How many times have you been reluctant to have sex because you were tired, or stressed, or it just didn’t spark your interest at the moment and then, once you engaged, you got into it?
If you’ve felt this way, you are not alone! I feel this way frequently and have heard from many other wives who have the exact same experience.
You know why there are so many of us experiencing the same thing? Because, that is generally how women work. (I say generally, because there are women who don’t work this way. Some rarely fire up even after engaging and some are on fire before anything ever starts.)
Women are different from men.
I watched a BBC show on Masterpiece Theatre recently that ticked me off. First off, I was blind-sided by an erotic scene (even though all clothes stayed on and no flesh was seen) and the woman orgasmed almost instantaneously. My dogs went and hid when I shouted to no one and yet to everyone, “NO, NO, NO! This is not how it works! No wonder so many women feel defeated when it comes to sex!”
Society as a whole (men and women) have come to think that women should respond to sexual touch and sexual thought in this instantaneous manner and that orgasm seamlessly follows. It’s just not true! Most men may work like that, but the vast majority of women do not.
Don’t Take My Word For It
Scientists and doctors knew something was askew when women didn’t fit into the description about sexual experience as Masters & Johnson hypothesized in 1966. This model states sexual experience moves through four steps; arousal (feeling the desire), plateau (enjoying the sexual act and building tension), orgasm, and resolution.
Masters & Johnson were convinced people always move in that order….arousal, plateau, orgasm, and resolution. If you didn’t feel sexual desire before you started engaging sexually, you were labeled dysfunctional.
But, there was a problem after a little while. The medical community began identifying almost as many women sexually dysfunctional as sexually normal. This raised questions. How can there be such a low percentage of women functioning normally as defined by Masters & Johnson? Does the four step idea precisely reflect the female experience?
The answer is the old four step model is nothow women work! Typically, for women, the interest in being sexual follows different steps from men and that is OK! (Society, however, hasn’t caught on to this fact, yet, hence the misconstrued Masterpiece Theatre show.)
Fortunately, the scientific community has taken action to figure why women don’t fit into the four step sexual response cycle.
Rethinking Low Libido
With the old model being taught, a wife with a higher drive spouse just figures she is abnormally low on the sexuality scale. Since we don’t have sexual thoughts pulling at us all day, we must be low libido, right? No, we’re just typical women!
You don’t experience spontaneous sexual desire at the mere mention of penises and vaginas? Words like vixen and moist don’t get your engine revved? Then, you are more normal than you probably thought!
“Although many women may experience spontaneous desire and interest in a new sexual relationship or after a long separation from a partner, in long-term relationships they do not frequently think of sex or have spontaneous hunger and need for sexual activity,” Basson.
Sexual desire is not spontaneous for most women in long-term relationships. It is responsive, meaning other things need to be in place for the sexual willingness to grow. It largely depends upon how close you feel to your husband and how good you feel about your relationship with your husband. It also depends on your general stress level, how positive you feel about your body, your mental outlook, and your beliefs about sex in general from past experiences.
Being “turned on” is not usually where sexual engagement starts for women. It is Sexual Interest. According to the revised sexual response model developed specifically from studying women in-depth, it all starts with the “willingness to become receptive.” (See What Is Sexual Interest and Why Should I Care?)
*Figure above modified from 2013 scholarly article cited below.
Reframing the facts about a wife’s sexual response.
It was thought the world was flat. Wrong.
It was thought draining blood would cure illness. Wrong.
It was thought night air was bad to breathe. Wrong.
It was thought physical feelings of sexual “steaminess” preceded engagement whether you were male or female. Wrong.
It took a while for the entire culture to embrace and accept the world was a sphere, draining blood did more harm than good, and the night air was perfectly fine.
I imagine it will take some time for our current culture to embrace and accept the fact that a wife’s “on” button is through her heart, not her glands.
God in his ironic, weird, illogical, and infinite wisdom made husbands and wives different. It would be so much easier if we agreed on how much sex to have, what color to paint the bedroom, which car to buy, how to discipline the kids, and when to turn the tv off to go to bed, wouldn’t it?
Is easier really better? I think we are called to keep growing our entire life. Growing includes seeing things from another’s viewpoint. Growing includes having compassion. Growing also includes saying some hard things in a diplomatic, loving, and kind way. Growing, for Christians, is always founded on scripture.
Friend, it is OK that you have a very different sexual response than your husband. You are not flawed or broken, you’re normal! Now, you are armed with the knowledge that growing your interest in having bedroom time means other elements of your marriage need nurtured.
I hope this article can spur conversation in a mismatched marriage. I hope that wives will understand themselves better. Just because the thought of sexual intimacy doesn’t drive you wild with tingles in your girly parts, doesn’t mean that sexual intimacy won’t benefit you and your marriage. I hope husbands will understand their wives better and try to build a better friendship with her.
*The majority of the scientific content of this post comes from this scholarly article meta-review:
Damjanović A., Duišin, D., & Barišić, J. (2013). The Evolution of the Female Sexual Response Concept: Treatment Implications. Serbian Archives of General Medicine, 3-4, 268-274.