303 Watchtower Bedroom InstrusionIn 1972, the Watchtower’s Governing Body decreed that even for consenting, married Jehovah’s Witnesses anything other than “the natural way for a married couple to have sexual relations” was a disfellowshipping offense.

To them, what was God’s design for sex was obvious: “The natural way for a married couple to have sexual relations is quite apparent from the very design given their respective organs by the Creator…”[1]

What it deemed “repugnant” and totally unacceptable was oral or anal sex. “If these forms of intercourse are not ‘contrary to nature,’” the Watchtower asked, “then what is? That those practicing such acts do so by mutual consent as married persons would not thereby make these acts natural or not ‘obscene.’”[2]

What prompted the Watchtower to micromanage the intimate lives of married Witnesses like this?

The author of the article, former Governing Body member Ray Franz, later explained that a Witness had been in the bedroom of a married Jehovah’s Witness couple in California—how that happened isn’t clear—and saw literature and photographs dealing with those sexual practices. They reported it to the congregation elders. The elders, in turn, questioned the couple and learned that they willingly engaged in such acts with each other. The elders wrote to the Governing Body seeking direction as to how to proceed.[3]

Franz related, “Until the correspondence was read to us that morning, none of us aside from the president had had any opportunity to think about the subject. Yet within a couple of hours the decision was reached that the couple was subject to disfellowshiping. This was hereafter set out as a formal published policy, applicable to any persons engaging willfully in similar practices.”[4]

What about situations where the husband was a non-Witness? The 1972 article had anticipated such a situation. It decreed that the principle that each spouse should give the other his or her conjugal rights (1 Corinthians 7:3-4) only referred to “normal sexual relations,” so that if a Witness woman was married to a non-Witness who wanted oral or anal sex and even if she would have willingly done so but for the Watchtower directive against it, she was required to refuse even if that brought “hardship or even persecution” on her.[5]

Looking back on the effect of the 1972 article, Franz commented: “Women experienced painful embarrassment in… hearings as they responded to the elders’ questions about the intimacies of their marital relations. Many marriages where one of the mates was not a Witness underwent a turbulent period, with the non-Witness mate objecting strenuously to what he or she considered an unwarranted invasion of bedroom privacy. Some marriages broke up with resulting divorce.”[6]

Consider all the decisions that were made which led to this intrusive scrutiny into the bedroom practices of married Jehovah’s Witness couples:

  1. The person who saw the literature and photographs in the couple’s bedroom felt entitled—perhaps required—to report it to congregation elders.
  2. Rather than counseling that person to mind his or her own business, the elders called the couple in to investigate.
  3. Instead of stopping with treating the matter as one of pornography, the elders ascertained that the couple were engaging in such sex acts themselves. Clearly, the Watchtower culture made them feel entitled to ask and the couple required to answer.
  4. The elders felt the issue to be sufficiently important that they sent a request for instructions to Watchtower headquarters.
  5. Instead of telling the elders to drop the matter, someone passed the letter on to the Watchtower president.
  6. Instead of ignoring the matter, the president brought it before the Governing Body.
  7. Instead of dropping the matter, the Governing Body considered the practices to be so objectionable that they instructed the elders to disfellowship the couple.
  8. Instead of dealing with the one situation, the Governing Body felt entitled—perhaps morally required—to publish an article in the Watchtower requiring all Witnesses and elder boards worldwide to live by its decision.
  9. Even understanding the devastating effect the ruling might have on Jehovah’s Witness women whose husbands were non-Witnesses, they ordered them to comply and endure “hardship or even persecution.”

All of this serves to show the legalistic environment of the Watchtower and how much control the leadership wields over all aspects of Witnesses’ lives. It also indicates the degree of intrusion that is an integral part of the Watchtower religion and culture.


[1] Watchtower, “Questions from Readers,” 12/1/72, p. 735

[2] Ibid.

[3] Crisis of Conscience, Commentary Press, 1983, p. 42

[4] Ibid.

[5] Watchtower, “Questions from Readers,” 12/1/72, p. 736

[6] Crisis of Conscience, Commentary Press, 1983, p. 43