Can you believe we’ve reached the end? After this week’s installment, you should know everything you need to know about sexual intimacy in Christian marriage, and I should be fully equipped to be an Adequate Lady Spouse to my Future Wife.
The final chapter of The Act of Marriage is an FAQ chapter, “Practical Answers to Common Questions,” from Abortion to Temperament with lots in between. I’m actually going to reproduce the response on abortion in full Thursday, in a separate post, because I think it’s a fascinating window into evangelical Christian abortion ethics circa 1976. I think it will contain some surprises for those used to late-twentieth-century anti-choice plan-B-is-murder hardliners. Don’t worry! There’s still plenty of slut-shaming. But there’s no discussion of whether or not abortion should be legally accessible, and the pregnant woman herself doesn’t disappear from view as is often the case in current-day discussions of whether a fertilized egg has rights independent of the person in whose womb it might grow to term.
But first! For a whirlwind tour of Christian sexual ethics, from A-to-Zed (I get 0-10 points based on my level of agreement with the LaHaye’s stance):
Abortion. “Is it ever right for a Christian woman to have an abortion?” Yes, sometimes. As long as she’s not seeking an abortion for the wrong reasons. (More on this later.) 
Adultery. Assumed to be morally wrong* but something which a) is probably the wife’s fault on some level for not meeting her husband’s needs, and b) something for which the wife must forgive her husband, provided he “repents” and cuts off all contact with the lover. And yes, the husband is the presumed guilty party. 
Birth Control. As discussed in previous posts, birth control is considered morally sound to limit family size, as long as couples do not outright reject parenting. Couples are counseled to be intentional about how many children they can care for, and how many pregnancies the mother can healthfully sustain. 
Communication. Communication around sexual matters is deemed essential in marriage, though readers are counseled not to speak of any previous relationships (“some perverted”) with their spouse. 
Counseling. Counseling is advised, as long as it is obtained from a minister or Christian therapist. 
Dating. Young people can date, but should seek out Christian partners, and refrain from sexual activity except with their “life’s partner” for their body is a temple of God. Oral stimulation may or may not count as “sex” but is “much too intimate for unmarried people” (245). 
Ejaculation. Delay, delay, delay, and make sure your wife comes first! 
Fantasy. Fantasizing about anything other than your spouse in a sexual context is lust and therefore sinful. Don’t do it. Avoid “suggestive” material and pray. “Bring your mind into obedience with Christ (2 Cor. 10:5) and cast down all evil imaginations” (248). 
Foreplay. Desirable, especially among women. “Haste makes waste … certainly applies to lovemaking” (249) and the clit and the breasts definitely deserve some attention. 
Fornication. See “Adultery.”
Free Love. Damages spiritual and physical health, is too impersonal, creates “unfair and unnecessary comparisons” (250), causes feelings of guilt, isn’t free, and is, in fact, WRONG. “God’s standards are not flexible” (251). Living together prior to marriage decreases marital satisfaction. At the same time, parents are urged not to cut ties with children who are living in sin. 
Frequency. “Whatever rate of frequency brings joy and fulfillment to the two of you is ‘average’for you” (253). 
Frigidity. Is a psychological condition caused in daughters by cold, distant fathers. Can be overcome with God’s help. 
Genitalia. A range in size and appearance of genitalia is normal, clitoral stimulation is central to women’s satisfaction, Christian women shouldn’t bother to get breast implants (“you need to accept yourself as God made you”) and if you have trouble reaching orgasm after hysterectomy it’s a psychological not physical problem.** 
Homosexuality. Is a sexual perversion. Childhood exploration of one’s own genitals is normal, and should not be punished.*** We don’t know what causes homosexuality, but likely a combination of factors – though not single-parent families. Conversion to Christianity is the only power to redeem a person from homosexual sin. 
Impotence. See chapter ten.
Love. “No Christian should endure marriage without it … [and] every wife has the right to expect to be loved to orgasm” (267-68). 
Marriage Adjustment. “Slam the divorce door, which is not a live option for Christians” (268).^ 
Masturbation. “Is it wrong for a Christian to masturbate?” No acceptable (see “Fantisizing”), even following divorce or widowing, or if your spouse fails to satisfy during intercourse. 
Menstruation. It’s not sinful or unhealthy to have sex during menstruation, but a husband should follow his wife’s lead. .
Oral Sex. The Bible is “completely silent” on the subject, but “we suggest it should be limited to foreplay” (276) and never be demanded of a partner who dislikes it. 
Orgasm. Simultaneous orgasm is likely to occur, even for couples with “excellent” love-making skills only sixty to seventy percent of the time, women will need manual manipulation of the clit to come, and there is nothing wrong with women who desire (and enjoy) sex and orgasm. 
Orgasmic Failure. See chapters 8-10.
Petting. “Petting is just a sophisticated term describing illicit foreplay by the unmarried and it is dangerous” (280)^^ 
Positions. “Any place that is mutually agreeable and does not betray your privacy is acceptable” (281). 
Privacy. Put a lock on your door, teach your children to respect parental privacy, and avoid having them see you naked. 
Romance. Even pastors on a tight budget should not feel guilty about planning and saving for an “overnight honeymoon” on occasion with their wife. “If your first objective is to seek the kingdom of God, there is nothing wrong with your third or fourth objective being a decent salary to live on” (282).^^^ 
September Sex. Couples can enjoy sexual intimacy throughout their lives. 
Sex Drive. It isn’t wrong for a woman to have a higher sex drive than her male partner. 
Sex During Pregnancy. Is not contra-indicated. 
Stimulation. Vibrators are dangerous as they might “establishing an appetite for a level of stimulation their partner could not provide naturally” (287). 
Television. Is a distraction and a “thief of love.” 
Temperament. In which we suddenly learn about the sex drives of Sanguines, Cholerics and Melancholics. [??]
IN SUM: Adequate Lady-Spouse Metric
Chapter 14: 137/290 possible points = -153
Chapter 13: -190
Chapter 12: -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: -522.5
–> Basically? I’d totally suck at being a fundie Christian wife. It’s a good thing that’s not what Hanna’s looking for!
*An assumption I also share, since I take “adultery” to mean a situation where one person cheats on the rules of the primary relationship by having sex with a third (or more) parties without the consent of their spouse. NOT COOL.
**I didn’t bother to look up how much the LaHayes could have known about hormonal issues related to hysterectomies, so they may or may not be responsible for the mis-information here. But aside from the physical recovery from abdominal surgery, and lingering scar tissue, hysterectomies alter your hormones and can alter one’s ability to experience orgasm, and/or how you experience arousal.
***This may seem like a strange observation to place here in the Q&A, but there are still people today who argue that masturbation equals homosexuality because it’s sexual intimacy with a body
the same sex as your own er, exactly the same as your own, er, is your own.
^Like with abortion, it’s note-worthy to me that the LaHayes are arguing for Christians to abide by a separate morality from non-Christians, rather than framing any sort of political agenda concerning divorce law. Rather than argue people shouldn’t be allowed to divorce, they simply counsel Christians it’s “not an option” to people of faith.
^^This might tie with “children fulfill the psychic design of your mind” as Best Phrase Of The Book.
^^^Leaving one with the question, of course, what should the second objective be?