Podcast: How Have the Authors We Critiqued Responded to The Great Sex Rescue

by | Aug 25, 2022 | Podcasts | 66 comments

Authors We Critiqued for Great Sex Rescue Podcast
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One of the most frequent questions I’ve had since The Great Sex Rescue was published has been: “Have any of the authors responded to your critiques?”

People want to know–has anyone owned their mistakes and made changes?

And the quick answer is no. 

I wanted to have a central place where I can show you what the authors who HAVE said something have said. 

And I need to say something. 

This is a personal podcast.

Most podcasts I do because I think I have a message that would be helpful to people, or because people have asked me to talk about something specific. This one I wanted to do for myself. It’s important to me that others know what’s been said and what’s been going on behind the scenes. I would like a chance to set the record straight. 

I want a chance to be up front and honest about what others have done, what has been said about us. 

And then, once it’s all been said, I’m hoping that when people ask me, I can just point people here and I don’t have to talk about it anymore!

So grab a cup of coffee, fasten your seat belt, strap in, and listen in!

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:


Sheila: Welcome to the Bare Marriage Podcast.  I’m Sheila Wray Gregoire from, hopefully, baremarriage.com. 

Rebecca: I mean for pity’s sake.  I feel like the more we say this it ends up being a bad omen, and it’s never going to happen.  But hopefully, I’m wrong.  And hopefully by now, we’ve already switched over.  

Sheila: So we are moving our domain from tolovehonorandvacuum.com to baremarriage.com where we like to talk about healthy, evidence-based, biblical advice for your marriage and your sex life.  

Rebecca: Mm-hmm.    

Sheila: And we are excited about the new domain.  I started as To Love, Honor, and Vacuum way back in 2008 because that was the title of my first book from 2003.  And it made sense then.  I was talking about when you feel more like a maid than a wife and a mother, and I was talking about parenting and organizing.  But then my blog morphed into sex.  And suddenly, the title didn’t make any sense anymore.  

Rebecca: Exactly.  Unless you’re into some real, weird stuff.  

Sheila: Exactly.  Which people would Google about, but we won’t get into that.  So I’ve been wanting to change the name for quite awhile, but Google really liked me.  And so that was a hard thing to do.  But over the last few years as we’ve been changing our perspective on a lot of the things that we’ve been teaching, we just decided it was time.  And so we’ve moved to baremarriage.com because that’s more in tune with our brand but stripping everything away that doesn’t belong in our marriage and sex teachings and getting back to what God intended.  So hopefully, we’re there.  If not, we’ll be there in a few days, and you can find us there.  Find us on the Bare Marriage podcast, and we are so glad that you’ve joined us.  And I should also say we only took the last few years of posts plus some iconic ones from before.  There were just too many to edit and to go through.

Rebecca: Yeah.  And so we have them saved, so we may over time rerun gold—good ones that still hold up.  But for the most part, we just kept 2018 and on. 

Sheila: Yeah.  Because I just didn’t—I was just worried that I didn’t agree with myself from Sheila in 2011 or something.  So that is what we’ve done.  And that’s an exciting thing.  And that kind of fits in with today’s podcast.  

Rebecca: Mm-hmm.

Sheila: So a year and a half ago our book, The Great Sex Rescue, was released.  And people have been asking us ever since, what’s the response been from the authors that we called out?  And so we thought, “You know what?  It’s time just to do a podcast and go through people who have said something publically,” and just let you know because I just wanted to put it all in one place and also to explain the impact that this has had on us and how we see ourselves going forward.  

Rebecca: Exactly.  So as a summary about what our book is, we did the largest study that’s ever been done on evangelical women’s marital and sexual satisfaction.  The way we did that is we had 20,000, predominantly Christian women, answered our survey.  Really majorly predominant.  I think we only had about 2,000 who weren’t Christian. 

Sheila: Yeah.  1,500 maybe.  Yeah.

Rebecca: Yeah.  So we had really quite a few.  It’s the largest study that we can find on this particular thing that we looked at, first of all, their marital satisfaction, then their sexual satisfaction, and then we asked them if they believed or didn’t believe certain key, common teachings in evangelicalism about marriage and sex.  Then what we could do is look at the women who do believe and who did not believe a certain message and say who orgasms more frequently, right?  Who has more sexual pain or less sexual pain?  And it allowed us to contrast and compare.  And what that meant is we could then right this book that talked about which key teachings in evangelicalism are actually making sex worse for couples and are hurting women.  And part of the way that we did that was we looked at the bestselling books in marriage and sex in evangelicalism, and we found where these teachings are coming from.  And so, it ended up being a pretty controversial book because we named names.

Sheila: We did.

Rebecca: We called it out because these books have been selling like hot cakes.  They’re selling millions of copies.  And these are teachings that we have now demonstrably shown increase risks of sexual pain, decrease women’s orgasm rates, increase marital dissatisfaction.  It’s bad.      

Sheila: It is bad.  And we’ve since followed up with a survey of men that found the same thing.    

Rebecca: Exactly.

Sheila: And so let’s just give you an overview of our findings.  Here’s the four harmful teachings.  Those of you who listen to the Bare Marriage podcast know this.

Rebecca: You might be able to do these by heart.

Sheila: Yes.  Here we go.  A wife is obligated to give her husband sex when he wants it.    

Rebecca: Next one.  We have all men struggle with lust.  It is every man’s battle.

Sheila: A wife should have frequent sex to keep her husband from watching porn.  

Rebecca: And boys will want to push girls’ sexual boundaries.      

Sheila: So those are the four harmful teachings.  We also had two big picture findings, which is that we have a 47-point orgasm gap, by which we mean 95% of men almost always or always reach orgasm compared to just 48% of evangelical women.    

Rebecca: Mm-hmm.  And then we also found that on average our sample had an incidence rate of sexual pain of 22.6%.  That is so high.  But it’s also in line with what we found in other peer reviewed research, which is that conservative Christian—well, conservative religious groups, in general, tend to have a much higher rate of sexual pain than the general population.

Sheila: And so what we were trying to do is figure out why.  And so that is what our book showed is that there’s been some real harm done in Christian resources, and we began our book, The Great Sex Rescue, by saying we didn’t think this harm was intentional.  We want to read you exactly what we said.  

Rebecca: We said, “These books, in particular,”—talking about the ones that we’re critiquing—“have largely shaped how evangelical culture has talked about sex for the last few decades.  We’re going to quote liberally from them.  Please know, though, that we’re critiquing the teachings, not the authors.  We believe these authors meant well at the time they wrote the books.  And many of these books were improvements on what was already out there.  However, we have also found in our data that many of these books may have inadvertently caused some of the problems they were trying so hard to fix.”

Sheila: Yeah.  And this was hard, but we couldn’t do this work without calling out the books because the harm is still being done.  And we were hoping—and I honestly did believe—I didn’t think everybody would listen, but I thought somebody would.

Rebecca: Well, because eventually, the point of our book, our conclusion, the thing that we’re trying to teach is that God designed sex—it’s what you always say—to be mutual, pleasurable, and intimate, right?  Mutual, intimate, and pleasurable for both.  And that’s what biblical sex should be.  And so we found these teachings actively take away from one, two, or three of those key tenants to healthy sexuality.

Sheila: Yeah.  And so we thought people would want to do better.  And it’s really been sad to see that hasn’t been the case.  So what we would like to do is just walk through everyone individually.  But before we start, let’s just talk about it as a whole—

Rebecca: Sure.  

Sheila: – big picture.  So just to let you know, we have had three lawsuit threats.

Rebecca: Yeah.  We’ve had more than three lawsuit whisperings.  But actual people saying, “I will sue you if you don’t stop,” we’ve had that happen three times.  

Sheila: Yeah.  And, again, there’s no grounds.  We’re quoting you.  We’re quoting you.

Rebecca: I’m sorry if your own words are libelous against you.   

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  And then in a weird situation, I was in a conversation with Mark Gungor on social media—the comedian—about something unrelated to what we’re talking about today.  And in that, there was an audio phone call because him and a sexual assault survivor, who felt that he did not handle her disclosure well.  And that audio was published on another blog.  And in that audio, he said that Kevin Leman, Emerson Eggerichs, and Shaunti Feldhahn had been all talking with him about what they were going to do about me and that they were preparing a joint statement.  That joint statement never—

Rebecca: No.  Of course, it never came out.  Of course, it never came out.  Yeah.

Sheila: Yeah.  And Shaunti did say they weren’t conspiring against me, but that is what is in the audio.  So that’s all we know about what they’re doing as a group.  We’ve also had people—well, one particular author—  

Rebecca: Yeah.  Kind of follow us around a bit.

Sheila: If we’re in print, if we’re in big print places or—

Rebecca: Larger podcasts.

Sheila: – larger podcasts where this person will go afterwards and complain.  So that’s been going on behind the scenes.  But what’s been done publically?  Okay.  So let’s start.  And why don’t we start with Focus on the Family.

Rebecca: We love Focus on the Family.

Sheila: Because they kind of started the whole thing.  As those of you who have listened may know, when we first realized the problems with the book Love and Respect, Joanna prepared a report to send to Focus on how our readers have said that it enabled abuse or made their marriage worse.  And Focus on the Family ignored that report.

Rebecca: Of hundreds of women.  Yeah.

Sheila: And so that was the instigation for us writing The Great Sex Rescue because we thought if they’re going to ignore hundreds of women maybe they won’t ignore 20,000.  So we did write the book.  In response, Focus on the Family has written a public statement about me which I responded to.  You can see all our interactions with Focus.  We’ll put some links there.  But interestingly, they have scrubbed me from their website.  So I have been on three different Focus on the Family shows.  Once way back in 2003.  And then with my—the new update for To Love, Honor, and Vacuum, I think, in 2013.  And again in 2015, ’16, I was there.  Katie can put a screenshot up of my blog announcing it.  If you go in the way back machine, you can see it on Focus on the Family’s website.  But—

Rebecca: But it is not there anymore.  

Sheila: No.  I am scrubbed.  The good news though is that they did put out a post of their ten top marriage books.  And Love and Respect was not on it.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Which is huge because Love and Respect is their golden child book.  

Sheila: Yeah.  And they actually co publish it.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  They do.

Sheila: So I think what’s happened is that whenever they talk about Love and Respect so many of you write in and call in and complain.  And so they’re listening because they rely on donor dollars.

Rebecca: Yeah.  And I guess what we were saying earlier was we were hoping that they would do the right thing simply because they wanted to treat others like Christ.  But if they won’t do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, we can at least get them to do the right thing because it’s financially the only option.

Sheila: Yeah.  And so even though they’re not promoting Love and Respect, they do promote Emerson Eggerichs other book, Mothers and Sons, quite a bit about how mothers should respect their sons.  And so, again, just keep speaking up and keep telling them that you will not put up with toxic teachings.    

Rebecca: Mm-hmm.

Sheila: All right.  Next one.  

Rebecca: Next one. 

Sheila: Steve Arterburn.

Rebecca: Steve Arterburn.

Sheila: He wrote Every Man’s Battle with Fred Stoeker which scored 9 out of 48 on our rubric.

Rebecca: Did not do good.

Sheila: We’ve talked a lot about the problems with Every Man’s Battle, about the objectification of women, how it doesn’t necessarily talk about assault properly, how the cure for men’s porn is—

Rebecca: Women becoming sexual methadone.

Sheila: Yeah.  And how men were designed to sin.

Rebecca: Yes.  We get that way naturally simply by being male.  

Sheila: Right.  And so thankfully, Steve hasn’t said a lot publically which we’re glad about.  He was angry behind the scenes.

Rebecca: Very angry behind the scenes.

Sheila: Really, really wanted to speak with us.  And when we said that we would be more than happy to speak with him as long as we could share our findings and record the conversation—

Rebecca: We didn’t hear back from him after that.

Sheila: We did hear after that.  We are in possession of several emails that Steve has sent to some of our readers, who have written in, explaining their concerns with Every Man’s Battle.  And in those emails, he’s been very—

Rebecca: Aggressive and defensive.

Sheila: Yeah.  Well, very—expressing a lot of anger towards them for believing anything bad about him.  We also know that he’s reached out to some influencers on social media who have been talking about his book wanting to have private conversations with them too.  So he’s not doing anything publically, which we’re glad about.  But has Steve grappled with our findings and changed his tune?  

Rebecca: No.  Not at all.  Not one iota.

Sheila: Nope.  No.  No.  Okay.  Let’s do Emerson Eggerichs.

Rebecca: Okay.

Sheila: So Emerson Eggerichs wrote Love and Respect, which we found to be the most harmful book.  It scored 0 out of 48—was really what got me started on this whole thing.  

Rebecca: The thing about Love and Respect I will say because people get surprised when you say it scored 0 is that it’s tricky, right?  So when you read it, it sounds lovely.  But then when you actually look at the messages, horrific.

Sheila: Mm-hmm.  And so you can download our rubric to see why we scored it 0 and our score card.  We also have Google Spreadsheet you can access with Quotes that show why we scored it the way we did.  And so that is available for you.  All of these things are in the podcast notes.  The thing about all of these books—and they didn’t all do it to the same extent.  But in general, what they did was they elevated men’s desire for sex over women’s needs.  

Rebecca: Literal needs.

Sheila: Legitimate needs.    

Rebecca: Like needs to not be raped.  I’m sorry.

Sheila: Yeah.  Or needs for rest postpartum or whatever—or need—or whatever it might be needs to be treated like a human being, needs to be emotionally safe.  Men’s desire for sex took precedence of women’s legitimate needs.  And it was—and I’m not saying that sex isn’t important in marriage.

Rebecca: But they weren’t saying like have a sex life.  They were saying having sex every day if he wants it or whenever he wants it.  That’s why we’re all saying it’s a desire, not a need, because they weren’t saying don’t ever have sex.  They were saying have sex when he wants it.  Submit to his sex drive.  Meet the frequency of whoever wants it more assuming it’s the man in these books.

Sheila: Yeah.  And not everyone said it to that extent, but this was an overarching theme.  And it was very dehumanizing and very problematic.  Emerson Eggerichs hasn’t done a lot publically.  They only thing he did do was we had a short three-minute montage of a sermon that he did at Houston First Baptist where he really downplayed emotional abuse and gas lit emotional abuse victims.  And we had that on YouTube, and they gave us a cease and desist letter.  Like you must take this down.  

Rebecca: They put a copyright claim on it.  Yeah.

Sheila: Right.  And so YouTube was going to—

Rebecca: Give us a strike.  

Sheila: Give us a strike.  And so I took the video down, and then we decided that we would redo it and do an entire podcast and an entire blog post on it.  So now instead of a three-minute one, there is an hour-long one up.    

Rebecca: Didn’t it only have 3,600 views before?  And now it’s had over a quarter of a million or something?

Sheila: Well, a quarter million people saw the social media.  The video does not have that much.  

Rebecca: No.  But I mean in terms of between who read our post.

Sheila: The post that Connor wrote was huge.  Yes.

Rebecca: That’s what I’m talking about.  So thanks Eggerichs for that.

Sheila: So the other thing that he did—he has done is I think it’s kind of historical revisionism because he’s put up another articles.

Rebecca: Revisionist history is beautiful.

Sheila: Yeah.  He’s put up a number of articles that are obviously in reply to us.  After the Religious News Service article came out about our concerns with how he handles abuse, he put up another article about abuse.  And he says this, for instance, “Anyone who says, ‘Well, Emerson tells women to respect their husbands even if it means staying in harm’s way,’ is not being honest.  For decades, my position regarding abuse has been clear.  When in harm’s way, get out of harm’s way.  Separate.”  The problem is that we can share several quotes from Love and Respect— 

Rebecca: In the book that do not say that.

Sheila: – that show that he doesn’t recognize what abuse really is.  

Rebecca: And if you want to actually see what we’re talking about, we’ve talked about this before.

Sheila: I think I’ll probably write a post about this.  Go through it, and you can see it up there.  I don’t want to bring it up in the podcast.  But, again, he’s accusing us of not being honest for doing that even though this was actually in his book.

Rebecca: And also whenever we talk about it, it’s because we have quotes.

Sheila: Yeah.  The other issue he wrote another post on sex.  And he does say this.  And I just want to read to you a couple of paragraphs.  Now remember this is the man who said, “If your husband is typical, he has a need you don’t have.”  This is a man who wrote an entire chapter on sex and never once mentioned that women should feel sexual pleasure.  He said that sex is about a man’s physical release.  And if he doesn’t get physical release, he will come under satanic attack.  This is a man who, on the podcast which we’ve shared with you about the woman crying in the shower, again says that women—that it’s hard to tell if a woman gets turned on.

Rebecca: But also he told the woman, who was so psychologically traumatized by what was marital rape—she was crying in the shower before forcing herself to initiate sex she didn’t want to have because of teachings like Emerson Eggerichs (cross talk).

Sheila: Because otherwise he would be abusive towards her.

Rebecca: And what Emerson said was, “Wow.  This is such a godly woman.  How wonderful is she,” versus saying, “You’re not safe.  Please you don’t—you shouldn’t be doing something where you need to cry beforehand.”  

Sheila: Yeah.  So anyway, so this is how he characterizes how he’s been talking about sex.  I’ll read you one paragraph.  “Grievously and most commonly, over the centuries, 1 Corinthians 7,”—that’s the do not deprive verses—“has been spun to justify one-sided coercion rather than mutual consent.  Some claimed that the husband had authority over his wife’s body, and she must fulfill her duty to him sexually while ignoring the equal teaching on the other side.  The wife has authority over her husband’s body, and he must fulfill his duty to her sexually.”

Rebecca: I wonder who might have ignored that.  I wonder who.  Some have said.  Okay.  

Sheila: “How disheartening to realize that too often nothing was said about how a husband and wife should and can find mutual sexual agreement.”

Rebecca: I’m sorry.  This is so rich.  It’s like, “Oh, how disheartening that some have said this.”

Sheila: But also note that he’s talking about mutual sexual agreement, not mutual sexual enjoyment.  

Rebecca: Oh yeah.  No.  Because I still don’t think that there’s any evidence that Eggerichs has ever given us that he understands mutual sexual enjoyment.

Sheila: Yeah.  And then he says this, “For over 40 years as a pastor, teacher, and a pastoral counselor, I have exposited 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 with great excitement.  In that passage are nuggets of gold for husbands and wives concerning human sexuality.  There we learn four beautiful truths that all married believers need to believe, prize, and follow.  God calls husbands and wives to honor their mutual sexual needs, equal sexual responsibilities, equal sexual say, and mutual sexual agreement.”  And it goes on to say, “I share these things because I would love to hear stories about you and your spouse achieved win-win in the area of sexual intimacy.  Why am I asking for your feedback?  Most of you have heard me teach this content.  But there are critics out there who falsely claim, for the first time saying this publically to my knowledge, that I teach that only husbands want and need sex.  That claim is a lie.”  Again—

Rebecca: If your husband is typical, he has a need you don’t have.”

Sheila: Quote, “If your husband is typical, he has a need you don’t have.”  “Why a lie?  For one reason, it isn’t biblical—

Rebecca: We agree.

Sheila: – to say husbands want sex and wives do not want sex.  I have always and only taught what the Bible has revealed.”

Rebecca: I’m sorry.  I’m sorry.  Okay.  Can we go to the million angels later?  I’m sorry.  Eggerichs literally creates a whole theology about a million angels dancing on gold when you respect an annoying man.  

Sheila: I did find this sentence interesting though.  “I have made this point clear for anyone who would attend our conference, reads my blogs, listens to our podcasts.”  He leaves out reads our book.

Rebecca: Hmm.  What’s missing there?  Yeah.  Because he can’t actually say that because he knows that it’s wrong.  And so this is the kind of thing that he does, right?  He’s like, “I would never.”  Meanwhile, him actually doing it right over on the other side.  

Sheila: So, again, you can look at the rubric to see some of the quotes as to why we scored him 0 to 48.  The nice thing about Emerson Eggerichs is he does seem to have kind of gone away in a way.

Rebecca: Yeah.  I’ll give Eggerichs a credit where he’s due where he is just fading away into kind of oblivion, and that’s really great because I think that’s the—I mean it’s not the best case scenario.  The best case scenario is that he takes the platform that he has, and he uses it for good.  And he uses it to set people free and to publically repent and to apologize.  But you know?  Fading off into oblivion is the second best option.

Sheila: I mean his social media is still there.  He’s still doing event, but he just doesn’t seem to be speaking up about this stuff.  He seems to have stopped defending himself quite as much.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  Which is great.

Sheila: So that’s good.  Now we have sort of an awkward one to talk about.  We did talk about Tim Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage, which actually did score in the neutral category.  It didn’t score in the harmful category.  Now it wasn’t helpful either, but it wasn’t as bad as many.  I think it was in the 30s.

Rebecca: Yeah.  No.  It wasn’t as bad as many—the bad ones are really bad.  We do not recommend Meaning of Marriage as a safe book because of how it puts men over women still.  But in terms of what is said about sex itself, it did not have the horrifying, objectifying, dehumanizing opinion of sex that many of these other books did.

Sheila: Yeah.  It was just more neutral.  I did share, though, that there was one particular part—and I wrote this in The Great Sex Rescue—that I found really difficult which was he’s telling a story when sex hurt.  And his wife didn’t speak up.  And we’ll get to that in a minute.  I’ll read it in a minute.  And I talked about this in the book.  It is hard to talk about now because Tim Keller and his wife—they’re going through such a hard time with cancer right now.

Rebecca: Mm-hmm.  Yeah.  Tim Keller was diagnosed with pretty—

Sheila: He’s been fighting pancreatic cancer for quite a while.  

Rebecca: I believe so.  Yeah.  

Sheila: And so please continue to keep them in your prayers.  He’s a man who has done a lot.  He’s had great success in his church and in leading church planting.  He’s done a lot, and he needs our prayers.  However, there was—I was concerned about this one aspect of the book because vaginismus is so common in Christian circles.  And they did not name it, so they kind of made it sound like it’s normal to be in pain and also that it’s normal to have sex even if you are in pain and not talk about it.

Rebecca: Yes.

Sheila: What happened was several women spoke about this on Twitter and then Tim and Kathy Keller responded.  This is the only time that he has publically spoken up about it.  So a woman named Brianna Joy—this is what she put in part of a wider thread.  And, again, I’m going to read you these, but all the links to these will be in the podcast notes.  She says, “I’m not here to pick on Tim Keller, but I shall never forget the damage that was done to me by a passage in The Meaning of Marriage in which he casually writes about a repeated occurrence asking his wife after sex, ‘How was that,’ and her saying, ‘It just hurt.’  As far as I can tell, Tim Keller is a loving husband and a kind man.  But his lack of knowledge about women’s sexual pain contributed to my belief that, for some women, pain is just part of sex.  That is false and can have serious, long term, medical consequences for women.”  Now several other threads started because of that.  Then Tim and Kathy Keller came in and wrote their own thread in response.  And this is on Tim’s Twitter thread, but it says that it’s from Kathy.  And she says this, “While I normally avoid social media, I felt that I had to set the record straight as so many wild assertions are being made about a quote from The Meaning of Marriage.  First as anyone who reads the chapter headed Sex in Marriage can see, the quote in question is from me, not from Tim.  Further, it related to the earliest days of our marriage when, as two virgins, we were fumbling around and just learning the mechanics, not to mention the romance, of sex.  My comment, which is indented so everyone knows it is a quote, is headed as Kathy said in her notes it refers to our performance anxiety, mostly Tim’s, and my discomfort as a virgin on my honeymoon and our willingness to abandon both of those things and just love one another.  It has wrongly and inexplicably been attributed to Tim which means you have robbed me of my voice, ladies.  At no time and in no way was there the least suggestion that women should accept painful intercourse as their lot.  If that is what they are experiencing, they should see a doctor immediately.  In our case, my pain was very temporary and common among virginal brides.”

Rebecca: Yeah.

Sheila: Okay.  So Brianna, who is the one who wrote the original thread—and, again, she was not the only one who said this.  So this is what she said in response.  “Hi, Kathy.  Thanks for this post and the helpful clarifications you’ve offered re: painful in The Meaning of Marriage.  As one of several people who referred to this passage over the weekend, I saw this post because I was tagged in a comment Tim made.  I wanted to say a few thing.  I’ll skip over the part about misquoting your section as being Tim’s section since I didn’t actually say anything about that section, and I only mentioned Tim’s words.  I know some others misattribute your section to Tim, and I appreciate you clearing that up.  Two, as I expressed in my original thread, my mention of The Meaning of Marriage wasn’t intended to be a personal attack on Tim or on your marriage.  I don’t know you two, but I have always, and still do, imagine Tim as a loving husband and a kind man.  My issues are strictly with the text.  Three, I’ve pulled out my copy of the book and taken a photo to help us out.  As you’ll notice, the text here doesn’t say anything about the painful sex being something that only happened during the honeymoon or the first months of marriage.”  And I’m going to break into the thread here.  And I’m going to read the text from The Meaning of Marriage, which we’re all talking about.  There is a section, which is indented in Kathy’s words.  This is not in the indented section.  So she’s saying that we’re stealing her voice, but this is in Tim’s words.  And I will read to you.  “When I was doing research for this chapter, I found some old talks that Kathy and I did together.  I had forgotten some of the struggles we had in our early days.  And some of the notes reminded me that in those years we started to dread having sex.  Kathy, in those remarks, said that if she didn’t experience an orgasm during lovemaking we both felt like failures.  If I asked her, “How was that,” and she said, “It just hurt,” I felt devastated, and she did too.  We had a great deal of trouble until we start to see something.”  So this is Tim’s words saying—

Rebecca: Yeah.  How was that?  And then she said, “It just hurt.”

Sheila: It just hurt.  And this is what Brianna quotes.  “Hopefully, you can understand how confusing this might be for a young bride like myself.  To me, the text seemed to suggest that over a long period of time you and Tim were engaging in sex in which you felt only pain and yet did not ask Tim to stop.  As a young woman with severe vaginismus, this messaging was absolutely devastating for the early months, even years, of my married.  It made me think it was okay, even expected, for me to hide my pain from my husband during sex.  And this made things so, so much worse for us.”

Rebecca: You heard it.  They were like very gently critiqued by people who said, “I think you’re a wonderful person, but this was hurtful.”  And instead of listening, they doubled down.  And I think that this is not necessarily an example of people who are—I think this is just an example of why we need qualifications to talk about sex.

Sheila: Yep.  Because she did say in her thread, if you’re having pain see a doctor, but they never said that in the book.

Rebecca: They never said it in the book.  But why would you if you’re just talking from personal experience?  Personal experience is not enough to actually write a book where you’re going to talk about sex.  

Sheila: Mm-hmm.

Rebecca: And I think that’s just more of a—it’s a warning tale.  Of don’t—leave it to the experts.

Sheila: And, again, we really do hope and pray that Tim—

Rebecca: That they’re doing—that they have comfort and peace.  Yeah.

Sheila: Yeah.  And I hope—honestly, I hope if this is bothering them because I think it was bothering them and we’ve heard some grapevines that this is really bothering them.  I hope that they can maybe just say, “We didn’t mean it that way.”

Rebecca: Yeah.  “We took it out of the next edition.”

Sheila: And vaginismus is a real thing, and I wish we’d been educated in that.  It would be so easy to do.

Rebecca: Yeah.  It would be so easy.

Sheila: And so I hope that they can do that.  Okay.    We also have a letter that came in from a reader, and she just really wanted her words to be heard.  And so why don’t read what she said.

Rebecca: Sure.  Here’s what this woman said.  “I read many marriage books including the Keller’s Meaning of Marriage as my fiancé and I, both virgins, raised in the church in purity culture, prepared for our impending wedding day.  On our honeymoon, I came in with expectations that sex would be painful as is portrayed in this passage.  I also believed that it was my job to hide my pain, and that this was normal because think about it.  He asks afterwards how was it for her.  And that is when he discovers she was in pain, so it must be my job to obscure my experience for the sake of my spouse.  I have suffered with pain during intercourse for more than 13 years and, for the vast majority of that time, thought this was normal.  The experience of every woman.  It was not until my closest friend started engaging with To Love, Honor, and Vacuum,”—now Bare Marriage—“that I realized my experience is common among women in the church but also not okay.  And I needed to get help.  I am a top of my class graduate, an avid learner, an accomplished professional.  How can it be that I have ignorantly lived so much of my life with unnecessary pain?  But then I must ask how can it be that despite all of my reading and preparing not one of these Christian marriage books voiced that accepting pain in sex, especially in an ongoing manner, is not okay.  That if you are having pain you should stop and seek medical care or that no one should be having their pleasure at the expense of your pain.  I truly cannot understand it, but I can say it needs to change so that other women don’t have to walk the road I have trod.”

Sheila: Yeah.  And that’s just what we want. 

Rebecca: That’s all we want.

Sheila: We just—when we hear these stories, these are the women that we’re thinking about.  And we just want the authors to think about these women too.  Okay.

Rebecca: So let’s talk about Shaunti Feldhahn.  

Sheila: And this is another difficult one because Shaunti is also fighting breast cancer, and we’re really glad she’s in remission.  And we just wish her all the best, and that’s a terrible thing to be dealing with.  And so yeah.  So we don’t want to add to the burden.  But at the same time, she has made public statements that we do want to clarify.  

Rebecca: Well, and also Shaunti is one of the people who we get questions about the most.  But well did you go to her first?  And so quite frankly, because you and Shaunti were friends, we actually did go to Shaunti first.

Sheila: Yes.  We did.

Rebecca: And this was before she got her diagnosis or anything.  This was months before that.

Sheila: This was in August of 2020.  So this was—what would that have been?  Six, seven months before The Great Sex Rescue was published, so we wanted to give her a chance in case she wanted to retract anything.  

Rebecca: Kind of join forces with us.

Sheila: We would be happy to put it in the book, so we gave her a chance.  And so I just want to read you the email because that sets the stage so that you’ll better understand her public comments.  So I wrote—

Letter from Sheila to Shaunti:  

Hello Shaunti,

This is a difficult email to write that is very uncomfortable, but it is necessary given our friendship and history.

My daughter Rebecca, our statistician Joanna, and I recently conducted a 169-question survey of 20,000 Christian women, asking about their religious beliefs, and their marital and sexual satisfaction.

We’ve now analyzed those results and put them into book form (The Great Sex Rescue, Baker Books, 2021).

In developing the survey, we analyzed best-selling marriage books (including For Women Only) and created questions to ascertain the reach and effect of certain teachings in these books. Our outcome variables were women’s marital and sexual satisfaction, which we analyzed using both previously validated survey questions and questions we validated through a literature review of current research in religiosity and marital/sexual satisfaction. 

Besides the best-selling Christian books, we also looked at other culture forming books that spoke to relevant niches about sexuality, including Through a Man’s Eyes and For Young Women Only (and many others written by different authors) to see the main teachings. 

Not every belief we tested had statistically significant effects on marital or sexual satisfaction, positive or negative, and some beliefs we measured did not stand up under reliability or validity testing. Those beliefs we did not include in our manuscript. We did, however, find that a number of prevalent evangelical teachings do lead to lower levels of marital and sexual satisfaction, and higher rates of primary sexual pain, including some teachings in your books. And because we’ve worked together before I wanted to let you know personally. 

Specifically, we measured the effects of the belief “All men struggle with lust; it is every man’s battle.” Again, your book was not the only one to teach this. Some of the effects of this belief were as follows.

Sheila: And we give a series of statistics—a ton.

Rebecca: A ton of stats that you can find in GSR.

Sheila: Yeah.  

Letter from Sheila to Shaunti:  

In other words, we found that if women hear the “all men struggle with lust; it is every man’s battle” message even before they meet the man whom they will eventually marry, their trust in him declines and their marriages and sex lives suffer.

We also measured the effects of the belief, “Boys will want to push girls’ sexual boundaries.”

Sheila: That was present in her book, For Young Women Only, and we go on to measure quite—to list quite a few stats.

Letter from Sheila to Shaunti:  

These stats are not being released until the book publishes, so please do not share them. We just wanted to let you know where our research and yours intersected.

To maintain academic integrity, we have to present all of our findings, even those that relate to friends of mine. And because these teachings had such strong correlations with negative outcomes, they had to be included in the book. While your books are mentioned in our new manuscript, they are not the focal point of any chapter, since there were other books that were more highly problematic with these teachings in particular. But we did need to include yours.

I believe that you and I have the same goal, and I know that you want couples to experience real marital intimacy. But what we found was that many concepts in your books, specifically about men’s propensity to lust, are highly correlated with women’s diminished sexual enjoyment, libido, and freedom. I myself have changed much of how I talk about these subjects after reading new academic literature and listening to the stories of so many women, like the 20,000 in our survey.

Because of that, I wanted to talk to you ahead of time to see if you had reconsidered some of your teachings as well. If there is anything you regret writing, or any books or teachings you no longer support, we would be happy to take a look at any statement you make to see if it could be included in the book. Additionally, if you have any other questions about the research, what’s coming up in the book, or to chat further about the implications for your research, I’d be happy to chat and then pass you on to my daughter Rebecca, who ran the psychometric side of our research project, or Joanna, our stats expert, who are much more familiar with the ins and outs of the research.

Our goal with this new book is not to take people down, but to correct past teachings in order to present a healthier Christian sexual ethic going forward. We would love to have you join us with that. 

Again, I wish I did not have to write this, but I wanted to give you a heads up. And I hope that we can be partners in encouraging marriages towards passion, intimacy, and godliness.



Rebecca: Yeah.

Sheila: She did write us back.  She said that she did not teach the things that we claim that she taught.

Rebecca: Despite the fact that we’ve heard—they are in the book.  They’re in the book.

Sheila: Well, we have quotes of her saying these things.  And we’ve talked about this on many podcasts.  She did, after the book was released, I think almost the day the book was released—she released a seven-page statement, which you can get on her website.  I will also link to it.  And I released quite a long lengthy statement on our own.

Rebecca: Well, we’ll release our response to her statement because we link to the statement in our response.

Sheila: Yeah.  We do link, so you can find her statement in my statement.  I’m not going to go over the whole thing.

Rebecca: Oh gosh.  No.  

Sheila: It’s really long.  I do want to, however, mention three things that she said.  The first is this.  She critiqued us for not using an updated version of her book because we used the 2010.

Rebecca: No.  We used the 2004 version.  

Sheila: Sorry.  Yes.  We used the 2004 version where we found quotes.  And the reason we did that was because we wanted to look at the books that were formative on people who are married today.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  And so people who have been married for 15 years today didn’t necessarily read the 2013 version before they got married.

Sheila: Right.  But at her request, we did review the 2013 book.  And we reviewed the updated versions of books that were published before we did our work.  Okay.  So there are certain books that have been updated since.  But we can’t keep reading everything.  So we did a cut off.  And so we reviewed the updated version of His Needs, Her Needs and Sacred Marriage, et cetera, et cetera.  And what we found is that the 2013 version actually scored worse than the 2004.

Rebecca: Yes.  It did.

Sheila: She included some things that were more harmful.  But His Needs, Her Needs scored better.  And so in our rubric, our original rubric, Shaunti Feldhahn and Willard Harley scored for tenth place out of thirteen.

Rebecca: Yeah.  They tied. 

Sheila: And after looking at the newer version, Shaunti fell to eleventh, and Willard was in tenth on his own.  Willard Harley was in tenth.  So we did look at the newer one.  And there are now footnotes in the Kindle version and the subsequent reprints where every time we quote Shaunti we do mention that this quote is still present in the 2013 edition.

Rebecca: Yes.  I’m going to be very honest.  I don’t really know why she wanted us to look at the new version because it was worse.

Sheila: Yeah.  She also says that we didn’t do things in a kingdom way.

Rebecca: And I mean you can read that email and see for yourself.  Do you think we did it in a kingdom way?

Sheila: Yeah.  This is—a lot of people have said this because we were supposed to go to people first which we did go to her.  But because we should be doing this not in a public forum, and that’s just simply not the New Testament way.

Rebecca: That’s not the kingdom way.  The kingdom way is that you protect the sheep.

Sheila: Yes.  Exactly.  And our concern needs to stop being for the reputation of teachers, and it needs to be for the welfare of the sheep.  People keep saying that we’re supposed to us Matthew 18, which, for those of you who know, it’s a passage that Jesus talked about how to deal with interpersonal conflicts.  So this is not about false teaching.  This is when someone has something against you.  It’s a personal thing.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Tommy had a birthday party for Nancy and didn’t invite my Johnny. 

Sheila: Yeah.  Or something.  What you’re supposed to do is you’re supposed to go to the person first.  And if they listen to you, that’s great.  If they don’t, you bring two or three other witnesses.  If they still don’t listen, you bring it in front of the church.  And you know what?  Even using Matthew 18, we did it in a kingdom way because in Shaunti’s own books she talks about how people have written to her saying that the books hurt her.  Steve Arterburn also does this in his book. 

Rebecca: So does Love and Respect.  

Sheila: So does Love and Respect.  They all talk about how individuals have come to us saying that our message hurt, but they’re wrong.  They’re misinterpreting it.  Whatever it might be.  So she’s already had people come to her.  And so now—

Rebecca: I’m sorry.  But the public is stepping in. 

Sheila: Right.  But the other issue is that the New Testament model is that with false teachers it is always done in public.  It is confronted in public because when the teaching is done in public it must be correct in public.  Because if I went to Shaunti and she agreed with me but this isn’t a public conversation, then the people who are actively being harmed don’t know.  And they need to stop being harmed.

Rebecca: I love how in the statement for doing things the kingdom way too.  The example that she gives of my mom acting in a kingdom way is a positive comment that you left on Shaunti’s blog in 2014.  So in essence, the kingdom way is you’re my fan.  The non kingdom way is you hold me accountable for what I have taught.

Sheila: Yeah.

Rebecca: And this is just the problem.  And this is what we have seen with every single one of these authors, who have made public responses.  That we’re not doing it in a kingdom way.  And the kingdom way is to be nice and to not make waves and to respect my platform and to make sure that I don’t get hurt.  In what universe is the kingdom way to make sure that people are enabled to keep harming others?  So that’s all we have to say on that really.

Sheila: Yeah.  The other thing that she did say is that we don’t—she questioned our research methods.

Rebecca: And I love how she questioned them publically and made these huge statements about our research when you gave her the opportunity to reach out to me and Joanna and she did not take it when she said things that were blatantly false.  And this is what’s really offensive, I will say, because Shaunti Feldhahn likes to call herself a Harvard educated researcher.  Okay.  Which means—and really what that means is she went to Harvard.  She got a business degree, I think, from Harvard.  Or an economics degree.  It was not a social research degree.

Sheila: No.

Rebecca: And she’s open about that.  She even says in For Women Only, in the first edition, she says this, “Since I am an analyst and not a psychologist and since my grad school statistics professor might politely question the statistical skills of someone who needed a whole semester to learn regression analysis, I was quite relieved that professional statisticians confirmed my findings.”  In her first edition of her book, she publically stated, “Listen.  Stats is not my forefront.”  Now we tried to find this in the recent edition of her book, which we, of course, now have at her request.

Sheila: It seems that sentence—

Rebecca: It seems like she has taken this sentence saying that she is not great at stats out of her book which, to me, is incredibly suspect.  It’s like there is nothing wrong with not knowing everything.  I’ve been very open about how I’m not a neuropsychologist.  

Sheila: And I’ve been very open about that.  I don’t understand the stats at all, which is why—

Rebecca: No.  We have Joanna.

Sheila: And there are three authors on The Great Sex Rescue.  And just so you all know, we all make the same amount of money.  They’re not lesser than me.  I know that I’m the face of it.  But they’re not lesser than me because they’ve done an incredible amount of work.  And when people call out the research, they’re not attacking me.  They’re attacking Joanna.  And I need to say this one because I—okay.  Joanna is brilliant.

Rebecca: Oh my gosh.  Yes.

Sheila: And Joanna is the mother of toddler.  Joanna had cancer when she was pregnant.  And after her daughter was born, she had to have surgery for that cancer.  

Rebecca: And she had a life-threatening miscarriage.

Sheila: She also had a life-threatening miscarriage.  In fact, she’s had several life-threatening episodes similar.  And she was living in the Arctic during Covid.  And I don’t know how many of you know, but the city of Iqaluit in the territory of Nunavut in Canada had a drinking water crisis where you couldn’t drink the water.  So she is busy doing stats while living in the Arctic during Covid with two toddler where there is rabid foxes, so you can’t go outside.  And she worked so hard.  And she is so good at stats.  She’s brilliant.  She taught stats in university.  She has a Masters. 

Rebecca: So she actually statistics at the level of statistics that Shaunti apparently struggled to understand.

Sheila: Right.  And so when people are critiquing the research, they are not critiquing me.  They are beating up on a woman, who is now 30.  But she was 29.  Okay?  Who is doing work to such an incredible level and we didn’t even have university backing.  

Rebecca: The research side of things is done pretty much entirely by Joanna.  She’s our absolutely brilliant statistician.  And she has done this on just a way harder mode than anyone like Shaunti could ever even begin to understand.  Shaunti has been very honest that she paid a lot of money for her surveys.  Okay.  But she didn’t do the analyses in the same way from her own—and if she wrote about it wrong and she did, I’m sorry.  But from what I’ve read and what she talked about in For Women Only, she had a big firm helping her.

Sheila: Yeah.  And we broke SurveyMonkey.  

Rebecca: We broke SurveyMonkey.  So SurveyMonkey—

Sheila: It used to be that you had unlimited responses and unlimited questions.  After us, we had to call them.  We couldn’t download our survey because we had so many responses.  They had to do it manually.  And then they changed their things after us.

Rebecca: Sorry.  No.  But what I’m trying to say here is that we gave Shaunti the opportunity to come to us with her questions about the research.  And instead what she wants to do is disparage the work of a woman, who is doing this heart-wrenching job where we know we’re going to get the lawsuit threats.  We know we’re going to go through the emotional turmoil having people who should be following Jesus care more about their reputation than taking care of others.  We know that we’re doing this job, and we’re going to get our hearts broken.  She was going through a lot at the same time, but she still did this work.  And instead of taking five minutes on the phone to get her facts straight, to make sure that she knew what she was talking about, Shaunti instead posts an outright lie about Joanna’s research and her abilities as a researcher.  We have never done that about Shaunti.  Every single thing that we’ve ever said about any of these people, we’ve linked to.  We’ve shown proof, and we’ve done as much research as we can.  And any time that we’re corrected and we’re wrong we instantly change it.  Focus on the Family even said we had one slight quote wrong from Love and Respect.  We immediately went and changed it.  Not a problem.  But that’s not what Shaunti did.  And so she came after Joanna.  And she came after her ability to do research even though she had zero proof.

Sheila: One of the big critiques she makes is that we found 20,000 women who agree with us.  And this just makes us wonder if she understands odds ratios.  

Rebecca: Oh no.  I genuinely—either I don’t think that she does or she doesn’t care.  But she herself did say that she struggled with statistics, which there’s no shame in.  But odds ratios work where you are comparing people who are and are not in a group.  People who did and did not believe.

Sheila: Yeah.  And so if we had 20,000 people who believed the same as us, we could not have actually done our survey.  And in fact, we ran into problems when we were doing our survey in that we had too many people who didn’t agree with us.

Rebecca: We had too many people who agreed with Shaunti.

Sheila: And so we had to start advertising our survey to more progressive sides so that we had enough people on the other side so—because we needed the mix.  And that is what we got is we got a good mix in the end.  The other interesting thing—and, again, we’ll link to the statement so you can take a look.  But we were planning on—after The Great Sex Rescue was published, Becca and I were going to sit down.  And we were just going to write a quick devotional.  We were under contract with Baker Books for two books.  Our second book was supposed to be for mothers of teen girls.  And we were just planning on a devotional.  A quick book.  We didn’t know what we were going to do.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Joanna, you, and I actually booked a four-week period where Joanna was going to come down for two weeks.  We were just going to pound out the outline for this cute little devotional.    

Sheila: Yeah.  And that’s all it was going to be.  And so the plan was we were going to do that.  And then in the summer—last summer, Joanna was going to work on getting some stuff in peer reviewed journals, and we’d been talking about that a lot last year for some of you who were around.  After that statement came out, that was our realization that people weren’t going to listen to us. 

Rebecca: Because we honestly thought that The Great Sex Rescue may actually be enough to make a change and that maybe these people really did want to serve Christ.  I know that sounds harsh.  But I don’t know how else to put it.

Sheila: Yeah.  That they would listen to that.  And when they didn’t, we realized, “Okay.  Our job is not done.”  And so we decided to—for a mother of teen girls, we were going to go big or go home.  We decided to do Great Sex Rescue 2.0.  And we did another huge survey.  And honestly, the results of that, I think, are even more astounding than Great Sex Rescue.  We looked at books again that were written.  And Shaunti—For Young Women Only was a big part of that.

Rebecca: Well, I actually want to say why because, in all the emails that Shaunti sent to us and her public statements are all—all she says is, “I never said that.  I never said that.  I never said that.”  And so we just actually created our survey using literal quotes from her book.  

Sheila: Quotes.  Yeah.  In the survey, it’s literal quotes from For Young Women Only.  

Rebecca: It’s literal quotes.  Yeah.  And we don’t tell them it’s from For Young Women Only.  But it’s literal quotes.  So they will no longer be able to say, “I didn’t say that.”   

Sheila: Yeah.  Because we were measuring her exact quotes and how that—how those impacted women.  And so that book is coming out in April.  And, again, we would never have written it had it not been for Shaunti’s statement.

Rebecca: Nope.

Sheila: Okay.  Last author, we have the most to talk about.  And this is actually an author that we praised in The Great Sex Rescue.  Gary Thomas was a good friend of mine.  And we did a lot of work together.  We spoke at marriage conference.  He often would send me his manuscripts for my feedback, and he included quotes and my edits on some of his earlier books.  So we’ve had quite a long relationship that spans several years.  And when we scored Sacred Marriage, it actually scored quite well on our sexual rubric.  And we included several quotes from it in The Great Sex Rescue.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Now I do want to say that we don’t actually endorse Sacred Marriage because the bulk of the teaching in the book can very much be used to enable abuse.  And Gary, himself, has written when to walk away in response to the teachings such as in Sacred Marriage.

Sheila: Yeah.  So we’re not saying—but in Great Sex Rescue, we did praise him.  However, several things happened since we wrote it and are continuing to happen that we just want people to know about.  First of all, we did send Gary an early copy of The Great Sex Rescue, and he declined to endorse which everyone is fine to do.  

Rebecca: Yes.  It’s a controversial book.  

Sheila: Yeah.  He also said that he didn’t think that our method of doing this by calling out specific authors was good.  And so from that point on, we really had very little to do with each other.  So I didn’t email him, didn’t really talk to him.  And then in August of 2021—his new book, Married Sex, was coming out in October.  And so he was putting together a conference for that book.  And at that conference, he invited several of the people that we had called out for being harmful or people who had endorsed harmful people.  So for instance, Les and Leslie Parrott have endorsed Mark Driscoll and Every Man’s Battle, I believe.

Rebecca: I mean they’ve endorsed pretty much everyone, if I’m going to be honest.  

Sheila: Right.  And haven’t rescinded those endorsements.  And my thought is we need to start holding people accountable for the endorsements because it’s these endorsements that let toxic people get so big.  And there’s a big evangelical industrial complex, which thrives on people endorsing each other and never calling other people out.  And we need to work towards a system of accountability.  So I had written Gary about this and expressed some reservations.  And then he wrote a blog post about how a wife can help her husband quit porn, and it was a very disturbing blog post.  I talked about it.

Rebecca: It was horrible.

Sheila: He got so much negative feedback on social media.  He started blocking people.  He eventually did take that down after we called him out in a podcast.  But when he took it down, he called people venomous.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  He called the abuse survivors—the abuse survivors, who have been very—who had told him their personal stories of how they had been abused because of this kind of mentality.  He called them venomous commenters.

Sheila: Yeah.  He said there were venomous people.  And then when—  

Rebecca: When people were called out for calling them venomous people, he changed it to venomous comments.  Yeah.

Sheila: Well, we had a phone call with him where he said that that was wrong.  And then after that, Married Sex came out.  And we read Married Sex, and we were really surprised.  I honestly did—  

Rebecca: I thought it was going to be way better than it was.

Sheila: There were things in it that I found really disturbing including telling women that texting nude pictures was a good idea, talking about a woman who got risqué photos made for her husband so that neurologically he would—  

Rebecca: He would look at her and not pornography.

Sheila: And not other women.  Or porn.  Implying porn as well.  Talking about how you can flash your breasts to reset power balances, all kinds of things.

Rebecca: Just weird stuff.  

Sheila: Ever since last fall, we have been quite vocal about the problems in what he’s been saying about sex.  

Rebecca: And I just want to make it clear.  We didn’t just start talking about Gary Thomas because he didn’t endorse our book.  We actually fully—we said publically on the Patreon page too.  I’m pretty sure I could find a comment where we said this.  Where we’re not planning on reviewing his book and we’re just going to—we have a lot on our plate.  But so many patrons brought up this blog post saying, “This is really bad, guys.  This needs to be addressed,” that we ended up actually addressing the book.  So it wasn’t that we actually wanted to, in essence, go after him.

Sheila: And we also had so many people really upset because he had blocked them when they were just trying to share their stories.  And so anyway, so for the last year or so, he’s been writing a number of posts on his blog where he appears to be talking about me.  And I am very confident that these things are about me because of conversations that we have had that are not public.

Rebecca: Yeah.  We had a long phone conversation with Gary.

Sheila: Yeah.  And email threads from earlier.  So I am very confident these are about me.  If I am wrong, Gary is free to set the record straight.  But I believe that these things are talking about me.  And so I want to read you some excerpts from three different articles that Gary wrote because the question is, “How have they taken your critiques,” because we did critique Married Sex.  And I think this will answer it.

Rebecca: This will show you.

Sheila: So he wrote a post called No Nuance Nancys and No Nuance Normans where he was complaining that people were criticizing him and didn’t have any nuance.  So for instance, if he said that there was a woman who stayed with a husband who was very harsh, then they would say, “Well, you’re staying with someone who is abusive.”  And he’s saying, “No.  I’m not saying that.  I’m just saying this particular woman—it worked out for her.”  So that was the context.  At the end of that, he says this, “I love another Andy Stanley line.  ‘For once I’d like to be attacked for something I actually believe.’  It’s not as much fun to say someone has something “partly” right.  It’s more “fun” to make someone the enemy of the weak.”  And what he’s insinuating there is that he’s being attacked for things he doesn’t actually believe. 

Rebecca: Yeah.  He’s saying—I mean he’s saying the same thing that all these authors have said is I have never taught that.  I never said that.  But we’re just quoting you.  

Sheila: Gary is the one who said that when you send risqué pictures you do that so that neurologically he will focus on your body, not theirs.  I didn’t say that.  It was Gary who said that.  

Rebecca: It’s also not us who wrote weirdly erotic sections in a book that—and then asked people if they were getting—

Sheila: Anyway, we won’t go over our issues with Married Sex.  I have written a review, and I’ll put the link.  But I just want you to note that we’re calling out the quotes.  And if Gary thinks those quotes are wrong or that we’re mischaracterizing them, then there’s two options.  Okay.  Either he just wrote them wrong because it’s not just us who have called this out.  This was a big social media outcry.

Rebecca: Actually, in terms of who was doing the actual calling out when the book was going down, we didn’t actually publish our first thing until—it was well after the controversy started.  We didn’t wade in until—

Sheila: Yeah.  We kind of joined the bandwagon later, but we did not start the bandwagon.  But if he wrote it in such a way that so many people are misinterpreting what he meant by flash your breasts to reset power imbalances, then either he wrote it wrong in which case he should just simply fix it and apologize.  Or he really does mean that, and he’s uncomfortable with the outcry.  So you know what?  If people are upset at you for things you didn’t actually mean and if so many people are, then maybe he needs to start asking, “Am I saying things not clearly?”  Or is it that he could potentially—

Rebecca: Or is he just not liking that a man reaps what he sows.

Sheila: The feedback.  Okay.  Another post that he wrote is called What It’s Like to Hate Someone.  And here’s what he said.  I’m going to be reading a little bit longer from this one.  

I’m embarrassed and ashamed as a follower of Christ that, having been loved so well and so mercifully by such a gracious and forgiving God, that I could ever bear actual hatred toward anyone. It’s no excuse to say I was pushed so far that hatred was inevitable.  There are very few mitigating circumstances for such a recipient of love and mercy to feel such loathsome hatred.  But there it was. I finally had to admit it. It was frightening but weirdly liberating to say out loud: ‘Lord, I hate this person. I don’t want to. I hate that I hate.  But I’m not sure how to stop.’  What made it so perplexing to me is that I believe I am right in hating their behavior, which is ongoing. I see them doing harm not just to me, but to others.  How do you not hate someone who does hateful things?  Especially when they may be so self-righteous about it?”

Rebecca: Can I just say something that really stands out to me in that particular thing?

Sheila: Mm-hmm.

Rebecca: Is that it’s inevitable with how he was pushed to turn to hatred.  It was not inevitable.  There was another path.  You know what it was?  It’s called repentance.  It was called humility.  Yeah.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Okay.  So for those of you who like the Bare Marriage podcast just remember that he believes that this is hateful behavior.  Everything that we do here.  Okay.  To go on, “An evil side of hatred is that you want to tell the person you hate that you hate them.  I’ve just never felt that before, and it’s startling to feel that now.”

Rebecca: Yeah.  He wants to hurt us.

Sheila: Gary, you can tell me.  It’s not going to hurt me.  It’s okay.  You can tell me.  Anyway, and then he talks about how he’s getting over this.  And he says, “Another tool in my battle against hatred has been cultivating compassion.  When I learned of some hurts from their childhood, it was a little easier to go here.  While it’s still abominable how they are treating others, it’s at least understandable.  It’s a true cliché to say that hurt people hurt people.”  So again, it’s abominable how I am treating others.  “I hate what has been done to me, and I hate that I hate in response.  I hate that I’m not as mature as I thought.  But I am more thankful than ever for the scandalous grace and forgiveness and love available through Jesus Christ.  Even when someone does something awful to me, God uses it for good.  Even when I see evil in myself, it leads me to worship and gratitude.  I’m scared of my sin until I find refuge in the power of God to overcome my sin.”

Rebecca: One of the tests that I love to apply to theology and my behavior and things that we think is if you’re not the main character of the story does this still work.  This idea of what’s been done to me, this idea of they are harming others, what’s our harm?  The same way that someone who is accused and—who rapes someone is accused of rape is found guilty of rape and then is sent to jail for rape is going to feel like the justice system harmed them.  It was not a hateful, harmful thing to do.  It was actually a loving, good thing to do to protect the person and their future victims.

Sheila: Mm-hmm.

Rebecca: And this is the idea is does this still work if you’re not the main character of the story. 

Sheila: But if the women reading the books—

Rebecca: But if the women reading the books are the main character of the story, does this—what would you be?  And in this case, Gary would be the villain because he’s so—I’m really—the thing is I will say.  It’s a beautifully written piece.  He’s a really good writer.  But this is pride.  And he’s saying that we’re so prideful and so self righteous, and it’s not that.  

Sheila: But the thing is, again—and this is what I’ve tried to explain to Gary is I’m not saying I’m right because I am smarter than you or I’m more in tune with God.  I am saying I believe this is true because we have data.  And this is not merely a difference of opinion.  This is now data.  And you either accept the truth or you don’t.  I am sorry that he won’t.  I’ll also say I find it very difficult when people use God language to obscure what’s really happening.

Rebecca: Oh, completely.

Sheila: And his conclusion that we just need to be grateful to God that He forgives our sin—there’s no thought to maybe I need to understand that perhaps there’s a reason for what is happening. 

Rebecca: No.  There’s another verse.

Sheila: Mm-hmm.

Rebecca: Honestly, this whole idea of we just—using all this God language and thinking that that will make it okay because we sound holy, there are so many different times in the Old Testament where God rebukes the Israelites for their sacrifices.  When I hear what Gary is saying here—because let’s be very clear.  We didn’t tell him you’re a bad person.

Sheila: No.

Rebecca: And we’re going to read you an email that you sent that makes that very clear.  Okay.  We were not malicious towards him when we were talking about this stuff.  Even in our critiques, we—critiques are harsh.  Okay.  And we were honest about how he spoke very badly about his wife in his book.  But it was not something where you’re a horrible person.  What we were saying is you are doing wrong.  We’re trying—like John the Baptist, guys.  Okay.  

Sheila: Yeah.  You’re doing harm.

Rebecca: Repent.  The Kingdom of Heaven is near.

Sheila: You’re doing harm to the people who are reading it.

Rebecca: What he’s saying here reminds me so much of Isaiah 1.  And I just need to read you—it’s going to be a little long.  But here we go.  “Stop bringing meaningless offerings!  Your incense is detestable to me.  New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—I cannot bear your worthless assemblies  Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being.  They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.  When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening.  Your hands are full of blood!  Wash and make yourselves clean.  Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong.  Learn to do right; seek justice.  Defend the oppressed.  Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.  ‘Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the Lord.  ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.’”


Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.

Rebecca: We are asking to listen to the widow.

Sheila: We are asking for people to care about the oppressed, about the people who have been hurt and not to see the authors as the victims in this but to see the people who have been hurt as the victims.  And unfortunately, he just continues not to do that.  In his social media, he continues to double down on things that he has been critiqued on.  And it’s interesting because he’ll quote authors like Esther Perel. 

Rebecca: Yeah.  Who openly says affairs are good for marriages.

Sheila: Yeah.  And she says some good stuff too, but she’s very controversial.  And she says some weird stuff in some areas as well.  And yet, he won’t quote me.  And he said publically he will never, ever endorse or say anything positive about The Great Sex Rescue.  He said that in a comment on Facebook.

Rebecca: Even though he said in his email to us he agrees with all of it except for one small thing. 

Sheila: And he doesn’t approve of our approach.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Exactly.  But he’ll just be like, “Yeah.  Affairs.  That’s fine.  Telling women that they shouldn’t be raped in marriage, not okay.”  Just because we were mean to the people who said it’s—to—who encourage marital rape. 

Sheila: It’s problematic.  And then finally, this is a post he actually put up just the day that we’re filming this.

Rebecca: Which is so ironic. 

Sheila: Yeah.  He put a post up about—on being demonically attacked by Satan.

Rebecca: Yeah.  And I will say every single time Gary posts something, we don’t actually check Gary’s blog.  But our patrons and Twitter followers just send it to us immediately.

Sheila: Yeah.  I never look at any of these people’s blogs. 

Rebecca: Because everyone is like, “This is about you, right?”  

Sheila: Yeah.  And I had people send me this saying, “I think he’s saying this about you.”  So, again, I’m going to read you quite a bit because I think this tells you where he’s at.  And in this blog post, he says basically that we are being used by Satan to attack him.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Didn’t he call us—or something about Satan’s idiots or something like that?

Sheila: He says—

Rebecca: Convenient idiots for Satan.  

Sheila: Yeah.  He says this, “Communists often talked about useful idiots.”  

Rebecca: Yeah.  Useful idiots.

Sheila: Communism often talked about “useful idiots”—those who unwittingly served Communism’s cause by being lackeys for a system even as it used and oppressed them.  Satan has his own useful idiots who think they are doing good and yet may be working for the other side—and yet, God uses them for his own purposes to build us up.  Satan can’t win.  God can’t lose.” 

Rebecca: Well, I agree with the last two parts.  I also am very tempted to put useful idiot in my Twitter bio.  

Sheila: Yeah.  And he says things like, “When unhealthy people attack,”—he calls us unhealthy.  He says that we’re being used by Satan.  

Rebecca: And, again, if this is not about us, Gary can publically say that he doesn’t have any problem with us and that he endorses what we teach in The Great Sex Rescue.

Sheila: But he did say in this post that all of this started last fall.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  That’s exactly it.  So even if it’s not about us, this is also about—so if it was about last fall, remember that’s also the scores of abused women who were telling their stories and urging him to change.  So the other useful idiots are abuse survivors.

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  So it’s either us or it’s abuse survivors.  And he does say, “It felt demonically strategic and organized.  I’m not saying the people lying about me”—again, it’s not lying if you’re quoting verbatim.  Okay.  If you quote someone verbatim, you’re not lying.  “I’m not saying the people lying about me were demonic, but some were being used in a demonic way.”

Rebecca: Mm-hmm.  And this is why we need to be careful when we’re using spiritual language about this kind of thing because you can convince yourself anything is demonic.

Sheila: I do want to say a bigger issue too though—and it’s all—all these people we’ve mentioned—okay.  Focus on the Family, Shaunti Feldhahn, Emerson Eggerichs, Gary Thomas—when they’ve responded to us, they’ve never linked to us.  Shaunti is the only one who actually responded to us by name since The Great Sex Rescue came out.  But even she did not link to anything.  In my statement, I linked back to her blog post.  I pointed to things in her book.  And everything I’ve said about Gary we’ve put up screenshots.  We’ve linked.  I always link.  And you know why?  Because I want people to be able to make their own decisions.

Rebecca: We’re not afraid of the truth.  It’s like what Paul—not Paul.  We don’t know who wrote Hebrews.  Sorry.  It’s like the author of Hebrews, right?

Sheila: I still think it’s Priscilla.

Rebecca: Hebrews 13:18.  This is what I’ve always—this is my verse for work.  This is what I try to always be able to do.  “Pray for us.  We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way.”  That’s what the goal is.  No.  You know what?  We have a clear conscience, so we’re going to give you all the data and all the facts.  And if you see something different than us, that’s fine.  We have a clear conscience.  And you know what?  If we’re wrong, this means that we’ll be held accountable quicker. 

Sheila: Yeah.

Rebecca: But these guys, they won’t do that because they can’t have their people looking at what we write because they know that we will convince them because we’re right.

Sheila: And as Joanna said to me in a text—I’ll just read what she said.  “What is so fascinating to me is that he is controlling the narrative by not linking to any of your work or anything you’ve said and then he gets to characterize it however he wants.”  How would his article on being demonically attacked—

Rebecca: Hold up. 

Sheila: – hold up if he had to link to our critique of Married Sex?

Rebecca: Exactly.  Or had to quote the podcast where—had to prove—show proof of where we lied about him.  

Sheila: Yeah.  And then on Facebook or on Twitter where someone was—where the person was alerting me to this, someone said, “If he mentioned you, people could find you and have a larger context around the narrative than just his perspective and presentation of you.  And that’s a lose lose.”  The one who is sure of herself or himself isn’t worried about people hearing the other side.  And so we will always link—whenever we call someone out, when we call people out in the book, we linked.  We gave you page numbers.  We gave you podcast info.  We will link because we want you to be able to choose and decide for yourself.  

Rebecca: And you know what?  The only reason we might not want you to hear something is if we’ve statistically proven that it’s harmful which is why we made stickers.

Sheila: Yeah.  Yes. 

Rebecca: For anyone who’s on YouTube, you can just get our hazardous material stickers to stick on all the books in your library that you have for research purposes only.  That was a joke just to do the stickers.  We’re always going to show you the bad stuff even the stuff that could harm and just warn you ahead of time.

Sheila: I want to read you, again, a book I really like about how it’s important to call people out.  I’m just going to read you a couple of excerpts.  Okay.  “Love tells the truth.  Understanding the truth is the doorway to new life and understanding the truth often requires the use of labels, of calling,”—and the author is talking about calling things toxic.  “Jesus used labels.  You may recall that Jesus called Herod a fox in Luke 13:32.  Jesus warned his disciples, ‘Be careful.  Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.’”  So He named people specifically.  “Jesus thought it was both necessary and helpful to warn his followers against the toxicity of this group.  If you know someone is doing great damage, it’s not kind to ignore it or pretend they’re good people with a different point of view.  In fact, overlooking toxicity can be cruel to the future victims you fail to warn.  Jesus and Paul obviously didn’t believe that dismissing someone’s evil and sin as well intentioned but misguided is always the right path.  They called people out on their toxicity, and it wasn’t mean for them to do so.”  Do you know who wrote that?  Gary Thomas in When to Walk Away.  And Gary, I want to be personal right now.  I don’t hate you.  I know in your article you’re insinuating that I hate you and that I’m being hateful in the same way that you hate me.  I am really sorry that you feel like you hate me.  That must be a terrible burden to bear.  But I don’t hate you.  I have lost a lot of respect for you.

Rebecca: Mm-hmm.

Sheila: And I’ve lost a lot of respect for the other authors because I thought you cared for the sheep, and that was surprising to me.  I don’t hate you.  I don’t go to sleep thinking about this.  I really don’t.  I don’t hate you.  And I don’t go looking for things to criticize.  People bring them to my attention because other people are seeing.  And people are concerned about you.  And so I do hope that you’re able to get some peace about this and understand that peace comes through repentance.  And we don’t need to shy away from the truth.  I have taken books out of print.  I have taken blog posts down.  I’ve taken podcasts down.  And I will probably take more down in the future.  And I will probably end up amending Great Sex Rescue in the new books when we find new information in the future too.  That’s what we do because this isn’t about me.  It’s about the people reading the books.  And we need to keep that in mind.  I want to share with you an email I wrote to Gary Thomas, and this is part of a longer email thread that was occurring last August when I reached out to him with concerns about his conference around Married Sex and some of the speakers that he had invited.  A lot of people ask us have you gone to these people in private.  Have you talked to them first before you’ve gone public?  And in many cases, I did.  And I haven’t been able to defend myself or show the kind of interaction that I do have in private.  And so I thought sharing this email might clear up some things and might help you understand where I’m coming from and where my heart is.  I am going to share the complete email although I will take out a few things that are just personal for me.  They don’t reflect badly on Gary or well on Gary.  They’re just about me, and I’m just going to keep those private.  So here goes.

Letter from Sheila to Gary: 

Hi Gary,

Thank you for your thoughtful response.  I won’t respond to everything, but I would like to address a few things.

The turn my ministry has taken has broken your heart, you say, and I understand that.  I want you to understand, though, that this turn happened because we listened to 20,000 women.  Story after story of marital rape, of abuse, of lack of orgasm, primarily caused or enabled by bad teaching in the evangelical church.  

We simply chose to listen, and what we heard broke us.

When I sent you our manuscript last year, I honestly thought you would choose to endorse it.  I knew it would be hard for you, but I thought that your primary concern lay with the people that we are ministering to.  You have always been the author who most resembled Jesus to me, who had the softest, most teachable heart.  When you said no, that changed our focus.  Up until then, our focus was on trying to convince stakeholders to do things differently.  When you, the kindest, most Jesus-focused stakeholder that we could think of, still decided to side with authors rather than with 20,000 women, we realized that trying to convince stakeholders was a losing proposition.  If we couldn’t convince you, who could we convince?  We would instead throw ourselves completely into rescuing the sheep, who were being hurt.

You may be so saddened by our approach, but your refusal to endorse, and Shaunti’s refusal to answer our concerns in our initial emails, turned us in that direction.

I know this broke your heart.  But please understand how much your lack of support broke ours.  We are desperately clinging to Jesus, but we feel as if we had the rug swept out from under us.  We can’t trust those who claim to speak for the evangelical church to care about the people they minister to.  That’s not just heart-breaking.  That’s faith-crushing.  Why don’t the people who claim to love Jesus love the people Jesus loves? I don’t understand, Gary.  I truly don’t.

If you find that an exaggeration, or if that confuses you, please go back and reread the email that you sent to me, and ask yourself:  How much time did you spend showing concern for the sheep, versus how much time did you spend showing concern for teachers?  I think you will find, Gary, that you consistently identified with teachers.

Jesus, on the other hand, consistently identified with the sheep.  Teachers are only there to minister to the sheep.  It is the sheep whose welfare matters most.

Right now, you are sounding like Brock Turner’s father, asking for leniency for “20 minutes of action” rather than standing up for Chanel.  You sound like those pastors who, when they bring up the subject of slavery, assert: “I would have treated my slaves well,” because they automatically identify with the master rather than with the slave.

You are asking me to have sympathy for Shaunti and Tim’s battles with cancer—and I do (although we have battled cancer and life-threatening illnesses in the last year among our authors, too, and she is the mother of toddlers).  But have you thought about the thousands of women going through chemotherapy and having mastectomies and then reading For Women Only and hearing that their husbands have mental rolodexes that they, as wives, need to fill up?  Or how their chemotherapy would have been so much more stressful because they had already read the book and were petrified of how their cancer treatments would affect his wandering eyes?

When I read Tim Keller’s characterization of a sexual encounter where his wife was in pain but she didn’t speak up and vaginismus wasn’t even addressed, I don’t identify with Tim as the author.  I think of myself at 21, not speaking up when I was in pain because I was supposed to make my husband feel good.  That 21-year-old, reading The Meaning of Marriage, would have felt helpless.  Have you considered her?  Do all the women who may read The Meaning of Marriage now not matter because Tim Keller has cancer?

At what point, Gary, does the welfare of the sheep matter more than the reputation of the shepherds?

I would remind you of Hebrews 13:3: “Keep in mind those who are suffering as if you were suffering the identical thing.”  Try to identify with the sheep rather than with the teachers.

In Scripture, the focus is never on slowly reforming flawed power structures; but pulling them out by the root.  It’s not about working gently to fix an abusive system.  New wine does not go into old wineskins.  I can’t think of a biblical example when those in power were doing wrong, and the solution was to be nice to those who are harming others in hopes of changing their mind, rather than standing up for those being harmed.  In fact, Jesus utters eight “woes” to those who weigh people down with heavy burdens and don’t lift a finger to help them.

Gary, over the last few years you have told me several times that I have a prophetic voice—and God has used that to confirm some things in me.  But you also keep ignoring what I am saying.  Either you don’t really believe I have a prophetic voice, in which case you’re lying, flattering, or trying to assuage me; or you do believe the Spirit is working through what I’m doing, in which case you are guilty of willfully ignoring the Spirit’s movement.  I urge you to be honest with yourself and examine yourself in this matter.

Finally, if you haven’t read Love & Respect yet, please do, and read it as if you were an abused wife.  Shaunti has aligned herself completely with Emerson Eggerichs, and her research formed the basis of his book.  If you are aligning yourself with her, you are aligning yourself with him too.  You need to understand the ramifications of that, and maybe then you would start to understand why there is so much pain in evangelical marriages. 

We are not asking you to burn everything down with us.  We are asking you to stop propping it up.  There are people who are weighing the vulnerable down with heavy burdens, and you are handing them the next brick.  You may not be the one placing it directly on people’s backs, but by giving people like Shaunti and Les Parrot a platform, you lend your seal of approval to their messages and their endorsements, and you enable them to keep hurting others. 

Please listen, Gary.  God has given you power, and He is asking you, as He did Esther, what you will do with it at such a time as this.  

In Him,



Sheila: I think what we just wanted to say is yeah.  Nobody that we called out has supported us, but a lot of you have.


Rebecca: Yeah.  


Sheila: And that’s what’s keeping us going is that we know that people are seeing the truth.  We know that people are getting set free.  And that’s what is so amazing.  So many people have told us how much this has set them free.  And that’s what gets us going.  So many pastors have told us, so many counselors have told us.  And I guess what I think when I look at people’s reaction is this is emblematic of what’s happening in the broader evangelical church right now in that there is such a rush to defend those in power and to ignore those calling for justice.  And I believe God is going to keep shaking the church until we get that equation right.

Rebecca: Because as Gary himself said, Satan can’t win, and God can’t lose.

Sheila: Yeah.  Exactly.  And the victims matter.  And the reputation of the shepherds is not more important than the welfare of the sheep.  And one day I think the church will get that right.  And I pray these authors will too.  But if not, I think the church will just simply move on without them.  So thank you for listening to this long edition of the Bare Marriage podcast where we just wanted to give you an update on what’s been going on.  I do want to end with a shout out.  We told you that we wrote a much bigger book than we were planning on, She Deserves Better.  And the reason we were able to do that is because our patrons gave us the funding because Joanna and Rebecca spent so much time on that this year.  And I didn’t take any of the money for it.  But it really—it helped us go because you don’t get paid very much for writing books.  And ours is split three ways.  And so it—so we just want to say a big shout out to our patrons.  You can join us on Patreon.  You’ll find out a lot of—a lot more stuff going on behind the scenes in our Patreon group.  It’s really fun.  There’s an unfiltered podcast.  There’s a Facebook group.  You can get merch depending on what level you’re in, so please check out our Patreon and consider supporting us.  We really appreciate those who do.  And until then, thank you for joining us.  And we will see you again on the next edition of the Bare Marriage podcast.  Bye-bye.

Rebecca: Bye.

Timeline of the Podcast

0:10 We’ve rebranded!
2:05 Overview of our vision
6:40 The big picture
8:10 Focus on the Family
10:10 Steve Arterburn
11:35 Emerson Eggerichs
19:45 Tim Keller
29:00 Shaunti Feldhahn
46:30 Gary Thomas
1:09:00 Sheila’s email to Gary Thomas
1:16:30 Conclusion + Shout-out

What Have the Authors Said?

Let’s go through everything, one by one!

Authors as a Group

We have had four lawsuit threats behind the scenes, but nothing has come of them.

We also know, due to a leaked phone call between Mark Gungor and a woman who felt that he mishandled her sexual assault allegations, that Gungor, Shaunti Feldhahn, Kevin Leman, and Emerson Eggerichs were talking about what to do about me and potentially preparing a statement. That statement never materialized.

Focus on the Family

Focus on the Family has scrubbed me from their website, though I used to be there. Here’s what the page used to look like:


But now when you search for my name on the Focus on the Family website, nothing comes up:

For more information:

Has Focus on the Family accepted any critiques and apologized? No. 

Emerson Eggerichs, author of Love & Respect

scored 0/48 on our rubric of healthy sexuality teaching

To his credit, Eggerichs has not said anything directly about us publicly, though he did put a copyright infringement on a three minute montage we had put up of a sermon series he did at Houston’s First Baptist where he gaslit abuse victims. We took that video montage down–and put up an hour long podcast on it instead, and a full post critiquing it.

He has put out several blogposts in response to our initial series where he does make reference to critics, including:

These are just a few; there are many others, along with emails sent to his subscribers explaining that critics are going after him so he needs their positive stories. We have critiqued Eggerichs thoroughly on abuse, and much of this is revisionist history, as we explain in today’s podcast.

Has Emerson Eggerichs accepted any critiques and apologized? No. 

Steve Arterburn, co-author of Every Man’s Battle

scored 9/48 on our rubric of healthy sexuality teaching

Arterburn has not made any public statements, though we do have several emails that he sent to readers who reached out to him with concerns. Those emails denied that he did anything wrong were very combative. He is also reaching out to influencers on social media who have critiqued him asking for private conversations.

Has Steve Arterburn accepted any critiques and apologized? No. 

Tim Keller, author of The Meaning of Marriage

scored 30/48 on our rubric of healthy sexuality teaching

Tim Keller’s book scored in the neutral category on our rubric, and not the harmful one, but we did express some grave concerns with one particular passage in his book. I’ll quote from The Great Sex Rescue:

Great Sex Rescue

From The Great Sex Rescue

In Tim Keller’s book The Meaning of Marriage, he talks about how, early in his marriage to Kathy, sex wasn’t working very well. He recounts how, after they were finished, he would check in to see how Kathy had felt. “If I asked her, ‘How was that?’ and she said, ‘It just hurt,’ I felt devastated, and she did, too.”25 Like many couples we interviewed, they weren’t communicating during intercourse, and so he was in the dark about her experience as it was happening.

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A wider Twitter conversation occurred in November 2021 about this passage, and Tim and Kathy Keller responded to it. 

As far as we know, this is the only public statement that they have made about their book. We wish the Kellers well as Tim battles cancer, and know this is a hard time for them, but we do hope that they can simply remove this problematic bit from any reprint of the book, or that they could simply mention that pain isn’t normal and help should be sought. 

We also shared this story from a reader who really wanted to be heard:

I read many marriage books including the Keller’s “The Meaning of Marriage” as my fiancé and I, both virgins raised in the church and purity culture, prepared for our impending wedding day. On our honeymoon I came in with expectations that sex would be painful as is portrayed in this passage. I also believed it was my job to hide my pain and that this was normal. Because think about it – he asks afterwards how it was for her and that is when he discovers she was in pain … so it must be my job to obscure my experience for the sake of my spouse. I have suffered with pain during intercourse for more than 13 years and for the vast majority of that time thought this was normal – the experience of every woman. It was not until my closest friend started engaging with To Love Honor and Vaccum that I realized my experience is common among women in the church – but also not OK and that I needed to get help.

I am am a top of my class graduate, an avid learner and accomplished professional – how can it be that I have ignorantly lived so much of my life with unnecessary pain? But then I must ask, how can it be that despite all of my reading and preparing not one of these Christian marriage books voiced that accepting pain in sex, especially in an ongoing manner, is NOT ok; that if you are having pain you should stop and seek medical care; or that no one should be having their pleasure at the expense of your pain? I truly cannot understand it, but I can say it needs to change so that other women don’t have to walk the road I have trod.

Has Tim Keller accepted any critiques and apologized? No. 

Shaunti Feldhahn, author of For Women Only

scored 11/48 on our healthy sexuality rubric

Shaunti is the only author who has written a public statement about our book. It was quite lengthy; I wrote one in response, and link to hers within mine so that you can read both of them (she did not have the courtesy to link to things that she was critiquing of mine).

In today’s podcast we addressed several things:

  • We shared the email I sent to Shaunti before The Great Sex Rescue was published
  • We addressed her critique that we only looked at the 2004 edition of her book, rather than the 2013 edition
  • We addressed her critique of our research methods
  • We addressed her critique that we weren’t going about this in a kingdom way

After the initial email I sent her, asking if she wanted to retract any of her teachings, or inviting her to contact us with questions about the research, she did graciously reply. She did not ask to talk to Rebecca or Joanna about research, though, and did not apologize. She just said that she didn’t teach what we said she taught, and we felt there was no point in continuing the conversation. 

Has Shaunti Feldhahn accepted any critiques and apologized? No. 

Gary Thomas, author of Married Sex

We actually talked about Gary positively in The Great Sex Rescue, since his book Sacred Marriage scored well on our rubric. However, since The Great Sex Rescue was published, our relationship has been very fraught. For years Gary and I were friends, and he would send me his manuscripts to help edit or make suggestions. He quotes me in several of his books. When we started critiquing other authors, though, and calling for an end to the teaching that men’s battle with lust is inevitable and that women should have sex to stop men from watching porn, he pulled back.

When his book Married Sex was published in October 2021, we were vocal about problems we had with it.

For background, here are some of the things I’ve critiqued:

In return, Gary has written several blog posts which I believe to be about me. I have strong evidence for that–he admitted to the Humble Theology being about me in a Facebook thread, and we have had other interactions where he has expressed these concerns. The timeline adds up–he says the problems began last fall. I have other reasons to think this that I also cannot say publicly.

Every time he puts up a blog post like this, people send it to me saying, “Gary’s talking about you again,” so others believe it is about me. And they have insinuated this on Facebook, and he has not taken it down. Quite frankly, if it’s not about us, it’s about survivors of marital rape, betrayal trauma, or domestic violence.

I think these posts are worth reading to understand Gary’s perspective on how he sees us:

Has Gary Thomas accepted any critiques and apologized? No. 

Many people have asked us if we have gone to the authors privately.

In some cases I have, and I ended the podcast by reading the email that I sent to Gary in August of 2021, expressing concern about the people that he had invited to speak at his online conference to launch his book. He had invited people that we found to share harmful messages, or who had endorsed Mark Driscoll and Steve Arterburn.

This email sums up how we’ve been feeling, and our main concerns, and I would like you all to see it. It was the last in a longer email chain; I have never received an answer back.

(Two sentences were removed because they referred to something personal about me, they didn’t reflect either well or badly on Gary).

Hi Gary,

Thank you for your thoughtful response. I won’t respond to everything, but I would like to address a few things.

The turn my ministry has taken has broken your heart, you say, and I understand that. I want you to understand, though, that this turn happened because we listened to 20,000 women. Story after story of marital rape, of abuse, of lack of orgasm, primarily caused or enabled by bad teaching in the evangelical church. We did academic research on a huge scale that has never been done–research that, again, will be in peer reviewed journals soon, something Shaunti never accomplished.

We simply chose to listen, and what we heard broke us.

When I sent you our manuscript last year, I honestly thought you would choose to endorse it. I knew it would be hard for you, but I thought that your primary concern lay with the people that we are ministering to. You have always been the author who most resembled Jesus to me, who had the softest, most teachable heart. When you said no, that changed our focus. Up until then, our focus was on trying to convince stakeholders to do things differently. When you, the kindest, most Jesus-focused stakeholder that we could think of, still decided to side with authors rather than with 20,000 women, we realized that trying to convince stakeholders was a losing proposition. If we couldn’t convince you, who could we convince? We would instead throw ourselves completely into rescuing the sheep who were being hurt.

You may be so saddened by our approach, but your refusal to endorse, and Shaunti’s refusal to answer our concerns in our initial emails, turned us in that direction.

I know this broke your heart. But please understand how much your lack of support broke ours. We can’t trust those who claim to speak for the evangelical church to care about the people they minister to. That’s not just heart-breaking. That’s faith-crushing. Why don’t the people who claim to love Jesus love the people Jesus loves? I don’t understand, Gary. I truly don’t.

If you find that an exaggeration, or if that confuses you, please go back and reread the email that you sent to me, and ask yourself: How much time did you spend showing concern for the sheep, versus how much time did you spend showing concern for teachers? I think you will find, Gary, that you consistently identified with teachers.

Jesus, on the other hand, consistently identified with the sheep. Teachers are only there to minister to the sheep. It is the sheep whose welfare matters most.

Right now, you are sounding like Brock Turner’s father, asking for leniency for “20 minutes of action” rather than standing up for Channelle. You sound like those pastors who, when they bring up the subject of slavery, assert: “I would have treated my slaves well,” because they automatically identify with the master rather than with the slave.

You are asking me to have sympathy for Shaunti and Tim’s battles with cancer–and I do (although we have battled cancer and life-threatening illnesses in the last year among our authors, too, and she is the mother of toddlers). But have you thought about the thousands of women going through chemotherapy and having mastectomies and then reading For Women Only and hearing that their husbands have mental rolodexes that they, as wives, need to fill up? Or how their chemotherapy would have been so much more stressful because they had already read the book and were petrified of how their cancer treatments would affect his wandering eyes?

When I read Tim Keller’s characterization of a sexual encounter where his wife was in pain but she didn’t speak up and vaginismus wasn’t even addressed, I don’t identify with Tim as the author. I think of myself at 21, not speaking up when I was in pain because I was supposed to make my husband feel good. That 21-year-old, reading The Meaning of Marriage, would have felt helpless. Have you considered her? Do all the women who may read The Meaning of Marriage now not matter because Tim Keller has cancer?

At what point, Gary, does the welfare of the sheep matter more than the reputation of the shepherds?

I would remind you of Hebrews 13:3: “Keep in mind those who are suffering as if you were suffering the identical thing.” Try to identify with the sheep rather than with the teachers.

In Scripture, the focus is never on slowly reforming flawed power structures; but pulling them out by the root. It’s not about working gently to fix an abusive system. New wine does not go into old wineskins. I can’t think of a biblical example when those in power were doing wrong, and the solution was to be nice to those who are harming others in hopes of changing their mind, rather than standing up for those being harmed. In fact, Jesus utters eight “woes” to those who weigh down people with heavy burdens and don’t lift a finger to help them.

Gary, over the last few years you have told me several times that I have a prophetic voice–and God has used that to confirm some things in me. But you also keep ignoring what I am saying. Either you don’t really believe I have a prophetic voice, in which case you’re lying, flattering, or trying to assuage me; or you do believe the Spirit is working through what I’m doing, in which case you are guilty of willfully ignoring the Spirit’s movement. I urge you to be honest with yourself and examine yourself in this matter.

Finally, if you haven’t read Love & Respect yet, please do, and read it as if you were an abused wife. Shaunti has aligned herself completely with Emerson Eggerichs, and her research formed the basis of his book. If you are aligning yourself with her, you are aligning yourself with him too. You need to understand the ramifications of that, and maybe then you would start to understand why there is so much pain in evangelical marriages.

We are not asking you to burn everything down with us. We are asking you to stop propping it up. There are people who are weighing the vulnerable down with heavy burdens, and you are handing them the next brick. You may not be the one placing it directly on people’s backs, but by giving people like Shaunti and Les Parrot a platform, you lend your seal of approval to their messages and their endorsements, and you enable them to keep hurting others.

Please listen, Gary. God has given you power, and He is asking you, as He did Esther, what you will do with it at such a time as this.

In Him,

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Email to Gary Thomas

"A groundbreaking look into what true, sacred biblical sexuality is intended to be. A must-read." - Rachael Denhollander

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.

Great Sex Rescue

The authors haven’t changed. But readers have!

We thought it was important for you all to know what’s been happening behind the scenes. I was hoping that at least some authors would apologize, but I guess the “evangelical industrial complex” (as Skye Jethani calls it) is a huge thing.

I think it would be so healing if some authors did apologize.

But even if they aren’t, people are flocking to the book and finding healing. And so I want to end on this lovely note I received this week:

I just had to reach out because I am so grateful for you and your team and your work. I gave birth to my first child this year and started to wonder what I would teach about sex and body image. In perusing some of the Christian literature on the subject, I was confronted by all of the harmful messages I received about sex and my body and sexuality throughout my upbringing in the evangelical church, attendance at Christian school, and even during pre-marital counseling with our very well-intentioned pastor. I’ve married the most amazing, patient, loving man, but I’ve lost track of the times I’ve been left screaming, crying, and just feeling utterly broken over sex. I was sure something was wrong with me until I found your book, The Great Sex Rescue, because my husband’s very wise friend recommended the episode of Theology in the Raw you guys were on. My husband was convicted by the podcast and I was left wanting more from the book. So I bought it and now I’m only halfway through and sobbing at every chapter because I feel so seen.

I’ve felt so alone and broken for so long, and it is so freeing to know that there isn’t something wrong with me. There is something wrong, really wrong, with the way the church talks about marriage and sex. I’m the wife who thinks she’s not a sexual person. I’m the wife scheduling sex so that my husband doesn’t fall into sexual sin. I’m the wife who wants to want sex badly but I just can’t muster up the desire. My husband and I are reading through the book together and having the most raw, intimate, incredible conversations about it. I’m about to wage war on the youth group bathing suit dress code. I’m going to urge my pastor to read this. I am fired up and ready to make sex what God truly intended it to be in my marriage. I think you may have saved my marriage from future implosion and I am eternally grateful. I just had to tell you. Thank you for doing this amazing work.

So great! I also talked about how our Patreon supporters helped us through this last year and enabled us to write She Deserves Better. You can become a Patreon too! 

So that’s where things are at! Did anything surprise you? What do you think will happen next? Let’s talk in the comments!

Written by

Sheila Wray Gregoire


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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. A2bbethany

    I really liked this podcast today. And I read yesterday’s post today. Alot to think about

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks, Bethany!

    • Clayton McGalla

      The toxic messages have hurt my wife and I. Thank God for GSR! After 28 years we both feel like a weight has been lifted and the pressure gone! We can be free to say “no” and that means our “yes” is actually YES. Just so I can have ownership of my views I have been reading the toxic books and all I keep thinking is “spiritual abuse”. I am seeing parallels to Mats Hill… go listen to the rise and fall of mats hill podcast. Mike did a fantastic job. Men and women who speak and write on behalf of God and cannot be corrected are not of God. Thank you Sheila, Rebecca. Joanne and Baker books.

  2. S

    Loved this podcast, but this one was a little hard to listen to because of all the gaslighting these authors are doing. It’s “I didn’t say that” until you show them a direct quote they said. Then it’s “That’s not what I meant. You interpreted it wrong.” If that’s truly the case (which I doubt), maybe they need to look inward and reflect on how they should reword their statements to be clearer. Instead, they shift the blame to everyone else and play the martyr, humble bragging about how they’re handling such onslaughts in a Christ-like manner. Gross.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I don’t understand it either. It was very discouraging.

      But having it out here, in one place, is just comforting to me in some way. I hope that people see the gaslighting that is being done.

  3. Jo R

    So, connecting the dots…

    Women enjoying sex in marriage is satanic.

  4. Em

    I think if I had written a book a long time ago…and then found out that a lot of people attributed my book to trauma they endured…I would cease all production, issue an apology and retire. Just disappear. I hope I would be the kind of person who would do a 180 on my platform but at first I would just want to disappear. Never in a million years would I double down and say “I never said this” or “I didn’t mean this.” It’s published for goodness sake people can see it!!! People can see everything you’ve ever written online!

    I found Sheila and this blog because I was experiencing painful sex. I searched and searched and there was NO ANSWER for this in the Christian sphere. NOTHING. If these authors were actually here for hurting wives like they are saying they have been then there would have been SOMETHING 10 years ago. By all means, start now but DO NOT say that you’ve been here all along. Because we all know that is not true.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Em! and I do hope your pain is getting better.

      • Em

        Yes! It was a journey lol but now 5 years pain free and sex is my favorite activity now. 😊

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Love it!

    • Natasha

      I just finished watching a documentary called “I survived ‘I kissed dating goodbye'” It’s about the author Joshua Harris recanting and unpublishing his book, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” because realized the message was damaging to so many. He was very repentant and apologized very sincerely for the message of the book, while acknowledging that the damage cannot be fully undone. The film was panned and rejected in Christian circles. No surprise there.

      Oh, that these authors would take a lesson from Josh Harris. Wouldn’t it be gloriously healing to have these authors apologize and edit their books? Or even unpublish some of them?

      Unfortunately, he has left the church because he is processing all that he has come to understand about the state of the evangelical church and so he is not in the church to be an example. His humility struck me as more Christlike that those who are doubling-down on their unloving views of women and marriage.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I completely agree!

  5. Viva

    As far as I can tell, Gary Thomas requires that one be a paid subscriber to his site before one can comment.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, I believe he is moving off of social media (He made the announcement yesterday) and moving only to substack, where you need to pay in order to comment. I think he’s been so inundated over the last year with abuser survivors and others trying to point out where his posts are falling short, and he’s rather shut people up than actually listen.

      It’s really very, very sad, and very indicative of where the evangelical church is at. It’s just like the way the SBC as a whole (Gary is an SBC pastor) handled sexual abuse complaints for decades. Make the people be quiet; make them go away; shut out their comments. Until eventually their voices become so loud you can’t ignore them anymore.

      • Viva

        Moneychangers much?
        It’s all about exploiting and oppressing the vulnerable for money and power.
        John 2:14-19
        Matthew 21:12-17

  6. Mara R

    Haven’t listened yet. Busy day. Hope to soon.

    But wanted to say, I get so much the idea of saying, venting it, or hashing it out all at once so that when someone asks you, you can just send them here. You don’t have to keep saying the same thing over and over.

    And I appreciate you allowing me to link old posts from my mostly inactive blog for the same reason. I can link it and say something like, “I’ve been through this. I get it. Here is a picture into what I was dealing with at that time.” And in some cases, “Here is what I tried. It did (or didn’t, depending) work for me. It may work for you. If not, good luck in your search for answers to this difficult (maybe even ridiculous) situation you have to deal with.”

    • Mara R

      Hhm. My comment came up here immediately. Still waiting for one to come up on another post. Unless there is now a limit to how many comments each blog post can have now. That other post has over 100 comments.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Is it on BareMarriage.com or TLHV.com? We’re still having issues on some browsers! Google Chrome seems to be working though!

      • EOF

        Your other post may have been long? I know they moderate longer comments. I wrote out a longish comment earlier today and it hasn’t shown yet. (Although if this one doesn’t post, I guess that theory is wrong!)

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I don’t think so? It may honestly just be that everything is still a little bit glitchy this week! Sorry, Mara!

  7. Anna

    Humble Theology??? HUMBLE Theology? Gary and I have some really different views on humble. He is nothing if not sanctimonious on that post. I had never read that before. Between all those “I hate someone” and “Demons are after me” types of writing, he can passive-aggressively context hoard with the best of teenagers.

    I believe Rachel Held Evans counted it a huge victory when a detractor would acknowledge that she was, indeed, NOT possessed by Satan. Guess you have a goal to shoot for, Sheila, Rebecca, and Joanna!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, that would be nice if they could acknowledge that I am not Satan’s useful idiot! 🙂

      I’m not holding my breath, though! I just hope that by shedding light on this and bringing it out into the open maybe someone who knows him can go to him and say, “this isn’t okay. You need to get help.” Because what he’s writing sounds very concerning.

  8. EOF

    I’m really disappointed (yet not surprised) by this.

    When I first started learning that others (the people here on this blog) saw the “Christian” marriage teachings as harmful too, I honestly believed the teachers just didn’t see it. I thought it worked for 99% of Christian marriages, but that I was the exception because I thought my husband was bad hearted. But the more I dug and studied, the more disappointing everything became…

    I was NOT in (what I thought was) the 1% of failed Christian marriages. It was both a relief and a horror to realize how many other women suffered as I used to. (And in fact, once we stopped listening to “Christian” marriage advice, things finally started to improve!)

    Not only are so many women harmed by these teachings, but the teachers don’t care. (As evidenced by the things shared in this post & podcast.) Yet that isn’t even the worst of it. This has been going on for hundreds of years — the KJV was NOT the first English Bible (and Jesus didn’t speak in Old English as some seem to think). I always thought there was one English Bible before it, but recently learned there were at least a half-dozen that came first. King James didn’t like how the other Bibles were so freeing for women and commoners, so he outlawed the others. History both before and after him has been much of the same — men fighting to keep women in their “place”.

    Jesus came to free us from the consequences of Genesis 3, but men have done everything in their power to keep women down. The more I learn from different scholars and teachers, the more it all comes together. They’re saying the same things, but giving different stories and historical facts (not that they’re going against each other, just sharing differences from different times). This has been going on all over the world for centuries.

    This fight that the Bare Marriage team and followers are fighting is not just against EE, Gary, FoF, Shaunti, or Keller. It’s an ancient battle. This is so much bigger than I ever imagined. The roots are deep, and those in charge don’t want to see their kingdom fall.

    But we serve a bigger God. And people’s eyes are opening. We aren’t standing for it anymore.

    I’m really curious to see what the next few years bring and very grateful for Sheila and the team!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you so much, EOF! And it’s been so fun to watch your story in the comments as you guys really grow! Thank you for encouraging me.

    • Laura


      I had to stop listening to “Christian” marriage advice because reading and hearing it made me not like the male species and turned me off from marriage. Throughout my single years, I had read various Christian marriage and dating books to help me prepare for a future marriage. None of those books seemed right to me because some of the advice would tell me that once I got married I could no longer make decisions (Thank you P.B. Wilson, author of Knight in Shining Armor and Liberated Through Submission). Sadly, this advice is peddled by Christian women, too.

      As an English literature major (I graduated with a bachelor’s in that), I learned more about the English translations of the Bible. I think Tyndale was one of the first to translate the Bible into English. I did a group project about translating the Bible into English. Very eye opening!

  9. Joy

    Imagine being so invested in improving marriage that you run a legitmate research study over it, find actual, actionable ways to help the issue, and then when you excitedly run to tell your peers and collegues who are supposed to be working on the same goal with you what you found they…try to discredit you? Oh wait, that’s what happened to you. I’ve been following you since I was a newlywed trying to do better with housework 12 years ago, and I’ve watched how your ministry has grown and changed over the years. Your long term work to help marriages is undeniable–several books, courses and a long established blog show your committment over time to this cause. I saw how, over time, you have gained wisdom through listening to women’s experiences in marriage and adapted your message with the goal of growing intimate and mutually pleasurable marriages always at the forefront. I’m so thankful that you wrote The Great Sex Rescue. One of the biggest blessings I found on your blog–To Love, Honor and Vacuum–was that you talked about your struggle with vaginismus. Turns out I had it, and it devestated our marriage for a long time. I am thankful to you for being a person we can trust to tell the truth and talk about hard things.

    To the authors who don’t like the truth that Sheila is telling: You are shooting the messenger. You are using the Bible as smoke and mirrors to hide uncomfortable truths that are hurtful, and you are doing it because your pride of status and your pocketbook will be affected. That’s pretty close to taking the name of the Lord in vain. Sheila has been on a quest to find the truth, to share the truth, and to adapt to the truth for her whole ministry. Did you care enough to find out how to improve marriage to run a research study, then reckon with the results–whatever they were? There are only two possiblities: 1) No. You didn’t care as much as her to find out what was going on or 2) You did run the research but we have never heard about it because you didn’t know how to deal with the results in the light of what you’ve been teaching people over the years. Since #2 is pretty dark, let’s hope you just didn’t care as much. What we have in our hands from you, though, could be summarized as some tittilating “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” thinking sprinkled with Bible dust and made to market on a large scale to churches. I don’t trust you. Your efforts to discredit Sheila betray your heart towards those you have said you were helping over the years. It’s not her fault that you were wrong and that you have some things to learn.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you so much, Joy. That’s a balm to my soul.

  10. Randall

    Very interesting episode and from the opening chapters of the book this is something I’ve wondered so thank you for addressing it.

    Have you, in the book, on the site, or anywhere, acknowledged the good these books did for couples? Surely you can’t believe that these books were bad for 100% of people 100% of the time. I’m sure some couples read these books and made great changes in their marriages because of it. Or a couple maybe grabbed a tidbit of advice from the “good” sections of these “bad” books and their marriage is better off now because of it.

    My main issue with GSR and how it addressed these books, and I’m one who is ALL FOR calling out nonsense without reservation, is the overwhelmingly negative light it shines on them without, at least as far as I’ve gotten in the book and the blog, acknowledging that it wasn’t all bad all the time for all readers and some people got some good from them. And I acknowledge that as readers we’re more likely to have the bad stuff stick than the good stuff.

    Now, I’m fully aware I haven’t read every post on the blog and I’ve not finished the book so I may have missed it, which is why I’m asking the question.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      We did say that at the very beginning of the book, Randall–pages 14-15 and read the box on page 15.

      Also, this post explains more about how it’s not enough for a book to only hurt SOME people.

    • Tim

      I’m reading GSR at the moment and I thought the fact these books did good as well as harm came through very clearly.

      I think the tone on the blog has been a bit more combative at times recently, which may be what you’re referring to Randall. Knowing some of this behind the scenes stuff puts that in context though, I guess.

  11. Kate

    I just finished listening to this episode, and I want to try to articulate something that’s been brewing in my mind for a while. As a girl growing up in fundamental Baptist churches, so many messages directed toward women came with this catch-22: “If you have a problem with what we’re teaching, you really have a problem with God and his authority structure.” Be it a wife submitting to the absolute rule of a husband, a teenage girl conforming to a legalistic and unreasonable dress code, or any number of other applications, I learned by repeated exposure that expressing negative effects of any teaching deemed “biblical” would get me labeled as immature or rebellious. It has taken me years to undo the guilt of being rebellious when all I was trying to say was “this is hurting me.”

    In the same way, I think that many of these evangelical authors view the harm suffered by so many women (including myself) from their teachings as evidence of our spiritual immaturity rather than any error on their part. When you view women as ontologically (by their very nature) subordinate to men, having women remain under harmful male authority becomes preferable to having women speak up and defy that authority structure. It’s the same reason so many will not condone or suggest divorce for battered wives. Perhaps my upbringing in a stricter patriarchal setting has left me jaded, but I am not at all surprised by the lack of repentance in response to your work. I know what it is like to be the one whispering, then asserting, then shouting “something is wrong here,” only to be told to stay in my place and stop taking things so seriously.

    Sheila, Rebecca, Joanna, Katie, Keith, Connor, and everyone else on the team: thank you for your work. A prophetic voice sometimes brings about repentance, but sometimes it produces a further hardening of spirit. Because you absolutely refuse to sit down and be quiet, the ones harming the sheep can never claim they did not know what they were doing.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      This is so well articulated, Kate. Thank you!

    • Laura

      “If you have a problem with what we’re teaching, you really have a problem with God and his authority structure.”

      Even though I did not grow up in church and my parents modeled an egalitarian marriage, it wasn’t until I was 17 when I got saved in a church that leaned toward these views on women being subordinate to men. I quit church not long after I was saved because if the God of the Bible was a male chauvinist, then I did not want to have anything to do with him. However, I did not read the Bible so I didn’t know what it said. Years later, I returned to church and still heard these teachings and they never sat well with me. “Well-meaning” (more like brainwashed) Christian women would tell me that I needed to get my heart right with God because I didn’t agree with this supposed “authority structure.”

  12. Amy

    I’ve read two of your books: The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex and The Great Sex Rescue. I found them both excellent, so I began reading your blog recently.

    This was the first of your podcasts I listened too. I have to admit, it made me a little sad. I really appreciate your ministry and message overall, but I wonder if you realise the way your tone came across at times. Sometimes it came across as humble and caring while also being strong and true to your message about caring for vulnerable women and I say bravo for that! Other times, however, it really just came across as mocking and perhaps a bit self-righteous. I hope and believe this was unintentional, but I can also understand other writers responding defensively when that is the case.

    While I can only imagine the pain and frustration you are experiencing with some of these encounters with other Christian authors, I think this tone may do more harm than good – further alienating the writers as well as some of the sheep who may not see Christ being reflected in the podcast. That’s me. I’m a childhood abuse survivor and soon to be married. I want to be able to listen to and learn from your podcasts, but I’m hesitant to do so if this is the tone.

    Absolutely we need to call out false teachings that cause hurt and pain, and I believe you are very much right to do so. However, when I picture Jesus calling out the Pharisees, I always imagine Him speaking the truth in love with tears in His eyes, hoping and intending for the Pharisees to repent, not laughing at and mocking them. Please know I also say this with love.

    I sincerely hope and pray that these other writers will be able to humble themselves and make changes in the way they write and speak. I also sincerely hope and pray that in your ministry, you’ll be more aware of the way tone can inadvertently impact what you say, so your ministry can have an even wider and more positive reach.

    • Janey

      Thank you, Amy, for eloquently stating what I have been feeling and wondering myself. You aren’t the only one to notice this tone, and expressed it kindly.

      • Sarah R

        I was deeply disappointed by the Kellers’ response, as someone who loved all things TK in my early twenties and devoured his books. It’s been a while since I’ve read them, but if I re-read now it’ll be with the same lens as I read Augustine and Origen — bearing in mind that, though they may have helpful things to say about God, their words are not authoritative esp because of the misogyny of the authors. I always automatically trusted, without reservation, the authors quoted in sermons; I’m now more wary. I digress, though. Kathy’s tone was overall just not it. It costs nothing but your pride to hear — really hear and listen to — someone’s story and acknowledge it to be true and a valid perspective, and own your part, intentional or not, in their trauma. However, admitting that we’re wrong is often seen as failure, so many people are reluctant to do it. I admit I’m guilty of it at times. But when the pushback is so gentle and respectful, for the Kellers to dig trenches and refuse to reevaluate is so disheartening.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I found it very disheartening too. Honestly–all they have to do is remove a few sentences from the book and issue a statement. It wouldn’t even be hard.

    • Emily

      I’m curious what Jesus’ “tone” was when he was flipping tables in the temple. Also, when he called the Pharisees a “brood of vipers.” What do you think?

      There is such a thing as righteous and holy anger. Anger at injustice and mistreatment. Sheila is allowed to be righteously angry at the injustice that has been wrought by faulty teachings.

      I’m also incredibly wary when someone tries to “tone police” a woman. Men typically do receive this kind of feedback. Anger is not typically seen as a socially acceptable emotion for women. Having to be “nice” is weaponized against women and against Christian women even more so.

      • Tim

        I don’t want to speak for Amy, but what I took from her comment is that it was a “mocking and perhaps a bit self-righteous” (her words) tone she was objecting to, not the anger, which as you say is entirely appropriate in the circumstances.

        For what it’s worth, there’s also at least one comment above that’s quite scathing of Gary Thomas’s tone in those blog posts (and from my quick skim of them that criticism is totally fair). Not disputing your assertion that this kind of feedback is more commonly directed at women – I suspect you’re right on that. But regardless of who’s speaking, tone does matter (the medium is the message, etc).

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Here’s the thing: Sometimes we need to be mocking or else this is just too much to bear.

          Even Paul was mocking–“I wish you would go all the way and emasculate yourselves!” (Gal. 5:12).

          Sometimes I think too much is expected of us. We are human, and we have so, so much fired at us. I am only showing you a handful of it that is mostly public. There is so much more.

          If people want us to keep our mental health, we have to be allowed to be honest too.

          • Tim

            Thanks Sheila. I can definitely understand where you’re coming from there. What you’re having to deal with must be tremendously difficult.

            To be clear, I don’t agree with everything Amy said, and wouldn’t have used strong language like “self-righteous”, but a lot of her comment did really resonate with me.

            While we’re on sarcastic Paul comments, my personal favourite is:

            “17 In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.” (1 Cor 11)
            I think there are things Jesus said that could be interpreted similarly.

            Obviously we don’t know each other at all, so take this as you will. I was laughing along with you in the Love and Respect section and it’s only afterwards that I questioned it (to be fair, some of the quotes from EE you read were objectively ridiculous). I can totally understand feeling like you have to laugh or you’ll cry. I think if I were in your position though, there are two questions I’d want to ask myself:

            1. Is that mocking tone that came through in the podcast (only very occasionally) consistent with this?

            “17. Do not repay anyone evil for evil; consider what is good before all people. 18. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people.” (Rom 12:17-18, NET)

            And that’s obviously not for me or anyone else but yourself to judge, though it’s clear you’ve gone a very long way towards maintaining/restoring relationship with Shaunti and Doug at least.

            2. Does that tone help spread your message, or hinder it? I would be concerned about how a “soft” supporter of Eggerichs’ who’s genuinely open to considering other views would hear that. I assume (correct me if I’m wrong) that they would be a key group you’d want to reach if you can. I think I can put myself in their shoes a little bit – if I heard someone mocking an author I Respected (but didn’t Love) I think it would make it pretty easy to disregard any genuine and important criticisms of Eggerichs’ writing/teaching from the same source.

            And one practical idea you can also take or leave. Have you ever considered deconstructing something you’ve said in the past yourself that you now think was harmful, in the same way you do for other authors, with a ‘fixed it for you’, etc?Maybe it would be a good way to demonstrate that (as I think you’ve said elsewhere) you’re out to cancel bad teaching, not the teachers themselves. It would certainly undercut the people saying that you’re just bitter and vindictive (which, to be clear, I think it’s ridiculous, but sadly it seems a lot of people are prepared to believe it).

            Again, I have no authority of any kind to speak into your life, so you can test the spirits and all that (1 John 4) and decide for yourself if any of that is of value for you. Either way, I wish you all the best in holding these people to account, and dealing with the emotional weight of it all.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I actually have done several fixed it for yous of myself! They’re up on my Instagram!

          • Tim

            I meant Shaunti and Gary. Not sure where Doug came from!

          • Amy

            I’m responding here again because I feel the need to apologise. This was the first Bare Marriage podcast I listened to and I’ll admit I was taken aback in places. However, since then, I have listened to many more of your podcasts and I think I have a better understanding of your overall ministry and a deeper appreciation for what you do. With that in mind, I feel that I have a better understanding of where the tone is coming from. So I just wanted to respond again and share that. Thank you for the work you are doing.

        • Emily

          I’m curious though, who gets to decide the tone is appropriate?

          Furthermore, most of the content Sheila rightfully calls out IS laughable. For example, EE thinking that a woman can be turned on by her husband doing housework? Respectfully….the jokes write themselves. Teachers will be judged more harshly.

          And in terms of self-righteousness, Sheila is one of the precious few authors who readily admits that she has gotten it wrong in the past. She rewrote an entire book to correct her old, faulty teachings. She has held herself to that higher standard. I see her as a great example of humility. We live in a sexist world where women are often implicitly and explicitly told to make themselves smaller so the men in their lives can feel bigger and more comfortable. Sheila is a direct communicator and this can make men and women who have been socialized to view direct woman as problematic) uncomfortable. In terms of self-righteousness, I would implore you to consider whether any implicit biases towards women are at work here. Sexism is the water we’ve all been swimming in since birth.

          And I’d be genuinely curious to hear your take on Jesus’ tone throughout the Bible as he flipped tables at the temple and called the Pharisees a “brood of vipers.”

          Also, as a woman, this subject matter is HEAVY and full of grief. Many times, if we don’t laugh, we’ll cry. Sheila is already going against the grain of harmful teachings but to be told she needs to be sweeter about how women have been harmed and abused for decades? I’m just not buying it.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Thank you, Emily. I really don’t think people understand that if we’re not allowed to laugh or get a little angry, there’s no possible way we could do this stuff. No possible way. My body is already reacting to having so much negativity hurled at me. If I have to swallow it all and pretend it doesn’t matter? That will just make me sicker.

          • Tim

            Thanks for that thoughtful response Emily. I’ve just written another (hopefully also thoughtful) comment on response to Sheila which I’m crossing my fingers will come through eventually as it took a lot of writing and I forgot to C&P before I posted it.

            Short version though: I agree with pretty much all of what you’ve said here. On self-righteousness,I was quoting Amy there, not agreeing with her (though a lot of the other stuff Amy said rang true for me, hence why I responded.

            My primary concern with the mocking tone that came through on a few brief occasions during the podcast was how it would affect the effectiveness of the message. Would someone who doesn’t agree with Sheila’s perspective but it’s open to hearing about it be more or less likely to listen because of that element of it? I think less (and would think the same if it had been Keith and Connor talking).

          • JJ

            For what it’s worth, if this is a blog where you really are allowed to say what you think, and don’t just have to follow the crowd, I’d agree with what tim is saying about tone.
            I sandwich that tho with a huge thankyou for what you are doing. I agree with your message, am grateful for your research, have the GSR, read the blog, and you guys feel like the only place that is fighting for women in Christian circles.
            What I’d love to do is shout from the rooftops about you to all my friends. And when I questioned why I haven’t, i think its partly what feels like the mocking tone that does to me come out of the podcast, and for me I would say fairly often. I get what you are saying about there’s so much more going on respectfully behind the scenes etc, I get that you are having negativity hurler at you from people you used to respect. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be. But nonetheless, tone matters. And maybe it is just personal preference or whatever but I’d be much more likely to recommend the blog if the tone was gentler and less sarcastic at times. I’m saying this because I believe in your research, i believe in your heart and your message. And i want that to get out there. maybe one solution is to do less often blogposts, and take more steps back to get away from it all to clear the mind, so u r refreshed. I know in a world where we all have to earn money thats easier to say than do. But i often find it hard to keep up with the amount of content on here, so you’d b emaking my life easier by publishing that little bit less.
            Ultimately tho thankyou for standing in the gap for all us women who noone sees. thankyou and keep going x

    • Ray

      I’m glad you guys prefaced Tim Keller in the podcast as someone who doesn’t fit in the same category as the bulk of these authors. I have great respect for him and the work he has done. Truly one of the great philosophers and thinkers currently out there. Though I agree, his quote should not have appear to normalize pain during sex, he is very different from piper and SBC pastors

    • A2bbethany

      CSA here….we all have different ideas and preferences for dealing with boundaries and dealing with bad people. Personally? I rely on Jesus’s wrath for sin and a zero tolerance anger towards the sin. If I’m not allowed to use my anger to “keep them accountable” who will? God will! My old pastor once spoke of Jesus as having a huge boiling pot of anger stored up for them. And if they are saved like me? Well they’ll have to live with putting that ugly sin onto the cross. Which I know is enough…..
      I believe God cries when a sinner refuses see the light. But when they drag others knowingly into suffering and shame? I believe he’s angry and they will be punished! I don’t think there’s anything at all wrong with calling them out boldly and putting their own actions squarely where it belongs. I actually think God is pleased with that! Because it may save one of his children from unnecessary suffering. Which he’s always happy to see happen.

    • Anna

      It is occasionally hearing Rebecca and Sheila speak scathingly about this stuff that lets me know that they really, really get it, frankly. I think of them as advocates for women, not journalists. You want your lawyer always speaking inoffensively? I don’t.

      Some of us read this detritus for so many decades without a peep of confirmation that it was way out of whack, that it’s very validating to hear our inner misgivings spoken. In exactly the tone they inspire.

    • Kay

      Jesus called the Pharisees a brood of vipers and shouted “WOE TO YOU.” He also threw tables around in anger. The fact that they killed him in response says they most definitely did not care for his tone either. Imagine saying in response, “well, maybe if Jesus had been nicer about it they wouldn’t have killed him.”

      The problem is that tone policing like what you have done here (which is a logical fallacy, by the way) is typically used by people in power to dismiss their critics. “You’re too angry and bitter,” with the subtext being “therefore I don’t have to listen to you.” They will not look past the “wrong tone” to engage with the **actual** arguments being made and determine whether they are valid. Whether we “keep sweet” or raise hell like Jesus, the validity of the arguments remains the unchanging.

      Unfortunately, history has shown us that people in power do not change until the pain of staying the same is **greater** than the pain of changing. We must continue to name the harm, LOUDLY, if not for the sake of the people in power then for the sake of those listening in on the conversation who are being harmed. And the people being hurt DO NOT have to put the feelings of those hurting them before their own. Their pain matters more.

      Indeed, Sheila is not responsible whatsoever for the emotions people feel in response to her words. Their discomfort is a THEM problem, not a Sheila problem. And it is pure pride on their part to say “I won’t listen because they are too rude.” The emotionally mature response would be, “Wow, where is this anger coming from? Oh gosh, it’s because my teaching is hurting people. No **wonder** they are so angry! How do I become a part of the solution instead?”

      Now that is what I call humble theology.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Thank you, Kay.

  13. Amy

    When you read your email at the end, I started weeping and crying out to God. How have we gotten to the point that the people who are supposed to be leading His Church are harming them instead? I truly feel my heart broken for the things that break God’s heart. Lord, help us to do better.

  14. Tim

    “We didn’t mean that” is such a lazy excuse. If you’re a writer and someone misinterprets what you write the solution is to write more clearly! Can they not see how badly that reflects on them as authors? To paraphrase Enoch Powell (whoever he was), “a writer complaining about their audience is like a sailor complaining about the sea.”

    That aside, you didn’t mention Kevin Léman or Willard Harley (unless I missed something). Have they responded at all?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Not publicly, no! They haven’t said anything.

  15. Amy

    Even Jesus and John the Baptist were called demon possessed when they called out the toxicity of religious leaders… Just a thought.

  16. Laura

    What a wonderful episode, yet also heartbreaking that the team (Sheila, Rebecca, Joanna, etc) is going through with criticism and lawsuits from the authors being called out. For GT to insult Sheila in his blog is just so wrong. Keep doing what you’re doing with this ministry because it has blessed me for over a year now. After hearing so many toxic teachings about marriage, sex, and dating in the Christian world, I was tempted to give up on Christianity but still keep Jesus. Jesus NEVER advocated for headship in marriage and included women in everything.

    As a self-published author of only two books (so far), I have to really think and pray about how my writing might affect others. I want to use my writing to bless others and not harm them. It’s one thing to write about your personal experiences, but making those personal experiences to be the way they should be for others is not right. For example, I just listened to a four-part podcast series from Faith and Feminism on the book Captivating. I read some of this book during my thirties and some of what I read did not sit well with me. The authors (John and Stasi Eldridge) made it sound like ALL girls want to be princesses, called beautiful, and be rescued by a man. Maybe, that was Stasi’s experience, but that was not mine. They did not even use research to prove if ALL girls wanted these three main things that were mentioned throughout the book.

    Sheila and team, I think you are the first Christian authors I know about who used actual, methodical research to show how harmful some messages from some of these books were. Other authors don’t even have research to back up their statements.

  17. Mara R

    Finally had a chance to listen a bit today. I am most of the way through.

    All I can think about Gary Thomas implying that you are being used by Satan is Mark Driscoll. Mark Driscoll called the act of those calling him into account for his gross sin as a (so called) pastor, attacks from Satan.

    Attention religious leaders and influencers. You really should be careful about how you label things. You really need to be careful about who and what you demonize and vilify. Not kidding, you do. Cause there is this verse that says something along the lines of “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.

    I am starting to wonder if modern day readers and religious leaders even know what “Woe” means.

    All I know is that I certainly don’t want to be caught in any behavior that the Bible says will bring me woe. Whether it’s offending the little ones or calling good evil, Imma tryna stay outa that place!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Mara! I really appreciate that.

  18. Fernanda Galvez

    Sheila love your content, your pursuit of what is best for marriages. I am so sorry for all the negative backlash your work has brought and that you guys have to endure all the frustration and emotions that come alongside it.

    I would love to see a podcast series (similar to your amazing Start Your Engines series) that is fully positive and uplifting sharing tips similar to your 30 days to great Sex book which is AMAZING!

    Thank you for all you do and fighting the good fight for such a special part of marriage, sex!

    So happy to have found you and to have all the great knowledge spelled out so I can share it in an age appropriate way with my sons as they come of age. It is truly such a gift.

  19. Clayton McGalla

    First of all my previous comment called Joanna, Joanne oops. I have found what might be the earliest form of toxic sexual teaching while reading chapter 3 of Jesus and John Wayne. The author references a 1974 best seller called The Total Woman. I have not read that book yet. Read chapter 3 of Jesus and John Wayne and I think you will see where some of this may have started. Thanks for you work.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, I thought that was fascinating when I read it! Kristin and I both said that we wish we had read each other’s books when we were writing our own; we would have cited each other!

  20. Aurora

    I apologize if this has already been addressed! I’m finally ready to end my monthly Focus on the Family donation and would like to do as you mentioned in letting them know why. Do you — or any other readers — have directions on the best way to do this? Do you suggest simply letting the representative know when I call or is there a better way to ensure the point gets across? (FYI, this it the webpage I found for donations: https://www.focusonthefamily.com/family-qa/how-can-i-make-an-online-donation-to-focus/. I can’t find another way to even view my donation information…)

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think you can just cancel your donation in whatever way is easiest, but then be sure to send a note to them or call in and tell them why (here’s a link). I think emails are often more helpful because there’s a paper trail? But you could also do both. And make sure to mention how long you’ve been donating, too. Thank you so much for the support! This is the kind of thing that will make them listen.

  21. Ann

    There were 3 books that had a tremendous negative affect on me as a woman, me in my Christian faith, and me in my marriage. My husband and I were gifted 2 of them for our wedding and tragically read them on our honeymoon: Love and Respect, and His Needs, Her Needs. The other book was sadly one someone recommended to him shortly after he became a Christian in college (with a porn addiction): Every Man’s Battle. He resonated with so much of Every Man’s Battle that he shared his copy with me, and I gobbled it up, along with Every Woman’s Battle. We were both volunteering with our church youth group at the time, so we also both read Every Young Man’s Battle. I have spent the last 18 years of marriage and approximately $14,000 in therapy (marriage intensives and counseling with (Christian) certified sex addiction therapists (CSATs). It grieves me greatly that Every Man’s Battle is still in print and still being promoted by its authors. It did so much damage to me and to my husband and to our marriage. By God’s grace, we are still married and he has been sober from his addiction to pornography for more than 5 years. Thank you for your work, Sheila and team. Your book changed my life, and that it not an exaggeration.


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