The institution of marriage is in trouble. Some view marriage as a roadblock to happiness and therefore avoid it altogether. Many marriages end in divorce because of infidelity, financial disagreements, and the entanglements of extended family relationships. Some couples call it quits because of an inadequate sex life.
Dr. Douglas E. Rosenau tells his readers how they can celebrate sex and enjoy God’s gift of intimacy. In a no nonsense approach he encourages married couples to discuss lovemaking in an open and healthy environment. He removes the drapes of shame around the subject matter and takes a biblical approach to helping marriage partners to have the best sex lives ever!
In this short essay this writer will briefly summarize Rosenau’s book and supply a short critical analysis.
Keywords: Rosenau, sex, lovemaking, Scripture, strength, weakness, counseling, God, married, marriage, intimacy
SEX is the secret most talked about outside the holy bond of marriage. Music artists write songs about sex and sing about it in the most vulgar ways. Authors write novels about it and entice their readers to defile the marriage bed for their selfish pleasures. School children talk about sex as if they are experts and teens have meetings in the locker rooms to discuss how many sexual encounters they have had. It seems as though there are open conversations about sex everywhere other than where they should be, and that is in the home between a loving husband and wife.
For far too long “sex” has been owned by the heathens of the world and the believers have tucked tail and run as far away as they could from any conversations about sex. Parents are afraid to talk to their children about it. Preachers are embarrassed to talk to their congregations about it. Married couples are intimidated to talk to one another about it.
Dr. Douglas E. Rosenau (2002), a “Christian” sex therapist and professor, has done married couples a huge service by writing his excellent book, “A Guide to Enjoying God’s Gift of Sexual Intimacy: A Celebration of Sex.” The title tells the story of this book. The book is a guide about enjoying sex with your spouse. The book is about the true meaning of sexual intimacy, and it seeks to help married couples to celebrate the blessing of sex.
In this short essay this writer will do two things: 1) briefly summarize the contents of the book, and 2) give a brief critical review of the book.
Rosenau walks the reader down a path that this writer would surmise few people have traveled. He has peeled back the layers of this unsung topic and has forced the reader to come to grips with elements of sex that most have never thought of. Rosenau gives a whole new meaning to the expression “the talk.”
As a Christian, this writer appreciates both the introduction of the book and the opening chapter, “A Biblical Celebration,” in which the author establishes the moral foundation of what sex is, where sex belongs, and that to be right with God and your spouse, sex is about so much more than an act. Sex, in its proper place, is truly “love making.”
Since the author writes this book from a Christian world view, it is full of Scripture. Albeit, there are some occasions that the author appropriates certain biblical texts for the flow of his thoughts. Nevertheless, it is appreciated that Rosenau takes the time to incorporate the Bible throughout his book.
If the question “how can I be a great lover to my spouse” has ever come to mind, then the author of this book will detail for the reader the hows and whys of the sexual relationship. He talks about the body and the fact that it was designed by God with certain erogenous zones that bring pleasure to both the once touching and the recipient of the touching. He discusses the importance of both participating equally and frequently in this activity. He also states that love making does not always require intercourse and that touching at times is sufficient. He also talks about the mind and its relationship to being a great lover. One can fantasize about his or her spouse during the day, and when the two come together in the evening, they can then enjoy one another more. Rosenau also talks about the importance of the mouth in love making. He says that communication is vital. There is loving communication that draws the couple closer to one another, which is so important. There is the need to talk openly about sex without feeling guilty about the subject. Likewise, it is important to communicate in the act of love making so that both feel comfortable in each and every pleasurable moment. The hands, the mind, and the mouth are all important in this book when it comes to answering the question “how can I be a better lover?”
The author also takes time to talk about matters that complicate the process of love making. He goes into great detail, often repeating himself, about items that are roadblocks in the sexual relationship: the way one feels about his or her body, lack of sexual desire, one spouse becoming more sexually interested, aroused, and orgasmic than the other; and he also spends a great amount of time walking through stages in the lifecycle as well as dealing with catastrophic events in which sex becomes more complex.
Finally, and extremely well placed, was the author’s treatment of heavy societal abuses in the sexual relationship. Rosenau discusses the reality of things like extramarital affairs, addiction, and homosexual tendencies or feelings. He says that there is hope for a healthy monogamous and heterosexual love life between a husband and wife even after their world has seemingly come crashing down around them.
In short, this book is a good read. The author puts it all on the table and does so in such a way that little is left to the imagination. There is no more guesswork between husband and wife when it comes to learning to have a great love life.
In this section of the essay, this writer will give a brief critical review of Rosenau’s book with special emphasis on three specific areas: strengths of the book, weaknesses of the book, and how the book is relevant to this writer in the field of counseling. At the conclusion of the essay, the readers should have a good idea as to whether or not this book would be of personal and/or professional benefit to them.
It will be difficult to give equal treatment to both the strengths and weaknesses of this book. This writer believes that the strengths far outweigh the weaknesses. In this essay the writer will underscore why this is a must-read book for married couples and Christian counselors in particular.
Strengths of the Book
It is commonly known that the subject matter of sex among what might be referred to as “churched people” is somewhat taboo. For the average Christian, the descriptive language used in this book might cause the saint to sweat, and the believer to blush. Therefore, authorship of this particular content is critical. The graphic content of this book is more palatable because the reader knows that Dr. Rosenau is writing with a quill that has been dipped in the ink of the Christian worldview. Since the author is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, one would expect this to be true. This is a strength of the book.
Rosenau’s book is far from dull. The colorful language makes it very difficult to put down, and therefore is a fairly quick read despite it’s nearly 400 pages of text. For the quickly bored individual that becomes lost in technical terminology, this book is very interesting and easy to understand for virtually all people from various educational backgrounds. Too, it uses just enough technical words and scholarly references that the more educated reader will appreciate the thoroughness with which the author approaches the subject matter. The colorful language is a strength of the book.
Along with the language is the fact that the book is full of practical suggestions and tasteful graphics. Often the books on marriage that include sections on the subject of sex, never dive deep enough into the trenches of what makes love making better. This book pulls back the curtain and lets the reader look into the soul of a successful sexual relationship between married lovers and invites the reader to also enjoy a radically changed sex life. This is a strength of the book.
The multiplicity of Scripture references in this book are a breath of fresh air in comparison to the smut filling the shelves that would dare to dive into discussing this most holy and heavenly topic. One cannot read past the first page of the introduction without being reminded from Scripture that God made man and woman and by implication intended that they enjoy one another in every way. Likewise, the final chapter is dripping with biblical truth as it discusses the relationship of prayer to a healthy sexual life. The fact that this book is Scripture-saturated is a strength of the book.
The author of this book is true to the general tenor of Bible teaching when it comes to the subject of sex. He speaks of the fact that sex belongs between a male and female within the confines of a marriage relationship. Therefore, readers who wish to love God first and their spouse second can feel safe as they read this book. This is a strength of the book.
Rosenau reminds the reader that sex is much more than intercourse. It begins with a look, a word, a tender touch, a kind gesture, and a warm embrace. An intimate experience can be had without ever uniting together as one body in the act of intercourse. If couples could just understand the importance of lovemaking outside of the bedroom first, then making love in the bedroom will be far better. This idea presented repeatedly in the book is a strength.
The book’s author gives intimacy hope to couples that have found themselves in various marital valleys. Perhaps a couple has struggled with depression and a spouse is on medication that lowers his or her sex drive, there is still hope for a great sex life. Maybe someone has experienced a traumatic situation either physically or mentally that has rendered one of the spouses virtually impotent. Love making is not over. Maybe the devil has had his way with the husband or wife and infidelity has taken place. A successful marriage and healthy intimacy can still be enjoyed. Hope is a great strength of this book.
Weaknesses of the Book
This writer found it difficult to come up with many weaknesses in the book. Perhaps it is because he lost sight of the purpose of reading it. What started out as a critical read turned into a read for personal development. Like so many marriages, this writer’s marriage could use encouragement in the area of what it means to make love to his wife.
One of the weaknesses of this book is also a strength, and that is the graphic content of the book. This writer could not, in all good conscience, recommend this book to anyone other than a married couple. The scenes that can be conjured up in one’s mind are scenes that belong only between husband and wife. Therefore, there are some explicit items that this writer would not want a single man or woman to be thinking about outside of his or her own marriage relationship. There are other books that give a good view of sex in marriage without the graphic language that could be recommended to premarital couples.
Scripture is a great strength of this book, but in this writer’s view, it is also an occasional weakness. Authors are sometimes guilty of taking biblical texts out of context when incorporating Scripture into their own writing. Though it was not habitual in this book, there were occasions when Rosenau seemed to appropriate certain texts and make them proof-texts for points that he wanted to make. For example, Rosenau (2002) applies several passages to fantasy and lovemaking. Though he makes a series of statements that are true, he lifted those passages out of their immediate contexts (p. 74). The problem with proof-texting in one area is that for the serious Bible student it causes the reader to question the validity of certain points in which the author of the book has applied Scripture.
Though this observation is subjective, the fact that the author repeats himself a variety of times on given subjects is a weakness. This writer found himself occasionally wondering why certain parts of the book were repeated, even to the point of second guessing whether he had already read a given chapter.
Relevancy in the Field of Counseling
Though this writer has yet to receive his counseling credentials, he already sees the value of a book such as this to be added to his counseling resource library. If a couple struggles with talking openly about sex, this book will help. A husband and wife who have lost their way when it comes to sensuality in their relationship, this book will help. If a devoted Christian couple is wanting to celebrate their sexuality the way that God intends, this book will help. When changes in the lifecycle come, and they will, and a husband and wife no longer feel the emotional attachment to one another that they once felt, this book can help. If a husband or wife has experienced the tragic blow of a disability, but still want to render “due benevolence” to his or her spouse, this book can help (1 Corinthians 7:3).
Without reservation, this writer would recommend Rosenau’s book to his married friends and married couples that he counsels in a church setting as a minister. The strengths enumerated in this short essay far outweigh the weaknesses. As noted above, there are a number of useful aspects of this book to those who are struggling in their marriages. Likewise, even those who are blessed with a healthy marriage can benefit from this book. After all, who does not want to enjoy “God’s Gift of Sexual Intimacy?”
Rosenau, Dr. Douglas E. (2002). A guide to enjoying God’s gift of sexual intimacy: a
celebration of sex. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.