It seems that no matter how hard I try to avoid certain pop culture phenomena, I cannot escape snippets of information about the biggest names. On one end of the spectrum, I cannot avoid hearing that someone who calls himself The Situation, is in trouble for tax evasion. On the other end, I cannot avoid hearing that the Duggar family thinks bare midriff is a gateway to hell. The former makes me shake my head because it is beyond me how someone who goes by The Situation earned multiple millions of dollars. The latter makes me shake my head because everyone knows it’s ankles and armpits that lead men down those thorny paths to Satan.
I feel like society has lost the art of Appreciation. There has to be something between, “Her breasts will cause you to lust, and send you to your doom,” and “Oh, yeah! Show me dem titties!”
There is nothing wrong with wanting your children to be chaste. Chastity has a multitude of benefits. Chastity means not worrying about STDs, or unplanned pregnancy. It can take a load off your mind. But there is also nothing wrong with appreciating a good looking person. Acknowledging that Dwayne Johnson is a mighty fine specimen, and appreciating how nice he looks in various states of dress does not mean I am going to commit a cardinal sin, having looked upon him. I do not fear for my marriage because my husband thinks Alyssa Milano is hot. Alyssa Milano is hot. Even I can see that.
What bothers me is when we ask our children to suppress their nature, rather than teaching them how to healthily embrace their desires. Telling a boy that it is sinful to appreciate what a girl looks like can confuse that boy to the point that he projects his self-hatred–not being able to avoid sin, for his natural desire to look at the girl–onto the girl, and causes her and/or himself any number of harms. “You are a whore because you make my pants feel funny! Therefore, whatever I do to you is punishment for your nastiness! Here, I shall punish you with this funny-feeling thing in my pants!”
Teach a boy that girls (and boys) can be wonderful to look at, but that we should always respect the other person’s right to privacy and respect, and I think you’ll have a much healthier boy.
The worst is when women take on the attitude, and they become self-loathing, or anti-woman. They are so afraid of being seen as stumbling blocks to men’s salvation that they have internalized an attitude that a slip of beauty means a willful attempt to derail goodness. I don’t want you to know I think I am beautiful because that means I am vain, and my vanity can lead to a man’s downfall, so to keep you from looking at me, and what I am trying to bury, I am going to point my finger at Sue Ellen over there, and yell that she’s spent too much time making her lips look pretty, and that’s sure to make Joe Ray go devilnuts. Sue Ellen wants Joe Ray to go to hell! Just look at her hair! Look at how much of her collar bone is showing! Whatever you do, don’t look at me because you’ll see I’m just as hateful as Sue Ellen.*
We have to be able to look at The David and admire the art without fixating on the fig leaf. We have to be able to look at Liberté and see the strength without gasping at her nipples. We have to be able to appreciate the natural beauty of humanity without being worried that thinking someone is beautiful, or desirable means there is something dark in your soul, or something in them inciting you to lust.
Appreciation is a giving, creative force. When you appreciate, you show honor, and you give weight to the value something brings to its surroundings.
Find the happy medium.
*Or, how dare Sue Ellen be beautiful and catch Joe Ray’s eye! I’m over here being as blandly attractive as possible (because you have to be just attractive enough that some man might want to marry you, so you can make some babies, but not so attractive as to look like you’re trying), and she’s being downright attractive, and that’s wrong! That’s sin! She’s making Joe Ray look at her outsides, when he should be focused on my insides (and by that I mean my heart, because he’s not supposed to think about my baby maker until after we’re married.)
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