Not So Groovy, Baby: Did Evangelical Sex Advice Get Stuck in the 1970s?

by | May 12, 2021 | Sex | 16 comments

Did Evangelical Sex Advice Get Stuck in the 1970s?
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How do our evangelical sex books contribute to women feeling responsible for men’s sexual sins?

Anxious Bench, a blog on Patheos, has just published one of my guest posts where I talk about how evangelical sex advice kind of peaked in the 1970s with Tim LaHaye and The Act of Marriage–but then didn’t evolve very much to include more about sex as something which is intimate and just as much for women.

Instead, our books tend to emphasize that sex is about a man’s need, and women need to have frequent sex to keep men from straying.

Think about how that message affects women like Anna Duggar, whose husbands are caught in porn scandals (although Josh Duggar went far further than that to Child Sexual Abuse Materials).

I touched on many of our best-sellers, and even Rachael Denhollander’s awesome Facebook post and Twitter thread from the weekend.

Here’s how we began:

It’s highly unlikely that Queen Victoria ever advised a young protégé on the eve of her nuptials to “lie back and think of England,” despite the urban legend. In fact, the Queen, who bore nine children to a husband she adored, probably enjoyed an enthusiastic love life with her Albert, and many historians suspect she had an active sex life after her husband’s death.

But the era which was named after her popularized women’s sexual reticence. As men left to work in factories, women kept the home fires burning. The “angel of the house” archetype of the wife was born: the pure, godly, submissive woman who tamed the more base desires of the husband so the family could flourish.

This idea dovetailed nicely with the church’s emphasis on the nuclear family, and since the church had such influence over society’s sexual norms, this view remained preeminent for over a century.

And then the sexual revolution hit.

Anxious Bench

Not So Groovy, Baby

We then took a romp through several of our best-sellers to see how they doubled down on the message about sex is primarily for men–and women were the ones who were supposed to tame men’s baser instincts by satiating them with enough sex.

Emerson Eggerichs tells women that their husbands will “come under satanic attack when deprived of physical release,” and claims “men are often lured into affairs because they are sexually deprived at home.” The solution? A wife should “minister to her husband sexually…as unto Jesus Christ,” especially since it takes “such a short amount of time.”
Anxious Bench

Not So Groovy, Baby

Please read the whole thing! And please share it!

I’d love to send a ton of people to Anxious Bench, so that we can show we can bring the traffic–and maybe guest post more!

I feel like we honestly are changing the conversation. We’re finally moving on from the 1970s. And I hope that in all of our communities, we’ll spread the message that women aren’t responsible for men’s porn use (let alone men’s use of child sexual abuse materials).

There probably are women in your circle going through this, even if they don’t talk about it. So the more we say loudly, “women aren’t responsible for men’s sexual sins”, the more we can help those who are afraid to ask for help and feeling shame.

Did Evangelical Sex Advice Get Stuck in the 1970s?

Instead of asking you for comments here, like I normally do, I’m going to ask you to go comment on the Anxious Bench post! Thank you!

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Sheila Wray Gregoire


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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. Sarah

    Unfortunately I can’t comment on Patheos (I can’t see the option for it on mobile!) but just wanted to say that the ‘think of England’ quote was actually Lady Hillingdon who was an Edwardian. I used to think it was Queen Vic too till I found out that it’s often misattributed to her. Otherwise, love it!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, I quoted Lady Hillingdon in The Good Girl’s Guide! But that quote is often attributed to Victoria, though it really shouldn’t be!

      • Anon

        Queen Vic gets such an unfair press! I spent my last year in school studying the Victorians and was left with a huge admiration for her.
        Did you know, she actually helped make pain relief acceptable for women during childbirth? In her era, it was seen as wrong to do anything to relieve a woman’s pain because it was going against God’s curse. But she was an enthusiastic supporter of pain relief on the basis that ‘Providence’ had provided resources that could be used for pain relief and given men the intelligence to work out how to use them.
        And as a newlywed, she had her portrait painted for Prince Albert, and she wore her hair loose and flowing for it – which would have been regarded as very sexy (and scandalous if anyone other than her husband had seen it) for that era!

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yes, she actually was quite the lady! It’s too bad “Victorian” has taken on such a negative connotation, but it’s really about the era and not about her.

  2. Active Mom

    I think it’s odd that in the church we blame the husbands choice to sin on the wife. However, we seem to make the wife accountable for a lot of the husbands choices. I have heard women be admonished for how the husband dresses, whether he has a temper, even his weight. We subconsciously make wives responsible for their husbands in the same way they are for a child. Is it any wonder some wives have no sexual interest in their husbands? Yet then we also preach and teach that he is the “head of the household” and the spiritual leader. But….. he isn’t to blame when he comes dressed with a stain on his shirt? I agree we are stuck in the 70’s. On a lot of marriage issues. The sad part was the 70’s didn’t have marriage right either.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Absolutely. There is this strange dynamic where women are responsible for looking after men (so treat men like children), but then men are in authority over women (so treat women like children). What’s missing is real intimacy and partnership and mutual servanthood, which is what marriage is really about! And the Christian life, for that matter.

    • Anonymous for this one

      Indeed. One of the reasons we left the church I was a young adult in was people would come to ME about problems they had with him and tell me I needed to address it. They didn’t like how he looked, how he dressed, how he spoke and I was expected to “clean him up”. If they thought he should be in a ministry, they wanted me to “convince him.”
      People would wait until they knew he was at work to call to talk to him. That way they’d catch me to pass the message on.
      When someone says, “hey, tell your husband…..” I respond with, “you can tell him that, yourself.” They rarely do.
      They expected me to be his savior and holy spirit all while submitting and allowing him to have headship. It actually created a tremendous amount of trouble and trauma and contributed to my nervous breakdown.

    • Wild Honey

      “We subconsciously make wives responsible for their husbands in the same way they are for a child.”
      When we got married, my husband’s mom and older sister told me, “We did our best, he’s your responsibility now!” This really bothered me, because it (a) really disrespectfully implied a 32 year-old man was still an irresponsible child and (b) put me in the role of being a mother to said man-child, when what I really wanted to be was a wife.
      To be fair to them, my husband WAS really irresponsible when it came to cleaning up after himself (for example). He’s grown a lot in this area, but it’s been an uphill battle for both of us. And you are so right, for some reason it reflects just as much on ME (even from some of my own family members) as it does on him. So not fair.
      So, parents, if you want the responsibility of raising kids, teach them responsibility!

  3. April

    Wow! Did not know this went all the way back to those times. But women should not be held responsible for men impure thoughts or their sins that is truly wrong. I hope one day the church can see the truth and start changing

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I do, too! I seriously hope we can change the evangelical conversation about sex. We need to!

  4. Boone

    Has anybody besides me noticed that in the evangelical/fundy world, especially the fundy world, that everybody has to be subject to somebody. You never get to be a full bore adult taking care of yourself. Everybody has to be under somebody else’s control.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      This is so true! And it’s weird, because Jesus said the opposite in Matthew 20:25-28.

      Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

  5. Laura

    Thank you for the link to the Patheos article. When a person struggles with sexual addiction, getting regular sex or daily sex at home is not enough. They will still look at porn, attend strip clubs, and/or have affairs. I was married to a sex addict for 2.5 years and he used the claiming he wasn’t getting enough sex excuse to look at porn or go to a strip club. From the reviews I’ve read about “Every Man’s Battle,” I get the impression that the authors are not treating this porn issue as an addiction that the porn user needs to be held responsible for. Single men struggle with lust and porn addiction too.

  6. Raphael

    The problem with the Evangelical Church’s response to the Sexual Revolution is that it fundamentally misunderstood the nature of the Sexual Revolution and it continues to misunderstand it.
    French writer Michel Houellebecq notes:
    “It is interesting to note that the ‘sexual revolution’ was sometimes portrayed as a communal utopia, whereas in fact it was simply another stage in the historical rise of individualism. As the lovely word ‘household’ suggests, the couple and the family would be the last bastion of primitive communism in liberal society. The sexual revolution was to destroy these intermediary communities, the last to separate the individual from the market. The destruction continues to this day”.
    Elsewhere he writes : “in societies like ours sex truly represents a second system of differentiation, completely independent of money; and as a system of differentiation it functions just as mercilessly. The effects of these two systems are, furthermore, strictly equivalent. Just like unrestrained economic liberalism, and for similar reasons, sexual liberalism produces phenomena of absolute pauperization. Some men make love every day; others five or six times in their life, or never. Some make love with dozens of women; others with none. It’s what’s known as `the law of the market’. In an economic system where unfair dismissal is prohibited, every person more or less manages to find their place. In a sexual system where adultery is prohibited, every person more or less manages to find their bed mate. In a totally liberal sexual system certain people have a varied and exciting erotic life; others are reduced to masturbation and solitude. Economic liberalism is an extension of the domain of the struggle, its extension to all ages and all classes of society. Sexual liberalism is likewise an extension of the domain of the struggle, its extension to all ages and all classes of society. […] Certain people win on both levels; others lose on both”.
    The Church essentially took it at face value that the Sexual Revolution was a “communal utopia” as so many assumed. I have never seen a single Christian book or sermon that demonstrates an understanding of the true nature of the Sexual Revolution.
    This blindness means it can’t provide an answers for the problem of the hypercompetitive dating market and how difficult it now is to get married.
    The Church shouldn’t be worrying about divorces so much as the fact that marriages aren’t being formed in the first place.

  7. Lisa M

    Just posting that I was able to comment on the article. You have click on the tiny section for comments to open the comments and login with Disqus. I really dislike Disqus but I did comment. It’s a fantastic article!

  8. Lucy

    “Emerson Eggerichs tells women that their husbands will ‘come under satanic attack when deprived of physical release.’”
    Has he never heard of nocturnal emissions? And where does that absurd statement leave poor single Christian men who are attempting to live celibate? Are they simply at near-constant threat of Satanic attack?
    For that matter, where in Scripture is such an idea backed up?
    Talk to me, Emerson.


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