When Can a Woman Say No to Her Husband?

I write a great deal in my essays here about a woman’s obedience, and the good that correction can do for her. I give plenty of detailed instructions and advice on marital spanking. That does not mean there is never a call for a wife to object to a command, or to refuse. Not at all. There are unique and very rare cases when she can, as can anyone under an authority. Those cases are in refusing something which is sin before God, something evil in itself. I’ve been a conscientious objector in life myself, and I know others who have done the same in a way I respect. So for the purposes of teaching headship and submission, it’s necessary to point out there are times when disobedience is mandatory. We have to follow God’s law before man’s.

We can think of life examples which demonstrate the necessity of refusal sometimes. Many of the early Christian martyrs were objectors. The earliest post-New Testament martyr we know about was Polycarp, a very humble and godly man, who refused to worship the Roman Caesar and renounce Christ, and was executed as a result (I recommend reading the ancient account of his martyrdom, his own explanation, and the miracle which occurred). One hears stories about German or Russian officers, during the terrible conflicts of the 20th century, who were ordered to go into a home and slaughter the family inside. Instead, according to accounts, they went inside, shot their gun into the floor repeatedly, and left. In this post-Christian West, there are many conscientious objectors in business, those who refuse to celebrate immorality, even though the law demands they do. Sometimes they have won their battles by refusal to cooperate with evil. I think of the baker or florist who refused to celebrate a same-sex “wedding,” and the public school teacher (who appears in a documentary on the subject), who openly professed Christ in his classroom, and lost his job as a result. There is no authority on earth, no government on earth, who can demand someone commit sin. The subjects of such rulers, may selectively refuse any demand they sin.

That said, it’s important to point out a wife should not go about looking for a reason to refuse her husband. She should not be looking to name something as unethical when really it is not. A woman’s heart should be focused on growing in submission, and on learning that soft, gentle attitude she is to have towards her head. She should be finding ways to help her husband, and spending time in the work it takes to help him. She should have a heart response of “yes sir” to her man, and actively avoid refusing him. She is learning to move as his trusted assistant, as his hands and his feet. The need to ever refuse because of sin is rare, and she will usually know it when she sees it. In over 15 years of marriage, it has never come up for us.

While a wife may refuse anything sinful, I won’t try listing all sins. I do want to make mention of ones that come up in quite a few marriages, and are important to recognize. Firstly, a wife does not need to ever dress in a lewd and vulgar way in public for her husband. He has no right to demand she look like a harlot, or show off her flesh. She may show her body to him in the marriage bed, but her public appearance is modest and plain, not very sensual and certainly not sexual. A man who demands his wife dress sexually in public is demanding that she sin, which she may not do. She has a right to respectfully refuse such dress. A husband can decide on the overall manner of dress she practices, but it needs to be something which is modest and appropriate. His wife is neither a fashion diva nor a whore. Likewise, there are some husbands that try to actually lead their wives into immorality. They pressure them to bring other partners into bed with them, because they are bored, and due to the wicked temptations that play on every man. Such immorality, whether consensual or not, is adultery and is wicked. A wife is obliged to follow God, and must refuse such invitations from a husband.

Some husbands I’ve heard of try and prevent their wives from their obliged religious service. This is either because the woman was foolish enough to marry an unbeliever, one who is very hostile as well, or because the man lost his faith at some point. Worshiping with the brethren is an obligation for the Christian, and no wife could accept a demand she not practice her faith this way. Granted, the husband, who should be one of faith, will be the one who decides which services and when, but she is obliged at least to a regular weekly service, as well as naturally some time to pray and study the Scriptures at home. Similarly, many husbands try and pressure their wives to work outside the home. They want the extra money, and they have no comprehension of the value of the wife in the home. Because Scripture speaks clearly on this subject, and calls the wife to care for the home, a wife has to put her obligation to God before the insistence of her husband. His role is to lead her as a child of God. Not to prevent her from living as a child of God. He oversteps his bounds if he demands she do wrong.

Separation and purity are also a doctrine of the faith, even though many Christians ignore them. Husbands who desire their wives hang out in dens of iniquity are also naturally going outside their legitimate authority. A wife may refuse going out to places such as night clubs, casinos, drug houses, or worldly pagan revelries that call themselves parties. (Galatians 5:21, 1 Peter 4:3, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, Ephesians 5:11, Revelation 18:4) There are some wholesome parties in the world, even among unbelievers, but if drunkenness, drug use, lewdness, immorality would be expected in that kind of setting, then it’s a place she has no reason being anyway. The Christian should avoid even the appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22), and should also not place themselves before temptation if it is hard for them. (1 Corinthians 6:18, Matthew 6:13) The Scripture even teaches us not to place evil things before our eyes. (Psalm 101:3) So unless you enter such a place merely to hand our Gospel tracts, there is no call to enter at all.

You sometimes hear that a wife may refuse intimacy with her husband. In this age where feminism has saturated the churches, this is almost accepted as dogma. Yet the opposite is true. To refuse sex with her husband is itself sin, and would be also for a husband to reject the affections of his wife. Neither partner may refuse the other, and a woman is called to obedience in the bedroom as anywhere else in marriage. It is a husband’s natural right to enjoy his wife sexually. She does not have to feel like it, even though it helps. Some may argue that this is true, but she may still refuse certain acts based on conscience, but this is wrong for basically the same reason. If intimacy is never to be rejected, then the acts that make up intimacy, and form its parts, are not to be refused either. She would need to show that the acts are evil to make such an argument, but they are not. It’s true, many traditionalists will still claim that a wife may respectfully refrain from anal sex with her husband, due to the unnatural character of the act, and its possible harms. The act is absurdly against nature, and I discourage couples from practicing it. However, seeing as it is hard to show it is always evil, and many husbands are willing to mitigate its harms through care and protection, I don’t believe she ought to reject anal either. It is not serious enough to warrant marital friction, or refusal. She should simply explain her concerns to her husband, and ask him to respect that. I believe a loving husband would listen with real consideration. At the minimum he would take it infrequently, and at best respect her desire, and find a better way to treat her.

While I highlight some areas of intrinsic evil, that a wife may legitimately refuse, we need to recognize that she may not refuse simply what she considers poor decisions. No assistant in the world may do so. Most decisions in life amount to judgment calls, with arguments going for either side. She needs to respect her husband’s decision even if she thinks it’s not the right one. She may lovingly advise him. But once he has decided, she needs to accept it, and help him accomplish the goal. Likewise, while matters of morality decide any possible refusal on her part, the husband does decide on the application of said morality in the home. He decides what specifically amounts to modest dress. He decides exactly how separation from the world is practiced. He decides if they go to church once per week or three times. The judgment calls in that arena are his to make also. They are not matters of good or evil, but of drawing lines, and making application. The wife is subject to her husband in these areas.

While refusal of an evil command is a right, we need to know how it is done from the submissive position. As anyone would tell you, a wife’s refusal needs to be done with the heart she has been taught to have — a gentle, meek, and modest heart. She may not command her husband, yell at him, or lecture him. She can gently explain that she may not do something, because it would require she disobey God. She is unable to do that, even though she accepts him as her lord. She might explain why it goes against God. She may have the opportunity to answer questions and explain herself, but that’s it. She gives a simple witness to her faith that way as well. Remember, 1 Peter 3:1-6 teaches that an ungodly husband is won, not by his wife’s words, but by her gentle spirit and her good deeds. If you want to win your husband to the Lord, including ungodly professed believers, show it by your loving and meek spirit, and by doing good to him and to others. It can win his heart.

How would a godly man refuse to follow the unjust command of governing authorities? Here are Polycarp’s words on being commanded to renounce Christ:

“For eighty and six years have I been his servant, and he has done me no wrong, and how can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”

But when he persisted again, and said: “Swear by the genius of Caesar,” he answered him: “If you vainly suppose that I will swear by the genius of Caesar, as you say, and pretend that you are ignorant who I am, listen plainly: I am a Christian. And if you wish to learn the doctrine of Christianity fix a day and listen.” The Pro-Consul said: “Persuade the people.” And Polycarp said: “You I should have held worthy of discussion, for we have been taught to render honour, as is meet, if it hurt us not, to princes and authorities appointed by God. But as for those, I do not count them worthy that a defense should be made to them.”

And the Pro-Consul said: “I have wild beasts. I will deliver you to them, unless you repent.” And he said: “Call for them, for repentance from better to worse is not allowed us; but it is good to change from evil to righteousness.” And he said again to him: “I will cause you to be consumed by fire, if you despise the beasts, unless you repent.” But Polycarp said: “You threaten with the fire that burns for a time, and is quickly quenched, for you do not know the fire which awaits the wicked in the judgment to come and in everlasting punishment. But why are you waiting? Come, do what you will.”


21 responses to “When Can a Woman Say No to Her Husband?”

  1. Thank you for this really important piece. Great analogy using Polycarp’s experience. It’s good for us wives to see that we are to be intentionally obeying our husbands as unto the Lord, first and always and the two should naturally meet. That is to say, we are actively thinking about how we can be righteously serving our husbands but only righteously. We need to behave the way God wants us to behave.

  2. Of course there are many things a husband can command his wife to do where she should disobey him. But is a true Christine marriage when a husband is a true servant leader, a wife’s obedience has no exceptions. A wife must accept that her husband’s judgments rules the family absolutely . Of course she can always raise questions over any decision of her husband makes if she does so meekly and respectfully. But the Lord puts a wife’s husband over her. If she is not sure about the morality of a command she must obey , God will hold the husband accountable , not her if she is obeying her husband. Of course as I said at the beginning, there are things where there is no real question that what is commanded is unchristen.

  3. Uncool Millennial Avatar
    Uncool Millennial

    Can spanking be used as a punishment for refusal to give oral?

    1. Hi Uncool, Thanks for visiting my website. I hear that question from time to time. In a marriage that takes seriously headship and submission, it is very rare that a wife would refuse to give oral. That’s because she is called to be obedient to her husband, and is also required — as her her husband is — never to withhold affection.

      Certainly in theory if she ever refused, she could be spanked. It would be simple disobedience. I’ve never run into that problem though, and I think a husband who has married a submissive wife and has been rightly leading her, won’t see refusal either.

      If a wife has a significant reason why she doesn’t want intimacy at the moment, she can always explain gently to her husband why. Many times he will respect that, and choose to wait. But if he insists, or considers her reason superficial, a submissive wife would never refuse.

      1. There are many who would refuse it — albeit respectfully — because oral is an act against nature. The emphasis on oral concerns me. My husband and I have had our differences, but certainly never on this subject. it doesn’t make sense because the marital relation is ordered to the procreation of life. Nobody could deny that when we divorced the procreation of new life from the marital relationship everything started going downhill. Why, then, this emphasis on oral sex? It cannot produce new life. Therefore, right reason would seem to categorize it as an unnatural act. A Christian wife would be within her rights to refuse to do such an act, as it is against the natural order.

        I feel this borders on the crude, but the penis of a man isn’t supposed to go into a woman’s mouth, or anus, or anything other than her vagina. That’s where it belongs when it is being placed anywhere. The marital relation is ordered to procreation, even if procreation doesn’t actually take place at that time for reasons beyond the couple’s control (God controls it). It would be a contraceptive act ordered solely to nothing but pleasure, and when we make pleasure our end — well, we all know where THAT has led to over the years. Exhaustive comment on that is certainly unnecessary.

        In tradtional Catholic theology, any sexual act other than properly performed intercourse between husband and wife that remains open to the gift of new life is a mortal sin and merits eternal damnation in hell. If one’s wife is Catholic, and the husband is not, and he persecutes her for going against these teachings, then he is persecuting her for her Faith. I for one cannot understand, on a blog such as this with so many important and good teachings, why you fail to see the discrepancy between support of oral sexual actions and support the other good things advocated here. They are not compatible.

        1. Thanks for offering your view, Lisa. From my understanding the Catholic teaching would be that intimacy needs to end in normal intercourse. It would not prohibit oral sex as simple foreplay.

          I do not see that oral sex is clearly out of bounds through Scripture, even though tradition has labelled it as wrong, if done to completion. Marriage in part channels strong sexual passion into a safe and good place, an includes pleasure in one’s spouse. It would be hard to find any measurable harm coming from married couples practicing this act, unlike with immorality, which is observable harmful.

          Oral sex does not fulfill the full purpose of intercourse, but I do not see convincing evidence it is always wrong.

        2. harrymetwho Avatar

          Can a woman say no to her husband? I would say that ultimately, the answer must be yes yes yes. However it terms of the general substance of this excellent website she would do well to consider the benefits of not doing so. Lisa writes that fellatio is unnatural and backs this up with religious dogma to suit her disdain.

          When we were blessed with a baby son, a game evolved whereby I would drape a soft light blanket across him as he lay on the floor. I would do this repeatedly, each time reciting a little rhyme alluding to the game. He would laugh and his arms and legs would flail as if he was being tickled and his excitement and joy were clear. I only had to pick up the blanket for him to grin from ear to ear. It is not a natural thing to repeatedly place a child in light and shade but I did this to share the joy that he experienced.

          Many women will seek to give as much joy to their partners as they are able; they become skilled and take pride in building this god given energetic outburst in their menfolk. To argue that a penis shouldn’t enter a mouth is little different to saying that a tongue or even a finger should not touch a clitoris. If Lisa is not inclined to give such pleasure, which may be a shared act, or even a demonstration of contentment in submission, that is between herself and her husband. Her aversion may have a reasonable basis, but in many wives it represents an unpreparedness to either offer or demonstrate the generosity attendant to being a submissive wife. A more constructive attitude, I would argue, might be to regard a desire (not a willingness) to give pleasure to be a natural way to maintain fidelity. For every woman who prefers to take rather than give, there are plenty ready to give a man what he wants.

          1. Thanks for your comment, and for visiting my discipline website. I agree a good wife would want to give as much joy to her husband as she’s able, including in his sexual pleasure. I believe nearly all households in which headship and submission are taken seriously are also ones in which the wife is sexually submitted to her man. Nearly all practice oral, except a few who abstain for religious reasons.

            I have to comment, the position that Lisa relates is not the oral can never take place, but rather that that the act cannot end that way. That’s because the end goal is procreation, which is what the seed is for. It would have to end by meeting that natural goal.

            I definitely agree that if a wife is not satisfying her man in bed, he will have a tendency to want to find it elsewhere. It would be terribly wrong, but a lack of affection adds that danger, without necessity. She should keep him sexually satisfied.

      2. I forgot also to mention that if the couple is using Natural Family Planning, then they voluntarily abstain from sexual expression of love during the wife’s fertile period. The principle is simple; if my husband were to say, “I cannot do this, I’m being tempted,” then my duty is to joyfully receive him even during my fertile period, and we leave it all in the hands of God, because we must agree mutually to abstain during my fertile time. If he cannot agree to it, then we give it up. But the principle does not change; we simply resume normal marital relations properly ordered firstly to the procreation of life and secondly to mutual assistance.

        The order according to the traditional teachings was like this:
        1, Primary end — the procreation and education of offspring
        2. Secondary end — the strengthening of the union of the spouses
        3. Tertiary end — the remedy for concupiscence

        Since we also look upon matrimony as a Sacrament, the performance of the marital relations is considered the outward sign of the Sacrament. Therefore, to do anything contrary to its ends (in their proper order) is a sacrilege, a desecration of something profoundly holy. We are allowed a wide freedom of enjoyment of the marital union and its delights, but it must always end in the act being properly performed.

        In a way, I think we have it a lot simpler — there aren’t any of these endless debates about this or that, it is very simple, very straightforward, and not at all difficult.

      3. Just because a thing is not explicitly condemned in Scripture does not make it all right. There is another blogger out there whose name I won’t mention who advocates pornography, polygamy and other such things because it either is not explictly condemned in Scripture or was tolerated in the Old Testament. He searches around for Scriptural quotations to back himself up.

        That is why we are quite blessed to also have a teaching Magisterium for a uniform interpretation of Scripture — when each person becomes his own authority, we end up with quite a bit of confusion. It leads to things that are most unwise. Our emphasis should not be on pleasure, but rather on serious thought as to whether or not this is actually right to do and properly ordered to the ends that are obvious to all.

        1. To All: The comment section is not really for the purpose of long debates, so I’ll just end it right here. If you want long strings of comments debating something, you’ll have to see it on social media, or somewhere else. I also invite you to go to the About page on this website and read the short section about Comments, which gives an idea of what they are for. If you disapprove of domestic discipline and just want to argue against it (and this is not aimed at Lisa), you should go find something you actually DO believe in, and support it. But your comments will rarely go through here, except once in a while, when I want to demonstrate that common attacks on wife spanking are quite weak, and exactly how they are weak. I allow a few reasoned and respectful negative comments too, but never long debates.

          Dear Lisa, I truly appreciate the thought you have put into this subject. However, you do not provide evidence that oral is intrinsically evil, though you point to the Catholic tradition, and open up the door to its being wrong through non-biblical knowledge and inferences. I’d say my point stands — biblically speaking it’s hard to find any basis to say it is sinful in and of itself.

          I fully agree we come to knowledge on various subjects the Bible does not speak about, and sometimes we come to a confident conclusion that way. However, I don’t see how you can prove, through extra-biblical reasoning, that oral is always wrong. You have your opinion, but I see nothing to prove it is always a sin. So why treat it as such?

          As far as the subjects you brought up though, we do not have to rely on extra-biblical knowledge — the Bible clearly shows them to be wrong. Polygamy is shown to be wrong in the New Testament — Jesus defined marriage as one man and one woman for life, and interprets Genesis infallibly with this meaning. The apostle teaches that only death ends a marriage, and that one is an adulterer to take a spouse before his own spouse dies. So polygamy is out the window today. The Bible also rules out porn — it teaches we should be pure in our mind and heart, and also teaches that even to lust after a woman is adultery. Hence, the Bible condemns porn in practice.

          The Catholic Magisterium is not perfect as Scripture is. The Magisterium certainly contains many true teachings, and should be learned from, but it contradicts Holy Scripture and over the centuries has contradicted itself multiple times. I view as weighty the teachings of the early Church, and of saints throughout the ages, but their testimony is not without error.

          Marriage includes husband and wife taking delight in each other, enjoying each other’s bodies. It is also for the purpose of abating what would be harmful lust outside of marriage In both of these, I see sex for pleasure as fitting into marriage’s purpose, even if it does not reach the full end of the act.

          You are free to disagree, but I am unconvinced, and do not view the Magisterium as without error. They simply offer their informed opinion.

  4. Long Time Practitioner Avatar
    Long Time Practitioner

    My wife is very accomodating at all times. There have been extenuating circumstances that have made us both less than accessable to each other. We work around it. She has been extra attentive sexually over the last week because she has to go out of town to help a family member for at least 2 weeks and possibly longer. I know you do not approve of anal but she even surprised me by presenting herself fully lubed in her bottom ready if I was so inclined. I did not fully take advantage in that manner but did gently use the offer in conjunction with other enjoyment. She has not required much hard discipline in some time and been a model wife in every way. So if she does need to say no sometimes I am going to be sensitive to her needs. We have it good and want to keep it that way.

  5. As Christians, the Bible should be our ultimate authority, which would make its reading vital. The book of Song of Solomon is a poetic study where oral sex is enjoyed. While it does not mandate it, a husbands may require it of his wife.

    1. Hello Mia, Thank you for your added insight. I agree a husband is fully within his right to practice oral sex, or to insist on it. I also find it very selfish for a woman to think to refuse, when she should want to please her husband and make him satisfied.

      The Song of Songs (or Solomon) does contain a great deal of sensual, and even sexually suggestive language. Hebrew readers would point out that in the original language the book is even MORE suggestive than in English. However, it does not specifically portray oral sex or endorse it, despite the fact one might see it suggested.

      I think it is a wonderful book to show, among other things, the delight that husband and wife take in each other, including in their partner’s body, visually, sensually, and sexually. In the context of marriage, sexual union is a great reward for them, as well as a reward for all of society. Outside of marriage it is poisonous, and destructive.

  6. Does any one husband spank their wives because they think she needs to be reminded what her place is as a submissive to his will. I got one of those today .just over his knee bare bottom with his hand. I get them ever now and then he says they help keep me on my toes and I guess it is a good way to keep me in my place. I am always more obedient and more attentive after a spanking so I guess that is another reason. Just wondering if any other wives receive reminder spankings

    1. Hello Jan, I don’t give that kind of spanking as a general rule, but I have given them occasionally if I think they are needed. If I see she is slipping in general in her submission, or has had a number of minor, usually non-spanking infractions recently, I will give a reminder spanking to her. They are to help her remember her submissive role, and her responsibilities. They teach her to respond immediately to me and with obedience. Like other spankings I give, I do see results, and I know she is more careful in the future to be submissive and responsible. I don’t have a particular formula for how to give that kind of spanking, but they are usually not of the harshest variety.

  7. Thank you they are never of the harsh variety. But he never gives anything but hard spankings my bottom is always sore next day and I don’t sit comfortably either but I am more submissive and do extra things to please him. If he wants anal I make sure im lubed well so he can enter me without much resistance.

  8. My apologies, I am no bible scholar. Only, I’ve been taught to interpret it a certain way. For example, Song of Solomon chapter 2 verse 3 describes in beautifully poetic language what is a tree and its fruit, these being a euphemism for oral sex.

  9. my husband says that the purpose of sex is not just reproduction, he also says that it is a wife’s obligation to satisfy her husband sexually, a wife also serves to give pleasure to her husband, and that is why she should not refuse oral sex or anal sex, even if this is not so pleasant for her.

    And to the woman God said, “I will greatly multiply her pain; and thy desire shall be for thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” genesis

    that is, the woman’s pleasure must be to give pleasure to her husband

    1. Hello Ninna, Thanks for your comment. I know many husbands use anal on their wives, and don’t deny its effectiveness in instilling submission. However, I discourage its practice, as it is filthy, goes contrary to the body’s design, and is linked to illness and injury. I’m not interested in any long debates here, as it has been briefly discussed elsewhere on the site. It’s neither wise, nor protective, for a husband to practice this with his wife.

      The curse in Genesis 3 is speaking of conception and childbirth, not of buggery. “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
      In pain you shall bring forth children; (Genesis 3:16). And of course man’s headship over his wife is not simply a result of the fall, which brought both a woman’s rebelliousness, and a man’s more overbearing rule.

      Man has been head since creation, because he was formed first, and woman came from man. The curse made man’s toil harder and less productive, and woman’s labor painful and dangerous.

  10. I don’t think a wife can ever disobey her husband. God made us to serve our husbands and it’s very sinful to disobey what he tells you to do. I was on a chat thing a little while ago and you would not believe how many wives thought it was ok to say that they would not obey their husbands if he told them to do something they didn’t want to do. They were supposed to be all Christian wives who obeyed their husbands but they really weren’t. The Bible says we have to obey our husbands in all things it doesn’t say if we want to. I think God will be very angry with these women and I think their husbands should not let them talk this way. I don’t think we can ever disobey our husbands except if it breaks God’s laws

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