4 minute read

Behind Every Woman’s Body Is a Woman

Last Updated: March 15, 2021

Noah Filipiak
Noah Filipiak

Noah Filipiak is a pastor and the author of Beyond the Battle: A Man's Guide to his Identity in Christ in an Oversexualized World (Zondervan)He also hosts The Flip Side Podcast. If you desire to be free from lust, porn, and fantasy, you can join Noah and his team in an online small group at Beyond the Battle, or get the leader guide to run your own group.

When you look at pornography, what you end up seeing is a long line of naked bodies. When you look at pornography for years, you end up seeing years and years’ worth of long lines of naked bodies.

I do a lot of work with guys who, in their past, looked at porn for years. They don’t look at porn anymore, but they have a very hard time controlling where their eyes go when real-life women approach them. While it seems natural that we should be able to control the physical movements of our eyes, the connection between exposure to pornography and how it conditions us should not be such a surprise. It is, in fact, one of the greatest tragedies caused by porn.

Porn teaches men that women are bodies. I’m using a broad definition of the word “porn” here. I’m referring to any seductive display of a woman’s naked body, whether that’s a pornographic video, a Playboy image, or a scene from Game of Thrones. I’d even throw in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, the gateway to porn for scores of men, as its seductive photos have created the same conditioned response: women are bodies.

We know this message isn’t true, and we’ve seen its tragic consequences in our culture, yet it continues every time a pornographic image is consumed.

A Hyperbolic Example

Let’s look at a hyperbolic example. A baby boy is born on an island separated from the human population. All he sees his entire life are videos and images of nude women either having sex, desiring sex, or posing seductively.

Then, at age 25, he is placed into the general human population. How is he going to view the women that he meets and interacts with every day?

That’s a scary thought, but it shouldn’t be surprising. He’s going to see women as two-dimensional sets of body parts whose only purpose for existing is his own sexual gratification. This has nothing to do with how a woman is dressed, for this will happen regardless of the style or fashion. Throughout his entire life his eyes have darted straight to her body parts, so that’s what they will continue to do, because he thinks that’s what a woman is.

I say some of this because I’m still shocked at how secular culture can embrace pornography in all its forms, yet somehow not see the connection between it and the sexual objectification and abuse of women in the real world.

Related: #MeToo and the Deep Cultural Concerns It Highlights

But I also say it to set the table for the real men who are now caught in the trap they have built for themselves over years of being conditioned by porn. Most of us are at a point where we aren’t condemning the man who is looking at porn, or who has looked at it in his past, but are extending a hand of grace and help. But now this man’s physiological responses to women have been trained to see them as sexual objects and to subconsciously glance at their body parts as a now-instinctive act of consumption and gratification.

Can this conditioned response be stopped?

The good news is, it can be. But not without some intentionality and hard work. For most men it will take more than a sermon or a lecture to get their eyes to do what their mind and heart want.

The Problem With the Porn Mindset

The foundation of this rewiring process begins with our approach to how and why we are avoiding pornography in the first place. If you’ve been told to not look at pornography because it’s bad and sinful to do it, you might be able to cut out porn from your life, but your porn mindset is likely to remain. Porn did something to your mind, something that has to be undone. More than just training yourself to avoid pornography, you have to rewire your mind from the porn mindset.

The problem with the porn mindset is it doesn’t see all of a woman (or man), it only sees their body parts. We all know we are more than body parts. We all know our mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives are more than body parts. We know that we are all complex beings. We know that what makes relationships both rewarding and challenging is that we are complex beings. Every woman, just like every man, has strengths, weaknesses, stressors, anxieties, pain, joy, personality, values, and a long list of other attributes that separate humans from the animals.

Yet porn has trained men that women are just bodies. You can consume them and move on.

God’s design for sex doesn’t allow for this. His design for sex is that all of someone is embraced in a lifetime commitment. When you deal with all of someone, conflict is sure to come! But the bond of commitment is there to sustain it. All requires selflessness, which is the definition of love. Sex and body parts are only one ingredient inside of this recipe, not something that was designed to be indulged in on their own.

When tempted to lust, the only way to get beyond the body-part-mindset is to understand that behind every woman’s body is a full, whole, complex woman. She is a soul. There is a depth and sacredness to this that I can’t put into words.

If you’re married, you know what I’m saying is true because you see it every day in your own wife. There may have been a day when you first met that you only saw her physical attributes, but you now know she is a much more complex equation than that (praise God). The same is true for every woman on the planet.

Let the Rewiring Begin

Porn has taught you to see: BODY. You have to be rewired to see: WOMAN. And to apply what this means. You look into her eyes because that’s where she is. She is a she, not a that. She’s not an object to be consumed.

Body parts separated from the person are only things. God didn’t call you to consume people, taking life away from them, he called you to bring life to people. This is the foundational calling of all Christians.

We live on a planet full of human beings. Full, whole, complex human beings. Porn has taught us that women aren’t fully human and we’ve been conditioned into believing that lie whenever we consume them for our selfish gratification.

The path of rewiring means taking the truths of Scripture and letting them renew our minds (Romans 12:1-2) away from the lies porn has taught us.

  • Every woman is created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), full of his dignity, honor, and complexity.
  • Every woman is fearfully and wonderfully made, knit together by God himself (Psalm 139:13-16).
  • Every woman has a soul.
  • Every woman is God’s.

Repeat these truths to yourself daily when you spend time praying and reading your Bible. Repeat them in prayer all throughout your day.

The next time your eyes want to go toward a woman’s body, remind yourself of the truth that she is a whole person and all that means. Look her in the eyes and see her that way.

  • Comments on: Behind Every Woman’s Body Is a Woman
    1. Steve

      One of the most balanced and respectful and, most of all, helpful article I’ve read on the subject.

    2. David

      Thank you so much for reminding me Noah, thank you.
      I forget, wretched thing that I am.
      I’ve been a user and an abuser of people.
      Sometimes I get so tired, so tired, I don’t want to even consider marriage, what evil would I do to that person?
      I’ve been thinking about castration for a long time now, there will be no turning back, I might even die young.
      I’m not sure about it, but I’m researching how to block testosterone, if not physically castrate myself.
      Why can’t I be rid of that which holds me back, I want to be free.
      Oh Lord why.
      I thank God for your hard work Noah, the Lord bless and keep you.

      • Danielle

        It’s better to keep fighting the fight. Satan will convince you that you cannot win. Jesus has already done the work on the cross. Find your rest in His yoke. It is light and easy.

      • Shaked

        David, your comment is so real it’s hard for me to read, because I understand you. I really understand that you feel the hardest obstacle in your life is the effect of porn on you, because I feel it too and ever since I started watching porn, I have tried to stop. I sometimes wonder how my life could be if I had never watched porn.. and even though I know it’s determinately bad for our mental health and relationships, I still can’t get over it.
        But listen to me David. I TRULY KNOW that me and you have the strength to overcome it, and to use this life force to make your life so better you will not recognize yourself. And you must work and suffer day after day in fighting this temptations to reach that peace. Freedom. I know you can because I know I can too.
        We don’t know the ways of god. I can only tell you one thing. If you yearn being close to god and being good, doing good and feeling good and ready to go through a long, lonely, dark way to reach that destination, you will make it. God will see you and help you, it is written in the bible.

      • Jay

        Dave, All of us who have struggled with porn and impure eyes can identify with how you feel. You are not alone. But believe me, physical alteration to your body won’t do. Sin comes from the heart, the center of the human being. Read “Can you really be free from porn?” by Michael Leahy and try to implement the steps he shares there.

      • Wayne Daniels

        Hi David. I was just browsing these comments when I stopped on yours.

        I am new to pornography recovery….well, two years into and doing well at this point. It has damaged my marriage…I’m still dealing with the consequences of rebuilding trust.

        I hope that since the time you wrote your intentions of self harm and mutilation, you’ve reconsidered. Although the article teaches us how to view women, we men were given our manhood for His glory and to create intimacy in a loving relationship. You’ve survived this long with the malady of lust, keep hoping for a breakthrough.

        Please reconsider that option. If you need someone to talk to, we could find a way to connect. I’m not a stalker!

      • Ken

        David, don’t harm yourself. YOU are more than just your body parts, too. Your testosterone not only enables sexual desire, it gives you your masculine attributes like strength and energy and that desire to protect “that person” you referred to. (You already have the desire to protect her and you haven’t even married her yet…) You need your testosterone and the body parts that produce it in order to fulfill your created design. It is not evil; it just needs to be brought under control. It’s a tough battle, but you’re in the right place to learn how to fight it.

      • Daniel Miller

        Testosterone blockers and other kinds of Castration will not help you and only cause you further pain and frustration. Colossians 2:23 (ESV): 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

        Change must happen in the mind and heart we find this in all areas of life by pursuing Christ through His word, transformed by the renewing of our minds by which we begin to see things Andy people the same way He does.

        Just some loving advice from your brother in Christ. Dan.

      • MichaelC

        As an older man on testosterone replacement therapy I can tell you that low T is low quality of life and low life expectancy. Your praise of this article juxtaposed with your desire to inflict harm on yourself is very disturbing. It is why I believe that the message to stop objectifying women has been taken to an extreme that vilifies and demonizes masculinity. We need balance in this message and, sadly, Noah is a one-trick pony on this issue because his articles never address the danger that attacks on “objectification” can easily be interpreted as attacks on the fundamental visual qualities of masculine arousal and sexual response.

        We already have a war on masculinity by the secular culture. We don’t need the Christian culture, under the guise of fighting porn, to become yet another voice of misandry. This blog has in too many ways become just that.

        As to your specific desire to emasculate yourself, just remember that the suicide rate of transsexuals goes up after re-assignment surgery. This is because they suddenly realize that their problem of gender dysphoria was actually a real mental illness that needed to solved through spiritual regeneration and counseling rather than through physical alteration. I suspect if you follow through you will be most disappointed.

        Fix the real problem. Your masculinity is not it.

        For a different take read https://deepstrength.wordpress.com/2019/06/29/objectification-is-meaningless/

      • David,
        you´re not on your own in this struggle. My experience has been quite similar to yours but I want to reassure you that you are the master of your own mind. It´s not your bodies fault that you go through something so difficult – so don´t change Gods great creation and intentions. There is hope for healing and there is help. Consider joining a 12 step group to share what you are experiencing and to listen to what other people are going through. A CSAT certified counsellor or therapist might also be a good resource to you.
        Don´t give up – you are worth the fight!!

    3. Jonathan R Butera

      Thanks EXCELLENT article

    4. Jenny

      There’s a lot of really good stuff in this article. I have found myself wanting to shout to my husband that I am a PERSON, NOT A BODY. And my body actually exists primarily for my use, not his viewing pleasure.

      However, I think there is a serious blindspot in the author’s point of view. The blame cannot be placed solely on porn for this mindset. Most so-called Christian marriage and sexuality teaching has the same mindset. Women must be modest so as to not tempt men to sin. BUT don’t be frumpy or let yourself go so as not to tempt your husband to stray. Wives must have sex with their husbands and submit to them in order to keep them behaving well, faithful and not abusive. Some of the most vile even go so far as to teach that women are not made in the image of God and are inherently subordinate to men.

      Do you see how those teachings contribute to the problem just as much as porn? We need to address this things in churches too.

    5. Dave

      David, please don’t go that route. Some of my friends know a guy that tried it, it didn’t really change the battle in his mind even though he couldn’t do anything physically. God is the answer to your problem. I know from personal experience. I am a former sex addict. Surrender to God and His amazing plan is the answer to life’s problems.

    6. Jesse

      Thanks for this article. Yes, helpful and a wonderful reminder! We need to keep these truths in focus instead of where our selfish thoughts and desires take us.

    7. Jenny

      There is lots of good information here. I think seeing women as people, fully human, made in the image of God, is an important part of conquering lust. I have found myself wishing my husband could see all of me, not just my body, many many times in the last twenty-odd years.

      However, I think this article misses something important. Noah lays all the blame for this mindset on porn, while, I believe, most of the “Christian” teaching on this topic has the same mindset, just with a Christian outfit on. Teachings such as modesty for women- so that we don’t “make” our brothers stumble, But Christian wives don’t let yourselves go- or you will make your husband stumble, and you will be partly (or wholly) to blame if he turns to porn or an affair– these teachings turn women into sex objects every bit as much as porn does, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Some of the most vile “Christian” leaders out there even teach that women are not made in the image of God, only men are.

      We have to address this in our own house at the same time we work on addressing it in porn. Just turning to the church won’t help men conquer lust until the church has a healthy view of women.

      • MichaelC

        I would be most curious to know which Christian leaders teach that only men are created in God’s image. Names and links please.

    8. Jennifer

      For the three and a half years I dated a porn addict I always used to say he consumed me. It felt like he was always taking my energy and my soul from me. It never felt like he gave back to me or we had an equal exchange.

      I did not know the first year we dated that he has been a heavy porn user since adolescence. I stood by him for two more years hoping he would change. Supposedly he stopped looking at porn for those two years although I seriously doubt that now.

      Two days before the date of this article I discovered his addiction was full blown again this entire year and so is his denial. It hurts. After being consumed for over three years, when we finally broke up, it felt like I was an empty shell of the person I had been before I met him.

      The effects of porn also destroys the women who date the men who use porn.

    9. RickyB

      Behind every man’s wallet is a man wanting to be respected and not reduced to a success object.

    10. Ashley

      Thank you for writing this!

    11. Tamra

      Wonderfully written article and I feel it really captures the sexual brokenness in our world. My husband and I are still trying to heal and repair all the damage caused by his secret masturbation our entire marriage (30 years plus), his use of porn and then ultimately an affair that lasted about a third of our marriage. I often say ( a quote I read from someone else) that I have “licked the floor of hell and lived to tell about it.”
      I agree that there is an incredible amount of objectification of women in magazines, movies, tv, etc. It has become mainstream in our society and now is affecting younger generations including our children. Our society (and churches) need to recognize this and begin to address this worldwide problem. There are no easy answers and it won’t change overnight but as society begins to recognize this and speak up, hopefully we can cause ripples of change that will carry forward. Fight the new drug.org (and other groups) is a great example of getting the word out for understanding this epidemic. Shame is not the answer. Sweeping sexual brokenness under the rug and hiding it is not the answer. Condemnation , disgust and ridicule is not the answer. Giving up is not the answer. That is why I am still fighting for my marriage (and my husband is too) that God blesses and holds dear. It’s been the hardest thing I /we have ever done and I am finally and truly understanding the meaning of the word Grace. “When we understand the darkness, we can better know the Light”
      Thanks so much for the wonderful and insightful article and to everyone’s posts/comments which were insightful themselves.

    12. Albin Kurian Scaria

      My name is Albin Kurian Scaria from India residing in Ireland completed my Masters last year from Trinity College Dublin. I always wanted to experience teenage love eventhough it’s not real and it’s fake and time pass but seeing my friends date it left behind a big wound those days I’m recovering from 9-10 years of terrible addiction to pornography and masturbation. I’m 24 years old now this addiction started when I was a teenage 12-13 age group. Right now on path of recovery with 180 ministries very painful feel like giving up don’t know how long. God is good he’s trying to heal that wound and give me grace. All Glory and honour to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!🙏🙏

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