I'm first? Woo-hoo! Anyway – as a Catholic I believe that women (and men) should dress modestly, and that women do have more responsibility in this area simply because men are more visually oriented than women. You do raise some good points, however. I absolutely agree that men should not get completely off the hook – while women may be less visually oriented than men, men still have a responsibility to dress modestly. I also agree that many of the responders to this survey go way too far – you would drive yourself crazy trying to meet the standards of every single one of them.

I think when a lot of Christians talk about modesty, they also miss the point that while the principle of modesty is the same regardless of culture or time period, the specifics differ. For example, I personally see nothing wrong with wearing a tank top and shorts on a hot summer day (as long as it’s not super-short shorts or a really skin-tight top), but if I were to travel back in time to the Victorian era, wearing that same outfit would be immodest, I think, because the men of that time period would be used to seeing women in floor-length dresses and would probably be much more easily aroused by the sight of a woman in a tank top and shorts. (Did you hear about the Muslim man – I think it was in Saudi Arabia – who ejaculated when he saw part of a girl’s arm?) On the other hand, in some cultures women walk around bare-breasted all the time and it’s no big deal. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that – in that context.

I just try to use common sense while dressing – I probably dress slightly more modestly than average, but I don’t dress dowdily. Some actress from the 40s – don’t remember who – said she would make sure her clothes were tight enough to show she was a woman but loose enough to show she was a lady. I sort of take that approach. And if I really wasn’t sure if something was modest, I don’t see anything “humiliating” about asking a man’s opinion – they do have a different perspective.

Lizard Eater

I can't help but be completely disgusted by this way of thinking -- that the female must be the caretaker of men's lust, making sure that it's not unduly or inappropriately excited, a pitbull that everyone must tiptoe quietly around. (The other side is often used as well ... how many women have been told that if their husband is showing lust toward another woman, it is because *the wife* hasn't been properly taking care of him?)

My normally fair father, when I was a teen, told me "A hard penis has no conscience." Hmm. I wonder how much of that was a desire to keep his daughter away from potentially dangerous situations and how much was actual belief? I should ask him.


Let me hasten to add that I also believe that if a man lusts after a woman; or stalks, rapes or sexually harasses a woman; or cheats on his wife, that it is *no one’s fault but his own.* Yes, women *should* dress modestly, but even if they don’t, men need to take complete responsibility for their actions. Like Happy said, the fact that she was attracted to her interviewee would not justify her coming on to him. And while I believe a wife should be sensitive to her husband’s needs (just as a husband should be sensitive to his wife’s needs), the failure of one or both spouses to do so does not in any way justify adultery.


I think a big part of the problem is the strange attitude these men seem to have towards their own sexuality. It's completely normal to feel a little aroused when you look at an attractive person in revealing clothes, but if you frame that normal response as 'sinful' or somehow wrong or a failing, then that is a problem, because it's not something most of us can really prevent. So they get angry at themselves every time it happens, and at the women who trigger that response, and the whole thing seems to become a kind of obsession with trying to control their environment so they never get aroused against their will.
Surely it isn't wrong to feel attracted to someone? It's what you decide to do next that is the moral issue.

Lizard Eater

Note to Sarahndipity -- my disgust is directed toward the website Happy referenced. I think you and I are different "tickie marks" on the same barometer. For example, I don't let my daughters have Bratz dolls or dress like them. Hugs.


Absolutely, Lizard Eater. I didn't think your disgust was directed at me. I just wanted to make sure the readers understood that I don't think it's a woman's fault if she's raped, harassed, cheat on, or what have you if she dresses immodestly, because I didn't think I made that clear in my first post. And I totally agree with you about Bratz dolls.


Oops, I meant to say I don't think it's a woman fault if she's cheat on because she "let herself go" or whatever.


I loved this post so much, I had to write my own response, see it here: http://uumomma.wordpress.com/2007/03/26/keeping-them-covered-whose-job-is-it-and-why/. Oh, I wish I had been so forward thinking on the whole Bratz doll thing. I keep wondering when my girl will ask to have their heads and feet enlarged (and their feet removable) they are just like them! Blessings to all, and Happy, I'd join in the group of people who are thrilled you are back, except I'm new to blog world, so I'm just happy to have found you!


I was very annoyed by that survey. I would never let my boys fill out something like that. I think just having some guy visualize a situation in which he might have lust is bad enough. I think this survey was "helping" men lust and giving them a license to think about girl's bodies.

I was disappointed to see that more Christian sites didn't speak out against this. Girls do not need to learn from anonymous men and boys how to dress modestly. The Bible is very clear that the older women are to teach the younger women. I think modest dress could fall under this.

Frankly, I thought the survey was creepy.

The Happy Feminist

Hi Zan! Good to get back in touch with you. I think that's an important point, that the survey questions and answers were themselves rather titillating.

Sarahndipity, I don't have any problem with the notion of modesty in and of itself. I think modesty is only polite in both sexes-- but, as you point out, what that means depends on the context and the cultural expectations of everyone involved.

You mention that women may have a greater obligation to dress modestly because men are more visually stimulated. Interestingly, however, standard female dress often requires showing more skin than what a man is expected to show. At the office, the men are covered from neck to toe in suits while I, on my most modest day, am likely to be showing more of my arms and at least part of my legs. Women have to do a much more precarious balancing act between showing too much and showing too little.

UUMomma, I'm looking forward to reading your post!

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