Does My Spouse’s Body Belong To Me?

does my spouses body belong to me

I was reading an article by J over at Hot, Holy, Humorous yesterday and it sparked an idea.  While talking about respect, she referenced the following passage:

Because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another. (1 Corinthians 7:4-5)

Apparently, this passage gets some traction around the comment section of marriage blogs.  Usually, not in a positive way.  It’s one of those bludgeon verses that some people club their spouse over the head with when there’s a lack of intimacy. It can easily be interpreted as “you can’t deny me intimacy, your body is mine!”

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

I don’t think this is the intention of this passage.  Note that the language always points to the one giving, not receiving.  There is no command to the husband that he owns the wife’s body.  There is no command to the wife to demand the husband’s body.  Rather, the verses remind the giving spouse that their body is under the authority of the receiving spouse.  The giving spouse is to yield their body to that authority.

This yielding is an act of love, a gift of grace to your spouse.  It should not be seen as a begrudging surrender of rights or bodily autonomy.  Rather, it is a sign of trust and an act of kindness.  The receiving spouse does not take the other’s body by force or through undue persuasion.  Instead, the giving spouse reaches out in love to serve the other through physical touch and intimacy.  

Do what you do cuz that’s what you do

do what you do cuz that's what you do quote

In our family, we are firm believers that I am to treat others the way I’m supposed to, because I’m supposed to.  We don’t treat others based on how they treat us or how they act.  This can easily apply here.  The giving spouse yields their body to the authority of the other out of love and commitment, not because the other demands it.

I will sometimes joke with Keelie about this passage.  Maybe I’ll grab her backside and in my cheesiest movie voice say “Your butt belongs to me!”  But truly, it’s only mine because she has given it to me.  I would never take her body without her willingly giving it to me.  

Honestly, I wouldn’t want it any other way.  Her freely giving her body over to my authority is a beautiful act of kindness, grace, and love.  How much mutual submission, respect, and love could there be if I had to demand her physical affection?  How much trust would I feel if she took me without my consent? What kind of affection would I be able to offer her if she insisted it was her right to take from me?

Can it even be called affection then?

No.  It is only through the mutual giving of each other’s bodies to one another that we truly live out this passage.  We both give, and we both receive.  No one takes, and nothing is taken.

So back to the question

Does my spouse’s body belong to me?  I’ll answer with a question the way Jesus often did – have you given your body to your spouse?

What about you?  Have you yielded your body over to your spouse?  Do you have any nuance to add to my take on this passage?  Keep an eye out for an article I’ll be writing soon about how this ties into respect in marriage.

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15 Responses

  1. Well said!! This sums it all up:

    “Honestly, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Her freely giving her body over to my authority is a beautiful act of kindness, grace, and love. How much mutual submission, respect, and love could there be if I had to demand her physical affection? How much trust would I feel if she took me without my consent? What kind of affection would I be able to offer her if she insisted it was her right to take from me?”

    1. Thanks Stu! It’s interesting you pulled that particular quote, because it wasn’t in my outline. It kinda just came out as I was writing! Right from the gut, I suppose. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  2. I’ll be interested to see your post on mutual respect because that’s how we’ve applied this scripture. He respects how he grabs me because I have some past trauma. So, even though my body is his, his hands are mine. I ask that his hands only touch things in certain situations that won’t trigger bad memories. In turn, I give and receive while taking other things into consideration that are important to him.

    1. Awesome insights Bonny! I know Austin shared with me that he needed to add those concepts into a post at some point. Respect is key in your marriage. I completely understand past abuses and other scenarios that cause us to feel bad when touched a certain way. I am glad you and your husband have communicated those different touches to one another and respect each other! That is certainly something that others struggle with. We’ll be sure to add a follow up article to this one. 😀

    2. I didn’t think about that angle when writing this, Bonny. It’s a good thing to keep in mind though, and it’s a great application of the point I was hoping to make. Thanks for the input!

    1. Scott,
      Could you clarify what you mean? My main point is that you don’t own your spouse’s body. You have authority, but not ownership. It’s the responsibility of the one UNDER authority to yield to that authority. It’s not the responsibility of the one IN authority to enforce that authority. That would be “lording it over them,” right?

      In reading Kaite’s article, I agree with her. I’m not sure where you think we interpret the verses differently.

      1. Hi Austin,
        Thanks for asking for clarification.

        You said, “There is no command to the husband that he owns the wife’s body.”

        No, there isn’t a direct command, but I was saying I think it’s inferred or implied; it’s indirect.

        For example, if Paul says we don’t own our body, then who owns it? Does it mean it doesn’t belong to anyone? No, his point is it belongs to our spouse. Maybe that’s what you meant and I misunderstood or misread. That could definitely be the case!

        1. This passage doesn’t speak towards ownership, but rather authority. Paul doesn’t say, “the husband doesn’t own his body,” but rather that he doesn’t have authority over it. There’s no inference here because it directly follows with “but the wife does.” Both statements are about authority. As a married couple, we don’t OWN our spouse’s body, that’s slavery. We have authority over each other’s body, and even then we don’t have the right to enforce that authority. Rather, it’s up to each to yield to the other’s authority. This is not slavery but mutual, consensual submission.

          As to who OWNS the body, 1 Cor. 6:19-20, Romans 12:1-2, and Romans 6:12-14 tell us that our body belongs to God, both through his purchase of us at a price and our giving it over to him willingly.

          In my understanding, authority does not necessarily include ownership, and the 1 Cor. 7 passage does not use the word “own” or similar language.

  3. Hi Austin,
    Yes, you’re right, it’s about authority; I should have used that word instead! Thanks!

    The only problem though is if you use those verses you quoted and apply them to 1 Cor 7 – which it seems you’re doing – then you have to say Paul’s point is our bodies belong to Jesus. And that’s not what he’s saying.

    1. No, that’s not what I’m doing at all. I’m not saying, or implying, that we should apply the context of 1 Cor. 6, Rom. 6 & 12 and import them into 1 Cor. 7. To the contrary, I’m pointing out the difference in the two contexts.
      Again, Paul has nothing to say about ownership in this passage. I was answering your question “if Paul says we don’t own our body, then who owns it?” This was simply to illustrate the point that ownership isn’t addressed in the 1 Cor. 7 passage.

  4. As for ownership, yes, a wife is her husband and vice versa. She cant use herself to seek sex with anyone else and vice versa. So if you say they are not thier spouses, then you begin to say adultry isnt breaking the marriage covenant. Just as Christ Owns us, while we are in the sinful flesh, We are enspoused (owned) to one Under the marriage covenant. A wife must submit to her husband as if he is the lord, and her Head, man is head of his wife, just as Christ is Head of His Body. Scripture is plain, but a Christian man will Love his wife and forgive All Sin against himself, even Adultry. Example Hosea. Once we are espoused they own our body, yes, the wife is free to do what she wants as long as she is with her husband, whom she owns. But she isnt the head of the family. I suggest you ask Jesus how he sees marriage, because adultry is Theft in the eyes of God, so is Rape.

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