Thursday, January 15, 2009



I have enjoyed teaching the special class on Wednesday nights this month called “Understanding Male Sexuality: A Class for Men and Women.” This past week in the second session, I mentioned a certain conundrum which I will express in three parts: 1) Men are visually oriented and are stimulated and even aroused by provocative images. 2) Many women dress provocatively to be noticed by men. 3) Women want men to respect them as people and not see them as sex objects.

I’m treading on sensitive ground here, so let me say first that men are responsible for our thoughts, actions and words. Period. If a Christian man takes seriously Christ’s call to holiness, he will take the necessary steps to discipline himself. Part of this is to refrain from putting himself in surroundings that tempt him strongly to lower his standards. As Job famously said, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl” (31:1). Christian men likewise must show this purposefulness.

So I want to look at this from the female perspective, setting aside any obligation women might or might not have to make life less fraught with temptation for men. What leads some women to dress provocatively? (I realize provocative is a relative term depending on culture, customs and tastes). I asked the women in the class this question and I received thoughtful and varied responses. To wit:

* “We don’t do it to help or hinder men – except for a few women with an agenda. Most women want a little attention – just to be noticed enough to be called beautiful, but it seems like it only happens (i.e., compliments) when we “provoke” it with our clothes. I also know that some women just don’t understand how powerful their clothing choice can be!”

* “I think women dress the way they do because they like men to look at them because it makes them feel pretty. They want their man to see other men looking at them.”

* “My personal opinion is there is no explanation that fits just one person. There are some women out there who “dress to kill” and hate men, but they know they can “control” them. There are some women who have no clue. There are some women who try very hard to be ‘proper,’ but media plays an important role in their demise.”

* “Every woman that I know wants to be beautiful. Not trashy, or sexy, or hot, but beautiful. … But look at where the bar has been set (e.g., magazine covers with air-brushed women). What makes it even more disappointing is that when men talk about the physical beauty of a woman, you very rarely hear the praise of a woman who is modestly dressed. We need men who will not only turn away from pornography and verbal praise of the air-brushed & photo-shopped women but also who will speak of realistic beauty, who will stand up and call their wives (real women) beautiful.”

At the risk of making a complex phenomenon too simple, it seems clear to me that men hold the keys to the “solution” (in a micro sense). As fathers, we can love and guide our young daughters so that they are confident in their outer attractiveness as well as their inner beauty and intrinsic worth. As husbands we can express our appreciation for our wives’ beauty and specialness.

Sounds like a no-brainer to me


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