Men are Wired to Admire but…

Are you excusing men for lusting after other women/porn?

An emotionally stirring issue. No matter where I speak – a women’s event, marriage event, on the radio, a collegecampus – this one question stirs emotion more than any other. Unfortunately, it is also the one topic about which I am most often misunderstood. No doubt about it, men notice attractive women. Still, the very fact that it happens is a painful reality for a lot of women to accept. Let me clarify up front, there is a huge difference between a man who notices an attractive woman, and a man who, continues to noticeably gawk at an attractive woman, making his admiration obvious to his spouse or friends, or later dwelling on those visual images for his own pleasure. That is not healthy for any relationship and certainly doesn’t help develop security in his spouse or build her up. There is no excusing a man who decides his own pleasure is more important than a pure thought life, and honoring his wife.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy for guys to discipline their eyes and thoughts to skip over those visual images that have been burned into their memory banks. Just as women have intruding thoughts about hurts and grievances from the past that spontaneously ‘pop’ into their minds, so guys can have uninvited visual images of attractive, scantily clad women that ‘pop’ into their minds. Just as we women can redirect our thoughts, so can men – but do we always do it perfectly? No.

What does the Bible say about this? It’s an interesting discussion to ponder whether men came equipped with this eye for all things beautiful, or if this is actually little more than a stumbling block which came about as a result of The Fall. While the Bible does not address where it comes from, it clearly does address how it ought to be dealt with. First, the Bible distinctly clarifies that temptation itself is not sin – it’s acting on the temptation that is sinful. Jesus was tempted in every way (Matt. 4:1-11), but did not sin. James 4:7 tells us to, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” It is reacting inappropriately to temptation that is a sin. A man who is tempted to view pornography, for whatever underlying reason, is not sinning simply by being tempted to view it. However, if he chooses to view porn, rather than flee that temptation and seek help, accountability, and restoration, then he is sinning.

But what about women who dress provocatively? Many women simply don’t understand that men can’t not notice a woman who is dressed in a way that draws attention to her figure. Is it her fault that men are wired to notice a good figure in tight clothing? Of course not! But does she bear some responsibility for the gawkers as she walks by? You bet! Men never, ever have to gawk at women, but a woman in a short skirt and cleavage is obviously going to make it much harder for a man to look away and force his mind onto other things. Wives and girlfriends, appreciate the extreme effort it takes for your man to control these ‘colorful’ visual images that have been stored in his brain. Everything in our society is fighting against him, luring his eyes and his brain to look, gaze, and feast upon the visual delights of scantily or tightly clad women, some of whom actually want his eyes to linger over her body. If we as wives can recognize how great is this fight he must battle every day, we can be empathetic to his efforts to honor his wife by controlling his eyes and thought life. Men who humiliate their wife or girlfriend by publicly gawking at other women should expect their wives to be hurt, angry, and ultimately insecure in his love. And it would be helpful for husband’s to remember that a wife’s security in her man’s love is a key predictor in her passion and confidence in physical intimacy.

But this issue is not about whose fault it is. It’s really about a two-way street of building each other up. Men you can build up your woman by keeping your eyes on her when you are with her, and train your eyes to not cross the line from visual admiration to saturation. Women, you can express your admiration and respect for his efforts to not cross that line, and if you happen to catch his roving eye, gently express the intimidation it makes you feel, rather than blasting him with a derogatory cut about his caveman practices.

Point #1: Men are wired to admire. But…
Point #2: Wives will balk if husbands gawk.
Point #3: Wives – validate and appreciate his efforts to admire without gawking.

Share With Others


  1. I’m not understanding this part…..”and if you happen to catch his roving eye, gently express the intimidation it makes you feel” How do I gently express this?

    1. Anything that sincerely admits that you’re afraid you’ll have to fight for his attention, but that it’s not exactly easy for him will do.

      As a guy who’s struggled with this possibly more than most with a very dark past and poetically extremely bloody hands in the matter, it’s important that whatever course you take isn’t about running away from him — a common response — while also not condoning the behavior. Firm, gentle and real. If you take his hand and walk him out of a room where there’s someone dressed in too provocative of a manner, I’m sure he’d appreciate it, as intrusive as it seems.

      I know I would if my woman did the same for us.

  2. I am Shaunti’s assistant and responding on her behalf. That’s a great question! I think a lot of this has to do with our heart and the tone in which we are communicating. Understanding that this is part of the way in which men are wired and not a reflection of their feelings for us can really help to keep this all in perspective. Communicate with your husband/significant other that you are willing to come alongside him to help in this area and realize it is a struggle. When communicating that you feel intimidated by the amount of time he may be lingering in his “look,” the key is to do so in a gentle manner being certain to still show him the respect he needs. Above all, pray for your husband/significant other in this battle and for peace in your own heart as well.

  3. How is it fair/it’s not fair that men demand respect when it’s them who look at others and struggle with it, even before our eyes, we are supposed to be the inferior ones standing beside our men (hurt, shamed) while they look and think of others, AND THEY WANT RESPECT? Something is very wrong here.

  4. This is Shaunti’s assistant responding on her behalf. Women are certainly not inferior to men and Shaunti, to my knowledge, has never stated such. As she writes in the article, she is not condoning men lustfully looking at other women or indulging in pornography. In her words, “There is no excusing a man who decides his own pleasure is more important than a pure thought life, and honoring his wife.” However, it is important for us to understand that this is a struggle for our men and to encourage them in their efforts to honor us with their eyes.

  5. Thank you for this article. I am reading “For Women Only” as part of a marriage prep course, and my fiance is reading “For Men Only”.
    This is a hard topic; it is hard to understand this is an involuntary thing. But breaking it down into the noticing beauty being involuntary and what the man decides to do from there being his choice is helpful. I’ve discussed this with my fiance and at first was upset he has to guard his eyes, then realized he is choosing to guard his eyes to honor me.
    It is also eye-opening to realize women can dress in ways they think is ‘cute’ and not realize that some men see it as much more than ‘cute’. I certainly don’t want to be an image stuck in someone’s mental file, and don’t want men thinking lustful thoughts about me, so double-check what I wear( even though I dress modestly) now that I am aware this is a universal struggle for men.
    Open dialogue is the best way to work through this.

  6. I believe it goes both ways when it comes to admiration in the different sexes. Women are also wired to appreciate pretty things, whether these things are shoes, dresses or even the opposite gender. We may peak at times too. The only difference is that females have more assets than men and there are more clothes designed to enhance these assets in women than what we find with men. Another thing is that men are terrible at expressing how they really feel about certain things. They may be upset about certain things but won’t for their life let it out.

  7. My husband has seriously damaged our marriage with this constant looking. I feel ugly and unappreciated. I have no passion left for him as he has wounded me publicly so many times. Frankly, a woman’s heart is generous and forgiving but there is a point where a husband finally breaks them.

    I hope men that read this take this very seriously. My husband had a very loving, devoted wife who was sexually generous, respected and admired him also. However, being taken for granted and humiliated publicly takes it’s toll on a woman’s heart, no matter how many times she starts over again or tries to understand him there is a breaking point. I can be a companion if need be but the intimacy is shattered for me. I’m exhausted feeling like I’m in constant competition.

    He has admitted he has never been put in that position (feeling compared) in our marriage but has finally realised he’s been destroying something beautiful and no demands, apologies or tears can rewind and take former lovers back to that sweet spot they shared before others became the focus.

    I really hope husbands listen to their wives on this issue. Holding her hnd while scoping the room or shops is not ok. Head turning at a romantic dinner is not ok. Head turning to every athletic woman while driving is not ok. Denying you’re doing it while doing it is not ok. You simply won’t have the keys to your wife’s heart.

    1. Mel, I totally relate to you. This morning, my husband looked at a younger girl and though I know that he was only joking when he said “I’d totally F that a**”, I felt very disrespected and it was really so disgusting to hear. Am I being so insecure about nothing or do you really think it’s very wrong for him to say that too?

      1. Mel, it’s quite wrong and disrespectful. Did he not vow to love, honor and cherish you? What’s honoring about saying he wants to “F that a**”? Absolutely nothing. Would he appreciate if you saw a handsome man and said “I’d totally drop my panties for him”?

        1. Well said Mark. It is never ok to say anything about another woman. admireanangel no you are not being insecure that is just wrong.

  8. Admireanangel, thank you for being so honest in your response to Mel. You are correct that what your husband said and did was disrespectful to you and your relationship. That is something a husband should never say. Even if he might have been engaging in some crass joke, it is legitimately hurtful, even if he doesn’t realize it. Addressing your question however, you shouldn’t allow his behavior to determine your security. Having a healthy understanding of who you are, what you stand for, how you participate in the relationship should determine your security. It can certainly be hurtful to hear a statement like that. But don’t allow his bad decision to feed another bad decision to become insecure. We would encourage you to talk with your husband about the comment and explain to him how it makes you feel. The tough part is knowing that we can’t change our spouse, no matter what it is that causes pain for us. We can only work on our weak areas. You might be interested to see our response to Mel here:

    Karen Newby (Pastoral Communications)

  9. i dont understand one thing here.

    is it only men who are ayyracted or also womem attracted to other men secretly in their heart but hide it and look other man secretly in a socially acceptable way?

    if women are not attracted to the same extent, whats the worth of being a man?

    pls dont tell about the concept of men are visual and women are not.

    1. I think that women are visual, but maybe in a different way. Growing up, I would hear girls gush about how hot a guy was and thought that there was something wrong with me, until it actually did happen, but even then only thrice in my life and one event’s feeling vanishing in three seconds or less, never to return. These people are still beautiful in their pictures, but not attractive to me and I think that has to do with mental association. I certainly wouldn’t look at a statue or painting of a beautiful individual and lust, because there is an innate knowledge (although apparently not there for all people) that there can be no relationship. For fear of a relationship, I sometimes pushed friends to date people that I was interested in and, as soon as that happened, they were completely off the table in my mind. A friend of mine swears to a similar attitude when it comes to his past girlfriends: “You become my new standard and no one compares, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a better standard for health for yourself.” These are both decisions to recognize and natural responses of that recognition.

      However, that does bring up a bit of concern. In another article, it was written that “I think God designed the male brain to be attracted to an attractive image on purpose – and that that purpose was to bond a man to his wife.” Could then the typical extent of a woman’s response to visual stimuli be an unfortunate event from the Fall? Or men’s addiction to that be such? Or both? I don’t know, but I still believe men’s addiction (and perhaps a wife’s lack of interest) is because of poor categorization (and perhaps physical imperfections like hormone imbalances within the watcher) on what should or should not draw more than the eye.

      I love to draw and peruse portraits, including potential ones. I am fascinated by diversity and curious of extremes. I once saw someone who looked impossibly big and I had to fight not to stare, not because of lust, but because I thought that it would seem awkward. Innocent admiration or genuine curiosity shouldn’t be discouraged, but there should be consideration of offending others, as we see mentioned in the bible, ESPECIALLY your spouse, who should be more important. I hope that my significant other does not feel lesser when I speak positively of others. I certainly wouldn’t say, “I’d tap that,” because that’s considering this stranger as an option where there is none or, at the very least, speak about it in a sterile way, as in, “That would be someone I would consider, IF I WASN’T IN A RELATIONSHIP.” I look at anatomy books and models all the time, but it means absolutely nothing to me beyond subject for description/drawing.

      1. I want to clarify that really no one should be an option for indulging lust or fantasies, except your spouse, including when single, because that’s a bad habit and it’s just so hard to break those.

  10. Don’t make it obvious your staring at the provocative short shorts. And most important keep your mouth shut about it. Plus pay her more attention.

  11. Sumanth—

    It is very unusual for a woman to list after a man she has no relationship with. It’s almost impossible for most women. I can’t make myself do it even if I want to. Sexual thoughts about a stranger are revolting. When men catcall at me I feel like prey. I feel sick.

    Women definitely can be tempted to lust after a man they know and have begun to trust and admire. It’s almost never visual/physical, though.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I accept the Privacy Policy