sexual help for (ex?) conservatives
[Apologies for the dormancy of my blog – I hope to give it a kickstart later in summer. But for now a book review]:
As someone who has, for years, taught human sexuality at a university with many students who grew up with Kiss Dating Goodbye and virginity pledges, I can testify to the need for a book like Tina Schermer Sellers’ Sex, God and the Conservative Church. Somewhere in the 80s and 90s, something went particularly wonky and the evangelical church’s normal challenge in negotiating and encouraging healthy sexuality took a wrong turn. Many people have had their deep-seated feelings about sexuality distorted by youth groups and strident teaching during these years. Ironically, this seemed to coincide with conservative authors trying hard to proclaim a positive message about married sexuality. But the marriages formed during this time often had sexual baggage that was hard to unload.
Sellers is a couples counsellor and sex therapist who has learned a great deal in trying to help individuals and couples who have been affected by this kind of baggage. In her 2017 book, she shares these insights both for therapists and their clients to apply in their own lives and relationships. I think she has found a good and necessary approach to meeting a real need. Pastoral counsellors and therapists who work with couples who have been affected by some of the negative messages about sexuality will find here an ally with a healthy blend of thoughtful experience, research, and theology.
At times, I felt like the book was caught somewhere between a focus on clinicians and a self-help approach that could somewhat limit its appeal to either, but this is more stylistic than substantive. Her advice ranges from background attitudes to very practical exercises.
One of the complexities of sexuality is that we are all so frustratingly and beautifully unique. This always gets in the way of helpfulness when writers about sexuality get specific. Each of us will only benefit from a fraction of any collection of sexual advice. An example of this would be several of her exercises that blend sexual techniques with explicit prayer. I admire the attempt and assume it’s helpful for some. Others of us will find it an odd blend, and perhaps this is our loss.
In any case, this book has raised some interesting questions and provides a new resource for a clear need.