Truth: Sexual arousal to the sight of nudity is a cultivated and learned response. We always have a choice.
If a medical doctor is indicted for sexual misconduct towards his patients, we would not be moved by a plea of “I can’t help it, it’s the natural response!”
We fully expect a doctor to treat nude bodies with honor, dignity, respect, and purity.
Yet we have no such expectation for those who are not in the medical field. Instead, we have unwittingly – but undeniably – trained generations of young men to be “automatically” aroused by the sight of a woman’s body.
The media and marketing industries have, of course, played their role in this conditioned response, but even the church has ratified this response as “normal.” We tell the girls to make sure they cover themselves up adequately so that men will not be caused to “stumble.” We tell the men that as soon as they see something which is forbidden for them to see, they need to look away and/or take steps to remove any such opportunities from their lives.
We have defined God’s highest and most beautiful creation as “dangerous” to our spiritual and/or sexual purity.
A Surprising Lie
There is a related issue that I really need to address (Buckle up, this one may shock you).
How many well-meaning Christian marriage counselors, books, or seminar instructors have told us that “men are primarily aroused visually”?
I’m sorry, but that’s a lie.
It’s a lie that is so universally believed as to be almost entirely unquestioned in either the secular or Christian world. If you want to consider my assertion from a Biblical perspective, read the corollary to Lie #2 – Sexual arousal is primarily visual, especially for men.
I close that article with this statement, and it’s worth repeating:
So long as a man believes that he is primarily aroused visually, he will never be able to break free from his bondage to pornography.
If you believe you are primarily aroused visually, you will never even attempt to have other responses to the sight of an unclothed body. And you will never fully pursue the true source of sexual arousal, which is in healthy relationship.
If you are still struggling with the idea that men are not designed by God to be aroused visually, take some time to think it through again from a life-long perspective… what does God want sexual unity to look like when a couple is old? Is sexual arousal still supposed to be visual for an older man married to an older woman? The Renewed View is an article that will help challenge your thinking on the comparison between the “traditional” view and the understanding taught by MCAG.
Learn From the Dogs
Let’s return now to Lie #2… Sexual arousal is not an automatic response to the sight of nudity; it is a conditioned response. Like Pavlov’s dogs, we have programmed ourselves to “salivate” sexually as soon as we see any “skin.” By our past experience and conditioning, we “know” that the sexual adrenaline rush has arrived, just because of what we’ve seen. Like the dogs, we hear the bell (see the skin) and we get all juiced up (aroused) because the food (a sexual experience) always accompanies that event.
But it is not automatic. We really do have a choice.
What is the consequence of never acknowledging that we do have that choice?
It causes us to pursue faulty strategies in our struggle for sexual purity.
We pour all our effort into avoiding exposure. We tell the women to keep covered. We tell the men to look the other way. We enforce “dress codes” designed to minimize temptation. We invoke filters and cancel otherwise beneficial services. We set up behavioral boundaries and join accountability groups. Everything is aimed at making sure we follow all our rules about not letting ourselves see anybody’s skin but our spouse’s.
A Strategy Backfires
Undoubtedly, it is our sincere hope that if we never see anything tempting, we will never fall into lustfulness. Those who have attempted such measures know that they don’t work. Instead, they find themselves devoted to paying careful and constant attention to every last bit of flesh that may come into view. They have, quite literally, committed themselves to staying in bondage, for they do nothing but affirm over and over again that they will always respond to the nude form with sexual lust!
Please ponder the significance of that last sentence… It means that the standard strategies we employ for battling sexual addictions actually keep us bound!
Some may say, “But, wait… doesn’t it make sense? If you struggle with lusting after women’s bodies, just don’t let yourself see them!”
Yes, it does seem to be a wise course of action… so… why doesn’t it work? Simple. These are all man-made rules. Every one of them. Man-made rules do not work. God told us they wouldn’t work. If they ever did work, then God would be untrue. Read again Col. 2:20-23 (emphasis mine):
Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. (NIV)
Read that again. This is God’s Word…God’s truth. Man-made rules “lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”
If you are trusting man-made rules to keep you sexually pure, they will fail you.
We only need God’s rule. And God’s rule is quite simple. In the NT, Jesus said, “Do not Lust” (Matthew 5:28 – paraphrased) and in the OT, the 10th commandment said, “Do not covet your Neighbor’s wife” (Exodus 20:17 – paraphrased)
We are never told what we may or may not see. We are simply told not to desire what we do not possess.
Let’s talk about “coveting” and “lust” for a moment.
Most Christians would not consider the two sins to be equivalent. Biblically speaking, however, there is no difference. In the OT, The 10th commandment uses “covet” in reference to our neighbor’s wife. In Proverbs 6:25, the very same Hebrew word is translated “lust” (“Do not lust in your heart after her beauty” – NIV). In the NT, the Greek word Jesus used for “Lust” in Matt 5:28 is used by Paul to quote the 10th commandment (“Do not covet”) in Romans 7:7. The terms are biblically synonymous.
So if “covetousness” and “lust” are really one and the same, why is it that we suggest that the solution to coveting women is different than the solution for coveting material goods? Does anyone suggest that the solution to my struggle with coveting my neighbor’s home or car is to build a hedge so tall and wide that I will never see his home or car? Such a solution would only serve to reinforce and validate the covetous response!! Yet this is the solution typically offered for sexual covetousness or lust. And – as we should expect – it only serves to reinforce the lustful response.
Isn’t it possible to appreciate the grandeur of my neighbor’s home, or the sportiness of his new car without harboring a desire in my own heart to possess them for myself? Shouldn’t that be my goal? Wouldn’t that be the measure of my freedom from covetousness?
By the same token, isn’t it possible to appreciate the elegance of my neighbor’s wife, or the youthful beauty of his daughter without harboring a desire in my own heart to possess them for myself? And again, shouldn’t that be my goal? Likewise, wouldn’t that be the measure of my freedom from lust? I submit to you that it is, that it is possible, and that this is the only real solution to lust.
But we’ll never get there if we continue to believe that our response to the unclothed human form will always be sexual.