PODCAST: Let’s Talk Ogling and Dressing for Attention–a Research Deep Dive episode!

by | Oct 13, 2022 | Podcasts, Research | 18 comments

Listen to this podcast about the research behind who is actually dressing for attention--and how our church teachings may make it MORE LIKELY that men become predatory rather than safe. Church, we can do better!!
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What happens when the church promotes the idea that “all men struggle with lust”?

We’ve got an all new RESEARCH DEEP DIVE podcast for you this week! Connor and I (Rebecca) are back bringing you some information about a new study that’s out that is incredibly interesting.

And then Sheila and I are joined by Meghan Tschanz to talk about how this plays out in the real world!

You won’t want to miss this one. Listen in:

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:

Transcript

Rebecca: Hi, and welcome to The Bare Marriage Podcast.  I am Rebecca Lindenbach who normally does not host this thing.

Connor: That’s right.

Rebecca: Yes.

Connor: I am Connor, who also normally does not host this thing.

Rebecca: Yes, exactly.  So Sheila is typically the host, and she is currently on vacation.  So I am kind of in charge for the next few weeks until they get back, but yes, this is The Bare Marriage Podcast where we like to–really we like to strip away everything that’s unnecessary from all the advice we’re typically given and get back to healthy, evidence-based, biblical advice for marriages and sex lives.  So that’s what we do here.  Talking about evidence-based, we are doing a research deep dive month on the blog.  We’re talking about a bunch of really interesting studies that have come out.  We’re going to talk about how they kind of intersect with the research that we’ve done and our results as well, but really we’re just trying to give you a good idea of what the research is currently saying in the areas of things like libido, sexual pleasure, even lust, and whether or not men are visual.  So this week we have an article out that Connor had actually gone through and read through and he’s going to kind of walk us through it, and I’ll react.

Connor: So let’s take a look at this article here.  The title of the article is “Body Gaze as a Marker of Sexual Objectification: A New Skill for Pervasive Gaze and Gaze Provocation Behaviors in Heterosexual Women and Men.”  It’s by Ross, Shane, Prudence, and Belinda.  Essentially what it lays out is they did this study.  They got eye tracking data from a number of men and women and showed them pictures of men and women either fully dressed or partially undressed, and they also got all of those people to fill out some self-report questionnaires indicating the kinds of behaviors that they do when it comes to looking at men or women.  We talk a lot about this idea of men are visual like looking at women, lusting after women is every man’s battle.  All men lust, and we’ve talked a lot debunking those and breaking those down and talking about those why are unhelpful and unhealthy things to teach and ways to–things to believe.  This is another example of a study that really lays out some interesting research where people have looked at it and said, “Wow, we can see some troubling things linked with this belief and these behaviors.”  So to just break right down to the central thrust of the article.  What they found was men who reported that they did a lot of what was called pervasive body gazing, you know, looking at a woman that they see on the bus or a woman that they see walking down the street or a woman in the office, the people who reported that they did a lot of that, and maybe didn’t really see anything wrong with it, thought it was fine to do, just that they did it a lot or they liked to do it when no one was noticing them do it.  The people who reported high on that pervasive body gazing there was a very significant correlation between the self-report that they made and their behavior by watching their eye tracking.

Rebecca: So what that means is in essence is the people who said, “Yeah, I like to look,” actually did look longer than people who said, “No, I don’t tend to look.” 

Connor: Yeah, and what’s really important and what they were able to gather about this is not just how long they looked but also how they looked.  There’s a lot of interesting stuff in there like what they noticed was men who had the high self-report of doing a lot of pervasive body gazing which is again looking at someone who hasn’t given you permission.  This isn’t looking at your wife.  This is you’re being pervasive.  You’re looking at someone in a situation where maybe you shouldn’t be.  What they found was those people who reported high on that would do a lot of looking at the woman’s body.  It was called a body gazing bias as opposed to a face gazing bias.  Here’s the thing it didn’t matter if the woman was dressed or partially dressed.  The men who reported high in body gazing tended not to really look at the face very much…

Rebecca: That’s interesting.

Connor: … when looking at these women.  They were told just to look at these pictures the way that they would normally look at a woman.  Whether the woman was dressed or partially undressed, they would look at her body.  They would look at her chest.  They would look at her waist.  They would look at her hips.  They would look at all those parts, and they wouldn’t look at the face nearly as much.  Women on the other hand when it came to dressed men tended to have even if they reported high they tended to look more at the face when the man was dressed.  Then when the man was partially undressed a lot of them would look more at the body.  They would get a bit more of that body gazing instead of face gazing bias which I mean I think makes sense.

Rebecca: I think so.  I also think that when you just think about men versus women’s fashions too men’s clothes tend not to be as silhouette based as women’s so I do think there’s a level where it might simply be that there’s a bit of a clothing and fashion bias.  This is my personal thought about this.  If you’re a woman who says, “Yeah, I like looking at hot dudes,” and then you’re shown a bunch of pictures of guys in just normal guy clothes, it’s going to be kind of looser, button downs, and slacks is very different then to show you a bunch of a pictures of a dude in a wet t-shirt and tight jeans.  You might–I do wonder how much of it–versus like women’s typical fashion is still meant to accentuate the natural curves of a woman’s body.  So I do wonder if there’s a little bit of the reason women don’t look even when they report high–I just wonder how much of it is a fashion bias.

Connor: Mm-hmm.  Now there are a couple of things from that.  First off, that might start off sounding like, well, doesn’t that kind of show that the men are more visual than the women?  But here’s the thing.  There is variation in men.  Not all men do it.  The men who again reported higher on the pervasive body gazing tended to look a lot more with that body gazing bias, and they also tended to correlate with measures of objectification, and they tended to correlate higher with things like pornography use, blaming the victims of sexual assault, and there’s also a link when you go through the other research to the beginnings of problematic ideas and then behaviors when it comes to women in these men who specifically self-reported that they do a lot of pervasive body gazing.  There wasn’t that same correlation with the men who didn’t report pervasive body gazing and then when tested with the eye tracking did not do the pervasive body gazing.

Rebecca: Yeah.

Connor: So what that means is that the people who carry this belief–this study found that the people who carry this belief that men do a lot more body gazing and it’s natural and it’s the way men are and the people who tend to do it–not in all cases but statistically they are less likely to be a safe person.

Rebecca: Yeah, because what that says to me, the thing you are saying about how women do look when a man is in a state of slight undress or partial undress or to full undress–I don’t know what exact parameters there were in the study–

Connor: It would typically be like a shirtless photo of a guy or a bikini photo of a woman.  All the pictures were taken from stock photos from Shuttershock.

Rebecca: Oh, Shutterstock.  Yeah.

Connor: Shutterstock.  Yeah.

Rebecca: So exactly what that actually says to me when you’re talking about how this is correlated with kind of concerning thoughts about victim blaming in terms of assault or likelihood of objectification of women what that kind of says to me is I wonder how much of it is social as well where men have been trained to feel like they are entitled to women’s bodies.  Like in places like the church, we see this all the time, right?

Connor: Mm-hmm.

Rebecca: You see grown men telling 12-year-olds to cover up because they’re causing grown men to stumble, and in what universe should a grown man be looking at a 12-year-old, right?

Connor: Yeah.

Rebecca: There seems to be a reticence to simply tell men that it’s their responsibility to not objectify women which leads to higher rates of objectification and higher rates of entitlement because if you aren’t ever told that you have to just not do something it’s everyone else’s job to make it easy for you, what’s the word for that?  That’s entitlement, right?

Connor: Yeah.

Rebecca: Whereas women don’t have that same ability to be entitled because women frankly are at a disadvantage from having been so highly sexualized.  Anyway there’s a whole–we’ve done so many podcasts on this so you can–I’ll link to one of them about lust in the podcast notes here.  What this says to me is not that women aren’t visual because what we hear from people all the time is, “Well, if women just understood how hard it was to look away,” or, “They don’t understand what it’s like to be visually stimulated.  They don’t understand what it’s like to find people hot the same way that men do.”  But it’s just, women do when the man is in a state of undress or there seem to be cutes that, “Oh, sexy time might be happening,” right?  But it’s just that they’re able to see the man as a whole person when there aren’t those cues.

Connor: Yeah.

Rebecca: What does that sound like?  Again that sounds like we just don’t have the same entitlement to sex.

Connor: Yeah.

Rebecca: The same entitlement to someone’s body whereas we’ve been told that it’s a biological thing, what if it’s a social thing about how women are like, “Hey, yeah, totally attracted to dudes.  If a hot dude is in front of me doing hot dude things in a way that I could assume I am allowed to look at his body, you know.”  What guy is walking around shirtless–it’s fair for a woman in her brain to go, “Okay, time to look at a shirtless guy,” versus like trying to peek at a guy.

Connor: Yeah.

Rebecca: I just think that’s something that I find interesting.  I wonder how much of this is an entitlement difference as well where it’s not biological.  It’s what have you been raised to believe you can get away with.

Connor: Yeah, when I was reading through this and the results, it was immediately just the word in my head was, “Wow, that sounds like the issue is an entitlement thing.”  So then let me lay out two other points that kind of tie into different aspects of that.  The one is looking at what is the value of having a face gazing bias over a body gazing bias, and where does objectifying tie into this?  The thing is there is inherent social value in examining someone’s face because the face is capable of communicating a lot more about emotion, personality…

Rebecca: Intent.

Connor: …intent, all of those things.  Those are–sure the body can carry some of those, but the face is a microcosm of everything that is going on in a person’s mind.  When you are passing that up to look at the body, what that is doing is that is prioritizing the sexual parts of someone’s body over again personality, emotion, all these important crucial social aspects of what makes a person a person, and that’s what that objectification is.  You’re passing up on that because you want to look at the bits.

Rebecca: Yeah, and I think also just the fact that you were saying things like emotion, personality.  It may be because you read the study and I didn’t, but my immediate was–intent because you can’t know if someone is going to be a threat to you unless you’re looking at their face in the same way, right?  So I do wonder how much of this face gazing bias is once again because women have to be more on guard.

Connor: Yeah, now another interesting thing to get into is you’re talking about the socialization difference between men and women.  I think there’s a socialization difference between men and women, and there’s also a socialization difference between how we regard men and women because–here’s something I haven’t stated yet–they found that not only did the men tend to look at the women a lot and their bodies when they reported high on that gazing, the women who reported high on that gazing looked at other women a lot more than men looked at other men.  So the women–it’s not that well, the men are just a lot more visual than the women.  The women got a lot of attention from the men and the women.  More than the men got, and I find that very interesting because that speaks to me that yeah, maybe we do have this socialization issue in our culture and society where women are generally regarded as a thing to be viewed with that body gazing focus.  Let’s look at the body parts.  Let’s look at the bits.  To clarify when I saw the women were looking a lot more at the women, I mean they were doing a lot more of that body gazing.

Rebecca: Mm-hmm, and I think that when we were talking about this beforehand, this is one of the few points we had actually gone over beforehand, and what I was saying is to me that just sounds like the fact that women are in essence valued based on what we can offer sexually.  That means that we become competition with other women because of what we can offer sexually.  Does that make sense?

Connor: Yeah.

Rebecca: So I want to be–like not myself personally–I’m putting myself–say I’m someone who is in this mentality of the high body gazing–what did you call it?  What’s the actual term?

Connor: The body gazing bias?

Rebecca: Yes, thank you.  I have a body gazing bias as a woman.  I’m not only looking at the men.  I’m also looking at my competition, right?  Because if you’re in that mindset of kind of looking at people, seeing who is hot and who is not, that kind of situation.  I do think you see other women as competition versus someone who is just another person.  What I find so interesting is we hear about this so much in church settings.  So you have this situation where we are in essence training people because of certain modesty messages, because of how we’re told that–we are told at church this thing that all men are visual.  Men are going to look at you.  Men can’t help but this is a natural, normal thing that happens to men.  Again can you say what the study says if you believe those things?

Connor: If you believe those things, you are statistically more likely to be an unsafe person, to have problematic attitudes and behaviors towards women that both mean objectifying them, belittling them, potentially being a sexual threat to them, and also when something does happen to them, putting more of the blame on them for what happened.

Rebecca: Yeah, so just all around not the kind of person that you want your daughter to be around, right?

Connor: Yeah.

Rebecca: So this is the kind of messaging that we are pumping into these churches.  We are pumping into youth groups.  Every single person who went to a conservative Christian youth group in the last like 15 years I’m sure has had a modesty talk, right?  This is something that we all went through.  Then what does that do to the women?  We’re told you’d better cover up or else you’re going to make people stumble.  But we’re also told then that your body has power which kind of trains us to be like, okay, but who’s body has more power, right?  This is something that we hear all the time is that women became competition, right?

Connor: Yeah.

Rebecca: You get to judge people whether or not they’re dressed modestly enough, but you also kind of–if none of the guys are tempted by you, if no one is looking at you, you’re kind of getting told that you’re not as attractive because you’re not as sin-inducing.  Like that’s disgusting, but this is what this kind of thinking leads to.  It makes total sense how you have all these youth groups out there where you have girls being told you need to cover up because this is how men are.  You get guys being told this is how you are.  This is how men are, and it’s a good thing that God created us this way.  This is the beauty of how God designed you, but you need to reign it in.  Then is it any wonder that we have so many stories of date rape?  We have so many stories of sexual abuse from youth pastors.  We have so many stories of women entering into marriages where they’ve never experienced sexual assault per se, but then their marriage is filled with kind of like a lot of weird dynamics about sex.  Then there’s the women who gets married and they do experience sexual assault within their marriages.  Is there any surprise?  I don’t really think so.

Connor: No, I agree.  I don’t think there’s a surprise.  There’s a point that I want to get out there because I know whenever we have this conversation there can always be the people who say, “Well, you can argue that this is not ideal, but this is simply the way that men are, and this is simply the way that God created them.”  I want to again reiterate there is variance in the male population.  On this study, not all men reported high and did a lot of the actual looking when their eyes were tracked, and the men who reported low body gazing, their eye movements backed that up.  So there is that variation there, and to counter any argument of well, they’re not real men.  We’re supposed to be like this.  I want to say there’s evidence that you can be one of these two ways.  Do you think it’s a better world to live in where all men do a lot of the body gazing, buy into those beliefs, and are unsafe and blame women for what happens to them?  Or do you want to live in a world–do you think it would be better to live in a world where all men don’t view and objectify women that way?  They don’t blame women for things that happen to them, and they are generally safer, less assault-y people.

Rebecca: Less predatory-y vibes just going on.

Connor: Yeah, because the research shows that not all men are this way.

Rebecca: Yeah, not all men are this way.

Connor: Not all men are this way.

Rebecca: We can’t say this is how men are designed when literally not all men–yeah.  The thing that I wish–well, I don’t even wish.  I hope because wish makes it sound like it couldn’t happen.  Hope makes it sound like it could, right?  I hope what we can get from this too is that if you’re in a church right now that is saying these kinds of messages like men just look at women.  If you’re reading a book and it’s like this is the truth of how men are.  There are some men who don’t, but really this is how God designed the male species.  If that’s the kind of message that you’re getting from the resources you’re listening to, the sermons you’re hearing, the marriage prep that you’re getting, understand that this is encouraging the kind of attitude that leads to higher rates of sexual assault, higher rates of victim blaming when a girl or a woman is assaulted.  It leads to all sorts of bad fruit, and there is an alternative.  I hope that we can start just calling these people out because for so long we hear about an 11-year-old girl or for so long we’ve heard about the 13-year-old, 14-year-old girls on the worship team being told that they have to wear longer skirts because the men in the front rows will be distracted.  We think nothing–we get a little bit frustrated in our churches, but we don’t think anything of it.  Now we need to start seeing those people as problematic.  We need to start calling out, “Hey, you actually–this is not okay, and this is not normal.  It’s not normal for a grown man to want to look at a 13-year-old, 14-year-old girl.”  “Well, I don’t want to look.”  “Well, you’re looking.”  It’s not normal to look.

Connor: Yeah, now there’s a whole other side to this study that they did that’s really interesting.  Because while some work has been done in the area that we’ve talked about before with other studies, one thing that the study did that’s really new that hasn’t been done in a lot of others is they also looked at how these people self-reported on what they called gaze provocation behavior.  So they looked at two sides of it.  They looked at how much are you giving people unwanted looks, and also how much work are you trying to put into attracting those looks to yourself?

Rebecca: Mm-hmm, because we hear all the time, oh, well, she knows what she’s doing.  She’s dressing for attention.

Connor: Yeah, and they found a lot of really interesting things, a lot of really interesting correlations with both the men and the women.  First off, one thing that I just find kind of interesting and funny is we talk about all the women in church and out on the street and everything like, “Oh, they’re dressing this way on purpose to try–if anything happens to them, they were kind of asking for it.”  The study showed that men actually engage in a lot more gazing provocation be–like a lot more gazing provocation behavior than women.  With women, here’s an interesting thing that I think you’ll probably have some stuff to say on.  Single women tended to do more gazing provocation behavior which is stuff like wearing an outfit that you think looks really nice and that you think might attract other people’s looks or putting on makeup that you think will make you look good to other people.  Specifically doing things with the intention of attracting eyes to you.  Single women tended to do more of that than women in relationships or in marriage.  With men, whether they were single or whether they were married, they did more gazing provocation than single or married women.

Rebecca: That’s hilarious, and this doesn’t mean that each individual man did more gaze provocat–

Connor: Provocation.

Rebecca: Thank you.

Connor: You’re welcome.

Rebecca: Gaze provocation than every single individual woman.  We’re saying as a group men were more likely to do it than single women.  There’s more men in marriages and relationships trying to do this than there are single women like per capita kind of thing.

Connor: Yeah, the average provocation scores for married men…

Rebecca: Okay, yeah.

Connor: …was higher than for women.

Rebecca: Single women.

Connor: Yeah, higher than for single women or married women.  Of course, now that average is taking into account that there was a range.  There were plenty of people who were low on that scale, and plenty of people who were high.  But the average score was higher for any man than it was for any woman.

Rebecca: So really it’s that a lot of times these men are saying, “Well, that 15-year-old girl, she knows what she’s doing.  She wants the attention.”  Statistically speaking, it’s likely that he’s projecting his own intentions on the 15-year-old.

Connor: Because the men who reported high in gazing provocation also carried more of that belief that women are responsible for what happens to them.

Rebecca: Yeah, so exactly.  So you’re projecting your own kind of stuff.  That’s just–that’s funny.  Here’s my thing I don’t actually think that it’s wrong to engage in gaze provocation behavior like at all.  We’re not talking about you’re putting on pasties and a thong and walking down the street here.  We’re talking about–and trust me, we lived in downtown Ottawa.  We have seen people do that.

Connor: Yeah.

Rebecca: But we’re talking about just doing things to make yourself look nice.  Quite frankly I put on makeup.  I did my hair.

Connor: Yeah, I put on jeans, and I’m wearing a shirt that just fits a bit better around my shoulders.

Rebecca: Than like the t-shirt that we bought eight years ago.

Connor: Yeah.

Rebecca: Yeah, exactly.  It doesn’t just include actually trying to sexually arouse the people in the room with you.

Connor: Yeah.

Rebecca: It also includes things to make yourself stand out, to make yourself be more attractive.  I mean I did that.  When you came back and you were–because for people who don’t know, when I had a super big crush on Connor before he asked me out obviously, and I pursued him hard.  When you came back and you were single, and I was like, “Oh, wait, you’re available,” I stopped wearing leggings and sweatshirts at your house.  I started wearing cute little dresses with tights.  I started looking really good.  I started suddenly doing my makeup when I was at your place instead of just showing up after class with my giant bags under my eyes, right?  I started trying hard because I was like, “Hey, he’s going to notice me, and he’s going to ask me out.”  You know what?  It worked.

Connor: It turns out I did.

Rebecca: Yes, it worked, but then frankly as soon as we were solidly in a relationship, I just started wearing your hoodies which was again territory marking, but yes.  I’m kidding of course, but that is what kind of happens.  That’s logical.  What women tend to do that is very logical.  You want to dress nicely to attract someone that you want to be in a relationship with, and what that really says to me again is that all this stuff–this kind of mindset–if women were truly simply dressing that way for attention because they wanted attention, because they wanted to manipulate men, because they wanted to put them through a hard time, no pun intended, sorry.  They wanted to give them a difficult time keeping their eyes on somewhere respectful then we wouldn’t really see the difference before and after relationship because you still have that self-esteem need even when you’re in a relationship.  You would still be seeing these women having high rates of gaze provocation even after relationships and marriage, but what it is it seems to be based on this, is that women tend to engage in gaze provocation behavior because they want to attract a mate, right?

Connor: Mm-hmm.

Rebecca: So you are in a church setting, and there’s a 16-year-old girl who’s all dolled up and pretty and cute and doing her makeup and has her hair perfectly done, and you are a 47-year-old man looking at the 16-year-old and being like, “Oh, she’s wearing spaghetti straps.  So immodest.  She knows what she’s doing to me.”  No, she’s trying to attract 16-year-old Tyson, okay?  She’s trying to get a date for semi-formal, okay?

Connor: Once she gets one, a lot of that gaze provocation behavior is probably going to go down.

Rebecca: Exactly, and so this is the thing.  When we don’t see women’s bodies as an entitlement, quite frankly we’d be able to look at the 24-year-old who’s out there just looking stunning and maybe wearing a bit of a showy dress that definitely shows off her assets, like you’d look at her and not think, “Man, she knows what she’s doing to that 60-year-old dude in the booth over,” and more say, “Hey, okay, not for me,” and move on.  I think that’s really what it comes down to is understanding that men and women seem to have a fundamentally different orientation towards these kinds of behaviors and different motivations.  I really think that a lot of it comes down to women don’t have sexual entitlement as a whole in the same way that men do.  That’s really what this study shows.

Connor: Again like the argument that all men and women are different is not an old one, but we’re not trying to say that this is how we are hardwired.  We are trying to say, “We see ranges in both genders.  This is more of a socialization issue.”  That means women are expected to be objectified more than men are, and so they react accordingly.  We react accordingly, but some men are totally capable of just not doing body gazing behavior.  A lot of that comes down to the beliefs that they have.

Rebecca: I actually think that it’s not all socialized.  Like I really think there is a genuine biological aspect as to why we see so many differences in this kind of thing between men and women.  I think frankly a lot of it comes down to danger.  As a woman, if I were a woman in engaging in hookup culture, I would always have inherently more danger exposed to me than a man would, right?  Even just the repercussions of sex, right?

Connor: Yeah.

Rebecca: I have had children.  I have almost died in childbirth.  Genuinely, if we had not had the medical interventions that we had, my last birth could have possibly killed me, okay?

Connor: Yeah.

Rebecca: That is simply more risk than most men will ever have in sex, right?  So I think that there–and there’s also issues of the average man is so much just physically stronger than the average woman which might explain why women tend to look at the face a lot more, to look for intent because frankly there’s more risk to a woman not understanding a man’s intent than there is to a man not understanding a woman’s intent.  There was some tweet–or maybe it was a Reddit thread.  I don’t know.  There was something on social media going around a while ago where it said, “If a man and a woman are alone in an elevator, the man is afraid the woman will laugh at him.  The woman is afraid the man will kill her.”

Connor: Yeah.

Rebecca: There is a level where–there is a genuine threat difference based on just how our bodies are.  But beyond that, I think that what this means is I think as men the response is then to say, “Hey, I have the ability to walk through life with a very different experience than my female peers.  So I can then take ownership of that, and I can make sure that I’m a safe person.  I can assess the thoughts that I have in my brain.  I can make sure that I’m looking at a woman’s behaviors through her lens and not through mine.”  So this is why we need to change how we’re talking about it.

Connor: Because again, if you are going to a church where your pastor is talking–

Rebecca: Yeah, let’s get into it.  Let’s go.

Connor: Yeah, if you’re going to a church where your pastor is talking or doing a sermon series or you have a small group leader who’s talking–any of this kind of thing where they are talking about the every man’s battle, all men struggle with lust, women need to cover up–any of those sorts of things, and that is generally accepted by the culture of your church, that means the culture of your church according to this study is–and a lot of the studies that support it and have come before and after it, there is a correlation between people who believe these things and act these ways and not seeing women as people but seeing them as just the bits.

Rebecca: Yeah, now I also do know that there are people who talk about the modesty message because like yeah, I know what you’re saying.  I know that you’re right.  I know there are good men, but there are also bad men out there.  So we need to make sure that the 14-year-old isn’t doing this kind of stuff.  Yes, I know that as well.  I also share your concern about the bad men, but remember these men were looking at the body the same way regardless of how much clothes were on it.

Connor: Yeah.

Rebecca: Secondly when we are saying these modesty messages even if it’s out of a desire to make sure that these girls are not going to be looked at by these bad men, we are still creating an environment in which it is normalizing the actions of the bad men.  If we’re talking about it in terms of there are genuinely some creepizoids out there, I think we can have a different conversation, but often what happens in these churches is they present the modesty message so that, “Oh, there are some men that struggle with this more than others do.”  So we have to make sure that the 14-year-old knows.  It’s like why does she have to know?  This is not her fault.  This is not her issue.  She is simply a 14-year-old who wants Chad to ask her to the sock hop or whatever.  Or I don’t know.  I haven’t been in high school for a long time.  Not that long obviously, but you know what I mean.  She’s trying to attract the attention of the other 14-year-olds. 

Connor: Yeah, we need to reframe this issue because it’s–like we saw with whether the woman was clothed or unclothed, the men who do a lot of body gazing are looking at the same parts on her.  It’s not an issue of how she’s dressing or what she’s doing.  It’s an issue of where does that man look for value in a person.

Rebecca: Yeah.

Connor: That’s what they found with the face gazing bias versus the body gazing bias is your eyes are tending to go where you think you’re going to be able to evaluate someone’s value.

Rebecca: Interestingly enough–I mean there were entire I mean talks and curriculums that we were given–and we I mean young girls were given when we were growing up in junior high and high school that literally explained how some girls dress like they’re trashable and some girls dress like they’re valuable.  Literally training girls to engage in that whole body gaze behavior.

Connor: Yeah.

Rebecca: So this is why we have women also looking at other women even when they’re heterosexual because they’re looking to see, to judge, to see, “Oh, how is she dressing.”  We’re literally grooming people to do this in the church.  It’s so problematic.  I really think that we can change things because we’re starting to say, “You know what?  I’m done with this.”  We’re starting to say, “This study found that there were lots of men who just were okay with looking at a woman’s face.”  By the way, it didn’t mean that the gaze never dropped below the chin for those men.  The men who didn’t engage in a lot of body gazing behaviors it’s not that they didn’t notice that the woman had nice chest or a nice waist.

Connor: Yeah, it’s not that our eyes kind of cut off here…

Rebecca: Exactly.

Connor: …and we can only see…

Rebecca: I can only look at the nose and the eyes to the eyebrow!  No, that’s not what’s going on.  So what we’re not saying is that there are men who look at boobs, and there are men who don’t.  What we’re saying is there are men who are creepy and objectifying and entitled about it, and there are men who just notice people, and then are able to move on with their day and talk to them like real human beings and who look to their faces to see who they are and not to see what they look like.

Connor: Yeah, and again like you were saying, it’s not about not even looking at the person’s body because kind of the whole thing about seeing someone as a whole person is seeing them as a whole person.

Rebecca: Yes, exactly.

Connor: But another thing that I wanted to just throw out there as a little–think of this what you will…

Rebecca: Okay.

Connor: …is you know how I was saying that if you’re in a church where the culture is people are talking about it like this, if the culture is people are talking about men’s struggle and it being women’s fault and all that sort of thing, according to the studies, not only is it a place where statistically the culture is less safe for women and the men are more unsafe and all that, as pious as they may be trying to sound, statistically there’s more porn use in that congregation.

Rebecca: Yeah, well, it makes total sense.  It makes total sense.  So in summary, really what I hope you got from this is that if a man is saying, “She knows what she’s doing to me,” or, “She’s dressing just–she knows what she’s doing.  She’s dressing for attention,” if people are talking that way, they’re likely projecting.

Connor: Yeah, the research says that behavior and attitude of his says a lot more about what’s going on with him than it does about what’s going on with her.

Rebecca: Exactly, and additionally remember that the kinds of men who are doing a lot of this body gazing behavior, they’re looking at you whether you have a lot of clothes on or not.  They really are, and so it’s really unfair to be telling women and girls that it’s their responsibility to cover up so that men don’t look when men look whether or not you’re covered up.

Connor: Covering up isn’t going to make the difference between whether a person sees your value in your face and your personhood or if they see your value in the shape of your body.

Rebecca: Exactly, but then additionally, there are lots of people out there who are safer, who are healthier, and similarly to how we see higher rates of body gazing leads to more sexual assault, more victim blaming, higher rates of porn use, higher rates of objectification, more sexual entitlement, all the bad stuff.  We see more of that the more people engage in body gazing behaviors and gaze provocation behaviors.  We also see that the flip side is true as well.  People who don’t engage in a lot of the body gazing behaviors of which there are quite a few–there was a good portion.  They also are safer.  They believe fewer rape myths.  They’re less likely to commit sexual assault.  They’re less likely to be sexually entitled or sexually objectify women because those are the same thing.  They are far less likely to have these negative things and so if you’re in a church that even if they’re trying to do it in a beneficial or benevolent way is enabling this kind of culture, show them this study.  Call them out.  Let’s talk about the difference between noticing and lusting and let’s stop normalizing the latter because there’s no reason that the next generation of young women should be raised in a culture that tells them that it’s their responsibility to control the thoughts of another human being when they’re literally not even doing anything to try and provoke those thoughts in the first place.  Thank you so much, Connor, for going over the research with us.

Connor: You’re welcome.

Rebecca: Now talking about all this male gaze stuff, we’re going to talk about what happens when men actually do feel sexually entitled to look at women’s bodies.  To talk about that, we have the wonderful Meghan Tschanz.  I’m pretty sure I said her last name correctly.  There’s a lot of consonants and not a lot of vowels, and so I’m pretty sure I got that right, but, Meghan, we recorded this a couple of months ago before her baby arrived so congratulations, Meghan.  So now let’s turn to our conversation we had with Meghan, and Sheila is actually in on this one so enjoy.

Sheila: Well, I am thrilled to have on The Bare Marriage Podcast a friend of mine, Meghan Tschanz.  She is the author of Women Rising: Finding Our

Meghan: Learning to Listen, Reclaiming Our Voice.

Sheila: You know what?  I can’t even remember my own sometimes.

Rebecca: I know.  I can guarantee she cannot remember the subtitles.

Sheila: Women Rising: Learning to Listen

Rebecca: Learning to Listen and Reclaiming Our Voice.  It’s actually a pretty easy one too.

Sheila: What is our subtitle, Rebecca?  The Great Sex Rescue?

Rebecca: The Great Sex Rescue.  I have no idea either.

Meghan: Oh, wait, I have it right here.  It’s The Lies You’ve Been Taught and how to Recover what God Intended.

Sheila: There we go.  So it’s not–my lack of knowledge of your subtitle is not a reflection of how I feel about your book because I loved Women Rising.  I had you on the podcast when it first came out actually a little over a year ago–you talking about it.  That was a really popular podcast.  I’ll put a link to that.  But Meghan, thank you for joining us again.

Meghan: I am so excited to be back here.  I’m so grateful for all of the work y’all have been doing.  We are taking on this harmful cushion patriarchy together, and so I’m glad to have you all on my team.

Sheila: Yes, now I sent Meghan off an email earlier this week because I had listened to a four-part podcast series that you did on your podcast Faith and Feminism where you were talking about Stasi and John Eldridge’s book Captivating.

Meghan: Yes.

Sheila: Which they wrote after John Eldridge’s wildly successful Wild at Heart, and you were looking at some of the problematic things in that.  I will put a link to that series where people can listen because it really was quite well done, a big deep dive into Captivating, which I haven’t read in ages.  So I haven’t talked about that book.

Meghan: It’s bad.

Sheila: Yes, yes, but one of the things that you said–I was like, “Oh my goodness, Meghan, and Rebecca, and I need to talk about that.”  Let me sum it up, and then I’ll let you comment.

Meghan: Okay.

Sheila: You were talking about how when evangelicalism tells men that they are visual and that lust is every man’s battle it can give men an excuse to objectify women because they think they are just living out their nature.  So it results in women being bombarded by sexual objectification messages when they didn’t ask for it, and you were telling how–you were just working in a voting booth, and guys were commenting on your body.

Meghan: Yeah, so I mean I think every woman knows what it’s like to have the unsolicited comments of what men think of their body.  I’m sure I’m not unique.  I’m actually eight months pregnant right now, and I went to New York recently.  I thought maybe when I’m walking with my husband, eight months pregnant, people are not going to make a comment.  I was unfortunately wrong.  I had men telling me their pregnancy fetishes with my husband standing right there when I was walking down the street.  Just different random men commenting on how far along I am, and it just really uncomfortable comments.  I think this is really sad because I don’t want to live in a world where I can’t exist without some man telling me what he thinks of my body.  Women can’t do their jobs.  They can’t exist walking down the street.  They can’t go to a coffee shop without these messages that are constantly objectifying to us being thrown in our face.  So I think patriarchy is a problem, but I also think the church is feeding this by teaching men that their visual, that they’re kind of entitled, that women know how they feel, that they’re entitled to a woman’s space.  I would never dream of approaching a man and telling him what I thought about his body.  That’s nothing that I have ever even considered doing especially if it’s a stranger.  So I think there’s a real pattern of gendered socialization that tells men it’s okay, that tells boys it’s okay because they’re visual creatures and can’t help themselves.

Sheila: Okay, now when we first–Rebecca, you’ll remember this–in 2017, in June, when I did that very first series on Every Man’s Battle on the blog and we had that one commenter who wouldn’t shut up who said, “I just wish that women would objectify me sometimes.”  Remember that?

Rebecca: Mm-hmm, yeah.  He was like, “I’m sure it can be painful to be the subject of sexual objectification, but you know what’s more painful to never have women find you sexually attractive.”  We said, “Go away.  No.  Stop,” because you can’t say, “Okay, sure, there’s a risk of being sexually assaulted and murdered and part of a true crime podcast, but at least people think you’re hot.”  Like no, that’s not okay.  We don’t talk like that around here.  So he got really, really, really angry because we were calling him out for being a misogynist, rape apologist because that’s what he was doing.  He even told people who had been sexually assaulted–he was like, “Yeah, but it’s even harder to think that you’re never attractive to the opposite sex.”  It’s like no, it’s not.

Meghan: Well, that doesn’t indicate attraction.

Rebecca: That’s exactly what we said too.

Meghan: That’s the whole problem.

Rebecca: It’s about power.  Especially since we had this–and that’s often how women use this kind of men are visual, getting compliments and comments against other women.  Well, “at least people find you pretty.”  It’s like no, it’s not about pretty.  It’s not about attractiveness.  It’s about wanting that power over someone else.  It’s an entitlement move, and it’s about ownership.  It’s not about anything relational at all.

Sheila: I know your guest on your podcast she did some in-home health care work, and she was talking about how she would be seeing a patient and treating a patient.  He would make comments on how beautiful she was or how after this we should go out on a date or something.  It was just very inappropriate.  But we’re always trying to defuse bombs.  We’re always trying to figure out how serious is this.  Can I just laugh it off?  Do I need to confront him hard?  Do I need to say a firm, “No”?  Do I need to ignore it?  It’s a very uncomfortable position for women to be in.

Meghan: And it’s a dangerous position because I think we’ve all been in situations–like I have run the gamut of all the responses.  I’ve ignored the comment.  I have confronted the comment.  I will say every time I have confronted the comment it’s gotten more dangerous for me.  I have felt more at risk because of it.  I had one time a guy just mock me to my face and get closer.  We’re constantly trying to dismantle the level of threats, how do we stand up for ourselves, is this going to make me more unsafe?  It’s just a huge mental and emotional burden that women shouldn’t have to go through because the truth is we’re not safe.  We hear the stories all the time.  If we look at the statistics in the United States, one in three women is a survivor of sexual assault.  Between one and five and between one and six is the survivor of rape or attempted rape.  Those numbers are actually probably higher but this is due to self-reporting, and a lot of women feel shame so they don’t come forward.  So when people make–when men make those comments, it’s not crazy for us or irrational for us to think, “Am I in danger right now?  Is this something that can escalate?”  Because it does escalate often and it’s not fair for us to have to exist in this world of–like you said–defusing bombs and trying to figure out what they mean.  Is this a serious threat?  Am I safe here?  What can I do to make sure that I’m seen as a human being without putting myself in danger?

Rebecca: That really does explain a difference and so then when we’re in this church culture where we’re in a society where women are the victims of men more often than the other way around because of…

Meghan: It’s actually 99% of perpetrators are men, 99%.

Rebecca: So then we’re in a church culture that teaches men part of your manliness, your God-given maleness is to be sexually bent, to be sexually deviant in this way.  I’m not saying…

Sheila: That’s actually a quote from Al Mohler and Gary Thomas.

Rebecca: That’s what I was going to say.  That is actually a quote from Al Mohler and Gary Thomas is that men are sexually broken.  Men are not able to be sexually healthy.  That’s what they say because men are so visual.  They’re so sexually focused.  They just are naturally going to objectify women.  Then what happens if you’re a woman who’s in that church and that’s what you’re hearing?  So then all the “Christian” men around you feel totally justified spiritually to tell you what they think about your body.  The thing is that in church it’s not, “Oh, nice rack.”  That’s not what they say.  What they say is, “Just so you know, that blouse might make the men stumble.”  What they men is, “Oh, titties.”  That’s what they mean, and that’s what we hear, right?  Oh, that skirt is a little short.  It’s like, “Oh, you’re trying to look up my skirt.  Okay, you’re looking at my legs.”

Meghan: It’s also happening at age 12.  They’re doing this to children. 

Rebecca: Yep.

Meghan: Children.  That’s the first time I was reprimanded for something I was wearing.  I was 13.  It was like not even crossing my mind that I could in any way be sexual.  It was just so foreign to me.

Rebecca: Because you weren’t.

Meghan: Right.  I was existing in a body.  I just–it’s so predatory.

Sheila: I don’t think men understand that.  You think about the stereotypical young woman walking by the construction thing, and all the guys are whistling at her.  The guys think they’re giving a compliment.  What the girl is thinking is, “Can I run fast enough?”

Rebecca: Yeah, and the girl is thinking there is now five men who are looking at me sexually.  What happens if they all decide to come at me at once?

Sheila: Yep, and it’s not a safe thing.  So that’s point one.  I want to move on to point two.  When we define male sexuality as objectifying women and when we define this as being God-given, like Stephen Arterburn says in Every Man’s Battle, the reason for sexual sin, we got there naturally simply by being male.  Men just don’t have that Christian view of sex.  So those are actual quotes.  So when we define male sexuality as this objectification, then what we can get is a lot of male authors telling us far too much that we never wanted to know about themselves.

Rebecca: Yeah, because sexuality becomes something that you put on someone else, right?  This is something that I will enact on you because I’m a man, right?  That’s how we talk about sexuality so we get quotes such as…

Sheila: Well, here let me just read you this from Sheet Music.

Rebecca: Yeah, I know you have it.

Sheila: This is Keven Leman in Sheet Music.  “For those women who want to serve up a special treat for their husbands, let’s talk about making Mr. Happy smile.  Mr. Happy likes to be kissed.  Nothing puts a smile on his face like a loving wife’s oral caress.”  I just want to say that I did not consent to know what Keven Leman calls his penis.

Rebecca: No, but we all know.  We all know about Mr. Happy.  It’s just so–also can I just say that is the cringiest thing.  Not even on a morally let’s talk about the societal implications, but just that whole passage is the creepiest, cringiest thing that I think I have ever read.

Meghan: Yeah, I really don’t need to know what you call your penis.

Rebecca: No.

Meghan: I don’t need to know your sexual preferences.  It also just drives me crazy because I don’t think he–I mean I haven’t read Sheet Music, but does he ever say how to please his wife like Mrs.–I don’t know.

Sheila: He actually does.

Meghan: He does?

Sheila: He does talk about that although it’s creepy as well.

Rebecca: It’s also creepy.  It’s no less creepy.  It’s all like, “Touch the tender little friend.  Do a little dance on her tender little friend with your fingers.”

Meghan: Okay.

Rebecca: I’m just like, “Just call it a clit.  It’s fine.”  Let’s not…

Meghan: What does he call it?

Rebecca: …infantilize–he calls it tender little friend.

Sheila: Tender little friend.

Rebecca: So we’re going to infantilize women, and it’s just a whole thing.

Sheila: Yes, because there’s also that element of it too, right?  This infantilization of women which is we did a focus group when we were writing The Great Sex Rescue about that Mr. Happy passage.  A lot of women said it sounded like a pedophilic Mr. Rogers.  It was just really disgusting.  That was just the vibe.

Rebecca: Like a puppet show.  Here’s Mr. Happy.

Sheila: But then there’s–let me read you.  This is the opening to Every Man’s Battle.  So this is the story that opens the book, and I have read this before.

Rebecca: It’s offensive so just letting people know.  It’s offensive.

Sheila: Yeah, and I’ll probably skip part of it just because I don’t want to read erotic material.  Again this is a book about how to stop lusting supposedly.

Meghan: Okay.

Sheila: “My eyes locked onto this goddess-like blond, rivulets of sweat cascading down her tanned body as she ran at a purposeful pace.  Her jogging outfit if it could be called that in those days before sports bras and spandex was actually a skimpy bikini.  As she approached on my left, two tiny triangles of tie-dyed fabric struggled to contain her ample bosom.”

Meghan: Okay.

Sheila: Then it goes on.  “I can’t tell you what her face looked like.  Nothing above her neckline registered with me that morning.  My eyes feasted on this banquet of glistening flesh.”

Meghan: Oh my gosh.  That’s like literally just treating her as an object.  She’s not even a human being.  She’s flesh to you.

Rebecca: She doesn’t even have a face to him.

Sheila: Then in Every Young Man’s Battle so their companion book for teen boys, they talk about the pair of bouncing breasts that mosey by.

Rebecca: That’s how they describe a woman, a person.

Meghan: So I think it’s not only telling boys or men that it’s okay to see women as objects.  It’s also saying if you don’t see women this way, then there’s something wrong with you.

Rebecca: You’re not a man.

Meghan: You’re not a man.  You’re less sexually voracious.  You’re not as masculine.  If you’re not seeing women as objects to consume and not even seeing their face, then there’s probably something wrong with your masculinity.

Rebecca: When I read this kind of thing from Every Man’s Battle and I think about this evangelical culture that you were talking about how it encourages the same kinds of things that you’ve experienced where men just come up and comment on your body, like totally entitled, it just feels like a form of sexual exhibitionism.  It’s almost like this fetish, this kink of getting off on other people seeing your kink, like what you’re into.  It is a thing that a lot of men are really into, and that’s why flashing happens.  I do wonder if a lot of this writing is kind of the equivalent of evangelical flashers where it’s like the idea of getting to shock other people sexually makes you feel powerful.

Sheila: I think there’s another thing that could be at play.  See what you both think of this–which is that in the secular world the way that you prove your manhood is by conquests, right?  So you have multiple sexual partners.  You have the notches on the bedframe, however you want to say it, right?  In the Christian world, we’re not allowed to have conquests because you’re only supposed to ever sleep with your wife, and so the only way that we could do this is by showing that even though I’m not sleeping with all these women, I have a really strong libido and attention for all these women.  So lust becomes your way of showing that you’re a man because you can’t sleep with all these women, but I can lust after all these women.

Meghan: Right, I would think that’s definitely true.

Rebecca: Yeah.

Meghan: I think it’s a way of showing libido and sexual prowess.  Yeah, I think so.  Then in all of the evangelical books like we just read Captivating which you already talked about, but one of the things that he literally says is that women were put on Earth to arouse Adam, like that was their words–is arousing Adam.  He paints these pictures of how–like for example, there’s a guy in World War II that came home from war.  He had a nurse, and she had met all of his nursing needs like wrapping his wounds or whatever.  She’s like, “Is there anything else I can do for you?”  He’s like, “Yeah, can you just put on–can I just watch you put on lipstick?”  I remember reading that because the way they talk about it in the book is this is just how men are.  He just needed to watch her put on lipstick.  That’s so creepy.

Rebecca: It’s disgusting.

Meghan: It’s so creepy.  It’s objectifying.  She’s not there to get you off.  She’s there to take care of your wounds or whatever.  She’s a nurse.  I think this is why women can’t go anywhere.  Like the home healthcare nurse.  Or when I was working the voting polls or when I was a teller or any time, we can’t exist.  We’re always being sexualized, and it’s like men are trying to prove some kind of power or how masculine they are by showing us that they have a libido.  I think a lot of that even has been trained into them, telling them, “You have to feel this way as a man, and if you don’t, you’re less masculine.”

Sheila: I think for sure.  What I wish is that men who did this–and authors who wrote like this–understood the effect that it has on the women who read it.  We’ve talked about how to write a book about sex without being creepy before on podcasts, and we’ve talked about how some authors have mentioned how much they like breasts for instance, right?

Rebecca: There’s just a problem though when we can tell whether or not an author is a boob or butt guy.  We can tell you for each of them because they all let you know.  It’s like I don’t need to know.

Sheila: But if I know that you like breasts, then do I want to be in the same room with you because I’m going to feel like if your eyes go anywhere near me, then you’re thinking about my breasts?  I should not know about these people’s sexual preferences.  I’ve been working on this blog for–I don’t know–15 years.  The Great Sex Rescue has been–this whole project has been three years in the making, and I am pretty sure that no one on my team knows anything about my sexual preferences or my husband’s.

Rebecca: Nope, nope.  We have a lot of very strict boundaries that are not difficult to not cross, guys.

Sheila: Yeah, but it’s uncomfortable.  It’s uncomfortable, and I don’t know how to get men to understand this.  Meghan, what would you say to the guy who is thinking, “Well, I am just giving a compliment”?

Meghan: It’s not a compliment especially when you think of the way that it–if we’re talking about evangelical culture, we have been taught that men are visual creatures, that they’re sexually fantasizing about you–which is obviously wildly uncomfortable.  We’ve also been told it’s really, really hard for men to control themselves.  We’ve also been told it’s our responsibility to control men’s lust by the way we dress.  But the thing is we can’t control that.  It doesn’t matter how we dress.  We’re going to be objectified, and so what I want men to know is what they might think is an innocent comment, it’s carrying a lot of baggage about am I safe with you?  Are you going to harm me?  How do I know this is not a threat or something I want to do to you in the future?  How do I know if you’re a safe person?  We’re having to navigate like what do we report and what do we not report?  What do we fight back about?  What do we not fight back against?  I remember when I was a teller at a bank.  I had this customer who was married.  He was way older than me.  I was like 22 at the time, and he was very well into his 60s.  He would tell me that I was the sexiest teller there, and he was clearly married.  I would try and ignore his comments, and he wouldn’t let me do anything until I would thank him for objectifying me.  That man–I didn’t know–because I knew that sexual harassment was against our bank’s policy.  I knew I could report it, but you’re constantly–“Is that a harmless comment?   Is this sexual harassment?  Am I actually safe?  Is he going to follow me?  Is he going to follow me after work?  Is this an indication that he’s a predator?  Or is this just something he says?”  But the way he made me say thank you made me think this is some kind of power trip to him, and so we’re constantly battling this.  Is this sexual harassment?  Is this something I need to report?  Is this something I need to fight back against?  Then if we do report it, then we’re being told, “Oh, he didn’t mean anything by it.”  For example, I had a chiropractor who was making–I didn’t think the comments were inappropriate at first until I repeated them back to him.  He told me to whisper.  That’s when I knew that he clearly thought that what–he was saying something about my muscles and how he can–it could have been normal, but it wasn’t until I repeated it back to him that he asked me to whisper that I knew something was wrong.  So I went to a different chiropractor because that was really creepy.  He would also ask, “I would like to take you to the gym and show you these moves,” and whatever.  I stopped seeing him, and I went to a different chiropractor.  They were like, “Why did you leave that one chiropractor?”  I’m like, “I think he said some inappropriate things to me.”  They said, “Oh, that’s probably in your head.”  So women are constantly met with how do I protect myself because we do know with doctors–Dr. Larry Nassar.  Women getting abused.  Children, girls getting abused from their doctors because they think, “We trust these men and what they’re doing.”  Then they’re like, “Well, why didn’t you do anything?”  Well, because when we do do something, we’re told that it was in our head and that we were making it up.  So we’re constantly in the situation of I think I’m actually in danger.  My gut is telling me I’m in danger, but if I do something about this, then I’m making a big deal out of nothing.  It’s really just this double bind.  So you might think you’re making an innocent comment, but you’re telling us that you–it’s a power play.  It’s saying I’m entitled to your space.  You’re entitled to know my thoughts.  You’re entitled to know my sexual preferences about your body, and there’s nothing you can do about it because what are you going to do?  It’s putting this obligation on women to try and discern.  It’s just so much.  It’s defusing a bomb.  It’s really not fair.  It’s really not okay, and I’ve had it from the gamut of doctors to pastors to people that I’m serving at my work.  It’s just–it’s unsafe.  A lot of us have been sexually assaulted, and so we don’t know–how do we know that you’re not going to do that to us?

Sheila: I want to say it goes beyond assault too because what you’re saying is really important.  Women need to feel safe, and often we don’t feel safe.  But there’s also another element to it which gets into a bit of the power thing which is how to put women in their place.

Meghan: Yes.

Sheila: When you make a sexual comment, what you’re doing is you’re putting women in their place.  You’re saying you will always be below me.

Meghan: Right.

Sheila: You will always be less than me.  I remember reading a story.  I think it was about Harvey Weinstein, but it was in the Hollywood context anyway of a woman who had written this amazing screenplay.  She actually got an interview with I think it was Harvey Weinstein.  This was her life’s work.  She was a young woman in her twenties.  This was her life’s work.  She was so proud of it.  She went in thinking that she was going to get present this and instead he made these sexual comments.  She got away.  She wasn’t assaulted, but that story in particular made me cry because I’m just thinking, “She did all of this work, and then he just reduced her to sex.”  He was saying all of your work–your mind doesn’t matter.  Your intelligence doesn’t matter.  What you have to offer the world doesn’t matter.  I will always only see you as a sex object.  That is the message that I am getting from these male authors and from so many people in church is I will always only see you as a sex object.  It’s a way to put women in their place.

Meghan: Absolutely.

Rebecca: The hard thing is when you have this message from evangelical leaders in a culture that already does it, it’s like the church had a choice, right?  We could call men to actually be like Christ and not objectify.  I’m sorry.  Christ would not have objectified a woman.  He didn’t.  We could actually call men to be like Christ, or we could simply say being like Christ is really hard for men, and so why don’t we just keep men in power and make sure the women get in line so that the men don’t ever actually have to grow up and never actually have to develop?  We’re going to call it good.  We’re going to say this is how God designed masculinity.  This is how God designed libido.  A woman’s design was to arouse her Adam.  That is disgusting.  The only thing that I can think of is that verse.  “Woe to those who call evil and good evil.”

Meghan: We also know that Jesus actually told men who struggle with lust to pluck out their own eyes.  This is now–Jesus was like, “No, this is not her fault.  This is on you.”  We also see this like Jesus putting his body on the line to defend women like for example the adulterous woman to protect them.  It’s interesting because I just had my friend, Ben Kramer, which I’m sure you know who he is.  He’s a great Tweeter.  He’s a reverend.  I’m on the podcast to talk about this, but all of the biblical examples of masculinity he was given was like David who is a rapist.  I mean I think we all know that, that he used his power to rape Bathsheba and then kill her husband.  Those were his examples of masculinity, but he was never taught that Jesus was an example of masculinity that he should follow which I think again illustrates you’re still trying to put this harmful patriarchal narrative on biblical masculinity when Jesus was a man.  We see him telling men to pluck out their own eyes if they’re struggling with lust.  He’s clearly putting the responsibility on men and not on women to control those thoughts and actions.

Sheila: So good.  So, Meghan, tell us–give us a little bit of a lowdown on your book.  I know we’ve had you on before, but just give us a synopsis and where people can find you.

Meghan: Yeah, so I was raised in evangelical culture which I’m sure many people are familiar with.  I was actually a missionary that worked with sexually exploited women, and I was completely bought into evangelical culture.  Even though it felt wrong to me, I was willing to put aside my convictions of this doesn’t feel–like for example, biblical manhood and womanhood–I was willing to put that aside because I loved Jesus so much.  It wasn’t until I started working with women around the globe who had been sexually exploited or who had been survivors of female genital mutilation that I started to notice a tie between patriarchal culture, this idea that men should be in charge and powerful all the time, and women’s abuse.  So I started asking more questions.  I started doing more research.  I feel like it all came to a head one day when I was talking a john, a man who was buying a woman he had sexually exploited.  I was asking him why he was there.  He said that he came to get the respect that he deserved, that as a man he was entitled to respect, and women in the United States–we were in the Philippines–these women who were being exploited–and I could tell you the most horrific stories–he said were raised right and knew how to give men the respect that they deserved.  He went on this really long tirade about it.  I think we’ve all heard a similar speech.  I’m like where have I heard this before?  Like this is so familiar, but this is such a different context, I had trouble placing it.  Then it hit me that he sounded just like all these evangelical pastors, all of these evangelical books I had growing up, and it hit me that the same motivation that this man has to sexually exploit this woman is the same motivation that men who are preaching apparently God’s word had.  That’s when I really realized that I can’t be complicit in the system anymore.  I can’t say that men being in power over women is an okay or good or godly thing, and I started doing research, realized that sexual abuse and sexual assault is actually as we’ve discussed many times on this podcast is about power and control, and that a church that is teaching men to desire power and control is actually very much contributing to the problem that we have of women abuse.  So it’s a memoir.  That’s the book.  I go into a lot more research there, but it was obviously this life-changing moment.  Ever since then, I’ve been dead set on dismantling Christian patriarchy because I do not think it’s of God, and I think it’s really harmful and really damaging.  It says in the Bible that we can judge a tree by its fruit, and the fruit of patriarchy is abuse and oppression and harm.  So we got to cut his tree down because it’s bad.

Sheila: Amen, amen, and so I will put a link to Women Rising: Learning to Listen, Finding our

Rebecca: Reclaiming.

Sheila: Reclaiming Our Voice.

Meghan: You almost got it.

Sheila: I will put a link in to the four-part podcast series you did on Captivating so people can listen in to that too.  So thanks so much for joining us, Meghan, and I’ll put a link to your Instagram as well.  I love your Instagram.  I’m always on there.

Meghan: All right, thank you.

Rebecca: Well, that is all that we have for you this week.  Thank you so much for tuning into The Bare Marriage Podcast.  We will have all the links to the things that we mentioned in this podcast available in the post that goes along with this episode.  You will be able to find a link to that in the podcast description notes as well.  Make sure that if you like this, you rate it five stars wherever you listen to podcast episodes.  If you want to let us know personally your thoughts on anything we discussed, just head on over to that post that you’ll find linked and you can leave us a comment.  We will interact with you there.  I hope you have a wonderful rest of the week, and until next time, we’ll see you later.

Timeline of the Podcast

0:10 It’s research deep dive month!
1:20 What do visual studies show between the genders?
11:45 Socialization differences between men and women
19:40 “But are they asking for it?”
29:40 Church culture talking about this
37:15 Meghan joins to talk all things visual temptation, and how we need to talk about this better

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What if women aren’t dressing to get attention–but the men who accuse them of doing so are?

Common belief is that men look  more, and women dress to get men to look more. In other words, women know what they’re doing–they like the attention! 

Turns out, nope. 

But this study also found some incredibly interesting (and scary) correlations between people who engage in a lot of body gazing and predatory outcomes. 

It’s even more horrifying when you realize how many of our evangelical resources encourage the very mindset that this study found is linked to sexual assault, victim blaming, and sexual objectification.

We need to talk about this as a church. Listen to me and Connonr go through the study!

Then Meghan joined us to talk about how normalizing men looking affects women in the real world. 

We recorded with Meghan a few months back because she was expecting a baby and we didn’t want to bother her during the newborn stage but we really wanted to talk to her about this! 

Meghan talks about the daily objectifications that women face, about how difficult (or even impossible) it can be to feel truly safe out in public as a woman, and why this kind of mentality that all men struggle with lust, or men are just visual, actually gives men permission to objectify and ogle. 

How are we contributing to unsafe workplaces, increased fear, and sexual harrassment by what we’re saying in churches? 

And seriously, what is going on with the authors who write this stuff?!

This is a really great episode, guys, and I hope you enjoy it! 

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Things Mentioned in the Podcast

Listen to this podcast about the research behind who is actually dressing for attention--and how our church teachings may make it MORE LIKELY that men become predatory rather than safe. Church, we can do better!!

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Rebecca Lindenbach

Author at Bare Marriage

Rebecca Lindenbach is a psychology graduate, Sheila’s daughter, co-author of The Great Sex Rescue, and the author of Why I Didn’t Rebel. Working alongside her husband Connor, she develops websites focusing on building Jesus-centered marriages and families. Living the work-from-home dream, they take turns bouncing their toddler son and baby daughter, and appeasing their curmudgeonly blind rescue Yorkshire terrier, Winston. ENTJ, 9w8

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18 Comments

  1. anon today

    Depending on the situation (being solo, in certain locations, etc.) I sometimes notice men’s faces more from a, “Hey, remember this guy’s face in case I have to try to identify him later.” Height/build only narrow down the pool of guys so much- facial features are far more specific and identifiable for a police report. I doubt many of the guys who do look at women’s faces have that same thought process going.

    Every time I hear or read some of the disgusting passages from these books, I am so turned off I know it will be several days before I can regain any libido (which can be quite high). Seriously, erotica (I don’t read it but had some exposure to it years ago) wasn’t really creepy because it was about two characters, not an author sharing his sexual preferences. These authors’ words are like a bucket of ice water on me.

    Am I missing the link to Meghan’s 4 part series on Captivating?

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      YUP. I agree with you entirely.

      And about the link, yes it’s missing. I don’t know where it is, and I forgot to get it from my mom before she left for vacation! It’ll be up ASAP though when she has internet again! 🙂

      Reply
      • Jennifer

        Thanks! I was looking for that link too.

        Reply
  2. CMT

    Great conversation, there is a lot here!

    At first I thought it was surprising that the study found men doing more attention-getting behaviors than women, because that goes against so many stereotypes. But then I thought about it and I wonder if that just seems counterintuitive is because men and women generally use different behaviors to draw attention to their bodies, and we tend to perceive those behaviors differently. We probably interpret the intent of a woman wearing a lot of makeup quite differently than we do a man who works out a lot, even though they might be doing those things for similar reasons.

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Such a good point, CMT! Especially since we might THINK a woman wears certain things/makeup to attract attention but she might just be doing it for fun!

      Reply
      • Angharad

        I’m sure it would be a huge shock to the men who assume all women are dressing to impress them, but the first time I even thought about a man’s opinion on my clothing was after I got engaged, when I picked out a jumper to wear on a date because my fiance had commented how much he liked it. And the first time I ever bought clothing particularly with a man in mind was when I was shopping for our honeymoon! When I was single, I always wore what I liked and was comfortable in – I never saw the point of dressing up to attract a man anyway, because why would you want him to be attracted to something that isn’t the real you? Much better to go through life ‘as you are’, and then anyone who does get interested is interested in who you really are, rather than some dolled up version of yourself.

        Reply
  3. Amy

    We Too by Mary DeMuth, chapter 9 (page 148): “Novelist Margaret Atwood once asked a male friend in what ways men feel threatened by women. His reply? ‘They are afraid women will laugh at them.’ When she reversed the question, asking what about men threatened women, women responded, ‘We’re afraid of being killed.’ The evangelical church, saturated in male leadership, simply may not understand the fear half of the congregants suffer–daily.”

    Reply
    • Elissa

      If you’re in a situation where every day you fear being killed by a man, maybe you should make some changes in your life and get out of that situation? And maybe it isn’t healthy to normalize it when a woman is in that situation. Never in all my life (only 26 years, but still…) have I felt seriously threatened by, much less feared being killed by, any man I met or encountered. I am not trying to suggest that my experience is the norm, only that it is neither true nor helpful to assume that all women experience harassment on a daily basis. It is possible to be part of a community where you do not feel threatened by the men around you, so let’s make that the goal!

      Reply
      • Rebecca Lindenbach

        Elissa, it’s not just an issue of community, though. When I lived downtown Ottawa I had a WONDERFUL community. But when I was being stalked on the bus by a man I didn’t know? Terrifying. I’ve never felt at risk for my life in my community either. But in my city? In the rest of the world? Yep.

        I’m so glad you haven’t ever felt at risk. But honestly, you are in the minority, and so I agree to make it the goal to not feel fear but it also is very frustrating to be told it’s somehow our fault that we were put in that position.

        Reply
        • Elissa

          I certainly understand that the vast majority of women experience some level of harassment or feel threatened at some point in their life, but I was responding specifically to the quote above from We Too where the author makes the statement that pastors don’t understand that half their congregation faces a fear of being killed by men DAILY.
          Earlier this week you ran a post showing research that viewing the world in general as bad can actually be harmful to people because then they don’t recognize actual red flags. My comment was along that line, making the case that women having their lives threatened by a man every day is not an accurate reflection of reality, and causes a person actually in that situation to not realize that they can leave and find a community where that is not the case. Would you agree?

          Reply
          • Sarah

            The Atwood quote doesn’t mention ‘daily’ actually. Any Google source will show this (Goodreads is a good source that has the exact quote). I think it can be a daily reality for some women depending on where they live, and more of an occasional worry for some, but the point is that for 99.5% of women, it’s an everpresent fear lurking in the back of our minds, based not on our flawed perception of risk but on the quantifiable, proven risk of male violence that women experience. If I cast my eye down a news site on any given day I can find 3-5 different stories of a woman being killed by a man. The BBC has some helpful stats https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/explainers-56365412.amp

            This is where it differs from the kind of fear-based mentality that Rebecca’s other post talked about. That was more about perceived fears: this is about fears that are based in reality.

            I recall when I lived with one of my brothers and he decided to walk to the supermarket late one afternoon in winter. I was worried about him walking back in the dark along the unlit country path that led to our home, so I drove to the supermarket to pick him up. He was confused and asked ‘why would it be a problem to walk back in the dark?’ That’s when I realised that our lived realities were fundamentally different.

          • Elissa

            Sarah, I did not say that Atwood said that. I said that Mary DeMuth said that in her analysis of Atwood’s conversation, listed in the excerpt quoted in the comment above mine.
            I understand what you are saying about the difference between perception based fear and reality based fear, but I’m not sure that lines up with the statistics in the article you cited. That article shows that compared to men, women are much more likely to be killed by a close friend or family member than a stranger or acquaintance. If the fear of being killed by a man were purely reality based, wouldn’t women be more afraid of the men in their close circles than random strangers?

          • Anna

            Loved it. Thank you Rebecca, Connor, Sheila.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yes, I agree. It is daily. I think of growing up in Toronto, and always sitting near the bus driver, always walking with my keys between my fingers, always choosing the subway car with the driver.

          Reply
          • Sarah

            Elissa,

            Apologies. I was going right to the source of the quote.

            That the article I found cited stats about IPV backs up my point further. Those at risk of IPV are more likely to fear their partners more than men on the street, because they have proven evidence that those men are violent. The stats the article gives re women’s fear of assault from strangers would also seem to point to the conclusion that that fear is justified.

            More than that, I’d like to ask you to consider why it is that you’re pushing back against this? It may be your experience that you don’t face that daily fear but lots of women do. I’d start with Meghan Tschantz’s book if you would like to explore how systemic violence against women really is. I’m reading it now, and finding it very interesting.

      • Janey

        I don’t fear being hurt by my husband, but i do fear having him laugh at me…or brush off my concerns, which might be even worse.

        Reply
  4. Estelle

    Growing up, the only men who commented freely on my appearance proved themselves unsafe.

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Say it louder for the people in the back!

      Reply

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