Culture

Here’s another way to look at it. Voyeurism and sexual fantasy are not that different

Nicholas Quek // October 13, 2020, 4:20 pm

Believe it or not, sexual fantasy and voyeurism are not that different-1

The first time I fantasised about a woman was in Primary 5. I had caught a glimpse of a sex scene in a movie one night, and for the next few weeks, I replayed that scene in my mind.

At first, it was involuntary. The features of her face and her body would regularly pierce through the humdrum of my daily life. There was a visceral clarity to that recollected scene, something that made all other thoughts irrelevant.

Then after a while, that recollection became intentional. Whenever I was bored, frustrated or stressed, I would intentionally call that scene to remembrance. No longer was she a surprise visitor – she was a welcome guest.

From there emerged a regular practice of fantasy. I would often replay scenes from movies and pornographic films in my mind. I would comfortably overlay the features of the women I’d seen in those scenes, with the faces of other people.

I would allow a casual glimpse on the MRT to evolve into a full-fledged fantasy of sexual encounter. I would allow my eyes to linger longer on particular Instagram posts, refrain from cancelling pornographic ads that popped up in my tab – I allowed any media I encountered to fuel my imagination.

Purity on the purple line

You probably already know how bad voyeurism is in Singapore; our media regularly reports on it. You almost definitely have an immediate sense of its wrongness. You feel it in your gut, the way it churns when you hear of another sexual assault. You feel it on your skin, the way it crawls as you read the details of the offence.

So instead I decided to begin with this rather explicit description of my struggle with sexual fantasy to make a single point: the sin that lies behind voyeurism is the same sin that lies behind the multitude of other sexually immoral acts we commit.

True, there is real hurt that is caused by such actions that involve another person – I do not intend to belittle that hurt in any way. The hurt that emerges from sexual assault is immense, and it certainly warrants the exercise of human systems of justice, no matter how flawed they might be.

Neither do I intend to conflate sexual fantasy and sexual assault. There is a difference between the private use of one’s imagination and the invasive assault of a camera.

But at its core, voyeurism is a sin that is not very far from us.

WHEN PEOPLE EXIST FOR OUR PLEASURE

The ability to fantasise about someone sexually comes about when we separate someone’s physicality from their identity. The result is that what we see is what matters. I no longer need to consider this person’s joys, sorrows, victories, struggles – he or she is merely a sexually attractive body, now captured in either my imagination or my camera.

That is why we can, in our minds, place them in sexual situations that would otherwise be inappropriate. People become bodies, faces become masks – we mix and match them at our fancy, to suit whatever our sexual cravings clamour for at that point in time.

That is also why one might have no qualms taking videos of another’s body and using it for sexual pleasure, even if we have never spoken to the person before. Physical bodies bear no witness to the person inhabiting them – they are simply tools that serve our pleasure.

The apostle Paul takes a remarkably different approach to the physical body.

In his letter to the Corinthian church, he says that our bodies are members of Christ, and that sins of sexual immorality are against one’s own body (1 Corinthians 6:15-18). He goes further to say that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit within us, and that we are to glorify God in our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Needless to say, Paul cared very much about how people were treating not only their own bodies, but the bodies of others! The way they related to the physical body was tied up with their very worship of God.

We see this love, even delight, that God has in the physical body in the Old Testament. From the very beginning of the Bible, we are told that God created man in his own image, male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).

These might seem like well-worn verses that speak nothing to contemporary issues of sexuality, but what these words tell us is that God desired that His image be borne in our physical bodies.

Our very physicality reflects the glory of God.

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What does this have to do with voyeurism or sexual immorality in general?

It means that sexual fantasy undermines God’s intent behind our physical bodies. It means that to see someone’s physicality as a tool for your sexual pleasure is to, in a very real sense, ignore God.

In his letter to the Thessalonian church, Paul locates the sexual immorality of non-Christians in the fact that they do not know God (1 Thessalonians 4:5). You can’t worship the God of the physical body while simultaneously viewing it in a manner that does not glorify Him.

When our eyes are drawn to another’s physical body, when our the gears of our minds fire up with lust, when it seems like those old pathways of fantasy have been opened up once again, God has in mind a better way for us. He has more glorious things for us to consider.

THERE’S A MUCH BETTER WAY

Genesis 1:27 tells us that when we look at each other’s bodies, our primary thought shouldn’t be “How can this body serve me?”, but instead “How does this person image God?”.

There is real enjoyment to be had in each other’s physical beauty – God has beautifully wired us that way – but all that is meant to direct us towards the even more incredible God who made this person. Imagine what it would be like if this were how we related to one another.

How much slower we would be to voyeurism, if we considered the fact that physical bodies existed for God, not for us.

How much more watchful we would be regarding sexual fantasy, being careful with every thought that featured a God-created physical body.

How much more seriously we would treat matters of sexual purity, even within a committed, pre-marital relationship, knowing that God Himself has given us the notion of a covenant for our protection and joy.

God intends for us to know Him and, in knowing Him, relate to others in a way that honours not only Him but also the other individual.

Does this seem too hard for you? Does your lust seem inevitable?

It is hardly a surprise if it does. How can the instantaneous and ecstatic pleasure of sexual fantasy compare with Christian holiness? How can the Bible compete with the multitude of attractive bodies that fill your mind? 

Who is the one that does this work? Who then is the one who can so radically change the way we view each other?

Surely He must bring with Him a message, a power, a gospel so good and true that this change becomes possible.

The good news of Jesus Christ lies at the heart of this radical transformation. 

No longer do you need to live constrained to your lust. Just as Jesus died, so you too have died to your sin (Romans 6:2-7). And if you share in His death, you share in His life! (Romans 6:8)

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I know it is a hard thing to hear for singles – that somehow we are expected to forgo sexual pleasure. I know this because for most of my life that was what was preached to me.

But now that I have been on this journey for some time, I can testify more and more confidently to the reality of this satisfaction I have in Christ – this new and better life in Him!

The life that God has in store for us – a life full of holy self-restraint – is one that is full of joy. 

The joy of a clean conscience, the growing Christ-centred friendships I have with the women around me – these are gifts from God that He desired for us.

They may not look glamourous, but they are far more enduring and real than the flashy but fleeting pleasures of sexual fantasy.

It does take a miracle for this to happen.

It will literally take a divine intervention for you to be convicted of your sin, of the reality of God’s judgement and of your need for Jesus Christ.

But God promises the Holy Spirit can do precisely this, to work within our hearts and call us to genuine repentance and obedience (John 16:7-15).

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If you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit already dwells within you! This supernatural power to conquer sin is yours in Christ Jesus.

I pray that you might take God at His word, believing Him when He says that if you walk by the Spirit, you will not gratify the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).

I don’t want us to underestimate our own sinfulness; that’s why I spent so much time laying out the sin behind voyeurism that we might easily see it within ourselves.

But now that you know sin’s extent and reach, know more the power of the gospel to sanctify even the worst of sinners. That journey of sanctification will be a life-long one, but it has a wonderful destination.

If you are not a Christian, then thank you for even reading this far! Does the Christian message strike you as odd? Appealing? Offensive?

If you have more questions about Christianity and sexuality, stick around and check out these links. Otherwise, feel free to reach out to me, I’d love to chat with you more.

THINK + TALK

  1. What is a godly way of viewing your own body and that of others?
  2. What desires of the flesh are you currently struggling with?
  3. Do you believe that you can enjoy a new and better life in Christ? What does that look like?