Bare Marriage

Episode 233: The Backlash from Those Defending Purity Culture feat. Zachary Wagner

April 18, 2024 Sheila Gregoire Season 7 Episode 233
Episode 233: The Backlash from Those Defending Purity Culture feat. Zachary Wagner
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Bare Marriage
Episode 233: The Backlash from Those Defending Purity Culture feat. Zachary Wagner
Apr 18, 2024 Season 7 Episode 233
Sheila Gregoire

With the release of so many books critiquing purity culture, what has the backlash been like? Well, let’s talk about it with Zachary Wagner, the author of Non-Toxic Masculinity as we celebrate the one-year anniversary of the launch of She Deserves Better.

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About Zachary Wagner: 

Things Mentioned in the Podcast: 

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Check out her books:

And she has an Orgasm Course and a Libido course too!

Check out all her courses, FREE resources, books, and so much more at Sheila's LinkTree.

Show Notes Transcript

With the release of so many books critiquing purity culture, what has the backlash been like? Well, let’s talk about it with Zachary Wagner, the author of Non-Toxic Masculinity as we celebrate the one-year anniversary of the launch of She Deserves Better.

To Support Us:

About Zachary Wagner: 

Things Mentioned in the Podcast: 

Join Sheila at Bare!

Check out her books:

And she has an Orgasm Course and a Libido course too!

Check out all her courses, FREE resources, books, and so much more at Sheila's LinkTree.

Sheila: Welcome to the Bare Marriage podcast.  I’m Sheila Wray Gregoire from where we like to talk about healthy, evidence-based, biblical advice for your parenting and your marriage and your sex life.  And I am joined today by my daughter, Rebecca Lindenbach.  

Rebecca: Hola. 

Sheila: And we are celebrating.  What are we celebrating, Rebecca?

Rebecca: We are celebrating a year of She Deserves Better.  It’s your birthday.

Sheila: Yes.  So we wrote our book, She Deserves Better.  It’s based on a survey of 7,000 predominantly evangelical women.  I think 7,400 or something.  Tell them it’s why 7,400.

Rebecca: So here’s the thing.  So we did—we used SurveyMonkey for our surveys, right?  So we did GSR, The Great Sex Rescue.  We got the unlimited package where you just get unlimited of questions, unlimited amount of respondents, unlimited everything.  We did that, got 22,000 respondents, crashed SurveyMonkey.  Crashed them big time.  They had to use an FTP protocol to go into their back servers to get us our data.

Sheila: Yeah.  We couldn’t even download it.

Rebecca: No.  So anyway—so then we went to do our next one.  There is no unlimited option anymore.  It caps you at 7,500.  

Sheila: Well, you have to start paying more money.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  You pay a flat rate up to the first 7,500, and then you have to pay per respondent after that.  

Sheila: And we were cheap. 

Rebecca: And we were cheap.  And we were like, “You know what?”  Joanna ran all of the statistical models to figure out how many participants we needed for the power that we’d need.  And she was like, “7,500 is triple what we need.”  So the minute we got to 7,460 we shut her down because we did not want to pay anything more.  So we broke SurveyMonkey.

Sheila: Yeah.  We’re sorry about that.  If you’re a researcher trying to use SurveyMonkey, there is no longer the unlimited feature.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  It’s probably our fault because you can’t do unlimited.  

Sheila: But after we wrote Great Sex Rescue, so many people were saying, “This book really set me free, and I feel so great.”  Please, everybody.  Go to Amazon.  Look up Great Sex Rescue and read the reviews because that’s what people said.  I feel so validated.  I feel so free.  But now I’ve absolutely no idea what to tell my kids.  And so She Deserves Better came out of that.  So we were looking at how things that girls experienced teenagers in church—so messages they were taught, things they believed, rules they had around dating, things they might have undergone at youth group—how did those things impact them long term?  So we looked at marital and sexual satisfaction, if they got married, if they wanted to get married.  We looked at long term self esteem.  All kinds of different outcome variables.  And we focused on all kinds of different things.  And at the end of each chapter, there is exercises that you can walk through with your daughter or if you’re a youth leader with the girls in your youth group.  And we’ve just really been blown away by the reason.  It’s been really, really freeing.  So many people have only read SDB and not Great Sex Rescue.

Rebecca: I know.  It’s wild.

Sheila: And they recommend it all the time on Instagram.  And yeah.  So, again, just really freeing to be able to tell girls, “Hey, you deserved better.” 

Rebecca: Mm-hmm.  And so let’s give the next generation more.

Sheila: Exactly.  Let’s stop it now.  And so we thought today we could have a little bit of a conversation with someone who has been doing kind of a similar thing on the men’s side, Zachary Wagner, who wrote the book Non-Toxic Masculinity.  Because as we’ve been calling out purity culture, people then respond to our critiques and say, “Well, here’s all the reasons why you’re wrong.”   And so we thought we could run through some of those critiques.

Rebecca: That’s a very generous way to describe what they’re doing.  They’re not responding to the critiques.  They’re not engaging with the critiques in any meaningful way.  They’re saying, “There are critics, and they’re bad.”  So anyway, it would be fun to see three examples of it.

Sheila: So here we go, and we’ll bring on Zach now.  Well, we are so happy to have one of our friends back on the podcast.  Zachary Wagner, who is the author of Non-Toxic Masculinity right here.  And, Zach, you’ve been on for one podcast where you talked about this book, and you were our guest along with Andrew Bauman when we talked about the wonderful book, Every Young Man’s Battle.

Rebecca: That was facetious.  That (cross talk) of wonderful was quite facetious for anyone who is new here.

Sheila: So welcome again.  We’re glad to have you.

Zachary: Yeah.  Great to be here as always, and thanks for having me back.

Sheila: Yeah.  So something funny happened to Zachary about a year ago where his book came out, and then The Gospel Coalition, Shane Morris, decided to write a review of it.  And the review was kind of problematic.  I don’t even want to talk about that review because it’s kind of irrelevant.  The main thing I want to talk about is Zachary wrote a really, really good response to that review and to the critics of his book.  And I think Zachary’s response kind of relates to our book too and what people have been saying about She Deserves Better.

Rebecca: Oh, absolutely.

Sheila: I thought we could just have Zachary on, and we could work through some of the points because I think these are common ways that people that are still stuck in purity culture thinking react when we start bringing up, “Hey, this stuff was harmful.”  And so I thought we could just dig into that.        

Rebecca: Sure.

Sheila: All right.  So first of all, let’s start with your definition of purity culture, which I really like.  You said, “Here’s how I define the term.  Purity culture refers to the theological assumptions, discipleship materials, events, and rhetorical strategies used to promote traditional Christian sexual ethics in response to the sexual revolution.” 

Rebecca: That’s a great definition.

Sheila: Yeah.  It’s not about sexual ethics.  That wasn’t really the point.

Zachary: Correct.  Yeah.  I think there are some critics of purity culture out there who would define it as any sort of quote unquote restrictive sexual ethic or any sort of—particularly any type of teaching that says sex and marriage ought to go together.  And that was something as I was processing some of my own story in history with purity culture four or five years ago—six years ago maybe is when that especially started for me.  That irritated me about some of the conversations.  I don’t want to generalize.  But some of the critics would, it seemed to me, use purity culture in this kind of sloppy way.  And I actually just don’t think that’s a helpful definition of purity culture.  That wouldn’t be unique to Christianity.  Quote unquote traditional sexual ethics are something—it’s not just an American, evangelical, subcultural thing from 20 years ago.   It’s millennia old, and it has a massive tradition in all sorts of religious and church traditions as well.  So when we’re talking about purity culture, I think it’s really important to historically situate it in that history that I just alluded to before.  The history of the last 50, 60 years beginning with the sexual revolution and what, in particular, the North American church did in response to that.  I think we’re on a much better foundation for understanding—this is overused in these conversations.  But what’s the baby?  What’s the bath water?  How can we have a helpful conversation about what is historic Christianity that we might want to hold on to?  And what are the cultural trappings around that that, in many cases, were less helpful or even unhelpful?  That’s what I’m trying to get at with that definition.  I’m happy to hear that it met with your approval.

Sheila: Yeah.  I have the advantage of age over both of you.

Zachary: Sure.  Yeah.

Sheila: And I grew up in downtown Toronto.  We definitely heart in my youth group about traditional sexual ethics.  Wait for marriage.  I did not ever hear a modesty message.  I did not ever hear that I was responsible for boys not sinning.

Rebecca:   I mean I’ve seen the pictures of what men were wearing in the 70s and 80s.  They (cross talk) for modesty messages.  I’m saying the crop tops and short short combo—

Zachary: The man thigh.

Rebecca: Yes.  The man thigh.  It’s not like people were all covered up back then.

Sheila: No.  Absolutely not.  So anyway, I think that’s really clear.  And what we try to do in She Deserves Better was say, “Hey, you can raise your daughter with values and to follow Jesus without all these trappings.”  And that’s what you were calling out for boys too in Non-Toxic Masculinity.  So good.  Okay.  

Rebecca: I also think that there’s a lot of understanding in the general culture that the sexual—having sexual boundaries is a good thing.  The issue is when we’re trying to define people by what they’ve done, right?  When we’re telling people what their worth is or that kind of thing.  So the idea that any sexual boundaries automatically purity culture I just—if you can find me evidence in the peer reviewed literature that having boundaries for your sexual activity is harmful in high school, I would love to see it.  But I don’t see it.  What I do see is the harm is in things like this where the rhetoric, the events, the identity, exactly what you have in your definition there.

Sheila: Yeah.  And this is what we talk about in She Deserves Better a ton.  So please pick up the book for the one year anniversary and help us and give it away.  Okay.  In your critique of this review, you kind of have five big points.  And I want to work through them in order.  And the first one is people accuse you of throwing out sexual ethics.  That if we’re going to throw out purity culture, it means that we’re throwing out all sexual ethics.  And as we said, that’s not the point at all.  But here’s something that you said.  “One of the questions I wanted to ask myself and my readers in writing this book was whether there was a way to address the most serious and egregious issues of sexual hypocrisy in the church today without revising a traditional sexual ethic.  And to do so in a way that might be of some help to people of my generation who are literally losing their faith because of these issues.”  And that’s our thing too.  It is pastorally irresponsible, as you said, to not address this stuff because people are walking away from the faith.  And so to not admit that harm was done is irresponsible.  And I want to play a clip from Bob Gresh.  This was from last week.  Bob and Dannah Gresh spoke at Cedarville University.  They did a Q&A.  And Dannah Gresh—we talked about her a lot in She Deserves Better.  She’s the one who wrote Secret Keeper Girl, who talked about how eight-year-old’s bellies are intoxicating to grown men and intoxicating means that men get out of control.  She wrote the terrible submission quiz.  She was the one who gave false information about condoms and infertility, all kinds of scare tactics.  And they did this in their books like And the Bride Wore White.  She coauthored Lies Young Women Believe, and we’ll be talking about that book next week on the podcast.  And they’ve been getting a lot of push back.  And so I want to play this clip.  But to set it up, I just want to say how interesting I think this is because they were supposed to give a talk.  And instead, Bob ended up interviewing Dannah and talking—and defending themselves about how they hadn’t actually hurt people.

Rebecca: Yeah.  And this was at Cedarville.

Sheila: Exactly.

Rebecca: Cedarville is wildly—

Sheila: It’s really conservative.  It’s more conservative than SBC seminaries, and they still felt that they had to defend themselves.  I mean I think that’s actually good news.  I think that that means that there is some push back coming.  But let’s listen to what Bob says.

Bob: Now I want to say something else.  Dannah led purity culture.  She wrote about purity culture.  And I’m sort of sick and tired of hearing everybody beat up purity culture as the most traumatic thing they’ve ever gone through.  And I’m also sick and tired—I’m sick and tired of that woke message.  And I’m also sick and tired of Christian leaders and institutions and people that won’t wake up to some of those messages and know that the good days weren’t always so good.  There were mistakes.  There were things that hurt people.  Don’t let your life be wrecked by a book.  It’s a book.  Don’t spend your life criticizing, becoming cynical.  Don’t just ingest every day from your phone negative, critical spirit from people who half the time don’t know what they’re talking about.  And they have no solutions.  They don’t deal in solutions and answers.  They deal in criticism, and it never gets to the exact point.  So I want to say that there are things we would change.  And I’m going to ask Dannah about that today.  But for those of you who throw out purity and sexuality and modesty because you don’t like purity culture, you need to start to grow up and realize that life is very complicated and that you get older and wiser.   And that click bait is easy when you just say nasty things, you get clicks.

Sheila: All right.  I love that how—what was it about the book?  

Rebecca: Don’t let a book ruin your life.  It’s just a book.

Sheila: Don’t let a book ruin your life.  It’s just a book.  Yeah.

Rebecca: But it’s not just a book because you said it was from God.  That’s what I always find very funny is it’s funny how inspired by God and how biblical and how Christian this all is until it starts to be proven wrong.  Then, well, it’s just a book.  It’s just silly.  Don’t worry about it.  It’s a book.  

Sheila: Yeah.  And then they accuse us of being click baity when we—

Rebecca: We literally just use their own quotes.  If their own quotes are so terrible that they’re click baity, I think that should prompt some reflection.

Sheila: But what he’s saying here at the end was, look, if you throw out purity culture then you have no way—we have to figure out how to talk about modesty and about sexual ethics and all of these things.  And this is what they can’t let go of is they can’t let go of the idea that hyper modesty needs to be taught.  So they say they know that purity culture was harmful, but they can’t let go of it.

Rebecca: Well, I think that—he even gets mad at the idea that people say that it was quite traumatic.  He says I’m just sick and tired of people saying that purity culture is the most traumatic thing they’ve ever been through.  And it’s like okay.  It probably is really hard for you, Bob, to hear that all of the 12-year-old girls, like me, who read your creepy articles—and I will say they were creepy.  As someone who now has a husband who is still 10 years younger at least than Bob Gresh was when he was writing those articles to me, at 12, thinking about being in the mindset of a man that old writing to preteen girls about their bodies that explicitly—there is no word for it other than creepy.  And Bob might feel uncomfortable about that.  But you know what you can do?  Then you can say, “Yeah.  It was creepy.  It was a weird time.  We’re going to retire and take care of our grandkids now.”  That’s the answer.  It’s not to get mad at everyone for calling the creepy thing creepy.  Every now and then I look at Connor, and I’m like, “You’re still only 30.  And it would still be creepy for you to write that way.”  I think he was the one who wrote the seeing a girl in a short skirt is like putting a noose around the spiritual life of the boys around you.  And I’m just like these kinds of things are weird and explaining how your body makes a shape in a man’s mind.  And he can’t help but think of it.  And this is what advertisers do.  And this is the power your body has.  It’s really creepy.

Zachary: Sorry.  I was just going to say.  Something that was striking to me about that clip particularly in the bit—I can see, to some extent, the point of don’t spend all of your life, all of your time, obsessing about some book that you read 20 years ago.  Point taken.  I think there is a sense where we can, in thinking about our stories, about our childhood traumas whether with a capital T or a lowercase T trauma, where you can kind of cycle on that in an unhealthy way rather than moving through the healing process and the journey of what does this mean for me now.  Fair enough.  Point taken.  But the whole you grow up and you mature implication that was underneath his comments here—something that came to mind for me is this was given to teenagers and authorized as this is the godly, divine, biblical way of thinking about these issues that teenagers are just starting to learn.  If you learn to drive a car the wrong way, you don’t—there’s some culpability for the adults who taught you to drive that car that way if they’re teaching you to drive it wrong.  I’m not sure if that analogy is especially helpful.

Sheila: No.  It absolutely does because that’s what he said.  He opens by saying that Dannah was purity culture.  And what we found too—we were not measuring the effects of books.  I want to make that clear.  In our survey for She Deserves Better, we measured the effects of teachings.  And then we looked at where these teachings could be found.  And they were found throughout Dannah’s books.  And the simple fact is the more that people are exposed to teachings like the modesty messages, how your body is a stumbling block and it can cause boys to sin, like the sexual gatekeeper idea where boys can’t help themselves—they’re going to pass a point of no return, and so you need to be the one to put the brakes on if you don’t want to have sex.  All of these kinds of messages that girls heard over and over and over again.  That girls talk too much, that they need to make themselves smaller, these were in Dannah’s books.  And because Dannah influenced, not just through her own books but through Brio magazine—she influenced a whole generation of youth pastors, who all taught this stuff.  So the girls, even if they didn’t read Dannah’s books, were still influenced by the things that Dannah said.  And yeah.  I’m sorry that they can’t just admit that.  What they’re saying is our problem is we’re not offering solutions.  

Rebecca:   And I think it’s very likely that they honestly believe that we’re not offering solutions, and I think that’s for two reasons.  I think, first of all, they haven’t actually read our materials.  The fact that they consistently get wrong even the most basic thing about what our survey was or studied I think that they’re getting their information from other people.

Sheila: Yeah.  I want to say I was in a Facebook conversation with Bob Gresh last week, and he kept saying that just because hundreds of people have complained on Facebook about our book.  Bob, we surveyed thousands upon thousands of people.  It’s not about—

Rebecca: And it’s not complaints about your book.  It’s complaints about this teaching that we then found exact quotes of in your book.  But I think the other thing is—so I think there’s one thing which is they haven’t actually read anything that they’re critiquing and that they’re mad about which is She Deserves Better, by the way.

Sheila: At the end of each chapter in She Deserves Better, we have exercises to do.  Mothers and daughters.  Lots of fun role playing things.  There’s lots of solutions.  Geez.

Rebecca: And throughout the entire book, we compare what we were told with how things should have been, right?  So there’s all of that.  But the other reason that they think that we have no solutions, I think, is because part of the—a lot of the solution is just to stop.  It’s not like we need something to fill the vacuum of this.  It always could have just been about Jesus.  We added unnecessary steps to the Gospel, and we’re just getting rid of them.  And so they’re saying, “Yeah.  But what about making sure that girls don’t show their shoulders?”  Well, they can show their shoulders.  That is okay.  But also there’s a level where it’s like we know that we tend to dress in shocking or provocative ways for reasons.  And often a lot of those reasons tend to be self esteem related or they tend to be because we’re seeking attention or because we enjoy having that reaction from people.  Frankly, if we focus more it’s becoming more spiritually healthy and spiritually holistically, just peaceful, and one with God, all that kind of stuff, a lot of these issues do genuinely kind of go to a wayside.  I have been raving about the anti modesty messages forever, and I’m still not out there in pasties and fishnet stockings.  You know what I mean?  There’s a level where there is—sometimes we’re making a problem where there wasn’t one.

Sheila: Well, again, my age here shows this.  But when I was in youth group, we just didn’t talk about modesty, and people were not walking around wearing nothing.  They really weren’t.  And so I think if we can just get back to Jesus and get back to focusing on faith and who you are in Christ a lot of this stuff won’t matter.  And that’s the problems we’re trying to add to it.  Okay.  Can we go on to the second point?  Is that okay?

Zachary: Yep.  Yep.

Sheila: Let’s do it.  The second attack that was made against you—and this one doesn’t fit with She Deserves Better as much, but I think it’s still important to bring up.  Is that it’s claimed that Zachary was saying that purity culture brought in toxic masculinity, right?  That it was purity culture that caused it.  And Zachary is like no.  No.  No.  No.  No.  And I’ll read you this.  “I wrote that the more urgent ethical imperative of our time isn’t whether teenagers are having sex with their boyfriends or girlfriends.  It is how we can stem the ongoing epidemic of abuse and dehumanization in our churches.  But Morris suggests this is evidence that I am unconcerned with Christian sexual ethics, or at least that the historic Christian sexual ethic itself is nonessential to my argument.  However this betrays a narrow view of sexual ethics, where said ethics are only about premarital abstinence or opposing same-sex practice.  But surely Morris would grant that a robustly Christian sexual ethic must include a forceful rejection of sexual violence and dehumanization.  Indeed, I would argue that, as long as we fail to take seriously and address the epidemic of abuse in the church, any arguments for traditional views on sexuality will rightly continue to be seen as hollow and hypocritical.”

Rebecca: Yep.

Sheila: I was going to play this clip later in the podcast, but can I play this clip now?  This is from Fred Stoeker, who is one of the coauthors of Every Man’s Battle and Every Young Man’s Battle.  And this is from an episode he did on the Focus on the Family podcast. 

Rebecca: Oh, yeah. Our favorite.

Sheila: So let’s just listen to Fred for a minute here.

Fred: The second vulnerability in a man is this our sexuality—our native language of passing intimacy with a girl is pretty sexual.  Okay?  So what happens is that when we’re with a girl, the natural way, we’re going to want to express that as sexually.  Okay?  Now we know we can’t do that biblically, but we tend to want to express it that way.  But the biggest problem is not how much we’re pushing on the boundaries of our girlfriends.  The biggest problem that that creates in our lives is this.  That we can look at a naked picture of a girl—it’s just a picture.  Okay?  But when we enter into self gratification as we view that and we have this big burst of pleasure chemicals into the brain, that gives us this really medicated feeling.  And even though that’s not genuine intimacy because that’s just a girl on a page, it has the sense of intimacy in us because of the way our sexuality is built.  And so what happens over time is that—let’s say our dad gets divorced, or we lose our spot on the football team.  Or we break up with a girl, whatever.  Any of those kinds of emotional blows that we take we can easily run to pornography or some other sexuality.

Male Voice: So it’s used as a form of medication?

Fred: It’s like a drug to us.  It’s a medicating drug for us.  And so think about it.  We’ve got eyes that can draw sexual gratification from anything around us.  And then think about how girls dress across this nation.

Sheila: All right.  Here’s why I wanted to play that clip.  He said the biggest problem is not how much we are pushing the sexual boundaries of our girlfriends.  The biggest problem is when we turn to lust and masturbation.  Do you know what the word is?  There’s another word for pushing the sexual boundaries of your girlfriend.  And that would be assault.  So he’s saying sexual assault is not the problem.  The problem is porn and masturbation.

Zachary: What was striking to me about this clip was the way—and this is something I talk about in my book extensively.  And this is my biggest beef with just the whole framing of Every Man’s Battle.  Is the way it universalizes the sexual as the essential male coping mechanism for any bad feeling that you ever have.  So he’s right to say that in many men’s lives this can—certain types of lustful, acting out masturbation, indulging in pornography, sinning sexually in various ways I suppose can be a coping mechanism that men kind of habituate around.  But I think it is so, so unhelpful and, frankly, just—I try to stay away from this stuff just because I guess it’s quote unquote triggering for me these days.  But I just think it’s so unhelpful to frame up this is what men do as just the bottom line of what it means to be a man is that when you have a hard day, when you have a sad feeling, you sin sexually.  And it is the case that that’s the—what some men and, by the way, some women also might struggle within their walk with the Lord or their personal life.  We all struggle in many ways.  But the way that it is narrowed around this male experience—again, something I say in my book is I worry it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Where when you’re telling young men, as you grow up the biggest challenge that every man—that every man’s battle that you’re going to face is every time you’re sad you’re going to go lust or masturbate or something like that.  Or every time you’re angry, this is going to be the main way you sin.  Another thing I talk about in my book is the way it creates a—sexual exceptionalism is the word that I say where the types of sins that we need to be most concerned about are sexual sins.  And we do need to care about sexual sins.  Scripture talks about sexual sin.  Of course, that’s the case.  But kind of going back to the previous conversation, I think a focus on the example of the Lord Jesus as well as the other virtues commended in the New Testament like a properly, biblically understood definition of modesty that would include flaunting of wealth and attention seeking and all sorts of things like this—these are questions of virtue.  But when we shrink the idea of modesty down around this responsibility that women have to cover their bodies in certain ways, that’s not really virtue.  That’s a certain type of regulation.  But the deeper questions for men are what are the attitudes of entitlement I have around my sexuality and around women’s bodies.  And what are the ways that I have failed to cultivate the virtue of self control or governing my ways of looking at and thinking about people in ways that are honoring and respectful to them?  It’s so easy and simple but ultimately harmful to just say tell women how to dress and not ask the men the harder virtue questions around the way they perceive the women around them and their bodies.  And I would also say to ask women the hard questions that you were alluding to, Becca, like why—you don’t just dress immodestly for its own sake, quote unquote, in these arguments.  What’s the self esteem issue?  It’s not just like oh my gosh.  This is some egregious sexual issue that we just need to lock down because we need to control women in this way because men are going to sin, and the church is going to fall apart or something like that.  I don’t know.  I think there are deeper questions of virtue that are rarely asked in purity culture because it is so surface.  It is so focused on externals.  And it’s not the kind of deeper transformation of the heart that we see commended in the New Testament.

Rebecca: And I think it’s because like we were talking about earlier we’ve cheapened the Gospel by adding things to it.  And when we added all these rules about—when we made sex another false god, right?  Because I know I wrote about this on Good Friday, I think.  The idea that sex is the one sin, but it doesn’t seem like the cross could fully cover because we have to get women to cover up in order for men not to be able to lust.  It’s not that men are just able to be free from lust.  They’re only able to be free from lust if girls do their part, right?  There’s no other sin that we believe that about.  Not really.

Zachary: That’s really interesting.

Rebecca: It’s the idea that—yeah.  Sex is the one sin that Jesus couldn’t cover on the cross.  That idea that if you give up your most precious gift now you are worth less than you were before, right?  You can never really be new again.  All these different things.  And what happens when we add things to the Gospel is we shrink Jesus in the process.  It’s in our heads.  Not in reality, obviously.  But it’s like as we’re walking towards something else to worship we get farther and farther away from Christ.  And what happens when we do that is when we erect this new god—erect is a funny word to use in this conversation.  When we erect this new god of sex, right?  It stops being a community issue, and it starts being really only seen in terms of individual purity too.  Right?

Zachary: Sure.

Rebecca: So this idea that it’s most important—if you’re assaulting a real life woman, well, at least you’re not being—at least, it’s not porn because it being a real live woman is closer to it being okay which is when you’re just allowed to rape your wife.  That’s okay.  So if it’s a real life woman—sorry.  I’m being very facetious here.  But that is what Every Man’s Battle, in essence, tells people.  If you’re forcing or coercing your wife, just make sure it’s not too often. 

Sheila: Yeah.  The actual quote was, “We know some men who are coercing their wives one to even multiple times a day.  If you’re demanding sex more than once a day, you have a problem.”

Rebecca: Yeah.  So you can demand sex once a day but not more than.

Zachary: Not more than once a day.

Rebecca: Yeah.  So this idea though where if you are assaulting a girl in person it’s seen as holier than watching porn because at least it seems more like how you’re supposed to do it which is when you’re married.  And that is only able to be seen that way when we have put up this new god because there’s no way.

Zachary: Yeah.  And those are the harder questions I was going to say is like the questions of what other kind of psychological, spiritual, even theological dynamics of the way I relate to my partner?  The way I relate to my spouse?  And not just do I have a right to this type of sexual encounter in this moment because I’m a man or something.  I don't know.  Because any teaching that would be male specific on that, I mean I’m assuming people have 1 Corinthians 7 in that mind which is radically egalitarian.  The woman has every—the man’s body does not belong to himself but to his wife which is a pretty crazy thing to say in the first century.  So yeah.  What’s going on in my head in this conversation is the—pressing into the deeper questions that are actually hard to face.  Because I think you’re right that there is a certain type of—the cross can cover and take care of these types of sins.  But sexual sins, we actually need this additional, regulatory—and I don’t want to say—as we said earlier in the conversation, it’s not like sexual regulations are bad.  In fact, they are essential in certain ways.  But when it becomes an oppressive, overly regulated thing that is all about superficial externals and not about the deeper matters of the heart and do—am I dehumanizing my wife in the way that I think about my quote unquote right to her body sexually?  

Rebecca: I think that it comes back to just exactly why Jesus’ ministry was so important too, right?  Because He was really modeling in a—in its own form of purity culture, religious context as well, where it was very focused on following the rules.  And He walks in and was like, “Well, was the Sabbath created for man or man for the Sabbath?”  And it’s similar here.  And so in both of these situations that we’re seeing here in—well, especially in the Fred Stoeker clip, right?  The idea that the girl should matter at all isn’t even considered because we’re back in that situation of was the Sabbath made for man or man for the Sabbath, right?  What’s the point of sexual purity?  And these are the questions Jesus wanted us to ask.  And we’ve totally missed the point in purity culture because the point of purity culture, the point of all that stuff that Bob Gresh taught me when I was 13 was to make sure that I didn’t quote unquote make a boy assault me.  And that’s ridiculous.

Zachary: Yeah.  And so something else really interesting that I’ve actually more recently been thinking about because I’m doing some research for my scholarship on the Gospel of Matthew.  So I’ve been thinking a lot about the Sermon on the Mount.  So there’s a couple references to kind of sexuality in the Sermon on the Mount.  The one that people often think of in context to this conversation is when Jesus says, “You have heard it said that you shall not commit adultery.  But I say unto you if you look at a woman lustfully that person has already committed adultery in their heart.”  So this actually is relevant to what we’re talking about here because what people are thinking about is do not commit adultery commandment out of the Ten Commandments.  That’s the rule.  Do not commit adultery.  That is very clearly defined.  Don’t sleep with someone else’s spouse.  And that’s an easy one to follow.  And I think, similarly, a lot of people will pat themselves on the back and be like, “Sweet.  I didn’t have an affair.  I’m good on the commandment.”  But what Jesus is doing in the Sermon on the Mount when He says, “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman,” He’s taking us out of the fifth commandment and putting us in the tenth.  Do not covet, which is a turn, at the end of the Ten Commandments, to the matter of the heart.  That is a much more difficult command to obey where you’re no longer responsible for what just what you do with your body.  Of course, we are responsible for that.  And ironically, a lot of times the sexual sins that men have committed in the church against women are downplayed in a really bizarre way.  So it’s like this—you want it both ways.  You’re like it just matters what you do with your body.  But when a man sins sexually, it actually doesn’t matter all that much for some bizarre reason.  But what Jesus is doing when He draws attention to looking at a woman lustfully, He’s saying don’t just kind of pat yourself on the back because you haven’t had an affair.  Think about what the habits of your mind and your heart are towards the people around you.  But then what purity culture is it says, “Okay.  Jesus says don’t lust at women.  So let’s just create more rules around what women wear rather than do the work that Jesus is telling us to do,” which is transforming the way we look at women.

Sheila: Yeah.  That’s what I found so strange about the clip is the answer to the fact that men are emotionally regulating themselves through masturbation wasn’t for men to learn to emotionally regulate some other way.  It was for women to cover up.

Zachary: Yes.  Oh my goodness.

Rebecca: So it is easier, in their mind, for every single woman in the world to change how they dress than for this guy to go to therapy.

Zachary: Yes.  No.  That’s the joke that came to my mind as well.  Men will literally tell every woman in the world to dress a certain way instead of going to therapy.

Sheila: Yeah.  Exactly.  Okay.  So let’s go through a couple more of these.  The third attack people make—we could just deal with this one really quickly.  Look at these secular guys who don’t have purity culture, they did terrible things.

Rebecca: So?

Sheila: I find that bizarre when you point out that, hey, this stuff harmed us.

Zachary: What are we talking about?  

Sheila: Yeah.  Then people say, “Well, look at how much harm there is in the world.” It’s like, well, yeah.  But so what?  We’re talking about the church.

Rebecca: Well, the world got a 28%, so we got a 34%.  We’re doing awesome.  No, guys.  We’re not measuring ourselves against the world.  We’re measuring ourselves against Christ, right?  That’s the whole point of being a Christians, not the worldians.  Anyway.

Zachary: Literally, we have the Holy Spirit.  So, again, this is all just transformation.  Surely, surely the Spirit of God should empower the church to do markedly better than the world on these types of things.

Sheila: Yeah.  When we wrote She Deserves Better, we said at the beginning that we weren’t writing a book about how much the world has messed up our teenage girls.  And we acknowledge that the world has done a lot of harm because there’s already a ton of books about that.  That’s basically all that’s been written.  What we’re trying to say is, “Look.  Here is how the messages in the church have hurt.”  And I think that’s legitimate to look at.  So the whole, well, we’re doing better than them isn’t really a good argument.  Okay.

Rebecca: But then it also it depends on what you’re measuring, right? 

Sheila: Yeah.   Okay.  Fourth attack, and this one I find really interesting.  This is actually the one I want to talk about the most is all of this critique of purity culture is just coming out because you guys are traumatized and abused.  And you’re trying to replace the Gospel with therapy.  And to introduce this, I want to play a clip from a podcast that musician, Matthew West, did with Allie Beth Stuckey.  And this happened back in 2021.  Matthew West released a song.  I think it was only live for a week and a half.

Rebecca: It was not live for long.

Zachary: Was this on an album?  Or was it just a one off?

Rebecca: It was a single.  He just released a single.  And he did—

Sheila: He did a video.

Rebecca: And he did perform it at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.  

Sheila: Did he?

Rebecca: Yeah.  Yeah.  I’m pretty sure.  You can fact check me on that, but he did perform it at some big Southern Baptist event.

Sheila: Yeah.  Anyway, he did try to take it completely off the Internet afterwards because news—I think major publications picked it up.  And there was just so much backlash because he was saying—he was just telling girls that they needed to be modest.  And it was the modesty message on steroids.  And we, of course, measured the effect of the modesty message on girls in She Deserves Better and how, when girls believe the modesty message, they are 67% more likely to marry an abuser.  They are 54% more likely to have vaginismus so sexual pain disorders.  It’s really, really problematic.  So anyway, let’s listen to what Matthew West says about the response to his song.  

Allie: I just think this is demonic, but we actually hear this from these same critics.  That’s rape culture.

Matthew: That’s what I saw.

Allie: Right.  And I imagine—I can’t even imagine how hurtful that is to hear as a dad of daughters.  It’s just terrible.  And so that’s why I made the podcast episode that I did just to say wait.  Wait.  Wait.  I understand some people’s hurt.  I understand some people’s experience that maybe this song unknowingly was a trigger for some people who had a hard time with purity culture, whatever it was.  I understand that sinners and abuse happened in the church in the name of purity culture.  I get all that.

Matthew: Right.

Allie: But God cares about it, and here is what Scripture has to say about it.  We can’t just go run in the other direction and pretend like God doesn’t care about this because He does.

Matthew: Yeah.  I was really shaken up by—when I seeing terms like—when it took a step past purity culture towards rape culture, that shook me because I was like whoa.  Whoa.  And there were many moments where I felt like people were—sometimes it’s the blessing of music and the curse of music.  The upside and the downside is that people are listening to music, and then they’re applying their own narrative.  They’re finding their own story in a piece of music.  And in this case, some people had chapters of their story that they would consider to be damaging ones by something that happened to them from a church leader or a doctrine that was taught or whatever.  And there were just a lot of times where I just felt like I wanted to shout from a top of a mountain, “I’m not your dad.  I’m not your youth pastor.  I am not that guy.  You’re heaping all of this baggage that you’ve got onto me as a result of this song that you’re now associating with that.”

Sheila: All right.  So yeah.  So hey, the reason that you all think it was rape culture is just because you were traumatized, and it wasn’t.  And you need to remember that he is not your youth pastor.  Yikes.

Rebecca: I think that it’s very hard to take the amount of public criticism that he got all at once when he wasn’t expecting it.  I do think that not expecting it when he’s specifically making a satirical song poking at a cultural soft point that has been quite a hot button issue for awhile was egregiously stupid to not expect that amount of backlash especially when you literally make a song joking about the kind of backlash that this kind of thing gets.  But I do think it’s hard to do that.  So first of all, grace from that perspective especially since he’s not—he’s a musician, right?  But oh my word.  The amount of a lack of self awareness.  No one was saying you are my dad, or you are my youth—what they’re saying is, “Oh my gosh.  This is the same thing that my youth pastor said to me before he did X, Y, Zed.  This is the same thing.”  And those things matter.  

Sheila: But the point that we made in She Deserves Better—because this whole thing broke right as we were writing She Deserves Better.  So we included it in our book.  And I think this anecdote opens the modesty chapter.  And I do want to say too that Allie Beth Stuckey was mirroring what he said.  I didn’t have a clip of that because it just would have taken too much time.  But she was agreeing that a lot of these women were just traumatized.  They were abuse victims and traumatized, and that’s why they were reacting that way.  And the point that we were making in She Deserves Better is that the messages themselves caused trauma.  The messages themselves caused trauma.  They cause self esteem to go down.  If you grew up in a church that believed the modesty message, you had lower self esteem.  You were more likely to be sexually assaulted within that church.  But it was the message itself, which was traumatic and which had long term effects.  And that’s what people can’t seem to admit.

Rebecca: Well, and not only that—so there is that.  It is just the message itself is bad because, again, we’ve created an additional Gospel that we never needed.  We’ve added baggage onto the cross that doesn’t need to exist.  But additionally, what if it even was just that everyone in the church who is traumatized and abused is hurt by this?  Do we then say, “Well, we don’t want you any way.  You’re not the guests we wanted for our banquet”?  

Zachary: Totally.

Rebecca: Because there are so many parables about this.

Zachary: That was my thought as well.

Rebecca: There are so many.  It’s like, “None of the rich folks can come.  Oh no.  It’s just the traumatized ones.  Oh, no one wants them. Cover up.  Bye.”  That’s not how the parable goes, right?  You’re supposed to invite in and nurture and take care of the people who are hurt in society.  So the church is saying, “Well, all you are just too broken for the church.”  I don’t know who you’re worshipping.  That’s on either side.  No matter which way you slice this argument it doesn’t hold up to the Gospel.  That’s the point.

Zachary: Yeah.  Yeah.  I had a very similar thought, so I’m glad you said that.  Namely, that truly Christians should care about speaking about other people’s bodies in such a way that wouldn’t be really difficult and hard and emotionally resurfacing of deep wounds for people who have negative sexual experiences.  What’s essential about us needing to talk about little girl’s bodies this way?  Surely, we have other ways of doing it.  And by doing it, I just mean like other ways of talking about sexuality to young people.  So yeah.  It’s almost as if there was a prescription in Scripture—prescription in Scripture.  That’s kind of fun.  

Rebecca: Prescripition.

Zachary: Yeah.  Yeah.  That said you must talk to your young women in these exact terms about the way they dress.  And I guess my bottom line is this is exactly the sort of things that, as Christians, we should be doing to care for others.  And pastors and those in positions of authority should be especially sensitive to the types of words they use and the types of analogies and imagery and all sorts of things.  Jesus says that not—there is not an idle word that we won’t be held accountable for.  And certainly with something as important and sensitive as human sexuality, we just need to be, I think, just so careful.  And, of course, we’re all going to make mistakes and be like, “Oh, I shouldn’t have phrased that that way.  That was taken in a way that I didn’t intend.  Or I can see—So-and-so told me this that they were offended by that or that hurt—brought up a wound or an experience or was seen as disrespectful.”  Just apologize.

Sheila: Exactly.  Yeah.  Just apologize.

Zachary: It’s something that no one expects anybody to kind of speak with perfect nonoffensive precision.  And that’s not even something we should be shooting for because it’s not realistic.  It’s just having the humility to hear when people are saying, “That was hard for me,” and knowing what you do have quote unquote biblical authority or divine authority to say, “This is what I’m not going to apologize for,” and then the trappings around it.  Perhaps like, “Oh yeah.  You’re right.  That could have been said differently.  Or that was unhelpful, or maybe that didn’t need to be said at all.”

Rebecca: Yeah.  I think there’s a big difference between things that are in—as well that a lot of these people don’t seem to understand is that there are things that are individually triggering but are not collectively problematic.  For example, I have severe birth trauma.  There are certain things that I’m just not ever going to talk about online because I cannot give an unbiased opinion.  Okay?  And additionally, there are issues like we talked about at the beginning where there are people who are coming out of purity culture where if you say that I still believe that sexual ethics are important to have and sexual boundaries are beneficial that will be personally triggering to them.

Zachary: That’s hard for people.  Yes.

Rebecca: But it’s also okay to have some things like, “Yeah.  This is personally triggering.  And so you are free to opt out of this conversation.  But the conversation is still going to happen,” versus things that are collectively harmful.  

Zachary: That’s really helpful.  Very helpful.

Rebecca: And I think that they are switching what the two are quite frequently.

Zachary: Or conflating them into one category.  If anyone is offended, it’s just like the Bible says.  Deal with it.  Shut your mouth.  Yeah.

Rebecca: Exactly.  Right.  So I think that’s a big problem, right?  Where we need to recognize there are things that might be individually triggering but are collectively beneficial versus things that might not be—that might be individually helpful but collectively harmful, right?  So some people said, “Well, I was really helpful by these specific messages.”  That’s great.  Collectively, it increased rates of all these bad things that happen.  So you can go do your thing that works for you.  That’s fine.  But don’t put it on other people.

Sheila: And you can also say—it’s okay for people to say, “I actually had a positive outcome from purity culture.”

Zachary: Sure.  Yeah.

Sheila: We’re not saying that everybody had a negative outcome.  Individuals may have had a positive outcome.  Maybe it was because of purity culture that you didn’t get—mess around in high school.  And then you met the love of your life at 21, and you had a great marriage.  Good for you.  We’re not trying to say your story doesn’t matter.  We’re just trying to say please understand that you were the exception, not the rule.  

Rebecca: There also may have been multiple routes to get you to that place.  And one of those routes may not have had as many dead bodies on the side of it.  So that’s all we’re saying.  But all of this—when we try to think—okay.  What’s individually triggering versus collectively harmful?  What’s all these different things?  It really does come down to the idea that—like what you were mentioning earlier is are we talking about a male centric view of this.  Because I think you wanted to talk about that too, right?  

Sheila: But what I really want to get back to though before I even get to that is a lot of the criticism that was put at—and I don’t mean to say that Zach’s book has got a ton of criticism.  It hasn’t.  It was just this one review, but I really liked Zachary’s response.  But what The Gospel Coalition was saying was that—or Shane Morris at The Gospel Coalition was the Zachary wasn’t focused enough on sin.  He was focused on therapy.  And he was getting away from sin.  And this is kind of what Matthew West and Allie Beth Stuckey were saying too.  All we’re talking about is trauma.  And they’re taking it out—they’re critiquing us because we’re not talking about sin anymore.  We’re talking about harm, and we’re ignoring sin.  And it’s like no.  No.  No.  No.  No.  No.  Because dehumanization matters.  Objectification matters.  And you said this, Zach, “Purity culture isn’t simply an extreme version of historic Christian sexual ethics.  It is a perversion of Christian sexual ethics.  It’s not too Christian.  It isn’t Christian enough.”  And that’s it because it doesn’t care.  Purity culture didn’t care about the harm done.  It was just trying to make everybody look good on the outside.  And it’s not that we are ignoring sin.  It’s that we’re saying harm actually matters.

Rebecca: I think also we’re—we have been given such a cheap idea of what sin really is.

Zachary: Correct.

Sheila: Yes.  Yes.  It excludes dehumanization and abuse.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  The idea of sin is—the idea that you polish the outside of the cup, but the inside is still dirty, right?  Our concept of sin especially in The Gospel Coalition, Focus on the Family, those realms is so much about whether or not you’re following the right steps, whether or not you’re doing the right things.  And it’s so little about whether or not the impact you’re having on others is that they look more or less like Christ.  

Sheila: Which is exactly Fred Stoker’s quote because he’s saying the sin was what I do, myself, to myself.  It’s not what I do to other people.  

Zachary: Sure.  Yeah.

Rebecca: And I think that a view of sin that ignores harm and trauma doesn’t actually care about sin at all.  I actually don’t think The Gospel Coalition takes sin seriously enough ironically because I think that they negate an entire category and the entire point of what sin is which is a marring of God’s creation.  Anyway, that’s a theological discussion for a different podcast.

Sheila: Yes.  And then your last point—and you may—you probably had other points in your (inaudible).  I was just pulling out the ones that I thought reflected on She Deserves Better as well is that in this whole review Morris doesn’t mention really the impact on women that purity culture had.  And that seems to be consistently missing is when people look at those of us who are speaking up against purity culture they’re just not acknowledging the harm that was done to women.  It’s like they can’t see it.  It’s like it doesn’t matter, and I find that really problematic.

Zachary: Yeah.  I think that’s what’s been, to some extent, so powerful about—you can say the Me Too moment on is the way I think women collectively grab the mic and broadcast this is—these are our experiences.  We’re sick of the world not caring about them, diminishing them, downplaying them.  And having, I think, women like yourselves enter into various conversations both in the culture but in this—for the sake of this conversation more focus on the church—having women enter into these conversations around sexuality that have often been kind of male gaze in the way they’ve been framed up and male centric in the way that the advice and regulations around sexuality are articulated.  Just in these few years, I feel like, where the women have been insisting on having a seat at the table, I think we see how some of the imbalances of an overly—and not even just a male perspective but a skewed male perspective it seems to me.  I don’t want to say here’s what men have to bring to the conversation, and we also—of course, I want to say that.  I want to say the way men were leading the conversation was unhelpful.  It wasn’t just that the women’s part was missing.  It was that I think it was unhelpful, and the women’s part was missing.  So I think having the women as part of the conversation can help us see the way that some men, at least, were leading these conversations was unhelpful and, again, can open up helpful dialogue for women just being like, “Hey, when you make that analogy or when you talk about an eight year old, that makes us feel uncomfortable,” and, “Hey, I’m a sexual assault survivor, and I’ve always had a really hard time with this.  But I got to listen to men in the church talk about this on the regular every time there’s a marriage, be faithful to your spouse sermon.  That’s really hard for me.”  The fact that there is, I think, a new permission structure that’s emerging where women can feel like they can and should and have a duty to the health of the church to talk about those things and bring them up and discuss them.  And what I want to see on the male side of it—and this is part of what I was trying to model with my book is men, I think, also have a Christian duty to listen and care and be humble and repent when that is necessary and do—and be willing to, heaven forbid, learn from something a woman tells you or something she is—obviously, I’m being facetious.  (cross talk) But that, I think, is so key to these sorts of things.  And it’s also—this is what I was trying to get at with the dedication in my book.  The dedication for my book is to all the women who spoke up first because I think that was so essential in my experience.  I look at my experience as a microcosm for this.  I didn’t get it.  I really didn’t.  I really didn’t get it until my wife started talking to me about this stuff.  And I didn’t get it until I started listening to the stories of women who had been harmed in the church, in contexts similar to the ones that I grew up in.  And yeah.  And that was a really key moment for me.  Extended moment.  Not just like this one thing happened at one time but a process where I came to terms with my own brokenness, the ways that I had absorbed and, in some ways, participated in a culture and a context that was harming women or, at the very least, leaving the door open or creating a permission structure around very serious harms that could befall women and other vulnerable people like children and young boys and all of this.  

Sheila: And I really appreciated the way you talked so honestly and authentically in Non-Toxic Masculinity.  Again, it’s a really great book.  People often ask me for referrals of books you could read about—for men.  And this one is great.  He quotes us from Great Sex Rescue quite a bit in it.  And appreciate your partnership.  So Zach, we thank you for joining us.  Thank you for writing such a great response to that review, and we will put a link to that response too.  Where can people find you if they want to find you?

Zachary: Oh my goodness.  I have a personal website. that—oh my goodness.  Is so out of date.  But this review is published on there.  I am in hibernation on social media.  But I hope to emerge from the fog sometime—

Rebecca: I approve of a social media hibernation.  I think that’s great.

Zachary: Yeah.  Part of it is I’m trying to finish up my PhD and trying to move a family across an ocean and all of these sorts of things.  Lots going on.

Rebecca: So what you mean is they can find you on Amazon for Non-Toxic Masculinity.

Zachary: Yeah.  Correct.  Yeah.  Anywhere books are sold.  Anywhere books are sold.  And yeah.  I’ll be doing some other stuff in the future as well.  So keep a look out for that.

Sheila: All right.  Well, thank you so much for joining us.  We really appreciate it.  

Zachary: Yeah.  Great to see you as always.  Thanks for the invite.

Sheila: I’m so grateful that Zachary is writing for men because we can’t do everything.  People keep saying—

Rebecca: As much as people keep asking us to do everything, no.

Sheila: But as I was listening to some of those clips that we shared—and especially the one from Bob Gresh which really got to me.  I know that he and Dannah must be so reeling with all of the criticism that they’re getting.  It must be really difficult.  And I truly believe that they meant well.  They were a product of their culture too.  They went to Cedarville University.  They went to an extremely authoritarian—

Rebecca: Yeah.  And I do want to say for the record if you’re listening you’re like, “Well, Cedarville is not that bad.  Cedarville is not,”—it is, sweetheart.  It’s pretty intense.  It’s pretty crazy.

Sheila: Which doesn’t mean that we don’t think that the people there are Christian.  We’re not saying that.  

Rebecca: But it just means that it’s not a safe place.  That it’s really rules based, fundamentalist.

Sheila: And they grew up in that too.  So they were a product of it.  And you can see that in so much of their teaching where I think Bob grew up with a lot of shame around sexuality.  Dannah grew up with a lot of shame around sexuality.  And they ended up perpetrating it on a whole other generation.  And it’s just time to stop.  It’s just time to stop.  And one of the things Bob was saying is, well, we need more nuance because we don’t walk about—we still need to talk about purity and about modesty and all of these things.  And it’s like, well, the thing is you can just talk—you can just focus on Jesus.

Rebecca: Well, we actually found in our study that there was a good group of kids who are highly religious and hadn’t really heard these messages or hadn’t really internalized them growing up.  And they were fine.

Sheila: They did really well.        

Rebecca: They did really well.  They weren’t out there having orgies at age 13.  They were just kind of fine.  I know we were talking about this ahead of time.  I said it just feels to me like we’re sitting here in this battle of stop hitting yourself.  Stop hitting yourself.  Stop hitting yourself.  The older brother grabbing your hand is like, “Stop hitting yourself.”  And Bob Gresh is sitting there like, “Oh, what’s the solution?  If this is hurting you, what’s the solution?”  Well, the solution is to stop.  Just stop.  Stop.  Stop playing the stupid game.  He’s like, “Well, no, because someone is going to play the stupid game.”  It’s like no.  They won’t though.  Unless you start making them hit themselves, in general, if you’re like, “Gee, don’t hit yourself.”  They’ll be like, “Yeah.  Okay.”  There’s a level where people do not want to act in self destructive ways.  This is genuinely—people do tend to make the choices that in their environment with their background in their context seem to get them to a place they want to get to.  The problem is when people don’t have the supports or the background or the hope that things could get better.  It’s not that they just don’t have strict enough rules or enough shame typically.  We want people to not make bad decisions about sex when they’re 14.  The answer isn’t to tell them you’ll be permanently damaged and no good—

Sheila: (cross talk) 

Rebecca: Yeah.  Exactly.  It’s not to use scare tactics.  It’s to actually give them the context and the information that they need to make good choices and also the hope that if they make good choices it will be for a reason.  And they’ll get the pay off.  That’s really what it seems is much more necessary.  And none of that requires telling eight year olds that the grown men around them will find them intoxicating.  Because you know what?  If you’re telling young girls that grown men will find them intoxicating, you’re probably making it more normalized that when a grown man finds them intoxicating they don’t see that as a problem.  And so they don’t remove themselves from that situation.  So then what do they think?  Oh, grown men do find children intoxicating versus the nine year old being like, “Mom, why did Tracy’s dad tell me that I looked like—why did he do that?”  They don’t ask.  Well, that’s how men are.  So you end up in this self-fulfilling prophecy too.  And so this idea that we have to have a solution—the solution is just to stop.  Stop normalizing pedophilia even if by accident.  Stop normalizing rape culture.  And yeah.  It is rape culture.  Stop normalizing this idea that boys are only held back from raping girls because they wore a skirt that was two inches longer.  These are—

Sheila: Yeah.  Stop normalizing that guys are lust monsters and that girls are sexually anorexic.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  It’s not—

Sheila: It’s not true.  And our girls deserve the truth, and our boys deserve the truth.  And life is a whole lot better when you can just have honest conversations that are based in fear and authoritarianism.  And that’s all that we’re asking for.  So on this one year anniversary, can we end the podcast by reading some reviews?

Rebecca: Sure.

Sheila: So these are some of the most recent ones that have come in.  I just went to, looked up She Deserves Better.  I encourage you all to do that because there’s so many hundreds of reviews.  One woman said, “This is exactly what the church needs but seems to be rejecting.  I don’t think Sheila and her team’s ideas are new or hyper Scriptural, above or more than Scripture.  She goes along with Scripture, not against it.  She doesn’t seek to improve upon Scripture but illuminate it where the church has consistently missed the mark.  The book shines light on blind spots of the church and highlights wrong assumptions when it comes to sex and marriage and statements that have been relied upon as pastoral care and hurtful to women.”  Yeah.  And then this other woman—I love this one.  “I’m a mom of three teenage boys.  I read this book and have taken each chapter and talked with my boys about the content provided.  I’m doing my best to raise healthy godly men, and this is a tool not just for moms of girls.  I was raised in purity culture, and I truly wish this book was around for my teenage years.”  

Rebecca: Oh, that’s really sweet.

Sheila: I love hearing that people are using it with their boys.  That’s great.  And then another one just from March says, “I grew up in purity culture, and I’ve had to deal with a lot of hurt from its harmful teachings.  This book was so healing for me.  One of the things I love most about the authors is their commitment to staying true to the Bible while promoting healthy, research based messages.  I wish I had this book when I was growing up.  But at least, I have the chance to share it with my daughter.  I highly recommend this book and everything else from the same authors.”  So thank you, everyone, for writing reviews, for buying She Deserves Better.  When we looked on Amazon, at the point where we’re recording this, the paperback is really cheap right now.  I never know how long that’s going to last because every now and then when a book gets a lot of action Amazon lowers the price.  So hey, you know what?  If you go and you get it now, then maybe it will still be cheap.  So go take a look at Amazon.  Read the reviews and come celebrate with us.  Maybe even get a copy for your youth pastor and send it along or for youth volunteers so that we don’t do this to the next generation.  So thank you for joining us on the Bare Marriage podcast.  And we will see you again next week. 

Rebecca: Bye-bye.

Sheila: Bye-bye.