When men fantasize about women, should women be held responsible for their impure thoughts?
When the church that I had been attending in Southern California finally saved up enough money to buy their own building, one of the biggest decisions was whether or not the folding chairs that everyone would sit on during services should have a massive gap in the back of them or not. This decision was important because purity was at stake.
"Purity?" you ask. Indeed.
You see, this particular Orange County church was jam-packed every Sunday with twentysomething women who were young and tan and often sporting hip-hugger jeans. As all who wear them know, hip-hugger jeans can be both a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because they are much more attractive than the high-waisted Bongo jeans we were all subjected to in the early '90s, but a curse because they often result in precarious situations whereby our unmentionables (i.e. thong underwear) have a tendency to creep out above the back waistline whenever we sit down. Christian Sex Toys: Spicy Or Sacrilegious?
These unlawful appearances happened rather frequently during church services, and they did not go unnoticed by the young, twentysomething men who attended each Sunday. In fact, these men started complaining about how distracting it was to be in services and trying desperately to focus on God when there were attractive women in their midst who were clearly wearing sexy underwear. Thus, our pastor heard their cry and instated a mandatory "Thong Test" for all the folding chairs that passed through the doors of the new building. The chairs with long enough backs were allowed to stay. All others were discarded. No Sex Before Marriage? He Made Her Wait
However, even after every chair had been perfectly selected, girls would come to church wearing tube tops and denim mini-skirts, and in the midst of all of this exposed female flesh, the men's thoughts were still drifting in unholy directions. In response, our pastor took a more direct approach and addressed all the women from the pulpit, asking that they would please, please consider putting on more clothing before coming to church. Why Orthodox Jews May Have The Hottest Sex Lives
I think I speak for a majority of Christian women over the decades who feel that asking us to shoulder the burden of deflecting men's sexual fantasies is rather daunting and somewhat unfair. On the one hand, we understand and appreciate that these men are trying their hardest to be respectful of us and to see us as people rather than sex objects. How can we possibly argue with that? In addition, it's quite commendable that a group of red-blooded, 21st century men would choose focusing on God over focusing on sex; yet the question still remains: In spite of everyone's best intentions, when men find themselves fantasizing during church, whose responsibility is it?
I figured that the very best way to begin answering it was to go to the men themselves. I talked to a handful of my Christian guy friends, ages 25–32, and I asked them if men were really that prone to wandering thoughts about the women sitting around them at church. Their answer was a resounding yes.
One friend mentioned that throughout the course of his day, opportunities to fantasize are virtually endless. Whether men are driving down the street and see a racy ad on the side of a public bus, watching a Victoria's Secret commercial on television, or catching a glimpse of a girl jogging in a sports bra, scantily-clad women are everywhere, and that is just the way it is. In light of that fact, he says it would be really cool if church could be the one place men could go and not be bombarded with sexual images; however, he also added that instating certain dress codes and forcing women to cover themselves up isn't necessarily the answer. The Church Convinced Me Not To Have Sex
"No matter what, there's always going to be some guy fantasizing," he said, "because every guy is attracted by something different—whether it be a certain body part or a certain look. You can't really control how a guy is going to respond."
That's why he said he chooses to sit in the front row at church. "That way I know I won't have any distractions. It's just me, the pastor, the worship team, and God."
"But," he continued, "if women would choose to be a little more conscious of how they dressed and how it affected us, I think I speak for a lot of men when I say that we would definitely appreciate it."
Another of my male friends said that he feels a lot of guilt whenever he is tempted to fantasize, and that it can make for a rather frustrating and awkward church-going experience. He said the thing that bothers him most is that it seems like women have a double-standard sometimes. For example, he said he's noticed girls at church who wear really low-cut shirts and then have cross necklaces hanging in between their cleavage.
Responsibility is a very shaky and elusive concept and it differs from one situation to the next. For example, if a woman is getting dressed and fleetingly thinks about throwing on a t-shirt with a plunging neckline because she secretly hopes that the cute guy who always sits in the row behind her is going to notice and be attracted to her, is she then partially responsible if he does?
Well, yes. And let the woman who has never dressed a certain way to gain attention from a guy cast the first stone.
We choose to either indulge that urge by dressing and acting a certain way towards the men we encounter, or instead choose to be modest and restrained. And sometimes it isn't an easy choice because the message we get every day is that the quickest way to get noticed and to get ahead is by using our sex appeal. It's a daily temptation, and just like the men around us, sometimes we cave.
But it's not always about attention. Sometimes we throw on a strappy sundress simply because it's fashionable, or because it's hot outside and we want to be comfortable, or because we want to feel pretty—not for anyone else, but for ourselves. And if a woman is dressed a certain way for any or all of the above mentioned reasons, does that mean that she is the one responsible when a man sees her and starts fantasizing about her?
I'm going to say no. I'm also going to add that it would be a shame if she had to wake up every morning and spend hours analyzing over whether or not the dress she wanted to wear would cause the men around her "to stumble." But, you may ask, what if the dress was two inches shorter? What if it was a tube top as opposed to having straps? Would it then be deemed inappropriate, and should she then choose not to wear it even in spite of how much she loves it? Should she think of the men before she thinks of herself?
If both sexes could be a bit more compassionate towards each other and recognize that we're all in this together, then maybe we could more easily work collaboratively towards obtaining the one thing we all want to be and have, yet seem to have the hardest time maintaining. Purity. Yes, purity. We're back to that again.