“male beauty as a threat”

As the conversations continue at my church, I remembered a blog post that touches on one of the more controversial aspects of my homosexuality: the moral nature of the attractions themselves. It was written by a pastor from the UK who is same-sex attracted (hence the -re’s and the lack of z’s).

Are my attractions inherently sinful, or do they become sinful if unchecked and indulged, left to ferment in my mind rather than pointing me to the God of beauty and grace? Is my sexuality only capable of producing sinful, broken, desires? Or can I cling to some kind of redemption even as I find myself inexorably drawn to male beauty?

How these questions are answered, I have found, has more serious theological/ethical implications than I had previously anticipated.

Edit: Apparently the post is protected, so I’ll cite the parts I find most helpful.

“[Seeing male beauty as a threat, as a loaded gun pointed at me,] makes my life difficult. There are many beautiful men on TV, in magazines and, every so often, they step into real life too. And so I have sat at church feeling like a sitting target because of the ‘comely’ man sitting straight ahead of me. My instinctive sexual attraction to his beauty produces such horrific guilt and shame that it even begins to feel as if the gun has gone off. And next week we will both be back on the firing range – how am I to avoid being shot at again and again?

I somehow need to stop living with this fear. I need to stop seeing male beauty as a loaded pistol aimed destructively at me and instead as something that points me positively elsewhere. I need to respond to it better and to do that I think I need to understand how beauty works a little better…

Part of this is, I think, a growing realisation that my response to male beauty is, at one level, very natural. In desiring a beautiful man, in wanting to become one with him, I am responding to real beauty as all human beings tend to whenever, wherever, they discover it in any overwhelming form…

But how do I avoid crossing that line [from acknowledging beauty to trying to consume it]? For, at the moment, the one nearly always leads to the other; despite the accompanying guilt and shame, any beautiful man will almost invariably soon feature in some imagined sexual act producing even more guilt and shame (does my fear make any more sense now?).

Where can I positively take my appreciation of a man’s beauty? Well, where does it point me to? Just to my sin, or my mucked-up sexuality? If so, every attractive man will continue to be ‘a loaded pistol’ pointed at my soul – I’ll continue to live in fear of the guilt and shame beautiful men bring.

But what if, next time I see one, I paused and prayed, remembering that all true beauty should point me to the beauty of my King? To the Lord Jesus in his perfection, whose beauty far outstrips any other man I’ll ever meet. And recall that my powerful desire for beauty reminds me of how my right desire for true beauty will only ever be properly satisfied in him. For his Word tells me that one day soon I will live with him forever, passing onto his beautiful new world, be beautiful myself, bathe in his beauty, become part of the divine beauty that is at the centre of the universe.

Would that not wonderfully begin to end the guilt and shame?”

Brief update: I’ve met with two staff members so far, one meeting harder than the other, though both ending at a kind of impasse. The second chat, however, was defined by a mutual encouragement and gave me hope for future conversations on the subject even in the midst of disagreement. I remain very hopeful, and feel, I don’t know, strong. Is that weird? God is strengthening me, I can sense it. Not just to “win” the argument, but to respond in love, to reject any flickering of bitterness or anger, to humbly and intentionally dwell on the qualities of these men that I respect, to ultimately submit myself to their authority while I am here, to seek the flourishing of the church, and to trust that the Gospel is being proclaimed throughout the entire process of discerning truth. It’s an oddly quieting sensation.

Jordan

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11 thoughts on ““male beauty as a threat”

  1. i have to call foul on something here: this being “drawn to male beauty” comment. Are we really “drawn to male beauty”? aren’t all men, in some physical sense, beautiful? and yet, my guess is we’re not attracted to all and every adult man we see. i know I’m not. As i look at my own inherently disordered desire for sex with other males, i find that i’m not indiscriminately drawn to any and all adult human males. It’s only a certain type of male: a certain age range and a certain look; a certain affect. By no means am i drawn to what some would call “flaming”. Neither am i attracted to old men. in fact, these examples are more of a turn-off than anything.

    so it seems that yes, there’s a certain ideal that many homosexually-oriented men find desirable. and i suppose this ideal overlaps with what you might call a higher beauty, but is that what you mean? is the ideal you’re talking about and this “higher beauty” (for lack of a better phrase) the same thing?

    • What I meant was that, when I am attracted to someone, I am seeing their objective desirability and beauty, not that my attractions are some special awareness of a higher beauty. So while I am not saying that my attractions are of a more holy order, I also want to avoid saying that they are entirely perverse.

      If I believe that the attractions are not inherently sinful, which I do, then the next question is, “Why not? When does the sin enter the picture if not at the initial moment of attraction?” We all have our own preferences for beauty – place two people in front of a Rembrandt and one may be awestruck and the other bored – but we all see something true about the type of people to whom we are attracted: that they were created by a God who has made us beautiful/desirable and allowed us to recognize that fact. For me, at least, that can lead to a turning to God and a rejoicing in his creativity and his own overwhelming beauty, or it can foster a desire to consume the man that caught my attention.

      I’m not very good at this, but I think it’s a helpful endeavor for the same-sex attracted individual that can give us a way to validate our sexuality as good, while still not giving an inch to the sinful desires to lust after/consume/reify another human.

      I don’t know if I adequately responded to your comment. Let me know if I didn’t. Thanks for posting!

      Jordan

      • I’m curious. In his book Jeff Konrad said that gay men are often attracted to the kind of men they wish they could be, almost like a jealous and unconscious attempt to inherit their traits. Do you see any truth in that?

  2. I feel like the most helpful thing, for me, was to apply the same standards to myself that the church requires of a married heterosexual man. Surely, once a man gets married he doesn’t automatically stop recognizing that other women are attractive. But I think most of us can figure out where the line for him is. The same thing applies to us, even though we’re unmarried. In both situation, we’re attracted to people who we can’t pursue, either mentally or physically.

    Obviously, a married man will still recognize an attractive woman when he sees her and we’re still going to recognize attractive men. This isn’t unnatural. Heck, I’m sure most straight men can also recognize which men are attractive, and most straight women definitely know when another woman is beautiful. The line between recognizing human beauty and lust may differ from person to person, but I think we all know when we’ve crossed it.

    • I distinctly remember when my mentor first offered that connection between the standards of married men and women and myself. Really helped me, too. It was like a breath of fresh air. Thanks for bringing it up!

      Jordan

      • As a married man, that is the first thing that occurred to me when reading this post. I struggle with the same issues when seeing a particularly attractive woman. Time and the grace of God have helped me to contextualize those feelings and aim them in a more healthy direction – usually. Our society tends to play up the unhealthy and lustful side of such encounters, making it more difficult. It seems that in Christian circles we have a tendency to see SSA actions/fantasies as worse than hetero infidelity, but the reality is that they are both sinful, for different but overlapping reasons.

  3. The story of David walking along the rooftops and seeing Bathsheba bathing. It is noted that she is beautiful. I think if he left it at that, that she was beautiful, and turned away, giving it no more thought, then he would be without sin. He seeing her was a mistake. It was a moment of temptation. He sinned when he took it further and desired her enough to seek out her name and eventually her.
    Along the lines of what this post was saying, I caught part of a sermon given by a father to a youth group. He was speaking particularly to the young men. He told him it is a struggle not to look and lust. The way he deals with it is when he sees a Bathsheba, he praises God for the beauty of His creation and thanks Him for his own wife. In that way, the moment goes from being a temptation to sin to being a moment where he is pointed back to God.

  4. I like Jay’s observation. I don’t struggle with SSA but I am single and outnumbered by girls on a college campus. I’ve realized that one of the hardest parts of temptation for me is that when a girl walks by I see an opportunity – even just to enjoy lustful hopes – and I don’t want to waste it.
    I’ve often struggled with overeating, like, to the point of making myself sick. I’ve never been close to fat so I’ve not been motivated to quit. But last summer I worked at a restaurant and had access to food at all times. Since the opportunity was always available, I got tired of eating myself sick, and eventually curbed my habit.
    Comparing the two experiences, I realized that when I see a girl as an opportunity for my eyes, I’m treating her as an object for my pleasure and no longer as a human being. When I put it that way I’m kinda shocked at my animal-like selfishness – a sort of gluttony. So now when the thoughts come, I remind myself (like you mentioned in the article) that God can and will provide all my needs, and that love doesn’t see people as objects of opportunity.

    • Ricky, I’m responding here because wordpress won’t let me respond to your other post.

      The first thing I want to say to Jeff Konrad is “show me the social science research that says that gay men are attracted to what they wish they were.” I just don’t think it’s there.

      The second thing I want to say is that Jeff is making a rather unfair statement because you can’t play the same game with straight people. Does a guy liking a girl with big boobs mean that if you were a girl, you would want to have big boobs? That game just doesn’t work for heterosexuals, so it’s not really fair to play that game with gay people.

      And thirdly, I would love to date a guy who was in great shape, had big arms, and nice pecs. Do I also desire those things for myself? Yes. But who doesn’t want to look good? Also, do I desire them for myself because I find them attractive or do I find them attractive because I desire them for myself. Which came first? I don’t know. It’s bad social science to apply causality to something that correlates.

      Fourthly, there are things I desire that I don’t necessarily want for myself. I am attracted to men of different ethnicities. Does that mean I wish I weren’t white? No. I’m happy with my skin color. Also, I’m 6’2” but find short guys really attractive. Does that mean I wish I were shorter? Absolutely not.

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