When I saw that a prominent Christian blogger, Tim Challies, had posted an article about sinning with your eyes titled It’s Not Just a Guy Thing, I was excited. Ever since the Victorian Era de-sexed women, evangelicals have generally positioned things the sin of lust squarely in male territory. Now to be clear, I have a problem with this entire construction, and I don’t believe visual sexual enjoyment is wrong—though exploitation clearly is. But when I saw the article title, I expected to find some recognition that women, too, are sexual beings who experience sexual desire and sexual attractions just like me.
And then I found myself severely disappointed.
Every guy has received a warning about “the second glance.” Here’s how it works: When you see an attractive woman, you are morally responsible for the second glance, not the first. Because you cannot help seeing what is there in front of you, the second glance is the one where you will display sin or virtue. It is here that you make the moral choice—the choice to lust or the choice to direct your eyes and your thoughts to something that honors God.
I have never been completely comfortable with the second glance logic. More on that in a moment, but first we need to see that this is not only a guy thing.
Women can have the same issue or one that is very closely related. For some women the issue is identical—looking with lust. For others it may be something else, such as alighting your eyes on someone who doesn’t fit in and then allowing yourself condescending thoughts about her. It may be thinking unkind thoughts about the immodest woman or the too-modest woman or the woman whose children are dressed so perfectly or so imperfectly. Whether you are a man or woman, you will be tempted at times to allow your eyes to direct you to people who will then take your thoughts in unholy directions. It is a universal problem.
Back to the question: Is it only the second glance that counts? Yes and no.
Wait—wait—wait. This entire blog post is called It’s Not Just a Guy Thing, and that is literally all we get on that topic? Really?! The entire rest of the post is about whether it’s really only the second glance that counts! Sigh.
Okay, first some background. I grew up in an evangelical home and, like (probably) most evangelicals, I was taught that guys couldn’t help the first glance at an immodestly dressed woman—after all, how are you going to know she’s there without looking at her—so it was the second glance that counted as a sin. Challeis is challenging that idea here, but, as he puts it, “more on that in a moment.”
Challeis titles his post It’s Not Just a Guy Thing and states in the post that “first we need to see that this is not only a guy thing.” But in fact he touches on that only momentarily, mentioning that “women can have the same issue or one that is very closely related” and that “for some women the issue is identical—looking with lust.” But then he goes on to talk about women looking judgmentally at other women, and then states that being “tempted at times to allow your eyes to direct you to people who will then take your thoughts in unholy directions” is “a universal problem.”
Challeis admits that some women look with lust, but the actual equivalence he appears to be making when stating that “it’s not just a guy thing” is between men looking at others with lust and women looking at others with judgement. These are not the same things! At risk of stating the obvious, people of both genders look at others with judgement and people of both genders look at others with lust.
As a slightly bisexual woman, let me tell you, I find lots of people sexually attractive. And since evangelicals tend to define lust as “desiring sexually what God has forbidden,” i.e. being sexually attracted to someone who is not your spouse, well, that’s lots of lust. And you know what? The same is true of every woman I know, with the exception of those who are asexual (and in case anyone is wondering, there are asexual men too).
I expected to find an acknowledgement of this reality in Challeis’ blog post, coupled of course with a strong dose of “this is wrong, do not do it,” but no. Instead we get “women totally judge other women and that’s totes the same as men lusting after women.” How about no.
In the rest of his post, Challeis argues that rather than just thinking in terms of first glance/second glance, it’s important to think in terms of mindset. He argues that certain mindsets—submitted to God v. discontent and grumbling—make us more or less likely to take the second glance, and that these mindsets affect the first glance as well. Evangelicalism sometimes seems to focus on how to best make people feel constantly guilty, but honestly, my real gripe here is the false advertising—the post is titled It’s Not Just a Guy Thing, but content only reinforces a gender binary.