Have We Created a “Yes Space” for Men in the Church?

by | Jan 27, 2023 | Theology of Marriage and Sex | 26 comments

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When my eldest was thirteen months old, my parenting research brought me across the concept of a “yes space.”

A “yes space” is an area of the house that you create to be completely and utterly child-friendly. Everything they shouldn’t reach is out of reach. Everything they shouldn’t open is locked. You don’t have decorations or figurines that a child could break, the toys are easy to access, and the space is a safe place for a toddler to explore. It’s working great for us because it gets rid of the back-and-forth power struggle of, “Don’t touch that” “Stop” “NOOO no no no no no” *crash*.

Why is a “yes space” necessary? It’s necessary because young infants and toddlers simply do not have impulse control yet. They act and think simultaneously because they are still trying to learn how the world works. They aren’t purposely trying to break the glass vase because they are being naughty–they’re just literally trying to figure out what happens when you drop glass, and they don’t have the cognitive capacity to think through their actions at 14 months. 

 Instead of expecting my children to do what they are not yet competent enough to do, we just make the space fit them.

The parent takes on the mental load of managing that, of dealing with frustrating child-proof locks, of anticipating what the baby might try to do that could hurt him and preventing it.

The goal is that my children live in an environment that is stress-free and perfectly catered to them, at my expense, so that they have the space to grow, learn, and thrive.

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Now here’s where we get into entitlement:

I believe that in evangelicalism, in an ideal world men live in a “yes space,” and it’s women’s job to create it for them.

In the very last chapter of The Great Sex Rescue, we looked at the main requirements that these books had for women versus what they expected of men. And it was telling. When it came to books for women, the books we read asked an average of five of the following requirements: 

  • Have intercourse as frequently as your husband wants 
  • Have intercourse even if your husband is watching porn or has a lust problem
  • Understand that without intercourse, her husband is more likely to have an affair, and if he does, it is partly your fault 
  • Give him hand jobs or oral sex when she is on her period, postpartum, or ill 
  • Prevent weight gain
  • Affirm that your husband is a good lover even if he is not 
  • Initiate intercourse and be enthusiastic about it 

None of those are in your wedding vows. But in contrast, of those same books, only three
required the following from men: 

  • Stay faithful (with no caveats) 
  • Make sex pleasurable for her 
  • Do not insist on sex when your wife is physically or emotionally unwell 
  • Seek consent from your wife.

And men were not asked to do what women did, of course. They were just asked to do… well, nothing really. When it all comes down to it, men are asked to exist and women will serve them. Men simply living out their vows deserve brownie points in these books. 

We are in a pattern, in the church, of believing that men are unable to deal with disappointment and so therefore women must create “yes spaces” so that they can thrive.

The reason that I started thinking about this was actually a section in Married Sex, where Gary Thomas describes how men may enjoy using a silk scarf or makeup brush on his testicles.

No one is knocking sensory play with sex–not at all! But in this context, it just made me mad. I had already read in this book Gary describing women getting sexually aroused while giving handjobs postpartum, I had already read Debra telling postpartum nursing women that they had to learn how to let their husbands touch their breasts during sex, I had already read the authors tell women to say “maybe” instead of “no” because men can’t handle being turned down, even if for good reason.

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This book had presented a backdrop of sexuality where men were, frankly, selfish.

They could not be expected to be emotionally mature enough to have a modicum of respect for their wife’s desires, but seemed like toddlers screaming, “But I wanna” but instead of it being about extra goldfish crackers, it was about his wife’s boobs.

And so when I read the makeup brushes, the picture of a Christian husband this book had given me was not one who would first stop and ask, “how will this affect my wife.” Rather, the picture of a man tha this book had painted was the kind of man who would go and use his wife’s $50 Fenty blush brush on his balls because it would feel good to him and he felt entitled to pleasure, not considering she might not want a ball brush on her face.

And it’s not just sex, either. Evangelicalism does this just in general. 

Women are told to affirm their man by praising him for what she WANTS him to be, rather than what he is. So they get praise for stuff they haven’t even done. Women are kept out of leadership positions, whereas men who show to have zero discernment and no care for the female sheep are given a flock. No matter what the marriage is like, men are told they are the “leaders” and women must obey. Women are taught that we are supposed to cover up our bodies as young as 10 years old in order to keep the grown men in the congregation from sinning instead of just asking men to stop looking at 10 year old girls, or stop leering at the new mom as she nurses.

From Jr. High, girls are taught that it’s our job to make men’s lives easier by taking some of their responsibilities on our shoulders. 

We have a “yes space” around sex. A “Yes space” around leadership. A “Yes space” around lust. And who is it built on? Women.

The problem with creating a “yes space” for men is that yes spaces are designed so that someone else bears the consequences of your actions.

That’s very appropriate for a 18-month-old. But what happens to your development as a relationship partner if you’re not expecting to be told “no”? What happens to your ability to be a good spouse if you believe, subconsciously, that your desires, needs, and impulses come first? Who do you become as a person if you’ve been subtly trained to blame others for your lack of self-control?

Women are expected to bear the responsibility for their husbands’ faithfulness, for their husbands’ sexual enjoyment, for their husbands’ emotional state in marriages and the majority of Christian books didn’t even expect husbands to not coerce their wives. Let that sink in.

Women are told it’s better to show up late to your friend’s birthday party than it is to kindly correct your husband when he’s driving the wrong way (in For Women Only). The Christian marriage is set up so that the consequences fall on women’s shoulders instead of the man learning how to handle the fact that he is not perfect.

Girls learn to see their bodies as threats to the men around them, leading to self-esteem issues, sexual pain, and even sometimes feeling like they caused their own assaults, because that is seen as a worthy trade off so that men do not have to actually control their thoughts around young girls.  

Men are not entitled to live in a “yes” space.

Men are not entitled to not having their feelings hurt by their wife saying “no” to sex because they simply aren’t in the mood.

Men are not entitled to unlimited exploration of their sexual pleasure, and especially not when 53% of women aren’t even having orgasms regularly, and 12% aren’t having any at all.

Men are not entitled to anything less than full responsibility for their own fidelity.

Men are not entitled to have women make it “easier” for them not to sexually objectify children by teaching those girls to cover up.

Men are not entitled to have life be “easy” for them simply because they are male.

It’s not your job to make yourself and your needs and wants and limitations smaller so that he isn’t inconvenienced by you and your woman’s body.

And it means, men, that you are not entitled to an easy life. 

You are not entitled to have an orgasm if you are not taking time to give your partner one.

You are not entitled to a partner who will be willing and eager no matter what you’ve done.

You are not entitled to a happy, supportive, trusting wife if you have not earned that trust and support.

You do not deserve to be held to a lower standard because you are male–you are a grown up, and what you do deserve is to be treated like one.

So go, have fun with some makeup brushes. But for goodness’ sake, don’t be the kind of man who would use his wife’s.

Where are some places you’ve seen “yes spaces” enacted in the name of Biblical gender roles? What are some other places you’ve seen “yes spaces”? How did it affect the people involved? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

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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. Heather

    Yes, amen, hallelujah!

  2. Nessie

    FYI, there are several paragraphs that got repeated. (Now Here’s Where We Get Into Entitlement repeats a few paragraphs down, restarts with Now Here’s Where…)

    “Girls learn to see their bodies as threats to the men around them, leading to self-esteem issues, sexual pain, and even sometimes feeling like they caused their own assaults…. ”
    Have the people promoting these ideas ever thought that part of why their wives seem “frigid” is in part because they have been taught this? (You want your wife to be relaxed enough to enjoy being naked around you? Then she shouldn’t have been taught her body is a threat- this is NOT rocket science!) If you teach your son/daughter these things, you are literally training them to be sexually frustrated on both sides of the coin in their marriages.

    “Women are told to affirm their man by praising him for what she WANTS him to be, rather than what he is. So they get praise for stuff they haven’t even done.”
    YES! SO MUCH THIS!! I used to do that on social media, etc., being told he would live up to the praise, I just had to believe in him (hence MY fault if he didn’t live up to it b/c I didn’t believe in him enough.) Other church wives strongly encouraged this “method” which felt manipulative anyhow. (And good grief, it’s a sin to lie UNLESS you are a wife stoking your hubby’s ego??
    I missed that verse..)

    It breeds discontent because you see so many others praising their men, and why oh why aren’t I enough to inspire my husband to be better- how am *I* failing HIM??… To be fair, our then-pastor knew/admitted to individuals about how the church was severely lacking in community and welcoming people in, yet he gave several sermons praising the audience how great the church was at community. Though great in many other ways, I consider that a lie from a pastor. We left shortly after. Where is the example of Jesus praising people for things they have not done in the hopes they will grow into that?!?

    And LOVE this, LOL! “So go, have fun with some makeup brushes. But for goodness’ sake, don’t be the kind of man who would use his wife’s.”

  3. Helen

    Amen! So much truth here that it’s going to take me a while to process.

  4. Andrea

    Why can’t I use make-up brushes anymore without thinking of Gary Thomas’s balls, gross, I hate that stupid book, I gotta change up my make-up routine now.

    • Lisa

      There are so many reasons that I wish brain bleach really existed after reading Gary Thoma’s & Debra Fileta’s sex book. I truly NEVER wanted to know about his wife’s nipples or her genital waxing. I think we’ve all heard of waxing, Debra, we don’t need you to tell us it exists and that some people like it (let alone that you or your husband like it). And Gary, yeah, we know. And we’ve all seen pictures of you and your wife. And predators in your church now know intimate details about your wife’s nipples. Gary Thomas, men in your church look at your wife and think about what you wrote about your wife’s body and sexual responses. How’s that sitting with you, Gary?

      Maybe he thinks his megachurch is literally the one place in the universe where there are no sexual predators? Could he be that dumb?

      • Sara

        Yes, I have gone to Second Baptist in Houston for years, and I have always liked GT, but I was extremely disappointed by this book. I once ran into his wife, Lisa, in the bathroom. Of course, she doesn’t know me, there are thousands of people at that church, but I immediately thought of the things GT had written in Married Sex. If I as a Christian woman had thoughts that I didn’t really want to have, I can’t imagine everyone else with whom she interacted. The book was heavily marketed at SBC, so I am 100% sure several hundred men and women, especially those in administration, read it. I would be angry if my husband told just one of his buddies intimate details about our sex life, much less our entire church. I don’t understand it at all.

  5. Connie

    It’s not just sex, and it’s not just the church. This week I read that not only do women do most of the house work and childcare when both parents are working, but even SAH dads only do about 21% of the work at home. I guess we’re just supposed to be so happy that some man lowered himself to take us…

  6. Phil

    Ok Becca I do t know where to start today. The serious side or humor. Let’s start with the serious side. AMEN SISTER. Thank you. I have to say I need to read this to further see not only my own past transgressions but to be able to identify it better in social and faith settings. YOU GO GIRL! Now on the humor side you had my ROFL! My Gosh Becca – so is that one big brush on 2 balls or just a brush on 1 big ball? 😂🤣😂🤣. Thats nuts! LOL. Dr Lindenbach at work LOL. Thanks for the laugh today Becca. Freakin killin me 🤣😂🤣😂

  7. Laura

    In women’s Bible studies, several women bragged about how they never say no to their husbands and they are always at their husbands beck and call. I just didn’t know what to say to that. I was triggered by this because when I was married to my ex, I was never allowed to say no to sex. Looking back, I realized it was a threat on his part because I said no a lot. Then he started sexually assaulting me while I was asleep.

    When I was in junior high over 30 years ago, I experienced sexual harassment from male classmates. My teacher did what he could to stop it, but the principal (a woman) didn’t do much to stop it. She and the guidance counselors seemed to have the mentality that boys will be boys. That was the first yes space for males that I experienced. And there’s Hollywood, but that’s changing especially with many allegations against Harvey Weinstein.

    • Nessie

      School, yes! The boys snapped our bra straps in gym class or on the bus in particular. Teachers usually excused it with the “Boys will be boys” as you said. Adult women would say, “Well, I went through worse!” Yes, and you never dealt with it and became incredibly bitter, etc.

      • Laura


        You would think that the generation before us would want better for us. I hope this younger generation and the next generations, sexual harassment will dwindle.

        • Nessie

          Sometimes I wonder if it revolves around they (those who say that) feel we DO have it better than they did and we are just being greedy wanting to be treated as equal humans? It’s as if each generation is only allowed to have a slight improvement over the previous.

          I’m doing what I can to raise a kid that understands how wrong all these entitled attitudes can be. We’ve had lots of awkward conversations that have grown far less awkward the more we have them.
          Kiddo understands it well now which gives me hope. 🙂

          • Dee S.

            Hi Laura, I have heard it suggested that women have often traditionally kind of policed other women – and encouraged them not to “complain” about harassment and assault – in part because in previous generations (and really only up until this previous decade) the cost to women was so steep for bringing forward allegations or even just requests for harassment to stop or be addressed.

            So, the thinking goes that: as a result, females were raised (in an unspoken way) to “help” younger women protect themselves from the negative social, professional, monetary, and legal consequences of speaking up, by encouraging them to kind of “not make a big deal” about harassment or assault. Staying quiet was safer.

            And it truly was safer to stay quiet. Until just recently.

            I wonder how much of that remains ingrained, nonetheless – that urge to try to soothe, minimize, and say “oh it’s not so bad” and “it could be so much worse” in response to harassment and assault scenarios. As a result of good intentions.

            But of course good intentions don’t erase the IMPACT. And I’m writing this because I thought it was an interesting thought and info. I’m for sure not someone who thinks an “oh it’s not so bad” and “it could be so much worse” approach it ultimately good or ideal. I think it’s horrible and destructive, personally. Not a fan at all!

  8. Mara R

    I hesitated to link this. Not because it doesn’t apply. It totally applies.
    It just used to be old news that one wants to forget. I wish that it still was old news.

    But… “OH NO! HE’S AT IT AGAIN!”
    Yes, I know he’s the disgraced pastor from Seattle that is not taken as seriously as he used to be.
    But he just won’t go away. And too many people still take him seriously in spite of the mountains of evidence against his character.

    Mark Driscoll had a Peasant Princess series that he taught on The Song of Solomon back in his Mars Hill days. And it looks as though he is recycling it and re-releasing it on 2/14/23 in a new book to help people ‘spice up’ their married sex. Almost said something about him and his stupid book in the comments of yesterday’s podcast in praise of vanilla sex. But I feel like I always go there and just didn’t feel like doing so yesterday.

    In his Peasant Princess series, he twisted and spun it so bad that he actually stole the voice of the beloved (her) away and gave it to the lover (him) to make a point about how important it is for women to make a yes space or oasis for their poor, beaten down, hard working husbands.


    Some of you may have already seen this, and I apologize for being repetitive. But anyone looking for proof that he doesn’t rightly divide the Word of Truth or that he actively fights to build that yes space for men, here it is.
    And as far as Driscoll naming his series, The Peasant Princess series, he’s wrong there as well. In the post I linked the other day concerning our Brothers in Love, I linked to the verse in The Songs that call the maiden a noble man’s daughter.
    SHE WAS NOT A PEASANT. What more evidence does one need that Driscoll proof texts just as bad as Eggerichs?

  9. Lisa

    Yes, this is true, I was actively taught this in the Evangelical books for women that I read and in the Evangelical women’s groups I was in. It truly was like having another child. Smoothing over his rudeness. Smoothing over his temper tantrums. Lying to extended family about why he wasn’t at the family event as expected. Making sure his preferences were prioritized. Pretending I didn’t care when nothing happened on my birthday.

    And, when I stopped doing it? Thankfully, he realized just how immature he really was and he started working on it. Not all men do. For me, I had to step WAY back. Make sure the kids were safe but, otherwise, let him clean up his own messes, let him feel his own feelings & emotions. Never make excuses for him again. And I tell the truth instead of lying to make sure he doesn’t look like a louse.

  10. Willow

    So much of society that I have experienced is a “yes space” for men. If you say no, there are plenty of other women who will say yes. (By “say no,” I mean creating a normal adult atmosphere.) So you’re dumped, ignored, bullied, gaslit, or ostracized.

    It would be nice if religious men did not act like this, or if religious spaces did not echo this, but that is not my general experience.

    Very few people who have the opportunity to live in a “yes space” willingly give up that privilege. And that applies to every type of privilege.

    • Andrea

      “If you say no, there are plenty of other women who will say yes.” — I’ve seen those women referred to as “pick-me-up girl” in the secular world and that feels apt.

    • Willow

      I think one important way to break this cycle is to teach both male and female children how to take care of themselves and others. And not just the “how” of picking out produce, scrubbing a toilet, changing a tire, laundering different types of clothes, managing a household budget, drilling holes to hang a shelf, changing the diapers of young and old; but the “how to know when”: how do I know when I need to buy groceries? to clean the bathroom? to take the kid to the doctor? to get the roof replaced? to help aging parents? to do the laundry? to change the oil in the car? to buy the kids new clothes or shoes? etc.

      Adults who never learned these important lessons as children are at a disadvantage: they are reluctant to become independent and move out; they expect a spouse to handle all of this for them for free; and/or they spend a lot of money hiring people or services to do these basic fundamentals of living for them. They’re also primed to weaponize their incompetence against others. While some adults make an effort to figure out and master what they don’t know, many people “don’t know what they don’t know,” and that makes it more difficult for everyone. Nobody wants to have to parent another adult, whether in the workplace or at home.

      While adults may *choose* not to do all of “adulting” on their own, either by sharing chores with a partner/spouse or by hiring help, we need to equip both boys and girls with the full range of skills to be able to live independently. I think this will help break up the “yes” spaces.

      • Kate

        This is an important point. In our case, neither my husband nor I learned the “how to’s” of managing a household while we were growing up. But once we were married adults, I took it on myself to learn (imperfectly), while he has been more resistant to learning. Because why leave a yes space when it’s nice as comfy?

        We’re working on it, but I’m struggling to see an outcome that feels satisfactory for both of us.

        • Jo R

          If I were cynical, I’d wonder why the husband isn’t leading this effort to learn things that will improve his marriage and home life.

          • Mindy

            This, Jo R. This right here. Ironic, isn’t it, that women are told we shouldn’t lead but we are expected to lead emotionally, but don’t get to actually call it that?

          • Jo R

            Well, it’s all of a piece with a church calling a ministry leadership role “pastor” if a penis-bearer holds the position, but if a mere second-class woman does the job, then she’s just a “director.”

            Real-life examples from a former church: Pastor of Community Life, but Mothers’ Day Out Director, Choir Director.

  11. Nathan

    I never saw it like this (hadn’t even heard of a Yes Space before but I might want to institute that in my future child’s life), but you’re spot on about all this. We’ve bred entitlement into our men to coddle their feelings and uphold a perspective of “male headship” for the sake of tradition (and probably power dynamics).


  12. Linda Hightower

    I heard this from a married woman my church back when I was a divorced mom of two: “You have to say yes to your husband. Having a headache is no excuse, because for every married woman with a headache, there is a single woman with two aspirin in her pocket.” I was standing in the group that she was speaking to and I was horribly offended. I had zero interest in her husband, or any other husband in the church. Divorced women are not immoral sexual predators. We didn’t divorce because we wanted a better lover. We divorced because we wanted peace in our lives and that was the only way to get out of the perpetual war zone.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that’s so awful! I’m so sorry someone said that to you. It also makes me seriously suspect her marriage is awful.


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