Wednesday, February 04, 2009


The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. 5Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

1 Corinthians 7:3-5 (New International Version)

When reading this passage, it seems that the Apostle Paul was talking about expectations for sex in marriage. Neither the husband nor the wife has complete control in their body. In today's world that flies in the face of what we are taught.

Since I am male, I will speak from a purely male perspective. Men are taught that the woman has final say in sex. If a woman is not up to it, does not want to do certain acts, or whatever, then the man has to respect her wishes. Before anyone goes onto a rant about rape and certain kinks, in other writings Paul instructs the husband to love his wife like Jesus loves the church. I am not talking about that kind of stuff. I am talking about control. Who is in control? Does the man get a vote? How far can things be pushed?

In reading the letter from Paul, sex is confined to marriage only. Sex is a way of strengthening the bonds of marriage and way to keep sexual immorality from creeping into the marriage. Despite what some faiths or denominations teach, Paul says that sex is not just about procreation but about bonding through recreation. Sex is fun. What does that mean about someone that is a killjoy? The fun disappears. It becomes another chore, like taking out the garbage.


Desmond Jones said...

This provokes a whole set of thoughts from me, Aphron. . .

Like most things in marriage, this works best when 'each of you looks out for the other's interests, ahead of your own'. . . It looks a whole lot different when I'm looking out for her, and I can trust that she's looking out for me, than if we're both 'pressing our own claims'. . .

For the last few years, Molly and I have been giving a talk on Christian Marriage at our parish church, and we put it in terms of Consideration and Generosity - I need to be considerate of her situation (her health, 'mental state', tiredness, etc), and she ought to be generous, and not 'withhold herself'. (Of course, this all plays to the stereotype of the 'horny male' and 'reserved female', but I don't see that it's any different if the 'roles' are reversed. . .)

selkie said...

well, apart from the fact that I consider the bible to be a work of fiction (and ultimately, a reflection of the mores and cultural identity of a small Israelite tribe), I'll comment from the gist of what is written.

First, WRONG - modern day society figured out a LONG time ago that our bodies DO belong to us alone - although there is a large segment of the population who continue to believe that WOMENS bodies do NOT belong to them but to the males in their lives.

I think from an emotional and spiritual perspective however, taken in THAT context, our friend misognyist Paul is talking about CO OPERATION and mutual enjoyment of each other and counselling that if you do NOT indulge yourselves sexually you may be tempted to indulge outside the bonds of matrimoney ...I do not think he is saying "belong" in the secular sense but in the emotional and spiritual sense.

That whole passage however, smacks of paternalism - and from a time when women were told to "submit" out of "duty" - which sorta messes with the whole "fun" part of it needless to say.

And I don't think ANYONE is "in control" - I think they are talking theoretically about what people SHOULD do - we all know, of course that what people SHOULD do and what they DO do - are often very different!

this passage, like many other adages and advice is simply that - in a perfect world .... the husband and wife are going to put the partner above themselves, in that they will enjoy each otehr sexually.

and speaking from a female perspective, there are MANY women out there like ME whose husbands are the relucant partner.

And I can't say I agree that the woman has the "final" say - ultimately that is completely contrary to what the passage is saying - it has to be MUTUAL.

and as a former Catholic, I was always taught there was NO issue with sex as long as it was WITHIN marriage as you pont out - but in itself it was SUPPOSED to be fun.

aphron said...

desmond jones-
That is the basis of Paul's letter. When we marry, we become one. Even our bodies are not our own. The struggle is finding that balance that will work to make all everyone happy. Sometimes it seems that one person compromises too much. When that happens resentment can set in.

I won't get into whether or not the Bible is a work of fiction.

I will comment on the idea that our bodies are our own. If that is the case, then we should never feel any anger or resentment towards our partner's desires. If our partner has a low libido and does not want sex, then we should respect that and not feel any animosity towards him or her. Paul realized that sex strengthens the bonds in a marriage. To withhold sex for whatever reason will only create walls within that marriage. Not good. The idea that we do not have total control of our bodies within a marriage was stated to remind us that we should be giving ourselves completely.

What you said was true: within in the confines of marriage anything goes. If a spouse is withholding or not wanting to completely give of him or herself, then that is not an intimate marriage.

My post was written strictly from my point of view. I realize there are husbands out there that do not or will not bend to their wives wishes. When that occurs, then it would be natural for the wife to feel some sort of resentment.

selkie said...

aphron, I actually agree with your interpretation of the passage, although not with your comment that "If our partner has a low libido and does not want sex, then we should respect that and not feel any animosity towards him or her." - I'm not sure how that relates - i.e. just becuase our bodies are our own, we're not supposed to feel resentment?

not really seeing the logic in that.

and I VERY much agree that sex strengthens a bond in the marriage (the opposite, sadly, being also true).

good discussion.

Trooper Thorn said...

I think the important part of that is to keep coming back together to resist the temptation to stray.

Bunny said...

Withholding has definitely led to straying in my marriage. I love my husband and ideally I would not have sex with any man but him for the rest of my life. However, once a year (or less) just isn't enough for me.

It's difficult to follow Paul's admonishment when your partner doesn't cooperate.