OK, Let's Stop With All the Talk About 'Smokin' Hot' Wives

Why the well-intended phrase is actually problematic.

Four hundred years ago, Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet and coined the phrases “star-crossed lovers” and “wild-goose chase.” The expressions stuck, and quickly grafted themselves into everyday English.

In a somewhat different vein, 10 years ago Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby gave us the phrases “shake and bake” and, most famously, “smokin’ hot wife,” for whom Will Ferrell’s character was hilariously grateful to Baby Jesus.

I wouldn’t have expected catch-phrases from a Hollywood spoof to have quite the same stickability as the Bard of Avon, but I was wrong. Pastor Joe Helms opened a 2011 NASCAR race with a prayer of thanks for—among other things—cars, gasoline, and his smokin' hot wife; and the expression has since become a regular feature on Twitter bios: e.g., Father. Jesus Follower. Husband to the smokin' hot @whateverhiswifesnameis.

Is Song of Songs not a sort of ancient ode to a Smokin Hot Wife? ... Maybe not.

There is something to be said for Christians speaking up positively about marriage and sex, and the smokin’ hot wives and their proud husbands are quick to defend the phrase: No harm is meant, playful banter and an active sex life are indicators of a thriving marriage, and public statements of praise for one’s spouse build them up and also signal to the rest of the world that they’re happily spoken for. After all, Proverbs 5:18-19 tells us to “rejoice in the wife of your youth … may her breasts satisfy you always.” And then there’s that inspired erotica in the Song of Songs, with metaphorical fruits being tasted and trees being climbed and all sorts of poetic praising for the beloved’s flock of sheep-like hair, twin-gazelle-breasts, towering neck. Is Song of Songs not a sort of ancient ode to a Smokin Hot Wife?

Maybe not.

“Everything is permissible,” writes the Apostle Paul, “but not everything is beneficial.” (1 Corinthians 6:12) While there’s nothing inherently wrong with the phrase, there are good reasons why Christians may want to rethink the "smokin’ hot spouse" trope in the way we talk about our spouses.

It May Inadvertently Devalue Women.

First among these is that it can easily send the wrong message to hearers about the value of women. Scripture teaches that women are gifted, indispensable Spirit-filled co-laborers and co-heirs in God’s Kingdom—a message we preach to a sex-saturated world that pervasively demeans and objectifies women, viewing physical appearance as the highest virtue. As Christ-followers, we need to actively identify and resist a worldview that sees women and sex as commodities: Women should be welcomed as sisters, not feared as temptresses. Our culture says: “The most important thing about you is your good looks.” Our Creator says: “The most important thing about you is looking like Jesus.”

The question is not, “Should I say my wife is smokin' hot?” The question is, “To whom should I say it?”

That’s not to say we shouldn’t appreciate beauty, but the wording and emphasis matter. Praising one’s spouse as beautiful could refer to both inner and outer beauty, but “smokin' hot” carries a very specific, sexual undertone. A Christian referring to his wife as “smokin' hot”—with all the female-sexuality-is-the-prize baggage the term carries—runs the risk of triggering a host of problems for his hearers in a culture where women are seen more as prizes than people. At worst, what was intended as a praise of his wife may well be a punch to hearers struggling with abuse, body-shame, loneliness, or their own sexuality. At best, the smokin' hot trope might come across as off-putting and inappropriate, a gross verbal PDA of sorts.

It Sexualizes Your Wife to Others.

If the first reason Christians might want to quench the smokin’ hot talk is honor and protect women in general, then a second reason is to honor and protect their wives in particular. A public shout-out to your wife’s smokin’ hotness can sound a lot like “Hey, everyone, covet my sexy wife!”—a direct challenge to the seventh commandment.

To many, the phrase comes across like immature braggadocio, and it puts hearers in an awkward position. If they agree that your spouse is, indeed, off-the-scales sexually attractive, then they’re being lecherous. If they disagree, then they’re being rude. Of all the things you want others to think about when relating to your wife, surely her sexual desirability is not one of them?

The challenge is to affirm the goodness of sex and sexual attraction in a way that is publicly appropriate and yet still retains a public modesty that protects bedroom intimacy.

The question is not, “Should I say my wife is smokin' hot?” The question is, “To whom should I say it?” The issue is one of context, as a closer look at Song of Songs suggests. As steamy as Song of Songs is, the words of praise and sexual affirmation in it are directed personally to each other. The lover’s words are for his beloved, the beloved’s for her lover.

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The focus throughout the book is on the intimacy in their marriage. The friends in the Song do play some role: They are witnesses and encourage the couple to love one another well, but they are not living vicariously through the couple’s experience or being invited to do so. Following Song of Songs’ example, admirations of our lovers’ wild attractiveness should be directed to our lovers, not our friends or congregants.

Our world believes—maybe even fears—that All The Amazing Sex is being had by the young, carefree and exceedingly attractive. If Hollywood is to be believed, the hottest sex happens on the first date, and the sexual adventure culminates (and begins a terrible and inevitable decline) with walking down the aisle.

Christians are right to reject that stereotype: Sex and sexiness belong firmly—and wonderfully—within marriage. The challenge, however, is to affirm the goodness of sex and sexual attraction in a way that is publicly appropriate and yet still retains a public modesty that protects bedroom intimacy.

So, Christians, when it’s just you and your honey, by all means praise her smokin' hotness—and her wisdom, her skill, her kindness and her smarts: Put some Proverbs 31 in your Song of Songs playlist. But in public, say something better about your spouse: something that shows respect, honor and maybe a little poetic imagination in your praise. As one preacher said of his wife: “She’s the honey in my tea, the gravy on my biscuits, and the love of my life.” Gravy on my biscuits? Now there’s a phrase you can shake and bake.

Top Comments

Jonathan

11

Jonathan commented…

Even as a male, I've never been comfortable with men publicly referring to their wives in that way. I'm happy they think their wives are "smokin' hot" but it comes across as cheap and more of a "I scored a very sexually attractive female! Value me!" - basically as much a compliment to themselves as it is to the wife. I genuinely hope they view their wives as more than a trophy wife because that's what they are advertising. That's not to say everyone who uses that phrase thinks of their wife as a trophy to boost their status, but they should be aware that it comes across that way.

Jean Bergen

1

Jean Bergen commented…

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

It is a cultural statement that needs to be dropped. "Women should be welcomed as sisters, not feared as temptresses. Our culture says: “The most important thing about you is your good looks.” Our Creator says: “The most important thing about you is looking like Jesus.”

Whenever I hear this phrase used I think it has more to do with the male ego than the woman he's extolling.

18 Comments

Trevor Nelson

1

Trevor Nelson commented…

I once had a pastor tell me, "My wife is like a museum: you can look but you can't touch. Because she's hot." He was grinning like an idiot. I threw up in my mouth a little.

Bri Reeser

1

Bri Reeser commented…

It feels as though it was just yesterday that I read the Relevant article telling Christians why they should stop being offended by everything... I agree with the person above, if my husband referred to me as his "smokin hot wife" and I didn't like it, I'll just tell him between the two of us. I'd happen to like it- the relationship my husband and I have is the best of friends and he can tell me or others that I'm smokin hot anytime he wants to :) I have enough confidence in my husbands love for me that a single comment about my appearance doesn't shatter the understanding of my worth.

Adam J Hellyer

1

Adam J Hellyer commented…

"As steamy as Song of Songs is, the words of praise and sexual affirmation in it are directed personally to each other." (?)

...then written down and included in the most widely published book of all time, so that every generation of teenagers could smirk and giggle their way through a whole book devoted to Solomon's Smokin Hot (future) Concubine! [I assume concubine, because his 700 wives are referred to as Royal, and the young lady in SofS doesn't sound like royalty.] And no, not all the comments are directed personally.

I still squirm whenever someone reads out Solomon's description of his lovers breasts in public, like i once witnessed the father of a bride do at her wedding. God clearly included it in scripture for a reason, maybe it was to make us all less squeamish.

I get that smutty comments from the pulpit are undesirable. But creating a culture where physical attraction is never spoken of is equally unhelpful. Personally, I find the phrase quite endearing. When I've used it, it's been spoken as someone who is still feeling blessed that he's punching well above his weight in the wife hotness stakes! Am I encouraging people to think of my wife sexually. Not at all. Am I objectifying my wife? Not at all. But, amongst all her other excellent qualities, I do think she's hot! And I'm grateful.

Solomon, with his 1000 sexual conquests, was poorly placed to get on a moral high horse, but equally so are we. Why make a 'thing' out of it? At the end of the day, it is all about context. People know from how you say it if you're being cute or slimy. If a preacher of pastor you know is given to speaking inappropriately about their spouse, rather address that privately with them.

John Miller

9

John Miller commented…

I've ALWAYS felt that this sexualizes the pastor's wife to the congregation. Let's be real, that is the LAST thing that men these days need.

I once had a pastor friend who always went on and on about his wife's legs. He loved her legs and made sure we were all aware of how attractive he thought they were. To some men who struggle (and who like legs), he's lobbing a softball of failure.

It may be intended to get a cheap laugh, but the negativity far outweighs the benefit.

Sydney Devenport

5

Sydney Devenport commented…

Not bashing on my parents at all but here's my experience; My mom is gorgeous and my dad definitely liked to brag about it (growing up, ever since i can remember). My dad compared my mom to women on TV, people in restaurants, you name it. And he did use terms like smoking hot wive and always made fat comments about other women....Im sure he was just really proud of the wive he scored, But it affected me a lot growing up as a teen. It also made me feel like all men only thought about women as smoking hot or the opposite. I felt like if I didn't look 'perfect' like my mom that i was hideous. Anyways, I think its best to be respectful and speak of love and not comparison. I guess think about some guy talking to your baby girl like that...I wish life wasn't about looks but about heart and soul...the way Jesus sees us. <3

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