Saving Sex: Book Review

DeRogatis, Amy. 2014. Saving Sex: Sexuality and Salvation in American Evangelicalism. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. 

By: Sophie Bjork-James (Vanderbilt University)

In 2012, Pastor Ed Young and his wife moved a bed onto the roof of their Texas megachurch to lead a “bed-in” lauding the importance of marital sexual intimacy. Young was celebrating the recent publication of his book, Sexperiment: 7 Days to Lasting Intimacy with Your Spouse, and the couple spent twenty-four hours in bed on the church roof conducting interviews with media outlets on the importance of marital sex. How, then, did we get from the radical 1969 “bed-in” for peace, with John Lennon and Yoko Ono cuddling in hotel room beds singing “give peace a change,” to a conservative evangelical “bed-in” celebrating marital sex? When did evangelicals start talking so much about sex? Continue reading

DeRogatis, “Saving Sex: Sexuality and Salvation in American Evangelicalism”

DeRogatis, Amy. 2014. Saving sex : sexuality and salvation in American evangelicalism. New York: Oxford University Press. 

Publisher’s Description: A long history of vehement public opposition to pre-marital sex, pornography, masturbation, gay-marriage, and birth control has cast the evangelical Christian community as regressive and “anti-sex” in the minds of many Americans. In a groundbreaking investigation of evangelical sex education, Amy DeRogatis reveals that this representation could not be farther from the truth: in fact, evangelicals view sex not only as natural and sanctioned by the Bible, but as an essential part of any Christian marriage.

For decades, evangelical sexual education has been a thriving industry. Evangelical couples have sought advice from Christian psychologists and marriage counselors, purchased millions of copies of faith-based “sexual guidebooks,” and consulted magazines, pamphlets, websites, blogs, and podcasts on a vast array of sexual topics, including human anatomy, STDs-sometimes known in evangelical circles as “Sexually Transmitted Demons”-mutual masturbation, sexual role-play, and sex toys, all from a decidedly biblical angle. DeRogatis explores every corner of the industry, from purity literature for young evangelicals to sex manuals for married couples to “deliverance manuals,” which instruct believers in how to expel demons that enter the body through sexual sin.

DeRogatis also shows how feminism has seeped into the evangelical sexual ethic: despite a subscription to traditional gender roles based on the literal interpretation of scripture, many evangelical sexual guides emphasize the importance of mutual consent and female climax. The evangelical approach to sex transcends mere mechanics, emphasizing the fundamental importance of sexual fulfillment in a Christian marriage and perceiving sex as a spiritual act that furthers a couple’s relationship with God.

Saving Sex is a long-overdue exploration of the role of sex in America’s evangelical Christian community, and of the many ways in which American evangelicals participate in cultural conversations about sexuality.