In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, which aims to normalize breastfeeding, I’d like to address the idea that exposing men to the sight of breastfeeding somehow tricks them into being unwitting victims of their own lust. Lest I be accused of fabricating this stance from my own errant feminism, I’ll stick to the words of The Man Himself.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. it is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. it is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” Matthew 5:27-30
Guys, I want you to carefully and thoroughly read that quote. Write it or type it out if that’s what it takes to fully commit your attention. When Jesus speaks about a man lusting after a woman, He does not place the blame on the woman for exposing the man to lust. OUR sinful nature shifts that blame. OUR corrupt culture does that. The World says it’s the breastfeeding mother’s fault for doing that in front of you. Jesus says “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” In *HIS* heart. Not their hearts, not her heart, but his heart. He has done that. Without her participation, consent, intent, will, or knowledge.
As a woman, I am absolutely aware of the ways I can entice or invite sexuality into life. Our sex-crazed culture has certainly done a thorough job of educating women on that. But when I went to the doctor last week, I did not cause him to sin or stumble by discussing my health and body with him or allowing him to evaluate and consider my physical form. Context matters. Intent matters. Consent matters. In the context of breastfeeding my child, my breast is not begging for the gaze or lust of a man.
We have spent decades (longer?) telling men that they cannot control themselves in the presence of a woman. That the mere sight of her is so powerful as to overwhelm and overtake his own will. This is not true. Jesus does not say that the woman has forced the man into a submissive position of lust. Jesus does not say the woman has violated the man’s will or intent. Jesus says “If your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away.” He doesn’t instruct men to get women to cover up or leave the room if their breasts causes men to stumble. He doesn’t say women should cover up. He says YOU should gouge out YOUR OWN eye if it causes you to stumble. It’s on you, men. This is on you. You can do this.
This is not an instruction to be taken literally with kitchen utensils. Jesus loved a good story, and for reasons that fully elude me, He had confidence that we would be able to understand the concept of a metaphor. Jesus is telling people to be responsible for their own body, for their own wills, and for their own sins.
If you see a woman with a baby (or toddler, or small child) start to fiddle with her shirt or bra strap, she is probably going to feed the baby. This is where your volition comes into play. If you suspect you’re going to feel aroused, be tempted to let your mind wander into dangerous territory, or otherwise turn a baby’s breakfast into something it should not be, look away. Just use your neck muscles or eyelids, and don’t watch. I’ve yet to meet a single person who is incapable of not looking at something that do not want to see.
If you are unable to override your desire to watch a baby have breakfast get all lusty, get some help. There are so many mental health professionals, pastors, accountability buddies, programs, clubs, groups, and online support for men seeking to get the upper hand over their base desires. You can do this. Babies need to eat, you do not need to lust, you do not need to stare.
The more common place this becomes (thanks to concepts like World Breastfeeding Week), the more desensitized we can all become to the sight of a hungry baby having a snack. Which only leads us back to Jesus. Back to being responsible for our own sin, loving our neighbors, and making room for the little children to be present in our communities. Like church. Right now, I am very tempted to start a long rant about the importance of not evicting babies and children from church to appease the refusal of grown men to control themselves. But I too can resist temptation. I can feel the urge to do something, and simply choose to say “no”. And save that discussion for another day. Because I have a baby who needs lunch right now, and his need is more important than my desire. My desire to say/do/think something else can be subordinate to my will, and his need. See how that works?