I want to build off BGR’s post 6 ways a wife can understand her husband’s sexual needs.
First, in Jewish culture and in the OT, sex is a wife’s right the husband must give her.
Exodus 21:10 If he takes to himself another woman, he may not reduce her [j]food, her clothing, or her conjugal rights. 11 If he will not do these three things for her, then she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.
Generally speaking, the main points are backward from the culture that the Bible describes. I’ve posted this several times before, but I’ll bring it up again since I haven’t talked about it within the past year.
In Jewish law, sex is not considered shameful, sinful or obscene. Sex is not thought of as a necessary evil for the sole purpose of procreation. Although sexual desire comes from the yetzer ra (the evil impulse), it is no more evil than hunger or thirst, which also come from the yetzer ra. Like hunger, thirst or other basic instincts, sexual desire must be controlled and channeled, satisfied at the proper time, place and manner. But when sexual desire is satisfied between a husband and wife at the proper time, out of mutual love and desire, sex is a mitzvah.
Sex is permissible only within the context of a marriage. In Judaism, sex is not merely a way of experiencing physical pleasure. It is an act of immense significance, which requires commitment and responsibility. The requirement of marriage before sex ensures that sense of commitment and responsibility. Jewish law also forbids sexual contact short of intercourse outside of the context of marriage, recognizing that such contact will inevitably lead to intercourse.
Sex should only be experienced in a time of joy. Sex for selfish personal satisfaction, without regard for the partner’s pleasure, is wrong and evil. A man may never force his wife to have sex. A couple may not have sexual relations while drunk or quarreling. Sex may never be used as a weapon against a spouse, either by depriving the spouse of sex or by compelling it. It is a serious offense to use sex (or lack thereof) to punish or manipulate a spouse.
Sex is the woman’s right, not the man’s. A man has a duty to give his wife sex regularly and to ensure that sex is pleasurable for her. He is also obligated to watch for signs that his wife wants sex, and to offer it to her without her asking for it. The woman’s right to sexual intercourse is referred to as onah, and it is one of a wife’s three basic rights (the others are food and clothing), which a husband may not reduce. The Talmud specifies both the quantity and quality of sex that a man must give his wife. It specifies the frequency of sexual obligation based on the husband’s occupation, although this obligation can be modified in the ketubah (marriage contract). A man may not take a vow to abstain from sex for an extended period of time, and may not take a journey for an extended period of time, because that would deprive his wife of sexual relations. In addition, a husband’s consistent refusal to engage in sexual relations is grounds for compelling a man to divorce his wife, even if the couple has already fulfilled the halakhic obligation to procreate.
Although sex is the woman’s right, she does not have absolute discretion to withhold it from her husband. A woman may not withhold sex from her husband as a form of punishment, and if she does, the husband may divorce her without paying the substantial divorce settlement provided for in the ketubah.
As you can see, Paul adheres to similar concepts 1 Corinthians 7, even with the Messiah having already come.
This brings up the question: so how did we get to where we are today where wives are withholding sex from their husbands?
One of the big ones is the devaluing of children. Now, virtually every Christian agrees that abortion is bad. However, I believe the Catholic Church takes the right stance of birth control. Why do we need to “limit” or “plan” for children if children are good? I’ve heard lots of excuses from Christians on this, but I don’t buy them. Sex in marriage is inextricably linked to children, and changing that by human means leads to devaluing what is good.
Another is the removal or cutting down of husband authority. Obviously, a wife looks up to a husband as the authority. When men are viewed as chumps in culture and told they have no authority, their wives don’t desire sex from them.
A rebellious heart, attitude, and a lack of submission is another. Somewhat building off the demonization of masculinity, but another different point altogether. And as always, in rich societies there is lots of selfishness. I’m sure there’s more, but I can’t think of them at the moment.
Reasoning rarely works with women. Arguing definitely does not work with women. There are some sparse examples of women who heed the correction of the Scriptures and do not withhold sex. They end up becoming closer and more receptive to their husbands because sex brings them closer together. It makes the husband much more readily honor and consider her in everything.
For husbands, this sets the right mind frame. Sex is something that you give your wife for her pleasure, children, and mutual enjoyment. It’s not something you beg for. It’s not something you whine about. Often times, attitude makes all of the difference, as confidence is an aphrodisiac to women.