Start Your Engines Podcast: What Has Your WIFE Been Taught about Sex?

by | Apr 29, 2021 | For Men, Making Sex Feel Good, Sex, Uncategorized | 17 comments

What Have Women Been Taught About Sex in Evangelicalism?
Merchandise is Here!

Women buy 74% of self-help relationship books. So what have they heard about sex?

On the last Thursday of the month I like to direct our podcasts a little bit more at men (though women will still find them interesting!). And in today’s Bare Marriage podcast, I’m going to read some passages from best-selling evangelical books, and let Keith react, trying to guess at how a woman might take that.

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:


Timeline of the Podcast

1:00 Men usually HAVEN’T heard these same things
3:20 Reading text from real books that your wife has probably heard
5:45 “Women DO NOT have a need for sex, but they MUST always meet their husband’s needs.”
11: “Sex is ONLY physical for men, and ONLY emotional for women.”
14:15 “You can NEVER say no to sex, even if you would rather shove him off (which is a normal feeling cause you’re a woman and don’t want sex)”
19:10 “Don’t bother aiming for her pleasure if it becomes too complicated or difficult.”
25:50 “Wives MUST tell their husbands they are great lovers…even if they’re not.”
29:00 “Your husband will lust after every woman he ever sees.”
37:30 RESEARCH. Just because someone is ‘lower status’ doesn’t mean they are always complaining
40:10 One woman’s interesting experience with the problematic men’s teachings on lust
44:30 Ending with some encouragement!

Main Segment: What Have Women Been Taught about Sex?

One of the pushbacks we’ve received about our survey that finds that certain evangelical teachings harm sex for women is men saying, “well, I was never taught that!” And the thing is–we agree! Men may very well have not been taught most of this stuff. When we ask women where they’ve been taught it, the biggest answer they give is from books or ministries, not from the pulpit. And women are more likely to attend Bible studies where these books are studied. They’re more likely to buy them and read them. They’re more likely to attend women’s conferences where these things are taught.

In short, these messages are aimed at women far more than they are at men.

So it is completely plausible that men have not been taught this toxic stuff. But that doesn’t mean that women weren’t! So we want to let men in on what women have heard about sex from various bestsellers, and in today’s podcast I read excerpts to Keith from:

  • When God Writes Your Love Story, p. 223
  • Love & Respect, p. 249, 252, 257
  • Power of a Praying Wife pp. 62-63
  • Sheet Music pp. 202-203
  • Meaning of Marriage, the sex chapter (I don’t have the page number because the Kindle version is messed up!)
  • For Women Only pp. 102-103
  • Through a Man’s Eyes pp. 3-7

Keith did his best to think like a woman, but doesn’t think he did a good job. You decide!

New Research Segment: We tend to think the lower-status person is complaining too much

I brought Rebecca on to look at a study that found that, when people hear identical complaints from different individuals, we tend to assume that the lower-status person is complaining or blowing things out of proportion more than the upper status person.

Interesting ramifications for how the church views issues that women bring up!

Reader Question: Why the “Every Man Lusts” Message Made Me Think All Guys SHOULD Want Me

We read an interesting email from a woman who said that the “all men struggle with lust” message didn’t just mess up men; it messed her up, too, because it made her sexualize all relationships with guys. I wrote about her letter yesterday because I thought it was so insightful!

Encouraging Reviews

We shared two assume reviews on the podcast; I’ll leave one of them hear from Sam Powell, a pastor who has been posting about The Great Sex Rescue on Facebook and left this review on Amazon:

For years, I have been doing marriage and pre-marriage counseling. The lack of knowledge about sexuality or the outright lies that people have been taught have appalled me.

Christians writing on the subject are normally hopelessly naive, or have never met or talked to an actual woman, or have been so focused on abstinence that they fail completely.

Whenever I did counseling, I wished that I had a book like this one.

The authors do an excellent job undoing the lies of the “purity culture”, the allure of porn and how poorly the church does in combatting it, unfulfilling sex lives in marriages, and lack of love and intimacy in so many Christian marriages.

This book will be my go-to for all future marriage and pre-marriage counseling. I cannot recommend it enough.

For those who I have already counseled, remember when I said, “I wish I had a book to recommend, but I don’t” – THIS is the one we needed.

If you struggle, know someone who struggles, or simply desire a deeper, more intimate, more fulfilling sex life with your spouse, please get this book.

Pastors, get this book. We have a problem with sexuality in our churches and need to know how to address it. Get this book. Use it. Get sexuality back on a biblical foundation and put the joy and intimacy back into the lives of those under your care.

Sam Powell

Amazon Review

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.

Things Mentioned in This Podcast:

Podcast What Women are Taught about Sex in Evangelicalism

What do you think? Do men and women hear different messages in church? What’s your experience been about the difference? 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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  1. Jo

    Oh, so many thoughts…
    1. Emerson, do you ever warn husbands of the “satanic attacks” their wives will come under when the wife’s key need is not met? Oh, instead the wife will just “feel miserable.”
    2. Emerson, you quoted a mom to her married daughter, “[Sex] takes such a short amount of time and makes him SOOOOO happy”: Uh, projection much??? (And thanks, Keith, for letting everybody know that it’s OKAY that women often take longer to orgasm.)
    3. Emerson, what do husbands ever do that dishonors their wives? Or is that simply impossible by the very nature of men and women?
    4. I’m guessing it was too shocking for Christians to use the word “orgasm,” so the “experts” all decided “release” was a more palatable word.
    5. Kevin, do husbands ever need to ABSTAIN “out of mercy” to their wives, or does the obligation and duty only flow in one direction?
    6. Keith summarized beautifully the message that women get: “ ‘You don’t want it, you won’t like it, you need to give it out of obligation,’ and then we wonder why they don’t like it and feel like they need to give it out of obligation.” We need to put that on a poster, make some memes, and share that gem far and wide.
    7. Tim, would you find awe in sex if you seldom or never orgasmed? Does a husband have some obligation (!) to at least sometimes forego his own orgasm if his wife doesn’t have one during a particular encounter?
    8. Why WOULDN’T a husband want direction from his wife to improve his sexual technique? Everything else in life (throwing curve balls, making mortise and tenon joints, the skills needed to do one’s job) tends to take practice and sometimes even coaching.
    9. “Maladaptive worry” goes a long way to explain why wives so often need to resort to yelling or tears. If a wife tries to talk about even a serious issue calmly and in a normal tone of voice, the husband too often thinks it’s not REALLY a problem.

    • Anonymous for this one

      9. This is something so pervasive. I often hear moms say they get no notice from their kids unless they explode. Why? Because long before, the culture of the home is one of not listening to the woman.
      On the topic of messed-up beliefs about sex, I saw a blogger recently comment, “But for most women there is no one thing that is even close to as important as sex is to a man.”
      Really. That sounds like idolatry.
      Women: your well-being isn’t as important as sex.
      Your children, your feelings, your own sexuality. Even Jesus isn’t as important to you as sex is to a man.
      Just because guys like sex, sex comes easy to them, they can enjoy it without pain, pregnancy, or bodily harm, and they have a libido does NOT mean it is the most important thing to them. This weird male evangelical obsession with sex is at best misguided and at worst demonic.
      Sheila, I did send you a highlighted screen shot of the blog quote either through Facebook or Instagram. I think Facebook.

      • Dorthea

        Yes and when a woman raises her voice because no one is listening to her because women don’t need respect then it’s obvious she has issues and needs to take anger management but if a man raises his voice it’s normal.
        And I think how these authors talk about sex is super creepy! Who talks like that in normal everyday life???

      • Jane Eyre

        That really sums up the problem. Allegedly, men need and want sex, so much that matters more to them than we do, and they need our bodies to do it. That’s a really revolting thought.
        I expect the world to treat me like that, because Satan hates us all. Christians should, I dunno, maybe at least entertain the idea that the wife’s whole person is more important than unfettered access to her vagina.

  2. Shannon Marie

    Goodness, your husband has a nice, soothing voice! Sometimes I have a bad reaction to male voices (long story), but Keith just oozes compassion! I’m thankful he’s always willing to speak or write to your audience!

    • Mel

      I’ve never read any of the books you’ve debunked, but heard similar ideas from (surprise!) J.R.R. Tolkein. When I got engaged, a coworker who is also a pastor gave me a copy of one of Tolkein’s letters to his son Michael. Here is a link:
      The passage on a husband’s struggle to stay faithful was devastating. The message I received was this: your husband is always going to wish he was having sex with someone else. My knee-jerk response was, “Then he should go do it and leave me out of his life!” I’m so thankful I chose to actively disbelieve this teaching, and instead believe in my husband. I’ll trust Tolkein when it comes to Norse mythology, but I don’t have to believe what he says about marriage.

  3. Andrea

    Is there something about evangelical men that makes them incapable of talking while penetrating a woman? Tim Keller has been tweeting recently about how dehumanizing sex outside of heterosexual marriage is and I’ve been thinking how there’s no way he would know this from personal experience (and we have no reason to believe that he doesn’t practice what he preaches, which is more than we can say about too many other prominent evangelical men), but he certainly knows how to have dehumanizing sex within heterosexual marriage!
    I’ve been mulling on this for a while and here’s how Keller is as toxic as Eggerichs, but a lot more polite about it. He would never explicitly say that women are less sexual than men (he’s way too Manhattan-sophisticated for that), but he implies it all over the place. He is particularly crafty because he uses the language of mutuality, like “simply to love one another in sex,” which obscures the fact that for one partner that loving hurts. Another example is “we stopped worrying about what we were getting,” but we know he’s getting everything he needs and she’s the one left hanging (and sore). In this way, Keller is actually more dangerous than Eggerichs because Eggerichs’ harsh words and mocking tone turn people off, whereas Keller makes it sound pretty and, in fact, has people like Eggerich to thank for making him look like the good guy.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I honestly was really disturbed by that Keller passage. And it was because he did other parts of the chapter well, so it sounds like he’s healthy. But that was a really problematic take for sure.

  4. Anonymous305

    I love that Keith expects men to actually listen to their wives and actually care. Unfortunately, the type of men that he’s reacting against actually exist, and are the reason for some women to believe harmful authors and not to speak up. Still, it would be nice if the caring men were setting the expectations instead of the creepy ones setting the expectations for the church.
    I wonder if the harm is harder to identify when women get these messages from churches that allow birth control and higher education because a woman thinks, “I’m not stuck at home with 10 kids, I shouldn’t feel oppressed. What’s wrong with me for feeling this way?”
    Personally, this came at the perfect time in my life because any sooner, I wouldn’t have been ready to admit to myself that I was hurt. I’d probably feel angry if I valued myself more, but for now, I’m just depressed with hope. Depressed about church, barely starting to feel worth, but hopeful because God shows me mercy when church doesn’t.
    I also have seen people with legitimate complaints be dismissed. Like the person with multiple diagnoses being told by a doctor that she’s exaggerating when OTHER DOCTORS on her chart and her LAB RESULTS don’t think she’s exaggerating.

  5. Ali

    Background: My dad is a conservative pastor and my parents 100% operate on the man-is-the-head-of-the-household rhetoric. Although it always felt wrong to me, I was constantly told that it was just my rebellious nature and that I needed to submit to God’s ultimate authority that has placed the man as the leader. (I was born in 1990, so grew up in the absolute height of purity culture.)
    When God Writes Your Love Story (along with I Kissed Dating Goodbye, of course) was required reading for my siblings and me before we were allowed to date at 16. I was absolutely set up to fail from the messages in those books. I had NO CLUE I would actually enjoy fooling around with my first boyfriend in college. I had NO CLUE it would be hard for me to stop too. Even though we didn’t have intercourse, I still felt so broken and dirty because of the messages that I had been force-fed my entire life.
    Love and Respect is required reading in my parent’s premarital counseling. Thankfully, by the time my husband and I were in premarital counseling with them, I had done a lot of growing, and Jesus brought me a whole ton of freedom in this area. I had already heard of how problematic that book was, and refused to read it. Again, I was told that I was opposed to it because I had a “bad attitude” about it, but my parents, knowing full-well who I was, did not press the issue of us reading it.
    The Power of a Praying Wife, along with The Power of the Praying Husband is the wedding gift my parents give every couple – us included. I read the wife version as a group study with some close wife-friends, and we tore the problematic passages to shreds in our discussion. We also compared it to the Husband’s book and noticed the ridiculously gendered (putting it kindly) differences between the two books. My husband has no intention of ever reading his version.
    All of that to say – the advice in these books is so pervasive and has been indoctrinated in so many of us women in ways that is not hammered into men. (Just like the Ludys’ guy feels guilty, girl is ruined trope.) This stuff is real, this stuff harms, and I am so, so thankful for the work that you all do to be a conduit of Jesus to bring knowledge and freedom to women like me.

  6. Estelle

    The phrase about a person is a person that Sheila and Rebecca were trying to remember is from the Zulu saying that ‘a person is a person through other people,’ the African concept of Ubuntu (common humanity). We find our humanity through our interactions with other people.

  7. Lisa

    We’ve been married almost 25 years. Early on, I read a LOT of Christian marriage books to try and get help. You can imagine the result. My husband didn’t read any of them. So the problems were only made worse.
    We are in a an amazing place in our marriage now. We are reading TGSR together. He is HORRIFIED and ANGRY and the damage done to me and other women by these books. He is especially angry at Eggerichs and the authors of Every Heart Restored.
    I am so thankful you are putting these resources together. Previously, I didn’t have a good way to communicate how damaging these books are. We just bought an extra 10 copies of TGSR to give to the staff at our church. I want every small group and Bible study done under the auspices of our church to be aware of the damage of these books. I don’t think many pastors have read them!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Lisa, that’s amazing! Thank you so much for letting us know and encouraging us like that. Yes, I was really angry at the authors of Every Heart Restored, too–although, to be honest, I feel quite sorry for Brenda. It was a husband-wife team, and the chapters written by her aren’t bad, but then in his chapters there’s the opposite advice. It’s really quite a strange book. But it sounds like she’s married to a sex addict who never really dealt with his addiction or figured out what real intimacy was. But he kept insisting he was fixed, and now they speak about it. She just sounds really stuck.


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