Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My Bikini Answer: Sexual Attraction is not Lust

Beau is a very supportive boyfriend. Not only does he not mind me writing all about our love and non-sex sex life on the Internet, but he reads all of my blog posts faithfully. He then gives me feedback on my writing. Sometimes he points out the occasional typo, but mostly he just tells that me I'm a wonderful writer, and that he'll happily be a SAHD in the future when I'm a world-famous author. 

A few weeks ago, I wrote about going to the pool with Beau and my besties, Hardy and Lauren. Who love the nicknames I gave them, by the way. Beau read it while we were skyping, and then this conversation happened.

Beau: Well... I definitely noticed Lauren in a bikini.
Me: But you weren't lusting after her.
Beau: Uhh...
Me: Were you thinking of her as a sexual object who only existed for your pleasure?
Beau: No.
Me: You just noticed that my best friend is hot and looks good in a bikini?
Beau: Yes.
Me: That's not lust, babe. In fact, I think my next bikini post will be on the differences between attraction and lust.
Saturday, June 22, 2013

Modesty culture does not distinguish between healthy, biological sexual attraction and unhealthy, objectifying lust. As usual, I am not the first to write about this, and I do want to acknowledge what else has already been eloquently stated on this topic. However, I also want to differentiate even further and consider appreciation, attraction, and lust as three distinct reactions to a bikini-clad body (or really, any "attractive" human being).

Appreciation: Good-looking people are not all identical. Obviously beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that, but even if you look at a sampling of Beautiful People, they are not all the same. Brad Pitt is conventionally attractive. So are Will Smith, Orlando Bloom, Patrick Dempsey, Ryan Gosling, etc. I look at all of these men and acknowledge they are Beautiful People. But I'm personally not attracted to all of them. They are not all My Type. I appreciate all their good looks, but I am not attracted to all their good looks. If you've ever told your best friend how hot she looks, or your younger brother how handsome he is (and you weren't lying to be nice), then you understand. You can appreciate someone's attractiveness without being attracted to that person. 

Just for the record, this is me with the majority of my female friends. (The majority of my male friends too, for that matter). Just because I'm attracted to women, and I think my female friends are attractive, does NOT mean I'm automatically attracted to all my female friends.

Sexual Attraction: When I see Will Smith or Orlando Bloom, I get these feelings. Physical feelings. And when I see Beau, especially when he's looking at me in that way, these physical feelings are like a tingling sensation all over my body, but especially in my lady bits. This is sexual attraction. It is a natural, biological response. In fact, it is a natural, God-given response. If we never felt sexual attraction, we wouldn't want to have sex. If we never had sex, we could never procreate. And God's most awesome creation would have ended at Adam and Eve.*

Lust: I am guilty of lust. Yes, women are capable of lust. When I go to tumblr and look at photo sets of Naya Rivera, which are often collections that focus just on her perfect tits or splendid ass, I am lusting after her. I am not seeing Naya Rivera as a talented, kind-hearted person worthy of dignity and respect.** I am looking at her body and thinking about how much I enjoy it. I am objectifying her. This is lust, and this is the sin God calls us to avoid.

From the original bikini post that doesn't differentiate between appreciation, attraction, and lust:

I am making a sacrifice for the guys around me... The way we dress impacts those around us, especially guys. I don’t really want a guy to look at me and notice me for my butt, upper thighs, or chest. I’d rather him notice my smile or God-loving personality...

From Lana Hobbs the Brave: 

I feel like the biggest problem with the modesty culture is the confusion between lust and attraction. I never once have heard anyone make a distinction. It’s as though it’s a sin for a man to notice a woman is attractive. Look, people. I’m visual. And the dude who plays Thor is attractive. I noticed. That’s not cheating on my husband. That’s not me wanting to rape the actor. That’s just me, noticing a very attractive guy is attractive. I’ve seen men that were so attractive, it makes me blush. For real. It doesn’t mean I’m lusting. I am not fantasizing. I wouldn’t ‘do’ anything with him. But there’s nothing wrong with me or the guy, if I notice he’s attractive. If I start having sexual fantasies, that’d be objectifying and mentally unhealthy.

From Emily Maynard at Prodigal Magazine: 

God created you to desire another person for affection, intimacy, and relationship! Being physically attracted to someone is not lust. Wanting to kiss someone is not lust. Enjoying kissing someone is not lust. Those desires can be a catalyst for lust, but in themselves, they are morally-neutral, God-created, biological and chemical reactions. Your body recognizing sexual compatibility with another person is not inherently evil... Lust dehumanizes a person in your own heart and mind. It is the ritual taking, obsessing, and using someone else for your own benefit rather than valuing that person as an equal image-bearer of God... Lust reduces the complexity of each individual and their story to something you get to manage. Lust certainly can have a sexual component, but when we reduce it merely to sexual reactions, we miss out on God’s heart for all people: infinite value.

From Dale Fincher at Free at Last:

To be sexy is not wrong and to be sexually attracted to someone isn’t wrong either... But the Modesty Lifeguards assume sexual attraction is wrong. There is only one forcefield against all the laser-like glances from the salivating monsters from Lustopolis: covering up. Men, we have no hope either, because we are told sexual attraction equals lust, rendering us biologically wired and condemned to the dung-heap of endless masturbatory fantasies.

So should we just stop talking about lust? Of course not. Lust is definitely a problem that the Church needs to address. But you know who has already addressed it, in ways that are actually helpful and don't put the burden on women?

Feminists. Except we call it "sexual objectification" and "slut-shaming." 

The best way to combat lust isn't to tell women to cover up. 

The best way to combat lust? 

Teach men and women to treat others with dignity and respect, regardless of their appearance. 

*I don't think Adam and Eve were real people as depicted in the Bible. I think they're a metaphor. But referring to them tends to get the conservative folks on my side, okay?
**When I watch Glee (proof that my life is insane: I haven't finished the fourth season yet), I totally appreciate Naya Riviera as a human being who is talented, and gracious, and brilliant, and a role model for women/lesbians/bisexuals everywhere.


  1. yes yes yes. You've explained this so well. I have this conversation so frequently, especially talking about things like street harassment (some people don't seem to realize the difference between a stranger politely telling you that they think you look nice and a stranger honking at you and yelling 'hey sexy' or something of the like). There is a good chance I will be referring people to this post in these conversations in the future!

    1. Ah, yes, the old "Learn how to take a compliment!" when women complain about street harassment. Um, it's not a compliment. (And an informal poll of my guy friends revealed that they know it's not a compliment, and they don't do it to pick up women, but occasionally, in a large group of guys, someone will do it to impress the other guys).

      Feel free to share my post with the world! ;)

  2. The best way to combat lust? Teach men and women to treat others with dignity and respect, regardless of their appearance. > THIS.
    I don't mind if a guy notices me for my "butt, upper thighs, or chest", to be honest. I take it as a biological fact that indicates what I think is fat and makes me ugly means I'm fit for having their babies. My smile and God-loving personality are something they can see only if they know me first, so it's unlikely I can be noticed for that as first impressions. Unless I'm at church, but in this weather I wouldn't bet they don't see the legs anyway.

    1. Right?! It completely ignores the fact that, to an extent, ALL* human beings are visual. Until you actually talk to a person, the only thing you know is what that person looks like. There's nothing wrong with seeing someone you find physically attractive and striking up conversation with that person to see if you're also mentally attracted to that person. I'm pretty sure the only way you could tell I have a God-loving personality just by looking at me is if you see me at church, joyfully singing hymns or worship songs. That's the only time my physical appearance shows my faith. The rest of the time in church, my facial expressions don't really reflect what I'm thinking/feeling (unless I totally disagree with the pastor, which happens in more conservative congregations).

      *Unless you're vision-impaired, of course.

  3. Such a great post!! Takes courageous conversations to free others from modesty culture.

    1. Thank you! It's much easier for me to write here because I'm mostly anonymous, but I also engage in this topic by sharing the words and wisdom of others on my personal facebook page.

  4. This post was great and really well explained. I have definitely thought about this before, there are a lot of people in life that I admit are attractive, but I know that they aren't the ones for me. Also, awesome asterisks. Also also (yes, that's a thing), Naya Rivera was totally on Family Matters as a kid, that's my fun fact about her.

    1. Thank you! I first came to this realization in high school, when I would comment on someone's attractiveness, and the immediate reaction was "Ooh, you like him!" And I was like... "No. He's attractive. End of story."

      Yes, I love me some footnotes. They are all over my blog. I first started using them to point out my use of fake names for all my friends/family, but almost two years into my blog, I think people have figured out I'm not using real names for anyone. Now I just use them when I want to point something out, but it interrupts the flow of my writing.

      I think I knew that about Naya Riviera, but I had forgotten. Basically, she's awesome in all sorts of ways.

  5. Good points! I couldn't agree more that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and lust is different from physical appreciation/attraction :-) I think there is way too much modesty in the American society (that being said, I need to confess I am European born and raised).

    1. Thank you!

      One of my future bikini posts will be about how modest dress is cultural. Obviously some Americans think that bikinis are immodest, but in France, I sunbathed topless, and no one batted an eye. And the irony is that the conservative American Christians are telling us not to follow the world... by having us dress according to worldly ideas of modest dress...

  6. What an important distinction, and I am so glad you made it loud and proud and online! Once I wrote a paper in seminary about masturbation, and it revolved around the difference between lust and arousal (attraction.) It finally clicked- what it seems like people mix up and confuse. So glad you're helping people see it differently. :)

    1. Your paper sounds fascinating! I definitely think people get confused about biological responses. Unfortunately, this often plays out in the real world as telling victims of sexual assault that they "wanted it" because their bodies respond a certain way. =/

  7. Okay, you know what? I have heard billions of talks/sermons and read trillions of articles/books, and I don't think one of them ever distinguished a difference between attraction and lust.

    That's a lie. MAYYYYYBE a million talks, and a couple thousand books.
    Still not true. But A LOT, okay??? :)

    You just threw me for a loop! Now I need to mull and ponder and let this settle and filter, and see where this lands in my thought process. There is a difference between lust and attraction. Huh.

    You know, it actually almost ticks me off that I didn't know that. Why didn't anyone tell me?!

    gayle | grace for gayle
    I'm a #Previvor

    1. I tried replying to this SO many times last weekend from my iPad, and it kept screwing up! Sorry for the delay!

      Yes, the fact that religious traditions go on and on and on about the need for modesty to combat lust, WITHOUT differentiating between lust and attraction, is the cause for so much unnecessary shame in men AND women.

  8. Did you know it is possible to for a man to masturbate to a woman's face? Women are beautiful, and their faces are beautiful. The eyes, the nose, the lips, the jawline, the hair... it is all very intoxicating. Why do you think the missionary position is so popular?

    This is why women are forced under burqas in some countries. This belief that natural sexual attraction and feelings equals lust drives people insane and creates a hell on Earth. Does masturbation necessarily have to equal lust? I don't think so... not if you are fantasizing about loving the person you are thinking about.

    God told us to "Go forth and multiply". Well, you can't do that without playing "Hide the cannelloni". If that is the case, then how could natural sexual feelings be lust? If we thought that way, we would be violating God's commandment to multiply.

    Lust must be unnatural sexual desires; such as coveting your neighbor's wife, thinking about sodomizing a woman, etc... Desiring to have natural sex can't be lust, because it is necessary for obeying God's commandment.

    If it is, we Christians needn't worry anyway. Our salvation falls under John 3:16, not dependent on our spiritual "purity".

  9. If a man longs for a woman sexually, but he also wants love and companionship (the guy is single), is that lust?


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Comments are moderated because I receive a lot of spam, and I think CAPTCHA is annoying. I reply to most of your comments within the comment section because it inspires discussion between readers. For first-time commenters, I try to reply by email.

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