When We Said Women Were Hurt, They Said We Were Gaslighters

by | Aug 30, 2022 | Abuse, Books, Research | 23 comments

Responding to the Authors we Critiqued in The Great Sex Rescue
Merchandise is Here!

Sheila here!

When I was planning last week’s podcast looking at how the authors and organizations that we critiqued in The Great Sex Rescue had responded to our book, I started making a list of all the things that they had acccused us of.

By the end of that effort, I had a list of 27 things we had apparently done, ranging from lying and mischaracterizing all the way to gaslighting and being Satan’s useful idiots.

Looking at that list was sobering. I hadn’t thought it would get to me, but it did. I had nightmares badly that night.

I wanted to publish the list, so that people could see the weight of it, all at once.

But Rebecca asked if she could write something else. She took that list, and wrote about what we were doing around the time that people accused us of these things–to try to put the accusations in context.

And then she wanted to issue a plea to the authors to come back to their first love, Jesus of Nazareth, and embrace the true kingdom.

Usually it’s my face responding to all of this, but when authors criticize us, they’re criticizing Joanna and Rebecca too. They’re criticizing two mothers of babies of toddlers, who wrote this book and ran these stats while they were nursing and delivering babies. I wanted to let Rebecca speak for what she’s feeling. 

I think it’s powerful, and I’d like to share it with you today.

Sheila Wray Gregoire

SHEILA: In March of 2021, three of us–myself, Rebecca Lindenbach, and Joanna Sawatsky–published the book The Great Sex Rescue, based on a ground-breaking survey of 20,000 predominantly evangelical women. We were able to identify key common evangelical teachings about sex that hurt women’s marital and sexual satisfaction, and cause libido to plummet and sexual pain to skyrocket–beliefs like “all men struggle with lust”, “a wife is obligated to give her husband sex when he wants it”, or “a wife should have frequent sex to keep her husband from watching porn.”

In that book, we also identified best-selling Christian books and resources that spread these messages.

We thought authors would care that people were being hurt.

Instead, not a single person that we called out has publicly grappled with our findings. Instead, authors have doubled down, and accused us of terrible things.

Rebecca is going to read out what people have said about us. The following accusations are taken from public statements by Shaunti Feldhahn and Focus on the Family; blog posts by Gary Thomas and Emerson Eggerichs that we believe refer to us; and some personal correspondence from others that we have called out.

(the sources for these quotes, as well as the explanations for why we believe they are about us, can be found in the podcast post for Episode 156 of Bare Marriage). 

When people hear our critiques of authors and organizations, they ask us “did you give them a chance to respond,” or “did you go to them privately,” as if there is more that we could have done.
So let me tell you what we have done, and what the response has been.

When we quote directly from authors, they say we are lying about what they said. When we share quotes from their books, they accuse us of attributing false statements to them, mischaracterizing them, and making assumptions. When we show how these quotes have done great harm, the authors say we are not wise or Christ-like.

When we share what women reported in our focus groups, these teachers call us gaslighters. When we share what our research of 20,000 women found, we’re told we have narcissistic arrogance and are harming women. When we ask them to grapple with our findings, and tell them we will answer any questions about our research they may have, the authors instead ignore us and spread false claims that we did our research badly.

When we call out authors for telling women to be the methadone for their husbands’ sex addictions, we’re told we aren’t submitting ourselves to God’s word.

When we plead with authors and organizations to care about the women in abusive marriages being battered by their teachings, we’re told that it’s actually just a doctrinal disagreement. When we highlight how these teachings damage women married to sexual sadists, we’re accused of not actually fighting against domestic violence, but rather fighting against those who genuinely care about women. When we show how specific authors downplayed marital rape, blamed women for their husbands’ sex addictions, told women to sexually service their husbands even when they themselves were in great pain or medically suffering, we’re told we engage in outrage marketing. We are told that we are unkind or mean.

When we beg authors to stop treating women like sexual objects, the authors accuse us of using calculated and cruel attacks.

When we say that male sexuality and the objectification of women are not one and the same thing, we’re called self-righteous, that we have an agenda where we pretend to help women, but we’re really just drawing attention to ourselves

When we beg authors to care about women’s sexual pain, We’re told pride has all but taken over our work; that we’re turning as many people away from the truth as to the truth; and our “cup” (that we pour out of to teach) has gotten so dirty and we don’t realize it.

When we call out authors who use our work and our wording to make themselves sound safe, while they then teach unsafe things in the very next breath, we’re called adversaries who make false charges both professionally and personally, choosing to make more money by making people angry.

When we called out an author for advising women to become porn to defeat porn, he claimed we:

  • Are unhealthy
  • Are Demonically strategic and organized
  • Are Satan’s useful idiots who think they are doing good and yet may be working for the other side
  • Pushed him so hard that hating us was inevitable
  • Are used by Satan to attack good people, distracting them from what God wanted them to do.

When we publicly stand up to plead the case of women who are suffering by speaking against those in power who are causing their pain, we are told we are not going about this in a Kingdom way.

To them, all we have to say is this:

If you believe we are not being Christ-like when we plead with you and the colleagues you defend to care about the woman who is gritting her teeth to get through sex you told her is her husband’s right to take, when we beg you to listen to the stories of women treated as husband’s sexual methadone, when we feel the need to shout to get you to show even a modicum of care for the people devastated by the teachings now proven statistically to do harm–perhaps we are not acting like the God you serve.

Perhaps we are not doing things “in a kingdom way”, if the kingdom is one of prestige for you who hold power.

But perhaps that is because your Christ is not the same as ours. The kingdom you are working for is not the same as the Kingdom we are fighting to realize on earth.

We serve the Christ who reaches out and touches lepers, rather than casting them out of the city and declare them unclean.

We serve the Christ who topples religious power structures when they harm those most vulnerable.

We serve the Christ who is more concerned with the wellbeing of the sheep than the reputation of the hired hand who is feeding them to the wolves.

We serve a Christ who sees the suffering of women he loves and weeps.

The Christ we serve offers resurrection, redemption, rebirth. He is the Christ who, no matter our past, can redeem and use us for His glory. He is the Christ who specializes in taking what was dead and decaying and bringing forth new life.

We invite you to rediscover this Christ. To willingly put yourself through the pain and humiliation of Christ’s death so that you can rejoice in his resurrection.
The death of pride. The death of status. Perhaps even the death of platform and wealth and fame.

But we invite you into the resurrection.

We invite you into redemption.

No one is stopping you from doing the right thing. No one is waiting, hoping you will fall.

We are waiting, hoping, pleading and praying that you will remember your first love, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, and join us. Join us in protecting his sheep. Caring for His sheep. Loving His sheep.

That is the Kingdom way.

We just want to say, thank you for supporting us, and thank you for giving us the chance to share this with you. It was therapeutic for us to put this together, and it is much easier to move on to the next task at hand now!

"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
Responding to the Authors We Critiqued in The Great Sex Rescue

What would you say to the authors? Leave a comment and let’s talk!

Rebecca Lindenbach

Author at Bare Marriage

Rebecca Lindenbach is a psychology graduate, Sheila’s daughter, co-author of The Great Sex Rescue, and the author of Why I Didn’t Rebel. Working alongside her husband Connor, she develops websites focusing on building Jesus-centered marriages and families. Living the work-from-home dream, they take turns bouncing their toddler son and baby daughter, and appeasing their curmudgeonly blind rescue Yorkshire terrier, Winston. ENTJ, 9w8

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  1. Stefanie

    Yes, that post was fire! Rebecca, your fire is one of the things I love about you! I’m so sorry you guys are taking these hits on behalf of the hurting. It’s not right, and not fair. And at the same time I so appreciate all you guys have done. Praying for you!

  2. Phil

    I would say beautifully said Becca! I think I am going to print this one out too. I would also like to make all aware that I not only support the effort here but I have participated in delivering the message. I have reached a new plane. I am now engaged in a dialogue with my Pastor about the books he has been pushing to engaged couples for the past 40 years. I want to tell you all something: I honestly DO NOT want to be involved in this battle. I whole heartedly support it and agree with the message here. But do I really want to sit down with my Pastor and do all this? NO! Do I fear what will people think as I take this stand? Yes. Do I fear being mocked and ridiculed for standing up for Jesus? YES! You know why I am going to do it anyway? Jesus has been revealed to me. I have been shown the miracles of God ranging from a near death experience that I have no explanation of how I was ripped out of the water to a full year and half adventure of God talking to me and even touching me and tickling me. God has shown me the empty cross and the empty tomb. God has shown me the miracle of the resurrection and has saved me from my sins through his son Jesus. God has given me Grace. He has done this through special people that He has given me in my life. It is the absolute LEAST I can do for my God, My Jesus to take a STAND through a path that I know is 100% correct! That path is standing up for Women just as my savior Jesus did and does everyday. I stand with baremarriage.com and I stand with Jesus! Amen ladies

    • Laura

      Thank you so much for being a voice in this. I pray that God will give you wisdom and that the words He gives you as you speak to your pastor will open his eyes and that he will consider the harm those books have caused a lot of women. Keep doing what God has called you to do.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Wow, Phil. That’s powerful. Thank you so much!

      (Also, I love the double meaning for you of “God has given me Grace.”)

    • Sue R

      Thank you for speaking up. You (and your comments) are always so truthful and sincere. I’m now adding courageous to the list!

  3. Laura

    Thank you Rebecca for speaking the truth and bringing your passion to it! Though these authors claim that they are following Christ and that their readers are growing closer to Him, that is so not true. In my case, I have read countless Christian books on marriage, sex, and dating throughout the years and felt troubled by those teachings. Reading them made me think that God didn’t want me to be an equal partner in marriage and if this was the way men were (sex-crazed maniacs who needed sex like a drug addict needed methadone) then I’d rather be alone. I had been married to a sex-crazed maniac and do not want to repeat that experience.

  4. Cynthia

    Well said.

    Beyond any particular dogma, this is the essential issue: do you see God as being BEHIND those in power, or ABOVE them?

    You three clearly see God as being above – a source of mercy to the most vulnerable, a source of justice from which even the most powerful are not immune.

    Other see God as being BEHIND those in power. Their focus then becomes defending those in power and the power structure itself, and any criticism or call for change is then seen as “Satanic”.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I like that–BEHIND or ABOVE!

  5. EOF

    Thank you for all that you do, especially in the face of such opposition! It’s beyond disheartening how poorly these authors are responding, not only to you but all of the women who have been harmed and abused by their messages.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes! The way that Gary Thomas especially treated abuse survivors on Facebook was very disheartening. And the way that the others simply ignored or gaslit them (or used them as negative examples in their books) was quite the thing.

  6. Mara R

    Partial disclosure here. My real name isn’t Mara Reid. I chose this pseudonym back in the day to protect my struggling family.

    Then later realized it was a good choice to have a pseudonym because I took on the likes of Mark Driscoll. And we have all learned here that the Evangelical Machine is kind of like the Mafia in that it attacks those who stand up to their errors and abuses of power through lawsuits and other legal threats

    Anyway, the name, Mara Reid, is symbolic. Mara means bitter. And I chose Reid as symbolic of Jesus, the Reed who was bent but not broken. Reid also contained the thought of the Branch that Moses threw into the waters of Marah to make the bitter waters sweet. Hence the name of my old, inactive blog, From Bitter Waters to Sweet.

    One of my earliest posts talks about why I named the blog thus. In a nutshell, it had to do with the church giving women bitter waters to drink and then judging women for being bitter as a result. Or worse, judging them for spitting out the bitter waters and walking away from the church.


    Sheila, Rebecca, and Joanna. You three and the rest of your team have my utmost respect. You are taking on a Goliath. You are taking on the Gospel Money Making Machine that worships platforms more that Jesus. You are taking on people who should have been shepherding of His flock but have instead abused, used, and prostituted the Ewes in order to garner favor with the Rams in order to keep them in church and giving money.

    May the Lord strengthen and protect you. You are not the devil’s useful idiots. You are His hands and feet as you turn over the table of the money changers. These money changers have made the Evangelical house a den of thieves. And they are angry that you are hitting them where it hurts, in their pocketbooks.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you so much, Mara. I love hearing about the origins of your pen name, too! That’s so lovely.

      And the way that the church punishes women for spitting out the bitter water is exactly right!

  7. Jane Eyre

    To these authors: if you don’t like the research done by the Bare Marriage team, do your own research. You have big audiences and big bgets – find twenty thousand religious women, design your research, get an IRB, and run the numbers yourselves.

    Find out if there is a causal relationship between the obligation sex message and decreased sexual satisfaction. Find out if there is a causal relationship between women’s decreased sexual satisfaction and her marital satisfaction. Find out if these messages help or hurt women during dating – are they finding good husbands or are they ignoring red flags?

    Until then, kindly shut it.

    • Jane Eyre

      bgets = budgets…

    • Hopefully Not Too Old

      Rebecca, Sheila, and Joanna,
      Thank you for demonstrating courage in your work. You saw a problem, you did careful research, and you published it.

      I am a 68 year old woman who has been married for 48 years. My husband was a porn user for the first 42 years of our marriage, and our sex life suffered greatly from the lies you call out in your book.

      At the recommendation of my therapist, we are reading and discussing your book. My husband and I are mourning the lost years when we could have had a great sex life. We are praying that it’s not too late to recover it, despite health issues.

      Please, please keep speaking Kingdom truth to everyone, even those who misread the Bible.

      Blessings to you all!

  8. Lynn

    I’ve been a TLH&V reader since nearly the beginning. I’ve learned so much and appreciated your love of Jesus Christ and mission to strengthen marriages and families. I’ve wished recently, when you talked about caring about ‘the’ sheep, that you pointed out that ‘the sheep’ are HIS sheep. Whether we are caring or cruel, everyone we interact with is one of HIS sheep, known, loved and redeemed by Him. Thank you for clarifying whose sheep we are.

    Thank you for your bravery. This has been an ugly, ugly fight. I hope you’ll soon be able to get to a place where you can just leave the argument. There’s no point in discussion that’s falling on deaf ears. Those of us that hear you will move forward sharing what we’ve learned with our children, family, friends…anyone willing to listen!

    I hope you can move on with your mission of strengthening marriages. Those in opposition will stand or fall based on their own decisions and actions. I hope you can step out of battles going nowhere. There are plenty of His Sheep who will hear your message, learn, act, share, and have stronger, sweeter, more beautiful relationships. Life is short. So many women and men have been able to make course corrections and appreciate you boundlessly. You well deserve some peace and joy!

  9. Lynn

    dear moderator – I guess please excuse me! I didn’t mean to say anything awry!

  10. Jo R

    It takes a lot of chutzpah for male pastors, authors, and teachers to insist women aren’t sexual when women have a body part whose only known function is sexual pleasure. And multiples, if their husbands have skills.

    But it’s the team ***here*** that’s gaslighting. Um, OK.

  11. Nathan

    What it comes down to is…
    “Women are being abused and hurt when people follow your ideas.”
    “You go against God when you say that”.

    What a horrible reaction. My best guess is that it all comes from a combination of preserving their power hierarchy and hatred of women.

  12. Nathan

    (trying to post again)
    How horrible to decry your work as being against God, when all you’re doing is asking people to stop hurting and abusing women.

    They only want to preserve their own power.

  13. Nathan

    I guess I DID post twice. Never mind. Still getting used to the new site, which is amazing!

    I hope and pray that the voices that promote (or quietly allow) abuse will get smaller every day.

    • Mara R


      I’ve had some very serious commenting problems and navigation problems with this site since the change over. As a result, I’ve had multiple comments delayed or completely lost. And because of this, my commenting has been greatly reduced due to trying to figure out whether or not the problem is on my end or if there are just that many bugs and glitches still being ironed out.

      Yes, this is an improvement to the old place.
      Even so, I’m having to work on my patience while I wait for the dust to settle and the details to all be figured out.

  14. L

    The issue is, that since the time that the romans made Christianity their official religion, Roman-based Christianity has been based on supremacy. Christians are better than non-christians (but especially jews aka anti-semitism), all non-christians are heathens/evil/devil worshippers.
    Men are superior to women
    Adults are superior to children
    Whites are superior to black/dark-skinned people, a belief based on Genesis 9:20-27 and the misreading of Hebrew and other Semitic languages lead to a misinterpretation of “Ham” to mean “dark, black, or heat”. The entire transatlantic slave trade can be directly traced back to Christian beliefs.
    The colonization and subsequent genocide and decimation of indigenous people, cultures, and land, around the planet is directly based in Christianity. The doctrine of discovery. The verses attributed to Jesus telling his disciples to go and tell everyone.
    The crusades.

    Even climate collapse that is happening right now, is based on the beliefs that god gave humans dominion over the planet, to do with it as we like. As well as actively destroying all the indigenous people and indigenous ways of living that have kept the planet in thriving health for millennia.

    And also that if we destroy the planet we’ll hasten the rapture, never mind that rapture theology is only a couple hundred years old.

    The problem of sexism in Christianity is not a new one. It’s a supremacy belief issue, like all the other issues.

    The problem is the the very base, the very core of Christianity, at least the version that is so prevalent in western, colonizing cultures, is utterly rotten to its core. It is based on supremacy doctrine.

    And you can’t just claim “those aren’t Real christians”, “because that’s not what Jesus said”. Because to look at the history of Christianity over the last 1700+ years, and see it’s legacy….it is a bloody, bloody, legacy. This IS Christianity.

    If your belief is that everyone *should* be a Christian, then you’re supporting the core supremacy belief that informs all the other supremacy beliefs, including sexism and patriarchy.

    Sheila addresses sexism here. Which is fantastic. But why all these other authors are doubling down? Supremacy doctrine is simply woven through every part of Christianity: it is Christianity.


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