So with a title like that you probably want to know where this is going. The reason for this post is to address Christian ethics, particularly in the way we treat women. This is not to call out men specifically because “slut-shaming” come from all genders. The point of this post is that I’ve noticed a lot of Christians I’ve encountered feel it is somehow acceptable to be completely condescending and spiteful of those who are in the midst of sexual sins. It’s also a strange to note that women are far mor often the target for this spite while men are rarely called out with the same fervor and fierceness.
If we hold to the label of “Christian” then that means we are claiming to be children of God who were saved by grace through Jesus Christ. Christians claim to be representatives of Christ and accept the responsibility of sharing his love and gospel with the world. Nowhere in that description do I see where it is ok to apply derogatory terms in order to shame people. This post could apply to almost any sin, but for the moment I’m going to focus on sexual sins, since there seems to be a huge double standard here.
One of the first problems I see is that in my experience men and women are treated much differently when it comes to sexual sin in their life. When it is men who have sexual sins they are usually “tempted” or “stumbling” but if a woman is in a state of sexual sin she is a “slut” or a “whore.” Sometimes terms like these are applied to women who have done nothing wrong except for perhaps wearing an outfit that the observer finds promiscuous. While I’m not attacking modesty or defending overly revealing clothing, I think it’s a bit excessive to label a woman some derogatory term reserved for prostitutes simply by her choice in dress.
To call a man a “slut” or a “whore” seem strange and causes us to take pause because we usually don’t think of male sexuality in such terms. It’s clear that the terminology often used is in favor of men and degrading towards women. Even when we look outside of the Christian church we see a society that tends to praise men who can have a lot of sex, while shaming women for the same acts and desires. We have created this idea where it is almost entirely the women’s job to protect themselves from men’s sexual desires, and it’s the women’s fault if they give in to easily. In this fantasy world it’s natural for men to pursue women for sexual gratification, but when a woman sleeps with several men it’s her that’s broken. She becomes “easy” as if she was the beginners course that men take before moving up to a harder challenge. Men seem to do most of the “scoring” while women are usually the ones who were “violated.” I don’t even want to address the whole “she was asking for it” argument that comes up in rape cases, because honestly I find that one of the most repulsive things anyone could say.
Let’s get dow to the point. I’m going to call a spade a spade here and say that sex outside of marriage is a sin. Scripture is very clear on that point and I don’t want to come off as if I’m excusing anyone. My main points I’m making are these:
- Derogatory language like “whore” and “slut” should not be terms that Christians use to describe someone, and no person should ever be despised or shamed by Christians. We who openly admit we are sinners should know better.
- It’s time to hold men to a higher accountability. It takes two to tango, and I don’t like how we tend to go easier on men while being so harsh towards women.
Let’s talk about point one. I think this passage sums it up nicely, but I’ll take some time to elaborate on it a bit:
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap,in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stoneat her.”Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,”Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
– John 8:3-11
Some things jump out at me right off the bat when I read this account. The first being that Jesus flat-out says that the only person worthy of throwing a stone is the person who has no sin. He didn’t say that they could throw a stone if they had not committed adultery, but rather that the only person who is worthy and able to condemn is the one who has never done anything wrong. The Pharisees wised up and knew that none of them could meet this standard. The second thing that strikes me is that Jesus, though he was worthy of casting judgement, instead chose to show mercy. Surely if Christ could show mercy then we who are also sinners could learn to do the same. Did christ at any point hint that he saw this woman as anything less than a human being worthy of love and a second chance? The anser is No.
So where then do we get off shaming women for the very same sin that Christ forgave the woman of? Am I saying that we should not call out sin for what it is? Absolutely not, Christ didn’t pretend that the woman was not in the wrong here, he simply chose love over condemnation. That’s the beauty of Christianity, that all of us are messed up but in spite of that God still loves us. When we realize how dependent upon God’s mercy and love we are, words like “slut” and “whore” shouldn’t even register in our vocabulary. For me to look at one of my sisters and call her a slut, would be to say that I am somehow better. God loves the woman you condemn more than you will ever love anything in your entire life, and that makes her beautiful and worthy of your respect.
Now let’s talk about point number two, specifically that we need to hold men more accountable. I see a lot of men who have very warped ideas about women and their own sexual sins. The problem here is that where women are shamed and cast out for their sexual sins, men are far too often praised for theirs. The popular TV show How I Met Your Mother is a really funny show that I watch from time to time, but it never fails to bother me that one of the main characters ongoing jokes is that he lies to women and sleeps with them only to abandon them in the morning. The audience is supposed to think that objectifying, using, and tricking women is funny.
This objectification does not just occur in the “sexists” or “jerks” either. One of the saddest trends I’ve seen recently are the “nice guys” who have convinced themselves that it’s ok to pursue a woman for purely sexual ends just as long as you are nice to her while you do it. These are the guy who will play the part and act caring and compassionate, but sex is never off the table and is usually their primary objective. These men are of the mindset that their niceness should lead to a reward in the form of sexual gratification at some point in the future. These “nice guys” I’m taking about might actually think they are being “nice” but in the end their kindness is only a means to an ends.
The problem with both the “ladies man” and the “nice guy” is that they are both seeking women purely for sexual gratification. It doesn’t matter if you are the seductive type or the steady “friend” hoping to get lucky this is still sexual sin. These mindsets only further the idea that it is ok to view women as objects rather than human beings. We shouldn’t be living in a world where women have to defend themselves from men’s desires in some a predator vs. prey relationship. What we need is men who guard their heart and pursue purity. I’d like to see men who can actually control themselves and who do not blame women for being their stumbling blocks. I’d like to see men who pursue relationships rather than sex partners. I’d like to see men who try don’t rely on women to defend themselves, but rather seek out ways to better manage their sex drives in healthy ways. Sex can be a wonderful thing, but it was intended to be shared between two people in the context of marriage. Sex isn’t meant to be an icebreaker or an end goal, but rather a wonderfully intimate act to further bond two people who are already bonded by love and matrimony.
So to wrap this all up: Everyone should be held accountable for their actions, and it’s not ok to praise one gender and cast out the other for the same sin. It’s not ok to spitefully condemn or cast out anyone regardless of sin, and derogatory language should not be in a Christian’s vocabulary. When addressing sin we must remember to approach it with gentleness, sincerity, love, patience, mercy, and grace. Our motives in correcting sin should be aimed at healing rather than shaming, at loving rather than hating, and at reconciliation rather than division. To all who read this, remember that Jesus loves you regardless of what you are, who you are, what you have done, or what you will do. He knows your heart and loves you dearly. Christ corrected with love and mercy rather than anger and shame. We should do our best to do the same.