What happens when we tell girls that “boys will want to push your sexual boundaries”?
We’re in the middle of our debunking series, where we look at things that are commonly taught in evangelical circles, and encourage the church to get it right!
It’s all leading up to the release of our book The Great Sex Rescue on March 2! In that book, we share our survey results where we looked at how these common teachings affected women’s marital and sexual satisfaction, and how we can rescue and reframe these things so it’s in line with Jesus.
Plus you’ll feel validated. And heard. And it’s really fun to read!
And you get all kinds of pre-order bonuses (including our healthy sexuality rubric and our scorecard of how different resources fared) when you pre-order now!
The Great Sex Rescue
What if you're NOT the problem with your sex life?
What if the things that you've been taught have messed things up--and what if there's a way to escape these messages?
Welcome to the Great Sex Rescue.
Each week leading up to the release of the book we look at a new teaching we’ll deconstruct and debunk, and this week’s is “all boys will want to push your sexual boundaries.”
We count the week as beginning on Thursday with the podcast (which introduces the topic for the next week), so that’s a little odd. But it means we’ve been talking about this for a few posts now, including:
- Our podcast on Gatekeeping, rape culture, and the #MeToo Reckoning
- Fixed It for You! We fix a survey question in another book that excused date rape
So let’s continue this! What does it do when we tell girls that boys will push their sexual boundaries?
Well, our survey showed that it had impacted women’s marital and sexual satisfaction.
How Believing Boys Will Push Girls’ Sexual Boundaries Affects Marriage
When girls believe this in high school, then, once married, they are:
- 59% more likely to engage in sex only because they feel they must
- 24% less likely to orgasm frequently
- 58% more likely to be uncomfortable with how their husband looks at other women when they are in public
- 47% more likely to report not feeling “heard” when in conflict with their husbands
That’s just a partial list of what we found–there are plenty more findings for how this particular belief affected women’s marriages in The Great Sex Rescue.
But here’s a hypothesis I have:
One of the reasons that this may affect marriages negatively is that it teaches girls to disregard red flags when dating–and thus they may be more likely to marry men of poor character.
I don’t think that’s the only reason it hurts marriages. I explained more about how the gatekeeping message teaches women to always be in control, and then they’re not able to relax during sex, in a series last spring (and we dedicated a whole chapter to it in The Great Sex Rescue).
But the red flag issue is an important one, as one woman described on Facebook last week:
When a man pushes sexual boundaries and disrespects a woman, when she has clearly stated her no, he isn’t safe. That should be a major red flag. That should be a man that women walk away from. And if women KNEW this in the church, then these men would have to step up or stay single.
But instead all these books and sermons have told girls that this is just how boys are. So women are dating and marrying VERY unsafe men.
Instead we need to be teaching women to accept nothing less than respect in a relationship.
Exactly! Girls aren’t taught that boys pushing your boundaries is a red flag, something that you should be wary of. Instead, we’re taught that it’s part of being male.
And that leads to women being date raped and thinking it’s their fault.
Now, some moms have said to me: But girls DO need to be taught that boys might want to push their boundaries!
Yes, they do. But that “might” is an important word there. I would phrase it to my daughters like this (and this is how we did talk about it):
Some boys are primarily interested in sex with you. Those types of boys won’t respect your boundaries, and will push against your “no”. That’s a sign that they don’t respect you as a person, and they’re not a good person with good character that you want to be with. A good person respects your “no”. If you’re ever with someone who doesn’t respect your “no”, that is not a safe situation. Know that you are never to blame! But also know that this is a sign that that is not a healthy relationship, and it should end.
But many guys, most guys even, will respect your boundaries. If a boy does know Jesus, he may want really, really badly to have sex (because that’s natural; you’ll likely want it, too), but he will respect your boundaries and he will have some of his own. In a makeout situation, you’re both likely to want to go further, especially if you’re really in love. That’s why it’s important to have boundaries. But know your boundaries; make sure he respects yours, and make sure you respect his.
(of course, we also had ongoing conversations about sexual assault, so they would have known they weren’t to blame, too).
That’s a healthier message! That teaches them to identify red flags; it teaches them that not all boys are gross, but most are honorable; and it teaches them that temptation and sexual desire isn’t sinful.
Can you see the difference?
But if, as a girl, you only ever hear that all boys will push your sexual boundaries, will you even know to try to find a better guy?
Then, of course, there’s the effect that this message has on boys, as another Facebook commenter noted:
When you teach someone that they are not better than this, they will continue to believe this is their “curse.” Or worse that it’s normal.
I’ve seen so many men grow up in the church, shackled by porn addiction, in despondent resignation, in failing marriages that this is just the way they are and there no hope so they might as well push that boundary.
Do boys suffer because the bar is set so low?
I think they do. Why are we raising boys to think that sinning is natural? That part of being male is trying to see how far he can push a girl?
I think many (most?) youth groups are trying to teach boys to be honorable, which is great. But you can’t do that while also teaching that natural male behavior is to push boundaries. It’s not, and sets boys up to fail.
Church, we can do better.
Like I talked about last week, our youth groups can do better. We’re on a quest to help people identify harmful messages, and to replace them with ones that honor each other and honor God.
We do that in The Great Sex Rescue, and I’m so excited about the launch! But for today, let me ask: Has this message about boys pushing boundaries affected you? Did you grow up feeling like all boys are pigs? Did you grow up feeling like there was no point in expecting boys to do better?
Or if you were a guy, I’d love to hear what messages you were taught in church! Let’s talk in the comments.
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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