The Odd Evangelical Obsession With Sex and Its Ramifications, and How Sexual Purity Material Is Peddled For Profit by Christians: article from The Atlantic: The Warrior Wives of Evangelical Christianity

The Odd Evangelical Obsession With Sex and Its Ramifications: article from The Atlantic: The Warrior Wives of Evangelical Christianity 

Though this post’s title contains the word “Evangelical,” I see some of these same issues discussed below also crop up among some Fundamentalists and Calvinists / Reformed. Self-identifying evangelicals do NOT hold a monopoly on odd views about, or obsession with, sex and marriage, that is for sure.

Here is the link to the article, followed by some observations by me, and farther below that, excerpts from the article (the article goes on to discuss how Christian gender complementarianism, also known as “Biblical Manhood and Womanhood,” can be fertile ground for wife abuse, but I don’t think I will be focusing on that in my post), and I’ll probably make yet more comments below the excerpt:

(Link): The Warrior Wives of Evangelical Christianity by Emma Green

  • The intense focus on sexuality, purity, manhood, and womanhood in certain faith communities—and its consequences.

My thoughts:

I don’t know if I shall be copying portions from the last half of the article, where it discusses how complementarianism can lead to domestic violence or perpetuate it, or how white Christians have co-opted the word “evangelical.”

One section from the last half I did find interesting is where the authors or researchers interviewed who mentioned that what seems to be driving the purity culture and books on marriage and sex is profit – money.

It’s largely white evangelicals who are buying books about sex, marital sex, and sexual purity, so the white authors are pumping this material out to them to make a buck.

I see, of course, that Christians have been selling Jesus as a product for decades now, and I don’t only mean “Jesus Junk” (the t-shirts and bracelets that have Bible verses imprinted on them and so on), but your “Word of Faith” tele-evangelists who sell Jesus to make a profit.

The smarmy Word of Faith preachers promise you that if you tithe, or send them at least a one time check of X amount, that God will heal you, restore your marriage, or bless your finances.

That is pretty bad. But I find it highly distasteful that sexual purity is also being pushed as a money making venture by these people.

I lived out virginity (and I’m over 40 years of age) out of principle and true love for God, and I find it objectionable that evangelicals are turning these issues into a means to make money.

I find it appalling that virginity and sexuality are being shilled for a buck by evangelicals and Neo Calvinists.

That Christians are selling sex as a product at all, even in the form of sexual purity products (such as purity rings), and even under the guise of G-rated to PG- rated (or in the case of preacher Mark Driscoll, R- to- X rated) “marriage (sex)” guidance books, is still selling sex, which makes them like Madams of Whorehouses.

In my opinion, Christians selling sexual purity products or marital sex books is only removed a few degrees from secular culture, which also sells sex, via Playboy magazine, X-rated movies, and using large chested, bikini clad models on TV commercials to sell hamburgers.

I have discussed this before, such as:

(Link):  Sexual Purity, Virginity, and Celibacy As Product – and: Christian Myths That Are Keeping Marriage Minded Single Women Single Courtesy Dannah Gresh

Excerpts from (and I have more thoughts about this far, far below):

(Link): The Warrior Wives of Evangelical Christianity by Emma Green

  • “Your husband will want sex way more than you do,” advises Elizabeth of the blog Warrior Wives in a post called (Link): Wifey Sex Confessions.”
  • “God just made him to think about sex more than you. … Never demean this about him. Never laugh at him or make fun of him. Accept it as a difference.”
  • Accept it as a difference. It may sound like so much cliched marital advice, but this is a much-discussed idea about sexuality in the evangelical Christian community: Men and women are different.

  •  “There’s a lot of concern among evangelical men and women about traditional roles being overturned,” said Amy DeRogatis, an associate professor of religion at Michigan State University, in an interview. Her new book, Saving Sex, focuses on the anxieties evangelicals feel about sexuality in American culture. But not other people’s sexuality—their own.
  • Amid the recent wave of gay-marriage legalizations and debates over reproductive rights that were sparked by this summer’s Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby, it can be easy to assume that evangelical teachings on sexuality are straightforwardly traditional.
  • But “how you have sex, when you have sex, the amount of sex you have, when you have children—even the smallest act within an evangelical marriage can have these larger-than-life meanings,” said DeRogatis. “How you have sex within marriage is incredibly important for you as a Christian, and also as a form of witnessing.”
  • What this means is that there’s a surprising amount of sex talk within the evangelical community. A vast industry is dedicated to publishing Christian self-help books with titles like The Gift of Sex and Sexperiment: 7 Days to Lasting Intimacy with Your Spouse. Megachurch preachers like T.D. Jakes and former Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll have given (Link): numerous well-publicized sermons about male and female sexuality and appropriate sexual behavior for Christians.
  • And then there are (Link): the blogsblogs on blogs on blogs. There are so many sites focused on sexuality within evangelical marriages that they even have their own organization: (Link): the Christian Marriage Bloggers Association, “a place for those who support and encourage strong marriages.”
  • Within this constellation of writers, there are a few distinct movements. Some identify with the label of “Biblical Womanhood” or “Titus 2,” which refers to a passage in the Bible about (Link): the traits that distinguish men and women. There are pro-natalists, who argue against the use of any kind of contraception. And the “purity industry,” as DeRogatis calls it, encourages teen women to commit to remaining virgins by taking pledges, wearing rings, participating in workshops, and attending “purity balls.”
  • Some of these movements have gotten attention in pop culture. The 2012 TLC show Virgin Diaries followed adult men and women who had never had sex, many of whom were evangelical Christians. Another TLC show, 19 Kids and Counting, features the Duggars, a 21-member family in Arkansas that’s part of the Quiverfull movement, also sometimes called the Christian Patriarchy Movement.
  • ….Among these groups, there are a number of perspectives on sexual morality. Some say kissing before marriage is fine, some don’t; others say condoms are fine, or not. There’s even a degree of internal conflict among them…
  • …. But these groups also share certain qualities and ideas. The first is probably obvious: Evangelical sexuality is overwhelmingly framed in opposition to “mainstream” culture. “Over the past thirty or forty years, evangelicals have been galvanized, often by pastors, and sometimes political leaders, to look at secular culture and see it as being in opposition to moral values, traditional values, Biblical values,” DeRogatis said. This has created a sense of division between evangelicals and the rest of American culture, and “one of the arenas where that gets worked out has to do with sexuality.”
  • ….Of all the secular specters that haunt the evangelical community, “feminism” is probably among the most disdained. Insofar as the movement is associated with certain legislation, litigation, and causes—like the Equal Rights Amendment, and Roe vs. Wade, and birth-control access—it has very much been in tension with evangelical teachings and sensibilities.
  • This isn’t just about moral opposition to abortion, although that’s certainly part of it; it’s also about reaffirming the God-given, differentiated sexuality of men and women. “The feminist doctrine of our time upholds the notion that femininity is a matter of cultural conditioning,” writes the evangelical author Carolyn Mahaney in her book Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God. “Many feminists argue that the only essential difference between men and women is our anatomy, but Genesis teaches otherwise.”
  • In her book, DeRogatis notes an interesting twist in the relationship between feminism and evangelicalism. “Many people, over time, started to notice that some of the buzzwords within feminism could be reworked—particularly ’empowerment,'” she said in an interview. Evangelical leaders “pretty consciously started using the language of empowerment to redefine it in different ways.”

    Ironically, this is most potent for young women who grew up in an era of growing rights for women, DeRogatis said. “In the purity movement … young women are told that [the way] to be truly valued, and truly powerful, is not through the promises of feminism,” she said. It’s “through the Biblical worldview, where women are protected, and their bodies aren’t disrespected, and they’re really valued for who they are and what they can do.”

    There are echoes of this kind of counter-feminist backlash among young women who aren’t necessarily evangelical Christians, too.

    On the Tumblr page“Women Against Feminism,” women hold up signs explaining their reasons for rejecting the movement, often using the vocabulary of empowerment—intentionally or not: (Link): “I am done with feminism because I have equality and my own voice.”

    Or  (Link): “I don’t need feminism because I’m not going to empower myself by bringing others down.”

    The distinctive sexuality of men and women comes up (Link): again and again: Feminism, these women claim, forbids femininity—something they see as fundamental to their identities.

    People who write and preach on Christian sexual mores have almost certainly helped shape and grow this pushback against feminism in broader American culture. The effect is a kind of momentum—a feeling of counter-cultural sisterhood. It’s an “emerging, conservative feminist identity,” as Sarah Palin called it in 2010.

    In much of the evangelical literature DeRogatis explores, the tone defies stereotypes about Puritanical sexual mores in the Christian community. “…Many American evangelicals have come to believe that good marital sex is not just ordained by God, but is healthy and leads to strong self-esteem, financial prosperity, and heightened spiritual awareness,” she writes.

    Often co-authored by husband and wife pairs, popular sex guides from the last two decades explore everything from the the role of anal sex in Biblical marriages to the virtues of sex toys and raunchy costumes. One author, Marabel Morgan, suggests women should try setting up different scenes and creatively using props, such as a trampoline, to initiate sex.

    “The message of this multi-million dollar publishing industry is clear: Evangelical Christians have the best sex,” DeRogatis writes.

    Predictably, this idea evolved symbiotically with the sexual revolution. “Most early twentieth-century Protestant authors who wrote about sex discussed it in moral and spiritual terms, leaving … technique to trained medical experts,” DeRogatis writes. But with the 1967 publication of Herbert J. Miles’s Sexual Happiness in Marriage, that changed. He argued that the “one-flesh relationship” between husbands and wives is the natural basis of all marriages—and, moreover, that “sex is only Christian sex if both spouses are sexually satisfied.”

    …This raises the stakes of evangelical sexuality. Biblically inspired gender identity and sexuality isn’t just a Sarah Palin-esque counter-cultural fad; it’s tied to the foundational beliefs of a large group of Christians. Purity movements like “True Love Waits” and organizations like The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood developed in response to, and in tandem with, the sexual revolution and everything after; ultimately, they’re an attempt to protect what’s seen as a core Christian value.

    To these men and women, Biblical sexuality is a fundamental part of being a person of faith.

    …There’s a “really strong emphasis in the literature that you refrain from sex prior to marriage, then you get married, and within marriage you have children, and you stay married,” she said. “There isn’t a lot of wiggle room there, or even frank discussion, about the real people who don’t live up to that ideal.”

    Although she stressed that this topic was not a main focus of her research, she did find somewhat different language in the sermons of African American pastors like T.D. Jakes.

    “What I saw in Jakes was a tendency to focus more on wholeness and on forgiving yourself: Your sexual past or things that might be seen as sexual indiscretions might be forgiveable. They don’t ruin you for the future,” she said.

    Although DeRogatis said that the audience Jakes is speaking to probably includes more people with experiences that fall outside of the evangelical “ideal” of a lifelong marriage and a minivan full of kids, she also pointed out that this experience probably isn’t shared by many white evangelicals, either. It’s all about “who’s writing the books and who’s selling them—who has the market on the books, and who’s buying them.”

    ((click here to read the rest))

I would like to break this down paragraph by paragraph, point by point, or what have you.

First quote:

  • “Your husband will want sex way more than you do,” advises Elizabeth of the blog Warrior Wives in a post called “Wifey Sex Confessions.”
  • “God just made him to think about sex more than you. … Never demean this about him. Never laugh at him or make fun of him. Accept it as a difference.”

I’ve refuted these ideas before. Sometimes women want sex more than men, and women are also visually stimulated.

See these posts:

(Link): When Women Wanted Sex Much More Than Men by A. Goldstein

(Link):  Christian Gender and Sex Stereotypes Act as Obstacles to Christian Singles Who Want to Get Married (Not All Men Are Obsessed with Sex)

(Link):  Atlantic: “The case for abandoning the myth that ‘women aren’t visual.’”

(Link): Women Are Visual And Like Hot Looking Men (Part 1) Joseph in Genesis Was A Stud Muffin

(Link):  Groundbreaking News: Women Like Sex (part 1, 2) (articles)

(Link):  Christian Stereotypes About Female Sexuality : All Unmarried Women Are Supposedly Hyper Sexed Harlots – But All Married Ones are Supposedly Frigid or Totally Uninterested in Sex

Next quote (this is from the usual Christian view, at least by people such as Christian gender complementarians):

  • Men and women are different.
  • … “The feminist doctrine of our time upholds the notion that femininity is a matter of cultural conditioning,” writes the evangelical author Carolyn Mahaney in her book Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God. “Many feminists argue that the only essential difference between men and women is our anatomy, but Genesis teaches otherwise.”

I’m not a friend of secular, left wing feminists and disagree with them more often than I agree with them (for example, and for example), but on this score, I agree with them, for the most part.

I do think a lot of what passes for “biblical womanhood” by “gender complementarians” (such as the folks at Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) are social constructs, not actually biblically supported or taught principles, and, in some cases, not intended for all women across all time periods in all cultures.

I was a tom boy when I was a girl. I did not like to wear dresses or act “prim and proper,” and I hated dolls. I didn’t like real, live babies (still don’t) and didn’t hanker to have a baby much as an adult.

I resented evangelical culture, and my traditional Christian mother, constantly trying to cram me into a box, one that said that women should not enjoy motorcycles, should want to be a mother, should want to wear pink, frilly dresses, etc.

None of that fit me.

I tried to adapt to some of those standards as I got older, because I noticed that when girls did not attempt to meet those roles, they would be penalized or shunned by other girls, even at secular school.

Girls would pressure other girls into being girly, passive, submissive, and indirect – and I hated it. I’m talking about girls in my neighborhood, at my church, and at school. This pressure was everywhere.

As a kid, I hated being girly, passive, and all those other qualities, and I hated that other girls (and some adults in my life) were pressuring me to behave that way.

A lot of Christian gender complementarianism (sometimes referred to as “biblical womanhood”) as taught for and at women, by Christians, is identical to codependency.

I do not have the patience to flesh this out, so I would direct you to read books with “codependency” or “people pleasing” in their titles.

The Bible tells people – men and women – to refrain and avoid being codependent (though the Bible uses different terminology to describe this), but many Christians wrongly assume that typical codependent traits are biblical ideals for women  (such as being passive, submissive, maternal, deferring to men, being quiet, non-assertive, self-sacrificing, giving, etc).

I would direct you to these posts for somewhat related topics on that:

(Link):  Southern Baptist’s New Sexist “Biblical Woman” Site – Attitudes in Total Face Palm of a Site One Reason Among Many This Unmarried and Childless Woman Is Saying Toodle-Oo to Christianity

(Link):  The Irrelevancy To Single or Childless or Childfree Christian Women of Biblical Gender Complementarian Roles / Biblical Womanhood Teachings

Quote from “The Warrior Wives of Evangelical Christianity”:

  • But “how you have sex, when you have sex, the amount of sex you have, when you have children—even the smallest act within an evangelical marriage can have these larger-than-life meanings,” said DeRogatis. “How you have sex within marriage is incredibly important for you as a Christian, and also as a form of witnessing.”

I agree that Christians are obsessed with sex – they refuse to acknowledge that adult singleness and adult celibacy / virginity are also valid testimonies to the Christian faith.

On the other hand, I’m not sure how proper or normal it is to use marital sex as some kind of testimony to Non-Christians; it seems weird and inappropriate, such as:

(Link):  Preacher: ‘They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Hot SEX Lives’ – and once more, never-married celibate adults and their experiences, wisdom, and input are ignored

(Link): Want To Grow Your Church? Advertise Sex. (story via A Little Leaven blog)

Also (and this is an off site link):

(Link): The Church of Sex

Quote from The Warrior Wives of Evangelical Christianity:

  • What this means is that there’s a surprising amount of sex talk within the evangelical community.
  • …A vast industry is dedicated to publishing Christian self-help books with titles like The Gift of Sex and Sexperiment: 7 Days to Lasting Intimacy with Your Spouse. Megachurch preachers like T.D. Jakes and former Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll have given numerous well-publicized sermons about male and female sexuality and appropriate sexual behavior for Christians.

No effing kidding! Try being a celibate adult sitting in an average sermon today, or reading most Christian blogs, and it’s difficult, because most of them extol the wonders of sex, which is like a preacher extolling the wonders of pizza, cake, and potato chips to congregants who are on a diet.

See also:

(Link): I see you’ve never heard of Mark Driscoll

Quote from The Warrior Wives of Evangelical Christianity:

  • There are pro-natalists, who argue against the use of any kind of contraception

See these posts for my comments on that topic:

(Link): Natalism Defined and Discussed

(Link):  Conservatives and Christians Fretting About U.S. Population Decline – We Must “Out-breed” Opponents Christian Host Says

(Link):  Are Marriage and Family A Woman’s Highest Calling? by Marcia Wolf – and other links that address the Christian fallacy that a woman’s most godly or only proper role is as wife and mother

(Link):  Southern Baptists Pushing Early Marriage, Baby Making – Iranians Pushing Mandatory Motherhood – When Christians Sound Like Muslims

Quote from The Warrior Wives of Evangelical Christianity:

  • And the “purity industry,” as DeRogatis calls it, encourages teen women to commit to remaining virgins by taking pledges, wearing rings, participating in workshops, and attending “purity balls.”

See these posts for my comments on that topic:

(Link): I thought Christians “worshipped” virginity? Guess not: TLW (True Love Waits) Spokesman Says TLW Will NOT “Elevate Virginity” – LifeWay to Relaunch “True Love Waits” Campaign

(Link): A Female’s Virginity Belongs To Her – Not Her Father or Husband – Re: Purity Balls

(Link): The Annoying, Weird, Sexist Preoccupation by Many Christian Males with Female Looks and Sexuality

Quote from The Warrior Wives of Evangelical Christianity:

  • Of all the secular specters that haunt the evangelical community, “feminism” is probably among the most disdained. Insofar as the movement is associated with certain legislation, litigation, and causes—like the Equal Rights Amendment, and Roe vs. Wade, and birth-control access—it has very much been in tension with evangelical teachings and sensibilities.

Feminism is not the problem, or not the major problem. I’ve written of this subject before in other posts, please see:

(Link): How (Married) Christians and Christian Teachings About Dating/Marriage (- AND NOT FEMINISM -) Are Keeping Single Christians Single Part 1

(Link): How Christian Teaching on Gender Roles and Sex Can Mess People Up in Adulthood (from Wine and Marble blog, post by a former Christian guy)

(Link): How Christians Keep Christians Single (part 3) – Restrictive Gender Roles Taught as Biblical

(Link): Christian Males Blaming their Unwanted Protracted Singleness on Feminism – They have the wrong target

Quote from The Warrior Wives of Evangelical Christianity:

  • “In the purity movement … young women are told that [the way] to be truly valued, and truly powerful, is not through the promises of feminism,” she said. It’s “through the Biblical worldview, where women are protected, and their bodies aren’t disrespected, and they’re really valued for who they are and what they can do.”

No, sadly, as someone who was a very conservative Christian up until a year or two ago (though I still adhere to traditional values and am only partially a Christian anymore), I can tell you as a never married, childless woman, that conservative Christians only pay lip service to respecting adult singleness and celibacy.

In truth, there is no place for single, celibate adults in Christianity.

Women in American Christianity are only valued for playing the roles of wife and mother.

If a Christian woman never married and never has children, whether by choice or circumstance, she is either completely overlooked in U.S. expressions of the faith, or is insulted, put down, blamed, treated with suspicion and given the message that she has failed at her only or most important God ordained purposes in life, to serve a husband and pop out children.

Churches and Christian material rarely encourage, talk about, opine about, investigate, explain, research, or instruct about adult singleness and adult celibacy.

Most all Christian sermons, ministries, blogs, radio shows, and books are for and about married couples and parents.

Here are several posts pertaining to those subjects:

(Link): Male Entitlement and Adult Virginity: Who has it worse, Male Vs. Female? (critique of post at other blog)

(Link): Never Married Christians Over Age 35 who are childless Are More Ignored Than Divorced or Infertile People or Single Parents

(Link): Sorry, but being a mother is not the most important job in the world, by Catherine Deveny

(Link): Family as “The” Backbone of Society? – It’s Not In The Bible

(Link): The Irrelevancy To Single or Childless or Childfree Christian Women of Biblical Gender Complementarian Roles / Biblical Womanhood Teachings

(Link): “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” – one of the most excellent Christian rebuttals I have seen against the Christian idolatry of marriage and natalism, and in support of adult singleness and celibacy – from CBE’s site

Quote from The Warrior Wives of Evangelical Christianity:

  • “The message of this multi-million dollar publishing industry is clear: Evangelical Christians have the best sex,” DeRogatis writes.

So I suppose it’s money that drives all the Christian penned sex books, not a sincere desire to see people live chaste lifestyles.

Quote from The Warrior Wives of Evangelical Christianity:

  • To these men and women, Biblical sexuality is a fundamental part of being a person of faith.

And observe that like secular culture, many Christians assume that there is no such thing as a celibate adult past 30 and the few times this fact is acknowledged,   Christians, including pastors, often make several incorrect assumptions, such as:

-celibates are the same as asexuals and lack a libido;

-celibate adults are specially graced or gifted by God so as to make being celibate a cake walk (ie, the implied view is again, celibates must not experience sexual desire, how else do they manage to go for years without sex), etc.

For more on that see:

(Link): Typical Incorrect Assumptions About Adult Celibacy by Christians (discusses in particular Rev Driscoll and his anti singleness views)

(Link): There is No Such Thing as a Gift of Singleness or Gift of Celibacy or A Calling To Either One

(Link): The Myth of the Gift – Regarding Christian Teachings on Gift of Singleness and Gift of Celibacy

(Link): Typical Erroneous Teaching About Adult Celibacy Rears Its Head Again: To Paraphrase Speaker at Ethics and Public Policy Center: Lifelong Celibacy is “heroic ethical standard that is not expected of heteros, so it should not be expected of homosexuals” (ie, it’s supposedly an impossible feat for any human being to achieve)

(Link): Why So Much Fornication Among Christians and Secular Society – Because Christians and Secularists Have No Expectation of Sexual Purity

Quote from The Warrior Wives of Evangelical Christianity:

  • “What I saw in Jakes was a tendency to focus more on wholeness and on forgiving yourself: Your sexual past or things that might be seen as sexual indiscretions might be forgiveable. They don’t ruin you for the future,” she said.

Maybe so, but:

(Link): Christian Response FAIL to Sexual Sin – Easy Forgivism

(Link): Anti Virginity Editorial by Christian Blogger Tim Challies – Do Hurt / Shame Feelings or Sexual Abuse Mean Christians Should Cease Supporting Virginity or Teaching About Sexual Purity

(Link): Biblical Balance in Teaching About Sexual Sin – don’t white wash and downplay sexual sin, but don’t continually beat people up over it

(Link): Permissiveness, Cheap Grace, and Easy Forgivism Run Amok in Christianity – Dallas Preacher Todd Wagner Says Christians Can Use Heroin / Why some Christians turn agnostic

——————————-

Related posts:

(Link): No, Christians and Churches Do Not Idolize Virginity and Sexual Purity

(Link): Christians Who Attack Virginity Celibacy and Sexual Purity – and specifically Russell D. Moore and James M. Kushiner

(Link): Preachers Arrested For, or Accused of, Promoting Prostitution, Rape, Spreading HIV, Child Molesting etc – And Christian Single Women Should Only Consider Marrying So Called Christian Men Why?

(Link): More Anti Singleness Bias From Al Mohler – Despite the Bible Says It Is Better Not To Marry

(Link): Why Christians Need to Uphold Lifelong Celibacy as an Option for All Instead of Merely Pressuring All to Marry – vis a vis Sexless Marriages, Counselors Who Tell Marrieds that Having Affairs Can Help their Marriages

(Link): Pro Ball Player Convicted for Kid Diddling Three Kids Claims to be an Outstanding Christian (and he’s married with a kid of his own) – again, why should Christian single gals limit themselves to only marrying Christian men? The Whole “Being Yoked Equally” thing is irrelevant and unduly limiting for singles

(Link): Sometimes Shame Guilt and Hurt Feelings Over Sexual Sins Is a Good Thing – but – Emergents, Liberals Who Are Into Virgin and Celibate Shaming

(Link): Fathers and Married Men Caught In Pedo Sting by Authorities – Being Married or A Parent Does Not Make Person More Godly or Mature