Do You Feel Like All Men Should Find You Attractive?

by | Apr 28, 2021 | For Women, gsr, Theology of Marriage and Sex, Uncategorized | 43 comments

Do You Inadvertently Sexualize All Relationships with Men

Did purity culture make you sexualize all relationships with the opposite sex?

We’ve been talking a lot about youth group lately–what youth group was like before purity culture infiltrated it; how porn may be the new purity culture. We talked last week about how to help kids have healthy relationships with the opposite sex.

Lately I’ve talked a lot about how the message that “all men struggle with lust; it’s every man’s battle” can really mess up guys especially by making them feel they can never win this battle. Plus we often conflate sexual attraction and lust, and we make guys feel shame when they were never meant to.

Recently, a listener of the Bare Marriage podcast was listening to the episode where we talked about how men DON’T necessarily all struggle with lust, and she had a bit of an epiphany on how that message had also affected her. I thought it was interesting, and I shared it on this week’s podcast that goes live tomorrow, but I thought it might be worth talking about on its own today.

She wrote:

 

We talk about how women end up used and abused as a result of purity culture etc. But as I hear you discuss how toxic the thought process is for men to be afraid of women, I’m realizing I was raised to think ALL men wanted me. And that greatly inhibited the ability to just be friends with men. It also made me think of myself sexually all the time. I’m not even a sexual person. I have a lower drive. I always have. But this topic is unearthing some things for me.

I can see how I viewed every man as someone who was interested in me and then when they weren’t, it made me wonder why and I’d pursue them or flirt with them even if I wasn’t interested in them because THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO WANT ME. I hope this doesn’t make me sound nuts. But my mom also put a lot emphasis on finding a husband (and one looks) so my eye and my brain were trained to always assess each man as potentially someone of interest.

This mindset didn’t just stop when I got married so it made staying faithful difficult because I always wanted to flirt and have attention. I thought all my husbands friends wanted me too. I know this is sounding like I was a lunatic but I assure you I am not. As I mentioned, I did end up in a pretty crappy marriage with all the covert sexual pressure for obligation sex, marital rape and all of that. But until today, it hadn’t clicked that purity culture also attributed to my inability to choose a good man and affected so many relationships with male friends. I hope that makes sense. I’m going to sit with this and try to unpack it more but I feel like you’ll get it!

It’s interesting, isn’t it?

Men worry that they’re lusting all the time, but at the same time women can feel like he should be lusting after me. And if he’s not, what does that say about my desirability?

So we can end up flirting even when we don’t want to because we have to reassure ourselves.

The one thing we can’t seem to do is have healthy male-female friendships.

I think male-female friendships are a good thing.

I’m not talking about hanging out with someone of the opposite gender one-on-one and going places with them, but I know a lot of men that I consider my friends and that I can have deep conversations with, and it is entirely platonic. It is possible to have platonic relationships.

Paul entrusted Phoebe, a deacon, with the letter to the Romans. Seven out of the ten women he mentions in Romans 16 he talks about in terms of their ministry–a higher percentage than the men. Women and men worked alongside each other for the gospel, and this was expected and normal in the early church.

It wasn’t normal in the world; this was one of the way that the gospel upended human relationships. It broke down the walls that had separated the sexes, and it allowed us to see each other as whole people.

I think this should be the aim again. Obviously we need to be wise, and I know that this is nuanced. But the sexualization of all relationships–either the assumption that the sexes are dangerous to each other, or the inability to see beyond one’s gender–hurts us.

I’m doing huge edits on The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex right now (it’s due in at the publishers on Friday), so I won’t make this a long post. But I’d love to know what you think.

Can we go back to platonic relationships? Do you relate to what this woman says about sexualizing every relationship? How do we move forward? Let’s talk in the comments!

 

 

Sexualize All Relationships with Men
Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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

Related Posts

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43 Comments

  1. Meghan

    Ah yes, I can relate to this. Except for me I just came to the conclusion that I am not attractive and would have to content myself with brother-sister relationships for the rest of my life. Cause men are visual, and we all know they are going to go for the pretty women. Which I am not.
    Man I could have avoided years of pain. Trying to be prettier, quieter, more passive, take up less space, be less ME really messed up my relationship with my body. Also made me suspect my husband was delusional when he told me I was the most fascinating woman he’d ever met.
    Oh past Meghan, how I wish I could go back in time and transplant all the work I’ve done to undo all those destructive beliefs into your young hurting heart. But I must content myself with building up my daughter instead.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, I think so many of us wish that! But way to go in changing the story for your daughter!

      Reply
  2. April

    Thanks for the article I was told that being friends with guys is hard because all guys just want to sleep with you. I did not actually believe that in the purity culture but the teach that toxic teaching. In highschool and now I have several guy friends purely platonic. I feel this should be addressed as well. And it is damaging to women who believe they are wanted in a sexual way by every guy out there which is not true at all.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, we shouldn’t think that all guys need to want us. It’s really weird.

      Reply
  3. Jessica

    Yes, I first became aware of this side effect of the purity culture just a few years ago, even though I had observed it my entire life with great puzzlement. Since I was a teen, I always wondered why the very girls who were so extremely (over the top) modest, were also the ones alway so desperately seeking male attention. It finally clicked for me when I noticed their mothers were the same way. Constantly seeking male attention, at the same time disparaging men for supposedly always “chasing” them. It occurred to me that the supposed chasing was all in their head and I started wondering why so many of these women felt the need to build that false story in their mind. However, it isn’t exclusive to those raised in the purity culture! Very common in the secular mindset as well.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, very true! I think it is in the secular world as well. That makes sense about the modest girls. We’re told “modest is hottest”, but then you dress modestly and the guys don’t pay attention! And aren’t they supposed to? It’s really confusing!

      Reply
  4. Becky

    I don’t think it was just the girls in my circles who absorbed that, but the guys as well. I struggled with opposite gender friendships, since I’ve naturally been more shy around guys anyway. But I did try as a older teenager, admittedly out of feeling the pressure that if I couldn’t even be friends with guys, I’d be single forever. In youth group, I remember commiserating with my female friends about how hard it was to make guy friends because our experience was often that guys would take our attempts at being friendly as a sign of interest in them, and then it got all weird. So it was often just easier to hang out with each other. My college fellowship group was easier, in many ways, but there was still always the sense even in larger groups of keeping an eye out for future spouses. And it got even worse in my 20s when I ended up being one of the “leftovers”, because hanging out with newly married couples that I’d been friends with was hard when I didn’t want to upset my female friends by being overly friendly with their husbands.
    I would guess that maybe couple friends are easier? But my husband is honestly not very social at all, so we’ve never managed to make any, beyond being on friendly terms with some couples from church.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, couple friends are definitely easier, but that’s too bad if it’s not easy for your husband! And that must have been hard in your 20s for sure.

      Reply
  5. T

    Hi Sheila.
    I found this comment that someone wrote in so insightful!
    My husband became a Christian after we started dating so he thankfully has not grown up with all the purity culture teaching.
    However, I’m realising more and more how much this teaching is effecting me.
    One of the things that resonated with me in regards to this comment was how she found it difficult to not flirt or to remain faithful even after being married. Now, my marriage is fulfilling and wonderful and I really don’t need more and I wouldn’t ever be unfaithful, but especially at the start of my marriage, I felt like I had been so programmed to be “on the look out” that it was hard to stop that habit. In fact I felt like being married had ended the exciting part of a relationship (the looking and hoping). As it turns out, I’m so very glad I was wrong and the intimacy I share with my husband is so much greater than I could have imagined. At the beginning, whenever I felt undesired or not lusted over by my husband (even though I didnt necessarily want to be – go figure), I would doubt either my own attractiveness or even that I had married the wrong man and that someone else I might know could have been the right one, and worst of all I was just such an unarrousing wife and no good in bed.
    To be clear, my husband never inserted any of these things and I’m sure he wondered why u would get upset after an evening of cuddling on the lounge that it didn’t necessarily lead to more each time.
    I feel like I’m rambling now, but I too will continue to think on this topic and pray for wisdom and the ability to adjust to more healthy outlooks.

    Reply
  6. Dorthea

    This resonated with me as well except this message that all men lust therefore all men are going to lust after me hit me more later on as I became more involved in churches that taught this stuff. I always felt super self conscious whenever I was alone with men in a church setting but growing up I didn’t feel that way when I was alone with men on my parent’s farm, it had a lot to do with the environment. But even as a teen I didn’t believe I could just be friends with a boy there was so much emphasis on boy/girl relationships being only romantic. I did have a few male friends but even then I felt self conscious. And I learned this from my father, books, movies, the culture in general really it wasn’t just purity culture. I think even today the culture romanticizes male/female relationships. It’d be great to see more platonic relationships between the opposite sex and I see that especially in Gen Z. So there’s hope!

    Reply
  7. Andrea

    I’m glad a couple of people have pointed out that secular culture is also bad. I remember a comedian saying “Women can have friends of the opposite sex, men can’t. Men don’t have female friends, those are just women he hasn’t slept with yet.” The heartbreaking thing, of course, is that purity culture is no better. As Beth Allison Barr’s new book points out, Christianity has, unfortunately, just followed in the footsteps of the world instead of being different.

    Reply
  8. Jane Eyre

    This is so true. I was definitely given the message that men are after sex and can’t really be friends with women, which normalised men being awful to me. Problem is, when young women are told that it’s normal for men to be bad, they think it’s normal when men act badly. For all the abstract talk about men and women being friends, every single time I acquired a male friend, my parents heavily implied or outright said that he wanted to date me, or that I should date him, or….
    It’s sad, because I have some great friendships with men, men who have no desire to sleep with me. It’s also sad, because I spent a lot of my life being confused and hurt by the way bad men treated me, rather than knowing it was a them problem and not a man problem or a Jane problem.
    Also was given the message that I as myself (neat, clean, well fitting clothes, athletic) was not attractive enough for men. I would need to lose weight (note to young Jane: you were in fact underweight), and needed to dye my hair, wear makeup, and get regular manicures. I am deeply thankful that my husband is fine with a presentable wife and does not need a skinny blonde doll.

    Reply
    • A

      It’s all just so very mixed up. I mean…there are plenty of men who absolutely affirm that message…so a woman isn’t crazy for thinking that way. I once had a guy tell me that he and his friend (both married) were out drinking the night before and they made lists of their “MILF’s” and told me I was on the list! Uhhh my flesh felt flattered but my spirit said ewwww. There is just a lot of work to be done on all sides…men and women… christian and non Christian…on being able to have platonic opposite sex friendships.

      Reply
    • Meghan

      For real. Since men never lusted after me I concluded there was something wrong with me. I spent far too much of my life fighting my body and fighting who I am because I wanted to become attractive to men. So much wasted energy. And now my husband loves me for all the ways in which I was always told I was “too much.”

      Reply
  9. Sara

    This definitely resonates with me and it led to so much insecurity in high school when guys weren’t falling over themselves for me. This caused me to build a ton of walls around men (even once I finally learned how to be friends with them in my single days) and to deal with an eating disorder for many years to fix myself because I was obviously the anomaly.

    Reply
    • Meghan

      Oh hey we’ve got the same story. I hope you have also found healing. <3

      Reply
      • Hiraeth

        That makes three of us with the same story. I’m in my late 30s and still battling. I’ve come a long way, but those old wounds linger, like clumps of old scar tissue that flare up from time to time. I’m learning how to let Jesus heal them on a very deep level. He’s meeting me there, and it’s made more interested in actually knowing him truly, more than ever before.

        Reply
  10. Amy

    Goodness, yes! While I didn’t go the route of flirting with men who didn’t seem attracted to me, I certainly thought something was wrong with me when boys/men weren’t lusting after me. This has also greatly affected relationships with men now that I’m married. I tend to distance myself from men because I don’t want them to think I’m coming on to them. Ugh. Growing up and in college, I tended to have better friendships with guys as someone who tends to be more of a thinker than a feeler and isn’t especially into makeup and hair or things my girlfriends were into. I had multiple platonic relationships with guys, especially as my major in college was male heavy. I think of just how often, from a very early age, we are matching up little girls and little boys into romantic relationships and fail to talk about healthy friendship instead. My son had a terrible experience in 5th grade at the hands of some girls who were cruel to him because he didn’t return the romantic interest one of them had in him.
    I keep thinking about the movie, “When Harry Met Sally.” The theme running through the whole movie of ‘men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way’ is just terrible. And I’m saying this as a long-time fan of the movie along with my husband, but lately, I’m convinced that line of thinking has really hurt my ability to have friends of the opposite sex. Unfortunately, so much of the purity culture message (which I grew up with) echoes this worldly thinking INSTEAD of showing that in Christ, we can have healthy opposite sex relationships.

    Reply
  11. Belinda

    Wow, yes. I relate closely to this! For me, it was “don’t be a stumbling block,” making me think every male past puberty was potentially lusting after me, but I was also hearing that only thin females with significant curves were sexy. I do not have significant curves. “Don’t wear anything too revealing because thin is sexy but, hey, you have small boobs so you can wear this top.” Talk about confusing!! Now, in my mid-30s, I’ve learned that most people (men and women alike) are attracted to a range of looks, and that personality and character are much more important and lead to a different kind of attraction.
    I’m grateful that I have healed enough from these crazy-making ideologies that I can comfortably work with men and not be afraid of them and their intentions.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It is amazing how much we end up obsessing over chest size even when we’re not supposed to judge by appearance. Well-endowed women are stumbling blocks just because of their chest. They’re judged as immodest for wearing exactly the same clothing as someone who isn’t as well-endowed. It’s really shaming for everyone (the small chested woman feels like less of a woman because she’s not as much of a stumbling block).

      Reply
  12. Catholic Guy

    I’ve followed your comments about “all men lust, it’s every man’s battle” with interest, because I’ve had conflicted emotions.
    I don’t know how the message played out in evangelical purity culture. It’s been 20 years since I was a Protestant, and back then my involvement wasn’t deep in purity culture but did involve True Love Waits and promise rings and purity pledges, but not overemphasized and thankfully not the really strange stuff. Since that time, though, I’ve been Catholic, so I can’t really speak to it with any comprehensive knowledge in how the messages were taught in that movement or the broader evangelical culture.
    With that background stated, I initially reacted negatively to your objection to “all men lust, it is every man’s battle”. It seemed to me that you might not have the best insight into men’s internal moral battles, primarily since you are not a man but also because so much of your recent efforts have been focused on women’s experiences.
    But I didn’t necessarily disagree with your further comments on the topic, though, which is why I’ve continued to follow your discussion, trying to sort out my thoughts.
    What I’ve come to realize is the phrase resonates as absolutely true to me, but it means something different.
    To me, saying that “all men lust, it is every man’s battle” doesn’t mean that it is literally *every single man’s* battle. It doesn’t mean that men will lust in ALL interactions with ALL women, nor does it mean that men will struggle with impure thoughts ALL their lives.
    To me, “all men struggle with lust, it’s every man’s battle” means that, more than pride, more than greed, more than sloth and envy and wrath, and more than gluttony, lust will be the one sin that will have a greater effect on the vast majority men at some time and to some extent in their lives and for which they should always be aware of and somewhat on guard against.
    Because of this, lust is “every man’s battle” absolutely rings true (more than the “all men lust” part) and I think has some value in understanding men’s internal moral struggles, but perhaps the add-on messaging is more problematic? Because it doesn’t seem like simply acknowledging the prevalence of the moral struggle (especially given our culture being saturated with hyper-sexualization and porn literally at everybody’s finger tips) should be problematic. Rather, I think that there is a significant benefit — both emotionally and spiritually — in recognizing and acknowledging the extent of the problem, while not taking it to unhealthy or toxic conclusions.

    Reply
    • Mary B.

      Catholic Guy, thank you for voicing what I have also been thinking as I am reading the recent blog posts that list is NOT every man’s battle. I definitely love Shelia’s clarity on how men do not need to feel defeated about lust, and women and men should be able to have friendships without awkwardly wondering if the man is lusting right now (which does affect me often when I speak to men and I wish it didn’t ) – but in emphasizing it’s NOT every man’s battle the message that is coming across to me is different from what, for example, my husband tells me. When our intimacy is good, it sounds like he rarely if ever lusts for another woman, and even online porn is a barely a temptation, if at all. When our intimacy is not good, a woman just passing by his range of vision can be a trigger. Sheila’s books and blogs have greatly enhanced our intimacy lately which is why I’m a huge fan now 🙂 . Her message of: men don’t automatically lust and we don’t have to live in fear of their lust is super helpful and rings true in a sense, namely, I have great confidence that other women can hardly, if at all, tempt my husband. He is ABLE to give his heart fully to me and leave it there, and he does. BUT… ditto to what Catholic Guy said above. We have to be careful not to swing too far in the other direction and underestimate how difficult and widespread the battle against lust is.

      Reply
    • Tina Waldner

      Yes! Well said and insightful. Every man will battle it….at some point in their lives. Some will battle it longer than others, some will conquer it, some won’t…different seasons will bring different battles. It doesn’t mean they will ALWAYS battle it….but it is (more than likely) a battle, at some point, for ALL men. This has been what I’ve found through my experience and limited insight anyways. (Given I’m not male).

      Reply
  13. Katydid

    The branch of evangelicalism I grew up in made me so isolated from my peers. It was a weird, almost elitist alienation. I wasn’t supposed to be friends with “worldly” people, and pretty much everyone who wasn’t in that line of thinking were “worldly.” I couldn’t be friends with boys because it was inappropriate.
    It was the female version of “bounce your eyes.” You couldn’t treat men like humans because they were “someone else’s husband” and “avoid the appearances of evil” etc. So, every guy was an affair, a hook-up, or a rape waiting to happen.
    At the same time it messed with my self-image because guys must think I am butt-ugly because they aren’t being boors.
    I couldn’t relax around anyone and was constantly planning my escape in case things got too “worldly.” I lost a lot of potentially good friends, ruined my christian witness (who wants to serve that kind of a God), and messed up parts of my life thanks to many evangelical teachings. I even lost my sanity at one point and had nervous breakdowns.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Katydid, I’m sorry! I’m glad you’re through that now. I know what you mean about not wanting to be “worldly.” I grew up with some of that too (and some was self-imposed).

      Reply
  14. Dorthea

    I do want to point out as a thin, curvy blonde who fits the sexy stereotype that these teachings and the emphasis that all men will lust especially if you fit the stereotype is still confusing, shaming and damaging. Don’t flaunt my body but don’t dress like a bag lady. Don’t flirt but be friendly. Don’t be attractive but be attractive. There are still times I’m scared to go to certain places because they tend to be more male centered and I’ll be noticed. But then again maybe not. It’s so confusing no matter how you look. If you’re a woman you’re shamed in some way for being female. Makes me want to find someplace safe where I can hide!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I hear you! I’m sorry. It shouldn’t be like this. Church should feel safe and welcoming for women, and too often it doesn’t.

      Reply
  15. Amanda

    I struggle with opposite sex relationships. I always thought there was something wrong with me or I was trying to fill a void in my identity , and in a way the identity bit is , true but not in the way I was thinking. I was not raised in purity culture in the least, in fact the polar opposite and everything I witnessed and learned growing up showed me that I had power over men with my “beauty” and that they all wanted me and I learned that is not the case but I don’t know how to change the filter and not interpret a mans friendship moves as more than. Or making me feel perused when that’s not the case. This letter has brought me healing and a new avenue to has out with Jesus and hopefully find some freedom from the shame, and learn how to relate to the opposite sex in a healthy way.

    Reply
  16. H

    Wow, I never knew this was how I felt until now! I’ve always been told I’m beautiful and have a nice figure. As a teen, I could never understand, if that were the case, why there weren’t lines of men wanting to be with me. Any young man I saw, I assumed they must be lusting after me, but none of them ever made any effort to get to know me. I eventually took it to mean that I must not be that attractive. I realize now how messed up my thinking was. Even now, as a happily married woman, I have to fight the thoughts that tell me every guy finds me attractive and is lusting after me.

    Reply
  17. Annie

    THIS!!! All of this. It messed me up seriously and I still struggle with relationships with males – especially male bosses, father figures, pastors or those who I should be able to trust. The stumbling block message was completely internalized to the point where when an older man who should have been protecting me exploited me, I completely blamed myself since after all my body made him do it. I HATE that I still have to work to move beyond seeing all males through this lense. Seeing myself as a woman without including that element of being sexually attractive and “dangerous” to all the males around me is still an ongoing struggle. I struggle with how to behave “appropriately” and how to train my daugher in how to behave around men.

    Reply
  18. Jennifer

    I definitely resonate with her – I grew up in a hyper specialized community where the girls were expected to get pregnant early and the boys regularly cat-called them on the street. To protect against this, I think churches over-emphasized not getting too close to the opposite sex because boys and girls would always be magnetically attracted to each other and make bad decisions.
    It caused me to too myself as an object, be aware of how I looked, and secretly enjoy the possibility of being desired by guys. Makes me cringe now, but I’m conscious of it most of the time until I choose to see everyone as a person first.
    I wish I could have felt more free to have guy friends without being flirty, or thinking it was inappropriate to do so. To wear what made me comfortable instead of what others thought was attractive.

    Reply
  19. Wild Honey

    I miss male friendships. Had lots of them in college and my professional life before becoming a stay-at-home-mom. Then we were in a church small group that was (in retrospect) weirdly segregated along gender lines, and even our next church leaned that way, but not quite so intentionally. After a while, I realized how much I missed normal, everyday male conversation. (Yes, my husband is a man and yes, we talk. But my mom is a woman and I also enjoy friendship with other women.)
    I have long suspected that the term “complementarian” is a misnomer. If it’s really true that men and women complement each other, then “complementarians” should ENCOURAGE opposite-gender friendships, so everyone can have a more whole experience.
    As a side note, I dated one of my guy friends in college. We stayed friends afterwards, were roommates (with another guy and another girl) our last year of college, and he ended up marrying my best friend from high school. We’re still friends.
    So, yes, platonic relationships with the opposite sex are completely possible.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Absolutely they are! I’m still good friends with some former boyfriends. And, yes, if we truly believed in “complementarianism”, we would encourage opposite-sex relationships.

      Reply
  20. Be Still

    Yes! I can totally relate to her comments. I wouldn’t have been able to articulate it myself, but as I read her comments it definitely resounded! And, as I think back over my life I see how my VERY limited dating and interactions with men prevented me from getting to know myself and others better. It stunted my growth and development because I was living out of a place of fear and wanting to remain “pure” or not give a guy the wrong idea, even if I really thought I’d enjoy him as a friend. I also had similar times like the commenter where I would almost be obsessed with why someone wouldn’t like me after they had shown some interest. What was wrong with me? Was I defective somehow? Ect. Wow. Thank you and the commenter for talking about this.

    Reply
  21. Em

    So much embarrassment for my younger self. I even had a guy type out “I meant platonically” after I acted all weird at his mention of hanging out sometime. I had to look up what “platonic” meant.

    Reply
  22. Bethany#2

    The one day this week I forget to check the daily article!! This resonates with me, but from another direction. Wasn’t given any therapy or help healing from my sexual abuse in childhood, and I had to heal myself up. Not the best, my first relationship with a male outside of my immediate family turned out to be a grooming attempt. I had invested Alot of time and effort, and wanted it to be a relationship proving “all men are predators” wrong. It went the other way and crushed me.
    Then I had 2 healing and very important relationships with guys. And while I outgrew both relationships, because we had limited in common. They both were extremely important to me and undid a lot of damage.
    And now I’m seeing a student dentist who is reminding me of all this. I HATE DENTISTS!! But in a platonic way, I like my dentist and that’s made it more interesting. A few days ago, he made a mistake that cost me pain and a panic attack(goofed my root canal). But when I left, he looked like he’d been just as upset. And now I’m both mad at him and feeling forgiving.
    As an over thinker, liking a guy platonically feels scary, and against everything else I know. But I think that’s my subconscious mind that assumes all men are predators in some way. …..then I meet a few guys who throw it all out.

    Reply
  23. Bonnie

    This really hits home, Sheila! For most of my life, I’ve had a back-and-forth in my own head about what is going on in any relationship with a man. Teachers, coaches, preachers, friends’ husbands, my husband’s single male friends…there’s always conflict within me about being desired by them, and knowing that I don’t want to be desired. I’ve flirted with guys that I actually had no interest in, simply because they “must” be lusting after me, and it’s my place to follow that role. Makes me nauseous to write this and like others have said, sad for my young self. I suspect a buried sexual trauma, but have had to cease wondering about it, because it makes me feel crazy to speculate who it might’ve been.
    Thanks to all you others who commented here. I feel comforted in knowing I’m not the only one caught up in this confusing web! And huge thanks to you, Sheila, for putting this out there to be looked at in the light of truth!

    Reply
  24. EOF

    I didn’t go to church until I was a teenager, so I didn’t grow up with any of these messages. I also had more guy-friends than girl-friends. I just found it easier, and the girls that I was friends with were usually more tomboyish – they too were less complicated than all the drama that came with the other girls. (No offense or judgment to anyone; that was just my experience.)
    Even when I did start going to church, I still had a lot of guy friends. (Purity culture didn’t seem to be starting until my last couple of years of high school. Even then, the worst of it was reading an Elisabeth Elliot book.)
    Then came college. The church I started going to had strict rules about interactions between guys and girls. (Never, ever being alone, under any circumstance, for one.) I had some guy friends, but it was different. Not as much fun, not relaxed. And even then, most of the guys who were my “friends” wanted to date me. Once I did choose a boyfriend, those other guys stopped talking to me.
    Then came marriage. You’d better believe my only guy friends in the last 20 years have been my husband’s friends. And even then, I wouldn’t call them friends – they’re HIS friends who I talk to. I’m friends with their wives, if they’re married.
    It’s all so weird. This society sexualizes EVERYTHING.

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  25. Catherine

    Wow, yes I really resonate with this too. I was both shy and stand-offish with boys as I didn’t want to attract attention, but also felt super unattractive as none of them flirted with me or seemed interested sexually. When my now husband asked me out as a teenager, I thought for ages that he must be doing it as a prank as very few had shown an interest before.
    I’ve never had close friendships with guys and I feel the need to make myself come across as sweet and feminine in their presence so that I’m desirable (as they ‘should’ find me attractive if I’m a good enough female right?!) but then also feel somewhat nervous and uncomfortable when I’m taking one-to-one with them, in case they take advantage or someone else sees and misconstrues the situation!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, dear! That is just so awkward! I hope it time it gets easier. I know it can be a very hard habit to break.

      Reply
  26. Phoenixx

    Reading all the comments, I have a few thoughts… one thought is we need to have boundaries. I know it seems that we “should be able” to befriend each other like we did in pre-school, but as we grow our bodies and minds change. It’s idealistic to want to maintain close relationships with men as a woman, but I’m also fully aware that they or I could be lying to ourselves about our true intentions.
    This thing is bigger than all of us. We didn’t create our minds, bodies, or this fallen state. As a partner, of a man struggling with sexual integrity issues, I have been hurt beyond belief by his lack of boundaries with women and their lack of respect for me.
    It seems that almost everyone here is going hard trying to prove that men and women can just be friends without understanding that there’s always a risk.
    I can recall trying to have platonic friendships with guys in high school and then realizing that they wanted me for something else. It didn’t matter that I was smart and witty..they still looked at my body and tried to make a play for me…ruining everything and filling me with such shame.
    As a Woman of Color, things are a little different for me.
    I wasn’t raised with official purity culture in church, but yes, the shaming messages about “not bringing babies home” and “men want just one thing” abided. I was an early developer who was curvaceous (our community worships curves!) and found myself battling men and boys stares and grabs constantly!
    There were many times that guys I knew in Church or school did pretend to be friends or get friendly just to get sex later.
    Why is everyone acting as if this has changed???
    It’s not our fault’s as women if men/boys choose to hit on us regardless of how we look. It’s their choice. Many times guys think having sex or hitting up women for sex makes them “a real man.”
    We as women, on the other side, are taught to believe that our sexuality/worthiness/beauty is attached to a man’s wanting us.
    This is why we must be honest, open, and transparent with ourselves first.
    We can never truly know what’s in anyone’s heart and mind from day to day. Men and women must be honest about their motives and intentions continually as they relate to one another.
    Let’s not pretend that either of the sexes is beyond starting out as “just friends” and gradually moving to something else. As Christians, the “lion has yet to lay down with the lamb.”
    Perhaps, in our desire to be safe with men and to trust our husbands, we want to believe that most men aren’t lusting???
    If most men aren’t sizing us up for sex, than we can be friends with them just as if they were women….but they are not.
    Once again, I believe the answer to opposite sex relationships is to be self aware by knowing our and respecting our humanity. I’m not personally comfortable with males as friends as a Betrayed Partner.
    Neither am I comfortable with my husband having females as friends. We talk to people and we’re kind, but no we aren’t close. Its amazing what infidelity can teach you about boundaries.

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