getting overly upset about society’s portrayal of women as sex
objects. . . . I would just like to be able to not have an
emotional reaction every time Howard Stern comes on, or I find the Maxim
magazine my boyfriend hid under the couch. I just want to not
care. . . . This is, obviously, having a negative effect on
my current relationship. I am interested in self-help. . . .
I don’t want the “easy way,” I want the cold hard
ell, if you want the cold hard
truth, you shall have it. Sit down.
To begin with, imagine one group of
women who do not concern themselves with make-up, or fashion, or mindless chatting
on social media and texting on their cell phones. They aren’t troubled by how society
“sees” women. They’re nuns, and they have dedicated their lives to serving their
God in devout prayer and selfless service.
Now, maybe this image, as perfectly
Christian as it is, is too difficult for you. So imagine another group
of women who also live in calm certainty about their lives: married women
who through Holy Matrimony have bonded with their husbands—as their
husbands have bonded with them—in devout service to their God. To them,
marriage is not a way to fill their emotional
emptiness with self-satisfaction, but it is an act of lifetime service to
God through family with undoubted fidelity and no escape clause but
Most likely, that’s still an image
that makes you nervous. In fact, it makes almost everyone nervous when they
fear the loneliness of being rejected by their
friends and relatives if they live the true faith. For example, most persons in
this world today cannot sit in a car without turning on the radio to drown out
their emotional loneliness.
So let’s look at your real
problem. You say you have a boyfriend, and most likely you are not
living in chaste anticipation of Holy Matrimony.
You’re involved in a sexual relationship, and
that in itself causes the very problem that troubles you.
Once you strip the concept of
“relationship” of its chaste and holy dignity and reduce it essentially
to a self-satisfying sport—a game designed to drown out your emotional
loneliness—then you place yourself on the playing field as a blatant
sex object in full competition with all the other players. Any woman who
has a more pretty face or larger breasts or more shapely legs, or who is
taller or thinner or more rich or more socially connected or more glamorous
or more fashionably dressed is, by definition, a rival and a threat to your
security. And even if in anger you try to assault
the gaze of the world with body fat,
tattoos, body piercings, and purple hair,
you don’t really leave the playing field, you just take up new, sometimes
covert, tactics in the competitive game.
Moreover, when you step into the
competitive game of making yourself into a sex toy, you commit
First, you defile
Christian charity, because competition is a rejection
of the Christian call to be mutually cooperative (Philippians 2:3-4).
Second, you evince
a lack of trust in God; instead of praying for God’s will to be done,
you take matters into your own hands to get the social acceptance that you
believe you need in order to survive in the world—a world that actually
Third, you incite
lust, because, to be competitive with other women, you have to dress sexy
to get attention, and sexy is, well, a vice, not a Christian virtue.
When a woman dresses
like a sex toy, acts like a sex toy, and speaks like a sex toy, she is a
sex toy. It should be no surprise that she is not treated with respect. No matter
how intelligent or talented she might perceive herself to be, she is inviting
everyone who sees her to rape her visually. She has forsaken her feminine dignity
and is nothing more than a sex toy in the eyes of others.
You See Yourself
So, in the end, realize that
you can’t be a Christian by doing what “everyone else” does
in an anti-Christian society. Realize also that
it’s futile to try to battle society itself. It’s useless to try to use
politics to change the
spiritual blindness of human society. All
you can do is change how you “see” yourself. And when you learn
to see yourself from the perspective of true love
and self-giving, not from the perspective of a mere sex toy, you shall have
found the cold, hard truth about genuine, meaningful life.
Beyond Lack and Limitation:
The Mystical Experience
Jacques Lacan, in his writing (see
the book Feminine Sexuality: Jacques Lacan and the école freudienne and
the chapters “God and the Jouissance of The Woman” and “A Love Letter”) speaks of
the psychoanalytic concept of “lack.” Although he uses some complicated mathematical
imagery and abstruse psychoanalytic language to describe the matter, this concept of
“lack” could be summed up theologically by saying that we cope psychologically with
our human brokenness—that is, our separation from God—by using
illusions to create
for ourselves experiences of comfort in the midst of our misery. The illusions are
varied, such as food, drugs, romance fantasies, sexual activity, sports, militarism,
and politics, and the comfort can take the form of pleasure, pain relief, social
acceptance, and personal valuation.
Lacan points out that one “side” of life
is characterized by the use of this dynamic of illusions/comfort as an unconscious
compensation for our brokenness. Moreover, Lacan demonstrates that there is another
“side” of life that isn’t trapped in lack but that experiences something very real,
albeit “unknown.” Lacan speaks of this experience as something that some women
have encountered; it’s an ecstasy they experience without knowing what it is, and so
Lacan refers to it as something “beyond sex” and thus as something mystical.
Furthermore, Lacan states that even though most men are trapped on the “lack” side of
life, some of them also encounter the mystical experience.
Note carefully that Lacan spoke as a
psychoanalyst who was concerned with issues of neuroticism and sexuality, and so he
didn’t elaborate on his ideas as theological concepts. Nevertheless, to speak theologically,
it can be said that the side of life not trapped in lack is the place of mystical religious
experience, and that it is characterized not by futile efforts of compensation for what
is lacking but by a real experience of a fulfillment of a yearning for God.
Hence we can define mystical ecstasy
as a prescient experience of a complete union with God.
Because the mystical experience is beyond
sex, both men and women can be mystics; nevertheless, more women than men tend to have
mystical experiences. This can be explained by the fact that anyone who preoccupies
himself or herself with illusions of compensation is obstructing the mystical experience.
In the past this was true of most men, and it is still true of most men today. And, in
the past, many women were not drawn to these illusions. But today, sadly, because of
feminixt efforts in regard to “women’s liberation,” more and more women are being
“liberated” into sin and are crossing over into the use of illusions typically used by
Nevertheless, women who value the
supernatural—rather than shake it off as a burden—can have a special role
in their spiritual influence on men. In the book of Genesis we are told that the desires
of man’s heart are evil from his youth (see Genesis 8:21). In other words, both men and
women are prone to all illusions as a fact of (fallen) life, just as much today, in the
modern world, as in the past. Women, however, can be the glory of man (see 1 Corinthians
11:7). “Woman is the glory of man” means that when women seek the mystic way of life—that
is, a way of life governed not by an attempt to compensate for lack and limitation but by
a profound embrace of the fullness of God’s love—they renounce illusions for the sake of
an experience that is beyond sex, and so they take up a God-given spiritual authority
to relate to men with a real love that puts men in their proper spiritual place of loving
God rather than loving illusions.
Thus when both women and men seek the
supernatural side of life they participate in an equality that the trite illusions of
sexuality can never attain.