PODCAST: The Brio Magazine Pajama Party!

by | Jul 13, 2023 | Parenting Teens, Podcasts | 26 comments

Brio Magazine Pajama Party
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It’s our 200th episode!

And we wanted to celebrate by doing something that matters to Rebecca–and to so many of you. We wanted to read some back issues of Brio Magazine, the magazine for preteen and teen girls published by Focus on the Family that encapsulated purity culture.

Joanna and Rebecca both grew up on Brio, and both remember terrible articles (that they didn’t think were terrible at the time) that impacted them long term.

So Rebecca and I got into our pajamas, sat on our couch, and read the excerpts!

Even if you never read Brio, you’re going to enjoy this podcast. Sometimes people think we’re exaggerating about what was taught during purity culture. Just listen in, and think of how this must have affected a whole generation of girls.

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:

Timeline of the Podcast

0:10 Why today is a special episode
2:30 The Brio Mag ‘Lore’
8:55 ‘Sex is like a gift wrapped in brown paper’
13:40 Dear Suzy: Can I kiss before marriage?
23:15 An interesting list of sins
26:15 “Wait, can I get herpes from hugging someone??!”
39:30 Mixed messages abound + ‘how boys think’
48:45 “Give me back my girlhood, it was mine first!”

I think Brio magazine truly tried to help girls.

But they were so caught up in purity culture, that all thoughts of safety, emotional health, and accurate information instead of fear tactics went out the window.

As we read these excerpts, you’ll find over and over again that Brio was trying to scare girls into compliance. And in the long run that doesn’t work well.

Rebecca got quite emotional at the end, talking about how the real damage wasn’t even in the purity messages. It was that in everything, she had to make sure she wasn’t messing up. She wasn’t just allowed to be a girl, and she wants her girlhood back (with some Taylor Swift energy).

Want to join our Patreon Brio Magazine Pajama Party?

Later this summer we’ll be doing a live Brio magazine party with our patreons, where they can bring their old Brio magazines (many of our patreons have collected clips) or just talk about the articles they remember. 

If you’d like to be part of that, you can join our Patreon group for as little as $5 a month!

We’re taking a holiday from the podcast now!

We’ll be back on August 17!

In the meantime, on Thursdays I’ll be sharing links to two other podcasts I’ve been on this year, plus one of my favourite Bare Marriage episodes to make sure you’ve caught them all.

Is there anything you want me to highlight–either a podcast I was on  of someone else’s, or this one? Let me know in the comments!

Things Mentioned in the Podcast

It's our Brio Magazine Pajama party podcast

Did you ever read Brio magazine? Did any of these clips surprise you? Let us know in the comments!


Sheila: Welcome to the Bare Marriage Podcast. I am Sheila Wray Gregoire from BareMarriage.com where we like to talk about healthy, evidence-based, biblical advice for your sex life and your marriage and your parenting.

Rebecca: Yes.

Sheila: And I am joined for our special Brio magazine pajama party by my daughter, Rebecca Lindenbach.

Rebecca: Hello.  Hello.

Sheila: And this is the final podcast of our 2022, 2023 series—season.

Rebecca: Season.  Series.  It depends on which country you are in, I think.

Sheila: Yes.  And we’re going to take a month off after this, and we’ll be back the middle of August.  And on the blog, I’ll be posting some awesome other podcasts that I’ve been on.  But for today, we’ve been planning this for a long time.  We want to have a party to celebrate the launch of She Deserves Better because it launched during this season of our podcast.  Our new book, which—where we surveyed 7,000 women to find out how their experiences as teenagers in church affected them long term and what we can do better.

Rebecca: Yeah.  And as we’re recording this, I’m also working on edits for our free book study that’s going to be coming out for She Deserves Better.  I am working on those, so that’s going to be coming out really soon.  It’s almost done.

Sheila: Yay.  So you can—yeah.  If you want to take your small group through it in the fall, that’s going to be here. 

Rebecca: Yeah.  But we just want to do something kind of fun to end off the season.  Something that maybe ended us off with a little bit of levity.

Sheila: Yes.  Because last week, which was super fun, I really loved that one.  We did Pride and Prejudice: Jane Austen’s Advice on How to Find a Husband and what to look for in a husband which was great.  And then yeah.  We thought we would just—instead of looking at awful things in the news or—

Rebecca: Honestly, we’re just being teachers at the end of the school year.  It’s like, “Guys, it’s June, and now it’s July.  We’re just going to do what we’re going to do.  We’re doing to watch Finding Nemo in history class.  This is what we’re doing.  We’re going to have fun.  We’re going to do stuff everyone wants to do.  It’s going to be good.”

Sheila: That’s right.  So we are in our pajamas.  We are sitting on my couch in my living room.  So we’re not in our bedroom.  I couldn’t go that far.  

Rebecca: So you actually did your hair all nice.  I actually did my hair like how I sleep in it.  I sleep with it in these little twists so that I don’t get the horrible bed head.

Sheila: Okay.  Yes.  But we are here.  We have our She Deserves Better merch here.  Our She Should Know merch, if you’re watching on YouTube.  We’ll talk about those later.  But a large part of writing She Deserves Better for you was going back through Brio magazine, which was kind of like a time warp, time machine, thing for you.  

Rebecca: Yes.

Sheila: And Brio was the flagship magazine aimed at teen girls, kind of ages—what?  13 to 15?  

Rebecca: It depends on what era of Brio you’re talking about.  Again, I know all the Brio lore here.  Okay.  So you had Brio magazine and Brio and Beyond.  And at one point, they merged.  So you used to have Brio mag, which is like for the younger girls like your junior high to early high school.  And then your Brio and Beyond was really for your 15, 16, and up, and it talked a lot about—and I think it was even marketed up to like age 20, 21.  So it was very different demographics there.

Sheila: Okay.  But it was put out by Focus on the Family, and we talked about it a lot in our book, She Deserves Better.  We used a lot of quotes from it because it was so popular.  I think the—when it was—when it ended—so at its lowest point, I think it had a quarter of a million subscribers.

Rebecca: Which is pretty good.

Sheila: At its lowest point.

Rebecca: And the other thing about Brio magazine is that we found in our review that, frankly, girls do not read self help books the same way that married women do.  So doing a review for something like The Great Sex Rescue was just different which is why we talked more about the flagship kind of foundational books.  But Brio magazine?  That was exclusively read by teenage girls.  And it was wildly popular.  You’re not going to find a deconstructionist book or blogger that doesn’t, at least, have some passing mention of Brio magazine.  I have yet to find one.  Brio magazine was my absolute obsession in grades 7 through 9.

Sheila: Mm-hmm.

Rebecca: I think that’s pretty safe to say.  And I was around at the time of Brio—okay.  For any of my hardcore Brio girls, Brio sisses, I was around when Brio ended and moved over to SUSIE mag.  And I was part of the Susie Sisterhood.  So if any of you were in the Susie Sisterhood forums, chances are we chatted because I was on it all the time because I was homeschooled.  And you would tell me to go upstairs and read St. Augustine’s Confessions, and I’d be like, “Of course, I’m going to.”  And then instead, I’d go upstairs and be like, “Is too much eye shadow against the Bible?”  That’s what happened.  So if any of you were one of the Susie Sisterhood, I genuinely want to know because some of those forums were wild, by the way.  But yeah.  We wanted to talk about this kind of stuff.  And that’s the era of Brio magazine that I was in.  I was really in from 2004—no.  2006 really.  Until—yeah.  Until it ended.  And then I was with Susie’s magazine for a couple years then too.

Sheila: Right.  Now we do need to say.  Brio magazine shut down for a couple years.

Rebecca: Yeah.  It shut down for awhile.

Sheila: And then it came back in 2017.  And since then, both you and I wrote for it.

Rebecca: Oh yeah.  It was so funny.

Sheila: So full disclosure.  We both have articles in Brio.  We both have bylines in the new Brio.

Rebecca: Well, I thought that was such a funny—yeah.  I wrote that back for—back years ago now.  Quite awhile ago.  

Sheila: When you wrote your book, Why I Didn’t Rebel.

Rebecca: Yeah.  And I thought it was really funny that I kind of came full circle and end up writing for Brio when I had spent so much time reading it.  And before we do this whole Brio deep dive, I do want to say that reading through—I have read through some—I have pretty much read through everything on the way back machine that they have on Brio magazine because I was looking for specific articles that I remembered.  I was looking for really great quotes for She Deserves Better, all that kind of stuff.  A lot of the stuff is not bad, guys.  Let’s get that out of the way.  There’s a reason that this magazine was quite popular.  Think about girls like me.  You all, at this point—you all know who I was in junior high, right?  We’ve talked about the pants.

Sheila: Your rock collection.

Rebecca: We’ve talked about the rock collection.  We’ve talked about the kind of kid I was.  Okay?  So you’re picturing that kid, who just really loves God and really wants to be a good Christian.  And then along comes this magazine that not only has devotionals and Bible reading plans and prayer guides but also teaches you how to do make up and how to not carry a rock collection around with you in your giant cargo pants.  Right?  So this was actually a really, really fun thing for me when I was in junior high and high school.  And even looking back now, there is a lot of things where it’s like would I say that with a little bit more nuance.  Absolutely.  But it absolutely does appeal to the very zealous nature of teenagehood.  And I’m not necessarily against that for everything.  And there were a lot of articles that I read in Brio where it was like, “Yeah.  Okay.  That’s a bit cringey.  But yeah.  I stand behind—that’s fine.  That’s fine.”  I would not be mad if my daughter, when she was 13, 14, was spending her time reading this.  We’re not going to read those ones right now.

Sheila: So we just want to say those exist.      

Rebecca: Mm-hmm.  They do exist.  And I would even say there are certain years where I think that was the majority.  There are certain years where it definitely wasn’t.  But for instance, there was so many nuanced discussions about mental health and depression.  There were lots of things about how to get yourself out of a bad mood with lots of caveats about how, “Hey, by the way, if you can’t get yourself out of a bad mood, if it’s hurting your school work, if it’s hurting your relationships, you need to see a counselor.  And this isn’t just teenage blues.  There is something bigger going on here.  What’s the difference between being sad and being depressed?”  There’s a lot of that kind of stuff.  It was really great.  And then—and then—and then—then there was all the stuff that caused Brio to end up getting cancelled because everyone stopped reading it.  Let’s talk about that stuff today.

Sheila: Okay.  Let’s do it.  There was a real shift in Brio.  I mean you can look at it.  If you start in the mid-nineties and then you got into the mid-aughts, you really see the progression of purity culture.

Rebecca: Yeah.  A lot of the earlier—the really earlier stuff that I was reading a lot of it is about missions.  A lot of it is about outreach.  And there definitely was still stuff about missions and outreach later.  But also there was a lot more stuff about, “How do you write an admissions essay for college?”  And then yeah.  A lot of the fashion stuff.  But yeah.  The stuff that we’re about to read really seemed to hit its heyday between 2001, 2002 and—until it ended in 2007, 2008.

Sheila: Okay.  So you have been collecting things from Brio because this is what you did for our research for She Deserves Better.  I read the books.  You read Brio and did all the interviews.   

Rebecca: Well, I had already read Brio.  I knew what I was looking for.  These things are seared in my memory.

Sheila: Yeah.  So you were looking for specific articles.

Rebecca: I was.  And I found them.  I am so proud of myself.  I found them.

Sheila: That you remembered reading when you were 13, 14.  Okay.  So what do you want to start with?

Rebecca: I want to start—now.  Okay.  I want to say, first of all, I do not know how old the person was who submitted this poem because sometimes it did have teenagers submit things.  I don’t know.  However, at this point, they’re a grown woman.  So let’s go.  There is a poem that was published in Brio magazine called Sex is Like a Gift Wrapped in Brown Paper.

Sheila: Okay.  That kind of sounds like a porno magazine that people used to buy.  (cross talk).

Rebecca: Let’s just read this.  

Sheila: Okay.  Lay it on me.    

Rebecca: “There is a beautiful gift inside this package.”  Sorry.  Already—package is just such a good—it’s just—anyway.  I’m just like—some guy walked up to a girl in the bar.  “There’s a gift in this package.”  

Sheila: Okay.

Rebecca: Sorry.  “There is a gift inside this package.  It’s wrapped for protection.”  I’m sorry.  Now I see a condom.  I’m so sorry.  Okay.  I genuinely had not read this out loud yet, and this is all—I am really immature.  Okay.  Here we go.  “It’s wrapped for protection, tied for security, stamped fragile, handle with care.”  Again, this could all just be a penis.  

Sheila: Right.

Rebecca: That’s fine.  Anyway.  “It’s easy to loosen the strings, to let anyone tear away the wrapping, to give the gift without commitment.  Offer it to the highest bidder, or to hand it out as the prize for a game.  There is a gift wrapped inside this brown paper.  It’s for keeps, not to be exchanged.  No deposit.  Non returnable.  It’s a surprise.”  What?  Anyway.  “A happy treat to be opened by the person to whom it’s addressed on the date marked forever.”   So this is typical of Brio magazine.  This is why it gets picked on.  First of all—okay.  There’s two reasons that, for me, this perfectly encapsulates Brio magazine.  First of all, it’s just the blatant innuendo that is completely missed.  That entire first thing could just be some creepy guy at a bar hitting on a girl trying to be like, “Yeah.  You want my penis.”  

Sheila: Yeah.  Absolutely.

Rebecca: Again, to be fair, I am in a very, very immature mood today.  But also, just this whole emphasis on, again, no deposit.  Non returnable.  And it’s a happy treat to be opened.  Your entire worth is your virginity that you’re supposed to give away on your wedding day.

Sheila: Also I mean this is something that we talk about more with The Great Sex Rescue, but notice how sex is something which is framed as being separate from you and outside of you.  So it is a gift that you give.  And we have a podcast that we did on that awhile ago on how sex as seen as transactional.  So it’s not an experience you have together.  It’s something that she gives and he takes.  

Rebecca: Yes.  Exactly.

Sheila: And that is a problematic way of looking at sex.

Rebecca: And I think that it also misses a lot of the—it misses so much.  But first of all, what it really does is it takes this thing, which is an action that you do, and it completely encapsulates your whole identity, right?  And it is the epicenter of your faith.  It is the thing.  And you’re going to see that.  That’s a recurring theme surprising to no one who has read Brio.  Okay.  That poem.  Again, it may have been written by a sweet, innocent—I could have written this when I was 14, guys.  Okay?

Sheila: Yes.  Mm-hmm.  

Rebecca: Probably because I read stuff like this when I was 14.  

Sheila: And if you read She Deserves Better, you will read Becca’s cancer poem series.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  To be clear, I never had cancer.  No one in my family really in my lifetime got cancer at that age.  I just—there was a portion there where I was really obsessed with cancer.  Anyway.

Sheila: To be clear too, the reason that we’re picking on this is because this was so formative.  And it’s not just that Brio magazine was formative.  It’s that it was most culture forming but also culture informed.  So Brio was typical of the way that teenage girls were talked to about sex.  So as we’re reading excerpts even if you were a teenager and you didn’t read Brio, I think you’re going to hear some themes.  

Rebecca: You’re going to be like, “Oh my gosh.  That was totally at that camp that I went to.”  It’s like yeah.  It’s because your 17-year-old camp counselor got Brio and Beyond.

Sheila: Yeah.  Exactly.  And I think it just helps us understand, “Oh, that’s where I got it from.  Oh, that makes a lot of sense.”

Rebecca: Yeah.  And it’s Focus on the Family.  And everyone might be like, “Oh, well, do you know it was Brio?”  It was Focus on the Family.   Brio magazine was put out by Focus on the Family.  Focus on the Family is self proclaimed the largest Christian media group.  Yeah.  This formed the culture.

Sheila: Yeah.  It really did.  Okay.  What’s next?

Rebecca: There was a segment called Dear Susie.  Susie Shellenberger was the editor of Brio, and you could write in to Susie.  And she would answer your questions.  I will say I do not believe that most of these questions are real.  I think the editors wrote them.  Just some of them are the most unbelievable, I could not believe a 2002 15 year old was writing that way.  But that’s fine.  Here’s the question.  “Dear Susie, I’ve been wondering for the longest time whether it’s okay to kiss before you’re married.  My friends all think this is the way to find the right guy to marry.  But I’m not convinced.  Is it biblical to kiss before you’re married,” right?  This one I actually believe could be true, to be fair.

Sheila: Okay.

Rebecca: Then here is what Susie says.

Sheila: Lay it on me.  

Rebecca: “I am giving you my personal opinion on this.  It’s not from the Bible.”  First of all, I really, really respect that she says that.  I feel like it’s important to say that before my next reaction.  “I don’t believe it’s a sin to kiss someone you’re in a relationship with and whom you care about deeply, but I also think way too many girls are giving their kisses away too freely.  Think about it this way.  Each time you kiss a guy you give a little piece of yourself away.  Does that make kissing wrong?  No.  But it does make your kisses extremely valuable.  So be incredibly selective about whom you choose to kiss.  Let God help you with this decision.  He cares more about your kisses than you do.  He may tell you that His plan for you doesn’t include kissing right now.  Kissing someone because it’s fun or feels good or as a thank you at the end of a nice evening aren’t good enough reasons to kiss.”  I genuinely don’t know what the other reasons would be.  I want you to know.  Okay.  Picture.  14-year-old Tiffany, 15-year-old Brayden coming back from a date.  “Brayden, we want to honor God in this.  So I want you to know this isn’t fun for me.  This doesn’t feel good.  And I am not really appreciative of this date.  So I’m going to kiss you anyway.”  If it’s not fun, if it doesn’t feel good, and you’re not like, “Wow.  We had a great time, and I want to express how great of a time,” what’s the other option?

Sheila: Yeah.  But okay.  This whole obsession—

Rebecca: No.  No.  No.  No.

Sheila: Because I have stuff to say.  Okay.

Rebecca: Oh, you’re going to want to hear the Bible verses that she gives these girls.

Sheila: Oh, there’s a Bible verse.

Rebecca: Oh, there’s always Bible verses.  This is Brio.  There’s always Bible verses taken completely out of context.  Here we go.  “You asked what the Bible has to say about kissing.  It doesn’t actually talk about your question although we’re told to run from things that give us evil thoughts and to wait until marriage for sex.”  And those are in brackets.  1 Timothy 6:11 and 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8.  1 Thessalonians 4:1-8, as she says, does not mention kissing at all.  It’s sexual immorality.  It’s like, “Yo, don’t rape each other.  It’s like, guys, stop.”  Ugh.  “Here are some other verse considering sexual intimacy and temptation that will be helpful.  Romans 6:1-14, 1 Corinthians 10:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:22, and Hebrews 13:4.”

Sheila: Okay.  So 1 Corinthians 10:13, “There is no temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not tempt you above what that which you are able.  But will with the temptation always provide a way of escape so that you may be able to bear it.” 

Rebecca: Yes.  Hebrews 13:4 is—

Sheila: Approach the throne of grace?  No.

Rebecca: No.  No.  No.

Sheila: 13:6 is, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and the day before.”

Rebecca: Hebrews 13:4.

Sheila: 13:4.  

Rebecca: We could just look these up.

Sheila: We could.  It’s a bungle over here.

Rebecca: Oh, of course.  “Marriage should be honored by all and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”

Sheila: Okay.  So there, you little girls that wants to kiss.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  Exactly.  Then 1 Thessalonians 5—what?  I’m sorry.  1 Thessalonians 5:22.  “Reject every kind of evil.”  That’s the whole verse.  That’s the whole verse.  The whole verse she’s quoting at this girl is reject every kind of evil.  

Sheila: Okay.      

Rebecca: And by the way, this has nothing to do with sex.  It says, “Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all.  Hold on to what is good and reject every kind of evil.”  She’s quoting the second half of a verse that’s got nothing to sex.  It’s about prophecies and spirits.  Anyway, this is very typical of Brio though, I’ll say.  So she gives this whole—it’s not in the Bible, but here are 18 Bible verses that are kind of related to a tangentially related topic except when they’re not.  But they’re strong enough to make you feel convicted to do what I want you to do even though there’s not actually a biblical basis for it.

Sheila: Right.  

Rebecca: And here’s what I find—I’ll get your reactions first.

Sheila: Well, no.  That whole thing about how when you kiss you leave pieces of yourself, you give away pieces of yourself, I picture this person—this rapidly shrinking girl.  And this is a theme which we see—

Rebecca: Oh, there goes my molar.

Sheila: Yeah.  This is a theme that we see throughout literature to girls is you are going to be—you’re missing pieces of yourself.  And there’s just reason to teach girls that.  And I wonder what the impact of believing that—I have left a piece of myself behind—is if a girl then breaks up with someone.

Rebecca: Yeah.  The thing that really bothers me too is this idea that God cares about your kisses more than you do, so bring—just talk to God about whether or not you should kiss this boy.  And I have nothing wrong with saying God cares about you.  Obviously, he does.  I have nothing wrong with saying, “Hey, go to God, if you have questions.”  Yeah.  That’s totally fine.  But kissing is literally not really mentioned in the Bible in this context.  Because it’s just kind of a non issue.  It really actually kind of is.  And so when we take these things that are not really things that people are talking about in the Bible even though they talk about kissing—they talk about kissing throughout the Bible, but it’s not like, “Make sure not to kiss.”  And then we say things like, “You have to go to God with that,” all these different things.  There is just—it’s so guilt inducing because there is no way that you’re ever just in the clear.  And this is what I see so often, and you’re going to see as we go through Brio.  There is no way to ever just be in the clear.  You can never just rest easy knowing that you’ve done okay.  Because if you pray about it—so say you’re on a date.  And unexpectedly, it goes amazingly well, and you’re like, “Oh my gosh.  I think he’s going to kiss me.”  And then he kisses you, and you haven’t prayed about it.  Now you haven’t gone to God.  You haven’t talked about this with God.  And God cares about this more than you do, and now you just disappointed God.  And then what happens if you break up, right?  Now you’ve kissed this boy.  It’s just so much unnecessary guilt and stress and worry when this is just kind of a part of being a kid for a lot of people.  And then just to be clear, I was actually very fine with kissing when I was in high school, and I just never did.  There were a lot of moments where I thought I might kiss someone, and then I was like, “No.  I don’t really feel like I want to.”  But Connor ended up being the only person I’ve ever actually kissed.  So I am the ultimate Brio girl, okay?  I am the platonic ideal of kidding because I’ve only kissed one dude.  Actually, that’s not true because I kissed him on my first date.  And I think Susie doesn’t like that.  So I am close.  I am a slightly not okay Brio kissing girl.  Okay.  But I’ve only kissed one person my entire life.  And that’s him.  But kissing was never a big deal to me.  And I wouldn’t feel like he had less of me if I had kissed other people.  I don’t even know how many girls he’s kissed, and I don’t care.  It has literally never bothered me even though I grew up with this stuff.  And I think a lot of this emphasis on things like kissing is what gives it its power.

Sheila: Yeah.  I think so too.  I mean—when I was in high school, everybody kissed.  And I don’t honestly know how many guys I kissed as a teenager.  I would have to sit down and seriously think about it—

Rebecca: And that just feels weird to do.

Sheila: Yeah.  Because it doesn’t matter to me.  And your dad, the same way.  He—a bunch of girls as well.  It was never a big deal.  That’s the way things were in the eighties.

Rebecca: Well, and it is the way the things are now too for the most part.  

Sheila: Yeah.  And I do want to say.  I understand that some people take—really do want to save that kiss for the wedding.  And if that is a conviction that you have—  

Rebecca: Yeah.  Go for it.

Sheila: – I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.  And for many people, they find it helpful.  I think that’s between you and God.  I really do.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  I will say, personally, I’m okay—personally, I get major concerns about that because I think that there are things that you can learn from very basic and safe forms of intimacy that are important to know before you are married.

Sheila: Yeah.  Actually, we did write a blog post about that.

Rebecca: Yeah.  And I think that having someone—and quite frankly, from how many stories we’ve heard from people who marry people who end up having completely zero sexual connection and attraction to each other, someone finding it easy to not kiss you before you are married is a major red flag.

Sheila: Yes.  Yes.

Rebecca: And you finding it easy not to kiss someone before you are married is a major red flag.  Guys, there should be sparks.  Right?  But we also know some people who had a lot of sexual history and a lot of things happen where they were like, “No.  It’s actually really important to me that you prove that you can keep yourself completely off of me.”  And that really worked, and that was okay.  Hey, yeah.  Do what works for you.  But I’m not—I’m concerned about this whole idea where it’s like this is such a heavy topic that you need to make sure that God is okay with what you are doing when it’s just a part of growing up for most people.  There’s not risks involved, guys.  Not really.

Sheila: Yeah.  And kissing does not lead to sex for most—the vast majority of people.  

Rebecca: No.  Hugging leads to sex just as much as kissing does.  Snuggling while you watch a movie.  All sorts of stuff.  Okay.  So on that same topic of making things way more spiritual than they need to be and so heaping guilt on people, okay?  This is from an article that we actually do quote this in She Deserves Better.  So if anyone hasn’t read the book yet, this will be new to you.  But if you have read the book, you will have heard this one.  I apologize.  But it’s just so good we had to share twice.  This is called You Won’t Like This, But if You Decide to Read it Anyway Don’t Say You Weren’t Warned.  Okay.  We’re ready for hot takes, Susie Shellenberger.  Here we go.  Okay.  So Susie is talking here about the emails that she gets from girls who read Brio magazine, okay?  And she says this, “Okay, Brio sisses.  This is where you can toss your magazine across the room and scream, ‘That Susie doesn’t have a clue.’  Go ahead.  It’s okay.  I’ll wait here until you come back.  I hope you’re ready to continue because I’m not finished.  What are we really talking about here?  Well, in a nutshell, absolute truth and personal holiness.  With all the lies and trash the media tosses your way, it’s really, really easy to rationalize, to make excuses for things that are really wrong and try to talk yourself into believing they’re okay such as,”—and then she lists a bunch of things like cheating on a test, watching movies and TV shows that highlight sin, cursing or even using off color language, using little white lies, and making out.  And then she says, “As long as I’m not actually having intercourse, everything is okay.  Wrong.  Do you think intercourse outside of marriage is the only sexual sin in the world?”  So then she says this, “So why am I getting so much mail from you saying, ‘I can make out with my boyfriend.  I can sleep next to him.  I can drink.  I can use bad language, and I’m still a Christian.’  Give me a break.  You’re being deceived.  Someone may say I’m a Christian.  I am on my way to heaven.  I believe to Christ.  But if he doesn’t do what Christ tells him to, he is a liar.  1 John 2:4.  Does Christ tell you to make out with your boyfriend or drink alcohol?  Duh.”  So here is the thing.  One of these things is not like the other, right?  No matter what you think about any of the other things she mentioned there making out with or kissing your boyfriend is not the same as cheating on a test or underage drinking or experimenting with drugs.  But she’s saying you are a liar.  You are not a Christian because you are making out with your boyfriend.  And this—it’s so ridiculous.

Sheila: I think it’s 2000, right?  

Rebecca: This was 2000, and she was already saying that stuff.  So anyway, that’s a good example.

Sheila: And I know for some of our international audience, the definition of making out can be—is different in different countries.  

Rebecca: Goodness.  It’s different even in Belleville.  Where I was raised.  Different churches define making out differently.  

Sheila: I wouldn’t say making out includes anything other than kissing necessarily.  I wouldn’t say that it includes like feeling under her shirt or feeling—

Rebecca: No.  That would be making out and groping.  Either way though, it’s like this is such a convoluted phrase that this is the problem is what often happens—because evangelicals are so not comfortable with using actual terminology, this is what happened—maybe we should talk about that one.

Sheila: Yeah.  Let’s do that one.

Rebecca: Let’s do that one next.  Oh, I love this one.

Sheila: This one was also in She Deserves Better, right?  

Rebecca: But it’s just so embarrassing for me that I like to share it because it’s so funny.  So what happens is evangelicals like to use spiritual language and euphemisms instead of actually saying the right thing.  So we’re going to give you an example.  Then we’re going to talk about how the two of them are combined, okay?  So there was—this was one of the ones that I went on the way back machine.  And I was like I have to find this because I remembered this.  This was a horror memory for me.  So there was an article called Dear Jessica.  So first of all, it’s a letter called Dear Jessica.  So I have no idea what I’m getting into as a 12 year old reading this.  

Sheila: Yes.  So, again, picture Rebecca and her rock collection cargo pants.

Rebecca: Yeah.  This is pre braces Rebecca.  No.  This is during headgear Rebecca.  And so here we are.  So this is an article.  I’m not going to read the whole thing.

Sheila: But it’s written from the perspective of an older sister giving advice to a younger sister about the regrets that she has.

Rebecca: Yeah.  So I’m going to give you a couple paragraphs here.  “Dear Jessica, This is the most difficult letter I’ve ever had to write.  I considered keeping my secret, not wanting to tell you, my little sister, what I’ve done.  Then I realized how much I love you and how important it is to keep you from making the same mistake I did.  Ever since you were a baby my first instinct has been to protect you.  And so I send you this letter.  You’ve heard the old saying ignorance is bliss.  Well, I’m here to tell you it ain’t so.  What is so is the verse, ‘Be sure your sins will find you out.  Numbers 32:23.’”  This verse pops up a lot in Brio, by the way.  “That’s right on target.  I guess by growing up in a Christian family and going to a Christian school we were spared the crash course on certain facts of life.  Oh, mom warned us not to let guys touch us in what she termed private areas.  But when she’d leave the room, we’d laugh at her ideas.  Never really understanding the importance of her words.  I sure wish I’d listened to her because last semester I made a discovery that has changed my life.  I learned that you don’t have to lose your virginity to contract a sexually transmitted infection.  Surprised?  Yeah.  I was too.  I can hardly believe it, Jessica, but I have genital herpes.  If I, a 23,”—sorry.  This is just so melodramatic and unbelievable.  “If I, a 23-year-old premed student, was unaware that there was danger in fooling around with a guy, what about my 15-year-old sister?  I never want something like this to happen to you, Jessica.  It’s worse than you can possibly imagine.  You’re probably frowning about now wondering what gives.  After all, I’m still a virgin.  You remember, Brad?  The guy I was dating last year?  We went to church together.  We prayed together.  But…we also fooled around together.  I will regret those actions for the rest of my life.  Oh, we never actually had sexual intercourse.  I was in junior high when I made a commitment to remain a virgin until marriage.”  I love that throwaway line.  I’m sorry.  Just we didn’t have intercourse.  I made a purity pledge when I was in junior high.  It’s just such an unnecessary throw away, and I love it.  The letter continues about how horrified she is, how she has these genital warts, everything is horrible.  It’s so unfair.  She was a virgin.  This should never have happened to her.  And they use worse like, “We fooled around.  I’m still a virgin.”  And then she says things like, “Will my future husband still want me knowing he will not only share my life but also my herpes?”  All these kinds of things.  And then at the end, they say this, “I’m so ashamed I could crawl into a hole, but there is no way I can let my shame and embarrassment stop me from begging you to commit to true sexual purity.  This doesn’t simply mean virginity but a pure lifestyle.  Avoid skin to skin or oral sexual conduct like the plague, Jessie, because that’s exactly what it adds up to.  A plague.  Stay pure, little sister.”

Sheila: Okay.  I need to say something here.

Rebecca: No.  No.  No.  You need the sign off.  

Sheila: No.  I need to say something about what you just said.  When we were recording the audio for this book, Rebecca had to read that line—

Rebecca: Oh my gosh.  Plague.

Sheila: – 20 times.  

Rebecca: I did.

Sheila: Because she cannot say the word plague.  

Rebecca: I say plague.  Is that weird?

Sheila: No.  You said plag.

Rebecca: I said plague.

Sheila: Well, now you’re saying it.  

Rebecca: I don’t know.

Sheila: But the first time you said it, you said plag.  It’s like Benedict Cumberbatch’s penwings.

Rebecca: The penwings.

Sheila: The penwings.  The penwings.  And the guy recording couldn’t stop laughing either.

Rebecca: Yeah.  So anyway, so this signs off in the most, most Brio way ever, okay?  “Stay pure, little sister.  Share my love, not my regrets.”

Sheila: Okay.  So let’s just go over what she said.  She said any skin to skin or oral sexual contact.

Rebecca: Yeah.  And at the end of the magazine, they have four myths about STIs, and they do get into more detail there.  “You don’t have to go all the way sexually to contract a STI.  The soft, moist skin in the mouth and genital areas are perfect breeding grounds for many dangerous viruses.  Skin to skin contact in those areas is all that’s necessary to pass the virus from person to person.”  Okay.  But here is the problem.  I had the same sex education as most evangelical Christians in this time because we did the FamilyLife one.

Sheila: Passport to Purity.  

Rebecca: Where I still have Dennis Rainey’s voice in my head explaining what sex is.  That’s the only thing I remember.  And I remember just thinking, “So the woman just lies there, and he just puts it in.  And then it’s done.”  And that’s how much sex ed I really kind of had at this point because I hadn’t figured it out yet really.  And I was reading this Brio stuff where they keep on talking about things like—they called everything sexual contact.  They called kissing sexual contact.

Sheila: Making out means that you’re not a Christian.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  Because you’re not pure.  And sexual purity is about more than just sex, so every form of touching is sexual contact.  So I’ve just read this whole letter, and I’m 12.  I’m not then going to read the WebMD short facts afterwards because, of course, I’m not.  They are marketing this to junior high girls.  And then they have this not as fun thing afterwards to read.  And even that, it’s not like—there’s nothing about what does and doesn’t get you infected.

Sheila: Yeah.  It’s not—yeah.  If your mouth touches his penis or scrotum or if—yeah.  

Rebecca: They say private areas.  So I thought that if a guy touched your boobs or if you kissed someone you’d get genital herpes.  And they didn’t explain that oral herpes and genital herpes are different.  And also the whole focus on how awful it was, how terrible it is, how this is—she’s—I’m picturing this woman like covered in warts like a witch out of a Shakespeare play.  

Sheila: We don’t mean to downplay the reality of how difficult it is to live with herpes.

Rebecca: No.  Absolutely not.  But I know a lot of people with herpes.  It is not a life ending diagnosis.  It’s really not.  And they even have in here how many people.  Like 1 out of 5 people over the age of 12 has genital herpes in the United States.  We’re really saying that 20% of the population is permanently constantly in pain and crippled because of this thing.  We have to recognize the both and.  Where we have to, yes, educate our kids, but we have to actually educate them because I read this at age 12 and I was like, “Okay.  So if I kiss a boy for too long, I’m going to get genital warts.”  That’s actually what was going on in my head.

Sheila: Yes.  And this is the problem with using euphemisms instead of actually giving information.  And remember that at the same time as they’re saying this the other books and Brio magazine itself marketed to teenage girls is telling them how condoms don’t work.

Rebecca: Yeah.  And so here is what I remember.  “A person with herpes is contagious not only when the virus is awake and blisters pop out but also just before symptoms occur.  During that time, the herpes virus is very easily passed to someone else through skin to skin contact.”  It doesn’t say with the genitals.

Sheila: Yeah.  It just says skin to skin.  

Rebecca: So I thought you hold hands, you kiss, you hug someone with herpes and then boom.  Herpes.  And this is the whole situation is you read that previous article that we talked about where she is saying, “Then how is it that you girls are saying, ‘Well, I can make out with my boyfriend, and I’m still a Christian.’  No.  You’re not sexually pure.”  And then here it says any skin to skin contact, any oral sexual contact.  What do I think oral sexual contact is?  I think it’s kissing.  Brio magazine is (inaudible) like, “Here’s how you have oral sex.”  They’re not telling us about that.  They’re not like, “What’s the difference between fellatio and cunnilingus?  What does it mean?”  They’re not doing that.  They’re like you might die.  That’s about the context that I’ve gotten here.

Sheila: And, again, remember that in the broader context too Dannah Gresh in her book, And the Bride Wore White, talks about how there’s 13 steps to putting on a condom and how they don’t—they really don’t work.  First of all, we can’t figure out what those 13 steps are.

Rebecca: Oh, no.  No.  We did find them.  They’re in this really weird, bizarre website, and it’s things like find a condom.  Open the condom.  Take the condom out of the wrapper.  Inspect the condom to make sure it’s a condom and not a balloon.  It’s like if you had instructions for breathing, and it’s like release the air from your lungs.  Begin to tense the intercostals muscles causing a vacuum to form in your lungs.  Allow air to fill that vacuum.  It’s like there are not 13 steps using a condom.  It’s like use condom.  1 step.  Okay, guys.  Try not to open it with scissors.  

Sheila: And condoms are actually remarkably effective.  No.  They’re not 100%.  And it is important to tell kids that.  But when we scare kids by saying these don’t work, then kids are less likely to use them.

Rebecca: Well, especially when they say they don’t work even when people use them.  And they don’t tell people what that means.  What that means is if someone says—they answer a survey.  And they say, “What’s your primary form of birth control?”  And they say, “Oh, condoms.”  “Did you use a condom last time you had sex?”  “No.”  When a condom is physically on a penis for the entirety of the sexual act, it’s like 90-something, ridiculously high percent effective.  It’s like the 87% number comes from like, “Well, I mean I did it once, and then we were like maybe we should use a condom this time.”  Yeah.  Okay.  “So then we had sex twice in a day.  And one time we used a condom, and one time we didn’t.  So we’re probably good.”  I’m sorry.  I’m not trying to make light.  I do know that condoms genuinely just break sometimes.  Absolutely.

Sheila: But they are remarkably—there’s tons of people.  I mean we used them as our form of birth control for several years.  And I need to say I’m super, super fertile.  I know there’s people that struggle with that.  But we tried to get pregnant five times, and we got pregnant four of them.  And then miscarriage, and then we lost a son.  And I have two living daughters.   We never got pregnant when we were on condoms—when we were using condoms.  So they are remarkably effective.

Rebecca: And that’s a—this is a pattern that we see throughout Brio, throughout a lot of these resources for kids and for teenagers is instead of sex education—and what I love about this one is she even said, “We didn’t get the sex education.  So I’m giving it to you now.”  And then she doesn’t actually give it.  She just gives fear.  And that’s exactly what they do, right?  They don’t actually teach you anything.  They just teach you to be afraid of it.

Sheila: And I want to say too just a reminder that in our survey of 7,000 women for She Deserves Better we did find there was no downside to sex ed.  The more terms people knew when they graduated high school the better they did.  I think cunnilingus was even one of the ones that we tested or fellatio.

Rebecca: We did both of them because we wanted to see if they know fellatio versus cunnilingus, I believe.

Sheila: Yeah.  And different body parts.  And honestly, the more terms girls knew the less likely they were to have multiple sex partners, the higher their self esteem.  There was no downside.  And so teaching kids honest to goodness sex ed is a good thing to do.  Mm-hmm.  While Becca is looking for the next article—

Rebecca: Wait.  Should we—yeah.  Yeah.  You talk about that.

Sheila: Okay.  Let me be Vanna for a minute.  So we have some merch based on She Deserves Better in our store.  So I am holding one of our pillows, our bed pillows, which would look awesome on your daughter’s bed.  And it is a bunch of different She Should Know sayings from our book, She Deserves Better.  So things like she should know that compliance does not equal consent, that not all churches will try to keep her small, that girls don’t talk too much, that disagreement is not rebellion, that she isn’t more likely to be deceived.  And then there’s more on the flip side too that Jesus is not a jealous boyfriend, that God is not a husband vending machine, that her feelings should not be ignored, that breaking up isn’t a sin, that truth should not be scarified for peace, and so many more.  So you can take a look at that.  And we also have journals.  We have journals of those She Should Know bubbles that you can get for your daughter or for yourself.  And we also have other forms like this hard cover one where all the She Should Knows are written out as opposed to just being bubbles.  So take a look at our journals and notebooks, our pillows, and we have some limited edition merch just for the summer.  We have beach towels.  So we have beach towels of all our She Should Know sayings that you can take.  It’s either in the bubbles or the list forms of all of our She Should Knows.  And we also have the beach towel in our biblical womanhood design too, so go check that out at the store.  And I will put the links in the podcast notes.  And when you buy merch from our store, it helps us produce this podcast and do the blog and everything else that’s lovely.  So yeah.  I’ll always appreciate your business there.  Okay.  Did you find something else for us? 

Rebecca: I found the last point that we’re going to talk about because we’re running out of time.  It’s a larger point.  Here is what makes me so frustrated.  There’s this one little line that I found that perfectly encapsulates how Brio magazine impacted me as a teenager.  And it’s here in this cute little article about back to school outfits and stuff.  And it’s not even really—there’s not—this is an earlier one, so there’s not really any modesty discussion necessarily in this one.  It’s literally just cute back to school—it’s the most Y2K—I’m going to be honest.  Kids today would probably be like absolutely losing their minds over this fashion because I don’t understand why you guys all thought that Y2K needed to come back, but you’ve all decided that needs to come back.  And it’s terrible, but that’s fine.  I’m fine.  I am officially old.  That’s all I’m going to say.  But at the very end of this really, really cute thing about how, “Hey, express yourself.  Have fun.  You get to have fun.  It’s girly and fun.  Blah, blah, blah,” they say this, “And no matter how creative you get with your own style always remember the Creator and give Him glory with what you wear.”  

Sheila: Right.

Rebecca: And, again, on the surface, nothing necessarily wrong with that except it adds guilt once again.  It’s like why did you need to—why did you need to remind—

Sheila: What does that mean?  

Rebecca: Exactly.

Sheila: And this is what we said in She Deserves Better.  There is no righteousness aisle at Target.  What does it mean to dress?

Rebecca: Like, “Oh, man.  I love your outfit.”  “Thanks.  I prayed really hard about it.”  What does that mean?  And, again, it’s just one of those things it’s like you’re still not measuring up.  It’s like and then you build her self esteem a little bit, and you just cut her off at the knees again.  And this happens again and again and again because as girls are reading Brio magazine what they’re really reading is if you don’t get in line you’re going to be discarded.  Over and over again we read, “Yeah.  You’re technically allowed to kiss, but also remember to reject all kinds of evil.”

Sheila: Because your sin will find you out. 

Rebecca: Yeah.  “Because your sin will find you out.  So you figure out what you should do with that.  I’m not going to tell you.  But you figure out what you think God really wants you to do.”  We’re told things like, “You might think that this is okay, but look at all these liars and cheats and drug users and alcoholics and you kissing the boy you love.  And all of you are in the same boat in God’s eyes,” even though one of them is just genuinely, no matter where you fall on the other ones, we all kind of agree.  Kissing when you’re 16 years old is just a thing that people do.  It’s not a big deal.  There’s so much in here where everything that they give you is a backhanded compliment.  Everything that they say to you is double speak because what they’re doing is they’re saying, “God loves you so much because you’re currently doing okay.  But if you don’t do okay, I mean He’ll still have to love you because He’s God.  But it was easier before.”  And that’s what Brio magazine was.  And so when we read the stuff that they tell us about boys and how boys think, it gets even worse because here is the thing is we are told that as girls we are—we’re God’s princess.  God loves you.  You’re His princess.  Don’t you know that you’re God’s princess.  He’s the king, and you’re the princess.  And He loves you.  You’re little pure princess.  You are a pure, pure, little virgin princess.  You’re His pretty, little, pure virgin.  You’re a virgin of the king.  You’re a princess of the king.  Yeah.  No.  You’re fine.  You’re more than your virginity, you little virgin—princess.  Princess.  And this is what we hear over and over again.  And so then we get messages like this about how boys are.  From this article called Straight From a Guy.  I’m going to read you one section from this article from this guy, who has been hired by Brio to write an article to tell girls how guys really think.  Okay?  This is titled—the subheading is The Truth.  “Can I be honest?  I mean really, really honest.  Like from a guy to a girl honest.  Don’t get mad, okay?  I’m going to give it to you straight.  Here goes.  Just as a lion would be tempted to attack someone wearing sausages, it’s the same to guys when girls wear things designed to arouse certain instincts and attention in males.  Okay.  Go ahead and get mad.  I know you want to, but you said I could be honest, remember?  So often girls wear clothing that is tight, low necked, or short skirted, and expect guys not to react the way God designed them.  Listen, Brio sisses, when you wear revealing clothes that show a little extra this or a little extra that, it brings one thing and one thing only to a guy’s mind.  Sex.  That’s how God wired us.  That’s not to say we don’t have a responsibility to live self controlled, pure lives, but a lion is a lion.  And a guy is a guy.  I don’t care who he is.  So help us out.  I was the most godly young man a parent could ask for.  I was truly head over heels in love with my Lord and Savior.  I prayed at least an hour every day, read and studied my Bible, and felt I was being used by God in my school and community.  But I was still a lousy example of what God wanted me to be in my dating life.  Give me an inch, and I’d see it as an invitation to go a mile.  I was 28 when I got married, and God helped me remain a virgin.  The woman I married, Jenny, was also a virgin.  And though 28 years was a long time for me to wait, I’ve got to tell you that Jenny was certainly worth it.  Wow.”  So yeah.  So he’s saying here that he’d have girls who would like, “Yeah.  Let’s kiss.”   And then he’d go farther.

Sheila: Yeah.  That line, “Give me an inch, and I would see it as an invitation to take a mile,”—let’s not use the euphemisms.  And let’s spell out what he’s saying.  If a girl let me kiss her, I would go beyond her boundaries.  And the definition of going beyond a girl’s boundaries is sexual assault.

Rebecca: And I really think that part of the problem is because we weren’t allowed to talk about sex or sexual desire or the actual experience of sex we talked so much—and I know because I was raised in this, right?  I actually was the one who was raised in this.  I had so much knowledge about sexual boundaries, and I had zero knowledge about what it felt like to approach those boundaries.  There was no discussion of arousal.  There was no discussion of how does—I heard it’s like, “Well, you get carried away.”  It’s like, well, I didn’t know what that meant.  I was a 14 year old.  Never kissed anyone before, right?

Sheila: Right.

Rebecca: I still thought that holding hands was like woo hoo.  That’s PG.  Okay.  And I think that what happens is there is—people conflate a couple who are both like—okay.  Think about going for—the tea consent example is just great, so I’m going to kind of do a different version of it.  If you’re out for dinner with a friend and you’re both like, “We shouldn’t get the chocolate cake.  We really shouldn’t.  But should we though?  No.  We shouldn’t get the chocolate cake.  No.  We shouldn’t.  Well, I’ll get the chocolate cake if you get the chocolate cake.  Are you going to get the chocolate—okay.  Let’s get the chocolate cake.”  And both of you went there being like, “We aren’t going to get the chocolate cake.  We’re on a budget.  We shouldn’t splurge.”  And then you end up splurging anyway.  And then later you go home, and you’re like, “Man, we shouldn’t have gotten the chocolate cake.  I forgot I’m lactose intolerant.  Now I’m having diarrhea,” right?  That’s different than going to the store and me going—and going with a friend saying, “Hey, I only have $20.  I can’t get more than dinner,” and then someone being like, “Well, you’re getting the chocolate cake,” and ordering it for you and putting you in a really awkward position.  That’s the difference between two people being like, “Should we?  No.  We shouldn’t.  No.  But we should.”  Kind of goading each other on and both going somewhere that you both kind of actually wanted to go in the moment, and that’s different than one person wanting to go there and dragging the other along.  

Sheila: Yeah.  But what he is describing in this article—and, again, we talk about this in She Deserves Better because I was so horrified by this one when you showed it to me.  But he is describing non consent throughout this entire thing.  He’s saying, “A lion can’t help but attack.”  So he’s describing a predatory prey behavior.  He is not describing two lions suddenly hugging or going at it.  He is describing predator and prey.  And so she is prey, and he is a predator.  And that is their nature.  And it doesn’t matter that he prays an hour a day and he knows his Scriptures and he volunteers at church.  He is still a predator because that is his nature.  That is how God made him.

Rebecca: Exactly.

Sheila: And if she gave him an inch, he would take a mile which means he would go past her boundaries which is the definition of sexual assault.  Because remember sexual assault does not necessarily mean that you have intercourse, it’s just doing something sexual that she did not want.  And that is what he is describing.  And then he is so proud of himself that he made it as a virgin at 28.  

Rebecca: And then he brags about what a good lay his wife is.  Let’s be clear here.  That’s what he’s doing.  Like, “I was a virgin until I was 28.  Now bam.  Guys.”  It’s disgusting.

Sheila: Again, I would so much rather that my kids marry someone who isn’t a virgin than that they marry someone who if you gave an inch they took a mile. 

Rebecca: Yeah.  And thinks he is still living a pure life because like, “Well, my penis hasn’t gone in her yet.”  That’s what we’re talking about.  I’m sorry to be crass, but that’s what we’re talking about here.  Because I was around these guys.  I knew all these guys, okay?  That’s what it means.  It’s like, “Well, I’m trying too hard.  I’m giving in to temptation, but I’m still a virgin.”  All it means is, “I haven’t put it in her.  I may have done things to her she didn’t want to have done.  I may have touched her in places she didn’t want to get touched.  I made have made her touch me in places that she didn’t want to touch me.  But because I still have not had my penis inside of a vagina, I’m pure.”

Sheila: Yeah. And that’s the problem of focusing on purity instead of consent.

Rebecca: And the other thing that they do here is they make it the girl’s responsibility.  And there is a lot of discussion in things like this about how like, “I tried.  I prayed so hard.  It’s just so hard for guys.  Help us out.”  And what this has done is it’s—for those of us who are raised in this particular subculture, what happened for a lot of us is that we didn’t have any information about what sex was actually like.  Again, I figured it out pretty well actually by 15 because I was in public school for science class.  And we studied human reproduction in grade 10.  And so I was like, “Oh, well, this makes total sense.”  Then everything totally just made sense.  But I had figured all this out by age 15.  But for a lot of people who didn’t have that experience especially since Ontario actually does teach about this stuff and a lot of places don’t, you’re taught all this fear.  You’re taught you have to be afraid.  You’re taught there is diseases and unplanned pregnancies and loss of reputation and you’ll never get married and you’ll never have babies and you might even die at every corner.  And if you touch someone even if they don’t think they have a STI, you might get one.  And all these different things and were just pounded into our head this fear about the physical ramifications and then were pounded into our heads the spiritual ramifications of how can you even call yourself a Christian.  Yeah.  You’re going to hell.  All this stuff about things that are not in the Bible and Brio magazine itself has claimed are not in the Bible and are not biblical and then is also willing to say, “You are going to hell because of this.”

Sheila: And then they also hammer into you that you are responsible for him not going to hell.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Absolutely.  And then every single thing, even the things that aren’t about sex, we are told by Dannah and Bob Gresh all over this whole thing that—

Sheila: Who wrote for Brio quite a bit.

Rebecca: Yeah.  And we’re not going to go into them because we’ve talked about them in the modesty so much—in our modesty podcasts, I mean.  Sorry.  Our episodes about modesty if you are interested in hearing about the Bob and Dannah Gresh stuff from Brio, you can just go listen to those podcasts.  

Sheila: Yeah.  They were the one who called the 8-year-old bellies intoxicating.

Rebecca: Yeah.  But we’re told all over there that our responsibility is to make sure that we’re honoring God with our clothing, by making sure men don’t stumble.  And, again, we’re talking to prepubescent children in their materials.  And then that one little thruway line, which was, “I know it seems so minor.  But no matter how creative you get with your wardrobe make sure to give glory to the Creator.”  These little lines all throughout it everywhere.  It just meant that you never got to enjoy just being a little girl.  And okay.  I’m actually going to get emotional.  Goodness gracious.  I’m someone who was raised in such an amazing family and had such an amazing experience in high school, and I got to do all the fun stuff like just going on dates to see if it would work out.  And I had the excitement of crushes and unrequited love and all that stuff.  I had the best case scenario.  I was never misused.  Again, I’ve only ever even had one man kiss me, and it was an amazing one.  But I will say that any—all the women who are listening who are on TikTok or anything, we’ve all seen all the stuff about Taylor Swift’s new songs, right?  The would have, could have, should have song.  That line about, “Give me back my girlhood.  It was mine first.”  I know she’s talking about it from a relationship perspective.  But for me, personally, there’s just so much there where I’m like I was so in love with God, and I so just wanted to please Him.  And I escaped so much of the damage.  But I do think a really big part that I lost was just the ability to enjoy girlhood.  I lost so much of that.  I never just got to feel pretty and not have to worry about if this is the right boy to hold hands with.  Because again, I’m not talking about stuff that’s actually bad.  Every aspect of your life is so enrapt in this spiritual guilt of, “Did I do enough?  Did I pray enough?  Did I read my Bible enough?  Is God at me yet?  Is He mad at me yet?  Is He mad at me yet?”  And a lot of it is because girls in the Brio magazine world, in the Focus on the Family world, in the evangelical world, girls are—they are the sacrificial lamb for boys.  We are taught that our job is to make sure that life is easier for men.  So that boys can have their boyhood we will sacrifice your girlhood.  That’s just the main thing that when I look at what my daughter is going to have I just want her to be able to have her girlhood but not a naïve one.  Because the weird thing is is these same people are so obsessed with keeping girls children, but girlhood is about a lot more than just being naïve and a child.  I mean Dannah Gresh has this whole how to keep the little in your girl, and it’s a creepy—it’s genuinely a creepy—it’s very creepy.  I’ve read excerpts of it, so I don’t know the whole book.  But the excerpts I’ve read are very creepy.  I’m not talking about that.  I’m not talking about wanting innocence in childhood.  I actually want more information for Vivian.  I want her to know more than I did.  Sorry, Mom.

Sheila: No.  I want her to know more than you did too.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Exactly.  I want her to know more than I did.  I want her to experience—and I don’t even want her to necessarily kiss anyone.  It’s not that I want these things.  I just—I want her to be able to experience being young without that feeling like a failure.

Sheila: Yeah.

Rebecca: And I think that’s what things like Brio did to us is it pathologized our development in a way that just encouraged self hatred, that was completely—that we were just completely incapable of combating because I remember so often being—having that verse from Paul quoted at us.  “What I want to do I do not do, but what I hate, I do.”  And thinking about all the things that that rang true for me and looking back on it as a fully grown woman, I’m like, “Yeah.  That was just puberty.”  It was just puberty.  That was it.  I really think that we need to grapple with that.  That we took a whole generation of girls and we said, “You don’t really get a girlhood because that’s too hard for the boys.”  

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  And we can do better.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  We can do better.

Sheila: We need to do better.

Rebecca: Yeah.  And also a little bit more sex education would cause fewer poems like that first one we read to be just explicitly euphemistic without really knowing.

Sheila: Yes.  Absolutely.  And I want to say too I was the one who paid for your subscription to Brio magazine.  And that was largely because I trusted Focus on the Family.

Rebecca: Oh, absolutely.

Sheila: And I guess what I’ve realized is we can’t trust the evangelical machine right now.  

Rebecca: No.

Sheila: They’ve hurt too many people.  And so I hope that you will all read She Deserves Better this summer if you haven’t already and just realize we need to know what our kids are being taught.  And we need to demand better.  All of us need to demand better because there’s been too much hurt.  And it’s time to get—just laugh again and enjoy life again and not always feel like we’re messing up and making God unhappy because He delights in us.

Rebecca: Yeah.  And you know what?  I think that if I had kissed the awkward dudes that I’m very glad now that I actually didn’t kiss I think God would have just laughed at the humor of it.  I don’t think He would have been disappointed in me.

Sheila: Yep.  Exactly.  And so please, as I said, read She Deserves Better.  Please have a wonderful summer as we take these 4 weeks off.  Again, we will be putting podcasts up on the blog where I have been a guest on other people’s podcasts that I just want to highlight because there’s been some really fun ones.  I think I’ve been on like 100 since She Deserves Better came out.  And sometimes I say almost the same thing, but every now and then we get into really different conversations that are interesting.  And also when you listen to a podcast that I’m on of someone else’s you’ll hear a synopsis of the entire book in one podcast whereas what we tend to do on Bare Marriage is we take a small slice of the book and we do an hour on it.  But you don’t always get the entire picture of the book.  So it’s kind of fun to listen to some of those.  Remember that we do have some limited edition beach towels in our store.  We do have these wonderful She Should Know pillows and notebooks.  I will read another one of the bubbles because this one is brought to you by Focus on the Family.  This is a quote.  She should know that she is not a walking temptation to be used by Satan.  

Rebecca: Yep.  And don’t worry.  Although we are very pro sex education, the definitions of fellatio and cunnilingus are not on this pillow.

Sheila: No.  They are not.  So take a look at our merch.  And we will be back in—for a new season, for our 2023 to 2024 season starting—I think, August 17 is our first day back.  And in that first month, I think we’re going to have an interview with Shannon Bonne, who is Josh Harris’s ex-wife talking about her new book, The Woman They Wanted Me to Be. Is that what it’s called?

Rebecca: The Woman They Wanted.

Sheila: The Woman They Wanted.  That’s right.  About what it was like for her.

Rebecca: Yes.  I’m currently reading her book.

Sheila: Okay.  So I’m really looking forward to that, so you can help me with that interview maybe.

Rebecca: Yeah.  I got an advance copy.

Sheila: Yeah.  We have some fun interviews coming up.  We have some research we are going to go over about whether complementarians honestly do have better marriages because there’s been a lot of those claims going around right now.  And we want to address what the data actually says and so much more.  So we will be back mid August, but have a wonderful summer.  And we will see you then on the Bare Marriage podcast.  Bye-bye.

Rebecca: Bye.

SDB Coming Soon Desktop

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. CMT

    “There’s no way you’re ever in the clear. There’s no way you can just rest easy knowing you did well.”

    Damn, Rebecca. I wasn’t a brio girl but this was how I felt about almost everything growing up.

    I think I’m going to sit with that for awhile.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s really the problem with so much of evangelicalism. It just doesn’t feel like Jesus who said that his yoke is easy.

      • Lucy

        I got the sense that (at least for me, in my journey) this was because of a fear by those in authority that maybe, if I felt good about myself or had any sense of self-confidence, then I might lose my compass / sense of right and wrong, I might be like Satan and rebel! It’s strange – it’s this concept that if you are settled, secure and content in who you are, that can’t happen in relationship with God. That only happens if you’re about to rebel against him. I think it’s a belief driven by various forms of insecure attachment – where the natural development and humanity of the child (and as they get older, the continually developing human) is treated like the enemy of relationship with God. Any real, actual, autonomy and healthy development is treated as though it can only exist outside of relationship with God.

        • JoB

          Yes… this makes sense. The fear is that you will start “leaning on your own understanding” and not be dependent on God. I am still trying to articulate what messages I absorbed, and this helps. Tied in with it is the idea that the basis of your relationship with God, and the proof of his love for you, is his self sacrifice to forgive your sin. Therefore, the basis of your relationship is your badness and God’s goodness. And if you ever stop feeling bad about your sin (and yourself, because you’re inherently sinful, you can’t even exist without sinning), that means you’re depending less on God than when you were constantly thanking him for forgiving you.

  2. Codec

    They confused herpes for Nurgle’s rot.

    • Lisa Johns

      I had to look that one up, but having done so … 😂😂😂

    • Brad

      Solid Warhammer 40K reference bruh

  3. Rose

    Great podcast! As a former homeschooler and avid Brio reader from that Era, it was a very insightful episode for me!

    I’m curious if Rebecca, or any other former Brio readers ever went on a “media fast”? It was described as not watching, listening to, or reading any form of secular media for a certain amount of time.

    This podcast reminded me of all the times I tried that. I’m fairly certain that was a Brio magazine inspired idea 😂

    • Annie

      I absolutely remember doing a media fast more than once as a teen. (my church encouraged a 40 day fast several years leading up to Easter. Not Lent… But the dates totally corresponded… 🙄) I vaguely remember some of those things being talked about in Brio in the mid 90s.

      • Rose

        Annie, so glad someone else remembers too!

    • Angharad

      I guess the ‘descendent’ of these fasts is the ‘social media fast’ that some people do these days. I have a number of friends who regularly comment that “We all spend too much time on social media, so I am taking a break for x weeks”. Which is fine if you need to do it, I just don’t see the need to self-righteously announce it to the world (on the social media we are using ‘too much of’!!!) while side-swiping at everyone else who isn’t doing the same!

      • Rose

        So true!

  4. Jo R

    Rebecca near the end: And I think that’s what things like Brio did to us is it pathologized our development in a way that just encouraged self hatred, that was completely—that we were just completely incapable of combating because I remember so often being—having that verse from Paul quoted at us. “What I want to do I do not do, but what I hate, I do.” And thinking about all the things that that rang true for me and looking back on it as a fully grown woman, I’m like, “Yeah. That was just puberty.” It was just puberty. That was it. I really think that we need to grapple with that. That we took a whole generation of girls and we said, “You don’t really get a girlhood because that’s too hard for the boys.”

    Welp, missed this as a tween and teen because I didn’t trust Christ till I was 21, but if you change all the kid words to adult words, that’s what ALLLLL the books I read from the 90s to the 10s did to women. (Those books are all on Sheila’s list: https://www.amazon.com/shop/sheilawraygregoire/list/2VOH4906RUYKF?ref_=aip_sf_list_spv_ofs_mixed_m)

    Women were never good enough, because we could never erase ourselves enough. We could never make our husbands’ lives easy enough, we could never serve enough in church, we could never just relax, breathe freely, and live while female.

    Funny how men and husbands get a complete pass on everything, but women and wives get a pass on nothing.

  5. Jen

    Sheila, do you have any recommendations for proper sex ed? Does your “whole story” course cover all those terms? Where can I find something to share with my daughter that is neither euphemistic nor icky, nor expects all teens to have lots of sex?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, our course covers this! We’re also revamping it in the fall quite a bit to add our findings from She Deserves Better, but if you purchase it now you’ll have access to all the new videos when they come out!

  6. Phil

    Super Silly pants today Becca. I laughed a lot. Ya know – today I smothered my wife with kisses before I left…I kissed her face and her forehead and her lips and pecked her and just smothered her. I cant wait to get home to weigh myself! I must have lost 5 kilos! Thanks for getting real today and sharing that with us Becca. It impacted me.

    • R

      I had a similar thought Phil! Considering the amount of kissing my husband and I have enjoyed over the last 12 years, I’m surprised there’s anything left of us! Maybe that’s why I’m so tired? Here I thought it was the 4 kids wearing me out haha!

  7. Angharad

    “I was the most godly young man a parent could ask for. ”

    Sounds like parents need to be raising their standards.

    Oh, and that thing about skin to skin contact? AT 14 or 15, I would totally have believed I could end up getting an STD from shaking hands with someone – I mean, that’s skin to skin contact, right? Did these people have NO idea how young girl’s minds work?!

  8. Perfect Number

    Okay I have a Brio story about kissing.

    So I read Brio all the time when I was in high school. Like you two said on the podcast, Brio didn’t really give a straight answer on whether kissing is okay, or any “how far is too far” topics… like it’s not technically a sin but it still might be bad and ruin your life, oh no! So anyway, then I was in college and dating a guy, and I kind of felt like I wanted to kiss him, but I was so worried about “is it a sin” and “am I going to regret it for the rest of my life” and “is God okay with it” etc etc, so I prayed about it A LOT. And then I decided yes I will kiss him (because I reasoned that I was so overwhelmed with desire that I just had to- because that’s how they framed everything about “losing your purity”, like nobody wants to do those things but they’re just out of control because of temptation. Which is a whole other problem).

    So anyway then I told my bf that I decided we could kiss, so then we spent the whole evening kissing, and then later he referred to it as “making out” and I was SO SCARED, because I had read in Brio magazine that making out was BAD, but I didn’t really know what it was, I assumed it was something more sexual. (Years later, I found out that for many people, kissing for extended periods of time *is* sexual because they get aroused by it. Not me though.) So overall, yeah, purity culture just taught me to be afraid of everything, for unclear reasons…

    I have a post related to this: “How Far Is Too Far?” My Story, And What I Wish I’d Known https://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/2018/11/how-far-is-too-far-my-story.html

    Also I’m really glad you mentioned that now that you’re married, it matters 0% how many other people you kissed before, or how many people your husband kissed before. That’s something that young people in purity culture need to hear.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It’s funny in retrospect, but boy was it shame and guilt inducing then, eh?

      And thanks for the series you’re doing on The Great Sex Rescue! It’s awesome.

      • Ray

        The guy who wrote the article for Brio also sends a harmful message to guys too. That all their “lust issues” will just go away once they get married. Makes guys think they can just continue living how they are and not need to work on themselves because the only solution is marriage.

        • Laura

          A man who gave his testimony at Celebrate Recovery dealt with porn issues most of his life. Before he married his wife, he believed that marriage would cure his porn addiction but it didn’t. It’s so awful the lies that are fed in the church. I guess it’s due to that one verse where Paul tells Corinthian believers who are burning with passion to get married. But that does not cure lust.

          • Bernadette

            When St. Paul spoke of burning with desire, did he mean desire for sex? Or desire to share your life with another person who you fell in love with? Something else?
            After translation issues are sorted out and proper hermeneutics applied, what was St. Paul really saying?

      • Emily

        Guys, this Brio magazine pajama party was not as fun as I was led to believe it would be! I want my money back!!

        Kidding, kind of. It was a great episode, and I resonated with so much of what Rebekah said, but was not expecting such an emotional guy punch when I thought I was getting into a fun lighthearted episode 😅

      • Perfect Number

        Aww thanks! I wasn’t sure if you would read it or what you would think. I am queer (specifically, I am asexual + straight) and in some of my posts I wrote that I feel like the way “The Great Sex Rescue” talks about how sex “should” be is very narrow. But all the stuff about mainstream Christian marriage advice, and analyzing the logical consequences of those beliefs and how they play out in practical ways, and the double standards between men and women- those are all SPOT-ON.

  9. Christy

    Rebecca, I remember this article in Brio. I remember reading it and thinking EXACTLY THE SAME THING. I thought it was saying not to kiss boys ever because you could get genital herpes from kissing. It horrified me and since I was never one to look things up online I lived with that assumption for YEARS. The phrase about oral sexual contact definitely seemed like it was referring to kissing to my innocent mind…. I cannot imagine how many other girls out there thought the same!!!


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