In the Biblical Sense
A Guide to The Booming Christian Sex-Advice Industry
By Mark Oppenheimer
November 29, 1999
When University of Chicago researchers set out to discover which religious
denominations have the best sex, they learned that the faithful dont do all their
shouting in church. Conservative Protestant women, their 1994 survey found, report by far
the most orgasms: Thirty-two percent say they achieve orgasm every time they make love.
Mainline Protestants and Catholics lagged five points behind. Those with no religious
affiliation were at 22 percent. (Unitarians may not wish to read any further.)
What are the Phyllis Schlaflys of the worldthose twice-born PTA momsdoing
in bed that the agnostics and unbelievers are not? Education may explain some of their
sexual satisfaction. (Click here
for how.) But they also may be getting better sex advice. Thanks to evangelisms
surge during the past quarter-century, America is in a golden age for Christian sex
manuals. Evangelicals may not want their children to study sex ed in school, but they are
not afraid of studying a little sex ed in their bedrooms.
The modern Christian sex advice business dates to 1973, when the evangelical Marabel
Morgan achieved brief notoriety for The Total Woman. Morgan famously suggested that wives
spice up their marriage by greeting their husbands at the door wearing nothing but Saran
Wrapa seduction attempted with sad consequences for Kathy Bates in the movie Fried
Green Tomatoes. James Dobson, founder of the evangelical group Focus on the Family,
published a sex-and-marriage book in 1975. Best-selling Christian authors Tim and Beverly
LaHaye followed in 1976 (also the year of Helen Wessels The Joy of Natural
Childbirth, which taught Lamaze from a Christian perspective). Scores of books have
followed, selling millions of copies.
While the Marabel Morgan book aimed chiefly to comfort and instruct the wife on holding
the attention of her husbandimplying without subtlety that any sexual problems were
her faultlater writers have expanded the boundaries of the field, which is now
marketed as "family counseling," a category that includes child-rearing,
lovemaking, marital relations and, of course, sexual orientation. Today, the genre has
even subdivided into niche markets. Teens can buy I Kissed Dating Goodbye, by Joshua
Harris, which counsels against early sexual experience. Earl Johnsons Single Life:
Being Your Best for God as He Prepares His Best for You assures black women that their
single status, which demographics may brutally enforce, can be "a celebration rather
than a burden." Numerous books target gays for "recovery," including Coming
Out of Homosexuality, by Bob Davies, dean of the ex-gay evangelists.
Sex-and-marriage guides are the best sellers of the genre, and Tim LaHaye has emerged
as its Alex Comfort. If youre a Christian who wants to go forth and multiply,
hes your guide. Lately on the best-seller lists for the six apocalyptic novels in
his "Left Behind" series, which have sold nearly 10 million copies, LaHaye has
long been a household name among fundamentalists for his works on sexual and family life.
His most famous book, the wonderfully titled How To Be Happy Though Married, hearkens back
to another era, in ways both quaint and disturbing. LaHaye rehashes all the conventional
ideas about male and female sexuality. For example, he perpetuates the Freudian myth about
vaginal vs. clitoral orgasms, and he views male sexuality as essentially dangerous.
"The sex drive in a man is almost volcanic in its latent ability to erupt at the
slightest provocation." Men are stimulated by sight, says LaHaye, women by words and
touch. In the LaHaye scheme, the New Testament is a sexual guide. Matthew 5:28, for
instance, says, "But I say unto you, that whosoever look unto a woman to lust after
her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." But Jesus made no such
statement about women because most women do not look at men with lust. Thus man
"should be the initiator because of [his] stronger sex drive," while "the
role of the woman is to respond."
LaHayes books have their share of quackery and pseudoscience, but that does not
preclude some genuinely wise counsel to loversespecially inexperienced ones. He is
wonderfully clear and clinical about the mechanics of sex. Here is part of his description
of female sexual arousal, for example: "When a woman is sexually aroused, several of
her glands begin to secrete a lubrication that bathes the vulva area with a slippery
mucous, easing the entrance of the penis into the vagina." For young marrieds who
have grown up shielded from the universal sex talk of the secular world, these details are
Perhaps the most notable quality of the Christian sex business is that it is
evangelical, not puritanical. It is very pro-sexas long as sex takes place in the
context of marriage. Ed and Gaye Wheat, authors of Intended for Pleasure: Sex Technique
and Sexual Fulfillment in Christian Marriage, may curiously advise "taking an acid or
alkaline douche just before intercourse" to select the sex of ones baby (they
dont say which douche is for which sex), but their overall tone is both practical
and sensual. They note that lubricant works best if you first "warm the K-Y Jelly by
holding the tube in warm, running water." They advise that newlyweds should "not
get a TV set for at least one year" and that "every master bedroom needs a good
lock." The Wheats and LaHaye offer finely wrought anatomical diagrams, exhortations
to married couples to communicate, reminders to "observe daily hygiene habits,"
and constant refrains about making sure to satisfy your partner. Bob Davies allows that
masturbation is biblically permissible. The Wheats condemn oral sex and vibrators only
because they might be too fun, thus souring couples on intercourse. The writers do not
invoke the language of sin.
Christian sex counselors are most alienating to worldly audiences when they talk about
masculinity and homosexuality. They are obsessed with manliness and have a narrow idea of
what that means. Self-styled natural law theologian Anthony Moccia writes in Happily Ever
After: How To Stay Married and Be Happy Too! that "a husband has more of a chance to
keep his marriage together if he is rough and abusive but assertive than if he is kind and
considerate but submissive." (Moccias greatest professional qualification,
according to the jacket flap, is an appearance on the Morton Downey Jr. Show.)
Moccias tone is atypically harsh, but his message is shared by other counselors.
Noted preacher T.D. Jakes, who presides over a Dallas-based empire of books, tapes, and TV
shows, wants to "heal" not just homosexuals, but all "men who are feminine
in their mannerisms." These Christian sex writers contend unequivocally that gays can
simply turn straight through faith and willpower. They generally describe gays with crude
stereotypes. In What Everyone Should Know About Homosexuality, LaHaye employs Galens
theory of the four humors to help explain gayness. "It has been my observation,"
LaHaye writes, "that most homosexuals reflect a high degree of Melancholy
temperament""sensitive, artistic, gifted."
The Christian love doctors believe, against all evidence, that teen-agers can squelch
their hormones and homosexuals their essences. Still, for the tens of millions of married
couples who just need a little cheerleadingor a detailed diagramtheir books
may literally be a godsend. LaHayes advice, from the most florid talk of
"eruptive" and "electrifying" touches to his prim injunction to
"refrain from the use of back-alley words" during coitus, wont please
everybody. But with more than 2 million copies sold, hes one evangelist who is
spreading the good news.
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Christian sex guides recommending sodomy, but only for married heterosexuals:
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