Lust or admiration of beauty?

I am having trouble distinguishing the difference between lust and admiring the beauty of the female form. In addition to appreciating a beautiful girl’s face, I also enjoy seeing an hourglass figure, large breasts, or a shapely butt. When I look at girls, I do not think about having sex with them or covet them, but I enjoy looking at both their faces and their bodies. I do not devalue them as human beings either; I treat girls with the dignity and respect that every human being deserves (For example, I don’t start hitting on them, and I try not to stare or make them feel uncomfortable), and actually I try to show girls more respect than men because girls should be treated with greater respect.

My question: Is it sinful to enjoy looking at attractive girls’ bodies? Does this sound like lust, or admiration of beauty?

From the Catechism:

2351 Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes.

If you’re being honest, then that doesn’t sound like lust to me. Although I do wonder why you think women are any more deserving of respect than men. Christians are called to respect all humans, and that’s all women are. Humans. Anyway, that’s not a sin, just a pet peeve of mine. Nothing morally wrong with treating women nicely, so long as you’re respecting their dignity as human beings.

A rule of thumb is not to do anything for the purpose of experiencing sexual pleasure while an unmarried person. If your appreciation doesn’t lead to sexual thoughts or feelings, then I would guess that it isn’t lust. :shrug:

I actually think this is a good rule of thumb for a married person, too. Sexual pleasure is not a reason for action; it is a good that we receive when we are pursuing something else, like marital unity or our spouse’s happiness.

That’s a good point. Thanks for adding it. :slight_smile:

 Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,,,,

…or in the eye of the beast :):)::):slight_smile:

ICXC NIKA

I think he was referring to treating them as a gentleman ought to treat ladies, which is different (and in many ways more respectful) than he ought to treat other men. Women, of course, are not “just humans” (to paraphrase). They are female humans. Female humans are different than male humans and should be treated accordingly. No one is “just human”. We all are male or female humans. This kind of sexual confusion ought to be avoided by Catholics. God bless.

Perhaps because he’s worried about whether he’s disrespecting these women (even unintentionally) he feels the need to over-compensate?

It’s a fine line to draw, OP. It sounds on some level like you admire these women aesthetically. Hardly unheard of; countless artists have focused on human beauty in their works. It goes for me too - I also sometimes notice when a woman is particularly attractive (with nice facial features, etc) but I am a straight female so lust isn’t an issue for me.

I think you just have to focus on your thoughts/feelings at the time, whether they start to go towards lust. And if they do, which can happen given that you’re a straight male, try and steer them in another direction.

Your difficulty is almost inevitable because human desires have been confused and disordered after the Original Sin. Among the many affects of this is the way sexuality can pervade our perceptions in ways it should not.

What this sounds like to me (and I may be wrong) is that your ultimate motive for admiring women’s figures and various body parts is sexual and that you are trying to justify it to yourself through self-conscious aestheticism. In effect you are acting as your own tempter, wrapping up sin in a deceptively innocent-looking package. I hope I am being too cynical here, but it’s honestly what I suspect.

I would also point out that it is possible to dehumanize a person through aesthetically regarding their physical beauty, even if sexuality isn’t involved at all. I would therefore suggest you look hard at whether this habit of enjoying the appearance of women in the way you describe is really healthy and fully human.

With regard to respect for women though I think you are in the right. We men ought to give them more respect, or at least a different, more conscious kind of respect, than we give to other men. Part of it is just the difference between respecting someone who is similar to yourself and someone who is different. Part of it is the long history of men abusing women which must be overcome. And part of it, in my opinion, is that women are in a real sense the better half of humanity.

I’m not questioning that women are female, and thus different than males. Certainly, it’s fine to treat women differently than men, but I don’t think they deserve more respect. All people deserve respect, and the OP is aware of that. As I said in my first post, I don’t think it’s sinful to believe that women do deserve more respect- it’s just not an opinion I share.

I do think we ought to be careful with this concept. I’ve found that when I say I want “respect”, I generally mean that I want people to listen to my opinions and concerns, avoid jokes or unkind comments that alienate me, and generally treat me as an equal. When conservative young men say that they want to “respect” me, it generally amounts to opening doors or letting me go first in line- and while I don’t mind that, it’s very different from what concerns me. It is not wrong to do those things, not at all. But just because you do them doesn’t mean that I’ll feel particularly respected.

Anyway, I don’t want to beat the OP up about this. He sounds like a perfectly nice young man who leans towards a conservative/traditional view of gender roles. :shrug:

[quote=SpidersfromMars]Perhaps because he’s worried about whether he’s disrespecting these women (even unintentionally) he feels the need to over-compensate?

It’s a fine line to draw, OP. It sounds on some level like you admire these women aesthetically. Hardly unheard of; countless artists have focused on human beauty in their works. It goes for me too - I also sometimes notice when a woman is particularly attractive (with nice facial features, etc) but I am a straight female so lust isn’t an issue for me.

I think you just have to focus on your thoughts/feelings at the time, whether they start to go towards lust. And if they do, which can happen given that you’re a straight male, try and steer them in another direction.
[/quote]

That’s what I was thinking, and why I added the caveat “if you’re being honest”. What the OP described is basically a form of aesthetic appreciation, and if he really does respect women as people, then he should be fine. But he should be aware that it’s possible for this to lead to problems, especially if he’s not being honest with himself (not saying he isn’t, just that it’s always something we have to be aware of).

I will note here some general things regarding “admiration of beauty” without getting too specifically into the details of the post there.

The difficulty that enters more with the beauty of the body of the human person – is that *concupiscence *is rather involved with such. scborromeo.org/ccc/para/1264.htm

It is rather different to admire say a beautiful tree and a beautiful girl.

And one needs to keep the *person *at the center. I am not saying that there can be not reasonable admiring of the human form -the beauty of the a woman (with caution etc) -a beautiful person (again I am speaking in general -getting into the examples in the post) -without reducing them to an object of use etc. This can be a difficult area (and one where in theory it is one thing --but in practice it is more difficult).

There is a good reason why custody of the eyes is an important part of modesty and chastity.*

Ones confessor can assist one in terms of ones personal questions.*

The virtues of chastity, modesty, prudence, knowing oneself, a life of prayer, the Sacraments etc and

a reasonable and prudent custodia occulorum (custody of the eyes).

Catechism

2520 Baptism confers on its recipient the grace of purification from all sins. But the baptized must continue to struggle against concupiscence of the flesh and disordered desires. With God’s grace he will prevail

  • by the virtue and gift of chastity, for chastity lets us love with upright and undivided heart;

  • by purity of intention which consists in seeking the true end of man: with simplicity of vision, the baptized person seeks to find and to fulfill God’s will in everything;313

  • by purity of vision, external and internal; by discipline of feelings and imagination; by refusing all complicity in impure thoughts that incline us to turn aside from the path of God’s commandments: “Appearance arouses yearning in fools”;314

  • by prayer:

I thought that continence arose from one’s own powers, which I did not recognize in myself. I was foolish enough not to know . . . that no one can be continent unless you grant it. For you would surely have granted it if my inner groaning had reached your ears and I with firm faith had cast my cares on you.315

2521 Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity.

scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s2c2a9.htm#II


And to complicate things further – in our culture - there is a great deal of immodesty.

My 2 cents is that your point of view is a slippery slope. Would you look at/admire your mother, sister, and/or Our Blessed Mother in that way? Remember always that Satan is smarter than you. As a rule, if I start rationalizing my behavior in order to justify it, then I’m probably wrong.

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Instead of just admiring her beautiful body - which is a good thing - take the opportunity to find out if she has a beautiful soul. Talk to her. Get to know her. What wonders it will do your soul to find out that beautiful young thing is a human, just like you. :slight_smile:

That being said, I understand fully and completely. IRL women are beautiful. It’s the ones I see drawn by artists (and thereby “exaggerated”) that give me the trouble. :o

Thank you all for your thoughtful input.

See comments below.

Both of you bring up valuable points. Good discussion!

Yes, this is what I meant.

No, I don’t think so. I am not worried about disrespecting women. I think showing women respect is second nature to me, so I’m not worried about it.

Since your perspective is from the straight female point of view, perhaps it would help to consider how you view attractive men. I recognize that there are certain masculine features that women find attractive (e.g. muscles, or certain facial features) which may offer a comparable situation. When you see an attractive man, you might appreciate his handsomeness, but perhaps there is a risk of viewing him with lust? Be careful not to assume that, as a woman, you cannot lust. Yes, men are more susceptible to lust, but it is not an exclusive problem for men.

Thank you for your advice. I will be conscious of my thoughts and feelings, that they do not go towards lust.

No, I don’t believe this is the case. But I understand where you’re coming from.

I agree, this is important to consider. Thank you for the reminder.

Indeed, women are the better half of humanity.

Although I do open doors for women and allow them to go first in line, respect for women goes beyond that. For example, I do not make physical contact with a woman unless she initiates it (e.g. a hug). With guys, I’m not afraid to slap them on the back, nudge them on the shoulder, give a playful shove, or play full-contact in sports. I will not make any such contact with women. With my guy friends, I like to make deprecating jokes and sarcastic comments, but not with women.

You wonder why men feel women should be treated with more respect. I think when men recognize that women are capable of producing and nurturing life, it becomes obvious to them that women deserve greater respect. This is why we honor Mary. She nurtured and loved Jesus as his mother, from womb to tomb.

Be careful not to write off my point of view as conservative. I agree with the views of the Church. I also recognize how a woman should be treated “equally”, such as her role in the workplace, or her ability to do things that men have traditionally done (such as auto mechanics, construction, or hunting). But as I said above, women deserve to be treated with the utmost respect. Women are the better half of humanity.

Thank you for your input. The Catechism is indeed a guide to life.

It’s interesting that you ask that. I can confidently say that my mother and my sister do indeed have pleasing figures. They are attractive women. However, this does not mean that I am attracted to them the same way I am attracted to other women.

Indeed, Satan is very crafty. Rationalization, by definition, is making excuses for doing something wrong. Am I rationalizing my behavior?

Indeed, inner-beauty far outshines outer-beauty. For me, the more I get to know a woman and see how beautiful her soul is, the more beautiful she appears on the outside.

Interesting, I have a different perspective. The depictions of women I see drawn by artists I recognize as depictions of beauty. For example, I love to admire the beauty of the Virgin Mary in artwork. I think she is the most beautiful woman to ever walk this earth, and artwork cannot fully display her immense beauty.

All of that is fine. Again, I’m not going to say that your point of view is wrong. It’s simply not how I do things. I prefer not to make physical contact with anyone, male or female, unless they give permission or are a close friend. I don’t like contact sports, so that’s not an issue for me. And I try to avoid depreciating jokes with anyone, unless I am positive that they are OK with such jokes or comments. To me, these seem like courtesies we should extend to everyone. There is nothing necessarily wrong with your idea that women are due these things while men are not, but I disagree. I think we should think about the comfort levels of everyone around us, regardless of their gender.

You wonder why men feel women should be treated with more respect. I think when men recognize that women are capable of producing and nurturing life, it becomes obvious to them that women deserve greater respect. This is why we honor Mary. She nurtured and loved Jesus as his mother, from womb to tomb.

I don’t think that my capacity to bring life into the world makes me worthy of more respect than you. It’s not like I’ve done anything with that capacity, and it’s impossible to say whether I’ll do anything with it in the future. What about that capacity makes me worthy of increased respect? Mary isn’t honored for her capacity to bring forth life, but for her role in our salvation- for bearing and raising and loving Jesus as his mother.

I’m not a mother, and I have no idea whether I’ll ever become one. If I find that I am incapable of bearing children, I will still be a woman. So if you think that men should offer greater respect to all women, then that must be due to something other than their ability to become mothers.

Be careful not to write off my point of view as conservative. I agree with the views of the Church. I also recognize how a woman should be treated “equally”, such as her role in the workplace, or her ability to do things that men have traditionally done (such as auto mechanics, construction, or hunting). But as I said above, women deserve to be treated with the utmost respect. Women are the better half of humanity.

There’s nothing wrong with being conservative. All it means is that someone is against changing things. If the changes being discussed are negative, then conservatives are in the right. If the changes are good, then conservatives are in the wrong. The label itself isn’t particularly good or bad.

I do disagree that women are the “better half of humanity”. We are complimentary, often weak where men are strong and strong where men are weak. That doesn’t mean we’re better, it means we express our humanity differently. We are just as fallible, just as fallen, and just as human as men are. As the barriers facing women disappear, I think we will find that women are capable of both great good and great evil.

Typical of Human nature,things are taken to extrems ,

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