What’s wrong with just looking at a swimsuit magazine?
Let’s say you meet a beautiful woman, and the two of you become best friends. Before long, you’re in love, and eventually you ask her to marry you. The two of you go off to your honeymoon, and return to discover that she’s now pregnant with your first child, a little girl.
When the baby arrives, you’re the first to see her in the delivery room. Tears fill your eyes as you look at this miniature version of your bride. You’re in love all over again, and you stand in awe of what you and your wife and your God have created. You raise her with love, teach her to ride a bike, and swoop her into your arms if she ever stubs her knee. She’s your princess, and you’re her king, and the both of you know it. Years go by, and you begin to raise a family.
Today, it’s her seventeenth birthday and so she has a pool party with her friends. She walks out of the house in her bathing suit, and your son takes the opportunity to grab his digital camera and take pictures of her. Since she’s so attractive, he publishes the pictures, and even puts them on the Internet. Before too long, there are hundreds of thousands of strange men across the world lusting after your princess. They stare at her body, and make all sorts of sick jokes about what they think of her, and what they’d like to do to her.
At this point, how do you feel? Would you be comforted if they said they were “just appreciating the beauty of womanhood?”
Now imagine the heart of God the Heavenly Father, who loves his daughters infinitely more than you or I could ever love ours. The women in swimsuit magazines are daughters of the King of Heaven, whether they realize it or not. What’s sad is that we sons have made a market selling His daughters. For this reason, Pope John Paul II challenges us: “each man must look within himself to see whether she who was entrusted to him as a sister in humanity . . . has not become in his heart an object of adultery.”(1) We’re called to treat women with the honor, purity, and reverence that we would expect all men to treat our daughters with.
I had all the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues back in high school, and I knew all the reasons why it supposedly wasn’t that bad. Granted, none of these arguments really convinced me, but why would I care? I just enjoyed seeing the women. Before I could realize or stop it, the way I saw all women became warped. My standard of physical beauty became that of impossible perfection. As the eye wanders from one page to the next in the magazine with lust, your eyes begin to gaze from one girl to the next in the mall or on campus. Before long, you assume that constant lust is pretty much natural for a teenage guy.
Then, we see girls in school or even at church, and without even realizing it, we are turning them into objects. We begin to measure the value of a woman by how much lust she generates in us. We become shallower and shallower. Meanwhile, we lull our consciences to sleep by saying that it really won’t affect us that much. The images of porn brand themselves into our minds, and I know all too well how long it takes to erase them.
But it isn’t just the images that stick with you. Your wandering eyes stay with you. They don’t turn off and stay on one girl when you enter a relationship. You trained them to look at everything that could possibly arouse them. They became gluttons for lust. Now married, I still feel the effects of the porn and swimsuit magazines I looked at over ten years ago. It trains you to have unfaithful eyes: to wander with your eyes towards every attractive woman around. I’m not talking about lusting after every woman, but having a tendency to want to look at every beautiful woman within a hundred yards of you. But my eyes, like my heart and my body, belong to Crystalina (my wife) alone. If I know there is an attractive woman walking my way in the mall, I should look somewhere else, instead of needing to at least glance at her. Now, it’s no sin just to see a beautiful woman, but we must re-train ourselves for monogamy (one wife), because porn trains us to have mental polygamy (many wives).
What do you do when you see a gorgeous woman? I recommend that you say in your heart the words of Psalm 84: “How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Mighty God.” Because every person is a temple of the Holy Spirit, we can rightly thank God for the beauty of where he dwells.
1. Pope John Paul II, apostolic letter, Mulieris Dignitatem 14 (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women), (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 1988).