First, I want to preface this blog by stating that I write it from the presupposition that the Bible is completely true and it is the authority I seek to submit to. My desire is not to take a given subject and form my own opinion on it and then use the Bible in support of my own agenda and beliefs. Rather, my aim is for the Bible to be my starting point. Therefore, in this blog my definition of sexual sin comes from The Guy who said that even looking at someone lustfully is the same as committing adultery with them (Matthew 5:28).
In a sexualized culture, particularly after scandals like the Ashley Madison hack and the devastating secrets it revealed about “unlikely” people, I have seen many blogs-both from Christian and non Christian perspectives- on the topic. On the spectrum of sexual “wrong” and “right” people have different ideas about what falls into each category. For example, many would deny that porn is sinful. Some would also deny that it is relationally or personally wrong or harmful. [Side note: I know partners who have felt pain and separation caused by porn, even in cases where they “consented” to it. I also know those who have felt personal shame because of looking at porn, even though they would not call it sinful. To them, it is an enslaving addiction that has negative effects and they wish it was not such a part of their lives.] There are some who hold to porn being healthy and safe but draw the line at a physical affair. To them, cheating is neither healthy nor safe.
But, no matter what you place in these categories of “okay” and “not okay”, we can agree these topics are being talked about and have much relevance. They-from lust, to porn, to affairs and everything in between- have cultural, societal, and relational implications. They don’t just affect faceless statistics; they affect the people we see on a daily basis, and likely in some form or another, the face we see staring back at us in the mirror.
While I have read many thought provoking and helpful perspectives on these topics, something has stuck out to me: the overwhelming amount of people who address it, do so as a “guy thing.” I think that this approach leads to two harmful reactions.-
1. Females– Sadly, in the church as well as out, many sexual acts (like porn) are “secret sins.” I am convinced that there are Christians who have never told a single person that they daily give into lustful thoughts and desires, that they do not go a day or even a few hours without looking at some form of porn, or that they are on the brink of cheating on their spouse. Thankfully, I am in many circles where these sort of things are being addressed. Here there is open and honest accountability. But, sexual sin still has a stigma and tendency to be particularly secretive and hidden. How much more isolated and estranged do women feel, then, to primarily hear this being talked about only in the context of males. There are women in deep secrecy and shame because (even if it is implicit) people act and speak like it is abnormal and unheard of for females to struggle in this area, too. I think if both women and men were addressed more frequently in this topic it would be a step towards females coming out of darkness and into the light about these things they have kept locked inside. These things that have weighed them down and made them feel alone. These things that they are convinced no one would “get.”
I understand that women are not “victims” in this matter while men willfully choose and are held responsible. I do not intend to defend women to the point of excusing. When gender is taken away, the same issue at its core is being addressed. But, in order to better fight this prevalent sin and care for hearts well, we must be mindful that this is not a gender-specific thing. We must be sensitive to struggling women and girls, too. We must not subtly or overtly send the message that only certain problems, addictions, and sins are “welcomed” among females.
*Women: Please do not believe the lie that you are all alone. Do not be afraid to come into the light and confess. You do not have to live in isolation and shame.
2. Males– I obviously do not know what it is like to be a guy. As hard as I have tried I cannot fully comprehend the way many of them are naturally wired to think. So, I do not say what I do to dismiss the real and ever-present temptations that many men face. I respect so many guys who fight daily, or even hourly or minutely, to have control over their sexual thoughts and what they do with their desires. I have seen men in my own life go to extreme measures to “pluck out their eye” (Mark 9:47) when it causes them to sin (unplugging TV cord at hotel when alone, having limited or no internet access on phone or computer, intentionally looking down during certain movie scenes, etc.) So, to you who engage in this daily battle for whatever the reason might be- your fight is not in vain and the results will be greater than the instant and momentary sexual satisfaction.
With this being said, what I see as being harmful for men in treating these things as gender-specific is the idea that they are victims who “can’t help it”…that they are “just being boys.” This is so harmful because it negates a man’s responsibility for his own thoughts and actions. It lessens the seriousness of the sin and it’s real consequences. It causes women to be degraded and to think it is their fault. This not only leads to a dismal of sin and wedge between men and women, but it also leads to a hopeless attitude. An attitude and mindset that says, “this is something I did not choose, cannot help, and therefore cannot beat.”
*Guys: Please do not think you are less accountable because you are a guy. Do not fall into the trap of thinking it is not your responsibility or fault. Do not think this is an unbeatable struggle . And then, take heart and fight!
I believe that there are logical, practical, and societal reasons for all people to fight lust, porn, affairs, etc. But there should be an added fuel for the fight for Christian’s who genuinely trust that God the creator and definer of all things fully knows what is best. Christian’s who are convinced He deeply cares about the good of His people and that out of His wisdom and love says such things are to be rejected because they are not ultimately good. Christian’s who believe that they are no longer slaves to sin’s control and power because of relying on Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for forgiveness and freedom.
Strength, grace, and victory are given and can be continually applied when a dead heart is made new by genuinely trusting in Christ. This happens in an active, powerful, and literal way. Even over sins that have the strongest holds in our life. This is the hope for both men and women alike.