Last week my pastor was telling me about a comedian who was making fun of women for their naiveté about the male mind. The comedian claimed that if we really knew the thoughts that men have about women, then we would be slapping them about once a minute.
For a lot of women, the concept of lust is an abstract topic. When I see a guy running with his shirt off, I think one of two things: “Hm, he’s pretty cute,” or “He needs to put his shirt back on because no one wants to see that.” And that is the end of it.
For men, it is an entirely different matter. Yes, women have impure thoughts, but the degree to which we have them is so holey other than men that it is often hard for us to grasp. And because of this disconnect, we have frequently underestimated the importance of modesty. I know I always have.
Well that naiveté has recently come to a screeching halt. I heard a story on the radio a couple weeks ago that gave an incredibly insightful look into the male mind, so I want to share it with you here. The better we understand guys, the better we can care for them as our brothers in Christ, so while the story is a bit graphic, I think you’ll find it to be very helpful.
The story I heard was about a woman who decided to become a man. She had been a lesbian for years, but one day she realized that at her core, she was created to be a male. As a result of this epiphany, she took the medical steps necessary to change genders. One of these steps included testosterone injections, and the bulk of the story focused on the ways in which testosterone changed her/his thought life.
More specifically, the way in which this individual looked at women was profoundly altered. When reflecting on the way in which he thought about women prior to the injections, he said that he might have seen an attractive woman on the subway, and thought about how pretty she was, and how he might like to talk to her, what they might talk about, where they might go out on a date. etc. Innocent enough.
Following the injections, his thought process changed quite dramatically. The response was far more carnal and explicitly sexual. He would imagine, in detail, the nature of their sexual relationship. But even more disturbing to him was that he by no means desired to have such sexually charged thoughts. He felt like a jerk for thinking about women so erotically, but he was bombarded by the images on a constant basis, and he subsequently thought about sex all the time.
He went on to explain other ways in which his newly male thought life played out, and it was rather shocking. I won’t go into all of it here, but suffice it to say that I was blushing during some of the descriptions. Yet in spite of the graphic detail, it was striking to hear a woman recount her journey into the male mind, and it is no wonder that he was surprised by it. The way that men and women think about the opposite sex is TRULY different.
At one point during the story, he admitted that his thought life had been so tremendously altered that one of his female co-workers actually accused him of being a misogynist. Needless to say, the co-worker didn’t know that he used to be a woman, but the incident was a great indicator of how much he had changed. In becoming a man, he had to wrestle with the new thought life that ensued, and he was totally unprepared for it.
If you’re interested in hearing the entire story, you can download it here. I would highly recommend listening to the whole thing because it captures the visceral nature of his thoughts much better than I have here. It quite literally shocked me into being more modest.
In listening to this story, I felt as though my eyes had been opened to this huge difference between men and women. But more importantly, it convicted me about the importance of helping guys in this area. If this “man’s” story is any kind of reflection of the typical male struggle, then most men are going to wrestle greatly with the sin of lust, so we don’t need to be pushing them into it. Men do need to take some responsibility for their own thoughts lives, but we must not be so careless as to tempt them. Instead, we must guard our purity and pursue modesty. You may think that you look super cute in that tube top, but your guy friends might think otherwise, so honor their struggle by exercising discernment in the way you dress.
So as one sister to another, here is my parting advice: Put away the cleavage, pull up your low rise jeans, and don’t even think about wearing those microscopic shorts and skirts that look like glorified underwear. Dress like a lady, because you are a woman of God, not a piece of meat to be ogled. If the normal male mind is anything like this story described, you do NOT want to be ogled.
(And just so you know that I’m not a total Christian prude, here is a great article that just appeared in the Wall Street Journal about the effects that our casual sex culture has had on young women. Click here to read about it.)
The idea that this individual might be able to give insight into the minds of men is absolutely absurd.
There are several things that God has created in us that make up our gender. Genetics forms the building blocks for everything in our body, and on a simpler level, your 23rd chromosome is a major determinant of gender. XX and XY are normal, and XXX, XXY, X0, etc. are abnormal–the result of disease. Furthermore, genitalia, hormones, and our brains complete who we are sexually and complete our gender identity.
This person claims to have a difference between her brain and everything else (no evidence of genetic, physical, or hormonal disorder based on your posting), and she has chosen to take hormones (and possibly have surgery). God made her a woman, and she has a psychiatric illness causing her to believe she “should” be a man. All of us in the medical profession believe this is very difficult for her, but many of us (especially Christians) believe it should be dealt with in a psychiatric way. This is beside the point, however.
The point is that she is not a man, and her thoughts should not be construed in any way as representing men and their feelings. She is a woman with a psychiatric disorder, and furthermore, she is adding hormones to her body that God did not intend for her to add.
You are right that men view women differently than women view men. In order to ascertain these differences, though, you should speak with Christian men whom you trust, and not rely on someone suffering from such a horrible disease as gender dysphoria.
The Christian response to this woman must be compassionate and loving. Christian doctors should encourage her to seek spiritual and psychiatric healing for her feelings. God made her a woman, and assuming her genetics, genitalia, and hormones are consistent with that, her treatment should be psychiatric and Biblical/spiritual counseling.
She cannot possibly represent the true struggles or feelings of men.
UNC School of Medicine
To some extent I agree. This post was in no way meant to broach the topic of this individual’s actual gender–that is an entirely different discussion, and I think you have summarized the key points very well.
The reason I chose this story was for two reasons. One, in spite of the individual’s actual gender, their experience was strikingly similar to descriptions that my Christian male friends have given me. That said, the second reason I chose this story is that the juxtaposition between the individual’s previous way of thinking about women and current way of thinking about women highlights the stark contrast between men and women in general. No, the analogy is not clean cut given the circumstances, but I think it is nevertheless helpful.
So while the individual cannot speak authoritatively on behalf of men, their description is indeed consistent with other descriptions of lust that I’ve been given by men that I trust. What’s more, I think the individual’s shock and horror at this new thought life reflects the dismay that most women would feel if they truly understood the nature of lust. Because we don’t understand it, we have approached it rather casually, and to our brothers’ disadvantage.
To this blog post I say,
“Amen, and amen.”
Gives the menfolk something to think about, too.
Medically speaking, I agree with Matt that this woman is in fact genetically female and therefore was subjected to different hormone levels during her developmental period (before and just after she was born). Testosterone is shown to affect the development of male brains and there may be some possibility of using testosterone as therapy for Alzheimers disease to inhibit neurological degeneration in later years. Similar studies have indicated a loss of memory due to decreased levels of estrogen in aging women. I found one study that used function (real time) MRI’s to evaluate brain function between women’s varying hormone levels during menstruation and men which concluded “Our study provides evidence that fMRI-related activity during performance of cognitive tasks varies across sex and phases of the menstrual cycle. The variation might be partly explained by better task performance in men, but our results indicate that further explanations like basic neuronal or neurovascular effects modulated by steroid hormones must be considered. Both estradiol and testosterone levels may influence fMRI signals of cognitive tasks, which should affect selection of subjects for future fMRI studies.”
I would say that the only thing that may be going on for this woman is some sort of new stimulation in different visual processing areas in her brain, but I seriously doubt that because she was never exposed to testosterone during the time in which those pathways were developing.
Bottom line, I would imagine that sex would have been much more of a priority in her mind as she dealt with all the stress of altering her lifestyle, taking medication, etc. Therefore, in sight in mind.
Sharon, you are right in sending your caution out to all the girls out there, but to be quite honest, this (and most of the problems in the world) is a problem in the heart of men. Sometimes one of the hottest things in the world (particularly to Christian minded men) can be a smart confident girl dressed with no intention of displaying herself sexually.
Amen girl! Thank you for asking, no, challening our young ladies out there to care about themselves enough to care what messages their choices in dress send out!!
Great words of wisdom Sharon!
I don’t mean to be belligerent, but really, I find this appalling. Men need to take “some responsibility for their own thoughts”? Try “all the responsibility”. Essentially you seem to be saying that women bring ogling on themselves. What’s next, don’t “tempt” men to rape you by wearing tube tops and short skirts? I’m sorry to get heavy-handed, but this is not a hard logical leap to make once you’ve declared that women are responsible, at least in part, for symbolic violation by men who ogle them – why not actual violation? Dressing like you respect yourself – I can totally get behind that. But dressing so I won’t tempt men? Not my responsibility.
Moreover, I think you’re perpetuating an extremely harmful – and thoroughly false – perception here: that is, that men think about sex in graphic detail 24/7, whereas women are cool-blooded blossoms who at the most will register a man as “cute”, nothing more. Maybe you’re being honest, and nothing beyond that ever goes on in your mind when you’re attracted to someone, but the truth is that women are sexual too, and capable of strong sexual feelings. I think many, many women would tell you that they regularly experience intense sexual impulses, and not in any abstract or pale Victorian way. When you say that there’s such a great divide between male and female minds, you imply that it’s not normal for women to think about sex like this, when it absolutely is. Think of the young women who might read this and feel like there’s something gravely wrong with them. I don’t mean to write a dissertation here in the comment box but I’m sure that, because of this regularly reinforced fallacy that men are Sex Animals and women are the opposite, there are a lot of women out there who feel “dirty” or expend a lot of energy repressing natural thoughts.
I think the commenter above makes one interesting and important point–women DO struggle with lust. I wrote a blog about it a couple years ago that I should have linked to this one, and you can read it here: https://sheworships.com/2007/08/20/the-l-word/
However, regarding the concept of modesty in relationship to male struggles with lust, I have to disagree. I have never met a man who says he doesn’t think sexual thoughts about women on a regular basis–but I have met a lot of men who are trying to resist this part of themselves. And while none of these men would ever blame women for their temptation, they have asked women to help them. I would liken it to an alcoholic who can’t blame a friend for making him drink, but would also be helped if his friend didn’t take him to bars every weekend.
We all have our temptations, and I think it’s clear from the radio story I cited above (taken from This American Life on NPR) that testosterone stimulates the visual part of the brain in sexual ways. And if that is the case, then women do well to be aware of it, and respect those men who are trying not to be stimulated in those ways.
In regard to the assumption that this mentality of female responsibility is the same as blaming a woman for her own rape, again I have to disagree. That is quite a leap. Studies of the male brain seem to imply that certain sexual images result in a hormonal impulse in the brain that a man can either deny or indulge, but it is nearly impossible to short-circuit. That said, it is one thing to have women wear burkas, and quite another to ask women that their breasts aren’t hanging out. It is also one thing for a man to have a lustful reaction when women everywhere are dressing in a way that stimulates the sexual parts of their brains, and quite another for a man to rape those same women.
Yes, men do need to hold themselves responsible. And my Christian guy friends do. But I only think it’s right to honor them in their struggle by helping them instead of shoving them over the cliff of their temptations. We BOTH need to take responsibility.