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Yesterday we posted an important podcast about the idea that “men need respect and women need love”, and that these should be unconditional.

It’s blown up on Twitter, and I’ve had so much feedback it’s hard to keep track. But a few things have come out of the conversation that I think it’s important to point out.

First, if you didn’t listen to that podcast, please do. It’s an important one. It shows how the idea behind “Love & Respect” is based on two things: an incorrect reading of Ephesians 5:33 (they ignored the original Greek which implied the opposite of what they teach), and a poorly written survey question directed only at men. As someone on Twitter said, “you have to laugh or you’ll just cry.”

Listen to the podcast, or watch it on YouTube!

Okay, a few important things:

When we make gender generalizations, we can leave out at least half of couples

In Love & Respect, as I said yesterday, they base their “men need respect, women need love” on a survey where they only asked men, and 74% of those men chose respect.

We showed that other surveys have used the same question on women, and 65% ALSO prefer respect.

But let’s assume that that’s not the case. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt, the best case scenario, and assume that 74% of women would have chosen love.

74% is actually a very strong preference. In fact, it’s rare to get that strong a preference. So in that best case scenario, this would be a strong preference shown by both sides.

But let’s think through the math of that for a second.

If 74% of men prefer respect, and 74% of women prefer love, then how many marriages would we have where men prefer respect and women prefer love?

Well, if you remember the math you did in middle school talking about chance, you’d know that to figure out the chance of something, you multiple the chance of thing 1 by the chance of thing 2, and then you get the chance overall. So let’s multiply 74% by 74%. When you do that, you get 54.76%.

That means that IF their survey question properly measured men’s preference for respect (which we showed yesterday it likely didn’t), and IF women showed a similar preference for love (which we showed yesterday that they definitely don’t), then EVEN THEN this hypothesis only applies to 55% of couples.

This, my dear readers, is why we have to start questioning things in Christian books when we read them, especially around gender differences.

Christian marriage resources tend to differ from secular marriage resources mainly because Christian marriage resources stress gender stereotypes far more than other books do. And when you stress stereotypes, you often miss huge swaths of the population.

One of the things that we found in our survey of 20,000 women, for instance, is that it’s only in about 60% of marriages that he has the higher sex drive. In the rest, either she has the higher sex drive or they have equal sex drives. Yet most resources assume that he will have the higher sex drive, leaving high drive wives high and dry.

Or most resources assume that men are visually stimulated but women aren’t. Yet increasingly research is showing that women are neurologically just as visually stimulated as men–we’ve just been conditioned out of believing it.

It’s a big mess.

And this is why I believe that God’s desire for us is not that we be godly wives or godly husbands but that we be godly.

We need to stop focusing on stereotypes and start focusing on Jesus.

We’d all be better off.

And that’s really the focus of my book 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, which tries to approach marriage through the lens of “how can we look more like Christ, and encourage our husbands to look more like Christ, rather than just focus on gender?” We plant Jesus firmly in the centre, which is where He should be all along.

Are you GOOD or are you NICE?

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Because the difference matters!

God calls us to be GOOD, yet too often we’re busy being nice. And sometimes, in marriage, that can actually cause problems to be even more entrenched.

What if there’s a better way?

A few other interesting comments on yesterday’s podcast on Love & Respect and bad science:

One thing that claim also misses is that if someone loves you they will respect you. You can’t have love without respect. So it’s like saying, “men prefer apple pie over dessert, whereas women prefer dessert.” It doesn’t actually make sense.

Jennifer G.

I think it sends such a dangerous message to women, who, thinking (as this book and “study” imply) love and respect are mutually exclusive, will allow her husband to disrespect her as long as he “loves” (shows affection) her.

Hannah M.

I always HATED this saying growing up. It is so generalizing, defective, and sincerely offensive. At first, I merely accepted it at face value. And then when I began to think about it for myself and test it by Scripture, it just fell apart.

Izzy O.

Hi—as a survivor of a cult veiled and hidden within an evangel church, who has suffered a decade of cognitive dissonance due to being falsely taught and KNOWING that the truth was something else, I wanted to personally thank you for what you’re doing. Thank you.

R.U.

Thanks, everyone!

So listen to the podcast.

And let’s all do better!

Why Gender Stereotypes Fail - What Happens When We Get Gender Stereotypes Wrong?

Have there been gender stereotypes you’ve heard at church that have bothered you? I’m trying to get in the habit of not spreading them–though it is a difficult to habit to break. Let’s talk in the comments!

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila has been married to Keith for 28 years, and happily married for 25! (It took a while to adjust). She’s also an award-winning author of 8 books, including The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila is passionate about changing the evangelical conversation about sex and marriage to line up with kingdom principles. ENTJ, straight 8

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