Is the antidote to lust that men learn the “bouncing your eyes” technique, as advocated in Every Man’s Battle?

We’ve been talking about new ways to think about lust this week, with Keith’s post yesterday (and our podcast coming up tomorrow. UPDATE: It’s live now!).

In writing our book The Great Sex Rescue, too, I’ve had to read some Christian sex and marriage books I’ve never read all the way through before, and one that I attacked recently was Every Man’s Battle (I live-tweeted my reading of it here, and my reading of Every Heart Restored here).

One of the big themes of Every Man’s Battle is that all men lust, and the way to fight lust is to make a covenant with your eyes not to look at a woman with lust–which means “bouncing your eyes” if you’re ever tempted. You must determine never to fixate on anything that could cause lust.

I believe that bouncing your eyes won’t work because it’s the wrong emphasis–it treats women like they’re dangerous

Like Keith said yesterday, the big problem with lust is that it devalues women (or devalues men, if women are the ones doing the lusting). It treats human beings like objects rather than as full people. The solution to the lust problem as advocated in Every Man’s Battle, though, reinforces this same view. It believes that women are dangerous, and so you must “bounce your eyes”.

Here’s what I want to talk about today:

“Bouncing your eyes” tells men to ask the question: “Is this woman dangerous to me?”

A better question to ask is, “Am I being respectful to this person?”

Let’s explore this a little bit.

Certainly, sometimes you should avert your gaze to be respectful

When a co-worker is bending down to pick up files, you avert your gaze, you don’t stare at her backside. She wasn’t trying to show it off; it’s just that sometimes you need to get in awkward positions in public, and a respectful person does not stare. If a button pops open and she doesn’t catch it, you don’t stare. You avert your gaze because it’s respectful and you don’t want to cause embarrassment later. If a woman is breastfeeding and she has to change sides, you avert your gaze so as not to cause discomfort, but you don’t rail at her for being a stumbling block and causing you to lust. You just show her respect.

I grew up in Toronto, which has an elaborate subway system. These subways have quite large “vents”, or grates, in many sidewalks downtown, which normally while you’re walking over them do nothing at all.

But when you walk over the large grate at the exact time as a train is passing, you get a strong gust of air that, if you’re wearing a skirt, can cause a serious wardrobe malfunction. I had to be very careful as a teen to watch where I walked whenever I wore a skirt. And a polite person, when someone has a wardrobe malfunction, averts their gaze.

A few years ago, something similar happened to Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge. I remember seeing magazine covers with pictures of her with her skirt blown up. The magazines were all enticing people to buy them by telling you that inside were full pictures of her wardrobe malfunction. It reminded me of what happened to Princess Diana when she started dating Prince Charles. Do you remember that famous picture of her, taken when she was holding a child at the preschool where she worked, with the sun backlit through her skirt? You could see the outline of her underwear, something she was completely clueless about when she posed for that shot.

That picture went EVERYWHERE in 1980, and the poor woman must have been mortified.

It is not respectful to stare at someone’s wardrobe malfunction. It is respectful to look away–and to avert your gaze (and not buy those magazines!).

God made sex to be AWESOME!

It’s supposed to be great physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Feel like something’s missing?

Sometimes, though, people seem to deliberately WANT you to look at them virtually naked.

Rebecca was telling me about an incident she and Connor had one Canada Day when riding an Ottawa bus. A woman got on the bus wearing nothing on top but maple leaf pasties. This was deliberate; she obviously wanted people to look at her. But it’s simply not respectful to stare at someone who is virtually naked, and so you avert your gaze. 

I’ve also been privy to downtown Toronto parties where men often wear pants that are *AHEM* incredibly revealing in the backside area. Chaps of the “everything hanging out” variety. Again, it’s respectful to avert your gaze, whatever their intentions may be. It is respectful to treat someone like a full human being, without objectifying them. When people are deliberately dressing in such a way as to be basically pretty much naked (by which I mean falling on the extreme bell curve of public nakedness, not just violating your own standards of modesty), then treating them respectfully is not to stare at their body.

(I want to reiterate here that what I’m talking about is a person who is violating normal community standards. Like I talked about in my post on my 40% modesty rule, clothing choices fall on a bell curve. If someone is on the extreme, then be respectful and avert your gaze. But don’t treat someone showing a tiny bit of cleavage as if they’re a pariah. I hope you get what I mean!).

Sometimes being respectful means averting your gaze; sometimes it means engaging them and not looking away.

Here’s where the rubber really hits the road, though.

If the determining factor in where and how we look at people is to show respect towards that person, rather than viewing them as a danger, then sometimes we will have to look full-on. 

Instead of viewing a co-worker as a potential danger that you must avoid, you should instead look at her and treat her as a person and engage in conversation with her, just as you would with every other co-worker. You do not ostracize her because she may be a danger to you; you view her as a person with ideas and thoughts who contributes to your team and who deserves respect, and you treat her that way.

You don’t think of her as a collection of body parts; you think of her as someone made in the image of God who has a brain and who deserves to be treated as a person, not a threat.

If the determining factor in where and how we look at people is to show respect towards that person, rather than viewing them as a danger, then sometimes we will have to look full-on. 

If you try to avoid good looking women at work or at church or in your friend group, that is not being respectful. If you don’t look at good-looking women, that is erasing them from the public conversation, and is also making a value judgment on them based on their looks (and, conversely, making a value judgment on those whom you WILL look at as well; you’re saying that they’re NOT good looking).

When I talk about the problems I have with “bouncing your eyes”, I often have men very surprised and upset.

Shouldn’t I be happy that men are trying to avoid lust?

I hope this article helps explain it, but it really comes down to this: Bouncing your eyes still makes the woman pay for your problem. You avoid her; you don’t talk to her; you treat her based on her body, not her mind. She is the source of the problem.

I am asking, instead, that you see yourself as the source of the problem, and treat her as a full human being.

Being respectful means treating a person based on their worth in Christ and engaging them based on their ideas and thoughts, rather than their bodies. Sometimes that means that you will avert your gaze; and sometimes that means that you will look at them head on and engage in conversation.

But the question is not, “is this woman dangerous?” The question is, “Am I being respectful?” That puts the onus where it belongs–on your own heart. And that allows all of us to feel like human beings, made in His image.

What do you think? Do you find the concept of “bouncing your eyes” helpful or hurtful? Let’s talk in the comments!

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