Glenn Stanton is an evangelical expert on gender relations; the author of eight influential books, the director of global family formation studies at Focus on the Family, and an outspoken critic of the sexual revolution.
He is also a mouthpiece for gyneolatry, and a general apologist for feminism.
Gyneolatry shouldn’t be confused with goddess worship. They are on the same spectrum, but the difference in my view is much like the difference between the larval and mature forms of Ridley Scott’s alien. The latter is readily identified as a horrifying monster that must be destroyed; [For a clinical description, Wikipedia’s goddess worship entry is a reasonable start. For an example of how it is applied and promoted in an individual’s life—and the similarities it bears to the feminine-primary social conditioning we all now receive thanks to feminism—see Ben Lawson, 8 Reasons Why Men Should Worship Goddesses in The Good Men Project (June 2015).] the former is a sneaky parasite that can worm itself unnoticed into any religion and devour it from the inside. [In Glenn’s case he would obviously deny that he is engaged in gyneolatry at all, just as characters in Alien are sure they can’t be infected. Whether he is a quisling or a patsy is unclear. But for a showcase of more advanced, self-conscious symptoms—on the cusp of the sucking-chest-wound stage—see Arjuna Ardagh, Why It Is Wise to Worship a Woman in HuffPost (July 2010/April 2012).]
Glenn’s latest contribution to the feminist agenda is a tour de force of confusion. In an article sponsored by the venerable Public Discourse, he contends that “manhood is not natural”—and then, even as he rhapsodizes over the mystical power of femininity to civilize men, simultaneously laments the loss of masculinity in civilization. [ Glenn Stanton, Manhood Is Not Natural on Public Discourse (December 2017).] Because this argument reflects a broad approach to gender roles in evangelicalism, I want to dissect it thoroughly. Glenn’s whole professional life is dedicated to understanding and teaching how families form—yet he appears to be hopelessly and dangerously lost on exactly this point.
The first and most important thing to note about Glenn’s piece is that it’s fundamentally an admission of both ignorance and impotence. In his final paragraph he says:
The question is, how can we recover manhood today? We must find the answer. For it is not only the fate of men that is at stake, but the fate of our women, children, and society as well.
Despite spending over 2,000 words describing the (alleged) situation with an intellectual pomposity that rivals my own, Glenn confesses that he has not the slightest clue what to do about it. He plants this wildly-flapping red flag at the very end, so by the time it hoves into view, you’re pot-committed to taking him seriously—but his helpless petition for advice from the reader is really the key takeaway here. Glenn has no solution to the problem of declining masculinity. His article is just an exercise in wind-bagging.
Needless to say, when someone claims to understand the problem but has not the slightest idea how to solve it, unless he is a medical doctor the most probable cause is that he doesn’t actually understand the problem at all. And indeed, in Glenn’s case, not only does he fail to understand it, but he is locked in the grip of a confusion so bizarre that he absolutely never could understand it. His thesis, when unraveled and laid out in the cold light of day, basically amounts to the notion that women are like alcohol: both the cause of and solution to all of society’s problems. Although he would certainly deny this straightforward inference, his argument directly implies the following vicious loop:
(1) feminism is wrecking society; (2) this is men’s fault; (3) the solution must therefore be to grant women even more power over everything (i.e., feminism).
Since we can all at least agree on item 1—feminism is wrecking society—let’s talk about item 2. The central claim of Glenn’s article, the title itself, is that manhood is unnatural while womanhood is not. This is a hecking tendentious way of putting things, given that God made Adam first. Right, it was not good that he was alone—he needed a helper. And it’s fair to say that one of Eve’s functions was to act as a grounding point for the wild masculine energy that God had breathed into Adam to subjugate the newly-made world. [On this point, see D. Bnonn Tennant, Prelapsarian predation, part 3: wildness in Genesis 1–2 (September 2015).] When a majority of men structure their competitive problem-solving around raising families, societies get built as a matter of course. But to say that masculinity is unnatural to this process, and that femininity is what inherently civilizes men, wildly misses the mark. One could just as correctly say that masculinity is what naturally produces civilizations, and that planning, building, and running social institutions of every kind is unnatural to femininity. Name me a single notable organization—even today—that was produced primarily by women. From politics to banking to education, they were all built by men. Men are designed to control their environments and strive for social dominance.
Supposing that either masculinity or femininity is inherently civilized or uncivilized is a lopsided view that insults God’s design for the complementarity of the sexes. Both were made very good to image God’s rulership (Genesis 1:27, 31), [ D Bnonn Tennant, Are women made in the image of God? (October 2018).] and both were defiled by sin to naturally seek their own ends rather than God’s (Romans 3:10–12; Jeremiah 17:9).
Nonetheless, when God cursed the couple, it was not Adam’s intersexual desire that was twisted—it was Eve’s. [ D. Bnonn Tennant, Prelapsarian predation, part 4: the curse (July 2016).] Adam would have to toil until he died—but Eve would nurse a desire toward her husband that Moses parallels with sin’s desire toward Cain (Genesis 3:16b; 4:7). The parallel is explicit in the Hebrew: in the same way that Cain must rule over sin to thwart its desire toward him, Adam must rule over Eve to thwart her desire toward him.
Glenn’s inversion of postlapsarian intersexual dynamics
None of this fazes Glenn—who, quoting George Gilder, avers:
The crucial process of civilization is the subordination of male sexual impulses and biology to the long-term horizons of female sexuality … It is male behavior that must be changed to create a civilized order.
Female sexuality, in other words, is inherently ordered toward the good of society, and must tame male sexuality, which is inherently destructive. Glenn doesn’t openly say toxic masculinity, but that is certainly the mot en vogue for everyone else. Men’s hearts may be sick beyond understanding, but thankfully women’s genitals are imbued with a sanctifying power that automatically redirects them toward the true, the good, and the beautiful. Glenn believes, as Cate Blanchett would say, that women’s moral compasses are in their vaginas. [ Rebecca Shapiro, Cate Blanchett: My Moral Compass ‘Is In My Vagina’ in HuffPost (March 2017).]
However…since, as Glenn puts it, the
unique feminine power over male sexuality has a
naturally domesticating influence on overall male energy and behavior, the inexorable conclusion we are forced to is that if men are uncivilized, women must not have sufficient power to exercise their sexuality.
If society afforded them greater influence, they would naturally civilize men.
Obviously this is not a conclusion Glenn consciously (or at least overtly) agrees with, because he opposes feminism in principle. But presumably this belief in the civilizing power of the vagina is why he nonetheless lets slip that he thinks absent fathers are women’s fault:
If a particular man desires to be involved in the life of his child, it is the child’s mother, and she alone, who determines whether and how he may do this.
Needless to say, although he is right pragmatically on this point thanks to the nature of the family courts, as a theological principle it is a shameless inversion of God’s law; cf. Genesis 35:18; Numbers 30:3ff; Ephesians 6:4 etc.
But then the cognitive dissonance resurfaces; since women are sanctified by their sexuality, they can only receive the credit for the good men; they surely cannot be blamed for the bad ones—and so absent fathers are really men’s fault:
If he doesn’t have to marry before having sex (and potentially fathering children), the average man won’t.
Strangely, Glenn glosses over the instrumental role women had in championing the ability of men to father children out of wedlock. The women’s liberation movement that ushered in modern feminism was not driven by men. It was certainly enabled by men, and anticipated by men (Moses Harman for example)—but it was women who wrote books like The Feminine Mystique; women who published magazines like Ms.; women who promoted casual sex as liberating and presented marriage as akin to slavery; [For a telling glimpse into the quasi-religious furor of feminism as a Marxist-style revolution, see Mallory Millett, Marxist Feminism’s Ruined Lives on FrontPage Mag (September 2014).] women who agreed en masse with this representation of affairs and took up the banner of liberation to march in the streets. How many men do you see in these old photographs?
Without the rebellion of women, feminism would never have left the runway. Girls would just have kept on getting married, having sex with their one husband, and dutifully raising families as they had done for thousands of years under the various patriarchal civilizations that have, without exception, [On the ubiquity of patriarchy, see Steven Goldberg’s summary defense of his work.] ensured the good order of society since Eden. This alone—this simple and blindingly obvious fact of history—is sufficient to put the lie to Glenn’s whole bumbling thesis of women’s inherent virtue.
For the record, I am hardly suggesting that patriarchal societies are automatic bastions of virtue and flourishing. Much of the early liberation movement, for instance, was about demanding equal opportunity to sin—since society winked at men sleeping around, why not wink at women too? Obviously, however, this was quite the wrong direction to take in solving the problem.
Glenn is not entirely wrong that women’s moral compasses are in their vaginas. But he is 100% wrong about which direction they point. He shouldn’t be—the biblical doctrine of total depravity isn’t exactly obscure. Vaginal compasses swing about as close to true north as penile ones; they just lean east instead of west. But because Glenn simply doesn’t understand—or want to understand—the female sins driving the sexual revolution, he is a blind guide. Without acknowledging the dynamics of hypergamy, he is incapable of making an accurate assessment even of where we are or how we got here—let alone how to turn around or get back where we want to be.
Marriage & babies
Here’s a prime example of his socio-ethical cataracts: early in the article, he claims that
the majority of women want marriage and babies, and usually quite dearly. They don’t need to be talked into them and never really have. This sounds good on the surface because it’s an excellent half-truth. But look at the facts on the ground—facts that Glenn should be acutely aware of:
- Firstly, speaking just of the United States for now, about 20% of all children conceived are killed with the express permission of their mothers. [ Guttmacher Institute, Induced Abortion in the United States (October 2017).] Sometimes under duress, sure, and often plied with propaganda, obviously—but ask me how much duress it would take for me to let someone burn one of my children to death with acid, or dissect them with a high-powered vacuum. And if my six year old was not fooled by abortionist propaganda, should we really excuse the quarter of all grown-ass women who, at some point in their lives, will have abortions? [ D. Bnonn Tennant, Are most women less perceptive than six year old children? (April 2016).] I believe the phrase God will use on his throne as he directs them to the crowd behind his left shoulder will be “yeah right.”
- Secondly, Glenn’s statement about women and babies and marriage is generally true after the age of about 28–31. But before that, as he must know, huge numbers of them are far too busy going out and having casual sex to worry about getting hitched. Their vaginal compasses point them to hookups with irresponsible hedonistic bad boys—not marriage with responsible, steady nice guys. We even know (because Science!) that their sexual impulses will lead them to rationalize these bad boys as good providers! [ Kristina M. Durante et al, Ovulation Leads Women to Perceive Sexy Cads as Good Dads in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (May 2014).] Coincidentally, this age for women is also when the lion’s share of babies are murdered sight unseen. In short, the mystical vaginal compasses perfectly pinpoint south.
- Thirdly, when their beauty begins to fade, women then turn to the responsible nice guys and “discover” that they want to marry them. But despite Glenn’s foolish belief in natural feminine virtue, the natural woman (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:14) does not marry as a commitment of herself to a man. Rather, she uses marriage as a way to secure commitment from a man. [Given the elective nature of marriage today, this is not strictly necessary; she can simply become pregnant to legally secure a man’s resources. For a telling—though anecdotal—glimpse into how this works, see Latoya Gayle, ‘Child support is 18 years of easy money’: Women reveal the REAL reasons why they’ve lied about being on the Pill—and many DON’T regret what they’ve done in Daily Mail (January 2018).] If a better man comes along—or even if she gets bored, and the allure of the attachment-free income guaranteed by the divorce courts becomes too strong—her natural impulse is to leave him again. [For a representative example, see Monique Honaman, I Just Wish He Would Have an Affair! in HuffPost (March 2012).] Contrary to Glenn’s credulous acceptance of conventional feminist wisdom, it is not men who have problems with commitment: women are far quicker to leave, initiating between 70% and 85% of divorces today [E.g. Joanne Bagshaw, Who Initiates Divorce More Often? in Psychology Today (May 2017).] —which reflects a consistent trend. [ Margaret F. Brinig & Douglas W. Allen, “These Boots Are Made For Walking”: Why Most Divorce Filers Are Women in American Law and Economics Review (2000), 126–169.]
Of course, given Glenn’s governing assumptions about women’s sexuality, he has to interpret this as men’s fault. Whichever end of marriage women fail at, Glenn can absolve them of responsibility:
If they cannot find marriageable men, they often go with other choices.
Just like that, women’s irresponsible behavior becomes men’s fault. Since women are holy and naturally civilized, the blame cannot be laid on them. They can’t be responsible for shacking up with bad boys who leave them. Their bad decisions are forced upon them by a lack of good men. Unwillingness to marry has nothing to do with marriage being seen as superfluous to requirements, which in turn has nothing to do with feminists’ original push to jettison it as a patriarchal institution of oppression. Neither can women’s deferral of marriage until late into their twenties and thirties have anything to do with young men no longer competing to be good providers so as to secure the best wives. All of this is invisible to Glenn because, in his mind, women are naturally civilized, naturally know the right thing to do—are naturally sanctified by the holy power of the Feminine Mystique that issues from their nether regions.
Manhood must be taught
Although Glenn believes, contra Scripture, that positive femininity just happens (cf. Titus 2:3–5), he does correctly note that positive masculinity must be taught. And it must be taught by men. This is really where the self-contradictory nature of his views becomes most acute.
On the one hand, he is sure that women civilize men with sex. But on the other hand, he can’t figure out why the more socio-sexual freedom women get, the less civilized those pesky men become!
Here’s the reason, Glenn: manhood must be taught. But the more society is conformed to accommodate feminine imperatives, the less it can accommodate masculine ones. As Rollo Tomassi puts it,
For one gender’s sexual strategy to succeed the other gender must compromise or abandon their own. [ Rollo Tomassi, The Cardinal Rule of Sexual Strategies on The Rational Male (July 2016).] This really isn’t rocket surgery: the more women are able to shape and dictate social conventions and mores, the less socially acceptable masculinity will become. Normal masculine energy will be diagnosed and medicated; boys will be taught from a young age to identify with feminine values and despise masculine ones; playgrounds will be sanitized; the concept of trials by ordeal and rites of manhood will be shamed and eradicated as dangerous and uncivilized; naturally-male spaces will be invaded to establish a feminine presence there.
Masculinity, in short, will become toxic in whatever respect it does not directly serve feminine ends. So positive manhood will no longer be taught. (Ironically, neither will positive womanhood, because the restraining influence of masculine command on hypergamy will disintegrate.)
All of this has plainly and straightforwardly happened in society—including in evangelicalism—as the feminine imperative for security and collectivism has smothered the masculine imperative for dominion and competition. When masculinity is society’s lodestar, as intended, women do indeed function as helpmeets; a man’s chief asset becomes a wife. Every man has the opportunity for sexual access by channeling his competitive instincts into acquiring a wife. Once he has one, his sexual gregariousness is constructively constrained, while at the same time he has the opportunity for rulership—channeling his authoritarian instincts into the right ordering of his household.
But when femininity is the lodestar, permanent marriage is jettisoned in favor of serial affairs; men have no reason to strive for marriage since their wives can evict them while keeping their children and income; eventually they either abandon the notion of household altogether, or become listless, powerless and suicidal. [On the reasons for men committing suicide at 4–5 times the rate of women, see Rollo Tomassi, Men and Suicide on The Rational Male (December 2017).] The center cannot hold and we get the slow-motion collapse into cultural hysteria that we’re witnessing today.
This is the inevitable result of Glenn’s
subordination of male sexual impulses and biology to the long-term horizons of female sexuality.
Whereas Glenn is baffled about what to do, the Bible is not. It articulates clearly how society should be ordered: patriarchal households.
Not complementarian households—patriarchal ones.
Patriarchy is a dirty, shameful word in a feminine-priority culture, but one which simply means:
- A social system in which the father is the head of the family;
- A family, community, or society based on this system or governed by men. [ Patriarchy in American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2016).]
This father-rule is straightforwardly the teaching of Scripture (Ephesians 3:14–15), both didactically and by example—starting with the creation of man himself in Genesis 2, all the way through to the letters of Peter and Paul (e.g. 1 Peter 3:1–9; 5:1–7; 1 Corinthians 11:3, 7–9; 1 Timothy 2:12–15 cf. Isaiah 3:12).
In an earlier version of this article I simply gave patriarchy as the solution here. Having observed the effects of patriarchy in isolation, and developed my understanding of the Bible’s teaching on intersexuality and the creation mandate, I believe it is the household which is the grounding element in a well-ordered society, with the patriarch merely being its representative ruler. [Cf. D. Bnonn Tennant, What is the kingdom of God? Part 1: representation and rulership (January 2017).] When this is not clearly in view—as when one speaks of patriarchy simpliciter—one tends to swing too far in the other direction from feminism. Keep this in mind when reading the comments.
More—Scripture also articulates clearly the way to attenuate and overcome the innate sin of both men and women in establishing, building, and rightly ruling these households: the cross of Anointed Jesus.
The thoroughgoing solution that Glenn is seeking is, in fact, the gospel. [For a primer on how the mission of the assembly impinges on socio-political issues, see D. Bnonn Tennant, What is the kingdom of God? Part 9: the Great Commission as a directive to conquer (July 2017).] It is the triumphant message that our supreme Father has chosen his perfect Son to rule, disciple and sanctify the nations through innumerable male-led households, and that he is placing all of his enemies beneath his feet until the world is transformed into one great household. I wonder what would happen if Glenn started preaching that, instead of gyneolatry. Sadly, he exemplifies the very lack of good men that he laments is destroying society. As Nathan once said to David, “You are that man!”