Advice from Christian sex manuals: Pray, read the Bible...and play with jump ropes and vibrators.
But flip through "A Celebration of Sex" by Christian therapist Douglas E. Rosenau and you just might possibly notice, sandwiched between passages on the philosophy of love: detailed drawings of a penis, clitoris and labia, as well as several sexual positions (wife on top, side by side, husband on top, crosswise, rear-entry, and standing).
The author advises that sexual slang--"pet names for body parts and secret vocabulary shared by only the two of you"--is permissible. "As Christians, however, we must be careful to avoid the very negative attitudes and ideas about sex that society...has incorporated into slang." He even gives acceptable examples: "Big John," "Shamu" and wanting to "dive into your pool."
Not surprisingly, Rosenau's book--which will be reissued next month--is a controversial bestseller (90,000 copies sold since it was published seven years ago). According to Pamela Clements, Thomas Nelson Publishing's marketing director, the company seriously considered shrink-wrapping the book, to avoid offending Christian booksellers and their customers.
"When it first came out it was controversial," she says. "It covers the bases. The only parameters are that sex is to be kept within marriage."
Is this just a case of Christian publishers wanting to shamelessly exploit a marketing principle as ancient as the Dead Sea Scrolls, i.e. that "sex sells"? Or are they trying to attend to a genuine, deeper need felt especially by Christians?
"It would not surprise me that some of the people producing these books are hoping for market share," says Amy-Jill Levine, director of the Carpenter Program in Religion, Gender and Sexuality at Vanderbilt Divinity School. "It's a replay of 'The Total Woman'," the book by Marabel Morgan that, among other things, encouraged 1970s wives to greet their husbands at the door adorned only in Saran Wrap.
But Rosenau writes that past Christian teaching has created hang-ups for men and women that need to be stripped away. As he gives women advice on "turning yourself on," he writes, "the sad fact is that in Christianity, sex has often been feared and not talked about...You may have to erase mental tapes going around in your head from Mom or Dad, the church and society to truly enjoy sex." He then gives detailed instructions for oral sex.