Yes, I do realize that at this rate I'm probably going to be finishing up around Thanksgiving. Someone at this address doesn't handle stress or multitasking very well. Guess what skills I've been working on since we bought our new house? (Pictures are forthcoming. I promise.)
Chapter 16 is all about teaching younger women to love their husbands. It's a great chapter because in many ways Mrs. Pearl has a refreshingly frank and cheerful manner in discussing sexual relationships between husbands and wives, and it's great to hear a women teaching wives to be cheerful, enthusiastic, playful helpmeets in this area. Unfortunately it seems that no one remotely normal ever writes to Mrs. Pearl, and the the frequent lack of nuance in her replies does little to normalize the issue. While her overall point (sex is something that should a cheerful, frequent part of life with your husband) is good, some of the specifics are troubling or odd.
I found it rather interesting that Mrs. Pearl makes no provision for husbands and wives to discuss when they have sex beyond the husband saying, "How about now?" and wife responding, "Sounds great!" Although I think she's generally wise to challenge women to rethink their excuses for not having sex, I think there's really more to it than that. Perhaps this is a couple where the wife is consistently frustrated at being woken up either late at night or early in the morning and ten minutes of talking about when the baby needs to eat or how much sleep she needs to get before packing four lunch boxes (or perhaps whether lunch should be packed the night before) would resolve that little tangle and result in two well rested and satisfied people instead of one. There are ways of saying, "Hey did you remember I have to be up at 5:30" or "I'm feeling fat and grouchy and unattractive" that indicate one's desire to have a serving, willing heart and yet let the other person know that maybe planning to sleep late the next day would be more satisfactory. It's a heart issue that Mrs. Pearl doesn't address.
My critique at this point might sound a little more disjointed than usual because in the chapter more than ever it's in the corners and crannies that we find Mrs. Pearls idiosyncrasies. For instance, in several places (p 164,168) Mrs. Pearl refers to men's egos being entirely wrapped up in being a successful lover. As she puts it: "Making his wife feel glorious when he touches her in the ultimate test of his manhood --the very measure of the man" (p164). Really? I asked Allen and he agreed with me that this seemed sort of odd. She's essentially decreeing one relational mode for all men everywhere based on her observations. More a "citation needed" moment than anything. There's another one on page 169 where she says that all women have basically the same sex drives. Really? I've read more than one book about sex and marriage, and I never gotten the impression that sex drives were assigned by gender. (Newsflash: All women have lower sex drives than men is a myth.) The biggest "citation needed" blooper comes at the very end though where Mrs. Pearl says, "God always speaks first to the wife" (p172). Sometimes God works by having a wife submit to an ungodly husband, and sometimes it's a Godly husband who loves his ungodly wife. Having a submissive wife may help, but one could almost extrapolate that a man can't either love an unsubmissive wife or win a lost wife through loving her as God loves the church. Either one might be somewhat rare, but they are fully in accord with the narrative thrust of Scripture. Moving on.....
In addition a few odd, unsupported claims, towards the end Mrs. Pearl says that she doesn't want to hear all the reasons why women don't feel able to fully participate in sex --injuries during childbirth, menopause, sheer exhaustion from chasing five kids, etc. She tells women to stop the excuses and put out forth haste. Not bad general advice, but I'd feel a whole lot better if she had any practical suggestions (consulting healthcare professionals, counseling, a better sleeping schedule, more comfortable positions or times). All too often we hear of women struggling not only with their own sexual dysfunction but with deep shame and even callous or disbelieving medical professionals. How much better at this point if Mrs. Pearl had taken time to reiterate to these women the importance of sexual intimacy to their husbands and brainstorm some ways wives can help maintain that intimacy as they seek more permanent healing. However that (as I have noted before) would require nuance :)
Next time: Wives - love ya kids! (Assuming you have kids. And I'm just realizing that I don't think Mrs. Pearl mentions infertility once in this book. Not that she necessarily should have. Just a realization.)