Desensitizing Young Males to Female Nudity
Recently, again, I heard (here) that the solution to the problem of having nude models in Christian college’s and universities’ art classes is to “desensitize” boys and young men to female nudity. Not very long ago a female student told me that the solution to the problem of modesty (or lack of it) in Christian contexts is to teach boys not to objective women’s bodies.
I make no secret of the fact that I am absolutely convinced this is not realistic without, perhaps, very severe intervention with young males’ bodies and that because, as a person who was once a young male myself, I know, and also from what I have read, that young males are biologically conditioned to respond with arousal to female nudity. (And, of course, that biological condition would also hold true for young males who are gay in view of male nudity.)
Years ago I knew a young man who, because of struggling with lewd thoughts and images, voluntarily submitted himself to a process of attempted desensitization to nudity (both male and female). The process included being connected to electrodes that gave him a strong shock every time he was shown a pornographic picture. That didn’t even work. I doubt it would work on most males and I think it is kind of like “praying the gay away” which is another way in which many Christian young males are subjected to desensitizing to nudity.
Another tried and not true intervention is to lecture young males about female (or in the case of gay young males, male) autonomy, deserving of respect, etc. That is what I assume “teaching boys not to objectify women’s bodies” means. I seriously doubt it works given the biological component, the impact of surges of testosterone in adolescent males’ bodies.
Also, I wonder whether it is only young males who are aroused by viewing nudity? I’m not female, so I can’t say. I only know what I have heard and read and that is that, yes, many if not most young females are also aroused by viewing male nudity (and if they are gay/lesbian, female nudity).
When I was a teenager, I was subjected to intense spiritual intervention by my church elders, evangelists, pastors, youth leaders, which involved preaching at me about how I would go to hell for thinking “dirty thoughts” or looking at nude pictures. That didn’t work on me or any of my teenage male friends. I remember thinking to myself “You don’t remember what it’s like to be young and male. I won’t forget like you have.”
None of that is to suggest that assaulting girls or women is justified. Absolutely not. And one of the reasons many Christian colleges and universities do not allow nude modeling in art classes is their belief that putting before young males nudity encourages inappropriate arousal and may lead to immoral and even illegal actions. Young males, all people, need to be taught to control themselves, but I doubt very much that any therapy, whether physical or spiritual, will relieve boys and young men of lustful thoughts and desires.
Perhaps I have misunderstood those who have advocated these strategies for desensitizing young males to nudity or for teaching them not to objectify women’s bodies. Perhaps chemical castration is in view. But I doubt it. Even that has not generally worked. It was tried especially in the past.
Beyond that, I question whether it is even ethical to subject young males to “desensitizing” to female (or male) nudity. First, I don’t believe it works and is therefore futile and creates in young males a great deal of guilt and shame just for being young and male. I would very much like to know about any young males who would gladly volunteer for such (however it is to be tried). I wouldn’t have. I believe that being sexually aroused by visual experience of nudity is simply part of young males’ normal identity as young males.
While I am very much opposed to “toxic masculinity,” I do worry that many people in especially counseling and social work professions are working hard to emasculate males.
Evangelical Christianity has traditionally realized the importance of sin-management, not in the sense of making that the be-all and end-all of spirituality (as Dallas Willard so wonderfully points out in The Divine Conspiracy), but in the sense of going out of our way to shelter young people especially from forces of any kind that can lead into sin.
IMHO, for whatever it’s worth, I think the ideas of “desensitizing” young males to female nudity and teaching boys not to objectify women’s bodies are absurd and whatever practices are put in place to force those on them are objectifying them.
P.S. I lived in Europe during a time when some people were going nude in parks, to say nothing of somewhat hidden (but often used) hiking areas alongside the river. Not once, however, did I see a young (adolescent) male among them. I wonder why? No I don’t.
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