Thursday, January 29, 2015

"Seduction is the default."

Image source.

One particular section from Libby Anne's post, Men Rape and Women Seduce: John Piper’s Deleted Tweet, stood out to me because it is so insightful:
In other words, within John Piper’s circles, seduction is something a woman must actively work to avoid. In a sense, seduction is the default—and existing while female is to be a seductress. This is why there are rules—don’t wear this, don’t wear that, stand like this, sit like that, and for goodness sake don’t let a guy see you looking at him, he’ll think it’s an invitation! We see this in mainstream culture too, where it is somehow acceptable to ask what rape victims were wearing—as though that is even relevant.
"Seduction is the default." Yes. This is EXACTLY the problem with evangelical teachings on modesty.

In modesty land, it's common to hear language about "causing men to stumble", "dressing provocatively", "dressing to get attention from guys", etc. It's assumed that women always think about men's reactions when they choose what to wear. (The idea that women's appearance should be interpreted from a straight man's point of view is called "the male gaze" and modesty culture is ALL ABOUT the male gaze.)

However, women in modesty land all know that we are not trying to seduce anyone (or "cause them to stumble" or whatever). Quite often, when girls are taught that they need to be "modest," it's framed like this: "Girls, you can't really understand how guys feel, but I have to tell you that when you wear item XYZ, it's hurting guys, so wear something else." Isn't that so helpful, pointing out how women may have accidentally hurt guys by not considering them when choosing what to wear.

So sometimes, "immodesty" is seen as a blatant, purposeful attack on men, and sometimes it's seen as an accidental attack. It often blurs together, and we end up in a state where "seduction is the default." By just being a woman existing in public, you are attacking men with your sexiness, unless you very carefully follow the modesty rules.

As a woman, if I totally am not thinking about men at all when I put on clothes, I'm sinning, according to modesty culture. "Seduction is the default." In order to not sin, I need to imagine how a straight man might view me (even though one of the foundational teachings of modesty culture is "women just can't understand"), and we're back to the male gaze again.

Modesty is all about dressing for men. It's all about the male gaze.


  1. Random Former Methodist ReaderJanuary 29, 2015 at 11:28 AM

    Not to mention these so-called "modesty rules" are a constantly moving goalpost...

  2. Yup, yup yup. I thought about the "modesty rules" when listening to the radio the other day and there was a talk show on where they'd asked guys and girls what their preferred sex needed to do in order to appear attractive. The guys kept calling in with things like "be alive and in front of me." If I as a woman were responsible for men's lust then I'd have to live secretly underground forever at that point. >.> It's just not feasible. lol.

  3. The worst is when they say "oh but we're not being sexist, we believe men should be modest too, so they don't cause women to stumble. So men should always wear a shirt." Wait, seriously? Wear a shirt? Something that's well-defined and actually possible to do? Whereas the modesty rules for women come down to "don't be a woman."