Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Male Equivalent to Modesty

Every so often, during discussions on "modesty" and how women need to cover up to help the guys, someone will throw out this caveat: "But men have to be modest too! So, guys should always wear a shirt."

Wait, seriously? So girls get this ridiculous list of badly-defined, impossible-to-follow rules- don't dress "provocative", don't wear something "revealing" or "too tight" or showing "too much" skin. Can I wear a dress? How long? Is strapless okay? Can I wear a tank top? Can I wear shorts? How short? Can I wear jeans? Leggings? How tight? Is the way I walk "causing men to stumble"? Are high-heeled shoes okay? And is it bad to want to be beautiful? Am I just being selfish and mistreating the guys by wanting to look nice?

And then the rule for guys is always wear a shirt.

Wow. That's a rule that is INCREDIBLY SIMPLE and ACTUALLY POSSIBLE to keep.

Seriously? This is "male modesty"? Just wear a shirt? While the only way to win at female modesty is to not be a girl?

The truth is there is no equivalent set of "modesty rules" you could make for guys to end up with the same effect they have on women. Women are bombarded with messages that our worth is in our appearance, in our attractiveness to guys. In general, women do a lot more to maintain their appearance than men do. Fashion, hairstyles, makeup, jewelery, cute shoes. Culture tells us we need to be beautiful and sexy in order to have value- but also judges women harshly if they look too "slutty." And then the modesty rules come in and complicate it even more.

That's not how men are treated. And that's why no set of "but men need to dress modesty so women don't lust" rules can result in the shame, fear, and self-hate that we get from the female "modesty rules."

Modest, but creepy. Image source.

So let me tell you what the male equivalent to modesty is:

Guys, you need to understand that women are visual. This means that if they see you looking a little bit creepy, they can't help but fear that you might harass or attack them. That's how they're wired. You know that generally men are physically stronger than women, and our culture glorifies male aggression and violence, sending the message that a guy should just keep pursuing a woman to get what he wants, not taking no for an answer. No wonder women are so easily afraid.

It's a constant battle out there for the girls. Everywhere they go, men are there, looking strong and a little bit creepy. (Halloween is the worst!) You wouldn't want to cause a sister in Christ to stumble and fear you, would you? That's why it's so important for men to not act creepy.

So, guys, here are the rules of uncreepyness:
  • Don't stand too close to a girl.
  • Don't stare at a girl.
  • Don't be alone with a girl.
  • Don't touch a girl.
  • Don't look creepy.
(Please take a moment and appreciate how vague these rules are.)

And I know this can be quite a sacrifice to make. Maybe sometimes you feel like it would be much more convenient to get on a crowded subway car, rather than waiting for the next one- but think of your sisters in Christ! What if, in the crowd, you happened to bump into a woman by accident, and she felt afraid? Is saving a few minutes really so important that you would cause a woman to stumble? Or maybe you would like to run over to the convenience store at night- but what if a woman was walking alone, and saw you in the dark and felt afraid? I know it's a sacrifice, but isn't it worth it to go without that convenience-store candy bar, in order to protect the woman's sense of safety?

These rules will be the toughest on guys who are naturally tall and strong and easily stereotyped as "creepy." So guys might start thinking, "I shouldn't work out. I shouldn't try to be strong and physically fit." God made men strong, but the purpose of that strength is to protect their wives and children. Don't go flaunting it in front of other women.

At church, someone will approach a young guy, just sitting there minding his own business, and say, "Excuse me, but your posture, your mannerisms are causing women to think fearful thoughts. Sorry but you need to leave."

And then guys will internalize this message: Your body, your existence, is a threat to women. 

And what if a woman accuses a man of attempting to rape her? People would say, "Look at this guy- always hanging out alone with women. Of course a woman would be creeped out and unable to control herself, and would accuse him of rape. He was asking for it."

That, dear readers, is the male equivalent to modesty.

Did you read it and think, "I have no idea what I am allowed to do"? Because of course you respect women and would never try to hurt them or make them afraid, but suddenly you've been told that every little innocent action you take must be reinterpreted through through this lens of "could this be seen as creepy?"

That's modesty. Am I allowed to be beautiful, or will that cause guys to lust? Are you allowed to be strong and confident, or will that cause women to fear?

Let me be clear that I am NOT advocating this ideology. I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT want guys to live like this, worrying day in and day out whether they may have accidentally "caused" a woman to think they're creepy. People can't live like that, always trying to please other people.

Women shouldn't have to live under "the modesty rules" and men shouldn't have to live under "the uncreepy rules."

You are made in the image of God. Your body, your presence, your existence are NOT a threat.


Linking up with Danielle's Modesty Synchroblog.


  1. That is the best and creepiest picture ever. Hahahaha

  2. Really great perspective! Loved it!

  3. I actually really enjoyed that. Thank you for that perspective.

  4. Wow. This is spot on. I've thought about modesty a lot lately, but this nails it perfectly. Thank you.

    I'm off to try to not look creepy now...

  5. Oh, I loved this! Reminded me of this post from Seraphic Singles a few months ago:

  6. Can you please remove that picture? I want to send this post to my girlfriend...

  7. That is hilarious, and spot on. Yeah....... men cause everyone to be creeped out like women cause everyone to lust. They are equally true, or should I say totally fwiggin ridiculous. :)

  8. Excellent. Loved this!

  9. hannadevries.wordpress.comJuly 13, 2013 at 11:49 AM

    Brilliant. thank you. :)

  10. I think it would actually do a lot of guys a lot of good to have to live under those rules... for a month or so, before they could go back to being real people again. This is on the principle of "some people just don't understand setting a good example, and so you have to get their attention first."

  11. I read this yesterday and I haven't been able to stop laughing since. Thank you so much for gifting the world with this post. (Also, the photo is terrifying.)

  12. this article is a joke, right? huge false equivalency going on here. if you want to make a comparison to the vague rules of female modesty, we can have a conversation about what the rules are for a guy to "pursue" a girl. Have fun with that!