Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Modesty as she is taught

I especially want Christian men to read this, because every time I've tried to discuss "modesty" and all my confusion about it, the guys' response is along the lines of "what are you talking about?" I think Christian men don't know what Christian women are being taught about modesty, and if they did, they would think it was totally ridiculous. So here we go.

1. Men are visual.

What this apparently means is men tend to picture women naked. (Apparently gay men don't exist in this paradigm?) They can't help it. "That's how they're wired." (The first time I heard that, I thought it was a cool metaphor, because I'm an electrical engineer. By the thousandth time, I'd realized it's a way to say "this is just the way it is" without giving a real reason.) They see your bra strap sticking out and immediately a fantasy image of you being naked flashes (heh) in front of their eyes.

Is this true? To what extent does it go? Okay, I am not a straight guy. (If I see a bra, I don't think anything of it. That's a totally normal thing in my life- not sexual at all. But apparently my interpretation is wrong- I should be thinking of it the way a pervert does, duh.) I have ABSOLUTELY no way to directly observe whether this is true or not. Only straight guys can understand exactly how this bizarre phenomenon works. Also, I'm sure there is variation among the straight guys.

Oh, and also. If you are picturing me naked, I think that's creepy. I'm not okay with that.

But of course I can't attempt to understand this by actually having a conversation with a guy about it (well, I'd really need to talk to a bunch of guys to get a feel for how it works on average...) because that's super-awkward. No way I'm gonna have some guy tell me how this works in enough detail that I actually understand.

(The best I can do is read the comments on reddit... nope.)

So, we're starting out with a "problem" that I can never actually understand, and I'm responsible for helping the guys deal with this problem. Oh and I can't actually talk to them about it. Got it.

In other words, because guys think about sex all the time, I am assigned the chore of preemptively thinking about sex (haha just kidding, women don't want sex!) guessing what they are thinking about sex, in order to help them.

WAIT WAIT LET ME EDIT THAT. I am assigned the chore of preemptively guessing the creepy, perverted ways that boys might be objectifying and disrespecting me and my body. So I can attempt to prevent that.

And I would like to reiterate: I AM NOT A STRAIGHT GUY. Actually, all of the women who are taught this are, you know, by definition, not straight guys.

What could go wrong?

2. Women's bodies have power over men.

Yes, that's right. Men can't think straight (haha, straight) when they're picturing you naked. And lust is evil- we must do what we can to help keep our brothers from committing this terrible sin. Girls, you have the responsibility to save them from themselves!

Oh, and when they teach modesty, they always throw in the caveat that no, you are not responsible for a guy's thoughts. If he sins, that's his own fault. But you make it more difficult for him if you are "immodest." Shouldn't we help our brothers out as much as we can?

So much power. Boys apparently follow a girl around and give her attention if she's dressed "immodestly." I have actually never observed this phenomenon- is it real? Maybe that's because I'm generally oblivious to the people around me. Or maybe I don't have the right body-type for it to have all that "power"?

But anyway, the Christian women's groups told me my body had the potential to exert evil power over boys, and oh man, that sounds awesome. Yeah perfectnumber, you could be out there with this whole harem of guys, leading them on, they'd follow you around and want you (in a totally non-creepy way- this is my fantasy, I make the rules). I want boys to want me, I want them to serve me... that's my own personal temptation. That's not a good thing.

So you say I have this power, which I have never seen evidence of before, and which I would love to use for evil and manipulation if it did exist... Yep, this whole modesty thing seems pretty legit so far. -_-

3. And therefore, women must be careful about what they wear.

And maybe how they walk, and talk, etc. You can never be too careful. (Barf.)

Women, you know you have the freedom in Christ to wear what you want, and it's a guy's own fault if he lusts. But hey, Romans 14, don't use your freedom to cause your brother to stumble. Is it really worth it to wear that cute/sexy/whatever shirt, if it causes a brother to stumble?

So... in a practical sense, what do you want me to do?

Should I wear this
Image source.
or this
Image source.
I mean, the dress is cuter and I'd prefer that (heh, who am I kidding, I actually don't have a cute dress like that, but this is a thought experiment)... but... well, is it too low-cut in the front? And I can't guarantee that my bra straps will NEVER show. (Because PHYSICS. Not because I'm trying to "tempt" anyone.) Also, do you think it's too short? Are guys interested in my legs? Maybe? Who knows? Did I mention I'm not a straight guy? This might possibly "cause" someone to lust, I guess?

Perfectnumber, which do you care about more- doing the right thing or looking cute?

But...

Perfectnumber, didn't you commit your life 100% to Jesus? No matter what the cost, you obey him?

...Yes.

And he wants you to put others above yourself...

Okay, the dress is out.

How about that white t-shirt? Oh, actually, I don't know if that's okay either. Look how it doesn't come down far enough- you can see a tiny sliver of skin right at her waist. And you follow Jesus regardless of the cost, right? Right. Okay, you need to wear something under it. Cover up that skin.

And every time I have a tiny bit of uncertainty, I remember that I am ABSOLUTELY loyal to Jesus. If it comes at the cost of being cute, then that's my cross to bear.

But what if I'm doing all of this for nothing? What if it didn't actually matter to guys which one I wear? There's no way to get any feedback in this game.

And on the other hand, isn't it true that the more cute and beautiful and feminine I look, the more likely that a boy is going to lust? Why not going all the way to the extreme and wear an XXXL t-shirt, so my body won't look like a girl at all?

Why not go all the way to the extreme?

Why not go all the way to the extreme?

Why not go all the way to the extreme? There's a positive correlation between beauty and lust, right? Why not go all the way to the extreme?

Because me wanting to look awesome and beautiful pushes in one direction, and my concern for some mysterious problem that boys supposedly have pushes me in the other. It's godly to give up my rights in order to help other people, but is there anything godly about looking beautiful? Is it all just my selfishness that makes me not want to look like a tent?

They say God made beauty. Well he obviously did it wrong- we need to cover it all up before its evil power enslaves all the men.

 It's my cross to bear.  Image source.
Stay tuned for my answer to all this confusion, coming up in Friday's blog post.

edit: Here it is. Modesty: My Solution

40 comments:

  1. I'm a straight guy... and I have tremendous respect for your views.

    Frankly, the visual thing is real. Very real. And I want to be faithful to my wife in what I do and in what I think about. Now, granted, what I do in my thought life is uniquely mine, and I will answer for it before God some day. Truth.

    Because of how I want to stay faithful, I don't look at Victoria's Secret ads when they pop up on TV. I try not to stare long at people who are dressed in a clearly provocative way. Those are choices I make in my efforts to love God with everything I am.

    However, it is just as important for women to recognize that they can be a stumbling block to men and to act accordingly. In the same way I wouldn't drink beer in front of someone I knew was an alcoholic, and in the same way I wouldn't smoke in front of an asthmatic, I wouldn't dress or act provocatively in front of someone who might sin (even in thought) because of it. Where you blend fashion and modesty is up to you and Jesus. Honestly, there are some men who will lust regardless of what a woman wears, but there will be some men who will not lust because a woman chose to dress in a more "classy" way.

    Thanks for trying to see the other side of the issue. I might already have said too much.

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    1. Thanks for the "straight guy" perspective- I feel like this is always something that women are teaching other women, so what if we're just all wrong about it?

      I'll believe that it's true women's behavior/appearance can be "a stumbling block to men" but I don't know what that means in a practical sense. What should I do/wear? Is there an argument that can be made against the idea that "the most godly thing that women can do about this is wear a tent"?

      I'm posting my answers to all this stuff on Friday- I come at it from a different perspective and I feel like it will make sense.

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  2. I found this post very interesting! Maybe this is why I'm so much more comfortable dressing in my pretty clothes (skirts, dresses, tight-fitting jeans) when I go out with my gay male friends than I do if I'm going out with a mixed group! When I go out to eat in a public place where there are likely to be men, I always wear the most conservative clothing possible.

    Either way, it doesn't matter for me when I'm at work. I HAVE to dress as much like a tent as possible, because I always have 1 or 2 male students in each class who will try to objectify me. I learned this the hard way my first year of teaching: horny boys will be horny boys, and dresses don't help them learn.

    I hate when I go out and get looked at or complimented. Once I went shopping in shorts and a tank top, and I got more than a dozen compliments or whistles sent my way. This of course just made me uncomfortable as heck.

    So I guess you could say that I HAVE experienced the "power" our clothing holds over males, but it's not at all possible to use it to do anything productive, so perhaps power is the wrong word.

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    1. Wow- the thing about students in your class objectifying you- I hadn't thought about being able to see practical effects like that. And it shouldn't be that way- in an ideal world, you wouldn't have to be restricted because some boys disrespect you. But since the world isn't ideal, it seems like the best thing you can do is "dress modest."

      ALSO I REALLY LIKED THIS: "So I guess you could say that I HAVE experienced the "power" our clothing holds over males, but it's not at all possible to use it to do anything productive, so perhaps power is the wrong word."

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    2. This is an interesting point-- thinking about it in terms of power. The message of the evangelical/fundamentalist church is, "Men, you have power over women, but it's God-given, so use it wisely. Women, you have power over men, but it's from Satan, so don't use it!"

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    3. Well-said. I'd never thought about it that way.

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  3. I think this is complicated.

    I am also not a straight man. That said, I can't guarantee that I've never pictured you naked. Not through any act of lust, but because both growing up to be conscious of my own appearance and taking some art classes mean that I have a (I hope natural) curiosity about other people's bodies and how they work. I don't picture people naked through any act of lust, however.

    I believe strongly in nonsexual nudity. The Olympics are on now, and it's summer - this means swimmers and beach volleyball. And there's something to be said about the uniforms and how they reflect "male gaze" (a terminology ubiquitous in feminist writing), but honestly... I don't see how someone can look at the beach volleyball competition and feel lust. Sure, it's women wearing ridiculously skimpy uniforms, but these are extraordinarily muscular women.

    And so, for me, modesty has always been about behavior. It's been about making sure my body language is polite and friendly without being inviting. And while this ignores the visual component, to some extent, I don't think it's untrue. I tried to find visual examples, but unfortunately a non-sexual photo of a famous actress is hard to find.

    Similarly with the bra. If a shirt is so low cut that I can't find a bra to wear under it that won't show, maybe I won't wear it. But if a shirt happens to have weird straps or something, I will wear it, even if my bra straps show. Because you're right - bras are about physics. And when I see the straps of someone's bra, I never think sexy things - and I've never heard of a man thinking sexy things about that, either.

    But then, maybe I'm immodest.

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    1. So, the concept of nonsexual nudity- I haven't thought about that before- I'm not really interested in looking at naked people, so, there's that. But I think you're right that it doesn't necessarily have to be sexual.

      Haha- "bras are about physics." YES!

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    2. Furthering the concept of nonsexual nudity, I work in a South Pacific Division Christian Museum that documents basically the history of Christianity in this area, which includes photos of the native people in the Islands [such as Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu, Cook Islands etc.]. One thing I noticed quite quickly is how the very early photos (late 1800's, early 1900's) had a lot of pictures of them in their traditional dress before the White missionaries customs had made much change. In some areas the women were naked apart from a flimsy sparse grass skirt with necklaces and the men had a thick skin band around their waist and fluffy grasses & dead animal skins & feathers in a big "poof" around their groin.
      And they were beautiful. Very scandalous in western culture, but the female bodies were not sexualised in the least. All the boys/men were just so used to breasts hanging out there for all to see - they'd grown up with their mothers'. And the ladies saw bare butts 24/7.
      I'm not saying that these were perfect cultures, they still have massive issues of repression of women/sexual abuse/male owns all/extreme patriarchism. But its just interesting how the different culture perceives the female & male bodies.

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  4. Stephen Fry directed some statements at the Catholic Church, and while you are not Catholic, they are relevant here. Please watch this before continuing to read this post (it's not long): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkGFpxRq-dg

    "Anorexic" societies, like Muslim countries where women wear burkas all the time, have a very unhealthy attitude towards sex that results in despicable, disgusting acts no human should ever commit. Men there rape women, then claim she was asking for it, because of what she was wearing. Don't take my word for it, GOOGLE IT. This activity is directly correlated with their religion, and it's unhealthy attitude on sex.

    Don't try to claim Christianity teaches anything better in this regard. Remember the story of Sodom? Lot offers up his two daughters to be raped by the mob, and yet he is declared a RIGHTEOUS MAN. It is very telling that the book feels the need to point out that these are VIRGIN daughters, as if that makes any difference, as if that makes this a more WORTHY sacrifice. Disgusting.

    By contrast, lets examine societies where women are permissive with their clothing. The Aka People (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aka_people) are an African tribe where the women do not wear anything covering their upper halves. If modesty is a good thing, then this should cause absolute societal chaos! Yet the fathers there are often described as "the best Dads in the world". Societies like this are everywhere, you need only open your eyes and look!

    The evidence obviously does not agree with the Christian theory on modesty. The simple answer for why is this: Christianity has been feeding you a line of bullshit.

    I'd also like to point out in closing that your feminism should be absolutely appalled and assaulted at the bible. For instance, 1 Timothy, 2:12. Can't you see, that you're perceived as a lesser human being, just because you're a woman? How do you manage to reckon that with your feminism?

    Finally, I want to answer a few of your questions, because I feel curiosity is something worth satisfying.

    1) I can't picture women naked without making a conscious attempt at it. Even then, it is difficult and unsatisfying.
    2) When I see a girl's bra strap or whatever, I get a feeling that can only be described as "ohh, that's hot". It is a very good feeling - that is to say, it feels very good. It does not cause me to loose control, I am still very much in control.
    3) The women in both the pictures you posted are extremely sexy. A woman's concept of what is "cute" and a man's concept of what is "sexy" are different: sexyness is less affected by clothing.
    4) Modesty, within reason, is sexy. This is why strippers don't just fling their clothes off, they instead to a tease where they slowly take it off. This is also why things like thigh high stockings can be sexy, even though they cover you up.

    Any other questions I failed to answer? Just reask them, I'm happy to oblige.

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    1. Yeah, you're right about conservative Christianity's anorexic-like "obsession with sex." This is totally a problem, and I feel like a lot of Christians (including me) don't know how to have a healthy view of sexuality. (Yeah, you referred to it as "a line of bullshit"- maybe that's a valid assessment.) So I'm trying to figure that out.

      And yes, there is stuff in the bible that I'm just like "... this is horrible." Like the thing with Lot offering up his daughters to be raped, and the thing in 2 Timothy 2 about how women have to be silent... that is just really wrong and messed-up. And I'm glad that now I'm able to say that. I'm glad that I believe Christianity is strong enough to be able to take it when I point out "hey, this bible verse is HORRIBLE" or challenge commonly-held beliefs.

      So yes. Why are those things in the bible? I don't have an answer- I'll respect that there must be a reason they're in the bible, but I WILL NOT accept that the reason is "women ACTUALLY ARE supposed to be silent in church."

      As far as my feminism and my Christianity- I think feminism is about listening to people whose views/experiences are different than mine (not judging them, but instead treating their concerns/emotions as valid), and trying to be compassionate/ bring equality for groups that don't have it. And that fits so well with what Jesus did and said- whereas before, I seem to have subconsciously believed in judging people for not being the same as me (??? wow that's bizarre).

      And also thanks for you input on the stuff about how women's appearance affects men.

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    2. I thought I might mention here that there are other ways to understand the Bible passages mentioned here. I don't think the text indicates that Lot's "righteousness" included offering up his daughters! I also think the 1 Timothy 2 passage is being completely misunderstood, and the misunderstandings are largely caused by traditional translation and interpretation. It would take too long to go into all of my reasoning here in this comment. But I also think Christians make a bad mistake when they center their faith on the Bible rather than on Jesus himself. Christianity is meant to be about the Bible pointing us to Jesus-- but so many Christians act as if it were the other way around. The Bible is supposed to be a means to an end for Christians-- the end being knowing God-- not an end in itself. And so many view inspiration as if it meant the Bible were a "magic" book dropped whole from the mind of God, rather than a collection of different kinds of writings to be understood in terms of the human mindsets of the writers as well.

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    3. perfectnumber628, my respect for you grows with each post you write. Keep it up, I'm looking forward to more discussion with you in the future.

      Kirsten, that's ok if you believe it is mistranslated, I don't need it.

      Exodus 21:7 - How to sell your daughter
      Exodus 21:10 - Instructions for taking a second wife
      Exodus 21:19 - Good old "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live"
      Exodus 23:17 and 34:23 - God would like to meet you ... if you're male
      Leviticus 12:1-5 - Childbirth makes you "unclean", if it's a female child congratulations! You're extra unclean.
      Leviticus 15:19-30, 33 - Menstruating makes you unclean so make sure you don't touch anything or anyone. Anyone who even touches anything you sit on is unclean. Lol, it's like an early game of cooties.
      Leviticus 21:9 - If a priest's daughter "plays the whore" BURN HER TO DEATH
      Numbers 27:8 - Daughters don't get inheritance, if we can avoid it.
      Deuteronomy 21:11-14 - Rape captive women if you like.

      I'm stopping here out of boredom. I know you think the old testament was a different culture and a different time, so the rules there don't apply. Well that argument doesn't fly.

      1) the moral edicts of a supernatural being should be invariant to culture and time
      2) If the book is not influenced supernaturally, why idolize it?
      3) If the book no longer applies, why do we keep it around?
      4) If it is simply a book of human events, and not supernaturally influenced in any way, I'm sure we can easily find a better book to serve the same purpose.

      I want you to think about whether you are actually attempting to explain these passages in the bible, or rather explain them away? At what point does mere interpretation become cherry picking, where you select what you like, disregard what you don't, and make the book conform to whatever you ideal you wish?

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    4. Atheist Love:

      As to your numbered points:

      1) I don't see that this is a necessary fact. Nor am I sure how you are defining "moral" edicts. But I think that if a divinity cannot accommodate its revelation to the peoples and cultures with which it interacts, that would be an argument against, not for, its divinity.

      2) The book should not be idolized. The book is not a god.

      3) Changing the way one looks at how the book applies is different from saying it doesn't apply at all.

      4) I never said it was not supernaturally influenced in any way. You seem to think there's only one way that such supernatural influence can happen: an all-or-none proposition. I disagree.

      Finally, I don't really care what you want me to do. I'm under no obligation to do what you want. Believe it or not, I have examined and do examine my faith carefully. If you envision yourself as an atheist "evangelist," trying to teach me the error of my thinking and bring me around to yours, please be aware that I'm not interested in being evangelized.

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    5. Finally, your assertion that you're here out of boredom is condescending. If we're unworthy of your attention, please move on.

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    6. Atheist Love- Actually, I was recently reading some of the commands in Exodus, about how a woman is supposed to marry her rapist, or about how all the men are supposed to go present themselves before God (because apparently the women don't matter)... and I was like "????" Is my God sexist? Because those laws are totally sexist. But that's not the way I know God to be...

      I actually wrote a blog post about it, which I plan to publish sometime in the next 2ish weeks- I theorized that it's because the culture back then was really sexist and this was the best God could do- like how nowadays we have affirmative action programs and scholarships for female engineers, and those things are controversial and definitely not a perfect solution (and sometimes I get really angry about the "OH MY GOODNESS YOU'RE A GIRL AND YOU'RE GOOD AT MATH!!!1" attention), but it's because of the racism/sexism embedded in American culture, and we have to DO SOMETHING- but whatever policy we make is going to have downsides.

      So the Old Testament laws are pretty bad, but maybe that was the best God could do, short of mind-control to stop people from being sexist. Anyway, that was just a thought I had, I don't know if it's valid or not (I don't know enough detail about what the culture was like back then), but it makes sense to me.

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    7. perfectnumber628, I believe I've found the mistake in your reasoning. The article explaining it can be found here: http://lesswrong.com/lw/is/fake_causality/

      In short, God is Phlogiston.

      lesswrong is a fantastic site btw. If you're interested in reading more stuff from there, I recommend starting with this sequence: http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Mysterious_Answers_to_Mysterious_Questions

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  5. I'm a rather liberal, straight male Catholic. You can take or leave my comments as you see fit. I'll try to explain my mindset on this issue in the detail you requested as honestly as I can. Most everything I describe here used to happen on a subconscious level for me in the span of a few seconds upon seeing a woman.

    What you wear sends a message about yourself. For example, dressing professionally can mean you act professionally. Throwing whatever is nearest to you on in the morning can say that you don't care how you look, and possibly don't respect the opinions of others enough to care what they think of you. Dressing significantly immodestly can say that you have low moral standards. Dressing to look good can say that you are proud of who you are. These aren’t rules, just generalizations but they work for me and are embedded somewhere in my mind.

    We live in a world where guys are expected (generally) to make the first move in relationships. Personally I prioritize possible dating over just friendship with women. And personally I date to get married. So, I want to know whether the woman I see nearby is the woman I will marry. My special someone needs to meet a few criteria: there needs to be physical attraction, emotional compatibility, moral compatibility, and some common ground intellectually. The first thing that anyone sees is what you are wearing and how you look, and as I mentioned this can say a lot about a person (so does posture and facial expressions). So, without risking your outright rejection and damage to my self-esteem by talking to you, I can still determine whether I am physically attracted to you, and a decent guess at what kind of personality I expect you to have just by how you look. And it's really easy to decide if I am physically attracted to someone if I picture them in a romantic situation. The fact of the matter is that (when I wasn't in a relationship) it would happen whether you are wearing a bikini or a tent because that's the way I let my mind operate.

    For me at least, I stop it there, and usually before it even gets as far as picturing a woman naked. The key is imagining a romantic situation not nudity. Just imagining a woman naked with a stoic expression is very bizarre. I tried to stick to images of kissing by a fire and cuddling. It takes maybe a few seconds, check the physically attractive box and move on to working up the courage to asking the woman out. Secondly, I make sure that any woman I am looking at is not being objectified by me. I take an extra step and imagine the woman's feelings, goals, family and friends.

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  6. continued:

    I don't need to picture you naked to find out if I am physically attracted to you, and I try not to. However, the problem is that if I thought about romantic situations for too long, then hormones kick in, and my mind will eventually jump to more intimate images, more or less involuntarily. I did my best to reign this impulse in with moderate success. I will say that back during puberty when my hormones were raging, I had very little mental control in this regard. It took a few years of mental discipline to reign in my thoughts to this point. It may not have been the best balance, but it worked for me, and I feel that this is probably where most mature guys draw the line. Without the mental discipline, I’d probably be completely at the mercy of my hormones. And some guys end up like this, but remember it is their own fault, because these thoughts can be controlled.

    Now that I've been in a steady smooth relationship for awhile, I simply cannot see myself in other relationships aside from specifically with my ladyfriend. It's like considering eating a rock.

    My advice to you, is wear what you feel is right for you. Be aware that it sends a message and what that message may be, but don't fret over it, because you can’t control other people’s actions and you are not responsible for them. I would say, don’t get too offended to find out this happens however, because I imagine in another world where women had to ask men initially out instead, women might start picturing men in similarly objectifying situations too, to save themselves unnecessary embarrassment.

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    1. Thanks for your honesty with this. So, you're saying that men can and should learn to control their thoughts, and that women shouldn't worry about it too much- women should wear stuff they like.

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  7. I am a straight man, A Christian, (I am still working my way through the bible (stuck somewhere in the old testament, some of this stuff is creepy and boring.. Fortunately there is a new testament :) ) , and Knuths Bible Text Illuminated ) , and a coward. Thus i post anonymously.

    Your article is very interesting, and i have previously though about the idea of should women where less "attractive/sexy clothing" and never came to a good conclusion. I agree however that all the fault lies in the men and their lust.

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  8. continued

    However the attraction between man an woman, and the idea of nakedness dates back to Adam and Eve, see Genesis 3, where after Adam and Eve eat the apple (random fruit) , they use fig leaves to cover themselves and then tell god that they are naked, (God
    then asks how do they know that they are naked, clearly the idea of nakedness comes from the tree of knowledge, where the fruit came from.) Clearly God disapproved of the idea of nakeness since it came from the tree of forbidden fruit.

    More interesting in the song of songs 4:5 we read that

    "Your two breasts are like two fawns, like twin fawns of a gazelle that browse among the lilies"

    So in my opinion this must mean that being attracted to your spouse, in my case a wife.... someday... Is biblical and a good thing, something that god wants us to do. And song of songs is clear that you are to be faithful to your one lover (song of songs 2:16).

    I do agree that men are visual, and i have struggle with lust from time to time, being single into your mid twenties, makes you ask questions about your ability to attract a mate (That idea of attracting a mate, is that a sin or not, i dunno). I do not agree that men go straight to visualizing women naked (this must have been lost in communication somewhere, men dont walk around and just see naked women everywhere ), just at the sight of a bra strap. I agree that would be creepy. However i would not disagree guys are visualize people and at some level, either consciously or subconsciously measure women up....(And like all humans judge people, because we are sinners and cant help ourselvs :( ) (Evolutionarily speaking men and women should size up there mate, to better the future of the species, possibly these thoughts are just subconscious) I have definitely looked at women before and thought that person is "sexy" or has nice curves, but I was not undressing them with my eyes. ( Is it lust none the less? I believe it is, and I pray that god forgives me for this ) I feel like this feeling is more of a
    "i would like to get to know this person, see if there is any spark there"
    over.. a feeling of NEED SEX NOW!!!!! The people that i have tried to court have never been these people... I have never met one that i had a lot in common with. But yes I would happily argue that all men have this feeling when first seeing a hot regardless of the clothing a woman is where and clothing sometimes is not even a part of the equation.. As a CompE major just one woman in CompE would have been attractive to me.... I also believe men can learn to control and remove these feelings, because as all lust is it is only skin deep. Personally I would rather save myself for someone that i have a much deeper connection with.

    I would happily argue that a womans body does not have power over me. But like you I am also an engineer and i might simply be missing out on a large portion of what society sees. I would also argue as long as your not like having your own personal wardrobe malfunctions with your clothing you more that happily hit the Romans 14 mark. And since this was written to Christians possibly this statement might also mean to not flirt with a married man. (I attempted to check your reference in romans but fell short of coming up with the same wording, however i would agree that the passage in romans could be extrapolated to mean the same thing, but possibly reading outside the meaning of the statement. I would be interested in reading into the hebrew of these statments and what them ment during Jesus's time but I dont have those skills yet and may not for a long time ) I also feel that in the end it is the guys job to control themselves / get there mind out of the gutter.

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  9. continued

    Now looking at your overall premise that women are supposed to enslave all men with there body is crazy and that therefore you should try to look like a tent being destroyed by a bear does not fit what i read in the bible, but as you point out the bible is not clear, it does not state that "your shorts must be 10.324 inches long and no less or there will be hell to pay". Actually it was Commandment 11, it got lost, Moses did not approve of it :). I feel that clearly in song of songs a man and a woman are supposed to be physically attracted to each other, and that God want this to happen in marriage, however how does one reconcile this with the life of the single people... ( Church does a horrible job of dealing with single people, I always feel like there must be something fundamentally wrong with me for not having a mate. Interestingly enough most of the new testament was written by a person who was single ) Does God suggest that when a man and wife marry they will magically be sexually attracted to each other? Like when you say "I do" pre marriage "sexy" blinders will go away. Can physical attractiveness really be out of the question for either the woman or the man when finding a mate? If so, is that bibilical, Song of Songs seems to suggest that the man and wife should have a sexual attraction to each other. I dunno, hopefully when I meet Jesus face to face someday we can discuss some of these finer points of the bible.

    I definitely accept and agree that in the end "God has a plan for people" and God "if deemed in his plan" will put your correct mate before you, thus placing the finding a mate into Gods realm and by extension putting the finding an attractive person into his hands, and then finally making your point that women should dress conservativly somewhat more valid. None the less it is more that horrible that men have made you feel this way, and more horrible that they have made you think that you should wear a test. For the rest of our gender I would like to apologize. Sorry!

    Clearly my brain dump has not been successful at either agreeing or disagreeing with your views on this. I agree that is a weird and a hard issue to find answers with the bible. In the end I argue that it a mans problem that even using tents as clothing will not solve this issue.

    I look foward to reading your post on friday.

    Possibly however the best way to understand the opposite sex... I have no idea what goes on in a womans head... is to communicate and bring up topics in close group roundtable conversations.

    Sorry if the grammer or spelling is by, Gedit seems to fail with checking for these things.

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    1. Thanks for your honesty with this. Also you brought up a lot of good points (assuming that all 3 of these comments were from you- I have a lot of people named "Anonymous" posting here today...). For example, the idea that a husband and wife are SUPPOSED to be sexually attracted to each other- so, does that mean that's a legit thing to look for while dating? And how does one separate that from lust? And also what you said about the church not knowing what to do with singles... yes that's true.

      So... yeah I feel like a lot of Christians (including me) don't know how to have a healthy view of sex. There's a lot of stuff that the church teaches that doesn't make sense- like you said, when people say "I do", do the magical "sexy blinders" disappear?

      So hopefully I'll figure out what a healthy relationship is supposed to be, and I'll blog my thoughts about it. For now, stay tuned for tomorrow's post, where I present my perspective on what I (an individual woman) should do about modesty.

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  10. Perfectnumber, I'm really looking forward to your next post! I agree that the messages to women as you have presented them don't make sense. One thing I have learned that I think is a huge misunderstanding is that the passage where Jesus talked about lust includes a very specific word form that is often mistranslated. He said, "Anyone who looks on a woman in order to lust after her has already committed adultery in his heart." The phrasing specifically carries the idea of intent. Jesus wasn't just talking about seeing a pretty girl and having feelings towards her, nor being attracted to her, nor even having images of her pop unwelcome into your mind. He was talking about a deliberate intent to see her as a sex object.

    Because this is misunderstood, women are given this message that we are somehow causing men to lust by the way we dress. If that were the case, would not Jesus have shown some understanding of that? Even those who don't believe he is the Son of God believe that he was a wise teacher. But lust, as Jesus was describing it, is not something that happens to a man (or a woman either, for that matter) involuntarily. It is a deliberate choice. And Jesus placed the full weight of the responsibility for it on the one deliberately lusting-- and none on the one he looks at.

    I fully believe that any man or woman can look at someone else and say, "Hey, that person's good looking, and I admire his or her looks and feel a physical attraction-- but I choose not to lust. I will not view this person as an object for my pleasure. I choose to see a human being and to respect that human being-- and therefore I will control my feelings of attraction."

    I think that's what a lot of the guys commenting here have been saying, too.

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    1. Wait a minute... yeah I'm just realizing that Jesus talked about it's bad for "a man to look lustfully at a woman" but he didn't say anything about how women are supposed to dress. Wow. And you could cite examples like when the woman caught in adultery was brought before Jesus- probably not wearing much, and he didn't say anything about that, or the woman who poured perfume on Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair- apparently that was "immodest" but he recognized it as an act of worship.

      I agree that there is a difference between lust and recognizing that someone's good-looking. I don't know what to do with that in a practical sense- how can I choose what I wear such that boys will have the "good-looking" thoughts and not the "lust" thoughts? I think this is impossible to define, so the solution is to just not worry about it. But I say a lot more about this in my post for tomorrow.

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  11. I was reading this on George Reuter's blog. 1 Cor 8:9-13 talks about what are attitude is to be when faced with choices in liberty. It is a hard verse to put into practice. It takes genuine humility. I am older. I have a lot of attractions, wisdom, knowledge, and a heart for God. I am also single. I long to be married again. But I don't want someone to be attracted to me for those things, I want to be loved for who I am. So I am modest with those things. I have seen women wanting a man with "a heart for God" pass right on by me because I don't wear a neon sign that says it. If I meet the right person, they will be able to see me, all of me, including my attractive parts, not just my attractive parts. Women cheat themselves by making their attractive parts so obvious (and I mean more than physical but including physical features), and men do the same. They lose, because they train their partner to love the attractive side.

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    1. Thanks for commenting! ^_^ I agree with the principle in 1 Cor 8:9-13, about voluntarily giving up our freedom if it's enticing someone else to sin. But the problem is I don't know how to do that in a practical sense- how am I supposed to know whether what I'm wearing is "causing a brother to stumble"? And by this argument, isn't it most godly for a woman to not look like a woman?

      (I'm posting my answer to that on Friday.)

      I don't understand what you're saying about not wanting someone to be attracted to you for your good qualities. I agree that we shouldn't be fake- we should let a significant other see who we really are- but the good qualities are a real part of who we are. So... what do you mean?

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  12. In this blog, and in the last comment I hear both words and attitudes. I hear a lot of hurt. People have been thumped over the head with a bible, or people see church as trying to improve them from the outside in, by what they do, how they dress, who they hang out with, etc.

    I am not arguing. It is real for me. After my wife was unfaithful to me, and later left me, I still waited for her return, for about 5 years. Every plunging neckline, every dresses with a slit up the side, and even bra straps had me wrestling to take every thought captive. It was exhausting. And it was all that I had. For the first five years, it was waiting, and being a single dad to a toddler/preschooller. As he hit school, and my ex remarried, I didn't have a lot of time for dating. I prayed for God to bring someone into my life that I could get to know as a friend, and then find that there was something more. I also listened our son describe the challenges of adjusting to a step-dad. I sought the Lord, as I didn't want to put him through additional stress. Though I did go to a few Christian singles conferences.

    In any case, the best thing is to get to a talking relationship with Jesus (people hear from Jesus in different ways, but a lot of Church, has more of a deist bent, and they thing prayers are only one way. Not true!) Talk to Him about your wardrobe. Take Jesus shopping with you. You could be surprised in how much He delights that you enjoy the various forms of attractiveness that he has given you. He made you a woman, and takes great delight in that. And the closer you get to Him, the more you will trust Him, even when He says that this is OK today, but possibly not tomorrow, or vice versa. He knows if you are going to encounter someone who is weak because they don't know how much He loves them, or they are weak, because they have spent a lot of their strength on other things that matter. And then the day after that, He may say it is fine again.

    He is not far off. And He love you more than you can imagine (paraphrasing Romans 8).

    And one last thought. When I was legalistic, it was because I didn't know Jesus and was afraid to know Jesus. So I kept heaping on things to try harder to do, so that I could possibly be worth a little of His love. The people who want rules about modesty in a legalistic way are hurtful, but are most likely hurting inside themselves, feeling unlovable.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your story. Sounds like it's been really hard for you. That's real life- and I haven't heard that stuff talked about much in church (about how sometimes people's husband/wife leaves them, about being a single parent, etc). Instead, in my experience, teenage girls are more or less taught to "be pure" and not have sex, and "wait" and then God will bring you a PERFECT guy and you'll be happy FOREVER (okay I'm way oversimplifying it- and they never say it so directly- but yeah).

      Thanks for the reminder that knowing Jesus is AWESOME. He's always there for us- and yes, we can talk to him and listen to him.

      Your advice to "take Jesus shopping with you"- hmm, that's interesting. Because I've heard people say things like that, about how "God made beauty," so in some sense God wants girls to go ahead and look good... but honestly it really feels like a weird foreign concept to me. It must be true... but it just doesn't feel true to me. So I guess I will have to think about that more and be willing to trust God.

      And also, thanks for reminding me this is something I can pray about. Sometimes I assume that God doesn't know anything about looking cute- but haha, he knows everything.

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  13. If all that you have heard in my comments is how hard it is, I am sorry. It was hard, but Jesus was more than able. Wrestling to take thoughts captive (and sometimes just to look to see where those thoughts and feelings originate) has been good for me and has helped me do the same when going through things that were not relational or sexual in nature. In fact, taking Jesus with me when shopping is something that I often need to do, just to avoid overspending, or impulse buying that is intended to comfort.

    Jesus loves us an amazing amount. When He says that the hairs on our head are numbered, He means it. And He was an artist when giving you hair color, eye color, high cheek bones, or not so high cheek bones, and just about anything you can think of. He knows your favorite color. He designed you to look good in blue ... and there isn't enough blog space.

    I prayed and waited for my first wife. I knew that she was a gift from His hand. She wasn't perfect from what I had imagined (and I think that the concept of "PERFECT" is harmful, but asking for God's input isn't harmful). So I went on a journey of discovery with her. We didn't live "happily ever after", and we both realized that we were human. Our love grew for a while. I still fully don't know what happened, but her love stopped growing. And she became vulnerable to fantasies of a better life elsewhere. It took a long time, and a very tender and comforting Jesus to get me back to the point of praying that the Lord would bring someone into my life again. He told me that I was going to have to take some risks to find her. And I have. And I have faced fears and hurts and prejudices with Him along the way. I am still praying.

    He has given me a rare gift of discovering how deep love can go, and how His love undergirds mine, and goes deeper still.

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    1. Wow, thanks for sharing your story/perspective. I guess you have a lot more experience/insight with some of this stuff than I do. Especially the part about the deepness of God's love- that's so awesome and so true.

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  14. I read both articles, and I think you have some really interesting thoughts going and some decent temporary conclusions. Keep thinking and talking about this!

    My perspective is different primarily because I was raised Unitarian and as a teenager became a liberal Episcopalian; I have never been part of a subculture that emphasizes "modesty" any more extreme than the prevailing social norm. My experience of strict modesty rules has been only secondhand through being friends with girls whose parents and/or church had these rules.

    Regarding "Men are visual." you wrote:
    But of course I can't attempt to understand this by actually having a conversation with a guy about it (well, I'd really need to talk to a bunch of guys to get a feel for how it works on average...) because that's super-awkward. No way I'm gonna have some guy tell me how this works in enough detail that I actually understand.
    I'm not sure if this attitude is coming from you (you really feel it would be impossibly awkward) or reflects what you've been taught (that it's not okay to talk about these things--yet you're supposed to understand). Either way, I'll tell you:

    I have had that conversation with probably 20 or 30 men over the years, starting in high school. I find this kind of topic very interesting, and I've had a lot of male friends. The most enlightening explanation I've gotten was from the man I've been living with for 16 years, who tells me all kinds of great stuff: He drew a VERY minimal sketch, two curved lines with a V between, and said, "Looking at that, or anything that looks like it, gives me a partial erection. It's a physical response to a stimulus that is supposed to excite a man." That makes sense, but until that point I'd never really understood what people mean about the VISUAL responsiveness of men. Of course, individuals vary within gender, and not all straight men respond that strongly to so vague an image.

    A more important point where "modesty" is concerned is that some people respond sexually to things that most people would not consider sex-related, and the variety of those things is almost infinite, so how can you be expected to guard against every situation in which your appearance or behavior might arouse someone?! For example, a friend of my partner's has a foot fetish. He told me about it within a year after we met, but I didn't understand the implications for years after that until he finally pointed out that when I was barefoot (around the house, in warm weather) I might as well be walking around naked so far as he was concerned. He was being responsible about his feelings, but I was tempting him strongly--and totally unintentionally. Should I never go barefoot, never wear an apron, never braid my hair, whatever, because some people find these things arousing?

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  15. Personally--lifelong sexually liberated woman that I am--I tend to think about some men as potential sexual partners and imagine them naked. Based on my discussions with men, I think that the way in which I do this is not very different from the way they do; I rarely have a strong physical response to a visual stimulus, but once a man gets my attention, my imagination can be very stimulating. However, this easily happens even when they're thoroughly clothed. I certainly notice when the college track team jogs by in nothing but shorts and sneakers, and I'll be checking them out--but I might well look at any of them on the bus, dressed for winter with only face and hands exposed, and get just as far into fantasy. It's not their fault for dressing "inappropriately."

    I live in a neighborhood with many Orthodox Jews. When I go out in the summer in a short sundress with no bra, as I pass Orthodox men on the sidewalk they simply turn their heads away. That's putting the responsibility for temptation where it belongs, I feel. I'm dressed like that because IT IS HOT OUT, not because I am seeking to tempt anyone. Their wives are willing to wear long sleeves, long skirt, tights, and a wig in that weather--that's fine for them, but I'm glad they don't attempt to make me do it or "accept the consequences" by being mistreated.

    I think a lot of the "Christian" modesty rules really are the rules of other societal forces encoded into Christian practice. I don't see that Jesus ever told anyone what to wear or even how or when or with whom to have sex--he only said not to act in lust (making it all about physical pleasure with no consideration for feelings) or adultery (lying about love). Jesus is more forgiving than many people who claim to be following his teachings.

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    1. Thanks for your comments! I definitely agree about how it's not obvious which things will be sexual for different people- sometimes I've heard people say "but why don't they talk about how guys should be modest too? Guys shouldn't walk around with no shirt" and I feel like that totally misses the point... I am not interested in seeing guys naked or with no shirt or whatever, but there are certain clothes styles/ hair styles/ body types that make guys look REALLY FREAKIN HOT in my opinion.

      So like you said, it can't be my responsibility to not appear attractive. (As long as I'm not TRYING to tempt/manipulate someone, it's fine.) It's my responsibility to be careful about lust when I see an attractive guy.

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  16. I am late finding this page, but just for fun - I should like to state that studies made in the 1960s, show that the LESS women wear, the more likely it is that men will find the little snatches of skin enticing.
    Back in the day, a 'well-turned ankle' was sufficient to tempt. In some parts oof Saudi today, imams are suggesting the women cover one eye - since their eyes are so 'enticing' - them being the only bits of them left on show.

    So you see, nakedness would be the real solution, however, here in winter it sometimes drops below -30C - so every spring we would have to start all over again.

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  17. Haha, indeed. "Modesty" depends a lot on what everyone is used to seeing- if you're wearing something slightly more revealing than normal, that's "immodest".



    In other words, it's impossible to solve this problem by continually making women cover up MORE.

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  18. I'm not gonna read all these comments. I just want to say that this is awesome and I love the snark. This is how it goes in my head, but then if I'm going to be discussing it with self-important, hyper-religious, neo-reformed seminary-student-type guys, I have to reign it all in and pretend to have a logical, adult discussion. Even though what the things they say on this topic actually deserve is this level of unrestrained snark. Thank you.

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  19. Even those who don't believe he is the Son of God believe that he was a wise teacher.


    No, many of us do not, although this is a widespread Christian delusion. Some don't believe he existed at all. Others see plenty that's vile in his reported words and deeds: his ranting against those who disbelieved his claims, his threats of hell, his breaking up of families.

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