Recently a pastor from Utah exposed his view of women and his pornographic mindset with his post on modesty, as he blamed women for his own propensity to sin and objectify their beauty.
I have had some compassion for him since 15 years ago I was that pastor. It was much easier to make my own propensity to sin against women a women’s issue rather than my own. Simply, to blame the object of my desire rather than to wrestle with my desire to dominate and conquer. To blame a woman’s outfit meant I did not have to look deeply at my own deep shame or my history of pornography abuse.
It reminds me of Adam blaming Eve and attempting to escape responsibility for his own poor choices to defy God. Genesis 3:12 says, “The man replied, ‘It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.’” (NLT) I can hear Adam working so hard to not take ownership of his own sin and looking for any scapegoat he can find. Just like in this type of post, conveying it’s the woman’s fault for posting any pictures of themselves. No. Sorry, Brian couldn’t be more incorrect. Women, post away! All significant life events, such as birth, weight loss, hope, and fears, share your beauty and your sorrow. It is solely up to us men what to do or not do with those images, or clothes you wear or don’t wear.
A woman’s body is not the problem! But how we choose to engage her body is what can be problematic. I believe a woman could fully expose herself nude to me, and it makes absolutely ZERO difference to my integrity or lack thereof. I have the choice to sin or to not sin. I could choose to devour her beauty or honor her beauty at that moment.
Theologian Marg Mowczko writes about modesty and the apostle Paul’s stance saying,
What does the New Testament say about women covering up and dressing modestly? Practically nothing. No woman is ever described by her appearance in the New Testament. However, it is evident that some women in the Ephesian church were wearing expensive clothes. Paul’s instructions about modesty in 1 Timothy 2:9 were written in response to these problematic rich women who were wearing luxurious clothing, had fancy hairstyles, and were flaunting their wealth. This verse has nothing to do with covering up cleavage or thighs. (More on the context of 1 Timothy 2:9 here.) A few chapters later, Paul tells Timothy he should encourage or appeal to “older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity” (1 Timothy 5:2). Paul places the onus on Timothy in how he should relate to women and maintain moral purity. There is no caveat here that passes some of the responsibility of Timothy’s purity onto the women in the Christian community at Ephesus.
Clearly, Paul gets it. This is about personal responsibility not about blaming women, the concept of modesty written by Paul was about women flaunting their material wealth, not their body parts.
So back to the hypothetical woman who randomly exposes herself to me, does she have issues that need to be addressed? Absolutely, but that is up to her if she wants to be healthy or not. My question as a therapist would be what is she getting out of exposing herself in this way? How does this type of behavior serve her? Has she internalized pornified messages that this type of behavior is how she will be seen and loved? Yet, that is not the point of this article. Those questions are up to her to answer, the point is, it is completely up to me what I do or don’t do with her body. Will I fantasize and masturbate to her image later? Will I objectify her to make myself feel more powerful than her because I hate the power her beauty has over me? If I have a pornographic mindset and have thus developed a pornographic style of relating then I will surely do those things because that is how I have trained my mind and my body to respond. I have learned to “take” and “conquer” beauty rather than delight and honor in beauty. What does this practically look like? I think of Mt. Rainier in Seattle, seldom was she out in her fullness, yet during the three months of sun and clear skies, she was stunning. She towered over the city and was awe-inspiring. Her beauty was glorious and evoked worship toward the God who created it. But her beauty could not be taken with you, even pictures would never do the mountain justly. Now compare this to a woman who is jogging by on the street and you look her up and down and take her beauty without her consent and use her body for your own selfish pleasure and arousal fulfillment. What do you do with her beauty? The first example is a posture of honor toward the beauty that you are experiencing, it leads us to God. The second posture is objectification and devouring. This will only lead to death and heartache, for both the victim and the perpetrator. Which posture do you personally most demonstrate in your engagement with women? Which posture do you think the original modesty meme demonstrates?
May we have the courage to engage our own arousal of beauty (remembering arousal is not bad, we are meant to be aroused by beauty, it is what we do with that arousal that can be an issue). It is time men take full ownership of our own relationship with beauty and how we engage and scapegoat women for our own unaddressed brokenness. It is well worth the high cost. I leave you with this meme to bring you some deep joy as we close.
Let it be.
Also damn you, donuts, damn you.