Shannon Ethridge is a kindred spirit. She’s written a number of books on Christian sex, and she’s just come out with another one that talks about a lot of issues we discuss on this blog: The Fantasy Fallacy. In it, she looks at why we are so frequently haunted by sexual fantasies we do not want, and what we can do about it.
Quite simply, this is a wonderful book that will help you understand better how you work, and will point you to true healing and true intimacy and true oneness–what God really designed for us.
And it starts by recognizing that often our desires for sex are not about sex at all. She says:
“The Sexual Revolution isn’t about sex at all. It’s about broken people using other people, desperately trying to medicate their own emotional pain through sexual acts.”
On the other hand, God wants us to GIVE to one another–not take.
So if we know that sex is supposed to be about giving to your spouse, and supposed to be a glorious intimate experience, what do we do when we’re tempted to read erotic novels, or to watch porn, or we get weird fantasies?
There are really two fantasy fallacies that Shannon is dealing with: the first is that all fantasy is wrong; and the second is that we need to be in bondage to our fantasies. She systematically demolishes both of these arguments in her book.
Shannon isn’t afraid to deal with these very real temptations that Christians have–Christians from all walks of life. The problem, though, is that often we can’t talk about sexual fantasy because we don’t know what it means. We think it’s automatically not Christian. But we all have sexual thoughts, and what’s the difference? So she’s saying, the real issue is that if sexual thoughts and longings are from God, how do we channel them properly? What do they mean?
Consider that: to fantasize about doing well in school means we’re smart; to fantasize about serving on the mssion field means we’re godly; to fantasize about improving our sex lives means we’re perverted. True? No, says Shannon. She says:
I absolutely do not think that all fantasy is wrong, but those fantasies that push beyond what is socially or spiritually acceptable are most often rooted in childhood trauma or unresolved pain.
Why did she write the book? To help people examine their fantasies, recognize the roots of the harmful ones, and invite God to heal their pain.
She gives lots of examples from her own life and lays herself bare. For instance, she tells of an instance when she found her head being turned she started to worry she wanted to have an affair. She spoke to a counselor and her husband, and her husband said, “this isn’t about you and me; this is about you and your dad.” So she worked on her daddy issues, and asked Greg just to hold her.
She talks about three types of sexual fantasies:
- Autoerotic–come into our heads unbidden (not wrong)
- Erotic–using our thoughts to turn us on (not necessarily bad, especially in marriage)
- Illicit–something that’s wrong. For instance, 90% of people report fantasizing about someone other than their spouse. Does this mean it’s normal and we can say it’s okay? Nope.
What do you do if you’re addicted to fantasy? If you find that you need fantasy to get you aroused, even when you’re making love to your spouse? I talked about this at length in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, and I was happy to see her with more or less the same advice, including:
Taking your time–if you resort to fantasy to make sex feel better, simply take more time! Sex doesn’t need to be over with in ten minutes. Or play music and open your eyes, to help get your brain off of your fantasy. Focus on your breathing.
The real meat of her book, though, came when she started to look at specific types of fantasies that we’re drawn to, and then helped us see the pain that was often beneath those fantasies to give us a strategy to deal with them. You can tell she’s a psychologist, which is good. She knows what she’s talking about, and she’s able to take what’s good in modern psychology, toss out what’s bad, and bring Scripture into it. She says:
“The core of our sexual longings is a much deeper spiritual longing.”
Sexual release is an incredible tranquilizer for pain. But when we have to throw in danger or porn to get excited, we rob ourselves of one of the richest experiences of our lives.
She looks into the how and why we often gravitate towards certain fantasies and the spiritual longings they represent, and helps us to understand why our brains go there–”you can’t change the fruit until you trace the root.” Why is it that you’re drawn to this? What is the pain? Shannon gives a lot of very graphic examples of fantasies that people have told her in her practice, and how she’s helped them trace the root. Some may be disturbed by how graphic they are. I wasn’t. Honestly, you hear this stuff all the time in movies, or just looking through magazines today. And it was necessary, because so many people reading the book are carrying their pile of shame. And to see that there is a root, a logical cause, is such a relief. It helps you to see that you are not a freak, you are just someone in pain.
Does this mean that it’s not sin? No, not at all. We then choose what we want to do when these thoughts bombard us. Will we entertain them or discard them? It’s easier to discard them if you understand them, and then rechannel them.
What I really appreciated about the book is that is was REAL. It was real about the porn industry; it was real about the struggles people have (even Christians); it was real about our fantasies. Quite often we just don’t talk about these things, even though all of us, to some extent, struggle with them. It is time for the church to GET REAL and start addressing people where they are at, not just some sterilized version of what sex should be. Many of us are dealing with very real temptations and very real shame, and we need someone to point the way without just saying, “Jesus is enough.”
I’m not saying that Jesus isn’t enough; but sometimes it takes more than just that. It takes time to look at our pain. It takes time to examine our hearts and see where we’re crying out for intimacy, and why we feel drawn in wrong directions.
And once we see where our struggles lie, we can invite God in. We can develop strategies to make sure this doesn’t happen again. We can open up and experience an even greater degree of intimacy with our spouse. And we can finally be healed.
You can be healed.
No matter what shame you have, God is bigger than that. God wants to take it from you.
You may not understand the root of it, but there is a root. Jesus wants to be let in, not cut out from one part of your life.
Will you let Him?
The Fantasy Fallacy is a great place to begin if you’ve ever struggled with sexual fantasy that you’ve wanted to get rid of. It could just be the tool that God will use to give you the answers, and the hope, you’ve been searching for.