I received an e-mail from a young woman who had an interesting perspective. She had determined, from her struggles with lust and her difficulty recovering, that she was, in fact, addicted to not just porn or lust. No, she was addicted to men themselves. It didn’t matter what the context, she needed to have men and their attention. She cutely coined it a “male attention addiction.”
I don’t think this ‘syndrome’ is unique to her. I can definitely see instances where it has been present in my life. I also do not think it is unique to women struggling with pornography. For that matter, I don’t think it is unique to women.
The Human Longing to Be Noticed
The desire to be seen is not a foreign one to mankind. I think it is important to point out that the desire to be seen is not equivalent to lust. It can be fueled by or expressed through lust, but I think we can all agree that wanting to be noticed is not the same as wanting to sleep with someone.
We just like when we catch people’s attention. It feels good, doesn’t it? When you do your hair up all nice for no good reason and someone says, “Your hair looks nice” your little heart racks up a few points on the happy meter. We like when people pay attention to us.
This is what makes romance so intoxicating to women. The idea of one man just swooning over us, thinking about us every moment, thinking about only us every moment speaks to a very large part of our heart. But we are not the only gender that hears that language.
There are many porn ads out there that make men feel they have exclusive attention. Doe-eyed, half naked women, peer through the computer screen and, what do they say? “I’ve been waiting for you.” “I’ve been looking for you.” That is one of the ways porn is sold to men!
In fact, I noticed my brother’s body soap the other day. It is a pretty popular national brand and its commercials are full of sexual innuendos. On the back of the bottle are the instructions. We women know how ours read: “lather, rinse, repeat if necessary” the end. Well, his soap had “lather, rinse, and watch her turn into a man-eater.” Beside it was a picture of a scantily clad, curvaceous female silhouette hanging off a man.
Apparently body soap is marketable this way too! Promise attention and sell your product.
Here’s the problem: Lust has damaged many of us, so our desire for attention is attempted through sexual means.
Just as we can equate beauty with sex, or love with sex, many of us do not understand any attention other than sexual attention. Why should we?
What does a life of pornography teach us? Men are out for one thing: sex. Women are only accepted if they give that one thing. Women are reduced to words like ‘hot, sexy, BBW, MILF, mature, amateur, nearly 18, co-ed, cheerleader” need I go on? Every one of those words centers around sex. So what would make us believe that we can be accepted or that we can be noticed without being a keyword?
Is there a somewhat innate human longing to be noticed? Yes. At its extreme it is called pride. When mixed with a sexual undertone, it becomes a consequence of lust.
How to Handle a Male Attention Addiction
First off, understand that this is a side-affect of a bigger problem. Do not go around classifying every habitual behaviour you don’t like as being an addiction. Pornography and lust are actual chemical addictions that mess with your brain and chemistry similar to the way drugs mess with your mind. Choosing to wear a skirt 2 inches too short, is not an addiction, it is a bad choice.
Second, find your confidence in Christ. Sometimes, we are guilty of walking around like incomplete women. There’s this idea that we need men to complete us. Actually, we don’t. We are complete, whole people without a man. What we are really wanting is the confidence that comes from men accepting us. That’s really what this boils down to: confidence.
As Christians, we have the highest level of acceptance we could ever ask for- the love of Christ. The fullness of Christ dwells within us, our bodies are His temple. You are the temple of the living God, created, loved, redeemed by Christ. What more could you possibly ask for?
Finally, be the woman you are called to be. We hate pornography so much because it degrades us as women. It reduces us to measurements, breasts, and genitals. It robs us of our personhood, our spirit, our soul. Honestly, though, you cannot complain about that, and then turn around and encourage it by acting like nothing more than a collection of body parts.
If you want men to treat you differently, you have to act differently. Don’t dress up like a steak and get mad when they drool. Remember, many of them are tangled up in this stuff too, and when they see you acting just like the girls on the computer, what is going to make them want to change?
The Ultimate Question
Really, it all boils down to the kind of woman you want to be. Do you want to be a woman who is emotionally dependent on the acceptance and praise of others? If so, prepare yourself for a life of ups and downs as people change. Brace yourself for the temptation to change your body or to punish it for not being good enough. Watch out for the moments when ‘accepting you’ means ‘having sex with you.’ Be ready to fall back into porn again in order to feel better about yourself.
Or, you can cultivate a confidence in Christ. You can develop an understanding of how much He loves you, how much worth and value He finds in you, and can stand assured of His promises. He will never take advantage of you, trick you, or lie to you. The life He promises us is an abundant one, and it’s freely given in grace.