Couples' devotional bible

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LONDON (Reuter) - Prudes might blush but the church has welcomed Europe's newest bible -- orgasms and all.

``This is a bible for, by and about today's couples. A bible for you,'' says publisher Hodder & Stoughton.

With its forthright discussion of female orgasm (not always obligatory), male fantasy (fine, within reason) and sex as food (keep reading), the ``Couples' Devotional Bible'' is smashing stereotypes of the prim and proper world of organized religion.

Indeed it is non-believers who are shocked -- expecting lectures on lust and prohibitions on foreplay -- while Christians keep calm about this bible with a difference.

``The church has been very open about sex for a long time. It's the media that has a strange view,'' said Steve Jenkins, a spokesman for the Church of England. ``They have this image of outright prudes and expect the church to be a museum, with men in frock coats and ladies wearing black skirts to their ankles.

``That's simply not what the church is about. It's about people as they really are.''

As is the book, which combines a popular modern translation< of the sacred text -- the New International Version -- with daily readings for couples who want to strengthen their relationship and sex life.

Some of the contributors talk up teamwork, child-rearing and joint prayer. Others sound like agony aunts as they investigate the murky corners and cajole couples into talking things through.

Worried about your fantasies? Concerned about infidelity? Losing your sex drive?

No topic is out of bounds.

And the contributors, all Americans, don't mince words.

``What does your spouse REALLY think about sex?'' asks one of the guest columnists, urging couples to complete his questionnaire and find out.

Top of the quiz, couples are asked to lodge their consensus or disagreement with the proposal that ``a wife does not always have to have an orgasm every time she has intercourse.''

They should then discuss their feelings about guilt, being wanted and the idea of entire evenings devoted to sensuality.

One pastor cited in the book urges couples to recall when they last made time for a languorous sex session, as opposed to grabbing a quick orgasm. Sex, he said, is like eating.

``Sometimes you sit down to a gourmet feast with candlelight, soft music, seven courses. Other times it's a snack on the run. Neither would be healthy all the time.''

This is clearly no Sunday school lecture, which perhaps explains why Hodder & Stoughton expects a wide audience following publication across Europe on Sept. 21.

``Any Christian couple of any age and any length of marriage would benefit from this book,'' said editorial manager Emma Sealey. ``I have no fears that it goes too far. This is meant to be helpful, not a shocking or titillating tool.''

If anything, she said, it is non-believers who are outraged, not the devout.

After all, Christians are used to seeing sex in the bible -- be it via Adam's and Eve's early couplings, Paul's explicit rantings in Corinthians or by leafing through Leviticus.

``There is a lot of intimacy in the bible so this book really isn't as shocking as some people might think. It just adds extra material to bring it out,'' said Sealey.

Christians, she said, are not ``asexual beings. They are normal people in sexual relationships. So why the shock?''

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