PW: Did your book Real Sex grow out of your controversial Beliefnet article, "Sex and the Single Evangelical"?
Lauren Winner: I wouldn't say this book grew out of that article, exactly—and, by the way, I would write that article very differently if I were writing it now. But the controversy did persuade me that I had struck a nerve, and that the struggles of unmarried Christians to live chastely was something I should spend more time thinking, writing and praying about. I have attended many lectures and seminars on this topic, and many of them did not seem in touch with the reality of the world. The point is not that living chastely is hard, and therefore the church should throw traditional sexual ethics out the window; rather, living chastely is hard, and the church needs to account for the social and pastoral realities of contemporary life if we want to help people live chastely.
PW: How have your views about chastity changed in the years between writing the Beliefnet piece and writing this book?
LW: I've become clearer on the importance of chastity. And I have come to understand how important the place of marital sex is in any discussion of premarital sex. Initially, I wasn't going to write at all about marriage, but as I wrote, I realized that one has to talk about marriage in a book about chastity because marriage is the normative place for sex in the Christian moral vocabulary. I got married about three months before the book went to press, and being married has shown me how different premarital sex is from marital sex. Premarital sex has the frisson of uncertainty and newness. I'm having to retrain my understanding of sex; I'm having to learn that what is good about marital sex is the very certainty and frequency of it.
PW: Many ABA and CBA houses were interested in publishing Real Sex. Why did you choose to go with Brazos?
LW: I am trying to engage a particularly Christian conversation, and I knew I needed an editor who was on the same page. For those of us in the CBA world, there is the allure of the ABA, and the question, why would you ever turn down an ABA house to publish with a CBA house. I published Girl Meets God with Algonquin and am glad I did, but there are some books, like this one, that are well-suited to a CBA house.
PW: Do you expect the CBA and evangelical Christian community to be supportive of this book?
LW: The book is very biblical and therefore the core content is not especially innovative. But I do think the book has an innovative tone. It is less euphemistic and more straightforward than many Christian books on sex. That straightforwardness will, I think, appeal to a lot of Christian readers, but it may put some folks off.
PW: How has the experience of writing this book compared to your experience writing Girl Meets God?
LW: When Girl Meets God was published, my sense of self—not to mention my income!—were not bound up with being a writer, and now they are. And when I've spoken at churches and Christian colleges in the last few years, I have seen a real hunger for a book about sex that is theologically orthodox but doesn't read like it was written for the 19th century. So I feel very passionate about this book, and I've been spending a lot of time and energy thinking about what are the best channels for promoting it and whose hands I want to get the book into. At the same time, I don't want Real Sex to become my whole life.