Gluttons for punishment (Manosphere 2)

New Warhorn Media post by Ben Sulser:


This podcast raised questions for me. Much is made of the responsibility of a husband as the head of his wife. This is very good, but this is not a complete picture. Or, it is a confused picture, at least.

Let me propose some definitions.

Authority n the power or right to give orders, enforce rules, make decisions, and exact compliance

Responsibility n the duty or obligation to undertake or accomplish a task successfully, assigned by the superior or established by one’s own commitment or circumstances

Accountability n subject to the obligation to report, explain, or justify something

Power n the ability or potential of an individual to influence others or control their actions

These are all related, but distinct, concepts. An attourney, for example, may be accountable but not responsible for his client. One may possess and exercise power without the authority to do so. And responsibility for a task is conceptually distinct from both the power and the authority that may be necessary to accomplish the task. As Turretin says, “We distinguish.”

So with that framing, I would like to ask questions:

As her head, to what degree or in what area is the husband accountable vs responsible for his wife?

For those ways in which God, the superior, holds a husband responsible for his wife, what authority has God given the husband over her?

What power is a husband given by God commensurate with that authority and how may it be exercised?


Thanks for this podcast, @nathanalberson @jacob.mentzel @bstormcrow. The net result of the two is helpful to me.



Ah b3k! I imagine I shall be the most radical of those who answer your question, and will subject myself to endless objection, criticism, and rebuke for my answers! But, an esteemed friend of mine (his initials are SMH, let the reader understand if he can) once opined, “life is short, and I must soon give an account to my Lord, and I would not wish Him to find me a coward, a toady, or a false teacher.” So here’s how I’d answer your questions

As her head, to what degree or in what area is the husband accountable vs responsible for his wife?

First I’d like to add a tweak to the terms of art you’ve suggested. Stewardship is an idea in our Lord’s parables, and it invariably involves a responsibility for something or someone, and an accountability to a higher authority who confers the stewardship.

With this teak in mind, I’d answer the first part of your first question this way: according to the central passage on this topic (Ephesians 5:21ff), the husband is accountable to Christ for his wife. This is a notion that is a maximal contradiction to the way most Christians today to suppose things to operate. Most suppose that the man and woman in marriage are immediately responsible to the Lord without any mediation of this relationship by any other person (man or woman, no matter what the social sphere of operation - marriage, family, church, society).

Contrary to this comprehensively egalitarian notion of stewardship, wherein any Christian is immediately and exclusively answerable to Christ apart from any other human relationship, Ephesians 5 runs the wife’s accountability to the Lord directly through her husband, who is responsible to Christ for his wife. Unpacking this in practical terms is the subject for a book, and I don’t pretend to have done anything like that here (perhaps in ensuing discussion?)

She, of course, has a stewardship: she is accountable to the Lord for her own respect and submission to her husband.

The second part of your first question: “in what area” . . . Paul does not give specifics, though he does point the husband toward two exemplars of the husband’s love for his wife:

(a) our Lord’s love for His body, the Church, to wit: “that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish;” and

(b) a man’s love of his own body, to wit, " For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church."

Your second two questions are, as you will see from my answer, entangled with one another. Your definition of authority, for example, contains elements with which I’d concur (“right to give orders, enforce rules, make decisions”) but one element with which I’d disagree (e.g. “the power or right to … exact compliance” if by “exact” you mean compel or coerce).

Similarly, your third question inquires about a husband’s power (construed as a potential to “to influence others or control their actions”.

Before disentangling these two questions, here’s an observation on the entirety of the so-called “household code” which runs from Ephesians 5:21 through 6:9, covering first marriage, then parenting, then bond-servants in the household. The latter area has sometimes been extended - for modern applicational purposes - to employer/employee relationships, which mutatis mutandis is a valid extension.

In stewardships other than marriage, God gives to the steward power to coerce compliance from those for whom the steward is responsible. Governments (Gen. 9, Rom. 13) have the power of the sword. Parents have a coercive power over their children (spanking; the Law even commands parents to convey their recalcitrant children to the government for capital punishment!!). Employers and masters of bond-servants also have coercive powers.

So far as I know, God conveys no similar coercive power upon a husband to apply to his wife. If others wish to suggest such - say on. I’ll respond to them after you set them forth.

I do not, of course, think a wife is free of coercion (as we understand such). But, if she faces such, it comes from God’s hand, via some agency other than her husband, an agency who possesses such. Or else, it comes providentially from the hand of our heavenly Father. And, yes, I have seen such in my decades of pastoral ministry!

Now, setting aside the idea of a husband’s applying coercive force upon his wife to compel her compliance to his leadership, I turn to anything else which a husband might direct toward a wife who - in rejection of Paul’s commands to her - refuses to respect her husband or to submit to his leadership. The husband is shut up to these:

Patience: to bear with his wife’s noncompliance, disrespect, and failure to submit. How he can do this without (a) submitting himself to a role-reversal where the wife rules the roost, or (b) abandoning all husbandly words/actions toward her, say by actually or virtually divorcing her - these again are matters for a lengthy practicum in husbandry of wives.

Willingness to suffer: the saintliest men I know are those who have remained faithful to their husbandly stewardship though it cost them decades of loneliness, opprobrium, and sadness. Essential to their saintliness is a concomitant experiential fellowship with their Lord, who has borne much of the same through centuries of husbanding His Church.

As an aside, this “way of the Cross” which many husbands are called to travel, is a corollary to our Lord’s absolute prohibition of divorce from any licit marriage a man undertakes. A difficult stewardship is no warrant for a “do-over” with a different wife while the first marital stewardship is still in force. Only death dissolves such a stewardship. Here, once more, I find myself in opposition to almost everyone in this forum, and I acknowledge such up front, for what little worth it may have.

It is always possible that these things - a husband’s patience, a husband’s solace in following our Lord in carrying this kind of cross - may be used by God’s Spirit to lead a wife to repentance. If, on the other hand, he displays impatience and an unlikeness to our Lord’s faithfulness toward His own wild Bride, he simultaneously makes the work of God’s Spirit in his wife more difficult, and possibly far more unpleasant for her - for which he will suffer loss both in this life and at the Doom.


My only quibble with your answer is that I suspect your position on divorce is the first and only place in your answer where you would find yourself in substantial disagreement with the majority in Sanityville.


I’ve really appreciated the time spent lingering on the problem of pseudonymity, really exploring how truth-talk is never disconnected from persons and biases. I especially appreciated how you discussed the fact that sin and blame are never clear matters of pronouncing one party guilty and the other party acquitted when you are actually dealing with real people.

To be sure, right and wrong are clear. They are not veiled. God’s law is clearly perceived. But when you get into the trenches of actual relationships and conflict, you will find sin on both sides, and — probably — valid grievances on both sides as well. And the only cure is humble confession, looking to Christ, and patiently extending the same forbearance and grace to one another that God has so graciously lavished on us.

The internet is tricky, because it gives us a platform to sort of ascend to the level of abstract discussions with strangers. Even on a forum like this where (most of us) publish names, photos, and even churches, there is still a level of relational disconnection that we must contend with. And as soon as we fall prey to the idea that we can discuss truth in a vacuum, we immediately begin to slander our brother, who is made in the image of God.

I’ve appreciated these two episodes, warts and all. :slight_smile:

Edit to add: The Desmond Dark skit had me rolling. Loved it.


Happy birthday, dear Bill,
Happy birthday, dear Bill,
Happy birthday, dear William,
Happy birthday, dear Bill!

Over my lifetime, I have never known anyone with the wisdom on sexuality that you, sir, have blessed us with for so many years, now. May God bless us with your presence and wisdom for many years to come. Love,


Speaking of abstract discussions with strangers, a couple of years ago our church men’s group spent a semester (or was it a year?) working to improve our apologetics skills. A central part of that involved being confronted with a devil’s advocate argument against some Christian doctrine and trying to develop our ability to answer such arguments in real time.

We were all really bad at it – but the thing that began to come into focus as the weeks went by was how maddening it was that “Kristof” (our name for the devil’s advocate persona against whose argument we were contending) had no context, no actual existence. The sense grew on us that taking Kristof’s arguments at face value was worse than useless–for every wicked argument we cut off, two more grew in its place–and that what was needed was to address why he was making these wicked arguments based on what we knew of him. Was he living with his girlfriend and making arguments to justify his sin? Was there some difficult situation going on in his life and his lashing out at God stemmed from discouragement over that? Had God been good to him in every way and it was shameful for him to ignore all the ways God had cared for him from his youth up? There was no way to tell with Kristof.

After a point, I concluded that arguing with Kristof in the abstract was a waste of time. There’s no pastoral care for a phantom.



The issue isn’t Kristol when others are listening. It’s the sheep he’s leading astray—in this case into the root of bitterness that corrupts many. Men have a lot to resent today, if they chose to do so. But choosing to do so is contrary to Christian faith and beneath our inherent nature as men. We are initiators, not receivers. Those who take action, not reactors. Men who reform, not go down to the city gates and whine about how it’s all women’s fault and why don’t any of our city fathers tell our wife and daughters to submit to us.

And Fakename, this is to discuss Manosphere. This was what Nathan and Jake demonstrated about Mr. Fake Name Dalrock.




In one of your comments for the Sanityville episode “Into the Manosphere”, you said,

“When a daughter enlists in the military for a combat position, the father has placed his daughter there by virtue of allowing her to do so. Same with a wife. Can it really be these men are so oblivious to the way the authority of a father and husband works? We are responsible for our women. Scripture commands it. What we don’t speak against we answer for, even down to their vows. Have these men really never read Numbers 30?”

Wilson says

"The Bible does not teach husbands to enforce the requirement that was given to their wives. Since true submission is a matter of the heart rendered by grace through faith, a husband does not have the capacity to make this happen. His first task is therefore to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He is to lead by example.”

I find these two quotes to be inconsistent. Wilson says a husband does not have the capacity (that is, authority) to make a wife submit. I presume that would include not just her attitude, but also her actions. On the contrary, your quote suggests that a husband has the authority to prevent his wife from enlisting in the military. Now I suppose a wife could obey without a submissive attitude, but that seems contrary to the concept that God is more interested in the heart than the exterior behavior. Also, I would be very interested in how you think a husband could actually exert his authority to prevent his wife from enlisting.

It seems to me that either you or Wilson must be wrong as to the authority of a husband. If so, which is it?

As an aside (because it’s not directly related), do you consider that the Mosaic Law as found in Numbers 30 still applies to Christians today?

As one who would qualify as “the proper target” of the episode, I will tell you that I find much of the Sound of Sanity podcasts on the Manosphere and even part of your comments to be, as both you and they might put it, “disgusting” and “gross”. In other words, the work done is quite unlikely to have effected any change in the intended target.

I could go into this in great detail, but I do not believe it would be edifying for anyone.


Thank you for taking the time to reply at length. Over in another discussion, @tbbayly writes this:

(emph added)

Do you agree with the statement?

(emph orig)

I do not know how to reconcile a “duty to stop her”–that is a husbandly responsibility as part of his stewardship of his wife to stop her from some grevious public sin–with the lack of coercive power.

Responsibility vs Authority Outcomes

Must the husband be consigned to the bottom-right corner of the chart? If such a case would require a longer-form explication, has anyone written such a tome on husbandry?

I’m not sure if @Fr_Bill would agree with me here, but a husband used to have more ability to enforce his will with regard to his wife. There was an understanding and assumption of his natural right to do so. He’s not entirely without power today, though he has certainly had much of his power taken from him by the state.

But concerning coercive power, think first of the employee/er relationship. There is no power there aside from withholding money if your boss’s will is not done. Does the husband have no ability to withhold anything from his wife if she rebels? Second, think of the church’s authority, which is limited to moral suasion, but can excommunicate. The husband can appeal to the church for church discipline if his wife rebels. But beyond this, does he not have moral suasion at least as powerful as the church?

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Well then, there you have it. Not wanting to disgust you any more than I already have, i"ll leave you alone. Cordially

The issue of bitterness and anonymity within the manosphere are the two that are discussed here most frequently as ways to disqualify Dalrock, but I have to say that as a result of reading Dalrock and other manosphere sites I am no longer bitter towards women, because I understand them better now, and have developed social skills to deal with them in an understanding way from the things I learned from manosphere sites.

Some men never leave the stage of bitterness; the disappointment in seeing the reality of female sinful nature is to great. Those men are found ranting in expletives, not in carefully studying to try to figure out what has gone wrong, as I see Dalrock do.

Often the manosphere points to truths, very unpleasant truths about the nature of the effects of the Fall on intersexual relationships. They usually do not talk about the Fall, but what they describe occurs as a result. One of these very unpleasant truths is that most women are not attracted to most men in a, how to say it, intimate way. As an average man, that can be an extremely unpleasant thing to learn, that your wife is unattracted to you, but since that kind of desire cannot be negotiated or earned (Song of Songs 8:7), the only options left are either for a wife to honor her vows, or for a man to learn how to become more naturally desirable. The manosphere cannot help with the first, but it can help with the second, which is really part of self-control, or being a good steward of what God has given you: yourself.

Many men are uxurious, they have become de facto worshippers of their wives and serve at her pleasure. Men must repent of this and fear and serve God, both for the sake of their souls, and secondarily in order to get any kind of respect or desire from their wives, as a woman cannot respect a man who lives to serve her.

These are not things I learned in church, unfortunately, but the manosphere and the Bible, and they have helped me to develop myself and a mostly happy marriage as a result, instead of a mostly unhappy one.

Be careful to consider bitterness first as a sin, not a lack of understanding. It can’t be educated away.

“Put away all bitterness.” Eph 4:31.

I’ve found this verse important for most relationships I have, my marriage most of all.


No, but understanding can create sympathy for the actual situation of those weaker vessels, which can be helpful in repenting of bitterness. Repenting of being uxurious and bowing to God in His rightful place as Lord can also assist in repenting of the bitterness, because the cause of the bitterness (an unloving or disrespectful wife) has such a diminished place in a man’s life. He goes from thinking of her as the source of problems and pain, and learns to think of her as a person who is a gift from God to guide and care for.

The only thing I don’t get is the discrepancy between saying that the wife is the cause of the bitterness vs saying she is not the source of the pain.

Eh, unclear wording, my fault.

Bitterness is often a sin that a person is tempted by when they feel helpless. When that helplessness goes away, by whatever means it is removed, it is much easier to see that you were mired in bitterness, and repent of all of it, in whatever form.

Unlike anger which is an emotion expressed by our Lord, and as a human expression of fallen humanity may be either righteous or unrighteous, I’m not so sure that Bitterness is merely “often a sin”. Bitterness is a sin. Like lying and envying, it’s not a circumstance, but rather an outpouring of the heart.

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No, I’d say he’s to persist in the upper right corner (assuming the chart isn’t precluding other options). It’s just that what he can actually do to be engaged is limited essentially to his own words and examples. He may not spank his wife, for example, though he is told in Scripture to spank his children.

Will some husbands be frustrated? They will certainly feel frustrated. But, no matter how they feel, they are not actually frustrated if they relate to their wives as our Lord would have them to do, leaving to our Lord to take up measures He reserves to Himself and does not commission her husband to perform.

Again, this could call on the husband to live a long life of sadness, grief, and sorrow. I grieve for my brothers who face such, and pray for them, that the Lord would shorten the time of their difficulties.

Not that I’m aware of, but my knowledge is limited. So long as the husband is encouraged by the Church to put away a wife who gives him such grief and to find a different wife, no one is ever going to write such a book. There’s no market for it. Even a self-published tome would find no market. It ain’t out there.