“The church cannot continue to treat sexual desires as a male-only issue.”
That’s in the conclusion of a big article in Relevant Magazine about The Great Sex Rescue.
The three of us–Rebecca, Joanna and me–were all interviewed for the article, and I’m so thrilled they went into so much depth.
The author of the article really picked up on what we were saying about how Christians books present sex as something that men want and women don’t, and ran with that:
Historically, when a pastor or religious leader discusses sex, either from the stage or in a book, it is often geared toward men. Men are “tempted visually” and have life-long battles with lust they can barely control. A wife is charged with helping her husband with his battle by offering her body to him, no matter how she’s feeling that day. This narrative is pushed in popular Christian marriage books, such as Every Man’s Battle, Sheet Music and Love and Respect. However, this message goes against what the Bible has to say about sex between a husband and wife….
By focusing the conversation of sex primarily on men’s desires, the Church has caused immense damage to women. Women often feel as if they have to squash their own sexual feelings to elevate their husband’s needs, creating an unequal balance within marriages. Additionally, by making sexual desire a “male-only issue,” women feel an added layer of shame when battling lustful thoughts.
They talked about how women are made to feel shame if they have sexual feelings, and how women’s pleasure is emphasized over male need.
I’d say that the biggest problem with this is that couples don’t learn to prioritize her pleasure and she doesn’t realize she should feel pleasure, but because Relevant’s audience is often single, they really focused on another aspect: that women can struggle with lust and porn too, and yet this isn’t talked about and women are often made to feel shame about this.
It was interesting to see our findings and the discussion turn more to what singles might experience.
In all the interviews I’ve done, I’ve really been focused on more of the marriage aspect. After reading this I think I really should write more about our findings for singles!
And I love the way they framed the ending:
While the Church needs to acknowledge and reconcile with its harmful messaging, many members of the Church already understand this framing is not Biblical. The average evangelical would likely not agree with the male-only narrative in such rigid terms, but the fact of the matter is that the message is presented through the male lens by best-selling authors and pastors — and that has to change.
They gave Rebecca and Joanna the last words (which is likely wise, since Joanna is the most pastoral of all of us):
Realizing there is a problem with the way the Church discusses sex is only the first step. Repentance must come next. The Evangelical Church is losing more and more young people each year for a variety of reasons, one being that they are tired of hearing a message about someone else trying to control them. A study from Lifeway Research showed that two-thirds of American young adults who attended a Protestant church regularly as a teenager drop out for at least a year between the ages of 18 and 22. In order to counteract this decline, pastors and religious leaders must not only stop promoting this narrative, but also listen to women and men who have been damaged by this message to determine how the conversation specifically needs to change.
Lindenbach said she hopes the Church changes its message from a fear-based and shaming message, for both men and women, to a message full of freedom and the grace and love of Christ, “even if it’s a little bit messier, because I think that at the end, we’ll end up in a better place.”
Although the Church may not be able to wipe away the hurt and abuse women have experienced, it has an obligation to protect women moving forward. Gendering sexual desire — or any sin for that matter — has caused too much damage for too long. It’s time for the Church to begin reconciling their damage.
“My hope is that the Evangelical Church will listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd,” said Sawatsky, “which means having hard conversations, which means that using Bible verses as cudgels, is inappropriate and must end. Repentance is required. And I just hope that they’ll do the brave, and hard, thing.”
It’s actually kind of fun to read an article based on a wide-ranging interview and see what they pulled out and considered important.
I really appreciated being featured in Relevant, and I hope that our calls for the church to do better–to have a new sex talk–will be heeded!
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.
I’ve said that my whole goal with The Great Sex Rescue is to “change the conversation about sex in the evangelical church.”
It was really neat to see Relevant Magazine frame the article that way–even in the title.
But this is really hard for us to gauge while we’re in the middle of it. So I’d love to know from all of you: Do you think the conversation is changing? Are there things that are giving you hope? Have you heard The Great Sex Rescue come up in conversation–or have you seen it in other places than just on this blog?
Funny story from Joanna about that:
A friend from a previous church in a previous city was talking to one of the pastors at that church where Joanna had been quite active. The pastor was asking after Joanna, and the friend told him about this new book project she had just worked on. He stared at her for a moment, ran to his bookshelf, and pulled The Great Sex Rescue off of the shelf and stared at the author names.
Apparently he had bought it just a few days before because he had heard it was such a good book–but he hadn’t even realized that one of the authors had once been his friend and colleague! So that was really cool for him (and for Joanna when she heard the story). And that made us feel like the book was being talked about in bigger circles than just ours!
What do you think? Is the conversation changing? Let’s talk in the comments!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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