So much has happened with Focus on the Family this week!
We’ve had an op ed published, and there are signs that Focus is refusing to accept accountability. I wanted to write it all up in one round up post, so here we go!
First, Focus on the Family has now deleted over 700 comments pointing people to The Great Sex Rescue.
As I told you about last week, Focus on the Family recently published a reel featuring Juli Slattery actually giving some good talking points from our research about sex–speaking against obligation sex; against male entitlement; and making people aware of sexual pain.
But these are all things that were not talked about by Focus on the Family or Slattery until we started those conversations. And we are the ones who have done major research involving over 32,000 people now into these things.
Yet Focus on the Family doesn’t cite us.
And not only that, they delete comments that mention us. They use our material, but refuse to let others hear about us.
So far they’ve deleted about 700-800 comments that I can see (there are over 1000 comments on the reel, but only a few hundred are visible).
Late last week The Roys Report covered the story.
And they used a headline I loved: Focus on the Family Reverses Position on ‘Obligation Sex,’ but Deletes Author Who Exposed Message’s Harm.
I spoke with reporter Rebecca Hopkins, and she wrote:
For years, Focus on the Family has promoted the teaching that Christian wives are obligated to give their husbands sex. Now, they seem to be reversing course—while also deleting references to the researcher that first exposed the harm of so-called “obligation sex.”
Author and researcher Sheila Wray Gregoire had previously called out Focus on the Family (FOTF) for promoting obligation sex. Gregoire’s survey of 20,000 evangelical women and 2021 book, “The Great Sex Rescue,” concluded that Christian teachings requiring women to have sex with their husbands, regardless of women’s emotional and physical needs, increase sexual pain and harm marriages.
On Monday, FOTF published an Instagram reel from an excerpt of an April 2022 FOTF interview with psychologist and former FOTF staff, Juli Slattery, that promotes Gregoire’s talking points……
But then FOTF deleted hundreds of comments people made to their Instagram post that referenced Gregoire’s research. Gregoire’s research shows that evangelical marriage books and organizations that promote them carry a big responsibility for spreading those messages. The deletions mean the change hasn’t gone far enough for real accountability for past FOTF teachings, Gregoire said.
“Focus on the Family would rather escape accountability and pretend they did nothing wrong, instead of grappling with the fact that many of the books they have recommended, and even those they have published, have actually caused demonstrable harm,” she told The Roys Report (TRR).
I’m so grateful that reporters noticed what was going on and wrote this piece.
The issue of accountability for Focus on the Family is an important one.
This week I published this Fixed it For You:
And this is really the issue to me. Focus on the Family is trying to say: Sure, churches taught harmful things, but now you can trust us to correct it.
But can we?
The video series that they are offering is by Gary Thomas and Debra Fileta, and as the Roys Report noted, there are issues with that book failing to cite me as well, but also with the book promoting obligation sex messages, and even pressuring women to send nude photos.
Gary Thomas spoke up in the comments section of The Roys Report, claiming we were misrepresenting him. I quote the entire passage, and take it point by point, right here, so you can judge for yourself.
I loved this comment left by Emily West, and directed at Gary Thomas:
This article is not about you[, Gary]. It is about professionalism. It is about honoring the 8th commandment. FOTF failed to cite sources, and then blockaded all references to those sources.
If you wish to discuss your book and its harms, you’ve come to the right place.
The days of evading public critique are over, and those who wish to teach are truly being held to a higher standard. I acknowledge that must feel like a destabilizing change. But the impacts on our lives matter. Saying that women can flash their breasts to reset power imbalances in marriage is harmful. Comparing grown men’s sexual urges to the life-or-death needs of infants crying in the night is harmful. Suggesting that women feel lubricated and aroused when giving hand jobs postpartum, when we are actually bleeding from lochia, is harmful. Men don’t need boudoir images to avoid straying, they need to be transformed into those who no longer see women as objects. Please see Cusick’s “Surfing for God” or Stringer’s “Unwanted” for real solutions to lust, not management strategies that rely on the continued objectification of wives. The pornified style of relating has to be scrubbed from Christian resources, and Gregoire et. al are the very first to use data to unequivocally reveal this for what it is. In doing so, they call us to a higher standard–one in which sex is intimate, mutual, and humanizing.
I am grateful to TRR for covering this matter in such a timely way. Christians need to get our act together. We need to cite sources, examine evidence and acknowledge harm. We need to treat men and women as made in the image of God, not as bodies to be consumed. And if we get new info, we need to cite it.
There needs to be accountability when someone has taught harmful things.
Until you have repudiated those harmful things, confessed them and warned others away from the harmful teachings, you cannot be trusted.
What is Focus on the Family Promoting about Marriage Now?
Yet Focus is currently featuring teaching on sex that we know contains the obligation sex message.
And I thought this photo of the marriage section of the bookstore at Focus on the Family’s headquarters speaks volumes. A reader sent it to me after visiting their bookstore last month. It’s only the one half of the books, covering the first half of the alphabet, but let’s see what’s visible:
A few things that stand out to me:
- Josh Butler’s book Beautiful Union, which has been largely criticized (Rebecca and I talk about it on our Male-Centric Sex podcast, and I’ve written about how My Vagina is Not My Most Holy Place )
- Emerson Eggerichs’ Love & Respect, which scored 0/48 on our healthy sexuality rubric. You can read my Open Letter to Focus on the Family about Love & Respect, and our onesheet download. The fact that they are still selling it like this shows how little they care about what research has found about harm being done.
- Tina Konkin’s How God Used the Other Woman, about how her husband’s affair made her realize how much she had damaged her own marriage. I wrote a post when Focus on the Family published this about why we shouldn’t blame the spouse when someone has an affair.
- Dannah Gresh’s book Happily Even After, about how they have rebuilt their marriage after her husband’s porn addiction (despite how she wrote multiple books about girls’ modesty right as her husband was using porn). The book does not use an evidence-based approach to porn recovery.
- Multiple books by Matt and Lisa Jacobson. I recently “fixed” one of Matt Jacobson’s horrendous quotes advising parents to discipline toddlers harshly if they embarrass you in public.
- His Needs, Her Needs by Willard Harley (barely visible off at the top right), which also scored very poorly on our rubric of healthy sexuality, and that we talked about in The Great Sex Rescue.
And those are just the things I noticed! You may notice more (and remember, this is only half of the books they have).
Looking at these books, do you believe that Focus on the Family recognizes the problem with the obligation sex message?
Do you believe that Focus on the Family recognizes that male entitlement to sex is a bad thing?
Do you believe that they are safe?
I’m so grateful to The Roys Report for covering this story.
I hope that the rest of us see through Focus on the Family’s attempts to appear healthy while still peddling the same books and messages that harmed people in the first place.
By not repenting, they show that they aren’t safe. I hope the Christian world will listen, because right now we’re spending $100,000,000 a year supporting Focus on the Family–money that could go to fighting sex trafficking; to helping abused women; to supporting actual pregnancy crisis centers.
We can do better, and we deserve better.
What do you think? What will it take for organizations to accept accountability? Do you see any other problems with the books they have for sale? Let’s talk in the comments!