Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Lust- Alive and Well Among Women

When we were in Laguna Beach, Dale and I grabbed breakfast with a good friend of ours, a young, smart, finely-featured single guy named Gabe. He told us about a recent experience he had endured at a local bar. Several women, friends of friends, came up to him and enjoyed seemingly harmless chit-chat back and forth.

Upon learning that no, Gabe was not dating anyone and yes, he was straight, the young women began jockeying in earnest for his attention. When one of the more buxom females slapped his butt, Gabe protested, “Excuse me, but that is my butt.”

“Oh, you know you like it!” she responded.

At this point in Gabe's story he told us he had no idea what to do. He didn't like it, but he didn't know how to protect himself. I told him how invasive and horrible that must have been. Dale said, “That’s sexual harassment!”

I asked him if this had happened before.

“Yep,” Gabe said. “Girls have grabbed my crotch, one girl, I thought she was a good friend I could trust, but,” he cut another bite out of his Belgium waffle. “She just kept coming up to my dorm room only at night. This one time she told me she wanted to mess around. I told her I wasn’t interested and she said I didn’t really have a choice because she would accuse me of raping her if I didn't have sex.”

Lustful Women

Gabe is not an anomaly. There are many men who endure the lusty side of women, namely because lots of lusty women exist. Women's attraction to the male body is a widely experienced but little publicized nugget of truth. Need a few examples? "The Naked Truth about Woman's Lust." For the short version just remember when Obama walked the beaches topless, and the way females responded.

In the Middle Ages, church priests informed their parishioners that women were naturally more lustful, carnal, insatiable, and visually stimulated. Men were naturally spiritual and motivated by pure reason. For a popular example see the sexually voracious wife of Bath in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. In these olden days, the proverbs spoke of oversexed wives whose husbands couldn't give enough sex to keep them satisfied.

Hence, the church fathers' instruction for women to cover their heads for even angels, Tertullian explained, would be tempted to sin by seeing a virgin unveiled. His explanation of 1 Cor 11:10 continues, "She has the burden of her own humility to bear . . . For what is a crown on the head of a woman, but beauty made seductive, but mark of utter wantonness,-a notable casting away of modesty, a setting temptation on fire?” (De Cultu Feminarum, book 1, chap 14).

Isn’t it curious how opposite we think of lust today? Among most people, but more so Christians, it just seems common sense that men are the carnal, lustful, insatiable, visually stimulated ones. When I read Shannon Ethridge's book Every Woman's Battle, she says men are visually stimulated, that men give love to get sex, but that women give sex to get love, end of story. In high school chapels we were told that a guy thinks about sex once every 30 seconds.

Men-- the red-blooded oversexed humans has wriggled into Christian folklore as fact. In Walt (M.D.) and Barb Larimore's book His Brain, Her Brain, you can find tongue-in-cheek drawings of brain differences between men and women. As Barb Larimore explains, the male brain's largest section is the "24/7 Sex Hemisphere." The woman's "Family and Friends." (p 42-43).

I know it's meant as a joke, but talk about unhelpful stereotypes!

One thousand years ago, however, the church father's would have drawn the woman's brain with this 24/7 sex thoughts section and man with a much larger purity and reasoning capacity. Another well-meaning, but unhelpful guide in building mythology about women, For Men Only, by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn, explains in the chapter “With Sex, Her ‘No Doesn’t Mean You” this Truth #3: “Your Body (no matter how much of a stud you are) does not by itself turn on her body” (P. 133). Personally I beg to disagree. I know how much a man's body can turn a woman on... ask any woman you know about how she feels in Abercrombie and Fitch.

But with all these Christian sources written by journalists with statistics (the Feldhahn couple gathered stats from 300 women) and doctors (Dr. Walt Larimore) no wonder many in the church are convinced that all men pursue, crave and fantasize about sex much much more than women.

Today, we're convinced either by our marriages or by what we read that all men pursue, crave and fantasize about sex much much more than women.That's why Playboy sells more than Playgirl, right? That's why men talk about struggles with porn and women don't.

Well, I have news for you. The internet has made porn much more accessible without public shame. I consistently meet girls and women addicted or dabbling in porn. And these are only the brave ones, courageous enough to ask for help. The internet filter review from ChristianityToday.com documents these helpful statistics
  • Breakdown of male/female visitors to pornography sites: 72% male & 28% female.
  • 70% of women keep their cyber activities secret.
  • 17% of all women struggle with pornography addiction.
  • Women favor chat rooms 2X more than men.
  • 1 of 3 visitors to all adult web sites are women.
  • 9.4 million women access adult web sites each month.
  • Women admitting to accessing pornography at work: 13%
  • Women, far more than men, are likely to act out their behaviors in real life, such as having multiple partners, casual sex, or affairs.
  • In a survey conducted by Today's Christian Woman's online newsletter, many women admitted to intentionally accessing Internet porn. While some women wrote in to explain they'd accessed these sites to better understand what was luring their husbands.

From my personal experience of my internal desires and listening to women who confess privately to me, I know women who have had affairs, women acting out on their sexuality. And many of them are Christians. Women are just as red-blooded as men. Many women love sex for the sheer pleasure of being with an attractive man's body, women think about sex and many women find themselves lusting after other men. I think the rate of adultery where every man has to have sex with a willing woman should indicate that women are just as susceptible to this vice. (Photo: Steve Baccon)

What is Lust?

Lust, as defined by philosopher and spiritual formation director Dallas Willard, is the desire to have sex with someone you have not married. This is also Jesus' definition in Matthew 5:27-29, looking on another human with a desire to commit adultery with them in your mind's eye. I believe Willard would say that it is impossible to lust after your own marriage partner. When a woman lusts after a man she is imagining sexual interaction with him, it could be kissing, cuddling, oral sex or any other form of sexual engagement.

In Romans 1, Paul writes that God gave both men and women over to their lusts. As friends of mine in lesbian communities have pointed out, the absence of men does not mean faithfulness improves. Infidelity is just as rampant among lesbian couples, if not more so, as it is among heterosexual couples.

How Do Women Lust?

I am one of those women who have found myself struggling with lust. I am not addicted to pornography, but I am distracted to lust after well-built men. This is something Dale and I talk about as he struggles against lust as well.

When a beautiful man or woman passes us on the street or monopolizes our time after a speaking event we both code awareness to each other. We use our eyes to say, "Yes, this is a beautiful body in front of me, but no worries. My appetite has been cultivated for you."

Talking about the beautiful people around us allows us both to safely confess and grow into desiring each other. It also means our temptations are never alone faced alone. If you're reading this, male or female, and feel like you're facing lust alone, let me highly recommend XXXChurch as well as emailing someone to talk safely with. If you need recommendations for a counselor in your area for you or someone you know, please request that I email you by commenting below.

In our marriage, we also leave room to admire another man or woman and even point them out to each other without arousing suspicion about lust. When I do find myself lusting for another man, I will tell Dale. Years ago, after harboring fear and shame and deeply buried disgust for myself in my heart I confessed to him. Dale responded so well, "Would you like to pursue counseling about it? Would you like us to cut off communcition with this person? What can I do to help?"

This is a perfect response, but then, I've married a good man.

Baby Lust

Women don't always want a man's body for the sake of pure sexual delight. I've noticed how many women lust for men because males provide 1/2 the necessary ingredients for babies. I've heard husband confide to us that they know their wives make love to them only because they're hoping to get pregnant. Others share that since having kids their wives are completely uninterested in sex, even decades later. There are many women who are willing to fight for their right to have a baby, even at the cost of the man they married.

Having read the story of Jon and Kate Gosselin in their New York Times Bestseller Multiple Bles8ings, just a week before the story of their failing marriage broke, I had underlined several passages that concerned me. Kate Gosselin lived like babies were her God-given entitlement. In her book she talks about overwhelming desire to be pregnant, to feel life fluttering within her womb, to weaken her husband's armor (since he was content with their twin daughters). She speaks of pregnancy as a right, beating down her husband for months with arguments to try in vitro fertilization again. She writes,

"I sensed a crack in his (her husband, Jon's) armor. He was softening. He knew only one thing in the world would fill the aching void I felt, and that one thing was downy soft, sweet-smelling (most of the time), and had the power to light up the whole room with one toothless grin. Finally, he agreed to go through it all again--just one more time." (p 21)

Some women might applaud this. But, as a woman who has and still feels this aching void for a baby, I can testify that this is also another form of lust, not necessarily sex-lust, but baby-lust. A grasping demand to have something (even a very good thing like a baby) that God has not provided. This does not mean that I am, automatically against in vitro. I have dear friends who used this method and I believe for God-honoring reasons.

However, I believe this baby-lust is part of the reason the Gosselin family suffers today. For other reasons see "The Gospel and the Gosselins." While I commend them for choosing to keep their 6 fertilized zygotes, I do not think Kate's motivation for children was pure from lust

I am a woman who has experienced the finger-tingling amazement at life fluttering in my womb without the joy of holding that baby in my arms. And as a woman who longs for that again, I can also say that it is still possible to bow my head to God's ability to give me what I need when I need it. To live in deep dependence on God to show me what being a woman means with this man, with all my red-blooded desires intact, but steered to love well and fully.

My love for Dale, my desire for him, my delight in making love to him are not grounded in my hopes to get a baby. And love, for the husband in your life, for the friends God has given, for the tasks and people God has directed toward you, beats lust every time.

Depending on the response, I'll be writing another post on this subject.

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yahoo! Thanks for the practical, straightforward, non-shaming approach (and description) of how you and Dale handle the pesky fleeting attractions to others. How helpful!
Robin Moore

Warren Baldwin said...

Jonalyn Grace,

This post must have taken a lot of courage. I know it took a lot of conviction.

You wrote so much here I don't know where to start to begin to comment. I think it is good that you broach such an important topic for the blogging world. This problem, lust, is one of the immense problems undermining our society today. Not only does it sweep individual lives away in its awful torrent, but it destroys families and even stresses churches, esp. when it is one of the church's leaders that falls victim to lust.

I have counseled a number of male victims of lust. Fortunately, for men at least, there are a number of good books available to aid in the counseling process. I have seen men pursue their lust until it broke up their families. But, I have also seen men give lust up (with God's help) and build strong families. It can be done!

I'll be reading your next post on this. And, you've given me an idea for a post or two from the male's perspective. Would you mind me linking my readers over here?

Very good post, Jonalyn.

Warren

Tasha said...

Thank you!
I am giving you a giant hug through the internet!

I have heard so many times how women only want the "relationship" and not the sex. Ummm, right.
Women have sex drives.
Lust is a human problem.
I cannot think of one girl who goes to see a James Bond movie for the cars. :)

George Clooney, Matt Damon, Hugh Jackman, Mc Dreamy, McSteamy, and Brad Pitt are also the "Sexiest Men Alive" because millions of women are in a relationship with them?

Please write more on this, it is much needed. Too many women seem to think they do not struggle with lust, when it is hidden and eating them alive.

Julia said...

Jonalyn,

I really liked what you wrote about baby lust. Wow! I have never thought about it like that before, but it is so true. A lot of women will do anything...manipulate, secretly stop taking their birth control, etc, to have a baby and it is damaging to their marriages. My marriage is more important than any needs for babies and I sometimes have to remind myself of that because it's not about me and what I want. It's about me and Barry and honoring God with our actions. Good topic!

Julia

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Warren,

Thank you for considering the depth of this vice.. I'd be honored if you cross-listed my blog on yours!

Jonalyn

Anonymous said...

I don't agree completely on your description of "baby lust"- I would say that the majority of women AND men have a natural, god-given,and innate desire to have children, and that those who exaggerate by manipulating their spouses are definitely in the minority. i've known a lot of husbands too who would love to have another child, when the wife has felt too busy or doesn't feel like going through another pregnancy. (unlike the kate story- which was EXTREME exaggeration) i would call these cases more like "manipulation" rather than lust, for lust takes it beyond the category of pure, innate and natural desire.
all those who have stayed in healthy marriages know that the key to a long relationship is compromise, and i do believe that the majority of these relationships find the right balance for themselves when it comes to having kids, without over-exaggerating (by not considering their spouses' needs and desires for both more and less/no kids)

anna studenny said...

Jonalyn,

Thanks for posting this. I, too, agree more women than we realize struggle with some form of lust, whether in our minds, on our computer screens, or in our beds. To be as young as you are, with as much wisdom as you have, continue to voice these things. Women (and men) need to hear this.

As for baby-lust, yeah, lots of women and men need to hear that too. Having/wanting a baby seems to be glorified in the Church, which I'm not so sure is very healthy.

Anyhow, I know I just skimmed the surface and could go on, but I'll end here. I'm looking forward to what you have to say next.

A.

Anonymous said...

Jonalyn,

Great post, I am so thankful that you are talking about women & lust, and simply that women do desire sex! I've always thought I got some serious dose of male hormones, cause I never fit the female stereotype...of not really being interested in sex as guys are. I definitely am and I know more and more women who feel the same and don't know how to deal with it because we aren't 'supposed' to feel that way, and there's no outlet for discussion or openness. So, thanks for the bravery of taking that step! I think a big problem is the attitude that a good christian girl wouldn't desire sex, despite the fact that it's quite natural!

I've also been fearful of dealing with those feelings within a marriage and was really interested to see how you and Dale work through this. A great example. I am single but I'm thankful that there are men mature and intune enough out there, to gracefully engage this issue.

Keep writing about it, I am sure many women would be pleased to know that they are not alone and we can openly approach a discussion about desire and lust and relationships and such...

~Coryn

Ren said...

I can speak from raw, personal experience that struggling against lust and pornography are just as much a part of a woman's world as a man's. It is discouraging and isolating to hear the stereotypical cracks about how women don't like sex, women are cold fish, women would never be tempted by pornography, etc. It was oddly comforting to read Boccaccio's Decameron and realize that someone, albeit hundreds of years ago and still with a slight taint of that 24/7 idea against women, understood that women were just as much sexual being who were tempted by lust as men were. I also agree that the object of lust can be the desire for a baby.

Sometimes I wonder if women don't focus their lust on the idea of a child because society has jokingly convinced them that wanting their husband is in bad form, since there's no sex after marriage, right? Desiring a baby is a socially acceptable obsession. It's just an interesting tandem thought.

Thank you for posting this. It's not an easy thing to discuss, especially since women aren't "supposed" to have these struggles at all.

Amy said...

Really enjoyed this article! I love that you addressed an issue that is so hidden and way taboo in the body of Christ.
As someone who is open about my own struggles, I have been spurred on by the Lord to continue to share them with who ever the Lord brings. Women need to know that they are not alone, and that they are not abnormal. Just broken and sinful! LOL! Anywho, thankyou for your heart and candidness!~


Oh I so love XXXchurch.com! Their accountability software is fabulous!

Abigail said...

This post is genius. Thank you for bringing attention to ridiculous stereotypes as well as issues we sinners so often face. Bravo.

Mandy O said...

So very refreshingly candid! You've stirred some great questions. I'm piqued and challenged by your openness to admire beauty in others...makes me nervous thinking about it, but I'm positive that stems from insecurities. God's angels probably can admire beauty openly, right? Thanks for your incredible work here.

Kyla Jean said...

Jonalyn,

I just finished Ruby Slippers a few weeks ago and have been meaning to come by your blog to tell you.

How timely that I would read this post tonight. I have baby lust and I needed to read the truth you presented tonight.

Thank you!

Esther Ruth said...

Great article Jonalyn, and much needed. Thankyou for writing it! It is interesting that women were not always considered to be so disinterested in sex, even though what was spoken of them in the Middle Ages was not truth either.

What I am wondering is, is there a difference between lust and being turned on? Perhaps if there is, this is the cause for confusion with the "more visual" idea. You see, I *do* think men, in general, are more visual. I think they are "turned on" easier by the shape of a woman's breasts, legs, etc. I know for myself, what turns me on more than anything is the way my husband looks at me (with desire for me), the words he says to me, and the way he touches/kisses me. Not just looking at him and his body. I may see another man and think he is attractive, but may not struggle with lustful thoughts of him unless he treats me a certain way or says certain things to me, therefore causing me to feel that he desires me. Am I the only one who feels this way?

On the other hand, men to be "turned on" just by looking at a woman's body. I know my husband can just by looking at me. So that is how I think that men tend to be more visual. But that does not mean women don't struggle with lust also, they do! But I wonder if the *causes* of the struggles on each side varies to some degree.

Also, confident women do not give sex to get love, but I believe that idea comes from the fact and stories of insecure women who just wanted love and gave their bodies in order to feel loved. I don't give sex to get love...I do enjoy making love to my husband for the sensual aspect of it...but at the same time, one of the best things about physical intimacy, in my opinion, is feeling so loved and desired by my husband. So perhaps that is where the confusion comes from.

Just a couple of thoughts I had while reading your great article...looking forward to your next one!

Corinne said...

Hi Jonalyn!

I wanted to tell you what a blessing your blog has been for me. I have been following it now for a few weeks and it has been a real source of encouragement. As someone who still serioulsy struggles with some of the traditional teachings of the Church, it is always exciting for me to find like-minded people out there.

I wanted to comment on this post in particular because I myself have felt very disheartened by books such as Shaunti Feldhahn's "For Women Only," which seem to asexualize women, while at the same time normalizing and excusing lustful behavior in men. These books espouse the idea that fantasizing about women (even women other than one's one wife) is a healthy and hard-wired aspect of the male psyche. Bible verses like the one you mentioned that warn against lust, even lust in the mind, are ignored. I think the most discouraging thing about these books, however, is that they place a divide between husbands and wives, telling one that they will never understand the feelings or thoughts of the other. Men and women are simply too different from one another to be able to emphthasize with each other, according to these authors.

A couple of other thoughts about your post...you spoke about the overly-aggressive women who were hitting on your friend at a bar. I just wanted to mention that as much as that behavior may be a product of lust, it is also the case that young women in today's social circles are encouraged to exhibit that type of promiscuous behavior. I think many of these women believe that being sexy and desireable is important above all else, and if they can get a man's attention away from a friend, they have somehow won. Not that this is naturally a female tendancy, it just seems to be the message today's media is sending these women. Just think of all the terrible reality shows where several women are competing for one man's attention.

One more thought...you mentioned "baby lust," and I have to agree with one other reviewer that I don't think this can be characterized as just a problem with women. We all want things we can't have at one time or another, including babies. I remember reading in one of your other posts that the Bible seems to promote a spouse-centered mentality rather than a child-centered one, and I think this is part of the problem for many women. Churches, and secular society as well, have told women that nothing is more important than being a mother, so many women center their entire identities on this role. The spouse often becomes an after-thought, which in the long-run, hurts the children as well.

Just a few thoughts. Sorry for the super-long post. This is kind of a hot-button issue for me. Take care!

Corinne

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Anonymous-
I understand your concern that I pointed out only women's tendency to have baby lust.

You noted how a baby is a natural and God-given desire. Precisely because this desire is good means that lust can pervert it. Notice how every lust object is a good thing, a natural, God-given, innate thing ( e.g. lust for a woman is a good thing because companionship is something Adam wanted in Eden, lust for a man is good because women are made to want to be with a man) but when we demand any of these things when God has not given them we twist the pure desire into lust. When we treat a person (husband or wife) as a means to an end (whether that end be sexual conquest for a baby) we are using a human being made in GOd's image to get what we want. We lust, we covet.

Of course, this doesn't mean we can stop wanting a baby. We can ask, (oh boy can we!) but when we demand a baby from our husband, when we forget about the interaction with the Giver (What would he find good for us?) then I believe we are lusting after our husbands. We are using them for how their sperm can impregnate us without noting how they are a human with their own desires, needs and soul.

So the fact that the desires for children is a good, innate, natural, God-given desire (I agree it is) actually means we should be more aware that children could be something we could covet. Keep in mind covet is different than desire. Desire says, I am inclined toward something. Covet says, I want what others' have and I will do anything I can to get what I want, regardless of God and friend's advice.

When a woman intends to have sex ONLY because she wants a baby then I think she is coveting a baby and make her husband into an object to get what she wants. She's tossed out the other 2 wonderful reasons for sex:
1- recreation--good ol' fun
2- unity-- two becoming one flesh

It also devalues her husband.

As far as your point that women who devalue their husbands to get a baby being in a minority. I completely disagree with you. I think quite a lot of married women use their husband and sex to get what they want, including babies.

I think many marriages are run on the rails of the wife's desires, most husbands live in perpetual fear that they will misstep and hurt their wives. Perhaps the wives say that they've compromised with their husbands, but if you get a man alone, away and free from fear that their wife will find out what they really think and punish them... you will hear many sorrowful, straight-jacketed men, living lives their wives dreamt up. And many wives have built that environment up with their own hands. As Proverbs 14:1 says, "The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down."

I believe this is why so many marriages crumble after children are raised and gone. This reality is more the norm, given that more marriages fail than survive today.

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Esther,

Always great to hear from you!

I'm glad you're pushing deeper into the texture of lust. You know, I believe lust and "being turned on" is really similar. Lust is the action side of it (what we're doing in our mind's eye/imagination), but being turned on is what our emotions and body are doing. Does that help?

As far as men and women's bodies and what turns us on, here's a way to see if you are visually stimulated, "Can your husband turn you on with his body alone?" Personally I'd have to say yes. And the wives I've asked, from young to 40's say, "Well, of course." or something like that. They have other ways they also like to be spoken to, talked to, looked at. But my point was that women are visual creatures, too.

My belief is that our humanity means there are many ways we get sexually aroused: touch, taste, sound, sight, smell. And I'd say both men and women get turned on in all 5 senses. Do men and women differ? Yes, but not to say any one sense is GONE in one sex as far as sexual arousal.

Most women, today, are not encouraged to let their eyes guide them about sexual desire. So I think many women do feel like you shared. We are encouraged to look for a mate based on his attention, good listening, gentlemanly behavior...we're told women like smooth talking and rich, older men. The power of suggestions remains quite potent. Makes me want to analyze what I really like, not just what I've been suggested to like.

I am still quite attracted to Dale because of what I see.... (this is often first for me) and hear and feel etc. :)

As far as giving sex to get love.. I agree, women who do this (like men who do this) are hurting inside. But, I also believe that sex can be such a high, that it floods our bodies with such intense, good feelings women can be seeking that high... just as men do.

You wrote, "one of the best things about physical intimacy, in my opinion, is feeling so loved and desired by my husband." I would have to agree.

Mind if I add some other best things?

feelings of unity, the physical sensation, the weightiness that every sexual act could possibly lead to a child, the laughter and vulnerability of both partners, getting to love my husband better and better.

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Coryn, Anna, Tasha, Amy, Kyla Jean, Abigail,

Thanks for encouraging me to write more.... I appreciate your honest responses.

Ren,
Great point about the Decameron. I remember feeling relieved by those stories, too.

Corinne,

Fantastic point about the Feldhahn books. Thanks for writing in.

And good observation that women are encouraged to be sexy/desireable ABOVE their friends and this suggestion motivates them to act in ways that they are, perhaps, not naturally disposed to. The power of suggestion is quite potent, today.. both in the church to be demure, somewhat frigid and baby-focused and outside the church to be sex-hungry, aggressive and promiscious. How confusing for women!

I agree that baby lust is not merely a problem for women. I don't think I said it was in the post. I'm sorry for the confusion. However, I've never come across a man who has baby lust. Have you ever met a man who wants sex only to have a baby? And not for recreation/physical pleasure and the unity of husband with wife?

I do know who want sex merely for the physical titillation... and that is another type of lust--just not baby lust.

Corinne said...

Hi Jonalyn,

Thanks for responding to my post. You’re right. You never said baby-lust was only a problem for women. I think because you addressed it as something women deal with, I assumed that is what you meant.

You’re also right that you don’t meet many men these days with baby-lust. In our culture, having a baby is promoted as something women want and men avoid at all costs. This was not always the case, though. History is full of examples of men taking wives or concubines for the sole purpose of producing heirs. I would say that is very much like the “baby lust” you are describing. As you wrote, “When we treat a person (husband or wife) as a means to an end (whether that end be sexual conquest for a baby) we are using a human being made in GOD's image to get what we want. We lust, we covet.” True, maybe these men did not desire a baby for the same reasons modern women do, but they still devalued and dehumanized their wives in their quest for offspring.

One other thought… in another response you wrote, “I think many marriages are run on the rails of the wife's desires, most husbands live in perpetual fear that they will misstep and hurt their wives.”

I’m going to have to disagree. I think as many women are the victims of controlling, selfish husbands as vice-versa. Spouses of both sexes should be putting their partner’s needs and feelings first, and spouses of both sexes fail at doing so. I guess I don’t see how a man refusing to have a child when his wife wants one is any more or less selfish than a woman forcing her husband to have a child when he doesn’t want one. Obviously we’re seeing this issue through modern eyes because before the advent of birth-control, married persons having sex did not get to decide when or how to have children. Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not anti-birth control, but I do think its ready availability in this country has led men to have the selfish attitude that they should be able to have as much sex as they want without a child resulting. You spoke of women treating pregnancy as a right, but I think the opposite is often true: men think they have an unequivocal right to determine NOT to have a child, even though they are perfectly willing to engage in sexual activity that would naturally lead to a child. While you’re right that a spouse should never be used simply as a means to attain a child, I don’t think it’s right for men to completely disassociate sex from procreation either, or demand the final word on whether or not to have a baby at a given time. That is a decision both spouses should make together, thinking of one another’s best interests first.

Again, thanks for responding. This is a great blog!

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Corinne,

Excellent point about baby lust in men... good examples.

I cede my point about most marriages being run on the wives' desires. You are correct about many husbands controlling wives, as well. Perhaps, however, in feeling controlled many wives resort to manipulative pulls?

Also nice point that we cannot divorce the purpose of sex for procreation, either. Great to have your mind engaged on this!

Amy said...

Jonalyn,

Another though-provoking post! I do believe that lust is alive and well among women. I definitely struggle with it, though not as much as some. But, hey, I have my other battles.

I will say that I was pretty appalled about how those women treated your friend at the bar. I mean, I know I'm a little more chatty with a single, non-gay guy because he's uh, single and so am I. But to act like that in any way towards a man disgusts me as much as it disgusts me when women do the same thing.

Geez, if this is the kind of stuff I need to do to find a husband, then I'm staying single. I'm not going to degrade myself or someone else to find "true lust."

Keep writing!
Amy

Philip said...

I have come in way too late in this discussion, but since I just read the article this morning its new to me!

I really like this article because it helps me as a man see that side of my wife more easily. Savannah has always been open about this side of her in both word and action. It is also good to hear other women commenting on this article and identifying with it. I think this vein that needs to be addressed more, although in modesty.

I did want to mention that one argument you brought up multiple times is a little fishy to me. Maybe you can clear it up for me. I could be totally missing your argument here too; so keep my ignorance in mind as you read :)

You mentioned multiple times that women a thousands years ago (and even sooner than that) were considered the sexual and carnal gender and the men were considered the ones with pure reason and so on. I do not think that one cultural conception trumps or validates another. It is equally possible that a thousands years ago women were very misunderstood given their status and as they grew in status in the past couple of centuries so did the understanding of them.

Pretty much what I am saying is that a thousand years ago could be as equally misguided as today. While there is merit in mentioning the differences, it does not validate your view by citing views of women a thousand years ago unless you explain why they are more right than we are (which you did in a way, but it was never developed - only inferred).

Apologists have done this with atheists a lot. Atheists will say that every culture has different concepts of ethics so how can we claim their is any objectivity. Apologists respond that cultural conventions and conceptions do not establish law but only have the opportunity to recognize or reject said laws.

So I think it may be better, in light of citing these differences in gender conceptions over time, to maybe try to hit the vein of truth within them all - that women do have sexual appetites. All cultural concepts do is restrict how they are to be expressed.

Regardless, I thought it was a great article and I am merely picking at a very little part of a much more complex, solid view. Cheers!

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Hi Philip,

I do think you missed my argument, but I wasn't as clear as I could have been.

The arguments I used from the Church Fathers arguing for women's insatiable, carnal side were meant to contrast the current Church's teaching that women are sexually apathetic compared with men. My point being: the church has not been consistent in it's teaching on women's sexuality, more it mirrors culture.

Therefore, we should approach the "obvious" established church doctrine about gender roles and stereotypes with caution, even suspicion.

Hope that helps a bit. I do not, for one, agree with the Church fathers that women are more insatiable, carnal or lustful than men. Nor do I think women are more spiritual or men more rational... all these church stereotypes are, to my mind, unhelpful and deserving of severe critic.

You wrote: "So I think it may be better, in light of citing these differences in gender conceptions over time, to maybe try to hit the vein of truth within them all - that women do have sexual appetites. All cultural concepts do is restrict how they are to be expressed.{"

I agree, the examples I was giving from Gabe's life and my own were my attempt to show how women do have sexual appetites.

Thanks for pointing out the confusion. I'm glad because it gave me a chance to clarify!

Stephanie said...

Thank you for posting on this topic! I'd love to read more.

When (well-intentioned) people in the church are arguing that women shouldn't speak or have leadership roles in church, I've heard them footnote their arguments with something like:

"Wouldn't it be a disaster for the men if some hot girl was leading worship or teaching and the men had to listen without being distracted?"

I have several objections to this kind of thinking, but, in regards to your post, I think this also points to a misunderstanding of the struggles women have with lust. Can't women also be distracted by lusting after a good-looking, charming, intelligent leader or speaker that they are drawn to?

Philip said...

Thank you for giving clarification. Makes better sense to me now. I think the article is very convincing (especially using Gabe's and your own story to show the vein of truth), I just was unsure what you were getting at by repeating the differences in gender concepts in the past and present. I follow now!

Ginger Garrett said...

I can't thank you enough for continually challenging us all to consider what is truth or error. I'm saddened by the lies I've been taught and often feel alone in the church, especially as I raise my girls.
Keep lighting the darkness!

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Stephanie,
nice application... excellent point about how nice looking, well-built male pastors/ushers/speakers are just as distracting!

Anonymous said...

Jonalyn,

Thank you for this posting. Lust is one of those sins that seem to be more shameful than the rest and I never feel that it is sufficiently addressed in the Body of Christ. Because we push the idea that men are the ones with a sex drive, I feel that women that are dealing with lust feel alone, isolated, and weird! As a single woman that desires to be married, I would like to know how to handle these emotions and desires for intimacy in a biblical and balanced way without avoiding men completely. Thank you again Jonalyn and I would love to read more posts on the subject. Have a blessed week!

Tiffany

Warren Baldwin said...

Another book to go with the Canterbury Tales about religous perceptions of women causing lust is "The Hole in the Sheet." I can't remember the author's name, but an amazon search of the title will bring the book up. It is written by a woman who left a religious group b/c of their denigrating view of womanhood. She tells some personal stories that make you grieve for her, esp as an emotionally hurting young girl who didn't understand why certain things were happening. Personal story with theological themes and threads. Very good read.

Tasha said...

"is the desire to have sex with someone you have not married. This is also Jesus' definition in Matthew 5:27-29, looking on another human with a desire to commit adultery with them in your mind's eye. I believe Willard would say that it is impossible to lust after your own marriage partner. When a woman lusts after a man she is imagining sexual interaction with him, it could be kissing, cuddling, oral sex or any other form of sexual engagement."

I was wondering if you could clarify where you think the line between healthy sexuality and lust is. I have hear lust described as the desire to possess/own rather than receive the human gift. What is your opinion on this?

Is it possible for a spouse to lust after a marriage partner by simply seeing the other as a means to their own end/happiness?
I think you described this in the baby lust section, but could it also be applied to seeing the spouse as a means to sexual/financial/emotional/spiritual satisfaction?
I am kind of confused because it just seems strange that people would stop committing one sin (lust) to a particular person simply because they were married to them.

Anonymous said...

Ok, twice I've tried to leave a comment and have gotten error messages, so I'll try to leave this little nothing comment before trying again.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate this post. I've known women who struggle w/ chat rooms and pornography, and it seems to me like almost more than the guys they feel they just have to embrace it b/c (according to what they've been told) they are clearly abnormal as a woman. I.e., something must be deviant about them, so why not just be a bad girl? If they do confess their sins seeking help, they may be condescended to, shamed w/ no help of outgrowing it, or simply not heard.

So we need to hit this stereotype head-on if we're going to have sexual health in the Church. Both men & women are now dealing w/ an entertainment industry where the norm that is put before our eyes, even when we weren't seeking it out, is what might have once been called "soft porn." So we are definitely going to be hitting this problem for women more.

I'm redblooded too, although I question your "women are just as redblooded" comment, for it seems that science backs up a somewhat stronger general visual temptation and drive for men, as difficult as our own temptations may seem as women(???). (Clearly, however, the discrepancy is exaggerated.) It also appears (although the state of society is rapidly changing/obliterating this) that many girls don't really get the full red-blooded thing as young as the guys (despite their earlier sexual maturity) unless they have been sexually abused as children and thus have doors opened up for them? Bodily differences may yield more general innocence for a girl for longer. I do appreciate that you brought out the medieval stereotypes though. I bet most of the Church doesn't know that!

To be continued….

Anonymous said...

Con't of last post....

I would like to add that often our lust is complicated--it may seem visual but really have other strong components. E.g., we subconsciously imagine a guy who looks and dresses like __ would be ___, so when we take in an image, we are taking in a whole story. This is true of men w/ women as well, but I wonder what the ratios of effect are and if there are slightly different approaches to teaching women who struggle keys to healthy and trained sexuality vs. men. Certainly w/ some women I know, they have fairly low visual stimuli centers but a very, very active fantasy life if they do not reel it in--one full of romance, not just "acts." And for some the visual is strong but is what stirs up the other. This is my informal survey of many friends. It seems I can be more purely visual than most.

I know for myself I went through a period where I had little interest in most of the good Christian guys around me but a whole lot of mutual interest in the hot bohemians, and it scared me, particularly since I am involved in arts communities and expect I shall have some hot bohemians on hand even once I am married. I managed to peel myself out of all of the situations of high temptation, but wow, was I face to face with my weakness! I had to go to God to sort out the non-visual "why"s, and I found plenty of these to pray through that I might be less tempted in future situations. The power of a lot of the whys was broken during those years, but this showed me just how complex our sexual drives can be. (There were places I felt invalidated or insecure or simply fascinated by that these men seemed to hold the potential to fulfill for me--via a roll in the sheets!--more than rel. w/ good Christian ones. This is partially, sadly, b/c they did not suffer from the same gender stereotypes as the Church... my mind turned them on!)

I'm also glad you brought up baby lust. I've known women who are so dependent on being pregnant to have good emotions about life and their relationship w/ God that it is clearly controlling them and substituting for much true spiritual & relational growth. Yet they cannot see it as controlling them, since this, they are told, is a good desire.

I appreciate your description of how Dale & you handle both temptations to lust and communication re: attractive persons as you minister itinerantly. I'll put that in my pocket ;-).

Best,
Deborah

madame said...

Hi Jonalyn,
Excellent post, and excellent conversation going on here! I'll have to mention your post over at another blog about womanhood that I frequent, if that's ok.

Yes, we women are driven by what we see too. The first time I saw my husband, even his half fluorescent yellow, half dark hair didn't put me off (he had dyed his hair a garish shade of blond, and it had grown out quite a bit). His lean, tall, yet muscular body was like a magnet to me.

But I prefer a man with some clothes on, while men tend to be aroused by scantly clad women who leave just enough to the imagination.
The sight of a man in a thong, or with nothing on provokes a reaction of disgust, not lust; while a man would respond with lust to a woman in the same attire.

Regarding baby lust, I agree with you that it can happen, but I think it also happens because couples are waiting very long to have babies (and I'm not talking about those who can't have them or who wait one year or so). I think women have an inbuilt desire to have babies, to nurture a helpless little being. After all, God made us to bear them and nurture them. He gave us the maternal instinct, and the broody desires that are usually awakened at the sight of a newborn baby. It's natural.

Now, any desire that leads us to lie to, cheat on or use another human being is not right. But I think I'd call it obsession rather than lust.

Did you ever read Bridget Jone's diary? (not exactly Christian reading....ooops!), she always talks about the "biological clock" and how people keep telling her "tick-tock,tick-tock" when she answered that she hadn't found a partner for life yet.
Women, unlike men, have a biological clock. Our reproductive years are over sooner, so I think it's natural that we have more of a sense of urgency when it comes to wanting babies.

Great point about the confusing messages the church and the world send to us regarding our sexuality! It's sad how some very conservative churches will paint female sexuality as something dirty, to be covered, and will tell girls that they should remain passive. All they do is teach girls to be manipulative. We are still going to go for what we want, just not assertively, and men hate being manipulated.

But the world misses the point too, telling us we should be aggressive.

I'm looking forward to your next post on the issue.

madame said...

Hi again,
I also agree with Esther that women respond to the way men make them feel, but then men do to.
In a book called "His needs, her needs", the author says that people who commit adultery often do so with people who don't fit their physical ideal of a partner. A man may commit adultery with a woman he wouldn't lust after just by her looks. He's responding to her because she is giving him something he wants.

Women may feel strongly attracted to men who they find physically unattractive, also because they are getting something from them, they are getting some need met by this person, and they feel a connection that may lead to inappropriate intimacy.

Going back to my experience, the men I was attracted to were men who fit my standard of handsome, and who made me feel good with myself. They did things or said things that raised my self-esteem. They gave me the attention that I was looking for.
Sure, I had times when I wished a certain guy or man would give me the attention I wanted, and that guy or man was very attractive physically, but I wouldn't say those men awakened the same degree of desire that the ones who made me feel good did.

Phew.. I'm having a hard time expressing what I want to say. I hope it's clear...

Anonymous said...

A pertinent link: http://www.livescience.com/culture/090717-myths-about-mens-bodies-1.html

It names the following a myth: "Men think about sex every 7 seconds. 'That is as many times as we breathe everyday,' Caroll said. 'Nobody has that type of mental stamina.'

In one of the nation's most comprehensive surveys about sexual habits in the United states, completed by Edward Laumann and colleagues in 1994, 43 percent of men reported thinking about sex not even once a day, but rather somewhere between a couple times a week to a couple times a month."

Deborah

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Corinne's comments when she said that a man refusing to have a child is any more of less selfish than a woman who demands having one with her husband -- i think our society has created the most selfish and UN-NATURAL type of ideas regarding having children in marriage. I agree with her view on the pill- i have no problem with it whatsoever, but, we've got to admit--it has complicated and created a lot of extra problems in this, most natural, area of life.
being able to 100% decide on whether or not to create a family has given a lot of extra stress to everyone- and pressure on both spouses to make decisions INDIVIDUALLy, always considering what would be most convenient and agreeable for themselves (unfortunately how it often works out in real life whenever big decisions are made-)
++++ don't the best gifts in life often come as a surprise? unexpected? not always planned and programmed? maybe we should step back and take another look at how God designed having kids and maybe where we've distorted it too.
however, i don't agree that a husband or wife who wants to create future generations is coveting anything, considering he/she actually wants something he CAN create himself (not only wanting something that another already has, like the word conveys) i don't think that you can covet something which is also in your own power to CREATE (in God's image we're made) --
after all, aren't kids just a NATURAL result of pure love itself?
in this century i feel that we've gotten a bit too spoiled to have more control over everything, and have definitely lost touch with what God orginally created as good. i agree with Jonalyn in that some gifts are best left up to the GIVER, God himself! maybe we could make a few more family planning decisions based on this too.. which i think is a lot healthier than feeling that we have to ask a spouse for a child, which becomes sort of strange and unnatural.

Anonymous said...

In Jonalyn's defense, I think she is talking about more than a desire and expectation to have children. I desire and expect to marry, for instance. But being highly controlled by that desire would be a whole different matter. And I see women highly controlled by their desire for kids--and kids, kids, and more kids--to the point where how they are emotionally, spiritually, and relationally is very much dictated by whether or not they are pregnant at the time. I think Jonalyn is getting more at that end of the spectrum, not the natural desire many if not most women have to carry a baby.

Deborah

Michelle said...

I'm all in favor of another post! I think you addressed some points in this post that we all need a wake-up call on. And the term "baby-lust" was very insightful. I've never thought about that kind of desire as lust, but it becomes clear how damaging it can be to a marriage when out of control. Thank you for the reminder to trust God to give us "what [we] need when [we] need it."