If you’ve been paying attention over the last year or so, you’ve watched the tumbleweed grow. A few well-known pastors referred to their wives as hot. In person. On Twitter. From the pulpit. Wherever. And it became a bit of a joke, really. The smokin’ hot wives joke.
But it wasn’t a joke to everyone.
As writer/blogger Mary DeMuth brilliantly pointed out in her (actually) important essay “I’m Sick of Hearing About Your Smokin’ Hot Wife,” maybe a pastor giving his wife suggestive sexy compliments from the pulpit isn’t very uplifting for the women (or men?) sitting under his ministry struggling with feelings about their own sexuality and possibly even past abuse issues that contribute to their feelings of discomfort when a pastor says such things.*
Overall, DeMuth made a lot of sense. Mostly because she spoke about this issue as a woman and as a victim of past abuse. And mostly because she did not attempt to speak for all women or to tell husbands how all wives want to be talked to. She was speaking about pastors, specifically, and she was reasonable and fair and spoke to a specific situation, a specific time and place when the appropriateness of the word “hot” can be, justifiably, questioned.
Then came Zach Hoag’s piece “Smokin’ Hot Wives and Water to the Soul” which took things a bit further than what I’d consider reasonable. I typically like Hoag’s writing, and I did agreed with a bit of what he had to say on the topic. Except a few things in the middle about projection that were a bit (no, actually, really) out of bounds and actually quite insulting to any wife whose husband has ever told her she was hot. (Pssst! Hoag thinks your husband was just projecting his lust for other women onto you, because God knows he couldn’t actually find you hot, so it’s just gotta be some psychological ruse!) And that part toward the end …
Now, brothers, I know what you may be thinking. I can feel you winding up for the pushback. And I understand that you might think you’re an exception and your compliments are sincere and well-meaning and your wife really likes it when you call her smokin’ hot on Twitter and stuff. But I want you to consider that maybe, deep down, both you and she are not being totally honest.
And what got me here was that Hoag crossed an almost invisible, but very important line. He started to assume in his eagerness that he understood all women—not just his own wife or a few close lady friends who apparently get offended by the word. And that not only did he understand all women, but that he understood women (and this is the part that matters) better than they understood themselves. With that last paragraph he is pretty much saying, “You disagree? You like it when your husband calls you hot on ‘on Twitter and stuff’? Then deep down, you’re not being totally honest with yourself.”
Oof. Really? I’m supposed to swallow this manhandling sanctimonious presumption into my private life and policing of the terms of endearment my husband uses in regard to me as a generous empowerment of women by the patriarchy?
To say Hoag’s marriage policing piece rubbed me the wrong way is an understatement. I labored over a comment to that post for over an hour when it was published, but in the end I gave up, knowing plenty of comments had already been made. I decided that it would be futile to point out to Mr. Hoag that womankind had never actually voted on the subject of “hotness” and come to a unanimous conclusion that being deemed “hot” by a loving spouse was tantamount to being pimped on a street corner. (He thinks it’s demeaning.) I decided it would also be futile to point out to him that womankind never asked him—a man—to personally police the way our husbands compliment us. I mean … it was a bit like Hoag stepping into my bedroom and telling my husband what I do and do not like. In a word? Hoag’s piece was demeaning to intelligent women who can speak for themselves, though I’m fairly certain it was not his intention. And that’s why, in the end, I kept my mouth shut.
But then, months later, comes this from Jarrid Wilson: “Why I Don’t Think My Wife Is Hot.” (And if you think that title is Christian click bait at it’s worst, you should read his other post “Why I’m Getting a Divorce in 2014.”) Wilson, you’ll see, takes things even further than the wise DeMuth, even further than the well-meaning but grossly overstepping Hoag, going so far as to say that out of respect for their wives, men should consider a movement, wherein the word “hot” is eliminated from their vocabulary entirely. He gets to this idea through a token reference to the women’s rights movement (which goes over so well when a man is telling a woman how she should feel about anything) and this:
As a Christian I am taught to treat my wife with honor, respect, love and care. And while there are many things I can do to show her these things, I don’t believe calling her “hot” to be one of them. My wife deserves more. I believe the word is trashy, shallow, and really has no substantial worth when it comes to my relationship with her. I can only pray that one day my daughter will marry a man who treats her with this amount of respect.
Oh, boy. Deep, deep sigh. Because, quite honestly, where do I begin?
First of all, if his daughter’s life turns out anything like mine I have an entirely different prayer for her.
My prayer for her is that after she has been married for almost 20 years,
after she’s given birth to two children via repeated enormous incisions across her belly,
after she’s had her womb ripped from her the same way,
after she’s undergone a double mastectomy before her 35th birthday,
after she’s had new breasts built from nothing, nipples stitched from skin, areolas tattoed into existence,
after she’s lost her hair to chemo and faced months of baldness,
after she’s watched herself age prematurely from anti-cancer medications,
after she’s cringed at the excessive stubborn grays in the mirror,
and after—if she is so blessed—she has made it to the almighty 40th birthday …
after all of those things and more, I just pray that Mr. Wilson’s educated (we can only assume) and successful, intelligent, soulful, God-fearing (we trust) daughter would have the incredible BLESSING of having a passionate, madly-in-love husband who will lean over to her at just the right moment in just the right way and drop that tiny little word (or whatever its future equivalent might be) and make her feel with just those three little letters …
amazing. wanted. beautiful. desired. loved. magnificent. sexy. whole.
Yes, one tiny, silly word says more than any one of those words or even two of them combined. It says an awful damn lot when spoken in love and holy lust between those who God has ordained to love each other body and soul for the rest of their lives … (Somebody open a window in here.) And there are very few replacements that pack the same punch—certainly none of the Austenesque, void-of-sexuality words that Wilson suggests. In fact, the only suitable replacements I can think of would rate this post NSFW.
Because I promise you, if his daughter ever lives through the kind of hell I’ve lived through, she will wear those three letters like the freaking badge of honor that they are meant to be when coming from the generous lips of her beloved. She will not be so petty after all her body has been through in this life from men in her past who would use it in the name of sex and doctors in her past who would violate it in the name of medicine as to take that silly, little word from the man who has stood by her through all of life’s storms as anything but the loving affirmation and reminder of her God-given sexuality that it is meant to be.
Because she is not “more than her body.”
She is her body AND so much more.
There is a difference. There is such a difference.
Men, please hear me now. Do you want to know the secret to showing your wife respect and honor? The real, true, age-old secret to empowering the woman right in front of you and showing her—with your carefully chosen words—that her mind, her opinions, her feelings, her thoughts are valid and important to you? That she is not an object? That you would never demean her by speaking down to her or embarrassing her with your compliments? Do you want to further the women’s empowerment movement so much that you are willing to conform your most intimate words to only those that lift her spirit deeply?
*Proving her integrity, Mary actually apologized to the go-to punching bag for “hot wife” problems, Mark Driscoll, when it was revealed that he had apparently apologized to his congregation already for his insensitivity in this regard. Props to you, Mary. While she stood behind the content of her article, she apologized for including Driscoll in the discussion.
UPDATE: Hoag and I have had some personal dialog on this topic since the writing of this post. (He initiated it and I appreciated it.) He reiterated the main point of his piece–which I need to assert again here that I totally agree with–which is that the hot talk and posturing in public and from the pulpit is really problematic. (Amen.) And I was able to share my two major concerns that I felt were off the mark and (in my opinion) off-putting in his piece. He was graceful and heard me out, even though I was admittedly hard on him here, and in a day and age where not finding 100% agreement online can lead to blocking and Twitter wars, I am encouraged by our interaction and by Zach’s spirit.
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