What a tough question we have today. It’s from a husband who wants to know how to help his wife enjoy sex with him. I was heartbroken when I found out that she can get aroused but it’s mostly from imagining herself as a sexual abuse victim. Here’s the question:
[My wife] is a very quiet person and finds it hard to express anything verbally in bed or out of bed. Years ago I found out that she was getting high 99% of the time by thinking of abusive situations. She battles that because she knows it is not of God, but her heart mind and body craves for the God gift of orgasm. I also found out that she does not feel much so it may be that there are issues with her clitoris. We have [several] kids so this could be part of the reason, but it has been so many years that she has used wrong thoughts that she is not sure when or if clitoris stimulation was ever the reason for her getting high. We do talk. We do read. Many talk about her exploring that area and understanding her own body and what stimulation gets her going. She may have done this, but she has never admitted it to me. She receives pleasure from me gently kissing and sucking on her breasts. We are both aware that she has the potential to have an orgasm from breast stimulation, but when she gets stimulated it gets to be too much for her and she has never tried to flow with that to see if that might be a way to get to orgasm. So, year after year goes by and she struggles with the moral dilemma of needing and wanting to get high, but seems to only be able to do that with going to the wrong thoughts.
It is very hard for us both. She does not give me clues that I am pleasuring her by touch or sex. When I ask her she says yes. “Do you like that?” – “Yes” – “Is that ok?” – “Yes” So for me it makes me feel selfish. Receiving pleasure and wanting so much for her to receive even more, but powerless to do anything.
Having written this long about sex in marriage, I know what’s going to show up in my comments section if I don’t address it head-on: How can a loving husband continue to have sex with a woman who is putting herself through abuse fantasies (or nightmares) in her head to get aroused? Because I have to admit that I don’t see how I could continue making love to my husband if I knew he was getting off on images of being sexually attacked.
To the inquirer, I know that may seem harsh, but it’s a question I guarantee someone — perhaps including you — is asking. But when I go back through the question, I sense a strong desire from you to work out this issue. It seems that you’ve talked, read, explored, pleaded, and longed for her sexual setting to change. It’s also seems clear that you’re not abusing her sexually, but that she willingly engages in the marriage bed. Albeit under terrible mental circumstances. And your eight children are definitely a blessing from your physical unions.
So I applaud you for continuing to desire what God wants your wife to have and for seeking it out in whatever ways you can. Yet I also encourage you not to enable these awful experiences for her, meaning that you must figure this out somehow.
As often happens, I wish I could talk to the spouse. The wife is the one with key information that would help to illuminate what’s happening and reveal possible solutions. But since I don’t have that access, I’m going to throw out a few ideas and see if any stick. That is, one or more of these options might be a pathway to getting her the help she needs.
Has she seen a physician about this issue?
Since your wife’s arousal seems fueled by mental imagery, and she reports not feeling much with her clitoris, I’d first want to know if there are physiological issues impeding her sexual pleasure. She should see her primary care physician or gynecologist and ask to be examined with this in mind.
By the way, two important thoughts about seeing a physician about sexual issues:
- We tend to get embarrassed about bringing up the topic of sex with doctors, but I assure you that you’re not going to shock them. They see all kinds of stuff, so you saying, “I need to know if there are any physical problems preventing me from engaging in pleasurable sex” ranks about a two on the 10-point scale of shockers.
- Sadly, some physicians don’t take sexual dysfunction seriously enough. I wish it weren’t the case, but I’ve heard about and experienced doctors shrugging off such problems. Thus, I encourage wives, and husbands, to be advocate for their sexual health, pushing for answers and even changing doctors if needed.
(Related post: Finding a Good Gynecologist)
Was she sexually abused in her past?
Sexual abuse is so confusing, especially for children. A friend who was molested when she was young once explained to me that it wasn’t all bad — that is, since God primed us to experience pleasure when our sexual organs are touched, her body responded positively in some ways to what was happening, at the same time that she felt discomfort and revulsion.
If your wife’s early experiences with sex were abuse, it’s not uncommon for victims to have difficulty differentiating that experience and their sexual arousal. Some survivors report being later aroused by abuse or rape fantasies, and usually feeling shame afterward because they know this is a twisted version of sex. And yet, it’s how their bodies first experienced any kind of sexual pleasure, because their biology just did its job without regard to the circumstances.
This linking of abuse and arousal can continue into adulthood, and the answer to breaking this connection is to heal from the abuse. Your wife should seek help from counseling, a support group, and/or resources like Dan Allender’s The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Abuse. She will need to relearn sexual responses that are in line with a healthy relationship and God’s design for marriage.
What did she learn about sex?
Another source of sexual abuse or rape fantasies is good girl guilt. Many women were brought up to believe that pursuing or even enjoying sexual pleasure makes you a “slut.” The message could have been direct or implied, but too many Christian wives still have a subconscious feeling that it’s not good to desire or enjoy sex.
Given that your wife seems reluctant to express her pleasure or let breast stimulation continue, even though she gains great pleasure from it, I wonder what messages she received about sex growing up. Was the prohibition against sex before marriage so aggressively preached that she sensed sex wasn’t good even in marriage? Was she told that sex was for the husband, while the wife’s role was surrendering her body to the act? Was she convinced sex’s primary purpose was procreation, and gaining sexual pleasure was selfish? Was she taught that sex was carnal, thus in opposition to the spirituality God desires?
A wife who desires sexual pleasure but feels that getting it is selfish, bad, or impure might have abuse fantasies that allow her to engage sexually without feeling that she’s making the decision to do so. After all, in her mind she’s being forced. During a sexual encounter, such imagery can alleviate the guilt of wanting sexual highs, but of course they result in a different kind of guilt. And this is clearly no way to live a sex life that honors God’s design. If this is the problem, she must confront the wrong messages received and replace them with God’s truth — that sex is good and holy and beautiful within the embrace of marriage.
What does she believe about men?
Another component is what she believes about men. Did her previous experiences convey that men are predators? That a woman’s value is in being used for his sexual pleasure? That a hefty imbalance of power is to be expected in the bedroom? Some women, oh so sadly, believe they are not worth sexual pleasure for themselves; they sense that a man pressuring a woman into sex is how things should go.
That message might conflict with everything she knows about her own husband, but if it’s been implanted deep enough, she can still have that belief. Even if she doesn’t recognize it at a conscious level. And such a belief obviously keeps her from understand the mutuality of sexual intimacy as God intended. Once again, the answer is to challenge these false beliefs and welcome a better, more truthful perspective of men.
Whatever the cause, I suspect flawed, deep-seated beliefs have affected your wife’s view of herself and sexuality. Uncovering and addressing these problems is really the only way to deal with her situation. Tough as it may be, sometimes the only way out is through.
I’d encourage her to create an intimacy timeline, deal with her sexual baggage, find resources that address her struggle, and pursue outside help if needed. A quality Christian counselor could peel back more of what’s happening and help her through her difficulties.
What’s not okay is settling for the status quo. Sex should never be about abuse, not physically and not mentally. God longs for His beautiful daughter to see sex as He created it — a healthy, mutual sharing of bodies, hearts, and souls in an intimate act that honors Him and strengthens your marriage.
17 thoughts on “Q&A with J: “My Wife Gets Aroused from Abuse Fantasy””
It could also be a dominance thing, like how people are in BDSM. Some people get off by being the submissive. A lot of women have much milder forms of attraction to dominance — like how women are attracted to rich or powerful men or romance novels where the hero frequently “takes” in a sexual relationship. That idea of male dominance (sexually) can almost feel affirming of femininity, if that makes sense.
She very much needs some help, I think, to get everything sorted out. But it sounds like a somewhat normal inclination taken to a very wrong extreme.
Do either of these spouses understand what a good, positive sexual relationship looks like? Since this husband hasn’t addressed any specific issues re the so-called dirty sex, maybe some of what she wants is perfectly normal. It’s important for a woman to know what her clitoris is for, to be sure. But she should also understand that about 80% of women orgasm only with extra stimulation, and that it’s not “perverted” to desire her husband’s tongue down there, for instance.
I think perhaps they should start with reading a good book on the Song of Solomon (and study the Song itself) until they get it that it’s okay for him to mention that her specific, intimate body parts are beautiful in his sight; further that it’s not just “bad” girls who desire to be chased naked along a moonlit beach or make wild love outdoors beneath an apple tree.
Further, I’m thinking that this lady may have some issues with self worth, and feel a “need” to be punished. It could be a case of being unwilling to take God at his word re forgiveness for past sins–to believe that you have been truly”‘cleansed from all unrighteousness.”
It sounds like they’ve read enough to understand what a positive, healthy sexual relationship should look like. But there are obvious barriers to achieving that. Thanks for your comment.
You can tell that he truly loves his wife and wants to please her deeply. I, for one, applaud him for seeking help.
You have given great advice and resources as always.
A couple years ago this letter could have been written about me. This is my background and my perspective as a woman who used to have these fantasies. I hope it helps the original asker and helps others. I want to start out by saying I was never abused as a child. I was to me, a perfectly normal kid: had friends, played sports, loved to read. I discovered around 6th grade that pain gave me an endorphin rush that felt good. After a while, I found that if I told myself I deserved it, it made the rush more intense. Nothing major, no cutting, bruises, asphyxiation or anything like that, mostly just pinching. I think that set me up for bad thoughts later. No one ever knew. I wasn’t depressed, bi polar or anything like that. It didn’t even last a month, just a short experimentation with my body and it’s feelings.
My first orgasm was an accident. I had an itch and kept scratching after the itch was gone. It felt weird and funny and I wanted to see what would happen if I didn’t stop. Orgasm happened. About 3 years later, I discovered that I could recreate that feeling, orgasm, and that it was good. It didn’t take long after that before I started to imagine other people doing it to me.
I had heard about rape and abuse but didn’t know what it was. Encyclopedias and books about health that included sexual health taught me about what that was, and about terms like sadism, masochism, and bondage. I realized that I must be a masochist because I enjoyed the rush of endorphins years ago. I was intrigued about bondage, but just put it to the back of my mind. Eventually I stayed mixing a bit of pain with my pleasure. I got a much stronger rush.
Disclaimer here: I know this is a touchy subject. My beliefs are that there is a way for consenting adults to do these things safely if they are educated in them. I do not believe that it is God’s design, but I also recognize not everyone is Christian. I think some people use the words BDSM to cover their abuse, but I think the majority is adults playing safely and consensually together. While I an wholeheartedly against abuse, I do not condemn BDSM.
A year or so after I stayed exploring my body in high school, I stumbled upon erotic stories. The ones were the woman seemed helpless were more arousing to me. I remembered those old terms, and was suddenly flooded with images, stories, and more that were basically other people’s abuse fantasies. I was drawn in even more. In college, with unrestricted computer access, I discovered porn and developed a vision of sexuality that is not God’s design. I also discovered mail order sex toys.
I found myself acting things out that interested me, and wanting a bigger and bigger rush. I would tell myself things like I deserved it, I’m a slut, I’m just here to pleasure the guy, it’s all I’m good for. Sex is good. I get off on this so I must just be a slut, looking for a good time, that this is what I was made for. This went on for over 5 years of these fantasies. They were not acted out with a partner but sometimes played in my head during sex. Unbeknownst to the guy, he was being portrayed as an abuser inside my head, that what we were doing was dirty/forbidden and that made it all the more sweeter. My body was programmed to need these things and they were the only way to get orgasm. Reprogramming myself was so difficult, but can be done.
I didn’t become a Christian until my 20s, so I had a long time for my warped view to become ingrained, before I was even exposed to God’s view. Somehow when I became a Christian, I swung vehemently to the opposite end of the spectrum. Sex went from being good to being bad, even when you were married. I felt like other women (normal, christian women) didn’t enjoy sex, so I must not enjoy it either. I believed modesty was of utmost importance: I must not look like a slut, show too much skin, tempt men, or wear anything but long skirts and layers. I went from normal looking college kid (somewhat tight pants, little cleavage) to almost puritanical (gasp, my ankle is showing, I’m doing something horribly wrong). This was all how I thought Christians were supposed to act. My views of Christians somehow never updated to what actual Christians in my church looked like or did. Thank God it eventually did or I would have kept driving everyone nuts.
All that to say, that’s a lot of background and I hope you can understand where I’m coming from when I say these next things.
When the husband says she doesn’t feel much with clitoral stimulation, my first thought is, does she not feel much in terms of sensatios/strength or does she not feel much pleasure from clitoral stimulation? After using a vibrator for over 5 years to the point of them literally not being stong enough, I thought I had loss of sensation. After a while not using them, sensation came back, so I feel everything, no sensation loss. At this point though (and for the past 4 years) clitoral stimulation doesn’t feel pleasurable to me. It might help if they can figure out if she’s got actual sensation loss or if it just doesn’t feel good to her. If the first is the case, what we called the sensation game might help. The woman closes her eyes while the husband touched her in a variety of ways and with a variety of objects. The loss of sight helps you to tune in to the sense of touch. While you may not normally feel a feather on your arm, you might feel it with your eyes closed. As you tune in to what your body is feeling more and more, you can reprogram yourself to feel sensations more strongly. If clitoral stimulation just isn’t pleasurable, thankfully God gave us several other areas we can touch and get pleasure from too, you’ve just got to find them. I used to think there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t have orgasms from clitoral stimulation. Turns out I’m one of the lucky few that can have them other ways. His wife might be too.
The husband said it’s been going on fit many years. I just want to be encouraging and say there’s still hope. It’s taken me years of constant effort and I still struggle now and then with wanting to slip back into fantasies (I call it the dark place). I have to avoid anything that reminds me of it, some sexual positions, blindfold, and make a conscious effort. Perhaps switching to some of the more woman on top or active positions world help vs missionary. Another trick that might help is talking during sex, or mixing it up more. Honestly, it’s hard to focus on a fantasy when someone keeps interrupting by asking questions, talking, switching positions or even tickling. It’s been years but I do enjoy sex with my husband and it’s maybe once a year that I’m tempted with slipping back into the dark place. My body was programmed to want these things for so long, but with a lot of work, you can break that cycle. There’s still hope, don’t give up.
He also mentioned breast pleasure, and children. My first thought was, is she breastfeeding? I know sometimes stimulation feels so good, but then the hormones throw a switch and turn everything off. I’ve noticed this only when I’m breastfeeding, not any other time. I’m also wondering if she has a mental block and feels like she doesn’t deserve pleasure or orgasm; either as guilt over the fantasies, or as thoughts/part of the fantasy. Working through that is hard and a counselor might help (I wasn’t comfortable with that), but prayer, journaling, and good books really helped a lot.
Blogs like this one and the forgiven wife have helped me see God’s design for sex and though it’s taken years, I’m beginning to take that head knowledge and turn it into heart knowledge. God us on with sex, God made sex, God wants us to enjoy sex. It isn’t dirty, sinful, unclean, or forbidden. It can take a long time to internalize God’s message and erase the old ways, but it can still happen.
Thank you for sharing your own difficult story. I’m glad you’ve made such great strides and pray for full healing, health, and happiness!
Thank you ! For taking the time to tell your story! And for being willing to be vulnerable enough to tell it! It is good to hear from someone who has come out on the other side of this struggle! I’m sure your comment and story will help a lot of people!!
The illicit is exciting. It is a an alluring trap set by the enemy that works, but breaks.
I used to (and sometimes still do) battle lesbian fantasies and orgy fantasies. I used to indulge in them to “get there,” but I knew it was wrong and stopped. Now, if the thought comes in unbidden, I either have to kick it out or not bother having an orgasm.
I suggest she goes cold turkey, and yes, giving up on orgasm pursuit that way. She needs to reset and retrain her body and mind. Her husband needs to work on helping her reach orgasm and they both need to stay engaged with each other and figure out what works.
Fantasy Fallacy is a good book, but sometimes it isn’t something crazy. It is just the illicit. Or it is simply that deep down she needs him to ravish her, take more charge in the bedroom, perhaps even be more of a leader in the home.
“if the thought comes in unbidden, I either have to kick it out or not bother having an orgasm.”
Libl is spot on in her observations re illicit fantasy. I’m a man, and I think most (all?) men have sometimes been troubled by illicit fantasy during sex that takes our minds off our wives; so I have no trouble realizing women have this issue, too.
You did an excellent job, J, in breaking down a very difficult, painful even, problem. Reading the gentleman’s letter was not an easy read, and my first thought was how could you possibly help this couple. Your knowledge and compassion combined with the Holy Spirit brought forth a response that will be helpful to so many others dealing silently with a similar issue in their marriage bed. The numbers are alarming as to how many women have in all likelihood been sexually abused. I may have misheard, but I’m thinking it’s one out of three women have been sexually abused. This would mean that potentially one out of every three marriages is somewhat like this same couple. And let’s not forget that there are men dealing with very much the same issues with sex because of sexual abuse.
I would add that abuse is not limited to childhood. Sexual trauma can occur in one’s marriage. Without being fully familiar with God’s design for marriage and sex, a husband or wife might not realize that anything is wrong in their sex life. I was married in the 1970s-80s. No one talked about sex, not even the minister who counseled us a few sessions before we were married. Our parents didn’t talk to us. I’ve been divorced for 30 years, and I’ve been dating a wonderful man, divorced and a saved sinner like myself, for about 18 months. That’s why I came to find your amazing blog, among others. I’ve come to realize that my ex-husband used sex to punish me and that he was the gatekeeper in our marriage.
Thank you for your ministry, J!
That one in three is a bit high, because that sexual abuse statistic includes sexual harassment and feeling pressured (self-defined) to have sex. Still, it’s unacceptably too many women. And we’ve got to stop such horrible violence.
I’m so glad you found your own way to a new perspective about God’s gift of sex in marriage, which should be mutual in every way — engagement, enjoyment, and intimacy. Blessings!
I hope I don’t say anything that will trigger anyone here but I can understand why the lady mentioned might feel some of these things. At least in my experience the lack of control that a lady might have in these fantasies helps to get over the good girls don’t like sex mentality because it is someone else is controlling the actions and so the lady isn’t responsible for them and therefore there is less/guilt for them.
I also find them the dominance involved in these fantasies in a turn on because I have to be in control over most areas of my families lives with looking after a toddler, running a household and working. I also have a lower drive spouse who is not very proactive in initiating romance and sex. With these fantasies the control is handed over in this one area and it allows me to relax and feel rather than be running through all the stuff in my head to someone who will look after me sexually.
I’m not trying to justify the abusive behaviour or that my thoughts are Godly but to perhaps explain why these sort of thoughts are arousing for some and it is hard when these thoughts are used for arousal to take them captive and I regularly struggle, and in tiredness sometimes don’t even struggle, with them.
I was just curious why you’re not advocating that the husband refrain from sexual relations with his wife until her rape fantasy arousal issue is dealt with similar to what you counseled the wife towards her husband regarding fantasizing about porn or fantasy images during sex in your blog post, “He’s Going Into His Spank Bank”?:
“Be willing to set some boundaries. You can tell him, “If I see you going into your ‘spank bank,’ I cannot continue making love. It just doesn’t feel like you’re making love to me, but to those images. So if you go there, I’m going to ask you to stop and refocus on me. If you don’t stop, I’ll have to discontinue our sexual encounter until you can pay attention to me.” Reiterate that you’re not trying to punish him, but rather help him. You are on his side. But you also aren’t going to settle when you know that God has loving sexual intimacy awaiting you both for your marriage. You want your husband to be fully involved with you, and you want to be fully involved with him.”
Good point. I didn’t say that specifically, although I did say, “Yet I also encourage you not to enable these awful experiences for her, meaning that you must figure this out somehow” and “What’s not okay is settling for the status quo. Sex should never be about abuse, not physically and not mentally.” I did think to myself as I was writing that they should continue to make love on these terms. That the terms would have to change to be able to continue, because it’s neither an acceptable way to connect within marriage, nor a good situation for either of them individually. But perhaps I didn’t push that point here as much because she doesn’t seem to be doing this willingly, but rather struggling and wanting answers — so that’s the angle I took in the post.
But thanks for this input! If a spouse did say, “Oh well, I get off on abuse fantasies” and would not pursue answers, I certainly think boundaries are well in order
Good point. I didn’t say that specifically, although I did say, “Yet I also encourage you not to enable these awful experiences for her, meaning that you must figure this out somehow” and “What’s not okay is settling for the status quo. Sex should never be about abuse, not physically and not mentally.” I did think to myself as I was writing that they should not continue to make love on these terms. That the terms would have to change to be able to continue, because it’s neither an acceptable way to connect within marriage, nor a good situation for either of them individually. But perhaps I didn’t push that point here as much because she doesn’t seem to be doing this willingly, but rather struggling and wanting answers — so that’s the angle I took in the post.
But thanks for this input! If a spouse did say, “Oh well, I get off on abuse fantasies” and would not pursue answers, I certainly think boundaries are well in order.
After re-reading both blog posts, I don’t see that the wife slipping into rape fantasies to be able to climax is doing anything practically different than the husband who is having problems maintaining an erection, panics and his mind inadvertently slips into memories of sexual images to stop his erection from diminishing. Do you?
I’m just struck that you tell one couple to abstain from sexual relations based on the husband’s undesired fantasy but the other couple you tell them to persist in sexual relations with a few asterisks even though the wife is also engaging in undesired fantasy.
Furthermore, the wife struggling with rape fantasies doesn’t need to climax in order for intercourse to technically occur but the husband struggling with memories of sexual images does need to be able (somehow) to keep his erection in order for intercourse to succeed.
I just think that these two stories are more alike than different but your approach towards the struggling husband and the struggling wife is markedly different in both tone and attitude. For the wife, it’s like, “there, there, poor dear — let’s figure this out together” but for the husband, it’s like “hey, clean up your act buddy or we may not be making love at all”.
In any case, declining to participate sexually with a struggling spouse because they are struggling, may end excacerbating a difficult problem — not help it.
I re-read the posts too, and I see what you’re saying. It certainly can come across that I’m being inconsistent. Let me note three things:
1) In the “Spank Bank” article, it came across that the husband was (or might be) accessing alternate images while having sex and hadn’t/wouldn’t fess up to the struggle. Whereas this time, it’s clear that both spouses know what’s happening, so it’s a mutual struggle.
2) I actually do believe that sex needs to discontinue if it’s clear that the situation is sinking one spouse so deeply into sin. The admonition to not deprive your spouse of sexual relations (1 Corinthians 7:3-5) surely doesn’t outweigh all of the commands to keep our minds and hearts clean before God. Now of course, this isn’t a permanent solution by any means; it’s part of retraining in the marriage bed. So it has to be handled with grace, but at times firmness. I do believe boundaries are important, but they should not become walls. And yes, ultimatums like, “If you don’t do X, you ain’t get any,” can make a problem worse.
3) There’s usually more to the story than I publish in the question. Oftentimes, the question is as long as one of my usual posts, so I have to cut it down to the most pertinent parts. So while I know this isn’t the best answer for people reading my blog, I can tell you that I had a bit more information than y’all did and I responded accordingly.
One final thought: I think my reaction to both genders usually is: “there, there, dear…now clean up your act.” That’s how I feel like God deals with us, or at least me. Blessings!
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