Visual Stimulation

lie5graphicaTruth: God made both men and women to be sexually aroused relationally.

Most Christians believe that God made men to be primarily visually aroused. However, a review of the Scriptures will show that God simply does not tell us that. And what we do find demonstrates that it is not God’s design – nor His will – for men. Let’s look at an important passage from Proverbs 5:18.

“May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.” (NIV)

In the context of Proverbs 5, it is clear that the “fountain” is a poetic reference to ejaculation. In other words, this is specifically talking about sex. God wants us to “rejoice” (take sexual pleasure) in the wife that we took as young men. And he wants us to “rejoice” in them for the rest of our lives.

If God made men to be visually stimulated, then this command would be cruel, for there is no way that the sight of an old woman’s body is going to be as sexually stimulating as a young woman’s body, if that’s what it takes. What if, after awhile, she ages, droops, gains weight, and/or loses her breasts to cancer, and he can no longer “rejoice” in her because she simply doesn’t have what it takes to “turn him on?” Should that man resort to fantasizing about the images in magazines so that he can “get it to work” with his wife… so long as he keeps his eyes closed?

Some do. But that is not God’s design.

However, that is the logical conclusion of thinking that men are visually stimulated.

The Allure of the Adulteress

I would urge you to read and consider the entire chapter of Proverbs 7. It portrays the enticement of an adulterous woman. Notice how very little of the sexual enticement of the adulteress is visual. The only mention of anything visual is that she is “dressed like a prostitute.” Even this statement is an indication that she was “dressed” (not naked). Clearly, her attire had been chosen to communicate something… it communicated sexual availability! The account is entirely about her communication to the man, not her visual appeal.

In Proverbs 7:21, Solomon summarizes what happened to the man:

“With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk.”

Do you see that it was her words and not her body? It was her communication that seduced him. Communication is a relational event, not a visual one! There is nothing more powerfully alluring to a man than a woman who communicates that she wants him. That’s precisely what the adulterous woman communicates to the young man. And it works, because we are relational creatures.

Some might argue that much of what the woman did was visually perceived. But we call that “non-verbal communication.” Even that which the man picked up visually was part of her communication with him.

Porn Knows the Truth

At its core, the pornography industry knows this is true. Consider the images they sell… the subjects are photographed with a “come on” look which communicates “I want you.”  Pornographic magazines often include biographies on the girls where intimate details are shared… so that every guy looking at them says to himself “Wow, she’d really like me!” That’s a relational response.

And consider the telephone sex lines… if men were primarily visual, those lines wouldn’t make any money, but they thrive. They hook people relationally.

I cannot stress this point too strongly. I would even put it this way:

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.

This is why the pornography industry wants you to continue believing and acting as if that lie is true… without it, they have nothing to sell you. This is why the marketing industry has contributed to the conditioning. Without it, they wouldn’t be able to capitalize on the mantra, “Sex Sells!”

The baffling question remains… Why does the church continue to promote this lie?

Back to Lie #2     or       On to Lie #3


comments user

Excellent post. Thank you so much for debunking the myth. I’ve read a LOT about porn addiction but never this – always ‘visual’, never ‘relational’. Your perspective is unique but clearly true. I’ll share links to your site on the forums, as and when appropriate.

comments user

Ur arguments are strong but its hard to believe that visual stimulation is irrelevant. Even from a christian perspective the scriptures do veeeery strongly imply that physical attraction is a thing and a very strong thing at that. (Various scripture calling various women beautiful, Jacob falling in lust with rachel … or the other one i forget the name, jesus warning a man not to look upon a woman lustfully which impliee that there is some type of pleasure associated with looking at women, etc) . How do i reconcile the idea that a logically consistent creator apparently exists and doesnt want me to sin (if He does indeed exist i def dont wanna sin against Him) with the reality that when i see a hot girl i have this tension that goes on inside of me? Whe i look at porn it feels wrong but i severely question whether it looks wrong cuz i was raised with that implication or cuz it actually is wrong. Then theres the side of me that truely feels like its not a big deal. But i dont know if thats cuz ive been conditioned by the society i live in or cuz its actually not a moral issue.

    comments user
    David Martin

    Thank you for writing, Frank.

    Be careful not to read more into what we’ve said in the article. We did not say that visual stimulation is irrelevant… but that it is not “primary.”

    The real point is this… How does God want you to respond to the sight of a beautiful woman, regardless of how much of her skin you see? Is it God’s will for you to automatically respond with sexual desire? The answer to that question is No.

    Does God intend for you to sexually objectify a woman simply because you see her and/or her form? Again, the answer is No.

    Did God make you to appreciate beauty? And to be particularly appreciate of Female beauty? Emphatically, Yes!

    That beauty is not forbidden… no beauty created by God is forbidden for us to see and appreciate! And no beautiful thing created by God is any sort of impediment to righteousness! Not even the beauty of a woman’s unclothed form!

    So, the only way that can be true is if it is NOT God’s intent for men to automatically (or even primarily) respond to physical beauty with sexual desire and lust. That sort of response has been assumed and taught and learned by our society today as to be presumed to be “natural” and God-given, but it is NOT! The “tension” you feel is a combination of a natural and God-given sexual drive combined with an unnatural and conditioned response to the visual perception of a woman, which objectifies her as a sexual stimulus instead of a person created in God’s Image and a person of intrinsic value.

    God’s intent is for men to find sexual arousal and attraction through relationship. And trust me, when the relationship is strong, not only is sexual attraction strong, but so is the appreciation of the woman’s beauty! The converse is true, too… if the relationship is bad, then regardless of how beautiful the woman is, sexual attraction can be completely short-circuited!

    And, yes, Rachel was described as Beautiful, and that drew Jacob to love (not lust after) her, but this never in any way indicates that God’s design for sexual arousal in men is supposed to be first and foremost visual.

    Jesus’ teaching on “lusting after” a woman indicates that it’s more than simple appreciation of her beauty, but beyond that, a desire to possess her… and it is the lust that is forbidden, not the sight. The tenth commandment (Exodus 20:17) tells us not to “Covet” (which equals “lust”) after anything that belongs to our neighbor… including his wife. We understand that well enough… and it does not mean that we must compel our neighbor to keep his beautiful house (or wife or servants or livestock) out of sight… That would be silly! Rather, it is for US to control our response to that sight!

    Yes, the simple sight of a persons form really is “no big deal.” But the sexual objectification of that person IS a big deal! That’s what makes porn wrong… not the simple sight of the natural human form!

    I hope this helps clarify.

    David Martin

comments user
Loyal May

David that’s a great response to Franks concern. I have been sharing a very similar response with guys and gals I speak with.

comments user

What is being said makes sense but one thing I don’t understand is how people often say that “badness” turns them on. Like say if one person is being naughty and it turns the other partner on. I’ve heard stories of people smacking their partners for “bad behaviour” and it sexually arouses them or something like that. Could you confirm that this is another learned stimulated attraction that is not of God and if so explain why this is the case?

    comments user
    David Martin

    John, it really boils down to this…

    Anything that demeans the humanity of a person who bears God’s image is a problem. That is the agenda of Satan, not of God.

    Is there anything possibly right about getting sexually aroused by abusing another person? Ever?

    No, not ever.

    But can someone condition themselves to experience that sort of response? Of course. Could someone even condition themselves to a sexual response even when they are on the receiving end of such abuse? Almost inconceivably, yes. But what self-loathing such a thing reveals.

    comments user
    Phil Brown

    I’ve heard it said that when we are growing up any kind of sexual activity is “bad.” We get used to that thinking and equate sexuality with badness. As we grow up we still think that to be good it must be “bad.”

comments user

I don’t mean it like that. What I mean is that say if someone is just being naughty in general, it sexually arouses their partner. It has nothing to do with being abusive on purpose. People have said to their partners before “hit me I’ve been very bad” and it turns them on. It wasn’t uncalled for. Now that i think about, I’ll bet you that is learned too seeing as people aren’t meant to feel aroused after seeing their partner doing bad things as evil is contrary to the will of God.

    comments user

    Hi John, I’ll chime in to add this. The Fall introduced sin into the world and that has resulted in many cultures over the years finding pleasure in watching others suffer. Think of the Roman gladiator fights or Christians being thrown to the lions. Consider the public hangings and mutilation/dismemberment common in the Middle Ages. Today, think of how many people are “entertained” by horrific and disgusting treatment of the body in video games and films. Consider how 50 Shades of Grey became a best seller (in Christian female and unsaved demographics). It is definitely part of the sin nature that sees hurting/hitting/abusing a person’s partner as a turn-on. We reject that as being contrary to the Redeemed View of the Body.

      comments user
      Loyal May

      Great response Jason, your answer is clear and historically supported. The bottom line is fallen man, left to his own imagination will only grow more sinful with the passing of time. Without the Spirit of God arresting our conscience there are no limits.

comments user
anonymous giraffe

Are you arguing that sexual availability is really what stimulates men? I just don’t buy it. Availability only seems to be stimulating inasmuch as it is combined with physical attractiveness. Just one or the other doesn’t have nearly the same potency. Unattractive women — and even attractive men! — have tried to seduce me by indicating their sexual availability, but it no effect on me, zero. At the same time, very attractive women who have with either words or body language indicated they were not available, or even repulsed, remain infinitely more enticing. If I’m not primarily aroused visually, help me understand why this is the case?

    comments user
    David Martin

    Hey, “Giraffe,” thanks for writing!

    I did not say that “sexual availability” is what stimulates a man. I said that “nothing is more powerfully alluring to a man than a woman that communicates that she wants him.” But even so, that’s secondary to the “relational” part.

    And you as much as declared that fact yourself… because if you have no interest in a relationship with an unattractive woman or an attractive man, then even the “availability” doesn’t do the trick.

    Furthermore, it’s entirely possible (happens all the time) that a man can completely lose sexual interest in his gorgeous wife if their relationship sours to the point that he and she are at odds (or worse) emotionally.

    And think about this, also… is the blind man incapable of responding sexually to a woman? “Visual” is absolutely NOT a factor in that case… and unless I’m quite mistaken, such a man can be fully functional sexually.

    But what about your own experience? Doesn’t it actually prove our point? Visual enticement to sexual interest is actually conditioned, not innate. Your own conditioning is so complete that you see a beautiful woman and it “automatically” triggers your “sexual interest” responses. But I assure you, that that does NOT have to be the automatic response for a man. It will remain your response so long as you protect, defend, and (most significantly) practice that response. And as I said in the article above, “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.”

    Now, let me also hasten to also assert that it is very human (and in God’s “likeness”) to be responsive to beauty. Why do we pay attention to flowers? or sunsets? or snow-capped mountains? or the natural female (and male) form? God built it into us to see, recognize, appreciate, and be drawn to beauty. But Beauty is designed by God to elicit praise… ALL of it! God didn’t create the beauty of a woman to be a spiritual stumbling block to “Every Man.”

    So… you will never (I trust) lose your appreciation for the beauty of a woman’s face and form. But I do hope that you can learn to turn that admiration to praise of her Creator rather than a temptation to lust.

    And if you are going to honor a beautiful woman as one who carries the dignity of bearing God’s image, then even if she’s beautiful, you are not going to sexually objectify her by reducing your interest in her personhood to the fact that her body is sexually enticing to you! You will instead honor her personhood by allowing her the freedom to NOT be interested in a romantic or sexual relationship with you.

    The “relational” approach to sexual arousal honors the personhood of the woman (and the man). The “visual” approach to sexual arousal demeans personhood.

    I urge you to pray about this. Take these ideas before God and ask Him to confirm in your heart what is true… and what His will for you is.

comments user

How does the command for women to dress modestly (1 Timothy 2:9) play into all this? If men are trained to be visual, and not created that way, why would women be commanded to dress modestly?

    comments user
    David Martin

    Thanks for your question, J.

    The short answer is that the Greek word that is translated “modest” in 1 Timothy 2:9 means something very different than how modern Christians use it.

    It’s very clear in the context that Paul was teaching women to not dress ostentatiously… to not dress to show off wealth. It has nothing to do with covering some unnamed part of her body in order to abate the lustful responses of men who may see her. That notion is completely foreign to the text and is only read into the passage by our faulty understanding of the word “modest.”

    The longer answer is that the translation is misleading and it should probably be worded quite differently.

    For a careful explanation of that claim, I recommend you read the article that I wrote about that passage and its translation/meaning:

    When I had concluded my study, I compared the new translation to some other translations and paraphrases. I was somewhat surprised to discover the following rendering of the passage in The Message written by Eugene Peterson (emphasis mine):

    Since prayer is at the bottom of all this, what I want mostly is for men to pray—not shaking angry fists at enemies but raising holy hands to God. And I want women to get in there with the men in humility before God, not primping before a mirror or chasing the latest fashions but doing something beautiful for God and becoming beautiful doing it. 11-12 I don’t let women take over and tell the men what to do. They should study to be quiet and obedient along with everyone else. [The Message]

    As you can see, it’s clear that Peterson did not consider this passage to be saying anything about “modesty” as it is commonly taught in churches today.

    And there is no other passage in all the Bible that teaches any of that sort of “modesty.”

    I hope that helps.

    Pastor David Martin

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