Going through adolescence as a boy has never been easy, but in today’s day and age it’s more hazardous than ever. And for parents, the nightmare is real. No parent wants their son to be a future perpetrator on a #MeToo headline. No parent wants their son to abuse women, or to objectify women, or to be in and out of relationships and marriages their whole life.
93.2% of boys and 62.1% of girls have seen online pornography before age 18.
(http://www.familysafemedia.com/pornography_statistics.html). You can read Covenant Eyes’s full statistics pack about porn here. Here’s what I know anecdotally:
- The male sex drive is very strong.
- Kids are being given smartphones and tablets like they are candy. With full access to any porn they want, or that they accidentally stumble on.
- When I was in middle school and high school, it was normal for guys to talk about porn in open conversations, even with girls around.
- People started having in sex in 7th and 8th grade. It became commonplace by high school.
- I estimate that many of the attractive, popular guys from my high school have probably had sex with 50+ women by the time they turn 30 (and that’s probably low for some), when they finally marry and “settle down”. These aren’t “creepy” guys. These are the guys women see as attractive, fun, desirable, and successful.
- Movies and shows jam-packed with sex and nudity like Game of Thrones are the most popular entertainment options in our culture. Expect this trend to continue to the point where there is no more envelope left to be pushed and no more line between what culture calls “porn” and public entertainment.
What feels so defeating is that the current cultural climate makes it seem impossible to raise a boy who won’t turn into a woman objectifier and who, sadly, won’t be able to control his insatiable appetite to consume women. Culture has given up fighting it and has fully embraced it, breeding more and more of it in an attempt to bring normality, while working hard to numb its wake of collateral damage.
But regardless of how advanced our technology gets, how many kids own iPhones, or how normal it is to have sex outside of marriage, God is still the creator of the world and the creator of sex. We can add layers of lies and live on top of them, but the bedrock of God’s truth is still the only unshakable ground, and it’s still the only thing that still cashes out in the end.
God Created Sex
It’s important that boys understand that God created sex. The urges and attractions they have are not sinful in and of themselves. Objectification took what God made and warped it.
Sex isn’t God. Women aren’t God.
For me, this is the ultimate truth that men and boys need to revolve their lives around. What I mean is, a man or boy has to ask himself what it is about sex that draws him in so powerfully. They must force themselves to answer deeper than the simple physical rush of body parts or orgasms. At some fundamental level, what draws men to sex and to women is the desire to be deemed valuable by someone that they have deemed valuable. You can swap out many words for valuable like accepted, attractive, desirable, loved, approved, and so on, but the concept is the same. I write about this at length in my book Beyond the Battle: A Man’s Guide to his Identity in Christ in an Oversexualized World. When a man looks to a woman to give him this, he’s asking her to give him something that only God can give. In doing so, he is treating her like she is God. This equation is obviously going to cave in on itself, as it has billions of times in human sexual experience. A woman can’t give a man what only God can. Sex can’t give a man what only God can. The reason porn is so alluring is because it offers the illusion of validation and acceptance in such a quick, contained atmosphere. The woman on the screen or page isn’t having sex with the man in the photo, she’s having sex with me, and that makes me feel attractive and valuable. What parents must do is teach their sons that they are valuable as God’s adopted sons. This is a long process, but is one that must be doggedly committed to. If a man knows he is already accepted and approved in Christ, he is much less likely to go looking for this elsewhere. More: The Growl of an Empty Stomach by Noah Filipiak
Boys must be taught the why behind why they shouldn’t look at porn and why they should save sex until marriage. Being told to simply not do something will likely just make a boy want to do it more, or at the very least, will cause them to spread their wings once they’re out of the house and experience what had been kept from them. Beyond the fact that God created sex, boys must be taught why he created it the way he did. Even if a man remains single his entire life, he still must understand God’s why. Like everything in God’s design, sex is meant to bring value to a person, not remove it. This removal is called dehumanizing. We dehumanize when we make fun of someone, steal from someone, abuse someone, or murder someone. We are saying that we are able to discard them because they don’t have enough worth for us to act otherwise. When a woman’s value is solely based on her physical appearance and on the consumption she can give to a man, she has been degraded and dehumanized. The rest of her humanity has been taken away from her. This is never God’s design.
On the flipside, Christians are to encourage, give, honor, love, and support one another. You can see how God’s holistic design for sex falls into this pattern. You can also see how this applies even to the single and celibate. If a single person is objectifying women, even though he’s not physically having sex, he is still sinning against God’s design. God’s holistic design for sex involves accepting all of a person: their weaknesses, vulnerabilities, insecurities, and flaws, as well as their body and sexual self. When the marriage knot is tied, it’s a lifetime commitment that all of a woman will be accepted and kept safe by her husband, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. In other words: Whatever comes our way, I will never stop loving you and accepting you. I am not just here for your body or for the sex! I am here because you are a full human being and I will respect and honor all of you. I will respect and honor God’s full design for humanity in the way I view you, sex, and all other women.
Whereas our culture just comes out and says it: I’m only here for your body and for the sex! I care nothing for you and am content to cast you aside when I’m finished with you.
The reason I don’t like writing about masturbation is because people hold polar and sensitive views on the subject. I wrestled if I should talk about it in my book Beyond the Battle and I decided not to. I have a Christian friend who feels like when he masturbates, it’s as evil as if he cheated on his wife. Many Christian books and articles support this for both the married and single. Meanwhile a Christian doctor corrected me (with gusto) when I was a youth pastor about what I was teaching the teen boys in my youth group about masturbation. At the time, I was teaching that masturbation was always wrong. He explained to me medically how unhealthy it was to teach this to teen boys. James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family, a very conservative organization on sexuality and Christian values, has been ripped up and down by some for not taking a harsher stance against masturbation.
I’m going to take a risk and briefly address the topic here. A risk because I realize that some of you may ardently disagree with me, and that’s okay. There are a lot of Christian viewpoints on this subject out there. My intent is not to persuade you to one view or another. But when talking about raising a son in an oversexualized world, we need to address this topic in a way that is as biblical as possible.
- The Bible never mentions masturbation, therefore it never condemns it.
- The Bible explicitly condemns lust (most notably in Matthew 5:27-28). Typically masturbation and lust (either in mental fantasy or in viewing pornography) go together. This type of masturbation is always a sin.
- If a boy is masturbating without the aid of pornography and without lustful fantasy, it’s not a sin.
I think it’s really important to not add or subtract from the Bible. My above bullet points are an attempt to not do that. I think that always associating masturbation with sin is only going to heap unnecessary shame on a boy or single man when he has no control over the natural sexual urges he is feeling and no physical release for them. It can feel like telling someone with a runny nose that it’s a sin to blow their nose. I also think that the dangers of masturbation must be addressed: that it can lead to a desire for lustful images, that when coupled with lustful images it will embed the objectification mindset deeply into the mind, and that instead of it being done when necessary, it can become something that is obsessed over. I think a boy or single man should try to avoid masturbation and when it happens, it happens. And it should not accompany lustful fantasies. But masturbation is certainly a better option than porn or premarital sex and if it can serve as a deterrent to those clear sins, then so be it. All of these things should be discussed with your son if you want to have an open channel of communication with him about his sexual struggles and temptations.
Last but not Least: INTERNET FILTERS ON ALL YOUR DEVICES!
Parents, please do not give your son (or daughter) smartphones, tablets, laptops, or home computers without putting Covenant Eyes on them. It is naive to think that your son won’t be tempted by porn or that they are somehow stronger than porn’s temptation. It is only a click away, and only a matter of time before they get curious about that click. Viewing online pornography does the same thing to the brain’s endorphins as hard drugs do. And just like drugs, one hit never satisfies. Covenant Eyes serves as a filter, as monitoring software, or both and it can go on all of your devices for one price. You can’t afford not to have this on all your devices if you are raising a son in this oversexualized world. Also be aware that porn can be accessed on new XBox’s, PlayStations, and any device that can connect to the Internet. It can also be easily found on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter and many other mobile apps.
There’s much more that could be said in this article, but I hope this gives parents some things to pray over and discern in how to teach their sons God’s design for sex, His design for men, and His design for women.
I’d love to hear from parents if there are specific questions you have that I haven’t addressed.
- Ep. 38: Jesus’ Love for the Outcast & how this Grace Transforms Each of Us - November 18, 2020
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- Ep. 37: Jesus bringing great calm to great chaos + new Flip Side book club exploring gay celibate partnerships with Wesley Hill - October 24, 2020