How Has Evangelical Teaching about Sex Contributed to Horrific News Stories?

by | Mar 19, 2021 | Pornography | 61 comments

Could the Evangelical View of Sex Be Contributing to News Stories like the Atlanta Shooting
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The shootings in Atlanta this week are all too tragic–but I believe they are also a logical extension to how evangelicalism too often talks about sex, porn, and women.

First, before I delve into this too much, these shootings were racially motivated. He killed mostly Asian women; he went to places Asian women worked at; he was reported to have been heard saying he was trying to kill Asians.

As I read the news unfold, I thought to myself, “I know what kind of porn he watches.”

To paraphrase Michael John Cusick in his excellent book Surfing for God (about defeating pornography addictions), he said that part of the allure of porn is that it makes you feel strong without actually having to be strong. You can “use” other people, and then when you’re feeling insecure, rejected, lonely–really anything negative–you can turn to porn to make you feel strong and like a real man again. And we can’t get away from the fact that many men feel strong by degrading others (which is what porn does). And it often degrades those who are seen as “less than”. That’s why fetishization of the very young or of certain racial groups is such a big deal in pornography. You really can’t separate the hatred of women from the hatred of certain races. Pornography takes all of our horrible prejudices and makes them worse, because it’s our prejudices that make us feel “better than”, or strong. 

But what I want to look at today is how the excuses that he gave for what he did actually are the logical extension of much of our teaching around porn and temptation.

Here’s what the shooter said:

 

After his arrest, Long indicated to investigators he believed he had a sex addiction and “an issue with porn,” and claimed to see the spas as “a temptation … that he wanted to eliminate,”

CNN

So he saw these women as temptations to eliminate. 

Well, that’s pretty much how Steve Arterburn, author of Every Man’s Battle, talks about lust. Let’s break this down:

1. Women are the enemy.

On this New Life website, he has an article on how to perfect the “bouncing your eyes” technique:

First Step: Make a List of Your Enemies!

The first way to start, Fred tells us, is by making a list of your “greatest enemies”. These could be lingerie ads, either in a seemingly harmless department store catalog, or that Victoria’s Secret magazine that your wife left laying around. It could include billboards, it could be TV shows or ads, it may be female joggers, or maybe it’s that female co-worker who tends to dress a little suggestively. And then there’s always the beach.

Steve Arterburn

Bounce Your Eyes

He literally puts women in the category of “enemy” and says you should make a list of them–a list that includes joggers and co-workers, or any woman at the beach.

The victim of lust is portrayed as the man’s purity not the woman he is objectiying

Every Man’s Battle portrays lots of rather disgusting anecdotes of how men get into trouble with lust, but the women that they are objectifying are not described as the victims here–instead, the man’s purity is described as what is being lost. When Alex masturbates to his sleeping sister-in-law, it’s not discussed how this objectifies her in his mind and how this is a sin against her. When a youth volunteer rapes a 15-year-old, the problem is that now he may get in trouble because her parents may report him–not one single word is spent describing the trauma he has just inflicted on this girl. 

The cure for lust is in women’s hands

And how do men get over lust? It’s a two-fold process. First, they “bounce their eyes” away from women, and then they transfer all their sexual energy onto their wives. As Keith and I already talked about in different posts, “bouncing your eyes” only solidifies lust’s definition of women as dangerous, and never chooses to respect women and see them as human beings.


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After you bounce your eyes, though, you have to direct all your sexual energy to your wife, which will cause your desire for her to go up. And then she will become your “methadone”:

“Your wife can be a methadone-like fix when your temperature is rising.” p. 118

“This newfound hunger will shock her. She has been accustomed to providing you five bowls a week, primarily through physical foreplay and sexual intercourse. Things were at equilibrium. Suddenly you need an extra five bowls from her. For no apparent reason, you come calling for intercourse twice as often. ” p. 134

Steve Arterburn

Every Man's Battle

In Every Man’s Battle, women are only ever talked about in terms of their body parts or their looks–or their relationship to men

Women are either dangers or rescuers; they are never just people. Every Man’s Battle never talks about actually respecting women–only avoiding women or else using your wife. They equate male sexuality with objectifying women, and the goal seems to be to objectify one woman for the rest of your life. Sex isn’t talked about as intimacy, but only in terms of sexual release. To wives, they say:

“When men aren’t getting regular sexual release, their eyes are more difficult to control. Help him out in this battle. Give him release.” p. 148

Steve Arterburn

Every Man's Battle

And in the entire book there is no mention of women’s pleasure or experience at all. Women are only ever talked about in terms of what they can do for men. Even that horrible anecdote about the youth volunteer raping the 15-year-old is under the heading “lurking at your neighbor’s door”, as if the sin is really against the father.

When women are seen as the enemy; where men’s purity is the thing that is at danger, not women; when women are dehumanized; should we be surprised when this happens?

What would happen instead if, in church, we were taught that women were to be respected, and that respect didn’t look like avoiding women and trying not to look at them, but instead choosing to truly see them? What would happen if we talked about how women were more than their body parts? What would happen if, when talking about lust, we framed it as men being dangerous to women, rather than women being dangerous to men? 

What would happen if we simply treated women as if they were real people?

I am so sorry for the grieving families in Atlanta today. But I believe that these messages about lust and women contributed to this killing, at least in part. And I believe these messages hurt so many others, even if no killing actually takes place. When women are dehumanized and men are told they have no self-control, and so need women to step in for them–how can anything but disaster ensue?

And what about that Missouri pastor being put on leave for saying that women need to stay attractive to their husbands?

I wasn’t going to talk about this because I felt his sermon was just so gross, but I think it fits in today’s broader theme. So let’s take a look for a moment.

Stewart-Allen Clark, of First General Baptist Church, in a sermon sometime in February, said:

“I really don’t believe women understand how visual men are…I don’t think women understand how important it is for a man to have a beautiful woman on his arm.”

“You can call it juvenile, immature, sexist…God made men to be drawn to beautiful women. We are made this way, we can’t help ourselves.”

Stewart-Allen Clark

NBC News

He also said:

“I want you to know a need that your man has that he won’t ever tell you about, but since I’m the preacher man, I’ll say it: Your man needs an attractive wife.”

Stewart-Allen Clark

NBC News

And finally, about the “do not deprive” verses, he said:

“The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband…After you get married, men, put this on your headboard in the house…Whenever she’s not in the mood, take out your Bible.”

Stewart-Allen Clark

NBC News

Over and over again in the sermon, he said “that’s just the way men are made”, but he didn’t reference hardly any Scripture for that. Instead, he read from one of the very books we used in The Great Sex Rescue to show how problematic the teaching is–His Needs, Her Needs.

Now, the problem with his sermon was that he said all of this over and over and over again, and when you listen you just get disgusted. But here’s the issue I’m having:

Everything he said is ALSO said in our evangelical bestsellers. 

Just a few examples:

His Needs Her Needs says “An Attractive Spouse” is one of men’s five big emotional needs in marriage–whereas it doesn’t register for women in the same way. “She should try to look the way her husband likes her to look. She should resemble the woman he married. Does that mean a woman mus stay eternally young? Of course not, but getting old is not an excuse for gaining weight and dressing like a bag lady.”

He also says that being married to a wife who had gained 100 pounds is “like a prison sentence.”

For Women Only says that men need you to try to be attractive, too. “As we struggle with [the] hard truth [that when you take care of yourself, your expectation that ‘I only have eyes for you’ feels fairer and easier to accomplish], it might be helpful to remember that we’re not alone: We’re also asking our man to do something that is hard and goes against his natural instinct [not look at other women] The man who originally opened my eyes to this issue explained it this way: “We need to see that you care about keeping our attention on you–and off of other women. Sometimes it is so hard for us to look away. It takes a lot of work and a lot of effort. But it helps me so much if I see that my wife is willing to do her part and purposefully work toward staying in shape and looking good.” p. 168.

“A man can’t not want to look.” p. 112

Through a Man’s Eyes (also by Shaunti Feldhahn) says: “because men and women are wired so differently, women often don’t realize how the opposite sex sees the world. Most women simply aren’t aware of what men’s visual nature means, or how much it impacts literally every area of most men’s lives and relationships.” p. 8. It describes Jack’s typical day at work, where most of his mental energy goes into trying not to look at co-workers, get distracted by billboards, or stare at the teenagers in bikinis in the hotel pool. It says things about his day like, “the next few hours are tough” because a female co-worker is in sight, or “Jack breathes a sigh of relief” because a skirt doesn’t ride up.

Every Man’s Battle has a chapter on lust simply called “Just by being male.” It’s how God made them, you see!

Act of Marriage says: “Women must cultivate the problem of visual lust, whereas men almost universally must cope with the problem just because they are men.” p. 298

Love & Respect says, “His sexuality is different from yours, because he is visually stimulated. He needs sexual release just as you need emotional release.” p. 251

Every Heart Restored says, “because of male hardwiring, men don’t naturally have that Christian view of sex.” p. 87

And that interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7, where men can just use it as a weapon every time she doesn’t want sex? It’s all over our evangelical bestsellers, everywhere. 

You know what’s missing? Any discussion of consent. 

One of the big findings of our survey was the believing that a wife is obligated to have sex when her husband wants it wrecks sex for women and causes sexual pain to skyrocket. It’s one of the big reasons that evangelical women suffer from twice the rate of sexual pain as the general population. You can listen to a longer discussion of it in our podcast on obligation sex, or, of course, check out The Great Sex Rescue!

The Great Sex Rescue

Now Available!

What if you’re NOT the problem with your sex life?

What if the things that you’ve been taught have messed things up–and what if there’s a way to escape these messages?

Welcome to the Great Sex Rescue.

I just have one simple question after laying this all out:

Why is it that when people say EXACTLY THE SAME THING that is in our bestsellers and it hits the news, Christians are horrified–and yet we keep buying these bestsellers?

The Atlanta shooter conveyed the exact same message as Every Man’s Battle, and shows the logical conclusion of that argument, and yet no one batted an eye when that series sold four million copies.

The Missouri pastor’s sermon is basically just a whole bunch of lines from all of our bestsellers strung together, and yet when we see it that way, we’re upset. But we still bought all of these bestsellers that say the same thing!

This stuff comes from a common place. Our evangelical culture treats women, lust, and porn in terrible, terrible ways. We don’t talk about respect and dignity. We don’t talk about freedom in Christ. We talk about dangers and neutralizing threats and men being lust monsters (which they’re not, and which contributes to men feeling shame from normal sexual attraction, which they shouldn’t).

We cover all of this at length in The Great Sex Rescue, and I truly believe it’s a freeing message.

I’ve spent all week recording the audio version at a studio near here, and so I’ve just read it all out loud over the last few days. It is honestly a very good book that gets to the heart of what is wrong with the way we talk about sex.

But when I see these news stories, I just get so saddened and horrified and frustrated all at the same time, because it’s just all so predictable and so unnecessary.

Church, this has nothing to do with Christ. And we can do better.

Can’t we? Please. I need to believe that we can change the conversation about sex. Can you believe with me?

And, again, I know that many people struggle with lust, and I’m not trying to shame them. I just think the way we talks about this makes it worse. Many men have said they found our lust podcast freeing, and I hope you do, too!

Could the evangelical view of sex be contributing to horrific news stories like the Atlanta Shooter?

What do you think? Why can people say this terrible stuff in books but then people not make the leap to how dangerous it is? How can we stop it? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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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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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61 Comments

  1. Meghan

    Those quotes about “staying attractive for your spouse” make me incandescent with rage so I’m going to avoid getting on that soapbox and pick the other thing that merely annoyed me…
    OK Mr. Misogyny, I am a RUNNER not a jogger, and I don’t choose my athletic gear based on what makes me look the prettiest, I choose it based on what fits well, is comfortable, is appropriate for the weather, and prevents chafing. I don’t go run the trails or the streets to be ogled, I’m out there for the pure joy of moving my body and feeling empowered. MMKAY?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think that still makes you the enemy, Meghan, because you’re out of the house and JOGGING. Seriously, there is ABSOLUTELY NO EXCUSE for calling women of any type “the enemy”, let alone telling men to “make a list of their greatest enemies,” and including women as examples.
      Do they not see that this is what leads to stuff like the Atlanta shooter? You already told men women were the enemy! And what are we supposed to do with enemies?….

      Reply
      • Rebecca Lindenbach

        Yes, if women truly cared about their brothers in Christ, they would understand their bodies are the problem and just stay home. If they can’t, they should make sure when in public they stay perfectly still, so none of the jiggly bits ever tempted any man ever again. *HEAVY sarcasm*

        Reply
      • Meghan

        How dare I exist as a woman while wearing snug fitting clothing outside the house! I should suck it up and put on big baggy sweatpants and a sweatshirt just in case a man drives by! It doesn’t matter if I will overheat or chafe, what really matters here is a random man’s potential lust. Won’t someone think of the men!!
        Yes, this sort of blame shifting is absolutely harmful. Suddenly the problem isn’t within yourself, it’s with other people, and if they would just *get in line* all your problems would be solved! But ugh they won’t stop doing the things, so someone is going to have to force them to stop. And then you add viewing the Other as an enemy, and well…

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          It really is unconscionable. I think the secular world has every right to be very angry at evangelicals right now, because we haven’t shut these things down. We’ve made them bestsellers instead.

          Reply
      • Andrea

        More sarcasm here: “for the pure joy of moving my body and feeling empowered” — how DARE you, Meghan?!

        Reply
      • Meghan

        Andrea: EVERYONE KNOWS women only exercise to lose/maintain weight and tempt men!
        Where’s an eye roll emoji when you need one?

        Reply
    • Jane Eyre

      PREACH, Meghan.
      I hate the word “jogger.” I am a runner – not the track star I used to be (miles in the 5:40s are a thing of the past), but I am a runner. An athlete. This is not about keeping trim and putting on a show for men (there’s too much sweat, too many blisters, and too many black toenails for that); it’s about competing against myself and staying healthy.
      To men (or women, who are also guilty of this) who think I am a jogger who keeps a tight bod for men: let’s lace up and I will meet you at the starting line. Perhaps you will be the first person to call me a jogger or insult me for weight gain who can outrun me. Somehow, though, I think you fundamentally misunderstand athletics because you are not an athlete.

      Reply
      • Meghan

        HAHAHA for realz about the feet! I haven’t had a pedicure in years because there’s no way I’m giving up these hard won callouses that have kept my heels blister free since they formed. My husband doesn’t care at all that my feet are all scratchy. He’s proud of me for all the hard work I put in for training to do some (if I’m being honest) fairly ridiculous things. He doesn’t get it, but he’s great crew support and my biggest cheerleader. And isn’t that how we should want men and women to interact?

        Reply
        • Rebecca Lindenbach

          Oh your husband sounds so wonderful <3 I feel like our husbands would be friends. Haha just great dudes joyfully encouraging and supporting their wives!

          Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I’m so jealous. I actually really enjoy jogging, but I have achilles tendon issues that make it impossible now and I’ve been firmly told not to. I miss it too!

          Reply
      • Boone

        Just so the irony isn’t wasted here. The two previous posters are athletes that work hard to stay in good physical condition for whatever reason. They’re seen as the enemy because they’re doing it. This goes beyond all logic.

        Reply
      • Meghan

        Boone: Extra irony – I took up running and weight lifting as a way to empower myself and heal my relationship with my body. For most of my life I only exercised as a form of punishment for not conforming to mainstream beauty ideals. I was basically objectifying myself.
        The way women are presented as the enemy and objectified in other ways throughout those quotes doesn’t just affect the way men think, it affects women too.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Have you ever seen the show “Strong”? I think it was only for one season, but it’s on Netflix. I LOVE it so much! The women just simply get STRONGER. The woman who eventually won looks so much like I do now in the beginning, and it’s very motivating. I really do want to start weightlifting more. We have a chinup bar I’ve been trying to use. It really isn’t about looking better as much as it is trying to get strong for me.

          Reply
      • Meghan

        Sheila: Do it! Weight lifting is so empowering! I always feel like Wonder Woman when I need to move up a dumbbell size or add more weight to the bar or I can do a longer plank.
        Nerd Fitness has been a fantastic resource for me.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I’ve been having trouble with dizziness lately so I stopped exercising a few months ago while they figured it out. I’m scheduled for an MRI in June, which is still a long way off. But I can’t go upside down or sideways at all, and it’s really a pain. It means I can do planks or sit ups or anything like that at all. I can do arm weights, though! And the chinups. But I can hardly wait until they get my left ear sorted out and I’m back to normal (or I’m praying I will be anyway one day!)

          Reply
    • Melissa

      I am absolutely living for this whole thread. *praise hands*

      Reply
      • Meghan

        The sarcasm is rampant and glorious and it’s made me snort several times. Y’all are my people.

        Reply
      • Marie

        I do think that placing all the blame on women and labeling them “the enemy” is terrible. However, I don’t think it’s right either to throw out completely any idea of women’s call to modesty. And I don’t define modesty as wearing long skirts and baggy sweatshirts. But looking at what women athletes wear in competition these days is disturbing to me. The men wear far more clothing and it doesn’t hinder their performance. Why do women athletes have to run in underwear?
        This is not to say that they should be blamed for men’s struggle with lust, but unnecessarily exposing themselves seems to be feeding into an unhealthy culture of women finding value in looking “sexy.”

        Reply
    • Mary

      The men in my church are about to start a study on Every Man’s Battle. I had never heard about it but have heard several of these ideas contained in it, growing up in independent Baptist churches my whole life. I have come across your blog, Sheila, and shared with my husband my concerns about Every Man’s Battle, and he agreed with me and won’t participate in this men’s study. I am not one for confrontation, but I am disturbed that our church leadership is teaching this book. I am considering saying something to my pastor and, frankly, even considering leaving the church. Do you have any advice?

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Mary, we’ll have our scorecard of healthy sexuality teaching available again soon, and you can show it to them and see how Every Man’s Battle scores. You can also show them a much healthier alternative–Surfing for God by Michael John Cusick. It’s so much healthier!

        Reply
    • Anon

      The funny thing is, the very guys who get so heated about women ‘causing them to sin’ by not covering up enough are usually also the ones who make nasty comments about women who dress ‘frumpily’ (i.e. very covered up) and get incandescent at the sight of a woman in a burkha…We really can’t win.

      Reply
  2. Jo

    Clearly we’ve been mistranslating Matthew 5:27: “If YOUR right eye causes YOU to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that YOU lose one of YOUR members than that YOUR whole body be thrown into hell” (emphases added).
    The way it apparently OUGHT to be translated is “If the other half of the population is forcing you to sin simply because they happen to exist, then by all means treat them in a dehumanizing way by viewing them as a collection of body parts that could be used for your imminent sexual gratification, rather than seeing that half of the population as whole people who also happen to have been created in the image of God.” 🙄🙄🙄

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That sounds pretty much like it! We really can do better. We really can.

      Reply
  3. Dorthea

    And to add to the ridiculous thinking of these people we wives are to stay physically attractive for our husbands so they don’t lust yet we’re not allowed to exercise in clothing or in any way that could be tempting! So we’re to be trophy wives without being temptations.
    That’s what you’d call an oxymoron!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Great point! Yes, we’re to stay attractive, but we’re also “enemies” if we jog.

      Reply
    • Andrea

      Yup, with emphasis on the “moron” part of that word!

      Reply
  4. Jo

    Yeah, not much point being a trophy wife if your husband can’t show you off.

    Reply
    • Dorthea

      Guess I’ll just stay focused on being healthy. That’s more attractive anyway!

      Reply
    • April Wright

      I live here in Georgia north of Atlanta. I do believe what Sheila said plays a part of the killing as well as the racism that has been rampant throughout all of USA. It is heartbreaking that people do not want to see the TRUTH they blindly blame it on a group of people. Sad that publishers do not acknowledge on how their books have affected women in general.

      Reply
  5. Dorthea

    To the point you were making in this post though the horrific shootings in Atlanta are the logical conclusion of these teachings. Women are the enemy so you remove the enemy.
    But sadly we don’t get it when we simply read this stuff it’s only when we see the results and even then many still don’t see the connection.
    Maybe we all need to start reading these books out loud so we can make the connections. And so we can see the horrified expressions on other people’s faces.

    Reply
  6. Andrea

    I would just like to add that Every Man’s Battle is only the worst, the crassest of them all. But listen to this by John Piper in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood:
    “It is true that there is something sexually stimulating about a muscular, scantily clad young woman pumping iron in a health club. But no woman should be encouraged by this fact. For it probably means the sexual encounter that such an image would lead to is something very hasty and volatile, and in the long run unsatisfying. The image of a masculine musculature may beget arousal in a man, but it does not beget several hours of moonlight walking with significant, caring conversation.” (pp.40-41)
    Our Christian leaders are publishing their masturbatory fantasies and making money on it!!! Google Piper’s net worth.

    Reply
    • M

      Gross

      Reply
      • M&M

        So, Piper is saying that either muscular women are incapable of deep conversations (in the moonlight) or that men are incapable of talking with muscular women (in the moonlight lol), right?
        Well, good thing he doesn’t know I’m in law school because that is a very unsubmissive career goal. He actually said that women shouldn’t have jobs that involve authority.
        I wonder how many women gain more weight after hearing these things because they feel so defeated that they hide in a cave of cookies.
        This blog is both comforting and painful because I’m hearing that other people understand me and also feeling like there are far more people who want to hurt me than I ever imagined. Ok, I’m sure that people who promote these beliefs aren’t specifically thinking about how to hurt me, but it feels like it 🙁

        Reply
    • Wild Honey

      Oh, Pastor John… (shaking my head).
      My husband is a big fan of Piper, suggested I read something by him about complementarianism so I picked up the “50 Questions” book (it was his shortest) he did with Grudem.
      That plan backfired. I read it and spent several days secretly stewing at my husband. Finally confronted him, “Is this seriously what you think of women/me?” He was shocked when I read him some quotes. I think his relationship with Pastor John hasn’t been the same since.
      Sometimes I think we just hear soundbites of someone and think they’re all that and the cat’s meow. Then we read it in context and are unpleasantly surprised.

      Reply
    • Fiona

      I think there are a few blogs out there written by women which started out with noble intentions to provide much needed Christian advice on sex in marriage. It seems they have (unintentionally) become entertainment and titillation for married men who are not happy in their marriages. Their comments sections are very ‘male heavy’ and often explicit. I might be way off the mark here, l really don’t know. But this is how it comes across to me.

      Reply
  7. Melissa

    Things will change when the men of the church stop deflecting and finally take responsibility for this mess they helped create. Things will change when evangelical leaders stand up and renounce these harmful teachings, even if it costs them book contracts and social media followers. Things will change when the church changes it’s stance from “save the marriage at all costs” to “if you are being abused and dehumanized in your marriage we will be a safe place for you to seek refuge.” Things will change when this message of “women are your enemy” is changed to “women are your sisters in Christ and when you see one of your sisters being mistreated stand up and DO SOMETHING.”
    That’s when things will change.

    Reply
  8. SLS

    After reading these posts and the Great Sex Rescue (which was awesome and I plan to write a glowing review when I have time) I am so glad that I ditched books like Every Man’s Battle. I recall as a teen picking up one of the books in that series and being hit off the bat with a vivid portrayal of another person’s lustful thoughts. Even as a clueless young man I was smart enough to realize that wasn’t going to help me.
    “Bouncing the eyes” and treating women as “the enemy” doesn’t work and it ultimately dehumanizes women and makes out men to be monsters.
    Before my current job I taught courses at the undergraduate level and I interacted with a lot of female students. I had no problems interacting with them, no matter how they dressed. That was because I had the understanding that a woman is a fellow human being and image bearer. Why would I choose to dehumanize my students and see them as less than what God made them to be?
    Same thing with my current job and my female co-workers. Why would I treat them any differently than my male co-workers? They aren’t “threats”. They are my friends and fellow professionals.
    Men have the ability to notice that women are attractive and do nothing else with that information. We can interact with women in a completely normal fashion. (Just the same as women vice versa)

    Reply
  9. MP

    I really appreciated these articles on the Atlanta shootings from researchers who study sex addiction and porn, and are also evangelical/evangelical background. They make the links between racism, misogyny, evangelicalism and the violence that took place.
    Josh Grubbs (psychology).
    https://www.chicagotribune.com/columns/heidi-stevens/ct-heidi-stevens-atlanta-shootings-sex-addiction-researcher-0319-20210318-xon4milpinbnlormq465xiydoa-story.html
    Samuel Perry & Kelsy Burke (sociologists)
    https://twitter.com/RNS/status/1372964793078878210
    Toxic teachings harm more than just those who directly hear/believe them.

    Reply
  10. Wild Honey

    Not trying to minimize how this affects women, but just pointing out that this is NOT “just” a women’s problem. The mass shooting at a church in Sutherland, Texas where 25 people died? Motivated by a domestic dispute. The shooting in Nova Scotia last year where 22 died? Started as an incident of domestic violence. While I’m not trying to say these were the only contributing factors to the horrific situations, they were certainly a part.

    Reply
  11. Kris

    ARGGG!! The “teaching” about women having to stay attractive for their husbands makes me so angry. If attractiveness is what “keeps” a man from wandering, how does that explain so many beautiful women whose husbands cheated: Jennifer Aniston, Sandra Bullock, Eva Longoria, Jennifer Lopez and Maria Shriver are examples. I’m calling donkey-dust (keeping it G-rated, ha!) on the “the wives need to stay attractive” teaching. And have you noticed that men who teach this aren’t going to be mistaken for George Clooney EVER? Thanks Sheila for all that you do! Love your blog!

    Reply
    • Patricia Moore

      Funny thing…that Missouri pastor is not attractive IMO. Not even a little bit. Guess we girls don’t have those needs and are just fine with unattractive guys who get bald and fat (maybe we are just not that shallow).

      Reply
  12. H

    Sheila, thank you so much for all your work on this topic. I’m a single woman who grew up in the Evangelical church and I’ve been reading your book reviews and sharing them with other single friends. We all agree that your writing is such a relief. It gives voice to things we’ve known in our guts for a long time. However, when we discuss these issues we always come back to one question: how do we as single women have these conversations with men we may be dating? None of us want to marry a man who views women and their bodies as enemies or their wives as methadone, but a large part of our dating pools are in circles where these gross books are passed around without question. How can we advocate for ourselves and pursue healthier dating relationships if we’re having to wade through all this?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That is seriously such a good question! I think that’s likely a series I should do this year. Let me talk to Rebecca about it. You’re not the first one to raise it! I just wish I had better answers.

      Reply
    • Sarah

      I wonder and worry about this all the time. When I’m on a dating app and the man identifies himself as Christian, what does that mean for these types of issues? What questions do I ask, what should I watch for, how can I have these conversations?

      Reply
      • Maria Bernadette

        What if you the two of you went to the beach together, sometime before getting engaged? And you just wore a normal bathing suit. Not something that looked more like t-shirt and shorts. No attempt at hiding the fact that you are a woman and have a woman’s body. Can he still look you in the eye? Does he bounce his eyes, and refuse to look at you? Does he stare at your chest? Or does he still treat you like a sister in Christ?
        I’m not suggesting to be provocative, or pornographic. Just normal beach wear. If he can’t handle that, maybe he’s not dating material.
        And I’d wait until dating a man for a while before a date to the beach. Maybe with a group of friends, for safety.
        Good idea? Bad idea?

        Reply
    • Anon

      To reply to H, I would say be observant. Don’t just look at how a potential date or boyfriend treats you (because if he’s wanting to date you, he’s going to be on best behaviour!) but look at how he treats/speaks of other women around him.
      I knew my husband for 14 months before we started dating and we got married 18 months after our first date, so 32 months in total from first meeting until ‘I do’. In that time, I observed his interactions with many women in many situations, and every one was characterized by respect, consideration and kindness.
      On the other hand, in the past, I’ve turned down a number of dates because I’d already seen something in the way that these guys regarded women that made me uncomfortable. A phrase I’ve heard a lot among women who are dating is ‘when someone shows you who they are, believe them’. But so many women make excuses for guys in the early days of dating and then they just stop noticing the red flags. And it’s scary how quickly women become desensitized by over looking these things. I’ve heard guys come out with some horrific stuff (things I wouldn’t want to say here because they would be so triggering) and I’ve been the only woman present who reacted. The others were all ‘oh, that’s just boy talk’. If you hear a man make comments that disrespect women, challenge him but DON’T date him!
      And when you get to the serious stage, don’t be afraid to ask some searching questions. We actually did a marriage prep course before we got engaged, which some people thought was weird, but it meant that we discussed each other’s views on sex, men’s & women’s roles etc in a formal way BEFORE we got engaged. So when he proposed, I had total peace of mind accepting him because I knew that here was a man who treated women the way God would want him to.

      Reply
  13. MJ

    I’ve wanted to ask for a while about a wife’s weight gain but am nervous to ask for fear of daggers coming back at me. But, here goes: What can a husband expect from his wife regarding weight gain? After pregnancies and passage of time, her body will be different. That is a given and not a problem. Still, should the husband just accept 50% weight gain and learn to live with it?

    Reply
    • Wild Honey

      I’m speaking as a slender woman (having had two full-term pregnancies) married to an obese man who has gone through the loose-a-ton and gain-it-all-back cycles two times in the last 10 years…
      Can we flip your question on its head for a minute? How much weight gain is ok for a wife to expect of her husband over the years given the inevitable slowing-down-of-metabolism, etc?
      Taking your question at face value, different women will lose different amounts of weight over different periods of time for different pregnancies. But if you’re asking for permission to speak up if your post-partum wife hasn’t lost enough weight by a set time, do so at your own risk.
      If I’ve learned anything being married to an obese spouse, and having obese friends, weight loss and gain (if we’re talking really massive changes) is usually a lot more complicated than a simple “eat less and move more.” Trauma, guilt-and-shame cycles, and unhealthy patterns learned from a family-of-origin can all play a part, and aren’t easy to heal.
      You should want and hope for a wife (or husband, because isn’t the double-standard part of what makes this so frustrating?) to be at and stay at a healthy weight FOR THEIR OWN SAKE. Being significantly overweight is a symptom, but not the root problem of whatever’s going on with a spouse.

      Reply
    • MP

      No daggers here, just the view of someone with 30+ years caring for individuals with life-threatening illnesses. My best perspective on weight came from a patient who spent nearly two years looking like the waif-like supermodel of that era. Not for good reasons though, but because she was so ill and near death for a prolonged period. Years later, I encountered her outside of that setting. She probably would have been considered “chubby” at that time. Her comment has always stayed with me: “I got my dimples back.” She was ecstatic to have her curves back because it meant she was healthy again.
      On the other hand, while binge crystal methamphetamine usage attracts media attention, estimates (in my region of Canada) are that suburban women who use low doses to maintain their weight outnumber binge users more than 2:1.
      My point is that there are many reasons why both men and women would be the weight that they are. Some are more within their control than others. Some are a result of really hard situations where your love and commitment will be tested by far more than your or your partner’s weight. Some people who “look great” are not as great as things appear.
      I think the best approach is to develop a shared lifestyle that is physically and emotionally healthy (and intimate) so that your bodies and your relationship are best positioned to withstand the inevitable challenges you will face in life. Because, as it turns out, life is often a lot harder than advertised on social media.
      I hope that comes across as “non-daggery” as it was intended.

      Reply
  14. Em

    I have appreciated this blog so much over the past couple of months. Thank you for what you are doing to shed light on such dark places in church culture; I know it can’t be easy. One talking point that is changing my marriage for the better is the shame issue–my husband is used to feeling sinful whenever he notices an attractive woman. Of course, this leads to inadvertent objectification and unnecessary awkwardness. I’m really looking forward to seeing the fruit of his freedom in this area! He’s so fascinated by the idea that it might *not* be sinful to admire someone other than me! We both recognize, of course, the difference between admiration and lust in theory, but the practice of it has been reduced to “bounce your eyes”, which melds the two categories completely.
    This leads me to what I think is an important counter-point, though. Our culture *has* gone too far with respect to attire. I have so many friends from other cultures who are flabbergasted by what we wear. Frowning on provocative attire is not an evangelical-only phenomenon. All cultures, everywhere, have had modesty standards for both sexes that our post-sexual revolution world has thrown out the window. I don’t wear bikinis, and my father, husband, and son wear light or waterproof shirts when they swim. That’s us, and I’m not saying it’s sinful to deviate from that. But let’s swing the pendulum so far away from personal responsibility that we give up the commandment to consider others more highly than ourselves. It was for freedom that Christ set us free, but there’s a reason we don’t all walk around naked all the time!

    Reply
    • Em

      *let’s not swing the pendulum 🙂

      Reply
  15. Nicole

    Thank you for igniting these conversations to BURN down lies that we believe about sex and sexuality. I’m about 1/3 way through GSR and it has been very illuminating.
    A little over a year ago my husband confessed that his pornography addiction had escalated. Despite what I thought were “decent” boundaries, accountability, etc the addiction had grown significantly more that I had any awareness of. It would be impossible to sum up here the depth of how much God has done in our lives over the past year…. PHEW it’s been a wild time of refinement and redemption.
    I’d love to share more but in an effort to not write a novel in the comment section… I wanted to make a comment about the critic of bouncing your eyes. My husband read through EMB with a therapy group (they acknowleged that it was not the best book and used it as a means to stimulate discussion… mixed feelings about that from me but that’s another discussion). For my husband the bouncing your eyes and corralling your mind points have been extremely helpful. He bounces his eyes NOT because he views women as the offender but because he knows there are images or women that he sees that he cannot look at respectfully. He does not see it as a means to an end but as a transition step between looking with lust and being able to rewire his brain from the years of addiction so he can look at women with respect. Do you know what I mean?

    Reply
    • Maria Bernadette

      Nicole, I don’t know how much of the following might resonate with you. But here’s what I think:
      That “bouncing your eyes” because she’s a woman is always bad. (This is NOT what your husband is doing, correct?)
      That “bouncing your eyes” because an inadvertent sexual thought has entered your mind, and you need to concentrate in order to banish that thought. And you intend to look at the person again when you are able to see them as a whole person. I think that is respectful.
      The latter one would probably be better described as looking away, though. Because “bouncing” implies that as soon as your eyes see someone you automatically look away. Like they are a danger.
      Does that make sense? I think I agree with what your husband is doing, but not with the phrase used to describe it.

      Reply
  16. Headless Unicorn Guy

    One of the big findings of our survey was the believing that a wife is obligated to have sex when her husband wants it…

    You know where women are obligated to service the urrges in the man’s arreas whenever and however he wants it?
    Like Cee Jay Mahaney forcing himself on his wife while she’s puking from morning sickness and chuckling about it as he uses it in a sermon?
    PORNOGRAPHY.
    Until I started hearing about Christianese stuff like the above, that was the only place I’d ever heard it. Think about that.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yep. It’s honestly exactly the same view of women as pornography. Really no different. And absolutely nothing to do with how the Bible sees either women or sex.

      Reply
      • NGal

        If women are supposed to service their husbands whenever the urge hits him, then how about us women and our needs? Women might as well start making demands as well, – which would open a whole another can of worms of selfishness and entitlement.
        What, he cannot service me five times a day? Good grief, if he even a man? tsk, tsk.
        If I am expected to perform certain acts (which I find repulsive and not beneficial at all for a godly relationship), I might then be tempted to demand similar acts in return – something, that very few men actually know to perform well to a woman’s satisfaction.
        That would then lead to enormous resentment on both sides, and the sexual techniques (or lack of thereof) end up being the constant point of contention, neither party being happy.
        Just because something may we permissible, it may not be profitable for a godly marriage.
        That’s why I’m thankful I am not married yet… I would really want to make it clear before tying the know that my future husband will be ok with certain acts being off limits. So many natural, beautiful and sensual life-giving things to enjoy..!

        Reply
  17. Sarah

    I haven’t read Every Man’s Battle, but have wondered in the past just exactly how men manage to get anything else done if they are really thinking about sex and lusting after attractive women left right and centre as much as is claimed? 😮
    I wonder also whether the writers of such books have actually overcome very significant problems with lust/promiscuous lifestyle etc in the past (like dear old St Augustine, at whose feet we might lay many of our hangups about sex) which has then influenced their writing, assuming the same motivations and difficulties apply to everyone else?

    Reply
  18. Headless Unicorn Guy

    As I read the news unfold, I thought to myself, “I know what kind of porn he watches.”

    Curious as to which kind that is.

    To paraphrase Michael John Cusick in his excellent book Surfing for God (about defeating pornography addictions), he said that part of the allure of porn is that it makes you feel strong without actually having to be strong.

    Sounds like a description I once heard of Donald Trump:
    “He is a Weak man’s idea of a Strong Man.”
    P.S. Don’t the Extreme forms of Islam (Wahabi, Talibani, ISIS) also treat women as “the enemy”?

    Reply
  19. NGal

    Oh my, this kind of attitude is so wrong on so many levels.
    Seeing all this actually makes me appreciate my singleness. Not that it ever has been my own choice – but it is so much better to be alone than with someone who’d only want me for my body parts.
    Seriously. I’m beginning to think that maybe those realistically looking sex dolls aren’t such a bad idea after all. If so many only need and want their sexual release in order to be happy and fulfilled, why marry at all? They might just get a doll! Much easier to care for, no need to feed it, a doll will never speak back at him in disagreement… etc etc..
    Of course, it would be such a sad solution.. but always better than force women to believe that their worth is only based on what they can give to their husbands sexually.
    While I would not want to be in a platonic marriage, I’d be happier in such a situation provided that the man genuinely loved me. Sex without love= not thanks! Love, kindness, respect, commitment without sex= always preferable.

    Reply

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