1 Corinthians 7:1-5 has been a standard text that people like myself reference when arguing against feminists like Sheila Gregoire. Sheila is one among many feminists seeking to give wives an excuse for not giving their husbands what 1 Cor. 7:3 describes as their “conjugal rights”. While Sheila acknowledges that verse 5 clearly forbids both spouses from depriving one another, she had to devise some way around it. At least as far back as 2012, she has had this to say (bolding is mine):
First, let’s note what this verse does not say. Paul did not write:
Do not refuse one another, except by mutual consent and for a time…
He wrote do not deprive.
Deprive is not the same as refuse. I believe many people interpret this verse to mean refuse. Are women obligated to have sex every time a man wants it? Are we ever allowed to refuse?
Well, let’s look more closely at deprive.
If I were to say to you, “do not deprive your child of good food,” what am I implying? I’m saying that your child should get the food that is commonly recognized for good health: three healthy meals a day, with some snacks. I am not saying that every time your child pulls at your leg and says, “Mommy, can I have a bag of cheetos?” that you have to say yes. You are not depriving your child of good food by refusing a request for Cheetos.
Deprive implies that there is a level of sexual activity that is necessary for a healthy marriage.What Does 1 Corinthians 7:5–Do Not Deprive Each Other–Really Mean? [https://tolovehonorandvacuum.com/2012/10/what-does-1-corinthians-7-do-not-deprive-each-other-really-mean/]
More recently, this year in her new book The Great Sex Rescue, Sheila repeated this same assertion.
A Closer Look at “Do Not Deprive”
Let’s take a step back and ask, What is God really asking of us in 1 Corinthians 7:3-5?(…)what does it mean not to deprive, and what is it that we’re being asked not to deprive our spouse of?
Saying “Do not deprive” is not the equivalent of saying “Do not refuse.” When we say “Do not deprive,” we’re saying, “Someone has a need that has to be fulfilled.” But this is not the same thing as saying, “A person gets to have whatever they want.” God made us with a need for food. If your child asks, “Can I have Cheetos?” and you refuse because lunch is in an hour, you are not depriving her of food. The child’s need is for a healthy, balanced diet, not to eat anything she wants, any time she wants.
Likewise, the sexual need that God created us with is not for intercourse whenever we want or however we want. It’s for a healthy, mutual, fulfilling sex life, and sometimes that means saying no for a variety of reasons.The Great Sex Rescue, 2021, Pages 173-174
As you can see, Sheila is quite attached to this assertion, but it remains just that. An assertion. Notice I did not call it an “argument”, and that’s because she argued for nothing. She claims that “Do not deprive” is not the equivalent of saying “Do not refuse,” but she never proves that. While we frequently use these two words interchangeably, Sheila insists they mean distinctly different things. Yet if one simply examines the word “deprive” in the dictionary, what do you find?
deprive [ dih-prahyv ]https://www.dictionary.com/browse/deprive#
verb (used with object), de·prived, de·priv·ing.
to remove or withhold something from the enjoyment or possession of (a person or persons): to deprive a man of life; to deprive a baby of candy.
Dictionary.com explicitly refutes Sheila’s definition of ‘deprive’. Even her ludicrous comparison between a husband’s sexual desires and a child’s desire for Cheetos is debunked by this definition: “to deprive a baby of candy.” Clearly babies do not need candy, they merely want candy. And yet, to remove/withhold candy from a baby is still an act of deprivation. The word can be used either way, as can the word ‘refuse’.
In light of this, when we see 1 Corinthians 7:5 say, “Do not deprive one another,” its meaning is clear. Neither spouse in a marriage is permitted to refuse sex to the other. This interpretation doesn’t simply rest on the use of the word deprive, of course. Verses 1-5 flow together in an unbroken line of thought. Men and women are commanded to marry because of temptation to sexual sin in verses 1-2. Verse 3 follows up by describing access to your spouse’s body for sexual intercourse as a conjugal “right”. Not a reward or something you must first earn- it is a right, I.E. something each spouse is entitled to receive from the other. Verse 4 fortifies this by saying that both the husband and wife must have sex with each other because they don’t have authority over their own body, but their spouse does. Verse 5’s condemnation of depriving your spouse of sex except in highly exceptional circumstances is the final nail in the coffin.
That is how we can know how the word “deprive” is being used. The word in itself does not carry some special meaning that redefines what came before it. On the contrary, what came before it defines the meaning of that word. Sheila’s bare assertion ignores Paul’s flow of thought, ignores the interchangeable meanings of “deprive” and “refuse”, ignores how the words are defined in the dictionary, and hence, she doesn’t have a single leg to stand on.
Then again, why worry about such things when you think you know better than the Bible anyway? (From pages 177-178)
Rescuing and Reframing
- Instead of saying, “Do not deprive your husband,” say, “Sex is a vital part of a healthy marriage relationship that you are both meant to enjoy.”(…)
- Instead of saying, “You do not have authority over your body; your spouse does,” say, “God wants sex to be a mutual, loving experience.”
- Instead of saying, “The only activity that is to break regular sexual relations is prayer and fasting for some specific cause, and this to be only by mutual consent for a very limited time,” say, “Our sexual needs are very important ones, but they are not the only ones. Show love to your spouse by caring for all of their needs.”
Interesting approach from a woman who wrote a book with the subtitle, “…How to Recover What God Intended” by telling people not to say what God himself said.