PODCAST: What We’ve Learned Now That Great Sex Rescue Turns 3!

by | Feb 29, 2024 | Podcasts | 14 comments

The Great Sex Rescue is 3!

A lot has surprised us in the three years since Great Sex Rescue was published!

Today on the Bare Marriage podcast the three authors–Joanna Sawatsky, Rebecca Lindenbach, and me–all discuss what has surprised us and what we’ve seen since The Great Sex Rescue was published–and where we think things are going.

This is a fun one!

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:

Timeline of the Podcast

0:10 It’s GSR’s 3rd birthday! A history recap
16:50 What has surprised us:
17:00 Men and single women’s reaction to the book
19:20 It ended up being a faith journey book
26:45 People demand evidence to claims now
32:10 We thought more people would value integrity
42:15 We’ve become the Evangelical ‘Women-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’
59:10 Have our hopes or predictions changed?
1:06:00 The glimmers of hope

A few things we weren’t expecting

1. Men are reading Great Sex Rescue too!

We thought we were writing a book for married Christian women, but we keep hearing from so many men who are reading it as well, along with divorced women or single women. It seems like people just want freedom. 

2. It’s bringing people back to the faith

My favourite emails are the ones telling me that they’ve found Jesus again because we dispelled the teachings that were so toxic.

3. We’re hearing a lot more “where’s your evidence for that” on social media

Even when it’s not about sex, we’re finding more and more people unwilling to accept outrageous claims by pastors/authors without citation. Which is amazing!

4. The grassroots movement is working

Everyday people are embracing our book–though many pastors are trying to suppress it. 

5. Even unhealthy organizations are adopting our language/points

This almost makes us laugh, but so many authors and pastors are changing what they’re saying to align with what’s healthy, as we show in Great Sex Rescue, while still refusing to acknowledge that our book exists. 

Where are things going from here?

We’ve had three books out since!

And lots more to tell you!

 

Things Mentioned in the Podcast

To Support Us:

Things We Talked About:

Sheila’s Speaking Events

  • On March 13 & 14, Sheila and Rebecca will be at Calvin University in Grand Rapids. More information here. 
  • On March 23, 2:30 pm – 4:30 pm, there will be a party at St. Thomas Anglian Church in Belleville, Ontario for The Great Sex Rescue and She Deserves Better. All welcome! 

 

What do you think has changed since The Great Sex Rescue was published? Did anything surprise you? Let me know in the comments!

Transcript

Sheila: Welcome to the Bare Marriage podcast.  I’m 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 I am joined today by my two coauthors on Great Sex Rescue and She Deserves Better.  Rebecca Lindenbach is here.

Rebecca: Hello.

Sheila: And Joanna Sawatsky.

Joanna: Hi, everybody.

Sheila: And this is kind of like a party day because today is February 29, which is kind of like March 1.  I mean let’s face it.  Right?  No offense to people who actually have birthdays on February 29 every four years.  I know you’re like, “Yes.  It’s finally here.”  But most of us—you could argue it’s March 1.  And on March 2 of 2021, The Great Sex Rescue was published.  And so we thought it might be fun to have a third birthday party for the book because I know so many people have been following us.  But they don’t know the story.

Rebecca: Well, and we’ve gotten so many people who joined the podcast since the book was put out three years ago.  If you’ve been listening for less than three years, you weren’t here when this book was released. 

Sheila: Yeah.  And I tend to tell this story a lot on other people’s podcasts but not on our own.  And so I thought we would tell the story of GSR, tell some of the things that have happened that we weren’t expecting, some interesting things that are happening now, and where we see things heading.  So yeah.  Are you guys ready?  Let’s have some fun.

Rebecca: Sounds good.

Sheila: Okay.  All right.  So to set the stage, I want to take everybody back to January of 2019.  We were running the blog, which was then called To Love, Honor, and Vacuum.  We’ve since rebranded to Bare Marriage.  And we were really focused on—what?  SEO.  Both of you were working for me.  Joanna, you started working for me about a year before.  

Joanna: Yeah.  You rescued me at the hospital when I had a postpartum hemorrhage and then offered me a job a couple weeks later.  And so I time my how long have I been working with Sheila and Rebecca to my daughter, who is just six.  

Sheila: Yes.  And you were working for me too, Becca.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  I started working to do a lot of the blog, the technical stuff for the website, to keep it running.

Sheila: Yeah.  So we were really focused on getting more traffic, creating some courses, just putting good information out there.  And it was a Friday afternoon.  I had a migraine, didn’t want to work, and I was on Twitter because that’s what it was called back then.  And people were arguing whether they need love or respect.  And I thought to myself, “I have that book upstairs, but I’ve never read it.  And so this would be a really good way to procrastinate and still feel like I’m doing something useful.”  So I went and got it.  And because I’m not a detail person—I’m one of these big picture people.  I don’t turn to the beginning.  I, of course, flip through to the sex chapter since I always talk about sex and read that.  And it was like a nuclear bomb went off.  And I’m FaceTiming you guys.  I think I actually FaceTimed Joanna first.  

Joanna: I just remember being in the basement of my house with my bunny rabbit and my baby and just my head exploding.  

Sheila: Because we’re reading, “If your husband is typical, he has a need that you don’t have.  Why would you deprive him of something which takes such a short amount of time and makes him soooooooooo happy?”  I think there’s like 10 Os in sooooooooo.  

Rebecca: It’s definitely more than one.

Joanna: It’s just such a weird double—no.  We don’t need—no.  

Sheila: And the level of weirdness just got worse.  And we kind of freaked out, and I thought, “I’ve got to do something about this.”  So I wrote up a post about how Love and Respect handles sex, and I was going to run it on the Monday.  And I was really nervous because we had never called anyone out before by name.

Rebecca: Yeah.  We had called out some concepts.  We had done a series on Every Man’s Battle.  The idea.  But we didn’t say, “Steve Arterburn and Fred Stoeker’s book, Every Man’s Battle.”  We talked about the whole idea that all guys lust.  So this was new territory for us.

Sheila: Mm-hmm.  Yeah.  And I wasn’t sure what to do.  And so I remember going into church that Sunday.  And as I’m walking in the door, I’m praying, “God, I don’t know what to do tomorrow.  I really don’t know what to do.”  And I had a back up post written so that I could run one of two posts.  I didn’t need to run the controversial one.  And I’m like, “God, I don’t know what to do tomorrow.”  And I sat down.  And the pastor got up there, and he opened the Bible to 2 Chronicles 20.  And he gave a sermon on that.  And I’ve got to read you the passage that he read.  Okay?  So for context, the nation of Judah is surrounded by all these enemies.  And it’s just too big.  There’s no way that they can win this, and they don’t know what to do.  And so the nation gets together to pray, and then a prophet steps up.  And he says this, “Thus says the Lord God to you, ‘Do not fear or be dismayed at this great multitude for the battle is not yours but God’s.  Tomorrow go down against them.  They will come up by the ascent of Ziz.  You will find them at the end of the valley before the wilderness of Jeruel.  The battle is not for you to fight.  Take your position.  Stand still and see the victory of the Lord on your behalf, oh Judah and Jerusalem.  Do not fear or be dismayed.  Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.’”  And I was in that church service.  And I’m texting Rebecca, and I’m saying, “You are not going to believe what the sermon is about?”  And so we decided to run that post.  And the traffic that morning was amazing.    

Rebecca: Yeah.  It really struck a nerve.

Sheila: Yeah.  And then we started getting all the emails and all the comments from women saying, “Love and Respect really enabled abuse in my marriage.  Our marriage got worse after read it.  My husband used it to abuse me.”  And we got really concerned.  

Joanna: Mm-hmm.

Sheila: And because the outpouring was so great, I decided to do that whole week on Love and Respect.  And by the end of the week, we had hundreds of comments.

Joanna: Yep.  We actually did our first pass at a little research project that week.  My daughter was sick with a fever so I had lots of time to get things done because she was just wanting to nap.  And so as she napped, I put together a thematic analysis of all of the comments that came in to go up on that Friday so that we could say, “This is what we’re actually finding in real time.”  

Sheila: Yeah.  And it really resonated with people.  And so we thought we’ve got to do something about this.  

Joanna: So I said you know what?  There’s a Focus on the Family logo on the side of the book.  The people at Focus on the Family must surely care about this.  This must be a thing that they just don’t know about.  They must not be aware of these problematic undercurrents, and so let’s let them know.  So I went back through, did a more formal thematic analysis, wrote up a really nice report for them.  It had five points.  It was short, to the point, but it hit everything it needed to hit.  I read through the book.  I was horrified.  But I slogged through it.  We sent it off to Focus and said, “Here it is.  Our best work.”

Sheila: Yeah.  And Joanna—you said to me, “They’re going to get back to us within a week or two.”    

Joanna: Yeah.  I was sure.  Because at that point, what I hadn’t learned yet—and this was how naïve I was.  I believed that if I did my best work, if I showed them that this was a problem, and I showed them that in a way that was convincing, logically sound, made sense—that it ticked the boxes that they would listen to me, that they would have ears to hear because surely they care about truth.  Surely they care about the women.  Surely they cared about all of these things.  Right?  And so I was convinced that they would get back to us because that was the just thing to do.  

Sheila: And I was like, “I don’t think so.”

Rebecca: You were still very optimistic, Mom.  I was the only one who was like, “There is not a sliver of hope.”  I had already—I was pretty confident nothing was going to happen.  Both of you guys were much more optimistic.  I think we were very much a red light, yellow light, green light situation.  

Joanna: Yep.

Sheila: Yeah.  Okay.  That’s probably true.  But I had had met Jim Daly several times.  I’d been on the podcast.  He had always seemed like a nice person to me.  And I genuinely thought he would care.  And they didn’t get back to us.  Months went by.  And one day I was doing my dishes, and Joanna called.  

Joanna: And I had been sitting on my couch and stewing and thinking about the health effects of these teachings, right?  That we were seeing problems with orgasm, problems with pain.  Oh, if this is connected to all of these ideas, that’s a public health problem.  

Sheila: You did your masters in public health.  (cross talk)

Joanna: And I had my master’s in public health, and I like the public health stuff.  And I thought, “Okay.  You know what?  I know I had a baby.  I know I don’t really have time.  But I’m just going to go back to school, and I’m going to do my doctorate in looking at the effects of these evangelical teachings.”  And so I called Sheila.  I said, “I think I need to do this.  This is the next step from what we’re finding.”

Sheila: Yeah.  And I said, “Joanna, you do not have to do a PhD to do a study.  I am sure we can get a publisher to pay for it.”  And you laughed.  But within 72 hours, we had an offer.  

Joanna: Yeah.  Which is wild.

Sheila: On the book.  Yeah.  And we didn’t even write a book proposal.  We just wrote up an email. 

Rebecca: It wasn’t even a long email.  I remember we wrote.  It was like, “Hi, these books are bad.  These aren’t doing good.  And people want to talk about it, and we want to do a study and write a book based on that.”  And they bought it.  

Joanna: Yeah.  No.  What was wild was that my husband, Josiah, was at work one day.  And he came home, and I was like, “So, honey, I’m going to be an author.”  That was it.  That is not how this goes, people.  I did not have the typical becoming an author experience.

Sheila: Yeah.  So over the next few months, we got our survey ready.  I remember we actually signed the contract for the book while you were a day postpartum.  We have a picture of you lying in bed after giving birth to Alex.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  I look great.

Sheila: October 2019.  We signed the contract.  And the survey went live pretty much the next day in November of 2019.  And it was live until January which, again, was God’s timing because if we had waited a few months we would have hit COVID.  And no one knew that at the time, but it would have just made our findings really difficult because we would have been saying like, “Before COVID, how often did you?”  It’s just more complicated, right?  So we did that survey, and I was like—I was praying for 10,000 people.  I was like I just want to have 10,000.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Joanna and I kept on telling you 5,000 is fine.  2,000 of these.  We could even do it with 2,000.  We don’t need that many.

Joanna: We don’t need that many.  We’re going to have the power.  It would be nice to have lots because then we can go deep into the crosstabs.  But it’s going to be fine.

Sheila: Right.  And I’m like I know.  And I know that, statistically, 2,000 is fine.  When you read polls, political polls, they’ve only got 1,000 people.  You don’t need a huge number to do this.  I knew that.  But I’m like if people are going to take us seriously, we need to sound big, right?  And so we got the word out there.  About 40% of our respondents came from my likes, 60% came from other people.  We were able to track it.  About 80 influencers, including some of our critics, were sharing our link.  They’re our critics now.  A bunch of people were sharing.  We had prizes for whoever brought the most people.  And we ended up with 20,000.      

Rebecca: Yeah.  20,000.

Sheila: Which is just amazing. 

Joanna: It was wild.  It was so humbling.

Rebecca: A quick, fun fact about that 20,000 too is that we broke SurveyMonkey.  We’re pretty aware that we actually changed how SurveyMonkey does things.  Because when we did it, there was an unlimited option.  And you could just have an unlimited amount of respondents.  

Joanna: And an unlimited number of collector links.  I had hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of links.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  And so we tried to download our data, and it crashed.  It wouldn’t download and so we had to get on calls.  They had to download it themselves via an FTP server and send it.  It was a whole thing.  And now you cannot get an unlimited (inaudible) account.  You can get up to 7,500.  Then you have to pay more.

Joanna: And if you will note, the sample size for the survey for She Deserves Better is just a hair under 7,500.  

Sheila: Exactly.  We were trying to be cheap.  Yeah.  Yeah.  We closed it as soon as we hit the magic number where we were going to have to pay more.  

Joanna: It was like you had to pay per respondent.  And it was like this is going to be—this could get really expensive really quickly.

Rebecca: Yes.  Because we love how excited you guys are about our research.  But when we’re paying for each of you, you got to cool it.    Shut her down.

Joanna: Yeah.  But now we’re going through Qualtrics through Queens, so now we don’t have those—

Rebecca: No more caps anymore.

Sheila: Yeah.  So since then, we got ethics approvals for our other surveys.  We’ve just—yeah.  And we’re with the university now.  It’s been awesome.  But this book came out March 2, 2021 so three years ago.  And I thought we could just run through it and just share some of the funny things from each—from the chapters just so that you guys all know what’s in it.  And I do want to say this.  Okay?  I know you guys who listen to our podcast here us say things all the time.  And so you may think you don’t need to get the book because you’ve already heard it all.  And I understand.  I get it.  There is a lot of people I listen to, and I don’t buy their book.  And then I finally do, and I’m like, “Oh man.  I wish I had bought this earlier because reading it all in one go is just so different.”  And this is a really, really powerful book.  So please, if you haven’t gotten it, take a look it at Great Sex Rescue.  And please pick it up for your pastor, your small group leader, everybody.  Let us change the conversation because it’s really important.

Rebecca: One of the biggest questions we get from listeners of the podcast too is how do I explain this to my friend.  The podcast is relatively unscripted.  It’s not really edited other than to cut out when we say something really dumb and are like, “Katie, cut that out.”  But our book is the place where, if you want to know how to explain something or how to present something in a short, simplified, concise, well edited way, this is just a good place to start just so you know.  There’s also a lot of extra stuff in here that helps you reframe as well so it isn’t just I don’t know what to believe anymore.  But, hey, here is what’s healthy.  So yeah.  That is also one of the big pluses, I think, for the book is we do get a lot of question about but how do I explain what obligation sex is.  It’s in the book.  There’s a really easy paragraph that kind of explains what it is in the book.

Sheila: And the book has all the pretty charts.  There’s so many charts.  So it’s all fun for that.  Okay.  In that last chapter where you guys—you guys each wrote beautiful things to your kids.  Because at the time where we were writing this, you had a little boy.  And Joanna had two little girls.  

Joanna: Yes.  By the time the book came out, I had two.  I was pregnant for most of the time we were writing it.

Sheila: Yeah.  And that’s what people don’t realize.  Joanna was running the last stats for this book two weeks postpartum while she was moving to the—to Iqaluit.  

Joanna: Yep.  I was checking the statistics in the—we had to do a quarantine hotel for two weeks because of the COVID restrictions to where we were moving because they—anyway, long story short.  Very remote.  They needed to not have COVID get up there, so they made us quarantine.  And so I was in my quarantine hotel with my baby and my toddler.  We weren’t allowed to leave our hotel room except to go for a short walk in the parking lot.  And there it was that I did all the stat checking making sure everything was good.

Sheila: Yeah.  So I think it’s a really, really powerful book.  And, again, if you haven’t gotten it yet, hey, say happy birthday to us.  And let’s see this thing move on Amazon.  Let’s get it way up on Amazon.  It has stayed really high on Amazon ever since it came out.  But let’s get it way up again.  At one point, we were number 19 in Kindle.  We were higher than some of the Harry Potter books for awhile.   

Joanna: There was a grumpy dad romance novel.  So thrilled.  

Rebecca: It was above us for so long.  We were hovering right below it.  And then we crossed the grumpy dad romance.

Joanna: And I was so thrilled.  My husband can be a bit grumpy.  And I was like, “Look.  We beat you.  Ha, ha.”  

Sheila: I am really proud of this book.  It’s so well written.  It honestly is.  And I know I wrote it.  But you wrote a lot of it too, Becca.  I like to say all the funny bits are Becca’s.  And there are a lot of really funny lines in it.  Even though we’re talking about something super serious, the stuff about the white stag at the Quality Inn is pretty funny.  It’s just funny.  And it’s like the church has been allergic to talking about this stuff well.  So I think it’s really freeing to read a book that does talk about sex well and does say that women matter.  So please pick it up.  All right.  Let’s talk about what has surprised us now in the last three years.    

Rebecca: Sure.

Sheila: Okay.  You want to go first.  

Rebecca: Sure.  I mean we’ve been really surprised that men have been reading it too.  We wrote this to be applicable to both men and women.  But we also know that the vast, vast majority of readers of self help, Christian books are women.  We’re not talking 55%.  We’re talking like 80% something percent.  And we thought that a book that specifically—about sex written by three women would be closer to a 100% especially since we only measured women’s experiences in our survey because, frankly, men are doing fine.  

Sheila: And since the book came out, we have surveyed men.

Rebecca: Yes.  Absolutely.

Sheila: In two different surveys now.  

Rebecca: But this book was specifically to address the problem that women are not enjoying sex.  And it’s like doesn’t help to get a bunch of data saying, “Men are like yup.  Sex is good.”  That doesn’t help that particular research question.  So we were surprised that so many men read it.  And we were really surprised by how many men—we were surprised, but it was part of our hope.  So we were more like happy to see our hope realized that so many men found the book incredibly freeing for themselves as well and were able to get rid of a lot of shame and just actually enjoy their marriages a lot more.  And both them and their wives are just so much happier because a lot of the pressure and shame and fear is gone.

Sheila: Yeah.  So if you want to see this, seriously.  Okay.  As you’re listening to this podcast, go on Amazon, look up The Great Sex Rescue and look at the reviews.  We’ve got almost 2,500 there.  And a lot of them are written by guys.  And that’s been so nice.  Also single women.  We were really intending to write this to married women.  But, I mean, the number of single women who have written saying, “This has actually made me ready to get married because I always thought I wasn’t going to get married because of the way the church talks about this stuff.  And now it’s like maybe I actually can.”  

Rebecca: Which is horrifying.

Joanna: It is horrifying.  But also I’ve had women reach out who said that this was so freeing for them even though a lot of it isn’t applicable because they aren’t married.  Just how healing it was for them.  Whether or not they end up getting married down the road, they’re so glad that they’ve read the book because it was able to heal some really hard things for them.

Sheila: Yeah.  And especially divorced women too.  We got that as well.  A lot.  Okay.  Another thing that really surprised us is we thought this was a sex book.  And for so many people, it has actually been a faith book.  This has been a book that has brought people back to the faith and helped them on their journey.  And, again, we just were not expecting that.  And we’re really humbled by that.  I get these emails constantly.  I ask people for their stories.  And I was so inundated.  And if you sent me your story and I don’t read it right now, please know that I was encouraged by it.  We don’t have a lot of time to read everything.  But I thought we could read a couple and just hear what people are saying.  

Rebecca: Here’s one that someone sent us.  “I can’t even think about how the book has changed my life without tears.  It has caused me to start questioning.  Literally everything.  Which is a good thing.  I was your typical good girl who went along with what she was told.  I didn’t make waves, didn’t question.  But I also felt like I lived in a box, was told I was a man slayer because I had larger breasts, and was a problem because men noticed me.  I felt such great shame for being female.  I constantly wondered who I was and suffered massive self-doubts.  As an adult, I am still discovering who I am as I just went along with what I was told.  What do I like?  What am I drawn to?  What are my strengths?  What is my purpose?  I would read things like all men lust and knew it was only a matter of time till I was raped.  And it was a self-fulfilling prophecy.  I was in a sexually abusive relationship in my early twenties.  I felt so powerless.  Voiceless.  I felt I had nowhere to turn because the woman is always the problem.  I never even stopped to question that I may have been the victim.  I took full responsibility.  I didn’t even call it abuse till years later.  I thought I was just getting what I had coming.  Many times I thought God hated me.  I didn’t want to be a woman.  But I didn’t want to be a man either.  They are powerless to lust, right?  Lose-lose situation.  I heard messages about men in pornography and lived with the reality of it in my own home.  I saw things on the screen by those taking pleasure in it, and it further solidified my view of women being objects and silent ones at that.  I read The Great Sex Rescue shortly after it had come out, and it broke me how validated I felt.  Never before had I considered that men should be accountable for their minds.  Never had I considered lust didn’t have to be the overarching theme even of a Christian man’s life. So many things.  I didn’t believe my husband when he told me he wasn’t in pornography.  I assumed he was lying as all men who said that were. Because men lust.  That’s just the way it is.  If they say otherwise, they are just liars.  Such division that message gives.  My marriage has blossomed unlike ever before. It is beautiful.  My husband is a good man, and I have learned to genuinely trust him.  I have found my voice.  I am currently leading a study through your book The Great Sex Rescue with a group.  Every chance I get I give copies out.  I’ve given out a dozen at least.  It doesn’t cease to amaze me how my story is common.  It wasn’t just a me thing.  I have since become a certified grief educator and am overwhelmed at the amount of unprocessed grief in me and others.  Grief over not having known.  Grief from mistreatment and not knowing one’s worth in Christ.  Grief over lost time that cannot be restored.  Once time is gone it is gone. Life goes on but some things are irreplaceable like time.  Some say they wish they hadn’t been born in this generation, but I am thrilled to be a part of the awakening and shaking up that is going on.  All my life I will be grateful for the work you all do.  I wish I could put into words how earth shattering it has been in so many lives.”

Sheila: Wow.  

Rebecca: It’s just horrifying how many people we talked to in our study too who had similar situations where they had been told so often that men are just predators.  That when they were then targeted by a predator, they did not think twice.  They did not realize it was problem.  It was like, well, it was a matter of time.  Yeah.

Sheila: Yeah.  Over and over again.  Here’s another one.  All right?  “When I read The Great Sex Rescue, I did not experience the sensation of chains and burdens being piled on me, and that was a first.  Incredibly, I actually felt chains being removed.  How do you have right relationship with God?  How do you believe He truly loves you when you’re continually being told that you really don’t matter?  All of the marriage books I’d read, Love and Respect, Power of a Praying Wife, Every Man’s Battle, et cetera, all of them taught me that I could not expect the men around me to be safe, mature adults. Why?  Because God made them that way.  Because they get a pass.  Because we should be forgiving.  Because we shouldn’t judge, et cetera.  But regardless of how the men around me behaved, I had to be obedient, quiet, care giving, and uncomplaining.  What a horrible, enslaving, ridiculous, unhealthy message.  What a horrible presentation of the gospel.   The Great Sex Rescue addressed every gut feeling I’d had when I read those other books.  And suddenly, it all made sense.  God didn’t create me to be small, less than, or subservient.  He created me for deep relationship and powerful mutuality.  Knowing that God does not excuse anyone’s bad behavior and that He creates us for real relationship with Him and with each other has radically altered how I see God and how I understand God to see me.”  Yeah.  That’s amazing.  

Rebecca: I think that’s also—and, again, I know we already said it, but that’s one of the things that’s been most surprising and that I’ve loved seeing so much is how—and I wasn’t really expecting it was how much people’s views of their role sexually involved their view of God.  Right?  I really did not understand that going into it.   And seeing how many people are able to enjoy their faith now and don’t feel like they have to be—say they love Jesus but only if they ignore certain parts.  Right?  That’s what’s most meaningful to me personally.

Sheila: Yeah.  Okay.  There is just one more.  Really short.  I won’t read the whole thing.  But she said, “After reading Great Sex Rescue, we have now found a safer church.  I actually feel that God cares about me now.  You helped me see that some translations have manipulated the gender language.  The funny thing is that I had been taught it was the other way around.  It’s disappointing to find out just how much these people I trusted did not know what they were talking about, but I feel so much more free now.  I’m still doing a lot of healing.  My husband and I are still working on our relationship, but we’ve made a lot of progress.  And we’re still learning to like church again.  The most important thing, however, is that I don’t feel like God thinks less of women than He does of men.  And that’s all thanks to you and your book.”

Rebecca: That’s really sweet.  

Joanna: Mm-hmm.

Sheila: So we thought we were writing about sex, and we were actually writing about Jesus.  And maybe that makes sense because it really is all about intimacy, right?  And it’s about a deep knowing, which is what we started the book with.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Exactly.

Sheila: Are you in the Grand Rapids area or in southeastern Ontario?  If so, I want to tell you about some events that we have coming up.  On Wednesday and Thursday, March 13 and 14, Rebecca and I are going to be at Calvin College giving some amazing talks.  So please check out the links for that for more information.  They’re in the podcast notes.  And if you live somewhere in southeastern Ontario, on March 23—that’s a Saturday in the afternoon.  We are going to be having a party for Great Sex Rescue and She Deserves Better and my 50th birthday and everything that we missed because of COVID.  It’s going to be in the middle of the afternoon.  So that if you’re Toronto or Ottawa people, you still have time to drive.  But it’s going to be in Belleville, Ontario at St. Thomas Anglican Church.  And, again, there is more on that in the podcast notes.  I would love to see you there.

Sheila: Okay.  A couple of other quick things.  This one Joanna will like.  When I was thinking about some of the things that have changed, I am noticing on social media that there is a lot more people speaking up and saying, “But where is your evidence for that,” when people say things.  

Joanna: I love this.

Rebecca: Yeah.  People can’t just say ideas anymore.  They’re like, “Did you know that women are more likely just to be terrible people who nag all the time, and they are the reasons why marriages are a problem?”  Can you cite your sources, please?  You can’t just say stuff anymore.

Joanna: Yep.  Yep.  Was it a witch hunting guide from the 1500s?  Is that what it was?  Because it might have been that.  That’s not evidence, people.

Rebecca: Exactly.

Sheila: The one where I see it the most is people keep sharing that stat that when a husband becomes a Christian there’s a 93% chance his family will.  But when a wife becomes a Christian, there’s only a 17% chance.  People share that all the time.  There is no study.  No one has ever cited anything.  This stat gets quoted constantly, and there is no study.

Rebecca: Yeah.  I honestly wonder if there is—because women are so much more likely to be religious than men, I wonder if people have just misunderstood a stat where maybe it’s that among marriages where the husband is religious 93% of those marriages also have the women as religious whereas in marriages where the woman is religious only 48% of those have the man also be religious.  And it’s just like no.  That’s just different portions of the same chart.  You’re looking at it from different perspectives.  Or maybe men are just less likely to be religious than women.

Sheila: I don’t know.  But every time someone shares that I just see multiple people in comments saying, “But where is your source?  Where is your source?  Where is your source?”    

Rebecca: So if anyone ever finds that source, please send it to us because we’ve been looking for it too.  It seems to be the source that no one can find.  

Sheila: But this is a sea change.  And this is one of the big changes we wanted to make with Great Sex Rescue was we always said we want to raise the bar on what counts as advice in the Christian church.

Rebecca: And see?  I’ve had a different perspective on that because I don’t think you can call it raising the bar if the bar doesn’t exist.  I think—

Joanna: You used to say the bar was on the floor.  

Rebecca: I don’t even think it was on the floor.  I don’t think it existed.  I think we need to implement a bar.  We’re not raising the bar.  We’re just implementing.  There should be a bar, guys.  There should be a bar.

Sheila: Yeah.  We can’t let it be okay anymore for a pastor to write a book based solely on his own opinion.  Okay.  Want to hear something funny?    

Rebecca: Yes.

Sheila: Okay.  So Keith and I are writing the marriage book right now.  We ended our marriage survey.  Joanna is running the stats for that right now.  Keith and I are writing it.  And one of our points is that in the secular world they use data.  And in the Christian world, we’re allergic to data because we seem to be saying, “You can either do it God’s way or the world’s way,” as if these two things are very different, right?  So you can either use evidence or God’s way like God can’t have evidence.  And to see an example of this, I took Emily Nagoski’s book, Come as You Are, which is a sex book.  It’s really good.  We quoted it in Great Sex Rescue.  And I counted all of the peer reviewed sources in that book.  And it was a long count.  I kept losing my count.  I had to start again.  But there were 177.   Okay?  There were probably over 300 references in total because some of them weren’t peer reviewed.  Some of them were really good books like hers.  Her book is not peer reviewed.  It’s just a really good book.  Right?  But 177 actual journal articles or books from university presses or big UN symposiums or something.  Okay?  Do you know how many peer reviewed resources there were in Every Man’s Battle?

Rebecca: Oh, it must have been at least a hundred considering everyone claims that it’s just the bible on how men are.  It has facts.

Sheila: Zero.  Zero.  Not a single one.  Do you know how many there were in Tim LaHaye’s Act of Marriage?  One.  There was one.  And it was a textbook on physiology and anatomy.  It was already out of date at the point where he wrote the book.  

Rebecca: So zero.

Sheila: Nothing else was peer reviewed.  So it’s like Christians have not used actual evidence.  We have let pastors write books they are not qualified to write without using actual evidence.  And that needs to change.  And I think we are seeing it slowly start to change.  

Rebecca: I think so.  I also think a lot of people are now using evidence in a very tricky way where they’re doing the bad way of doing it where, “Oh, I want to prove this, so I’m going to find a study that says something somewhat like this if I only read a portion of the abstract and don’t actually look at the whole study.”  And they’re citing that.

Sheila: Well, yeah.  A great example would be when Shaunti Feldhahn talks about how visual men are she uses—and Gary Thomas does this too.  They tend to use a study from 2004.  And they ignore the meta analyses from 2019 and 2021, which included the study from 2004, and found that there actually is not a difference in the visual natures between men and women.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Not one that’s biologically based.

Sheila: Yeah.  So they’re ignoring the more recent, more rigorous, more comprehensive research in order to cherry pick a study from—yeah.  That’s older.  Yeah.  So we do see that.  

Rebecca: For the most part, at least we’re teaching people you’re allowed to question the sources.  And quite frankly, if someone has only got ten or fewer studies and they aren’t doing their own research, they are cherry picking friends.  They just are.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  Exactly.  All right.  Here’s the next thing that has surprised me.  I thought people would just have a little bit more integrity and honesty.  Because one of the things that has really affected me lately and—is how I used to teach bad stuff, and I talked about this in our recent podcast about Lies Women Believe.  One of the reasons that that book hit me so much is because I can remember teaching some of those same themes from the stage.  When I was trying to make sense of my son dying, I can remember saying some of the same things that Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is saying, and I can see how harmful that was.  And I think that’s why it hit me so hard.  And I know after we looked at our research and the findings, I realized how a lot of the stuff I taught—it really did border on obligation sex.  And the things I taught about libido just really weren’t right.  And in The Great Sex Rescue, there were three separate times where I said, “I did this wrong.  I’m changing my message.”  We took down blog posts.  I took some books out of print.  I’ve done the best that I can to make up for some of the things that I said in the past.  And I’m just so grateful that my listeners have had such grace, and my readers have had such grace.  And we’re all learning together.  And my commitment to you is not that I will always teach everything correctly.  It’s just that when I learn something that I’m wrong about I will switch how I teach it.  And that’s really the only thing I can commit to.  Right?      

Rebecca: That’s all anyone can commit to, right?  Because all we can do is report what the evidence has taught us so far.  We just expected that everyone else was also living with that motto, with that kind of moral.  It’s easy.  Our base instinct as people is to assume that others see the world the same way we do.  That’s why if we are very backstabby, suspicious, mean people we assume everyone else is trying to backstab us is mean, is suspicious, right?  And we are people who—the way I described how I hold on to beliefs is I am very firm in what I believe.  I am strong in my beliefs.  I do not budge from my stances.  And then the minute I have better information, I am very strong for the opposite side, and I do not budge from that stance.  I am strong for whatever I—whatever the evidence currently shows, right?  I’ve had wildly huge shifts in my beliefs when I was in university because I actually went to university even when all of the really big research about spanking came out.  So that was one of my really first—

Sheila: That it was harmful, by the way.  

Rebecca: Yes.  Very much so.  But I went to university in 2013.  2013, I believe.  Yeah.  I went to university in 2013.  Gershoff study came out in 2014, right?

Sheila: Yeah.  

Rebecca: So that was the big thing.  And so these were things that I’ve—that’s how I work.  That’s how you work.  We’re all gung-ho for what we believe and then are very, very easy to change our minds when the evidence is different.

Sheila: But the other thing is our goal is to help people.  And so if I said something wrong, I’m going to feel really badly about that because it means I’ve hurt someone.  So what has so surprised me is that the—a lot of other teachers in this area don’t seem to share that.  And so I want to give you a snapshot.  This is a real from Juli Slattery on a Focus on the Family show.  Okay?  I just want to play it.  And then we will talk about it.  All right?  So here is Juli.

Juli: And I think the teaching traditionally has been to men once you get married you should get all of your needs met sexually in marriage.  And now your wife is obligated to do that.  And that has hurt so many marriages, hurt so many women.  And for women that have had sexual trauma, they can feel retraumatized.  They can feel they’re just objects to their husband.  They’re not being loved and nurtured.  And so I think that this sort of simplistic approach to sex and marriage is something we need to take another look at to really even look at a passage in 1 Corinthians 7, which is often to used to give that kind of teaching and to say, actually, what Paul is saying is that the sexual relationship is a call for both the husband and wife to minister to one another.  And men need to be encouraged.  If your wife has pain during sex, if she has trauma in her past, if she’s not enjoying it, the burden, in some ways, is also on you to say, “How do I minister to my wife emotionally and physically.  How do I understand the complexity of how she is created sexually?  How do I go on the healing journey with her?”  And not just say, “No.  I get my needs met regardless.”

Sheila: Okay.  Now first of all, I agree with what she said.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  It’s a good point.  I think that telling men that maybe they should figure out how they can emotionally help their wives when they’re experiencing sexual pain is not as strong as I would put it.  But I totally agree with the point.  Why?  Well, because as hundreds of commenters stated in the comments, this is literally just a chapter of The Great Sex Rescue summarized.  And not summarized like—we have a lot better information and more information.  But they just—this is what we’ve said, what we found.

Sheila: Yeah.  So it’s really funny because I only found out about this because people were tagging me.  I had so many people tagging me saying, “Why have you never referenced Sheila Gregoire when you talk about this?  Because you never used to talk about this, and now you are.”  And Juli Roys’ website—she runs a Christian news organization.  And I will put the link to her article in the podcast notes.  It’s pretty funny.  But she ended up writing an article on this whole dust up.  And they called it Focus on the Family Reverses Position on Obligation Sex But Deletes Author Who Exposed Message’s Harm.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Because they were going through and they were live deleting anyone who named any of us and The Great Sex Rescue.  So you’d comment, and then there were a bunch of people who would comment and then update on Twitter.  “Okay.  I commented about The Great Sex Rescue.  Let’s time it.  Seven minutes, and it’s gone.  Seven minutes.  My comment was up for seven minutes.”  This was a whole thing.  It was really funny.

Sheila: They just refused to let anyone hear about us which is really interesting because—Joanna, when we were writing Great Sex Rescue, what did you find out about pain and Focus on the Family?

Joanna: Yeah.  It was just really interesting because Focus on the Family’s website—they didn’t have any hits on sexual pain.  They had stuff on erectile dysfunction.  They had lots of advice about postpartum sex.  But they had nothing at all about sexual pain.

Rebecca: And so when they’re talking about how there are all these people who have taught Christian couples that it’s a wife’s obligation to fulfill her husband’s sexual needs, we’re all just like, “Hello.  It’s Taylor.  It’s me.  Hi.  I’m the problem.  It’s me.”  It’s literally those three people around the table are some of the most—the people who made this the most prolific.

Sheila: Yeah.  And I honestly think Juli Slattery has been trying to change her message lately.  If you look at the stuff she wrote ten years ago, it’s very different than the stuff she talks about now.   I think she is trying to get healthier, and she, obviously, has been very informed by our research.  Right?

Rebecca: Yes.

Sheila: But she just won’t cite us or mention us.  And Focus on the Family absolutely refuses to have my name in the comments.  So they are changing their conversation, which is all we ever wanted.  That’s good.  But they refuse to let people know about us.  And I just find this whole reel—I think what I find so demoralizing about it—I’m glad they’re talking about it in a healthier way.  But what’s so demoralizing is that Christians have traditionally taught this.  And isn’t that sad?  And then the men there are nodding.  Oh yes.  Isn’t that sad?  And it’s like it was you.  It was you.  Can you not apologize?

Rebecca: Why didn’t they even say, “And guys, we were all teaching this five years ago.  We got to change it”?  They could have even said that.  “This was us.  We were all teaching this too.”  

Joanna: Once again, we return to the lesson that everything important to know in life we learned by the time we had graduated from kindergarten.  What do you do when you do something wrong?  You say you’re sorry.  That’s it.

Sheila: Okay.  I’m just parachuting in here because we had to cut a lot of this podcast for time.  And we missed some context, so I want to give some more context here.  We’re really critiquing this reel by Juli Slattery on Focus on the Family.  But she’s not the only one who has done this.  And we have talked at length on previous podcasts on how the authors that we actually critiqued in The Great Sex Rescue have responded to our work.  And so I will put a link to some of those podcasts in the podcast notes.  We just didn’t want to rehash stuff we’ve already gone over.  So we sort of seem to be putting the spotlight on one person here, and it really isn’t all about that one person.  But there is a bigger theme that I do want to draw attention to.  And it’s this.  We did this huge study of 20,000 women that definitively showed that obligation sex is really bad.  For both women and men, our follow up survey of men showed that too.  And it has profound effects including physical effects on women with sexual pain which can cause retraumatization.  And the problem is that people are using our buzzwords like obligation sex, and Juli is not the only one.  Multiple authors have done this including in their books without citing us.  So they’re using our buzzwords, but they’re not actually grappling with our findings and the implications of our findings.  And that scares me because it’s like unless you really go deep into the implications of our findings you’re just weaponizing therapy speak, and you can actually be sounding like you’re safe when you’re still giving a lot of the same harmful messages.  And so I hope that in the future people will actually grapple with our research and with the full ramifications of it.  And that it’s not enough just to say obligation sex is bad.  But we need to look at why it’s bad, and we need to look at what dynamics have led to obligation sex in the first place and why the church has been teaching it and what we’re saying about male and female sexuality.  It isn’t just enough to stay obligation sex is bad.  We need to look at the complete picture if we’re going to get healthy.  And that’s what I’m seeing is missing here.  Okay.  Back to the podcast now.  I guess another thing that really has shocked me in the three years is that people are so angry that we have called out other authors that we have become—like in Harry Potter, we are the people who must not be named.  

Joanna: I just want to say I think that’s really sad for you, Sheila.  I don’t feel it because I was never big in this world.  These people weren’t my friends.  I don’t know any of them.  I’m that outsider who came in based on my random skill set of how applicable it was to this area.  But these were your people.  You’ve lost friends over this.  You risked things.  I didn’t really risk stuff by writing GSR and my changing how I was teaching because I wasn’t teaching.  But you have risked things, and you have shown the way of how to be—have integrity and how to walk the path of faithfulness.  And it’s sad when other people who you thought were your comrades and who you thought were linking arms with aren’t doing that thing.  It gets really—it’s been sad for me to watch it as your colleague and as your friend.

Sheila: Yeah.  And I know.  I try to joke it off, and I try to just say okay.  Let’s just work to the next thing.  We are glad the conversation is changing.  But a reader sent in an email.  They actually emailed Juli Slattery after this happened, and they said, “I’m just curious.  So much of what you talk about sounds so much like Sheila Gregoire now.  But why don’t you reference her work?”  And this is the reply that they got.  And I don’t know this person.  They just sent me—they just forwarded me this email from Juli Slattery’s organization.  And the email said, “Juli is familiar with Sheila’s work and is grateful for the ways her research has helped couples reframe their approach to sex.”  So good.  Okay.  “While Juli’s and Sheila’s messages complement each other in many ways, they have different convictions in how to handle disagreements within the Christian community.  For this reason, Juli has chosen not to engage publically with Sheila’s resources or teachings.”

Rebecca: So I’m just going to translate that for a minute.  Okay.  So they agree that Juli has been inspired and has—and it does sound like has changed what she said because of our work.  But because she doesn’t like that we’re actually naming the people who poisoned the water, she is going to keep promoting our ideas without actually citing us.  So that is really, really dishonest.  That’s actually a serious lack of integrity.  Because you can totally say, “The research from Great Sex Rescue found this.  Now I don’t agree with the way they call people out, but the research is solid.”  You could say something like that.  You could say, “I have serious issues with the way that these three authors handled things, but,”—but you have to cite.  Otherwise what you’re doing is you’re saying, “I’m going to lie and make myself look like these are my ideas.”  Because that is what it is.  If you’re inspired by someone, get your ideas from someone else, and then you present them as if they are your own, that is actually lying.  That is lying, and it’s just totally not an act of integrity.  And what we were talking about before this is when I was growing up you often assume that the people at the top of these big Christian organizations are there because they’re the best Christians, right?  We’re a meritocracy.  Right?  If you’re the best Christian, you’ll become the most successful Christian.  The Christians with the most power must have proven that they’re the best christianist Christians, right?  They’re the most like Christ.  So the people who are running things like Brio magazine from Focus on the Family when I was growing up, and that’s what I was reading.  They must be the best Christians ever because they are at Focus on the Family.  And what we’ve realized going through this is that that’s actually not true.  You know who gets the most power?  Typically, actually, people who are willing to work against integrity.  People who are willing to do whatever is needed to get ahead.  And it’s very sad to see that happening.  And if you consider the goal not to be Christlike but to maintain and build power, Juli’s email makes a lot of sense.

Joanna: Yep.

Rebecca: I can’t risk people hearing about this person who is calling me out.  But her ideas get a lot of views.  So I’m going to use those ideas, and I’m not going to cite so that people don’t go to her instead of me.  I need to maintain this.

Sheila: And in their mind—I think in their mind they’re being ethical because they think I am so dangerous because I’m calling out other people, and I am so unchristlike that it is more ethical to use our ideas without citing us than it is to cite us because of how unethical we’re being.  But what is the ethical thing here?  Because what they’re saying is that we are really bad because we’re calling people out, okay?  But we are calling out teachers, who have hurt people.  And they are trying to protect teachers, and we are trying to protect the sheep.  And that’s the fundamental difference.  They are trying to protect teachers.  We want to protect the sheep.  And they see that as such a threat, and it’s so opposite of how the evangelical world has worked up until now that we’ve really upended everything.  And so a lot of people are just not citing us at all.

Joanna: I also think—I know we have dealt with a lot of whisper campaigns, behind the scenes this, So-and-so won’t let this.  It has felt like middle school.  There’s a lot of bullying and stuff that happens in the power politics of evangelical thought leaders.  And so I, honestly, wonder if there would be repercussions for Juli if she cited us.  And that’s not okay, right?  That doesn’t give us—that’s not a carte blanche to then not cite or to erase somebody’s work.  But I think that it does maybe give some logic to it, if that’s the case.

Sheila: Yeah.  And I do want to say.  I don’t think Juli is the worst in this at all.  It’s just that we had her email, and I thought that was interesting.  But I think you’re on to something, Joanna, because I have another clip that I want to play for you.  This one is from the Bodies Behind the Bus podcast.  And to give some context, Joy’s story—that they’re covering here—is a two-episode podcast arc.  She had been running a women’s ministry at a very large church, and she just kept bumping up against this pastor, who didn’t like what she was doing.  And she was a victim of spiritual abuse.  They ended up kicking her off in just the worst way possible, putting her under church discipline.  It was really bad for basically nothing.  It’s difficult to listen to, but it’s so interesting.  And we need to understand this is what’s happening in a lot of the authoritarian churches today, conservative churches, which require you to sign membership covenants, where the pastor is really trying to be the ultimate authority.  So Bodies Behind the Bus does a great job of revealing what’s going on especially in the Acts 29 network of churches.  But this particular woman’s story has an intersection with Great Sex Rescue, and I was so surprised when I heard this.  So I just want to play you this three-minute clip. 

Joy: What was about to come ended up just totally destroying me.  

Jay: So he goes on this sabbatical.  Nothing is really resolved.  So you don’t really have a clear understanding of why he wants you to step down.  Now there’s this dynamic where the relationship has turned to where it’s—you may not even have hope to save the friendship at this point.  You don’t know.  He comes back from sabbatical.  And then there’s something that happens in January of the next year that is seismic in nature.  What happened?

Joy: Yeah.  He came back from sabbatical, and we just kept meeting like nothing—we didn’t really talk about what had happened.  But it was there in the background.  And at this time, I had been reading The Great Sex Rescue, which is an incredible book.

Johnna: Shout out, Sheila.

Joy: Yes.  Yes.  Thank you, Sheila.  And I had recommended it to a number of women.  And I also posted about it on my social media, which I very rarely posted anything on my social media like book recommendations.  Never anything political.  But I was like I have got to share about this.  This is such an important book.  I was hearing from a lot of women who had been reading it and were like, “This is great.”  My husband had guys reading it and talking about it too.  I didn’t think anything of it.  Yeah.  But there was a Sunday in January of 2022 that the lead pastor came to me after the service, and he’s like, “Hey, Joy.  I need to talk to you.  Once everybody kind of clears out if I can get a minute with you.”  And I was like, “Okay.” We had this huge lobby.  I remember.  It was just the two of us in there.  And he came to me and was like, “Hey, I just want to let you know.  There are people who have been coming to me with concerns about what you’re posting on your social media.”  And I was shocked.  I didn’t know what to say because, first of all, I was like I don’t even post anything controversial.  What could it be?  Pictures of my baby.  I don’t know.  And I start asking questions like, “What?  What are you talking about?”  And he’s like, “It’s about The Great Sex Rescue.  You said it was one of the best books you read last year.”  And I was so—it just caught me off guard.  I was like, “What?  What is—because it’s about sex?  What is controversial about this?”  He said, “No.  The author is an egalitarian.”  And I was so surprised that that was the issue and really—I mean in the moment I just—I remember just the fear in me because it was just this very intense like I could feel the heat coming from him.  And I was like, “Well, I think it’s a really helpful book.  I don’t see why—she’s not talking about women in ministry.  This has nothing to do with egalitarianism.  What is—why is that a problem?”  And he was like, “Well, she’s—I’ve looked her up, and she’s very vocal about it on social media.”  I was just trying to find my footing.  I don’t even know what to say here.  But I was just like, “Well, first of all, why wouldn’t—if people are coming to you, why wouldn’t you have sent them to me?  If they have problems, shouldn’t they come to me about it?”  And I don’t remember specifically what he said in response to that, but I do remember saying to him, “Is that really the way you want our church to run?”  

Sheila: I just found that—can you imagine?  So you’re in the foyer of the church, and your pastor comes over.  And he starts reaming you out, and you don’t even know what it’s for.  And he says, “Well, it’s what you post on social media.” And she’s like, “What did I post?”  And then you find out it’s Great Sex Rescue.  And it’s like, “What’s wrong with Great Sex Rescue?”  And the only answer he is, “Well, the author is egalitarian.”  That’s the only answer.

Rebecca: But I think that this all ties together because something that separates Joy and her story from a lot of the people who—and I know we talked about Juli specifically in this podcast.  But there’s been a lot of others that if you’ll listen back you’ll see—who have just failed to kind of stand up when it was necessary.  Is Joy showed moral courage.  She did.  She showed moral courage even though she was just a congregant.   She didn’t have this huge backing behind her.  She was just one person.  And all we’re asking is for people to have moral courage.  That’s really it.  So you know what?  There might be social ramifications.  If that’s the case, it is your job to not enable those people to be able to live—to be able to infiltrate the evangelical world by blackmailing and bullying.  Stand up to them.  It might be that we’re afraid of being called out for stuff you said in the past.  Okay.  Then own it and change it.  Oh, well, maybe you just don’t want to deal with the hate with stuff that you said in the past.  Okay.  Then retire and go offline, and let the next generation take over.  There’s lots of ways to have moral courage.  But on the third birthday of The Great Sex Rescue, what we’re mostly grateful for is that even though the people in power have overall failed to have moral courage the people in the pews have not.  And that’s the big thing because I know we’re saying we’re just happy the conversation is changing.  But I am worried that if the people are just slapping on a nice, fresh coat of paint onto the same old pile of horse poop it’s still going to smell when you cut it open.   Right?  Sorry for the visual.  But it’s at this point if you’re not going in and excising the tumor it’s going to keep growing.  Doesn’t matter how pretty you make it on the outside.  And so even though we’re still seeing a lack of real moral courage and integrity from the people in high up evangelical spaces, we’re seeing so many individuals who are on the ground making changes whether it’s starting up studies in their churches, or challenging their pastors on things, or leaving their churches to go and bring life into smaller, healthier congregations that had all their people sapped by the giant mega churches with their huge fog machines and 80 child large Sunday School programs, right?  There’s so much stuff that’s happening that is actually changing the conversation, not just putting lipstick on a pig.  Right?  And that’s what I’m grateful for.

Sheila: And I’m so grateful.  I get sent on a weekly basis, “Hey, my pastor talked about Great Sex Rescue in his sermon,” and they’ll send me the YouTube clip.  And I’ve seen so many of those too.  So I’m thankful for the pastors, who are listening.  Some are at big churches.  Some are at small churches.  I was talking to a church in Australia where every couple who comes in for premarital counseling has to read The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex and The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex.  

Rebecca: Oh, that’s sweet.

Sheila: If you come in for marital counseling, you have to read Great Sex Rescue.  And they’ve gotten rid of every other book basically.  And I’m not saying that you can only read our books.  Please.    

Rebecca: No.  No.

Sheila: But the problem is that a lot of evangelical books the majority of them have been toxic because they’re based on an unhealthy foundation.  And so until we deal with that foundation, we’re still going to have these problems.  But it is really neat to see so many churches changing, so many pastors changing.  And if you are like Joy and you just wanted to spread the word, we do have a Great Sex Rescue toolkit where you can download—it’s a pay whatever you want.  So you just go, and you can just choose how much to pay.  But you’ll get handouts that you can give to people on modesty, on obligation sex, on lust.  All the different things that we talk about so that you can say, “Hey, you’re teaching on that.  Here’s a better way of seeing it.”  And it’s got all our stats.  Here’s what’s wrong when you teach this.  It’s really cool.  And there’s also some sheets on how to raise these issues too with your small group leader, your pastor, so you can take a look at that.  I will put the link in the podcast notes.  But that’s what’s happening, people.  It’s the grassroots that is changing things.  Great Sex Rescue has been selling really well ever since it launched, and it’s not selling well because mega church pastors and Focus on the Family and big organizations and the American Association of Christian Counselors.  Nope.  They’ve all ignored us.  They’ve all ignored us.  But individual counselors are using this book like crazy.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  Pastors at midsize churches.

Sheila: Are using the book like crazy.  And that’s what’s changing things.  And so I was really naïve, and Becca told me I was naïve when it came out.  She told me that the people that we were calling out were not going to change.  And I still pray.  I still do pray for one or two just because it would make me happy.  But even if they don’t, it doesn’t matter because God is doing an amazing work.  And He’s rescuing the sheep.  And this book is bringing people back to Him because people are remembering that—yeah.  Women matter too.  And when people act so angry about us, you have to wonder why.  You have to start asking—okay.  What is wrong with wanting women to reach orgasm?  Why are you so threatened?  

Rebecca: Why is that making you so angry?

Sheila: Why are you so threatened by the idea that men don’t have to lust?  That this is actually something you can get over.  And if people are that upset, you start—you got to start to say, “Huh.  What’s really going on here?”  Okay.  So at the end of the book, you guys said what you were hoping for.  Has that changed?  Do you have anything new that you’re hoping for now?

Rebecca: I mean I am so—here’s the problem.  I think we were hoping for a lot of things in a much more optimistic place in terms of the larger evangelical powers that be.  What I’m hoping for now is that they crumble and fall because I don’t see a way forward unless they change things.  I think there’s a level where my hope is that the people who are in the pews start actually being able to shepherd each other instead of turning to these huge, multimillion, donated organizations whose entire jobs are to sit on literal thrones in recording studios that cost more than my whole house talking about how women should just stop expecting as much from their husbands.  That’s my hope.  My hope is that we stop listening to people who are being paid ridiculous amounts of money to say what donors want them to say.  And instead, we just get back to community where we actually can be the body of Christ together instead of all of us listening to almost this God mediator mouthpiece just because they’re popular.  But that might be a little bit too jaded.  Here’s the thing though.  I’ve just heard from so many people about how much good is happening on the small scale church that I think we’re losing so much by focusing on the large scale Christian evangelical complex.  Right?  The evangelical industrial complex.  That’s my hope is that that disappears because I think that then we’ll actually be able to reclaim the beauty and goodness of Christianity because I think most of the goodness of Christianity is happening at small 80-person churches.  That’s in Canada.  

Sheila: I mean we’re not saying that you can’t have a good church that’s 400.  

Rebecca: No.  I’m just saying the—

Sheila: But 400 is big for Canada.  

Rebecca: 400 is really big for Canada, guys.  Okay.  But you know what I mean though.  I think that when we focus on the family as the epitome of Christianity we lose the community aspect.  And I think that a lot of the antidote to these negative teachings is to knowing what actual people are going through because the number of women in our focus groups who said that all they’ve ever done was read these books and listen to Focus on the Family.  They never actually asked their friends, “Hey, does your husband make you act out pornographic fantasies?”  And the minute they did their whole world crumbled because they were like, “That’s weird.  I thought this was normal because nothing at Focus on the Family made me think that this wasn’t normal.  I was just told that he has needs, and I need to meet them.  And if he has needs for porn, he’s probably not getting enough sex.  Right?  And so actually talking to real life people who are like, “Jessica, no.  That’s not—you don’t need to do that.”  I think the community is so much of a protective factor.  Not when you’re in high control communities, obviously.  But the vast majority of people, even conservative evangelical people, are not in high control communities.  And so we need—I think that’s just—that’s the thing that I hope for is that we actually get to know our neighbors more.  And we stop listening to places like Focus on the Family.

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  What about you, Joanna?

Joanna: I think my hopes for my girls has stayed the same.  As far as hopes for the church—so this is a very Canadian take.  I also think that Frozen 2 is a very Canadian movie even though it’s not Canadian.  Right?  What do Ana and Elsa learn at the end of Frozen 2?

Rebecca: We haven’t watched Frozen 2.  Tell us.

Joanna: They have to go, and they have to make reparations for what they did wrong.  They have to go, and they have to make the past right.  And that breaks the curse.  It’s about truth and reconciliation.  It’s literally a truth and reconciliation movie.  It’s great.  I love it.  The lore doesn’t make any sense, but who cares?  Because it’s a fun story, and there’s an eighties music video in the middle.  But essentially, that’s what I’m hoping for.  I’m hoping for truth and reconciliation.  Broadly, across the world.  In lots and lots of areas.  And do I think that I’m going to see that?  No.  But this is an idea from Tolkien.  He talks about the long defeat.  And I have hope that maybe we’ll see a victory.  And maybe after many years we will see the truth and reconciliation thing actually happen.  But if not, we’ll keep seeing glimmers.  We’ll keep seeing that vision of a far country where perhaps this will happen.  Where we continue to see the beginnings of first fruits of the great redemption that will come at the end of all things.  My hope regarding the evangelical industrial complex—I don’t know that I have a hope anymore.  I feel like I’ve kind of given up on having an expectation.  I would love it if I were to be surprised.

Sheila: And you were the most—you were the green light.  You were the most, “Oh, they’re going to get it.”

Rebecca: You were the last one to jump ship on evangelical churches too.  

Joanna: I was.  Yeah.  It was hard for me to—because, again, I just believed that it was me who was the problem.  Right?  That if I could say it correctly then they would listen.  And that the problem was that I wasn’t saying it in a way that was intelligible.  That I was too this, too that, not enough this, not enough that and accepting that actually no.  I was doing my best.  And that actually no.  They should have listened to me was really empowering and really sad.  So I guess maybe a hope is that other people will have that same experience where it’s like no.  I really was doing my best.  I really did try to say it.  People didn’t want to listen.  Jesus had the same experience.  So did Paul.  Not to say that I’m like—I’m not Jesus in this story.  But just to say that this is a—I am not the first person to have this particular life experience.

Rebecca: Yes.  Exactly.

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  And I think—I like that.  I think my hope—yeah.  Like I said, I started in January of 2024 just praying for one person this year.  Gosh.  That one person would actually repent.  I actually thought it might be Juli Slattery, and then the very next day someone sent me this email.  I still hope because I think Juli is honestly trying.  She’s been getting so much better in her teaching, and I think she really, really wants to be healthy.  And I haven’t seen that in a lot of the other ones.      

Rebecca: But I’m just worried that she’s just going to do more damage than good if she keeps on making good—making dangerous places sound safe.

Sheila: Yeah.  And that’s really what it is.  We can’t have health without truth and reconciliation.  And so yeah.  I will still pray for that.  I want to—you said, Joanna, that there’s still glimmers.  And that is what we’re seeing is that those glimmers are in individual people.  And individual people are having real victories even if the evangelical industrial complex doesn’t.  So as we wrap up this three-year birthday party for the book, I thought I would read—I want to end with this person’s story because I—it’s a great one.  And I’m really grateful that she sent it in.  She says this.  “My husband and I grew up in very conservative circles.  Homeschooled, church, and private school.  So purity culture did a number on us both.  Both of us have experienced sexual abuse and he became a porn user beginning in the third grade.  This was part of the abuse he experienced from another child.  So we get married and have an okay marriage.  We thought things were going well.  We fought a lot, usually about sex, but we were both committed to staying together and it was not a terrible situation.  In fact, if you asked me how my marriage was for the first 10 years, I would have said, ‘We are so happy and better off than most.’  And then he disclosed active porn use almost 10 years into our marriage and right after we found out we were expecting another child.  My life turned upside down, and we were committed to healing and changing the trajectory of our lives.  I no longer put up with abusive behavior like entitlement and porn.  He committed to owning his behavior and changing.  It has been a long five-year journey.  I searched out all I could to find.  Any way to make sense of my life and what was wrong in our marriage. I somehow found you.  I can’t even remember how.  And our lives have not been the same.  We would not be where we are if we had not found your resources.  Our marriage is completely different for the better.  He is a safe, loving, respectful man and is continually looking for how he can help me find safety and intimacy.  It isn’t even just our sex life that has improved.  But, hello, it has.  I mean, I realized I have a libido.  Our entire marriage and our perspective on how men and women relate have become so much healthier.  We have learned about mutuality, seeking the flourishing of others, and most importantly, how to live more like Christ.  To recognize the destructive ideology in our lives and to seek to be more Christ-like.  I shudder to think where we’d be without you and your work, Sheila.  I wish I could give you and your team a big hug.  You are doing life-changing work.  I fully believe that one day years from now your work will be seen as a critical turning point in church history. So thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.”

Rebecca: That’s really sweet.  Yeah.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  And so since Great Sex Rescue came out, we’ve had three other books out.  Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex that I totally rewrote without getting paid a single dime just because I wanted to update it because I didn’t feel right selling the old version anymore.  The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex and She Deserves Better, of course.  And now we are almost done the writing of our new marriage book.  Don’t have a title yet.  But that will be out in spring 2025.  And onward and upward.  We’re going to change the church one person and one family at a time even if the up part, even if the big, industrial complex doesn’t change.  I think families and churches are going to change, and that’s how Jesus works.  Jesus works on the margins.  Jesus works with people, not with power.  And I love it.  I love it.  

Rebecca: So thank you for being a part of this for the last three years.  Thank you to everyone who has bought the book, who shared the book, who has rated the book on Amazon, who has posted about it on social media.  And thank you to everyone who sent us encouraging messages because it really does help combat the negativity.  

Sheila: Yep.  Yep.  And hey, if you want to give us a birthday present, pick up The Great Sex Rescue.  Let’s see it rise on Amazon rankings especially for our birthday and give it to a friend, a pastor, a small group leader.  But let’s keep changing the world.  Thank you.  

Rebecca: Bye.

Sheila: Bye-bye.  

Joanna: Bye.

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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14 Comments

  1. Jo R

    So now we know the only way Eggy can give a woman multiple O’s! 🤣 🤣 🤣

    If Joanna’s initial letter to Focus on the Phallus had been signed “Joseph Sawatsky” instead of “Joanna Sawatsky,” would it have gotten the attention and provoked the repentance it should have?

    Note to those who don’t understand the lack of integrity among those who are using GSR and SBD research and phrasings without proper attribution: it’s stealing, because they’re taking credit for something they didn’t do, and it’s lying, because they’re misrepresenting that someone else’s ideas are actually their own. Sheila has said many times that she didn’t read other Christian sex and marriage books BECAUSE SHE DIDNT WANT TO PLAGIARIZE, even inadvertently, LET ALONE DELIBERATELY.

    How can women expect even less from their husbands when we’re already told it’s godly to expect nothing at all? 🤔 (Men, on the other hand, can expect to get everything they “need” and most of what they want, because of course.)

    I’m not on FB, but there’s a group called something like “The Bar for Men Is So Low It’s a Tavern in Hell.” Pretty sure it’s not a Christian group, but how ironic that so many “Christian” men, both those in the pulpit and in the pews, qualify for the descriptor. 🙄

    Reply
  2. JG

    Congratulations and happy 3rd birthday on your book. Your book is on my reading list. Praying for you all. You are definitely taking “the adventure that Aslan has sent you.”

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, thank you! (And Joanna especially will love the Aslan reference!)

      Reply
  3. Jany

    Sheila, you mentioned taking several of your books that print because you no longer agree with what you were teaching. What about your 9 Thoughts book?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I generally still like it. There are a few things I would say differently now. And I’m working on a better marriage book right now, so I just don’t talk about 9 Thoughts much!

      Reply
  4. DM

    *I wanted to post this as a Facebook response, but it would really cause division, and I didn’t want to do that. You can repost there if you strip my name.

    Yes – we were asked to leave after listening to Sheila and crew. This is going to be a long post – apologies. It’s also recent and painful, so I’m going to try to be gracious but it may sound biting.

    Some background – our church is Broad Complimentarian, although we didn’t know how deep at the time. Also, we were new to the area and the pastor was one of my only friends in the area.

    About a year ago, I was the President of the Board for our church, and our Pastor came to me and asked me to resign completely from the board. He asked, “Do you know what your wife is posting on social media?” I knew most of it, mostly comments from Marg Mowczko and Bare Marriage with Sheila Wray Gregoire. He said I wasn’t fit for leadership because, “you don’t rule your household well, you don’t control your wife.” I was devastated – how could our humble pastor say such things? Doesn’t he know about abuse? I refused to quit, but my wife and I were still called before the elders to defend our position.
    I gave our pastor “The Great Sex Rescue,” and the response I got was the book returned to me with the comment, “There are a lot of penis references in the book.” Wow, I was disappointed because they totally missed the point.
    Fast forward to recent times: the church voted to change governments to an Elder Led Congregational Rule constitution. I was not offered a position as Elder or Deacon “because your beliefs don’t align with the church.” I was told, “If I were you, I’d find a new church.” When my wife asked for clarification, we were called in front of the elders again (even though she just asked for a text message), and given a cordial but cold reception and response of “We love you guys. You are welcome here as long as you don’t cause division.”
    So I guess we’re leaving. I don’t know how to advocate for women to be treated in a Christ-like fashion and not be called “divisive.” I love the people of the church, but we can’t keep doing this. I wish I had the right words of wisdom to show people how dangerous this viewpoint is – but in their view, they are “Patriarchal / Complimentarian because God is” (due to the ESS/EFS/ERAS view of Genesis 1-2).

    Reply
    • JG

      My heart breaks hearing a story like this. Praying for you and your wife. God does not call us to control each other. Being controlling destroys people and relationships. Sadly my husband and I have had to limit our contact with my dad because he has been controlling for many years. My dad like your church misuses Scripture to keep people thinking patriarchy is Biblical.

      Reply
    • Angharad

      I’m so sorry for what you and your wife are going through, but thank you for making the choice to leave rather than to stop speaking out. I pray that you will soon find a church family who will love and support your passion for justice and that you will find healing with them x

      Reply
    • Nessie

      So sorry for this grief you are experiencing- loss of a (true) support system of friends, potential loss of the church body you have been a part of, loss of trust in others to do the right and godly thing.

      I question what they mean by the word “love.” I hope you are proud of yourself and your wife though in posting things that you believe to be true and necessary for the health and safety of others, and for standing up for those who need it!

      Praying for God’s discernment in your future steps.

      Reply
    • Sequoia

      DM,
      My husband and I were told multiple times by our elders, “I just don’t understand why you want to keep coming to this church,” after several long talks regarding slight doctrinal differences, including a non-complimentarian stance. Definitely not as involved in leadership as you and your wife, and not as closely related to Bare Marriage material by far. But the division thing was thrown at us too. At our last talk (before we were asked to leave) we discussed how the elders were actually the ones causing the division, since we were okay with staying in the church and withdrawing from our previous teaching/leading roles. They were the ones who viewed us as incompatible, and their only presented options were comply or get out. Neither of which is a healthy option. It’s been very sad for us to grieve losing those people, even some elders that we thought we were close to. I’m sorry if you’re going through a grieving process as well right now.

      Reply
  5. Any A

    Happy birthday GSR! Also, I laughed out loud at Joanna’s “We beat you, ha ha!” anecdote.

    Reply
  6. Nathan

    > > We’re hearing a lot more “where’s your evidence for that” on social media

    I sometimes hear “it’s in the bible”, even though they often can’t tell you exactly where.

    Reply
    • Nessie

      Lol, well, so is plucking out one’s eye. People will always have an excuse.

      Reply

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