Book Review Series, Christian Marriage, Domestic Violence, Marriage, Martha Peace, Spiritual Abuse

Book Review Series – “The Excellent Wife” by Martha Peace – Chapter Eleven – Mutual Sex or Sex on Demand?

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 OneChapter TwoChapter ThreeChapter FourChapter FiveChapter SixChapter SevenChapter EightChapter NineChapter Ten

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.

15 thoughts on “Book Review Series – “The Excellent Wife” by Martha Peace – Chapter Eleven – Mutual Sex or Sex on Demand?”

  1. 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.”

    This seems to be a popular theory but I have never seen any actual evidence for it. Anecdotally it seems wrong to me.

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  2. My issue with Lori’s teaching is that the condition of the relationship as a whole seems irrelevant. So if a husband is selfish, mean, neglectful – or even outright abusive – and/or makes little effort to meet her practical or emotional needs, the wife is still expected to accommodate his sexual needs and give herself freely without any reservations. And this kind of teaching is extremely common in larger Christian circles.

    Personally, it was really difficult to want to give myself to my abusive husband, no matter how pleasant the physical encounter might be. I remember sharing this struggle with a close friend of mine years ago. She replied with a chuckle, “It’s just sex!” But it wasn’t just sex to me; it was about giving my heart, my mind and my body to a man who didn’t love me. I felt used rather than cherished, probably because I was.

    From my perspective, good sex cannot ever come close to compensating for an unhealthy, unloving relationship.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I have been learning to read scripture through the lens of an Israelite, or Second Temple Jew….meaning to understand the scripture is to understand them in their culture.. You cannot apply specific meaning to modern people when it was specific to the people of an ancient time.

    So I did a quick read on gender/family/ roles.
    Basically family identification was soley through the male gender. If you were female you were your a belonging of the men in your family. You were considered property. You lived in a patriarchal society where you were nothing.
    “Marriage was and alliance based in honour, bloodlines,economics and politics. Marriage was not based on pshycological romantic love.” Women’s roles were submission in all things. She may have had domain in her home but even then the husband could over rule her decisions.

    “Paul’s command to LOVE the wife as Christ loved the church was seen as deviant instruction. In his day his readers would have expected him to say to rule over, not love.”
    From my quick study of the Israelite, Greco-Roman society, and Near East customs and beliefs mutual submission to one another could get your head lopped off.

    And after reading it, my main consensus was that Paul may or may have not been speaking only in sexual terms( as per the custom of sex to produce offspring particularly male heirs) but as in a new way to treat wives in general. The woman’s body was not in sole ownership of her husband. But She also had rights over her husbands body. And when you think of the context in which they were living, where the wife was chattel this is a HUGE HUGE deal.

    Women already knew submission and mutuality, it was new to the men. And this applied to more than sex. It applied to the status of women in a patriarchal society. Paul was teaching them to love one another.

    “The Apostle Paul believed Christian culture was based on the deliberate abandonment of status as to open a new way to a new spirit of human co-operation through mutual service. ”

    Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not
    merely
    look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…”(Philippians 2:1-5

    With this new way of thinking breaking the patriarchal beliefs my understanding is that he was also trying to break these beliefs within the marriage and that women had mutual power over their married life.

    On deeper reflection of Ephesians 5:21-33 it could be argued that Paul
    requests greater submission and sacrifice from the husband than from the
    wife, but the point is that the husband and wife are equals but have different
    roles.
    The understanding of equality between husband and wife and the requirement
    to submit to one another is also found in 1 Corinthians 7:4, ‘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’.
    In this passage Paul again explained the necessary the voluntary submission
    of both the husband and wife to each other, which implies the inherent
    16
    Oden ed.,
    Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament VIII,
    p. 200.

    Fr. Shenouda Boutros
    201015250
    10
    equality of husband and wife. That is to say, that neither the husband is
    dominant over the wife, nor is the wife dominant over the husband, both are
    equal and both are required to submit voluntarily and with love according to
    their faith in Christ. John Chrysostom has a wonderful contemplation on this
    understanding of equality that expands past the physical relationship: ‘Now if
    neither husband nor wife hath power even over their own body, much less
    have they over their property. Hear ye, all that have husbands and all that
    have wives: that if you must not count your body your own, much less your
    money’.
    17*******************************************************************************
    If Jesus and Paul were bringing in a new way of treatment against a patriarchal belief system it makes sense that a woman who is nothing in stature in her own family she grew up in and then is passed on as chattel or an asset under complete authority of her husband like a business deal, no wonder this passage is about mutuality between husband and wife.

    WHAT RADICAL TEACHING.

    And I think it has not much to do with sex or the marriage but a general overall raising of status for the women to be treated equally.

    These scholars make this woman’s writing look stupid……….sorry but it does.

    https://www.academia.edu/5974984/The_nature_of_Marriage_according_to_the_New_Testament

    https://www.academia.edu/35441066/Family_Gender_Roles_and_Marriage_in_the_Ancient_Near_East_and_the_Greco_Roman_World

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  4. So I am going to be redundant here. I was painting and thinking about what patriarchy is bringing to the table today.

    So in a weird twist they use this scripture to regain control of women and wives, from which modern western society has already broken free of. Women have finally gained mutual status in society…..(for the most part, we are not chattel or things) In society we woman have control over our selves and yet the church wants to re-establish control by the man over the woman to command her to lose her say over her sexuality in marriage by not having the right to say no to sex?

    And after all that time, Paul and Jesus were trying to establish her rights as a human and a woman to say no to sex in marriage, because she was no longer chattel, a bargaining, or political asset to her husband, right? He was to love her and treat her as a mutual partner in marriage.
    This makes me crazy mad.

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  5. Sorry guys I was thinking some more. I went back to the articles and came across this which I found quite interesting.

    Israel’s understanding of the female as a maker of trouble for males is not without precedence in other cultures. Based on Isaiah 34:14, the word
    CDEFDEF
    (night creature) wasassociated with a female demon named Lilith,
    150
    who led males in evil.
    151
    Kraemer summarizesthe story of Lilith stating, “…Lilith, the first wife of Adam, who refused to subordinate herself tohim, and who, having run away from Eden, now threatens newborn babies.”
    152
    Notice thecomment about Lilith refusing to “subordinate” herself to Adam. And yet, according to the
    Oxford Dictionary of the Bible
    , Lilith was “a female demon (Isa. 34:14) borrowed fromBabylonian speculation. See also
    Alphabet of Ben Sira
    , as a resource on the tradition of Lilith,which presents her as a more assertive female than that of the domesticated Eve

    So I have been doing some study on ancient beliefs and such. In relation to the Divine Council. (Mike Heiser)

    IN any case, Lilith in ancient belief is a big deal. I find it incredibly interesting that in this article and in patriarchy in general it is still believed the women are at fault for the sexual proclivities outside of marriage that the men engage in.

    It is as if portions of evangelical belief are still steeped in ancient beliefs and really don’t understand Jesus and the power of his death and resurrection and that we are to reign with him on the throne .

    If there was some understanding of that there would be no place to blame women on men’s sexual transgressions but yet still believe in the ancient deities having control over women and it being the fault of women that men cannot keep from straying.

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  6. @Bunkababy
    Excellent scholarship! Thank-you for your comment threads!

    My understanding is that Martha Peace desires women to be “non-persons” with no personality, soul, or gifts of the Holy Spirit, given the overview of Kathi’s posts.

    I recently heard a “Baptist man” say, “The pagan women that Solomon took as wives, corrupted him and were responsible for him falling away from God, following their idol worship.” So another words, Solomon didn’t have a mind of his own and the strength to endure following the LORD alone for his salvation……it was all of those “women’s” fault for the downfall of Solomon……again, blaming the woman/women for another man’s behavior/falling away.

    There is a powerful word in the English language and it goes something like this……”No!”……and it is not gender inclusive.

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  7. @Katy I was thinking about how deeply the woman/wife/daughters were treated and viewed in the ancient days. And even now. You go to India and women are being honour killed because they have “done” something to dishonour the family. Throw away women.

    In the pages I was reading women were people non grata. The only law that redeemed a woman was that she could not be sold.
    The women were to drop all religious beliefs they had and had to take on their husbands religion.
    But in the ancient of days the spiritual realm/heavenly places was as common as bread. For Solomon to turn to other gods was on him and him only. Are you kidding he knew what was out there. He knew where and how to find the witches.

    The other thing I was thinking about was Proverbs 31 about the wife. If a wife was seen as chattel or a good bargaining tool either through esteem, wealth or politics having a wife that ran the household profitably in business was a huge asset! She again was seen as something to keep the status quo of the husband’s reputation. Keep his household running well as not to cause him financial hardship…….essentially just another slave in a mans world.

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  8. What we see here in terms of selfish dominance does not reflect the heart of God, but the sinfulness and selfishness of man. In the original wedding vows, the husband pledged to love, honor and keep, (cherish) his bride. “Keep” literally means to protect, hold dear and keep first. Love. Honor. Cherish. It was well understood that men were to be protectors and providers of their wives and children, that upholding those responsibilities was a reflection of their godly character and God-honoring leadership. The world will always say that God is somehow to blame for the self-serving actions of men (and women), but that is never the case.

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  9. Bunkababy: “Throw away women.”

    Yes, this is still prevalent today, and even on another thread, just within the last 24 hours. Not physically or literally throwing them away. But emotionally throwing away.

    In our conversation with Paul Bryce on the “Well done, church leaders…” thread, he came to the conclusion that we were all just a bunch of wounded women, damaged goods, who were not worth his time. And just like that, he tossed us all out.

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  10. So true Bunkababy as I have been studying the religion of Islam as it is infiltrating the western c’hurch with its doctrines. Women are treated as “property,” the same as an “animal,” considered half the “humanity” as a man, and are never to be believed in any given situation (women are all liars), so their word is nothing in comparison to a man.

    I have seen and experienced many a parallel between Islam and the western c’hurches treatment of women. And this is how I know for certain, that Jesus was never a “Baptist!” or an “Assembly of God” member!

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  11. My problem with this topic is that it gives the impression that sex is a husband’s personal right and an obligation on the wife’s part. Sex is treated more about his needs then hers both in the Christian and non-Christian marriages. I haven’t read much discussion on the wife’s sexual needs and there are some cases in marriage where the wife is being deprived sexually as well as emotionally. In 1 Corinthians 7 1-5 it Paul is reminding both the husband and the wife not to deprive the other sexually not just the wife to the husband. That both spouses have a duty to give in to the other’s sexual desires. Neither party is an obedient slave to the other in which they have to just drop whatever they’re doing whenever their spouse demands sex. It’s about serving one needs mutually. God Bless

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  12. Mara said: “In our conversation with Paul Bryce on the “Well done, church leaders…” thread, he came to the conclusion that we were all just a bunch of wounded women, damaged goods, who were not worth his time. And just like that, he tossed us all out.””

    Yes, you are exactly right, Mara. I am absolutely fed up with the low view of women by “godly” men. Christ elevated women!

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  13. Curious Thinker – You are absolutely right! I was fully expecting this book to follow in that same line of thinking. Peace does stress that the wife has needs and desire for sex. She encourages wives to tell their husbands what pleases them. In this, she is far different from some of the other books I have read.

    The only thing that really stuck out was the command language and the husband being responsible for the unity of their marriage. I could see that language used against women.

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  14. Neither party is an obedient slave to the other in which they have to just drop whatever they’re doing whenever their spouse demands sex.

    Only in PORNOGRAPHY, where the woman only exists to satisfy the Urrrrges in the Man’s Arrrreas (as a stand-in for the viewer/reader).

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