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How Often Should Married Couples Have Sex?

In my last post I commented on 1 Corinthians 7:1-16. In the first half of the passage Paul answers a query as to whether or not married couples should completely abstain from sex. In Roman culture, sex within marriage was not primarily about pleasure, it was about procreation. For men pleasure was pursued outside of marriage. However, for Paul, marriage was the only appropriate context for sex. Paul goes on to argue that, except for brief periods of prayer, couples should not abstain from sex, and to each spouse he grants sexual rights to the other's body.

Paul never gets specific, though. How often should married couples have sex? Part of me doesn't even want to attempt to discuss the question. I'm a man, and while I know how often I'd like to have sex, I don't know what the sexual experience of women is like. It seems likely to me that it's a much more deeply personal and vulnerable activity, having another person inside of you. Also, I think we need to appreciate that Paul's answer, that both the husband and the wife have ownership was a deeply counter-cultural statement that empowered women. Women were the sexual property of their husbands, and now he made their husbands their property.

Obviously, too, there is no one size fits all answer to this question. Drive varies by age, time of year, how long you've been married, time of day, stress levels, and a myriad of other factors. However, it is usually the case that one spouse has more drive than the other. How do you navigate that?

First, owning the other's body means that you have power over them, that you have rights. How did Jesus use his rights? He laid them down to serve the other. Ethics are all about how you use the power in your relationships for the good of the other. In this case, I believe that the individual with more drive should bear the brunt of the sacrifice and lay down their right to have sex with their spouse. Of course the person with less drive should, in love, make every effort to be accommodating, and like Paul, I would suggest that long stretches without sex are not advisable. However, I still believe the onus is on the person with the greater drive to lay down their rights for the sake of their spouse and in that way follow the example of Jesus who gave up all for our sake.


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