My sister was 14-years-old when my dad confronted a middle-aged man in our neighborhood for trying to lure her into his basement studio to take modeling photos of her. Instinctively my sister felt strange about the request, rushed home, and told Dad. I don’t know what Dad said to the man, but he made it clear to us that our neighbor’s intentions were evil. He warned my sister about predatory men and simultaneously commissioned my twelve-year-old self to protect women rather than to prey upon them.
Dad’s charge to me that day was well-intentioned, but I didn’t really get it. In fact, throughout my teen years, I wasn’t necessarily preying upon my female classmates, but I certainly wasn’t a protector for them. I spoke and acted through locker-room masculinity where being manly is about your social status and sexual conquest. I wanted to be cool and sexually active with girls.
Yet my whole life changed (especially my sexual behavior) at seventeen when I believed and followed Jesus Christ. That’s when I started to grow a heart, mind, and faith to live out the protector-vision my dad had once explained to me. Presently, I have the responsibility of guiding two teenaged sons to be protectors here and now, especially as they wake up to new public accusations of prominent men who have sexually abused and/or harassed women they were responsible to protect.
Here are three principles I model and teach my sons:
God made most women less strong and less aggressive than most men but not to be our inferiors.
Through the Apostle Peter, in 1 Peter 3:7, God describes women as a “fine vessel” to be honored by men. Honor means to “assign great value” or to treat women like an expensive vase. To Peter’s audience, this was a counter-culture message because women were viewed as lesser than men and treated as subjects rather than equals. Fortunately, believing and following Jesus will inspire men to view and act towards women as equals, to honor women rather than use them, and to offer our strength for their success and safety, not our own sexual ambition.
To teach my sons this principle is as difficult today as it must have been for Peter and the men he was leading because today’s dominant expression of manhood is an extension of undisciplined adolescents and, sorrowfully, where more and more men live well past midlife. That’s why I must envision the next principle.
God made women to be sexually attractive to men but not to be our sexual minions.
In Genesis 2:23-24, God caused Adam to see Eve as “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” Paraphrase translation: “Woman, you are incredibly attractive.” This attraction is natural and healthy but can also become selfish and violent if untamed. This is why God spells out sexual purpose and boundaries for men in the same passage: Choose one woman, marry her, and covenant with her to be sexually fulfilled exclusively by her. This requires men to convert their attraction to other women into immediate and healthy thought processes—She is not my wife, so her body and soul are not mine to share.
When men yield to this purpose, live in those boundaries, and appropriately process their attraction to other women, then there is sexual fulfillment for husband and wife at home and societal protection for women. The opposite is true when men neglect any or all of these behaviors.
So, I must teach my sons that biologically they will be attracted to multiple women, but God’s purpose and boundaries on their sexual behavior lead to pleasure and procreation with only one. And, despite the mantra of the age and ever-present temptations, married sex is always the healthiest, holiest, and most gratifying for a man. And, while they are under my authority, I will lead my sons to see their future dating life as a pathway to choose a bride not a playground for their sexual appetite. The follow-through on this is to also get my sons ready for the ridicule and rejection they’ll face from both men and women for living this way.
Further, I’d be naïve if I didn’t warn my sons that testosterone is a God-given and powerful catalyst for attraction, but it can also be a four-lane highway to toxic lust. And that highway will lead them right off a deadly cliff, which brings up the final principle I want to guide them toward.
God made the feminine nature to be mostly friendly and respectful to most men but not to be mistaken as seduction.
In Proverbs 5, King Solomon contrasts a seductive woman and a gracious wife. He warns that a seductress or infatuating stranger can lead to a man’s personal and communal ruin. On the other hand, one faithful wife can sexually satisfy him for a lifetime. The choice is his to make, and he will face this choice almost daily because our world offers men new galaxies of seduction from porn to hook-up culture, from adultery sites to strip clubs, and so on.
Just like Solomon to his sons, I regularly talk out this contrast with my own boys. Most women are not trying to seduce you but are simply being friendly and polite. Some women, however, want to control you with their sexuality. Know the difference, and when you can’t decipher one way or the other, remember and apply the first two principles.
These three principles are not the only ones I teach my sons, nor are they a complete solution for our culture’s sexual abuse woes. Nevertheless, they get my sons and me battle-ready to protect the women in our lives and clarify a standard for our masculine sexuality. Simply, they help us be the men God designed us to be.