Sometimes, the way we talk about the purpose of sex makes it clear that we don’t understand the beauty of sex at all.

And that needs to stop!

Just a quick post today (or what I hope will be a quick post) with a comment about a news story in the Christian world that broke over the weekend, and that so many people tagged me in on social media.

I put a statement out on Twitter, but I want to make it here too.

So just a warning: this is going to start out a little dark, but i want to end it on a happy, hopeful note. And I will have some discussions of sexual abuse in broad terms (nothing specific). 

Okay, with that warning: here’s the dark part.

David and Nancy French broke a story this weekend about horrific sexual abuse of boys at Kamp Kanukuk in Missouri. Camp director Pete Newman is serving a life sentence plus 30 years for 7 counts of abuse, but he’s facing 57 civil complaints, and that’s apparently the tip of the iceberg. What makes this story so sad, like so many others, is that it seems as if those in power knew about the abuse and did nothing.

One particular paragraph in the article stood out, and this is why people kept tagging me:

Oddly enough, these prohibitions were enacted only until Newman got married. At that point, the camp said it would “re-evaluate” the restrictions. Years later, White characterized Newman’s wife as the “initial layer of accountability” against abuse.

David French

They Aren't Who You Think They Are

The wife was the “initial layer of accountability” and apparently would help reduce the abuse. 

Oh, dear.

This is the same reasoning that we read in Every Man’s Battle, when they say:

Your wife can be a methadone-like fix when your temperature is rising. (p. 118)

Once he tells you he’s going cold turkey, be like a merciful vial of methadone for him. (p. 120)

Note: These quotations have been removed from the 2020 edition, though the idea remains.

Steve Arterburn

Every Man's Battle

We’ve already talked about how dehumanizing it is for women to be told that they are methadone for their husbands’ sex addictions or predatory behavior.

It’s demeaning and disgusting.

But what I really want to talk about today is how this shows a fundamental flaw in the way we think of sex, which is something that we covered in The Great Sex Rescue. When we talk about sex as being methadone for men’s sex addictions, we don’t just dehumanize women. We also change the very definition of sex.

Sex and porn are not substitutes for one another.

Rebecca and I have been talking about this on podcasts lately, but it is not that sex can keep someone from using porn, because the two are not the same thing.

Biblically, sex is something which is the ultimate “knowing” of someone else (Genesis 4:1). It’s a deep longing to be connected, which is why God uses sexual imagery to talk about His relationship with us. It’s more than just physical; it’s the deepest intimacy we can feel. And if it’s intimacy, then it means that BOTH people need to matter. Sex is about two people together in the truest sense of the word.

Porn, on the other hand, isn’t a knowing at all. Porn is a using of someone. It says, “I get to do what I want to you for my benefit, without any consideration of you.” Porn says your needs don’t matter; I have the right to use you. And if your needs don’t matter–if they’re actually a turn-off–then porn says, “I don’t care what’s going on with you.” That’s a rejection. Porn isn’t a knowing; Porn is an UNknowing. It’s a complete rejection.

Porn is about an entitled taking; sex is about a mutual knowing and mutual pleasuring. They aren’t substitutes for one another; they are polar opposites. They may use the same body parts, but the similarity ends there.

That’s why making women into methadone is so dangerous.

It actually rejects what sex is. In fact, in Every Man’s Battle intimacy is never talked about. Her pleasure is never talked about. It’s only about “giving him release” so that his eyes aren’t as clouded and he can resist lusting more easily. But that has nothing to do with the actual biblical definition of sex, and that cheapens and degrades sex for everyone.

What this camp did by seeing a wife as methadone not just for porn but also for sexual abuse is even worse.

Sexual abuse is not about sex but about power. It’s also about using someone. It’s getting a sexual high by corrupting someone; by managing to break down barriers and do something illicit.

This bears absolutely no resemblance to real, biblical sex.

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.

We will never have a healthy view of sex in the church when we equate sex with using someone.

And this, really, is a large part of the problem. Men are treated like animals that need to be controlled and satiated by as much “sanctioned” sex as they can get so that they don’t act out what they really want to do. Married sex isn’t seen as something beautiful but instead something that is standing between him and his monster self.

I think the reason people are so quick to blame the wife in these situations is that we actually have no idea what intimate sex looks like.

We only ever talk about sex in terms of male needs (remember, Emerson Eggerichs said in Love & Respect, “If your husband is typical, he has a need you don’t have.”). And we tend to talk about sex not in terms of intimacy but in terms of men’s need for physical satisfaction. (Again, Love & Respect said, “a man has a need for physical release as you need emotional release.”). When we see sex as something men need, we deprioritize her experience and her pleasure. She’s just supposed to be there for him–it’s not for her. And that means that her needs don’t matter, and now we’re back to sex being a rejection of her rather than an intimate knowing again.

So what do we do about our shallow, degrading, and terrible view of sex?

Honestly, two things. Whenever we talk about sex with others, we have to include two things in the conversation:

  1. Sex is for her pleasure as much as it is for his.
  2. Sex is ultimately a deep knowing where two people matter.

We’ve gotten into this mess because we only see sex as something that men need, and thus we make it only about male entitlement. So we get out of the mess by stressing a woman’s experience too, and by stressing intimacy and mutuality.

If we understand that sex is not one-sided, but instead intimate where both people matter, then we would never, ever think of sex as being methadone for anything. We’d understand that they’re two polar opposites.

If we understand that sex is not one-sided, but instead intimate where both people matter, then we would never, ever think of sex as being methadone for anything. We’d understand that they’re two polar opposites.

Imagine what would happen if we really understood that sex was about a deep experience that two people shared together, that was the most loving and most intimate moments they could have? Imagine if instead of talking about sex as a 5-minute encounter where he gets physical release, we talked about the beauty of truly experiencing being together, of looking into each other’s eyes at the height of passion, of being vulnerable and bare before your spouse in a way that binds you together? Imagine if we talked about what a profound experience it is to be so completely vulnerable with each other, and still be loved and accepted? Would we still think of sex as methadone?

And imagine if talking about sex like that became normal! Imagine if our conversations around sex had far less to do with “needs” and far more to do with “intimacy.”

Last year, I did a Twitter and Facebook poll to ask which message people had heard more: ‘do not deprive your husband’ or ‘women’s sexual pleasure matters’?

It was “do not deprive” by 95%-5%.

That’s just unacceptable. We’re seeing sex entirely as something for men. That’s where the trouble gets started. It’s dehumanizing for everyone and it wrecks sex.

Let’s stop it. If you’re wondering how, that’s what The Great Sex Rescue is all about. But you can help, right now, by simply changing the conversation whenever it’s brought up.

Women’s pleasure matters. Sex is about intimacy. 

Lather. Rinse. Repeat!

How to Reclaim an Intimate View of Sex in Marriage

What do you think? Have you heard the methadone argument in any form lately? How do we stop this? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find BIBLICAL, HEALTHY, EVIDENCE-BASED help for their marriage. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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