This is a book review series of The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace. If you are just joining us, you may click on previous chapter reviews if you’d like to catch up.
Chapter Eleven is titled, “Intimacy: The Wife’s Response.” You knew we had to get to this chapter at some point.
In so many of the godly wife books we see that the wife’s duty is to provide sex for her husband whenever he wants it. Throughout most of this chapter Peace talks about sex as a mutual act between a husband and wife. At least she identifies that a wife has a desire and need for sex. She even goes so far as to say that a wife should find pleasure in sex and tell her husband what pleases her. Peace also provides good advice by stating that you shouldn’t use sex to bargain for what you want.
There are some points, though, where she stays a little too close for comfort to the familiar godly wife narratives.
The physical union of husband and wife is designed by God to meet a God-given desire for companionship, to protect the husband and wife from temptation, and for the mutual giving and receiving of great pleasure and joy between the husband and the wife. Companionship is strengthened by the private, intimate, physical bond of a married couple.
Like other books, Peace leaves out that mutual, consensual sex doesn’t always happen. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “between 10 and 14 percent of married women will be raped at some point during their marriage. ” What would Peace say to a wife who comes to her and states that she is being raped by her husband? Would she tell her that marital rape is not possible in a Christian marriage?
It’s possible that she would tell a sexually abused wife that it’s her duty to provide sex to her husband. After all, a wife should totally stop what she has planned if he wants sex (This goes against her “sex is mutual” point and causes confusion.).
Because responding to her husband physically is a command from God, when the wife obeys she is showing love to God as well as love to her husband by not defrauding him. What if her husband desires sex at a time that is inconvenient for her? If possible, the wife should arrange her schedule for them to have a time together so that he knows that fulfilling his desires is important to her. Sometimes, it may be possible to rearrange her schedule by putting off cleaning the house or by telling her friend she will call her back later.
My mind immediately went to a conversation like this: “Oh, hey Sarah. I was just about to clean the toilet when you called. Can I call you back? I need to go because Bob wants sex.”
But there’s more. Peace also states that God gave man the responsibility for unity in the marriage (Genesis 2:24). This leaves us to think then that the wife must provide sex when requested. Sex is a command by God, the husband is responsible for the unity of the marriage, and if a wife doesn’t obey the husband when sex is requested then she is not obeying God. Nice spiritual abuse here.
The only other point that stood out to me is in the first quote where Peace says that sex can “protect the husband and wife from temptation.” Too often Christian wives are told that they are responsible for satisfying every single sexual need for their husband. If their husband ends up viewing pornography, having affairs, or molesting children, the wife is asked if she is providing enough sex to meet his needs. A wife is not responsible for her husband’s sexual sins and she should not be blamed as the cause of his sin.
Overall, I was expecting this chapter to be much worse and was pleasantly surprised to find the positive discussion of mutuality of sex and desire for women to find pleasure in sex. This chapter could have been so much worse.