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.