CaPC Perspectives: Smokin’ Hawt Wife

This could be a metaphor. Image: Rob Ellis’ via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Here’s something fun: some Friday night, search Twitter for “Smoking hot wife.” You’ll likely find a multitude of tweets from pastors and church leaders who are going out on dates with their sexual attractive wives and announcing it to the world via twitter. Mary DeMuth’s powerful article at the Her.menutics blog at Christianity Today, “I’m Sick of Hearing About Your Smoking Hot Wife,” looks at the way this phrase has been harmfully used in evangelical circles.

Her specific concern is that it creates a false image of married sex life, an image that could be particularly hurtful to those who have been sexual abused. She laments the effects such language can have upon “Women with so many ‘godly’ expectations thrown at them that they’ll either break under the weight or bootstrap themselves, try-try-trying harder, experiencing burnout, and never quite living up to anyone’s expectations.” But DeMuth’s piece is not entirely or even primarily critical; she offers some thoughtful suggestions on how married couples can cultivate healthy, loving sexual union.

In response to DeMuth’s wonderful article, I asked the CaPC writers to offer their perspective on the use of this phrase among evangelicals. As always, the writers offered a diverse range of views that I think will help us think critically about our words.

Lauren Rambo

My eyes began to well with tears and my face flushed in pain. They were probably on three different forms of birth control and still got pregnant, I thoughtIt was Sunday night at our small church, which focused on prayer requests and announcements, the most popular being the “we’re pregnant” announcement. It seemed to mostly come from young couples who coyly admitted that it was “unexpected,” which felt like a punch in the (barren) gut to me.

I was hurting, to say the least. After the months turned into years of wanting to have a baby, I couldn’t rejoice. I could only mourn. And how dare they giddily announce their accidental pregnancy! Couldn’t they see the broken heart inside my chest?

There were those who were insensitive and unaware that infertility was even a concept. Those who joked about getting pregnant from their husband’s sideways glance or who badgered me about when I was going to have a baby.

But mostly, my problem was I wanted my sorrow to be universally recognized. I wanted everyone to cater to my experiences and preferences while I catered to no one else’s. I wanted others to mourn with me and I wanted to mourn while others rejoiced.

Mary DeMuth is right to criticize the “smokin’ hot wife” trope – it’s obnoxious, no doubt. It tries too hard; as if marriage is one moment of sexual ecstasy and fulfillment after another. In reality, the sexual ecstasy and fulfillment is coupled with moments of sexual boredom, sometimes even dysfunction.

But to bristle at any kind of celebratory notion of sex is misguided. To ask that everyone only speak about sex in hushed tones and to dampen their enthusiasm so they don’t offend is akin to only weeping with those who weep. Graciously, Jesus also tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice.

Brad Williams

I confess that when I saw Demuth’s article  I thought, “Yeah, me too.” The only time I ever hear this phrase, or something akin to it, I generally hear it from a pastor talking to an audience. There are several reasons why this angers me, not only as a pastor, but also as a man who loves his wife.

First, it aggravates me because, frankly, I would expect that most men think that their wives are attractive. That’s part of the motivation for marrying in the first place. Not all the motivation, but at least part of it. So telling us that you think your wife is “smokin’ hawt” is not really sharing anything with the audience. It’s just dumb, and more than likely, we probably don’t think your wife is smoking hot. If she really is, we don’t need you to tell us that.

But that’s a minor quibble compared to why it is bothersome. It’s bothersome because it is a dumb way to show affection for one’s wife. Our wives are our partners, our friends. They are not simply objects of our sexual desire. I am certain that wives probably find it hurtful to think that their husbands joy in them revolves around their ability to stay “smoking hot.”  It devalues the friendship and the covenant. And it sets her up for instability in the relationship. Why? Because we cannot stay “smokin’ hawt” forever. No one can. We all go from “smoking hot” to “old and wrinkly” if God gives us long life. What will they say about their wives then?

Finally, it is sending the wrong message to the single women in the congregation. Are they unmarried because they aren’t “smoking hot” enough? Do they have to turn into sexy vixens to attract a man? Are they most highly valued as objects of sexual desire? Please, brethren, can we mature past high school talk and move on to maturity in Christ?

D.L. Mayfield

My husband was the one who pointed me to the post and told me that it made him “think a lot.” I appreciate DeMuth’s approach in this article, and I have long been a fan of how she talks about sexuality and abuse, and this post brought to light some of the darker aspects of celebrity Christians talking on and on about the relative “hotness” of their wives.

With conservative estimates putting 1 in 4 women being abuse victims, it is a no-brainer to realize that conferences, speakers, and sermons geared towards espousing a wild! exciting! smoking hawt all the time! version of married sexuality might not be the most appropriate thing. Sex is weird. Sex is hard. Sex is, a lot of the time, pretty amazing.

The problem with talking about it in such a general, encultured way (often pandering towards outdated stereotypes or infatuations with machismo) is that you never know where individuals are at in the spectrum. They could be suffering, cowed down by expectations being put on them. They could be having the time of their life, experiencing sex for all it was intended to be. We just have no way to know. I have grown up hearing this language, and usually shrug it off as a weird cultural tic, an example of compensation, over-sharing, or even just a general appreciation for their significant others. But the value of reading perspectives like DeMuths, as well as this excellent post by Zach Hoag, is that it has the power to identify what beliefs lie underneath our languages and postures, and asks us to think carefully before we use them.

I, to my knowledge, have never been referred to as “smoking hot” in public. I don’t feel too bad about this at all—in fact, it makes me rather cheerful. It doesn’t play a “critical” role in my life. The more I thought about the points made in this article, the more I realized that I would be deeply hurt if my husband addressed my physicality when talking about me to others. But he never has. And yet when he talks about me, it is entirely loving—but focused on aspects of my personality, character, and passions. When he talks about me, it makes me feel empowered: seeing myself through his eyes, I feel whole, complete, and encouraged to continue on my path of trying to be obedient to Jesus. How I look, my sexuality, or my husband’s prowess have nothing to do with what really matters. Beyond being glib and rather bro-y, this type of hyper-sexualized language only makes a handful of people in the room feel good.

Let’s stop pandering to them, shall we?

Derek Rishmawy

“Yes, but…” is, in essence, my thoughts on the whole “smoking hawt” brouhaha. First, I’m grateful that DeMuth called out the awkward trope of pastors bragging about their “smoking hot” spouses from the pulpit. For one, the phrase itself is tired and weird. I think we’ve all agreed on that. Second, it falls into the category of clumsy sex-talk that I’ve registered my complaints about before.

Still, while pastors need to be aware of those women struggling with sexual trauma in their congregation, the reality is that they have to pastor the rest of the congregation too. For a lot of them that includes men who already look at them side-ways when it comes to the topic of sex because they work at church, read books, and talk to people about Jesus and their emotions. Not a very “manly” job according our culture. They have to tell these men that sexual holiness, chastity, and self-restraint are good, in a pornified world that tells them these things are bad. And, they have to convince them they’re not just saying that because they’re prudes or inhumanly asexual.

Trying to gain credibility, sometimes they say things to put themselves in the normal guy category so people might think, “Hey, that guy thinks his wife is attractive naked and wants to have sex with her, just like I feel about my wife. Who knew? He’s a person and stuff.” After years of hearing that pastors need to talk more openly about sex, be more personal and human, they do, and it just so happens that it comes out clumsy.

I’m not really defending the trope at all. Although my students know I find my wife attractive both physically, and more importantly character-wise, I’ve never thought it wise to sexualize her in front of my majority male college group. I suppose I’m simply trying to say that not every pastor who’s used the trope is trying to heap shame on the battered, demean his wife, or cover for some personal sexual inadequacy or lecherous nature.

They might be just an average pastor, trying to seem human to their congregations.

About Alan Noble

(Co-Founder/Editor/Columnist) is a part-time lecturer at Baylor University. He received his PhD in Contemporary American Literature from Baylor, writing on manifestations of transcendence in 20th Century American Lit. He and his family attend Redeemer Waco, a PCA church. Alan's passion is studying how believers can be a faithful presence in culture to the glory of God and the edification of others. In addition to editing, Alan writes his column, Citizenship Confusion for CaPC.

---Follow Alan on Twitter @TheAlanNoble and on Facebook.

---For questions, comments, or interest in speaking engagements please email me at noble.noneuclidean [at] gmail [dot] com.

  • http://www.amylepinepeterson.com Amy

    Well done, guys.

  • Petro

    Full Disclosure: I’m Catholic, so I don’t have to deal with the clerical side of this.

    Disclosure being met, whether spoken by a pastor or any man, such words limit sexuality to physical attractiveness and the sexual act when sexuality is far more expansive than that. Sexuality is a desire for connectedness. It is being life-giving in any context, whether physically, spiritually, or emotionally. It is what links us with God the Creator.

    The problem with the culture is not that it is hyper-sexualized, but that it has reduced our sexuality to a single aspect and robbed it of its true glory.

    While I hope that these pastors, and others, view their relationships with their wives as sexually fulfilling for the reasons listed above, the words make one worry that those more mature levels of sexuality are taking a… uh… backseat to hotness and sex drive.

  • http://RedemptionPictures.com Micah

    I’ve been thinking about / debating online about this article all week, and I really appreciate some of your thoughts on it. I was talking it over with my wife again last night (for like the third time) and she and I both kinda stumbled on this realization.

    That is, when men say “my smoking hot wife” it often comes across as being less about the wife and more about the man. That is, seems like an attempt to prove his own masculinity, that he’s the kind of man who can get a smokin hot wife, than like a sincere compliment to his wife’s attractiveness. That, and an attempt to convince people that you can still get laid with a hott woman even though you’re a Christian / pastor. In both of those senses, the wife becomes a prop, to prove the worthiness of both the man and the religion, and the “compliment” isn’t about her anymore at all.

    I’m not saying this is most guys’ intention when they say it, but it’s how it comes across to me.

  • http://www.speculativefaith.com E. Stephen Burnett

    I’d say they’re accidentally endorsing the pagan practice of discussing and showing and re-enacting and insisting we always acknowledge and tempting with and propagandizing about Sex, Sex, Sex. Some time ago I concluded that C.S. Lewis’s wisdom still holds:

    Everyone knows that the sexual appetite, like our other appetites, grows by indulgence. Starving men may think much about food, but so do gluttons; the gorged, as well as the famished, like titillations.

    — from Mere Christianity

    The Christian doesn’t even need to rebuke the notion that pagan sex-blatherers are “starving” for sex. Rather, they just might be, despite all their blathering on about it.

    E.g.: to put this in the ESV, the E. Stephen Version, they’re simply not Getting Any.

    And the silly pastors or others who try lamely to follow worldly sex-obsession by repeating their “smoking hot wife” catchphrases end up fueling the same suspicion.

    P.S.: “Best” use of “smoking hot wife” is still in the source for this video, which enhances said use.

  • http://twitter.com/jasonbhood Jason B. Hood

    My criticism of this trend is what it does for young guys who are looking for wives. Among other things (which the authors cited), it encourages them to use a particular approach to hunt for a spouse: “GO HOT OR GO HOME.”

    As Keller puts it, you go into a party with thirty single members of the opposite sex and instantly rule out all but two. That’s terrible. What if you’ve missed the opportunity to build a friendship?

  • http://morganguyton.wordpress.com Morgan Guyton

    “The wife becomes a prop, to prove the worthiness of both the man and the religion.” If you talk about your wife being a smoking hot wife in a public speech, you’ve made her into a trophy, period. It’s not about humanizing the pastor. It’s about a certain vision of masculinity that the church has no business promoting. When women are trophies to bag, we’re already in a form of sexuality that perpetuates fornication.

  • Laura Neale

    I don’t really think referring to one’s wife as “smoking hot” is an attempt to publicly address the issue of sex, per se. That may be a tangentially related, but to me, this is about how someone in a position of spiritual authority (faux-)casually describes a woman he values. And the adjective chosen here is a physical one, essentially choosing to highlight the sexual attractiveness of this woman he has managed to bag, as it were. And I think that’s shallow. D. L. Mayfield says she feels most gratified when her husband praises who she is, not what her body looks like. Amen. Is it alright for pastors to appreciate their wives sexually, and even make it known that they do so? Sure. Would it be even more beneficial to a listening congregation, both men & women, to hear him openly praise her as wise, gracious, kind, smart, etc.? Probably. We are not our bodies. It’d be great if the people who have the pulpits could keep it balanced. Either that, or pastor’s wives need to get just as vocal about how much they enjoy those dates with their “hunky hubbies”, how his sermon was nice & all but did you see those dreamy eyes & rippling muscles?

  • http://geeksofchrist.wordpress.com Mickey

    As mentioned, sexual abuse victims probably don’t find this whole demean-your-wife on Twitter-thing very cute. Neither do people (probably raised Christian) who can’t figure sex out. It’s a thing you’re basically trained to hate (because how else can you teach abstinence?) and then suddenly be totally awesome at without missing a step.

    Sex is a confusing and humiliating burden to many people – even to those that have no history of abuse – and blowing your trumpet about how worldly-hot your wife is does nothing to clarify what Christians should be doing with this alarmingly sensitive jumble of bits below.

    Given the wildly diverse experiences of the people in the pews (and on Twitter) and the extreme sensitivity of the issue, I would offer this little piece of advice to pastors wanting to speak publicly about sex: shut up.

  • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

    I just found this! Wow, I’m so humbled and grateful for the discussion going on here. It’s thoughtful and well reasoned.

  • Pingback: My wife is not a rotisserie chicken or a leaky faucet | Mercy not Sacrifice


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