Why I’m Rejoicing and Lamenting at the Same Time–Wanna Join Me?

by | May 18, 2020 | Research, Uncategorized | 33 comments

Rejoicing and Lamenting at the Same Time
Merchandise is Here!

The Bible tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

Well, I’m doing both, so I guess you all better get busy! 🙂

This isn’t going to be a long post today, but instead more of an update. It’s Victoria Day here in Canada, where we get a day off. I know for you Americans the vacation is next Monday, and I’m jealous, since next Monday is my birthday (and I turn 50!). And perhaps today is a holiday in the UK and Australia and New Zealand as well? I don’t know.

But regardless, I’ve got a LOT of knitting and organizing and stretching scheduled for today, and very little work.

I also really need a day off because we sent in our manuscript for The Great Sex Rescue on Friday.

I spent the weekend in a bit of a haze, recovering from the marathon of work we did.

But that is what I’m rejoicing about: My big project is done! And it’s an important project–probably the most important I’ve ever done. The book is based on the survey of 22,000 people we did in the fall, asking about different teachings we often hear in the evangelical church about sex and marriage, and then seeing how those teachings affected women’s marital satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, and rates of sexual pain. And in the book, we lay out what healthy teaching looks like, what women have too often been told instead, and the results when we believe the harmful stuff rather than the helpful stuff. We combed through the best-selling Christian sex and marriage books to find out what they teach, and those quotes are peppered throughout the book.

We’re not quite done, because it will still go through an editing process with the publisher, but we’re a lot closer, and I’m very grateful. And very excited.

But writing that book was also very difficult, and that’s why I’m lamenting.

We heard so many heartbreaking stories of how teachings like “all men struggle with lust” affected women, and so many stories of marital rape and other horrendous things. We heard some amazing and heartwarming stories, too, and it was wonderful to be able to tell hopeful stories (and I think the book does sound hopeful). But there’s a lot of hurt out there. An awful lot of hurt.

And it bothers me greatly that the church has ignored it.

Let me take one data point, that Rebecca and I talked about in two podcasts now: the story of Aunt Matilda as written in The Act of Marriage by Tim Lahaye.

We read that story in our podcast on The Act of Marriage, but if I could summarize the story, a young woman is married to an older man, and on their wedding night he rapes her while she is screaming and fighting him off. He continues to do this throughout their marriage. She then warns her niece who is to be married that sex is terrible. Lahaye’s take is, “isn’t it so awful that Aunt Matilda wrecked this girl’s view of sex just because Matilda didn’t like sex herself?” And then LaHaye made reference to Matilda and her “equally unhappy” husband in this terrible marriage with terrible sex.

That book sold 2.5 million copies. It went through at least four editions.

And no one thought to say, “You know, maybe saying that a rapist and his victim are ‘equally unhappy’ is a really bad idea.”

In The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I make an argument that God made sex to be amazing in three ways: physically, emotionally, and spiritually, all at the same time. I set up a healthy, and fun, view of sex for women, free from shame or ugliness. And that’s an important and hopeful book.

God made sex to be AWESOME!

It’s supposed to be great physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Feel like something’s missing?

But now we’ve realized that while The Good Girl’s Guide is very necessary, we also need another piece of the puzzle. It isn’t enough to just explain what “good” looks like. We also have to rescue people from the bad stuff. We have to help people see where they may have believed lies, and show them how they can let those go by the wayside and emerge with a much healthier view of sex.

The quotes we found from the books will shock you. There are so many, and Aunt Matilda is just one. But why did no one think to pull that story? Why did no one realize, “that’s a really bad thing?”

My guess is that people did realize. It’s just that they had no voice.

I’m sure many, many women reading that story were appalled. I’m sure they wanted to do what I did to that book when I first read it back in 1990–I drowned it in the bathtub.

But back in 1990 I couldn’t do anything about it. And I think that’s how thousands, if not tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands, of individual women felt.

Well, now we’ve got the voices of 20,000 women. We’ve got stories. We’ve got data. We know what treating marital rape like this does to women. We know what the lust message and the obligation sex message and the gatekeeper message do to women. And now we have a publisher who is willing to tell the story.

So we can finally do something about Aunt Matilda. That makes me rejoice, yes. But it also makes me really, really sad that this was necessary in the first place.

And so I need a break, and I’m going to go knit and clean out a closet! And thank you all for rejoicing, and lamenting, with me.


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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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33 Comments

  1. Active Mom

    Thank you for giving a voice to the Aunt Matilda’s as well as the Karen’s, the Susie’s, the Julie’s, the Marilyn’s and all the others who called out and no one thought they were important enough to listen to simply because they were women.
    Enjoy your day off!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you! I will!

      Reply
  2. Bethany#2

    I’m really excited about the impact possibilities!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Me, too!

      Reply
  3. Doug Hoyle

    Congratulations

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks!

      Reply
  4. Chris

    Oh how I love the “post big project haze” Lol!! Been there many times. Enjoy your day off Sheila!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you!

      Reply
  5. Kristen

    Congratulations on finishing your manuscript, Sheila! Writing is exhausting work, but writing on a deadline is even more stressful. I can imagine the huge sigh of relief that you and your team have taken over the last few days. 🙂
    I can also imagine the heaviness you all have experienced in writing and thinking about all of these women’s heartbreaking stories. It’s a lot to process. I’m so sorry you – and those women – had to go through all of that, but so glad that the suffering is finally coming to the light. I think your book will bring a lot of healing to women and marriages in the church.
    Why no one spoke up sooner about these highly problematic writings? I think you’re right when you say maybe it’s because the women didn’t have a voice. And maybe that ties in to a greater fear of saying anything remotely critical about a “Christian” book or teaching. When I was sixteen, my parents gave me a copy of Joshua Harris’ “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” and I could only get halfway through it before I abandoned it. The idea of courtship over dating, and the hyper focus on no touching whatsoever (not even holding hands, if I remember correctly, but I’m not sure, it’s been almost ten years lol), just turned me off. But I never shared my concerns with my parents. It wasn’t until last year when I was taking a little road trip with my sister, that she said she had tried reading the same book when she was a teen, and it made her so mad she couldn’t finish it. Not only did the whole courtship thing turn her off, but she was greatly offended by the idea that girls were never to ask a guy out.
    My point is that it took me and my sister years to realize we shared the same horrible experience, and the same anxiety and concerns about that book, but for years we didn’t tell anyone because it was a Christian book. And I think this happens to a lot of people – maybe especially women? – when they come across problematic or harmful ideals in a text that’s marketed to Christians.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, Kristen, I think you’re right. I’ve been saying for a while now that I think it’s an “Emperor Has No Clothes” phenomenon, where everyone knows it’s bad, but they think they’re the only ones who feel that way.
      The only thing I’d add is that I think in our case, the “powers that be” in many denominations/parachurch organizations have deliberately silenced opposing voices (just look at how Focus on the Family has deliberately ignored me). The powers that be aren’t listening, but perhaps when we come at them with 20,000 voices, then they will. I’m praying!

      Reply
  6. Gemma

    Thank you for the work you are doing! I am looking forward to reading the book.
    I love the blog and the messages you spread.
    I am passionate about people (and especially women) being given a healthy and true perspective on sex.
    I see a lot of the terrible teaching that is out there is the US and English speaking world. I live in France and I wonder what women here get taught about sex and what resources they have access to. I would love to see something like your blog for the French-speaking world.

    Reply
    • Natalie

      I agree, Gemma! And coming from an American/English speaker who’s spent a good amount of time in France and has many French friends (some of whom are married, so I’ve watched their relationship grow and change from dating to marriage to children), from my experience, I’d say the French view of sex is much more mutual pleasure focused, or really just pleasure focused in general. They don’t seem to be as offended by sexuality in general, but especially a woman owning her sexuality. (Same goes for many other non-English speaking European countries). There’s a reason French and Italian men are stereotypically known by English speaking women as good lovers: because they were raised more to pursue pleasure during sex and to view the whole process as all part of sex (foreplay, PIV sex, post-sex) and not with this idea that their wife owe’s them sex once married or that sex is purely about penetration, which seems to be pervasive at least here in the US.
      I’m sure as European and American cultures continue to merge, these differences will become weaker. But at least historically, I’d say that’s the case. America’s/Britain’s views on sex have always been very Puritanical historically speaking compared to elsewhere in Europe.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I agree with you, Natalie, but I wonder why this is? I wonder if anyone has any academic work on it?

        Reply
        • E

          Growing up in the UK I don’t think there was much of the purity culture as you speak of it. Just not much talk either way. That is why I used to talk to my sisters and young girls about it. We need to bring up the topic more and let people have someone to ask questions to.

          Reply
          • E

            When I say young girls I mean more like college age. ☺️

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            That’s awesome!

        • Maria

          Places that have historic ties to the British Empire tend to have inherited their messed up view of sex and gender roles. Since other European countries were not colonized, they developed their own views independently. From what I’ve researched, anyway:

          Reply
          • Maria

            Oops! That was supposed to be a reply to Sheila’s question. On a side note, congrats on the book! It sounds terrific. On the one hand, I’m hoping it will be released soon. On the other, patience is a virtue and quality cannot be rushed. So, yeah.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Yeah, it always takes about a year, so I would think next spring! It’s a long time for me, too. 🙂

      • Andrea

        I have friends in psychology that say you can tell how a man (or woman) will approach sex by how they approach the rest of life. For example, if he is selfish outside of the bedroom and considers his needs first, he’s going to be the same way inside the bedroom. I think the big difference between the US/UK and countries like Italy and France is not just sex, but the idea of pleasure more broadly. Compare food for example! The US is known for fast food, junk food, obesity, etc., the UK for bland food, while Italy and France are known for delicious food and people who enjoy it in a sensual way, don’t rush through dinner, but savor every bite…

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          This is really interesting. I’m going to have to ponder this one…

          Reply
      • AspenP

        That makes so much sense Natalie that the “good lovers” reputation comes from their sexual education being focused on mutual pleasure. I think we’re really teaching and talking about sex incorrectly in Western churches.

        Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Gemma!

      Reply
  7. Natalie

    Thanks for being such a vocal part of the movement to turn the tide on how Christians view married sex, Sheila!!! It’s pivotal, and desperately needed!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Natalie! I so appreciate all your encouragement and comments, too!

      Reply
  8. Jane Eyre

    Congratulations, Sheila!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you!

      Reply
  9. Becky

    Congratulations on finishing the manuscript! I’m looking forward to reading the results. It’s good to know that there is a resource coming to address, and hopefully begin to heal, the trauma that so many of us have had to deal with.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks, Becky! There is a lot on vaginismus, too, so I’m hoping that helps. I know you’ve been battling for so long.

      Reply
  10. John Nabergall, II

    Happy (early) birthday, Sheila! You’re still a “young thing”, compared to many of us…keep up the GREAT work!!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you!

      Reply
  11. Chris

    Sheila, I think you should have used Victoria Day as an excuse to do a post and finally post some pictures of David at Vimy Ridge!

    Reply
  12. Bre

    Sending lots of hugs and gratitude your way!
    Even though I haven’t gone through even a fraction of what you have…I get it (to an extent). If you couldn’t tell by my excessively long rants that I comment on here, people not wanting to face abuse, pain, hypocrisy, or just bad teaching in Christian culture is something that REALLY weights on my mind and gets me angry. It makes me so sad and angry that a book like yours is even needed in the first place, but I’m so grateful that you’re giving a voice to the thousands of people who have been hurt by these “Christian Classics”over the years and helping them realize that they aren’t crazy and that they aren’t alone. Since I read dozens of books on this sort of stuff, I’m so excited to read your new book but so annoyed that I have to wait a whole year for it!
    I’m also very grateful because you’ve personally gave me an outlet and safe space to discuss this stuff and let my feelings about them out. Even though I’m 21, single, Autistic, and think that I don’t want to get married; and therefor VERY outside of your target demographic; you and everyone else in this online community have been very welcoming and kind. Your website has been a very safe place to explore different ideas about Christian sex, relationships, marriage, and beliefs. Actually, I recently ordered A Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex; even though I plan on staying single, I’m trying to develop/build a healthy concept/understanding of marriage, dating, relationships, sex, and family. Regardless of your exact beliefs or what kind of life you chose, having a healthy understanding of this stuff is important for everyone.
    Thank you for everything you do! Stay strong because what you’re doing matters and is helping to change the message!

    Reply

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