Was Your Husband Sexually Assaulted This Week?

October 5, 2016

in Uncategorized

I suspect your answer to that question is a fast no. After you read this post you may be less sure.

In part, this post is a result of a comment “B” made a while ago that included “I’ve often wondered this, if good men are secretly thrilled that all of that eye candy is out there, or if they ever feel assaulted.

Yes, exactly. Sometimes it feels like we’re being sexually assaulted. 

Was Your Husband Sexually Assaulted This Week?

If you think using the words “sexually assaulted” there is an attempt to lessen the horror of the kind of things we usually think of as sexual assault think again. My intent is to help you understand how difficult this can be for a man. If a man wants to limit his sexuality to his wife, any woman who exposes too much of herself is using his God-given sexuality against him. He doesn’t want to see her that way, and he doesn’t want the way it affects his mind and body. Even if he’s able to look away physically, mentally, and emotionally, he’s still being violated. He is being drawn into a sexual situation against his will.  If this happened once or twice a month it would be bad enough, but many men are faced with this multiple times every day! 

I know some of you get upset at your husbands for being affected by this. We have a choice about how we act, but we don’t have a choice about reacting to it. It would be like men walking around waving snakes at women to scare them. They would be tapping into a hard-wired mental process and causing distress. Women could choose how they responded, but not being startled or scared by it.

Yes, there are women out there who use their sexuality to manipulate men. But there are also plenty of women causing men problems who have no clue what they are doing or greatly underestimate how much of a problem they’re causing. Let me offer an example that will help you understand how men’s minds work when presented with something sexual. 

A while back we were at a church sitting behind a young woman in a fairly modest dark dress you would see in a business setting. The only problem was the hot pink bra straps showing on both shoulders. I know, you’re thinking a bit of a bra strap is no big deal. But you don’t have a male mind. The straps, especially being so bright, invite a man to think about what the rest of the bra looks like. It invites him to think about what she would look like without the dress. It invites him to undress her with his mind.

You will say this is a choice and he can choose to not go there. You’re right, but this doesn’t change the fact he’s been given an invitation and he has to deal with it. Some men have gotten good enough to dismiss this kind of thing without fully processing it. But this takes a great deal of effort and self-control, and many men who would rather not go there struggle to avoid accepting the invitation. Even if they resist, the mental battle is difficult and costly. And if he has to do this kind of battle many times a day it can do some significant damage to him.

One way some men deal with this, and this was my choice many years ago, is to mentally attack the woman. She’s horrible, and she should be ashamed. This path can be twisted so that the man has to look to see just how much a woman is showing so he can be properly offended. Yes, it’s a justification for looking, and yes, that’s all on him. When a guy is this way he will find something to be offended about. I bring this up because I think some women use men like this as a way of excusing women who need to deal with showing too much. 

I wonder if this has something to do with the apparent increase in men with low sex drives. Are they working so hard to not lust they’re pushing their sex drive down? Are they so overwhelmed by what’s forced on them day in and day out that they can’t respond normally to their wife?

The long and short of this is some men are anything but thrilled at all the eye candy out there. Some of us don’t want to see it. I think most men who don’t want to see it gradually get better and better at looking away with both body and mind, but it’s a long difficult path. I pray your husband is trying to avoid all the invitations to lust that are thrown at him, and I pray you can understand how those invitations can be a form of assault.

~ Paul – I’m XY, and yes, this kind of stuff can feel like assault.

ADDENDUM

I’ve been having a tough chat with J about this today after this posted. My thanks to her for trying to help me see more clearly on this. Part of the issue is how we define “sexual assault”.

When I google those words, the box google puts to explain things says, in part “The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behaviour that occurs without explicit consent of the victim.” (Taken from RAINN – the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization)

Based on that definition, showing way too much of your body is assault regardless of your gender. (I’m thinking of men in bike shorts that leave NOTHING to the imagination.)

But is that definition going too far? Is it making things into assault that we should call something else? I’ve taken a very wide view of assault, with things on a continuum from rape to leering and everything in between. I see all of them as hurtful and damaging to our sexuality. Some are far more so, and how bad they hurt depends on the victim too.

It is using this wide continuum for “sexual assault” that I feel what a woman shows can qualify as assault. HOWEVER – if you don’t define sexual assault on this wide continuum, but have a narrower definition of things well beyond sights or words, then what I’m talking about is not assault.

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{ 189 comments… read them below or add one }

Libl October 5, 2016 at 2:55 am

I am a woman with a fairly strong sex drive. I am rather visual for a woman, and things of a sexual nature attract my attention pretty strongly. Thus, I do not watch movies with sexual situations or nudity. I don’t thumb through Cosmo or Maxim. I don’t read romance novels, not even Christian ones. I don’t like buying underwear for hubby because the packages show real (and rather well-endowed) men modeling the underwear. I do notice women (and men) who are dressed more sexually. (I get that it is like 1000 degrees up there, but do roofers have to replace a roof half naked?!) So, I can understand why you write this, Paul, and I have an understanding how often a man is assaulted visually.

But, I think you point too much to women, still, to lessen the blow. Roofers aren’t going to put shirts on. Underwear packages aren’t going to use mannequins. UPS isn’t going to replace my usual delivery man with a little old lady. I…me, myself, and I have the authority, power, and self control to live above and beyond the base human instincts.

I can drive by a roofing company and not care that they are there. I can buy hubby’s underwear and not care that the model is on the packaging. I can greet the UPS guy warmly as a brother and nothing more. I can see the pink bra strap in the pew ahead of me, or the skinny jeans on the guy playing the guitar in church and not think anything of it. I can take every thought captive. It takes MORE effort to dredge up the base thoughts than it does to squash them.

The more we see people as people and not potential sex objects the easier it is.

Concerning the pink bra strap….last Sunday I wore a business- appropriate outfit to church. Below the knee pencil skirt and satin blouse. I also drove myself into an anxiety attack over it because after reading another one of those Christian “women need to do modesty better to keep men from lusting in church” articles, I was picking myself apart. I have a cute, shapely figure and the outfit fit tailored. Is just having a figure and being able to see it because my clothes aren’t baggy too much? I decided that no matter what I wear short of a sweat suit a size too big or a burka is going to be a problem for some men. In fact, my husband finds my Sunday clothes VERY sexy, but doesn’t bat an eye at skinny jeans or leggings. Others would complain that leggings in church are far too sexual.

If every woman in church wore robes, men,would start seeing nuances in the robing as sexual. Maybe when so and so bends over, you can see the curves of her hipline through the drapes of the robe. Maybe so and so is more endowed than the others and the robe drapes deliciously over her smoke bosom while the robes hide the bosons of her smaller chested sisters.

Do you see?! There is no end to this!! And drives some women to fear and ulcers, and many have just given up even trying to dress for church, or go. If she can wear it to the office without her boss undressing her in his mind, she should certainly feel safe wearing it in church.

I find well dressed men to be very sexy. VERY! So, should the men at church dress like slobs or punks or in sweats just to keep women,from enjoying a well dressed male figure? Or can we all just have enough maturity and self control to deal with it and overcome it. If we stop pointing fingers at what we cannot control, then we can address where the real problem lays. In our hearts.

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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 11:12 am

@Libl – Yes I understand the problem with all this. As I said, a man who WANTS to lust will find something to lust about – even if women are covered from head to toe. A woman can’t do anything about that and shouldn’t try. But there are other men who are not looking to lust, and if a woman takes reasonable steps she can avoid giving such men an invitation. I think that’s a good and right goal.

You said, “It takes MORE effort to dredge up the base thoughts than it does to squash them.” But for some men, I think the vast majority of men, this is not the case. The base thoughts are there on their own, no prompting required.

I used to rant about immodesty by women, and I realise now that was driven by my own sin and guilt. I’m not that guy anymore. I didn’t take Miss pink bra strap up on her invitation and I didn’t have to change seats to avoid doing that. But I was aware there were men in the church struggling with it, and I felt bad for them. I also felt bad for the lady because I know some will judge her harshly and wrongly and I’m sure she has no idea about any of what’s going on in men’s minds.
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Lynn October 5, 2016 at 11:48 am

Paul, I hope you can hear yourself. A woman who was attending a church service in a modest dress becomes “Miss Pink Bra Strap” who is offering you an invitation. “I didn’t take Miss pink bra strap up on her invitation”. Listen to yourself.

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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 2:27 pm

@Lynn – What is it you would like me to hear?
“Miss Pink Bra Strap” is my sense of humour.
I don’t think she intended to offer an invitation, but she did.
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Art October 5, 2016 at 4:34 am

Yes. Men are bombarded many times a day by “eye candy” and expend much effort to avoid it.

It is a particular problem where I work (a private, Christian School) because many of the young mothers wear what is “in fashion” not realizing the affect it is having on men. I try not to look or lust, but it is very difficult. The progression is just as you said. First, something simple, then more, then to undressing them, then to them performing sexual acts on or for you.

It’s horrible.

Then, you add the young female teachers and students on top of that. Maybe I should work someplace else, but the benefits are too good.

I try to have lots of sex with my wife to keep my libido down. But sometimes she is “not it the mood” or we have other scheduling conflicts.

At this point, I’ve learned to live with it, I guess. Will it ever go away?

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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 11:18 am

@Art – For me, yes, it’s no longer a problem. But then I don’t deal with it very much. If I had as much of it as you do I suspect I’d struggle more. It’s not just what we see, it’s the amount of it.
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Charlie O October 5, 2016 at 5:17 am

I tell my wife that modestly dressed women are victims of those who dress like they would like to be propositioned. Men that are not only making no effort to turn their eyes, but are on the prowl to see all that they can, walk around in a state of sexual excitement and “eye-ball” every woman that they see.

Women often say that they are not sex-objects, yet many of their “sisters” dress like they are. If the first things that a man sees are the very things that he ought not be seeing, a woman has “introduced” herself as someone who blatantly wants to show them to any man who would like to see them. Hence, she has put her sexual “foot” forward first.

There is a chasm between the ungodly man and the ungodly in this regard. Serious Christian men should be trying to control their eyes, but there are difficulties. I live in a large Northeastern city, and we do a great deal of walking. As a result, I pass many women on the street. The problem is often that when I turn away from a legging-clad backside, I then see a yoga pants attired one. Then the teller at the bank is showing so much cleavage that it is hard to look her in the eyes. After a while I am suffering from spiritual battle fatigue.

Interesting that you should call this assault, Paul. I thought the same thing many years ago.

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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 12:05 pm

@Charlie O – Many men will agree it’s assault because that is how it feels. It’s unwanted and intrusive and it hurts our sexuality. Most women won’t see it this way and I fully understand why they don’t. But I hope the discussion helps some see how bad a struggle their husband has.
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Nick Peters October 5, 2016 at 5:33 am

What I tell women is to think about what it’s like when they’re trying to lose weight and then having to go past the ice cream section in the grocery store and just begging for it, or the chocolate section. Whichever one it is that is the biggest temptation.

Welcome to everyday in the life of the male.

Go out in public, see women. Turn on the TV? See women. Browse the internet? See women.

Then a man comes home to the woman he’s saved himself for, the one woman that there are no barriers with, and she sets up her own barrier by turning him down or hiding from him when she changes clothes, etc.
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Libl October 5, 2016 at 6:36 am

Sorry. Not buying it. A person on a diet who goes past the ice cream section in the store and feels the pangs of deep cravings isn’t experiencing basic human nature. They are experiencing their own sins of gluttony and coveteousness. There are many dieters and healthy lifestyle people out there who have learned to control themselves and recognize their destructive habits IN PREFERENCE for a healthier way of life. Dieting isn’t about deprivation and wishing junk food never existed. It ought to become a lifestyle of choosing the salad and finding it delicious in preference over the triple fudge devil’s food cake because you KNOW it is healthier and better for you to nourish your body long term with the salad.

Also, pardon us women for existing. I am getting downright sick to my stomach hearing Christian men complain that the mere existence of women here, women there, women everywhere is a problem for them. I have actually heard Christian men say they wish women would just stay home and wear burkas when they went out.

The problem isn’t the junk food. The problem is you gluttoning/coveting/lusting after the junk food and being deceived that God’s way is somehow tasteless and depriving.

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Nick Peters October 5, 2016 at 6:43 am

Hold on. Did I say that having ice cream is a natural desire? Did I deny there can be gluttony and covetousness? Nope. Did I also deny that men don’t have a nature of lust? Not a bit. It’s called an analogy. When a woman is on a diet, the ice cream section is incredibly tempting. That’s reality. For a man, women are incredibly tempting. That’s reality. The man does indeed have to do his own part to deal with this. One thing his wife can do to help though is to realize that by being sexually available, it does allow him to better focus his energies and not be as distracted. A man is far less likely to be distracted if he knows his wife wants him at home.
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J. Parker October 5, 2016 at 6:36 am

I agree with everything you said except I vehemently disagree with the use of the words “sexually assaulted.” I feel the same about this subject when women who have been sexually harassed call it assault. Look, I’ve been sexually harassed, and there is absolutely no way I’d equate that to rape. Paul, I love what you’re saying here, but please reconsider that language; it’s not accurate.

Blessings!!!
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J. Parker October 5, 2016 at 7:40 am

Actually, the more I think about it, the more I think my word “everything” was too generous. Lol. Because really? A bra strap? You guys haven’t dealt with bras, and while I’m all about encouraging women to keep your underthings under their clothes, it’s not always easy to keep those things tucked in. (You wear a bra for a month and let me know how it goes.) And by way of analogy, if I see the band of a guy’s underwear peeking out from his pants, does that mean he’s offering an invitation? No, I figure the guy has issues with his pants or his belt.

Look, we all have a sense of when someone’s flaunting their goods, and I get that it’s an issue. On that I totally agree with you that women need to be aware and responsible. But the Victoria’s Secret model poster with a girl spilling out of her bra and posed in a come-hither way really shouldn’t be compared to a pink bra strap peeking out of a conservative dress.
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Nick Peters October 5, 2016 at 8:16 am

J. For the most part, I would agree. Many women are doing something perfectly innocent. They sometimes don’t realize it. A woman may go workout at her gym in Yoga Pants and stop at the store on the way home and not realize what’s going with men around her or do so with intent. The same with a woman with bra straps showing. Still, that doesn’t change what does go on in a guy’s mind. Now I notice it and can start to wander in my mind, but I can more easily catch myself. Sometimes it’s harder. Think of the preacher who is doing a sermon and on the front row is a woman with a blouse revealing more than she realizes and the pastor has to maintain his focus. That can be hard.

Should women be willing to dress modestly? Yes. That’s a Biblical command in fact. At the same time, men need to learn to control themselves. We both have to help one another out.
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sunny-dee October 5, 2016 at 9:08 am

Look, if a woman is going braless and nipping out or is wearing something extremely tight or low cut or too short, I completely get it.

But the argument here isn’t even for women who intentionally or negligently are too revealing. It’s that accidentally having a bra strap show or wearing full-coverage workout clothes is simply too sexually enticing for men to deal with.

It’s honestly arguments like that that make me throw up my hands and say there is nothing to be done AT ALL for men. If the only non-arousing clothing is a freaking burka, there is no such thing as modesty and it’s not worth wasting my time to try to police everything. There is, very literally, no way to make y’all happy, so why even bother.

I really don’t think that is the intent of the post (and I do believe modesty is important, so I’m not going to start flaunting my good because YOLO), but it’s still my gut response.

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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 12:15 pm

@Nick Peters – Yogu pants! Men either love or hate those, and it depends on if they enjoy lust or want to avoid it. Sigh
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Lori Byerly October 5, 2016 at 11:19 am

I think there is a significant difference between your bra strap falling down a bit and using your undies as a fashion statement (the pink bra strap or the top of a thong intended to show as fashion). And, honestly, I think it makes a huge difference for guys too.

It’s easier to set down an unintended slip, but provocative look-at-me fashion invites further thought.
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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 12:13 pm

@J – This was not a bit of strap peeking out. There were a couple of inches of shoulder between the edge of the strap and the dress, and there was 8″ to 10″ of strap clearly seen from the front or the back. This was an intentional fashion statement. (I should have explained that in the post.)
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Tom October 5, 2016 at 8:52 am

100% agree with you there, J.

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Lori Byerly October 5, 2016 at 11:13 am

I was sexually abused by a number of people as a preschooler and acquaintance raped in college, so I do know “sexual assault” first hand. There are degrees of assault and I think we tend to poo poo those sexual events that are small and less significant.

That said, there is the steady drip drip of sexual exposure that men don’t want. Pretty much every day most men are battling what our culture throws at them (billboards, TV, the women in the office who are being stylish, etc.). Cumulatively speaking that is some pretty heave assault, but it seems petty to talk about the one small exposure. Then they’re told to look away if they don’t like it, but they’ve already seen it because they didn’t have the choice in that first second or two.

I think I would call it assault.
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J. Parker October 5, 2016 at 11:34 am

Let’s be clear: Sexual assault is a legal term defined as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape” (https://www.justice.gov/ovw/sexual-assault). Yes, that first sentence seems overly broad, but the examples make it clear what we’re talking about. And while I’m fully on board with saying that such much immodesty in our culture is bombardment or even harassment to men, I cannot agree that it’s assault.

And let me add that women get bombarded too by visual images of men, and plenty of them struggle with lust. But who among those women would argue they’re being “assaulted”? It just seems a bit much, Lori.
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Lori Byerly October 5, 2016 at 12:13 pm

I consider it all sexual assault. When you don’t ask for it and you get it, your world has been assaulted.

Certainly some assault is worse than others, but a low grade assault that goes on for years can be as crippling as a single event.

I think we tend to think of men as strong and capable, so they get the “quit sniveling, deal with it” message. Men and women both get the “it’s great to be sexy” message so we don’t complain when we should.

Did you know that in Amish country the stores are different? Their clothes are more modest, even the “fashionable” stuff (for the English). Stores will meet the market. Maybe it’s time we spoke up?

I hate all the eye candy for women. I don’t buy magazines anymore or frequent stores that have hugely sexy images.
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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 12:19 pm

@J. Parker So is showing too much of yourself sexual behaviour? If a woman bends over and shows me a nipple, is that sexual behaviour? I used to see a fair amount of that, but not anymore because I look away when a woman dressed in a way to do that bends over. Back then I assumed most of the women doing it meant to. Now I know most of them had no idea and would have been shocked and embarrassed if they knew.
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sunny-dee October 5, 2016 at 12:47 pm

I’m going to go with “no.”

One huge thing, along with consent, is intent. The thing with a behavior or contact is that there is an actual action with an intent. Even if you want a broader definition, catcalling has an action and intent. Bending over where a blouse momentarily and unexpectedly gaps is an accident. In the context of that definition of sexual assault, it is not sexual behavior.

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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 12:10 pm

@J – When we do a marriage seminar (which we did this last weekend) I tell the men, with the women in the room, that every woman in our culture has been sexually assaulted. Our culture is so messed up about sex it’s impossible to grow up in it and not be assaulted. Then Lori talks about how porn sexually assaults boys. Most boys see porn at a very young age when they didn’t go looking for it, and it is very much an assault.
But again, this is using a much broader definition of assault.
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J. Parker October 5, 2016 at 1:28 pm

I still consider this a way-too-broad view of sexual assault that plays into making each other out to be enemies. The guy who wears Speedos at the beach is not the same as a rapist, and I believe grouping those two together mutes the point you really want to make. Which, ironically, I agree with.
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T October 5, 2016 at 7:00 am

My husband struggles with sexual addicton. It’s something that nearly cost us our marriage. I have expressed my concerns about some shows he has expressed interest in because of the sexual content in them. Some are things that many people wouldn’t think twice about but other are pretty extreme. So last night he went to he library to pick up some books and was browsing the DVD collection. He ended up bringing home the first season of one of the shows I have specifically talked to him about my concern of the sexual content considering his addiction. To be honest no one needs to be watching this show, way to much skin and sexual interaction. I told him again how concerned I was about this show and he explained his thought that if you just focus on the story line and the sexual content it’s a pretty good show. Problem is too much of the storyline is sexual. I feel caught between a rock and hard place hear. I’ve expressed my concerns, and they are legitimate, but he doesn’t see it the same way I do. My fear is watching this show will engage those thoughts of extreme lust for any women he sees (he’s told me it had gotten that bad) and our marriage which though healing is still in a very fragile state will suffer as a result.

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sunny-dee October 5, 2016 at 9:11 am

Have you tried asking him if watching a TV show is more important than the progress you’ve made in your marriage? If he keeps doing it, the answer is yes, and that’s A Thing.

My husband has a drinking problem and I’ve come to realize there is literally nothing else in our lives or marriage that we can focus on until that is under control — because alcohol will always be #1.

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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 12:22 pm

@T – Society makes it easy to think these things are okay. There are a couple of popular shows I know Lori and I would enjoy, but neither of us wants to see the nudity and sex we know they feature.
For a man such as your husband these shows are like an alcoholic thinking they can have one drink. You have our prayers.
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Amy October 5, 2016 at 7:18 am

What?? When I read the title of your post my first reaction was wondering if you were talking a man being raped.

Yes, there is a constant warfare against lust going on for men on a daily basis. I too see those hot pink bra straps peeking out from under a woman’s top and think of the hot pink bra she must be wearing. Maybe I don’t completely undress the woman in my mind like you say a man may do, but I notice it too as a woman.
I get tired of seeing all these young woman, and some not so young, walking through the grocery store wearing a skimpy tank top with a different color bra peeking through and lots of cleavage hanging out. It’s hard enough for myself not to stare so I can only imagine how much harder it may be for a man to avert his eyes.

But to say a man is being sexually assaulted by those kinds of things is a little extreme and although I’ve never been sexually assaulted, I find it rather insulting to compare something like this to the act of being physically attacked and harmed.
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Lynn October 5, 2016 at 7:47 am

Paul turned into the Ayatollah so slowly I hardly noticed. :-)
Sorry, once you say the woman’s visible bra straps were an ‘invitation’, you lost my sympathy.
Of course I agree that women should maintain the cultural standard of modesty, but keep in mind that in cultures where women are bare-breasted, men do not walk around in a state of perpetual sexual excitement, while in cultures where women are covered, men make rules that women should wear soft-soled shoes so that the sound of their footsteps doesn’t make the man think of sex.

The thing is, if pink straps are an issue, what if the dress, which you say was modest, simply had pink accents? Might that not make you want to ‘undress’ the person?

I do agree that in our American culture, where breasts and buttocks and long legs are considered sexual attractants, women need to be careful in displaying these things. On the other hand, a head of long hair is considered sexy. Do we have to pin our hair up under little caps like the Amish?

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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 12:31 pm

@Lynn – Ayatollah? You have found me out!
As I have already clarified, this was not a bra strap peeking out, it was an intentional showing. The dress was relatively modest, but it showed a lot of shoulders. Bare shoulders (a tube bra) would have been far more modest than what she wore. She wasn’t showing cleavage.
Culture is always a difficult thing. As I read the Bible we are to do what we can to avoid offending our culture so long as doing so does not violate God’s Word. Lori and I try to pay attention to this when we travel. What we do and do not wear will vary by the local Christian culture. In some places it’s expected for her to wear a dress, and for me to wear a tie. We don’t do a lot of speaking such places, but when we do we choose to honour their values in how we dress.
As I see it we have God’s standard and culture’s standard, and we follow whichever one is set higher.
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Libl October 5, 2016 at 2:14 pm

I would rather wear a strapped bra with strap exposed than wrestle with a tube bra all day, drawing attention to my bouncing bosons every time I had to pull up the darn thing.

A matching colored bra would have been more appropriate, but gee wizz, it is simply a bra strap. I see underwear bands and butt cracks on men all day long and don’t think it sexually about it.

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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 9:20 pm

@Libl – Having never worn either I bow to your experience.
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hiswifeagain October 6, 2016 at 9:59 am

A tube bra is not the only alternative though. A racer-back bra would be the appropriate bra for such a dress, IMO. There are also bras that come with clear plastic straps. I can’t agree with what used to be considered a fashion faux-pas as a sexual assault. I do think that such a choice was intentional, (unless it’s possible she owns only brightly colored bras, which isn’t likely) but I wouldn’t presume to know the motive behind it. I don’t think Paul was assuming motive either. There are so many things that used to be considered unacceptable that are now fashionable that this shouldn’t be a surprise at all

It seems with everything the truth is somewhere in the middle. I do think it’s unkind to be a stumbling block by dressing provocatively, but what is provocative is such a subjective thing that much grace should be given before applying that label. We all struggle with temptation in many ways. We are given the answer though.

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide for The Way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corin. 10:13

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Paul Byerly October 6, 2016 at 10:12 am

@hiswifeagain – I think you have nicely balanced the responsibilities of both men and women in this.
Thanks
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Lynn October 5, 2016 at 7:57 am

Just to clarify: in one of his books about growing up New York City in the early 1900s, Harry Golden wrote that ‘sports’ used to sit at the shoe-shine stand at the train station, getting shine after shine, so they could see women’s ankles when they stepped up to get on the train. The more we cover, the more we need to cover. I imagine that if we all went nude, it wouldn’t be an issue at all. Not that I’m advocating that!

My husband, who has a very healthy sexual appetite, thinks that you overestimate the sexed-up nature of men. Just sayin’. Still, I enjoy your blog and it gives us quite a bit of discussion topics.

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Lynn October 5, 2016 at 8:01 am

You know, I really feel called on to say a little more. I spent a good part of my life in a religious setting where we were not only supposed to dress modestly, but were not to have makeup, perfume, or jewelry beyond a simple ring or cross because those things were ‘to attract men’. I used to say, “I’ve never seen a man turn to look after a woman and say, ‘Wow, look at the pair of earrings on that!'”

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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 12:33 pm

@Lynn – Yeah, I’ve dipped into those groups a few times in my life. I find most are legalistic about everything and I find that dangerous. I avoid such groups when I can because of the legalism.
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B October 5, 2016 at 8:25 am

Wow, this is a hot button post, Paul. First I’d like to say thank you for addressing it.
Secondly, I apologize for the semantics issue. As someone who has been both sexually harassed and assaulted, I would say, yes, there is a difference. If we are going by dictionary definitions, I don’t think assault (which implies physical attack) or harassment are the right words. I think a better word for this would be “violated”.

I like to think I see both sides of this issue. I believe there are many instances where a woman does something or dresses in a way that is sexually appealing to a man without meaning to or even realizing it. We cannot control the way others think and perceive. On the flip side, there are many, many times that women call attention to themselves absolutely on purpose, and for the sole purpose of getting attention. So I don’t think there will ever be a solution to this issue this side of Heaven.

I’m trying to learn to accept this. I’d like to believe my husband is a good man who loves me. The thing is, I don’t have a male mind. I love my husband. I am sexually attracted only to my husband. I know folks won’t believe that, but I’ve never been one to ogle and drool over other men. It’s just not in my personality. And so, I wish I was the only woman my husband was sexually attracted to, and it hurts my heart that it doesn’t work that way. I often find myself wondering why men even get married, if there is such a strong pull for them to enjoy all those other women. What is the purpose of marriage for them?

And how can a man love his wife, if he is so interested in so many other women. Men, don’t get offended here, I’m not trying to sound accusatory, this is something I just really cannot wrap my brain around. How can a man profess to love his wife if he is wondering what someone else could do for him sexually? I just cannot understand this. My husband claims over and over again that he loves me so much, but I do not see how this can be true, given the vast variety of much better women he sees every single day, whether he wants to or not. It’s a conundrum for me.

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sunny-dee October 5, 2016 at 9:18 am

I’ve thought about this a lot myself, and I think the answer there is “stability.” My husband was incredibly promiscuous before we met and has admitted to mild porn use (he stopped cold turkey, so I do believe it wasn’t a major problem, sigh) and fantasizing about other women. And has very limited sexual interest in me. So I had a massive question mark after we got married — if my husband has virtually no sexual interest in me, why did he marry me? And over time, I think I get it. It’s kind of like how a lot of men cheat, but always “come home in the end.” I think he wants stability and safety and comfort, and he gets that with me in a way he didn’t with his other, sexual relationships. There comes a point, even if men like to prowl, that they still want a place to come home to.

I in no way mean to justify guys stepping out. But I think we all understand that some guys are going to step out (mentally or physically), and it’s harder for us to understand why they come back.

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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 12:42 pm

@sunny-dee – It may also be that he burned himself out some. When we take in far more than God designed us to sexually it can ruin us. It’s like the 20 something guys who have looked a so much porn they can’t finish sex with a real flesh and blood woman. This is a growing trend, and there are some totally secular websites of guys encouraging each other to resist porn so they can regain the ability to have sex in real life.
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sunny-dee October 5, 2016 at 12:49 pm

Yep, I can definitely believe that’s a factor. It doesn’t explain why he would choose to marry me, though, (that’s where I think the stability / emotional safety comes in) but it totally accounts for why he’s not interested in sex.

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Charlie O October 5, 2016 at 9:39 am

I’m going to answer your “conundrum” (my wife loves that word). When God created us, He gave each gender a challenge and an obligation. For men it was to sexually love only his wife. For the woman it was to sexually love her husband frequently. In spite of numerous temptations, a man’s greatest gift to his wife is remaining faithful to her. Because of the way God wired us for the challenge, it is harder than you can ever imagine. You help him love only you by loving him often and enthusiastically. Good men hate the struggle. .Don’t think that we like dealing with being tempted by what we see.

There are some Christian men that blame all of their lustful temptation on women. This is a huge cop-out. It is possible for a godly man to see something that could arouse, feel the heart rate increase, fan himself, and say “oh, my!” and not THINK lustfully. Some men think that what I have described is a lustful thought. Actually, unless he thinks that he would like to see more or DO something, he has not lusted.

Without question, there are many women who deliberately dress provocatively I believe that they feel great that they can elicit the kind of attention that they get. What is normally considered a sexual assault? We would we say that if a man touches certain parts of a woman’s body without her permission–she doesn’t want it. She has been sexually violated. When a man seeking to live a sexually pure life-style is subjected to extreme female immodestly he could feel violated. There are levels of assault, and this is a low-level one, but, in principle, I believe that Paul’s thesis stands.

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K October 5, 2016 at 10:02 am

B,
Jason Martinkis has a video on New Live TV (tv.newlife.com) that answers the very question of how men can really love their wives and have a sexual addiction or sexual integrity problems. It doesn’t sound like your husband has a sexual addiction or sexual integrity problems (no porn, etc.) based on your comments, but this question still plagues you in the face of posts like this.

Jason gives 2 explanations in the video. The first deals with men’s ability to compartmentalize EVERYTHING. He describes it as shoe boxes on a shelf. The family box is on the shelf and is separate from the sexual addiction box which he takes down when he wants to act out.

In the 2nd explanation, Jason talks about “shallow love”. He says some men have shallow definitions of love that are mostly self-serving. They really do love their wives to the best of their ability, but they don’t have a full understanding that love goes beyond the nice feelings you have towards your spouse. He says some men don’t know the kind of love where he would lay down his life for his wife. He describes laying down his life as full disclosure, complete transparency, giving up his right to privacy, making sacrifices for the good of his wife and marriage, etc.

As women, we have a hard time understanding these things because we don’t compartmentalize the way men do. I found Jason’s video to be very helpful. I hope this understanding can help you too.

My other thought for you is this. Sex does not equal marriage. The love that’s shared between a husband and wife goes way beyond the bedroom (or it should). Think about all the things your husband does for you that he wouldn’t do for or with anyone else. He wants to spend his time with you, he tells you things he wouldn’t tell anyone else (even close family), etc. You have to make your own list because yours will be different than mine. The point is he chooses you everyday to share these things with. He does that because he loves you. Being distracted by worldly sexual clutter doesn’t change how he feels about you. This is where your faith in him comes into play. You have to learn to take him at his word when he tells you this.

Note: NewLifeTV is not a free service. That’s why I paraphrased the video. But, their site has been invaluable for me. Paul if you have an issue with me siting this resource, you can delete or modify my comment.

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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 12:45 pm

@K – Good stuff, thanks.
A man’s ability to compartmentalise is certainly a factor in this, for both good and bad. I was talking with a friend the other day about the fact that 60% of the men in the average church have chosen to look at porn in the last month. He wondered how such men could sit in church week after week. It’s possible if you compartmentalise your life.
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K October 5, 2016 at 4:40 pm

It’s very disturbing to me that men can do this so easily. I can’t be in a setting with a large number of men anymore and not wonder how many of them have been watching porn, how recently, if their wife knows and how many lies they’ve told about it. It seems so logical that if you have to lie about or hide something, you shouldn’t be doing it. Yet, men are able to put the lies, deception and betrayal in their little boxes and not even think about how their wife will be impacted.

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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 9:22 pm

@k – No argument from me, but half as many women as men do it, and the gap is closing. This is not a male problem, it’s a people problem.
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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 12:39 pm

@B – Sexually harassed is a much better choice of words. Were I to write it over I’d be tempted to use that. Then again, it don’t give the full understanding of what this does to some men.
It’s not about being interested in other women. Many men would very much like to cut this part of their brains out. The problem is they can’t do that without damaging their sexuality and robbing their wife. I think this is why some men are “low sex drive” because they have been so desperate to not lust after other women they have messed with their ability to want and enjoy their own wife. (I actually had a fellow tell me this recently.) And this is why I called it assault. It harms a man’s sexuality and potentially hurts his sex life with his wife. It’s not innocent or minor, it can have deep implications.
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Chris October 5, 2016 at 10:00 am

Sexual assault is an intentional and violent act of personal violation that removes the victim’s choice in the outcome. Paul, what you are describing is not at all like that.

I get that an accidental bra strap is likely to cause a man to have to deal with his physical sexuality without his consent. However, it is not intentional or violent, and a man does have a choice of how to respond. I would say that “bombardment” might be a better word than “assault.”

What you are describing may be similar to a pretty woman having to constantly deal with unwanted male attention. It is annoying and unfair, but she has a choice as to how to react when a man flirts with her or catcalls. (I would like to point out that in this situation, a man is choosing to interact with her, so she is personally a target.) A man who has to constantly deal with unwanted sexual awareness of females (who are generally not attempting to get his sexual attention) is dealing with something annoying and unfair, but no one is forcing him to sit and stare at her.
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Lynn October 5, 2016 at 10:29 am

Chris, that is so well stated. I wish I had said it.

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J. Parker October 5, 2016 at 10:40 am

I really like that word choice, Chris: bombardment.
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Lori Byerly October 5, 2016 at 11:29 am

But really, Chris, isn’t the unfair attention for a woman a form of assault? Doesn’t it harm her sexuality? They are inflicting their sexuality on her and she has no choice in that and has to deal with the fallout of it. I know of several gals who struggle because of that kind of unwanted attention. No one touched them, but it profoundly affected how they see themselves and how they function sexually.

You don’t have to be touched to be assaulted. We say the same thing about physical abuse and verbal abuse. You don’t have to be hit to be hurt.
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Chris October 5, 2016 at 11:33 am

Lori, it is a form of assault. I think it’s more the whole term “sexual assault” than just the word “assault” that I’m struggling with. That may not have been the best example to make my point, because there is an intention there that is lacking from accidental bra straps.
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Lori Byerly October 5, 2016 at 12:02 pm

He didn’t say accidental bra straps. He talked about fashion straps and really that is an invitation to look. What’s really sad is our culture makes this form of sexual behavior acceptable, even desirable. There are even excuses for this behavior. She’s being “fashionable.” He’s just a dirty old man if he points out how her sexuality is being pushed in his face. Culturally approved abuse.
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sunny-dee October 5, 2016 at 12:54 pm

It wasn’t clear at first (though he’s clarified it now) that it was intentional; I think most of us read that as an accidental show what was more visible because of the bright color of the bra.

But some of it comes down to “attractiveness.” Attractive as in, pulling things in. Pretty women will always get more attention. (There are even studies that babies look at pictures of pretty faces much longer than ordinary faces.) Just like a pretty landscape will. There is a balance. Obviously, some women really go out of balance one way. But the accidental or borderline cases? If a pretty woman is wearing a strapless sundress to the park, is she assaulting men because they want to look at her?

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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 1:01 pm

@sunny-dee – Accidental vs intentional does play a part in how we perceive it. But we may judge something as intentional when it isn’t because we see through male eyes with a male brain.
Because Lori and I have discusses this she has become far more aware of it than most women. When this happened she was amazed as how much was being shown that she never saw.
As for attractiveness, it’s not as big a factor as you might think. If you have two women dressed the same way the “more attractive one” will register a bit more, but either of them will have a strong effect if they show much. We are talking about something that is part imagination here.
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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 12:55 pm

@Chris – If a woman bends over and shows me everything, she has removed my choice and I very much feel victimised. I’ve learned to know when such a display is likely and avoid it, which is good, but it’s sad I had to learn that.
That said, it’s in no way as bad as rape or unwanted fondling, and I didn’t intend to say it was.

I know a woman who said she and her sister, both teens, had to walk by a construction site for many months on their way to and from school. The cat calls and sexual suggestions of the men hurt them deeply and left marks that affected one of the girl’s marriage a decade later. I’m going to call that sexual assault by any definition. I’m not saying a woman showing something is as bad – just clarifying how horrible words can be.

In the picture I choose for this post, the man is not being given any good choices. He has to interact with this female employee. He can look away to some degree, but must make eye contact in some situations. If he complains about her attire it’s possible he will be charged with sexual harrassment. In point of fact what she’s doing would be a violation of some businesses code of conduct, but even then trying to enforce that can end up hurting the guy more than the woman.
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Kay October 5, 2016 at 10:48 am

I agree with others that assault isn’t the best word choice. I’m not sure what a better word would be, especially since it often isn’t an intentional action by a woman (such as this bra strap instance). Assault, harassment, violation, etc, imply that women are doing this intentionally. I can assure you most of us (at least in Christian circles) are not being antagonistic with the way they dress. But I can’t say that about tv and advertising, obviously, since they capitalize on the idea that sex sells.

I am thankful that my husband has been pretty open about the constant struggle, though it is so discouraging. Sometimes I feel as if the purity culture in which my husband was raised has programmed him to feel as if he MUST lust if he sees. He grew up where girls had to wear t-shirts while swimming. I don’t know; it is just discouraging how much of the responsibility for men’s sin falls on women. My husband has chosen not to go to the beach or swimming at all because it is too exhausting for him. I have no doubt that that is his reality, it just makes me very sad that we live right on one of the most beautiful lakes in the US and I can’t enjoy it as a family but have to find other mom friends to go with instead. I have the fondest memories of swimming with my dad as a child and it breaks my heart that my children will never have this with their dad. Does it really have to be that way, Paul? Is this just a bigger struggle for some men than others? I am doing my best to be thankful that he has made that decision because he genuinely wants to honor me and honor God in his thought life, whereas many men don’t even fight the battle. But it is so discouraging that my entire family is impacted by his sexual struggles. *sigh*

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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 1:10 pm

@Kay – It’s great you and your husband talk about this openly. Ultimately that is what I would like to see come from this post. A lot of guys are afraid of discussing this for fear of how their wife will perceive their honest struggle. Yes, some guys are on the lookout for any chance to lust, but many would be very happy to never deal with such things.

One thing I try to explain to men is the difference between seeing and being effect by something and lusting. The first is a function of how God made us and we can’t control it. The sight causes some degree of arousal whether we want it or not (and by the way, the same is true for women!). But then we have the choice of what we do with that. Do we entertain it, fan the spark into a flame, or do we choose to turn both our eyes and our minds away?
When we see the unavoidable arousal as lust we are in a no win situation. We can either feel guilty for something we should not feel guilty about or we can decide if we can’t avoid the sin we might as well embrace and enjoy it. Neither option is good or healthy for a man’s sexuality.
Your husband may be stuck in this trap. If he can get past that he will find he has more options.
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Becky October 5, 2016 at 10:50 am

You know after reading this blog post, I’m beginning to think more and more that we evangelical Christians have gone absolutely stir crazy on this “modesty” issue. By making the female body (and the male body to some degree), taboo and forbidden, we’ve spawned a whole Christian sub-culture of men and now even women, having to avert their eyes lest they seem something juicy in the opposite sex. It’s pathetic.

The non-Christian world is largely right about us when they say that we are hyper-obsessed about our cultural traditions of modesty. The truth is that the more you focus on something, the bigger it becomes in your mind. One of the previous posters noted that in some cultures where the women walk around bare-breasted, the men don’t walk around in a constant state of sexual excitement — it’s a culturally conditioned response.

I’m all for the Free the Nipple campaign (www.freethenipple.com) which is drawing attention to the fact that men can walk around in a public park almost completely nude (topless and wearing just shorts) and move about freely but if a woman walks around topless, she runs the risk of getting arrested merely for showing her nipples — which is exactly what men do (and don’t get me started on the controversies about breastfeeding in public).

Do you get it folks? All of this is culturally conditioned. What the evangelical Christian “modesty culture” has done to men is an insult and a travesty. By saying that all men are obsessively visually focused, we’ve created a damaging, self-fulfilling prophecy.

Maybe a little naturism and nudism would break up our whiny little self-obsessed sub-culture — ya think?

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GC October 5, 2016 at 11:32 am

I think you are right that there is an element of self-fulfilling prophecy at work. If you continually say, as the evangelical church has, that something – in this case, women’s bodies – is bad, bad, bad and must be avoided at all costs, you end up creating a negative obsession toward that very thing.
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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 2:32 pm

@GC – And it certainly messes women up sexually. Taking extreme stands to protect people from a different extreme never ends well.
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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 1:15 pm

@Becky – Maybe the free the nipple group are half right, but the answer is for men to not go around topless? Then there is the whole reality that it’s not apples to apples.
I do understand the thinking that we have gone too far, and to some degree I agree. It’s the ever swinging pendulum going from one extreme to the other. The answer is to stop the swing and leave it in the centre, a sane place of balance. But the world will never do that, and sadly most of us react by trying to achieve balance by going to the other extreme.

My thinking is to figure out what is right and do that regardless of what others do. I’m tired of the church’s stand being a reaction to the world.
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Becky October 6, 2016 at 12:59 pm

Paul, I’m confused:

Are you advocating that men should be arrested for going topless out in public? That already happened in America’s neo-Victorian past. Do you wish to turn back the clock of time so that men don’t have that right any longer?

Just for a tickle, look at this old news story from where men were arrested for going topless on the beach in Atlantic City in 1935. The state of New York lifted its ban on male toplessness in 1936 and now that is standard operating procedure in all 50 states:

https://www.instagram.com/p/395629lYvs/

You imply that comparing male cleavage and female cleavage is comparing apples to oranges. Why is that? Anatomically, the structures of men’s and women’s breasts are very similar except for women’s ability to lactate.

Honestly, some men’s “man boobs”, nipples and areolas are larger than the breasts of some of us more flat-chested gals. Yet, we see women in American history being detained and arrested for what men do all the time. Please review this story for the history of women’s experiences with what men take for granted:

http://fusion.net/story/175536/bathing-suit-police/

What gives? Do women not have eyes when they see a buff muscular man on the beach? Maybe what is needed is some cultural desensitivation to skin so we don’t have men walking into sign posts to avoid seeing female flesh? (which is no different than male flesh).

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Paul Byerly October 6, 2016 at 3:01 pm

@Becky – I’d like men and women to put the feelings of others ahead of their own desires and comfort.
Years ago I heard a woman say seeing a man without his shirt was a problem for her. It was news to me, but I accepted it as truth and have avoided doing that in women other than my wife since. I am also very careful about the bathing suit I wear – I don’t want to be guilty of leaving too little to the imagination.
I think we have a pretty high obligation to avoid causing others to stumble. From what we wear to not drinking in front of a friend who is a recovering alcohalic, the Lord expects me to limit my liberty and freedom so I don’t hurt others. Beyond that, the Bible warns I will be held accountable for causing others to stumble!
I see this as a basic Christina principle that applies to many, many things, including how we dress. I once cut my hair because we were living in an area where many would have found my long hair a problem. I put their comfort ahead of my liberty.
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Becky October 7, 2016 at 10:27 am

Paul, of course, I respect your personal intention to never cause another female to “stumble” by not wearing a shirt out in public or at a swimming pool. However, go back into your memory bank this last summer and tell me how many men at swimming pools and beachs were wearing t-shirts on a hot day while they were swimming?

I don’t see any large scale societal swing in that direction coming any time soon, do you? Men will continue to wear as little as they want and women will be analyzed, monitored and corrected for almost every wardrobe malfunction or deviation from whatever group of people happens to think is the norm.

What it boils down to is whether you think that the male gaze and the female gaze are fundamentally and irreconcilably different.

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Paul Byerly October 10, 2016 at 10:50 am

@Becky – The total amount of cloth in the average two-piece woman’s swimsuit is more than the average amount of material in the average men’s swim trunks. Women manage to show a whole lot, and then show clear outlines of what is not shown. Even if men and women reacted the same to visual stimulation, the average beach or pool going woman is doing far more arousing than the average guy.
But the bigger issue here is two wrongs don’t make a right. If men should show less, calling for women to wear less is not the answer.
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Becky October 10, 2016 at 11:12 am

Paul, I have to admit that I couldn’t follow your explanation about what men show while wearing bathing suits and and what women show while wearing bathing suits — it’s really convoluted and I’m a very black and white person. Women have to get covered up because it tempts men more but men don’t have to cover up because it tempts women less?

If you think that men showing more skin than women is as bad as women showing more skin, then why don’t you officially kick off the campaign for men to wear t-shirts at swimming pools and beaches because it is
“immodest”?

Of course, I don’t expect that to happen because you don’t really feel that way strongly enough — it’s all about the women and what they need to do.

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Paul Byerly October 10, 2016 at 11:28 am

@Becky – I was saying even if a man is topless he is probably covering a greater percent of his body than many women. More and more women’s clothing is designed to cover the few bits that are considered too sexual to show while showing a whole lot of things are very nearly as sexual.
Beyond that I don’t know what to say to you because my words are not being received as I intend them. Over on TGH I get beat up by guys who accuse me of thinking women are nearly perfect and all the problems we have are men’s fault.
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Libl October 6, 2016 at 4:49 pm

Personally, I don’t like the free the nipple campaign because they use sexuality to gain attention to something they say shouldn’t be sexual….the female breasts.

Frankly, I LOVE that my breasts are sexual as well as functional. I would hate to lose that specialness just to be equal with guys.

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Paul Byerly October 6, 2016 at 4:53 pm

Libl – Nicely said!
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Becky October 7, 2016 at 11:27 am

Libl, actually the Free the Nipple campaign very purpose is all about not sexualizing the female breasts — that is the very point. When they walk around topless, they are often with men who are also topless (to provide a contrast). Invariably, police officers will sometimes walk up to the women to ask them to “cover up” but never the men. So much for gender equality in 2016.

Do you happen to believe that female breasts are intrinsically sexual? How about male breasts and men with big male boobs?

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Paul Byerly October 10, 2016 at 10:46 am

@Becky – So we have women declaring what is and is not sexual based on what they want to be true? What if a bunch of men declared peeing is not sexual and started doing it in public?
I don’t know if seeing nipples all day long would make them less sexual. As someone has already said it would be sad if that happened. God intended certain parts of our bodies to be sexual, to be a source of arousal and pleasure in marriage. Trying to eliminate that is saying God was wrong.
Beyond that, men now see nipples as sexual, and showing them cause men arousal, lust, and potentially sin. I don’t see that as a sane or biblical way to bring about change.
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Becky October 10, 2016 at 10:55 am

Paul, are male breasts sexual in the eyes of women?

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Paul Byerly October 10, 2016 at 11:06 am

@Becky – Not being a woman I can’t know that. Some women have told me they are, and I accept that as truth. Other women say they are not, and I accept that as truth too.
And that is my point in all of this – we can’t know what is true for someone else, especially someone of the opposite sex. So we either accept what they say as truth or call the liars and ignore what they have said.
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Libl October 10, 2016 at 2:58 pm

I do believe God created women’s breasts to be sexual and functional. There are verses to support both.

And I would much rather society lean towards men covering up than women uncovering.

Paul Byerly October 10, 2016 at 3:40 pm

@Libl _ Agreed. Trying to make female breasts non-sexual seem wrong to me from a biblical perspective.
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Libl October 11, 2016 at 4:10 am

I get some of what Becky is saying, though. It does seem unfair that women do more “damage” than men.

I live in farm country with a significant rise in female farmers. It is unfair that a man plowing a field topless causes less damage than a woman plowing a field in a bra and camisole or tank top….especially if she has a nice figure and/or ample bosom.

Should women be made to wear more, suffering in the heat while plowing a field while men can go about topless? Or maybe women shouldn’t farm at all because certain situations have them wearing fewer clothes?

The gal farmers I know don’t wear camisoles to look good and sexy. That is the last thing on their mind. Some will even buy minimizing bras to help keep those in-the-way breasts out of the way….she’s got work to do.

It sorely feels that we women are disproportionately sexual for no reason other than male subjective perspective. Is it really so hard to separate public humanity from private sexuality?

If you see a farm girl mucking a pig pen in a camisole and your first thoughts are about her boobs, you have a problem. If you see her riding a horse in a sleeveless blouse and your first thoughts are about her boobs bouncing, you have a problem.

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Paul Byerly October 12, 2016 at 1:55 pm

@Libl – I’ve never bought the whole heat things. In the hottest places in the world, both men and women cover up completely. Aside from shading the body, it prevents sun damage to the skin.
I worked in the Texas heat for 15 years and I never went topless. I did go through up to a dozen shirts a day due to the humidity.
Beyond that, I don’t think certain parts of the body being sexual is subjective, there’s a lot of biology at play too.

“If you see a farm girl mucking a pig pen in a camisole and your first thoughts are about her boobs, you have a problem.”
Or you have testicles.
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Becky October 13, 2016 at 9:44 am

So Paul, do you think that it is acceptable if a woman is arrested for taking off her top on a hot day in the park?

I saw many men in parks this last summer that had their tops off and absolutely no ruckus was made about it.

Do you think that it is acceptable that the men were not arrested or confronted about it?

GC October 5, 2016 at 11:25 am

Paul – I appreciate what you do on this blog, and more often than not agree with you. But the idea of comparing being “assaulted” by sexual images to being sexually assaulted is beyond the pale to me. Seeing someone’s bra strap, or even cleavage, is the same as being raped? What? And even if that’s the case, what’s the solution? Since something as simple as a stray bra strap can apparently cause a man to feel “assaulted,” the only possible solution is to cover women completely so that the offense caused by their bodies can’t be seen. I mean, some men might be “assaulted” by seeing a knee, a shoulder, a butt in a pair of jeans, the hem of a slip, long flowing hair, who knows what. Where does it end? And if that’s the case, the only way around it is to completely hide women’s bodies away.

But in the places where they do that, men still lust after women and disrespect and assault them, even though they are not being “assaulted” by the offense of women’s bodies. And it’s not a very big step from saying that women’s bodies are a huge problem for men to saying that women are to blame for being assaulted. (I’m not suggesting that this post says that, but I don’t think it takes much of a leap to go from the point of the article to victim blaming.)

I freely admit that I have a sore spot when it comes to this issue. I am basically sick of women being blamed for men’s problems, women being objectified and viewed primarily as objects that men either want to avoid or to devour, and women’s bodies being viewed as “a problem.” And I’m furious that the church and Christians actually promote this point of view. In my view, it’s one way of continuing to control women, by making them always feel unsettled, unsure of themselves, and worried that they are doing “something to make a brother stumble.” I don’t think that is your goal at all, which is one reason this post is so surprising to me.
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RP October 5, 2016 at 2:12 pm

Everything @GC is saying: A LITTLE BIT LOUDER FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE BACK.

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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 2:59 pm

GC – No, not the same thing, not at all. But I can argue for them being on the same continuum, especially given the very broad definition of abuse that is being used by some today. There are men who were put on a sexual predator register because they peed on a wall with their backs to someone who happened by and complained. As of 2007, thirteen states require sex offender registration for public urination (two only if a minor is present.) Please note the man’s penis never has to be seen for him to be guilty.

I do agree it’s gone way too far, and it would be good to pull it back. But in a world where being seen from the back peeing on a wall makes you a sexual predator, I don’t think what I’ve said is over the top.

All that said, sexual harassment is a better term for what I’m talking about.

The real problem is finding balance in a world that cares not for balance. It’s easy for men to excuse themselves because of a few women who intentionally shows their body for personal benefit, and it’s easy for women to excuse themselves because of a somewhat larger number of men who would find a way to lust after a woman in a head-to-toe potato sack. My goal is being reasonable in a world where most folks are not.

Another aspect of this is how men tend to see and treat women who are overly revealing. The woman in the picture above is not going to be taken seriously in the business world. As a secretary or low-level cog she might get by doing that, but is she’s trying to be a professional such attire will kill her advancement. I would assume women know that, but from time to time I see one who clearly does not. It bothers me that such a thing could limit a woman’s career. We can blame men for that all day long, but in the end, the only solution is for the women to find out how the game is played and play it that way.
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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 11:41 am

Adding this as an addendum to the original post:

I’ve been having a tough chat with J about this today. My thanks to her for trying to help me see more clearly on this. Part of the issue is how we define “sexual assault”.

When I google those words, the box google puts to explain things says, in part “The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behaviour that occurs without explicit consent of the victim.” (Taken from RAINN – the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization)

Based on that definition, showing way too much of your body is assault regardless of your gender. (I’m thinking of men in bike shorts that leave NOTHING to the imagination.)

But is that definition going too far? Is it making things into assault that we should call something else? I’ve taken a very wide view of assault, with things on a continuum from rape to leering and everything in between. I see all of them as hurtful and damaging to our sexuality. Some are far more so, and how bad they hurt depends on the victim too.

It is using this wide continuum for “sexual assault” that I feel what a woman shows can qualify as assault. HOWEVER – if you don’t define sexual assault on this wide continuum, but have a narrower definition of things well beyond sights or words, then what I’m talking about is not assault.
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Madeline12 October 5, 2016 at 11:52 am

I think that those who do not agree with Paul’s definition should NEVER use theirs in corporate America or with HR. Any giving of unwanted sexual attention, exposure of the body in specific ways or behavior that another person construes as an unwanted sexual advance is almost always considered a sexual assault and punishable as a felony in many states.

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sunny-dee October 5, 2016 at 12:57 pm

Actually, by Paul’s definition, most of the men would be guilty of sexual harassment. If a woman is wearing something (presumably within corporate dress code, but not necessarily) and they see a flash of bra strap and become aroused, that’s on them. If they mentioned that that woman was trying to entice them, they’d probably be packing their things in a box since they’re an HR liability.

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Madeline12 October 5, 2016 at 1:29 pm

Not at the Global 20 that I worked for. Men complained and all employees got a stern warning about sexually suggestive clothing. We were specifically told how high of necklines, no straps showing, no short skirts, nothing silky or lacy or in lingerie style, etc. Men were told no more than the top collar button could be undone, told to keep their eyes on women’s faces, and told there was to be zero sexual discussion in the office. If we were persistently bothered by another employee, we were to report it. We were told that whether or not it’s a problem is based on the other person’s perspective and opinion not on wearer’s intention. Everyone was warned with immediate dismissal.

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sunny-dee October 5, 2016 at 2:53 pm

But the men were warned to police their behavior.

That’s the thing. At least some of this — a bra strap, yoga pants — is accidental or not particularly revealing. The problem isn’t the women — it’s the guys’ imaginations.

If a woman is wearing a modest, code-compliant sweater but is busty, it’s on the guys not to stare, not on her to strap down her boobs to prevent them from staring.

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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 3:07 pm

@Madeline12 @sunny-dee – This is a big deal in business, and it’s handled differently from one company to another. In some, any mention of sexual harassment makes the one who mentions it a problem in the eyes of management. They may or may not deal with the issue, but the one who brings it up is likely to suffer for it down the road. Don’t make waves is the real rule.
Some companies have a great policy and follow through, some have a great policy and horrible follow through. Some are bad on both points.
The whole “based on the other person’s perspective and opinion not on wearer’s intention” is scary to me.
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Madeline12 October 5, 2016 at 4:51 pm

Yep, but was the rule. Straight out of the follow up manager training.

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B October 5, 2016 at 11:54 am

I think a majority of folks are missing the point of the post. I don’t see it as blaming women. I think Paul was trying to answer the question “do men enjoy all the eye candy that’s out there and see it as ‘oh goody I get to indulge in looking’ – OR – do they ever wish the struggle wasn’t there and they could go about their day without being bombarded by sexual images at every turn.”

That was kind of the point of my original question.

I think the bra strap thing threw a lot of people for a loop. Not the best example. Bra straps can be an accidental thing. I was referring more to the billboards with strippers on them, the “click bait” that comes up on the news feed even though we have filters on our devices, the woman doing her grocery shopping in a push up bra and yoga pants, the bank teller who never buttons her blouse and just happens to be wearing a black lace push up bra, the lady or even teens walking down the street with basically, denim underwear and crop tops on. Don’t forget the hamburger commercials that are basically soft porn and pop up before you can grab the remote. (There’s a reason we tape sports games and start watching them ten minutes late – so we can fast forward through he commercials). All on purpose, all wanting everyone to look. Those are the examples of bombardment I was referring to in my original question.

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sunny-dee October 5, 2016 at 12:59 pm

Those are much better examples, because they’re intentional with the sexuality.

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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 9:25 pm

@B – Thanks, that was my point. Men have their own burdens, and if a man’s wife gets it that makes things easier for him.
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monica October 5, 2016 at 12:19 pm

I get what paul is saying. I think he even said it is not saying it is equivalent to being raped. But aren’t flashers registered as sex offenders.

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I can't even October 5, 2016 at 12:42 pm

Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh.

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Charlie O October 5, 2016 at 12:43 pm

Ladies, if you were sitting on a park bench and a male biker walked up and stood close to you with his spendex-clad manhood at your face level, would that be offensive? He is assuming that you want to behold it. Christian men trying to do the right thing experience similar things quite often (usually the top part of the woman). We consider the man a cad; the woman, not so negatively.

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sunny-dee October 5, 2016 at 1:00 pm

If a guy did what you described, I would tell him to move before he got maced. Likewise, if a woman walked up and actually shoved her chest in your face, I think you’re entitled to push her away. But I see scads of cyclists going down my street like you described, and, no, I do not feel that their skimpy clothes are offensive to me.

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Libl October 5, 2016 at 2:24 pm

No, because bike shorts are appropriate and have a reason and purpose. I guess I should never watch male figure skating or gymnastics or swimming. I can watch all of those and not think one single sexual thought. My husband can walk into the room in his underwear and I can think a million of them. It is called choosing, and the more one chooses what is hood, acceptable, and righteous, the easier it is to not have to worry about wardrobe bulges.

Drives me mad that men make a sexual thing about women’s sports and sports wear.

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sunny-dee October 5, 2016 at 2:55 pm

Also, one thing that gets me — they’re talking about women wearing leggings at the supermarket who are in no way interacting with them, and then comparing it to a guy literally shoving his junk in your face. These are two very different actions.

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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 3:14 pm

@LIbl – I accept you can do that. Please accept men don’t have that choice. Many of us wish we did, it would make life so much easier!
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Libl October 5, 2016 at 4:26 pm

I don’t believe for a minute that men don’t have a choice.

Also, your comment that she was issuing an invitation whether she wanted to or not smacks of the victim blaming of, “she was asking for it.”

Kim Kardashian posing nude on instagram is blatantly asking for attention and sexual arousal out of her viewers. The gal in church likely wasn’t asking for anything, or issuing anying.

Another point is what is sexy, what modesty standards count is so subjective we women lose no matter what. So many of us are throwing up our hands and just wearing what we want. I am open to conviction from the Lord in my dress, but I am not going to survey every man in my church to find out what I should and should not wear lest one of them uses me as an object lesson and shame me in his ministry.

I have given up. I wear whatever I want to now, and even get picked on by men for being too modest, while others find me to sexually show-offy. How about seeing me as a human being.

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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 9:32 pm

@Libl – Okay, don’t believe it. But it’s true. The part of the brain that reacts to it is triggered before a man has a chance to make a conscious thought.
I agree the woman in church was not asking for what she likely got. She was asking for something because she made a chose to wear something that clearly showed a lot of a very bright bra. I assume she has no idea how that can affect men. But there is also a chance if she was told she would deny it was true or blame the men. Men do the same thing with certain things that affect women and not men or men less, and it’s just as wrong when men deny a woman’s reality as when a woman denies a man’s.
For the record, I try hard to see everyone as a human being. In the past, significant immodesty made it harder for me to do that. I’ve worked hard to get past that, which I absolutely should have done. It would be nice if church had been a safe place when I had not yet gotten where I am now, but it was not.
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Libl October 6, 2016 at 3:52 am

Was it a bra strap, or an adjustable camisole strap and perhaps her strapless bra was on underneathe that?

I am not arguing that men and women are base-chemically affected by beauty, attractiveness, and sexuality. A man, even a plain one, who smiles at me and is gentlemanly obviously lights up a cortex of my brain. But, it is my choice to let that affect me. That is where I am going with this. We make too much of the lightbulb and create more problems. Of course my husband sees other women and finds them attractive. That doesn’t bug me. What bugs me is when men make excuses that their sin is uncontrolled. My cortex lights up when I see that a roof is being done and that flash of young, tanned, exposed, muscular male flesh happens in view. But, it isn’t a big deal…it isn’t hard…it isn’t an assault I have to fight off to look away and never mind what isn’t mine to mind. I can choose to respect God, my husband, myself, the men, and their wives by not making a deal about it and minding my business. If I have to be in their presence I can make up my mind quite easily to look them in the eyes and not see them,sexually at all.

I concede men may have a harder time of this, but I believe it is because they have trained themselves through choosing to give in to temptation, or being frightened about the forbidden that the forbidden has a stronger hold and pull on them.

I choose to respect my fellow man and not reduce him to sexual conquest. Have I had to,fight off unbidden thoughts and crushes? Unfortunately, yes, but I blame no one but myself. I don’t blame how they dressed or how they were gentlemanly towards me. And I don’t make a big flying deal about it or consider myself sexually assaulted just because so and so looks great in skinny jeans playing guitar during worship service.

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Paul Byerly October 6, 2016 at 10:22 am

@Libl – It was her bra. More than enough of it showing to be clear what it was.
I am in no way excusing sin. What I’m saying is the initial reaction, which includes a bit of arousal, is not sin for the very reason we don’t have a choice. (And as I’ve said elsewhere, women also have an arousal reaction, they are just unlikely to register it consciously.)
One of the problems with calling this reaction sin is it makes this a no-win for men. They can’t avoid that first glimpse reaction, and if they think it’s sin that leads them to one of several wrong choices.

Many years ago I was delivering pizza in the winters when our landscape business income was low. I took an order to the local community college. I opened the class door to see a fully naked woman sitting on a stool. I was delivering to an art class. I looked away so fast I honestly couldn’t have told you anything about what that woman looked like. I delivered the pizzas and left without ever sneaking a peek or wanting to. I did everything right, but the momentary glimpse causes me some arousal and there is no way I could have avoided that. And because Lori is in my corner I told her about it when I got home, and how it offended me, and how I felt sorry for the woman, and Lori was not upset.
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Charlie O October 5, 2016 at 1:13 pm

sunny-dee, men don’t get that option. We must meekly turn our head and keep our mouths shut. There is no safe way for us to address the problem–it is a no-win situation. Bicyclist’s attire doesn’t bother me either riding by.

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sunny-dee October 5, 2016 at 2:55 pm

And yet women walking by does?

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Jolie October 5, 2016 at 2:27 pm

If society (both men and women) were overly offended by or truly tired of the internal struggle caused by all of the “eye candy” out there, it would eventually cease to exist.

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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 9:32 pm

@Jolie – Well said. But many of both sexes don’t want to go there.
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Alicia October 5, 2016 at 2:33 pm

I’m with J in the sense that I see what you’re talking about here, but the language goes way over the top. I’d even go so far as to say said language is an insult to any woman or man who has actually been sexually assaulted. Also with Libl, and Lynn. Some men are just determined to find anything sexual about a woman, no matter how she’s dressed, or does her hair. Most women carry quite enough guilt and shame for their bodies and their dress, we don’t need more piled on us. I love most of what you write Paul, and of course will continue to read it. Usually you’re really fair to both genders…but this time I’d say not.

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K October 5, 2016 at 5:12 pm

Besides what I feel was the wrong word choice, I’m bothered by your statement that this bombardment is resulting in men with lower sex drives. There are so many variables that play into low sex drives. It would be almost impossible to isolate this as a defining characteristic. First, you’d have isolate the subset of men who are consciously working hard not to pay attention to females other than their wives. Then you’d have to rule out other causes of lower sex drive in men within this subset. I think the number you’d finally end up with would be very, very small. I don’t think it’s impossible for this to happen, but I doubt seriously that it’s a major contributing factor. By your own statistics, 60% of church going Christian men have watched porn in the last month. That statistic lowers the number of men trying to avoid lust significantly.

This post, while I can appreciate the sentiment, pushes the boundaries much too far. It also gives me a sense of hopelessness, which is not normally how I feel about the topic of other women my husband will encounter. It makes me think we might as well take “forsake all others” out of the wedding ceremony because there is no hope for men to do this if practically everything is seen as invitation to lust.

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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 9:36 pm

@K – I said “something to do with”, not the sole cause of men with lower sex drives. For many I doubt it plays a part, for some it’s a factor, and for a few it’s the primary cause. But that’s just my guess.
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B October 5, 2016 at 5:32 pm

Wow, this has gotten completely out of hand and I think the point of the original question has been completely missed by many and lost in this unrelated argument.

All of this uproar over a bra strap. Irony?

And by the way, some of the innocent things women do are absolutely on purpose. I know it, and you know it. Ever seen the “bend and snap” scene in Legally Blonde? Funny, but true.

I like what J usually says about we need to stop seeing each other as the enemy and pray to battle the real enemy.

I’m sad this is such a painful topic in so many ways.

Thank you to Paul and Charlie and K for answering my original question. To everyone else, I apologize for asking a question that caused so much strife.

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sunny-dee October 6, 2016 at 9:33 am

:) Don’t worry about it! This was a sore spot to me because I want to a strict Christian university (for a year before I transferred), and their official, student-handbook position was that women were inherently to blame for any lustful thoughts that guys had. Technically, premarital sex was a violation of the honor code and subject to expulsion — yet, of the two girls I heard about who got pregnant on campus, only the girls were expelled, not their boyfriends. And one friend of mine was sexually assaulted (as in, attacked physically) and the dean of students said that nothing should be done with the guy because my friend just didn’t realize how guys thought and, naturally, her having big boobs was just too hard for him to handle. (And she was wearing a large unisex Tshirt, for what that matters.)

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Paul Byerly October 6, 2016 at 10:25 am

@sunny-dee – Yeah, that kind of ungodly double standard still exists in some places. It makes women prisoners of their own bodies and tells guys it’s okay because they can’t help themselves. Makes a mess for everyone and hurts everyone, with women being hurt far worse.
The problem is when the reaction to that kind of garbage causes us to go too far the other way. We humans have a very hard time with balance, we tend to one extream or the other.
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Dandelion October 5, 2016 at 5:47 pm

I’m getting so sick of article after article telling me how enticing every woman and image of a woman is to my husband. I’m cute, in great shape, excellent fun in the bedroom, a wonderful companion and partner…yet I can’t hope to compare to this world of enormous temptation where my husband is mentally having sex with half the women he sees? Write an article to the men telling them to get control over themselves. Men’s higher testosterone means a quicker more violent temper. Yet we don’t see articles to women to watch how they act so men don’t hit them, or be understanding when he beats us because it’s how his brain is wired. I get it, it’s a struggle. Poor lusty men. So sad. So much sadder to be a woman hoping to be enough for her husband and loved as his one and only.

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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 9:41 pm

@Dandelion “yet I can’t hope to compare to this world of enormous temptation where my husband is mentally having sex with half the women he sees”
I didn’t say that and I never will because it’s not true. A woman showing enough to cause a bit of awareness and arousal has nothing to do with a man wanting his wife to be his only sex partner. Being enough for your husband has NOTHING to do with how you look! If it does your husband is unbelievably shallow and you have far more problems than this.
My wife is the only woman I want to be sexual with, and that has been true every day of the last 31 years, 8 months, and a week or so of my life. I don’t want anyone else, and that’s why a woman showing too much bothers me. When I had a hard time pushing it out of my mind it felt like a violation. Even now that I am able to deal with it quickly it’s something I dislike and wish I could be rid of. But short of castration that’s not going to happen, so I do what I can.
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Chris October 5, 2016 at 6:22 pm

Paul, I’ve been thinking about this post all day, and it prompted a good conversation in our marriage this evening.

I’ve read a great deal about men being visual in a way that women simply don’t understand. (Through a Man’s Eyes by Feldhahn and Gross was particularly helpful to me.) I’ve seen blog posts and comments from a great number of men communicating variations of what you’ve said here: although they may be strong in fleeing the constant visual temptations, the temptations are always there.

However, I’ve seen other men say that this is practically a non-issue for them, that they learned long ago to see these same women and not have the same momentary sexual response. You say, “Some men have gotten good enough to dismiss this kind of thing without fully processing it.”

If a man tells his wife that this isn’t an issue for him, how should she respond? For that matter, how can a wife respond when her husband struggles with this all the time?

God did give men a design that responds to the sight of a woman’s flesh. My husband pointed out that fortunately, that isn’t the only thing God gave men: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

How can a man tap into that spirit of power, love, and self-discipline in order to deal with this? How can a wife help her husband flee this temptation? Too often it seems that we think the temptation should flee from him. (I’m thinking here of some of the ideas from modesty culture.)
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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 9:55 pm

@Chris – If we were all wired up to brain monitors, we would find that heterosexual men are affected by every naked woman or heterosexual sex scene they see. We would also find that every woman is affected by every naked man or woman they see and every sex scene of any kind. Men are aroused by the kind of sex they want, women by anything sexual. I’ve seen all kinds of garbage on what this difference means, but the fact that this is how it works is not really disputed.

Why God wired us this way I don’t know. I would have done it differently, but everyone should be glad I’m not God!

Another difference in men and women is men are very good at knowing how aroused their brain is, while heterosexual women are very bad at that and homosexual women are better than heterosexual women but not as good as men. So when a woman says seeing a nude man does not arouse her she is staring the truth as she perceives it, but not the truth as it really is. Can a man learn to suppress this the way a woman does? I don’t know if it’s possible, and I don’t know if it would be right if he did. I suspect some men do manage this, and it messes them up sexually.
What men can do it learn to be proactive about this. See potential situations of seeing too much before they happen and look away or walk away before it happens. We can also learn to make looking away something very close to a reflex. This limits how much we see, which limits how much it affects us.

Understanding from one’s wife is a wonderful thing. Understand I hate this part of how I am more than you ever will, and I’d kill it if I could. Understand I don’t want to see those things and I don’t want them to have any effect on me. Understand none of it has anything to do with how I feel about you.

Someone will suggest having lots of sex with your husband will help. That’s not completely false, but it’s not nearly as cut and dried as that. It is nice to know one’s wife is there for them in every way they need her, including sex, but no amount of sex is going to change a man’s brain so he’s no affected by what he sees.
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Chris October 6, 2016 at 6:03 am

Paul, your response makes no sense to me.

Are you saying that this . . .

“If we were all wired up to brain monitors, we would find that heterosexual men are affected by every naked woman or heterosexual sex scene they see.”

. . . is the same as this . . .

“any woman who exposes too much of herself”?

The way you explain it in the post, they are pretty much the same:

“The straps, especially being so bright, invite a man to think about what the rest of the bra looks like. It invites him to think about what she would look like without the dress. It invites him to undress her with his mind.”

Seeing the part (the bra straps) brings to mind the whole (imagining what is under the dress). Some men will say that they interrupt the mental process at the bra straps; are you saying they are lying?

“So when a woman says seeing a nude man does not arouse her she is staring the truth as she perceives it, but not the truth as it really is.”

I find this insulting. If I see a nude man and exhibit physiological signs of arousal, I may not even experience those signs because my mind is an equally important aspect of arousal to me. Likewise, since I have middle-aged hormones and things get weird sometimes, I may look at my husband and feel very aroused–yet perhaps not exhibit any physiological signs of arousal at all. You are defining arousal only as a physiological response. This tells me that women don’t even know what they want. It sounds awfully close to a man saying, “she says no but her body means yes.” Scientifically, yes, arousal means physiological signs. In actual life, though, for women it may be quite different.

So that makes me wonder . . . is this really about a man’s thoughts, or does this really boil down to men seeing things that tingle their nether regions? Is that why you are describing this as a sexual assualt? All day long men are forced to have erections without their consent?

“Can a man learn to suppress this the way a woman does? I don’t know if it’s possible, and I don’t know if it would be right if he did. I suspect some men do manage this, and it messes them up sexually.”

What do you suppose God’s plan for male sexuality was before the fall? Was Adam ever going to see any women besides Eve? What would a pre-fall response to another woman’s nakedness be? (I don’t expect you to actually know this, but now I’m wondering.)

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Paul Byerly October 6, 2016 at 10:53 am

@Chris – Certain things are inherently sexual to men. Culture plays a part in this, probably a big part. Colour also plays a part – a woman in a red dress is more sexual than the same woman in the same dress in a blue colour. The idea of exposure and access are also at play – a skirt is more sexual than shorts that cover the same amount, and a long skirt with a slit is more sexual than a skirt only as long as where the slit goes on the long dress. History also plays a part – if the first time a guy made out in a big was was with a girl wearing a tube top, he will find tube tops sexier than other men around him. And, hot pink bra straps set off by a black dress are far more sexual than if the straps had been white and/or the dress yellow.
Yes, I understand how complex this is, and no, I don’t expect any woman to understand it. But most women have a man in their life who could help them if they had a relationship that allowed it. Fathers do this for their daughters, often without even trying to explain it. “You’re not going out that way” is usually about a father’s concern for his daughter. Of course, he may be over the top, but the base desire is for her good.

Yes, some men stop at the bra straps. I did that. But this is a learned response, not what comes naturally. And like any other aspect of self-control, the more often we have to do it, the harder it is. (Studies have found self-control is much like a muscle – repeated use builds it up, but overuse causes exhaustion.)

Arousal can be measured at the brain level or the genital level. Studies find women are generally not very good at accurately perceiving either of these, especially in settings where they are not choosing to be sexual. Since perception is reality, if she does not think something has aroused her, it has not, in her mind.

As to erections without consent, that’s something most of us leave behind in junior high. The first few years of puberty we have no control over it. As we get used to it we do develop a good deal of control. It’s not full control, but we become able to avoid an erection, or at least enough of one to show, when it’s situationally inappropriate to have one. So no, this is not about erections. It’s about intrusive images we don’t want.

Let me put it this way – our eyes, ears, and bodies all take in sensory input. All these inputs go to the brain. I can no more change how what I see affects my brain than I can control how a bee stinging me affects my brain. Both are chemical reactions beyond my conscious control. I can choose how I act once my brain had reacted, but that’s not the same as choosing how my brain reacts. When a woman, or a billboard, or a magazine in the checkout stand shows me nudity or something highly sexual, it’s no different than a bee sting. I didn’t ask for it, and I can’t change how my brain reacts to the stimuli. It’s the hijacking of my sexuality, something God intended for good, that I don’t like. And while many women won’t like hearing it, showing a man nudity is tapping into his sexuality and there’s no way he can prevent that from being true.
And that’s why if feels like assault. It’s unwanted sexual contact initiated by a woman.

My guess is God didn’t intend any man to see any woman other than his wife naked. Pre-fall Adam would not have sinned, but I assume he was wired as we are so he would have had an arousal response. I would assume he would have turned away, as it’s the only decent thing to do. Yes, our sin nature is a part of this – it makes pretty much everything more difficult.
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hiswifeagain October 6, 2016 at 12:55 pm

“And while many women won’t like hearing it, showing a man nudity is tapping into his sexuality and there’s no way he can prevent that from being true.”

I’m not trying to be argumentative, but I am just very curious. What about male medical professionals? When they see nudity in the context of patient care is it tapping into their sexuality? If you are a male health care provider, I’d love to hear how you deal with this. As a woman in health care, I see nudity all the time. It’s nothing sexual at all (as far as I know), but is it different for men?

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Paul Byerly October 6, 2016 at 2:50 pm

@hiswifeagain – I’ve never been one, so I can’t speak from experience.
* I assume knowing you will see it and being in a setting where it’s normal helps.
*I’ve read a few first-hand accounts from men who struggled a great deal with this at first (including erections), then gained control. I’ve also read men who never struggles with it.
* I’ve talked to a couple of wives of gynaecologists who think it has desensitised their husband to react normally to her, their wife. It’s as if they turn off the reaction to nudity so totally their wife no longer gets them aroused.
* Male reaction to nudity seems to vary, and I suspect some of it is just how each man is wired. So for some it’s probably not a major issue from the start.

I assume most men find a way to make it not sexual on both a genital and mental level. What’s actually going on internally I don’t know. Maybe it’s like being in war and being able to shut down some normal responses. That’s great in war, but many who do that are unable to turn it back on.
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J. Parker October 6, 2016 at 2:24 pm

Paul, I really do want to hear and respect the man’s viewpoint, and I agree with your core message — that men are bombarded with sexual input that exhausts them and women need to understand their struggle and show compassion and support. But there also seems to be some “mansplaining” happening here, especially when it feels like there’s a dismissal of how some women see aspects of your arguments.

After much thought, I believe when men read this article, they focus on your primary message that they feel overwhelmed by images that make it difficult to remain pure-minded…and that even women in seemingly innocuous situations can trigger unwanted thoughts. But when women read it, we focus on the equating of this barrage of images with sexual assault and the blaming of women for men lusting. Like now I have to worry about the color of my bra strap?

And aren’t we Christians all about learned responses? I’m learning to be more and more like Christ, and if I’m not, then something’s wrong with my Christian walk. I want to learn to be more and more like Christ in how I choose my clothes, hold myself, and engage with men in the world, and I pray our husbands become more and more like Christ in how they view women, manage automatic reactions, and pursue purity. Can we agree on that?
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Paul Byerly October 6, 2016 at 2:55 pm

@J. Parker – Your approach is great. But I’ve had Christina women tell me they will wear whatever they like and if it causes men trouble that’s all on them. I find that unloving and not at all Christlike – and it would be so even if every man had a massive lust problem and were not working to change it.

Likewise, there is a responsibility for men to do all the can to deal with their lust. And this would be true even if women were walking around naked all over the place.

Both sides have a responsibility before God. When both sides make a half-way decent effort things go well. When either side won’t even try it becomes a problem.
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Nire October 5, 2016 at 6:44 pm

There is a lot of talk in the comments on accidental versus fashion versus intentional. A good starting point is the multitude of people who deliberately and intentionally exploit this for financial gain.

For example, take Hardee’s or Carl JR’ s hamburger ads – There’s a part of my brain that will pay those commercials that much more attention because of the amount of skin, attention that would never be given to any other hamburger ad that only focused on the hamburger. Even if I am not looking I am forced to react to it.

My whole life I have lived in the shadows of marriages that fell due to adultery. Every middle schooler in church has heard about David and Bathsheba, and how it all started with David looking (Nathan accused David, not Bathsheba). I have gotten good at not looking. I am good at seeing someone coming (and know it is going to be a problem) a long way away and have my eyes on the ground or looking at a cloud when she gets close. I watch very little TV because of the commercials using sex appeal to try and shut off my rational brain and directly appeal to the part of my brain that always feels and acts completely alien to me.

And then I am driving. My wife and children and the people around me all depend on my ability to keep my eyes on the road. Up comes a billboard for cosmetic surgery with a woman’s ample cleavage displayed on a poster 10′ high right in my field of vision – and looking away endangers the life of everyone around me. If it has been more than a couple days without intimacy with my wife, such a picture is automatically stored mentally AND I DO NOT WANT. It takes a split second for me to regain control, but that is a split second in which someone has ripped control away from me. I do feel violated. An image I did not want has been shoved in my brain via exploiting my sexual and visual natures, I now have to work extra hard to keep that mental image suppressed, and my family was endangered for someone’s profit.

Or as I posted on another blog “Keeping my thoughts clear, enduring the barrage from media, from culture, and from other people while honoring Christ is grace-filled work, but draining exhausting work nonetheless. …. It is not that all men lust, it is that the temptation to lust is almost always there, a constant danger that requires constant active vigilance. …

There were times this past summer that I did not want to go to the pool because the pool would be crowded, because having to watch my children (like a good father should) means my eyes are open and the battle for my thoughts was going to be intense. Mentally, it is not “relaxing swim in the pool”, it is “do a good job mowing the lawn in scorching heat while being shot at and attacked by a pack of wild dogs.””

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Bobthemusicguy October 5, 2016 at 8:24 pm

I think that instead of calling it “sexual assault,” how about “assault on my sexuality?” Before I retired from 32 years of teaching in a public high school, I was practically running into walls averting my eyes from what many students, and yes, teachers, were wearing. Seeing PINK emblazoned across some girl’s or woman’s butt is an obvious statement that says “Hey everyone! Look at my butt!” In a mall near us, there is a girls clothing store (don’t remember the name) right next to a PINK store for teens and pre-teens right next to a Victoria’s Secret. Funny thing, they’re all connected inside. Says a lot about what the fashion industry is doing to girls and women, doesn’t it?

Look, the bottom line is that our sexuality, all of us, men and women, is under assault from Satan. He is laughing at us when we get caught up in endless wrangling over semantics and we have millions trapped in sexual sin.

I say, men, discipline your eyes, minds, and bodies, honor your wives and all women, try to keep your thoughts and actions pure, and if you fall, ask for forgiveness. And think about the poor women who are under assault in this fallen world, who are portrayed as sex objects instead of daughters of the King.

And women, discipline your emotions and bodies, honor your husbands and all men, try to keep your thought and actions pure, and if you fall, ask for forgiveness. And think about the poor men who are also under assault in this fallen world, who are portrayed as sexual predators instead of sons of the King.

It helps me to remember when I look at those in bondage, that truly but for the grace of God, there go I.

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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 9:57 pm

@Bobthemusicguy “how about ‘assault on my sexuality’?”
Yeah, I like that. It very much is an assault on my sexuality. And my marriage.
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Paul Byerly October 5, 2016 at 10:08 pm

WOW, this is the 100th comment for this post – in 21 hours.

I expected it to run hot, but not this hot. I’m thinking “sexual harassment” would have been a better choice of words, but my dear wife says she’s glad I said it as I did because it has made people think.

As always my primary goal here is to help women understand men better. This is a huge part of being a man, and most men are afraid to even admit it, but less state it.

I’m praying we can all learn to better understand the struggles of others.
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Charlie O October 6, 2016 at 4:37 am

Well, this has been interesting! We’ve wandered quite a bit from the original article. There are two considerations that I would like to have considered. I believe that Paul was originally talking to the wives of believing husbands. Christian men, that for the most part, are trying to keep their sexual impulses and thoughts under control. He was not speaking of the bottom feeders that have submerged their minds in the moral filth of our age. So, a man that is trying to do right has a love-hate relationship with his sexuality. He wants to do right, but it is a struggle. Flagrant gratuitous flaunting of excessively immodest female bodies are an offense to the man that is trying. And, leggings are the above. Maybe they are different where you live, but here they are a second skin (usually commando). I’ve even been confronted with camel toe while sitting at a table. Yes, I can turn my head, and I can avoid lustful thoughts. But why do I have to be subjected to this sort of thing.

Unless a woman has been conditioned to be like a man in this regard, she has no idea of the power of the visual to a man. (Much conversation about this with my wife). Women tend to superimpose their mild visual attraction on men and wonder why it is a problem. Well, it is a problem and a big one. Take our word for it.

The second consideration is the word “assault.” Ladies, the expansion of this term almost to the point of absurdity is a product of the radical feminist movement that has gone main stream. According to the expanded definition, what Paul is talking about is now classified as assault. It is stupid, and it demeans and diminishes true sexual assault, but he is correct according to the current use of the term. There is a strange double-standard in this sexual morass. When a male teacher beds an underage girl, he is heap big trouble. When a female teacher does the same with a male student, the sentence is much lighter. In both instances the damage is horrendous, but society tends to see the girl as a victim and the boy as lucky.

Finally, several mentioned the verbal comments that some women (probably most) have received from uncouth and dirty-minded men. I would put what Paul is talking about on about that level. There is no remedy for the filthy-minded. Please don’t lump us in the same category. Many of us are just tired of having to make copious allowances for women who have no discretion. We know that you can’t understand, and your lack of understanding is coming through loud and clear. Please don’t tell us that we just need to get a grip. And don’t try to excuse outrageous female dress by talking about how some Christians have ridiculous ideas about modesty. We’re talking about real immodesty.

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Bobthemusicguy October 6, 2016 at 5:09 am

I would liken the stress of fighting this daily barrage to driving on Houston freeways. Now, I like to drive, and it can be very relaxing. But when I have to constantly dodge drivers who cut it, sit in traffic jams caused by construction, make lengthy detours to avoid a closure, get cut off by big rigs, and watch out for the smart aleck motorcyclist who is weaving in an out dangerously, the drive becomes a nightmare, blood pressure shoots up, fatigues sets in, and I am more likely to make a driving mistake myself. I can take the toll lane to go faster, but I pay $7 to drive 10 miles in peace. Sometimes it’s worth the expense. What gets me as a driver isn’t an occasional traffic issue. It’s the constant strain.

As a Christian man, what gets me isn’t an occasional inappropriate view. It’s the constant, day in and day out, assault that wears me out. It’s like being a soldier who never hears “at ease.”

We’re having a bit of a sexual fast for health reasons right now. It’s needed, and I pray that God will use it to draw me closer to Him and my wife. But when I go out into the “real world” and am overwhelmed with attacks on my sexual purity, it’s already fatiguing. I feel like the British must have felt during the Blitz in WWII. Please don’t tell me to just deal with it. I AM dealing with it, but I have some help from an understanding wife. I pity the poor men who are supposed to just put on their big boy pants and get no support from their wives.

Where can a man go to to get away from the strain of the battle? He either becomes a hermit, or he has a godly wife who loves and supports him, even if she doesn’t understand him. To paraphrase Kermit the Frog, if you’re a Christian, “it isn’t easy being male”

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Paul Byerly October 6, 2016 at 10:59 am

@Bobthemusicguy – Well said. It is the amount of it that makes it difficult. Having lived in several parts of the country and visited many others, I know this varies a great deal from location to location. In rural Washington, it’s a minor problem. In big city Minnesota it’s worse, but not horrible. In SoCal and much of the south, it’s a constant onslought.
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B October 6, 2016 at 12:16 pm

Big city Minnesota? LOL! No offense to the good folks in Minnesota, but I have never heard Minnesota referred to as the big city. That is just too cute!
I’m from the Northeast, so I’ve always thought of Minnesota as the wild, Wild West. 😊

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Paul Byerly October 6, 2016 at 2:33 pm

@B – The twin cities are closing in on 3.5 million people. Great place to be 9 months a year.
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B October 6, 2016 at 6:53 pm

I’m admittedly sheltered. I’ve never been west of Pennsylvania. I’d love to travel someday. Maybe one day I’ll get to Minnesota. 😊

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Tins October 6, 2016 at 5:57 am

Thanks for writing this. I cannot even imagine the level of bravery that it took to write this article. You are speaking the unspoken! You have spoken out loud what so many men keep hidden. And what the news media is in complete denial about, and the Feminist Lobby will tell you is your problem. Never mentioning of course that this is simply how men are wired. They certainly didn’t ask for it. And I know there are a lot of good men out there that really wish they could turn it off and back on when they need to. We have to stop letting these truths be hidden because we all know that hidden sin is the most destructive. I do agree with some of the responses here that we do have to take captive every thought. But it helps to know what our brothers are going through! We also have to think about Miss pink bra straps. Why did she wear a pink bra with a black dress? Because you know she pulled that bra out knowing it didn’t match the dress knowing it would present a contrast. So was that okay? What is it in the heart of women that some to tempt men? Men they know they can’t have?. Even in church? I am an attractive woman and I’ve always enjoyed the attention of men, and sometimes unfortunately I have not liked it because some men simply don’t know how to act. But I often wonder now that I’m older, what is it that drives women to continue to want the attention of men that they have no intention of having a relationship with? What does it say about us? That we have to look perfect? Better than our sisters? Be the sexist or prettiest in the room? Isn’t that just as bad as men lusting after random women? Why is it that we have to look sexy every where we go? I personally want to be valued on more than just how I look in a dress or suit. I want to be valued on my thoughts and my ideas and my spirit. So sometimes for me personally it’s so comfortable, so relaxing, to simply be physically invisible. And for those women that I see that ALWAYS look fantastic, sexy, and attractive, I would encourage you to “fast your vanity” for a season. Tone it down a bit, dress and looser clothing, wear Bland colors. Just for a test. And see if perhaps an entirely different side of who you are doesn’t come to life.

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Paul Byerly October 6, 2016 at 11:03 am

@Tins – I assume most women, especially Christina women, have no clue.
Some of the rest think they know how it affects men, but they miss it by a magnitude of order. She dresses to get a 4 reaction but she is getting a 9.
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Bobthemusicguy October 6, 2016 at 6:32 am

Tins, thank you, thank you, thank you! It’s bad enough facing the visual assault in the world every day. But when I see it in church, I have to wonder what goes on in a woman’s head to dress like that? And teenage girls who follow the fashions and whose Christian parents let them dress like that? They’re being setup for another generation of problems.

There are things my wife and I want each other to see, but we would never dream of letting anyone else see. Dress, act, and talk sexy for your spouse. Otherwise, put it away. That invitation to sexual arousal is too precious to be flaunting in public.

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Paul Byerly October 6, 2016 at 11:01 am

@Bobthemusicguy – Some dads say nothing because if he speaks up his wife says he’s a pervert. Other dad’s can’t deal with the fact their little girl has become a woman and just withdraw from the whole thing.
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Henri October 6, 2016 at 6:41 am

hi Paul! Rather then read through all the comments, as after the first few my head hurt, I would just like to say that even if your wording is perhaps not the best, I do agree with the overall context of what you are saying.
My husband has used the same term assaulted before when it comes to how women dress everywhere today, even in church. As someone who has been sexually assaulted, I have never felt that he was using it on the same level or comparison as what I went through, and I am sure he never would use it as the same either, it was just the best way to describe how he feels.
I do believe that we as women have a responsibility for how we are dressed, however we also need to have breathing room to know that we aren’t responsible for men’s thoughts, as you said someone will always find something.
In the end, my “mirror” for clothes is my husband. If he says I shouldn’t wear such and such, then I just listen to him. Even if he is only see what his stumbling blocks are in what I am wearing, I trust his judgement. Because in the end, I feel as though he is protecting me from 1)not being lusted after as best he can, 2) not unintentionally causing problems for another man.
As always, thank you for writing from a male perspective, even when the words are hard to hear for some of us.

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Paul Byerly October 6, 2016 at 11:05 am

@Henri – “I do believe that we as women have a responsibility for how we are dressed, however we also need to have breathing room to know that we aren’t responsible for men’s thoughts, as you said someone will always find something.”
Exactly! We must find the balance.
Letting your husband be your mirror is a good plan. He has your best interest at heart, and he sees you as other men will.
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B October 6, 2016 at 12:20 pm

Well then, I’m safe. My husband doesn’t notice me and shows no signs of being attracted to me. Therefore other men don’t see me as attractive and I don’t have to worry about it.

Since my husband seems to love me like a “sister” and not as a feminine woman, I can safely assume all other men will see me the same way. Plain, boring, too tall and never good enough. At least I can rest assured that I will never tempt another man to lust or have inappropriate thoughts, and in a weird way, that actually makes me feel better.

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Paul Byerly October 6, 2016 at 2:34 pm

@B – I have no idea what’s going on with your husband, but I would not assume he is reacting as other men would.
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Amy October 6, 2016 at 8:28 am

“Sexual assault is any type of forced or coerced sexual contact or behavior that happens without consent.”

Even after all the discussion over this post, and you and Lori trying to defend the use of the words sexual assault in your post, I still stand on the side that this terminology is not okay for what you describe.

A woman wearing a bright pink bra in church in which you can clearly see her straps and she had to have known that they would show, is NOT sexually assaulting a man, or woman, who is sitting behind her.
Is she doing it intentionally? Well, it sounds like in this case where you finally explained it wasn’t just a bra strap that had fallen down that yes, she did wear it intentionally knowing people would see the straps. Was she purposely giving an invitation as you worded it for men to mentally undress her? No. Was she assaulting you or anyone else? No.
And even if she were intentionally seeking the attention of men there is still no sexual assault being done to those men.

The woman in the picture wearing completely inappropriate clothes to work is still not sexually assaulting the man. Were she to grab his hand and force it into her blouse that is different. Unfortunately yes, it is completely inappropriate and puts the man in an awkward position but that is when he gets up and either leaves the room or at least moves away. And he may also have to file a complaint with the HR department for her choice of work clothes as I’m sure most businesses have a dress code.

The thing is, I think most of us truly get what you are trying to convey in this post, it’s the use of the words sexual assault to describe it which upset many of us. As broadly as you want to paint those words does not diminish the fact that true sexual assault is one person forcing themselves sexually on another. And unless the woman in the pink bra forced your hand into her dress to feel her breasts or grabbed you between the legs, there was no assault.

After googling the word assault alone I found this legal definition: “Intentionally putting another person in reasonable apprehension of an imminent harmful or offensive contact.”
So by this definition it still is not an assault on you or any other person to sit behind someone with her bra straps purposely showing or even to be in the position of the man in the photo because reality is, there likely is no imminent threat of contact. Unfortunately, the woman in the photo knows what she is doing but is that man truly apprehensive or her forcing contact or is just afraid that he may slip and make contact himself?

Men and women are constantly being deluged with sexual images in our society whether on TV, in magazines or in person, and it makes it hard to keep pure thoughts even for women, but God gave us the ability to control our thoughts.

Perhaps the better wording is bombardment like J suggested or even feeling visually assaulted. If I had read that in your title yesterday I would have had a better idea of what you were talking about and it certainly makes sense that men can feel visually assaulted everywhere they turn. I feel the same as a woman.
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J. Parker October 6, 2016 at 9:41 am

I agree with you, Amy. But I should correct one thing: It was Chris Taylor of The Forgiven Wife who suggested “bombardment,” and I posted a reply praising that word choice. :D
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Amy October 6, 2016 at 2:22 pm

Oops! Thanks, J!
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Paul Byerly October 6, 2016 at 11:08 am

@Amy – It seems you are putting what we show someone as not nearly as powerful as what we say, or how we touch them. I would generally agree with that, but I don’t think I would separate the visual as much as I think you are.
You could scare a child into years of nightmares with sight alone. Sight is not minor nor unimportant.
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Amy October 6, 2016 at 3:27 pm

Nope, not at all. What we show someone obviously has a lot of power, just like words or touch. That I do not deny. But by the definition of assault, a woman showing a bra strap unnecessarily or even cleavage is not assaulting the person viewing those things, at least in the definition of assault where there is verbal and/or physical threat of unwanted contact. Again, seeing the woman’s cleavage could be considered a visual assault on the man, but not sexual assault unless she shoves his hand into her blouse and/or verbally expresses the intent to do so. You are not being sexually assaulted by seeing pink bra straps whether she intentionally means for them to show or not. Are you perhaps visually assaulted because you don’t want to see that but feel as if you have no choice? That to me is more accurate of a term. The truth is, you are not being forced to look at them or think anything further than oh, she is wearing a pink bra. Choosing to focus on it is a choice. Move if needed or turn the other way if possible.

Same with the cleavage being outright put in your face. Get up, move or leave. You are not being forced there to view them, or if you are being restrained THEN that is assault.

Yes, sight is obviously one of our five senses and very strong, not saying it’s not. Anyone, whether a child or not, can see something and be greatly traumatized but unless they are feeling a threat of harm or unnecessary contact it still does not equate being assaulted.
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Paul Byerly October 6, 2016 at 3:38 pm

@Amy – So, a woman sticking her breast in my face when I don’t want that is not assault, but pressing them against my face is? But if a man exposed his genitals, he’s going to jail and will be on a sex offenders registry for the rest of his life. Seems like a bit of a double standard to me.
I’m also not down with the idea I should regularly have to go somewhere else because of the choices others make. That was once the thinking for smoking, but it’s long since changed.
I do hear what you are saying. I’m just suggesting the line is not as clear or as fair as you may think.
BTW, I’ve long since said assault may not be the best choice of words, even though it can feel that way to a man.
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Amy October 6, 2016 at 5:54 pm

You know, Paul, as with all words written instead of spoken there will always be a degree in which the meaning does not come across as intended. Geesh!

My fault for not proofreading more carefully, but what I meant was if her cleavage is right there when she bends over in front of you as in the pretty outrageous picture in your post, not literally pressed against your face. And no, seeing a woman’s cleavage is not a sexual assault on you. Is it uncomfortable? Sure, and you could probably call that sexual harassment if it feels to you the woman is deliberately showing you her breasts. But assault no, unless she does press them into your face or force you to touch them.

It’s not fair that sometimes the choices of other people affect us and don’t give us any other options but to leave the situation. But such is life.
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Bobthemusicguy October 6, 2016 at 12:23 pm

I wish we would not get caught up on the word “assault” and focus on the real issue: men who seek to honor Christ and their wives are inundated with a tidal wave of overtly sexual images every day, in the media and with actual women in person. I had to really deal wth it in the grocery store today. I’m glad my wife was with me, as we had an opportunity to discuss this very topic.

We need your help, wives, to discipline ourselves to honor you. We’re trying to do the right thing, but the constant barrage is exhausting. Rather than trying to see whose hormones are more out of control (remember that we men live with your once a month hormonal tsunami), let’s help each other out with understanding and patience and love.

A lot of this has to do with a man’s spiritual maturity. Things that were a burden when I was a young man don’t get to me now, sexual and non-sexual things. We older men need to mentor younger men who are in a real sexual struggle every day. My struggle with the assault on my sexuality is a lot easier now, mainly because I’ve grown up in the Lord.

Most women will never understand how men are so affected by testosterone. It doesn’t excuse bad behavior, but it helps explain it, and it explains why it is exhausting as we men learn to control ourselves in the Lord. If Christian women in general would be aware of the problem and not just shrug it off as the immaturity of men who can’t grow up, men who really struggle will have a better atmosphere in which to mature.

By the way, on a related topic, the topic of women following fashions in clothing, no matter how inappropriate, needs to be addressed. Maybe on some other blogs it has been discussed. If so, I would like someone to direct me to said blogs.

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Paul Byerly October 6, 2016 at 2:39 pm

@Bobthemusicguy “Most women will never understand how men are so affected by testosterone. ”
There is a condition (I can’t recall what, maybe a cancer but I don’t think so) that used to be treated in women with high doses of testosterone. I read something about some of those women and the changes they experienced. One woman couldn’t walk down a public street without lusting after men. Another said she was waiting at the door naked for her husband every day. Most of these women found what they saw was suddenly much more sexually powerful, and most of them didn’t like it at all.
If every woman had a week of high T early in marriage it would cause a lot of changes. Likewise, if every man had a week of hormonal rollercoaster.
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Jolie October 6, 2016 at 12:52 pm

It seems to me that all of this ‘sexual visual intrusion’ from the media and real women is somewhat of a new phenomenon. There was a time when women policed themselves. I’m not That Old, and I remember it being a kind act to tell a woman when her bra strap or slip was showing AND she would be appreciative of the heads up. We also used a hand full of names for women who dressed inappropriately, thus putting pressure on them to behave and act more like a lady.

Sadly, it looks like the days of Class and Sophistication are gone.

To answer B’s question: There must be more people out there that are thrilled with the eye candy than those that aren’t. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be shown.
If sex didn’t sell, then sex wouldn’t be used to sell.

As to the increased number of real women dressing inappropriately? Well, growing up in this day and age being bombarded with the media’s portrayal of female sexuality, many probably just don’t know any better.

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Paul Byerly October 6, 2016 at 2:42 pm

@Jolie – It has gotten worse, no doubt.
I grew up in Austin TX in the 60’s and 70’s. It was (and is) an exceptionally liberal and “progressive” place. In the mid 70’s one of the local PUBLIC swimming pools started to allow women to swim and sunbath topless. A decade before that a local county park on the lake was officially clothing optional. In the 80’s it became legal for a woman to go topless in any public place.
So I got this hard and early. Lucky me.
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K October 6, 2016 at 2:48 pm

Paul,
What I’m not sure you thought about before you chose your language is that you likely have female readers who have experienced physical sexual assault (some maybe recently) and have not healed enough from their experience for this not to open wounds and cause them much pain. Being a bit of a word buff, I completely understand the nuances of the word assault to describe what you are discussing. However, the combination of the word assault with sexual, as others have mentioned, is insensitive to women who bear the scares of being physically attacked. Lori has worked hard to overcome her past abuse and it’s wonderful for both of you that she is in a place now where she has healed so much she is not affected or bothered by this use of the phrase sexual assault. However, this is not case for everyone.

Your wording also has the possibility of sending the wrong message to some men. There may be men who read your blogs who are looking for ways to justify their thoughts and actions. While there are surely men who understand the continuum you feel you are describing, others may get the wrong ideas.

As far the pink bra strap, all of it is assumption. None of us knows 100% the intention of the woman with the pink bra strap. It’s all speculation. You and Lori don’t KNOW it was a fashion statement, unless you asked her and she told you it was. There are many possibilities as to why she may have worn that combination and not meant it as a fashion statement. Maybe the dress and bra were the only ones she had clean. Maybe she didn’t realize her bra was showing as much as it was. You and Lori said it was enough that is wasn’t accidental, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the woman was fully aware of how much was exposed. And, the rest of us don’t KNOW that it wasn’t a fashion statement or that her intent wasn’t to entice men. As a woman who has to watch very carefully what bras and tops I wear, I DO KNOW it’s very possible to wear something as you describe and it be totally innocent. It is possible that she had no idea where men would take it, and that knowledge may have made her reconsider her outfit. But, again, it’s all just speculation. The whole idea that something like that is seen by men as invitation to mentally undress her, is quite disturbing on several fronts.

You mention balance in several of the comments. I’m not sure you used balance when writing this post. You could have gotten your point across and made people think without taking it so far. In fact, your point may have gotten across better had you balanced the tone more. Upsetting people may make them think, but it doesn’t always get the point across as much as you would have liked.

Lastly, it would be nice to receive some practical tips with posts like these. It’s tiring to get told these things over and over with no real apparent purpose. Ok, so we need to understand our husbands better. And, understanding helps them. I understand how this knowledge helps me. How exactly does understanding help husbands combat these temptations? Especially when they aren’t telling us about it. And, please don’t do the blame thing here (it’s because of your response or because your relationship/intimacy level doesn’t allow him to tell you). Because, that’s just not true in ALL cases. But, what can we as wives actually do to help our husbands with this onslaught of temptation?

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W October 6, 2016 at 3:54 pm

K,

Well said. And one of the best replies to this blog post.

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Paul Byerly October 6, 2016 at 4:51 pm

@K – As Lori has shared she has a lot of sexual assault in her past. She is more adamant than I am that this should be called assault. Not on the same level obviously, but similar in nature if not magnitude.
What most women don’t understand is just how difficult this is for men who don’t want it. It’s painful, we hate it, and we very much feel violated. If using the word assault helps some get that idea, then it’s a good thing. I doubt a weaker word would have gotten much attention, which would be bad.
I don’t think I give any cover for men looking to justify their sins. Sure, you can read that into what I said, but you can read what you want into anything. On the other side, some of what has been said by women here could be used as an excuse to ignore the responsibility to not cause lust when it can be reasonably avoided.
As to balance, no I didn’t work for that in the original post because I was speaking to women. When I speak to men I hit what they can and should do, and that’s not balanced either.
I didn’t want to upset anyone, but I fear this is one (of many) places where it’s impossible to get the truth across without upsetting people. I do that often over on TGH. Lies don’t die easily and offence is one of the common ways people try to avoid facing things they don’t want to be true.
What a wife can do it not get upset at her husband for doing what is as automatic and unavoidable as quickly pulling your hand back from a hot surface. Understand the line at which it becomes sin. Call him on it if he crosses that line and congratulate him when he doesn’t cross that line. Blame him for the things where he has a choice and give him support and sympathy for places where he doesn’t.
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K October 7, 2016 at 2:03 am

@Paul,
It seems you missed my point about the terms assault and sexual assault and the insensitivity issue. Lori has experienced much healing from the trauma of her sexual assaults and has time in her favor for the wounds not being so fresh. Many others are not as far along in the healing process and/or have not yet had enough time go by to not be traumatically impacted by this type of comparison. When Lori was struggling to have sex early in your marriage, would she have been so comfortable to use the term sexual assault to describe this situation? Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, it is insensitive to your readers who are going through this to use the term sexual assault.

My concern isn’t with term assault if used in the proper context for this topic. To say “Men are assaulted daily with sexual images, both intentional and non-intentional, that cause him great temptation.” would be an accurate statement without crossing the line into sexual assault territory. To say, “There is an assault on male sexuality as God intended by the numerous sexual images he’s unwilling forced to encounter on a daily basis.” would also be an accurate statement without crossing the line.

Many years of my work experience were dedicated to changing mindsets and belief systems. Any time you challenge someone’s belief system, there will be resistance. There is a fine line between pushing hard enough and pushing too hard. It’s important to push hard enough to make people question their beliefs without pushing too hard or too fast. When you cross the line into pushing too hard or too fast, you run the risk of losing the respect and confidence of the people you are trying to help. At a minimum, you lose some ground when that line is crossed. For some, you lose the ability to ever help them grow and change.

You could have conveyed your message much more effectively and still used strong enough language and examples to capture attention and provoke thought. In fact, you could have used the terms assault, invitation and violated in an effective way. Instead, you chose to go over the top and be dramatic with your language and context. As a result, you have caused people to become so caught up in semantics that your point has gotten lost.

When I referred to balance, I was talking about balance in your wording, examples and tone, not between women’s and men’s perspectives. The paragraph regarding low sex drive in men was totally unnecessary and irrelevant to the point you were trying to make. It was another attempt to be dramatic and garner attention. By your own admission in your response to my earlier comment about this, the instance of low sex drive being caused by men trying to avoid the bombardment of sexual images is probably fairly low. Yet, you chose to write an entire paragraph about it with questions pointing towards this being something wives need to question and be concerned about. That is not being balanced in trying to get your intended point across, nor is it helping women who struggle with low drive husbands. It is just adding clutter to the more significant causes of low sex drive in men which wives with low drive husbands really do need to be aware of in order to help their situations.

Thanks for the tips. These are helpful for wives whose husbands talk to them about how sexual images and women they encounter affect them. Unfortunately, the majority of men are not talking to their wives about these things. How can those of us in that category help our husbands when they are not willing to be open with us about the topic?

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Paul Byerly October 7, 2016 at 7:47 am

@K – I understand all you have said. I thought about that a good deal as I wrote this. I may have miscalculated, don’t know. I certainly spent some of the capital I’ve built up here, and that’s okay if it’s done infrequently. What I most worry about is a new reader who has not read me enough to know and trust me.

Yes, Lori has worked to get past what happened to her, and yes I may have miscalculated other women because of my experience with her.

Your final point is why I wrote this. Many men won’t discuss this because a couple of surface attempts to do so cost them too much. They learned their wife has no idea what it’s like for them, and is unwilling or unable to try to understand. She blames him for being a victim, and no one is going to give their spouse ammunition to do that.
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K October 7, 2016 at 12:44 pm

@Paul,
I am glad to know you understand the risks you have taken. It’s sad, though, you feel the only way to get your point across is to push so far you know you’ll lose capital and run the risk of alienating potential new readers.

It’s disappointing you chose to use my sincere plea for help as another opportunity to grossly overgeneralize, blame women and justify your choices in the original post rather than to answer the question and give me some much wanted help. If you don’t know the answer or don’t have any tangible advice for me and other’s in my situation, just say that. Not really having a good solution is understandable. But, PLEASE, PLEASE – I’m begging here, stop blaming ME and women in general for something that is not entirely my/our fault and posturing as if there is no other possible explanation for a husband refusing to be open and honest with his wife about this.

There are many reasons a man might not want to open up to his wife about this. Here are just a few.
–Some men have made attempts to share this with their wives and have received blame from their wife.
–When a man receives blame or feels he is being attacked for his honesty, he may be less willing to open himself up to that pain again.
— Some women do not respond in an understanding, loving way when told about the workings of sexual images on the male mind.
–Some/many women have a hard time understanding and relating to the visual nature of men’s sexuality. This is difficult for husbands to navigate so they remain quiet on the issue.
–Men compartmentalize, and this is just another area where they do not associate the issue with their wife.
–If a man has broken the trust of his wife by using porn or having an affair, he may fear discussing this topic and/or she may not be able to receive this information without it causing more strife and trust issues.

There are many reasons a man would not be willing to be honest with his wife about the temptations he’s faced with daily which have little or nothing to do with his wife. And, some men never attempt to tell their wives about the impact of sexual images on their minds and their sexuality.

Wives need to be told their past and present reactions greatly influence their husband’s desire to be completely transparent about his sexuality. But, it needs to be stated as a fact without blame. This can be done by listing her reaction as a source of his reluctance to share along with other possible reasons AND by pairing this with actionable steps she can take to either help get her to a point of understanding or giving tangible steps to take once she’s ready to truly hear and accept what her husband has to say.

This continual blame game, which goes both ways, solves nothing. It just keeps the pot stirred.

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Paul Byerly October 10, 2016 at 11:18 am

@K – Playing it safe may build my numbers, but I’m not here for numbers. Jesus regularly said the hard things, and it cost Him followers. Some things should be said even though there is a cost, and I feel this is one of those. As is made abundantly clear by the comments many women don’t get this, and that is a huge problem for them and for their husband. This is not a minor marriage issue, it’s a big deal, IMHO.
I don’t understand why you think I am blaming you or women in general BECAUSE I AM NOT! I am talking to women, so I will offer suggestions women can implement. Are there other reasons a man might not discuss these things? Yes. Does that change what a woman can do to get him to open up? No. I addressed your question in earlier comments, but given how many comments there are I should have assumed you might not have seen that. In part, I said “Understanding from one’s wife is a wonderful thing. Understand I hate this part of how I am more than you ever will, and I’d kill it if I could. Understand I don’t want to see those things and I don’t want them to have any effect on me. Understand none of it has anything to do with how I feel about you.” – I think that was done without blame.
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K October 10, 2016 at 1:09 pm

Paul, a primary difference between a reason and blame is ownership. Your response to my question placed primary ownership on the wife. You did qualify your response with “many” and “shallow attempts”, but the bulk of the responsibility was placed on the wife. In addition, your response did not address my question. I believe you didn’t intend to place blame. However, you did place blame when you failed to mention other possible causes for men not sharing this aspect of their sexuality, and when you failed to give any actionable steps women can take to help their husbands open up about this topic. Telling me to understand does not answer the question I asked. Understanding from the wife doesn’t matter if the husband won’t admit there’s a problem.

I’m coping and pasting my question and your response so you can read them together. This might help you see where I’m coming from. It’s hard sometimes when you have to scroll back and forth. Notice in your response, you presented a problem without giving any advice for a solution. This also makes it feel like blame.

My Question – “Thanks for the tips. These are helpful for wives whose husbands talk to them about how sexual images and women they encounter affect them. Unfortunately, the majority of men are not talking to their wives about these things. How can those of us in that category help our husbands when they are not willing to be open with us about the topic?”

Your Response – “Many men won’t discuss this because a couple of surface attempts to do so cost them too much. They learned their wife has no idea what it’s like for them, and is unwilling or unable to try to understand. She blames him for being a victim, and no one is going to give their spouse ammunition to do that.”

I think maybe I just wasn’t clear enough with my question. I see this as 2 separate issues.

The first is a woman who wants to understand, but is struggling to do so without feeling hurt and struggling with self-image issues. This woman is not ready to have this discussion with her husband without coming across exactly how you describe. This would not be good because she hurts the chances he’ll ever be willing to talk to her about it.

So for this woman, what advice can you give? Perhaps, it’s what I’ve already mentioned. Don’t try talking to your husband before you resolve some of your own issues with the topic. Perhaps, there are things she can do to help her not feel so hurt with the knowledge that her husband is being tempted daily to lust. Trying not to make it personal is one thing, but easier said than done.

The 2nd issue is the woman who has gained enough understanding that she knows she can have this discussion without pouting, getting angry, assigning blame, taking it personally, etc. The problem is she has tried to talk to her husband, and he refuses to open up and be honest about it. What can she do to help him feel comfortable enough to tell her the truth?

The 2nd issue is my situation, and I would love some tangible advice. Of course, each situation is unique. And, mine is certainly not without its own set of problems. I take responsibility for my part in my husband’s reluctance to tell me. I also know, this is really more about him than it is about anything I’ve done. Just like his sexual refusal was about his own internal struggles. He’s afraid to hurt me more than he already has. He’s not in touch enough with his own sexuality to view his struggles with visual images as a problem. He doesn’t understand how telling me can be helpful to our relationship. These are a few of the reasons I suspect he won’t tell me.

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Paul Byerly October 10, 2016 at 2:15 pm

K – If a woman wants to change something she MUST take ownership of it to have any chance of success. The same is true of men. Even if the issue is not the “fault” of the one who wants to change it, they must find something within their power to change if they want to effect change.
I’ve covered many of the other reasons men don’t share things in other post and will continue to do so. This was already a very long post, so I didn’t include a number of things I could have. If a woman gained a greater understanding of the struggle men have because of what they see, that’s good. An awareness of the problem is a huge step. Based on the majority of the comments, that awareness has not been the result for some.
I then answered your question with what I see as the most likely cause. Not the only, but the cause most likely. If that’s not the case for you, then you can seek some of the less common causes. I should have added that some men have never had the bad end of this from their wife because they have seen other men get it and decided not to give their wife a chance to do the same. In this case, the “fault” is not the wife, but the root reason is the same – his fear of how she will react. Regardless of why a man feels this way, his wife can address it by assuring him she won’t act this way.

I fully agree with not trying to talk until we have resolved our own issues. I say this often. The problem is most of us are bad at seeing our own issues clearly. It’s human nature to downplay our stuff while inflating our spouse’s stuff. I’ve done that to my wife more than once, and I assume I’m not the only one.

For you, one way to approach this is to find something that you think speaks his reality. (For some this post might be that.) Then you share whatever, either by having him read it or by saying “I read blah, blah, blah” is that how you feel? Odds are the first try won’t get you very far, but if you keep at it, he should eventually see it’s safe.
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K October 10, 2016 at 4:03 pm

Paul,
Thank you.

I completely agree with you about having to take ownership of the problem even if the “fault” is not yours for change to occur. This also means not giving up when it becomes difficult.

I appreciate this actionable advice. These steps are helpful. My take aways are:
-Take ownership of the problem
-Reassure him his honesty will not be met with anger or blame
-Find examples he can relate to and ask his feelings about them
-Be persistent even through resistance – change takes time

Paul Byerly October 10, 2016 at 6:49 pm

@K – Excellent synopsis!
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K October 10, 2016 at 4:59 pm

“Jesus regularly said the hard things, and it cost Him followers.”
Yes, but I’d argue most weren’t really followers to begin with.

“Playing it safe may build my numbers, but I’m not here for numbers.”
No, it’s not about numbers. It’s about helping people who need it. You have a lot to offer people. I hate the thought you’d willing risk that opportunity when it’s not necessary to make your point.

Your message as I understand it. — This is an extremely difficult thing for men, especially those who don’t want sexual images thrown in their face every minute of the day. Many men wish this wasn’t the case. They feel assaulted by the constant bombardment of sexual images. Many things women wouldn’t consider sexual in nature, such as a brightly colored bra strap showing, present men with unnecessary temptation. Men have to constantly fight off this visual assault which causes them to feel violated. They hate it and hate how it impacts their sexuality. They only want to think about their wives in a sexual way, but this ongoing visual attack makes it difficult to impossible to do that. Women can help by knowing the things they wear, including certain types of clothing and certain colors of clothing, will always cause men to face unwanted temptation. When wives understand what their husband is facing, it helps the husband tremendously. One of the best things you can do to help your husband is let him know you understand his struggle and don’t judge him for it. Let him know you are in the fight with him and being completely open with one another about his struggle will only strengthen your relationship. Understand when things impact him and he has no control over it and call him on it when he doesn’t resist temptation to lust. Be his partner in the fight and you’ll gain more intimacy in your marriage.

I maintain you could have used strong language (which still would have offended some) and gotten your point across effectively. I maintain your insistence on labeling this as “sexual assault” gets in the way of your primary message and gets in the way of bringing men and women together on this topic.

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Paul Byerly October 10, 2016 at 6:55 pm

@K – “when it’s not necessary to make your point.” That’s the issue, isn’t it. I’ve admitted I may have misjudged it, but when I thought through this I felt I was not going to make the point if I didn’t hit fairly hard. I’ve discussed this many times and I find most women are very resistant to the idea for some reason. By calling it assault I expressed just how horrible I think it can be, and perhaps that got to some who otherwise might not have heard me. The factor is it does feel like assault to some men, and I can’t express that truth without using the word.
You have repeated what I wanted to say well. I would make minor changes, but I have no doubt you heard me.
Thanks for the effort to communicate!
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K October 11, 2016 at 3:05 pm

“I’ve discussed this many times and I find most women are very resistant to the idea for some reason.”

I assume by idea you mean the general message and not some specific point. If so, my initial reaction was “he must be joking when he says ‘for some reason'”. You understand women well for a man so it seems odd that you wouldn’t understand why women are very resistant to this message.

Just in case you really don’t know and for the possible benefit of your male readers, here are some reasons. I think it’s important for men to understand this in order to help bridge the sexes.

—It hurts. We want to believe we are the only woman our husband could possibly want sexually.
—It’s hard for women not personalize this. Men compartmentalize, woman personalize.
—We have trouble understanding that he is not comparing us to every other woman. If he has to try/work not lust, that means we must not measure up. Understanding his ability to compartmentalize helps with this.
—We can’t relate to it. We’re not tempted to lust every time we see a male body part, much less some item of clothing.
—It conflicts with the fairytale we have in our minds of our husband and marriage. This doesn’t mean we’re judging him for it. It means our naive vision of our love and marriage is being shattered. ie. “If he really loved me, he’d never think about anyone else sexually.” “My husband wouldn’t be tempted. He loves me.” This is a good thing in the long run, but very painful in the present.
—It feels like we’re defeated. He promised to love and be faithful only to us. ” If this message is true, then how can he be faithful only to us because lusting is being unfaithful?” (It’s impossible to believe that he resisting the temptation to lust 100% even if he doesn’t want to.)
—On some level, it will always hurt even for wives who do understand. IMO, men need to understand this because it’s big. Expecting us not to be hurt by this is unrealistic.

There are certainly other reasons, but these are some of the bigger ones. This is the type of message that takes time to get across because it conflicts too much with who we are. Any man trying to broach this topic with their wife needs to understand it most likely won’t go easy or be a one and done conversation for her to gain understanding. Expecting her to be hurt and resistant would be prudent for his sanity.

B October 11, 2016 at 8:16 pm

@K, yes! Yes to your comment that starts “I’ve discussed this many times…”

Yes, it hurts. Yes, I don’t get how husbands cannot “get” this. If they’d just think of it from their wives point of view, it’s incredibly hurtful when you realize you’re not enough for your husband and you never will be. At least that’s how I feel. I DO feel compared, and I do feel that I am always the one lacking.

I don’t get the male compartmentalization thing, and I DO NOT understand how a man can claim to love HIS wife when he is hot for so many other women.

I’m trying to understand, but it is hurtful, and I have a hard time believing husbands understand true love AND I sometimes wonder why they even get married, rather than just hook up with all the better women they see every day. Why’d he settle for me?

Yes, I feel defeated in this area.

Paul Byerly October 12, 2016 at 2:02 pm

@K – Yes, I have some idea about why women are resistant to this. Most of what you said is on the list, and I appreciate you doing it from a woman’s side of things.
But I must disagree with your last point. I don’t think God wants anyone to never be able to get past being hurt by something that is a fact that can’t be changed. This goes for men and women and things that have nothing to do with sex.
I don’t want to be hurt by some reality of my wife’s life that she can’t change, I want to be understanding and supportive. Getting there may take a whole lot of work on me, but it’s what I see as the only right choice.
And just to cause trouble, I’d add one reason to your list – it’s just plain inconvenient and it would be nice if it were not true. (This is true for many things in life!)
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Paul Byerly October 12, 2016 at 2:05 pm

@B “If they’d just think of it from their wives point of view, it’s incredibly hurtful when you realize you’re not enough for your husband and you never will be.”

But that is NOT the reality. Yes some men will say that, and a few of those may believe it, but it’s not the truth.

A woman’s looks will never make her enough for any man, and what makes a woman enough for a man has nothing to do with her looks.
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K October 12, 2016 at 11:31 pm

“But I must disagree with your last point. I don’t think God wants anyone to never be able to get past being hurt by something that is a fact that can’t be changed.”

Good point and I agree. It will take much time and work for a lot of us not to feel some degree of hurt by this reality. As much as husbands need us to understand this struggle for them, they need to understand our struggle to not be hurt by it.

“I don’t want to be hurt by some reality of my wife’s life that she can’t change, I want to be understanding and supportive. Getting there may take a whole lot of work on me, but it’s what I see as the only right choice.”

Again, I agree. But, being understanding and supportive are not mutually exclusive from feeling hurt by it. They can all take place at the same time. Men shouldn’t think their wife can’t be understanding and supportive unless she doesn’t feel hurt by it.

“And just to cause trouble, I’d add one reason to your list – it’s just plain inconvenient and it would be nice if it were not true.”

Wow, we hit the trifecta! I agree again. Well, mostly. I’d say this is more a fact that can be accepted as reality once a woman gains a deeper understanding, not really a reason for initial resistance to the message.

K October 12, 2016 at 11:57 pm

@B,
A lot of your struggle may be because you think you need to completely understand in order to believe. Sometimes with things like this, it actually works better the other way around. You can decide to believe something (on faith) first and that can help break down some of the walls keeping you from understanding.

For example, I don’t have to understand how men can compartmentalize in order to believe they are wired to do that. Personally, I still struggle with completely understanding it. But, I believe it’s true. That belief helps me believe my husband loves me even though he’s tempted by other women. And, it helps me believe he’s not comparing me to other women.

Find trusted sources, like Paul, and decide to believe them about these things. When he says husbands aren’t comparing us to other women, choose to believe it. I’m not saying it’s easy, but I can promise you from experience that it helps tremendously. Once you accept it as truth, you are able to move on to greater understanding and some of the hurt you feel will lessen.

Paul Byerly October 13, 2016 at 10:30 am

@K – Yes, men should absolutely understand why their reality is painful for their wives.
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B October 6, 2016 at 5:57 pm

@K,

Pray. We can pray.

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W October 6, 2016 at 2:59 pm

The use of the word sexual assault in the context of this post is offensive. Could some of the examples given be considered sexual harassment, perhaps. As a woman raised in church from childhood, I am sick to death of hearing opinions on what is appropriate, what is modest and what is not. I am sick of the body shaming that occurs to well endowed gals in the Christian community. Do men struggle with the temptation of lust because of being visual YES. The answer is reading I Cor 10:13. Woman are not responsible for the way men are wired. If you want to make someone responsible I suggest you talk to God, because you are stating he wired you that way. Everyone should wear what is appropriate for the occasion and what they can afford.

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Bobthemusicguy October 6, 2016 at 5:33 pm

Here we go on the “assault” thing again. Let it go. Paul has clarified what he meant. If you don’t like his word choice, understand what’s behind it. It’s hard to be a godly man in today’s world. It’s hard to be a godly woman, too. That’s what the fall did to humans. But we all have the Holy Spirit to teach us, convict us, strengthen us, purify us, and conform us to the image of Christ. The real answer is there, not in bickering over a word. By the way, I understand assault. I was assaulted by a student with a chair. And I was sexually assaulted as a boy. I know the scars that causes. Let’s not worry about whether men or women have it worse. We all have it bad in this sinful world, but we all have the strength of God and His promises to change us.

As far as practical advice goes, someone suggested that a man be his wife’s mirror. Good idea. And dads of daughters, be their mirror, too. You can’t stop it all. My wife dresses very attractively but modestly, but there have been men at church who seem to stare a lot. I try to protect her, and if it ever gets bad, I will deal with the man doing it. And Christians need to stop following the fashion industry slavishly. Use some common sense and some mature sense of propriety. You don’t need to wear a burka to be modest. And all of us as Christians need to place the needs of others above our own. Philippians 2.

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Fleur October 7, 2016 at 12:21 am

A bra strap is tacky, inappropriate for a church setting. Showing a bra strap is not a form of assault. For the poster that talks about the days of class and sophistication….in those days there were expectations for the men…it just wasn’t about the women. The occasions that my dad would have been freshly shaved and worn a suit jacket…now you can find unshaven men in stained tshirts and flip flops. Maybe part of this conversation should instead be about elevating the care everyone gives to their appearance in a church setting, not just a hyperfocus on women.
I wore a school uniform for 12 years that was in part designed with modesty in mind. I think you have to truly be in a woman’s shoes to know that dressing modestly doesn’t do everything people think it does. And having lustful thoughts toward someone isn’t simply a function of seeing various body parts.
In reading about modesty, a woman said all of the modesty teachings made her ashamed to be a woman. Women that give up and throw on an oversized sweatshirt are shamed for being for frumpy or not striving for a feminine ideal. One can’t win.
As I look at my dog, or perhaps think about the squirrels or rabbits in my backyard, I can say that the females of these animal varieties all have something in common with me…we all have mammary glands designed to feed our young. God designed us that way, that is where the word mammal comes from. I haven’t seen one person comment on what breasts are actually for. Somehow, if my dog were to be seen nursing a litter of puppies it wouldn’t be controversial. But women in America are shamed if they don’t take the utmost precautions when nursing as not to offend someone with a glimpse of breast. It is no wonder with all of the shaming that more women don’t breastfeed in the US.

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Paul Byerly October 7, 2016 at 7:50 am

@Fleur – Please note I never said the bra strap was assault. I started that section with a transition which read “Yes, there are women out there who use their sexuality to manipulate men. But there are also plenty of women causing men problems who have no clue what they are doing or greatly underestimate how much of a problem they’re causing.”
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IntimacySeeker October 7, 2016 at 1:21 pm

“The straps, especially being so bright, invite a man to think about what the rest of the bra looks like. It invites him to think about what she would look like without the dress. It invites him to undress her with his mind.”

Media have taught us to think about bras in a sexual way. How many men, upon the sight of the pink bra strap, immediately think of Victoria’s Secret models? The woman in the scenario is violated too. She’s been taught that she must dress in a sexually-provocative way to gain attention and be valued. Media teach us that women are objects and products and men are enjoyers and consumers. But we often misread these messages and equate being an object/product with femininity and being an enjoyer/consumer with masculinity. Pretty sure those pink straps wouldn’t be such a big deal if the media had not done its pre-programming work first.

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Bobthemusicguy October 7, 2016 at 5:26 pm

This is what happens when Christians don’t counter lies with the truth. My dad never talked to me about sex, girls, growing up and being a man, much less a Christian man. He left that to the church to do, and my church, like most, did nothing either. So I was left to absorb all kinds of wrong-headedness, stupidity, ignorance, and some plain old sin and filth from whatever source. Given early exposure to pornography (age 5), sexual assault (age 7 and 14), and no guidance whatsoever, I’m kind of surprised that I even made it to marriage. In talking to other Christian men, I find similar stories way too often. We’ve been filled with garbage and then we and our wives wonder where all of it came from. I know women are filled with all kinds of garbage, too.

I’m concerned that too often we get into comparisons of men have it worse, women have it worse, my problem is bigger than your problem (Nyah, Nyah, Nyah!), nobody understands me, etc. Let’s analyze the problem but then move on to solutions. Rather than get our undies in a bunch over a word choice, let’s go to God for a solution and break the chain of lies, at least in our own marriages and with our own kids.

Intimacy Seeker, you’re absolutely correct about the way men and women have been taught lies about each other and our sexuality. Let’s counter that with God’s truth. I’m so thankful for the sex-positive Christian blogs I’ve discovered in the past few months. I don’t feel alone in my problems as a man, I have better understanding of women in general, and my wife in particular, I’ve learned a lot of information, and I know now that there are lots of us Christian husbands and wives out there who at seeking to be obedient to God and honor and serve our spouses.

The beauty of this all is that, as hard as it is to live a godly life in this world, we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us to give us discernment, strength, and wisdom as we try to be the husbands and wives God has called us to be, and that our spouses deserve.

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Paul Byerly October 10, 2016 at 11:02 am

@IntimacySeeker – “Media have taught us to think about bras in a sexual way.”

I would argue that. The fact that a bra covers breasts is what makes it sexual. Eighty years ago teenage boys masturbated to the bra and panty section of the Sears & Roebuck catalogue. And those were nowhere as revealing or sexy as what one sees today. Many women don’t like it, but for men, breasts are inherently sexual and anything associated with them is therefore sexual. This does not have to be taught, it’s built in.

Seeing a strap does not cause a man to think of a model, it causes him to think of the women wearing the bra and temps him to think what she would look like without her top. Again, this is not learned, it’s an automatic thought process.

I agree the women is also a victim. Boys and girls are taught very different rules and in many situations what girls are taught gives boys messages that are not true. That can only lead to problems, and while both sexes get hurt women usually get hurt far worse.
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Lori Byerly October 7, 2016 at 6:12 pm

Paul has gone to a men’s retreat so, those of you who just posted, please understand it will be a couple of days before he responds. He’s at a great camp, but they literally have no Internet, phone cell coverage, etc.
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tina October 8, 2016 at 2:10 pm

Just by posting the picture at the top of the page, you have contributed to said assault. Truly, pictures aren’t needed to get your point accross. Please choose more wisely.

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Paul Byerly October 10, 2016 at 10:39 am

@tina – I felt it was needed, and my failure with words on the bra strap reinforces that. While the picture is on the extreme end, a majority of men have seen worse in the last year. I want women to understand just how bad it is for men.
As for how bad the image it, I did choose to fall well short of how bad it is. You will see this much and more in PG-rated movies and some broadcast TV shows. As bad as this is, it’s nothing compared to what our culture throws at men AN BOYS day in and day out.
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IntimacySeeker October 10, 2016 at 12:11 pm

I maintain this is about more than how men are wired. Patriarchy and media messages are insidious. So 80 years ago boys masturbated to the women’s underwear pages in the Sears and Roebuck catalogue. Why did they think that was okay? Because of the messages they had received. The message that it’s acceptable and manly to treat women like things.

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Paul Byerly October 10, 2016 at 2:01 pm

@IntimacySeeker – Eight years ago teenage boys received very few messages about sex, and what they did was don’t, don’t, don’t. They masturbated to the S&R catalogue because it was the sexiest thing they could get their hands on, and they knew they would be punished if they were caught.
Of course media and patriarchy adds to it, but it generally adds to it by going the direction biology has already pointed guys.
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Bobthemusicguy October 10, 2016 at 2:32 pm

And a century before that, the boys were masturbating to a corset they saw drying on a laundry line. And before that, it was to anything a woman wore that drew attention to her womanly parts. I agree that the women are victims of this, but what the are really victims of is a man’s sexual nature when it’s not surrendered to God. Biology has pointed men in a certain way because the God of biology made men that way. The problem is that after the Fall, every part of us has been contaminated by sin. That’s the crux of the matter.

We all, men and women, have responsibilities in this matter. Christian women need to be aware that men have this visual nature, but it has been bent by sin in all of us. If a woman can help the matter by dressing in ways that minimize it, please do so. I realize that no woman will be able to completely take care of this because there are lots of men, including Christian men, who are not submitting their sexual natures to the God who made them.

And men, PLEASE take responsibility! It’s like any other part of our lives. We are to be conformed to the image of Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit in us, God will change us to bear that image. I really tire of the excuses. “But that’s just the way I am!” We shouldn’t excuse kids’ bad behavior by saying, “That’s just the way kids are.” We set about correcting them and their behavior. It’s called “maturity.”

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tricia welch December 18, 2016 at 10:31 pm

I CAN NOT let this go. Men, Women. It is true Men are assulted every day ,all day ,by sexual images. These same images assult us aswell. Heres why… Did you buy that deep conditioner, foundation, or pair of jeans because of an add you took in with your eyes .? Its all consumerism, and yes Christain women you did! Christain women, Christian MEN, Lets talk about that. It is an all out shame that Christian Married Couples are not busy being the best Lovers on the earth and teaching this oversexed culture a thing or 20 about true pleasue in marrige! Our Father made sex! His idea. Now we all know sex is Awesome but ,you can die having it now by way of disease ect.. I will not belabor that piont! My piont is Christain men are dropping the ball , Blaming breast’s, hips, a pretty face for the reason they struggle and become weak lovers. Because they shut it all down. Hang with me, heres what I’m saying. THEY ARE SHAMED INTO A MINDSET THAT IS ….PITIFUL! These afor mentioned men are supposed to be warriors,protecters,PROVIDERS ones who pray over their familys and destroy the enemys attempts against their terriotory . Women are ,Wifes , Are their comfort! They ARE VISUAL. So let them be pleasing to their sight.Its okay. We have these Christain men so affraid to lust after this prize given by GOD himself to be their comfort and hel mate, that once married its…..well, its just a game of goodie goodie tushoes . Here me out church . Christain men should be the best , most expressive lovers on earth. Instead we sit back pat ourselves on the back for judgeing a bra strap , shut down the instict to be hunters in our married bedrooms and wonder why. Why the worlds perverted ways are ever more alluring to us all!Teach…someone Please speak up! The world is showing boys/men on the daily an ever increasing image of dark painful perverted sex. calling it open minded. Women are more hardened trying to keep up with it all. What if the story line was…. WAIT !!! WAIT FOR YOUR PERFECT CHRISTIAN HUSBAND, DONT YOU KNOW THEIR THE BEST LOVERS ON EARTH!!!!!!! Christan Dads PLEASE start talking to your boys because the enemy is and Sex isnt going away.

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