Is “Bouncing Your Eyes” So You Don’t Lust Respectful to Women?

by | Mar 25, 2020 | Pornography, Uncategorized | 82 comments

Bouncing Your Eyes, Every Man's Battle, and Ending Lust
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Is the antidote to lust that men learn the “bouncing your eyes” technique, as advocated in Every Man’s Battle?

We’ve been talking about new ways to think about lust this week, with Keith’s post yesterday (and our podcast coming up tomorrow. UPDATE: It’s live now!).

In writing our book The Great Sex Rescue, too, I’ve had to read some Christian sex and marriage books I’ve never read all the way through before, and one that I attacked recently was Every Man’s Battle (I live-tweeted my reading of it here, and my reading of Every Heart Restored here).

One of the big themes of Every Man’s Battle is that all men lust, and the way to fight lust is to make a covenant with your eyes not to look at a woman with lust–which means “bouncing your eyes” if you’re ever tempted. You must determine never to fixate on anything that could cause lust.

I believe that bouncing your eyes won’t work because it’s the wrong emphasis–it treats women like they’re dangerous

Like Keith said yesterday, the big problem with lust is that it devalues women (or devalues men, if women are the ones doing the lusting). It treats human beings like objects rather than as full people. The solution to the lust problem as advocated in Every Man’s Battle, though, reinforces this same view. It believes that women are dangerous, and so you must “bounce your eyes”.

Here’s what I want to talk about today:

“Bouncing your eyes” tells men to ask the question: “Is this woman dangerous to me?”

A better question to ask is, “Am I being respectful to this person?”

Let’s explore this a little bit.

Certainly, sometimes you should avert your gaze to be respectful

When a co-worker is bending down to pick up files, you avert your gaze, you don’t stare at her backside. She wasn’t trying to show it off; it’s just that sometimes you need to get in awkward positions in public, and a respectful person does not stare. If a button pops open and she doesn’t catch it, you don’t stare. You avert your gaze because it’s respectful and you don’t want to cause embarrassment later. If a woman is breastfeeding and she has to change sides, you avert your gaze so as not to cause discomfort, but you don’t rail at her for being a stumbling block and causing you to lust. You just show her respect.

I grew up in Toronto, which has an elaborate subway system. These subways have quite large “vents”, or grates, in many sidewalks downtown, which normally while you’re walking over them do nothing at all.

But when you walk over the large grate at the exact time as a train is passing, you get a strong gust of air that, if you’re wearing a skirt, can cause a serious wardrobe malfunction. I had to be very careful as a teen to watch where I walked whenever I wore a skirt. And a polite person, when someone has a wardrobe malfunction, averts their gaze.

A few years ago, something similar happened to Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge. I remember seeing magazine covers with pictures of her with her skirt blown up. The magazines were all enticing people to buy them by telling you that inside were full pictures of her wardrobe malfunction. It reminded me of what happened to Princess Diana when she started dating Prince Charles. Do you remember that famous picture of her, taken when she was holding a child at the preschool where she worked, with the sun backlit through her skirt? You could see the outline of her underwear, something she was completely clueless about when she posed for that shot.

That picture went EVERYWHERE in 1980, and the poor woman must have been mortified.

It is not respectful to stare at someone’s wardrobe malfunction. It is respectful to look away–and to avert your gaze (and not buy those magazines!).

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Sometimes, though, people seem to deliberately WANT you to look at them virtually naked.

Rebecca was telling me about an incident she and Connor had one Canada Day when riding an Ottawa bus. A woman got on the bus wearing nothing on top but maple leaf pasties. This was deliberate; she obviously wanted people to look at her. But it’s simply not respectful to stare at someone who is virtually naked, and so you avert your gaze. 

I’ve also been privy to downtown Toronto parties where men often wear pants that are *AHEM* incredibly revealing in the backside area. Chaps of the “everything hanging out” variety. Again, it’s respectful to avert your gaze, whatever their intentions may be. It is respectful to treat someone like a full human being, without objectifying them. When people are deliberately dressing in such a way as to be basically pretty much naked (by which I mean falling on the extreme bell curve of public nakedness, not just violating your own standards of modesty), then treating them respectfully is not to stare at their body.

(I want to reiterate here that what I’m talking about is a person who is violating normal community standards. Like I talked about in my post on my 40% modesty rule, clothing choices fall on a bell curve. If someone is on the extreme, then be respectful and avert your gaze. But don’t treat someone showing a tiny bit of cleavage as if they’re a pariah. I hope you get what I mean!).

Sometimes being respectful means averting your gaze; sometimes it means engaging them and not looking away.

Here’s where the rubber really hits the road, though.

If the determining factor in where and how we look at people is to show respect towards that person, rather than viewing them as a danger, then sometimes we will have to look full-on. 

Instead of viewing a co-worker as a potential danger that you must avoid, you should instead look at her and treat her as a person and engage in conversation with her, just as you would with every other co-worker. You do not ostracize her because she may be a danger to you; you view her as a person with ideas and thoughts who contributes to your team and who deserves respect, and you treat her that way.

You don’t think of her as a collection of body parts; you think of her as someone made in the image of God who has a brain and who deserves to be treated as a person, not a threat.

If you try to avoid good looking women at work or at church or in your friend group, that is not being respectful. If you don’t look at good-looking women, that is erasing them from the public conversation, and is also making a value judgment on them based on their looks (and, conversely, making a value judgment on those whom you WILL look at as well; you’re saying that they’re NOT good looking).

When I talk about the problems I have with “bouncing your eyes”, I often have men very surprised and upset.

Shouldn’t I be happy that men are trying to avoid lust?

I hope this article helps explain it, but it really comes down to this: Bouncing your eyes still makes the woman pay for your problem. You avoid her; you don’t talk to her; you treat her based on her body, not her mind. She is the source of the problem.

I am asking, instead, that you see yourself as the source of the problem, and treat her as a full human being.

Being respectful means treating a person based on their worth in Christ and engaging them based on their ideas and thoughts, rather than their bodies. Sometimes that means that you will avert your gaze; and sometimes that means that you will look at them head on and engage in conversation.

But the question is not, “is this woman dangerous?” The question is, “Am I being respectful?” That puts the onus where it belongs–on your own heart. And that allows all of us to feel like human beings, made in His image.

What do you think? Do you find the concept of “bouncing your eyes” helpful or hurtful? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Brenda

    I really wish there was a way to comment anonymously on FB! I did not want my friends and family seeing this in regards to the post about your book! My husband had such difficulty understanding what I meant by “I WANT to have sex, but my body is just not ready or not responding yet. I can be in the mood but I can’t just think my body into arousal.” Then he got on a medication that made things difficult for him. Now he was the one saying “I want to, but I can’t. If you want to, you’ll have to help me out with a little coaxing.” Ahhhh. Lightbulb!! Now he F I N A L L Y understands a bit what I had been going through and we’ve been able to bridge that gap!! He’s more than willing to give me the time I need up front so that we both have a great time.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I love that so much!

    • Disappointed supporter

      Hi Sheila,
      As I once commented before, i like your work best when you stick with your own voice rather than attacking other, . In general I’m a big fan of your work and recommend it to people I work with.
      However, i think you’re missing the point of bouncing your eyes. It seems to me that you’re over simplifying his message to mean turn away from pretty women. I think his point IS valid when taken in context.
      It is very respectful to bounce one’s eyes just as you have said here.
      Criticising someone else’s work is perhaps warranted for real heresy or actual unbiblical teaching but given the vast scope for interpretation of ‘Biblical’ teaching, such criticism should be a last resort.
      If you disagree with him, why not write to him instead of public mud slinging? I respect the fact that you did that with FotF for their support of another author you disagreed with. We have enough enemies outside without setting ourselves up individually as the standard of truth. We’re a body and need to function like it! Let’s not bite the hand because we disagree with it.
      (Obviously the Bible provides a right way to deal with a sinning brother, so we don’t have to remain silent for everything, but we’ve got to do things the right way)
      Keep up the good work!

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Hi there! I do hear wha you’re saying, but the fact is that Every Man’s Battle has been linked to some very harmful things that have actually hurt both women and men’s sexuality. It isn’t a question of just talking to them–it’s a question of changing the thinking.
        When we look at the results of our survey of 22,000 women, the teachings that are in Every Man’s Battle (and other books–they’re not the only ones) are actually quite damaging. And I do believe that they are unbiblical.
        Calling women “methadone vials” for their husband’s sex addiction, with no consideration of women’s sexuality, is not healthy, and it does need to be called out.
        In our surveys, Every Man’s Battle was one of the top 5 resources that women listed that hurt their marriage. And so many men have said the same thing.
        And the thing is–the authors know it. They put the critiques right in the books, but then chose to ignore them. So it’s not like they haven’t been exposed to it. They’ve just ignored it. And so I do believe that what we need to do is change the conversation. Women are not dangerous. Women are not “methadone vials”. Women are precious, made in the image of God, and women matter. And men should not feel enslaved to sin just because they feel sexual attraction to women. Sexual attraction is not lust. Noticing is not lusting. If we simply talked about respect and treating each other as image bearers of Christ rather than as seeking purity, I do believe that we would then have our emphasis on the right place.
        It’s just that after 12 years of blogging, I’ve realized that things aren’t going to change until we address the some of the rotten foundation that the church has built. We need to build the foundation of our sexual ethics on Christ and kingdom principles–on what real intimacy is. On how to value each other. On what real passion is. We can’t discover those things if our foundation is wrong. So I hope I can pull us back to a healthier foundation!

        • Teresa Simmons

          That book gave my husband the justification to continue treating me as a container to receive him any time he wanted with NO regard for me or my feelings.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Yes, I’m so sorry, but I’m not surprised. That’s how it frames sex. It’s all about the man’s ejaculation–nothing at all about the woman’s pleasure, about intimacy, about anything good. Just about his needs. It’s so pagan, really, and so far from Christ.

        • Leanna

          Yes yes yes!
          I have been thinking and talking about the unhealthy nature of “bouncing your eyes” for a few years now and it is such a breath of fresh air to see someone with a platform addressing it!
          Thank you!

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Glad you liked it, Leanna!

  2. Doug

    I know you feel very strongly about this, and I am not going to tell you that you are wrong. I will, however, point out that you have never had a pornography addiction, or any other addiction, as far as I know. What you see as disrespectful is not, and you are hurting your own cause when you state that it is. You are taking men who are trying hard to change the way they behave, trying to do exactly what you want them to do(respect women) and faulting them for the way they do it.
    When I first turned away from porn, I did not have any resources. I eventually found some, and they were helpful, but initially, it was just me against porn/lust. I had never read a book or an article on the subject. I developed a number of strategies, all on my own. One of them was “bouncing”. Actually, it was a much more aggressive strategy than just bouncing. I literally walked around looking at the cracks on the sidewalk. I drove my truck thru Houston, as the weather was warming, and the amount of clothing women were wearing was declining daily. I was mortified when I discovered I couldn’t even walk thru a grocery checkout without being accosted by women’s magazines, which seemingly are designed with the intent to objectify women. Ironically, the warming weather inspired my wife to suggest a trip to the beach. I drove down the beach for miles until I found an area sufficiently deserted to limit any opportunity for temptation. As a rule, my wife and I searched out deserted areas anyways, so she didn’t really see the difference, but I had a specific mission and purpose to separate myself from temptation.
    What I would ask you, simply, is this. If someone was recovering from a drug addiction, wouldn’t you advise them to avoid their dealer. If someone was a recovering alcoholic, you advise them to avoid bars, or situations where they would have drank before. If someone is a smoker, they are often advised to avoid situations where they might be tempted to smoke. When my son had a major bout with depression and alcoholism, he moved in with us till he got more steady. Neither my wife nor I have an issue with alcohol, but we removed every drop from the house.
    All of that advice is good, solid advice. As time goes on, and they grow stronger in their recovery, then some of those strategies can be relaxed, but there should be a willingness to re-instate them all if the need arises.
    Now, when a man is so unsure of himself and his recovery from pornography that he bounces his eyes, you want to tell him that he is being dis-respectful. Why is that? I have an anger issue, and major control issues that are borne out of trauma. For several years, my recovery demanded that I be willing to remove myself from a situation when I felt myself losing the battle with anger. It was not always successful, but I would say that it was 95%. I became almost normal in my responses.
    I am going to spell this out, and I hope you are willing to adjust your thinking here, but I strongly doubt it. THERE IS NOTHING DISRESPECTFUL ABOUT EYE BOUNCING or avoiding or any other strategy that a man might need to employ to overcome. It is exactly the opposite. It is a sign of respect, both towards others and himself. If someone interprets that otherwise, then that is on them. If someone is actually more worried about feeling disrespected, than accepting that the man is doing something he feels is right and proper to fight his battle, then they need to get over themselves, because they have a problem with pride. Maybe they should be addressing that instead of worrying about what someone else is doing.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I hear what you’re saying, Doug. I do. But please hear this: In church, if a man has to avoid me or can’t look at me, or at work, if a man has to avoid me or can’t look at me, then that man is being disrespectful towards me. He may think he’s not, but he is, because he is treating me like a bunch of body parts rather than as a person. Feeling invisible or a pariah in a mixed group because the men aren’t allowed to look at you is a humiliating experience. The men think that they are being gallant, but it just makes you feel two inches tall.
      And, again, I will report what research has shown: the best way to combat lust is to see women as whole people, not to avoid women. The root of lust is in how you see women.
      Avoiding beaches for a time may be a good idea. But when you are in a social or work group with women present, to avoid those women or to refuse to look at them is disrespectful in the extreme.

      • Doug

        Like I said. I had no illusions that I would change your mind.
        I will point out something that you probably are not aware of. Eye bouncing seldom applies to that which is familiar so much of your issue with it is beside the point. It is easy enough to speak to someone familiar, and to look them in the eye, largely because even a pornography addict had developed those skills just like anyone else. it would be after the conversation when you were walking away that I might have allowed my eyes to wander. The same is true in social environments, etc. The vulnerable times are those when you are not engaged directly with a person. Most pornography addicts do that as a matter of course. There are men out there who have no issue with their lecherous inclinations, and have no reservations about being caught. Most, however, see themselves as respectable and would be just as aghast at being caught inappropriately staring, as the woman would be at being stared at. I suspect that if you had a more realistic understanding of how it all actually works, then your reservations would be diminished a great deal. Your objection is not based on what really takes place, but what you assume takes place.
        I don’t mean to preach, but you don’t know what it is like, any more than I know what it is like to be a woman. Rather than claiming an absolute wisdom on the matter, we should both be willing to try to see thru the others eyes.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Doug, I hear you. But you know what? To not stare at a woman’s backside as she’s walking away is also being respectful to her. That’s the difference. It’s the mindset of WHY you’re doing it. Not staring at a woman to ogle her is being respectful. It’s the question of WHY–am I doing it because she’s dangerous, or am I doing it because I respect her? Treating all women like they’re dangerous doesn’t work and is disrespectful to its core. Not objectifying a woman is called being respectful.

          • doug

            Why can’t it be both respectful to the woman, and also to the man. It does not have to be one or the other.
            I am going to give an example here, and I challenge you to answer it with complete honesty. You mentioned the men walking around in chaps. You say it is respectful to avert your eyes, but can you tell me without reservation that a part of your reason to avert your eyes is not that you find it offensive. if I were to walk into a church or anywhere else wearing a form fitted codpiece, I virtually guarantee that the majority would not be worried about my dignity, but rather that I had offended their sensibilities. It isn’t even something I am willing to debate. It is a fact and you know it. And you know what. You wouldn’t be wrong to feel that way, and you would not be inadvertently “disrespecting” me. But when that shoe is put on the other foot, it is ok to judge the mans motives.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I honestly have no idea what you’re talking about, Doug. When a woman or a man is basically in a state of nakedness (by which I define being at the far end of the bell curve of what is considered modest in our culture, not just something that you find difficult, as I laid out in this post), then you should not look at them, because they are treating themselves with disrespect, and you don’t want to do so as well. Just because someone is objectifying themselves does not mean that you have to participate in it.
            However, someone wearing something that is perfectly appropriate and common in our society (again, as being about the bell curve) is not objectifying themselves. So you should not do so, either.
            This does not seem difficult to me, Doug, and I think we’ll leave it at that for today, okay?

        • Active Mom

          When I was a young woman, almost college age I had been working out with a coach. It was summer and the gym was super hot. No air conditioning etc. I was not dressed immodestly for the activity. I was wearing shorts ( not fitted and not super short) a sleeveless shirt and a sports bra. I was exhausted and pretty sweaty (I had just been worked out really hard). Some kids I went to school with and a father walked into the gym. We went over to say hello and my coach introduced me to this father. The father had a younger daughter who wanted to know if I would work out with her to help her improve. I was getting ready to play in college and she was a few years younger. When I introduced myself to the father he shook my hand very briefly and wouldn’t look at me. In fact he talked to everyone around me but wouldn’t look at me even though I was the reason that he was there. I was embarrassed and confused and my coach grew more and more angry. I excused myself to finish and apparently the father made a comment trying to laugh off his behavior that he was a devout Christian with a lust problem and that if I worked out his daughter he wanted my coach to also be in the gym. I was so embarrassed and I refused to put myself in a situation where I would have to see him. So, Doug I understand what you are saying. But can you understand from a woman’s point of view? I was a new situation. I wasn’t familiar to him. It made me feel horrible. I hadn’t done anything wrong. His response made he feel dirty. He may have been really trying to stay pure and not lust but that isn’t the way to go about it.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Yes, Active Mom, that’s it exactly! He made you feel like you were dangerous, and like you were doing something shameful, when really the problem was with him.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            By the way, if HE had a lust problem, then he should have stayed home. Instead he put his problem onto you, and made you carry HIS shame. That’s the problem.
            (Although actually, I don’t recommend men with lust problems stay home. I recommend men with lust problems learn to see women as whole people and not dangerous. But if you can’t be out in public without making women feel uncomfortable, then stay home!)

      • Phil

        Sheila I will add here without taking sides that I at one time stared at the floor or even the ceiling and bouncing my eyes was a tool that I developed without reading every mans battle. The key I see here is personal growth. Those behaviors were temporary for me. And what you are talking about are men wether addicted or not have not grown beyond the behaviors described. I dont need to do those things today. The key to this entire post is OWNING your own behavior in YOUR heart. I am the problem. It goes back to what Keith said yesterday. What do I do with it? There is a woman in my church who dresses to the nines. Not inappropriate in any way. Just to my liking or I find it attractive. Whatever. She is friends with my wife. For the most part I have no reason to interact with her. So I dont. But when I do I look her square in The face and smile. But when she walks by me and we are not engaged I look away. Or as you say avert my look. It is a fine line we are talking about here but I truly see it. I give respect to women by not avoiding them just because I find them attractive and that causes me discomfort.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yes, Phil, that’s what I’m talking about. You still show respect to her by engaging with her when appropriate. You know that she is a whole person, and you treat her as such.

          • JLJ

            I understand what your point is here, but I agree with Doug.
            When a man has a lust/pornography addiction then it is completely necessary to bounce their eyes, at first.
            As they recover then that becomes less necessary as they begin to view each woman as a whole person and daughter of God. It is a process and also works on a spectrum considering each individual.
            However, as a wife of a sexual addict/porn addict and a betrayed spouse I could care less if my husband offends another women by averting his eyes. I’d rather him do this and respect me than worry about another woman’s feelings!
            You are considering the man and other woman in the situation but not the spouse or significant other.
            Now, like Doug said, most addicts don’t need to do that in face-to-face conversations it’s what they do with the image afterwards. So really, it’s a moot point for the vast majority of people who struggle with this issue. But in the event a man has to do that as he is trying to recover then that is what is necessary!
            In the grand scheme of things he may offend a few women but develop great respect for them in the future and not have to “bounce.”
            Shelia, I really do love your articles but I think this one is a bit off. You’ve missed why these men need to bounce their eyes as a starting point and failed to consider their wives and how disrespected they feel when a man is not trying to do what he needs to do to recover ( or woman for that matter, these days!).
            These men are trying to learn how to respect the woman that they were suppose to cherish the most, their wife!

          • JLJ

            But it takes time for men to get there and it is completely unreasonable to ask a man trying to recover, who wants to support his family and do right by his wife/family (who has suffered WAY more than any of you getting offended by not getting looked at in the eyes a time or two!) to stay home! That is completely ridiculous and NOT a solution!

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            JLJ, I really think that we’re being counterproductive, though, by focusing on lust. Doing so does not work. If a man instead prays and asks God to help him see women as image bearers of Christ, and asks himself throughout the day, “Am I treating this woman with respect?”, then his outlook changes.
            Continuing to treat women like they’re dangerous AGREES with porn’s definition of women. You cannot defeat lust by agreeing with lust’s definition of women. You defeat lust by seeing things as the Spirit does. Do you see the difference? If a man were truly asking himself, “Am I treating women with respect?”, then he would interact with women in a respectful way. But as soon as he asks himself, “Am I staring at her breasts? Is she tempting me?” then he’s going to be fixated on her body.
            Jesus’ solution to lust was not to treat women as dangerous, but to recognize that the problem was with you. Women are not dangerous. To truly have a kingdom perspective means seeing the world as Jesus does. Yes, that’s a lofty goal. But we don’t get there by first agreeing with porn’s definition of women (that they’re dangerous and we have to treat them that way). You don’t get to the kingdom of light by agreeing first with the kingdom of darkness. And that’s why Every Man’s Battle has been so destructive for so many. Its solution is focused on agreeing with the kingdom of darkness’ definition of women.
            I know that some men struggle mightily with lust, and I do feel for them. I believe that much of that struggle is in the messages they heard about women in church, combined with the messages that porn gives. Together they told the same story: that women are sexual objects. I know that this enslaves. Absolutely. My prayer is that more people will experience what Chris did in his comment here–realizing that he didn’t have to be paranoid constantly, but could instead just notice but not lust because he respected women.

          • JLJ

            Shelia, but praying to God doesn’t just fix the issue. That is a fallacy and pat answer that people in the church give readily. That is dangerous! Real work and methods have to go along with that. As you stated that as they pray and continually tell themselves to see woman in a respectful way, their thinking will it change BUT not right away and not without much self work. It’s not just about praying to God ( although I’m not saying God doesn’t do this for some people and just take the temptation away). Yes, men eventually can change how they view women and how they were meant to see
            them as daughters of God but you over simplifying by just saying pray or stay home. It is a process and there are starting points that you seem to not recognize. Every man trying to recover has to start somewhere and some of them need to “bounce” to respect their wives and progress to a healthy way of seeing women. I don’t know all of “EveryMans Battle” but I do agree that bouncing is an necessity for some, at first. I agree that women should Not be looked at as dangerous but when A man’s mind has been perverted since childhood and the brain has developed certain neural pathways then time and some strategies ARE necessary to get to the healthy way to view women. Jesus didn’t start with a lust problem. His answer in how to view women is what I believe but again you over simply how one gets there.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I do know that it’s really complex, JLJ, and perhaps we’re talking around in circles when we really mean the same thing.
            Here’s the issue: If a man cannot be with a woman without “bouncing his eyes” and looking away from her, and if he is treating her as if she is dangerous, rather than respecting her, then he is making HER pay for his sin. And that is wrong. A woman should not be made to feel uncomfortable just because he can’t control himself. If he honestly can’t look at a woman in the face without lusting, or can’t have a normal conversation with a woman in a church or work environment without lusting, then he should not be out of the house. Women should not be made to feel uncomfortable or ashamed (as Active Mom reports in her story) just because a guy has an issue.
            And I do think that if men taught themselves, in the presence of women, to say, “I respect her as an image bearer of Christ and I will treat her as such”, then that is fighting lust. I’m not saying just pray about it or pat answers; I’m saying that bouncing your eyes is a pat answer because it doesn’t deal with the root of it. I believe that men have shown again and again that when they see women as whole people and deliberately think about that, then lust diminishes. And that is what has been found in studies and experiments, too. The best way to fight lust is to think of someone as a whole person, not to avoid looking at them.
            Again, if a man finds it necessary to look off in space or not look at a woman at all, then he should not be socializing with women. But that’s unrealistic, of course, and I think better of men than that. If men train themselves to ask themselves questions about respect, and if they focus on that, rather than danger, I believe that men can fight lust successfully. And, again, that’s what studies have shown. I talk about some of them here.

          • JLJ

            Yes, I do agree with most of what you are saying. The point which you say in your responses that it takes time and training is exactly what I’m getting at. . The bouncing ,for some men, is part of that training. And it’s not “Pat”
            initially. There are many men who pray and bounce. It can’t stop there, of course. Now as active mom shared her story, I do not think that man handled that situation appropriately and didn’t need to say those things. He should have prepared and been aware of his weaknesses before putting himself or another in that kind of circumstance. It’s the circumstance that occur every day that are unpredictable, as life is. And not every man that struggles with lust does it to every women so your simplifying it by saying he shouldn’t be out. I would agree that if a man just stops at the “bouncing” for healing, then, of course, that is not healed. But it is a place some men have to start, unfortunately, and if they never get out of the house they’ll never learn how to act appropriately when around women. Prayers and all. And they still have mouths to feed and wives to respect. This doesn’t mean that other women have to train him or have the burden to be “in training” with him but if he is new at recovery and “stuck” In a situation then bouncing is a whole lot more respectful than lusting and essentially giving into their sinful temptations to lust. More respectful to their spouses and the woman in question, in general, IMO. We are to flee from sin and for a man who HAS to go out and work while in recovery then bouncing ( as disrespectful as it makes a women feel) this is a reality for some men in the beginnings of recovery. I’ve had this done to me and it is confusing and disrespectful but I have a different perspective of it after being betrayed. I never made it about me before though and don’t now. Chris bounced for years and that is not the way to go as he said it’s not healthy. But I certainly wouldn’t be okay with my husband just looking at women flaunting their naked bodies or just naked at the beach and him enjoying them for their “beauty.” Maybe that has truly worked for him but for ANYONE who has a sexual addiction/porn addiction that is putting temptation right in your face. Maybe he had done enough recovery work and self work to be at that point but there is no “cure” for sexual addiction just like a drug/alcohol. You don’t go tempting a weakness you know you have. Sounds like his wife is okay with that some how but those women’s bodies are not his to enjoy or marvel at even just as a beautiful thing. That goes far beyond “noticing.” God has made it clear that His wife’s body is the only one to enjoy. That goes past noticing a women is attractive. So I was surprised you applauded that behavior cause it’s contradictory to what you usually say about noticing attractiveness vs. marveling at another women‘ naked body even if just seen as “art.” He Clarified that that is different from a strip club but honestly it’s another women’s naked body and never was that meant for him To see naked. His wife is the only body for him to see. Sorry went off topic there but that didn’t sit well with me. Anyway, I’ll sign off. Guessing we’ll have to just agree to disagree on some of this. I find perspective changes after actually experiencing betrayal and all the other sinful stuff in this world. Nevertheless, I enjoy your posts! You have challenged some of my perspectives and I appreciate that!

          • Wifeofasexaddict

            Dear JLJ,
            I am so sorry for your suffering as a wife of a sex/porn addict. I am walking the same path, and supporting several other women who walk it. Its unbelievably painful.
            Here’s the thing. People who have an addiction are using the thing (in this case porn and /or sex) in a way it was not intended to be used. They are using it to soothe some trauma they have experienced. The way to stop being addicted is to address the trauma. So watching what you look at is a step in the process, but it is not the solution.
            And here is another painful truth. If your husband can’t respect another woman by seeing her as a whole person, he isn’t really respecting you either. My husband was looking at me as disembodied boobs and butt, just like he was every other woman and pinup he looked at. So knowing that he isn’t lingering on other women might give you some peace of mind (and he definitely should do anything you ask for your peace of mind), but it isn’t a sign of healing. It’s a sign that he is really immature and emotionally stunted. As Anon this time said, people who do that are either weak or just beginning their recovery.
            You’re right that its probably not reasonable to expect this of addicts in the beginning. But it should be their goal. And it is reasonable to expect all other men, especially Christian men who have the holy spirit to treat all women with respect as full humans.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Definitely. Thank you for that. This is actually a big point we’re making in our chapter on lust in our book–it’s not okay if a man stops lusting after other women, and simply turns his lust to his wife. He should be respecting and loving his wife, not trying to use his wife. He should be seeing her as a whole person, too. The whole mindset of how we see women has to change.
            Sex is a celebration of intimacy, not a using of one another. Sex is passionate and messy and all of that, yes. But it is also mutual. It isn’t a using.

      • Sandra M

        I agree with what you’re saying here, Sheila – the workplace is not comparable to a beach as far as the garb of people there (men or women) or the reason everyone is there. In any case, no one should be objectifying anyone, male or female – and at work everyone should behave professionally and with respect toward one another.
        Also, maybe I’m missing something somehow, but it doesn’t make logical sense to me why anyone (male or female) would willingly choose to frequent a nude or topless beach, honestly. The whole point of visiting a place of public nudity would seem to be attention-getting or ogling/lusting or both. There are obviously plenty of other places to visit where we can enjoy the ocean and nature without having to choose a nude beach. We love the ocean but we only want to visit what we’d call family-friendly beaches, to avoid any stark surprises (yeah, I said that). 🙂 The desire to be nude in a semi-public place isn’t something I can relate to. And seeking out places that are naturally bound to excite lust and create temptation…this just seems very unwise.
        As far as the idea of “admiring and enjoying the beauty of the female form,” IMO it’s not appropriate to actively seek that out in other humans that are not our spouse. Usually that argument doesn’t hold much water in the situations when I’ve heard it used (as a defense for staring, second looks, etc.).
        My husband has an honest answer he gives to men in work or social situations whenever they have noticed him not participating in ogling women and commenting (he’s not bouncing eyes, not feeling awkward, not criticizing them for doing it although he thinks they shouldn’t be…he just isn’t into it). When they ask him why he’s not, he just says, “She’s not my wife.” It has led to some interesting conversations at times, and has definitely made people think. Whether they agree with him or not, he is well-liked and is very well respected for his good character. I’m proud of him – he has come a long way over the years.

        • wifeofasexaddict

          Sandra, be careful with assigning motives to other people. Perhaps in the US, most people go to nude beaches for the attention. But even here, I would hesitate to say that. There are many reasons why people might enjoy a nude beach. Such as enjoying the feeling of the sun and water on the body.
          We lived in Germany for several years, and at spas there were usually swimming areas where people wore suits and sauna areas were “textile free zones”. No suits allowed. Just a towel to sit on to keep your sweat off the wood seats. Everyone just walked around in a towel or robe or nothing. No one made a big deal about it. It was just people with bodies taking care of their health. The only ones who had a problem with it were Americans. Europeans are very matter of fact about bodies. They exist. Ho hum. No one was there to show off their physique.

          • Sandra M.

            Hi Wifeofasexaddict,
            Interesting name choice – I am one too, although thankfully my husband has been in recovery for many years and treats all people with respect and kindness, male and female. He truly walks in freedom from his addiction, and God has done such mighty work in his life and in our marriage. Part of him remaining healthy is that he still maintains certain basic boundaries by his own choice, and that makes sense to me. This would include not visiting places like a nude beach, although he’s never needed to create a boundary about that since he just doesn’t want to go there.
            He’s not American 🙂 but he shares my view about public nudity, and we are both well aware that there is a level of sensitivity that many Americans tend to possess as compared to some other cultures (although I think that is decreasing as explicit porn and media images become more commonplace). It’s not just Americans either, because we know many Christians from various countries and cultures who feel the same about nude beach-going with others. I am guessing that if a person grows up frequenting nude beaches they might not be too sensitive about it, but otherwise I think most of us might be to some degree, at least at first.
            From a Christian perspective, it makes sense to my husband and me to regard our bodies as a precious part of who God has created us to be, and that includes maintaining a level of intimacy and openness that is only for one’s spouse and not to be shared with or displayed to anyone else, whether or not those others may be “matter of fact” about it. Being completely secluded to enjoy sun and water on bare skin would obviously be pleasant and relaxing, but it would ruin it for us if we felt we risked being observed/observing others, no matter how benignly.
            For what it’s worth, I personally don’t ever want to get so desensitized that I would be totally unconcerned about being surrounded by other nude adults in any scenario (whether strangers to me or not). I believe that once the Fall happened, it was clear that one of the things lost to humanity was that blissful childlike innocence in nudity (in fact Adam and Eve were spouses and still experienced that immediately). In my experience, when children grow up and hit puberty, their relaxation with nudity seems to disappear (or at least diminish tremendously) once their bodies and emotions start changing. Sadly, the media’s hyper-sexualization of younger and younger people is eroding their natural modesty and has served to create a culture of objectification of self and others (the original subject of this post!), while also grooming an entire generation for sexual exploitation. I wish we could ALL simply see each other with respect, as Sheila has noted, but that seems unlikely to happen (even in Christian circles), unless there is a true societal revolution in many areas, ranging from the unhealthy “purity culture” to the equally-unhealthy sexual permissiveness I mentioned above.
            Off my soapbox for now….and I hope you know I didn’t intend to strike a nerve or sound “judgy” in expressing my POV about nude beachgoing. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree about that. 🙂

          • Wifeofasexaddict

            Sandra M, re: my moniker, i wanted an anonymous name that also conveys my point of view and life experience quickly.
            I was only referring to your assigning of motive to people who go to nude beaches. You should not assume people’s motives. I.dont care whether you choose to go to nude beaches or not. It sounds like you and your husband have a happy, respectful relationship and share the same values. I’m glad for you.

    • Anon this time

      I am a recovering porn addict. So is my husband. His addiction started in teenage years, and mine started as a young child. I was regularly watching porn from the time I was 6 years old, until my late 30’s.
      I have been in recovery for years now, and have been around hundreds of people in recovery for sex addiction and/or porn addiction, in several states (We have moved, and we also go to out of town meetings when travelling). Bouncing the eyes is something I have seen in the unhealthiest people in recovery. When I see somebody doing that, I know they are either a beginner or unhealthy in recovery. The people I have met with healthy recovery are people who look others in the eye and treat others like human beings. If a guy avoids me, that is on him. He is being disrespectful. I wasn’t in the porn he was watching; I wasn’t the person he acted out with. That is on him. All of it. I am not, and never was, his “dealer.”
      Eye bouncing is extremely disrespectful. You can frame it however you want, and it is still disrespectful. After years in recovery, I see what Sheila says as being what I see in healthy people. Eye bouncing and avoiding and assuming that I, or any woman, am a danger are what I have seen in the unhealthiest people. If I were to suddenly need to bounce my eyes, I would know I am getting to an unhealthy place. If I saw my husband doing it, I would know he was unhealthy.
      Sheila, I hope you keep doing what you are doing, because you are helping people in finding what is truly healthy.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Thank you so much! I appreciate that.

        • Active Mom

          Here is the deal in my situation the father didn’t accidentally find himself trapped in a room with me. I could have understood a little more if that had been the case. He sought me out because he wanted a favor from me for his daughter. He could have sent his wife if he was concerned that this would be a trigger situation, he could have just sent his daughter. He didn’t make prior arrangements to meet me somewhere. He showed up at the gym where I was working out. Oh and on top of it all I was underage. So, the idea that it was okay for him to admit to those issues in regards to a minor who he wants a favor from is all kinds of messed up. I was not flirting, I was not dressed inappropriately etc. I was existing. To say it is okay to treat someone like that because he is protecting his wife is nonsense. By the way to show you how astute many high schoolers are. When he left the gym my friends came over and the 1st comment out of one of the boys mouth is “what’s up with all the dirty old men in churches.” I was completely safe with the hormone filled boys who think about sex all the time. They never made me feel dirty like the devout Christian who was fighting his lust issue.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            So good, Active Mom! Thank you.
            My girls have said repeatedly that they felt far more respected by their co-workers teaching swimming and lifeguarding at the YMCA than from many Christian men at church. The co-workers treated them with respect and always jumped in if any patrons didn’t. But at church? They were often made to feel ashamed for what they may wear on stage for praise team.
            And those co-workers were teenage boys and boys in their 20s who did plenty of partying off hours, but were responsible at work. And those boys saw my girls in bathing suits all the time. But they were respectful.
            The fact that this guy treated you like that when you were a MINOR is just so not okay. Not okay at all. All kinds of just gross. And, no, treating teenage girls like they are dangerous when you are an adult male is not normal male behaviour.

          • JLJ

            You have missed my point completely. I never said that what he did was okay. And my point is this, men who are Just trying to recover need to bounce sometimes as they are STARTING the process. The man you encountered was not attempting to recover or be healthy. He wasn’t just starting off. And he wasn’t protecting his wife by putting himself in that situation. He set himself up and you. That’s not what I am talking about. I am talking about men who find Themselves trying to navigate an unpredictable situation ( as life does bring), I the early stages of recovery) and “bounces” in an effort to do the right thing for all involved. As they are in the process of trying to heal. And if that situations occurs, which as I stated earlier, it’s not the norm as it’s mostly the struggle with what men do after the attractive person leaves, then I absolutely would take my husband offending a woman for a minute as opposed to disrespecting You further by sexualizing your image and hurting me, his wife.

        • Chris

          Anon, if a guy is truly avoiding you, he is probably avoiding lots of people and you won’t feel disrespected because you will never even know he exists.
          Sheila you may just get your wish about men staying home. I am seeing it more and more. Because of the line of work i am in, most of my employees are male, and i call their behavior “self isolating” they just stay home a lot. Its becoming more common.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            That’s likely healthy. If men can’t be in the presence of women without lusting and objectifying, then they shouldn’t be with women. And given how much sexual sin is related to divorce, it may save many women a lot of heartache.
            I know that many men have overcome lust in their marriages, and have become great husbands (and many are here on this blog). But I also know far too many who have left discarded and heartbroken women in their wake, as they have refused to give up porn or the lust mindset.
            I say that instead we call each other to more. That we call each other to Christlike behavior, instead of justifying lust. If we are redeemed, if we have the Holy Spirit, if we believe in Jesus and follow Him–then let’s act according to kingdom principles and stop giving excuses for sin. Let’s call people to act as Christ did. Let’s call people to act as Paul and the early church did, with women as platonic but valued co-workers. Let’s know that, as Paul did, we can greet one another “with a holy kiss” and have it not be dangerous at all because we see each other as whole people. That is what we should be aiming for. That is not only the ideal; the Bible tells us that it is what is to be expected. It is what is to be normal. It is what characterizes the body of Christ.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            And I want to reiterate that I think men have been terribly hurt by this lust conversation, too, because far too much literature has equated sexual attraction with lust, when they are not the same thing at all. It has heaped a burden of guilt and shame onto men that should never have been there. Noticing is not lusting. If we could all understand this, I think men could be free to treat women normally, and women would feel far less objectified, and fewer men would fall prey to actual lust.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Let me give another analogy. Let’s imagine that we’re not talking about gender, but race. What if a white person could not look a black person in the face, but had to ignore their existence? What if they couldn’t sit beside them on a bus, or what if they couldn’t talk to them in mixed-race company? How would we think that would affect the black individual?
            We would realize, I hope, that such behaviour was dehumanizing and completely wrong.
            And yet, we think that women should be able to accept this and not see it as dehumanizing.
            That’s really the problem.
            Again–if people have to bounce their eyes from cleavage, no problem. But if men cannot honestly look at a woman or be near a woman without her being dangerous, then I do think it’s fair to ask what effect that is having on the woman.

  3. Chris

    As someone who grew up in the EMB/purity movement era, I’ve been working on resetting my brain for a few years now, mostly since reading blogs like yours. So many years of struggling daily to just avoid looking, it was exhausting and stressful. The Bible says His burden is easy and His yoke is light, and spending every part of every day spending energy to make sure I didn’t look at any women that was attractive is the opposite of easy and light.
    I really was forced to break that mindset and confront my wrong thinking while on a vacation in Europe. The first day on a topless beach in Spain was excruciating. I was giving myself a migraine literally bouncing my eyes every second we were there, but having no where to bounce them to. I was keeping them closed or staring at the sand in front of me. I was definitely not enjoying the beautiful beach or the magnificent ocean, nor focusing on enjoying the quality time with my beautiful wife, and the people there did not care in the least that they were making life miserable for me. My wife knew I was bouncing my eyes, and felt horrible for me.
    Near the end of the first day I had to confront myself and why I was doing this and how this made sense and what kind of a way was this to live. I remembered your writing and others about focusing on the person and that it’s not lusting to see something beautiful and appreciate it just for its beauty and not as a sexual object.
    I talked to my wife and explained all this to her. She was supportive and understanding, and agreed to walk through this experience with me. So, with some fear and apprehension, I looked up at a beach full of boobs and started to talk through the process of not making them boobs there for my sexual gratification, but they were just part of people that were there enjoying the beach with us (caveat I still understand…this is different than something like a strip club where it is meant to be sexual which is clearly wrong). The rest of the trip was so relaxing and enjoyable, and I had such a good time with my wife on the beach. Since then I can see an attractive woman, and not become aroused. Thank you for helping shift this mindset and teaching guys how to respect women.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that’s amazing, Chris! I’m so glad that I could play a small part in that for you.

  4. Jane Eyre

    “I am asking, instead, that you see yourself as the source of the problem, and treat her as a full human being.”
    This is great.
    I’m glad that you addressed how people, not just men, objectify each other. Men feel comfortable objectifying women because some women objectify women. We see it with women who only pick attractive women to be their bridesmaids so the pictures look nice, women who pick their friends based on their looks, women who stare at other women’s midsections to try to guess if a baby is on the way, women who make nasty comments about other women’s weight.
    As I keep saying, other people’s bodies are not there for your entertainment. (“Your” meant in the general sense – the Gregoires and the readers of this blog are exceptional in treating people’s bodies with respect.)

    • Sandra M

      Jane Eyre, excellent point! I have felt very objectified by other women/girls many times in my life, and it’s always been painful, frustrating, and shaming. It’s in some ways a worse feeling than being objectified by males, and it’s much harder to call a female out on how inappropriate and hurtful it is! Women who practice objectification toward other women (OR toward men) don’t tend to see it as a problem (sound familiar?) and in my experience a whole load of denial and blame-shifting is the usual response, if the objectifier is ever confronted (i.e. they say they are just kidding, or that I’m too sensitive, or imagining things…or that it’s “a truth bomb” that I needed to hear!).
      This is particularly the case when it comes to body-shaming about weight (whether a person’s body size is over OR under what is considered a societally-acceptable size). Many people feel very free to comment about that, and even act like they are doing the objectified person a favor, like we didn’t know we were heavier or thinner than average. These people behave as if they are completely justified in commenting about the size or appearance of another person’s body. UGH. It’s so, so much a part of our society today, which is more sad and wrong than words can express. It’s hard to avoid it – and harder still to keep our teens from absorbing it. We are actively trying to teach our teen daughter healthy attitudes about how we treat ourselves and others, and have always been very careful about this…but she has absorbed a lot of negative self-talk about her body from her peers and the media.
      To refer to the original post, I agree with Sheila that eye-bouncing is not a permanent solution, but it can be a reasonable temporary tool (one of many), useful to a person in early recovery from sex, porn, or lust addiction. My Christian husband is a successfully-recovering SA/PA with many years of sobriety, and is now a mentor to other men entering recovery, so I do have some credibility with regards to this topic. If the person never does move past relying on it and using it regularly, then I would wonder about how sincerely they are seeking recovery, and how willing they are to go through the often-excruciating transformational work that such fundamental healing requires.

      • Jane Eyre

        “It’s in some ways a worse feeling than being objectified by males, and it’s much harder to call a female out on how inappropriate and hurtful it is!”
        This is true. In my old age, I can be somewhat blunt and will just say: “If you were a man and behaved that way towards me, everyone would understand how gross and inappropriate it is. You don’t get a pass because you’re a woman; the way you are treating me is really gross and immature.” Then let it be, because they actually know what they are doing – they just don’t care.
        I live in the general belief that my husband is the only person who is free to comment on my appearance. This gets back to the original point of ‘bouncing eyes’ or whatnot. There are 7 billion people in the world, all of whom are our brothers and sisters in Christ; only one of them (our spouse, if we marry) has a body that we need to concern ourselves with.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire


        • Sandra M

          “If you were a man and behaved that way towards me, everyone would understand how gross and inappropriate it is. You don’t get a pass because you’re a woman; the way you are treating me is really gross and immature.” Jane, that is wonderful! Can I be like you when I grow up? I might have to get brave enough to try that approach one day…and I’m getting older so that day may be here before much longer.
          I also agree that my husband is the only person who ought to feel free to comment on my appearance and vice versa (and he is always kind and complimentary I might add). Unfortunately, my 75 yr old mom is still very weight-conscious and size focused about herself and others, and I don’t think that will ever change. She still always comments about her own wt gain or loss, AND often remarks about my and my daughter’s shape and size in some way. When my daughter was younger, I had to have a rather frank and awkward discussion with my mom about not referring to people’s weight/size in her hearing. I don’t know that it helped a lot. Compliments from Mom about anyone’s appearance still often include a reference to weight/size. It’s frustrating that it’s such a big focus for her. She highly values being slender (which my teen daughter is and I no longer am). As you might imagine, I experienced a lot of body-shame growing up, always felt self conscious and “fat” even at size 3 in high school, and struggled with food issues and a mild eating disorder. Yeah, I wouldn’t mind being the size I was when I was 30, but I doubt I ever will, and that can’t be my big focus in life!

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Love that! I think we’d all like a little bit of Jane in us!

  5. Ina

    When I was eighteen, I was volunteering for about 6 weeks with a very fundamentalist group. (The modesty talk given to ladies on this trip almost made me physically sick and I came very close to breaking it off with my now-husband because I knew I’d rather be single than marry if men were all the sex-crazed beasts that was portrayed. )
    While there, I found myself serving at the food line several times. There were so many boys (probably from 12 upwards) who couldn’t even look me in the eye and answer if they wanted one scoop or two. And, believe me, I was adhering to the VERY modest dresscode. I didn’t feel disrespected… just heartbroken. These boys were being raised to be defeated. Theirv future wives were raised to be suspicious and antagonistic to other women. I’m so grateful to be freed from that legalism.
    Right after I went to spend a few months at a different Christian group. There a boy my age met my eyes and reached to shake my hand when he met me. I actually did a double take and wondered if it was okay for a minute before laughing at myself for how ridiculous I was being.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Wow! Isn’t that dichotomy interesting? Thanks for sharing, Ina! I’m glad you came out of that legalism.

  6. Sam

    My husband and I were talking about this yesterday. I asked him how do we raise our son to be respectful towards women, and appreciate beauty and sex and at the same time not to be afraid of beautiful, sexy women. I think that some groups, like the Amish or other Duggar-type groups, see beautiful, sexy women as dangerous. Then my husband said, No they aren’t afraid of pretty women. They are afraid of what they want to do to beautiful women. I wonder if that is is it. Beautiful, sexy women are not dangerous. It is what the man wants that is the deal breaker here.

  7. Kayla

    I love the perspective of respect rather than “danger.” Not only should men think of respecting women, but we women should never look down on others, even if they’re deliberately immodest! Sometimes women are seeking attention because of trauma they’ve been through, so it’s best to look at them with compassion.
    About men… Part of the issue is confusing temptation with the sin of lust. My husband does have a natural attraction but it’s not sin. When he goes online and there are immodest pictures on the side, he purposefully doesn’t look; it’s automatic for him. I trust him 100% because there have been times in our marriage he’s had no job and we’ve been together all the time. Watching him, and hearing what he says, I know there is a world of difference between natural attraction/temptation and sin (which is intentional).
    I always explain this to people dealing with same sex attraction, because they’re troubled by the temptations that come to their minds, even if they never give in. It goes for emotional attraction too- there’s no reason to feel guilty, just don’t feed the thoughts.
    One time a man came to our ministry’s chatline saying his girlfriend’s style of clothing was tempting, but he understood she wasn’t doing it on purpose- he said she’s a great girl. He wasn’t sinning (only tempted), and she wasn’t sinning.
    So… the best solution I’ve ever heard was at a conference where a woman said something like, we should focus on making our faces beautiful (rather than drawing attention to our bodies) and men should pay attention to faces too. Of course pretty clothes are a good thing. 🙂 But we can dress in a way that’s not focused on avoiding sin, but showing dignity.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Kayla, yes! Temptation is not lust. I’ve written that before–noticing is not lusting. We’re heaping a huge pile of shame on men that should not be there.

  8. Thalea

    I was on a Christian-based tour, and my sister and I got into the elevator with two other couples from the group. We said “hi” and smiled; we didn’t know the couples, as they weren’t in our smaller tour sub-group.
    I did know one thing. The men were both pastors. So it was a bit more pointed when each of them offered up a short, formal “hello” before physically turning their heads and refusing to look at me.
    No eye contact. Barely an acknowledgement.
    I was wearing a floor length sleeveless jumpsuit with a square neckline. Not tight, not low-cut. But I don’t think it wouldn’t have mattered either way.
    I wasn’t a person, a human, a woman, a sister in that elevator. I was a potential stumbling block, an object. I was a walking, talking collection of tempting body parts.
    I was the enemy.
    It was dehumanization at its finest.
    I think somewhere along the line, someone taught those men that they were honouring their wives by doing this. Someone taught them God was PLEASED with this.
    They aren’t the only ones. I can feel it when a man is acting *cautious* with me, or when he becomes extra formal. And I’m over it.
    How have we gotten this so backwards?
    PSA: God values community, and relationship. This doesn’t mean “bouncing your eyes,” men. It means using your eyes to see the HUMAN BEING behind what you’ve been conditioned to see as body parts. It means losing the formality and treating women with the level of warmth and care you would treat any other friend. It means re-examining what you’ve been taught and what you believe about yourself as a human.
    One of the fruits of the spirit is self-control. How is it self-control if you’re simply treating another human with less than anything but warmth? That’s not self-control; it’s situation-control.
    We can do better than this. We must do better than this.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thalea, thank you! I’m sorry you were treated like that.
      And this part is so real and true, but so very sad at the same time:

      “I was the enemy.
      It was dehumanization at its finest.
      I think somewhere along the line, someone taught those men that they were honouring their wives by doing this. Someone taught them God was PLEASED with this.”

      Yep. Women are not the enemy. Women are precious image bearers of Christ. We deserve better than this.

  9. Wifeofasexaddict

    I couldn’t help but notice that yesterday’s excellent post by Keith had all supportive and grateful comments. But today when Sheila says EXACTLY the same thing, she gets tons of pushback. Hmm.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s actually kinda funny! Yep.

      • Lindsey

        I think you are implying that sexism or misogyny is at play in the varying responses. I disagree with that conclusions.
        I think Sheila’s article got more into the details, whereas Kieth’s was more of a big picture. I agreed with basically everything in The big picture article, but disagreed with one or two small details. I don’t think that makes me sexist, as much as it’s just “the devil is in the details”. People will naturally have more to argue about or disagree with in an article that deals with more of the nitty-gritty.

  10. Darren M

    By the grace of God I am a Christian SA in long term recovery, and I have a number of thoughts. First, I agree with you, up to a point: men can sometimes go too far with this, especially if it becomes a way of life – a way of dealing with what is seen as an ongoing threat.
    However, I have a slightly different outlook on the eye-bouncing strategy. In our recovery group we have certain tools that are used early on for a time, and others that are longer term. Think of a wound analogy – you may use a bandage initially but it’d be wrong to think that needed to stay on for life. In the same way, bouncing our eyes is highly recommended, required even, for a guy in early recovery. Early on there is very little understanding of what drives us into lust, and we need some time to let the fog lift a little to see that there are actually stages to it. To talk about the stages, we sometimes use the analogy of fishing – early in recovery we learn not to bait the hook. Soon we learn not to cast our line into the water trying to get a fish. Later we learn not to get in the boat in the first place. Eventually we learn not to plan trips to the lake. You get the picture. For each man the specifics may look slightly different, but bouncing the eyes is right around the stage of not casting our lines into the water. The real long-term goal is seeing souls, not body parts. When we can do that, we can once again lift our heads and see women as they truly are, as God says they are, part of His beautiful creation. When we can do that consistently and with a good heart, that is when we can get to where you (quite correctly) say we ought to get to. What is missing in your article is the acknowledgement that it’s a process, and that for different guys that process takes a different amount of time.
    I have to say – I love the thoughtfulness of this article. It is clearly written by someone who doesn’t have the issue trying to understand someone who does – and that is laudable. It’s too easy to dismiss sexual addiction as simply a lack of control and be disgusted by it. Your article shows compassion for a devastating and very intimate problem that many men face and only a few are brave enough to confront.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Darren, thank you for your kind words, and I do hear you. I understand that men may need to bounce their eyes away from cleavage for a time, or something like that. The problem comes when the “bounce your eyes” is about women in general, which is how it’s portrayed in Every Man’s Battle and other books that talk about this. In the examples given by Active Mom or Thalea, for instance, those men were bouncing their eyes from these women so much so that the women felt uncomfortable, objectified, and dehumanized.
      That is not okay.
      If a man cannot be out in public without making women feel uncomfortable, then he has a serious problem. These women’s stories both happened years and years ago, yet they both remember them (down to what they were wearing) because it had such an emotional impact on them. And yet the men in those stories likely went away feeling proud of themselves, like they had had a real victory. They had bounced away! They hadn’t lusted!
      No, but they had left those women feeling like nothing.
      This is where “bouncing your eyes” is dangerous. Just as much as lust does, it dehumanizes and objectifies women and makes us feel terrible. If men want to look at faces rather than boobs, we’re all for that. But if men refuse to look at us at all, and would prefer to ignore us or pretend we aren’t there, even when we’re in the same social circles or when protocol would say that you should talk to us, then that is not okay. I do think that “taking every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5) is best lived out by asking yourself, “am I showing respect?” rather than asking, “is this woman dangerous to me?”
      I’m glad that you’ve come through with victory! I do believe that this is possible for every man who surrenders to the Spirit. But I hope that people start talking about this differently. Even in early stages of recovery, it is not okay to treat women like they are sexual objects. Just look in our faces and talk to us like people. If that is truly impossible, then I think there’s a bigger problem here. Does that make sense?

  11. Emma

    So, just weighing in with my thoughts…. there is a huge difference between bouncing your eyes away from my breasts or butt and not even looking at my face. The first one makes sense and can be respectful. But if a man (or woman) can’t even look at my face because they are struggling with lust, there is a serious problem. THAT is when I feel disrespected.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, I see that, Emma. My problem is that the “bouncing your eyes” books talk about turning away from women entirely. Not looking at them. Avoiding them. One book I was getting quotes from this morning talked about turning your chair at work so that you weren’t facing a woman anymore.
      THAT is disrespectful. She is not an object. She is a person. You’re saying by doing that, “I wish you didn’t exist because you are a problem for me.” It’s very dehumanizing.

      • Emma

        Oh, I totally agree with you. There’s a huge difference between looking away to respect someone’s dignity and looking away to steal someone’s dignity.
        And, I suppose being told to pull up my shirt or to put on a cami since I had barely reached my teen years because I have larger breasts and gravity works on shirts has left me with a “this bothers you, then look at my face” attitude. Perhaps not the most helpful, but I’ve gotten sick of being scolded because I bent down and things shifted.
        It’s interesting to me how, as a woman who struggled with lust in my teen years, it never even occurred to me to blame the men around me. They weren’t doing anything, it was my own mind that was doing it. They probably didn’t even know what was going on in my mind. And guess what? Avoiding men wasn’t the answer. Prayer and becoming friends with them was.
        It reminds me of the C.S. Lewis quote: “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Exactly, Emma! And I think a lot more teenage girls struggle with lust than we acknowledge.

      • Sandra M

        Amen and UGH about the “chair-turning” thing! That is not actually respectful, nor is the person who is turning their chair really taking any personal responsibility, IMO. Without knowing more about that book or its author, I will say that to me it seems like a kind of quick-fix suggestion to “end the problem” without really dealing with the true issue – which is the looker’s own attitude and motivation for looking (or not looking as the case may be). It just seems like a way that the “chair-turner” can feel self-righteous, like they are avoiding the lure of temptation, without considering how the other person may feel about being the recipient of such obvious rudeness (if they happen to see the chair-turning).
        We are HUMANS, not “objects of lust” for others’ entertainment OR rejection. How can Christians treat one another as image-bearers of Christ if we won’t even look or converse normally with one another? How can people function in the workplace if they can’t behave professionally? What if their co-worker on a project is a woman – or what if their boss is?
        My husband interacts comfortably and kindly with my/our female friends, female acquaintances and co-workers, and with female church members – and this means even more to me than his not being a man who ogles women. His way of life communicates a godly, healthy respect for me AND for other women. Years ago in early recovery, he still had to work hard at practicing his new attitudes and behaviors, and he was still triggered by certain “types” of women. It was so painful and demoralizing to me for him to have to drag his eyes away from women, or even have to leave a situation due to his triggers. It certainly didn’t make me feel respected, although he wasn’t ogling. I didn’t blame him, because I knew that was where he was in his recovery right then and those were the tools he needed – however, I am a whole lot happier now that it’s not like that any more!

    • Sandra M

      Emma, yes! We should all be able to be treated with respect as a person of value, not because OR in spite of our bodies. My husband who has years of solid recovery from sex/porn addiction sees and treats women as people, viewing them with compassion and respect. That sounds simple, but for an addict it’s a whole new way of life. People in recovery have to get healing from trauma, learn new behaviors/reactions and habits, and practice them over and over so it becomes their “new normal.” He doesn’t ogle, nor does he have to avoid looking at women in the offensive ways that have been described here. If we reflect on what the Bible teaches, we are told that looking “with lust” is the problem, or even using the imagination to lust (looking doesn’t even have to enter into for that to happen). It’s the attitude of the heart that is in question, the intention of the person who is looking/not looking. How can we love like Jesus loves if we can’t even look at another person’s face? It seems like many Christians (and IMO unhelpful books like EMB) have the idea that there are two extremes – either lusting or totally ignoring. Neither is acceptable or respectful, and neither takes personal responsibility – which I think is the whole point of Sheila’s original post here.

  12. Nathan

    “When people are deliberately dressing in such a way as to be basically pretty much naked (by which I mean falling on the extreme bell curve of public nakedness, not just violating your own standards of modesty), then treating them respectfully is not to stare at their body.”
    I agree that people should avert their gaze. Period.
    That said, it is nevertheless not really realistic, particularly for young men, who, even if they do have Christian convictions, have on average about 20 x the testosterone levels of the average young female. At the very least, I think it would be helpful to say that the people who are dressing this way are, particularly very attractive people, are making it *much more likely* that people will be tempted by them. I get not blaming the victim, but you could help a lot of folks if you’d make this clear too, I think. Also, we should not think that most men are thrilled with being saddled with this. We’d like to be able to turn it off like a simple switch, but that is really not how it works.
    Thanks for listening.

  13. libl

    My oldest son “bounces his eyes,” but I never taught him that. We are a large family in a small house. There is no privacy. As a toddler, he and I showered together. He’s changed diapers of both genders. He’s fetched my feminine products for me. We’ve been open about human biology since his earliest inquiries.
    But, once puberty hit, he suddenly became very modest and very much about not looking at women in a state of undress, like posters of bikini and underwear models at Target, or a commercial on TV. So, I thought he was good about avoiding “those pages” on the internet. Nope!! He struggles with pornography. He found a bad picture on eBay and it was downhill from there. He no longer has access to any web browser, and apps like YouTube are linked to my account, so I see exactly what he watches and use parental controls.
    I am trying desperately to help him understand in his heart of hearts to respect women as a whole. All women. All the time. He cannot compartmentalize this. It’s like packing sewage in a cardboard box. It leaks and wrecks everything else.
    I want porn and bikini posters to be a non issue. “I see them, but I have no need to look at them. I understand the posters are to advertise a product for women. Nothing more, nothing less.” I want his mind to be occupied with life, and not pre-occupied with lust and the avoidance of it.
    If he sees a porn picture pop up, I want him to dismiss it because he realizes it is beneath human dignity in general. It holds no ownership of him because it is unappealing. It isn’t beautiful or sexy, but that it is exactly what it is: a lie from Satan, a distortion, a freak show, and he has better things to do with his time and energy.
    I just don’t know how to convey that to him. I wish your husband was his pediatrician and could talk to him man to man.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I get it. In our Whole Story puberty course, in the older version, the guys talk to boys about porn like that. You can check that out. We’ve lowered the price for the COVID crisis, so maybe that would help!

  14. Rogue

    All of this is stuff that’s taken me a while to better integrate in my own life.
    I work at a waterpark, so bouncing eyes doesn’t really work that well. I try my best to keep eye contact and see the person as a whole person. Some days I need to work on my heart, and some days I see what beauty God has made in His image. But if/when I “bounce my eyes” they go straight ahead to the person at eye level. I worry more often about what they think of me if they catch me accidentally staring at their cleavage while they are trying to ask me a question, but I don’t look away from them. I agree with your post, though I am a person who has to actively work on not letting my eyes wander to “stuff”, because sometimes it’s subconscious magnet resulting from bad mental programing from an addiction, and I have to catch myself. Did I sin by looking? no, but would it be a sin to keep staring? It might.
    Sometimes I think my jobs a bit of a curse, other times I think it’s really helped mentally reshape things for me in a good way. It’s also helped me in my interactions with other women too. This blog and other resources have helped a lot in that.
    Wifeofasexadict said something that took a long time for me to grasp.
    “Here’s the thing. People who have an addiction are using the thing (in this case porn and /or sex) in a way it was not intended to be used. They are using it to soothe some trauma they have experienced. The way to stop being addicted is to address the trauma. So watching what you look at is a step in the process, but it is not the solution. ”
    If anyone has time, I highly recommend the book “Unwanted: How Sexual Brokeness Reveals our Way to Healing” by Jay Stringer
    Thank you for your continuing work Sheila.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Awesome, Rogue! That sounds like a great resource, too.

    • Wifeofasexaddict

      Rogue, you might benefit from joining a Pure Desire group.

      • Rogue

        Thought about joining an SAA group, but after some research thought it may just be more triggering than it was worth. Bit turned off by the fee system for the online group you mentioned. Nearest group is over 50 miles away too. :/ Also still at home with parents, so I’d rather not have to deal with them asking questions about that sort of thing.

        • Anon this time

          SAA has free telemeetings several times each day. The information is on their website.

          • Rogue

            I’ve got an accountability system in place. Only fallen off a couple times in the last few years. Have lost the desire to look at anything hard core or even go to a website. I don’t want to be another ping on a server that fuels the problem and contributes to a human trafficking and exploitation problem. It’s just the little things I need to watch. Like wiki/youtube and what I call being led on by a trail of mindless link clicking.

  15. Jennifer

    Wow, this has really blown up! Sheila, thank you so much for writing this!
    My husband and I were chatting to a man we had just met at a church gathering once – my husband doing more of the chatting because I tend to be more reticent with strangers. When I did say anything this man kind of ignored me. When we said goodbye to the guy he greeted my husband, but flatly ignored me – like I didn’t even exist.
    It left me feeling like there was something wrong with me. I was not dressed immodestly at all – no cleavage, shoulders covered, dress down to below my knee, and yet I was treated as “dangerous”. I felt awful and have often pondered this – trying to figure out what I did wrong.
    I know now that I did nothing wrong. He was the one with the problem – whether it was based on a lustful past or just trying to be a good christian – whatever. I’ve had to shake that feeling of being dirty off and put the responsibility where it lies – with him.
    I so agree with you that men should change their thinking and then they will be able to treat women with a proper balance of respect – treating them like they are a person, not a danger to be avoided.
    I understand that some men have issues because of porn use, but I still think the solution lies in changing the thinking.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Jennifer. Totally agree!

  16. Maria

    What if a man is trying to look women in the eye without lusting? He’s recovering from porn addiction and unwanted images sometimes pop into his head, especially when looking at a woman. He genuinely intends to interact with her as a person but at the last second loses courage and averts his gaze. He knows it causes emotional pain to be treated like that, so he keeps trying to do better.
    To be clear, I am not saying that if a man is recovering from porn addiction then that makes it ok for him to treat women like threats. The example here isn’t about a man telling himself that he’s not supposed to see women. (Deliberately averting the eyes). It’s about a man trying not to avert his eyes, failing, then trying to do better.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, I think if he’s trying to do better and if he’s deliberately thinking of her as a whole person, that’s wonderful!

      • Maria

        Some of the comments about overcoming habitually lustful mindsets (porn or sex addiction, for example) came across as “well, he’s not objectifying women as much today as he was yesterday, so this level of objectification is ok.” And other comments sounded more like “yes, it’s wrong to objectify women (or anyone) at all. He’s trying. Please be patient with him.”

  17. Rogue

    I know this is random and off the wall, but has anyone ever attended what might be called a “senior church”? At my church, the youngest couple when they do come don’t look like they are younger than mid thirties.
    So whenever a young single person attends it’s like some blue moon phenomena. I think this may be part of the reason, I’ve never been so great at not feeling awkward for some reason when around a young single christian woman. People at my job? No problem, all about professionalism. At church, why do I feel like there’s a bullseye on both of us?
    Please tell me this isn’t just me.

  18. Jessica

    I wish you you could/would add a caveat to this post… that if I man is struggling with a porn addiction and/or lust problems and his wife has asked him to avoid certain women (known to be a danger to their relationship) or look away (so that she will feel safe) that respecting his wife and following their agreement should come first. That is the current most respectful thing.I do agree with the message they should be receiving though is not that women are dangerous, but men are, if they aren’t seeing women as daughters of God made in His image and therefore fully worth of respect.


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