I’ve had several admirable priests tell me that men usually need confession more often than women because of lust. I’ve had admirable ministers share similar sentiments. And perhaps they’re right. But each time I hear something of that sort, my forehead crinkles and my head gives a rapid shake because lust is so much more than Matt. 5:28, “But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Jesus is obviously speaking to men. But what of women? And not the increasing numbers of women who indulge in pornography. (Pornography for women is often called “erotica” but I hope we all know, it’s still pornography.) What of the way so many women want to look and dress? “Sexy” and “hot”?
We tell ourselves that our bodies are beautiful. They are. We tell ourselves that if others don’t find our bodies beautiful, that’s their problem. Usually, it is. But do we ask, how much of my body ought I display in public? Or, might I be making myself an object of lust? Or, what is my witness to other women? Or, what am I teaching children?
Media has taught us that lust is nothing more than intense desire. We see models lusting for chocolate, shoes, a trip to an exotic locale. That’s not lust. It may become obsessive and excessive but it’s still intense desire. Lust is the desire to use another person as a commodity to gain pleasure (usually sexual pleasure).
So if I dress to be “sexy” and “hot,” I’m using myself and the reactions I get to make myself feel beautiful.
Let me restate that as if it were an equation:
If, I dress so that men I don’t know will find me “sexy” and “hot,” then those men will “holla” at me because I’m an impressive female specimen, therefore, I will feel pleasure which will confirm that I’m “sexy” and “hot.” (I use myself as a commodity to get men to treat me as a commodity so that I can have the pleasure of feeling good about myself. That’s a lot of commodification.)
Recently, someone tweeted to Janelle Monáe:
girl stop being so soulful and be sexy..tired of those dumba** suits..you fine but u too d**n soulful man.
sit down. I’m not for male consumption.
I hadn’t heard her music until today. (As a dancer, the music is awesome; I’m not thrilled with the lyrics of the one song I’ve heard thus far though they are intelligent.) She is beautiful, has amazing personal style, and isn’t for male consumption. The word I’d emphasize is “consumption.” Making ourselves into consumables is uncharitable. It doesn’t matter if we are trying to be fashionable, or show that our bodies are beautiful, or just be “sexy” and “hot,” we’re being uncharitable to ourselves, to men, to other women, and also, to children.
Do we really want to tempt men into seeing women as commodities and consumables? (The job market for tempting men to lust is already saturated.) Do we really want other women to be treated as commodities and consumables? Do we really want to teach children that they are commodities and consumables?
What we do is as important as what we say. We broadcast wordless messages each time we walk out of the house. We can be beautiful, stylish, even fashionable without becoming commodities and consumables. (Just look at Janelle Monáe.) We can be women worth emulating.