-Rev Melissa Fain-
This is part of a series. Check out the other ones!
To Desire or to Lust? That is the question
There always comes a point in pushing an idea, that the idea falls apart and no longer works. It's like when you find that really old stick of bubblegum in your car, and you decide to chew it anyway. At first, it's like biting into a piece of plywood. You finally get it to become chewy, then, in the middle of chewing, it disintegrates in your mouth. Only me?
Well, lust is one of those words that I can't see any other way than as a deadly sin. Lust is the murdering of desire. Lust comes from a selfish place as it objectifies people to use desire as a foothold to get control. Mostly, that's in the form of sexual control, but our lusts can distort anything good for selfish gain.
Last week I had to opportunity to hear Jackie Brewton. She's a motivational speaker, and more specifically, helps teens understand the dangers surrounding sex. There was a point she kept returning to time and time again. Boys that want girls for sex don't want a relationship. They want to turn the girl into an object, get what they want and move on. And boys can move on because they suffer less with STDs (having a visible system, females are internal and can't be seen) and boys can't get pregnant.
A healthy relationship is built on mutual respect. Sex does not add anything that is or isn't already there. You can't add love, friendship, or trust through sex. Those things are built outside our sexual desire.
Sexual Objectification is Real
Yes, as a 38 year old female, sexual objectification can still happen. It is the absolute quickest way to lose my respect. I don't have time to help that person see my humanity outside turning me into an object. I simply make note, and move on. It's easy for me to do, but I'm not worried about me. I have sufficient self-esteem to overcome someone seeing me as an object.
I am worried about girls who struggle with their self-esteem, and seeing objectification as their only route to having any kind of value at all. These are beautiful, smart, creative, girls who just want to be seen. The idea that sex can fill that desire is both horrifying and sad.
Most Women and Men are biologically born different
The struggle is real for me between nature versus nurture. As Nature Made Him probably became my turning point book to accept that both play a role in gender. (By the way, not a book for the faint of heart. Mentally, a very difficult read.) Here was a male baby forced into growing up female because of a botched circumcision that completely cut off the penis. This man was forced into a gender that did not belong to him, as he was forced into female gender stereotypes of the 70s. I believe the book came to the conclusion nature and nurture play a role in gender. The boy grew up, knowing he was not what he was created to be, while being much more caring and gentle than his twin brother that grew up a boy. (Not a happy ending, btw, both brothers eventually committed suicide.)
I believe sexual objectification starts first in the world of nurture. Last week, I came across an article by Melinda Selmys discussing the very issue with nature versus nurture. I was captivated as she laid out a case where most men are more self-confident because of a little drug their body produces called testosterone. The church fathers, all being male obviously, had felt that desire to be the focus, and it led to centuries of writings about lowering oneself, and giving away focus.
Women, conversely, produce estrogen, which makes us more empathetic. We are more likely to work for the sake of others and give up of ourselves. A Christian perspective of bringing oneself low is dangerous when being low is already the baseline. It can kill a woman.
While I disagree with some of her conclusions, I agree with Carol Gilligan's focus on care. A healthy focus on care must begin with a healthy self. Bringing Selmys and Gilligan together: Women are called to bring themselves up to value, and their Christian journey is in seeing their worth, not bringing themselves down.
Men often see the woman's journey as already over, and objectify their selflessness as something to raise up, rather than a sign of a needing personal growth. Therefore it's easier to chastise women for finding their voice, when they're really just on the opposite side of the spectrum of other/self. Then we nurture our children into men continuing a self-centered world, and women an other-centered world, when we should be nurturing both into a world that values both.
Lust ends up objectifying the body and the mind, subverting our natural desire- our needs for others becomes what we take for ourselves.
Chastity: Had to get here eventually
Chastity is the one virtue that, based on how we usually define it, is probably not a virtue at all. Nothing is virtuous about just abstaining from sex. If that were the case, we'd be working really hard to only use sex as an act of procreation. While there are people who completely and totally believe this, many of us see sex within a loving monogamous relationship as not sinful.
Abstinence.is the best way to not get an STD or get pregnant. Period. Even a condom cannot protect you from Chlamydia or Gonorrhea because they are bacterial and are often outside of a condom. Also, partners that just want sex either can lie about their STDs or don't even realize they have them. There are over 40 known STDs. Just putting that out there before I write what I need to write next.
We've turned chastity into virginity and then we put all the work and punishment on the girls for losing it. I've already mentioned that girls pay a higher price for sex because STDs effect them more and they can get pregnant. We've also turned the purity culture into a female shame game. If a guy lusts after a girl, it's the girl's fault because of what she was wearing or doing.
When we base it all on virginity, we've turned their bodies into a piece of gum that's value lies in whether or not it's been chewed up. You can't undo gum, so girls who mess up think it's over and they don't see the point in continuing being chaste. They'd already been chewed and spit out anyway, what's the point!
WE'RE DOING IT WRONG!
Instead of focusing on virginity, we need to focus on the body. Our bodies are living temples to God. We have power to choose what goes in and out of it. Godly chastity is about not letting vandals or dangerous things into the temple, and cleaning it up and moving on when that sort of thing does happen. It's protecting the temple, not the door to the temple, and only the very first time that door has been breached. It's a lifelong process, that even continues as you find that person who cares for your temple as much as you care for his/hers. It's mutuality. Healthy desire. Chastity is rooted in love. Anything else, is just lust.