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this is the cover art on my edition

When Hanna and I were on our trip to Michigan back in early March, I picked up a vintage copy of The Act of Marriage: The Beauty of Sexual Love by Tim and Beverly LaHaye (Zondervan, 1976). Y’all probably know the LaHayes for their right-wing political organizing and Tim LaHaye’s phenomenally popular Left Behind series. Bet you didn’t know the couple are responsible for one of the mid-twentieth-century’s ground-breaking Christian sex manuals.

Yeah. I’ll let that one sink in for a minute.

And of course I bought it. Duh. Because it’s a perfect confluence of all the shit I’m interested in: sex and Christian evangelical fundamentalism and heteronormativity and the 1970s and sex. All in one book.

This was before Hanna and I decided to get married, but now that we’ve set a date and all, I decided I should probably study up on my wifely duties. The introduction to The Act of Marriage specifically instructs that it “should only be read by married couples, those immediately contemplating marriage, or those who counsel married couples.” I told Hanna over coffee this morning that, since I now fall into category #2 (although does “engaged to be married” count as “contemplating marriage”?) I can safely read this book without jeopardizing my bridal purity.

She looked at me like I’d just turned into a hedgehog and went back to her Spanish latte.

I’ve only read the introduction so far, but two things:

1) Tim assures the readers of TAM that Beverly’s presence as one half of the writing team preserves the respectability of their project — and simultaneously assures his audience that Beverly herself was not harmed in the writing of this book. It’s a fascinating use of ministers wife as moral shield. Sort of like having one around is the equivalent of a personal shield emitter. Haha! You think talking about sex is dirty and un-Christian? Well, you see, I have a minister’s wife on hand to protect me!

2) The introduction puts forth the assertion that Christians have better sex than non-Christians. This is hardly the first time I’ve heard this argument made (and, to be fair, feminists also made the case for better fucking … though I doubt their definition of “better” is the same as the one at chez LaHaye). I’m promised survey data latter in the book that will support this thesis and, frankly, I can hardly wait to find out what they asked the couples they counseled and what “secular” data they compare and contrast their results with.

I’m looking forward to my lunch break so I can see what Chapter One has to offer. Stay tuned for more!

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