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.