Men, The Monsters of Modesty Culture
When writing blogs containing this sensitive of a topic, I have a hard time figuring out where to begin. What actually is a good intro sentence to what I am researching today. Yeah, I got nothing.
So here it goes.
Women’s modesty and men.
“Men are visual creatures.”
Now, since I am not a man, obviously I have no first hand knowledge on the subject. However, as a woman, I have heard this argument to support the idea of women dressing in a particular kind of way in the spirit of not “causing our brothers to stumble”. So let me just begin by describing how that comes across to a young girl.
We will get to the men in a bit.
As a teenage girl growing up in a religious environment where the idea of modesty included skirts and dresses exclusively, the above statement was quoted frequently as a deterrent from dressing “inappropriately”. We were taught men can’t help but lust after us if we showed too much skin, wore something too tight, or wore pants. (I never really understood the logic behind the last one). Hearing this statement as a girl developing into a woman it caused me to be ashamed of my body. It also made me very afraid of men, and acutely aware if a man even so much as looked in my direction. I came to assume all men were just sex monsters waiting for any opportunity to take advantage of viewing my body whether they acted on their lust physically towards me or in their own minds.
What a sad little box to put men in.
Having mentioned briefly what this teaching taught me as a woman, let’s go into the man’s side of this. I have done some research, so I think I have an idea of what I am about to say. If you’re a man and disagree, please feel free to correct any misunderstandings I may have.
Yes, men indeed are visual creatures by nature. Men do tend to get aroused by visual cues more than women. This is a scientifically proven fact.
But, does this mean all men are walking sex robots? Or unable to control their urges? Absolutely not.
There is a gigantic difference between noticing and lusting.
We can notice and even admire our friend’s new car. What becomes a problem is when we allow that admiration to turn into coveting. Same idea applies.
It is completely normal for a man to notice an attractive woman walking by. There is nothing wrong with that. It does NOT mean the man is lusting. Noticing only turns into a problem when that man continues to look and allows his mind to run away with impure thoughts. And clearly, if a man allows those thoughts to progress into actions there is an issue for certain.
Sexual attraction is natural and designed by God, to imply that it is sinful is misrepresenting God’s intent.
I read an article in the Huffington Post, about a woman recounting an experience she had while wearing a pencil skirt to work. Something that should have been deemed “modest” by most church standards right? She said she received unanticipated sexual comments and several looks from her male coworkers. Was their behavior her fault for wearing a pencil skirt? Absolutely not! It is the men’s fault for not controlling their thoughts or actions. To suggest otherwise is offensive to men and women everywhere!
So where does this leave us? Should a woman dress modestly for the reason as to not cause a man to stumble? First, I think, we need to evaluate what modesty actually is. I wrote an entire blog on this subject you can find it here, https://findingmyfreedomdoingmylife.com/2020/02/07/the-oxymoron-of-modesty/. So I won’t go into this too much again, but being modest means: not to stick out in a crowd, not to wear anything too noticeable, expensive, or over the top, to dress appropriately for whatever the situation.
Outside of those guidelines, I say, “you do you boo”.
One might wonder why a woman would choose to wear something revealing or sexy knowing that it may cause a man to notice. I can’t speak for all women, but I can tell you as a wife, I feel like I am doing my husband a favor by dressing in a way he will be visibly attracted to. I couldn’t care less what other men think of me. There are also times when a woman just wants to look pretty, and show off what God gave her. And I see nothing wrong with that motive either.
In conclusion, the premise that men cannot control their sexual urges while being visually stimulated is ludicrous.
All this teaching accomplishes is cause women to be afraid of men and makes men to feel as if they have every right to lust because they can’t help it, they are just wired that way. It lets the men off the hook for their actions while putting the blame on someone else. It makes men feel like their brains are by nature animalistic and if a woman dresses a certain way, she must be asking for it. (I keep thinking of an image of a bongo monkey hopping around in a male brain).
It is easy to see how this type of thinking would easily bleed into viewing sexual assault as being brought on somehow by the victim. After being taught this mindset, the question automatically becomes, “what was she wearing or doing to provoke him?” This is just wrong.
It is not my job to police anyone else’s mind or heart. And I am sorry men, but if you allow your admiration to turn into sinful lust, that’s on you. Put your big boy pants on and take responsibility for your own actions.
Jesus said in Matthew 5, if a man looks at a woman in an inappropriate manner, it would be better for him to pluck his own eye out. I don’t see any mention of blaming the woman he was looking at. Was God angry at Bathsheba for bathing, or at David for lusting and sleeping with her?
I often wonder what Jesus would say concerning this argument. Would he agree with the idea men just can’t help themselves? Or would he tell them to suck it up buttercup and get their own thoughts under subjection?
From everything I have read about Jesus, I’m pretty certain his answer would be the second one, and it would be insulting to him to assume otherwise.