A Book Review of Married Sex By Gary Thomas and Debra Fileta

by | Jan 12, 2022 | Uncategorized | 126 comments

Married Sex Book Review Gary Thomas Debra Fileta

I’ve been talking about Gary Thomas’ and Debra Fileta’s new sex book Married Sex off and on on this blog and my podcast for the last few months, and there’s been quite a hubbub about it on social media. The book has also been largely panned in reviews on Amazon.

I’ve been asked by many when I was going to write my review. Originally I was thinking that I wouldn’t (I’ve said enough in podcasts), but I think it’s useful to have one place where all of these things are mentioned, because there haven’t been many comprehensive reviews published listing the concerns.

This post is long because I wanted to cover everything in this book review. Thanks for your patience!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Married Sex by Gary Thomas and Debra Fileta

Married Sex opens with a story of a naked 60-year-old couple pretending to be Adam and Eve and having sex in their backyard.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with a 60-year-old couple having sex naked outside, but this odd opening sets the stage for a very odd book. I couldn’t help asking, “Do they live in a subdivision? How high is the fence? Are there mosquitoes? And why is role playing Adam and Eve supposed to be better than just having a wonderful, intimate experience as simply Tom and Nancy (or whatever your names are)?”

The first chapters then set up strange expectations. Look at Danny and Jocelyn! They sleep naked, even when they’re cold. They sleep in a small double bed. Jocelyn never says no to her husband, and loves talking about her climaxes with her women’s Bible study group. Be like Jocelyn!

In fact, everyone does stuff naked! The whole beginning of the book is a parade of naked people. Darrell and Joanne even counsel couples to cook naked (you’re allowed to wear an apron, at least). I just hope they never cook anything with grease splatter.

Do you remember when you were a teenager, and there was the “cool crowd” at your high school you never quite fit with? You may have changed your wardrobe, adopted a new hairstyle, and started listening to new music, but you still were never quite “it”.

This felt like the book version of the clique you never managed to join; all through the book were unrealistic stories of people who embraced sex to the extreme–and the unspoken accusation was, “why can’t you be hot like them?”

Whether it was Janell who gave her husband sex and blow jobs multiple times a day over their 9-day trip for her husband’s father’s funeral; or Rebekah who always gives sexual favors whenever she doesn’t feel like intercourse because she doesn’t want her husband to feel rejected; or Izzy who did a nude photo shoot so that her husband “neurologically” is attracted to her naked body rather than porn, we’re left with examples that leave us feeling we’ll never measure up.

We’re invited to listen to women who love sex and get in the mood because they get Brazilian waxes; go out on dates panty-less; or wear crotchless panties.

Do you like sleeping in warm pyjamas in a king sized bed and snuggling watching Netflix? You’re just not hot enough.

To be honest, I wanted to like Married Sex.

Debra Fileta has been a friend of mine for a long time, and Gary and I were close for years.

But also, professionally this was the first big sex book coming out by an evangelical publisher since The Great Sex Rescue had been published, and we know that Gary had read The Great Sex Rescue, and the editors at Zondervan were familiar with our rubric of the twelve markers of healthy sexuality teaching. So I was hopeful that the book would be a sign that the conversation was changing.

Instead, while much of the book was positive, I was left feeling very saddened, because the harmful messages that we identified in our survey of 20,000 women were repeated–but sneakily. It almost felt like we had taught Gary Thomas how to give the obligation sex message without sounding like the obligation sex message. We had taught him what NOT to say, but he hadn’t taken our findings to heart to understand what TO say. Instead, he just doubled down on the same old messaging: Men need sex in a way that women will never understand. Men are visual creatures and they can’t control it. Sex should feel like a sacrifice for women.

This surprised me. I felt like I was reading something written by someone that I didn’t even know, and it seemed so out of character given other things that he has written.

But let me give specifics.

First, What’s Good in Married Sex by Gary Thomas and Debra Fileta?

The book does an excellent job of describing the sexual response cycle; explaining different types of libidos; talking about how to bring a woman to orgasm, and the importance of valuing her orgasm; talking about how sex is more than just physical, but is meant to be a uniting experience on every level. The description of En Gedi sex is beautiful.

Debra uses anecdotes tastefully and chooses them well; she teaches how our bodies work and how to satisfy them using technical and appropriate language, and I thought they were overall great and helpful. But Debra’s chapters read very differently from Gary’s. As Lisa, an Amazon commenter, aptly put it:

This book has two authors. I’m left wondering if they’ve ever met? This book literally contradicts itself on the same page. And the chapters written by one author are so vastly different than the chapters written by the other author that I’m left wondering why they chose to team up at all. They seem to have such different perspectives and standards.

Lisa

Amazon Review

Much of Debra’s advice is emotionally healthy, and is backed by evidence-based research (there was a notable exception in the way she talked about vaginismus; it is not a psychological disorder, but a physiological disorder that can have both physical and psychological roots).

There was so much that concerned me in the book as a whole, though, and so many strange elements that I do need to go into detail about these concerns. Many people told me that when reading Married Sex at first they were really confused. The advice seemed good, but it felt “off”. Gary uses lots of God language and proof texts many of his points, making it difficult to disagree (I must disagree with God then!). But the teaching often contradicts itself, and the anecdotes and the teaching points often don’t match up. You need to read between the lines–and once you do, it’s hard to look away.

Most of these concerns focus on the chapters that Gary wrote himself. Here are the problematic things that I identified:

In Married Sex, Gary Thomas Objectifies His Wife

I’ve mentioned this on a podcast before, but it is undignified and disrespectful to say about your wife, “her nipples were like superpowered, high-octane sexual excitement boosters.” It’s dishonoring to talk about how she bites the pillow when she orgasms. Saying these things invites people to picture your wife in a sexual way. When authors do this, they normalize it in the wider Christian culture, and women should not be subjected to husbands engaging in locker room talk about them.

It is very possible to be explicit about sex without being voyeuristic about your spouse. And you don’t need to brag about the specifics of your own sex life to make it sound as if you know what you’re talking about.

Gary Thomas’ Anecdotes in Married Sex Have an “Ick” Factor that is Hard to Describe

Let’s start with the non-sexual, more PG stuff that makes you cringe. Rather than saying “Erica and Timothy have four children,” Gary says:

Erica has four young children, and she calls her care for them a twenty- four-hour-a-day job. Her husband, Timothy, helps, but he works outside the home, which means decisions throughout the day tend to fall on her shoulders alone. (p. 149)

Gary Thomas' chapter

Married Sex

Moms know that there has only ever been one virgin birth, and it happened two thousand years ago. Those children don’t belong to Erica alone. And note to Gary and other male authors: Dads don’t “help” with their kids. It’s called parenting.

But while that’s strange, at least that’s not painting an erotic picture about using a silk scarf on his shaft while you use makeup brushes on his testicles (all the women reading that are thinking–”are you CLEANING those brushes afterwards? Or do I buy specific “ball brushes” so I don’t transfer germs? And do you know how expensive makeup brushes are?“) And implying that a man will brag to his friends about how well you give a hand job is intrusive and violating.

I’m not sure if it’s generational (except Gary and I aren’t that far apart in age), or if it’s because this is the first sex book that either author has written, but it reads as if the two did not know how to talk about sex well, and think describing explicit stories is the best way to teach (or maybe these give them street cred).

Take the disturbingly erotic sequence with Liam and a headboard: there is no other word for it other than erotica. It is not educational, because Connor, Keith, Rebecca and I have all read the same passage, and none of us agrees on what specific sexual act is even being described. It seems merely intended to titillate.

That’s even their stated aim, since in that chapter they said, “Hopefully you’re already getting a little warmer as you read.” (p. 44) Even Amazon Audible automatically classified this book as erotica!

Now I’m not against explicitness. Clinical terms are important. I’m simply against describing things deliberately in a way to titillate. Most people don’t buy Christian books to get hot and bothered, and to write in such a way as to invite them to is a breach of confidence.

I mostly write about sex; that’s pretty much my main thing. But like one of my co-authors of The Great Sex Rescue told me this morning, “I should not know more about Gary Thomas’ sexual preferences than I do about yours.” Yep. You can write about sex without getting personal and voyeuristic, and yet somehow Married Sex missed this memo.

Gary Thomas in Married Sex Sounds Like He’s Trying to Say Something He Knows He Can’t Get Away with Saying

The anecdotes in Married Sex are often diametrically opposed to the teaching they’re supposed to illustrate, showing that Gary’s conflicted. The book frequently states that women can have the higher sex drive; that men need to bring women to orgasm more and understand why women don’t orgasm; that sex is more than physical. The teaching aspect of the book is actually quite good and sound.

And yet in the anecdotes, it is pretty much always the woman who doesn’t want sex enough and who has to be cajoled into having it more and realizing how much she is hurting her husband and their marriage by not prioritizing his needs.

They take a firm stance against porn (Great!), but then they also tell you that sending naked pictures can help him resist porn. Gary says obligation sex is wrong and everyone should be allowed to say no, but then gives multiple examples of women who have decided never to say no, and how happy their husbands are.

On a personal level, we were also concerned that Gary violated professional and ethical standards by using our work and our phrasing without ever crediting us. However, as I read the book I saw that this was not limited to our work. I found myself saying, “Oh, there’s Kevin Leman,” “there’s us,” and even “there’s Doug Wilson!” (not that I’ve ever wanted to be in the same company as Doug Wilson). It seems like Gary is simply not sure of his message, because he incorporates so many other people’s messages into his work–even people with whom he would normally disagree.

Married Sex Glosses Over Abuse Issues

Power dynamics in marriage are dangerous. A power dynamic is inherently abusive.

And yet how does Gary suggest women address these power imbalances? We flash our boobs.

That’s right. God apparently gave women breasts in order to reset power balances. This passage needs to be read in its entirety:

By creational design and divine revelation, God clearly wants a wife’s body, specifically her breasts, to enthrall her husband; in fact, the root word in the original language is more specific than “breasts,” but I’m not going to type that out here; you’ll have to go to the endnotes for more on that. This gives wives an influence over their husbands that can reset any power balances that occur because of other issues. Many young women have learned how one quick flash of their breasts can change the climate in the room for their husbands like nothing else ever will. This ability to enthrall is a distinctly human characteristic, by the way. A woman’s breasts are unique among primates in that they amplify during puberty and stay enlarged throughout life. No animals share this trait. Female apes have breasts that enlarge when they are nursing, but they don’t become that way until the moms start nursing and don’t stay that way. Full breasts, throughout life, distinguish a woman from any other creature on earth. (p. 13)

Gary Thomas' chapter

Married Sex

That word that Gary is so reticent to type? It’s simply “nipple”. And saying that “full breasts” are important is rather humbling for those of us who have always been size challenged, or, even more tragically, have undergone a mastectomy.

To imply that the way we deal with power imbalance is to flash our boobs is just plain dangerous. To mention power imbalances in a marriage book and not also say that this is abusive and problematic is authorial malpractice.

This malpractice continues in the passage about Reggie and rage. Gary Thomas talks about how Reggie’s rage and anger has impacted the marriage, and says Sabrina now feels that “Angry sex was different. It felt different. It left her in a different place. Anger had wrecked a once beautiful connection.” (p. 219).  But having sex with someone because they’re angry and raging at you is not sex. It’s very likely rape. To not even mention that this might cross the line into coercion is, again, highly problematic, and I wonder how this could have happened given a licensed counselor co-authored the book.

The Impetus in Married Sex is for Women to Give More so that Men Get What They Need

While the book mentions that she may need time off postpartum–it also talks about how women moan, get lubricated, and get excited giving handjobs postpartum (p. 70). These sex positive women get aroused even when they’re on their periods or just had a baby simply by giving him a handjob, so why don’t you? That’s the message that I heard, over and over: No, you don’t have to have sex when there are good reasons not to, but look at these awesome women who do anyway. Be like these sexy women!

Do they ask men to step up to the plate like this?

Let’s return to the intrepid Erica and Timothy, with the four kids. Erica is exhausted by the mental load of making so many decisions and carrying all the details for the household in her head, and sex is far down on her to do list. So they start making Fridays the day that Timothy thinks about the housework, picks up dinner, and arranges the kids’ schedules so she can have a bubble bath and get in the mood for sex (p. 150).

It’s not about Timothy sharing mental load so he can be a decent partner and decent human being; it’s about Timothy doing all of these things so Erica has the mental space to get turned on and have sex. If Timothy can be an involved dad on Fridays, though, it’s unclear why he can’t also be a good dad on Saturdays or Sundays or Mondays. Most women don’t want a man to share mental load so he’ll get sex; they want to have sex with a man who shares mental load in general. Having a decent partner is what makes her desire him. Gary’s got the order all wrong here.

Nevertheless, Gary wants us to know that men have it really, really bad. He repeats this theme so much–men get desperate if they don’t get sex. Men find the word “no” very difficult emotionally, because even a single no will make him feel rejected and affect his identity, so we should consider “no” an act of foreplay, and say “convince me” instead. Being sexually fulfilled means he can excel at his job, do more around the house, be nicer to his wife.

Men are also visual creatures, and have different brains than women. “Sexual thoughts flicker in the background of a man’s visual cortex all day and night, making him always at the ready for seizing sexual opportunity.” (p. 60). Despite current peer-reviewed neuroscience contradicting up these claims, and, in fact, these claims being critiqued soundly when they were first published twelve years ago, Gary Thomas chose to use this author to show how desperate men are for their sexual needs to be met, rather than sharing the broader scientific consensus about brain differences being minimal.

The culmination of this “men need sex in a way you’ll never understand” argument falls at the end of Married Sex.

All through the book Gary Thomas has been telling us that sex shouldn’t be an obligation–it should be something that we do because we want to. But it’s clear that Gary’s concerned that this might let women off the hook too easily, so he needs to give it a different spin by the end. Now that you’ve read how great sex can be emotionally and spiritually; how hot it can be; how he can make you orgasm; what’s the big take away?

Sex should feel like a sacrifice at least some of the time.

After explaining how we should view sex the way parents view feeding a baby in the middle of the night, Gary Thomas writes, “It is not healthy for sex to always (or even mostly) feel like a sacrifice. But it also is not healthy for a spouse to think sex should never feel like a sacrifice.” (p. 227).

And what should this sacrifice look like? Gary now divides it into gendered terms. Women need to say yes to sex more and be generous.

And men? How do they sacrifice? This deserves to be quoted:

A compassionate husband thinks about what his wife is feeling and how he can make her feel better. He recognizes her natural fears about her body and reassures her of her beauty. He knows she has limited energy, so he does his best to help out. He empathizes with what his wife must feel to have children pawing at her body all day long, so he goes out of his way to offer giving touches, not taking touches. He is able to say, “Life isn’t easy for you,” so he seeks to make it a little better, to help ease her concerns rather than add to her burdens.

Some wives (by no means all) who read this may think, That means he needs to be leaving me alone! But does it? Perhaps at times, but if God designed you to be desired by your husband, adored by your husband, celebrated by your husband, and sexually pleased by your husband, wouldn’t “sexual compassion” motivate him to adopt an approach that allows him to accomplish this in a way you find inviting and exciting? (p. 227)

Gary Thomas' chapter

Married Sex

So women sacrifice by having more sex that they don’t want; and men sacrifice by having as much sex as they do want, but making sure that she enjoys it too, and making sure that he also talks to her and makes some effort around the house.

Where, exactly, is his sacrifice?

Since when is doing the bare minimum of being a decent human being considered a sacrifice?

Perhaps that’s really the big problem with Married Sex. If men do the bare minimum, they’re lauded. But women? We need to sleep naked; cook naked; get aroused giving handjobs postpartum; send naked pictures; adore sex even when burdened by mental load. Ideally we should be sexually available always; never say no; understand that sex is what bolsters his ego.

This book had so much potential, but instead it reinforces so many of the tropes that we found were harmful in The Great Sex Rescue. For that reason, I can’t recommend it, and strongly advise you to steer clear of it. I hope and pray the next book that is published about sex in the Christian publishing world takes the messages of our study to heart, rather than merely using catchphrases to cover their bases, while continuing to double down on the same harmful tropes that evangelicalism has been teaching for far too long.

Other Posts and Podcasts that mention some of the issues with Married Sex:

My Resources:

External Resources:

I do not necessarily approve of everything written here, but share these as other people’s opinions on what is happening

Married Sex Has Been Endorsed By:

“Married Sex is a masterpiece, and it’s one of the most practical, biblical, and helpful books on sex ever written.” Dave and Ashley Willis, the Naked Marriage podcast

“Gary Thomas and Debra Fileta will help your marriage get pretty hot and your bedroom even hotter.” Dave and Ann Wilson

“I can’t imagine a couple that wouldn’t benefit from this book.” Jim Daly, President of Focus on the Family

“Gary Thomas and Debra Fileta have created a positive, balanced, and comprehensive resource that will guide you through the joys and challenges of sexual intimacy.” Juli Slattery, Authentic Intimacy podcast

“It’s time for Christian couples to renormalize and reclaim God’s vision for married sex.” Ryan and Selena Frederick, Fierce Marriage podcast

“This is the best Christian Sex book I’ve ever read.” Paul Byerley, the Generous Husband and The Marriage Bed

“It is biblically sound, comprehensive and full of insights on building authentic God-honoring passionate sexual intimacy in a marriage.” Julie Sibert, Intimacy in Marriage blog

“…this book will hand you the keys to unleash God’s rich blessing and strength on your marriage.” Levi and Jennie Lusko, lead pastors of Fresh Life Church

“Married Sex is a practical guide for all married couples who want to know the sexual life God has created for you…” Kyle Idleman, author of Not a Fan

“…a holistic guide to developing and maintaining a vibrant and satisfying sex life throughout the course of your marriage.” Chrystal Evans Hurst

“…thorough, biblical, practical, and real.” Scott Kedersha, Marriage Pastor at Harris Creek Baptist Church, Waco, TX

“Married Sex captures the beauty of sexual intimacy as God intends.” Jay Mathis, President Mathis Consulting, former President of African Renewal Ministries

“The premise is profound and important for creating healthy and holy marriages.” Brent Deakins, Assistant Superintendent at Intermountain Church of the Nazarene, ID

“Debra and Gary skillfully navigate the interdependencies of establishing a loving relationship and creating real passion during sex.” Ruth Buezis, author 

If any of these endorsers would like to rescind or qualify their endorsements, I would be happy to make that announcement. Or if any of them would like personal conversations about the problems with the book, and where to go from here, I would also be happy to talk.

Gary Thomas is also publishing another book with Zondervan about marriage and sex, to be released October 2022.

Book Review of Married Sex by Gary Thomas and Debra Fileta

What do you think? Have you read Married Sex? 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

Related Posts

The Math of Love and Respect

Has anyone noticed that the math in Love & Respect for how many people the book applies to...

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

Related Posts

You Don’t Have to Say Yes to Selfish Sex

God does not ask us to consent to selfish sex. In fact, one-sided intercourse is not sex. I can summarize The Great Sex Rescue by saying that sex is supposed to be MUTUAL, INTIMATE, and PLEASURABLE FOR BOTH. That's what God intended. Sex is not merely intercourse...

Pastor’s Wives Tell All–And More Podcasts!

I've had some amazing podcasts drop recently, and I wanted to make sure I shared them with you. After getting our manuscript for our mothers of daughters book in last Friday, I'm taking a little bit of down week, getting some things done I've been putting off (I got...

Comments

We welcome your comments and want this to be a place for healthy discussion. Comments that are rude, profane, or abusive will not be allowed. Comments that are unrelated to the current post may be deleted. Comments above 300 words in length are let through at the moderator’s discretion and may be shortened to the first 300 words or deleted. By commenting you are agreeing to the terms outlined in our comment and privacy policy, which you can read in full here!

126 Comments

  1. Codec

    You know what this book review brings to mind?

    The Twilight Zone.

    There is an episode about a gambler who finds himself in a place where he always wins. He at first thinks it is heaven, but it turns out to be hell.

    As someone who admits to being screwed up the idea of never having anyone say no is horrifying. It is tyranical. It makes apologies and such impossible. Getting naked will not fix tax returns let alone pain in ones soul.

    It is hard enough being myself. Being a woman dealing with stuff like this is a different kind of difficult. It is interesting though that i can empathize.

    Ever thought of using the research in GSR and making a story out of it?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’ve wanted to make a documentary! And I have all these novel ideas in my head (when I retire I want to write novels!). About what it would be like being married to a man who believes all this stuff, and trying to get your friends and church to see that it’s wrong.

      Reply
      • Codec

        Sounds like a good novel idea to me.

        I personally would love to see you tackle stuff like this in a novel. You could get into the psychology of addiction, loneliness, possessiveness, and the like.

        I told you once before that I wanred to see you write a book to fix the problems of Every Mans Battle.

        If jt had multiple perspective characters you could explore more subjects like how the church deals with singless, envying married people, envying single people, misplaced ideals, loneliness, misogony, misandry, etc.

        I truly think you could pull it off.

        Reply
      • MaryEllen Bream

        I’ve often thought novels would be an awesome way to get people in the church to understand what it is like for women who live with entitled or controlling husbands! I considered taking some master classes to learn how to write them, but I don’t think that’s my calling. Would be awesome to see you write those someday!

        Reply
        • Codec

          People tend to relate to stories far easier than statistics or syllogisms.

          Look at Inspector Javert. One could bring up statistics about recidivism, but Javert his story and his characterization is more tangible.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            So true! We relate to stories. That’s why Jesus spoke in parables.

          • anonymous guest

            With this talk of novel writing, I would be curious what it might look like, in a fictional writing, how someone who is as sexually broken as myself could find a healthy relationship/marriage where she could feel safe enough to finally heal. For me it would be fiction. I’m so ‘gun shy’ that I won’t even try anymore.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I hear you. That’s an interesting story line. I’m sorry for your pain. I really, truly am.

      • Melody Kubiak

        If you ever find the time to write a novel I would definitely read it. Your topic ideas are needed. Even if you jot down ideas or write out dialogues it is a start. My novels are all in pieces in folders marked to keep them in order of the storylines. Perhaps that would work for you if you ever get anything written down. Writing novels is fun.

        Reply
  2. Lois

    You’ve nailed it again Sheila. Thankyou

    Reply
  3. E Walters

    It’s books like this from respected Christian authors that have caused men to not want to “help” around the house unless they’re praised or rewarded for the littlest thing. It’s also seems to be books like this that say don’t keep score. (Personally I’m guessing it’s bc men KNOW they’d lose in the match up) How are women supposed to act then? Oh, right, self-sacrificial lambs. Praise the husband for everything, and most especially if he is even a remote domestic partner/father at any time.

    I’m sick of books that hand excuses to men to not be full domestic partners to their wives. Newsflash: It makes life hell for some of us. It makes us feel like a maid/nanny/etc with benefits that’s given room, boats, and an allowance in return for her life’s basic needs and sometimes something nice. No time for hobbies or to discover who she is bc there is always work that needs to be done or kids to be taken care of (also work!) so the wife is in essence the sacrificial lamb for the marriage and family. And it’s praised when it’s like this… This of course is supposed to make us feel sexy and turned on and when it doesn’t, we are broken and need to change our mindset. No wonder women don’t orgasm.

    Reply
  4. A2bbethany

    People love to hide behind their words as, “I could’ve meant something healthy, but you are just reading into it.” But when you are verbally abused by this person continually, you learn that they always hide behind inneundos in public.

    I hadn’t done much thinking about implied messages in books, until you started the fiasco. And you are completely right, as they’re just as loud as the words actually written.

    It’s actually ironic how much they’re response to your calling out the implied messages, is Similar to my verbally abusing sister. They had a choice of apologizing and changing/adapting to clarify exactly what they meant. But that’d be like, admitting that they were wrong. So instead they double down, like my sister did.

    I was 8 months pregnant and cooking a dessert in parents kitchen, as hubby was being pepper sprayed at work, in the morning. I had to pick him up and help him recover(law enforcement at the time) in the morning. She chose to call me fat in 3 different ways within a short window. Showing me that my cutting off any attempts at relationship, was well founded and still required. She hasn’t learned anything about controlling her tongue. She only apologized in the morning, because I’d shared every detail on social media. I know from experience, that she doesn’t believe her words were harsh.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, Gary kept saying that we simply had to read his book “charitably.” No, Gary. That’s not how it works.

      And I’m sorry about your sister! But I’m glad you drew boundaries well.

      Reply
    • Jonathan Bleeker

      Gaslighting. That’s what it is.

      Reply
      • Lisa M

        It absolutely is a book full of gaslighting.

        And it’s horrifying that a licensed therapist put her name on the cover of this abusive book.

        Reply
  5. Melissa W

    I haven’t bought or read Married Sex as I don’t buy Christian Self Help books as a general rule, although I have bought yours to give to others. With that said, there seems to be some general issues with how that book was written that contribute to your critiques of the content. First, Gary has a writing formula that has worked for him and you see in all of his work that has made him successful as a writer. Mainly, he uses real life, personal and detailed stories to illustrate his points. Unfortunately, Gary didn’t recognize the fact that that formula was not only ineffective in this subject matter but also highly inappropriate. This is why it feels objectifying and voyeuristic. Second, he uses anecdotes that describes the results of healthy, happy marriages and sex lives and treats them as if they are the causes of great sex lives. That is where Gary goes wrong. He takes these personal stories and examples and holds them up as a standard to live up to. You can’t hold one story up as an example of what should be done without looking at the entirety of a couple’s relationship and the underlying health of that relationship. A woman in an abusive relationship or one where the husband uses the woman for sexual gratification without their being any mutuality in it, should not be told to never say No or to give sexual favors. Again, these examples of healthy sexuality don’t happen in a vacuum. They are evidence of something else, mainly the health of the relationship to begin with. Basically, his formula for writing failed completely in this book. It kind of feels like he felt like he had no choice in writing the book and rushed it’s writing and the results are confusing and not cohesive. I do feel bad because I like Gary’s writing in general and do think his intentions are good but he missed the mark on this one.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Well said! Also, I think anecdotes can be used well (Debra did use them well). But again and again it seemed like his anecdotes completely contradicted his teachings just two sentences earlier. It was weird.

      Reply
    • Lisa M

      All of Gary Thomas’s books are highly problematic. He uses gaslighting techniques in all of them. In Married Sex, he doesn’t describe healthy couples, he describes couples that range from incredibly immature to downright unhealthy, probably abusive. It’s not just his that his writing style didn’t transfer to a sex book. Gary Thomas has dangerous ideas and dangerous theology. His most popular book, “Sacred Marriage,” is an instruction book for staying with abusive spouse. Basically, stay married no matter how bad it is so God isn’t angry with you.

      Reply
  6. Ylva

    This book was so gross and inappropriate with the anecdotes. I have already forgotten some of them and am very thankful for it. Thank you for your review and service.

    Reply
  7. Nathan

    This book in some ways is like the Focus on the Family post from yesterday’s topic. It seems that they’re learning to hide things in better language, but the underlying message is still there.

    Perhaps this is a small step in the right direction, but there are many more steps to take.

    Reply
    • Andrea

      I’ve been thinking the exact same thing about the Focus on the Family post from the other day! Sheila is making a difference; the powers that be have dug their heels in, but trying to soften the language of it.

      Reply
    • Jo R

      An iron fist in a velvet glove is still an iron fist.

      Reply
  8. Nathan

    > > He empathizes with what his wife must feel to
    > > have children pawing at her body all day long

    Is it just me, or does this phrase indirectly hint that that husband has to think about what his wife MUST feel while taking care of the kids, since he never engages with the kids themselves?

    “Gosh, sweetheart, it must be really burdensome to care for those kids of yours all the time”.

    Or am I reading too much into it?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I don’t think you’re reading too much into it at all. After all, only Erica has the kids. Timothy works. If you look at the breadth of Gary’s writing, this is evident (I didn’t see this before Married Sex was published, but multiple people have pointed it out). The kids are seen as her domain.

      Reply
  9. Schari Baker

    I haven’t read this book and won’t be doing so. Coming out of a 40 year abusive marriage, just your review is triggering. I really have no words for what you’ve described. Absolutely sickening. His poor wife.

    Reply
    • Laura

      You are not missing out on anything here. I read Amazon’s sample and was appalled by it.

      Reply
    • Laura

      I just started following this account on Facebook. Love it! Come to think of it, some much “Christian” advice in books is cringey.

      Reply
  10. Becky Miller

    Thanks for this thorough review

    Reply
  11. Test

    testing to see if comments work..they have been glitchy for me lately, please delete

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It is working! Comments are super glitchy. Some people can’t seem to comment. We’ve tried to fix it, but can’t seem to. We’re hoping it clears up when we move over to the new domain soon (and it should!)

      Reply
  12. SquirrellyGirly

    On my goodness. This sounds pretty much like a playbook from FOTF about 15-20 years ago. This kind of information set up my husband’s expectations for marriage to be a constant sex-fest…..regardless of children, work, illness, and all the other little normal ups and downs of life. This type of thinking WRECKED my marriage. FOTF legitimized my husband’s belief that porn was just fine for relieving “pressure”, by continually driving home the point that men ALL have voracious need for constant sex and your wife is failing if her idea of “frequent” differs from yours. Ugh. Gary Thomas continues this theme, even if it’s a bit more veiled. I’m still married, and he is still adamantly insisting that his porn use is fine – James Dobson said so! Thanks for continuing to speak the truth, TLHaV. Christians need to stop being so dang gullible and be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” like Jesus said. Just because an author calls himself a Christian does not mean that he is speaking words of Life.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh no. His porn use is NOT fine. He has a pornographic view of sex it sounds like (which is what FOTF promotes).

      Reply
  13. Nathan

    > > anecdotes can be used well
    > > People tend to relate to stories far easier than statistics

    This is very true. One of my favorite and best remembered parts of this website was the “Mental Load” story of Donny and Marcia going to the beach. Poor Marcia is running around like crazy, trying to get clothes, towels, toys, snacks, etc. all lined up, and Donny can’t understand why Marcia is so stressed out!

    This story hit home for me, because I used to say “just tell me what to do”, just like Donny did.

    Reply
    • Codec

      I also remember that story and can relate. It can be stressful when someone drops responsibilities and expectations on ypu out of the blue.

      Reply
  14. Meredith

    I went to Amazon and read a review that had screenshots of Liam and the headboard. It read like not-very-good erotica. At least good erotica leaves something to the imagination, as well as using metaphors and imagery. Gary’s example read more like a pornographic play-by-play.

    Reply
    • Lisa M

      It truly was gross and wildly unnecessary. Thankfully I didn’t have the audio version which was read by Gary Thomas! Can you imagine? Eww. 🤢

      Reply
  15. Emily

    This review is so helpful and the last few paragraphs sum up the crux of the matter so well. It is so disturbing that there are STILL books coming out that are peddling these garbage ideas. And to see Gary’s responses to pushback has been extremely disheartening. Thank you for putting so much time and thought into this excellent review!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, I didn’t even mention Gary’s responses. But having him delete anyone who says “this is problematic” and just double down and accuse everyone else of having ill intent? That’s just not okay.

      Reply
  16. Guest

    Sheila, you have helped me understand so many gut level emotions I have had over the years where I have felt such confusion.

    It seems more and more to me that these rigid gender roles really just keep spouses from being true partners and friends. This has been my experience, and it’s sad and not reflective of Jesus at all.

    Reply
    • Laura

      This is one of the reasons I do not want to attend marriage classes or conferences through churches. Even though I’m single, the leaders of these classes try to get me to go. Thanks, but I’ll pass. I am so over all this talk about “rigid gender roles” and “how men and women are so different that we have to treat each other differently.” When Jesus said to “love your neighbor as yourself,” this was not gender-specific and your spouse is like your neighbor.

      Recently, I saw Dr. Camden’s Instagram post about “gender reveal” parties for expectant parents and she brought up something very interesting. The focus should be more on the health of the baby than the biological sex. I totally agree.

      Reply
  17. Jane Eyre

    It’s something I didn’t really notice until a couple of years ago: evangelical culture doesn’t see women’s sacrifices as being actual sacrifices. They just downgrade whatever women give up, suffer, or do, and put it on the same level as a man picking up the kids after baseball.

    I was really shocked (and offended) the first dozen times it happened. Now I just cannot care about what people like that think about marriage, either in general or mine in particular.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I love your insights, Jane. This is so true. I hadn’t put it that way before, but this is so true.

      Reply
    • Mallorie

      Right?! Never mind that being a mother is literally one of the most sacrificial roles a woman can ever take on. You give up all autonomy!! And it is one that, for many, is done with joy! It is a gift from God but is a sacrifice none the less…

      Reply
  18. Jo R

    So he’s OK talking about a couple having sex in the backyard (fire ants? mosquitoes?) and saying how fantastic it is for a wife to use a silk scarf on her husband’s penis and her makeup brushes on his scrotum (eeewww, who pays for the dry cleaning?), but he has to be all coy and embarrassed instead of just using the plain and simple word “nipple”? 🤔🤔🤔

    Sounds like a creepy combination of an adult male who thinks sex is all about him and a junior high male who thinks slang sexual words and phrases are super funny.

    Reply
    • Faith

      I’m really trying to figure out all the people that were super comfortable telling Gary this information!

      Reply
      • Laura

        I think he made a lot of this stuff up. I don’t know anyone who would cook naked or have sex in their backyard unless they had a high cinder block fence and a blanket. When he talked about naked nights, it reminded me of a Seinfeld episode where the characters were naked and they realize there are just some expressions and actions that are “ugly naked.”

        Reply
    • Lisa M

      On another page he does use the word nipple! He’s not even consistent!

      Does he think we aren’t paying attention? Or not bright enough to notice? It’s almost like he’s insulting the reader.

      Reply
      • Anon

        I just don’t understand why using that word is such a big issue – it’s almost like he’s going ‘oooh, I can’t use this word because it’s SO explicit’ to titillate his readers. I couldn’t believe it when I found out it was just ‘nipple’. Seriously?!! You have grease nipples on machinery, you have feeding nipples on bottles for calves…where I come from, no one bats an eyelash at that word.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I wonder if he didn’t want to admit it was “nipple” because the point he wanted to make was about full breasts?

          Reply
          • Anon

            Good point – because every mammal has nipples so that blows his whole ‘full breasted’ argument apart.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            It just sounded like he was making a point about big breasts, and not every woman has big breasts (and why is he making an issue out of bigger breasts?)

    • Mallorie

      My mom and I were reading reviews about the book on Amazon and she hit the nail on the head by saying, “Gary sounds like he is 12 years old”

      Reply
      • Anon for now

        Your mom’s observation just made me laugh so hard I snorted and startled my five month old. 🤣 Go, Mallorie’s mom!

        Reply
  19. Carla

    Bottom line, most writers of “Christian” marriage advice don’t see woman as people. I’ve written elsewhere that Don Hennesey writes in detail about the mindset of abusive men. They are looking in a wife for someone to do all the hard work of maintaining a household, but primarily to service them sexually. “Christian” culture perpetuates this while demanding that women be more cheerful chattel. It is anti-christian with a Christian gloss and does incalculable harm. Authentic Christians should be outraged.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I completely agree! Wish I could use an “Amen, Sister!” gif here but I don’t know how to do that in the comments. 🙂

      Reply
    • G.G.

      You are correct. The terrible way they speak of women is appalling. Today on The Transformed Wife post she states it’s God’s design and all women’s purpose to have babies—to be a baby making machine….because God’s way are best! She just reduced women to their reproductive organs. And it’s so disheartening to see how many followers she has.

      Reply
    • Jane Eyre

      A lot of this “he has needs she can never understand” nonsense is battlespace prep for discarding the Golden Rule in marriage.

      Jesus told us to love ALL as we love ourselves. (I hope He did not mean that goes away in marriage, the relationship that is supposed to reflect the Kingdom.) Instead of being able to say “women don’t like being treated like this and you wouldn’t like it if the tables were turned,” the paradigm is that WE are being unloving and we can not ever understand.

      Reply
      • Jo R

        And funny how women are not allowed to similarly say “There are things about women that men will never understand” and then use that as an excuse for all kinds of bad behavior and attitudes. 🙄🙄🙄

        Reply
        • Laura

          Next time, I’m PMSing and in a mood, I’ll have to tell a man (there really aren’t any in my life right now) something like this, “This (PMS) is something you will NEVER understand!” This is true. Whereas, what men like Eggerichs say about “men having a need [it is NOT a need like food, water, shelter, clothing] women will never understand” has no truth.

          Reply
          • Mallorie

            It’s such stupid argument too in my opinion because “you’ll never understand” insinuates that the other person must not be capable of empathy. No we may not live exact same experiences (literally no one does) but we CAN have empathy and understanding for what another goes through. Imagine if we approached marriage that way! What a novel idea!

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Exactly. If we are so different that we can’t understand each other, then it’s easy to say, “well, I wouldn’t want to be treated that way, but she’s a woman, so it’s different.”

        Reply
    • Laura

      I am outraged!

      Reply
  20. Melissa

    So here’s what I’m going to latch onto. In the book, did Gary Thomas specifically say a woman “may” need time to recover after giving birth? Because if that’s the exact language he used, I’m about to go on a rampage. Maybe I should go on a rampage anyway. Because for far too long Christian marriage books have put the husband’s neeeeeeeed to have sex above the wife’s post-partum recovery.

    Men, your wife just grew an entire human inside her body, and then delivered said human, either via pushing the human out of her genitals, or having every layer of her stomach sliced open and then stapled back together. The general recommendation for recovery is 6 to 8 weeks. Sometimes it’s shorter, sometimes it’s longer, but guess what? She grew a human for 40 weeks, birthed the human, and if she’s breastfeeding her entire life revolves around keeping the human she birthed fed and content. You can handle 6 to 8 weeks of your life without sex. Her well-being should come first during post-partum recovery, without the secret motivation of “if I’m nice to her maybe I can talk her into a hand job later”. She’s the one who gave birth, her body is the one that has undergone a physical trauma, she should have the lead sexually during this time. Period. Give her the care and honor she is worthy of for bringing your child into the world.

    Rampage over. For now.

    Reply
    • Jess

      To be fair, I do know a few women who had a hard time waiting including myself. I only ever made it two weeks before jumping him! But he expected to wait six weeks so having no expectations on me helped

      Reply
  21. Guest

    This has all hit home in the past year in my marriage – my question is how do I make my husband see that this is what is happening and absolutely ruining our 25 year relationship? I finally feel validated and have words to put with my feelings. He just thinks I’ve “changed” since I read “the book” (TGSR) and now I’m not willing to be treated as an object that is only used for him to get release. How do we start having the conversations in our marriages without our husbands feeling like now we’re just depriving them of all their rights?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think we start asking them what they think sex is for. And then saying, “do you think sex should feel good for me too? Do you think sex is about intimacy as well?” And then saying something like, “I want to make love with you. I want to have an amazing sex life with you. I am more than willing to pursue a sex life that is mutual and intimate. But I am no longer willing to be treated like an object.” So you’re not saying no to sex. You’re saying no to being used. That may feel mean, but it’s really not. And I think most guys want wives who are fully engaged. If they don’t, then I’d suggest seeing a licensed therapist together, or insisting even that he read that part of the book in chapter 1 where we redefined sex. Or have him read The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex (it launches in March) because it tells all of this to the guys really well.

      Reply
    • Jo R

      I’d like to hear about women giving their husbands a taste of what sex has been like for the female, clitorally-endowed half of the population for waaaayyyy too long.

      So, since so many husbands don’t know how to stimulate their wives in the ways that women need, those wives ought to stimulate their husbands in ways that do absolutely nothing for men: a single fingertip at too light a pressure for too short of time, for a start. And the wives shouldn’t forget to say how great the encounter was them, then turn over and go to sleep, leaving their husbands, er, hanging.

      Then to drive the point home, the wives, first, ask their husbands how often they’d care to repeat that experience, and second, ask how their husbands how much they’d enjoy hearing sermon after sermon and reading book after book that encourages the husbands to joyfully want more of the same—and more frequently too.

      But such an experiment would probably be described as mean and un-Christian. Yet it’s the REALITY lived day after day, decade after bloody decade by a huge percentage of Christian wives.

      End rant.

      Reply
  22. Jenga

    Personally, I’m aroused by giving handjobs and it generally gets me in the mood even if I wasn’t feeling it before. But this is in a relationship where I have no health issues, am not postpartum, and feel *absolutely* no obligation to do anything sexual that I’m not 100% into. I can. not. imagine. feeling the same way if I was exhausted or in pain and my husband was sticking it in my hand and demanding my attention.

    Reply
  23. Kat

    Thank you for reading that and reviewing it, so those of us who don’t want to endure “Christian erotica” (what an oxymoron!) can avoid it.

    Reply
  24. Autumn

    Why is it always the wives who have to sacrifice their desires? I always hear that wives need to “sacrifice” by having sex even when they’re not feeling it so husbands get their satisfaction, but I have never heard a big-name evangelical speaker or author say that husbands should “sacrifice” by refraining from sex so his wife can have her satisfaction.

    It seems like evangelical Christian women are always being asked to change their own desires and behaviors in order to conform to the stereotypical evangelical male libido and the message that I get from that is that men were designed right and women just need to try harder and sacrifice their own desires in order to be more like men.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It is very strange. In the latest edition of The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex (out in March), I did talk about prioritizing sex, but it wasn’t “have sex when you specifically don’t want to”, but instead “think about how sex can be awesome”. And this was in the context of AFTER you’ve figured out the orgasm piece; AFTER you’ve figured out mental load; AFTER you’ve figured out marital satisfaction and closeness. It’s okay to encourage people to prioritize sex, but that’s the FINAL message after everything has sorted out, and it should never be a sacrifice. It should be because it actually has major benefits (sacrifices don’t have benefits).

      Reply
      • Autumn

        Right, the goal should be to create an environment where you both *want* to have sex regularly. Which would mean you need to figure out how to make it feel good for both of you, and figure out how to reduce stress in your life so neither of you is feeling overwhelmed.

        Marriage is *not* a guarantee that you will be sexually satisfied at every moment for the rest of your life.

        Reply
  25. RD

    Not only are his stories, as you’ve described (I refuse to read that garbage), soft porn / badly written erotica, etc., they objectify women (again), and violate the readers by subjecting them to such material without their foreknowledge and consent. It’s horrifying.

    It’s gratifying to hear that the book has been called out so strongly in so many places, from Amazon reviews to the author’s own social media, and by bloggers such as yourself. The conversation is changing, and people are not accepting this garbage as food anymore. And so much of that started with your research. (And Gottman) Thank you

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I was honestly surprised by how many people saw how harmful this book was right off the bat! Of course, Gary made it worse because a month before the book was out he wrote a terrible blog post about how a woman can help her husband quit porn by having more sex. Facebook lit up in anger and he didn’t react well, so people were primed to be suspicious of his book, and many checked it out simply for that reason. Had he simply not written a toxic post, and had he listened to the outcry humbly then, I doubt the outcry about his book would have been as loud.

      Reply
  26. Lynne'

    And books like those (and other toxic ones) are damaging to those of us wives who have higher drives. Because we might be more willing to be similar to the “sexy” women in the book (but, still, ew, don’t describe the details, because, just.. no.) But if our husbands are lower drive (because of personality, or depression, or season of life) well, we feel pretty rotten. Because the book is saying how great this would be! How much he will want you! And for a higher drive that would be great! But the promise (it sounds like) is that a husband would enjoy those ideas, but *what if he doesn’t* ??? What if he is a lower drive guy and is feeling pressured to never say no to the wife? I mean sex can become too important in a marriage for either person as well and be too much of a focus, BUT yeah, the stories you described would hurt low drive women AND high drive women. Also some things are just a turn off to read about that just would then feel icky to do just because a *christian book told me to do that* — I like what you said in a different comment about giving ideas like trying different objects to create enjoyable sensations and experiment and play with each other. Because then it is about the marriage and both people IN that marriage rather than trying some idea described in too much detail in a book.
    Anyway, it just kind of over all makes me feel bad for women.. higher or lower drives. And kind of sorry for lower drive men. Really the only type of person who benefits from the teachings in this book would be high drive men (especially the more domineering or powerful type) even if that sort of guy falls into the benevolent patriarch type, he will be the one to benefit from this book, but gentle Christlike men? Nope. Basically all types of women.. also nope.
    It is just sad.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Very well said! Exactly, the only person that benefits from all of this is a high drive man (which Gary is).

      Reply
      • Lynne'

        Which.. none of us wanted to know 😐

        Reply
    • Liberty

      This! 100%! I’m the high-drive wife and I HAVE tried some of these to get more sex, but if my husband is at a low-libido point, it was never going to have any effect except to make me feel rejected and unattractive. It’s disgusting that Gary acts like men have an exclusive reaction to being told “no”, because I for sure have felt that way and took myself away to cry. (Things in my marriage are good now, since I’ve shed the toxic teachings that men think about sex all the time and the evil implication that if he doesn’t want it there’s something wrong with you, but wow would this book have confused me if I’d read it in my first years of marriage!)

      Reply
  27. Jonathan King

    Married Sex is cognitive dissonance in book form. It’s trying so hard to be healthy (and trying too hard to be sex-positive) without letting go of the old harmful teachings. The result is almost laughable, but only because we know better (due in no small part to your work, Sheila, as well as Rebecca and Joanna’s efforts). Thank you so much for sharing this review!

    Reply
  28. Christina

    Sheila and Team,

    I noted something else about the part where Gary suggests women “flash their breasts” to reset any power balance. Well- now two things.

    1. It’s interesting he referred to this as a power balance, not a power imbalance. I don’t hear this as a typo that the edits missed-although it may be- when I read it, it implied to me that it is a power balance and the woman is just not happy about where it lays. It didn’t read that he knowledges that an imbalance of power in marriage is wrong.
    2. I found it so so degrading that he compared women to animals, then in particular apes. He painted it as though women are lucky to be the top of the animals, but even did this in a weird way to make it so that there is no other “creature” like us. This immediately reminded me of other bunk evangelical teaching on gender which states that the differences between men and women are so vast that men could never understand women. In a few simple lines he separated women into another class, brutally made it an animal class, and the. Said we don’t even really fit in that class.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I couldn’t figure out that “power balance” thing either. I wondered if it was a typo because I have an advanced reader review copy, not the released copy, and I wondered if it had been changed initially–but found it hadn’t.

      and, yes, they often make women into a totally separate species (which is the beginning of objectification/dehumanization).

      Reply
    • Lynne'

      Yes, he was walking right in the footsteps of the original man/sinner after the fall when he named the woman (just like he had named all the animals that he was told he would have dominion over) “Adam” was originally both their name.. as in they were both “human” and didn’t have proper names, but the male human distinguishes himseld over the woman when he names her Eve and gives her that part of their joint commission as more hers –you will be the mother of all living– God gave them both the job of going out and ruling and taking dominion and filling the earth. We see the first Adam splitting this joint mutual commission into “roles” for each as he names her (like he did the animals)— this attitude is evidence and outworkings of man’s original sin. Gary comparing a woman’s body not to his own as Adam originally did before sin (in their similarity and how they matched) but rather to animals. As if we are somehow closer to the likeness of animals than humans?

      Also, side rant, why did he have so much “go look it up” about the word nipple? Can I just say,– men have nipples too! For him to make it all like *ooooohh the Bible is explicit and no one told you* does he not realize that there are nipples on his own body??? Regardless it was just another way to seperate the similarities between men and women. In reality we have the same parts just rearranged a bit differently depending on gender. So the mysterious clitoris parts on girls would form into a penis if an unborn baby happened to be male. Like, it isn’t that hard to understand!
      The more women are in the *other* category farther and farther away from men, the easier it is to dominate and degrade and coerce and rule over.

      Side note: I love the first man’s exclamation about seeing the woman. Basically he called her “soft me” (like, me hard, you soft, we match) and of course the whole point of naming the animals was seeing that none were suitable. He needed someone who was equal to him.. bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. NOT one of the animals.. or as Gary might put it, the most superior of the animals because of breasts. No Gary! *slap* a woman is not valuable because of an arbitrary size she can’t control. She is valuable because she is equal and mutual and matching the man because we are made of the same stuff. Same parts but formed in male or female ways that match each other!

      Let’s keep calling out the language of the fallen and pointing back to God’s original design. ❤

      Reply
  29. Christina

    Oh dear, I found more. Apparently this piece of a women flashing her breasts is quite wrong on many levels and has a big impact on me.

    3. He’s reduced a woman totally to her body parts. There’s an (im)balance in the power and her basic credibility in being a human doesn’t count, her good mind doesn’t count, her personhood doesn’t count, only her breasts.
    4. Gary’s advice to women who find themselves in a situation they don’t like (this is where co author should have interjected about safety etc) is to sell themselves. Oh Gary.
    5. His go to for women is to manipulate their husband. And his go to for men is to dominate until they are manipulated.
    6. This also does a huge disservice to the men reading the book. They are set up to fail by Gary and others peddling the same lies-if men cannot have self control (a fruit of the spirit people) and if this is just “common to men” (horrid words spoken to my husband when he told the pastor and elders of his addiction and the recovery work he is doing) then men will never be free from bondage that is holding them back from God and the life he wants for them. This is literally against the gospel message of Christ coming and dying for all, and giving an abundant life to all who believe in him.

    Ok maybe I’m done.

    Reply
  30. Jenni

    [Men find the word “no” very difficult emotionally, because even a single no will make him feel rejected and affect his identity, so we should consider “no” an act of foreplay, and say “convince me” instead.]

    What he describes in this passage sure sounds rapey to me. To advise men to interpret “no” to really mean “convince me”? Yuck! If my husband tried to convince me every time I said I’m not up to sex, I’d start feeling uncomfortable being in the same room as him, the result being damage to our whole relationship, not just our sex life. And I can’t imagine ever wanting to have sex if I felt like that, so it would result in LESS consensual sex. If sex increases with this strategy, it’s coercion or rape.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      The whole passage there was really strange. And he kept insisting that obligation sex was bad too.

      Reply
  31. Renae

    Thanks for this helpful review! I couldn’t follow all the back and forth about it on social media. That kind of discussion is exhausting to me, so it’s great to have it all in one place.

    Reply
  32. D

    Thank you so much for doing the review on your platform where many people will see it.
    I’ve never been a fan of sleeping nude–especially in winter. I have seen this issue pushed hard in other places as well–so bizarre the wife(or husband’s)comfort is supposed to be secondary.
    The example of Reggie and his rage was very concerning. I had seen it mentioned by one of the authors that the book was supposed to be for healthy marriages—Reggie was definitely not a healthy example.
    You and the commenters have put into words the many things that seemed off about the book.
    Like Love and Respect there are so many passages in the book that are just so odd you wonder if they received any criticism from their editors.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, you can’t say that “the book is only for healthy couples”, because often people don’t realize they’re in an unhealthy relationship. That’s why every time you talk about something that might be abusive (or definitely is abusive), you need to name it and treat it seriously, so you help people identify when something is wrong.

      Reply
  33. Erica

    Wow! So may things hit so close to home here. I don’t even know where to start. Yes. I am constantly aware of my husband’s need for sex schedule. If it goes more than a few days he cannot possibly be anymore than “civil” to me. It doesn’t matter if i have just given birth, have my period, illness or really anything else. No excuses. Going back to one of your other posts “if you can never say no, how do you really say yes. It’s a very hard way to live. The messages need to stop. Yes. Be a good husband all the time, not just when you want sex

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so sorry, Erica. That’s definitely not okay. Have you read The Great Sex Rescue? I do talk about this there. We also cover this in The Good Guy’s Guide to Great SEx. It would be great if he would read it! But I’d also suggest talking with a licensed counselor about this. Having sex to prevent bad behaviour from him is a form of coercion. Feeling as if you have to give sexual favours so soon postpartum is a form of coercion. Again, I’m so sorry.

      Reply
  34. Brenda Linn

    The scenario that scares me is this: when an entitled, abusive man and his suffering wife receive an assignment from a counselor or pastor to read this book together and apply its principles to their ‘marriage’.

    Then the wife has ‘god’, the counselor/ pastor and her abusive husband all conspiring to rape her.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I know. I worry about that too. Debra is a licensed counselor. She’s already said she’s going to use this book in her practice.

      Reply
  35. Jane Eyre

    Another thought: do the sexual women who get turned on giving handjobs want to be used to browbeat other women?

    If a man said to his wife, “Why can’t you do X, like Jane?”, I would be furious. I’m not a yardstick to measure other women by, and he should love HIS kind, wonderful Christian wife, not want her to be more like someone else’s wife.

    Reply
    • Jo R

      Hmmmm, I seem to recall a commandment about coveting…. 🙄🙄🙄

      Reply
      • Jane Eyre

        That’s exactly where I was going with that. I’m not sure that you are “not coveting” when you want your own spouse to do x, y, and z “just like” someone else’s spouse.

        It’s not the same thing as saying “it would be nice if you would do x, y, and z”, which can be the start of a hopefully healthy discussion. But coming your spouse to someone else’s spouse… that’s at least adjacent to coveting, if not getting into that territory.

        Reply
        • Jane Eyre

          “But comparing your spouse…” proofread fail.

          Reply
    • Jo R

      Maybe the wife doesn’t do X because her husband doesn’t do the things the other woman’s husband does.

      Is such a husband SURE he wants to institute the comparison game?

      Reply
    • Liberty

      As one of the high-drive women in question: No! No I do not want to be used to browbeat other women! If a husband dared to do such I would suggest the wife turn it around and ask why he can’t be more like MY highly considerate, helpful, servant-leader husband who considers the command that he love me as Christ loves the church as his life directive!

      Reply
    • Jess

      No, you can’t be coerced into liking something! The vulnerability is very arousing and wouldn’t be possible if there were any expectations on me.

      Reply
  36. bunny

    It almost sounds like sexual release has become an idol and an approved one at that in so many of these books. It’s sad.

    Reply
  37. LJ

    Thank you thank you thank you, Sheila, for bringing this to light! Gary’s teaching has only encouraged my husband (soon to be ex) to continue his abuse and marital rape. I can only imagine how many other wives have been hurt by his teachings… my heart hurts for them. So seriously, THANK YOU for standing up for us and the truth!! Thank you for shining the light on this horrible teaching. While it might seem petty to others they’ll never know the amount of hurt and pain it’s caused me and countless other women until it happens to them (heaven forbid because it’s been 4 1/2 years of living hell. I wouldn’t wish this upon my worst enemy.)

    Reply
  38. Sue

    Your description and excerpts from Gary’s book sound exactly like all the others that you critiqued in The Great Sex Rescue, only more. More graphic, more how to please men , etc. I do wonder what has happened to Gary Thomas, his other books are good. Is he needing a best seller to make money?

    Reply
  39. Laura

    I wonder if all these big-name evangelicals mentioned here who have endorsed this book have actually read it.

    Reply
  40. Mallorie

    I wish I had the space or time to say how thankful I am to have read this…essentially a few months ago I left a very happy and emotionally healthy relationship of three years because of the books Outdated by JP Pokluda (Harris Creek church in waco) and Sacred Search by Gary Thomas…basically my relationship wasn’t the cookie cutter evangelical depiction of what it should be to honor God and my boyfriend also didn’t fit that description so I figured something was wrong! But now I’m deconstructing all of that and basically, I am just so concerned with what the evangelical church teaches couples about relationships. I am also disappointed that this book was written by Gary Thomas and that the MARRIAGE PASTOR from Harris Creek endorses it 😭 Makes me question the credibility of the other books I read…Thank you for sharing this!

    Reply
  41. Jan

    I’m quite disappointed (but not surprised) by some of the comments and endorsements from sex and marriage advisors at the end of your article. I agree that a description of certain aspects of how a real, living, breathing person responds during sex is, at best unnecessary. I have noticed that there are a number of sex bloggers who have been too explicit about their own sex lives, whilst claiming to protect the exclusivity of what they do in the bedroom. Gary T isn’t the first to put unwanted pictures in reader’s heads. It’s been going on for years. I understand that using personal experience can be very helpful to those who are struggling, but the message can be conveyed without TMI.

    Reply
  42. rbp

    Regarding saying that women should send naked pictures to help their husbands resist porn. My husband said, “what about loving Jesus as the motivation to resist porn.” Why do we assume people will engage in some type of porn and do we need to give them a substitute.

    Reply
  43. Anon for now

    I’m late to the party but I just found this through the Married Sex post on Facebook. And…I’m furious. Furious! Because my husband wanted hours-long make-out sessions after BOTH of our kids! Like I would collapse into bed after feeding the baby at 2:00am and he would grab me. Then when I told him pelvic rest meant ZERO sexual contact, and I was sore, and my breasts hurt, and I was exhausted, and recovering from a C-section with my first, I had to listen to a speech about how “frustrated” he was. I was lying there bleeding, leaking milk, exhausted, crying, and it was all about him!

    As I write this though I realize I’m not really mad at my husband. I’m mad at a pornified culture that has infiltrated the church so deeply that NEITHER of us saw anything wrong with this. I know my comment makes my husband sound terrible but he’s not. He’s universally regarded as one of the most generous and selfless people on the planet. And this twisted idea even swayed HIM! How many other good men are pornifying their wives without even knowing it? How much more devastation have these ideas wrought in marriages where the husband isn’t good to begin with?

    I don’t know what to do with this epiphany except pray for my husband and for our two little boys. It’s heartbreaking how pervasive this mindset of sex has become.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I hear you, Anon. We’ve heard that from many couples too–in every other way he’s the most generous person, but he honestly believed this was something he needed and was entitled to. It’s just heartbreaking the pain this has caused.

      Reply
      • Anon for now

        We really need more education about what happens in a woman’s body and mind after giving birth. I don’t know how Canada does it but in the US all we get is “no sex for six weeks and if you want to jump off a bridge call us for some Zoloft.” Even after my C-section I was surprised how nobody, not even my husband, seemed to think I needed any recovery time beyond my hospital stay. There was this implicit pressure to be back on my feet, doing laundry and dishes and acting like nothing happened the second we brought baby home. When we combine this with the idea that men are owed sex no matter what, is it any wonder so many husbands think their wives will be up for postpartum sexual favors?

        Reply
        • Anon for now

          And in full disclosure, I did “oblige” my husband a couple of times when I was feeling up to it. Sometimes it was nice to cuddle and fool around a little and remember that I was Wife as well as Mom. But not at 3:00am, and not while my lady bits and boobs are screaming at me! And I sure as heck didn’t get aroused! Where do people get these ideas?!

          Reply
  44. Yolanda Wilson

    Kyle is my pastor. He just did a sex series it just does not add up! This is a crazy book! It is so frustrating that the women’s ministry is so hung up on Love And Respect. I will pray about a change and start to share your blog and podcast with my Church on Facebook and other places.I told them I do not like that book and don’t try to mentor me with the silly stuff in it. Thank you so much Sheila for your insight and study. I did not know why I was frustrated at these books for the longest time. God is good and he is using you and your ministry to wake up people like me, who have not been alert.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.