10 Huge Problems with Every Young Man’s Battle: With a One-Sheet Download

by | May 17, 2023 | Faith, Parenting Teens, Pornography | 57 comments

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Every Young Man’s Battle is the only book I ever reviewed that made me weep.

Perhaps it’s because I read it after I had already read a whole bunch of books aimed at teen girls, and it was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

But I think there was a whole other level of awfulness with it–not only did it set up little boys to be trapped in sexual sin and shame their whole lives; it also objectified MINOR girls. Horrifically.

While Every Young Man’s Battle isn’t a huge seller anymore, it seems like every week I get emails and messages from concerned moms because their Christian school is working through it with their junior high boys or their grade 9 boys. Or their youth group is using it with the boys. It is still widely used curriculum for boys ages 13-17. 

And so today I would like to document my concerns with the book (and they are many), in the hopes that people will realize using nothing at all is far better than using this book.

This post will outline 10 big problems with Every Young Man’s Battle, in detail. There is a simplified summation of this post available as a one-sheet, printable download, too. 

Every Young Man's Battle

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Every Young Man’s Battle opens with shock, desensitizing its readers

The very beginning of Every Young Man’s Battle is filled with graphic descriptions of porn, sex, and lust in ways that can be very uncomfortable and shocking for young readers (or any reader).

Here’s just a sample of the anecdotes from the very first pages of the book:

“I have a friend whose son turned twelve a couple of years ago. He’s a great dad, and he has a great kid. When the boy turned twelve, it’s as if the spigot labeled Hormones was turned wide open…The young boy then did a very courageous thing. He approached his father and said, “Dad, I just feel like taking off my clothes and standing in front of a girl naked.”
(this is actually exhibitionism and is illegal. To frame this as the “normal” thing that their readers are experiencing, right off the bat, is jarring.)

“Hollywood movies filled me with lustful curiosity and burning passion. In one film, Diana Ross poured a bucket of ice on her boss’s belly just as he orgasmed, which seemed to intensify the experience. My mouth dropped open. What’s up with this? I pondered such scenes in my mind for days upon days. On those rare occasions that I went out on a date during the off-season, these deep churnings often stirred and bubbled over. Too often, I’d push a girl’s boundaries while I tried to get a hand under her bra.” (p. 7)
(He then goes on to talk explicitly about the porn he watched.)

“I actually memorized the date when my favorite soft-core magazine, Gallery, arrived at the local drugstore. I’d be standing at the front door at opening time, even if I had to skip class to do it. I loved the “Girls Next Door” section in Gallery, which featured pictures of nude girls taken by their boyfriends and submitted to the magazine for publication.” (p. 9)
(this is a description of non-consensual porn)

Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoeker and Mike Yorkey

Every Young Man's Battle

Right off the bat in just the first 3 pages of text, we have three anecdotes (and there are many, many more problematic things on these first few pages alone; I just pulled a few examples) that are salaciously graphic while normalizing criminal or non-consensual behavior.

In the first, we have a boy who feels pulled towards exhibitionism; in the second we have Fred Stoeker admitting to committing sexual assault (pushing past a girl’s no is sexual assault); and in the third we have Stoeker admitting that he enjoyed watching non-consensual porn–porn that boys sent in after taking pictures of their girlfriends.

The fact that these graphic, non-consensual anecdotes are what frames the whole book is very problematic.

Now let’s turn to the ten specific problematic elements with Every Young Man’s Battle, broken down into three categories: the problematic ways that the book handles lust; recovery; and women.

The problems with how Every Young Man’s Battle discusses lust 

1. Every Young Man’s Battle basically says that men lust because God created them that way

Even though the book is purportedly written to help boys stop lusting, the framing of the book counters that aim. First, the book claims that lust is “every young man’s battle,” insinuating that if you don’t struggle with lust, you’re not a “real man.” 

Yet lust is not supposed to be a special category of sin that every man struggles with, nor is it a sin that should be part of the Christian life. 

But the authors frame lust as part of being male:

“And being a boy means having certain qualities that come “hard-wired” with the package…Why the prevalence of sexual sin among men? We got there naturally—simply by being male.” (p. 55)

“We’re simply saying that the ability of the male eyes and mind to draw true sexual gratification from the world around them begins to explain why sexual sin is so common. In fact, it explains many things.” (p. 61)

“We’re turned on by female nudity in any way, shape, or form.” ( p. 56).

“No red-blooded American male can watch a major sporting event these days without being assaulted by temptation.” p. 150
(so if you’re not tempted, then you’re not a red-blooded American male).

Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoeker and Mike Yorkey

Every Young Man's Battle

The authors also take great pains to tell boys that basically all the men around them lust too, and that lust is normal. While lust may be widespread, it’s far better to emphasize that many men have gotten over lust–not that most men you know will always struggle.

“These guys are perverts and weirdos! But these men are not weirdos; they’re your next-door neighbors, your friend’s father—maybe even your father. They’re Sunday school teachers, ushers, and deacons. Even pastors.” (p. 37).

Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoeker and Mike Yorkey

Every Young Man's Battle

They also say that this explains why boys masturbate–but they ignore the fact that many girls do as well. This study, for instance, found that while 79% of boys masturbate, so do 48% of girls. Yes, boys masturbate more–but still, almost half of girls do as well. You can’t blame masturbation and lost on being male.  

2. Every Young Man’s Battle shares multiple salacious about titillating descriptions of women, sex, and pornography

Again, the whole book is salacious, but here are just a few typical examples:

“There’s nothing in the world like an orgasm. No feeling hits you harder or draws you back faster, whether through masturbation or sex with a partner. When I was fourteen, my sister’s boyfriend, Brock, said to me with a wicked little grin, “Once you taste the candy, you’ll never say no again. So you better not taste it!” Brock was right.” (p. 17)

“Every detail, from the color and cut of her hairstyle right down to the curvature of her spreading thighs are imprinted in my brain.” (p. 32)

“When some hot-looking babe in a French bikini walks by your beach towel, your eyes have the habit of locking on her, sliding up and down. When the cheerleader with the biggest breasts walks past you in the hall, your eyes run away with her. When the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue arrives in your mailbox every February, you fantasize over the curves and crevices…” (p. 141) 

“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… Foxy babes wearing tank tops that revealed skimpy bras… Joggers in spandex, jiggling merrily down the sidewalks…. Smiling secretaries with big busts and low-cut blouses…. ” (p. 37)

Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoeker and Mike Yorkey

Every Young Man's Battle

They also seem intent on putting ideas into readers’ minds about how great porn and sexual activity is, and how you’re missing out without it. They use the word “paradise” (p. 31) multiple times to describe a situation where a boy is getting lots of blow jobs, telling boys how amazing it is to be the recipient of oral sex. 

And while they insist that watching porn is bad, they also describe in detail how to find porn-like images without watching porn–watching beach volleyball; department store catalogs; lingerie ads; even exercise videos: “John wakes up early to watch those morning exercise shows, though he doesn’t care much about fitness: ‘The truth is, I feel absolutely compelled to watch, to catch the closeups of the buttocks, breasts, especially the inner thighs.’” (p. 37)

Essentially, the book puts boys in a catch-22. They repeatedly lecture their readers about how vital it is to resist thinking about sex, and avoiding any materials that give graphic descriptions of sex, but then their very book does this! And the shock value seems to desensitize young boys to sexual material.

She Deserves Better!

Because we all deserve a big faith.

Your daughter deserves better than what you likely grew up with in church.

What would it look like to prepare the next generation without toxic teachings about modesty, sex, or consent, and instead set her up for a big faith?

3. Every Young Man’s Battle fails to depict any man or boy behaving respectfully towards women 

Let’s start with how the authors talk about themselves. When they describe in detail their own sexual exploits in the past, it borders on exhibitionism. There was no need for the kind of graphic descriptions they gave. A simple, “My past is not something I was proud of. I took advantage of girls; I prioritized my own pleasure over treating them with respect; I hurt others, and I hurt myself” would have sufficed.

And if they’re not being salacious, it sounds like they’re bragging:

Just one year out of college in California, I found myself with four “steady” girlfriends simultaneously. I was sleeping with three of them and was essentially engaged to marry two of them. None knew of the others.” 

Again, he could have just simply said,

“I found myself with four “steady” girlfriends, none of whom knew about the other. I had strung them along, promising commitment while using them for sex. I had acted abysmally towards them.”

That would have framed the situation with him taking responsibility or their pain, rather than bragging about all these girls he had slept with.

There are no descriptions of boys owning their lack of respect for women, or owning how they have treated women. There are no descriptions of boys simply treating women well. Instead, boys are portrayed as being unable to, largely because they don’t need or want true intimacy, but only want sex, unlike girls who want real relationship:

“This is where our maleness works against us. Remember, men primarily give and receive sexual intimacy prior to and during intercourse. When you bring yourself to orgasm while fantasizing or viewing women on a glossy magazine page, you have a feeling of intimacy.” (p. 123)

“Men primarily receive intimacy just before and during intercourse. Women gain intimacy through touching, sharing, hugging, and communicating deeply.” (p. 35)

“But don’t get the idea that young women think like you do about sex. They don’t. They aren’t visually oriented like you.” (p. 211)

“Guys give emotions so they can get sex. Girls give sex so they can get the emotions.” (p. 212)

Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoeker and Mike Yorkey

Every Young Man's Battle

This shows a remarkable misunderstanding of intimacy, and even the hormone oxytocin. Yes, oxytocin gives a rush at climax, but it is not the same as “intimacy.” Intimacy is being emotionally open with another human being so as to understand and know one another better. You do not have a “feeling” of intimacy at climax with porn; you have a feeling of euphoria. That’s very different, and the fact that they don’t know this is problematic.

The fact that they think that a man won’t feel intimate after communicating deeply reveals that the authors likely have channeled their needs for intimacy into sex, bypassing true emotional vulnerability themselves. If they understood what relational intimacy was, I don’t think they could have written the passages they did.

4 Every Young Man’s Battle blames girls for boys’ sin, since boys are hard-wired to sin 

It’s not surprising that since the authors think boys are hard-wired to sin, and since they also think girls don’t think about sex, don’t masturbate, and don’t really like sex, they hold girls responsible for boys’ sin.

“Because women can’t relate, they have little mercy on us and rarely choose to dress modestly….Given what the sight of nudity does to the pleasure centers of our brain, and given the fact that it’s pretty easy to see many naked or near-naked women these days, it’s no wonder our eyes and mind resist control.” (p. 57)

“Even Christian girls push their wardrobes far beyond modesty, sporting short shorts, tight T-shirts, and bare midriffs. You can get an eyeful and even masturbate from the memory when you get home later that night.” (p. 78)

Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoeker and Mike Yorkey

Every Young Man's Battle

Every Young Man’s Battle route to overcoming lust is not evidence-based but instead shame-based

5. The only way to overcome lust is effort, effort, effort

Here’s how they describe their four steps to getting over lust: 

“The four requirements necessary to stop masturbating are as follows:

  1. Making a strong decision to no longer “stop short” of God’s standards. 
  2. Joining an accountability group that allows for the honest expression of feelings. 
  3. Continuing an active, ongoing relationship with God that involves worship and prayer. 
  4. Becoming aware of how various media—magazines, cable TV, videos, Internet, and catalogs—affect your sex drive.” (p. 118)
Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoeker and Mike Yorkey

Every Young Man's Battle

So it’s all willpower, focusing on your own effort. 

Instead of focusing on recovery in community; examining your wounds; understanding how you may use porn or masturbation as a coping mechanism to avoid looking deeply inside yourself; understanding your need for self-soothing; or looking at your trauma–all of which real counselors feel are imperative steps to recovery (and this isn’t an exhaustive list), Arterburn and Stoeker merely tell boys to try harder.  Have you met the terms? Do you love His standards?” (p. 22)

Interestingly, Stoeker does tell the story of how he was raised by a distant father. But he doesn’t seem to draw the connection that this wound is affecting his proclivities to act out sexually, and this needs to be healed.

Instead, they frame the fight to defeat lust into a legalistic battle:

Since entering that land, have you failed to crush sexual sin? Every hint of it? If not, you’ll someday loathe yourself for that failure, like I did.” (p. 47, referring to the Law)

They tell boys that the route to defeat lust is to resist everything, including visual foreplay, or other kinds of foreplay, like slow dancing or taking in any kind of sexual material that could cause them to think about sex. 

But look at how they describe visual foreplay:

“Just like stroking an inner thigh or rubbing a breast.” (p. 57).

 For instance, here’s what visual foreplay does: “You have her in bed on the spot, though only in your mind. Or you file away the image and fantasize about her later. You stare at a sexy model and lust. Your motor revs into the red zone, and you need some type of release or the engine’s going to blow. You’re preparing your body for intercourse, even if it’s “false intercourse” with a jar of Vaseline.”

Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoeker and Mike Yorkey

Every Young Man's Battle

How is this not putting images and ideas into boys’ heads? You could argue that their book is making boys sexually aroused, and then telling them to feel guilty for being sexually aroused.

Then the book makes boys feel guilty for normal things:

“When you see a hot movie scene, is there a twitch below your belt? What are you thinking when you’re on the beach and suddenly focus on a jaw-dropping beauty in a thong bikini walking past you? (p. 59)
(it is normal to feel a physical reaction to beauty; it doesn’t mean you’ve lusted)

“Is your relationship with God as gratifying as her breasts on Friday nights?” (p. 77)
(to tell boys that they have to like prayer as much as touching a girls’ breasts is shame inducing). 

And finally, we have fear tactics: “His pastor told me, “Ronnie says he wants to be free, but he doesn’t feel any compunction to put in any effort on his own. He’ll give up his sin, but only if God does it.” Later, Ronnie rushed into his pastor’s office in terror, saying, “Pastor, you’ve got to help me! You know the fantasies I have while masturbating? Two weeks ago, they suddenly turned homosexual, and I can’t make them stop!” (p. 85)

Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoeker and Mike Yorkey

Every Young Man's Battle

Then what do they promise? A near-instant fix if they merely try hard enough: “In short order, Barry defeated his problem.” (p. 88). What are boys to feel when it isn’t near instant (and they repeatedly say six weeks is about how long it will take)?

6. They consistently confuse “authenticity” and “integrity”, and thus lose the opportunity to teach about how to truly defeat lust

 Authenticity is actually integral to recovery, because authenticity involves becoming emotionally vulnerable with another; dealing with your wounds and the reasons WHY behind self-soothing and escaping behaviour; and healing them (As licensed counselor Jay Stringer talked about in the Bare Marriage podcast with us).

 Yet at no point do they discuss authenticity on this scale. Instead, they use the word authenticity when they’re really talking about walking with integrity. Note how in these examples, integrity is actually the correct word:

Authenticity requires a different question, which can be stated like this: “How holy can I be?” (p. 46)

“If they were authentic,” said Thomas, “they would say, ‘Christ saved me, so I want to be pure.’ (p. 47)

Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoeker and Mike Yorkey

Every Young Man's Battle

Also, their route to recovery isn’t about either authenticity or integrity: “When you’re in her company, play the dweeb.” (p. 197)

 7. They completely ignore the role of trauma and sexual abuse in many boys’ stories

Approximately 1/9 boys will be victims of sexual abuse; the book pretty much ignores this and how it may play a role in lust/porn issues. The book also asserts that only men can rape (p. 55), which ignores the possibility of female-male rape, and ignores the phenomenon of arousal non-concordance.

Given how many boys can also be victims of abuse as minors by adults (or by peers), it is a dereliction of duty not to mention this.

Every Young Man’s Battle erases or objectifies women and girls 

8. Women and girls are consistently objectified and described in terms of body parts

There are too many instances to mention (it’s almost every page), but here is a sampling:

“He believes that missing out on a backseat rendezvous with Betty Jo “B. J.” Blowers actually screwed up his life.” (p. 29)
(giving a girl a moniker in the book to go along with oral sex)

“striking blonde bombshell” (p. 35)

“Like training your eyes to look away from string bikinis, full-busted sweaters, and the hot-looking babes who wear them.” (p. 51)

“any bouncing breasts that mosey by.” (p. 142)

“What are you thinking when you’re on the beach and suddenly focus on a jaw-dropping beauty in a thong bikini walking past you?” (p. 59)

“Similarly, if a well-built woman bends over and shows you her breasts while you continue to stare at her, you’re a thief. You need to leave that valuable creation in the hands of God and her husband or her future husband.” (p. 71, note how she only has value and is due to be respected because of her relationship with other, even only fictitious, men).

Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoeker and Mike Yorkey

Every Young Man's Battle

Every Young Man’s Battle also completely leaves out the girl’s perspective and experience, even in situations which could have huge impacts on her, as these four examples show:

1. “Obviously, stripping off her clothes in the basement at the after-game party is a wrong way, but it’s just as wrong to stare lustfully at her and fantasize in your mind. Neither practice is any more pure than the other.” (p. 17)

Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoeker and Mike Yorkey

Every Young Man's Battle

Note how she has no agency and is not doing anything in this example; he is doing all the actions. Also, these are not equivalent actions. One is a sin that she knows about and that can haunt her, especially since it does not say that she consented to having her clothes stripped off. So they’re equating pushing her boundaries with fantasizing about her, and these are not equivalent. In no case is any thought given for her well-being.

2. “When I did have premarital sex, it gave me a sense of control and ownership, as if these young women belonged to me. They were objects of my gratification, just like those pictures on the wall of my grandfather’s shop.” (p. 103)

Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoeker and Mike Yorkey

Every Young Man's Battle

Here, they give no acknowledgment of how these relationships may have affected the women involved.

3. At one point, Steve Arterburn describes pressuring his girlfriend, who wanted to have the baby and marry him, into getting an abortion: “I had killed more than my baby. I had killed my life, and nothing would ever be the same again.” Yet in retelling this story he didn’t show any remorse for what his girlfriend was feeling. The remorse was only for what he was feeling.

4. When he’s talking about why a boy should respect his daughter’s purity, Arterburn frames it in terms of the relationship that he (the dad) has with the boyfriend. He must respect the dad–not he must respect HER. (p. 202).

Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoeker and Mike Yorkey

Every Young Man's Battle

In all cases, women’s perspectives and feelings are ignored or minimized, and women are seen only in relation to how they affect men’s stories. This is actually part of the root of lust–ignoring women’s personhood and seeing them only as objects. Even when Every Young Man’s Battle is trying to give good advice, it still frames women as incidental to the real story–the boys and men.

This sets boys up to never be able to defeat lust, since seeing women as objects is the root of the problem anyway.

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9. Every Young Man’s Battle bulldozes over any understanding of consent

Every Young Man’s Battle recounts many anecdotes that are non-consensual in nature without ever labelling them as such, or talking about the effects of these situations on the girls.

“Too often, she was less because I took from her only what a husband should take.” (p. 103, husbands shouldn’t be “taking” either).

“What about the cumulative effects of renting Titanic on Friday night, watching nubile sweat-soaked girls in tight nylon shorts at the track meet on Saturday afternoon, and lightly rubbing your genitals against a girl during the slow dance at the Saturday night social?” (p. 108).
(Lightly rubbing your genitals if she doesn’t want it isn’t okay, yet this is framed as being a sin against
himself, not against her.)

“She’s so full-bodied, and the guys in the locker room have told me she’s kind of loose about what she’ll do with you. I know she’d never pay any attention to me, but I found this picture of her in her tight volleyball shorts in the yearbook, and I’ve masturbated over that picture a million times.” (p. 191)

Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoeker and Mike Yorkey

Every Young Man's Battle

When the authors do make reference to sexual assault, they say: “Countless girls are fondled and raped by cousins, uncles, and their mother’s boyfriends—as many as one out of three, if we’re to believe the statistics.” Nevertheless, they never mention the far more common phenomenon of date rape, and never tell boys what consent is. Both of the anecdotes in this next box are consistent with date rape:

“I remember the time when a guy I really liked tried some things that made me uncomfortable. I asked him to stop, but he persisted. Finally, he just wore me down and I eventually gave in. He had weakened my defenses.” (p. 211).
(This is flat out date rape, and they do not mention this.)

“When I resist, he pouts or asks why I don’t desire him physically. I hate making him feel bad and having the blame pushed back on me, so sometimes I’ve given in.” (p. 213) (Again, this is describing a non-consensual situation without telling boys that this is sexual coercion and assault.)

Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoeker and Mike Yorkey

Every Young Man's Battle

10.  Every Young Man’s Battle describes other criminal and abusive situations without labelling them as such

Not only do they ignore non-consensual behaviour; they actually ignore criminal behaviour. 

“I actually memorized the date when my favorite soft-core magazine, Gallery, arrived at the local drugstore. I’d be standing at the front door at opening time, even if I had to skip class to do it. I loved the “Girls Next Door” section in Gallery, which featured pictures of nude girls taken by their boyfriends and submitted to the magazine for publication.” (p. 9)

I still remember the short, full-bodied Asian girl standing nude in the wheat field in Gallery after she won the “Girl Next Door Contest.” (p. 32)
(This is non-consensual pornography with racial fetishization).

“with no mom around and a junior high girl down the street who comes over to my house every afternoon and lets me do anything I want to her. What’s the big deal? It’s fun, and she wants it.” (p. 31).
(His age is not mentioned, yet this girl is only in junior high. That is below the age of consent

“Maybe you’ve driven your car to the parking lot of a local gym after school, watching scantily clad classmates bouncing in and out, fantasizing—even masturbating—in the car.” (p. 64; this is exhibitionism).

“The next thing I knew, I was broadcasting myself to five girls while masturbating.” p. 153
(again, exhibitionism).

“gave a low, little whistle.” (p. 160).
(While this isn’t technically criminial, catcalling is extremely intimidating to women, and this is never mentioned.)

Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoeker and Mike Yorkey

Every Young Man's Battle

Are the authors remotely qualified to write this book?

Let’s be clear: the authors are not certified counselors. They are not psychologists. They have not studied mental health. Their only qualification to write a book about getting over lust is that they both were sex addicts.

Today, they confess that they objectified women in the past: “I began to view women as a little less than human, as if they were just a little less than men.” (from Steve, p. 101)

However, this implies that this objectification is in the past, and that they now see women as whole people. Yet would people who have recovered from objectification:

  • Be able to write about date rape without ever mentioning lack of consent or the woman’s experience?
  • Refer to a teenage girl as a disembodied pair of “bouncing breasts”?
  • Call female joggers or female co-workers “enemies” because they inflame lust?

It is child abuse to introduce porn to young children.

And that’s what this book does, with its graphic, salacious descriptions of porn; its objectifying language around women; its descriptions about orgasms and oral sex and other things that are like “paradise.”

It is also spiritual abuse to set a child up for a lifetime of shame and guilt and constant sexual struggle–which again, this book does.

I do not believe that it is too harsh to say that this book is a travesty. 

If it is ever being recommended in the circles that you are in, or if it is being used in your Christian school or youth group, don’t just remove your son from the teaching.

Make a fuss. None of the boys deserve this. And we simply must do better.

Please, print out our one-sheet download and give it to your youth pastor; your pastor; your church librarian; your Christian school principal. Let’s stop the harm that this book does!

Every Young Man's Battle

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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. Mara R

    I read the intro to this post then skimmed the ten points, reading the headings.
    May get back to those in detail. Not sure. Already sick to my stomach.

    But please, as an antidote, could you remind me of the names of the men and books that actually deal with the porn issue properly. It may have been in the text, but I skimmed so hard out of shock that I missed it. I would feel more comfortable going back and reading it if I had those resources more at my finger tips.
    Thank you for understanding.

    • Annie

      I’m gonna guess Jay Stringer (Unwanted) and Zachary Wagner (Non-toxic Masculinity) are probably what youre wanting.

  2. Mara R

    And a second thought

    From post: “Their only qualification to write a book about getting over lust is that they both were sex addicts.”

    It is common for men who have issues with porn and sex addictions to assume that all men are like them. My ex is like that. Driscoll is like that.
    I remember a man commenting somewhere that that problem was not men liking and wanting to act out porn. The problem was women refusing to join them in this fully natural God-given endeavor. Yes, he was a Christian (or claimed to be) who was trying to educate us on how we were all puritanical and needed to lighten the heck up and accept this normal, natural, fun, and adventurous part of life.

    He was eventually blocked from commenting. But, wow, seeing him there spouting his philosophies was quite un-nerving.

    • Nessie

      One link went to her podcast with Jay Stringer, author of Unwanted.

      She has also mentioned before:
      Andrew Bauman, author of The Sexually Healthy Man, and How Not to be an *ss: Essays on Becoming a Good & Safe Man
      Michael John Cusick, author of Surfing for God: Discovering the Divine Desire Beneath Sexual Struggle

      Bauman’s How Not to Be an *ss brought my husband to tears. Don’t think he has finished it though, but it definitely hit him hard.

  3. CMT

    What? Just…what? I won’t type the words I’m really thinking or this won’t get posted.

    People are still studying this book with 13 year old boys??!? After skimming some of these quotes (I couldn’t even read all of them), I wonder if might be borderline abuse. This is so incredibly problematic and disgusting.

    I have a son who is almost 11 and I have been giving a lot of thought to how to discuss puberty and sexuality with him. Boundaries and respect have been part of the conversation since he was little. When he’s ready for more information, his dad and I do want him to know that sexual feelings are normal and not shameful. But what you’re quoting is a far cry from that. If anyone tried to speak to my child like this in real life I would think they were grooming him. I would literally not let that person near my children.

    • CMT

      “I wonder if might be borderline abuse” I was so mad I posted before I read the whole thing and now I see you said exactly this.

      And this was the “Christian” approach to male sexuality. Ugh!

      • Angharad

        There is nothing ‘borderline’ about it. It’s straightforward abuse.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s exactly how I felt reading it. That’s why I wept. The thought of adults assigning this book to 13-year-olds and 14-year-olds. Wow.

      • CMT

        It’s horrible. Saying stuff like this to grown adults is bad enough, but the developmental stages teens are at would make them so much more vulnerable. Adolescence is wild, and developing sexual feelings can be overwhelming (for girls too, thanks!). We need to talk honestly with kids about that. That doesn’t mean essentially telling boys they are wired to be sexual consumers or even predators. Just… why? Why did this ever get a pass?

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          It also won a Gold Medallion Award for best book as part of the evangelical Christian publishers association. They actually thought it was great.

      • Annie

        I have a 14 year old and am so disturbed by how this was “meant” for him/his peers. So inappropriate.

  4. Angharad

    I couldn’t even read all of it, but what I did read…this book is child abuse. Period.

    Anyone who writes filth like this is a child abuser. And anyone who ‘teaches’ children using this material is a child abuser.

    I’m sorry if some people find this too blunt, but it’s true. If you found a neighbour sharing pornographic fantasies with your 13-year-old son, you’d be reporting him for child abuse immediately – so what’s the difference when the fantasies are packaged in a book that is labelled ‘Christian’ and ‘educational’?!

    In the UK, there has recently been uproar over material used in secular school sex education which is regarded as ‘too explicit’. It’s tame compared to this.

    I’m reminded of Matthew 18 v 6 and how it would be better for anyone who causes a child to stumble in the faith to have been cast into the sea with a millstone round their neck. My heart breaks for every young man whose mind and heart have been scarred by this book – and for every young woman who has been treated as worthless because of this teaching.

  5. Nessie

    #1 “No red-blooded American male can…” The author himself admits it’s an Americanized problem (other places do, too, but bringing in his country shows bias, not to mention countering their idea that God simply made all men that way.)

    #2. ” I was sleeping with three of them and was essentially engaged to marry two of them. None knew of the others.” They advertise themselves and their desires as “normal” yet how many men do we each know that are “essentially engaged” to more than one woman?

    #3. “Because women can’t relate, they have little mercy on us…” WE have little mercy on THEM?? Are you freaking kidding me? How about a little mercy on us and not RAPING women, girls?! Not sexually assaulting us? Having enough mercy to not cast male sins onto females? But, right, THEY are the ones being treated mercilessly… (there goes my sarcasm showing again.)

    #4. ” …just like those pictures on the wall of my grandfather’s shop.” So men need to avoid seeing any females but it’s perfectly fine to have images posted in a shop. Seems to be a LOT of toxicity in his upbringing that he hasn’t dealt with. Having a troubled past isn’t the problem, but one shouldn’t write a how-to if they haven’t worked through a lot of it.

    Why are so many people vehemently against sex ed in schools yet view books like this as a safe resource? I would far prefer my son know sexual mechanics, anatomy, etc., from a medical view than a creative writing/journalistic slant designed to entice and perpetuate the very problem they claim to be helping “fix.” Disgusting.

    These authors need to study empathy and apply that to women. I don’t know how Sheila managed to keep her list to one page.

    • Andrea

      On the topic of sex ed… If you look up articles about how to talk to your kids about porn in The New York Times or The Atlantic, you’ll be shocked by the difference between secular and “Christian” sources. The secular ones talk about non-concordance of arousal (in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Sheila got that from secular sources, since Christian ones do NOT mention it anywhere, she’s the first one) and how to explain to your boys not to ever do to any live girl what they see in porn, that learning how to have sex from porn is like learning how to drive by watching The Fast and the Furious. Christian boys, by contrast, forbidden from a comprehensive sex education, only learn how to have sex from porn and think they can do all that to a girl as a reward for holding off until their wedding night. Imagine having sex with a man who learned from porn and Mark Driscoll and never had proper sex ed! That’s one reason why evangelical wives have twice the amount of pain and half the amount of pleasure compared to the rest of the population.

      I’m glad other people are calling this book child sexual abuse because I feel the same way, but was worried that it would sound too incendiary. I think it’s time to get incendiary about this. So we have books written for teenage girls by female date rape victims and we have books written for teenage boys by male sex addicts. God help us.

      At the expense of sounding like a broken record, I want to bring up Andrew Smiler’s book Challenging Casanova again. Last time I mentioned how in anonymous surveys of high school and college boys he found that only 15% liked the idea of sleeping with three women over the next month. (I’m sure Every Young Man’s Battle authors would disagree, but they’re not developmental psychologists, whereas Smiler is.) He also found that most boys desire intimacy and not just sex, in fact that most of them desire intimacy IN sex. Let’s stick to secular resources until we get rid of all the pervy ones in our churches.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Okay, I first got arousal non-concordance from Law & Order Special Victims Unit! (that’s honestly a great show about explaining arousal non-concordance.) But they didn’t call it that–I just got the concept.

        Then I saw it really fleshed out in Emily Nagoski’s book Come As You Are, which is excellent. So I had been talking about it in passing before nagoski’s book (I often fielded questions in Q&A sessions that mentioned it when I spoke), but I really started including it in books and in our courses after reading Nagoski and then doing a deep dive into peer reviewed papers on it, which were so interesting! So I’m glad she gave me a name for it.

  6. Codec

    I first read these books as a young man who was deeply ashamed with himself. I was hoping that I could find a solution to my problem or perhaps a justification.

    It was only later in life that I came to see how miserable this book made me. I found it hard to walk past Victoria Secret on a casual trip to a shopping center with friends. Every failure made me feel awful.

    There is no honest sterile look at the why and hows of fantasy. No look into defeatism and entitlement. Let alone how not everyone is equally aroused by visuals but some are more tactile or vocal.

    Now that I see that this book is normalizing crimes I have to wonder how I never noticed as a teenager.

    Please, make a book for young men correcting this one.

    • Nessie

      Codec- You probably didn’t notice because it was so indoctrinated into the world you lived in, much like many of us women failed to notice the toxicity in our worlds and how we were at fault for being temptresses.

      Once our eyes are opened, we aim to do and be better, and to help others.

      • Codec

        More and more as I look into psychology anthropology and social sciences the more I find it confusing how we address these issues.

        For instance these ideas directly contribute to the dating crisis. If women feel that men are dangerous and men believe that women are playing mind games what else do you expect?

        I honestly have to thank Sheila. I want to read that Casanova book.

        I want to see her address incel stuff.

  7. Jo R

    Hmmm, Christian sex ed or Penthouse Forum rejects? 🤔

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Honestly, the amount of time they spent talking about past exploits (and it sounded like bragging) was unnerving.

      • Andrea

        This is the stuff that the Jonathan Pokludas and Joshua Butlers of American Christendom were raised on. And it shows.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire


  8. Leandra Williams

    I would like to burn all of these types of books. And I think no woman should ever be alone with these men.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I do keep a list of Christian men I will never be alone with. Yep.

  9. Phil

    When I was in my active addiction refuting my wife’s call to stop and get help, she actually gave me this book. I put it in my night stand for probably several months until I actually decided I should read it. (I had gotten caught again). I opened that book and within minutes I new it was garbage. Even a guy who was completely addicted to sex/porn among other things could see the book was not good. The biggest memory I have about the first time I read any of that book was NO THIS IS NOT NORMAL. As for the article today I still do not read the excerpts. Why? Cuz its pure garbage.

    • Nessie

      Phil- I’m glad you noticed the toxicity when you first read EYMB. That’s great. I think there are many guys though that won’t see it at first until it is pointed out (much like many of us women didn’t notice until people like Sheila pointed out what was wrong with many resources.) We each have different experiences that affect our ability to see things like that, so we should probably be careful not to shame guys (or gals) that want to be better but have been surrounded by so much toxicity that they didn’t see it yet. I know you are just passionate to expose this crap for what it is and help women- thanks for that excitement and persistence. 🙂

      • Phil

        Oh yeah Nessie – I am with you. Most guys are so desperate for help they will follow anything. Trust me. Some of my story includes me flowing toxic stuff to get good answers. There are places in my story where I saw truth and I saw healthiness. Interestingly I owe my 12 step program a HUGE thank you for all it and the people have done for me. But what the basis of the program taught me was how to stop. Well thats great. But there is more! That is: How to be healthy! There isnt exactly so much on that topic in that environment so I had to find other places. This place is one of them 😬

        • Phil

          ^following toxic stuff..

          • Phil

            All who may read: this week has been tough for me with regard to various physical ailments that have impacted my thinking at times. Interrupted sleep patterns in a hotel was also a slow burning building contributing theme that also added to it. That being said I wanted to let the record show that I may have gotten confused on this book title topic. There is a high likelihood that my wife had gotten me Every Man’s Battle not Every Young Man’s Battle. That being said either way I still stand behind my statements on either of those books. In the past when Sheila has brought up these books I made a statement along the lines that the authors are “recovered” sex addicts that think their experience/ past is what everyone has experienced and without evidence write in that manner. Let me assure you as a qualified sex addict who has been in recovery for 20 years. My past behaviors where NOT normal and my past does not make it your plight! I could go on but the bottom line is that anything written by these dudes is not healthy and I am glad that I was able to see that even when I was in a toxic state. Today its not just that I see the writing is wrong, I also see how it is harmful and in this case to young boys. The excerpts written here and the very little I listened in on for the podcast associated with this topic do disturb me quite a bit. I am thankful that once again Sheila takes on toxic teachings and calls it out for the better of us all.

  10. Lisa Johns

    Wow, I actually had to stop reading the post, because the subject matter made me nauseous. (This is NOT a criticism of what you’re doing! But that book is so bad the authors ought to be arrested — holy 🤬 those guys are creepy as 🤬!
    What in 🤬 were they thinking, that they thought it was OK to present such material to young children?! I can tell you right now, if I ever see the name arterburn on a book cover, I will “accidentally” swipe that book and shred it. Holy God Almighty, please save us!

    • Anna G

      Stars above! These guys are sick.
      I can’t imagine how this would mess with boys’ heads. Inflicting this on anyone, much less an 11 or 14 yr old should be considered a form of abuse.
      /Anna out.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s how I see it too.

  11. Madeline

    I always find it so shocking how little men like the ones who wrote this care about the women they have traumatized along the way. This author clearly doesn’t view women as human beings (despite claiming to be a Christian who has repented).

    • Angharad

      Yes. There’s one quote where he talks about using women as if he owned them (I am NOT looking back through the garbage to quote exactly), but you get the feeling that he hasn’t changed at all now. And the other quote where he talks about how it’s wrong to lust over a woman because it’s stealing from her husband or future husband…

      So he’s basically telling guys that Christian men still get to own their girlfriend, fiance or wife – they just need to make sure they are good owners not bad ones…

      • Madeline

        The ‘stealing from her husband’ quote also stuck out to me, Angharad! He cares more about a hypothetical, future man than the woman he actually knew. I also find it so objectifying when we talk about women’s sexuality as a limited resource like its something that can be used up. He clearly views women as a conquest.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Yes, that’s exactly it. She doesn’t exist for herself; only for a man.

        • Bonnie

          I think these should be published in a booklet form Something like; “Do all men REALLY struggle with lust or pork use ALL or MOST of the time??!!

          And perhaps Keith and Conrad could weigh in as well.
          (I suggest this as you might experience being dismissed as the voice of women weighing in alone)

          • Bonnie

            Oh dear that should say Porn……typo!!

  12. Amy

    YES, this book IS A TRAVESTY. My jaw dropped over and over and over as I read this.

    I’m so angry!

    Thank you for this, Sheila.

  13. Madeline

    As I was skimming through this article I kept thinking that it is a mistake to treat all of these offenses as just struggling with lust. Issues like cheating, deceiving, abuse, etc shouldn’t be treated the same way we would treat lusting because we saw a model in an ad. There’s so much more at play there.

    This made me realize that this conflation of issues in my mind may have made me more vulnerable when I was groomed by an adult uncle starting around 13 or 14. I didn’t understand there’s a HUGE difference between a man lusting after an adult woman and a man commenting on a 14 year old’s body inappropriately. I still need to chew on this but it makes me wonder.

  14. Cynthia

    It feels like this entire series exists to normalize stuff that is pathological and even criminal, to convince boys and men that they can’t help sinning and to shift the feelings of blame and anger that result from feeling like sinners onto girls and women.

    As someone who isn’t Christian, another thing jumped out at me. They are emphasizing a pretty strict religious rule (no thinking about sex or masturbating), but then expecting that the rest of the (female) world should then restrict themselves and bend over backward to make it easier for them to follow this rule.

    I’ll use a personal example from my religion to show how absurd this is. When I got married, I agreed to follow the Jewish dietary laws in Levitcus. No pork or seafood for me, even though I really like shrimp and lobster and ribs. On our honeymoon, we went to Nova Scotia and I saw lobster everywhere! I had a real craving for it (lust). But guess what? That was MY issue, and my issue only. I didn’t get to complain that Nova Scotians have lobster everywhere, I don’t get to complain about billboards with shrimp or ribs that might tempt me, and nobody else needs to change what they eat because I decided to follow a rule. Everyone else might think the rule makes no sense, and whether or not I follow it makes no difference at all to them. I certainly don’t have a right to be a jerk to anyone else because I don’t want to deal with a craving.

  15. Ed

    Sheila, you covered the books, Every Man’s Battle and Every Young Man’s Battle many times:

    However, when are you going to review Every Woman’s Battle and Every Young Woman’s Battle in the same fashion? The books were written by Shannon Ethridge and Stephen Arterburn.

    Especially given that Stephen Arterburn is also the co-author for Every Man’s Battle and Every Young Man’s Battle.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      They are on our list! We have a list of about 20 books we’re going to do, and from now on we’re going to start at the best-sellers on Amazon and work out way down.

  16. California Peach

    This. Is. Horrifying.

    I’m sickened. And angry.

    There’s a tide rising in the church for justice over abuse of women and children, both male and female. It is long, long overdue.

    What editor thought “Yeah, let’s publish graphic and sexual descriptions of women and girls! That’s a great idea! Oh, and a healthy dose of sexual exploits–some of which are criminal–let’s leave that in, too! I see no possible way for this to go wrong! It will represent the Bride of Christ in the most glorious way”?

    What likely happened to many, many teens who read this book is that they discovered a whole slew of new sexual fantasies and ways to feed that sexual appetite. I mean, the ice bucket example from the movie illustrates how sexual thoughts can be–caught. Shared? (I’m so angry I can’t think of a better word.) And shared from adult male “leaders” to minors, adding another level of depravity to the scenario.

    Okay. Okay. I need to breathe.

    There another thought that’s been spinning in my head as I’ve watched the church wrestle over topics regarding sexuality the past several months. We are far too quick to elevate people to the position of authority on a topic based on the fact that they have wrestled with that sin in the past. By all appearances, these authors have been plagued by sexual addiction and deviancy. (I’m defining deviancy here as sexual behaviors that are illegal in the US, things like pedophilia and exhibitionism.) And I have great compassion for their struggles. Most sexual deviancy comes from great woundedness. I see no evidence that they have put in the hard, excruciating work to deal with that woundedness. And yet–AND YET–they are considered leaders in the church, chief voices worthy of book contracts and speaking engagements. In reality, they have only found a more Christian-socially acceptable way to continue living in their trauma while sharing the pain within the church. To children.


    Millstones. Millstones come to mind here.

    • Anna G

      It is awful. Great comment.

  17. Lila

    I was literally nauseous after reading this and these were just excerpts. As a former social worker, I would be calling DFPS and reporting if I learned that an adult was sharing this with my son (or any child for that matter).

    It reminds me of a “modesty” talk given at my Christian high school, in which (among many other horrible things) we girls were told that taking a coat or jacket off in front of boys was like stripping🙄 This is a great example of adults (like the authors of this horrific book) sexualizing children and planting harmful ideas in their head that were never there in the first place.

    • NL

      What wrong with Christian men?! How sick do you have to be to be turned on by someone taking off a coat?!

  18. Ela Meadows

    I read it as a teen (also read Every Young Woman’s Battle). I couldn’t relate to EYWB because it framed the battle as “dressing for attention” which as a tom boy was absolutely not an issue for me. Content warnings for below: CSA, abuse, porn, gender dysphoria.

    EYMB on the other hand messed me up on many levels. I struggled with masturbation as a response to CSA which being unable to relate to EYWB but have issues with masturbation which was only dealt with in EYMB I wondered if I was somehow a boy not a girl. I’m not trans but it certainly at the time made me question my gender identity.

    It also taught me to judge women, even though I never watched porn and had no interest in it. Yes I was raised in purity culture in general but I felt like looking at fellow teens/women was sinful. It made me feel very awkward around women showing any hint of cleavage and was regularly thinking about (I think it was a pink elephant?) to distract myself as opposed to thinking about other people’s bodies…which I honestly wasn’t even thinking about before reading the book…
    It also created significant shame, not just because of the gender dysphoria of how can I be a young woman if I don’t relate to the book for young women but relate strongly to the book for young men, but also because it really came down hard on masturbation being evil and sinful.

    I get that there are different takes on masturbation, and if there are situations where it is or is not acceptable. In my case, as it was a coping measure in response to CSA, the language around it really heaped on the shame and made me feel even more trapped and unable to talk about anything related to what I had and was currently experiencing.

  19. Laura

    This post was a challenging, but necessary read to show how toxic some of these “Christian” books about sex are. From the book’s excerpts, they read like teen erotica (not even a genre that I’m aware of). I’m so glad this book was not around when I was a teenager in the 1990s. If I had read this book back then, I would have believed all guys were perverts. I did anyway because, throughout my teen years, I was sexually harassed by many male classmates. Then as an adult and reading some of this stuff, it confirmed my belief and past experiences that all men are perverts starting in their teen years. No wonder, I avoided dating for 15 years after my divorce. Even Christian men pushed boundaries. Well, thankfully I learned that not all men are perverts. I just wish it didn’t take me until my early 40s to realize this.

    I have also learned that just because a book is marketed toward Christians does not make it Christlike. It’s just a label and we need to be discerning of what we read. The best litmus test for me is to ask if any of what these authors say lines up with the character of Jesus.

  20. Anon

    Can I just say…


    Ok. Now that I’ve tossed my cookies, WTF is wrong with these men? I agree 100% with the above comments about the material in that book (if it even deserves to be called a book) being pornographic and child abuse – to say nothing of how many boys (and girls) this may have groomed for sexual abuse. I remember seeing some boys in high school reading EYMB, and I feel sorry for them now. Lord knows how many of them were made to feel like monsters and predators because of the poison contained in those pages. Along with Dannah Gresh’s purity quiz and every single thing the Pearls wrote, this piece of dreck needs to be killed with fire. PLEASE keep this stuff away from our young men. They deserve better, too!

  21. Sarah

    Ok, so my son went over this book with his small group. He’s 16. I know he didn’t read much of it because he’s not a big reader. But I know they talked about it. So now what? How do we undo the damage? Have him read the other book (nontoxic masculinity)?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think just talk with him? Maybe even have him listen to this week’s podcast about it? See if he remembers anything weird.

  22. EOF

    That is seriously disgusting and alarming!! I cannot believe that this was (A) published by a Christian publisher and (B) aimed at teenagers! That book is filth and will lead to TEACHING boys how to find porn when they’re not even looking for it – as if it isn’t easy enough to find already!

    Everyone involved in the creation and publication of this book should be ashamed of themselves! Have they not read Matt 18:6-7? “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!” Jesus is coming after those predatorial perverts!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s what I keep thinking!

  23. Anna

    Bravo, Sheila!! Thank you and God bless you.

  24. Jess

    Shelia, thank you for what you do. Thank you for seeing the need and being a voice for conservative women. Kinda anxious but I am going to ask to have this book removed from our church library.

    • Angharad

      Please do! I manage our church library and I’ve done my best to make sure that everything we offer is good and healthy (Act of Marriage went straight in the bin!), but I can’t read everything on the shelves in person, and I’d be so grateful to anyone who flagged up a potentially harmful book. And I can’t go by other people’s recommendations, (since Act of Marriage was donated and strongly recommended by our retiring minister, who thought it should be required reading for all married couples! ) but at least if someone says ‘I think this book is harmful because…’ I can pull it off the shelves and check it to see if I agree with them.


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