Testosterone: Biblical Patriarchy’s Kryptonite

Several weeks ago, I talked to my mom about Doug Phillips’ affair and the closing of Vision Forum Ministries. My mom talked about how sad that was, and how bad she felt for Doug’s wife and children, all of which I’d been expecting. But she didn’t stop there, and I hadn’t expected her to.

“Well,” she concluded, shaking her head, “he’s male.”

And she clearly felt that explained it. But I was not content to let that go. “Actually mom, most guys manage to not cheat on their wives,” I told her. “Plus, don’t you remember Aunt Sue? She had an affair and left Uncle Dave, not the other way around. This has absolutely nothing to do with his being male.”

“Oh, I guess you’re right,” my mom replied. I couldn’t tell whether her tone was thoughtful or dismissive, or just eager to change the topic. Either way, that was the end of the conversation, and it hasn’t come up since.

Sadly, my mother is not the only one to take up this line. Doug Wilson himself blamed Doug Phillips’ affair on Phillips’ “testosterone”—combined, of course, with references to Delilah and “a stripper with a stage name of Foxy Bubbles” (offered as a “hypothetical” of course). I fail to understand how these individuals can uphold so strongly the rightness and naturalness of male dominance and authority while at the same time holding this idea that men’s testosterone naturally and of course means they have a fatal blindspot.

It’s like Superman—he’s invincible, except for kryptonite. But in this case, that kryptonite—testosterone—courses through his veins. Would you trust that Superman to save you? Those endorsing biblical patriarchy want more—they want you to trust that Superman to rule in every sphere of power, including your home.

This is why there is so much emphasis on female modesty, and on women not inciting male lust, and on wives (and even daughters) keeping husbands contented at home so that they will have no temptation to look elsewhere. While lip services is given to men needing to exercise self control and not act on their fleshly impulses, men are in practice seen as so sexual and so given to temptation that male lust becomes a metaphorical powder keg that must be tiptoed around, lest it explode, bringing down the entire surrounding structures. And of course, this is the interpretation of what happened with Doug Phillips—he was male, he had testosterone, how can you really blame him?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m pretty sure I have more respect for men than these self-described supporters of biblical patriarchy. I’m pretty sure I both think more highly of men and expect more of them. Being a feminist has never made me hate men, but if I bought its premises, which I do not, biblical patriarchy just might.

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