I am tired of the “boys will be boys” message that I hear from so many pastors and pulpits, talking about lust as if it’s normal and women as if we are always going to be objects of temptation to men.
And so I’d like to go on a little rant today, because I think that this message is seriously harming women’s hearts and putting roadblocks up to healthy marriages.
But first, a caveat.
I wholeheartedly believe the studies that show that men are far more visually stimulated than women. I know that when men are aroused the visual center of the brain lights up, whereas for women it’s the relationship center.
I know we approach sex differently.
I know that many men feel a far more urgent physical need for sex than women do.
I know that lust is more of a battle for men than it is for women.
I completely and totally believe that. But I also believe that God calls us to more, and by concentrating on temptation as if it’s normal, rather than pointing to what God wants for us, we are hurting real intimacy.
Part of the problem, I think, is that the conservative arms of the Christian church spend far too much time concentrating on “womanhood” and “manhood” and dividing us up by gender and seem to forget that we’re people first.
The married duo Priscilla and Aquila were Paul’s “fellow workers” in the gospel; Paul didn’t just hang out with Aquila. He partnered with Priscilla, too, who was the primary teacher of the two. In Philippians 4:3 Paul mentions two women who had labored with him in the gospel. Paul didn’t segregate; he, a single man, worked with women! Just read Romans 16 to see how women and men intermingled to spread the gospel.
And there’s no Christian side hug in the Bible, either. Paul wrote in multiple places, “Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss.” (1 Thessalonians 5:26).
Paul had perfectly platonic relationships with women, with whom he spread the kingdom of God.
That was his normal. It was expected that you could hang out with women and just value them as people with gifts without sexualizing them.
Yet what do we do? We spend so much time talking about how men and women can’t work together without there being temptation, or how men and women can’t be friends, because we see ourselves as primarily sexual beings, not primarily children of God.
Paul believed that if you saw each other only as sexual beings that this was a sign that you weren’t saved. It was the secular world that did that.
And yet now we’ve turned that on its head! It’s in the church where we don’t believe that men and women can be together as friends and “fellow laborers”, and it’s in the secular workplace where it’s assumed that of course men and women can work together with no issues.
The secular world sees women as people; the church too often talks about women as objects of temptation.
I have had so many women comment on this blog that they couldn’t marry anyone at their church because all the guys at their church were struggling with porn and always criticizing what these women wore in case they caused them to lust.
So these women looked elsewhere, to men who wanted to get to know them as people and to men who cared about their character. And they found that outside the church.
Pastors, are you listening? Do you know the damage that you are doing when you reduce male/female relationships to solely sexual ones, rather than redeemed, godly ones?
My son-in-law and my husband both came to Christ in their late teens, and did not grow up in anything resembling a typical evangelical church. They have never had trouble having female friends without “lusting” after them.
Outside of the church boys are not taught to see women as objects of temptation. They are taught to see women as people.
In fact, porn use tends to be higher in states that are more Christian. Perhaps that’s not a coincidence, but a correlation. Reduce women to sexual beings, and it becomes easier to get caught up in lust.
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I know that there is a crisis of women who don’t like sex and aren’t having very much sex in their marriage, leading to a huge struggle for many husbands.
I really do get this.
But have pastors ever thought that maybe one of the reasons that women have such issues with sex is because of the messages we hear about sexuality from the time that we are small children?
- “Women need to be modest and cover up, so that they don’t cause men to stumble.”
- “A man desires sex constantly, and if he doesn’t get sex every 72 hours, he’ll be tempted to look at porn or he’ll find the battle with lust so much worse.”
- “Men struggle with lust so much, and most pastors struggle with being with a pretty woman.”
- “It’s normal for men to want to look–that’s how God created men! God made them to be the initiators, so of course they will notice a woman’s body. It’s hard-wired.”
I have read, to my horror, that mega pastor Mark Driscoll once wrote that women were created to be “penis homes”. Pastor Joe Helmes once opened a Nascar race talking about his “smokin’ hot wife”, as if it was appropriate to sexualize her in front of all those men. The masculine vibe that so many churches are trying to take on in order to seem relevant has pastors now bragging about their sexual prowess from the pulpit.
Do male pastors have any idea how absolutely creepy and disgusting that sounds to the women in their pews?
When a woman brings that up, the pastor (or writer) often responds, “you’ll never understand because you’re a woman, but this is what men go through.”
That’s not good enough.
You’re right, I may never understand how hard the lust battle is for a guy, but do male pastors understand how very badly we women want to be cherished, and how very much we yearn for security? Do they understand the raw emotional devastation that a wife feels when she finds her husband looking at porn? Do they understand how difficult it is for a young woman to see sex as a positive thing when she has been sexually abused as a child, and then has grown up in a church which tells her that all men will lust after her and that she had better have sex with her husband or he’ll be tempted to cheat?
If men deserve understanding because of their battle with lust, then surely women deserve equal understanding for our battle with insecurity and our desperate need to be loved.
One woman wrote to me after being told that all Christian men will always struggle with lust, no matter what the wife does. She can make it easier, but he will always struggle. She said:
Women are constantly asked to have empathy for every man’s battles but little help is provided for our broken hearts. I would ask men to have empathy as well. Do you have any idea the self sacrifice it takes to be intimate when we feel like we will never be enough for you?
Here’s how another woman put it:
His temptation does feel like rejection. And if the temptation is apparently non-stop, that’s a lot of feeling rejected.
Is that really the message that pastors want women to hear? You will never be enough for your husband, but you need to try super hard anyways, because at least maybe you’ll make it a little bit easier for the poor guy?
Can’t we call people towards much more? Don’t we believe that Jesus should actually make a difference in our lives? That it IS possible to live totally and completely crazy about your wife and your wife alone?
So may I suggest a way through towards a healthy message?
I will continue to encourage women to initiate sex.
I have tried so hard on this blog to teach women to get over sexual lies they’ve believed and know what it is to experience spiritual intimacy when they make love. I will continue to encourage frequent, fun, and interesting sex, including learning to be more adventurous in bed, because being vulnerable and a little our of control is part of “hot and holy” sex! I will try to point women towards a fulfilling and intimate sex life, because God created us for something amazing, and we don’t want to miss out! We were made for intimacy.
But I will never, ever tell women that the primary reason you need to have sex with your husband is because if you don’t he may lust after other women. I will never, ever frame sex to be something that’s for him, and not something that is equally for both of them.
Now I am asking you, male pastors, can you do the same thing, and say “no more boys will be boys”?
Can you call men to love their wives? Can you tell them that, yes, you have temptations, but so does everybody. Jesus did not look at a woman and automatically undress her in His mind, and neither did Paul or the apostles. And so you need to stop doing that, too. No more excuses. No more “everybody struggles with this”.
1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
There is always a way out. So stop talking like lust is normal. “Be holy, as I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16) No ifs, ands, or buts.
Yes, that’s a tall order. But that’s Jesus’ order, not mine.
And maybe, if men started acting like they respected women, then women would start seeing sex as something healthy again, too.
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