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Sex, Mummy Porn & Christian Fiction — A Reader Asks

Sex, Mummy Porn & Christian Fiction — A Reader Asks

by Mike Duran · 85 comments

I recently received the following email from a reader. I found its contents so honest and interesting, that I asked the author if she would mind me publishing it and discussing the topic with my readers. She said she’d love more feedback. (FYI: This is the first contact I’ve ever had with this person; this reader has never commented here.) Although the subject matter is a bit uncomfortable, it’s one that comes up on occasion and broaches several bigger issues. I’ve edited the letter down for brevity (and discretion).

Afterwards, I will give a brief response to the writer. But I would love to solicit some of your opinions. Remember, this question was asked in honesty and candor, so I’d appreciate if we don’t get too much off point of providing insight and advice to an honest seeker.

Dear Mike,

I wanted to ask you a question about sex within literature. I am a 28 year old female with a wonderful husband of 6 years and two [small] children. Over the last two years I began reading romance the likes of Christine Feehan and Nalini Singh. They are books that include quite specific references to sex which to be honest I enjoy. The characters are not married in the traditional sense though the romances that work are always between mated/bonded couples who will never be with anyone else sexually (this is clearly stated). I would also like to point out the sex is part of a larger very clever storyline which I enjoy and not the sole focus of the story.

I found that from reading these books my husbands and my sex life went from rare to frequent and much more fulfilling between us we began to communicate more about what we did and did not like and I grew more confident in my sexuality and began to see myself as someone beautiful and worthy of love. I also began to accept my husbands compliments and appreciate them, take them in and realise they were the truth and not lies and wanted to please him more and also found I enjoyed pleasuring him more which was great for me and for him.

I found since reading these books and getting over being pregnant and getting through years of bad health that I felt so good and found that the spiritual wilderness I was walking through was over and I started to pursue God more actively and wanted to improve my marriage even further. We already have a good marriage and relationship but I’m the type of person who wants to failsafe my marriage so we will always be best friends and lovers no matter what situation we experience (including the kids eventually leaving home). So I began reading about ways to strengthen your relationship in marriage as well as with God and one of the big things that came up was Romance novels (a.k.a Mummy porn). I’ve stopped reading at this stage because of all the negative things said relating to it but I’m struggling with it. My hubby and I actually read the stories together. I don’t enjoy anything where the characters cheat on each other and I’m not a fan of the treating your partner badly BDSM stuff.

To be honest its very difficult to find decent fiction written by Christian authors, they are usually so boring. I really want to know how I am to discern what is safe to read, I don’t want to dishonour God in anyway but I also want to have a good sex life with my husband. I am a reader, I go a little gaga if I don’t read and if I went by what all these perfect Christians said I would be walking around with a blind fold on and earplugs in.

Any help that you (or your wife) could garner would be really appreciated.

* * *

My Response:

Dear __________________ ,

I really appreciate your letter! It’s so easy to shy away from discussing sensitive issues like this, so I applaud you for stepping out. There’s much here that could be addressed, but I only want to briefly touch on three points. Hopefully, some of the other commenters can fill in gaps, provide personal insights, and/or build upon things I mention.

First, sex is a gift from God that He wants married couples to enjoy. Sadly, this point is not discussed openly or enough among Christians. There is still stigma and embarrassment attached to too many Christian conversations (or lack thereof) about sex. A book that my wife and I read years ago (and benefited from!), is The Gift of Sex. The authors are Christians and clinical therapists. All four of my married children received a copy of the book during pre-marital counseling. I would really recommend you buy this book. It builds upon the idea that sex was created by God and designed for our pleasure, not just for procreation. So my first piece of advice would be that God wants you to enjoy sex with your spouse! You should not be ashamed of that. Perhaps the bigger issue, which i believe you’re asking, is how to distinguish between the shame of a healthy sex life and an unhealthy sex life.

Secondly would be the issue of pornographic stimulation and titillation. You do well, I think, to be concerned about the potential dangers of Mummy Porn. However, it’s been suggested that Romance in general appeals to the same base appetites. The reader addicted to Harlequins and Loved Inspired novels may be straddling same line as the 50 Shades of Grey crowd. Requiring external stimulation for your sex life, i.e., watching / reading about someone else “do it” as a sexual jump start, is possibly indicative that something needs addressed. However, I can’t play Holy Spirit and tell you what you can or can’t read or what your liberties are, and you should be skeptical towards anyone who tries to dictate your personal boundaries. Remember, the Bible is clear about not lusting after someone other than our spouse, the insatiable cravings of the flesh, and the potential dangers of a wandering eye (or in the case of reading, a wandering mind). Sure, there’s a big difference between admitting when someone is handsome or beautiful, and full-on lusting after them. However, the line between looking / appreciating and lusting / coveting is often very thin. But please note, this is a huge issue with lots of nuance, and (clears throat), passion.

Third would be the issue of finding Christian fiction as an alternative for something more steamy. The bottom line is: You won’t. There is great debate among Christian readers about the appropriate sexual parameters for Christian fiction. Thus far, those parameters are defined very conservatively. In fact, the idea of seeking to sexually arouse readers is virtually anathema in Christian circles. Of course, the line between showing physical attraction without stumbling a brother or sister in Christ, is debatable. And different for everyone. However, in my opinion it’s a necessary debate to have.

Bottom line: By you asking this question, you’re showing a growing sensitivity to God. This is good. The problem is, now, discerning healthy boundaries for you and your husband. This may take some time and trial. But if you remain humble and honest, the Spirit will lead you. Thanks again for writing!

* * *

Once again, I’m interested in what your response to this letter writer would be.

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{ 83 comments… read them below or add one }

Tim George March 14, 2013 at 6:07 AM

Mike – I couldn’t have given a more well-thought and spiritually sensitive answer than what you have offered! One of the things all believers and especially those in positions of authority must avoid is becoming what I call a “spiritual vending machine.” Someone asked you a honest, intensely personal and probing question that deserved more than a canned answer. We should be challenged to examine our own selves, search Scripture and the mind of God for ourselves, and wrestle with such issues honestly under the Spirit’s microscope so the answers and direction we arrive at is not from preacher, teacher, or self-help book but God Himself.

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Tony March 14, 2013 at 6:50 AM

I’m just concerned that it took steamy romance novels for her to see herself as “someone beautiful and worthy of love.” That’s very disconcerting. Because she isn’t talking about her sex life here, she’s talking about her self-worth. What makes a person — a married woman with children — believe she is not “worthy of love,” in the first place? =/

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Jessica Thomas March 14, 2013 at 7:36 AM

It didn’t come across to me that the woman in this email was reading “steamy” novels.

However, I will say, as women, we are bombarded visually in the media with definitions of what we “should” be. As a result, I think women can go into their sex lives feeling like they playing some sort of role, “acting” in ways that they’ve outwardly perceived they are supposed to act. Yet they feel entirely inadequate to fulfill that role because the images they’ve been bombarded with are so over-the-top and unreal. A woman often needs to unlearn those things. In fact, I’ve had to myself. And I can see that a mild, safe sex scene may act as a type of sex-ed to help a woman so just that, allowing her to let go of those false expectations and just experience the moment.

Or it could be that this reader is just experiencing what naturally occurs to a woman when she reaches 30. Hee hee.

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D.M. Dutcher March 14, 2013 at 11:54 AM

Both authors listed are paranormal romance. Feehan is known for vampire books, and Singh in particular oozes steam just from seeing the covers, and worse, its shapeshifter romance. Those books are often erotica-lite, and sometimes I wonder if they act as a gateway drug to the whole “shifter erotica” genre.

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sally apokedak March 14, 2013 at 12:46 PM

Oh my goodness, they are talking about undead porn. Ouch. I read a couple of free chapters from both authors. Ugh.

Yes, that was judgmental. Purposefully so.

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Jessica Thomas March 14, 2013 at 1:52 PM

Eh. Not my cup of tea anyhow.

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Mirtika March 15, 2013 at 2:28 PM

I’ve read Feehan in the past (when I was really into romances) and I read one Singh, which I enjoyed storywise (except for some really cliche dialogue in spots as I recall). And yes, there are sex scenes and sexual dialogue. So, these are not whitewashed mild Harlequins (I don’t know if there still are whitewashed mild Harlequins, but in my reading days of such, there were lines that were very mild or had no discernible sexual contact beyond smooching and hugging.)

I think my issue is that it takes these stories to get her revved up for sex. That’s no different to me than watching an adult video to get warmed up, and lots of folks do that from what I glean. If the material gets her and her husband going for sex, then that’s always a basis to examine what’s really going on that an outside scenario is necessary.

Not everyone has the same ” line” for what is acceptable. I developed a porn addiction at the age of 9 (yep, found adult materials, and not the mild Playboy stuff, the stuff that shows it ALL, and I mean ALL and in all configurations and had rape scenarios in vivo). So, I’ve read stuff that would make adult hair curl. Compared to that, most romances are mild and I wouldn’t bat an eye at them, and more likely would just (as I have) skip the sex part as pretty cliche and boring, as they often are, imo. Only the authors who actually make the sex integral to the conflict/story (and most don’t really) make those scenes interesting to me. That would be a story where, say, there is frigidity, or past abuse, or a huge misunderstanding and personal issues coming into play in the bedroom (as in THE SHADOW AND THE STAR). Then the scenes are alive because stuff is happening other than body parts and lust. There’s personality and pain and things being complicated or sorted out.

To me, a sex scene is valid and works if it’s done as part of the story and not purposely stretched out to titillate the viewer to “hook” them. If you could take those pages of sex out and the storyline is basically not affected or the characterization altered, then it is gratuitious. I see it the way I see a sermon thrown in to make a story Christiany: gratuitious.

I have to be careful of what I read because of my history of porn problems. And I’ve had many a secular romance I had to simply either skip the passages or not buy. In general, though, I don’t eschew novels just cause they discuss or have sex as part of the theme or plot.

However, in real life I don’t make a habit of lingering in other folks bedrooms and getting off on their activities. A novel that basically makes folks sit for pages and pages and pages in a room with naked folks going at it vanilla or extra-spicy is a novel that qualifies as porn to me, and all Christians need to examine the whys and wherefores of using these with regularity. Because while I may read about Hannibal Lecter doing vile things, it does not prompt me to want to do vile murderous or cannibalistic things, and in fact, reminds me that this is degenerate and I should pray for it. I don’t get an urge to go and dismember.

On the other hand, novel that depicts particular sexual acts, not philosophically or elegantly and discreetly, but overtly and extensively, may indeed incite lust in me, lustful images in my brain that are not of myself and my husband. It does get the juices going. Literally. That’s why the sexual novels are a field of landmines for many readers. Editors and writers know this. I used to go to romance conferences and some lines specifically needed X number of sex scenes with Y explicit levels. The hotter the better for sales in some cases.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Lots of women use steamy romances as wanking material the way men use nudie magazines and videos for the same purposes. They use it to “get in the mood” when things go stale. I’ve heard that often enough in the years I attended romance reading/writing conferences. We enjoy it. The high of the romance and/or the sex hooks the brain. And then we justify it cause it serves a useful purpose in our lives.

And, as often, your answer, Mike, was excellent.

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J.S. Clark March 14, 2013 at 6:59 AM

I’m very interested to hear this. Trying not to bring out my laundry, but a lot of her backstory sounds like backstory my marriage is dealing with. There are issues in my wife’s past that still need healing and it interferes with our sex life. It’s very frustrating for anyone whose been there (probably more people than let on). It’s discouraging and easy to want to look to anything that promises relief.

I have found myself making more non-conclusions on the issue. On the one hand, I feel like certain things are dangerous. Sex scenes in movies, and also in books (though seemingly less dangerous, but I’m not sure that’s true). I don’t want to lust and I don’t want my wife to lust. On the other hand, Song of Solomon is either a fictitous parable that the Holy Spirit would have to know is stimulating to the sexual imagination and appreciation, or it is a true story in which we are essentially looking in on the love making between a married couple. Add to that, the tradition (not commanded, but acknowledge in scripture) of the friend waiting outside the bridal chamber listening for sounds of consumation to relay to the guests. “Hey, they’re making love!” and everyone cheers.

It’s hardly the victorian standard we’re lead to believe. I think God wants us to look forward to sex and sometimes even to have our thoughts on sex properly cultivated within the understanding of his teachings. But . . . I still feel it’s dangerous? Her dilemma is mine as well.

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Sibella Giorello March 14, 2013 at 7:21 AM

Great post, Mike. Thank you for listening so closely to this brave and insightful reader. I agree with Tim: your response is spot-on. But I have some disagreement with Tony’s perspective: We read to discover ourselves, so why wouldn’t someone begin to realize their beauty and loveliness through reading, especially reading romance? (And arguably, the gospel could be called the greatest romance story ever told.)
My concern about Christian fiction is how it can divide things which God doesn’t want divided, such as “cleaning up” authentic life. While some Christian romance readers might feel superior because there’s no steamy sex in their books, in actuality they might just be self-righteous prudes.
Thanks again for raising this topic, Mike.

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Nicole March 14, 2013 at 6:56 PM

Preach it, Sibella! And well done, Mike.

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R. L. Copple March 14, 2013 at 7:56 PM

My wife did at one time read some steamy romances. It certainly did incite her desire for me when she did. My guess is this is the same thing this lady experienced, except within the confines of her marriage where it is proper to fulfill that love.

But she became convicted about it and stopped reading them. Her desire fell of as well. At one point, sometime later, she read some Christian romance. It created the same effect in her. But she stopped reading them too because, as she put it, they built up sexual tension but it was never released, iow, they never had sex, even hinted at. It was more out of frustration with that she stopped reading them, than feeling convicted about porn.

Point being, however, is for women, it isn’t so much the sex scenes itself that make it exciting and increase sexual tension, it is the romance of it. Both Christian romance and secular romance create that tension. Healthy release is within one’s marriage and to one’s spouse. But some will fulfill that tension outside marriage, which is where sin enters the picture. And for some, the more secular romance can deaden the conscious in favor of considering affairs and premarital sex a possibility morally.

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Carradee March 14, 2013 at 7:36 AM

Hmm… Due to the existence of “Song of Solomon”, I’m inclined to think that how you read such scenes is what can make them problematic or not.

I’ve never encountered a sex scene that made me lust after any party involved, nor have they made me wish I was one of the characters. I often end up skimming or skipping the scenes out of boredom or discomfort (when something’s more graphic than I care to see or read).

But some folks start nattering on about how jealous they are, or about how they’d love to sleep with a character, and that’s where the problem comes, I think. If that’s how you read or view sex scenes, you shouldn’t be reading or viewing them.

But Song of Solomon does warn the “daughters of Jerusalem” to not awaken love until the proper time, which seems to me a warning to avoid hankering after sex until you’re married. *shrug* But I’ve never heard anyone else interpret it that way, so maybe I’m reading into it.

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Thea March 14, 2013 at 8:50 AM

About the Song of Solomon bit, that’s what I’ve always understood it to mean, too.

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Mirtika March 15, 2013 at 2:34 PM

I have used the Song of Solomon for upping the romance factor. I was ill for many years and it took a toll on my sex drive. But really, I found reading SofS could put me in the mood, and then it was off to find hubby and do some Beloveding. I never felt guilty about it, either. I considered it therapeutic. I wonder how many Christian wives have tried SofS intead of a porny novel to get the mind and body in that state of wanting to join with the beloved?

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Jill March 14, 2013 at 8:42 AM

I think a few things may have occurred for her in the reading of these books. Our culture is strangely puritanical for all the hyper free-love messages we’ve taken in since the 60s. These books may have freed her confined notions of sex. I know I had to mature into letting go of my rigid “never enjoy life” stance by realizing the great cosmic importance of sex and alcohol–yes, I really did have to mature into that understanding. I didn’t have it as a young adult. Also, women tend to get all sexy when they’re nearing 30 or so (just as men are slowing down, at least a little, from their intense 20s), which is really kind of synergistic to a marriage. But, ultimately, what is the reader taking from this? She knows, now, how fun sex can be. There are a lot of good mainstream romance books on the market that wouldn’t be considered porn in the slightest–so I guess I don’t understand the dilemma. I think she’s being too hard on herself. There’s no reason why a Christian woman can’t enjoy sex w/ her husband as well as good books.

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sally apokedak March 14, 2013 at 9:03 AM

I think your answers were great, Mike.

But I have to pipe in on a slightly different tack, because this woman asked for input.

I can’t understand why a married women would write such a letter to a male novelist.

Does the author’s husband know she wrote that letter? If not she needs to show him the email and ask him if it’s OK if she continues to discuss their sex lives with strangers.

My honest opinion is that this young woman is playing with fire and my advice is that she should stop writing to men who are not married to her.

We may think it’s safe to talk to men on the internet about sex, because we’re Christians and because we’ll never meet. It’s not safe. It’s a kind of emotional adultery. If this woman has sex questions she should ask her husband. If he’s cool with her sex novels let the two of them learn from God on the matter. She doesn’t need to be writing to some male novelist about her sex life with her husband.

Seriously. Was there anything in that letter that her husband or her pastor’s wife couldn’t have answered for her? Did you let your wife read the email, Mike. What does she think of it?

If any young women wrote to my husband to tell him she “enjoyed pleasuring [her husband] more” after reading sex scenes in novels, you’d better believe I’d be the one writing the email back, not my husband. And my words be this: Talk to your own husband about your sex life and keep your thoughts on the topic to yourself when speaking to my husband, please.

I also agree with Jessica–the gal is 28. Talking about sex is a temptation to women that age. I think she should stop. It’s not good for her marriage to talk about this stuff to men other than her husband.

And lest she think I have a blindfold on and earplugs in…it is quite the opposite. I’ve seen and heard plenty. That’s why I’m urging self-restraint.

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Jill March 14, 2013 at 9:24 AM

I would have recommended she discuss this topic w/ an older woman, rather than her husband, because an older woman would most likely understand what she’s going through. Her husband–I’m going to say not so much. You’re right; it’s a little odd to send to a man, but it may be the anonymity that helped. Whatever the case, I think Mike did the right thing to make the letter public and open it up for discussion. And it is a topic worthy of discussion. We are really weird about sex in our society, yet how does one come to terms with the sexual imagery in the Bible if sex is so very perverse to us?

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sally apokedak March 14, 2013 at 9:31 AM

I agree we need to discuss it. And I agree that Mike did the right thing. I also think speaking to an older woman is appropriate. If older women are to teach younger women how to love their husbands, I don’t see why that wouldn’t include discussing with them how to get more enjoyment out of sex.

I don’t agree with your saying that sex is perverse to us. Are we living in the same country? Sex is everywhere. Even clearly perverse sex, in God’s eyes, is celebrated as normal. In our country and also, more and more, in the church.

Do we really need more discussion? We talk about it all the time.

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Lara M. Van Hulzen March 14, 2013 at 9:36 AM

I agree that it’s odd this woman wrote to a male author, but I’m grateful Mike started this conversation.
Yes, sex is everywhere in our culture. But sadly, I don’t feel we’re talking about it at all in Christian environments. Not where I am anyway. Sex is considered perverse and feared. We don’t address it the way God intended. And in defense of this woman who wrote to Mike, she may have felt more comfortable asking him instead of an older Christian woman in her life for fear of judgement. That in itself is sad.

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sally apokedak March 14, 2013 at 9:40 AM

And I see now that I said we need to discuss and then I said, ‘Do we need more discussion.”

Duh.

What I meant was that I think older women need to discuss this with younger women. But I don’t think we see sex as perverse or that we need a lot more public discussion on it, because we seem to talk about sex far more than is healthy. My children have grown up in a world that says sex is the MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER.

I remember once talking a friend about my husband who was a quadriplegic. Her first reaction when she heard that he was paralyzed was, “He can’t have sex?!!” I thought…well, yes, in fact he can have sex, since sex in the mind not the body, but why would the loss of sex be the first thing she thought of? Hello??? He can’t walk. Which is a little more of a big deal than sex.

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Jill March 14, 2013 at 10:16 AM

I grew up in a Christian environment where mum was the word on sex. Because of that, I generally thought it was perverted–that was a natural reaction to the media combined with my Christian upbringing. There needs to be a healthy balance. Nowadays, I’m older, and my eyes are more open to this overlay of Puritanism on top of free love, which is just weird and skewed. What I wouldn’t do for just general forthrightness.

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sally apokedak March 14, 2013 at 10:33 AM

I hear you. I remember asking my father, a minister, what “sex appeal” was. I’d seen an Ultra-bright commercial where a girl with gleaming teeth blew a kiss to a boy and the commentator said, “Sex appeal!” My father told me it was a dirty word. ha ha

Later when I wanted to dance and I asked my mom why I couldn’t she said, “Because it knocks down our sexual inhibitions.” I had no idea what sexual inhibitions were, but I got the message that sex was an uncomfortable topic for the parents.

But we no longer live in that world. My children and I have frank discussions about sex and most of the Christian parents I know do also.

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Gina Holmes March 14, 2013 at 10:49 AM

I agree, Sally. I would be very unhappy with a letter like that written to my husband. I don’t think she meant any harm of course, but I would have been the one who wrote her back or I would expect my husband to say, “would you like my wife to discuss this with you?” Mike gave a gracious answer though.

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Jessica Thomas March 14, 2013 at 9:33 AM

It didn’t strike me as odd that she would write, necessarily, because Mike talks about controversial topics on his blog all the time. Perhaps the Christians in her immediate circles don’t seem open to such discussions. Specific questions about sex, yes, she should talk to her husband or another woman, but it seemed to me her question was more about sex in relation to how it’s portrayed in fiction, what’s acceptable to God and what’s not. And Mike has made it known that he was once a pastor so… The internet age is upon us.

Then again, maybe my boundaries are skewed.

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R.J. Anderson March 14, 2013 at 10:57 AM

This was my thinking, too. I don’t get the impression that the woman writing the letter thought of it as asking a man she doesn’t know to counsel her about the intimate details of her sex life with her husband. I think she saw it as a response to the articles Mike has written on this subject, and a request for clarification of why he wrote the way he did.

I’d also say the fact that she wrote “you (or your wife)” when asking for feedback shows that she was doing so in the right spirit, whether or not other people here approve or not. And we’re talking about just one letter, which this woman’s obviously given permission for Mike to reprint in public and also to share with his wife for her feedback — she’s not asking Mike for a series of private sexual counselling sessions.

What was it the Lord said about judging another man’s servant?

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sally apokedak March 14, 2013 at 11:27 AM

I did not mean to judge her. I meant to warn her. The two are not the same.

But I read over my comment and see that I sounded judgmental.

I shouldn’t have said “I can’t understand why a married woman would write” and I should have said, “I CAN understand why a married woman would write to Mike on this topic. I can understand it because it’s probably what I would have done when I was her age. But because I’ve gotten myself into trouble and because I’ve seen other married women get into trouble, I’d like to warn this woman.”

Please forgive me, anonymous letter writer, for sounding harsh. And please know I don’t think you did anything that is terrible and I didn’t mean to accuse you of purposely writing in an inappropriate way to Mike.

But I am holding to my warning–you are playing with fire if you write to men you don’t know and talk about finding pleasure in sex after reading sex scenes and about pleasuring your husband sexually. That’s just never going to be a good idea. Talking about sex to men other than your husband is dangerous to you, even if you never meet the man and never have a physical affair. Yes, I’m making a judgement on the matter. Some things are sinful and some things are unwise and we do need to make judgements about them.

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Kat Heckenbach March 14, 2013 at 11:31 AM

R.J., I don’t think anyone is judging this woman. No one has questioned her motives–yes, her including Mike’s wife in the question is a good thing–but even in the most innocent of circumstances the level of intimate detail she’s given, imo, is a bit much for a total stranger. And her ending question to me read basically as *tell me what to read and not to read.*

And when I said “red flag” I didn’t mean “warning, she’s out to get ya”–I meant she seemed rather vulnerable and anywhere there is raw emotion like this communication needs to be directed to someone who’s not the opposite sex. I should be more clear, but I certainly didn’t mean to be judgmental.

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Kat Heckenbach March 14, 2013 at 9:34 AM

I think I agree with Sally. Maybe this reader is someone who knows you talk openly about controversial topics and therefore would have an opinion about the detriment or non-detriment(?) of reading sex scenes in novels. But I do find it odd that she’d write to male author about this, especially one that does *not* write books with sex in them.

Both “male” and “author” are issues here. I would never even consider discussing my sex life with a man other than my husband (unless it was a counselor or something, I suppose, and that would certainly not be in an email). And hers isn’t so much a literary question as it is a personal question about what she should be allowing herself to read.

That said, I do think your words to her were well-thought-out and sensitive, but I’d definitely keep a mental red flag next to her name.

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Mike Duran March 14, 2013 at 10:10 AM

Sally, I appreciate these concerns and don’t want to dismiss them lightly. Perhaps it’s good for the writer of this letter to ask why she contacted me. My feeling was it was completely innocent. I could be wrong and I know sometimes bad things begin “innocent” enough. Warning taken.

Something I trimmed from the letter was that the author was Googling topics related to “Christian fiction” and “sex.” Apparently I’m ranked somewhere in the hierarchy. What the author did not say — and this speaks to part of your question — is IF she has a pastor or Christian women to speak to. I don’t know. Also, from the tone of her letter, I’m not entirely sure how “mature” she is as a believer. It could be she’s still a young Christian and has no parameters (like the ones you mentioned) established. Maybe this will be a good time for her to consider who to talk to about these things in the future.

All that to say, I appreciate your concerns. I thinks they’re good ones. I personally felt her questions were quite innocent and valid, and am glad she consented to allow them to be aired publicly.

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Jill March 14, 2013 at 10:23 AM

You probably shouldn’t have cut that bit about her Google search. It makes more sense of the context–she obviously doesn’t feel she has anybody in her life to talk to about such things, which is important to the topic.

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sally apokedak March 14, 2013 at 10:39 AM

Thanks for the added background.

And forgive me for laughing at the fact that you rank in the “sex and the Christian novel” Google search.

:)

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Morgan L. Busse March 14, 2013 at 12:51 PM

Yeah, I laughed a bit at that too ;)

I love what Elizabeth Elliott once said about sex: she called it the “hilarity of sex”. It is a wondrous, joyous union for a married couple. But it is not portrayed that way in the church. When you see what the church offers in the way of sex and what the world does, is it any wonder that people think the world’s way is better? And yet it was God who invented it.

My husband does not shy away from preaching about sex. He’ll warn the congregation if they don’t want their children there, but Christians need to know it is a wonderful gift given by God. We also speak frankly about it when we do pre-marital counseling with couples. A book we use is Intended for Pleasure.

I would caution the woman about using fictional books to help her with her sex life. Learn to love your husband and enjoy him without them. I’m all for romance, and in Proverbs it talks about one of the wonders is the way of a man with a maid (Proverbs 30:19). But it can become a stumbling block if you rely on books or anything else for the spark in your marriage.

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Katherine Coble March 14, 2013 at 5:28 PM

My thoughts are very similar to Sally’s on this one. While I think this sister needs some mentoring guidance, I think approaching a married man on her own is dipping a toe in a dangerous pool.

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Mirtika March 15, 2013 at 2:36 PM

Excellent point, Sally.

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sally apokedak March 14, 2013 at 9:04 AM

And I have to add–when I read “mummy porn” I thought you were going to talk about some porn involving the living dead. :) I might have liked that topic better.

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Lara M. Van Hulzen March 14, 2013 at 9:30 AM

I thought the same thing! LOL It got my attention, for sure. :)

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Mark Carver March 14, 2013 at 9:08 PM

Haha me too. I thought, “Whoa, Mike’s going off the rails!”

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Lara M. Van Hulzen March 14, 2013 at 9:29 AM

I can’t tell you how glad I am you started this conversation, Mike. Or that the woman who wrote you the letter so bravely stepped up and shared her story. This is a topic I wish Christian woman would address. But we seem afraid to venture into conversation with other Christian woman out of fear of being judged. I’ll admit I hid the covers of the romance books I read as if it was something shameful. (Although I will say many of those covers are ridiculous. When my son shops for books with me he’ll say, “Mom, is this the six pack ab section?” Just to embarass me. He’s hilarious. Sadly, the stories behind those covers can be good.) I even worried about posting on goodreads that I had read them. Not anymore. I’m a grown woman with my big girl pants on and will gladly talk to anyone who wants to judge me for reading them.

I ageee completely with Carradee in saying “how we read such scenes is what can make them problematic or not.” That was the key issue for me when I started reading romances a few years ago. (And now I write them.) Those books encouraged for me a healthier physical relationship with my husband. But in reading those books, I didn’t want to be a certain character or want a specific type of man. I want my husband. My desire is for my husband. Romance books don’t have me daydreaming about someone else, just him. Much like the person who wrote to you, Mike, it caused me to talk to God more about sex and how He designed it. I had NEVER felt comfortable doing that before. As a kid who grew up in the church, I was told my whole life sex was bad. Wait. Don’t do it until you’re married. It was an avoided topic and one I didn’t feel comfortable with. Then I got married and those same church folks were like, “Yay! Go have fun!” For the first few years of my marriage, I struggled. What was “wrong” my whole life was now totally fine. I think as Christians we need to do a much better job of being more open about this conversation, especially with young people. My teenagers know that my husband and I waited for one another but we are open with them about the benefits of doing so – that sex is awesome within marriage and the benefits of waiting.

Romance books I read 99% of the time have characters who are in a committed relationship who only want what is best for each other. They may or may not be married but there is nothing kinky to their relationship. And there is usually one to two sex scenes per book and they aren’t 20 pages long. (Yes, I’ve picked up some where halfway through I realized were erotica and I didn’t realize it so I just toss those.)

I’ve been a book reviewer for Christian books for 15 years and I’m happy to say, Christian books have come a long way. But there is still a ways to go. And I think we’re trying. I write Christian romances and so I read many Christian romances as well. I get frustrated with the ones where a couple have a connection but get engaged at the end and kiss on the cheek. I don’t know about you but I know no one like that! Having said that, there are a lot of great Christian romances out there that are fun, realistic, full of sexual tension, but keep it clean. And I know of a few authors who have started talking about the need for romance books with married couples that show us a great story after the vows.

I love this conversation. Keep it going, Mike. :)

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J.S. Clark March 14, 2013 at 10:51 AM

Let me second that, we need more stories about after the vows as you say. The romance stories that are out there seem to predominantely say the “love story” ends when you get married. We need more about after marriage. I think that should be the biggest, because sex before marriage always involves deception. Because people don’t feel safe, they don’t feel committed to, so they aren’t fully open and real with the other person. In marriage, you have a covenant to depend on that this person accepts you whether you please them or not.

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Jessica Thomas March 14, 2013 at 2:05 PM

“We need more about after marriage.”

This is what I’m currently working on, so I find your comment very encouraging. Given that encouragement is few and far between in this business, it’s much needed gives me motivation to continue along my path. Thanks J.S.!

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Jessica Thomas March 14, 2013 at 2:05 PM

*and* gives me…

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J.S. Clark March 16, 2013 at 5:07 PM

Glad to be encouraging. I think it’s a great area to focus on!

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Beth K. Vogt March 14, 2013 at 9:53 AM

I see this issue from so many angles: both as a woman, a wife, a mom of daughters (married and pre-teen), and then as a writer of (you’ve got it!) contemporary romances that are alternately labeled “Christian” or “inspirational” or “clean” or … yeah, for some, “boring” — at least, as far as the sex scenes are concerned.
:)
I could say a lot on this topic, but hey, it’s your column, Mike.
What I will say is this:
Obviously this reader trusted you enough to ask a tough question.
And you proved yourself worthy of her trust, Mike.

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Ramona Richards March 14, 2013 at 10:03 AM

I agree with a lot of what Lara said. Great topic, and I do think she wrote to him because of the frequent discussions here of the boundaries in Christian fiction. I’ve been in Christian publishing for a long time, and I’ve always chafed at some of those boundaries. I remain astonished at how little open discussion about sex there is, when it’s a huge part of our life. And this is coming from someone who’s been celibate longer than I care to think about.

I think I was lucky; I had a practical mother who felt I was better off hearing about sex from her than the locker room or the first boy I dated. We’ve always had frank chats about it. (You haven’t lived until your 84-year-old mother asks you if you know what a “rainbow party” is.) She was full of great marital advice like “Make married friends; too many single friends will distract you” and “Take care of him or some other woman will.” Now I have a friend who used to be a dominatrix. Talking openly about sex comes amazingly natural to me, so much so that I’ve had to school myself on what I CAN’T say in Christian fiction.

So I fully understand this young lady’s journey. I’ve walked that mile myself. And I think she deserves well-written books that deal with honest spiritual journeys and the intensity of honest sexual feelings between committed couples. There are a few out there; I think there’s room in the marketplace for more.

Abingdon just published Angel Falls by Connie Mann, which features a scene that got it rejected ten years ago. Both parties remained clothed, but it’s intense and is centered on how hard it is to heal from past sexual abuse; how difficult it is to trust again. Some reviewers won’t touch it, but many have loved it, and it even carries an endorsement from Debbie Macomber on the cover.

I’m hoping it’s one toe in the door. I think we can and SHOULD write books for all ranges of our Christian readers, not just the ones who flinch at the first hint of heat.

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Lara M. Van Hulzen March 14, 2013 at 10:57 AM

Ramona,
I seriously laughed out loud about your 84-year-old mother asking about “rainbow parties” – you HAVE to put that in a book someday! That is hilarious. And for the record, I blame my mother for nothing. She’s a great mom. Sex was just a subject that her generation and she herself had trouble discussing.

And kudos to Connie Mann and Abingdon for publishing a book with some “heat.” (I personally will check out the book today and review it if that’s okay with you.) Christian publishing needs more variety – in every genre. We need to be more willing to think outside the box and address “tough” topics. I look for books for my kids in Christian publishing and it’s slim pickin’s, I’m sad to say. But I have hope. The Christian publishing world seems aware of the issue and is attempting to address it.

(I don’t know if you remember me or not, Ramona, but we met at ACFW last year. I pitched my YA Fantasy to you – we talked about how your necklace matched your blouse perfectly. Important stuff like that. ;-)

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sally apokedak March 14, 2013 at 11:00 AM

I thought the “take care of him or some other woman will” line was full of biblical and practical wisdom. :)

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R. L. Copple March 14, 2013 at 8:30 PM

I get the gist of “take care of him or some other woman will,” but it can also sound like an excuse for someone having an affair. The message sent to men with that statement is, “If she’s not taking care of me, then it isn’t my fault if I have an affair, it is hers.” Which would be 100% wrong in any situation.

Not getting taken care of can increase the *temptation* to have an affair, but that never justifies the spouse who decides to give into that temptation. And it is also true going the other direction as well. Any man who doesn’t take care of his wife’s needs can increase the temptation for her as well. Book to reference on that since sex is only one among many needs, is “His Needs, Her Needs.” A search on Amazon will pull it up.

Sorry, Mike, for getting slightly off topic, but felt that phrase needed more delineation than was being given it.

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Mirtika March 15, 2013 at 2:42 PM

No, as a woman married to a prince of a guy for 30 years come June, I can say that’s my philosophy. Not that I believe he would cheat, but that as his wife, his sexual needs ARE my responsibility. I should make sure he’s satisfied, just as he should make sure *I* am. And sometimes, as years go by, we forget this is a basic need, and often, through seasons, some need MORE than others.

Even when I totally lost my sex drive, I made sure to take care of business. Was I really into it? No. Did I have to force myself? Yes. Biochemically, I was dead in this regard due to severe illness. Was my husband pushy? Not one bit. But as his wife, I knew HE was not sick, I was. I may not have those needs, but I knew he did. So, what? I just use my not having a drive as an excuse? Nope. That would be cruel and selfish, imo. Meanwhile, you keep praying for healing. I did. :D

His business is my business since the day we said, “I do.” And last I checked, we’re supposed to put the other first. :D

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R. L. Copple March 15, 2013 at 3:13 PM

Mirtika,

I fully agree with you and applaud you for taking care of your husband. I have no complaints now, but there was a time…and many people go through those periods. My hesitation on the phrase wasn’t a spouse should take care of their spouse, but that “or someone else will” as if a threat and the blame for the later falls onto the one spouse for not taking care of their spouse. Much like some people will blame the woman for being raped because they were wearing tight pants. Sure, it increased the temptation for some pervert, but that doesn’t excuse them from raping.

Same with cheating. Too often, when hearing someone cheated, their spouse is assumed to not have been meeting their needs as the “cause” and blame. No, it is a character deficiency in the person who responded to temptation by giving into their passions. Sorry to belabor the point, but the phrase taken as a whole sounds like that cultural excuse for why someone cheated, because their spouse didn’t take care of them.

Also, should note, that for many people, sex isn’t that big of a need. When listing the top 5 activities that make a person feel loved, a big percent of men have sex in the #1 or #2 spot, but many women it doesn’t make the top 5. Learning what needs to meet in one’s spouse, and not assume sex is it, is key to making each other feel loved and important to the other. And ironically, to getting your own needs met.

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Jessica Thomas March 14, 2013 at 1:59 PM

I have no idea what a rainbow party is and I’m afraid to Google it. :)

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Katherine Coble March 14, 2013 at 5:31 PM

It’s where a bunch of girls wear different colors of lipstick and give oral sex to boys….thus leaving “rainbows” on their gen I tal ia.

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Jessica Thomas March 14, 2013 at 5:59 PM

Ow, my eyes!!!

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Katherine Coble March 14, 2013 at 7:13 PM

Sorry. I just prefer straight answers. They demystify a topic that has too much mystery around it. Also I will add that Rainbow Parties are an urban legend that Oprah is responsible for.

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Carradee March 14, 2013 at 7:23 PM

As a schoolkid, I always heard of “rainbow parties” as parties where folks popped all sorts of pills—meds and such. I thought it sounded really stupid.

Never heard of anyone actually having one, but I was never the type of kid who would’ve been told those things. I was the kid who, when folks found out that someone had done something stupid or illegal, everybody joked that I was the one who did it (because they knew it wasn’t me).

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C.L. Dyck March 14, 2013 at 7:31 PM

Not entirely. There was a huge kerfuffle locally because some kids in a small town in our area were doing rainbow parties. I guess Oprah started something?

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sally apokedak March 14, 2013 at 10:58 AM

Your mother sounds like a real gem.

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Lara M. Van Hulzen March 14, 2013 at 11:03 AM

I’m so into discussing this with everyone I didn’t address this woman asking for advice. Mine would be simple: Keep an open discussion with God about what you are reading – He’ll let you know what’s not okay. And keep an open discussion going with your husband. In terms of your physical relationship, they are the two that matter. :-)

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Katherine Coble March 14, 2013 at 10:53 PM

So very much this!

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Lara M. Van Hulzen March 14, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Also, there’s a great book called The Good Girl’s Guide To Great Sex by Sheila Wray Gregoire. She’s a Christian author who speaks frankly about how our society views sex vs. how the Bible views it.

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Iola March 14, 2013 at 1:47 PM

I’d also recommend the Shelia Wray Gregorie book. I reviewed it last year, and my husband read it as well.

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Letterwriter March 14, 2013 at 12:54 PM

I thought i’d pitch in dispite fear of attack (I wrote this letter) I hav followed Christ most of my life an made a true commitment at 15. I talk to my husband about our entire life everything inclusive, I was not intending on placing Mike in a difficult position so I apologise for that. I have attempted to speak to a pastors wife and a more muture Christian female I know well and they shut the conversation down very quickly, so no answers there, I even attempted contacting a female Christian blog who deals directly with these sorts of questions and again no answer. I was asking for a way to be more discerning in what I read be it Christian or secular and including sex or not. I asked Mike’s opinion because from reading his blog he appeared to be sensitive and also because he seems to appreciate science fiction and fantasy which is what I enjoy and which many Christians have problems with. I do struggle with self worth I imagine many people do it is something God and I are working together, I keep an open dialogue with God throughout my day but I often struggle to hear him and require dialogue and discussion so I can evaluate my thinking ad ensure I am doing right in his eyess, I am a very cautious person, I am also very open and struggle with the fact that sex is so Taboo that it is really talked about, I mean really how many Pastors pull out the sex related sermon with the small children sitting in the front row? I hope I have added constructivly to this conversation and not dug myself an impressive hole.

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Lara M. Van Hulzen March 14, 2013 at 1:07 PM

I am so happy you decided to speak up! Both in your letter and here in the comments. And I appreciate your honesty and vulnerability. I wondered if you had already reached out to someone in the Christian community before writing to Mike. I’m sad to hear you did and got no response. Unfortunately, that’s a big problem in Christian circles today. Sex is a taboo subject and one even counselors aren’t comfortable with. I’m not entirely comfortable with it myself, but I see the need for more honest, open discussion so I’m trying to brave it as well. :-)
Hopefully I can encourage you with this: continue your open dialogue with God, ask for discernment. It will come. Read your Bible. Read books on the subject by Christian authors who can encourage you in your journey. (I recommended the one above by Sheila Wray Gregoire.)
I appreciate authors like Mike as well. Ones who aren’t afraid to think outside the box and rock the boat a bit. ;-)

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Letterwriter March 14, 2013 at 1:26 PM

Thanks Lara,
It is very hard to speak up especially when you have to expect critism. I am an avid reader and I read as many Christian books as I can on subjects that are relevant in my life, of course being Christian doesn’t mean that you are Christ or even right so I try to search my Bible talk to God and get the thoughts and opinions of those more knowledgeable than myself, in reality reading something and finding God’s answer in the Bible is not easy sometimes you need someone to direct you to verses (and I mean more than on I like a lot of backup) so you can make your own descision so turning to God’s people male or female is the only way, or at least that’s what I’ve found. Even finding couples or individuals willing to talk about mariage can be hard and a lot of ‘Christian Marriages’ do no display a Christ like relationship.

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Lara M. Van Hulzen March 14, 2013 at 1:34 PM

I’ve been married for 19 years and even in Christian circles people seem to find that fascinating. And you’re right. It’s not a topic other couples are comfortable with.
I really would love to keep chatting with you about this. Email me at lmvanhulzen@gmail.com
We can girl talk some more. :-)

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C.L. Dyck March 14, 2013 at 5:58 PM

Hi, Letterwriter,

You haven’t dug yourself a hole, promise. :) I just wanted to say I get exactly where you’re coming from. Much as the standard advice is “find an older woman to talk to…” That’s a hit-and-miss proposition in my Christian experience as well.

And, yeah, sorting out marriage (especially in the childbearing years) is an ongoing barrel of monkeys. I’ve been married 17 years now, and some days we look at how far we’ve come and how much we’ve resolved, and some days we look at how far we have to go.

I think you picked the right internet pastor/culture and books guy. Mike’s a good one, and the people at this blog are an excellent crowd.

I can be found here, if you’d like to be in touch:

http://scitascienda.com/contact/

Best to you,

~Cat

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sally apokedak March 14, 2013 at 1:23 PM

Well, I’m sorry I came on so strong and you feel attacked. I did not mean to question your motives. I meant only to warn you that you were headed into danger.

Now since you say you are struggling with what you should read, let me tell you, as an older woman speaking to a younger woman, after reading from two of the books by the authors you mentioned I can firmly say these are not healthy books for Christians to read. They use God’s name as a curse word, the main character in one is constantly leaving her body in what she calls astral projection. The main characters in another are animal/people who have very violent sex which is not about love but about dominance.

This I got from reading for just a few minutes. I can’t imagine how much more there is in the books than what I got in the first chapters I read.

Let me ask you this and please don’t think I’m being sarcastic. How many hours do you spend a week in your Bible and how many hours do you spend reading these novels? You say you struggle to hear God. He speaks loud and clear in his word. Spend a lot of time there. Guard your heart. This is the best advice I can give you.

So now at least one older Christian woman has given you an answer. If my answer is not clear or you have more questions, please feel free to write to me at sally at sally-apokedak dot com. I am happy to discuss sex with you, as I’m sure any of the other women who have commented here would be.

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Letterwriter March 14, 2013 at 1:36 PM

Sally I wasn’t saying yo werre atacking me, more that in writing I open myself to attack.
I do read my Bible daily an use aides like ‘The Word for Today’ of course that doesn’t mean I’m always or have always been this devoted, I stopped reading these books about a month ago because I felt called to stop, but its a struggle not to read them when I don’t have anythng to replace them with I have need to read it has and I believe always will bring me joy, I found a few decent Authors ‘Chanda Hahn’ ‘Devri Walls’ and ‘Melanie Dickerson’ and I stumbled upon Mike’s blog while looking for other Science Fiction/Fantasy authors and had I not emailed him I may never have found women who know or can talk about my questions.

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sally apokedak March 14, 2013 at 1:54 PM

I didn’t think were saying I attacked you. I was merely apologizing for coming on too strongly. I believe RJ Anderson was right to call me to consider the tone of my posts and I believe my first post was too harsh and did sound judgmental.

I’m very glad to hear that you gave those books up. I urge you to continue with the struggle and I’ll commit to pray for you while you struggle as long as God brings you to mind. Feel free to write to me every once in a while to tell me what your progress is and I’ll continue to pray.

I’m glad that you are seeking answers and glad to hear that you’re reading your Bible. And very glad to hear that you’re being obedient to what God shows you. I have been addicted to many things in my life and I know it’s a struggle to give them up. I also know there is so much freedom and joy in finally getting free of them. And I know that God is willing to deliver and he wants us to rest in him and trust him and obey him.

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Iola March 14, 2013 at 2:02 PM

Well, if you are looking for new (Christian) authors to try who are a bit out of the ordinary (some acknowledgement of sexuality, perhaps some paranormal, no Amish) , here’s a few you might like to try:

Austin W Boyd and Brannon Hollingsworth
Carrie Gerlach Cecil
Brandilyn Collins
Deeanne Gist
Kristen Heitzmann
Denise Hunter
Julie Lessman
Mary Nealy
Frank Piretti
James Rubart
Becky Wade

There are hundreds of bloggers (including me) reviewing Christian novels. I’m sure you’ll find something!

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Jessica Thomas March 14, 2013 at 2:08 PM

If you are looking for someone who isn’t afraid to address issues of sexuality in her novels, I will add Nicole Petrino-Salter to the list.

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Katherine Coble March 14, 2013 at 5:58 PM

Dear Letterwriter:

First, let me apologise in advance for the length of this response.

Second, let me clarify my warning about interfacing with married men. I don’t mean at ALL that you have nefarious motives in seeking Mike out. I just know Satan, and I know how he likes to work in these situations to twist them to his own benefit. I think it it was very great and very wise of you to include Mike’s wife in the question. After watching many of my friends and former pastors succumb to the transferrence issue and end up in painful affairs after counseling turned carnal, I try to always include my spouse and the spouse of the male party when I talk to a man online. And I do talk to a lot of men online by virtue of my interests–which skew predominantly male.

Now on to some of the other stuff I feel like I should be telling you because it concerns me that I don’t see it here. (Not that others are wrong; I just think I have a slightly different point of view.)

1. I think erotica and romance, when handled judiciously, can be good–even essential–to a marriage. But I think that’s between the partners in the marriage. I also think that what a woman needs to prime her pump sexually is different than what a man needs, so I think that a woman’s reaction to sexual content needs to be addressed differently than a man’s.

Sex is healthy, but many of us grew up sexually repressed, diffident and, if we are females, insecure. That’s why porn when viewed by males is so damaging to Christian marriages. You have a woman who already believes her sexuality is half-evil and dirty and something that will lead men astray. When her husband is looking at other women or men with that lust in his heart it drives home the point that sex is purely carnal and cements her reluctance and insecurities.

For women, however, erotica IN THE RIGHT CONTEXT is healthy and even necessary to come to an acceptance of her sexuality as useful and even enjoyable. For many years I edited erotic fiction on the web and recommended erotic romances for other Christian women. What passes for “erotica” now in the post 50-Shades world is not what I consider to be healthy, relationship-strengthening erotica. It’s too much of Tab A into Slot B and bam chicka pow pow porn-in-print. The authors you’re reading, by injecting paranormal elements into the story are in effect creating pornography that is ultimately unhealthy for relationships.

Here’s the key. If what you are reading is an ESCAPE into an IDEALISED sexual partnership, it’s not healthy. If what you are reading is a mature exploration of sexuality in a partnership, it’s probably good grease for your machine.

Sadly–or not, really, because it’s too gray an area (pr0n puns)–most Christian writers don’t really do the best job of this. A lot of what I see from Christian romances is the same idealised escapism that is more hurtful to a marriage than a sex scene in a straight up novel. That has always bothered me. Because women don’t take away from a sex scene what a man does. Some men look at pr0n to escape into an idealised world. Some women read romances for similar reasons.

If you’re truly interested in reading good, well-written books that handle adult sexual relationships in an adult manner but are not Tab A Into Slot B porn I’d recommend:

Susan Wiggs (Especially her Calhoun Chronicles and Lakeshore Chronicles)

Lois McMaster Bujold’s Sharing Knife series

Jane Eyre (seriously…there is more SEXUALITY in that book than people ever realise. And it can do wonders for your relationship).

Deborah Smith’s following novels:
1. A Gentle Rain
2. The Crossroad Cafe<—-especially this one
3. On Bear Mountain
4. A Place To Call Home
5. When Venus Fell
6. Sweet Hush
7. Silk and Stone
8. Stone Flower Garden

These authors are all very strongly religious (I think they're all Roman Catholic, actually, now that I think about it) and deal with issues of faith and sexuality in their work in what I would consider to be both healthy and relationship-building. But they're not published for the Christian market.

If you have any other questions, I invite you to contact me either via my blog (which is linked in my user name) or my email
k(dot)coble(at)comcast(dot)net
or on Facebook at
Facebook(dot)com/Mycropht

or at all three.

This is a topic I'm well-versed in. I'm also married for 22 years.

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Lara M. Van Hulzen March 14, 2013 at 6:40 PM

I personally appreciate your response, Katherine, and feel you’ve actually answered the letter writer’s question best so far. She wasn’t asking for advice on her sex life with her husband. She was asking for advice on sex in literature and how we as Christians are supposed to discern what is okay or not. I personally don’t see how her asking Mike was all that awful. And I think that is off topic, quite frankly. If she had gone to a pastor or counselor who was a man it wouldn’t have been any different.

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Ramona Richards March 14, 2013 at 6:47 PM

Katherine, you rock. And Bujold is an awesome suggestion.

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Jill March 14, 2013 at 7:54 PM

Go Katherine! And kudos to you for the Jane Eyre suggestion.

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Mirtika March 15, 2013 at 2:49 PM

Jane Eyre is superbly romantic and sexy, while showing a woman’s moral response to a tempting situation. My fave classic novel, btw, since I first read it in grade school.

Bujold is a terrfic writer. I hope LetterWriter finds authors to love in your lists.

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Leanna March 15, 2013 at 9:01 PM

As a single woman, I would like to second Jane Eyre as a book with healthy sexuality. I like that the language of it allows things you aren’t ready for to go over your head (I think I was 14ish when I first read it).

Also Madeleine L’Engle’s series with the Austin family handles the teenage daughter’s sexual awakening well imho.

In general though I have to put a kibosh on most stories with any kind of sex since it is simply frustrating when you are abstinent. o:)
As has already been quoted, “Awaken not love before the time is right”!

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sally apokedak March 14, 2013 at 6:36 PM

>>>>
For women, however, erotica IN THE RIGHT CONTEXT is healthy and even necessary to come to an acceptance of her sexuality as useful and even enjoyable.
<<<<<

I disagree with this. I don't know how I'd prove it–I guess I'd have to poll women who had never been exposed to erotica and ask them if they had a healthy sex life. It's pretty much unprovable. How could they compare their sex lives to anyone else's and prove theirs was as satisfying? But I know many women who have never been exposed to erotica who have had rich marriages and happy sex lives.

What do you consider the right context for erotica? And do you think there's a right context for visual porn as well as narrative porn?

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Katherine Coble March 14, 2013 at 7:32 PM

Sally,
I love four things that aren’t God or my husband:

Sex
Food
Books
Dogs

Not together. Separately.

But I look at it this way. Each of those things was something God designed as a little “here’s a nice thing for you to enjoy just because I love you.” In the same way that I bring my dogs endless stuffed hedgehogs as tokens of adoration, God has given me food, sex, books, dogs.

The way I see erotica is the same way I see food and books and dogs. But I’ll go with food as the best analogy in this circumstance.

When you’re dealing with loving food there are different types of food, different attitudes and behaviours. For me it breaks down like this.

McDonalds=This is cheap and tastes good but leaves you with kind of funky greasy feeling after and you kind of hate yourself a little for eating it. But then again it’s cheap and tastes good. We’ll call this casual sex.

Surf and Turf with all the fixin’s=This is good, hearty, sustaining food. Rich and tasty but not really FANCY. Expensive , but again, not fancy. We’ll call this Married Sex. If you’re lucky. A lot of Christians I know are having Kraft Macaroni Married Sex…but we’ll get to that.

Babette’s Feast=This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime gourmet meals with all the fanciest preparation and most exotic foods prepared in the most painstaking ways possible. This is the Unicorn Sex that people fantasize about and lust after. It’s the sex that people who read Romance Novels dream about. That elusive, once in a lifetime knock-your-socks off sex. It’s this desire for Babette’s Feast that has all these women reading the newest kinds of Erotic fiction. They’re stuck with mcDonalds and Kraft Macaroni but boy do they dream of the Lobster Thermidor with asparagus confit. We actually have a restaurant here in Nashville that serves $300-a-person dinners that are supposed to be The Perfect Meal. People are flying in from New York and LA to eat at The Catbird Seat. So I guess I should call this the Catbird Seat category. (Oh! Sexy Pun!)

The way I see it is that if you’ve grown up without many cooking lessons you’ll end up eating Kraft Macaroni. But if you go and get your hands on some recipe books and maybe take a trip through Whole Foods to see what’s actually available to be consumed you can end up with a perfectly great Organic, all-natural, five course delicious meal at home. Likewise finding some books that talk about sex, how to have sex within a loving committed partnership, how to find what YOU personally enjoy about sex, etc. A good, healthy erotic scene in a general novel can serve as a fine recipe book. (For the purposes of this analogy I would liken an attendence at one of the sex toy parties–around here they’re called Surprise Parties–to a trip to WholeFoods. Those are tasteful and not pruriently marketed. They sell everything from lotions to gadgets. None of which I think are prohibited by scripture.)

Where I think Erotica can be bad is when it becomes like a glutton at a Las Vegas Casino Buffett. “Look at all I can shovel down for $3.99!” You get the adrenaline thrill but don’t get the rest of the story about how adults in adult situations deal with their sexuality in light of other things. Every one of those books that I recommended treats sexuality as a healthy and enjoyable part of a committed relationship that faces many assaults from financial to spiritual. It’s not just “come here and let me spank you, honey!”

As for visual porn, I think that’s a grayer area. I think it’s very dangerous for women because men are so stimulated by it that women can feel replaced. And I don’t know that women get as much from visual porn as they do from language erotica. But I do know that I’d sooner see a woman look at Playboy than read _The Viscount’s Naughty Nurse_ or some of that stuff that treats sexuality cheaply and downgrades any man who isn’t a gajillionaire with his own title and jet plane.

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Ramona Richards March 15, 2013 at 7:04 PM

Katherine, I love this analogy – it’s pretty spot on in my experience. And as a fellow Nashvillian, I grinned at the reference to the Catbird Seat. (I’ve also been to a Surprise party. Or two.)

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Katherine Coble March 16, 2013 at 4:19 PM

I didn’t realise you were in Nashville! That’s cool! I also saw you were in Circle Players! (I have several friends who have been in different CP shows.)

I’m off to track you down IRL. :) We should go get a meal at any place except Catbird Seat. I can’t eat there unless I sell my teeth a la Fantine.

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Cherie Clayton March 14, 2013 at 7:31 PM

As an avid reader myself, I have also come across this “taboo” subject in the Christian realm. I am currently writing my first novel and would like to include a sex scene between a couple who is NOT married! Talk about a NO-NO! I’m the type of person that keeps it real! I don’t fully understand why the writers, editors, publishers, etc. of Christian fiction are so scared to keep things real when it comes to sex, passion, lust, and stumbling! I mean, if sex was such an off-limits subject to God….then the Songs of Solomon would NOT have been allowed in the bible! It is chalk full of passion, seduction, wild sex in nature! I understand it’s a fine line between causing a brother/sister to stumble….but don’t we all stumble? The same person who would read a Christian sex scene can also turn on the computer, or T.V., or see a billboard on the street, or open their eyes to the neighbor next door and fall hard! No wonder others are so turned off by Christianity….if we would just keep it real. The only difference between the saved and unsaved is Christ!

To address the writer of the letter: I commend you for asking the questions a lot of people don’t ask because they are embarrassed. I have always been taught by my pastor that anything in the bedroom is permissible as long as both partners are in FULL agreement and it doesn’t go against God’s teachings. I recently posted a question on my Facebook wall asking my friend’s how they felt concerning a Christian author including a sex scene in their novel. Many of them thought it was okay as long as it was done in a way that depicted not breaking their vows of cherishing and honoring and done in a way that would bring honor to God. I guess I need to ask a question of you. When you were reading those sex scenes, were you picturing another couple doing what was written or were you thinking “Oh man, I’m going to try that with my husband?” I guess the only answer to all your questions really are this: Ask the Holy Spirit what He thinks. He is the greatest teacher and counselor and will lead you into all truth and wisdom. Thank you again for asking those questions that are real!

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Letterwriter's Husband March 15, 2013 at 2:33 PM

I would like to start with thanking most of you who have replyed. In particular for Mike to have the wisdom to see that these are just questions being asked to a Christian Author who has more knowledge in this area. Also Mr Copple for his post, that is in other words how it has been for my beautiful wife.

I realise the above convestaions jump between different statements made in and about the original letter but the main question being asked is:
What books do you suggest to read ?
Going further into it you all see that we have both enjoyed reading these romance type novels and have now come to the point where we are now wanting more christian type novels.

There are so many comments that I would like to reply to but at this stage do not have a calm enough temperament to do so.

I finish now with this:
I love my wife.
I trust my wife. That when she asks a Male Christian Author (and his wife) for advice on books that, that is all it is.
I want my wife. EVERY day I want to be near, to touch, to hold, to comfort, to support and to please her in every facet of our lives, so don’t you dare question anything between us.

P.S Thanks to those who have suggested books.

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R. L. Copple March 15, 2013 at 3:48 PM

These are not fiction books, but I think they will help with what you are dealing with.

“His Needs, Her Needs.” Don’t be scared away by the subtitle, “How to Affair Proof Your Marriage.” My wife and I read it and I think every couple should read it before getting married. It has revolutionized our relationship.

Along the same lines, is “The Five Love Languages”. An oldie but goodie.

One my wife and I are reading right now we are finding good is “Sheet Music,” basically about sex in the marriage by a Christian counselor. Overall, high marks in what we’ve read to date, past half way through the book.

A lot of romance and desire comes by keeping the fires of romance alive. Too often Christians think that isn’t important because it is “carnal” and not spiritual. But as we’ve discussed, we are a whole spirit and body as God created us. What God has joined, let no philosophy put asunder.

But the above books can helpful in that department, and finding ways to accomplish what you want in other ways than reading hot romance, though I’m not going to discount that totally, but I think using that too much can be a crutch that doesn’t allow you to address other issues that are really at the root causes of keeping romantic fires burning.

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