5 minute read

The Lies of Lust: Stolen Humanity

Last Updated: October 28, 2019

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.

The Lust Trap is a web of lies. Lies that we believe. Lies that make promises that never deliver. This three-part series tackles three of these lies head on and provides each truth needed to break free from the trap.

I’ve already addressed Lie #1: This man or woman will make me feel whole and valuable and Lie #2: What I’m seeing and feeling is real.

Now, I want to give a response to Lie #3.

Lie: Objectifying doesn’t hurt anyone.

“My dad told me it’s okay to look, as long as you don’t touch,” a large, well-past-puberty 8th grader once told me with a smile.

This boy’s father passed on to him the idea that objectification doesn’t hurt anyone. This is a lie. It’s a lie the father had bought into and has now passed on to his son. It’s a lie from culture that many of us have bought into as well.

One could argue that it’s better to look and not touch than it is to give unwanted touches, which is obviously true. This is probably what this father was trying to teach his son. But the fact that unwanted touches bring great harm does not mean that “looking without touching” is a victimless crime, as this dad had led his son to believe.

Truth: Turning someone into an object harms them and you.

When a man or woman is only seen as a set of body parts, a man or woman is only seen as a set of body parts. No, that wasn’t a typo. Think about it, we are human beings. You are a human being. You are more than your body parts. If you lost an arm, you’d still be you.

We have been conditioned by our over-sexualized culture that a person’s humanity can be separated from their body. That a body can be consumed without any regard for the person. Porn is of course the perfect place where this disconnect happens—you are literally viewing pixels of a person, not the whole person. This concept drives much of the sexual ethic of our culture as well.

A dad can teach his 8th grade son that he can look, lust, and objectify women all he wants, turning them into objects and consuming them, and that’s okay, because their bodies exist as their own entities, just like on a computer screen. But, do you see the incredible harm this does to women? And vice versa for men who are objectified in the same way?

One of the most degrading things you can do to a person is take away their humanity. Have you ever had someone take away your humanity? It might have been in a sexual encounter, but there are non-sexual ways humanity is taken away as well, which can be helpful in grasping this concept.

The heinous act of slavery is the most obvious example that comes to mind, as do other horrific acts like torture and murder. Can you think of more “everyday” examples where this happens? A boss who treats you like you are worthless. A customer who treats you like dirt. A salesperson who only sees you as a potential commission. A bully on the playground. A coach screaming his head off at you. The list could go on and on.

Here’s the point: nobody likes to be objectified!  If you’ve ever been in one of these situations, you have hated it, right?  That’s because you know you are a full human, worthy to be treated as such.

Image-Bearers of God

When we objectify someone else, we take away their humanity. We reinforce the lie that their only worth is found in their body.  This does incredible harm to them. God created men and women in his image (Gen. 1:27). Even if a porn star is asking you to objectify him or her, you have to see the person behind what they are portraying. The porn stars themselves have believed the lie that they are only worth being degraded in this way, but that doesn’t make it true.

There are many complex reasons why and how they got to this point, each with their own unique story. Among the myriad of reasons, some have been abused from a young age—abuse that told them all they were good for was sex and being a body. Others are looking to be told they are valuable and accepted. Taking their clothes off (and getting paid for it) gives them that feeling temporarily, but deep down inside, their emptiness remains.

Many porn actors and actresses are also addicted to drugs and alcohol in order to numb the pain and emptiness that lives inside of them. When you look, even if they seem to want you to look, you are reinforcing these lies that they believe about themselves. Every click and every look is another “vote” that they truly aren’t people created in God’s image. It’s a vote that tells them what they believe about themselves is true and they should continue down the dark road they are on, a road that gets darker and darker for them every day. Can you imagine the liberation men and women in the sex industry would experience if the demand for their services all went away?

And rest assured, this isn’t only true for the men and women found in the sex industry. Millions of men and women in everyday life are objectified by lustful glances and mental fantasies. These gazes and thoughts put people into a different category in our brain. It’s a category where we are allowed to consume them. Where they don’t have the worth of a human being from their brain and their heart and their personality (all the things that make them image bearers of God). All of that has been thrown in the garbage.

This mindset doesn’t stay in our minds; it eventually leaks out sideways. A woman catches you looking at her chest. She feels belittled and used. A man finds out you’ve been fantasizing about him. He feels like he can’t be friends with you anymore. The human-to-human interaction you once had has been replaced with the human-object interaction you created in your mind.

A Life-Consuming Monster

The double dose of harm from objectification is what inflicts us, the objectifier. God created us to give life to others. When we objectify, we are taking life. We are treating someone like they aren’t a person. It’s like calling them the worst insults you can think of, except deep down, you really believe it and enjoy it.

This is not who God intended us to be, and I bet it is not who you want to be! Most of us do not wake up in the morning and say, “Today I’m going to be a life-consuming monster.” If you struggle with lust, I’m not saying you are a monster, not by any stretch. I understand the struggle, struggle myself, yet grace abounds. My point is that we need to see what lust can turn us into if we let it, and that’s not something that any of us want. Understanding this can help propel us forward to overcoming these temptations, rather than them overcoming us.

The longer we buy into the lie that our objectifying isn’t harming anyone, the more shriveled our heart gets. When we give life to others, our hearts grow. It’s an exponential effect. When we see people as people and treat them with this dignity, we are interacting and bringing life the way God intended. When we see people as means to our own gain, we put ourselves on a dark path, bringing great harm to who God created us to be.

Embrace the truth that objectifying harms both the object of objectification and the one doing the objectifying. Embrace the antidote to objectification which is to bring life and see people as whole people. Whole people that God made with a body and a soul—people to share life with, be in community with, and give the dignity and respect that comes with being image bearers of God.

  • Comments on: The Lies of Lust: Stolen Humanity
    1. Mitch

      “When a man or woman is only seen as a set of body parts”

      I’m sorry if I don’t stop to personally introduce myself to every single attractive woman I see at the mall or the ball game. A beautiful woman passes by and I look but I don’t touch. I never got to know the person behind the body parts. Should I go introduce myself and find out one fact about her? And if all I know is what she looks like am I guilty of objectification? I did enjoy what she looked like. If I thought she was ugly is that also objectification? Should I imagine her reading the bible or going to church as a way of resisting the temptation to objectify?

      “Even if a porn star is asking you to objectify him or her, you have to see the person behind what they are portraying. The porn stars themselves have believed the lie that they are only worth being degraded in this way, but that doesn’t make it true.”

      Your sympathy for poor victimized porn stars is touching. And there probably are many of them that have experienced hardship. But there are a lot more people who experience hardship that don’t end up having sex in front of a camera. And a whole lot of people who have sex in front of a camera that grew up as basically happy kids. What you are pushing is the “Damaged Goods Hypothesis” that has been debunked many times. But even if the damaged goods hypothesis were true in some cases with porn stars, what about all the women who work as webcam girls or models showing off their body parts on Patreon or Instagram. A lot of these women intersperse bikini shots with family pictures of themselves with mommy and daddy and little puppy. They look pretty happy and well-adjusted to me. Other than the part about flaunting their bodies, of course.
      My daughter’s friend used to post pictures of herself on Instagram in a g-string bikini bottom and a t-shirt that said “F— Donald Trump”. So I guess everybody did get to know the person behind the body parts. She was a foul-mouthed hater of the President. Now she can be appreciated for other things besides her body parts. What a breakthrough!

      The point is that immodest women are the flip side of lustful men. He objectifies her. And she objectifies herself in a desire to get attention. In fact, a lot of these women flaunt their bodies to get the attention of other women in the never-ending competition for likes and followers. But of course, unlike lustful men, immodest women have their own lobbying group called 3rd wave feminists who decry “slut shaming” and push the idea that women should be able to dress however they want no matter how scantily and if the men lust, well that’s their problem.

      “A woman catches you looking at her chest. She feels belittled and used.”

      Not if you have 6-pack abs, flowing hair, and are over 6 feet tall. Women only complain about objectification from men they are not attracted to. If you’re a hot guy, they love the attention.

      One of the ways to write persuasively is to anticipate exceptions and to understand certain basic uncomfortable truths that can get lost in the discussion. A long jeremiad against the male objectification of women, no matter how much truth it contains, can go off the rails in several ways:

      1. It fails to understand the distinction between lust and legitimate sexual attraction that creates initial interest in a man towards pursuing a woman he wants to date. Noah has already stated elsewhere that he recognizes that gay men can be attracted to other gay men without sinning. So he is capable of nuance. Attraction isn’t always lust. So why can’t you look but not touch if all you are is attracted rather than lusting?

      2. It fails to understand the distinction between objectification and a husband desiring his wife as soul, mind and body. He married the woman so he clearly saw her as more than a body. Otherwise, why bother getting married. Just fornicate.

      3. It fails to understand the problem of self-objectification, not only as it pertains to a woman who flaunts her body to get attention but also negative objectification that often causes wives who feel physically inferior pulling away from their husbands no matter how sensitive he’s been to her. She just doesn’t feel comfortable showing her body and cuts him off from the marriage bed because of her own problem with self-objectification.

      Dr. Laura Schlesinger said in her book The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands:

      “In reading all the letters from men, I was struck by their depth of sensitivity about the issue of women’s appearance. It wasn’t an impersonal, animal reaction (as it is with women the men don’t personally know), it was a deeply personal one. The wife’s comfort with and appreciation of her own body and femininity, and her willingness to share that with her husband, actually fed his sense of well-being, his feeling of being loved as a husband and valued as a ‘man.’”

      I think men deserve more credit than you give them.

      • Nathaniel Bickham

        I believe you may have missed the point.

      • Uriah Stark

        Totally missed the point.

    2. Mitch

      @Nathaniel Bickham

      “I believe you may have missed the point.”

      Obviously you are missing my points.

    3. Alan

      You said it, it’s not just devaluing the people in the porn, you end up devaluing yourself as well. When I’ve been into porn, I’ve put myself into the situations I’m looking at. It seems to be the point not just to look but to be a part of it, at least in your head. But when I’ve done that enough times, I’ve felt as worthless as how I viewed the people in the video. And whatever pleasure I’ve come away is as short-lived as the next click, and it’s got nothing to do with real joy that lasts. When I’ve embraced lust, I may not be a monster, but I’m carrying one in me that consumes heart, soul, time and conscience. If you’re given to the lust that leads to porn, hate it with all that’s in you and fight it with the strength that God gives to faith.

    4. Mitch

      “Totally missed the point.”

      Got the point. Lust is bad. Now pay attention to my points.

    5. and that “you must not eat any blood whatever, either of bird or of animal, in any of your settlements.” While animal sacrifice was part of the practice of ancient Judaism, the Tanakh ( Old Testament ) and Jewish teachings portray human sacrifice as one of the evils that separated the pagans of Canaan from the Hebrews ( Deuteronomy 12:31, 2 Kings 16:3 ). Jews were prohibited from engaging in these rituals and they were also punished for doing so ( Exodus 34:15, Leviticus 20:2, Deuteronomy 18:12, Jeremiah 7:31 ). In fact, ritual cleanliness for priests even prohibited them from being in the same room with a human corpse ( Leviticus 21:11 ).

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