The Thalidomide Test Podcast: What Makes a Marriage Book Good

by | Mar 11, 2021 | Podcasts, Theology of Marriage and Sex | 40 comments

How Do You Tell if a Marriage Book is Healthy? The Thalidomide Test

A disgusting sermon by a Missouri pastor, a romp through art in Italy, plus how do we know if a book is helpful?

We tackled a whole bunch of stuff in today’s podcast!

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:


Timeline of the Podcast

0:35 The NYT reviewed our book!
1:45 How a trip to Italy made Sheila see Jesus differently
9:00 What do holiness and joy look like?
12:30 The Missouri pastor situation
18:15 RQ: Using birth control for health reasons?
23:50 To those trying to discount the survey…
33:35 How do we measure a book helping?
36:20 Sheila’s theory on whether a specific book is actually what is helping
42:26 Thalidomide, a parallel to sex advice in Christian marriages
46:10 Keith address the intent behind advice
48:40 So what outcome do we want from our marriage advice?

The God Who Laughs

We introduced our new series, talking about how life would change if we could picture God not as a magazine cover (“7 Ways you could be a much better person right now”; “5 ways you’re messing up at this exact moment”) and more like a laughing Jesus.

I started talking about that this week in two posts–serving the God who Laughs and we don’t need to suffer in marriage to be made holy. We’ll be talking about how to emphasize joy in marriage for the rest of the month!

Yes, that Missouri Pastor was Disgraceful

So many of you have sent me links to the story about the Missouri Pastor who gave a sermon on how wives shouldn’t let themselves go. It was absolutely terrible (I recommend not listening to it), but we wanted to mention it briefly because it shows the need for The Great Sex Rescue. In fact, the pastor even read a passage from the book His Needs, Her Needs that we even quote in our book!

We honestly can do this better. So many are saying that we’re being too hard on the church in our book, but stuff like this just shows that these bad attitudes are out there, and they need to be fought against!

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.

Reader Question: I need hormonal birth control for endometriosis, but my church judges me for it

A woman writes:

I got married almost a year ago, and we immediately learned that the hormonal problems I’ve dealt with for years made sex really hard for me. My amazing husband loved me so gently through it and continues to do so, and insisted we ask for help. We soon found out that I have endometriosis. My husband has cared for me so well as we’ve adjusted to life knowing I have this disorder, but other than his love and support, I’ve mostly felt alone in my pain. This is because the church culture I grew up in took a very dim view of any form of birth control, which is the main treatment for endometriosis. I’m happy to say that it has helped a LOT! However, I have felt like I can’t tell anyone about my condition, because they would disapprove of my choice and not really be concerned about the pain I’ve had. It’s hard to not see my fellow Christians as a supportive group who I can tell about my suffering and ask for prayer or help.Can you offer tips to the church for how to be more understanding of women in this kind of situation? I wish there were more Christians who would just be listening ears rather than those who would judge a very private decision like birth control, especially for a medical reason totally unrelated to trying not to have kids yet!

“Your survey was just biased”!

We had to revisit this again because more authors that we critique in our book are starting to make false statements about our survey (if you see any such statements on social media, please share our survey methodology).

We put up a new FAQ section on that page, where we’re answering some questions, including this one that keeps popping up:

Are you concerned that your respondents all thought the same way?

No, we are not, because our respondents had all sorts of different beliefs. In fact, if our respondents had all had the same viewpoint we wouldn’t have been able to do a comparison study! Claiming that our over 20,000 respondents all had the same viewpoint shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of odds ratios. We were able to make our conclusions only because we had a diverse set of beliefs among the survey respondents. If the respondents all had the same point of view, we would not have been able to make comparisons. For instance, in order to judge how the belief “all men struggle with lust; it’s every man’s battle” impacted women, we needed both women who believed it and women who didn’t.

Great Sex Rescue Survey Methodology

More than this, though, there’s a bigger question: Why do they hate our survey so much? Our survey basically had five huge findings, with everything else stemming from this:

  1. We have a 47 point orgasm gap (meaning that 95-96% of men almost always/always reach orgasm compared to about 48-49% of women
  2. Believing “boys will push your sexual boundaries” when you’re a teenage girl ends up hurting your sex life in marriage
  3. Teaching “all men struggle with lust; it’s every man’s battle” ends up hurting women’s sex lives and marriages even if they don’t believe it. Believing it hurts it even more.
  4. Believing “a wife is obligated to have sex with her husband when he wants it” hurts tremendously, and increases the rate of sexual pain more than anything else we found
  5. Believing “a wife should have sex with her husband to keep him from being tempted to watch porn” does all kinds of nasty things, too.

If you see someone trying to discredit our survey, then, I’d ask: Which of these findings do they not like? Do they think the orgasm gap is a good thing? Do they want to be able to keep teaching women they should have duty sex? Do we want women to keep feeling responsible for men’s porn use?

On how books help, plus Thalidomide!

We used the example of Thalidomide to look at how we should handle books that harm.

But we also asked, “If a book was found to do harm, but many people found that book helpful, how should we think about this?” Here’s a theory: If a book presents a view that was harmful, it doesn’t mean everybody will be harmed. But it also doesn’t mean that the book helped those who read it. It could be that when you decide to read a marriage book, and you decide to think about your marriage and pay attention to your marriage, that helps your marriage, regardless of what book you read. 

And if the things that you found helpful were things that basically all marriage books say–we have different perspectives; we should think of the other and not be selfish–then it could be that if they had read a non-harmful book they would have been just as helped!

Things Mentioned in This Podcast:


The Thalidomide Test for Marriage Books
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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  1. Emmy

    So you are blamed for being too hard on the church by criticizing those books? Too hard on the church? Those who say this, do they mean that the authors of these harmful books are the church? And the women these books have harmed are not the church?
    I believe it is the right thing to be hard on those that oppress and harm others. It is the right thing to call them into accountability.
    And if the authors did not mean to cause harm, they should be shocked and sorry to find out they did cause it anyway. That would be the natural and healthy reaction.

  2. Kelly Ann

    Another great podcast! It’s hard to see others criticize your book & methods. Especially those who didn’t even read the book in the first place!
    Stand strong! Your ‘army’ is behind you!

  3. Jo

    The authors don’t like your survey because (a) you asked women how their marriages and sex lives REALLY are and (2) the authors’ assumptions (i.e., their simple mental noodling about these issues) are therefore, in way too many cases, complete and utter crap. And they can see the fallout that’s going to come: women no longer putting up with sexual and spiritual abuse. These authors’ positions, and the pastors and elders and other church and leaders who wholeheartedly agree with and push these positions, ARE NOT BIBLICAL. And just like the Pharisees, the powers that be are not happy to have their power positions questioned.

  4. Chris

    When I saw that TGSR was reviewed in the NYT……but not linked to……. I became curious and went over and read the review. It was a good review…..but I see why you didn’t link to it Sheila. 😂.
    Is there talk of more printings?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that was an oversight! I forgot. I’ll go put the review link in now. But, yeah, it was really funny to see what other books were part of the review!

  5. clb

    Regarding the woman who brought up the issue with hormonal birth control, there are often other and better options for dealing with endometriosis and other similar problems. Hormonal birth control usually just masks the symptoms or covers over the underlying issue. We have several family members who have had very serious problems with endometriosis and uterine fibroids, and they found real solutions relief with NaPro Technology (see Where treatment with birth control is often a one-size-fits-all sort of solution, NaPro Technology seeks to find the underlying issue and treat it in a way that’s targeted specifically for the woman having the problem. Hormones may be administered, but very carefully based exactly on what the woman needs. The science in this area has advanced greatly in the past decade…I encourage you to check it out!

    • Bre

      Yes, I second this! Actually, from what research that has been done, birth control being used for health issues like endametriosis or period problems actually can make things worse. It makes you feel better, but the problem is still there slowly progressing and, when you come off of the birth control, many will struggle with fertility, pain, and a whole host of other problems because of the problem not being treated. Ive read about women with the readers problem coming off of BC to discover that there was massive build up of endometriosis in their bodies that required painful treatments with their own side effects to treat. Seriously, as soon as I saw that question I went “oh no”… I’ve recently changed how I view birth control in a religious sense but, through the pro life work that I do, I’ve also come to the conclusion that there is never a good reason to take birth control because you’re basically screwing up your body by pumping it full of hormones and chemicals. There isn’t a single good reason to put a woman on it, but doctors have turned it into a panacea for every “female problem” abs are too lazy to look for real treatment. Napro technology and the growing number of natural family planning systems are frequently the only ones that are actually trying to get to the heart of the health problems. It’s so frustrating to me how little information snd treatment we are actually getting before we are put on birth control for any reason…I don’t think it’s wrong to want to plan your family (as long as you accept that God and biology might have other ideas) but the birth control methods we have is basically a very crappy, experimental solution with 10,000 negative effects that we’ve been sold. Ugh…sorry for my little Feminist rant! But I 100% recommend checking out Napro! Also, a lot of their treatments are all natural, the costs are usually cheap, and they accept a wide range of insurances.

      • Amber

        I’m just popping in without time to read the lengthy and I’m sure really helpful comments above, but I wanted to offer that I have BAD endometriosis and while birth control did not control my pain, going gluten free, seriously, made it completely disappear. It was suggested to me as a last ditch effort by a surgeon across the country I was considering visiting. So, that’s worth a try too! I’m so sorry for the listener dealing with endo – it stinks!!

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yes, I had a family member who went totally gluten free and that helped tremendously–but she still also needs hormone therapy. With the combination she’s able to have a normal life and keep it under control. But either on its own didn’t do it.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Bre, let’s just be careful that we don’t judge people who do have conditions where they’ve tried everything–including supplements and other things. Sometimes people honestly do have a hormonal imbalance, and hormone treatments are a blessing. In others they’re likely the wrong thing to take, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong for everyone. I think we need to let people make their own decisions without telling them they’re doing something wrong when we don’t know the whole story. Hop ethat makes sense!

      • Anon

        “there is never a good reason to take birth control because you’re basically screwing up your body by pumping it full of hormones and chemicals”
        I’ve heard this argument SOOOOOO many times over the years. But what those producing it don’t realise is that for some of us, our bodies are ALREADY ‘screwed up’. Did you know that a serious hormonal imbalance can produce ‘cramping’ that is as bad as labour pains? (Not joking – I’ve spoken to women who’ve experiened both and they said they’d take giving birth any day over their hormone imbalance!) The only difference is that when you are having a baby, no one is expecting you to go to work, run the house, socialise… It can hit at any point too. I’ve lost count of the number of weddings, birthday parties and other celebrations that I’ve missed, spending my day instead alternately passing out & throwing up with the pain. I tried 16 YEARS of diets, supplements, exercises, both medically recommended and ‘alternative’ before going on the pill.
        And what about women who go through an early menopause and have the opposite problem of NO hormones? The youngest ever recorded sufferer in the UK was thirteen. In these cases, hormone therapy can literally be life-saving – early meno sufferers are at a much higher risk of heart attacks, strokes etc, not to mention osteoporosis.
        I agree hormonal treatments shouldn’t be the first port of call – and yes, many doctors ARE too lazy in prescribing them – but please don’t assume that medical problems can always be dealt with by alternatives. For some of us, hormone treatments are literally the ONLY thing that enable us to live normal lives.

      • Bre

        I’m so sorry. I honestly though that most female health problems could be treated without BC because of all of the things I’ve studied and heard. I’ve read a lot about this and studied the topic and different research on it. (But I AM NOT claiming to be an expert in ANY form…I’m a clueless 22 yr-old…I’m just saying that I’ve tried to look at information and am not just parroting stuff other people have told me and assuming that they are right). I thought that BC was a very helpful and normal thing for most of my life and then heard about all the bad stuff as a senior in high school and was shocked and looked into it. Now I am very confused…there is so much bad medical stuff that happens with BC that I honestly find it hard to believe that anything good could come out of it… But I don’t know anything about medicine so what do I know? If it works and it isn’t hurting you/won’t hurt you, then go for it. There’s nothing wrong with it because you have a VERY good reason to take it and no one should criticize you for it…to clarify I have some moral hang-ups about birth control, but I don’t think that birth control in any form/not wanting to get pregnant in general is a moral wrong in itself, unlike some of the creepy sermons that people have been talking about on here…if that makes sense? Much less wanting to try it for an actual health problem. I’m sorry that I was insensitive…I definitely didn’t mean that if you’re in pain you should just suffer because birth control is evil or anything remotely like that…and anyone who would say that has some screws loose…I just genuinely though that a situation where nothing but birth control could help was nonexistent because of all the improved medical technology and knowledge we have now. I was wrong. I can’t really put everything that I’m thinking right now into words and I’m kind of in between a bunch of different ideas right now. I’m still trying to figure things out, obviously and this is very enlightening…even though I’m very confused now and am going to have to do some more amateur research. Thank you for correcting me.

      • Elsie

        Hello Bre, you said you studied about birth control before but it doesn’t sound like you got correct information from the sources you used. There’s unfortunately lots of misinformation out there about health issues especially hot button issues like reproductive health (I work in another area of public health that has a ton of misinformation especially online).
        If you’re going to look into this again, I’d recommend being very careful about what sources you use for information. Reproductive health isn’t my area of expertise but in general, government websites and major medical associations will provide accurate information. ACOG has a section of its website for patients and the US government has Health care providers are also a great resource to ask these kinds of questions.
        For me personally, I’ve always had terrible menstrual cramps. I got a hormonal IUD a few years ago and it’s improved my life so much since I don’t get periods anymore. But it’s definitely a personal choice. Best wishes to you as you research and think through things.

      • Anon

        It’s ok, Bre, I know you weren’t meaning to be insensitive, and I didn’t take it that way. It’s just that as someone who has tried everything else imaginable, with zero effect, but who found the pill transformed my life, I’m always concerned to correct the idea that there is ‘no good reason’ to be on it. I’ve met a girl who is in constant agony, nothing else helps, but she refuses the pill because she believes the same as you do – and it’s hard seeing someone suffer so much pain needlessly, because they’re too frightened to try something that might help them. It’s sad seeing someone unable to work, socialise or gain any kind of pleasure from life because of constant pain – but they won’t try something that might completely remove that pain because they’ve heard it’s ‘dangerours’ and ‘bad’.
        I have friends who have found freedom from pain through other means, but for me, the pill was literally the only thing I hadn’t tried. Nothing got rid of the symptoms and even prescription painkillers didn’t ease the pain. But within a week of going on the pill, I felt fine.
        As Elsie says, it’s great to do research, but do make sure you research widely – I’ve found so many sources that claim the pill isn’t necessary because you can do something else instead to ‘cure’ the problem – and I’m sure they work for some folk. Only problem is, I have tried all these other ‘cures’ and they just don’t work for me.

      • R

        I’m another person who has been helped with female issues by going gluten free. I’d had debilitating cramps since my teen years. Even prescription pain meds didn’t help sometimes. After several months GF, I gradually didn’t need the pain meds anymore. Now I only get cramps if I indulge in gluten. It’s been life changing. Definitely give it several months if you try GF.
        Bre, I appreciate your humility after others responded to your comment. When we know better, we can do better.

    • Kat

      I would also highly recommend NaPro Technology as an option. It’s not an all natural diet/lifestyle change program. It is used to find the root cause of menstrual cycle issues and to actually address the root cause. Treatment is tailored specifically to your problem which is found via a combination of cycle charting and various standard medical tests (blood tests, ultrasounds, etc.) and may include medication, bioidentical hormone treatments, and even surgery. I’ve heard stories of women with endometriosis that were prescribed bioidentical hormone treatment (not birth control) and who had surgery to completely remove the endometriosis and who felt so much better physically and were even able to get pregnant (having previously struggled with the pain of infertility). I’m commenting because I came from a place were birth control was the ONLY option given to me by my first gynecologist and after researching the side affects of the pill I decided I didn’t want to deal with those side affects (some of which were similar to what I personally was already experiencing). Years later, I found a NaPro Technology trained doctor and am finally starting to get answers about my menstrual issues and the help I need. I can’t comment as someone diagnosed with endometriosis but I can comment as someone who felt pressured to take birth control and who was not initially aware of other available options. I wish I had had the help I’m getting now five or even ten years ago. So please don’t discount NaPro Technology as an option.

    • Kat

      I’m passionate about NaPro Technology because of how it is currently helping me and how it has helped other women with menstrual cycle issues and infertility issues. I think it’s important to understand that it’s not an all natural diet/exercise/lifestyle change program. With NaPro you are empowered to understand the changes in your body each month and over time through cycle charting and your NaPro doctor uses that information along with blood tests, ultrasounds, and other standard diagnostic testing timed with your cycle to determine the root cause of the symptoms you are experiencing. Treatment is then tailored to you and can include medication, bioidentical hormone prescriptions, and in some cases surgery such as removing endometriosis. Another good thing about NaPro is it can help for early diagnosis of cancer and other issues. Please don’t discount NaPro as a potential option when looking for answers for menstrual cycle issues you are dealing with.

  6. Kya

    Have you seen Blazing Saddles, specifically the scene around the campfire? My dad likes to say that “Sons of Thunder” may have had a double meaning!
    On birth control and thalidomide, just because a drug does something bad or that we don’t like doesn’t mean that it can’t have value in other contexts. For example, my grandfather had multiple myeloma, and he was put on thalidomide because it killed the small tumors that kept forming on his spine. I was initially shocked when I learned what he was taking, but it was a good, and well-researched, use of the drug. The same goes for popular birth control drugs. Maybe instead of referring to drugs that can be used for birth control as simply “birth control” is inappropriate. Birth control is such a broad term that means anything from natural family planning to vasectomies. We should refer to the drugs by name, and in so doing acknowledge that, like most drugs, they can be used for different conditions and with different goals in mind. Maybe you don’t like that they are used for birth control, like no one tolerates what happens with thalidomide in pregnancy, but these drugs can still be used responsibly to treat real medical conditions in spite of that, and there should not be shame for using them.
    Also, every single time Keith shows up on the blog my husband tells me how much he looks like Thor.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      So true, Kya! Apparently Thalidomide is just an excellent treatment for leprosy, and is still widely used for that purpose, too. Now what doctors do is make sure that everyone is using at least two forms of birth control or something, so that there are no risks of pregnancy, but sometimes Thalidomide is the drug of choice for what ails you.
      And I like what you’re saying about talking about these drugs differently, too. We shouldn’t just call all things that can prevent pregnancy “birth control”, because that is too simplistic.
      And HAHA about Thor! A lot of people say he looks like Mark Hammill, too.

      • Anon

        I use the term ‘hormonal treatment’ or ‘hormonal medication’. Because that is what it is – birth control describes one of the many things it does. Here, the pill is commonly used to treat hormonally linked depression, endmetriosis, hormone imbalance, excessive bleeding etc, etc, etc.

  7. Anon

    Your reader’s question really touched my heart. As a young, single Christian woman, I suffered from a severe hormonal imbalance that basically controlled my life. I tried every kind of diet, exercise, supplement & painkiller and finally only agreed to try the pill because I was about to lose my job if I didn’t get my health issues sorted. My reluctance to take it was because I knew how many folk in the church would react.
    Here in the UK, we had a case where a pharmacist refused to dispense the pill to an unmarried woman because ‘single women shouldn’t be having sex’. She got suspended from her job and I was asked to sign a petition in support of her ‘because she was only standing up for Christian morals’ – and all I could think was ‘what if that woman had the same condition as I do, and was left in agony because of the pharmacist’s behaviour?’ And another time, I had to sit through a sermon where the preacher ridiculed the idea that a single woman would take the pill for any other reason that to enable her to sleep around without getting pregnant. Even though I knew Jesus wasn’t judging me for my medication, I sat there feeling so condemned. I used to get tense every time I had to collect my prescription in case someone spotted what it was.
    There is such a strong anti-birth control attitude in church, that when people did find out I was on it, even when I explained to them why I took it, they’d still be arguing with me that there ‘must’ be some other way. So I’d strongly advise your reader to keep it quiet as much as possible. If people ask how she’s doing, maybe just say ‘the doctor’s been able to provide some treatment that has helped’ without going into specifics.
    I pray that this lady is able to find one or two close friends who can know the truth and support her through this difficult journey. And that she is protected from unkind and unhelpful comments from the judgy majority. Sending love & sympathy to your reader from a sister in the Lord xxx

    • Jo

      “I had to sit through a sermon where the preacher ridiculed the idea that a single woman would take the pill for any other reason that to enable her to sleep around without getting pregnant.”
      Clearly I’ll be in danger of excommunication if/when in-person church attendance resumes. After what I’ve been reading and learning here, there is no bloody way I’d let a statement like that pass during a sermon.
      And I’m not certain just walking out, as Sheila mentioned in the podcast, would be sufficient for ***me***. If someone is going to make such an obviously false statement IN PUBLIC, then that false statement needs to be repudiated as soon as possible and in the same forum, i.e., in the auditorium where it was made.
      Just out of curiosity, would a pastor say in a sermon that men with low testosterone only get supplements so that they can have sex willy-nilly??? (pun intended)

      • Anon

        I kind of wish I had had the nerve – but at the time, I was too devastated. I’m also better at standing up for injustice that’s aimed at other people, instead of myself, if that makes sense. I could have challenged the speaker if I’d known someone else in the room was affected by his words, but couldn’t pluck up the courage to defend myself.

      • Jo

        I hear you, Anon, I really do. But after wasting basically my whole marriage “relying” on these popular “marriage” and “sex” books, and sitting in sermons where the same crap was being constantly peddled, though perhaps with a little more camouflage, I’m done. I’m through. I’m just too d@mn mad to let stuff go any more.
        And especially knowing that I’m not the only wife that has spent literally decades suffering. I’m not lying down (pun intended!) and taking it any more.
        Besides, doesn’t that verse say wives are to be subject to THEIR OWN husbands, not other women’s husbands???? ;-P Is any other man, besides my own husband, allowed to tell me how my husband and I should interact within our marriage? I don’t think so!!
        Sorry to sound so mad, but I **AM** mad, and for a pretty good reason. I trusted these men to speak truth into my life, and THEY LIED. They made stuff up that, quite frankly, made their lives good while their wives were forced into a subjugation that God never intended. And if those authors and pastors don’t like my reaction, they should count themselves lucky it isn’t being done in person.
        (Sorry, Sheila!)
        [editor’s note–slightly edited!]

      • Andrea

        Jo and Anon, not to mention how entirely ignorant about the world such pastors are. Birth control pills for sleeping around? No, you moron, that’s what condoms are for because the pill doesn’t protect from STDs. The pill signifies a woman’s bodily control (over pain as well as the number of kids she has) and this is really what the preachers are preaching against when they attack the pill. It’s connected to issues of bodily autonomy more broadly, like being able to say no to sex or specific sex acts you don’t like. But most of them are not going to outrightly preach that women shouldn’t be allowed to control when and how many kids they have, so they link the pill to promiscuity, whereas in the secular world it is condoms that are linked to promiscuity and the pill is for monogamous relationships.
        Nice analogy with testosterone treatments, Jo, no one every questions those. Or Viagra, which is definitely going against God and nature (popular argument against the pill) since God did not intend for 80-year-olds to be able to get as hard as 18-year-olds. But I have yet to hear a sermon against that.

  8. Andrea

    I chuckled when I saw in The New York Times review that your book followed the one on BDSM, but let me just say that what BDSM does better than most evangelical sex books is that it emphasizes, in fact overemphasizes, consent. I am in no way endorsing BDSM, I have no taste for it and therefore no personal reason to defend it, but evangelical women raised on the obligation sex message do not get a safe word and they could really use one.
    There was a great article called “50 Shades of a Woman’s Compromise” that explained how this was the appeal of the books and movies – women were already being degraded in their bedrooms in order to keep their men satisfied and 50 Shades made it look hot. That’s a lot more appealing than being convinced you’re being martially raped. It’s also a lot more practical if you have a few kids and a mortgage and not much earning potential as a stay-at-home-mom. After I read that article and thought of the sex lives of my friends who devoured the books, I became less judgmental of them. I really don’t want to reignite the 50 Shades debate (I remember it on the blog from a few years ago and I remember how judgy I was), but since I’ve been reading The Great Sex Rescue, I’ve been wondering if 50 Shades appealed to so many evangelical women because it portrayed men and sex in the same sleazy terms as many evangelical authors do. In other words, the women had already been primed to think of men as fiends and Christian Grey did it with a six-pack AND Anastasia got a safe word.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Interesting thought! I also think it has to do with the fact that it’s a substitute for true vulnerability. It’s vulnerability that ignites desire in most women, but when you aren’t safe to be emotionally vulnerable, then sometimes being physically vulnerable is the only substitute.
      It’s just sad all the way around!

  9. Sue

    You have probably commented on this, but I am thinking that tons more women than men have read “these books’. How often is it that women are going above and beyond to improve their marriage while the husband assumes all is well. So, women, feeling vulnerable, and wanting to do the right thing have read and absorbed the advice from Christian ‘experts’. All without ever talking to their husbands, just making assumptions about him, because the book said so.
    Even when my husband talked about wanting to please me, I still thought sex was more about him. I thought me being pleased was to boost his ego as a good lover.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s EXACTLY what’s happening. Many more women read marriage books than men. What we found in our focus groups is that so many men had no idea that women were believing these toxic messages, because they’d never heard them. When I tweet or share on Facebook about some of the beliefs that evangelical women grew up with, so many men say, “That was never taught in my church!” But they didn’t read the same books or go to the same conferences or go to the women’s Bible studies.

      • Jo

        And, Sheila, what’s just as bad, or even worse, is the effects of, for example, a sermon on marriage that includes a seemingly innocuous statement like “Couples should be making love frequently.”
        Let’s look at the effects just from the point of view of the 47-point orgasm gap:
        Husbands hear that sentence and think, “Woo-hoo! Preach it, brother!” Because the vast majority of husbands are going to increase their frequency of orgasm.
        Wives who don’t orgasm reliably hear that sentence and think, “Great. I already don’t enjoy sex, and I’ve just been commanded to have sex more often. Why does God hate me so much? Because if I disobey, then not only am I being a bad wife, but I’m also being a disobedient daughter of God.”
        Yeah, no pressure there. 🙄🙄🙄

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Exactly! Speaking about frequency without also speaking about mutuality, intimacy, and pleasure is missing the entire point.

  10. Maria Bernadette

    To the woman using birth control for medicinal reasons: it is unfortunate that synthetic hormones were originally marketed for the purpose of birth control. That advertising stuck so much that we just keep calling it that, even when it’s not being used to space children.
    That mislabeling causes a lot of grief, I think. And it sounds like you’ve had to deal with it. That’s not right or fair to you, or any other woman who might need to use synthetic hormones to treat a health condition.

  11. AJ

    I relate completely to the reader who had to go onto birth control for endometriosis. About 2 years ago I had three periods in a month which was the point at which I went to an OB/GYN. I learned that my pain levels and period were not normal. I have endometriosis. Unfortunately, when I told a person I trusted that I was on the pill to treat it she responded by telling me that I was killing babies (medically impossible considering I am not married and was not sexually active). There was no care for my pain, nor any relief alongside me that I now had the option to feel less pain.
    Unfortunately, a friend of mine decided not to go on the pill when she found out she had endometriosis because of the conservative view on birth control. The doctor told her years later that the surgery to clear the lining almost killed her and he doubted she will ever be able to have children after years of trying because it had gone untreated for so long. The culture around being treated for very real medical issues for the uterus is becoming like the stigma around medical issues involving the mind. Neither of these are right! We need more grace! The church needs to do better.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that is so sad about your friend! Just horrific. I agree. We need better ways of talking about this!

  12. Dara

    Just listening to this podcast and wanted to share that the Chosen with you, its a show about Jesus and the disciples and how they portray Jesus is absolutely amazing. The smiles the jokes the joy. They’re currently working on season 2. Just a refreshing image especially as you unearth all of the negative teaching.


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