Women who try to challenge the status quo and fight against abuse are often labelled “jezebels”.
I’ve been called it plenty of times–told i have a “jezebel spirit”, even though there’s no such thing in Scripture (and even though no man is ever accused of having an “Ahab spirit”).
We laugh about it so much that I’ve at times thought of ordering Jezebel mugs and mailing them to some of my social media contacts whenever I see the name hurled at them.
Which is why I thought it was so funny–and rather ironic–that the website Jezebel wrote an AMAZING lengthy feature about The Great Sex Rescue.
I had a lovely time being interviewed by the author of the piece, Sarah Stankorb. She was thorough and compassionate and asked all the right questions, and was able to write such a great, in-depth story of our book.
It’s the kind of thing that I’ve been hoping would be published in Christian media, but instead it seems to be the secular media that will talk about our book, even though it’s selling very well and making a buzz.
Titled “‘I Didn’t Want to Deny My Husband His Marital Rights’: For Many Evangelical Women, Sex Comes With Pain and Anxiety”, Sarah opens with a story of a woman struggling with sex to put our book in the proper context, and then writes about how purity culture, and the teachings about sex in marriage in the evangelical world, often set women up for sex that is filled with anxiety and pain (and even coercion).
Here’s part of what she wrote about us:
But a similar probe of evangelical sexual teachings within marriage is long overdue. Faithful girls grew up into women who believed marriage mandated perpetual sexual availability, that their sexual performance would protect their husbands from straying, from sinning. A study of thousands of Christian women published in the book The Great Sex Rescue suggests the consequences of some influential, evangelical marital sexual teachings are just as scarring, long-lasting, and in some ways, more problematic. The damaging shadow of teen purity lessons still lingers and expectations around sex in marriage last a lifetime, impacting Christian women’s everyday interactions with their husbands.
Among the popular books that shaped this mindset is Every Man’s Battle, a book released in 2000 (with multiple subsequent variations such as Every Young Man’s Battle, Every Single Man’s Battle, Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle, plus a 2020 anniversary workbook edition). Every Man’s Battle promised a practical, detailed plan for men who desire sexual purity and argued “the prevalence of sexual sin among men” was derived “naturally—simply by being male.” The authors assert that due to sperm production, men naturally desire “sexual release about every forty-eight to seventy-two hours,” leaving them highly susceptible to temptation within three days of their last ejaculation. And temptation lurks everywhere: from lingerie ads to female joggers, beer commercials, movies, and even receptionists.
The flipside of evangelical purity culture stressed that through marriage, women can help their husbands keep from losing in their war against temptation, or so the theory goes. Immediately upon the wedding night, women are expected to transform from a chaste protector of purity into an eager sexual partner geared to prevent her husband’s sinful eyes from straying. As Every Man’s Battle put it, “your wife can be a methadone-like fix when your temperature is rising.”
Then she starts really talking about book, mixed in with other analysis of what’s happening on the ground. I honestly don’t even know what to quote, it’s all so good.
She shares our stats well:
There are many links between a sense of obligation, coercion, and marital rape, but this is not a distinction widely made within Christian marriage and sex books. His Needs, Her Needs included a quote from a man who complained “I feel like a fool—like I’m begging her or even raping her, but I can’t help it. I need to make love!” As Gregoire and her co-authors write, “We are supposed to have sympathy for the man who feels like he’s raping his wife, but not for the woman enduring it.”
In The Great Sex Rescue, Gregoire and her co-authors’ survey showed when women enter a marriage believing they are obligated to have sex with their husbands whenever their husbands want it, they are 37 percent more likely to experience sexual pain and 29 percent less likely to frequently orgasm. When asked how they feel after sex, 16 percent of women in a follow-up survey chose the word “used.” For women who believed, prior to marriage, that a wife is obligated to give her husband sex when he wants it, vaginismus and dyspareunia rates go up 37 percent.
And she also talked about the controversy around the book:
Since its publication, The Great Sex Rescue has been met with gratitude from many readers who see their own struggles mirrored in its pages, but also dismissal and public scorn from evangelical leaders. After publishing a compilation of women’s comments, including those who said Love & Respect enabled abuse, The Great Sex Rescue’s authors sent them to Focus on the Family, which published and still promotes the book. Focus on the Family issued a statement saying Gregoire, a former Focus on the Family Broadcast guest, had “orchestrated a concerted campaign against the book Love & Respect,” and “Focus on the Family maintains that Love & Respect has a biblically sound, empowering message for husbands and wives…” (italics original). Gregoire and For Women Only author Shaunti Feldhahn wound up sharing dueling statements over The Great Sex Rescue’s conclusions about Feldhahn’s work.
Mark Gungor, a pastor who offers comedic marriage seminars, including with military chaplains, blasted Gregoire on social media. Gungor called her “disgusting” and “arrogant” and suggested she believes she can “lift yourself up by tearing others down.”
It was really affirming to see the story of our book in a big feature, and I thank Sarah so much for writing it. Please, please, read the whole thing!
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.
Again, I’m so grateful for Sarah for taking the lead on this article and thinking this was a story that needed to be written. I hope that Christian publications will soon think that it deserves to be told, too.
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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