When “Please, please, please” is the subject line of a friend’s email, you know something’s wrong. Last week, a friend of mine sent an email asking Faith and I to “please, please, please” respond to some unsettling notions in a recent Christianity Today article proposing boudoir photography as beneficial for some Christian women.
The article, “Finding Healing in Front of the Camera,” is a part of a Her.meneutics series tackling female perspectives on sex not typically covered in your ladies Bible study. A much-needed series of discussion. However, recommendations for erotic bedroom photography is something I’d expect in Cosmopolitan, not Christianity Today. So I was a bit surprised by the premise.
In the article, author Maureen Farrell Garcia explains:
Given our current cultural context, in which many women feel pressure to attain an impossible beauty ideal, I love the idea of women pursuing boudoir shoots to embrace their bodies and overcome hangups with their own sexuality.
Garcia briefly raises concerns over the potential for idolatry and pornography. She even shares her husband “struggled with voyeurism and porn” and understands why some Christian women and men would take issue. Ultimately though, she nods in agreement with the racy photos as a means for women to find themselves attractive again, especially after sexual violence and abuse.
“As someone who has experienced sexual violation,” Garcia writes. “I believe these sessions could help heal and empower women who have been mistreated or abused.” I applaud Garcia for being so open and honest with her readers, and I appreciate her well-intentioned efforts to help assaulted women. However, she seems to advocate for women’s fulfillment in superficial notions of beauty, and, their further sexual objectification.
Women in the Church know better. Our beauty is not found in the bedroom.
Consider the reality of Garcia’s advice. God forbid I ever experience a sexual assault, but “Go take boudoir photos so you can feel sexy again” is absolutely not what I would want to hear from the women in my church after such a traumatic experience. Personally, I would feel more deflated.
Women inside and outside of the Church already struggle with misplacing our value in our appearance, and yearning for men and other women deem us attractive. But as Christians, we know that sex and sexuality is not the end all be all. So suggesting women find fulfillment in our sexuality and affirmation of our bodies by objectifying them in front of a camera doesn’t help us. What does help is being reminded that no matter how we look or how much another has violated us, we are beautiful because we are fearfully and wonderfully made by our Creator and crafted in His image.
When half-awake, full bed head, no make-up and fluffy slippers is when my husband knows reminding me how beautiful he finds me is most affirming. If, instead he said, “Good morning, sweetheart. You’re looking disheveled this morning. Try curling your hair, getting half-dressed and taking pin-up pictures. You’ll feel better.” we’d be in the pastor’s office that afternoon for some serious marital counseling.
Boudoir photos offer a phony image of what a woman’s beauty and self-worth really look like. So they can never, ever offer women true healing from sexual trauma and abuse. Why would we as caring, compassionate women in the Church ever advocate our friends, sisters and daughters to seek such false perceptions of beauty and value out?
Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, also disagreed with Garcia’s advice, kindly writing, “For all our culture’s supposed feminism, the message constantly bombarding women is that their worth is found in their sexual attractiveness and availability to men.”
The way to combat the effects of sexual exploitation by men is not to fight fire with fire. The way to combat the effects of sexual exploitation by men is to re-narrate what a woman’s worth and value is about, from the point of view of God in Christ.
As my friend who pleaded that I write on this issue wrote, “It seems this type of approach is a poor attempt at ‘self-healing’ or is it ‘self-medicating’?”
I don’t know whether or not boudoir photos are “self-medicating.” What I do know is that God has a much, much better way for victims of sexual abuse to heal and find restoration. It is to find their image in Jesus Christ and not in sexually charged photographs.