The Act of Marriage
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|Author||Tim and Beverly LaHaye|
|Subject||Christian studies books, Marriage, Self-help books, Sex manuals|
|1998 Updated edition|
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Chapter summaries
- 2.1 Chapter 1: The Sanctity of Sex
- 2.2 Chapter 2: What Lovemaking Means to a Man
- 2.3 Chapter 3: What Lovemaking Means to a Woman
- 2.4 Chapter 4: Why God Created Sex
- 2.5 Chapter 5: Sex Education
- 2.6 Chapter 6: The Art of Lovemaking
- 2.7 Chapter 7: For Men Only
- 2.8 Chapter 8: For Women Only
- 2.9 Chapter 9: The Unfulfilled Woman
- 2.10 Chapter 10: The Key to the Feminine Response
- 2.11 Chapter 11: The Impotent Man
- 2.12 Chapter 12: Sane Family Planning
- 2.13 Chapter 13: Sex Survey Report
- 2.14 Chapter 14: The Missing Dimension
- 2.15 Chapter 15: Practical Answers to Common Questions
- 3 Academic Study
- 4 References
- 5 External links
The Act of Marriage is concerned with helping couples, particularly the female partner, to achieve sexual satisfaction. The book was first printed in 1976 and boasts a readership of over 2.5 million readers. While the book is written to be understood by anyone, the primary audience is meant to be Christians. Indeed, the book is noteworthy for opening up dialogue among Christians about their sexuality—especially female sexuality and sexual satisfaction. Unlike other self-help books which address human sexuality, The Act of Marriage helps readers identify how their spirituality and religious beliefs can enhance their love lives.
Since its initial publishing in 1976, The Act of Marriage has been published again in 1998 as The Act of Marriage, Revised & Updated  and again in 2000 as The Act of Marriage after 40: Making Love for Life. Rolling Stone magazine criticized the book as "an explicit Christian sex manual, condemning petting, abortion and homosexuality." However, many Christian groups hail the book as a milestone in contemporary Christian sex education.
It has been endorsed by "Pastors, doctors, and psychologists alike". This claim of professional endorsement, however, is made by the publisher without any accompanying data which would allow for verification and there have been no statements of this nature made by the American Medical Association or the American Psychological Association.
Chapter 1: The Sanctity of Sex
This chapter sets out to convince the reader that sex is holy and sacred, not dirty—an attitude they have found to be prevalent among the couples they have counseled. They cite several examples in both the Old Testament and New Testament where intimate behavior between married persons is commended.
Chapter 2: What Lovemaking Means to a Man
- It satisfies his sex drive, which is usually greater than his wife's.
- It boosts his self image.
- It increases the love he feels for his wife and makes it less likely that he will engage in extramarital affairs.
- It calms him down and makes him less prone to find fault with his family.
- It provides one of the most exciting experiences of his life.
Overall, the chapter is concerned with convincing wives that it is okay for their husbands to want to have sex with them.
Chapter 3: What Lovemaking Means to a Woman
In this chapter the authors set out five benefits that women derive from intimacy with their husbands.
- It fulfills her sense of womanhood.
- It reassures her of her husband's love. They point out that a woman needs to feel companionship love, compassionate love, romantic love, and affectionate love from her husband before she will feel ready to accept passionate love.
- It satisfies her sex drive.
- It helps her to relax and to not be high-strung.
- It is the ultimate experience when properly done.
Overall, the chapter is concerned with convincing husbands that women can and need to be sexually satisfied, too.
Chapter 4: Why God Created Sex
In this chapter the authors present five reasons that God created sex, in spite of how it is misused by many.
- It is needed to propagate the human race.
- It provides a married couple the means to give mutual pleasure.
- It allows spouses to be fulfilled with each other and to be less tempted by other sexual opportunities.
- The husband will have claim over his wife and the wife will have claim over her husband.
- It creates a unique union and method of communication between two people that cannot be shared with anyone else.
Overall, the chapter is concerned with convincing couples that sex is a blessing from God, but that it should only be experienced within the bonds of marriage.
Chapter 5: Sex Education
This chapter explains the male and female sex organs and how they respond to sexual stimulation. Some counsel is given on how to avoid or reduce pain when breaking the hymen. Emphasis is placed on the clitoris as the seat of the female orgasm. The differences between male and female orgasms are also outlined.
Chapter 6: The Art of Lovemaking
This chapter outlines the basic steps taken during a lovemaking session. It includes preparations that should be taken, foreplay, the act itself, and the "afterglow" that follows completion of the act. They stress the importance of the husband waiting until his wife is fully aroused before entering her vagina and proceeding to orgasm. They recommend that a couple use their honeymoon for experimentation so that they can best learn how to please their partner. The importance of clitoral stimulation to achieve female orgasm is again stressed. Male and female sexual responses are again compared and a brief discussion of positions is given.
Chapter 7: For Men Only
This chapter gives eleven suggestions on how men can satisfy their wives.
- Educate yourself on the female anatomy.
- Learn to control your ejaculation so it does not happen prematurely.
- Concentrate on the woman's satisfaction, not your own.
- Remember what arouses a woman (companionship, compassionate, romantic, and affectionate love).
- Control your temper.
- Avoid the use of crude words.
- Avoid speaking of private matters with friends and colleagues.
- Avoid smelling bad.
- Avoid rushing the act.
- Have open communication with your wife.
- Love your wife as a person.
Chapter 8: For Women Only
This chapter gives nine suggestions on how women can satisfy their husbands and achieve satisfaction themselves during the sex act.
- Keep a positive mental attitude. This is broken down into three parts: have a positive attitude about sex, a positive attitude about yourself, and a positive attitude about your husband.
- Recognize that many inhibitions need to be abandoned in the bedroom.
- Remember that your husband is stimulated by sight.
- Avoid nagging, criticizing, or ridiculing your husband.
- Remember that while you may not be in the mood for sexual relations when your husband makes advances, you are capable of responding and "getting into the mood."
- Keep your feminine parts clean.
- Communicate with your husband and tell him what pleases you.
- Pray and ask God for help in achieving sexual satisfaction.
Chapter 9: The Unfulfilled Woman
This chapter declares that many wives are not as satisfied by sexual encounters as they could be because they fail to achieve orgasm. Eleven reasons are given why women might experience dissatisfaction with sex and suggestions are given on how to overcome those problems.
- Ignorance on both her part and her husband's part on how to achieve clitoral orgasm.
- Feelings of hate or hostility towards someone else, especially her husband.
- Feelings of guilt, especially those brought on by premarital sex premarital or extramarital indiscretions.
- Fear that she will not be able to be satisfied or satisfy her husband.
- Being too passive during the act.
- A husband who ejaculates before she has climaxed
- Being overweight.
- Being unwilling to surrender herself to her husband.
- Having weak vaginal muscles.
Chapter 10: The Key to the Feminine Response
This chapter explains how Dr. Arnold H. Kegel started training women to exercise their pubococcygeus muscle in order to curb postpartum incontinence. It was discovered that a side effect of this exercise was to improve women's ability to experience orgasm. The authors recommend an exercise regimen for women seeking to improve their sexual response.
Chapter 11: The Impotent Man
This chapter gives nineteen reasons why husbands may experience inability to maintain an erection or ejaculate and gives suggestions on how to overcome those problems.
- The onset of age: they will lose vital energy as they get older.
- Feelings of hate or hostility towards someone else, especially his wife.
- Fear (of rejection, of being unable to satisfy his wife, of being compared with other men, of failure to maintain erection or to ejaculate).
- Ridicule from his wife.
- Feelings of guilt, especially those brought on by premarital or extramarital indiscretions.
- Having unreasonable expectations about how he will be able to perform as his age increases.
- Poor physical fitness.
- Heavy smoking.
- Mental pressure from outside concerns.
- Drugs and alcohol.
- If his wife has weak vaginal muscles.
- A wife who is too passive during the act.
- Nagging from his wife.
- A dominating wife.
- Premature ejaculation.
- Retarded ejaculation.
Chapter 12: Sane Family Planning
The authors express their belief that a husband and wife should produce as many children as they can reasonably manage and deplore several reasons some give for avoiding parenthood. They counter with several reasons why parents should seek to have and raise children. They then give suggestions for contraception that they believe are appropriate for Christians (because they are not abortifacient). They recommend, in order of reliability, birth control pills, condoms, diaphragms, vaginal foam, the rhythm method, and coitus interruptus. They recommend against permanent methods, such as vasectomy and having tubes tied.
Chapter 13: Sex Survey Report
The authors report the results of a survey they conducted. Their intent is to show that a) Christians have more fulfilling sex lives than their non-Christian counterparts and b) Christians don't have the Victorian attitudes about sex that they are stereotyped as having.
Chapter 14: The Missing Dimension
In this chapter the authors advocate that the most important element to a satisfying sex life and a satisfying life overall is to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They advocate a Christian lifestyle and suggest that a shared belief in Christ will help a couple overcome incompatibilities.
Chapter 15: Practical Answers to Common Questions
In this chapter, the authors field questions on a variety of topics, including abortion, adultery, birth control, communication, counseling, dating, fantasy, fornication, free love, homosexuality, masturbation, menopause, oral sex, petting, privacy, "September sex", etc.
Within academia, the Act of Marriage is viewed as an interesting insight into the ever changing relationship between mainstream religion and sexual practice. Michigan State Professor, Amy DeRogatis, took a deep look at this book and others of the sort to explore the impacts they have on gender roles within Protestant Evangelical tradition. While it pushes the boundaries of accepted sexual practice within Evangelical heterosexual marriage to that point, it upholds a strictly complementarian view of gender. At some points within the text it describes men as "beasts" and "uncontrollable" in the context of sexual desire, while it paints women as pleasers and far less sexual than their husbands. Although this seems overly traditionalist, they were not out of line with commonly held cultural belief. Even secular author Alex Comfort's The Joy of Sex promotes the idea of natural gender roles and a far more sexually driven male.
- LaHaye, Tim, and Beverly LaHaye. The Act of Marriage: The Beauty of Sexual Love. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1998.
- Description from the publisher
- Review by Publishers Weekly
- "Christians Promote Holy, Hot Sex in Marriage" at abc.com
- review by Library Journal
- Heller, J. 2002. "Marriage, Womanhood, and the Search for 'Something More': American Evangelical Women's Best-selling 'Self Help' Books, 1972–1979", The Journal of Religion and Pop Culture, 2. 
- "Reverend Doomsday" in the Rolling Stone
- Meridian Magazine
- MSN Shopping
- LaHaye, Tim, and Beverly LaHaye. The Act of Marriage: The Beauty of Sexual Love. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1998.