I've crashed into a collision within the church.
Oh trust me, I know you have too — perhaps a time or two more than me.
This is a nit-picky thing; you know, one of those issues that gets in under your skin, that maybe you just ought to let go and forget about, but you can't (or won't). Maybe us writer-types simply need to typographically process our under-the-skin conditions.
Watch the video above and draw out the messages you hear. It's been doing the rounds on the ol' 'net. You might have seen it already.
Girls, I'm all for dressing up in ways that will honour Christ first and further His kingdom. Some of us take some big liberties about how far out our boobs can fall before we're being 'stumbling blocks' to guys. Some of us base our identities on our fashion, and well… guys do struggle. I don't want to call them liars and say they don't. (little secret, the reverse is also true: girls struggle too… GASP!)
But here's where I get snagged on the whole purity movement.
We've made modesty sexy.
We've made the same old "boys are horny beasts" message into in order to help "them" we need to be attractive in modesty. Does anyone else hear the double message besides me? We're still called to dress to impress. After all, a Christ-centered, REAL Christian guy struggling with lust would ONLY be desiring a female aspiring to modesty. That's what's really attractive.
Not buying it.
It's another church culture gig born out of the Puritan movement that reeks of legalism.
Just what is "lustful", ladies? Guys? What turns us all on?
One video that was passed my way showed an octengenarian preacher listing off all the forms of clothing that needed tending to, including the size of underarm show when wearing tank tops or sleeveless blouses. Heaven forbid 5mm of space exist between the flesh and the material… erections might start going off at 6mm.
Am I being snarky? No! The preacher was out to lunch.
Gosh… our Muslim sisters struggle with men lusting after them and they are dressed totally differently. But we insist it's our amount of skin that's causing the downfall of guys. Yet other cultures look with lust upon the lack of skin. Still, other cultures bare all in their tribes and see each other as brothers and sisters in their worlds.
What's up with that?
Yup, we are all called to a higher standard as Christians. But The Modesty Movement, as much as guys want to take control of their minds and hearts in submission to Christ, is still largely focused on men. Again.
Here's what I mean: when I was in college, some guy friends told me that the single biggest turn on was a casual girl in sweats and a hoodie (not the skin-tight hoodie and crack-peeping hip-sweats; good, old fashioned sweat pants, pullover, and running shoes). Others said girls with ankle length skirts were 'the thing'.
Guys… I want you to be honest with your struggles! We need you to be because otherwise this will all be for nothing. More about that in a minute. But in the video, the testimonial describes the struggle of a guy walking across a college campus because of all the attractive women wandering around him. Do you men understand that with so many of you, no matter how we are dressed, you still look at us in lust?
I'm not saying this gives women free reign, but what I am saying is that unless you are fully prepared to walk around with a little ruler measuring how far down our t-shirts are cut, where our hip lines are sitting, how tight our dresses are fitting and declaring — ACROSS THE BOARD FOR ALL MEN — that your dimensions are "lust-causing", this too is a stumbling block for your sisters. We're still not your sisters, because we are still sex objects to you. Until WE do something to help you or serve you, we are sex objects before we are sisters.
Can we reverse that somehow? Girls get that you struggle, but declaring that women need to focus more on modesty (and using Proverbs 31 to boot, which has nothing to do with prescriptive modesty whatsoever) for your own benefit still… benefits you. Not your sister. Using Scripture to justify a cutlural/church norm is dangerous… for any issue. Perhaps that's one of the most disconcerting things about the video
On a systemic level, guys and gals, we need to recognize that there is systemic sin in our world and Christians are called to these injustices and YES, this is a part of the Gospel. Women who have been beaten, raped, sodomized, peed on, pooped on, slapped, yelled at, whistled at, grabbed, groped, called lusty names, boobs squeezed, burned & branded, or any form of violence (sexual or otherwise), I believe, have bought right into the church message of "Guys only want ONE thing". For them, that lie has been proven true over and over and over again.
Ours is a hypersexualized culture. Guys are visual. Porn is on the morning news, for pity's sake. Do you think sexuality is any less a struggle for women? When did lust become a man's domain? Have you ever asked a woman if she's struggled with pornography? Or with staring at your butts, biceps, eyes, or six-pack? Oh wait… it's not okay to ask YOU to cover up though. It's okay for you guys to bare all. We girls just have to take our thoughts and minds more captive because… well… well WHY BECAUSE?!
Women struggling with lust are shushed because this is a man's struggle, and women who have been abused are shushed because they really don't want to submit men again and their penile needs. Rock and hard place, right here.
80% of human trafficking victims are female. That is, women and girls who did not ask to go with you, did not ask to be with you, did not ask to be hurt, did not ask to be prostituted, did not ask to be raped, did not ask to be seen as sexual objects, did not ask for any of it are still being told to dress for men's needs! It happens. Their lives are taken anyway no matter how they are dressed or what culture they live in. It is still a woman's fault for a guy's sin/crime/brokenness, no matter her motives. If she was raped, SHE MUST have done something to turn the guy on. Why else would he buy her a coffee?
And as for where our clothes are made, modest or immodest, I have a BIG issue with children sewing bra straps and women enslaved to make guys' jeans. But that hardly enters our conversations because we're so wrapped up in our own personal holiness. Again… it's all about us. To even mention sweat shops is not really where Jesus was going with the Gospel, right? Not so.
Oh I remember… the old Christianese stand-by: we can only worry about ourselves.
I'm sorry, but when the porn industry races to keep up with demand and takes people — male and female — against their wills to help further the light-speed sexuality in our world, THAT is an issue we all need to address! When women are told "you asked for it" or "you came on to me" or "it was how you were dressed", and then raped, beaten or emotionally blackmailed, THAT is an issue we need to address!
Kudos to guys pursuing personal holiness. But this video creates an allure to modesty which is an upside down version of "Come on to me, Baby!" And in no way can any girl be expected to dress in such a way that serves every guy she meets.
Guys, you are more than your penises. I've said that before and I'll say it again. It's not just because I've been a recipient of your 'control over lust', but because too many of my guy friends wish that girls would seem them as friends, poets, dreamers, hard workers, students… believers.
The church has created a culture of backwards immodesty.
Until men and women together can address personal sanctity AND systemic injustice side by side, the whole Modest is Hottest will only be another hollow whistle of legalism coming from a place where men need sex.
But nobody ever died from not having sex.