Claim Ownership


Author: Jeremiah Gibson and Julia Postema

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Sexvangelicals is a podcast that explores the intersection of religion, relationships, race, and sexuality. Join Jeremiah and Julia for hard conversations, lots of laughs, and celebrating the resilience of the human spirit. Let's heal together!
88 Episodes
We commonly hear our couples conflating sexuality and pleasure, which comes with the unintended message that the only, or best way that a person can experience pleasure is through their sexuality.   For a lot of folks, that's a ton of pleasure to put on a sexual relationship, and can lead to sexuality feeling like an obligation.   We talk with sex educator Goody Howard (@askgoody) about strategies to separate pleasure from sexuality, with the hopes that the more a person experiences pleasure in their individual lives, the more positively that impacts a sexual relationship. She explores with us: The role of confidence, and how confidence gives us power Encouraging faith based communities to overcome negative messages about pleasure (i.e. the role of the devil) Strategies to engage and focus on all of your senses. The language of gender and sexuality expansiveness And make sure to stay tuned to the end, when Goody describes what has quickly become our favorite article of clothing.  
Jesus or my Boyfriend? A question we all ask ourselves. Or, maybe not. In this episode, Jeremiah, Julia, and I (Nicole) play the guessing game, Jesus or my Boyfriend? Where Jeremiah and Julia tell me lyrics and I have to guess if it is a Christian worship song or a pop song. I grew up in a Romanian Eastern Orthodox Church, so I never had exposure to American worship music. Though some of the same themes still hold (i.e. the idea of being born a sinner, devoting yourself to God fully etc.), we didn’t have catchy ballads. We explored what Christian messaging was in the worship songs, how one word is the only difference between a song about sex and a song about God, and how horny Christians might actually be. I mean, this music makes Jesus seem pretty horny. One of my biggest takeaways from this episode is how exposure to this worship music is actually really dangerous for children because messaging around servitude and devotion (especially for young girls) can be really damaging. Jesus Completes Us (17:00): When discussing In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel, Julia speaks on how the lyrics of this song could be interpreted as a worship song: “In your eyes the light, the heat, I am complete” is the lyric, and Julia says “We are not complete generally without Jesus” in the eyes of the Church. This song was a tough guess, but we all know there is no “heat” allowed in Church spaces, as Nicole mentions after. Musical Manipulation (21:00): After discussing the song “The More I Seek You” by Hillsong, Jeremiah explains a Discovery Channel documentary about Hillsong, which is essentially a factory for producing worship songs, and he says “lots of musical manipulation” (22:18) when talking about the kinds of worship songs Hillsong is pumping out. Jeremiah and Julia highly recommend watching the documentary Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed. Jeremiah then notes how in the book “This is Your Brain on Music” the author discusses how pop singers use certain cord progressions to evoke specific emotions and how Hillsong is the master of this. Born Sinning (27:30): When talking about Nicole’s guess about if a song is Jesus or My Boyfriend, she explains what gave away the lyrics “I’ve done wrong and I want to suffer for my sins. I’ve come to you because I need guidance to be true” (Criminal by Fiona Apple) to be “my boyfriend” and not a worship song: “Christians would just be like I have sinned. I am not coming to you, I am disgusting I have sinned.” The distinction being made here is that in worship songs it is usually centering the fact that people are inherently sinners, while this song differs from that ideology by seeking help and framing it is a sin that happened not one that was born into people. Defined by Sin (31:00): Julia says “Christianity really likes to define you by your sins.” A big topic when discussing the songs chosen for this episode is the intentional wording choices for the lyrics in these songs. Just the difference between “I have sinned” and “I am a sinner” is a way to tell if a song is using creative choices or a worship song that wants to instill negative Christian ideology in its listeners. If you want some spoilers, here is the complete list of songs we analyzed in this episode: 1. Your Love is Extravagant -- Casting Crowns 2. Hallelujah -- Brenton Brown 3. In Your Eyes -- Peter Gabriel 4. The More I Seek You -- Hillsong 5. Only Hope -- Mandy Moore 6. All My Life -- KCi and Jojo (Jeremiah’s favorite song growing up) 7. Pour My Love on You -- Phillips, Craig, and Dean 8. Criminal -- Fiona Apple (One of my favorite songs ever) 9. In the Secret -- Chris Tomlin 10. Save Tonight -- Eagle Eye Cherry (A contender on Julia’s best songs of all time list) 11. I Surrender -- Hillsong 12. Toto -- Africa (Another contender on Julia’s best songs of all time list) 13. I Want It That Way -- N'Sync (Objectively the best song of all time [that’s just my opinion)
Reverend Beverly Dale, founder of the Incarnation Institute for Sex and Faith and the co-author of Advancing Sexual Health for the Christian Client: Data and Dogma, joins Jeremiah and Julia to talk about the importance of building relationships between theologians and sexual health professionals. Dale describes her journey of exploring her sexuality and identity, and her vision for creating healing for Christian folks through identifying dogmatic processes and reclaiming sexual pleasure.
A follow-up to episode 6, Julia and Jeremiah talk about the time that they blew up their having an affair. Yikes. On the one hand, Christian culture demonizes infidelity as the worst thing one can do. On the other hand, movies (read: chick flicks) tend to dismiss or glamorize affairs. Even though their story may read like a Nora Ephron screenplay, Julia and Jeremiah address the strange combination of anxiety, isolation, joy, and shame connected with the beginning of their relationship.
Julia is shocked when she attends her religious college, meets a Christian Democrat, and engages in dialogue around race and sexuality for the first time. During her time in the social work department, Julia both lost and regained a sense of faith, despite leaving institutionalized reigion. While her education laid a foundation for sexual growth and development, she was not given tools to reflect on her own sexuality until starting sex therapy at 25. Julia shares her experiences of grief, loss, and healing.
Jeremiah talks with Julia about what it was like to grow up in conservative Christianity and the impact on his views on sex, gender, and sexuality. Spoiler alert: Jeremiah may or may not have led a Bible study at the wise age of 7. Our in-depth conversation includes the role of masculinity in Evangelicalism, the ways that legalism prevents growth and curiosity, and the anxieties that develop around sexuality as a result of these rigid expectations. 
We have big news! We hired a new Marketing and Communications Coordinator, Maddie Upson, and we’re excited to introduce you to her in a two part episode. In this episode, Maddie describes her experience growing up in a homeschool connected with the Evangelical Church in Arkansas, including: Fitting into the Church (8:00): Maddie explains that her church and homeschool had one major goal: to keep people (men and women) in their “godly” roles. “You are assessed at how well you can read the implicit rules and you get rewarded if you stay within those rules and you will get kind of smacked down if you’re kind of to out the line. It's really about how well you can read the room and you're rewarded for that.” Conversations about Sexuality (14:00): Maddie describes the gender roles she learned: “For men and women, the messages specifically about gender and sexuality was more about what wasn't said. It was very common to like to talk about men and boys are visual creatures. They are addicted to porn. It's on us [women] to not just enforce our purity, but theirs as well, and how we dress, how we act.” Maddie speaks about how not only did Church leadership, but parents, expected girls to be the monitors for boys' sexuality.  Anger (23:00): Julia talks about how anger can be used and geared towards justice and is not something to be demonized.“ Certainly like any emotion, people can misuse anger just like they could misuse anything. But I wish that in all spheres, in and outside of the church, we could actually be able to embrace anger for the important role that is necessary, particularly in terms of justice. And it sounds like from a very young age, you had experiences with anger that were demonized, and then eventually you got to the point in which you said, okay, no, I'm no longer going to wait for the boys to bait me.” Anger and Boundaries (25:00): Maddie explores the power of anger when someone disrespects your boundaries. “Anger's such a powerful emotion because it allows you to carve out space and hold your boundaries in a way that shame and fear can kind of incapacitate you. While there are pros and cons, anger is one of the few emotions that really, I think, shores you up and you can push it back on things. A boundary's been violated. And so I think I came to have like a really, maybe an unhealthy, but still like very strong relationship with my anger because it protected me and it would help me create space for myself when people were trying to take my breathing room.” Anger and Changing the System (33:00): Jeremiah suggests, “While anger has the capacity to bring more immediate change or at least call for immediate change to the systems that exist that aren't working…That's something that 30-somethings, 50 something struggle with. Do I change the system? And if I do change the system, what are the consequences? And do I want to deal with the consequences of that?” Maddie responds, “I think that especially for women, anger is a necessary thing. And I honestly wish in the church, more women were able to feel free, to feel angry because there's a lot to be angry about.” The church controls our bodies, our tongues, and our “purity,” so why shouldn’t we be angry? At the end of the episode, Maddie talks with us about cheese, the black market, Boston, and her love for Wonder Woman. We’re so thankful to have Maddie on our team! Let’s heal together!
We wrap up our series on The Sex Ed We Wish We Had by talking about the final sexual health principle from the work of Doug Braun Harvey and Michael Vigorito: Mutual pleasure. And we’re excited to have our editor extraordinaire, Nicole Marinescu, share her experiences of navigating mutually pleasurable experiences in an age of Tinder, virtual communication, and the growing influence of EMPish (Evangelical, Mormon, and Pentecostal) communities. Nicole provides a simple definition for mutual pleasure: “Caring about the other person or persons that you are having a sexual experience with.” We also talk about the following: Gen-Z and Independence (4:00): Nicole talks about how in growing up with the internet, Gen-Zers have become a ‘hyper-independent’ generation, which can be great in many aspects; however, hinders us in aspects of community, relationships, and mutual pleasure. “When you have this level of independence, working with one another was not a skill that was taught even in elementary school. Independence is a beautiful thing, but when you're not kind of taught to work with people in your community, the people around you, you're not really gonna apply that as you get older. You're not gonna apply that to dating, you're not gonna apply that to sex.” Julia adds “What we know from research is that Gen Z folks are having less partnered sex. Now solo sex and masturbation are fantastic, so keep doing that. But it doesn't sound like your generation has learned good relational skills to move out of the independence into a partnered state in which you can both talk and engage pleasure together.” Tinder (8:00): Nicole shares, “Tinder is an app that commodifies not just sexuality, but the people that you are reduced to your height and the one or two pictures that you have, and you are something that you just say yes or no to.” Jeremiah responds, “That's not mutual. That is one person asserting themselves, asserting their sexuality at the expense of another person. Social media impacted and inhibited the ways and the skills with which people who use social media at high volumes communicate effectively. It also inhibits the ability to move into empathetic spaces in response.” Pleasure (25:00): “I think we find pleasure in the excitement and in this wonderful human connection that you don't have with most people,” Nicole says in response to a question about the difference between meeting people virtually versus in person. Excitement is pleasure to a degree because it not only adds to a potential sexual experience, but it aids in our ability to empathize. With sex and romance becoming more virtual, we lose that excitement and in turn, lose some of our ability to empathize.  Relationships During Times of Transition (31:00): Nicole explains how she and her partner create space for happiness and mutually pleasurable, not only during times of transition, to connect. “I’m talking about specific things we both like, that make us both happy and we'll do that. We'll cook meals together and that makes us so happy. We get to connect and it's not sexual, but you know, we're laughing, we are both following the recipe really poorly. It's a really good point of connection for us.” Julia adds, “The pleasure within sexuality requires a lot of time and intention and communication. That is not easy. Pleasure also exists outside of sexuality.” The Church and Community (45:00): Nicole describes, “The community element of church is something that I think we're missing in a lot of other spaces. But the community element of the church also comes with a lot of guilt and shame. And they tell you, oh, you can talk to us about anything. We can give you guidance, but you talk to them about something and it's. ‘What? That's wrong. No, no, no.’” The Church can and has damaged many people’s ability to be vulnerable by showing them that many of their questions will be met with shame, which in turn can hurt someone's ability to be vulnerable in a relationship.  A huge thanks to Nicole for joining us in this episode! Let’s heal together!
Today’s episode discusses one of the most challenging dynamics that we see when doing sex therapy with couples where one/both grew up in a religious context: How do you navigate value conversion, the paradigm shifting that happens during therapy, when two people convert their values at different paces? Jimmy Bridges, PhD, therapist extraordinaire at This Space Between, joins us for part two of this extremely important conversation. Jimmy, Julia, and Jeremiah talk about their process of value conversion in their former marriages—spoiler alert: it wasn’t pretty for any of the three of us—as well as: Empathy (5:20): Jimmy explains, “What I'm mostly encouraging folks to do is both get to a place where they're able to really like step into the shoes of the other person. And then that works both ways because it helps with pacing. I think the biggest issue that leads to harm is we're trying to move too fast. Be cognizant of how it's impacting the people connected to you and learn how to step into the shoes.” Finding similarities (10:30): Jimmy continues, “More than not, there's probably more alignment than we think there is in this process of huge transitions, either religiously or like relationally. I think how it gets enacted—behavior versus principle—I think can sometimes confuse us into thinking, oh, my partner's really different than me because they like practice this in a different way. But the value itself might still remain the same.” Anxiety and value conversion (15:30): Jimmy describes processes that impacted his separation from his ex, “I wish I would've advocated for what I was wanting more because there was a fear of like, “Ooh, how is this gonna be perceived?” But I didn't even think at that time, about this is why it's important to me. This is what I do with like couples all the time. Connect it to why it's important to you.” Navigating gender roles and therapy (18:30): Jeremiah notes that adherence to gender roles can interfere with the process of therapy, to which Jimmy responds, “The dilemma of a therapist is how much do I put myself in a position where I'm actually not being culturally competent? Right. And instead, use my position of power to say, Ooh, okay, I can't actually go forward with respecting all of your cultural values if some of those values are going to go against the treatment goals that you came in here asking me to help you with.” The impact of enmeshment (29:20): Jimmy notes, “I think there is quite a lot of enmeshment that occurs relationally because it's being in a way socialized into you from being in an enmeshed church. I think communication skills become more important when you come out of a culture like that are like developing tolerance when you're in the space of tension, so distress tolerance. Find some internal reminders that the family isn't going to collapse. If we're hearing someone talk about something different, that harmony can still be maintained in the face of differences. And what that looks like in communication is something as simple as, “Let me see if I've got you so far, are you saying this, this and this?” At the core of our work at Sexvangelicals is the process of value conversion. If you’re interested in working with us, please give this episode a listen! Let’s heal together!
Last week, in our episode with Kara Haug, we talked about honesty as structures that provide accurate information to individuals and groups about sexuality and relationships. This week, we talk about how to navigate honesty within a relationship, where two people may have similar or differing perspectives, needs, and values. The language that we use to describe this sexual health principle is “shared values”. Doug Braun Harvey, founder of the Harvey Institute, writes: “Values are a source of identifying one’s sexual standards and ethics. Values differences, when honestly and vulnerably shared between partners, can lead to closeness or painful distance. Either way, it is a conversation that brings reality and clarity where couples may have previously chosen avoidance and deception.” We invite our colleague Dr. Jimmy Bridges to talk with us about how to discuss values in relationships. In part 1, we talk about the ways that conservative religions discourage discussion of values using our own experiences—ours within Evangelical circles and Jimmy’s within the Mormon church. We talk about: Language of Sex Ed (8:00): Jimmy says that he was taught about “plumbing,” to which Jeremiah responds, “The language of disgust that's connected with plumbing is where sewage goes. It's where waste goes.” Shame around Masturbation (11:00): “I think most folks, most kids feel [shame] about masturbation. Like you don't need any faith tradition to feel shame about masturbation if you grow up in the United States,” Jimmy describes. The shame around masturbation led to shame around sexuality, and ultimately, himself: “I got pretty good at repressing a ton of like sexual urge, sexual desire, sexual exploration, sexual identity exploration, to where I thought I was getting a good sense of who I was and building this like really strong identity, but the reality was I was losing myself.” Values (23:00): Jimmy shares, “The value of confrontation, self confronting, taking ownership of how I behave and the impact that that has on the world and the people around me actually guides a lot of like what I do in my own personal life and also in my professional life.” Jimmy speaks about how his own values have evolved as a person who has moved through many different religions and as a therapist. and Jeremiah notes “So the idea of value conversion then suggests that values aren't static. Values have the capacity to grow, to evolve.” Therapy and Power (26:00): Jimmy describes that therapists have to be aware of “power and the influence that a therapist and power or position of privilege holds in guiding and shaping people's values.” This can become especially dangerous for folks who grew up in religious contexts, because “coming from religious structures, we are just ingrained in giving our autonomy up to the authority and asking the authority figures to make these decisions for us.” Tune in next week for part two of our interview with Jimmy, where all three of us talk about our experiences navigating shifts in values in our marriages. Let’s heal together!
We continue with our series on The Sex Education We Wish We Had by talking about the sexual health principle of honesty. Doug Braun-Harvey, of the Harvey Institute, explains: “Sexual health requires open and direct communication with oneself and every sexual partner. Honesty with oneself involves being open to sexual pleasure, sexual experience, and sexual education. Without honesty, sexual relationships will not be able to have effective communication or be able to uphold any of the sexual health principles.” How can we have honest dialogue about sexuality when we’ve been so dishonest with our kids and adolescents about sexual health? To help us answer this, we invite Kara Haug, co-founder of Reframing Our Stories, a business that provides sexual health education, resources and tools for families and communities to normalize conversations around sex and relationship in Sacramento. Kara talks with us about: Mixed Messaging (9:00): Kara shares, “Something that stood out to me was that even in the affirmation of being a dancer, that there was still a sexualization component of you as either a girl or an adolescent that you could dance in church, but literally, God forbid, your nipples show, that there was still this insidious underbelly of purity culture and gendered messaging.” Women’s bodies are treated as subjects that must be debated on, ruled upon, discussed, and punished, instead of just being treated like a human body. Role of Sexuality (20:00): Kara discusses her motivation for her work: “The amount that I saw how sexuality played into people's stories and how it shaped their lives and how it touched so much of our lives that I didn't realize before I think overwhelmed me. And then I just became really sad because I'm like, what we are doing is we are continuing negative cycles that don't need to happen.” The absence of honest conversations and comprehensive sex education leads to unnecessary suffering and grief. Gut Instincts (33:00): Kara talks about how she was taught to go against her instincts: “I was told not to trust my bodily sensations and things like that. And so that's why now recognizing how I feel like I have made decisions against my gut instinct. Every time I teach anyone, I bring in a body element, like from young to old.” To have honest and open conversations about sexuality, we need to be able to trust ourselves, and our bodies first. Grief (34:00): Jeremiah asks, “When families work with you, I imagine that they are often receiving comprehensive sex education for the first time as well. How do you help them navigate the experience in the grief of receiving sex ed for themselves and sharing it with the children at the same time?” We talk about grief quite a bit, and for an important reason: we need to hold space for our younger selves who did have the opportunity to have the same education as our children. It’s important to break those cycles for future generations. Triggers (40:00): Kara reflects, “Your children are your biggest triggers and so as soon as you feel triggered about something, you need to think about why was that triggering? And then you need to think about the root of that and then possibly be willing to get help for that,” Our children can trigger us, but it is up to us to be honest with ourselves and unpack why we were triggered.  We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (43:00): “Nobody likes hard feelings. We don't like them. You know, we don't like feeling like garbage. I say that and I go, but just like the book, we're going on a bear hunt. We can't go over it. We can't go under it. We have to go through it.” Kara speaks about the book, also loved by Julia, for how it is an effective tool for teaching about how we have to push through hardship because we cannot avoid it.  Directness and Respect (50:00):  Julia summarizes the importance of “directness and respect and not sugarcoating hard things that were happening in or outside of family systems.” Children deserve the same honesty and respect as adults. Age-appropriate language and honesty can co-exist, and it is important that children are exposed to honesty young so they can incorporate that into their own mindset and expect the same from others.  Learn more about Kara through her podcast Reframing Our Stories. Let’s heal together!
April is STI Awareness Month. STIs are commonly discussed in sex ed curricula, but typically as a fear-mongering technique to discourage premarital sexuality. We are excited to have Jenelle Pierce, Executive Director of The STI Project, break down the stigma and provide strategies for discussing STIs with partners. The episode begins with this prompt: “A person is beginning to date and is exploring multiple potential dating, sexual, and or romantic relationships. What are some ways to help set initial conversations around STI or pregnancy prevention?” The Value of Honest Communication (2:00): “It’s important to be honest, if you are in any stage of a relationship, even a ‘talking stage’”, Jenelle says. “First of all, communicating the dynamic of that relationship to all your partners, making sure that those who are involved know and are in the same place and are comfortable with that.” Beginning the Conversation (4:00): Julia reflects, “I have many clients who have recently moved out of religious structures that have such specific rules around dating and sexuality and never learned the skills to have a dialogue about sexuality in general and different components about sexuality, including STIs. And those conversations can feel very anxiety provoking for folks.” Many folks who grow up in religious structures typically do not even have a starting point for conversations about sex and sexuality, so it can cause fear and anxiety to even begin that dialogue because of the idea that talking about sex is shameful. Misconceptions About Open Relationships (13:00): Jenelle shares, “The assumption is that they're (people in polyamorous relationships) potentially higher risk and that there are more STIs within those communities. […] But it's actually the other way around. So research tells us that those who have known infections are less likely to transmit their infection than someone who has an unknown infection.” This shows how vital comprehensive sexual education is. People who are more inclined to have honest and open conversations practice safe(r) sex. The Psychology of Disgust (22:00): Jenelle explains, “Disgust is one of the core central emotions that helps us to navigate life in a way that we can be healthy and productive. And so it's a central emotion that's necessary from an evolutionary standpoint. Your risk assessment and disgust sensitivity changes and is dynamic intentionally also to benefit you because we need those relationships. The actual exchange of bacteria that happens when we're in close proximity to one another is good for our immune system and our overall health.” Learn more about Jenelle and The STI Project on Instagram. Let’s heal together!
The third principle of sexual health, according to Doug Braun-Harvey and Michael Vigorito, and part of the sex education we wish we had is effective, non fear mongering conversations around sexually transmitted infections, HIV, and pregnancy. Jenelle Pierce, the Executive Director of the STI Project, joins us for the next two episodes to share how we can have greater education, awareness, and dialogue around sexually transmitted infections. In this episode, Jenelle shares her personal story with us. Not surprisingly, purity culture is at the room of this." The Pervasiveness of Purity Culture (6:00): Jenelle speaks to us about how even though her parents were not the hyper-religious type, the conservative area she grew up in Michigan influenced her ideas around and about sex. “I was really involved in a youth group at the time and I loved going to youth group and I actually was on board with the idea that I think I might try and save myself, quote unquote till marriage. That of course didn't end up happening and was a lot of the source of shame. I felt very much like, this is a result of my bad behavior and I'm deserving of this. And this is how I'm being punished by God and I will never be worthy and I'm less than.” When proper sex education is absent, it makes sense that someone would think an STI is a divine punishment. Medical Misinformation or Lack of Information (20:00): Janelle talks about the lack of information she got after her diagnosis. “The severity, duration, all of those things did dissipate over time, but mine was a very kind of traditional outbreak and experience. My doctor told me that it was the “worst case that I've ever seen”. There was no, this is super common. The first outbreak, is oftentimes really severe, but after your body builds up antibodies, it will start to suppress, you know, no education, no literature. So then I'm thinking, well, if someone who's a medical practitioner who in theory sees this somewhat frequently, I didn't even understand how common it was at the time, and of course, he was certainly not going to substantiate that for me.” Shaming and Sharing (37:00): Jenelle and Jeremiah reflect on the implications of the phrase “Thank you for sharing your story,” and the fine line between acknowledging vulnerability and assuming culpability and shame. Dialogue (45:00): “It’s not just like I have this STI I status I need to disclose. It's that I wanna talk about these things around sexual health and safer sex because I had an experience that opened my mind. That looks like, “I'm curious about what you need. I'm curious about what you'd like to do around safer sex or sexual health. I'm curious when you were last tested, cause here's when I was tested here was, here were the results of my tests.” And all of those things are important because the person who is initiating the conversation their safety, comfort, and body is just as important as the person who is receiving that information and then reciprocating the dialogue in return. So that's, the onus gets put on the person who has the thing, you know, like the thing that they need to share. It's all parties that are responsible for this.” To finish off this episode, Jenelle talks about what a conversation about sexual health and safety should look like. The dialogue is a two-way stream, and not just on the person initiating it. Check out next week’s episode to learn more about specific ways that this dialogue can look.
We’re continuing our series on The Sex Ed We Wish We Had, rooted in the six sexual health principles of Doug Braun-Harvey. The second principle is non-exploitation (5:00), “when a person leverages their power and control to receive sexual gratification. The outcome is sex that is ruthless and insensitive to the feelings of a partner and family members. The outcome encompasses unwanted, harsh, or cruel nomination or taking advantage of a person who is mentally incapable to use their cognitive and emotional capacity. To give or not give consent.” We commonly talk about exploitation from the perspective of individuals leveraging their individual power and control to receive sexual gratification. On this, and in future episodes, we acknowledge that individuals who exploit are commonly enacting cultural and societal directives to exploit. As such, we are holding both systems and individuals accountable. We’re excited to have our colleague and friend Amber Wood as our guest. She talks with us about the exploitation of queer people in the church, including: Your Goodness is God (13:00): “I was raised that anything good in you is God. That's not you. Your humanity essentially is bad. And so if I take away my belief in God or my belief in Jesus, if I take that away, I'm just now trying to figure out who I am because all my identity that was good. Well, that had to be God. Anything that's bad, well that's just your sinful nature, right? So what exists when you take that away?” Amber shares how the Southern Baptist Church taught that all your goodness is God and all your badness is you. Erasure in the Church (15:00): Amber reflects on how homosexuality was not even condemned, it was never mentioned. “I don't remember them ever really talking about queerness. It was so black and white in scripture to the point of just like, I wouldn't commit adultery or I wouldn't rob a bank. I'm not going to have a same-sex relationship. It wasn't something that was taught about in lessons.” Amber shares her story about not being able to identify what a crush on women even felt like because there was no vocabulary ever given for that. Erasure spurs feelings of confusion and non-belonging without ever giving a label so many people feel more lost. Jeremiah summarizes, “The assumption that if we don't talk about something, people will just like make the assumption, oh, well I don't need to explore that.” (21:00)  Guilt Around Masturbation (31:00): Amber shares her guilt around masturbation: “I was tormented by that. I felt like that was my horrible thing and I felt so much guilt and shame for it. Now I can look back and be like, no one took the time to really talk to you and educate you and, and support you in that,” This is heartbreaking because these feelings could have been non-existent if proper sex education was taught and available. The conversation about comprehensive sex education is a theme throughout Sexvangelicals because so many painful feelings stem from inaccurate or non-existent sex education. Developmental Delays (48:00): Amber explains, “With some clients that I have who come out later in life, their developmental level of building relationships is more at a junior high level now. So the immaturity part of that is trying to navigate that. Plus their entire self-worth and how they view themselves is all messed up. Yeah. That puts them at bigger risk of being in unhealthy relationships, because they don't understand who they are, what they are outside of what they were raised to believe.” Julia and Jeremiah talk about the impact of those developmental delays on the stability of relationships. Amber closes with a message of hope: “I'm seeing more acceptance and less of a stigma. The LGBTQ community is just normal. And so it gives me hope that they will then raise their children to where they're accepting and they don't have to go through this. That gives me hope that, that maybe this is changing.” Let’s heal together!
We're continuing our conversation about consent on Sexvangelicals. Julia made a comment on this week’s episode that consent is simultaneously easy and extremely difficult to navigate. I mean, we want consent to be an easy, straightforward thing. And when there are clear intentions to use sexuality as a way to physically and emotionally hurt and violate other people, the line between consent and non-consent becomes pretty straightforward. However, if we think about consent not as attorneys do, as a yes/no binary, consent was or wasn’t given, but more as a relational process, a dialogue, a conversation, here’s where things become a bit more complicated. We continue to talk about the nuances of consent in part 2 of our episode. We also provide Relationship 101 on how to use some of the principles of consent in your sexual relationships. Expressing desire (7:45): Julia says, “Because being able to express desire for sexuality is an important part of consent. Consent is the negotiation of pleasure.” Unfortunately, due to the shaming of sexuality in the church and performance of gender roles, neither she nor her ex were able to communicate their desire for sexuality, to the detriment of the relationship. The church’s myths about consent (12:00): We name three myths about consent. 1) The frequency of sex and the performance of sex is an indicator of relational health (12:45). 2) Men are expected to take over, and women want men to take over (17:30). 3) Men are sexual aggressors, and women are expected to be passive recipients (24:00). Relationship 101: How to practice affirmative consent, particularly if talking about sex is new (31:30): We name five specific tips. 1) Plan a time and place (31:50). 2) Pick a specific topic and use specific resources to help out, if necessary (32:30). 3) Set a limit to the amount of time you talk about this (34:25). 4) Celebrate the ends of conversations together (35:15). 5) Use a safe word if things get too overwhelming (37:05). Julia concludes, “You might even be apprehensive about having a conversation about sex, so check in along the way.” Consent is ultimately about conversation and dialogue, not just during the actual sexual experience, but before and after genital play happens. Let’s heal together!
After our month-long foray into the disturbing literature from the Evangelical Christian publishing industry, we continue our new series The Sex Ed We Wish We Had. Last month, we interviewed Doug Braun-Harvey, who describes the six sexual health principles that we and many other sexual health providers use as their rubric for co-creating healthy sexual encounters. We begin with a two-part series on consent, which, to quote the Harvey Institute (8:40): “Consent means voluntary cooperation communicates permission to try and reach sexual satisfaction and intimacy with willing partners. Consent transforms the act of sex from invasion, intrusion, or violation into an act of transformation. Establishing consent throughout each step of a sexual interaction provides each sexual partner space for sexual safety and pleasure that's consistent with their sexual desire.” We also address: Consent in Church and the Country (9:50): “Consent in our country has been about folks, primarily men, getting as far as they can sexually while escaping rape allegations or charges. Similar to the church, American culture has given women the responsibility of gatekeeping men's sexuality. While keeping themselves safe from violence,” Jeremiah says. Consent is a tool used by men to absolve themselves from any hurt or crime they may have committed. It is not seen as something that should be intrinsically tied to sex. Julia then makes the connection that, “so often the Christian Church establishes themselves as countercultural. However, in terms of sexuality, the status of so many sexual health principles are quite similar. Within and outside of church walls, we have long taught women best practices for avoiding assault.” The conversation around consent usually centers around the metaphor of wearing a bulletproof vest instead of just banning guns.  The Process of Affirmative Consent (11:55): “Learn that consent is the proactive negotiation of pleasure. To catch onto this concept, a religious university in Ohio was the first to develop a model for affirmative consent.” Julia notes as we give props to a Christian institution on this podcast for probably the first time. They then list the seven principles of affirmative consent:  Explicitness. A yes must be expressed verbally. Voluntariness. The yes must be given voluntarily without pressure or coercion.   Ability to consent. Intoxicated people, people under a certain age are unable to give consent. A shift of responsibility. They mean the person who initiates the sexual act has the responsibility to obtain the consent of all participants in non-coercive ways. Freedom from presumption. Consent must be obtained repeatedly for each new sexual act. Informedness. All participants must know what consent is being given for, in particular, when we think about the role of the receiver, what would it be like to have a sexual experience where the initiator says, hey, this is what I want to kind of work through. Revocability. A previously given consent can be withdrawn at any time.  These seven principles are without nuance, which we will dive into next, but still are a strong framework and guide to affirmative consent. As well as, great starting points and rules for someone to follow.  The Simplifying of Consent (15:40): “Consent is actually very complicated. Even in more progressive circles, I've noticed this impulse to try and make consent as simple as possible. We actually have so many different contextual factors to take into account with each sexual scenario. With each of the seven principles, we can't actually package consent into a simple formula.” Julia adds to the conversation about affirmative consent, saying that even though this is a great framework, consent cannot be distilled into a simple idea. It is okay that consent is nuanced and complicated, and that is what they are exploring today. Heteronormativity (21:00): “Heteronormativity relies on narratives about how men and women enact sexuality differently inside the church. As we talked about in reading the Butler series and in the seven deadly sexual sins according to the church, but also outside of the church, we have the false narrative that men are inherently more sexual and that women have the duty to perform sexuality according to the socialized norms of what men crave sexual,” Jeremiah says. We explore the effects of heteronormativity throughout different episodes, but pertaining to the idea of consent, this heteronormative dynamic affects how consent is given and received. Many women in heterosexual relationships feel the need to say yes, and many men feel the need to initiate sex, even if they do not want to have sex.  Sex Therapist Training and Consent (31): Jeremiah talks about his experience how, in one of his sex therapy training classes, he learned what consent actually looked like, and also how his heterosexual relationship fit into a larger context within society. “I was also so stuck in the emotional cycle of protecting my ex at the time, that I didn't have the wherewithal to realize the larger societal context for our relational interaction. But in this particular class, I internalized this.” He then talks about his experience unpacking much of the ingrained ideology about martial consent within the context of Christianity.  Christianity and Consent (39): “The most heartbreaking part is that we were both trying hard to be the best partners that we could be, and the patterns that developed from our best efforts, which were modeled to us by Christian culture and Christian leaders were strong contributors to our divorce and set the stage for both of us to have years of non-consensual sexual experiences," Julia talks about how Christianity establishes that consent happens only once at the altar, and never again. This has negative repercussions as sex does not equal an enjoyable and safe experience for the people involved, but quite the opposite.  These are hard conversations to have, and next week, we’ll talk more about Julia’s experience navigating sexuality and consent in her marriage, before concluding with some Relationship 101. Let’s heal together!
This week, we finish our third and final installment in our series reading Joshua Butler’s “Beautiful Union.” This book was initially endorsed, then quickly recalled, by the Gospel Coalition. In the final part of Chapter One, we get to read how Butler compares the vulva to a “bus depot, how Jesus was supposedly a 33-year-old virgin, and how Butler uses citations incorrectly. In all seriousness, this messaging by Butler is not new, just repackaged for 2023. You could have realistically picked up a book like this in 2013, 2003, and 1993 and the same message would be clear: Don’t. Have. Sex. (Unless you are married, then it’s okay!) He stays true to Evangelical beliefs by making it clear that Queer people do not exist and reinforcing the binary that you can only be single or married. We hope you enjoy this episode where we read yet another book repacking the same purity culture values again!  Sex Workers and Therapists (9:00)  “Therapy is the selling of a relationship. And a sexual experience regardless of the length of time, regardless of when the relationship stops or ends, is the selling of a relationship. Now the relationship involves the bodies. Rather than an emotional and psychological connection, but still the selling of a relationship,” Julia says in response to how Butler describes sex work. She draws the comparison between Therapists and Sex Workers in an interesting fashion, and says how the two are not so different! Repacking Rape Culture (16:00) “He's creating this double bind in which he is simultaneously describing rape as a sin while setting up a context in which that is an unavoidable sin due to the nature of genitalia, excusing the violence and then wrapping it in the language in which that's an inversion of giving. Nothing about that is giving, and the language of inversion does not excuse that.” The central idea in rape culture, that men are just too horny to control themselves. Both misogyny and misandry are at play here because rape is violent and without excuse, yet he is giving an excuse.  Sex is a Relational Experience (22:00) “Nowhere in this book so far has Joshua Butler suggested anything about sex being a relational experience. A relational experience being two people communicating about what they want regarding a particular experience.” Jeremiah notes how Butler has not mentioned at any point how sex is a communicative experience involving actual people and feelings. Evangelicals have a unique ability to sterilize sex whilst also not using the words penis, vagina, vulva, clitoris and so on. They put sex on a pedestal without taking into consideration that actual people having that sex.  Relentless Pursuer (32:00) “He's making the assumption that God is the relentless pursuer. That whether you want God or not, he's gonna keep pursuing you, even violating boundary norms. Which if that's your theology, that's fine, but if you want to make a parallel process between that and the way that men should pursue women, again, one more representation of rape culture.” Jesus as the relentless pursuer has the same ring to it as the guy who won’t stop harassing the girl who doesn’t want to go on a date with him. Queer Erasure (35:00) “How did he erase the queer community so much? That this isn't even mentioned as a sin, which is of course so disturbing.” Julia responds. This idea of don’t ask, don’t tell is reinforced here because Butler doesn’t even mention being gay as a sin, he just ignores the existence of queerness!  Single Like Jesus (51:00) “They use singleness as a euphemism for celibacy. And this is another classic move. We are absolutely effing obsessed with sex. And then the afterthought is, don't worry if you aren't having sexual experiences, you are equal in your humanity. This is an idea that happens outside of Christian circles as well,” Julia talks about the Christian idea that you can only be single and celibate or married and have sex. Christians leave no room for those of us who are single AND having sex or those of us who are in a non-marital relationship AND having sex.  Concluding thoughts (1:05) “I’m angry. I'm angry that men and women continue to be encouraged to hold onto these insanely rigid positions as Butler has described” Jeremiah finishes off this episode with a sentiment I think we can all hold on to, anger. It is ridiculous that this messaging is still prevalent in 2023, but it is. There is always hope, as Julia points out because the Gospel Coalition got well-deserved backlash on this. Even though this book is still set to be published, we hope that the Gospel Coalition getting flack for this is not a one-time occurrence.
Last week, we read the introduction from the book Beautiful Union by Joshua Butler. You know, the book that the Gospel Coalition posted an excerpt from two weeks ago, causing the Internet to lash out against TGC and Butler. And this week, we’re reading the first half of the first chapter, and have our own variety of responses and reactions. We are not theologians; check out Jackson Wu’s recent article on Patheos The Fundamental Flaws in Josh Butler’s Argument for a dissection of the problematic perspective of Butler’s (and many Evangelical leader’s) theology. We are sex therapists. And we’re reading chapter one from the lens of how Butler’s theology informs the rigid expectations around sexuality that continue to fuel Evangelical and Pentecostal sermons and teachings. Naming these rigid expectations and understanding how Evangelical theologians come to these conclusions help us deconstruct unhelpful expectations for humanity and recreate new possibilities for people to explore themselves and celebrate life through relationships. Framing male ejaculation as “generosity”, and framing female sexuality as “hospitality” (14:55): Julia summarizes, “We've learned that giving and receiving are at the heart of sex, but really the penis and male pleasure is at the heart of sex.” And Jeremiah responds, “And once again, Julia, your job as a woman is to be hospitable—code, be passive—and also put on a smiling, happy face about.” This is before we acknowledge that a) not all sex requires genital stimulation; b) ejaculation and orgasm are not the same thing; c) this is setting up an anti-same-sex relationship position. The problems of the parallel process between Jesus and the church and a male-female sexual relationship (29:30): Julia shares, “ This reads to me, and to apparently millions of people on the internet, like a real fetish around the female body and setting it up to be the depository of semen or salvation or the love of Jesus.” Jeremiah adds, “Which again gets back to the active/passive element, that the hospitable host or hostess is strictly to receive.” Misandry… (41:50): Jeremiah summarizes Butler’s writing, “So in order to suggest that the way that I show my partner and practice with my partner to practice with you how Christ engages with the church is I come in and I immediately move towards you attempt to stimulate you, whether you want it or not, as a way of getting you to respond and move into a space of hospitality?” …partnered with misogyny…(43:00): To which Julia responds, “What that communicates to me is that I'm a sexual object. That is completely subjugating to me. We don't need you to do anything. I come in the room, I come in the house, I see you, and I want you.” creates a horrible double bind for men and women (45:00): Julia states, “That communicates that you walk around in the world unable to see a woman without mentally undressing and or mentally raping her. And my humanity doesn't exist outside of my sexuality. And your humanity exists as someone who is a sexual Initiator. So when you get home to your lovely submissive wife who's prepared herself, can just channel all of that pent up energy that you couldn't enact on every other woman that you saw today onto her.” Spontaneous and responsive desire (47:00): Butler reflects on Emily Nagoski’s work on spontaneous and responsive desire. Julia fires back, “He is also doing the classic move that even the field of psychology has done, which is to take the conclusion of a study and then make broader implications around gender. Women more often than perhaps men in certain studies being aroused in responsive versus spontaneous contexts does not necessarily mean anything specific about gender, most likely. That actually is about the socialization, of men and women, rather than about men and women being different.” Jeremiah summarizes, “This is not paradigm shifting. This is parroting the evangelical language from the eighties, nineties, two thousands, Focus on the Family nonsense and using slightly different language, slightly different metaphors.” It’s imperative that we continue to discuss negative, confining, oppressive texts about sexuality, gender, and relationships, both from legislative outlets and Christian publishing houses. We’ll conclude chapter 1 on Beautiful Union next week! Let’s heal together!  
This week there has been controversy surrounding Joshua Butler's new book, Beautiful Union: How God's Vision for Sex Points us to the Good, Unlocks the Truth, and Sort of Explains Everything. And yes, that is the real title. The Gospel Coalition, a media source for conservative evangelicals, published an excerpt from Joshua Butler's new book, which was so horrendous, even THEY had to take it down. We were incredibly curious to see what piece of writing could be so bad, even the evangelicals had to apologize for it. Enjoy as we navigate the introduction and first chapter to Joshua Butler’s Beautiful Union.
Join us for part two of our episode with Doug Braun-Harvey. Doug is a licensed marriage and family therapist, certified sex therapy supervisor and certified sex therapist in San Diego. He has taught and consulted on sexuality and sexual health with Widener University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Minnesota. Doug is also the co-founder of the Harvey Institute, an international education, training, consulting, and supervision service for improving healthcare.  Good Christian (3). “I grew up in a very Christian world. And so for me to say I wasn't a Christian, took me 35 years. To be honest and open and say, no, I'm not a Christian. I do not identify as a Christian, and that was a tremendously liberating for my sexual health.” Doug shares the liberating experience of just saying I am not a Christian. This phrase can be a challenging hurdle for many people, because of the Christian central country we live in.  Deconstructing Narratives (18). “One of the things that stood out to me is also part of being a man, part of being a successful man is knowing shit. So when you're thinking, when you asked a question, what is your vision for sexual health? My initial response even was like, well, fuck, I don't know how to answer that question. And some of the shame then that comes up for me because part of the narrative around being a man for me is, well, I know the answers to things. That's how I'm successful as a man” Jeremiah opens up about the effects of toxic expectations that come from manhood and strives to redefine what being a “successful man” means and looks like, and sometimes it means not knowing all the answers.  Toxic Masculinity (23). “Toxic masculinity I think is really saying living in a male-identified body that gives you the privilege of remaining unconscious about how you move in the world and the consequences of how you live the world. I like to think about who do we ask to be more conscious or not in our society, and who must be conscious in order to live in the society and thrive, or at least not suffer horrible things” Doug covers how a majority of men do not realize their privilege, a simple thing such as walking alone at night may never be a second thought for men. He explores how many people are forced to be conscious of this out of safety.  Sexual Debut (25). “The church is a lot to say and churches have a lot to say.  Now, the example that's the most pervasive in the entire planet is the sexual debut. And the sexual debut is really a heterosexually defined experience of penile vaginal, penetrative, intercourse. And that's supposed to happen, and it only has moral value if it happens in a marital relationship that has been contracted and established. That's it. If intercourse happens anytime before that, it is not a morally correct sex act after marriage. It is. That's an example of an act-centered value system. Now, the principle-centered value system is one where you ask yourself, was it consensual? I was conscious and avoiding exploitative interactions in order to be sexual with this person. And was I aware that the person was also not exploiting me? Is there honesty?” Doug discusses the idea of the sexual debut through the Christian lens. This lens can be very damaging for those who do not fit the Christian moral standard for sex, and how that in itself can harm our views of ourselves and sex. Male Sexuality (39). “I work with some unpartnered men and they have talked about how lonely it is not to have the permission to discuss sexuality in the same way that women might, and I had one client come back to a session and he said, oh my God, I had a conversation about sex with my best friend for the first time. And it was, it was such a liberating experience for him. And I remember my own like emotions coming up in that interaction as well.” Julia opens up about a healing conversation she had with a client and how many men do not have ways to openly discuss sexuality in the same manner most women do, and how liberating that can be for men to have those avenues.   
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