Alternative Sex: Is It Really An Alternative?

By Dr. Harry W. Schaumburg, LMFT

The movie, Fifty Shades of Grey, opens Thursday night just before Valentine’s Day, and it is reported it will be Fandango’s top five advance ticket-sellers in the company’s 15-year history. That’s right up there with Harry Potter, Hunger Games and Twilight movies. Interest in the movie grows as people look for an exciting girls’ night out or as a date night for Valentine’s weekend.

Virtually every man and woman under thirty knows about the movie and are talking about it, but their mothers are also scrambling to get a copy of the book. What’s all the hype about a movie that shows BDSM or Alternative Sex? The book is referred to as “mommy porn,” yet people think of it as a love story. Someone describes it as 80% porn, and 20% storyline, “but it’s a girl’s dream.” Women who have read the book say, “It is so sexually charged, it gets me sexually excited.” The book not only sells online, it has sold out at Costco and was the fastest book to sell one million copies! Why?

BDSM encompasses a broad range of sexual behavior that until recently was considered a sign of mental illness by the mental health bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Until the latest revision of the DSM was published in 2013 (the DSM-V), if someone asked their partner to tie them to a bedpost or asked to be slapped hard while in the throes of having sex the information could be used against them in family court custody cases. But because of a huge effort by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), an advocacy group founded in 1997 “to advance the rights of and advocate for consenting adults in the BDSM-Leather-Fetish, Swing, and Polyamory Communities,” the DSM revised the definition of sexual disorders that involve BDSM. The new definition makes a distinction between a behavior—like consensual rough play in the bedroom—and a symptom of mental illness.

Beyond the book and movie, Alternative Sex is appealing to women of all ages, and from a CEO to the stay-at-home mom. Understand that those who practice Alternative Sex are not walking the streets wearing leather and chains, but may be the shy, quiet girl at the office by day who turns into a whip-wielding mistress by night.

Fifty Shades of Grey has popular appeal for many reasons. Keith Miller, LICSW, explains:

  1. Women want their partner to have more passion and see them as sexual.
  2. Women want more creativity and inventiveness in the bedroom.
  3. Pure voyeurism and curiosity about kinky sex.
  4. Identifying with the innocence and naiveté of Ana (the women seduced into Alternative Sex).
  5. Attraction of making a “bad boy” good.
  6. Comfort in numbers: Validation to hear another woman’s struggle against manipulation.
  7. Desire to explore the possibility of enjoying surrender during sex.

Given the book’s broad-based appeal, here’s my question that gets to the point and the real danger in Alternative Sex. Why do wives, even Christian wives, who frequently lack sexual interest in marriage and perhaps would never be in submission to their husbands, want to read about erotic practices involving BDSM (Bondage, Dominance, Sadism, and Masochism) and then consent to engaging in Alternative Sex?

First, we must understand the terms. Sadism is getting sexual pleasure from inflicting pain. Masochism is getting sexual pleasure from one’s own pain or humiliation.

For the last twenty-four years I have counseled thousands of Christian couples from across America in our weeklong intensive counseling program. In over 90% of marriages, the wife lacked sexual interest and described herself as feeling like a sexual object when engaging in sexual intimacy with her husband. They also consistently reported that they are in control of their husbands and yet complain: “I feel like his mother,” or “my husband is like one of my children.” The number one sexual problem facing married couples is inhibited sexual desire; the second is discrepancies in sexual desire. The problem is not related to age. You can be newly married, or past your fortieth anniversary. The problem is present in marriage of all ages, but is most destructive in the early years of marriage.

Many believed that the scientific sexual revolution of the 1970s, inaugurated by the work of Masters and Johnson, would dramatically enhance sexual function. Surprisingly to many, it didn’t happen. Experts recognize that there are as many sexual problems today as there were in the 1970s. So the stage is set for the Enemy to offer a solution to this massive sexual problem that is also in the today’s church.

When wives lack sexual interest, and husbands are described as “being sexually hardwired,” we can easily forget that all women are created in God’s image and are created sexually equal to men, and fallen too. The result is that books and counseling may offer solutions that actually fall short. When you understand the real problem and that erotica seems to offer what women created in God’s image want, it all begins to makes sense. Regardless of the lack of sexual interest, women are sexually hardwired too! In a different a different period of history, Paul understood that men and women were created equal and both have a sin nature. “But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her sexual rights, and like the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan many not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Cor. 7:2-5).

Given the wide range of practices, some of which may be engaged in by people who do not consider themselves as practicing BDSM, inclusion in the BDSM community or subculture is usually dependent on self-identification and shared experience.  Interest in BDSM can range from one-time experimentation to a lifestyle. Regardless, the appeal is that it offers increased intensity of sexual pleasure, particularly for women, and opportunity to experience a “safe” controlled experience of being controlled or controlling.

Some experts on Alternative Sex who are Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists see no harm in the practice and readily state that Fifty Shades of Grey does not portray accurately the value of mutual gratifying and consensual Alternative Sex. You also have others saying, “You don’t need Christian Grey’s red room of pain to elevate the discussion about sex in your relationship. There’s a risk that reading the series or seeing the movie will reinforce the common myth that ‘other people are having more and better sex than me.’” Make no mistake; God has created us for not only meaningful sexual intimacy in marriage, but to achieve that, spiritual, relational, and sexual maturity for the glory of God must be the desire that motives us. In other words, increased intense sexual pleasure is not the goal, not only for the individual, nor for the couple engaging in consensual Alternative Sex.

Finally, as a very experienced Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I caution you not to read the book or see the movie. Having counseled thousands of couples in which either the wife or the husband lacked sexual interest, I can unequivocally state that this is not the solution to the problem. Rather, seek to develop spiritual, relational, and sexual maturity in your marriage.

For a more detailed description of the myths of Fifty Shades of Grey, read Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery’s excellent book, Pulling Back the Shades.

Your Husband Looks at Porn: Now What?

(First published in Today’s Christian Woman)

Dr. Harry W. Schaumburg

Typically the event doesn’t start with a confession, but by discovering your husband has a secret problem with lust, masturbation, and pornography. Faced with horrifying acts of betrayal, your reactions may range from sadness to depression, anger to rage, to sexual disinterest, to having an affair. Obviously, this is a relational problem between you and your husband; it’s a breach of trust with the love of your life. You promised to forsake all others when you said, “I do.” Very few couples getting married recognize that all marriages are a fragile covenant consummated by two sinners with seemingly good intentions. While strong love and commitment go a long way, it’s never enough—sin is always going to express itself with some level of hurt and pain. It’s always the grace of God that ultimately makes any marriage survive unfaithfulness and become more meaningful and glorifying to God.

Whether you’ve been married just a few months or for more than 25 years, your worst fears are realized when you discover hidden sexual sin. Every moment of joy, satisfaction, and intimacy you’ve known with the man of your dreams seems to have been shattered. What was real now seems unreal. What was true intimacy now feels like false intimacy. What was a trusting relationship is now filled with paralyzing mistrust. This relational mistrust becomes the main element between you and your husband in the struggle to move forward.

All marriage relationships are complicated. Unfaithfulness takes the normal complications to the tenth power. There’s no formula, “Do X, and then Y will logically follow,” but instead it’s a process of radical change, not only in your husband’s behavior, but also in his spiritual, relational, and sexual maturity.

Where did it all begin?

You need to understand that your husband’s lust, masturbation, and pornography use did not begin when you “gained 20 pounds,” or “lost interest” in sex. Neither is it because your husband is visual and sexually hardwired. Women are sexually hardwired as well and are increasingly becoming addicted to pornography.

Long before you met your husband, his problem with looking at porn began, probably around age 11. Pornography is more accessible than ever, but the problem has become more extensive in conjunction with what has always lurked inside each of us: The drive to “look” isn’t an overpowering sex drive or an addiction to sex, but an overpowering, demanding, selfish desire. Pornography, with its inherent ability to be secretive with easy accessibility, uniquely meets that demand. The essence of your husband’s condition is an unwillingness to be told what to do spiritually, relationally, and sexually. You need a new man, not just a change in behavior.

You could have sex twice a day with your husband, but he would still be lusting over other women if his selfish demand is out of control. Frequency is never the real issue; rather, it is a lack of passionate desire for mature spiritual, relational, and sexual intimacy under the supremacy of Christ over all selfish demands. Death is the only viable solution for sin. Thanks be to God that death has already occurred in Christ. Marital unfaithfulness is always a relational event between you and God, and between God and your husband. Heart change is required to move from false intimacy to real intimacy with God, and you! This is the change that will give you a new man.

Where do you go from here?

Experience tells me that behind every question you have, the never-ending threat of uncertainty lurks. How could this happen—I thought he loved me? What’s wrong with me? What do I do now? And the critical question: Can I ever trust him again?

When the marriage covenant is broken by unfaithfulness, the most important preparation for moving ahead starts with the offended party. Think of your situation as rock climbing at the most precarious moment you could be in. Your 200-pound husband lost his grip on the side of the mountain and has fallen. You, the 120-pound wife is holding the rope he’s dangling from. This is your life and your marriage, but most importantly, this is your sinful husband hanging over the cliff.

Pain is an appointment with God for him to do his deepest work in you, your husband, and in your marriage relationship for the glory of God.
We don’t like when things get out of hand, but this kind of moment in life forces us to face reality about God and ourselves. Truth is, you can’t get through life without pain, and you can’t make it out alive. Certainty is a myth! So you either crawl under the blankets and never get out of bed, or you develop the biblical attribute of godly steadfastness. You will never be certain of what comes next, but you can learn to always be certain of God in your future. God reigns; not chance!

In all my experience in counseling and in searching Scripture, I’m convinced that all unfaithfulness is a testing of faith, and pain is an appointment with God for him to do his deepest work in you, your husband, and in your marriage relationship for the glory of God.

A heart and a mind that is steadfast in the midst of betrayal is not numb to pain, but learns to respond to all the pain and uncertainty by knowing in that your Father knows all about your situation. Long before you ever knew of your husband’s hidden sexual sin, God was fully aware, waiting for the right moment to expose it for a purpose, and to bring a radical change of heart. Pain is inevitable, but “we can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love” (Romans 5:3–5). When you practice steadfastness with an understanding of the reality of God and what is really going on, you can turn your visual husband towards obedience to the Word, when he sees “your pure and reverent [life]” (1 Peter 3:1–2).

Trust is essential in any relationship, but unfaithfulness shatters trust. Sometimes working to build trust only feeds fear. You go back to thinking, “What if he’s lying again?” In fear you pull away just at the moment when real intimacy needs to increase. Instead of pulling away, focus on caring for your husband’s spiritual condition. The greater challenge of any wife facing uncertainty is not to believe that your husband will change, but that God is able to change your husband. In reality, your husband is seeking fulfillment through false intimacy. By caring, you are able to offer him what he’s always wanted: true intimacy. Looking at pornography is a complete contradiction to what your husband wants. He wants you! He has always wanted you—care enough to help him want you not only more, but better!

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that traditional accountability will control his lust. A person is only as accountable as he wants to be. The problem with formalized groups of accountability is that men, wanting to perform and look good, learn to lie better in their meetings. Resist the temptation to become his “parole officer,” because constantly checking everything never reveals the internal heart condition, but only external performance. You, with a heart seeking to be his wife according to the will of God, are his best hope for real change. Become his ally against sin, mutually asking each other, “As the months and years roll by, do you see me seeking more to be the will of God as your husband or wife, than seeking my own selfish will?”

Take the path of forgiveness; it’s a narrow path! “Forgiveness is to pardon an offender by which he is considered and treated as not guilty” (Noah Webster’s Dictionary, 1828 edition). Justice has been served for your sin and his sin; both of you are no longer under the wrath of God. Therefore, treat him better than he deserves, because that’s the way God is treating you.

When dealing with the betrayal of unfaithfulness, the change for both of you is from the inside out. It is not simply a matter of his giving up pornography, but of both of you giving up yourselves, your natural independence, and your self-will. Now you can work together to build spiritual, relational, and sexual maturity in your marriage. Always remember, together, that this is a significant relational event between you and God that can change everything, now and for eternity.

Dr. Harry W. Schaumburg is the founder of Stone Gate Resources, a counseling ministry specializing in the treatment of adultery, pornography, and all forms of sexual sin. He’s written several books including Undefiled: Redemption from Sexual Sin, Restoration for Broken Relationships.

Message To Parents

Romeo and Juliet is a tragic Shakespearean romance about two young lovers whose deaths ultimately reconcile their feuding families. Juliet was just shy of fourteen years of age. Today, thirteen-year-old girls may long for a romantic relationship with their “Romeo” only to be pressured into performing sex on the boy who then puts the video clip of her doing so online for all his friends to see. The sexual, relational, and spiritual death of today’s children is more tragic than a Shakespearean play.

In the old days when boys and girls made out in the back seat of the car, parents were afraid the girl would lose her reputation or become pregnant. Today, boys and girls are sexting; sending, sharing, and trading pictures of their private parts. They not only watch porn, they also star in their own homemade porn videos. Boys think girls should look and behave like porn stars. In the relational and sexual world of today, young girls are being asked to write their names on their breasts and send pictures. If that isn’t horrifying enough, one twelve-year-old girl reported that, “If boys want oral sex, they will ask every single day until you say yes.” The reputation isn’t to be pure, but be sexy and boast of how and when you lost your virginity. Kids today don’t need to worry about pregnancy because they are having oral sex more often than intercourse, but with many more partners.

Fundamental to helping your children is to establish a spiritually, relationally, and sexually mature marriage. If there is a lack of maturity in any of those three areas, please get help. You can consider attending one of your Biblical Intensive Counseling Workshops in Wisconsin. If you have any questions about your particular situation, call and speak with Dr. Schaumburg personally.

Every parent, grandparent and church elder must address the problem by becoming more involved with their children and youth. Do you know what your kids are doing with their cell phones? Think about your kids; think about your grandkids. Talk to them. As their parent, you must be their primary resource about all relational and sexual issues. Earn their trust to talk about anything and everything sexual and relational. The spiritual, relational, and sexual immaturity of adults is costing the next generation their spiritual, relational, and sexual maturity.

As a follow up, read:
Raising Kids in a Pornified Culture

Lust Is Dangerous!

Lust often goes no further than visual sex, yet there is a loss of control of the lustful thoughts. Contrary to the disease model there remains for many a strong motivation of fear that controls the progression of the behavior. For others, the loss of control coupled with living in a digital world quickly moves them to sexual chatting and sexting. And for others, loss of control leads to physical adultery. Be aware; when you secretly feed your lusts for years, there is an increasing unconscious temptation growing on the inside that can lead you to go one step further and physically act on your lust.

Continue reading Lust Is Dangerous!

From Our Stone Builder Newsletter: The Danger of Looking Back

The women of the Bible present fascinating stories, but it is important to remember their exploits, faith and courage as instruction to all us. Ruth’s story is 3000 years old yet highly relevant instruction regarding the sovereignty of God, the sexual nature of humanity and the mercy of God. Sarah was so beautiful kings desired her, but she was also tough, smart, and resourceful. Women today can be called her children, “if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” (1 Peter 3:6). There are many others, but of all the women of the Bible, Jesus exhorts us to “remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32). He does not tell us to remember Abraham, Sarah, Ruth, David, or Mary. He picks a person who didn’t “get it” to give us one of the most important teachings in scripture. Why is it so important to remember Lot’s wife? Like no other man or woman, Lot’s wife is a solemn warning to all of us. Jesus gives the warning to His disciples, not to the Scribes and Pharisees. Any one of us can quickly slip into forgetting the subject of her story. Jesus is telling us to look at her story as an example of divine judgment that comes quickly on those who do not wholeheartedly obey the commands of the Lord. We risk it all if we fail to heed this warning.

Lot’s wife had the one of the best spiritual opportunities and powerful experiences of her day. Her uncle by marriage was Abraham, a godly man whom God used to rescue her when she was taken hostage. She was married to a godly man. She had the experience of seeing angels who came to rescue her from the wrath of God. Yet in the end she died without regret for her attitude. She lived for what she wanted in life, not God’s will. She never understood what it meant to “set your mind on things that are above, not on earthy things” (Col. 3:2). I would suggest that there are many people in the Church today just like Lot’s wife.

Lot’s wife was not a murderer or an adulteress, which when the Law of God was eventually given to Moses, required the death penalty. Her one sin is a disturbingly simple act; she “looked back.” The looking was nothing in and of itself. In reality, it revealed the condition of a heart secretly enamored with the world. The question we must carefully ask ourselves: “What is in my heart when it comes to worldliness?”

We see the progression so often as a child grows into adulthood. They start out faithfully saying their nightly prayers. As a teenager they are active in the youth group, memorizing scripture and going on missions trips. Early indications of a potential problem are innocent indulgences: heavily involved in sports, video games, texting their friends and interest in the opposite sex. In adulthood, their spirituality is lite. Their passions become a good education, a successful career, a fulfilling marriage, more money, more rewards, etc. Is there a bigger problem below the surface? On the one hand their faithful church attendance looks like they are walking away from sin as Lot’s wife walked away from Sodom. Notice carefully those around you, and you may see that they have looked back. We must also look at ourselves. “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves . . .” (2 Cor. 13:5). You can be alive one moment, a flesh and blood breathing human being, and instantly become a “pillar of salt.” The image is a hopeless, worthless state; the reality is lost in hell. Suddenly there is no opportunity to repent. Don’t believe what others say, “God is too merciful to punish anyone eternally.” Jesus says, “Remember Lot’s wife.” “Repent or perish” (Luke 13:3, 5).

Paul was driven to tears over the people he knew that “walk as enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil. 3:18). He describes them as having “minds set on earthly things” (vs. 19). No one in their right mind would choose to be an enemy of the cross of Christ. The choice is more benign; a heart, a mind, and then more than a look, but a life set on earthly things. We must save ourselves from the great delusion of a spiritual life that fails to go far enough and is always seeking to find its self among the dead things of the world.

Likely Paul was remembering Lot’s wife when he said, “The appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:29-31). The scriptures consistently instruct us to always live each day believing that Christ’s can come at any unforeseen moment. We must prioritize human relationships, material possessions, and worldly dealings.

John warns us of being devoted to a system that is opposed to God. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of possessions, is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17).

What does it look like when the will of God is first, not television, not the Internet, not your iPod, not your hobbies, not your finances, or not your manner of dress? Do we even know? Any discussion of these and other issues begins with the heart, not legalistic restrictions and enforced rules. Getting to the heart of the matter is challenging, but this is where is begins. Can others around you tell you apart from your unconverted neighbors or coworkers? If there is little or no difference, maybe you have already looked back. Jesus’ warning is an expression of His mercy, designed to protect us. Let’s remember Lot’s wife!

The Occupational Hazards of Ministry


The Bible holds the office of elder in high esteem. Whoever desires to be a pastor has set his heart on a noble task because it involves the oversight of God’s people through ruling and teaching. To do the job requires not only knowledge and wisdom, but also a well-guarded heart, for danger lurks in the elevated pedestal of recognition. It is here that sexual sin is most subtle and appears eminently reasonable.

Continue reading The Occupational Hazards of Ministry