By Jeremiah Gibson and Julia Postema

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Episodes: 88


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!

Episode Date
Episode #86: Sexual Fluidity, and How Anger Helped Access My Sexuality in Ways that My Arkansas Homeschool Didn't Want, with Maddie Upson, part 1

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!

May 29, 2023
Episode #85: The Sex Ed We Wish We Had: Mutual Pleasure, with Nicole Marinescu

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!

May 22, 2023
Episode #84: The Sex Ed We Wish We Had: Shared Values, with Jimmy Bridges, part 2 of 2

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!

May 15, 2023
Episode #83: The Sex Ed We Wish We Had: Shared Values, with Jimmy Bridges, part 1 of 2

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!

May 08, 2023
Episode #82: The Sex Ed We Wish We Had: Honesty, with Kara Haug

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!

May 01, 2023
Episode #81: The Sex Ed We Wish We Had: Discussing Sexually Transmitted Infections with Jenelle Pierce, Part 2 of 2

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!

Apr 24, 2023
Episode #80: The Sex Ed We Wish We Had: Discussing Sexually Transmitted Infections, with Jenelle Pierce, Part 1 of 2

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.

Apr 16, 2023
Episode #79: The Sex Ed We Wish We Had: Non-Exploitation, with Amber Wood

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!

Apr 10, 2023
Episode 78: The Sex Ed We Wish We Had: Consent, Part 2 of 2, with Jeremiah and Julia

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!

Apr 03, 2023
Episode 77: The Sex Ed We Wish We Had: Consent, Part 1 of 2, with Jeremiah and Julia

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: 

  1. Explicitness. A yes must be expressed verbally.

  2. Voluntariness. The yes must be given voluntarily without pressure or coercion.  

  3. Ability to consent. Intoxicated people, people under a certain age are unable to give consent.

  4. 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.

  5. Freedom from presumption. Consent must be obtained repeatedly for each new sexual act.

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

Mar 28, 2023
Episode #76: Reading from the Book That the Gospel Coalition Apologized For Last Week

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.

Mar 21, 2023
Episode #75: Reading from the Book that the Gospel Coalition Apologized For Last Week, part 2

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!


Mar 14, 2023
Episode 74: Reading from the Book that the Gospel Coalition Apologized For Last Week, Part 1

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.

Mar 07, 2023
Episode #73: The Sex Education That We Wish We Had, with Doug Braun-Harvey, part 2

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.   

Mar 01, 2023
Episode #72: The Sex Education That We Wish We Had, with Doug Braun-Harvey, part 1


This week we start our new series The Sex Education We Wish We Had and our first guest Doug Brown Harvey, the co-founder of the Harvey Institute, an international education training, consulting, and supervision service for improving healthcare through the integration of sexual health.  


Since 1993, he has been developing and implementing a sexual health-based treatment approach for men out of control, sexual behavior. His book, treating Out of Control, Sexual Behavior, Rethinking Sex Addiction, written with co-author Michael Vito was published in 2015. If you Google his name, you'll get access to his other books. Doug is a licensed marriage and family therapist, certified sex therapist, supervisor and certified sex therapist in San Diego.

He has taught and consulted on sexuality and sexual health with Biden University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Minnesota. 

The term “Sex Addiction” (14:50). “The idea was sex addiction was supposed to become a diagnosis […] there was an effort to create some sort of mental health diagnosis for this human behavior of dis-regulated sexual behavior […] there's always been a kind of contentious notions about whether that's an accurate description because there can be a lot of shame and judgment that goes with sex addiction. It's not just, gee, you have this condition, you have a condition that is the source of shame,” Doug explains the history of the term sex addiction, which has a nuanced history that ropes in shame, safe spaces, and a way to classify sexual behavior that did not fit within societal expectations. 

New Safe Spaces (16:40). “The idea of being a sex addict was relieving to people in its time? Sure. Yeah.  It gave them an honorable space to go and openly discuss what they were doing in rooms outside of churches, outside of therapy offices, outside of places where stigma and shame might be commonplace.” Doug highlights how the diagnosis of “sex addict” gave people in that era a safe space, where they are not alone and do not have to turn to places that shame them (churches) but instead were offered resources and a community. “It was kind of a breath of fresh air to walk into these spaces. You were out of isolation. There was no internet back in those days. It was compelling to sit in a room and meet other people who weren't monsters.” 

The Billy Graham Rule (28). “I think for me, that idea of, well, I don't want to hurt anybody. I don't want to cause pain to anybody. And learning early on that we talk about the Billy Graham rule. This idea is that if men are in rooms with women by themselves, like leave the door open. Inherently speaking, what's going to happen is that the man is going to do something violating toward the woman. It's just gonna happen. So leave the door open. That way, you know, that other people could at any moment kind of walk in. Well, that's depressing. That is depressing. That's pessimistic.” Jeremiah opens up about the effect the Billy Graham rule and purity culture have had on him, and how in many spaces men are conditioned to believe their sexuality is inherently violent.

The Power of Language (32). “Men don't walk into a therapist's office with useful language for talking about sex. All they have is what they've been taught, the popular culture language, which is very stigmatizing. Look at the Billy Graham rule. I mean, somebody's gonna walk into my office thinking that they're a dangerous monster” Doug talks about how most men do not walk into therapeutic spaces with the language for talking about sex and sexual health. Media has a huge impact on sex, and the language we use, he gives the example later of how when some men say “jacking off” he uses the language of “solo sex.” Doug however never forces his clients to use this language but notices them start to use it over time, which shows the power of simple changes.

A Woman’s Humanity and Male Desire (43:24) Julia asks a thought-provoking question: “As a woman who has experienced quite a bit of sexual harassment and objectification, how do you then talk about the beauty of desire and for men who are attracted to women? How do you do that in a way that's more respectful to a woman's humanity?” Which Doug answers by saying, “So what we have to do is teach people the difference between pleasure and politics. How do you enjoy your pleasure and be respectful and be aware of patriarchy? Be aware of sexism. Be aware of misogyny. That is another narrative. But the world of pleasure is also another narrative. And so we have to honor both.” 








Feb 20, 2023
Episode 71: Deadly Sexual Sin (According to the Church) #7: Don’t Ask Questions, with Jeremiah and Julia

We conclude our series on the Seven Deadly Sexual Sins (According to the Church) with reflections on the final sin: Don’t ask questions.

Not knowing is an extremely difficult skill to master, especially for those of us who grew up in contexts where knowing and believing will conflated. However, not asking questions impacted our own sexual development, and ultimately the end of our marriages.

Jeremiah and Julia talk about the conflation of faith with knowing about God, the ways that questions invite anxiety into a relationship, especially a theological one, and ways that questions bring excitement and growth into a system.

Let's heal together!

Feb 13, 2023
Episode #70: Deadly Sexual Sin #6 (According to the Church): Don’t Say No, with Dr. Laura Anderson, part 2

In episode #69, we talk with Dr. Laura Anderson, co-founder of the Religious Trauma Institute, about the ways that Evangelical structures set up the sixth deadly sexual sin, “Don’t say no”, especially to your “God given gender roles”.

In part 2 of our interview, Laura talks with us about the devastating implications of “Don't say no”, including:

  • The involvement of guilt and shame (10:45)

  • The ways that our bodies respond to high control religion (17:20)

  • The distinction between acute and complex trauma (20:45)

  • The first steps of healing (34:15)

  • Healing in relationships (40:30)

And we close the episode with two tips for Relationship 101 (53:45):

  1. Pause. Julia explains, “Create some time between an ask and a response, particularly from a partner.”

  2. Cultivate intimacy outside of sexuality.

Let's heal together!

Feb 07, 2023
Episode 69: Deadly Sexual Sin #6 (According to the Church): Don't Say No, with Laura Anderson

“In purity culture, both men and women are hypersexualized and then also supposed to be asexual at the same time,” explains Dr. Laura Anderson, cofounder of the Religious Trauma Institute.

In short, the expectation is that men are expected to say yes to all things sexual, and women are expected to say and embody the word, no. The sixth deadly sexual sin captures the practice of rigid gender roles.

Men are expected to be dominant. Women are expected to be submissive.

Don’t say no to those gender roles.

We talk about the pressures on men and women to say yes to these particular roles, the ensuing paralysis that creates, from simple decisions to longer-term decisions, like dating relationships, and the competitiveness between women and men that this culture creates.

Jan 30, 2023
Episode 68: Deadly Sexual Sin #5 (According to the Church): Don't Watch Porn, with Cayte Castrillon

Last week, we talked with Cayte Castrillon about her research on the pornography consumption of teenage girls impacts the ways they view their bodies, relationships, and perceptions of men.

We continue our conversation with Cayte this week about the constructs of ethical porn (8:50), how mainstream porn (read: Pornhub) invites unhealth comparison (18:20), how moral reactions prevent us from having healthy conversations about pornography (25:00), and how we can talk with our partners (34:50) and children (48:45) about pornography.

Jeremiah summarizes Cayte’s position in the introduction (4:10):

“We're not at fault for our social conditioning, but we are responsible for it. We have to reflect on how we have developed as sexual beings, how that impacts us and our relationships, and then ask ourselves, am I content with who I am as a sexual person?" 


Jan 22, 2023
Episode 67: Deadly Sexual Sin #5 (According to the Church): Don't Watch Porn, with Cayte Castrillon, part 1

Welcome back to the Seven Deadly Sexual Sins (According to the Church). We continue with Deadly Sexual Sin #5, especially geared toward men: Don’t Watch Porn. After all, we know that women don’t watch porn.

Or do they?

We invite Cayte Castrillon, sex therapist and PhD student, to share her research about how women consume porn, what porn teaches women about their own bodies and sexuality, and the observations that women make about the ways that male partners are influenced by porn.

Jan 16, 2023
Episode 66: Three Conversations to Have Before Setting Your New Years Resolutions

What are your goals for the New Year?

What word encapsulates what you want to accomplish in 2023?

Answering those questions, be they at the start of the year, midway through a project, or at the conclusion of an event, requires an effective self-reflection process. Ideally, said process happens both individually and in relationship, be that with a partner, a friend or family member, or larger community.

Julia and Jeremiah describe three practices that can provide a structure for having these conversations.

1) Month and Review.

2) Intentional Grief Practices 

3) A Process-Centered Evaluation 

We use these processes to talk about our worst and best moments of 2023, knowing, as John Gottman reminds us, that for every negative interaction, it’s important to name five positive interactions. We also reveal our own individual and relational goals for 2023!

Jan 09, 2023
Trailer: Happy 2023 from Jeremiah and Julia!

Happy 2023 from Sexvangelicals! We're excited to preview our January episodes, including the final three episodes of our Seven Deadly Sexual Sins (According to the Church) and a special episode about our visit to the Sigmund Freud Museum in Vienna. Thank you for being part of our journey! Let's heal together!

Jan 04, 2023
Episode 65: Christmas: Going to Church When You Don’t Go to Church Anymore

Christmas is a strange season for folks who are in the process of exploring and healing from the ways that the church has negatively impacted them. Many of our listeners are deconstructing Christianity in some way; however, deconstruction can quickly move into emotionally cutting off, which don't give you the permission to engage with the complexities and beauty of the family members and stories and institutions. For us, Christmas is the best of the modern Christian tradition. We also acknowledge that Christmas also intersects hope with grief, especially for those of us who have moved out of overtly religious spaces; we identify strategies for tending to the grief and finding traditions that work best for you and your family. 

Dec 27, 2022
Episode 64: Get a Room! And Three Other Ways to Navigate Sex During the Holiday Season

Jeremiah and Julia take a break from the Seven Deadly Sexual Sins According to the Church and discuss two ways that sexuality can be hard during the holidays: 1) Privacy concerns; and 2) The general pressures of the holiday. They then discuss a myriad of relationship tips, including getting a separate space for you and your partner when visiting family and friends, talking with your partner about the pressures connected to the holidays, and creating intentional transition spaces in and out of sexuality. 

Dec 20, 2022
Bonus Episode: Happy Holidays from Jeremiah and Julia!

Happy Holidays, from Jeremiah and Julia! Thank you for all of the support that you've given us in 2022! We're excited to share two holiday episodes with you to wrap up December, and launch 2023 with new pictures, new episodes, and a lot of fun!

Dec 20, 2022
Episode 63: Deadly Sexual Sin #4 (According to the Church): Don't Have an Affair, part 2

We continue our series on the Seven Deadly Sexual Sins (According to the Church) with part two on the sin: Don't Have an Affair. We're sharing this story because we need to talk about the commitments that partners make to each other around sexuality, and we need to talk about the ways that people break those commitments, and why they break those commitments, because affairs don't happen in isolation. We name five characteristics of infidelity. 1) Infidelity as one of a bunch of bad choices (or no good choices). 2) Infidelity as an autonomous choice in a sexual history with minimal autonomy. 3) Infidelity as protest. 4) Infidelity as regret. 5) Infidelity as isolation. 

Dec 14, 2022
Episode 62: Deadly Sexual Sin #4 (According to the Church): Don't Have an Affair, part 1

We continue our series on the Seven Deadly Sexual Sins (According to the Church) with Sin #4: Don't have an affair.

As the church describes, the marriage is the most foundational relationship in the Evangelical community. It’s a right of passage into adulthood and symbolizes the union between God/Jesus and the church, as the church describes.

And, according to the Evangelical Church, any relationship with a person of the opposite gender that is not your spouse is a potential threat to the sanctity of marriage. The Church will use this logic to condemn people who have affairs.

Jesus, however, has a very different way of responding to adultery, as we read in John Chapter 8. Learn more about how we might take an approach like Jesus when we engage with the presence of infidelity in our own lives and communities.

Dec 04, 2022
Episode 61: Deadly Sexual Sin #3 (According to the Church): Don't Have Wants, with Jake and Sarah Lollar

The third of the Seven Deadly Sexual Sins is the psychological engine for the church’s position on sexuality:

Don’t lust.

Which, in the Evangelical Church, quickly reduces to "Don't have wants or desires."

Our friends Jake and Sarah talk with us about how growing up in the Evangelical Church (the same collegiate church as Jeremiah, in fact) impacted their relationship with wants as individuals and as a partnership. We explore the concept of lust throughout Christian history, and then describe a three step process that can help give yourself permission to name your own wants and desires.

Nov 29, 2022
Episode 60: Deadly Sexual Sin #2 (According to the Church): Don't Be Gay

Jeremiah and Julia continue their series on the Seven Deadly Sexual Sins, According to the Church, with the deadliest of the “sins”, as we were reminded over the weekend in Colorado Springs: Don’t be gay.

They discuss the different ways that the combination of “Don’t be gay” and “Don’t have sex before you get married” negatively impacted their development. 

They then describe two binaries that the church (and other institutions) place around queerness: 1) Either you're gay or you're straight; 2) Either you're "born this way" or queerness was socialized into you.

Julia and Jeremiah close the episode by discussing three strategies to navigate the homophobia of the church and broadening practices of sexuality.

Nov 21, 2022
Episode 59: Rage Against Homophobia: A Response to the Murders at the Club Q in Colorado Springs

The murders at Club Q on November 20 in Colorado Springs are horrific, as are all acts of violence against the queer community. Julia and Jeremiah bypass the impulse to dissect how church rhetoric impacted the murders, especially given that they happened in the mecca of the Evangelical Church. They name their anger and rage at this and a myriad of other crimes committed against queer bodies. 

Nov 21, 2022
Episode 58: Deadly Sexual Sin #1 (According to the Church): Don’t Have Sex Before You Get Married

The first of the seven deadly sexual sins is the apex of Purity Culture: Don't have sex before you get married. And as Jeremiah and Julia discuss, the Evangelical Church has collaborated with policy makers to ensure that abstinence only sex education is infused throughout public schools nationwide.

The Evangelical Church suggests three ways that sexual experiences will be blissful for those who wait until marriage to have sex. You and your spouse will be able to intuit each other's needs. Your honeymoon will be the most incredible experience of your life. Sex will be spontaneous, and will flow naturally without any need to discuss it. 

Most couples have a sexual relationship that only occasionally fits into these three categories. Jeremiah and Julia discuss strategies to base a healthy sexual relationship on, including Peggy Kleinplatz's Optimal Sexuality Model and the sexual menu practice.

Nov 06, 2022
Episode 57: Seven Deadly Sexual Sins (According to the Church): A Preview

Sexvangelicals is a podcast about the sex education that the church didn't want you to have. What's the sex education that the church did want you to have? So glad that you asked! Julia and Jeremiah talk about the Seven Deadly Sexual Sins (according to the Church). And you'll notice that they all have one word in common. Don't. In this episode, we talk about the implications and limitations for how the word "don't" can negatively impact sex education, as well as how you can name some "do's" to more effectively communicate what you need. Welcome back to Sunday School! Get some animal crackers, a cup of apple juice, and enjoy the episode!

Oct 31, 2022
Episode 56: The Benefits of Separating Pleasure from Sexuality, with Goody Howard
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.


Oct 31, 2022
Episode 55: How the Slippery Slope, as Described in Lauren Winner's Real Sex, Creates Sexual Anxiety, with Jeremiah and Julia

The slippery slope.

These three words provide the principle for exploring sexuality under the purview of Purity Culture.

The slippery slope asks unmarried daters the question, “How far is too far?”

How much physical contact and pleasure can I have before God gets pissed at me, and I have to apologize for being an abysmal human being?

Is it making out? Necking? (Still not entirely sure what that means.) Is it hands on the butts, breasts, and/or genitals? Mouths on butts/breasts/genitals?

While Lauren Winner’s book Real Sex is theoretically about chastity, a word that Jeremiah describes as a “fancy, hyper-intellectual term for purity”, she spends much of the book wrestling with the above questions. Jeremiah says, “You want to know what the rules are so I can go as far against the slippery slope, have a pleasurable experience, but also be in good standings in the eyes of an angry and bitter God.”

In our newest episode of Bedtime Stories, Jeremiah and Julia talk about the psychological and relational challenges that emerge from Real Sex, including:

  • The distinction between values and practices (30:00): Winner takes the ethical approach that sexual practices lead to a series of values, so that if you commit to and succeed at not having premarital sexual intercourse, you’ve met your value as a righteous human being and favorable in God’s eyes. Julia takes the opposite approach:

“It’s interesting how I sometimes can align with the values that Christianity holds, like sacredness—I also believe that sacredness is a part of sexuality, but I sure as hell don’t have the same interpretation as Christians do. Christianity fuses value and practice, and anyone with a different operationalization somehow doesn’t hold onto the value. If you think that sacred sex fits outside of these specific confines, you dob’t believe that sex is sacred. Actually, yes I do! Values are different from practices, and I get to determine the practices that fit within the values.”

  • Confession (47:00): Winner describes the value of the spiritual practice of confession. While Jeremiah and Julia hold a high value toward accountability, they also muse about the purpose of confessing when it comes to sexual behaviors. Julia surmises, “Sexuality in the Evangelical Church is rooted in the context of doing it wrong, so then, I need to pray harder and confess harder so that I can do it right.” This sets up the conundrum: What does it mean to do sex “right”? Jeremiah notes that the values of healthy sexuality as seen by the sexual health world—consent, non-harm, shared values, avoidance of STIs, honesty, mutual pleasure—are not the values of healthy sexuality in the church.

  • Spontaneous sexuality (1:02:00): One of the most common false messages about sexuality is that it’s supposed to be spontaneous. Julia observes:

“If you’re to go out and buy a condom or another type of contraception, that’s a premeditated sin. So having a premarital sexual experience is still sinful, but less sinful because you didn’t plan it in advance. It’s less wrong if something happens that was unpredictable. If one were in a purity culture community and got caught up in the moment, that absolves the couple from reflecting on sexuality, because they can pin the “sexual sin” on feelings. That’s how purity culture sets people up to fail: The only way they can engage in a sexual situation is getting caught up in the moment.”

  • An ethical framework (1:06:00): Winner’s goal in Real Sex is to discuss a sexual ethic around sexuality, and specifically, chastity. Jeremiah and Julia explain, “Ethics is a decision making process, but if ethics and behaviors are linked, there’s no decision making process, because you just do the behaviors that are given to you.” Jeremiah notes a flaw in Winner’s approach:

The Wesleyan Quadrilateral is a common ethical decision making process used by theologians, and it says that wisdom is taken from scripture, experience, tradition, and reason—what does science, sociology say about this? Winner values experience, scripture, and tradition, but actually leaves out reason, which is what educational platforms strengthen. It’s a tragic move. If you’re not willing to talk about the science of sexuality, your perspective on ethics is limited, and not particularly relevant.

  • The panopticon (1:21:00): Jeremiah and Julia discuss a scene in Real Sex where Winner explores the slippery slope by encouraging readers to ask how comfortable they would be with other people watching them engaging in levels of sexual activity at, say, the Washington Monument, knowing that if the viewers were church members, there would be severe judgment. Jeremiah is reminded of Foucault’s panopticon analogy—the panopticon being the watchful tower that stood in the middle of 19th and early 20th century prisons, where guards could watch the behavior of prisoners and punish those who misbehaved. Jeremiah explains:

The church’s job and responsibility is to hold people accountability so that people don’t “stumble into sin”. It becomes my job to say something to whip people into shape. So, if I’m dating, I have to set my expectations around someone’s discomfort, knowing they might chastise and punish me. Not only then am I unable to make my own decisions that work for our relationship, we have to consider that people around us may punish us for moving into a sexual situation that moves outside of the normal realm of purity culture.

The implications of the Washington Monument metaphor, where the community will do whatever they can, including fear mongering tactics, to keep folks on the straight and narrow. It moves the conversations into a series of What ifs? That doesn’t allow for exploration, flourishing, or to figure out what works for you on your own terms. You’re always pushing back against the church, the panopticon.

Jeremiah and Julia conclude that Real Sex “sets up a way to figure out how to make sense for someone to work sexually, but it’s shrouded under the fear of the watchful eye: an angry God who coincides with an angry community.” What were other messages, helpful or unhelpful, that you remember from reading Real Sex?

Oct 17, 2022
Episode 54: How to Practice Body Neutrality, with Abby Kubicek

Many of our guests and listeners (and ourselves) grew up in religious contexts that packaged the abstinence-only sex education curricula developed during the Reagan era and continued in the 40+ years since then through the concept of “purity”.

Spiritual success happens to those (especially the female segment) who avoid having sexual relationships prior to marriage, either with their partners or with themselves (with or without the assistance of sexually explicit material) and who avoid same-sex relationships.

Much of the work on our podcast is dedicated to debunking the painful and toxic implications of purity culture.

Because, as Julia summarizes in this episode, “There’s no such thing as the good girl. It doesn’t matter how good you are, you’re never good enough.”

We talk with Abby Kubicek, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Licensed Addictions Counselor, and owner of Durango Relationship Counseling in Durango CO. There she focuses on helping those in all types of relationships, whether with themselves, a partner, multiple partners, kinky or BDSM. A great deal of her work is focused on LGBTQ2IA+ identity and relationships, sexual health, the impact of religion on relationships and more.

Abby discusses her experiences of navigating purity culture, including:

  • The inconsistent messages around pleasure (27:00): Masturbation feels good, as Abby discovered as a child. However, “the church doesn’t talk to you about sex until you hit puberty, and then the message is that it’s painful, you’re not going to enjoy it, it’s gross. However, I learned that when I do that to myself, it feels fine, so why would it hurt for someone else?” Julia describes the numerous forms of media that reinforced these messages, from the magazine Brio to Christian groups like Barlow Girl and Rebecca St James.

  • Good girls and bad girls (34:00): Abby explains, “Christian culture sets up a dichotomy of the good girl and bad girl. There’s no in between, even though, spoiler alert, the good girl doesn’t exist. But you can aspire to be a good girl, or you’re a bad girl. Those are your only two options. You become a bad girl when you decide to have a sexually consensual experience, but even that wasn’t free and separated from the confines of what you learned about your body.”

  • Competitive relationships with other women (42:00): Abby reflects on her adolescent and young adult position, “I’m not really a girls girl, I mostly have guy friends.” She describes, “If your main goal in life is to find a Godly Christian husband, than any women in the church can compete with you and you shouldn’t be friends with her, because she may jeopardize your possibility of finding a spouse. It took me a long time to unlearn that women are competition and rather embrace them as lovely people who enhance my life and bring me joy. You turn the shame on yourself, and onto other women.”

  • The contexts of eating disorders (46:00): Julia reminds us that the 90s and 00s, “girls who were celebrities were asked in these abusive interview about whether or not they were virgins and saving themselves for sex. Their bodies were commented on in public way. The marriage of the greater context of messaging toward girls with the ways that the church doubled down on these messages was so intense.”

    Jeremiah adds a family systems approach, discussing research about the impact of dads investing in the sexual, relational, and menstrual health of their daughters goes a long way in increasing self-efficacy and decreasing eating disorders and other manifestations of people rebelling against themselves.

  • Body neutrality (1:03:00): The discourse of purity culture is rooted in dichotomys. Pure or unpure. Good or bad. Heaven or hell. Abby describes the process of holding two ideas at once as an important way to heal from the tension and stressors of these dichotomys. She encourages people to practice saying, “I don’t love this part of myself today. I don’t hate it either. It’s just a part of my body.”

Abby closes her time with us by reminding us that Jesus’ ultimate message was love—love for yourself, and for your fellow humans. Healing begins with loving people and yourself. Let’s heal together!

Oct 09, 2022
Episode 53: How to Reenvision Masculinity, with Mark Vaughan

Many of our guests are either women or queer folks, as the messaging from purity culture most commonly places restrictions and shame onto their bodies and relationships.

This is not to say that straight White men are immune from the negative ramifications of purity culture. In fact, the messages from John Eldredge, Mark Driscoll, Brian Houston, and myriad of disciples of these aforementioned men center around a rigid, dominant, aggressive, take-no-prisoners form of masculinity that result in limited communication, high expectations of privilege, and almost zero emotional accessibility (other than anger).

Stories of men who have attended and survived conservative religious groups are imperative to our mission of exploring the values and impact of Evangelical culture. “From the beginning, boys and girls are split up, saying that if you’re a cis het boy/girl, you’re not supposed to talk to the opposite sex about sexuality. This reinforces gender binaries and secrecy,” our guest Mark Vaughan describes. Mark talks with us about:

  • Sexual genograms (27:00): A genogram is a tool that family therapists use to map family patterns, such as communication styles and boundaries. Mark describes a variation of this as a graduate school project, where he asked his parents to reflect on the ways they talked about sex with him. He asked his dad, “‘What did you want me to know about sex or sexuality when I was growing up?’ My dad’s response was ‘I don’t remember.’ And I went back to the moment where he tried, but failed to talk with me about sexuality, and I let him off the hook because I was uncomfortable.”

  • Pushing back against the phrase “toxic masculinity” (34:00): While “toxic masculinity” is an important phrase to connote a litany of power-over, nonconsensual behaviors throughout history, it can also reinforce shame placed on men who, in reality, often find themselves with few options for embodying masculinity. Jeremiah explains, “When we talk about patriarchy, it’s important to talk about the role of capitalism, and how men link a sense of identity and value with the work that we do. This becomes more challenging when you have jobs lost due to loss of unions, health insurance being attached to jobs, and automation—the jobs lost and replaced by “tech”, whatever tech means. This is a challenging time to be a man.”

  • Talking about sexuality with men (38:00): Mark describes, “It’s important to talk about how men have been damaged by expectations of masculinity and ideas that have been taken on that aren’t healthy about sex.” Many men in opposite sex relationships experience these messages reinforced by the women they date: “You’re my husband, you should be ready for sex. Men should never say no to sex. If you don’t want sex, what the hell is wrong with you?”

  • Expanding consent (45:00): We’re growing in our encouragement of teaching men to have conversations with female and male partners are what they want; missing in this conversation is the practice of men asking themselves what they want sexually. “Boys will be boys robs men of wrongdoing, and their power. Men aren’t given the ability to ask “Do I really want this?” And I can say no—the deeper thought of “Do I want this or not?” Men aren’t given permission to make that exploration about sex. Being told how you should do masculinity prevents you from having to evaluate these questions.,” Mark explains.

  • Talking with sons about sexuality (53:00): Mark encourages fathers to move past the singular “sex talk”, favoring instead “an ongoing conversation rather than a “sex talk” keeps it open and okay to have the conversation. The conversation evolves as your son and you also evolve.”

Mark describes his ongoing work as pushing against the impulse to remain silent and go with the flow. “I need to recognize the times that I fall back into silence and not addressing things.” We take this slogan as part of the healing process from the negative, limiting messages about masculinity.

Let’s heal together!

Oct 03, 2022
Episode 52: How to Set More Intentional Transitions in Your Relationships, with Jeremiah and Julia

Conservative Christianity centers its relationship education around two main themes:

  1. A mishmash of ethics from the Sermon on the Mount, the 10 Commandments, and the writings of Paul.

  2. The “shoulds” of rigid gender norms

We’ve mentioned before that the church taught us a lot of great values: honesty, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness. However, the church does a poor job at communicating how to navigate these values in the midst of an intimate, (hopefully) egalitarian relationship between two different people.

We consider Sexvangelicals to be an adult education center of sorts, providing relationship and sexuality skills to folks who did not grow up in contexts where open dialogue, conflict, and sexual health were encouraged.

In this mini-episode, Relationship 101, we reflect on transitions and intentionality. (This is a big theme in Sexvangelicals Season 3.)

We discuss two main topics

  1. Taking time during transitions (7:00): “We are both driven, ambitious people, and even when we thought we were creating larger buffers than we need, and even when we thought we were moving slowly, we actually needed to move a lot slower.” Julia says when discussing their move to the Netherlands. It’s important to recognize when you need to slow down and give yourself permission to actually do so.

  2. Learning how to say no (10:00). “When you say no to things, there is a chance that people are going to be upset,” Jeremiah says when discussing his non-profit. Jeremiah notes how the organization does better when they focus on one or two things instead of stretching themselves thin, a lesson that applies to many aspects of life, not just running an organization. This plays into the bigger theme of this episode and season, moving intentionally, within our work, our relationships, and our lives. Julia adds, “Learning to say no has been one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, elements of my personal and professional growth. I don’t have to please everyone, because sometimes something as small as saying no to going out with some friends because you’re tired can make a world of difference between being exhausted and recovering the next day or being fired up and ready to do what you need to do.”

We end the episode by asking a very important question: If you had to go either to the bottom of the ocean or to space for a month with someone (other than the person you're asking this question to) who and why? It's a great question to ask your friend, partner, parent etc. and personally, I (Nicole) would go to space with my best friend, because the ocean scares me.

Enjoy this mini-episode! Let’s heal together!

Sep 26, 2022
Episode 51: How to Base Your Sexual Journey on Values Instead of Behaviors, with Andrea Eriks

There are numerous communities on Facebook, Reddit, and the podcast world that support people who are navigating through the pain and restrictions that religious communities often create. “Deconstruction” becomes an organizing word to summarize the process for folks who are exploring and moving through these challenging experiences.

But what does deconstruction actually mean? And what are the characteristics and challenges of deconstruction?

Andrea Eriks helps us explore these questions (and a lot more). Andrea is a licensed mental health counselor and co-owner of the group therapy practice The Cottage at 933 located in South Bend, Indiana. Andrea earned her master’s degree from Indiana University South Bend in 2016 and has been working in private practice since. Andrea has honed her skills in trauma, attachment, systemic therapy, and most recently sexology. Currently Andrea is attending Modern Sex Therapy Institute where she is working toward her PhD in Clinical Sexology as well as becoming an AASECT certified Sex Therapist.

Andrea talks with us about:

  • Distinguishing between behaviors and values (20:00): The discourse of sexuality in the church, and for that matter, much of the sexual health community, centers around behaviors (pornography, premarital sex, etc.) rather than values—the characteristics that we’d like for those behaviors and experiences to encapsulate. Andrea explains, “When you begin creating meaning out of behaviors, it’s easier to create an untrue and limited story that pads the behavior and discounts a lot of other elements of their humanity.”

  • Navigating when behaviors and values conflict (30:00): Andrea reminds us, “The system does well to let you know what its values are, and if you’re part of a system, you’ve probably adopted the system’s values without questioning.” The problem is that our behaviors commonly clash with the values of the system. “If someone is being obedient to the system, they don’t know they have to hold the system to a microscope; on the one hand, this is what I’m supposed to believe, and on the other hand, this is what I’m doing. Let’s talk about the importance of your body doing this thing that may be different from your values.”

  • Deconstruction: A definition (46:00): Andrea shares an amazing definition: “Deconstruction starts with someone beginning to question the system they’re a part of. It can be an intuitive experience of something not sitting right with you. Deconstruction is trusting that whatever happens is worth exploring, and I can come to my system (church, family, etc.) and ask for transparent exchange.” Deconstruction is really hard because the system is interested in maintaining and replicating itself; systemic change is much harder than individual change.

  • The risks of deconstruction (59:00): Deconstruction is its own painful process. Andrea describes, “Humans understand that there are risks and collateral damage that comes with changing. Am I willing to potentially lose this community that I’ve learned to rely on to explore this? For some people, it’ll be a no. Other folks have to figure out how to have it both ways, hiding certain parts of themselves from the community.”

  • The church’s relationship with vulnerability (1:06:00): Andrea defines vulnerability through the process of “leaning into it and finding the meaning”. Unfortunately, the church, in its effort to maintain its own structure, commonly fails to provide the safest space for authentic vulnerability. Andrea muses, “Bible study groups are like piranha dens. It turns into righteousness parades. When people bust out Bible verses, that’s the antithesis of vulnerability. It says I’m so incapable of tolerating what you’re saying because it challenges me and what I know to be true so badly, so I have to buffer it.”

We are dedicated to providing a safe space for people to step into vulnerability during the painful, scary, and enriching process of deconstructing (and reconstructing), both through sharing our stories and the wisdom of others who are joining us in this experience.

Let’s heal together!

Sep 19, 2022
Episode 50: How to Prepare Yourself to Leave a Fundamentalist Community, with Tia Levings

“I am here for a reason, and it’s not to be someone’s tool or vessel. It wasn’t so that five people could come into being. There’s something unique about me. I gave three decades of my life to others’ agendas for me—how was I useful to them? I don’t find that useful anymore. I want to fulfill the reason why I’m here. It depends on me being able to do it, and not stay in the place where I only think about what happened to me. That’s giving them my future. I will not do that anymore. I have a lot of say in what my future will look like.” — Tia Levings

Tia Levings is a writer and content creator whose work explores the female narrative in patriarchal spaces. A survivor of church-sanctioned domestic violence, Tia shares the realities of Christian Fundamentalism, and sheds light on the strategic influence high control religion has on our society and headlines today. Her memoir releases in 2024 with St. Martin’s Press and you can find her videos on Instagram and Tiktok.

We are thrilled to have Tia share her experience of surviving and escaping a religiously fundamentalist community, discovering healing and self-exploration, and using her story to help others find their own versions of healing. In this episode, Tia talks with us about:

  • Religious fundamentalism (6:00). Tia defines fundamentalism as “putting ideals over people. Nothing is more important than the idea. Human to human connection gets shunned because there’s danger about connecting around a human need.” For three decades, Tia’s cultural context was rooted in “a base human fear, and someone else in a position of power who presents an attractive solution. These folks can take the things that mean the most to me to exploit and serve their purposes. When it doesn’t work out, the person gets blamed, not the system. They never want to admit that their system may not be working.”

  • Women in fundamentalism (12:00): Tia reminds us that "Christianity teaches at its heart that a young girl [Mary] was impregnated by a deity and became a vessel. She is objectified and used for a purpose.” This young woman gets very little character development, despite her importance, and Tia draws upon the parallel process to describe the role of women in these systems: “I had one job—satisfy my husband and bear babies. A woman’s brain never factors in. What’s necessary is her hands, service, womb, and vagina.”

  • Messages around sexuality (24:00): Tia describes purity culture as such: “My job as a Christian girl was to stay pure and refine my Christian sweetness. No touch, no hand holding, no relationship, no crushes because you don’t want to hold someone else’s spouse’s hands. You’re pure. You’re sweet. He [because same-sex marriages are unacceptable in conservative Christianity] decides that he wants you and says that he’s sent from God. That’s how engagement worked.” Tia was married by 19 and had three children by the age of 23 in the name of being a “good Christian girl”.

  • Deconstruction (43:00): Tia’s marriage and community gradually became more conservative and, in her case, extremely dangerous, but Tia found online platforms, specifically blogging, as her first system for practicing deconstruction. She says, “The virtual spaces gave me a space to exist. I wasn’t allowed to be me in the real world, but online, I had control and agency on how to present myself. The relationships with these people were folks who hid me when I was on the run. There’s power when you have a space to exist and grow.”

  • The dangers of change (58:00): When one person in a system begins to change, typically, the other members of that system will do whatever they can to keep said person stuck in their known, familiar roles. Tia compares her change experience with war, an especially potent metaphor given the fact that conservative Christianity is invested in war. She explains, “Your life is preparing for the war so you can usher in the second coming in Christ and bring the rapture. You’re either going to get raptured in the beginning, middle, or all the way through, which is the big Armageddon. This becomes self fulfilling prophecies because they’re creating the end times in the ways they’re behaving.” Tia’s change resulted in her being excommunicated from her religious community (she’s in good company, having her life threatened, and having to go into hiding.

  • Knowing yourself and the nervous system acclimation (1:23:00): Healing involves learning and listening to the type of person that you are based on your own traits and needs, rather than the type of person society tells you to be. In Tia’s case, this involved reengaging with her high sense of sensitivity, which involves creating buffers for transitioning in and out of certain experiences. We discuss differentiation, and Tia says, “you’ll know you’re in a differentiated relationship when someone will take care of you whenever you start taking care of yourself.”

Tia concludes, “I had been waiting for rescue my whole life. Someday my prince will come. Someday God will save me. When it came down to it, I had to get us out of there. I’m the heroine of my own story.”

The healing process from navigating and leaving religious fundamentalism is extremely daunting, and we hope that Tia’s story provides courage, imagination, and resilience for those who are in similar contexts.

We heal best when we heal together!

Sep 12, 2022
Episode 49: How to Develop a Strategy to Resolve Conflict, with Jeremiah and Julia

We are on vacation this week! We are currently outside of Frankfurt, and later this afternoon, will drive with some relatives to the Saxon Switzerland National Park (a national park that is on the German/Czech border, and not particularly close to Switzerland).

So this week, we wanted to do an episode that speaks to all of us. We usually record on Wednesdays, and our Wednesday began with some conflict. While we resolved some of our conflict before moving into a work day, we wanted to use this episode to reevaluate our conflict, talk through some of the differences between us that contributed to the conflict, and explore how we can navigate these more effectively next time.

So rather than writing official show notes, we wanted to walk you through our process for moving toward conflict resolution.

  1. Agree to a specific time to have the conversation, and length of conversation. In theory, we would have our discussion earlier than 2 AM, but we are both working American jobs on the Central European Time Zone.

  2. Determine what created the conflict. Was the conflict a result of a broken agreement? Was it the result of differences between the two of us? What role did external factors (sleep, hunger, emotional exhaustion) play in this? In our case, we discovered that the conflict was the result of differences between our natural ways of operating.

  3. Identify the relational process, and have each person speak to their own position in that conflict. In our case, our differences were about how we transition. Julia needs more intentionality in identifying needs and emotional space when transitioning from one conversation or space to another. Jeremiah typically figures out needs during the spatial transition.

  4. Take a few minutes to explore stories or experiences that help create that position. Julia grieves the expectation of having to conform to other people’s needs and circumstances, which has prevented her from gaining the confidence to communicate what she truly needs; therefore, communicating her needs for intentionality comes with some anxiety. Jeremiah explores how his experience as an adoptive person creates the scenario of his sometimes extreme levels of flexibility. Pay attention to the ways that Jeremiah and Julia support each other while describing their stories.

  5. Name one or two things that you want to do differently next time. Jeremiah identifies a need to initiate questions that can help Julia determine what she wants the transition to look like, and Julia discusses how she wants to be more honest and brave in communicating her needs.

  6. When you determine the conversation is over, decide how you want to spend the next 15 minutes. In our case, we talk about our disillusionment with Dutch culture, three months into our expat experience.

We hope that this process, and episode, provides you with some skills to have the best relationship possible!

Let’s heal together!

Sep 04, 2022
Episode 48: How the Church of Christ Informs Expectations of Masculinity, with Jeremiah

One of the lesser known Evangelical denominations is the Church of Christ. As this article explains, Churches of Christ are autonomous communities; there’s no governing or organizing body, though each CoC has defined staff and ministry leadership. It’s a small, fairly minimalistic denomination, as shown by its acappella worship tradition and stringent adherence to Biblical text. It’s clear that all of the images of church buildings in the afore-mentioned article are stock photos, because no Church of Christ is that architecturally fancy.

The Church of Christ is the context for Jeremiah’s spiritual and communal upbringing; check out his elevator pitch for the Church of Christ at the 12:00 mark.

Its messages around theology, morality and successful living, and gender performance provided Jeremiah with an understanding for how to engage with others and set expectations for himself.

Julia interviews Jeremiah about themes from his religious upbringing, including:

  • Moral superiority and getting it right (16:00): Jeremiah provides a brief overview of the birth of the Church of Christ and its connection with the Disciples of Christ denomination. Short story: The Disciples of Christ community had money. The Churches of Christ did not. And rather than identifying as a working class community eager to help other folks in socioeconomic plight, the Church of Christ organized itself around moral superiority as a way of dodging class differences.

  • Doctrine versus belief (26:00): Jeremiah describes that the marker of being a good Christian is “getting it right—the facts about what Paul says, memorizing Scripture, and knowledge.” He notes that knowledge isn’t “based in critical thought and observing the systemic, interconnectedness of things, but more about rote memorization.”

  • The intersection of adoption and the Church of Christ (36:00): Jeremiah explains, “The black and white perspective of the Church of Christ is incredibly attractive as an adoptive person, especially one who has minimal information about himself.” Julia adds, “It gave you comfort because it provided you with answers. Being in the CoC gave you a story with clear characters, parts, and elements, and there were wrong answers and right answers, and you can confidently learn the right answers.”

  • Gender and sexuality (50:00): In our interview with Erin, she described, as Julia summarizes, how “the Church of Christ has very explicit language about gender but no explicit dialogue around sexuality. You seemed to grow up in a context where gender had clear expectations, but sexuality was this silent, siloed thing.” Jeremiah learned this through being asked to lead Bible studies at age 7 because, of 15 participants, he was the only male.

  • Leadership and pressure (59:00): Jeremiah describes, “I was asked by adults to take a leadership role. I did it. The adults were proud of me. I continued to be in leadership positions. It reinforced a lot of beautiful qualities in me. It also created a lot of pressure for me. These leadership pressures made it tough to build relationships with other kids—I took my role as “leader” way too seriously.”

Jeremiah reflects on the ways that his experiences within the Church of Christ impacted his relationships: “The values that I learned about kindness and caring prevented me from becoming an authoritarian prick, but it’s also hard for me to enact and embody collaboration where I can stay in my lane and trust that people will do what they say they will and that I don’t have to overfunction.”

We are looking forward to sharing and reintroducing our stories in upcoming episodes! Let’s heal together!

Aug 29, 2022
Episode 47: How Purity Culture Creates Perfectionism for Women, and How to Overcome It, with Julia

A lot has changed in the last two years since we recorded our third episode, when Julia described the intersection between purity culture, Christian school, and the relationship with her body.

For instance, we’re recording episodes from The Netherlands. We hired Nicole to be our podcast producer (a huge thanks to Nicole for writing these show notes). We’ve had a ton of hikes and trauma days and travel experiences and conversations.

While the events Julia and Jeremiah are reflecting on to start season 3 are the same, we’re engaging our stories with fresh perspectives, new information, and expanded contexts. We hope to reintroduce ourselves to you, our listeners, as well as to ourselves, as we reflect on our stories in new ways.

In this episode, Julia talks with Jeremiah about the features of her small, insular community of origin in New England, and the ways that they impact her relationship with herself, including:

  • Insider versus outsider (10:00): “The outside world was non-believers. The language piece of this is important,” Julia says to describe the language used to describe those outside her Christian community. She sets up the scene for her community explaining that it was a “rigid” and “literalist interpretation of the Bible.”

  • Fear (15:00): Jeremiah brings up the rapture discussion from the previous episode and how the conversation Julia had with Natasha was probably “very healing.” Julia explains how “fear was a dominant part of my early childhood experiences within Christianity.” Christianity was (and is) a scary thing to grapple with, and this ties back into last week's discussion about how though the idea of the rapture may sound silly now when you are raised to believe it is real, it is a terrifying and real fear.

  • Attachment injury (32:00): “The lack of security that I had growing up and the lack of security that I would not be tormented in hell for the rest of my life,” Julia says when explaining her search for stability and security throughout her life. She says this after explaining the namesake of her high school, Jonathan Edwards, a man who gave a sermon on how we are spiders hanging on by a thread, and God can cut that thread and drop us into hell.

  • Perfectionism (38:00): When continuing the discussion about the school Julia attended, she mentions how her friends and herself would test each other before exams because there was no critical thinking, just memorization. Jeremiah brings up that it “also sets up a really unfortunate competitive relationship between you and your friends.” The perfectionism of Christianity was reflected in the ideology of the school and transmitted into young friendships because perfectionism is taught that it will get you to heaven.

  • Female bodies belonging to the community (48:00): Julia reflects on how she used to write letters to her “future husband” at 11 years old and says, “Before I even had a menstrual cycle I was acutely aware that my body belonged to God, that my body belonged to that community, that my body belonged to men, and that my body belonged to a husband I hadn’t even met.” The idea of being a “good Christian girl” is the idea that women are submissive to God and men, and that is the way they must biblically act.

We are committed to telling and retelling our stories, regardless of how painful the process is. We would also love to have Sexvangelicals be a platform for sharing your story too. Please contact us for more information!

Let’s heal together!

Aug 22, 2022
Episode 46: How I'm Healing from the Wounds Created by the Left Behind Series, with Natasha DeHaan

Edmund Burke, 18th-century English philosopher, writes in Reflections on the Revolution in France:

“He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.”

In the Evangelical Christian narrative, there are two very clear antagonists:

1) Satan.

2) Humans

And a very clear, frightening bad guy’s lair: Hell.

The simplistic story is that we are born bad, but can avoid the bad guy’s lair if we invite Jesus (the protagonist) “into our hearts”, through baptism, repentance, evangelism, etc., and do good things like Jesus did.

While Evangelical writers would never suggest that Satan is our helper, the depiction of hell (sulfuric lakes, constantly hot, intermittent torture scenes) is a motivator for moral behavior. If you don’t behave in the ways that the church wants, you have an eternity of demons waiting for you.

No artistic trope has done more to depict this doomsday scenario than the Left Behind series. Sadly, there is another movie coming out in October called Left Behind: Rise of the Antichrist.

I want to watch it just because I want to know who producer Kevin Sorbo (once-Hercules, now right-wing fanatic) thinks is the anti-Christ. Barack Obama? Hillary Clinton? As you’ll discover in this episode, we put bets on long-shot Rob Bell.

We can laugh at the ridiculousness of Left Behind, the church’s fear-mongering tactics designed to regulate good behavior, and the shady theology ascribed to the invention of hell. But these strategies have contributed to an enormous amount of anxiety that significantly impact relationships, sexuality, and our sense of civic responsibility.

Our guest is Natasha DeHaan, board-certified family nurse practitioner, certified sexual health counselor, and certified menopause practitioner. Natasha shares her experiences navigating hell-infused systems, including:

  • Hell and looking to the future (26:00): Jeremiah explains, “The concept of hell and salvation is so future forward, that it doesn’t allow you to live in the present and take stock of the things that are right in front of you.” Julia adds that sexual health is rooted in being able to live in the present, and muses about the impact of Christian communities’ obsession with salvation and the afterlife on challenges with sexual health.

  • The rapture and its connection with anxiety (30:00): Natasha shares, “I was so terrified of the rapture that I was always afraid that I was “left behind”. I developed OCD-like behaviors whenever I arrived to an empty home, terrified that my parents were gone and that disaster was about to come.”

    Jeremiah responds, “In cognitive therapy, we talk about cognitive distortions, and CBT is about debunking cognitive distortions. And you can debunk these false narratives all that you want. But that anxiety that you had from childhood—that’s what’s left behind. That’s the shit that you have to navigate.”

  • Anxieties about God (45:00): In Jeremiah’s denomination of origin, individual people would tell people who believed in egalitarian gender roles and progressive policy items that they were “going to hell”. He reflects, “It’s easier to blow off an individual whackadoodle who says you’re going to hell. Very different from God being the whackadoodle who says “I’m done, I’m not letting you know when the end of the world happens.”

  • The paradigm shift of sexual health (59:00): Evangelical churches provide formulaic solutions for avoiding hell, such as repenting, baptism, and tithing. Natasha observes that it makes sense that she works in a profession, nursing, that provides similar processes for people to develop health lifestyles. “As someone who’s trained with “this is the problem, this is how we fix it”, I’m getting better at having the tools to ask the harder questions when someone visits about a sexual issue that acknowledge its richness and complexity. I can dig into things in a way that can be therapeutic.”

  • The message of “not good enough” (1:11:00): Left Behind eschatology (eschatology meaning the part of theology concerned with death, judgement, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind) leaves an unsettling paradox: We’ll leave behind the formula for how to get to heaven, but when God decides that he’s done with the world, there’s no guarantee that he will invite you into heaven. You never know if you’re good enough, and you can never relax as a result.

    Natasha describes how this worldview has impacted her ability to trust herself, and her ability to attempt to help and rescue others. She observes, “When I studied more about sexual health, the religious wound of not being good enough reared its head in that context.”

Natasha summarizes, “I can now trust myself that I can sit with something that someone is saying without scrambling to find a reason or an answer. It’s uncomfortable though, because I’m not ‘helping’.” We’re thankful for Natasha for sharing her experience of navigating some of the more dastardly philosophies and emotional ploys of Evangelical Christianity.

Let’s heal together!

Aug 15, 2022
Episode 45: How I Got Really Good at Assimilating as an Interracial Adoptee, and What I Lost in the Process, with Jeremiah

Two years ago, Julia and Jeremiah started Sexvangelicals as many podcasters do: By introducing themselves and their stories.

As we begin our third season of Sexvangelicals, recording in a brand new country, we want to reintroduce our stories. After all, as we explain, “The human healing process involves telling and retelling our stories. Parts of our perspective and insight change, though the facts and details may be static. The ways we create meaning and alignment with our values is the beautiful part of the story making and storytelling process.”

We begin by revisiting Jeremiah’s story, which intersects themes of adoption and navigating race and racism as a Brown person in White spaces, including:

  • The evolution of the relationship with Jeremiah’s birthmother (26:00): Jeremiah describes the process that his parents used to ensure that he felt as accepted as possible—the Jeremiah Story, which was commonly told before bed. In this story were two heroes: the adoption agency and his birthmother. The relationship changed though when five years ago, he discovered that his birthmother had essentially used the hospital as a safe baby haven. Jeremiah talks about the intensity of his relationship with a woman who he’s never met, yet is so important to his story.

  • Abandonment (31:00): Julia observes, “So many people who are adopted hear some version of the story that your birthparent loved you so much that they gave you up. That’s an invalidating narrative because what then is the conclusion about what it is to be love? That you could be abandoned. That sets up a negative series of expectations about relationships”. Jeremiah responds, ““The fear of abandonment gets masqueraded for me as a hyper-individualism: I can take care of myself and relationships are nice but I don’t need them, because I don’t trust that people are going to be there for me in the first place.”

  • The development of mythologies to define identity (33:00): Jeremiah explains, “Because of my closed adoption and classified information around my birthmother; there’s a lot that I don’t know about myself. So my construction of self has been taking four or five pieces of information and constructing a narrative and mythology around that.” He also describes how this process of creating a story out of minimal pieces of information has been a blessing and a curse, particularly as a communicator.

  • Internalized racism as a child (48:00): In north Dallas, where Jeremiah grew up, Hispanic Americans were the minority group that were most discriminated against. The construction of Jeremiah’s elementary school reinforced significant elements of internalized racism. In the gifted and talented classes that he participated in, he was the only Brown person. The children who looked like him were in the “regular kid” or “neighborhood kid” classes, and Jeremiah made many efforts to distance himself from other kids who looked like him.

  • Assimilation as a survival strategy (55:00): Jeremiah defines assimilation as “these really quick mental processes where I pick up on the cues and expectations of the larger system and easily begin to mimic that.” He pleads for more nuance in conversations about antiracism, because “ when I was 7 and doing things that White kids did, I was doing it out of survival and fitting is as much as anything. Being in White spaces was the option for me, and because I as an adopted person wanted to be accepted, I wasn’t going to test that.”

Adoption has a significant influence on the development of sense of self, communication patterns, and relationship development, and we hope that Jeremiah’s story can bring more insight, empathy, and awareness to the challenges that adopted folks confront, especially those who are adopted into families with different races and classes than their natural presentation.

Aug 07, 2022
Episode 44: How to Have Conversations When Christians Claim One Value but Enact a Completely Different One, with Jessie Lane

Healing from the abuses of religious communities—both specific churches and the impact from the restrictive social policies that arise from intersection between Evangelical leaders and the Republican Party—can be a long-term process.

One of our goals with Sexvangelicals is to introduce you to professionals who can facilitate that healing process.

Our first guest of season 3, Jessie Lane, is one of those people.

Jessie talks with us about a variety of ways that religion impacts emotional and relational processes, including:

  • The distinction between guilt/accountability and shame (3:00): Julia begins the episode with these definitions: “Shame is the inherent sense that you as a human being at your core are broken, bad, or deviant. Guilt, or accountability, is the sense that I did something that didn’t align with my values, which allows us to make relational and behavioral changes that align with our values and perpetuate positive cycles in our lives.”

  • Anxiety as emotional and relational ramifications of American religious processes (9:00): Anxiety, which Jessie describes first as the physiological ways that our bodies respond to stress, such as constricted breathing, the pit in the stomach feeling, and rapid heart rate, is “secondary to something else you’re experiencing, such as a lack of congruence between your behavior and lack of values, or an old injury that you’re reexperiencing.” In religion, Jessie explains, “it’s been one of the best tools for managing people—if I can give you anxiety about your actions, I can control the hell out of you.”

  • The impact of silence on sexual health in religious communities (19:00): We talk a lot about the impact of “Don’t”, abstinence only processes, and the scapegoating of queer folks on this podcast. However, silence can have equally damaging ramifications. Jessie explains, “In systems of silence, where sex isn’t talked about, you are taught that you don’t have a voice and using your voice is wrong. This sets the tone for allowing things to happen to you that you don’t want to happen and accommodating to the needs of others because talking about discomfort and wants isn’t allowed.”

  • Naming inconsistencies in the dialogue and behavior of religious communities (35:00): Jeremiah describes, “One of the hard things about anger is that criticism as a communication strategy doesn’t work—it leads to defensiveness. The Evangelical Church is organizing and empowering itself in response to the defensive role it finds itself in and turning itself into victimhood, that organizes itself as an ‘us against the world’”. Jessie provides an alternative strategy:

    ”I don’t need to feed negative beliefs and can present alternative viewpoints and see how it floats without it being a correction. I’m not saying I’m right and you’re wrong. I’m just pointing out the internal inconsistencies in the view system. If I can say “You don’t agree with your own perspective,” we can have a different conversation.”

  • The dangers of linking love and conformity (45:00): Jessie says, “In the church, love is often based on if you conform to these certain things, like prescribed roles and social norms.” This commonly leads to the following interaction: “You need to be aligned with me in order for me to love you; if you aren’t aligned with me, I no longer love you, and it’s your fault.” Love is ultimately about being able to accept and celebrate differences.

Jessie provides counseling to folks in Massachusetts; if you live in Massachusetts and would like help working through the emotional and relational ramifications of silence, anxiety, and the moral incongruities of religious communities, she’s a fantastic resource, and is committed to our larger value:

Let’s heal together.

Jul 24, 2022
Episode 43: How Defining Our Terms is the Key to the Sexual Health Revolution, with Jeremiah and Julia

Today is our first full day in our new home, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

We have been on break for the last few weeks while Julia and I rotate between Dutch Airbnbs, and Nicole has been in Prague filming a documentary. But to celebrate our first official day in Utrecht, we want to also begin season 3.

Dobbs v. Jackson could not have been made possible without the relentless influence of the Evangelical, Pentecostal, and Catholic Churches to simplify (in the worst way possible) conversations about pre-natal and reproductive health; as a byproduct, the bodies and sexuality of women (and specifically poor women and/or women of color) will be even further scrutinized by a political party who has shown minimal interest in protecting the sanctity and success of family life outside of its “pro-life agenda”.

As such, the time for a podcast such as ours could not be more fitting, and in the inaugural episode of season 3, we reclaim our purpose and mission, and reintroduce ourselves in the process:

  • The interconnectedness of human suffering (5:00): Desmond Tutu is incredibly meaningful to our work, as Julia reminds us with his quote, “"My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours." We belong in a bundle of life. We say, "A person is a person through other persons."

  • Folk libertarianism (8:30): Jeremiah describes his fear of presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, who author Bonnie Kristian (and others) define as a folk libertarian. “It’s an anti-authority impulse that wants authority for itself, seeks personal license while denouncing libertinism, carries a ”thin blue line” flag while fighting the Capitol Police, and boasts of being a “live and let live” alternative to left-wing pieties while whipping up panic about how other people behave.” Jeremiah points out the connection between folk libertarian politicians and the 21st century Evangelical Church.

  • Who is this podcast for? (13:00): Julia names “those who have grown up in religiously and politically conservative communities who didn’t have good information, training, and education about relationships and sexuality” as our primary audience. “We want to support ourselves and our listeners in better engaging the information that we didn’t receive,” she explains.

    Jeremiah adds that many folks are included in this, even those who didn’t grow up in the Church: “But you are more than likely impacted by policies that were highly advocated for by evangelical movements in the 70s and 80s that created abstinence only policies. These have impacted every single state in the US. Our public school systems have done a poor job at talking about positive sex education.”

  • A commitment to defining terminology (29:00): Jeremiah explains, “Many of us didn’t grow up with the language around sexuality, a process for consent, having permission to use anatomically correct terms to refer to their genitalia. I want to do whatever we can to get back to the fundamental language and processes. It’s important to develop a foundation of what sex means for each of us.”

We are excited to have you be a part of our journey in season 3! Let’s heal together!

Jul 17, 2022
Episode 42: How Dobbs v. Jackson Parallels
 the Ways that Evangelical Churches Read the Bible, 
with Jeremiah and Julia

The overturning of Roe v. Wade screws all of us over. This is the nicest way that I, Nicole, can put it, but the rage, grief, anger, and despair cannot be summarized in a sentence.

Over the past year, I have worked on my thesis film about the effects of communism on Romania. One of the worst laws passed was Decree 770, which banned all abortions and contraceptives. Women were gynecologically inspected at work once a month and if found to be pregnant, were closely monitored by the Romanian KBG (the Securitate). If they were found to have had an abortion, they were thrown in prison, along with the doctors or people who performed the abortion. This Decree left Romania with one of the worst orphan crises’ the world has ever seen. Children were left to die in orphanages.

There is truly no way to sugarcoat this. I bring this up because my mother and grandmother lived through that, and I’m seeing it happen again in front of my eyes. People should not have to die because of Christian religious beliefs, because guess what—this country is supposed to have a separation of Church and State.

In this edition of Bedtime Stories, Julia and Jeremiah read through the the first few pages of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the recent SCOTUS decision overturning Roe v. Wade. It is important to be educated and do our homework in these moments while also holding space to grieve and rage.

  • The systemic impact of the loss of abortion (10:00): Abortion is not an issue that just affects one group of people, but the decision hurts many of us in different ways. It’s important to understand that some people who lost access as a result of this decision do not have the money for airfare to another state where abortion is legal will be unjustly targeted by this decision.

  • The misuse of the term “precedent” by the Supreme Court (30:00): When discussing item two of the SCOTUS decisions, Julia and Jeremiah emphasize the line “the right to an abortion is not deeply rooted in the nation's history.” Jeremiah mentions that during the time of the 14th Amendment (which is the amendment constantly referred to in this document), abortion was punishable by law. “The reason it’s not a historical precedent is that the historical precedent was that women didn’t have rights!” Jeremiah exclaims.

  • The lack of recognition of cultural and scientific evolution by the Supreme Court (39:00). There are significant flaws in the literalist interpretations that the conservative judges utilized to dismantle Roe v. Wade. Jeremiah continues, “There was no support in American law for the Constitutional right to obtain an abortion until the latter part of the 20th century. No shit! There wasn’t the technology to engage with a fetus to the extent that we can now in 2022.”

  • The terrifying trends about what does and doesn’t have rights according to this Supreme Court (42:00): “We use the language of abortion rights, and while it is abortion rights, at its core, it is women’s health and women’s rights. Interesting though how we use that language for this and for gun control it's about like gun rights.” Julia highlights the discrepancy in language when discussing guns and abortions. Abortion is a human and health right, it is not just “abortion rights.” Guns don’t have rights, they’re not people. However, this SCOTUS decision reveals this country truly has gun rights and abortion control, not vice versa.

  • The inability to separate fetal rights from women’s rights. (48:00): “When we obsess over the individual rights of the fetus, we absolutely lose the entire foundation of the argument which is that right of the baby or fetus is 100% enmeshed with the rights of the mother until the mother has the baby or chooses to end the pregnancy,” Julia says. Jeremiah notes the propaganda tactics that the pro-life movement has used: “They post a picture of a baby and use it as a scare tactic to get people to believe abortion is murder. This couldn’t be further from the truth and when we fall for this red herring we are denying the rights of the person carrying that baby.”

It’s important to understand the process of how decisions get made, because these perspectives are likely to be used to take away rights of other people in the coming decade. We grieve, rage, and seek systemic solutions to protect the rights of all people, including fetuses.

We long for the day when protecting fetuses comes in the form of extended maternity and paternity leave, government-paid and grant-accessible preschools, and a healthcare system in which 8-10% of costs go back to the insurance company instead of 35%. Putting women’s bodies at risk by making abortions harder to access is not the answer.

Jun 27, 2022
Episode 41: How to Manage Expectations in Times of Transitions, with Jeremiah and Julia

Renowned family therapy Jay Haley said that communication problems commonly occur when people are unable to make transitions from one developmental stage to another.

There are transitions that naturally happen, such as when a couple makes an overt decision to enter into a monogamous relationship (or for that matter, an overt decision to be consensually nonmonogamous), or a child enters puberty or leaves home following graduation.

And then there are transitions that are chosen, such as our decision to move to the Netherlands, which Julia summarizes, “Being in a country that’s chosen to adopt policies that promote sexual and public health reminds me that we have the resources to build a more humane society.”

The fact that we’ve chosen to make this transition hasn’t made the adjustment process any easier. In some ways, the psychological and relational challenges with this transition are more acute. Living in a foreign country requires a more vigilant state and ensuing emotional energy, as we’re expecting differences in language and culture. Making adjustments to unexpected things, such as dodgy Airbnb hosts and a rapid rearrangement of lodging situations is downright exhausting.

Julia and I talk about the following aspects of navigating transitions, eight days into our European adventure, including:

  • Managing expectations (17:00): Jeremiah admits, “I think I had some unrealistic expectations about what we’d be able to do, what our bodies would be able to do, and how much information we’d need to process.” One of the many expectations we’d have to manage was around learning Dutch; we were supposed to begin a two week Dutch course, but were forced to postpone admission due to extenuating circumstances.

  • Communicating a transition (24:00): Directness and overcoming the anxiety of how the other person may respond are two key elements of this. Julia describes, “I’m learning to be more direct. In the past, I would have set up the context for like 25 minutes and very tentatively entered the conversation. I’m proud of myself for saying ‘I’m nervous for bringing this up,’ and then bringing it up.”

  • Redefining success (26:00): Julia summarizes, “We realized that this month may be less about exploring and adventures and experiences we had wanted and may be more about sleeping, so that when we go back to work, we may be more sustainable. It may be about doing one or two things per day and doing that as a limit or a reframe of success.”

  • Refining our relationships with control: Jeremiah (29:00): We both like to be in control of our elements. For Jeremiah, being in control of time and logistics is really important. “If I’m able to complete something, I can feel more relaxed. I have a pretty high confidence in myself that I’ll be able to figure things out, so I don’t typically struggle with disaster scenarios. I’ve been struggling with disaster scenarios in my time in Europe.”

  • Refining our relationships with control: Julia (39:00): For Julia, being in control of space is especially important. “When I’m overwhelmed I want to know that the space around me suits me, so that the space is as decluttered as possible. I’m learning how to be more flexible when that just can’t be the case.”

We talk about three strategies for effectively navigating transitions, especially this transition of moving internationally that we’ve chosen:

  1. Respond calmly (43:00): Jeremiah explains that when one partner is able to stay calm if the other person is stressed, the relationship can usually hold itself.

  2. Expressing emotions, and looking for similar themes (47:00): Julia describes how our mutual ability to share our emotional landscape creates a story of, “We’re going to be fine, and I’m not alone in feeling this.”

  3. Naming one or two goals per day (54:00): Julia encourages us (and our listeners) to, “at the end of the day, briefly discuss possibilities for the next day, which is hard for us because we have a huge desire to use our time as wisely as possible. The next few weeks may just be about sleeping and completing one or two tasks.”

Thank you for being a part of our Sexvangelicals journey! We’re excited to share more from Europe in the next few weeks, and continue with guests starting in July.

Jun 20, 2022
Episode 40: How to Say Goodbyes 
with Intentionality, 
with Jeremiah and Julia

Today is our eighth day in the Netherlands. It’s been an absolute whirlwind, to say the least, between not knowing how to speak Dutch to dodging whizzing cyclists on the road. This is the third day in a row that we’ve struggled to begin engaging the day before 10 AM. For two productivity-oriented folks, this has caused waffling degrees of panic and frustration.

This isn’t how we wanted our first few days to be.

We’re tired, and it would be easy to chalk that up to immersion in a new culture while navigating immigration.

But we would be doing a disservice to ourselves and our relationship if we were to neglect or underestimate how much the goodbye process is impacting the exhaustion that we’re currently experiencing.

In this episode, Julia and Jeremiah talk about the process of saying goodbye to the US, and our lives and relationships in Boston specifically. Whether or not you’re moving to another country, goodbyes, little and big, are persistent facets of all of our lives. We hope this episode provides structure and strategies to navigate goodbyes in ways that align with your values. We discuss:

  • What makes a goodbye meaningful (7:00): Julia summarizes a script that she finds helpful: “To say, ‘This is who you are to me, here’s what I’m going to miss, and here’s my commitment to our relationship moving forward’ is what I wish I could have done in former relationships. This is how I want to navigate relationships now and moving forward.”

  • When goodbyes don’t happen well (12:00): Jeremiah asks Julia what emotions she experienced that were unexpected, and Julia reflects on anger that stems from “the relationships that I tried to have a conversation that could allow for a mutually respectful goodbye and the other person chose not to self-reflect and meet me in that conversation.” Jeremiah describes examples of that from his own experience.

  • Maintaining relationships in the midst of transition (15:00): Julia reminds us that during a transition, “Although the modes of communication, like texting and Zooming, stay the same, the dynamics of a relationship shifts, because when one person moves through a transition, it challenges the relationship in some sort of way. They [those transitioning] will shift and evolve to adjust to that [new] context and be newer versions of themselves, and that version will be interacting in the same relationship. Those shifts can actually make a relationship stronger.” Julia describes a scene from the end of Lord of the Rings to expand upon her point. (We can’t find the full clip via Youtube, so here’s part 1. And part 2.)

  • Prolonged goodbyes (25:00): Jeremiah describes his goodbye to Boston as an extended process: “The goodbye to Boston happened three years ago [as a result of being fired from a church and a divorce that quickly followed], and the last three years has been about building this beautiful relationship, doing it in isolation because of COVID, and it’s hard to make friends in the middle of a pandemic. I had zero relationships that survived through my divorce, outside of professional relationships. The goodbyes that I had weren’t really goodbyes—they were ghosting. I may as well have been on a dating app and had them stop responding to me.”

  • Intentional goodbyes (49:00): Jeremiah talks about his goodbye with his therapist: “It was good to have a goodbye with my therapist that was intentional. I appreciate that he asked a few sessions before closing. At first, the question through me off. What do you mean, ‘How do you want to say goodbye?” You just walk out of my life, right?’ And then I was like, ‘Oh no!’ And we were able to talk about what a mutual goodbye might look like.”

Julia concludes our episode: “So often, we focus on the next things, but what happens if we focus on ending something well. What are the goodbyes that you’ve said that are meaningful? What are the rituals and processes about ending a relationship well—intentionally, vulnerably?”

Please feel free to share your experiences with goodbyes with us on the Instagram feed or by emailing us! Let’s heal together!

Jun 13, 2022
Episode 39: How to Practice Cultural Sensitivity When Talking About Sex, with Scotney Young

I grew up in clashing cultures. My mom and step-dad both being Romanian while raising me in America. When it was time for the “sex talk” at 13 I was shocked by my mom's openness, as Romanian culture is not one defined by sex positivity as it is deeply entrenched in Orthodox Christian values. Reflecting on that talk we had as an adult, I find it incredible that she was able to unpack her own cultural restrictions and have an open and honest conversation with me about contraception, consent, gynecology appointments, and STDs. This is not to say America has a sex-positive culture- it doesn’t, but it is to say that being able to communicate with your child about sexuality and sexual health has its benefits. That conversation prepared me to not be riddled with shame when I went on the pill, and not to be embarrassed when buying condoms, it all seemed very normal and proactive to me.

This week Jeremiah and Julia explore the intersection of religion and sexuality in different cultural contexts as well as the strength in understanding and communicating values through their conversation with Scotney Young.

Scotney Young is the Prevention and Outreach Manager at Doorway, a Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Organization. Here she develops and facilitates educational programming to promote healthy relationships and prevent intimate partner and sexual violence before it ever happens. Scotney is also the Co-Creator of You + Me = We, a queer sex education program for LGBTQ+ Youth. She is also the creator of Boundaries and Doorways a college consent education program. After earning a Masters' in Social Work from Boston University, she started teaching sex education to teenagers in a rural desert town in Peru as a Peace Core volunteer. Scotney also holds a post-graduate certificate in sexual health education from the University of Michigan. She’s developed comprehensive sex ed curricula for youth of all ages and service providers, she is also one of only two sex educators certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Consolers, and Therapists in Virginia, and most recently she completed her Anti-Up Certification which focuses on applying various justice and anti-oppression frameworks to sexual health education.

(07:35) “I just think young people are so eager to talk about these topics and learn about them, and I personally believe that sexual health and relationship education is really important because everyone should have the knowledge and tools they need to make informed decisions about their bodies, relationships, and futures” Scotney reflects on her time in Peru as a Peace Core volunteer and how she got into her field, she touches on a deeply important topic: that everyone deserves the correct knowledge to make informed decisions. Jeremiah notes how on this podcast conversations deconstructing a lot of incorrect knowledge or narrow perspectives towards sex and sex ed are usually the focus. Scotney then says “I loved being the person who could destigmatize and demystify these topics,” which is truly the goal with Sexvangelicals as well.

Sex Education and Different Cultures (15:57) “You have to find ways to share information and tools that fit the context of the lives that they’re living in” here Scotney talks about “adjust[ing] the content to adapt to their local cultures” when she worked in various countries. She touches on how in Peru she used biblical teachings to challenge ideas of sexual violence and street harassment and in Afghanistan she volunteered with a program that taught Afghan women how to swim and practice body autonomy through movement.

(21:50) “Sexuality is a core part of the holistic being. It’s a core part of being a fully actualized human that should be nurtured and tended to and isn’t that the same for spirituality?” Scotney says after being asked about the relationship between the field of sexual therapy and religion. There tends to be judgment from the field towards religious groups or religious people, but in reality, it is important to value all parts of a person, including both religion and sexuality: “It would be hard to feel complete if any one of these core parts of our humanity is wrapped up and shamed”

(24:08) “I like to distinguish between what is a true religious tenant versus what is a way the structure around the religion might be enforcing that might not even be a religious tenant” Julia talks about distinguishing between the religion in itself and the religious structure, because many times the ideology being pushed by the structure is not in line with the religion itself.

(40:40) “When you focus on the behavior as the final outcome of what it is typically speaking when we do that in sex therapy we’re inviting anxiety into the conversation” Jeremiah touches on how when we talk about behavior, for example, he mentions “pressuring ourselves to think about orgasm in this cultural norm instead of my [our] own meaning” can be damaging. It’s important to find our own values and contexts for these behaviors and actions, and not try to align ourselves with the cultural idea of “orgasms,” or other behaviors, but to understand what it means to us.

(41:45) “In what situation is telling someone don’t do this with no extra context work? It doesn’t work. It’s like don’t touch that red button and don’t tell them why? What’s gonna happen when they do it” Scotney gives this example when talking about the issue with abstinence-only education, which enforces a value without an explanation. This is a part of the larger conversation on how parents can impart values to their children in less rigid ways and offer room for conversation, not shame. It’s important to have the “why,” because a “don’t do this,” does not stand on its own.

May 28, 2022
Episode 38: How the Term "Pro-Life" Dodges What the Conservative Position on Abortion is Really About, with Jeremiah and Julia

Did any of our listeners go to one of the numerous protests against the feared revoking of Roe v. Wade yesterday (May 14)? What was your experience?

In the NPR report on reproductive rights rallies, Illinois Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton said it most succinctly:

“Here in Illinois, [or insert state here], we trust women.”

Put simply, as we discussed in an earlier blog post, revoking Roe v Wade is bad policy. It doesn’t actually make abortion go away, but introduces a myriad of negative implications for the physiological, psychological, and sociological health of women.

In fact, as western European countries show, increasing access to abortion (and contraception) reduces the numbers of abortion altogether.

Julia and Jeremiah explore how the dichotomy between “pro-life” and “pro-choice” completely misses the larger point: How do we support adult women, and the folks they choose to include in their lives, make choices to build healthy families, families that involve and don’t involve children?

  • The propaganda around dead babies (7:30): Jeremiah summarizes: “If you want to sell a good idea, put a child’s voice behind it, put a picture of a child behind it, better yet, put harm to a child behind it. Because the conversation loses its perspective about policy and morphs exclusively into the emotional world.” The Republican Party has aced the marketing of anti-abortion by centralizing their campaign around “dead babies”, and Americans routinely (and understandably) fall into their traps. If we didn’t have souls at Sexvangelicals, we would consider hiring their PR team to market the Sexvangelicals brand.

  • Putting children’s health before adult health (16:00): From a systemic perspective, as Jeremiah reminds us, “Children are most likely to succeed in systems with parents with strong mental health, are in strong communities. We have to put more effort into how we support families and the adults who lead them. Providing financial benefits to struggling families, demand that extended maternity and paternity leave protocols are present—those policies are much more likely to lead to life.”

  • Ways liberals get caught in the unhealthy dialogue initiated by conservatives (21:00): Julia explains, “There are women who choose to make an abortion and don’t regret choice AND that choice is still complex and holds quite a bit of pain. In combating the “dead baby dialogue”, liberals have not given women the space to explore the complexities of the abortion experience.”

  • The perspective of grief (31:00): Julia observes, “Women who choose to have an abortion often have to hold that, and any ensuing pain they may experience, in secret, which only intensifies their own grief process.” Jeremiah muses, “If you grieve something as a right or wrong choice, we invite shame, guilt, and a warped emotional process. But if we acknowledge abortion and pregnancy loss as grief and create processes that allow for time off following a pregnancy loss, that shifts the discourse.

  • Rage (42:00): Julia exclaims, “I’m trying to not remember how little my body and identity is valued and respected on a systemic and legal level. How on earth is this the standard for living?”

We will continue to talk about the impact of potential revocation of Roe v Wade, through blog posts, our own reflections, and interviews with our guests. We hope that Sexvangelicals can be a safe space to explore, grieve, rage, and process the implications of the presumed revocation.

May 15, 2022
Episode 37: Five Things I Learned About 
the Role of Bodies by Reading Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations the Church Forgot with My Colleagues

In the introduction of Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations the Church Forgot, author Mo Isom establishes the position that the church has been relatively silent about sexuality.

Julia was out of town for this episode of Bedtime Stories, but Jeremiah’s colleagues Stephanie and Tina team up with him to refute this assertion.

Warning: Jeremiah, Stephanie, and Tina only make it through the first three pages of Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations the Church Forgot; however, these first three pages say a lot about how Evangelical theology, philosophy, and social structures center their discourse around bodies. Jeremiah summarizes:

“Christianity of today seems to have a clear moral and political agenda about what to do with bodies, who can do what with bodies, and if people who aren’t supposed to do certain things with bodies do certain things with bodies, here’s what those bodies can expect.”

In this episode, Jeremiah, Stephanie, and Tina explore:

  • The appeal of the “us” versus “them” theme (23:00). Stephanie explains, “When naming the distinction between us and them, it’s appealing to have something that feels true, a shameless culture that doesn’t care about them. Because for the majority of people, capitalism is the dominant course in the larger culture and it doesn’t care about them. Capitalism is concerned about making money and maintaining the current power structures. The idea that the culture doesn’t care about you is true enough to align with what people feel, so they read it and think this person is really speaking to me.”

  • The communal impacts of engaging in sexual openness (32:00): Jeremiah asks his female co-hosts what it’s like to have a woman promoting idea that women are sexual gatekeepers. Stephanie names, “Breaking away from some of this ideology also involves a massive break from community and opening that person up to criticism and judgment from people in their lives who’ve been important to them. I may open myself up to my agency and freedom to be who I am, but at what cost? If the cost is all of my attachment relationships, that’s way too big for me to even begin to look at.” Jeremiah shares some of the ways that this process has played out in his own life.

  • The role of “eternity” in moral discourse (45:00): Jeremiah notes Isom’s strategy of using eternity as a metric for relational decision making, reflecting, “As soon as we start talking about eternity, we start injecting fear into the conversation. We assume that God is the YHWH who burns villages and supports genocide in the name of nation building. If that’s the God that I believe in, sure, the present world seems really scary and no wonder I’m looking to eternity. And now I’m in a spiritual relationship where I have to restrict myself and place undue boundaries on myself in order to get this never-happy deity on my side to accept me into this club of heaven.”

  • Reflections on uncertainty (54:00). Tina observes that in Buddhism, one of the key tenets is that of impermanence: Everything is changing and evolving, including humanity. Jeremiah responds that Christianity holds the opposite view, that evolution is a threat, but God is the same today, yesterday, and forever. Tina summarizes the internal conflict: “It’s Important of accepting things that can’t be changed and having an open mind. If we accept that things are so black and white, how do we expect ourselves to change and be better versions of ourselves?”

  • The connection between the pursuit of certainty, anxiety, and sexuality (1:03:00): Jeremiah explains, “We are taught as Christians that you aren’t to trust yourself. The body is bad, and the pleasures of the world are untrustworthy. What sits outside of us, God, the otherworldly, is what to look toward. What are your authentic desires is a terrifying question because what I should be going for is what God wants (or what people are telling me God wants). It’s hard to move into that authentic voice.”

    Stephanie responds, “If the body experience isn’t to be trusted and you should pursue the divine, if you aren’t in touch with that, you’re going to have trouble having sex. You have to allow the wisdom of the body to lead the way sexually. If you’re too in your head, you’re not being in the present moment. The battle between their religious ideology and their sexual functioning fits into this.”

Stephanie, Tina, and Jeremiah are graduates of the South Shore Sexual Health Center’s training program in sex therapy; Stephanie and Jeremiah teach in this program. For more information about how to become an AASECT certified sex therapist, check out their website.

May 08, 2022
Episode 36: How I Navigated Infertility and Pregnancy Loss While Practicing Sex Therapy, with Paula Leech

Mother’s Day is Sunday. 

Motherhood is an expected stage development for women, despite the growing number of women who voluntary (or involuntary) do not have children. Many of the stereotypical traits of femininity are aligned with the characteristics of mothers that we aspire to have and to be. (Interestingly, this is not as true for men, which we’ll explore next month.) Many women experience a lifelong craving to be moms, while others have an initial sense of ambivalence around having children that morphs into a desire and longing with age.

However, this Mother’s Day, we’re especially mindful of the growing number of women (and men) for whom fertility is a fleeting process. Those who have physiological challenges, such as low follicle and sperm count and motility. Those who have experienced miscarriages. (We separately fit into each of these categories.) Or, as our guest, Paula Leech, those whose fertility issues are simply unexplainable.

We talk about defining infertility, the consistent relationship with grief, and the impact of fertility on relationships, among other things. 

Paula concludes: “Having a greater recognition of how incredibly complex and painful infertility can be is so important. It’s not just about taking meds and injecting ourselves with needles. Acknowledging that it’s a transformational process for everyone involved. There’s no escaping bumping into grief when we talk about infertility.”

May 01, 2022
Episode 35: How I Survived and am Healing From Conversion Therapy, with Jordon Miller

A few weeks ago, the BBC reported that conversion therapy, the development of formalized processes to attempt to change a person’s orientation or gender identity to the dominant discourse (cisgendered heterosexuality), has been officially banned in England and Wales.

Except this ruling doesn’t apply for trans people. The British government continues to leave trans folks open to the dangers of conversion therapy.

Let’s avoid the conversation about the transitioning process for children and adolescents, which involves legal implications around age of consent and when parents have rights to make decisions for their children, even when those decisions override the desires of their children. These conversations are extremely complicated and involve legal elements that are outside of our scopes of practice as therapists.

At Sexvangelicals, we align with a comprehensive community of voices and professionals that condemns conversion therapy directed at all queer communities, including trans folks, in formalized and informalizes settings, including (but not limited to) the team at the Trevor Project, Kristine Stolakis, producer of the Netflix documentary Pray Away, which interviews queer people who have been subjected to conversion therapy, and the American Psychological Association’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Concerns Office, which published a document that discusses the negative implications of conversation therapy.

Conversion therapy uses a mixture of pseudoscience and guilt-directed communication strategies to reinforce a narrative that queerness is a mental health issue (interestingly, something that the APA only moved away from 40 years ago), and we are committed to having Sexvangelicals be a space where queer folks can share their stories of the damaging, long-lasting impacts of conversion therapy.

In this episode, Jordon, fellow therapist and professional co-worker of Jeremiah’s, shares their experience of navigating conversion therapy connected within their Christian university. They talk with Jeremiah and Julia about:

  • The church’s outward identification as a secure attachment (10:00). Jordon describes a childhood with geographic upheaval, and the church gave Jordon “something I needed as a child—secure adult figures, direction, boundaries, the difference between right and wrong”. To communicate their investment in the church, Jordon discloses that they played Jesus in a local VBS. Jordon also learned that this safety is only given to folks who present a sexuality and gender orientation that aligns with their values.

  • Experience of being queer at a conservative Christian university (25:00). Jordon talks about their initial identification as a queer person, stating, “My girlfriend and I realized that if we started to date, we’re putting ourselves at risk.” Risks described on the episode included termination as an employee of the university, undue attention from the university administration, and subjection to a process that attempted to change the orientations of Jordon and their partner.

  • The impact of conversion therapy (33:00): The university administration suggested that Jordon and their partner were threats to children, perpetuating an attempt by conservatives to compare queer folks to pedophiles. They mourn, “It took me a really long time to feel like it was safe for me to be around children. I didn’t know that it was okay for me to be a therapist to children.” Conversion therapy also encouraged Jordon to avoid the pressure of placating voices in power. “I got smarter and more sure of myself. I became a better self-advocate,” Jordon explains.

  • Identifying with the aggressor (51:00): Jordon uses this term to explain processes by which systems “keep people connected with the security of their attachment figures while also ignoring ways that it violates other people.” Jeremiah shares the ways that he learned to disavow his status as a Hispanic person and assimilate into White spaces as a child in order to avoid the discrimination that other Brown bodies experienced. Julia described a similar process for passing as a straight person. We identify how acknowledging the ways that we identify with the aggressor in the name of maintaining the status quo is the first step toward anti-oppressive justice.

  • Forgiveness and reparations (1:05:00): Jordon describes the complexity of forgiveness: “The truth is that when we make mistakes, I want to caution people that the person who got hurt should “get over it”, or at any point they are entitled to forgiveness.” We explore how forgiveness is a relational process, and the ways that anger and accountability get processes are unique to each relationship. We also discuss reparations. Jordon poses the question, “What would a system of financial payments and taxing churches be, and using those funds to pay for those who have been harmed?” Jeremiah lobbies for an abolishment of the DSM and ICD-10.

We’re extremely thankful for the wisdom, vulnerability, and courage of Jordon, and are eager to share more stories from folks in the queer community. Let’s heal together!

Apr 24, 2022
Episode 34: How to Tell if a Song is About Jesus or Your Boyfriend, with Jeremiah, Julia, and Nicole
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)
Apr 03, 2022
Episode 33: How Complementarianism Can Be a Harmful Process for Your Relationship, through the lens of The Mingling of Souls by Matt Chandler, as read by Jeremiah and Julia

Complementarianism, the idea that men and women inherently have distinct, specific roles in marriages and families, is a theory that permeates contemporary Evangelical Christian and Catholic thought about relationships. Typically, complementarianism exists as a quid pro quo: women are expected to take care of the inside of the house, and men are expected to oversee the outside of the house, for example. Women care for, men provide.

There’s some inherent, biological truth to complementarianism. Men, lacking uteri, can never house and develop an embryo. If a couple chooses to breastfeed their child, the mother is going to be the breastfeeder (although even that notion is being challenged by new technological designs.)

Complementarianism can be a very effective way to operate a relationship; if two different things need to be tended to, it makes sense to have the person whose skill set best matches item A to address that specific task, and vice versa.

However, the Evangelical version of complementarianism relies on aligning with specific gender roles. It justifies specific gender roles for men and women through a yin-yang perspective of the world. The “submissiveness” and “gentleness” of a woman plays off their male partner’s expected “dominance” and “assertiveness” to create a holistic balance of power. But let’s say that the female partner is the more “dominant” partner. Then what?

We take a deeper look into the world of complementarianism through one of its contemporary disciples, Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church, who uses it as his main theory for his dating and relationship manual, The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex, and Redemption.

In our most recent episode of Bedtime Stories, we explore how Chandler uses complementarianism to establish expectations for healthy relationships and communication in the following ways:

  • The theological foundation for complementarianism (22:00): Chandler starts at the beginning with Adam and Eve and the story that Eve came out of the rib of Adam. Ideally, a complementary relationship suggests equity between the folks in the relationship; however, Chandler uses this interpretation of Genesis 2, and the woman blaming of Eve in the introduction of sin, to insinuate that this isn’t really the case, which leads to:

  • The theological foundation for misoygyny (33:00): Chandler suggests that the “biological design of men”, through the presence of testosterone, gives men “the ability to name and design things”. Jeremiah wonders if the same is true for the agency and creativity of women. (Editor’s note: Doubtful, at least according to this genre of literature.) Julia goes one step further, noting that the inequity between men and women in Evangelical complementarianism “reinforces the idea that women are asexual, that they’re not interested in sex, and that men are sexual predators that are unable to view humanity in its entirety.”

  • The connection between complentarianism and biological essentialism (38:00). Biological essentialism suggests that anatomical and physiological designs trump cultural and sociological influence. Psychologist JP DeCecco summarizes that biological essentialism “submerges sexual preference, a human process, into sexual orientation, a biological mechanism”. Julia discusses the implications: “If you were a boy who played with girls, you’re effeminate and that was an indication of your sexual orientation, and by default, broken humanity.”

  • Complementarianism and the coupling process (45:00). Chandler explains the process of physical attraction by emphasizing the ways that men are designed to visually assess beauty. Though Jeremiah describes research that reinforces this idea, Julia reminds us that men and women are socialized to engage in a process where men are the pursuers and women are the pursued. The biological explanations around men being “visual creatures” fails to take into account the rules of courtship that have been in place for millennia, where women are expected to be commodified and objectified.

  • The attractiveness of complementarianism (1:02:00): Jeremiah empathizes: “These particular gender roles help our brains function by classifying groups of people into simplistic categories that allows us to not see the nuance in the ways that folks can interact with each other and create relationships that work. There’s not room for differences. I get why complentarianism is attractive. It’s an orderly, neatly defined view of good men do these things, good women do these particular things. And especially to Christians who are obsessed with seeking some variation of moral perfection. The less nuanced and diverse the world is, the easier it is to fall into good graces of God. The less confused we are. The less sinful we are.”

Julia closes: “If we recognize that gender is a diverse type of living and expressing in the world and other murky areas of life, we are less likely able to say good/bad. In the liberal world, we avoid self reflection by virtue signaling, cancel culturing, or throwing out some phrase that’s trending on Twitter. Complementarianism is a conservative way to avoid self-reflection by having rigid categories about gender, sexuality, or financial stability; if you fall into the right or wrong side of these terms, you are either good or bad.”

Mar 27, 2022
Episode 32: Five Ways to Have a Successful Relationship During the Pandemic

March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization published the following statement:

There are now more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 people have lost their lives. Thousands more are fighting for their lives in hospitals.
In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher.
WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction.
We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic. 

Two years later, following the deaths of at least one million American citizens to COVID-19 (or COVID-19 sparked illness), our world has experience the disruption of family routines and systems, the gouging of energy from an education system (children, teachers, parents) who have seen the development of children stall, a reorganization of the workforce, and a significant increase in the demand for mental health services.

Jeremiah summarizes: “The last two years has been this 24-month long experiment that we’ve all been involved with, including scientists, where we’re trying to figure out how to make decisions when our relationships with time and space are becoming restricted. We are all winging COVID, including the therapists who are supporting you.”

We discovered the article “Initial Impacts of COVID-19 on Sex Life and Relationship Quality in Steady Relationships in Britain: Findings from a Large, Quasi-Representative Survey” in February’s Journal of Sex Research. To our knowledge, this is the most expansive study about the impact of the pandemic on sexuality and relationships, with data from over 4,000 people. (On the podcast, we said it was 6,654, which was the number of folks who completed the survey. We neglected to say that 4,271 were in committed relationships.) For more information about this survey, please check out the Natsal-COVID survey webpage.

Interestingly, over half of the respondents said their relationship quality stayed the same; 18% of people said the relationship got worse, while 27% said their relationship improved during the pandemic. While each person was impacted by a myriad of variables, such as socioeconomic class, financial status, and engagement with COVID-19 itself, the authors noted three major categories of folks who were more likely to struggle:

  1. People between 18-24. As Julia notes, this population, particularly if they are in universities, is often “unable to have access to spaces outside of their dorm, so even if a college student is dating someone at their university, they may not have access to time alone with that partner.”

  2. People between 35-44. Jeremiah reminds us that this is the population that is most likely to have young children with higher needs and fewer resources to collaborate with, especially as many childcare centers and schools prohibited live services during the pandemic.

  3. Women who did not live with their partners. The researchers note that these women were more likely to experience isolation in their relationships that any other demographic.

We add to this research with our own professional and personal experiences and name five themes of successful relationships during the pandemic (30:00):

  1. Creativity and adaptability in responding to the restrictions around time and space. Julia shares that for us, going on hikes has been a way to create novelty and structure. Creativity is also about creating novelty and newness while also having some sort of structure.”

  2. Adjusted expectations around finances and spending. As rents, mortgages, inflation, and recently, gas prices increase higher than the rate of average growth in salaries, many folks have struggled to find creative ways to connect, especially as, Jeremiah notes, “there are pressures to connect date nights out with spending money.” In our case, hiking is free, and has allowed us to connect in deep emotional ways.

  3. Luck. Jeremiah mourns, “In 2020 and early 2021, people were dying on a pretty consistent basis because of COVID. I think the closer you were to someone dying or being debilitated adds a new unexpected stress and potentially impacts the relationship.” People in higher socioeconomic brackets, which is largely due to luck, are also less likely to have experienced deeper stressors connected with the pandemic.

  4. The ability to be present in the difficulty. Julia explains, “The couples who are doing well or either going to therapy or have a relationship system that allows them to assess, process, and engage with the difficult experiences that arise. They are not afraid of what is difficult and are able to have hard conversations.”

  5. Using COVID as an opportunity to restructure and rebuild the ways they want to do our lives. Stay tuned to the end of the episode to learn more about specific moves that we’re making to create the lives we want to live!

Please share with us how you’ve noticed your relationship changing, struggling, and improving during the pandemic. (Our guess is that most folks have experienced a bit of all three.) Let’s heal together!

Mar 20, 2022
Episode 31: How to Maintain a Sexual Connection While Recovering from a Surgery, with Jeremiah and Julia

Julia had oral surgery last week, which resulted in a series of minor inconveniences—stitches in one’s mouth are never comfortable, and make kissing extremely difficult—and major life reflections, such as the impact of sexual assault on dental work, something that Jennifer Wiessner reminded us about in a season 1 episode. Julia summarizes, “I have struggled to move out of a narrative that I am a less desire person if I can’t engage in particular sexual activities.”

She and Jeremiah reflect on some of the impact of surgeries (and aging, as all bodies age) on bodies and sexuality, discussing:

  • The grief that comes with making sexual adaptations (8:00): Julia describes how, “experiencing sexual repression for a long time woefully set me up to be a sexual person. I had low sexual literacy and experience. This has contributed to my anxiety that I have to make up for the time that I lost, so if I’m not being sexual and having limited sexual experiences for a period of time, I’m somehow failing.” Jeremiah adds:

    “Purity culture is a developmental loss—whether you explicitly engaged in it through rings or certificates, or implicitly, such as if you went to a public school and didn’t choose its abstinence only education.”

  • How life transitions impact trauma and developmental loss (11:30): Jeremiah explains, “One of the things that the field of psychology misses that I want to capture is that when transitions happen in our lives, from a temporary loss of full mobility to something more permanent, like the addition of a child or a disability, that developmental loss comes up and you’re forced to reengage with the developmental loss and trauma, regardless of the coping skills you develop. In these different transitions (acute or permanent), how do they impact the way you engage with the developmental loss. That forces you to retell and re-read your story from the lens of whatever you’re going through in the moment.”

  • The ways that grief around purity culture were experienced post-surgery (22:00): Julia says, “The first 30 years of my life, sexual repression defined my experience in the world, and I don’t want to have a reaction formation in which experiencing and accessing the sexuality that I want, or more realistically, that other people suggest is important defines my life in needing to maintain and achieve whatever rigid standards of sexuality that exist. Having an oral surgery that’s impacted my ability to engage myself and my partner triggers these intense fears of holding onto my sexuality in a way that’s quite stifling. The control that I have is just an illusion.”

  • Accumulated sadness (34:00). Jeremiah defines this term as “the idea that as we age and grow, sad stuff happens to us. Our bodies decline and aren’t able to do the same things they were. People move into our lives, people move out of our lives. People die, all of these things lead to loss. We experience sad things that are a bit geographically distant, like the invasion of Ukraine.” He also notes that accumulated sadness and depression are not the same thing. “Accumulated sadness is a natural part of the aging process, and the inability to engage with the sadness that comes up lead to mental health challenges as folks age. Being able to engage in self-reflection, talk with other people, and ask questions like “How does this thing that happened to you in the past impact what you’re currently engaging with?” leads to a greater amount of insight, and out of that comes a greater sense of joy, connection to a sense of adventure, stepping into vulnerability.

  • Making adaptations (38:00): Julia summarizes: “I’ve had to be creative with other ways to access myself and our bodies. This has come with laughter and play and creativity. Having a mouthful of stitches is kind of funny, as awful as it is. I also believe that it’s important to acknowledge and honor that bringing play and humor is super important as part of any healing process.”

Julia is fortunately on the mend, but this will by no means by the last time that something that happens to our bodies (aging, surgeries, etc.) will impact our sexuality and move us into the creative process of adaptation. Please share with us your own stories of pain, loss, and adaptations! Let’s heal together!

Mar 13, 2022
Episode 30: How the Pressure to Be a Good Girl 
Limits Great Sex: A Discussion of The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex by Sheila Gregoire, 
as read by Jeremiah, Julia, and Devin

In 2012, a few months before getting married, I (Julia) received the book The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex (by Sheila Wray Gregoire) at a bridal shower. This was one of many books about “Christian sex” that well-meaning fellow Christian women gave me while engaged.

Rather than having honest dialogue about sexuality in Christian communities, we pass each other books that tell us why we aren’t having the mindblowing sex that purity culture promised us, and somehow our devastating sexual experiences are simultaneously all of our fault and not our fault at the same time.

These books tend to create a false dichotomy between “good girls” and “bad girls”, suggesting that sex outside of the rigid contexts of heterosexual marriage is bad, and that girls (though not guys) who engage in these types of sexuality are inherently bad.

Good girls don’t have sex outside of marriage. Good girls don’t wear clothing that reveals sexualized parts of their bodies. Good girls don’t masturbate. Et cetera.

The good girl narrative has trapped many women in a double bind whenever they move into a communally sanctioned platform for sexuality (read: marriage), because we’re expected to live up to the patriarchal sanctioned fantasy of a sexual woman after being sexually repressed by an entire community up until the moment you say “I do” at the altar.

Jeremiah and I are joined by our friend Devin for our third installation of Bedtime Stories. We read through the introduction of The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex, where we discuss:

  • What qualifies you as a good girl vs a bad girl (6:00): Interestingly, in the introduction, Gregoire offers little insight into who a good girl is. Rather, Gregoire makes a myriad of metaphors to dehumanize women who explore and engage their sexuality outside of marital contexts, and suggests that good girls are girls who are not bad girls. Bad girls are “bullies on the playground”. Bad girls are animals. Bad girls are trendy.

  • The intersection of body shaming and ageism with good girls (21:00): The author attempts to make Jesus’ “last shall be first and first shall be list” move when describing good girls, suggesting that good girls are those for whom “gravity has taken its toll”, among other qualifications. In the process, she body shames everyone, because she’s highlighting this patriarchal-sanctioned fantasy of the female body as this “hot, 22 year old”. She feeds into this really rigid standard of beauty as both the prize and something to avoid, and makes disparaging comments about people who don’t fit into that standard of beauty, and then idolizes them.

  • Naming trauma survivors as “bad girls” (27:00): Anything that mars your purity, whether it’s consensual or nonconsensual, is a demerit. Devin summarizes: “The repeated blatant callouts of people who have survived sexual abuse as bad girls is so problematic. For people who are trying to take this to heart and not thinking critically about it, like we’re taught to not critically think in the church, this is so dangerous, damaging, and frustrating.”

An enormous thanks to Devin for being a part of Bedtime Stories. If there are Christian books that shaped, and later harmed, your sexual experiences, please let us know what books you’d like us to read on future editions of Bedtime Stories!

Let’s heal together!

Mar 06, 2022
Episode 29: How to Overcome the Scars of Purity Culture in a Marriage That Started in Purity Culture, with Devin Ritenhower

Jeremiah and Julia both went to Christian Colleges, which promoted sexual purity. These ideas are pushed onto people when they are young, reinforcing throughout their lives that sex is bad, to put it in the simplest terms. Women are the most punished victims because though purity culture deeply hurts and traumatizes men, women are acting within the confines of Christianity and the patriarchy (and those two tend to go hand in hand). 

Personally, I (Nicole) find the purity culture extends past the Church, displaying the profound impact that Christian ideology around sex and sexuality has had on our world as a whole. So, when hearing how intensely damaging and dangerous the messaging around sex is in Christian contexts it hard not to think about my own experiences with the virginity construct and shame around the oh-so-scary pill (birth control). Purity culture is rooted in guilt, built to promote silence and shame at every corner. 

The ideology is ingrained: if you have sex before marriage you will go to hell, and possibly even worse if someone finds out you will be shamed indefinitely. It takes a certain kind of bravery to break out of the confines of this ideology, and Devin Ritenhower has this bravery.

Devin Ritenour graduated from Messiah University (formerly Messiah College) with a degree in biblical and religious studies. After leaving the Church she went on to pursue a career in the mental health field and has been working in a residential rehabilitation program for people with significant mental health diagnoses and substance abuse for the last four years. She’s currently a Masters's student at a southern New Hampshire University studying to be a psychotherapist and is expected to graduate this spring. You can find her on Instagram @earthtodevin to enjoy some wonderfully lovely cat photos.

Devin talks with Jeremiah and Julia about:

  • The expectations of sex and sexuality in a Christian community (5:00): Devin talks about the culture and expectations of and around sex in her religious background: “Not only is sex bad, but you shouldn’t want sex, you shouldn’t be thinking about sex, you shouldn’t be promoting sex, and when I say promoting sex I mean wearing anything that had lace on it.” She talks about the different set of expectations around women, and shares an anecdote about having to read a book on how not to tempt her “brothers [in Christ]”, or how she puts it “one big cringey happy family.”

  • Dating in a Christian context (12:30): “The Church set me up for failure in a lot of ways,” Devin says when asked about how it was like to date in this culture. With the already unrealistic and unhealthy language and ideas around sex, paired with a culture of guilt and shame, dating was “rough”, or better described: “Where if you do it you don’t talk about, but you better not do it” sums up the ideology firmly.

  • Contraception and shame (18:00): Julia says “I’m not thinking, ‘Dear Lord, if I got pregnant, my entire world would shame me and condemn to hell,” after Devin discusses creative contraceptive methods she used as a teenager when the act of buying contraceptives was maybe even more shameful than the sex itself. So, instead of using safe and available contraception, tinfoil and other things had to substitute because the sentiment Julia shared was the thought process for young Christians, including Devin, who had a fear more steeped in community guilt and buying contraceptives, instead of a healthy dialogue around contraceptive needs. Devin says, “By the time I needed it [contraceptives], I was too ashamed and broken to ask for it.”

  • How Biblical studies lead to questioning Christianity (29:00): Devin studied religion and the Bible, and the actual studying and unpacking the Bible led her to question her faith, “But then it became okay if I’m not taking this part of the Bible seriously, why am I taking this part as seriously?” And she describes her moral dilemmas when she learned the cultural context of the biblical passages and ideas she was learning about, and how those two things did not match up.

  • Deconstructing purity culture in a romantic relationship (40:00): Devin talks about the damage purity culture did to her within the context of her relationship with her now-husband, and Julia notes that though purity culture is damaging for both men and women, “I think the more acute anxiety and panic tend to hit women due to the mass amounts of oppression and repression.” She then goes on to say, “Religion is obviously a huge part of people's lives and identities, so it's typical when you marry someone you anticipate being on the same page. And John and I were not on the same page from the get-go.” Devin spends time talking about how John’s questioning and her own questioning led her to leave Christianity. And later says “I got lucky. This should have broken us” (50:20) (The “this” being the toxic culture of sexual purity that hurt her and the effects on Devin and her husband's relationship.)

We hope that you’re encouraged by Devin’s story, and we’d love to hear from you as well! Follow us on IG at @sexvangelicals!

Let’s heal together!

Feb 28, 2022
Episode 28: How to Build Sexual Confidence, with Rachel Maine

In therapy, we talk about Prochaska’s stages of change model. Most of the folks that we work with around sexuality, particularly those who have a religious background, start in either the precontemplative or contemplative stages of change.

Not because they don’t want to be further down the road, but because the systems they grew up in (read: most church communities) place limitations around sexuality, such as “no sex before marriage” or “no sex with someone of the same sex/gender, keep folks in these early stages. The preparation and action stages of change are only reserved for people who are married, and even then, healthy sexuality often takes years of development, overcoming anxiety, and unlearning unhelpful messages around bodies and sex.

If you’re single or queer, many religious circles expect you to stay in the precontemplative/contemplative stages of change, meaning coming out as a sexual person (queer or otherwise) has to happen outside of the church walls.

Sexvangelicals is a podcast that tells the stories of folks who start at a precontemplative stage about sexuality, either because of a neutral/negative view of sexuality, i.e. a lack of sex education, or a negative or restrictive view of sexuality, such as purity culture, and follows them along the stage of change journey. Some folks operate explicitly in the action/maintenance phase, while other folks have parts of them that are in the contemplative or preparation stage. Wherever you are on this journey, this podcast is for you!

On this episode, we take a sneak peek into the action stage of change with our friend Rachel Maine, host of the podcast Owning Your Sexual Self. Rachel’s journey started over 9 years ago after a break up that forced her to start choosing herself. This journey lead her to start a business involving sexual education which lead to going back to school for a certificate in sex therapy and sexuality education. In a nutshell, Rachel helps women and couples discover their sexual desires and create intimate, adventurous connections with their partners. She runs a business with Pure Romance and is the CEO of her online sex coaching business.

Rachel talks with us about:

  • The importance of using anatomically accurate language (6:30): “There’s power behind using anatomically correct terms,” Rachel states. Describing our genitals as penis, vulva, vagina (and knowing the difference between the two), rather than dick, pussy, thingy, or any other fake names, “can help break down the taboo around sex and pleasure.”

  • Starting with sex positivity, rather than starting with sex negativity and moving into sex positivity (20:00): The therapeutic process typically starts with a problem. In the sex therapy world, it’s often around sexual desires not aligning, sexual pain, or challenges and anxieties with erections. Rachel hosts parties for women where she starts with describing how to use sex toys and other variations of sexual experimentation, then works backwards, if necessary, to explore the unhelpful narratives around sexuality that folks might have. “It’s validation for women. You hear this woman tell you that you’re normal, that this is common, and here’s how we might be able to fix this. It’s important to recognize that you’re not alone,” Rachel says.

  • Sexual confidence (27:00): How do you know that you’re in a sexually confident place? Rachel describes, “Expanding my horizon when it came to sexual pleasure. I took the time to prioritize myself. When you can start with the most intimate part of your life, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see that flow into other parts of your life.” Julia reflects back: “Women have a narrative that “fine” is good enough. I love that you’re encouraging folks to not settle in your sexuality.”

  • Navigating between accepting what needs to be accepted and simultaneously not settling (29:30): We talk about two competing perspectives on sexuality: the model where you strive for mind-blowing sex at the expense of settling and the “good enough” sex model, where we also acknowledge the limitations of our bodies and psyches and accept our partners where we are. Jeremiah asks about a both/and approach, to which Rachel introduces the Want/Will/Won’t List. She encourages folks to highlight what they want to do and won’t do, and then to name sexual activities that they will do (but may not have the highest desire to do), with a mindset that pleasure might come in surprising ways through these activities. She then encourages couples to write these items on a sheet of paper, put them in a jar, draw one of the items, and do what’s on the sheet of paper. She adds, “Remember, your desires are going to be changing. So to have the same sex all the time, you’re likely to get bored.”

  • Being in control of your own choices (40:00): Rachel’s ultimate goals are for people to choose themselves first. She talks about how this starts with decisions that you make in the morning, such as writing or meditating or eating breakfast. She also encourages people to set time aside for self touch, and acknowledges that creating space for masturbation sets people up to create intentional living in a wide variety of domains.

Wherever you are on your sexual journey, we hope this episode is informative and inspiring! Let’s heal together!

Feb 21, 2022
Episode 27: How Would a Relationship Between Leslie Knope and Chris Traeger Have Worked, with Jeremiah and Julia

What are your favorite TV characters who never dated during the tenure of said television show?

We are big Parks and Rec fans, and while we love the structure of the relationships on the show, we’ve wondered if the producers missed out on exploring a key, funny relationship:

What if Chris Traeger and Leslie Knope dated at some point during the series?

So, on Valentine’s Day 2022, we write some fan fiction and dream about what their relationship might be like.

And we didn’t have to look too far for inspiration, considering Julia’s male TV alter ego is Chris Traeger (between the running, high energy, and incredible positivity) and Jeremiah’s female TV alter ego is Leslie Knope (with the dedication to civil service, drivenness, and organization).

Valentine’s Day is rife with unrealistic expectations about relationships; in fact, our initial plan for this episode was to watch a chick flick and deconstruct the toxic, pressure-packed expectations on gender and sexuality, and the unhealthy dynamics these can create.

But we discovered something more beautiful during this episode; our own relationship, despite our conflict and differences, has a ton of beauty and strengths. At the end of a hard day, we gave ourselves the space to brag on ourselves and the ways that we both speak our minds, apologize when we do it in a disrespectful way, and always come back together.

To be honest, Chris and Leslie would probably be exhausting after a few episodes; our own tendencies toward introversion prevent the more manic parts of ourselves from becoming too overbearing for the other person. However, like us, their kindness, desire to hold themselves accountable, and shared vision for life would definitely have made them quite the power couple.

Unlike Chris and Leslie, we’re glad that we have the opportunity to live this fan fiction out in our own lives!

Happy Valentine’s Day! Let’s heal together!

Feb 13, 2022
Episode 26: How to Deconstruct from Evangelical Christianity as a Couple, with Erin Baldwin Day

We both went to conservative Christian colleges that had a moderate/high level of commitment to Evangelical sexual values, namely in the exultation of traditional gender roles and the condemnation of sexual activity before marriage. As we’ve moved out of religious spaces, primarily through the vehicle of the sexual health community, we’ve lost a lot friendships and relationships along the way.

To quote Jesus, “A prophet is not welcome in their own home.”

Some have doubled down on their complementary views of gender and sexuality. Others proclaim to be human rights advocates, but resume their anxiety and judgmentality when dialogue shifts to sexual health; the pain from these experiences and losses is often much more severe. I (Jeremiah) sometimes avoid seeking relationships with folks from previous systems because I don’t want to be let down. (I recognize this is a growth area.)

Every now and then, you find someone who you realize is on a really similar pathway as you. In our case, someone who’s committed to self-reflection, living through the grief and losses that happen when you grow up in a repressive system , and reconstructing more open, affirming systems for present and future generations.

Erin Baldwin Day is one of those people.

Erin is a social entrepreneur, agitator for change, and full-hearted follower in the subversive Way of Jesus who lives, works, and plays on the unceded ancestral lands of the Dena'ina Elnena people in Anchorage, Alaska. She currently serves as lead organizer with Mutual Aid Network of Anchorage (MANA) and is discerning her next steps as a Licensed Local Pastor in the United Methodist tradition. She is presently launching The Spacious Table, a faith community for spiritual refugees, radicals, and misfits of all stripes. You can find her written work at

Erin has the unique experience of growing up both in the Church of Christ, which, as I say in the episode, “was silent about sexuality, but ran its mouth about gender roles”, and in non-denominational churches that were committed to purity culture values. She shares her experiences navigating and, eventually, extricating herself from these systems:

  • The distinction between a sex-silent (Church of Christ) and a sex-negative religious community (5:30): Erin describes that the more damaging system was “the explicit negativity around desire and pleasure before marriage, and this notion that as a woman, your sexual purity is directly tied to your human worth.” She also regales us with horrifying stories of being compared to an already chewed piece of gum, which “internalized a great deal of shame around my sexual desire. This was layered on top of an existing shame because I was not congruent with the expectations of femininity. I was always the girl with opinions.”

  • Navigating misogyny, reinforced by Biblical literalism, in the Church of Christ (10:00): Erin describes a spiritual gift inventory, which identified strengths in teaching, shepherding, and administration. A male elder at the church said, “This can’t be right, because God doesn’t give these gifts to women.” Erin explained. “Those words was the first little crack in my faith because I wondered, ‘If that’s what God thinks about women, is this a being that I want to relate with?’ These boiled down to, ‘Erin, you’re too much.’

  • Navigating misogyny, reinforced by Biblical literalism, the College Edition (20:00): I met Erin my freshman year of college, when Erin was running for student body president, and we’ve remained in contact since then. Erin describes “I got hate mail in my college mailbox when I campaigned for student body president that told me that I was usurping the role of the man, was conniving, had a Jezebel spirit. They were all anonymous notes.” There was also a class for women called “Women in Christian Service”, which Erin equates to learning “how to keep your mouth shut when you disagree with what’s happening and use your femininity to manipulate the men around you to do what you wanted them to do through service.”

  • The challenges of deconstructing sexuality as a couple (29:00): I’ve discussed before that my own marriage disintegrated because deconstructing sexuality happened in separate ways that the other person (sometimes appropriately, sometimes inappropriately) found threatening. Erin describes the beauty and intimacy of deconstructing messages around gender and sexuality with her husband. “We only had each other,” Erin describes. “We would have these experiences around sexism and homophobia together in church and ministry, and would come back home and say “WTF?” Because we shared this gut instinct to go back to Scripture, we could unravel and unwind how we were taught to think about God and the Bible. To do that together in a thoughtful way with my best friend, I couldn’t imagine a more amazing way to deconstruct.”

  • Exploring queerness in a Christian community (39:00): Erin went to therapy during college, where she shared her attraction to women with her therapist. The therapist took an unexpected route to get to, sadly, an unexpected outcome. The feedback, as Erin explains, was the queerness was “based on deeply dysfunctional relationship with my mother I had sexualized my need for female nurture, and that was the root of my attraction to women. If I would do the work to forgive and heal my relationship with my mother, then my sexual attraction would go away. And I believed her, because I understood her as an expert, and set about the work of repairing a relationship with my parents.”

  • The expected and unexpected ways that you grieve sexual losses (52:00): Erin describes her experience of her daughter coming out; while there were moments of celebration, she also noticed, “I was jealous of my daughter. I was envious of her freedom to explore her sexuality. There’s deep grief in that. As excited as I am that my daughter is growing up free of the restraints and damaging messaging that I grew up with, it is a source of sadness for me, because that is an experience that I can’t get back. I cannot reclaim that.”

This may be my favorite Sexvangelicals episode, because it speaks to the blend of immense grief, intense bravery, and overwhelming joy that folks who explore sexuality when coming out of a repressive culture (i.e. Evangelical Christianity) experience, often at the same time. If you are one of these people, I’m excited to continue healing with you!

Feb 06, 2022
Episode 25: How to Thrive in Your Relationship During a Breast Cancer Diagnosis, with Marloe Esch

An estimated 290,000 people, including 2500 men, are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2022. We are thrilled to have Marloe Esch, oncology nurse and breast cancer survivor, join us to talk about the impact of cancer on bodies and sexuality. She describes the importance of building health relationships, and explores the connection between a cancer diagnosis and spirituality. 

Jan 30, 2022
Episode 24: How Jewish Religious Rituals 
Help Create Sex Positivity, 
with Caleb Jacobson

Anti-Semitism erases Jewish culture by making our conversations about Judaism really about their oppressors. What does Judaism actually say about sexuality and our bodies? Dr. Christopher Jones, noted sexuality and Biblical researcher, describes to us the Hebrew principles of tikkun olan (repairing the world) and pikauch nefesh (save a life) with sexuality. We also about how Christianity merged with Roman thought, rather than Jewish thought, for its sexual ethic, and the Menstrubation Initiative.

Jan 17, 2022
Episode 23: How Christian Literature Reinforces Misogyny and Misandry, Which We Rediscover by Reading Sheet Music by Kevin Leman

When Jeremiah and Julia were counseled prior to their previous marriages, they were encouraged to read Sheet Music by Dr. Kevin Leman. A decade later, they return to his writing in their segment, Bedtime Stories. They explore two common themes. 1) The impact of "two becoming one" and the responsibility for your partner's pleasure, including the negative implications out using sex toys and masturbating. 2) Egregious gender stereotypes that reinforce women as asexual and men as dangerous and impulsive.

Jan 09, 2022
Episode 22: How Christmas Movies Represent the Worst of the Gender Binary, with Jeremiah and Julia
Dec 28, 2021
Episode 21: How We Are Rethinking Sexuality After Reading Juli Slattery’s Rethinking Sexuality
Dec 06, 2021
Episode 20: How to Navigate Burnout, with Jeremiah, Julia, and Nicole

We are both mental health practitioners, and our businesses have been taking off due to an increase of demand for therapy as folks navigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their lives and relationships. We took a six week sabbatical this summer to create some healing, but still found ourselves burnt out and hanging on for dear life.

We deeply believe in the project of Sexvangelicals; we know that our platform and the ways that we provide space for folks to share their experiences of sexuality, bodies, and organized religion have the capacity to change the world. In the face of burnout, we decided to hire a podcast editor.

Listen to more of the ways that we're attempting to navigate burnout. 

Nov 28, 2021
Episode 19: How Couples Can Effectively Collaborate Around Sexual Evolution, with Bernie Newton and Chris Copeland

Over the past decade, we’ve been honored to hear numerous queer folks describing their individual challenges of exploring sexuality and celebrating their orientation in religious contexts. We are thrilled to have Bernie and Chris share their relational story in this podcast episode. They discuss the null curriculum of sex education in the church, how churches encourage queer identities without encouraging being full sexual people, and how couples can collaborate around sexual evolution. Let's heal together!

Jun 16, 2021
Episode 18: How Purity Culture is Uniquely Damaging to Teens and Young Adults, with Linda Kay Klein

Linda Kay Klein, author of the 2018 book Pure, has created numerous spaces to bring folks together to share their stories about repression, bravery, and ultimately freedom. We talk with Linda about ways that purity culture is both appealing and damaging to teens, the grief and anger that accompanied Linda's writing process, the impact of motherhood on sexuality, and some of the challenges and confusion in finding freedom.

May 10, 2021
Episode 17: How to Stay Connected with Your Partner During the Pandemic, with Jeremiah and Julia

Regardless of your story, the pandemic has been especially brutal on bodies and relationships. From their perspectives as couples and sex therapists, Julia and Jeremiah discuss the impact of COVID-19 on relational and sexual health.

Apr 28, 2021
Episode 16: How to Think Critically About Sexuality, with Joe Winn

Growing up as a queer person in a Sicilian Catholic neighborhood in East Boston, Joe talks about how his family’s immigration story from Ireland, observing the queer community’s response to the rigid gender norms of the 80s, and burying over fifty friends in the AIDS crisis, has allowed him to invite critical thought into his work as a sex therapist, by using humor as a powerful tool in the healing process, studying social work and the impact on his own sexual development, and the importance of giving ourselves permission to be sexual people.

Apr 07, 2021
Episode 15: How Understanding How Women Crave Diversity in Sexual Experiences Can Improve Your Relationship, with Wednesday Martin

When we’ve interviewed women to describe their sexual journeys in the first dozen episodes of Sexvangelicals, many of our guests have talked about how they learned to censor their bodies and navigate the double standards of female sexuality (be sexy, but not too sexy, for example), centered around the word “Don’t”.

The past 50 years has provided more conversation about female sexuality; however, even “progressive fields” (read: sex therapy) have couched descriptions of female sexuality around two flawed assumptions within sociological and sexological research. Dr. Wednesday Martin, author of Untrue: Why Nearly Everything We Believe About Women, Lust, and Infidelity Is Wrong and How the New Science Can Set Us Free , identifies these “sacred cows” as (15:00):

  1. Women are less sexual than men.

  2. Women are “wired” for monogamy in ways that men are not.

“We built an entire civilization around the idea that women are less sexual,” Wednesday explains.

Dr. Wednesday Martin is a social scientist, storyteller, and #1 NYT bestselling author. For the last 6+ years, she has studied the newest data on female sexuality, with a focus on female non-monogamy across cultures and species. Her book Untrue has been called “revolutionary” by The Atlantic and “indispensable” by Kirkus reviews.

Wednesday writes, in her aptly named introduction, “Meet the Adultress”:

Untrue is a book with a point of view—namely that whatever else we might think of them, women who reject monogamy are brave, and their experiences and possible motivations are instructive. Not only because female infidelity is far from uncommon but also because the fact of it and our reactions to it are useful metrics of female autonomy, and the price women continue to pay for seizing privileges that have historically belonged to men.”

Wednesday talks with Julia and Jeremiah about her interdisciplinary approach to studying female sexual desire, autonomy, and the practice of nonmonogamy across cultures and species, including:

  • Her personal experience growing up with atheist parents in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a city that boasts the highest number of churches per square mile in the world. Wednesday states, “I grew up believing that I was going to Hell and sex had something to do with it.” (5:00)

  • What made Wednesday the most angry while conducting her research. Wednesday describes that many doctors, even “sex-positive” ones, have little to no understanding of the female erectile network; as a result, many women have experienced significant damage both physically and emotionally, leading Wednesday to assert that this discrepancy is indicative of the ways that our society does not care about female sexual pleasure. (20:00)

  • A word about nomenclature. Wednesday explains why phrases like “cheating”, “infidelity”, and “consensual/ethical nonmonogamy” are problematic, and her preference for using phrases like “disclosed and undisclosed nonmonogamy". Julia and Jeremiah are convinced to change their language when working with clients. (33:00)

  • The trajectory of female sexual desire. Contrary to the cultural zeitgeist, research suggests that monogamy is more difficult on female libido than male libido. Wednesday suggests that accurate research will give women and their partners options to address this unique part of female sexuality, rather than blaming and shaming women for what is a normal part of their experience. (55:00)

  • The bravery of women who explore their sexuality. Wednesday shares, “I wanted to cross over and better understand all the insights of who women are sexually. I wanted to understand in a non-judgmental way.” Also, in one of the funnier moments of our podcast, Wednesday reacts hilariously to the disclosure of our own affair. We are honored that Wednesday sees the telling of our story as an important and brave step for advancing sexual health for women (and all people). (1:06:00).

Wednesday summarizes her position: “It is way beyond time that we stopped using loaded terms to describe a simple fact: Nonmonogamy is a normal, healthy part of the repertoire of females of many species, including female humans. It’s very important that we open the door to that conversation.”

Check out Wednesday’s website, which includes her other books, professional articles, and two Amazon Original Stories, and her fantastic Instagram page. An enormous thanks to Wednesday for taking the time to share her story and wisdom with us.

Let’s heal together!

Mar 01, 2021
Episode 14: How to Raise Sexually Health Children, with Jennifer Wiessner

Jennifer Wiessner, the first certified sex therapist in Maine, joins Jeremiah and Julia to talk about two sex education programs, Raising Sexually Healthy Children and Girls on Fire, designed to create healthy dialogue between parents and children. They discuss the importance of sex therapists doing their own therapeutic work, the PLISSIT model (a sex therapy staple), and the limitations of men seeking female sex therapists. They also laugh about obsessions with Maine, grocery shopping, and Jane Austen.

Feb 22, 2021
Episode 13: How the Sexual Expectations of the Mormon Church Create Sexual Anxiety, with Lauren Drean

In this episode, Lauren shares her history within the Mormon Church—she actually gives a great summary of the structures of the Mormon Church around the 8:30 mark of the epsiode. She then describes the ways that her faith is continuing to evolve as she trains and practices as a sex therapist. You will hear in her voice and her stories how complicated her relationship is with religion and sexuality. We appreciate her vulnerability, wisdom, authenticity, and humor as she struggles with these concepts.

Feb 16, 2021
Episode 12: How Purity Culture Ignites the Shame Cycle, and How to Move Out of Shame, with Julia

Two of the significant structures in Julia's life that “prepared” her for marriage and her career were the Christian church and the mental health field. Surprisingly, the church and the mental health field share some shocking similarities, including the ways that they set her up to “fail” and then shamed her for it. Julia and Jeremiah talk about the shame cycle of purity culture, the limitations of "the two shall become one", and how the mental health field reinforces poor relational patterns, among others.

Feb 03, 2021
Episode 11: How Black Churches Can Have More Effective Sexual Health Conversations, with Deesha Philyaw

"There's no nuance, no subtlety in the ways that we talk about sex. That's what creates secrecy and people being harmed," explains Deesha Philyaw, author of the 2020 National Book Award Finalist The Secret Lives of Church Ladies. Deesha discusses how Black women can explore empowered sexuality, how fiction writing gives audiences a unique access to sexual exploration, ways that the Black church can better advocate for Black women, and personal reflections about The Secret Lives with Jeremiah and Julia.

Jan 18, 2021
Episode 10: How Purity Culture Impacts Sibling Relationships, with Jeremiah and His Sister, Juliana

Jeremiah followed the expectations of Christianity well into his mid-30s. His sister? Not so much. Juliana talks about how stepping away from Christianity as a child contributed led to criticism and guilt-trips from parents dedicated an Evangelical worldview, shame around her body, queerness, and fashion decisions, and a rupture in the sibling relationship. Poignant, blunt, and extremely brave, Juliana shines a light on the relationships Evangelicalism builds with folks who don't follow their expectations.

Jan 14, 2021
Episode 9: How Theologians Can Become Sexual Health Professionals, with Reverend Beverly Dale

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.

Jan 05, 2021
Episode 8: How Purity Culture Creates Unrealistic Expectations for Marriages, with Jeremiah Gibson

"Marriage is a rite of passage into adulthood," explains Jeremiah. Conservative Christianity puts additional pressure on early marriage, as straight marriage is the only permissible setting for sexual expression. While Jeremiah was in a 10-year marriage, he explains that the relationship was set up to fail from the very beginning due to sexual repression and the ensuing cycle of shame and anxiety around sexuality. A post-mortem to a significant part of his adulthood, Jeremiah grieves the parts of himself that he lost in an attempt to fulfill both the church's standards of successful adulthood: rigid expectations of masculinity, and the longevity of a marriage.

Dec 17, 2020
Episode 7: How the Demonization of Affairs in the Church Prevents People 
from Talking About Affairs and Sexuality 
in the Church, with Jeremiah and Julia

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.

Dec 07, 2020
Episode 6: How Purity Culture Encourages Infidelity, with Jeremiah and Julia

Julia and Jeremiah talk about what many couples and sex therapists tend to avoid: infidelity. Oof. They describe their own relationship to identify common themes that are a part of infidelity: avoidance, secrecy, and a lack of accountability. As Julia says, "If we don't humanize infidelity, we risk reinforcing the patterns that contribute to infidelity while adding shame to a person's experience." Shame prevents relationships from flourishing by neglecting the necessity of self-reflection from all partners.

Dec 07, 2020
Episode 5: How I Lost and Am Rediscovering Sexuality, with Julia Postema

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.

Nov 21, 2020
Episode 4: How Adoption Impacts My Sexuality, with Jeremiah Gibson

We cannot talk about sex without talking about race. Jeremiah shares his experience as a person of color adopted by a White family. He grew up in White spaces, including, but not limited to gifted and talented programs and churches, and at an early age, he learned to assimilate to White standards. Performing Whiteness allowed Jeremiah to succeed academically and professionally. As he engages in sexual growth, he describes parts of himself that were co-opted and lost, and now rediscovered.

Nov 19, 2020
Episode 3: How My Enmeshed Christian Communities Impacted My Relationship with My Body, with Julia Postema

Purity culture. Ugh. Where do we even begin? Julia describes her experiences growing up in an insular fundamentalist Christian community, consisting of her church, her Christian school, and her church camp. If it sounds a bit was. Julia also discusses how sexual repression was steeped in a legalistic, perfectionistic culture of anxiety. She talks about her experiences with obsessive behaviors, an eating disorder, vaginismus/vulvodynia, and so much more. Joy!

Nov 18, 2020
Episode 2: Five Things I Learned About Masculinity Because of Fundamentalist Religion, with Jeremiah Gibson

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. 

Nov 18, 2020
Episode 1: How We Can Heal Together From the Sex Negativity of Purity Culture, with Jeremiah Gibson and Julia Postema

Welcome to Sexvangelicals, hosted by sex therapists Julia Postema and Jeremiah Gibson. In the last 50 years, the Christian church has informed our views and practices of sex and sexuality in a number of ways. In the pilot episode, Julia and Jeremiah explore the following: What is sex? What is the role of our bodies? What happens in sex therapy? Join us as we discuss these and other challenging questions. We promise hard, difficult conversations mixed with a lot of laughter and joy. Let's heal together!

Nov 16, 2020