Can we stop objectifying women and treat us like whole people, made in the image of God?

We’ve been talking about putting the “Christ” back in Christian marriage this month, and part of that is by treating women as the Imago Dei (made in the image of God) instead of just as sex objects or appendages to men. 

As I looked back on my social media this week, that theme kept coming up.

I actually had a huge week this week–I hit 20,000 followers on Instagram (please follow me if you haven’t already!), plus I had my two biggest posts on Facebook since they did an algorithm switch about eight years ago. 

Let’s start with the biggest Facebook post, which was actually a hard one to write, but which I feel is tremendously important:

The “smokin’ hot wife” mentality among Christian pastors/leaders needs to stop.

I need to talk about something awkward, and I’m sorry, but this is important.

In my review of Married Sex by Gary Thomas and Debra Fileta this week, I mentioned that one of the things I found most disturbing was how Gary objectified his wife, thereby inviting other people to think of her in sexual terms. He mentioned her “superpowered, high-octane sexual excitement booster” nipples, and told us what she did at orgasm. (and I’m partially quoting because we need to understand this is bad so the trend will stop, not because I want to further the humiliation. Like I said, this is very awkward)

When backlash hit, his wife (I’ll omit first name) defended Gary on his Facebook Page.

However, the issue is not whether or not Gary’s wife is fine with being talked about this way. The issue is that an SBC megachurch pastor and best-selling marriage author has now made it normal for men to talk about their wives in sexual terms, which in turn invites the listener (or reader) to do so as well.

After explaining how women can do “something special” for their husband, like using your silk scarves and makeup brushes on his t*sticl*s, he writes, “Growing in your understanding of how his penis responds to your touch … will often create a husband who is so happy he married you it will be difficult for him not to brag to his friends about why.”

The thing is, most women do not want to be the subject of “locker room talk.” We do not want our husbands to brag about us in sexual terms to other people. We do not want other people picturing our nipples or what we look like at orgasm. We want to be private, dignified, respected.

Even if a wife is okay with this, this should never be normalized. This encourages men to think, “Well, Gary talked about his wife that way so it’s okay for me, too,” and women will believe, “well, his wife is okay with it so I must be a prude.”

Christian women–all women, actually–deserve more than this.

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The response was overwhelming. I honestly think there’s a sea change, and women are really, really tired of being objectified, especially in church and Christian circles. We just don’t want to put up with this anymore. 

The comments are fascinating too, so check out the original!

What if we stopped blaming teen girls if a man thought a girl was a “stumbling block”?

Then there was this that I posted yesterday:

What would happen if the next time a man announced to a church leader or parent that a teen girl was dressed in such a way as to be a stumbling block, or that someone on the worship team was distracting because of her cleavage, we took this as a signal that the man was not safe? And we warned the girls in the youth group to keep their distance. And at church potlucks, we assigned men to stay with him so that he wouldn’t go near the teens or harass single women (or married women). We warned parents not to let their daughters baby-sit at his house. And we women told other women that this particular person had red flags? What would happen if we treated it as a problem with the MAN, rather than a problem with the girl?

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The reaction to this one was mixed. Many women agreed with me, and others thought I was being far too hard on the men. I realized I should have specified that the adult man found the teenage girl “a stumbling block TO HIM” rather than just a stumbling block in general. 

The most common reaction was that we really needed to talk about how so many girls come to church dressed like they’re going to a nightclub, and why don’t we spend just as much time on that? Why not equal time?

I didn’t reply there, so I’d like to reply here so all can see it.

The reason we don’t give equal time to what a girl wears and whether a man lusts after her is because Jesus didn’t give equal time. 

Jesus very clearly talked about the person who is lusting, and talked about how they should gauge their eye out. Jesus did not excuse the man because of what the woman looked like. And so the whole “stumbling block” argument doesn’t hold water. 

But even beyond that, let’s talk about harm. 

What is the harm done if a woman is dressed in revealing clothing? A man may struggle with temptation and be distracted.

What is the harm done if a grown man blames a teenage girl for his lust? Well, we can quantify that. When girls believe that they are responsible for men’s lust, it leads to lower marital and sexual satisfaction later in life. It leads them to trust their husbands less–even men who have not done anything to prove themselves untrustworthy. It artificially lowers women’s libidos later. 

And even if that man never acts on that lust, he has now caused emotional harm to that girl–emotional harm that can follow her throughout her life. Even if it’s women who are telling girls that they are stumbling blocks for the men, those women are causing emotional harm.

But besides that, blaming girls for men’s lust also contributes to rape culture. It makes it easier for men and boys to get away with sexual assault, because girls feel ashamed, like they caused it. And so they don’t speak up, and the men and boys can act with impunity. 

The most common time in one’s life to be sexually assaulted is ages 16-20–those teen years we’re talking about. And many, many girls are assaulted in youth group/church situations. 

So why don’t we give equal attention? Because the harm isn’t equal. And we need to grapple with that and realize that a man blaming a girl for his lust shows that he is not emotionally safe for a teenage girl to be around, and is a red flag that he could be physically unsafe as well. 

I’ve been sharing about how bad Every Young Man’s Battle is all over social media as well.

And I’ve shared MaryEllen Bream’s AMAZING Facebook review of Every Young Man’s Battle multiple times this week–read it here! I’m working on my own, but it’s at about 5000 words right now. There are so, so many horrendous quotes it’s hard to even know where to start. I may put it away for a few weeks to get some perspective. 

But I did make a Fixed It For You last night!

Every Young Man's Battle Fixed It for You

I’ve been asked over and over again on social media what I think about Redeeming Love.

Francine Rivers wrote the novel based on Hosea quite a few years ago, and now it’s been made into a movie. I do have some concerns, but I also don’t have the time or emotional bandwidth to reread the book or watch the movie. So I think I’ll link to others next week who have written some insightful things about it. If you have any links you want me to include, drop them in the comments! But I’d rather lift up others than do work myself that others have already done well.

So I think that’s all for me! Rebecca had her birthday this week, so that was fun, and I’m going to spend tomorrow helping her with some new storage units I bought for her to organize her basement. Keith and I were supposed to be on our 30th anniversary cruise right now, but we cancelled because of the COVID numbers. So we’re going away for a few days with friends next week (the blog will still be up and running!), but I am sad to not be where it’s hot. 

Today I’ll be putting up a funny reel on Instagram where I spit my tea on the podcast yesterday when Emerson Eggerichs said that you can’t tell if a woman is turned on. So come on over and follow me and don’t miss it!

And have a great weekend!

What do you think about the guy who finds teenage girls a stumbling block? How should we talk about our spouses in public? And do you have concerns about Redeeming Love or Every Young Man’s Battle (or did you love them?) Let’s talk in the comments!

What do you think? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find BIBLICAL, HEALTHY, EVIDENCE-BASED help for their marriage. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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