Thoughts on the “smokin’ hot wife” debate

A while back the suggestion was made on the use of “smokin’ hot wife” as a descriptor of one’s spouse. The suggestion was that guys should find a better term, to get more creative, and stop being lazy.

Ok, I made the suggestion. It was met both with appreciation and, not exactly that.

the smokin hot wife debate

Tennessee pastor, Joe Nelms

Over the last few days, two insanely popular posts have been written addressing the issue. One of these was from Mary DeMuth, writing at Christianity Today, and the other from pastor Zach Hoag. Hoag overshoots his goal asserting “underlying all this rhetoric is a strong complementarian view of gender roles in the church and home.” I have read and seen people say it who would not appreciate that particular pigeon-holing.

DeMuth, meanwhile, says

This line of thinking tells wives that if they struggle in the sexual area and their husbands look elsewhere, it’s partly their fault. They’ve violated that scriptural call to be a smoking hot, sexually satisfying wife.

To avoid unnecessary eye-rolls let me say to start: this is not about whether a man should to should not describe his wife as “smokin’ hot” in public. But, as followers of Christ we should not be afraid to ask, “Has it become an offense?” Not only should we not be afraid to ask, we should ask quickly and honestly.

My friend Bekah Stoneking is a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. She and I have discussed this issue before, re: the pressure language can bring on women, especially single women. I asked her to read the articles above and give me her immediate reactions. Below are her thoughts followed by my own.

This seems like just another standard women feel like they have to live up to. The emphasis on physical beauty or “hotness” is a worldly standard. With small group leaders, mentors, female teachers and ministers encouraging women and girls to focus on inner beauty, we would expect God’s standard should be different than the world’s standard and that men should support what we’re actually teaching our girls.

Scripture tells us that charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting. Are the guys looking for a “righteous fox” or a “smokin’ hot” girl just not reading the Bible? Are the guys looking for a Proverbs 31 woman not bothering to read Proverbs 31?!

As someone who has been abused sexually in a dating relationship, and just as a girl who has heard cat-calls and whistles, felt unsafe around certain guys, and endured sexual comments from friends and strangers alike, it’s hard to hear about Christian guys chasing “hotness.”

It often feels like, “You want me to be discipled, to disciple others, to make disciples, to embody Proverbs 31 AND be “hot”?!

Now, many godly men may claim that their wives’ hotness is based on “biblical” standards and inner beauty, but when you use the world’s words as your adjectives, we assume you’re also meaning to use the world’s definition. We cannot live up to both the world’s standards AND the Bible’s standards, nor should we have to do it. Scripture warns against it saying one cannot serve two masters.

Cherish your wife and her beauty. Brag on her. Singles, look for qualities you find desirable…but be more godly, mature and careful with your choice of words.

I’m not a wife, so I do not personally understand sexual expectations within a marriage. But the things described (at the “sexy wife” conference) bewilder me. Not only is some of it weird (fruit bowl stomach?!), but it feels objectifying. I understand that we are to be available to our husbands and I’m sure wives like to bring pleasure to their husbands, but the pleasure sounds one-sided. Should it not be mutually-pleasurable? This feels like men using women for their own pleasure.

As far as the idea “Men need sex…women submit!” Really?! Is THAT the mentality? Is that typical? Is that biblical? It stings, not because of how God may have created the covenantal sexual relationship, but because of my past (ie: intimidation, evil ideas about submission, etc).

Just because we’re Christians or pastors doesn’t give us license to be insensitive. If married people want to talk dirty, wear leather, enjoy each other, etc, I think that’s okay. We see marital freedoms in Scripture (Song of Solomon, for instance), but there’s a difference in marital delight and in exploiting your wife because you’re domineering, then turning around and justifying it as holy because you’re a pastor. If anyone else did it, we’d deem it gross!

It seems to me this mentality is sooo surface! It goes against how we disciple women and how we try to raise our daughters. We should expect more from godly men. If you wouldn’t expect these descriptions to apply to your daughter, if you’d lock her up for aiming to be sexy, and if you’d shoot her boyfriend for posting “hot” pictures and commenting on her body, WHY model this behavior for her? Why allow your wife to be an example your daughter cannot (right now) fulfill. Why model that language and behavior when you KNOW girls date guys who are like their fathers?

Women are either God’s creation to be cherished and protected OR we are objects to be pawed and played with. How are we supposed to deal with a “Christian” expectation to be both?

I realize that my own sin issues fuel my insecurities, but aren’t these attitudes and expectations from my brothers are sinful, too? If we are supposed to protect them and their sin-patterns by dressing modestly, then they should protect us with their words and expectations, as most women struggle with body image, security, and feeling like we’re enough.

The origin of the phrase seems to have been “red hot smokin’ wife.” The movie from which it came, Talladega Nights was, depending on the viewer, either hilarious or blasphemous. “Smokin’ hot wife” was emblazoned into church culture via the NASCAR pre-race prayer of pastor Joe Nelms.

Whether you think the phrase itself is innocuous or from the pit of hell it seems the issue is now bigger than the phrase.

I am rather surprised how much this is being used by church leaders in public. It is enough to make me wonder, “Why?” Is it truly an effort it build up his wife, or an effort to build up himself using her? If so, this is nothing more than objectification. Is it not at least as important to commend her for hospitality, fidelity, charity, encouragement, and the like?

With apologies to Mercy Me, I can only imagine how this attitude is affecting young, upcoming pastors and seminarians. The expectation for a wife in ministry seems to be Rachel Ray in the kitchen, a runway model with fashion, Susanna Wesley as a mom, the Proverbs 31 woman in finance and a porn star in bed. And none of this has anything to do with him loving her as Christ loves the church.

I have seen seminarians. I have seen a mirror. Every man cannot “out-kick his coverage” especially when he does not know how to put the ball on the tee. In other words, Barney Fife will not get (fill in super-model of choice) every time. That one dog-ugly dude married a gal stacked from floor to ceiling does not the standard make.

When Sonya and I first met I was smitten. I thought she was absolutely beautiful (still do) with a great personality (still has it) and a quick laugh (even quicker now). But there was something else that really drew me to her: her hunger for God’s word. She read it all the time. She was the only girl I had ever been around who could find books in the Bible faster than I could. (She still can.) And I love her.

What if would-be husbands were looking for a woman who was actively exercising her gifts for the building up of the body? What if the standard of measurement was not her measurements but her passion for the Kingdom? What if potential suitors did not look her over, but watched her interaction with believers and unbelievers alike? What if sisters in Christ were relieved of the performance anxiety that plagues women using culture as the yard-stick? What if their brothers in Christ were actively removing that weight?

What do you think? Has “smokin’ hot wife” passed its expiration date? Is Bekah being overly sensitive? Am I? Is this only a preference issue?

Marty Duren

Just a guy writing some things.

  • Heath

    When a husband says that they have a “smoking hot wife”, I personally think it’s great! Much better than having a husband who can just barely stand to live with his wife (which is all too common). I say my wife is hot. She knows it. She’s happy I think that. She loves knowing that I think that.

    • martyduren

      Aren’t you going to extremes? The alternative of “hot” isn’t “barely stand to live with,” is it?

      Your wife should think you think she’s hot. You should tell her all the time. You think it would be beneficial to remind everyone in the middle of “How Great is Our God”?

      • “How great, are our smokin’ hot wives, sing with me, how greeeaaattt..”

        I really have nothing to add here…trolling on a Friday afternoon. Great post, Marty!

        • martyduren

          Man, thx for the laugh.

  • Jacob

    This whole issue reeks of insecurity and immaturity, and yes- objectification. The use of the phrase “trophy wife” seems to capture what these guys are really doing. They are displaying their wives as though the way they look is an embodiment of their husband’s accomplishments.

    It really kind of resembles a form of prostitution. Instead of money changing hands, the husband gets his ego stroked by posting photos and making comments about his wife’s looks. I wonder how long it is before someone in the congregation of one of these mega-churches starts tweeting about what they think about the wife.

  • husband of a hottie

    Here’s my take/issue. I don’t get into the whole comp/egal issue of this apparent debate. I wasn’t even aware a debate was taking place. To me, when a guy, especially those in prominent role (the aforementioned speaker or pastor), makes mention of his “smokin’ hot wife,” he is inviting other men to look at his wife not as his wife, but as a sensual object.

    I guarantee you that when a speaker give a “Shout out to my smokin’ hot wife!” every dude in the room – and gal, probably – is going to look for the opportunity to check out just how hot this woman is. I have an attractive wife (yes, Marty… I out-punted my coverage). I know she gets checked out because it happens without her realizing it in stores, at the mall, etc. My kids even notice. But she isn’t doing anything to advertise her beauty other than just existing. However, if I went around talking about my smokin’ hot wife, it would be like giving a permission slip to every lecherous onlooker to ogle by bride.

    So guys, just stop.

  • I tell my wife how beautiful I think she is on a regular basis. I’ve probably called her “hot” to her face on multiple occasions. I don’t think I have ever felt the need to announce how beautiful my wife is to anyone or at any public event. I think physical beauty can only be really appreciated when it is combined with inner beauty. There is nothing wrong with spouses guys and gals working to look attractive for one another. There is a real problem when the only point of appreciation of your spouse is how she or he looks. “Charm is deceitful, beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears The Lord is to be praised.” That’s the standard we should praise our wives for in public. I think this “mini-trend” is the result of the complete objectification of women in our society. As the dad of 3 daughters I’m not happy about it and pray that it ends before some hairy legged boy tries to pick up my daughter for a date, tells me that she is “hot,” and winds up fertilizing my grass or providing my dogs with protein.

  • Daniel Stephens

    As a single man I find this term and its public usage immature and harmful. I can’t imagine reducing my wife to that in private or in public. This is a good article and there are some good points.

    I do, however, want to issue a word of caution. It has been my experience that the phrase has been used by a group of young, rock star pastors and leaders who try to be edgy and culturally hip. Critique them; they need it. But don’t assume that all men think and act this way. Just because some men expect women to be this way doesn’t mean that all men expect women to be this way.

  • Kevin Peacock

    Marty, I have heard the Song of Songs used as a justification for proclaiming a wife’s beauty, but I believe this thinking is misguided. The Song of Songs is a great text reminding us of “the language of love” — i.e. the importance of wooing one another and turning one another on with our words. However, the audience of such language is also quite important. With the one exception of the bride lauding her beloved’s attractiveness to her lady friends (5:9-16), the descriptions and adulations are directly pointed to the love partner, not to the public. This affirms what you said above, “Your wife should think you think she’s hot. You should tell her all the time.” But knowing my own wife as I do, if I talked about her like that in public I’d be hurting my cause.

    As we married partners probably all know from experience, the best bedroom talk is accompanied with appreciation for far more than just her physical attributes (e.g. Prov 31). Well-timed help in the kitchen or laundry room may get as much mileage in the marriage as bedroom conversation.

  • Marty, as you know Alisha and I have been together for 27 years…..she’s my soul mate, my best friend and….my smoking hot wife……trust me…she is NOT offended…and if others are…then they need to get over it.

  • food for thought

    I am not really familiar with the context that brought this issue into discussion, but I thought it might be helpful to share my experience and perspective as a wife!

    I have a wonderful, loving husband; he is not domineering, controlling or chauvinistic. He thinks I am hot, and I LOVE knowing that he thinks that. I do not, however, love him proclaiming that in any type of social or public setting. I find it embarrassing and uncomfortable. I do not want to be put on display or used as a status symbol or have expectations placed on me that I then feel I have to live up to. I also feel uncomfortable for any other women in the room hearing that statement who may be struggling with self-esteem issues. Again, my husband is a wonderful and well-intentioned man. I don’t say this to trash him in anyway, but want simply to add to the discussion!