How Patriarchy Manifests in Church: Men Are Not “Visual”

Women are visual. Men are visual. People are visual. Living organisms with eyes are visual. Living organisms without working eyes and sensory awareness through sound, smell, or touch can be visual. “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness” (Matthew 6:22). The eye. The body. The whole body. Not man’s eye. Not man’s body. Eyes and bodies.

I remember sitting in a youth group sermon once where the male pastor practically begged the young women in the room to make the lust struggle less hard for him. “You don’t understand how visual men are you. You just don’t. You can’t comprehend the struggle.” It breaks my heart that when we split into small groups of guys and girls after the sermon to discuss it, the girls all looked at one another and spoke in sympathy for the unwarranted responsibility that had just been dumped on us: “Wow, I guess it really is hard for guys.” We all concluded as the seed of shame concerning sex and our bodies took root. In that meeting, we did our best to sympathize with our brothers as the pastor prompted us to do, while none of the men in the room made a stride to sympathize with us and look at the speck in their eye long enough to wonder if women might be visual too. 

I remember a friend once breaking down in youth group about her lust issue, and several other girls following suit. I applaud that girls’ bravery and the subsequent effect it induced. I’m appalled that male pastors are comfortable enough talking about lust and porn in the pulpit, but girls are made to feel like such outsiders in this sin that we are scared to confess it to our own friends.

“You don’t understand,” they say. “Men are so visual. Lust is so hard.”

According to a recent survey from Fight the New Drug, 31% of women watch porn every week; 30% watch it a few times a month. Those are just the results of women who participated in that study. Women who were willing to admit it.

I’m not sure if there is any public platform on which I or another woman could say this without being immediately discredited as whiny liberals, so I’m going to use fully transparent language here: The abusive, patriarchal twisting of Scripture for the benefit of men and detriment of women must stop. If the church will not protect women and empower them to celebrate their bodies, they will look for validation elsewhere. Sadly, many women have found more positive reinforcement from the secular world than they have from the church. The world doesn’t pretend that women aren’t visual. The world has called out victim-blaming while the church propagates it from the pulpit. Some of these points and verses I have shared before, but I’m going to list a few again. Until the church starts examining, admitting, and correcting the ways in which they have twisted Scripture in the same reprehensible ways that the pharisees did, I will keep sharing. I hope you will too.

Jesus said that “if your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out” (Matthew 5:29). Nothing is said here about what is making you sin, because nothing is making you sin but yourself. Remove yourself from the situation. Examine your heart. Cut out your eye. Don’t blame a woman’s outfit and plant seeds of shame that will manifest in her psyche for years to come.

Jesus told everyone to “flee from sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:13). Not just men.

Jesus called all of our bodies “a temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19). He didn’t say men should have no modesty standards. He didn’t say women need extra modesty standards. He said we are all valuable and to be respected. Holding women to a different modesty standard is not biblical. It perpetuates the falsehood that men are more visual and women are more tempting. We are visual. We can all tempt and be tempted.

As we delve into these types of issues and how the church handles them here on this blog, I hope you enjoy these smaller servings of food-for-thought to chew on until the next post. This issue and discussions around it will continue to be posted, so if this resonated with you, I invite you to share it. If you had thoughts to add, don’t hesitate to reach out!

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3 Comments

  1. Parker Christian Ott
    December 12, 2018 / 3:24 pm

    I agree — I think that Jesus’ teachings and James 1 make a clear case for sin being the sole responsibility of one party (the individual who’s desire’s have been fanned or enticed through temptation) — we all want to help make the journey in life easier – but starting from the premise of the solution lying outside of the individual is a bad foundation for making changes —

  2. Jamie
    December 15, 2018 / 9:09 am

    I really enjoyed this. I can recall being “shamed” and being told not to tempt men. I believe that is, in part, why I didn’t turn in a sexual assault. Keep up the good work.

  3. Roseline Charles
    January 9, 2019 / 1:14 pm

    This is so true! its not only in church, its everywhere! Women are blamed for tempting men to sin. India where I am from, when a girl gets raped they blame the victim cause she did not dress modestly. Personally I blame the up bringing, if every women brought up their children without discrimination of the gender, the world would be a better place.

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