For men only….
Perhaps the most difficult thing for a man to do is to not look at women as sex objects. It seems so natural even compulsive doing it, like it was an animal instinct. There are of course clear explanations to partly account for this animal behavior. St. Paul tells men, that rather than burn with lust, they should get married. In a way, it is telling us that we marry or get hitched with women, mostly, for lustful reasons. Lust is a veritable part of us, men. The saying may be wrong but it is nonetheless true that women give sex to get affection and men give affection to get sex.
But the deeper underlying justification is really all about the need for companionship. Many theologians and psychologists-cum-theologians would not direct their research towards this direction, and so, it may be the most unexplored aspect of our spirituality – the matter of loneliness. When the world is fast accelerating towards individualism and independence, to tell people that loneliness is our biggest angst is an oxymoron.
To begin, there is a difference between loneliness and aloneness. And there is loneliness even inside God as seen in Psalm 22 when Jesus cried out, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me or abandoned me. Henri Nouwen points this out as the depth of loneliness amidst God, in short, that as we venture deeper into God, into intimacy and fellowship with Him, there will be such moments of darkness still (Jesus felt this loneliness while in the presence of God, while in the act of fully submitting to Him).
Loneliness in the mortal sense is that feeling of being isolated, cut off, of being alone, without friends or companion. Aloneness can sometimes mean a purposeful isolation, in order to be present to our deepest selves, and thus, to be present ultimately to God. Jesus said that when the dreadful crisis comes, his disciples would all abandon him and he would be alone, and then he qualifies it quickly, saying, and yet, “I will not be alone for the Father will be with me.”
We can be lonely amidst a crowd. And we sometimes cannot know God’s presence until we are completely alone – in solitude. Solitude is part of our spiritual discipline. In Hosea 2.14, we see God bringing a wounded and totally frustrated Israel, into the desert (when in the normal condition, he would bring them instead to a nice garden, with a flowing stream of sweet, fresh water. He brings the Israelites who at this time are still feeling the sting of the harsh whipping of a Father, to the desert. Why the desert?
Loneliness is really the biggest theological construct in the Bible, maybe even bigger than guilt or shame (my apologies to Narramore and Kirwan). When God created Adam, he immediately saw a serious concern. He said, it is not good for man to be alone. Even in fellowship with God and all the created beings, man would have become very lonely had not God made woman – flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone. The issue of loneliness is indeed a terrible if not a central concern in the study of people, especially, the study of human psychopathology.
What makes people really sick, mentally sick? I believe it is this sense of being isolated, separated. And when Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden, this loneliness became of terrifying intensity. Humankind was now separated from God. Worse, he was also separated from his wife, and with all human beings. There was set in motion such great enmity between not only the sexes but also with all humans in general.
I think it is here where Narramore and Kirwan may come in handy. Guilt, shame and fear become overriding emotions, aggravating further the sense of isolation.
When I have a terrible day in my office, if for example I lost an important tax case, normal godly people would come home and call the whole family, the wife and the kids, to huddle and dad would ask for a big group hug. Whenever we have pain, failure, or conflicts, the sense of loneliness boils up and we feel drowned. And yet, we do not reach out for connection, intimacy, companionship, fellowship. We feel so much shame and shame gets even bigger when we have to tell people we failed in our tax case or had a fight with someone (and a quarrel with our spouse can create very intense sense of loneliness). Shame is too hard to bear and so we push our longings down and we isolate ourselves even more. Instead, we become quiet, sullen, and we go to the TV and watch for hours or get a drink alcohol to wash away this sinking feeling. When we do, our wife may notice we have become distant and cold.
So instead of getting companionship, we drive ourselves farther away. But what we really want is companionship. I always say that if a man wanted to marry, the only qualification he should look for in a woman is that she be someone who knows how to drink from his heart to drink from the cup of intimacy, in order to ease, even for a little bit, the loneliness of living in a fallen world (outside the Garden).
Of course, he as the husband must also know how to drink from her heart. Both must know how to drink from each other’s cup of companionship to ease the loneliness of their hearts. The beauty and sex is good and comes as a big bonus but in the end, when beauty and sex have both faded, what is left is just those two cups of intimacy and connection, for us to drink. We can be old and frail and yet, we can sit together in a park bench and know we are not alone.
America is probably going to suffer the most because people there work so hard, so much, their whole lives and then when they are old, society trashes them. American society is very utilitarian. When people are no longer useful, they are thrown away – to the home for the aged. Studies show that the biggest abuse committed on the elderly is when no one talks to them.
I have always told my wife she should buy her mom a nice mahjong set so she can always have a foursome, every day, playing away, not mindful of the time. People don’t have to talk or talk meaningfully to relate. I think I demand that of people and in a way, I am the kind of person who does not know how to drink from the cup of intimacy offered to me by good men and women around me.
It is not just sex that men seek from women. It is companionship, intimacy, connection. Of course, it helps a lot if there is sex also. And it helps so much more if the one we have sex with is also beautiful. But sex and beauty can misdirect us. We easily sexualize our desires, and more. I think if we can make our hearts go slow motion, we can see that before we thought of sex, we really felt more the loneliness.
We sexualize our desire when we say we need sex not knowing that we are actually looking for companionship or intimacy. And sin makes it doubly hard. We prefer pornography and prostitutes than legitimate sex because normal sex carries a lot of stress, requirements and responsibilities, while pornography is very easy, available on demand and has no requirement – its digital.
A prostitute is also easy, though not as easy as pornography. Prostitutes are easy because all you need to do is pay and then all is ok. In normal, legit sex, we there are commitments involved, it entails a lot of negotiating and harmony. You cannot have sex if you and your wife are quarreling or angry with each other.
I think the reason St. Paul said, do not let the sun set on your anger, was because he wanted couples to have sex and to let sex be the way to resolve conflicts or heal wounds. By the way, he did not mean that we have to agree with each other before sunset, he just said to let go of our anger before sunset. We can always disagree without being disagreeable. Of course, a lot of Christians are more occupied with peace as the absence of war than of the presence of justice (peace without justice is oppressive).
St. Paul was very clear about the body (and sex is in the body). He said, the husband does not own his body and he cannot withhold it from his wife. Also, the wife does not own her body and she too cannot withhold it from her husband. There is no exception. He did not say, unless of course you were angry with each other. The only exception is kind of silly, actually. We don’t have to give each other our bodies if we decided to have an extended time of prayer (boring. Of course a woman may get back at her husband by having extended prayer every time they have a fight (that would not be godly though). In short, prayer meetings are the only reason not to have sex!
Food or stress feeding actually works like pornography or sex with a prostitute but it looks more godly (looks only, in reality it is very satanic). Eating incidentally feels like intimacy and has the effect of massaging the ache of our loneliness – that sense of emptiness C. S. Lewis talks about. People who feed when they are stressed usually get very fat also. They need to know that sex is always healthier but then, sex entails so much more stress and he does not need that (even though he desperately wants companionship).
But there is no one we can turn to for intimacy. Everyone around us is a dangerous trap, all are sinners. Either the one we love will turn against us or when we love someone so much, soon, that person will die and suddenly, we are thrown into a free fall into the abyss of irremediable loneliness. I once said to my wife, when we were so madly in love (which is very rare) that I was so blessed because she loved me so much, and then tears began to flow from her eyes. She said, papa, even if I love you perfectly, you will still be lonely (never marry a theologian).
I believe if men are able to see women or other men for that matter in this light, things would be better, not more sexed up. What could be worse is if you like having sex with your wife because you are obsessed with her breasts – because you are looking for your mother (you missed breastfeeding or never had that bonding with your mom as a baby?).
When we sexualize our desires, we always tend to look at women as sex objects. When we do not realize how lonely we are, we don’t see what we want in women. Our hearts need to be put on slow motion so we don’t just jump from stress into sexualization of our desire. We will somehow manage to see how deeply lonely we are and what should have called out for a group hug and did not, could not, and was too ashamed to confess our need, did not want to feel weak and vulnerable (and only when we are vulnerable can we really become connected).
How do we stop looking at women as sex objects? We need to give them our humanity, we need to see that they too long for intimacy and connection. Now you may think I am exaggerating so much this loneliness. No, I am not. I know how serious and fatal it is because men will numbed themselves rather than seek intimacy. They would rather kill their hearts than admit they are lonely – and what a price to pay for being so strong and independent – numbness and disconnectedness. We have become Satan in that sense, we not only will not relate deeply, but we also have numbed ourselves so we can always remain unconnected.
It is so sad because we need to become alive to become Christians. We need to become alive in our passions before we can die to Jesus. How can we die to Jesus if we are already dead – cold and hard, dead?
We need to invest women with this humanity, this longing, the same longing that we so deeply desire for ourselves. They also feel empty, they also feel lonely, they also feel isolated, pained and adrift living in this fallen world. After sex, we men quickly fall asleep. Women like sleeping too. In between sex, we love to play, soccer, basketball, etc. Women like to play too and they also like to play with men. When we are too crowded, we want to go out fishing or sit in the park and women like those too – they don’t always want sex, I mean. They also like shopping, they like eating delightfully cooked dishes. When the anglers wear their t-shirt about bass fishing, which has these words written on them: “better than sex,” maybe women also say, silently among themselves, that shopping is better than sex.
When we connect with them deeply, they become more human. We do that to our sisters, why not to all women? When we hug our sisters, we are not (usually malicious or malandi). We hold them with a certain respect and carefulness, but without sacrificing warmth and strong embrace. We kiss our sisters to inhale their beauty and sweetness, not sexually, why don’t we do that to all women?
Sex must always be with respect, with consent and with Jesus in the middle. The breast must satisfy us as a wife should to a husband, not to a husband who is still a small child looking for his mom.
Proverbs 5 is delicious:
15Drink water from your own cistern,
running water from your own well.
16Should your springs overflow in the streets,
your streams of water in the public squares?
17Let them be yours alone,
never to be shared with strangers.
18May your fountain be blessed,
and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
19A loving doe, a graceful deer—
may her breasts satisfy you always,
may you ever be intoxicated with her love.
20Why, my son, be intoxicated with another man’s wife?
Why embrace the bosom of a wayward woman?
I think by fountain or springs, the author is referring to the male sex organ. Also, it says the husband will enjoy the breasts of his wife always (versus going off to another woman). There is a proper way to enjoy her breasts actually and God is aware of it (obviously because it is found in the Bible).
If we don’t want to treat women as sex objects, we should also not watch porn because it is most demeaning of women and patronizing porn also helps escalate a billion dollar business based on exploiting and debasing women.
Some couples are actually encourages watching porn to help their sex lives, meaning, it makes them more aroused to have sex with their spouses. I think these guys married amazons. They also forgot that Jesus said, when you look at a woman with lust in your eyes you have committed adultery and you will go to hell (be condemned).
My favorite art piece is the Christian virgin exposed to the public by a Filipino painter, Resurreccion Hidalgo. It won first place like the Spolarium of Juan Luna. While Luna is majestic, Hidalgo is sublime. I could stare at that beautiful, sexy nude Hidalgo’s painting and be cast more into divine ecstasy than erotism, I don’t know quite why. But there is a big difference between porn and art – I hope. My wife and I spent a whole day at the Louvre (my second time, her first time) and she counted maybe 36 utong or nipples. My son said, it is perhaps the most difficult part of the body to paint, without losing its lusciousness and sensuality in the process.
The bible is very sensual, no arguing there. If you read Song of Solomon, unless you are blind or castrated, this sensualism will jump at you like a fierce lion. God is very sensual – He described Israel one time as a little infant girl that he cared for and who began to grow and her breast got sexier as she grew, and so on and so forth…
Sex is both play and worship. Without the other, sex degenerates quickly into lustfulness or prudishness. Art can be beautiful and not sinful and ogling at the sexy body of our naked wife is also spiritual. The thin line between sin and godliness is difficult to draw, but I think the more we focus on intimacy, the easier it is to draw this fine line.
If we demystify the greatest commandment to love, we may hear Jesus just simply saying, forget love, it is overrated. I just want you to relate as normal human beings. Relate to each other as humans and I will be satisfied. This intimacy is not only respectful and honoring, it is also warm and nourishing. Porn is demeaning, art is worshipful. The naked body of our wives is also worshipful. But we don’t have to go that far. We just need to ease the loneliness in each other’s heart, to make life in a fallen world more bearable.
I guess we stop treating women as sex objects the moment we admit this deep loneliness inside of us, that all we need badly is just simply a big warm hug – two arms around us and a big kiss.