2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
–1 Cor 7:2-5, ESV
In the Daily Mail piece I linked to yesterday many of the ten signs it is time to dump your man are actually bad behavior on a wife’s part. Sign number two is the wife becomes contentious:
You find yourself constantly rolling your eyes and tutting at the most insignificant things your partner does.
Sign number four is the wife finds herself refusing sex with her husband, and sign five is she stops wanting to make him happy. Sign ten is the wife belittles her husband in front of others.
This idea that any time a wife sins it is really a condemnation of her husband is well loved by modern Christians. Of the ten signs in the Mail article, sign number four is arguably the modern Christian favorite. If a wife denies sex to her husband, it is not a sin to address with the wife, but an indication that her husband is sinning. Pastor Dave Wilson teaches at FamilyLife that a wife not feeling attracted to her husband is a message from God that something is wrong with the man. When Dave’s wife Ann rejected him telling him she didn’t have feelings for him anymore, Dave recognized that this was a message from God:
Here’s all you need to know about that night—the thing that changed our marriage is when Ann was sharing with me what she felt—I had a pretty unique encounter with God. I sensed God was speaking to me, through Ann;
Likewise, Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. explains:
Put most bluntly, I believe that God means for a man to be civilized, directed, and stimulated toward marital faithfulness by the fact that his wife will freely give herself to him sexually only when he presents himself as worthy of her attention and desire.
Dr. Russell Moore offers his own take on this theme at FamilyLife in Pornography: Poisoning Marital Intimacy. Whenever a husband complains that his wife is withholding sex, Moore changes the subject:
Now, when a couple comes in to see me and they say to me: “We just don’t know what’s wrong in our marriage. We just don’t have any intimacy. We don’t have sex with each other anymore. We just feel cold.” I immediately say, “How long has the porn been going on?”
Husband, typically, looks at me, like I’m an Old Testament prophet or a New Age psychic. “How did you know? Are you working for the cable/internet company or something?” It’s because it happens so often and with such regularity, and it always has the same satanic results.
Just to clarify, Moore isn’t saying he deals with both sins together, he is saying if the issue of a wife* withholding sex is brought up, he changes the subject entirely to pornography.
Also, following the standard complementarian script that wives should set and enforce boundaries for their husbands, Moore tells wives:
Ladies, if your husband is entrapped in pornography, confront him in his sin. If he refuses to repent and to show you how he is repenting, take it to the pastors of the church. You are not being un-submissive. You are saying to the powers—the authorities that God has put in your life—”Our marriage is in crisis. I love him. I want you to help me to help him.” You, as a joint heir with your husband—following after, going according to his authority—when Satan has gotten him, fight for your man.
Ironically Moore references 1 Cor 7, but not to call out the sin of denial of sex, but to explain why the wife should set and enforce boundaries for her husband:
The answer to all of that is—number one, for the wives in this room—or in the case when it’s the other, the husbands in this room—to recognize the truth of what Paul is saying here when he says, “A husband’s body does not belong to himself. A wife’s body does not belong to herself.” Some of you wives, in this room, are suffering silently alone while your husbands are enslaved to porn. You believe you are doing so because you are being a submissive wife. No, no, no, no. The Bible says, “Wives, submit yourselves….” The Bible never tells women to submit to men, generally. It says for a wife to submit herself to her own husband. But the Scripture also says that what a husband is doing sexually with his body is a violation of his wife; and she, the Scripture says, has ownership over his body.
On the other hand, if the wife is using pornography, Moore explains that the husband should first ask himself why she feels tempted to do so. Then he should bring in someone to deal with the crisis in the marriage that is causing her to feel tempted:
Husbands, if your wife is entrapped with some form of sexual fantasy—whether it’s Fifty Shades of Grey or whatever the Christian version of that is these days—if she is pursuing a romantic fantasy or a sexual fantasy—first of all, ask, “What in our marriage is causing her to seek this out elsewhere?” and, then, bring in those who can come into your marriage and deal with the crisis. Why?—because this is not just a relationship issue. This is a spiritual warfare issue, and there are beings who want to work with your passions to destroy you.
- If a husband is using pornography, the wife needs to take charge of her husband and seek church discipline.
- If the wife is using pornography, the husband needs to bring in a marriage counselor to bring back the romance.
And all of this occurs after changing the subject from a wife defrauding her husband of his conjugal rights*.
*It could in theory be a husband defrauding his wife, but there is an undeniable pattern here of finding ways to ignore/deny/redirect the sins of wives, and denial of sex is a primary complaint by Christian husbands. If a husband is defrauding his wife I don’t think Moore or the vast majority of Christian leaders would hesitate to tell the husband he is sinning by doing so. In that case pornography could still be a related sin, but the impulse to change the subject entirely would not be there.