Thursday, April 05, 2007

Stumbling on the Question of Modesty

The other day, I stumbled across a Christian youth site on the net that had recently done an informal survey on the attitudes of Christian youth towards female modesty.

As the site itself pointed out, the survey is not scientific, since among other things it was self-selecting. Yet, the basic premise of the survey is nevertheless interesting enough: Should women and girls dress modestly to help their brothers in Christ avoid lusting for them?

Over 200 women and girls responded to the survey, and over 1600 boys and men. The survey asked 148 questions in such dress categories as swimsuits, undergarments, shirts/dresses, layering, and so forth. Respondents were asked whether they strongly agreed, agreed, were neutral towards, disagreed, or strongly disagreed with such statements as, "Seeing even an inch of skin between the bottom of a girl's shirt and her pants is a stumbling block", or " A girl's underwear should never show [emphasis in original]."

Now, some liberal bloggers have sharply criticized the implied premise of the survey that it is the job of women and girls to prevent boys and men from lusting after them. The bloggers have pointed out this unreasonably shifts the burden of lust from the male to the female.

I agree.

I could say much about this, but I'd like to focus on one thing alone. Post-pubic boys and young men need to learn how to deal with their natural desires, and removing anything from their environment that stimulates their desires is certainly not the best way to help them deal with those desires. Instead, it is actually the best way to help them avoid dealing with their natural desires. Consequently, they are not challenged to mature into adults that can look upon a woman without lust when lust is inappropriate.

This recalls to me the story of two Zen monks who were travelling when they came to a swollen stream. Standing in the road beside the stream, wondering how she might cross, was a beautiful young woman. Without hesitation, the older monk picked up the woman and carried her across the stream. She thanked him and went on her separate way. The two monks then travelled on together for several hours, until the younger monk, deeply troubled, could no longer remain silent. "Brother, aren't we forbidden to have any physical contact with women?", he asked. Replied the older monk, "I put her down several hours ago, but you are still carrying her."

A woman's dress, no matter how provocative, does not determine whether we lust for her. What determines whether we lust for her is we ourselves. Hence, no one but we ourselves can properly take responsibility for our desire.


jacquie4000 said...

I have often pondered this myself.
It seems in society along with just about every Religion Women are held Responsible For the Males sexual appetite.

How many times have we heard
(" Well come on she ask for it
did you see the way she was dressed")

Then I also wonder to myself well
what about the Muslim women who
was totally covered, or the elderly
women, or that child. Pleas explain to me how indeed they ask
for it.

I must admit I have seen many women that I do not agree with the way they are dressed. But that is
because I find what they are wearing in my taste is tacking or they are 50 trying to look
But who am I to tell them what to

Yes it seems since the time of EVE
we have become the downfall of men.
I have heard that many times...What a total joke.

Anonymous said...

> Instead, it is actually the best way to help them avoid dealing with their natural desires.

That is a very astute observation, in my opinion, Paul.

George said...

Even if everybody went around naked the level of interest in sex would eventually stabilize around where it is now. Requiring that women cover themselves to avoid tempting men leads in a straight line to the burka. And then interest in sex would eventually stabilize around where it is now (but would be far more destructive due to repression.)

Paul said...

Hi Jacquie! I agree that women get dumped on. But not just in Judeo-Christian cultures. It seems most cultures around the world do not treat women as well as they might. Good post!

Thanks for the compliment, Patty!

Hi George! In a way, it's fortunate for us that we have the example of some other cultures who have handled sexuality poorly to warn us off doing the same. Given those examples, it's strange anyone in our own culture would think it a good idea to dump the burden of male sexuality on females. Thank you for an astute comment!