by Libby Anne cross posted from her blog Love, Joy, Feminism
Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 164—167
We’re still in the chapter on loving your husband, which means this week is going to be all about sex once again.
No woman loves her husband if she does not seek to please him in this most important area. If you are not interested in sex, then at least be interested in him enough to give him good sex. If you are not loving your man, you are in danger of blaspheming the word of God—“to love their husbands.” The Bible says, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). Hopefully you just didn’t realize that your lack of sexual interest in your husband was sin, but now you know.
In other words, if you don’t “give” your husband “good sex” (her emphasis) you are, quite literally, blaspheming the word of God and sinning. I’m really not sure how Debi could lay it on thicker than this. And with that, Debi moves into a letter:
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Pearl,
We enjoy your writings and hope you can help us. Our question is what does a Christ-centered, sexually fulfilling, intimate marriage look like? We have an exceptionally wonderful marriage except for our intimacy on the sexual level. My husband feels that a “switch” turned off in me after having the children and that I no longer enjoy relations like I used to. I feel he is correct in his assessment of this. I sometimes feel embarrassed by the whole act and feel that oral sex is wrong, although I used to enjoy it. We have prayed to the Lord for some sort of guidance with this. My husband has turned off his desire for sexual relations, and so we live as best friends who do everything together except make love. Any help or advice you can give us would be greatly appreciated. We both want to get to the bottom of this matter once for all.
I think the first thing I’d tell Mrs. C is that it’s completely normal to go through sexual dry spells in a marriage. There will be times when sex is hot and heavy, and times when it’s more sparse. And that’s okay. The thing about sex is that you have to figure out what works for you (and your consenting partner). If the Cs are concerned about their lack of a sexual relationship, they could go see a sex therapist about it, but if they’re both content with it I don’t see the problem. And who knows, maybe, down the road, once the kids are older and the house stays cleaner longer, Mrs. C may regain her desire for sex.
Anyway, now to Debi’s actual response.
Dear Mrs. C,
You would not be writing unless you are both unhappy with your current relationship. You know it is wrong. When you married you signed over to become a minister to his needs. Your life’s work is to minister to your husband. Marriage means becoming one flesh. It does not mean being best friends. In practice, you are not in a marriage relationship with your husband. You and your husband are effectively living in a divorced state, having put each other away. God commands in I Cor. 7:5, “Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” God has clearly told us that not having regular sex is giving Satan an opportunity to tempt married couples. Wife, it is your God-ordained ministry to your husband to be his totally enthusiastic sex partner, ready to enjoy him at all times. To do less is a grave error. If you love your husband as God commands, you will always seek to give him pleasure. In so doing, you will fulfill your role as his suitable helper.
Because apparently it’s not about what works best for you and your relationship, it’s about following a set of prescribed rules whether they make any sense in your situation or not. Because, you see, rules are more important than people.
I should also reiterate that this “if you love your husband as God commands, you will always seek to give him pleasure” thing is profoundly dangerous. It is possible to love someone without giving them everything they ever ask for. In fact, the Pearls have all sorts of nasty words for parents who show their love to their children by fulfilling their children’s every want. It would seem that while it is wrong to spoil children, God has commanded wives to spoil their husbands.
And what in the world is this “Marriage . . . does not mean being best friends” bit? Michael has multiple times called Debi his “best friend,” and even Debi used the term herself over a hundred pages ago. Debi must mean that marriage does not only mean being best friends, but that’s sure not what she actually says!
When the angel announced to the 89-year-old Sarah that she and Abraham would copulate and have a child, she responded by laughing and saying, “After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” (Gen. 18: 12). Pleasure is what Sarah remembered and experienced with her man. She is recorded in Hebrews 11 as one of the pillars of faith.
Sarah’s son, Isaac, found comfort for his sorrow after his mother’s death through sexual fulfillment with his new wife, Rebekah (Gen. 24: 67).
One entire book of the Bible, The Song of Solomon, is dedicated to singing praise to God for the joyful expression of love in the sexual union of a man and his wife. It is so graphic in its description of erotic pleasure that it is embarrassing for some to read or hear it read aloud. My husband wrote a commentary on it called Holy Sex.
Why doesn’t Debi directly address the question of female pleasure? She keeps sort of almost halfway referring to it. I mean, she says that wives must be enthusiastic sexual partners because husbands don’t want to have sex with limp rag dolls. She never says whether it matters whether the women putting on the show of enthusiastic sex are enjoying it or not. And even if it does matter, she never says female sexual pleasure matters for its own sake. I mean, if Sarah experienced pleasure with Abraham, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t because she was faking it and pretending to be enthusiastic, and yet that is all Debi actually instructs women to do. Look, if Debi wanted to talk about female pleasure she could have. She could have said things like “you have this thing called a clitoris” or “lube is your friend” or “try some more foreplay” or “if it hurts, there’s something wrong, and you should go to the doctor.” But she doesn’t do that. Instead, she says “if you don’t give your husband sex you’re sinning against God” and then tacks on “oh by the way Sarah found sex pleasurable and she’s one of the pillars of faith, so you might want to try that.”
Oh and also? Song of Solomon wasn’t about a married couple. It was about lovers.
Anyway, next comes another letter:
I have not felt close to God for a long time. Something was missing. I found myself empty and lonely. I really ahd no idea what was wrong. I was aimless as a mother, and my discipline of the children was inconsistent and fraught with anger. My household management was wanting. In the past, my husband and I have had a great relationship, but even that was limp. I often cried myself to sleep, not knowing what was wrong.
My husband had been attempting to get intimate with me during “that time of the month,” at which time I usually pushed him away. He knew it was “that time” again, but assured me that he wanted to just give me pleasure. Actually, he has attempted to give me pleasurable moments as opposed to “all the way” for years, but I have resisted him. I guess I must think in boxes; it is either all or nothing for me. As so, when I did not think it was “all” a good time, then it was nothing. Last night, after I resisted my husband yet again, my heart cried out to God, and I began to cry and pray. Eventually the sobbing subsided, and I calmed down (and my dear husband had sleepily held me and let me cry it out). It was then that I felt like God said in that still small voice, “Those arms that hold you so lovingly are MY arms.” I felt the warmth and strength of my husband’s arms around me. I realized that by pushing my husband away, I had been pushing the Lord away. No wonder I was so lonely! The very one given to be my savior and guide here on earth, I was refusing to receive comfort from.
How eagerly I went to my husband, and how eager I will always remain! Life is an education. Boxes, boundaries, self-imposed rules, they are all the same ink.
Today was like a new day! My children, my house, my chores, I saw everything with different eyes—thankful eyes, a grateful heart, and a soul full of joy and love.
Oh look! It’s about female pleasure! Sort of . . .
This letter isn’t from a woman who wanted her husband to give her sexual pleasure even as he refused, but rather about a man who wanted to give his wife sexual pleasure even as she refused. In other words . . . if your husband wants to give you sexual pleasure, you better accept it whether you want it or not. And what if it’s the opposite? What if a man only wants to pleasure himself and isn’t willing to pleasure his wife? IT’s almost as though Debi doesn’t realize such a situation could exist, because there’s nary a peep. And backing that up is the only thing Debi follows this letter with:
A wise woman gauges her husband’s needs. She seeks to fulfill his desires before even he is aware of them. She never leaves him daydreaming outside the home. She supplies his every desire.
Apparently, if a husband’s “need” or “desire” is to pleasure his wife, she needs to be sure to meet that need. Because, yes, female sexual pleasure matters to Debi only insomuch as it enhances male sexual pleasure. Seriously, this would have been a perfect place for Debi to have finally addressed female pleasure. She could have talked about how important female sexual fulfillment is, and assured women that it’s okay and good for their husbands to give them manual or oral sexual pleasure. She could have let women know that it’s reasonable to expect sex to go both ways and be pleasurable for both parties. But she doesn’t do any of that, because that’s not the point. The point, it seems, is simply that wives are to be their husbands’ willing sex slaves, never saying no or rejecting either sex or a particular kink.
Also, I would be remiss if I let this letter go by without addressing the husband-in-the-place-of-Jesus stuff going on here. Cheryl calls her husband “my savior and guide here on earth.” And she says that “I realized that by pushing my husband away, I had been pushing the Lord away.” This is a huge huge problem, especially if any poor woman’s husband is reading this book. If a woman rejects her husband’s sexual advances . . . she is pushing God away? If a woman does not want her husband to pleasure her . . . she is refusing the “comfort” Jesus is extending to her? Somehow I don’t think I would have been comfortable with this idea even back in my evangelical days.
Anyway, on to a third letter, the last we’ll look at in this post:
Dear Mr. Pearl,
I have a question. Would it be a sin to castrate myself? I am a husband and father, and I just cannot satisfy myself with my wife because she does not want sex very often. The BIble says, “whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Would it not be better in my case to be castrated? I talked with my wife, and she does not care. I am tired of sinning.
You know what’s really sad? While I can’t say for sure whether this letter is real or whether Debi made it up, I don’t see anything about it that screams that it is a fake. I’ve heard this sort of thing discussed, though not in as explicit terms. I mean, if you really believe that thinking sexual thoughts about women other than your wife is a sin, and you can’t seem to stop yourself, you really don’t have a whole lot of outs. Anyway, here was Debi’s response:
This is a real letter from a real man named Mr. Miller. We were shocked! What do we tell this man who is willing to lose his manhood to avoid the lust caused by his indifferent wife? The gravity of his wife’s sin is staggering. She has NO FEAR of God Almighty. She has blasphemed the Word of God with her selfishness, thinking only of her own needs and not loving her husband. Never, never, never be guilty of such a grave sin.
If you won’t have sex with your husband it’s a sin, sin, sin, and it might make him so desperate he seeks to castrate himself, and it will be your fault! Have you no fear of God? Ugh, Debi.
This husband needs to know what God says, “The wife hath not power over her own body, but the husband . . . . Defraud ye not one the other . . . that Sin tempt you not for your incontinency” (I Corinthians 7: 4—5). God grants the marriage partner full access to his spouses body for sexual gratification.
Wait. Wait. Wait. What exactly is Debi saying here? Is she seriously saying that what Mr. Miller needs to know is that God has granted him full access to his spouses body for his own sexual gratification? Because that’s not rapey, no, not one bit.
Comments open below
Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network member, Libby Anne blogs at Love, Joy, Feminism
Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the religious right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving fundamentalist and evangelical religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the problems with the “purity culture,” the intricacies of conservative and religious right politics, and the importance of feminism. Her blog is Love, Joy, Feminism
NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce