Mark Driscoll’s Preoccupation with Visual Stimulation

Jan 6, 12 • Books33 Comments

You can read other parts of my review on Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship and Life Together by Mark and Grace Driscoll herehere and here. There are also lots of other thoughtful reviews bouncing around the interwebs. But we’ll continue in my review style for better or worse.

I’m a man and I understand that men are visually-oriented when it comes to sex–though I know a few who are not. But being visually-stimulated seems to be very important for Mark, and though he attempts to make room for visually-oriented wives, the idea that there are as many visually-oriented wives as there are husbands is hard to believe.

So we end up with more focus on the husband’s sexual needs in marriage.

The chapter “Selfish Lovers and Servant Lovers” starts with an anecdote about (again) how a wife wouldn’t have sex with her husband enough. She was a selfish lover. There are lots of ways to be a selfish lover. How many of the following “problems” are stereotypically female?

  • Rarely have sex
  • Too little time and too little effort
  • Only have sex when we both feel like it at the same time
  • Rarely initiate
  • Let ourselves go–become undesirable
  • Sexual sabotage
  • Make our spouses earn sex
  • Sharing our bed with children and pets
  • Separate beds or bedrooms
Or the “Reasons Why We Are Selfish Lovers”?
  • Difficult seasons
  • Secret sins
  • Sins committed against us in the past
  • Inappropriate sharing with others
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of pleasure
  • Insecurity
  • Wrong perspective of the body
  • Boredom
 Considering Grace’s detailed struggle with a history of a sexually abusive secret relationship, does this seem to be a little pointed, biased and/or insensitive? It does to me.
How do we be a “Servant Lover”? You should humble yourself in servant hood to your spouse. Right! Yes! Of course! How do we do that, Mark?
To paraphrase: Look hot. Be naked. A lot. And get in shape. That’s how to be a servant lover.
From the section on meeting the desires of the Visually-Oriented Spouse:

Be a visually generous spouse. using your spouse’s visual propensity to your advantage and your spouse’s pleasure…Make love with the lights on, or by candlelight. Sleep together naked. Undress in front of your spouse. Bathe in front of your spouse. “Flash” your spouse around the house. Pull the curtains and hang out in your house naked. [Hasn’t he ever seen “The Apology” episode of Seinfeld?] Dress in clothes that fit and flatter your figure and build. Have a mirror hung near your bed. And keeping an eye on weight and working toward wellness is always appreciated. (168).

This seems good for guys, but where is the consideration for women?

It gets worse. The only Biblical example given for “servant loving” is:

Stripping. Yes, stripping.

I think that Driscoll does some exegetical gymnastics with his interpretation of Song of Solomon 6:13-7:13. I’m not qualified to say exactly. It seems like every description is turned to a solely sexual meaning, and that this “dance of Manaheim” is used to advise wives to do this for their husbands. Not that a lot of husbands wouldn’t enjoy that, it just seems myopic and disrespectful to women to put this into a book ostensibly about marriage.

Consider for a moment how radically free [the ‘Beloved’ in Song of Solomon] is. Not only is the account of her talking to, stripping for, and being with her husband three thousand years old, but it is written in a conservative Eastern cultural context for devout Jews. Many wives wonder if they woud be tramps to act in such a way. If it is with their husbands, then they are simply being wives to God’s glory and their joy…The Bible reveals that even stripping, though not required, can be redeemed within marriage. (173-4)

More this afternoon.

A copy of this book was provided for review.


David Moore (48 Posts)

David is the coordinator for the Lowell W. Berry Center for Lifelong Learning at Fuller Theological Seminary and editor of The Burner Blog.

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33 Responses to Mark Driscoll’s Preoccupation with Visual Stimulation

  1. KanneM says:

    ” … the idea that there are as many visually-oriented wives as their are husbands is hard to believe.”

    It should read ” … as there are husbands…”

  2. Rorschachwalter says:

    “He attempts to make room for visually-oriented wives, the idea that
    there are as many visually-oriented wives as there are husbands is hard
    to believe.
    So we end up with more focus on the husband’s sexual needs in marriage.”

    So Mark writes about some stuff which is probably MOST relevant for men, although also quite relevant for women, and you criticize that? And when Mark himself makes it applicable to women, YOU insist that “Well, women aren’t as visual, therefore it’s just about men”? YOU insist on making Mark only concerned about men. Sure, he may primarily be writing regarding men from a man’s perspective, but so what? That’s hardly sexist.Oh, and by the way: If you think women aren’t visually stimulated — often times as much or more than men — YOU are the one with a distorted view of women. WAY TO ENFORCE SEXIST STEREOTYPES, DAVID!

    And what on EARTH is wrong with saying that stripping can be a good thing?! You have a PROBLEM with that? Stripping for a spouse? And how is that degrading to women in any way? Aside from the fact that Mark did not use language suggesting that only women should strip, Mark is simply building off the idea that visual stimulation is part of how sex can be enjoyed in a marriage relationship.

    Your bias is showing, David, and it’s not pretty. Maybe you should  put some clothes on and not show your shame again until you pursue some wellness. I guarantee that, as a metaphor for your intellectual prowess and honesty, no one wants to see your naked  bits as you’re displaying them here.

    • The Burner says:

      Thanks for your faithful readership. You’ve said your peace. Now please exercise more restraint in your comments.

      • Rorschachwalter says:

         Your sarcasm is neither witty nor effective. Thanks for faithfully reading my comments, however. Please exercise more discernment in your blogging.

      • Rob AndStuff says:

        come on people, please don’t feed the trolls. they aren’t serious, they aren’t smart. ignore them just as you should all crappy useless people. you’ll have a better day.

      • Zack Martin says:

        you just called another human being “crappy” and “useless”…

    • AnikkiV says:

      Did Grace spell out what it looks like for men to be “servant lovers?” Did she define “selfish lovers” from her perspective? (p.s. Who are these people that Driscoll is speaking to that need to have “it’s ok to strip for your spouse” spelled out for them?)

    • Princessnoel 3 says:

      “Sure, he may primarily be writing regarding men from a man’s perspective, but so what? That’s hardly sexist.”

      That’s pretty much the definition of sexist. And as a women I find Driscoll incredibly wrong. If Grace is a co-author why didn’t he let her actually write a few of the chapters in her voice. John and Stasi  Eldredge did that.

      Driscoll is just an abusive misogynistic coward and I feel very sorry for Grace and his children. Not to mention, none of his words in this book reflect the heart of Christ in ANY way.

      And just for the record, speaking as a women, we are much more stimulated emotionally; which is something Driscoll has missed ENTIRELY!

      • why didn’t he let her actually write a few of the chapters in her voice

        He did.

        none of his words in this book reflect the heart of Christ in ANY way 

        You mean like:

        The Bible commands spouses to be in the ongoing habit of “forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”a How did God forgive believers in Christ? We caused Him to suffer unjustly, and He received it without bitterness, forgave us, pursued us, and wants good for us. This means that if I accept God’s forgiveness of my sins but refuse to forgive my spouse of his or her sins, I am in effect saying by my actions that my spouse’s sin against me is worse than my sin against God.


        Jesus and took our place to suffer for our sins, pronouncing forgiveness from the cross.

        or even

        We want to thank Jesus Christ for rising from death to give us the forgiveness of sins and power of the Holy Spirit to live new lives for the Father’s glory and our joy.

        Hyperbole perhaps?

    • Dana says:

      The issue is that the list of actions he lists are things that nearly all men would love their wives to do, but very few women want their husbands to do. (If my husband starts flashing me randomly around the house, I will NOT be aroused.)

      The way to be a “servant lover” to a woman is much more likely to involve speaking to her in ways that make her feel loved and beautiful, having private conversations, and cuddling, because for most women, particularly in a long-term relationship (not a short-term sexual fling), those are the things that make them want to have sex, and make them happy. Does Driscoll emphasize the importance of all that stuff as much as the part about looking hot?

      This text just seems to be inviting men to feel that they’re owed some hot sexy always-willing wife, and to bully their wives into stripping for them. The only way things such as those quoted above should be said is if they’re paired with warnings to the men that these things are NOT to be demanded, and that you should be focusing on her pleasure and happiness, not on what she could be doing for you. (Obviously, the same advice should be given to the women.)

      • This text just seems to be inviting men to feel that they’re owed some hot sexy always-willing wife, and to bully their wives into stripping for them. 

        I saw him argue against such a view.

        The only way things such as those quoted above should be said is if they’re paired with warnings to the men that these things are NOT to be demanded, and that you should be focusing on her pleasure and happiness, not on what she could be doing for you.

        He does.

      • The Burner says:

        You are correct that he does. But he spends the majority of his efforts implying strongly that this behavior is good or right or best while seemingly throwing in weak qualifiers before and after. (Similar to beer commercials selling the great times produced from consuming their product and then saying, “Please enjoy responsibly.”)

    • brgulker says:

      I’m going to guess you’re a man, probably from a conservative evangelical church that prescribes complementarianism.

      Am I correct? 

  3. Allison says:

    Mostly just commenting to balance out all the negative comments – I’m really enjoying this series of reviews, and I am horrified by this book. I’m a married Christian woman, and I’m so offended by Driscoll’s perception of women almost exclusively as sexual objects. I’m looking forward to your next part of the review!

  4. Princessnoel 3 says:

    Don’t quote me on this, but 5 years of Bible college taught me that The Lover and Beloved in Song of Solomon were not actually husband and wife…yet. Does that turn your world upside down MD?

    Also, if stripping is the conclusion you came to after reading Song of Solomon, I’d had to see you interpret something that’s not actually about sex. Maybe Freud was right. In Driscoll’s case I’d say yes.

  5. Heather says:

    Yeah… the first list is very striking. Apparently the way to be a “selfish lover” is to not have sex, or not have it very often. When I hear the words “selfish lover” I admittedly think of a man who goes to fast, doesn’t meet the woman’s sexual needs or notice if she’s uncomfortable. That’s rather gender-biased and stereotyping of me. But it does happen. So where is it on that darned list???

  6. Heather says:

    Not clear, though, on whether you think it’s shocking to like stripping within marriage? Because that would seem rather strange. I mean, getting down to the bare-bones, it means taking your clothes off while someone watches. Between spouses it would seem stranger *not* to do it that way, honestly…

  7. Pashula says:

    It seems the book is the encapsulation of the conversation MD directed toward his wife during his period of marital disatisfaction – and which was then projected upon all the women sitting in the congregation in his sermons.

  8. David White Jr says:

    I have only read the first 47 pages of the book but have
    gleaned some excellent points for discussion for couples, who want to improve
    their marriage relationship.


    page 15 “This felt like a noble divine assignment and began
    to change my motivation for pursuing Grace, because I saw her for the first
    time as the Father’s daughter—the Father who loved her as I loved my own

    Discussion point: Are we pursuing our wife as the Father’s


    page 26 “Marital friendship requires both the husband and
    wife to be willing to invest what it takes to be a good friend.”

    page 27 “In our marriage, we have made the mistake of
    assuming we were friends and not working on our friendship as we ought to.

    Discussion point: How do husband and wife’s go about
    developing friendship?


    page 32 gives some help in developing marital friendship
    with a simple explanation of three kinds of marriages—back-to-back,
    shoulder-to-shoulder, and face-to-face e.g. the best kind of marriage includes
    shoulder-to-shoulder and face-to-face relationships.

    Discussion point: How do wives and husband build a


    page 33 gives some examples of how to build a friendship:

    “For a wife to build a friendship with her husband requires
    shoulder-to-shoulder time alongside him.”

    “For a husband to build a friendship with his wife requires
    him growing in face-to-face skills.”


    Page 36 provides some interesting discussion points about
    the difference in doing things FOR your wife/husband and doing things WITH your

    “But when we were not emotionally connected in prior years,
    I did not value her service because it felt as if she was doing things for me
    rather than with me.”


    Now, I have not read the whole book, but I get the sense
    that one of the most important things one can glean from this book is the last
    sentence of chapter 2 Friend With Benefits:

    “So we would commend to you the goal of devoting the rest of
    your life to being a better friend to your spouse.”


    I have been a Christian for 36 years and have a Master of
    Theology degree and do not necessarily agree with everything Pastor Mark
    teaches or says is okay to do, but I also realize that I am an old school
    Christian e.g. 58 years old and realizing the methods of communication are
    totally changing, I cannot relate to the rap music of today but the younger
    generation does and I believe Pastor Mark’s book is the rap music of
    Christianity today by that I mean he is communicating and addressing the issues
    and problems associated with the MTV/Rap music generation, which the old school
    Christian generation will find difficult to fully accept, but I do believe  the older generation of Christians or old
    school theologians like me are realizing that the MTV/Rap music generation has
    changed the norms of communication of transparent truth that may offend others,
    who are not aware of this change of communication language that now requires
    writing books like this.

  9. Mignonne7 says:

    I’ve seen his photos. Looks like Mark Driscoll could use a trip to the gym himself.

    • Rob AndStuff says:

      i looked him up based on your comment and was genuinely surprised  how fat, sloppy/unclean and coarsely unattractive  he is.  it isn’t a style problem, he is just a slightly less than average looking man who is out of shape, wears dirty clothes and is grossly overweight.  will someone please explain how the most unattractive men are so adamant about only having the hottest wives?  being aware of their ugliness and inadequacies,  is being a ‘christian’success’ the only type of ‘success’ these guys can ever hope to achieve so they pound that as hard as they can?

      • Lisa Marie Mutchler says:

         Mark Driscoll “grossly overweight”?? Are you serious? Do you consider someone like John Goodman to basically be a beached whale, then?

  10. Marilyn Johnson says:

    Mr. Moore:

    I can’t thank you enough for your review.

    In my opinion, the majority of the evangelical marriage literature
    fails to give wives a voice in the bedroom. Sexuality is defined as male
    sexuality, and wives are described as uninterested in sex because they don’t
    want what their husbands want. In the Eggerichs and Harley book,s the focus is
    on frequency.  In the Driscoll book, the
    emphasis is on both frequency and adventure/experimentation. These are
    typically male issues and preferences.

    (Aside: Exceptions are the writing of evangelical sex
    therapists such as Doug Rosenau and Cliff Penner, who do a great job contrasting
    male and female sexuality. is In addition, Tim and Kathy Keller’s new book
    opens the discussion on sex in marriage by emphasizing the mutuality in I
    Corinthians 7 and Song of Solomon. I also commend the Kellers for their candid
    sharing of a wife’s response to her husband’s desire for

    Consistent with your review, my problem with the “self and
    selfishness” chapter in Driscoll’s book isn’t what Driscoll says. As a wife, I
    should selflessly give of myself to my husband. I think Driscoll does a good job
    of describing the preferences of the typical husband. My concern is that in
    presenting only the male perspective, Driscoll shares only part of the truth. As
    the saying goes, part of the truth is a half-truth. And, a half-truth is often no
    different than a lie.

    Thank you for speaking up for wives!       

  11. Aramis says:

    That is quite true. After counseling an array of couples. The man needs to learn to pleasure the wife. That can  mean connected conversation first  caressing then at least 45 min to 1hr of foreplay.(minimum)  ” the high quality places”  until she cannot take it any longer. a woman it like the rising tide and her appetite will grow with yours… listen for the  “joyful noise”. study her…. men have to learn when the wood is wet ( you or her is not in the mood).. to persevere.. it can be a bit labor intensive.. if you will stop at nothing until she is beyond bliss.. then you will create mystique .. because authentic love stops at nothing.. 

  12. MB says:

    Driscoll needs to go to the gym, get a good haircut, go to the nearest Eddie Bauer store and get some decent clothes, learn how to flirt, build up Grace’s ego, make sacrifices in his career so that she can develop a career, take all the responsibility for birth control, be a good, strong sexual follower (yes, follower) to her and repent of his misogyny.

  13. Sdascrapgirl says:

    He seems to blame the woman a lot. If a wife doesn’t look like a model and her husband cheats it’s her fault. The Bible teaches a mutually satisfying relationship. Driscoll needs to realize marriage is supposed to be one of mutual submission. Both should be servant lovers, not just one.

  14. Renee says:

    That list of ways of being sexually selfish cracks me up….until I realize how damaging it is to hand a list like that over to a man already prone to be selfish. Such a man will read that over, think to himself, “How virtuous and selfless I am; I never do any of those things!! If only my *wife* weren’t so selfish.”

    Every single thing on that list is something that could apply to me, but could never apply to my husband. There are, however, plenty of ways my husband COULD be sexually selfish (but isn’t, fortunately), and not one of those shows up….

    “Demanding sex or making your spouse feel guilty for refusing, when you know your spouse does not want to have sex”

    “Failing to ensure your partner’s sexual satisfaction as well as your own when having sex, even if it takes an hour of foreplay”

    “Being stingy with cuddles”

    “Criticizing your spouse for their appearance, rather than complimenting them and helping them to feel attractive and desirable”

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