For Years, Every Man’s Battle by Steve Arterburn and Fred Stoeker has been the best-selling evangelical book tackling sexual addiction.
However, in our research over the years it has become clear that the book misdiagnoses the root of sexual addiction, and gives the wrong treatment.
The only credentials the authors have to write the book is that they were sex addicts themselves. They are not resarchers, trained counselors, or academics.
Since 2020, the Bare Marriage team has surveyed over 32,000 people to find out which evangelical teachings lower marital and sexual satisfaction, and we are dedicated to calling the church to a more Jesus-centered view of marriage, and a healthier view of sex where it is not a female obligation and male entitlement, but instead something mutual, intimate, and pleasurable for both.
In the course of that research, we created a rubric of healthy sexuality teaching and applied it to evangelical best-sellers. Every Man’s Battle scored second to worst of the books we measured–just 9/48. When we asked open-ended questions on our surveys, asking women what resources they believed made things worse, Every Man’s Battle was in the top 5 of the most commonly named resources.
Our findings show that the messages in Every Man’s Battle about sex and lust can make marriages worse.
While some may have found the book helpful, when it has hurt many others, it is best to choose a different book. There are other, better books to use that do not leave many of their readers harmed.
While I have written at length about the problems with Every Man’s Battle, many have asked for a summary sheet that they can show others.
This post is our summary of the issues. You can also download the information in this post as a pdf, which can be printed on two sides of one sheet of paper.
A Summary of the Issues with Every Man’s Battle
“We live in a world awash with sensual images 24/7… men [are] locked in a battle of spiritual warfare against these temptations… Every Man’s Battle offers a practical, biblical plan to help you experience victory and wholeness.”
Summary of Issues
- Every Man’s Battle objectifies women and fails to treat them as whole people. They either paint women as temptresses who are the enemy of men or as innocents who must be protected at all costs.
- Frames lust as a central part of maleness more than 50 times (“lustful thinking is your brain’s guiding worldview” (p. 149); “our maleness is a major root of sexual sin” (p. 71). One chapter is even titled “just by being male.”
There must be something inside our makeup as men that makes us particularly susceptible to sexual addiction, and there must be something outside us in our culture that makes this whole slippery slope so slick. That something inside you is your makeup as a male, including the ability of the male eye to deliver sexually gratifying pleasure chemicals to the brain when it locks onto the sensual objects in its vicinity. That something outside is a culture that’s locked in on making sure that everything around you is crammed full of sensuality to flood your pleasure centers, from the bouncy babe at the beach in her thong bikini to the steamy hot clicks at the Cinepolis movie theaters to the voluptous, duck-lipped classmate sexting topless selfies straight to your smartphone.
- Rather than understanding that the objectification of women is at the root of lust, encourages men to use their wives as sin management tools: “you are God’s only answer to [his] need” (page 13); “because of the obvious struggle men have with sexual purity… I began to understand why God would tell me ‘your body is not your own’” (page 14).
- Assumes noticing a woman is attractive will lead to lust, creating hyper-vigilance in the men reading.
Every Man’s Battle Portrays Women as Objects and Discounts Their Experience
- Portrays women as dangerous: “temptation grenades” lobbed by Satan (p. 144), shrews (p. 157), tarantulas (p. 45, referring to a 13-year-old who “blossomed early up top”). Describes women as consumable objects: “vessels of sexual fulfillment” (p. 131), “live attractions” (used 6 times), and “the only thing in the kitchen cabinet” (p. 132).
And my eyes? They were ravenous heat seekers searching the horizon, locking on any target with sensual heat: young mothers in shorts leaning over to pull children out of car seats, church soloists with silky shirts, college girls in low-cut summer dresses.
- Features unnecessary but extremely graphic sexual descriptions of women throughout: “a sensual, serpentine dance scene from the voluptuous Beyonce” (page 58), “banquets of glistening flesh”, “two tiny triangles of tie-dyed fabric struggled to contain her ample bosom” (page 3), “curvy teenaged babes in too-tight tank tops bounced into the room, giggling up a storm” (page 107).
I never intentionally set out to be girl watching that day, but I spotted her about two hundred yards ahead and to the left. She was jogging toward me along the coastal sidewalk. From my sheepskin-covered leather seat, I found the view outstanding, even by California’s high standards.
My eyes locked onto this goddess-like blonde, rivultes of sweat cascading down her tanned body as she ran at a purposeful pace. Her jogging outfit, if it could be called that in those days before sports bras and spandex, was actually a skimpy bikini. As she approached on my left, two tiny triangles of tie-dyed fabric struggled to contain her ample bosom. I can’t tell you what her face looked like; nothing above the neckline registered with me that morning.
My eyes feasted on this banquet of glistening flesh as she passed on my left, and they continued to follow her lithe figure as she continued jogging southbound. Simply by lustful instinct, as if mesmerized by her gait, I turned my head further and further, craning my neck to capture every possible moment for my mental video camera. Then *blam!* I might still be marveling at this remarkable specimen of female athleticism if my Mercedes hadn’t plowed into a Chevy Cheville.
- Ignores women’s agency and preferences. Men are repeatedly counselled to deceive their wives (page 132). Women are infantilized, described as “ewe lambs” sixteen times. One author explains how he likes to picture his wife as a baby in need of his protection. Ignores women’s sexual pleasure and never instructs men to make sex good for her, except as part of a treatment plan for porn-induced erectile dysfunction.
Every Man’s Battle Portrays All Men as Predators and Normalizes Assault
- Describes abusive and/or criminal behavior as part of “normal” male sexuality, including: indecent exposure, such as masturbating in gym parking lots (pp. 20, 87), voyeurism (p. 21), marital rape and coercion (pp. 23, 175, 188), discriminatory hiring practices (p. 39), sexual assault (p. 63), rape of minors (pp. 76, 151), deceiving wives to get more sex (p. 111), sexual harassment (pp. 152, 155), adultery (pp. 160, 175, 188), clergy abuse (pp. 162, 168), and domestic violence (p.188). Only the rape of teenagers is noted to be criminal sexual behavior.
- Accuses all readers of sexual predation: “you know you’ve lurked” (p. 152). “you’ve forced her to perform like a porn star for you” (p. 23; a description of marital rape); or assumes readers have sexually harassed colleagues (pp. 152, 155). This normalizes predation, gaslights men, and can create unnecessary shame and hypervigilance.
- Fails to label nearly all anecdotes describing assaults as actual assaults, ignoring women’s experiences. Instead, when assault is explicitly acknowledged, it is the man being assaulted by a woman appearing in a bikini (p. 123).
- Uses 1 Corinthians 7:4 to justify men assaulting and using their wives sexually (p. 175). Tacitly agrees with the men in their anecdotes who feel entitled to sexual release when they want it even if such sex is coerced (p. 175).
In Every Heart Restored, a follow-up book to Every Man’s Battle, a woman who followed the authors’ advice reports feeling “like a human toilet for semen.” The authors comfort her by noting that “men just don’t have that Christian view of sex.”
Every Man’s Battle Shows Little Evidence of Understanding True Healing for Sexual Sin
- Rather than addressing the attachment issues or childhood trauma at the heart of much sexual compulsion, paints victory as merely a matter of will-power, which, readers are assured, will take just 6-9 weeks (p. 95).
- Discounts the betrayal trauma common among wives of men with compulsive sexual behavior, instead judging such women harshly for not “having mercy” (p. 112).
- Advocates men “bounce their eyes” from women. However, this still frames women as objects—instead of lusting, you’re avoiding. Jesus didn’t refuse to look at women; He chose to truly see women. Avoiding women can create lust problems by seeing women as “the other” rather than as full, whole, real people.
- Rather than acknowledging objectification as the root of lust, reinforces objectification by turning wives into sin management tools. Instructs men to quit lust by transferring sexual energy to their wives. Instead of lusting after all women, the solution is to lust after just one, “soliciting the extra five bowls from her that I used to get outside” (p.133).
Healthy Sexuality Score: 9/48*
Infidelity and Lust:
*FOR FULL RESULTS, VISIT BAREMARRIAGE.COM/GSR-RUBRIC
What Readers Have Said
“All I really remember is at the beginning he’s talking about I think getting in an accident cuz he’s always lusting over joggers. Pretty sure I read the whole thing, or at least far enough to know this is just another book telling me, how could I put it, like the same way AA tells people they’re going to be alcoholics for life. I’m going to be addicted to sexual perversion for life and the best I can do is just learn to manage it. It still had me looking at the problem instead of looking at Jesus, and coming to the Father. Knowing who I really am in him. “
“To be very blunt, this book was extremely perverted and written from someone who apparently has an extremely inappropriate sexually saturated mind. My brothers and I went through it together and were absolutely disgusted. The author wrote that it was normal for every single man to lust after every female he encountered and that our entire life we would have to fight our desire to undress every woman with our eyes. I was shocked when he described how it was not abnormal for guys to sit in the parking lot of a workout center and “pleasure themselves” to each of the females that entered. He described watching his sister in law lay in the living room floor asleep masturbating because he could see her pantie line.
Our response was “pervert, look away!” And if a dude is sitting ina parking lot pleasuring himself to every female that walks by, then he has a serious sin issue.
Ladies…that is not normal.
There are plenty of God fearing men (and even those that don’t believe in God) that think this is abnormal, disgusting and perverted.
We are not all that way. That is a minority. We do not view you as “objects”. That mindset comes from a patriarchal mindset that lift man above women instead of seeing women as their joint heirs of heaven. That mindset places man between God women.
We are equally sinners redeemed by a savior and are equally redeemed heirs (See Colossians 3:11)
DO NOT let your boys or your husbands read that book. It is perverted filth written by someone who sees women as objects to be tamed and controlled rather than controlling their own sins. “
“Every Man’s Battle laid the groundwork for our marriage ending. When you can’t feel like you can say no. When you feel like you’re his sexual outlet and you know he struggles with porn and all that you feel heavily it’s your fault no matter what anyone tells you. Because you feel responsible if he strays.”
“As a young 20 something, my fiancé who had read this book downplayed his porn addiction because he was sure getting married would solve that problem. Newsflash: it didn’t.
When we were in pre-marital counseling, he used this book as the backing to draft a contract that I would never deny him sex and we would have it every day. But because I’m only one person, he was bored with me a few months into the marriage and went back to porn, actually denying me sexually. Then, when I tried to seek out help I was told it was something every man struggled with and I should “try harder,” even though he didn’t want me. Marriage was explained to me as Christian men essentially get married because they need a live-in sex toy. Christian wives were merely glorified prostitutes, who the husband takes care of as long as he has unrestricted access to her. Our story gets much darker, sadly.
He ruined my life, and while he’s long been in my rear view mirror, I still secretly wonder if all men view wives as glorified prostitutes, which seems to be in line with this book. I know logically this isn’t true, and that there are men out there who don’t view marriage like that, but the emotional damage has been grave indeed. This book definitely played a role in the trauma and pain I endured. I still hear its echoes in Bible studies and marriage groups today.
So many men I know raised with this book all genuinely think every man alive rigorously consumes porn, and if a man says he doesn’t, he’s lying. Try dating after being hurt like this and hearing this line about “everyone does it” from potential suitors. Same song, second verse. A little bit louder and a little bit worse.
Wish this book had never been written and so widely circulated.
“Real world experience had taught me that most men were somewhere between lustful and down right sexually dangerous. I thought Christian men were different. That book taught me that they were not only NOT different, but that God had made them ON PURPOSE to be that way. The world, for me, became a completely unsafe place after reading that book. If followers of Jesus were like that, too, and God made them that way, then where can a woman be safe? Not with any man and not even with God Himself. It was absolutely crushing.”
“We were at a difficult point in our marriage and this was handed to us as well as the blog/website as a resource. I remember looking at my husband’s face as he skimmed the material that was all too familiar across all the Christian literature. And he just looked beaten. Like this is it, this is all the “help” we get and it’s literally no help at all. We both felt defeated. We knew it wasn’t right or accurate but had trouble naming why or what about it was so “off”.
“I read this book in highschool and it reinforced the idea that all men are predators, women are prey. Men are sexual aggressors, women are the passive recipients. Women will always be seen as objects no matter what, and it’s “just the way men are”.
I felt embarrassed of my strong feelings against porn believing it was “every man’s battle” and it was unrealistic and niave of me to be so upset if my partner ever broke trust with me and used pornography. I was embarrassed of my desire to be someone’s one and only and believed the only way I would ever have a faithful consistent husband I would have to “beat” the appeal of porn and somehow keep my husband interested in me.
I felt irrelevant if a man wasn’t romantically interested in me believing it was impossible for men and women to have non sexual healthy relationships. I was very guarded/suspicious with men believing if they lusted after me it was my fault. I legitimately was rude to men because I believed they might think I was leading them on and be tempted to lust. I’m so glad to have a healthier mindset now which includes holding men and women responsible only for their own behavior. I understand that a women can’t keep a man from lusting. And men cannot blame women for their issues.
Men have to take responsibility for their own actions. I also believe using people sexually comes from a place of entitlement. It doesn’t matter how beautiful, sexually available someone’s spouse is, a person with sexual sin is not going to be satisfied with a wholesome loving relationship. I’m amazed that some of the most toxic sexist mindsets I struggle with, were rooted in purity culture and books like every man’s battle.”
Synopsis of Findings
While sexual faithfulness in a committed relationship is a laudable goal, the methods suggested to achieve this by Every Man’s Battle (avoiding women, viewing women as the enemy, using wives as sexual methadone) are neither healthy nor laudable. The book refers to women repeatedly as objects, food, or as erotic assemblages of body parts.
Criminal sexual behaviors are normalized and best practices to prevent abuse are never described. Anecdotes of sexual coercion are included without that coercion being labelled problematic.
Instead of Every Man’s Battle, Choose:
Do you have someone you want to give this resource to? Do you think it may help people see? What book would you like me to tackle next? Let’s talk in the comments!
Our Posts on Lust
Posts on Lust
- Noticing is not Lusting
- Does "Bouncing Your Eyes" End Lust?
- Can We Respect Women, Please? A New Look at the Church's View of Lust
- 12 Ways to Help Men Overcome Lust
- Do All the Men Around You Have Lust Problems?
- Why Does the Church Make Women Bear the Shame for Men's Lust?
- Are You Inadvertently Raising Your Sons to Have Issues with Lust?
- Do We Think Jesus Saves Women So Women Can Save Men? (especially from lust!)
Podcasts on Lust
- Why Every Young Man's Battle Makes Lust Problems Worse
- Let's Talk Ogling and Dressing for Attention: A Research Deep Dive
- You Are Not His Methadone: Why Sex Can't Cure His Porn Addiction
- Lust Isn't Every Man's Battle: And Now We Have Proof!
- On Noticing, Lusting, and the Yoga Pants Debate
Plus our Every Man's Battle Resources
Plus don't miss our findings on lust in our survey of men, all in The Good Guy's Guide to Great Sex!