I grew up in a family that didn’t talk much about lust; apparently not many do. We talked about love, treating women (and for my sister, men) right, and respect, but lust was a topic that, if it came up, did so in a round about way.
Truth is, lust drives much of my life. Lust for knowledge; lust for experience (not just sexual); lust for God. It drives me, pushes me toward achieving something great. Without it, I suspect I would be on the couch watching television each night, losing myself.
In our hypersexual society, lust has taken on a negative cogitation—and who can blame it? Porn is one of the biggest industries in the United States, grossing millions each year. In a society that makes it easy for men to become addicted to porn, spends more time debating sexuality than love, even encourages divorce when passion (aka, lust) for one’s spouse has died out, it’s no surprise that we’ve gotten lost.
This society informed me about my own lust. I have a passion for music, knowledge, and people, yet lust has always had the negativity just described. What is worse, as a man, I was never encouraged to talk about it. As women were finding their expression, both in voice and in fashion, men were losing their voice.
Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating against women’s rights. I’m not even saying that women are oppressive towards men. What I am saying is that in our focus to give women and the LGBT community voice, men have grown silent about their own issues. The belief—and this is prevalent in men as well—is that we men have had our say, and it’s now time to put the spotlight on others.
The fact is, men haven’t yet resolved our issues. I’m not sure we ever really will. For instance, I’ve watched society grow more and more comfortable with the display of nudity on television. Men who speak out against these kinds of shows are laughed at, believed to be either oppressive towards women or prude.
I remember many years ago talking about this with an acquaintance. She, as a feminist, was big into recognizing the rights of women. (Side note, I’m a feminist as well, and strive towards recognizing the equality of women.) As we talked about clothes, I pointed out that some of what women wear reveals a lot to men, and it causes men to struggle.
My point wasn’t that women are responsible or at fault, but rather that men do have a problem that needs to be addressed. Her response is something I’ll never forget: “Men are responsible for their own problems. Just because they can’t control themselves doesn’t mean women should be oppressed!”
It was then that I learned to keep silent. Part of the problem is, I absolutely agree! Women are not responsible for men’s struggle with lust, and should not be forced into a limited expression of who they are just for us. Yet, I can’t help but feel hopeless.
You see, my struggle with lust doesn’t exist only at home. A buddy of mine once said it well:
“Do you know what I love most about living in a college town during the summer? College girls wearing less clothes!”
Imagine my horror that my close friend would say this.
Then imagine my horror when I realized how much I liked the same thing.
Ever since that day, I’ve clamped down on lust; tried to burry it, hide it, and pretend it doesn’t exist. I don’t want to be the guy that lusts after women. Every time it happens, I push myself to greater levels of discipline. I look women in the eyes so that my own don’t stray. I turn my head at Victoria Secrete commercials so the images don’t stay with me. I avoid HBO and movies with nudity.
But it isn’t enough. How do we end this struggle?
Men, burying our lust isn’t the way to stop it, because our lust isn’t evil. It drives us towards our passion, making us great. Rather, we must learn to focus our lust, not let it run free. This, I think, is the true mark of maturity, not the lack of lust in our lives, but the focus of lust.
I cannot help but feel bad for those men who cannot commit to a lifelong relationship with one woman. Their lust runs free and dominates their life. It is like a flame raging in a forest, one that shines for everyone to see, but burns all in its path to ashes.
Instead, I hope to have the kind of lust that is like a gentle flame; focused, warm, and caring. Not hidden, not oppressed, not afraid to exist. Simply, warm.