Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism

Quiverful men and why they can’t leave


Libby Anne is starting to put the questions for her Raised Quiverful project together. And just now I realized that, though I read all blogs written by the people who participated, there’s one person whose answers I’m most curious about. And that person is Joe from Incongruous Circumspection. I don’t mean to insult the women who answered in any way, I dearly love reading their blogs as well and I’m curious about their answers too. I think I’m so curious to read Joe’s answers because he is the only man to answer.

It’s so rare to read about men who lived in the P/QF movements and left them. It seems as if they don’t exist! Now, you could certainly argue on a gender based foundation, saying that women simply feel more comfortable talking about such emotional topics, that they talk more anyway, and that it’s easier for them to word these things because they know their emotions better than men do.

I don’t think that’s the (only) reason. I’ve been thinking about it and this is what I came up with:

In the P/QF movements, men model Christ with all they do, and they’re supposed to possess qualities such as strength both physical and emotional, intelligence, discipline, leader skills, responsibility, self-sacrifice by working and providing and so on. Women on the other hand are submissive, meek and quiet, simple (-minded), following their husbands who, as I said, are like Christ to them. Men are leaders, women are followers.

When a woman breaks free of these structures, she certainly will face a lot of problems with the circles she’s leaving. She’ll be called rebellious, evil, sinful, worldly. But you can’t ignore what she’s doing at that point: From being a follower, she strives to be strong, self-governed, responsible. She tries to equalize herself with men and, ultimately, with Christ. While that’s negative within the P/QF communities, she’ll be respected in the ‘real’ world. She’ll probably experience a lot of positive feedback from the normal people she meets, who will tell her she was right and strong. A woman always breaks free of rather negative characteristics and adapts positive (manly) characteristics.

Do not forget that women are blamed for ‘feminine’ men. It’s not the men who give up their strength, it’s always women who take it away from them. The strong woman is feared in the movement. She is something you have to scream about, criticize and beat to show her her place in the world. It takes a lot of violence to make a woman submit – or at least try to do that.

Now, men are never blamed for a loss of their power. It’s always women who take it. Men are generally attributed all these positive characteristics and the second they reject any part of this system – watch out, this is where it gets interesting – they lose their Christ-likeness. They voluntary step down from their position of power to a lower position – namely that of a woman. They lessen themselves by rejecting the P/QF beliefs. They supposedly admit their weakness, their lack of responsibility and intelligence, their lack of leadership skills.

While a woman who leaves is strong (in the position that only men should have), a man is weak and scared, retreating into the passive position of a woman.

And while a woman who leaves gets all this positive affirmation from the normal world, what do men get? Even in the normal world, they might seem weak and emotionally unstable. Even for the normal world, he loses his position of a ‘man’. And that’s precisely what I think doesn’t only keep most men from talking about their experiences, it’s also what stops men from leaving those movements in the first place.

No matter how you turn it, a woman will always be in a positive, strong position, a man will always be in the weak position. I can fully understand every man who is afraid of losing his entire manliness because of this. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t leave to preserve this manliness. But I understand what makes it so much harder to show ‘rebellious’ characteristics as a man.

7 thoughts on “Quiverful men and why they can’t leave

  1. If I understand it correctly, the key characteristic of the P/QF philosophy is forcing a submissive, mothering role on its women, and repressing their individuality. Men in P/QF do not seem to be subjected to the same level of oppressive control, nor do they need to be brainwashed into believing that misery should be considered joyful.

    So perhaps it’s just not a big thing for a man to leave the P/QF movement?

    Ex-P/QF men might not feel the need to talk about it simply because they don’t have to “break their programming” in the same way as a woman who has had her spirit suppressed for years. It’s more of a case of “thanks, but no thanks”. They might not have the same struggles (mental and social) that you have had.

    Or perhaps leaving the movement does not always involve such a harsh break with the family structure?

    I might be completely wrong, as I know little about P/QF, but I think there are many other possible alternative explanations beyond your suggestion that I think boils down to saying it would be embarrassing for a man to admit his mistake. (Apologies if that’s an over-simplification!)

    But I certainly agree with your underlying message, that it would be really good to hear something from men who have broken free of P/QF.

    • The “no thanks” perspective is too simple in my opinion. And it’s not like boys/men don’t undergo a strict training and indoctrination growing up to make sure they stick to their godly “role”. I’d love to go into detail on that one, but that would make this comment endless. I recommend you to read this and this.

      I think that for many men it’s not necessary to ‘leave’ the movements all together. Once they get married they are the spiritual head of the new family, of course, so they get to make the rules to a certain extend. If, say, he came from a family where a working woman was a no-go, he might go ahead and ‘allow’ his wife to work.

      You can’t forget that being married to an extremely submissive woman isn’t easy at all. Imagine being married to a woman who doesn’t want to make the smallest decisions without your approval: Where to go for dinner, what clothes she is buying for herself, what meals you want during the weak, the list is endless. Imagine being asked to decide every little detail in the lives of your wife and kids. Imagine she would consider it a sin if you do not do these things, imagine her getting ‘help’ from parents and elders to get you out of that sin. It’s certainly not fun.
      Of course, there are women who are happy to end up with a husband who lets them decide, but not all of them are.

      And finally, I do think there’s a lack of motivation to leave when you’re being treated like a king. Of course, the wife is annoying and only has sex with you because she has to. Of course it’s annoying that you have to tell her every little thing like she’s a two-year-old. But at the end of the day, you always get your way, no matter what. There’s a lot of laziness in that.

      • Thanks for your very interesting reply – I followed up the links, fascinating too.

        Hmm. Yes. It’s horrible, isn’t it? I think you have some contradictory elements in the different situations, where either a husband can experience full freedom without obligations if he doesn’t mind the baggage of the movement, or he can experience no freedom when he is forced into a role he does not want and a nominally submissive wife will only do what is mandated by the movement.

        As with most things involving people interacting – it’s complicated!

        Anything that forces people into roles defined by the prejudices of others is ultimately going to cause unhappiness. Pretending that this bullying is sanctioned by stories from ancient superstitions on a farwaway continent is no excuse.

  2. I wonder how much of it has to do with the superficial roles that each plays within the movement. Women are victims and men are the bullies. Now, obviously this is simplistic, but for a mainstreamer looking at the gender roles in the movement, I’d say that most would react to a man trying to get out of that system by saying “Are you crazy? That sounds awesome!”

    When a man comes out and wants to talk about it, he’s not a strong survivor who got out of an oppressive system, but rather a symbol of that system and an enforcer of it. We like to root for the underdog and, looking at the narrative of the QF/P movement, men are not the underdog.

    I also wonder how much of this is internalized. That when a man realizes how awful the system he’s been a part of has been, he feels guilt over his role in it.

  3. Pingback: Worthwhile Reads: The Men of Christian Patriarchy

  4. You have no idea how tiring it is to be expected to be perfect in every way, as a man in the movement. Getting out helped me catch up on my sleep. Also, I have more respect for my wife than ever before.

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