Skip to content

Do You Need Sex?

The way people talk in our age, you get the impression that sex is both a human right and need. But is it? Do You Need Sex?

Recently in an online forum I’m a part of concerning men who are recovering from sexual addictions, a woman asked if she could expect her husband to be faithful even if she wasn’t having sex with him. For context, no one on the forum knew her husband, so she wasn’t asking for an opinion about his integrity or progress in recovery. Rather, she was asking more generally if a husband’s faithfulness is dependent on a wife’s willingness to keep him sexually satisfied. 

Some Christian marriage advice prescribes sex a certain number of times per week as an antidote to sexual temptation.

One Christian book recommends sex the night before a husband leaves on a business trip so he will be adequately satisfied while away.

In many dating relationships, one partner may worry that if she is not ready or willing to have sex, her partner will leave. 

One Christian man committed to abstinence until marriage told me his girlfriend felt he must not truly love her, because she believed if he did, he wouldn’t be able to keep his hands off her sexually. 

Under all these is the toxic falsehood that everybody needs sex all the time. Or, more times than not, the lie is that all men need sex, and if they don’t get it, they’ll go elsewhere. 

Here’s the reality: You don’t need sex. You never have and you never will. I mean, stop and think for a moment: If you don’t have water, you’ll die after only a matter of days. If your oxygen supply cuts off, your brain will be irreversibly damaged within five to ten minutes. But if you don’t have sex, what happens? At worst, you’ll feel an intense desire for sex. If you’re a man, you may eventually experience a nocturnal emission. What else? Eventually the intensity of your desire will dissipate. That’s all.

Sex within marriage is a wonderful gift, designed for procreation, unity, and joy, but this does not mean that a person can’t live without it. 

In fact, I’d like to suggest that if you believe you need sex, you will never be able to be a truly good lover. 

Why not? 

Because love is about self-giving, and you cannot give yourself fully while you’re grasping for what you “need.” 

Someone might argue, “But isn’t sex about mutual self-giving? Can’t two people give to each other at the same time?” 

Absolutely, yes! I believe this is what sex is meant to be, and this vision sets before us a goal to which every married couple can aspire. But if one or both partners are approaching sex from a posture of “I need this from you,” then they will not be able to offer themselves fully to each other as gift. Again, you cannot offer someone a gift freely while grasping for what you need from them. 

At the end of the day, believing sex is an individual right and need reduces people to animals and sex to an animalistic instinct that must be obeyed.

God made us for more than this. He made us for greater freedom than this, greater singleness, greater love, greater marriage, and yes, greater sex than this. 

Understanding that you don’t need sex is not prudish or “sex negative.” Rather, it means you can honor your own desire for faithfulness from your spouse, and it means you can learn to submit your own sex drive to a higher calling—the calling to love as Jesus loves—whether in singleness, celibacy, or marriage.  

Question: What does this article bring up for you? Is it encouraging, discouraging, challenging, or something else? 

For you,

Josh

Want to hear more this week? Check out the latest Becoming Whole podcast; Moving Beyond Marital Manipulation

22 thoughts on “Do You Need Sex?”

    1. Thanks for reading and for your honest response. I’m curious which parts of the article specifically you disagree with? I hope I did not give the impression that sex is not an important component in marriage. It is. But that is different than it being a human need. My hope is to communicate that there’s a difference between the sexual relationship between husband wife being an important gift each spouse gives freely to the other vs. sex being a need that people grasp for or demand from one another, whether inside or outside the marriage relationship.

    2. Well,

      the part I disagree with is not giving the biblical principles, as Michael brought up below.

      Sure, you don’t die without it. But a marriage does. Also, I don’t agree that it’s solely a gift, it’s fundamentally a responsibility. Also – yes, it’s a human need., otherwise men wouldn’t break their necks looking at lovely women. God wired men with eyes and women with curves, and we all know why.

      1. Thanks for your follow up. I can certainly understand and appreciate your comment: “Sure, you don’t die without it. But a marriage does.” I can see your point, particularly if we’re talking about a husband and wife growing cold toward one another or one withholding physical intimacy from the other with a desire to hurt or control the other. From my experience, I’d wonder if there were other relational issues that preceded this kind of sexual divide, and if so, the antidote would not be sex alone.

        However, there are also other reasons a couple may be going through that would call for a season of abstinence (e.g. prolonged illness, when one spouse is deployed, healing from past wounds, restoration from marital betrayal, etc.). These are very difficult situations for sure, but I maintain that, by the grace of God, husbands and wives can work through these seasons of abstinence by growing in other areas of intimacy and even draw nearer to each other in the process.

    3. In general I agree with you. You won’t die without it. But, I’m sure you are familiar with 1 Corinthians 7:1-7. I wonder how you would handle those principles? Paul seems to imply rather strongly that if deprived of sex for too long, there is a real temptation for sex outside of marriage. This is probably due to sin, but seeing as we ARE in a sinful state, there may be some truth to the idea that sexual release is needed in some way at some times. Food for thought.

      1. Great question, Michael. Thanks for bringing this up, as it is a passage that is often pointed to as a case in point for the importance of couples having regular sex in order that one or the other won’t be tempted to stray. However, I think this misses the larger, more striking points, Paul is making. First, to Paul’s audience one of the most alarming points Paul is making here is that not only does a husband have authority over his wife’s body (that was largely agreed upon in the first century Greco-Roman world), but that the wife also has authority over her husband’s body. This would have been shocking to his audience. Among other things, it highlights to that audience that the husband has no right to take his sexual desire elsewhere because his body is not his own. Second, after Paul encourages husbands and wives to “come together again [after abstaining for the purpose of prayer], so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (7:5), Paul adds quickly that he writes this as a concession not as a command. In other words, he is acknowledging that a good sexual relationship between husband and wife can be a help in marital fidelity, but it is not the highest good nor Paul’s goal for them. Lastly, it would also be fair to say that Paul would not have viewed sex as a cure to a lack of self-control, immaturity, lust, etc. because he writes all this as a single man and then proceeds to encourage those who are widowed to remain single if they can. Looking at the cultural and literary context, I’d suggest it’s pretty clear Paul does not believe “sexual release is needed in some way at some times.” What do you think, Michael?

    4. I don’t agree. Many men have encountered testicular and prostate issues by lack of sex/emissions. We were designed to have a form of release. I knew of a man who ended up literally dying because he refused to masturbate to relieve his “testicular tension” so-to-speak.

      1. I have never heard of men encountering prostate issues because they didn’t have sex, and I’m skeptical, but I would be interested to learn more. Could you provide a source or reference?

      2. That’s the reason God designed nocturnal emissions, to naturally provide the release. I suppose if someone’s body was short-circuited and not working that way as it’s supposed to, assistance might be required, but I tend to think these stories fall in the urban legend category.

    5. I guess I have to disagree with major parts of this article. I agree you won’t die physically from being denied sex, so using your definition, it is not a need. But do all needs cause physical death when you take them away? The need for love, safety, shelter, etc. are truly needs too. If you don’t love a child and are harsh with them, you cause damage to them. If you deny someone shelter, they become ill. If someone lives in an unsafe environment, they begin to develop distrust and fear.

      I believe sex falls between a need and a desire, and here’s why. God created us with specific body parts meant for sexual reproduction and pleasure. And HE created those desires to be very intense, in most people. This is not some nice thing we pick up like a hobby. There is a physical/biological and mental component to sex. It’s in your face, just like not getting enough food. Hormones all working overtime regardless of whether or not you take an ascetic worldview on needs vs. desires. You won’t die from a small diet of water and bread, but you will suffer malnutrition. You won’t die from lying on a hard floor like medieval monks, but you will suffer arthritis.
      I found out on my honeymoon that my wife hated sex. So my “gift” to her is to struggle every day for the last 30 years to kill any desire for sexual intimacy. If I endulge the desire, it leads to frustration and rejection. It’s the difference between living and thriving. I am physically alive but required to be at war with this good thing that God created in me. I feel like I had to lobotomize myself just to avoid sinning. She said once I should look at sex as a nice, occasional dessert, like frosting on a cake. I said who eats cake without frosting once every decade? If all this life is about is surviving, how pitiful is that? How ironic it is to be married, but lonely and asexual.

      1. Hi Louis, I was moved by your examples of how there are needs that don’t kill you if unmet, but that will still harm you. That is such an important point and really valuable when considering this topic. Good, good point. Thank you for bringing that up. You are right that life is about more than surviving, so well said. Thank you also for sharing your own experience with your wife. It sounds like that has been a source of great sorrow and distance between the two of you, and of course it would be. I had in mind as I wrote the many stories of spouses who believe they are entitled to sex, and who approach the marriage bed with little to no regard for their husband or wife’s feelings. But the opposite can also be true: a spouse can deny or withhold sex with little to no regard for their husband or wife’s feelings as well. Looking at my article from your context, I wish I’d written with more sensitivity to people like you in marriages where sex is absent or a very minimal part of the relationship. My brother, thank you for taking the time to read and reply so thoughtfully.

    6. As one of my beloved Pastors told me years ago,” You won’t die but you’ll be frustrated at times. As a single man all my life my sex with women ended in 1992.Also being in recovery and good accountability, healthy Godly relationships with single and married couples have helped me. I’m certainly tempted as any man is. Sex is a gift from God not a right for me to have just because I feel like it. Lastly I also realize sex before marriage has long lasting consequences. It’s a hard lesson to learn but being a Believer isn’t easy either. Great article! Encouraging

      1. Hi Paul – thank you for bringing up the importance of community for those who are single or not able to have sex within marriage for other reasons. We may not need sex, but we do need relationship, comfort, love, belonging, etc. Keep walking with Jesus, brother, and thank you for letting me be part of your journey.

    7. I think as I read in this article it’s selfish for a husband or wife to withhold sexual expression from a husband or wife without purpose or goal of coming around to an agreement. If there is truama and should be willing to be dealt with so that they can enjoy that aspect of marriage because sex is what consummated marriage back in the day so if there is no sex then there was honestly not a need to get married they would do well as just friends.
      Also if the husbands body belongs to the wife then that almost means that there is an aspect of saying hey I don’t wanna have sex but since you asked yes we can do something vice versa for women with men. It doesn’t need to be all the time but to withhold sex from a partner i may actually call it a sin because it’s a form of power and control but if we are in a relationship that is self giving we are supposed to release control and trust our spouse to be gentle with us but this is where counselling comes in and conversations about SEX before you get married so you don’t go into marriage expecting something sexually that will never happen. No we do not need sex but I do not believe withholding sex from a partner is loving AT ALL especially when the person doesnt try to at least work on it with their spouse. That doesn’t give the other spouse the right to sin though. There are others ways to create intimacy that could lead to feeling safer with sex.

      For single people yes we can live without sex. For both men and women there are nocturnal emissions that happen (looks different for women) and things like working out and listening to good music can create that same sense of orgasm and release we are just so used to release coming sexually that we forget there are other forms of release that bring similar feelings.

      I would like you do a more in depth look on this topic scripturally because no one needs sex but we would be re missed to dismiss it from humanity as a whole because GOD obviously thought it was important which is why Satan attacks it so much and so should we

      1. Hi Mariah, thank you for your comments! I’m so glad you shared what you did, and I agree with you. It was not my aim to come across as promoting a sexless marriage, nor to suggest it is loving for spouses to withhold sex from one another indefinitely. Sex is meant to be a good and vital part of marriage–even an embodiment of the marriage covenant. I wrote what I did because I am aware that there are men (and some women) who treat sex as something owed to them, and who treat their wives like the husband’s failure to resist outside sexual temptation is the wife’s fault because she is not giving him what he wants sexually. I do not mean by this that a wife has a blank check to withhold sex from her husband out of spite or control. My hope is that husbands and wives will approach their sexual relationship as just that, their relationship–and so something that calls for care, giving and receiving, growing together, communication, trust, forgiveness, the grace of God, etc.

        I also wholeheartedly agree with you that God views sex as very important, which is why it is attacked so much by the enemy.

        I hope this reply helps. Again, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. They help me think critically and to know how my words are being received.

    8. This article addresses the idea of freedom from sex, which is not easy. It is part of conversion, to graduate from mammal to angel. It takes a long time. One can’t do it without grace.

      I always felt I should be married (I was for 30 years) because I could never get through a year without unsolvable temptation. But Jesus, says don’t make “I was tempted” your excuse for the sin of lust. Resisting lust is difficult but necessary. The Kingdom is not about flesh nor sex.

      Many people in modern times tasted the sweet poison of lust (I would not add “too soon”) and have no other ‘bias’. Once you have the taste of sex, one can think there is no other universe that can exist. Persons who do not have the attachment, never tasted the poison to begin with. Rare folks.

      A holy friend gave me a suggestion. When the body wants to “act up”, is being lured and chased by desire: look up, and in the awareness of faith, and with calm, ask God the Father to embrace you.

      This solution assumes God (has the power and ability) to embrace me in such a way that the flesh will recede.

      God can do anything. But the creature doesn’t yet know this. When sex appears, the creature has deeply programmed it’s self, to understand, only the creature can work it out: its a bluff of self-reliance, instead of fathoming God’s actual intervention.

      God is the deciding factor for victory and only He can give the gift of freedom. We don’t look up; that’s the problem. : )

      Look up!

      1. Hi jst – Thank you for your comments. I appreciate much of what you shared here about looking up and trusting that God can in fact embrace us in a way that can actually mitigate our desire for lust. One point of disagreement I have that I believe is important to address, however, is that Christianity never teaches that we “graduate” from being “mammals” to becoming “angels.” Rather, Christianity teaches that to be a human being is to be body and spirit. The incarnation highlights God’s great love of the body, and on the cross, Jesus assumed sin and death into His body so that our bodies might be saved through Him. So as we “look up” in dependence on God, we do so not to disconnect from our bodies, but to allow God’s Spirit to give life to our mortal bodies (Romans 8:11). Thank you again for reading, and may God continue to meet you powerfully as you seek Him.

    9. I am seeing a lot of false dichotomy between body and spirit/soul in this article and some posts. We aren’t just mammals/animals (with the implication of being sinful for being that), we are body AND soul, and God made it that way. We will have new bodies in Heaven, we won’t be disembodied spirits with harps, freed from our flesh as is our actual flesh is sinful. That is Gnosticism and Greek philosophy, and it was the first heresy of the church age. We were not intended to see death nor the division of our bodies and souls; that is a result of the fall.

      God created sex, and he created mankind with a desire for it. Our flesh is not evil, and not meant for asceticism and harsh treatment of the body, which Paul says in scripture is useless in fighting the sin nature. The good gift of sex is meant to be enjoyed by God’s children and he is the author of it. If your gift is to be single and not have sexual desire, that is good too. But our needs go beyond mere ascetic bare minimum perpetuation of our flesh, as if you could divide our bodies and souls. We are one unified whole, body and soul.

      1. Rightly and beautifully said, Louis. Thank you. But could you point to the parts of my post where you see a false dichotomy between body and spirit/soul? I work hard to avoid such a dichotomy, and I don’t think I’ve done that here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.