By Al Banton
I have become a regular at a coffee shop in Birmingham, Alabama. I do a lot of my writing there, usually at a small table right inside the front door. That door is like a turnstile for all walks of life: businesspeople, joggers, hipsters, college students, retirees, male and female. I like this particular spot because it gives me an opportunity to say hello to friends, and from time to time hold the door open for those scurrying out who are negotiating several cups at a time. Every morning, girls sporting yoga pants or leggings will saunter through the door, and because I am seated, I get an eye-level view of the proceedings.
(Sometimes, it makes me think of the great line in Dumb and Dumber, when a man and a woman walk by and Jeff Daniels says, regarding the woman in leggings, “Look at the butt on that!” Jim Carrey replies, “Yeah. He must work out.”)
As the svelte regiments in yoga pants and leggings promenade by, one by one in many colors and designs, I often catch myself peeking. Yep. Guilty. You caught me.
Honestly, I try not to look, but it is very difficult given the amazing forms that breeze by, hunting the checkout desk for their cranberry-orange scone and skinny latte.
Do I like yoga pants? Of course I do. I think they may be the greatest thing ever invented. But that’s the barbarian in me. The Cro-Magnon. The man.
While I’m sitting there, I’m literally having this mental conversation with myself, trying to keep my thoughts from maneuvering into carnal precincts. Be…strong. I really don’t want to seem like some perv, but dang if those things aren’t form-fitting!
So I have to answer the question, don’t I? “Do I see anything wrong with wearing yoga pants?” Generally speaking, no I do not. Yoga pants are functional and serve a purpose. Besides, women have been wearing tight-fittin’ pants for years. I think back to the old Jordache jeans, the hip-suffocating Bell bottoms, the eighties polyester short shorts (and knee-high, three-stripe socks). What’s the difference?
But here’s the deal. I get where that lady is coming from. You know, the woman—Veronica Partridge—who wrote the article on yoga pants called “Why I Chose to No Longer Wear Leggings.” She said, “Was it possible my wearing leggings could cause a man, other than my husband, to think lustfully about my body?”
Her answer was yes. And I have total respect for this woman for policing her wardrobe. Here’s a woman who decided to stop doing something because of her beliefs, who took personal accountability for her actions because God convicted her. As to be expected, she was derided and mocked because of her post, because of her hokey “Christian” point-of-view, perceived as ever-archaic in today’s “do what you want to do, as long as it feels good” world. I never thought I’d see the day where making a decision to use discretion would be so ridiculed.
I will challenge her on one point, though. To say that the leggings “cause” men to stumble might be a stretch (pun intended). Men cause men to stumble, not leggings.
When the gorgeous behinds pass by, we (men) always have a choice. Either a) look away and think nothing else of it, b) appreciate the female form while you sip your half-caf, or c) visualize scenarios that run the prurient gamut.
I believe the first glance is not the problem. It’s the second and third that begin to get us in trouble. But remember, we are always presented with a choice.
If you’re wondering by now, we’ve shifted to third gear. This article is now not really about yoga pants. This is about men and for men, and for the people who are affected by the behavior of men. I do not write this to bash men; no, indeed I write this to help men, to liberate men, and to help wives, girlfriends, significant others, boos, fiancées, and baby mamas to understand what men go through daily, and to help them understand that the struggle is real.
Lean in close and I want to tell you a secret. You ready?
Yoga pants aren’t the only way we are tempted.
On any given day, men are bombarded with sex. Almost anywhere, our eyes are tantalized by steamy, Basic Instict-esque images. We could be going to CVS to get a Toblerone and a can of Brut and—WHAM!—some scantily-clad, heavily-airbrushed fireball is staring at us from the cover of a magazine. We could be flipping through the channels and—BOOM!—Hardee’s commercial with model lustfully chomping a Thickburger. Playing golf and—GREAT SCOTT!—Bo Derek is slithering out of the pool in her sling bikini.
Sex is oozing out of our technology, where we have an all-access pass to the Land of Filth. But accessibility does not cause us to stumble. It merely opens the door. We choose whether or not to walk through. (Mom, you might want to earmuff it now.)
This has been the great struggle in my life. I’ve often said that if you put some gambling chips on the table or a Playboy, I know which one I’m going to choose.
The sin of lust is every man’s battle, and any man who tells you he doesn’t struggle in this area, to some degree, is not being truthful. Pornography is rampant, wedging its steel-toed boot into our houses, our families. The porn industry is a $97 billion industry (ten times more than the NFL) and Christianity Today once reported that 40% of pastors struggle with pornography. 40 percent! Pastors!
This clandestine sin has been glossed over and swept under the rug because it is a shameful thing to talk about. Men are not being liberated from this addiction because they are afraid to confess or seek help. It is the “unspoken sin.” Many women don’t understand it and many more are affected by it. Some marriages are crumbling because wives can’t go toe-to-toe with the fantasies of the digital world.
It’s time for us to have the conversation, both nationally and in our homes.
The vicious cycle often starts with boys discovering boxes of Penthouses heaped away in Dad’s basement. Those same boys become college students ogling at videos, who become married men who cannot seem to break strongholds no matter how hard they try. Perhaps single men have it the worst, and it would be dishonest to say that I do not struggle with lust.
So the Christian male is faced with a very difficult scenario: pursue purity or feed the beast. We justify the latter by saying it is “natural” or “just the way we were made.” Besides, sexual self-control is “out,” “dorky,” “cheesy,” “not cool.” But often the kinds of things we view online are far from natural.
There are men reading this right now who know they are in the middle of spiritual warfare. Their Google searches may include the Book of Romans and the kinds of images that would make Rome blush. We know what we are doing is wrong, yet we continue to be tortured by the perpetual thorn of lust. Our relationship with God suffers. We question our salvation. We live in fear of getting caught, that our private lives will be exposed. We have a few good days and then go back to square one. Believe me, I know, because I live it every day. Men, you are not alone.
Lust has plagued us since the beginning of time. David stumbled with Bathsheba (who, coincidentally, didn’t own a pair of yoga pants), not at initial sight, but when he pursued his thoughts and his thoughts turned to action.
Men may think that there is no way out, because we will never cut off access to all temptation. The availability will always be there. If it’s not yoga pants crossing our line of sight, it’s going to be something else. We cannot simply recluse ourselves from the world, but we can close a few doors, lock them, and throw away the key.
So in summary, the real problem is not yoga pants. The problem is our mind. The problem is our heart.
The problem is me.
**This article originally appeared in 78 Magazine. Used with permission.