There is often a lot talk about how sexually provocative and pornographic our culture is. We have heard statistics about how many billions of dollars the pornography industry makes a year. The average age at which a kid is exposed to porn is now only 11. We know of porn’s damaging effects on men and marriages. We’re aware that young people are more sexually active than they were even 10 years ago.
Usually discussions about porn are aimed at men. While the reason for that is somewhat obvious, it is important to look at how the idolatry of sex in our culture has affected women – specifically young women. Yes, more men than women look at pornography. This does not mean that men have more pressure put on them when it comes to sex. In fact, I would argue that the opposite is true. Our sexually provocative/pornographic culture has put more pressure on women, especially young women, than ever before.
Pornography has given men a very jacked up view of sex, motivating them to place ridiculous expectations on their wives. This has ruined many marriages as men have tried to make their fantasies reality. (There is a reason it is called “fantasy.”) Beyond pornography, the idolatry of sex reveals itself in many other ways in our culture. We all know the term “sex sells.” Advertisers use sex to sell us something – a product, idea, or image.
The primary question I want to deal with is: “How does our sexually provocative/pornographic culture affect young women?”
You might be thinking, “Why is Pastor Matt asking this question, rather than dealing with the men?” It is a fair question, because I am a male, but I will tell you why. As a pastor I have seen women struggle with this problem in equal proportions to men, yet with women it usually manifests itself differently and arises from different motives. Also, a married woman’s struggles with the pressures of sex from our culture don’t only affect her, but her husband and marriage. It affects a single woman’s future husband and future marriage.
I have seen sexual pressures manifest in two primary ways:
1) Many young women have become openly sexually promiscuous
Sadly, because of the pressures on young women from our sexually provocative/pornographic culture, many “engage in promiscuous sexual behavior.”
This is not a special type of sin that is more worthy of scorn. It is a sin like the rest that needs to be named for what it is and dealt with appropriately. Because many young women give into this idolatry of sex in our culture, this sin has serious ramifications for them, their husbands, and their marriages. Let’s be honest: men are equal (probably greater) offenders in terms of sexually promiscuous lifestyles. Yet, the motive is typically very different. For women, sex is typically a means to gain acceptance. Women are looking to be loved and accepted by a man, and our culture tells them sex is the way to accomplish it. Sadly, many buy into this lie. This is what our culture sells: “A real woman uses her body to gain happiness and satisfaction.” Usually it is several men later that they find themselves filled with grief, pain, hurt, loneliness, and shame.
But there is good news. In Christ, our past sexual sin no longer defines us. There is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Jesus has overcome the world. Culture is not the final authority and it does not have the final say. We don’t have to listen to her lies. Satisfaction can only be found in Christ. We are loved and accepted by God because of what Jesus did in His death and resurrection.
Sin leads to pain and death. When young women believe the lie that sex will bring them the love, acceptance, and satisfaction they desire it always ends with pain, resentment, and a damaged heart. Young women, don’t believe the lie that culture is selling. You are a precious creation made in God’s image. In Christ, your heart can always be satisfied and you will always stand loved and accepted by God.
2) Many young women are paralyzed by insecurity
Many women don’t buy into culture’s lies about sex, yet are paralyzed by insecurity (many times the insecurity also drives the promiscuity). But what should we expect? They are told from a very young age by countless voices that a “real woman” will use her body sexually to get what she needs. Young women who feel this pressure but don’t live up to it often become insecure. Others grow up in strict moralistic homes that forbid such behavior, or decide on their own that they are uncomfortable with culture’s portrayal of “womanhood” in the form of sexual promiscuity.
It does not matter, necessarily, why they don’t believe the lie. If they don’t hold fast to Jesus they will be filled with insecurity. This is a natural response to failure to meet perceived expectations. Young women don’t need to simply be moral. They need Jesus.
I can’t tell you how many young husbands have told me that their greatest challenge is helping their wives overcome insecurities. In fact, I would say this is the primary difficulty young men have confessed to me. Part of the problem is that these couples haven’t found the root of the insecurity. These young wives often feel paralyzed because they don’t live up to what they are supposed to be. They are never pretty enough. They are never sexy enough. They can never satisfy their husbands in the way the culture tells them to. These are damned lies.
A core issue here is that ladies feel inadequate because the culture tells them their worth is found in their sexual activity and the things they gain from it – namely, relationships. Ladies, culture does not dictate what a women is supposed to be. God does. Culture does not dictate your worth. God does. Don’t believe the lie that you are not good enough because you don’t live up to the expectations culture puts on you. Your worth is found in being a child of the King. No one can look down on you as you are a co-heir with Christ. You have no reason to be paralyzed by insecurity when you stand in your adoption as a daughter of the living God. He has purchased you. Want to know how much you mean to God? How much does God think you are worth? While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Ladies, while you were living a whorish lifestyle or filled with insecurities that stripped you of joy and satisfaction, Christ got on the cross “for the joy that was set before him.” Our sexually provocative/pornographic culture has certainly done its damage. As they read this many women are reminded of current or past pain. Jesus tells us to take heart, for he has overcome the world. Let us be aware of the damaging effects sin has on young women and the struggles it brings. This is important not only for young women, but older women who live out Titus 2 with younger ones, and for husbands who try desperately to lead their wives.
However, merely naming the problem doesnt accomplish anything. Ladies, look to God for what it means to be a biblical woman. Through repentance and faith you are accepted and loved by the creator of the universe. In Christ, you can live with a satisfaction that nothing else in this world can provide. Your worth and acceptance are to be found in union with the King, not in unions with mere men.