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How did the 1950s Kinsey Report & the 1960s and 1970s sexual revolution all contribute to the earliest Christian sex books?

We talk about it in today’s podcast!

And I do need to say, TRIGGER WARNING: We did talk about some pretty intense examples of sexual abuse that were considered “normal” and no big deal in the past, that we found quite horrifying. 

We didn’t get a video for this week’s podcast, sorry! But that will continue as usual next week. There were just some glitches this week.

What culture were Christian sex books originally speaking into?

We’ve been on quite the journey the last few weeks, looking at:

And then this week on the blog we looked at 12 things a 1970s sex manual taught us (some of which were beyond cringey and some which were downright illegal and coercive), and then we turned to what Tim LaHaye said in The Act of Marriage, one of evangelicalism’s first bestselling Christian sex books of the modern era.

We were summarizing a lot of that in today’s podcast, but we also wanted to further set the stage for the culture into which the first evangelical sex books were written.

So in this podcast, we talked first about The Kinsey Report, the 1950s “scientific” reports on human sexual behavior. We looked at how they changed the conversation about sex, by allowing things done in private to actually be discussed widely for the first time, but also how problematic the methods were, and how downright abusive and pedophilic much of it was (and Connor got quite emotional describing it).

When we move to the late 1970s when evangelicals were finally writing sex books, they were entering into a cultural fray where:

  • Sex was being discussed and could no longer be kept hidden
  • People wanted to enjoy sex
  • Divorce was rising
  • “Free love” was the rage–meaning sexual experimentation
  • Feminism was on the rise, and it was seen as the evil that was promoting societal breakdown.

These books, then, were largely reactionary. They were trying to fight against family breakdown by preserving the need for marriage and by doubling down on the need for gender roles–but at the same time they were trying to make sure that sex in marriage was really fun so that nobody would want to stray, and thus break apart the family.

The focus, then, was not on growing intimacy, or helping women reach fulfillment, or helping both partners overcome shame and find true love as much as it was keeping marriages together at all costs. That should help us understand some of the emphases in The Act of Marriage.

But as Connor said–secular books in the 1970s were talking about issues that evangelicals STILL haven’t grappled well with–until our book

Even the book he looked at treated sex as intimate (though they forgot about that commitment thing), and it recognized the orgasm gap. Why is it that 50 years later many of our bestsellers still aren’t doing that?

It was a much more hard-hitting discussion than I thought it would be, but it was an important one, and the conclusion is important too–not everything that the world does is automatically wrong. 

Reader Question: How do I protect my younger brothers from the lust message?

A woman who grew up in the purity culture writes in with this problem:

I have been married for a decade and my husband and I have an amazing marriage and an amazing sex life. I am so grateful, because honestly, it feels like we are the complete NOT norm in our conservative Christian circle. I am from the reformed church where purity culture is rampant and women and held in a certain esteem that is hard to explain. In my church, beautiful women are viewed as dangerous. It is very clear in how men speak of them, as if the very state of being beautiful is slutty.

Anyways, I am from a family of amazing parents. They’re wonderful, but from a very very early age, i was clearly taught that my body was a dangerous weapon to be hidden, to be ashamed of and a thing that would cause many men to stumble. I know they did their best with what they had. And i love them. But this is one particular area of growing up that was damaging.

I remember one particular incident. I had recently lost about 30 pounds and I was grocery shopping at night. A man approached me and wouldn’t stop harassing me. He ended up waiting for me at the doors with a group of men. I waited long enough to leave that they finally seemed to leave. When i got outside, i realized they were still lurking – I ran to my car and locked the doors. I drove away so fast and so terrified i ended up going the wrong way down a one way street. (That’s beside the point, but just goes to show how terrified I was. )When I told my parents, my dad is particular was so angry with me. He immediately brought up how my style of dress had changed with my weight loss – that I MUST have been wearing something tight, showing my arms. I was in fact, wearing a long coat as it was fall season. Not that it should matter. This is just one example of many instances similar.

I have several brothers at home, and I am very concerned about the approach in which my parents/church are taking with how they speak of lust and porn. It is just so typical of the ‘every mans battle’ mindset, and i can already see the damage it is doing. I want to give my parents some resources to start having a new conversation about this, but I don’t even know where to start. Porn is taking over because our teachings don’t work. I am sick to death over youth retreats have boy’s seminars on lust and girl’s seminars on modesty and how to make boys not lust. It’s wrong and we need help. I am so worried about our younger generation. 

And, again, you can find our rubric and scorecard here to share with those who may need it, but also–don’t be afraid to talk to your brothers yourself!

Encouraging Review for The Great Sex Rescue!

I do like to end with something encouraging:

I didn’t realise until I got married just how deeply I had absorbed the pervasive evangelical teachings about sex and marriage. The obligation sex message and the teachings around lust in particular have caused so much hurt for me and my marriage, so I was thrilled to hear that Sheila, Rebecca and Joanna were writing The Great Sex Rescue to help challenge these teachings in a big way!

They explore the evangelical teachings about sex, lust and more, and with clarity explain where the teachings go wrong, how they objectify women and hurt men and women in general, and how we can reframe them in a healthy way. I am so thankful for the courage with which these authors are boldly challenging the evangelical literature which has caused so much heartache!

I love how the book focuses on encouraging us to behave more like Jesus and to evaluate our teachings by their fruits. The Great Sex Rescue minces no words in defence of the many of us that have been hurt, it replaces harmful teachings with healthy ones and ends with great hope. It helped me understand so many things about myself, it was healing, and I would 100% recommend it to anyone that has grown up in the evangelical church.

Amazon Review

Great Sex Rescue

The Great Sex Rescue

Now Available!

Great Sex Rescue Cover - Podcast: Christian Sex Books & the Backlash Against the Sexual Revolution

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.

Podcast Weird 1970s Sex Books - Podcast: Christian Sex Books & the Backlash Against the Sexual Revolution

What do you think? Did the Kinsey report horrify you, too? Anything stand out to you? Let’s talk in the comments!

4d5d2dc667e7acd64221c42a103248a4?s=96&d=mm&r=g - Podcast: Christian Sex Books & the Backlash Against the Sexual Revolution

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila has been married to Keith for 28 years, and happily married for 25! (It took a while to adjust). She’s also an award-winning author of 8 books, including The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila is passionate about changing the evangelical conversation about sex and marriage to line up with kingdom principles. ENTJ, straight 8

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