Tag 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.


Filed under marriage, Relationships, Sex, Uncategorized

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

Why “sexy wife” language hurts so many women

Maybe you’ve seen this post: http://deeperstory.com/the-sexy-wife-i-cant-be/? 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

Read this: What’s wrong with giving a girl a push-up bra?

Friend and fellow counselor David Wiedis just sent me this Dailing News column link about his wife’s new self-published book. Having seen a mock-up of it, I can’t recommend it enough. It is clever, beautifully illustrated…and nails it on the slippery slope of playing to our sexualized culture when it comes to clothing for girls.  It will certainly make you think! Miho is also an acclaimed performance artist and does a show called, “Clean Sheets.” You can read about her work here.

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Filed under Christianity, church and culture, cultural apologetics

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

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…)


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)


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.


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.


Filed under marriage, Sex

When is residential treatment an option for you or someone you love?

Harvest USA, a local Philadelphia ministry,  is just about ready to unveil a new booklet that will be available for purchase via download. I wrote this last year after trying to help someone consider whether or not residential care was necessary to address an ongoing battle with sexual addiction.  They sent me an advance hard copy to preview and so I’ve included a pic of the front page on this post. Sorry, I couldn’t provide a better, color shot.

As you might expect, when a sexual addiction is discovered, confusion reigns among the addict and the family. What should they do? What does it mean? Where can he/she go to get help? Strong emotions and the nature of the crisis may lead to quick decisions. Whereas one family wants to find the best, most intensive solution, another family may try to solve the problem “in-house” with accountability from the pastor.

This is a short booklet designed to help the reader cut through some of the confusion and answer 8 key questions to help them decide whether it is necessary to seek treatment in a residency setting. The booklet concludes with a list of books and short-term and residential programs around the country.

I’ll let you know when the e-version is available for download.


Filed under christian counseling, christian psychology, counseling

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.


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

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

Thoughts on sport, romance, and perversion

I’m not particularly the romantic type but certain things tend to spawn warm fuzzies in me. One such thing is the Olympics. Watching young men and women throw their all into sport for the chance to win (even though most won’t even come close) is one of those things. I recall the same feelings as I lived and breathed track and cross-country running in high school. I have fleeting desires of being able to race that fast, throw every cell into an activity, to think that succeeding will be the best. But then, my aching ankles and knees remind me of the consequences of doing so…

Pairs figure skating, in my mind, is one of the best illustrations of sport, romance, and perversion. It is definitely a sport. Have you ever tried to skate? To skate and jump off the ice…and not have a brain injury? To catch someone spinning over your head? To do all that and look graceful? But pairs are also supposed to be artistry and poetry.  The couple skates in a way to tell a  romantic or romantic/tragic story. But with the new scoring system couples are rewarded with moves, jumps, catches, positions. They are not as well rewarded for fluidity, artistry, and poetry. Maybe I’m showing my age but I found very few of the skating pairs very interesting this year. The couple that won certainly were interesting, both on the ice and their personal story. But, many just skated to music and did the moves they knew would get higher scores.

In my mind, it perverts the romance of the sport. Sure, the skaters are athletic. Sure, the moves they do are amazing taken one at a time. But, I would liken it current pop hip-hop lyrics that skip all the romance and just flaunt or demand raw sexual activity. Forget the dinner and the candles, just give me sex!

If you were watching the long program of pairs, you may have seen a Canadian couple. They fell and so wouldn’t have medaled. However, I think they had more romance and art in their skating than all of the first three combined.

Which leaves me one question. Are we beyond romance in this day and age? Missed something on television? You can catch the 30 second clip of the most important points on video. Don’t want to watch a whole football game? You can get the highlights instead. Seems we like things raw and to the point.

Maybe this is the sin of Cliffs Notes 🙂

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Filed under christian counseling, christian psychology, counseling