Yesterday, I took one for the team and it was International Women’s Day but I had no idea… So, this is for all the fabulous women I know – my sisters and those incredible women I don’t know. (But also my brother’s, so keep reading.)
… But first, I just wanted to say what I love about being a woman. I love that there is the camaraderie and bond that can occur between us women. And I was reminded of how great this bond can be. Last week, I watched my son participate in the athletics carnival and I was so glad I was there to support him. But what I witnessed outside of that brought me so much joy.
So, in keeping with tradition the boys ran first, followed by the girls – and it was such a joy to watch the girls race. Some girls literally ran to run their own race, while others stuck with their friends and walked the track while laughing and talking about – who knows what. One girl even skipped up the length of the track – she was literally running her own race by doing her own thing. I saw in that moment, that it doesn’t matter how you run your race, just as long as you finish it and get there in your own way. I also loved the fact that no-one told them off – no one said – you can’t run the race like that.
I also loved seeing the stark contrast between the girls and the boys. The boys just ran from start to finish – focused, determined and on a mission. Some stopped to walk out sections to catch their breath, and some encouraged their brothers to keep going. But like I said, the boys just ran the race with focus and intention and determination, while the girls did their own thing and still got there in the end. I could see with the girls, there was a camaraderie, a bond, a sisterhood. I got it. I understood it and it brought me so much joy in seeing these young girls enjoying being with their sisters. (Now of-course this is not to discount that men can’t have a brotherhood, but I am simply speaking from what I saw and experienced too.) This moment reminded me of how much I love and am so grateful for my sisters – and especially my own sibling sister and the incredible women I have met over the years. I have learnt so much from them and about myself too. I am grateful for the love, tears, laughter and whatever outrageous situations and randomness we have experienced and shared together over the years – whether we met in early childhood or last year, I am glad we did – cos being their sister – like those girls on the running field, fills me with that much joy. So, this – my dear sisters, this is for you and I implore and encourage you dear brothers to continue to read this too. This is as much for you as it is for my sisters.
… So… yesterday, something was brought to my attention that I felt needed to be discussed. I’ll be honest, I found it confronting and I was like – ‘oh, I can’t even go there – especially as a Christian woman…’
First of all, here is some context. I had recently become aware of one of God’s promises over my life in bringing me to a spouse and the knowledge that he is close. However, I still have to wait for our paths to connect. And lets just say, I have been single for a majority of my adult life – so the promise of something being close makes me feel really impatient. Over the years, I have been in and out of relationships – and one quite toxic. And by toxic, I mean experiencing sexual coercion, being coaxed, and pressured into things and even things happening without my knowing, thus pushing the boundary of consent to being non-existent. And then being gaslighted – manipulated psychologically to create doubt and question my own memory, perception of judgment of situations…
(… I’m just going to take a moment to acknowledge how difficult this is to write – like I feel sick, right down in the pit of my stomach. I want to stop and runaway from writing this… but I know it needs to be written. I’ll keep going…)
… So, you could say, I don’t know what it looks like to be in a loving and healthy relationship… and whenever I am reminded of God’s promise, my response is – ‘I don’t even know how to do relationships… How is this gonna work?’ … I still do not know. What I do know is this is in God’s hands – it may look impossible to me – but I know he is in the business of making the impossible possible.
Nothing is lost in God. I now know what ‘love is not’. And I feel, I will know what love truly is, when it occurs with the person God has intended for me. These negative experiences have also led me and allowed me to know and experience the love of God – of Jesus – his love is perfect, unconditional and never-ending and never-changing. So, I also do know what ‘real love’ can look like – but I just don’t know is how to apply that kind of love to ‘real-life’… Not yet anyway. But I am willing to try.
… Anyway, let’s get back on track, so instead of trusting God’s word and waiting for the man he has intended for me. I found myself getting impatient and taking matters into my own hands… for context, I sometimes go in cycles of contentment/discontentment in my singleness.
It might look like this:
Phase 1 => Content within my singleness and circumstances. I marvel at how far I have come as a single parent by the grace of God – because I know I could have never gotten here without him. In this phase, I enjoy all aspects of my life, my son, my girls and our camaraderie and Jesus – always. Then, there’s a shift. Enter phase 2.
Phase 2 => I start to notice what I do not have. For me, this looks like noticing other people’s relationships. It’s noticing the doting husband over his wife – it’s noticing how he may comment on a Facebook pic – how much he adores this photo of his wife. It’s noticing the smaller things, like a husband being attentive to his wife such as rubbing her back as she experiences waves of nausea due to early stages of pregnancy… it’s then knowing that this wife, this woman, this sister – has someone she can trust and confide in after a long day at work or with the kids – she has that one she can debrief life with. Someone she can be intimate with – not just in a physical sense, but it’s about showing all of herself from silly to serious, in a place that is safe and stems from trust. And in this space, he can be all of that too. It’s about feeling safe together in their vulnerability. It’s knowing they have a best-friend in each other who they can do life with – in all it’s ups and downs.
In this phase, I experience grief – it’s grieving what I do not have and feeling like I am missing out on something so special and unique. And perhaps it hurts more because it is such a deep desire to have that thing that I have never been privy to knowing or experiencing. (I also want to make it clear, that jealousy is never a factor in this and nor would I intend on breaking what a couple has – what they have is theirs and solely unique to them…) But maybe I can express it this way, there was once a woman who had two children and she so desperately wanted another baby – a girl. It was a constant prayer for her. While trying for another baby, she experienced a few miscarriages and they were quite traumatic experiences for her and consequently experienced grief in that loss too. In her pain, she often expressed how hard she found it going to church and seeing all these new babies or pregnant wives with their delicious baby-bumps. That grief became so intense there came a point where she had to withdraw herself from social situations, as the pain was too hard for her to face. People thought (ok – me, I thought) her grief was a bit extreme as she already had two beautiful children, a devoted husband – blah-de-blah. I appeared to lack empathy, yes but…underneath it all, it annoyed me… and perhaps it was because I understood her grief more than I wanted to acknowledge. That grief she felt, I too felt when all I could see were these couplings – it accentuated what I didn’t have and wanted so deeply – like how she wanted another baby. I got it but it just came out as something else. (FYI – that woman eventually had her prayers answered, she got her baby girl and I have no doubt in my mind, her wait – as excruciating as it may have been, was well worth it.) … So, that second phase is grief and then that leads into phase 3, action.
Phase 3 => Action. This involves downloading the latest dating apps, attempting to search for the ‘one’ – because I don’t know how to meet people outside of my home/work/church bubble. In this phase, I meet people on-line – it’s incredibly superficial as it involves ‘swiping right to like’ or ‘swiping left to dislike’… sometimes – ok most times if I ‘like’ the look of someone I will read their profile and if I like that then I will officially ‘swipe right’. Then people will reach out and send messages and you chat. Then some lead to dates, some don’t. In most instances, in this phase, I will get over the superficiality of it and delete my profile, deactivate my account, and uninstall the app (in that order) before I have a chance to go on any dates. Yeah, I get over it very quickly… and yes, I have been through these phases several times over… then I let it go and eventually return to phase one.
To say the least, yesterday, I was in phase three – after experiencing the grief stage again a few weeks prior and despite being reminded of God’s promise, I wanted to fast track the waiting period to bring about his promise a bit sooner – because – fun fact, I am impatient at times. Yep. I am.
I downloaded a couple of apps and put together my profile. Within minutes, my phone was pinging, and messages were filling up my inbox one after another. I almost couldn’t keep up with it and found I wasn’t able to respond to everyone. Then there was one man who said hello and commented on thinking I was sexy (now I’ll just add, I’m a fairly modest person and I like to wear things that cover me – I love scarves- so it’s not like as though I’m revealing a lot of skin or whatever – just to be clear, it wasn’t about what I was wearing ) … I can’t remember if I replied but thought the compliment was nice – what woman doesn’t want to feel desirable – ok, so this is where it gets uncomfortable. I am already uncomfortable… later he sent another message which was quite explicit – like I can’t even repeat it – but we’re all adults here and have an imagination, and I don’t need to repeat it. All I wanted say was ‘eew – gross!’ I didn’t but I certainly thought it – probably not the most articulate or mature response but I had the self-control not to react with that response. A few hours later, he sent another message that was even more explicit than the first – if it is even possible but it was. In the scenario, what was described, made me feel like I had been reduced to an object – but something basic in value – devoid of any meaning and connection. The scenario made me feel as though I had been reduced to a sexualised object, stripped of autonomy and consent – which accentuated his dominance and authority over the situation. The scenario was written with an undercurrent of sexual aggression – almost verging on violent. It was as though he had transcribed a scene from a pornographic film. I could see it without having seen it – and I was disgusted by this, that I could be reduced to something so devoid of meaning and value… I left it… I didn’t respond initially because I could see what he wanted was to get my attention and respond – he got it – but not in the way he wanted me to respond.
I handed this over to God knowing this is bigger than me – ‘how do you want me to respond to this? Holy Spirit – lead me and give me the words you want me to respond with…’ I left it for a little while – then I had the question rise and circulate my mind to ask him – ‘how do women usually respond when you send them messages like that?’ I thought, ‘wowzers, that’s very direct.’ I don’t like being direct. So, with that question in mind, I formed a response – it involved thanking him and valuing his honesty and softening it with a ‘I’m not into the McFlingy-kinda-thing’ and asked how other women usually responded with messages like that?
He turned it back around on me, saying, I made it sound like he sends those messages to women all the time. I thought, but how am I to know? People can say anything and mean something else… He kept re-iterating I had ‘sex’ appeal and that’s why he wrote what he did – and it was then about how I was going to respond, and he knew how he wanted me to respond.
My response… ‘well, I wish I could be that woman and give you the response you’d like… but I cannot partake. As a woman I like to be validated but not sexualised. I know it’s a fantasy but it’s not my fantasy. Sex can be sensual and beautiful – but not like that. Soz to be the buzz kill (Insert squinty laugh emoji).’ I found in initiating these boundaries then opened up the communication which on seeking understanding as to why I was on that platform and what I was after etc – which allowed room for more conversation to happen with aim to get to know each other. This took us from being shallow to being a person with depth. But when pushed to meet for a coffee, I still decided to say, no thank you.
… If I can go back a minute, when I downloaded the app – I was fully aware that I was being impatient and apologised but still invited God into this situation – to guide me to the people I need to interact with… I realised after the whole encounter – that was the situation I needed to step into. I could have not responded at all – completely left it and not touched that situation. But I felt… asking that question of him – how do women usually respond to that – would convict him on a much deeper level and make him stop in his tracks and think about potential effects and consequences – which – now, I can see that kind of conviction can only come from the Holy Spirit – because that’s how He works. Whether the man re-evaluates how he approaches women on that platform or not is not in my hands but I know that I planted a potential seed for change.
In this situation, the question that kept re-surfacing for me was – what if it’s not just me? What if this is a recurring thing for him? How is that affecting other women and what kind of image is that leaving with women and their perception of men? Will they think and believe that all men are like this? Then, will they think, I must stoop to that low level with the hope to be ‘loved’?
Something thing that bothered me in this situation, was that I have never seen myself as being ‘sexy’ – (and I touched on this in one of my previous posts and this was due to having all self-confidence stripped away due to toxic and unhealthy relationships.) So, to then be thought of and seen in that light – and read the actions associated to what it means to be ‘sexy’ to another person in that explicit context made me feel incredibly de-valued… and perhaps it was made worse as I had come to know my own true value by the grace and love of God. I had finally come to a place of true self-acceptance and knowledge of my value. So to see how easily it could potentially be stripped away again, I knew (without knowing) that I could not let this slide. I didn’t know it at the time – but my response to him was saying – enough is enough – this stops with me – this stops with me. It’s like, if you witness bullying or someone makes a racist comment, and no-one says anything – the silence is basically giving the person permission to keep bullying or permission to continue making those derogative comments. So, in this situation, I felt so devalued in being objectified for sexual gratification. And it hurts more in knowing, there is so, so, so much more to me than all of that – and if I had kept silent, my silence would have given him permission to continue doing it to other women.
In this moment, raised my voice without yelling to maintain my integrity and establish boundaries in what is and is not acceptable. I broke the silence for my sisters. I did it for the next generation of women – for those girls running and skipping their own race on the running field – so those darling girls can still be that joyous as women. I said it for my brothers, so you can know what we want – we’re not that complex or complicated – although we are at times. What we want… ok, so I will speak for myself… what I want is to know your heart. I want to be able to go to those vulnerable places, I want to be able to trust you so that I can show you all myself, from my silliness to how easily I can be annoyed by the sound of your chewing or whatever. (I am easily annoyable.) I want to know that I am safe, and I can trust you with all aspects of myself. I want to be loved for all of who I am – unconditionally… and all I can say, is that it takes time to get to know someone – it can’t be established in a five-minute meeting online or over coffee. It takes time, so take the time to get to know the person and there’s no rush and there is more to a relationship than just sex.
… Initially, when I set out to write this, I thought – I shouldn’t be writing this, not as a woman or as a Christian…we can’t talk about sex – especially when content is so graphic. (Or that’s how I felt.) And I kept wondering, where are you in this God? What are you wanting me to say in this?
I did a basic research search and found some information on pornography addiction. A couple of that stuck with me were that pornography addiction may lead into domestic violence due to aggressive and violent nature of content as it alters expectations of how sex should be verses reality of what is experienced between a couple and this may have lead on effects to poorer mental health outcomes (American Addiction Centre 2021 and Petriangelo 2019).
In the American Addiction Centre’s (2021) page on porn addiction, there is a Ted-talk embedded into site on 3 reasons why Ran Gavrieli stopped engaging with pornography. It included that it promoted sexual violence and aggression – physically and verbally. It diminished a woman and promoted the man’s power and authority over their encounter. It said by engaging in this kind of material it placed a demand on the sex industry thus more content being produced – and making it appear that this kind of sexualisation is acceptable. His reasons extended further than that – and it was about removing the sexualisation of women and the sex industry and replacing it with something that is emotionally safe and emphasised, this is not be confused with boring and highlights that laughter should be included in this intimate space… I liked seeing his rationale and thinking. I liked it coming from a man – because I felt his response may sit better with men than if it came from a woman. If it came from a woman, it may be seen as ‘just another woman on her soap box with a thing or two to say – insert eye roll’… I may be a woman with a thing or two to say, but I hope that you will be open to listening to Ran Gavrieli. So, I implore that you watch that video – it is confronting but this needs to be talked about to bring about change. Not just for me, or the women I know but for the daughters in the next generation… But also for my son – our sons in the next generation too…
… Then this morning, it occurred to me, I was given the answer to my question – where is Jesus in all of this? So, with thanks to the Holy Spirit, I was reminded that Jesus is about representing the oppressed. Jesus is about freeing the oppressed. Jesus represents the oppressed as he was oppressed – and he overcame the world and his own death. Jesus was in this because he wants this sexual oppression over women to stop. I do not know how to stop it on my own – only Jesus has the true power and authority to stop it. But I can take action by breaking the cycle, the silence and saying – enough is enough – and this stops with me… and this stopping isn’t just for me – it is for my sisters; my dear friends – other women, it’s for my own mother, aunts, sister and her future daughters and those joyous girls in the next generation on the brink of womanhood… This stops with me and the start of something new starts here.
I pray for my sisters – that you will join me in this – join me in saying enough is enough. I pray that my brothers will support what I am saying just as Ran Gavrieli said – enough is enough. Jesus stands against oppression – He is in this and we need to talk about this.
… I feel there is more to this, but for now – this will do… and it is a start of something new.
May God bless you and keep you always. Xx.
If you have felt distressed/triggered by any of the content here – I encourage you to reach out to support hotlines in your local area.
1800respect for issues relating to domestic violence and sexual assault https://www.1800respect.org.au/
- American Addiction Centre, 2021, ‘Behavioural disorders/porn addiction’, PsychGuides.com https://www.psychguides.com/behavioral-disorders/porn-addiction/ (Viewed 8/3/2021) (*this link contains Ted-Talk with Ran Gavrieli*)
- Alarco, R, Iglesia J, Casado, NM, Montejo, AL 2019, Online Porn Addiction: What We Know and What We Don’t—A Systematic Review. Journal of Clinical Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6352245/
- Pietrangelo, A 2019 ‘Everything you need to know about pornography ‘addiction’’. Healthline Media. https://www.healthline.com/health/pornography-addiction
Useful websites for further info: