Sexualizing Modesty – Christians Defeating the Purpose
Before I get to the main heart of this post, here is a long introduction.
First of all, I think the modesty debate re-enforces one Christian and secular stereotype: that only men are visually oriented, and women are not. That is, women are thought to hate sex, or not be very interested in sex, and that women prefer “emotional bonding,” knitting tea cozies, and reading poetry, to sex.
The truth is, a lot of women (even Christian ones) are visually oriented and get “turned on” by looking at a good looking man (especially if he’s in great shape and shirtless).
These modesty teachings almost never, ever take into account that women have sex drives, sexual desires, and sexual preferences – and I get so tired of that aspect of it. These modesty teachings only take into account that MEN are sexual and have sex drives and so forth.
I am really not totally on either side of this modesty debate.
Concerning this issue, like several others I regularly discuss on this blog, I’m neither fully on Team (secular or Christian) Feminist, nor am I fully on Team Conservative (or Team Christian).
My views would probably hack off people on either side of the debate, both the anti-modesty types and the pro-modesty ones.
I think both sides make some really good points on some things, but both sides also get a few things wrong.
Where I might agree with the anti-modesty guys on “point X”, I might find that the pro-modesty guys are right about “point Z.”
Where I Agree with the Pro Modesty Side
As far as the pro-modesty side is concerned, I do agree that some teen-aged girls and women dress slutty, and this is not good, right, or cool.
I’m tired of secular feminists shaming pro-modesty types and trying to intimidate them into silence by screaming “slut shamer” at them, or about them, in every other tweet or blog post.
There are some women who do in fact want to use their looks, body, or sexuality to get attention. I saw these sorts of girls and women when I was a teen, in my 20s, and older. We’ve all known them.
They’re not satisfied wearing plain old blue jeans with a normal shirt, no.
They have to wear mini-skirts with fish net stockings and stiletto heels, or daisy duke shorts with their ass cheeks barely hanging out.
There may be a minority of women who dress that way because they genuinely find such fashions cute or flattering on their figure, but you damn well know the majority are wearing such ensembles to look “hot,” and at that, because they want male attention.
Personally, I find that look -the barely dressed, or stilettos with mini skirts types of sexy looks – rather trampy, and I think most women who dress like that are in fact seeking sexual attention from males – and no, I’m not fine with that.
I don’t have to agree with other women’s choices all the time in clothing or how they choose to attract men.
- Side Note:
(Seriously, this is one odd-ball aspect I’ve seen crop up on secular feminist blogs frequently: by sheer fact that I am a woman, I am expected to always agree with other women and all their choices and political and moral views all. the. time, and to deny my own personal, political, or religious values and opinions in the process.
Yes, just because I am a woman, and they are a woman. Me supporting all other women all the time on every topic under the sun (and it seems especially true in regards to sexuality, modesty, sex, abortion, and birth control) is considered obligatory, all because I’m a woman too.
I don’t support all males all the time on every topic, so why would I be expected to support all women all the time, about everything? It makes no sense.)
Some women do in fact make a conscious choice to showcase their sexuality (e.g., by wearing tiny skirts and so forth) because their self esteem and self respect is so low, they don’t think they have anything else to offer a man, or they don’t think they have anything to offer the world but their looks, body, and sexuality.
Or, some women who dress in revealing clothing may assume 99% of men are indeed visually-oriented cave men, sexist swine, who only want “one thing” from women, and if these women are in the market to pick up a boyfriend, yes, they will don the fishnet stockings and mini-skirts.
There is a difference between Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus. There is a difference between Madonna Ciccone and Whitney Houston.
Some women do in fact choose character, talent, and/or brains to make their place in the world, to gain success, or to get attention, while other women opt to go the sexual and titillation route (which may include dressing in a provocative manner).
And we (women) all know it. We know this is true. But a lot of the anti-modesty squad I see online seems to deny this.
Or, maybe they realize it, and their argument is they feel a Miley Cyrus should be able to act or dress like a harlot in public and nobody should make any negative judgments what-so-ever about it.
I’ve seen secular feminist blogs whose writers get upset with companies who objectify women by portraying women as sexy things in advertisements, or with companies who make too much out of a woman’s looks…
But these same feminists turn around, and quite inconsistently, feel it’s okay for a woman to objectify herself – and nobody is supposed to say anything critical about it (because that would be “slut shaming”).
But to me, that is a double standard.
Where I Agree With the Anti Modesty Side
Too often, as anti-modesty advocates point out, religious “modesty teachings” or modesty propaganda, tell girls and women they ought to dress in a conservative manner so as not to cause men to stumble.
The fact is that men are responsible for their behavior. It does not matter if a woman is fully clothed or wearing a thong bikini in the presence of a man, it is up to a man to control his thoughts and actions.
If I, who am a hetero woman, who is immensely attracted to movie actor Hugh Jackman, can control my thoughts and not engage in X-rated fantasies every time I see the guy in a shirtless pose promoting some movie, I have every confidence that a hetero man catching a glimpse of a shapely woman in a bikini can damn well do the same thing. Humans are not captives to their sexual appetites or hormones.
Furthermore, there is no universal agreement on what “modest” dress is.
What one man would consider modest attire, the next man might consider alluring.
In the past, I have gone out in very casual dress, say, for instance, cut-off shorts (that might be down to the knee, or close to it), a normal sized t-shirt, little to no make-up, flip flops, with my hair up in a pony tail, to go pick up some toothpaste at the store, and I still get oogled and flirted with by men in the parking lot or the store aisles.
Here I am, thinking I look awful, am wearing sloppy (not sexy) clothing, but men still “hit on” me and ask for my number and cat call, and so forth.
So, aside from completely covering my body and face with an Islamic burka, I’m not sure what the hell I could possibly wear that no man alive would leer at.
Some men will leer at you no matter how dumpy and dowdy you are dressed, or even if you are sans make-up and have an outbreak of acne going on.
And people who are into the “pro modesty” side don’t seem to understand any of that, but still ignorantly insist that all women wear potato sacks or baggy shorts in public. It’s an unrealistic burden to place on women.
Where Christians Really Get the Modesty Teaching Wrong
One of the most bizarre things I’ve seen are Christians who try to discourage women from dressing trashy by telling them that “modesty is sexy.”
If you’re basically telling women that women wearing a pair of flats, skirt down to their ankles, and a full sleeved, high necked blouse is what turns a man on, you are in effect telling her that,
“long skirt + full blouse = the new, or Christian, equivalent to mini-skirts, fish net hose, and stiletto heels.”
If it is your belief that a Christian man will get randy, or hot and bothered, or sexually stimulated, seeing a woman wearing a long skirt, flats, and a full blouse, you are still teaching her to use her looks, body, and clothing to attract a man.
You are, in effect, sexualizing modesty itself.
I thought one point of Christians encouraging girls and women to dress conservatively was precisely so that men would not view them in a sexual manner, or get “turned on” by looking at them? If that is so, why would you try to change the paradigm to “long, baggy clothing is sexually exciting to Christian men?”
Also, does this not sort of cancel out the Christian trope that men are visually oriented, in a way? I mean, for years, I’ve heard the bogus claim from Christians (eg, in their sermons and in their blogs) that only men are visually stimulated, so if they see an attractive, scantily clad female, their penis goes up.
So now, some Christian talking heads (sorry for the unintentional pun there) are telling women that showing less skin gets a Christian guy’s penis to go up.
Or, maybe this could be seen as further re-enforcing the “men are visual” shtick, because Christians are still saying a guy will get randy if he sees a woman in a hoop skirt?
Are the Pro Modesty Christian proponents arguing that it’s the sight of a hoop skirt or baggy pair of shorts, and not the woman wearing them, that gets a Christian guy’s motor running? If so, should they start teaching that Christian men start avoiding clothing catalogs, Sears, and J. C. Penny clothing stores?
Here is what kicked off this blog post, what prompted me to write it to start with:
From left wing site “Right Wing Watch”
(Link): Pat Robertson’s Fashion Tips For The Ladies: ‘Modesty Is Hottest’
Notice how Robertson is SEXUALIZING modesty – which, IMO, defeats the whole purpose of teaching women to dress modestly to start with; modesty is supposed to cut down on sexualization of women and stop men from having lusty thoughts (that is according to original Christian teaching of the topic when I heard it growing up in the 1980s, at least).
- SUBMITTED BY Brian Tashman on Wednesday, 7/23/2014 1:40 pm
Today, “The 700 Club” ran a report about how “modesty is hot,” specifically profiling the work of the groups Secret Keeper Girl and Modest Is Hottest, whose founder does workshops on how girls can avoid looking like a “hoochie momma momma.”
While the main theme of the story was the sexualization of women in the fashion industry and youth culture, the groups also told young women that the best way to entice men is with modest dress.
After Secret Keeper Girl’s Dannah Gresh told CBN reporter Jennifer Wishon that women need to adhere to biblical modesty instructions around men, Robertson and co-host Wendy Griffith reminded women that guys find modesty “sexy.”
“A laced stocking is more sensual than a bare leg,” Robertson said. “It’s the illusion, that there is something behind there.”
He added: “Modesty is hottest. Once it becomes cool, then it will catch on. Until it is cool, then the girls want to be cool, they want to be hip, they want to do what’s in.”
Notice in the story above that Dannah Gresh is mentioned. Her name is familiar. I’ve blogged on her before. She is apparently trying to making a living off this modesty stuff. See links below.
Related posts, this blog:
(Link): Male Modesty and Male Shaming