'the breastfeeding Lady 1' photo (c) 2007, Raphael Goetter - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

This week I wrote on Facebook and Twitter that I think women should feel free and comfortable breast-feeding in public, and also that women who bottle/formula feed should be free from judgment and criticism. No-one has any right to criticize the way you feed your child as long as you do, in fact, feed them.

In the online discussion that ensued, one guy made the comment that women who breastfeed in public should be comfortable being watched by ‘lust-filled men.”

Another guy responded that in his experience, men aren’t watching breast-feeding with lust. “We’re conditioned to peek. Grown-ups don’t.” So, in other words, it’s a man’s decision whether to look or not. Whether to think about it or not.

Many times growing up, I heard talks about lust directed primarily at girls. We were told that if a guy looks at us with lust, it must be due to what we’re wearing. I’ve never quite followed that line of reasoning. If a guy wants to undress a girl with his eyes, does it matter what she’s wearing? Really? That’s how imaginations work, after all. It’s his choice to go down that road. The girl could be wearing a floor-length burlap sack and he could still choose to imagine what’s underneath.

It seems healthier and more productive to admit that sometimes, guys like to look at girls. That’s the way they are wired. But they can make the choice to look, or not.

And, sometimes girls like being looked at. That’s the way we’re wired. We like to feel pretty. And no matter how often we say that what’s inside is what counts, we learn quickly that it really helps to be attractive if we want to hold a guy’s attention long enough for him to find our great character qualities. (It works both ways, too. Girls can be just as shallow and focused on appearance as guys.) This is just the way things are.

But in light of that, we each have a responsibility to honor God and respect one another with our bodies and with our minds. Women, we ought not wear clothing that leaves little to the imagination. We can breastfeed without drawing attention to ourselves.

And guys, you need to take control of your imaginations. Choose to look away. Direct your thoughts elsewhere. Even when a woman is nursing a baby. Even if that baby decides she wants to watch the world go by while nursing instead of laying quietly under a blanket.

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