Do You Need to Get Angry at What Purity Culture Stole from You?

by | Nov 15, 2021 | Uncategorized | 40 comments

Why Anger at Evangelical Teachings about Sex Can Be healthy
Merchandise is Here!

Anger is not always a bad thing–and some of us would benefit from a bit of it!

i’m just back from a weekend knitting retreat with my mom. About 60 knitters gathered at an inn close to where I live for some knitting classes and show and tell and just great food and time to chat.

It was the first time I didn’t open up my computer all day in, well, likely almost two years. In fact, I kept it closed for two and a half whole days! I was thrilled.

So I’m in a bit of a contemplative headspace today. I was going to write about what science is telling us about the clitoris (what’s new), and I think I still will (maybe next week!), but I had this thought last night as I was going to sleep and I’d like to try to put it into words.

In October and November we’re talking about sexual confidence–what it is, how you can feel confident even if your husband has used porn; how to be confident as the higher drive wife; and more.

And everyday I wake up to messages on Instagram or comments here or on Facebook from women who have finally found freedom after reading our book The Great Sex Rescue. They know that the reason that sex has been ho hum, or even downright awful, is not their fault. But more importantly, they see a way out.

I was thinking about those messages this morning, and what they have in common. And it seems to me that the big difference is anger.

Women who are becoming whole sexually have often expressed a lot of anger.

On the other hand, the women who are still really struggling often express hopelessness. It feels like nothing will ever change, and they’ve tried everything.

What’s the difference?

Now, as I write this, I’m aware that many of you HAVE tried everything, and you are feeling a little hopeless, and I don’t want to add to your burden right now. I want to try to enter in emotionally and say something to your heart, that I hope will help. I’m not trying to tell you that you’re doing yet another thing wrong. This isn’t about performance but about how we feel about our experience.

Here’s what I want you to understand:

Hopelessness is often anger turned inward.

You’re tried everything, why isn’t it getting any better? What’s wrong with me that everyone else finds this easy and I don’t? What’s wrong with me that I never want sex? What’s wrong with us that we can’t get over our pasts?

Hopelessness often blames ourselves.

On the other hand, sometimes the correct response to the problems that we’re experiencing in the bedroom is anger on our own behalf. 

When we start to recognize the depth of pain that many of the teachings in the church caused us; that our youth group caused us; that our parents or culture caused us–and we realize what they robbed us of, righteous anger can be the correct response.

Now, I’m not saying that you should all get angry at your parents and phone them and yell at them! I mean less anger at a specific person and more anger on your own behalf. 

Those who have told us that they’ve had new insights into the problems in their sex lives and feel like they can finally move ahead don’t do so because they’ve had it out with their former youth pastor who handed out copies of I Kissed Dating Goodbye or their aunt who shamed them for developing boobs at 11. No, it’s simply that they realized what I experienced was not what God wanted for me, and it took something from me. 

The Benefits of this Kind of Protective Anger

A lot of us grew up with cognitive dissonance, and it was exhausting.

We were told we were supposed to respect men and follow them and submit to them, but we were also told that they couldn’t help themselves around us and so we had to be the gatekeepers. We were supposed to never, ever think about sex or want sex while we were single, but then a switch was supposed to go off once we were married and we’d magically become sex kittens. We were told we were supposed to wait, and then sex would be amazing–and it wasn’t.

And we’ve been trying to hold on to the church and to the culture and to our families even as we start to feel this real cognitive dissonance, where nothing makes sense.

I think one reason that people find The Great Sex Rescue so freeing is that it lets you name the problem: it’s not you. It’s not even the well-meaning youth pastor who said stuff that really ended up hurting you. It’s not your parents who did the best they could, even though they seriously scarred you, too.

The problem is that our evangelical culture has believed things and taught things that simply aren’t biblical and that hurt people. (And we were able to measure the depth of the hurt with our survey of 20,000 women).

They’ve taught sex as an obligation; men as insatiable monsters; the purpose of sex as sin avoidance in marriage (you have sex so he won’t lust, watch porn, or have an affair). It’s exhausting. And we’ve all been caught up in this.

When we can see that this was never Jesus’ heart; that He is about true intimacy and oneness, then we can get angry at the fact that His name has been used to harm so many people. We can get angry on our own behalf. We should have been taught about true intimacy, we should have grown up without shame, we should have grown up with the words and ability to talk about this stuff. That would have honored God, not this.

And feeling angry on your own behalf gives clarity. You realize that none of this is your fault–or even  your husband’s fault. That if you are struggling, there is good reason. You were all taught stuff that seriously messed you up, and now there’s a way forward.

When the anger is directed outside of you, that empowers you to start to fix things. When it’s directed inward, then every time you don’t make immediate progress it’s more evidence that you never will. When you are the problem, how exactly do you solve it? 

Biblically, getting angry at injustice is a positive thing. It motivated the prophets to write what they wrote. It motivated change and a return to God. When we get angry at injustice we often feel free for the first time, because we know that the things that we are having a hard time accepting are actually not of God. 

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.

The Challenges of this Kind of Anger

We can make it too personal, and reject important people in our lives who were just as much under the bondage of the teachings as we were. Those who messed us up likely had others who messed them up too. That’s why seeing this as a cultural movement is so important. It wasn’t Josh Harris’ fault. It wasn’t your parents’ fault. It wasn’t your church’s fault. It was the culture.

Now, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have known better. That doesn’t mean that you have to choose to associate with them anymore. You can switch to a healthy church (and in many cases, you should!). You can limit your time with your parents if they are toxic. You can unfriend your youth pastor on Facebook. They should have protected you better.

But they didn’t invent the culture, either.

So often we associate God with those who taught us, because it was from them that we learned about God. What Rebecca and Joanna and I were desperately trying to do in The Great Sex Rescue was to show that these teachings were not of God at all. This was not God’s heart. He wants real intimacy, and that’s what He designed us for and sex for.

But I know for some that’s too big a chasm to cross right now. To you, let me just say: Don’t stop asking questions. I believe that God is there, and He wants to walk with you through those questions. He’s big enough to take it. And even if you’re having a hard time with God right now, maybe ask: is this because of God himself, or because of what people taught me about Him? What I often suggest to people struggling with this is just read the gospels. Forget everything else for a time, especially since that may have bad connotations to you. Just look at Jesus. Try to get rid of preconceived notions and just look at Him. What do you see?

On a personal note, one of the reasons I had to turn off the computer this weekend is how much I’ve been struggling with anger and disappointment and frustration, and some of it is aimed at individuals. I don’t mind people teaching the wrong stuff–we were all wrapped up in a culture that did that. But once you know better, you should do better. What dismays me is the number of teachers who have been shown, “hey, what you said here actually really hurts people,” and instead of apologizing they double down and say we’re wrong. The lack of compassion for real life people who are being hurt is stunning to me. It is that that challenges my faith, far more than the teachings in the first place. And I do struggle.

But that’s when I have to see that the church is so much bigger than those individuals. The work of God is not confined to the bigger name teachers.

And when I can read the stories of people finding their voices, of people recognizing real health and truth, that is a marvelous thing.

A final word to those who feel more helpless

Can you do an exercise for me? Picture yourself at 10. Picture how small you were. Think about what your favourite toy was. Did you have a blanket or a teddy bear that you slept with every night?

Now follow little you for the next few years. What was she–or he–taught? What did you hear in youth group? What scared you? What made you feel ashamed? Did someone hurt you?

If you were able to go back in time to when you were 10, or 12, or 14, what would you do to little you? Would you wrap your arms around her and tell her she’s beautiful, it’s not your fault, avoid X like the plague? Would you give him a pep talk that said you’re a real man NOW. You don’t have to struggle so much to fit the mold?

If you could have compassion on younger you, then can you also have compassion on older you? Because that’s really what this kind of anger is–compassion for those who have suffered injustice.

Compassion for those who were made to feel ashamed of their bodies, and so never figured out arousal or figured out libido.

Compassion for those who were made to feel their own sexual assault was their fault.

Compassion for those who experienced sexual pain, and felt like failures because they couldn’t fulfill their husbands’ needs.

Compassion for those who weren’t taught properly about porn, and now it’s eaten so many years of their marriage.

Can you have that kind of compassion? And then go back and read the first post about what sexual confidence is. It’s just accepting where you are, right now.

It’s not your fault. You can move forward. And I hope that I can give you a glimmer of hope that it’s possible!

Why Anger at Evangelical Teachings about Sex Can Be Healthy

What do you think? Are you in the hopeless camp, the angry camp, or another camp? How can be angry in a healthy way? 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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40 Comments

  1. A2bbethany

    I feel like I can break this generational mess by simply talking to my kids about everything and not being afraid of law enforcement. And being very clear: i don’t protect family who hurt people.

    Reply
    • Rachel

      It is interesting you bringing up law enforcement. My sister and I were taking about that this weekend – we were taught this fear of “only calling 911 if it is a dire emergency” that she couldn’t even feel confident to call when it was necessary (domestic abuse against our mom).
      I definitely want my kids to feel ok calling dispatch and know that somebody is willing to helo them.

      Reply
  2. Jonathan King

    The theme of anger as fuel—for change, for healing, for creativity, for doing God’s will—has been coming up a lot this week for me. It’s weird, because I’ve been angry more often than ever these last couple of years as my beliefs shift in all kinds of ways while the people I love stay the same, but anger has never really been something I let myself feel or felt safe around in others. It’s a new and uncomfortable experience for me, and I’m not sure yet what to do with it.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I hear you. It is a weird feeling. I think what helps me is to ask, “what does Jesus think about this situation?” rather than asking, “what am I supposed to think” or “what am I supposed to do?” See it through Jesus’ eyes. And then remember (and this is the hard one for me) that Jesus still loves the people who are wrong. He desperately loves them and wants the best for them too, even if He would also rebuke them (in the way that they would most hear it).

      Reply
  3. Katrina

    I am in the hopeless/angry camp right now. This is such a timely post for me! Having dealt with vaginismus for all of my sexually active life, I’m now 54, I’m over it! I have read TGSR and it was so healing. I even journaled while reading through the book. I feel like I just haven’t got all of the pieces of the puzzle to get true healing. So I decided to seek treatment. My gynecologist’s office now treats pelvic issues! I was so so excited because what better place to get understanding and help! Well, vaginismus is not mentioned at all on their website. It talks a lot about urinary incontinence, but I still remained hopeful and made the call to schedule an appointment. I specifically asked if there was treatment for vaginismus and after calls back and forth I was told that I would come in and meet with the PT and then I would come back for another appointment to discuss my issue🤔 So I asked what my first appointment would be for? To discuss something I didn’t suffer from or what? The scheduler didn’t know. It’s like they didn’t know what to do with my request. So they canceled my appointment with the therapist and scheduled me to see my doctor🤦‍♀️ I’m debating on whether I even want to go, but part of me wants to go and fight for those of us who struggle with this issue and ask them to please treat this issue. The scheduler did say that I’m not the only one who has inquired about treatment for vaginismus. Why is vaginismus not widely recognized in the medical community? Why does sex have to be such a fight for some of us? If intercourse was off the table, I may not dread sex so much. But the thought of pain, sometimes not so bad and sometimes unbearable, overshadows the intimacy and parts that I truly enjoy. The more I walk this healing journey, the harder I find it to be able to get in that place in my mind where I can have intercourse and disassociate myself so I don’t feel the pain as much. But I have learned that I need to be present so that I can try to convince my body that this is ok, that the pain is not going to be bad this time, just relax, this is really supposed to feel great, maybe this is the time it will. I know that one day I will get true and complete healing. I wouldn’t be where I am today on my healing journey if not for Sheila and her team. Please keep doing what you’re doing because you are making a difference! I may not be where I want to be in my healing journey, but I’m much further along than I was when I found your blog! Thank you for speaking openly, for speaking truth, for fighting for that truth, and fighting for change, it truly is making a huge difference!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, wow, Katrina, what a story! I’m so glad you found me (and GSR!).

      That’s really weird that your gynecologist didn’t know anything about vaginismus. Really weird. I’d leave them and find a physiotherapist who does. It’s actually a very common issue, and most pelvic floor physiotherapists are trained to treat it well. Can you look for someone else in your community? i definitely wouldn’t be bothered with people who don’t even know what it is, or you have to ask questions. It should be right there in big lights, because it is a big issue.

      I’ll pray for your continued healing too!

      Reply
      • Katrina

        I have discussed the vaginismus with my gynecologist. She does recognize it. The therapist in her office is the one who didn’t seem to recognize it. I just did another search and found that we now have a physiotherapist in my small little town. She’s only here one afternoon a week, but I made an appointment! They actually knew what I was talking about and assured me of the privacy for treatment at their facility. Thank you for the encouragement, the prayers, your willingness to be engaged in conversation, and everything else you do to stand with us. You truly are a blessing💕

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Awesome! That’s great. I’m so glad. I hope she really helps you!

          Reply
    • Lisa M

      Are you in the US? I would look for a physical therapist who has gone through Herman & Wallace training.

      https://pelvicrehab.com/

      I have personally found brain spotting therapy extremely helpful for the non-physical side.

      Reply
      • Katrina

        Thank you Lisa! Yes, I’m in the US. I will check this out.

        Reply
  4. Jen

    Spot on, Sheila!!!!

    [standing up, applauding, stomping feet, wolf whistling].

    I’ve had so much anger trapped in me for so long! Reading TGSR brought me great relief and helped me focus much of that anger away from myself and on to the situations that hurt me. It is shocking, after years and years of relative misery, to suddenly think, “Wait a second! None of that was my fault/responsibility, etc. I was doing the best I could in a hard situation filled with bad teachings.”

    Understanding that I really have no reason to be angry at myself has been monumental in lifting my anxiety and depression. I have hope now. My husband and I are going after the kind of marriage God intended, which I’m continually seeing is not what some people in the Church have been teaching. It’s not all bad, but it’s not all good.

    Onward to freedom!!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that’s so amazing! I’m so glad. That’s exactly what we were hoping and praying for!

      Reply
  5. Nathan

    Anger is definitely acceptable when it’s for a good reason. Jesus himself got angry at times (for example, when He overturned the merchant tables at the Temple)

    Reply
  6. Nathan

    Paraphrasing from the main text…
    > > When people are shown that they’re wrong, instead of owning up to it, they double down and say that YOU’RE wrong.

    Sadly, this seems to be human nature for many people, not just Christian writers. It happens in politics, too. People like to hold on to a worn out belief even if they get proved wrong.

    Reply
    • Laura

      Unfortunately, a lot of these people still want to hang onto their power such as politicians and those in leadership positions.

      Reply
  7. Laura

    Excellent post Sheila!

    I’ve been dealing with a lot of anger as I’ve worked on writing my testimony on the harm the submission doctrine has caused me. I have had to take a break from writing it because through this writing, I’ve dug up other issues related to this damaging doctrine and didn’t even know purity culture was a thing even though I have been affected by it. Now, I’ve found myself on the road of deconstruction from other damaging doctrines such as the prosperity gospel (which is tied in to purity culture), Christian nationalism, patriarchy, the way a lot of people in the church have taken the pandemic too lightly, etc.

    Even though reading I Kissed Dating Goodbye negatively affected me at the age of 26, I don’t blame the author because he was so young when he wrote this book and was a product of those teachings. What I will say is this: reading that book made me feel like I should not date anyone unless I felt like God was telling me they were the one. After my divorce, I did not want to make the same mistake so I fell into legalism when it came to dating which I did not do for 15 years. I had also come out of a sexually abusive marriage so that made me more hesitant and afraid of getting hurt again.

    What angers me the most is that a lot of churches are still teaching that husbands are supposed to be the leaders of the family and wives just need to “submit” to that leadership. Then in the next breath, they say, “But everyone is still equal.” Um, when the church teaches that someone is in charge, that is not equality at all.

    Reply
  8. Andrea

    Such good and healing points here! Breaking free is acknowledging hurt and damage but not taking it out on the people, recognizing it was culture. I would add behind culture is satan who is the true enemy in all of this coming only to kill, steal and destroy. He is the one we are at war with and we can say NO MORE! In and through Christ we WILL break free and come into the freedom and truth he offers !

    Reply
  9. Boone

    Being a lawyer I’m a bit skeptical of everything. That said, over the years I’ve noticed that the teachings of the church regarding sex and marriage have more to do with keeping the congregation in line than achieving a workable happy relationship. There’s always a dangling carrot. If you’ll just do this then everything will be wonderful. When it’s not then you’re told that it’s your fault and you now need to move to step two or ten and you’ll achieve this blissful Union and everything will be wonderful. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never met anybody that made it to Nirvana. We’re always on the way fighting our way along.

    Oh, when it totally goes in the toilet we’re told that we have to love them like Jesus. That’s code for you have to take whatever’s dished out and smile. You may not stand up for yourself. WWJD?

    Reply
    • EOF

      Wow, this is a real lightbulb moment for me. It really was about keeping everyone in line. So much to think about now…

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Very true, Boone! It’s almost like–what would they do with people who actually did become emotionally healthy? I think there’s a disincentive.

      Reply
      • Anonymous305

        I can see how power-hungry people wouldn’t want healthy relationships, but I’d like to believe that my church leadership has good motives, and doesn’t see the harm (rather than wants to cause it). There are weird, mixed messages though, like “you’re obligated but to have a healthy sex life”. I’m not sure how obligation and health go together, but at least it was gender-neutral. “The husband is equal in relationship, but head in the structure of the family”. How are those 2 even different things? “There are biblical reasons for divorce, but marriage is permanent”. Whahuh????

        Reply
  10. Andrea

    Two lines from this post got me thinking…

    1. “What’s wrong with me that I never want sex?”
    I recently listened to a podcast that quoted a book called Magnificent Sex. The author/therapist said that when women come into her office and say they just don’t like sex, she responds with, “OK, so tell me about this sex you don’t want,” and after hearing more specifics, usually follows up with, “Yeah, I wouldn’t ever want that kind of sex either, who could blame you.”

    2. “the purpose of sex as sin avoidance in marriage”
    I know too many Christian couples for whom this is true, including some relatives (female, of course) who have never known care-free, playful, affectionate sex.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That therapist sounds like Emily Nagoski! I’m pretty sure she says something similar too. And, yes, sin avoidance is a HUGE problem. What a terrible turn off!

      Reply
  11. Shawn

    I’m not sure what to do. I have been married around 9 years to my second husband. I found out after we were married a few years that he “had struggled with porn in the past”. I pressed him and he finally told me that he had been watching it off and on the whole time he and I had been together. This hit me very hard because me and my siblings were abused as children and porn was a huge part of the abuse. He swore he had stopped and removed all devices from the room before bed. A couple of years later I found movies in our Netflix history. He tried to lie but I got out of him. I was devastated. In order to save our marriage he started going to a men’s group for men who struggle with porn. The group ended for a few months. I check in with him often and he has assured me that he is doing great.
    Tonight his group started up again and the leader asked him to come so he did. When he got home I asked him how it was. Then I asked him how he had been doing. When he answered I could tell he was hiding something. Sure enough he finally said “I have slipped a few times over the fall”. Like I’m supposed to say “ oh, it’s ok honey, you’ll do better “. I am so broken. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to live this way. I thought we were building a beautiful life together and it all feels like a lie. It feels so dark.

    Reply
    • Anonymous305

      Shawn, that is so heartbreaking, and there are no easy answers ☹️❤️☹️!! What I’ve learned is to be honest with yourself and God about your feelings instead of thinking that you shouldn’t feel that way. That includes being honest with yourself about whether or not you want a divorce because even if you stay married, you need to be honest with yourself to recover and heal (slowly). ❤️☹️❤️!!

      Reply
  12. CMT

    “When we get angry at injustice we often feel free for the first time, because we know that the things that we are having a hard time accepting are actually not of God.”

    This.

    The truly crazy-making part of a lot of purity/hierarchical complementarian beliefs for me was the sense that since this is what God wants, if I have a problem with it it’s because I am self-centered/rebllious/too proud/whatever. For me this absolutely created misdirected anger and a sense of hopelessness.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes! It steals God from us, really. It’s like our last safe space is gone. If God is unsafe as well–if God is openly objectifying women too, then where do we go?

      Reply
      • CMT

        Yes exactly. Worst for me was gender hierarchy, not purity culture per se. But it’s very closely related IMO and the emotional impact for me was exactly what you are describing. Mistrust of God and myself, a sense of hopelessness and guilt. And now that I am deconstructing, a lot of (hopefully mostly) righteous anger! At the culture as a whole and at individuals too.

        I think I see what you mean about blaming culture, not individuals. Up to a point, there’s grace for people who spread bad teaching in good faith. I did it myself back in the day. It was in the water in the culture I grew up in. But, bad intent isn’t necessary for harmful impact, and cultural pressure doesn’t excuse people from responsibility. Especially if they are willfully blind to the harm they cause.

        Reply
    • Laura

      I can relate to this. I always struggled with the hierarchy in marriage doctrine (didn’t know what it was called back then) and been told that I was in rebellion to God and needed to learn how to be submissive to Him in order to be successfully submissive to my husband (which I don’t have right now).

      After I first got saved as a teenager and heard this doctrine, I believed that maybe God thought less of me because I was a woman. I decided not to believe the God of the Bible because if that’s how He really was, then I wanted nothing to do with Christianity. So, I walked away from church for several years.

      In spite of hearing this doctrine occasionally throughout the years, I now know that is NOT of God because Jesus (who is the Word) never said anything about hierarchy in marriage and elevated women. Unfortunately, Christian teachings still want to adhere to the hierarchy doctrine in marriage and hold on to toxic teachings that harm people. What I’m realizing is that this is part of the industrial evangelical complex (didn’t know this term until I started watching the Holy Post podcast) which endorses celebrity pastors like Mark Driscoll regardless of how damaging their teachings are. I hate to say this or even write this but we all know that a number of evangelicals in leadership roles profit from this “complex.”

      While I have enjoyed reading a number of Christian books and have found good things that have helped me grow in my relationship with God, there are those bad apples that have left a rotten taste in my mouth. I have had to stop reading some of those books because they pull me away from God and have had me wondering if I wasn’t following God good enough. So, just open up the Bible and as Sheila mentioned earlier “focus on the teachings of Jesus.”

      Reply
  13. Carlamariee

    Anger, yes, but before I got there I really had to grieve lost years and needless pain trying to make an impossible situation work because I was taught it was the godly thing to do.

    Reply
  14. Nessie

    “To you, let me just say: Don’t stop asking questions. I believe that God is there, and He wants to walk with you through those questions. He’s big enough to take it. And even if you’re having a hard time with God right now, maybe ask: is this because of God himself, or because of what people taught me about Him?”

    Thank you for always pointing back to God- how this isn’t what He wants for us, that He can take our hard questions, that my doubts that have arisen due to bad church teachings, etc. are valid and I need to work them out with Him foremost.

    4 years ago we left our church of 9 years (my husband finally agreed after a couple years of me asking) due to realizing the preacher was a narcissist and abusing scripture for gain, etc., especially in the “submission,” “must have sex to prevent his porn usage which will be your fault,” and financial areas. There are many false teachers, and I fear that percentage will only grow- but we can use the discernment given us by God via the Holy Spirit to flee from them. Thank you for encouraging us to not sit back and take it as many of us have been taught is our only “biblical” recourse.

    I have much anger- not all is good right now, but I hope to channel it more appropriately as I process. Kinda feels like peeling layers back on an onion… And I’ve never gotten to the center of an onion without some tears being shed.

    I have learned so much from you and many of your commentors. It has had a positive impact (through intense growing pains) on my marriage, and on my good days I have a little hope that not all men are horrible pigs just one urge away from cheating or raping because they have gone one hour too many without sex. I hate that I developed that opinion of men, but with so many books proudly declaring nearly that, and plenty of men acting in ways that seemed to back it up, it was hard not to.

    One day hopefully my husband will be ready to read and absorb TGSR. (He is actively working on other things that need figuring out first before he can go through that and other books.) I look forward to being able to process more with him, too, when that day comes.

    You give: hope, change, courage, love, Jesus.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you for that encouragement, Nessie! I know the anger is real. It is hard to process. I’m glad you’re doing the work, though, and I’m glad your marriage is slowly changing. May you continue to grow!

      Reply
  15. Another Lisa

    Anger is the right word for it.

    Why do godly men feel so entitled to be ungodly when it comes to sex? Why do pastors who preach compassion and generosity to all only preach that message to the wives when talking about sex? Why is it so vitally important women understand men and change to accommodate them, while men are allowed to just “be the way they are?” Why is the solution for men behaving poorly for women to cater to bad behavior? And why oh why in the 21st century do men feel it’s okay to look down their noses and say, “well, you’re women. You’ll never understand”? Where is their compassion for women? How can they truly believe their short seasons of sexual frustration are more painful than a period or recovering from childbirth? How can they look at a broken, bleeding body and think they’re in more pain so they have the right to use that broken, bleeding body? How can they call that love?

    Honestly, I read these books and wonder how bad the author is in bed that he had to guilt or threaten his wife to get her there. OF COURSE they think they’re great lovers, they’ve explicitly told women how important it is for us to make men THINK they’ve rocked our world, even if they’re on a different planet!

    Reply
  16. Marius

    Have you noticed, in the Bible, that the only time Jesus rebuked people, and the only times he was angry, it was at religious leaders?
    You didn’t think he was calm and peaceful when he overturned the tables in the Temple courts, did you? 😉

    I am a pastor. A few years ago I left the Evangelical denomination in which I served for 25 years, and joined a mainline protestant church. It’s hard to believe how different life is now! No more guilt trips, no more shame, no more culture wars, no more conspiracy theories and far right politics and all that. For the first time, I’m no longer embarrassed to be a Christian.

    I am angry at all that lost time. I am angry at all the abuse heaped on women and men in the name of churchianity. But above all, I am angry at how power-hungry men have been twisting and abusing the message of Jesus in order to build their own little ‘kingdoms’.

    And I’m a man! I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like being a woman and facing all of that spiritual – and sometimes physical – abuse.

    If you are in a church like that, don’t stay – get out. There are churches that are not abusive, out there. And if you can’t find one, start one! You’ll find plenty of spiritual orphans to join you.

    Reply
  17. Erik H.

    Ma’am, to you and many of the other commenters, I can only give my sincerest gratitude for your inspiring words here.

    “Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” ~ Titus 2:6-8, New International

    “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.” ~ Titus 1:15, New International

    Personally at my churches my leadership hasn’t usually had this problem, but I think I’ve heard of it happening elsewhere, where some leaders and authorities have a ‘downward-focused’ morality that excessively emphasizes doing certain behaviors so as to avoid sin or temptation instead of enjoying those behaviors for their own beauty and their Godly rewards. “Have sex with your wife so you won’t be tempted to use pornography,” with little talk of marital beauty or oneness, or of compassionately meeting the other person’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

    In truth I think a lot of the mindsets that I grew up in obsessed over sin, especially sexual sin, to a very unhealthy extent. That fear of sin “lived rent-free in my head” for many years until a lifelong best friend gave me her own advice and reminded me that ‘obsession over avoiding sin’ is still ‘obsession over sin’ even if that obsession is being done in the name of vigilance against something rather than as an idolatrous worship of it.

    I also struggled for years, feeling like I had no mentors to talk to about Godly passionate sex and sexuality (it wasn’t an obscene subject in my household per se but was generally not brought up), so I often sought knowledge from places that had no arbitrary culturally influenced taboos (good) but did not always adhere to God’s design for sexuality (not so good). Oftentimes I’d wondered if many influential leaders and authority figures actually hated sin or were engaging in some sort of cognitive dissonance (“I don’t want to have sex with XYZ person, I don’t want to have sex with XYZ person”) that immediately fell apart when they were courted by influential worldly figures whose lifestyles flagrantly rejected these standards and restrictions. I sometimes wonder if that’s the kind of lifestyle many of my leaders actually “wanted” to live (and I think that sometimes ended up happening anyway).

    It took me years to be able to see my desires in a healthy, Godly light, neither seeking to elevate them beyond their proper God-honoring station (an ongoing process I’m still learning each day) nor being arbitrarily ashamed by them in light of cultural taboos that are no substitute (Colossians 2:20-23) for seeing other people as being made in the holy image of God (Genesis 1:27).

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Erik, so glad you’re finding freedom! I love what your friend said about obsession over sin. Very true!

      Reply
  18. Molly Bird

    So what do I do with this info because I can’t unsee what I see now, and I can’t stand by and listen to the “marriage and parenting” lifegroup as they spend 20 min retelling a story right out of “love and respect” on how we shouldn’t withhold sex from our husbands… it makes me sick. My current plan is to write a nice long email about how that message is toxic (and provide a lot of nice references) if they refuse to change the message I will have to call them out because women need to know when they are looking for a church how they are seen and what there are going to be told is their role. I want to take some serious push back kind of action that fosters real change but I don’t know what I should do… any idea?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Molly, it could just be that you’re in the wrong church. I know that’s really tough to say, because we all need our community. But I would ask God, “am I being prepared to bring change to the Life Group, or are you making me more dissatisfied so that you’ll send me out to find true Jesus-honouring community?” And just know that many, many people are asking that same question.

      Reply

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