We read through the best-selling evangelical sex and marriage books when we were writing The Great Sex Rescue–and in many cases we were thoroughly dismayed.
What was said about sex in those books was toxic.
Last weekend, I wrote a thread that blew up on Twitter, being seen by 1,000,000 people. I began it this way:
We're all bemoaning the celebrity Christian culture that led to the Ravi Zacharias & Carl Lentz (& so many more) sex & sexual abuse scandals.— Sheila Gregoire--The Great Sex Rescue comes 03/02! (@sheilagregoire) February 13, 2021
But what if the problem is not just--or even mostly--celebrity culture?
What if it's the evangelical view of sex?
I then shared some quotes from books, things like:
“Because of male hardwiring, men don’t naturally have that Christian view of sex.”
“We find another reason for the prevalence of sexual sin among men. We got there naturally–simply by being male.”
Well, that thread got so big that Religion News Service asked me to expand on it and make it into an editorial.
So this week I did. Here’s some more of it:
Repeatedly, God-given male sexuality and objectification of women are seen as one and the same. Tim LaHaye, in “The Act of Marriage,” echoes this: “Women must cultivate the problem of visual lust, whereas men almost universally must cope with the problem just because they are men.”
So if men can’t help it, what do these books propose is the solution?
Women! It is women who keep men from sinning. And it starts with understanding this is just how men are. “For Women Only” advises wives to “accept the struggle” their husbands have with lust. “Love & Respect” says: “If your husband feels you do not respect his struggle, his desire for you, and his maleness, he’ll pull back from you.”
In one of the most degrading choices of words ever made, “Every Man’s Battle” tells women: “Once he tells you he’s (quitting lust) cold turkey, be like a merciful vial of methadone for him.” Proving the metaphor was deliberate, the authors repeat it: “Your wife can be a methadone-like fix when your temperature is rising.” No talk of intimacy or dignity; she is simply a “methadone-like fix.”
Since male sexuality hinges on objectification of women, the best couples can hope for, apparently, is that he objectifies only one woman: the one he married. By getting his fill with his sanctioned option, he can withstand the more alluring ones.
Husbands don’t stop needing methadone when wives are physically unwell, either. In “Sheet Music,” Kevin Leman says that if a wife is bleeding heavily, recovering from childbirth or “simply not feeling her best,” she can help her husband out with a “hand job” if he’s “ready to climb the walls.” After talking about how difficult the wife’s period is on a husband trying to resist pornography, he adds oral sex to the mix, telling women, “faithfulness is a two-person job.”
I go on to show how damaging this is to everyone, and also how books then go on to warn that if wives don’t meet husbands’ needs, the books then portray men as becoming predators:
“The Act of Marriage” describes a husband who raped his wife while she was “kicking and screaming” on their wedding night as “equally unhappy” as his rape victim. “His Needs, Her Needs” says, “He is pawing and grabbing because he needs something — very badly. … As one thirty-two-year-old executive put it, ‘I feel like a fool — like I’m begging her or even raping her.’”
“Every Heart Restored” recounts a woman saying, “Without foreplay, he raped me — if that can happen when you’re married.” But then the authors fail to clarify that, yes, rape is rape, even in marriage.
“Every Man’s Battle” presents masturbating in gym parking lots or to the sight of one’s sister-in-law sleeping as normal male behavior. In the same book, a youth group volunteer who was married with three kids rapes a 15-year-old girl and is portrayed sympathetically, since his lust overwhelmed him.
And then please share it. They did me such an honour by letting me write, and I would love to write some columns for them on some of our findings from our surveys. If we show that our readers are engaged and will share, that becomes easier to ask for!
Plus we just have to get the word out there. it isn’t okay to talk about women like this, or sex like this. Or even men like this! This is so demeaning to men.
I have a spreadsheet of terrible quotes that I created so that we could write our book. It’s so sad to see them all in one place.
But I am feeling so encouraged as people tell me that I’m giving them permission and freedom to admit that this stuff is toxic! And The Great Sex Rescue will show you how sex was always meant to be–MUTUAL, INTIMATE, and PLEASURABLE. It is not only about his physical release, no matter what Emerson Eggerichs may say in Love & Respect.
Together, we can change the evangelical conversation about sex.
I’m so glad that Religion News Service let me write this, and I want to leave you with the ending:
Whether a woman is alone in a desert, by a well in a Samaritan village or weeping while checking her husband’s browser history, God sees her. When will evangelicalism do the same?
What if you're NOT the problem with your sex life?
What if the messages that you've been taught have messed things up--and what if there's a way to escape these toxic teachings?
It's time for a Great Sex Rescue.
Did you read it? What do you think? (But don’t tell me what the comments say over there! I’m afraid to look.)
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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