Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Porn addiction

I. Porn Addiction

Recently I’ve been asked about how Christians should deal with porn addiction. Since this is an issue of general interest and importance to the Christian community, I’ll do a post on the subject.

I don’t claim to be an expert on how to deal with the problem. I’m just offering my advice for what it’s worth. Commenters are welcome to improve on what I’ve said. However, I’m not interested in remarks by commenters who simply take offense at my even attempting a frank discussion of the issue. And I’m also not interested in commenters who can’t bring themselves to have a grown-up discussion of grown-up problems. Comments like that will be summarily deleted.

In preparing to write this, I Googled some Christian websites to see what they have to say on the subject. One or two of them said some of the things I’d say, but a number of them were less than generous about dispensing free advice. Instead, they want to sell their services.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Some porn addicts may need professional counseling. However, I also suspect that, in some cases, professional counseling, like so much psychotherapy, is an expensive, open-ended commitment which can drag on for months or years without solving the problem. It’s just someone to talk to while the meter is running.

This post is not addressed to professing believers who don’t think there’s anything wrong with pornography. There’s probably nothing I can say that would persuade them to the contrary, so I won’t even try. Instead, this post is addressed to Christians who recognize the problem, and want some guidance on how to deal with it.

This post is written from a male perspective because I have a firsthand knowledge of male psychology.

It’s well-known that porn addiction has become a problem in the church. That’s hardly surprising. In the age of DVDs and the Internet, it’s easier than ever to anonymously indulge in pornographic lust.

Is this a scandalous situation for the church? Yes and no. It’s scandalous in the sense that pornography is contrary to Christian ethics. However, Christian men are sinners, too. Christian men are wired the same way as other men. So this phenomenon doesn’t come as a shocking development—especially when many Christian men developed their addiction before they came to Christ.

Someone might object that it’s scandalous because Christians are held to a higher standard. Actually, we’re not. God holds everyone to the same moral standard. It’s just that Christians acknowledge the standard.

Someone might also object that it’s scandalous because it’s hypocritical. That’s true, but from God’s perspective, a hypocritical sinner is no worse than a shameless sinner. Suppose you’re a porn addict who doesn’t pretend to be a Christian. Well, that may absolve you of hypocrisy, but that doesn’t absolve you of sin.

So there’s no reason for the church to engage in ritual self-flagellation about the scandal of porn addiction in the church. Rather, the church has a special mission to address this sin, since the role of the church is to address sin generally.

Christians have the same problems as everyone else. The difference is that we have spiritual resources that unbelievers do not.

II. Secret Sins

One thing that makes porn addiction difficult for Christians to cope with is that, as a practical matter, it tends to be a very private sin since there’s a debilitating stigma that attaches to porn addiction. Take a pastor who’s addicted to porn. Who’s he supposed to turn to? If he tells his wife, she may divorce him. If he confesses his sin to his congregation or his ecclesiastical peers or superiors, he may lose his job.

So it poses a dilemma. It’s not a sin that we can easily conquer all by ourselves, but it doesn’t feel safe to share our problem with others. Especially those in authority, since the authority figures are the very people in a position to sanction us if we confess our secret sin. Kind of like turning yourself into the authorities. This isolation exacerbates the sense of being trapped in your addiction, with now way out. I’ll deal with this dilemma in section IV.

III. Wrong Turns

What are some misguided ways to deal with porn addiction?

1. Monasticism

Traditionally, one way to deal with various temptations, whether sexual or otherwise, was through the suppression of pleasure. Deny your desires.

While there’s a grain of truth to this, which I’ll come to later, as a general program this is counterproductive. When you deny your natural desires, including perfectly legitimate pleasures, you fuel temptation. You pour gasoline on temptation.

2. Quietism

A more recent way of dealing with temptation, which is popular in charismatic circles, is to expect a quick fix. If you just pray to God to take away your sinful desire, or receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, or have a faith-healer cast out the demon of lust, then you will be cured.

Like monasticism, this is also counterproductive. It sets up a false expectation. And many men have left the faith because they tried the Pentecostal shortcuts, and the “solutions” didn’t solve the problem. So they became disillusioned.

BTW, I’m not commenting on charismatic theology in general, or its more respectable and responsible exponents (e.g. Craig Keener, Gordon Fee).

Rather, I’m talking about the pop version of charismatic theology peddled by Televangelists.

IV. Coping With Porn Addiction

So how should a Christian who struggles with porn addiction try to wean himself of that obsessive-compulsive disorder?

1. Never Despair!

Some professing believers give up the fight because they see so little progress. I’m not talking about porn addiction in particular. Just generally, there are professing believers who become so discouraged in their battle with some temptation or another that they eventually leave the faith altogether.

Here I’d introduce my cardinal rule: never despair, never give up!

Why do I say that? Because despair is futile, and futility is futile.

If you stay in the game, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

If you throw in the towel, you have nothing to gain and everything to lose.

If you turn your back on the Christian faith and die in unbelief, you will go to tell. So what good did that do you?

No matter how often you face a spiritual setback, the alternative to perseverance is guaranteed to be a losing proposition.

So even if it feels like one step forward and two steps back, that’s far better than taking the expressway to hell. The only way you’re sure to fail is to drop out of the race before the finish line.

2. Moderation

i) We sometimes create artificial problems for ourselves by imposing artificial standards or unrealistic expectations on ourselves. It’s futile to overcome a natural desire. You can channel a natural desire, but you can’t suppress it.

ii) In men, the visual sense is a dominant feature of sexual attraction and arousal. There are some practical reasons for this. Round hips and breast development signal sexual maturity in a woman. That’s why men find these features appealing. It’s a way of distinguishing a potential mate from a prepubescent girl. We want men to be able to draw that distinction!

To some extent it also distinguishes a woman in her childbearing years from a woman who is past her childbearing years. That, too, is practical.

iii) At an imaginative level, the visual sense also has a tactical component. What it would feel like to run your hand down those smooth, soft contours.

iv) There are other features that men find physically appealing in women that are not as easy to explain on a purely functional basis, viz. a certain complexion, or eye color, or hair texture, or full lips, or high cheekbones, or long, shapely legs, or dulcet voice.

Here the appeal is purely aesthetic, albeit distinctively feminine, and figures in the more generally mysterious question of why we find anything beautiful. Why we find certain colors and symmetries appealing. To some extent there is no ultimate explanation for this. It’s just the way we were made.

v) But it also goes to the fact that a woman is more than woman. A woman is an ideal. A woman represents the Church. And God has programmed men idealize women because a woman is emblematic of something even greater than herself. Woman as metaphor.

At one level, there’s a ridiculous quality to a lot of love poetry. The sonnets of Shakespeare and Donne. It’s so out of proportion to the actual object. But there’s a reason for that. A theological reason. A reason that God has encoded in the male psyche. Subliminal theology.

I assume that’s why we traditionally dress the bride as if she’s a queen. For, theologically speaking, every woman is a queen—as a token of the Church she represents. The Bride of Christ.

Evolutionary psychology is unable to explain this. Only Christian theology can explain it.

vi) This isn’t limited to women. There’s a symbolic dimension to the natural world in general. That’s why the Bible uses so many natural objects to illustrate spiritual truths.

vii) Should a teenage boy enjoy looking at Jeri Ryan in a cat suit? This strikes me as a fairly innocent pleasure. The boy is forming a feminine ideal. That’s a necessary stage in his maturation.

The problem occurs when a man is unable to reconcile his ideal with reality. The ideal should prepare him for marriage. But he needs to distinguish woman qua woman from woman qua metaphor.

A woman points to something beyond herself. But you don’t marry the metaphor, you marry the woman. You need to value the woman qua woman.

To take a comparison I‘ve used before, human fathers symbolize God. That’s why dad is a godlike figure to a young son. But a son needs to outgrow that aspect of filial devotion. If he can’t transfer that aspect of filial devotion from his father to God, he will remain in a state of arrested development.

Of course, a married man can still appreciate the beauty of a beautiful woman. But he needs to keep that in check—unless it’s his own spouse.

viii) When counseling young men, we need to avoid alarmist rhetoric. It’s like those old cautionary shows about Reefer Madness and “this is your brain on drugs.”

It’s true that if a teenage boy dabbles in pornography, he may end up being the next Ted Bundy. But that’s extremely rare. Most boys who dabble in pornography don’t become the next Ted Bundy. It’s fine to mention that danger, but if we overemphasize the worse-case scenario, we lose credibility.

We need to make our case by using more modestly prudential arguments. Pornography can do a lot of harm short of turning you into a serial killer. For one thing, it brutalizes woman involved in the sex trade. For another, it nurses an unobtainable and often twisted ideal which an ordinary woman cannot fulfill and should not fulfill.

Pinup girls are unobtainable women, and even if they were obtainable, many of them are so vain and jaded that they would make terrible wives.

ix) Having said that, I’d hasten to add that the danger of romanticizing the opposite sex cuts both ways. There are men who have reason to be dissatisfied with their marriage. For there are women who hold men to impossible standards. And there are women who don’t know what it means to be a woman. Their own preconceptions of masculinity and femininity are drawn from the pop culture. From all that’s decadent and depraved. There’s a need for renewal on both sides of the coin.

x) On a related issue, I can’t help noticing that a many women invest a lot of money in their appearance (e.g. clothes, hairdo, make-up, jewelry), yet have no idea of what’s attractive to a man. I’m not talking about woman who don’t care about their appearance. I’m talking about women who are very conscious of their appearance, who want to be physically attractive to the opposite sex, but it doesn’t occur to them to consult the opposite sex about what is attractive to the opposite sex.

Instead, they simply imitate other women, imitate modern movie stars and TV stars and pop vocalists and anorexic fashion models in teenybopper magazines or Abercrombie & Fitch catalogues.

It’s really rather odd, when you think about it. They want to attract a man, but they don’t ask what a man finds attractive. They simply dress according to the latest fashion statement. And keep in mind that many fashion designers are queer, so they lack any real appreciation for the feminine form. Instead, they prefer androgynous young women who look like adolescent boys.

For the moment I’m not saying if a woman should dress to attract a man. That’s up to her. Rather, I’m making the point if that you are going to go to all that time and expense, it wouldn’t hurt to find out what kind of make-up and hairdo and attire the average man likes in a woman. To take one example, you’ll never see a poster of a scrawny, bony girl inside a boy’s locker.

If you want an example of what normal men find physically appealing in women, look at some of the movie stars from the 30s and 40s.

To take another example, I notice that some women wear high-heels with a pants suit. But wearing a pair of pants defeats the purpose of wearing high-heels. If you’re going to don a pair of stilettos, wear a skirt. That’s the point.

A lot of contemporary young women also don’t seem to realize that, in many cases, less is more and more is less. Unless you have a figure like Cher or J-Lo or Marlene Dietrich or Sophia Loren, maximum exposure is not all that appealing. And even beautiful women appreciate the value of good tailoring to improve on Mother Nature.

Once again, I’m not suggesting that a woman should be a clotheshorse, like Alexis in Dynasty. And we also live in a time when too many women dress too provocatively. There’s a happy mean between dressing like an Amish milkmaid and dressing like a streetwalker.

xi) On a related note, some women try hard to look pretty when they’re dating, but let themselves go after marriage. In that event, it’s not surprising if this makes a husband more observant of the competition.

Of course, that cuts both ways. One can also see out of shape men married to shapely women. And one can also see couples in which neither spouse is concerned with how he or she looks. That’s fine, because it’s by mutual agreement.

In general, though, it wouldn’t hurt most couples to resemble the individual at the altar—when they tied the knot. You don’t have to look like Tyra Banks. Just look like the woman he married, and vice versa. A husband and wife shouldn’t forget how to be a bride and groom. What they woke up to on their honeymoon.

We should try to be whatever our spouse saw in us at the outset. That’s why our spouse chose to marry us. What drew the one to the other. That, of course, goes beyond appearances, but if appearance was a factor, it should not be neglected or taken for granted.

3. Starvation

If you have an addiction, you need to starve it rather than feed it. That should be obvious. And that’s the grain of truth in monasticism.

Of course, it isn’t sufficient to starve your addiction. There’s no one thing that will sanctify your desires. We need to do several things at once.

4. Substitute Pleasures

i) Beyond starving an addiction, we need to change our diet. Substitute licit pleasures for illicit pleasures. By itself, starvation makes you hungrier, not less so. So you need something to fill that empty stomach.

Do something sexy with your spouse, like take up pair skating or Latin ballroom dancing. Not only is that good exercise, but it’s very romantic. Generates a lot of heat—in more ways than one!

ii) I think that one reason some marriages fail is that couples often put a lot more effort into attracting a mate than keeping a mate. Once they’ve tied the knot, they feel as if they now have their spouse safely in their corner. So it’s easy to become complacent and neglectful.

I think it would be a good idea for more couples to keep dating after they’re married. To keep doing the things they did with each other when they were trying to attract a mate. (This has reference to Christian dating, where premarital sex is not an option.)

iii) On a more general note, if you’re unhappy, you’re more susceptible to temptation. The temptation may be symptomatic of a general unease. Dissatisfaction about your life in general. Itchy and restless.

Not that we can expect to be happy all the time. Life has its dry spells.

iv) A sense of humor is also a great preservative in a relationship. If you don’t have one, work on it.

5. Accountability Relationships

i) As many 12-step programs have discovered, knowing someone who shares your struggle can make it easier for you to resist temptation. If you’re a porn addict who’s trying to kick the habit, it’s helpful to have a few others friends who are trying to kick the habit, too—friends you can turn to at any time, day or night, if the urge becomes overwhelming. Friends you can call anytime. Friends you can see anytime. Go over to their house.

Because you’re both in the same boat, there’s less danger that they will betray your confidence. If their secret is safe with you, then your secret is safe with them.

There is one potential downside to this. If your friend goes off the wagon, he may try to drag you down with him. So sometimes you may need to keep your distance.

ii) This also goes to a general issue: our society fosters the silly notion that your spouse can supply all of your emotional needs. That’s romantic nonsense.

It’s important to maintain some other relationships, with parents, siblings, and old friends. Temptation is more likely to strike when we’re alone or lonely.

6. Besetting Sins

To struggle with sin is a good thing, not a bad thing. It’s a sign of life. Spiritual vitality.

I once read a writer say that what makes a man a saint is not his virtues, but his vices. What he meant is that what makes a man a saint is how he copes with his weaknesses.

7. Means of Grace

By the means of grace I mean things like the Bible, Christian fellowship, prayer, Christian music, and other suchlike.

Some readers may wonder why it took me so long to get around to the spiritual stuff. That’s because a lot of Christian writers jump right into the spiritual stuff. They begin and end with that, to the neglect of other considerations.

But we need to remember that this is God’s world. God’s handiwork. It’s not as if natural goods are unspiritual.

As we struggle with sin, it’s useful to read about the struggles of those who’ve gone before us. To read about the heroes of the faith in the OT. To read Christian biographies.

It’s also edifying to read the Psalms, with their emotional candor, turmoil, and deliverance. Two good devotional commentaries on select Psalms are:

Alex Motyer, Treasures of the King: Psalms from the Life of David

O. Palmer Robertson, Psalms in Congregational Celebration

8. Diary

If I were a younger man, I’d try to keep a diary. The providence of God is often a subtle, evolving thing. The emerging pattern can only be discerned in retrospect. If more Christians kept diaries, which they reviewed from time to time, I suspect that more Christians would be more aware of God’s oblique guidance in their lives. Of how he blessed them by providing various opportunities and delivering them in various ways.

98 comments:

  1. This is a fantastic post: knowledgeable, sensitive, practical. As luck (or providence!) would have it, I was just reading some excellent technical material on the dangers of pornography. It's not sensationalist at all, just grounded in the best empirical and philosophical arguments, and may be of interest to those who can keep up with it:

    The Witherspoon Institute: The Social Costs of Pornography

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  2. Excellent post!

    But what if I'm not married. What should I substitute when starving myself?

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  3. Thanks for this post. Well done.

    This article on the same subject by John Piper may be helpful to someone as well.

    http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/TopicIndex/12_Sexuality/1941_Missions_and_Masturbation/

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  4. Single men should work towards marriage. Make the needed preparations to be a good provider. Set a goal, then do what's necessary to achieve the goal. Ultimately, there's no substitute for marriage.

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  5. Yeah, I'm single, and the only real outlet is the occasional dream I might have where I can't control what's going on and I might have sex in the dreamworld. It's not something that happens often at all, though, so it is real tough.

    I think it's a good idea to advise single men to focus on becoming a good provider and so on so they can get married as soon as possible.

    Nice post, Steve!

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  6. Very interesting read Steve.

    In his recent series on the Song of Songs, Mark Driscoll made an interesting statement. He said that once a man is married, then his wife is his "standard of beauty." His basic explanation: if your wife is skinny, you love skinny. If she's tall, you love tall. If she was skinny when you married her, and then she gained weight...your standard changed! (crowd laughter follows)

    I wonder how this would play out with respect to a married man viewing other women. Can he honestly observe an attractive woman while keeping his "standard of beauty" pure with respect to his wife? Perhaps Driscoll is being idealistic to make a point, but I am not sure if that is feasible. My eyes search constantly for a more attractive woman than I've yet to see, but does that magically stop when I get married? Well, it would be nice if it did honestly! :)


    An interesting statistic Driscoll shares is that the average teenage boy has seen pornographic material on the internet by age eleven.

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  7. I think Driscoll can be useful on issues like this, but there's a quality of make-believe to what you quoted. And marital responsibilities are a two-way street. Mutual adjustment, not unilateral adjustment.

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  8. "When you deny your natural desires, including perfectly legitimate pleasures, you fuel temptation. You pour gasoline on temptation."

    This is opposite to the traditional view, which is that denying oneself strengthens the will. Even on a pragmatic level, you seem too quick to reject 2000 years of wisdom.

    "Substitute licit pleasures for illicit pleasures. By itself, starvation makes you hungrier, not less so."

    At first, yes. At first, stopping heroin makes you want it more.

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  9. MANDALAY SAID:

    "This is opposite to the traditional view, which is that denying oneself strengthens the will. Even on a pragmatic level, you seem too quick to reject 2000 years of wisdom."

    Since you've identified yourself as an Eastern Orthodox believer, I assume this has primary reference to Eastern Orthodox tradition. Here are the "pragmatic" consequences of your position:

    http://www.pokrov.org/

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  10. At first, yes. At first, stopping heroin makes you want it more.

    Heroin is a bad example. I've done a lot of drugs in my day, though heroin wasn't one of them. Heroin is extremely, extremely addictive - moreso than methamphetamine. That's because it's physically addictive, not merely psychologically addictive.

    This is opposite to the traditional view, which is that denying oneself strengthens the will.

    Self denial only goes so far. One has to substitute the licit for the illicit, or else you will fuel the addiction. It will either shift to another area or it will manifest itself as itself yet again. You chose heroin...methadone is recommended for heroin addiction for a reason.

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  11. MANDALAY SAID:

    “This is opposite to the traditional view, which is that denying oneself strengthens the will. Even on a pragmatic level, you seem too quick to reject 2000 years of wisdom.”

    Of course, that begs the question of whether what I reject is wisdom or folly.

    What you are pleased to call “wisdom” is just another twisted version of works-righteousness, according to which it’s meritorious to deny yourself God-given natural needs and desires.

    That’s both unscriptural and a slander on the goodness of God’s creation. It doesn’t make you more spiritual to slap God’s hand away.

    While Christians are obliged to exercise self-restraint, there is not general obligation to practice self-denial with respect to natural needs and desires.

    There are sometimes special situations which force us to exercise self-denial, but that’s the exception, not the norm.

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  12. MANDALAY SAID:

    “At first, yes. At first, stopping heroin makes you want it more.”

    That comparison suffers from a fallacy of equivocation inasmuch as it fails to distinguish between natural desires and acquired desires.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thanks BlackBaron,

    That was a good article. Seems he had some misgivings about it in a subsequent article- http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/TopicIndex/12_Sexuality/3228_The_Most_Controversial_Star_Article_Yet/

    Hey Lucas,
    Married people starve each other too. Hence a more recent article by Piper-
    http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/RecentlyAdded/3459_How_should_a_husband_and_wife_manage_having_opposite_sexdrives/

    I really like this video endorsed by Piper of Ben Patterson-
    http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/MediaPlayer/1658/Video/

    Hey Matt,
    I feel for you buddy. I remember getting about a half-dozen of those a year. Seems some sort of washing is required for that sort of nocturnal emission as well. May God provide richly for you.

    Love,
    Ron

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  14. "Hey Matt,
    I feel for you buddy. I remember getting about a half-dozen of those a year. Seems some sort of washing is required for that sort of nocturnal emission as well. May God provide richly for you."

    I apologize if I sound clueless, but what do you mean by washing?

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  15. "Here are the "pragmatic" consequences of your position:"

    I fail to see what this site has to do with the pros and cons of disciplining one's will. But I guess no opportunity should be lost to throw in some ad-hominem in substitute for a reasoned answer.

    "One has to substitute the licit for the illicit, or else you will fuel the addiction."

    When we think about the army, they need a lot of discipline on the battlefield. According to your argument, we should let soldiers be undisciplined in other areas to substitute an acceptable form of undiscipline. So let them look scruffy, march scruffy, as a substitute of licit undiscipline for unacceptable battlefield undiscipline.

    Of course, no army works this way. Marching, which ostensibly has nothing to do with fighting wars is an exercise in discipline.

    "You chose heroin...methadone is recommended for heroin addiction for a reason."

    And there's a ton of people then addicted to methadone, which is in some ways a more debilitating drug than heroin. Do you consider methodone a final solution for drug addiction?

    "What you are pleased to call “wisdom” is just another twisted version of works-righteousness, according to which it’s meritorious to deny yourself God-given natural needs and desires."

    Apparently you know nothing about Orthodoxy. Disciplines have nothing whatsoever to do with making oneself meritorious in God's sight.

    "That comparison suffers from a fallacy of equivocation inasmuch as it fails to distinguish between natural desires and acquired desires."

    By this I assume you wish to say porn is a natural desire? Or do you equate sex with porn? But the brain receptors for heroin are natural too, and are designed for interacting with natural chemicals.

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  16. I use Covenant Eyes and would recommend it to those who want Internet accountability:

    http://www.covenanteyes.com/

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  17. I fail to see what this site has to do with the pros and cons of disciplining one's will

    How can one discipline a libertarian will? If you can discipline a libertarian will, then it stands to the desires of the will serve as sufficient causes or else the disciplining of the will wouldn't work. That's not libertarian free will.

    You call yourself Orthodox. Orthodox is committed to LFW.

    That must be a real conundrum for you.

    And there's a ton of people then addicted to methadone, which is in some ways a more debilitating drug than heroin. Do you consider methodone a final solution for drug addiction?

    Of course, what I was noting was that it was you who chose heroin in your analogy...but if you're going to discuss addiction from that frame of reference, then substitution is the recommended, stopgap treatment for heroin addiction.

    We can keep backing this up as far as you want, but in the end substitution of some sort is going to be involved. I'm merely following your own example. If you find that problematic, consider that it was you, not me, who chose to frame the issue in terms of "heroin."

    Look, here's the bottom line - unlike you I would be very willing to bet - I know a few things about addiction - been there, done that. "Self-disciplining" the will as if that's all it takes is a simpleton's answer to addiction. That's only part of the answer.

    Apparently you know nothing about Orthodoxy. Disciplines have nothing whatsoever to do with making oneself meritorious in God's sight.

    Apparently, you know nothing about the history of this blog. We've interacted with this objection more than once around here in the over 4000 articles hosted. Before leveling such easily refuted objections, try availing yourself of the search and archive functions here.

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  18. By this I assume you wish to say porn is a natural desire? Or do you equate sex with porn? But the brain receptors for heroin are natural too, and are designed for interacting with natural chemicals.

    It's a pity you're so obtuse.

    Did Steve say porn was a natural desire? No

    What's natural is sexual desire. That's part of the creation order.

    Is the desire for heroin a natural desire? No.

    And, as I pointed out, by choosing heroin, you're choosing a drug that is not merely psychologically addictive, but a drug that is physically addictive. That's why methodone is often used.

    Is it your argument that sex is physically addictive in the same way that heroin is addictive?

    You've simply made an analogy without a supporting argument here.

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  19. MANDALAY SAID:

    “This is opposite to the traditional view, which is that denying oneself strengthens the will. Even on a pragmatic level, you seem too quick to reject 2000 years of wisdom.”

    Since I rather doubt that you’re a stylite, your yuppie version of Orthodox asceticism lacks the note of conviction.

    “I fail to see what this site has to do with the pros and cons of disciplining one's will. But I guess no opportunity should be lost to throw in some ad-hominem in substitute for a reasoned answer.”

    You were the one who made this an ad hominem issue by offering a pragmatic justification for Orthodox piety. Therefore, the conduct of Orthodox representatives is fair game.

    I measured your tradition by the yardstick you handed me. You don’t get to snatch it back just because your tradition doesn’t measure up.

    “When we think about the army, they need a lot of discipline on the battlefield. According to your argument, we should let soldiers be undisciplined in other areas to substitute an acceptable form of undiscipline.”

    You lack the moral and spiritual discernment to distinguish between self-denial and self-restraint.

    And scripture never equates self-discipline with asceticism. That’s your manmade redefinition of piety—not that you yourself furnish any evidence of emulating what you preach.

    “Apparently you know nothing about Orthodoxy. Disciplines have nothing whatsoever to do with making oneself meritorious in God's sight.”

    Orthodox monasticism was a bloodless substitute for martyrdom. The virtue of martyrdom without the actual sacrifice.

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  20. Hi Matt,

    Sorry. I was kinda joking. It was kinda in reference to Leviticus 15:16. But I don't think that applies anymore. Kinda superseded by Hebrews 9:10. However, a sort of washing of repentance (however virtual) is still a good thing.
    If you've just been baptized an Orthodox you won't have to wash for a week. I'd still recommend a shower though :)

    Ron

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  21. So, Steve, I'm guessing you wouldn't be on board with Todd Friel of Way of The Master/Wretched Radio? If I understand him, his solution to the porn addict is this:

    Stop that! Prove you're a Christian and cut that out. Show how much you love the Lord by getting rid of this stuff. If you continue to do it, you're most likely a false convert.

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  22. "If you can discipline a libertarian will, then it stands to the desires of the will serve as sufficient causes or else the disciplining of the will wouldn't work. "

    Is that actually English?

    " if you're going to discuss addiction from that frame of reference, then substitution is the recommended, stopgap treatment for heroin addiction. "

    The main reason methadone is recommended is that heroin is illegal, and methadone isn't. If the main aim is not to disrupt the person's life, heroin works as well. This is a bit like prescribing porn for someone with a child porn addiction. It gets you out of illegal activity, but doesn't affect the root problem.

    "Apparently, you know nothing about the history of this blog. We've interacted with this objection more than once around here in the over 4000 articles hosted. Before leveling such easily refuted objections, try availing yourself of the search and archive functions here."

    Oooo, apparently you know nothing about the history of the church. It has interacted with this objection more than once before in over 2000 years of articles. Before leveling such easily refuted objections, try availing yourself of the search and archive functions.

    "Is the desire for heroin a natural desire? No."

    The desire to trigger the μ opioid receptors exists in everyone, and is naturally triggered by Beta-endorphin. Taking heroin is an unnatural means to trigger a natural pleasurable mechanism. Sounds like a parallel to me.

    "Is it your argument that sex is physically addictive in the same way that heroin is addictive?"

    While heroin is physically addictive, the real problem with heroin is its psychological dependency. A person who is physically dependent, but not psychologically dependent can have their dose slowly dropped until they are no longer dependent. It's usually not that easy with heroin addicts because they are psychologically dependant.

    "Since I rather doubt that you’re a stylite, your yuppie version of Orthodox asceticism lacks the note of conviction."

    Who are you to define what "yuppie" asceticism might be? Sounds like you don't know the first thing about it.

    "You were the one who made this an ad hominem issue by offering a pragmatic justification for Orthodox piety. "

    So you can't even differentiate ad hominem arguments from pragmatic arguments. This does not bode well.

    "You lack the moral and spiritual discernment to distinguish between self-denial and self-restraint."

    Not surprising because there is no difference.

    "And scripture never equates self-discipline with asceticism."

    My dictionary defines asceticism as "self discipline". But since this blog seems to be a place to play lexical games rather than have substantive discussions, I guess that's par around here.

    "The virtue of martyrdom without the actual sacrifice."

    If it's no sacrifice, you should be able to do it standing on your head, right? To which I say, prove it.

    ReplyDelete
  23. MANDALAY SAID:

    “Who are you to define what ‘yuppie’ asceticism might be? Sounds like you don't know the first thing about it.”

    The very fact that you’re using a computer indicates a middle class lifestyle. But maybe you’re a hermit in the desert of Sinai, typing away on your laptop from your stylite perch.

    “So you can't even differentiate ad hominem arguments from pragmatic arguments. This does not bode well.”

    The fact that you can’t follow your own argument doesn’t bode well. Your pragmatic argument involves human conduct. It’s a claim about what works for Orthodox believers when they discipline their wills. How that strengthens the will.

    Therefore, I’m offering a pragmatic test for your pragmatic justification.

    “Not surprising because there is no difference.”

    Abstinence is an example of self-denial while marriage is an example of self-restraint. In the former the sex drive is suppressed while in the latter the sex drive is channeled.

    Since, however, you can’t tell the difference, I take it that you’re promiscuous.

    “My dictionary defines asceticism as ‘self discipline’. But since this blog seems to be a place to play lexical games rather than have substantive discussions, I guess that's par around here.”

    That’s another example of your systematic ineptitude. Since you claim to be Orthodox, “asceticism” would be defined by the Orthodox tradition of asceticism, which is synonymous with monasticism.

    “If it's no sacrifice, you should be able to do it standing on your head, right? To which I say, prove it.”

    Once again, you don’t know what words mean. An actual sacrifice would involve the death of the victim.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Is that actually English?

    Note this well, Mandalay is the one who talks about "disciplining the will," but how can the will be "disciplined" in an effective manner if the will is libertarian?

    This is a problem for the Orthodox, not us.


    The main reason methadone is recommended is that heroin is illegal, and methadone isn't.


    No, the main reason it is recommended is because it relieves pain.

    If the main aim is not to disrupt the person's life, heroin works as well. This is a bit like prescribing porn for someone with a child porn addiction. It gets you out of illegal activity, but doesn't affect the root problem.

    Now you're stepping back from your original argument. Your original argument dealt with disciplining the will - that's it.

    Now you're starting to retreat from that - because you chose to frame the issue in terms of heroin addiction.

    And I only noted that methadone is used as a stopgap measure for treatment.

    Your answers reflect a simpleton's understanding of addiction.

    Oooo, apparently you know nothing about the history of the church. It has interacted with this objection more than once before in over 2000 years of articles.

    In short, you admit you've not read the archives. We've answered this more than once. Go find the answers.

    The desire to trigger the μ opioid receptors exists in everyone, and is naturally triggered by Beta-endorphin. Taking heroin is an unnatural means to trigger a natural pleasurable mechanism. Sounds like a parallel to me.

    I asked is the desire for heroin natural? No was the answer. Thank you for agreeing with me.

    So, why not agree that substitution is appropriate? Does asceticism give you the same endorphin rush?

    While heroin is physically addictive, the real problem with heroin is its psychological dependency. A person who is physically dependent, but not psychologically dependent can have their dose slowly dropped until they are no longer dependent. It's usually not that easy with heroin addicts because they are psychologically dependant.

    And, how, pray tell, does this differ with anything I've said here already? It doesn't.

    Thanks for backtracking on your own argument. Is there something about Orthodoxy that selects for this phenomenon. Indeed, this was was the M.O. for "Orthodox" not too very long ago.

    ReplyDelete
  25. thanks for the post, Steve - I agree with most of it, but I particularly agree with point (x), beautiful women do not look like the starved waifs on the catwalks of most modern fashion shows. Most red-blooded American men are not attracted to 60-pound girls.

    Teaching on this subject is one of the huge modern day failures of the church. I was taught in too many college chapels, sermons, and books (I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Every Young Man's Battle, etc.) that my sexual desire was sin. Way too many men are destroyed spiritually because they believe their sexual desire is sin, and yet they can't help desiring it.

    Jesus said "But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Matthew 5:28

    The church seems to have taught men this verse as "everyone who looks at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

    We really need to, as usual, define our terms here. Desire can be both good or bad - some desires are sinful and some are good desires given by God. I don't think the term "lust" is even always bad (would have to research this), but every time the term "lust" is used in Christian teaching it always seems to refer to "sinful sexual desire." Coveting, on the other hand, is always wrong. So, I think you'd define wrong lust, or coveting as "desiring that which it would be wrong for you to have."

    God created men to enjoy the sight of a woman's body. That's how God made us. God also made us with powerful sex drives. In other words, men think about and desire sex frequently. I'll admit I think about sex every day. But that's how God made us and it's ok.

    Instead, in church I was taught that my sexual desire was wrong. And taught that if I looked at a girl below the neck I was sinning - the "above the neck" rule. But Jesus didn't say appreciating a woman's beauty was wrong - and this includes appreciating a whole lot more than above the neck. He said that looking at her "to desire her wrongly" was sin just like adultery was sin.

    This might make some people angry, but I honestly don't think that even liking the fact that a pretty girl's wearing a tight shirt is wrong. I notice and I think it looks great. What would be wrong is if I keep staring and imagine/fantasize about sex with her - "looking at her with the intent of desiring her wrongly - desiring something I should not have."

    ReplyDelete
  26. Very well-considered article. God has been gracious and I haven't had quite the temptation for pornography that I've seen in others. My sin has manifested itself in other ways.

    Two observations I would make. You said:

    "We should try to be whatever our spouse saw in us at the outset. That’s why our spouse chose to marry us. What drew the one to the other."

    This is to be considered, but it must be tempered with the fact that we will change. As such, a marriage is a lifetime of constantly developing the relationship as each partner changes. Could a couple move from what attracted them to begin with? I'd say this is most often the case. The godly challenge is to "dance" with the changes out of a pattern of devotion. As a husband changes, the wife must vie to adapt. As the wife changes, the husband must vie to adapt. Neglecting this is where couples grow apart and many marriages fail.


    You said:

    "It’s important to maintain some other relationships, with parents, siblings, and old friends. Temptation is more likely to strike when we’re alone or lonely."

    This is a very important point! We must understand that it is unreasonable to expect our spouses to fulfill all of our emotional needs. That's where we need godly friends that support our marriages.

    Unfortunately, we are in a dire spell in Western culture where close friends, even in the church, are hard to come by. We cannot force others to be such friends. These kind of friendships require almost as much spiritual investment as a marriage and in a world of instant gratification, too many such friendships are built on mutual gratification and friends come and go without having developed the friendships they need to support their marriages and fill the gaps with their spouses so that there is little opportunity for such temptation as porn.

    This is where the western Church should propagate a sea change in the way we think about friendships. Christians need to be people who intentionally look for opportunities to minister to each other by building close, godly, long-term friendships within local congregations.

    ReplyDelete
  27. "The very fact that you’re using a computer indicates a middle class lifestyle."

    Which is irrelevant. Asceticism and financial or social status are not incompatible.

    "Since you claim to be Orthodox, “asceticism” would be defined by the Orthodox tradition of asceticism, which is synonymous with monasticism"

    See, you don't have the first clue about Orthodox asceticism, but are pretending you are well informed. Asceticism is for everyone. The prayer and fasting regimens of the Church are asceticism, and they are for everyone. Even for Kings.

    "e again, you don’t know what words mean. An actual sacrifice would involve the death of the victim."

    Not in my dictionary. But lets do go on playing lexical games.

    "but how can the will be "disciplined" in an effective manner if the will is libertarian?

    This is a problem for the Orthodox, not us."

    Let me know when you want to articulate what the supposed problem is.

    "No, the main reason it is recommended is because it relieves pain."

    No, for Heroin addicts it is recommended because it stimulates the same μ opioid receptors and thus avoids withdrawal symptoms.

    "Now you're stepping back from your original argument. Your original argument dealt with disciplining the will - that's it."

    How this is "stepping back from my original argument" is not explained. Exploding your ridiculous response is not stepping back from an argument.

    "And I only noted that methadone is used as a stopgap measure for treatment."

    It's not a treatment designed to do anything more than satisfy the addiction in a legal way. The exact same thing could be achieved with heroin, and hopefully, slowly reducing dose. But heroin is not legal.

    "In short, you admit you've not read the archives. We've answered this more than once. Go find the answers."

    In short, you admit you've not read the archives of the Church. We've answered this more than once. Go find the answers.

    "I asked is the desire for heroin natural? No was the answer. Thank you for agreeing with me."

    Is the desire for porn natural? Did they have sex shops on the ark?

    Sorry, but the level of argumentation around here is very poor.

    "So, why not agree that substitution is appropriate? Does asceticism give you the same endorphin rush? "

    Huh?

    ReplyDelete
  28. MANDALAY SAID:

    “Which is irrelevant. Asceticism and financial or social status are not incompatible.”

    Somehow I rather doubt that St. Antony or Symeon Stylites would share your yuppie redefinition of asceticism.

    For you, asceticism means refusing to help yourself to a fourth slice of pizza.

    “See, you don't have the first clue about Orthodox asceticism, but are pretending you are well informed. Asceticism is for everyone.”

    It’s a simple matter for me to document my contention from standard reference works like the Historical Dictionary of the Orthodox Church or the Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity.

    “The prayer and fasting regimens of the Church are asceticism, and they are for everyone. Even for Kings.”

    Uh-huh. If you fast for a day, then pig out at night, that makes you an ascetic. If you mumble the Jesus Prayer in your Jag with a latte in one hand and an ice cream cone in the other, that makes you an ascetic.

    You are a true son of the Desert Fathers.

    “Not in my dictionary. But lets do go on playing lexical games.”

    You’re too ignorant of English usage to know the difference between an actual sacrifice and a figurative sacrifice. Martyrdom involves actual sacrifice whereas monasticism (as defined by Orthodox tradition) involves a figurative sacrifice.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Mandalay’s comments are irrelevant to anything anyone is posting here. Alan’s post wasn’t directed at Eastern Orthodoxy. My post wasn’t direct at Eastern Orthodoxy. Manata’s post wasn’t directed at Eastern Orthodoxy.

    Not only are Mandalay’s comments off-topic, but they are also superfluous. We’ve dealt with Orthodox commenters before. He has nothing new to offer. Nothing we haven’t responded to before.

    Indeed, he offers no argument for why anyone should adopt his Orthodox yardstick. He simply acts like another contentious, tendentious, cage-phase convert.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Persiflage: This might make some people angry, but I honestly don't think that even liking the fact that a pretty girl's wearing a tight shirt is wrong. I notice and I think it looks great. What would be wrong is if I keep staring and imagine/fantasize about sex with her - "looking at her with the intent of desiring her wrongly - desiring something I should not have.

    Vytautas: You have not made me argry; you made me just the opposite. We could stare at a girl's clothed upper body for a short time, but if we imagine having sex with her, then we are definitly commiting adulterty with her. There seems to be no way out for a single male. The only remedy is attempting to get a wife.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I just completed reading this article and the follow up responses. I enjoyed some of the points that were made in the article and the efforts to engage a difficult issue.




    One thing stood out to me that made me curious. The article began as an approach on the issue of pornography and even more specifically, the male use of pornography. However, much of the article was spent talking about the appearance of women. Steve, I was wondering if you could comment on why this is?




    In an attempt to not be an anonymous blog responder: I am a Mental Health Counselor who specializes in the area of sexual addiction. I do have a lot of other thoughts on the content of your article but I wanted to hear a little more from you before I went off on points of my own.

    ReplyDelete
  32. JOHNNY LALONDE SAID:

    “One thing stood out to me that made me curious. The article began as an approach on the issue of pornography and even more specifically, the male use of pornography. However, much of the article was spent talking about the appearance of women. Steve, I was wondering if you could comment on why this is?”

    The short answer is both because pornography is primarily a male vice and also because the post was written from a male perspective.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Put another way, men are the typical consumers of pornography while women are the typical objects of pornographic consumption. So any discussion of pornography will inevitably involve the larger issue of what men find physically attractive in women and what women do to be physically attractive to men.

    It involves the male ideal of womanhood. That ideal can either be healthy or warped.

    There is also homosexual pornography. However, the core problem there is not so much with the pornographic component, but the homosexual component—of which the pornographic component is merely symptomatic. So one would need to treat the underlying problem—homosexual attraction.

    ReplyDelete
  34. One thing stood out to me that made me curious. The article began as an approach on the issue of pornography and even more specifically, the male use of pornography. However, much of the article was spent talking about the appearance of women. Steve, I was wondering if you could comment on why this is?

    I'm glad to see someone else picked up on this! How on earth is criticising what women wear relevant to the topic of 'how to deal with pornography'? Are you implying that men's obsession with pornography is somehow women's fault for not dressing as attractively as the non-bony, non-scrawny pinup in the locker room? As a Christian male hoping to eschew temptation, ought you not give thanks to these apparently non-female-form-appreciating gay fashion designers for making your job easier, by dressing women in a way you don't happen to find sexually attractive? (Never mind that the movie stars of the 30s and 40s hardly exemplify some objective standard of 'real, natural' beauty. They may be your personal preference, but that hardly means that men who do not prefer some other physical type are abnormal, or that women of other physical types are 'unnatural').

    Really, what was the point of your 'couldn't help noticing' little diatribe? Was it really necessary for the thrust of your argument (which, remember, was how Christians should deal with their own porn addiction, not how their wives are to dress in order to prevent it!) to make snide comments about poor misguided women who can't even dress in a way you find attractive, bless them? Frankly, it reeks of sexism, a blame-the-victim attitude to the partners of porn addicts, and a rather bizarre expectation that women dress to decorate your world (not even 'the world of men', but your own particular aesthetic preferences, which you generalise to your entire sex!)... with a little Trinny and Susannah thrown in, no less! Damn those women who wear stilettos with pant suits; don't they know they aren't being seductive enough to protect Steve from the less-attainable pinup girls, who are Probably Vain and Shallow? Or something... Really, this kind of attitude is embarrassing and disgusting. Please try to keep in mind that women do read Triablogue, and not for the purpose of learning that their husbands' porn addictions are their own fault, or in order to read sweeping generalisations about their fashion shortcomings.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Smokering,

    I don't think Steve was trying to blame women for what they do in order to try and be attractive. He said - "Pornography can do a lot of harm ... it nurses an unobtainable and often twisted ideal which an ordinary woman cannot fulfill and should not fulfill."

    Instead, he's making an argument about how our culture (along with pornography) is trying to force an unattainable image of attractiveness that is unnatural. Most women simply aren't as thin as fashion models are. And women shouldn't worry about starving themselves to death trying to reach that goal. This is the mindset our culture brainwashes us with - but I don't want my daughters to believe that they need to do that in order to be attractive. And I don't want the men they end up with to have an image of a 80-pound girl as their ideal. So consider the Steve's comments on the "appearance of women" as critical cultural commentary in the same spirit as Dove's Real Beauty campaign -

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ei6JvK0W60I

    One reason pornography is wrong is that it tries to promote an "unnatural" and "unhealthy" ideal.

    ReplyDelete
  36. It's a little more complicated than that, Persiflage. It's true, albeit hardly blog-worthy news, that today's fashion models are often unhealthy weights and many women cannot (and should not, health-wise) achieve those weights. However, it's one thing to point this out and another to insult 'scrawny, bony women' as if they are not 'real' women (which Steve rather bizarrely equates with the film stars of the 30s and 40s--hardly 'natural' figures of femininity!). Sizeism goes both ways, and women who are naturally thin get sick of hearing the constant jibe that they are not 'real women' (or accused of being bulimic, given the 'skinny bitch' label or labelled vain and shallow, which happens disturbingly often).

    But that's beside the point, which is that Steve's post did not need to include condescending remarks on what he finds attractive in a woman at all. The post was supposed to be about how Christians deal with their porn addiction. Not about 'if women dress to attract men [rather a presumptuous assumption, I might add], why don't they do it 'right', because I don't find X attractive?'. The little rant lowered the tone of the whole post, and frankly came across as sexist.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Why is it that those who accuse others of being sexist and bigoted are the ones who resort to sexist and bigoted language?

    ReplyDelete
  38. SMOKERING SAID:

    “I'm glad to see someone else picked up on this! How on earth is criticising what women wear relevant to the topic of 'how to deal with pornography'?”

    Its relevance is fairly obvious—if you weren’t so emotional. Pornography involves the way some men view women, as well as the way some women view themselves. The ideal of womanhood that some men have of women, as well as the ideal of womanhood that some women have of themselves.

    So, yes, the general question of what ideal men and women should aim for, as a corrective to twisted ideals of femininity, is quite germane to the topic at hand. Do we simply default to the pop culture to define these ideals? Or do we bring critical discernment to bear?

    And there’s the further issue, which I addressed, of adjusting the ideal to the real.

    I remember, a few years go, reading a review, by a woman (in the San Diego Reader), of a televised Britney Spears concert. The female music reviewer mentioned a point at which the camera panned from the stage to the audience. She was expecting to see a throng of drooling teenage boys.

    But, no, the audience was made up of mothers and daughters—mothers who took their young daughters to the concert. Girls who were imitating Britney’s every move. That’s the image of womanhood which these mothers were trying to cultivate in their daughters.

    “Are you implying that men's obsession with pornography is somehow women's fault for not dressing as attractively as the non-bony, non-scrawny pinup in the locker room?”

    You choose to frame this as an all-or-nothing issue. But having a happy love life at home is an obvious way to lessen the risk of sexual immorality.

    “As a Christian male hoping to eschew temptation, ought you not give thanks to these apparently non-female-form-appreciating gay fashion designers for making your job easier, by dressing women in a way you don't happen to find sexually attractive?”

    The fact that you seriously commend homosexual fashion designers goes to show how reactionary and defensive your own position is.

    Are you a Muslim? Do you think that women should wear Burqas?

    The Bible avoids the erroneous extremes of prudery, on the one hand, and licentiousness, on the other. It’s possible to be feminine without being unduly provocative.

    “(Never mind that the movie stars of the 30s and 40s hardly exemplify some objective standard of 'real, natural' beauty. They may be your personal preference, but that hardly means that men who do not prefer some other physical type are abnormal, or that women of other physical types are 'unnatural'). “

    i) Films from this era are quite popular. That’s why they’ve been reissued on VHS, DVD, and Blue-Ray.

    ii) Actually, the movie stars back them were more naturally beautiful since that was long before the days of extreme makeover surgery.

    iii) Anyway, I wasn’t commenting on beauty, but fashion.

    iv) If you’re going to resort to relativism, then you can’t condemn anything at all. Some men prefer women who dress like Barbarella. Some men prefer women who indulge in body piercing. Do you have any standards at all, or do you think that anything goes?

    v) There’s nothing wrong with idealized depictions of beauty. We find this in Scripture itself (e.g. Song of Songs, Palm 45).

    “Really, what was the point of your 'couldn't help noticing' little diatribe? Was it really necessary for the thrust of your argument (which, remember, was how Christians should deal with their own porn addiction, not how their wives are to dress in order to prevent it!)”

    If you bother to read 1 Cor 7, you’ll see that spouses have certain duties to each other. They owe it to each other to be pleasing to each other—in the sexual realm.

    There’s a frank candor to Paul’s discussion which is quite alien to your angry, uptight reaction.

    “To make snide comments about poor misguided women who can't even dress in a way you find attractive, bless them?”

    It’s rather absurd to think that while a lot of women dress to make men notice them, that no man should dare to take note of how they dress. Since we’re the target audience for this display, why shouldn’t we voice our opinion—just as I might comment on an opera singer?

    “Frankly, it reeks of sexism, a blame-the-victim attitude to the partners of porn addicts, and a rather bizarre expectation that women dress to decorate your world (not even 'the world of men', but your own particular aesthetic preferences, which you generalise to your entire sex!)... with a little Trinny and Susannah thrown in, no less! “

    As far as stereotyping is concerned, you yourself are reinforcing a feminine stereotype by your overwrought reaction. Thankfully, I grew up around some strong women, so I don’t judge all women by your response.

    “Damn those women who wear stilettos with pant suits; don't they know they aren't being seductive enough to protect Steve from the less-attainable pinup girls, who are Probably Vain and Shallow?”

    Why don’t you calm down for a moment and think about this logically? Why do women wear stilettos? Because they’re such comfortable footwear? No.

    They wear stilettos because they think it make them more attractive. Attractive to whom? Other women?

    And why do you take offense at the suggestion that pinup girls are vain and shallow? Do you think that pinup girls don’t obsess over their appearance? Doesn’t that go with the job? Do you think the life of a pinup girl is a deep, satisfying experience?

    “Or something... Really, this kind of attitude is embarrassing and disgusting.”

    What’s embarrassing is the schizophrenic tone of your reaction. On the one hand, you write a very angry, aggressive, ad hominem comment. On the other hand, you act as if women are such emotionally fragile creatures that they would be shattered by my post.

    Which is it? Do you want to be treated as an equal partner in this discussion? Or do you think men should go out of their way to shield your feelings from any imagined slight or injury?

    What’s coming through is a very conflicted self-image of womanhood. Women are tough! Women can talk back to a man! No, women are delicate! Easily bruised!

    “Please try to keep in mind that women do read Triablogue, and not for the purpose of learning that their husbands' porn addictions are their own fault, or in order to read sweeping generalisations about their fashion shortcomings.”

    I don’t submit my material to a focus group before posting it. I also don’t assume that your own experience as a twenty-something pastor’s daughter is all that representative of women in general, or that it qualifies you to indulge in your own set of sweeping generalizations.

    “It's a little more complicated than that, Persiflage. It's true, albeit hardly blog-worthy news, that today's fashion models are often unhealthy weights and many women cannot (and should not, health-wise) achieve those weights. However, it's one thing to point this out and another to insult 'scrawny, bony women' as if they are not 'real' women (which Steve rather bizarrely equates with the film stars of the 30s and 40s--hardly 'natural' figures of femininity!). Sizeism goes both ways, and women who are naturally thin get sick of hearing the constant jibe that they are not 'real women' (or accused of being bulimic, given the 'skinny bitch' label or labelled vain and shallow, which happens disturbingly often).”

    Of course, this involves a willful misrepresentation of what I actually said. For some reason you have a big chip on your shoulder and you’re spoiling to unload on someone.

    Was I talking about naturally thin women? No. I was dealing with anorexics and bulimics who do themselves physical and psychological harm by trying to conform to a bogus self-image of what men find attractive in a woman.

    If you were less preoccupied with your own feelings, and more concerned about the welfare of others, you’d appreciate the point I was making. I’d suggest you get out of yourself for a while.

    “But that's beside the point, which is that Steve's post did not need to include condescending remarks on what he finds attractive in a woman at all.”

    You have a habit of projecting your own feelings onto me. What would be condescending of me is if I treated all women as the frail, hothouse plants you depict them as being. You yourself are trading on a double standard, all too typical of feminism, as you oscillate between swooning victimology and butch-femme assertiveness.

    “Not about 'if women dress to attract men [rather a presumptuous assumption, I might add]”

    There’s nothing presumptuous about stating the obvious. I’m not going to slip into your politically correct muzzle.

    “The little rant lowered the tone of the whole post.”

    I’d say you’re tone-deaf to the tone of your own comments.

    “And frankly came across as sexist.”

    If you’re bothered by sexism, then you should avoid your own double standards, and you should also avoid reinforcing the stereotype by the tone of your reaction.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Thanks for the post! Some excellent thoughts when it comes to porn addiction, especially what you said about accountability relationships.

    One good resource to use is accountability software: a great tool for airtight accountability for Internet use as it pertains to porn. This transforms the way people use the Internet overall:

    http://www.covenanteyes.com/blog/2008/07/11/breaking-the-lure-of-internet-porn/

    ReplyDelete
  40. Why is it that those who accuse others of being sexist and bigoted are the ones who resort to sexist and bigoted language?
    Please demonstrate where I did this.

    Steve:
    1. Charming; the 'you're being a hysterical woman' defense. Yet your own rather emotional ad hominem reaction to my post (what does my being a pastor's daughter have to do with anything, pray tell?) wilfully misunderstands my own position, as evidenced by the rather bizarre comments you make about my 'seriously commending gay fashion designers' and references to burqas. Where did I imply that burqa-wearing was a necessary Christian virtue?

    I do not have a problem with women dressing in a way they perceive to be attractive, as long as it is a) modest (because of Biblical injunctions to modesty, and allowing for the fact that modesty is to a large degree subjective and culture-dependent), b) not done mindlessly according to fashion norms (ie. the whims of people who feel women are more attractive if they look androgynous or if they look like 30s film stars), and c) does not compromise their personal principles in any area (including a) and b), but also issues of ethical clothing manufacture and what-have-you).

    I do have a problem with the 'women dress to please men' thing; from my experience, it is grossly overstated. Some women dress to please men, some of the time. But if a woman is wearing stilettos and a pant suit, you cannot assume she is doing it for your benefit and 'got it wrong'. Do I really need to point out that women like stilettos and/or pant suits for a number of reasons (comfort probably not being one of them)? You paint a rather pathetic picture of women trying desperately to please men without even knowing what men like--but that assumes that a) these fashion faux pas-ing women are trying to please men, and b) your perception of what men like and don't like is the standard by which they should be dressing! Maybe these women have husbands who like the stiletto-with-paint-suits look. Stranger things have happened.

    30s and 40s film stars frequently did undergo cosmetic surgery, as it happens; and the makeup regular girls wore was far less 'natural' than what girls tend to wear today. As for the fashions, some 30s and 40s fashions are virtually identical to clothes today, and others--such as the corsets and cone-shaped bras, or stockings rather than bare legs--are arguably far 'faker' than what women wear today. If the standard is 'what women would look like naturally', then you should prefer hairy legs and underarms and braless breasts (which is fine, some men do!). If your standard is 30s and 40s film stars, however, don't claim that they are more 'real' or 'natural' than today's women, because it simply isn't true--and don't project your particular preference on all men or all women.

    As for having 'any standards at all', Barbarella's clothes violate the standards of modesty I mentioned earlier, but I can see no moral reason to condemn body piercing. I don't like the look myself, but if a woman wants to have a jewel in her navel and is doing it in accordance with the standards I mentioned above, why would I have a problem with body piercing per se? Are you saying you have a moral objection to it; and if so, how do you derive it Biblically?

    If you bother to read 1 Cor 7, you’ll see that spouses have certain duties to each other. They owe it to each other to be pleasing to each other—in the sexual realm.
    Even if what pleases the husband is seeing his wife in stilettos and a pant suit? :p Yes, 1 Cor 7 mandates regular sex: it does not mandate women looking like 30s and 40s film stars or conforming to your fashion ideal, which is what I objected to in your original post, and it does not speak to the topic of porn addiction.

    It’s rather absurd to think that while a lot of women dress to make men notice them, that no man should dare to take note of how they dress. Since we’re the target audience for this display, why shouldn’t we voice our opinion—just as I might comment on an opera singer?
    Wow. Well, let's see... because you don't know that all wearers of a certain fashion are doing it to please men in general or you in particular, because criticising the sexual appeal of an outfit unasked is rude and faintly creepy, and because comparing a woman's dress to a professional's voice implies that she owes you a certain sexual standard, which is rather horrific. How about this: Assume that women dress as they do for their own varying reasons. If you like what they're wearing, don't slaver; if you don't, keep it to yourself. If you'd like your wife to conform to a particular beauty standard, take it up with her. If a woman comes up to you on the street and asks if her outfit makes her attractive, feel free to tell her she'd look better with pancake makeup, fake eyelashes and a pointy-braed corset, but make sure you stress this is simply your preference and not indicative of men as a whole.

    As far as stereotyping is concerned, you yourself are reinforcing a feminine stereotype by your overwrought reaction.

    Uh-huh. Dude, I read the Triablogue comments; my 'overwrought reaction' is peanuts to a lot of what goes on here. Expressing an opinion strongly does not equate to being a wilting flower or a psychotic ball of PMT, although it's interesting you can't respond to my arguments without bringing up my sex as a weapon. You don't respond to angry vitriol by male Triablogue commenters by constantly referring to testosterone; so please leave my sex out of this and address my arguments.

    And why do you take offense at the suggestion that pinup girls are vain and shallow? Do you think that pinup girls don’t obsess over their appearance? Doesn’t that go with the job? Do you think the life of a pinup girl is a deep, satisfying experience?
    I don't look at pinup girls and see vain, shallow women, no; I've done too much research into the porn industry to assume they're on the poster because they're proud of their bodies and want to show them off. It's a sick industry, largely worked in by oppressed and abused women.

    On the one hand, you write a very angry, aggressive, ad hominem comment. On the other hand, you act as if women are such emotionally fragile creatures that they would be shattered by my post.
    Really. Where did I say this? Saying something is offensive is not the same as saying the offendees are incapable of dealing with it. If you're going to spend several paragraphs detailing how I expect women to be treated, please show me where in my comment I made any of the 'othouse plants' claims you are suggesting.

    There’s nothing presumptuous about stating the obvious.
    Unless it isn't true. It may seem obvious to you that women dress to attract men (although apparently without much success under today's fashions), but how many women have you asked about this? By what study have you determined this? Because most of the women with whom I've discussed it would laugh in your face at such a simplistic and inaccurate picture of why women dress. We dress for all sorts of reasons, most of which are unrelated to your viewing pleasure.

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  41. Smokering,

    I think you bring up good points regarding Steve's comments. One thing you may want to consider, however, is that while women may not necessarily dress for the viewing pleasure of men, most men cannot fathom another reason for women (in general) dressing the way women (stereo-)typically dress. This may make you think men (in general) are shallow and unduly focused on sex, but it's perhaps just as shallow if women haven't considered that what they wear has such a powerful affect on men when so many men have been so verbal about their visual observations of women. It's either just the way men are naturally wired, or a product of the fall, or both. In any case, it's worth considering.

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  42. Jim: I agree that the way many women dress can cause men unecessary sexual tension, regardless of the reason the women are wearing those clothes; and Christian women in particular should be aware of that (along the 'causing your brother to stumble' lines). Josh Harris has said some good things in the proper context on this issue.

    Nevertheless, even revealing clothes are not necessarily donned for the purpose of attracting men. A low-necked top might be cooler than a high-necked one (given that women don't tend to have the option of removing our shirts entirely!), worn because it's breastfeeding-friendly, or simply because the woman likes the look of it. There's also that truism about women dressing to attract women (again, not particularly earth-shattering news, but worth mentioning as it complexifies the issue as Steve sees it).

    But my basic problem with Steve's diatribe is that it assumes he has the right to comment on what women who are not his wife are wearing, as if he knows their reason for dressing, and as if his view of 'correctly sexy' fashion were some kind of objective truth instead of simply his own opinion. It is uncalled-for. It's disconcerting, albeit amusing, to think that when I'm walking down the street wearing something I chose because I liked it, a man might be judging my 'display' and finding it wanting.

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  43. It certainly behooves women to be aware of the effect our dress has on the men around us. Much as we might like to think that what we wear is nobody's business but our own, the fact is that men do respond to what they see (as do women), and there's nothing wrong with men being grateful for women who maintain a standard of modesty in their dress. That's simply a matter of helping to guard each other's hearts.

    What is rather stunning about the original post is the apparent attitude that women owe it to Steve to be not only modest, but attractive--and in a very specific way, at that! It's one thing for a woman to dress a certain way because her husband likes it, but Steve's post reads as if it's offensive for any woman to dress in a way that Steve, who is not her husband, doesn't personally go for. Not every man likes the 40s movie star look. Some think jeans are cute, others despise them. Some melt inwardly at the sight of their wives in country pinafores, others think little black dresses are gorgeous. The point, however, is that unless you're talking about your own wife (and even then, she dresses for a lot of reasons that may not have to do with you), comments like the stilettos and pantsuits one are irrelevant and inappropriate, and serve to do the very thing that you condemn--objectifying and commodifying women.

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  44. Smokering said:
    ---
    Why is it that those who accuse others of being sexist and bigoted are the ones who resort to sexist and bigoted language?

    Please demonstrate where I did this.
    ---

    I could counter with: Why do I need to demonstrate it when you assumed it referred to you in the first place?

    Anyway, this reminds me of a bit I just read in Life at the Bottom by Theodore Dalrymple. He's an English doctor, and relays the following from one of his patients:

    ---
    I told her [a 17-year-old who was admitted for alcohol poisioning after her boyfriend was arrested] that in the past few days I had seen two women patients who had had their heads rammed down the lavatory, one who had had her head smashed through a window and her throat cut on the shards of glass, one who had had her arm, jaw, and skull broken, and one who had been suspended by her ankles from a tenth-floor window to the tune of, "Die, you bitch!"

    "I can look after myself," said my seventeen-year-old.

    "But men are stronger than women," I said. "When it comes to violence, they are at an advantage."

    "That's a sexist thing to say," she replied.

    A girl who had absorbed nothing at school had nevertheless absorbed the shibboleths of political correctness in general and of feminism in particular.

    "But it's a plain, straightforward, and inescapable fact," I said.

    "It's sexist," she reiterated firmly.

    A stubborn refusal to face inconvenient facts, no matter how obvious, now pervades our attitude towards relations between the sexes. An ideological filter of wishful thinking strains out anything we'd prefer not to acknowledge about these eternally difficult and contested relations, with predictably disasterous results.

    (page 37)
    ---

    Furthermore, I have to point out that those who argue by label have no argument. That is, if you're resorting to "That's a sexist thing to say" then in Western societies we know that's code for "I don't like what you're saying and want you to shut up."

    All it is is a conversation stopper. It's a way to stop debate before it starts, in a way that allows the person slapping the label down to claim moral superiority. "I don't have to address that argument because I've dismissed it as sexist, which makes it--and anyone who holds to it--immoral."

    And resorting to labels in lieu of arguments is bigoted in my book. And since I'm a guy and you're a girl, that's liberal proof right there that you're being sexist....

    Anyway, Dalrymple also notes:

    ---
    In the circumstances, it isn't altogether surprising that I can now tell at a glance--with a fair degree of accuracy--that a man is violent towards his significant other. (It doesn't follow, of course, that I can tell when a man isn't violent towards her.) In truth, the clues are not particularly subtle. A closely shaven head with many scars on the scalp from collisions with broken bottles or glasses; a broken nose; blue tattoos on the hands, arms, and neck, relaying messages of love, hate, and challenge; but above all, a facial expression of concentrated malignity, outraged egotism, and feral suspiciousness--all these give the game away. Indeed, I no longer analyze the clues and deduce a conclusion: a man's propensity to violence is as immediately legible in his face and bearing as any other strongly marked character trait.

    All the more surprising is it to me, therefore, that the nurses perceive things differently. They do not see a man's violence in his face, his gestures, his deportment, and his bodily adorments, even though they have the same experience of the patients as I. They hear the same stories, they see the same signs, but they do not make the same judgments. What's more, they seem never to learn; for experience--like chance, in the famous dictum of Louis Pasteur--favors only the mind prepared. And when I guess at a glance that a man is an inveterate wife beater (I use the term "wife" loosely), they are appalled at the harshness of my judgment, even when it proves right once more.

    ...It is as if they were more afraid of passing an adverse verdict on someone than of getting a punch in the face--a likely enough consequence, incidentally, of their failure of discernment.

    (pp 38-39)
    ---

    Men and women are different. We see things differently, and we behave differently. This, incidentally, is one of the reason why even if I did not oppose homosexual adoption on moral principals I would still disagree with it on social principals--children need to be raised with both sexes of parents. Having two women (or two men) will not compensate for the fact that men are not women and women are not men.

    Furthermore, I think you're reading into Steve a mindset that Steve didn't put forth. I think it revealed more about you than it did about Steve's supposed sexism.

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  45. BTW, you also said:
    ---
    It's disconcerting, albeit amusing, to think that when I'm walking down the street wearing something I chose because I liked it, a man might be judging my 'display' and finding it wanting.
    ---

    This is another indication of the differences between men and women.

    Men are scoping out girls. If you see a guy looking at you, he is making those judgments. Whether you want him to or not.

    It's kinda like when guys see two girls holding hands, the first thought is: "Lesbians." Girls don't have that as their first thought. Why? Because men and women are different.

    So it doesn't matter what you find disconcerting or what you find uncomfortable. Reality is real. Whether it's moral or not is another issue, but I think it shows great naivety on your part to think that the reasons you chose to wear whatever you're wearing are even remotely interesting to the men who are looking at you.

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  46. Oh, and finally, although not directly related, the following column by Dennis Prager about husband and wife sexual relations is quite informative too:

    http://townhall.com/Common/PrintPage.aspx?g=652609e7-f8fe-44d7-834c-7ad9904e41c0&t=c.

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  47. Smokering said "We dress for all sorts of reasons, most of which are unrelated to your viewing pleasure."

    ROFLOL

    I just think this discussion, which started out as a very serious one, is not hilariously funny. No, us guys do not understand why you dress the way you do. It'd be nice if you dressed simply to be attractive to us, but the number of reasons that you girls do almost anything is always to complicated for me to fathom.

    The point that everyone does seem to agree on here is that pornography and the mindset of our modern day culture has set an unattainable fantasy for what is beautiful, and this harms both men & women, and can destroy relationships.

    As far as women back in the 1940s and 50s are concerned ... two words - Marilyn Monroe.

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  48. "is now hilariously funny" I meant to say

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  49. Persiflage, as far as unattainable fantasy is concerned, two words: Marylin Monroe. :)

    Men are scoping out girls. If you see a guy looking at you, he is making those judgments. Whether you want him to or not.

    It's kinda like when guys see two girls holding hands, the first thought is: "Lesbians." Girls don't have that as their first thought. Why? Because men and women are different.

    So it doesn't matter what you find disconcerting or what you find uncomfortable. Reality is real. Whether it's moral or not is another issue, but I think it shows great naivety on your part to think that the reasons you chose to wear whatever you're wearing are even remotely interesting to the men who are looking at you.


    Bingo. Men (sometimes) objectify women. Now what should they do about it?

    Let's change the tone for a moment. "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy."

    Given that some men are visual creatures with a propensity for checking out girls, and given that some men are mired in pornography, what should men be doing about it? It's not wrong to be drawn to beauty. It's not wrong to love your wife. It is wrong to lust after a porn star. It is wrong to lust after Marilyn Monroe. It's not wrong to want your wife to dress in a way that pleases you; it is wrong to use the natural inclination of your heart to justify making a woman your sexual victim by looking at her lustfully. After all, porn isn't OK simply because a man doesn't have to lay hands on a woman to use it. The sin is in his own heart, and the harm it does is complex but still very real.

    It seems to me that there are two issues being argued here. One is the question of whether Steve can speak for all men as far as what's attractive. That's not such a huge deal. The other is the question of whether "scoping out girls" is an inevitable, morally neutral aspect of a man's character--a biological imperative--or whether it's something that men need to mortify in themselves from time to time. If women represent the church, then men represent Christ. I don't think I'm naive about the way men are going to see me if I go out dressed attractively, but does that mean I can't be saddened and perturbed by it sometimes?

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  50. Wow, things have become pretty heated.

    I have been debating between commenting because I have agreed with both smokering and the original post.

    The original post had much too offer and did bring up many good points. I very much appreciated the points concerning how to address the problem. However, I also perceived that it slid into dangerous territory concerning women and dressing. Of course this is perhaps one of the touchiest topics ever (female dress and men). Perhaps it merely calls for clarification.

    I think the biggest worry I have with the direction that this converstation has taken is the potential erroneous conclusion that a wife dressing better (to her husband's likes) and taking better care of herself will solve the problem of a man who is struggling with porn. (or even contribute to the solution)

    I don't interpret the original post as saying this but as touchy as this subject is it bears repeating and clarifying.

    There are plenty of relationships with beautiful women invovled that have been torn asunder by men that have been sucked into porn. Porn is not merely a visual problem but one that taps into psychological and sinful aspects of men and women. Good grief, it's no coincidence that the majority of porn shows sexual relationships that take advantage of women, gang rapes, domination etc...and a wife merely dressing better and getting in better shape is not the solution and will probably not do much in and of itself. It can certainly help the relationship once it has healed (although that healing must certainly be tough). ANd perhaps it can stave off a problem before it develops into an addiction.

    And to be honest, a woman can be 100 pounds overweight, struggling with keeping herself together, gaining wrinkles, losing her hair, losing her breasts to surgery and he STILL shouldn't be invovled with porn. It shouldn't matter WHAT she looks like it terms of the reasons for him getting involved in porn. He still shouldn't do it. And it's still his fault if he does.

    Men and women have struggled with aging and appearance through the ages and it really hasn't been until recently that this idea of holding onto the idealistic figure of a woman in her twenties (and sadly this has even slipped into the absurb ideal of the teens) that women have been held to an absurb physical expectation. Whether she gains 20 to 30 pounds after the children should not be and should never even be hinted at as an excuse for him gettin into porn (or the corollary, that if she HAD kept in shape he wouldn't be invovled)

    That being said, it IS good and healthy that dressing well and taking care of oneself is becoming more accepted. Happy that "What not to wear" has stressed that. Too many women have a false sense of needing to forego taking care of themselves.

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  51. smokering
    Charming; the 'you're being a hysterical woman' defense.

    Steve doesn’t have to use the defense, you are doing a bang up job being hysterical without any of his help.

    I do have a problem with the 'women dress to please men' thing; from my experience, it is grossly overstated.

    That’s either because you are not attractive yourself, or you find yourself attracted to other women.

    30s and 40s film stars frequently did undergo cosmetic surgery, as it happens; and the makeup regular girls wore was far less 'natural' than what girls tend to wear today.

    You really are jealous of what men find attractive aren’t you?

    Uh-huh. Dude, I read the Triablogue comments; my 'overwrought reaction' is peanuts to a lot of what goes on here. Expressing an opinion strongly does not equate to being a wilting flower or a psychotic ball of PMT, although it's interesting you can't respond to my arguments without bringing up my sex as a weapon.

    So now we’re a tough talking butch feminist huh?

    grumpymissmarshall
    What is rather stunning about the original post is the apparent attitude that women owe it to Steve to be not only modest, but attractive--and in a very specific way, at that!

    What is rather stunning is how you and your compadre in the previous post have projected your own feelings of (sexual?) inadequacy onto Steve Hays. The man wrote an excellent post about pornography from a MAN’S perspective, which we men appreciate. If you don’t like the fact that men have a problem with the way women act and comport themselves today, perhaps it’s because this is a “guy” thing.

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  52. Peter: Please don't play games. I inferred you were referring to me because I was the only person in the comments thus far to point out Steve's sexism. And I note that you haven't answered my question.

    Your quote about women and violence is entirely irrelevant. "Most women are less strong than most men" is a scientifically verifiable fact, largely to do with biology; it is not sexist to say so, although it is incorrect (and possibly sexist, depending on context) to say that all women are less strong than all men. But I wasn't talking about physical strength, was I? That's a red herring you threw in. I was talking about the assumption that all women dress in order to be attractive to men, and that if they wear something which Steve does not find attractive they are misguided or 'missing the point' of various articles of clothing.

    And that can be disproven by a sample of one. Let it be stated: I do not dress to attract men. I dress in clothes I think look nice; occasionally clothes my husband finds attractive; frequently clothes I find cool and comfy; always clothes which are in my budget and available in my city; and quite often, clothes chosen for a reason no more man-snaring than "this is the one top my baby hasn't thrown up on today". Therefore, if a man like Steve uses the 'women dress to attract men' theory to provide an excuse to criticise my clothing and the success or failure of the sexual allure thereof, he is being sexist--in other words, he is using a sex-based stereotype to treat me disrespectfully.

    The fact that men do 'scope out' women (of which I am aware!) is irrelevant. In a sense, it's their business. I'd rather they didn't check me out, because frankly my body is none of their business (and Christian men shouldn't be 'scoping', as grumpymissmarshall has pointed out). But it is tenfold the offense if a man assumes that he has the 'right' to scope me out, because I must have chosen my dress in order to appeal to him, because that's What Women Do. Steve even compared women to professional singers, as if we signed some sort of contract to give men X amount of visual pleasure or be lambasted for failing. Which argument makes a sort of sick sense if you're talking about prostitutes or porn stars; but not when you're referring to us 'amateurs'.

    How is the link you posted relevant to my argument? It's a nice enough article, but... huh?

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  53. Smokering,

    I wasn't "playing games." I was illustrating absurdity.

    My point is that you have no concept of a man's point of view, yet you come in here offended because one is presented and it doesn't match your idea of what it should be. Just a simple example (and this has been pointed out to you already by Jim--in a nicer way), your claim that Steve is being sexist is itself a sexist concept. You think Steve is sexist because Steve's view doesn't match your view without considering if it is in fact your view that is the sexist one because it doesn't match Steve's.

    If you prefer, Jim's version does seem nicer. He said:
    ---
    This may make you think men (in general) are shallow and unduly focused on sex, but it's perhaps just as shallow if women haven't considered that what they wear has such a powerful affect on men when so many men have been so verbal about their visual observations of women.
    ---

    That is the point of the Prager article I linked to as well, but if you need it spelled out pay attention to this quote:

    ---
    Many women think men's natures are similar to theirs, and this is so different from a woman's nature, that few women know this about men unless told about it (emphasis mine).
    ---

    Finally, that's the reason I quoted the passage from Dalrymple too. The female nurses he works with did not view men the same way that Dalrymple, a man, viewed them.

    In other words, the point I was trying to get across to you is women approach relationships differently then men; women approach life differently then men; women approach conflict differently then men. In short: women are not men and men are not women.

    This is an objective fact.

    Now you may not like Steve's taste in women, but I would daresay his taste is more representative of the stereotypical man than your view of what men like. That's because you can only imagine, based on anecdotal evidence, what men like.

    Naturally there are exceptions to the rule. I'm sure someone out there actually finds women like Twiggy attractive. But this is not the norm, no matter what the media pushes. But should Steve write an article for the 10% instead of the 90%? How is that productive?

    By the way, your "sample of one" doesn't address Steve's point. If you actually read what he said, he limited his comments a great deal. He wasn't speaking of women in general. In fact, he specifically stated:

    ---
    On a related issue, I can’t help noticing that a many women invest a lot of money in their appearance (e.g. clothes, hairdo, make-up, jewelry), yet have no idea of what’s attractive to a man. I’m not talking about woman who don’t care about their appearance. [Appears to be you, based on what you said about why you dress the way you do, so Steve wasn't talking about you in the first place--ed.] I’m talking about women who are very conscious of their appearance, who want to be physically attractive to the opposite sex, but it doesn’t occur to them to consult the opposite sex about what is attractive to the opposite sex.

    ...

    For the moment I’m not saying if a woman should dress to attract a man. That’s up to her. Rather, I’m making the point if that you are going to go to all that time and expense, it wouldn’t hurt to find out what kind of make-up and hairdo and attire the average man likes in a woman. To take one example, you’ll never see a poster of a scrawny, bony girl inside a boy’s locker.

    [All emphasis mine.]
    ---

    How you got from that to "Steve's making sexist comments about all women" is a leap of logic so absurd that I have to respond in kind: your sexist notion of what men must be like renders you incapable of reading a man's statement correctly; ergo, you are being sexist.

    I must point out I am only using your own tactics here. They're not mine. If you give them up, I'll give them up.

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  54. ZOEGIRL,

    Sometimes the appearance of a spouse contributes to extramarital sexual temptation, and sometimes it doesn’t. Since one of the biblical reasons for marriage is to curb sexual temptation, the appearance of the spouse can make a difference. At other times, nothing will make a difference.

    Obviously, there’s more to a healthy marital relationship than appearance, but since this is a discussion of pornography, the emphasis is on the visual aspect.

    What we need to avoid is this sort of attitude: It’s a Christian marriage, so adultery is not an option. Since adultery is not an option, I can let myself go because I’ve got him trapped. There’s nothing he can do about it. He’s stuck with me.

    That attitude can contribute to sexual temptation. In those situations, there’s blame to go around.

    Both spouses have a duty to make reasonable efforts to please each other. The priorities will vary from marriage to marriage, but the principle of reciprocity is the same.

    There’s nothing wrong with a 50 year old who looks like a 50 year old. A wife is under no obligation to go under the knife to maintain the illusion of youth.

    At the same time, not all 50 year olds look alike, whether men or women. There are middle-aged men and women who keep in shape, and those who don’t.

    Once again, it’s a question of what both spouses want out of the marriage, and whether their respective desires are legitimate. Some spouses don’t seem to care. Fine. That’s by mutual consent.

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  55. GRUMPYMISSMARSHALL SAID:

    “What is rather stunning about the original post is the apparent attitude that women owe it to Steve to be not only modest, but attractive--and in a very specific way, at that! It's one thing for a woman to dress a certain way because her husband likes it, but Steve's post reads as if it's offensive for any woman to dress in a way that Steve, who is not her husband, doesn't personally go for.”

    i) Of course, I didn’t say anything of the kind. That’s a malicious straw man argument.

    ii) And we’re not talking about how women dressed in the privacy of their home, for the benefit of their husbands. Moreover, my post was never limited to the way a wife chooses to dress.

    Rather, we’re talking about how women dress in public. In junior high, high school, and college. At the office. In the shopping mall. How they present themselves to perfect strangers.

    And we’re also speaking, in many cases of single women. Not married women.

    The same thing holds true for men.

    “The point, however, is that unless you're talking about your own wife (and even then, she dresses for a lot of reasons that may not have to do with you), comments like the stilettos and pantsuits one are irrelevant and inappropriate, and serve to do the very thing that you condemn--objectifying and commodifying women.”

    i) Here’s a good illustration of biblical illiteracy.

    a) Moses comments on the appearance of Sarah. Was Moses married to Sarah? No. So is it inappropriate for a Biblical narrator (and that’s not the only example) to comment on the appearance of another man’s wife?

    b) The Book of Proverbs includes descriptions of both good and bad male and female role models. It’s our duty to apply those standards to men and women. And that isn’t limited to your spouse.

    A single man or woman should apply those standards when seeking a mate. These are criteria for judging a prospective spouse. As such, they are applicable to someone who is not your spouse, and, in many cases, will never be your spouse. Likewise, parents should educate their kids in the use of such criteria.

    I have a perfect right to apply Proverbs to Madonna or Paris Hilton or Britney Spears. To judge them by that standard. And Proverbs is equally applicable to male celebrities.

    c) The man and woman in the Song of Songs are not a married couple. They are probably engaged to be married. All that sexual fantasizing is anticipatory.

    What is more, the reader isn’t married to the characters. He’s a spectator. This isn’t his fiancée.

    ii) I also don’t buy into the double standard that it’s supposedly inappropriate for a man to comment on how a woman dresses in public. If women choose to present themselves in a certain way to strangers, then strangers have a perfect right to form a snap judgment on their appearance. The same is true when a woman sizes up a man in public.

    If you, whether man or woman, dress in a way that calls attention to yourself, then you forfeit the right to wax indignant if you succeed in calling attention to yourself.

    “It is wrong to use the natural inclination of your heart to justify making a woman your sexual victim by looking at her lustfully.”

    This comment was directed at someone else, but I’ll venture a response:

    i) If a woman chooses to dress in a provocative fashion, then a man doesn’t “victimize” her by looking at her lustfully. That’s a feminist double standard.

    ii) Many Christians define lust more broadly than Scripture does. If you define it too broadly, you create an insurmountable problem.

    Along with Carson, I take Mt 5:27-28 to be an allusion to the 7th and 10th commandments. As such, it defines lust as adulterous covetousness. That’s a fairly narrow definition. And within that definition, much of what passes for the sin of lust is not.

    ReplyDelete
  56. SMOKERING SAID:

    “Charming; the 'you're being a hysterical woman' defense.”

    You’re straight out of central casting.

    “Yet your own rather emotional ad hominem reaction to my post.”

    You chose to initiate a gratuitously personal attack on my post. Since that’s how you framed your response, my reply answers you on your own level.

    “(What does my being a pastor's daughter have to do with anything, pray tell?)”

    You object to my speaking for men generally, yet you presume to speak for women generally—even though your personal range of experience is literally quite parochial.

    “Willfully misunderstands my own position, as evidenced by the rather bizarre comments you make about my 'seriously commending gay fashion designers'”

    To the contrary, you said that Christian men like me should appreciate the contribution of homosexual fashion designers. Now you’re trying to backpedal from your ill-considered comment.

    “I do have a problem with the 'women dress to please men' thing; from my experience, it is grossly overstated.”

    What is grossly overstated is your malicious attempt to rewrite what I actually said.

    “Some women dress to please men, some of the time.”

    Which is what I said in my original post. Your tactic is to turn my qualified statements into unqualified statements, substitute the latter for the former, then feign indignation at things you impute to me, contrary to what I actually said.

    This is an exercise in slander on your part. It shows your inability to mount a respectable argument for your position. And it speaks poorly to your Christian character.

    “Do I really need to point out that women like stilettos and/or pant suits for a number of reasons (comfort probably not being one of them)?”

    So you admit they don’t wear them for comfort. If not for comfort, then what? To improve their appearance? For whose benefit?

    “You paint a rather pathetic picture of women trying desperately to please men without even knowing what men like.”

    Like anorexics and bulimics.

    “Maybe these women have husbands who like the stiletto-with-paint-suits look.”

    Are we talking about what women wear around the house? No. Are we only talking about what women wear in the company of their husbands? No. Are we only talking about married women? No.

    Tthis discussion is also talking about single men and women, and how the sexes dress in public.

    “30s and 40s film stars frequently did undergo cosmetic surgery, as it happens.”

    You’re equivocating. I said extreme makeover surgery. Cosmetic surgeons couldn’t do back then what they do today.

    “And the makeup regular girls wore was far less 'natural' than what girls tend to wear today.”

    Once again, you’re equivocating. What actresses wore onscreen or offscreen? Are you claiming that a modern actress wears less makeup onscreen?

    Moreover, it depends on the role. If an actress is playing Marie Antoinette, she will be more heavily got up for that role than if she plays a farm girl from Wisconsin.

    “If the standard is 'what women would look like naturally'.”

    I never said that was the standard, now did I? Rather, I was responding to a comment you made. Answering you on your own grounds, remember?

    It would behoove you to master a few elementary principles of argumentation before you sally forth.

    “If your standard is 30s and 40s film stars, however, don't claim that they are more 'real' or 'natural' than today's women, because it simply isn't true--and don't project your particular preference on all men or all women.”

    I never said that was my standard, or the only standard, now did I? What I did was to compare homosexual fashion design with the fashion of film stars during the 30s and 40s. That’s a comparative judgment, not a superlative judgment.

    It is a fact that a heterosexual fashion designer will have a greater appreciation of feminine beauty than a homosexual fashion designer. Sorry that you’re so offended by the obvious.

    I’d also add that female movie stars from the 30s and 40s were strong, self-made women. They made it in a man’s world, before women’s lib. This wasn’t simply imposed on them.

    They played in star vehicles. Moviegoers went to see them. These women were able to carry the whole film by their own screen presence.

    “Even if what pleases the husband is seeing his wife in stilettos and a pant suit?”

    Fine.

    “Yes, 1 Cor 7 mandates regular sex: it does not mandate women looking like 30s and 40s film stars or conforming to your fashion ideal, which is what I objected to in your original post,”

    You keep burning a straw man. Should I charge you with arson?

    “And it does not speak to the topic of porn addiction.”

    Actually, it does. An unhappy marriage can foster or aggravate sexual temptation. Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

    “Wow. Well, let's see... because you don't know that all wearers of a certain fashion are doing it to please men in general or you in particular, because criticising the sexual appeal of an outfit unasked is rude and faintly creepy, and because comparing a woman's dress to a professional's voice implies that she owes you a certain sexual standard, which is rather horrific.”

    It’s symptomatic of your intellectual insecurity and lamentable dishonesty that you continue to peddle this deliberate distortion of what I actually wrote.

    But if, for example, a woman goes out in public in a tight, slinky, low-cut dress with stilettos and lip-gloss, I’m justified in thinking that she’s wants men to pay attention to her looks.

    It would be patronizing of me to think that women like that are too stupid to realize the effect they’re having. No, this is quite calculated. They intend to have a particular affect. Attire is often used to signal sexual availability or unavailability.

    “How about this: Assume that women dress as they do for their own varying reasons.”

    Which was stated in my original post.

    “If you like what they're wearing, don't slaver; if you don't, keep it to yourself.”

    Actually, I don’t have to keep it to myself. If Britney Spears thrusts herself upon me when I’m channel surfing or standing in the check stand, then I’m allowed to have an opinion about the image she’s projecting and—what is more—I’m even allowed to voice my opinion.

    What people do in public is subject to public opinion. If that bothers you, get over it.

    “Expressing an opinion strongly does not equate to being a wilting flower or a psychotic ball of PMT.”

    Your opinions are laden with emotive rhetoric. You chose to take this post very personally, as if it was about you personally, which it wasn’t.

    “It’s interesting you can't respond to my arguments without bringing up my sex as a weapon. You don't respond to angry vitriol by male Triablogue commenters by constantly referring to testosterone; so please leave my sex out of this and address my arguments.”

    Most Tblog commenters don’t make an issue of their gender: you do. Therefore, I’m answering you on your own level.

    You’re the one who chose to play the female victim card—repeatedly.

    And that’s something you do as a substitute for a real argument.

    “I don't look at pinup girls and see vain, shallow women, no; I've done too much research into the porn industry to assume they're on the poster because they're proud of their bodies and want to show them off. It's a sick industry, largely worked in by oppressed and abused women.”

    Women who are both “proud” and “oppressed.”

    “Really. Where did I say this? Saying something is offensive is not the same as saying the offendees are incapable of dealing with it. If you're going to spend several paragraphs detailing how I expect women to be treated, please show me where in my comment I made any of the 'othouse plants' claims you are suggesting.”

    It’s strewn from start to finish with your angry, wounded rhetoric.

    “Because most of the women with whom I've discussed it would laugh in your face at such a simplistic and inaccurate picture of why women dress.”

    What is simplistic and inaccurate is your willful caricature of what I actually wrote.

    ReplyDelete
  57. SMOKERING SAID:

    “Even if what pleases the husband is seeing his wife in stilettos and a pant suit? :p Yes, 1 Cor 7 mandates regular sex: it does not mandate women looking like 30s and 40s film stars or conforming to your fashion ideal, which is what I objected to in your original post, and it does not speak to the topic of porn addiction.”

    Is that what I said in my original post? Here’s an example of what I actually said:

    “Once again, I’m not suggesting that a woman should be a clotheshorse, like Alexis in Dynasty. And we also live in a time when too many women dress too provocatively. There’s a happy mean between dressing like an Amish milkmaid and dressing like a streetwalker.”

    “In general, though, it wouldn’t hurt most couples to resemble the individual at the altar—when they tied the knot. You don’t have to look like Tyra Banks. Just look like the woman he married, and vice versa.”

    Compare what I actually said with your mendacious mischaracterization of what I said.

    ReplyDelete
  58. Steve,

    I agree with what you say about men and women loving each other enough to care for their bodies. No argument there. And I really don't have a problem with what you have been saying. I just think it is such a slippery slope that this topic bears great clarification.

    STEVE"An unhappy marriage can foster or aggravate sexual temptation. Sometimes yes, sometimes no."

    The only concern I have for this is that it seems to place more burden than is appropriate on the spouse for the sin.

    There is just no excuse whatsoever for a man (or a woman) indulging in sinful behavior and then using another person as their excuse.


    We do not excuse a woman for having an affair because her husband was not as affectionate and let himself go. We do not excuse a married teacher for falling into temptation with a female student because she was beautiful. And simply because a woman has gained thirty pounds or does not measure up to the women in porn is never an excuse. And we certainly don't blame a woman for a man's weakness in his temper when he strikes her.

    These may be understandable, and we may certainly understand that unhappiness places a person in a very susceptible position, but the guilt is still on THAT person for giving in.

    I mean, let's carry this to the extreme. Because of the selection of the actresses in porn, NO woman will really ever measure up to the ideal. Keeping in shape for a normal average woman will never compare with some of the porn stars out there (!) If trying to compete with the porn stars is ever given as a panacea for the man, then we poor women are in trouble. The average size woman in the US is between 12 and 14 (and these are still decent sizes) and the average porn start is probably size 0-2 with D or DD breasts. What poor woman could ever compete even in 30-40 year prime given childbirth and age!!??

    And there are plenty of circumstances to make keeping up with an appearance hard. Any number of physical conditions can lead to weight gain (prednisone use for different diseases, declining hormone levels will naturally lead to weight gain). And the same holds true for the woman...hair loss, etc.


    The onus is still on the man to control himself. (as it is on the woman for controlling herself)

    And again, there have been perfectly happy marriages that have been wrecked BECAUSE of porn, simply because of the addicvtive nature of the material. ANd unfortunately, the guilt and shame can drive a wedge between the couple impeding the very act that perhaps can bring them closer together and keep him from resorting to porn.

    But all this aside, I found much to think on on your post and I am very happy to see this addressed. Too few churches are addressing this.

    ReplyDelete
  59. ZOEGIRL SAID:

    "We do not excuse a woman for having an affair because her husband was not as affectionate and let himself go."

    There are two separate issues here:

    i) Is a spouse (man or wife) to blame for succumbing to sexual temptation?

    Yes.

    ii) Is other spouse sometimes complicit in that sin?

    Sometimes yes and sometimes no. To take your own example, if a wife finds herself in a loveless marriage, and turns to another man, her husband shares some of the blame.

    One can be blameworthy without being solely to blame. That isn't an excuse. It's simple justice to apportion blame wherever it belongs, and sometimes more than one party is at fault.

    In your hypothetical, the husband is also culpable.

    ReplyDelete
  60. To make the same point in a different way, there are extenuating circumstances in the case you cite. While they don't exculpate the actions of the adulterous wife, they do mitigate her guilt.

    Tamar would be an analogous case.

    ReplyDelete
  61. STEVE: We’re talking about how women dress in public. In junior high, high school, and college. At the office. In the shopping mall. How they present themselves to perfect strangers.

    And we’re also speaking, in many cases of single women. Not married women.

    a) Moses comments on the appearance of Sarah. Was Moses married to Sarah? No. So is it inappropriate for a Biblical narrator (and that’s not the only example) to comment on the appearance of another man’s wife?

    It's not at all inappropriate for a man to comment on the beauty of a woman who is not his wife. It's not wrong to enjoy beauty. I was speaking specifically of your stilettos-and-pants comment--which was to the effect that such clothing is not attractive to men. You didn't say such clothing was inappropriate, you said you didn't find it attractive. That's completely fine: the only issue I take with it is that it is not a universal norm among men, and it does not imply that the women who wears heels with her pants has got men all wrong. She is not to your taste, that is all.

    STEVE: b) The Book of Proverbs includes descriptions of both good and bad male and female role models. It’s our duty to apply those standards to men and women. And that isn’t limited to your spouse.

    A single man or woman should apply those standards when seeking a mate. These are criteria for judging a prospective spouse. As such, they are applicable to someone who is not your spouse, and, in many cases, will never be your spouse. Likewise, parents should educate their kids in the use of such criteria.

    I have a perfect right to apply Proverbs to Madonna or Paris Hilton or Britney Spears. To judge them by that standard. And Proverbs is equally applicable to male celebrities.

    Proverbs doesn't seem to me to dispense fashion advice, so while your points are valid, they're not especially relevant.

    STEVE: c) The man and woman in the Song of Songs are not a married couple. They are probably engaged to be married. All that sexual fantasizing is anticipatory.

    What is more, the reader isn’t married to the characters. He’s a spectator. This isn’t his fiancée.

    The singer is clearly attracted to the Shulammite, so this doesn't speak to the question of stilettos. But yes, it's fine for him to be intoxicated by her beauty.

    ii) I also don’t buy into the double standard that it’s supposedly inappropriate for a man to comment on how a woman dresses in public. If women choose to present themselves in a certain way to strangers, then strangers have a perfect right to form a snap judgment on their appearance. The same is true when a woman sizes up a man in public.

    If you, whether man or woman, dress in a way that calls attention to yourself, then you forfeit the right to wax indignant if you succeed in calling attention to yourself.

    Here's where I need clarification. From some of your other comments, you seem to be referring to extremes of dress that you find unequivocally meant to allure. So if I go to the bank in a catsuit and six-inch heels, or wear a backless tube top and fake eyelashes to class, I'll excite comment? Fair enough. If you don't like the look, fair enough. Some men might, so it's not correct to say that I've got it wrong--I may indeed be attracting exactly the type of man I wished to attract. That's my objection to your argument, and it's a small one.

    However--and I know this is not a view that you have put forth, although it has been put forth by other commenters--here's the rub. I'm a Christian woman. I have to wear something. I do go out in public. Today I'm going to wear jeans and a T-shirt. I won't be showing an undue amount of skin or advertising a pornographic empire on my chest, but my body will be available for "scoping"--my clothes aren't revealing by current standards, but they do reveal certain biological facts--I have legs, I have breasts, I have some skin, and so forth. In my judgment, I'm covered enough. Yet I know that men will ogle me if they want to. I get wolf-whistled no matter what I'm wearing, as most women do. Do you see?

    I haven't "dressed to call attention to myself", and yet I will. What's the solution? (And yes, I do get over it. I don't expect better from the men on the street. But I would ask Christian men to prayerfully consider whether it's their business to put any more thought than they have to into my appearance.)

    “It is wrong to use the natural inclination of your heart to justify making a woman your sexual victim by looking at her lustfully.”

    This comment was directed at someone else, but I’ll venture a response:

    i) If a woman chooses to dress in a provocative fashion, then a man doesn’t “victimize” her by looking at her lustfully. That’s a feminist double standard.

    Granted, to a point. Even the most provocatively dressed woman doesn't excuse a man's lust (and vice-versa), but OK.

    ii) Many Christians define lust more broadly than Scripture does. If you define it too broadly, you create an insurmountable problem.

    Along with Carson, I take Mt 5:27-28 to be an allusion to the 7th and 10th commandments. As such, it defines lust as adulterous covetousness. That’s a fairly narrow definition. And within that definition, much of what passes for the sin of lust is not.

    But if, for example, a woman goes out in public in a tight, slinky, low-cut dress with stilettos and lip-gloss, I’m justified in thinking that she’s wants men to pay attention to her looks.

    It would be patronizing of me to think that women like that are too stupid to realize the effect they’re having. No, this is quite calculated. They intend to have a particular affect. Attire is often used to signal sexual availability or unavailability.

    Yes, sometimes. But again, take a less extreme example. Many men think if a woman wears a skirt, it's fine to pinch her buttocks. It is not. Many men think if a woman wears a buttoned shirt, it's fine to make librarian jokes. They should stop it, srsly. We're left with the problem of deciding whether a woman dressed for a man's attention--whether it is, in fact, invited--or not. And as Smokering has pointed out, her low-cut top may indicate not that she'd like some constructive criticism on her breasts, but that she's feeding her baby. Her snug-fitting clothes may indicate that she's at work, where looser clothes might pose a hazard. Her waitress uniform may indicate that she's trying to make a living. It's not cut and dried. And since your argument hinges on the woman having every intention of seducing a man, do you see how it can fall down here?

    That doesn't mean that women should dress immodestly, or be wilfully unaware of the effects of what they wear. It does mean that it would be nice if Christian men in particular would hold the criticism, especially if the woman is not on stage or in a music video, but is simply trying to go about her day.

    “I don't look at pinup girls and see vain, shallow women, no; I've done too much research into the porn industry to assume they're on the poster because they're proud of their bodies and want to show them off. It's a sick industry, largely worked in by oppressed and abused women.”

    Women who are both “proud” and “oppressed.”

    Read it again.

    ReplyDelete
  62. "The onus is still on the man to control himself. (as it is on the woman for controlling herself)"

    And we should never hope for spousal support if we're married? Better not suggest any way a wife should help her husband lest you are accused of blaming her for any sin he has committed or may commit. (And, yes, it goes both ways. Husbands should be willing to consider the impact of their actions and appearances on their wives wives.) I mean, what you say sounds pretty balanced except for the fact that I keep reading from various commentators potential excuses to not be concerned of how we cause those of weaker faith (if any thinks herself to be spiritually superior) to stumble. God help me, any sin I escape I do so only as the flames of hell tickle my feet as I flee. Porn hasn't been a big temptation for me, but I have had my struggles in other areas. I would certainly appreciate any consideration from my brothers and sisters in Christ without the "that's your problem, just handle it yourself" from those who are apparently morally superior. And, yes, as fallen creatures we should all take such an attitude personally.

    ReplyDelete
  63. grumpymissmarshall,

    If I may, you've completely misunderstood Steve's point about stilettos. It has nothing to do with fashion and everything to do with what those high heels are designed to do.

    Namely, they are designed to enhance the curves of a woman's leg, accentuate her calves and make her legs more shapely.

    It therefore defeats the purpose to wear them and then cover up your legs.

    Stilettos are not designed to make women appear taller--that's what platform shoes are made for. Seriously, if height is all you're interested in, why only raise the heel? Does that make any sense?

    No. But most men find a woman's legs more attractive when flexed so that the heels are up and the toes pointed down...and that's the point of stilettos.

    ReplyDelete
  64. Steve: No, I don't imagine that women wear stilettos for comfort; why does it then follow that the only possible reason they could wear them is to attract men? Maybe the misguided pant suit woman wore stilettos because they were the only shoes she owned which matched the pant suit colour-wise; or because she wanted to gain a few extra inches of height, or--here's a staggering thought--because she thought they looked good. Not 'looked good for men', or 'looked mate-worthy'; because she liked them. It may astonish you, but women do this.

    So the question is, how can you tell when a woman is 'displaying' herself for your benefit (and is therefore, in your view, fair game for criticism) and when she is just dressing in a way she likes, and therefore should be left alone? You can't. Some outfits certainly seem sexier or more sensational than others; but as I said in my last post, you can't necessarily judge motive from that. A woman who's grown up used to wearing low-cut tops and short skirts may wear them as a matter of course, thinking nothing of it, whereas a parochial little twentysomething like me may dress more conservatively; but my 'safe' clothing may actually be daring for me, and her 'revealing' clothing might be devoid of seductive intent. Assuming that a woman who wears clothes you find seductive is trying to seduce you is rather odd; and short of actually asking her the purpose of her attire, why not give her the benefit of the doubt and leave her in peace? The slinkily-dressed woman with lip gloss (that icon of seduction...?) and stilettos may be trying to attract you; she may not. (To give an obvious example, I have a friend who's gay and dresses like that; clearly she's not trying to attract men, so criticising any portion of her clothing for not fitting in with your concept of attractiveness is rather missing the point). Even Britney Spears may not actually be dressing to seduce you--as you pointed out yourself, her demographic is mostly women, which I'm sure she and her fashion designers know. Ironic, perhaps; twisted, perhaps; but there it is.

    Your Biblical examples are irrelevant, as none of the Biblical commentators were saying things like 'Sarah would have been an attractive woman, if it hadn't been for those stilettos with the pant suit, which indicated she missed the point about achieving a shapely leg'.

    Also, it's clear my comment about gay fashion designers went over your head, so never mind. Let me just point out, though, that a) not all fashion designers are gay, and b) I don't like coffee, but that doesn't mean I can't make coffee.

    Furthermore, when did I presume to speak for women generally? And how did I play the 'female victim card' in my original post when I never even mentioned my sex?

    If your standard for female beauty is not 'what women would look like naturally', then what is it? Simply 30s and 40s film stars?

    You say that if you believe a women is dressing to attract, you have a right to voice your opinion. I'm rather staggered by this. If I believe a man is being nice to me in order to flirt, I don't find it appropriate to respond by saying "Actually I don't find you opening the door for me attractive, it looked pretentious, and anyway if you did your research, you'd know women don't like that accent". If he's wearing an attractive shirt and I somehow get the idea it was in order to lure me in as a mate, I don't feel it my duty or right to kindly correct him on the colour or shape--"silly man at the checkout, real women don't go for the metrosexual look, you should choose something more rugged". That would be rude. As would using them as an irrelevant example in a post about, say, women emotionally abusing their husbands.

    That said, I reread your posts and realise I did overreact somewhat, for which I apologise. Your original post did say 'some women', not all; but I do still take issue with the relevance and appropriateness of even bringing up some women's fashion fauxes pas at all, and the attitude you later demonstrated which assumes the intent of women who dress in a manner you find sexual.

    Peter: I think you're missing the point, which is that the purpose of stilettos isn't necessarily the reason women wear them. Bras were originally invented to give a specific shape to the chest, but women wear them for all sorts of reasons--to prevent backache, to hold breast-pads when nursing, to hold a prosthesis if a woman has had a mastectomy--heck, sometimes to hold car keys and a tissue! Hence, looking at a bra-clad woman and saying 'Well, that bra doesn't give the proper shape [ie. the shape I like] to the chest, so you did it wrong' is making an assumption, and a rather insulting one at that. As for platform shoes, fashion agrees they're rather situation-specific; and yes, stilettos do add height. Stand on your toes for a second; see how you're taller? :p

    To approach the topic more broadly: Peter, your responses to my post have been attacking a position I do not hold, which is that women have no sexual responsibility in marriage. I agree that how a woman dresses and behaves can influence her husband; however, I think Christians (and Christian men in particular) need to be extremely careful about being seen to blame women for men's misconduct. Christianity has enough apparent 'sexism' in it to offend a lot of women to begin with (legitimate things like not allowing women to preach, for instance); it doesn't need to get mired in actual sexism, and blame-the-victim games and deflecting are extremely common responses in secular men who are caught cheating (through porn or otherwise). So while an unavailable, deliberately unkempt woman may be a factor in her husband's temptation to adultery, the subject needs to be treated with caution and addressed to women, not to men. Does that make sense? Believe me, women are great at guilt trips--it's telling how often 'My husband cheated on me' is followed by 'What did I do wrong?'. Men need to be very clear that they cheated because they were sinful, not because their wife 'let herself go' after childbearing or because she didn't patronise Victoria's Secret often enough; and women need to know that they have marital responsibilities, but aren't ultimately all that stands between their husband and Playboy. It's a complex topic and requires sensitivity.

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  65. Sensititivty is something you lack. So is discernment and the ability to actually read what is written.

    You're still imputing your false reading of Steve's comments into your complaint. You then say, "Oh, I misread your original post" but everything you've said continues along the basis that you really read it correctly the first time. You're still not bothering to take a breath and actually listen to what is being presented. You are attacking a delusion and pretending, somehow, that it's a man's fault for your having misread what was said in the first place.

    So when you say:
    ---
    To approach the topic more broadly: Peter, your responses to my post have been attacking a position I do not hold
    ---

    I cannot stop laughing. (I know, I must be sexist to dare laugh at a woman's double standard.)

    You said:
    ---
    I think Christians (and Christian men in particular) need to be extremely careful about being seen to blame women for men's misconduct.
    ---

    To which I respond that you need to stop blaming men for thinking men have blamed a women for something that the man has never blamed the woman for in the first place.

    Frankly, you seem to go out of your way to find offense so that you can yell "SEXIST!" Your embrace of victimhood fits right in with the rest of society's decay via misandry.

    I merely point out that the only sexism here has been sexism that you perceived. Go ahead and document Steve's sexism now that you realize he didn't say what you originally thought he said. Show where he was ever being sexist. That would be the appropriate thing, rather than just slapping a label and pretending you won.

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  66. Peter: As I have said many times, Steve was sexist by claiming to know the intent of a woman's dress, and feeling that he has some sort of right to critique the sexual effect of that dress if it does not meet his personal preference. This statement has been repeated by Steve throughout the comments section, so I did not misread it.

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  67. Smokering:
    ---
    As I have said many times, Steve was sexist by claiming to know the intent of a woman's dress, and feeling that he has some sort of right to critique the sexual effect of that dress if it does not meet his personal preference. This statement has been repeated by Steve throughout the comments section, so I did not misread it.
    ---

    So quote it.

    ReplyDelete
  68. "Actually, I don’t have to keep it to myself. If Britney Spears thrusts herself upon me when I’m channel surfing or standing in the check stand, then I’m allowed to have an opinion about the image she’s projecting and—what is more—I’m even allowed to voice my opinion."

    1. Assumption that Britney Spears has dressed to please him.
    2. Assumption that he therefore has the right to grade her sexually.

    "It’s rather absurd to think that while a lot of women dress to make men notice them, that no man should dare to take note of how they dress. Since we’re the target audience for this display, why shouldn’t we voice our opinion—just as I might comment on an opera singer?"

    Even supposing this was true, Steve does not provide any information as to how he intends to deduce that the particular women he wishes to criticise has indeed dressed for his benefit.

    "If women choose to present themselves in a certain way to strangers, then strangers have a perfect right to form a snap judgment on their appearance."

    1. Steve is assuming they are 'presenting themselves to strangers', whereas many women are simply trying to go about their daily lives, without intending to be fashion plates or objects of sexual appraisal.
    2. From Steve's other comments, it is clear Steve forms a snap judgment on more than a woman's appearance if she is dressed 'a certain way'--he also judges her motives for dressing (to attract men) and, in some cases, her social intelligence (that she is 'missing the point' of clothes if she combines them in a way he feels undermines their sexual purpose).

    "But if, for example, a woman goes out in public in a tight, slinky, low-cut dress with stilettos and lip-gloss, I’m justified in thinking that she’s wants men to pay attention to her looks."

    See above.

    Sexism according to Answers.com:

    "2. Attitudes, conditions, or behaviors that promote stereotyping of social roles based on gender."

    Steve is stereotyping social roles based on gender; ergo, he is being sexist. Some of it could be excused as simple ignorance of women, except for his blatant disbelief that women do not always have the motives he ascribes (specifically, his scoffing reaction to my claim that women wear stilettos for reasons other than attracting men). I realise his post was written from a man's perspective; but if the man's perspective paints women (even some women) in an incorrect light, it is permissible to correct him.

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  69. THAT'S what you're complaining about?!

    You said:
    ---
    Assumption that Britney Spears has dressed to please him.
    ---

    Assumption that Steve thinks Britney knows Steve.

    You said:
    ---
    Assumption that he therefore has the right to grade her sexually.
    ---

    Assumption that that's the "therefore."

    You said:
    ---
    Even supposing this was true, Steve does not provide any information as to how he intends to deduce that the particular women he wishes to criticise has indeed dressed for his benefit.
    ---

    Apparently you have difficulty in understanding how to go from the general to the particular.

    You said:
    ---
    Steve is assuming they are 'presenting themselves to strangers', whereas many women are simply trying to go about their daily lives, without intending to be fashion plates or objects of sexual appraisal.
    ---

    Except that when you go out in public, you are ipso facto "presenting yourself to strangers." Everything you do is a presentation because people are watching you. It's why you dress to go outside in the first place (and it doesn't even yet matter WHAT you dress in).

    But regardless of that, why would it be wrong for someone to critique how a person walked out of the house? If we said: "She dressed dishevled" why would that be wrong? It's an OBSERVATION.

    You said:
    ---
    From Steve's other comments, it is clear Steve forms a snap judgment on more than a woman's appearance if she is dressed 'a certain way'--he also judges her motives for dressing (to attract men) and, in some cases, her social intelligence (that she is 'missing the point' of clothes if she combines them in a way he feels undermines their sexual purpose).
    ---

    Except you can't quote Steve on this; this is your opinion of what Steve is doing. But Steve was very specific. He framed his point as a conditional WHICH YOU CONTINUE TO IGNORE. That conditional is:

    *IF* a woman wants to dress to impress a man, *THEN* she would do well to ask a man what would impress men.

    Thus, Steve's argument never applied to women who were not intending to impress any man at all, and he even explained this in the passages I quoted to you when I first objected to your misunderstanding.

    You said:
    ---
    Steve is stereotyping social roles based on gender
    ---

    He's responding to a specific class of women, and you are deliberately misreading it to be refering to all women.

    You said:
    ---
    Some of it could be excused as simple ignorance of women, except for his blatant disbelief that women do not always have the motives he ascribes (specifically, his scoffing reaction to my claim that women wear stilettos for reasons other than attracting men).
    ---

    What scoffing reaction? *I* pointed out what a stiletto was designed for and pointed out how inconsistent it was to wear something designed to increase the attractiveness of your legs and then covering up your legs. It would be like putting on a goalie mask after applying rouge. You could do it, but what the hell for?

    You said:
    ---
    I realise his post was written from a man's perspective; but if the man's perspective paints women (even some women) in an incorrect light, it is permissible to correct him.
    ---

    Just as it is permissible to correct you when you've continually failed to make the slitest attempt to understand what Steve's point was in the first place. At no point have you even bothered to interpret his remarks charitably. Instead, you assumed he was sexist and read it in the worst possible light, even after having been corrected.

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  70. Peter, you are not understanding what I am saying. I have admitted that Steve is referring to a specific subset of women, but he himself has provided no criteria for determining who those women are. How does he know which women are dressing in order to attract men? He doesn't; he can't, save by getting inside their minds; but he assumes to know the motives of women who dress 'a certain way' and treats them accordingly. So, even leaving aside whether or not it's appropriate to comment on women's 'displays' (and I believe it is rude), he needs to prove that he can accurately identify this particular subset of women.

    Steve's stiletto comment was in his 12/31/2008 9:22 AM comment. As for your comment, I have pointed out (several times, now) that there are multiple reasons for wearing stilettos. Yes, wearing them with a pant suit will mean your legs are not displayed as much as with a skirt; but so what? 'What's the point?', you ask--well, maybe the 'point' is to wear a pair of shoes she likes, or a pair of shoes which match the colour of her pants, or a pair of shoes which make her look taller. What many men see as the point is not the same thing as what all women see as the point; which was *my* point, and intended to be a minor one. On the bright side, it's good to know that if someone googles 'stilettos and theology' Triablogue might make the front page...

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  71. "How does he know which women are dressing in order to attract men? He doesn't; he can't, save by getting inside their minds; but he assumes to know the motives of women who dress 'a certain way' and treats them accordingly."

    Sarah, haven't you disqualified from talking about what other women besides you dress for?

    So, don't statements like this:

    "except for his blatant disbelief that women do not always have the motives he ascribes (specifically, his scoffing reaction to my claim that women wear stilettos for reasons other than attracting men)."

    require you to "get inside their minds?"

    Why do you get to have insight into other womens' minds and motives? Is that sexist? Men can't but women can?

    Oh, by the way, I just asked my wife and sister-in-law "What is the main reason women wear stilettos?" They immediately, with hesitation, as it was common knowledge, both said, "To look hot." Oh, by the way, I hadn't previously mentioned this discussion to them.

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  72. Paul: Fair enough. I've posted a poll (not mentioning this thread) on the subject at a forum I frequent (99% women), and will let you know the results. :) I don't wear stilettos myself, largely because I never mastered the art of walking in high heels without looking like a drunk giraffe (shortly followed by 'a drunk quadriplegic giraffe', I would imagine). What I do know from discussing the issue with various women is that women wear clothing ranging from fancy lingerie to bathing suits for a variety of reasons. Heck, I know some women who are single stay-at-home mothers who wear sexy clothing knowing those clothes will only be seen by themselves and a toddler. If revealing/sexually attractive clothing were only worn by women trying to display themselves to men, why would these women wear it? Do you think if men (and gay women, for the sake of argument) disappeared from the face of the earth, women would all stop wearing 'hot' clothes and dress purely for comfort or some other non-aesthetic reasons? I don't think so.

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  73. http://jezebel.com/5110463/for-whom-do-women-dress

    Interesting article and comments. Neither the high point of journalism or of erudite gender theory, but the comments do demonstrate a very wide range of reasons as to why women dress. This article has fewer comments but a similar gist: http://www.style.com/stylefile/2008/10/free-speech-who-do-you-dress-for-asks-hadley-freeman/

    Thinking about it, I'm not sure that men and women, gay or straight, view women's bodies that differently. A woman can recognise that a skirt flatters another woman's figure without being sexually attracted to the woman--I have straight female friends who occasionally refer to each other as 'sexy' or 'hot' without actually referring to male partner-attracting ability or a homosexual appreciation. There's an inherent appreciation for curves and various physical attributes in humans regardless of gender, I think. Some would call it an inherent bisexuality, but I'm not sure I'd agree. Nevertheless, I don't think you can state that 'I dress to be attractive' and 'I dress to attract men' are synonymous. A woman can obviously appreciate the look of her own figure in an evening dress, without feeling sexual desire for herself. I suspect the majorities of both sexes would call a shapeless tent-like blouse less attractive than a fairly form-fitting one, and for the same reasons--the latter shows off the attractive curves of a woman's torso. In other words: while conceptually gay men should not speak for straight men on what is attractive in a woman to a straight man (assuming straight men have identical tastes, which is another issue), I'm not convinced the actual opinions would vary markedly; nor indeed the opinions of straight women. Thoughts?

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  74. "Do you think if men (and gay women, for the sake of argument) disappeared from the face of the earth, women would all stop wearing 'hot' clothes and dress purely for comfort or some other non-aesthetic reasons? I don't think so."

    Actually, yes, I do think they would. I can tell you that I would NEVER wear cologne &c.

    But, I suppose, at best, they might dress "hot" for the sake of looking "hot" for counterfactual men; i.e., "this would look so hit if men were around again." But, probably not.

    Based on my personal knowledge, most women I know complain about all they have to go through being women. All the makeup and what not. I'm married. Before that, and before I was a Christian, I knew a lot of girls. Saw them get ready for dates. Seemed to me to be a big hassle. They would always say, "I wouldn't take so long if I didn't have to look good." Or, "I wanted to look good for you."

    Anyway, I just asked the two women in my house right now and they said,

    "Well, we might not immediately stop wearing said articles because it's ingrained in us to want to look hot for the opposite sex. But after a while... most definitely! Why wear stilettos etc when we can wear sweats and tennis shoes?"

    Don't shoot the messenger...

    Honestly, your comments strike me as the exception, not the rule.

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  75. I should add that the only sociey of women that I KNOW that do not dress to entice men is women in Muslim dominated Middle Eastern countries. I must say I haven't seen too many stilettos and push-up bras out there.

    The only group that I KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that always dresses to get men - prostitutes, they're wearing stilettos, short skits, showing cleavage, expensive perfome, etc.

    This doesn't necessarily prove that the women under discussion dress to get men, but it doesn't hurt that argument. Not in the least.

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  76. Okay, so my sister-in-law is talking to her friend back in California.

    She says, "Amy, why do you wear stilettos?"

    Amy says, "To excentuate my legs."

    Sister says, "Why do you do that?"

    Amy responds, "Because guys think it looks attractive."

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  77. Since we're doing an ad hoc poll, I asked my wife why women wear stilettos. She said, "Because they think it makes them look better; makes them look taller... I don't wear them myself, so I can't say, but I imagine so they try to look better for other women or men."

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  78. Hi Paul; I'd be inclined to disagree with you here. I would tend to say, with some cynicism, that you and Steve are massively underestimating the vanity of the average woman. If you look at the way that girls in single-sex schools dress, for example, it's hard to maintain the notion that women only dress to attract men. Although I agree that fashion is certainly a means to attract men, it's also just as certainly a means unto itself.

    Regards,
    Bnonn

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  79. Paul: Eh, difficult to tell from a sample size of three; I may well be the exception. But my reasons for thinking women would continue to take pride in their appearance sans men are as follows:

    1. Fashion is an industry. Fashion designers, clothing manufacturers etc would continue to push their products, with an emphasis on changing the 'in' colours and shapes and textures in order to force people to update their wardrobes. So advertising would still be around.

    2. Fashion is also a hobby, and there would no doubt still be plenty of women who dressed for the theory or fun of dressing--to look like Audrey Hepburn, to experiment with clothes-as-costume, to signify attachment to a particular ideology or group (Goth, for instance), to play with colour and form, you name it.

    3. Clothes talk. In the absence of men, a woman dressed in a power suit would still elicit a different response to a woman dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. Women would still want to look professional, modern, trendy etc, and would use the appropriate clothes and makeup to project that image.

    4. All-female schools don't tend to be vistas of fashionless calm. I can't think of many other female-only environments that are applicable (convents and harems aren't quite analogous!), but certainly the principle of 'women dress for women' seems to hold true in girls' schools. The link I posted about 'who do we dress for?' would seem to corroborate that to a degree (although those women aren't necessarily representative of females in toto!).

    It's all speculative, of course. Personally I can imagine a brief backlash of 'yay, we can wear whatever we want!', followed by a return to (perhaps slightly altered) fashion norms as people realise that appearance still matters in the social and business world. But short of targeting a virus to destroy the Y chromosome, who knows?

    I do think it's a fair assumption that prostitutes are dressing to attract men, yes. :) And I'm not denying for a minute that many women do dress to attract men. But one has to be careful about assuming, especially if the purpose of the assumption is to justify sexual criticism; hence, again, my objection to Steve's position.

    This poll is getting pretty interesting! :p I might post again to my mostly-women forum and ask how they think they would change their style of dress if men disappeared.

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  80. Hmm, only five responses so far. One 'I'd be gone' from a man, one woman who thinks straight women would turn gay in such a circumstance, another woman who mentions the girls' schools thing. Then two women who say they wouldn't change their style of dress. One commented that it would be interesting to see if women still called each other 'sluts' for dressing revealingly in the absence of men. The other said that she doesn't dress to please men (except occasionally her husband), and that her clothing is chosen for social manipulation purposes such as projecting a professional or non-threatening image. She also pointed out that most of her clothing compliments come from women. On the other hand, she did recognise that some women dress in order to attract a mate, and said she thought 'dress might change' after the men had been gone for a long time (along with the birthrate, which she thought was a larger issue!).

    Eeenteresting. I'll update tomorrow when there are more replies, if anyone's interested.

    Paul: I wonder if your SIL and wife are primarily thinking of fashion in terms of shape (as in figure-huggingness). Would they say that, were men to disappear, they wouldn't bother choosing clothes that accentuated their eyes or hair? Or is colour considered a 'sexless' form of fashion, as opposed to form which is sexual? Presumably even Steve would agree that a gay fashion designer could 'properly' appreciate the contrast of a green sweater and red hair. Would your wife choose any old pair of sweats and tennis shoes, or a pair she found attractive; and if the latter, on what basis or attractiveness?

    Of course, you could coax your wife online to hash this out in person if you'd like. :p

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  81. Although a couple of people have already pointed this out, I think the following point (below) bears repeating and perhaps even needs to be underscored. It's possible some otherwise well-meaning peeps here have misread or misinterpreted what Steve presented in his post.

    Here's what Steve said on the topic in his original post:

    "x) On a related issue, I can’t help noticing that a many women invest a lot of money in their appearance (e.g. clothes, hairdo, make-up, jewelry), yet have no idea of what’s attractive to a man. I’m not talking about woman who don’t care about their appearance. I’m talking about women who are very conscious of their appearance, who want to be physically attractive to the opposite sex, but it doesn’t occur to them to consult the opposite sex about what is attractive to the opposite sex."

    Steve makes clear who and what he's talking about from the get-go.

    Steve is not talking about women in general. He's not talking about all women. He's talking about some women. He's talking about certain women. Specifically, he's talking about women "who are very conscious of their appearance, who want to be physically attractive to the opposite sex."

    What's more, Steve is not arguing that all or most women dress solely to attract men. Steve is not even arguing that some women dress solely to attract men. In fact, Steve is not even arguing that different women dress for different reasons, which may or may not include attracting men. (These last two are instead probably closer to what Smokering seems to be arguing.)

    Rather, Steve is arguing that *if* a woman wants to dress to attract a man, *then* she might consider doing this or that (e.g. consult men to try and figure out what men find attractive, wear stilettos with skirts and not pants, etc.).

    Again, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, from what I can tell some people here seem to think that Steve is arguing something along the lines of "women mainly dress to attract men." No, that's not Steve's argument. Steve's argument is "if a woman wants to attract a man or men, then she might consider doing x, y, and/or z." That's closer to what he's arguing.

    In other words, it seems to me Steve's argument begins where some commenters think it stops.

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  82. Patrick: Yes, but I think we've moved on from that. Steve has further said (in the combox) that if a woman is dressed in a certain way, he will presume she is dressed to attract men, and therefore feel free to avail himself of the right to sexually appraise her success or failure in that regard.

    Steve has not yet clarified the means by which he determines a woman's intent to dress, or the logic by which he gets from 'a woman is dressing to attract a man' to 'it is ethically/Biblically permissible to criticise the way her appearance matches up to my sexual preference'. It's a little like saying "Some women cook to seduce men. I like really fancy desserts, so if I see a woman has made a really great lemon meringue pie I'll assume she did it to seduce me. But since I prefer butterscotch pie, I have the right to point out that she got it wrong". Actually, it's a little like inserting that into a post about food addiction.

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  83. DOMINIC BNONN TENNANT SAID:

    “Hi Paul; I'd be inclined to disagree with you here. I would tend to say, with some cynicism, that you and Steve are massively underestimating the vanity of the average woman.”

    But Bnonn, what are your “criteria” for that inference? You can’t get “inside the mind” of the “average” woman. So you don’t “necessarily” know that your inference is correct. There could be many motives besides vanity.

    Bnonn is stereotyping social roles based on gender; ergo, he is being sexist. Some of it could be excused as simple ignorance of women.

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  84. Bnonn,

    Most single-sex schools that I'm aware of have uniforms. But, doing some reading online, girls said they dressed sexy to show up other girls. Show up how? Presumably, the other girls with be jealous because the one girl look "hotter." It may be a status thing: "You better respect me because, if I wanted too, I could take your boyfriend. So, pick me to be 'in the group', or I just might find out who you're dating." Moreover, both these truths are compatible:

    [1] I wear this skirt because it is fashionable.

    [2] I wear this skirt because it's hot. Or, this skirt is fashionable because it's hot.

    And, as Steve said, you can’t get inside their head so you can speak on it. J



    Sarah,

    My experience is based on more than 3. And, though I'm not proud, I unfortunately didn't become a Christian until mid 20's. I was not a sheltered PK. So, I am pulling from a larger set of experiences.

    Oh, and add to my list, if you asked every Muslim man and women why American women wear stilettos, they'll say, "To look hot."

    Add to this that movies, glamour magazines, etc., all seem to disagree with you. Why is it that women dressed "hot" in the magazines don't have a look on their face like, "Yippeeeee, I'm fashionable. It's so cool to be fashionable regardless of men." No, they have a seductive, alluring look."

    As far as my wife and SIL, um, it hardly matters if they picked fashionable shoes and sweats. The point is, they wouldn't be wearing stilettos and mini skirts.

    See, if all the men in the world disappeared, I'd be willing to bet that Victoria Secret would close shop.

    I can almost guarantee that flat soled shoes would be the only ones on the market. I mean, seriously, you think women would wear 6 inch spikes if men were gone?

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  85. SMOKERING SAID:

    “As for having 'any standards at all', Barbarella's clothes violate the standards of modesty I mentioned earlier.”

    Sarah has not yet clarified the means by which she determines a woman's intent to dress like Barbarella, or the logic by which she gets from Biblical standards of modesty to the specific case of Barbarella.

    Even a Dominatrix costume isn’t necessarily donned for the purpose of attracting men. The scanty attire might be cool and comfy. Or a woman might dress up like Barbarella because it's breastfeeding-friendly. There are many possible reasons. If a woman wears a G-string bikini to church, who is Sarah to make judgmental claims about improper attire?

    “Certainly the principle of 'women dress for women' seems to hold true in girls' schools.”

    But Sarah’s infallibilist criteria disqualify her from drawing that inference. She doesn’t “necessarily” know their motives. And she can’t get “inside their minds.”

    “Men need to be very clear that they cheated because they were sinful, not because their wife 'let herself go' after childbearing or because she didn't patronise Victoria's Secret often enough.”

    Sarah’s infallibilist criteria disqualify her from drawing that inference. She doesn’t “necessarily” know what a man’s motives were—whether sinful or sinless. She can’t get inside his mind. Sarah is stereotyping social roles based on gender; ergo, she is being sexist. Some of it could be excused as simple ignorance of men.’

    “I do think it's a fair assumption that prostitutes are dressing to attract men, yes. :)”

    Sarah’s infallibilist criteria disqualify her from drawing that inference. She can’t “necessarily” know the motives of a prostitute since she can’t get inside the mind of a prostitute—unless Sarah herself is a prostitute. And even in that case, she couldn’t extrapolate from her own motives to the motives of other prostitutes.

    “Except for his blatant disbelief that women do not always have the motives he ascribes (specifically, his scoffing reaction to my claim that women wear stilettos for reasons other than attracting men). I realise his post was written from a man's perspective; but if the man's perspective paints women (even some women) in an incorrect light, it is permissible to correct him.”

    Sarah’s infallibilist criteria disqualify her from correcting me. I don’t “necessarily” know what a woman’s motives are just because she tells me. She might be lying. Since I can’t get inside her mind, I can’t compare her statement with what she truly believes.

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  86. On a final note, there’s an unconsciously sexist presupposition to Sarah’s entire rant. And that’s due to a basic asymmetry between men and women.

    Many men, when they’re young, single, and playing the field, want women to treat them as sexual objects. They hope that by the way they present themselves in public, eligible women will assume that they (the men) are sexually available. In the sexual realm, many men are not offended by the same things that women find offensive.

    Sarah’s entire rant is predicated on a stereotypically feminine or feminist bias about the proper way to treat a woman. For now I’m not saying if that’s good or bad. But she’s blind to her own gender bias. It’s amusingly unilateral and prejudicial.

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  87. SMOKERING SAID:

    “I think Christians (and Christian men in particular) need to be extremely careful about being seen to blame women for men's misconduct. Christianity has enough apparent 'sexism' in it to offend a lot of women to begin with (legitimate things like not allowing women to preach, for instance); it doesn't need to get mired in actual sexism, and blame-the-victim games and deflecting are extremely common responses in secular men who are caught cheating (through porn or otherwise).”

    This is a perfect illustration of your feminist double standards—as well as your penchant for playing the victim card. You can’t win the argument on the merits of the case, so you resort to emotional extortion. We mustn’t hurt your feelings. Ironically, that plays into a “sexist” stereotype of women which it would behoove you to avoid. You constantly play both sides of the fence on this issue.

    Consideration is a two-way street. Christian men don’t bear some unique, unilateral responsibility in this regard. Men have feelings too.

    It’s not as if you yourself have been “extremely careful” to avoid offending men. You’re hardly a model of tact and discretion.

    The deeper issue is not whether people are offended, but whether they have a right to be offended. I can’t speak for New Zealand, but in America there’s a cottage industry of offense-mongers. People who go around looking for a pretext to be offended at what someone else said or did.

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  88. Call me underexposed. I had to yahoo Barbarella and stilettos.

    The description of Barbarella at the top of the list: "Barbarella is a 1968 erotic sci-fi film";

    ... and stilettos: "A large variety of sexy shoes at great prices."

    The comment Paul made this morning is something I'd like to expand on at the risk of breaking the eleventh commandment speculating about other people's motives.

    Paul observes:

    [1] I wear this skirt because it is fashionable.

    [2] I wear this skirt because it's hot. Or, this skirt is fashionable because it's hot.



    One wonders the motives that drive fashion comes from. We've read the four following possibilities here summed up:

    1) Comfort
    2) Aesthetics
    3) Business Power
    4) Social Status


    [1] Comfort

    People like to please themselves. I like to wear things that are comfortable to wear for no other reason than it's easier to go through my day if my clothes don't hinder me. I imagine that women do the same.


    [2] Aesthetics

    There is a sense in which things in the world look nice aside from any sexual reference. My kids, even my boys, see a bunny rabbit and they say, "how cute!" I like to look at flowers. I like to look at interesting architecture. I'm hardly thinking to myself, "Man, the Biltmore House really turns me on!" I don't sneak around looking at photographs of incredible landscapes and vistas because their appeal involves sexual lust." I like to wear neat, clean, comfortable and nice-looking clothes because they make me feel neat, clean, comfortable and nice-looking... and I'm a guy. I imagine most women do likewise.


    [3] Business Power

    I could have included this in Social Status, but chose to break it out separately because there is a practical component to this that doesn't exist socially. I work in an environment where the CEO dresses like every other office employee and we all respect him because he's the boss and we're not. The hierarchy is already established among us. There are working climates in some businesses where internal competition is a much larger factor. Clothes that let everyone know who's already established as boss may come in handy.

    This even happens in churches as I think about it. At my church have kind of an understood rule that anyone who does anything on Sunday morning in front of the corporate assembly needs to be dressed appropriately in a suit (for men) or nice clothes (for women). It's not a hard fast rule, but merely an understood sign of respect and honorable propriety that there is an established order. It's also understood that Sunday nights are a little more relaxed: Most of the staff wears jeans.


    [4] Social Status

    This is where we've all been getting into trouble. Women are no less competitive than men. This is where women wear clothes to establish and maintain a pecking order that is a bit more complex I think than it is for men. However, this pecking order does entail, more than most would like to admit, a consideration that such pecking order among women involves the sexual manipulation of men. A woman who respects the marriages of her friends will dress sensibly so they don't unintentionally compete against their friends for the sexual desires of their husbands. However, when there is no such respect, as we often find in a fallen world, then women may try to control their female associates by cowing them through the potential of the psychosexual manipulation of their husbands - and don't think it doesn't happen. I could enumerate means and methods, but I'm not sure it would be an exhaustive list it's so extensive.

    Why do you think that Hollywood has such an influence on fashion? For Hollywood, sex sells shows, and men and women are influenced tangentially to accept the ideology written into the shows. If men are watching movies and TV and paying attention to the sexy models and actresses, what is a wife to do? How is she to compete with that? What about the "hoochie momma" that moves in across the street? Why does she wear that revealing clothing? For her, it's a sense of social power. How does a wife compete?

    Fortunately, God gave us tools at our disposal. One I'm thinking of in particular is a psychological factor called imprinting. It's the same thing as when a newborn baby sees her father and grandparents, but most strongly her mother.

    For the husband, he is imprinted by his wife most strongly when they make love. Ok, I admit that I've studied this to some degree. There are wives who have grown ashamed of their bodies even with their own husbands and prefer to make love only in the dark. This is a mistake. It doesn't matter what you look like, hubby needs to imprint with your face. One of the biggest things you can do for your marriage is to let him see you when you make love.

    Going back to the original intent of the post here, porn destroys men's imprint. Hoochie mommas seek to do the same. Mere aesthetics don't. I like to see women who look nice according to the standards of simple aesthetics. I have to turn my head if I detect my capacity to imprint is being compromised when presented with a pornographic image or a shapely woman dressed to attract men sexually.

    And, ladies, if it's true that men think about sex more often than you do, there's probably many styles that you think Hollywood has propagated because they are aesthetic when they are actually for the purposes of sexual manipulation. Just be careful when observing fashion trends.

    And, BTW, don't think burkas aren't particularly revealing. Having had contact with Saudi Muslims where women in mixed company are to be almost completely covered except for the eyes, eye makeup and burka design are huge fashion deals. Why?

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  89. Maybe I will sound like the ultimate sexist here, but I think women have varying motives for wanting to look attractive. All roads lead back to Rome though in my opinion. For instance, perhaps cultural currents motivate this behavior; however, one can probably trace the cultural norm back to whatever helped it become the norm...likely the tendency for women to want to attract men. Granted, I am making some assumptions and not being precise but you get my general point.

    I asked my girlfriend over dinner last night, and she said that suprisingly many women dress attractively for other women. But again, we ask from whence does this competitive (I admittedly make assumption here) dressing come? Probably because women competiting with each other helps them attract men better.

    So my point is that there are varying reasons that women dress attractively (in general), but many of them boil down to attracting the opposite sex.

    The same kind of thing probably happens when men go to the gym to workout. Very few do this solely for the purpose of looking more attractive to women, but it is undeniable in my opinion that many of the reasons men workout link back to the desire to attract women...even if indirectly. We're hard-wired for it.

    Just my opinion though, I certainly can't get into the mind of anyone but myself, and that's quite enough for me. :)

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  90. OK, updating the poll on my women's forum. So far there have been 29 irrelevant responses (discussing all-girls' schools, what men find sexy and so forth). Twenty-three women said they would not change the way they dressed, adding comments like 'I dress for me' or 'women dress for women'. Seven women said they would change the way they dressed. Of those, two were Muslim women who would cover less, and two women said they would dress in sexier clothing... and another said she'd dress like Xena, Warrior Princess. :p

    So while Steve wrongly imputes to me a fallibilist criteria, I do think I have the opinions of women (as expressed by them, assuming you don't want to take the angle that they're all vicious liars!) largely on my side. The women on this forum admittedly tend to be non-mainstream, but they're non-mainstream in different ways (former porn stars, ultra-conservative religious folk, homeschoolers, unschoolers, atheists, polyfamilies, queer, you name it. Yes, I hang out on non-parochial message boards). :p And the links I posted earlier indicate agreement as well. So in the absence of a government-funded nationwide study, how much anecdotal evidence will it take for Steve to accept that women have varying reasons for dressing?

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  91. Paul: Another thought; you mention glamour magazines. What do you make of the fact that women's magazines feature glamour shots of females too, airbrushed to the nines and often wearing seductive expressions? The target audience of a woman's magazine is apparent, and from personal experience I know women can wax very critical or enthusiastic about the look of the stars inside or on the cover ('she looks so great for 40' or 'doesn't she have amazing skin?'). What do you make of this phenomenon? Do you think it's possible that even straight women view women 'sexually', or at least appreciate the same things about them that straight men do?

    On a slightly unrelated note, I was thinking about this last night and wondering if, in my hypothetical men-missing world, nudity would be considered contrary to Christian morality. On the one hand, there wouldn't be anyone around to be aroused by it; but then, perhaps Biblical modesty standards are to do with more than lust? Adam and Eve were 'ashamed' despite their partnered status. So I don't know. Thoughts?

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  92. SMOKERING SAID:

    “So in the absence of a government-funded nationwide study, how much anecdotal evidence will it take for Steve to accept that women have varying reasons for dressing?”

    i) Of course, that’s a straw man argument since I never said women can’t have various reasons for dressing. Once again, Sarah turns my qualified statements into unqualified statements, then acts as if she’s disproven my qualified statements by disproving the unqualified statements she dishonestly imputes to me.

    ii) But suppose, for sake of argument, that we waive (i) for now. If I judge Sarah’s evidence by Sarah’s rules of evidence, then no amount of evidence will count as evidence for her claim since I can’t read the minds of her respondents. Therefore, I don’t “necessarily” know what their true motives are.

    iii) Finally, if Sarah wants to conduct an informal survey of anecdotal opinion on the issues at hand, I’d be more than happy to extend that exercise. Suppose I poll Pastor David Marshall and Elder Robin Wilkins at Trinity Reformed Baptist Church in
    Hamilton, New Zealand. I notice the church website has an email address. Suppose I quote them Sarah’s ringing defense of Britney Spears, and then proceed to explain how sexist it would be of Pastor Marshall to cite her provocative attire as a bad example for young women. And that’s just for starters. Sarah has furnished so much other quotable material that I could also include in my impromptu poll.

    What do you think, Sarah? Would you like me to begin drafting an email?

    Come to think of it, I could even turn this into a circular email and share Sarah’s insights with the whole Fellowship of Reformed Baptist Churches in New Zealand.

    Are the game for that? The wider the sampling, the more representative, don’t you think?

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  93. Merciful Zeus, blackmail? :p Classy. As far as my parochial PK knowledge goes, neither Pastor David Marshall nor Robin Wilkins are actually women, but you know... do what you gotta. May it bring joy to you and your children's children.

    As I have previously stated, I am not an infallibilist. I gain my knowledge of why women dress from personal experience and talking with other women. You have repeatedly failed to provide your epistemic basis for believing that certain women dress the way they do. What is it?

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  94. Hi Sarah,

    I've only just now come online again, but thanks for the response. For better or for worse, there's not much for me say though. I think I can only respond to one thing you said:

    "Patrick: Yes, but I think we've moved on from that..."

    I'm not sure we have. For example, I noticed that Bnonn (in his first and only comment here, and not too far above my previous/first comment) seems to make that or a very similar assumption in his disagreement:

    "If you look at the way that girls in single-sex schools dress, for example, it's hard to maintain the notion that women only dress to attract men. Although I agree that fashion is certainly a means to attract men, it's also just as certainly a means unto itself."

    Of course, it wasn't Steve's original argument that "women only dress to attract men." But, at least based on his comment, Bnonn seems to think it is.

    Also, I noticed in the most recent thread, you've made the following comment:

    "On a more basic level, if you assume certain clothes are worn for one reason only, you could ask real women why they wear them. If their responses indicate a variety of reasons, it is no longer reasonable to assume that all women dress in that way for one reason--wouldn't you agree?"

    Again, it seems to me you're making the assumption that Steve is arguing that women dress to attract men when you use phrases like "for one reason only" and "that all women dress in that way for one reason..."

    So I'm not sure we've really moved on from this point since it seems to come back up again, even in one of your latest comments?

    But, anyway, speaking of moving on, I'll move over and comment in our most recent thread now (if I see I can add anything), since this one looks like it's well nigh buried in the archives.

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  95. SMOKERING SAID:

    “Merciful Zeus, blackmail? :p Classy.”

    That’s an oddly self-incriminating characterization. Have I threatened to post some shots of you at a nudist beach on YouTube? No.

    How is quoting you an act of blackmail, exactly? You’ve been commenting in a public medium. Surely you believe everything you’ve said here. Surely you stand by whatever you’ve said here.

    How would it constitute blackmail to share some of you insights with your very own faith community? Surely you haven’t said anything you wouldn’t want your father or mother or elders to see, or other members of your faith-community.

    Or is there something you’d like to retract? If so, I’d be happy to post your public recantation. If, however, you have nothing to retract, then I assume you have no objection if I proceed with an email.

    “As far as my parochial PK knowledge goes, neither Pastor David Marshall nor Robin Wilkins are actually women, but you know... do what you gotta.”

    Their male gender is quite germane since you’ve been making blanket statements about how no man has the right to comment on the appearance of a woman other than his own wife, and other like statements.

    By implication, Pastor Marshall has no right to say from the pulpit that Britney’s attire sets a bad standard for young women.

    So why shouldn’t we run your strictures by Pastor Marshall or Elder Wilkins to see if they share your restrictions on the moral scope of Christian preaching?

    “You have repeatedly failed to provide your epistemic basis for believing that certain women dress the way they do.”

    I stated that in my other post.

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  96. Steve: As you know, I have indeed modified my position throughout the thread, and apologised for my former misreading of your post. I do stand by my statements that:

    1. It is rude to assume any woman is dressing for the benefit of men without due cause.

    2. It is rude to use this assumption, whether true or false, to criticise the woman's sexual success according to your perceptions of female beauty.

    Do you agree with these statements?

    As for your epistemic justification, please quote the portion of your previous post where you gave it?

    I would have no problem with a pastor mentioning that Britney's dress is immodest; I would have a problem with him citig her motives without charity or due cause. As I've said (in the other thread, I think), there is good reason to believe Britney Spears is dressing, at least in part, to attract men. I would hope, however, that any Christian characterisation of her would be through the lens of 'she is created by God and a sinner like me'. If you choose to read that as 'defending Britney Spears', that's your choice.

    So I would indeed have no problem with you 'sharing my insights' with my 'faith community', if I believed you would accurately represent my arguments. However, given that you have consistently misread, lampooned and made straw men of my position, as well as behaving with a graceless attitude throughout this debate (rather ironic, given that that's what you complain of me doing), I have no reason to believe you will. Hence I would believe any representation you would choose to set forth would be cherry-picked and maliciously interpreted, just like your 'Pornography and other innocent pastimes' post. That said, this is a public forum, and you can do whatever makes your skirt fly up. If you are convinced you are acting before Christ with pure motives, who am I to judge?

    I will repeat my questions one final time, and leave this increasingly pointless discussion if you're not willing to discuss this civilly.

    1. How do you determine that a woman is dressing to attract a man?
    2. How do you Biblically/ethically justify offering an unsolicited sexual critique of her, based on this assumption? Do you think that is a Christlike way to treat a woman?

    Paul: My stiletto poll is up. Most women said they wear them because they're attractive (not specifying either 'attractive to men' or otherwise). A few women explicitly stated that they wore them for sexually attracting men. A few more said they wore them to gain height, and two said they wore them because they have short legs, and stilettos make their jeans fit better.

    No-one mentioned pant suits. :p

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  97. I just caught back up on the comments which transpired after my question.
    Steve, I noticed in an earlier comment you said:
    Obviously, there’s more to a healthy marital relationship than appearance, but since this is a discussion of pornography, the emphasis is on the visual aspect.
    I think the argument that a discussion on pornography will inevitably lead to a discussion on visual appearance/attraction etc... is a flawed argument. It reminds me of the type of advice in Every Man's Battle. The core of this advice is that in order to rid ourselves of pornography, we must control what our eyes perceive.
    The alarming thing for me is that a discussion about pornography has gone on this long with a single mention of the issue of intimacy. At it's core, pornography is not a visual perception/attraction problem. It is an intimacy problem.
    If you picked a man up out of America who had a pornography addiction and dropped him on an empty island somewhere, his heart issue would remain the same.
    While I do think your original post directly blames women for male pornography use, I do understand how it is read that way. When pornography is viewed as an eyes problem instead of a heart problem, eventually fashion, attraction, visual perception are things that begin to cloud the actual core of the issue.
    No pornography issue can effectively be resolved without addressing the river of intimacy issues which flows underneath it.
    Your thoughts?

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