OK, so I don’t think there should be any exceptions to respecting women, it’s just challenging to come up with a good title. I read “Seeing a Woman: A conversation between a father and son”, a blog post which has been circulating on the web recently. The basic thrust is “don’t objectify women”. I fully agree with that. In fact, that’s the same conclusion I came to. But I’ve had a realization of something else recently, something which causes me to want to add another angle to this discussion.
I grew up in a conservative evangelical culture. I was taught to respect women. I was taught how to treat women. Err… actually I was taught more about how not to treat women. I was taught to be good, and that being good essentially meant not being bad. Conservative evangelicals seem to have a fear of sex. So one if not the biggest part of not being bad was not having sex. Not only that, don’t do anything close to sex. In fact, don’t do anything which might lead to sex. Actually, don’t even think about sex. It seemed almost like the only things you were allowed to do with women were only allowed once you were married, or at least dating or “going-out” or whatever.
So I was good. Which basically meant I wasn’t bad. Which basically meant I didn’t do much of anything with girls. Sure, I talked some with girls who were friends and in my social groups, but not much else. (I’m simplifying a bit for brevity’s sake.) You see, no one ever told me what you should do with women. I just assumed that if I wasn’t bad (because women want good men), that some day, through casual conversation, I’d hit it off with some girl. I thought that’s how relationships developed.
I’ve never consciously thought about sex or attraction being bad. But I wonder if I’ve subconsciously felt this way. I recognize that I’ve been afraid of expressing attraction for a number of different reasons. After all, sex is off limits outside of marriage. So it kind of seems like I’m not supposed to have sexual desire or be attracted to women either, because that has to do with sex.
The point here is that yes, men should respect women. And part of this has to do with what we shouldn’t do with or to women. But what should we do? I’ve heard a lot less about this. Seeing an attractive woman stirs up desires and emotions. Yes, we shouldn’t objectify, use, or abuse her. But what should we do? The church hasn’t had an answer for this. The church has basically told us to ignore our sexuality until we’re married, and along with this assumed we would all get married relatively young. (In fact, there are some who teach that it is sinful to not be married by a certain age.) But we all have a sexual side, even if we’re not married. That doesn’t mean we all have to be engaging in sex. But it seems like we need some ideas about how we can live with our sexual desires and interact with the opposite sex without de-humanizing (objectifying) on one hand, nor denying our sexuality on the other. What does this look like?