Meanwhile, men who stare at women are guilty of immodesty, regardless of what the woman is wearing. It’s true that she really should take into account the struggles and weaknesses of those around her, and try humbly to avoid being a stumbling block. But I think this “stumbling block” rationale sometimes falls flat because it seems as though men aren’t expected to take any initiative to avoid stumbling in the first place, block or no block. We are painted as helpless victims of our own passions; pathetic little boys who can’t be expected to avert our eyes and control our thoughts.
I feel scandalized.
I was scrolling my Facebook newsfeed (there’s my first mistake) and suddenly my eyes were viciously assaulted by immodest and improper images that had been posted by someone clearly begging for attention; some shameless floozy selfishly attempting to enflame lust and covetousness in the heart of the unsuspecting viewer.
I should mention that the person in the images was a man, and he was, mercifully, fully clothed.
In fact, the focus of the photo wasn’t even a person at all. My Facebook ‘friend’ had posted a picture of his expensive new boat. I know that it was expensive, because he alluded to the steep price in the caption, saying that he has the ‘best wife in the world’ because she ‘actually let [him] buy this.’
You see what he did there (besides insinuating that the value of his spouse depends on her cooperation with his desire to purchase pricey recreational equipment)? Lest you accuse him of being uncouth, he cloaked his boast in a compliment of his ‘best wife,’ which means he actually disguised a brag by wrapping it in another brag. That’s kind of like hiding the shame of eating a Cinnabon by lathering it in a gallon of butter.
And immodest — intended to present a one dimensional image of success and luxury, thus, if all goes according to plan, send everyone else plunging into a salty stew of envy and resentment.
Immodest because it calls attention to him, while saying nothing of value about him as a person, a unique entity of spirit and flesh. It turns him into an object — an object of jealousy.
Immodest because it is arrogant and dishonest.
I bring this up because — and I’m not sure why this is the case, maybe it’s the warming temperatures — I’ve received several emails in the last few weeks on the subject of modesty. Most of them boil down to a request that I share my opinion on the topic.
Like this one from James:
I’ve been reading your blog now for a while and have greatly enjoyed all of it… I was wondering if you could say something about societies abolition of modesty, both in the church and in more secular environments. It seems that nearly all churches (even the Catholic Church) have neglected the topic of modesty for fear of losing touch with popular opinion and coming across as “judgmental”… Most churches and pastors don’t so much as mention the topic – even when an attractive 18 year old walks into church wearing yoga pants and a deep cut V-neck.
And this one from Beth:
Matt, can you write something about modesty? I get so tiret of these girls walking around showing everything off and then they act up SO surprised when they get treated like sh*t by men. Maybe if they had more respect for themselves… When I grew up, girls were taught to be modest and protect their purity. What’s your opinion? Modest is hottest I think.
And this from Laura:
Matt, help! I just started a huge war on my Facebook page about modesty, simply because I said that I was having trouble finding a modest bathing suit for my daughter. You wouldn’t want to chime in on this subject would you? I’ve always been taught that modest is hottest…
And this from Matt (a different Matt):
I just read your post from a while ago about porn. I agree with it but I think you’ve left something out. Women need to help men in their struggles with lust by attempting to dress modestly. Everyone is afraid to say that but it’s true. In our society it’s like we’ve completely given up on modesty…
I have to confess, though I am an opinionated blowhard in most respects, the whole idea of having an opinion about modesty seems a bit odd. Modesty is a virtue, like courage or integrity. Or rather, modesty is an integral dimension of Greek and Christian philosophy’s Cardinal Virtue of temperance, otherwise known as restraint. So what opinion can you really have of it, other than, ‘yes, I am in favor’?
OK, I’m being naïve, I realize. Nowadays, virtues have to be defended at a conceptual level. The world has always had unvirtuous men and women, but rarely has it been populated by so many people who deny the fundamental and intrinsic importance of virtue itself.
Modesty is good, and good things are always hard to do, so weaklings (like yours truly) have always struggled to do them. But now – thanks in large part to the tireless work of academia, pop culture, mass media, liberal feminists, the legions of Hell (excuse my redundancy) – the weak have taken control and flipped the universe upside down, claiming that they ought not do those good things, because the good things aren’t so good at all. There is no good, they say, or if there is a good, it’s the opposite of whatever our grandparents and every generation that’s existed anywhere on the planet before them would have identified as good.
This is all a long way of saying that, yes, maybe it’s necessary to expand on the reasons why, yes, I am in favor of modesty, and, yes, I think women should dress modestly, but, no, I don’t think the whole burden of modesty should be laid at the feet of womankind.