Stuff Christian Culture Likes

Stuff Christian Culture Likes


#121 30-Day Sex Challenges

posted by Stephanie Drury

sexchallenge.jpgIn recent months a rash of evangelical churches started advocating
30-day sex challenges for married couples. The tagline is “Every man’s
fantasy: 30 days of sex! Every woman’s dream: 30 days of intimacy!”
The challenge is to have sex every day for 30 days, the end result
being a stronger marriage. The husbands are stoked. The wives act like
they are too.

Sex challenges made by
churches typically get a lot of press, which drums up attendance. And if it gets people in the door the challenge is a good thing, right? This logic
makes the sex challenge difficult for Christian culture to question.

At
the conclusion of 30 days the participants are surveyed and most of
them report that it was the best 30 days of their lives, LOL! But some
say the challenge precluded actual communication and
got downright tiring. A significant number of people have survived sexual abuse, but counseling isn’t often proffered by churches with jumbotron prominence the way sex challenges are. Offering personal interaction and proactive healing of deep wounds might go much further towards fostering intimacy
than a sex challenge could, while challenging trauma survivors in this way can cause a lot more damage.

With all of this propaganda the pitfalls
aren’t discussed. The wife could feel objectified or emotionally
neglected, but if she has been immersed in Christian culture she could dismiss these feelings as being selfish and sinful. And men in
Christian culture sure as hell do not speak openly about being too
tired for sex or feeling emotionally neglected. The machismo
undercurrent in Christian culture is pretty effective in shaming men
into acting stronger in the traditional sense, even though Christ
modeled strength in the most untraditional sense.

The message being given is that it’s good to do something if the person
standing at the pulpit challenged you to. But how did the ins and outs (har
har) of the congregants’ marriages come to be bandied about from the
pulpit? Is there a boundary issue here? Would it be better for the
church body if the pastor taught the Bible instead of being provocative and muddling tactical advice with scripture?
 

When
something as intensely personal as a sex challenge is presented by an
institution and doesn’t speak to the personal histories and hearts of
the people involved, it’s a breeding ground for emotional and spiritual
injury. Christian culture’s recurring theme of Doing Things and Avoiding
Relationship goes to show that the point has been lost.



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George L

posted January 24, 2010 at 4:44 am


Dear God, please let this be one American Christian fad that doesn’t catch on in the UK…



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Cate

posted January 24, 2010 at 9:27 am


Is this the “church”`s way of trying to make up for all those years of unhealthy preaching that sex is bad and only meant for pro-creatin’? Pretty sad attempt.



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Mikey P

posted January 24, 2010 at 9:35 am


30 seems like an arbitrary number of days. Why not 60? Or start out with 2 and work up from there?
This sex challenge stuff exists because pastors are trying to think of ways to deal with two things that commonly hurt intimacy in marriages: wives not having an interest in sex, and husbands being addicted to, you know, intimacy that isn’t really intimacy. Of course, these things are best dealt with in intimate talk between the two parties involved, or with one counselor present. But pastors feel like they have to do something for those people who aren’t communicating. Hence, the pressurizing sex challenge of an arbitrary one-size-fits-all number of days. I’m sure they have some sort of Bible Study that goes with it, in order to trick their people into stumbling into a better relationship.
And does it go without saying that nobody cares about single people in most churches? Where are the 30-day sex challenges for them? Um…



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elissa parrish

posted January 24, 2010 at 10:24 am


i think it’s assuming a lot to say that “nobody cares about single people in most churches”… wow… there DOES seem to be more available to married couples for sure.
i’ve known a couple of married couples that have done this… pretty weird for sure. i’m not sure i would want my husband to have sex with me because he was committing to a program. honestly it would just make me feel bad. maybe some people are just at the end of their ropes and need something new or something.
if a couple is not having sex something is wrong. there is a problem and going at it like rabbits isn’t going to fix it.



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Stephen Southern

posted January 24, 2010 at 11:08 am


I wonder if these are the same churches/pastors that would discourage a couple who are having intimacy problems from seeing a therapist? What do they recommend for those couples who have medical conditions that might preclude them from being physically intimate?
I was given a book on marriage a long, long time ago that was written by Tim & Beverly LaHaye. In it they encourage couples to have sex at least once every 24 hours. If they didn’t, the husbands could end up with “blue balls.” That was just one of many gems of advice. The whole thing was very disturbing.



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Peter T Chattaway

posted January 24, 2010 at 11:25 am


Someone has to ask it, so it might as well be me: Are these 30 days of sex supposed to include that, um, time of the month when some women don’t necessarily want to be doing anything down there? Is that really supposed to be “every woman’s dream”?



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Uncle Luther

posted January 24, 2010 at 11:45 am


On the one hand, I do like to see Christian culture treating sex as a good thing instead of something evil and dirty. On the other, the 30 day sex challenge seems to be just another way to grab attention, much like youth pastors who yell “SEX!” to quiet down the youth group before a meeting begins.
I hadn’t heard of these 30 day sex challenges prior to reading this blog post… but can you imagine the letters these pastors must get after issuing such a challenge?



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Still Breathing

posted January 24, 2010 at 1:04 pm


George L, Amen to that!
Peter, Thank you for asking the obvious question; I just dread to think what the answers would be!!
Finally – what on earth is the biblical and theological justification for this.



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BetteJean

posted January 24, 2010 at 1:11 pm


I know many women who are at their horniest during “that time of the month”. Put a dark colored towel down and have at it. :)



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Steph G

posted January 24, 2010 at 6:33 pm


Wait, even period sex? Eww. I think the OT was advising against that.



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CS

posted January 24, 2010 at 7:10 pm


Wow, I see so many problems with the 30 day sex challenge that I don’t know which one to address first! I’ll start off by saying that I do agree with Mike P. The program is just another example of how some churches glorify the idea of marriage, while ignoring the needs of their unmarried congregants. Although, really, my cynical side wonders if the program is meant more for the benefit of the church than for the couples themselves. As post 119 pointed out, Christian culture is fond of evangelism through childrearing. If that many people are having sex in 30 days, someone’s bound to get pregnant. What a way to boost church membership!
And Steph, most of your entry is spot on, but I don’t entirely agree with the assumption that men will enjoy 30 days of sex and women will not. Some women like sex just as much as men do. I think the problem comes in when sex is ritualized as part of a program instead of being a natural expression of love and desire.



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pagansister

posted January 24, 2010 at 8:46 pm


Is this “suggestion or challange” being given by the Male ministers?



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Bill

posted January 24, 2010 at 11:16 pm


This creeped me out when I first heard about it a year or two ago or whatever with a couple of those memoir-type books being published. It creeps me out WAY more that it’s being formula-ized from the pulpit. Very nice observations, Stephy. This sounds like Harmful with a capital H and over generalization and commoditization on so many levels it’s difficult to start thinking about them. Though really, maybe it’s just the next logical step after Date Night?
No one seems to just come out and say it, but the fundamental premise seems to be, hey, husband, despite the fact that you courted and married this woman, these days you’re way too lazy or inept to identify and address your intimacy problems head-on (especially as head of the family, if you go out for that sort of thing), so, wife, the best thing here is for you to set aside your own needs and inclinations and give him head for 30 straight days to break through that wall and see if he can shape up. And if he can’t keep it up for 30 days straight? Well, then, here’s some more shame for ya’ll to work through.
I suppose that’s the most cynical explanation, but that’s how I read it.
On a lighter note, I do have a question: how do accountability partners work in this scenario? And does the pastor keep the video afterwards?
And hey, if sex is the way to enlighten a couple’s thinking about intimacy, maybe this challenge SHOULD happen BEFORE the wedding, eh? Isn’t that what pre-marital counseling is for?
Instead of just cursing the darkness, here are a few candles:
- Instead of the 30 day challenge, let’s make it the 30 orgasm challenge. No faking, ladies. Gentlemen, success means she beat you to 30. Next tiers are her 30 to your 20 and then her 30 to your 15.
- Trade subscriptions to gender-specific magazines. Say he reads Redbook and Cosmo while she takes on GQ and Maxim. Everyone reads two a week for 30 weeks, back issues if necessary. They oughta be ready to talk at the end of that.
- Taking my hard-nosed misogyny-emphasized interpretation above, let’s flip it around and pretend the pastors are all women. In that scenario, men, it’s up to you to bring home a thoughtful gift for your wife every day for 30 days, no sex involved. And since masturbating is a sin, none of that, either. 30 straight days.
I’d be dying to read the surveys after any of those.



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ken

posted January 25, 2010 at 2:31 am


I’m part of a very active group of swingers who get together almost every week to party. On a fair day most of us can hold our own with Tiger Woods at his prime, but I don’t think even WE can do 7 days a week! Even people who do it for a living have to make some time to go shopping and do the laundry. It’s a good thing I’m not Christian. I don’t think I could keep up with it. Y’all are some freaks!



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Rollo Tomassi

posted January 25, 2010 at 9:06 am


I’ve yet to meet the married man who’d honestly tell me he’s getting more or better sex after marriage than he was when he and his wife were dating. In all honesty the nuts & bolts of it is, with notable exceptions, there’s an illicit element of chemical lust and passion that we enjoyed in premarital sex that the familiarity of marriage kills. So our every effort in “rekindling the old flame” or “reconnecting with intimacy” are really lame euphemisms for wanting to get back to that hot, urgent, taboo sex we had before the kids and family vacations came along. I can remember a pastor’s wife once telling a women’s group, “before marriage we look for excuses to have sex, after marriage we look for excuses not to.”
This 30 day challenge is just a testament to mainstream Christianity’s ignorance (from lack of experiences) about sexual dynamics. While 30 days of sex sounds great, it not the amount of sex that makes for a better connection, but rather the DESIRE to have sex. I could, through any number of physical, emotional or psychological means, force my wife to have sex with me for 30 consecutive days right now, but she wouldn’t WANT to. That’s obligation sex, which is what most couples are complaining of as it is. It’s another chore to be completed – do the dishes, pick the kids up from school, bang my husband, fold the laundry,..
Only a sexually ignorant, or naive, pastor would think that frequency in a “challenge” would solve anything. They fail to see that it’s Desire that’s lacking in marriages. According to the law and common perception, having sex with a woman who doesn’t want to is still called rape. I would much rather have 10 solid, hardcore, passionate monkey sex sessions with my “hot wife” per month than 30, obligatory, desire-less, chore-sex appointments scheduled for a month.



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Flah

posted January 25, 2010 at 9:50 am


Wow, what great comments! I can add that friends of mine were trying and not succeeding to get pregnant. After checking them both out thoroughly, the doctor suggested that they were both physically fine, and the best way for them to conceive was to simply have sex every day for a month. At first, both husband and wife were all “woo hoo!”. By the third week, it had become a chore for BOTH.
I think the pastors are trying to promote intimacy, but selling it as sex, maybe to appeal to that perceived machismo they manufacture.
Bill’s suggestion is worlds better: 30 days of orgasm. Yours, Mine and Ours.



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Ransacker

posted January 25, 2010 at 11:27 am


Nailed this one Steph. Never heard of it in Evangelical Circles before. Nice that they at least addressed the topic in some other fashion than dirty and naughty. But this seems like another case of over-compensation. Well articulated observations.



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Your Name

posted January 25, 2010 at 12:07 pm


Why not offer the 30-Day Masturbation Challenge for the single people out there? That way, they won’t feel all left out when it comes to their action means meaning church culture. They could give testimonials about how much their hands hurt after a week or two, or how irritating it was to resort to plastic toys and lotions. Maybe how they felt as if they were objectifying their penis/vagina, but then were able to break those spiritual strongholds and learn to become submissive to their dominant hand.
Sheesh! Can Christian culture just stop being retarted, and maybe, oh I don’t know, start interacting with reality?



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Sarah

posted January 25, 2010 at 12:10 pm


This is Doing Things and Avoiding Relationship at its most literal possible level.
It’s what Christian culture excels at: Taking something that is supposed to be organic, diffused, tailored to individual needs and perspectives — something that is supposed to be, to one degree or another, a focal point for a real experience of love — and making it a chore, a forced compliance. Like reading the Bible (a friend of mine calls it “the tyranny of daily devotions”). Or prayer. Or church attendance. Or talking to friends, family and strangers who share different politics and faith perspectives. Or talking to friends, family and strangers who share the same politics and faith perspectives. Or physical and emotional vulnerability between two people.
But then this is generally what Christian culture misses: that vulnerability is necessary to the presence of intimacy, and the experience of love. But vulnerability is uncomfortable, it exposes us, and exposure is humanity’s oldest shame as portrayed by the biblical story of the Fall; so, as we have done from the beginning, we sew fig leaves to cover our nakedness; we duck behind a tree when we hear Love coming. We arm ourselves against exposure, forgetting that the story of Jesus is the story of the penultimate exposure, the deepest vulnerability — the mortal life, passion and public death of God — and a story whose conclusion makes it possible for us to face, accept, and heal from that oldest shame as it persists in each one of us.
But there’s no formula for that. So if instead we standardize everything, if we make all solutions universal, if we codify love into a set of mindless requirements and duties, we won’t have to think about the problems we face or the shamed human beings behind the problems; we won’t even have to be present in the problems, or with the people, or with ourselves.
And if we regulate everything, if we Do Everything perfectly, we’ll finally attain happiness without the inconvenience of peace. Because that’s what grace is all about: Making us work harder to achieve and remain in God’s favor.
Or wait.



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Your Name

posted January 25, 2010 at 1:47 pm


This is just another example of how Christian culture is ashamed, titillated, and downright OBSESSED with sex all at the same time. They make it into something magical: you get married and have sex, and become husband and wife! It’s Jesus magic! When in fact, if that intimate connection isn’t made before you get married, sex really isn’t likely to do anything to create it.
The idea of “consummation” is really unhealthy, I’ve come to believe. It’s bad because when these Christian couples have sex and it’s no big deal, they get all freaked out and obsess about it instead of, I don’t know, investing in real intimacy that might actually make them stick together in the long run. Though, because Jesus frowns upon divorce, most of them will hang around in loveless, sexless marriages obsessing over their dissatisfactory sex lives.
Kudos on the machismo thing, too. I remember in youth group all of these jokes about “guys like sex hurr hurr” and I don’t think it was good for anyone. Let’s face it–the whole “men like sex and women don’t” thing is a myth. Both genders have varying sex drives, and that’s okay. Nor is it anyone’s “duty” to have sex in a marriage–in fact, making it a duty is the fastest way to crush any intimacy and desire that existed in the marriage before!



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Josh Tompke

posted January 25, 2010 at 4:36 pm


I think that church authorities hope that the “challenge” will act as a quick fix to all the sexual problems of their congregation.The problem is that not all marital problems can be boiled down to “have more sex”
The most laughable part of the problem is that a lot of the perceived frigidity can be explained by the relentless demonization of physical pleasure that christians has experienced for their entire life up until marriage. Women are raised to avoid sex like the plague, and to view boyfriends who ask for sex as animalistic and uncaring about their emotions or purity. (For further info, see Steph’s great post on purity rings). Notice that purity=chastity and sex therefore equals a sullying of oneself. While men may be exhorted not to masturbate, the very concept of female masturbation is so far removed from what is viewed as what women want, need, or should desire that it’s not even worth the effort to condemn it, for the same reason that there aren’t sermons about how it’s wrong to have sex with goats or kill your mother with a chainsaw.
And so when christians are so distraght that after all that, women are so nonresponsive to sexual advances that a sermon needs to be devoted to how HAVING SEX IS TOTALLY OKAY NOW, SO PLEASE DISREGARD YOUR NOW-INSTINCTIVE DISGUST OVER YOUR DESIRES AND NATURAL BODILY FUNCTIONS AND LET’S DO IT LIKE THEY DID IT IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN (The Discovery Channel is a hotbed of liberal bias), I can’t help but laugh.



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Rocky Presley

posted January 25, 2010 at 5:43 pm


Your Name, you got it completely wrong. The idea of consummation is absolutely beautiful. The only part is that a vast majority of people don’t actually end up making it to their marriage bed. My wife and I did, and it wasn’t because we couldn’t get laid. It was because we knew that sex was not just a physical encounter. The majority of others won’t really know the level of authentic intimacy that is found in the marriage bed, but I fully understand why God tells us to wait. Granted, that wasn’t the end all, but it was a “magical Jesus moment,” one that I worth every temptation.
One thing that was important is that we were ready for that night. I didn’t go in blind, so to speak. We had great friends who give us the skinny on what did and did not need to happen. Honestly, God took care of the rest. I don’t like to get this personally typically, but I have seen sex destroy too many people, and have experienced first hand when it is life giving.
One thing Christian culture likes is copying the big dogs, but they can’t just copy. They have to one up. Thus 30 days. How about 3 times a day for 10 days? Would that be the same?
Fellowshipchurch.com, the vanguard of all things Chrish did this about 3 years ago. It was only seven days though. A little more attainable. They had a huge sign out in front, and were on the evening news. There was a giant bed on stage. Ed didn’t demonstrate though. That would have been a service to remember.



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Em

posted January 25, 2010 at 7:50 pm


“While men may be exhorted not to masturbate, the very concept of female masturbation is so far removed from what is viewed as what women want, need, or should desire that it’s not even worth the effort to condemn it, for the same reason that there aren’t sermons about how it’s wrong to have sex with goats or kill your mother with a chainsaw.”
Thank you for that, Josh, that gave me a laugh! Mention female masturbation and watch everyone blanche–it’s like mentioning incest or something. The whole myth is that women are not supposed to desire sex, and a woman who does is unnatural or whorish. It’s a surefire way to make all the women in the congregation totally uncomfortable with their own sexuality to the point that it’s damaging.
Rocky, Your Name = me (apparently my name didn’t take?). I didn’t mean to ridicule people who do wait until marriage, I just think that the church’s general obsession with sex as the end-all, be-all of the relationship, and tends to ridicule or overdramatize premarital sex, when in fact not all people who have premarital sex are reckless or damaged. It also tends to romanticize marital sex in a way that can be harmful to Christian marital sexuality.
I’m tired of hearing Christians demonizing sex the way they do, acting like people who have sex outside of marriage are incapable of the same type of fulfillment or intimacy that they have. It’s smug and conceited, and really untrue. If you want to wait, good for you, just don’t do it because it makes you think you’re better than anyone else. It doesn’t mean you have better sex, or a better relationship. I was always told in church that sex became less satisfying and less good the more people you had it with–shaming those who were no longer virgins, for one, and biologically unsound, for two. I’m not for promiscuity, but I don’t think that by sleeping with someone with whom I am in a committed relationship makes me promiscuous, irresponsible, or robs me of any life experience. I don’t think the concept is ridiculous, I think that abusing the concept to shame others and pretend like the relationship is somehow more valid and beautiful is ridiculous.
Hope that clarifies.



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John

posted January 26, 2010 at 12:01 am


These are just bad.



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Meghan

posted January 26, 2010 at 11:12 am


My father was a pastor, and I heard him preach many a time about intimacy in relationships- in all relationships: familial, marital, friendly. Intimacy, in our family’s vocabulary, was not a slang term for sex. It would never have occurred to my father to “challenge” the married folk in his congregation about their sex lives, because it was none of his business.
The thing is, yes, obviously, there’s this crazy bias that suggests all men want is sex and all women want is emotional fulfillment; the challenge seems to play to a certain amount of selfishness, but it doesn’t fill us in on a pretty fundamental question- since when does having sex create intimacy? In my experience, sex has been a result of intimacy, and not the other way around. Too many people can tell you their uncomfortable stories of trying to create intimacy from sex (in or out of marriage)- it doesn’t work that way. Bleh.
Wonderful comments, all.



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Greta

posted January 26, 2010 at 2:56 pm


OMG! I had no idea that this was going on until I read this post.
Rocky, I am so pleased to hear the first time you did it with your wife was a “Magical Jesus Moment.” Because for most people who wait until the pastor has proclaimed them “husband and wife” to run off to the nearest Hotel, that “moment” has nothing to do with Jesus and it isn’t very magical.
The only reason your sex was Jesus-y and magical was because you were FINALLY permitted (by God and Christian Culture) to “do it.”
’30 days of sex’ promotes nothing more than sex.



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Ben

posted January 26, 2010 at 3:05 pm


Can’t believe this.
So ridiculous.
Speechless.



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Rocky Presley

posted January 26, 2010 at 3:29 pm


Em, the only ridicule I have ever gotten was for waiting. I think it does give me better sex and a better relationship, and it also increases my devotion and commitment to my wife, who I will spend my wife with. I have seen too many people destroyed by sex outside of marriage, but I haven’t seen a single couple destroyed when they spent their lives together with only each other. In every case of infidelity that I have seen, one or both of the couples had sexually active relationships before they were married. In fact, the couples that I know that waited have been married for 40+ years. I know no couples that are my age that waited.
I do agree that no one should demonize sex outside of marriage, but I disagree that we shouldn’t teach that sex was created for one man to be experienced with one woman. It’s scripture and foundational to those who believe in the authority of scripture and the promises that God’s commandments are good and are intended for us to live a fuller life. The probable truth of the matter is that those who preach this concept and demonize sex before marriage probably didn’t practice it, so people very seldom see the fruit of it. I have though, and there is absolutely no way that anyone can convince me that God’s way is the best way.
Here is an article from the Washington Times that is a bit more telling of a study that was conducted in 2002.
“By age 20, only 12 percent of people interviewed had married, but 77 percent had sex, and 75 percent had sex before marriage. By age 44, 99 percent of people were no longer virgins, 95 percent reported having had premarital intercourse, and 85 percent had married at some point.”
95%. That’s higher than people out there with cell phones. If I would have had to wait until I was 44, I would probably be one of them. 27 was long enough! That is a statistic that seldom exists in any sort of populous polling. This number asserts my assumption that those who are critical in all probability are hypocritical as well, and this is why I believe that the message of waiting has been extremely skewed in the Church, politics, etc. People preach that others should do something that they were unable to accomplish on their own. It’s like a fat preacher telling someone not to smoke.
In truth though, I will never know if I could have had a fulfilled relationship with my wife if I had been with another woman, just like someone who chooses to have sex before they are married will never know the amazing intimacy of that moment, and with a number of 95%, odds are that you nor I don’t know a couple our age where both individuals waited either. I would have to say that it is pretty amazing that I fell in love with a women who waited with that statistic!



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stephanie drury

posted January 26, 2010 at 4:38 pm


Mikey P, Bill, Flah and Sarah…thanks, that was rad.
I’ve heard a pastor say to the congregation while announcing a church sex challenge, “Now to all you single people out there: well, sorry” and the congregation laughed. It was light-hearted when he said it, but actually it seemed to be a loaded joke and I wondered how I’d have felt if I were single and being told that from the pulpit. I’ve heard another pastor say during a sermon on a sex challenge: “All you single people, just eat a lot of chocolate.” It did seem dismissive of the unmarried people in the congregation. Preaching the Bible could have spoken to everyone much better than an exclusionary challenge that isn’t even Biblical.
The fact that married couples make their sex challenge common knowledge seems disrespectful of their marital intimacy, if you ask me. Someone just mentioned in these comments that they know married couples who have participated in this, which means those married people must have told them…anyone else think that’s a little creepy?
And I totally remember that LaHaye book, I found it lying around the house when I was 10 years old. Scarring.
And I just thought of a few things as I read Rocky’s comments that I’d thought I’d throw out there. I appreciate what you had to say Rocky, and thanks for taking the time here to discuss it! It’s true that you honestly can’t know if waiting for marriage gave you a better sex life or better relationship. Hopefully you’ll never know, because monogramy is beautiful, but the fact is that many people didn’t wait and they have wonderful marriages, and many people waited and they have crap marriages. Marriage doesn’t preclude the journey or forgiveness or love or grace from God. You say you’ve seen too many people destroyed by sex outside of marriage, but I’ve seen too many people greatly harmed (I won’t use the word destroyed for them or for the fornicators) by waiting till marriage and getting married in order to keep from having premarital sex. So many people had and have (by their account) terrible marriages that they feel came about because they got married to keep from having premarital sex. You say all the infidelity you’ve seen has happened to couples who had premarital sex, but I’ve seen many cases of infidelity where both people were virgins when they got married. And you may not know of it because they’re not advertising it, but you actually do know of couples your age who waited till marriage.



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Greta

posted January 26, 2010 at 4:55 pm


great follow-up Stephanie, thank you! (SO TRUE, so true.)



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Rollo Tomassi

posted January 27, 2010 at 9:51 am


My main problem with accepting marital, sexual or dating advice from pastors is that everyone I’ve heard deliver a sermon relating to inter-sexual topics has been very pollyanna with regard to their own experiences. It’s like having a mechanic who’s only ever owned a bicycle. All of them met their “brides” (what is it that pastors feel the need to call their ‘hot wives’ their brides?) in high school or at church camp and got married at 19 or 20. None ever dated non-exclusively or had more than a couple of girlfriends in their past. They universally place their wives on these unimaginably high pedestals for ever deigning to marry such craven and flawed men as themselves in every reference to their miraculous, God-predestined meetings – and all that in as half joking / half serious manner as palatable.
The tragedy of it was that for every one of them giving these “great & godly marriages” sermons, by their own admissions, they were struggling or had struggled with pornography, or sexual ‘urges’ or were frustrated with their sex lives. Experience teaches harsh, but it teaches best. Naturally it would be foolish for anyone to argue the benefits of premarital sex in church, but look at things pragmatically. The only natural sexual recourse for a horny 19 y.o. christian guy brought up in an evangelical subculture is to get married ASAP. We can pray and hope that God’s will be done for him, but it doesn’t make for the best beginnings in a young man’s maturation process. And we raise an eyebrow when at 30 the guy is struggling with his sexual frustrations?
After being a rock musician in the late 80′s and early 90′s Hollywood scene I had more than my fair share of premarital sex before I met my wife at a club. So had she, but after 14 years of a christ-centered marriage and a wonderful daughter 11 years ago, we have a marriage that the best of my church kid peers envy. I realize that sounds self-serving, but it is in fact still possible to have a great marriage if you didn’t happen to wait. Sometimes sinners teach better than saints.



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Em

posted January 27, 2010 at 8:35 pm


stephanie: thanks for that follow-up, it was awesome. That’s what I was trying (badly) to articulate, that a lot of Christians are arrogant about their own experiences as the end-all, be-all, the attitude in most churches being “Well! You had sex outside of marriage, so now sex is ruined forever. Too bad!”, making virginity way more important than it is. We would discuss it in hushed tones between Bible studies, the question of if you waited and your partner didn’t, would you marry that person? Most of us said no. Looking back, it was remarkably ignorant.
The shame is the purpose of purity for most Christians isn’t to foster a healthy, fulfilling relationship before marriage. It’s to somehow make yourself privileged to special super-sex, or something, and give you something to rub in the faces of people who didn’t wait, and to use to scare hormonal teenagers into waiting. It’s all these ulterior motives that are wrong. If you want to wait for you because you feel convicted, awesome. But don’t use that conviction to sit in smugness thinking “that person’s sex life must suck because they didn’t wait!” It’s erroneous and conceited.



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e2c

posted January 28, 2010 at 5:27 pm


stephy, great post, and Sarah, especially great comments (though there are *lots* of good ones here).
I just don’t know how to begin to address this topic, and many of the things related to it, if only because it seems like an unbelievably crass thing to try and foist on anyone (the “challenges,” that is).
It would help if the evangelical church were more honest, and less about commodification, and…
as for what women are “supposed” to feel (single or married), I could write a book. and it would include being told that Jesus is meant to fulfill your *every* need prior to marriage (yeah, I’m not making it up), that women can – and are – guilted into shame and silence just as much (if not more than) men, etc. etc. etc.
and that LaHaye book is (forgive the pun) really, really effed-up. In an early edition, there were all kinds of restrictions on sexual positions *based on whether they put the man in an ‘inferior’ position to the woman.* (“Inferior isn’t a quote; it’s been a long time since I’ve seen that edition of that particular book, and memory can be very faulty, but there were instructions about things like “woman on top.” I *so* wish i was joking about this…)



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e2c

posted January 28, 2010 at 5:30 pm


the “guilt/shame” sentence above was meant to be about masturbation – I’ve never heard (or heard of) anyone who was made to feel like they were Jezebel in so many words, but I sure do know of phrases like “Satan has you on a short leash.”
gah.



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Josh Tompke

posted January 28, 2010 at 5:56 pm


One of the main issues I have with the idea of waiting until marriage is that six ISN’T something that people are naturally skilled at. When it comes to pleasure, intimacy isn’t necessarily the problem so much as technique. The idea that a couple can just drop into bed on their wedding night and have mind-blowing sex is a sad illusion, especially in the case of women. Considering the average woman’s sexual peak is at age thirty, might it be said that giving them a little head start in the form of masturbation might make them better equipped to have a decent sex life IN marriage? The idea that a loving partner and having kept oneself chaste will somehow make someone more sexually fulfilled is paradoxical. How can purposefully avoiding experience with a difficult act somehow make someone better at it? Keep in mind that Christian Culture paints people who have sex before marriage as future sexual cripples, who are practically incapable of intimacy. Men often get a lot of flak for peing percieved as inept or inattentive when it comes to the female orgasm, but considering a lot of women have no idea of how even their own bodies work, expecting their partners to fulfill their sexual needs when they don’t even know what they ARE seems to put an inordinate amount of pressure on the couple to quickly reach a happy state of sexual frenzy in time for the honeymoon. Considering the awkward and unfulfilling experiences most people experience during their first teenaged sexual experiences, do we REALLY want that level of ineptitude on the first night of a marriage? Couple that with the glowing picture of instant extatic pleasure that is generally painted by christianity, and you have a recipe for instant shame and disillusionment when the formula fails.



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stephanie drury

posted January 28, 2010 at 8:11 pm


Someone said to me recently “Christianity taught me that marriage would be wonderful and sex would be amazing and it was such a lie.”
I think that if an honest poll was taken to find out how many Christian females can orgasm, the results would be really low. And nobody had better start leaving comments about how easily their wife gets off and she’s not faking and “I’m a Christian and I don’t have that problem” blah blah, just keep it to yourself, people. But I’ve heard a lot of Christian women say they don’t orgasm and they don’t really like sex but that it’s a way to show your husband you love him. I talked about Christian girls being raised to think sex is irrelevant and sort of dirty in an old post about Christians who wait to kiss until their wedding day, lemme find the link in case anyone is bored/interested. http://blog.beliefnet.com/stuffchristianculturelikes/2008/08/12-waiting-to-kiss-until-your-wedding-day.html



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Em

posted January 29, 2010 at 12:04 am


e2c: but it was an awesome pun. :)



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Bill

posted January 29, 2010 at 11:22 am

e2c

posted January 30, 2010 at 5:32 pm


@ Em: the truth is that that’s how I feel about *everything* both of the LaHayes write, publish, endorse, etc. etc. etc.



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Mikaela

posted February 1, 2010 at 8:06 pm


Josh–
I think the fallacy of your argument is the idea that, if Christian culture makes false promises about sex, the solution is to have sex earlier and with more people. Maybe Christian culture should just stop making false promises!
Young married couples I know who waited until they were married to have sex were counseled, quite sensibly, _not_ to have high expectations but to view it as a learning experience (along with everything else in marriage) that would take years (if not a lifetime) to master. Going through this learning experience together is part of what strengthens the marriage, and so far it’s been a very positive experience. (It’s also helpful when you don’t have to worry that your spouse may be quietly comparing your performance to that of a former lover.)



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David

posted February 3, 2010 at 10:27 pm


I remember when I was in seminary and they wanted us to preach the actual good news. How obsolete! If Paul had known about the “30-Day Sex Challenge,” we wouldn’t have to study ancient dead languages or books of obscure theology written 1000 years ago! Good thing the Evangelical Fringe found a better way! Now church can finally be remade in our image, like we’ve always wanted!
Sigh.



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Still Breathing

posted February 4, 2010 at 9:29 am


Given that the church seems to want to keep all your life so full of meetings that you are permanently tired (something my minister calls ‘Vampire Christianity’) would it be more of a challenge to fit in all the meetings and have sex once in 30 days?



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Lorelei

posted February 4, 2010 at 5:51 pm


ugh!!!! i am a rape survivor and if i was in a church that this was happening at and felt like i had to participate, it would splinter my nerves. :( i can’t stand *any* type of pressure for sex, even if it’s my own. i only get to see my fiance twice a week, and in my own head i feel pressured to have sex… which makes me not want to do it. if i felt like i HAD to have sex EVERY DAY for 30 days, i would just implode and probably have to be admitted into a psychiatric unit, honestly. they really should mention if they have counseling services for people who find sex to be upsetting.
i wonder how people feel if they don’t actually ‘complete’ the challenge. i bet they would feel ashamed and everything, but i wonder if in a weird way they would feel like they let down god, too? sigh. what a way to make sex even more awful and awkward and dichotomous in christian culture! @@



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Chrissy

posted February 4, 2010 at 8:09 pm


Excellent commentary! It’s refreshing to see that we’re all aware of how skewed the church’s perception of sexuality is.
Stephy, I’m glad you mentioned the issue of boundaries. Definite violation going on!
It’s strange that people would have no problem with every other couple knowing that they could/should be banging every day. In a sex/abstinence obsessed environment I think it would entice people to think about the sex lives of others, and even invite them to ask about it. I’m relieved that Meghan said her dad knew these things were none of his business, because any time a pastor felt he was allowed to, or should inquire about my “purity,” I felt violated. It truly is no one else’s business, unless you invite them into that business for whatever reason. This “challenge” encourages people to breach healthy boundaries that they have wisely built around something that the Christian institution constantly calls “sacred.” And they pose the challenge in the name of God. It’s deceitful. When people sign up for this challenge, or attend a “workshop,” they are unwittingly inviting their megachurch to consider and be aware of their most personal of moments.
Coming from a church that condemned anyone whose bra strap accidentally showed, I can’t help but to think this group sex mind set wouldn’t invoke some threat. If a teen questioned why bra straps were a big deal, the classic response was “Because I don’t want MY husband to see YOUR bra strap and think of YOUR boobs.” The prettier the girl, the more “careful” she was “encouraged” to be. So basically we were shamed in advanced for a sin someone else may or may not commit. If a simple bra strap in this repressed environment will supposedly cause a man to cheat on his wife in his mind, I have to wonder where people’s minds will go when they are invited into awareness that a thousand couples around them will be boning every day. “Do not covet your neighbor’s wife” comes to mind. With all those “hot wives” around, the sex challenge is practically forcing them to covet. Especially if the sex challenge doesn’t meet their expectations that were a result of all the hype.



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David

posted February 5, 2010 at 1:24 am


I wonder if the idiots who come up with “Sex Challenges” even think about the effect that their sex obsession has on singles? Speaking as one, it seems to me that you good people here have a better grasp of reality than these misguided ministers. I wish these guys could get over their power trip and realize that not all aspects of all lives anywhere are their business (especially from the pulpit). What’s next? 30-day laxative challenge?



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J.D. Scott

posted February 8, 2010 at 12:01 am


Somebody’s gotta say it- asking a pre menopausal non pregnant woman to have sex 30 straight days is obviously something invented by males. the 7 day challenge is much mote humane.



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Josh Tompke

posted February 8, 2010 at 3:45 am


Mikaela, the problem is that in a modern setting, most(Canadian) people won’t get married until their early to mid THIRTIES. Considering that the male sex drive peaks at NINETEEN, that leaves about ELEVEN YEARS for guys to stew in the sexual repression that is the mainstream Christian view of sex outside of marriage.In that sort of atmosphere, the bra-strap mentality that Chrissy mentioned quickly leads to an obsession with sex. (The American numbers are mid-twenties, but that’s still like, six or seven years.)
I’m not saying that sex is a purely physical act. Sex is an intensely emotional act, let’s face it, and it should be done with someone who cares about you and supports you, but i don’t think that it makes sense BIOLOGICALLY for Christian society to put off sexual activity for as long as it does. Keep in mind that reproduction is part of mankind’s most primal need, SURVIVAL. Not allowing sex until your thirties isn’t just denying the petty desires of the flesh, it’s denying something as essential to who we are as creatures as eating or breathing.
Sex is not impure. I don’t believe that in any situation, sex is a sin in and of itself. Emotional manipulation and selfishness, which can often be used to get it, is. Rape, one of our society’s most reviled crimes, is, as any psychologist will tell you, about power, not the sex.
Christianity has an unhealthy and oddly unbalanced obsession with sex. Think about it. If you asked a random atheist what christans condemn, what will they say? Sex. They don’t even pause, it’s the first thing that comes out of their mouth, but they have to think for a moment before they can think of anything else. Don’t you think Christianity has bigger things to concern itself with? How about poverty? Racial hatred? Bigotry? Genocide?



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Sarah

posted February 8, 2010 at 10:29 am


And yet, I would peg sex, in its many variations of presence and absence, as the main source of human misery in the North American West. Something so fundamental to our humanity must have far-reaching effects. And maybe our society’s polarized sensibilities about sex are a long, slow overreaction to the Victorian era’s ridiculous sexual ideology, but clearly nobody’s arrived at a balanced approach.
I’m (sort of) amused that continence, temperance and self-control don’t seem to matter anymore, for men or women. I agree that forcing people to wait to have sex until later-in-life marriages is to a certain extent unreasonable (at least, the demonization of premarital sex is absurd, because that tends to be absorbed by young people as the demonization of sex, period, particularly in the churches that view the female body as an inherent pitfall to male godliness), but yet there seems to be no value in some kind of real self-discipline, and at some level the protest “but it’s not fair to have to wait!” sounds petulant, like teenagers wheedling their parents to let them drive the family car; and “well, what do THEY know, we’re going to do it anyway” sounds rebellious, like teenagers taking the car out for a joyride when their parents are out to dinner.
I’m not discrediting the power of the male sex drive. I think that drive is a beautiful thing, and the evangelical church’s emasculation of men sucks. I would posit this as having a little less to do with attitudes toward premarital sex, though, and attribute it more to the church’s attitudes toward sex, period, and especially the church’s tendency to treat men as a combination of beasts and children, who have to be tightly leashed and sheltered at all costs from any kind of the slightest temptation because obviously men can’t control themselves once that temptation occurs. Talk about a dehumanizing recipe for shame and narcissism, and a robbery of the power that comes from a strenuously self-trained, rigorously peaceful mind.
Perhaps this grave fault partly explains why the average girl’s desire for commitment and affection comes up short when weighed against the average guy’s desire for sexual contact. If men (or women) are powerless to subdue their biological urges, no one has any choice but to find a way to satisfy them. But doesn’t that feel, at some level, undignified? Isn’t that subtle idea of powerlessness antithetical to the teachings of Christ? Don’t loving one’s neighbor as oneself, and therefore loving oneself in the right way, as Kierkegaard puts it, require an end to excuses and embracing what is truly good? Or are love and indulgence the same thing?
And, just by the way, try telling a woman who’s been raped that it wasn’t about sex.



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PW

posted February 16, 2010 at 11:16 pm


I definitely heard someone read about a 30-day sex challenge in a Cosmopolitan horoscope. I laughed to myself and thought of this post.



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Greta

posted April 11, 2010 at 7:05 pm


I keep checking back on this post thinking Mark Driscoll has posted recommending a 365-day Sex Challenge. (But now I’m remembering he’s always in another country, so he couldn’t participate anyway.)



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Rubyfruit

posted June 6, 2010 at 2:07 pm


Perhaps because I haven’t gone to my old church in over two years, I haven’t heard of something like this. It just sounds so very headdesky, and such a thing, to me, reinforces the stereotype that men seek sex and women seek intimacy, so sex is something abhorrent for women but it’s something that they must give up in exchange for intimacy, and actual intimacy is too much like work for men, but if they make a show of Doing Stuff, then they can get to the sex.
It’s all very headdesky to me, and facepalmy, and it makes me want to scream at people, but until recently, I have never heard of 30-day sex challenges. It doesn’t sound like any fun for anyone involved. Except, you know, the pastor, maybe.



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singleslovevacations

posted March 8, 2014 at 9:40 am


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