[Disclaimer: I write from a Christian biblical framework. My assumption is that most of my audience is also Christian and live their lives according to the same biblical framework. If you are not a Christian, and you think we are weird for getting all huffy puffy cuckoo bananas over this, that’s perfectly fine. I understand. We do get a little huffy puffy cuckoo bananas at times. :)]
This is a continuation of a series on the interconnectedness of sexual and gender issues between men and women. You can read the previous post on pornography here.
The very first time RJ and I gave our workshop on the interconnectedness of sexual and gender issues between men and women was at a Navigators Summer Training Program back in 2009. During my time with the men, one of the men asked if I had ever heard of chick flicks referred to as “female pornography.” (Thanks, Ern!! :) ) That was the first I had ever heard of the term, but he certainly was onto something there.
I hate chick flicks. I can’t stand them. I mean, if you love them and watch them a lot, I am honestly not judging you. That is totally fine with me, that is your choice. For the most part, they aren’t sinful by any means. It’s not wrong to watch them. There isn’t the same issue of morality with watching chick flicks as there is with watching pornography. Heck, if you ask me, I’ll even watch with you (though Jenny has banned me from watching chick flicks with her. Once, she literally asked me to either shut up or leave the room. Hahaha, so I don’t know if you want to watch with me.).
But I just hate chick flicks because I hate what it does to my own heart.
Let me explain.
Similar to the booming pornography industry, the entertainment industry has figured out that chick flicks sell, and they sell BIG. Women gravitate towards chick flicks and just can’t get enough of them, even if it’s the same story repackaged over and over again. I swear, Nicholas Sparks must be a freakin’ billionaire by now.
So why are chick flicks so popular? Why are women so DRAWN to them??
Well, I would propose that in the same way that God created most men to respond to visual and sexual stimuli that He also created most women to respond to emotional and relational stimuli.
In other words, deep in the heart of almost every woman is a strong desire to be romanced. We want to be the heroine of the story, to be pursued against all odds, to have a man risk giving up everything for us, to be deeply desired, to know that we are worth fighting for, to be cherished and tenderly loved…we want our own epic love story.
And so often, reality falls SO short of that. Or so it seems.
Before I go into what chick flicks have done to us, I just want to reiterate that I do not believe there are any moral issues with watching chick flicks. I do not believe that chick flicks are inherently bad. If you watch them, I do not think less of you. But I just know that for myself, if I do not guard myself, chick flicks can not only wreak havoc on my heart, but on my relationship with RJ as well.
With that said, this is what chick flicks have done to us:
To women, chick flicks have/can:
- Set up unrealistic expectations for what a relationship should look like. And this is why chick flicks have been dubbed “female pornography.” In the same way that pornography sets up impossible standards for normal women to meet, if we aren’t guarded, chick flicks set up impossible standards for normal men to meet. In the movies, the men know all the right things to say at the right time. They do all of the pursuing that our hearts just lust after so badly. And we come to expect this in normal, non-Hollywood relationships, and most of us become so damn disappointed when it doesn’t happen. And when it doesn’t happen, our response is either to bail, to look elsewhere to have our expectations met, or to just give up all together and lose ourselves in these fictional romantic movies.
- Set up unrealistic expectations for what sex looks like. Again, if we are not guarded, chick flicks just pull on all of our heart strings. In chick flicks, sex is a huge culmination of an endless and perfect pursuit, where you just can’t help but fall into your lover’s arms, and it’s beautiful and glorious and the woman is wholly fulfilled sexually each time, and she looks perfect while having sex. Again, this can just set up real life sex to be disappointing, especially when your relationship has hit the mundane regularity of “the rest of your life.” In disappointment, women can either look to other ways to bring this Hollywood-like excitement into the bedroom through affairs or get lost even further in romantic novels and movies, and even turn to masturbation to meet their sexual needs (there! I said it! The “m” word!!).
- Make us lose our grip on living real and authentic relationships with the men in our lives and stunt our relational and emotional growth. Maybe your man has just fallen so short of what you’ve come to expect and desire from watching chick flicks that you would rather just get lost in romantic fictional movies rather than working with your spouse towards the romance that you desire. In doing so, it’s almost as though you are living romance out vicariously through these movies, giving up on real-life romance, keeping you from living real life with your spouse, and from the relational and emotional growth that comes with long-suffering and enduring with one another towards growth.
- Create division between woman and God. I’m not saying it DOES, I’m saying it can. With God as the ultimate Romancer and Pursuer in our lives, Hollywood’s portrayal can make us miss out on the excitement of the greatest romance story in our lives. Additionally, with the possible shame of turning to masturbation to meet one’s sexual needs, a woman may distance herself from God in guilt and shame.
- Create division between woman and man. “Why doesn’t he do this for me? Does he just not love me?? If he loved me, he would do this!” And so on…
To men, chick flicks have/can:
- Set them up to fail so hard and set them up to just give up trying. It’s almost not fair, since most men don’t even watch chick flicks, so they have no idea what the heart of a woman really wants. And of course, since they don’t know, any effort they do make can make them look like a bumbling idiot next to (insert favorite male actor), who knows exactly the right thing to say and when to say it, who also looks so darn charming as he says it. So why the heck even try if he’s just going to look stupid?? And as a result…
- Push men deeper into pornography. Perhaps the logic is, “If I fail so hard in real life in meeting a real woman’s needs, at least with pornography I can’t fail and be rejected.”
- Give some men the tools to manipulate a woman in meeting his selfish desires. This is the guy who has picked up on the right thing to say to make a girl melt and the right thing to do to get the sexual gratification he desires. This is a man who recognizes and knows the heart of a woman, and abuses her deepest desires for his own gain. And these men make me sick.
- Take their wives or girlfriends away from real and authentic relationships. Instead of an active partner in life, you have the shell of a partner, whose heart really is somewhere else, and whose mind is as well in your most intimate moments together during sex.
- Create division between man and woman. There is only so many times a man can hear that he is not cutting it before he gives up or gets frustrated.
So what can we do about this? How can we guard our hearts as women from falling into the lie that Hollywood’s portrayal of romance is the real thing, and everything else just falls so short?
Well, for starters, we can:
- Start detaching our hearts from the chick flicks that we watch. Don’t let ourselves get so caught up in the romance to the point to where we are disappointed with the romance in our own lives.
- Have realistic expectations in dating and marriage, and related to that…
- Differentiate between having expectations and having standards. Having expectations means your man has to be where you want him now, which is rarely the case and will certainly disappoint. Having standards means you see potential in him, and will work with him to help meet your standards as you work towards meeting his.
- Be patient, express your romantic desires, and help your man work with you to live out the romance you desire. Because your real life romance is so going to be far more exciting and far more fulfilling than living any vicarious romance through a movie. But to get there, he needs to know exactly what you want, and that means specifically laying it out for him, no matter how much you believe, “Well, he should just know!” Guess what? He doesn’t.
- Verbally appreciate the small steps he takes towards meeting your romantic needs. He won’t get there overnight, but each small step is a step of dying to self for the sake of meeting your needs. And that’s the man you want to keep around. So praise him for it!
- Don’t forget your first love. Get caught up in your romance with God, who would pursue you to any depths, give men in exchange for your life, and clothe you with honor and beauty!
- Similar to yesterday’s post, be your man’s biggest fan! Our regional director here at the marriage retreat we are at this weekend so eloquently put it when he said, “Even if you don’t respect his behavior, you are still to treat him with respect.” This is our call, no matter how much he may miss the mark in meeting your romantic needs. Meeting your man’s need for respect will make it easier for him to meet your need for love, not that we do so to manipulate the other.
For the men, this is what I would suggest:
- If you sense that your woman is getting lost in chick flick land, bring her back to reality. But do so gently. There’s probably a reason why she is doing so, so take her out on a date! Give her the romance she desires so she will no longer need her chick flicks.
- Be proactive in asking how you can better serve her in your relationship or marriage. This shows pursuit and active care for her heart. Don’t just wait for her to ask.
- Small steps are all you need to take. Big steps are great, but if you can’t or if it’s too uncomfortable right away, just take small steps forward. And as a man, this might mean dying to your pride and dying to yourself in order for your lady to feel loved.
- Keep pursuing your wife or girlfriend’s heart! God is in constant pursuit of our hearts, and it doesn’t end when we become Christians. In the same way, don’t just stop pursuing your woman when you have landed her. You pursued your woman while dating, so keep pursuing her, if not harder, whether you’ve been married 2 months, 20 years, or 60 years.
- Don’t lose hope! As hard as it could be, she is worth the effort and pursuit. If she weren’t, you wouldn’t have pursued her in the first place, right?
So the reason why I hate chick flicks is because it drew out a part of my heart that wasn’t meant to be drawn out yet, and also because of the way it was destructive in my relationship with RJ.
So RJ is not romantic by nature. Wait, scratch that. RJ is “childhood playground boyfriend” romantic by nature. You know, poking and prodding, pushing around, being silly romantic. But just not naturally “chick flick” romantic. And because of the unrealistic expectations I came to develop from letting my heart get so wrapped up in chick flicks, I came to expect of any man that they would just naturally know how to meet a woman’s romantic need in this way. After all, that’s all we see in the movies, right? That’s a reflection of real life, right?
Because of my unrealistic expectations, I really missed out on the small ways RJ showed his romanticism, and failed to fully appreciate it at the time. I was so constantly unsatisfied that he wasn’t meeting my needs in the way that I expected that I wasn’t fully living our romance story. It created more conflict than it should have. And I really regret that.
And I have come to hate chick flicks for these reasons.
This, friends, is what chick flicks have done to me. And this is what chick flicks have done to many of us, both as men and women.
Let us start detaching ourselves from the effects chick flicks have had on our lives and relationships, and let us begin to live out the romance stories of our own lives.
Because I guarantee you, it will be much more fulfilling than any movie you could watch.