Some suggest that men think about sex as often as most people blink, about 15 times a minute, or every 4 seconds. However, studies indicate that it’s more like 15-20 times a day and not hundreds of times per hour. Whatever the number, it’s safe to say men think about sex on a regular basis.
How researchers measure how many times a person thinks about sex is a mystery to me. A complicating factor in most studies is known as the "white bear problem." If you want to have fun with a child, tell them to put their hand in the air and only put it down when they've stopped thinking about a white bear. Once you start thinking about something, trying to forget it just brings it back to mind.
Additionally, one’s age, health, energy and environment matter. A robust eighteen-year-old at the beach probably has sexual thoughts far more often than an old man taking an afternoon nap during a football game (then again, there are those cheerleaders).
Whatever the statistics, I’m going to make two assumptions: 1) men think about sex on a regular basis; 2) few women understand the challenges most men face regarding sex.
By the way, there's one more thing I want to clear up before we go any further. Experiencing arousal does not mean men are automatically leaping from arousal to imagining infidelity or undressing every woman they meet. There is a difference between arousal and sexual fantasy or activity. Of course, arousal might lead to fantasy or sexual activity, but that depends on what we do with those thoughts.
Let me be painfully clear: Sexual arousal or even sexual temptation is not a sin. It’s what we do with those thoughts and temptations that matter. (Read that sentence again; it’s important.)
So what is the difference between arousal and sexual sin?
- Arousal: Wow! That person is hot! And you may even experience attraction.
- Sexual sin: I want to have sex with him/her. You fantasize about the act of sex with someone other than your spouse, which Jesus said is sin (Matthew 5:28). Of course, it’s also wrong to pursue emotional and physical satisfaction through intercourse with someone other than your spouse.
The only way arousal becomes a problem is if you let it control you rather than learning to exercise control over your mind and heart.
Here’s my presupposition: You can’t stop arousal or attraction, but you can direct or redirect your thoughts and actions. We are sexual beings made by God with sexual desires. By God’s design, sexuality is a part of our humanity. It’s literally in our DNA. Again, it’s what we do with that desire that determines whether we end up in sin or not.
So what’s a person to do? (BTW, these apply to everyone, not just men.)
- Admire beauty with caution. It's normal and okay to acknowledge someone is attractive. However, allowing that acknowledgement to become lust is not. When we linger, we lust. In other words, it’s nearly impossible to stare at someone and not drift to something beyond admiration. You know the difference. You know where the line is, so don’t cross it. If you’re looking at someone other than your spouse and think, Gotta have that! then you’re lusting. Lust is about wanting something that doesn’t belong to you.
- Don’t excuse lust or porn as harmless. They’re not. In fact, allowing these things into your heart creates at least two problems: 1) you start to see people as objects rather than those created in the image of God; 2) you throw yourself into a vortex that leads to more aberrant and uncontrollable sexual thoughts, making natural sexual experiences unsatisfying.
Porn does not satisfy your sexual longings. Porn does not bring you sexual relief. Porn twists your perspective of this gift of sex from God and fans the flame of lust that makes it difficult not to be obsessed with sex.
In marriage, sex is a gift. However, when we take that gift and pollute it with images that are unholy, we end up driven by compulsions that are self-centered. What can be done to satisfy me becomes the focus rather than putting our spouse’s needs before our own.
If you find yourself drifting to porn, I suggest you get an accountability partner and accountability software, then learn to identify your triggers and avoid them like the plague. In other words, make it difficult to look at pornography, and find a friend who will help you.
- Make holy and healthy choices with your eyes, heart and mind. At the moment of arousal, you can make a choice to pursue it or control it. Take those sexual thoughts captive (redirect them) rather than becoming enslaved by lust.
Tragically, we live in a culture in which people are encouraged to dress provocatively. Sexy clothing is sold everywhere. We’ve become accustomed to suggestive apparel and indecent exposure. Certainly, this complicates things for anyone attempting to make moral choices.
Nonetheless, the Word says guard your heart, protect your eyes, and flee immorality. Each of those admonitions (and many others) involve a choice you and I must make. We are sexual beings; we had no choice in that matter. But by God’s grace and through healthy, godly choices we can thrive despite the challenges of our times.
Choose well. Live well. Be well.
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