2019: The Year that The Emperor Had No Clothes

by | Jan 3, 2020 | Uncategorized | 106 comments

Merchandise is Here!

In my life, I have had several pivotal years that set me on a different trajectory–defining years that changed everything.

Obviously I could say 1995 and 1997 were such years, when my daughters were born. But I want more to talk about years when my goals and thinking did radical shifts.

So there was 1984, when I figured out what it meant to love Jesus and to dedicate my life to following Him (though I had been a Christian before that; in my early teens I really decided to go all-out).

There was 1987, when I struggled with what I thought God believed about women, and had to work through to see that Jesus did love and elevate women.

There was 1996, when our son died, and Keith and I changed our marriage patterns and clung to each other, despite the grief.

There was 2000, when I decided to homeschool our daughters, and changed our family’s trajectory forever.

There was 2010, when I decided to press forward with speaking and writing, even though I was getting discouraged, and when I found a new agent who steered me to write more about sex, and less about parenting.

And then there was 2019–the year that my eyes were truly opened.

In many ways this year was probably the most significant change in my faith. I would say that before this last year I was very naive. I’m not anymore. But I’m also on fire like I never have been.

If you had asked me on January 1, 2019, if I would ever write another book with a royalty publisher, I likely would have hemmed and hawed and said no. I enjoy blogging and creating courses, and it’s a lot less stressful.

Today, as we start 2020, I have contracts for five books.

So what changed?

Well, let me use this post to tell you my story of 2019–the behind-the-scenes things I haven’t shared publicly before.

Sometime last January, while perusing Twitter, I ran across a tweet from a woman complaining that the “men need respect, and women need love” didn’t apply to her, and she found it hurtful. I agreed with her, and on a whim, I tweeted out something similar.

It went completely viral.

Because of that response, I started thinking about the book Love & Respect, and realized I had never actually read it. I had glanced at it, sure. I had found quotes from it when I needed them for posts. We had recommended it at marriage conferences, because we were told it was a great book. But I thought to myself, “I wonder what it actually says, because I’m definitely a woman who needs respect.”

On Wednesday, January 9 I was having a bit of a lower-stress day. Rebecca wrote the post that went up on the blog that day (It was a good one about taking responsibility for our choices). I had finished recording our first podcast, which was ready to go live the next day. And I had a bit of a headache and was rather low energy. So I decided that instead of doing a ton of work, I’d just get out the book and read it.

Now, I’m an ENTJ in MBTI personality language, and the “N” there means that I’m big picture, not detail oriented. That’s why I have trouble doing things in a logical order; I tend to jump all over the place to the stuff that interests me first. So when I picked up the book, rather than start with the first chapter, I decided to start with the sex chapter.

That was when a nuclear bomb went off in my living room.

The chapter was terrible. It made sex all about a man’s sexual release, and didn’t mention women getting pleasure from sex at all. And it went downhill from there. (You can read what I eventually wrote about Love & Respect and sex here). I started texting Joanna (a young woman who works for me) and Rebecca, and we were all Face-Timing together, and I was so incensed I was almost crying.

I have spent so long on this blog trying to help people with their sex problems, and to help women understand that sex is supposed to feel good for them, too, and that it’s okay to want it, and then I read this best-selling Christian marriage book which teaches the exact opposite-that women’s duty in marriage is to give men sexual pleasure, with no corresponding expectation for men. What a toxic message!

But what bothered me even more was this question:

Did people not see how bad this was?

I’ll tell more about my journey with this in a post next week, but what I realized then was that I couldn’t help people with their marriages until we dealt with the root of a lot of the problems: The toxic teaching that is all too prevalent in the Christian church today.

But I was really scared. There’s a sort of unwritten rule in Christian publishing that you never, ever criticize another published author. It’s a small world, and we all want to get invited to the same conferences, and we need to network, so you never, ever bring anyone down. If you disagree, you just don’t say anything.

Should I just ignore this, then?

I talked to my agent. I talked to friends. I prayed. And then I wrote that epic post on Love & Respect and sex. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to run it. In some ways, writing it was simply a cathartic way to get the anger and grief off of my chest. I even had a back up post scheduled to go up for Monday, January 14, and on Friday afternoon, when I stopped working for the weekend, I didn’t know what post would actually go live on Monday. I hadn’t decided yet.

I walked into church on Sunday, January 13 very agitated and a little bit teary. I had been praying all weekend,

“God, let me know what I should do about the post for Monday. Do I take this on? Do I start fighting? Or do I just let it go?”

Those were the exact words I asked God as I got up that Sunday morning. “What do I do about the post tomorrow? Do I start fighting? Do I take on the battle tomorrow? Or do I just let it go?”

As I settled into my chair, I tried to quiet myself and listen.

And then the pastor invited us all to open our Bibles to 2 Chronicles 20. Here’s the background for that story: the Israelites were being surrounded by the Ammonites and Moabites, who were preparing to invade. The Israelites were vastly outnumbered. And so the people gathered around King Jehoshophat to figure out what to do. While standing in the courtyard of the temple, Jehoshaphat prayed for deliverance from God. And then a prophet, filled with the Spirit, stands up and says:

“Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.  Tomorrow march down against them. … You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’”
2 Chronicles 20:17

There, in the church service, I started to weep quietly. And I texted Rebecca:

 

And so, on the next day, we ran the post. 
The response was instantaneous and huge. That post was my biggest in 2019. People were asking what I thought about the rest of the book, so I wrote up two other large posts. I recorded a podcast on Love & Respect problems. And then we capped off the week sharing comments and stories that had flooded in. In total, I wrote over 11,000 words that week (that’s 1/4 of the average book).

But more importantly, that week opened the floodgates where women (and men) had a safe place to say, “This book really hurt me and hurt my marriage.”

We had so many comments and emails that we had to do something with them. Joanna, who is experienced with statistics in her postgraduate programs, put together a report for us to send to Focus on the Family, whose logo was on my copy of the book and who heavily promotes it. I’ll be sharing with you later this month what their response was, but it did not go well. The powers that be were continuing to ignore us.

But people weren’t. People were speaking up.

At around the same time, I had decided to sell my self-published book 31 Days to Great Sex to Zondervan. I had taken it as far as it could go on its own; it was time for a big publisher to get a hold of it (a new, expanded version with lots of extras will be coming out this August!). So in March, I had a phone call scheduled at 12:30 pm with one of the main editors at Zondervan, to talk about how the book would look.

That morning, as I was doing dishes, Joanna FaceTimed me. Her little one year old was toddling around in the background, and we were discussing the finishing touches on the report about Love & Respect that she was drawing up. She said to me, “I wonder if I should go back to get my Ph.D. in public health, because this is a public health issue. Bad Christian teaching is actually affecting women’s sexual satisfaction and level of sexual pain. Wouldn’t it be great if we could do a really big study on it? Maybe I should go back to school.”

I put down the dish I was drying and I said to Joanna,

You don’t have to go to school to do a big study. We could just do one ourselves. A huge one. The largest one that’s ever been done. I’m sure a publisher would take it.

She got excited. I got excited. And two hours later, while I was talking to the editor from Zondervan, I pitched the idea. She liked it. I wrote up a proposal. And to make a long story short, we ended up selling a two-book deal for our survey to Baker Books, while I’m doing two more books for Zondervan which will also draw on the research.

And so we decided to do our huge “Bare Marriage” survey. We ended up with over 20,000 women filling it out. It’s such a huge survey we crashed Survey Monkey’s servers several times. We have so much data we could be writing about this for years. But we needed it to be a long one because we needed to look at all the possible factors that affect women’s sexual satisfaction. And we think we’ve found some really interesting things, which I’m excited to share with you over the next few months (and even years). We wanted it to be so big that people couldn’t question us; that the data would speak for itself. And it does.

And thank you to so many who participated!

I’ve shared several times, on the podcast and on the blog, about how my eyes were opened this year. But I wanted to tell you the whole story.

I believe that God is in this. I believe that God is shaking the church, and that God is putting pieces in place so that both women and men will be free from toxic messages that can hurt marriage and hurt sex, and so that all of us will learn what real passion and real intimacy look like. I believe that we are going to see a real outpouring of the Spirit in the next few years on the church. People aren’t going to put up with teaching that ensnares anymore. We want Christ in the centre. We want intimacy. We want real love, authenticity, and servanthood, not people clamouring for power.

When I woke up on January 13, 2019, I was scared. I thought I was alone. I thought no one else saw what I did.

Today, on January 3, 2020, I know that I’m not alone. I know that so many of you are excited for something new, too.

Ironically, and I hope this isn’t TMI, but my grandson was conceived the week that the Love & Respect series ran.

His whole life he will signify this new thing that God is doing, and I think that’s lovely. His first name, Alexander, means “defender of men”. His middle name, Christopher (named after his uncle who passed away as a baby), means “bearer of Christ.” Our prayer, as a family, is that little Alex ends up doing just that–defending and protecting others while living out his calling as a Christ-bearer. He was born into a time when his family was in the midst of the battle. And I hope that we shone Christ’s light into it.

Me and my very pudgy grandson when he was 5 weeks old!

Let’s revisit the story of the Emperor and His New Clothes.

Do you remember the children’s fable? The emperor is vain and pompous. One day a famous tailor visits from a distant land, and tells the emperor that he will make him the most beautiful clothes, with the finest materials, but only those who are really discerning and smart will be able to see the clothes. The emperor can’t see them, but doesn’t want to let on, so he raves about how amazing they are. And then all the people in the land are invited to see a parade of the emperor in his new clothes.

The excited peasants start to cheer. And then the emperor struts into the crowd, chin held high. Buck naked.

Everyone applauds and continues cheering, until one little boy cries out, “Hey, the emperor has no clothes!”

The clapping stops. And then, one by one, everyone starts laughing and pointing. Indeed, the emperor has no clothes! They had all thought the emperor was naked, too, but because everyone else was clapping and cheering, they thought they were the only ones. They thought they were alone. 

When the little boy spoke the truth, the floodgates opened.

I am praying that I can be that little boy–and that this blog, and all of you readers as well, can play the role of that little boy, telling the world, “The emperor has no clothes.” The way we’re talking about sex and marriage isn’t working. It isn’t working in the secular world, and it isn’t working in the Christian world. And we can do better. And over the next little while, I’ll start sharing with you some of the things that we’ve found. I hope I can point to a way that we can do better.

In just 11 days, on January 13, the year after our initial series ran, we’ll be running a few posts ending off our Love & Respect critique.

We have some more things to share, and we’ve been holding off while people have been doing the survey, so as not to prime our audience. But now that the survey is done, there are some more things that need to be made public before I lay it to rest and move on to the new–which is what I’m really excited about. But I do want to create a repository of information for what is problematic about the book, so that people have a central place to go. It just needs to be finished off, which will then be a great relief. Because I’m excited about what’s coming next!

What is our response when God does something new?

As the Israelites were thanking God for what He was about to do to save them from defeat, we read this:

 

2 Chronicles 20:21

After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:
“Give thanks to the Lord,
for his love endures forever.”

I think that’s a good ending to 2019. It has been a rough year for me personally. I have had to grapple with being very disappointed in the fact that so many leaders in the Christian church have ignored how dangerous much of this teaching is. I have found this very difficult.

And yet, as I look back, God’s hand is so apparent. And so I am also excited for what this next year brings.

“Give thanks to the Lord,
for his love endures forever.”


Make sure you keep up with what’s happening on the blog this year!

Don’t miss our survey results, as we start to publish them, as well as so much more I have planned. Sign up for my emails to get special discount coupons, behind-the-scenes look at our team, and the best of the blog:

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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106 Comments

  1. Melanie

    I loved reading this, Sheila! I didn’t know you are an entj… my husband is one too. I had tears in my eyes as I read about going into battle because we are staring into a battlefield also. It’s both scary and exciting. I think God made entjs for this. They can’t stand by and let evil continue without a fight, like some of us can. But those of us fortunate enough to be close to one are deeply inspired by the courage and rallied to join the battle.
    As for Love and Respect, I read it about 11 years ago and thought it was the best thing ever, but I think I want to go back and revisit it from the new lense I’m looking through now. I honestly don’t even remember the sex chapter, but I know the teaching and agree it’s got major problems. I imagine on a reread, I would have a very different conclusion.
    I can’t wait for your books!

    Reply
    • Tracy B

      My husband and I have been going through marital issues for years now especially the last two. He reads Christian articles to help save our marriage all the time. One in particular struck me hard. It said the partner with the lesser sex drive needs to be the one who gives in to the partner with the higher sex drive! I have three kids ages 7-17. Two kids had major surgeries this year and both are in physical therapy twice a week. I own my own boutique. I manage the home. I’m the parent who runs the kids everywhere. I’m exhausted! That article makes me feel like an inadequate wife and pushes me away from sex even more. If it were up to my husband we would have sex twice a day! He likes to point out that it’s the Christian thing to do! Thank you sooo much for what you are doing. Tears rolling down my face.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Oh, Tracy, that sounds like such a big burden to carry! I’m sorry. I hope your children are okay now. I think what you should start with, before trying to solve sex, is how to make sure you don’t burn out. Talk to your husband about sharing the emotional load of a lot of those things, so it’s not on you. That’s a lot!

        Reply
      • Maria

        It doesn’t seem like he’s being all that considerate. I’m sorry you are going through this. Aren’t wife and husband supposed to be partners? If he has energy to spare and you are exhausted from overwork, something is wrong.

        Reply
  2. Becky

    Wow, that sermon topic is quite the story! I recently had a conversation with my 4 year old about how God speaks to us through His word, after he was commenting that God never talks to him. I don’t think it quite made sense to him, but I appreciated reading a story of when that happened in a way that couldn’t be ignored.
    I’m also curious to see what the survey results say! Selfishly, I’m most curious about the response about the physical issues that I’ve had, but I am excited to see the results overall. These things have stayed in the dark long enough.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Certainly it does look like, with a quick preliminary glance at the results, that believing certain teaching is statistically significant in increasing the likelihood of vaginismus. We know this as well from other secular studies–conservative religious women are far more likely to experience it. But now I’ll be able to pinpoint what the teachings are that lead to it, so I’m excited!

      Reply
      • Tory

        Sheila, I have one comment to make about the survey (which I took) — the way it was worded, it asked “are you being taught this? Were you taught this growing up?” But there was no way to record whether or not you actually personally believe it or not. So on the surface there may be a disconnect with some responses. I know I was taught a lot of toxic things growing up (“ladies, your husband needs sex, and it is your job to give it to him”) but I personally chose not to believe it… I ended up waiting for marriage to have sex, my husband and I ended up with a great sex life with very few issues, so I wish there was a way to make that clear on the survey that although you heard certain teachings growing up, you didn’t necessarily internalize them.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Sorry for the confusion, Tory! Actually, for each of the beliefs we did have two corresponding questions: “how much did you believe this in high school (or when you got married)” and “how much do you believe it now?” And then there was a 5 point scale. The high school questions were about things teens are often taught about dating, and the ones we asked about how much did you believe this when you were first married were focused on beliefs about marriage. I’m sorry you don’t remember those, but they were there! (and we got some great data from them).

          Reply
  3. Jess

    Sheila, I just wanted to say thank you for the work you do. While 2019 was a hard and challenging year for you, your obedience to God’s call and decision to fight the battle has produced so much fruit in me personally and I’m sure in so many of your readers and listeners.
    2019 for me was probably one of the most transformational years for me in regards to my feelings and attitudes about sex with my husband. I have been able to finally put words to feelings I have always had but could never completely identify thanks to the information I have gained from reading your blog. My husband is also so thankful to you because he feels like he finally understands what was holding me back and making me so anxious and insecure in regards to our sex life. This has allowed us to build greater intimacy than ever before.
    Your blog has taught me (among many other things) that:
    -God designed sex perfectly and desires sex within marriage to mirror our relationship with Him…passionate, barely-held-together love and desire that through intimate connection breaks free without restraint.
    -God created sex for men AND WOMEN and the primary reason for me to have sex is not so that my husband will not be tempted to look at porn or stray, but so that we will experience together the fullness of God’s love for us and our marriage through the gift of sex.
    -God loves and cares about women. When He looks at us, He sees us as whole people with hurts, desires, and insecurities. He knows us deeply and wants for earthly men (especially our husbands) to look at us in the same way He does.
    -God designed men’s and women’s bodies/sex drives/brains on purpose and with perfect intent to draw a husband and wife to each other and help them experience intimacy in its deepest form. It’s not an accident that men have to focus on their wives during foreplay to build intimacy and prepare for sex. It’s not an accident that good sex requires open communication, vulnerability, and passion. It’s not an accident that women have a clitoris. And it’s not an accident that women need to empty our minds and surrender control to enjoy sex to the fullest. It’s a gift.
    Thank you, thank you for your courage. I pray for your continued work in 2020, that God would empower you and your team as you continue to share His truth in love. My greatest desire has become seeing women transformed in their marriages to see sex through God’s eyes and I now tell every woman I know about the truth I have learned through your blog. This message is important and you are making a difference.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Jess, that’s so beautiful! I just sent a text to Rebecca and Joanna and said, “take a look at Jess’ comment on today’s post! I think that’s the ending for our book!” I don’t know if it will be yet (editing and all), but that’s wonderful, and it’ll have to make it in there somewhere. This is exactly what I was trying to say, and if it took reading Love & Respect to help me formulate my thinking more on what’s wrong with what we normally hear, than I’m thankful.

      Reply
      • Jess

        I am so glad that 2019 was what it was for you and for me both.
        Praying this verse over 2020:
        See, I am doing a new thing!
        Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
        I am making a way in the wilderness
        and streams in the wasteland.
        Isaiah 43:19

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I love that verse so much! Amen, Lord Jesus.

          Reply
    • Lisa

      Wow. That is good stuff!

      Reply
  4. Arwen

    Sheila, like you 2018-2019 were transforming years for me too. Today i’m not in the mood to text but let’s just say my disappointments in the church caused me from being so involved to not attending church all together! I’m involved now thanks to so many changes in myself.
    Question: Has Emerson Eggerichs to you yet? I’m just curious to see what responses you have received from him or him or anyone close to him. It would be nice if they didn’t ignore you and a legitimate conversation can taking place, even on a podcast will be revolutionary!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi Arwen,
      Eggerichs’ has reached out to me, but more to ask me to stop doing what I’m doing. I may write more on that eventually; it’s quite the story! But, in short, no, they have not been open to any critique.

      Reply
      • Bre

        Sadly, that doesn’t surprise; a lot of the popular names in Christian teaching in the States have a lot of…not great ideas and teaching on sex, gender “roles” and women. Basically, when you boil it down, it’s often an even more intense and harmful version of the stuff you were talking about in the love and respect podcast. It’s really sad and downright disturbing how many people, myself included. can see how empty and illogical this stuff is. It’s a lot along the lines of how some of your “heavy” podcasts express surprise and confusion at the idea of there needing to be a tie-break or head in the marriage but, for so many other people and prominent authors, it’s like they’re blinded! That’s the only way I can describe it because, with many of them, even the most reasoned and in-depth scholarly work and research is ignored and they decry anyone who tries to set them strait as a sinner outside of the will of God for not thinking that women need to be under the thumb of men for the family to survive (Funny, doesn’t that sound a lot like what we are supposed to trust in God for? LOL!) It’s just downright bizarre how ingrained in many of these people, especially the men, these ideas are, to the point that it’s elevated to a salvation issue where you can’t be a Christian otherwise, A wholistic reading of all of the Bible, the original Greek, ancient history and linguistic history, psychological and biological evidence, and just plain common sense won’t convince them otherwise! It’s just insane and confusing to me!
        But anyway, yeah, his denial doesn’t surprise me. Not only is it seemingly par for the course for many men who genuinely believe in this ideology and don’t want to let it go, this book is, what did you say in the podcast yesterday, the #2 Christian marriage book? I don’t want to assume too much in the way of Eggerich’s heart, but it isn’t too hard for me to imagine that some of the defensiveness has to do with protecting his reputation and all the benefits that come with it, even on a subconscious level. But people are stubborn; just because he doesn’t listen doesn’t mean that this stuff isn’t going on-don’t stop! From the response you got and the sad comments on the love and respect series, people have been hurt by these ideas and need to know that it’s not okay and they are not alone.

        Reply
    • Kay

      He did respond on his own blog by gaslighting everyone; he essentially said, “It’s not my fault if bad people twist my good teaching.” 🤦🏼‍♀️

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Yep. He did.

        Reply
  5. Kelly

    Looking forward to the survey results and the revamped 31 Days to Great Sex! I have an original copy but think the reboot will be even more spectacular!
    Little Alexander is such a doll!! Congrats on becoming a grandma Sheila! I think that was the BEST part of your 2019! 😉

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Kelly, Alex really was! He is seriously so cute. I can’t stand it. 🙂 You should see how he smiles and laughs, too. He’s a really happy baby!

      Reply
  6. Nathan

    > > Now, I’m an ENTJ in MBTI personality language
    I’m pretty close, as an INTJ.
    2019 was challenging for us as well, on many levels, but 2020 should be much better.
    Thanks again, Sheila, for your work!

    Reply
  7. Catie

    This is so important. Hidden things are being revealed. Sin in darkness is now being exposed with spotlights. God is doing this in other areas as well, and it is time for those who call themselves Christians to dig into Scriptures for ourselves. To learn what the Bible says and no longer listen to false teachings and doctrines of man. Thank you for being one of the watchmen on the wall.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Catie! I like that–watchman on the wall. And I agree–God is jealous for His church and His people, and I think He is shaking everything right now because He wants those who truly know Him to worship Him, and He wants the facade of people who just want power to stop. When we know Jesus, it should make a difference in how we treat people, and that includes in marriage.

      Reply
  8. Chelsea

    I’ve been following your blog since 2015 and this has been my favorite year yet. What God’s showing you has been valuable to so many others, including myself! Thank you, THANK YOU for having the courage to walk in his calling, even when it’s hard.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Chelsea! So cool that you’ve been with me through so much of the journey.

      Reply
  9. Phc

    I can’t thank you enough for the work you do!! You are the single reason I didn’t reject God completely after receiving this toxic teaching while in a destructive marriage.
    As a new Christian, I realized it was making me an angry person because over and over again I was basically hearing “you’re a women therefore you don’t matter” and yet they claimed God loved me as much as a man. I had to take long break from the Church and Christianity. You’ve been a bright spot for me and really helped me put words to why I was so angry. I couldn’t name it on my own.
    I am so excited for your books and can’t wait to read them all!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, thank you! That’s honestly the best thing I can hear–that I pointed someone to God. Thank you.
      I do hope you can get into a real body of Christ, that does value you. I’m sorry that the church showed you a picture of God that wasn’t real. God really does love you, and He honestly does want the best for you. I pray that you start to really experience that in 2020!
      (And I’m really excited to see my books to completion, too!).

      Reply
      • Susanna

        I’m so curious how you managed the construction and distribution of the survey to avoid self-selection bias.
        I took it myself, and I couldn’t help thinking while I was going through it, “Sheila’s readers likely already have some pretty strong opinions about this kind of teaching and what they believe it did to their formation as women.” (I do myself. 😜)
        And it seems like even if your readers share it with friends and friends of friends, there will still be a lot of commonality there.
        Maybe it’s because that commonality is just plain THERE, (bad teaching= poor sexual experience), but I’m wondering how you controlled for some of those variables?

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Susanna, I reached out to so many influencers and had them share the survey–people who had totally different audiences, so that’s very helpful. We also asked so many questions about denomination/beliefs that we can isolate those who have very different beliefs than the ones I’m promoting, and compare that group to those who feel similarly to the way I do. We’re also able to exclude anyone who came from my own links, but honestly, I don’t think we’ll have to do that. The problem is not so much that i primed people; what we were really worried about was that we wouldn’t be able to find enough people who WEREN’T primed so that we could compare them to others. But it looks like we have a good group of people with very different beliefs (we have an awesome cross-section of everything) so that we can compare groups against one another. So it’s going to be okay!
          (the problem with taking a survey of ONLY my people wouldn’t really have been that I had primed them as much as it would be that I wouldn’t be able to find people who hadn’t been exposed to my messages, so that we could measure their experiences. So I’m glad that we did!).

          Reply
  10. Phil

    Hi Sheila – Can I tell you that I am envious of you and your work? God has given you a special gift and I am so glad to walk with you in the journey. I could only imagine being able to do the work you do. 2019 was good for me too but really hard. I have been in my own battle which keeps me at bay from being something bigger I wish I could be – not just for my ego but for God and others. For me I must focus on my marriage and my family with limited ability to expand and lead and help others. In the end what’s most important is me following Jesus and taking that to my marriage and my family. That’s the best I can do. Anything beyond that is just a bonus. I so appreciate everything you have done for me and I pray that your work will help thousands and thousands of people. I have been coming around here for almost 4 years now. I have watched the blog transition in so many ways. It is always exciting to see whats going to happen next. You are on your way Sheila. God is with you and your work and I know that your message will extend further than you think. I am humbled by your work, your determination and the example you live. Best wishes to you and your TLHV team for 2020. I will be out here watching and cheering you on. God Bless.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you so much, Phil! And I agree with you that the marriage and family matter most. For me this year, that was giving up so much of the fall for my daughter after her bad postpartum period. That mattered more than anything.
      I’ll share this on Facebook sometime, or maybe in my weekly email today (sign up here, everyone, if you’re not on the list yet!), but I’ve been feeling like God is telling me I’m John the Baptist. I’m the prophet yelling in the wilderness, but I’m also preparing the way for someone else (or multiple others) who will do something bigger. That’s what I’m praying for. I think there’s someone, or many people, reading this blog who will take the torch and do more with it than I ever could. I feel like I’m wrestling and doubting as John often did, but the work is important, and so I pray for those who are to follow.
      I just hope I don’t get beheaded! 🙂

      Reply
  11. Sarah

    Thank you for what you do! I recently walked through divorce. For years, any time I opened up about my marital struggles, well-intentioned folks in the church would tell me I needed to “keep my husband happy in the bedroom” and submit to my husband” in order to have a happy marriage. No one ever thought to ask what that meant. I sacrificed my dignity and my self-worth for years, worsening every time he asked for a divorce. I hesitate to share much more in a public forum, though I’d gladly share more of the story privately. For now, please know how important your work is. Soldier on.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Sarah! I’m so sorry you walked through that. You do matter. You really do. I’m sorry you were ever taught that your dignity and self-worth were unimportant.

      Reply
  12. Jane Eyre

    Sheila, thank you for the work you do.
    I’m an INTJ – you, but introverted.
    I know you come at this from a Protestant angle, but the Catholic culture has a teaching that sex is supposed to be unitive and procreative. The problem is that almost everyone thinks it is *inherently* unitive, ie, if you’re married, it’s going to bring you closer together. (There is the not-corresponding belief that there are a whole pile of sinful things you can do to make sex not procreative, but the same theory doesn’t apply to the unitive requirement.) In Catholic culture, the sex my husband and I have – immiserating, heartbreaking, leaves me sleeping on the couch to be alone after – is “unitive” because we are married.
    (Apparently, it’s also a “gift” to carry our child. I’ve learned that marriage is the process by which my body and mind take a beating, everyone else flourishes, and people call it “beautiful.”)
    There doesn’t seem to be much of anything besides the radical secular attitudes about sex (selfish in the extreme, resulting in harm to children, and hurt and pain for adults) and the religious attitudes (women should suck it up with a smile on their faces).
    You disagree, and on one level, it’s so refreshing. On another, you’re a voice in the wilderness and it’s hard to accept that the religious culture is dead wrong, and that such a clear alternative is actually what God wants. Does that make sense?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I get it, Jane. It is hard when it seems like it’s challenging so much of the accepted wisdom. I guess I’d just say that I don’t think what I’m saying is so weird. Many people have told me that in older Jewish traditions, it was assumed that the woman had the higher sex drive and sex was something a man owed his wife. And I think the idea of sex as intimacy and transcendence and pleasure all at the same time just makes logical sense from both a spiritual and physical point of view.
      I think one of the issues has been the lack of female voices in creating accepted doctrine. The Catholic church did have a history of strong women as nuns, but they, of course, are not married. In the Protestant tradition, women have generally been excluded from theology and teaching as well. I hope that as more women speak up, we can turn the tide to be more inclusive and representative of what God meant for both sexes.

      Reply
      • Laura Grace

        “in older Jewish traditions, it was assumed that the woman had the higher sex drive and sex was something a man owed his wife. ”
        Not even just older Jewish traditions, but Western tradition as well! It’s fascinating to read Paradise Lost (1667) and see the ENTIRE framework of the Fall focused around Eve’s inherently more lustful, more sensual, more physical FEMININITY, and Adam’s more self-controlled, more diligent, more rational MASCULINITY! It was just absolutely assumed that women were more prone to sexual temptation!

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          So interesting!

          Reply
        • Chris

          Careful with that one, it may not be what you think. In short a lot of masculinity at that time revolved around strong self control. To the point that anger was considered a feminine trait. As was sexual desire. When these behaviors were displayed it was seen as being out of control, or feminine. Yes, Jesus got angry in the temple but that was in defence of God. Hence in the middle ages war was waged so frequently in the defense of God and the Church. The crusades.

          Reply
    • Lea

      “he radical secular attitudes about sex (selfish in the extreme, resulting in harm to children, and hurt and pain for adults) ”
      I’m not entirely sure what you mean here…not all ‘secular’ attitudes about sex are harmful. The idea of consensual, pleasurable sex inside or out of marriage seems far less harmful than what is often being described in christian circles.

      Reply
      • Jane Eyre

        I said “radical,” which logically excludes the non-radical.

        Reply
    • Rebekah

      I am so sorry that has been your experience with Catholic culture. I was raised moderately Protestant, became Catholic in college, and one of my favorite things about the Catholic culture I came into was the willingness to listen to women. The idea that sex *should* be unitive, but so often isn’t (for many reasons). I see so many echoes of all that in what Sheila writes in her articles.
      I hope you find the support and direction you need and that your husband sees that what is happening now is undermining what marriage ought to be.

      Reply
  13. Bre

    THANK YOU! I’m seriously about to cry! This year has been a really major eye opening year for me, to! I’m a 21year old college student and, even though I’ve been a Christian for years, this year I finally started questioning what I’ve been told about ” the place of women” and when I looked into it and started reading well-researched books…. it’s like a bomb went off for me too. I’m on the Autism spectrum and struggle with Anxiety so this year has been filled with pain for me as I realized how wrong much of what we Christians believe about women, gender, sex, and power is NEVER what Jesus would have wanted! I’d say on this end, a lot of the stuff coming out of the USA is worse. At its heart, a lot of the opinions on sex and trying to limit what female believers can do to serve God when (in the oldest original texts) he never say such things…. it’s all about control, greed and fear. I can’t tell you how many people, even in my own family, think that the Bible came down from Heaven in English and think that I’m a heretic who will burn in hell for knowing that people ,either purposely or through subconscious psychological processes, translated God’s word inaccurately or wrong and that language study of the oldest bible text copies prove it,I attend a college ministry lead by a female pastor and a church that affirms female pastors and involvement at all levels, but that doesn’t translate into practical respect and changes in beliefs. A lot of what you’ve been talking about in the love and respect seriesis supported, at least in a soft-core way, by even the women and ordained women in my church! It’s honestly given me anxiety and soured me on the whole idea of marriage because I’ve been bullied, degraded, and dismissed because of my disabilities in the past; I cannot take having a pastor tell me that I need to submit, that my husband is the head and priest of the house and that I need to follow him! It’s given my existential terrors because, like you, I was naive and didn’t realize how prevalent this stuff was and how unwilling people are to confront or address it; it’s intimidating to think that I will have to deal with this and keep my eyes open for this toxicity my whole life! It makes me fearful and mistrustful of my brothers and sisters. I’m so glad to know that I’m not alone! Your website has helped me a lot because, even though I’m struggling with some sexual sins and need to be careful of what specifically I read, it’s been an immense help in giving me a healthy veiw of sexuality, gender, and family in Christ! It’s also confirmed for me on a practical level that I’m not wrong and seeing what I want to believe instead of the truth; a lot of what is coming out about sex and realationships in the church is really unbiblical and harmful and not at all in tune with the biological reality of life and you’ve helped me realize why. I’m glad that I’m not alone in walking through this junk. Thank you so much for what you do; praying that God gives you strength, and I can’t wait to read your new books!💜

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Bre! I hope you find a great church environment, too.

      Reply
      • Bre

        Thanks, Sheila!
        Actually, my current church environment is really good! I struggle with words, so my comments on my church may have came off as way more toxic and negative than they were in my head. My only issue is with some cognitive dissonance and it isn’t good, but it’s not horrible or dangerous. There is still room for growth, but I have hope because it’s a loving and supportive community and I believe that everyone genuinely wants to seek God’s heart and the adults who believe this have expressed genuine confusion that shows me that they are subconsciously picking up on some of the ideological dissonance . They are just much slower than me in seeing some of this stuff and I can’t force it on their brain before it’s ready. It’s a smaller church pastored by the husband of my campus pastor and at least 3/4th of the regulars are college students like me from the campus ministry and most of us don’t seem to go along with these ideas and not all the adults do, either, even if they give lip service to them in bible-studies once in a while. I know going to “secular” college is usually billed as a major faith stumbling block, but I’ve only grown and had my eyes opened since getting to college! I’m knocking on wood cause I don’t want to jinx this, but I’ve found a group of believers that really remind me of the New Testament church because they are on fire for Jesus and the Good News! I tend to be negative because of my mental health issues, but I know that I’m in a very good place with a good support system!
        Something else that is very hopeful for me is that the church that I grew up and met Jesus in is actually studying the scriptures together and assessing what their official policy about women in marriage and stuff should be! Even if it doesn’t turn out the way that I want, some of my childhood friends have come to believe many of the same things that I’ve come to believe and we have a great time debating and discussing this stuff! It can’t be anything but an act of God and a sign from him; as soon as I was in a comfortable place with the things I had learned and my new beliefs, I found out that my old church was doing this!
        I’m really hoping for 2020 to be a year of growth and getting comfortable with this new place I’ve found myself in now that God’s zapped me awake. Sorry for the rant; I tend to get way in to writing my thoughts out, but I kinda realized that I made it sound like I was in a horrible church in my earlier comment and that is really not the case!

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          That’s great about your childhood friends, Bre! I love that. That’s happening at churches all over the place, and once people engage with the arguments, they often see things very differently.

          Reply
          • Bre

            The best part? One of my 2 best friends is getting married and she’s changed her point of view because her fiancé loves to challenge and question everything and picked her brain on this issue. A lot of the dissonance didn’t seem right to them because not only is this stuff not actually found anywhere in the Bible, but it doesn’t make logical sense or square with reality. We’ve joked about this stuff together before but, the sad truth to me is that according to lots of popular “Bible Teachers” “pastors” and “Christian marriage experts” she’s living in blatant and unrepentant sin and stands damned…because she’s liked they guy since we were kids, confessed to him first, and will be the “breadwinner” so he can go to school full-time after they marry this summer! It’s astounding how far people will take this junk and then call it sin if you dare to question it! I was going through my book collection before I came home for winter break and I ended up throwing out a stack of books that either me or my mom bought, sometimes years and years ago, because they had disgusting and horrible things written in them in the guise of “Christian living” Me and my mom frequently tend to assume that, because a book or its author is Christian, it’s safe. Yeah, WRONG! One book went off about how internet dating is sinful because women are not allowed by God to pursue a man, show romantic interest, or any initiative in their relationships whatsoever and online dating allows women to be involved in the relationship! Another book, aimed at teen girls and written by a married woman, echoed that thought X100. She blamed the situations of women asking her for help with lazy, immature husbands on the wives being “too strong and too motivated”, rather than the men having no initiative and being selfish.It’s like my eyes just keep getting opened wider and wider. Why do people eat this stuff up? I know I’ve been ranting too much on this 1 blog post, and I’ll stop after this, but after following your website and 2 or 3 others for the last year, I feel like I’ve finally been able to find my voice and get this stuff off my chest. Now I know that I’m not alone or denying the truth to believe what I want to hear. There are people who are older and more mature in their faith who have known this stuff and been trying to sound the alarm for years, but no one wanted to listen. As much as these big-shot, pop-culture “Christian” leaders are pushing the idea that this is about “millennial” Christians who don’t like truth and are chasing the flesh, the reality, to me, seems to be that it’s a lot of the older generations who’ve finally decided to push back en-masse and not let this junk be pushed as God’s will anymore because they have seen the damage. My anxiety can get really bad and make me focus on the negative and it’s often really hard to have hope in this area because everything just seems so deep and dark most days. But I’m trying to have joy in the little victories, like my old friends and church, and the fact that things really do seem to be inching towards the light. Actually, in the US, there’s a 21-day national prayer movement kicking off tomorrow that I’m participating in. The idea is to get as many people as possible, specifically young adults, praying for a revival because things seem primed for one. I’m really excited because I know that this has the potential to create change on this issue and many other “hopeless” ones. Once he’s welcomed in, Jesus changes EVERYTHING. I honestly think that, if more people get back to Jesus and are pursing him and his will first, then we’ll see more and more of this junk come down. Thanks for everything you do💜

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Amen, Bre! When people focus on Jesus, more and more of this will come down.
            I do want to say that I have great faith and hope and expectation for the millennial generation (and for Generation Z). The values of authenticity and justice and so engrained in that generation, that they’re no longer willing to put up with crazy things.
            One example: I know one lovely millennial newlywed couple who just moved to downtown Toronto. Her mom assumed that she’d be going to one of the “hip” churches with multisites, etc., and was surprised to find that every Sunday morning, this couple gets on the subway, goes across town, and attends a small church with terrible music. Why? Because there’s such great community, it’s very multicultural, and there’s a variety of ages. It’s not a “hip” church. It’s just a real church. And that’s what they want–something real where it’s about relationship.
            I think that’s where millennials are at. And even though they’re leaving the church in droves, I think what will happen is that they may start something new, or those that remain may transform how we do church, and that will be a good thing.

          • Lea

            Hi Bre! I’m amused at the book you mentioned that said women should’nt do internet dating because they…shouldn’t be involved in their own relationship, or its formation in any way? LOL. How do they think that works out?
            Internet Dating has its negatives for sure, but women actively making some choices about a partner isn’t one of them.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            This is actually quite similar to something Elisabeth Elliott said in her book Passion and Purity (is that what it was called? I’m going by memory). Women are not allowed to talk to a man first, or be assertive in the relationship. The man must always take the lead. I guess if you believe that, then internet dating would be wrong!

          • Bre

            Lea,
            Yeah, it’s kinda funny looking back now, but it made me so ANGRY and SICK in the moment because of who the author was. You know the John McArthur who led an entire CHRISTIAN conference is mocking and laughing at Beth Moore? Yeah… Yuck! That’s why I chucked that sucker across the room!
            After I cooled off, I flipped through it again and it made me roll my eyes. He had wise stuff to say on some areas of Christian living, but I can’t take him seriously at all because of every. Single. Thing. He. Says. About. Women. In. Romantic. Relationships. The whole overall message that he said every. Single. Time. Was “Remember, it’s sinful and against God’s will for women to have any authority or influence over a man in any relationship! Your whole relationship should be based around you debasing yourself and living in fear of the “sins” of even appearing strong, capable, confident, or showing any of your own opinions!”
            ….What? Once women can’t care about or have anything to do WITH THEIR OWN ROMANCE, it fails to even be a relationship! The annoying thing is that lots of well-meaning Christians both in and out of my church want to defend McArthur for the whole Beth Moore thing with “Geez, he’s going senile and losing his filter because of his age.” That’s not what’s going on, unfortunately, and this book proves it; it was written in the early 2000’s. This isn’t a case of him losing it do to old age; I firmly believe that “what’s in the well is coming out in the water”. McArthur has had these ideas (the ones that Shelia has been confronting, and worse) for years and now he’s not even hiding how much he blatantly hates women. With him and some of these other “preachers” you can really tell that these “marriage issues” aren’t about the Bible, living a pure and sin-avoiding life, loving God, mimicking Jesus, or even wanting what’s best for Christian couples ; it’s about men wanting to control women. At this point, it seems less like their defense is “For the Bible tells us so” and more “For I want all women firmly under my boot…and the Bible WILL tell me so, darn it!”
            I agree that internet dating can be dicy, and I’d never do it myself, but this is personal for me because, with his ideas, he was basically calling my mom a skank who’s seeking to usurp God’s will. She loves God AND met my (step) dad online! Besides being degrading and hateful to women, I felt like McArthur was attacking my parents with his foolishness. I have no clue why this nonsense seems smart to so many people; a couple could have the most perfect, ideal, and happy marriage, and he’d probably be able to find 50 “sins” that just the wife is committing! I’m still basically a kid and I’m technically disabled, and even I can see how faulty and disconnected from reality this junk is!
            Ok, angry rant over!😄It IS funny, now, though, because it’s so nonsensical, and you are right about that!!!!!! Just where do people get this stuff from and who is actually thinking that it’s so good that it deserves a book deal?

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Your last sentence is the one that I have been pondering all year about so many things. Why did no one think that “maybe this isn’t a good thing to publish?” Why did pastors not exercise discernment and think, “Wow, this is not a book I should have my congregation read”? I don’t get that.

          • Lea

            Hi Bre! Obviously there is *nothing* wrong with your mom doing internet dating! It is a useful tool for meeting people you might not meet otherwise. I’ve done it (and am doing it now) and my opinion is it just requires a lot more filtering than meeting people in real life, where you have in time opportunities to get an impression? Eh.
            [And if you want to ‘let a guy make the first move’ on the internet it is really easy. Women make moves in real life too, (sometimes they are just subtle).]
            My last relationship was with a mutual friend and now that we’ve broken up I see him around, see his ex, we have 50 mutual friends, etc. I never have that issue with the people I met online ugh.

          • Bre

            Sheila,
            I don’t know. I honestly think that it’s a spiritual deception/warfare thing. The Devil doesn’t want people to know the truth, be set free, and live for God- spreading damaging and inaccurate information with a “Christian” window-dressing is a really great way to do that. I mean, how many people in this post’s comment section alone have mentioned wrestling through/struggling to keep their faith because of suffering they went through because of this kind of bad teaching?
            As for why individual people create/support this stuff…Some people really don’t know what they are actually supporting (when taken to it’s logical conclusion), others have been fed a steady diet of misinformation and falsehoods and have been basically “rewired” to think that it is God’s will and will work and be beneficial (despite the evidence to the contrary), and others are willfully blind because they don’t WANT to see the truth; for some of the “blind” people, a bunch of psychological stuff can actually make them literally unable to see the truth! I’ve read some good articles on misinformation about women and marriage in Christianity by a husband-wife team of 2 extremely kind and gifted scholars/psychologists/Christians and the few of their articles strictly focused on the psychology of prior beliefs on new/contrary information and translation and interpretation of the Bible really explains a lot…but the truth is still very sad.
            More practically, is the fact that we live in a messed up world and for everything that you can think of, there is someone willing to write about it and someone willing to publish it, if only to simply make a couple of quick bucks off of it. I mean, in the last couple of years alone, Amazon.com has had to take down books supporting/giving instructions on; pedophilla/child-rape, murder, bomb-making, how to be a hit man, ect.
            The world is fallen and sometimes we humans are just not as smart as we should be…me included- I am the one who mentioned further up in this thread that it took me almost 20 years to actually “get” the fact that not all “Christian” books are actually Biblically sound or in line with what God and Jesus said/taught, after all!

          • Bre

            Lea,
            I guess I just get really sensitive when people say stuff that basically broadly condemns tons of people, some of whom I love. It also really gets me “steamed” when it’s a fellow Christian teaching things that aren’t in the Bible..but that’s life, right? This sort of stuff has been going on since the New Testament so I shouldn’t be too surprised!
            I personally wouldn’t do internet dating because the idea of meeting random people from the internet when I’m such a true crime junkie…yeah, no thanks! But I can see the benefits, particularly never having to see the weirdos/ your Ex’s ever again! But I may change my tune in the future once I’m not in college!😂You ARE right that it’s a lot of work, though. My mom met a TON of guys over multiple years, had for sure 1, but maybe 2 (my memory stinks) long-term dating relationships before she met my step dad, and also met a ton of losers. Funnily enough, her and my dad had given up on online dating and were going into their accounts to close them, saw one last notification, though “Eh, why not?”…and the the rest is history!
            I admit that I’m not knowledgeable AT ALL with relationships as I have never had an actual boyfriend and I’m not into dating right now. Actually, I’ve kinda realized that, in many ways, being single is much better for serving the Lord and, since I have yet to meet any good (and my type!) guys or had any real relationships, I’d actually be happy even if I never met someone that I “click” with. Besides, I’ve literally been 21 for 10 days; I’ve got lots of time to date, I’m busy with other stuff, and very happy right now! But it’s still enlightening, helpful, and kinda fun to know about relationship stuff…may be useful in the future!
            I wish you luck with your internet dating!

          • Lea

            You are still very young and in college you meet a lot of people organically!!! I am older and I’m not going to meet anybody at work/church/etc… I need to get out and about 😉
            “the idea of meeting random people from the internet when I’m such a true crime junkie”
            Ha! Me too. Hello, Dirty John! [If it makes you feel any better, most women are killed by spouses and SO’s and I don’t know that it makes any difference where you met them. That may not make any of us feel better though lol]

          • Bre

            We’ve gone through a lot of that stuff in my college classes; since I’m going to be a teacher, I’m expected to know the basics about domestic abuse, grooming, ACES, violent crime, and other stuff that may negatively impact my future students. You are 100% right about most violent crime being committed by the people closest to you…Still doesn’t really seem to change the fact that most people are more scared of the unknown weirdo behind the bush or screen than their boyfriend, mother, or uncle Bob, though!
            Hilariously enough, my parents actually caused a mini-disaster the first night the met in person because of this! My mom had promised that she’d be back early because it would probably be another dud of a date. When she still hadn’t come back or called by 1am, being illogical, weird, high school me, I immediately went to “SERIAL KILLER!” Yeah, no. They just had no clue that 6 hours had passed while they were talking until I called mom. The oldest of my older (step) sisters actually is a big crime buff, too, and she did the same freak-out thing that night and called dad because she had thought that he was being excessively risky by meeting people online!🤣She lives three hours away, but was really protective and made him call her regularly to check-in when he went out to met up with women from online. My parents being murderous nut-jobs is now a bit of a family joke because of that first date!

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            That’s hilarious! And I think it’s wonderful that your mom remarried such a nice man, and that you’re even close to your step sisters, too. That’s lovely.

  14. Flo

    Twice it happened in my life that at the mass the priest said just the thing that gave me guidance and determination in a very difficult situation. It is an incredible experience, and both times it lead me down the right path. The first time it was about a surgical operation that I eventually decided to undergo, the second was when I was not sure if I should remarry (which I did, to Dean who posts here often).
    I think it is so important to say that women are also made to experience and enjoy intimacy. The idea that sex is something that women give to men is a toxic one that I had so hard time getting rid of. I had also programmed myself to not enjoy intimacy, at one point of time. But I also despised the idea of giving sex as a present or as a currency, as it felt unfair and reducing and humiliating. It just leads to this state of being fed up with the whole concept, because you have pushed so much of it away, and you feel that there should be so much more to it, but not for you.
    It is difficult to heal from that, and to learn to open up to intimate pleasures again, especially after a lifetime of disappointments. I have made some progress, and hope to make more. It is a worthwhile battle to fight against this harmful concept (harmful for both women and men as you said) and it is great that won such big battles against it, for us! Thank you!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      So glad you’re fighting the battle, Flo! It is hard to rid yourself of a lifetime of these ideas. I even find myself today too much focused on what my husband might need as my motivation. (It’s good to be giving; but creating a situation where you feel only obligation is not good). I have to take a step back and retrain myself to think about intimacy and so much more, but it is a long process, like you said.

      Reply
      • Flo

        Giving is wonderful! But when you are suppressing your sexuality, because you believe you should not have one, or should have just a small and shy one, for many years, you develop a deep frustration and pain inside, eventually making you unable to give, making you angry at the idea of giving, making you angry at sex in general.
        I think that one of the things that helped me the most was, first, realizing and admitting to myself that I really have this problem. Also accepting that sometimes I have libido, sometimes I don’t, and that that is natural. I have also been journaling about my memories from long ago when as a teen girl I had some sexual impulses appearing (and was learning to suppress them). Also doing intimate things with my husband after we have agreed that they will not lead to sex on that evening (which makes me feel “safe” and much more relaxed about doing them).

        Reply
  15. Nathan

    On some level, I guess I’m lucky that I became a Christian later on in life. I never got conditioned to believe that sex is for men only, and the only primary reason women exist is to provide that for their husbands, no questions asked, and they aren’t supposed to enjoy it themselves.
    Also the idea of “stay with your husband no matter what, and if there are any problems, it’s your fault for not satisfying him sexually”.
    For the women who have suffered through that, I’m so sorry for that, but hopefully the healing can begin.

    Reply
    • Harriet Vane

      My husband is the same. He didn’t grow up in the Evangelical Industrial Complex, and he is emotionally so much healthier than I am. He does not carry the spiritual, sexual, and mental baggage that I have. We are not going to church right now. It’s incredibly saddening to me that I think that our two small children will probably have a better shot at growing up to be spiritually and mentally healthier adults outside the church than in it.
      And leaders lament and bemoan and wonder why my generation is leaving church! WAKE UP!! We are telling them, over and over, but our answers aren’t convenient so they ignore us.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I understand, Harriet. And I’m sorry. I get why millennials aren’t putting up with the megachurch/power model. But there are alternatives. I hope you can find them! We do need community, but I understand.
        (and can I just say that I love your moniker? Dorothy Sayers’ fans unite!)

        Reply
        • Harriet Vane

          It can be extremely hard to find healthy church communities in small towns in the Southern US. 🙁 And honestly, I have so many mental health issues, it’s hard to even want to try to find a church. Even good churches don’t know what to do with you if you show up a wreck. You are expected to wear the “put-together” mask for some time before you are allowed to be messy and real. And I can’t pretend not to be messy any longer.
          I have read a ton of classic lit and modern lit. Harriet Vane and Peter Wimsey’s relationship is hands down my favorite literary man-woman relationship ever. Peter respects Harriet as an equal, he sees her as her own unique and independent person, and that, in the end, is why he wins her over.

          Reply
          • Susanna Musser

            I am with you on Lord Peter and Harriet Vane’s relationship. It shook my paradigm in a good way. Not surprising that it was written by an independent-minded female.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            What’s amazing is that it was written almost 100 years ago now! And yet I still really enjoy them and their relationship. Sayers was a gem.

          • E

            Well, all this ‘book talk’ has just made me add Dorothy Sayer to my TBR list! Sounds intriguing! And I’m looking to read more classics this year, so something written about 100years ago fits in well!

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Now, Harriet Vane is introduced halfway through the Peter Wimsey mysteries, so you won’t meet her for a while. But they’re lovely together!

    • Lindsey

      Hi Shiela!
      Thanks so much for sharing! This has been a very transformative year (and decade!) for me as well. My husband and I have begun the process of rejecting most of the doctrine that we were taught growing up. As a child, my identity because thoroughly enmeshed in the idea of being the “Good Christian girl”. Now that I’ve left so much of that behind I am suffering a crisis of identity. Yet, I wouldn’t change it. Freedom is scary to those who’ve spent their entire life enslaved – but for me, it beats the alternative.
      I know I’ve shared the story before about the first time my husband told our son that he couldn’t overrule me, that we were a team. That has been such a beautiful change in our marriage. It has made me love my husband so much more. We have a different dynamic now, and he’s the stronger proponent of it! When I’m stuck in old patterns with submission/fear, he draws me out with a gentle reminder that we are equals. We owe that, in large part, to you and your journey this year. You have been a blessing to us. Thank you.
      We don’t know what we believe regarding God/the Bible right now – we are still trying to figure it out, but I do know that there have been a few times when I’ve been ready to declare myself as unbelieving, and your blog post that day tethers my heart to Jesus. I’m not sure where we will land, but I appreciate the guidance.
      Looking forward to 2020’s blog posts – break the chains!

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Oh, Lindsey, hang in there! It sounds like you have an amazing husband. What I’ve done all through 2019 is to go back to reading the gospels, and try to see them with fresh eyes. Forget everything you’ve been taught, and just listen to Jesus and see what He did. It actually has opened my eyes to so much. Don’t let go of Him! And it’s okay to keep asking questions. God welcomes that. He’s big enough for it. I’m glad you haven’t let go yet!

        Reply
      • Arwen

        Lindsey, Please, don’t forsake Christ because of what people have done in His name. I mean you wouldn’t like the same done to you, right? It’s important to remember that believers all over the world live in far harsher and unbearable conditions, they could use their circumstances as an excuse to reject Christ, however their faith is far stronger than the privileged Westerns who want to walk away for the smallest infraction. The Church is made up of broken people who are being sanctified everyday. We can’t expect perfection from others if we ourselves can’t deliver. We should follow Jesus for Jesus only not for who is part of the clique, part of the crowd, part of the group, etc. no strings attached.
        I pray that you’re questioning Christ based on HIS words and HIS words ALONE not judging Him on what other’s have said about Him. I would hate for someone to judge me based on what others have said about me, rather than coming directly TO ME and asking ME. I hope you find the answer in Christ to whatever is troubling your soul. 🙂

        Reply
        • Lindsey

          Thank you, Arwen. I think it isn’t so much of a rejection of Christ as is it throwing up my hands in frustration and deciding that I will never know for sure what is true in the present life. There is so much noise, and so many conflicting beliefs, and even so much seeming contradiction in the Bible itself that I struggle to know exactly what I believe. But I love the story of God who became man simply to suffer and serve those whom He loved. So I cling to Jesus, even when the rest of religion makes no sense at all.
          Thanks again for your kind words.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            My husband says this: “Whenever I’m tempted to give up, I come back to Jesus. The fact is that the person of Jesus is tremendously attractive. He draws people to Him. I want to be like Him; I want others to understand Him. And so I can’t turn my back on Him.”

          • Lindsey

            I love that, Sheila.

  16. Brittney D Lee

    I got chills a time or two reading this. How God spoke to you to give you courage about “tomorrow” and what he’s doing now- helping you bring to light things that I think you are uniquely positioned to speak about.
    I’m excited to see what comes of the study. Thank you for speaking truth, even when it’s hard or goes “against the grain.” The grain may not be Biblical, and we need people who realize that to shepherd us toward Christ! Go sister, go (where He leads you!)!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you so much, Brittney! (And boy did I get chills that day in church, too. And it’s really awkward to be weeping in church when no one around you understands why).

      Reply
  17. Sarah O

    I joined your blog I believe in early 2015, and I am so thankful for you! My favorite post from 2019 was the new definition of sex – so needed! I think one of the biggest things your ministry highlighted for me was how much women have been missing from most conversation about Christian sex. No one bats an eye talking about a man’s “physical release” but it’s still somehow taboo to talk about a woman’s orgasm. It’s been so refreshing and helpful to my marriage to have a safe, Christian place to talk about sex in the context of marriage – that includes the wife! And also talks about the wife – from a woman’s perspective!
    I have really enjoyed the community here, even when things do get heated from time to time. I appreciate all the work you put into responding to each reader and allowing for dissent within healthy boundaries.
    I look forward to spending 2020 with you, and many congratulations to you and the family on sweet baby Alex!

    Reply
  18. Leah

    I had a similar enlightening world shattering experience with parenting. I feel duped by my church’s/family’s punitive shaming approach and praise the Lord that he showed me a better way through Gentle Christian Parenting.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, it can be a big, big change. I know Rebecca really struggled after she wrote Why I Didn’t Rebel because so many were upset about her stance on spanking. But the research does speak for itself, and people have read so much into the Bible about spanking that just isn’t there.

      Reply
      • Anon

        When growing up, my dad used to try to beat the free will out of me. It didn’t work. I always knew that God did not make a mistake by giving that gift to me.

        Reply
      • Susanna

        Moving to a place of gentler, more respectful parenting when my oldest was a toddler was a seismic shift for me at the time. I felt like a heretic! 3 babies in, and firmly on the side of “parenting without violence,” it’s hard to look back and remember why I ever believed what I used to believe.
        I would love to see more about that on this blog. I know you’re “the sex lady,” but I think your platform could be used to advocate for more Christ-like parenting practices at some point too. Maybe as Rebecca and Connor get rolling on this parenting gig? 😉

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I’m hoping to do that a little bit more–the problem is that when I do, the traffic goes way down, so I’m not sure how much people want to talk about it. But i’ll talk up Rebecca’s book Why I Didn’t Rebel as much as I can, because she talks about that A LOT–about how the super-obedience-or-else method of parenting does actually backfire. I’ll try to include more parenting this year! I used to talk about it a lot, but I fear that a lot of that audience has moved on and that’s not what people are looking for anymore here?
          I do think that it’s linked with what’s going on with marriage, too. I think the big commonality is that God wants our relationships to be based on authenticity, servanthood, and love, not on hierarchy and power. Yes, parents have authority over their children, but even there, God is still the ultimate authority. And raising kids to have good character is far more important than correcting behaviour (because correcting outward behaviour does not always produce good character–in fact, it frequently doesn’t). It needs to be about relationship. That’s how God is with us, and that’s how we should be with others, whether our spouses or with our kids.

          Reply
  19. Grace

    Hey Sheila!
    This is my first comment, but I just wanted to say I am very thankful to have found your blog in 2019! I definitely grew up hearing a lot of these bad teachings about marriage you mention in this post. I got engaged last year and I began to realize that I really didn’t even understand what sex was supposed to be! I read your book “The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex” and I have been reading your blog as well! Before I found your blog, I felt like sex was dirty and I was honestly a little scared about getting married and failing to satisfy my future husband. Now I really am excited to start this new adventure when I get married (I am getting married in just a few months!) You really have helped me understand what a beautiful thing the intimacy of a sexual relationship between a husband and wife should be! Thankful for you!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, congratulations on your engagement! I’m glad you found me, and I hope you have a wonderful life together. Do check out my Honeymoon Course, too. It can help you and your fiance have some important discussions in healthy ways beforehand, so that you each know what to expect. So glad you found me!

      Reply
  20. E Laura

    I love you Sheila! I love what you’re doing! This hits me right where I’ve been living the last 4 years fighting through the darkness of toxic Evangelical marriage teaching. God has been with me. He’s led me to reality. He’s opened my husband’s eyes through a long agonizing fight. And there is redemption, there is hope. “The truth will set you free” and I love that you are shining a light on this, fighting for the next generations!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Laura!

      Reply
  21. Maria

    Thank you for writing about marriage and sex in such a healthy way. I will say that I don’t agree with everything, but do agree with a lot. Many of your posts have helped me to better understand some things, consider other things from a different perspective. And in some cases, change my thinking. So again, thank you.
    And congratulations on such a successful year.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Maria!

      Reply
  22. Lydia Purple

    Sheila, I enjoyed following along on your journey. I am right there with you. Keep fighting.
    There are so many things wrong with popular Christian teachings from the US about family that it makes me sick. though there are more and more voices speaking up on these matters that are slowly changing the narrative.
    One of the main issues I see in these teachings is that authority is equaled with control. I believe authority is influence and sometimes there are areas of control (like parents who provide financially for their children‘s needs do control what their children eat, wear, play with…) but if we define authority with the right to control people that is a very dangerous place to go. Even God who has all authority does not control us. He is the one who designed us with our own will and the ability to make choices.
    Also all rebellion is frequently condemned without defining it more clearly. This starts in childhood when kids are trained by their Christian parents to obey without questioning anything and any pushback is judged as rebellion or deliberate defiance. If you’re asked to participate in injustice and sin, the right choice would be to rebell against that.
    This is how we shape how to relate to all authority. I am not saying we should raise disrespectful kids but we must allow to be questioned in our motives since we are too sinful and might be wrong, we certainly are not qualified to be an authority who is too high above any questioning… and we must empower our kids to stand up for what is right and godly. Who better to practice with than parents who love you and whom you should be able to trust. I believe perfect obedience is not something we can demand, it is a choice made freely and quick obedience is the fruit of a trusting relationship. I see that in my walk with God, who allows me to say no and question the why and who gently connects with my heart to work out the trust issues I have to then walk forward in faith and obedience. I see that same thing as my marriage grows. It is easier to give freely and submit as I trust my husbands intentions are good. I see it with my kids. When we trust a person based on a history of love, respect, humility and integrity it is easy to give freely, submit willingly, obey quickly. But it is something we give, not something that is demanded or taken from us. In God we are free to withhold if we are convinced that this is the god honoring choice. this is something all these books on marriage and parenting fail to mention.
    The rip the few passages on family out of the whole, removing it from the gospel principles and make a warped teaching that enables selfish power based rule that is far away from God’s intentions.
    I could ramble on but I’ll stop now.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Great thoughts, Lydia! The rebellion piece is a big one. In her book Why I Didn’t Rebel, Rebecca made the point that rebellion is only rebellion if it’s against God. If we rebel against parents because the parents are wrong–well, that’s not really rebellion. But we preach obedience and control so much that too often people don’t see that.
      Again, it’s setting up systems of control without Jesus being at the centre. Nothing should ever supplant Jesus.

      Reply
  23. Abby

    Hi Sheila!
    I just want to say thank you for your boldness on this topic. You really opened my eyes to the issues with Love and Respect, so when I took a class at Bible College this semester that used a different Eggrichs book, I was ready to take everything with a grain of salt. The book we covered in class (Cracking the Communication Code) is essentially the same content as L&R, so I was devastated that this information was being taught as gospel truth to a room full of mostly single students. Partly because of what I had read from you, me and the two other married women in that class wrote out all our concerns and took it to the dean of education. They were already planning on changing the course, but because of how we exposed the issues with the book, they will not be using Eggrichs’ work for the course in the future.
    20,000 is a huge number! I’m so excited to read the books you write about that. And it’s so encouraging to think that if each of us speaks up in our contexts, we can change the toxic message on sex from the church one step at a time.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s so encouraging to me that what I wrote is partly being used to change how students are taught! How wonderful.
      I do feel like Eggerichs is a one-trick pony. Pretty much all he writes is simply love & respect. He has very little else to say I think. Even his blog–that’s all he talks about. It’s actually tragic that he got it all so wrong.

      Reply
  24. Susanna Musser

    Sheila, you have given brave and eloquent voice to the questions and struggles I believe many Christian women have had. The older I’ve gotten, and the more frequently I hear, “We as the church should be the ones getting this right,” when in reality, we are getting it dead wrong, the more impossible it becomes not to ask uncomfortable questions. If we are willing to look the bare facts in the face, we are forced to acknowledge the enormous amount of cognitive dissonance that’s required of us if we are to go along with the prevailing culture, teachings, and practices of the modern evangelical church.
    It’s scary to me to realize how capable I have been over the years of dogged denial of basic facts when they didn’t fit the accepted church ideology. Deconstructing the prevailing teachings can feel terrifying both internally as we wonder where the questions will lead, and externally, as we are aware that in simply asking the hard questions, we run the risk that other Christians will think we are denying the faith. But if we aren’t allowed to ask the questions, we are in big trouble–isn’t that in and of itself indicative of an oppressive church culture? I was taught that the simple truth argues for itself, and that if someone has to shout or interrupt or exaggerate or berate others, that’s a sure sign their argument is weak.
    It’s difficult at best to distinguish between wrong-headed church teaching and the truth and to walk the line between rejecting that teaching and rejecting the faith altogether. I admire that you have accomplished that thus far. Thank you for being willing to put yourself out there as a target; please know that there are many of us out here standing with you.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you so much, Susanna. I think it all comes down to Christ; when we try to let all slip away except Jesus, and look at Him again, we tend to get things right.
      “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.” (2 Corinthians 2:20). That should be all of our mottos. If Christ would never say such a thing, do such a thing, call for such a thing, then why are we?

      Reply
  25. Natalie

    I love when I go into church with something heavy on my heart and praying about it, and God so blatantly uses the sermon to tell me exactly what He wants me to do next. Love that!!! And such a sweet connection to Alex’s birth too. 🥰🥰🥰 This is an exciting start for this new chapter in the blog and your lives! You’ve already done so much good for Christian marriages. It’s exciting to think of what else God has in store.

    Reply
  26. Alissa

    Shiela, I just want to thank you so so much for what you are doing here on your blog and in the Christian world. You’re one of my heroes…honestly! For being brave and honest and following God, for being balanced, and for giving a voice to all the women in the church who do not have one. For trying to make a change in how the church views a lot of these topics. That’s a huge undertaking! And I applaud you.
    I started following your blog about a year ago now when your first Love and Respect post came out (a friend had linked it on fb). 2019, at least the first half, was my big year of seeking emotional healing. And your posts about the L&R book, about sex, about men’s/women’s roles, etc., have gone a long long ways to help change and shape my mindset about marriage, sex, and intimacy in a more healthful and positive way. You’ve been an undeniable part of my growth this year. I’m single and 30 and you’ve helped me have a better outlook on potential future marriage (instead of feeling a bit like why should I give up my freedom to a man’s decision veto power, etc.).
    So I just want to thank you so much!! And say that while this year may have been life changing for you, you’ve also helped it be a life-changing year for me too!
    May God bless you abundantly in your ministry as you move forward and I am excited to seeing what that all is! 💙

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Alissa, thank you so much for the encouragement. I hope that this year is a wonderful one for you, too!

      Reply
  27. Karen

    Awesome post! I am so happy you decided to stand and am excited to see what comes of all this. No clothes indeed! It’s funny how much “biblical truth” one has to ignore to be a healthy human these days. It’s not right.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It really isn’t. And it makes me sad. I want to do a strong defence of the Bible, because I think many have misused it, and that’s tragic. The Bible is beautiful–we should not be making it say things it didn’t say.

      Reply
  28. Melissa W

    I have been pondering this post the whole weekend and finally decided to comment. I am a long time reader of your blog. I am here because your point of view on marriage and sex mirrors my own. And with that point of view I have had a very happy 22 year marriage with a healthy, active and mutually satisfying sex life. However, this past year as you have been writing I have been troubled. I couldn’t put my finger on what was troubling me for a long time because I agreed with you completely. At first I thought it was just troubling me that you were having to write all of this at all. Haven’t we gotten past this already? But why it is that you have to keep addressing the issue of hierarchy, patriarchy and the misuse of scripture wasn’t the only thing that was troubling me. What it came down to for me was personal responsibility. People are choosing to marry a self-centered person and then wonder why their marriage is miserable. And people are choosing to listen to authors, pastors, etc that are misusing scripture and teaching terrible things and then apply it to their lives and wonder why their marriages are falling apart. What I have wrestled with is the personal responsibility for believing this garbage? Often times people turn to this type of teaching because they want a formula that will give them a guarantee that God will have to give them a good marriage because they “followed the rules”. Now, it’s another thing entirely to be raised in it and have to fight your way out of it. But that is what got me thinking about my own upbringing. I was raised to think for myself. I grew up in a home, church, christian school and then college that empowered women (all part of the Assemblies of God) and challenged everyone to search scripture for themselves. I never thought twice about questioning a pastor, teacher, author on what they were teaching. In fact I was taught to do that. And it never occurred to me to give anyone, even a pastor or teacher the kind of authority over me that I have to believe what they say or do what they say or I wasn’t saved. So, although this year has made me uncomfortable for many reason, this post helped me realize why you are having to do this and the biggest reason is because a lot of people needed “permission” or at least the assurance that others are also doing it, to question and search scripture and dig deeper into traditionally held (but not essential to salvation) theologies. So, thank you for doing that. I pray that many will find the freedom to and the desire to seek after Jesus on their own and not to depend on the “wisdom” of others to guide that relationship and inform their theology. And keep up the good work. It has been good for my soul to watch so many be freed from the burden of legalism as you have been exposing the lies and bring truth to light!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, thank you, Melissa! I’m just like you. I grew up in a family of VERY strong women, who all believed and served God, often in amazing ways (my aunt is an inspiration; so is my mom, especially in her later years. And my Grandma was amazing. And my great-great grandmothers marched with the Booths in London…you get the idea). Anyway, I grew up thinking for myself, too.
      But I think so many women and girls don’t understand that they can say no to some teachings WITHOUT THAT MEANING THAT THEY ARE SAYING NO TO GOD. That’s the big distinction. And I hope I do give people permission! That’s really what I hope the survey will do. If I’m able to say, “Hey, if you believe X, you’re 60% less likely to reach orgasm in marriage”, then perhaps people may take a second look at X, you know?

      Reply
  29. Christian Feminist

    I followed your blog and read 31 Days from 2013-2015 when I was a newlywed struggling with anxiety and panic attacks in sex. It was helpful and I will say that my husband and I began to experience mutually enjoyable and intimate sex (!!).
    However, as I continued to grow and deconstruct a lot of my faith background in light of my work with survivors of sexual assault, I grew increasingly frustrated with what I saw as the church’s inadequate response to sexual violence, women in general, and SO MUCH patriarchy. To be honest, I stopped reading your blog somewhere in there because I think I perceived your silence on calling out those harmful messages as endorsements of them… or at the least led me to read some of your posts through the lens of assuming they were built on that same patriarchal foundation and thus taking your words out of context.
    I happened across your site today through Pinterest and am LOVING all of this new content really calling out the wrong and hurtful messages. Bravo, Shiela!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, thank you so much! I never meant to be silent–I was just trying to minister to as many as possible. But as I’ve been starting to see the same problems come up again and again, and realizing the common roots, I’m determined to get to the bottom of it.

      Reply
  30. K

    2019 was the year of “I’ve spent my entire life hiding from people who would use me… when I should have been hiding – from you!” and I don’t understand why I would see it then, if it was already too late.
    Can’t leave, he won’t show or prove change (still refuses counseling), I’m only losing my mind a bit more each day, while everything pulls to fall off the grid to some other country. I don’t know why I’m still here.

    Reply
  31. VHR

    Oh how damaging wrong teaching can be. I was told that as a woman and wife, I couldn’t possibly understand my husband’s drive for sex. That it is the wife’s duty to keep him satisfied. Nothing was mentioned about mutuality, only that sex is intended for marriage and that only married sex is good sex. Only I haven’t found that married sex is good at all. I have been married for 10 years and have just now realized how wrong that was. How damaged my marriage is because of it. Where we go from here, I have no idea, but at least God has revealed these truths through your work and the writings of a few other woman bloggers.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      i’m so sorry, VHR! I hope I can help give you a new perspective, and I hope that you and your husband can really find that mutuality. Have you ever read The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex? If not, that may be a great place to begin!

      Reply

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