Women have been blamed for men’s lusts for a long time. But Is a Woman Responsible for a Man’s Lust?
Both men and women struggle with lust. But both sexes do not experience responsibility for their lusts in the same way. What I mean is that when a man lusts, he may blame his actions on what a woman is wearing or doing. This has been promulgated by the culture at large, including, I’m afraid, by churches.
If a woman dresses like that, she’s asking for guys to see her as an object.
If a man’s wife doesn’t have regular sex with him, he’s going to be tempted to stray.
Porn is so accessible, how can I be expected to never use it?
When a girl is flirting with a guy all night, what does she expect is going to happen?
Men are wired visually, so when a man sees a lot of skin, he’s going to lust.
You can’t kiss me like that and then leave me unsatisfied.
You’re just too good to be true / Can’t take my eyes off of you.
Sadly, many men and women have been deeply influenced by these ideas, so that men (not all, but many) continue to blame others for their sin, and women (not all, but many) can be prone to carry the blame for men’s sins.
I’ve heard from some women over the years about how they have felt a subtle sense of shame about their bodies—a feeling they are “too sexy” or “a stumbling block” to men simply because of their body type. The most damaging form of this, of course, is when women are blamed or blame themselves for a man’s sexual violence.
I shouldn’t have led him on that way. It’s my own fault he didn’t stop when I said to.
If I hadn’t gotten drunk this wouldn’t have happened to me.
This article isn’t about vilifying men. In my years at Regeneration, I’ve known hundreds of men who are very serious about taking responsibility for their own sexual integrity, and anywhere they discover an attitude of blaming women, they are quick to repent of it.
So let’s state it plainly: Men are responsible for their own bodies. And women, you are not responsible for men’s lusts.
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God…”(1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 ESV, emphasis added)
Being responsible for your body means learning how to handle your desires, including—even especially—when sexually aroused. But for real change to happen, we can’t just discuss blame, we also have to discuss shame.
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Why Men May Blame
To understand how shame plays into this, we have to ask, Why have men historically tried to shift the blame onto women? Adam and Eve’s responses to God after his sin gives us a clue.
After Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree, notice how neither of them answer God’s questions. Instead, they each tried to draw the attention away from themselves and place it on the someone else. Adam tried to place it on Eve: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate” (Gen. 3:12). Eve tried to place it on the serpent: “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Gen. 3:13)
In his book Anatomy of the Soul, Dr. Curt Thompson proposes why the first man and woman didn’t simply answer God’s questions:
“The man’s shame is too piercing, his fear too pervasive, his prefrontal cortex too dis-integrated. Instead of paying attention to his emotional state and telling God exactly what is going on inside his head, he impulsively, mindlessly turns on Eve as a means of protecting himself. In his shame, he shames her.… Exposed, humiliated, and left undefended, Eve follows suit, deflecting responsibility for her behavior at the feet (or the belly, as it were) of the serpent.”(Anatomy of the Soul, p. 220)
Shame is painful. Adam feels this new and unwelcome emotion in his body and wants it out, which he attempts to do by pointing at Eve. She does the same to the serpent. Both of them want to exorcise their shame, but neither can. The shameful truth is right there, undeniable: He did what he did. She did what she did. They eachturned away from the God who made and loves them and who now stands before them.
Likewise, when we men blame women for our lusts it’s because deep down, we feel the shameful truth of our condition and want it out. Like Adam, we want to think we can be autonomous, strong, faithful, controlled, and powerful. We want to believe we are strong enough to wield sexual desire on our own. But we can’t. We are like a little boy who thinks he knows how to pull dad’s car into the driveway, but ends up putting it through the fence. It’s not the car’s fault or the fence’s. And men’s lust is not women’s fault, or God’s. It isn’t caused by alcohol, or malfunctioning internet filters, or adult channels on a hotel room TV.
Return to the foundation: We are responsible for our own sexual desires.
When Women May Blame Themselves
But what about women? Why do some tend to blame themselves for men’s lust. The serpent drew Adam and Eve’s attention toward a specific fruit on a specific tree, but when it comes to lust, the enemy is drawing attention toward people. So, for the first woman, when God questioned, “What is this you have done?” the serpent who gave her the fruit was an obvious culprit. But what about when there is no fruit?
Adam in his shame points at Eve, “The woman you put here with me, she made me lust.” Although not true, if she lives in a community or culture that follows the man’s finger to her body and waits for her to give an answer, what is she to do?
“In his shame, he shames her,” is right. But in this case, she has nowhere else to try to divert her shame. All eyes are on her and remain on her. What’s happening? The man feels deep shame about his inability to control his body and so blames and shames a woman’s body. She becomes a receptacle for his shame, and if the shame is cultural, she becomes the receptacle of not just aman’s shame, but a community’s shame.
This is painful enough already, but there’s also a sinister intent behind it.
Consider for a moment that the parts of a woman’s body that are typically viewed as “sexy” in our culture are the parts of a woman God designed to conceive, carry, nurture, and nourish new life. In a word, a woman images God in her body, and she does so beautifully and powerfully in her breasts and genitals, whether she is single or married, a biological mother or a spiritual one. But if these parts of her body are also responsible for mens’ lusts, then they become dangerous—a threat to chastity, integrity, purity, and…family. (Can you see the knot the enemy is twisting?) Our loving God, who has created us to live in union with him, to abide in Him; God, who loves us tenderly and nourishes us with pure spiritual milk; God who gives his body up that we may be born again—this very God has carefully fashioned a woman’s body to express all of these things about Him, and to express these invisible attributes in her flesh!
The enemy’s intention here is to stamp out God’s image expressed through a woman’s body. The serpent of old whispered to Eve then as he whispers to woman now, “You have no glory. You do not image God. He made you shameful. Listen to me if you want to be something special.”*
When women drink down the idea that somehow their bodies are shameful by nature and that is why they must be covered, or that is why men lust after them, or that is why men exploit them, then the enemy has won a great victory. And when a culture drinks this down so that both men and women turn against a woman’s body, making it the receptacle of our collective sexual shame, then we have become what the Church describes as a “culture of death.”
When God Drinks Down Our Shame
Enter Jesus, the second Adam. Instead of throwing men’s shame back in their faces, he took it upon himself. Instead of casting stones at women’s wounded, sinful sexuality, he stood between her and her accusers and took the loathing that had been hers.
Where Adam and Eve ate forbidden fruit in lush garden, Jesus fasted in barren desert. Where they bowed to the serpent in Eden, he bowed to the Father in Gethsemane. Where Adam was silent before Eve’s tempter, and accused her before God; the last Adam was silent before his accusers to justify his bride before God. Where Adam and Eve ran to the trees to try to hide their sin and shame, Jesus let himself be nailed naked to a tree, despising the shame.
When we cannot “control [our] own bodies in holiness and honor,” it just means we need more union with Jesus in the area of our desires. It just means we need his healing. It just means we need his life so we can grow. Instead of letting this reality entice you you into blame-shifting, let it alert you to the reality that you’re onto something the enemy doesn’t want for you. He’d rather divert your attention than see you grow as image bearers of God.
Learning Instead of Blaming
The little boy in his dad’s car doesn’t need to blame anyone. He needs someone to help him learn how to drive (eventually!). When you were an adolescent, someone taught you to drive.
But who taught you how to understand and steward your sexual desires? Who taught you how to see your body as the powerful and beautiful expression of God that you are? I’m guessing nobody.
Friends, resist the urge to blame or take on blame. Resist the urge to run from your shame, immaturity, brokenness, or sin. Acknowledge these to God and others, and discover how God in his loving strength moves toward you in your weakness.
This is precisely what he did for the great apostle Paul, and he desires to do this for you:
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”(2 Cor. 12:8-10 ESV)
Could it be God is coming to you now, not with accusations, but with questions—maybe questions like…
“Where are you?”
“Who told you that about yourself?”
“Have you been doing what I told you not to do?”
“Would you come now and follow me?
Brothers and sisters, your Father is loving. He comes not with accusations to scare you, but with love to heal you and gentle questions to draw you out of hiding.
If you need it, Regeneration can help.
*I’m taking some poetic license here, but I would argue not too much poetic license. The serpent was indeed attacking woman’s sense of being made in God’s image and likeness [Gen. 1:26-27) when he insisted she must disobey God in order to become “like God” [Gen. 3:5].