15
Aug
08

Pole Position

All righty, then! Mrs. Blue suggested that I needed to stick to the spiritual mostly, and I’ve been good. It’s been what, something like three weeks since I covered a sexual topic as a specific blog post?

I’d say we’re overdue. I am, after all, still Deacon Blue.

So, as you might now have guessed by the title of this post, I am clearly going to talk about either penises or strippers. Since the only penis I really care about is my own (I frankly think women got the much more attractive sexual anatomy and I really don’t like to cogitate on johnsons all that much), that leaves strippers.

Miz Pink touched on the topic of strippers back in her “Pro Sex” post in early June, and I’ll probably end up repeating some of her points, but what I am going to try to do here is twofold (in other words, prepare for a longish post): Try to assess what the biblical view of stripping would be, and try to give some practical relationship-oriented advice for men and women who are dating or married and wonder if a guy going to a strip club is altogether a bad thing. (No, I’m not really going to address whether women seeing male strippers is a bad thing, because I have yet to encounter a man or woman who really worries about any ill effects from that activity; for women, it really seems to be novelty most of the time—a lark—whereas men can take their visits to the strip clubs quite seriously. But you can probably extract at least some of the points here and just change the gender.)

First, let me tackle the biblical, and considering they didn’t have strippers really back in the day, this is going to largely be conjecture. Yes, as Salome showed, there were women who could dance sexy and get men to do some questionable things, but the idea of men just being able to go into a joint and pay for women to get naked for them just didn’t happen, I don’t think. Generally, if men were paying money for nudity, they wanted prostitution to go with it.

Now, Jesus did talk about “lust in our hearts.”

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. (Gospel of Matthew chapter 5, verses 27-30)

First off, let’s dispense with the idea that you need to remove body parts to save your soul; Jesus is simply trying to illustrate how detrimental sin is and the consequences of it. Also, there is no sin (except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which is hard to commit by any born-again person and is a topic for entirely another day) that can cause you to lose your salvation once you have it. This doesn’t mean we should actively sin, but if it were possible to sin enough to lose your salvation, Jesus’ sacrifice would mean nothing, because none of us would know how far his atoning death covered us; we’d still be living under the fear of sin and the power of the law instead of grace and faith.

But his comment that looking at a women with lust is a sin is important, as we need to identify sins in our life and root them out whenever and wherever we can. So, what does he mean? Any of my longtime and loyal readers know how I feel about porn (Porn Again Christianity and Porn Again Threat Assessment) and I saw a neat post recently from Black Girl In Maine on the topic, too, titled “You, Your Man and Porn.” Basically, I don’t see porn fitting into the “lust in your heart” thing because you cannot commit adultery with an image of a person you will never meet. Even in Jesus’ day, there had to be women who looked sexy even if they weren’t trying to. To suggest that a man, any man (or woman looking at a hot dude, either) can see someone attractive and not think, “That person is sexy” is ridiculous. It is a stimulus-response and cannot be controlled.

However, the problem comes in if you let yourself fixate on that person. Because a real person in real life is someone with whom you can commit adultery or fornication, particularly if it’s someone you may run into again, that you see pretty regularly, with whom you work, etc. So Jesus’ admonition, I believe, is for us not to let ourselves start playing around with scenarios in our mind because the more we do, the more we are likely to turn them into reality. And if we’re imagining ourselves in detailed sexual activities with someone mentally who is someone we see in real life, that is something that would be sinful because it also comes down to coveting that person.

So, how does this translate to strip clubs? Pretty unclearly, I’m afraid, and I suspect it will have more to do with your intent than anything else. To me, personally, a strip club is simply 3-D interactive porn. I’ve never viewed live Web-cam porn stuff but I have been to strip clubs on several occasions (though only two times since getting married). To me, the biggest difference between the two is that you get to be truly up close to the woman in a strip club. But even so, I have never looked at a stripper and really imagined having sex with her. I allow myself to be aroused, I appreciate the sexiness of it and I like the well-feigned interest in my libido, but I never look at these women as potential bedmates. That just seems, tacky and disrespectful.

No, for me, they are women working hard at doing a job. They put a lot of effort out to entertain me, as any entertainer in a non-sexual venue would as well, and I tip them well for their work and I am polite to them to a fault. I see a good stripper and a good, friendly waiter in much the same light; it’s just that the services being provided are starkly different. (Oddly enough, though, the conversation is often very similar.)

Now, I have known guys who try to get (and very rarely succeed in getting, by the way) a stripper’s phone number. I know of only one person who’s ever gotten a date. Strippers, for their part, generally don’t imagine sex with their customers. Ever. In some ways, they may be less sinful than the men at the clubs, even though they are they ones getting naked.

Some guys, I know, go to the clubs and do have lust in their hearts for these women. And for those who are married, this is a patricularly bad thing. It detracts from, and distracts from, their marriages.

So, it’s context, really. If you’re in a club, you need to be really clear about why you are there. For the most part, though, particularly if you’re married, it’s time to hang up going to the places probably, or doing so on the rarest of rare occasions. The places are expensive, and there are better ways to put your money and your libido to work in a relationship. I went to a club last year (or was it the year before) just out of curiosity, and it just didn’t do anything for me. The women are younger than I would ever date if I were to become single, so the one table dance I got was pretty unmoving for me. The woman was nice though, and I hope her college courses are still going well. Short of attending a bachelor party, I couldn’t imagine much reason I’d enter such a place again. Partly that’s age and my personal form of maturation; partly that’s the Holy Spirit keeping me in check.

Much like with porn, I don’t think strip clubs are by definition bad or good. They are certainly fraught with more peril in terms of potentially acting on sin impulses or “sinning in your heart,” but they are still a far cry from prostitution, which can combine fornication and adultery and several other sins in one package and leave you with a nasty disease. The vast marjority of women have nothing to worry about in terms of their men going off to such places, except that they will come back home wanting some action, most likely. But, still, there is the mental aspect that Jesus warned us about, and it bears watching.

Would Jesus approve of men going to strip clubs (or women for that matter)? No. He also wouldn’t approve of you telling your spouse to call in sick for you when you’re just wanting a day off. There is no Sin-o-Meter, as my father-in-law often preached; it’s all bad in God’s eyes.

I can tell you one thing: Jesus would go to strip clubs if they had existed in his day. He just wouldn’t have been going to check out the flesh; he would have been fishing for souls, just like he did when he hung out with thieves, prostitutes, gamblers, cheats and just plain average folks.

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6 Responses to “Pole Position”


  1. 1 Deacon Blue
    August 15, 2008 at 11:35 am

    In the interests of some equal time, and to show that I don’t blind myself to arguments by people who lie opposite the fence of me on some issue, here’s a blog post from a Christian about lust and porn that is in sharp contract to my views:

    http://pastorsteveweaver.wordpress.com/2007/04/16/the-authority-of-the-king-jesus-and-lust-exposition-of-matthew-527-30/

  2. August 15, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    Hmmmm. Interesting. When the answer to “would Jesus approve” was a resounding “No,” that should have really settled it for me – and for anybody else – who decided to “follow Jesus.” Because in fact humans are gonna sin, but I feel a light plate of sin is better than a platter piled high with extras we could avoid with a little self-control.

    My fiance and I have talked about strip clubs. We’re best friends and talked about visiting a club together (I’ve been before). Does that small detail… going together… change the equation for a couple at all?

  3. August 15, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    Oops. I forgot to add… like always… a great post.

  4. 4 Deacon Blue
    August 15, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    I think the going together thing does change the dynamic a lot. All couples can use little bits of zing here and there and certainly a strip club opens the possibility of getting the mood set. Hell, it can even be useful for cracking jokes later about what you see at the club, and I’m all for people getting a few laughs on along with their passion.

    Another thing is that sometimes, there is a social factor as well. I do think it is laudable to stay out of the clubs, but then again, I think it’s great to avoid premarital sex, something neither I nor most people I know have done. But sometimes, it’s just bad form NOT to. Think in terms of bachelor parties where, unless you are going to be freaked out at the club, it’s probably not good taste to ditch it if you want to stay friends with folks. And, for better or worse, there are still people who like to hang out for casual business dealings at such places…I’ve known more than a few ad sales folks in that vein myself working in various magazines.

  5. August 16, 2008 at 6:49 pm

    I really liked your take on “lust in your Heart” it agrees with one I stumbled across years ago that comforts me, and if true, means that I sin less often (Whoo Hoo!)…http://www.geocities.com/dcheddie/lust1.html 😀

  6. 6 Deacon Blue
    August 16, 2008 at 11:47 pm

    LOL…well, Chris, sinning less often is always good. It’s a shame that even when we find we aren’t sinning as much as we feared, we still have a plethora of other sins still piled up.

    Thanks for the link. I’ve always though the anti-masturbation thing was a crock, too. But nice to have something that explains the biblical meaning of lust a bit more.

    I’m the kind of person who always worries about a great link one day becoming a broken link, so I’m copy-pasting below the page that Chris provides the link to. I’m sure all sorts of great formatting will be lost, but at least the info will be here for perpetuity…well, as long as my blog is around anyway

    —————————————-

    IS MASTURBATION A SIN?

    By Denver Cheddie

    Is masturbation a sin? Whoever has never had a “lustful thought”, be the first to say yes. How do we deal with such thoughts? In the light of Matt. 5:28, believers seem to be walking a tight rope everyday of their lives. But I believe lust is a very much misunderstood word and concept. It is precisely such a misunderstanding that caused Christians in the past to seclude themselves to living in caves apart from civilization. Perhaps this misunderstanding still prohibits Catholic priests from marrying. And it is this misunderstanding that leaves believers with the condemnation that they commit adultery every day of their lives.

    I will argue, in this article, that

    masturbation is not a sin,

    lust means desire not thought, therefore erotic fantasies are not necessarily the lust Jesus spoke of in Matthew 5:28.

    Common Misconceptions About Lust

    When asked if masturbation is a sin, most “experts” would reply that the act is not wrong of itself, but the thoughts associated with it are (Matthew 5:28 is usually quoted at this point). Therein lies the first misconception concerning lust – equating lust with thoughts. Lust does not mean thought. The most common words translated as lust in the Bible are epithumeo, epipotheo, and orego. They all mean to desire, to covet, to long for intensely, to set one’s heart upon. The idea of intent or volition is strongly present. Consider 1 Tim 3:1

    If any man desires (orego) the office of a bishop, he desires (epithumeo) a good thing.

    Clearly both Greek words are being used interchangeably i.e. they are synonymous. No one who desires to be a bishop, sits and fantasizes all day about being a bishop. He actively pursues the calling. He does whatever he has to do to achieve his goal. The NIV translates orego here as “sets his heart on”. And since epithumeo means the same thing, in this context, the word lust means “to desire with intent”. It does not mean “to form mental images”. It’s the same word epithumeo that appears in Matt 5:28, which will be discussed later. Essentially, someone who has erotic thoughts may not necessarily be guilty of lust.

    Others say that masturbation is an act that flows from an evil heart of lust. Therein lies the second misconception – that lust is always bad. Suffice it tto say at this point that the driving force that motivates people to masturbate is the same driving force that moves husbands and wives to have sex with each other. Let’s face it, lust (sexual desire) is a very important part of sex. Lust is actually used in a good way in Matt. 13:17; Luke 22:15; 1 Tim 3:1; Heb. 6:11; and 1 Pet. 1:12. It is also used in a bad way in Matt. 5:28; Rom. 7:7; 13:9; 1 Cor. 10:6; and James 4:2.

    Anything we desire is a lust. What makes it good or bad is the object of that desire. If we desire to be ministers of the Gospel, that is a good lust (1 Tim. 3:1). If we set our hearts on our neighbor’s wife, then that is a bad lust (Rom. 7:7; 13:9 cf. Ex. 20:17). Lust is actually the same word as covet in the Greek (Ex. 20:17). We can covet our neighbor’s stuff, or we can covet earnestly the best gifts (1 Cor 12:31). Just like adultery and fornication are perversions of God’s gift of sex, lust is a perversion of the sexual desire God gave us. Just like sex is only wrong if we have it with the wrong person, lust is wrong if we desire (covet) someone who is not our spouse.

    Matthew 5:28

    The most pertinent scripture in this discussion is Matt 5:28.

    whosoever looketh on a woman to lust (epithumeo) after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (KJV)

    The NIV translates this verse,

    anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

    The NIV’s is an unfortunate translation because the word epithumeo appearing in the verse is a verb (to lust) not an adverb (lustfully). The operative word is not look, but lust. Jesus is not talking about how a man looks at the woman or thinks about a woman, but about a man lusting after a woman (looking being an instrument of lusting). That makes a world of a difference in the true meaning of the verse, the true meaning intended by Jesus. He is addressing lust not fantasy.

    In Matt. 5:28, I do not believe Jesus was speaking to teenagers who were at their sexual peak and were entertaining many erotic fantasies. That simply does not fit the context of the sermon on the mount. It is hardly likely that Jesus, in the middle of his tirade against the Pharisees, would throw a punch at teenagers. He was primarily addressing married men who had desires for women other than their wives. That same desire should have been directed toward their own wives (Prov. 5:19, 20). The lust Jesus spoke of was a determined desire to attain some outside woman, not a mere fantasy. Some of the Jews divorced their wives for this very reason. The very desire to do it was as bad as the act itself, Jesus said.

    The IVP commentary on Matt. 5:28 defines lust as “the deliberate harboring of desire for an illicit relationship.” It goes on to say that “Jesus refers not to noticing a person’s beauty but to imbibing it, meditating on it, SEEKING TO POSSESS IT” [emphasis mine]. The idea of purposeful intent is present.

    Matthew 5:28 is very similar to Proverbs 6:25.

    Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids.

    Proverbs 6:25-29 speak of lusting after a woman’s beauty in one’s heart. But even in this context, that woman is someone else’s wife (vs. 29). This is talking about a strong desire to go out and have relations with someone. It is talking about the desires which eventually lead to the act of adultery. That lust is described as taking fire in your bosom and walking on hot coals. It is the kind of lust that WILL result in one getting burnt. That does not describe sexual fantasies. It describes something much much stronger than that. Sexual fantasies are merely thoughts with no intentions attached. The difference between fantasy and lust is the difference between imagining yourself driving a BMW and coveting your neighbor’s BMW. They’re not quite the same thing.

    Proverbs 24:9 states “The thought of foolishness is sin (KJV)”. But modern translations replace the word “thought” by “planning”, “scheming”, or “devising”. Passive thoughts are not sin. It is intentions which are sinful (Acts 8:22). For example if I said, “I thought of going to the mall yesterday”, that does not mean that mental images of me going to the mall flashed across my mind (passive thought), but rather that I planned to go to the mall (intent). It is the planning of foolishness that is sin, not the mere thought of it. Similarly the lust Matt. 5:28 discusses is a purposeful intent to have someone who is either not your wife or someone else’s wife. This is what David was guilty of in 2 Sam. 11:2-4. David was not just fantasizing about Bathsheba, he had purposefully planned to get her. Sexual fantasy is simply not the subject of discussion in Matt. 5:28.

    1 Corinthians 7:2,9

    2) because of fornication, let each man have his own wife … 9) if they cannot contain, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

    Paul addresses single people struggling with sexual desires. Interestingly, Paul’s answer to them was not to repent of their carnal ways, but to marry (1 Cor. 7:2, 9). If Paul had a problem with people masturbating, that does not come across in 1 Cor 7. He said that if they cannot exercise self control, they should marry, which is better than burning with passion (vs. 9). Paul never condemned them for lacking self control, but just gave them an escape out of it. But self control for what? The very same verse gives us the answer – self control to avoid burning passions. What is burning with passion? Burning with passion is that strong desire couples have to make love to each other. Burning with passion is not the same as having sexual fantasies. You need self control to avoid getting too close physically in a relationship. If they could not contain themselves any longer, then they should marry. That ties in perfectly with verse 2, where he says that people should marry to avoid fornication. That was the problem with burning passion – it leads to fornication. Paul never said that they needed self control to avoid masturbating or fantasizing. It is burning passions they needed to beware of.

    Questions to Ponder

    I do not believe that masturbation, with all its related thoughts, is a sin. I believe that sexual fantasies are normal. Masturbation is merely a means of fulfilling that desire while not yet married. In the light of what the Bible teaches (or does not teach), I cannot honestly call masturbation sin. For single people struggling with temptation, I personally believe that masturbation is better than fornication. In fact masturbation releases sexual energy which builds up over time, and this in turn may make one less tempted to commit fornication.

    Here are a few questions to masticate for those who still insist it’s a sin to masturbate, even if it cannot be proven from the Bible.

    Why is it that over 90% of men masturbate, but that figure is significantly smaller for women? It is a fact that men are more sexually aggressive than women. If masturbation is a sin, then God performed a great injustice to men.

    Why is it that a man’s sexual desire is so intense prior to ejaculation yet virtually non-existent afterward? If the desire and the thoughts are so wrong, why not just masturbate and get rid of them? Some people “battle” with these thoughts incessantly without actually committing the act of masturbation. Aren’t they just as “guilty” as those who masturbate?

    Why is it that the “experts” offer such impractical advice for “overcoming masturbation”? See for example http://www.bible.com/answers/amasturb.html where people are encouraged to confess this sin to their pastor. Who would seriously do that? See also http://nowscape.com/mormon/mormast.htm where “victims” are advised to sleep with one hand tied and to leave the bathroom door open during showers to reduce the level of privacy. Even Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People is recommended to help cure masturbation. I think these well meaning folk have not given the subject much serious study, and just allow tradition to blind them while using a few proof texts to back up their ignorance.

    Why is it that Paul never mentioned anything in 1 Cor. 7 about overcoming lust and masturbation? All he did was allow single people in such situations to marry. There is absolutely no doubt that for the situations described in Corinth, it was a relevant topic. This was a perfect opportunity for Paul to bring it up. In fact Paul seems to imply that the only people immune from sexual desires and needs are those with the gift of celibacy. Paul’s solution to the problem was not self control, but marriage – marriage to avoid fornication, not to avoid masturbation (vs. 9).

    Why does the Law have absolutely nothing to say concerning self stimulation? It condemns just about every sexual abuse imaginable – adultery, fornication, rape, incest, homosexuality, bestiality, orgies. There were some things I did not learn about until I read them in Leviticus. Why isn’t masturbation on the list?

    Why does the Word of God generally have so little (if any at all) to say about a “sin” that affects over 90% of men and may even be the reason for them going to hell? Did the Bible miss something? If I had to give the benefit of any doubt, I would rather let God be true.

    Conclusion

    The belief that masturbation is a sin hinges on an presumed correlation with adultery, which itself hinges on a specious interpretation of Matt. 5:28. I have attempted to provide an alternative interpretation of that scripture which I believe is more in context with the Sermon on the Mount and the rest of scripture. The bible does not seem to think that masturbation is a serious issue.

    I WOULD ALSO RECOMMEND DAVE ROOT’S INSIGHTFUL TREATMENT OF THE SUBJECT

    http://www.layhands.com/IsMasturbationASin.htm


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Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

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