Betrayed women often experience sexuality through the distorted lens of their abuser: sex is for men. Sex is a marital obligation. Sex is usually painful. Sex is a sacrifice. Sex is scary. Sex is what I have to do to earn a voice in my marriage. Sex keeps him happy.
Sheila Gregoire, author of The Great Sex Rescue joins Anne Blythe on the free BTR podcast to shatter these toxic myths and educate betrayed women with the empowering truths about sex and sexuality. For more, read the full transcript below and listen to the free BTR podcast.
Betrayed Women: One-Sided Intercourse Is Not Safe Sex
…It’s a deep knowing between two people, so it isn’t just physical. It’s also supposed to be spiritually intimate, and then it’s supposed to be totally mutual and pleasurable where both get something out of it. Instead, we’ve condensed it to one-sided intercourse, and when we do that all kinds of bad things happen, and I think that’s our primary problem. That we see sex mostly from a male point of view, that’s it’s only about intercourse.Sheila Gregoire, The Great Sex Rescue
Abusive men condition victims to learn that sex is “one-sided intercourse” – a male-centric activity that is primarily for the abuser’s pleasure.
Tragically, this lie harms victims in many ways.
Victims of one-sided intercourse experience:
- Pelvic and sexual pain
- Loss of sense of self-worth
- Body image issues
- Emotional abandonment
Sexuality 101: It’s Soul-Crushing Sex If He’s Lying To You
You need to stop having sex with someone you don’t know because it’s not healthy and it’s not safe at this point.Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
Sheila explains that sex between partners should be “life-giving”, not “soul-crushing”.
When men lie to their partners, they are, in essence “someone you don’t know”. Having sex with someone you don’t know is “soul-crushing”.
Not only is there an egregious lack of emotional safety and trust, but perhaps more terrifying is the fact that you do not have the information to be giving your informed consent to the sexual experience.
Have You Experienced Sexual Coercion?
When a woman does not or cannot give her full, informed consent to a sexual experience with her partner, she is experiencing sexual coercion.
If your partner has lied or is lying to you, and has had sexual contact with you, you are a victim of sexual coercion.
Because he did not give you enough information for you to give your informed consent to the sexual experience with him.
Giving you information to give your informed consent to sex after betrayal would look something like this:
Abuser: I use pornography every day, masturbate three times a day, fantasize about other women, and use your body for my own gratification every time we have sex. All that said, do you still want to have sex with me?
Betrayed Women: Obligatory Sex Is Not Safe Sex
I feel like a lot of women in our community feel like: sex feels like a duty because I’m not emotionally connected with him.Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery
If your partner has betrayed, abused, and/or violated your trust in any other way, of course you feel emotionally disconnected. And if you feel emotionally disconnected from him, you should not be having sex.
Obligatory sex, or having sex because you feel like you owe it to him, is unhealthy and dangerous for your mental, emotional, and physical health.
You do not “owe” your husband sex. He is not entitled to your body. When you said “I do” at the altar, it was not a blanket commitment to consensual sex whenever he feels like it.
Your body is yours. Obligatory sex is not safe sex.
Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.
I have Sheila Gregoire on today’s episode. I’m going to introduce her in a minute, but I’m just bursting with excitement. This week we’re going to talk about her new book The Great Sex Rescue and introduce some of the concepts and then next week we’re going to talk about all of the lies that other sex books are telling. You’re going to really want to stay tuned. So, at the end of today’s episode stay tuned for next week when we will finish the conversation.
Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group Is Here For You
So many women listening to this podcast are wondering what is wrong with my marriage? What is going on? How can I get help? We created Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group just for you. When you join, you can usually hop on a group session within a few hours. It is the most accessible appropriate help out there. We run multiple sessions a day in every single time zone; we’d love to see you in a session today.
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Thank you to all of you who have rated the podcast on Apple Podcast or your other podcasting apps. Here’s one five-star rating: This podcast has changed my life. I don’t say those words lightly. Thank you for your willingness to speak the truth and speak to the excruciating pain and deep sorrow that comes from the death of the marriage I thought I had. God is good and hope can be felt even right in the middle of the ugly world of infidelity and abuse. I will praise your name until my last days. Thanking my Father in Heaven that I found you. The greatest blessing is how you helped me understand I’m not alone in this. Thank you.
This is a truly humbling review, obviously. I am so thankful for you as a community. Lately, I have actually needed your prayers and your support more than ever, so I appreciate your prayers. We’re all still going through this together as one big sisterhood across the world. I just want you to know that I love you and that we are in this together and that we’re learning and we’re growing together to be more and more healthy. Every single rating, every single share helps isolated women find us.
Sheila Gregoire, Author, Blogger, & Speaker
Right now, I’m going to introduce Sheila. I have blogger and author and speaker, and the amazing woman Sheila Wray Gregoire on today’s episode. You probably know her best as the blogger of To Love, Honor, and Vacuum. She and her daughter Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach and epidemiologist Joanna Sawatsky surveyed more than 20,000 Christian women about their sex lives, marriages, and beliefs about marriage and sex. They wrote a book together called The Great Sex Rescue: The Lies You’ve Been Taught and How to Recover What God Intended. Welcome, Sheila.
Sheila: Thank you. It’s so good to be here.
Anne: So, after reading this book, I just want to tell my listeners you can just go ahead and throw away all the other books that you have about sex. Just put them in the trash. Several of the books that she references in her book, The Great Sex Rescue, I have read. Several of them I have not read, but I have heard all of the excuses, all of the unfortunate advice that women are being told about sex that really hurts their sex life. So, we want to start there. I also want to do a trigger warning. Even though Sheila and I both want every woman out there to have amazing sex. This podcast is not about that because all of our listeners are in relationships with men who are using porn or who are psychologically or emotionally abusing them or gaslighting them. So, even though this book wants people to have great sex, and she talks about that in her book, this book is also about how to recognize sex that is unhealthy and how to know if your needs aren’t being met, and then set boundaries around that. So, that’s what we want to focus on today.
So, Sheila, you started writing about sex and talking about sex on your blog and in other ways and speaking about it a long time ago. What got you interested in sex in the first place, besides that everybody is interested in sex, I guess?
How Did Sheila Become “The Christian Sex Lady”?
Sheila: Well, it’s like nobody grows up thinking I’m going to become the Christian sex lady. Like, that’s not really anyone’s plan. It certainly wasn’t mine. I started blogging and I was just talking about marriage. You know, parenting and housekeeping and just the normal mom blog stuff, but at the same time my husband and I were speaking at a lot of marriage conferences and we always had to do the sex talk because nobody wanted to do it. So they’d plug us in there. He’s a doctor so he’ll talk about anything. He doesn’t care, and I don’t care either. So, it just seemed like we were always the sex people. I was asked to do some TV shows and some different things, and I just started writing about it more and the more I wrote about it the more people showed up at the blog.
So, the Good Girls Guide to Great Sex was out in 2012 and I think ever since then my blog has been mostly about sex.
Anne: I get where you’re coming from. I’d never thought I’d be the porn podcaster. I totally get it.
Well, you’ve been doing an amazing job. So tell me about this study that you did, and I know you’ve written several books so, you can talk about that and then how the study that you did lead to this latest book that you’ve written.
“What Correlates With Really Good Sex & What Correlates With Really Bad Sex?”
Sheila: Well, I’ve been writing about sex, like I said, since 2012 and it just seemed like no matter how much we said and no matter how much good content I produced people still had all the same problems. It was like I wasn’t making a dent in it. I started to wonder, maybe the issue isn’t that people don’t have enough good resources. Maybe it’s that our foundation is faulty and there is something seriously wrong going on underneath, and until we address the structural flaw nothing is really going to work. So we did this huge study, the largest study that has ever been done of Christian women from every denomination, every sect, just to try to figure out what correlates with good sex and what correlates with really bad sex and how can we identify what messages are hurting women?
Anne: One of the things I really appreciated about your book is it’s very straightforward. You’re using the correct terminology. I love how you’re talking about it in specific ways that are very obvious because so many times when people talk about sex, and you mention this in your book, they say my happy part or whatever. They’re just talking about it in these ridiculous ways. I also like how you start to define what sex really is and what it is not. Can you talk about that? How you define sex?
Sheila: Yeah. I actually think that’s a really big, important question because when we get that wrong, everything else falls apart. And I think one of our big problems is just a definitional one. So, if I were to say to you did you have sex last night? Okay, which I won’t because that’s really creepy, but if I were to ask you that chances are, you’re thinking something very specific. Like you’re thinking did he put his thing into her thing and move around until he climaxed? You know, that’s our definition.
Anne: You can say penis and vagina, by the way. So, let’s just say really quick for this particular episode if you do have young ears listening we will be saying penis and we will be saying vagina so you may want to pause and restart when they’re not in the car. Keep going.
One-Sided Intercourse Isn’t “Sex”
Sheila: I’m probably going to say orgasm too. So anyway, did he put his penis into her vagina and move around until he reached climax? And that’s what we think sex is, but in our survey, what we found, is that of the women who do reach orgasm only about 1/3 can reach orgasm through intercourse alone. So, the vast majority of women need something other than just intercourse and most women find it easier to reach orgasm in other ways. So, if we say that sex is just a man puts penis into her thingy and moves around until he climaxes, we’re leaving her almost entirely out of the description. Like, she could be lying there counting ceiling tiles, she could be writing a grocery list in her head, and that still counts as sex, and that’s just not how the Bible talks about sex.
Sex is “Deep Knowing”
First of all, it’s not only physical. The Bible talks about sex as a deep knowing. Adam knew his wife Eve like it’s a deep knowing between two people, so it isn’t just physical. It’s also supposed to be spiritually intimate, and then it’s supposed to be totally mutual and pleasurable where both get something out of it. Instead, we’ve condensed it to one-sided intercourse, and when we do that all kinds of bad things happen, and I think that’s our primary problem. That we see sex mostly from a male point of view, that’s it’s only about intercourse.
Anne: Your book really clearly states, which I really appreciated, that not all but most of the Christian books about sex, the popular ones and Christian understanding of what sex is and how it works and stuff like that, is that this sex “problem” is the fault of the woman. Right? So, she’s supposed to be more emotionally available, she’s supposed to get more into it and have more fun. Whatever the problem is, she’s the one that’s supposed to fix it, and you really clearly state throughout that so many of these issues she cannot fix because they’re not her problems.
Real Sex Isn’t Possible If Your Husband Is Lying To You
For example, chapter 2 of your book is called Don’t Sleep with Someone You Don’t Know, and I love that because that really applies to our listeners because so many of them don’t know that they’re sleeping with someone they don’t know because they didn’t know about their husband’s double life, they don’t know about all the lying and the coercion and the gaslighting and things that are going on. You’re saying that if that’s your situation, you’re not having safe sex, you need to stop having sex with someone you don’t know because it’s not healthy and it’s not safe at this point.
Is that a correct interpretation of that chapter in general?
Sex Is “Life-Giving” Not “Soul-Crushing”
Sheila: Yeah. Well, biblical sex is something that is life-giving. It’s something that binds you together and helps you to feel more intimate. The way that we often talk about sex is actually something that is soul-crushing. We see it in terms of an obligation that she owes him. So, it’s an entitlement on his part, it’s an obligation on hers, and that’s got all kinds of repercussions. But one of them we saw over and over again in our survey responses and in the focus groups we did afterward. It was that the women with the best sex lives, the women who are the most sexually responsive, who enjoyed sex the most were the women who felt emotionally close to their husband’s both inside and outside the bedroom. So, the people in the happiest marriages tend to have the best sex, and that really shouldn’t be a surprise. That’s kind of intuitive, right? But the problem is, we talk about sex as if it can be a substitute for those other things. Like, if you don’t feel close, you should just have sex so that then you’ll be closer.
Obligatory Sex Is Not Safe Sex
What we found is that that doesn’t actually work. When women have sex for years on end and they feel emotionally distant from their husbands, eventually quite often those marriages turn sexless because the women just can’t sustain that. When you have sex, which is supposed to be a deep knowing, and when it becomes only physical it actually becomes a rejection of you. Like if sex is supposed to be a knowing it means both people matter, but if sex becomes something that you only do because you’re supposed to then your needs are no longer being considered and that means you don’t matter, and then sex becomes a rejection. And that’s not right.
Don’t Have Sex With Your Husband If You Don’t Feel Safe. Period.
Anne: I feel like a lot of women in our community feel like: sex feels like a duty because I’m not emotionally connected with him so I guess I just have to muster up being excited about it rather than being like wait a minute. I don’t have to have sex. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, hang on a minute. Sheila, are you telling me that if my husband is lying to me and using porn, and I don’t feel safe with him, I don’t have to have sex? This is like a revelation to some women. We’re not advocating for sexless marriages. That is not what I am saying, but what I’m saying is, if you feel obligated, and you’re doing it out of duty, and you’re not emotionally close, and so you feel like I’ll I’m going to drum up the emotional closeness, I’m going to drum up the excitement for it when you still have a husband you don’t know or a husband who’s not willing or doesn’t see you as a person.
What would you say to women in that situation? Because if they try to drum it up on their end, it’s still going to just be one-sided. Do you see what I’m saying?
Marriage Is Not Consent
Sheila: Think about it this way. When you get a driver’s license what that means is that you are now entitled to drive, okay. You can now drive. It doesn’t mean that you get a car, and when you get married you now have a relationship in which you can have sex. It doesn’t mean you get sex. You’re just now in a relationship where sex is sanctioned by God, but that doesn’t mean that sex has to happen any more than having a driver’s license means you get to drive around. It just means that now you have permission to drive but you still need to do it properly, and it’s the same thing with sex. You know, when we get married it’s not like we’re promising now I will have sex with you whenever you want. We’re now saying this is the relationship in which life-giving sex can occur, and that’s healthy. That’s a good thing. That’s what we should be aiming for, but God does not require us to have soul-crushing sex. And if you’re told that you need to have sex or else something bad is going to happen or else he’s going to watch porn or else he’s going to have an affair or else he’s going to be grumpy and treat you terribly then that’s not a free choice that you are making. When you can’t freely say no, you can’t freely say yes either. And that’s a big problem.
Set Safety Boundaries Today
Anne: Exactly. I encourage on this podcast to set boundaries for their safety; their emotional safety, their physical safety, their sexual safety, and those boundaries are really scary for some women to set. To say I don’t feel safe with you. I don’t feel like you care so I’m not going to have sex with you might be one of the boundaries that they might set, and a lot of women worry about this. Part of my job, and I think what you’re saying, is to give them permission to say no when they don’t feel safe.
“I Need To Be Able To Trust You And I Need To Feel Safe”
Sheila: Yeah, and you know we’ve got the numbers. The nice thing about it is in The Great Sex Rescue we have the numbers for what happens. Seriously, there are so many charts. They’re fun actually; I’m a numbers person and I just love it. We have so much data on what happens when for years on end you have sex simply because you feel like you have to and you feel almost forced into it and it is not pretty. This does not end well for women. This is really soul-crushing, and what I often tell women to say is something like this. “Hun, I would love to have a passionate sex life with you, I would love to make love with you, but that is not happening right now. What’s happening right now is that I feel used and it has become one-sided, and so I’m no longer willing to have one-sided sex with you. I need to connect in every way, and I need to be able to trust you and I need to feel safe, and until that happens, I am no longer willing to have sex with you.”
Marriage & Sexual Intimacy Does Not Include Slavery
That’s okay to do because when God created us for relationship in marriage, he didn’t create us so that we were now slaves to someone else. He created us for connectedness, for community, for a relationship, for emotional health. God never wants you to feel used. That is never His will.
Anne: I remember when I first got married, I was 31 and a virgin, and I remember telling my friends who also were virgins, I said I feel like a sex-machine. It was really one-sided. I didn’t enjoy it from the very beginning, and I said it’s really weird, I just feel like some object that he uses to have sex. I don’t understand this. I thought I would get it, but I don’t get it. I remember thinking that and telling people that because I was trying to get help. I was trying to be like what is this, how do I navigate this? Your book had not been written yet, unfortunately. There were so many things I didn’t understand. I didn’t know he was using porn; I didn’t know I was being gaslighted. There were so many factors there, but I think a lot of women have that thought of am I just a robot. What am I? Who am I? What is my identity in this and how do I fit into this?
Understanding Sex & Gender Roles
One of the things that you talk about in your book briefly is gender roles. Can you talk about what the data said about women who have really traditional views on gender roles?
Sheila: Yeah, I found this really interesting. Okay, so let me take my daughter for instance. One of my daughters is a real homemaker. She just loves everything about being a housewife. She came home last week because her husband is in the military and he’s away right now, she came home, and she cleaned my entire kitchen. Got behind the fridge, got under the stove, like she totally cleaned everything. She lives for this sort of thing, and her husband as I said is in the military. He likes to shoot things for fun. He loves doing skull art. He will shoot animals and he will turn the skulls into things on the wall.
“If Those Roles Are Freely Chosen…”
Now, what we found is that when you look at couples like my daughter and son-in-law, if those roles are freely chosen, so if she decides to stay home and be a housewife and he decides to work outside the money because that is what they individually want to do, that’s great. But if they make that choice because they think I have to stay at home because I am a woman and I have to go out and earn a living because I’m a man, their emotional intimacy suffers.
Anne: Does it also apply to something like I have to clean the toilet because I’m a woman or I have to make dinner because I’m a woman or I have to do the laundry because I’m a woman? And the man thinking you have to clean the toilet because you’re the woman?
Sheila: Probably, but we can’t speak to that because we didn’t specifically ask about that. I would assume that it would go to that, but we didn’t specifically ask about that.
Anne: Okay, so as I’m reading this, I am not finding the word misogyny or feminism anywhere. Did you purposefully leave those words out because to me this is a very feminist book, and it’s talking about misogyny? So, I was just curious why these words aren’t in there?
“The Great Sex Rescue” Fights Misogyny
Sheila: There are some more words that we didn’t put in. We also didn’t put in the words; we didn’t say that we’re egalitarian even though we are. We didn’t say lots of words like that, and that was deliberate. That was a deliberate choice that we made and the reason is that the people that I really need to reach, the people whose minds I need to change are the people who are buying in most to a lot of these really negative teachings and they tend to be the people who are in the most patriarchal churches. That’s another word we didn’t use – patriarchal.
“We Just Wanted To Present The Data & Let The Data Speak For Itself”
We just wanted to present the data and let the data speak for itself. Because what we found over the last few years on the blog is every time I try to talk about gender roles or something we end up talking past each other because people start debating doctrine and that doesn’t get us anywhere. But if I can say something like, “Well, you can believe that if you want, but she’s going to have a 38% lower orgasm rate,” I find that works better. So, what we try to do in this book is bring it back to the data and get it out of the political realm or the doctrinal realm and just talk about the data because I really think this can help change people’s minds. I think this is the way in because most people want good sex. Most people don’t want this to be wrecked, and so if I can show them, hey, when you believe these things sex is more likely to be terrible. They’re going to listen to me a lot more than if I start talking about how misogynistic everybody is.
“Change The Conversation”
Anne: I like it. I do use those terms and some people are offended, and I don’t think of them as political, you know, but some people do. So I respect that you did that, and that makes total sense.
Sheila: Well, I think you’re in a different spot though too, right. Like, you get people who are coming to you who have already feel betrayed or are thinking about it. I’m trying to reach a broader audience and really change the conversation. I just hope we’re doing that with the book. I think we are.
Anne: Oh, I think so too, and that’s why I was personally curious. It wasn’t a criticism. It was, I wonder if she did this on purpose and if she did, I want to hear the reason. That’s great. Yeah, I really loved it. There wasn’t a point in which I can imagine someone getting defensive, which was great. Like, wait a minute, this is what I believed and now you’re offending me. You’re trying to uproot some deep-seated beliefs that I’ve had.
Help Women Find BTR
All right, we’re going pause right here. We will talk about all of the lies and the myths that other sex books perpetuate on next week’s episode. In the meantime, if you are wondering how to help other people understand this issue, one option is to purchase my book Trauma Mama Husband Drama.
When you purchase the book make sure you take some time to go back and give it a rating on Amazon. Again, it helps women find BTR on Amazon, and even if they don’t purchase the book it helps them find this free podcast. Thank you to all of you who support the podcast. Until next week, stay safe out there.