Faith

Lust: Not Just a Man’s Struggle (2.0)

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Two years ago, I wrote a post called “Lust: Not Just a Man’s Struggle.” I wrote this before I started dating my now husband. I wrote this before I had many views on my blog. As soon as I “revealed” my identity on my blog and started sharing some of my posts on Facebook, I thought about removing this post all together. I went back and re-read it with the intention of permanently deleting it. But I decided against it. This needs to be said.

Two years is a long time. Some of my views have changed since then, and so instead of all-out deleting it, I’ve gone back and I’ve made some minor changes. Okay. Let’s get to it.

P.S. I am not afraid of sexuality – in general, or of my own. So this post will contain a pretty frank discussion of sexuality – if you’re uncomfortable with that, I’m sorry. Turn back now.

Two years ago, I went to visit a friend’s church. The message was on lust. At first, and I’ll be honest here, I did a mini-cringe because I’ve never heard a really good sermon on the topic before. It’s always the exact same stuff over and over again. But this sermon was different. I’ll get to why it was so different soon.

But first, I’ve noticed something unfortunate that seems to have happened within the church. People have forgotten, or fail to acknowledge, that women are sexual beings. I know I’m not the first to bring this up. I think (finally) this topic is getting more attention now. But still not enough.

I’ve mentioned this in many of my other posts, and even written a bit about this because I truly believe this is a big problem. A lot of times, the Christian community blames women for “tempting” men (e.g. dressing immodestly) yet fails to mention that women can be tempted too. Apparently, only women need to be careful in the way they dress and act so they don’t cause their Christian brothers to “stumble.”

As a Christian, I do not believe we should do whatever we want, whenever we want. Because of my faith, I choose to act, to think, and even to dress in a certain way. I feel like society today tells us to just do “whatever makes you happy.” Well, as lame as this sounds, I choose to do “whatever makes God happy.” So yeah, I choose to avoid super low-cut tops and way-too-tight dresses. I choose to do this because I really do not want other men looking at me in a certain unwanted way. Because I don’t want a man who struggles with lust to have to avoid looking at me. Because whether we like it or not, we cannot control other people’s thoughts.

Just to clarify, I still do not believe women are responsible for the thoughts that go on in a man’s head just because of the way she dresses. I don’t believe this because guess what – I lust too. And it’s not the man’s fault.

On that Sunday two years ago, the pastor did speak a little bit about modesty. He talked about women, and (of course) about how the way we dress can cause men to think impure thoughts. But you know what else he said? He talked about men. About how men dress and act and present themselves – and how that can cause women to stumble.

Woah, woah. What? Up until this point, I had never, EVER heard that in a sermon before. Finally. Equality.

If I’m going to dress and act in a certain way to make sure the men around me aren’t “stumbling,” then men better be held to that standard too.

Lust is NOT just a thing men deal with. Lust is JUST as serious for women as it is for men.

A lot of people like to say, “well women just aren’t visual! It’s not the same!”

Or even worse, “women don’t think like that!”

Guess what, I think like that. And I’m visual. I’m a woman. Just because it isn’t as common for women to be visually aroused, it is definitely more common than the church and the Christian community would have you believe. Just because it isn’t as common doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be talked about. Whenever lust was brought up in youth group and even young adults study, it was always within the context of MEN lusting after women. And what WOMEN should DO to prevent it. The only time I’ve ever heard leaders talk about women lusting is in the context of “oh, don’t have sex just because you want to be loved!” it’s always about “wanting to be loved” and never about wanting to have sex just because…sex.

No one ever talks about what happens when women lust. What happens when women objectify men. What happens when women see a man in jeans so skinny everything is faintly visible. No one talks about what happens when women fantasize or masturbate or watch pornography.

No. One. Talks. About. It. Ever. Especially within the church.

And that is really unfortunate, because then when women like me end up struggling with lust, a few things happen:

  1. There are little to no resources to help women get through this issue.
    2. It’s not taken seriously – “men’s bodies are funny, only women’s bodies can be sexy. How can a woman be turned on by that? It’s not possible! You aren’t really lusting.”
    3. You end up feeling weird, like there’s something wrong with you for being a sexual being because it’s “not normal” for a woman to feel that way.

I don’t know where this myth of “women are not visual” came from. Because…Really?! Let me show you some examples…

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Do you know who reads these magazines? Women (mostly). And yeah, they do want to see pictures of Channing Tatum and Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt and whoever else without a shirt on. Like, seriously. They made not only one, but TWO Magic Mike movies. The movie is about male STRIPPERS. I was dumb, and saw that movie with a female friend when it came out in 2012. Literally, it’s just Channing Tatum and a few other attractive male celebrities stripping for like, two hours. That movie theatre was packed, like, packed with 200+ women. Young, middle-aged, old, women.

Also, just because those images in People Magazine or whatever-else magazine are not pornographic and fairly “tame,” it doesn’t make it any better. Seeing a shirtless man with a great body is enough for me to lust over. And it’s enough for many others to lust over too.

We can’t keep doing this. We have to realize that men are not the only ones struggling with lust. By ignoring women’s struggles with lust, we are telling them that it’s not a big deal. Clearly it’s not a big deal if no one is telling us not to lust! We are telling our young girls that it’s okay to fawn over the boys of One Direction or Justin Bieber or whoever else is cute and popular right now. That it’s totally okay stare at men because we “aren’t visual,” That it’s okay to watch Magic Mike because women “don’t think like that anyway. It’s just for fun.”

None of that is true.

Girls: You are not abnormal for thinking this way. You are not abnormal for fantasizing. You are not abnormal if you are curious about porn. You are not abnormal for looking up shirtless pictures of Zac Efron.

But just because it’s not abnormal doesn’t mean it’s okay.

Because it’s not. It’s not okay for men to do it, and it’s not okay for women to do it either.

I am a very visual person, and I always have been. For a long time, I was not taking my struggle with lust seriously because no one ever told me I should. Because I was choosing to ignore the Bible. Because I thought those verses and those commands and that advice didn’t apply to me. Because I thought it didn’t matter. Because I didn’t even realize I was struggling with lust. Because I thought it wasn’t possible.

I could look at a man on the street in tight pants or a low-cut, tight v-neck and lust.
I could look at a picture online and lust.
I could watch a “sexy” male celebrity in a movie and lust.
I could look at any pretty much any magazine on the shelf and lust.
I could look at pictures on Facebook of guys at the beach and lust.(Apparently bikini pictures are a no-go for women, but shirtless pictures of guys, soaking wet in just a pair of board shorts is totally fine.)
Honestly, I could lust at just about anything.

I will admit it. I’m not embarrassed. Men openly talk about their issues with lust, and now I am too. It’s a sin like any other and both men and women struggle with it.

I wish more women would open up and talk about this. I wish it would stop being such a hushed topic. I wish we could start helping each other get through this. No one thinks a man is weird for admitting he has a problem with lust. No one should think a woman is disgusting or impure or somehow worth less because she is aware of her sexuality.

And men – maybe you should think twice before putting that half-naked photo of you at the beach up on Facebook.
Maybe you should think twice before buying those skinny jeans.
Maybe you should think twice about putting that shirtless, sweaty photo of you at the gym on Instagram.

Because maybe, just maybe, you are causing a woman to “stumble”.

And that should be taken just as seriously.

Also, I’m married now. And guess what – getting married doesn’t magically cause all the lust to just POOF! disappear. Any married man will tell you that too. I mean, like, yeah…now it’s okay that I lust after my own husband. But I have to be just as careful as he is when I’m browsing the internet. I have to stay away from certain websites. I have to avoid certain magazines. I have to avoid certain movies and TV shows – and I even have to be careful before typing in certain male celebrities’ names on Google.

P.S. (again). I know it seems a bit like a contradiction; saying that you aren’t at fault for someone else’s thoughts, but at the same time, saying you should dress a certain way so you don’t “cause” someone to “stumble.” I’ll just say this. It’s not your fault. But, as Christians, we should be doing everything we can to lift up our brothers and sisters, and not bring them down.

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