Q&A with J: Is Sex Disconnected from Love for Men?

A wife sent me an email that got my shoulders slumping and my heart sagging as I read—not just because of what she wrote, but because she represents the thoughts of too many women. It’s a longer message, but I’m including all of it below.

All my life, and in my own personal experiences with men, I have always observed that sex does not equal love for a man. As a teenager and young adult, I always knew to be wary when dating because most guys only wanted sex. I received advances from men that barely knew me much less loved me. Also, I know that many men look at (or struggle not to look at, depending on their convictions) porn. It seems to me that their sexuality is completely disconnected from love. They can be turned on by the sight of any woman. It doesn’t have to be their wife. They have sexual fantasies about other women. So why is it that that somehow changes when it’s sex with their wife? How is his desire for his wife different from his desire for the porn actresses or the woman who walks by on the street?

I have a hard time taking my husband’s sexual advances to mean that he wants emotional intimacy when I see him look at other women the same way he looks at me when he’s “in the mood.” I know he has an emotional connection with me that he doesn’t have with the other women, but to me that’s because we share a kind of friendship that seems totally separate from sex in my mind. From what I can tell, he can be turned on by other women just as much (if not more than) as he’s turned on by me. Even men who try not to lust after other women because of their convictions still have to TRY NOT to.

From my observations, it appears that my husband merely needs available female body parts and I happen to have them. I just can’t make sense of these articles that say that a husband is seeking to feel loved through a sexual connection. Because it’s hard for me to believe/understand that, it’s also hard for me to get in the mood for sex because I feel exchangeable. Any insight you can offer would be helpful.

I want to take this woman in my arms, hug her, and apologize for all the times she was treated as less than a person, when she is a daughter of the King of kings.

But I also want to stand on my soapbox and shout at the top of my lungs against the lies and half-truths she’s received and absorbed throughout her lifetime. So let’s tackle what she says.

I have always observed that sex does not equal love for a man.

Sex doesn’t equal love for anybody. That said, women are more likely to become attached to a sexual partner, due to oxytocin that releases and makes her feel bonded. Meanwhile, men (overall) don’t experience that level of oxytocin unless and until they engage with a woman in a relationship.* Men also have a tendency to compartmentalize more. So yes, the likelihood of attachment is a bit imbalanced. However, plenty of women have slept around without feeling terribly attached, and plenty of men get attached quickly.

Regardless of how we feel, though, God says you do attach to someone you have sex with. Consider 1 Corinthians 6:16: “Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh.'” That doesn’t equal love, but it does equal sex being a Big Deal. For both women and men.

While sex doesn’t equal love, it is one way God provided for husbands and wives to nurture love and express love. Not everyone out there understands that purpose of sex, but it’s what God intended with His design.

While sex doesn't equal love, it is one way God provided for husbands and wives to nurture love and express love. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

I always knew to be wary when dating because most guys only wanted sex.

I was told this a lot growing up, and it’s so wrong. I’m not saying a lot of guys didn’t want sex—they did. My premarital promiscuous past is partly due to various guys wanting to go past kissing to fooling around and more. But this statement has two main problems.

First, guys don’t only want sex. They want to be accepted and loved too!

If men only wanted sex, they’d only date the girls clearly willing to have sex quickly and easily. But men date all kinds of women, because they want a woman who can also engage in conversation, share recreational companionship, make them feel loved, etc.

The presumption that men only want one thing—and we all know what that one thing is, wink, wink—sells men short. It makes them sound like shallow sex machines just looking for a female hole to put their thingamajig inside. Thankfully, I know too many great guys to believe that.

Second, women want sex too. Guys aren’t the only ones who want to be sexually active. Acting as if men are the ones who want sex sells women short: God created us as sexual beings as well!

Acting as if men are the ones who want sex sells women short: God created us as sexual beings as well! @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

Frankly, it’s frustrating how prevalent this teaching has been—that men only want sex from women. It has sold men short, denied female sexuality, and plunged too many couples into sin—because the single man believed himself justified in pursuing sex and the woman faced too big a burden trying to manage two sex drives (his and hers). Let’s please stop telling people this terrible half-truth!

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I received advances from men that barely knew me much less loved me.

So did I, girlfriend. So did I. But I also had male friends who treated me like a whole person worthy of respect.

Are there jerks out there? Sure. But are all men jerks? No way. (See What I Truly Believe About Men.) However, one jerk can harass many women, meaning if John Donkey makes an unwanted advance to every appealing woman he encounters, he makes an impression on hundreds of women about how men behave. And those encounters are more memorable than the guy who held the door open for you, the guy who looked you right in the eyes and asked you how your day was going, or the guy who didn’t look your way at all because you’re just another person in the universe.

I’m saddened that you were treated this way, because you shouldn’t be! But in a broken world, it happens. If we can recognize that the jerks of the world are not as many as we might think, though far more prevalent than we’d like, we can deal with them as we should—tell them to get lost. Or, when needed, take greater precautions to protect yourself.

Also, I know that many men look at (or struggle not to look at, depending on their convictions) porn.

Yep, a lot of men look at porn, including Christian men. And that stinks to high heaven. But I have heard so many redemption stories, with husbands devoted to learning a better way. I also know men who haven’t sought out porn in years and are solely attached to their wives. In addition, this isn’t a struggle for my husband at all, and he’s not the only one.

Porn can change how a man views sex and women, which are terrible effects. But to believe that men are destined to lust or look at porn isn’t accurate by statistics, real-life examples, or the teaching of God’s Word.

It’s more than possible to overcome or never have the problem in the first place. (See When Should You Stop Battling Porn.)

They can be turned on by the sight of any woman. It doesn’t have to be their wife.

Again, there’s some truth here. I agree with those who say men are more visual than women, although women can also respond to visual stimuli strongly. And yes, the sight of a beautiful woman can stir interest and even result in physical arousal or lust. But that’s not inevitable, and your husband noticing another woman doesn’t mean he wants her. (See Does Your Husband Look at Other Women?)

Consider a couple of interesting studies on this involving the “bonding chemical,” oxytocin. In one study, 40 male participants in long-term relationships viewed pictures of attractive females, including their own partner. Some received a dose of oxytocin (nasal spray) and others did not. “In the men who were given oxytocin, the pleasure and desire regions of their brains lit up when they saw pictures of the women they loved—but not when they looked at strangers. Some of these regions were also activated by the images of the women the men knew, but not as strongly as by the pictures of their loved ones, suggesting that it made their partners more desirable.” (Time – How Oxytocin Makes Men (Almost) Monogamous.)

Remember how oxytocin is released during physical touch and sexual intimacy? So a husband engaged in regular sex, with regular hits of oxytocin, may well find his own wife more attractive than some other woman anyway.

But a second study is particularly interesting, in that a dose of oxytocin made men desire more physical distance between them and a female who wasn’t their partner. “Unexpectedly, the men who had received oxytocin and who were also in monogamous relationships preferred keeping a significantly greater distance between themselves and the temptress researcher—the hormone promoted bonding with their significant other, not the stranger.” (The Atlantic – Study: Oxytocin (‘the Love Hormone’) Makes Men in Relationships Want to Stay Away From Other Women.)

Although these findings were subtle rather than strong—and we are responsible for our own choices—it’s interesting to see research showing that men really do have a preference for the lady they love.

They have sexual fantasies about other women.

No, they don’t. Well, some men do. But a lot of husbands do not sit around and fantasize about other women. They may have a memory of another women or an image pops into their head of a particular woman, but that’s not tantamount to “fantasizing” or lusting.

And if your husband is fantasizing about other women, that’s not merely because he’s a man, but because he’s a sinner in need of repentance and redemption. Our desire and sexual interest should indeed be focused on our spouses! (See Lust: The Pigpen or The Feast?)

How is his desire for his wife different from his desire for the porn actresses or the woman who walks by on the street?

Bluntly put, for some husbands, it’s not that different. Sadly, I’ve read comments, received emails, and even come across blogs from presumably Christian men who treat sex solely as a man’s physical need and expect wives to simply fulfill the duty to let him have sex with her so he won’t have sex with someone else.

However, that’s a minority. I sometimes wish women could read my many more emails from husbands expressing their incredible love for their wives, their focused desire on the mate they chose, their longing to be one flesh and enjoy mutually satisfying sex with the woman they adore.

For most men, the gal down the street may get a moment’s attention, but their wife has their heart, their devotion, and their love. Which makes sex not merely a physical act, but a covenant bonding of husband and wife. And even a testimony to Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:31-32).

Is Sex Disconnected from Love?

Returning to the original question: Is sex disconnected from love for men? Are you just “available female body parts” that your husband needs?

I can’t speak to what your specific husband has learned about sex or how he demonstrates his love for you. However, I’m convinced that while sex can be disconnected from love for men, they, like us, want the two interwoven. Sex is more meaningful in the context of marital love, and marital love is richer in the context of fulfilling sexual intimacy.

Sex is more meaningful in the context of marital love, and marital love is richer in the context of fulfilling sexual intimacy. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

Honestly, it sounds like sex and love are not connected enough for you. God longs for you to have something better, including the full experience of intimacy while making love. Begin to work on how sex can become a better experience for you and your marriage.

Also, check out 5 husbands talking about how sex and love are connected!

*I’m 100% sure I read the study on this, but I cannot for the life of me find it online now. If you can point me to it, that would be great!

31 thoughts on “Q&A with J: Is Sex Disconnected from Love for Men?

  1. Terry

    I don’t think this woman’s impressions are all that unusual. I didn’t date much in my teenage years but I received the same messages – not from adults warning me about boys but from the boys themselves. Girls were a status symbol and a means to garner respect from other boys – and the prettier the girl, the bigger the trophy – while any emotional connection was by far the exception. The crass comments made about sex and body parts, combined with the seeming inability of males (including guys into their 20s) to take anything seriously (as life was just a big joke, after all) only added to this message. Some I thought would have made love to a post if it had a hole in it. Thus this was my assumption (albeit unconscious) of married adults – that men actually being in love with their wives was the exception, and that most husbands viewed the relationship more as one of ownership(?) and a means to sex than an equal partnership. I didn’t come to realize this in so many terms until after I myself was married, but I recall being disgusted enough with male behavior that I sought out an “atypical” mate who actually regarded women with respect and kept any undue comments to himself. The things I’ve learned from my husband about how men think have surprised me – e.g., that he doesn’t compare me to other women, that huge boobs aren’t everything (especially if they’re out of proportion) and that he’s not nearly as critical of my body as I am.

    Reply
    1. Lydia Zook

      “Making love to a post with a hole in it” is not making love at all!!! It’s just a sexual act and has NOTHING to do with love IMO

      Reply
  2. Doug

    PS: The image with your post points out the real problem with porn, which is not really a problem with porn after all, but the message sent to a woman when she sees her man gawking after images of other women and never for her. I wish we would stop blaming porn.

    Spot on post!

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      I agree that the underlying problem is a man gawking after images of other women. But how is porn not to blame for some of that, by providing such an easy way for men to gawk? Porn is a huge problem for many marriages, not to mention that the industry itself is guilty of heinous acts against people, including minors.

      Again, I agree with your premise. But I won’t let porn off the hook for the damage it does.

      Reply
  3. Gloria Vallieres

    Good insight from the blogger. I agree.
    Using the word “All” to describe men or women is not correct.

    Reply
  4. Amanda

    I liked how thought provoking this post is. There were many points I had never thought about before. I think it is sad how society teaches us to see men as thoughtless sex machines and women as sex objects. I think it is important to see each other as God sees us.

    Reply
  5. Ashley

    It sounds like her marriage is a lot like mine was. So much hurt, so much heartbreak. I feel for her, and know that many, many women have experienced the same things. At the same time I know there are good guys who are not like this.

    Reply
  6. Confused

    As a man who struggles with porn I can understand this woman’s worries. Dealing with this porn addiction has also put many questions in my mind. Am I destined to fight this my whole life? Do I really love my wife when I struggle with this? Why am I a pervert but not my wife? Why have this been so difficult for me but not my wife? Why was I hooked to sexual things from the first time I found that porn book as a kid? It’s been over 20 years and one of the images is still burnt in my head?

    I wish I had the answers. I sometimes wonder is it biology or just how we were taught as men growing up? Many Christian marriage bloggers seems to think it’s the latter. If so I wish I would have been taught as women are. My wife learnt from young age that everything sexual was wrong. She has never masturbated in her whole life. What a dream
    To grow up like that? If it’s merely how we were taught growing up(and in my case no one talked about this growing up more than telling me that this would be a battle my whole life growing up) we really need to start teaching men what many teach women. I know the purity culture has its bad things but if the consequence is having some problems in bed but staying away from porn then that’s what I want to teach my kids.

    Anyways, I agree that sex can be disconnected from emotions for a man. Many not for all men and it doesn’t mean that all men do it. Struggling with porn I never saw myself having a relationship with the women I saw. Never saw anything romantic. I always avoided interviews and such because it made them come to close and that place was for my wife. Its sad in its own way to see others as objects but it’s true that it was just for the sexual high. Never about wanting someone else to share my life with. Again that’s sad in itself and why I wish I had grown up the way my wife did. That sex needs and emotional connection. In that way porn would never have affected me. But again, just because sex can be disconnected it’s not something we want. In the process of leaving porn I have learned that I want intimacy with my wife. Not just sex because of sex. So the key is to draw away from the worlds way of seeing sex and drawing closer to Gods way of seeing sex. Letting God restore the purpose of sex and when we do that then sex becomes more and more connected to emotions.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Believe me, being taught that everything sexual is wrong is NOT THE FIX! And it’s not at all what God says about us! WE are sexual, and we’re not wrong. What’s wrong is unhealthy, unholy sex, and we can teach both men and women about that while showing them how to experience holy and healthy sex. And if you’re still having so many after-effects from porn use, I highly encourage you to seek a support group for that. You can check out ministries in your area or X3 Groups online. You shouldn’t have to be so haunted by those ghosts!

      Reply
  7. Tom

    Nice article. I think the core point is not just that both genders enjoy sex outside of love, but that sex is soooo much better in a loving relationship (regardless of gender). Sure there might be differences in sexuality between men and women, but “love” sex is an amazing thing between couples. I won’t lie, I had sex prior to meeting my wife of 20 years. While the sex was fun, it in no way compared to what it is like in a loving relationship. Married sex is the best!

    Reply
  8. Mark

    J,

    You wrote “For most men, the gal down the street may get a moment’s attention, but their wife has their heart, their devotion, and their love.”

    I agree, but I can see that creating some jealousy when either spouse takes a quick, but noticeable glance.

    If understand what your guest is saying, is that she knows her husband loves her and is still emotionally attached with her, which is great. I hope her husband finds the right words to be more nurturing.

    I admit after 39 years of marriage, that I combined the physical desire and emotional more so now compared when we were first married when I was filled with more physical and raw attraction toward my spouse, especially when it seemed like we didn’t embrace the same goals.

    Even now, when we are emotionally connected, there are still times that I’ll admire her physical “assets” and passionate ways in a raw lustful way, which does create an emotional rush. She admits to doing the same to me.

    Reply
  9. Tim West

    Men will always be more visually stimulated than women (in general) because of evolution. Millions of years of evolution have shaped men to SEE what they want, because they are the ones who have always been expected to PURSUE what they want. They also get rejected much more than women, so evolution has also built them to be attracted to more of the opposite sex so they can find success in getting a mate. This is also why porn will always be more appealing to men than to women. All of these differences between men and women make so much sense when you look at things in the light of evolution.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      It’s interesting that pornography use has increased a lot in recent years with women as well, although (from what I last saw) more women still watch with their partners than without. But it does give me pause in thinking about how all that works.

      Reply
  10. Natalie

    What a wonderful article. Even though my husband repeatedly tells me he loves only me and wants to be with only me and doesn’t really have an issue with lusting after other women, it’s still hard for me to accept that and I find myself often doubting his words. But I think that’s probably more on me and my issues and background than on him.

    Concerning oxytocin, is that primarily released during orgasm, or just a sexual encounter in general? For example, if the man orgasms and the woman has never orgasmed, is he getting the oxytocin hit and is she missing out on it? Or is she still getting oxytocin too?

    Reply
  11. Paul Byerly

    J – Great stuff here! Thanks for the truth and balance.

    I would add that men and boys are different on this. I’ve heard it said that boys play at love, for which they are not ready, to get sex, while women play at sex, for which they are not ready, to get love. Teenage boys are emotionally immature. Their sex organs are going full force, but they are stunted emotionally. When they finally grow up things start to look different. So the horny 16-year-old and the 30-year-old husband are very different.

    Another problem is that we expect people to stay single till 30 something today. Developing an emotional relationship can pull one into marriage before society (and most of the church) says they should marry. This means a sexual relationship is safer. I think a lot of parents would rather their children sleep around than get married young, and I think this is true for many in the church.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Great points, Paul!

      And yeah, I’m personally surprised how many people have balked at my son getting married at age 21 this past summer, but would have no problem with a man that age sleeping around (and quite possibly impregnating a woman). Mind you, not every person is ready for marriage at 21! (I married at 25.) But the expectation to wait until we’re 30, and to get everything else in our lives nailed down, before marrying is an odd one.

      Reply
  12. Doug

    Your mention of the oxytocin effect is interesting. I once listened to a woman’s book on Audible [edited to leave out title] about a married woman getting her husband’s approval to hookup with various other men (and women) as a sort of experiment, thinking it would all be harmless. What she found was she unavoidably developed attachments with every man she hooked up with. She found her self consumed with jealousy every time she saw her hookups hooking up with someone else. That said, It makes sense that our Creator, not only made an infinite variety of people in this world with an infinite variety of features, but that he also made it so two unique people could find each other incredibly attractive.

    Reply
  13. ThePhilZone

    I posted the following on another site recently about porn. However, it applies to all forms of lust and the inability for many men to view intimacy as emotional and spiritual along with physical. This is obviously a very painful topic for many women. But I assure you, it is for men too but for very different reasons. … You have no idea who your man is because they don’t even know. [In Wild at Heart], on the topic of porn or lust, [author John Eldredge] writes, “Why is pornography the number one snare for men? He longs for the beauty, but without his fierce and passionate heart he cannot find her or win her or keep her. Though he is powerfully drawn to the woman, he does not know how to fight for her or even that he is to fight for her. Rather, he finds her mostly a mystery that he knows he cannot solve and so at a soul level he keeps his distance. And privately, secretly, he turns to the imitation. What makes pornography so addictive is that more than anything else in a lost man’s life, it makes him feel like a man without ever requiring a thing of him. The less a guy feels like a real man in the presence of a real woman, the more vulnerable he is to porn.” This is a sad but true commentary about the modern man, in large part we are posers. We are not the men God created us to be. Eldredge goes on the say, “Why don’t men play the man? Why don’t they offer their strength to a world desperately in need of it? For two simple reasons: we doubt very much that we have any real strength to offer, and we’re pretty certain that if we did offer what we have it wouldn’t be enough. Something has gone wrong and we know it.” So thanks for letting me share this, I think he is spot on. Men aren’t men any more for many reasons. Society, no masculine mentors, schools and even the church. Most men these days have no idea what makes a man and they, we, know it. Women have the exact same issues albeit from the opposite direction. To the original email writer. Have hope, men can come to learn about the three crucial aspects of intimacy as God designed it. You will probably have to point him in the right direction though. Your married life will be so much better for it. And his eyes will stop wandering and he won’t even know it. Lastly, for me personally, sex has never been disconnected with love in my marriage. Don’t settle for anything less.

    Reply
  14. Jordan

    Your point on men wanting more than just sex from women is so spot on! I heard this mantra over and over “Well he’s a man and there’s only one thing he’s looking for”. The sad part is that I heard this from women in particular all the time growing up, and even in adulthood. It essentially reduces men to animals who can’t control themselves, it assigns motives where there often times aren’t any, and is quite frankly disrespectful.

    It’s a shame this thought process has become so popular in our society.

    Reply
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  16. Dan

    This is a great post, thank you for taking the time to outline your responses to the individual comments. I feel they are on point in every way, especially the comment where you feel the lady doesnt have enough of a connection between sex and love. Of course her issues may be from men in the past that have hurt her, because we all know those men do exist. If that’s the case, I hate to hear she was treated so poorly! But anyway I just wanted to say your explanations are spot on with how I feel about my wife. I want her and her only. Sex and love are intertwined for men and I’m finding it easier to see the older I get.

    Reply
  17. Terry

    I was glad to read Paul’s comments, as I probably did base my impressions of adult men on my observations of teenage boys – although one boss I had did comment that men don’t change much after 14. (His business partner reportedly commented about the breast size of a job applicant; but he was a jerk in many respects anyway.) And I suppose my observations of adult married men have been rosier (at least within the Church) than those of young men in their teens and early 20’s. I have also found it refreshing to have conversations with married men, as it’s understood that they’re in love with someone else and thus my interaction with them won’t be taken as flirtation.

    Having gained a greater understanding of men’s need for love through sex, I’m wondering now why so many men continue to use women purely for sexual pleasure – ? Is there some sense of “validation” they receive from the act itself, even when it is separate from love? Do they believe the lies coming from other men that they need to rack up their “score” in bedding as many women as possible in order to be “men” and garner respect from other men? If this type of man is indeed in the minority, why do the ones who object to being portrayed as mindless sex-machines not do more to combat and correct this perception? Women can do their part in shunning the “players” and maintaining high standards for themselves, but ultimately it is up to the men (e.g., organizations like Promise Keepers – anyone remember them?) to call out other men.

    Reply
  18. Melanie

    “Honestly, it sounds like sex and love are not connected enough for you.”

    I think you nailed it with this comment. Not just for this woman, but for many many women. Messed up ideas about sex/love cause so many women (and I’m sure men too) all kinds of struggles.

    Reply

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