hile eating lunch in my high-school cafeteria one day, I overheard a fellow male student make a crass comment I’ve never forgotten. He pointed at a girl and said to his buddy, “Put a bag over her dog face and give me her body!”
Forgive me for putting that in print, but it captures the objectifying of girls and women that runs rampant in American culture.
To objectify means “to degrade to the status of a mere object” (Oxford Dictionary); “to treat a person like a tool or toy” (Cambridge Dictionary).
As I am writing this piece, a torrent of sexual-abuse charges are being levied against men in the highest-elected political offices, the entertainment industry, and various educational institutions. The problem begins with the objectifying of females. If a man views women as objects to be ogled, the next step is inappropriate touching, and then worse.
Why Are Women Objectified?
Men are naturally drawn to women, and women are naturally drawn to men. That’s a God-given blessing. And being more visually oriented than women, men are easily attracted by a woman’s looks. That’s normal.
When we add man’s fallen nature to the equation, the problem begins. Looking can easily lead to lusting. Rather than seeing a woman for the whole person God has made her to be, a lustful man sees her as a collection of body parts.
Secular media intensifies the problem. In 2010, the American Psychological Association (APA) examined various media and found that “girls are portrayed in a sexual manner more often than boys; dressed in revealing clothing, with bodily postures or facial expressions that imply sexual readiness. Women and girls are also more likely to be objectified (used as a decorative object, or as body parts rather than a whole person)” (Huffington Post).
This media barrage helps “create a culture in which a woman is a ‘good object’ when she meets the salient cultural standard of ‘sexy,’” the APA report noted. This “leads girls to evaluate and control their own bodies more in terms of their sexual desirability to others [rather] than in terms of their own desires, health, wellness, achievements, or accomplishments.”
Not Barbie Dolls
Cristen Conger wrtoe: “How do you disentangle the biological facts of attraction and even lust from the more culturally manufactured patterns of sexually objectifying women in all contexts, everywhere all the time? . . . Pretty simple: Don’t treat women like Barbie dolls” (Stuff Mom Never Told You).
Unlike Barbie dolls, women have minds, hearts, and souls, and their value is not dependent on their shape, hair color, or clothing.
In His longest-recorded sermon, Jesus said, “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28 NKJV). In other words, do not stare at a woman to gratify your lustful passion; do not objectify a woman.
Jesus was not living in a holy bubble when He made that statement, for as the God-man He was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Heb. 4:15 NIV).
Rather than looking at women lustfully, Jesus always treated them with the highest regard, sometimes shattering cultural barriers to do so. No matter their physical appearance, Jesus saw every woman as a human being in need of divine grace and compassion.
Once while teaching in a synagogue, Jesus saw a woman who had been bent over and unable to stand straight for 18 years. He lovingly said to her, “Dear woman, you are healed of your sickness!” (Luke 13:12 NLT). He then touched her, and she was instantly made whole.
At a well in Samaria, Jesus encountered a woman who was attractive enough to have been married five times, and was now living with another man. Yet Jesus saw her empty soul, and offered her the gift of eternal life, which she received (see John 4).
Walk in the Spirit
Jesus Christ was filled with and led by the Holy Spirit as He walked on earth (Luke 2:40; 4:1, 18; Acts 10:38), and the Spirit’s enablement is key for Christian men today to treat women as Jesus did. Paul said, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16 NIV).
If we will listen, the Holy Spirit will lead us men to turn off movies and TV programs that objectify women . . . turn down suggestive websites . . . turn away from demeaning humor . . . and turn to Jesus Christ as our deliverer from lustful desires.
Through the Spirit, we men can see women not as objects, but as individuals deeply loved by the heavenly Father who made them, like us, in His image.