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 ESV)
Sexual sin is a powerful topic in the Christian world. Lust, fornication, adultery, homosexuality are some of the these sins. And the above verse makes a powerful, if a little confusing statement about when sexual sin actually begins. I have heard some Christians teach that every time a man takes a long look at a woman’s body he is committing adultery. For some viewing a lingerie ad in the newspaper is crossing the line. This is their take on the verse above. Not all Christians take this extreme of a position. So what is right?
Rick Warren, one of the United States’ most famous pastors, said a while back that sometimes he feels attracted to women who are not his wife. He doesn’t act on it though.[i]
But still it gets to the point that men simply are attracted by women. And the younger, and more attractive the women are, the more this phenomenon happens. It also addresses the fact that even godly men’s eyes tend to look at women.
Now that I am older I have a much clearer idea on the male reaction to the sight of women. While my hormones are not yet back to pre-pubescent days, they are clearly dialed way down from the raging levels that they were in my teens and 20s.
I can remember being about eight years old where when I looked at a female of any I didn’t get any different reaction than from looking at a door knob.
But, at puberty, all of that changed dramatically. At the site of an attractive female, things began to happen in a dramatic fashion. Without getting too graphic, some of the lesser side effects might be an increased heartbeat, a little perspiration, an internal stirring.
And when it comes to looking, some of us, who played sports, have been trained from an early age to look with peripheral vision. This is the practice of being aware of your surroundings within the entire range that the eye can see from side to side. How this relates to this topic is that when an attractive female walks anywhere within the field of any man with peripheral vision the natural reaction is to focus on that vision.
Next, there is a clear difference in the way men and women are perceived in general in our society. Look at this quote from a study:
“When viewing female images, participants were better at recognizing individual parts than they were matching whole-body photographs to the originals. The opposite was true for male images: People were better at recognizing a guy as a whole than they were his individual parts.
People were also better at discerning women’s individual body parts than they were at men’s individual body parts, further confirming the local processing, or objectification, that was happening. “[ii]
I believe that this phenomenon where the individual parts of women are focused on more than men is not, at least, completely a natural process. Yes, there is a natural inclination for men to look at women. But I am drawing attention to the fact that women aren’t helping and that part of the reason for this is the way women’s clothes are designed, and the choices that women make in wearing clothing.
The fact is, apart from nuns and some members of a few religious groups most women want to be seen as “attractive”. And depending on the age of the woman, that greatly impacts how the woman dresses. In the United States, as well as many other places in the Western world, it is not uncommon to see young women in their revealing bikini bathing suits, or other similar revealing attire.
To boot, I have watched young women clad in such attire get incensed when some man looks at them. Women need to understand, and I’m using the term for anyone that is able to bear children, that human beings in general, and men in particular are instinctively attracted to the sight of body parts used in bearing children. That is what the study above shows. So when you expose all a lot of skin you are drawing attention to yourself in ways that you may not want.
Next, I’m going to go even further than that, and address some of what is considered more “modest” female attire in today’s society.
Compare female attire to men’s attire. Men’s clothes do not draw attention to their body parts on anywhere near the same scale as women’s clothes do. Often men’s shirts and slacks are loose enough that you really don’t have much of an idea of the man’s physique by looking at him dressed. Of course if he has on a relatively tight T-shirt and shorts that’s less true. But even in those cases, men’s clothes rarely show every curve on their bodies.
On the other hand, even a lot of matronly dresses are fitted so that the bosom, the waist, and the rear end are accentuated in a way to be seen as “attractive”. Whereas a man’s business suit, for example, includes a shirt and tie that covers him to his Adam’s apple, and with a squared jacket and straight leg pants you often have no idea what his body looks like under that garb. On the other side, a women’s business suit will still accentuate her “curves”. Women’s tops are made with “darts” which draw attention to their bosoms. A woman’s suit will often allow a top with exposure of a small amount of cleavage, while she may have a skirt that exposes her legs. And she may wear heels, which further serve to accentuate body parts, in this case, her legs. To top it off, women wear makeup and more jewelry than men as a rule, even in a business suit.
This example addresses the fact that even the most modest of women’s clothing, business dress, is designed to draw attention to women’s body parts. How much more then are our eyes drawn to a woman’s body parts when women make the decision to dress in more sexy clothing.
All of this contributes to a society where EVEN Christian women are usually dressed in clothing that draws attention to their body parts.
All of this is part of the equation when we talk about looking at women. So thus far we have just looked at the part of the verse “everyone who looks at a woman”, and identified that women are looked at more sexually by everyone in general, and also that women contribute to this process in their choice of attire.
In the next article I will talk about the words “with lustful intent”, and when looking becomes sin.
©copyright 2013 Mark W. Smith, all rights reserved.