(Your) Final Words on the Stumbling Block Debate about Lust and Modesty

by | Dec 4, 2020 | Uncategorized | 42 comments

The Final Words on Modesty, Lust, and Stumbling Blocks
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Yesterday on the podcast I shared about how “don’t be a stumbling block” is a toxic message to give to young girls about modesty.

It all stemmed from a discussion on Facebook where I was presenting a scenario where a 13-year-old girl was blamed for causing an adult man to lust in church.

You can see those posts here:

Post 1: Initial post on how thinking a 13-year-old is to blame for an adult man lusting is a red flag

Post 2: If you’re in a subculture where it’s assumed all men lust and that lusting after 13-year-olds is normal, that’s not a safe place.

Post 3: If you were ever given unwanted sexual attention at church as a teen, what were you wearing (to show it’s not about clothing)

The comments on Facebook were numerous (hundreds on each post) and all over the place. But some really stood out. And I thought today I’d just share a few that said something important.

First, when commenters started saying that 13-year-olds need to watch what they wear, commenters made some excellent points:

Thanks for providing more evidence that Sheila’s posts and work on this topic is necessary. The fact that so many women read a post about a grown man lusting after a 13 year old CHILD – and think the appropriate response to said post is to think teens and women need a modesty lecture is incredibly disconcerting. This is absolutely part of the problem.

It seems to me that some of you need to rethink your ideas of responsibility. Attaching the same amount of responsibility to a child that you do to an adult man is horrific. Adolescents choose their clothing primarily based upon style, peers, and social pressure. This is appropriate development. very rarely does a child choose their clothing because they want to be sexy or seduce a man . Please understand that first and foremost!
Men are adults. A healthy Christian man protects a child regardless of what they are wearing. They understand that they are in a position of authority. men are not ruled by their penises because they are adults and are capable of making choices. So if you’re attaching the same amount of responsibility to a child’s adolescent peer-driven choice in clothing as you do to a grown man’s choice to sexually abuse and use a child… You are also in sin

Several comments showed concern for the CHILD, which is as it should be:

First – I am glad the 13 year old is at church, I don’t care what she is wearing. It may be all she had. So blessings that she is turning to God.
Second – if a man is married or not and he is lusting after anyone under the age of 18 he needs help. If he is married and he is lusting after anyone other than his wife – he needs help.
Third – even if the roles are reversed and it’s the woman lusting after anyone under the age of 18 or if she is married and she is lusting after anyone other than her husband, she needs help.
The adults are the red flag, the minor is in the right place and is obviously seeking God and the right way of life and doing the best they can.
Fourth – if for some reason the minors behavior is inappropriate towards an adult or even another child – red flag as they may have had trauma in their life and needs help! Don’t ignore any of the red flags! Our children deserve protection.

Girl come on. The correct response from a grown man to a girl who is deliberately trying to dress provocatively is, “Gosh that poor thing, it’s got to be so hard being a kid and feeling so much pressure to act sexy in our oversexualized society. I’ll be praying for her. Maybe my wife could invite her to the teen girls Bible study she runs. Lord, protect this sweet child from the evil in this world.”

Is a provocatively-dressed teenager AN EXCUSE FOR LUST? Or should it be an occasion for sympathy, empathy, compassion, and prayer? I remember dressing provocatively to get men’s attention when I was a teenager. What I desperately needed was for an older woman to take me aside and say, “Honey, you are so much more valuable than the ‘sexiness’ of your body or how appealing you are to men” — to teach me to value myself apart from how attractive men found me!
I don’t think anyone is saying it’s a good thing for a girl to dress provocatively. I think what most people are saying is 1. that a teenage girl is still a GIRL and her maturity is the likely culprit rather than wanting to seduce adult men, and 2. that men, especially men who claim the name of Christ have to (and are able to) be better than that. If a sexily-dressed 13-year-old is “in sin” in some way, her “sin” absolutely pales in comparison with a so-called Christian man ogling and lusting after someone who he should look on as a daughter, seek to protect, and pray for.

Then, over the course of several threads and in several comments, I made these points, which I’d like to end on!

(POINT 1):
Of course we need to help girls see their worth. Of course. But the topic of this post is that a man is lusting after a child. The fact that we keep turning the conversation to “BUT THE CHILD….” is highly concerning. The main problem here is NOT THE CHILD, but the man. I think the fact that so many are focusing on the child shows that in our minds and our hearts we do not truly understand that men are to blame for lust, and that women and girls are not to blame for it. Until we understand that, we will continue to pass dangerous messages on to the next generation–messages that do harm their marriages. If you want to teach girls how to respect themselves, by all means do so. But please don’t do it in the context of a bigger conversation about men’s lust. That equates two subjects that should never, ever be equated.

(POINT 2):
You said that “Adults need to know it is never OKAY to lust after a child.” However, you said that in a thread where what you focused on most was fashion for children and girls. Can you see that, even if you give the caveat “adults should never lust after children,” if you make the focus of your discussion what is appropriate clothing and how girls keep wanting to show their butt cheeks, that you’re actually giving the opposite message? You’re saying adults shouldn’t lust and there’s no excuse, but then you’re going on and on with things that are excuses. You need to separate the two arguments. When we’re talking about adults lusting after children, that must be ALL we’re talking about. Modesty and dress should never, ever enter into the discussion. Have that discussion at another time, by all means. But when you conflate the two, then you’re giving the message, “Actually, sometimes it’s understandable that adults lust after children.”

(POINT 3):
It is very, very possible for men to control where their minds go. It truly is. Scientific studies have shown this; we also know that lust is cultural. We lust after what we’ve been taught to lust after. If you are in a subculture where it’s normal that men would lust after children, that isn’t safe. If you are in a subculture where, if a man lusts after a child, the first question is “but what was the child wearing”, then that is not a safe place for a child. Most men, when they realize someone is only 13, stop thinking of them in a sexual way. That should be the norm. This is what we should call men to, because this is what JESUS called men to.

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Finally, this is how I ended a lot of the discussion (and you can tell I was getting testy): 

What if telling a girl that she is causing a man to sin is actually being a stumbling block TO HER? Why do we think that “don’t be a stumbling block” needs to be addressed to GIRLS? Why shouldn’t it be addressed to the ADULT MEN who have been Christians for decades, who are telling young, impressionable children that they are responsible for the adults’ sin? Just read this thread and read the stories of the girls who were shamed in church and scared to go back. Read the stories of the girls who were abused and blamed for it. And then ask yourself: Who is the weaker brother who is being hurt? Who is the one whose faith is being weakened (which is what the stumbling block passages in Romans are about)? Is it the young girl, or is it the adult male who is objectifying her and blaming her? And then maybe, just maybe, we need to change entirely how we talk about this.

And then maybe, just maybe, we need to change entirely how we talk about this.

Yep.


You may also enjoy these posts on modesty and lust:

The Final Words on Modesty, Lust, and Stumbling Blocks

I really hope this can be our final word! But I’ll give you a chance now–anything else you want to add about modesty and lust? And how can we help the church stop talking about this in weird ways? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of 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

Related Posts

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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42 Comments

  1. Active Mom

    Thank you again Sheila. When I was a teenager I had several “good Christian men and women” comment on my body, how I dressed and how I needed to stop being a temptation. I was raised in a very conservative household. Wasn’t comfortable in tight clothing and never actively sought male attention. I was too busy. However, apparently just the act of wearing shorts in the summer when it was hot (not tight or short) and leaving my house walking around on the legs God gave me was enough to sexually tempt these God fearing men. What used to really bug me was that it was never my peers that had the problem. It was the creepy old men in the church. This attitude needs to stop. Women or girls are not to blame for men’s sin. Period.
    What was really sad to me about some of the comments was that it was easier for some women to blame a child than it was to hold your adult husband accountable.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so sorry you had that! So did I, and so did my girls for sure. And what makes me so sad about your comment is that this was more common in the church than in the world. What does that say about us?
      Again, I don’t think church is the problem. The problem is that too many churches are ignoring Jesus and clinging to dangerous beliefs. If people are in that kind of a church, they really need to find a safe one (because there are safe ones out there!).

      Reply
  2. Andrea

    Sheila, sometimes I wonder if up there in Canada you realize how messed up the U.S. is. When Roy Moore ran for the Alabama senate seat and it was discovered that he had been banned from a mall when he was in his 30s because he was trying to pick up teenage girls, Christian leaders made excuses for him and pointed out that Mary was a teenager when she had Jesus. 80% of evangelicals voted for him. This is the type of audience you are trying to convince that grown men shouldn’t lust after teenagers. Godspeed.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, I do remember that. It is sad how people tried to justify it or make it seem not that bad. Sexual abuse is on both sides of the political spectrum for sure, but we should never excuse it or justify it, no matter what political party we prefer.

      Reply
  3. Anonymous in TN

    Maybe I missed it (I’m not FB) but I kept expecting to see the word PERVERT and didn’t. That’s the word that should be (correctly!) used to describe an adult sexualizing a child.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      AMEN! (That word actually did show up on Facebook quite a bit. 🙂 ).

      Reply
  4. Anon

    Sheila, thank you so much for the way you tirelessly campaign to make the world (and more particularly, the church) a safer place for girls and young women. I just couldn’t keep reading those comments yesterday – hearing so many women defending a man lusting over a child just made me heart-sick – but you not only had to read, you had to respond, and responded with love and grace.
    I can’t imagine the emotional, mental and physical toll these conversations must take on you and your family, but may God bless you all for your willingness to keep fighting. We need people like you in our churches SO much. I hope you guys are able to take a break and recharge over the weekend.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Anon! I really appreciate that. It is very tiring often.
      (This weekend I’m finishing up a sweater I’m knitting for my grandson for Christmas! I already knit one for Keith, and so I’m making Alex a matching one, so they’ll have Grandpa-grandson sweaters!)

      Reply
      • Andrea

        And you’re definitely going to post pictures of that adorableness, RIGHT???

        Reply
    • Rachel

      I was thinking the same thing as Anon. Praying your family as you work in this area. Thanks for all you ALL do!

      Reply
  5. AJ

    Any man who is lusting after a child is a pervert. Girls and woman should realize if they dress in a way that leaves little to the imagination (spandex tight pants, very short skirts, etc.) they are portraying a certain image to many men. If you dress like a slut most men will assume you are a slut. Many now acceptable fashions are very revealing and slutty. We live in an over sexualized culture where styles that are now seen as normal would have been taboo just a few years ago. Woman should dress in a modest way not to prevent men from lusting, but for their own protection. Us men who are followers of christ should not lust after a woman if she walked in to church wearing a string bikini. However, most men in this world are not followers of christ. Be careful what you are advertising with what you wear. You may be portraying an image of yourself that is not who you really are.

    Reply
    • Anonymous in TN

      AJ – in years past, I would’ve agreed with you. Until I had the awful experience of a man from church who essentially stalked me. At the time, I took “preventative measures” to not pique his interest – dressed in baggy clothes, didn’t wear makeup or jewelry, etc. Because, even though he was a married man, surely, surely, it was something I was conveying, right? I must’ve been too nice, dressed too cute, smiled too much, something. Guess what? It didn’t make any difference; I had to handle things a different way (the issue has long since been resolved BTW).
      The point is, we women should totally be able to expect men of the church to be safe, not behave in a predatory way. And many of us, sadly, have been subjected to it anyway. On top of that, told by some people (this was NOT my experience; I was supported in every way) that it’s our fault. If we weren’t just so darn pretty, so friendly, so helpful, whatever.
      Church (and what we often assume to be church family) should be a safe place.

      Reply
    • Active Mom

      AJ,
      I am sorry but that is part of the problem. Who defines slutty? Who defines what is too much? Men? If clothes kept us safe than women in the Middle East would never experience sexual assault. Where in fact that is one of the worst places in the world for it. How about domestically? The Amish women and girls suffer from assault as well. Those dresses really scream slutty to me. The truth is I am not scared for myself or my girls of men “in the world.” Men in the church are a whole other story.
      Sheila,
      J Parker a while ago linked to an article during a post that was satire but discussed men’s clothing. It was hilarious. I will see if I can find the link. 🙂

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        This is such a good point and what we were trying to say in the podcast, too. There are two types of predators (there are actually more, but let’s generalize to two). There are the opportunistic who are simply out for sex and want to push boundaries and will try to identify the women who look like the easiest ones to get in bed. In this situation (and only in this situation) does the type of clothing that you wear enter the conversation. We do need to be wise and teach our girls how to dress NORMALLY and not on the extreme. That’s why I prefer the term appropriate rather than modest.
        HOWEVER there’s another type of predator–that I’ll call the hunter–who is deliberately looking for prey. And this type is simply going to go for whoever they think they can control and get to shut up. And these guys will often target the most insecure and naive, which, ironically, are often the most covered up. Covering girls up sends a signal, too. “My parents view me as a threat to men. My parents think I’m a threat to you. Thus, if something happens to me, my parents will likely blame me.” That’s a bull’s eye for predators!
        The predator was already a predator. No one causes a predator to be a predator. But we need to teach our kids (and ourselves) to be wise. And the best way to do that is to teach everybody to be confident, to talk about sexuality openly with our kids, and to teach them to respect themselves. It’s really not about clothing, after all. It starts with our own attitudes towards ourselves, and then the rest naturally takes care of itself.

        Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      AJ, if 80% of women are wearing an item of clothing, then that item of clothing loses its power. As I said in the podcast, I would never have worn skinny jeans in 1990, because NO ONE wore them. At all. That would have been scandalous. I wear them today because EVERYBODY wears them. They’re fashionable. And once everyone wears something, then it’s not a shock value anymore.
      Ankles used to be scandalous. In some countries, shoulders are scandalous but cleavage is not. It’s all cultural. So to say that items of clothing that 80% of women wear advertise to guys, “I’m slutty!” is simply so, so very wrong.
      I actually agree with you that women should not dress at the end of the modesty spectrum. If I were to have worn skinny jeans in 1989 then I would have been showing MORE of my body than the majority of women, and, yes, that does tragically send a message (which I’ll grant you) and it is incumbent on moms to teach our daughters and our sons about the idea of first impressions.
      But the issue is STICKING OUT and showing more of your body than literally anyone else. If women are dressing in what is fashionable, then they are not sticking out. They are not advertising ANYTHING. You need to stop thinking that way.
      (For the record, I don’t think those on the end of the spectrum are necessarily advertising anything, either. I will just grant you that predators may think they are, and that this may make them more likely to be a target of unwanted attention. But they did not CAUSE the predator; the predator was already there).
      This is a difficult thing to talk about, I’ll grant you. But seriously–saying “all women wear immodest stuff and they all look like sluts!” is simply NOT TRUE. It isn’t. By its very definition, someone choosing to look “like a slut” (which I hate typing because it sounds misogynistic) is someone who is deliberately showing MORE skin than anyone else and is deliberately dressing to the extreme. If they are literally wearing what everyone else is wearing, it is not extreme. It is simply that fashion changes.
      For instance, the miniskirts that my mom and my aunt wore in the late 1960s are actually SHORTER than women wear today. They showed more leg then than we show now. Fashion sometimes goes in the opposite direction.
      So instead of complaining about clothes, how about you just focus on dealing with fashion and dealing with what women wear, rather than blaming them for it? If something is the fashion, it is the fashion, and it’s your job to deal with it rather than label 80% of the female population as sluts.

      Reply
    • Madeline

      I think you should go back to Sheila’s post on the bell curve and 40% rule. Yes, we live in a time when it is socially acceptable to show more of one’s body than in some past eras, but if something isn’t really a big deal in culture in general, such as Sheila’s example of form-fitting jeans, the response from the church shouldn’t be to demonize the current styles. You probably didn’t mean it like that, but your comment still makes it sound like women are at fault for lust and unwanted attention if they are “advertising” it. Obviously, yes, there are women and girls who intentionally dress provocatively for attention, but when a style is very commonplace in larger culture, women shouldn’t be shamed for dressing “slutty” when wearing normal clothes, even if it’s more revealing than past styles.

      Reply
    • Anon

      AJ, do you know what I was wearing the times I was groped/assaulted by supposedly CHRISTIAN men in church? 1) Baggy dungarees (in my teens) 2) loose fitting jeans and an oversized jumper (in my 20s) and 3) loose fitting, ankle-length dress in thick cotton (in my 30s – and he was an engaged guy in his 50s).
      On every single occasion, the only areas of skin that have been exposed were my face and hands, and my clothing was so loose fitting that it was impossible to see much shape at all underneath. And yes, I dressed like that in the hope it would protect me from unwanted attention. It didn’t. Perverts will behave like perverts regardless of what their victims are wearing.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Yep! ESPECIALLY in church. It’s an unfortunate fact that perverts tend to gravitate to churches, because victims are relatively easy to secure. I’m sorry that happened to you, Anon. So sorry.

        Reply
  6. Active Mom

    Found it.
    The title of the article is
    “When suits become a stumbling block.”
    I didn’t link to it because I wasn’t sure if the whole site is safe but anyone interested and wanting a chuckle can google it!

    Reply
    • Tonia

      Active Mom, that is a fantastic, funny article! Makes you see the inanity of using clothing the other way around.

      Reply
  7. Chris

    Ok, so I have a question as this modesty series has me rethinking something I saw not too long ago. So I am friends with this man at church and he and his wife have four teenage sons. When they would come to church the boys looked like they were going to the beach. My friend wanted to make them put on better clothes for church but his wife thought it was not worth the fight. To be fair, all the other teenagers at church, both boys and girls, all dress like they are going to the beach. But one Sunday, my friend had enough of the ratty clothes and told them that the following week all of them would be wearing suits to church. Wife rolled her eyes. He got them up early the following Sunday, got them all shaved and dressed in their suits and they went to church. At coffee hour after church many people came up to them and commented on how nice and handsome they looked. So here is the funny part. The next week all the teenage girls in church were wearing nice clothes!!! At first I thought maybe the girls were just following a “dress UP” trend?! But now that I have read the modesty posts I am wondering if the girls dressed up because the boys dressing up made them feel shamed? Maybe? I don’t know. I think the boys were creeped out though by all the little old ladies at church telling them how handsome they looked. Seriously creepy to have someone who is way older than you and of the opposite sex comment on how good you look. I feel so bad for young girls when this happens to them. So creepy.

    Reply
    • Anonymous in TN

      Chris – I’d guess the girls were just following their peers with what was the latest thing to do. Most people don’t want to stick out so if the trend setters set a new trend, that’s what imitate.

      Reply
      • Angela Laverdi

        First of all— an adult lusting and sexualizing a child (under 18) is a PEDOPHILE !!! Use the correct terminology people!! Pedophile! 2nd– cultures that have ulta modest rules for women have extremely HIGH sexual assault percentages and the woman is ALWAYS blamed (even while wearing a burka for Christ’s sake.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yes, exactly. I think one of the reasons that those cultures have such a high rate of assault is that they view women as sex objects (hence the need to cover them up) and fundamentally don’t respect them. Thus they aren’t believed, and they can be blamed for enticing men. The Amish have very hgih sexual assault rates; the more conservative church denominations (SBC, IFB) have higher rates of sexual assault than others. Anywhere where women are “less than” men tend to have higher rates of sexual assault.

          Reply
  8. ASHLEY FOTHERGILL

    I agree with you Sheila. The adult is at fault, not the girl/teen/woman. It is human nature to notice when a woman is pretty no matter the age, but letting the mind dwell on that person and start thinking of them sexually is wrong, and in the adult’s complete control to not let their mind go there. If a man notices someone attractive they need to immediately look away and not let their mind entertain those thoughts! That is lust. I don’t think it’s a sin when you initially notice that someone is attractive because again that’s just human nature, it’s the part after that of letting your mind dwell on them sexually which is the sin. We have control of our minds, we are not animals!

    Reply
  9. Angela Laverdi

    Merriam-Webster :
    lust noun
    Definition of lust (Entry 1 of 2)
    1: usually intense or unbridled sexual desire : LASCIVIOUSNESS
    He was motivated more by lust than by love.
    2a: an intense longing : CRAVING
    a lust to succeed
    b: ENTHUSIASM, EAGERNESS
    admired his lust for life
    3obsolete
    a: PLEASURE, DELIGHT
    b: personal inclination : WISH
    lust verb
    lusted; lusting; lusts
    Definition of lust (Entry 2 of 2)
    intransitive verb
    : to have an intense desire or need : CRAVE
    specifically : to have a sexual urge

    Reply
  10. Angela Laverdi

    Sorry that was so long but I felt the definition of lust needs to be put out there properly. Finding someone or something beautiful is not lust. Craving them or fantasizing about them is.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Absolutely! Noticing and sexual attraction are not lust. Those are instinctual. But craving and using someone for your own gratification, even if it’s only mental, is.

      Reply
  11. Abigail

    Thank you for this podcast, Sheila! I was so shocked at some of the comments on your original post. My family grew up in a conservative cult (Advanced Training Institute run by Bill Gothard) where all the women and girls had a dress code. My family thankfully left there when I was twelve but it is so sad to see some of my friends who STILL wear long denim baggy skirts and baggy shirts and who live at home and have never had boyfriends but I know they want to get married-and they are in their mid to late 20’s! All because some old pastor and their parents told them their bodies are a stumbling block and they need to be covered up.. It is not a sin to want to dress fashionable or cute! Whereas I am happily married and wear what I want because it is between me and Jesus. 🙂

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Wow, Abigail! So glad your parents had the wisdom to leave that cult while you were still young. I have known people trapped in similar mindsets and it’s always wonderful to hear a story of a family that has broken free.

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Abigail, isn’t that sad? I’m so glad you got out of the Gothard cult!

      Reply
  12. Dani

    Thank you (and Katie) for helping me put my finger on what is so wrong with the way the church usually teaches modesty. A couple of years back we did a series on relationships at youth group and there was one on modesty and the whole thing was incredibly painful to me and I ditched it and wrote my own more focussed on dressing appropriately and with thought but every other group got the awful study…
    I am feeling much more comfortable with teaching my 4 sons a more helpful message about sexuality and am grateful for The Whole Story to help me.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yay, Dani! I’m glad. and way to go for creating a different study for your group. That’s awesome. That shows real courage and integrity.

      Reply
  13. Bethany#2

    I recently gave my little sister the book “beautiful girlhood” to read. And reading some of the comments has me remembering the lessons and advice they have in their about modesty. They give examples of how the way you dress shows how much personal respect you have. And that it directly effects those around you.
    Also a random memory, I once had a restaurant job. And they had a rediculously hard to match dress code. I had a pair of pants that I wore only at work because they fit tighter than I liked. But I never felt self conscious or even thought much about it. But I still remember how, a few times I knew without looking, male customers were staring at my rear. My dressy shirt covered 85% of it, and I just felt exposed.

    Reply
  14. SLS

    IMHO as a 29yr old married man of 6.5 years we as the church need to completely revamp the way we speak and teach about sex.
    The way sex has been taught in many churches has been a disaster for men, women, and kids. Poor teaching and poor understanding about sex in the church has contributed to this false mentality that another person is responsible for your sin.
    This mentality isn’t new. What did Adam do when confronted with his sin? He blamed Eve (and ultimately God) for his poor choices.
    It is the same type of argument when men say that it was a woman’s state of dress that caused them to lust. That is not true from both a biblical and a scientific perspective.
    Biblically all of us are responsible for our own sin. Scientifically the way our brains work show that lust is a choice and something we have control over.
    Lust isn’t merely noticing the state of dress of someone else. My passive brain will notice if a naked woman, a naked man, or a guy in a gorilla suit walks into church. It will then kick that observation to the active part of my brain and say, “hey look at this out of the ordinary thing.”
    At that point I and every other man (and every woman for that matter) have the choice as to what we do with that information. While we might not be able to help having a biological response (e.g. beginnings of an erection) we are not helpless creatures with our thoughts. We can choose to view the person as a person, not as a sex object.
    It hurts my heart to hear the stories of so many women of the hurt and shame they felt being told they were somehow responsible for male lust.
    I am on the advisory board of the Mens Ministry at our local church. Once it gets restarted post pandemic I plan to do my very best to combat the idea that women are responsible for male lust and get back to what God says about sex.
    Shelia, do you have any suggestions on the best ways to accomplish this goal? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks, SLS! That’s just awesome! I agree 100%.
      As for the suggestions, we’re going to have a free handout that people can bring to churches once our book The Great Sex Rescue is out that will give the results of the “all men lust” message, and show how damaging it is to women (with actual numbers and data), and then we’ll suggest how to reframe it. So keep your eyes open for that! I think the book The Great Sex Rescue would be very helpful, too.

      Reply
  15. Sarah

    Sheila, thank you for this. It takes me back to being on the staff of a London church five years ago and one of the young church intern guys giving a talk to the youth group (after which we would break out into discussion groups, all single gender. I was the group leader for the older girls.) During the all-together time, the young church intern guy (E) trotted out the ‘girls need to dress modestly so guys won’t lust after them’ and in the group time, I had 4-5 mid-teen girls anxiously asking me if they were a stumbling block to men. I adamantly reinforced that they were not and that E had misspoken, what he had said was not correct. I approached E after the meeting and said that I had concerns about how he had handled this point, and he seemed understanding of my views.
    Next day…. I found E had blabbed to our boss, the senior vicar, and I was called in to a meeting with him and E. The vicar told me that I was out of line for telling the girls that E was wrong and that it was important for the staff team to always back one another up (basically, don’t question him!) They both talked over me for the entire meeting and I was so shocked I didn’t know what to say.
    There was a lot wrong with that church generally, but looking back it was an extremely sexist workplace and the young men on staff got breaks/privileges that the women didn’t. Our Women’s Minister quit with severe stress early in my tenure there, and she and her husband both left the church and didn’t come back. I wonder why…

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Sarah, I wish I could say I was surprised! But I’m glad you spoke up. Even if it didn’t turn out well and it was hard for you, you saved those girls from shame, and that’s worth something! That’s what Jesus is calling the church to right now–He wants us to start speaking up and rocking the boat. No, people aren’t going to like it, and it’s going to be difficult. But as we speak up, it also clarifies things. It shows us when the church we are in is healthy and when it is not. And that’s worth knowing as well!
      So kudos to you, even if it was a horrible experience (and I am sorry that you were treated that way).

      Reply
  16. marriane

    God gave us “Conscience” if ever we miss what He said in the Bible. Just use it!

    Reply

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