Missing the Point: Sex Maniacs and Shamed Boys

Some time ago, a reader offered the following comment on one of my posts.

You emphasized in other posts that you were taught that all that men think about is sex, but that is not true.

In this post, you feel sorry for your brother because everyone knows that all men think about is sex, and fundamentalists tell him not to.


I was taught that men are basically sex crazed monsters. I was taught that the solution is to train boys and men to never think about sex at all, except within the context of marriage. Neither of these positions – men obsess over sex every moment of the day / men must avoid every sexual thought or else they are “sinning” – is healthy. Neither is realistic either. The first positions guys as sex crazed maniacs and the second creates an enormous amount of guilt and self-loathing. But what my commenter misses is that these are not the only two options out there.

My reader sets up a false dichotomy: either all men ever think about is sex or else they must, as they are taught by their religious leaders, strive to never think about sex. Neither of those options are healthy, which is the point I make in the posts where I address each (I added the links into the quote). However, these two are not the only options, and that’s where my reader completely misses my point (a point I do make in each post she refers to). Men do frequently think about sex, but they don’t generally obsess over it to the point where it messes up their lives or controls their every action. In other words, most men DO think about sex but are NOT sex crazed maniacs. And this is healthy. This is as it should be – and the same for women.

This is a recurring theme in Christian Patriarchy. They see one extreme that is a problem and run to the other extreme in response. For example, they look at the hypersexualization of women in the media and advertising and conclude that the solution is to dress women in baggy shirts and ankle-length jean skirts. Similarly, they look at bratty, uncontrollable kids and conclude that the solution is authoritarian parenting and corporal punishment. They completely neglect to as whether there is any option outside of hypersexualization and hypermodesty, or between permissive parenting and authoritarian parenting.

Let me give another example of where Christian Patriarchy does this. First, here is an excerpt from a news article called “Silicon Valley’s Brogrammer Problem.”

Many of the dozen or so people I interviewed for this story pointed to the rise of the brogrammer—a term that seeks to recast the geek identity with a competitive frat house flavor. The essence of it comes through in comments on the question-and-answer site Quora. “How Does a Programmer Become a Brogrammer?”: Brogrammers “rage at the gym, to attract the chicks and scare the dicks!” They “can work well under the tightest deadlines, or while receiving oral sex.” And they have their priorities straight: “If a girl walks past in a see-through teddy, and you don’t even look up because you’re neck-deep in code, expect to spend a lot of time celibate no matter how bro you go.”

I’m not even sure how to respond to a paragraph like that. It reveals such breathtaking sexism that it’s almost painful to read.

My point here is not to dissect the above paragraph but rather to point out that Christian Patriarchy would point to this sort of thing as an example of what naturally happens if you set women adrift without the “protection” of their male authorities (i.e. fathers/husbands). Christian Patriarchy would point to this sort of overt sexism and conclude that the solution is reinstating women under the protection of their male authorities, or, in essence, restoring their role as the property of their male relatives (a la the law of coverture).

It’s like I said when I talked about how Vision Forum tries to fix problems by turning back the clock rather than, well, actually solving problems:

Vision Forum tells women that they can be valued and have their position in society elevated - if they surrender their rights and accept male authority. Vision Forum does not see misogyny as the problem, but rather blames women’s objectification on the way families today “push” their young women out of the home at age 18 and launch them “unprotected” into the dangers of society. Young women will be protected from the debauchery of college men, Vision Forum promises – if they stay home and obey their fathers. Middle aged women will be free from the pressure to conform to an idealized image of sexy, Vision Forum asserts – if they stay home and obey their husbands. What is this? You will be valued and protected if you surrender all your rights and obey your male authority? THIS is the solution Vision Forum offers!

Meanwhile, feminists believe that women can be valued and have equal rights. In fact, feminists hold that the key to ending the devaluation of women is not accepting women’s subordination to males but rather bringing about true equality. Accepting a second class status for women only furthers the root problem here, which is sexism and misogyny. Vision Forum doesn’t see this, because it believes that women are “weaker vessels” which need protecting. Furthermore, feminists work to fix the problems in our society today by actually working to fix them. The solution is not to turn back the clock or to ask women to surrender their rights in return for protection. The solution is to combat sexism and misogyny and work toward actual equality. But somehow, Vision Forum identifies that as the problem.

To bring this back to where I started, I believe it’s possible to have a world where girls are not taught that men are sex crazed monsters and boys are not taught that any thought of sex is some sort of grave moral wrongdoing. There is a middle ground where people are sexual beings but also so much more, and it is that middle ground I have staked out for myself. Similarly, there are possibilities out there besides hypersexualization and hypermodesty, and besides permissive parenting and authoritarian parenting. Trying to fix what is a very real problem by adopting another problem in its stead makes no sense, but that is what Christian Patriarchy does.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Kelly

    I would ask your reader, how on earth are the two statements inconsistent?
    >>You emphasized in other posts that you were taught that all that men think about is sex, but that is not true.
    In this post, you feel sorry for your brother because everyone knows that all men think about is sex, and fundamentalists tell him not to.>>

    The second statement stems from the beliefs of the first statement. All men think about is sex _and_ they are taught that this is sinful _which leads to a great deal of guilt. I feel for those boys as well. :(

    • thread_of_fire

      te me it seems that the reader misunderstood the 2nd one to be something like “I feel sorry for my brother because it is bad for him to think about sex, if he never thought about sex he wouldn’t have a problem!”

      when instead it’s more like “I feel sorry for my brother because he shames himself for something, that is harmless and natural, and he would be fine if not for the fundamentalist propaganda that tells him he should be ashamed!”

  • AnotherOne

    Another issue is that boys are taught these things at a time–puberty–when they’re often experiencing an onslaught of hormones that *does* make them sex crazed. Instead of seeing this as a biological reality and helping boys navigate their burgeoning sexuality in reasonable and responsible ways, the purity culture piles them with shame for feeling “lust,” and then they in turn pile shame on girls who are “stumbling blocks.”

    So, not only does purity culture fail to account for the fact that individuals, whether male or female, have very different sex drives, it also fails to take into consideration the ebb and flow of sexual drive in various seasons of life. As such, it offers teenage boys experiencing their peak sexual desires no roadmap but self-loathing, misogyny, or (most often, I think) a mix of the two.

    Of course, our culture in general does not deal with adolescent sexuality (or sexuality in general) in very productive ways.

    • http://raisinghellions.wordpress.com/ blotzphoto

      Yeah, it’s like these people were never 13 year old boys.

      • Rey

        More likely, they were 13-year-old boys, and they never got over it.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      “individuals, whether male or female, have very different sex drives”

      Whoa, what? This is just one more sexist stereotype that conservatives love. And it is really, really problematic. Guess what, adolescent girls have sex on the brain too, it’s just that nobody will even TALK about that. Boys may get shamed for being sexual but at least their sexuality is recognized. It’s wrong to tell boys that their nature is something that they have to fight but it least sexuality is acknowledged as part of their nature. For a girl to be sexual, though, she’d have to be a total freak! Adolescent female sexual desire is so shameful, it can’t even be spoken of! Teenage girls in the popular imagination (not just the conservative one) are just objects of teenage boys’ desire, not agents of sexual desire themselves.

      And I don’t see that changing as long as so many people just continue to take on faith the unexamined assumption that men are inherently more sexual than women. (Because everybody’s always known that, right? Well, everyone’s always known it since the 19th century anyway. Before that, everyone always knew the opposite. Oh well.)

  • Rey

    Here’s an experiment: Shut your eyes and try not to think about a purple elephant dancing a jig.

    Did you succeed? Probably not*, and that was an image I tricked you into thinking. I can’t imagine what kind of living hell it must be to try to not think about things that naturally and spontaneously arise from merely being a normal, healthy human.

    While not a Buddhist, I spent many years practicing zazen and one of things I learned is that thoughts come and go like clouds in the sky. I am not the thoughts I have, just the ones I act on.

    *One way to beat the test is to consciously think about something else until you’ve more or less forgotten about the purple elephant dancing a jig, a technique that, if applied to naturally arising sex urges would lead to all kinds of obsessive and/or repressive thought-patterns and behaviors in a desperate attempt to keep the wolf at bay..

  • Leni

    Lol Rey I was thinking that same thing. If someone tells me not to think about sex, that’s all I’m going to be able to think about until I eventually get distracted by something else.

    Makes me think this must be why they are so obsessed with sex. Spend enough time telling yourself not to think about it and voila: self-fulfilling prophecy.

    • Godlesspanther

      I have noticed that those people who proclaim that sexual activity is dirty, obscene, vulgar, destructive, unnatural, revolting, on and on — why is it that they obsess on it to such an extent?

      They really do seem to be completely oblivious to how bizarre it appears to those outside of their cult.

  • Steve

    It’s really no surprise that so many fundamentalist Christians are sex obsessed freaks. They never learned to deal with it in a healthy manner

    • Rey

      I can’t remember where I read it (except that it was on the Internet), but it was by a Fundamentalist-raised man who went to college to discover that he was sinning (in his head)(which is as bad as actually sinning in his theology) left and right. Women became nothing but disembodied heads to him — he never looked below the neck — yet, against his will, he kept thinking of them as sex objects. Eventually he couldn’t even talk to or look at women.

      He finally went to a campus’s Protestant chaplain, full of fear of judgement, and the chaplain, after listening to his problem, told him to buy a Playboy and masturbate. The young man was shocked, of course, but so at wit’s end that he followed the chaplain’s advice, and voilà! (I forgot how much I like that word) he was able to look at women as people once more without sex dominating his every thought.

      • anonymous

        I had OCD that took the form of unwanted sexual thoughts almost all through my teens. They went away when I stopped believing masturbation was a sin. Coincidence? I think not!

  • http://dukesofearl.blogspot.com Joy

    I can’t think of any better way to turn a normal boy into a misogynistic prick than by telling him that his natural hormonal feelings are horribly wrong that masturbation is horribly wrong, that he should feel guilt and shame for having these feelings, that he should have guilt and shame for taking advantage of a natural, harmless outlet (masturbation), and that women are to blame for all of it.

    • AnotherOne

      So true. So sadly true.

  • http://travelingtxn.blogspot.com Traveling Txn

    Another angle on the thinking about sex all the time/thinking about it is a sin: I think it was one of the people on Freethoughtblogs that was talking about how with Buddhist meditation one thing they do is try to focus only on your breathing in and out. You cant do it without other thoughts creeping in there, but its a great exercise for seeing just how much noise you have inside your own head. Seems like that could be analogous to the Christian rights sex-obsession. When your actively trying to not think about certain things, your going to notice when you do far more than if you arnt paying any more attention to that thought than any other thought.

  • Godlesspanther

    Most deities worshiped by religious people have very strong opinions on sexual behavior. There are a few exceptions — deities that appear to be neutral about it. Unitarians, some of the UFO cults, and a smattering of others worship entities of the great beyond that have no concern about what humans are doing with their genitals. But those are the exceptions and far from the norm.

    There have been absolute extremes. The Shakers were the longest lasting and largest cult that demanded a complete prohibition on sexual behavior of any kind. That includes flying solo — don’t even think about thinking about it. On the other end of the spectrum is the Oneida Community — a 19th century isolationist cult located in upstate New York in which all members were required to have sexual relations with all other members. Both cults are no longer active.

    What is interesting to me is the idea that thinking about sex is the same as actually doing it. I first encountered this from Ray Comfort’s technique of evangelism. To look at another person with lust is the same as committing adultery in God’s eyes. So — if I notice an attractive woman and give that a lingering second thought I have cheated on my wife thus broken the 7th commandment.

    Well , I really can’t agree with that. If that is sex it is really safe sex. No chance of STDs, accidental pregnancy, no hurt feelings and likely divorce, no emotional investment into the relationship — etc. Safe, very safe sex.

    I know that Ray and them would counter with — that’s how you see it, but in God’s eyes they are the same thing.

    Hmm… So what happens only in my imagination actually counts in reality. God would approve of that concept, wouldn’t he.

  • http://brokendaughters.wordpress.com Lisa

    I can only agree that I do not see the inconsistency in those two statements. Boys are taught that they ARE sex crazed (even if they aren’t), which causes them to believe they’re “cheating on their future wife” by having desires and fantasies. This leads to the fundamentalist cure – avoid sexual thoughts at all cost. And that’s what the true problem is, you’re being told you’re worse than you are and you have to suppress every single hint of that imagined evilness… Crazy stuff.