The Day I WASN’T Called a Jezebel–But I Am in It!

by | Jul 30, 2021 | Uncategorized | 5 comments

Merchandise is Here!

Women who try to challenge the status quo and fight against abuse are often labelled “jezebels”.

I’ve been called it plenty of times–told i have a “jezebel spirit”, even though there’s no such thing in Scripture (and even though no man is ever accused of having an “Ahab spirit”).

We laugh about it so much that I’ve at times thought of ordering Jezebel mugs and mailing them to some of my social media contacts whenever I see the name hurled at them.

Which is why I thought it was so funny–and rather ironic–that the website Jezebel wrote an AMAZING lengthy feature about The Great Sex Rescue.

I had a lovely time being interviewed by the author of the piece, Sarah Stankorb. She was thorough and compassionate and asked all the right questions, and was able to write such a great, in-depth story of our book.

It’s the kind of thing that I’ve been hoping would be published in Christian media, but instead it seems to be the secular media that will talk about our book, even though it’s selling very well and making a buzz.

Titled “‘I Didn’t Want to Deny My Husband His Marital Rights’: For Many Evangelical Women, Sex Comes With Pain and Anxiety”, Sarah opens with a story of a woman struggling with sex to put our book in the proper context, and then writes about how purity culture, and the teachings about sex in marriage in the evangelical world, often set women up for sex that is filled with anxiety and pain (and even coercion).

Here’s part of what she wrote about us:

But a similar probe of evangelical sexual teachings within marriage is long overdue. Faithful girls grew up into women who believed marriage mandated perpetual sexual availability, that their sexual performance would protect their husbands from straying, from sinning. A study of thousands of Christian women published in the book The Great Sex Rescue suggests the consequences of some influential, evangelical marital sexual teachings are just as scarring, long-lasting, and in some ways, more problematic. The damaging shadow of teen purity lessons still lingers and expectations around sex in marriage last a lifetime, impacting Christian women’s everyday interactions with their husbands.

Among the popular books that shaped this mindset is Every Man’s Battle, a book released in 2000 (with multiple subsequent variations such as Every Young Man’s Battle, Every Single Man’s Battle, Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle, plus a 2020 anniversary workbook edition). Every Man’s Battle promised a practical, detailed plan for men who desire sexual purity and argued “the prevalence of sexual sin among men” was derived “naturally—simply by being male.” The authors assert that due to sperm production, men naturally desire “sexual release about every forty-eight to seventy-two hours,” leaving them highly susceptible to temptation within three days of their last ejaculation. And temptation lurks everywhere: from lingerie ads to female joggers, beer commercials, movies, and even receptionists.

The flipside of evangelical purity culture stressed that through marriage, women can help their husbands keep from losing in their war against temptation, or so the theory goes. Immediately upon the wedding night, women are expected to transform from a chaste protector of purity into an eager sexual partner geared to prevent her husband’s sinful eyes from straying. As Every Man’s Battle put it, “your wife can be a methadone-like fix when your temperature is rising.”

Sarah Stankorb

I Didn't Want to Deny My Husband His Marital Rights, Jezebel.com

Then she starts really talking about book, mixed in with other analysis of what’s happening on the ground. I honestly don’t even know what to quote, it’s all so good.

She shares our stats well:

There are many links between a sense of obligation, coercion, and marital rape, but this is not a distinction widely made within Christian marriage and sex books. His Needs, Her Needs included a quote from a man who complained “I feel like a fool—like I’m begging her or even raping her, but I can’t help it. I need to make love!” As Gregoire and her co-authors write, “We are supposed to have sympathy for the man who feels like he’s raping his wife, but not for the woman enduring it.”

In The Great Sex Rescue, Gregoire and her co-authors’ survey showed when women enter a marriage believing they are obligated to have sex with their husbands whenever their husbands want it, they are 37 percent more likely to experience sexual pain and 29 percent less likely to frequently orgasm. When asked how they feel after sex, 16 percent of women in a follow-up survey chose the word “used.” For women who believed, prior to marriage, that a wife is obligated to give her husband sex when he wants it, vaginismus and dyspareunia rates go up 37 percent.

Sarah Stankorb

"I Didn't Want to Deny My Husband His Marital Rights"

And she also talked about the controversy around the book:

Since its publication, The Great Sex Rescue has been met with gratitude from many readers who see their own struggles mirrored in its pages, but also dismissal and public scorn from evangelical leaders. After publishing a compilation of women’s comments, including those who said Love & Respect enabled abuse, The Great Sex Rescue’s authors sent them to Focus on the Family, which published and still promotes the book. Focus on the Family issued a statement saying Gregoire, a former Focus on the Family Broadcast guest, had “orchestrated a concerted campaign against the book Love & Respect,” and “Focus on the Family maintains that Love & Respect has a biblically sound, empowering message for husbands and wives…” (italics original). Gregoire and For Women Only author Shaunti Feldhahn wound up sharing dueling statements over The Great Sex Rescue’s conclusions about Feldhahn’s work.

Mark Gungor, a pastor who offers comedic marriage seminars, including with military chaplains, blasted Gregoire on social media. Gungor called her “disgusting” and “arrogant” and suggested she believes she can “lift yourself up by tearing others down.”

Sarah Stankorb

"I Didn't Want to Deny My Husband His Marital Rights"

It was really affirming to see the story of our book in a big feature, and I thank Sarah so much for writing it. Please, please, read the whole thing!

The Great Sex Rescue

Changing the conversation about sex & marriage in the evangelical church.

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.

Again, I’m so grateful for Sarah for taking the lead on this article and thinking this was a story that needed to be written. I hope that Christian publications will soon think that it deserves to be told, too.

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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5 Comments

  1. Laura

    I read the full article and every time I read stuff like this, I feel like I’m re-reading parts of my story: especially the part of feeling like I could not refuse sex because of the “do not deprive” verses in Corinthians. Thankfully, I’m long out of that abusive situation.

    I also did not realize I was affected by the influence of purity culture because, at that time, I did not even know that (purity culture) was a thing. What’s weird is that I was not affected by purity culture until my mid-20’s when I started reading books like I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Boy Meets Girl (also by Joshua Harris), And the Bride Wore White (by Dannah Gresh), etc. After my divorce, I wanted to date God’s way and I believed that by following these purity teachings (don’t date unless you think you want to marry this person; don’t kiss until you’re engaged or on your wedding day; as a woman, do not make the first move, etc.), I would have been blessed with a wonderful marriage. Well, after many years of trying to follow these rules (which are not even biblical), I still remained single. It wasn’t until my 40’s (I’m 45 now) that I decided to just go ahead and date. Long story short, I faced a broken engagement (but still friends with this person), had a disappointment in the romance department, and recently decided to accept a date with a nice man from work. I don’t know if I’m going to marry him, but how would I know if I never give someone a chance?

    Following a formula that is not even biblical held me back from many opportunities. I get that people who had once lived recklessly and now want to follow God may think some of these teachings will help them to stay on the right track and not stray. Maybe some of those teachings could be helpful to them (as I saw in the comments from Monday’s post). Unfortunately for me, I tend to have black-and-white/ all-or-nothing thinking so I struggle with balance. I feel like a lot of these books on purity culture teachings and evangelical marriage books perpetuate this black-and-white/ all-or-nothing thinking. For example, they give off the mindset that you must do things their way or you are not following God. Basically, I felt nothing but condemnation when I read these books and I was worried about having a “Jezebel” spirit.

    Reply
  2. Jane Eyre

    This might be a stupid question; why is the porn-version of sex the “Christian” one, that makes you “Jezebel” if you fight it? (By the porn-version of sex, I mean the “get on your knees and service your husband,” “do it even if you don’t want to,” “don’t deny him” version).

    Is it because the porn version came first and since they beat you to the punch, they are the authority?

    Reply
    • Jo

      Well, they can always fall back on purported authority of a husband over a wife, which has morphed into authority of all men over all women, and since men are in control, educated, always right, blah, blah, blah, then ***of course*** a woman getting a little big for her britches is going to be dismissed out of hand.

      I particularly liked the point that no man anywhere has ever been called an Ahab, while Jezebel is a time-honored favorite put-down for women, especially women in the church.

      Reply
  3. Miranda

    Oh, I hundred percent agree that a wife’s first duty is to the sexual needs of her husband. When it comes down to it, that’s why she’s there. That’s why he married her. If it weren’t for sex, men would have nothing to do with women. And culture and civilization would not exist. I consider it my number one job to be available to my husband. If I harbor a bad attitude about this, it is not abuse or usery, it’s usually just me being a bitch. You would think we would all be more familiar with how this actually goes down. Do we all have collective amnesia or something? I know a thing or two about the fairer sex. And frankly, I don’t know why men stick around. You all crazy. 😉
    I would encourage all women to get over themselves and embrace their job description. They might end up happily married. In other words, don’t listen to discontent and lies. Coming from a sexually satisfied woman married for 20 years to an amazing man. It takes practice. So lean into it. Hand to the plow, folks!

    Reply
    • Margot

      “I would encourage all women to get over themselves and embrace their job description.”

      This position embraces a horribly low, animalistic view of humanity. I feel so sad for people who think so little of themselves! We do not exist to breed. Men and women need each other for procreation, yes, but also for life-giving intimacy, friendship, balance, creativity, partership… In Christ, our maleness or femaleness are sublimated as we become children of God and coregent with Christ, first and foremost, and we are lifted out of this base, animalistic identity that is no different from that offered by mere Darwinism or pornographers.

      Reply

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