Dear church, you’re wrong about sex.

Not all the time – but a lot of the time. There’s been some truth sprinkled here and there. There’ve been some speakers and ministries who’ve done this tender topic the justice it deserves. But in general, the sexual narrative Christian women have heard over the last four decades is not one of gospel freedom. It is a message burdened by fear, guilt, shame, and legalism – sometimes all of these at once. It’s why Christian girls are done with courtship culture. It’s why many are fleeing legalism and others flee the church. Through one ear, women are being taught about the love and grace of Jesus Christ, while into the other pour proof-texted, fear-based half-truths about female sexuality.

This is what the Enemy wants.

I firmly believe the Enemy targets female sexuality, particularly among Christian women, because he knows our propensity to shame. He knows that the deceit of an extrabiblical sexual ethic can drive women into a cycle of fear and guilt keeping them from the throne of God. So like he always does, he lies. And church? We’ve let this lies in our doors, our minds, and our conversations.

Following are five of the half-truths we’re telling Christian women –  and why we need to stop.

Lust is a Guy Problem

My ministry to women who struggle with sexual sin proves by its very existence that this first point is a lie. But how many women believe it? Email after email enters my inbox:

I thought I was the only woman who struggled like this.

I am afraid something is wrong with me sexually.

Don’t only guys struggle with this problem?

Lust is not a guy problem; lust is a spiritual problem. It is a human problem. It is lust – lust for beauty, knowledge, and power – that persuaded Eve to take the first bite into disobedience so long ago. And it is lust – for sex, for intimacy, for any desire made greater than God – that separates us from Him today.

The Enemy works overtime to draw us into lust – but once we give in, the temptation becomes shame. How could you! You’re a woman! You aren’t supposed to struggle with this! What would your parents think? What would your pastor say? What if your friends knew?

Women who struggle with lust consistently battle isolation, because shame keeps them from finding accountability. Though sexual struggles are understood among men, for women, they bear a stigma stronger than many equally-dangerous (and lust-based) sins. We cannot be free from sins like these until we confront the lie, bring our sins into the Light, confess, repent, and let God heal us. That process starts by acknowledging that lust is not gender specific.

A High Sex Drive is Abnormal

I recently saw an episode of New Girl in which a character expressed just how much men think about, want, and need sex. It struck me that this narrative is perpetuated in both culture and church – to the point it becomes something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Now, I fully comprehend (and believe) that many men DO have high sex drives. But as Sheila Wray Gregoire and other Christian sex writers point out, in 30-40 percent of marriages, the wife is the spouse with the higher sex drive. Because we’ve swallowed the lie that only men have high sex drives, women who want sex more than their husbands are once again isolated, confused, and hurt. They think something is wrong with them for wanting sex so much, and something is wrong with their husbands for not being “normal men”.

The reality? “Normal” is subjective, especially when it comes to sex! There are many factors that can affect a man’s sex drive – from his career to the cares of his heart. The same goes for women. Treating high-drive wives as “abnormal” isolates a large population of women who might otherwise embrace their individual sexuality with freedom and joy.

Read more about high sex drive here.

Sex is About Meeting Your Husband’s Needs

The Apostle Paul gave us some sound wisdom on marital sex in 1 Corinthians 7:

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

However, very rarely do we hear this verse in reference to the wife’s sexual needs, even though she is clearly mentioned in this passage! Because of the second lie Christian women believe about sex, this third half-truth is usually discussed only in light of the husband’s needs – since he is assumed to be the higher-drive spouse.

When we talk about sex as a duty instead of a joy and a privilege, I personally believe we tarnish our witness for Christ. God’s design for sex is under attack in today’s culture. It doesn’t need negative Christian saboteurs. Instead, we need more believers to testify to the beauty of God’s design and the fulfillment that comes with practice and patience. Sometimes, sex IS about meeting the needs of your spouse. But that’s not all it’s about. It’s also about intimacy, passion, unity, love, excitement, relationship, and satisfaction. God could have made the procreation process sterile and boring – instead he made it thrilling and beautiful. That’s something to celebrate!

Virginity Guarantees a Great Sex Life

This one breaks my heart. Young men and women growing up in purity culture will be familiar with appeal to abstain: save yourself for marriage and the sex will be great.

I addressed this argument in my rebuttal post, “I Waited Until My Wedding Night to Lose My Virginity, and it Was the Best Thing I Ever Did“. But don’t be deceived by the title. My wedding night wasn’t the best sex I ever had – far from it! But waiting was still the best thing I ever did. How can that be, if the sex was less-than-stellar?

Waiting was worth it because obedience is worth it. Peace with God is worth waiting for. Lack of guilt is worth waiting for. Freedom from shame is worth waiting for. The sex is just a nice benefit that gets better with time.

The Enemy has taken this well-meaning mantra for his personal use, promising a glamorous sexual experience to those “foolish enough” to wait. But when the reality is disappointing, he comes back around with an “I told you so” that has broken the faith of those who believed the lie. Virginity does not guarantee a great sex life. Virginity itself is not God’s goal – holiness is.

I’m not saying it’s a waste of time to be a virgin; I was a virgin on my wedding day! But I think this phrase not only deceives young people with false views of sexuality, it discourages those who have a history of sexual sin. Our God has always been a God of hope and restoration. When we falsely promise “perfect sex” only to those who waited, we’re basically saying there is no redemption for those who’ve sinned – and that’s simply not true. Our God can redeem a broken sexuality. Jesus did it throughout the gospels, and He is still doing it today.

Talking About Sex Destroys Its Sanctity

I write about sex a lot. Sometimes, people get mad. They say I’m demeaning sexuality by bringing it into the light, or cheapening it by promoting Christian lingerie showers.

I’d like to offer a different perspective. Everywhere we look in Scripture, the sacred is not separated from celebration. The festivals of the Israelite people are a great example of this: times of celebration, feasting, and abundance in which people gather to thank God for his sacred, holy acts on their behalf.

Sexuality may be intimate and private, something to be honored and valued, but that does not mean we avoid talking about it. There has never been a more important time to discuss God’s design for sex than now. When we get awkward and “weird” about sexuality, we’re telling people that God’s design is something we should be embarrassed about – that our bodies are somehow shameful, not to be discussed. But these bodies and this sexual ethic MUST be discussed. If we do not disciple our young women (and men) in biblical sexuality, the world will teach them another version – guaranteed.

We can be the voice for biblical sexuality. We can counter the lies with grace-based truth. But we have to speak up. We have to get uncomfortable. And we have to get completely on board with the only kind of sexual freedom that exists – the kind found through Jesus Christ.