On Kissing Before Marriage, Hilarious Reviews, and Horrifying Advice

by | Apr 29, 2022 | Bare Marriage, Preparing for Marriage, Research, Theology of Marriage and Sex | 32 comments

Friday Round Up Jay Adams
Merchandise is Here!

On Fridays I like to take a look at what’s been happening on social media this week, because often most of the writing/thoughts end up on Facebook or Instagram, and if you mostly read the blog you may miss them.

So let’s go:

Let’s talk Kissing Before Marriage!

I posted this on Facebook: 

Let’s talk kissing before marriage!

One of the things I shared at Colorado Christian University last week: For the last twenty years in certain evangelical circles we’ve been saying that the ideal, the standard, the norm is no kissing before marriage.

But in our data of 20,000 predominantly Christian (and mostly evangelical) women, the vast, vast majority kissed before marriage.

Over 60s? 100% did.

In their 50s? Over 98% did.

It isn’t until you get to the under 30s that it starts to go up–but even then, 88% of women did.

The vast majority of people teaching that you should not kiss before marriage actually did kiss before marriage.

And we couldn’t even measure if NOT kissing before marriage was harmful (it looks like it likely was) because the results weren’t statistically significant, BECAUSE THERE WERE SO FEW OF THEM.
We talk like this is normal; but even with I Kissed Dating Goodbye selling millions of copies, people still kissed!

Kissing is not sex.

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Facebook

Interesting comments! Some were claiming that at least not kissing meant that you didn’t have sex (insinuating that if you did kiss, you likely had sex). Well, Joanna since ran the numbers for me, and when you look at couples who only ever had sex with each other, 71% who kissed before marriage did wait for the wedding.

So again–kissing isn’t sex!

Keith really brings it home in his video about the church justifies abuse

This was part of our podcast last week, but so many people asked for just this segment that we posted the video on Facebook and YouTube for you to share if it was too hard to share the whole podcast!

And if you’d rather share the text, it’s based on his post from last week about male power leading to abuse. 

 

And remember to share it!

I’ve had some amazing feedback on my podcast from this week about attachment to God.

If you haven’t listened to our podcast with Krispin Mayfield, please do. The part on the wordless book is so important. The reason so many people feel so unlovable and have such shame is not due to sin they’ve committed but instead sin that’s been done to them. And yet we make people feel as if they are horribly tainted so much that God can’t stand to look at them. Is this really the message we need? How can we have a message of God that incorporates our sin, yes, but also considers the far more likely thing that many of us have been marred by pain? And what if our theology about connection is keeping us from God, rather than our sin? 

One woman left this comment on Facebook about it:

Shelia, I’m listening to the podcast and feel just dumbfounded. How could the church have so missed that most of us have broken attachments and therefore interpreted all this poorly-stated or just plain heretical theology in a really damaging way? How did they say they know we’re all broken without Jesus but somehow just not see me? Because so many others grew up hearing what I did but will say “I didn’t take it that way” or “Well, yeah, but also. . . ” I heard exactly the words said and took them for what they literally meant in English and ran HARD after Jesus—finding every fault I could correct, cutting off any and all feelings so I wouldn’t have “bad” ones–and it almost killed me. If feeling far from God was my fault and God wouldn’t heal my depression, then there was no hope for me. The Gospel was strong enough for everyone else but not me. I was too screwed up for the Good News to be good, for the Loving Father to feel loving, for the Hope of the World to lift me out of despair. It’s taken me a DECADE to open my Bible voluntarily without choking feelings of fear or shame.

How do I rage against the harmful theology that is hurting so many when people keep saying, much like they tell you about your marriage critiques, “Oh, you’re just not interpreting that right” or “Oh, well I wasn’t writing for wounded people”?????

When people leave comments that aren’t quite the “own” they think it is

I tweeted this out:

 

For those who can’t read it (who receive my newsletter by email), it says: “So…a guy just left a one-star review on The Great Sex Rescue because we said that men shouldn’t be satisfied sexually unless their wives are also satisfied. Apparently women should be more sacrificial. I don’t think that’s the own he thinks it is.”

Honestly, the three of us were really laughing over that review. And just a reminder–if you’ve read The Great Sex Rescue, or the new Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex and the Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex, reviews on Amazon and/or Goodreads make such a difference!

 

I think we all need to sit with this a while.

I left this image on Facebook and Instagram, with the caption below:

Jay Adams about Divorce
Imagine compassion being a BAD thing!
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I used to recommend that women who wrote into my blog in distress in their marriage talk to their pastor.
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I can’t do that anymore. I’ve heard from far too many women who did that and it ended disastrously. I’ve seen studies that over 90% of women who escaped abusive marriages would not recommend going to their pastor, because of how badly it went for them.
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I know some churches do it right. But look at this quote from Jay Adams, the founder of biblical counseling, and remember that many churches rely on biblical counseling (instead of licensed, integrated Christian counseling which uses best practices of research).
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Women, if you need help, go to the people who love you and your kids the most. Who are invested in your well-being (not just your appearances). Who you can trust.
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Sometimes that will be family. Sometimes it will be friends. And rarely it will be the church.
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But most churches have male only elder boards. The elders are friends with your husband. They may be abusers themselves (27% of religious men who believe in male headship admit to perpetrating intimate partner violence on their current partner). And many churches won’t let you divorce for abuse. Focus on the Family doesn’t. John MacArthur doesn’t. It’s bad.
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And please note: If your church isn’t safe for women in abusive marriages, then your church isn’t safe period. Let’s start growing the safe churches, so that in future church will be a safe place to recommend.
Sheila Wray Gregoire

Facebook and Instagram

What if you’re NOT the problem with your sex life?

What if the messages that you’ve been taught have messed things up–and what if there’s a way to escape these toxic teachings?

It’s time for a Great Sex Rescue.

I know I meant to share some great comments that came in this week, but I can’t remember which ones I promised to now! So if you remember me saying anything like “I should share that on Friday”, remind me what it was and I’ll make a post out of it next week!

In the meantime, remember you can help us out by:

  • Leaving reviews of our books on Amazon and/or Goodreads
  • Becoming a Patron as to support our work on two peer-reviewed papers this summer
  • See if your church/university/women’s group wants to host an event with me next year! Anywhere on the mid-to-east United States (like Texas and east). (Other events can also be arranged, but we’ll be down with our RV).
  • Leaving a 5-star review of the Bare Marriage podcast wherever you listen–and downloading our podcast to listen to help our download numbers as we look for sponsorships

Thank you, and have a great weekend!

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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32 Comments

  1. Phil

    Good morning Sheila. I was late to the party yesterday and just listened to the Podcast this morning. Just need to share a few things today. First and foremost – today is 22 Years Married to my wonderful wife Grace! There are two ways in which I can recall the number of years married. First it is easy math! The year minus 2000 the year we got married. How do I always recall the date? Well April 28th is my Dog Lorna’s Birthday, For you race fans April 29th is not only my Anniversary but also Dale Earnhardt’s birthday 🤪. My youngest turns 12 tomorrow April 30th. My wife was in labor with him on or 10 year Anniversary and yes you can have sex during labor! Its actually quite intimate and it helps your wife with contractions! As for the Attachment thing – I identified with the shame relationship but that is NOT how it is today. Sometimes the old tape plays but where it is for me today is that God wants to exalt us. He wants to reconcile. He forgives us! He sent Jesus for us. Countless stories in the bible tell the story of the sin and then God exalts them! This notion that God is not present unless we are pure or try to be more pure is hogwash! I am a walking example of failure yet God exalts me. It is humbling for sure. Here is the thing that I cling to in my hope: you know why I can see God working? Because I am looking for it! I am constantly looking for it. And its there! I listen for him and I look for him. He is there. When he’s not the math is simple. Who moved?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, Phil and Grace! That’s wonderful.

      I thought you’d resonate with the podcast, and realize that the “I need to work my way up to get close to God” was hogwash. You’re on such a great journey! Wish Grace all the best for me.

      Reply
  2. CMT

    That Jay Adams quote makes me think of the question from the last podcast: “Why do we hate feelings so much?”

    I’ve noticed in conversations here and elsewhere that when Jay Adams is brought up, people say “oh, his stuff isn’t being taught anymore,” as though that means this thinking has gone away. But it hasn’t. What about the big names you mention that don’t “allow” divorce for abuse? The folks warning against the “sin of empathy?” The guy who thinks his wife should be “sacrificial” so that her experience of sex doesn’t impact whether or not he’s satisfied himself? Isn’t it just different ways of using spiritual language to justify responding to others’ pain in compassionless, emotionally stunted ways?

    Reply
  3. Angharad

    The whole ‘no kissing before marriage’ thing is so weird. I have friends who definitely kissed before marriage (they announced their engagement with a photo of them kissing and used a similar photo for their wedding invites!) yet they’re now constantly talking about how kissing before marriage is ‘fornication’, and sharing ‘testimony’ videos from couples who were ‘Godly enough’ to save their first kiss for their wedding day. And every time I see one of their posts, I think ‘so when are you going to repent for ‘fornicating’ then?!!!” I think I could stomach it better if they said ‘we kissed before marriage and now we regret it’, but their past has been carefully brushed under the mat!

    I do have a couple of friends who chose not to kiss before marriage, but that was something they felt PERSONALLY convicted over and not something they ever tried to impose on others. For me, I would never have considered getting married if we hadn’t kissed first. For someone whose only experience of sex was being sexually harassed and assaulted on numerous occasions by ‘Christian’ men, and who was saving sex for marriage, being comfortable with kissing & hugging before marriage gave me the confidence that I would be able to get comfortable with having sex after marriage. I found kissing quite uncomfortable the first few times – I cant’ imagine how distressing it would have been for the first time to have been on my wedding day, in front of all our guests!

    Reply
    • Jewel

      I question why someone would make that personal choice if they are coming from a healthy, positive viewpoint of sex. I think perhaps the main reason this question would even come up between a couple is because of fear-based, twisted teachings around sex and arousal. I would now encourage someone who made that decision to ask “why” a few times to dig into the layers behind it. Yes it may have been a personal choice, but I doubt it would ultimately come from a healthy place in most cases.

      My husband and I made a personal decision not to kiss before our wedding. (A decision we both deeply regret.) It wasn’t imposed on us by our parents or church. It was the first kiss for both of us and we married as virgins. We realized the root of that choice was in fact very negative, fear-based messaging we had picked up about sex because we grew up in purity culture. The choice itself wasn’t damaging (though we are both so sad we missed out on sharing that in a private, romantic moment rather than at the ceremony), but what lay behind the choosing was certainly damaging.

      Reply
  4. Andrea

    I want to say something about kissing as a woman who had not led a chaste youth. It is 100% predictive of the quality of sex. And I don’t mean anything about technique here (that can be taught, practiced, learned), but about one’s attunement to another’s body language. One of my friends calls it “the rape test.” Since I’ve always described my very first kiss ever as feeling like my mouth was being raped, this makes sense to me. Is he mauling you, ignoring your attempts to shift or push him away, does he get offended if you don’t want to kiss him any more (whether he gets whiny or mad, that’s equally bad), etc. etc. So, for anyone willing to make a lifetime commitment to another person in a religious contexts that largely disagrees with the notion of marital rape and sells books that mostly preach the obligation sex message, do yourself a favor and put him through the rape test first. We all know way too many women whose horrendous stories make it seem more like they were virgin sacrifices rather than brides and I am convinced a lot of this could be avoided by kissing and then eliminating the kissers who don’t respect boundaries. Seriously, if women started refusing to marry and have babies with jerks, maybe we could breed the jerks out of existence? (Now I sound like The Gospel Coalition, lol, when they ask white Christians to have more babies, but I’m saying let’s not have babies with any potential rapists.)

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’ve had the same thought about what would happen if women stopped marrying such men! Absolutely.

      Reply
    • Jane Eyre

      This was also my experience. A really horrible boyfriend laughed about how uncomfortable his kissing technique was for me. Normal people adjust to ensure both parties are comfortable.

      Reply
    • Laura

      ” It is 100% predictive of the quality of sex.”

      Totally agree! If you don’t like the way he kisses even if his technique is good, then obviously the chemistry is not there. I almost married my ex-fiance a few years ago. He is a great guy and we’re still friends. The chemistry just wasn’t there when it came to kissing, but I kept telling myself it would get better over time. It just didn’t.

      So, the whole idea of no kissing until marriage is just so outdated and unrealistic. If a couple feels that holding off on kissing is the right thing for them, then that’s okay. Just dictating that idea to everyone and claiming it’s God’s way is blasphemous because there is not mention of that in the Bible.

      Reply
    • Angharad

      Yes, that was another thing that reassured me – the way my then-fiance never pushed boundaries and was very quick to realise if I wasn’t comfortable with a kiss or hug and stop straight away. It gave me the confidence to believe that he would be equally considerate after marriage.

      Reply
  5. Eliza

    I know several couples who did “no kissing” but did a lot of other things. Not us, we did zero contact of any kind except a hilarious incident with an errant firecracker.

    I think for us it wasn’t particularly damaging (there was definitely physical attraction even if it was never acted on) but also I don’t see anything it helped with. As part of a pattern of following rules handed down from on high instead of learning to connect and making decisions together, though, it was incredibly harmful.

    Reply
  6. Amy

    From the April 27 post titled “Do you think Jesus saves women so women can save men?” you said you would bring out Mara R’s comment on how a leader having all the authority and none of the responsibility is an unhealthy and destructive leadership style in the business world. I found Mara’s comment to be so helpful. I would love to see you elaborate further on this, particularly on how it relates to church authority and responsibility structures.

    To further elaborate, when I separated from my abusive husband, my all-male church board used their “leadership” position to attempt to guilt me into reconciling with my husband. However, they took no responsibility to ensure that the situation was safe for me or my daughter or to provide use any sort of assistance with either our physical, emotional, or spiritual needs. This happens all the time in churches. They misuse “authority” to try to control someone else’s behavior (to keep up an appearance), but they don’t take responsibility to actually care for that person.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      THAT’S what it was! Thank you. I had forgotten. i’ll make it into its own post next week then.

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Okay, just rechecked the comment and it actually goes really well into a series I’m planning for August, so I’m going to save it for then and put it as one of the main series posts. 🙂 But thank you for reminding me.

      Reply
  7. Sam

    Hi Sheila, thank you so much for your wonderful blog and post. I’ve been a long(ish)-time reader, first-time commenter, and I was wondering if I could get the links to the studies for the two different statistics (90% of abused women leaving their husbands don’t recommend churches; 27% religious men who believe in male-only headship have committed IPV). I’m saddened (but not fully surprised by these stats), but I know that I will need “receipts” before I share them with certain people in my life. Thank you again!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      You can find the 27% in last week’s podcast (we were talking about the study, and the link is in the post). As for the 90%, I believe the actual number was 94%, but I’d have to find the study again. I believe it was a specific denomination. I’ll ask my abuse advocate friends if they know; I’m sure they’ll have it!

      Reply
  8. CB

    As the wife of a recovering porn addict who was NOT truly held accountable by any men in the church, I see now that we desperately need WOMEN to hold MEN accountable for sexual immorality and enabling other men to treat their wives badly. We have to become advocates for ourselves in the church so we will start to be treated as equal image bearers. That may even mean women need to start leaving their unfaithful and abusive husbands in droves so they start to get that we will not tolerate this behavior anymore. But we need to start having a voice in the church.

    Reply
    • exwifeofasexaddict

      Separation/divorce is absolutely the best way a wife can hold her husband accountable for abuse, adultery, addiction, bad behavior that they won’t repent of. We just need to stop hamstringing women in these positions. And also realize that when the marriage is that bad, divorce is better for the kids than staying. That’s what research shows.

      Reply
    • Laura

      Also, women start leaving the church. I cannot remember the title of that short story by the Anne of Green Gables author in which the women threatened to stop doing “women’s work” at their church unless a woman was allowed to speak in the pulpit. Sheila had posted the link to it a while back. Even though this short story was written over 100 years ago, this scenario still occurs in churches: not letting a woman speak in the pulpit.

      Not long after I accepted salvation when I was 17, I quit attending church when the pastor talked about wives being submissive to their husbands because husbands were kings of their homes. 28 years later, this sermon is still preached in churches. Even though I don’t hear this sermon as often, it still bugs me and I have gotten to a place where I don’t want to have anything to do with women’s Bible studies or marriage ministries (even though I’m single, I get invited to attend). I am so over it.

      If and when I decide to attend church again, I will go to one where there is a woman who preaches or is a senior pastor.

      Reply
        • Laura

          I just read “The Strike at Putney!” I got a few good chuckles out of it.

          Reply
  9. Anonymous

    I totally think the no kissing before marriage can def be silly, but I will say that— thought it’s true that kissing isn’t sex— it can become thus, depending on the intent of each party.

    Just as Sheila and her ministry have said that the act of sex ISNT necessarily SEX, defined as what God intended it to be (mutual, intimate, and pleasurable for both) if one of those pieces is missing, so too can kissing easily become something intimate, mutual, and sexually pleasurable for both parties, depending on the intention to be sexually gratified or to sexually please the other person. You don’t need to take off any clothes, or manually stimulate each other or anything. There is a line you cross in your heart at some point. So while I agree that there was a huge pendulum swing in the purity movement to completely demonize kissing, I do think that each person ought to be aware of their own intentions in the heat of the moment of a make out session and that they could quickly engage in a level of intimacy intended for marriage.

    My husband and I were virgins when we married, but once we did have sex in the traditional sense, we realized and were convicted that we had been engaging in the spirit of sexual intimacy all along during our make out sessions, even though we didn’t do any explicit sexual acts. So I am speaking from a place of experience and understanding, not condemnation. But also from a place of caution, as it is something we do regret. We have moved on with our regrets, but I think the conversation about kissing and intimacy in general deserves lots of nuance, which I know the whole Bare Marriage crew does well! 🙂

    Reply
    • CMT

      Hi Anon, I agree with you that getting bent out of shape about people kissing before marriage is a bit silly. I was thinking back to my own experience and actually wishing my husband and I had had fewer “rules” for ourselves about when and how, because in retrospect we were too anxious about “crossing a line.”

      I’m not sure I understand what you mean about kissing and “a level of intimacy intended for marriage” and “engaging in the spirit of sexual intimacy” though. It sounds to me like you are saying people should not get sexually aroused prior to marriage? Is that it or am I misreading you?

      Reply
      • A2bbethany

        That’s a debate I’ve personally never felt confident about my conclusion. When in doubt I air on the side of, just wait a few months and then have no regrets.
        But the argument about a single person and their purety in exploring sexual arousals and when in a dating relationship….. I’ve never felt satisfied with either side completely. Pray for personal guidance and have a clear conscious! And be honest with yourself that sexual arousal feels good and is therefore something you’ll be interested in! (And set that aside to pray and search for God’s answer for you)

        Reply
        • CMT

          Well, I’m not even sure that was what anon meant but, if it was, I would say, just like kissing isn’t sex, arousal isn’t sex either. I can’t judge for anybody else, but it seems a little sad to me that anyone would feel that guilty for getting turned on kissing their fiancé. Frankly, what anon was describing sounded super innocent and actually rather sweet. Everyone is going to have their own comfort level here of course, but like someone else said above the important thing is to work together to figure out what works for you, not to follow arbitrary rules handed down from on high.

          Reply
          • Angharad

            “the important thing is to work together to figure out what works for you”

            ^This^

            It’s great when you spend time with God and He convicts you of something you need to change in your OWN life to keep you walking closely with Him. The problem is when you take that thing and try to turn it into a rule that everyone else has to follow too!

          • Anonymous

            CMT, no I’m not saying you can’t get aroused. That’s not something intentional, just like noticing someone’s attractiveness is not lust. It’s how God wired people to function.

            It’s a gray area. I think kissing can cross the line to sexual intimacy when your heart’s intentions are set on intentionally arousing or sexually pleasuring yourself or your partner during kissing. It’s about the intentions of the heart, overall. Not simply the isolated act in this instance.

            “Search me and know my heart, Oh God, and see if there is any offensive way without me.”

          • CMT

            Hi, Anon, thanks for answering. I agree this is a gray area, where everyone should be bound by their own conscience. So please understand that I’m not arguing with you about your own experience, but sharing my own. During our engagement my now husband and I approached kissing as you’re describing above. We were afraid to want or enjoy it “too much” and as a result I didn’t enjoy it much at all. I thought this was holy and “God’s way.” In retrospect, I see others had dictated my conscience. I wasn’t holy, I was numb. On multiple levels. I now think if we had been able to do what Elle described so well, and let kissing be its own special thing at that stage of our relationship, it would have been much healthier.

    • Elle

      Kissing, for us, was a magical way of showing and receiving love before tying the knot. I have zero regrets about the time we spent together in this way while dating. For us, it was essential to the relationship and we learned a lot about communication and reading each other. As someone who was 100% committed to saving sex for marriage, and who maintained other physical boundaries whilst thoroughly enjoying kissing with a wonderful guy, I am thoroughly confused by those who allude to regretting it. Since getting married, we both say we really miss it, because kissing on its own with clear boundaries becomes its own ‘thing’ that can’t be replicated when sex is an option.

      Reply
  10. Anon

    Sheila, I keep telling you you have to review the novel “Inklings” by Melanie Jeschke. It pontificates on the very things you’ve been speaking out about: women being stumbling blocks for men, a man “not being able to control himself” if he sees a hint of skin, being a submissive wife, and… saving the first kiss for the wedding day. I kid you not, they BEAT the 1 Timothy passage about treating women as “sisters in Christ” to death. The so-called heroine is a whiny ditz, and the male lead is a preachy hypocrite. The book might anger you, but it’d be worth a read just to see you tear it to shreds. 😉

    Reply

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