Lust: Not for Men Only

Carolyn McCulley

Carolyn McCulley | 11.10.11
Twitter: @CarolynMcculley

15 comments

This post was originally posted on the Desiring God blog. For more on lust being a human problem (and not just a guy’s problem), listen to, download the podcast, or read the transcript of Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ interview today and tomorrow with Josh and Shannon Harris titled “Not Even a Hint.”


For the past eight years, I've had the privilege of writing two books and hundreds of articles and blog posts for women, which then led to numerous speaking engagements. Right from the start, I noticed a trend at each event, whether in the U.S. or abroad. Invariably, one woman would wait to talk to me until the bitter end, because she wanted to confess something that made her feel doubly shameful. She wanted to talk about her lust and sexual sin, a struggle she was sure was hers alone among the women in church.

How did these women arrive at this conclusion? Because for years most churches herded the men off to talk about lust, while gathering the women to discuss modesty. While those are valid and much needed messages, they are incomplete for the culture in which we now live.

To understand the times, let's look at the messages women have absorbed in recent years. There are stripper pole classes at the gym and women's magazines with screaming headlines about sex and seduction techniques. The morning talk shows candidly discuss sex toy parties. "Sex and the City" becomes a major franchise while "Girls Gone Wild" captures drunken sexual escapades among college students. Abercrombie & Fitch markets push-up bikini tops to eight-year-old girls. Lady Gaga bursts onto the pop music scene wishing she could shut her Playboy mouth. Not one item is sold in the mall without an erotic image. And women are increasingly immersed in online porn.

This highly sexualized culture is the new normal for young women who grew up in the ethos of third-wave feminism's pro-porn, pro-sex work stance. So normal that when I spoke at a Christian college earlier this year, one woman raised her hand to ask, "So are you saying that it's bad that there's too much pornographic influence in our culture? But shouldn't women embrace their sexuality?"

Um, yes. And yes. That answer highlights the problem: the counterfeit has usurped the authentic. Sex is God's idea and his good gift is to be properly stewarded within His design. For that reason, the church should be the most pro-sex group there is. We have a message of hope and redemption in the morass of sexual confusion. But first we need to help the women who are confused and in our churches right now. Here are four points on how to do that:

1. Give the truth about sex and why it's attacked.


Let's start with that modesty message. If it's framed as a simple "don't tempt men" message, it is incomplete and easily dismissed. We need to back up and explain first what is good about God's gift and how it is distorted in a myriad of ways. We should equip young women to be discerning about the spiritual battle raging around sexuality. The Adversary has no need to improve upon his first character assassination of God. Contradicting God's boundaries and insinuating that He is holding out on His creatures is nearly foolproof.

2. Teach young women not to mistake broken for normal.


Then we need to teach young women how rapidly our culture became porn-saturated in only one generation. That's often news to those who grew up in it and therefore they often don't understand the brokenness that follows in the wake of the sexual imagery they accept as normal. As John Piper says, lust is the realm of thought, imagination, and desire that leads to sexual misconduct—and young women often overlook how their drive to be sexually desirable is smack in the middle of that realm.

When young women understand the cosmic consequences of sexual sin, the worldviews that shape our consumption of sexual messages today, and how God's glory is under spiritual attack, they will not mistake any modesty message for a frumpy fashion campaign. Nor will they resent the men around them for being impediments to whatever is stylish. Instead, they will be sobered by how Satan still "prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8)—and that men and women alike are fair game.

3. Stop thinking that only men have seeing problems.


Let's not assume that immodesty only affects the eyes of men. Women are becoming increasingly visualized as well, and can be distracted in similar, though perhaps not identical, ways. We also need to remember and help those women who wrestle with same-sex attraction. After I mentioned this recently at a large conference, several women came up to say this is their temptation and how hard it is for them to be open about it in the church. They fear misunderstanding, judgment, and gossip.

4. Create a culture of light.


We need to clearly teach that lust is a human condition, not just a masculine one. Knowing God's glory is at stake, we need to create humble church cultures where secret sin is not kept in the dark, but rather brought into the light. If we rightly understand the doctrine of sin, we should never be surprised by our own temptations nor by the confessions of others. We should want to create "safe harbors" for God's people to confess, repent, and welcome accountability for change. The roaring lion waits in the cover of darkness to attack what he finds there, but "whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God" (John 3:21).

Let us help the women in our churches experience the freedom of living in the light.

Comments

  1. Carolyn,
    I am older married woman who has recently, within the last year, been struggling with lust. I have repented and been convicted many times but I do believe the culture has fed into my sin, fueling it in many subtle ways that I didn't realize. I do not view porn, or movies with sexual content. I do not read romance novels, yet I am influenced just by walking into a store or going to the mall.
    I only have sons, and I can't imagine the struggles they face every day; but our dear daughters aren't getting the message are they? As they continue to adopt the sex-saturated fashion of the culture.
    This is a very challenging yet necessary article, and I am so thankful for the forgiveness and freedom found in "living and walking as children of the light." Praise God for your openness!!
    posted by Anon.
    on Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 10:08 am
  2. I found this article very interesting. In my early years of marriage my husband and I struggled with being intimate, perhaps I should say "I struggled with being intimate with my husband" meaning I didn't understand God's gift of sex and felt guilty everytime we were together. With some wise counsel my husband and I began praying over our marriage bed, the Lord granted me peace and freed me of the guilt I previously had associated with sex. Our intimate life is so much better but lately I have found myself lusting for my husband (not for others) through out my day. I'm preganant for the first time and I have no idea if this has to do with my hormones but it's definitely something new that I've noticed in the past few weeks to months. Is it wrong to lust for your husband?
    posted by Lisa
    on Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 10:38 am
  3. Dear Lisa,
    Under the second point of this article, Carolyn quoted John Piper as saying that "lust is the realm of thought, imagination, and desire that leads to sexual misconduct." It certainly is not sexual misconduct to want to be with your husband! :) And yes, pregnancy hormones can definitely increase your sex drive. (It actually is quite typical for the second trimester.) What a blessing God has given you to have such a desire for your husband! Take advantage of it, and enjoy this fun and special time in your marriage because it is fleeting. Soon, you'll be using all your energy to carry that sweet baby to full-term. And afterwards, most of you're energy and attention will be directed--for a season--to your baby. So, use these last few months of just being the two of you to grow closer together and just enjoy each other. One of the best gifts you can give your children--other than introducing them to Jesus--is the example of a strong, loving marriage!
    posted by Whitnie Parish
    on Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 11:29 am
  4. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! for talking so openly & candid about this (especially about it not only being a guys problem). You REALLY DO feel isolated & I believe satan uses that lie to tell you, you are alone-you will be judged (if not outwardly, inwardly) & misunderstood! This subject SOOO needs to be talked about to help women live a Godly, pure life-so they can have correct beliefs to help their children in THEIR walks with God! A really good book I've read that also gives practical ways to align your thinking with God's is Every Women's Battle by Shannon Ethridge. THANKS AGAIN!-& keep it coming! I strive to be a WOMAN after God's heart!
    posted by Mary
    on Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 3:22 pm
  5. Thanks for this. I struggle with something not mentioned in this article, but it is connected to the same sin of lust. I've struggled with this ever since I was 4, and I'm almost 20 now. 16 years of feeling like a shameful failure. Although I have let my parents know about it, it is difficult, because my mom has never had a normal sex drive (because of a hormonal problem she was born with) and therefore does not understand where mine is coming from. I really want more resources out there not only for me, but for my future children. I am just now starting to learn how to conquer temptation (through God's amazing grace), and I don't want them to go through the same struggles I have gone through.

    It is interesting to note how even kids comics like Archie feed into the wrong message, (not to mention magazines and articles online). It starts young and only gets worse.
    posted by Hannah
    on Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 5:09 pm
  6. I want to thank you ROH for the courage to address a delicate topic in our church circles. I would like to also encourage Lisa to enjoy this time with her husband to the fullest ; making memories and building on her marriage relationship in the way God intended it to be-sacred and intimate with her husband only. I would also whole -heartedly endorse "Every Womans Battle" and Dannah Gresh also has a book for young women-I believe. The resources offered by ROH are very much needed and again I thank you for your ministry.
    posted by Kay
    on Friday, November 11, 2011 at 11:08 am
  7. Thank you for posting this!! I am a young woman about to leave college, and not only have I been struggling with lust, I have watched in horror as my Christian friends embrace impure media and ideas about sex. Personally, I haven't struggled with lust since I first became a Christian in high school. But I was recently in a relationship that I thought God had led me into for marriage, but things turned sour physically and we could not dig our true relationship out from the filth we had created. I know that I have begun to believe many lies that our culture tells us...partly because the guy I was with believed them. Like what was said in the post, I wanted to please him and be sexually attractive to him. He was going to be my husband and I didn't want to compete for his attention. I understand now that the relationship wasn't good, and his lack of faith - and my own selfish desires - drew me away from the Lord. I am now trying to pick up the pieces and renew my devotion, trusting Him with my future... but I think the hardest part for me right now is dealing with lust for this man I have been with. This post was great, but is there more information I can get on purity and overcoming lust... this seemed to more on what we should be teaching, and I really want to be taught! :) I could use a little truth and encouragement to help me stay strong have a biblical perspective on these matters :) Thanks again!
    posted by Jess
    on Friday, November 11, 2011 at 11:34 pm
  8. Thank you for posting this!! I am a young woman about to leave college, and not only have I been struggling with lust, I have watched in horror as my Christian friends embrace impure media and ideas about sex. Personally, I haven't struggled with lust since I first became a Christian in high school. But I was recently in a relationship that I thought God had led me into for marriage, but things turned sour physically and we could not dig our true relationship out from the filth we had created. I know that I have begun to believe many lies that our culture tells us...partly because the guy I was with believed them. Like what was said in the post, I wanted to please him and be sexually attractive to him. He was going to be my husband and I didn't want to compete for his attention. I understand now that the relationship wasn't good, and his lack of faith - and my own selfish desires - drew me away from the Lord. I am now trying to pick up the pieces and renew my devotion, trusting Him with my future... but I think the hardest part for me right now is dealing with lust for this man I have been with. This post was great, but is there more information I can get on purity and overcoming lust... this seemed to more on what we should be teaching, and I really want to be taught! :) I could use a little truth and encouragement to help me stay strong have a biblical perspective on these matters :) Thanks again!
    posted by Jess
    on Saturday, November 12, 2011 at 12:11 am
  9. Hi, i'm a 22 year-old Christian college student who has been struggling with porn and sex since a very young age. I got introduced to it at a young age and it has been a problem ever since. Is there any hope for me? If so, what are some ways that I can overcome and be delivered from such a dirty addiction?
    posted by Ashley
    on Sunday, November 13, 2011 at 4:38 am
  10. Dear Jess and Ashley, and any other sisters struggling with this particular sin issue,

    There is a wonderful website called Setting Captives Free. I believe it is a 60-day online course, averaging 45 minutes of time a day. Your answers are read only by the mentors and counselors of the ministry.

    The entire purpose of the courses on this site is to recover men and women from slavery to habitual sexual sin by studying the Biblically based material. Please note it is not the course that sets you free, but rather Jesus Christ. It is impossible for man to change man, but with God it is possible.

    I wholeheartedly recommend this website. Besides the separate Sexual Purity Courses, there is also a course for food addictions (The Lord's Table).

    May God bless you and deliver you.
    posted by Karen K
    on Sunday, November 13, 2011 at 9:54 am
  11. The problem is media and such fills constantly that people need to be physically beautiful. You see everywhere from makeup ads, weight loss ads, tv shows, billboards, music video, magazines, etc. We are constantly bombarded from social media to everything about physical appearance and how it's important to look beautiful to people.

    Our society values beautiful people whether it's going to a job interview or it's way to attract men or make friends as you see in social media these days and other things. These days girls who wear glasses are not beautiful or don't wear designer clothes are ugly and such. We are judged not by our character. but by your looks, money, status, material wealth, education, but not by character. People don't go after the godly man or woman, but the beautiful one.

    I am deeply disturbed that young children are exposed to images and wrong messages because of media and how there are people who follow these wrong messages. There are too many people who set poor examples to young children.

    Now, when I go to church or any conservative event you see women dressed in short skirts and revealing clothes. The problem is also the clothes that these designers sell these days and you see how young teens and children clothing aisles in stores of how revealing or inappropriate they are.

    Our world is getting messed up. I think people need to fight back media and such by setting good examples to people to follow. Be role models not runway models. I also think it's important to take on these ideas head on like media. Teach children about modesty and all. I want to say that people need to have a strong bond with Jesus or the enemy will try to ruin you. The enemy even fights harder especially if you are a godly person because he hates good and because that person can counterbalance or counter attack the evil one.
    posted by Godsgirl
    on Sunday, November 13, 2011 at 11:57 pm
  12. Be role models not runway models.

    Sure it's very hard to be modest, but think about this that God is always watching you. You don't need to put on makeup or fancy clothes to make him happy because he loves you and made you beautiful.

    Don't conform. Let your True Beauty Shine.

    You don't need to look like a fashion model or anyone. You don't need to impress guys either because you got the best guy ever who loves you and that is God.

    Be You! BeYoutiful!
    posted by Godsgirl
    on Monday, November 14, 2011 at 12:05 am
  13. Jess,

    We would encourage you to check out the radio series with Josh & Shannon Harris (Not Even a Hint) on ROH radio. http://www.reviveourhearts.com/resource-library/Programs/p/Revive%20Our%20Hearts/series/Not%2520Even%2520a%2520Hint%252C%2520with%2520Josh%2520and%2520Shannon%2520Harris/

    Also, their book, Sex Is Not the Problem, Lust Is would be a good resource. http://www.reviveourhearts.com/store/product/sex-is-not-the-problem-lust-is-sexual-purity-in-a-lust-saturated-world/

    Tammy at ROH
    posted by Tammy Zebell
    on Monday, November 14, 2011 at 9:38 am
  14. I am so glad this is being addressed. I never had the problem of dealing with lust until I was in my 30's, yes, married too. I struggled with lust for 12 years, by myself. I feel the church does not address this nor offer guidance. I struggled by myself, horribly and in shame, until I confessed it to my spouse, together we prayed, and I can say today, I do not struggle with lust. ONLY GOD delivered me from that. Lust is powerful, GOD is more powerful. If I did not go through what I did with lust, I could not minister to other women that are going through it. Thank you for speaking about it. Men are not alone in that struggle.
    posted by Tammi
    on Monday, November 14, 2011 at 2:47 pm
  15. I think this article is incomplete. The author says, "When young women understand the cosmic consequences of sexual sin, the worldviews that shape our consumption of sexual messages today, and how God's glory is under spiritual attack, they will..." change their behavior.
    Where is the power of God, the Holy Spirit here? It is not by our own understanding or strength that we come to understand the consequences of sin but by the grace of God, we trust that He gives us understanding. He empowers us.
    http://standintheways.blogspot.com/
    posted by Johanna
    on Saturday, November 26, 2011 at 9:34 pm

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