Brock Turner and Whitewashed Tombs

Last week two letters have gone viral across the internet.  The subject of both is the rapist, Brock Turner.  Firstly, the profound and deeply moving victim statement was published.  In the 12-page letter, the woman Brock Turner raped shares some of the many ways he hurt her and has forever changed her life in immeasurable, painful ways. “My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me,” the woman says. “You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.”  She talks about the impact of the criminal justice system and courageously stands with all women who have been subjected to rape and sexual abuse.


The second letter was from Dan Turner, Brock Turner’s father.  It is as angry-making as the other letter is heart wrenching.  Dan Turner describes his son’s choice to rape a woman as “twenty minutes of action” and laments his son’s lack interest in pretzels and steak as evidence that his son should not be punished harshly.  The judge chose to go against all guidance and give Brock Turner an extremely light sentence with only six months in county jail (rather than the recommended 6 years in prison).  Even as much of the Western world is outraged by Dan Turner’s letter, it seems the judge was taking Turner’s sentiments into consideration in sentencing Brock Turner.


As Christians, how should we respond to this case?  What should be our interaction with it?  Should we focus on mothering and Jesus as the only answer, as Ann Voskamp has?  Or is there more to it?


Perhaps we should start by acknowledging that there are experts who are responding to sexual violence in a Western context and Christians are rarely the experts.  Christians claiming expertise are currently describing the choice of men to sexually assault as women “fall victim to sexual violence” and most efforts in the Christian world to address male violence against women doesn’t name the agent for fear of appearing “anti-men”.


Guess what people?  Men are the majority perpetrators of sexual violence.  This is a fact.  It is not anti-men.


The reason men are the perpetrators of sexual violence is not because men are innately bad.  As Christians we understand that the Fall has resulted in sin coming into the world.  This means that each person has the capacity to choose great evil, but also this means they have the ability to do great good.  Not only did the Fall result in personal sin becoming a reality for human existence.  It also ushered in the principalities and powers of evil in the unseen world.


The consequences of sin are listed in Genesis 3.  Pain in child birth; women will be dominated by men; men will struggle with the pressures of trying to provide in a world that makes it almost impossible.  Yet eventually, the serpent’s head will be crushed.  These are not God’s best plan for humanity, we already messed that up.  They are the consequences of sin.


Patriarchy is one of the powers and principalities that we must be fighting against.  This is perhaps where Christians could start.  Rather than leaping to the conclusion that we must end sexual violence, perhaps we could start by acknowledging and dealing with our own complicity in sexual violence.


When one of the most shared Christian response about Brock Turner’s choice to rape infers that it is a mother’s responsibility to act in ways that stop a boy becoming a rapist, we have a problem.  Yes, Jesus models a different way, but asserting that Christianity has the answer when many women and men who have rejected Jesus because patriarchy has so deeply infected the church that we are the staunchest purveyors of it?  In their rejection of the patriarchal-Jesus aren’t they more effectively seeking to end sexual violence than the many Christians who promote the toxic blend of purity culture and restrictive gender roles?


How do we declare Jesus as the answer to sexual violence when so many who bear his name are contributing to the problem?


Make the link 1

This image from Make the Link explains how sexual violence exists in a pyramid propped up by sexism, the objectification of women, traditional gender roles and rigid stereotypes for women and men:



Christians, this is where we start.  Not at the top of the pyramid, but at the bottom.  We must examine how our own lives and choices are contributing to a society where a man’s disinterest in pretzels is of more concern than the all-pervasive damage he has done to a woman.  It is easier to issue the rallying cry “fight sexual violence” at Christian summer festivals than it is to examine the ways those festivals continue to promote purity culture, sexual shame and a lack of women on the platform.  It is easier to be horrified at the crimes “out there” than to recognise that a patriarchal God is still the dominant God worshipped by many of our brothers and sisters.


Let us start at the bottom of the pyramid and recognise we are not the experts.  Let us begin supporting experts like Rape Crisis, NAPAC, Object, Women’s Aid, Refuge, Nia, AVA.  Because until then Jesus may be saying to us, “Woe to you Christianity.  You are like whitewashed tombs which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of bones of the dead and everything unclean.”

Supermarket Christianity

After doing a one-woman protest at the Hillsong Conference last week, Christian Today writer Mark Woods interviewed me. He asked whether I thought the protest had been a success. It got me thinking about what “success” is.

The Christian model of success seems to mirror the world’s view; it’s numerical… The more people that buy into your brand, attend your event, buy your books. That’s how you know you’re successful. There are Christian courses about building your online platform, growing your personal brand and blogging for success.

By those standards, my protest wasn’t very successful. It was me. On my own. By numerical standards it was 8000 (or more) to 1. By those standards, it was a failure.

However, Christian culture’s valuing of things isn’t God’s valuing of it. The kingdom of God is in the weeds that push through the pavement cracks, in the birth of a human child over 2000 years ago, in the smallness and in the whisper.

It seems in the Bible there is something significant about numerical growth. In Acts we hear of people joining the faith constantly, of meetings where thousands were added to their number. We hear of Jesus feeding the five thousand and the crowds that followed Him wherever He went. Yet, within Christian culture it seems success is measured solely in numerical terms.

I’ve been pondering Christian culture’s tendency towards numerical success. It’s led me to thinking about mega-churches and Christian brands. Hillsong, HTB, Bethel, New Wine, Soul Survivor, Spring Harvest. And the human brands within the wider brands; Osteen, Meyer, Houston, Hybels, Warren, Dollar, Driscoll, Gumbel.

It seems we currently have a dominant Christian model of “Supermarket Christianity”. Everything is pre-packaged. Shiny and new. Every taste is catered for. You can go to one church and have all your needs met. Supermarkets aren’t fundamentally evil, they meet the needs of people with busy lives. People who don’t have the time or skills to grow their own food or milk their own cow (if the even have a cow at home any way…).

In the same way, most mega-churches (and even a lot of regular churches) aren’t evil. They provide for people who don’t have the time or skills to take on their own spiritual growth. In a church where there are few creative people, an Alpha Course is a great package to begin conversations with non-Christians about God. Many amazing ministries have been birthed out of events like Spring Harvest and Soul Survivor. Supermarket Christianity is not evil.

However, though supermarkets are not evil. They are perpetuating injustice. There has been an enormous increase in food insecurity as supermarkets buy food overseas and have it shipped over to the UK. They don’t pay staff a Living Wage. They prioritise profits over ethics. And now we are all reliant on them. We can’t live without them. We are dependent on them. I don’t know how to grow vegetables. I can just about keep children alive, but give me a plant and it will be dead with a week.

In the same way, it seems that Christian culture has become reliant on Supermarket Christianity. Rather than learning to hear God’s voice for ourselves, we seek out another book/sermon/worship song to tell us what God thinks.   We read more words about the Bible than the Bible itself. We expect Supermarket Christianity to meet our needs. With pre-packaged courses and sermons for every situation. Instead of considering the needs in our community and how best to represent Jesus to those who don’t yet know Him, we simply put on an Alpha Course. Supermarket Christianity isn’t wrong. Supermarket Christianity as the default is.

I’ve been part of Christian culture long enough to have seen Supermarket Christianity as the answer. Growing up in a medium sized Anglican church, I was attracted to the idea of thousands of people in one place, cool preachers and the general largeness of Christian youth events. I thought that’s where people grew in their faith. And for some people, large events are where growth is found. Yet, there’s something slightly off kilter about our relationship with God being reliant on things that aren’t God. That aren’t local church or the Bible. That are branded and shiny and new.

I knew a guy who would always start to lose his connection to God in September. “But don’t worry!” He told me, “This always happens around this time, then I’ll go to Spring Harvest at Easter and I’ll get time with God and everything will be okay again.”

Maybe it’s partly that my faith didn’t grow large at an event or through a popular Christian book. Maybe it’s just my experience that makes me sure that Supermarket Christianity is not that way. And if so, then I’ll just keep walking the road that God has placed me on. But it feels like more than just my experience.

It seems that Supermarket Christianity allows us to vicariously live faithful lives through the testimonies of people who give up everything for Jesus. Just as the Tesco aisle invites us to have a “taste of India”, believing we have become more exotic for eating a pre-packaged meal made somewhere in Milton Keynes, so we hear the stories of people who are doing amazing things for God and we feel filled with a sort of confidence that Christians are doing good things.

We can now donate to a food bank and buy fairtrade produce on our way round the supermarket; either ignorant or avoiding the many ways supermarkets contribute to the need for food banks and fairly traded goods. In Supermarket Christianity we can donate to projects or even set projects up, while still living our lives in ways that exploit the most vulnerable.

My faith was founded in the crucible of suffering and through learning to be obedient. I have learned that the measure of my faith is not the amount I am on the church rota nor the number of people who stand with me in that which God has called me to. Not everyone has the “opportunity” to find God in losing everything, so maybe this is my truth and not The Truth.

I am trying to live a “Smallholding Christianity”. One which relies on the weather that God sends, that involves taking full responsibility for my walk with Him. Learning to grow my own spiritual food and not rely on the pre-packaged kinds. It’s a lonely road as most people are still living out Supermarket Christianity. I think I might be allergic to Christian events now. The last event I went to I cried all the way home. Just as people who re-enter the UK after a prolonged time in the majority world experience culture shock going into a supermarket, with the choice and shininess. So I think I have developed Christian culture shock.

Someone sent me this quote the other day,

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” Mark Twain

I responded to Mark Woods by saying that I thought the protest was successful. God has taught me that success isn’t found in the numbers of people by your side, the number of books you sell, the size of an event. It is found in being fully obedient to God’s call. And we can only become obedient to God’s call if we learn to hear Him above all the other voices in our lives. Success is not found in this life, but in hearing, “Good and faithful servant” on the other side of eternity.

So you’re welcome to join me in discovering “Smallholding Christianity”, but I don’t mind if you don’t, I’m okay over here on my own…

Always Broken.

Content Note: This blog talks about self-harm.  

Today was difficult. It was one of those days where my brokenness presented itself to me, stark and true. Fissures in my soul, opening.

There’s been some challenges recently. My mum died in January and my grief is the sometimes realisations that comes with my mum’s terminal illness being less than four months from diagnosis to death. Personal and professional challenges collide in me, not big enough to be a crisis, not small enough to shrug off.

I’ve written before about my ex-husband; about what male violence does to the soul, about the reality of PTSD.

I hated myself. From age eight through twenty-two I was subjected to abuse. There’s specific ways men’s choice to sexually abuse destroys the soul. Shame and self-hatred reign. The feeling of being less than, of being impure and defiled drill deep into a person’s core. I began cutting my wrists when I was sixteen. I legitimised it the first time by making the shape of a cross on my skin. I’d been in church long enough to know “my body was a temple” and that cutting myself was a sin. I’d poured out my feelings on pages and in poems, yet in self-harm I found a coping mechanism that “worked”.

It’s been years since I cut myself, at first because of my children then through my experience of Jesus. Yet, no one tells you there’s no such thing as being an ex-self-harmer. When life is challenging, the desire to cut rises unbidden.

I was shaving my legs today and the razor twisted, an inch long cut, bright red blood. The need rose within me. I panicked. Alone in the house I knew it would be easy to go back to that place. I gathered the razors and rushed to lock them in the car

Out of the house. Out of harms way.

I rarely swear, but the f word forced itself out of my mouth as my brokenness rose from within me. Tears flowed. I wailed. Still broken. Always broken.

My twelve-year-old daughter and I went to the cinema to watch Pitch Perfect 2 this evening. It was wonderful. I left the cinema delighted vaginas had been mentioned, touched by the film’s primary focus on women’s relationships and lives. A scene towards the end with women of different generations singing together left me weepy. As we stood up to leave I was so pleased to have such films for my children’s generation. For me, Ten Things I Hate About You and Cruel Intentions were the most popular movies; the messages within them about gender and relationships are appalling.

My warm feeling didn’t last long. As we left the cinema, a drunk teenage boy and his friends were walking past. He asked me for a cigarette. I explained that I didn’t smoke. As I walked away, arm in arm with my precious pre-teen daughter, this young man shouted, “I bet you those two are twins. I would so bang them.”

Pitch Perfect immediately became a drop in the ocean. A momentary lapse within patriarchy. I drove home hiding the terror rising within me after witnessing one of the many ways my amazing girl is going to be objectified and diminished. In a space where boys have been raised on pornographies and girls are “banged”.

Yesterday my son’s six-year-old friend began objectifying the teenage girl who delivers papers. A little boy shouting after a teenage girl, displaying his understanding that girls are for looking good and being shouted at by boys.

It’s easy to see three isolated incidents. My personal struggles. An offensive teenage boy. A shouting little boy.

Yet the personal is political. The isolated incidents follow a pattern. I am broken because men broke me. They chose to break me. Men who started out as little boys believing that girls are for looking good and being shouted grow into young men who comment on how much they’d like to “bang” a twelve year old and her presumed sister.

Self-harm is very often a symptom of male violence. The man may not be pulling a razor across skin, but he rips her soul into so many pieces that it becomes logical to tear her skin into pieces too.

As we travelled to the cinema today, my daughter placed herself In Charge Of The Tunes. “Clean” by Taylor Swift came on. I’d never heard it before. She sang:

You’re still all over me like a wine-stained dress I can’t wear anymore

Hung my head as I lost the war, and the sky turned black like a perfect storm

Rain came pouring down when I was drowning

That’s when I could finally breathe

And by morning

Gone was any trace of you

I think I am finally clean

The Bible declares that Jesus died for our sins. That we are washed clean by His choice to give up all power, coming to earth, living a life of Truth and dying on a cross. We are “washed clean” because of Him.

This teaching has been warped by many. Responses to the Hillsong/Mark Driscoll petition have told me we should be forgiving him, not petitioning against him. Wiping the slate clean.

The Duggars talk of their son’s abuse being resolved in him finding Jesus. Wiping the slate clean.

Yoder’s sex offences are a gap between aspiration and behaviour, his important teaching is more significant than his choice to sexually abuse. He is a “well-known pacifist” despite violating over 100 women. Wiping the slate clean.

Women are not slates.

We are not slates that are wiped clean when an abuser repents, or purports to have. A woman’s healing is not linked to an abuser’s redemption. It simply does not work like that.

As I listened to the Taylor Swift lyrics I realised no amount of standing in the rain is going to make me clean. Jesus can stand with me in the brokenness, but He can’t wipe away the abuse and violation. It’s not Men In Black. There’s no zapping and the memories are gone. Women live with the consequences of men’s violence for the whole of our lives.

I’ll move beyond this day. Life will become joyous again. I will be okay. But the patriarchy continues. Little boys objectify teenage girls. Teenage men want to “bang” girls. Adult men rape, violate and decimate women in every country in the world. And the church colludes. And Jesus weeps.

The Spectrum of Pornographies: A Man’s Perspective PART 2

This post is part of the series I’ve been doing about the spectrum of pornographies, you can read the others (along with a few of my previous posts that cover the subject) here.

This is the second guest post from a Christian man who I asked to share his views…

I personally have been helped by some of the literature and resources developed by Christians aimed at men who consume porn of the types I did. Their frameworks for understanding compulsive behaviour and my motivations were very useful, as were the practical strategies for changing problem behaviour. I would commend the work of XXXChurch in the US particularly, especially as it is noteworthy that they are addressing aspects of the production of porn as well as its consumption.

However, the language in the books and on the websites produced by Christians can be problematic. Talk of addicts and addiction, of being a user can reinforce the notion of men being primarily victims and analogous to drug users. Yes, the literature does address the effects on family and friends of an ‘addicts” behaviour, just as those addressing alcohol or drug abuse do.

But telling men they are victims in a spiritual battle – whilst partially true – is only a part of the bigger picture.

The battle can be too often described only as the struggle of ‘good men tempted’ against the ‘flesh and blood’ of naked women (or men) having sex on screen.

It is closer to the truth, I think, to say that men are called – no, compelled – to take up a battle against the ‘powers and principalities’ behind the systematic and all-pervasive denigration and objectification of women of which pornographies are manifestations of.

That may mean men learning not to solely be obsessed with maintaining personal purity (though resisting the lust Jesus speaks of IS a non-negotiable) and being willing to speak about and root out every form of misogynistic thinking and practise. It’s not either/or, it’s both/and but it’s essential we stop casting ourselves as the victims of the piece and face up to our greater responsibilities.

What does an effective response to this issue look like?  Do you have any thoughts about what a theological response to the issues looks like?

I only have tentative answers but there are some things I think we definitely do.

Firstly, given that the majority of exploitation and degradation one can observe in pornography of all forms is enacted by men against women, we men firstly need to listen to what women would have us do. Men are not the saviours of porn performers nor of porn consumers but we do have responsibilities. We need to learn not to shrug off our responsibility to act but we do need to curtail our assumption that men know what is best for women and that we know what women need us to do.
I think too that men need to engage more readily in conversation with – and especially in listening to – feminists within and outside the Church. They are able to teach us how pornography connects with wider issues of sexism and women’s liberation.

We also need to talk together more frankly and honestly about what is out there – I don’t mean talking porn for the sake of showing how much we know or how in touch we are with what is out there but in order to confront the realities and expose the mechanisms of exploitation and damage.

As I’ve suggested, we need to think more carefully about our language and terminology. Can we find language which is more accurate and honest than only “addict/addiction/purity/lust”? Should we be speaking of consumers not users given most pornography is unashamedly cynically marketed product, given that many pornographies is outworking of capitalism?
What about the language of “models” and “performers”? Where is the line between “performer” and “product”? I don’t want to deny the self-determination of women nor the fact that women do choose to produce and act in porn movies, and I don’t wish to speak for women (see above) but when women are saying “pornography is hurting women in all manner of ways” then to fall back on language which emphasises freedom and consent and downplays power and exploitation is disingenuous.

This goes for the larger narratives we employ in our writing and speaking about pornographies in the Church. Whose stories do we emphasise: men who have “suffered” loss due to porn, men who have “recovered” from addiction? Or do need to give more airtime and platform space to women telling their stories about porn? About the effects of the men they know consuming porn? Of their own experience of having been exploited by porn producers? Do we need to pay more attention than we do to the voices of women who have suffered sexual violence due in part to the shaping of men’s minds and actions by violent porn?

In some of the Christian books and websites I’ve read addressing pornography I’ve read much about men who “use prostitutes” and stripclubs, or pay to access porn online, but next to nothing in the same books and sites about who these prostitutes are, who works at these strip clubs, who made the porn and “performed” in it.
For every man’s life “ruined” by pornography consumption there is at least one woman whose life has been ruined and whose health and well-being have been compromised.

Even the well-meaning talk of “would you want your daughter to be watched in that way?” is problematic. We should instead be saying things like “should any woman be treated in this way or feel compelled to make a living like this?”

We need to resist shallow stereotypes about men and women and sex. Addressing porn has to be connected with what we teach in churches about men and women and sex more broadly. Much teaching can inadvertently give more license to men to consume pornography by emphasising “men’s needs” and their apparently greater sex drive, and women’s supposed more “emotional” and “passive” view of sex. If our church teaching on sex reinforces male potency and drive, and female passivity and receptivity, does this not shape men’s expectations of sex to conform to what they see on their screens?

We need to join the dots in our speaking and acting between pornography, sex trafficking/slavery, and sexual violence. These relationships are complex. Not all that comes under the banner “pornography” is necessarily exploitative and connected with sexual violence; but much is. However, we need to resist seeing ourselves as the male saviours of poor helpless women – back to listening and learning before acting – whilst still acting when we can.

We need to read our bibles “better” – to see the narratives of sexual exploitation, the gender stereotypes often under the surface of texts we read too simplistically.

A quick example:

David and Bathsheba: do we read this as David in a moment of weakness succumbing to temptation? Or do we notice and highlight the power dynamics at work: the powerful king seeing another woman as a sexual object to own and consume, a woman who could not realistically say no to the summons from the King who “sent messengers to fetch her”? In our modern terminology, was this really fully consensual sex or was this exploitative behaviour within an asymmetrical power relationship?

I’m not advocating that we demonize King David or dismiss the fact that he was a man “after God’s own heart”; rather we perhaps need to learn that “good men” are not simply “tempted”; sometimes they are exploitative and abusive.

We need to open our minds to recognise that when we laud a biblical character simplistically as a “goody” we risk overlooking the patterns of sexual exploitation and sexism even within our scriptures.

The same goes for other aspects of the Bible – how do we read Paul’s epistles within a “pornified” culture where women are routinely objectified on camera and in print? When I read in 1 Corinthians that a wife is not “master” of her own body, I must treat and read that text extremely carefully given that pornographies so frequently depict a woman’s body simply as an object for a man or men to use to achieve orgasm. Paul had his reasons for writing, and I don’t think he is advocating the routine objectifying of women. However, thousands of women within pornography industries are routinely treated and told that they are not “masters” of their bodies; they are told that their bodies exist for men’s pleasure, and their value as people is proportional to the degree of pleasure a man derives from gazing at or physically using their bodies.
We certainly can draw on Paul’s writing to develop a healthy theology of the body and of sex BUT we need to be very careful and not rely solely on a simplistic reading of him.
I’d also ask: please, please, please resist quoting chunks of Proverbs to address porn and sex. I’ve heard that book used too often to endorse narrow sexual roles especially for women, and to perpetuate the notion that men are “potential victims” who must resist the advances of “temptresses” whether in the flesh or on screen.
Finally, if we want to hold up Samson and Solomon as heroes of the faith, also be honest about the massively exploitative sexual behaviour they were engaged in. Solomon’s harem of women were not in his royal court purely of their own volition, acting from true freedom and self-determination. Our ancestors In the faith used women as objects for pleasure and to continue their bloodlines. Yes, God was gracious enough to “use” these men for his purposes but let’s at least be more honest about the long legacy of sexual exploitation in our faith’s story.

I realise I’ve offered more questions than answers. I realise I’ve offered no programme of action or 10 steps to eradicating pornography. I hope these suggestions about how we think and speak and listen will provoke others to develop appropriate ways of acting. My greatest concern is not so much ridding my home or computer of porn (though this is essential), nor to rescue men from addiction (though men do need help stopping what they’re doing). There is a bigger cause of ridding the world, our communities and churches of the ways of thinking, speaking and behaving which contribute to pornographies being so pervasive, and increasingly violent and damaging. That’s a huge and more complex task.

The Spectrum of Pornographies: A Man’s Perspective PART 1

This post is part of the series I’ve been doing about the spectrum of pornographies, you can read the others (along with a few of my previous posts that cover the subject) here.

I asked a Christian man I’d been chatting with about the issues around pornographies to write about his experiences.  He said a question and answer approach would work well, so here is Part 1…

How long have you been in Church?

Church has been a constant part of my life since birth. My parents are Christians and there’s never been a time I’ve not been heavily involved in Church – attending, helping lead worship, children’s work…

What is your current church involvement?

I’m currently a full-time paid minister of a church as part of a small team. I’m still relatively new to full-time leadership having spent time training full time at a theological college and on placements.

My work is very varied: from work with older people to all-age worship, preaching, community engagement and work with schools.

I’ve previously had a fair bit of experience of working with teenagers.

My work with teenagers in a number of settings gave me a greater awareness of the rapid and constant changes in that wide range of media we call ‘porn’ and how and what young people access.

What are your thoughts on the spectrum of media that makes up what is commonly described as pornography?

In a previous blog post you made the very helpful point that pornography is not one monolithic entity but a vast spectrum or diversity of material and media.

Not only is this true; I also feel it is important to note that porn users are diverse, have very different patterns of usage, and access porn for different reasons and with a variety of felt needs or drives.

My first experience of pornographic material was at around 11 seeing magazine of what would today be regarded by many as very ‘tame’ – essentially naked or scantily clad women in ‘alluring’ poses (it’s worth noting they had pubic hair in contrast to the seemingly ubiquitous contemporary requirement for women in most forms of porn to be hairless, as you’ve noted previously).

My ‘descent’ into what I would call a porn addiction followed a path from ‘softcore’ still images online (dialup internet and 1990s tech precluded my viewing moving images for several years) to hardcore short movies online by about 2010.

I shocked myself at how rapidly my choices of material accessed changed over a few years, in terms of the shift from softcore “lad mag”/playboy stills to short movies of male-female and female-female explicit penetrative sex.

What I note now looking back is how a click on a free site offering playboy images of nudity always offered up immediate free access to still images and videos of ardcore penetrative sex acts, mainly m-f or f-f. ‘Escalation’ of usage happened very easily.

My main motivation for using porn was initially curiosity – not having had sex until my 20s and married, I was curious about the naked female form and the mechanics of sex.

The motivation shifted in time such that it became about relieving boredom or low mood by seeking sexual stimulation.

I have accessed hardcore porn over a period of maybe 10 years on and off.

One of the motivators in recent years to get help and kick my habit has been the realisation of what is out there, how easily I was being sucked in, and the risk of my beginning to access more extreme and degrading material.However, in what must have been just 3 or 4 years, as my access escalated from nudity to watching two people having penetrative vaginal intercourse, so I became rapidly aware of what I found and find a far more disturbing, degrading and violent world of pornographies.

For example, while I may have clicked on a page to view still full frontal nudity and/or a ‘model’ masturbating, sidebar ads and pop ups offered an array of other content: anal sex, ‘facials’ (a man or men ejaculating on a woman’s face), gangbangs (multiple men penetrating one woman, sometimes simultaneously), bondage/S&M, and a variety of content specifically offered up as being what I’d call ‘deviant’. By this I mean content which involves physically abusive, overtly exploitative sexual activity.

I didn’t explore much beyond what would be called “vanilla” male-female/female-female porn, and I quite frankly didn’t understand why anyone would be interested in some of what seemed bizarre or disturbing types of porn. I’ve never been drawn to some of the forms you listed in your previous blog: porn involving other bodily functions, ‘facials’, orgies, gangbangs, what would be called ‘fetish’. But the realisation of what was out there disturbed me deeply.

Now, to be clear: I would say from my experience as a user and from my research that the vast majority of pornographies involve some form of exploitation of women; most porn in whatever form almost always places men in a position of dominance and power over women. This is often explicit in the behaviour of ‘performers’ and the scenarios offered up; it is almost always the case in what goes on behind the camera and when the cameras aren’t rolling, in how the industries operate.

This being said, there are forms of porn which are actively marketed using the language of exploitation, of men forcefully “doing to” women with no attempt to suggest that there will be mutual pleasure.

It became clear that porn as one woman and one man depicted as engaging in mutually pleasurable sex (yes with the man being more dominant, but seemingly mutually consensual and ‘vanilla’) had become just one thing on a vast menu.

The descriptors attached to videos and screenshots I began to see on the two or three sites I visited became ever more violent, degrading, explicitly objectifying and insulting of women. They were all about what one or more men would do to this or that orifice. Women were “sluts”, “bitches” and “whores” whom the viewer could see degraded. There was/is no veneer of respect in these forms of porn. The language was/is debasing women in every way possible without actually coming out and saying they are being raped. Some descriptions on ads for sites or videos treated the woman-as-person as incidental or irrelavant – they described only what would be done to one of her body parts by a man or men.

I personally felt not even much curiosity never mind desire to access these more violent and abusive forms BUT they were just a click away, as easy to access as a ‘Nuts’ image.

The near ubiquity of ejaculation onto a woman’s face (something I’ve witnessed and have no desire to see again – it left me feeling not only ashamed but disturbed) seems to me to highlight the fact that porn usage or addiction is far more complex and bigger than being just about (mainly) men looking lustfully at a woman or watching a couple copulating in order to gain a sexual thrill.

There are aspects of the array we call ‘porn’ which are not just about the lust to enjoy sexual pleasure with another person: how do we Christians address the fact that some of our brothers are choosing regularly to access still and moving images of women being physically abused, subjected to obvious discomfort, used as no more than a collection of orifices, and humiliated?

In some porn there is still the effort made to depict scenarios of mutual pleasure and relative respect for each other’s comfort and wellbeing.

In other forms, the pretence isn’t so much abandoned as actively opposed.

The material I saw offered was seemingly designed to appeal to male fantasies of subjecting a woman to anything he chooses for his own pleasure with no interest in woman’s bodily safety never mind pleasure. Women are written about as having no say nor right to derive pleasure or comfort from sexual acts; they are there to be used and to be either silent or only open their mouths to acquiesce to a man’s demands.

Do you think the current focus of the church on addiction and purity around this issue is helpful? 

An emphasis on purity and resisting lust does have its place in the church’s addressing of porn ‘addiction’ but is insufficient on at least four counts:

1) These approaches can make men feel misleadingly that they are the primary victims in the porn addiction narrative. They are victims yes of their own lusts, but these lusts as provoked and exploited by the loose women onscreen: that’s sometimes what the purity/lust narrative implies and leads men to believe. Careless citation of stories about Solomon or King David, or quotes from Proverbs often do more harm than good: they overlook the exploitation and dehumanising of women in those texts for a start; they also place the emphasis on men resisting “the temptress”. If men addicted to porn are victims, they are victims of a mainly male capitalist and misogynistic machine which treats them simply as interchangeable consumers.

2) This emphasis on purity/lust seems inadequate for dealing with the many men among us either for pleasure or out of compulsion watch women being degraded in material marketed as such. I’m not sure what the answer is to this but it must be more complex and far reaching than treating and supporting the individual addict.

3) In and of themselves, approaches which focus solely or mainly on purity and abstinence only address the problem of breaking an addictive pattern (no bad thing) and not the problem of thousands of women’s lives being ruined and bodies exploited. There is a pressing need for the church and men ourselves especially to address the foundational misogyny, systemic sexism which means that there is a market for the full array of pornographies.

4) This approach does little or nothing to address the phenomenon of people accessing porn depicting sexual or quasi-sexual behaviours which radically depart from what the church would generally advocate as healthy, desirable, and safe within a marriage; behaviours which many of us would see as suggestive of problems with a person’s psychological/emotional/sexual health and development. I realise that makes a value judgement but that seems inevitable even desirable if we wish as the church to tackle porn in all its forms and with all its problems.

I will publish Part 2 of this piece over the next few days…

Craig Gross, Fifty Shades and Understanding Abuse

I received an email, along with the rest of the XXX Church mailing list from Craig Gross this afternoon.  It was his response to having watched the Fifty Shades of Grey film.

Much of the content within the email concerned me and I contacted Craig via Twitter to ask whether I could communicate with him about the email.  He responded in this way:


I was hoping to dialogue with him directly, but it seems he would rather I publicly respond, hence this blog…

Firstly, many of you will only know me as Mrs GLW or @God_loves_wome on Twitter.  Though I am vaguely pseudonymous, I should probably explain that I am an expert in preventing and responding to domestic abuse.  I have worked with hundreds of women who have suffered abuse from a partner or ex, trained hundreds of people in understanding domestic abuse, trained over 180 practitioners to work with young people to prevent them perpetrating or experiencing abuse, co-facilitated a perpetrator programme, written resources on child sexual exploitation, identity, recovering from the trauma of an abusive partner, parenting after abuse and equipping churches to respond to domestic abuse.  I have contributed to various books on gender and domestic abuse.  I have delivered keynote speeches at national and international events in Canada, Bulgaria and across the UK, including speaking alongside the Under Secretary to the United Nations and three Archbishops.  Two and a half years ago I set up the “50 Shades is Domestic Abuse” campaign to raise awareness of the abuse within the series and to endeavour to change the shape of the conversation around the social phenomenon that is Fifty Shades.  Within the last 3 weeks that has included organising a protest at the premiere of the film and doing interviews of TV, and across much online and some printed media.

I find that writing as “God Loves Women” means that people can think that I come to the conversation without any expertise.  I choose to not use my Twitter account to advertise what I do because I’m not interested in building a platform or promoting myself, however, in order to effectively respond to Craig Gross’ email I felt it would be worth making it clear that I write this as an expert in the field of domestic abuse.

Okay so, Craig’s piece is written in full below, with my comments added.

I don’t read fiction. Ever. I haven’t since high school, and even in high school, I opted for the Cliff’s Notes. When Fifty Shades of Grey came out, I heard about it (and have even commented on it over the years) but never opened the book. I never even skimmed it. I have friends who have and have filled me in.

I have read all three books.  When I read the books, I folded down every page on which there was abuse.  This is a picture of the books:


I thought it was a fantasy book about a guy with some crazy desires for some violent sex. I was blown away to learn it sold 100 million copies, and when the movie grossed $260 million worldwide this weekend, I became even more fascinated.

So I went to see the movie. I went with my wife, to the noon showing at the mall by our house. It was packed. I can’t believe how many people were seeing this movie on a Wednesday afternoon.

As part of the “50 Shades is Domestic Abuse” campaign, we have been encouraging people to boycott the film.  Not because we are pro-censorship.  Not for religious reasons.  But because the film and associated branding is making those who created the film a lot of money.  Purchasing a cinema ticket contributes to the money being made, validates that the film is something people should be watching and, in the case of Craig Gross, reinforces that the film is not bad like pornographies (which his entire ministry is based on people not watching) and therefore is the sort of thing couples should be going to see together.  

I set up the campaign, not because Fifty Shades is “pornographic” but because it depicts an abuser an ideal partner, stalking as a charming character quirk, deep power imbalances as sexy, lack of consent and rape as BDSM, and coercion, emotional abuse and minimisation, denial and blame as normal behaviour from a partner.  I’m not even going to begin on the celebration of selfish capitalism, modelling of wealth, power and “sexiness” as a measure of success or the wider issues of gender within the series.

So what’d I think?

I didn’t hate the movie.

I did hate Christian Grey.

I didn’t walk out or picket, but I watched the whole movie because I wanted to better understand why this has resonated with so many. Why is Christian Grey someone that women are cheering on and fantasizing about? Why does my own mother at 66 years old connect with this story and feel like she “missed out” on something in her sex life.

I did picket.  Because I actually already understand why Fifty Shades has resonated with so many.  It’s because it is the story we’ve been told from childhood, of a broken “beast” of a man, rescued by the love of a good woman/girl.  It maintains the comfortable dynamic of men as powerful, and women as passive (you know the main dynamic in almost ALL pornographic material…) yet allows readers to feel they’re being edgy by adding orgasms and spanking.  Within a fantasy setting the books are just that, a “let’s pretend” story.  But within the context of 72% of girls being emotionally abused by a boyfriend within the UK, the Fifty Shades brand is reinforcing to all young people that abuse is not only normal, but also desirable. 

As I write this, the movie finished two hours ago, and I’m still upset over what I just saw. Not some young woman being tied up, but Christian Grey himself. Let me explain.

Christian Grey was born to a prostitute/crack addict and put up for adoption.

Christian Grey was sexually abused by an older lady from the ages of 15 to 21.

Christian Grey was introduced to BDSM and forced to be a “submissive” for a number of years.

Christian Grey is very successful, rich, and powerful in his job.

Christian Grey has everything he needs and more, but deep down inside you can tell is not happy or fulfilled.

Christian Grey is used to getting what he wants and no one tells him no.

Christian Grey has had over 15 sexual partners that we know of.

Christian Grey does not “make love,” he “f*cks… hard.”

Christian Grey does not like to be touched.

Christian Grey gives things to get sex.

Christian Grey is abusive, controlling, dominant, and invasive. (I agree with Craig here)

Aside from his looks, money, and power, Christian Grey is the worst boyfriend imaginable.

Anastasia Steele is a virgin.

Anastasia Steele is infatuated with Christian Grey.

Anastasia Steele enjoys being pursued. (It’s not being pursued, it’s actually stalking.  Which is an actual, criminal offence)

Anastasia Steele obviously is uncomfortable with the sexual experiences Christian Grey is wanting.

Anastasia Steele is constantly pushed to give in to the sexual requests of Christian Grey

Anastasia Steele is given more things in order to submit to Christian Grey’s sexual requests.

Anastasia Steele desires a relationship but gives sex hoping to get the relationship.

So, for those who have not read the book or watched the movie, you’re up to speed so far. Christian has a “contract” he tries to get Ana to sign, a contract that explains what she will and won’t do sexually and what she is and is not allowed to do outside the bedroom. In exchange for the signing the contract, she can move into the house and get all the benefits of being with Mr. Grey.

I get from the movie that Anastasia is not interested in sex so much as she is Christian Grey, and I think that is pretty normal for most women I meet that are pursuing men. 

Ana is not interested in sex, because up until this point she has never actually had sex and hasn’t really been interested in having sex.  It has been suggested that if Ana genuinely has no sexuality before meeting Christian Grey, she probably is asexual.  The developing sexual script of human beings doesn’t begin at 21, it starts at birth and grows as we mature.  Ana’s approach to sex is NOT normal.  It is the measure of a character that has been given no depth or other dimensions, whose only purpose is to interact with the main male character.

More generally, women are socialised NOT to accept or embrace their sexuality.  Vagina is a dirty word.  There’s an assumption boys are masturbating as teenagers, there’s an assumption we don’t even need to mention masturbation to girls.  Boys are socialised as subjects within sex, girls are socialised to be objects.  (Again, something depicted across the spectrum of pornographies.)

(The famous saying, after all, is that men give love to get sex and women give sex to get love.) 

I’m not sure this is a famous saying.  And I’m not sure it’s true.

But in this movie, Christian is not willing to negotiate. He is not willing to show love or be attached. In fact, Anastasia is not even allowed to sleep in the same room or bed with him. She really is just his sex slave. She won’t sign the contract and at one point he gets so desperate he offers, “If you sign this, I will give you one night out a week as a couple. We will got out to dinner and go see a movie like boyfriends and girlfriends do.”

Enough about the movie. Here are some takeaways and things I am left not understanding.

  • Marriage only works when both sides give and both sides take, and sex is the same way. Men and women have needs and desires, and marriage and the marriage bed is a place to have those fulfilled. If you are with someone and they don’t take into consideration your needs and only demand things from you, then get the heck out of that relationship if you’re dating. If you’re married, then head to a counselor.

A wiser way of approaching this is that a relationship should be about “give and give”.  Neither person taking, but rather each person giving?  Surely that is the sacrificial love Jesus modelled? 



The books show Christian visiting a counsellor (Dr Flynn), but the Flynn colludes with his behaviour (just as many counsellors do).

A counselling approach looks at “my feelings and other people’s action”.  What a perpetrator needs to do it look at “my actions and other people’s feelings”.  

If someone is being abused by a partner, whether they are married or not, there is a Biblical principle of leaving the relationship.  The sanctity of marriage should never be upheld in priority over emotional and physical safety.  Craig acknowledges that Christian Grey is “abusive, controlling, dominant, and invasive”.  An academic study found that within the books that Christian Grey is an extremely high risk perpetrator.  



  • Most people who abuse others were abused as children. The best available research suggest that 75% or more of those who commit acts of sexual or physical abuse against others were themselves abused as children. Christian Grey was abused as a child, a horrendous act that he never got over or dealt with or talked with anyone about. This has led him to some serious walls that have gone up in his life. and the only way he knows how to deal with it is to abuse someone else. He has done this to over 15 women and will continue. I heard this story was about sex, but this story at its core is about a broken man and his inability to love and be loved. How do people reading this book or watching this movie not see this? This is not a love story. This is not even an erotic story.  This is a story of broken people continuing a cycle of dysfunction in their lives rather than dealing with their issues.



Lundy Bancroft is an expert in domestic abuse, his work with perpetrators has found that 50% of abusers witnessed a father or step-father abuse their mother (or step-mum).  In these cases it was not about “brokenness” or trauma, but rather role modelling and what is seen as normal.  It was about the beliefs of ownership and entitlement being taken on.  And regardless, this leaves 50% of abusers who have not experienced abuse as children.  Fifty Shades is about domestic abuse, and so any research mentioned needs to be focussed on domestic abuse.

The myth of abusers being abused in dangerous for a number of reasons:

  1. It justifies the behaviour and makes it harder for the perpetrator to take responsibility for their choices.
  2. It allows us to reduce someone’s offence because it isn’t “as bad” if they have a reason we feel makes it understandable.
  3. As has been evidenced in this article, it shifts the focus of the impact and priority onto the abuser and their feelings, and away from the victim and her pain.  Craig has not focussed on the impact of the abuse had on Ana.
  4. The first step to an abuser changing is them taking full responsibility for their choices to hurt others, as such this message disables perpetrators from changing.
  5. Many women who suffer abuse from a partner believe that their partner’s “brokenness” is the problem and stay in the relationship believing that enough love will fix things.  This is not the case and can lead to the woman suffering abuse for a much longer.
  • The Bible says I have the right to do anything, but not everything is beneficial. I am not against being playful or doing things to spice up things in your bedroom, but the question I always have is why? Why do you think you need that? If both people agree to try different things in the bedroom, I am all for that. Christian Grey, on the other hand, is dealing with his pain by inflicting pain onto someone else who is visibility uncomfortable with it. He has trouble at work one day, so he sends Anastasia to the “play room” to take out his frustrations on her. If your partner is asking you to do something or try something new in the bedroom, my advice to you would be to ask why. The reason behind the ask is the deeper issue than the act itself. In a lot of cases it might just be a fun thing – or it might be a case like Christian Grey where he wants to avoid dealing with his own pain.

This is not about Christian Grey “dealing with his pain”.  This is about Christian Grey punishing women who look like his mother (don’t get me started on the mother blaming message this sends).  The solution does not start with looking at Christian Grey’s pain, but rather in him changing his beliefs of ownership and entitlement.  In him re-humanising the women he is Othering in every possible way and developing empathy for them.

  • “Why don’t you try things my way?” Christian never wants to try things Anastasia’s way. I think that would be a better movie, but he insists she does what he wants. If you are in a relationship and your partner makes demands and pressures you to do things you don’t want to do, then say NO.


If only saying no were this easy.  The film shows that when Ana says no, Christian physically assaults her.  Understanding this must be in the context of the inner workings of coercion, of making someone feel guilty, of the traumatic processing attached to sexual abuse; in which saying yes is the only way someone can either keep themselves safe or psychologically cope with the abuse.  Advising someone to say no (when they are in a relationship with an abuser), rather than to find SAFETY can be very dangerous.

Many people won’t understand this, but because I’ve seen the inner workings of the adult industry, this movie didn’t turn me on – it made me mad.  The sex shown in the movie is violent and not love-making, and I don’t understand how 100 million people can read this book and think there is anything sexy about Mr. Christian Grey. If he was broke, ugly, and had a hard drive of porn instead of a “playroom” in his house, every women reading this would be freaked out enough to stay away from him forever. The books and movie have painted a sick disturbed man as a sex symbol that many, many women have gone crazy over.

Craig, I can tell you why so many people have read the books.  Because as a society we are conditioned to see abuse as romance.  Rarely will anyone identify the abuse perpetrated by their partner, because of the myths (e.g. it’s because of childhood) that are held by almost everyone.  People like these books and the films because abuse is seen as something alien, something “over there” happening to “those people” and therefore is irrelevant.

So I leave even more confused.

Why? Why does my 66-year-old mom feel she missed out? Why is this unhealthy domination held up as an ideal? Why do so many men and women still not realize the greatest sex you can possibly have is by learning how to serve one another, discovering how to give to your partner and receive from them as well?

Because of patriarchy Craig.  Because one of the consequences of the Fall is that men have ruled over women.  And even though Jesus came and gave us a beautiful Kingdom of mutuality; men still abuse women.  And people still make money from depicting men abusing women as romance.  And people give money (like you and your wife did) to go see this film; raising the ticket sales and encouraging film makers to make the next two films.

If you haven’t seen the movie or read the books, don’t.

You’ve just spend a lot of time encouraging people to think about the film.  You’ve told everyone you went to see the film with your wife, so it seems a confusing message to tell other people they shouldn’t…

Instead of wasting that time examining this unhealthy dynamic, spend those hours talking with your spouse about sex. Talk about what you desire, what you think is missing. What your history with sex was. How you missed or messed up or abused sex prior to marriage. Talk about your expectations for sex and whether they’re being met or not. Don’t know how to start those conversations? We have a course called; watch the first video for free, and I assure you it will lead to so many productive conversations. Maybe even fifty of them.

Perhaps it would be worth telling people how to seek help if they recognise they are being abusive to their partner.  Or maybe directing people to help if they are experiencing abuse from their partner?  Statistically at least 25% of the women who receive your email will experience abuse from a partner at some point in their lifetime, perhaps you could tell people where they can find safety?  Or support?  Perhaps prioritise women’s safety over “better sex”.  Maybe?

This is a great international resource for people who are trying to find their national service:  Though, if like Christian Grey, their partner tracks their phone or checks their computer, it might be worth considering accessing this somewhere other than the home computer, or a tracked mobile (cell) phone.

To learn more about abuse the best book out there is “Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft.

And for Christians these books may be useful:

Is It My Fault? by Justin and Lindsay Holcomb

The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Veronica

The Christian Porn Conversation

Last week I wrote “Porn is not a thing”.  It was a piece exploring the idea of a “spectrum of pornographies” as apposed to seeing porn as one entity.  Today I want to consider the messages we see across that spectrum.


Recently Hannah Mudge posted a fascinating article about a man who spent 5 years filming hardcore pornographic material.  He isn’t “anti” pornographic material and says he doesn’t regret his decision to work in the industry, yet his experiences of filming heterosexual content was on every level different than when filming pornographic content of gay men.  He describes the environment with women in these terms “it almost seemed like an entire gender was being denigrated, like that was the whole point—where very young women were choked and slapped and written-on with lipstick, simply for the crime, it seemed, of being a woman.”  Whereas in shooting gay content he said, “The sadness and the degradation I had come to associate with my job, with videotaped sex for money, was suddenly absent.”


Though this man is part of the very culture he critiques, he raises the greatest issue we face from pornographic material; the degradation, objectification and utter decimation of women.  There are other issues, but fundamentally the many and varied ways the spectrum of pornographies destroys men’s (and boys’) views of women (and girls’) is the greatest issue.  It is also rarely articulated in the Christian “porn” conversation.


The Christian conversation on “porn” has (in the main) these aspects:

  1. Purity: viewing defiles the person looking.
  2. Addiction: people get addicted to viewing and so it becomes treated as a medical disorder.
  3. The redemption narrative: (mostly) men sharing their stories of moving from sin (watching “porn”) to redemption (no longer watching “porn”)
  4. Neuroscience/Intimacy: After Dr William Struthers (neuroscientific theologian) wrote a book covering the ways viewing pornographic content affects the brain and communicated the solution as greater intimacy, this is regularly talked about and he is the go to person Christians usually quote or invite to talk about “porn”.


Though all of the above can be part of the issue, I would suggest of greater significance are the following layers underpinning the spectrum of pornographies:

  1. A gendered analysis: this is about men consuming women.  Man as subject, woman as object.
  2. Industry: people make vast sums of money from selling pornographic material.  Viewers are groomed into harder and harder core porn, in order to bring financial benefit to (mainly) white men.
  3. Power: as we’ve seen in the latest power plays of The Sun around Page 3, pornographic material is more about power than it is about any sort of meaningful sexual experience.
  4. The broken lives: the (mostly) women who are groomed, used, abused and discarded by the industry.


Not only does the Christian “porn” narrative mostly lack articulation of these issues, some elements of Christian culture reinforce attitudes within the spectrum of pornographies.  Talk of manly men, who are aggressive and testosterone driven creatures feeds into the messages of men as animals.  The feminisation of the church conversation perpetuates the view that women are the problem.  Modesty culture at root states “men objectify” so women must cover up, the irony of modesty culture and the pornography industry essentially both treating women as sexual objects should not be ignored.  Even responses to the use of pornographic material is problematic.  Talk of “fighting porn” and the war imagery that it often conjures up does not stand apart from and in abhorrence of the violence across the spectrum of pornographies.  Rather it becomes violent language to respond to sexual violence.


Then there is the lack of women’s voices within the Christian conversation about the spectrum of pornographies.  Women feature usually as wives or daughters of the men using pornographic material.  “What would your wife think?”  “How is this affecting your marriage?”  “Would you want your daughter to be a porn star?”


Women are included mainly only within their relationship to the men using pornographic material.  Just as pornographic material reduces women to ornaments with holes, so this approach reduces women.  Not as far, but still solely as men’s attachments.  Why do women have to be thought of as having a personal relationship to a man in order to have value.  As this edited image powerfully challenges, why can’t women simply be “someone”?


The other way women are included is: “women use porn too you know?”   This isn’t inaccurate, women do use pornographic material.  However, rarely are women spokespeople on this issue, or the ones shaping the conversation.


We need to change the conversation, broaden it, increase the number and diversity of voices.  We need a conversation which fully acknowledges the industry and the money being made, that sees the connection between selfish capitalism and the increase in the commodification of human beings.  We need to recognise the power imbalance and gendered dynamic across the spectrum of pornographies; being willing to look at our own community and the attitudes to gender and power that reduce women and create a deep imbalance of power between men and women.    Until then, we will never delve beyond the surface of this issue.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Gender Disparity on the Platform

Patriarchy is all pervasive.  It seeps across all areas of life.  There isn’t one solution, one issue or one aspect to approach patriarchy from.  Perhaps one of the issues with blogging is that it invites us to only consider a couple of issues, it is not designed to approach the fullness of something like patriarchy.


When we look at the reasons for gender disparity on the platform, things like childcare or complementarian theology are often as far as we get with defining the issues.  Yet these are superficial issues and in no way explore the vast complexity of why we have less women on the platform.  Yes, there is a need to question whether equal representation is the right way to go, but if we do that without exploring why there is disparity between men and women, we glaze over the actual issues.


After collating the statistics for platforms in 2013 I was regularly being asked whether quotas were the way to go.  As a result I wrote this document in consultation with as many women in leadership as I could.  It is 34 pages long and articulates the reasons women are less likely or able to gain speaking opportunities.


So I thought I’d list the issues raised in the document here, so instead of picking one or two, we can hopefully stop listing one or two of these and thinking that is enough.  Instead we need to look at the whole picture and engage holistically with it.

Society Community Ontogenetic Individual/Internal
Intersectionality of oppression Formal reinforcement of societal beliefs Children not given critical thinking skills Imposter syndrome
Neurosexism Informal reinforcement of societal beliefs Christian products perpetuate stereotypes Lack of gender awareness
Patriarchy Women’s appearance scrutinied Sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood Women who put selves forwards seen as “pushy”
Institutional sexism “Queen Bee” syndrome Role models fit gender stereotypes Motherhood:

Stepping of the “career ladder” and unable to get back on

Lack of provision for mothers at events


Hegemonic Masculinity “Home wives” and “work wives” Children’s clothing Singleness
Male privilege Women expected to fulfil “female roles” Toy and technology industries Lack of self-confidence
Lack of transparency/consistency Lack of support from friends or family Gender socialisation Lack of resources:

No “wife”


Lack of accountability/consequences “You can’t be what you can’t see” Different expectations of girls/boys Silencing tactics:

Policing tone

The “grace card”

Gender stereotypes Lack of gender awareness in ministry training Adolescent development Shame
Gender justice seen as a “women’s issue” Focus on justice as “out there” Traditional gender roles seen as a measure of Christian commitment The patriarchal bargain
Selfish capitalism Single sex events can perpetuate stereotypes Events for children and young people rarely focus on gender Assumptions made based on gender
Tokenism Local church”

Not championing women

Not providing leadership opportunities

Not enacting egalitarian theology

Sex and relationship education Individual complicity:

Not willing to give up power

Fear of the consequences

Lack of knowledge

Blind to the issues

Lack of courage

Women’s contributions written out of history Lack of regional opportunities Parenting Pressure on female leaders to represent their entire gender
Media Representation of women:


-Pressure to conform to beauty industry standards


Lack of informal ministry training No gender awareness training for youth and children’s workers
Violence against women Lack of support with formal ministry training Parenting advice perpetuates gender stereotypes
Women have less decision making power Fear of inappropriate relationships Lack of discipleship
Women are poorer
Unhealthy expectations of:

Women without children

Single women




Women only invited to speak on “women’s issues”
Workplace not designed for women
No teaching on what a right use of power looks like
Gender exclusive language
Don’t know any female speakers
Negative attitudes towards feminism
Only using existing pool of speakers
Lack of intentionality in inviting women female speakers
Main leadership model is charismatic


Emphasis on “maleness” of God

Unity prioritised

Gender justice a “secondary issue”

Creation ordinance for gender

Only asking speaker’s wives
Non-ministry experience undervalued
Accusations of “feminisation”
Invisibility of women

In response to some of the things Ian Paul and others have written about the issues of having children, I have a few things to say.


For the last few years, Mr GLW and I have run a consultancy together.  He manages the finances and I do mostly everything else.  This means he has been the primary carer of the children and the house for that time.  He is brilliant at it.  We clearly felt God’s call to live out our life and faith in this way, with both our skill sets contributing to us generally managing family, work and life quite well.  The main issue for us has not been some biological reality of my womb making me yearn for more time with my children, but rather the social judgments made (especially by Christians) about our roles.  On numerous occasions Mr GLW has been asked “So when are you getting a proper job?”  And people are incredulous that I can achieve so much while having a family.


I don’t think the way we work is right for everyone.  But suggesting women are biologically predetermined to be the primary carers of children and the home is reducing the opportunity for both women and men to live out God’s call and fully use their gifts.  So in finish I would say:

  1. Men’s contribution to childcare and the home is a deeply feminist issue.
  2. The Church should be encouraging all men to be more involved with their children and homes.  As a feminist and a christian I regularly object to the sort of hegemonic masculinity perpetuated by the majority of Christian men’s work in the UK.
  3. I am not interested in the statistics because I value the people speaking on platforms more highly than others.  I believe there is a need for us Christians collectively to stop waiting for the next big event to hear from God.  Jesus died and rose again so we no longer needed an earthly priest or mediator between us and the Creator of the universe and Christian events are often used by individuals as a replacement for spending time in reflection with God.  However, the statistics we can gain from events gives us a snapshot into Christian culture and the way certain types of power are allocated.  That snapshot is invaluable in motivating change, articulating the issues and beginning the conversations and actions required to change things.
  4. Nobody ALLOWS their wife or husband to be a GP, have a job or be a primary carer of children.  We support, encourage and enable our wife or husband to do such things


There’s been recent Christian coverage of “Same Sex Attraction” (SSA) from various media outlets. All the articles that I have read share the stories of people who identify as same sex attracted and talk of their journeys to dealing with this. There is much to discuss about the term “Same Sex Attraction” and what it says about certain parts of the Christian community. However, that it not what I wanted to write about.


What I want to talk about is how all the stories are about men. Men who struggle with their feelings of attraction to other men. About how they have chosen to stay celibate or worked to a place of choosing to be in a relationship with a woman. Women only appear in these stories as wives or girlfriends. I have yet to read a story of a woman who identifies as “Same Sex Attracted”. Perhaps it could be suggested that only men are in this area of Christian culture which sees Same Sex Attraction as a thing. However, I think this is highly unlikely given the amount of women in all parts of the church. I think it is much more probable that the stories of female sexuality remain untold.


Similarly any talk in the church about masturbation is rarely addressed as an issue for people, but rather as a “man problem”.


I’m often known to bring vaginas up in public (if this has produced images of me vomiting up vaginas, I apologise). Though anyone who has been on the receiving end of my vagina conversations may have thought I was engaged in hilarity, which is always partially the case in most everything I talk about. It is in fact for a more serious reason that I talk about vaginas. Namely because nobody does. For many women who have experienced abuse from a partner, derogatory comments about their vagina will have shamed and humiliated them. For others the corporate shame of Christian culture or purity messages have left them feeling there is something wrong with them, combined with the fact that there are very few names for a vagina that don’t cause people to turn up their noses at the very idea its existence can leave so many women ashamed of this particularly wonderful part of God’s creation.


Women, we are in possession of the only organ ever designed purely for sexual pleasure and God made it. When God looked on creation, She didn’t say everything was “very good” except for Eve’s lady garden! She said it was all VERY GOOD! I spoke to a sex educator the other day. She had asked why vaginas had hair on them until the last few years, when girls and women became hairless Down There. One of the girls suggested that it must have been because razors weren’t invented ten years ago.


Shall we just sit with that for a minute?


Hairy vaginas are a result of the razor not being invented. This is what actual girls in the UK think. Then there are the teenage boys, who don’t even know girls grow hair. Who think girls with hair are abnormal. Welcome to the world where pornography forms the bulk of sex education for many young people.


We need to reclaim our sexuality women! To own it and embrace that part of identity. We need to be honest about the ways the world, the church and our experiences have damaged us. For our own lives and for the next generation, let us begin to acknowledge how deeply we have been wounded and bring on the revolution, bring on the clitoris!

Open Letter to Stormie Omartian

Dear Stormie Omartian,

I have just read your book, “The Power of the Praying Wife” and I felt I must write to share my horror at the message you are sending out with what you have written.  Please do not mistake me as someone who would say this lightly.  I read your previous book, the Power of the Praying Parent, and found parts of it extremely helpful when I was going through a terrible time in my life.


I would like to share a bit more about that time with you, as I hope it will give you some background into my concerns with your book.  It was 6 years ago, almost exactly and I was living in a hospital with my 2 and a half year old daughter and three month premature baby son.  My son’s prematurity was caused by an assault from my husband, who had abused me sexually, emotionally, psychologically, socially, financially and sometimes physically for four years.  I come from a Christian family and have been committed to God my whole life, although this commitment was almost completely destroyed by my husband’s satanic and evil attempts to destroy everything I was.  In a nutshell, that was where my life was when I was given your book, the Power of the Praying Parent.  It was a great comfort to find practical ways of praying for my children, especially my son, in a situation where I could do nothing else, but watch as his life swung between life and death on an hourly basis.  So I thank you for the help you gave through you authorship of that book.


What has concerned me so greatly about the book I have just read, the Power of the Praying Wife, is that if I had been given that book 6 years ago, I would have invariably returned to my husband and would be dead now.  I would like you to understand that, I am not being dramatic or over-imaginative.  If I had returned to my husband, I WOULD BE DEAD NOW.


Instead, I am very much alive!  My son is a perfectly well nearly 6 year old and my daughter is a beautiful well adjusted 8 year old.  I have gone through many hours of counselling and serious spiritual battle to get to the place where I am now: divorced from my first evil and abusive husband and married again to the most wonderful, Christian man who loves, cherishes and respects me with everything he does.  I am healed and whole and restored because I was able to escape, unlike the many women every year killed by a partner or former partner.


I am not a one off case, please understand this.  At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime — with the abuser usually someone known to her.  That would suggest a third of the women reading your book are also experiencing abuse similar to mine.


I feel it is important to share with you my specific problems with your book.  I hope you will appreciate this is quite a long letter as I hope to list the many reasons your book would have led me to return to my abusive ex-husband and how throughout it perpetuates the values of abusive men and encourages women to accept and even embrace abusive behaviours.  I will do this by going through the issues one by one.  Thank you in advance for listening to what I have to say.


The Power
In the first chapter entitled “The Power” your first assumption is all women reading your book have some power that they are at liberty to give up to their husband.  Potentially a third of your readers will be abused and without power, to suggest they are to give up this power, is more than just a problem.  It is an impossibility.


In your second page of this chapter you state, “A husband can hurt your feelings, be inconsiderate, uncaring, abusive, irritating or negligent.  He can do or say things that pierce your heart like a sliver.”   At this point you have included abuse as a potential sin a husband is perpetrating against his wife, abuse can never be tolerated and at no point do you validate the  reality that this is wrong and that he should be held accountable for this sin.  In fact I would say that in my position as a domestic abuse awareness trainer, all the behaviours you list could be described as abusive, if they are partnered with a desire to have power and control.


You go on to say that “Many difficult things that happen in a marriage relationship are actually part of the enemy’s plan set up for its demise”  At this point you seem to negate any personal responsibility on the part of the husband for his behaviour.  I am not denying that the enemy isn’t involved in the situation, but it is only through personal responsibility for our choices that we can move forward.  As Paul says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”


You state that we can say “I will not allow anything to destroy my marriage”  but if we live in a world of free will and our husband is choosing to abuse us, without stopping, we cannot stop him.  In fact, by giving us free will God has stated that even He can’t stop our husband abusing us.  If we could stop abuse by prayer alone, surely sex trafficking would no longer be a problem, when actually more and more girls and women are being trafficked and raped multiple times on a daily basis.


You state “You can submit to God in prayer whatever controls your husband – alcoholism, workaholic laziness, depression, infirmity, abusiveness, anxiety, fear or failure – and pray for him to be released from it.”   This seems to suggest the abusive husband is the victim in this, he is being controlled by the abuse.  As a professional domestic abuse trainer, I would like to clarify that abusive men control their victims, they are not controlled by their choice to abuse.  They abuse because they want to and because they can.  The only way a man will stop abusing is if he accepts 100% responsibility for his behaviour, maintains regular accountability and develops compassion and empathy.


You go on to mention “God’s position on divorce”  using the verse from Malachi, “God hates divorce”  to suggest that God is against divorce and we are “grieving him” if we do divorce our husband.  I feel you are offering a rather simplistic understanding of this passage and God’s word  as a whole when you say this.  I would suggest that the reason the passage says God hates divorce is because He Himself went through the pain of divorce in His marriage to Israel.  He had to abandon His beloved due to their inability to love Him and recognise the great love He had for them.  You have said you did not want to grieve God by divorcing your husband, but what about how your husband had been grieving God by his treatment of you.  What about God’s love for you and His desire for you to be everything you can be?  In fact to abused women, you are saying here, “your life is less valuable than your marriage.”  When satan tempts Jesus in the desert, he says, “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here.”   Jesus’ response is, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”   We are asking women to put God to the test when we do not see the terrible danger they are in and help them to safety.  Maintaining separation and divorcing an abusive man is nothing short of heroic for many women and we need to celebrate their victory, as God does , rather than condemn them with individual verses taken out of context.


You go on to describe your husband’s behaviour in a way I would define as abusive, “The biggest problem I faced in our marriage was my husband’s temper…He used weapons that left me crippled or paralysed.”   At this point I would point out to you that he chose to do this and nothing you did  caused him to.  You were too valuable to be treated this way.  You seem not to acknowledge this and rather blame yourself for his behaviour, “I’m not saying I wasn’t at fault – quite the contrary.  I was sure I was as much to blame as he, but I didn’t know what to do about it.”


If I had read your words six yeas ago, it would have convinced me my husband was right, I was responsible for the abuse.  It was my fault and it was up to me to go back to him and change myself to make him able to treat me well.  I now know that is the ultimate lie abusive men tell.  It makes us believe we have some power, that we can change things.  And yet we have no power, it is an illusion and it keeps us trapped, unable and unwilling to believe someone is choosing to treat us in this way


You say that when you got to the end of your tether with your situation, “…because I came to God in total honesty about what I felt, He allowed me to thoroughly and clearly envision what life would be like if I left Where would I live, how would I support myself and care for the children who would still be my friends, and worst of all, how would a heritage of divorce affect my son and daughter.”


I have not read a more clear description of how I felt when I was living in a hospital with my children.  Completely hopeless, knowing I would be seen as a failure, losing all that was important to me and most of all letting my children grow up without a father.  It was a terrible picture that I saw.  But in my case God did not show me it.  It was the devil, trying to convince me back to an evil, life draining existence where my children could go on to be emotionally and potentially sexually or physically abused.  You have described the feelings every woman I know who has experienced abuse has gone through, and for many these feelings lead to them going back to their abusive husband, where they  and their children are being continually abused.  There are worse things for children than a heritage of divorce, ask any child who has witnessed their mother being beaten or belittled.


You felt God was calling you to stay and I am not denying that God may have said that.  It breaks my heart however that women who read your book will go back to a life of abuse rather than a life of freedom after reading your words.


You go on to talk about the results you saw as you began to pray, you say, “Little by little, I began to see changes occur in both of us.  When Michael became angry, instead of reacting negatively, I prayed for him.”  Although I don’t doubt God’s transforming power, I find it interesting that your husband’s change related to your changed response to him.  For some men who want to control, as long as things go their way, their behaviour is much more acceptable, obviously this is not the case with many perpetrators, but if every time I behaved unacceptably people adapted their behaviour, I would probably be nicer to be around, not because I had changed but because people were pacifying me.  It happens with 5 year olds, if you give them everything they want, they stop having tantrums, because they don’t need to.


Later in the chapter you go on to say “You have to decide if you want your marriage to work, and if you want it badly enough to do whatever necessary within healthy parameters, to see it happen.”   You seem to assume we all know what healthy parameters are.  I would suggest that throughout the world you will find many different thoughts on what healthy parameters are.  You have so far suggested you are as much to blame for your husband’s abuse as he is, that exposing children to abusive men is preferable to a legacy of divorce and that pacifying abusive men is a suitable way of enabling God to change them.  I would consider all of those outside of healthy parameters.


You say that ”A wife’s prayers for her husband have a far greater effect on him than anyone else’s…”  but then go on to say that, “… I’m not convinced we should depend on our husbands to be the sole providers of [prayer] the best thing for our marriage was for me to have women prayer partners with whom I pray every week.”   It appears from your words that a wife’s prayers are the most effective, but a husband’s are less effective than having prayer partners.


His Wife
Now moving onto the second chapter, “His Wife”, in which you begin by saying, “[You must] maintain a pure heart.  It must be clean before God in order for you to see good results.”   This makes me feel extremely uncomfortable; like prayer is some sort of formula, get the heart right and the blessing flows.  But what about the many pure hearted people who never had their prayers answered, what about the children who pray that sexual abuse will stop and the thousands dying of AIDS who pray they will be healed, who continue to suffer and die.  Where does the formula go then?  It is interesting that Jesus answered the rebel’s prayer on the cross when he had not maintained a pure heart:  “’Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’  Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in paradise.’”

You go on to say, “This whole requirement [of a pure heart] is especially hard when you feel your husband has sinned against you with unkindness, lack of respect, indifference, irresponsibility, infidelity, abandonment, cruelty or abuse.  But God considers the sins of un-forgiveness, anger, hatred, self-pity, lovelessness or revenge to be just as bad as any others”   I would like to point out that you start by invalidating the truth of this pain by saying “when you feel your husband has…”, you seem to be suggesting he may not actually have done these things, it is just our perception of what he has done.
Where is your understanding of a God of justice here?   You do not at any point condemn the behaviours you have listed or validate those of us who have been treated in those ways.  In fact you seem to only condemn the response to those behaviours.  Also, please could you explain how we are to forgive when the abuse continues, Jesus said, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, `This man began to build, and was not able to finish.’”   The cost of forgiveness is great and requires us to truly feel the pain of what has been done to us.  The ability to do this in an abusive environment is impossible.  When we are being abused we are in survival mode and do not feel the true pain of what is happening.  Forgiveness is not an act of consciously forgetting what has happened, this is actually denial, which involves being dishonest to ourselves and others, something unlikely to be supported by the Spirit of Truth Jesus talks of, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth…”

You talk about it being painful for us to die to ourselves in our marriages, “…this kind of pain leads to life.  The other alternative is just as painful and its ultimate end is the death of a dream, a relationship, a marriage and a family.”   I would beg to differ, for some women staying in their marriage will lead to ACTUAL death, not metaphorical death, not relationship death, actual real death and for some of the women, their death will be the first time they have experienced peace in a long, long time.

At this point you may be about to point me to your one sentence on safety in the book, “(In fact, if you are in any kind of physical or emotional danger, remove yourself immediately from the situation to a place of safety and get help.  You can pray from there while your husband receives the counselling he needs)”   This bracketed sentence is your one and only attempt at ensuring safety for those reading your book, when statistically at least 25% of those reading it will be experiencing physical abuse.  As a qualified and trained professional in domestic abuse issues I would like to state that this is NOT enough.  You have already listed abuse at least three times as a thing a husband can be “released” from if the wife is willing to pray and be changed for him.  I would also say, as someone who has experienced physical and emotional abuse, I would not have defined myself as emotionally or physically abused.  Most of us women who have experienced it think it is unique to us and in order to survive in an abusive situation, we will minimise the abuse and our level of danger, as will our husband.   He will say that he ‘only’ slapped us or ‘just’ broke our leg and we will believe it really is unimportant.  The sentence you have written is unlikely to enable any woman whose husband is assaulting her to recognise herself in it.  Especially with all you have said previously about it being our fault too, and that we must change to enable our husbands to change.

Later in this chapter you talk of Queen Esther as an example of a truly godly wife.  You describe how she did not, “…run in and scream, ‘Your hoodlum friends are going to ruin our lives.’  Rather she prayed first and ministered to him in love, while God prepared his heart.”   I would like to challenge your idea of Esther as a loving wife.  In reality she was a sexual slave procured by the king to satisfy his desires.  Her waiting was not about love, it was about absolute fear; if she approached him and he refused her, she would die.  Rather than using Esther as an example of a loving wife, she is more suited to the description of a courageous woman, willing to be martyred if there was a possibility it would save her people.

Further through this chapter you begin to look at creating a home.  You state at the offset of this section, “I don’t care how liberated you are, when you are married there will always be two areas that will ultimately be your responsibility: home and children”   You may be under the impression this is true, but in fact this is a complete lie and is based on nothing more than your own personal situation.  I am married to a wonderful Christian man, who is a full time stay at home dad who does the majority of the housework and child-care activities.  I do not in anyway feel more responsible for those areas than him, however I endeavour to share responsibility with him for our house and children.  I am the only financial provider in the house and my husband and I are truly able to live out these roles, without the world collapsing or our children being scarred for life.

You go on to say, “Even if you are the only one working…you will still be expected to see that the heart of your home is a peaceful sanctuary…you will also be expected to be sexually appealing, a good cook, a great mother, and physically, emotionally, and spiritually fit.  It’s overwhelming to most women, but the good news is that you don’t have to do it on your own.  You can seek God’s help.”   As I read this again, I am shocked at your lack of understanding.  The reason that it is overwhelming to women is because it is completely unacceptable and no person, male or female, should be continually pushed to achieve the unattainable.  We do not need God’s help to do everything you have listed, because we are worth too much to have unrealistic expectations thrown at us at every turn.

These expectations are continued as you say, “My husband may not look in the cupboard for a light bulb or a battery for months.  But when he does, he wants it to be there.  Nor does he want to come home late from work one night and find there is no bread for a sandwich.”   My question to you is, why can’t he buy batteries, light bulbs or bread for himself?  He is a grown man and capable of doing these things for himself, just as we are capable of doing things for ourselves.

You go on to say, “Part of making a house a home is allowing your husband to be the head so you can be the heart.  Trying to be both is just too much.  God placed the husband as the head over the family, whether he deserves it or not and whether he rises up to take his position or not.  It’s God’s order of things.”   How can you say this?
Look at what happened with Deborah, “And I will call out Sisera, commander of Jabin’s army, along with his chariots and warriors, to the Kishon River. There I will give you victory over him.” Barak told her, “I will go, but only if you go with me.” “Very well,” she replied, “I will go with you. But you will receive no honour in this venture, for the LORD’s victory over Sisera will be at the hands of a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh.”

And what about God’s attitude to Saul?  “But Samuel replied, ‘What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice?  Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.  Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshipping idols.  So because you have rejected the command of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.”
God does not give rights without responsibilities.  Those who do not uphold the position God gives them do not maintain that position.  When Barak would not lead, Deborah took over from his authority.  When Saul dishonoured his position, God removed it and gave it to David.  Men who abuse or dishonour their wives, do not maintain their place as head.
I would also say that you are misunderstanding what it means to be the ‘head’.  It is not an authoritative word; it does not mean to be the chief over the home or the elder of the home.  In fact, “…the emphasis of Ephesians 5 is not on the authority of husbands, but on their obligation to love their wives as they love themselves. In fact, the only mention of authority in marriage is found in 1 Corinthians 7:3-7, where Paul gives husbands and wives mutual authority over one another’s bodies.”

You go on to talk of how we should let go of our expectations of our husbands.  You use the following story to illustrate this, “…my husband called from work and said he wanted me to prepare a certain chicken dish for dinner.  I went to the store got the food, prepared the dish, and when he came home, he walked in the door and said bluntly, ‘I don’t feel like chicken tonight, I want lamb chops.’…I realised it was healthier for both of us if I rearranged my expectations”   I would like to clarify for you that this wasn’t a case of too high expectations on behalf of yourself, it was a case of male privilege on behalf of your husband.  He believed that you as his wife, was there to serve him and he could do what he liked.  This is a form of domestic abuse.  I would say to you and any other woman whose husband was behaving in such ways that you are worth far more than this.  You are not a glorified slave, you are not a possession for your husband to use as he wishes, you are a human being, made in the image of Almighty God, and as such, you should expect more from him and should not allow him to devalue you in this way.

You say “It is interesting that God requires the husband to love his wife, but the wife is required to have respect for her husband…I assume no woman would marry a man she didn’t love, but too often a wife loses respect for her husband after they’ve been married awhile.”   Please do not assume women do not marry men they do not love.  Throughout the world there are many girls and women sold into marriages with men they will never be able to love.  The culture into which this verse speaks is one where women were bought and sold as possessions.

You go on to use Queen Esther as an example of this lack of respect.  “All [the king] asked of [Queen Vashti] was that she put on her royal clothes, don her royal crown, and make a royal appearance for the people he was entertaining.  She declined, knowing full well it would be humiliating for him…She not only wronged her husband, the king, but the people as well.  Unless a wife wants to lose her position of queen of her husband’s heart, and hurt her family and friends besides, she mustn’t humiliate her husband no matter how much she thinks he deserves it.”

Let us clarify a few things here.  It is believed that the king was asking Vashti to “to appear wearing only her royal crown.”  This theory is supported by the statements that the king was very drunk  when he made the demand for his wife to “show the people and the princes her beauty “.  Suddenly this changes the situation from Vashti being disobedient into her refusing to be sexually abused publically for the pleasure of the king.  Rather than vilifying Vashti for her disobedience, we should be celebrating her heroic act of standing up to the king and his abusive ways.  Far from modelling disobedience to the people of the land, as the king suggests; Vashti was standing up for her position as queen, much like Mordecai, later in the story, stands up against Haman, because of his commitment to God.
His Work

As you talk about a husband’s work you state, “…a man’s identity is very often caught up in his work.  He needs to be appreciated and he needs to win, and his work is often a means of seeing both happen.”   Rather than challenge this view, you use it to encourage women to pray for their husband’s to find purpose.  But this view must be challenged.  It must not be acceptable for a man (or indeed a woman, as this is a human problem, not a male problem) to get their identity from their job.  Our identity must first and foremost be found in God, and it is only when this happens, that we will be able to find our purpose.

His Sexuality
In this chapter of the book you make many factual statements that are in reality only assumptions and myths about men and women.  You state that “…for a husband, sex is pure need.  His eyes, ears, brain, and emotions get clouded if he doesn’t have that release…there is a far greater chance of settling the other issues if sex comes first.”   This is an assumption, it is not based on any biological fact.  Men can concentrate and focus on things other than sex and to suggest otherwise is to do men a great disservice and push women into accepting sexual abuse in order to resolve issues.
You at no point in this chapter discuss rape.  You do not mention that it is illegal, you do not explain that sexual abuse, violence, coercion or manipulation is wrong and instead you put all the responsibility on the woman for satisfying the man’s needs, while enabling the man to do nothing to support or honour his wife.

You go on to say, “Sexual problems are quite common because many women don’t have a clear grasp of what God’s view is on the subject…Unless we’re fasting or praying for weeks at a time, or are experiencing physical infirmity or separation there is no excuse not to engage in it regularly.”   I would say most Christian women and men are very aware of this view and I would suggest that this is, in part, why 13% of American married women have experienced rape by the current husband,   and why in the UK, the most common rapists are husbands, ex-husbands, or partners.

You go on to explain that God’s perspective is that “…our body is to be used to comfort and complete the other person.  Something is built up in the man and the marriage when this need is met by his wife.”   You do not however state that the same is so for the wife when the husband, ‘comforts and completes’ her.  You squash men’s and women’s sexualities very neatly into two boxes which do not fit the majority of people.  What of the women that have higher sex drives than their husband, what of those men or women who have been sexually abused?  It is very dangerous to use stereotypes as facts or to assume men and women are in fact biologically opposites.  This is not the case.  To not ask within your book why women are not interested in sex with their husbands is very dangerous.  Maybe they have brokenness that needs healing, maybe their husband has raped them on a regular basis, maybe they need their husbands to give them love in other ways, before they feel able to give of themselves in a sexual way.

Your solution to sexual problems in the marriage are as follows, “When your husband  communicates to you what he has in mind, as only a husband can do, don’t roll you eyes and sigh deeply.  Instead say, ‘Okay, give me fifteen minutes’…  During that time, do something to make yourself feel attractive…Comb your hair.  Wash your face and prepare it with products that make your skin look dewy and fresh.  Put on lip gloss and blush.  Slip into lingerie you know he finds irresistible…While you’re doing this, pray for God to give you renewed strength, vitality, and a good attitude.  Hopefully, when you’re ready, your husband will find you were worth the wait… He’ll be happier and you’ll both sleep better.  This is a small investment of time to see great rewards in your marriage.”    For many women, this advice is a push towards accepting sexual abuse, towards further unhappiness.  Please do not say that we will sleep better as a result of this.  Potentially we will sleep worse, much worse.  I say this from a place of experiencing sexual abuse on a daily basis from my ex-husband.

You briefly mention the situation of a woman who is being sexually neglected by her husband, saying, “…if he is content to go month after month without sex, then something is wrong.  If there is no physical problem hindering him, maybe he’s having deep feelings of failure, disappointment…prayer can help reveal what the problem is and how to solve it.  Get professional help if you need to.”   I would like to know why this is your advice for a man struggling sexually, whereas your advice for a woman is just to get on with it and make the man happy.

Your parting thoughts in this chapter are this, “If you don’t think highly enough of yourself to take care of your body, do it as an act of kindness for him.”   This is yet another unacceptable comment.  How is it right that a “fearfully and wonderfully made” creature of God should be advised by you to make effort with themselves ‘in an act of kindness’ to their husband?  It is not!  If any woman does not value themselves, this needs to be supported and the reasons for it considered and support given to enable her to move forward.

His Affection
You use an example of a couple named Patti and Tom to talk through the issues of a husband who is not affectionate.  You explain how Tom was affectionate only during sex and at no other time and how Patti was finding this incredibly hard.  As she prayed and submitted herself more to God, Patti became sure she deserved more affection and approached Tom, leading to transformation because of Patti’s prayer.  “Tom proceeded differently this time.  He took his problems to his own prayer group of men, who instantly rallied around him.  They decided to not only support him daily in prayer, but also to keep him accountable to show some form of affection to Patti each day.”   This worked and Tom became affectionate and Patti became much happier.

Throughout your book you focus on the wife’s prayers for her husband and the power they have, but in this situation it was the accountability of Tom’s prayer group that enabled him to change.  Why not have a wider focus in your book?  Not only is accountability mentioned regularly in Proverbs (11:14, 15:22, 24:6, 27:17), Jesus makes it clear what we should do with believers who continually ignore the accountability of other Christians, “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.  But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses.  If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.”

Why does your book not focus on this teaching at all?   Why is the focus on the wife and her responsibility to bring about change?  What about Jesus’ teaching about those who are sinning taking responsibility, about those who are around that person not enabling them to continue with their sinful behaviour, but instead challenging it and being willing to provide consequences if necessary?

In this chapter you again box men and women with no factual basis to do so, “Affection isn’t at the top of a man’s priority list because men often see sex and affection as being the same.  A woman’s greatest need is for affection.”   I can assure you my greatest need as a woman is not for affection, and my husband’s greatest need is not for sex.  I do not know many women or men who fit into the boxes you have given them and for those who do fit into the boxes you have given, this doesn’t make their behaviour acceptable.  When my husband and I first married, any time we had an argument, he would say the reason he had behaved in a certain way was ‘because he was a man, and that’s what men do.’  I will not accept this.  If it is because of who he is that is one thing, if it is because he is a man, it is as unchangeable as his genitals.  If it is because of who he is, his history, background, experiences and personality, they do make him who he is, but they are changeable and if he loves me and I love him, we will work to change the parts of us which hurt the other, and with God’s power working within both of us, we have done and will continue to.

His Temptations
In this chapter you address a man’s ‘temptations’, you talk of a friend, “…whose husband had numerous affairs before they finally divorced.  I questioned her choice of ‘friends’ but I never questioned her godliness or commitment to pray.”   It is interesting that you blame her friends, who I am not saying are blameless, but the constant factor is this woman’s husband.  It is important to understand that this is an abusive tactic, an abusive man will attempt and potentially succeed in seducing our friends.  This not only means we lose any confidence we have, but also that we have no friends and are isolated from those who could have supported us.  I know this to be true as my ex-husband regularly employed this tactic on my friends, some did say no, while others didn’t.  I do not absolve women who have relationships with married men of any responsibility, but I would not be surprised if your friend’s husband was abusive.  I recently spoke at a church where a woman spoke to me afterwards and disclosed that until I spoke about the abuse I had suffered, she had never realised that her nearly 40 years of marriage had been abusive and she wanted to cry, finally her pain and brokenness over all that time had been validated.

His Mind
In this chapter you talk of the attacks of the enemy on a man’s mind, “I finally realised that all men have an enemy who wants to undermine what God desires to do in their lives.  Women have that same enemy, but men seem to be more vulnerable to his attacks in certain areas.”   I feel you are undermining men’s abilities to fight off the enemy and elevating women to a higher plane, where they are less likely to be unable to resist the enemy.  This is blatantly untrue and is not in anyway factually based.  It again reinforces the need for women to take responsibility for men, when men in fact need to take responsibility for their own lives.

His Fears
This chapter talks of praying for a man’s fears.  “Men are often susceptible to [fear] because without even realising it they get attacked by the ‘what if’s’.  ‘What if I can’t make enough money?’  ‘What if something happens to my wife and children?’  ‘What if I get some terrible disease?’  ‘What if I’m overpowered or threatened?’  What if I can’t perform sexually?’  ‘What if no one respects me?’”   I would suggest to you that this type of fear for men comes from the thing you call ‘God’s order of things’.  While men are pushed into the man box of having to be in charge, earn the money, achieve, make the decisions, be the head, they will feel this fear, because your interpretation of the Bible means that men, without any capability to do so, are expected by God to be in authority, purely because they are the owner of a penis.  I believe the best way to stop men having this type of fear is to challenge the theology and tradition which puts such high expectations onto men.

His Purpose
You write in this chapter of a praying for a man to find his purpose.  Towards the end of the chapter you address the issue of a woman’s purpose saying, “Whatever God has called your husband to be or do, He has also called you to support it and be a part of it…For some women this means creating a good home, raising the children, being there for him, and offering prayer support.  Other women may take an active role by becoming a partner or helper.  In either case, God does not ask you to deny you own personhood in the process, God has called you to something, too.  But it will fit in with whatever your husband’s calling is.”   I know you are saying that God has a purpose for me, but the emphasis you give is that my calling is secondary to my husband’s.  It is always going to be part of my husband’s calling to raise the children and create a good home, in partnership with me.  Sometimes it is the woman who is called first and the husband who is to support her, and although you do not condemn this, you do not mention it either.

His Choices
This chapter is about men’s choices and how we need to pray for them to enable them to make better choices.  You again make very stereotypical comments about men, “We have to remember that all men think they are doing the right thing.  ‘Every way of a man is right in his own eyes.’ (Proverbs 21:2)”    I think you will find the word man is this verse is actually about men and women, “People may be right in their own eyes, but the LORD examines their heart.”   This is not about men, we all like to think we are making right choices.

His Priorities
Yet again in this chapter you stereotype men, “Men have many different ideas about what their priorities should be…if you want your husband to place you as a priority over work, children, friends and activities, you need to do the same for him.”   Of course we should prioritise our husbands, if we want them to prioritise us, but what about when we do this and he still places other things above us.  You do not really give an answer to this.
His Fatherhood
You quote your husband in this chapter saying, “We get so caught up in doing what we do in our work that we’re afraid we haven’t done enough with our children.  Or we’re afraid [we] haven’t done well enough, or we’re missing something.  It becomes even more of problem with teenagers.  We fear we can’t communicate with them because we’ll be perceived as old and irrelevant.”   I would suggest to you and your husband that this isn’t a specifically male concern.  It is something that concerns me and I think most parents.  We are concerned that we don’t get the balance right, but that isn’t something to do with our gender, more to do with our humanity and love for our children.
You go on to say, “Thoughts of failure and inadequacy are what cause many fathers to give up, leave, become overbearing from trying too hard, or develop a passive attitude and fade into the background of their children’s lives…Mothers get overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy, too, but only the most deeply disturbed ever abandon, ignore, or hurt their children.”   Again you seem to be making a factual statement based not on reality but on your own perception.  Men leave due to selfishness, not inadequacy, it is an excuse to justify hurting, abusing, neglecting or leaving your children.  The reason men leave is because society has accepted men doing so.  If a woman leaves her children she is vilified, if a man does, it is just another absent father.  In contrast, single fathers are seen as heroes, whereas single mothers are looked down upon and seen as failures; yet another example of women being responsible for men’s failings.  Also in this chapter you miss out completely on the fact that there are men who abuse their children, and nowhere in the book do you suggest women leave to protect their children, I would go as far to suggest that your book is likely to convince women who are being abused to stay, putting their children into further danger and causing them further damage.

His Emotions
In this chapter you write of Don who, “used anger to control his family.  Each family member was so concerned about his temper that they lived their lives on tiptoe doing his bidding out of fear, not love.”   This is defined as abuse.  As most professionals working with situations of domestic abuse can tell you, abuse is not about anger, it is about control.  Although you talk of how Jenny, Don’s wife, saw transformation when she prayed, after she, “learned she not only didn’t have to tolerate his anger, but going along with it was disobedient to God…”   there are many women who are not so blessed.  Abuse is unlikely to stop through prayer alone.  You state that, “The best gift a wife can give in secret to calm her husband’s anger is to pray for him.”   I would say this is dangerous advice for anyone in an abusive situation, controlling others by behaving in a way that appears angry will escalate and to advise people to pray, rather than find safety is completely irresponsible.
You say at the end of this chapter, “Don’t stand by and watch your husband be manipulated by his emotions.  Freedom may be just a prayer away.”   Men who control others by behaving in a way that appears angry are not being controlled by their emotions, they are controlling others by the way they behave.  The man who is abusive is not the victim, those around him are.  It is important to understand that men who choose to behave in these ways do so because they believe women are inferior to men, something your book has reinforced over and over again.  If we are to stop abuse, we must challenge it.  Slavery did not stop through prayer alone, it was through action, prayer, political intervention, hard work and massive sacrifice on the part of many courageous people that it ended.  We will not stop abusive or unhealthy marriages through prayer alone.  Although everything Jesus did was committed to prayer and He spent much time praying, He was always involved in practical action and challenge.  Prayer is impotent without action.

His Obedience
In this chapter you spend time looking at how to pray for a husband to become obedient to God.  As you go through the chapter you say, “If you husband’s disobedience to God’s ways has already brought down your house in some manner, know that God will honour your obedience and He will see that you will not be destroyed.”
If this was true, why are women who have been obedient to God for years continually being abused by their disobedient husbands?  Some to the point of their death or the death of their children?  When you have stated so strongly that divorce involves disobedience to God, you are advising women to stay in abusive relationships, waiting to be murdered in their obedience.
In summary I would ask you to consider what I have said.  I and my children are some of the ones God rescued, but many, many women will not be rescued, especially if they read your book and the many dangerous statements it makes.

Thank you,