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Does lust have to be every man’s battle?

The Every Man’s Battle book series has sold 4,000,000 copies, and they’ve certainly spread the idea that lust is, indeed, what every man struggles with. 

And people do believe it in large numbers. 62% of women and 73% of men currently believe that lust is every man’s battle. 

When we did our survey of 20,000 women, we found that this belief caused marital and sexual satisfaction to tank. It drastically lowered women’s libido. It made it more likely she would have sex only because she felt she had to. It made it less likely she’d get aroused. She was less likely to trust her husband. And so on and so on.

But we still had a question: is it actually true? Is lust every man’s battle?

I remember having a conversation with a big-name author explaining our findings, and how the idea that lust is every man’s battle hurts women. And his response was that, even though it did hurt women, we need to keep telling women, because it’s just the way men are. 

And that’s the attitude of so many in Christendom: This is the way men are. After all, Every Man’s Battle says of men’s propensity for sexual sin, “we got there naturally, simply by being male.” In Every Heart Restored, part of the Every Man’s Battle series, the authors write, “Men just don’t have that Christian view of sex.”

So God made men to objectify women. That’s what male sexuality is.

We have never believed that. We have always felt that this is a distortion, and that all men do not actually lust. 

And so, when it came time to survey men for our new book The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex, we decided to do a deep dive into lust. 

In February and March, we’re doing a “number of the day” series, where I share a piece of our research with you. And today, I have a new number–that I’m going to explain. And it will blow your mind.

So we asked men, “do you have a daily struggle with lust?” And how many men said yes?

%

With a Caveat!

Okay, so 75.5% of men say they struggle with lust. That’s a lot, but it’s not every man. 

But we still had a question: What do these men mean by “lust”?

You see, we have a theory that most men think they’re struggling with lust when they’re not actually lusting. As I’ve written before, noticing is not lusting. Lusting is a deliberate action (setting your eyes on a woman) paired with a deliberate mindset (imagining a woman in a specific scenario; choosing to linger on her body and think about her body and objectify her).

  • Seeing a woman has cleavage and thinking that cleavage is nice is not lusting.
  • Noticing a woman has a nice body is not lusting.
  • Appreciating how beautiful a woman is is not lusting.

So we decided to test this. We asked men about a series of scenarios that we took straight from evangelicalism’s best-sellers–For Women Only and Every Man’s Battle. We gave men the waitress scenario that Shaunti Feldhahn talks about in For Women Only–how men will have issues thinking about the waitress  that serves them on a date night. We asked them about the scenarios from Every Man’s Battle, like what happens if you’re in the grocery store parking lot and a woman bends over to get her toddler out of a car seat (yes, in Every Man’s Battle they actually said this would trigger lust).

And for each scenario we gave several options that men might do–some that weren’t lust, like noticing she’s got a nice figure, being surprised at how good looking someone is, wanting to keep looking, etc., and some that are lusting, like staring at her body and thinking about her body; saving a mental picture for later; all the way down to masturbating in your car. Every Man’s Battle presented masturbating in one’s car as a normal occurrence; only one man out of 3000 clicked it, and we think it was a misclick given his answers on other questions.

In fact, if you look at the answers that men gave, the vast majority do not lust in any of the scenarios given.

%

So 70% of the men who say they struggle with lust show no signs of lusting.

But what about porn? Maybe the reason that guys say they struggle with lust is really about a struggle with porn?  

Well, of the guys who say they struggle with lust, 55% of them don’t have a problem with porn AND don’t lust in any of our scenarios.

Now, it’s a little more complicated than that, because 40% do say that they have intrusive thoughts of women’s bodies–but not 82% the way that Shaunti Feldhahn claims.

Many men think they are lusting when they merely have a sex drive.

Think about this: If a woman watches a Marvel movie, and says, “Captain America is hot!”, we don’t think twice about it. But if a guy says, “Black Widow is hot!”, we think he’s lusting.

We’ve talked so much about how men are visual and can’t help it, while at the same time denying that women even have any visual nature, that we have such double standards. And nothing is based in reality.

So here’s the reality: both men and women are visual, though women have more arousal non-concordance and the visual doesn’t register as much.

But by telling teen boys that having a sexual thought about a woman is lusting, we have raised men to feel helpless. They can’t help but notice, so they feel that they’re lusting. And so the only solution is for women to cover up, and then, once you’re married, for women to become “methadone” (as Every Man’s Battle calls us) so that men can withstand lust better.

It’s all misunderstanding of what lust is. It keeps men trapped, and women trapped.

Listen in to tomorrow’s podcast to hear more of our findings on lust, and check out our chapters on lust and porn in The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex to go into detail on our findings. But for today, please remember:

TL;DR–We have made men paranoid of their sexuality, so they think they’re sinning when they’re not.

Lust is not every man’s battle. Noticing is not lusting. Many men who think they’re lusting are actually just noticing that women are beautiful. And men are actually quite capable of treating women with respect–and indeed, most men actually do.

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Is Lust Really Every man's Battle?

Why do you think the idea that lust is “every man’s battle” has caught on so much? What do you think that’s done to men–and women? 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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