Every Young Man’s Battle is a dangerous book.
Part of the Every Man’s Battle series, it is addressed to teenage boys to help them battle lust and pornography.
I hear about Christian schools and youth groups that are still going through it with 13, 14, or 15-year-old boys, and it needs to stop.
This book objectifies girls; shares salaciously graphic sexual material; and provides a route to lust recovery that has been shown to make the problem worse.
Today on the podcast Andrew Bauman and Zachary Wagner, who have both written books on healthy male sexuality, join me to talk about the problems with the approach in Every Young Man’s Battle.
Or, as always, you can see it on YouTube!
Timeline of the Podcast
You can’t defeat lust by agreeing with lust.
One of the big principles that I’ve been trying to drill down on, and that Andrew Bauman and Zachary Wagner both write about in their books The Sexually Healthy Man and Non-Toxic Masculinity, is that you can’t defeat lust if you agree with the basic tenets–that women are objects that exist for your gratification.
And that’s what Every Young Man’s Battle agrees with. It talks about women in objectifying terms (describing girls as “bouncing breasts that mosey by”). It gives explicit descriptions of girls’ body parts. It ignores women’s experiences and perspectives, even of date rape.
And it recommends avoiding women to defeat lust, rather than teaching boys how to respect girls as whole people.
Avoiding girls still sees them as threats, not people.
This book is poison. It is beyond awful. We need to do better.
Every Young Man's Battle
Everything Harmful with Every Young Man's Battle Summarized on One Sheet!
Enter your email to get the free printout to share with your friends, family, and pastors
Please give the onesheet download to anyone you know considering using this book! Or just peruse it yourself. It’s really interesting, and helps shed light on the abysmal take on porn tha the evangelical church has decided to embrace.
Things Mentioned in the Podcast
- Our Patreon! Support us for as little as $5 a month and join our exclusive Facebook group, plus help support our research!
- Our new book She Deserves Better–the audio has now launched!
- Our one-sheet download of the problems with Every Young Man’s Battle
- Our podcast with Zachary Wagner, his new book Non-Toxic Masculinity, and his Twitter
- Andrew Bauman’s book The Sexually Healthy Man and his Facebook
- Our Whole Story puberty course to tell your kids about sex & puberty!
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!
Sheila: I am so excited to have two of my favorite people on the Bare Marriage podcast today. We have Andrew Bauman’s back. You haven’t been here in awhile, Andrew.
Andrew: It’s been a minute. Glad to be back.
Sheila: And Zachary Wagner, who was on—gosh. Just a few weeks ago with your book, Non-Toxic Masculinity. Hi, Zach.
Zachary: Hi. Good to see you again. I feel privileged to have already reached the echelon of one of your favorite people. High praise.
Sheila: You know what? I just love men, who are talking about this in a healthy way. And, Andrew, you’ve done—you’ve got your book, The Sexually Healthy Man. You talk so much about the pornified style of relating, and we’ve had you on the podcast to do that several times. Zachary, again, talking about non-toxic masculinity. You know what? I’m going to let you guys introduce yourselves because I’ll do it badly. Andrew, tell people who you are.
Andrew: Yes. Yeah. My name is Andrew Bauman. I run the Christian Counseling Center for Sexual Health and Trauma with my wife, Dr. Christy Bauman. And yeah. I’ve written about six books and currently working on research around women’s experience of sexism and abuse in the Protestant church as well. And working on a book on that same topic. So glad to be here. And yeah. Love your work and pioneering this conversation. So thank you.
Sheila: And Zachary? Why don’t you introduce yourself again?
Zachary: Yeah. So I’m Zachary Wagner. I currently live in England where I’m working on a PhD in New Testament. But more relevant to this conversation is the fact that I recently published a book entitled Non-Toxic Masculinity: Recovering Healthy Male Sexuality with InterVarsity Press. And yeah. Happy to leave it there.
Sheila: All right. So we are here not to talk about your books but to talk about another book, which I have read I don’t know how many dozens of books over the last few years as we have been delving into healthy sexuality and where the church has gone wrong. And I’ve been angry at so many of the books. I have written and talked about so many of the books. But there is only one book that made me weep, and that was this one, Every Young Man’s Battle. And I wept for the little boys, who were ready it. And I could just picture what was happening to them as they read this book. It is truly horrendous. And in this podcast, I want to explain why. Every Young Man’s Battle is still being used. I get emails all the time from people saying, “At my Christian school, the grade 9 class is taking all the boys through Every Young Man’s Battle,” or, “Our middle school youth group is taking the junior high boys through Every Young Man’s Battle.” So I hear about this constantly that youth groups and Christian schools are using this as curriculum. So it’s not necessarily that boys who are struggling with sexual sin are turning to the book. It’s that this book is being pushed on boys—any boy. As I am going to read some quotes from this book throughout this podcast, I want to picture—I want you to picture a 12, 13, 14-year-old boy reading this. Everyone who is listening. And just imagine the effect. Trigger warning. Much of what I’m going to be ready is horrendous. These are not my words, but I think it’s important that we understand what this book, honestly, said. So if you’re someone who will be triggered by objectification of women, by graphic descriptions of women in terms of body parts, by graphic descriptions of pornography—well, I mean it doesn’t get too graphic about porn, but it still is gratuitous then I would advise skipping this podcast because I can’t even tell you where to skip to because the whole podcast is just going to be these awful quotes. But I think it’s important for us to know what is being said in the evangelical circles. So for context, Every Young Man’s Battle was written a few years after Every Man’s Battle was written. Steve Arterburn and Fred Stoeker coauthored that book, and they coauthored this one. The series has sole more than 4 million copies so very popular series. And this was them taking their message in Every Man’s Battle and distilling it down to teens. Okay. So that being said, guys, I want to read you a couple of quotes just to set the stage. I’ve got 10 points I want to cover, but I want to set the stage for what boys hear when they open this book. So here is a quote—here is how Steve Arterburn explains what this book is for. “You are a sexual being and deserve to know what’s right and true about your sexuality so you can have the greatest chance possible for a fantastic sexual relationship with the person you marry.”
Zachary: Oh gosh.
Sheila: Zachary, you look like you want to say something already.
Zachary: It’s been a minute since I’ve thought about or looked closely at this book. I shouldn’t say I haven’t—I’ve thought about it. But wow. That just really gets it going. And I think it signals the way in kind of—purity culture broadly construed—which I think has—constitutes so much of the evangelical church’s approach to sexuality over the past couple decades or a little more maybe—held out this promise of a great sex life as the why for so much of our just discussion of sexual ethics particularly to young people. And it’s just shallow in one sense and pagan in another perhaps. But also importantly, just not true. I could be charitable and say—if I’m recalling the quote, as you read it, correctly, I want you to have the best chance of this. So it’s not stated as a promise, but just think about, again, kind of as you told us at the start, 12, 13-year-old boy reading that just becoming kind of alive to their sexuality, sexual body, sexual selves, holding that out as the why we’re talking about this and not even starting with the place—conversation of human dignity is hard for me.
Sheila: Yeah. Is lacking. And we’re going to see that throughout. Andrew, I’m going to throw the next one to you. Okay?
Andrew: Okay. Can I add in to that one as well?
Sheila: Oh, yes. Yes. Go ahead. Go ahead.
Andrew: Basically, the thought that sexuality is intercourse, that sexuality—basically, the definition is—he’s saying it’s about orgasm. It’s about selfish pleasure rather than shared intimacy, shared connection, right? The actual stuff that we long for, right? Because the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection. We are longing to be connected. And when you minimize sex and make it just about orgasm and it’s not just mutual orgasm, he’s literally talking through only the male lens of a male pleasure.
Sheila: Yep. Exactly. Okay. So here’s one. And I believe this is on page 2, okay? So he’s trying to relate to his readers. And he’s telling about a 12-year-old boy. So he’s talking about a 12-year-old boy, Andrew. And he says this, “Stuff was happening inside his body, but he didn’t understand why he was experiencing certain feelings. All he knew was that he had some urges that were difficult to control. 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 a front of a girl naked.’”
Andrew: So if that’s the case, right? That would be voyeurism.
Sheila: Exhibitionism technically.
Andrew: There you go. Yes. Sorry. You’re right. Exhibitionism. That would be a crime. So there’s a lot more going on than that, right? What is he sexualizing? What wound is he eroticizing? What is actually going on that he would want to expose himself in that way without the girl’s consent? Okay. We’re talking about criminal activity here, right? This isn’t a normal sexual arousal type of thing. This is a criminal act of exhibitionism that literally is completely just evil.
Sheila: Yeah. And I talked to a bunch of guys who commented on the book and said that putting that on page 2 just gave them ideas, and it made them feel disgusting being a guy. Okay. Speaking of that, here’s page 7. Are you ready? This is a longer one. “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 when I tried to get a hand under her bra.” That’s page 7.
Zachary: Who is speaking here?
Sheila: I believe that this one was Fred Stoker explaining how he used to watch pornography. So one of the authors.
Andrew: And if he doesn’t deal with his pornographic mindset, if he doesn’t deal with his pornographic style of relating, he’s literally, in a sense, just promoting this really toxic view of both femininity and masculinity.
Sheila: Yeah. And he says—okay. This is 12-year-old boys, and he’s putting—bucket of ice on her boss’s belly just to see orgasm, which intensified the experience. No 12-year-old boy needs to be told about this.
Zachary: No. No. I mean that’s—it seems to me participating—and this is all over these books. As you’re saying, Sheila, more egregious that this is written to 12 year olds. But this is all over so many kinds of Christian books on sex just like weirdly specific, horny descriptions of things that like, “Hey, man, if something got stuck in your head, I don’t know. Talk to your therapist about it.” Yeah. I’m not sure why we are broadcast—yeah. And I just fully agree that that was—just hearing that was disturbing to hear that described to the audience.
Sheila: Yes. So he describes porn. And then he says at the end, “Too often I would push a girl’s boundaries while I tried to get a hand under her bra.” Do you know pushing a girl’s boundaries when she has said no, there’s a word for that?
Zachary: Sexual assault.
Sheila: Yeah. Exactly.
Zachary: So, again, I—man. So much of this—and this is probably going to be a thing for the conversation is, again, framed in terms of men’s kind of out of control sexual urges. Even the previous quote. Like, “Hey, there is something that I realized I couldn’t control.” And there is conversations to be had with young men and young people in general about urges and impulses that they feel have a disproportionate power over them. And sometimes they feel like they can’t do otherwise. But there are counter messages that we can give to young people about those. But it’s not even the place to start. Just start with you need to respect other people and you need to treat them like human beings. And they’re not objects for you to indulge in some sort of aggressive conquest or fantasy about. It’s really—yeah. And the way these are—these narratives are gendered in the way that to be conquered is to be female and to be overly aggressive to the point of this kind of animalistic, uncontrollable, instinctual urge is to be male. We just associate that with masculinity so often. And then dangerously, we set young men up to expect that of themselves at the earliest age. When you’re within months perhaps of your awareness of these feelings and still trying to understand the world and you’re given these scripts, not only from Hollywood, not only from the culture around you but also in the church, you’re given these scripts of masculinity that are not self controlled, that are aggressive, that are violent, that are dehumanizing to not only yourself but also, obviously, the women around you. And girls around you. Oh my goodness.
Andrew: It reminds me of some of the more recent research of saying the most popular porn videos that are downloaded about 90% show violence against women. And of those 90%, 90% of those show that the women are experiencing pleasure in their violence. So what are we teaching—what is porn teaching these boys? Well, it is teaching lack of consent. It is teaching that they’re going to enjoy it if I push their boundaries. That no doesn’t matter, right? In a sense. And then when I hear this, these quotes is really just an extension of that same message.
Sheila: Yeah. Because nowhere do they ever say that pushing someone’s boundaries means that it’s assault. And we’re going to get to that in a minute. I just want to set the stage for how this book sounds. So here’s one more quote from the first 10 pages. So this is still the very, very beginning of the book. Okay. This is a description of the porn that Fred Stoeker uses, and he says this, “I actually memorized the date when my favorite soft corn magazine, Gallery, arrived at the local drug store. 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.” That’s non consensual. He’s describing non consensual pornography because those pictures were submitted by the men, not by the girls. And nowhere does this book mention that. That this was non consensual. So that sets the stage. Those are the first pages. So you can imagine how a 14-year-old, 15-year-old, 12-year-old, whatever, boy is feeling as reading this. Okay. So this is setting the stage. This is before we even get going. The other big picture question that I get—that I got to before I want to get to the individual issues is is this book even written for boys? Is it even written for teen boys? Because as I read it over and over again, I’m reading the same paragraphs that are in Every Man’s Battle, but they just change words to make it sounds like they’re talking about teenagers. So let me give you an example. He says, “We can’t expect to practice with the youth band by day and then slide nude under the sheets with a cute keyboardist at night.” Now teenagers don’t slide nude under the sheets at night because they live at their parents’ houses. So I can understand making out in a basement on the coach or in a car. But you have to wonder is this even written—did they even think about teen boys as they were writing this?
Andrew: Most likely not. They saw a need, right? I mean that’s literally the question I get asked most. “Is there anything for teen boys? I’m a mom. I’m scared for my kid. My ex-husband is a porn addict, and he’s literally grooming my child. Is there any resources?” I’m constantly like I’m trying to write one. There’s just not much out there. There’s just not much especially for teen boys and mothers who are terrified of the developing boys, right? And so I imagine this, maybe, just came out of a quick need, and they just kind of threw it together because—disgusting.
Sheila: Yeah. The scene about masturbating in the parking lot—in the gym parking lot in the rental car that’s in Every Man’s Battle that I talk about a ton. That’s in here too. They just simply talk about masturbating outside the school gym in a car. All the same things are in this book that are in Every Man’s Battle. They just change certain words so that it works for high schools.
Zachary: Yeah. And I was just going to add there is, I think, a massive felt need for a resource like this that is helpful and healthy and humanizing and biblical and all of that. A cynical read is—and it seems evidenced by what you’re pointing out about the kind of paragraphs very lightly translated into a teen mode with—is that—the cynical read is that that’s—I mean if the market is there this is how publishing works. It’s a cash grab. And yeah. I mean it’s—the fact that the book exists and it’s selling well doesn’t mean it’s helpful.
Sheila: Yep. Exactly.
Zachary: Especially because of the pressures associated with Christian publishing and the way this stuff works.
Sheila: Yeah. Okay. So let’s get into my actual issues with the book. So we talk about how it sets up boys to be shocked at the very beginning which is creepy. And then it’s not even aimed at boys. But now let’s get the big picture things. Do they even understand intimacy? So I’m going to read you two quotes, and, Andrew, I’ll throw this one first at you because I know this is your big thing which I appreciate. “Men primarily receive intimacy just before and during intercourse. Women gain intimacy through touching, sharing, hugging, and communicating deeply.” And then they say later, “When you bring yourself to orgasm while fantasizing or viewing women on a glossy magazine page, you have a feeling of intimacy.”
Andrew: Yeah. That’s, actually, the complete opposite definition of intimacy, right? You’re actually creating a disconnect between sex and soul. You’re literally splitting, which is what trauma does, and porn is another form of trauma, right? So you’re literally endorsing a psychological split that says, “I’m going to connect with you physically but without any type of emotional connection,” right? Intimacy is actually the holistic—“I’m connecting with you intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, physically,” right? That’s the beauty of intimacy. And we actually—and the good sex that we all long for is that holistic approach to connection rather than bifurcated just like you are a piece of meat that I will consume.
Sheila: Yeah. And I think what they’re talking about is the oxytocin release. But oxytocin is not a substitute for intimacy. That’s just—and here. He gets even more explicit about this later. He says, “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. Guys give emotion so they can get sex. Girls give sex so they can get the emotions.”
Andrew: That’s so wrong.
Sheila: What is that saying about boys and intimacy and feelings?
Zachary: Well, again, I think it sets up a script for young men to follow where they’re just these kinds of meathead objectifiers of bodies and—I don’t know. A penis with a brain attached. Actually. It’s reducing maleness to this—not even to a robust definition of sexual beings. Just a, again, like a fixation on orgasm and the chemical releases associated with orgasm. Even if we may see patterns in society or in our communities where men tend to act out in unhealthy ways associated with their sexuality, I think the real becomes when we take the worst urges that we’ve ever associated with some men that we’ve known anecdotally and make that, “This is what men are like.” And then the exact opposite of that is like, “This is what women are like.” And it works in this really nice men are from Mars, women are from Venus, just kind of flattening out of the world if that’s the way you need to think about human sexuality where it’s just putting people in two opposite buckets. But it’s—oh man. Yeah. Go ahead, Andrew.
Sheila: Andrew, I know that a lot of your counseling is actually focused on helping men understand what real intimacy is because they think sex is intimacy. And what is that process like for guys?
Andrew: Yeah. So what we practice is, in our men’s groups, in our marriage intensives, is we do a lot of eye contact. So about 12 inches apart. 12 inches apart. And they are staring in each other’s eyes. The first day we do this exercise. It’s awkward. And then we do what’s called sentence stems. And so we—it’s kind of a fairly quick psychological approach to say, “What I feel in my body is,” and then they say it. And so as they are—some of the deepest shame I feel is. And they are just completing those sentences. Kind of like a metronome. But they’re doing it eye to eye. And they’re realizing that, “I am terrified of being seen. I am terrified of being exposed, of actually knowing my true self.” And when I can’t actually think about it very much because the sentences are quick, right? In a sense, it breaks down all of our normal masks that we hold, and we begin to get more comfortable with actually seeing each other and actually being known because that’s the work of breaking down what we have sexualized and eroticized to make it all about, in a sense, rather than actually what we most crave which is genuine connection.
Sheila: And I just—I find this amazing that this entire book never talks about that. It doesn’t talk about how men actually need connection. It just talks about how, “You are so drawn to sex. And you need to control it so that one day you can have a great marriage with your wife.”
Andrew: It’s a very young adolescent—it’s like a 12 year old wrote the book, right? It’s a very young—but it’s saying, “This is what healthy sex is,” rather than, “No. That is a very young, adolescent of sex.” What is actually a mature, healthy view of sex is when you outgrow pornography, when you outgrow the pornographic mindset, when you actually honor the other rather than devour or try to conquer.
Zachary: Which is to say it’s boyish. So it is not manly. It’s boyish in its way of expressing sexuality. Yeah. I love what you said there, Andrew, because I think we have taken so often an immature expression of male sexuality and baptized it and preserved it and made it the highest thing that men can attain to rather than when a boy or a young man feels or expresses or acts out in some sort of kind of superficial way his sexuality—rather than coming alongside that person and exhorting them to a more mature and manly and fully human expression of sexuality—because just a fixation on orgasm and physical release and all this rhetoric that flies all over the place is shallow and superficial and subhuman and immature.
Sheila: Keep that thought because I’m going to read you some quotes directly about that. Okay.
Zachary: Yeah. Sorry. Yeah. Please.
Sheila: So here is the normalization of lust as part of being male. All right? So here is what they say referring to guys, who lust, they say, “Now these guys are perverts and weirdos. But these men are not weirdos. They’re your next door neighbors, your friends’ fathers, maybe even your father. They are Sunday school teachers, ushers, and deacons, even pastors.” And so they’re normalizing here that every guy sees women as objects. That that is normal part of being male. And then they say this, “And being a boy means having certain qualities that come hardwired with the package. Why the prevalence of sexual sin among men? We got there naturally simply by being male.”
Andrew: Ew. Gross.
Zachary: I mean this is the kind of—I mean it’s very similar to what’s said in Every Man’s Battle.
Sheila: Yeah. It’s actually almost word for word. That part. Yeah.
Zachary: From what I can tell. And that is—if I were to boil it down, that is almost the thesis of the book and what I find kind of at core most objectionable about this book series and its vision of masculinity as inevitably hypersexual, hyper erotic, lacking self control. That that’s just kind of part of the deal by default.
Andrew: Yeah. And in that, it literally gives men such a pass of like, “You’re just these helpless, baby cavemen, who have no choice but to act out sexually and consume whoever it is.” And it’s just like wait a minute. I get in trouble sometimes being like, “You’re anti man.” It’s like—oh, it’s complete opposite. I’m so for men that I actually believe that they’re more capable than just being baby cavemen. But they can actually grow into healthy, emotionally mature men. I believe in men so deeply. We’re way more capable than what the normal message is to us.
Sheila: Amen. Okay. Well, let’s talk about baby cavemen because we can turn there next. All right. So now we have the way that they salaciously share titillating and erotic descriptions of women, sex, and pornography throughout the book. So I’m going to read you some of those titillating and erotic descriptions. So talking about just lust, they say this, “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 Friday, you fantasize over the curves and crevices.”
Sheila: So that’s just a normal passage. And it’s interesting how when they do talk about porn they give such a list of all the ways you can see porn without seeking porn out. So they say, “When I wanted to stop porn, I still would go to the lingerie ads, and I would,”—they give this huge list of all the other places that you can find pictures of naked women without looking at porn.
Andrew: But they’re not dealing with the actual core issues at all. It’s just porn with clothes on. You’re still objectifying. You’re still devouring. What if we change our relationship with beauty? What if we actually change our relationship with beauty rather than trying to consume it and devour it but learn how to honor beauty? Learn how to honor the beauty that God created in arousal can be normal. But that’s different. Just seeing beauty and being aroused by it, I actually think we’re meant for that. We’re meant to be aroused by beauty. But that’s very different than consuming, taking, and devouring, and objectifying beauty.
Sheila: Yeah. Exactly. Here’s a little bit more. They use the word paradise multiple times to refer to boys receiving oral sex. That it was like paradise. Okay? They say this, “There is 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 14, 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.” How is this not setting boys up to have a problem with porn and masturbation?
Zachary: Well, it almost assumes that they already are again. So it’s participating in a pornified lens of viewing the world rather than, again, working against it, having a non objectifying way of speaking about other human beings, and women and girls in particular.
Sheila: Yeah. Their whole approach to porn seems to do this. Okay. So first of all, they tell boys they need to resist thinking about sex. Okay. But then they put all of these ideas in boys’ minds where they explicit—so they say, “Do not ever think about sex. Think about the hot babe in the French bikini. But don’t think about sex.”
Zachary: Don’t think about her. Don’t think about her.
Sheila: Yeah. So let me explain how hot these girls’ breasts are, but don’t think about sex. So they tell boys to resist thinking about sex. Then they give major discussions about what these hot girls look like. Then shock value is used to desensitize boys to sexual material. And then the authors themselves in their biographies appear to be bragging about their sexual exploits, which I think is a form of exhibitionism. And the amount of bragging that these guys do about all the sex they had in the past and about all the porn they watched and explicit descriptions of the porn and the sex is just strange. You guys have both written books about your past, and I’ve read them. And I know absolutely nothing about the kind of porn that you used to watch. And thank you for that because I didn’t actually want to know about it.
Zachary: You’re welcome. But it is—I’ll just say—an important thing to get into and I do mention in passing in my book. Talk with a therapist about the types of porn perhaps that you find appealing. What that is about your story that is surfacing. And yeah. I think you’re right to flag it as a certain type of exhibitionism. Yeah. I don’t want to psychoanalyze. I’m going to resist that urge. But it’s—man. It does something. And I think the authors get this, and that’s perhaps part of the reason that these books sold so well is that there’s a certain kind of titillation that’s experienced particularly by young curious minds that don’t have the sexual experiences to just kind of understand what the world is like and what it isn’t like and what real sex is and isn’t like. When you’re kind of getting all your information through this kind of pornified filter of adults who are perfectly happy to talk to you about the details of their sexual thoughts or their sexual experiences, there’s something borderline traumatic, it seems to me that can be happening in that dynamic. It’s just not healthy.
Sheila: Yeah. And we shouldn’t normalize adult men talking to prepubescent and pubescent boys about the content of their fantasies. I think that when we normalize that that can easily get into grooming in real life.
Andrew: Yeah. It kind of reminds me of the—20 years ago the Mark Driscoll kind of, “Oh, he tells it like it is. Oh, it’s so cool. He’s a straight shooter.” And it’s almost that same idea. They’re almost going against this kind of conservative approach that no one talks about sex. And look. We talk about it. We talk about it so vulgarly. And they almost are swinging this pendulum where they don’t even know it trying to be the cool kid who fits in with the teenagers where actually they’re just perpetuating a different type of problem.
Sheila: Yeah. So in the book, they consistently show that lust for men is normal. They don’t have any examples that I could find of boys actually treating women with respect and honor. They might have example of guys stopping lust but never actually deliberately treating women with respect and honor which we’ll come back to in a minute. When they do talk about girls, they basically blame them for boys’ sin. So here’s just one example. “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.” How is that not putting ideas in guys’ heads?
Zachary: But you shouldn’t.
Sheila: I know. They don’t say that.
Andrew: But that would be objectifying an image bearer of God and completely not healthy because that literally is—I mean that’s the same as porn. I mean you’re literally just using her as a porn replacement.
Sheila: Yeah. Now I should specify. They do say, “You’re not supposed to masturbate. You’re not supposed to ever think about sex.” They do say that repeatedly that you’re never supposed to think about sex. But by giving these anecdotes where boys are specifically masturbating at the memory of a girl that they know and not saying that that is a sin against that girl—
Andrew: No consent.
Sheila: – I have a real problem with that.
Zachary: Well, I think that raises—I mean it just—you already said it. No consent there. I think that would be a transformative thing to talk to young boys about. How do you think she would feel if she knew that you were thinking about her this way? Do you think she would be okay with that? And I think it’s obvious that the answer to that would be no. Then maybe just don’t do that because that’s disrespectful and look for healthier ways to deal with whatever feeling you’re kind of soothing with that habit. But it just—it’s so obviously with even a very simple question,” Would she be okay with you doing that? Do you think she’d—feel okay with you thinking about her that way?” We just don’t do that.
Sheila: But they never do that. They never ask you to see things from the girl’s perspective. Ever.
Andrew: Or just teaching our young boys the difference between fantasy and reality, right? They’re literally just endorsing this fantasy driven narrative of they don’t even know this girl’s name. And yet, they’re masturbating to visioning her naked. It’s like wait a minute. What is reality? Who is she? What does she like to do? Who is she as a human? And would you like to get her number? Would you like to ask her to go out? What is reality here? And let’s live in reality rather than fantasy.
Sheila: Yeah. Because what keeps happening throughout the book is that women’s perspectives and the idea that women might have an opinion or this might have an impact on women is consistently erased. So I’m going to give you a whole bunch of examples of that. But first of all, it’s even the way they talk about women. When they describe individual girls, it tends to be in terms of their body parts or their appearance. I have a list of 100 of these. I’m not going to read them all, so I’m only going to read you 5 or 4. But believe me when I say this is not exhaustive. Okay? This is the entire book. Every page. Over and over again how they refer to girls. “Striking blonde bombshell. Training your eyes to look away from string bikinis, full busted sweaters, and the hot looking babes who wear them. 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? A pair of bouncing breasts moseys by.” I don’t know how breasts mosey. Are they disembodied?
Zachary: Well, bouncing and moseying, I feel like, are—that’s a contradiction in terms it seems to me.
Sheila: So here we have—we’re talking about women only in terms—or girls. Because remember this is directed at boys. So we’re talking about minors, often, in terms of just their body parts. And then they say this, “Obviously, stripping off her clothes in the basement at the after game party is a wrong way to address this. 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.” Now I agree that both things are wrong. But one of them you’re actually assaulting a girl.
Zachary: Mm-hmm. Well, this is born out of the, I think, a poor reading of Matthew 5 when Jesus says that if anyone looks at a woman with lustful intent or lust in his heart, depending on the translation there, he has already committed adultery in the heart. So I think there’s been this moral equivalence in some people’s kind of imagination around sexuality. Well, if I’m lusting after her, it’s kind of the same as if I already did it. So what’s the harm? And that, again, just removes the other person from the equation. And I think, again, it—those quotes that you just read they indulge in a type of curiosity that fixates on bodies and body parts rather than persons. We’ve already talked about this. But I think beauty, even the beauty that we appreciate in all humans whether opposite sex or same sex—our interactions with a person are mediated through our body and theirs. We use our eyes to look at them. We hear their voice with our ears. We have a sense of the fact that a person is there because of the shape of their body that we see. But to stop there and then fixate on body parts, it seems to me, is, again, just solidifying this shallow, immature, and boyish orientation towards other people. And it creates a space where boys and men get stuck there. They actually lose their capacity or never grow into their capacity to see the people around them as human beings and not just bodies and body parts. And yeah. Those quotes that you read are really disturbing in the sense that they actually don’t even hold out aspirationally the fact that boys and men could think otherwise.
Sheila: But not only do they ignore women’s perspectives on that, what I find so interesting though is that this objectification transfers onto how they completely ignore women and what women experience in so many different areas. So at one point, Steve Arterburn is telling the story of how he got a girl pregnant when he was younger. And he pressured to have an abortion which she did. And as he’s telling this story, he says, “I had killed more my baby. I had killed my life, and nothing would ever be the same again.” And he does express remorse over this. But what I find so interesting is in telling this story never once does he show any remorse for what his girlfriend was feeling or what he put her through. It’s only how he affected himself.
Andrew: And isn’t that the norm of so much of church leadership? We don’t actually think about the impact on women because we don’t value women’s voice. We don’t value women’s experiences because it’s about us. If it’s true that it’s—what? 87% of churches, Protestant churches, are male led. Right? We’re just going to be thinking through our own life experience. We’re just going to be thinking about ourselves. And we’re listening or honoring women’s voices when our theology is literally laced with misogynistic ideas, right? And just twisted Scripture. Women’s opinion doesn’t really matter.
Sheila: Yeah. Speaking of those misogynistic ideas, the only times in the book where they show any signs that you’re supposed to respect a woman because she’s a woman it’s actually not because of her sake. It’s because the relationships that she has with other men. So for instance, when he’s telling boys that they have to be careful what they do with girls on their dates, it’s because of that girl’s father. So remember that she has a father. Okay?
Sheila: So when he talks about his own daughter’s purity, he’s talking about how he wants to make sure that that boy knows that he’s the one who is worried about his daughter’s purity. And so the boy has to respect him as the girl’s father. Not that the boy has to respect the girl for the girl’s sake. But the boy has to respect him as the girl’s father. Or here’s another quote. “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.” So again, she has value because of the men that she is related to, not just because she has value in and of herself.
Andrew: Ugh. Yeah. It reminds me of the interviews I’ve been doing for the last two years about women’s experience of sexism and abuse in the church. And I’m reminded of one woman, who shared at 18 she got pregnant. She had to go in front of the church and apologize to the whole church. Or a leader of the church raped her as an 18 year old. And they called it basically—instead of rape, they called it a consensual relationship. And she needed to apologize for her part in that. And it’s just like—it’s so disgusting how you’re blaming these women without power, right? These are powerless women in these systems of patriarchy that are literally saying that they are equally responsible when it’s truly the men and their broken sexualities that are literally harming these women again and again and again.
Sheila: Yeah. But the women don’t have—so let’s get into that. Let’s get into bulldozing over consent, and let’s get into actual abuse and how they treat that. Okay. So just the non consensual language that they use is amazing. Here’s just a simple sentence. It’s just a throw away sentence, and I’m like, “What?” So they said, “Too often she was less because I took from her what a husband should take.”
Sheila: Assuming that a husband should be taking—
Andrew: What happened to mutuality?
Sheila: Even just that, that wasn’t even the focus of what they were saying. But even the way that they phrase sex in marriage is just so problematic.
Andrew: Yes. It should be a shared experience of giving and receiving pleasure rather than just a selfish act. It’s all about me. It’s all about my orgasm.
Zachary: Yeah. And I would say, interestingly, David and Bathsheba and then also Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, in both instances, the sin in David’s case, and the potential sin is framed as a sin against God, not merely against Uriah because, “Oh, David, you stole,”—that’s discussed with the discussion with Nathan. But David, I think, gets to the point where he realizes that his sin with Bathsheba is not merely a matter of, “I stepped on some other man’s toes, but this is a sin against God because she, Bathsheba, is created in the image of God.” And similarly, Joseph, when Potiphar’s wife propositions him—the power dynamic is switched here interestingly. He says—he doesn’t say, “I couldn’t do that to my master. You belong to him. I’d get in trouble if I did that. This would be a sin against Potiphar.” He actually says it would be a great sin against God. And I think that logic is built on the Imago Dei and the fact that sexuality should be in context of this mutuality that you already mentioned, Andrew. But a recognition that all of us ultimately belong to God and our creation by God requires that we treat everyone with dignity.
Sheila: Mm-hmm. Okay. Well, here’s some examples of not treating people with dignity that, again, are just throw away lines in this book. So he says—or they say, “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?” Why are we talking about lightly rubbing your—this is just strange language. Or how about this one? “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. And I’ve masturbated over that picture a million times.” Again, not recognizing that these are actual people, and it’s all framed as this is an example of sexual sin that you do against yourself and not mentioning that the other—there’s another person involved here that you are hurting.
Andrew: Similar to what Zach said earlier, I don’t want to psychoanalyze too much. But it just feels like they’re really working something out as a writer. They’re really trying hard. And it reminds me of a lot of the guys that first come through my program, and they’re writing out their stories for the first time. And it’s really graphic. And they’re almost like this really young, trying to work through it, and almost trying to work through their guilt and trying to work through their issues. It doesn’t come out quite right. It’s odd.
Sheila: It is. It is really odd. Okay. Now I want to talk about where they actually talk about abuse. What I think is date rape or abuse or some kind of abuse and they—or crimes, and they never describe them as such. They never describe these as any form of assault. So returning to the girl next door porn that we were talking about earlier, he says, “I still remember the short, full bodied, Asian girl standing nude in the wheat field after she won the girl next door contest.” So, again, that is non consensual porn. And he’s bragging about that.
Zachary: And racist fetishization as well.
Sheila: Yes. Yes. Exactly. Here is another one. “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.” And they’re telling this story of a boy saying this, but they’re not acknowledging that junior high girls—that is not okay no matter what age you are. And also, let me do anything I want to her. Not that she’s doing anything. Not that she’s participating. It’s very non consensual language.
Sheila: Against a girl who could be 12 or 13. They’ve got this one that’s the same. Like I said, this one is the same as Every Man’s Battle. They just changed a few words. “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.” Masturbating in a car in public is a crime, but they never mention that. Very strange.
Zachary: Yeah. Yeah. It’s worse than strange. I mean and all of this is just what we said at the beginning. The effect, I fear—and it would be interesting going back and asking my younger self questions of what I felt reading these things. The effect I fear is that it just gives boys a free pass. It normalizes all of these—not just—worse than objectifying. Radically dehumanizing behaviors and just says, “Well, I read 100 stories in the book about all my peers and these Christian men that quote unquote struggle with this. So if I have some sort of unbidden urge or impulse that appears in my brain,”—rather than having the, “Absolutely not. That would be so disrespectful to her. I cannot do that.” Instead the script and the path becomes, “Well, I read that my pastor and maybe my dad and my next door neighbor this is the sort of stuff that they’re doing. So if I do that, maybe it’s not so bad. And I get that it’s a sin, but I’m young. I’m figuring it out.” It just creates all of these really, really problematic scripts for boys to follow.
Andrew: I feel like I see these men in my office every day, right? 20 years later reading this book these men’s marriages are failing because of their deceptive sexuality and their lack of integrity. And they show up incredibly entitled to their wife’s body. And she is literally dying inside. And we have to, in a sense, deconstruct all of these ideas and rebuild a new sexuality.
Sheila: Yep. Okay. So they also talk about whistling at women who are walking by which is very intimidating for women, by the way, when you get catcalled. They talk about broadcasting yourself masturbating to five different girls, so they’re talking—so on the web doing that. And then they give these examples, which I think are date rape. See what you think? Okay. I’m going to read this to you. I think this is date rape. “I remember the time,”—they’re quoting a girl. “I remember the time when I girl 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.”
Zachary: I mean absolutely.
Sheila: Yeah. That’s date rape. But they describe this as going too far.
Sheila: Yeah. That is assault. Here’s another one. A girl says this too. “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 have given in.”
Andrew: Yes. That would be a temper tantrum that these little boys are throwing because they can’t get sex that they feel like they’re entitled to. And they guilt and manipulate their girl friends to, in a sense, make them feel better which is so wrong in so many ways.
Zachary: Well, and also a dynamic that I should say exists in many marriages. This isn’t just a teen thing. The kind of pouty husband, who emotionally coerces and manipulates. You can act out sexual entitlement without being domineering and aggressive.
Zachary: And I think that is an important thing for men to consider. Just because you’re not loud and boisterous or physically forcing anything doesn’t mean you’re not acting out of a sense of entitlement or creating—if it’s not active coercion, there is a kind of a system of coercion in place which, again, is under kind of undergirded by this narrative that if men don’t get the sexual release that they quote unquote need that they’ll act out in some other dehumanizing way. Or they’ll stray. Or they’ll go watch porn instead or whatever the case may be. Rather than just holding them to the standard, it’s like, “Hey, sometimes it’s not going to work out even if you would like it to. And you can just be a big boy and deal with that like an adult,” and find something else to do that doesn’t involve a license to act out in sin.
Andrew: And learn that you can actually have control over your arousal. And you can actually just hold those feelings and that your penis does not have to dictate all that you do in your life.
Sheila: I just find it amazing given the prevalence of date rape among teen couples that they could use examples like that and never mention date rape. They never talk about how to identify when something is coercive or not when you might be coercing your girlfriend. They never talk about what she may be experiencing. They never talk about any trauma she may have. They’re simply framing it as you don’t want to get in to sexual sin.
Andrew: Sheila, when was this published?
Sheila: I think it was 2004, 2006. But, again, still being used today in Christian schools.
Zachary: And not meaningfully like renounced in any way. Because I do want to grant—this is egregious, obviously. All these quotes that we’re talking about. But I do want to grant that the cultural conversation around things like date rape and sexual violence and sexual assault has changed drastically over the past 7—
Andrew: Me too.
Zachary: Yeah. Since the Me Too movement and the past 10 years, and the past 20 years, we’ve shifted, I think, in a much healthier direction in the way that we think about sexual violence and women’s dignity and sexual abuse and things like that. But these kinds of books are just kind of still out there making money. The publishers are never going to do anything about it. They’re actually kind of not allowed to. So it’s incumbent upon authors, it seems to me, who, by the way, still collect royalty checks for this—and this is—say what you will about Joshua Harris. But one thing that he did do is he listened and heard from people who found a lot of the ideas in his book harmful and he took the step of going to the publishers and saying, “You know what? Can we just not do this anymore?” And he is not collecting royalty checks on I Kissed Dating Goodbye, which is a very different conversation from the one we’re having. But I do respect him for that.
Sheila: Yeah. I do too. I asked for several of my—I understand. I wrote stuff in 2003, 2004 that I regret, and I took it out of print. I asked the publisher to take it out of print. So I get that. I get that it wasn’t perfect. The problem I’m having is that people are still using this. And Steve Arterburn has never apologized for this. And even if you look at his website today, if you look at the way he talks about this today, it is still not about respecting women. It is not about dignity of women. It is simply about if you sin sexually you have sinned against your own purity. She seems irrelevant. He has a page on his website about bouncing your eyes where he talks about how you need to make a list of your enemies and included in that is female joggers. So he calls female joggers his enemy.
Andrew: So dehumanizing.
Sheila: Yeah. It really is. Okay. So, Andrew, we’re going to get into something that you love which is what is the root—out of this? What does Every Young Man’s Battle say is actually the way out of sexual sin? Because this is what you love, this is what you do is how do we get healing. So, hey, maybe they’ll do this right. Yeah. So basically, their way to overcome lust is effort, effort, effort.
Sheila: Everything is about effort. And have you met the right standards?
Zachary: It’s a very, very small percentage of the population that will have any sustained success with kind of effort and behavior modification approaches to this. And even if you do, it’s usually because of a kind of medicated, continued, unhealthy relationship to sex with a spouse where you’ve just kind of transferred your dehumanization away from lust and pornography onto your partner. Or just an internalized self hatred of all sorts of things and that doesn’t actually get underneath the lust and the habits and the unhealthy ways of acting out because there is always going to be a story of some guy. I’m sorry. I feel like I kind of interjected, and I know you were talking to Andrew. This is just from my story. There’s always some testimony in church of some guy who is like, “I got the accountability partners. I got my software on my computer, and I memorized those verses. And darn it. I haven’t masturbated in a decade.” And everyone is like, “Wow. It can happen for us too.” But the thing is there’s—I—so many men and I would have put my younger self in this category, and that’s kind of why I’m interjecting here. Who get all of this messaging and believe that is possible because they’ve heard the stories that it’s possible but without doing the kind of deeper, harder soul work. It’s just not going to work.
Sheila: Yeah. And that’s the problem is the deeper stuff is gone. Okay. Andrew, I’m going to read you the three—or the four things that they say will help you defeat lust. Okay? “Number one, make a strong decision to not stop short of God’s standards.”
Andrew: Woo hoo.
Sheila: “Number two, join an accountability group that allows for the honest expression of feelings. Number three, continue an active, ongoing relationship with God that involves worship and prayer. And number four, become aware of how various media like magazines, cable TV, videos, Internet, and catalogues affect your sex drive.”
Sheila: That’s it.
Andrew: It didn’t work for me. That’s great. We can white knuckle lift for a little while, right?
Zachary: Yes. Just a little while.
Andrew: I remember all the things I would do for my 13-year addiction to pornography and all the guilt and the prayers. It didn’t work, right? Accountability group where we’d literally just walk into the church. We’d confess that we masturbated and relapsed. We’d all say, “Yeah. Sorry, dude. You’re awesome still.” And then we created this thing called the jackpot. If you masturbated, you had to put $5 in the church ceiling. It’s just—
Zachary: The jackpot. Oh my gosh. I’m sorry. That took me a second.
Andrew: Right? It didn’t work. And yet, there’s a beauty there, right? We’re trying. Our hearts are good. We’re, in a sense, trying to defeat this with the tools that were given to us.
Sheila: Okay. But hold on a second. I want to get to—because this is one of the reasons that I wept when I read the book is because that’s the whole point. Your hearts are good.
Sheila: These boys are desperately trying to stop.
Sheila: They want to stop. And this is what they’re given. They’re not given the tools. All they’re given is guilt and shame.
Andrew: Yep. Bingo. Which doesn’t us at all. It only leads us further into addiction because we’re still looking to numb that pain. So we have to get to the pain behind the porn, behind the action. What is acting out here? What is being eroticized? Why are you drawn to this type of porn? Well, it says something about your story. It says something about your woundedness. So will you be curious rather than judgmental about what you’re drawn to because you are trying—you’re acting something deeper? You’re acting out a deeper trauma.
Sheila: Yeah. And how have you used porn to soothe yourself so that you don’t have to deal with some of those other things? And it’s like until you deal with those other things you’re not going to be able to defeat this. But then as they are telling boys—and they have this zero tolerance policy. You can’t even look at girls. You have to act like a dweeb in front of the girls you’re attracted to so they won’t pay any attention to you. I’m not kidding. They actually say that. They tell you to act like a dweeb. They tell you that you’re not allowed to ever look at anything that makes you think about something sexually, so you should not watch TV at all because you don’t want any sexual thoughts. And yet, this entire book is giving guys sexual thoughts. They open the book talking about pouring ice on a guy’s belly so his orgasm is more intense, and then they tell you that you’re not supposed to do—or read anything that might give you sexual thoughts. This is crazy. Okay? And then they make boys feel guilty for normal things. Let me read you this. “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?”
Andrew: So I just want to share years after my—maybe a decade after my addiction had stopped and married and a beautiful woman—we’re in Vancouver, Canada. Beautiful woman walks by. Catches my eye. I look up, and I go, “Wow. She is beautiful,” to my wife. Out loud. And my wife looks up, and she goes, “Wow. She really is beautiful.” And then that was it, right? Conversation done. Why did I act like that? Well, I noticed the beautiful woman. My wife knew I wasn’t going to go to the bathroom, fantasize, masturbate. She knew I wasn’t going to devour her. All I did was I noticed a woman, a beautiful woman. I acknowledged beauty when I saw it. My wife, “Wow. She really is.” And that was it. Conversation over because I was going to honor the beauty that I saw. I wasn’t going to devour it. My wife trusted me that I wasn’t going to go devour it, right? You can’t just guard yourself from anything that you find beautiful or arousing. That’s not going to work. Bouncing your eyes forever because then it’s just another form of dehumanization and objectification.
Zachary: Yeah. And if I could add to this conversation about—I think we so badly crave, in the church sometimes, these 5-step approaches or 5-step plans out of shame and sin and whatever, compulsive or addictive behavior we might be struggling with. But so often it just amounts to a type of works salvation it seems to me. Something I say is that kind of in this Every Man’s Battle world Jesus isn’t your salvation. Marriage is salvation. Sex is salvation. And marriage and sex in marriage is going to save you from your loneliness, from your sexual sin, from just sin in general. Male sin is reduced to this sexual framework. And marriage is how you become free from sin in this. The way you get there is like marriage is salvation and salvation is by works. So you follow the rules, and you white knuckle it. And you try your best to earn that salvation to attain to a pure—I mean the opening of the book as you read. I want you to have your best chance of a fulfilling sex life in marriage. You try to attain to that. But the law kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Sheila: Yep. Exactly. Jonathan Pokluda, a mega church pastor out of Texas—when he writes about porn, one of his ways of recovering from porn is to aim to get married quickly.
Andrew: Yep. And I mean what you’re talking about—
Zachary: Also doesn’t work, by the way.
Andrew: – the idolatry of marriage, right? Or the idolatry of sex. That’s all that that is. Is this idolatry that this is going to save us. This is going to be our god. So we move from porn being our god to then our wife being our god or sex being our god.
Zachary: Not your wife. Your wife’s body. It’s not even your wife. Yeah.
Andrew: It’s the parts of her.
Sheila: But I think it’s amazing that they are making boys feel guilty for normal attraction instead of saying, “Hey, noticing a girl is pretty does not mean that you have lusted. Let’s talk about the difference between noticing beauty and devouring beauty.” I love that, Andrew. Then they ask this question. “Is your relationship with God as gratifying as her breasts on Friday night?” Because if your relationship with God is not as gratifying as her breasts, then you’ll never get victory.
Andrew: Wow. I’m at a loss—
Sheila: Can we all agree that that causes a lot of shame?
Zachary: This is like the take me to church song. Are you guys familiar with that? I won’t go into it, but it just reminds me of something that would be in a bad pop song about—yeah. Your body is like going to church. Yeah.
Sheila: Okay. Now the one part where I think they were honestly trying to get this right—they just really missed the mark here too. So they had talked all about will power, will power, will power. But then they talk about how we need authenticity, and they’re really confusing authenticity and integrity. And they’re missing the entire point. They’re missing the entire point because they say—here’s a quote. “Authenticity requires a different question, which could be stated like this. How holy can I be?” That’s not authenticity. Acting with integrity is to act according to your beliefs, right? And according to your values. But authenticity is just being open and honest with people and not hiding things. That’s not the same thing. And it’s like they don’t even understand how authenticity and integrity both come in play in healing. But they get them completely mixed up. I don’t think they even know the definitions.
Andrew: Yeah. Totally. And I would even argue honesty is not the same thing as authenticity, right? You can be honest without being authentic. You can be honest without being vulnerable, right? Authenticity comes with a form of vulnerability that you’re no longer in control, that you actually surrender your own power for the sake of relationship in the other. And I don’t hear that at all.
Sheila: No. And it’s like they even say—how is it authentic to say when you’re in her company, this girl that you find attractive, play the dweeb in order to avoid conversation with her—that’s not authentic.
Andrew: Yeah. Be inauthentic to trick her, right? It’s the exact opposite of living authentically because I truly believe God is truth. And the more we live in truth the more we experience God. And I truly think when we live authentically we actually defeat the need for using porn, right? Because if I’m authentic when I’m using porn, then I’m going to say, “Oh, wait. I’m actually contributing to sex trafficking. I’m actually objectifying an image of God. I’m actually using this to hide from myself.” If I tell myself the truth, then I’m actually—it’s going to take away what porn is doing for me. All right? If I live in truth in that moment. So when I’m actually, in my addiction, using, I want to lie to myself as much as I possibly can. I want to live in that fantasy world because reality actually defuses what I’m doing.
Sheila: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. So they really just have no clue. This is what I find so frustrating is they’ve written all of these books about how to win the battle, and they have no clue how to actually win the battle. At one point, Steve Arterburn actually says in the book that he used to have a very objectifying way of looking at women, and now he doesn’t. And the simple fact—I have—I cannot see any evidence in any of his books that he no longer objectifies women.
Zachary: Did you write this, bro? Did you or did you not write this book? Because it participates in the objectification of women.
Sheila: Exactly. And I guess if child abuse—what I find so interesting is—it is child abuse and it is actually in the criminal code in Canada and probably in many states too to introduce porn to young children. That is a form of child abuse. And we know that introducing porn to young children can cause trauma and all kinds of issues, right? I fail to see how this book is not that with the salacious descriptions of pornography that are in it, with the salacious and titillating descriptions of women’s bodies and what all the—what illegal activities guys do as if it’s normal. And I think that this book also sets boys up for a lifetime of shame and guilt because it doesn’t give them proper ways to defeat these things.
Andrew: Right. I was looking over—knowing I was going into this interview, I was looking over the Amazon reviews and just how many people are loving this. They don’t even know they’re drinking from poison.
Sheila: Mm-hmm. Yep. And so I just—I really appreciate you guys coming on because the message that I want to give to people who are mentoring preteen and teen boys is that this book is not the way to go. This book will hurt people, and we need to get this out of print. We need to stop using it.
Andrew: And I would argue let’s also create other materials. Let’s continue—not just with your listeners. Let’s continue to give more resources and tools because people are desperately looking for alternatives to actually definite what healthy sexuality is.
Sheila: Yeah. Exactly.
Zachary: Maybe the last thing I’ll say is the whole thing is framed as this kind of inevitable battle. So one, the inevitability of it we’ve talked about at length in this conversation. But also framing it as a battle. Yeah. I know Scripture talks about the battle against sin. But it also participates in this hyper masculine trope where everything about being a man is trying to kill something where actually the kind of outward direction of kind of violence is not always the most helpful image to think about the deep, difficult work that goes into growing up and healing out of these types of brokenness. And the image sometimes is—in Scripture is that of crucifixion, which is agonizing, rather than just like, “I’m going to go to war against the sinful hours out there trying to ruin my purity,” rather than the kind of torture and agony. But on the other side of it, resurrection and new life, of digging into yourself and your story, man, that’s hard work. And that isn’t going to kind of sell out movie theaters like Braveheart. But I think death is the path to resurrection. And that is not an exciting or a sexy message but is truer to reality than I think the—Every Man’s Battle narrative of kind of this macho, go to war against lust (cross talk).
Andrew: Yes. There is no resurrection without crucifixion. And if you want to get well, if you want to not use porn and objectify women, you must do the bloody work of crucifixion. Dive into your own story and actually make peace with what’s causing you to act out and to harm.
Sheila: Yeah. Amen. Well, thank you, guys, for being here with me. Andrew, want to tell people where they can find you?
Andrew: Yeah. Check us out. www.christiancc.org. My blog, andrewjbauman.com.
Sheila: And we will put links to that and your book, Sexually Healthy Man. Any other books that you’ve got that are especially relevant for this?
Andrew: Yeah. More recent one is How Not to be an *SS: Essays on Becoming a Good and Safe Man. So basically, men, if you’re interested in breaking kind of some of these societal norms of masculinity and really blazing a new trail of how to be a kind and good man, that would be a great one for you.
Sheila: Yeah. And Zachary, where can people find you?
Zachary: zacharycwagner.com is my personal site, which has information about my book, Non-Toxic Masculinity as well as some other things that I’ve written there. And you can also find me on Twitter at the same handle, zacharycwagner.
Sheila: Okay. I will put links to that. Andrew is also really active on Facebook, so I will put links to your Facebook, too, Andrew because I always see you up there every day as well. So well thank you, guys. I really appreciate you being here.
Zachary: Thank you, Sheila.
Andrew: Thanks for having me.
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!
Thank you for talking about this Sheila.
One of the problems with talking about issues like this is the “War” theme. I think they are trying to capitalize on an idea that can appeal to many – the idea of winning. The problem is this can’t support a growth mindset. You either win or lose. And if you lose, shame follows. Growth is about taking steps forward and having grace for the times you miss the mark. It helps us take ownership rather than putting blame on how outside forces (often women) are causing us to lose the battle, which then flips victim/abuser. It also universalizes and normalizes a false reality: that a *real* man will always struggle with these things, some of which, as you’ve pointed out, are actually criminal or predatory behaviors.
It makes me think of when you and Keith talked about how we need to get rid of the “marriage is hard” language, and replace it with “life can be hard”. It ends up becoming fatalistic, which really leaves men with very little hope.
I would love to hear you talk more about the problem of using war language in our resources.
That is a really good point! So true that there is a difference between *growth* and just “winning a battle.” And in their press to *win the battle* they leave no room for grace.
I should have known that yesterday’s post was just a prelude or set up for today’s podcast. This was the antidote I was longing for yesterday. Should have know this was the direction you were going. These are the guys I wanted to see and hear! Thanks!
Only eleven and a half minutes in. Can’t wait to make it through the rest. This is one of the reasons I wish I didn’t have to have a day job so I can get through it more quickly and all in one piece.
Wow, how screwed up are so many of us—or maybe it’s just me—to think that it’s even possible that Andrew and Zachary are NOT the weirdos here?
I kept having this feeling that there’s something wrong with them, with their message, because the completely perverted unchristlike message has been driven home and driven deep and for so long.
I find it interesting how he speaks of connection being the goal and that sobriety comes with that.
In my own life I have found that as I am trying to become more integrated as a person and in good communities that things are easier. Filters that I can not bypass are also helpful. Learning about psychology and healthy relationships has also done much for me.
None of the quotes from the book are anything other than garbage, but bearing in mind the supposed audience for this book, the following quote is probably the weirdest.
“Is your relationship with God as gratifying as her breasts on Friday night?”
So this is a book addressed to boys in their early-mid teens who presumably are trying to have a Christian attitude toward sex, and yet the authors assume they are being ‘gratified’ by some girl’s breasts every Friday night?!!!!
I can’t even begin to imagine what they were thinking when they wrote this…
So refreshing to hear comments on this book from men who disagree with the book, because reading these quotes, you start to feel like the entire church is made up of perverts. Thank you to Zachary and Andrew for reiterating that this is NOT normal behaviour for Christian men!
A lot of the behaviors described as “normal” in the book could be examples of hypersexuality- evidence of a child having been sexually abused. Especially since the age range of this book starts at, like, 12-13!
And the authors have huge problems. They’re sexualizing kids by the way they write to kids. This is how the predators on “To Catch a Predator” talk to the adult decoys posing as kids. I don’t have kids, but if I did, I wouldn’t let them (or anyone else’s kids) go near these authors. They need dramatic intervention in their lives, fast.
God help any kid who reads this book, or interacts with the authors.
Great point Angarad!
Don’t we actually want our (and our sons’ and daughters’) relationship with God to be MORE gratifying than breasts(sex)???
I listened to the first quote and decided to bow out on this one. Most days I can handle the stuff this week not so much. I will look forward to next week.
Totally understand! Likely a good call. I just wanted it out there, on the record.
Imagine Christian schools working through this!
It is uncomfortable that this book is one of the first things to come up if you look up porn addiction resources.
Same as Phil for me. Their stuff is a bit much.
It really is. Imagine reading it as a 13-year-old boy as an assignment for school.
I just cannot believe how this book has been highly touted in the Christian publishing world, Christian schools, and youth groups. There is nothing “Christian” about this book. Thank you for having Andrew and Zachary on this podcast and providing their healthy perspectives on this.
This is pretty off topic, but I’m interested in your thoughts on the Marriage Course and The Marriage Book by the Lee’s. Have you ever run it through your rubric?
I think it must be the main Christian marriage resource in the Commonwealth (maybe Canada is an exception?) so I’ve been surprised I haven’t seen it mentioned here. Is that because it doesn’t have any of the toxic sexuality teachings you’re concerned about or is it just not really in the radar in North America?
I haven’t read it, Tim. I’m sorry!
All good. You can’t read everything! I don’t have any specific concerns about it. The fact that no one else has brought it to your attention might be a good sign too.
The whole course is very focused on encouraging both spouses to listen to each other, and I’d describe it as implicitly egalitarian (it’s not just for Christians so doesn’t include any detailed Bible studies or anything like that – it’s associated with the Alpha course so lots of churches use it as a form of outreach). It might be worth your while reading as a potential positive alternative to L&R and all the rest. I’m sure you have a tonne of books to read though! I’d be interested in your thoughts if you ever do pick it up.
We’ve done it a couple of times and also lead the course occasionally (including at the moment). Since discovering your site I’ve been wondering if there are any parts of the session on sex that we should be presenting differently/key points they missed.
Also, since I’ve dragged us way off topic already, what would your recommendation be for a healthy, practical and biblically based general book/resource on marriage? We’re about to do a series on dating/marriage/sex etc at our church and keen to have something to recommend and give away – but I’m very aware of what a mine field it is!
Should’ve included link for anyone who has no idea what I’m talking about;
We did this course before we got married and found it really helpful. Our only complaint with it was that it seemed to assume couples already had sexual experience (I guess because it is billed as being suitable for all, and most couples without a strong religious faith of some kind WILL have had sex before marriage) so we felt it was a bit lacking in that area for two completely clueless middle aged virgins! But otherwise, it was super helpful – we redid it around our first anniversary as a kind of refresher course (our intention was to do this every year, but hey, life…) I loved the way it made you think through different areas of married life that might raise conflict and how you would deal with that – and also appreciated the interviews with couples, hearing from real life experience.
They do have a separate pre marriage course that might address some of that criticism, Angharad. I haven’t seen the material for that one though.
Ah, it looks like that is new since we did it. We also did Care for the Family’s course and had the same problem, but it looks like they’ve revamped theirs since too. Maybe other couples reported the same issues that we had!
I enjoyed the podcast and was horrified by those quotes from the book. I’m going to go a bit further and gently push back on a few things your guests said, although they were certainly far healthier than the book. Specifically, I’m not a fan of telling boys of this age not to fantasize or masturbate.
Do we need to be telling our boys what to think or feel, or what they can do with their own bodies alone behind a closed door, at all? My approach is to say to kids of any gender that they are entitled to their own thoughts and feelings, and to autonomy over their own bodies, and that they are entitled to privacy with all of these. They can always ask us questions or discuss anything, but we will respect their boundaries. At the same time, we teach them to respect the privacy, autonomy and boundaries of other people. Consent is discussed thoroughly and often. In addition, sex isn’t some weird realm separate from everything else. The same basic rules apply, and one basic rule is treating everyone with basic love, respect and human dignity because we are all created in God’s image.
I can appreciate that Zach and Andrew may come from a background of working with adult men who have issues with porn and treating women decently. That might call for a more intense and focused approach. A boy of 12-15, though, doesn’t need to be told not to devour a girl with his eyes or think about her while masturbating. It’s TMI, it sets him up to be afraid and ashamed of his own thoughts and feelings and body, and it isn’t focused on the main point which is to treat others well.
I would respectfully disagree – it is wrong for someone of ANY age to be dwelling on sexual fantasies featuring another person. A guy that is disrespecting a woman in his mind, by having sexual fantasies about her, is going to find that disrespect overflowing into his interactions with women in the real world, whether he realises it or not.
When I was young, a couple of times I came across a guy who gave me the creeps – there was nothing in his behaviour I could point to and say ‘that’s wrong’, but…yuk! And in both those cases, I accidentally found out how he was using his imagination (talking to other guys not realising I was in earshot) and that explained a whole lot about why I didn’t want to be anywhere near him.
I hear what you are saying and am trying to think it through.
If someone is talking to another people about someone else in a dehumanizing way, that is absolutely something to address. “I think she is cute” is fine, but crude remarks about body parts or being explicit about what you want to do to someone is not. That’s doing something more than having your own thoughts behind closed doors. Talking with others like that makes it seem okay to dehumanize, and it greatly increases the chances that the person being talked about will learn what is being said and feel awful. If someone was already at the point of talking to others in an explicit way about you, no wonder they seemed creepy!
The other part is that if someone is being creepy, that’s not keeping things private behind closed doors and they may need to learn to treat people better, with respect.
Again, though, I think a focus on how we act (don’t talk about other people in a bad way, don’t be creepy to others) and the message that we value every human and see their humanity, addresses the main issues for adolescents. It’s also just an extension of lessons they should be learning throughout life on how to treat others. Getting very explicit about what sexual thoughts they can’t have seems to run into the “don’t think of pink elephants” problem of actually focusing them on those type of thoughts, and could also make them obsess more about what they shouldn’t be thinking rather than on how they should be thinking and acting.
I like how you frame “the porn that Fred Stoeker *uses*” — in present tense. 😆
And just an observation: that quote about how men give emotion to get sex and women give sex to get emotion has INFURIATED me for YEARS. SO freakin WRONG. 🤬🤬🤬
Did I do that? Okay, that was honestly a mistake. Freudian mistake?