Years after I had left behind virtually all homosexual attractions and years into a blessed and pleasurable sexual relationship in my marriage one factor continued to disturb me. If an attractive man and an attractive woman walked into a room, my eyes first went to the man. Also, I knew that I had no difficulty not picking up Playboy from a magazine rack, but the GQ by the supermarket check out line still had some draw.
At a recent Regeneration all-day meeting for married men who have struggled with homosexuality -- most of whom find sex in their marriage to be a blessing, not a problem -- only 1 in 14 said that he responds sexually to just looking at his wife's body.
For a great many men, perhaps most, the most immediate sexual stimuli are visual. We all recognize that the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated really has nothing to do with swimming. Ads directed at men often feature scantily clad women, whereas ads in Good Housekeeping and Woman's Day seldom feature partially naked muscle men. Gay publications, on the other hand, abound with them.
Men overcoming homosexuality have an expectancy that they will become "just like other men." The thought that they might not can be a cause of real distress. But this is a situation like many in which the real problem is not the deprivation (the lack of heterosexual visual stimulation), but the belief that things should one way and then finding that they are not. The cry, "I ought to ... and I'm not" reveals the distress.
There is good news for the overcomer who feels this way. Yes, you may never be turned on by the sight of a woman's body, but this does not imply a lack of heterosexuality, nor does it forecast a dreary or difficult sexual relationship in marriage. In fact, the nature of your sexual response to a woman may be more of a blessing than a hardship.
Before I get into supporting this view, let me touch on two related matters.
First, we need to address the pull that the overcomer may still feel to looking at other men. I mentioned earlier how, even years into my own healing, my eyes would go towards the man. I did feel tempted to take a second look at the strong guy in the bathing suit ad. Today that tendency is almost completely gone.
It left because it was rooted in envy. Insecure m my own manhood, I was drawn to images of men who possessed what I felt I did not possess. That's what lust is: the desire to possess what someone else has. As I recognized that my problem was envy, and as I repented of it, and as I became more and more secure in my own manhood, the draw faded away.
We have found this to be a common pattern among men overcoming homosexuality. First, the link is broken between sex and emotional needs, and then as the emotional needs are met in legitimate ways, and the identity issues are resolved, the inordinate non-erotic same sex attractions fade into the background.
The other issue I want to address is the "blank slate" theory. Dr. John Money of The Johns Hopkins Medical School and others have put forth the theory that every child is born without a tendency toward any particular type of sexual attraction, but that at a certain stage of development, attractions are learned or programmed into him -- written on the blank slate, so to speak.
Furthermore, they say, once the attractions are so written they can never be changed. This can be compared to learning a language. It is generally believed that a child at a certain age has a heightened ability to learn language, and a language learned at this age can never be forgotten.
This theory could have some value in explaining why men overcoming homosexuality usually don't develop visual erotic attractions to women; perhaps these patterns can only be developed at certain stages of childhood or adolescent development. On the other hand, the idea of a blank slate seems ridiculous considering the overwhelming propensity for sexual attractions in all ages and all cultures to be towards people of the opposite sex, not the same sex, and not towards blankets or cribs.
More importantly, the experience of large numbers of formerly homosexual men, and the writings of many therapists, indicate that very substantial change is possible in overall sexual attractions. In an area such as sexual attractions, what have we to go on but experiential data?
Now back to the central issue: How can we say we are healed when we are not visually "turned on" like other men? Very simply. Sexual attraction need not arise from visual stimulation alone. There are two other major prompters of sexual interest touch and emotional feelings.
I feel the strongest sexual desire for my wife when I feel most loving towards her. Also, many times I feel those desires when we kiss, or when we are simply sitting on the sofa watching TV and my arm is around her. There is no question but that these are spontaneous sexual feelings. Our experience in ministry has indicated that sexual response to a woman through feelings and through touch is the normal state for men overcoming homosexuality. This is why we declare so strongly that a man overcoming homosexuality can experience every joy of a heterosexual life.
I want to add that this is not a matter of "two out of three ain't bad". The lack of visual stimulation can be as much a plus as a minus. Scripture speaks of "the lust of the eyes" (I John 2:16). Our eyes meet something and they desire to possess it. Note, how this is different from our eyes meeting something and admiring its beauty -- or its creator.
If a man looks on his wife with love and with a great appreciation for the way she is wonderfully made, that is a good thing. The Song of Solomon shows how appreciation of the physical beauty of our beloved can bring great joy. How wonderful if all men reacted this way. But there is another side to visual appreciation. What if he looks on a woman's body without differentiation; that is, the person doesn't matter, only the body does? He has a problem.
It appears that in this sinful and broken world, most heterosexual men do have a problem. And what happens when the wife turns 50 and the body starts to droop and sag? If visual stimulation is the only major factor in the man's attraction towards his wife, they are in trouble.
An excess of visual sexual response is surely a reflection of man's sinful nature, and it is the cause of much suffering and dysfunction in the world today. Women are commonly valued much more for their looks than for their character or other attributes. Wives are too often compared, found lacking, and discarded. The pornography industry flourishes to feed men's visually responsive appetite. That we don't experience this is not all bad.
We all bear scars from our sinful past and from our brokenness, but I am not sure that our lack of visual stimulation is a scar. We may be living closer to God's original design than most men.
My wife and I are 55, and neither of us is about to make anybody's swimsuit issue -- even Modern Maturity's -- but I love her, and I thoroughly enjoy our physical relationship. I wouldn't have it any other way.
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