Sometimes, when I write a post about how women should handle it if their husbands do something wrong, the comments go all squirrelly when some male commenters try to make it about themselves.
The topic of the blog post may be women being hurt and misunderstood, but often (some) men turn it around to, “but women need to understand men!”
This is a dynamic I’ve watched in the comments section and tried to moderate and tried to find a good balance, but it can be difficult.
Recently, I shared something about this on Facebook, and then, in the comments to that post, a really interesting discussion occurred that I’d like to share today.
Before I do so, a big disclaimer:
I really value my male readers. About 25% of the people reading this blog are male. Most are here to get help, and to learn, and many wonderful male commenters encourage other people and ask genuine questions in the comments.
However, when things do go off base in the comments section, it often is because of a small number of predominantly male commenters. So let me share what I wrote, and what other women said in return.
Here’s what I said on Facebook:
Should men’s feelings be our primary consideration when it comes to sex?
For the last two months on the blog, I’ve been highlighting the orgasm gap: How men orgasm about 95% of the time, while women only reliably orgasm 48% of the time. A lot of women never orgasm at all.
I’ve been encouraging women to speak up. I’ve been sharing studies that show that SOME men (not all) can be quite clueless about what brings women pleasure.
And in response, almost all men commenting have said, “well, men don’t mean to do these things. You have to be careful of men’s feelings.”
May I suggest that this is actually THE PROBLEM?
We’re putting the finishing touches on our Orgasm Course, which launches on Monday!
(UPDATE: The Orgasm Course is now live!)
But let me tell you–after doing a ton of research on this, and after looking at our survey results of 20,000 women, we had to spend a lot of the course telling women that THEIR EXPERIENCE MATTERS, despite what your husband is feeling.
In fact, your pleasure matters more than your husband’s ego. That doesn’t mean you should belittle or be harsh or mean; but it does mean that you’re allowed to speak up!
So many evangelical books have told women: “your husband needs to know you enjoy sex. He can’t enjoy if you don’t show him you enjoy it!” But they put no onus on men to make it pleasurable for women. And then they tell women that men need sex in a way that women will never, ever understand.
So women go into sex assuming that men’s need for orgasm exceeds their own; that men’s route to orgasm (intercourse) is what they’re required to do, while women’s best routes to orgasm (foreplay and other sexual play) are optional. We’re told that we shouldn’t speak up, or we may affect his ego.
As I said to a commenter just this morning:
“I don’t think the orgasm gap will ever be closed until men’s feelings stops being the primary go-to issue that men jump to when things like this are brought up, and until the injustice of so many women’s sexual experience in marriage is given the importance it deserves.
If the main message women are hearing is–“but remember men’s feelings!!!!” then how are women ever going to feel that they will be able to speak up assertively about their own pleasure?
Remember that one of the main things keeping women back from orgasm is feeling as if their pleasure is secondary to what their husbands are feeling.
I think the primary message here should be: You deserve pleasure; Please speak up if your husband has been ignoring your pleasure. It is not okay to be treated that way. And when you speak up–chances are you BOTH want to find a solution!
Let’s give women’s feelings in this case the main emphasis, and maybe we’d see some change actually happen.”
An interesting discussion broke out in general, but one thread in particular had several women expressing how frustrated they were at the comments section on this blog.
I’ll post some of their comments, and some of my replies:
Sheila, honestly, it’s the only annoying thing about your blog…all the super-long male comments defending their own feelings. And, if I may humbly suggest, you’re wasting your energy that is otherwise so well spent on reforming the Christian world when you answer these men. They aren’t looking to learn anything, only to hijack the conversation and when we engage, we allow them to do that. They do serve a purpose in the sense that they illustrate your point for you about the male ego and they have the right to express their opinion on these public forums just like anyone else, but we don’t have to reply,
I then popped in and explained how we think about the comments behind the scenes:
This is actually a big debate behind the scenes–do we cut them off and ban them (believe me, we have banned SO MANY commenters; you should see the stuff that comes in) or do we keep engaging? And there are some that I just don’t let through for a while, but then start again. What we’ve decided (and I’m not sure this is the right answer, but this is what we’ve come to) is that because so much of what I talk about is “evangelical teaching too often says X, and really we should think Y”, then having someone in the comments defending X shows that there is, indeed, a reason why this post needed to be written. When I stopped letting male commenters in for a while a few years ago people kept telling me I was talking about stuff that wasn’t necessary. And especially with our book coming out in the spring, we do want to show that this is, indeed, a widespread problem in the church. The other issue is that by allowing dissenting viewpoints and engaging with them, we show women how they can handle it when they hear dissenting things from their husbands and pastors, and we show them how to identify faulty arguments. I’m still not sure that’s the right strategy, but it’s what we’ve come to right now. Rebecca is far stricter on this than me; she’d ban everyone in a heartbeat! She is telling me I need to limit people to a certain number of comments per post, and she’s likely right. So just know that we do think about this behind the scenes, too, and pray that we’ll make the right decision!
And then others shared their thoughts! (And I’m going to combine comments to make this shorter).
It is so discouraging to have a post about how we wrongly hear men’s needs are the focus that counts AND then have the comments allowed to focus on how women need to consider men’s needs. WHY is this allowed when it *can* be focused on women as the post teaches?
…I totally agree that men need to be part of the discussion! The dilemma is how to do that without women’s needs being sidelined.
Imho one of the main reasons church relationship books prioritize male centric sex and men’s needs for “respect” is because they won’t engage unless the couples relationship blueprint ensures they “won’t be set up to not be treated fairly”
They won’t “play a game they can’t win” is something men often say. Anyway thanks for being open to the feedback! Appreciate all your hard work!
Maybe it’s less about letting through a number of comments and more about the number of threads (or maybe that’s what you meant)? If most of the threads are having to defend the post, it can be frustrating. But letting through one or two threads does demonstrate the problem. At first I was honestly pretty surprised by the lack of awareness from many of the men who comment…like, you do realize you’re just proving the point she tried to address, right? But I agree it’s really useful to have those quotes for later posts to demonstrate that this is still an issue. So who knows. Maybe we all just decide to comment – “thanks for proving her point” and leave it at that.
It’s worth publishing on your blog, at least once, to all commenters: if your reply to a post is “not all men are that way,” then you ought to rethink your response.
If that’s the point they are trying to make, you have very likely already said something in your post about “most men” or “some men.” …The rest of the Christian world is brow beating wives about male emotional needs. It does not need to be mentioned more than once on a thread. Once reminds us the need is still there. More than once and the conversation becomes about big, strong, male fragility and our duty as meek, frail, feminine wives to protect it no matter what it costs us.
So what do you think about the comments section?
Personally, I value discussion, and I really value our male commenters.
But I also want this blog to be a safe space–both for women, and for men who are honestly seeking to grow.
I don’t want this blog to be a safe space for emotionally immature men, though, who are blaming women for their problems, and I have no desire to make the blog a safe space for them.
My own take, as I said above, is that I like to be able to have some back and forth so that people see that (a) I’m not making up this problem, it really is out there! and (b) here’s how you can respond in real life when someone makes this argument.
Rebecca would let through less; I would let through maybe a bit more.
We have had men on this blog who have really transformed.
I think of Phil, whom I love and value dearly, who came here not perfect and never claimed to be perfect, but who always engages and listens. And I think of Nathan who is here to encourage.
I want to keep that. But I also want this primarily to be a safe community for women, too. So let me know–do you avoid the comments section? Do you refrain from commenting because of the fear of what other commenters may reply? I’d really love to hear your thoughts.
I don’t have all the answers on this one, but I’d love to know what you think.
What’s the balance? Allow two comments per person per post? Allow one male-centered thread, but only one? Allow MORE comments because everyone should have the right to speak?
Let me know–in the comments!
(And by the way, I’m so sorry that you can’t reply to other people’s comments right now–or at least, when you do, it doesn’t show up as a reply to them. We know about the problem and we’re trying to fix it, but Connor, my tech person, is taking a few days off because his mom is visiting.)
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of Bare Marriage
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