Lust Isn’t Every Man’s Battle–And We’ve Got the Numbers! A Podcast

by | Jan 28, 2021 | Pornography, Uncategorized | 48 comments

Lust Isn't Every Man's Battle
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What if we actually ask men about lust–and it turns out that the majority don’t struggle with it?

That’s the focus of our podcast today–what does the “all men struggle with lust” message do to us?

Before we get started, a quick behind-the-scenes look at how crazy my life is right now. So on March 2 The Great Sex Rescue launches–and it’s such an awesome book! I’m so proud. Based on our survey of over 20,000 women, we look at the evangelical teachings that have stolen great sex from couples, and we rescue and reframe them to be in line with Jesus. Let’s just have great sex, people, not weird guilty stuff!

It’s available for pre-order now, and if you want a copy right away, you can pre-order and then join my launch team! It’s super easy, and the first 100 to sign up get some other fun stuff! Plus you’ll get access to Facebook lives and more. So pre-order first:

The Great Sex Rescue

Launches March 2!

What if you’re NOT the problem with your sex life?

What if the things that you’ve been taught have messed things up–and what if there’s a way to escape these messages?

Welcome to the Great Sex Rescue.

Pre-Order Now! (Helps us out a ton)

And if you email your receipt, we’ll send you a special pre-order BONUS

Time to Pre-Order








And then join the launch team! 

But not only is that book launching March 2; our book The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex, which I’m writing with Keith, is due the same day at Zondervan (different publishers!). So we’re really busy behind the scenes.

To write The Good Guy’s Guide, we decided that we wanted to test a hypothesis. We wanted to see whether all guys actually do struggle with lust. So we asked a whole bunch of questions about lust in our men’s survey.

Originally, we weren’t going to talk about these findings until The Good Guy’s Guide came out. But they were so explosive, that we had to share now!

So listen in!

Prefer to watch the video (where we’ve got some cool graphs)? Here you go!


Timeline of the Podcast

0:40 Today’s topic: Lust!
3:15 Joanna’s Stats Corner: What do the numbers say about men and lust?
15:28 So, what’s going on for those guys in the 35% we found?
22:57 How Keith and Sheila have handled this in their own marriage
31:02 RQ: I can never be alone with a man?
34:43 How do women feel when men ‘bounce their eyes’?
45:55 Women are not a threat for simply existing
50:37 YOU should reap what YOU sow

Main Segment: So not all guys lust

I don’t want to put all the numbers in a blog post, because I do want to save some for the book (plus we’ve got some great findings on porn use, too), but let me give the big picture. Around 75% of men say they struggle with lust. But when we give them the chance to lust, or struggle with lust, in multiple different scenarios, the majority do not. Roughly 40% say they have a “mental rolodex”, where pictures of beautiful women they’ve seen in person or in porn pop up on a daily basis. We also asked about how they would act seeing a good looking woman in a variety of scenarios. And in those scenarios, less than 15% would struggle with lusting.

So here’s what our hypothesis was, and what the data seems to bear out: We are equating noticing a woman is beautiful, and being sexually attracted to a woman, as lust. 

But noticing is not lusting. And I truly believe that we have caused so much shame where there didn’t need to be shame.

Sure, some men struggle with lust, as do some women, and more men do than women. But that does not mean that this is every man’s battle, or that it is a battle that cannot be won. 

But you know what? The more a man believes the “every man’s battle” message, the more likely he is to lust. So can we please start talking about this better?

Incidentally, people often accuse me of being anti-man when I challenge the “every man’s battle” idea. I don’t think this is anti-man at all. I think this is very PRO-man. Hey, guys! I believe in you! I believe that you can act honorably. I believe that God did not make you to sin or to have a special sin that you can’t eradicate. I believe that you can respect women, and that most of you do. 

Reader Question: My boyfriend was upset about my male co-workers

Keith joined me to talk about this one! This was a comment, not a question, but I thought it was worth discussing:

I dated a conservative Christian guy who got upset that I would go to our teacher work happy hours and be the only woman – even though ZERO inappropriate things were happening, and I don’t even drink. He also believed I should never be alone with a male coworker – but I co taught a course with a male 30 years my senior. How were we supposed to work on curriculum if we could never be alone? Navigating what made my boyfriend feel comfortable in my work environment was absolutely insane. I finally told him – this is my job. Get comfortable, or we can’t be together. I have never felt uncomfortable with any of these men – the fact that YOU do is your own issue. We ultimately ended things, and my now husband has zero concerns about any of this. Those rules are so objectifying in their own way – as if men and women can’t just be coworkers and friends but MUST have some kind of sexual tension between them. I understand the desire to avoid temptation – but treating women like they are constant temptations seriously limits their ability to work and grow in their work.

Keith works in a virtually all-female environment, and always has. He shared about his experience, and how I’ve always been okay with him being one-on-one with female co-workers, because he’s teaching them. And he doesn’t sexualize them. And they respect him and he’s earned teaching awards, too.

Some may disagree, but the Billy Graham rule would never even be tenable in his work situation. And if I were paranoid about the women he were with? Our marriage would be a mess.

Now, if a husband gave you reason to be paranoid, different story. But let’s not assume that all male-female relationships are automatically sexual.

Why Bouncing Your Eyes Isn’t Honorable

I had several Facebook posts go viral last weekend about how objectified women can feel when men refuse to look at us in case we’re temptations. (Post 1, Post 2). Rebecca and I elaborated on this!

Each week on the podcast, leading up to the release of The Great Sex Rescue, we’re looking at a different evangelical teaching that has affected women’s sex lives for the worst. Last week we did “boys will want to push girls’ sexual boundaries”, and this week we’re launching the “all men struggle with lust” message. So get ready for more posts on this coming up, before next week’s podcast on how she’s not his methadone to help him get over a porn addiction!

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Things Mentioned in this Podcast

Lust Isn't Every Man's Battle

What do you think? Is this a freeing message for men? How do you think the “every man’s battle” message affected you? Let’s talk in the comments!

The Healthy Sexuality Series

Leading up to the release of The Great Sex Rescue on March 2, we’ll be looking at one harmful teaching a week, and point to how we can talk about this better.

And we’ll launch each new teaching in our podcasts! So these are the topics coming up:

  • The Gatekeeping Message: Boys will want to push your sexual boundaries, so girls are responsible for stopping boys from going too far
  • The All Men Struggle with Lust message: Why Every Man’s Battle Backfires (January 28)
  • Have Sex So He Won’t Lust/Watch Porn: Why Women Aren’t Methadone (February 4)
  • The Obligation Sex Message: Turning Sex from a Knowing to an Owing Makes it Ugly (February 11)
  • “He Has a Need You Don’t Have”: Why Talking about sex like it’s only a man’s need becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy (February 18)
  • The Entitlement Message around Sex: Can’t we just be nice? (February 25)

And don’t forget to pre-order The Great Sex Rescue! Send us your receipt and we’ll send you pre-order bonuses!

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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. Katydid

    I clean houses. At one of the houses I spend up to 8 hours a week alone with the male homeowner as he works from home. And it isn’t weird at all, nor does his wife or my husband have any concerns.
    I remember overhearing someone once say Christians are the biggest perverts because they sexualize everything….
    Breast feeding, sexualized
    Bathing suits on a beach, sexualized
    Co-ed workforce, sexualized
    Giving birth, sexualized
    Disney princesses in ball gowns, sexualized
    Puberty, sexualized
    Jeans, sexualized
    Diaper changing infant girls, sexualized
    A man buying his wife or daughter feminine products, sexualized
    In a fear to not sin sexually, they’ve made things sexual that aren’t! I met a mom whose almost teenage son still doesn’t know the proper names of his body parts because she over sexualized medical terms like penis and scrotum. And I hate that girls in the 21st century in the first world are still scared when they start their periods because their parents never told them about periods…..because they sexualize it.

    • C.M.

      I just listened to the podcast about list not being every man’s battle. So good!
      It’s a very liberating to realize that noticing a woman is not lusting. It feels like a huge weight lifted off of me.
      I’ve been deeply frustrated over the years because it seemed near impossible not to lust.
      I’ve even thought that if I could give up my sexuality entirely just to be free of the guilt of lust, I would probably do that. I say that as a man who has a very good and mutual sex life with my wife.
      Realizing what lust actually is (and isn’t) has helped me realize that living life with a pure heart is actually POSSIBLE, and not a cruel command from God.
      Thank you!

  2. Anon

    I think the problem for many men is that seeing someone attractive creates certain feelings. I know myself when I see someone very attractive that I can feel this little butterfly in my stomachs which makes me feel guilt and shame because I should only feel like that with my wife. I have a coworker who makes me feel like that and I always feel a lot of guilt and shame when I look at her. I don’t bounce my eyes from her when we are talking but if we are not talking I prefer not to look her way. And I think that those bodily reactions (not necessarily an erection) causes a lot do guilt and shame in a man. And while it’s easy to say that men should just change their mindset it’s not that easy. Things like this don’t just automatically change
    Also I do think you need to see bouncing your eyes not as a way for men to not become perverted monsters. It kind of sounded like that from your Facebook posts. Most men who bounce their eyes do it because they don’t want to feel shame and guilt.
    I don’t know if you are familiar with the Thomas theorem that you find in the studies of sociology. It states:
    “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.”
    Many men feel that if they see or feel any emotions that is considers wrong then they have failed God and feel shame, guilt and disgust. That’s why many men bounce their eyes. Not because we are afraid of suddenly wanting to sexually assault these women but because we feel that if we look we are bad.
    For example I worked with a woman that was and still is very attractive. As your post shows not all men lust all the time and while I am trying to recover from porn I rarely lust over women I meet IRL. But this woman has always been a temptation. One day she wore some pants that put a lot of focus on her butt. As soon as I saw that by just entering a hall she was in my body had reactions. That reaction alone creates a lot of shame and guilt. We talked , not bouncing my eyes from her face and then she was going up some stairs. Now, I can tell you that I wanted with all my body to just turn my head a little to the right to just get a look. But I used the little strength I had left and didn’t do it and walked away. I still felt guilty and felt shame for feeling these strong sexual desires. And let me tell you that this wasn’t just because she is just a “piece of sexy body parts” but also because she had a very nice personality.
    What I am trying to say that while I understand that it is easy to look down on those that are trying to stay pure because you don’t have those issues I would say that I think it’s a little unfair to assume that all those who do struggle and are trying stay pure do it because they are horrible monsters. We sure feel like it but we are many who are trying to do our best. And to be honest the “Jesus didn’t do it” talk doesn’t make it easier. If that’s true then perfection could be attained here on earth. And while some of you are closer to that than people like me it doesn’t help. Like my therapist told me when I said it should be easy. “No it’s not and saying that only creates more shame which doesn’t help”. We have Jesus as our example but telling people who are trying their best to deal with this that well “Jesus did it “ only makes the failure even worse.
    And that’s where I come to my last point. That shaming only leads to more
    Shame. You point out that the church has shamed people about sex but I think this is probably the same. I used to judge those Christians who said they left the church because of the shame around sex. I don’t anymore because I get it. After being suicidal and self harming because of the shame and guilt I feel I get why someone would leave. Reading some of your Facebook posts reminded me of that. Maybe some of us aren’t cut out for this life.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Anon, I hear you. But what I’m also hearing is that you’re feeling shame over involuntary bodily reactions that you did not cause. There should be no shame in that. That is not your fault. That is not you sinning.
      THAT is the problem, I think. That we have made stuff that isn’t sin seem like, “well, this is almost sin, so it may as well be sin.”
      No, involuntary bodily reactions are not sin. Maybe the reason you have to turn away from her is because you feel that shame and guilt. What if you just acknowledged it–“She’s an attractive woman”–and then went on about your business without thinking about shame and guilt? Like when the shame comes, you can tell yourself, “there’s no need for shame. She’s attractive and I did nothing wrong.” And then just talk to her like normal.
      I really think the issue here is that when men feel attraction, we’ve told them they should immediately feel shame and guilt. But attraction is involuntary. It doesn’t mean anything other than the fact that the woman is attractive. That’s it. And it doesn’t need to have power over you. But the reason it has power is because it’s paired with shame.

    • Katydid

      You don’t think women get those reactions when seeing a man who catches their eye? I have met men and my husband has met women who we have found attractive, had great personalities, and similar interests and we might have been compatible as spouses, but that’s nothing to be ashamed about and doesn’t detract from our own marital relationship.
      I dunno, we never felt like the world only offers “the one” and no one else exists. We both realize there were and are other people we actually could have had successful marriages with, but we happily chose each other and don’t regret it.
      I think everyone should, in a way, bounce their eyes in a “none of my business” way. I think what Sheila is referring to is not being able to engage with someone and hindering normal human interaction. You were right to talk business professionally with your coworker and you were right to mind your own business and not watch her backside as she went up the stairs.
      I can talk with the men fixing my roof just fine. I can check on their progress. But, there’s no reason for me to set up a lawn chair and watch them shirtlessly glisten in the sun as they work. There’s also no reason to avoid them or stare at the ground to not ever see them shirtless.
      Muscular shirtless men are attractive. It’s just a fact. It might even make me flutter a little, but it ultimately means nothing unless I make something out of it. I don’t go looking for trouble (I’m never going to watch Magic Mike) but I’m not going to avoid normal human interaction, either.
      (In reality, I wish men would keep their shirts on. Not a fan of man-nips everywhere and knowing what your chest hair pattern is. Lol!)

      • This is a Pseudonym

        Loved seeing the research y’all did – it’s so encouraging to have data to back what I’ve hoped was true: not all men are pigs!
        Here’s something that’s been swirling in my head for a while now. I 100% agree that noticing that someone is attractive is not a sin. But is it a healthy mindset to agree with culture/porn that certain people are objectively more attractive?
        “Muscular shirtless men are attractive. It’s just a fact.”
        Why muscular? Is it because bulging muscles are truly the pinnacle of attraction, or is it because we’ve been bombarded with images that tell us that that’s what’s most exciting?
        Are young, in shape women with long, perfectly curled hair and tanned skin the most attractive? Or is that just what advertising and porn have sold us?
        I know we need to fight against jealously. But if you’re an overweight guy that doesn’t tan or wax, wouldn’t you feel sad if you knew that your wife would get all the butterflies when a tanned, muscular, shirtless guy walks by, but she doesn’t get those butterflies with you, or to a much smaller degree?
        Maybe we shouldn’t expect butterflies from our spouse. But I believe that love and attraction go together. If you feel zero attraction for your spouse (or quite a bit less than the other “hotties” you see), aren’t your priorities off?
        Got doesn’t rate our bodies on a scale of 1 to 10, so why should we as Christians settle for this? Maybe you don’t think specific numbers, but if you sit down and are honest with yourself, you’ll probably find that you do tend to think of people on an attractiveness scale. I’ve been bombarded with a looks based culture my whole life, so I’m part of the problem too!
        My question is, do we just agree with society that it’s just a fact that a certain type of person is the most attractive, or is this something we should fight against as Christians?

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Great question! I do find that attractiveness is also highly linked to how much I know the person. When I know someone is a jerk, it doesn’t matter how good they are. I find them gross. But if I know someone is really kind and great, they’ll seem more attractive to me, even if they’re not a perfect 10.
          And we do know that throughout history different things have been considered beautiful. Being plump used to be considered more beautiful than being slender!
          I think the big thing is just to keep your attention on your spouse, really. Sure, you may inadvertently find other people attractive, but it’s just not worth dwelling on. At least that’s how I figure it!

    • M

      Women can have bodily reactions on seeing something sexually stimulating, or even reading something or thinking about something romantic. We are not constantly told we are lusting with every bodily reaction. We are just told to feel guilty for yours… ironically.

    • Jo

      Anon, I don’t know if this would help you, but here is a thought to try out: we humans can have a lot of involuntary reactions to visual or other stimuli. We can react with attraction, repulsion, or curiosity, for example. I think getting a little zing of shame when that happens is a sign of a healthy conscience; it isn’t God saying, “you’re a hopeless dirty pervert,” but our conscience reminding us, “Hey, that person you’re tempted to stare at isn’t here for your entertainment. He/she is a person like you, and worthy of the same respect, privacy, professionalism, compassion, etc that you would want yourself.” It sounds like you are sensitive to that voice and you should feel proud that you heed it, even when you are tempted not to. Have you ever been startled (in a negative way) by someone’s appearance, then overrode your initial reaction to look past whatever the distraction was and focus on the person? It would be rude to stare, and it would also be rude to make a huge show of averting your eyes. This probably seems like a silly comparison, but I have always been sucked in with curiosity by the tabloids they sell at the checkout line, and at some point I felt conviction that it wasn’t right for me to look at them— they were exploitative and prompted not lust but inappropriate, gossipy curiosity. You wouldn’t believe what a struggle I have with my eyes now at the checkout line! It’s kind of ridiculous— but, like you, I think the struggle is worth it. I hope that gives you some encouragement.

    • Maria Bernadette

      “Many men feel that if they see or feel any emotions that is considers wrong then they have failed God”
      Emotions that are considered wrong by who? Do you believe that God thinks some emotions are bad? Or is it just society saying that they are?

    • Lisa

      Anon, I hope you can learn not to feel guilt or shame for noticing a woman is sexually attractive. It isn’t realistic or even necessary to ONLY ever notice that in your wife. We all interact with people who we notice are sexually attractive to us. We can notice it and move on in our minds. Take deep breaths, say to yourself, “it’s’ okay for me to notice characteristics about another person.” Just like it’s not wrong for me to notice that a client has an offensive body odor, but it is wrong for me to treat that person differently than I treat another client. Maybe if you allowed yourself to relax, notice, acknowledge it is not a sin to notice, and then thank God for giving you a healthy body and a beautiful world to live in, you will start to feel free.
      Others have struggled with this and found real freedom, not just strategies to keep their eyes looking elsewhere.

  3. Nathan

    > > You don’t think women get those reactions when seeing a man who catches their eye?
    Many probably do. On the other hand, I’ve heard women say this, and I’ve also heard other women get absolutely enraged when they learn that men have these thoughts and reactions at all. My guess is that many do, and some few don’t.

    • Lisa

      In my experience, women get enraged when we read books like “For Women Only” and “Through a Man’s Eyes.” These books tells stories about how ALL men can not stop thinking about that sexy hostess at the restaurant, and how ALL men spend the entire evening thinking about her and not their wife who is sitting with them at the table. Those books tell stories about men following the hot woman through every aisle at Home Depot even though he only needed to buy one item that was located right at the entrance. And that men really can’t help this behavior, it’s how God “hard wired” their brains. “For Young Woman Only” teaches teenage girls that when they go to a friend’s house, their friend’s dad will lust after them if they wear a tank top. Frankly, if a man is lusting after his teen daughter’s friends, he needs a highly qualified sexual addiction therapist STAT before he commits a crime. That’s NOT normal. (This is all from Shaunti Feldhahn, who gets invited to speak at many churches and women’s events. She wrote a book for teenage girls with all of these messages.) If we are told all men lust after their daughter’s friends, yes, that enrages women. It’s sick.
      Other books and sites state things like this as fact: 95% of men acknowledge they use porn. 5% of men lie. If using porn is the worst thing your husband does, you’re a lucky woman so get over it. (Laura Doyle)
      This is the kind of thing that enrages us. When I read this stuff I asked my husband if it was true (he’s a horrible liar and I know he’s honest with me.) When he told me that yeah, he notices a sexy woman but he sure doesn’t follow her through the store or keep thinking about her all night instead of enjoying my company, I believed him. If he had told me he does do these things, I was ready to say, “okay, no hard feelings, this was all a big misunderstanding. Here’s your ring, there’s the door. You are free. Go be with the women you want to be with. I never want to trap anyone into a monogamy that they don’t want.”
      I do not believe all men are pigs. Some men are, sure. I’ve interacted with pigs, all women have. It’s why we check the backseat of our car before we get in. It’s why we carefully plan our route when we walk home. It’s why we may completely change our schedule so we can avoid going to the gym when that pervert is there. But many of us have great fathers, brothers, cousins, friends, boyfriends, and husbands. And these books tell us that we don’t truly know these men, that they are all secretly pigs, too. Shaunti Feldhahn actually wrote to women that they shouldn’t bring this up with their husbands because he’ll lie to you to avoid hurting your feelings. But that we really need to just understand that men will always battle incessantly with lust, that it occupies a portion of their brains every waking minute. Yes, this enrages us.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        It really does, Lisa. Very well said. (And that part in For Women Only where the guy retraces his steps in the store, going down aisle after aisle, to try to stalk that hot woman? That was so creepy).

  4. Nathan

    A youth pastor once compare sin to a railroad track. On a hike once, he noticed a man tell his son not to step on or cross over the tracks. The son then got as close as he could to the track without actually stepping on it. The pastor then told us if God draws a line and says “everything on this side is sin”, the idea isn’t to see how close you can get without going over, but that you should get as far away as you can.
    This may be why many Christians are so paranoid about anything even remotely sexual. Many may have internally removed the middle part of what Jesus said “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart, and they think of it as “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
    To some point, this is good advice. We should avoid sin and even the appearance of it. On the other hand, sexuality in itself isn’t inherently bad. If we NEVER felt attraction and NEVER looked at or thought about anybody in a sexual way, marriage and children would virtually cease to exist. Some people may marry and have children without any thoughts of attraction, but I can’t image that it would happen very often.
    The thoughts are there, and we can’t always control them. We can, however, control what we do, what we way and whether or not we wallow in the thoughts.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, exactly! Sexuality is not a sin. I think for women we shame them for having any sexuality at all; for men, we train them to think they’re uncontrollable lust monsters. Neither is healthy.

  5. Amber

    I think I have more to type out later, but all I have to say right now is hearing those survey results as a wife of a recovered porn user, who has often felt so gross just leaving the house because I’m afraid of being specialized and objectified, makes me feel like a gigantic elephant has been taken off of my back. Sin is sin and it still exists, but thank you Shiela and the team for showing that goodness shines through in the human nature imaged after Christ, and that the likelihood is that in any given interaction, I’m probably not being perceived as a “meat factory.” For the first time in what feels like forever, this makes me feel like I might put on makeup and nice clothes and go to the store and be able to feel simply flattered if I perceive that a man happens to find me attractive, and not think he is, you know, undressing me in his mind. Before the every man’s battle message infected our recovery from my husband’s addiction, this is how I used to feel. Something like, “ha, yeah I do look pretty today….I can’t wait for my husband to see me when he gets home from work!” And that’s it. Nothing more. No fear of the man I just interacted with regarding me as an object for his pleasure, or trying soooooo hard not to. Say it with me….lust is NOT EVERYman’s battle! And I don’t mean to demean those for whom it is a battle, because my husband did have that battle for a long time, and it was real and the shame nearly destroyed him. There is healing and there is hope, for the men in bondage and for the deeply sad women who together make up the collateral damage of toxic messaging.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Amber, I’m so glad that this message can help you! I honestly do think it’s a freeing one! Yay!

  6. Phil

    Wow – another great podcast and great to see you Joanna! Sheila – I didnt catch the name of that book you read that story from but if that is the messages for men in popular christian books well- thats just wrong. What I heard is actually part of my story as a sex addict. What was described was how At one time in active addiction I went through my day. And to suggest that EVERY MAN thinks that way is just plain stupid. What the message is that I got from that story is the person who wrote it has not addressed their own problem to find out that not only does NOT every man think that way but a recovered person does not either. Yes I see many things through my sex addiction 12 step program but yet they are quite elementary thoughts at times. And certianly doesn’t make everyone an addict just because they look at porn. The story that was read are the stories I hear in my 12 step group. They are real: down to the TMI story of the guy masturbating in the car etc – yes gross – but then you speak of the men who just got the wrong messages and their lust issue. I suggest to you that these are 2 major different issues that are not quite comparable. The reason is: that the addict person lacks self control in a very large way. The guy with the wrong messages has quite a bit of self control and reasoning and can certainly make changes much easier. So you are working with 2 different groups in my opinion and they should be handled differently. I dont disagree with any of your message today at all. The thing is this: Recovery for an addict is a process. So bouncing eyes and “not enjoying” the lust as so well put is often part of the process. Maybe not right but please tell me a different way. You cant just tell an addict to stop. They may hear you and know they need to stop but they really dont know how. The answer is still the same line STOP. However the process is different for a guy who has the wrong messages compared to the guy who is addicted. They are in much different dimensions of life. The Guy who has the wrong messages can reason to replace lust with respect maybe right out of the gate. The addict guy can not. I do not have data I have experience. It doesnt work that way. I watched guys ignore women and do all the negative things you speak of in process of recovery. I even did some of those things such as look at the ceiling. My experience is that we do what works for us and the hope is that we find the healthy path. Unfortunately many do not. I wanted to leave you with a story about my wife that came up for me while you and Keith were speaking in the podcast. Many years ago I was at the beach with my family. We only had 2 small children back then and my wife and I were fighting. I was in recovery but doesnt mean I was 100% well. My wife and I were fighting. My best guess is it was over sex. We were sitting at the beach just hanging out and my wife noticed a person she knew from her work activities. I even recall the guys name. Nathan. Never met him before didnt know anything about him and certainly didn’t feel threatened by him. My wife got up and went over to talk with him. It was far enough I could only hear voices but not words over the crashing waves. They stood and talked for at least 20-30mins. This is what I noticed that day and I never forgot this moment We shared my thoughts that evening and today it is well known within my marriage that: I actually love watching my wife talk to other men. Not in any sort of sick sense. Just because I love how she carries herself. I love how she stands. I love how she responds. I love how she is confident. I cant watch her when she is talking to me but if she can talk to other men that way then she certainly talks to me that way. Just an awesome thing about my wife. And I get IT all the time😬. I just cant watch it😬

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      So helpful, Phil! Thank you.
      The book was Through a Man’s Eyes. It was co-written by a guy who is a recovered sex addict, I believe, and Every Man’s Battle was written by men who were all recovered sex addicts (I question the “recovered” part given how they talked about women and how they objectified women in their very book). But I don’t think that we should take what a sex addict says as being true for all men, as you have said. But even beyond that–once you’ve recovered, as you said, you really don’t act like that anymore. So why do all of these authors talk like this is normal for men?
      I just want there to be more discernment in the Christian church! I find this so discouraging.

      • Phil

        Sheila. I think this is worth exploring. In my 12 step group experience for sexual addiction, recovery attendance by women is small to mostly none. Now you and your team are the data folks but even I know that there are women who are sex addicted too. Why are they not attending these groups? My theory? Your all over it. SHAME. Look at all the messages in history that for women who are sexual are whores etc etc. imagine now they admit to being a sex addict….very deeply shaming. So now look at the group of men with wrong messages – who is talking about it? Apparently Sex addicts and you. There just isnt a vast resource for guys with wrong messages to go to. The Church? LOL. Well if they cant get the womans message right what makes you think they can get the mans message right? Just sayin Sheila – oh and further to my other comment on 2 groups. Sex addict does lust. Not all men with wrong messages lust. Maybe it is like this: Of the 75% 1% are sex addicted and lust of the 74% men with wrong messages42% dont lust Etc etc?

      • Phil

        And sorry I am full of it today. Had a few biblical insights in last multiple days. One of them was this: The Church has ALWAYS struggled with the message. Wether it be sex or any issue for that matter. While Paul wrote to the early church’s to provide encouragement he also wrote to give correction. Hence it is also our duty to do the same thing. At least thats what I have come to understand. So while in the grand scheme of things that may seem so daunting – some such as this group are working at it. Glad to be here Sheila. Glad to be walking with you. Keep on keepin on.

  7. Jane Eyre

    The “rule” about not being alone with members of the opposite sex works when there is nuance.
    Almost all of my coworkers are men. Office doors are always open. We don’t see each other alone outside of work hours. The issue isn’t Jeff or Dan standing in my office to talk, or Peter driving us to get take out from Qdoba; the problems to avoid are spending a lot of private time away from other people, outside of work hours, or outside of working relationships. A good touchstone is “if your spouse or your friends walked in, would you feel embarrassed or not? Would they give you some serious side eye or would they not think a thing of it?”
    It is also a very good rule to follow with new people. If I have any concerns about a man making a pass at me, then I will not be alone with him, end of story.
    I wish teenagers were taught this rule; the Boy Scouts follow it to great success. Predators exploit ambiguity as part of the grooming process. If young women (and men) are taught that responsible adults avoid being alone with kids (caveats as needed), it is easier for the young people to avoid a situation wherein someone can harm them.

    • Laura

      This was also my thought.
      My husband and I have both worked with children and youth in many different settings for many, many years. As such, we have been required to attend multiple (secular) Abuse Prevention Training Seminars. Those have all taught us to never be alone with a child (not related to you) and to carefully watch adults who consistently do so. This is not just to keep the kids from being groomed, but also to protect the adults from false accusations from angry or troubled kids. This does not mean we are objectifying kids. But that we are protecting them.

      • BL

        I like this point! I really enjoyed the talk and thoughts. I’m a teacher by trade, and I’ve always been cognizant to avoid he said, she said situations just because. Now, my husband is a recovering addict, and I’M the one who asked for him to not talk to women alone in his office with the door closed. Not because I think anything negative about them, but because as someone working through betrayal trauma having specific boundaries makes ME feel safe while walking out recovery as a couple. I absolutely love that Sheila and the gang are taking on such hard/good stuff!

  8. Em

    I’ve realized reading these posts that I don’t fully understand the term “evangelical.” Is it another way of saying “Baptist,” is it the culture of Western Christianity, or can it be applied to churches worldwide? Is it an affiliation, is it a movement, is it something churches claim to be?
    Sorry if you’ve covered this and I missed it. Just realizing that I’ve heard the word and considered it an abstract concept rather than a definite “something.” Can it be defined?
    Can’t wait for your book to come out!

    • M

      I agree! What is evangelical? I was Catholic before I came to know Jesus in a personal way. Many churches taught weird things and didn’t really promote hearing from God and following Him and your conscience and listening to the still small voice. They seemed to twist scripture to protect their power. And my Catholic friends seemed secular and religious at the same time. So I wonder too… what exactly is evangelical?

      • Hannah

        I think evangelical is defined in 3 ways. Depends on context which is meant. The first 2 can apply to any person or church, and some would choose to use it (eg in the church name or website). The broadest is any Christian who believes the whole bible is the word of God, and authoritative for faith and practice. I have also seen a thing called the Bebbington quadrilateral, which lists 4 beliefs: personal faith, belief in Jesus’ death on the cross as central to salvation, commitment to the bible as the word of God, and the belief that faith expresses itself in action. The third definition is more based on culture. It looks at the group of people who broadly fit these definitions of evangelicals, and sees what their culture is. Aspects of evangelical culture (eg purity culture) can be deeply problematic but are not essential to being an evangelical. As an analogy, I am English because of where I was born (first 2 definitions). I drink lots of tea, like many English people (third definition) Lots of us drink tea, so you can talk about it as an aspect of English culture, but it isn’t what makes us English. Not all English people drink tea. I think American evangelical culture has had a huge influence on the rest of the world in recent years. However I think cultural expressions of evangelicalism vary from place to place. Sometimes cultural expression (eg purity culture) remains when the core beliefs have shifted. I don’t know if others agree with those definitions?

    • Em

      Thanks, Hannah! That is very informative.

  9. Nathan

    > > The “rule” about not being alone with members of the opposite sex works when there is nuance.
    Our church pastors have a rule that they cannot be alone with a woman unless she’s a family member. This might be a good idea, although it’s a very specific and narrow application

    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      My problem with the “can’t be alone with a woman” rule is that it means that men simply have more access to the church and leadership than women. What if a woman has a specific problem with a member of the church that they truly only want to talk to the pastor about? A man can do that, but a woman has to allow someone else to hear about it? A man is allowed more privacy than a woman?
      If a church is going to make it a rule that people can’t be in the same room as the opposite sex alone, even if other people know about it, then I think it’s morally responsible to ensure that every area of leadership has both sexes represented so that the whole congregation has equal access to leadership. Either that or you make the same rule for men–if a pastor can’t be alone with a woman, he also can’t be alone with a man. It needs to be equal. Otherwise you’re limiting one sex’s ability to meet with and access church services. There are many, many situations where I may want to talk to a pastor alone, and if he were a man and I couldn’t do that as a woman but my husband could? That would be wholly inappropriate.

      • Jane Eyre

        This depends on what you mean by “alone,” and I’m not trying to be argumentative or split hairs.
        Most office conference rooms have floor to ceiling glass windows. The occupants are more than visible to everyone who walks by during normal business hours, but their conversation is between them. If a man and a woman are in a conference room together at 2 pm, and people are constantly walking by, that’s hardly the same thing as being alone together in a quiet little restaurant at 8 pm.
        If a church does not have that structure, adjust accordingly: be in an office with the door cracked. Have that rule for both men and women. People can walk by and see that the occupants are nowhere near each other but have a hard time listening in.
        This one is personal to me. When I was in university, a professor started by having talks with me during the day, like, 3 pm. That moved to the night over the summer when I worked (and I was really uncomfortable with it) ,then requests to go for walks in the park alone or for drinks alone. When I told him to take his awful, sketchy self somewhere else, he got mad and made a series of comments strongly implying that he would torpedo my professional reputation.
        This stuff happens. The boundaries are there for a reason. In the professional world, I say yes to invitations to meet for coffee at 10 am and no to requests to meet for drinks at 7 pm. It’s just not worth it to find an alleged networking discussion turn into someone hitting on me. I wish young women would understand that you can talk about your career just as easily over coffee in the Starbucks across the street from the office as you can at 8 pm in a lounge.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yes, that sounds perfectly reasonable to me! And you’re right–we do need to beware of sexual assault situations in workplaces, as well, or just aware of creepy come ons in work situations, too, which are far more likely to happen in the lounge at 8 pm.
          I’d just say that in a church volunteer situation, we should also keep in mind that being “alone” also should mean that you’re private. So let’s say that you’re both setting up for a praise team practice in the sanctuary. You’re technically “alone”, but someone could come in at any minute. If you’re in a place where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy, I don’t think that should count as “alone”, even if you are the only two in the room. I just see this going to such ridiculous extremes in the church, and most of the time we need to just chill.

        • Rebecca Lindenbach

          OH, yeah no, I solely mean that it can’t be seen as wrong to be able to be alone with someone of the opposite sex in a regular, professional setting. Of course everyone should draw professional boundaries! All I’m saying is that the boundaries really shouldn’t be based on sex, but on propriety (e.g., like you said, getting together during the day vs at night, in open areas/platonic areas versus areas that have a certain “atmosphere”). Because let’s also remember that a lot of sexual harassment happens to people of the same sex as the harasser, too. So it needs to be about professionalism, not just gender.
          And that’s awful what happened to you. Yikes. Good for you standing up for yourself, though!

    • Wild Honey

      I worked for seven years as an admin assistant at a secular university and worked alone with men routinely in the course of my job. They were respectful and professional as a matter of course, and we had great working relationships. During that time, only one set off my creep-o-meter. The one time he did something tangibly inappropriate, it was handled per my boss’s advice and to my satisfaction.
      I later worked as a volunteer admin assistant for a pastor who followed the “never alone in the same room as a woman” rule. It placed an unfair burden on me compared to his male interns, because they could meet with him alone anywhere, including the church building. I had no childcare (volunteer, remember?) and was bringing along my 1-year-old, and he insisted on meeting in public places like coffee shops even when I requested we meet at the church so she could run around. It quickly became untenable when she became more mobile. Additionally, it just cast this weird pall over the relationship. How come my secular co-workers could treat me as a colleague and trust themselves alone with me, but my “Godly” pastor couldn’t?
      My husband was a pastor when we were dating and brought up the Billy Graham rule as something he was willing to follow should we get married. I told him that I didn’t think it necessary and kinda dumb. I still think that. ONE man in scripture was unjustly accused of rape (Joseph), and there it was ALSO a power dynamic of slave-owner over slave at play there. To contrast, how many women were actually raped? Hagar, Tamar, Bathsheba, Dinah, the concubine in Judges. Not to mention Lot, by his own daughters, which I guess means men aren’t safe even from the wiles of their own relatives?
      Yes, it IS a very specific rule and TOO narrow application.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Thanks for sharing that, Wild Honey! I totally agree. We’ve just never found this an issue in the secular workplace, but the church makes it into a big one. I just did a survey on Twitter about this, and 68% of women said they experienced more sexual harassment at church than they did at secular workplaces. I honestly think it’s because the church sexualizes everything.

  10. Budgie

    The thing that really bothers me about “Every Man’s Battle” and related books is that it really treats sexual sin as a special sin. Imagine if we treated other sins like this.
    In the Ten Commandments we are told not to steal, so we can assume this is a sin that fallen humans may commit. In fact we know people do steal. Now let’s imagine a new book comes out called “Every Person’s Battle”. It tells us that we are prone to steal and that it’s part of being human. It will always be something we will struggle with, even as a Christian. So we need to be very careful when we go out. We shouldn’t go to stores that sell fine furniture or clothes because we’ll be tempted to steal. We shouldn’t visit a friend alone because we might just be tempted to steal from her. And when you are out shopping, bounce your eyes and only look at what you’re going to buy. That’s the only way to be sure you won’t steal!
    Sound ridiculous? I think most anyone would agree it is. And I’ve never heard of such a book or even on sins that seem to plague some of us (such as gossip). So why is sexual sin so different? I cannot believe it is. It is a struggle for some people, but not everyone and it certainly is not a sin that should hold us in bondage as a Christian.
    God wants us to be free of sin. He tells us in II Corinthians 5 that if we’re in Christ, we’re a new creation. Romans tells us that we are no longer slaves to sin but to righteousness. My pastor did a series on Romans some years back and particularly emphasized that as we grow closer to Christ and rely on His power, over time it becomes easier to not sin than to sin. I believe that’s true of every sin, including lust. We do fail, and there’s forgiveness, but God never wants us to stay in the pigpen!
    But the key thing is we need a new heart and mind. We need to see things as God sees things and see fellow people as God’s children and our brothers and sisters (who we would never think to lust after, at least if we’re healthy). When God works this change, the lust battle is no longer inevitable. And bouncing eyes is no longer necessary because our heart has changed. Much better than any behavioral modification plan!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      AMEN! And also, in lists of sins in the New Testament, lust isn’t always mentioned. It is not this special perfect sin that no one can recover from! I talked about this in a post a few years ago on Every Man’s Battle, but I completely and utterly agree with you. Thank you!

  11. Sarah

    Super interesting stuff, as always, Sheila, thank you.
    I remember when it came out that Mike Pence followed the Billy Graham rule, and was getting all sorts of flack for it from secular sources. I personally was sympathetic; in politics, you have to be especially careful to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, and I’m grateful that you and Keith made that distinction that in some situations it’s necessary to avoid being alone with a member of the opposite sex.
    However, at the time that the Pence thing was all over the media, I was working in a start-up company with a married man alone in a very small office. I worked with him alone for two years; he was never anything but respectful to me. I’ve been the only woman in an office full of men and felt secure; I’ve given my married, Muslim, male coworker a lift to a conference, which in reality just meant listening to him chat for two hours whilst trying to concentrate on driving, lol. I now work for a Christian organisation where we don’t really think twice about men and women having meetings behind closed doors (though a lot of the offices are glass fronted anyway.)
    That being said, I’ve had a male co-worker who used to be a vicar tell me that he made a point not to counsel a woman without his wife present, or if possible to have his wife counsel her instead, not from disrespect or struggles with lust, but out of wanting to be respectful to her, as he might not be the best audience for her to take her marital struggles to, for example. Sometimes congregation members without much of a filter will share things that their pastors doesn’t know how to deal with as well as perhaps his wife would – pastors are but human. That can be problematic where the wife is not officially in ministry and gets leaned on more than might be appropriate, but that’s something for the couple to resolve themselves I think.
    I have also been in ministry situations (a street ministry to nightclub-goers that I was involved in before Covid times!) where a man on the team has expressed his reluctance to give physical help to a drunken woman for fear of being accused of impropriety. That rankled with me, and I told him so. I don’t believe we should fear to help the vulnerable just because we might get sued if we do. That’s not love, that’s covering our butts, that’s fear, and we’re not to operate out of a place of fear. But at the same time, we do live in the world… but we’re not to be of it. All that to say, the issue is complex and there are definitely grey areas!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Really interesting, too, Sarah! And, yes, there are grey areas. I think in counseling situations in a church, it is wise to have a woman on staff to help with that. I do feel that always bringing in the pastor’s wife isn’t the best idea, because it does lean on her, but also just because she’s married to him doesn’t mean she has any training in this (though, to be fair, many pastors don’t either). But, yes, in ministry situations you do what you should do.
      Thanks for that!

    • Maria Bernadette

      When I heard about Mike Pence following the Bill Graham rule (though I didn’t know it was called that at the time) I wondered if he applies the same rule to men, for the sake of equality?
      As in, if he won’t ever meet alone with a woman, not even for a business meeting, does he also never meet alone with another man?

  12. Nathan

    Two quick notes about comments to my churches rule about not being alone with women.
    As far as I know, this rule only applies to the top level pastors, not all men and not all people who work for the church. I also don’t know how strictly they define the meaning of “alone”. I also believe that the rule was mainly instituted to prevent gossip.
    Rebecca has a good point, though. What if a woman has a serious issue, and needs to specifically talk privately to one of the lead pastors about it? I don’t know if they ever thought about that. There might be some ways around that, though.

  13. RTDude

    I have to say that this was VERY enlightening. Jimmy Carter was quoted in an interview as saying, “I have lusted in my heart many times.” I think I could say the same thing, however, I was also counting when I find a woman attractive, feeling that “wow”, heart flutter, etc. as that. By that definition, I thought I did have a problem.
    TBH, though, I have never ignored a woman, or not looked at her, like you have said happened to you. I didn’t know that was a thing, and I have never been counseled or mentored to treat women that way.
    Job 31:1 has been translated “I have made a solemn pact with myself to not undress a woman with my eyes.” I have undressed women with my eyes, but I don’t do that with every woman, and it is not a constant minute by minute struggle. But I think that is what I have blamed myself for doing, when I have not done that.
    As for the “Mike Pence Rule/Billy Graham Rule”. I see why it has merit, but it can go too far. Ephesians 5:3 “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” It could look inappropriate. I have avoided meeting alone with women, but not to an extreme. I have met with business associates alone before. I limit meeting alone with women because I could be accused of wrongdoing, especially in this “me too” culture. I wouldn’t put myself in a position where I could fall into temptation.
    I’m grateful for your article because I had bought into the teaching that I need to repress those desires. What normal guy doesn’t like looking at beautiful women. I have literally, sometimes out loud, especially if I’m by myself, said, “Oh my Lord, that woman is gorgeous.” But it doesn’t go into what you are defining as lust, but I thought it did. I wish I had heard this before, because I have had years of guilt feeling horrible about myself, when I really was just admiring a beautiful woman.
    That’s not to say I haven’t had inappropriate thoughts, but those thoughts are not at the level that you are talking about as lust. It is much more innocent than that, but I have been beating myself up about it for years.
    I can’t say that I don’t battle with lust, I do, but also other sins, which are also sin. I was convinced that lust was so overwhelming because of some of those teachings, but this is a revelation that I’m just normal. Thanks

  14. Hannah

    Hi Sheila,
    Thank you so much for your blog. I have been keeping up with the blog posts about how the evangelical church tends to talk about men, sex, lust, and modesty amount women. I got married three years ago and those horrible mindsets made me look at my husband in such terrible ways. I felt if I didn’t have sex he would look at porn or cheat on me. I often viewed my body as dangerous because of the don’t cause your brothers to stumble message, and I felt terribly insecure about myself because I believed all men will lust and that I would never be enough for my husband. Not because of anything my husband has done or said, but because the culture on how the church framed these issues where exactly as you have described and have wrecked me as a women because I believed them. I didn’t have a father, and grew up with no male role models to counter these harmful messages. It didn’t help that the women in my family have been wounded dearly by the men in their lives so that created an unheathy view I had of men to begin with. Finding your blog has brought tremendous freedom in my life and on my thought life. Thank you for helping me see the truth based on your research and Gods word. I wish all the churches would talk about these topics as you do.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so glad this helped, Hannah! And I’m glad you found me! Thanks for the encouragement!


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