The Act of Marriage is the book I once drowned in a bathtub.

When I wrote The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I told the story of reading a sex book before I was married that turned me into a nervous wreck. It gave such explicit directions about what you were supposed to do on your wedding night, the first time out, that I felt pressured and violated. So I drowned it.

I never named the book before; but after doing our survey of 22,000 women, and finding so many other women mentioning the same thing, I thought it was time to come forward. 

In preparation for writing our book The Great Sex Rescue, which is due in at Baker Books in a little more than a month, we didn’t just survey 22,000 women. We also decided to read ten of the bestselling Christian marriage books, and the bestselling Christian sex books, and score them on 12 aspects of healthy sexuality. We created a scoring rubric, and looked at whether they were healthy, harmful, or neutral.

As I’ve mentioned before, until I reviewed Love & Respect last year, I had never actually read a lot of Christian books because I never wanted to inadvertently plagiarize anybody. After reading so many in the last few months, I’ve noticed quite a few common themes that Rebecca and I are going to talk about in the next few weeks of podcasts. 

Today I thought we’d start with The Act of Marriage, for several reasons. It was so important in my own life, and I think played a big role in the vaginismus I experienced (some of the beliefs that the book perpetrated were highly correlated with sexual pain in our survey, and while it’s not the only factor, it did influence me). But also, The Act of Marriage was really the first mega-selling Christian sex book. Pretty much everyone who married in the late 1980s or 1990s read it before the honeymoon. All Generation X pastors likely used it as their sex education. It was tremendously influential, and laid the groundwork for future sex books, both for good and for ill.

What was so good about The Act of Marriage was that it was the first book to really talk about the importance of a woman’s orgasm, and the importance of clitoral stimulation to that orgasm. In our scoring rubric, it actually scored middle of the pack. It had quite a few good parts to it and positive parts to it. But there were still some very problematic things in the book, which reappeared in so many books written afterwards. So in today’s podcast, I thought I’d read some quotes from The Act of Marriage to Rebecca–who had no warning about any of these–to get her reaction. 

WARNING: One of the passages that I read out loud from the book contains a graphic anecdote about rape on a wedding night, which was obviously sexual assault, and yet the author dismissed it as such. This may be difficult for some listeners. The anecdote appears around 29 Min

I hope you enjoy listening to this, and I’m eager to hear your thoughts!

It’s hard to sum this up in a post, so you’ll have to listen in to the podcast. But I did write my book The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex as an antidote to The Act of Marriage. I tried to be far less paint-by-numbers and far more cognizant of the emotional aspects of sex. And I tried to say, “Hey, sex is wonderful, so let’s figure out how to get there and let’s prioritize it so you don’t miss out!” rather than “You don’t have a choice, you must give your husband sex.” And I tried not to be “women are like this” and “men are like this”, because it’s just not true. 

I hope I succeeded!

So now let me know–what did you think of these quotes? Did you read this book when you were married? How did it affect you? How can we do better? Let’s talk!


Are you ready for the honeymoon you always dreamed of?

The Honeymoon Course is here to help you plan the perfect honeymoon and start your marriage (and your sex life!) off with laughter, joy and fun!

Don’t make the same mistakes other couples have–get it right from the beginning! 

Tags: , ,