My husband Keith hasn’t written a post in a while, because for the last two months we were busy writing The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex together.
But he really wanted to be the one to write the post today in honour of Women’s Day. I couldn’t turn down that enthusiasm, so here he is:
I am reading The Great Sex Rescue again.
Honestly, I have lost track of how many times I have read it now. Obviously I am biased, but I believe there is so much in this book that it is likely that people will read again and again and again. I think it has such a message of hope for both men and women about what a sexually healthy Christian marriage can look like.
As a man, I think this book will be freeing for a lot of Christian men.
Frankly, we have been fed a lot of garbage. Our bar has been set insultingly low, while simultaneously shaming us for being men in the first place. I don’t have any idea how we allowed teachings like this to continue. When we heard things like “We see the reason for the propensity of sexual sin among us, we got there just by being male” (Every Man’s Battle) or “men just don’t have a Christian view of sex.” (Every Heart Restored) why did we stand for that? Do we really believe that it is impossible to be a sexually healthy Christian man?
I have a higher view of men than that and I don’t think I am alone among Christian men. Men are not God’s mistake that women have to clean up after. We are both meant to reflect the image of God. Marriage is supposed to be an image of Christ and the Church. How did we ever get to the point where a husband having an uncontrollable addiction for which his wife has to be the methadone is the image of a Christian marriage? As a man, I am appalled.
But as we approach Women’s Day, I have been reading it in a different way, trying to think of what it must have been like to grow up and try to make a marriage work under these teachings as a woman.
And I wept.
We have allowed Christian teachers to tell you that your voice doesn’t matter.
I am so sorry that you were given messages that tell you when your husband is doing something destructive in your marriage, like ignoring the children, that you must only speak to him briefly then wait 10-20 days before you approach him again (Love & Respect). I am sorry that you have been told that his “need for respect” at that level is more important than your “desire for love” and to be heard.
You should have been told that your opinions and feelings matter, because they do. You shouldn’t have to feel that they are secondary to his or that you need to put them on hold until he comes around to your view. Any decent guy I know doesn’t really want that. Caring husbands value their wives’ input and want to know if they are going off track. They also want to know that they can talk to you in the same way when you are off base. Because they want to be partners with you in marriage. I am sorry we did not see that you were being taught something other than this. Please forgive us.
We have allowed Christian teachers to imply women are responsible for men’s sexual sins.
In the focus groups for the Great Sex Rescue, woman after woman told stories of how they had been raped, both before marriage and in marriage, but didn’t even realize that that was what happened because of what they had been taught in Christian circles. So many women told stories of saying “no” when they were teenagers, but he went ahead anyway. And they thought it was their fault because they had been taught that they were supposed to not let it get that far, that boys reach a point where they can’t stop. So not only did they live with the trauma of rape, people in the church heaped up shame on top of them by implying they had done something to make that happen by the way they dressed or acted.
If you are one of those women, I want you to know: Your “No” means “No”. If someone violated that, then that is not your fault. It doesn’t matter what you were wearing or what you did before you said “No”. I am so sorry the people in the church victimized you further by making you feel you were at least partly responsible for what happened. That should never have happened. It was not your fault.
How did we get to this point?
One of the reasons we have failed to recognize how harmful these books are is that they do say things that are healthy. They even make healthy statements which sound like they are supposed to be an overarching theme. They may say outright that they do not condone abuse and that a man is responsible for his own actions and imply that the reader needs to interpret what has been said in that context. The authors then tell stories of women who have come to them devastated by the rest of the teaching in their books, and the authors explain that they are simply misunderstanding the teaching.
But the authors were wrong not to listen to those women, because those women were right. An author cannot present an anecdote in a book about a woman who wants to run away and hide from a husband’s withering rage and somewhere else in the book say “I do not condone abuse.” By presenting that story and failing to label it abuse, the author has in essence condoned abuse. Similarly, an author cannot spend pages and pages talking about how men are sexually tempted in a way that women can never understand such that women need to dress differently and act differently and then say they are not implying men are not responsible for their actions.
When women read this, they are not confused because they are misunderstanding the teaching; they are confused because they are being simultaneously taught two opposing things.
So if you are a woman who read these teachings and was harmed by them, then felt like you were crazy, I want to tell you, you are not. I would have interpreted what was written the same way you did. Ideally, we should have given you a healthier message from the start, but we certainly should have listened to you after you told us you were hurt. It is awful that you were not heard. Because you should have been.
Women are not less important than men
As I have read through most Christian marriage teaching, the overall message I would take away if I were a woman is that the Christian view is basically that I am an appendage to my husband. My role is to support what he is doing and to keep him safe from sin by the way I treat him, while his role is to do what God has called him to do. You may not have read the teachings this way, but if I were a woman reading this stuff I would feel like I was basically “one step down the food chain”, spiritually speaking. And that is a terrible tragedy. I believe this is a misinterpretation of God’s word. You are God’s daughter and He has a plan for you as well as your husband.
I believe most Christian husbands don’t want a subordinate; they want a partner. They want a co-laborer in the gospel to go with them through life, serving the Lord. I know I am ruffling feathers, but I think we have been sold a rather anti-woman version of God’s plan. Some men have bought into it because it played on their selfishness and their need to feel powerful. I myself was not entirely immune to that. I do not think that the majority of Christian men are like that, though. But those of us who did not fully buy into this mindset are still not entirely guiltless since we have not raised our voices to support you as we should have. Please forgive us. Know that we want to do better now.
And to the courageous women and men who have been warning us about these things for so long and making so little progress. I am sorry it took so long to catch up with you. Thank you for staying faithful even when others said you were fringe. We are praying with you now for the tide to turn.
I have been calling the 20,000 women who completed the survey “Sheila’s army”. My hope and prayer is that they are but the advanced guard. I hope healthy Christians everywhere will join her army. Together, I know we will create a healthy Christian sexual ethic where both husband and wife receive the respect, dignity and love we all long for.
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.
This has honestly been a really emotional month for Keith as he’s realized how deep this stuff goes. I wish you all could hear his emotion in this. He feels this tremendously.
We welcome your comments!
Blog and Podcast Contributor, Co-Author with Sheila of two upcoming marriage books
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