Women Are Scary (and other lessons modesty culture teaches men)

by Jonathan

I am sad.

I live in Southeast Asia, and there’s a “massage parlor” a few blocks down the street. In fact, there are several. “$2.50” is what the sign reads. And then there are the KTVs (“karaoke bars”) with rows of plastic chairs holding property: young women in skimpy cocktail dresses waiting for clients. Several of them within a mile of my house. One’s called Dubai, one’s called Las Vegas, and one’s simply called J. I know the names because they’re on the main streets. They’re not hidden.

I see it everywhere: men trampling women.

And then I get on my computer and read about Ashley Madison and Josh Duggar, and my worlds collide. I grew up under the same teachings as Josh. Same home school group. Same emphasis on modesty and purity and playing the violin.

But my parents weren’t “all in.” I was much more into it than they were, actually. As a young teenager, I was upset because my dad wouldn’t sell his dental practice so we could move into the country to be more holy. I stopped listening to “rock music” and even left a Christian concert once out of my strong conviction. My parents stayed.

My parents still took us to the (agh!) public pool, but when I decided that was too dangerous for me, I recused myself from that den of iniquity.

So yes, I did grow up under the same teachings. Sort of. But because we had friends outside of the movement, and because my parents were very loving and “too compromising,” I was spared much of the devastation.

It’s from this vantage point that I’d like to speak about modesty culture.

I lot of people talk about modesty. A lot of people talk about purity. I never have. But I can’t take it any more; I must talk about it, and so I will. I will talk about the lessons I believe modesty culture teaches men. This is not about Josh Duggar specifically, although the current news cycle certainly has made me think a bit more deeply about this topic.

Also, I have daughters. And sons.
I have a bunch of younger sisters. And brothers.
I have a wife.
That makes this all very, very personal.

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What modesty culture teaches men: Lesson 1 — Women Are Scary

All of them. All the time. Yes, you should “treat them like sisters,” but really, you should be terrified of them. They could “reduce your life to a loaf of bread.” It’s really best to domesticate them. We don’t want any wild and free women roaming the countryside, luring unsuspecting holy men.

Women are powerful, a force to be reckoned with, and if you’re not careful, they will ruin you. That’s why women need to dress modestly, cover their power.

So be cautious. Keep them at a distance, lest you be snared.

The result? Men who are scared to interact with half of the human population. Men who must look at the dirt when a woman walks by instead of looking her in the eye. That cannot be right. These men grow up so scared of women they never develop healthy relationships with any of them; they don’t actually get to know a girl as a co-equal member of the human race.

 

What modesty culture teaches men: Lesson 2 — Men have a responsibility to not look, but women have MORE responsibility to not be looked at.

I grew up learning of the guy’s responsibility to not look, and that’s great, but what I really heard A LOT about was the girl’s responsibility to not be looked at. Practically speaking, this is just really stupid. And it’s offensive, because it’s basically saying that guys can’t help themselves and we need women to save us from our own animalistic urges. “Please, ladies, put this blanket on.”

Seriously, men? Give it up and guard your own heart. Not.Her.Job. You cannot blame your lust on a woman. Ever. Period. If you walk down the street by her house late at night and “fall into temptation,” that’s on you, man. I don’t care what she was wearing or if she came after you buck naked. Man up and run away.

Furthermore, let’s assume for a second that EVERY.CHRISTIAN.WOMAN on the planet agrees to dress modestly (however you define it) in order to help you stay pure, what are you going to do about the rest of them? The ones who don’t know Jesus and don’t care about “protecting your heart”? The ones Jesus still calls you to love and serve?

Modesty culture shifts blame; I’d like to shift it back.

Because I can’t really imagine Jesus saying, “Don’t lust, but if she’s really hot and she’s not wearing much, then I totally get it. And really, if she’s pretty at all and is walking in front of you, it’s not really all your fault. She doesn’t follow me or care about you, but she should know better than to dress like that. I’ll assign her some of your guilt. Carry on.”

 

Women Are People Too

So much of modesty culture dehumanizes women. It reduces their complexity and unique personhood to their sexuality. In an effort to guard sexuality, it actually makes it ALL ABOUT SEXUALITY. In our strong reaction to the “sexualization of our culture,” we’ve done a pretty good job of turning women into sex objects. And our men have lost the ability to have healthy, close relationships with real women.

But women are people too. Image bearers. They have their own voices, their own relationships with the Father, their own hopes and dreams.

And actual prostitutes? Turns out, they’re people too. In fact, as he often does, Jesus comes along and ups the ante by HANGING OUT WITH THEM. Oh my! How could he do that and stay pure? Wasn’t he afraid his disciples would follow his example, hang out with “bad people,” and fall miserably into the abyss of sexual sin? I don’t think so.

In fact, I believe Jesus wasn’t afraid of the “bad people” because he saw their humanity. And he knew that their humanity desperately needed his divinity. To love people is to be with people. And people don’t always follow the rules or dress appropriately.

If we can’t figure out how to deal with that, we’re going to have a heck of a hard time sharing Jesus with folks who don’t know him and act like it.

And that just might be the saddest thing of all.

105 thoughts on “Women Are Scary (and other lessons modesty culture teaches men)

  1. Wow, that was refreshing…
    I am reading a book that sounds a lot like this post- The Culture of Honor by Dany Silk.
    How could He?! Jesus actually hang with “those” guys and actually love them? That he would actually make them whole…
    Yea and that is our same beautiful call. Oh that we would see and pull out the beauty and promise in others.

  2. Hi Jonathan,

    I generally understand what you are saying yet feel that there is something not right about it. I haven’t come from a strong Christian “modesty culture” yet have worked in a country where modesty was externally imposed to the extreme. However for biblical reasons i question some of the assumptions behind what you have written. I don’t you and only read this blog page because a friend shared it on her fb page. What are your thoughts on my ideas below?

    This was my reply to her:

    “I think there is something really wrong with this:

    1) being tempted isn’t wrong, tempting others is. When she says “fall into temptation,” that’s on you, man. I don’t care what she was wearing or if she came after you buck naked. Man up and run away.” If I came at her naked, would she seek to have me locked up? probably. So why the presumption that it’s ok for a woman to walk around naked and it’s all the guy’s fault? I think if Jesus met a naked woman tempting him he would would exercised any demons, given her some cloth and sat with her as he did with the woman at the well.

    2) I don’t want women to dress modestly only for my sake. Yes i am responsible for my lust. But there is more at stake here, and for a Christian woman, it’s the gospel. Unless you have been born into a society where nudity is the norm and there is no adultery, of any sort, because it take two to tango as they say why does she want to dress provocatively? Unless it’s for her husband there is an issue of lust, acceptability or image identity within her that she seems to be unaware of or ignoring.

    3) And here’s some practical advice girls.. I’ll never forget the girl wow wore a mini skit to church and sat in the row in front of me. When she stood to sing her skirt got stuck to her wooden jumper exposing everything. I don’t lust for her as a result, but it distracted me from worship. Men and women need to consider how they affect their worship of God for themselves and others. Inside and outside the church building. Paul writes to Timothy saying he should encourage women to be modest (I think now he would also write to the men).

    4) It’s not just a cultural thing, it’s not just because of the sexualisation of society. It’s because men’s and women’s hearts will lead them away from God (that is our natural tendency) unless we look out for one another. Women are not scary and yes i hope i have the courage to run just as Joseph did from Potiphar’s Wife, and we know who got the blame for that one!

    • Hi Craig

      You are making a ton of assumptions here, and several logical leaps that aren’t necessarily … logical, in my mind.

      Addressing your bullet point 1.
      You say, “being tempted isn’t wrong, tempting others is”. Here you assume that when a woman wears what you would deem ‘immodest’ clothes, then she is purposefully tempting the men around her. That’s a huge assumption to make on your part, and a super unfair one at that. Most women don’t dress for men. They choose their clothes because they like the style, like the colors, like the comfort level, like how easy it is to nurse in them, like how easy it is to move in them, like how it makes them feel … basically they choose the clothes they wear because *they* like them. Believe it or not, the world does not revolve around men, and women don’t make all their choices based on how they interact with men. They make their choices for, well, themselves. As they should.

      Your point in bullet 1 that “If I came at her naked, would she seek to have me locked up? probably. So why the presumption that it’s ok for a woman to walk around naked and it’s all the guy’s fault? ” is logically unsound. The author was using what we call ‘hyperbole’ to make his point – obviously if any of us came across anyone of either sex, running at us naked, the best thing to do would be to call the police. What the author is saying is that even if a woman openly proposed sex to a man, the godly response would be to say no and leave the situation immediately (as Joseph did with Potifar’s wife, to use your example)

      Addressing your bullet point 2:
      You said, “Yes i am responsible for my lust. But there is more at stake here, and for a Christian woman, it’s the gospel. ” You’re saying here that a woman’s ability to share the gospel, even live a godly life, is directly tied to what she wears on her body. I can’t even. First of all, who sets the standard so a Christian woman will know if she’s correctly presenting the gospel to the world? Only skirts? Or knee length pants? Or jeans? Or tank tops? Or turtle knecks? … see what I”m saying? What a woman wears is *completely* arbitrary based on the man setting the standards. What if she is covered from kneck to knees, but the man she’s witnessing to has a thing for a shapely calf and ankle? What if she’s got a modest t-shirt on but the man has a thing for collarbones? Is she to somehow discern what each man’s specific ‘type’ is and dress so as not to evoke that? As you can see, that is simply ridiculous. And it also puts the ball once again squarely into the woman’s court instead of giving the man the responsibility to just not go there in his mind.

      The other assumption you make is that Christian women might cause other men to stumble, but men never cause women to stumble based on what they wear. I have a thing for men in suits. Every time a well dressed man in a sharp suit walks by, I have to keep my heart in check. Same thing goes for when I’m driving down a road and see a built man out for a jog with no shirt on (we live in the desert, this happens a lot). Going without your shirt is SO immodest. Should he be required to wear more clothes so that I don’t stumble? Or is it only the men who have the presumed sex drive and who are visually aroused? (since you’re not a woman, let me answer that for you: women have sex drives, and women are turned on by what they see)

      Addressing your point 3:
      I feel so bad for the woman who had a wardrobe malfunction in church. It’s almost as embarassing as walking out of the bathroom with toilet paper hanging out of your pants, or a pee spot on the front of your trousers because you dribbled. Hopefully someone helped the poor thing out instead of judging her?? (being as you were in church and all, a place where we are supposed to treat each other with grace and love)

      Addressing your point 4:
      It absolutely is a cultural thing. I don’t know your story, but allow me to share a bit of mine – I grew up on a Polynesian island in a culture where the women were bare chested. LIterally every woman on the island, from young teen to old grandmother, let their breasts be freely out. And it was no big deal. At first I was shocked, seeing them from American eyes, but very quickly (in a week or so) breasts were just another appendage to me. But they *did* consider a woman’s thighs to be taboo. I got chastized on the way to church one day because I had tied my wraparound skirt above my knees.

      LIterally every culture in the world has its own ideas of modest dress, as defined by the culture’s anthropology, the climate, and the history of the region. In Japan, the nape of a woman’s neck is considered an erotic zone. In Victorian England, a woman’s ankles were taboo. In remote tribes in the Amazon, women wear a simple string tied around their waists and nothing else.

      ………………

      One more thing. I would highly recommend you do a study on the word ‘modesty’ in the New Testament. When Paul uses it in his epistles to describe godly women, it’s actually the same word he uses to describe godly men … only the translators translate the word differently, using ‘temperate’ instead of ‘modest’. The word actually describes a state of heart, not outward dress. A state of heart that is humble, submitted to God, does not seek attention for itself, and is temperate.

      Because man looks at outward appearance. But our good, gracious, loving and personhood elevating Lord looks at the heart.

      • Thanks for your response Danica but i really don’t think you read my points at all,

        1) I wasn’t assuming all women dress to tempt. Just making the point that some do and they don’t hide the fact. This is well known and as i said else where there are other motivations for the way one dresses. Women can where whatever they want, it doesn’t mean that it’s appropriate for the situation or occasion. Of course the world doesn’t revolve around man nor woman but God – and thesis where your argument never discusses. A woman (as does a man) needs to check her heart when they buys close – it’s not about what we want.

        Firstly it is logical to put the shoe on the other foot so to speak and test the result. Obviously you regard one gender’s response should be different? and I was using hyperbole too – you missed the point; Potifer’s wife’s heart was also involved as was Josephs – as you say; it’s not just about the man, your article seemed to me to imply so.

        2) I’m saying the gospel within a woman’s own heart – her own relationship with God. Ask your self – why do teenage girls want to wear bikinis as soon as they start growing up? Yes, they want to look good and it may not be for a man, but they do want to say “hay look at me, i’m growing up” and our culture uses that and sexualises it. You keep talking about the woman wearing modest clothes and having problems – this wasn’t discussed in your article and as I said yes, it depends on the culture you are in what is modest. Of anything could a distraction to anyone – there are two extremes one rugged up like an Inuit, all padded out with furs and the other a bikini. What is appropriate depends on many cultural and environmental factors but also the heart of the men and the women and the bible suggests we dress out of love for one another not vanity.

        “The other assumption you make is that Christian women might cause other men to stumble, but men never cause women to stumble based on what they wear.”

        I never made this assumption. In fact it’s so far off from what i was saying!

        ” Or is it only the men who have the presumed sex drive and who are visually aroused? (since you’re not a woman, let me answer that for you: women have sex drives, and women are turned on by what they see)”

        Come on! Really! Clearly you haven’t read my points – all along i’m saying both have a responsibility to one another, it’s not all about the man and yes he should be considerate of how he dresses though this will look different in different situations, church, gym, walk in the park, beach etc. Do women have sex drives? Of corse they do and that’s why I’m careful about what i wear.

        Addressing your point 3:
        I feel so bad for the woman who had a wardrobe malfunction in church. It’s almost as embarassing as walking out of the bathroom with toilet paper hanging out of your pants, or a pee spot on the front of your trousers because you dribbled. Hopefully someone helped the poor thing out instead of judging her?? (being as you were in church and all, a place where we are supposed to treat each other with grace and love)

        I wasn’t judging her and yes we helped her out – but it wasn’t a wardrobe malfunction, it was her choice of attire. A mini woollen skirt that sits about 5cm below the belt is bound to stick to a woollen jumper when you sit down and the stand up – especially with static – i know this I used to wear a tartan kilt and I had to be careful – very careful.

        “It absolutely is a cultural thing.”

        4) I was asked this question last week; my answer is the same great in Polynesia, not great in Australia, the Middle East and the majority of the world. However in Papua New Guiana where the traditional culture does the same and they have a lot of issues with men in their own society for the safety of the women they often choose to cover up – it’s unfortunate that sin has corrupted man in such a degree and what vanity and modesty looks like is different in different societies as you found out, however as I have already said it’s about the heart of a man AND woman. Thus it is not only a cultural this and Paul is addressing the inappropriate culture within the church. Now we can discuss what is and isn’t appropriate in any given cultural context but there is still a biblical principle that is not tied to worldly culture but God’s character, the gospel and charter to be his image bearers.

        “LIterally every culture in the world has its own ideas of modest dress, as defined by the culture’s anthropology, the climate, and the history of the region. In Japan, the nape of a woman’s neck is considered an erotic zone. In Victorian England, a woman’s ankles were taboo. In remote tribes in the Amazon, women wear a simple string tied around their waists and nothing else.”

        So please don’t patronise me – I’ve lived and worked overseas in cross cultural work and travelled to more countries than most people, plus I study and teach geography, culture, history etc. Please read what I say. “Because man looks at outward appearance. But our good, gracious, loving and personhood elevating Lord looks at the heart.” – and women need to look at their own heart as well and protect it when they choose their clothes, even if it’s “just to look nice for themselves”.

      • Craig, you need to stop talking about this as though it’s an equal requirement. There’s a really big problem here that you’re leaving out: rape, rape culture, assault, and victim blaming.

        That’s also why there’s no comparison between a naked man approaching a woman on a deserted street after dark and a naked woman approaching a man in the same way. The reason that woman would probably call the police isn’t because she felt tempted by the sight of a naked man – it’s because she would have a very reasonable fear of sexual assault. You’re conflating a blunt proposition with sexual aggression, and that’s unfair. And although you may be careful of what you wear, you aren’t taught to blame yourself for harassment or assault – and you don’t pay any social penalty for being dowdy. (There is no such thing as ‘dowdy,’ for men, is there?)

        There’s also a big difference in cultural meaning between exposing your knees and exposing your genitalia – and so there’s no slippery slope between wearing a bikini and flashing someone.

        We have a responsibility to overcome the temptation myth not only because it forces women into a futile attempt to control men’s behavior, but because making women responsible for the way men treat them gets men off the hook for much worse than impure thoughts.

        In the examples you share, the problem isn’t that women show their legs or otherwise invoke the dread spectre of sex. The problem is that many men are incapable of associating women with sexuality without seeing those women as lesser beings. These men are not overtaken by lust. They just don’t offer much camaraderie, friendship, respect or attention in the first place. If they were used to respecting and including women, such that their contributions were valued and their presence unremarkable, a pair of fishnets wouldn’t transform a woman into a harlot. A woman whose skirt was riding up would just be a woman with bare legs. A woman who happened to be attractive wouldn’t destroy the professional or platonic or sacred atmosphere of any given venue by momentarily causing a man to contemplate sex.

        It’s the basic assumption that a woman is by default a beacon of sex, and not simply a person, that compels this toxic need to control women’s bodies and in turn force women to treat their own flesh as a liability.

      • Craig it seems that Danica did read your points, but that you are insisting on moving the goalposts in your discussion with her.

        “I wasn’t assuming all women dress to tempt. Just making the point that some do and they don’t hide the fact.” The same is true of men. You’re telling me that some men don’t choose their jeans based on how well they fit their rear end? Or their shirts based on where they fall on their bicepts? Throughout both of your comments you are holding a double standard of women being sirens who dress to call attention to themselves while ignoring the fact that men do the *exact same thing*.

        On bikinis: my wife has a long waist due to her Scandanavia heritage. My daughter inherited this long waist. She (my daughter) is also super thin. This combination makes it almost impossible to find one piece bathing suits that are comfortable for her. If they fit her around her waist and chest, they are too short on her trunk. If they fit her lenght wise, they are way too roomy width wise. She is 8, by the way. Our solution is to get bikinis for her. Now she can be comfortable swimming and playing in the water without a perpetual wedgie of swimsuit fabric. My wife chooses to wear bikinis for the same reason. If any man is sexually turned on by my 8 year old wearing a two piece swim suit, then he should absolutely go seek psychiatric help, because being aroused by children is not ok. No matter what they are wearing.

        You said, “all along i’m saying both have a responsibility to one another,” and yet, I have seen you repeatedly focus on women, what women wear, and how women should help men not to stumble. At least be honest about it.

        “A mini woollen skirt that sits about 5cm below the belt is bound to stick to a woollen jumper when you sit down and the stand up” Again, please be honest in what you’re saying. It is impossible for a woman to wear any skirt that is 5 cm in length from belt to hem. You’re discrediting yourself when you exagerate like this.

        ” However in Papua New Guiana where the traditional culture does the same and they have a lot of issues with men in their own society for the safety of the women they often choose to cover up – it’s unfortunate that sin has corrupted man in such a degree ” Nope again. I was in PNG growing up. Women there and elsewhere across the Pacific started wearing shirts and ‘covering up’ ONLY when Western culture was introduced into their societies. It’s not sin who have corrupted the Islanders, it’s Westerners. Such is the repeated story across developing countries, and it has repeated itself since Europeans first got the idea to board their ships and explore the world’s oceans.

        “So please don’t patronise me – I’ve lived and worked overseas in cross cultural work and travelled to more countries than most people, plus I study and teach geography, culture, history etc.” First off I didn’t read her as patronizing. But whatever. Secondly, I feel sorry for whoever you did your ‘cross cultural work’ with, because from the way you are talking here, you have a narrow, patriarchal view of the world. Hopefully you don’t teach your students the same.

      • I agree with a lot of Jonathan’s article, but my concern with Danica’s viewpoint is that it seems to jump to the conclusion that women should take no responsibility for what they wear.

        “Most women don’t dress for men. They choose their clothes because they like the style, like the colors, like the comfort level, like how easy it is to nurse in them, like how easy it is to move in them, like how it makes them feel … basically they choose the clothes they wear because *they* like them. Believe it or not, the world does not revolve around men, and women don’t make all their choices based on how they interact with men. They make their choices for, well, themselves. As they should.”

        No on two points. A particular temptation for me as a woman is a desire to dress in ways that are a little revealing when I’m around men to whom I want to appear attractive. I think the common “most women don’t dress for men” argument ignores those who deal with this temptation, and I have a hard time believing I’m the only girl who struggles with it.

        Also, Christian women AND men shouldn’t make choices “for themselves.” They should make their choices based on what honors God. Giving up what we want or what might be most comfortable or convenient for us is difficult, but something God calls us to.

        I’m not a Bible scholar at all but I think Romans 14 addresses this issue. Verses 20-21 read: “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.” This passage also calls us not to judge others for their beliefs that, for example, one day is more holy than another, or eating something is a sin while others feel that it is not a sin. So in this case, oftentimes both men and women can do things that might bring someone else to stumble. This passage does not blame the person who is doing the thing in question, but it makes it clear that it is our responsibility to love our brothers and sisters enough to not do that thing around them anymore. And it’s different for everyone–so you can’t have a blanket statement for something like modesty, like “Wearing a one piece swimsuit is modest but wearing a bikini isn’t.” But I’ve had candid conversations with Christian guy friends about areas where they might be more likely to slip up when it comes to lust. Those are areas that now, because I love them in Christ, I have a God-given responsibility to help them in the way I dress. And there are areas that are a struggle for me that, if I bring it up to them, they have a responsibility to help me. So I think these directions are meant to take place on a personal level within a community of love and accountability, without judgement on either side.

        Since the church body is a community as well, and because God calls us to, as you said, present ourselves in humility and a way that brings attention not to us but to God, even women who don’t dress for men have to be aware of how their outfits might, in general, be a distraction or stumbling block. Not doing so would be irresponsibility. This doesn’t mean accounting for every random guy’s standards, but having a modest, temperate heart which I believe leads to a desire for modest and temperate dress. Men shouldn’t tell women what to wear; I think that according to the Bible women in the church should desire to dress modestly, not drawing undue attention to themselves whether or not that was their intent, out of love for their brothers. Obviously there are ways that men can cause women to stumble as well and it is their responsibility to be careful of those behaviors. Caring for our family in Christ goes both ways. The reason I addressed women’s modesty of dress so much is because it is a big issue today, just like at the time Romans was written the issues were about if one day was more holy than another and so on.

    • Thanks for comment, Craig. Here’s what I posted to the discussion on Facebook. I hope it helps clarify what I was saying. Also, it looks like several others have added their thoughts in reply to your comment. Have a great day, man!
      ———
      [from FB] I’d just like to share a few additional thoughts: First, a man blaming a woman for the man’s sin is classic. When we do it, we’re following an age-old tradition; it didn’t work for Adam, it won’t work for us. (See Genesis 3) Also, saying that Adam sinned is NOT the same thing as saying Eve didn’t. Adam couldn’t pawn off any of his responsibility on Eve, but we’re still trying. // Second, Jesus was pretty clear about lust (Matthew 5), and his solution was NOT to change the other person’s wardrobe. // And if, as suggested, we tell women what to wear because it’s distracting us in worship, then we’re also going to have to get rid of all the babies, because they really distract me. And the person with the cough. And the guitarist, and fill-in-the-blank. Sure, have the discussion about distractions in worship, but realize that that conversation Has.No.End.

      • Thanks for replying Jonathan, People have read into what i have said in ways i haven’t and that’s a pity. It has gone to areas where I believe neither you nor I wanted to go and I thought that my comment between you and I would have been private before being released as I was asking for clarification from you. Having said that I happy to stand by what I believe but not the assumptions that others have placed on me.

        (I’ll paste the below comment to fb as well just for clarification.)

        So I’ll summaries what i believe, think and feel and leave it at that. I wish I had the time to put verses to each point, and perhaps i will later for my own assurance. Therefore I will accept correction but not respond at this time.
        *Our doctrine and attitudes towards one another should be based on the whole of scripture not just one or two verses and take into account the author’s intention – thus insisting that all women wear veils is wrong just as insisting that women have no part or responsibility within the church community is wrong
        *Both men and women are given the same mission by God – to be holy and a light for others.
        * Thus Women and men were created to bear the image and gospel of God.
        *Jesus graciously teaches us to love and accept one another, our faults and failings. He encourages us to build each other up in unity and not be divisive (over such this as a stick dress code). Yet he expects us to display a sense of modesty and humility, not just in our heart but in the way we act, dress and behave.
        *Our bodies are not our own, they are Christ’s, we should be mindful of that above our own will.
        * Our worldly society has corrupted that image and we in the church corrupt that image.
        * God looks at our hearts and our hearts express who we are.
        * The world seeks to define what we are in ways that are unholy. This unholy culture is often dragged into the church. We are called to fight unholiness and anything that distracts/tempts us.
        * Each man and woman is responsible for their own sin. Adam was responsible for his sin, just as Eve was responsible for hers
        *We are called into a body of unified believers not individuals congregating together
        * No-one has the right to impose an outward set of standards of morality/immorality yet God insists on a holy standard of the heart which will be reflected in our outward manor (including dress) as dress helps us define our identity. (Perhaps it shouldn’t but it does)esus graciously teaches us to love and accept one another, our faults and failings. He encourages us to build each other up in unity and not be divisive (over such this as a stick dress code). Yet he expects us to display a sense of modesty and humility, not just in our heart but in the way we act, dress and behave.

        Also:

        *A society that encourages lust needs the gospel, as much as the individuals (here i’m thinking of community) God did not create us to be so individualistic as we are in the west.
        *I detest my own sin and the sinful culture i see exhibited in the world and some church communities, be it “legalistic” or “liberal freedom” God gives us grace and we should be graceful. God gives us the law and we should delight in it.
        * Our society has historically been dominated by men, this is being challenged,

        My Hope is that:
        Our Christian community is dominated by Christ, not gender.
        I love my sisters as Christ loves them
        My sisters love me as Christ loves me
        Our churches are places of refuge for sinners
        Our churches are places of transformation of individuals and community into holy image bearers of God.

      • Craig you lament the fact that people have unfairly misread your words. That people have misjudged your intentions. I know this feeling. I known it well, since it’s what I feel every time I get into a conversation with a man about modesty. Them assuming, as you did, that a woman dresses on purpose to tempt men, is unfair.

        Please don’t do that anymore. You know how it feels to be falsely accused of malicious intentions. Please don’t do do the same to your sisters in Christ.

      • “assuming, as you did, that a woman dresses on purpose to tempt men, is unfair”. Some do Danica to think otherwise is ignorance. To think all do is a mistake. I don’t assume every woman does and I certainly don’t treat them the way you suggest even if they are. Again Danica you have replied to my comments without reading them. Nor have you addressed a single point i raised. Perhaps our cultural experiences are too far apart to discuss the issue further, but I do hope you will review what I have said and search the scriptures for faithful and God honouring male/female community. Men need to listen to women, and women also need to listen to men.

      • So we are supposed to make sure we don’t misinterpret your intentions but you are unwilling to do the same for us. Got it.

        I have read through all your points. Very carefully. I even responded point by point. It seems to me you are not interested in respectful dialogue with myself or anyone else here, but only in garnering unmitigated agreement with your personal opinions. (Oops there I go assigning intent to you again)

        Fwiw, I have read the scriptures, very carefully, in both English, Greek and also Hebrew. As a woman, believe it or not it’s actually quite important to me what the bible has to say about how people of my gender should act and operate within the church.

        It would behoove you greatly to try to adopt a listening stance in matters where you hold more privilege, and pay attention to what those in the marginalized groups are saying. To lay down that privilege and carve space for voices of those who don’t have the privilege you do. It’s what the Son of Man did (he came not to be served but to serve amd laid down his life), and it’s what the Apostle Paul did (giving unprecedented space and agency to previously silenced marginalized groups, including women, slaves and children).

        Don’t presume to know what’s happening in a woman’s mind. Especially ESPECIALLY when you object to others presuming to know what’s in yours.

    • I’m assuming that you’re talking about the more extreme end of modesty culture (e.g. Duggar-like standards), as opposed to more mainstream standards (e.g. Shorts and bathing suits acceptable, but private areas are not), correct?

    • Very good points. I didn’t really like this blog post either. But then again, I try to dress modestly (meaning I don’t wear revealing clothing to any part of my body I don’t want touched by another person). I guess the people that really like this are the ones that are trying to push the envelope. Read the Bible. Pray about it. Seek God’s approval and not man’s. We should wear what’s pleasing to God, not just something that is “okay” or “not bad”. I’m sure I’ll have somebody try to press their reasoning on me.

    • Craig, I think your posts were very clear and respectful, painstakingly so. I also agree about people trying their best to be respectful in dress. This doesn’t mean something as painfully obvious as letting your cheeks hang out and then wailing about how other people look at them too much, nor is is useful or helpful to split hairs trying to demand what-if situations like men being drawn to collarbones. I agree with you and Christine’s excellent questions.

      “You’re saying here that a woman’s ability to share the gospel, even live a godly life, is directly tied to what she wears on her body.”

      A person’s ability to receive the gospel could certainly be hindered by how the other person presents themselves, in dress or otherwise. That’s very logical.

      “The problem is that many men are incapable of associating women with sexuality without seeing those women as lesser beings.”

      That’s very true, we have an exploitative culture and part of the reason women want to be more modest is to avoid being thought of at just skin.

      “It’s not sin who have corrupted the Islanders, it’s Westerners”

      Mixed feelings, but I find that a simplistic summation. The Islanders doubtless saw women’s breasts as sexual before they felt the need to cover them for Westerners, just as Westerners see breasts as sexual without being shocked by the sight of them in tank tops or bikinis.

      “I feel sorry for whoever you did your ‘cross cultural work’ with, because from the way you are talking here, you have a narrow, patriarchal view of the world. Hopefully you don’t teach your students the same”

      And that’s the ugliest and most spiteful thing said yet. Patriarchal my foot, and why, because skimpy clothing isn’t beneficial to women and men actually notice it? Craig didn’t appreciate people assuming he blamed women for every thought that crosses men’s minds or that he would prefer we wear heavy dresses to avoid this, then bc of saying so he’s accused of making assumptions of every single woman’s motives? Making assumptions about someone’s meaning isn’t helpful, or dismissing their objections by declaring how learned you are. His last few points covered matters very well, esp the one saying men and women need to listen to each other.

  3. As a woman who has sat through her share of ‘modesty’ semons, devotionals and Sunday school lessons, let me tell you – it is a hopeless, sinking, and dehumanizing feeling to have that weight put on you by men and women in authority. And when they say, “Because God”, you can’t argue, because if you do, you’ll both look like a total heathen, and also in the back of your mind you feel dirty knowing that the man talking to you, and the other men in the room, are thinking that in arguing against ‘modest’ dress (in arguing for your own agency) you are essentially telling them you want them to look at your body that way … thus objectifying your own self. Come to think of it, it’s a pretty effective gaslighing technique.

    Purity culture (combined with the highly segregated Island culture I grew up in as an MK) made me unable to speak to people of the opposite gender. It wasn’t until I began hanging out in non-Evangelical, non-fundamentalist circles online, that I began experiencing for the first time what it was like to have men outside my immediate family circle treat me with platonic equality. It was like for the first time in my life, my boobs and lady bits were an inconsequential nonissue. It was in these circles that I first made actual friends with guys, without any sort of weird sexual undertones, and it was incredibly freeing. When I started transferring this way of interacting with men into my 3D world, I think it made a lof of the church guys I ineracted with uncomfortable at first. They weren’t used to it either. But I refused to go back to the strange, strained interaction with them just because we both happened to have different genetalia and were both married, and guess what – they got over it and I got over it and now interact as if there is ‘neither male nor female’.

    • Danica, thank you so much for all your comments here. I share a number of your experiences, and get so tired of the “I’m not trying to control you myself, but I’m trying to control you because God” arguments. The very idea that dressing for our own comfort, ability to nurse, to perform our tasks, to feel pretty, is wrong because it is dressing for ourselves rather than dressing for God is so silly. I have yet to meet a practicing Christian woman who dresses provocatively with the express intention of making life harder for the men around her. Dressing to be attractive is a whole ‘nother thing. Every time I read about modesty culture, I hear that song You’re So Vain in my head—I bet you think this outfit is about you 😉

  4. I disagree with your statement “they don’t actually get to know a girl as a co-equal member of the human race.” What I see is that the young men DO get to know girls as co-equal members of the human race. What they are less likely to do is to see a girl as a piece of meat…and girls get to see themselves as something more than meat as well. (As a mother and wife and midwife it is personal to me, as well. )

    • Judging a woman’s heart based on what she *does* wear (how modest she is) is the same as judging her based on what she doesn’t wear. Both viewpoints assume the woman’s value is in what’s between her legs (if shes ‘pure’ or not. As if she had sex, then she is not pure. If she wears ‘immodest’ clothing, then she is not pure. etc. Instead of looking at her heart as Christ taught) They are actually to sides of the same coin, imo.

    • Well-said, Leanne. The assumption seems to be that if we’d like women to dress modestly, we’re automatically demanding she try to police men’s thoughts. But I guess that’s the result of the ugly, extremist “purity” cultures that have hounded women into almost mindless guidelines.

  5. Thank you for speaking out on this Jonathan, and for saying it so well. In addition to addressing the ‘scary women’ issue, you also bring up an interesting parenting issue in the conservative community … your parents dared to “pick and choose” what to follow in an environment where so many find comfort in conformity, behavioral litmus tests and the certainty of black/white thinking.Nevertheless, you absorbed a whole lot of the negative that they did not ascribe to.

    • I had this thought as well 🙂 It takes a brave parent to let go control of their children and teach them to listen to their own inner voices instead of giving them a set of rules to follow. I know a few parents like that. They are good ones.

      • Craig they taught their kids to listen to the God-given discernment and intuition that was placed in them at birth. They were taught that the Holy Spirit will speak directly to their hearts, and to hear that still, small voice over all else. They were taught that they should substitute no person, even their own parents, for God’s voice in their lives.

      • I hope they learn to listen to themselves, so they won’t be a sucker for someone who tells them they hear from God.

    • That’s so true, Pam. Often, cults impact the children/teens way more than the parents. The parents have more perspective, more experience balancing views. Thanks for joining the conversation!

  6. Rules make us feel safe, and rules made for other people make us feel safer. Especially when we’re the ones imposing the rules on them.

    Thanks for this post. I hope you continue to try to make the shift. It’s important to both men and women.

  7. Very good and well written…yet still doesn’t give us an excuse to dress immodestly.

    Dressing differently from men isn’t necessarily wrong either. As women we should embrace who we are and dress like women – just as men should DRESS A
    as men.

    Though the emphasis is mostly put on women’s dress I believe that we need a whole new worldview on dress for both men and women.

    So, yes, men should control their own lusts and not force women to dress one way, women should be civilized enough to continue or start dressing in a good way.

    • The problem, again, is who decides what is “a good way.” How I dress is between God and I. It is influenced by the various cultures I am a part of and my own preferences.

    • I like this worldview: “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:14) It’s a bit harder to nail down, but it does work across cultures. : ) Thanks for the comment, Keturah!

    • That should be a general truth. It’s not really that difficult; many have different ideas of what is “right”, but it’s not hard to avoid dress that’s generally considered a universal distraction, like showing private regions.

  8. What is “modesty culture”? I just find that a fuzzy term….is it broad enough to encompass everyone who discusses modesty or thinks there is some value to it?

  9. One problem I have with this post is that it appears to demonize modesty. I hear it say that women shouldn’t be modest because they’ll never have a healthy and happy marriage unless all women dress immodestly (less modestly). Modesty does not cause these actions in men and women, improper and unbiblical thoughts and teachings do. Men and women should be taught that both sexes are equal in God’s sight and that sex is a natural and wonderful interaction between the sexes within the limits of marriage. To say that modest attire is a cause of unhappy marriages is incorrect. Modesty and moderation are scriptural policies in both men and women, but so are prayerfulness, thankfulness and holiness (purity). Men and women are responsible for their own thoughts, desires and actions. Being immodest will not send a person to Hell anymore than being modest will guarantee Heaven. To Christians, everything is lawful, but not everything is expedient to the cause of Christ. To have our priorities straight, the question we must ask ourselves is “Will my attire and my actions help or hurt the cause of Christ?” “Will my dressing in a way that my parents don’t approve of, help or hurt?”. “Will my public criticizing, help or hurt?”. Publicly criticizing another’s attire would probably hurt. Knowingly being immodest around others to make a point would probably hurt as well. Also, children should not be permitted to be controlled by their inner voice until their inner voice has a good grounding in a set of rules. If not, they will grow to be spoiled, selfish and unempathetic (sp?).

    • I am absolutely baffled how you read this and came up with “demonizes modesty.” What is demonizes is modesty culture, which is a very specific set of teachings and attitudes.

      • Faith, you may be easily baffled if you can’t see where someone could come away feeling that this article puts modesty in a negative light. Demonizes may have been the incorrect word and modesty culture may have a different meaning to you than it does to me. If you are talking about a specific dress code, I will not argue because I do not know the specifics. If this is the case, perhaps modesty culture should have been capitalized. If modesty culture becomes legalistic, then it is wrong. I do not know your spiritual beliefs (if any), but I would like to make several statements from a Christian point of view. Modesty and moderation are biblical principles for both men and women. One antonym of modesty is pride, and one can become proud of their modesty or immodesty. Stumbling is wrong but knowingly causing a brother or sister to stumble is wrong as well. Jonathan, just because Matthew 5 doesn’t talk about a change of wardrobe, doesn’t mean it is not important. Jesus talks about strange women using their appearance and clothing to entice the young men. Jesus asked the adulteress “Where are your accusers? Neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more.”. Now, I will mention a few biblical statements that you may agree with. Christians should care more about one’s spiritual condition than one’s outward appearance or actions. Certain dress codes may go beyond biblical requirements but should not contradict biblical principles. Christians should dress to please God first, others second and theirselves last. When I say others, I do not mean just anybody, I mean parents or spouse. In conclusion, there are so many more negative influences that have greater effects on man’s sinfulness than modesty culture.

      • I must be “easily baffled.” Well, aren’t you kind.
        Modesty culture, which is what is being discussed here, refers to something specific. If you do not know what it is, perhaps you should do a little research before joining the discussion about it.

  10. Jim, I guess you and I were the only ones who saw the overtones of “demonizing modesty”. Yes, there were some great points given, and I actually found some of the comments even more helpful. And although Craig has also been “demonized” I think he has mostly been misunderstood, actually has the best theology, and shares a little blame in how he simply wrote his comments.

    Here are some of the things I see flying around here that are very troubling:

    1) There is a dangerous rejection of Authority found against parents, but also against the Church (see elders), government, and of course God. Has some of this authority been abused in the past? Yes. But just because a dutiful position has been abused by some doesn’t negate the need for the position nor the God given authority it holds.

    2) There is a dangerous focus on the “inner voice”, “inner light”, “inside anything” etc. over the external revelation and authority found in God and what He has delegated to the elders in your local church and parents. There is a good reason why Scripture never teaches us to listen to our “inner voice”, nor speaks of God speaking to everyone in a “still small voice” inside of them (the actual verse is talking about an actual external voice not something inside anyone’s head). – If you want to talk more theology with me about what voices we should be hearing and where they come from, we can talk more but the simple answer is: the Bible and its being publicly preached -. Simply we are not taught to submit to our inner voice or even conscience, but to submit to God as revealed in His Word, and take every thought captive to the Word (doesn’t sound like our thoughts – inner voice – holds much authority after all if it is to be captive to Scripture).

    Our hearts are desperately wicked, our inner voice corrupt (the idea of listening to your inner voice is very eastern and very popular in our culture and is not Biblical), and thus God gives us an external word (note that the Bible – God’s authoritative Word – is external to us, and God commissioned preaching, again external). Children need their parents to tell them what to do and how to think, and parents need (or adults who are childless) their elders to rightly teach them the Scriptures, which teach us how to think and act.

    3) There has been no discussion on why we even need clothes, the short answer is: because of the fall and as a consequence of sin.

    4) Any discussion on Modesty needs to start universally with the key truths and not start in just one culture’s expression. Let us not pit concepts against each other. Modesty isn’t all about the dress, not one sided on the gender, isn’t just about the heart, and not tied to one culture.

    5) In our effort to free women from much of the abuse and shame they have been wrongly given, let us not swing too far in the other direction. Look women and men are equal in value in God’s sight, but they have been given different roles and jobs to do, and God holds them responsible for different things. Women and men are not equal in everything, not in strength (most men are physically stronger), callings (no man can be a mother, God came as a man not a woman), spiritual authority (women aren’t to be the head of the church, men are to be the spiritual head of the house, and God holds man responsible for sin, although the woman sinned first). Look I didn’t make this stuff up it is all clearly taught in Scripture, and if you are a Christian, and the Bible is the infallible Word of God, you need to submit to what it clearly teaches.

    Clearly men and women have different experiences as humans and have different bodies with different chemicals flowing through them. While it is true women can be turned on visually, they normally respond better to loving touch and kinds words. While men do like kind words, they usually respond better to visual stimulation. Men having stronger physical strength and different amount of “sex” hormones, and tend to act out in more aggressive sexuality then women. While both may be “turned on” visually by the opposite sex, we must be careful to notice the equivocation in the word, “turned on”, for it means different things for both sexes. When a man is “turned on” to his full potential and a women is “turned on” to her full potential, the usual relationship is the man is ready to “give” and the woman ready to “receive” sexually. This usually makes the man the “aggressor” and the woman the “recipient” which is why (ignoring the domination aspect of rape) that most women who have sex while teens (who didn’t want to) were not necessarily raped because of a dominating man who only wanted to “submit” the woman, but because of a overly turned on youngman hyped up on hormones and had not the life experience of discipline to control himself.

    Of course both men and women are responsible for their actions, and if a naked member of the opposite sex tried to entice them, they are both responsible to run away, but let us not fool each other into thinking that the enticement is equal for both sexes, for the man surely will have the harder go at leaving a naked luring woman than a woman the man (physical contact not considered).

    6) Holding men responsible for their actions, and women responsible for their behavior (as in their dressing) isn’t unbiblical, and just because someone has either received bad teaching in this regard, or felt guilty for their role in this, doesn’t negate what Scripture teaches on the subject. Scripture doesn’t equally tell men and women to watch how they dress, but more often focuses on the woman, and doesn’t equally tell women and men to watch the sexual lust in their heart, but more focuses on the men, and for good reason.

    7) When it comes to “sin” Scripture needs to be our authority and not even “common sense” or human philosophy. How you feel doesn’t even matter as much as what Scripture says (look we all feel bad because we are all sinners).

    Men and women need to learn to see each other as members of the Family of God, as sexual creatures, to whom God sustains through either marriage (and we should be thankful for our spouses as God’s gift to “spend” our sexual energy on), or through single-hood (through which the Spirit sustains chastity, as He did with Jesus). Yet, men and women need to understand the temptations the other faces and have charity towards them and generosity.

    Paul wonders why, if we love our neighbor (especially our brother and sister in Christ), why we wouldn’t be willing to “give up” things we have freedom to enjoy, in order to help bless and protect them? Why cannot this mean that women seek to go above and beyond what the culture says modesty is, in how they dress? And why can’t this mean that men seek to treat women as greater than themselves, and give them greater honor and praise than the culture says they deserve? Scripture does leave us with the clear teaching that men have a role to protect the woman who was made weaker than man, and that men should be willing to die for women, and treat them better than they treat themselves.

    Surely we have a huge problem in our society with men and women being seen only as sexual creatures, and we must rescue our thinking from this with Scripture being our authority, but let us not overly correct and make men and women equal in their sexual needs, experiences, or expressions. Let us celebrate how God made us the same and different as co-image bearers.

    • “…that most women who have sex while teens (who didn’t want to) were not necessarily raped because of a dominating man who only wanted to “submit” the woman, but because of a overly turned on youngman hyped up on hormones and had not the life experience of discipline to control himself.”

      This is straight up rape apologetics. I can’t even address anything else you said knowing that you think young men literally can’t control their sexual urges to the point of forcing themselves on unwilling young women.

      How is thos honoring to God – at *all*?

    • Thank you Ryan, this is the first blog i have ever responded to and though i thought my questions were privately to Jonathan I’ve learn’t a lot. I do need more clarity in expressing myself publicly and this certainly has been a learning experience.

    • Yeah, so, we’re coming at this from a whole different angle, man. You probably won’t like these either, but they’ll give you a clearer view of how I view the relationship between husband and wife. The A Life Overseas article is by me, the other one’s from my wife.

      http://www.alifeoverseas.com/the-purpose-of-marriage-is-not-to-make-you-holy/

      https://trotters41.com/2015/08/13/our-journey-to-finding-joy-in-marriage-and-the-things-we-lost-along-the-way/

    • Thank you Ryan for saying so much of what I wanted to say and saying it much more eloquently and succinctly than I could. Demonizing was probably the wrong word to use seeing the spiritual nature of the topic.

      • Jim, you and Craig both made good points. What Ryan said is excellent the kind of truly patriocentric junk that Danica and others have seen for far too long and are sick of. If you agree with it, I really recommend you look seriously at your beliefs.

    • Danica’s right, your entire position and labored explanation to us of twisted biology is incredibly revolting, Ryan. Please get some re-education. Craig, I wouldn’t side with him just because he agreed with you.

  11. What if the point of modesty isn’t about what men see? I’ll agree with the you that often in conservative Christian culture it does become about not “inflaming lust.” However, it doesn’t follow that men and women ought not to worry about modesty.

    I assume you don’t believe that it would be acceptable for men and women to walk around naked all the time. If so, you have a standard of modesty you operate on. It may be different from the one of the culture being criticized here, but what makes your standards better than theirs?

    I see these anti-“modesty culture” posts every once in a while, and the stated objection seems to be a bit of a red herring. They’re right in identifying a problem with the motivation for modesty in these cultures. However, it seems like they have a hidden agenda, taken from secular feminism, of getting rid of any standards of modesty whatsoever, which would be un-Biblical and ought to be rejected.

      • My wife and I don’t have children yet, but Lord willing someday we will. Imagine for a second I have boys and girls, and I’m teaching through Proverbs in our family devotions. We come to Proverbs 5-7, which is almost all warnings against adultery. In particular, we read Proverbs 7:4-10 (ESV):

        4 Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”
        and call insight your intimate friend,
        5 to keep you from the forbidden woman,
        from the adulteress with her smooth words.

        6 For at the window of my house
        I have looked out through my lattice,
        7 and I have seen among the simple,
        I have perceived among the youths,
        a young man lacking sense,
        8 passing along the street near her corner,
        taking the road to her house
        9 in the twilight, in the evening,
        at the time of night and darkness.

        10 And behold, the woman meets him,
        dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart.

        Now, this obviously has a lot to speak to boys and men, but I also think it has something to say to girls and women too. In particular, what does it mean to be “dressed as a prostitute?” If I’m teaching my children from this, it should be obvious that it has something to say about the appropriate conduct of both men and women. If we are going to receive and teach the whole council of scripture then it should be uncontroversial from this that there are inappropriate ways for both men and women to act, and that one of the inappropriate ways women in particular can act is in terms of appearance and dress.

        I have a hard time accepting the idea that most of the onus, at least biblically, is placed on women. If you read all of Proverbs 5-7 the overwhelming message is to men to behave as they ought. But there is a message to women, at least indirectly. I agree that men ought to be taught to behave appropriately no matter what a woman is wearing. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t appropriate behaviors for women that ought to be taught as well, including in terms of dress.

      • Regarding your comment about Proverbs 5-7, I don’t have to imagine it, because I have four kids and we’ve read those Proverbs together. : ) Indeed, this woman was dressed as a prostitute because she WAS a prostitute, and “wily of heart” (or “cunning” or “sly,” depending on your translation). It seems tenuous to use this passage, which you admit is really written to men, to create a rule that women can’t “dress as a prostitute.” I’ve heard guys use this line of reasoning to outlaw all sorts of clothes because, in their opinion, “only prostitutes dress like that.” I just think it’s a much healthier conversation, and crosses cultures much easier, if we focus on the heart than on specific articles of clothing (the typical modesty discussion). Thanks again for your comments. Blessings on you and yours.

      • I expect that “dressed as a prostitute” likely meant something very specific. Very likely it wasn’t even what we would consider scantily clad; it was probably a specific style, color or clothing item that served as advertising.

  12. This is so refreshing to read! I avoided the purity culture growing up and I’m so glad i did- and my daughter is 12 now and i refuse to burden her with more rules that would make her feel like a “piece of meat”. She has a good heart though and never wears anything that would scandalize our local culture. It’s just a non-issue for us because we never made it one.
    I do notice that grown men who like to control women and tell them what to wear are usually harboring some devilish attitudes (like entitlement) and they are the ones most likely to get slapped with a restraining order. So instead of arguing with those kinds of men I just avoid them (but i point them out to my daughter so she knows who not to date when she’s grown).

    • “I do notice that grown men who like to control women and tell them what to wear are usually harboring some devilish attitudes (like entitlement) and they are the ones most likely to get slapped with a restraining order.”

      Yes. Bill Gothard comes to mind on this one. His over emphasis on how women should dress, act, speak, and even wear their hair, belied decades of sexual molestation by him, of over 20 young women (that we know of so far) who worked at his Christian retreat center. Josh Duggar was raised with his teaching, and we’ve seen the fruits of the heavy emphasis on purity doctrine first hand in his life – molesting four of his sisters, one other girl, and cheating on his wife via multiple dating sites.

      • Josh did NOT abuse his sisters because of modesty teaching; the Duggar kids were raised to respect girls and their explanation of modesty and respecting girls who have less of it was one of the best and most Biblical I’ve seen. You don’t become a sexual abuser at 12, of small girls because your parents taught modesty; I’m very tired of seeing that claim.

  13. I find it amazing how modesty seems to be dismissed, as a creation of certain men to control women, on here. My father is a Bishop and preacher and you will hear more from my mother about modesty and the lack there of than you will from my father. Likewise I have heard more conversations and instruction on modesty from the women in the congregations I have attended than from the preachers in the pulpit.

  14. I agree with a lot of your conclusions, but I don’t think the problem you have described is a culture of modesty. What you have issue with (as do I) is a culture of puritanism, an unhealthy suppression or rejection of sexual desire. Modesty is a fruit of chastity, a virtue that is opposed both to lust (reducing a person to a sexual object to be used for my pleasure) AND to puritanism (the fear, suppression, or outright rejection of sexuality as an integral aspect of human flourishing).

    Another point: you say that modesty culture shifts blame and you want to shift it back. I don’t think blame is helpful at all (because it comes from a place of shame), rather, I think the process of growth should be internally motivated.

    As a final note on modesty and chastity, these are fruits grace and don’t come from following a set of standards for sexual behaviour so much as through relationship with Christ. HOWEVER, having a set of standards (as opposed to specific rules) provides an external measure for our behaviour and can inspire us to deepen in our relationship with the Lord, particularly if this is an area we struggle with.

    • This sounds very much like what I’ve understand to be the Catholic viewpoint on the matter. It makes a lot of sense to me . You’ve very succinctly summed up what I’ve been trying to articulate for a few days now.

    • Thanks for the comment, Lloyd. I think Paul’s standard would be a good one here: “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” (Colossians 3:12-15)

  15. “In fact, I believe Jesus wasn’t afraid of the “bad people” because he saw their humanity. And he knew that their humanity desperately needed his divinity. To love people is to be with people. And people don’t always follow the rules or dress appropriately.”

    Amen, amen, amen. Thankful for this perspective.

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  17. i think some of the comments are really oversimplifications. We should consider our brother or sisters spiritual well being over our taste in clothes, movies, language and whatever else. The overriding principle is not making someone stumble. You have liberty in Christ? Good, don’t parade your liberty around in a way to damage others. Moms and dads don’t teach kids sex is evil and don’t focus on promise rings and other nonbiblical Bologna. Teach people, children, proper restraint and don’t try to be so much like the prevailing culture. I bet none of the prostitutes Jesus met propositioned him or bore their private parts to him. Unfortunately for some, men desire women in a way they do not or cannot desire a man. While this doesn’t excuse any males it certainly doesn’t give females in the Christian community license to be unbecoming their heritage in Jesus Christ. Because clothing in the U.S. has evolved or whether another country has accepted nudity in their culture is not the issue. The issue is not destroying another human being.

  18. I grew up in the same group as you and the Duggars, but I think my parents must have been similar to yours. My brother was very much into “the program,” but I wasn’t, and my parents never pushed that on me. I never fought the modesty stuff, but rather, fully bought into it, because I didn’t want to make my brothers stumble. The Lord granted me a good, thinking, questioning mind, however(and an extremely good view of my own body having been created as something He called beautiful), and as I got older and moved overseas as a missionary, I began to realize that most of those “rules” didn’t follow me across the globe; that they hadn’t even really been biblical in the first place, but rather, imposed by western Man.

    And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve changed the way I dress, because interestingly enough, I realized that I chose every outfit not out of consideration for what I felt good in, or what was flattering to my body shape, etc., but out of concern for what might possibly cause every “brother” to stumble. And then as I got older the realization came that men are so incredibly visual that EVERYTHING you wear can “make” them stumble. And b/c I have the ability to think and reason, I understood as an adult that while I do have a certain responsibility to clothe myself in modesty, it’s more about my character than it is about man-made rules of clothing.

  19. LOVED reading this post! Wow, it’s so true. Growing up in the church, there was some sort of shame I constantly felt as a result of being told to always cover myself. As a middle school girl, this was not fully explained and so there was a lot of confusion at a young age. We should not be passing on these messages to our next generation. I’m so glad this is a topic that is being brought up and its about time we start letting this voice be heard.

  20. I love this post! I think it can be so damaging teaching young girls that it’s their fault a guy is sinning because of the way they look or what they are wearing. It’s also important to take responsibility for our own sin so God can help us work through it, but if we are too busy blaming it on other people then it’s not truly being handled in the place it needs to be. I think this post is great! Thank you for sharing.

  21. This is beautiful. And honestly so along the lines of what I learned in purity culture, too. It’s GREAT to hear it from a guy’s perspective. We don’t often hear about it from men. I’m grateful you shared!

  22. Hugely encouraging article. Thank you! We have raised 4 daughters & a son in rural East Africa, but had participated to some extent in what we called a “radical homey” subculture in the US, so we likewise have thought a lot about the enormous differences in attitudes toward “modesty”, especially since in this part of Uganda the tribe were known as “the naked ones”! Two of our daughters are now at university in the US and are struggling with the wildly different perspectives on these issues you address here. I really appreciate hearing this – perhaps because it sounds like so much of what we have discussed at home. We have tried to raise our children to be considerate, in different cultural settings, and to be cautious, especially here in a warrior culture where violence against women is an everyday occurrence and even part of traditional “courting” customs. But as new creatures in Christ, our lives are not to be ruled by fear! Let us pray that in these discussions, the pendulum may swing back a little closer to the center, which is Christ.

  23. I can relate to being the kid who was concerned about their parents’ behaviour (ie: you walking out of the concert they didn’t walk out of). I got after my parents for buying bananas on Sunday (“Isn’t Sunday supposed to be a day for no shopping?”). In years since I’ve been really grateful that my parents were not trendy Christians, but that they lived fairly evenly and consistently, though I wish they had better explained some of their reasoning to me.

    Even in those hardest years of figuring out what God calls me to and what rules people had made up, I still see His gracious hand, in helping me to find gracious Christian friends who didn’t hassle me or embarrass me for being straight laced, but taught me by example that there was more grace to be had in Christ. Thankful for this. And thankful that I can buy bananas on Sunday if needed. 😉

    • Ah, “trendy Christians.” I like that phrase! And yes, I’m so grateful too. Thanks so much for the comment, Julie, and I stand with you as someone who’s glad “there’s more grace to be had in Christ.” Amen!

  24. Thank you for this, Jonathan. I come from an extreme modesty culture, ( the Duggars were “worldly” because they wear makeup and jewelry and no head coverings! Yeah, I do mean extreme.) After I got married I moved away from the bubble I grew up in, and have spent years reconsidering what I was taught in many areas, what was man-cooked and what was truly Scriptural. It’s confusing when Scrupture is used to enforce the definitions and applications people give its commands. My dad, whom I greatly respect, has this “woman fear” you speak of. He’s told us he’s trained himself to never look at a woman unless he has to. He’s told my younger sister she looks like a harlot. The whole blame thing is a heavy burden indeed. I wondered how I could possibly cover all the bases, even though I obeyed my dad, there were things other men had a problem with that he didn’t, and so on. I still don’t have it figured out entirely, but I do believe as a woman, it is my responsibility to present myself in such a way as represents who I am in Christ, I am His bride to be, He has made me holy, pure and devoted to Himself. I am not a slave to extremism, nor to the fashion industry. I notice that the modesty culture teaches, “don’t be adorned outwardly in immodest, +/or beautiful clothes, but wear long skirts, denim jumpers, etc.. To be godly and a good testimony and not cause men to lust. In Scripture it says we ought to adorn ourselves with beautiful virtues, “meek and quiet spirit”, etc… Not an alternative list of plain Jane, lust-free clothing. Perhaps it’s because God knew, like many have been saying in this discussion, that time and culture would change the terms of modesty, but inner beauty is timeless.

  25. One more thought…. And question. I’m curious as to wether you’ve seen the pamphlet “The Sin of Bathsheba” Jonathan? It’s a man writing to women describing the various “lust triggers”, beginning with the story of David and Bathsheba, and the premise that Bathsheba, really, was to blame for David’s sin. She was the cause. This idea was taught at most every modesty meeting/teaching when I was growing up, and seems to be generally believed in conservative circles. However I have some questions on this. First of all, given that God NEVER blames her anywhere in the Scripture, was she doing anything wrong to start with? David saw her washing herself, but wasnt she doing this ritual washing out of obedience to the law, right? He took her by force, she had no say in the matter that we know of. God sends the prophet Nathan to David, not to Bathsheba, rebuking her for her immodesty. She is typed in Nathan’s story as the beloved lamb, the one and only of her husband. David is typed as the evil, greedy thief. God punishes David, not her. Seems to me we’ve been fed an idea that is wholly erroneous.

    • Hey there, Joanna! Yeah, you bring up a whole lot of issues that really need their own blog posts. : ) I am very sorry for your dad’s statements and insinuations. Wow. That’s hard. And yes, actually, I have heard Bathsheba blamed for what happened to her. So sad. In wrestling with these types of ideas and issues, particularly in our context in Cambodia, I wrote another article. It is titled What is a Woman Worth? and you can read it here… https://trotters41.com/2015/11/04/what-is-a-woman-worth/ Thanks so much for your comments, Joanna!

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  27. Hey Jonathan and friends

    I have to comment on number 2, and I think its a faulty perspective or one sided. but correct me if i’m mistaken anywhere. I believe that what is written here is being unrealistic and moving form one extreme to the other. Yes the church focuses too much on women’s dress at times, laying the blame mostly there, while not addressing the issues men have anywhere near enough. But what is being said here shifts most of blame on men, as if they ALL know better and have a biblical understanding on how to deal with lust specifically, which all know isn’t true. With that said, I am of the belief that we should be looking out for each other and not our own desires, within the church that is. So work with one another to deal with temptation outside of the church when evangelizing to the world. Men shouldn’t then have to turn around deal with over coming lust in the church because of someones attire when God asks us to dress modestly. Much like women should not have to deal with men speaking to them inappropriately, no matter how they dress.

    I will point out now, that men are visually stimulated human beings and most all women know that. But let me say now that men are fully at fault for their own actions, same as women. But we all can influence each others thoughts, to think of sinful thoughts, which can lead to sinful actions. Like i said before actions are our own fault, but we are at fault for influencing thoughts of others who don’t know better or well guarded or learned of the faith, from eating food we know we shouldn’t to dressing a certain way.
    So when a Christian women dress a certain way to attract, while also causing a man to lust, most would say That’s not ok obviously, but if a she’s decides to dress that way because its comfortable and or does so for herself, it becomes ok? That doesn’t make sense at all, because men who don’t know better don’t suddenly realize they should be averting their eyes since she not dressing to attract them, even though they shouldn’t be looking in the first place anyway.

    We can’t expect, {knowing how the world is}, for so called christian men, much less men of the world to all have their thoughts under control or one with God, its just not going to happen. Yet i must mention that this is not only to help the state of mind of men, But as safe guard for women, against predators seeking to sexually assault women. I’m not saying it full proof against them, i’m saying it helps and from what i have understood from reading. These men tend to stay away from a potential victim with clothing difficult or tedious to remove and etc. Again i’m not trying to say or express in anyway its ever a victims fault for assault by dressing some way, i’m saying it would help to deter them by making things difficult for them to try, while giving you a fighting chance other wise. That’s what I’ve been thinking, let me know any objections or if it makes any sense, I hope i didn’t go too far in left field and miss the point…

  28. Pingback: Women Are Scary (and Other Big Lies Modesty Culture Teaches Men) | BLABLA.id NEWS

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  30. I know this is an old post, but I just found it, and wanted to add a hearty YES! And Sexuality and Christianity seems to be such a hard topic to talk about. My husband recently just did a talk on “Holy Sexuality” and offended a majority of people in pointing out that the Bible discusses sex, and the “purity culture” objectifies women and men as much as secular society. GAH! Why are we so SCARED!? Anyway, yes. Yes. Yes. 🙂 High Five.

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