Category Archives: Sex

Do men need sex? Wants vs. needs and the making of weak men


A bit ago, I wrote a piece challenging Michelle Duggar’s advice to her newlywed daughter about how to be sure to always be ready for sex.

“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.’ ” (emphasis mine)

That advice, in my opinion, makes men out to need sex to such a degree that the lack of it will lead to bad things like porn and adultery. Sex is treated as the glue that holds fragile men in the marriage and the lack of it kills the marriage because men can’t function without it.

Interestingly, comments on that blog and other social media, by women, suggested that indeed sex is a need, not just a want.

Now, I just read a piece by a not-surprisingly anonymous blogger entitled, “How a husband can enjoy sex that is grudgingly given by his wife,” which argues much the same thing. While there are a million things wrong with his post, I only want to highlight the “need” language used in it. When illustrating how a wife might be allowed to (rarely) turn down her husband’s request for sex, he suggests she use this line with him,

“Honey, I know you really need it, but I am just really sick tonight, can I make it up to you tomorrow?” (bold mine)

And when he talks about the problem of the wife not wanting sex the way the husband wants,

But then we have the conundrum, women don’t always feel like having sex. Even women that have a healthy view of sex don’t always feel like having sex as much as their husbands do. (emphasis his)

One could argue that for some this is true, some men feel greater sexual desire than do their wives. But it is only a conundrum if such feelings/desires for sex are evidence of some innate need that if not met will lead to trouble.

Maybe from this quote you are not sure that this blogger believes sex is a need for men. Well, he also believes it is a need for women as well,

You need to realize that this is a physical need that you have as a man. You also need to realize that whether your wife knows it or not she needs to have sex too. Your marriage needs sex at regular intervals. If you don’t have sex with your wife at regular intervals, even sometimes when she is not in the mood but consents anyway, you will open yourself to temptation. You will find yourself becoming distant from your wife, because this is the primary way that you as man feel closeness with your wife.

But even if you realize and accept this truth that you need sex and it needs to happen even if your wife refuses to “fake it” and bury her wrong attitude then what?

What is probably most controversial in this blog is that he advises men to go ahead with sex when a wife is giving sex in a grudging way. He recommends that a husband not look at his wife’s face but focus on her body. You see, sex is such a need, it would be best to just muscle through it, don’t look at her face, so you can fulfill that need. Really!

Is it a need? Is it a want?

So is sex a need? Even if you believe it is a duty to provide sex to your spouse, does that make it a need equivalent to, “if I don’t get oxygen, I will die”?  Will the absence of it lead to bad things? It seems that some have  bought into this little formula: SEXUAL DESIRE = NEED. UNMET NEED = DANGER that will lead to  temptation, straying, or some such pathology.

What do we do with single men who want to be married? Is God unkind to them?

I think our troubles begin this way: We often baptize desires as needs, expect needs to be fulfilled, are angry when they are not, make demands of others to fulfill our wants and excuse ourselves when we use illicit means to get what we want (either by outright force, manipulation, or secrecy).

Notice here the author conflates desire with need. Yes, many men and women desire sexual activity. We are designed for it so it is not surprising when we like it and want more of it. But it is also designed to be used to connect us with our spouses. And when it is used to only fulfill one person’s needs, then it is not being used as designed.

And when we see it as a need, we are encouraging men to see themselves as weak and incapable of living without sex.

Further, arguing backwards does not make it a need. For example, you could show that those in sexless marriages are more likely to cheat (example; I don’t know if this is true or not). This information still does not make sex a need. At best it can only tell us it is a powerful want.

Consider for a minute how we might respond to these two different equations:

  • Sex as basic need + unmet need = ???
  • Sex as powerful want + unmet want = ???

How would you conclude these two equations? The first is more likely to focus on ensuring the spouse is not selfishly withholding such a basic need. The second is more likely to be concluded by addressing the one who has the want and how they plan to address that want.

A Better Equation

Maybe this is a more accurate equation: Sex as a powerful want + partially unmet wants + brokenness (bodies, relationships, desires) = grief over losses + opportunity to rely on Holy Spirit + pursuit of loving our spouses more than ourselves. This equation better acknowledges wants, sadness the happens when wants are not met, the reality of broken wants and broken bodies but also points to a better goal of reliance on God and the focus of love more than getting something.

It is painful to have unmet wants/desires. Those desires do not have to be wrong (though we are never fully right either). But our wants are always given to God and made secondary to our command to love the other well. Yes, part of loving the other may be talking about desires and hurts. But surely let us get rid of the idea that failing to have sex leaves men or women in some greater danger than those who have sex as much as they want.

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Filed under marriage, Relationships, Sex, Uncategorized

Does the DSM 5 define pedophilia as a sexual orientation?


In recent weeks I have read a couple of postings suggesting that the new version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5) has taken Pedophilia out of the realm of (psycho)pathology and made it equivalent to sexual orientation (e.g., gay, straight, bisexual, transgendered, etc.). These postings propose that the publisher, The American Psychiatric Association, has decided to normalize pedophilia–something that some believe is mere politics and a sign of further loosening of social mores. Usually, these writers point to the fact that the APA depathologized homosexuality in previous editions and now are going steps further to normalize pedophilia.

But, is this rumor true?

The facts from DSM 5

Pedophilia, or Pedophilic Disorder still exists and is considered a disorder in the family of paraphilias (patterns of abnormal sexual desire or activity). To be diagnosed with Pedophilia, one must meet 3 criteria (summarized)

  • Have sexual fantasies, urges, or behaviors for prepubescent children
  • Either urges cause marked distress, interpersonal difficulty OR the adult has acted on the urges with children
  • Must be at least 16 and seeking those who are at least 5 years younger

So, why the rumors?

Okay, so pedophilia is still a disorder. So, where is the confusion? After listing the criterion, the DSM offers some commentary to further describe the disorder. Here’s where some confusion may enter in as they describe the person who has intense pedophilic urges but who has not acted on them:

“However, if they report an absence of feelings of guilt, shame, or anxiety about these impulses and are not functionally limited by their paraphilic impulses (according to self-report, objective assessment, or both), and their self-reported and legally recorded histories indicate that they have never acted on their impulses, then these individuals have a pedophilic sexual orientation but not pedophilic disorder.” (p. 698)

Meaning?

Unfortunately, “pedophilic sexual orientation” is not defined. By the way, neither do they define any other sexual orientation. The point being that since sexual orientation is outside the purview of  a catalog of psychopathology, it need not be discussed. So, my read of the DSM 5 intent regarding pedophilic urges is this

  • Pedophilia is NOT equated with sexual orientation when the person is acting on the urges or is troubled by them, BUT
  • Those who have these attractions, yet feel no shame about them, function in society to protect children, and have not acted to harm children are not pedophiles but can be listed in a new nonpathology category: pedophilic sexual orientation. thereby, 
  • Opening the door for some to self-identify in a nonpathological manner

Is this cause for alarm?

Short answer. No, this nor the removal of homosexuality as pathology is not evidence of APA’s moral degradation.

Longer answer. this addition/change will create confusion. It does open the door for some crazy thinking and adding the “orientation” language is wrongheaded and may harm the good research being done about sexual orientation. Further, never underestimate the power of some to use this for evil intent.

Remember, the DSM is a catalog of psychopathology, not social pathology, moral pathology or the like. So, if it is possible (and there is evidence to support this) that gay and lesbian people do not experience psychopathology solely as result of their sexual feelings, then it would be right to remove homosexuality as a psychological disorder (no matter how you classify it in terms of morality).

There is another DSM feature that may be more of issue in this debate. As of now, diagnoses are locked into using the criterion, “causes marked distress” as a way of determining the floor for a pathology. Thus, you could possibly experience recurrent and persistent obsessional thoughts and images but not have them cause “marked distress…or significantly interfere with normal routine, social activities…” and therefore NOT be diagnosed with OCD. So, if it is possible to determine that a person with sexual feelings for little children is able to be not disturbed by them AND not act on them, then you wouldn’t give the diagnosis.

See the problem?  Here’s an analogy of sorts: if all 80 year old men have cancer cells in their prostate but never have any symptoms, seek no treatment, and die of other causes, should they be diagnosed with prostate cancer? Denying the existence of the cells doesn’t seem to be the answer even if no treatment is necessary.

To the point: Is there movement in redefining pedophilia?

Not in the mainstream.

It appears that there is an effort to better understand those who are being charged and convicted of child sex offenses. I see a growing research beginning to differentiate between three types of people who commit sex crimes: contact sex offenders (those who directly abuse actual children), internet offenders (those who use or send child pornography), and solicitation offenders (those who use technology to communicate with minors for sexual purposes).  The idea is that there may be differences between these three types and thus arguments for different punishments and treatments. It seems, thus far, that contact sex offenders have far more distortions in empathy for victims, cognitive distortions about self and children while the other two categories seem to have some features that might protect them from becoming contact offenders. NOTE: the data is small at this point and we can’t predict who will and who will not become contact offenders.

Go ahead and worry some

If one could really argue that child porn viewers are not statistically more likely to become offenders against actual children, you can easily imagine someone arguing that virtual child porn (i.e., digital created images of children having sex) harm no one and ought to be legal for the pedophilic orientation individuals. On recent report stated that at any given moment in time there are 750,000 individuals accessing and viewing child porn. And that is with it being a crime. Do we really want to open this door to normalization? No. We want to understand, empathize, restrict, and intervene.

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Filed under APA, News and politics, Psychology, Sex, sexual identity, sexuality, Uncategorized

Counselors: How do you deal with attraction to clients?


For my counseling friends, you may wish to read this piece by Ryan Neace about sexual attraction in the therapist office. Do you have someone to talk to in this kind of frank manner about the reality of attraction? How do you handle it?

Remember, sexual attraction is not limited to just wanting to have sex with someone. Ryan does a good job identifying types of sexual responses to others beyond outright lust and fantasy. Notice also his drawing attention to the myth of the sexual vortex.

“The pastor who refuses eye contact sends a clear message…‘You are seductive. You are a sexual vortex that I may get sucked in to.’ The slippery slope of my lust is your problem. And my ministry is too valuable to allow the likes of you to trip me up.”

Given that we all have examples of counselors and leaders who crossed sexual lines, the myth and fear of the vortex can keep us from addressing needs of others. And, as he notes, it sends a very loud message to some clients (mostly women) that they are a danger at the cellular level). What a burden we place on others!

Two questions for readers:

1. How do you respond to incidents of sexual attraction?

2. How would you want to respond to the question posed to Yalom copied below (about whether he would in a different situation be attracted to a female client)? Redirect? Focus on the “deeper question”? Answer it?

Yalom considers a female client who asks, “Am I appealing to men? To you? If you weren’t my therapist would you respond sexually to me?”

… [Yalom’s answer]:

If you deem it in the patient’s best interests, why not simply say… ‘If everything were different, we met in another world, I were single, I weren’t your therapist, then yes, I would find you very attractive and sure would make an effort to know you better.’ What’s the risk? In my view such candor simply increases the patient’s trust in you and in the process of therapy. Of course, this does not preclude other types of inquiry about the question—about, for example, the patient’s motivation or timing (the standard “Why now?” question) or inordinate preoccupation with physicality or seduction, which may be obscuring even more significant questions. (bold emphasis Ryan’s)

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Filed under christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, counseling skills, Sex, sexuality

Educating youth about sex: check out this local conference


I will be speaking at a local day-long seminar geared to educate youth, youth workers, and parents on the topic of sex, sexual health, and relationships. It is sponsored by Eastern University. You can check out this page for more information. While my talk is geared to help adults create environments free of sexual abuse, most of the other presentations are dealing with issues around teen sexuality, relationships in an age appropriate manner. If you are a youth worker or have teens or middle schoolers, you might want to come and bring your kids as well.

On July 26-27, the Center for Urban Youth Development at Eastern University will host a conference called O, YES! (Our Youth Enlightened about Sex). This Christian conference is designed to enlighten middle school and high school students from Philadelphia and vicinity about topics related to sex, relationships and sexual health. It will be held at the Eastern University Academy Charter School at 3300 Henry Avenue in Philadelphia.

The Friday night Kick-off at 7 PM will feature entertainment, games, prizes, snacks and an introduction of the theme, Be Transformed. Saturday (9 AM to 4:30 PM) will include interactive seminars, skits, entertainment and food. Facilitators will present the real deal on teens and sex.  Their expertise, experience and Christian worldview will be incorporated into dynamic workshops.

To register for O, YES! or to make a donation, go to www.eastern.edu/oyes. Please direct inquires to oyes@eastern.edu or call 215-769-3105. Follow us on Twitter: @OYESConference. The cost for those who register before June 19 is $25/person. After June 19, add $5/person. For groups who bring 14 people, the 15th person will attend at no cost. Scholarships are available. Donations to make this event possible are appreciated.

 

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Help and Hope For Porn Addiction: 2 Questions


Recently, I made a presentation to a group of men about the problem of porn use/addiction. It proved to be a lively conversation and I didn’t get an opportunity to get through all of the content. Below are 2 questions I was asked. Consider these answers:

  • What is wrong with watching porn with my wife? We both enjoy it and it spices up our sex life?

Besides the clear command to avoid all sexual immorality and to not lust after another? Supposing you want more than that here are some additional thoughts. God has given us imagination as a tool to be used for our good and our pleasure. Therefore, it stands to reason that imagination is highly important in the bedroom. However, it should be used as a tool to honor each other and to promote oneness. As soon as our eyes our off our spouse (whether in a literal sense or a figurative sense), we are seeking to use another for our sexual pleasure. Porn necessarily brings images of others into your bedroom thus moving away from reality and oneness. The images porn uses are not accurate or real and only encourages disappointment in the real thing.

And may I note that I have only heard this question from men. Given my experience of hearing so many wives who have been hurt by their husband’s interest in bringing porn into their own lovemaking, I am suspicious that the wife enjoys it as much as might be thought. At the end of your lovemaking and/or porn use, does she feel special? Does she feel honored? Does she feel she cannot measure up to what is not the screen?

Despite the injunction against porn use by Christians, do not take this to mean that the sex life of Christians must be boring. Seeking to satisfy the pleasures of your spouse gives ample room for creative fun in the bedroom.

  •  How long can I enjoy looking at [name of well-known female star]  and not begin to lust? Is it always wrong to enjoy female beauty?

Of course there is no specific answer that can be given as to how many nano-seconds are pure and at what point the look ogle turns lustful.  Is it possible to enjoy beauty in a person not your spouse? Yes. I would suggest that it is impossible not to notice beauty when you see it. However, I would quickly add that some forms of beauty are more likely to turn lustful in a split second. Noticing Beyoncé’s lovely singing voice probably won’t turn to lust. Noticing her Super Bowl attire…that is another matter.

Here’s what I would like you to consider. The question you are asking, “how long can I look before sinning” may reveal a dangerous motive. It seems that you might be asking, how close can I get to the cliff without falling over? Is it okay to have one foot on solid ground but lean over the edge? Can you see the danger in this thinking? Instead, we ought to humbly recognize that it is easy for us to move from momentary admiration to fantasy. It is good to accept that we will notice beauty and that we must guard our very next thought.

One more thought for you. While noticing beauty is part of who God has made you, is it possible that you have well-trained yourself to search for beauty? Is your head on a swivel? Have you long practiced taking the second and third look? If so, then you are likely not merely noticing beauty but actively looking for images you can use for your own fantasy.  

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Filed under addiction, pornography, self-deception, Sex, sexuality, Uncategorized

New Resource for Men with Porn Addiction


A friend of mine, David White, published a book late last year with New Growth Press entitled, Sexual Sanity For Men: Re-creating Your Mind in a Crazy Culture. I commend you this book for several reasons.

  1. The topic is absolutely important. David doesn’t offer a white knuckle approach to dealing with sexual temptations. Nor does he gloss over the difficulties and give the simplistic bible answer as to why porn use is bad for you or that Jesus is a substitute for porn (see week 11, day 2 for how why he rightly says, “Jesus is not going to become like porn for you” and why many addicts imagine that he will.)
  2. The book design is perfect. By saying this I am not talking about its physical attributes. Ever read a book that has decent sized chapters and then a few questions at the end? If you are like me you might glance at those “for further thought” questions and then move on to the next chapter. The result is that you get lots of content quickly but make little to no application. David’s book is written in the format of daily readings (5 per week) for 14 weeks. Each reading is about 2-3 pages with specific reflection  and self-assessment questions with space to write. I suggest a reader complete on own but then meet up with a group of guys and discuss (hold accountable) what your read/wrote.
  3. The focus. The material and questions spend what may feel like an inordinate amount of time on discovering how deceived we are. You could feel like he is beating a dead horse. But I would suggest that David is intentionally helping readers peel back layer and layer of deceptions that allow sin to continue. How else could believers imbibe sin if they weren’t first deadening with deception? For example, he asks the reader to note where they wear the “fig leaf of ministry” as a way to mollify guilt.

I would encourage readers to add one question to each day/week: “What is one thing I am going to endeavor to do today, with God’s help, in light of what I just read?” If we only stay with the assessment, we can become defeated and discouraged by the amount of mess we find. But, God gives us a way of escape. Where is it today? Don’t promise yourself the world. You’ll break that promise. Endeavor to make one small, incremental change today. Tomorrow, you’ll do it again. And, don’t try to do it alone.

You can find David at www.harvestusa.org.

*received complimentary book from NGP but review is my own and not the result of free books. I get plenty others that never make my recommended list.

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Filed under book reviews, Christianity, pornography, Sex, sexual addiction

Sex Offender Residential Treatment Programs?


After I posted earlier this week about resources for the church to use in caring for sex offenders in the congregation, I got a call asking if I knew of any residential sex offender treatment programs for those having been convicted of a sex crime.

Let me pose this question to readers:

1. Do you know of any quality residential offender treatment programs for post incarceration? Programs would need to accept voluntary admission clients.

2. Do you know of any Christian versions?

Most Christian programs focus on sexual addictions and all that I know of do not accept individuals with felony convictions (usually due to zoning restrictions set up by the community).

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Delaying sex til marriage improves your relationship?


The January 22nd edition of The Economist ran a 1 page review of a research article regarding the impact of sex before or after marriage on the subsequent marital relationship. I decided to track down the actual article and so thought I would make some comments here. For those of you who can’t wait for a tidbit The Economist writer provides this final summary:

Their report, just published in the Journal of Family Psychology, suggests that people who delay having sex do indeed have better relationships, on four different measures…That result applies to both men and women.

Unfortunately, Dr. Busby’s method cannot distinguish the cause of this. It could be, as many moralists preach, that the delay itself is improving. It could, though, be that the sort of people who are happy to delay having sex are also better at relationships. [p.93]

Not a bad summary but let’s go a bit deeper.

The Study

This is a study, by Dean Busby, Jason Carroll, and Brian Willoughby, was funded by a grant at Brigham Young University. The researchers surveyed 2035 married couples (recruited through various ways to take an online survey) as to the timing of their first sexual experiences (before or after their wedding). They hypothesized that sexual timing would have an impact on sexual compatibility, communication, relationship satisfaction, and relationship stability. 

Who took the survey? Demographics reported show that 77% were Caucasian couples from ages 19-71 (mean=36.1 years). Most were fairly educated. Religious affiliation was reported to be 39% Protestant, 21% Catholic, 6% Mormon, 17% “other”, and 17% unaffiliated.OF the sample (2035), 336 couples reported that they waited until they got married to have sex. The rest reported having sex prior to getting married. The largest group admitted to having sex within a few weeks after dating and 126 couples reported having sex prior to even dating (I guess I’m not sure what constitutes dating anymore…)

Results

Here’s a succinct summary from the authors

With the sample in this study it is clear that the longer a couple waited to become sexually involved the better their sexual quality, relationship communication, relationship satisfaction, and perceived relationship stability was in marriage, even when controlling for a variety of other variables such as the number of sexual partners, education, religiosity, and relationship length. (p. 772)

Testing sexual chemistry prior to marriage did not enhance any of the above aspects of marriage over that of waiting. However, the authors also admit that the timing of sex (waiting) has positive but only moderate gains for the relationship. From this data you can’t say that you will kill your relationship if you have premarital sex. That said, the idea that premarital sex is advisable to form a good relationship holds NO water. But then, I’m not sure people really have premarital sex because they want to test the relationship. They have it because they want it and don’t want to wait.

The authors did make some hypotheses. Is it possible that those who engage in premarital sex underdevelop the relationship. By focusing  on pleasure and sex, do they fail to get to know each other well. Consider this quote.

The primary focus here is that when people slide through major relationship transitions the decreased level of deliberation
may lower the odds of pro-relational behaviors. Furthermore, sexual involvement without clear commitment can represent an ambiguous state of commitment for many partners. The ambiguity of early sexual initiation may undermine the ability of some couples to develop a clear and mutual understanding about the nature of their relationships. In contrast, commitment-based sexuality is more likely to create a sense of security and clarity between partners and within their social networks about exclusivity and a future. The results from this study support these propositions. (p. 773)

Conclusions

I’m not sure many will refrain from having sex because it will build a better relationship. People usually refrain out of deeper principles than that. It may not be different between those who save and those who spend all they get. Everyone knows saving is best. But some do and others do not. Those who do not usually find something they want or need now that is more powerful than socking money away for a later date.

Reference:

Busby, D. M., Carroll, J. S., & Willoughby, B. J. (2010). Compatibility or restraint? The effects of sexual timing on marriage relationships. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(6), 766-774.

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Filed under marriage, Sex

Book idea: Sexual Crises in the Church


Pastors and church leaders have to navigate a variety of sexual crises that may arise in their congregations. These crises may or may not be crises for some churches even while they devastate another community. And surely these are not the only crises a church may face. But matters of sexuality often unnerve the leadership.

What crises am I referring to? Sexual abuse allegations, date-rape, infidelity among attendees and, pastoral (or leader) sexual abuse, couples living together, sex offenders returning to church, sexual addictions, individuals struggling with sexual or gender identity issues, etc.

Where would they turn to get helps in thinking about the various issues, practical pastoral responses (to the individuals involved as well as the entire congregation)? I’m thinking about a one source document that might survey biblical foundations, explore possible responses as well as prevention plans where appropriate. Why wait til the Crisis to consider how one might want to think about it?

Anyone seen such a resource? I’ve got some other writing assignments but I could imagine an edited volume on the topic. Maybe I’ll skip grading today and see if I can start a proposal.

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Filed under Abuse, christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, pornography, Sex, sexual addiction, sexual identity, sexuality

When Sex in Marriage Doesn’t Work


Today is the first full day of the CCEF annual conference in Valley Forge, PA. The conference is entitled, “Sex Matters” and so all plenary and breakouts are on said theme. It is not too late to drop by if live in the area and want to register. I believe they will still take walk-ups.

Besides the faculty-led plenary sessions, Lauren Winner (Girl Meets God; Mudhouse Sabbath, & Real Sex) will speak on Saturday. For those of you who can’t come, CCEF sells mp3 downloads on their website.

I will be providing an hour long seminar entitled, “When Sex in Marriage Doesn’t Work” at 4 pm today. We will focus on desire, arousal, technique, and relationship problems (whether perceived, physical or emotional) couples sometimes encounter. Slides and an additional home-grown sex therapy questionnaire is available here (#16 on the list, scroll to the bottom).

The best part is that after I’m done, Biblical Seminary is hosting a pizza party for current students and alums (5:30p) at our information table.

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Filed under "phil monroe", biblical counseling, Biblical Seminary, CCEF, christian counseling, christian psychology, counseling skills, Sex, sexuality