The Post That Will Help Men Defeat Lust

by | Mar 16, 2022 | Men's Corner, Pornography | 69 comments

Lust is not every man's Battle

Does lust have to be every man’s battle?

The Every Man’s Battle book series has sold 4,000,000 copies, and they’ve certainly spread the idea that lust is, indeed, what every man struggles with. 

And people do believe it in large numbers. 62% of women and 73% of men currently believe that lust is every man’s battle. 

When we did our survey of 20,000 women, we found that this belief caused marital and sexual satisfaction to tank. It drastically lowered women’s libido. It made it more likely she would have sex only because she felt she had to. It made it less likely she’d get aroused. She was less likely to trust her husband. And so on and so on.

But we still had a question: is it actually true? Is lust every man’s battle?

I remember having a conversation with a big-name author explaining our findings, and how the idea that lust is every man’s battle hurts women. And his response was that, even though it did hurt women, we need to keep telling women, because it’s just the way men are. 

And that’s the attitude of so many in Christendom: This is the way men are. After all, Every Man’s Battle says of men’s propensity for sexual sin, “we got there naturally, simply by being male.” In Every Heart Restored, part of the Every Man’s Battle series, the authors write, “Men just don’t have that Christian view of sex.”

So God made men to objectify women. That’s what male sexuality is.

We have never believed that. We have always felt that this is a distortion, and that all men do not actually lust. 

And so, when it came time to survey men for our new book The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex, we decided to do a deep dive into lust. 

In February and March, we’re doing a “number of the day” series, where I share a piece of our research with you. And today, I have a new number–that I’m going to explain. And it will blow your mind.

So we asked men, “do you have a daily struggle with lust?” And how many men said yes?

%

With a Caveat!

Okay, so 75.5% of men say they struggle with lust. That’s a lot, but it’s not every man. 

But we still had a question: What do these men mean by “lust”?

You see, we have a theory that most men think they’re struggling with lust when they’re not actually lusting. As I’ve written before, noticing is not lusting. Lusting is a deliberate action (setting your eyes on a woman) paired with a deliberate mindset (imagining a woman in a specific scenario; choosing to linger on her body and think about her body and objectify her).

  • Seeing a woman has cleavage and thinking that cleavage is nice is not lusting.
  • Noticing a woman has a nice body is not lusting.
  • Appreciating how beautiful a woman is is not lusting.

So we decided to test this. We asked men about a series of scenarios that we took straight from evangelicalism’s best-sellers–For Women Only and Every Man’s Battle. We gave men the waitress scenario that Shaunti Feldhahn talks about in For Women Only–how men will have issues thinking about the waitress  that serves them on a date night. We asked them about the scenarios from Every Man’s Battle, like what happens if you’re in the grocery store parking lot and a woman bends over to get her toddler out of a car seat (yes, in Every Man’s Battle they actually said this would trigger lust).

And for each scenario we gave several options that men might do–some that weren’t lust, like noticing she’s got a nice figure, being surprised at how good looking someone is, wanting to keep looking, etc., and some that are lusting, like staring at her body and thinking about her body; saving a mental picture for later; all the way down to masturbating in your car. Every Man’s Battle presented masturbating in one’s car as a normal occurrence; only one man out of 3000 clicked it, and we think it was a misclick given his answers on other questions.

In fact, if you look at the answers that men gave, the vast majority do not lust in any of the scenarios given.

%

So 70% of the men who say they struggle with lust show no signs of lusting.

But what about porn? Maybe the reason that guys say they struggle with lust is really about a struggle with porn?  

Well, of the guys who say they struggle with lust, 55% of them don’t have a problem with porn AND don’t lust in any of our scenarios.

Now, it’s a little more complicated than that, because 40% do say that they have intrusive thoughts of women’s bodies–but not 82% the way that Shaunti Feldhahn claims.

Many men think they are lusting when they merely have a sex drive.

Think about this: If a woman watches a Marvel movie, and says, “Captain America is hot!”, we don’t think twice about it. But if a guy says, “Black Widow is hot!”, we think he’s lusting.

We’ve talked so much about how men are visual and can’t help it, while at the same time denying that women even have any visual nature, that we have such double standards. And nothing is based in reality.

So here’s the reality: both men and women are visual, though women have more arousal non-concordance and the visual doesn’t register as much.

But by telling teen boys that having a sexual thought about a woman is lusting, we have raised men to feel helpless. They can’t help but notice, so they feel that they’re lusting. And so the only solution is for women to cover up, and then, once you’re married, for women to become “methadone” (as Every Man’s Battle calls us) so that men can withstand lust better.

It’s all misunderstanding of what lust is. It keeps men trapped, and women trapped.

Listen in to tomorrow’s podcast to hear more of our findings on lust, and check out our chapters on lust and porn in The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex to go into detail on our findings. But for today, please remember:

TL;DR–We have made men paranoid of their sexuality, so they think they’re sinning when they’re not.

Lust is not every man’s battle. Noticing is not lusting. Many men who think they’re lusting are actually just noticing that women are beautiful. And men are actually quite capable of treating women with respect–and indeed, most men actually do.

The All New Guides to Great Sex!

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Is Lust Really Every man's Battle?

Why do you think the idea that lust is “every man’s battle” has caught on so much? What do you think that’s done to men–and women? Let’s talk in the comments!

The Number of the Day Series

Plus Order The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex and The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex (for all of our findings!)

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

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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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69 Comments

  1. J

    Hi. I have shared part of my story on this forum. A couple of weeks ago, I met with a divorce attorney. What has led me to that point is this: As newlyweds, my husband had a wandering eye. When I became pregnant, he became addicted to computer games and porn. Then stopped. Then a few years later, it all came back with a vengeance. There were chat rooms, more porn, and a cheating website. He says he can’t remember how many women he chatted with, there were that many! He then had a real affair. This past week he has repented for everything and doesn’t want me to file. He has finally admitted to all of the emotional and financial abuse as well and knows what it did to me and to my soul. I’m just feeling so confused right now.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so sorry, J! That’s just heartbreaking. I can’t tell you what to do, because I honestly don’t know. But I do know that you have the right to feel safe and to feel loved, and you should pursue what route gets you there. It is not just a matter of his repenting, but instead of proving over time that he has changed–not just changed from not watching porn or chatting with other women, but changed so that he has emotionally matured and become attuned to your needs as well. Like that he has become a whole person. I think wisdom means that this has to happen over a period of time, and trusting too early, when there has been this level of betrayal, is not wise.

      As for whether you should pursue temporary separation or divorce, I honestly don’t know. But Betrayal Trauma Recovery is a great community on Facebook, as is Sarah McDugal, Leslie Vernick, or Flying Free Sisterhood if you want to check those out! they all talk about what to look for in someone who has really repented.

      Reply
    • exwifeofasexaddict

      Hello friend. I have been there, and I don’t mind talking about it. You are welcome to reach out to me if you want to.

      Reply
      • J

        Thank you. I know that I need to talk to someone. What is making all of this even harder is that a married man has been coming on to me, and my husband was able to read him perfectly the first time. He told me that this guy is using all of the manipulative gestures with me, that he used to do with other women!

        Reply
        • exwifeofasexaddict

          ok, let me think about how we can connect.

          Reply
  2. Katie

    This is great – and it makes a lot of sense. I’ve been in British churches for 42 years, and working with student ministry for about 10 of those years and the first I heard of the ‘every man’s battle’ message was when I read your confrontation of it in the Great Sex Rescue. It just isn’t a prevalent teaching here, and women aren’t generally objectified in the way you describe, either. (No surprise there, since I think the two are closely linked.)

    It’s clear that the ‘men are just made like this’ message is just wrong – God didn’t make men in North America somehow different from and less godly than British men! The fact that American / Canadian churches seem to have big problems with this but British churches don’t has to be due to unclear terminology when people talk about what lust actually is, and other cultural differences – not to do with what it means to be male.

    Reply
    • Anon

      Please tell me what part of the UK you are in because I want to move there! I’ve a similar length of experience with British churches, and can count on one hand the number in which I haven’t been at the very least objectified and in the worst cases, assaulted by men who ‘can’t help themselves because it’s the way men were made’.

      Church has always been the place where I felt least safe as a woman. It’s getting a little better now, but I suspect that has more to do with a mid-40s woman being less attractive to creeps than a 20-something or 30-something and also because I have more confidence in standing up for myself and challenging bad behaviour than I would have done 10 years ago. I’d be very interested to know what shy, unconfident teen and 20-something girls think about male behaviour in church – because they’re the ones that tend to get preyed on the most.

      As for why the message is so prevalent – that’s easy. If a man is ‘created’ to lust, then he can’t really help himself and he’s not responsible for his behaviour – and if he acts on his lust, then it’s the fault of the woman who ‘tempted’ him because she should have known he wouldn’t be able to control himself. If lust is presented as simply being another sin, then it is something that the Holy Spirit can give victory over and it needs to be challenged and resisted.

      As for what it’s done – it’s taught men that they have a free pass to treat women however they want, guilt-free and it’s taught women (with some justification) that men are to be feared, not trusted.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Exactly, Anon. Those are the results that we’ve been seeing too.

        Reply
      • Katie

        Anon,

        I’ve been in 5 different churches in 5 different towns/cities in the middle/south of Britain, plus one of the biggest university Christian unions in the country, and I’ve been involved with 6 pan-denominational Christian organisations ranging from short-term mission trips to working full time for one. I never encountered any of this in any of them. I’ve always been in churches that hold to complementarian theology (though that isn’t at all the same as some of what’s described as complementarian in North America).

        I would guess that it’s partly related to class-based culture here. My experience is that in the “working class,” women are commonly objectified and only valued for their sex appeal. In the middle classes, men generally respect women to some degree as fellow students, colleagues and so on. All the churches I’ve been part of have been solidly middle class, and would tend to hold to those middle class values even aside from the impetus from Biblical morality. I’ve never been in a church made up largely of people from more working class culture, so I wonder if it might be different in a context like that.

        The churches I’ve been part of have all been deliberate about cultivating a positive attitude to women. All have held to the view that only men should be pastors and elders. All have had both men and women leading small groups. All have had women in leadership positions in outreach and children’s ministry. Some deliberately had women participating “up front” in every service by doing Bible readings, leading the prayers, interviewing missionaries etc to make it very clear that the church’s views on male pastors / elders didn’t mean that the church thought women were incapable or unworthy of serving in the church. In most churches in Britain, a majority of the attendees are women, so it would seem a bit daft to treat them as second-class. For a start, in congregational churches, the members would be likely to vote misogynistic elders out of office!

        The teaching I’ve heard on lust is basically: it’s a sin, men are more likely to be tempted by it than women, and you should do absolutely anything and sacrifice absolutely anything in order to avoid committing it. I don’t think the specifics of noticing vs lust have ever been discussed, or taught. That’s pretty different from what Sheila is talking about. There hasn’t been a culture of regulating what women wear in any Christian context I’ve been in. And I’ve never heard wives advised to have sex with their husbands to keep them from porn / unfaithfulness, except in a couple of marriage books written by people in the US.

        This is a slight tangent, but I do think as well that the people who argue that men are just “made like that” are simply ignorant of history and literature. There have been plenty of times in history when the culture held that “lust is every woman’s battle.” John Donne in 1633 wrote a poem about how he would “sweare no where lives a woman true and faire,” and that even if she were only next door, she’d have been unfaithful with 2 or 3 men before he could see her. Men were seen as the helpless victims of women’s lustful natures.

        Restoration comedies like William Wycherly’s The Country Wife play with the notion that women are sex-crazed and will stop at nothing. One of the main characters in that finds that the only way to keep his wife from cuckolding him is to lock her up – but even that is unsuccessful as women have insatiable tendencies towards promiscuity. In these plays, it’s women as well as men who all have lust issues, but it’s clear that the authors didn’t see men as having being wired for sex in a way that women weren’t. It’s hard to argue for a biological basis for something that changes over time and across cultures!

        Reply
        • Anon

          That’s weird because my experience has been completely opposite. I’ve never had any trouble from working class men and the absolute worst guys have been the well-educated, wealthy middle-class ones – they just feel they have the right to grope any woman who takes their fancy and get offended if she complains. I guess it just goes to show how different church experience can be, even within a fairly small area!

          I’ve experienced abuse in both egalitarian and complementarian churches too. One thing that is consistent is a low view of women. I’ve had some guys ‘justify’ their actions by claiming that they are my spiritual head, so they get to decide if their behaviour toward me is ok or not. Others say somthing like ‘you women want to be treated as equal to men, so you’ll just have to put up with not being treated like you’re special any more’, which hints at a resentment that women are no longer regarded as being the ‘property’ of men. Two very different attitudes, but both rooted in the belief that men should be able to control women.

          Reply
        • Anon

          Another thought…I’m wondering if our different experiences of British churches have been more due to who we are ourselves than the churches we attend. From your comments about working class people, it sounds as if you are firmly middle class, and your career description makes me wonder if you have held fairly high profile positions and are a confident person in general?

          I don’t have a university education and I do a manual job. I also tend to be shy in social situations. I’ve found that all these things cause people to make certain assumptions about me. I regularly get ‘talked down to’ and patronised by people who assume I am stupid or poorly educated. I suspect that if I had a high profile job and/or a uni degree, I would be regarded as being more the ‘equal’ of middle class professional men, and therefore perhaps less likely to experience abuse from them.

          As a side note, I’ve recently discovered a group photo from a ‘Christian’ holiday 25 years ago. Three of the women in that group stand out as looking much less confident than the others. And we three were the ones who spent the whole week trying to avoid being sexually harassed by the guys in the group. If you could ask the other women in that group for their experience, they would probably say that they had never encountered inappropriate behaviour from the men…

          Reply
        • NG

          Thank you Katie, that’s very informative.. and interesting. Never been to the UK – but have come across several Christians from there in my life. (That class distinction, and how much is still plays out at modern British / English society.. is another topic that I have come to learn a bit about. Just wild, how deeply the lines still are… they do play a role in my country as well, but in a bit milder form.) I would say that most English folks I have met in ministry / church settings also tended to be from the middle class.. some single guys I could not tell. Never felt threatened, in fact, I had a long camping trip with some Christian single lads from the UK in my youth and they definitely did not try anything stupid – I felt very safe with them.

          That quote from Donne is just… classic gold. Lots of food for thought, about how the Medieval and Reformation era church / society viewed women. Weak, helpless, unreliable, but still expected to keep the men at straight and narrow

          (Luther wrote a lot of that – women were so feeble and weak, but he always praised his own wife’s virtues, perhaps because that reflected positively on him..!)

          Reply
    • Hannah

      It’s great your experiences have been so positive! I was aware of Every man’s battle 20 years ago, and chose not to read it (review from a friend – it will make you think all men are animals – I didn’t need that). I wonder if it had its biggest impact 15-25 years ago? I did read Every woman’s battle (on a friend’s bookshelf). I don’t remember much of it. And we totally have the view that noticing = lusting in parts of the UK church, as a problem for both men and women but more so men. The more I learn about church, the more aware I am of how different experiences can be, even in very similar churches.

      Reply
  3. Blue

    A youth pastor once said: Men want to eat pizza until they’re bored, play video games until they’re horny, have sex until they’re hungry, then eat pizza until they’re bored….

    Fortunately I wrote this off as a 12 year old because it didn’t match what I saw from the boys in my grade and my own father. This post just reminded me of that. “All men” are sinners but “all men” aren’t as shallow as some would tell us they are!

    Reply
      • Anon

        It’s sexism. It’s not what we typically think of as sexism, but it is sexism nonetheless.

        Reply
  4. Nessie

    I think a lot of us fall too easily into, “the devil made me do it,” camp because we don’t want to admit our faults fully. Because sexual attraction is a natural, God-given thing, I wonder if men find it easier to only lay claim to lusting because they don’t want to see other sin areas in which they have “failed.” Patriarchal views claim men are stronger, wiser, and less inclined to be led astray by sin, so they need to give the impression they have fewer sins overall. Whereas women have been given the burden/conditioned to carry our sins AND men’s, so we take them on more readily.

    For myself, I find it easier to admit sin if it seems “lesser” rather than a more egregious sin: e.g. a little white lie vs. a completely made up whopper of a tale. Sometimes I feel like I’m so full of sin I can only address a bit at a time without being overwhelmed. If I can make some of it seem lesser, then I don’t feel as overwhelmed/worthless.

    I also wonder if, because there are more male pastors than female and many pastors get emotionally close to their congregants via counseling, etc., that perhaps they begin to feel a connection due to that vulnerability. Having a physical attraction perhaps feels less entangling than an emotional one, so they try to put it in a box of lusting.

    With a husband who was completely ignorant of emotions for decades, I’ve felt closer to several men simply because they shared more with me in casual conversations of spirituality than my husband ever shared. That’s a yucky feeling, and harder to define than a simple, physical attraction.

    Pretending a sin isn’t as bad doesn’t make it non-existent. It just denies us feeling the fullness of God’s forgiveness.

    (Apologies if this doesn’t make much sense/flow well. Insomnia.)

    Reply
    • Nessie

      Oops, to finish my pastor paragraph thought train… then pastors play up the “it’s natural to lust” in sermons/books to make themselves feel better about their weaknesses. Then men hearing those messages become desensitized to it themselves or figure, “well, if the pastor is lusting, then it must not be that bad if I do, too.”

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I do think this is a large part of what is going on, yes. It’s a way of excusing what is happening.

        Reply
        • Codec

          I think it is something like a self fulfilling prophecy. Say you have someone who is trying not to use porn. They wind up getting frustrated one day and they use porn. Afterwords they feel terrible. They begin to wonder if maybe they are the monsters they fear they are. They wonder if everyone really does struggle like they do. It feels crushing.

          Reply
  5. Codec

    I have to wonder how many people start using porn because they just do not know how to express things like attraction, curiousity, possible romantic feelings, and the like. I dont feel like a monster when i walk by a victoria secret or just talking to women. I understand that they are their own persons. I even find myself bringing up things I learned from C.S Lewis or Gottman or even you guys when I find myself wanting to use porn. I wonder sometimes though if I am really getting better or not. If you have dealt with the same problem for a while does that mean you are not getting better?

    Reply
    • Nessie

      I totally see your point of:
      “wonder how many people start using porn because they just do not know how to express things like attraction, curiousity, possible romantic feelings, and the like.”

      If you feel like you have spent enough time breaking free of porn and should be further than you are right now, I guess I’d be curious to know if you have worked on improving those identified areas as well as other emotional health areas?

      I also think we can be hard on ourselves when evaluating our own progress… If you compare where you are right now to a few months or whatever ago, it may not seem like much improvement. But if you objectively compare your current state to your initial state, do you see a greater difference? We want to be finished already in our healing journeys and get discouraged when we aren’t as we wish to be.

      Reply
      • Codec

        I have been working on my mental health for a bit now. Compared to when I was a teenager i have improved a lot.

        Reply
        • Nessie

          Sounds like a lot of progress which is great! Good job and congrats!

          Reply
    • Anon

      My pastor is very open about having a porn addiction when he was young, and your first sentence is exactly what he describes. He had issues with compulsion, insecurity, and emotional expression. Just saying “don’t use porn” doesn’t help because porn is not the real issue.

      Reply
  6. Andrew

    I’ve come to think of the battle with lust as a shortcut as a means of selfish satisfaction. It may not be a perfect analogy but in a vacuum, porn consumption is like eating a fast food meal to get a dopamine hit and be temporarily filled as a shortcut to fulfillment. This is a perversion of God’s intent of healthy relationship with sexual intimacy in a marital context. Changing perspective to a Christian worldview, we see the opposite sex as image bearers of God and not objects for our selfish satisfaction. As a guy, its been a challenge to break unhealthy cycles of shame that felt ingrained as a teenager with out of control hormones. I think having a mentor that understood this in younger years could have helped to navigate these urges in a healthier way. Messaging in church was purity and you’re a sinner destined for damnation if you can’t resist. So what happened? Rebellion and a giving in to my fallen nature followed by the shame. The healthy alternative is to appreciate God’s creation and cultivate healthy relationships in an others centered perspective.

    Reply
    • Codec

      I think you are on the right track.

      As a teenager porn gave me a feeling of satisfaction in a depressing time. The dopamine rush helped ease loneliness and feelings of inadequacy. I found it rebellious in a sense. I also justified it to myself that at least I wasnt stringing people along breaking hearts. Eventually it just became something I did just to not be bored.

      Now I actively try not to use it. I am trying to be a respectful and responsible person. Failure feels so visceral that you sometimes wonder if women would hate you if they knew. You wonder if it is really going anywhere. If you are really becoming a sanctified person.

      It is exhausting.

      Reply
  7. AnonToday

    I love that you broke this down and asked men about their actual experiences/reactions. The word “lust” has been defined so broadly that it seems like for some people it basically just means “existing as a sexual being!”

    My husband bought into this when he was younger. When we were dating and engaged I would always know when he had noticed an attractive woman in public because he would jerk his head around to avoid looking at her and stare at me instead. He would say he was trying to “honor” me, but I thought it was so obnoxious! The silly part was nothing else about his behavior made me concerned that he was actually interested in other women. I finally convinced him I didn’t feel “honored” by this very showy “bouncing his eyes” and that he didn’t need to keep doing it. I think he still feels some anxiety about noticing other women exist. It makes me sad because I trust him but these teachings make him feel like he can’t trust himself.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think that is very much what is going on! And, yes, the whole wrenching your head thing doesn’t honor anyone really.

      Reply
      • Codec

        It is interesting.

        I can carry on conversations with women work out with them, hang out with them, just you know spend time with folks.

        Yet for some reason things like romance and such are terrifying to me.

        I think folks might be scared that they will lose themselves.

        Reply
    • David

      “ My husband bought into this when he was younger. When we were dating and engaged I would always know when he had noticed an attractive woman in public because he would jerk his head around to avoid looking at her and stare at me instead.”
      Are you my ex wife? Because you’re describing me. No— there she is, sleeping, maybe dreaming that I’m sneaking porn right now. My problem— very serious since I want to be reconciled) is that even though I no longer (for a long time) buy into that lie, I can’t help jerking my head and making a strange face, which she interprets as that I’m lusting. It doesn’t have to be someone I think is attractive or provocative— just that I know she’ll think it is.

      Reply
  8. Sam U

    “It’s all misunderstanding of what lust is. It keeps men trapped, and women trapped.“

    This is the truth!
    My experience with lust in the Church has been that it’s synonymous with porn use. And is essentially the only sin Jesus can’t redeem you from.

    Oh, pastors don’t say it outright like that. They say it in their shoulder shrugs when a youth or man comes into the office for the hundredth time seeking help for his porn use (‘lust’). They say it in their sighs when they hear that their prescriptions of books, disciplines, and bible verse memorization didn’t work.

    Instead of exploring porn use as a response to trauma triggers, they stamp “lust” on it, blame women for it, send the sufferer on his way with a new list of do’s and don’ts, make jokes about it when he’s gone, and then preach a sermon on Esther and how women should win their husbands over with awesome sexual acts and provocative attire to compete with the harem of women who are causing their men to lust.

    It’s disgusting.

    Meanwhile men and women are left trapped, broken, and wondering where Jesus is in all of it. “He is the great healer, but why hasn’t he healed me from ‘lust?’”

    “My husband’s porn use is out of hand but the pastors won’t meet with me because I am a woman and might cause them to ‘stumble.’ It MUST be me.”

    “Maybe if I do better, try harder, Jesus will love me enough to take my ‘lust’ away.”

    “Maybe if I do better, try harder, Jesus will love me enough to take my husband’s ‘lust’ away.”

    This lack of understanding has directed men and women away from the gospel of Jesus, to a false gospel of penances and bargaining with God. Or to one of dismissal and denial because “it’s just how God created me.”

    Great article! And great work! Thank you Sheila & team.

    Reply
  9. Robin

    Honestly, I think once married, noticing is a fine line for both. We live in Southern California Beach Town….most men and women have next to nothing on being so close to the water. If my husband “just “appreciated’ every pretty woman he would not have much time to appreciate me…his wife. And same for me with him. Sure you can think nice looking person but there has to be a line otherwise, it will go south…quickly!!!!Honestly, don’t agree, eyes for spouse only!!!
    Appreciate that for both parties.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      There’s a difference, though, between voluntary and involuntary. Lust is not an involuntary thing; it’s a voluntary thing. When we call the involuntary a sin, then we trap people in something that they can’t help. Jesus never said that seeing or noticing a woman’s body was lusting (and if you notice a woman’s body is beautiful, then, yes, you’ll involuntarily appreciate that body). He said that looking with the intent to lust was a sin. That’s something voluntary. And we also found that the more we talk about how big a problem lust is, the more people struggle with it. So we just need to speak about this better.

      As spouses, we should only fixate on each other’s bodies, and never anyone else’s. But if you notice another body, that’s just reality and it’s involuntary, and there shouldn’t be shame in it. You can notice, and then go on with your day and never think twice about it, and that should be the expectation I think.

      Reply
  10. Phil

    Well maybe this was said but if men are taught that every man lusts then they must think they are lusting because they are told they are? Quite confusing but also makes sense. Let me call this the circle of lust? Hmm…thinking about my own struggles and trying to seperate…cuz seriously when I think about my observations of women for too long then I think I am lusting. However maybe that is not true? I can site specific events where I am consumed with the desire to lust but really tried not to but I kinda think I did? Let me share the example without trying to re-live it. This has to be 2 years ago already but we bought a desk off some lady whos husband makes them and sells them on facebook. We show up to get the thing (entire family) and there is this woman strolling around her yard in a sun dress. Nothing wrong with her decor at all. But something came over me and all I wanted to do was lust. It was quite overwhelming for me actually. I know better not too and after “just noticing” and trying she is a beautiful woman thought I used every counter measure I knew how even not so healthy like looking at my feet and looking away – I loaded the desk and talked to the guy and kept my back towards the woman and my wife was just gabbing away and all I wanted to do was get the H*** out of there! I felt so guilty. Here is the sad thing that happened. The next day my wife went out and bought a couple of shorter dresses/skirts. She is majority of time not a skirt/dress wearer like say 90% prob – I felt horrible because I really felt like I may have conveyed my struggle to my wife because it was quite difficult for me as you may be able to tell just because I can recall it in such detail. And there my wife was the next day buying skirts…I still feel horrible about that. In all honesty I still fell like I lusted and I really had zero intentions and I truly attempted to change the mindset to just notice and go….🤷🏼‍♂️ I understand that my old lusting behaviors where triggered in this event but seriously understanding what lusting is I suppose would be helpful. As one who has been in recovery from sex addiction/lust/porn etc I know what lust is and isnt. Yet I have never seen a definition or written one out. Its all up in my head. Which is what lust is actually..in the head….🤷🏼‍♂️ I suppose tomorrows post will be quite helpful 😬🤔

    Reply
    • A2bbethany

      My understanding of what lust is, after reading Sheila’s original series a year or so ago: purposely imagining doing something sexual to the object/person in question. Taking mental effort to (or maybe your mind is trained to automatically in an addiction, over time.) imagine a scene playing out, where you are engaging in any kind of sexual encounter with the person.

      And dreams at night are involuntary and do not count as a lust issue. They can be disturbing and can sometimes happen even if you were never entertaining a thought that direction! Don’t dwell on them and move on with your day. (Pregnancy hormones sometimes give sexual dreams, and I just pray for forgetfulness and refocusing to better things. It’s not sin, it’s just an unpleasant fact of a broken world.)

      Reply
      • Phil

        Yeah well so I think its deeper than that. Lets say I watch a womens body part evey time she goes by say in an office setting. That is consumption. Thats lust to me. I have gone beyond noticing to consuming the look. Maybe I am not doing anything further, But I am taking enjoyment. I dont think that is Gods design. Enjoying/noticing beauty is different than consuming a womans body part for my enjoyment. Thats honestly where my struggle take place if I am completely honest…many years ago I used to take the image with me and rethink and act on it etc…that is thankfully not the problem…for me at times is taking that second look. A few Sundays ago a woman in my Sunday school class was referencing a celebrity and after she said his name she said MMMM he is hot and had a facial expression Of lust for a second. See saying someone is beautiful is one thing taking it to the level of calling them hot and making expression is lust to me….

        Reply
        • A2bbethany

          When I was a teenager, and working on becoming a functioning adult, I had a similar issue. (I needed therapy to guide me but parents never offered and I was clueless as to my level of need) I developed a habit of always being super aware of men’s genitals. Not even necessarily looking at/for them, I was just extremely aware of them around me. It made me feel so extremely stressed and anxious and unsafe.(wallflower period)
          It didn’t matter who the male was, I was unable to ignore it and focus mentally on anything else. Instead of knowing that I needed therapy to heal from my trauma causing this, I endured a very hard time of trying to avoid men at all costs.

          The cure? I intentionally tried to have conversations with males. Starting with those younger than me…much younger. But the hardest ones were the teens my age or older. Because my mind veiwed them as physical threats. But with a lot of 2 sentence conversations, I was able to grow out of that awareness of their genitals and see them as humans first. After every “conversation” I was so extremely proud of my boldness and efforts! I didn’t focus on that, but it was also building my own self worth and confidence. (Stolen by verbal abuse and the other traumas)

          And near the end of that stage of life, I got a job that was perfect! Driving thru cashier, which required me to interact with everyone who came through. I used it as social practice and it really grew me.

          I had several good men that appeared, sent by God to help me be less triggered and more functional. Including a guy who looked similar to my childhood abuser….with the same name!
          Anyway, I still sometimes revert back to hiding avoiding men, even married to one. But I’m able to see them as whole people first and male second. And that includes no longer being immediately aware of genitals.
          I briefly thought it was a lust problem but then realized it wasn’t intentional and tied directly to my traumas. I focused on retraining my brain.

          Reply
          • Phil

            I appreciate you sharing that. I found your story interesting and when I apply your story to mine there is trauma caused by others and then continued trauma that was self inflicted…both which I still am effected by at times. I guess what is mist interesting about what you shared is a I realized how hard I am on my self about my struggle. Guilt and shame are often large reasons people like myself stay stuck in their problem (in this case lust). Where I come from we call it the guilt and shame cycle. What I am seeing from this conversation is It seems I am still effected by it. Thanks for talking with me today.

          • Anon

            Thank you for sharing, I’ve been struggling with this for the last few weeks and I had no idea anyone else struggled with this too. I have a few traumas myself but I have no idea what trauma this could be related to but I’ll be sure to bring this up in counseling when I see my counselor again. I’ve also been nervous to confess this to my hubby and I just did tonight as I felt God putting it on my heart to talk to him when I got home. It definitely made me feel better when he hugged me and kissed me and reassured me he loves me no matter what and I’m so thankful for him. I’ll be praying for you Bethany!

        • Cynthia

          My simplest advice would be simply “don’t be weird”. So, look at someone’s face if you are around them. Don’t stare at other body parts, don’t stare at your feet.

          Reply
  11. Aria

    I find this so encouraging, especially with the numbers to back it up. Growing up in churches that preached the “every man’s battle” idea, I have had to be very intentional that I don’t assume men are untrustworthy simply because they are men and supposedly don’t have any self-control. It is dehumanizing to men and women and I am incredibly grateful you are working so hard to truly prove these harmful beliefs wrong!

    Reply
      • John

        I’ve been reading so much about Lust from all the comments but I’m wondering why ‘sensuality’ has not found a place? The way Jesus spoke about sensuality translated into ‘Lasciviousness!’ In my mind this is even more disturbing. My sensuality is ever present & it’s an emotion which can apply to multiple scenarios!

        Reply
  12. Guest

    Saying “…from our best-sellers–For Women Only and Every Man’s Battle” makes it sounds like those are your books, which took me aback for a moment.

    Reply
  13. anonymous

    when you say 55% of them don’t have a problem with porn, do you mean they don’t use porn? or that they don’t think it’s wrong to use porn?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      They report they don’t have a problem with porn. The vast majority who report that either don’t use porn at all, or use it very rarely.

      Reply
  14. Ann

    I think just the fact that some big name publisher published a book makes it seem like it must be true. So we don’t question it. Especially if you’re sincere about wanting to live right and honor God! It can make a mountain of a molehill.

    I think the “not all men lust” and defining lust were the first topics that really kept me here because I remember feeling mind-blown and like it made so much sense! Why would a God; who IS Love, set you up for failure?! That’s a pretty awful misrepresentation of His character!

    I remember feeling like something was extra wrong with me as a young woman because I sinned in the way guys sinned. Like it was a double sin or something. And from a young age; but I’m still not sure where that came from. My parents divorced by the time I was 2. Fortunately I was raised from preteen years up in a healthy church. Not perfect; but with good teaching that got me there.

    As a young wife my husband had a problem with porn. I can confirm that and expectations kill libido and satisfaction. The switch between resist resist resist and go go go didn’t flip because it doesn’t exist. He had the EMB books. He got me the EWB book. I never read it. Our pastor (an older woman) and my former youth pastor helped us get through that. Both had been very open about their lives. She was raised in a strong Christian home; he didn’t meet Jesus until he was a young adult and “sowed wild oats.”

    But somewhere in there we still didn’t get the message that its not everyone and we were set up for failure. Thats HUGE in light of raising our own kids! Huge!

    I see some similarities in how we come to have other struggles. Like diet and exercise. My mom and eventually I joked often about not liking sports and not being good at them. We talked about stress eating. Guess who got fat and out of shape? Me. I can even see similarities between myself and my good friend’s sister who was bulimic when we were younger. So why wouldn’t incorrect but highly publicized teaching regarding lust/sexuality/porn be any different?

    Reply
  15. Anon

    I have so. Many. Thoughts.

    The first is, as I observe my fellow Millennial Christians, I got out of the “purity era” fairly unscathed. I never read any of the books in this series, nobody I knew did, and they were never promoted at my church. My parents also never reinforced them. They made their expectations clear that I would follow a biblical sexual ethic, but they never told me it was my fault if a boy sinned. I knew if anyone made me uncomfortable I could go to Mom and Dad and they’d be on my side.

    So, parents. You have more influence than you think!

    However, “men always lust” gave me some weird ideas about physical appearance and beauty. I felt like I should be attractive for my husband, but UNattractive for everyone else. Now that I’m married, I wonder how that would work? What if I’m in mixed company with my husband and other men? How do I ensure my husband finds me attractive but the other men don’t? It’s laughable.

    I also have this weird quirk about clothing. There’s an opinion these days that dressing “immodestly” is part of liberating oneself from purity culture. I prefer skirts hit below my knee and shirts have sleeves. People sometimes comment “men will look so just wear anything you want.” I AM wearing anything I want! I’m not ashamed of my body, this is just how I like to dress! Sometimes I even have to convince myself that I actually like this outfit and I’m not just toeing the purity culture line.

    Reply
    • Anon

      Oh, something else.

      With teachings like this, it’s no wonder so many teenage girls don’t want to get married. Or that they turn to lesbianism. They’re scared to death of men.

      Reply
  16. Laura

    What the church seems to ignore or not notice is that women have lust issues too. What about “mommy porn” (not sure why they call it that) like 50 Shades of Grey and Harlequin romance novels with steamy sex scenes? Those are big money makers in the secular publishing world. The plot and characters may be generic and alike, but people buy these books to read the steamy sex scenes. At least I tried to sneak a peek at some of those books on my mom’s shelf when I was a teenager. When I was 18 and free to read whatever I wanted, of course, my first pick was those kind of books. I cannot say I had a problem with lust because it didn’t consume me. I could read some of those books and then move on to other stuff.

    Someone in the comments mentioned reading Every Woman’s Battle, which I read nearly 20 years ago. What I remember about this book was that instead of lusting like men, women tend to have emotional or mind affairs that were not sexual. So, the message I got was that you cannot fantasize about someone even when you’re single. In the book, the author did not come out and say these emotional/mind affairs were the equivalent of lusting, but I got the impression that this was a form of lust. Thoughts, anyone?

    Reply
    • Anon

      YES I think about this all the time. Somehow, it’s more socially acceptable to read Ann Rice and Fifty Shades than it is to watch porn. When Fifty Shades was in its heyday I couldn’t believe how many of my married, Christian female friends proudly proclaimed they read and watched it. They got very defensive at any criticism, including pointing out that Fifty Shades is just a terrible story apart from the erotica.

      I wondered how husbands felt about this, so I conducted a completely unscientific poll and asked mine “How would you feel if I read Fifty Shades of Grey?” He said he wouldn’t care. I said “I hope you would, because I’d sure care if you watched porn.” He stopped and said “Oh. Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

      We don’t think of women’s lust as serious because we see women as less sexual and less sexually dangerous than men. That’s my theory, unsubstantiated though it may be.

      Reply
      • Laura

        I was appalled that some Christians I knew were indulging in these books and the movies. I was like, “But it’s porn and it’s objectifying to women!” I knew a Christian man who told me his marriage became problematic when his wife (now ex) started reading the Fifty Shades trilogy. Thankfully he didn’t give me any details. I did find it refreshing to hear a man say he was uncomfortable about those books.

        Reply
      • NG

        So true. That’s one thing that really shocked me, when I read about this ‘mommy porn’ years ago .. Christian married women with kids, spending their time reading 50 Shaded of Cr*p?! I mean, you could have better ways to use your time..
        (Not that it’s a good idea for a lonely single woman either… nope!)
        Also that argument that ‘It’s only a story / fantasy’…

        (You’re right.. not a very well written story either.. I have seen some sentences, and the text was utterly boring)

        Surprisingly, some secular authors / researchers have started to say that in our fantasies we are at our most authentic selves. They reveal our value system and morals. No pretenses. That’s where we let our guards down.
        If a person daydreams about physically assaulting others, OR being assaulted and dominated, that tells me their ethics aren’t agreeing with what the Bible tells about the infinite value of every human being, created in the Image of God.

        Reply
  17. NG

    The concept of ‘tempting men’ with your clothing was not really a big topic when I first became a believer, at least not here in my neck of woods. Later, as I lived alone in cultures where I did NOT want to cause any unnecessary misunderstandings about my intentions, I did dress quite conservatively (not that any of that ever stopped men from looking.)

    Later in life, still as a single woman, I’ve noticed it makes no difference what I wear. Some men (in churches and outside) gawk and stare.. without ever trying to approach me with honorably intentions.
    Every now and then, I come across ‘lectures’ mostly on-line, about modest dress, and how ‘men respect women who dress properly’.. yadda yadda yadda.. In reality, no amount of conservative dress has brought me a husband.. just the opposite. I see men marrying girls, who do just the opposite that is considered modest…

    I even see comments from Christian men complaining how ‘Western women’ no longer dress sexy enough, and how much better the girls from certain cultures are (Eastern Europe, Thailand..) where ‘women still know how to women’…

    So, trying to earn a man’s respect or a relationship through a way that I dress, is a hopeless case. It’s best to follow what the Lord says, and seek to please Him, instead of chasing some ever eluding mirage of a man and his approval…

    Reply
  18. Dean

    I used to feel very bad and guilty when noticing that a woman (in person, in a movie, on a photo) other than my wife is pretty.

    Feeling a lot of sexual guilt for such a thing is not good, not constructive. Sex is a beautiful thing and our sexual desires are a good thing, and women can be very beautiful, and feeling guilty about everything sex related is actually the path to having more and more sexual problems and dependencies and acting out and so on. Sexual guilt is a vicious circle to be avoided.

    Now I believe that it is perfectly fine for me to notice that a woman is pretty, as long as:
    1. I turn my eyes to another direction as soon as that is an option, without being impolite in the process, without showing it or being awkward about it in any way
    2. never follow up or act out on that moment of noticing, in any way
    3. after it happens, think about one of the qualities of my wife that make her the most amazing woman I know

    Reply
  19. Lena

    I struggle with the cleavage scenario – boobs are sexualized, cleavage is sexy. If a man is appreciating the beauty of another woman’s cleavage, that is a sexual response. What if a woman noticed and appreciated the bulge in a man’s pants, or his good looking butt? Same thing. It’s sexual body parts. Noticing is one thing. But appreciating the beauty of it? Too far.

    Reply
  20. Laura

    Great article! It’s so helpful to know the real stats on the issue. I was just wondering if you had a book recommendation for men who are actually struggling with sex addiction/lust etc. Someone in my family has been trying to help a guy in jail for acting out and wants to give him a book. I’m sure he needs therapy/recovery programs but I’m guessing that’s not available there. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I like Surfing for God by Michael John Cusick, or books by Andrew Bauman, or When Shame Gets Real by Carl Thomas. Those are all good! Also many have said Unwanted by Jay Stringer is great, but I haven’t read it myself.

      Reply
  21. Zeek

    Oh my. I am halfway through the book Every Man’s Battle. They seem to depersonalize lust and say things like… you got this way simply by being male. Eyes and hormones are portrayed as the problem. Women are described with objectifying terms and with details. There is no reason to say anything other than “an attractive woman” but they say so much more. At one point they refer to the fact that “women doesn’t belong to him” referring to meeting sexual needs in someone not your wife. I could go on but I need to finish the book. If this is every man’s battle then I am not a man. This book seems more geared to certain men who need accountability and help for being too controlled by sexual issues. But to say this is every man’s battle is a lie.

    Reply
  22. Riley

    Hey I’m a guy, I hope it’s ok to respond, I want to respect this space. I recently found the Bare Marriage podcast and my wife and I are listening through it together and it’s been super insightful and I think will help us set some really good rhythms for our marriage as we get deeper into the Bare Marriage world. We’re newlyweds (relatively) we just had our first anniversary yay!! I was suggested to read “Every Mans Battle” when I was 9 or 10 (I’m now a wise and seasoned 28 year old….) the leader who suggested it told us “not everything in it is true” so we took a spit out the bones approach with the underlying mindset that the stuff about porn was probably true. That book “Love and Respect” and “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” were the bed rock for sex ethics in our youth group or at least that’s what I remember being prescribed for it. Oh and we would go to Purity Conferences and Men’s Conferences a couple times a year. I remember there was a lot of “war talk” and a lot of “accountability” and having a “Jonathan” around oh also “Iron sharpening Iron” but it resulted in a awkward small group meetings once or twice where we’d go “yeah me too”. So all that background to say I think “EMB” caught on as a way to add a theology of confession (a good thing) to a church which didn’t have any mechanism to facilitate it. But we removed individual responsibility so it was “safe confession”, you know “boys will be boys…” or confession minus consequence. We used the wrong tool to make a mold and forced everything to fit into it. Inadvertently making a works based way to achieve a righteousness surrounding our sex drives but with the caveat that Jesus gave us righteousness so we don’t really have to change.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s super insightful!

      Also–HOLY COW THEY MADE YOU READ EMB WHEN YOU WERE 9? Wow. I think that counts as child abuse. There’s so much porn in it! I’m so sorry. So glad you and your wife have found me and have a new way of talking about this!

      Reply
  23. Lauren

    Where in the Bible does it tell women not to lust after men? I have known thousands of women in my life–(I’m in my 70s) and some of them very well!–and the vast majority–actually NONE of them–have EVER even hinted at having a problem with male ‘body parts’ or lust for a man in any way. They laugh at speedos and any other supposedly sexy attire for men and, like me, shudder with abhorrence at the thought of watching men do strip tease.

    I am a woman and far from a prude but I have never, ever, EVER ‘undressed’ a man in my mind nor been sexually aroused just by looking at even the most handsome man I’ve ever seen, nor even fantasized that some handsome man was having sex with me UNLESS it was because he was IN LOVE with me–though the furthest I’ve ever gotten down that avenue was to fantasize that some handsome man found me so irresistible he wanted to kiss me. It was absolutely not with some fantasy of having sex with him but of him falling IN LOVE with me. My problem has NEVER been in lusting after men but in wanting men to lust after me (thinking that meant love)! To be attractive to the opposite sex has been my quest, my dream, my goal. And why? Because I just want sex with men? ABSOLUTELY NOT! I would want sex with a man ONLY when that is the result of him being IN LOVE with me!

    The thought of having sex with a man just for the pleasure of it and then ‘trying’ out some other handsome hunk for the same reason has never once even crossed my mind. That is completely abhorrent to me! Not because I don’t like sex, I LOVE sex! And not because I’m some Spiritual giant and have overcome such things. No indeed! I am JUST NOT INTERESTED in men sexually UNLESS they come on to me. And, even then, if they show they are just ‘in lust’, it is a turn off.

    When I was much younger, I had a man reveal his enlarged ‘member’ to me as if to say, ‘Look what you have done to me–aren’t you pleased?’ I was horrified and traumatized and couldn’t get away fast enough! My fight isn’t with sexual lust. My fight has always been in wanting to dress or act in a way that got men sexually interested in me. BUT NOT BECAUSE I WANTED SEX WITH THEM! I wanted to feel like I was attractive but my whole goal was to have men IN LOVE with me. I knew that being physically attractive to the opposite sex was where it all started but I didn’t comprehend, when young, that getting a man sexually aroused could even possibly mean he was ONLY interested in sex; could have sex with me and it mean NOTHING to him; that he could even be in love with someone else while he’s messing with me!! But the old adage is true: Women give sex to get love and men give ‘love’ to get sex!

    And you’re trying to tell me that men and women are the same where LUST is concerned? PHOOEY! I am not unusual or strange! I KNOW I speak for the majority of women out there! We ARE NOT MADE LIKE MEN! We do NOT objectify men nor have sex casually. We WANT love! And our hearts have been broken more than once by men who professed love to get sex.

    Our sin–and it IS a sin–is in dressing and acting in provocative ways to get men’s sexual attention. It is a sin to tempt a man sexually and most women don’t understand that or likely even agree with it because most think it’s the only way to get love. And dressing to entice is what fashion designers play up to, as do movies, books, music gurus and advertisers. And women buy into it because they see men mesmerized by porn stars and female pop singers (not much difference between the two, is there?) appealing to men’s sexual desires in every possible way.

    It is a fact that men are prone to lust a thousand times more than women! That’s why the Bible tells MEN not to lust after WOMEN!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Lauren, I’m so sorry about the sexual assault you suffered earlier (because it was sexual assault). And I’m glad lust isn’t something you’ve suffered with!

      But the Bible actually does portray women as lusting quite frequently–just read Proverbs!

      Also, studies do show that quite a few women lust, and quite a few men don’t.

      I’d just say that you weren’t to blame for that man being an exhibitionist. It wasn’t because of what you wore, or that you sexually aroused him. It was on him.

      Reply

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