They Do Exist.

On Modesty And Male Privilege

Editor’s Note: Today’s piece is less of a story and more of something I wanted desperately to share with our audience. Luke Harms was gracious enough to let us republish this, and I am grateful. Since the beginning of Good Women Project, I have received dozens upon dozens of women sharing with me their eating disorders, cutting, depression, struggling sex lives, and dropping out of church ministry or missions because they have been told that their body is a distraction and inhibition from God using them; that they are the reason the men around them fall into sin. Luke’s words are an important part of the conversation about men and women living freely in love. You can follow Luke at @LukeHarms and read his blog at livinginthetension.com – Lauren

Photo by Branden Harvey

My virtual friend Emily wrote a great piece for the “Church Leaders” website yesterday about the problems with modesty rules in Christian culture, and rightly pointed out how these rules unfairly shame women into particular behavior patterns, often resulting in lasting emotional and psychological damage.

It was an honest, personal story of one woman’s struggle with reconciling her freedom in Christ with the rigid behavioral codes often handed down to women from the pulpit or from Christian culture in general.

It was a great article.

And then there were the comments.

Sweet. Jumping. Jehoshaphat. The comments.

(The comments are the reason that I put “Church Leaders” in scare quotes in the opening sentence. Admit it, you went back and looked.)

I definitely suggest that you give the article a read, but I actually recommend you don’t read the comments. It got a little cray-cray in there for a minute or two, and it will probably just destroy your faith in humanity no matter which side of the argument that you’re on (though I’ll admit, there actually were some really bright spots of honest dialogue that I genuinely enjoyed). **But especially don’t read if you’re easily triggered by things like spiritual abuse or rape apologists.**

The basic premise that many of the commenters were defending was that women have a responsibility to dress modestly in order to keep men from sinning (by thinking lustful thoughts). Most commenters were pretty forceful in driving this point home.

But here’s the problem as I see it: If, as many of the commenters suggest, men (even or perhaps especially Christian men) are sexual predators who are incapable of looking at a woman who isn’t covered from head to toe without wanting to rape them (or at least mentally rape them), that is decidedly not a problem that women should feel *obligated* to or even *can* solve. Perhaps that bears repeating, and in simpler terms:

If men are skeezy pervs, that’s decidedly an issue for men to address.

Shifting the blame to women just passes the buck along and enables men to continue being skeezy pervs. “Oh, I’m getting all lusty because she’s wearing skinny jeans and a v-neck.”  No bro, you’re getting all lusty because you have a distorted view of women as objects that you need to get under control.

Now, before we get into the heresy-hunting here, I should say that yes, I believe that modesty is a quality that *all* Christians should strive for (and yes men, that includes you), but scriptural notions of modesty go far beyond the dress codes for women they’re often reduced to in Christendom.

But to me, what this discussion exposed was a deeper underlying problem. The fundamental question that wasn’t being addressed was why this notion of modesty, and the moral obligations being derived from it, was so lopsided.

Why were we making all of these proscriptions on the behavior on women, but essentially ignoring the behavior of men?

To me, the answer is as simple as it is disturbing. Call it what you want: misogyny, patriarchy, institutionalized sexism. I call it rape culture.

It’s the same culture that teaches freshmen college girls tips for not getting raped at orientation instead of teaching freshmen college boys NOT TO RAPE FRESHMEN COLLEGE GIRLS.

It’s the same culture that blames and shames victims of sexual assault into silence, instead of bringing the perpetrators to justice.

It’s the same culture that sees women’s bodies as objects to be controlled as means to men’s ends.

In the end, it’s about control. It’s about maintaining male privilege and perpetuating patriarchy. As these (mostly) men approached this issue of modesty, there was rarely a question of the man’s responsibility in this cycle, and when it was mentioned, it was an afterthought. “Oh, sure, men should be modest too, and they’re responsible for their own actions, but women shouldn’t cause them to stumble.” [heavy sigh]

Now I just met you, and this is crazy, but I think this might, *might* be one of those speck/plank scenarios that Jesus was talking about. Maybe instead of addressing the culturally ambiguous standard of “modest dress” for women, we should worry more about our attitudes towards the objectification of women. Maybe instead of trying to place the blame on women for our own shortcomings, we should do the hard work of re-wiring our brains, removing the influences that continue to perpetuate our distorted view of women. Maybe instead of writing off rape culture in the church as “living in a fallen world”, we should focus on what it means for us as men to partner with God in bringing the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. (Pro tip: the Kingdom of God probably doesn’t include rape culture.)

To read Emily Maynard’s original piece on Modesty Rules, please click here.


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66 Responses

  1. AMEN, AMEN, AMEN! Thank you for writing this Luke! I can tell you, I fell in love with my husband because he was one of the only men not blaming me for men's lust.

    December 7, 2012 at 1:39 pm

  2. Some Dude

    The man is right. If I make the mistake of thinking of you sexually, sisters-in-Christ, that is my fault, not yours. Every time it happens–and it still does, to me, I don't think, "man, I wish she wasn't dressing like that", I think, "man, why am I still looking at her in this manner?" And looking at her in that way is something that, with God, I can fix and have slowly been fixing–it is not an uncontrollable, unfixable urge. It may be a problem with men's nature, but it is far, far from uncorrectable. God did give us brains and hearts, after all, and most of all He gave us Jesus to help us change our natures to His.

    December 7, 2012 at 1:53 pm

  3. Christie Esau

    Preach brother! So many thanks for sharing these oh-so valuable thoughts. It is certainly my prayer that all Christian men (and women) can come to view people as the imago dei rather than objects.

    And may I also take this opportunity to apologize on behalf of Christian women who have objectified men. Because brother, I have done it, and I am sorry.

    December 7, 2012 at 2:08 pm

  4. Wonderful article and perspective! Thanks for sharing

    December 7, 2012 at 2:14 pm

  5. Lauren

    Uh, the thing is, boys know darn well that rape is bad., and some do it anyway. They darn well know right and wrong, but they ignore it for their own, selfish gains. You don't need to teach a teenager not to steal. People choose to steal. So is it a problem to warn people to keep an eye on their stuff? I mean hey, I hope the police catch most thieves, but that doesn't make your house safe and sound.

    I also don't see how women are blamed for modesty struggles. If you were taking a test, and someone was looking at your paper, you'd either tell him to stop, or cover it with your arm. If you were struggling with your diet, and don't want to eat those yummy cookies that your friend put out, there's nothing wrong in asking if they could cover it up with a napkin. It's all the principle of the thing.

    And what's just as wrong is when people say, "Don't like? Don't look." That's not addressing the issue at all, and it's just as much blaming men as it would be blaming women. What about not being a stumbling block to your friend, regardless of what that block is? We are one Body, and what body parts do is help each other.

    Something else I'd like to point out is that there are many kids growing up and leaving real patriarchal families, such as Quiverfulls. When they're finally free, and realize what a mess their parents did, they want to swing to the other end of the spectrum. It's like they can't find a happy medium.

    So, nobody throw the baby out with the bathwater, okay? There is middle ground.

    December 7, 2012 at 2:24 pm

  6. josh

    I agree in part. It is definitely wrong to say women are the problem and it is on them to make sure we don’t sin. But within reason. Men are ultimately responsible for making sure they stop any impure thoughts I agree. But us being humans, and going back to the plank/spec thing, we can’t go back saying women are at fault, men are at fault. It’s both, men should learn self-control. It is a fruit of the Spirit. But men were created as visual creatures. No matter how much self-control there will never be a point that they aren’t temped by a girl wearing yoga pants a size or two too small. In which case the women still have a responsibility (according to the bible, so I guess it depends if you believe the whole bible) to not be a stumbling block. Which again goes the same for guys in anything they do (and for both not just in wearing clothes). Doesn’t mean you have to go drastic in being modest. But a little bit helps. Use common sense, we are suppose to be different from the world.

    December 7, 2012 at 2:26 pm

  7. another dude

    A couple of things to think about –
    1: I totally agree that the problem of lust inside a man's head/heart is his own. However, I also think girls should not be a stumbling block. A lot of girls are wanting negative attention of a lustful flavor by dressing a certain way. They crave it subconsciously, despite their spoken protests. This is just as much of a problem as the guys attitude because it is extremely manipulative on the girls part. If I know someone is an alchoholic, I don't think it is very loving of me to say to him "I'm gonna drink as much as I want around you.. its YOUR problem to deal with" and, more than that, use his weakness to get attention. I may have every right to drink around him, and it is indeed his own problem, but if I am going to call myself a christian, or a generally loving and compassionate person, I would not want to do something to inflame someone's problem intentionally.
    2: Since when are the actions and behavior of men ignored? That's a pretty extreme statement. Go look on amazon for all the books dealing with men and their purity. Ask any youth minister how many times he deals with that subject behind closed doors. To say "why aren't we telling freshman boys not to rape young women" – um, really? here's why: we live in a fallen world.. The guys who are going to rape are very sick creatures who need much more than a verbal instruction to change their behavior, and for the rest of the guys, it goes without saying that they shouldn't do that, and if they need that instruction in college, its too late – they should've been taught that by their parents. To instruct girls on how not to get raped is just common sense with dealing with a fallen world. I dont get mad when someone tells me not to walk around downtown at night with hundred dollar bills hanging out of my pocket. I dont say "how dare you! talk to the hoodlums and tell them not to rob me! I should be able to do whatever I want!"

    December 7, 2012 at 2:31 pm

  8. Ella18

    It seems like we want women to be free to live in the middle ground, i.e., not being forced to wear long denim skirts, high-necked & baggy shirts, and never cutting their hair vs. mini-skirts and cleavage in abundance for all to see. I would say that with modesty of mind comes modesty of dress. Being considerate of your male counterparts as much as you think reasonable, while still feeling you are dressing comfortably in a way that suits your personality. For men, perhaps it's more resisting lust than anything. I think, if a person is sexually-minded and driven enough, they could probably view anyone as a sexual object if given enough second glances…no matter what they were wearing.

    December 7, 2012 at 2:42 pm

  9. Guest

    "But here’s the problem as I see it: If, as many of the commenters suggest, men (even or perhaps especially Christian men) are sexual predators who are incapable of looking at a woman who isn’t covered from head to toe without wanting to rape them (or at least mentally rape them)". I am so thankful for all of the good men in my life the every day prove that this line of thinking isn't true or factual. I have been blessed by male friends who don't believe that is their nature or some natural intrinsic trait but know they are sons of the Most High and that is their identity. Every day they choose to look away, avert their eyes, turn their heads. They lift up their wives, sisters, and friends as daughters of God with intrinsic value not objects for their consumption. These men don't subscribe to the "boys will be boys" mindset but live into the belief that the God and the Spirit change our nature to become more like His daily.

    Also, women have a "responsibility" first and foremost to God, not men. I work with young girls and have found when you can teach and show them their value to the Father and Jesus, when you help them understand the beauty they were created with first, the dignity and grace God has bestowed upon them, then the natural progression is for these girls to see the Father's love for His sons, and out of that flows a deep care for their brothers and a desire to make the journey easier for all they encounter, both men and women.

    We want a generation of women who knows their worth to the Father and develops their interactions with others based on that, not a generation of girls who respond out of fear and shame and hate for the bodies God created for them.

    December 7, 2012 at 2:45 pm

  10. Anon

    "It’s the same culture that sees women’s bodies as objects to be controlled as means to men’s ends."

    This is more so the case since the feminist movement than before.
    It has nothing to do with patriarchy and everything to do with feminism.
    Why do you think sexuality has been marketed as "strength" and "independence" to women, and women buy into it, thinking that behaving sexually (like sex and the city) is expressing independence. You did this to yourselves!

    "In the end, it’s about control. It’s about maintaining male privilege and perpetuating patriarchy."
    Stop regurgitating this ridiculous nonsense.
    "Male-privilege" has always been, and will always be to work hard, go to war, and die for their nation, women, and children.
    That is the story of men!

    For every woman raped (as horrible as that is) in all these third-world countries that feminists like to mention, hundreds and thousands of men have been brutally murdered. The news media just doesn't think mens lives (and deaths) are newsworthy enough to report on. Stop talking about "male privilege" as if you have any clue what it is like.

    December 7, 2012 at 3:17 pm

  11. Tyler

    I love how the most level-headed comments on here are getting the negative feedback.. typical.

    Ok ladies – go wear a bikini in downtown NYC at night. Be free. Express yourself. Is that what you want? I'm confused as to the end goal here.. what are you really after? No one is arguing in defense of rape, and the comments on here which have gotten negative reviews have all EXPLICITLY agreed that it is the man's responsibility to control his thoughts. So what do you want? Should I let my little sister wear whatever she wants in a crowded subway at night, because its "not her problem" ? …thats all fine and dandy, but it soon becomes her problem when she is defenseless to an attack. And you know, some girls get raped despite what they wear, just as some people get murdered despite what they do… that DOES NOT mean you shouldn't be careful and use common sense. If its in a relatively safe environment, yes, sure, wear whatever the heck you want. But you can't be so naive to think that you can live in this world as if it's the garden of eden. There are people out there who aren't christians(gasp) and don't care about your values or your privacy. I'd love to be able not to lock my car doors, but I do. Because its the smart and responsible thing to do in a world that has criminals. So.. ladies, please.. please… don't get all bent out of shape when guys want to protect you from getting raped by saying "hmm.. maybe you shouldn't go clubbing with that ridiculous outfit that makes you look like a stripper." – that is a FAR CRY from saying "you need to wear a burlap sack so I don't lust". I am not advocating that. In fact, i figured out a long time ago that it doesn't matter what a girl wears, I can lust if I want to or not lust if I want to. But please don't think I don't notice when a girl dresses beautifully without overtly trying to appeal to my genitals.

    December 7, 2012 at 3:49 pm

  12. uhhhhh

    You are taking that to irrational extremes. A women can indeed be raped even if she's being extremely modest and safe, but that doesn't mean you throw caution to the wind does it? No one is saying "cover up slut and you won't get raped". Just as no one is arguing against modesty, no one is arguing in defense of rape. And no one is peddling victim blaming. However, if I take a trip to Iraq and walk around with a sign that says "im a defenseless american, please kill me"… well… what then? And you can throw verses at christians, but what about the rest of the world? Some people don't care how they think. And you have to acknowledge that there are people like that in the world, or pay the consequences at your own risk – just as you acknowledge that there are thieves, murderers, and child abducters.

    and, only rapists believe consent is a gray area.. don't put that on the rest of us guys. Especially Christian guys.

    December 7, 2012 at 4:09 pm

  13. Stacy

    Thanks for writing this. This is an issue about some that has always troubled me as well. Young boys and men need to be taught how to see through the ingrained notions of patriarchy and to understand the responsibility they hold for self-control and a renewal of their own minds. It's so frustrating as a woman to be the one having to bear the responsibility of not only myself and my own gender but to be told I'm supposed to be responsible for the twisted dysfunctional sexualization that our culture permits and even celebrates among our men. Rape culture is exactly what it is. It's a societal mindset that is equally destructive to both women AND men.

    December 7, 2012 at 6:01 pm

  14. Leiralei

    It's good to know that men like you exist.

    People are missing that there's a difference in how a non-rapist and a rapist man looks at a woman. Dressing like a whore may actually make you safer from rape than dressing all covered up and modest. Why? Same reason that rapists go for the quiet girl hiding in the back of the party not the loud drunks being the life of the party. Other people are paying attention to the loud girls, which makes them less easy to target.

    When I was stalked, it was because I wasn't dressing provocatively at all. The stalker ignored the slutty girls and homed in on me, the quiet, modest one.

    The only safety as a woman is safety in numbers, and martial arts training. You are most likely to be attacked by someone you know rather than a stranger. If you have martial arts training, the stranger will avoid you as being too much of a hassle to take down.

    College orientation really needs to teach boys that rape is wrong, why? Because all day every day they get the message from their rape culture friends that they HAVE to have sex with multiple women to be valued as men. Not reaching out during orientation and forcing some attempt at empathy is a huge tacit permission from the colleges. If nothing else, the boys who don't respond with empathy to such an orientation could be watched more closely by campus police and security guards, or even other male students, very likely reducing the risk by making it harder to actually find an opportunity. The only thing that will change rape culture is MEN teaching boys that it's not ok. These people already ignore the personhood of women and will only pay attention to another male's opinion.

    When men don't respect men for being rapists or sluts, that's when we'll see changes, not before.

    December 7, 2012 at 6:35 pm

  15. FatherOf4

    Not sure if we are discussing rape or societal modesty rules. While they are related, they are definitely not the same. Both, however are inconsistent (wrong) with a life in Christ. Since men and women were both designed to be relational and both were created in Imago Dei, it is from this point on which I'll base my argument. My premise is any solution must point to Christ and him crucified, otherwise it's an ineffective self-help method based on a lie.
    Rape (male on female, female on male, male on male, and female on female) are primarily about power and always wrong. It violates the premise of treating others as if they were Christ. If we teach children to treat others as if they were Christ (and made in the Image of God) rapes would diminish. (I don't respect you or anyone because they deserve respect, I respect you because you were made in God's image and He deserves respect. – Your level of worth is essentially irrelevant.)
    Modesty or lack there of does not directly lead to rape. The victim is never to blame. Modesty rules may (I think this is where the OP was going) allow some to justify rape. The western church's rules on modesty are not based on Scripture. Using clothing to protect/prevent other's from lust isn't mentioned in the Bible, in either narrative or instruction. The very idea of apparel as a tool to prevent lust is contrary to the nature and instruction of God. (God made the human form and called it "Very Good" – there is no rescindment even after the fall. But this argues, something God made is now causing the sin of others. So God who cannot sin and commands us not to sin, now causes some of his children to sin, We can protect ourselves and obey Him, though, with something we made – clothes. What kind of loving Father is He?!?) However, if we, humans, can place blame on something/someone else to justify our own sin, we will. We have a long history of doing so.
    Not surprisingly, the modesty rules, as we know them (keeping certain body parts covered) are no more historically accurate (even in church history) than they theologically correct. (Did anyone ever wonder why circumcision is considered a sign and seal of the covenant? – what good is a hidden sign? Or where did the common ancient Israelis bathe – Bathsheba, a general's wife and not common, was on a roof.) Instead modesty rules seem to be initially based on wealth (clothing was much more expensive) in the 1700s and became incorporated during the Victorian age. Even the word "modesty" changed to incorporate what is covered as opposed to it's root word "moderate."
    One cannot cause another to sin/stumble. If this were true, then Satan should have used it during Christ's temptation and if Satan did not use it, but this possibility still exists, the Jesus was not tempted in every way like we are. This idea also fails Christologically. The word translated cause should be entice (set a trap or lay a stumbling block). There is malicious intent on the one who is enticing and naivety on the enticed.

    December 8, 2012 at 12:14 am

  16. Michelle

    When I read this article, I was reminded of a survey I found when we went over the book "Do Hard Things" in Bible study (yeah – when I was in high school). I agree that women are not the problem. I also agree that men are not the problem. I think that it's completely unreasonable to blame rapes and harassment on one sex or the other, when we are all the same sinners in God's eyes, and we are all following the same unChristian social norms. I think that both genders can do their part in helping the other one out. Here's the survey, answered by guys of all ages, and I think it's pretty interesting, whether you agree with it or not (although, women; I don't think we can disagree, because these are men's opinions): http://www.therebelution.com/blog/2006/12/announc

    December 8, 2012 at 10:26 am

  17. I love this. I just feel like this is such an important thing to say. As a Christian and as a woman, I will always dress appropriately. I would never try to cause another person to stumble, but I also can not be held responsible for how another person perceives my clothing when I (and others!) deem it to be perfectly acceptable. While I will continue making responsible choices for my clothing, I would appreciate if men would internalize this issue and address the fact that they are dehumanizing and cheapening women when they view us like objects or treat us like them.

    December 8, 2012 at 12:23 pm

  18. Brother

    I took the time to review this study, all it's questions and responses, and as a man, I agree with all of them. This is really how men think and react to women with varying attitudes and attires. Whether or not women like it or agree with it, this is the reality that they must be aware of when they choose which clothes and attitudes they want each day.

    It is not loving to wear immodest clothing or use suggestive, flirtatious words and actions, and expect men not to have any reaction at all.
    We are absolutely wired to react to how we see women dress and act. This is not an excuse to lust or pressure women into things they don't want to do, but please know that it will absolutely have an impact on us and shape our perspective of who we think you are as a person and how much respect we have for you.

    One of the responses said that "the more revealing her clothing is, the more she may have our immediate attention, but the less likely we are to want to spend time with her or talk with her." (Paraphrased).

    Men want wives who dress and behave modestly and respectfully.
    This is not meant to stifle women, but to make them aware that this power, this physical beauty that God gave women should be used in a way that honors God and is respectful to men. Women may not have the same visual temptations men have, but that doesn't mean that dressing wisely and behaving like a respectable lady are less important simply because such visual temptations affect them less. Men and women are wired differently, and have different strengths and weaknesses. We should consider others better than ourselves and seek to honor one another.

    The manner in which women dress and behave is one incredibly powerful way in which they can honor their brothers in Christ, and in so doing, help protect him in his weakness. The same is true for a man's physical strength over a woman. Men should honor women by using this power, this physical strength (which is often her weakness) to protect them instead of harming them.

    Again, it's not about stifling women or blaming them for men's choices, but using our respective strengths wisely to honor each other and cover each others weaknesses.

    December 8, 2012 at 6:29 pm

  19. whatever

    I don't understand the women on here arguing for as much "freedom" and revealing clothes as you can get away with!
    Your opinions would change instantly if some random woman who dresses immodestly started flirting with your boyfriends or husbands.
    Suddenly, you wouldn't like it as much!
    So is it okay for all women to dress as immodestly as they desire, or is only okay for you personally? Make up your mind!

    The women here should really read Michelle's study results. I think women really need to educate themselves about how men really think!
    If you say you like men, want to date men, or hope to one day marry a man, then you owe it to your man to learn how men really think!
    Don't just assume you already know us! Most women have no clue!
    Seriously! Look at the study!

    December 9, 2012 at 4:15 am

  20. Gabby

    There’s a budding current within some Christian circles of a modesty gestapo that seeks to determine via a criteria only they possess what is or is not appropriate for a woman to wear. I always find actions like these quite baffling in light of the Holy Spirit that resides within each person professing a belief in Christ. It’s as if He’s been stupified and is in dire need of the unwitting stranger’s assistance that’s rarely sent or instructed to articulate their opinion in the first place.

    But here’s my spiel and it’s very simple. If I’m determined to err I shall and if my heart is hellbent on sinning guess where I’m heading? A scantily clad woman can elicit a thought and reaction much like those well covered do. The choice lies with the individual and the dark alleys he permits his mind to traverse.

    In the same vain we too as women can ponder our own share of delights about the other sex, though its rarely discussed but perhaps socially accepted for us to blather about such things. At the end of the day we would do the world a big favor if we stopped trying to do the Lord’s job and focused our attention on the task He’s bestowed upon us each.

    I don’t believe for one moment that most of the rhetoric I see spewed on the Internet and by well meaning people outside of this realm is heaven sent. Nor do I find a biblical precedence at all, but there are numerous examples within the Word of ‘law abiding’ folks attempting to show the way to those in need of guidance.

    Thankfully the Holy Spirit is not merely within the world but dwells inside those who believe and His probe runs far deeper and is inevitably more accurate than the ones we attempt to wield towards others. And amazingly so, His is undergirded in love, devoid of condemnation, and smug self-importance that silently delights in the failings of others while fitfully keeping their skeletons under lock and key.

    Modesty much like the other hot button subjects are Satan’s attempts to divide and conquer and it saddens me to admit that He’s doing a darned good job thus far. We don’t need another lesson on hem lines, but a sincere wake up call and some much needed in spiritual warfare.

    December 9, 2012 at 3:01 pm

  21. Liz

    Wow. What heated conversation. I totally agree with a previous comment that is, to me, so obviously true: rape is not about lust, it is about power. Every man who lusts does not rape. No matter if a woman were naked in front of some men, they would not rape her even if they lusted after her in their mind. So, to me, that is a moot point.

    Secondly, I also believe that while we are called to not cause another person to stumble, we are ALL called to take responsibility for our own actions. What causes a man or a woman to stumble is his/her OWN heart and attitude toward God. Yes, in certain circumstances we may feel more tempted, and yes, it does stink to live in a world where sometimes it is hard to escape these temptations. But the bottom line is we are each responsible for our own actions. And, thank the Lord, we can all fall back on God's word "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." 1 Corinthians 10:13

    Thirdly, a confession. I have a hard time not wrapping part of my identity in how I look, in how I think others look at me, in how I look COMPARED to others. While one part of me wants to live for God and dress with the mindset of "I want to honor God with my body, I want to glorify God and bring attention to Him and not myself in everything I do…how can I do that in the way I dress?" another part of me is drawn to have thoughts more like "I want to look cute so that I will be noticed (even if not lustfully). I want to make sure that I can keep up with the next girl who I just know is going to look better than me. How can I dress in a way that will draw the perceived appropriate amount of attention to me?" And what these thoughts reveal to me is that so often, I am more focused on my self than my Savior.

    Girls, honestly, how many times do you look in a mirror in a day? How many times do you look and judge your body for what others will think? For how it falls short of someone else's body (what a slap in the face to our Creator!)? How often do you feel good or bad about yourself in a moment based on what the mirror (or the scale) says? Have you ever felt completely good about yourself and then fallen into pieces when a more beautiful woman walks into the room? How much of your thought life and time is devoted to how you look and how you are being perceived as compared to how much of your time and thought life is devoted to being still in the presence of the One who made you?

    I am not saying it is bad to care about what you wear. I think that I can want to dress cute and look put together and stylish and simultaneously have a heart for God. At the same time, my desire to wear certain clothes and look a certain way can very often have nothing to do with wanting to draw attention to God and everything to do with wanting to (subtly) draw attention to myself.

    I could blame the culture for this. And it IS annoying as crap not be able to stand in a checkout line or turn on the TV with out being bombarded by images that tell me my value is in my looks and that I don't quite look good enough and here's a way to flatten my abs. And it IS frustrating when I see another woman walk by who is dressed provocatively in my opinion (is it frustrating because as a disciple of Christ I want her to know and put her value in Jesus instead? Or because as a selfish human I feel like she is making it hard for me not to want to dress similarly?) . But the bottom line is that I am making a CHOICE to buy into this culture, just like a man is making a CHOICE to go down the path of lustful thinking or to turn his thoughts over to God.

    I don't think God really cares about defining what is modest to the detail of defining a hemline. I KNOW that He cares about me having a heart for Him and a desire to glorify HIM in EVERYTHING I do, including my choice of clothes. I KNOW that He cares about how we treat others, including those that we judge as immodest and make sure that they hear this message (or shoot it at them with our eyes) even if we don't make sure the message of who they are in Christ rings in their ears. If we moved the debate from the hemline to our own hearts, I think we would ALL have a few more planks to take out.

    December 10, 2012 at 12:16 am

  22. Mannie

    This is so true, women are always told not to dress in one way or the other so that they won't attract lustful eyes , rapist and many more which is very understandable at the same time very few take the initiative to address this issues with men. it reminds me of an organization called " slut walk" in Toronto which was created by a fellow college student after her girl friend got raped on her way home from a party and the officer in charge said she shouldn't have been dressed like a slut in the first place instead of sympathizing with the poor girl who had just gotten raped by an unruly man

    December 10, 2012 at 1:28 am

  23. Pingback: modesty, lust – whose fault is it? « makinghealthahabit

  24. Lauren

    You might benefit from reading A Return to Modesty by Wendy Shalit

    December 11, 2012 at 7:08 pm

  25. Lauren (again)

    What about the story of Rebecca and Isaac? When Rebecca sees Isaac and covers herself, it is not because she is trying to be Victorian. Her modesty was the key to what would bring them together and develop a profound intimacy. When we cover up what is external or superficial — what we all share in common — we send a message that what is most important are our singular hearts and minds.

    December 11, 2012 at 7:13 pm

  26. Gypsie

    I was once told by a brother in Christ that the fact that my skirt came up over my knees when I sat down indicated that I struggled with lust and needed to get married as soon as possible.

    I was once told by my boyfriend that it was more difficult for him to keep his mind pure when I wore a specific outfit.

    The first guy was being an idiot, and girls should not feel guilted into choosing certain clothes, feel ashamed of their bodies, or live in fear of causing others to sin. I am grateful, however, to my boyfriend for admitting his weakness, and I don't wear that outfit anymore, but my decision to leave that dress in the closet wasn't made out of fear or shame, but out of love and preference. Modesty (whether in action, word or deed) should be an issue of love and respect for oneself and others, not because we are in fear of causing other people to sin, but because we love them in Christ.

    Rape culture? Against it. Burkas? Eyuck. Bible? Yes, please*:

    December 12, 2012 at 3:27 pm

  27. Gypsie

    Romans 15:1-2 "We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up." 1 Corinthians 8:9-13 "Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall."

    *I make no attempt to interpret or tell anyone what to think of these verses. I personally find them informative, but make no attempt to dictate how you should apply them to the topic at hand.

    December 12, 2012 at 3:28 pm

  28. Ok, "stumbling block" is being taken WAY out of context here. St. Paul's original point was about people who *know* that Action X (eating meat sacrificed to idols) is not sinful, but who are in the presence of so-called "baby Christians" who have not reached a sufficient maturity of faith to understand that Action X is actually *not* sinful, and whose faith might therefore be scandaliazed to see other, more mature Christians, engaging in Action X.

    It is NOT, in any way, a call for some Christians to take personal responsibility for the sins of those who have no self-control.

    If you were hosting a dinner party and had invited a known recovering alcoholic, it might be considered rude or uncaring to serve wine with dinner, but if your recovering-alcoholic-guest chose to partake, it would not be *your fault* – again, it might have been unhelpful for you to do this, but at the end of the day, he made the decision.

    Everyone is called to dress modestly, out of respect for our bodies, and out of respect for our brothers and sisters who might really not want to see what we're showing off (I'm a chick, and deep v's that show off big boobies are just as distracting to me as they are to the guys I know). But we are also called to self-control – if I'm not mistaken, it's actually a Fruit of the Spirit.

    I have a good friend who is a Catholic priest, and he talks about "maintaining custody of his eyes" – basically, he decides what he looks at, and he decides how much he lets what he's looking at sink into his brain. Now, when I'm meeting him for lunch or something, I normally make an attempt to dress even more modestly than usual, because I know that it makes it easier for him to keep the vows he's made. But I don't feel the need to dress frumpy-Amish, because I know that he's committed to taking responsibility for his own actions. In the same vein, when he picks the restaurant, he picks somewhere with close parking, so that it's easier for me and my prosthetic leg to walk to the front door, but he doesn't feel compelled to pick somewhere with valet parking, because he's knows that I'm committed to doing all that I can and not wringing sympathy from the world.

    December 12, 2012 at 11:01 pm

  29. Holly

    Such good points– THANK YOU!!!

    December 18, 2012 at 11:34 am

  30. VERY well said! It's high time men were held accountable for their heart attitudes, lack of respect, and objectification of women.

    March 15, 2013 at 11:23 pm

  31. I’m fascinated along with considering what you really are covering right here.

    April 9, 2013 at 9:08 am

  32. Really?

    Male Modesty? You mean like in hospitals where male have no modesty and privileges unlike females. This articles is a joke and does not represent most of the population, but just a tiny percentage. Idiots are idiots.

    October 17, 2013 at 9:33 pm

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  34. Pingback: 6 Modesty Lessons I Will Teach My Daughter | Love, Sammi

  35. dee

    I was hoping this article was honing in on taking advantage of male privilege in the congregation and society in general. As women, if a man can view us as inferior to men, he can feel free to take advantage of women thinking it is his rightful due. If he can use a scripture to back him up, who is she to argue?
    This attitude causes women to feel ashamed and inferior for being female as if we were created to be less than by god and she should be used to gratify all male desires, regardless of how she feels. She can be made to feel that if she disagrees, then she is not being obedient to god. How can she be happy and fulfilled if she is being viewed and treated as less than a man. It is time to view all people with respect regardless of gender.

    November 14, 2014 at 9:47 am

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