Who Believed the Toxic Sex Teachings More: Husband or Wife?

by | Mar 1, 2022 | Uncategorized | 22 comments

Who Believed Toxic Messages More?
Merchandise is Here!

I truly believe that most guys are good guys.

I often get accused of hating men, but that’s actually not the case. What I hate are the common teachings in the evangelical church that hurt sex and marriage for women.

Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of when The Great Sex Rescue was published, and I’ll be talking more about that tomorrow and on the podcast. But one of our book theses that we were testing in our study of 20,000 women was this: could it be that women’s sex lives are being detrimentally affected not because of anything their husbands are necessarily doing, but because of the things that women have been taught? 

In other words, what if our evangelical culture is hurting women and hurting couples and even hurting men–and it’s not because men are bad guys at all?

Just because a woman has a negative view of sex does not mean that her husband necessarily did anything wrong (although obviously in many marriages this is the case). And if her husband didn’t do anything wrong, then he also can be one of the biggest tools in God’s arsenal that can bring healing to women in this area!

And indeed, that’s what our focus groups for women over and over found. So many women reported that they healed from negative messages because their husbands patiently convinced them and modeled to them that the teachings weren’t true.

No, they aren’t obligated to give him sex.

Yes, her consent matters.

Yes, her pleasure matters.

No, he won’t die without sex (or won’t feel unloved; or won’t be able to function).

No, all men don’t lust.

No, it’s not her fault if he watches porn (and he is capable of not watching porn too!)

And so on. And so on.

Yesterday on Instagram I wanted to take a closer look at who believed these toxic messages more, and who they affected more.

We identified four big toxic teachings in The Great Sex Rescue (though there were others), and I’ve spent much of the last year and a half addressing those teachings and showing a more positive, Jesus-centered way of looking at sex and marriage.

So I asked:

Who Believed Toxic Sex teachings More

Okay, the teachings affected her more. But how much did people believe them?

I started with: When you got married, how much did you believe toxic teachings? 

Here’s what the women said, on average (I know it’s a smiley face, but that’s just the way Instagram works!)

Women Believed Toxic Sex Teachings

What about men–how much did they believe the toxic teachings? 

As you can see–much less than the women!

Men Believed toxic Sex Teachings

Many were still affected by these teachings, but women were disproportionately affected. And that means that men have a special role to play in helping the healing of their marriages, as we talked about yesterday.

That’s really what The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex is about–how guys can help their wives experience great sex from the beginning, and can make sure that none of these toxic teachings takes root.

So many women yesterday told me how much their husbands had helped, and how much the toxic stuff really wasn’t their husbands’ faults.

When I asked specifically about the obligation sex message, here’s what several women said:

When I was growing up, I very much believed it! Ironically I heard it from both the church and the world in equal measure. But once I met my husband and we got engaged and then got married, he begin the hard work of helping me unlearn so much of that trauma! On our honeymoon he told me time and time again that we absolutely did not have to have sex until I was ready, no matter how long it took. Hearing the sincerity in his voice as he said we didn’t have to have sex was the biggest turn on and was ultimately what did it for me!

There’s a guy who got it right from the start! Think of what a better trajectory their marriage is on because of that! (And we have a long chapter on how to do the honeymoon well so that you set yourself up for a great start!). 

Or there’s this woman:

I was shocked/am shocked to discover that a lot of this was in my own head and not what my husband thought/felt at all. We’ve been married about a decade and he recently told me he doesn’t think of sex as penis in vagina and that he would love to try other things but I never seemed interested. Wish I had opened up this communication earlier. I had so much shame and felt so defensive I was not open to this kind of discussion before. Little did I know he has a healthier view of sex than I do!

Several women agreed that it was their own views of sex that were messing things up:

Interestingly enough, my husband was shocked when I shared with him my false belief about obligation sex and how I felt like being available and initiating sex often (even when I didn’t want it) would help him. I realize I was short changing him. I have full confidence in his fidelity, always have. But I wasn’t acting as though as I did. As soon as I ditched this toxic belief our sex life and marriage improved dramatically.

And, yes, some men are also realizing that change needs to come!

And many guys who HAVE had some of these toxic views are also seeing that it was wrong, and they can change things, like this comment that came into the blog this morning: 

I’ve been wanting to write to you for awhile. The great sex rescue was an amazing book. I read it twice, took notes, and trying to live it out. This posting was for me. I have deconstructed so much of what I was taught and believed. It will take time but I hope in time my wife can forgive me and find joy in sex the way God intended. Your work stopped an unhealthy cycle years long and now there can be healing and joy. I know you meet resistance. Please don’t give up your fight. You reached me. And now my boys will learn what we should all know about this area. I am so happy. Thank you. I continue to follow your work to keep focused on the truth.

God is bringing so much healing!

But the healing starts when we recognize that some things have been harmful. That doesn’t mean we’re calling men evil–in many cases they’re the ones bringing the healing! 

We just have to be free to call out harm where we see it, without getting defensive, because that’s the only way that change can come: with humility and truth. I’m so excited to see so many people finding healing (and seriously–just read the reviews on Amazon for The Great Sex Rescue to see that!). And I hope the new Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex and revamped Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex can help couples get it right, from the beginning. Wouldn’t that be a beautiful thing?

The All New Guides to Great Sex!

Launch March 15!

Imagine building a great sex life–from the ground up!

What would it look like to build a picture of sex that was MUTUAL, INTIMATE, and PLEASURABLE FOR BOTH–with no harmful messages?

Welcome to the The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex and the ALL NEW Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex.

Pre-Order Now! (Helps us out a ton)

And if you email your receipt, we’ll send you a special pre-order BONUS

What do you think? Who did the teachings affect more in your marriage? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Nathan

    That’s definitely in line with what I’ve seen. Not only here, but other sites, church, etc. Women often seem to lead the way in these toxic beliefs, are more likely to blame other women for things, etc.

    But, hopefully, things are getting better.

    And to all those out there, no, Sheila is NOT anti-man, nor is this site. There is often anger in some posts, but that’s usually directed at specific people and situations, not men in general.

    • Chris

      Nathan, Sheila is not anti male, I agree with you there. But she is male ignorant. Her life experience with men is actually rather limited and it comes across in her writing. I genuinely do not believe this is in any way her fault. I have pointed this stuff out before and won’t rehash it again.
      To your other point, women can be far more toxic to other women than most men will ever be. I never could figure out why women don’t stick together more and look after each other more.

      • CMT

        “She’s so ignorant abt men. Btw why don’t women all act like x? Can’t figure it out.”

        Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Chris, this is why I don’t write based on my life experience. I write based on our surveys of over 30,000 people at this point, plus peer reviewed research.

      • Tiff

        1. What is the definition of male intelligence you are working from?
        2. How much male experience do you need to be considered male intelligent?
        3. What counts as male experience?
        4. How does a woman prove she is male intelligent?
        5. Are men male intelligent simply by being male?

        If you don’t think it is Sheila’s fault for not being male intelligent is it because: a. She hasn’t gotten through points 2-4 simply because she doesn’t know the steps and needs to be educated by men. b. She is willfully ignorant and unwilling to listen.

        If being male intelligent is a requirement for a woman to research, write and create content on a professional level, is the standard the same for men?
        Do men need to cultivate female intelligence through female experience?
        Could this blog and the Bare Marriage ministry be a garden where an aspect of the female experience can be experienced?

    • Yvette

      I am in agreement. Women in Christianity and in the Messianic, Hebrew Roots are often just as toxic as the men leading. Purpetuating the toxic lies that women are responsible for the man’s happiness, controlling his lust, and not being his stumbling block. Scripture is very clear that each person is to work out their own salvation before YHWH with fear and trembling. They are each supposed to manifest the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Please note the two parts of the single fruit that bracket (love and self control). That means that people are to love one another as them selves and master their own lusts.

  2. Cynthia

    I’ve done a few divorce cases where this was a factor.

    In one, the wife was convinced that the husband was abusive. When we explored that during cross-examination, it became clear that she believed that she was required to submit. So, whenever he husband wanted to do something, she thought she had to agree. She wanted him to ask her first what she wanted, before saying what he wanted to do. He wasn’t raised like that at all and had no clue she thought this way. He was an engineer – a very straight-forward and direct guy – who stated his wishes clearly and thought she would do the same (and who had been raised with women who spoke their minds), so he just thought that she didn’t have strong preferences and was okay with going along with what he wanted to do.

    In another, the wife had actually make a booklet detailing why she thought her husband was evil, and included the fact that he wanted oral sex. She didn’t say that he forced her. Apparently, she hated doing it but didn’t think that she could say no to him. They came from different backgrounds and I don’t think he realized that she would do something she hated instead of feeling like she could refuse.

    • Stefanie

      That’s heartbreaking.

  3. Jen

    Great insights in this post. My husband and I became Evangelicals together as young adults, and the teaching reinforced what the world had already taught us: I’m an object and he can’t control himself. God has been using Sheila’s work in our lives to release us from these lies.

    We are working through betrayal trauma (betrayal in part fueled by those lies, although my husband takes full responsibility for his actions), and it is true that we can help heal each other by studying and applying the truth to our marriage openly and honestly. I know, “Duh, of course the truth heals.” But my point is that sometimes the very person who hurt you can play the most powerful role in helping you heal IF they are repentant, healing, and resurrected from their sin.

    I am NOT advocating that anyone stay with an abuser. I’m talking to those who are in relationships where change and healing are happening. Ephesians 4:28 answers the question, “when is a thief no longer a thief?” – not just when s/he stops stealing but when s/he stops stealing and begins to make amends.

    If we recognize that we have damaged our marriage with our actions and/or beliefs, it is not enough to just stop the wrong. We need to actively help the other heal, if they are still willing to be in relationship with us -sometimes the damage from these ideas is just too much. However, I believe God gives us the opportunity to help others heal from our dangerous beliefs/choices, and the act of righting our wrongs actually helps us heal, too.

    • CB

      Love this! My husband and I are working through the same thing and he and I both have loads of unhealthy beliefs we’re trying to heal from. Some of the stuff he told me about from the book Every Young Man’s Battle was so shocking. 😣 He read it as a teen and it’s no wonder he turned out a porn addict. 😭

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Every Young Man’s Battle is UNBELIEVABLY awful. I believe it is full blown child abuse. And, yes, I completely believe that it raises porn addicts. I’m going to write more about it specifically when our mother daughter book is out ,but I was horrified!

  4. Anon

    I definitely believed this more than my husband – the weird thing was, if you’d asked me if I believed in obligation sex, I’d have said no – but I really did! Fortunately, my husband not only totally disbelieves it (he genuinely can’t understand why any man would want sex if his wife wasn’t 100% enthusiastic about it!) but is very good at picking up how I’m feeling. So although on our honeymoon I KNEW we shouldn’t try intercourse until I was ready, and although I SAID I’d only say I was ready when I was…I actually said I was ready when I wasn’t. And he looked at me and said ‘you’re saying you’re ready, but you’re not sounding like you’re ready, so we’ll wait until you are.’ I’m so grateful for a husband who was (and still is) ready to call me out when I start living out beliefs we both know are wrong.

    (And to all the guys who are scared they’ll have a sexless marriage if they convince their wives to say no to obligation sex – there is nothing that’s going to make a wife keener on sex than a husband who is 100% determined that it’s going to be as good for her as it is for him)

    • CMT

      *slow clap* that’s the kind of man you want

  5. Lisa

    We both believed some of the toxic teachings but not necessarily the same ones. He thought he was owed sex and more than once told me it was my fault when he “slipped” and used porn. I didn’t believe that but I did believe something was wrong with me because my libido died shortly after getting married.

    We are light-years better now, thankfully. But those teachings did a LOT of damage. So much unnecessary pain

  6. Grace

    Actually, you can change the emoji on those Instagram sliders, Sheila!

  7. Kit

    Quick Q: Who is more likely to read something like LOVE AND RESPECT?

    Men or Women?

  8. Curious George

    I am a safe man according to your definition. I have talked a lot about these things with my wife and she and I agree on what you are promoting. Here’s what she’s thinking and I am not sure what to say. She is 54 and 8 years more seasoned than me. There is past trauma and current lack of sleep and high stress. We get all of that is a libido killer. But she says to me “why is my lack of interest in sex the problem, why am I the one who needs to change?” Any response will fall flat because it will be fueled by the fact that I, the man, wants her to want sex. So again here we are, the man saying the women should work on her libido for his benefit. You could say that it’s for her benefit but we don’t have the right to tell women what will benefit them. To be clear we have a good marriage. We enjoy being together. We do talk about these things and she doesn’t deny me sex, but she could care less about sex. And I have read “She Comes First” so she does but she is more interested in trying to sleep since she has so much trouble sleeping. We know that sleep deprivation is not good for libido but again why is her lack of interest the problem? Why am I not the one who needs to change for her?

  9. Andrew

    So, I just wanted to say as a guy growing up in the 80s/90s in Amero-Christian sub-culture, I think the general handling of sex, purity culture, etc had a significant long-term negative impact on me.

    Interestingly, my parents never pushed any purity material on us and kinda rolled their eyes at “I kissed dating goodbye.” I never even read the book.
    Even so, the ideas were SO prevalent in ‘church’ circles, they rubbed off on me and I grew up with a ton of completely bizarre, naive, and idealistic conceptions of dating, sex, etc.

    Additionally, at least in my own experience – sex was not discussed in my family (except for a very brief ‘here are the facts’ chat) and was nearly only presented and talked about as negative in surrounding church culture: Wait till marriage and Whatever happens, Don’t do it. Don’t talk about it. Don’t think about it. Did we mention DON’T do it?
    Just, don’t do it.

    Thus anything sexual was incredibly uncomfortable and awkward ‘unknown,’…forbidden.
    What to do about fantasies and thoughts? Never addressed.
    What specifically is lust? Figure that out yourself.
    Masturbation? SHH don’t say that word. We don’t talk about Bru…that. Ever. Let’s talk about something else…
    And so on.

    So as a young man, I was greatly confused and deeply anxious about my own sexuality as it developed. And I viewed it as almost entirely negative and connected with sin. Any thoughts or feelings would be best kept to myself too, cause they were probably sinful.

    Pair all this with my exposure to pornography at young age (age 12-13ish). I had no preparation to cope with the overwhelming complex emotions. Desire, adrenaline, curiosity, shame, craving, humiliation, self-hatred, embarrassment, terror, secrecy, lies.
    (not long after this event, all the former barriers to accessing explicit sexual material were ripped down, and it became moments away as the internet made its way into the average home. Right around puberty, for me.)

    These were the seeds of years of sexual addiction. And it cost me so much.

    Only now (after 40) through failures, pain, counseling and recovery have I come to understand that this was my Traumatic event. No, I wasn’t abused, or anything like that. But at least for me, viewing pornography as a kid (maybe at all, ever) was trauma. People are not meant to experience things like that. I see pornography as abuse.
    The worst part was that I held a deeply false belief that I would be better off keeping this to myself, than telling someone or asking for help. Only now do I see this for the damaging lie that it was. (Obviously, my Dad would have tried to help me and had compassion, had I come to him.)

    It’s important to mention, I don’t blame my parents, the church or church culture of the time for my choices. I accept my mistakes as my own. Had I the courage to do the painful but right thing, perhaps I would have reached out despite the terror.

    However, the prevailing negativity, silence, taboo, and the sort of treatment of it as the most morally shameful and unpardonable sin was certainly not helpful. It’s part of the reason I appreciate what y’all are doing, simply talking about these things openly and honestly. I think that the church can do much better.

    If there is any silver lining, (part of the reason I even wish to share this) it’s that I will do everything in my power to heal, and to change the situation for my two boys, so they won’t develop such a self-hatred about their own sexuality, that they can learn practical ways to control their thoughts, and most of all, that they never feel they have to face something like this shamed, hurt, and alone. And I am encouraged that you guys and many others are creating materials to help and encourage others.



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