How many Christian husbands see sex in a healthy way?
We know that sexual sin, and porn use, and objectification of women are rampant. But it’s not everywhere. So how many guys aren’t affected by this?
In February and March I’m posting several “number of the day” updates, where we share a nugget from our surveys of 25,000 men and women. We’ve looked at foreplay problems; how many men actually lust; how many people have sex but don’t feel close; and more.
One of the challenges that we have with our survey data is figuring out what questions to ask. We have a treasure trove of data from all of our surveys (six at last count), and there’s so much that we can glean from it. But we have to think of the question first.
We have a Patreon group where people who support our research and want to support us branching out in ways that we can’t monetize, and it’s got a really active private Facebook group. (Our Patreon starts at $5 a month! You can join us, too!).
As I was getting ready to do this series, we asked our patrons what questions they’d want to know. And one woman piped up and asked, “how many guys are actually safe?”
Great question! But then we had to figure out how to measure it.
Joanna and I thought about a couple of scenarios, and we decided to look for men who fit this criteria:
Our Criteria for Men Who Are Sexually Safe
- He doesn’t watch porn
- He doesn’t choose a lustful option in any of the potentially lustful situations we presented
- He doesn’t believe the obligation sex message (so he doesn’t believe he’s entitled to his wife’s body)
- He makes his wife’s pleasure a priority
We could have chosen other things–like whether or not his wife reached orgasm, but that one is not entirely dependent on him. She may not reach orgasm because of sexual trauma or some of the things she’s internalized (quite common, as we found in The Great Sex Rescue). So we decided to stick to these four markers.
And when you run that data, here what we find:
Okay, so that’s rather sobering, isn’t it?
Only a third of Christian husbands would fall into our sexually safe categories.
This is largely because 49.6% of men use porn in some way today, so that takes out half of men right from the start. But there’s also a significant number of men who don’t use porn but who still objectify women, either by believing they are entitled to sex; lusting after other women; or acting as if sex is all about them.
Let me repeat that–the problems all boil down to seeing women as objects.
All of our criteria objectify women in some way. Either a guy is using porn, which means he’s consuming images of women for his own gratification, or he’s treating his wife and the women around him as objects who exist for his gratification.
This means that he has believed a message about sex that isn’t biblical, and is, indeed, evil. It is evil to use another for your own gratification without concern for them, and yet many, many men feel that they are entitled to do so, and even that they are being Christian when they do so. They have been taught through our Christian resources that men naturally lust (Every Man’s Battle); that they need sex in a way that women will never understand (Love & Respect and more); that their needs for sex supersede women’s need for just about anything else (see Kevin Leman’s take on postpartum sexual favors, for instance).
They’ve been taught their whole lives in church that men need sex while women need emotional connection, and many of these guys have channeled all of their needs for connection into sex. When she says no to sex, it feels as if the world is crashing down, because they’ve never been taught how to have real relationships. And they’ve been taught that God actually intends for them to sexualize their emotional needs.
We showed repeatedly in The Great Sex Rescue how certain teachings about sex wreck sex for women and for couples, and now in The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex we have the evidence that these teachings wreck sex for men too. We need to start teaching about sex not as an entitlement for men and an obligation for women, but instead as something which God designed to be MUTUAL, INTIMATE, and PLEASURABLE FOR BOTH.
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.
Can we put a positive spin on this at all?
I think there are a few positive things we can say if we look at this data.
1. Most men who use porn do so only rarely.
Guys got an automatic “fail” if they used porn at all, but 52% of guys who do use porn do so only rarely. And we found porn use has a real dose-response effect, meaning the more you use it, the more negative effects it has. Guys who use porn rarely don’t have the same negative effects on their sex lives and marriages as guys who use it daily or weekly, although they do have negative effects (and that’s why we included them in the unsafe category. We should also note that any porn use is also objectifying real people and contributing to sex trafficking, and should not be tolerated).
And we also found that when guys quit porn, and quit any obligation sex message, their sexual and marital satisfaction improves to almost the same extent as if they had never used it (those who quit before marriage get the biggest bump).
Considering that most married men who use porn only do so rarely, we would hope that this could be seen as something that men could work on and achieve victory at.
2. When you look at those who don’t use porn, about two thirds don’t appear to objectify women.
Because almost 50% of married evangelical men use porn to some extent, and because we excluded these guys from the safe category automatically, we really were working with only 50% of guys, and not 100%. So when we look at the remaining 50% of men who could have been safe, 67% of them were.
They don’t show signs of objectifying women or thinking that they are entitled to sex.
So that’s good! And it does show that porn use is the main driver of men not being sexually safe for women.
What’s the take home message about how to foster healthy attitudes towards sex?
The church needs a better message around porn, because what we’re doing isn’t working. We’ve been calling it a sin, and it is, sure–but this way of talking about it doesn’t necessarily help.
Porn is not just a sin because now men have lost their purity; it’s a sin against women. It’s a sin against the women in the porn; it’s a sin because it teaches you to see women as objects. We need to start explaining that the victims of porn are women, not just men.
We also need to help guys understand that trying harder to quit isn’t enough; they need to get real about why they’re using porn in the first place.
And then we simply need to get rid of the obligation sex message.
Anything that sees sex as an entitlement for men and obligation for women changes the very nature of sex. It can’t be intimate if one person’s needs matter more than another’s. It can’t be mutual if one person’s desires outweigh someone else’s. Sex is about two people joining together; it is not about one person using another. And that means that we simply have to talk about sex in a way that honors women. Otherwise women will never, ever be safe.
Right now the church isn’t doing that. Instead of dealing with the fact that the evangelical approach to sex hasn’t worked, and has been harmful, they are doubling down.
But we can stop that. When we hear the obligation sex message, we can speak up. When we hear women being told to have sex so husbands don’t watch porn, we can walk out. We can say no. We can speak up on social media.
And men–I’m asking you especially. Only 1/3 of Christian men understand what real, intimate sex looks like. The change has to start with you. Please speak up. The next generation deserves far better than this!
Did this number surprise you? Why or why not? How can we change this as a church community? Let’s talk in the comments!
The Number of the Day Series
- How Many Men Think They Do Enough Foreplay Even if She Doesn't Orgasm?
- How Many Elements are in the Sexual Response Cycle?
- What Percentage of Women Orgasm--but Don't Have Close Marriages? (coming soon)
- How Many Men Believe the Obligation Sex Message? (and what effect does this have on other areas of their marriage?)
- Can the Way We Do the Honeymoon Increase the Rate of Vaginismus?
- The Orgasm Gap and the Real Reason Women Don't Want Sex (The "Let's go to dinner" saga)
- Is Lust REALLY Every Man's Battle?
- How Many Christian Men Meet the 4 Criteria for a Sexually Safe Husband
- How Many Men Watch Porn? (And what are the effects?) (podcast)
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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