If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would allow my 14 year old son to have a swim suit poster in his room I would have told you that you were nuts. The reason is because I was raised in an environment that taught us that being sexually aroused by the sight of a woman’s body other than a woman you were married to was sin. This was included in a broader definition of lust that is taught in most churches today.
I would never argue that the Bible does not condemn lust, because it definitely does.
But after a great deal of Biblical soul searching, as well as biological reference searching (the chemistry of how the brain works) I came to a very different conclusion than what my upbringing taught me. The Bible never condemns a person for being sexually aroused by the sight of another person, even one they are not married to. It condemns lust – which is a very different thing. Lust is sexual covetousness, not sexual arousal.
For more the topic of Lust see my post What does the Bible say about Lust?
Teens and sexuality
I believe wholeheartedly that God has reserved sex for marriage, this is plain throughout the Old and New Testaments and I teach this principle to my teenage sons, as well as my teen daughter.
“Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”
While God has reserved the act of sex (that includes intercourse, oral sex, or any other kind manual sex) for marriage, where I believe most Churches are flat wrong is in their teaching that sexuality itself is also reserved for marriage.
While on one side, we have the world blatantly encouraging our teens and young adults to have sex outside of marriage, on the other side we have the Churches teaching teens and college students that they must suppress their sexuality until the day they are married. I believe that both sides are wrong on this issue of sexuality from a Biblical standpoint.
So to that end with my teenagers I teach there is nothing wrong with my son’s thinking some girl is “hot” and there is nothing wrong with my daughter thinking some guy is “cute”. For my teen daughter her interest in sexuality is only just now beginning, but my sons interests are both in full throttle mode(as it is for most teenage boys).
I don’t teach my son’s like my father and mother taught me, that if there is a nice woman walking down the side walk or at the beach that they have to look away or look at the ground for fear of having “lustful thoughts”. Instead I teach them to have proper manners, and don’t stair at a girl like she is piece of meat (gawk at her), but they can take tasteful glances and appreciate the beauty that God has made in woman, as he has designed their brains to do.
Why I allow my son to have a bikini poster in his room
It was only after a lot of consideration, and even talking with my wife (she was fine with it way before I was) that I allowed my Christian son to get his first bikini poster in his room. He likes Kate Upton, so he got the Kate Upton Sports illustrated cover shot poster in his room.
Some Christians might say – “OK I agreed with you till now that your son does not have to look down when beautiful women walk by, but isn’t a swim suit poster in his room pushing it?” I don’t believe so.
I let him put a swimsuit poster in his room to remind him of the Biblical principle I have taught him that God designed him as man to visually appreciate women’s bodies.
There is absolutely no shame in this whatsoever! Even if he is aroused by that poster of Kate Upton on his wall, there is still no sin. The sin would come if he started looking up Kate Upton’s phone number, or scheming how he might try and find her to have sex with her outside of marriage (these would be lustful thoughts).
Or if he were to take his arousal from seeing Kate Upton, and then think about how he might influence a girl at school to have sex with him outside of marriage, all of these types of thoughts would be lustful, sinful thoughts.
But aren’t you teaching your son to look at women as sex objects?
I don’t have to teach my son to look at women as sex objects, his brain came pre-wired from God to do that. My job as a Christian father, is to help remind him that while women are indeed objects of sexual beauty and desire for men, they are also people with hopes, dreams, thoughts and feelings and they should be treated with honor and respect.
This is where I vehemently disagree with some conservative Christians on one side, and some radical feminists on the other side. These two groups of people that disagree on just about everything else, believe that it is impossible to look at a woman as an object of sexual beauty and desire, and at the same time honor and respect that woman, or women in general.
They suggest a false dichotomy, like it must be one or the other, and this simply is not true.
I teach both my teen sons that they would be stupid and marry a woman, just because she is beautiful. They should seek out a woman that is beautiful both on the inside, as well as the outside (and they don’t have to give up one, for the other).
I teach them to look for a woman that loves the Lord and his Word as much as they do, if not more. I teach them, that if a woman is truly surrendered to God and his design for her life, then she will be the best wife and mother to their children they could ever hope for.
But that does not mean beauty and sexuality must be sacrificed in order to find a Godly wife. It is not a contradictory to thing to find a woman who is both beautiful on the inside as well the outside.
But not all women look like that!
It was interesting how big a deal it was when I allowed my son to have the Kate Upton poster, it generated a lot of discussion before I allowed it, and then more after I allowed it. His mother (my ex-wife), was not happy about me allowing him to have the poster in the least bit. Of course I had to remind her that the rules in my home and how I teach in my home, and how she teaches in her home may be different sometimes.
My wife (my son’s step mom) is not threatened by the fact that there are more beautiful women than her in the world. She realizes that whether it is in a poster, or on the beach, or just walking down the sidewalk we will pass women that have slimmer, younger and more attractive bodies than her.
My ex-wife (his mother) always had a problem with being jealous of other women’s bodies, and she would have the attitude whenever she saw a beautiful women – “well let’s see if she keeps that look over the next 20 years”.
Regardless of either my wife, or my ex-wife’s approach, I as my sons father have to teach them about their sexuality as I believe is right. In regards to women’s bodies, my son’s know most women don’t look like Kate Upton, that is why she makes the money she does, because she is so exceptionally beautiful.
They know that the average woman will have some strengths, and some weaknesses in her physical appearance, just as we as men have strengths and weaknesses in our physical appearance.
So no –I am not teaching my sons to have an unrealistic expectation that all women should look like Kate Upton. What I am teaching them is, it is not wrong for them to appreciate feminine beauty, and especially exceptional feminine beauty when they see it.
Update: Since I originally wrote this post Kate Upton has been doing new commercials for some video game. My son was over at our Pastor’s house with him and his teenage sons watching TV and the commercial with Kate Upton came on. My Pastor’s reaction was “now that is a nice looking woman”. My son thought that was great and had to come home and tell me what our Pastor said. I think men need to be comfortable talking about women with their sons, and let them know there is a healthy and normal way to enjoy the visual side of their male sexuality.
So when go on our family summer vacations, my son’s don’t have to feel guilty at all or look down when they see women like this on the beach. Instead they can feel free to appreciate the beauty and artistry of God’s design in how he made a woman’s body.
Picture 1 – “Anna Paola bikini” by Shameless Charlotte
– Flickr: Anna Paola. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Anna_Paola_bikini.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Anna_Paola_bikini.jpg
Picture 2 – “Val & Aran (Women at beaches)” by edera from Genova, Italy – Val & Aran.
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons