What happens when shocking things lose the power to shock?
I want to pull back the curtain today and share the personal side of what’s going on in me right now, because so many of you poured out your stories yesterday here and on social media after the podcast. I’d like to share a bit of my emotional journey this week in particular.
But let me back up to the beginning. When I first read Love & Respect in January 2019, I’ve equated it with a nuclear bomb going off in my living room. I was not prepared for how terrible it was with regards to women and sex, and you can read all about that in my initial Love & Respect post, and my ultimate post, the Open Letter to Focus on the Family about it. I honestly couldn’t believe it. He talked about sex as only about a husband’s physical release; he made fun of a woman bringing up her husband’s porn use and doubled down that she should lose weight instead; and so much more.
It was honestly jarring. I didn’t know that the evangelical world said these things about women because I had never read it before.
A year later we embarked on our huge survey to try to get to the bottom of it, and The Great Sex Rescue was written.
(Wow, I just put that in the passive tense. Way to downplay how much work that was, Sheila!)
Anyway, we surveyed 20,000 women to see what teachings had harmed their sex lives, and I read all the evangelical best-sellers and applied our 12-point rubric of healthy sexuality teaching to them.
And so, as I read Every Man’s Battle, I came to the methadone lines that we talked about in the podcast yesterday.
“Once he tells you he’s going cold turkey, be like a merciful vial of methadone for him.” (p. 120)
Naturally I freaked out, because a year earlier, we’d been trying to convey how dehumanizing the message was that said that using your wife in place of porn was a good recovery route. Rebecca came up with the idea that your wife is not methadone. We thought that was so awful, so gross, that people may get it.
But then I read it in Every Man’s Battle and saw that they thought it was a selling feature.
So of course I got on FaceTime and spent that day venting with Rebecca and Joanna.
Since then, I’ve read far more of the same type of thing in so many different evangelical books.
And to be honest, it’s been a long time since I’ve FaceTimed either of them just to vent about how awful something is in a book.
That leads me to the story that I want to share of what happened to me on Wednesday.
I was recording an episode of The Worthy Podcast, with Elyse Fitzpatrick and Eric Schumacher.
We were talking about some of the really horrendous teachings about women in these evangelical books, and I rattled off the typical methadone quote–“once he goes cold turkey, be like a merciful vial of methadone for him,” and I kept going.
Well, Elyse looked like she was going to have a heart attack and cough up her tonsils all at the same time. She sputtered and spattered and made me repeat that, slowly.
They just couldn’t believe it. They were speechless and flabbergasted.
And a part of me mourned, because calling women methadone, as dehumanizing and awful as that is, doesn’t even register to me anymore.
I talked about this on Twitter, and a number of people told me that likely my body and my brain were protecting me from damaging messages and had just turned off my shock-o-meter, and that’s likely true. When I’m immersed in this all the time, as we’re gearing up for the release of The Great Sex Rescue (the book that will put all of this to rest once and for all!), it is tiring, and I do need to protect myself.
But over the last two days, since we recorded both yesterday’s podcast and the one with Elyse and Eric, I’ve let myself feel a bit.
The first thing I realized I felt was hopelessness.
I took a look at who endorsed Every Man’s Battle. Max Lucado said “Every male needs to read this book.” Les & Leslie Parrott said it would transform marriages; Josh McDowell put his name to it. And so many more. These big name authors, that we don’t associate with bad things, thought it was important that women were called methadone.
How does that happen in the evangelical world?
And can our book start stemming the tide? Will people listen?
The next thing I realized I felt was loneliness.
Katie’s been home this week and we’ve been reminiscing about the past, and I realized that the last time I let myself feel part of a church body was when they were young. I threw myself heart and soul into that church, even though they didn’t treat me particularly well. I volunteered at all kinds of ministries, including leading a praise team and children’s ministry. I led women’s Bible studies. I made so many friends there. I loved people’s kids. We always went out to lunch with different families every week.
It felt like they were my family.
But after a while, I just couldn’t handle how they treated me as a woman (which is a long story; some of it is in this podcast). And i realized that at the church I went to next, though I really enjoyed it, I never let myself feel like they were my family. I’m not sure if i ever can again. I started making my family from friends outside of church, and forming my own little group, because it’s really hard to trust after you’ve given your whole heart to something, and then you realize that they see you in a degrading way. It was tough.
What I’m trying to feel right now is hope.
We’ve got 386 people on our Launch Team for The Great Sex Rescue, and way more than that have pre-ordered (thank you!). And if you want to join the Launch Team, it’s super easy. Just pre-order the book and email me the receipt (all the info and links are here), and you’ll get an email back with our awesome pre-order bonuses and an invite to the Facebook Group launch team! Plus Baker Books has The Great Sex Rescue on for just over $10, so it’s really affordable!
The Great Sex Rescue
Changing the conversation about sex & marriage in the evangelical church.
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.
And honestly, the book is hopeful. Sure, it shows how our resources have talked about marriage and sex in totally unhealthy ways, but it also points us to something better. And it validates all of you who always felt like something was off.
I want to believe that we can change things. I hate to think that most evangelical leaders think it’s okay to call women methadone for their husband’s porn addictions, and I am praying so hard that other evangelical leaders start speaking out, so it’s not just me. So many amazing counselors are speaking out (like Andrew Bauman and MIchael John Cusick, who have been on our podcasts), but I’d love to see some other authors speak out. Please pray with me about that, okay? We need to stop the evangelical machine where everybody endorses everybody else and speaks at the conferences and never says anything bad because no one wants to lose book deals.
People should matter more than money.
I think I’ll leave you with some comments today that have given me hope this week. But in the meantime, if you have anything to say that can help me see the light at the end of the tunnel, I’d love to hear it!
We used to have a LOT more issues before we came across Sheila’s page about 8 years ago. It’s taken a long time for me to change some of my mindsets I’ve had.
When I sought help for my marriage, a preacher told me that the only reason my ex used porn was due to the fact I wasn’t making myself available to him. I was too young and embarrassed to tell the preacher the length I had gone to in attempts to get my ex’s attention. I’m so glad you are telling the truth about this devastating addiction.
For three decades I’ve heard that my body is for his stress release, comfort, etc not just from my husband but from the church and so many women my age. This was so prevalent that women would worry about their husbands stress level without sex if they needed major surgery!! I just don’t get it. These are mature adult men who care about your physical health. Thank you for shedding light on these horrible messages in the church.
Such a great podcast episode. I love to hear that fire in Rebecca’s voice. As someone who has struggled with sex in her own marriage, it breaks my heart to think of all the men and women who have read these books and take them as gospel. Just because something is labeled “Christian” doesn’t mean it aligns with Jesus. Thank you for speaking truth into the lives of men and women and challenging “the man” (of the evangelical world).
Exactly. Just because something says it’s Christian doesn’t mean it aligns with Jesus!
Let’s always use Jesus as our plumb line.
He should be the ultimate guide. If something doesn’t walk like Jesus, talk like Jesus, or do things Jesus would do, that something is not of Jesus.
Have any more encouragement for me? I’d love to hear it!
And remember–we’re going LIVE on Facebook to talk about this at noon today in the Launch Team Book Ambassador Group! So pre-order and send in your receipt for the invite!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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