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WinnerNeed a book that thoughtfully addresses the issue of extramarital sex?  If so, let me recommend the gutsy intellectual honesty and thoroughness of Lauren Winner’s Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity.

The previous blogpost was about bathroom wars and avoiding the wearisome war of words which has branded the church as blindly bigoted.  We need to find ways to bridge the chasm within our culture that seems to widen weekly.  Building such bridges requires a masterful blending of grace and truth.  Winner’s book deftly accomplishes this balancing act.

I stumbled upon Winner’s work while scanning the piles of discounted books at Ollie’s Bargain Outlet.  The title caught my eye and the red-stickered price of $3.99 sold me.  But it sat on my shelf for nearly ten years before I gave it much attention.  Once I began to do more than scan it, I was deeply impressed with her grasp of the scriptures, her confession of personal struggles and her assessment of our culture’s delusions.

In searching the internet for a review of her work, I found an article by a sex columnist named Rachel Kramer Bussel.  She is an author and editor specializing in erotica.  Yep.  Erotica.  She describes herself as a sex columnist who went from being “a nice Jewish girl to a full-time dealer in dirty words.”  In fact, she offers an online course for aspiring authors of erotica!

One would expect her to skewer any Christian who writes about chastity.  Not so.  In fact here’s what she said:

“While it seems I should disagree with everything Winner stands for, I can’t for several reasons. She is a smart, well-read, powerful writer. She knows what works for her.  Furthermore, I don’t get the impression she’s attacking me personally, as I do with others . . .   I acknowledge that our era of sexual freedom hasn’t offered women a consequence-free utopia. What I admire about this woman is that she grapples with the issues instead of making blanket judgments. I find compassion, empathy, and complexity in Winner’s vision.”[i]

Did you catch that?  Lauren Winner has made a clear and convincing case for chastity without throwing firebombs at those who disagree.  And Rachel Kramer Bussel actually admires her for it.  Remarkably, she then admits that the sexual revolution has left some scars.

That exchange of ideas between Winner and Bussel reminds me of a saying from the “Trite but True” file:  “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  Winner’s honesty and intellectual grunt work has earned a hearing from some sexual libertines who apparently are open to input from the likes of us.

In this way I believe Winner’s book is more than a reference work to dust off when you have to talk with Jr. High kids about “abstinence.”  Her tone and depth serve as a model for those of us who want to engage the culture around us.

When asked about homosexuality, Billy Graham once replied, “It is my job to love, the Holy Spirit’s job to convict and God’s job to judge.”  Mastering the content of this book and learning from Lauren Winner’s approach to sexual issues can equip us to be useful in God’s work of speaking to our wayward generation.


  • Heather Escontrias

    I read it. It was really great. I may read it again after having read this blog. It’s been a while since I read it, so I’m sure there are things I forget.

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