One of the books that women report is most harmful to them is For Women Only.
When we analyzed 13 of evangelicalism’s sex & marriage best-sellers when writing The Great Sex Rescue, For Women Only scored 11/48, ranking 11/13–so the third worst, in front of only Every Man’s Battle and Love & Respect.
And yet the book still sells incredibly well, with pastors, seminary professors, and counselors recommending it to help women understand their husbands.
Today we did a deep dive into the issues in the book, and Keith and I were joined by podcast hosts Meghan Tschanz and Devi Abraham.
Or, as always, you can watch it on YouTube!
Timeline of the Podcast
2:10 Meghan & Devi join to talk ‘For Women Only’
4:00 The research issues
21:30 Writing thoughts through other people
25:00 “Did God just make men this way?”
39:40 Comments and reviews on this book + the authors respond
42:45 Male and female behaviour
49:20 The way sex is talked about in the book
53:45 The way gender stereotypes are talked about in the book
1:05:00 The author’s advised responses to marital issues
1:17:40 Don’t normalize anger
What are the issues with For Women Only?
We looked at three foundational issues that shape the book:
- Poor research practices, using very badly worded survey questions that do not pass academic rigor
- An assumption that “this is how men are” is the same as “God made men this way, so women should adjust”
- A writing style that consistently puts the most problematic and inflammatory claims she makes into the mouths of other people, so that she can claim “I never said that”
Then, turning to content, we looked at three big issues:
- The gender stereotyping is inaccurate and unhelpful
- The portrayal of lust and sex feeds women’s insecurities and leaves them unable to trust their husbands. Our research found that the things Shaunti teaches in this book lower a woman’s libido and orgasm rates and marital satisfaction
- By portraying men as having fragile egos that must be coddled, she puts the burdens of men’s emotional immaturity on women’s shoulders.
I feel like we barely scratched the surface, but we tried to give an overview of these issues!
Yesterday I put this in post form, and I also have a free one-sheet download summarizing these issues that you can give anyone who is recommending the book or wants to understand the problems with it.
Things Mentioned in the Podcast
- Join our Patreon and support our research, plus hear me working through future posts and wondering what I should do next!
- Our new Biblical Manhood Merch, and our Biblical Womanhood merch
- Sign up to our email list to be notified when our other surveys are ready–and when I’ll be doing some meetups in Ohio, Michigan, and Tennessee this fall, along with New Zealand and Australia!
- Our summary of all the issues in this podcast, plus a downloadable one sheet!
- Our post that does a deep dive in the problematic survey questions that Shaunti Feldhahn ask
- Find Meghan Tschanz’s podcast series on For Women Only: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4
- Follow Meghan on Instagram! And listen to the original podcast we did with Meghan on her book Woman Rising
- Devi Abraham’s podcast Where Do We Go From Here, including my latest episode with her!
- Follow Devi on Instagram! , and Where Do We Go From Here on Instagram
- We take apart the love and respect survey question at the end of this podcast
- Our book The Great Sex Rescue! It’s on MAJOR SALE in paperback on Amazon right now!
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!
Sheila: Well, I love doing our panel discussions for these books. And I have two amazing women on with me this month as well as my wonderful husband, Keith.
Keith: Hey, everybody.
Sheila: So Meghan Tschanz from the Faith and Feminism podcast is here. Hi, Meghan.
Meghan: Hi. I’m happy to be here.
Sheila: And Devi Abraham from the Where Do We Go From Here? podcast, which was the very first podcast I ever listened to when I started listening to podcasts.
Meghan: Wow. Look at that. Celebrity status.
Devi: Thank you for having me. Sheila, it’s great to talk to you again.
Sheila: Yeah. And I love—Devi is all the way in Australia.
Devi: That’s right.
Sheila: And so you are joining us tomorrow which is great. Super cool. And we are going to dive into the book, For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn. And she wrote the original book in 2004. I think it published pretty much the same time as Love and Respect. They were talking with each other as they were writing it, and he drew on her research. So they were doing that together. And then she did a rewrite of it in 2013. So we’re going to specifically—when I mention page numbers or anything like that, it is from the 2013 edition. But I know I read the first one first. So yeah.
Devi: So did I. Yeah.
Meghan: I did not know that Love and Respect drew its data from this. Wow. Wow.
Sheila: Yes. Yeah. So I do have a download of everything that we’re going to talk about. So everybody can go in the podcast notes, and there is a one sheet download for For Women Only, which goes over all of these issues. But I thought that we could go into them in greater depth. So let’s jump in to some of the big picture things that I found problematic with this book. So this book is based on a series of survey questions that Shaunti Feldhahn did, so that she could help women get into the minds of men so that we could understand men. And so everything she does is based on the fact that her research is correct. So I thought we could start with the research issues. And the first one is her claim that 72% of men say that they need respect based on a question where she asked, “Would you rather feel alone and unloved or inadequate and disrespected?” So what do you think?
Devi: Can I share a story about this?
Devi: So I read the original one when—within probably a year or two of it coming out even though I was not married or dating at all. It was just like, “How do I understand men better?” Because, obviously, conservative evangelical, you’re life is—the men are the sun that you revolve around. And so when I met my husband and we were kind of engaged or very close to engaged, we were on a drive. And I said to him. I was like, “Oh, this is good. I know the answer to this one.” So I said, “So would you rather be alone and unloved or,”—this question basically because of this book. And so he goes, “Oh, of course. I don’t want to be unloved.” And I remember sitting there going like, “What? That’s the wrong answer.” And I think it was just kind of the first initial, “Huh? Maybe this stuff doesn’t work the way it was intended to.”
Sheila: Yeah. Exactly.
Keith: Well, and if you take something that’s 72% of people said was important to them and you say, “Therefore, God has ordained that all people in that group are like this,” even 28% of men don’t have this need to feel respected even according to her own data. And then you make it an absolute for all people. It’s crazy.
Meghan: Well, and also she even mentions this in the book. I don’t know if I read the 2009 or ’13 or whatever version I read. But she even says in the book that the men push back against this question because they didn’t understand the difference. They said, “If I’m not loved, then I’m not being respected and vice versa.” And so these men didn’t even see a difference in the question, and they pushed back against it. But she’s like, “Well, they’re just stupid, and they don’t understand my ways.” And so even they pushed back and said—because if you think about it, respecting someone is part of loving someone. And so it was just a really poorly created binary that doesn’t even exist in the first place. And the men did say that in the survey. So yet another—
Sheila: Yeah. And so did her survey expert that she hired. Said that it was a bad question. If you think about it—I’m just going to get all research here for a minute. But what this is is a double barreled question, which is a really badly done survey question because there’s two possible answers. And you don’t know which one they’re referring to. Would you rather be alone and unloved or inadequate and disrespected? Well, which one did they not want to be? Did they not want to be disrespected? Or do they not want to feel inadequate?
Sheila: Because those are not synonyms. And the thing is alone, unloved, disrespected—those are all things that other people do to you. But inadequate is this is how I feel about myself. And so when I talk to a lot of men, the one that they don’t want is to feel inadequate because that’s like, “Even if other people hurt me, at least I have a good self image. But if I’m inadequate,”—they’re not synonyms. And so she makes this big thing that men want respect because they chose this. She never asked women. And when other surveys—people asked women, women answered in the same way. So women want respect too.
Keith: Well, women probably even want to feel not inadequate. That’s a universal, human thing, right?
Meghan: I also want to point out the way that we use respect in a patriarchal context is different for men and women. When a women is like, “Respect me,” it’s like, “I don’t want to be objectified. I don’t want you assaulting me. I don’t want you to catcall me. Please respect me by not objectifying me.” When men often say it in a patriarchal context, they’re saying, “Bow down to me. Submit to me. I deserve your respect because I’m in charge.” And so I even think that that term respect means different things whether or not you’re talking about a man or a woman, and I feel like that also needs to be acknowledged. But she doesn’t acknowledge that.
Sheila: And this is the question that the book, Love and Respect, is based on. This is what he based it on is the fact—is this survey question of Shaunti’s. That is the research. That is it. That the book, Love and Respect, is based on. So huge problem.
Devi: I was just going to say that, for me as well—I was a teenager. No. I wasn’t. Did you say it was 2004 that this—
Sheila: 2004 when this was first out.
Devi: When this first came out. So I was in my early 20s just finishing university. And even then, I was aware of the fact that evangelical books were not based on a lot of research. And that’s kind of, to me, why this book was different. This book is different because it’s based on research. She’s from Harvard. She’s a statistician. And that was—for me, it was huge. And I remember a lot of my friends, who we reread it also trying to understand men better, trying to understand our fathers better, trying to have a better relationship with our father—that was a context that I remember discussing this book with other women my age. But a big selling point for me then was her qualifications and the fact that this book was research based. And I think that is kind of the—I’m trying to think of the right word here. But I can’t think of it. A Trojan horse. That’s kind of what—for me, that, ultimately, one of the biggest issues with this book is it really sets itself in a different space than other evangelical books of its time. And yet, it’s doing kind of the same thing.
Meghan: Right. I think that’s important to know is she did go to Harvard, but she did not major in statistician. Her Master’s was in public policy with a concentration in business.
Sheila: Yeah. She has no training in social sciences really. And she even admits in the first edition of the book that her stats class was really difficult, and she didn’t understand it. She took that admission out of the rewrite of the book. So yeah. Okay. Speaking of her research, let’s just do a deep dive into one of her research questions because I just want you guys to understand how badly worded these questions are. Okay? So I’m going to read to you one of her questions. So she asks a bunch of—she asks the men, “Imagine you are sitting alone in a train station, and a woman with a great body walks in and stands in a nearby line. What is your reaction to the woman?” Here are the possible answers. “I openly stare at her, and drool forms on my lower lip. I’m drawn to look at her, and I sneak a peek or glance at her from the corner of my eye. It is impossible not to be aware that she is there, but I try to stop myself from looking. Or nothing happens to me. It doesn’t affect me.” And what she found is 4% said drool forms on my lower lip. 76% said I’m drawn to look at her, and I sneak a peek. 18% says it’s impossible not to be aware, but I try to stop myself from looking. And 2% says nothing happens. And the conclusion that she makes is a whopping 98% of men can’t not notice a woman with a great body. And this is the basis for her chapter on how men are visually stimulated, et cetera. I’m going to let the guy speak to this one.
Keith: Oh my gosh. That’s crazy. These are the four options and they don’t actually correspond with anything that a normal person would think, right? If you assume that all men are lust crazed monsters, then these options make sense. But where is the option for, “I notice her. And I go on with my day”? You have to say nothing happens. It doesn’t affect me.
Sheila: And no one is going to say that because well, okay, I mean something happens. I may have noticed her, right? But here’s the thing—
Keith: So what you’ve basically documented in this question is that at least 98% of men have eyes. Right.
Meghan: I want to point out this question. She says, “You’re the only one in a train station. And the only other person in this train station is this woman.” So do I—
Keith: Who is standing in a line. Who is standing in a line. But there’s only two people there.
Meghan: The whole idea that you don’t notice the only person in the train station is ridiculous.
Sheila: So Devi, there’s a gorgeous with a great body who walks near you. Do you look at her?
Devi: I 100% looked at her. I totally noticed her. Now, there was no drool for me on my lip.
Sheila: This is the thing. This question means nothing because everybody—whether—looks at beautiful—notices and looks at beautiful people. Even babies. They have done studies, and babies are more drawn to beautiful things. And so the fact that a guy wants to look at a beautiful woman means nothing if you don’t also ask women if they are drawn to look at a beautiful woman because this may not be sexual. And yet, she based an entire chapter on this. Okay. I just need to say one more thing about this. There is something called Likert scale in research which is the proper way to do this which is instead of saying, “Drool forms. Or I’m drawn to look at her. Or it is impossible not to be aware,” you simply say, “How likely is it that you would look at her?” Very unlikely, unlikely, slightly unlikely, slightly likely, likely, very likely. So that there’s no value judgment in any of those. It’s just a scale. And that is the proper way of doing research. None of her questions are done that way.
Keith: Well, because (inaudible) force her to ask the question next which is, “What’s your attitude of your heart when you’re looking at her?” Because this is the thing is it’s conflating noticing and lusting. Right? So I look at her. Therefore, it means that men are just wired that way. But you’ve assumed that men are a certain way. You don’t know what’s going on in their heart when they look at a woman, who is standing in line at the train station. You don’t know that. Right?
Meghan: There’s also a study that directly contradicts this research from someone I think is a lot more—what’s the word? Not prepared. Qualified to do this research. Okay. So from the Proceedings of National Academic of Sciences journal, they analyzed 61 past scientific studies that collected data on nearly 2,000 different adults of different sexual orientations. Each study conducted the same experiment. They showed men and women a series of erotic images and videos while their brains were hooked up to a fMRI machine. And what it found is the biggest factor that affected how much a person’s brain got activated was the type of sexual content they viewed. The least predictive factor was gender. So it’s not—it’s been disproven. So it’s just—it feels so inauthentic and gross that they’re basing so much of their book on this.
Sheila: Yeah. And, again, it’s just such a badly written question. And all of her questions are like that. I also want to say whenever you get 98% of anything you—that’s a sign you’ve done something wrong. She’s got three possible answers that are yes, and one that is no. So that’s a no no in the first place is that it’s heavily weighted towards the yes. It should always be equal which is why you need to (inaudible). But I can’t get 97% of people to say I like ice cream. Right? You couldn’t get 97% of people to say I like sunny days. If you get 97%–and she gets 97 and 98% on a number of different questions in this book. It means she’s not actually measuring anything.
Devi: Interesting. I didn’t know all of that. That’s very, very interesting. I think too when it comes to asking evangelical men—I’m going to assume they were primarily white, evangelical men.
Sheila: They actually weren’t. This is another problem is this was a general population study. So she’s asking men who aren’t necessarily evangelical or religious, and then she’s drawing from that what evangelical men think which is another problem. But yeah.
Devi: Evangelical men weren’t the people surveyed for this book?
Sheila: No. No.
Meghan: She does do (inaudible) interviews, but they’re very like, “I know a pastor, and my dad said this.” So the people that she does often quote are evangelicals or, at least, from what I can tell. But that’s not who she does the surveys with.
Devi: Okay. I did not know that. Never mind. I was going to say that if evangelical men are the ones represented in this book there’s also any kind of question about how they view women—there’s an underlying shame piece there that has to be sort of addressed. But I think it sounds like that’s not relevant then. Never mind.
Sheila: Okay. But another thing about research is she does say, “You see a woman with a great body.” She doesn’t say you see an attractive woman. And when you say that in the question, “You see a woman with a great body,” you’re already activating people to think of her sexually when they may not have done that if they had seen her—you’re priming. It is, again, just—it’s very—I can’t explain enough how badly designed these questions are. But we’ll move on. We’ll move on. One more research thing. In the new edition of the book in 2013, she added a ton about the visual wiring of the male brain and talks about the male brain although she later admits that 20% of women have a male brain which is like maybe it’s not a male brain then. But anyway, she bases this on studies from 2001 and 2004 that have now been disproven.
Meghan: Which is not surprising considering the research that we do have shows no difference.
Sheila: Yeah. In 2019, 20221, there were huge meta analyses, which are when they combine all of the studies that have been done to try to make a definitive thing because of these MRI scans are done on 16 people. They have one study on 16. One study on 30 people. So they combine them all. And remember that MRI machines have changed a lot in the last 20 years. And so they’re now able to say that there really are not differences in the visual nature between men and women. It’s more that women don’t necessarily register arousal in the same way that men do even when they’re physically aroused. We have more arousal non concordance. Women get aroused by different things. But also our brains are so elastic that we can—if you tell a boy from the time that he is two that he’s turned on by a female body and you tell a girl from the time that she is two, “Men are going to stare at your body, so you need to cover up,” that is going to change the way we see things. So it’s not biological. It’s cultural. And she’s contributing to the problem.
Devi: Yeah. I think it’s interesting to me that a woman is writing this book. It’s always interesting to me to go, “Why are you determined to prove that men are like this? Why is that of so much importance to you?” It’s interesting that that is kind of the—if you had the power and the resources to research on all of this, it’s interesting that that’s the direction that you would go in to prove something that is, in some ways, a threat to you. And yeah. I agree, Sheila. It’s a badly written question. All of that is bad. But I do wonder as well why would you go to all these lengths to prove that men are kind of animals? I don’t know. I don’t really understand that at all. And I think that’s kind of the evangelical priming that turns women into instruments for the system itself.
Meghan: Yeah. And I think another thing that’s really frustrating is that she blames culture for things—for problems that she’s literally creating herself. So she’ll say something like, “Men are sex crazed,” and then she says, “Society says men are sex crazed.” I’m like no. You literally said that. That was you and your faulty research. And she does this over and over again throughout the book is, “Culture says this even though I spent the last forever saying it. And isn’t culture bad for saying that.” Actually, a lot of evangelical writers do this. Me and my friend, Sarah, have read four relationship books on evangelicals. And they always blame culture for the problems they are creating themselves which is really interesting.
Sheila: Yeah. It is super, super weird. Okay. I have another thing that she does a lot. I have a story about this. Is she’s really sneaky sometimes in the way that she writes in that she puts the most controversial things that she wants to say in the mouths of other people instead of herself. And then when you try to quote it, she says, “But I never said that.” So for instance, we wrote an op-ed. Or I wrote an op-ed for Religious News Service right before The Great Sex Rescue came out talking about the evangelical way of seeing sex. And I was summarizing all kinds of books in one or two sentences. And I said that For Women Only—in For Women Only, Shaunti Feldhahn encouraged women to accept the struggle that men have with lust. She called the editor for RNS and demanded that they change it because she never said that. But what she said was she had a man saying, “I just want my wife to accept the struggle I have with lust.” And then in the next paragraph, she said, “So we have a choice. Are we going to accept it? Or are we going to challenge our husbands?” But she says, “I never said that.” And it’s like, “Yeah. But you did.” Here is another example. She has a heading, “The male ego is the most fragile thing on the planet.” And she goes on to talk about this fragile male ego. But she never says it. It was something that somebody else told her. Right? She does the same thing in For Young Women Only, her book for teenagers. One of the guys that she interviewed said, “If you want to stop, it is safest to not even start.” In a make out situation. She puts it in the thought bubble. She makes it bold. But she didn’t say it. The guy said it. And so over and over again, whenever she says really controversial things, she quotes a man saying it so that she can claim, “I never said that.” But meanwhile, she puts it in thought bubbles, and she makes it bold.
Devi: Yeah. And she includes it.
Keith: And then she says, “You just misunderstood what I meant.”
Meghan: Right. And then she writes entire chapters based on that one quote.
Sheila: Yeah. Yeah. But that’s why she’s one of the hardest ones. I do these Fixed It For Yous on Instagram all the time where I fix people’s quotes. It’s very hard to fix some of hers because the terrible things that she says are often in the mouths of other people. But it’s not that they’re not in her book, and it’s really—she’s very slippery the way she writes.
Devi: Yeah. And that’s 100% writing advice that people give actually to memoir writers. So I know about it in a very different context. So I mean I’ve been in a memoir workshop with a very, very established memoirist. And that was one of the things she said. That there was something she needed to put in a memoir that was the truth, but she couldn’t say it because of the consequence or the impact to her marriage and her family life. And so she had to have another character say it, right? And so I think that is writing advice that people do, accept, and take. But it says something, I think, about the writer because what’s important for readers as you discern and you read is that if the author includes it there is a reason the author has included it. And they include it because they want it there because they believe in it. They just don’t have the courage to back themselves and say it themselves.
Sheila: Yeah. Okay. I also have this one. And this is another big picture one, and then we’re going to get into more of the content. So big pictures ones like her research, the way she puts stuff in other people’s mouths, and then just the whole concept or the approach of the book. I hope I can explain this well enough. But I feel like the way this book is done is like men are like this is equated with God made men like this so, women, you need to adjust as opposed to hmm, men are like this. A lot of men are doing this. We need to ask if that’s okay. And women, if a man is doing this, what should our response be? But no. It’s like if men, as a whole, do this then that’s just because of their hardwiring. So women, you need to adjust even to toxic things.
Meghan: Yeah. And you know what? Sheila, I didn’t really notice before you said it that she does say these horrible things but she makes someone else say it. But an example of that and also what you just said is they are making it—so there’s a quote from a guy. And he says, “If my wife,”—so it’s him saying all these horrible things. And her solution is—the quote ends by he’s saying all these terrible things. That’s not a rational or Christ like approach by the man for sure. But it’s how some guys feels. And what she’s taking away is coddle this behavior because he feels this way. Instead of him having to change, you have to change. Her solution for everything is affirm the husband. Coddle the husband because that is showing respect or love, but it’s really, really detrimental. And instead of—there’s even a chapter where she talks about where men want their wives to lose weight. It’s a terrible, terrible chapter. But the way that she does it is she acts like, “Don’t even talk to your husband about this.” Before she even writes that chapter about how men want wives to lose weight, she says, “Do not talk to your husband about this.” So not only is she saying, “Just do what I—assume all these terrible things about your husband. Coddle his behavior. But do not talk to him about it.” And I think that is so damaging. Her solution again and again is not to have a conversation but to accept the poor behavior your husband might be exhibiting because he’s just a man. And he needs affirmation. So it’s really bad.
Keith: Well, I was just going to say—are you going to talk about the time when you confronted me about whether I lusted after all the nurses I worked with?
Sheila: Yeah. We’re going to get to that in a minute.
Keith: Okay. But that’s the thing. She says don’t talk to your husbands about it. And I have a story about that.
Sheila: Well, actually, let’s do it now. Let’s do it now.
Keith: Okay. So basically—so Sheila confronts me one day. She’s read this book, and it basically says, “Don’t talk to your husband about whether he lusts. Don’t talk to your husband about his visual nature.” Whatever wording she says.
Sheila: Let me just say. She took a big offense at the fact that we called her out for spreading the every man’s battle message that all men struggle with lust. And she says, “No. No. No. I never said that. I said that men struggle with a visual nature to consume women or,”—I don’t know. She says this flowering thing what she said, and it’s like oh my gosh. So anyway.
Keith: So yeah. So men want to look at women in an inappropriate, but they don’t struggle with lust. But you need to support—anyway, whatever. But the point is she says, “Don’t ask your husband because he’s going to basically lie to you.” Again, she doesn’t use those exact words because that would clearly be wrong.
Sheila: No. Because he’s scared to tell you the truth because he doesn’t want to hurt your heart.
Keith: Exactly. So I am a pediatrician. So I’m a physician. My specialty is predominantly female. Okay. Most of my colleagues are women. Nursing is still a predominantly female job. Most of the parents who bring the kids in to be seen are the moms. So I am spending the whole day all day around women all day long. And the idea that I would have a struggle with that would never have entered my mind until people start writing stupid books like Every Man’s Battle, right? This is not even something that was even a thought. So Sheila says, “Do you struggle with your visual nature or whatever the thing was,” right? And I was like, “What are you on? What are you talking about?” I was totally—I had no idea what she was even getting at. And I was laughing at her. And she thought that it was like defensive laughter because I didn’t want to share the truth. You assume all men are like this. And when men say they’re not like this, you say, “Well, they’re lying.” But you don’t have a bias? But you’re just telling us the truth. Come on. Give me a break.
Meghan: She literally says, “Do not talk to your husbands.”
Sheila: Yeah. She does. Yeah.
Keith: And if men do have this as an issue, right? Then why is it that you need to accept it? I mean sometimes men kill other men. That’s just what men do, so forget thou shall not kill commandment. That needs to go out the window because God just hardwired men to kill other men sometimes. Right? No. That’s not appropriate. You can’t just say, “Because men are like that, that’s the way God ordained them to be.”
Devi: I think it creates a lot of anxiety in women. This sort of chapter does. I know it did for me because it gives you this idea that, first of all, don’t talk to your husband about it which would be, if you are feeling anxious about it, that is the thing that would help, right? That would help dial that back down. It would remind you of the security of your relationship. It would remind you that he is not an animal. That hey, for many of us, we married really great guys, who are really interested in us and not because of all of these reasons. They just were good, normal guys. And I think then it would make you go, “Okay. I need to pray more. Oh, I’ll get The Power of a Praying Wife, and I’ll pray through that.” So it creates this system in which you’re all alone in the middle of this. And you are holding all of the anxieties and tensions supposedly that your relationship has when your relationship maybe doesn’t even have any of it actually to begin with.
Sheila: Yeah. Those are the two big things as we get more into the content. Those are the two big things that people talk about with this book is, first of all, how much it caused them anxiety and insecurity around their husband’s lust. And the other was how it caused men—or women to coddle their husbands. But I have some comments that I really want to read from people that commented on my social media when I started talking about this or even that left Amazon reviews of For Women Only. Really insightful. But let me just read you a couple. So this one woman said, “I read For Women Only while my husband and I were engaged. Reading that book was like finding out that all of my worst nightmares were true. After growing up in a dysfunctional home without a father, I had hoped that most Christian men had morals and standards and really were faithful to their wives. All of my hopes were dashed when Shaunti told me that my husband to be—or what my husband to be was really like. I spent my honeymoon wrought with anxiety that my new husband wasn’t satisfied enough with me not to be checking out every other nice looking girl we were coming across. I was constant guard of any attractive woman and couldn’t relax to fully enjoy my own honeymoon. During our trip, we attended a baseball game that we were both excited about. And a girl in front of us was wearing super short shorts. At one point, I started crying, and I told him that I knew he must be lusting after that girl instead of watching the game. He looked at me with utter confusion and said, ‘What girl? I have no idea what you’re talking about.’ Thankfully, I married a true Christian man. Turns out I was right about men before that book corrupted my beliefs. That was 18 years ago. And although I know my husband is faithful, I still have moments of panic and insecurity from those teachings that I read about in For Women Only.”
Sheila: Another woman said, “I checked my husband’s phone every day and accused him of having affairs because that’s what men do. I called him out for Googling headlights when literally the man was looking where to buy parts for farm equipment. I was a psychopath honestly.”
Devi: Oh my gosh. Wow.
Sheila: And then another woman said, “The only time I ever felt insecure about my marriage was after reading this book. I never questioned my husband’s faithfulness, and he’s never given me a reason to. But this book caused me to believe that he was one moment away from cheating at any time. Let me be clear. He has always been faithful. But after reading this book, I spiraled into a season of doubt like never before. I wish I had just talked to him about it first, but I took what she said as truth.”
Meghan: And she told you not to talk to him. Yeah.
Sheila: Yeah. Do you want to read this one from the guy?
Keith: Okay. So this is from a guy. “I would never have used it to excuse pornography use or cheating. And I didn’t force her to have sex when she didn’t want to as far as I knew. But absolutely took it as grounds to expect from her a far higher degree of gracious thanks for not using pornography or cheating. What we’d otherwise consider simple, baseline decency that doesn’t really need that much gracious thanks. Also that and the Every Man’s Battle had a difficult effect on my relationship with women. Though I never harbored crushes on her friends, I felt that lust and desire were just around the corner. I am a visual creature after all. And so I kept my distance. And I likely came off as cold, distant, and aloof, and, frankly, just awkward. It was clothes in the idea that I was protecting my marriage from my own supposedly lustful visual nature. But like so many others have said, it made women out to be temptresses just for being women.”
Meghan: I want to emphasize that based on these last two things there’s a quote that she has. Again, it’s a man saying it, so it’s not really her which is so frustrating. But I want to read this quote. She said, “All those women in the men’s magazines convey one message. I want you, and you’re the most desirable man in the world. My wife might be nagging me at home. The kids might be disobedient. And I may be worried about messing up at work. But when I look at a woman in a magazine, that picture makes me feel like a man.” First of all, gross. Just seeing a woman’s body does not communicate I want you. But it has this idea if that your wife isn’t all over you all the time that he is going to go into pornography. And that idea is shared again and again and again in different books. In fact, you mentioned—or I guess that quote mentioned Every Man’s Battle. I read Every Woman’s Battle, and that whole book—that—literally that entire book is, “Your husband may have flaws, but your battle is thinking he has flaws. So just know that he’s godly.” That’s the entire premise of the book. If you have any issues with your husband, if he’s not giving you attention, if he’s struggling with pornography, whatever it is, don’t say anything. Just support him. Be more submissive because your problem is thinking that he’s not enough. And she says that women have affairs when they—she said—this woman said she had five affairs because she liked the way Tom laughed. And she thought her swimming instructor was cute and all of these different things which are not affairs. But the whole book is based on the idea that the woman’s battle is not being satisfied with her husband. And she should just be satisfied with him no matter what he does. So it’s really interesting even how those books play across each other. All these books came together to produce horrible messages, and they all prey off each other.
Keith: So let’s imagine a world, right? Where the Christian books say, “Men, your struggle is that your wife is not enough for you, and you need to learn to make her enough. And women, your struggle is that all those other men out there are going to be better than your husband, so the husband better pick up his game and make sure you’re happy,” because that’s what it is. It’s a double standard. It’s so ridiculous. If you flipped it on its head, we would say, “That’s so unfair.” But we don’t say it’s unfair to women. It’s crazy.
Meghan: Well, she even this in this book where she’s like, “Women’s sin is that they desire control.” So why don’t we have books on how, “Women, you should be in control and that men should submit to your control because that is how God made you. God made you to want to be in control. So men should submit to their wives’ control.” There’s just double standards all the way through. All of these things that she’s saying are gendered are not gendered. They’re human. One of my most frustrating chapters—there’s a lot of them in this book. But she talks about how men deal with insecurity.
Sheila: Okay. Wait. Wait. Wait. We’re going to get to that in a minute. I want to finish (cross walk). Okay. Let’s just figure out the timeline here. So she does the first edition in 2004. I know she has a lot of people writing her about the lust chapter because in our interviews with Great Sex Rescue people told me that they sent her in letters. So 2013 she writes the new version where she includes all of this pseudoscience about brains which isn’t right. About the male brain. Which we know isn’t right. And then in 2015, she comes out with the book, Through a Man’s Eyes, which is entirely about men’s visual nature. And she has this at the beginning of Through a Man’s Eyes. “Both of us,”—Shaunti and her coauthor, Craig Gross—“have seen that when we explain these truths about men’s visual nature some listeners or readers get extremely angry or are devastated because they think we are saying things that, in fact, we would never say. Some believe that we are making excuses for men, that we are saying boys will be boys. Others claim we are blaming women, putting the onus on women to change, or even implying that men are not responsible for their actions. Several have told us, ‘I’m never going to be able to trust my husband again now that I know how visual he is.’ And more than a few devastated husbands have told us that their wives stopped being intimate with them altogether once they learned the truth about how men are wired.”
Sheila: “All of these reactions indicate a misunderstanding of our message and our hearts in this book. But we do understand that sometimes a reader might be misreading our words because she is simply in a particular vulnerable place. If so, it would be wiser for her to wait and learn this information once she can do so without causing herself and her relationship pain. So please pray before you start reading. Examine your heart to see if you are open to seeing the wonderful ways God created men, even those things that might be hard to hear.”
Meghan: That sounds very similar to what she says at—for the chapter where women should lose weight. She says, “Pray first because this is hard. And don’t talk to your husband.”
Sheila: But why do we need to pray because it’s really hard to understand the wonderful ways that God created men? If they’re wonderful, that isn’t hard to hear. But I love this part too—
Keith: So hold on a second. Can I just say one thing? So she’s basically saying that, “I taught you something. And it destroyed sex lives, undermined trust between spouses, did all these horrible things, but that’s because you misunderstood it.” Excuse me. Is your job not a communicator? So if that’s what people took from your message, then problem isn’t with them. The problem is you didn’t communicate your message well. If a large subsection of your audience completely got the exact opposite effect than you intended, you are a bad communicator. And she goes on specifically to blame the listeners rather than her. At no point does she say, “Maybe I worded it wrong. Maybe I could have been more clear.” She says, “A lot of women might be at a difficult place. They may misinterpret it, so just pray because maybe you’re not ready for it. Because if you get hurt, it’s because you weren’t ready. Not because I said the wrong thing.” It just makes me so mad. That’s ridiculous.
Sheila: Two things about this that I find so funny. First, she says that the reason that people misunderstand is when those women are in a particularly vulnerable place. But all of the comments that I read from women were women who were happy with their relationships. They were in great places. And it wasn’t until reading this book that they spiraled down. That was like us. I didn’t doubt you at all. I have never doubted you for once instant until I read Through a Man’s Eyes.
Meghan: I, also—what Keith said, I think, is really important where he says, “I’m saying everything wrong, but it’s their fault. Or it’s popular culture’s fault.” There’s a quote. So we talked a little bit about how much she says lust and sex are a problem. We talked about that a lot. So her literal words—this is a quote from her. “Although popular opinion portrays males as one giant sex man with no emotions attached,”—that’s literally what you said over and over in many different ways. But you’re saying, “I didn’t say that. Culture said that. Culture said that.” And to the point where she even said in this book that if men don’t get sex, they will get depressed and die. That’s wound number two. “Your lack of desire can send him into a depression.” Yeah. It’s just like okay. You’re the one saying that. It just drives me crazy.
Sheila: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. One other thing about this quote I think is so funny. So she says that all these women are misunderstanding. They’re misrepresenting what we’re saying. They’re not getting it. But then she says, “A few devastated husbands have told us their wives stopped being intimate with them when they learned the truth about how men are wired.” So she says you’re misunderstanding. But then she admits no. It’s when they learn the truth. So I just thought that was very funny. Okay. So let’s look at the stuff that she portrays as normal male behavior with regards to lust. Stalking an attractive woman through the aisles at Home Depot. Do you remember that one?
Meghan: I don’t remember that one.
Devi: I don’t know any guys who do this. Like zero men I know do that.
Sheila: I’ll find the exact quote. Hold on a second. I’ll find the exact quote. “If I see a woman with a great body walk into Home Depot and I close my eyes or turn away until she passes, for the next half hour, I’m keenly aware that she’s in there somewhere. And I am ashamed to say that more than once I’ve gone looking down the aisles hoping to catch a glimpse.”
Sheila: So she’s portraying this as normal, male behavior to stalk women in Home Depot. Can you imagine how you would feel if a guy was stalking you on Home Depot?
Meghan: Oh, it’s happened. I mean not in Home Depot. But I’ve had men follow men. It’s terrifying.
Keith: But there’s no point at which she says, “If that’s how you feel as a man, you need to reevaluate the way you look at women because you obviously are—you obviously have been primed to objectify and see women as something to consume. And you need to work on that.” No. No. It’s women need to realize men are like this.
Sheila: Now I’ll read you the paragraph that was brought up the most in our focus groups. We didn’t prompt them for this. Okay? So in our focus groups for Great Sex Rescue, but several women mentioned that this paragraph, in particular—they remembered it even if they read this book 10 years ago. So, again, it’s a man, and he tells this story. “My wife and I recently went out to dinner at a nice restaurant with some friends. The hostess was extremely attractive and was wearing form fitting clothes that showed off a great figure. For the rest of the night, it was impossible not to be aware that she was across the restaurant walking around. Our group had a great time with our lovely wives, but I guarantee you that our wives didn’t know that every man at that table was acutely aware of that woman’s presence and was doing his utmost not to look in that direction.” And so the women were saying, “Now whenever I go to a restaurant—I can’t go to restaurants anymore because I feel like my husband is checking out the waitress.” But also how does this guy know that all the other men are trying not to check out the hostess?
Devi: Yeah. And I think to what we’ve talked about before I think the anxiety that this caused for women and then the conflict that it causes in the relationship that they’re in for a book that is supposed to be making your relationships better—I just think that is quite incredible because I don’t think a lot of the other books did that for me even if their teaching was dysfunctional. They didn’t cause anxiety in me the way that this book did with that sense of the every moment that we’re out there are other women around. How do you go to the beach? How do you go to the beach? If you’re anxious about this, how do you do anything?
Sheila: Yeah. And this combined with the chapter on how you need to lose weight. Right? Combined with that chapter.
Meghan: And she even says, “Oh, some people have eating disorders and struggle with eating. I hope you don’t struggle with that.” And then she spends forever talking about how men want their wives to lose weight, but they would never tell you. So don’t ask them. But they’re all just wanting you to lose weight. So yeah. Very harmful.
Sheila: Problematic. Okay. So she declares—so the quote that she has. She declares that all men struggle with visually consuming women. So not with lust. With visually consuming women. I don’t know what the difference is, but she’s very—she has called me out for saying that she says every man struggles with lust because she doesn’t. She says men struggle with visually consuming women. Whatever the difference is. But our survey of 20,000 women found that that message was really harmful. When women are taught this, even if they don’t believe it, if they grow up in an environment that teaches this, they’re going to have less trust in their husbands. Their libido is going to tank. That’s one of the biggest things. This message causes women’s libidos to tank. The marital satisfaction goes down. Orgasm rates go down. This hurts. And she keeps doubling down no matter what people tell her.
Meghan: Yeah. And so she also paints men—you kind of mentioned how the quote about the guy following the woman in Home Depot. And the guy—basically, that men are always looking and hunting. She even says—this is a quite from her, so maybe we can do the Fix It—you can do the Fix It thing. But she says, “Because men are hard wired to be sexual hunters, every thought and image related to that pursuit comes with associated powerful feelings.” And I’m like that is super rapey. Sexual hunters. What prey wants to be eaten? The whole idea is something harming and dominating something else. And so the idea that you’re even using the term that men are sexual hunters. That they’re always hunting and looking for their next prey. That is so incredibly disturbing. And I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all.
Devi: Actually, that is an image of men that we would also—that we consider it wrong. That’s not how we want—that’s not how men have to be. But that it’s also something that secular culture uses as a bit of a motif, right? I’m thinking of what’s his name? Grease and John Travolta and the guys in Grease or whatever. You see it in secular culture around college guys wandering around from bar to bar. And there is a sense of they’re on the hunt, but that’s such a distinctive to me between Christianity—or what Christianity can be and secular culture, right? That secular culture does sometimes normalize this kind of attitude and behavior. But I think why would you have a Christian book saying that men are actually exactly as they are portrayed in our secular culture? And yeah. I just think isn’t that the power of God that God is changing us and transforming us. We’re not on the hunt anymore. That’s not what is going to be the number one thing that’s motivating us.
Sheila: All right. You want to turn to sex. We will leave lust behind. We will turn to sex. So one of my big problems—this is just a real pet peeve of mine is she does talk about sex as something that women give to men.
Meghan: Mm-hmm. She does.
Sheila: As opposed to something which you experience together that is a natural outflow of your relationship. So sex is like separate from us. It is a gift that women give to men because men need it. So men have needs, and women have gifts. And so we give a gift. So it’s nothing to do with us. So that always bugs me. But I’m going to read you a quote. So she’s talking about how what a man really needs is to feel like you want him and you’re engaged. So it’s not just that he needs sex. He needs to feel like you’re emotionally into it during sex. Otherwise, it just doesn’t compute. So not only do you have to give him sex. You have to really act like you’re enjoying it. Okay. That’s absolutely imperative. And here is how she describes this. So when your husband wants sex, when he’s approaching you and you’ve got to figure out what to do, she advises you, “Know that you’re responding to a tender heart hidden behind all that testosterone. If at all possible, respond to his advances with your full emotional involvement knowing that you’re touching his heart. But if responding physically seems out of the question, let your words be heart words, reassuring, affirming, adoring. Do everything in your power using words and actions your husband understands to keep those pangs of personal rejection from striking the man you love.” So it’s like even if you’re not physically feeling good, you’re supposed to affirm him.
Meghan: Which is so funny. There’s all these books about give your husbands more sex. Give your husbands more sex. In a culture where they don’t teach anything about the female orgasm or how to please your wife or—and they tell women not to even desire sex. So they’re telling women not to desire sex. They’re telling them not to speak up. And yet, I’m supposed to enjoy this act where you’re using my body. And you’re supposed to act like you like it instead of saying, “You know what, husband? If you want to have more sex, maybe learn how to help her orgasm. Maybe ask her what she wants to do. Maybe try and consider her instead of saying—guilting her into wanting sex,” which is what so many of these books do.
Devi: There’s the underlying assumption that she doesn’t want sex which I find that to be totally bizarre either. Why is that the assumption about women? Yeah. I don’t understand it. I honestly just don’t understand it.
Sheila: You know what is also funny? When she surveyed women, the majority of women said that they had an equal or greater sex drive than men. More than the majority. She threw them out. She ignored those responses and only took the responses of the women that said they had a lower sex drive because that’s what the men said.
Keith: She specifically says this. She got 52% of women saying that their sex drive was equal to or greater than their husband’s. And she said, “But this didn’t match with what the husbands were telling us, so we only talk about the 48% who admitted to having a lower sex drive.”
Sheila: So she feels that men are better narrators of women’s experience than women are.
Keith: Your podcast is called Faith and Feminism, right? I always joke and say, “Shaunti Feldhahn is what—who made me a feminist.” Right? Because I remember a talk I had—a friend of mine. He said, “I’m not a feminist. I mean I believe that women should have equality. But I don’t think there’s some big conspiracy to keep women down,” right? That’s what a feminist was for him, right? I’m like when you discount 52% of your female respondents because a couple of male respondents that you know said that they’re—you shouldn’t listen to them, that’s a systematic downplaying of the female voice. And that is—it’s all through evangelicalism. And it needs to die. And so I am a feminist because I believe that there is a conspiracy. It’s not an intentional conspiracy. There’s not a bunch of guys in back grooms going haha. But there’s a set of assumptions and systems in place that make it harder for women than for men. And as Christians, we should be trying to dismantle that because we believe that God loves His daughters just as much as He loves His sons. Anyway, that was my little rant. Sorry.
Sheila: Okay. I want to leave sex and lust behind. I know there’s so much more that we can say.
Meghan: There is so much more.
Sheila: This is really painful to only touch on these things because I could talk about this stuff for hours. But I want to get through everything. So the other big content area that I have a big problem with is the way she handles gender stereotypes. So Keith, can you explain the concept of overlapping bell curves?
Sheila: Okay. Do that?
Keith: Okay. So men are taller than women. Okay. That’s true. If you take the average height of the average—of men and the average height of women, that the height of men is greater. That does not allow you to say that all men are taller than all women. It doesn’t allow you to say things like, “Well, because men are taller than women, men can go on the rides at the roller coasters, but the women can’t.” If people are, on average, that does not mean that in every case, one is better than the other. For height for instance, men are taller than women. But there’s a lot of couples where the wife is taller than the man. There is nothing with those couples. Those people are not abnormal or bizarre. They’re just—that just statistically happens sometimes.
Sheila: Yeah. And the concept of overlapping bell curves is like when there is something like height where you have a range that people could be, that exists in a bell curve. So most people are in the middle. And then you get fewer and fewer people as it gets further and further away from the mean, right? And so that’s a bell curve shape. And men and women tend to have overlapping bell curve shapes. And what’s interesting is that there’s greater difference between women, if you look two standard deviations. There’s greater difference between women than there is between the average woman and the average man. But we don’t say that women can’t understand each other, but we say women can’t understand men. And that’s true for things like the visual nature, how much you watch porn. All of these things which exist in a bell curve shape. It’s overlapping bell curves. And she treats them like they’re absolute. She treats them like they’re binary. So let’s just take a look at some of these things. Number one, she shares things as if they are male without look at if they also apply to females. And the biggest one is imposter syndrome. She has a whole chapter on imposter syndrome.
Sheila: And guess what? Women suffer from this more than men do.
Meghan: Right. Actually, there are studies. So going off of what Sheila said, so she makes the claim that 71%–and she also words this really poorly which we’re not going to get into. Just know it’s poorly. But 71% of men feel insecure in their job or whatever, and it’s worded very poorly. So take that with a grain of salt. And so I think human nature—we sometimes feel insecure in whatever we’re doing. No matter what it is. There is a learning curve to things. What I find really fascinating is this whole chapter is talking about how we need to coddle men because they are in insecure, little bunnies, and they just need to be told how great they are all the time. And they suffer from a lot of insecurity in their jobs, and we just need to understand that and get it. But I really want to point out that scientifically studies have been done in terms of confidence between men and women. And what they show is that men overestimate their abilities and performance, and women underestimate their abilities and performance. Their performances don’t differ in quality. Do men doubt themselves? Of course. Everyone doubts themselves. But they average to overconfidence. And so they’re not trying to—they’re not consciously trying to fool anyone. They just think they’re more competent than they are. There’s actually a study—the term they use from Ernesto Reuben from Columbia Business School uses the term “honest overconfidence” in a study that he published in 2011. Men are consistently rated, their performance, on a set of math problems to be about 30% better than it actually was. And so another example of this is women only apply for—typically, only apply for promotions when they meet 100% of the qualifications where men only apply when they meet 50%. And there’s a whole article about this in The Atlantic called The Confidence Grab. There’s studies about it from Utah State. And I just think it’s so interesting to me that, again, she’s writing this whole thing about how men need our coddling when really we should put it back on women. Women, believe in yourself. You’re competent. You’re able to do this, but it’s all about men and coddling them. It drives me crazy.
Sheila: So she’s looking at imposter syndrome as if it’s male. She looks at respect as if it’s a male thing and never asks women. She just assumes it is. Over and over again she assumes these things apply to men but not to women even though they’re the same. But then even when there are differences—here’s a funny one. She talks a lot about—throughout the book, this isn’t even just one chapter. This is throughout the book. How women, you’re going to want to talk about this stuff. And he’s not going to want to talk. Obviously, when you have an issue, you need to externally process whereas he’s an internal processor. And this comes up over and over again. So men are internal processors. Women are external processors. Men are thinkers. Women are feelers. She says this all the time. So let’s look at the MBTI. I took a look at the stats. So the MBTI—Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory. It’s widely done. It’s a personality thing. I am an ENTJ for anyone who cares. You’re what? What are you? An ESTP? No. ESFJ.
Sheila: ENFP. Okay. So Myers-Briggs, 75% of women are feelers, and 56% of men are thinkers. Okay. Now do you remember when you were in grade four or five, and they taught you how to tell odds? The odds of something happening. What do you do?
Devi: I’m not good at math. I’m not good at math. You’re talking about probability. Are you talking about probability?
Sheila: Yeah. Probability.
Devi: I’m trying to save myself right now.
Keith: If you have a coin, there’s a 50% chance it’s going to flip heads and a 50% chance it’s going to flip tails, right?
Keith: So if you flip it twice, what’s the chance you’re going to get two heads? Well, it’s 50% times 50%, which is 25%. Right?
Sheila: So the chance of you having two girls in a row is 25%. The chance of you having a girl and then a boy is 25% because you multiply 50% by 50% each time. Right? Okay. So we’re going to multiply 75% by 56%. And what we get is 42.7% in this case. Okay. So every sermon that you have ever heard that assumes that the wife is emotional while the husband is logical applies to only 42.7% of couples in that church. And that means that 57% of the people in the pews—it does not apply to them. So this book does not apply to 57% of the couples reading it.
Keith: Yeah. See? And that’s the problem of stereotypes. Instead of talking about the issue, which is we need to balance both our feelings and our thoughts and we both have a role and whether you’re the thinking or the feeler in the relationship, you need to respect—both of them have a place. That kind of thing would be healthy. But instead we say men are like this, and women are like that. It’s just so dangerous because—and damaging because if you’re the reverse of that, well, what’s wrong with me? Am I defective? Did God make a mistake?
Meghan: There’s a quote that, I think, specifically illustrates this point about men are this way. They’re, again, sexual creatures, and women are emotional. And they want to talk. So there’s a quote that she says. “For your husband, sex is more than just a physical need. Lack of sex is as emotionally serious to him as say his sudden silence would be to you or he just simply stop communicating with you.” So in this, she’s making the assertion that men don’t need to speak, but women do need to speak. Men need sex. They don’t need to talk. And equating, “Hey, I don’t want to have sex tonight,” as your husband just stop talking to you for no reason. And so I think that is a perfect example of what you’re saying that men need sex so bad. They need it more than they need communication. That’s wild.
Sheila: Well, that’s also extremely unhealthy. That is a sign that that man needs to go to therapy. And I’m not saying sex isn’t important. But a lot of men have channeled their emotional needs into sex because they can’t connect any other way because they are not able to discuss emotions. And they’re not able to attune with their life.
Devi: Or maybe because they’ve been told that this is the only way they can connect. Because I mean that’s what this book says. That’s what other books say. Yeah.
Sheila: Yeah. So really a problem. Okay. Last thing—and this is—we’ve been getting towards this one is that she paints me as insecure, little babies that women have to coddle. And this is what we heard over and over and over again in the comments to this book. These men. These poor men. They feel like imposters. They’re so scared to tell you how they feel, and so you just need to coddle them because the answer to these problems—and this is—so she’s presenting all of these big issues in marriage. And her answer is, “How are women supposed to deal with it? You’re supposed to affirm and coddle your husband. You’re not supposed to actually say, ‘Hey, I have an issue with this. Could we talk about it?’”
Devi: Yeah. And I think, in some ways, the message has never changed. Right? This is the message of evangelicalism from the beginning—of white evangelicalism to women and men. I think about Maribel Morgan’s book that I had never heard of that Kristin Kobes Du Mez uses in her book, Jesus and John Wayne. It’s kind of a similar thing.
Sheila: What is it? The total woman or something.
Devi: Yeah. Something like that. I think it sold something like 500,000 copies or something like that. And it’s interesting how the message never really changes over decades, but the messenger does. And Shaunti Feldhahn is a Master’s degree qualified person. She wears a business suit. I’ve watched her on The Today Show. And that is really, I think, important for us as Christians, who consume Christian media, to become really smart about this. Is noticing what messenger the marketplace tends to kind of put out as trust this person. Right? Because I think that is—that was her whole schtick to me. It’s my research. It’s my this. It’s I’m a different kind of messenger was kind of what she was saying from everybody else. I’m not a woman’s leader. I’m not a women’s ministry leader. I’m a qualified, Harvard-educated person even though we’ve discussed already how that’s kind of irrelevant to what she is doing. But I think it’s interesting to me when I think about where this conversation is going now it’s to look for what messenger—what’s the new messenger? What form does that message take now? Because the message never really changes.
Sheila: Yeah. And now it’s all these young 20-something influencers on Instagram which I’m getting really worried about. I’m trying to figure out how to handle it because I don’t like calling out young people by name. I just feel like that’s me—being mean, but I’m also really worried because some of them are taking off too much. Okay. I want to give some examples of things that you are not supposed to make an issue out of. Okay, ladies?
Keith: As a woman.
Sheila: You are not supposed to make an issue out of this. So if he repeatedly fails to do things that he promised to do. So he promised he would pick up his dry cleaning—your dry cleaning. He never does, and you keep asking him about it. You’re supposed to stop. Because if he repeatedly fails, that’s not his fault. And if you keep asking him, you’re going to undermine his confidence.
Meghan: The literal example she actually gives in the book is a guy that there was a hole in the wall.
Sheila: Yeah. I was about to bring that one up to. The dry cleaning is one. Now we have the hole in the wall. Yeah. Do that one. Do that one.
Meghan: Yeah. Well, the wife kept on asking him like, “Can you repair the hole in the wall?” And he’s like, “You’re making me feel insecure like you don’t value me.” And it’s like, “Dude, you said you were going to—this is kind of a big issue. We have a hole in the wall in the kitchen.” And he says, “I’m irritated. That I hate being reminded. This is her showing her disrespect that she doesn’t trust me to do it even though I haven’t done it.” So her solution is don’t say anything. He’ll get it done eventually. And if the reason he’s not doing it, it’s because he’s emotionally tired. And don’t add to that. That’s literally what she says. So yeah.
Sheila: Yeah. Or what if you want to talk to him about things that interest you and you can feel that he’s tuning out just realize that he’s emotionally tired? Yeah. That he’s just not able to engage right now. So you’re supposed to accept that he will promise to do something but won’t follow through, that he doesn’t mind if the house is falling down, and that he won’t emotionally connect with you. All of those things are okay because—and here’s how she explains it. And, again, she puts this in someone else’s words. Not in hers. She quotes a man saying this. Not herself. But he explains that it’s not that he doesn’t realize it needs to be done. It’s not that he doesn’t see the problems in the house. It’s not that he doesn’t care. It’s just that by not doing something he’s telling you something. He is telling you that he just has different priorities. And you should accept that.
Meghan: Yeah. Did you write down the stuff about the fern doctor stuff? There’s a pastor that when his wife—
Sheila: Yeah. I think it’s this page. Yeah. Mm-hmm.
Meghan: Yeah. When his wife wants to talk to him. He’s like, “Honey, I don’t care about the ferns,” as if that’s what she wants to talk about. “That’s fern doctor stuff.” And so he doesn’t even have to engage with things that matter to her because that’s fern—he has better stuff to deal with. That’s fern doctor stuff. That’s literally what he calls it. And it’s so misogynistic because even in this scenario—it’s a pastor and a wife. The guy is saying, “I don’t talk to my wife about her fern doctor stuff because I have more important tasks or things to do.” But the whole reason she’s in that role is because evangelical culture says, “You have to stay at home. You have to take care of the kids. And you’re not allowed to leave that bubble. But oh, if you talk to me about your bubble at all, I’m going to respond with that’s really unimportant.” And so they’re giving us this double bind where they’re saying, “Women, stay at home. That’s so important. That’s what you need to do. But by the way, don’t talk to me about it because what I have to do is way more important.” And it just drives me crazy. And the fact that she’s saying this is how it should be, the man is just—the pastor is just explaining that he has way more important things to care about than your silly little fern doctor stuff. It’s so misogynistic. I hate it.
Sheila: I’m going to read that passage because it’s a great one. So, again, this is—again, she is putting this in someone else’s words. Or do you want to read it?
Sheila: It’s a pastor writing this.
Keith: “I’ve revealed something about my preferences and priorities by not fixing it for a week. If I come home with the world on my shoulders, if a couple at church is divorcing, or I am worried that a key employee might leave, and my wife is in her house mode and says, ‘The living room fern is dying,” that is hard for me to engage in. The brutal truth is that it’s not as important to me. My first response is, ‘Get a fern doctor,’ but Scripture says that as a husband I have to lay down my life for my wife. So sometimes I have to talk about the fern. But we have a little code now where I tell her, ‘It’s fern doctor stuff,’ to let her know that sometimes my brain just doesn’t go there.”
Devi: Oh, man.
Sheila: Yeah. But he just goes on to say that, “By not fixing it, I have shown you what my priorities are.” And that’s okay. And then she gives women no way to then deal with the fact that stuff isn’t getting done.
Meghan: Right. There’s another quote that she shares from Dr. Eggerichs that says, “Sometimes these behaviors that appear to be unloving are not unloving at all. They are reacting that way because they interpret something that’s disrespect even if sometimes they shouldn’t.” So even here he is saying, “Your husband is acting unloving towards you, but it’s actually not unloving. You got it wrong. Even if it seems that way, it’s not unloving. And so just respect him anyways because he needs to know that you respect him.” It’s so gross.
Keith: I don’t know. This might be overstating a little bit. But the way that I read a lot of this stuff is as a married couple we have times where we’re selfless and times where we’re selfish. Right? And it’s almost like all these books say when a man is selfless he needs to be a praised. And when a woman is selfish, she needs to be chided. And that’s where the message ends.
Keith: And it’s like—and that’s not—that is a double standard. Men get praised for being selfless. But you don’t ever call them on their garbage. And women don’t get praised for doing all these things. They just get, “Yep. You’re doing your duty as a wife. I don’t want to hear about your fern doctor stuff. Just be more sacrificial.” It’s crazy.
Devi: Yeah. Only one person in the relationship is allowed to be selfish.
Meghan: Yeah. And it’s men. And it’s not even women being selfish need to be chided. If women have needs like basic communication or maybe repair the whole in the wall, these are pretty standard needs.
Sheila: Yeah. This hole in the wall goes on throughout the book. She keeps talking about this hole in the wall. Yeah.
Keith: You’re right.
Meghan: She is being selfish—or she is being sinful because she has needs. But if the man is acting selfishly or unlovingly, you’re just interpreting it that way. He’s not really being that. He’s just communicating priority. It’s such a double standard.
Sheila: Okay. Who wants to talk about the directions?
Devi: Oh gosh.
Sheila: Here are some other things that could turn—that could make a man—just undermine his confidence, and that’s if you’re driving and turns the wrong way, you’re not allowed to tell him.
Keith: This is hilarious because this is us because I—I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I always turn the wrong way, right?
Sheila: No. It’s not even that. You don’t turn. We think that he might have ADD. But if we’re in the car and we’re talking, I have to tell him, “Turn right here,” even if—
Keith: Because I’ll miss it. I’ll miss the turn. I will.
Sheila: It’s not that we’re lost. It’s just—
Keith: Now when she corrects me and says, “You were supposed to turn there,” that doesn’t feel nice. It doesn’t feel nice because I made a mistake, and we always feel bad when we make mistakes. But that’s mine to own, not her. The issue wasn’t that she reminded me that I made a mistake. The issue was that I made a mistake. And as a person who wants to be a good human—forget male or female. I want to be better. And so when I make a mistake, I feel bad. But this kind of mindset in the Christian church makes it sound like men should never have to feel bad when they make mistakes. Your job as a woman is to compensate for that and make him feel more competent than he actually is. It’s like there’s a difference between saying, “Don’t scream at your husband, ‘Oh, you’re such a dummy. Why do you always miss the turn?’” That’s fine. I think that’s appropriate.
Sheila: To say not to do that.
Keith: Yeah. Sorry. Sorry. It’s quite all right to tell people not to do that. But to say, “Don’t every correct,”—I mean, to me, that’s anti Scriptural. I mean the whole point of iron sharpening iron. How can you grow as a person if you’re never corrected? Why would you want that as a man?
Devi: Yeah. There’s such a missed opportunity here too. Because if you take this picture of you’re in a car trying to get somewhere, you’re a team. A team is trying to succeed. The team is trying to get to a destination, right? What do you do on a team? You help each other. One person is doing one thing. One person is doing another thing. And it’s not a competition between somebody being right and somebody being wrong. You’re working together for a good outcome, which is really all of marriage. Really honestly. And I think I don’t know why—when I read this the first time, it made perfect sense to me. My parents used to fight over this all the time because my dad is the only person who drives. My mom doesn’t drive. And so I remember sitting in the car with them as—after reading this book and just thinking, “This is the problem. If she would just stop giving him directions, he wouldn’t get so angry,” as opposed to kind of going, “Wow. This person is so deeply insecure and cannot handle—just cannot handle being wrong about anything.” But yeah. I never saw it as the opportunity there to just participate and be a team together where nobody is winning. Nobody is losing.
Meghan: Yeah. I really want to read this quote because it exactly is what you said. So this is a quote, again, from a man. She doesn’t say it. “If she doesn’t trust me in something as small as finding my way along a road, why would she trust me in something important? Like being a good breadwinner or a good father. If she doesn’t respect me in the small things, she doesn’t really respect me at all.”
Sheila: Yeah. And that’s the thing—because when you tell women that, what you’re saying is if you come down on him for the least tiny thing what you’re really saying is, “You’re a bad dad.” And so we can no longer say anything.
Meghan: Say anything. Absolutely anything because if you say, “Hey, honey, you missed that turn,” now it suddenly means, “I don’t trust you to provide for the family. You’re a terrible father, and I hate you.” That’s not what it’s saying, but she’s saying that’s what it’s saying. It’s really creating incredibly inappropriate relationships.
Sheila: And she says it would be better to be a couple of hours late for the party. Well, what if it’s your sister’s birthday party and you kind of want to be there? Gosh. Okay.
Keith: So much wrong with that.
Sheila: Here’s another one. You’re not allowed to express an opinion different from your husband or else you’re saying he’s stupid. So she says, “Many men confessed that they felt as if their opinions and decisions were actively valued in every area of their lives except at home. In fact, several men told me their comrades at work seemed to trust their judgment more than their wives did.” So she’s talking about just expressing an opinion. “While a man’s colleagues will rarely tell him what to do, more than one wife has fallen into the habit of ordering him around.” And then later she says that she learned early in her marriage that when she did this Jeff felt stupid. Okay. So you’re not allowed to express opinions or say what needs to be done or else he feels stupid. But why can’t you express a different opinion? That’s crazy. That’s crazy.
Keith: When a person has a different opinion than you, that doesn’t—why is that a threat? That doesn’t make any sense to me.
Devi: And I don’t understand how you can have a relationship where—I mean basically what this is saying is there can only be one opinion because if you’re never going to disagree—I don’t—how do you make a decision? How do you make a decision about anything? And I’m having a hard time believing Shaunti Feldhahn doesn’t contribute to any part of decision making in her family life. I just don’t believe that. And so you are going to have a disagreement about which plants should we plant in the front of the house. Where should our kids go to school? Where are we going to go to church? How are we going to spend Saturday? Maybe one person wants—I don’t understand how this is possible to not have a different opinion. I just don’t. Yeah.
Sheila: Well, and this is another example of how she is slippery because she’s starting at—the big thing she is talking about in several paragraphs here is about expressing opinions. Okay? And then after she has gone over this a lot, she turns to ordering him around. So she’s equating expressing a different opinion with ordering him around. She wasn’t talking about ordering him around. She was just talking about sharing opinions. And now all of a sudden that morphs into ordering him around. And she does this all the time. And it’s so slippery and so problematic. Okay. Last thing I want to talk about. Guess how women are supposed to know if they’ve crossed the disrespect line? And people who have listened to my podcast on For Young Women Only will know this because this is—she does this exactly in the For Young Women Only book too.
Devi: I know the answer.
Meghan: I also know the answer.
Sheila: What is it, Devi? What is it?
Meghan: Anger. Yes.
Sheila: So she says this to teenage girls too which is so horrifying. But the way that we know if we’ve disrespected him is we watch for anger.
Devi: I just want to say for those of us who grew up in dysfunctional households with an angry dad you read that. I read that. And I was like, “Oh yeah. This is completely correct.” Right? So it confirms dysfunction, emotional abuse, if you’ve already experienced it in a Christian household. It just says, “Yep. That’s exactly what it is.” And then it encourages you to seek it out in the future.
Meghan: Yeah. And it’s victim blaming 100%.
Keith: And this is one of the ways that this teaching harms men. Okay? So this is not to—I think these teachings harm women so much more. And I want to say that. But it’s not like they are of benefit to men. They harm men too. Because when we assume these kind of teachings, me being angry because I felt disrespected—if we didn’t accept this kind of nonsense, I would be forced to reckon with the fact that I have a short fuse, and I need to grow and develop as a human being. But instead, I’m taught, “No. That’s just the way men are. And they’re not respecting you.” So the problem is with them. You’re perfect. Just make them respect you more. Right? And so I never develop as a human. I stay stunted, and I don’t emotionally grow. And the more immature I am the more all the women around me have to scurry to make me feel competent because that’s their role. It’s horrible. And it traps men in a cycle of never being able to grow. Ever. And develop as a human being.
Meghan: Which is in this patriarchal context, so many of the only acceptable emotions are anger. And so all of these—sadness is not an acceptable emotion. Anything that isn’t—if it’s a negative emotion, it has to be expressed. Quote unquote negative emotion. Has to be expressed by anger. And then we wonder why suicide rates are higher for men. It’s because they can’t—they don’t have any safe places to talk. They’re only allowed to basically in the script expect anger—act angry or to expect sex. So to get that emotional need fed, you need to have sex. And to express your emotions, you have to be angry. And these are the two scripts they’re giving. So why is sexual assault such a problem? Hmm. I wonder. Why are men more likely to be violent? Hmm. I wonder. Because you told him that the way he expresses his emotions or difficult emotions or challenging emotions is anger. And this is just normal and fine and good. And also if you express sadness or disappointment, then you’re sissy or less of a man. It’s so harmful in every way.
Sheila: There’s so much more we could say. I do want to say that her whole thing on anger—and she goes on to it—she goes on for several pages. And she talks about—again, it’s highlighted. “Anger is often a man’s response to feeling disrespected.” She quotes Emerson Eggerichs talking about how anger is the barometer for disrespect. So there’s so much more that we can say here that’s problematic because she never mentions that anger is a red flag for abuse and teach women to see that. And as we’re going into domestic violence awareness month in October, let’s just—anger matters. And we shouldn’t just dismiss it like, “Oh, that’s just how men are.” Anyway, there is so much more we could say. This book is so problematic. There is a one sheet download for you in the podcast notes, so please get it. But Devi, I do have a question for you. You said that you grew up with a father, who was angry, and there was emotional dysfunction in that family. And now you’re married to a great guy. What would you think reading this book now?
Devi: Yeah. I mean I haven’t read it in a long, long time. I think the main thing I would read is—that I would see in it is this sense of why wouldn’t my husband want to participate in the formation in our relationship and making it better. Because that’s everything that is—that this book is moving toward, right? I don’t even know. Basically, the woman that this book paints as being a good woman—she doesn’t complain about anything that’s happenings. She’s always sexually available. She’s like a really fancy robot in some ways. And I know my husband. We’ve been married 13 years now. That’s not the kind of wife he wants. It’s not. And I think that was really disorienting to me. My whole first maybe five years of our marriage. That my husband wanted a real woman. He wanted me. He wanted me. He wanted the woman who had opinions, who was smart and all of this stuff. And I had to keep—I kept forcing myself to kind of dial this stuff back. And I often just didn’t talk. I didn’t talk because I didn’t want to overwhelm him with my voice. I don’t know. And he was just confused about, “Why aren’t you telling me what’s going on in your life? Why aren’t you telling me how you’re feeling about this? I want to know what you want to do. How you want to spend our time. Why do I have to keep,”—I used to wake up on Saturday mornings and be like, “So what are we doing this weekend?” And after the first few months, he literally was like, “Why do I always need to decide what’s happening this weekend.” Because he hadn’t read any of these books. Zero. Zero books. So yeah. So I think—Sheila, I’m sorry. I don’t remember what your question was.
Sheila: No. I think you really answered it. And if I can summarize what you’re saying is when you read it coming out of a dysfunctional family, you thought this was normal.
Sheila: But if you were to read it today, it wouldn’t make any sense to you.
Sheila: And that’s certainly what I get too. So what would you say, Meghan? I’ll give you another last word too. What would you say to people who are still recommending this book? Because it is. It’s recommended by churches all the time. It’s even used in Master’s level seminary courses in counseling.
Meghan: Man, that’s so hard because I feel like there is this move in evangelicalism to discount science and just not believe science unless someone with the right stamp has it. So that’s really difficult. But what I would say is that this book is harmful. It’s harming marriages. It’s harming men. It’s harming women. There is really no benefit from it. Even within this patriarchal context, this is creating unhealthy marriages. Even if you believe in complementarianism, this is just going to make it incredibly more difficult to have any kind of communication in your relationship. So what I’d say is—it has nothing to offer but harm.
Sheila: Mm-hmm. Yeah. And that’s what I would say too. That’s what I would say too. So, people, it’s time for a new generation of books. Let’s burn these books that all say the same thing. Let’s get them out of our church libraries. Let’s get them out of our curriculum in seminaries and Christian schools and universities. And let’s stop recommending them. And let’s start looking for things that actually help. So you can access our rubric. Our 12-point rubric on healthy sexuality and see how books like For Women Only and Love and Respect and Power of a Praying Wife—see how they scored. I will put the link to that in the podcast notes. We talk at length about For Women Only and Through a Man’s Eyes in Great Sex Rescue. And Meghan at Faith and Feminism is doing—if you want to learn more about this book, we’ve done one podcast. I think you guys are going to do it—in eight?
Meghan: Oh, we finished it. It’s four episodes. We go chapter by chapter.
Sheila: I’ve only listened to the first three.
Meghan: Yeah. I released the fourth one today.
Sheila: Oh, cool. I have something to do tonight. So yeah. So I will put links to that as well. But we can do better, guys. We can do better, church.
Meghan: We really can.
Sheila: We can do better.
Meghan: And we should. And it’s just not reflective of Christ. None of this is reflective of the manhood that we see from Christ. And I understand historically from scholars like Kristen Kobes Du Mez how we got here. It’s not an excuse because this is not an example that we see of Christ in Scripture at all. At all.
Sheila: All right. Well, thank you, Meghan. Where can people find you?
Meghan: My name on Instagram or Faith and Feminism. I also wrote a book called Women Rising, which you did interview me about. So you have an episode somewhere about that.
Sheila: Yes. I did. Mm-hmm. I will link to that. All right. And Devi, where can people find you?
Devi: wheredowegopod.com. And at Devi_writes on Instagram and Twitter.
Sheila: Okay. And I will put links to those as well. So thank you, ladies. Really appreciate you. And thanks, babe.
Meghan: All right. Bye.
Devi: Thanks, Sheila. Bye. Nice to meet you, Meghan.
Meghan: Nice to meet you.