Does "Married Sex" Encourage Abuse in Christian Marriages?

Sarah McDugal
Nov 30, 2021

I’ve held off on writing this review for weeks, partly because I didn’t know where to start, partly because it’s very hard to write. 

Others have given comprehensive, thorough, page by page reviews (read some of those here, and here) that cover many crucial points - including the promotion of debunked, misogynistic flawed neuroscience as “a scientific truth”. Instead of duplicating those reviews, I’ll stick to addressing the principles. 

As an abuse and trauma recovery coach for women in the faith community, especially women married to p*rn and s*x addicts, I was very much looking forward to this book. I’d hoped for a balanced, ethical, trauma-informed resource I could recommend. Sadly, Married Sex is anything but recommendable. 

Married Sex offers multiple caveats insisting that it is NOT meant for troubled or abusive marriages. That would be good, except that the foundational concepts woven throughout the entire book rely on stories and examples from marriages where there are clearly abusive elements. 

  1. Reggie has rage issues - that are never named as abuse, and his wife’s sense of emptiness over being used for angry sex is glossed over. Not one mention that she should have been advised to seek Domestic Violence support, based on the description of Reggie’s patterns of behavior. 
  2. Danny is described as completely incapable of hearing his wife say no without feeling rejected as a human and taking it personally as a negative about his core identity. This is a fragile, immature, self-focused perspective that needs therapy, not a healthy example. 
  3. Darrell (who advises newly married couples) says he’s surprised that some people are uncomfortable with the idea of regularly having naked night - no clothes allowed after 6pm, except an apron in the kitchen for cooking. (Has he never heard of parenting small children?) And why is it not okay to be not okay with cooking dinner naked? 
  4. Vito is an Italian stallion who likes to dominate in bed and play with (at minimum) honor bondage. His wife is described as liking it, because, of course she should. 
  5. Losing control sexually is presented as a biblical command, so you’re really bad at married sex if you don’t. 
  6. Multiple illustrations in the book refer to women’s sexual pain. Not once does Married Sex approach vaginismus as the common issue that it actually is. In fact, Debra downplays and shames it as a psychological disorder instead of recommending that women should FIRST see a pelvic floor therapist for physiological treatment.
  7. P*rn is approached as something most men do, but sexting him will make him not want to, and also even tho 65% of men watch it - this book isn’t for wives of addicts. But if he does, you should offer more sex, avoid making him feel bad about it, and send him nudies… 
  8. Women are not human versions of apes with full boobs (besides, I thought these authors believed in Creation, not evolution?).
  9. Sexting your husband (especially if he’s the kind of guy who is begging you to) is not only unsafe in a digitally complex world, it’s also definitely NOT going to rewire his brain to be uninterested in p*rn. 
  10. Flashing your breasts will not reset power imbalances. And it’s profoundly disturbing that the baseline assumption is that marriage automatically brings power imbalances that would need to be reset. Healthy marriage isn’t about either spouse flexing power over the other, it’s about mutually supporting and protecting each other. (And if you’re in an abusive power-over marriage dynamic, a boob-glimpse is definitely not the solution to reset anything.)
  11. And no, we don’t want to read Liam’s explicit sex scene, puzzling as the description may be. 

I believe sex is created by God to be a beautiful, healthy, intimate shared experience of safety and trust. I’m not shy to talk about awkward subjects, either. 

So when I say that sections of Gary’s chapters read like cheap dime store erotica, it’s not because I’m a prude. Clinical, medical, unfiltered - all appropriate. P*rnographic, scintillating, gratuitous commentary - disturbing. 

Gary’s tantalizing descriptions of his wife’s nipples, her body insecurities, her short little legs, her reticence to be seen nude - all smack of shameless exploitation. Especially when juxtaposed against the consistent theme of how good wives should definitely sleep naked, flirt naked, cook naked, send naked pictures, etc. 

I’m not sure which marketing team at Zondervan and HarperCollins thought Married Sex was the right book to launch during both Domestic Violence Awareness AND Breast Cancer Awareness Month - but the decision was appallingly tone deaf.  

Married Sex, combined with Gary’s past articles such as What Your Husband Won’t Tell You, and his glowing endorsement of "healthy porn-recovery" where he endorses a couple who promote bondage and adult nursing relationships -- paints a picture of an author who is hiding his own raging sex addiction behind the veil of sanctimonious, spiritually abusive advice to readers.

It took me a bit, but it finally clicked as to why so many of the phrases and concepts in this book sounded familiar - it’s because they’re variations on the same exact manipulations and justifications I hear from addicts and abusers in hundreds of cases of working with survivors. 

In short, Married Sex is a dumpster fire. 🔥🔥🔥


Sarah McDugal is an author, speaker, trainer, and abuse recovery coach who works exclusively with mamas healing after trauma from betrayal, intimate terrorism, and domestic violence.


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