What does it mean to “yield authority over one’s body to one’s spouse”?
Theme: Masculine Authority and Responsibility
Length: 2,100 words
Reading Time: 12 minutes
Sexual Authority in Marriage
There has been an intermittently ongoing debate about the interpretation of 1 Corintians 7:3-5.
3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.1 Corinthians 7:3-5 (NKJV)
In the original Greek, the verb, ἐξουσιάζω (exousiazó) translated as “authority” means to actively exercise control over, or to master the object. The words, “over the body” (τοῦ σώματος), means to be master of the body, i.e. to have full and entire authority over the body, to hold the body subject to one’s will.
If I were to put this into profanely crass, but easily relatable language, it would be, “I know how to make you come, and if I want to make you come, then as sure as I’ve got a boner, you’re gonna come as hard and as long as I please! (And you’re gonna shiver and quiver and be grateful for it!)”
I will go a step further to state that it should be the goal of every married person to master their mate’s body in this way. Doing so would require mutual humility and trust.
Controversy over Sexual Authority
Doug Wilson has been taken to the carpet over his interpretation of this passage, specifically about his art of walking a fine line between culture and scripture. A couple Manospherians have done the work of sorting through his stance in the following posts.
- Full Metal Patriarchy: Wilson’s Quadruple-Speak: To Doug Wilson’s Defenders (2021-10-4)
- Christianity and Masculinity: Sexual authority is only for sex and not against sex (2021-10-5)
Deep Strength’s commentary on the passage in question is thus.
“The intent of the passage starts in verse 3 where each spouse to fulfill their marital duty to the other. Thus, verse 4 speaks that each spouse should rightfully give their spouse sex when they desire it. Verse 5 continues along this theme of not depriving each other except for a special situation where both agree to it for spiritual purposes.”
Obviously, this passage of scripture is most pertinent to those couples in which one is raging with desire for a spouse who is not so interested in the cuddly nuptials, and of course, it is the cold-blooded, hard-hearted spouse who would think of it as a dry duty. So DS (and presumably St. Paul as well) is addressing this person specifically. It is appropriate, because this is an all-too-common situation these days, unfortunately.
In response to Wilson’s stance, Deep Strength goes on to write,
“It’s an absolutely contradictory reading of the passage to suggest that husbandly authority over the wife’s body and the wifely authority over the husband’s body means that she should have sex with [her husband] but her authority over [his] body means she can stop [him] from that.”
I fully agree on this point, but Wilson, FMP, and DS are barking up the wrong tree. I’ll explain why in the second point below.
The crux of this debate lies in the differences between (1) what IS, (2) what one Should Do, and (3) the way it Ought to Be. I’ll go into each of these viewpoints and let the readers hash out the details in the comments.
1. What IS
Regular readers are familiar with how husbands and wives sexually defraud each other, and that wives defraud husbands with much greater frequency. I know many readers struggle with this reality, including myself at times. It is what it is.
There’s a big difference between structures of authority in theory, and implementing that authority in practice. Sure, we could say that sexual authority over one’s spouse is a “right” or an “entitlement” that married couples should have, just because 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 says so, and that would be correct. But saying the words “I do” is not a magic cure-all that automatically establishes one’s sexual authority in marriage just because the Bible says that’s how it should be.
The simple fact is that reality does not match theory, because of humans’ fallen nature.
- In reality, individuals yield to the sexual authority of those whom they’re not married to (e.g. adultery, fornication, etc.) and thereby defile themselves within the context of marriage.
- In reality, married people neglect their sexual authority (e.g. wives cutting their hair, gaining weight, “letting themselves go”, etc.).
- In reality, married people abuse their sexual authority (e.g. sexual obfuscation, transactional sex, withholding sex, etc.).
- In reality, most wives will do everything in their power to undermine their husband’s authority.
These are all examples of disobedience and sin, which work against the proper structure of authority outlined in the Bible.
This unavoidable fact of reality is why I wouldn’t say that sexual authority is an “entitlement” of marriage, and calling it a “right” misses the point because this view is self-centered and does not recognize that one purpose of marriage is to glorify God.
Before and after marriage, couples are faced with the task of making the theory, the Biblically ordained structure of authority, including sexual authority, into a reality. This is what Philippians 2:12 means, to “…work out your own salvation…”. The believer has to work through these challenges in order to consolidate his domain — a domain that God intends for us to have if we are faithful and obedient.
Furthermore, God calls us to be obedient, not only out of will or mere mental assent, but also from the heart (Luke 10:27). To me, that means our obedience to the structure of authority in marriage should be visceral.
2. What One Should Do
This is the viewpoint that has received the most airplay by Wilson, his detractors, Full Metal Patriarchy, and Christianity and Masculinity in the posts cited above.
The main point is that one should have sex with one’s spouse whenever he/she desires it, and should not reject the spouse’s advances. The corollary is that one should not leave their spouse disappointed in this area, as this would create a breeding ground for bitterness and resentment at best and adultery at worst. This is the most obvious interpretation of the scripture, and of course it is the right thing to do. However, this poses a significant problem to wives lacking agency, as this would require a willful volition to engage in sexual congress whether or not one is “in the mood”.
Wilson’s detractors (who are mostly complementarians and churched up feminists) are quick to jump on the “willful volition” aspect of this approach, and insist that they cannot be forced to act against their will. To humor this argument for a moment, I’ll agree that it is generally a bad idea to force someone to do something against their will, as this tends to kill the soul of a person. But what Wilson’s detractors cannot seem to fathom is that willing submission to God’s directives brings grace and love which have the effect of softening a person’s heart and bringing them into line with God’s will.
So it would seem that these detractors (who are arguing against the scriptures) are one or more of the following.
- They’re too proud to concede the argument and do more to please their honey hungry husbands.
- They’re too lazy to do the hard work of implementing their willpower.
- They’re stubbornly resisting God’s grace in their marriage.
- They’re afraid to trust God with their marriage.
- They’re unwilling to give God a chance.
- Some combination of the above.
But no matter what their motivations might be, the detractors’ arguments successfully sidestep the topic and crash the debate into a piddly quarrel over structures of authority, and just as we can expect, how that authority reviles gender equahluty and is therefore morally wrong (viz. “misogyny” and “r@pe” according to the Feminist religion).
This concept of sexual authority is based on a military command style of authority in which the wife is considered an equal in command. Of note, a military command style of authority appears prominently in Power vs. Fear ethical systems, and women gravitate towards Power vs. Fear systems.
Furthermore, there is always an underlying assumption that horny husbands are gnawing at the bit to find some way to force their wives to have sex with them against their will. Only the most astute observers will recognize this subtle twist, which is a form of projection. Now, I don’t believe the vast majority of husbands are like this, but are rather wishing and waiting for the flames of feminine passion they received at the beginning of the marriage to reignite somehow. But on the other hand, I suspect that if some husbands were a Chad more dominant, then this would allow them to pass through some of the wives’ Alpha filters, enough to get the bed creaking.
Anyway, if we don’t recognize this derailment then we’ve lost the Frame war.
3. The way it Ought to Be
This is the viewpoint that has been completely absent in the previous discussions.
The idea here is a situation in which the husband and wife are so consumed with desire for one another that they can’t control their sexual urges for each other. They are literally going together at every opportunity, and making opportunity when there is none. Knocking socks on the regular is absolutely necessary for marital sanctification, as this is the essential constitution of a marriage. Sexual attraction and desirability is an important part of this, but not always necessary, especially as the couple grows older.
You probably won’t hear this truth anywhere else, but it is impossible to discuss sanctification without also discussing sex and the stewardship of sexuality. I say this on the basis of the following scripture passage.
3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. 7 For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. 8 Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 (NKJV)
Sanctification, for many married people, requires that spouses have the right to the “ownership” of each other’s bodies, and this naturally includes sexual and reproductive access and the ecstatic joys thereof. How one dresses and being sexually desirable to each other in general is part of that. Verse 4 says, “each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor”. Attraction can be nurtured and developed or else it can be abused through sin or by failing to nurture it. It is the Christian married person’s right and responsibility to control all this. Again, see verse 4, and verse 6 says, “no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter”. Failing to make yourself as comely to your spouse as you can may be taken by the spouse as a form of marital fraud. I’ll appeal to the married reader’s interests as proof.
If the reader will review 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 and the definitions offered in the beginning of this post, then it is apparent that St. Paul is illustrating this ideal state of marriage, and he’s also saying that couples shouldn’t try to resist or undermine this ideal interaction but should instead try to create and sustain it as much as possible.
In the past, I have attempted to describe this concept in terms of “sexual authority”, but this has not gained much traction among readers. I’ll briefly recount this argument.
True authority is defined by the power that one has over others. This power does not necessarily lie in making one do as another says, as by force of will, but rather, it is a power that lies in the spirit of the person (e.g. charisma), such that one naturally gravitates to one’s Frame, and wants to comply. Thus, sexual authority is the visceral power one has over others to be desired in a sexual manner. As such, sexual authority corresponds roughly to the SMV scale, but it is amplified in marriage (e.g. wife goggles).
Charismatic Chads have abundant sexual authority, even over women they’re not married to. The proof is in the prodigious püssy, even though this is a sinful abuse of said authority. Whereas, a husband who won’t work, won’t lift, and resorts to p0rn, and a wife who is crass, disrespectful, and lets herself go, are losing/abusing their sexual authority over their spouse in the marriage. Again, I’ll leave it to the married reader to relate to this sentiment.
The fulfillment of sexual authority that a husband or wife has over their spouse is an ideal for the married person to strive after. Done well, this should usher in sanctification and God’s glory in the marriage. To some, it will come naturally. To most, they will have to make a diligent effort to be obedient to God in order to attain a state of sanctification. Too many will neglect this marital duty altogether, and reap the bitter consequences thereof.
Prince Asbel (at Full Metal Patriarchy) had a conniption when I suggested these ideas (described in Part 3 above) in a discussion at Christianity and Masculinity, saying that this would require one to be sexually desirable to one’s spouse in order to be obedient to God, and that sexual desirability can be lost, thereby rendering one unable to be obedient to God. I disagreed because this is a bad interpretation of my stance. It is bad take because he is assuming that sexual attraction is the central aspect of the relationship and essentially juxtaposes what Ought to Be as a legalistic requirement for what IS, instead of an ideal to shoot for. I invited him to debate the topic, but he declined. In spite of his hard pass, I’ve offered my arguments above, and his response is still welcomed.
- Σ Frame (Jack): Sexual Compatibility is dependent on Sanctification (2020-3-2)
- Σ Frame (Jack): Sanctification and Sexual Compatibility (2020-6-19)
- Σ Frame (Jack): Rights and Responsibilities within Marriage (2022-1-21)
- Σ Frame (Jack): Infidelity is anything short of fidelity (2022-1-24)
- Σ Frame (Red Pill Apostle): Denying sex to one’s spouse is porneia. (2022-1-26)
- Σ Frame (Jack): Something they didn’t expect (2022-3-25)
- Mogadishu Matt: The Matters w/ Matt: Cool Handjob Luke (2022-8-10)