Why We Don’t Need to “Protect” our Sons from Selfies

Kory Plockmeyer

Kory Plockmeyer
September 5, 2013

Selfies of teenage girls on Facebook provide discussion for Kim Hall and other parents confronting family issues of sexual photos and grace.

September 5, 2013

Her view of sexuality is part of her apparent view of gender roles. Did you notice she addresses the young women as "ladies" and not "women"? Language and word choice mean something, and calling young women "ladies" is an indication of legalism, setting up a cultural norm and expecting young women to meet it in order to, in turn, meet her approval.

Thanks for helping me think through this, Kory,

( http://timfall.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/ladies-vs-women-a-distinction-a-difference-a-dialog/ )

September 5, 2013

Thanks for this, Kory. I agree with you that her post is reductive and reinforces a double-standard that I would hope the church would work to dismantle. It implies that female bodies are always already "sexual" while male bodies are not. I think she is trying to get young people to think before they post, which I am certainly not against, but I prefer your emphasis on grace.

September 6, 2013

Exactly! Thanks, Kory. "Boys will be boys" only because we enable that behavior. Unless we teach our "boys" how to be responsible and respectful, they will grow up to be "men who will be boys." We have far too many of them already.

Karen Swallow Prior
September 6, 2013

Women are not visual. This is proven by the lack of posters of dreamy boy stars hanging in the rooms of teenage girls across the globe. ;)

Morgan Guyton
September 6, 2013

Thank you Think Christian for talking sensibly about this. And thank you Karen. That comment is pretty freaking awesome. I just put it on my facebook wall.

Karen Swallow Prior
September 6, 2013

Thanks, Morgan.

And ditto on the appreciation for Think Christian's great take on this topic.

Price Grisham
September 6, 2013

Kory keeps referring to men. Which misreads Hall's article--she is dealing with her teenage boys, who are strikingly handsome and will probably have plenty of cute girls wanting to make out with them; and some of the girls' poses were sexually provocative, if not actually undressed. When it comes to sex outside of bounds, our culture seems to have an overabundance of "grace", looking the other way or encouraging it, as long as you've got a condom, so this is what she is trying to counterbalance. Having said that, Hall should realize that girls can drool over photos of good-looking guys in swim trunks the same as guys can drool over girls in bikinis.

September 6, 2013

Yes, memories of Tiger Beat is just a figment of my imagination.

Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira
September 6, 2013


Pat Spriggs
September 6, 2013

I agree with Kim. Our kids have way too much freedom in this area, regardless of gender. Having said that it is vitally important, in this digital and hyper-sexual age, to make it clear what kinds of boundaries need to be set before our girls press "send". I have a teenage daughter who is in a constant battle with me about how much skin is too much to show in her pics. What I am trying to make her understand is that yes, males are exponentially more visual creatures than females. Our pop culture here in the west has done a great job in convincing our kids that image is everything. And when boys see girls in their pj's duckfacing in bed, like it or not, it relays a message that cannot be erased. Yes, girls are visual as well, but if you look at the stats of genders addicted to porn?? Well..you be the judge.

September 7, 2013

Amen to the article. A saying that I've recalled recently (a lot) and applies here is: what good is it to teach girls to say "No" if we don't teach boys to listen?

I don't know who originated it, but it's true.

September 7, 2013

A comment was made on TC's Facebook in response to this article: "Well so here's the question. Is male sexuality different from female sexuality, and if so should we respond to it differently?"

I think this is the right question to ask rather than claiming that we just live with double-standards. There seems to be too much evidence and research out there showing that male and female sexualities differ. If we want to take the "visual" element for example, sure, women are "visual," but precisely the way men are (generally speaking here)? If they were exactly the same, why does there seem to be a disproportionate amount of unclothed women viewed for pleasure for every unclothed male (think Tiger Beat vs. Sports Illustrated)?

Maybe in the future a brain scanner will explain all these differences God was pleased to put between men and women. Till then, I think taking a nuanced approach that senses that each gender needs to help the other in different ways, as the aforementioned comment starts to, is a better and more realistic solution than demanding everyone to act identically.

For the record, I am not saying--and I don't think Hall is saying--that we can just let one gender off the hook on an issue. No, it's the complete opposite: both need to act responsibly, thinking of the other's needs. I think the author makes an unfounded assumption when he claims that Hall is not "teaching her boys to be able to pass over such images without giving in to sexual temptation." Couldn't she be doing this and also telling the girls to help out the boys? Again, it takes both genders to do this well and she may have caught on.

September 7, 2013

Thanks, everyone, for your comments, questions, and feedback. Like many of you (and as I said in the article), I appreciated Hall's reminder to be more careful about what gets posted online. Certainly a reminder that all (young and old, male and female alike) could use. Part of the reason I take issue with Hall's approach is that it is shame-based, rather than grace-filled. I'm not saying that we should 'look the other way' on sexual indiscretion but rather approach the conversation from a place of grace rather than a place of shame. Remember that Hall is writing in response to a particular evening of viewing her son's social media feed in her particular community. She is not simply talking about women in general but is responding to particular girls within her community. How would you feel if you were the parent of the girls Hall had in mind? I suspect you would know she was talking about your daughter and, even if you agreed that your daughter should think more carefully about what she posts, would still not appreciate Hall's shame-based approach.

Beyond that, I am fascinated by the conversation about whether men are more image-based than women. Certainly it is the stereotype and I am familiar with it. I am not saying it is wrong but, other than anecdotal evidence of pornography rates (which, yes, is more prevalent among men than women - but remember, there are a number of other factors at play in that, including, but not limited to, the relatively recent breakout of overt female sexuality. I.e., it has been socially 'allowed'[even if seen as immoral] for men to view porn than women for a long time), I am unaware of academic research backing up the idea. Is it true that a man cannot 'unsee' a women in undress? Even as a teenage boy, I do not think that every time I watched a movie I pictured the female star in the greatest state of undress I had seen her nor, for that matter, would I have been able to recall said moment immediately. I suspect that the 'impossible to unsee' idea is more of a construct to underscore certain ideas of sexuality.

One last comment then I'm done for now (sorry, didn't mean for this comment to become like another article) - is Hall as vehement or diligent in her efforts to shield her sons in the checkout line at the grocery store (have you seen the magazine covers? Much worse than the bedtime selfies!), commercial breaks (Victoria's Secret commercials don't even begin to cover the 30-second blocks of sexuality), or driving down the road (it's not just gentlemen's club using sex to sell). We could certainly have a conversation about how oversexed our culture is and debate about where we draw the lines around protecting our children. My point is simply that the Hall boys (and all teenage boys, men, and women for that matter!) need to learn sexual responsibility in the midst of a vastly oversexed culture.

September 7, 2013

Sorry, a follow up to my last comment.

Some research:
"The sex differences observed in subjective sexual arousal to visual sexual stimuli are possibly the combined product of social and biological influences on cognitive processes that direct the perception and assessment of these stimuli. Based on how men and women differently regard these stimuli as positive and arousing, there will result in apparent differences in physiological and psychological responses. Sexual motivation, perceived gender role expectations, and sexual attitudes are cognitive factors that likely influence participant’s response to sexual stimuli, especially in women. Strong support for this notion is evident in the common finding that subjective and physiological measures of sexual arousal in women are often uncorrelated." Heather Rupp and Kim Wallen, "Sex Differences in Response to Visual Sexual Stimuli: A Review" 2007 - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2739403/

A more accessible summary of some of the latest research is available in this helpful blog post - http://aloftyexistence.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/men-more-visual-than-women/

In general, there are a multitude of factors playing into the equation of whether or not men are more visually stimulated.

Mark Brouwer
September 12, 2013

Thanks for this great article Kory, and your follow-up research and comments. As someone who worked for 6 years doing workshops and leading recovery groups for people struggling with sexual addiction (now pastoring in a church), I think I have one more perspective to add to this discussion:

Even statistics-based research - such as the Rupp and Wallen studies - can only show the tendencies and trends ... there are always exceptions. What I encountered again and again in my work was that, even if men "tend to be aroused by" certain things, and women something else, there are MANY MANY exceptions.

In other words, I really want to affirm the focus of this discussion that we need to get rid of the sexist approach in the church that sexual struggles - including pornography - are a "guy thing."

Here's an article from my site, which looks at web use stats in 2007, tracked by hitwise. Of 100,000 websites they analyzed for their clients, 40,000 were "adult web sites." Of the traffic on those adult websites, 27% was from women. http://sexual-sanity.com/2008/10/interesting-web-use-info-from-click/

September 12, 2013

Thanks, Mark. The enduring question for me remains this: Is it true that once a man sees an image he cannot unsee it?

This is a really common trope in discussions of sexuality in the church but I can find absolutely nothing to back it up. Mark, perhaps with your expertise you may have some insight into this?


Daniel Peycke
September 13, 2013

It's a bit easy to feel we've "figured out" the problem, whether that looks like a zero-tolerance policy or a disagreement with a zero-tolerance policy.

What if both genders are not just visually stimulated, but also unimpressed with the level of happiness they observe in married people who are telling them to "play by the rules"? Or afraid of being single? Or convinced that they've already missed their chance at a good relationship because they already messed up?

Maybe a lot of teaching will never be worth as much as a little bit of showing.

May 20, 2016

I was amused by Karens comment that women are not visual and you don't see posters of male stars hanging in their rooms. I was just wondering where she was raised. I'm 60 now and girls have been buying magazines forever to get the poster at the center to hang up in their rooms. Remember tiger beat. I never read it , but every girl in town bought it cuz David Cassidy or Leif Garrett or someone's poster was in there and it went up on the wall immediately. No difference today. Just different celebrities.

May 20, 2016

Reading through the comments, I particularly liked MJ's response. Also, Kory, the research links you posted seem to be written by people with worldview that is not focused on God. So the naturalistic explanations and language they use seem hollow.

Rather than getting caught up in "us vs. them" or "shame-based not grace-filled" (and staying away form the obvious bias and shortcomings of that unfounded dichotomy), how about we play a different tune?

Perhaps the questions should be - what about your behavior honors God? What about your behavior honors your parents? What about your behavior exemplifies the fruits of the spirit including self-control? What about your behavior is not causing your brother/sister to stumble? Which of those photos do you want your mother/father/grandmother/child (because you probably will have children one day) to see? Which of those photos do you want displayed on the wall at your high school graduation? College? Wedding?

I am proposing that if you change the dialogue you could probably change the outcomes.

Elisabeth McLachlin
May 20, 2016

I am very grateful for this article! Thanks for this!

James Tennison
May 21, 2016

Thank you for the great thought provoking article.

Electric Beaver
May 21, 2016

Thought provoking article. However, I think the discussion devolved into a "who's fault is it," ramble. It seemed that several commenters have bought into the world view that there is no difference between male and female. To ignore there is a difference is to turn away from what's before your eyes. In Genesis is says that 'male and female He created them'. Adam was blown away when God presented the new partner. This was the companion Adam had needed. Even science has shown that male and female brains develop differently in the womb. We are different. To deny that is to deny there may be a solution to combating sexual sins.
'Teen Beat' glam shots were equated with Playboy and other soft porn, including TV, advertising, and movies. If there was a way to count the number of porn sites (hard core or soft, including Pinterest) on the Internet and the sex of the viewers of the same porn, the vast majority - probably 10 to 1 - would be male purveyors and male viewers. Most males would admit that the models and actresses in the media are a fantasy. There is no chance to EVER be able to have sex with these super-models. But there is the dream. Likewise, most women KNOW they have no chance of a relationship with the hot new boy toy - but there is the dream.
One of the problem with suggestive selfies is that the boy and girl know each other - same school, same classes, same grade, etc. The relationship is already established. Now she has offered herself via the selfie. The fantasy is ratcheted up to a possibility.
None of this is to blame it on the girl, or the boy. It is both their fault. It is the parent's fault for not teaching the daughter the immorality of offering to have sex (or the hint of an offer). It is the parent's fault for not teaching the boy that sex outside of marriage is immoral - a sin. God has told us, through Paul's writing, that sex between a man and woman is not just a physical act. It goes to the soul of the people involves. Out children live immersed in sex as a result of the 'sexual revolution' that started in the 60's. Free marriage, free sex - remember 'If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with'? The moral climate of our society has not improved over the years. What was once known to be immoral, even though people did it anyway, is now considered by the world to be okay. Unfortunately, the church has not stood up firmly enough against the immoral behavior. What was once considered to be the norm, or at least morally correct - sex in marriage only - is now an oddity. Because there are church members that fail does not mean we should abandon the teachings of the scripture.
What is the solution? Teach your children well. We cannot go to the girl's home and demand her parents to stop her from sending selfies. (Well, we could but it would probably be counter-productive.) We can talk with our daughters and teach them - this is not really sex-ed, but closely related to it - about being modest, chaste, proper. Can we stop our sons from seeing the selfies? The ubiquity of social media works against that proposal. We must talk with our sons and teach them that Godly men, followers in spirit and truth, do not indulge in this activity. When they stand for what is right, warn them they will be mocked and teased, perhaps persecuted.
There is no easy solution. There is work to be done. We must rely on the power of God to lead us, teach us, and give us strength to be strong in the faith. If you have failed to live up to the scriptural teachings, do not throw yourself overboard. You can use this life-lesson. Share how it has affected you in your relationships with others and with the Lord. Share how repentance and forgiveness work to make you a better person than you thought you could be.

Brad Tucker
May 21, 2016

I can't believe there is even any discussion on this. It is not graceless, as the article states, to insist that members of a community uphold certain moral standards. It's not like she is disciplining anybody, bur merely insisting that any offensive photis be removed. It is a fact that visual stimuli arouse males. Women tend more toward aural and emotional arousal.

First you say you applaud Kim Hall, Kory, and then you derogate her action as graceless. So your claimed applaud amounts to pretty much nothing. This woman is holding the ladies in her ministry accountable to certain standards of purity.

You think she should wink at suggestive social media photos? And your charge of a truncated sexual standard makes no sense at all since she would have no influence over men's ministries.

What precisely, are you suggesting she did wrong? Holding the ladies in her ministry to standards of midest dress? That is Biblical.

June 1, 2016

I appreciate this article and the various points being brought up in the comments. One aspect I've not read in the article or comments is the idea that Kim Hall's sons actually know, interact with, and are currently in relationship with the girls in the FB feed. Regardless of knowing an individual or not we should look at them through the eyes of our Father as not only a physical being, but one with soul and worth far above their earthly form. The fact her sons will interact with these girls begs another issue. While the objectification of women whether known or not harms our relationships with the women we do know, the fact these boys know and interact with these girls in the FB feed will amplify and bring up any temptation to objectify them in person...a temptation not had with a model on a magazine cover or actress on a screen. While any objectification is evil, I think the one lived out immediately and directly affecting a woman, to be the more egregious offense.

Kim Hall has the ability, or perceived ability, to make a difference in this microcosm of her environment. She cannot destroy or hide magazine covers, she cannot stop Victoria's Secret commercials (she can limit access to such content like TV and internet time), nor can she dictate what others wear out in public. But she is in relationship with and able to leverage what little relationship credit she or her children have with these girls in order to not only help her sons by minimizing if at all possible a stumbling block, but also using the opportunity to echo a message of modesty in a world which condemns such conversations.

This does bring up the idea of shame vs. grace motivation. I ask a question here sincerely not knowing the answer, so please respond. Is there room for shame based inspiration within the Grace of God? Anyways, how convincing is an adult woman's plea to young ladies that may or may not know and respect her? Kory is certainly onto something when he highlights the value of having an established Christian sexual ethic.

I would also echo the importance of being proactive in how we teach our children about sexual identity and the value of others. God's grace is indeed greater than any sin. However I think it naive for Kory to imply Kim does not teach her boys "to be able to pass over such images without giving in to sexual temptation." But Kory is right in implying that we, Christendom as a whole, generally fail miserably at such things. A great article starting the conversation on the importance of having a Christian sexual ethic. Thank you Kory!

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