the audience might struggle with the topic?

For those of you who did read the above talk, the author Mary DeMuth, posted this follow-up post regarding the weight of the stories she heard in the comments section of her first post. Note how she finds hope and comfort among darkness and heaviness. For brave ones, you might read the comments at the bottom of both posts. Note the relief expressed that someone else understands. Note the common refrain, “I didn’t breathe while reading this.” That should tell us how desperate many are for being understood and that most are expecting the other shoe (that “just do it” one) to drop. Note the links to other posts already on this topic.

We need better pictures of sexuality in marriage that recognize pleasure as something that can be had but not at the expense of reality of safety, vulnerability, and comfort. Sexual pleasure is good but it is not the highest end. And decreased quality of pleasure is not a temptation or risk for adultery…unless pleasure has become a god to us.


Filed under Abuse, Christianity, church and culture, Sex, sexuality, trauma

Debunking myths about marital sex

[NOTE: This week I plan to highlight some of last week’s sex trafficking and sexual abuse conference hosted by the Seminary. We had great numbers for the event but some readers aren’t local so I want everyone to get a bit out of the conference.]

Yesterday I was at Church of the Savior in order to speak on the topic of sex to their pre-marital class. One of the goals I have is to debunk a number of myths pre-marrieds might have about sex. So, here are some of the myths (in no particular order):

Marital Sex is best when couples achieve simultaneous orgasms

Few couples actually ever achieve this (less than 25%) and those who do report that it takes much effort. Good marital sex is about giving and receiving mutual pleasure. It is not a competition but an opportunity to love and serve each other

Couples should expect intercourse to last a long time

Contrary to media depictions, intercourse isn’t likely to last for long period of time. First, most males are likely to ejaculate within 3 minutes of vigorous thrusting. Sorry for the graphic nature of this but facts are facts. Believe it or not, someone has done the research having couples count thrusts. Average? 30. Second, vaginal tissues aren’t designed to withstand that amount of friction that would happen in a lengthy intercourse. It is essential for couples to realize that sex is much more than intercourse and orgasm. It starts with the relationship OUTSIDE of the bedroom. Trust and commitment lead to a capacity to be vulnerable with each other. It includes acts of service. If you count emotional intimacy and verbal foreplay, then sex does last forever.

Healthy couples have similar sexual desires

Actually, in every couple there will be one with higher sexual desire and one with lower desire. This is NOT a problem. Also, the one with the lower desire will control the sexual relationship (that person decides which requests for sex to say yes to and which to say no to) and this too is NOT a problem nor unfair. Couples do not get off track with differing levels of desire. They get off track when either one personalizes the disparity. For example, if the one who desires more sex assumes that a “no” to their request is personal and an attack then there is going to be a problem. If the one who desires less feels coerced or guilty for not wanting to have sex, then there is going to be a problem.

Marital sex will be boring if you are not always trying out new techniques

Sex can be exactly the same each time and yet not boring. What makes sex boring is the attitude and the attention span. If you are not “present” during sex, then it won’t be that exciting. If you are present and prepared to enjoy your experience, you likely will enjoy it. While trying new things in the bedroom can be good, those who believe they must try new things all the time may reveal that they are never satisfied and are on a quest for something beyond mutual pleasure. The lure of “new” and the quest for an over-the-moon experience may reveal addictions and/or unrealistic expectations.

Boring isn’t the biggest problem in the bedroom. Trust and vulnerability levels predict sexual pleasure far more than “new” and “exciting” ideas. So, levels of conflict, criticism, unwillingness to be influenced by one’s spouse, rigidity, unwillingness to listen to the fears/dreams of each other, and the tyranny of the urgent are more likely to kill intimacy in the bedroom than would boredom.

Good sex needs to be spontaneous

Actually, good sex is more likely to be planned. True, it can be spontaneous. But unlike the various erectile dysfunction ads, most people find that planning is more likely to get them in the mood than stopping in the middle of some house work and running upstairs to the bedroom.

Past sexual abuse or prior sexual behaviors will always hinder good marital sex

It is true that abuse and shame regarding past sexual experiences (wanted or unwanted) have an impact on one’s identity. These experiences have a way of changing us and do not usually disappear. However, a couple who has worked hard to build a trusting, safe relationship can find ways to express their sexuality that honors each other. Good communication will help non-abused spouses to understand how to help their loved one avoid triggers and to respond well when a trigger happens. Couples that demand sex to fit into stereotypes and limited forms may struggle more than those who are willing to be creative and broad in their definition of sexual expressions of love.

Want to kill your marital sexual relationship? Start comparing!

Comparing what you have to what you expected or what you think others have tends to make you jealous, fearful, hurt, disappointed, etc. Stop comparing and start noticing what God has given you and enjoy that.


Filed under marriage, Sex, Uncategorized

Sex offender resources for the church

Last week I received a blog comment asking about counseling helps for sex offenders who wish to leave behind their offending behaviors. You can see the question and my answer here. I would add my thoughts from this short essay gives an overview of the kind of growth we want to see in reforming abusers.

This week I was shown some materials designed specifically for churches in order to protect victims (and potential victims) and aid the recovery of sex offenders–whether prosecuted or not.

These materials are published by an English organization, Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS). They have a number resources relating to the protection of children and describe themselves as,

a professional safeguarding charity providing training, resources, support and advice in all areas of safeguarding and a 24 hour helpline. CCPAS is also an umbrella organisation appointed by the Criminal Records Bureau to process criminal records checks.

The great thing about this organization (yes, I spell it with a z) is that their pamphlets are available for FREE downloads. Their “Help” series covers issues from sex offending and church attendance, sex trafficking, domestic violence, responding to allegations of abuse, etc.

The organization also encourages every church to have a volunteer safe-guarding coordinator.

Also, they have a host of DVDs as well. One I have in my hand is entitled, The Supervision and Pastoral Care of Sex Offenders. It is a 2 DVD set with victim and perpetrator accounts and reviews offender behaviors and helpful assessment, treatment and church supervision plans. You can purchase it on the above websites for about 25 US dollars.

I wasn’t able to review one other item sold by them: Walk the Walk: A Treatment Supplement for Sex Offenders with Christian Beliefs. Authored by Tim Horton and 80 pages in length, it is available on an American site (along with two other titles, one for helping sex offending clergy and for individuals with developmental disabilities.

Finally, a recent Christianity Today article covered the topic of working with sex offenders after prison. It did a good job as far as it went. But too often we concern ourselves with issues such as forgiveness, church attendance, and restoration. These issues are indeed important and ought not be neglected. However, focus for offenders should be on treatment, accountability, and willingness to support the well-being of others over their own supposed rights and freedoms. Diane Langberg and I wrote a letter to the editor that was published in a subsequent edition that might peak your interest.

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Filed under Abuse, christian counseling, Christianity, Christianity: Leaders and Leadership, deception, Diane Langberg, Sex, Uncategorized

Sexual dysfunction considered

Americans are confronted with the problem of sexual dysfunction every time they turn on the television. Seems there’s no end to the ads for products designed to improve sexual performance.

What is your response to this media blitz? Are you thankful that individuals with real problems have access to information and solutions? Or, and this is probably more likely for most, are you feeling harassed by drug company profiteering on our society that makes sexual zenith the end-all-be-all human experience.

Both are true. Despite the over-emphasis in the media, couples really do have struggles with their sex lives. And due to a number of factors (embarrassment, lack of church conversations about good sex, histories of abuse, etc.) many suffer in silence.

What follows are some common questions a good counselor will ask couples in order to uncover the nature of their problems.


1. What is your understanding of “good enough” sex? This question explores one’s view of sex. What does it entail? Who leads? Is it planned or spontaneous? How long does it last? Is there a focus only on orgasm or penetration?

2. What shapes your overall view of sex? This question begins to explore prior experiences with sex (and abuse), shaping beliefs about meaning and purpose, and perceptions of each person’s sexual identity and feelings about their own body. The point of these perception oriented questions is to uncover differences in perceptions and meaning regarding sexual intimacy.


1. How are you feeling about your relationship? Sex therapy is not indicated if there are significant ongoing conflicts across the marriage relationship. Counselors need to deal with hurts and conflicts first since good sex is based on a trust relationship. It is hard to be naked with someone you do not trust.

2. How do you two talk about your sex lives and/or sex frustrations? Can you share with each other your fears and dream; what you like or don’t like? Are their affairs, abuse, or other addictions getting in the way?


1. How would you rate your level of desire for sexual intimacy with your spouse? (High to low) What do you think accounts for this change? Has there been any changes in your level of desire? These questions begin to get at (a) the amount of desire each partner has for sexual intimacy and, (b) possible reasons for either too much or too little desire. Desire is defined as ongoing thoughts and feelings about wanting to be sexual with one’s spouse. Low desire may signal hurts, fears, and other struggles. High desire may signal addictions and/or demanding attitudes.

2. How do you feel about the differences in desire amounts? What we find is that in every couple, one wants more sex than the other. This is not a problem…unless either the one wanting more is hurt and angry about being turned down or the one wanting less feels guilty for saying no.


1. During sex, are you able to maintain your arousal? Do you lose your erection/interest? We want to discover what if any problems begin during the arousal period. Here we may uncover medical issues (disease states, medicines, etc.) that interfere with sexual intimacy.

2. Do you experience pain during sex? Pain is a major sex killer. This may be the result of ancillary problems (e.g., a bad hip or back) or the result of poor lubrication and/or other nerve-related injuries. Some pain in women is the result of anxiety at the point of penetration. But, sadly, these women are told to push through it. Pain must be dealt with in order for them to be comfortable enough to work on anxiety.


1. How do you feel about the frequency of and time to orgasm? Does it take too long or happen too quickly for you? These questions begin to uncover the possibility of problems in achieving a satisfying orgasm. Premature and delayed orgasm are real problems but sometimes we discover that the problem is one of perception. Men generally cannot thrust vigorously for more than 5 minutes without orgasming–actually most are in the 2 minute range. Women rarely orgasm from intercourse alone.

There are certainly more things to know and explore in order to help a couple solve sexual problems but these are the beginning questions most therapists will want to start with. You can find a 2009 PowerPoint presentation and accompanying questionnaire on the topic of sex therapy (When Sex in Marriage Doesn’t Work) that was part last year’s CCEF conference.


Filed under christian counseling, marriage, Sex, sex therapy, Uncategorized

OP Ed piece on pornography you should read

I subscribe to a listserv that documents abuse and exploitation around the world. Recently, I received notice of an article in the National Review (by an anonymous psychologist) entitled, “Getting Serious about Pornography”. The writer documents the known impact of pornography on men (i.e., the objectification of women) and at the same time tells of her own experience of being abandoned by her husband due to his porn addiction. I include her first paragraph. Click the link above for the essay on the original website.

Imagine a drug so powerful it can destroy a family simply by distorting a man’s perception of his wife. Picture an addiction so lethal it has the potential to render an entire generation incapable of forming lasting marriages and so widespread that it produces more annual revenue ­ $97 billion worldwide in 2006 ­ than all of the leading technology companies combined. Consider a narcotic so insidious that it evades serious scientific study and legislative action for decades, thriving instead under the ever-expanding banner of the First Amendment.

According to an online statistics firm, an estimated 40 million people use this drug on a regular basis. It doesn’t come in pill form. It can’t be smoked, injected, or snorted. And yet neurological data suggest its effects on the brain are strikingly similar to those of synthetic drugs. Indeed, two authorities on the neurochemistry of addiction, Harvey Milkman and Stanley Sunderwirth, claim it is the ability of this drug to influence all three pleasure systems in the brain ­ arousal, satiation, and fantasy ­ that makes it “the pièce de résistance among the addictions.”

For more click the link above. It is well worth the effort.


Filed under counseling, marriage, News and politics, pornography, Psychology, Sex, sexual addiction

Infidelity: personality or opportunity?

On the way to work today I heard a radio personality muse about the rampant sexual infidelity among politicians and sports figures. They talked about how people (i.e., men as the stereotype goes)  in power have much more opportunity for sexual acting out because they have more women offering themselves to them. Probably true…

But, is it that they have more opportunity (and thus more chance to give in to temptation) or is it because they have a personality that sets themselves up for infidelity? And would  you have a different answer if we were talking about bribe taking or other financial temptations instead of sexual indiscretion?

I think they are the same AND I think every has opportunity (some more than others). What matters is one’s perceptions of self and others. While personality plays a part of our self awareness, the drive to win, be the best, to get the prize, listening only to one’s fans, the sense that you are better than others also is formed from self-talk. Thus, opportunity makes it possible but failure to be self-critical is the key feature that makes opportunity become reality.


Filed under Cognitive biases, ethics, personality, Psychology, Sex

Check out my podcast on sexual addiction

CCEF is giving away my talk last year at their annual conference on sexual addiction. You can listen to it her:

I’ll be back there this November to talk about another sex topic: when sex in marriage doesn’t work. No, I don’t have it on the brain, it was their request and conference title….well, I guess that doesn’t exonerate me afterall.

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Filed under addiction, biblical counseling, counseling, Sex, sexual addiction