Do women believe that marriage imposes wife-obligations on them regarding sex?

Dennis Prager features a lot of discussions about male-female relationships on his show, particularly during the male-female hour.

He did a two part series a while back on 1) male sexuality and 2) what women should do about it within a marriage. Basically, he makes the case that in general, if a woman is married to a good man – a good man whom she freely chose – then she should be willing to say yes to his sexual advances more than she says no.

Part 1 is here.


It is an axiom of contemporary marital life that if a wife is not in the mood, she need not have sex with her husband. Here are some arguments why a woman who loves her husband might want to rethink this axiom.

First, women need to recognize how a man understands a wife’s refusal to have sex with him: A husband knows that his wife loves him first and foremost by her willingness to give her body to him. This is rarely the case for women. Few women know their husband loves them because he gives her his body (the idea sounds almost funny). This is, therefore, usually a revelation to a woman. Many women think men’s natures are similar to theirs, and this is so different from a woman’s nature, that few women know this about men unless told about it.

This is a major reason many husbands clam up. A man whose wife frequently denies him sex will first be hurt, then sad, then angry, then quiet. And most men will never tell their wives why they have become quiet and distant. They are afraid to tell their wives. They are often made to feel ashamed of their male sexual nature, and they are humiliated (indeed emasculated) by feeling that they are reduced to having to beg for sex.

When first told this about men, women generally react in one or more of five ways…

It’s important to restate that Prager is assuming that the woman has done a competent job of choosing a man who is serious about holding his end of the marriage up. I take this to mean that she has chosen a man who protects, provides and leads on moral and spiritual issues.

Prager then explains the 5 ways that women respond to his statement.

Here’s one:

1. You have to be kidding. That certainly isn’t my way of knowing if he loves me. There have to be deeper ways than sex for me to show my husband that I love him.

And this is the common mistake that some women (especially Western women who are often influenced by radical feminism) make because they think that men are just hairy women with no feelings and desires of their own that are distinctly theirs. In the past, all women understood how men are different than women, but today almost no younger women do. In fact, many younger women today struggle with the idea that there is anything about men’s natures (and children’s natures) that they need to learn about. Younger women in the West today often think that they only need to be in touch with their own feelings – and that men and children simply have to get used to the idea that they have no right to make any demands on a woman – she has no moral obligations in a marriage.

Here’s another from the list:

4. You have it backwards. If he truly loved me, he wouldn’t expect sex when I’m not in the mood.

Again, this is the common mistake that many younger Western/feminist women today make in thinking that love is a one-way street – flowing from men and children to the woman. If men and children DON’T do what the woman wants, or if they make demands on her, then they don’t “love” her and she is justified in ignoring them. In older generations, women knew that they had moral obligations that existed whether they felt like doing them or not. They especially knew that their free decision to get married to a man would impose obligations on them to supply for the man’s distinct male needs. She might not understand those needs. She might be made happy by fulfilling them. But old-fashioned women knew what men needed, and they felt obliged to perform their role if the man was perform his roles (protector, provider, moral/spiritual leader). She didn’t have to be “happy” to do the roles, just as the man doesn’t have to be “happy” about doing his roles. Marriage is about commitment to roles that impose moral obligations on each partner. Marriage is not about happiness, primarily.

I think this whole problem of Western/feminist women not understanding men, of treating men as objects, and of demeaning male feelings and values, is very serious. In my opinion, there is a whole lot of work that needs to be done by Western/feminist women in order to fix this problem. The best place to learn about this is in Dr. Laura’s book “The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands”, which is a book that women should have to read and write about in order to begin a relationship with a man, just to prove that they understand the needs of men and the concept of moral obligations. It’s like an application form for a serious relationship. Sex is just one thing in a marriage, but a serious man should insist that a woman take him seriously about it. He should also make sure that she has shown, during the courtship, that she is comfortable doing things to help him that don’t necessarily make her happy.

It is important for a man to test-drive a woman before marrying her by giving her things to do that are good things (e.g. – reading a book on apologetics or economics or intelligent design) so that he can see that she is willing to do good things whether they make her happy or not. Men seem to be very silly these days about marrying women who have only shown that they like having fun all the time, and never want to learn anything hard. Pre-marital sex, having fun, getting drunk, and going out, etc. are not the right foundation for marriage, which requires mutual self-sacrifice. There is no such thing as a “feminist” marriage – marriage is not about selfishness and playing the victim. Men should understand that many women who are willing to have sex before marriage will cut it out after marriage, because they are not used to doing things that don’t make them happy. I think you can even remain chaste and still test a women during courtship for this self-sacrificial quality by asking her to do other things that are still very good for her to do. The important thing is to see if “doing right” is more important to her than “feeling happy”.

And just because a woman is a virgin and a Christian, it doesn’t make her immune to the danger of feeling justified in withholding sex. I actually had a conversation with a chaste Christian woman once who said that women should not be obligated to do things that they didn’t feel like doing in a marriage. So, I asked her if men were obligated to go to work when they didn’t feel like going. She said yes, and acted as though I were crazy for asking. I just laughed, because she didn’t even see the inconsistency. Men – there is a double standard that many Western/feminist women have, even chaste Christian women can have it. Most young women today just don’t understand men, and they don’t want to understand them. They just want what they want and in the quickest way possible. Understanding the needs of men and children, or how feminist-inspired laws discourage men from committing to marriage and parenting, are of no interest at all many Western/feminist women.

Part 2 is here.


Here are eight reasons for a woman not to allow not being in the mood for sex to determine whether she denies her husband sex.

He then explains the eight reasons.

Here’s one of them:

7. Many contemporary women have an almost exclusively romantic notion of sex: It should always be mutually desired and equally satisfying or one should not engage in it. Therefore, if a couple engages in sexual relations when he wants it and she does not, the act is “dehumanizing” and “mechanical.” Now, ideally, every time a husband and wife have sex, they would equally desire it and equally enjoy it. But, given the different sexual natures of men and women, this cannot always be the case. If it is romance a woman seeks — and she has every reason to seek it — it would help her to realize how much more romantic her husband and her marriage are likely to be if he is not regularly denied sex, even of the non-romantic variety.

This makes the point that many young women today do not really understand that they are, in a sense, capable of changing their husband’s conduct by the way they act themselves. I think that younger women seem to think that their role in the relationship is to sort of do nothing and wait for the man to serve them. This actually happened to me with another “Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” Calvinist woman. I sat down with her and tried to explain to her what I did for a living, and she got up and left, claiming she did not need to know how the money was made – nor did she need to support me in earning that money. On another occasion, I was explaining a difficult financial problem I had to solve and she screeched back her chair and said “go ahead and solve it then”. This is actually very common. Many, many women can read an entire book on “Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” and come out of it knowing all the obligations and responsibilities of men, and none of the obligations and responsibilities of women. Men, it’s your job to test for this during courtship, if you expect your woman to help you in making a marriage and children for God’s glory.

Let me emphasize the point.  Women in the West who are influenced by radical feminism are really totally unaware that their role in the relationship is not to stand back and refuse to do anything, then respond to the man’s subsequent unwillingness to perform with nagging and complaining and gossiping to their girlfriends. What is interesting is that often many of these women who are very active in fashionable heroic causes are the least capable of self-denial and self-sacrifice when in a relationship with a man. They can march around with signs defending the unborn and promoting marriage, and still be very comfortable ignoring male needs and disrespecting men. Activism can be an expression of narcissism. “Look at me! I’m so great!” The very woman you see on TV being interviewed about abortion, homeschooling and daycare is the same one you need to test during courtship to see if she thinks that YOU are as deserving of concern as an unborn or born child is. One pro-family activist I spoke to about this told me that setting out obligations on her that would make the marriage serve God was “too strict”. She admitted that the things I was asking her to learn were good things, but that they were “too strict” for her, even if they were good things.

At the end of the article, Prager makes a general point about women that I think needs to be emphasized over and over and over:

That solution is for a wife who loves her husband — if she doesn’t love him, mood is not the problem — to be guided by her mind, not her mood, in deciding whether to deny her husband sex.

I think that is an excellent question to ask a woman. What does it mean to love a man? One of my favorite questions to ask women who I am courting is “If we were married for a day, legally, and before God, what are some of the things that you would want to do to me and for me?” Usually the response is to turn the question around and make it about them. Then I dazzle them with a string of activities that addresses their needs in specific ways, based on their feelings and past experiences. Men – you definitely want to ask women what she wants to provide for you if you were to get married. How does she see your feelings and past experiences, and what specific things would she like to do to address them with her own two hands? Does she even see marriage as having anything to do with you at all?

15 thoughts on “Do women believe that marriage imposes wife-obligations on them regarding sex?”

  1. I wonder how many of these women who become upset about their husbands “expecting sex from them” also become upset when he’s not in the mood to, say, mow the lawn or help her hang a picture? *ahem*

    You are right about women of a certain age not really understanding men. A lot of this can be blamed on the culture, but frankly, the church is a mess too, because I see women in my mother’s generation being really disrespectful toward their husbands. If young girls and young women see older women—who are supposed to be teaching the young women!—treating their husbands so poorly, what do we think they are learning?

    And really…What is so wrong, dehumanizing, degrading, whatever about making your husband *happy*? Don’t you love him? No, you may not feel like having sex when he asks or feel like initiating it, but if it makes the man God gave you happy…Hello? Ladies? What a weird, crazy mindset radical feminism has wrought. And you are right, it has infiltrated the church to a great degree and most people don’t recognize it or care.

    I love the male-female hour. It’s fascinating radio.

  2. Quote “One of my favorite questions to ask women who I am courting is “If we were married for a day, legally, and before God, what are some of the things that you would want to do to me and for me?” ”

    Had my husband asked me that question while we were dating, I would have run in the other direction. And rightly so! I married him because of his servant leadership and his almost complete disregard for himself in our relationship. I understand the thrust of this article, but it also smacks of the self absorption that also exists equally or more so in Christian men today. I often think the lack of leadership in our men is the greatest reason for the lack of seemingly satisfactory behavior in our Christian women so often discussed by (I find) usually single young men. It’s amazing how a wife will respond, sexually or otherwise, to a husband who loves her as he ought, as Christ loved the church. Hey, they might actually be lovers, in a mutually satisfying relationship and serving one another as Christ prescribed and as Paul mandated. It is interesting that Paul addressed sex in marriage and the spousal sexual relations as a completely mutual responsibility (ie. this isn’t more about you ,guys, than it is your wife) and actually addressed his mandate for sex in marriage to the man first. Sadly, there is a great lack in the church of men seeing their sexual relationship in marriage as a way that they might serve their wife. If that were the focus of men more, I can guarantee there would be less of a need to be always talking of women doing their “duty” in this regard to their husbands. Sex with their husbands wouldn’t be a duty.

    I enjoy your blog, but I personally find the mostly negative articles about women in the church or Christian girls or women in general, sad. I also get an impression from many things you have written, that you are very self focused and critical in your relationships to women. That’s not an accusation, just an impression and perhaps the girls you are dating or courting are getting that, hopefully wrong, impression as well.

    1. While you’re right that there are men who don’t treat their wives correctly, the reverse problem is also present (and probably more prevalent). I read a lot of marriage blogs and one theme I see over and over is women (even Christian women) who refuse their husbands sexually on a regular basis, even when he is doing everything he can to be a servant and lover to her. I have read so many comments by Christian husbands who are at their wits end. They do housework, put the kids to bed, schedule time for romance, buy presents. But the wife’s response is constantly that she isn’t in the mood, or is too tired, or has too many other things to do… etc, etc. Making time and effort to have sex with her husband is just not a priority and she often sees his asking as a sign that he “just wants her body” rather than the very real truth that men connect with their wives through sex. Women need to feel loved to want to make love while men need to make love to feel loved. Men and women are just different in that way and both men and women need to be aware of that.

      Unfortunately, few churches or Christian women’s groups talk about this and few parents tell this to their children as they grow up. In our culture, we hear a lot about women’s needs. Movies and books and many other media types speak of romance and being gentle and sensitive. They portray men who help around the house as doing it right. They have the good men being spontaneously romantic and having all the right things to say. Men, for the most part, know what women want in a relationship because Hollywood portrays that all the time. But no one talks about men’s needs in a relationship, and now we have a whole generation of women that is largely ignorant of men’s needs and desires in a marriage relationship. Not only that, but women are revered for their needs (“they have much higher desires, not base ones like sex”) while the needs of men are downplayed and portrayed as pitiful or animalistic. Thus, women often really believe they are better at relationships and have loftier and purer desires and motives simply because of being female. So, while there are plenty of cases of men being insensitive to women’s needs, I believe the reverse is the more prevalent problem.

      1. Thanks for this comment Lindsay. You are right, and that’s why I wanted to make the point.

        I was careful to qualify my concerns by saying that my comments were specifically about generally good guys who were freely chosen after a courting process. The point I am trying to make is that women should try to say yes more than they say no. Not always say yes. And I think the key is that marriage is the kind of relationship that has moral obligations for BOTH spouses. To care for the needs of the other spouse. It’s not good for a person to get married and then neglect the needs of their spouse. Naturally men and women are different. But it is abusive to neglect the needs of your spouse. Just as it is abusive for a man to not talk to his wife or spend time with or do acts of service for her, it abusive for a woman to always be telling a man no for no good reason. Marriage is not “do whatever you want”. For men AND women.

  3. What about the other way around? What if a woman has sexual needs that her husband “doesn’t feel like” fulfilling? What if a wife wants sex and is refused by her husband? Just curious.

    1. That does happen. However, in cases where a husband has a little or no sexual desire for his wife, it is often due to either low hormone levels or to use of porn or other outlets for sexual energy. Both of these can be addressed and dealt with.

      Of course, that is not always the case. There are men who are simply on the lower end of the sex drive scale and they sometimes marry women on the upper end of the sex drive scale. Not only that, but men’s sex drives tend to peak in young adulthood and then decline while women’s drives often don’t peak until mid-30’s or so. So you may find that a man and woman who marry young and have similar drives see a difference develop in their sex drives as they grow older.

      Of course, no matter who has the higher drive, both husband and wife have a responsibility to care for their spouse’s sexual needs. Both men and women have sexual needs and that need is supposed to be met within the bounds of marital sexuality. It’s not the only reason for marriage – it’s not the only marital duty – but it is one of them (and an important one that should not be neglected). When sexual needs are not being met, there is a problem that needs to be addressed.

  4. I was married at 23 to a woman three years older than myself. She used sex to get me to commit to her, but when the deal was signed sex became a bargaining tool. Just trying to get some became a tedious game of negotiation. Other than the sex, she brought very little else into the marriage – no household skills and an indifference to my ambitions. Most women today are like that.

    I divorced her three years later – she seemed a bit shocked by it. That was 27 years ago and I haven’t bothered with marriage since. There is no point being married in the current system. There is nothing in it for me.

  5. Wintery,

    I have been married for almost 1 year. I am 22 and my wife is 21. We are both educated Christian people. I resonate with certain parts of this. To be honest, I find that in our marriage so far, it is incredibly difficult for me to fulfill my wife’s expectation with regard to frequency of sex. Maybe its just my wife, but she does not understand how difficult and challenging it is for me to physically to make the experience fulfilling for her. The experience is rarely enjoyable for me due to the duration at which it lasts in order for her to climax .

    I am in very good physical shape both cardio-vascularly and bmi-muscle mass wise as well. I am fearful of the time when I am older and am not able to perform at this level.

    Has anyone else experienced what I am describing?

    1. You are spoiled! :) I think that what I am talking about in this post is just the problem being told no ALL THE TIME because the person doesn’t “feel” like it. Once in a while it’s fine to be told no, but not all the time for no good reason.

  6. To answer your question: “Do women believe that marriage imposes wife-obligations on them regarding sex?”

    I think, no, I know there are some Christian women who do believe they have an obligation to their husband, but I’m not so sure that such an act of love and intimacy should be taken like bad medicine. Focus on the Family recently interviewed Dr. Clifford and Joyce Penner, dealing with sex, it was titled, Building Passion in Your Marriage. I found it very insightful.

  7. Wintery, do you think there is no difference between mowing the lawn, doing the laundry, going to work, cooking meals, etc and having sex? I am asking this in total sincerity, I would like to know if you think there is really no difference at all?

    Because, in all sincerity, I do think there is a difference. The vulnerability and intimacy associated with sex makes it a very different act than all those other “chores”. Even the fact that I would balk to hear it called a “chore” (and I guess I’m wondering if you would as well) makes it different than those other chores.

    Likewise, I would say asking my husband to spend intimate, quality time with me communicating and fulfilling my emotional needs is very different from any of his other duties. If he forced himself into a state where he had to be open an affectionate with me whenever I needed it, regardless of how he was feeling in that moment, out of a sense of duty to me, I would balk at that. I would fear that repeatedly doing that would damage his ability to fulfill those needs for me happily and joyfully in the long term of our marriage.

    Now, this is not to give either of us a free pass. We both have to be firm with ourselves and figure out if we are being too selfish with the other’s needs, but if there’s a moment when I need him to talk about feelings and he *really* isn’t in that place, then he needs to be able to tell me that, and I need to let him have his space, in order to keep the openness and trust between us.

    Now neither of us abuse this, so it’s not a problem, but it’s all about balance. I think it’s important to remember in conversations like these, that intimacy, whether emotional or physical, cannot be made into a chore so much that you do permanent damage to your trust with one another. If you are having trouble being intimate with your partner as much as he/she needs it, then you should be doing everything you can to solve that problem, but regularly “buckling down” and just toughing it our for the sake of duty is not going to be a long term solution. It works with the laundry, but it will do damage to intimacy eventually. Long term, that approach will only serve to hurt you both!

    1. I think there’s a big difference between not being in the mood for sex but still trying to attempt intimacy and not even trying because you don’t feel like it. I don’t think anyone is saying that a wife (or husband) should just go along out of pure duty all the time. Sex should be mutually satisfying. If it isn’t, there is work to be done to make it so. But it isn’t necessary for both parties to be feeling amorous and ready to strip clothes off for sex to happen. Sometimes one is feeling needy and the other isn’t really in the mood at the moment. But that spouse should attempt to get in the mood out of love for their spouse rather than always just saying “no” and dismissing the very real needs and desires of their spouse. It’s not a problem to say no once in a while. It becomes a problem when no is the usual answer because the person can’t be bothered to consider the needs of the other person or try to move out of their comfort zone at all.

      As I said, sex should be mutual and both spouses should attempt to satisfy each other’s needs. However, it bears mentioning that a man has to be at least somewhat in the mood (i.e. aroused) for sex to happen. That simply isn’t true for a woman. That’s just a result of basic reproductive biology. It is quite possible for sex to still happen when she isn’t in the mood in a way that isn’t true for her husband. Thus, it makes sense to me that the man set the pace for sexual frequency to a large extent. That is not to say that a wife should just lay there and take it all the time. Most husbands don’t want that anyway. They want their wives to desire intimacy with them, not just put up with it. But a woman can, out of sacrifical love, “put up with it” once in a while when her husband is needing what only she can give him. There’s a lot to be said about what that does to a man to know his wife loves him that much and about what that can do for their marriage. And since sexual arousal is primarily in the brain for women, often going ahead when she wasn’t in the mood at first turns out far better than she thought it would.

      1. Right, I just so constantly see comparisons made between sex and any other chore, like how would you feel if he just didn’t feel like going to work that day.

        I think that’s a really unhealthy attitude, because there is such a huge difference between suffering through another day of work and suffering through intimacy with your spouse. “Suffering” through something repeatedly is likely to destroy your ability to *ever* do it joyfully. I don’t expect to ever do the laundry “joyfully” and that’s gonna be okay for the rest of my life and my marriage, but if we got to a place where I could never have sex with my husband joyfully, that would be a really tragic problem, for both of us.

        It’s one thing to say, “how would you feel if you husband could never communicate with you intimately, he was never in the mood for it, and brushed off any idea that he should figure out why?” It’s quite another to say to that husband, “well it’s your duty, so talk to me whenever I want no matter how you feel.”

        Both positions (the demanding of intimacy and the demanding that you do not have to offer intimacy that your partner wants and you do not have to try) are a refusal to cooperate actively in solving the obstacles that you encounter in your marriage. On a very basic level, that’s a marriage killer, no matter what the issue at stake is. Even if it’s as trivial as bickering about how you want the dishwasher loaded, if one partner absolutely refuses to engage with the other about how to work towards a solution, that marriage is dead in the water.

        So yeah, saying to women or men, look, your partner needs something from you, you don’t get to just shut down the conversation, it’s your duty as a spouse to try to figure out how to fulfill those needs—that’s one thing. Saying, it’s your duty as a spouse to tough it out and give it to them just like you would have to do the chores, is quite another.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s