Recently, my co-author Craig Gross and I were interviewed here on a podcast about our book "Through A Man’s Eyes" to help women understand the visual nature of men. Companion articles were released on our research about the dangers of porn and the importance of women understanding the visual wiring of a husband, boyfriend or son.
I knew from experience what the response would be: two parts positive, one part appalled. And since most of the “appalled” camp appear to be hearing something we’re not saying, or missing some key points on an extremely important topic, here are a few actual comments and our responses.
Reader Comment: “We aren’t ‘wired’ for anything … [that is just] a ‘human nature / God made us this way’ B.S … If attraction is just chemical, or ‘wired’ then what is wrong with a child molester … it’s how God made him, right? No, in the end it’s sin.”
Response: Of course a choice to do wrong is wrong. You’re misunderstanding what we mean by “wired.” We mean, literally, that the male brain is structured to have a biological reaction to certain visual stimuli, such as the overt sight of a great female body. But every man has a choice of what he does with that reaction.
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Here are the key steps in the process:
- There’s a biological stimulation. All of us – men and women -- are designed to be stimulated by stimulating things, and the male brain structure makes that involuntary reaction more likely to be visually triggered. As University of Texas at Austin professor David Buss said in his book "The Evolution of Desire," “Telling men not to become aroused by signs of beauty, youth, and health is like telling them not to experience sugar as sweet.”
- The next step is a choice. As we explain in the podcast/article and the book, our internal wiring is only relevant to the initial, internal reaction: after that comes the external choice.
- Not every man chooses to honor women; but for those who want to, that choice requires strength and discipline. Every day in this culture, millions of men are visually stimulated by sights that come across their path -- or that they go looking for. Some men make rigorous choices to try to be honorable, and will “take their thoughts captive,” turn their eyes away, force their thoughts to move from the string bikini on the beach and to their wives instead, and so on. Millions of other men see no reason to control their visual urges; they will lap up the sights they see and let their thoughts go in whatever sexual directions they want to go. But the “wiring” says nothing other than what their brain is designed to be stimulated by.
Reader Comment: “This is probably the most sexist, victim-blaming thing I have ever read. Women are visual as well, but we don't use that as an excuse for any action we choose to take. It is not my job to control your urges for you. There is nothing ungodly or wrong with my body and I will not feel ashamed for wearing short shorts on a hot day so that I don't tempt a man who can't control himself. This is sick and promotes rape culture. “
Response: Without realizing it, you’re misunderstanding something very crucial and creating a double standard that hurts women.
- You’re making it his business. It is easy for us to think “It is none of his business what I’m wearing, he shouldn’t be looking,” which completely misunderstands the neurology of the male brain. A more accurate statement would be “I’m making it his business by what I’m wearing, and he shouldn’t look at it.”
- Men of integrity don’t want to be visually stimulated by women who are not their wives. It is absolutely true that a man “shouldn’t” look and “should” control himself. Period. But since the initial visual stimulation is involuntary, the man then has to control himself. And many millions of men do. But they are also the ones who do not want to be visually stimulated by women who are not their wives. They want to honor their wives and respect the women around them. I have surveyed thousands of these men in my research, and they do not want the constant thought-life temptation that they have to confront every day.
- The honorable men are the ones asking for our help – the jerks prefer to see the clingy outfits. It is the honorable men who are pleading for women to understand what will trigger that brain stimulation-- and be willing to avoid it. Because the other kind of men – the jerks of the world – are totally fine with soaking in the sights and indulging in sexual fantasies about the hot woman in the clinging spandex or the colleague whose skirts hugs her rear end just right. It is the men who are trying to honor women who have a difficult time with it. So we can’t have it both ways. If we want men to respect women, we need to thank those that are doing so, respect them in turn and support their efforts to do what we are asking them to do.
Reader Comment: “So we take it that you are pro-burqa? I mean, that’s the solution [others] came up with for men who cannot learn self-control.”
Response: Really? Telling women to be aware of sexual triggers in how we dress is the same thing as advocating a burqa? A woman can wear fashionable clothing and yet not emphasize or show off so much of her body that it triggers that visual-sexual stimulation in the male brain. As a woman who wants to mutually respect men, I want to understand what will be viewed as beautiful and attractive, and what crosses the line into being a visual-sexual trigger. That’s all we’re suggesting.
Reader Comment: "When you repeatedly broadcast things like this but fail to address the impact of some men's choices and behavior towards women, I don't believe you are sending a balanced message."
Response: Actually, we talk about men’s choices constantly; almost the entire focus of my co-author Craig’s organization – and one of my main areas of research – is addressing the impact of men’s behavior towards women. For example, we say repeatedly that behavior like repeated porn use is not only devastating to women, it even rewires the male brain and risks a man (or boy) seeing a woman as an object; a collection of body parts put there for his viewing or sexual pleasure.
Reader Comment: "‘WHAT WOMEN DON'T UNDERSTAND?’ The man should be able to talk about it with his wife without her ‘freaking out’? REALLY?...Why does this sin need to be out in the open?”
Response: It is difficult to get free of a secret habit such as porn use if it stays secret. Although there are many men who use porn and don’t care, there are many others who feel shame and are trapped who need help. Not to mention the millions of men who don’t have any particular porn problem but are simply living with a normal, visual male brain in an abnormal culture.
All these men might be scared of talking to their wives, but many would want to if they felt she would understand. And many a woman will want to understand something that affects her husband or son so deeply, and will want to support him however she can.
Read TheBlaze Faith and Culture Editor Billy Hallowell's news coverage of this topic here.
Shaunti Feldhahn is a groundbreaking social researcher, popular speaker and the best-selling author of many books, including "For Women Only" and "For Men Only." In her latest book, "Through A Man’s Eyes", Shaunti has teamed up with Craig Gross, the founder of XXXchurch.com, to open women’s eyes to the visual nature of men and what it means for a husband, boyfriend or son. See menarevisual.com or shaunti.com for more.
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