It’s the beginning of summer. If you have Facebook and if you have lots of conservative evangelical friends (and I do, since I am one), that means it’s time for lots of articles and videos advising women about how they should dress during the summer. It’s never a bad time for us to be reminded to dress modestly, but most of the articles go beyond that. They perpetuate lies about how men and women relate.
These articles find their source at the confluence of two cultural lies that come from very divergent sources yet are surprisingly similar. One is the feminist lie that all men are pigs. The other is the Victorian lie that women are responsible for the reactions of men. Bring these two lies together, throw in some twisted Bible verses and you get the basis for way too many of these articles: all men are raging sex monsters, and it’s up to women to keep them at bay by dressing modestly.
It’s unfair to both men and women to let the lie stand that this is how men and women relate. Perpetuating it puts men in a never-ending spiral of despair. Jesus clearly taught that lust is just as much a sin as adultery. Far be it from me to deny that lust is a problem. But if a man can’t help but lust any time he sees an immodestly dressed woman in person or photograph, then what is he to do? Never venture outside? Never read or watch the news? Never work in the same workplace as a woman? Perpetuating these lies also gives women a false view of men and of the world. If no man is to be trusted, if all men are one glance away from lust and worse, then why should she respect any man? Why should she spiritually submit to any man, whether as a husband, pastor or whatever, if men are helpless to keep from sinning?
If you read these articles they say things like men are stimulated by sight exclusively, and they can’t help but lust when they see a woman’s thighs or cleavage. Such statements are not only untrue, they are patently absurd. Blind men become fathers all the time. It’s actually quite the common occurrence. If men have to see stimulating images to be aroused, then it would be impossible for blind men to reproduce. If these lies are true, then why is it legal for a man to be an ob-gyn? If one glance at a bikini-clad woman renders a man helpless to control his lust, then by the very nature of his job it stands to reason that a male ob-gyn would be driven so out of control he couldn’t possibly hope to contain himself. He would be out of his practice and in jail within a week.
I’m not denying the fact that there are some men who think that way or who treat women shamefully. Nor am I denying my own capability to lust. I’m just trying to provide a little bit of balance because I don’t think the way those articles say I do, and thankfully I don’t know very many men that do follow the stereotype. With so many exceptions to the rule out there, it’s about time we stop pretending the rule exists and start dealing with reality.
The reality is that we as believers have the Holy Spirit. We have the capability to handle a tempting
situation without sinning. Obviously part of that is being wise enough to avoid tempting situations to start with, but that’s not always possible. Temptation is not a trap door that automatically drops us into sin. We have a choice in how we respond. A Christian man can choose to lust or he can choose to escape the temptation when he finds himself in a situation he did not plan for. I know I’m certainly not above making a wrong choice, and I would love to read some honest articles about dealing with these real-life situations.
But no. Instead we get articles about how the author’s poor husband or boyfriend needs the cooperation of all the women out there to protect him from sin. That’s demeaning to both men and women. I feel sorry for the men whose wives write about them in such disparaging terms. I know I would be embarrassed if my wife wrote the things about me that I read about other men in these articles. The way some of these women write about their husbands, they should be brought before the church for discipline and restoration. They certainly shouldn’t be pastors, deacons or leaders in the church, like so many of their wives claim they are. Before I would write anything that embarrassing about my lovely wife I would seek some private counseling for both of us.
I can’t read people’s hearts. I don’t pretend to know what motivates some people to do what they do. I’m just tossing out some general examples of stuff I've seen. I do know that privately dealing with a relationship issue is much healthier for anyone than publicly blaming others for a problem. I also know that the lie that men are helpless against lust undermines both sexes’ role in the church and in society. But we can’t talk about it, because it has become the conventional wisdom of our society, including the church. Men and women are afraid of speaking against it because they are afraid of being labeled as insensitive to real issues of rape or abuse. Well it’s time that stopped. My mom didn’t raise no pig. People should be judged on the content of their individual character, not pigeonholed into stereotypes.