Sex is supposed to be part of a marriage. You can see what I said about that here, here, and here. However, sex isn’t just about the physical connection or release; rather, God’s design for sex involves mutual desire and pleasure, emotional security and intimacy, and continuing to live out godly virtues in the bedroom.
Yet I continue to receive messages from wives explaining how their husband insists on having sex his way—with his timing, his repertoire, and his pleasure. Oftentimes, the wife is desperately trying to be a “good wife” and meet “his needs” and doesn’t want to “deprive” him of sex in marriage.
So, once again, let me make this super-clear: You are not your husband’s sex toy. That is not God’s design or will for sexual intimacy.You Are Not Your Husband's Sex Toy. That is not God's design or will for sexual intimacy. via @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet
Is Your Husband a Bedroom Bully?
Most husbands are good-willed men who love their wives, and even those who ache for more frequent or varied sexual encounters would not force an act on their beloved. But some husbands are bullies in the bedroom—manipulating, insisting, demanding, and/or forcing their wife to engage sexually in ways that are harmful and dishonoring.
How do you if you’re married to a bedroom bully?
Your specific circumstances determine the answer to that question, but here are examples of what it looks like.
- Despite your objections, he insists on engaging in irregular sexual activities, such as BDSM, anal sex, or fetishes.
- He demands that you dress and/or present yourself in provocative ways that make you feel objectified.
- He insists on watching porn together to get ideas and/or suggests acting out what he’s seen in porn.
- Sex consistently unfolds and concludes with his pleasure, not yours—including which acts you do and who orgasms.
- He dismisses your past sexual trauma, saying you need to “get over it” and have sex / oral sex / whatever with him.
- He picks out scriptures about how you owe him sex and cites them to pressure or guilt you.
In all these situations, the husbands attempts to use his wife to satisfy his sexual desires, without regard to what impact his actions have on her.
That is how you treat a sex toy—as a tool to achieve a goal. But people are not tools, toys, or trophies. Sex isn’t about one spouse getting what they want at the expense of the other!You Are Not Your Husband's Sex Toy: "People are not tools, toys, or trophies. Sex isn't about one spouse getting what they want at the expense of the other!" via @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet
Can’t women be bedroom bullies too? Yes, a wife could also treat her husband like a sex toy, but that isn’t the focus on this post simply because I’ve gotten exactly one email describing that scenario but multiple emails about a husband way out of line. If you are a husband being sexually used by your wife, obviously that is not okay! You are not her sex toy either.
Both church and secular culture hold some responsibility for creating bedroom bullies. Without going into every situation that has caused this result, let me cover one big aspect of each.
Where Churches Have Failed
Churches are doing better overall with marriage and sex messages. But that doesn’t mean you didn’t get wrong messages or receive bad counseling or that you don’t currently attend a church that seems to have zero clue how to talk honestly and biblically about sexual intimacy.
There are plenty of myths out there, including ones from Purity Culture, long before that, and still today. But perhaps the one that has hurt the most is the idea that a husband needs sex and a wife has a duty to give it to him.
“But Marital Rights…”
Someone might ask, “Isn’t that what 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 says?” No, that’s not the point of that passage.
The apostle Paul was addressing some in Corinth who suggested that if sex outside marriage wasn’t okay, wouldn’t it be best to abstain inside marriage as well? Paul responded that God intended sex to be part of marriage and spouses should be mutually engaged in physical intimacy.
The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise the wife also to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise the husband also does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.1 Corinthians 7:3-5 (RSV)
So yes, we have what some refer to as “marital rights.” But too often, the focus has been not on owing sex to one another or to the marriage, but a wife owing her husband.
By the way, I’ve come to really dislike the words owe and duty regarding sex. They hold some truth in the same way that a parent owes their children sustenance and affection. But doing that out of duty would obviously stink for all involved—parent and child. There’s no way that a relationship built on duty is what God desires. The better foundation is Christ-like love. For more, see Are You Owed Sex in Marriage? and/or Does Your Wife Owe You Sex?
“But He Needs Sex”
Sorry, but no husband needs sex.
Some guy just started screaming at this post, and someone(s) will likely argue in the comments that he needs it. But hear me out: You can assert that the marital relationship needs sexual intimacy to complete the one-flesh design God intends. With that, I entirely agree!
But an individual can live without sex, even in marriage. If tomorrow, my husband was unable to have sex again, I wouldn’t leave and I wouldn’t die. I’d miss sex with him a lot, but I’d still want him as my husband for all the other benefits.
Yes, going without sex for a long time can be physically uncomfortable and emotional painful (see How the Sexually Rejected Spouse Feels). So I’m not downplaying the deep longing higher desire spouses have! But if we constantly talk about a wife having a duty to meet her husband’s needs, the result is often to:
- Overlook that the duty is mutual (by the way, Paul mentions the wife‘s fulfillment first)
- Set up the expectation that she has a duty while he has a right
- Create anxiety and guilt for the wife who is struggling to engage sexually
- Endorse a husband’s use of pressure, demand, and intimidation to get his “needs” met
- Preclude the opportunity, now or later, for a wife to fulfill that “marital duty” willingly, lovingly, mutually
Sex for Both of You
Sex isn’t for him or her—it’s for them. As Scripture says:
So God created mankind in his own image,Genesis 1:27 (NIV)
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
Where Secular Culture Fails
Secular culture has also long pushed that idea that men need and want sex more than women do. But the bigger problem is the widespread acceptance and prevalence of porn.
Short of being raised in a cave, a shack, or mountain cabin somewhere, I don’t know how anyone reaches adulthood these days without having at least seen pornography. You no longer have to seek out porn; you have to block out porn. And its negative impact can be seen in far too many marriages.You Are Not Your Husband's Sex Toy: "You no longer have to seek out porn; you have to block out porn. And its negative impact can be seen in far too many marriages." via @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet
While there are multiple reasons that porn is a bad idea, it fosters bedroom bullying in particular ways, including:
- Cultivating a selfish, consumer perspective of sex through individual pleasure and satisfaction
- Normalizing sexual activities that might otherwise be considered fringe or deviant
- Portraying women enjoying acts that many or most women do not enjoy
- Showing violence toward women as an arousing experience
Even a man who was good-willed before might be hoodwinked into thinking that this is what the best sex looks like. He can be enticed by how sex seems exotic, adventurous, and so gratifying. It reminds me of what God said to Cain:
If a man watches porn, sin is lurking behind that door. It creates unrealistic expectations, promotes self-serving sexuality, and minimizes one’s sexual partner.
Even if the porn was not sought out or is in a husband’s past, it can still have such impact. Moreover, it doesn’t even have to be what we think of as porn. You can find such porn-like attitudes in certain shows labeled TV-MA.
Just like we have to actively block out porn, we have to actively reject these messages and embrace a view of sex as mutual and honoring the other.
You Matter More Than Sex
A few years back, Gary Thomas wrote a fantastic post titled Enough Is Enough, in which he boldly asserted that God cares about each women more than He cares about saving the marriage she’s in. Here’s one poignant statement from that post:
Church, God hates it when a woman is sexually degraded and forced to do things that disgust her.
Amen. God did not create sex so that a man can get his jollies and a woman can be victimized.
Now, that’s not to say that any marriage with a bedroom bully can’t be saved. Some husbands believe these are their rights and don’t realize the damage they’re doing. Intervention with better knowledge, understanding, and relationship skills could make a big difference! I’ve heard from husbands who changed once when they recognized the false messages they’d embraced and the harm they’d caused.
Either way, a wife should understand that God’s plan for sex in marriage does not involve one spouse being used for the other’s satisfaction. You are not your husband’s sex toy.
I hope the wives who need to hear that can absorb this truth. You matter more than anyone’s sexual desires, needs, or rights. Read and re-read this post, think about this truth, pray for God’s wisdom, and pursue help if you need it.
Next time, however, I will try to address what to do if your situation is one in which you’ve been bullied and used in the bedroom.