Emerson Eggerichs’ book Love and Respect is, in my opinion, a dangerous and damaging book. In essence, the entire premise of Love and Respect functions to promote Emerson Eggerichs’ blatant desire to disenfranchise women within Christian marriages, and establish a deeply patriarchal hierarchy within the home. This agenda can be seen clearly by examining the gender essentialist arguments Eggerichs uses to describe the purported differences he has discovered between men and women.
In a nutshell, Gender Essentialism is the belief that there are basic, inviolable differences between men and women. These differences are said to occur at the very depths of a person’s gender identity and are specifically tied to distinct biological differences that are said to be as distinct as pink and blue. These differences are held to be universal, normative for all people in all places and all times.
Not all Gender Essentialist arguments are the same, but all such arguments are deeply rooted in the propagation of patriarchy. As such, whatever the gender differences purported, all are used to promote some form of binary concept of gender used to denigrate against persons who do not fall within the perceived boundaries of what it means to be “male” and “female.” In fact, the fear of rejection for having a non-conformative identity is often used to control and/or manipulate others into faking a binary identity.
These arguments are damaging, as they create a hierarchy which gives preference and power to a distinctly privileged majority over and against a rejected minority.
Love, Respect, and Gender Essentialism
Feminists have long noted that one of the foremost areas in which Gender Essentialism is damaging is the intersection of patriarchy and the denial of sexual agency to women. It is no surprise, then, that Gender Essentialism runs through every page of Love and Respect – from his first reference to “pink and blue sunglasses,” through his assertion that women don’t want men who sip gourmet coffee and have face to face conversations at coffee shops around small tables, and into his final assertion that a wife needs to respect her husband’s work outside the home and, if she “can’t say anything respectful…[don’t] say anything at all.” Each of these examples, and so many more, are used to argue that Love and Respect are needs delineated clearly across a gender binary which dictates female and male marital roles.
Every chapter serves as a crash course in the dangers of Gender Essentialism, culminating in a clear argument that the teachings of Scripture deny women any notion of sexual agency.
In order to accomplish this, Eggerichs devotes chapters 15-20 to explaining the acronym CHAIRS, a 6 tiered presentation of how wives are to show the Respect he claims is at the heart of their husbands’ masculine desires. Each point builds up to the next, providing what Eggerichs believes to be a comprehensive look at what “biblical” respect entails. The acronym is explained as follows:
C – Conquest
Eggerichs begins by telling women they are incapable of understanding how important having a career is to men. While he allows women to work outside the home, and notes that women can be important leaders in the workplace, their true, incomparable worth is as mothers. To put it differently, he states that those who advocate “domestic equality” say there is nothing wrong with women working while husbands stay at home, but Eggerichs insists that men are not qualified to be the primary caregiver of small children. The man – having an innate desire to conquer – needs a career to satisfy his desire to be respected and the place of a wife is to support them in this pursuit. In fact, in an appendix on the topic, Eggerichs goes so far as to tell wives it is not their place to decide how much their husbands should work. Instead, they should respect their husband and support him in his work, trusting that God will reveal to him how being a “workaholic” is unloving. But under no circumstances is she to try to assert her own will here, instead, she must speak respectfully or say nothing at all.
H – Hierarchy
Eggerichs continues by arguing that husbands need to protect and provide, and wives need to submit to this. The husband is given a responsibility that women are apparently not created to bear. In fact women are wired to want to submit, thus the only reason a woman would ever consider balking at submission is that she is afraid her husband will abuse the authority. But, according to Eggerichs, this is no reason to violate their God ordained role in the home because an abusive husband will supposedly not become more abusive in a hierarchical marriage, because abuse is apparently not linked at all to hierarchical systems which privilege and entitle men. Instead, he asserts it is entirely natural for a husband to view himself as “over” his family. A wife with a healthy concept of the “biblical hierarchy” of the family will not only respect that desire but will also seek to encourage and empower him in this role.
A – Authority
As the woman is to submit in all things to her husband, it only makes sense to Eggerichs that the husband – as head of the household – is also the boss of his wife. As such, women are encouraged to give up at least one percent of their say in the relationship, effectively giving their husband a 51-49 split and allowing him controlling interest in the marriage. That is to say, by giving up her equal standing – something God never actually granted her anyway it seems – she is guaranteeing her husband has final say in any and all disputes. If she should happen to disagree with his final say, her only godly option is to remain dignified in her silence as a submissive woman.
Further, she needs to defer to her husband as her boss out of respect because God has gifted him with the responsibility of providing for the family and her with the responsibility of submitting in respect to her husband. And, as Eggerichs states later in the book, even if the husband is a verbally abusive rage monster, this submission is about ultimately fulfilling divinely appointed gender roles anyway. Thus, even if her husband refuses to love her, she can at least be “energized” by knowing that her suffering is God’s will and act in faith that the abuse under which she perseveres is part of God’s plan for eventually redeeming the man he has placed in authority over her.
I – Insight
This, of course, leads to the assertion that men are somehow granted an extra portion of insight from God. Eggerichs is sure to tell wives that they may be very smart and possess a great deal of intuition and wisdom, and even tells men that it is good to listen to the council of their wives. However, he then turns around and asks the rather astounding question:
Is one automatically chauvinistic for asking a good-willed wife to consider that “it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman”?
Apparently, because Eve ate the fruit when she was deceived, somehow Eggerichs believes Adam is the one who was better off. You see, Adam knew exactly what he was doing but must have succumbed to the council of his wife, thus causing the fall of the entire human race. This is why male insight is so important, and why women must accept that they are easily deceived. Asking a man to defer to her is also asking him to abdicate his god-given responsibility as the hierarchical head of the marriage.
R – Relationship
Wives need to be “shoulder-to-shoulder” friends with their husbands. By this, of course, he means that a wife needs to sit down, be quiet, and watch intently as her husband continues to do whatever he wants to do. Apparently, men rather enjoy when their wives sit quietly and watch them do manly things. According to Eggerichs, when women do this husbands will suddenly open up the deepest desires of their hearts and thoughts of their minds.
But, of course, you must do this at his invitation and understand that sometimes he wants this “shoulder-to-shoulder” time with other men instead. It is not the place of a wife to critique the amount of time her husband spends with his friends. As with everything, if he needs to be convicted of neglectful or unloving behavior, God will do so in his timing. The wife’s role is only to submit because, “Your husband has a need you do not have, and that need is met in a way that feels unnatural to you.” This entire thing is just too confusing for female minds, it’s better to just go along with it.
S – Sexuality
In chapter 21 of Love and Respect, Eggerichs make his most disgusting argument of all (which is saying something considering what I’ve outlined above). Drawing upon the deeply gender essentialist explanations of “Love” and “Respect” he has developed to this point, he offers a prescription for all sexual woes within marriage.
He begins by recounting a story in which a wife refused to have sex with a husband who was being emotionally withholding. Apparently, the husband was intentionally neglecting his wife’s emotional needs, and this led her to lose her desire and willingness to engage in sexual intercourse. According to Eggerichs, God himself revealed the following message to this wife: “Who is supposed to be the mature one here? He is a new believer and you’ve been in Christ for many years.” Because of this so-called divine revelation, she decided to “minister” to her husband sexually, “not because she wanted to, but because she wanted to do it as unto Jesus Christ.”
This is only the tip of the iceberg however. Eggerichs continues by stating that men want sex all the time, while women supposedly do not have such a “need.” This means that having sex with one’s husband is a god-given ministry by which a wife must demonstrate unconditional respect to her husband. In fact, Eggerichs explicitly states, “As a wife, you spell respect to your husband when you appreciate his sexual desire.” And in case you wonder how serious Eggerichs is about this “sexual respect” being unconditional, he forbids a wife from considering the expression of “Love” toward her by her husband a prerequisite for engaging in sex. Further, he insists in an earlier chapter that any act of disrespect by a wife is equal to any unloving act by her husband in its sinfulness.
Eggerichs even includes the rather strange subheading, “A Dose of Respect Beats a Dose of Viagra Any Day.” In this section, Eggerichs directly states that a wife’s lack of attention to her husbands “sexual needs” leave him “ripe for having an admiring woman tempt him” and even notes a case in which he claims this led to an affair. According to Eggerichs, while women care about emotional connections, apparently men mostly just want to get laid. Thus, if a wife wants her husband to actually show her love and emotionally connect, then she must make sure he is not so horny he that he can only view her (and any other woman!) as a piece of meat.
As such, Eggerichs works quite intentionally to rob women of their sexual agency in marriage. By using guilt tactics to insist that withholding sex is just as damaging and sinful as an act of abuse, Eggerichs tries to convince women that sexual submission could in fact cause the abuse to stop. Further, he tells women that they cannot require emotional intimacy or closeness as a prerequisite for sex, as this is about being respectful to their husbands “as unto Jesus Christ.”
He goes on in the “Energizing Cycle” chapters (23-24) to state explicitly that even if a woman’s husband is not in any way loving, she still has a responsibility to observe all aspects of respect outlined in the CHAIRS acronym, because ultimately she is obeying God and will be rewarded by him for her submission.
To make that clear, Emerson Eggerichs states that a wife whose husband is abusive must still submit to him sexually because having sex with her husband is an act of worship directed specifically toward Christ, who has appointed her husband as her boss in all matters.
But it still does not end there.
In his advice to husbands, Eggerichs repeatedly attempts to motivate husbands to be “loving” towards their wives, because the reward for this will be not only God’s favor, but likely a lot more sex. Further, in Appendix D, Eggerichs lists a series of “humble and soft” ways in which a husband can ask his wife to meet the various “respect needs” outlined within the CHAIRS metaphor. This list of blatant guilt trips and coercive rhetoric culminates in the following advice for convincing one’s wife to have sex:
When you said you were just too tired to have sex, that felt disrespectful to me. I understand you’re tired, but I hope you understand my need as well. It’s not that I’m oversexed; I really need to hold you close.
However you slice it, Eggerichs insists that godly husbands need to have sex with their wives as often as necessary to keep them from having affairs or looking at porn, and godly wives need to always be willing to have sex, viewing it as an act of “Christian” devotion they undertake gladly.
Given Eggerichs obsession with sex which literally permeates his view of the marital relationship, it is astounding the degree to which he works to undermine any notion of informed consent. Instead, he goes so far as to claim that a woman does not need to want or desire sexual intercourse, but she does need to submit to it none the less. Using these gender essentialist categories of male and female sexuality, he argues that women have a responsibility to prevent their husbands from having affairs by giving them so much sex that they don’t desire it elsewhere – after all an unsexed man is a helpless man. To reinforce this, Eggerichs quotes these words from a letter he received:
“I don’t blame her for [my] immorality, but she doesn’t own up to anything. I’m not blaming her, but she is not blameless. She never said she contributed to the problem. I want to forget it but she won’t let me.”
Eggerichs is absolutely shameless in using every device possible to make sure wives never say no to sex, even if the husband is an abusive and unloving asshat. All of this ensures that “consent” is a category of Christian heterosexual marriage that never sees the light of day.
This point needs to be 100% clear. Sex without consent – even among married persons – is always rape.
Of course, this claim cannot stand unexamined. Thus, it is necessary to define “consent” before drawing any hard conclusions.
The Department of Justice of the United States defines rape as, “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” They further explain the choice of this language by stating it was specifically formulated to consider the various ways in which consent can be undermined. As such, it is important to understand precisely what constitutes consent.
The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) defines consent as explicitly given and mutually agreed upon permission to engage in a sexual act. Consent is about mutually respected boundaries. According to Project Respect, this consent must be continuous, may be withdrawn at any time, and must be an enthusiastic mutual agreement.
The Emory University Office of Health Promotion further expands upon this definition in creating their campus definition of what constitutes sexual assault. This definition includes a list of circumstances which undermine consent, and thus are classified as sexual assault or rape. Among these, they note that Power Differentials and Coercion both undermine a victim’s ability to consent to any sexual contact and further state that Marriage does not negate the necessity of obtaining consent.
By the above definitions, Eggerichs definition of marital sex cannot considered to promote informed consent. Consider the following:
- Eggerichs encourages wives to engage in sex even if they have no desire to do so, thus undermining the notion of an enthusiastic and continual “yes.”
- Eggerichs encourages wives to engage in sex as an act of submission to their husband’s hierarchical authority, thus undermining consent by creating a power differential.
- Eggerichs makes unconditional submission to sex a contingency of being a godly wife, thus using the fear of being “ungodly” to undermine her ability to consent and make submissive sex a contingency of her marital “duties.”
- Eggerichs explicitly tells husbands that they are allowed to use coercive rhetoric to guilt their wives into sex, by calling a wife who does not submit to sex “disrespectful,” the husband uses manipulation to undermine her ability to willingly and enthusiastically consent to sex.
This blatant agenda is promoted by the use of gender essentialist categories to undermine any notion of consent within Christian heterosexual marriage. Because gender essentialism is necessarily based upon creating a binary notion of gender identity which necessarily denigrates persons, and thus creates a hierarchy based upon gender conformity, it will also always function to undermine the notion of consent in sexual relationships.
Emerson Eggerichs demonstrates this by knowingly and intentionally using gender essentialist categories to create a vision of marriage masquerading as Christian theology, while functioning as a thinly veiled rape apology. In this light, Love and Respect is exposed as nothing more than the propagation of patriarchy in order to undermine and deny the freedom of sexual agency to women within the church.
To be blunt, Emerson Eggerichs has an agenda which runs entirely counter to the cross of Christ, which humbles the powerful and empowers the weak (1 Cor 1:18-31). As such, his teachings are anti-Christ and must be removed entirely from the culture and teachings of the church.
**If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, rape, or a any other sexual crimes I urge you to call one of the following hotlines or visit their websites**
National Domestic Violence Hotline:
Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline:
Or text: HELP to 233733 (BeFree)
 Unless otherwise noted, all citations refer to page numbers from Emerson Eggerichs, Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires, The Respect He Desperately Needs (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004).
Also, throughout this post I will refer to God In the masculine. This is done to reflect the argumentation of the author. For my view of God and gender, see here.
 I know that sounds insanely specific and outrageously absurd, but a quick read of the subsection “Only Chickens Get Henpecked” on page 129 the disgusting depths Eggerichs is willing to delve to promote his patriarchal vision of marriage.
 Despite Eggerichs’ claim on pages 207-208, studies show that the association of gender roles with social order or religious beliefs are often a significant factor in intimate partner violence, as shown here and here.
 217-219, 221-223
 231-237, cf. 216-217; 218-221
 249, 257
**Cover Image from http://www.niu.edu/sexualmisconduct/images/Consent_logo.png**