See also: intro, ch 1, ch 2-3, ch 4-5, ch 6-7, ch 8-10, ch 11.
Finally! The chapter you’ve all been waiting for (I know!): the Christian sex survey. Convinced through anecdotal evidence and a belief that believers must do it better, the LaHayes set out to gather empirical data to support their thesis.
Why do Christians do it better? I mean, we all know why feminists do it better: the less hamstrung by notions of oppositional, binary gender roles, the more real people can be. And the more real we can be with our partners — the less compelled we feel to follow a specific script for sex — the better off we’re gonna be. Less shame, more gain. But why would being a member of one religious community — particularly one which, historically-speaking, has a rocky relationship with human sexuality — lead one to better sex?
Well, the short answer is because folks like the LaHayes believe that being a Christian makes everything better. It’s sort of an exercise in circular thinking: Why does Christianity make things better? Because life is better when you’re a Christian.
The slightly longer answer is that they believe that they believe “a Christian’s relationship with God produces a greater capacity for expressing and receiving love than is possible for the non-Christian” (195). They argue that Christians, with their greater capacity for love, do not have “an obsession with sex, they do not need dirty stories*, pornography, or artificial stimuli to motivate them toward each other” (195). Basically: God gives you the capacity to love; everyone else is faking it.
To assess the state of Christian marital relations, the LaHayes asked participants in their Family Life Seminars (sexuality education for Christian adults) to fill out and return written surveys on their sexual experiences — think The Hite Report for Christian couples. They amassed 3, 377 responses (from 1,705 women and 1,672 men) and chapter twelve offers us a look at the results. In comparing their own results to that of a contemporary Redbook survey of 100,000 women they conclude that “Christians do enjoy the sublimities of the act of marriage more than others in our culture” (197).
I can’t reproduce the survey results in full, here, but a quick word about demographics and then some of the questions and responses. The couples they surveyed (and yes, they were all married) were the average age of mid-to-late thirties, had been married 7-15 years, and had 2-3 children. forty percent of the women and sixty percent of the men were graduates of four-year colleges, and nearly forty percent of the men had attended graduate school (I suspect a high proportion of seminarians). Forty percent of the wives worked part- or full-time outside the home and over sixty percent of the men were working in “professional or managerial” positions. In short, these are middle to upper-middle-class families. The survey doesn’t ask about race, but I’d say it’s safe to assume a majority white demographic.
The majority of couples married after a courtship lasting 6-12 months, but fifteen percent courted for 3-5 years before marriage. Reading was the main source of sexuality education before marriage, and while the majority approached marriage with “anticipation” of sexual activity, roughly twenty percent of both men and women were “apprehensive” about sex as they headed toward tying the knot. About a third of respondents (slightly lower for women, slightly higher for men) had engaged in “occasional” premarital intercourse, though the LaHayes are quick to point out that these numbers could include people who had “not yet received Christ as their Lord and Savior” (200). Almost forty percent of couples used birth control pills as their preferred form of contraception. While only about one quarter of wives reported having reached orgasm on their first night of lovemaking, seventy-seven percent indicated that they “regularly or always” experienced orgasm making love at the time they filled out the survey.
A few example questions, and the responses:
14. Impression of parents’ sex life:
Fulfilling… 36% (wives’ response) 36% (husbands’ response)
Casual… 28% / 34%
Cold… 28% / 20%
Other… 8% / 10%
36. Minutes from beginning of foreplay to orgasm:
Less than 10… 6% / 7%
10-20 minutes … 51% / 55%
20-30 minutes … 31% / 26%
30 or more … 12% / 12%
40. How often do you have intercourse per week:
0-2 times … 61% / 61%
3-6 times … 36% / 37%
7-9 times … 3% / 1%
41. How often do you desire intercourse per week:
0-2 times … 48% / 27 %
3-6 times … 49% / 62%
7-9 times … 3% / 11%
The rest of the chapter is taken up by graphs comparing the sexual satisfaction of Christian couples (as reported in the survey) with the sexual satisfaction of the respondents to the Redbook survey. The LaHayes do point out that there is no way of knowing what percentage of those who responded to Redbook were also Christians**, but persist anyway in arguing that Christians do it better.
Wearing my historian’s hat, I find it particularly fascinating to see certain themes emerging in these chapters which today sit front and center in the Christian arguments against non-marital sexual activities. For example, the argument that non-marital sex before marriage will be destructive to the marriage relationship: “Our survey indicates quite clearly that premarital sex is not necessary and, according to statistics, may hinder sexual adjustment” (210). They also devote a section to the notion that the practice of oral sex is on the rise, “thanks to amoral sexual education, pornography, modern sex literature, and the moral breakdown of our times” (212). While the LaHayes are not particularly censorious of oral stimulation, they take pains to encourage their readers to ensure that penis-in-vagina intercourse remains the central sexual act in their relationship. All things considered, you could set this chapter up alongside the data presented in the reactionary Premarital Sex in America and — substituting anal for oral — you’d have roughly the same arguments being made, fifty years apart.
IN SUM: Adequate Lady-Spouse Metric
It was a little difficult to come up with a way of grading myself on this chapter. So what I did was this: I completed the questionnaire myself, and then gave myself two points for every instance where my answers matched the top answer for the wives, one point if it was the second-place answer, and half a point for third-place or below.
1st place answers: 24 questions = 48/48 points
2nd place answers: 11 questions = 11/22 points
3rd or below: 11 questions = 5.5/22 points
TOTAL POINTS: 64.5/94 points = -29.5
Chapter 11: -35
Chapters 8-10: 0 (n/a)
Chapters 6-7: -62
Chapters 4-5: +30
Chapters 2-3: -33
Chapter 1: -50
Cumulative ALSM Score: -179.5
*So sad! No smutty fic!
**Note that “Christian” to folks like the LaHayes doesn’t mean “anyone who attends a Christian church and/or reads the Bible as a sacred text,” but rather anyone who has had a born-again experience and/or accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.