Before going further, let us be
very “Up-Front” with you…MyChainsAreGone.org exists to help people overcome bondage to pornography. The MCAG website is Radical and Revolutionary. It really is… … but you might miss that if you just glance at it.
Just How Radical Is MCAG?At MCAG, we believe that most Christians are blindly committed to a pornographic view the human body. That view is a lie. And only the truth will set us free (John 8:32). This blog’s purpose is to:
- Highlight the radical, life-changing truths presented at MCAG.
- Challenge falsehoods about the body you’ve always assumed to be true.
- Give you an opportunity to comment, challenge, question, or inquire.
- Provide additional content that doesn’t appear in the pages of MCAG.
When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic. — Dresden James (pseudonym for Donald James Wheal, British writer, 1931-2008)The raving is about to begin. Welcome to the MCAG Blog!
Opening the Door to Your True IdentityIt’s basic physiology that an orgasmic response is functional in the male and female bodies of many animals. But the animal bodies of humans have an amazingly elevated status in creation. We surpass all other creatures, including angels, because we embody the image of the Creator. While a sex drive and the capacity for sexual enjoyment are parts of our total selves, our personally integrated self-image finds fulfillment only in reflecting the One whose image we bear. In that divine reflection alone can we realize our true value and true identity as individuals and as a race. The modern church isn’t silent about the porn epidemic. But it fails both society and its many porn-addicted members by ignoring the human body’s crucial role in imaging God. That neglect is behind the many religious attempts to fight porn with woman-unfriendly solutions based on body shame. Yet the Bible’s first and foremost adjectives used for describing God’s image are not theological or psychological terms but physical ones: “male and female.” Because Christians—when it comes to women’s bodies—have generally avoided the practical implications of this divine revelation, I believe God let prophetic voices outside the church have the floor. It may shame us to say so, but those who unconsciously use His principles to denounce pornography are most often feminists. Feminist lecturers are notorious for being the loudest and most outspoken in lambasting our culture for demeaning and exploiting women by reducing them to female body parts. They urge women to rebel against this sexualization—to toss the script that has them playing the role of society’s sex toys. When feminists exhort women to see themselves wholistically—finding their self-worth in the valuable persons they truly are, not in cultural or religious patterns that treat them as sexual objects—they are unconsciously preaching God’s truth. Why do women who hear and heed this part of the feminist message find freedom? Because the truth sets people free. Humanity’s “final frontier” isn’t to explore the cosmos but to discover who we really are. From childhood to old age, the search for personal identity is life’s grandest quest. Only in a personal relationship with “I AM” Exod 3:14), who created us as His image-bearers, can the question “Who am I?” be fully answered. New birth in Christ, who is “the express image of [God’s] person,” (Heb 1:3) begins the resolution of our cosmic identity crisis. But growth in Christ means learning to have His “mind” (Phil 2:5) toward others, who also bear God’s image. If we are putting others—like porn-models—ahead of ourselves (Phil 2:3), we won’t be profiting from their degradation but praying for their deliverance. Practicing Christ’s attitude of self-denial brings a market-crash to pornography, because the economy of porn is totally driven by self-interest.
Closing the Door on a False IdentityA false self-image translates into a false lifestyle. Eve took forbidden fruit because it seemed edible, pretty, and prestigious (Gen 3:6). It promised a world of physical, visual and personal satisfaction. But in warning us about gaining “the whole world” and losing our souls, Jesus said, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it,” (Mat 16:25). By living in surrender to “the mind of Christ,” we lose only our false selves, which have been either squeezed or stretched to fit worldly patterns. In union with Jesus alone we find our true selves, our full humanity. The porn-addicted woman’s freedom comes by living out her true identity in God, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Our human self-understanding comes from being created in the imago Dei. Male and female porn addiction, and the porno-prudery that fuels it, will persist until we mentally abandon the sexually objectified view of the human body taught by our upbringing. God’s evaluation of our naked embodiment—as His “very good” divine image and sacred temple—must reign supreme in our minds and hearts. A divine perspective on human anatomy and sexuality also calls us to a Creator-honoring view of masturbation. Because almost all porn addiction includes a collateral addiction to self stimulation, porn-addicted men and women hoping to find freedom need to evaluate this controversial issue cautiously but realistically. In closing the door on a false identity, the true self in Christ must dismiss the idea that retaining an obsession is essential for emotional survival. But many cycle through transient hope and recurring guilt from a unilateral condemnation of masturbation that isn’t found in Scripture. I believe that a more realistic understanding of the body’s sexual physiology may facilitate closure with this obsessive habit. One danger described by Jesus is mental “adultery” (Mat 5:28). To “look lustfully” is an activity of the imagination. In an imitative way, masturbation spurred by lustfully visualized or fantasized human images implies this mental sin of adultery. Objectifying the imago Dei, even if only imaginatively, is not part of our Christian identity but a latent habit typical of the false self. Shut the door on it. But open a door on realism. In Christ, we remain physiological beings. God’s created the mechanics of orgasmic function to include periodic discharges of the sex drive for our sense of well-being. This psycho-physical urge is often met by nocturnal orgasms. But when marital union is absent or orgasmic dreams fail, is it right to wallow in legalistic guilt for manually addressing this God-designed need? As “male and female” in God’s image, we must live out our physiology whether or not our genitals serve their procreative and conjugal purposes. Accepting our sexual identities means thanking God for the dynamics of orgasmic function. When a physiological build-up peaks, why call its manual release a “glitch” or a “sin,” when we should be praising God for our “fearfully and wonderfully made” bodies? But when someone claims to need masturbation daily or imagines its release must be assisted with pornographic images or lustful fantasies, it’s clear the deceitful false self is still in control.
Conclusion: a New Way of SeeingMen can quit their pornographic game of solitaire by ceasing to treat the female body as a self-gratifying sexual commodity. Women who gamble at the same table can find freedom by no longer treating their bodies as slot machines for pleasure-coins minted by the porn industry. There’s no jackpot of authentic self-esteem won with porn’s “play-money.” Women must stop selling themselves short of their true value as sexually embodied persons. Also, they must strongly resist those voices that sexually objectify their femininity, even if they resound from otherwise respected and honored pulpits. In a complete change of mind (metanoia, the Biblical word for repentance), a porn-addicted woman must learn to see and treat her body as a “temple” of the Holy Spirit, “fearfully and wonderfully made” in the image of her Almighty Creator. Her sexuality and its powerful drives are part of that holy temple and image. In that divine identity alone lies her freedom from porn addiction. This closing poem conveys my strong feelings about the nature of our gender-distinctive bodies as God’s sacred territory. It is perhaps my most impassioned rebuke to society and religion for objectifying women, whose bodies were meant to reflect their Maker.
WOMANShe is woman . . . and much abused: Her lovely womb and breasts and buttocks were infused With sordid meaning, twisted thought, By vain imagination packaged, sold, and bought. A wayward culture holds her chain, And even sermons preach the sex-obsessed refrain That turns her body parts and skin Into ignition points for carnal lust and sin. Yet in her flesh, along with man, She bears the image of the Maker’s master plan For a Self-portrait, so designed That in their bodies they declare His holy mind. God’s leadership and strength is shown In shoulder breadth and muscle, for which men are known. But women’s wombs, that swell for birth, Reflect God’s own heart pregnant with creation’s worth. And in their breasts, where babies feed, We see the nurture from God’s bosom humans need. These signs laid bare in wholesome light Should launch our souls to praise God’s glory at the sight. She is woman. . . . Lord, set her free To be the temple You intended her to be. And let Your church repent her rape, By calling lewd the beauty of her shape. Since in her flesh You wish to dwell, Lord, damn these lies that make her form a path to hell. David L. Hatton, 12/31/2009 (from Poems Between Birth and Resurrection© 2013) Just as this poem expresses my heart’s true prayer, I pray this article reveals the truth that can set you free. Your freedom must begin with Jesus—the Truth Who is a Person and Who makes us God’s children by new birth. That freedom continues as Christ’s view of the body and of human sexuality affirms the sacred, gender-distinctive embodiment of both yourself and others. Believing, adopting and applying His view of reality will close your account with pornography’s fantasy world. God’s grace through the Holy Spirit is ever-present to support your decision to embrace His truth, and the pastoral team at MCAG are here to assist in whatever way we can.
Depersonalized, Then CommercializedIn good mental health, all aspects of a person are integrated. God’s plan of salvation and sanctification targets our “whole spirit and soul and body” (1 Thes 5:23). When bare bodies are objectified, it isolates them from the people who live in them. Also, disassociating gender-distinctive body parts from their owner fails to treat them as true components of personal identity. It reduces men and women to something less than their full humanity. Such a reduction is the essential groundwork for pornography’s success. While God created us “male and female” for the purpose of reproduction (Gen 1:27-28a), He also designed our reproductive anatomy to offer mutual pleasure during sexual intercourse. God blessed us with this orgasmic gift to enhance relational communion between spouses. But this physiological capacity works before marriage and beyond reproductive purposes. This means coitus can be immorally misused outside the marital bond and the orgasmic function immorally abused through pornographic fantasies. Just as objectification isolates the body from the person, so pleasurable sexual activity can become disassociated from divine intentions. This rift—between sexual thrill-seeking and God’s plan for wedded love—commercializes sexuality, turning it into a form of promiscuous pleasure-shopping. Porn is profitable only because sex sells. Objectified sexual thrill is its currency.
The Way In . . . But Why Stay In?Because secrecy surrounds involvement in pornography, some porn-addicted women believe they are alone or in a shameful minority: “Only bad girls, like me, get into such a ‘filthy’ habit.” Others may assume their stories are identical to those of all others who get hooked on pornography. But just as men get drawn into porn in a variety of ways, so do women. My research leads me to believe that most women who presently struggle with porn will resonate with at least one or more of the following scenarios. Some girls started out merely trying to satisfy natural, childhood curiosity. When families and churches failed to provide safe, wholesome avenues for familiarity with nonsexual human nudity, these girls checked out the Web. There, the porn industry filled this educational void from its own twisted agenda. With the ongoing help of pornography, a legitimate fascination with God’s magnificent artistry in the human body gradually morphed into fantasizing forbidden activities on the devil’s playground. Nothing in creation surpasses the grace and glory revealed in the embodiment of God’s image. But pornography uses the awesomely handcrafted beauty in the naked human body as a hook, distorting its glory-filled reflection, perverting its sacred display, and effectively blocking godly thoughts about it. Once captured by porn’s false image of our gender-distinctive anatomy, girls raised in prudish and legalistic environments may see no hope of escape. The shame of their sinful habits—especially when erroneously labeled as “only a male problem”—walls off any hope for help from church leaders whose unreal assumptions merely fan the flames of their shame. Sometimes it was youthful self-exploration that led adventurous girls from pleasant sensations of self-stimulation into compulsive habits associated with porn. God’s marital reason for creating the pleasure of orgasms is not canceled by their misuse. Whether they come from coitus or from masturbation, their divine design includes an elevated brain-chemical “high” that begs repeating:
Orgasm releases a dopamine-oxytocin high that has been compared to a heroin hit, and many regular users of internet porn report experiencing an almost trance-like effect that not only makes them feel oblivious to the world, but also gives them a sense of power that they don’t have in real life. “The PC becomes an erogenous zone. The more you keep trying to put porn out of your mind, the more it keeps popping back in. The brain then learns that porn is the only way to cope with anxiety. . . .” While both men and women may use pornographic images as fantasy-support for masturbation, most men can manually induce a climax without visual stimulus. Some women seek an imaginative narration beyond the visual in order to supplement their stimulation. One woman privately confided to me:
“. . . it’s generally very important to have some kind of story or text – just pictures don’t usually do anything for me, at least. And that makes it nigh impossible to masturbate without fantasizing or using porn to provide that mental component. . . . So while men may be able to orgasm just from the physical act of masturbation, I think women in general will find that far more difficult, and that greatly limits our ability to relieve our sex drives.”When a repetitive neuro-chemical reward is coupled with a woman’s heightened need for the fantasy inherent in porn, she may feel helpless in trying to break free from her addiction. Another sad scenario is where a girl’s first experience with nudity was that of having her own body sexually assaulted. Childhood’s defenseless submission to such degrading abuse can cause her to grow up feeling “dirty,” worthless, never again “normal.” But if she finds her past sexual trauma visually glamorized in pornography, the discovery might distort her memory by reinterpreting reality: “See! My experiences were typical, expected, even desirable.” This can make their porn habit a temporary “feel-good” salve to soothe the hurt of old wounds that become repressed while growing deeper. Or worse, that same girl might have falsely identified with her abuse: “Just like these girls in the videos, I gravitate toward this crap! I’m one of them!” Past sexual trauma, present sexual sin, or even the continuation of watching porn itself—while realizing its wrongness—can perpetuate her sense of defilement. She may hide this falsely adopted self-identity beneath the personal facade of “a normal girl.” Yet this carefully constructed social mask may actually be more her than her unhealed self is willing or able to believe. A woman might have been misled to feel religious shame for even having a strong sex drive—a trait mistakenly preached as only characterizing men. Sadly, this religious error may push her toward involvement with porn as a dysfunctional way to confirm her guilt-ridden self-concept: “It’s my curse . . . I’m so messed up, it can’t be fixed!” Because of such self-deprecating thoughts, porn usage may serve as an indirect form of self-punishment, which a girl imagines she deserves for what she feel is her “oversexed” disposition. This shame factor might also be connected to a fear of intimacy. Imaginary individuals are less threatening than real persons. A sex object comes without the personal expectations of a living subject. Fantasy-lust and cyber-sex require none of the demanding work of a real relationship, like the one sealed in a for-better-or-worse marriage vow between two strong personal wills. The porn addict is seemingly on her own, in control. No need to fear conflict, failed performance, lack of acceptance, venereal diseases, unintended pregnancies, and all the other messy risks that self-sex is able to avoid. But porn’s promise is a lie: the sexual autonomy it offers is a ploy that eventually puts porn in the driver’s seat. I’ve also known women whose first exposure to porn was through boyfriends who had them watch sex-ploitation videos to see how other girls performed the popular perversions. Emotionally duped into thinking, “This is how to win and keep his affection,” they began emulating the persona of submissive girls portrayed by porn stars. The unconscious result of this repetitive role-playing was to adopt the mindset of the script. The role itself took over, giving her a new self-image. She became the star of a distorted drama played out on a stage of sexual props with porn as the director.
Your Investment in Female DepreciationIt’s obvious to all porn-addicted women, as well as to everyone else, that these pornographic portrayals are grossly demeaning to females. The girls involved are being virtually raped, often violently. So, what’s the kickback? Where’s the remuneration? There must be a takeaway. Otherwise, why did so many women devour the erotic “bondage” novel 50 Shades of Grey, turning it into a bestseller and making its movie-version a 500-million-dollar blockbuster? Beyond investing in the porn-drama for orgasmic excitement, a woman can find in porn’s objectified sexual thrill a kind of mental cash-flow. Even if she knows her body isn’t the “eye candy” showcased by porn-models, her equipment still works in the pleasure-market. The more she buys stock in pornography’s monopoly game, the more she gains imaginary sexual leverage, a mental form of sexual clout, validated by its orgasmic payoff. Because porn advertises her value in a consumer-relationship with men, tapping into that evaluation becomes an emotional “fix,” a shot of self-confidence, a reassurance of power in porn’s fictional economy. But her rewards are as fictitious as the treasures won in a role-playing computer game. Contemplate carefully the full impact of this repeating cycle. The porn addict transfers a young model’s deposit of lost personal dignity into her own account as a stimulating sexual dividend. For this transaction to work without realistically falling apart, the porn model must never be seen as a real person with normal desires and emotions. She must remain an object, a tool, a trade-commodity. Banish the thought that she might be a troubled teen, a high school drop-out, or a single mom selling her body like a prostitute to make ends meet. The addict’s mind must stay self-absorbed, focused on self-gratification, until the episode plays out to its literal climax. And the mental block must continue even after the session ends, or guilt from the porn addict’s lack of compassion will only add to the pain of emotional emptiness left by pornography’s aftermath. For women caught up in this depressing game, porn has already determined their net worth in terms of their body parts. They watch men seemingly control the commerce, but they get to treat their own bodies as the sought-after merchandise. Although they must watch nameless girls become objects for sexual consumption, they can make a short-term profit from this arrangement by temporarily joining it, imagining themselves a part of the show. But participation in that fantasy—either to release tension by an orgasmic high or to replenish an emotionally diminished sexual ego—has a long-term downside: the porn-addicted woman spends her true self-worth on imaginary relational assets which are totally worthless in real life.
Endnotes: 1. For an extensive testimonial that exemplifies how shame prevents seeking or finding help from those who legalistically teach prudery and body shame, read the book by Jessica Harris, Beggar’s Daughter (2016).
2. “Why More and More Women Are Using Pornography” in The Guardian (April 7, 2011); quote by Jason Dean, a counselor to the porn-addicted.[Do not stop where Part One of this article ends, that is, with a descriptive explanation of the porn-addicted woman’s plight. Part Two (click here) follows with the heart of God’s answer for her liberation.]
Single Vision or Double Vision?The central theme of MCAG is simple: adopting a proper, Creator-honoring view of the naked human body and its sacred meaning is lethal for porn addiction. Happily, a healthy view of nudity already exists in society, but it’s buried under a social and religious schizophrenia that describes nakedness as non-pornographic one moment and deems it sexually obscene the next. Such double-mindedness is supposedly excused by calling these contradictory designations contextual. But in both contexts, the external anatomy is still absolutely naked. The only authentic difference between the non-pornographic and the truly obscene is the wholesome or unwholesome manner in which the unclad body is intentionally presented. The naked body itself is not and never was the problem.
The Corrective Lens of the Nude in ArtOne generally accepted avenue for nudity’s wholesome presentation is the world of figurative art. Almost every artist skilled in depicting the human form had to study its structural anatomy. In fact, when I took art classes, my course in figure drawing was a great review of the bones and skeletal muscles memorized in nursing school. But figurative art students must become even more familiar with how the bare skin envelops these underlying structures. This requires many hours of intently observing and trying to capture on paper different nude models, both male and female, in a variety of postures at rest or in implied movement. A shapely nude woman is no more pornographic in this educational context than if she had to be stripped entirely bare for emergency treatment in a trauma center. Since I’ve seen such nude females in both situations—and in those latter cases, more times than I care to remember—I know whereof I speak. In both these environments, the naked body and the careful inspection of its bare surface fall into a category properly recognized as normal, nonsexual nudity. For the artist, as well as for those in healthcare, this natural, realistic view of nakedness can sabotage the porno-prudish mindset implanted by years of cultural training.
An Embarrassing Religious HistoryWhy have young Christian artists not been groomed for excellence in figurative art? By their own well-documented testimonies, churches in early America were preaching a pornographic view of the body long before we became a nation. Christian preachers who deny this history jeopardize their ministerial credibility. Even worse, if they defend this past error, they sacrifice their spiritual allegiance on the altar of the religious status quo. How so? Because, by tragically abandoning a Scriptural view of our embodiment and adopting in its place a Victorian view that sexually objectifies gender-distinctive human anatomy, American Christianity has zealously and persistently contributed to today’s pornified culture. When a religious obsession with the sexual aspects of the body pervades a society that is dysfunctionally obsessed with sexual self-gratification, porn addiction is inevitable. In the midst of these two worlds of toxically obsessive sexual fantasy, the healthy realism of nudity in art can be redemptive.
Gaining the Single Vision of the Original ARTIST. . .The porn addict seeking mental liberation from both these sources of ‘”vain imagination,” must learn to see nudity with the same respectful gaze of the porn-free artist. A serious study of “the nude” in art history is an excellent way to regain this healthier view of the naked body, reforming a lifetime of porno-prudery’s false indoctrination. Such an endeavor actually follows the holy eyes of the Original Artist, Who designed the naked beauty of the human body in the first place. If you decide to experiment with this, research the library or go to an art museum and begin a review of the nude in classic art (see my article “The Impact of Naked Truth” published by the Christian art appreciation website ArtWay). But also, study the few modern Christian artists who have defied prudery’s “flight from the body,” heretically assumed by some to be part of the Gospel. A bold example of using the nude artistically is found in the work of Edward Knippers, who has long incorporated into his paintings of Biblical scenes the naked human form as a strong Christian metaphor (see my article “A Modern Use of the Nude” also published by ArtWay).
Wholesome Reality vs. Sexualized FantasyIf you’re ambitiously serious about allowing normal nudity in art to help wipe out your years of training in a pornographic conception of the body, try taking a figure drawing class yourself. I did (see my results). It won’t take you long to discover for yourself what I learned in both practicing healthcare and studying figurative art. My mind’s focus became the real thing. Whether it’s the body of a nude patient or of a nude model, the bare anatomy is seen as an extension of his or her personal identity. The wholesome reality of seeing people in their God-given birthday suits has a tremendous ability to quench the habitual fantasy that obsesses over a naked body part by isolating it from the human being who owns it. Can the art of the nude change a lustful heart? No. But the sacred light it reflects from the beautiful originality of our Creator can nakedly expose the darkness of prudery and the ugliness of porn. The glory seen in the Supreme Artist’s greatest handiwork—His own Self-portrait in human flesh—is bright enough to dim the fires of porn addiction and the prudery that fuels them.
Christians usually take pride in their opposition to the sexual objectification and exploitation of women… but most Christians are completely unaware that they have been practicing and promoting the very thing they claim to oppose. Rather than recognizing the ways they are doing so, they have often codified sexual objectification into their rules and expectations for Christian thinking and conduct.
Here are five ways Christians sexually objectify women… and they just might surprise you:
Exactly why do we require women to cover this or that body part? Because those body parts are “sexual,” Right? That perception is sexually objectifying. Women are not a collection of “parts”—some sexual and some not—they are whole persons. As soon as we legislate that one body part must be treated “sexually,” we are sexually objectifying the whole woman.
#2 — The “Men Are Visual” Myth
Contrary to what we’ve all been told, God did NOT make men as primarily “visual” in their sexual interest and arousal (see this article). What we observe in men today is entirely conditioned behavior. It is our culture’s expectation that every man will treat the simple sight of a woman’s body as a sexual event and respond sexually, so that’s what they do. This false yet pervasive conditioning has normalized the sexual objectification of women, weaving it into our cultural fabric and, sadly, into Christian teaching and practice. The widespread adoption of visual stimulus for sexual arousal has paved a highway for the porn industry to explode, and has resulted in rampant sexual bondage even among those who desire to live a life pleasing to God.
#3 — Every Man’s Battle
Because the church so completely embraced #2 above, a new book and strategy invaded the Christian world a few years back… claiming that it could help men overcome sexual bondage. The core strategy from Every Man’s Battle tells men that they must constantly guard against any sight—in person or just an image—which might trigger lust. When it happens, they are instructed to “bounce their eyes” away from the sight so as to keep their heart pure. This means that every woman or image they see must be evaluated for its impact on that man sexually! If a man is sexually evaluating every woman he sees, he is most definitely sexually objectifying them.
#4 — A Wife’s “Sexy” Lingerie
Every wife longs to feel beautiful, attractive, and desirable to her husband. So, the use of seductive lingerie might seem like a good idea—and a lot of fun—to capitalize on the conditioned “visual” response in her husband as a part of sex play. However, I would suggest that by doing so, she is sexually objectifying her own body and serving to further reinforce the visual response in her husband to certain body parts of a woman. Much better and healthier would be to cultivate a relationally-based sexual arousal and fulfillment… which will serve to keep the couple’s sex life vibrant into their twilight years (see The Renewed View of the Body).
Of all the places where the God-given usage for breasts can be most openly expressed and observed, the church should be at the top of the list. Instead, however, churches often build “Cry rooms” so that nursing mothers can feed their babies without risking the exposure of their breasts to the men and boys in attendance. The church is treating breasts as if the perpetuation of their sexual objectification is more important than allowing the God-designed beauty of their maternal purpose to be seen. The inescapable message to men and women is that breasts are to be treated sexually… even when a mother is nursing.
If the church really wishes to impact society for truth and stand against the sexual objectification of women, then the people of God first need to take a hard look at their own core beliefs about the meaning of our physical embodiment as humans… male and female… in God’s image. We need to root out ways that we have embraced the false sexualized and pornographic view of the body, and start treating the human body with dignity and in harmony with truth.
— David Martin
Referenced in the image above:
Is Women’s Modesty the New Legalism Among Christians?
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A Delicate Issue…This is going to be a hard blog post to write… but as hard as it might be, it is even more needful. Gender is a core aspect of our individual identity as human persons. We must get it right! Each and every one of us needs to know and understand our own gender in order to have an accurate view of ourselves! But gender has been anything but clear in our culture lately. And with the public declaration of Bruce Jenner that we should now call him/her “Caitlyn Jenner,” the question of gender right out there for us all to see. How is gender determined anyway? And how does the answer to that question inform our effort to answer the question in the title of this post?
Defining GenderWe can’t determine answers to the gender-assignment question until we define gender itself. But here’s where the culture has gone astray. So let me define it directly: Throughout all the natural world and for every sort of gendered creature…
Gender is determined by one thing and one thing alone… Reproductive Function.That statement is scientifically incontrovertible. Any attempt to define it some other way—just for humans—is simply unscientific… and wrong. We never refer to dogs as “gay” or cats as “trans-gender.” Why? Because we don’t query them for their “preferences” or “feelings” when we determine their gender… we look to their physical attributes and discern their reproductive function. And we are not wrong. Bruce Jenner—when born—was announced to the world with “It’s a BOY!” Did the doctors make a mistake that day? Should they have instead declared (as Bruce does now), “It’s a GIRL… albeit with a penis and scrotum!” No, when Bruce was born, he was a boy. They got is right. And they got it right because the only factor utilized for making a gender declaration that day was the very clear evidence of his future reproductive function; he had a penis… he was a boy.
“What If I Don’t FEEL Like a Boy?”
Sugar and spice and everything nice That’s what little girls are made of.What if a little boy is not made of “snips and snails and puppy dog tails”? What if that boy is more “nice” like “sugar and spice”? What then? The old nursery rhyme notwithstanding, these things are still not the determiner of gender. Sometimes a man doesn’t feel like a typical man. Sometimes a woman doesn’t feel like a typical woman. That’s a reality. I acknowledge that! But what does it mean? I want to offer an answer to that question that I’ve never heard the church or anyone else offer. Yet, I suggest it is rooted firmly in the Scriptures.
The Image of GodIt goes all the way back to “The Beginning.” Genesis 1:26-27… “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…. God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” There we see not only the sum total of valid gender labels, but we also see that God created both genders “in His Own Image” and “likeness.” Evidently, being “like God” wasn’t something that one gender alone was sufficient to portray, so God created two genders. This means that both men and women received many of their qualities from their “likeness” to God. It then follows that what we might call “masculine” is derived from our likeness to God. Likewise, all that we might call “feminine” finds its source in God as well. But you know what? The bible never defines the measures of “masculinity” nor “femininity.” We are all simply declared to be “in His image and likeness.” We might suggest that a particular attribute is “typical” of men, or “typical” of women, but no attribute is absolute. We’ve all known sensitive and nurturing men, and we’ve all known strong and assertive women. Every last one of us is invested with an array of attributes drawn from the character of God Himself. So when a man is sensitive, he’s still like God. When a woman is strong, she’s still like God. Gender is unaffected.
Gender by Stereotype??We, as a culture, have largely laid aside the real measure of gender, preferring instead to point to things that are stereotypically (but subjectively) “male” or “female.” Why have we done this? Why have we resorted to stereotypes to define gender? Could it not be that by labeling feelings and preferences and other attributes as “male” or “female” we have created a climate that feeds the sort of confusion of gender that we see expressed in our world today? Shouldn’t we rather stick with what the doctors said on the day of our birth, and simply accept whatever mixture of the divine likeness that God decided to implant in that little baby’s being? I suggest to you that within the ranks of males we need men who are sensitive, nurturing, and who possess other feminine-labeled attributes. Among the ranks of females we need women who are physically strong, mentally assertive, and who possess other masculine-labeled attributes. Thankfully, that’s exactly what God has done within the human race!
The Answer to Gender ConfusionSo… back to the question raised in the title of this blog post… “Is Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner Now a Woman?” The answer is a very obvious “No.” Bruce has never been a woman. He’s not a woman now, and he never will be a woman. Even his DNA will tell the entire world that he’s a man. But Bruce most likely is not your stereotypical guy… evidently, he’s always identified with the attributes/feelings/preferences that we have culturally—and in some measure, arbitrarily—assigned to the female gender. Honestly… THAT’S OK!! I can and will accept and even celebrate any man who is so wired! I will personally support him in his unique rendition of God’s likeness, especially in this culture of stereotype-based gender assignment! That’s the right way to treat someone who’s wired differently than I am… it is NOT right to redefine his gender! I really feel bad that Bruce has now fallen victim to the notion that his gender identity is based upon his feelings. I grieve that any man or woman feels so divergent from our culture’s definition of their assigned gender that they would believe that the only solution to their internal conflict is to identify with the opposite gender… or one of the dozens of other gender labels that have been invented lately.
Male and Female He Created Them.There are only two genders. That’s the final word from our Creator. And He established no master list of “masculine” or “feminine” attributes… for they all reflect God’s likeness. There are simply too many attributes “like God” to be contained in a single gender. God mixes and matches them uniquely in every single person. Let’s celebrate the God-given and creative diversity found in our unique sets of attributes… independent of gender. And let’s keep calling men “men”, and women “women.” — Pastor David Martin
————-See also: The Imago Dei Listen to: The Incarnation — Scene One For an outstanding statement from a woman who didn’t fit the stereotypes… Read: I Wished I Had Been Born a Boy
It’s not what you think…To correctly understand what the Bible really means when it associates shame with nakedness, we need to first take off the cultural glasses we’ve been wearing… and read the biblical text with a clearer understanding of the ancient context from which the scriptures sprung. To do that, we must first recognize—and reject—a false “marriage” of concepts that was foreign to the writers of the Scriptures.
The False “Marriage” of Nudity and SexWhenever a society is trained to interpret the sight of the unclothed body as a sexual event, it produces a “pornographic view of the body.” This sex-focused perception targets the nude body for sexploitation. Pornography thrives on this wedding of sexual stimulation to nakedness. When churches blindly “tie the knot”—teaching that God ordained this conceptual marriage—they unwittingly foster a “pornified” culture. Such blindness is self-perpetuating, for it keeps Christians from seeing that most occasions of nudity in Scripture are nonsexual. My term porno-prudery effectively describes the widespread religious thinking that sanctions this unholy matrimony of sex and nudity. Prudery and pornography are fraternal twins, born from the same false, Creator-dishonoring concept of the body. Porno-prudery promotes endless debates between those who see “modesty” as hiding skin and those who see its correct biblical meaning: dressing up with internal virtues rather than external adornments. Porno-prudery, by its very nature, sabotages an accurate understanding of the biblical shame of nakedness. By supposing that visible nakedness always has a sexual meaning, it treats the public sight of nudity as always shameful. Scripture does not support such an assumption.
Correcting Culturally Colored VisionWe moderns need to remove our culture-colored eyeglasses and stop reading back into Bible times the existence of swimsuits and private bathrooms. Archaeology helps us with this by showing how ordinary the sight of nonsexual nudity was in ancient civilizations. Not only were there public latrines and baths designed for group use, but in the Roman Empire, during the time of Christ, separate constructions to segregate males and females were deemed unnecessary. It is clear that our biblical ancestors did not share our present-day preoccupation with body shame. In all ancient cultures, patterns of outdoor bathing and excretory hygiene reflected this same healthy body acceptance. The many examples of manual laborers working without the encumbrance of clothing also speak of a healthier attitude toward bare human anatomy than we now have. So, neither in Bible lands nor elsewhere was a condition of visible nudity exclusively interpreted as sexual or shameful in nature. In view of this ancient way of perceiving nudity, we can begin to comprehend what the biblical shame of nakedness actually meant. But a full appreciation of that shame also depends on understanding the significance of clothing.
The Nakedness of the PoorIn the first place, the purpose of clothing in Scripture was not to hide the body, but to protect it from the elements and to adorn it either officially or aesthetically. Second, clothing was handmade and expensive. A single garment might be all that a working-class person owned. For the poor, literal nakedness and the coldness it brought were realistic possibilities that called for practical compassion. An outfit’s combined financial and practical value often made it the logical possession to take as a pledge to insure debt repayment, leaving its owner naked during the day while working off what he owed. Again, this is not new information, but missed information, which becomes misinformation in the mouths of teachers who read porno-prudish assumptions from the present back into the past. Once we realize the extreme value of clothing—not for hiding anatomy, but for protecting the body—we can begin to understand the Bible’s most frequent references to shame in relationship to nakedness. Naked shame is almost always related to clothing being lost or taken away in the contexts of coercion, military defeat, or poverty (both physical and spiritual). Less frequently it’s associated with sexual violations or with personal and religious disrespect. Exploring these biblical examples of the shame about nakedness would require another article. But in contrast to these, the sight of the body’s exposure in work (John 21:7 [lit.]), in a prophetic role (Isaiah 20:2‑4; Micah 1:8; 1 Samuel 19:23‑24), or in outdoor bathing (Exodus 2:5‑7; 2 Samuel 12:1‑9) are never depicted by the writers of Scripture as shameful. Yet all these very public activities made the naked body commonly visible to friends, family, and neighbors.
Read It Again… Without the Cultural FilterAgain, a preconceived idea that weds nudity with sexual involvement can bring a blindness to the study of Scripture. This culturally performed wedding veils the eyes of Bible readers, so that modern culture dictates what they see in various passages where publicly visible nudity is either mentioned or implied. Even I—who reread God’s Word with that veil removed—failed for a while to see what was really taking place in the following passage, 2 Chronicles 28:8‑11, 14-15:
The men of Israel took captive 200,000 of their relatives, women, sons, and daughters. They also took much spoil from them and brought the spoil to Samaria. But a prophet of the LORD was there, whose name was Oded, and he went out to meet the army that came to Samaria and said to them, “Behold, because the LORD, the God of your fathers, was angry with Judah, he gave them into your hand, but you have killed them in a rage that has reached up to heaven. And now you intend to subjugate the people of Judah and Jerusalem, male and female, as your slaves. Have you not sins of your own against the LORD your God? Now hear me, and send back the captives from your relatives whom you have taken, for the fierce wrath of the LORD is upon you.” . . . . So the armed men left the captives and the spoil before the princes and all the assembly. And the men who have been mentioned by name rose and took the captives, and with the spoil they clothed all who were naked among them. They clothed them, gave them sandals, provided them with food and drink, and anointed them, and carrying all the feeble among them on donkeys, they brought them to their kinsfolk at Jericho, the city of palm trees. Then they returned to Samaria. (ESV)What about this open nudity of 200,000 women and children prisoners during their long march from Judah to Samaria? It receives no comment of moral shock or reprimand. In those days, stripping clothes as spoil from defeated enemies was too commonly practiced and anticipated to be of special concern. In fact, this nakedness might not have been mentioned at all, if Oded’s prophetic words had gone unheeded. But in that inspired warning, not even God’s prophet drew any attention to the naked state of the captives. Instead, he decried Israel’s intention to enslave these unclad women, girls and boys. Plundering hostages of their garments was a normal demonstration of military success. Because clothing was such a valuable commodity, it was part of the economic spoils seized from the defeated. Yet this was not a perverted stripping to gawk at the kind of nudity these soldiers had grown up seeing all their lives. If it had been, God would surely have spoken against it in the mouth of His prophet. Was it shameful? Yes! Their naked condition displayed the shame of an impoverishing defeat, which always meant losing one of their most expensive possessions: clothing. The prophet Isaiah went nude for three years to preach this same kind naked “shame” that would befall Egypt and Cush. It was no more shameful for Isaiah’s unclad body to be seen by his neighbors than for these naked women and children to be under the gaze of their captors. Their shame consisted of more than just being stripped of clothing. They had lost everything. It was the naked shame of utter poverty. Always remember that Scripture was written in a cultural context. It recorded only information that God deemed worthy of inclusion. What was too ordinary for comment was left out. Yet, in this passage, it’s the very absence of a moral concern about the sight of a naked multitude that makes it noteworthy to us. Its lack of concern shows how, in those days, the commonness of nonsexual, openly visible nudity was not so scandalous or inappropriate that it warranted explanation. We are hard put to imagine the shame felt by this poor crowd of naked captives, because it was not the visibility of their external anatomy. Their concerns were the shame of defeat publicized by their naked poverty and the painful cold of wind and weather to which such nudity exposed them during this long outdoor march.
Attitudes: Gained From… or Imposed Upon… the Scriptures?An allegiance to cultural upbringing is difficult to overcome. However, when the Bible clashes against pet doctrines or inherited hermeneutics, the seriously committed believer will side with the authority of Scripture, no matter how large a mental paradigm shift is demanded. This biblical incident provides one of those opportunities. This passage, and many more like it, confront the popular, widespread idea among many believers that nudity itself is intrinsically sexual in nature and its visibility a source of shame. From the perspective of the human author of 2 Chronicles, the context of captivity and potential slavery made this extremely large multitude of naked females marching before the eyes of male soldiers a culturally understood or even expected situation. It held no apparent sexual significance. God Himself drew no moral attention to the public nudity involved—not even to please a prudish group of future Bible readers. God does not condone nor confirm conceptual “marriages” that humans sanction against His will… such as this one between nudity and sex. Our society and churches are suffering the sexual havoc that springs directly from this pornographic view of the body. By marrying nudity and sex, Christian porno-prudery has made a huge contribution to that perverted, pornographic view. Any successful attack on porn addiction by the Christian church must start with a careful and thoughtful review of Scripture passages like the one just explored. In the process, we might even regain the wholesome body acceptance of our biblical ancestors. — Pastor David Hatton
Endnotes: Missionaries discovered this the hard way by creating fertile ground for pornography through spreading prudery as a part of their Gospel to “naked people” groups. Modern cross-culturally savvy mission agencies warn their interns against this damaging practice of “clothing the naked” to morally cover the body. Wherever nudity is considered normal, an unnatural hiding of the body produces an unwholesome preoccupation with what’s hidden. The Western church is shamefully late in figuring this out.  Obviously, with nothing to wear, the body’s need is warmth, as James 2:15‑16 clearly points out: “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?” (NKJV). Just so, John the Baptist’s exhortation in Luke 3:11 implies that the compassionate duty of a person owning two outfits is to clothe a naked person with one of them: “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” (Luke 3:11, ESV).  “If you ever take your neighbor’s garment as a pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down. For that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin. What will he sleep in? And it will be that when he cries to Me, I will hear, for I am gracious.” (Exodus 22:26‑27, NKJV).  Isaiah 20:2‑4 (ESV), . . . at that time the LORD spoke by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, “Go, and loose the sackcloth from your waist and take off your sandals from your feet,” and he did so, walking naked and barefoot. Then the LORD said, “As my servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot for three years as a sign and a portent against Egypt and Cush, so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptian captives and the Cushite exiles, both the young and the old, naked and barefoot, with buttocks uncovered, the nakedness of Egypt.”
A Word of Thanks to MCAG
To all the pastors and the team at MCAG, I want to say thank you. It was just over a year ago that I discovered your site, and what I learned there opened my eyes to a whole new way of seeing the human body. So I want to say thank you for having the courage to speak the truth even when it is difficult and can get you ostracized. Thank you for the time spent diligently explaining and expounding the Word of God. The culture, and all too often the church, seem to think that those who speak of the goodness of the body are hiding some secret perversion, though the truth is precisely the opposite. But you spoke truth in spite of what what people might think, and for that I am so thankful. By God’s grace I will also spread the same truth, because it is a message that our churches and our culture desperately need to hear.
Freedom from Porn’s Allure
To all who may be visiting this site, I want to share a bit of how it has helped me. What this site says about being free from the allure of porn has proven true for me. I wanted to wait a year before writing this because everything else I’ve tried in my battle against pornography had worn off after a year (or less), leaving me feeling like more of a failure. But something really is different this time. But I also want to say the impact of this site has actually gone way beyond freedom from allure of pornography. Here is my story. (This is extremely personal, so it needs to stay anonymous.)
I’m in my late 20’s, and have been married to a lovely, intelligent and compassionate woman for the better part of a decade. We had both been raised in good Christian homes. Of course, like most of our generation, we grew up believing that our bodies and sexuality were somehow shameful. Bodies needed to be covered, and conversations about sexuality were basically limited to “don’t do it”. Also like most men of my generation, I found internet pornography during my teen years and it became an ongoing battle and source of guilt. Other than my struggle with pornography, I avoided all the behaviors which our evangelical culture said made us “impure”, and I made it to marriage with my “purity” intact.
Some time before I met her, my future wife had been sexually assaulted by a man with a severe pornography addiction. She was in counseling and on the path toward healing by the time that I came into her life, but there were still significant struggles for us. Yet, through it all, God made it abundantly clear to me that she was the one He had for me. Because of my wife’s experience, I came to hate pornography and all the abuse and evil towards women that it represented and promoted. But the allure was still there, and I was always afraid that one day I was going to go back to it. I relied on internet filters and had no web browser on my smartphone.
Was I Like a Predator?
I had always been told—by both the culture and the church—that men are primarily visual (meaning that what we see controls our sexual response). Because I had been told that men were visual, I had believed that the effects of time, weight gain, or childbirth on my wife’s body could eventually diminish my attraction for her. She had believed that too. Despite my reassurances, she lived with a fear that someday she wouldn’t be pretty enough to hold my attention. Several years ago she gained some extra weight due to a medication and health problems. It seemed odd to me at the time, but my attraction to her didn’t decrease (I know now it’s because we have a loving relationship). However, she really believed that her worth as a woman was tied up in how she looked, and she sometimes felt she no longer deserved to be loved.
I wanted to be nothing like the man who had abused my wife. The way I acted towards her was totally different, yet I noticed there were far too many similarities in the way that I thought about her body. Sometimes when she changed in front of me I would look at her body with what I thought was “healthy” male sexual attraction, and she would say to me “stop! you’re looking at me like a predator!” I was devastated, but I didn’t know what else to do. Wasn’t just seeing her body supposed to be a sexual turn-on for me? I thought that if I didn’t have some sexual response every time I saw her naked, that meant that there was something wrong with her body—or with me. But I knew she was right that there was something subtlety predatory about how I viewed her and her body. She knew how the predator had looked at her, and I surely wanted to be nothing like that! I didn’t know the answer, but I increasingly came to believe that male sexuality—as I had been led to understand it—was deeply incompatible with how a Christian man was supposed to selflessly love his wife.
So with all those interwoven frustrations and confusion, I asked God to change something. I didn’t know what needed to change, I just knew things couldn’t work the way they were then.
God’s Unexpected Answer
God provided an answer in an unexpected place. I was browsing through Podcasts on iTunes, and came across a naturist audio podcast. I admit my initial motives were less than pure, but out of curiosity I listened to one episode. In that podcast I heard an idea that rocked my world: there is such a thing as non-sexual nudity. I knew intuitively that if that statement were true, it would open a door to the answer I was looking for. But I also thought that idea was deeply incompatible with the Bible. I mean, wasn’t nakedness a bad thing in the Bible? Wasn’t a person’s naked body only supposed to be seen by their own spouse because it would tempt all others to sin?
I set out to research this contradiction, and in the search, I found MyChainsAreGone.org. Their arguments presented in the teaching there were logically, exegetically, and theologically sound, yet I had never heard anything like it before. The freedom they spoke of sounded too good to be true, but I knew that if they were right about the body, it changed everything. I studied the Bible very carefully, asked lots of questions, and read a lot of other sources on theology and history. Finally I decided that they were right; God never intended the simple sight of the human form to be a source of sexual temptation. I can’t even express to you how much joy and freedom I have found with this discovery!
The truth on the page The Renewed View was probably the most profound to me personally. What a relief to learn that God intended men to be primarily relational in our sexuality. The “men are visual” idea is actually a very cruel lie, despite the fact that so many well-intentioned Christians have repeated it. It leaves women with fear that each new pound or stretch mark makes them less lovable. It leaves men with a sexual response held captive by how much skin they see, and disconnected from the selfless agape love that should be at the center of how husbands relate to their wives. If men are visual, the way I was taught, we don’t control our sexual response, and thus don’t really own our sexuality. And we cannot truly give what we don’t own. Yet sexuality, as designed by God, is all about giving. So I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that the “men are visual” lie is actually aimed straight at the heart of God’s plan for human sexuality.
My Marriage is Transformed
I can honestly say that things are really different for my wife and me in regard to our relationship and sexuality. We’ve stopped worrying about what we can’t control (i.e. the effects of time on her body), and started focusing on the things we can control: our relationship and love for one another. We’ve both embraced the truth that nudity is not necessarily sexual, and that has given us freedom for a deeper and more genuine love. She will tell you that there is a profound difference in the way I look at her now. She feels much more confident about her body, and knows that her value to me as a woman isn’t tied up in some arbitrary standard for her appearance. The allure of pornography really is gone in my life, and that battle has changed in a way that it never had my entire life.
I think this quote from the page The Right Battle summed it up well:
Gentlemen, stop fighting the beauty of women. Ladies, stop fighting the attractiveness of men. Start fighting your lustful responses.
Learning that the body was made in the Image of God was a massive step toward my freedom. But it also showed me that my own heart was not as pure as I had thought. You see, I had thought that the problem was outside of me, but God showed me the problem was within me. I had thought that I just needed to change my circumstances, but God wanted to change my heart. I had thought purity was simply a matter of avoiding certain sins, but God showed me true purity was actually about learning to see His creation through His eyes. God showed me that my own selfishness and lust ran far deeper than I had realized, but that his transforming grace runs deeper still.
If I could sum up what I’ve learned over the past year, it is this:
Lust takes, love gives. Lust sees another person as means to satisfy ourselves, love earnestly desires what is best for another.
I’ve spent the past year studying what the Bible has to say about the body and sexuality, and what I’ve found is both beautiful and profound. There is more—so much more. I encourage everyone to listen to Pastor David Martin’s talk on The Incarnation – Scene One. MCAG is just an appetizer for what the Bible has to offer in this regard. So my encouragement to all who read this is first to rest in the purity that is accounted to us by faith in Christ. Then learn to live out that purity by embracing truth. Learn truth by studying the Bible, thinking hard, and asking the hard questions… but most of all, through prayer. One of my personal favorite prayers is that of the blind beggar in Luke 18:35-43:
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me… Lord, I want to see.”
Mistaken FervorThere’s a general lapse of strong evangelical faith throughout Western culture. Viewing it from that perspective, I laud the stubborn attitude of believers who mistake MCAG’s message of body acceptance as just one more facet of the sexual insanity eroding today’s church. To be sure, strong stubbornness is needed to stand against the tide of moral confusion capturing the power-brokers of our nation. But stubborn beliefs, while laudable, aren’t always God-honoring or theologically correct. These faithfully stubborn saints will never entertain a message that separates nudity from sexuality, if they’re unwilling to test the validity of their religious conviction that keeps the two inseparable. A stubborn unwillingness to change is not at all praiseworthy. Reformation in line with truth is the church’s historical lifeline. The truth of body acceptance has transforming power, both to liberate porn addicts and to reform sentimentally preserved errors in Christian thinking. If believers faithfully hold and teach any falsehood as a “gospel standard,” it will eventually destroy their Gospel testimony. When loyalty to church tradition supplants a commitment to truth, legalism can be accepted as divine light, and true light can be mistaken for darkness.
The Error of Body ShameSocial waywardness outside the church isn’t as dangerous as doctrinal error inside. Body shame is a destructive cultural dysfunction. It was a grave religious blunder for past church leadership to baptize it as a Christian virtue. The ripples of that mistake have become devastating tidal waves in the modern world. By treating this porno-prudery as sound doctrine, Christian teachers incorporated it into “the faith,” believing that Scripture supported them. Yet, a careful review of the Bible and of biblical history does just the opposite. It exposes how they read their religious porno-prudery back into the culture of Bible times. One of my purposes in writing Meeting at the River—and why I played the devil’s advocate in the story—was to expose how the adoption of skin-hiding Victorian modesty as a Christian doctrine sabotaged modesty’s true biblical meaning. Creating a clothing-dependent morality was tantamount to cultural idolatry, and it remains so today, whenever believers dare defend it with the same zeal shown in defending the Gospel. This legalism is a perilous path, for it has either directly usurped God’s role in moral jurisdiction or religiously replaced His authority with human wisdom. This is grievous error and grave sin.
The goodness of Body AcceptanceI’ve written so much about the mundane normalness of body acceptance that I become redundant. But the truth bears repeating, especially when I get personally reminded of the first little essay I ever wrote on the subject (“What about the Hospital Nudity Problem?” on my “L&D Tips” webpage). Recently, I had a reverse-role clinical experience of getting a cystoscopy with a female attendant and a colonoscopy with two females assisting. The down-to-earth routineness of medical nudity broadcasts an obviously overlooked discrepancy in the porno-prudery most Christians doctrinally uphold. Indeed! What happens when these believers become patients themselves? Do filthy thoughts plague their minds when doctors and nurses see them naked? Their porno-prudery portrays the naked body as sexual in nature. So, are they suspicious that their opposite-sex attendants are having the lustful thoughts their doctrine predicts? If not, do they then logically question the validity of that doctrine, or just momentarily ignore the discrepancy? And what’s their take on a guy like me, an ordained minister who sees women’s breasts and bottoms every night in my L&D job? When I tell them I experience no lust in working with nudity, do they think I’m lying? Are they willfully blind to the fact that my testimony—corroborated by multiple millions of other healthcare workers—reveals the bankruptcy of their porno-prudish doctrine? Or have they just decided to live with the inconsistency, content with double-mindedness?
The Price of our Porno-PruderyThere may or may not come a day when a majority of Christian leaders finally recognize the deception in porno-prudery and repent of how it directly and indirectly fueled the rampant flames of pornography, human trafficking and gender confusion in today’s world. Religious porno-prudery not only affirms society’s unwholesome sexual focus on human body parts but also distracts attention from God’s focus on the real problem: wayward human hearts. But whether repudiators of body acceptance listen or refuse to listen, we must be faithful to call a spade a spade. No matter if we are heard or ignored, we must persist in telling fellow believers the truth.
A Future Reckoning…Like the preaching of many Old Testament prophets, our message may change social and religious climate very little or not at all. But all truth proclaimed now will echo in eternity. God is “no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34, KJV). Jesus was revealing His Father’s heart when He condemned those “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9, ESV). That leaves little room for Christians with the same audacity to be treated with impunity, when “judgment must begin at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17, KJV), especially if they let allegiance to those man-made doctrines close their ears to the truth. On that Day, when all minds and motives will become naked before the God of truth, any past stubbornness in upholding falsehoods will be indefensible. In other words, while the light shed on the darkness of porno-prudery may become for some a present liberation, it will become, for those presently and persistently repudiating it, a future liability. — Pastor David Hatton
First of all, Ruth, let me thank you for a respectful and well-articulated statement. Before I respond to specific statements in your comments, let me reiterate some very important principles that I try to allow to guide my thinking on this—or any—topic.
I’ve read a few of the articles and find them interesting and hopeful. I do have a different opinion on the topic of masturbation. Masturbation is the ultimate form of single sex. I think instead of searching for scripture that speaks to masturbating (of which one verse has been linked to the subject-seminal emissions which doesn’t mean masturbation has taken place) that we should ask, “What is the purpose of sex that God has designed for us?” There are well defined verses in the bible that say sex is designed for man and woman to enjoy in marriage. To become one…not to have sex as one person. I think the reason that there isn’t a verse speaking to masturbation is because sex wasn’t designed to be single sex. Masturbation doesn’t have a purpose to bring God glory. I think we are foolish to think that we can masturbate and ‘in moderation.’ Whatever moderation means regarding masturbation…that’s a tricky one to define and confusing. And maybe dangerous for those who’ve struggled with lust in the past and those who have yet to struggle with lust.
I’ve learned a lot about sex addiction because my husband has struggled with it. In my own research, I’ve read many articles which link the orgasm’s release of dopamine to creating an attachment with whatever is occurring at that moment. It’s why the addiction progressively worsens because each time one masturbates to porn, an attachment is made to something inanimate. With addiction, the porn searches become more..adventurous, dirtier and each time it takes something just a little more over the top to get that same excitement. Porn rewires your brain circuits to be stimulated to porn, women’s body parts, and eventually, your wife isn’t as attractive anymore, not as exciting as the girls in print or video. Women become objects. My point is this: if you can suggest that one can masturbate without lust, what thoughts are you letting the dopamine attach to? And, isn’t it dangerous? IMHO, it’s like telling a child to play with fire unsupervised. You can play with it, you may or may not get burned today…
Lastly, I just want to say how disappointed I am to read the suggestion above to women to masturbate so she would be “more fulfilled in her sexual union with her husband when she marries.” This statement suggests that orgasm is the ultimate goal of sex when it’s not. Intimacy is the goal. And I think, that a man and woman, in marriage, figuring out each other’s bodies, communicating them to one another, learning together in their whole lifetime, is exciting enough. In fact, to suggest that the woman should figure out her body so she can be satisfied on her honeymoon steals the gift of herself away from God and her husband.
My two cents…
- God’s Word is authoritative.
- By this I mean that I believe that where the Bible speaks on moral issues, it speaks the mind of God, with the totality of divine authority.
- I also mean that I am not willing to hold or promote moral standards that I cannot derive from the Scripture’s teaching. If God declined to include them, I won’t add them.
- Man-made Rules are not helpful towards true righteousness.
- Col. 2:20-23 makes it absolutely clear that any man-made religious/behavior rule will fail to accomplish the moral purity it has been established to promote—no matter how well-intentioned.
- Man-made Rules usually have the “appearance of wisdom” and boil down to “severe treatment of the body” (also Col. 2:20-23). Despite the apparent “wisdom,” the rules are still false.
- Consequently, we should never create–or bow to–Man-made Rules for righteousness.
- Rather, we should be on the alert for them and actively reject them.
- First, when we expend our energy following a command that God never gave us, we are failing to apply our energy to that which really is “God’s rule.”
- Secondly, when we submit to something which is actually false (i.e. not from God), we are actually submitting to the author of falsehood… which leads inevitably to more bondage.
Thank you for these encouraging words. We believe that the “hope” that is found in truth is for everyone. We believe that real freedom from porn and sexual bondage is never going to be found in strategies that treat the human form as if it is a danger to person’s spiritual health.
I’ve read a few of the articles and find them interesting and hopeful.
Short Answer: No, masturbation is not sex. Orgasm is not sex. Sex is a relational act. And if it is not relational, it is not sex. Consequently, we cannot apply biblical teaching about sexual relationships to masturbation. Long Answer: I’ve heard this statement from more than source. But the problem is that the very concept is one that cannot be defended from the Scriptures. Masturbation is not sex. This is because orgasm by itself cannot be considered “sex.” Whenever the Bible speaks of sex, it uses relational terms. As you correctly observed, God speaks of sexual union only in terms of relationship:
Masturbation is the ultimate form of single sex.
- “The two will become one flesh.”
- Adam “knew” his wife Eve and she conceived.
- So-and-so “lay with” his wife…
Short Answer: The passage applies to any case where there is a seminal emission… including masturbation. Longer Answer: I am not trying to say that the verse in Lev. 15 is only about masturbation. I am saying that without any doubt, this verse applies to the specific context of masturbation. Notably missing is any reference to the agency of the emission. One way or another, an orgasm happened, else there would be no emission at all. But from the perspective of the law God gave, the means by which the orgasm occurred was not even worth mentioning. So, a man who masturbates must apply this verse to the situation just as much as the man who has an involunary nocturnal emission. I am furthermore saying that this passage—with its matter-of-fact instructions about an emission of semen—is the only passage in the entire bible that we can be sure speaks to the man who masturbates. It appears from this law that God is more concerned about the health issues—clean the linens!—than He is about the occurrence of an orgasm by a man alone in bed.
…one verse has been linked to the subject-seminal emissions which doesn’t mean masturbation has taken place…
Short Answer: We cannot establish a moral standard for behavior simply on the absence of an identifiable purpose of bringing glory to God. The fruit of the Spirit includes self-control, so there is no specific action that is impossible to control—”in moderation”—when the Spirit of God empowers a person.
Masturbation doesn’t have a purpose to bring God glory. I think we are foolish to think that we can masturbate and ‘in moderation.’
Short Answer: The simple act of masturbation is not the same thing as sinful “lust.” Creating a man-made “rule for righteousness” which God did not give will not promote true righteousness or restrain sensual indulgence… this is clearly declared in Col. 2:20-23. For the man who struggles with a lust stronghold in his life, we need to provide biblically sound answers… answers that God articulates in His Word, for no other answer will truly help.
And maybe dangerous for those who’ve struggled with lust in the past and those who have yet to struggle with lust.
I’m going to let that one phrase stand in for your entire paragraph so I don’t have to re-quote the whole thing here… I too have learned a lot about pornography addiction… because I experienced it. I too have read about the “attachment” that some claim occurs during the dopamine release… but I’ve come to believe that that explanation is incomplete. I don’t believe that the “attachment” comes simply from the experience of an orgasm—as “feel good” and dopamine-rich as it may be—but rather that experience combined with an adrenaline rush. Here’s what I mean and why I say that… Long before God delivered me from my struggle with porn, I pondered my own experience with it and noticed that the adrenaline high I experienced from planning and sneaking a time of indulgence was MUCH more powerful than the sexual excitement and/or release I experienced when the time arrived. Quite frankly, after all the adrenaline-laced anticipation, the actual viewing of the porn and the release was almost a let-down by comparison. Yes, I remember some “attachment” moments, but they were always laced with adrenaline… making them exponentially more potent as an experience than orgasm alone. Contrast that to the sexual relationship I have with my wife. I have never been dissatisfied with her sexually, and I delight in our sex life. But honestly, I truly wish I was more “addicted” to it and had the physical ability to engage in it more often! We love our times of intimacy, but there is relatively little adrenaline associated with it, since there’s nothing that compels the “fight or flight” reflex that pours adrenaline into our system. We aren’t stealing affections that are forbidden. We aren’t planning ways to sneak away for an illicit encounter. We are simply enjoying our time together, and allowing our love to overflow into physical union. Plenty of dopamine with the experience to be sure, but little adrenaline. Consequently, no “addiction” response. And my relational attachment is not created by the orgasm, the physical union is literally an expression of the attachment that already exists. So… does masturbational orgasm include adrenaline and “attachment” to anything? Well, it depends… on whether the event is “forbidden” or not. If we forbid any and all masturbation, then we actually create the context where anytime a guy (or girl) masturbates, they are engaging in a forbidden act… which invariably triggers the adrenaline component. But if a young man simply finds release in the shower as an inconsequential and matter-of-fact part of his day—without engaging his mind in lustful thoughts—then it will not trigger the adrenaline, nor will the experience be memorable or induce any sort of “attachment.” I know this is my opinion, but frankly, I believe it fits the data better, and I know that it fits my own experience better. My point is that the position you’ve presented and the research you’ve alluded to is not as concrete as you might think, or as incontrovertible as it has been declared.
I’ve read many articles which link the orgasm’s release of dopamine to creating an attachment with whatever is occurring at that moment.
Well, I admit that my statement on this point was very much of the IMHO sort… and it still is. For what it’s worth, however, after I received your response, I asked my own wife what she thought about my statements. From her experience and perspective, she agreed. She and I entered into our marriage as virgins… although neither of us were strangers to masturbation. Yet, I can assure you, there was no lack of joy in the discovery and learning about each other’s bodies. And I would suggest that our first experience together was more “successful” and joyful for both of us because of our knowledge of how our own bodies work. We experienced no disappointment that first night, nor ever since. But I do hear stories about women—who go into marriage after a lifetime of considering any and every sexual sensation to be sin—finding it very difficult to just “turn on” the sensuality and fully accept those feelings as godly and right just because they now have a ring on their finger. I hope you see that I’m not trying to denigrate women by stating this position, but rather release from rules that God didn’t give them, and free them to learn and know their own bodies better so that their experience in marriage is not laden with guilt and uncertainty, but wondrous anticipation and fulfillment. And one more thing I’ll say on that topic… I know there might be some who extol the joys of “solo-sex” (a misnomer to start with), but there is simply no comparison between masturbating alone and sexual union with one that you are loving for a lifetime.
Lastly, I just want to say how disappointed I am to read the suggestion above to women to masturbate so she would be “more fulfilled in her sexual union with her husband when she marries.”
My Final Comments:Masturbation is not sex. Orgasm is not sex. Sex is relational. God never regulated orgasm, he regulated sexual relationships. God could have regulated masturbation… but He did not. And neither should we. God did forbid lust, and so should we. God did call us to love, and objectifying and consuming another person for self-indulgence is contrary to love. We can and should stand against the objectification of women and men. We must stand against pornography. But we never accomplish those things by adding to God’s Word a rule for righteousness that God chose not to include in the inspired text. All the scientific reasoning and all the religious fervor that we can generate do not justify adding to God’s Word. This is why I stand where I stand… I refuse to add something to God’s Word which careful evaluation reveals is not found in its pages. — Pastor David Martin
You Can Stop the CycleA frequent concern raised in emails sent to us by fathers with porn problems and by mothers married to porn addicts is how they can help keep their children from succumbing to the strong pornographic mindset saturating our culture. There’s a very effective answer: stop promoting a pornographic view of the body in the home. It must be rejected by precept and example. At their level of understanding, children should be taught the principles given on the MCAG website. They need to learn the truth of body acceptance long before they reach their teens.
You Have to Live ItBut demonstration of body acceptance is more powerful than explanation. Children cannot be porn-proofed if a porno-prudish view of the body is continually reinforced in the home by how we act, even if the mindset is mentally and verbally renounced. Parents can pass on a true family legacy of body acceptance only if they practice it. In other words, nudity at home should be routinely seen without ever being treated as obscene. For most American families, the practical living out of body acceptance would mean courageously reversing old prudish habits, establishing new body-friendly customs, and inventing creative opportunities for ordinary nakedness to teach its crucially needed lessons. Some new of these might be:
- Adopting the age-old, healthy habit of sleeping in the nude,
- Never shutting bedroom doors for dressing or undressing
- Celebrating a relaxed “birth-day suit breakfast” on the weekends
- Keeping bathroom doors open for sink or toilet access while tub or shower is in use
- Investing in a Hot Tub for no-swimsuit family fellowship
- Building a backyard enclosure for full-body family sunbathing
Instill Body AcceptanceA picture is worth a thousand words, but words are still important. The family practices mentioned above can quickly kill body shame and instill body acceptance. But open verbal communication is just as essential in porn-proofing children as open visual illustration. Children will be strong in behavior only when strong in understanding. Still living in a world where the body is toxically sexualized, they will be bombarded with sex-obsessed messages in the media and confronted by people indoctrinated by them. When questions arise, parents must be prayerfully open and ready to discuss the truth and its implications. Body acceptance is a holy way of seeing that is stronger than the cultural falsehood of body shame. Only by keeping children grounded in the truth about the body can they walk in freedom from the lie of porn. Pastor David L. Hatton