Poll: Women More Likely to Be Sexually Harrassed at Church than at Work

by | Dec 14, 2021 | Uncategorized | 43 comments

Women Feel More Sexually Harassed At Church
Merchandise is Here!

Do women feel safer at church or at work?

Over the last few weeks the “lust” debate, for lack of a better word, has been heating up on Facebook and Instagram. I’ve been sharing that presenting the idea that lust is every man’s battle is defeatist towards men but is also a very threatening message for women. When pastors talk about how all men lust, for instance, then they’re telling on themselves. They’re admitting they lust and have trouble respecting women and seeing them as whole human beings. That’s not a safe thing from someone who is supposed to help shepherd you.

So last week I decided to just do a quick unscientific poll on Twitter and Instagram and ask, “where did you feel more sexually objectified or harassed? At work or at church?

Here were the answers on Twitter:

Twitter Poll Sexually Harrassed at Church

On Instagram I had about ten times as many people take the poll (about 3000), but I could only give two options:

Instagram Poll Sexually Harassed at Church

So many people messaged me and said, “I chose work, but I work in a Christian environment/for a parachurch organization/at a Christian school.” And it was awful.

So by roughly a 2:1 margin, women say they feel more unsafe at church than they do at work. And that’s not even mentioning the real sexual assault that so many women and girls experience at church. 

The issue is that at church it is normal to blame women for men’s lust.

We police women’s clothing, give sermons on modesty so as not to be stumbling blocks, have different clothing stipulations in youth group for girls vs. boys. And it’s all done in the guise of helping our brothers in Christ not lust.

And this is perfectly normal.

But when this is normal, then women feel as if our bodies are always being judged, and that there is something inherently wrong with them. I remember when my daughters were on praise team and they were told not to wear skirts, because then men in the front row could look up them.

The only men who ever sat in the front row were the elders when serving communion.

Think about how unsafe that makes a girl feel.

Interestingly, I had a talk about this with a big-name marriage author.

I explained that our survey for our book The Great Sex Rescue found that spreading the message “all men struggle with lust, it’s every man’s battle” decreases a woman’s libido; hurts marital satisfaction; makes it more likely she’ll have sex only because she feels she has to.

His reply? It’s still important for women to understand men’s struggle, and to make sure men don’t feel shame.

So it’s more important for men not to feel shame than it is for women to have a positive relationship with our bodies and to experience the full sexuality God meant for us and to feel safe in church.

Here’s what we said about that argument in The Great Sex Rescue:

Great Sex Rescue

From The Great Sex Rescue

Maybe the fact that women feel so upset by this “every man struggles with lust” message isn’t because women simply need to understand men better; maybe it’s because women are being asked to accept something that reflects the kingdom of darkness rather than Christ. Maybe women can’t accept being seen as objects and do not feel safe in a society that does not treat them as human beings—and maybe women are right to feel that way.

The Great Sex Rescue

Changing the conversation about sex & marriage in the evangelical church.

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.

Every now and then a story hits the news about girls or women being shamed for what they wore to work or school.

And often the issue is that they were told to cover up so they wouldn’t be a distraction to the men.

And when this happens–it hits the news big time. In the secular world, this is seen as ridiculous.

Dress codes? For sure. It’s perfectly fine and good to have standards of professional dress or school dress codes. But when those dress codes are heavily gendered, something goes haywire.

And when they’re phrased in terms of “protecting men”? Then the news blows up.

But the thing is, in church women hear this all the time. It never makes the news. It’s just normal.

I think this is one of those huge, glaring dichotomies that is making women flee the evangelical church.

I hope pastors and leaders are listening, because women are telling us that they feel safer and treated with more respect in the secular world than in the church.

And it’s largely because of how we talk about lust.

This month, as we’re talking about being fully embodied, and inhabiting our bodies and learning mindfulness, we need to understand that one of the big reasons that this is difficult for women is that we have been taught our whole lives at church that our bodies are dangerous. We have been made to hate them.

This was wrong. And to that big name marriage pastor: You were wrong to say that to me. You were wrong to write what you did. And the big reason is this one:

Lust has a victim. And it is not the one who is lusting.

We think of lust as a victimless crime–or, as Every Man’s Battle portrays it, it’s a sin against men’s purity.

No, lust is a sin against women. It’s not seeing them as whole people. It’s not being able to respect them. It’s objectifying them.

Lust has victims. And women experience this. And this should matter to us.

(And listen in to our lust and stumbling block podcast for more!)

To the one who struggles with lust

This is not meant to be an indictment against you, but against the system that enables this and even causes this.

Please know first that noticing is not lusting. Many people have felt that feeling attracted to the opposite sex means that you’ve already lusted and you’ve already lost the battle, and you feel hopeless. But attraction is not lust. We need to stop demonizing attraction.

Also, when you grow up hearing that every man lusts, it actually does much to create the problem. Hyper vigilance often leads to lust. So you were done a disservice.

You also were not given the right tools to fight it. The way to fight lust is not to actually fight lust. It’s not to “bounce your eyes”. Instead of fighting lust, try practising respect. Put your energy towards respecting everyone and concentrating on them as whole people.

And get The Great Sex Rescue! Many men have said that reading chapter 5 finally helped free them of the shame they’ve felt, and gave them a much healthier way of seeing lust. 

Women Feel More Sexually Harassed at Church

What has your experience been? Have you felt objectified and harassed more at church than at work? Or what about other Christian contexts? What can we do about this? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of Bare Marriage

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

Related Posts

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

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

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  1. Jo R

    “Instead of fighting lust, try practising respect. Put your energy towards respecting everyone and concentrating on them as whole people.”

    Sheila, Sheila, Sheila! Goodness gracious! You seem to be saying that MEN ought to respect WOMEN! Don’t you know that women just need love while it’s men who need respect???? Oh wait, I’ve misquoted there, haven’t I? Women merely DESIRE love, but men really do NEED respect. (And for those playing along at home, yes, that was pure sarcasm.)

    I have to say, if I were a single woman reading any of this, I think I’d be quite happy to remain single for the rest of my life. I’d have read horror stories of women effectively living as single parents because their husbands think being married entitles men to do zero of the daily, weekly, and monthly tasks any adult needs to do just to live. I’d have read horror stories of women effectively being treated like prostitutes in their own homes, by their own husbands, until death do them part. And I’d have read horror stories about this same teaching being given to my children, boys and girls.

    How do pastors and authors, male and even female, think any of this crap makes marriage, and being around men in general, let alone at church, seem like a good idea? 🤔🙄🤷‍♀️

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I truly don’t know, Jo. But I think many people are seeing the truth and want change! And a lot of pastors are getting on board. I hope we see some big changes.

  2. Anon

    My only surprise with your poll is that the split between work & church isn’t greater – but maybe that’s explained by those women who get harassed while working for Christian organisations.

    Totally, 100%, church has been the place where I felt (and still feel) the least safe.

    And in non church settings, any hassle I’ve had has usually been from ‘Christians’. Only last night, I was at a secular meeting and had to rely on non Christian female friends to head off the MARRIED Christian guy who was making inappropriate comments to me. Now that’s REALLY going to encourage them to want to know more about my faith…

    I’m sure there will be ‘Christian’ guys reading this who will bleat on about ‘it’s true that all men lust’. Ok, so even if that IS true – how come the non Christian guys who lust are better at controlling their behaviour than the Christian ones? You Christian men are supposed to have the Holy Spirit in your life, transforming you and making you more Christlike. So why are you SO much worse in your behaviour toward women than the atheists and agnostics? (NB: to be clear, I’m aiming this at the ‘Christian’ guys who use ‘every man’s battle’ as an excuse for their appalling behaviour – I’m not talking about those who take responsibility for their own actions and who treat women with respect.)

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I completely agree, Anon. I have NEVER had problems at secular workplaces, but I’ve had a lot in Christian circles. My girls as well.

      Do pastors get this? Like are they TRYING to drive women away from church? It just makes me so upset (and I guess that all started when that big name author said, “even if it hurts women, we have to be careful not to shame men.”)

      • Jo R

        I have been thinking for several months that maybe what women should do for, say, ten years or so, is have women-only churches. We could simply worship and learn from one another, have a safe place of retreat from what is now,, quite obviously, the many wolves in sheep’s clothing, and HEAL.

        With the right books and materials, we could also learn how to respond to this horrible theology that has permeated the church for so long, even do training sessions of sorts to be able to counteract it all.

        Dunno. Not a long-term solution of course, but maybe good in the short term to build ourselves up in knowledge and strength and wisdom (and healing!), but more importantly, it would allow us to stop the cycle dead in its tracks. We would not simply keep in the unbiblical ruts we’ve been living in for so long but could find the true freedom that God in Christ offers us, maybe even some of that abundant life I seem to recall Jesus talking about.

        Because being a live-in housekeeping prostitute in one’s own home is neither freedom nor abundant living.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I hear you, Jo. I don’t know what the solution is, but I think woman-only spaces may be quite healing for some. I think it’s different when you’re actually in healthy relationships with men. I would want to worship with my husband and my sons-in-law and my grandson, but I also will go to churches (once they’re open again) where women are treated well, and I know enough to be able to tell now. But for other women, it may be very different.

          I do think we all need each other. But there’s been so much harm, and I think there does need to be a major course correct before many churches are safe for women or safe to raise children in. But there ARE good churches. There really are. And I’d just encourage people to look for them and to abandon the ones that make you feel unsafe. You should not have to feel unsafe to worship God.

          • Anon

            One thing that would really help is for churches to ban ‘sharing the peace’ – one of the best things about church services under Covid conditions is knowing that creepy guys can’t use ‘the peace’ to paw women about under the guise of ‘spirituality’.

            I overheard a really distressing conversation a couple of years back from a woman in a supermarket, telling another woman that she’d been to church for the first time and really liked what she heard in the service and wanted to go back, but she couldn’t face ‘this bit they have called ‘the peace’ where these strange men came up and started hugging and kissing me’. I could have cried. Here we have a young woman who was obviously longing to know more about God and yet she ‘couldn’t face’ going to church because of the way she’d been treated by the men there…

          • Lisa M

            I’ve never attended a church that does that. I wouldn’t go back even if nothing disgusting happened. I don’t like being touched by strangers or being told, “now you have to go touch someone,” even it’s someone I know.

          • Jo R

            Wow, that’s a succinctly unpleasant way of putting it: “Now you have to go touch someone,” which really means everyone. Uh, no. Just no.

            (And yeah, no more making little, or big, kids give Uncle Joe or Aunt Becky a hug. Bodily autonomy.)

          • Anon

            It’s usually phrased as ‘a hug, a kiss, a handshake or whatever you feel comfortable with’. Only, of course, it always ends up being what the strongest person is comfortable with – which may not be what their ‘victim’ is comfortable with.

            One church I attended, I literally used to end up sprinting round the church to shake hands with various random people in an attempt to stay out of the clutches of one creepy guy for whom ‘The Peace’ was a pervert’s dream come true. 20 years older than me and engaged to be married to someone else, but it didn’t stop him trying to ‘strengthen his spiritual connection’ with my ‘pure soul’ at every opportunity. Bleurgh!!!

  3. A2bbethany

    For me I had a coworker who just constantly bumped into me and it annoyed me. I was working fast food and we all were rushing around in the back areas. But I literally only ever bumped into him! Making me constantly, seriously question if it is was purposefully done, or accidental. He had shown interest in whether or not I was dating, and I lied and said I did. (Half lie cause I was talking to someone, we just weren’t dating.) Then one busy day, he full body slammed me from the front. And I decided it was time to leave for anywhere else. When I told the head manager why I was leaving he tried to deal with it, by having him apologize. But I wasn’t born yesterday and a forced apology for something, I don’t even know if it was intentional wasn’t enough. I left for 2 part time jobs and never regretted it… though I did love that position.
    I never thought of it as sexual harassment til my grandma heard the story and said it was.
    I never had an issue again, with anyone.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yeah, that’s just gross, Bethany. I love how people think an apology is all it takes. Wow. I’m glad you haven’t had any other experiences!

      • A2bbethany

        I think the reason why our Church doesn’t struggle with things like this too much, is it’s more liberal in this way. The whole no dating, and women in leadership doesn’t really become a big deal. Our church is large and has a ton of leadership positions, and they’re equally split. Our church still only has male pastors, but they have plenty of women in a position, I’d consider elder or deaconess. (Of course they’re not called that, cause they’re just head of departments. Those titles would mean nothing.) Our church tries very hard not to get sucked into meaningless debates and just tries to focus on spreading the gospel. This results in a huge church family that fellowships, in spite of the gigantic spectrum of beliefs on practical matters.

  4. Melody Brackett

    I couldn’t agree more with you… I am a Southern Baptist Seminary degree holding worship leader and women’s ministry leader. I have struggled with this for years and years but surprisingly not primarily from men. I started leading worship at 16 (I’m 34 now) and I have been policed by other women in the church for my entire career because they wanted to make sure their husbands and sons didn’t have a problem with lust when I was on stage. I have been blessed to work with pastors who empowered women in leadership in the church but I have also seen how rare that is on a large scale. Women are objectified in so many circles and the “protection” of the pastor or other male leadership is used as an excuse to limit women in leadership to lower spheres of influence. They’ve made all women an enemy because self control or appropriate behavior is not been held up as the norm. Thankfully more conversations like this are taking place but boy do we have a ways to go.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Completely true! The worst things my girls got told were told to them by women (it was a woman who told 11-year-old Katie that she had to watch what she wore now that she was developing because adult men in the church might try to stare at her chest.)

      Yes, they make women police other women which makes us feel like enemies of each other.

  5. Dee

    As a young college girl in my church my knee or just above-the-knee length skirts, fitted jeans, and camisole under a cardigan type attire where called a stumbling block. I was advertising something I shouldn’t be selling. That same year I got my first secular job and people kept commenting that I was the one of most wholesome and joyful people they had ever met. There were perverts for sure but over all I felt more human. At work men looked me in the eye. They weren’t shifting uncomfortably and backing away when we talked. Generally I was treated more like a whole person at the work place then I was in my home church. At the time it was very confusing. I had always assumed that the guys at my church were the good ones and the world was really just that much worse. I thought the men at my church were protecting me and respecting me, but when I stepped out of that bubble I realized that it didn’t have to be so awkward and I didn’t have to feel so dangerous. Yes, my church made me feel dangerous.

    I only have brothers and growing up I was pretty close to them. I know from talking to them that they did want to be honorable men. But, they had been taught that this it was good and right to treat women this way to protect themselves and their marriages. I had to be viewed and treated as a threat to their marriage assumably to protect it and me. ☹️

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      So sad, Dee! And all too common! Thanks for sharing. I may repost this one on Facebook! (I’ll leave out the identifying part about brothers).

      • Dee

        I shared your Facebook post from the man’s comment about men owning their own lust. I had one friend push back really hard on it about modesty so I shared this poll and an edited version of this comment in that conversation. (I left my brothers out of it too. 😉 ) Thank you for bringing these subjects up and helping us articulate just how these messages are hurting our church communities and fellowship.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          And thank you for speaking up on social media and challenging the status quo! That’s how we’re going to change things.

  6. Nikki Isom

    For me, I was objectified at church because I knew too much about facility maintenance and “guy things”. But I also work at a lumber mill. I clean for them. So I’m around 200 men. I’ve seen more outright words of a sexual nature. But the church is sneaky!

  7. Nathan

    This thread seems like a good place to ask. Maybe Sheila (or any other poster, for that matter) could help put this in words.

    We’ve just started going back to church again, and I met up with an associate pastor that I used to talk to a lot. He knows a little of this site, and like the “mental load” concept, but can’t quite get over the “male patriarchy” model. That’s not really the issue.

    He noticed that sometimes people talk about men need to treat women respectfully, yet husbands needing to EARN respect from their wives. This seemed to him to be unbalanced. I think I got through to him that there’s a difference here. We should all treat each other with respect, even if you don’t know somebody and even if you don’t really respect them personally (you can still have boundaries, of course).

    What gets him, though, is the idea of sexual attraction. He’s one of those who views ALL sexual noticing, attraction and desire as lust, and he also doesn’t have sex with his wife because in his view, he serves God only, and physical intimacy with ANYBODY takes away from that.

    His confusion lies with two different messages: First, that we should treat all people as children of God and as brothers and sisters in Christ. Second, that we’re sexual beings, and feeling sexual attraction and desire is a part of who we are. He says that these seem contradictory.

    He claims that any sexual attraction to another person is inherently disrespectful because you’re looking at them in an ungodly way. He says that you can’t view somebody as a beloved child of God, a brother or sister in Christ, and also feel any kind of attraction or desire for them, or have any physical intimacy with them. He hasn’t answered the question of “then how do we have children”.

    I feel instinctively that this is wrong, but I’m not sure how to put it in words, exactly. However, I firmly believe that you can treat somebody respectfully, see them as child of God, a sister in Christ, and also be sexually attracted to them and feel sexual desire.

    It’s also possible that I’m wrong, though. Any advice would be appreciated

    • A2bbethany

      Wow! Beliefs like this are why I’ve always believed, that Paul wanted pastors to be older. Because older men who’ve lived more, will have hopefully worked out issues like this. That singleness is good, but marriage and therefore sex in marriage is equally good. I guess this pastor has not quite learned that! I wonder if he told his wife before marriage, that they’d not be actually intimate? It’s one thing to marry after agreeing that it’s off the table, but quite hurtful if you haven’t. Also grounds for divorce biblically… because they decided not to meet your needs sexually at all. I’m hoping he’s got someone mentoring him.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think you’re totally right–but I’m completely hung up with the fact that an associate pastor thinks sex in marriage is wrong and detracts from God? Holy cow! That man seriously needs therapy. Like really and truly.

      Attraction is biological, and we were made to be sexual beings. But respect and how we treat each other is a conscious decision. So we can have our automatic response to people be one thing, but what really matters is how we choose to act. What we choose to do. Those are two different things.

      But thinking that you can’t have sex with someone and still respect them as a child of God? Of course you can! He needs to understand that God called sex a deep “knowing” of each other. Sex is a deeply intimate experience that mirrors how we feel about God and how he feels about us. I wrote a post on how sex can be both hot and holy a few years ago, and maybe he needs that. Wow.

  8. Lauren

    This is the exact reason I no long attend church in my area. I’ve been to several in the last 10 years and I haven’t felt safe in any of them. I’ve also worked secular job as well as jobs in the church relm. I can safely say I felt safer at work. Even if someone said something or did something inappropriate at work, I always knew who I could go to and the problem would be dealt with. In contrast, at church, when I did speak up for myself I got shut down immediately until I got tired and gave up trying to have a voice. I had to accept it as part of life. The church culture regarding men and lust was this: “a guy is going to make a move on you now matter how good of a guy he is, and if he doesn’t he’s gay AND it’s up to you to draw the line for him.” I was taught this to the extent that when I was sexually assaulted, I thought he was just really attracted to me. It’s dangerous for guys and gals alike to be taught this. It sends the message “hey guys it’s ok to assault women, you’re supposed to be that way” and for women: “he’s a guy, that’s what they do, so don’t worry about it.”

    That’s a lot to say that I came to the realization last year that I can’t put myself in a position where I am likely to be abused and am not able to protect myself….and for me personally that means no church.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so sorry, Lauren. I understand. The church has failed you because it did not act like the body of Christ. That’s awful, and I believe that is why Jesus is shaking the evangelical church so hard right now. He is not pleased.

  9. Nathan

    Hmmm. I may have expressed some things poorly. My pastor friend (and yes, as some of you guessed, he’s fairly young) doesn’t believe that sex in marriage is wrong. Je just says that for his marriage specifically it’s the right choice, since he wants to focus entirely on serving God, and believes that physical intimacy would take away from what he owes God.

    “thinking that you can’t have sex with someone and still respect them as a child of God?”

    Well, sort of. He thinks that feeling any sexual attraction or desire for somebody (especially if you aren’t married to that person) is incompatible with seeing them as a child of God and brother/sister in Christ.

    • Dave

      Hi Nathan,
      So grateful that you have decided to go back to church. That can be a tough first step.

      I’d encourage you to do 2 things: 1. Stop putting Pastors on pedestals – they are sinners too! 2. Look for another church. There are healthy churches out there (sadly, surprisingly few). We are finally in a healthy church after visiting multiple in our area. It’s smaller than we would have hoped (especially for our kids), but God is using it in our community.

      • Nathan

        Our church is pretty healthy. This guy is just an associate Pastor, not even a senior one, and the others don’t seem to have this attitude.

        I’m just wondering how to explain to him that yes, a person CAN feel sexual attraction to somebody they aren’t married to (even if they’re married themselves) and still see them as a sister in Christ. Words usually don’t fail me, but in this case they do.

        • CMT

          I have so. many. questions. What does this guy’s wife think? Does he counsel couples to only have dispassionate intercourse to procreate? What kind of purity culture baggage/mental health issues is this guy lugging around?

          But you’re struggling to articulate why this guy is wrong. IMO it starts with these 2 propositions:

          1) Human sexuality is a good thing.

          2) Noticing (and even being attracted!) is not lusting.

          Maybe throw in a third: God can handle it if pastors take a little time off doing pastory things to have sex with their spouse. I mean, unless you’re avoiding all emotional intimacy too, it doesn’t take that much extra time, right? If you want to do a Paul, maybe don’t get married. I seem to recall Paul himself recommending something of the sort.

    • A2bbethany

      It occurs to me that he may have the same belief as Paul. Paul was an advocate for the single life and total devotion to God. Paul was wise enough not to start a cultish off branch of unmarried Christianity. He made sure to separate his personal thoughts from what God says. Only thing…. this guy still married and took on the burden of caring for the needs/desires of his wife and possibly family. That was likely wrong to do, if he believes in celebacy personally.

      • Nathan

        I’m not sure if they have any kids. I see what you mean, though. If he really and truly felt that way, maybe he should have stayed single. On the other hand, many churches frown on confirmed bachelors as pastors.

        • A2bbethany

          Well, if a church doesn’t want you to minister…then missions will appreciate your singleness.

          From what I understand single missionaries don’t tend to happen too often. And they can better focus on the work rather than providing for a spouse and children. And where there’s a mission, there’s a church that will need a pastor.

        • CMT

          Hmm. So marrying somebody you are attracted to and intend to have sex with = unholy. However, marrying somebody you aren’t attracted to but need to have around so you can get the ministry job you want = fine.

          (Ofc I have no idea if this is actually the dynamic with this particular pastor. I’m just thinking that some individuals’ hang ups could intersect in a really unhealthy way with churchy culture’s marriage obsession)

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Rebecca and I have wanted to do a podcast on this phenomenon for a while. We talked to a lot of women in focus groups who married their husband BECAUSE they weren’t attracted to him. They had read all the books that said that attraction was bad, and marriage was about making you holy not happy, and that attraction fades and everything else matters, and it resulted in rather difficult marriages. I think it’s pretty common.

  10. Nessie

    I worked as a college-town transit system bus driver for 4 years, and maybe 4 or 5 times total heard sexually-inappropriate comments about men and women in general, not towards a specific person. About 6 of us were female, the other 120+ were men, many in their mid twenties, many non-believers. I had a few coworkers offer to walk/drive me safely home and follow through.

    Contrast that with about 5+ years of many volunteer hours at the church I was heavily involved with… and it was closer to 4-5 things weekly (sometimes just monthly, to be fair) in that setting- mostly inuendos and such by the lead pastor, youth pastor, and interns who were under the lead pastor’s influence. If any discomfort was expressed over their words, it was “explained” away as me being uptight talking about sexuality. And I would not have accepted a “safe” ride home from some of them.

    The lead pastor (he, married with kids) frequently flirted with the college-area minister (she, also married with kids), and yes, pastor’s wife was very uncomfortable with that… in a church where anyone else having a male/female friendship was frowned upon. But if it was ministry staff, it was all fine and well. Yeah, right. Anyone that voiced concern over that was told they “must not be right with God since they were looking so intently for the bad, and needed to get their heart right before the Lord.”

    I’m so tired of the double standards, gaslighting, narcissism, and scape-goating.

    • Nessie

      Above, I didn’t mean men and women can’t be friends, I just meant to point out the double standard of it being ok for staff but considered ill-intent for anyone else.

  11. CMT

    This is a very interesting, if unscientific, poll. I suppose I am in the minority because I would say I have experienced overtly inappropriate behavior much more often at work. But, I work in healthcare, and encounter a lot of people who aren’t, shall we say, at their best (I’ve never experienced harassment from a colleague, only inappropriate behavior from patients-almost always older men). In the workplace it’s understood that this isn’t ok and coworkers will back you up if needed. However, when I’ve experienced inappropriate or sexist behavior at church, it tends to be subtler and much harder to deal with because there tends to be plausible deniability.

    • Nessie

      Wonder if the majority of “groping patients” were raised as evangelicals?

      My mom worked in nursing homes for a while and the old men patients were constantly smacking or grabbing her backside. I think it really bothered some of the women who worked there but they tried to ignore it. That should never have been “normalized.”

  12. Lisa M

    Lust has a victim, it’s and not the man who’s lusting.

    That needs to be shouted from the rooftops.

    I am utterly fed up with feeling sorry for these men who refuse to see women as human beings bearing the image of God. Women do not exist for you. Your wife’s purpose is not to fulfill you sexually, clean up after you, and make your life as convenient as possible.

    Sex does not exist for men. Women’s bodies do not exist for men. Our bodies belong to us.

  13. Katie

    This is so sad – and horrifying. American churches seem to be very sexualised. I’ve been in British churches for 42 years, and evangelical churches for 24, plus 3 years in one of the biggest university Christian unions in the country, and I have literally never seen or heard any of this. The nearest I’ve seen was when a male university friend told me he found girls wearing tight vest tops ‘distracting’.

    I have seen sexual harassment at work, but I can only think of one colleague who acted in that way. I’ve seen a lot of sexual objectification at work – mostly women talking about men, though there were a smaller number of instances of men talking about women. But I really haven’t seen a single instance of it in Christian circles.

    The evangelical churches I’ve been in have all been complementarian, but ‘complementarian’ seems to have a different definition here from what people say it means in America. We hold to pastors/elders being men, and men being the head of the household, but not the stuff about women being second-class citizens, or less valuable, or having fewer rights. Obligation sex and similar messages just don’t seem to be taught, mostly because there isn’t that much detailed teaching about sex and marriage.

    Many churches here have a lot more women in than men, so treating women less favourably would be just plain stupid. For example, in my church, both men and women run Sunday school, both men & women run the outreach youth club, women run evangelistic outreach for mums, men and women run the teenage church youth club, women run the outreach toddler group and men are thinking about trying to get going on a men’s ministry for the spouses/partners of the women who come along to our mums’/toddlers’ work. Only men preach and lead the Sunday services, but that’s not because women aren’t capable or are any less valuable humans. Most men in the church don’t preach or lead the Sunday services either because they don’t meet the Biblical qualifications to do so.

    My current pastor’s wife is even more intelligent and academic than her (intelligent and academic) husband. He often speaks highly of her in sermons, and it’s clear from his sermons that her insights into the Bible significantly inform his thinking. The pastor of my old church (a former doctor) always said that his wife (also a doctor) was more intelligent than him, and he clearly relied on her a lot. Those attitudes are fairly typical here, I’d say.

    Ideas about reducing male/female relations to issues of power (eg some of the John Piper / Council of Biblical Manhood & Womanhood ideas) just seem super weird here. Something like Josh Harris’ approach would never have taken off here because it would have been way too ‘far out’ for normal Christians. I think the ‘every man’s battle’ ideas would be seen the same way (though it’s not something I’ve ever heard taught, nor my husband).

    I have noticed that the (godly) American Christians I’ve interacted with show a very pointed respect and courtesy towards women which I really like, but which makes you notice the fact that they’re a man and you’re a woman. They open doors for you, let you go first for things and so on.
    Here, godly men don’t show women that kind of courtesy, but I think the flip side is that ‘ungodly’ men don’t show women the kind of discourtesy that people here are talking about. They just treat women as people. It seems to me that Americans are more concious of the differences between the sexes than the British are.

    I do think that where there are lots of Christians (like in the US), the church develops a distinct culture. Where there aren’t so many (like in Britain) churches have less of a distinctive culture. It’s like the way that homeschooling is seen as the only “godly” option in some American Christian circles. Here, lots of Christians home educate but it’s not a cultural distinctive, and most home educating Christians would still be seen as slightly weird by the church because they’re seen as slightly weird in the wider culture. I think the average American church is more than twice the size of the average British church, so it’s no surprise that the church culture isn’t as strongly distinct from the culture of society as a whole. That’s a good thing in relation to the whole men and women issue, but probably a bad thing in terms of Christian distinctiveness.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, I think in Canada we’re somewhere in the middle. I often feel more British–especially if I’m in Toronto churches!


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