Friday, May 31, 2013

The Myth That Women Are To Blame For a Man's Lust

I read on another blog a metaphor for how men struggle with lust - due to women who dress immodestly. I think there is some merit to it. It goes something like this...

Women who are concerned with good health and exercise have to really struggle not to eat the chocolate (or other tempting food they like) which is sitting out on the counter. It takes all the will power a woman has to say no, stick to healthy habits, and put the chocolate aside. Now, imagine if someone followed you around every day, with chocolate, and offered it to you. Over time, your will power might break down, unless you were constantly vigilant. This is what it is like for a man struggling with lust due to women who dress immodestly.

While there is some merit to the analogy, I want to point out that if someone is following you around and tempting you there is always the St. Paul option (see Acts 16:18).

Second, It is a choice to say "yes" to the chocolate and allow the temptation to fester. The desire for chocolate is not the problem. It is what you do with that desire that is the problem.

Finally, women aren't generally following men around and tempting them. Rather, the man's eyes are wandering and the man needs to have more custody of them.

I have heard many excuses for the men who can't control their lust:
  • "If she didn't dress that way, then she wouldn't be seen as an object."
  • "Men can't control themselves when women dress so provocatively" 
  • "Just boys being boys"
  • Etc
This mentality is a lie. It is an "out" that we men sometimes wish we had so we didn't have to control ourselves. Yet, the fact is - LUST IS A CHOICE!

In order to be clear, let us define lust. Some think it is any sexual thought about someone else. It is not. Rather, lust is the entertainment of sexual desires for a selfish satisfaction.  Here is how JPII put it:
"Reducing the riches of the perennial call to communion of mere satisfaction of the sexual 'need' of the body."
In other words, lust is using another person sexually (whether they know it or not).
The Catechism says:
"2351 Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes."
So, lust isn't just a thought that pops into your brain without you choosing it. Rather, you take that thought, entertain it, and use it as your own. This makes the thought an act of your will - you choose it. If you don't take ownership of it, then you can't be forgiven nor can you start to work on real chastity.

So, regardless of a woman's ignorance, imprudence, lack of modesty, and bad choices - it is NEVER A WOMAN'S FAULT YOU CHOSE TO LUST AFTER HER!

Let me say it again - despite a woman's reckless behavior, lack of concern for your chastity, failure to show charity to her brother - the man who lusts is the one who is to blame for the lust.

This is not to say that women should wear immodest clothes (see this post for the argument against immodesty). In fact, immodesty can be sinful, just as lust is.

Rather, it is an argument that shifting the blame of a man's lust to women who dress in a certain manner is a lie. The truth is if we love our sisters, we men will step up and take responsibility for our choices and our need to work on self-control.

**Internet + Bathing Suits = Bad Idea
**Top 10 Reasons Men Should Practice Custody of the Eyes
**Top 10 Reasons Women Should Dress Modestly
**The Impact of Porn Through Stats
**Reflections on the Question of Modesty


Josephus Flavius said...

What an odd post. The desire to eat chocolate is the problem. We're trying to develop apatheia. It is not enough to simply make impotent the passion, but to root it out.

Patristically speaking, there is quite a bit on the proper dress for women and the proper behavior and mindset of men, but you won't find much that says, "Women dressing immodestly isn't the problem. It's the eyes wandering that is the problem." I think you will find chastisement for both parties with pretty much equal vigor.

Marcel said...

"The desire to eat chocolate is the problem."
No it isn't. The desire itself isn't bad. Just as the desire for sex isn't bad.

It is the disordering of that desire that makes it wrong, not the underlying desire itself. The desire can certainly be misused, improperly abused, etc. But having an attraction to something is not sinful.

Josephus Flavius said...

Lust is a problem. The desire for sex inside a martial union differs from the desire to copulate with a complete stranger. While one mimics the other they are not comparable.

Marcel said...

I agree with the first part of your last comment. Yet, lust is possible within marriage:

"Man can commit this adultery 'in the heart' also with regard to his own wife if he treats her 'only' as an object to satisfy instinct." -JPII

Josephus Flavius said...

And in neither place is it appropriate. My points would be.

o Lust is a passion and must be cast out of your heart.
o Lust is not proper desire for one's spouse within the marital bed. They are separate in beginning and eventual end. One is damning the other holy.
o The answer to lust is prayer and fasting. These are deadly to the passions and allow the intellect to function as it should.
o While a woman who dresses immodestly is not solely to blame she is not innocent either.

Marcel said...

I agree.

May I ask a clarification? Are you saying a sexual desire = a lustful desire?

Josephus Flavius said...

Not at all - though through the ages both East and West has had Fathers that have said that.

I am saying that lust is the perfidious doppelgänger to the self-giving (kenotic) love one spouse gives to another in the martial embrace. It's like the deadly mushroom that looks almost exactly like the good one, but instead of fortifying it corrupts.

So, ladies, quit wearing mushrooms. :)

Jen Brown said...

Great posts, both of them Marcel. Thanks.

I wanted to get your opinion on this thought: I think it is Chris West who gives the story of the three prelates who are walking behind an immodestly dressed prostitute. One lusts and turns away in shame. The next averts his eyes and admonishes his brothers to do the same. The last looks upon her with admiration saying "Look at the beauty of creation that God created." or you know, words to that affect.

As a woman, I loved this. I would love if a man didn't lust after me or avert his eyes from me but instead appreciated me and saw me as God sees me.

In a conversation with Dr Hahn, he said that he did not like that at all because it would not be possible for a man not to lust and to put a man in that position is unfair. Or words to that affect (please don't quote me or go after him for this recollection). I was under the impression that what the last prelate did was never possible.

I was sad because I thought how then, are we to view each other if not as God made us? I can't look at every Christian guy I find attractive and put all my hopes in him as a husband (emotional lust or lack of chastity that is) any more than what you are proposing.


Marcel said...

The problem with the story isn't that every man will lust after every naked woman they see. Rather, it is that every man still has concupiscence and needs to protect himself from the possibility of lust.

Both men should avert their eyes and hopefully both will avoid lusting. Both should also turn to prayer. This can be praise for God's beautiful creation, a cry for help, a thankfulness for chastity, etc.

That is my take.

Christine Dalessio said...

Marcel- thank you so much for this post. I have been saying just this for a while, and it always leads to resistance, particularly among men.
So I appreciate that you are saying this intelligently, as a man, and with charity.
I read your commenters, and agree that while we have inherited the concupiscence of the Fall, the goal is to strive beyond our dominant inclinations, and pursue radical purification of heart through the grace of Christ.
From all the women, especially the MANY many young women with whom I have worked who have been shamed by men claiming that they have been lead into sin by these beautiful women, Thank You.

Katy Kaminski said...

Thank you so much for writing this. I saw that article and it wasn't sitting well with me. I now know why! You articulated it so much better than I could.

Nicole Resweber said...

Bless you for writing this. :)

That cake post creeped me out something fierce. I am not an object to be consumed, no matter what I'm wearing.