Modesty, lust, and the clothes in between.

{Disclaimer: Many of you who read this are probably going to be offended or disagree. That’s quite alright. But I believe that the important issues are sometimes the most difficult to discuss, and I think the Church has a tendency to avoid controversial topics. I have no such problem. So read on, disagree, and feel free to let me know why. But please be respectful.}

Modesty. I’ll be honest and say that if the Church never used that word again, I wouldn’t be upset. Not because I don’t see the value in modesty, but because no one knows what that word means anymore. Or rather, we’ve made it to mean too many different things. It’s ambiguous, confusing, and argument-inducing. Just looking at it has the power to make my eyes roll. Modesty…ugh.

But I’m a Christian woman. I’ve grown up knowing about modesty and about the importance of being modest. I’ve been told the rules, the do’s and don’t’s that change with each year and new fashion trend. I’ve been shown examples of immodesty and warned against tempting men with my feminine physique. I’ve heard, seen, and read it all. And I am always left with the same questions and frustrations.

What is modest? What is immodest? Who decides? And why should anyone get to decide? What makes one person more qualified than another to determine if my clothes are “unacceptable”? And why can’t I decide for myself? And where do men fit into this mess? (Because let’s be honest, it IS a mess.)

Probably my biggest issue with modesty is that it’s become a woman’s burden; a method of dealing with or curbing a man’s lust and improper thoughts. I am supposed to be modest in order to avoid leading my fellow brothers in Christ down the path of temptation. And to some extent, I agree. I don’t want to dress with the intention of making a guy uncomfortable. I don’t want to wear something I know will lead a guy astray. I honestly don’t want to be that girl. But at the same time, I can’t be responsible for the thoughts of every guy I pass in the street. I can’t take on the burden of every man’s lustful wanderings. I can’t please every guy’s version of modesty in my attempt to not be a temptation.

A man’s struggle with lust is separate from my clothing. A man’s struggle with sexual addiction and objectifying women is separate from my intention to look my best. A man’s overactive libido is separate from my sexuality and femininity. Me covering up my body and wearing the “right clothes” isn’t going to help a man come to grips with his personal issues about sex, lust, and desire. It’s the equivalent of putting a bandaid on a bleeding artery. It’s a quick and ineffective fix.

The moment I have to sacrifice my individuality to please a man, we have a problem.
The moment I have to dress to please a man, we have a problem.
The moment I have to be ashamed or uncomfortable about my body in order to reduce the guilt of a man, we have a problem.
The moment my worth and value as a Christian woman becomes inextricably linked to the clothes I put on, we have a problem.

Gentlemen, you dress for yourselves. Every day, you put on what you want, and I‘m sure the idea that what you’re wearing could cause a woman to lust doesn’t even occur to many of you. (It can, by the way.) You don’t agonize over the tightness of the shirt or the pants you wear. You don’t worry that you’re exposing too much skin or displaying your body in a tempting manner. You don’t have breasts to hide or curves to downplay. You wear what you want, and you aren’t made to feel ashamed for dressing to impress.

Shouldn’t women be allowed the same?

When I get dressed in the morning, I shouldn’t have to try on everything in my closet trying to find an outfit that will please the Church or every man I might meet. Whether I put on my v-neck sweater, skinny jeans, and classy boots or my sexy black dress, I shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to look my best. I shouldn’t feel ashamed for wanting to be beautiful.

Because wanting to be beautiful is not immodest. Wanting to be beautiful is not a sin. Wanting to be beautiful is not degrading, dirty, or shameful.

Modesty shouldn’t be about all the things we can’t wear. Modesty shouldn’t be a cure for lust. Modesty shouldn’t be sacrificing femininity to masculinity. Modesty shouldn’t be a way to measure my faith, my relationship with God, or my Christianity.

Modesty should be about finding a way to celebrate the body God gave me, rather than hiding it. Modesty should be about glorifying God with the beauty He created me to have, rather being ashamed of it. Modesty should be about trusting me to decide what’s too inappropriate, too suggestive, too tempting. Modesty should be about me being comfortable in my body and in my clothes. Modesty should be about me dressing for myself, not to please anyone else. Modesty should be about the intention with which I wear the clothes, not the clothes themselves.

Modesty should be between me and God. My body is His temple after all. It was created by Him to house His Spirit and my soul. And it was created to be beautiful. My body is wonderfully made. God created woman and saw that she was good. I am good. Modesty should never disregard those things.

But ladies, we shouldn’t let the clothes we wear become more important than they are. We shouldn’t let our desire to be beautiful turn into vanity. We should be thoughtful and considerate when we dress while still realizing that we will never please everyone. Because truthfully, God is the only one who matters. He sees our heart and reads our intention. He knows us. And He loves us unconditionally. We are His daughters. Our value is intrinsic, our worth is innate. It is not determined by what we put on or how it’s received. We shouldn’t let clothes define who we are. We should ask that of God.

Thank you for reading! Feel free to share your thoughts. And maybe (definitely) follow me on Twitter?

47 thoughts on “Modesty, lust, and the clothes in between.

  1. you are right that modesty is a touchy subject. I especially find it troubling coming from a a culture that is much more modest in dress then America. Sometimes I would just like to wear a burqua so I can wear whatever I want underneath. I am now much more sensitive about how much skin I show, and I didn’t show a lot before. I hate wearing a low cut shirt and having to worry every time I bend down that someone will be able to see down my shirt. We should all just stay home and eat cookies.

  2. Cassi- Insomnia lead me to this!

    Without belaboring differences people have culturally throughout the world (you experienced that firsthand in Egypt)- I would offer the most important thing is comfort. Due to the lack of time and space I will shy away from the religious aspect of your comments, only to say basing clothing decisions around spiritual beliefs has drawbacks (Burqas come to mind).

    You voice an interesting perspective on fashion related to how you feel about what you wear. Using the feelings of modesty and lust as it influences how to cover your body is a common struggle for many, unfortunately. Vanity muddles the topic even more. It dominates, sadly. Amazingly, what would seem to be the obvious intent of clothing, isn’t. We connect too much of ourselves to our outer layer. If anything seems to have broadened in its acceptance, though, it is what people put on (and in) their body. The conflicting issue of appearance with respect to spiritual and social “guidelines” affects everyone, to some extent. But I would offer, if you are comfortable, wear it. Good or bad, the dilemma an individual faces about their appearance is evolving. A question is whether that evolution is an improvement? For the most part I would say yes. Over-done hair-, tattoo-covered bodies, and more revealing clothing has definitely shifted the norm, albeit humorously to me. I would argue a fair amount of those in such garments and accoutrements suffer both physically and emotionally. Such a shame when a good burqa would do just fine. Comfort first, Cassi.

  3. It should be noted that some of us men do actually deal with that issue. I recently acquired my first pair of jeans in about 20 years, because adult men’s jeans were cut to emphasize the crotch, and that’s neither a physically comfortable fit nor a mentally comfortable one for me. The advent of “relaxed fit” jeans has finally given me jeans I can wear again. :) You’re also not going to find me wearing a speedo if I can help it, because they’re cut to emphasize the sexual organs, and that’s not what I’m about.

    It seems to me the way to look at it is that your clothing is an advertisement for yourself. So you have to ask yourself what it is you’re trying to advertise about yourself to people who are going to see you but may or may not get any other input about you. It’s not so much a matter of you being responsible for what thoughts men have about you on their own (even a burqa won’t stop a man from being aware there’s sexual organs under there somewhere if that’s the way his thoughts are going), but it is a matter of you being responsible for what advertisement you choose to make about yourself. This doesn’t just include dips of cleavage and short skirts, but also things like what’s written/pictured on your clothes, or even where it’s written (pet peeve: little girls with big letters across their rear end).

    Goths, hipsters, hippies, Amish, tartan kilts, nerdy sayings, team logos, gang colors, cross lapel pins…there’s a lot of ways to advertise your identity through clothing. So you have to ask yourself what identity you’re trying to display and what basis you’re offering for interaction with you. There is a wide difference between “I’ve got to hide the fact that I have breasts” and “I chose this shirt to emphasize my breasts.” To accurately analyze whether you’re being modest, you have to honestly answer the question of “what am I advertising about myself with this outfit and why?”

    • “It seems to me the way to look at it is that your clothing is an advertisement for yourself. So you have to ask yourself what it is you’re trying to advertise about yourself to people who are going to see you but may or may not get any other input about you. ”

      I once heard it said that every morning a woman wakes up and opens her closet, she decides what kind of woman she wants to be that day.

      It is true that our clothes (as is our hair, makeup, shoes, language, jewelry, home, car, social media accounts, blogs, etc) all “advertise” who we are. I guess the word “advertise” has negative connotations, and “display” would be a more accurate word in my opinion. Advertise implies that we are for sale or selling something. There is a difference, to me, between a woman who displays her femininity, personality, sexuality and beauty and a woman who is “selling” her femininity, personality, sexuality and beauty. The overwhelming majority (seriously – like 99% of them) of women are not selling themselves, but both women & men are trained to believe that they are, because – after all – “that’s ALL WOMEN ARE FOR.”

      I believe it’s in everyone’s best interest to assume that literally every single woman (and man) is simply displaying who she is, and to always give them the benefit of the doubt. No one knows the heart except for God. Can you imagine walking up to an attractive woman and saying, “you’re a prostitute, right?” It is unbelievably offensive, and I always have to check myself for what I’m thinking. :D

      • I don’t like to think that I’m “advertising” myself. I’m not trying to sell myself, to convince the men around me that I’m the best on the market. That sort of language tends towards objectifying in my opinion, which our society has a dangerous tendency to do. My sexuality and femininity are simply parts of who I am. They are are me. So of course I am going to, as Lauren said, display them. I don’t see the reason to hide them or be ashamed of them. They make me the woman God created me to be.

      • I think his point was not in “advertising”, but in what we say about ourselves with our appearances. For instance, right now, my appearance says “I have given up.” And it’s true. Because of THIS ISSUE. My weight and shape have been fluctuating wildly for the past 3 years, thanks to positive changes, a pregnancy, new motherhood, and more positive diet/exercise changes. Very very few of my clothes fit right, and since I don’t have the finances to keep replacing them, I can’t do much about it right now. On top of this, I’ve been hearing a LOT in the last year about “modesty” and “not tempting our brothers in Christ”. Add to that the fact that I grew up in an abusive home where modesty was a weapon, and later in a community where modesty rules where strict and infringing on them was license to abuse/ridicule, and I’m very sensitive to this issue. I’m sick to death of my appearance telling everyone I’m uninteresting and sloppy, but until my weight evens out, I can’t do a whole lot about it. But when I do? When I go out and get clothing I like, feel comfortable and pretty wearing, and actually get to express my personality through my appearance? By gum, I should be able to do so without fear of attack and disapproval. I am very careful that I do not dress to attract sexual attention. I made a bad choice last summer, in desperation as a new nursing mom in an extremely hot and humid climate, and am beginning to think I’ll never hear the end of it. But one mistake a harlot does not make! Anyway, I think Snickering made a good point, if his choice of word was off – we should be mindful of why we wear what we wear, and how it emphasizes our sexual aspects. Beyond that, how we dress ought to be a reflection of our personalities and interests, should draw honor to God (because what does that more than someone free and confident in who He made them to be, right??), and should make US happy.

  4. “A man’s overactive libido is separate from my sexuality and femininity. Me covering up my body and wearing the “right clothes” isn’t going to help a man come to grips with his personal issues about sex, lust, and desire.”

    YESSSSSSSSS.

      • Aw that’s so sweet of you. Thank you. :) Thanks so much for this awesome article – I so loved it. Awesome, awesome perspective and I’m so grateful that you’re blogging about it! It’s so nice to read something about modesty and not finish it feeling like a terrible woman. <3 Haha.

      • What Lauren said!

        I love the way that you handled this topic in a pro-woman, pro-man, pro-human way. Sex drives are not the problem and they’re not the same as lust. The female body is not the problem and sex drives are not our enemy!

        I’m so proud of you for speaking up about this. You do it very well. Stand strong against those who would question your faith (it’s YOUR relationship with God, so nobody else gets to butt in!) or use scripture as a weapon against you!

        Also, here’s a link to my discussion of this topic on Prodigal Magazine! http://www.prodigalmagazine.com/my-responsibility/

  5. Great blog, very wise words. “I don’t want to
    dress with the intention of making a guy uncomfortable… I don’t want to be that girl.” God knows our hearts, and *why* someone dresses how they dress (to invite sexual attention, vanity or jealousy, or to enjoy looking good and glorifying God, or whatever else – like keeping warm and dry, or respecting the workers who made the clothes) is more important than any imagined rules about length or tightness of clothing.

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  9. “Because wanting to be beautiful is not immodest. Wanting to be beautiful is not a sin. Wanting to be beautiful is not degrading, dirty, or shameful.”

    -You all are already beautiful; clothes don’t make a girl beautiful. So putting on that “sexy dress”… i don’t know. I definitely see where you are coming from, but I don’t really think that anyone is winning when you put on a “sexy dress”. Just as you said that guys have to deal with their lust problems on their own, girls need to deal with their insecurities too. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh. I’m tired so I’m not using all the polite punctuation like smiley faces. That’s just my opinion

    • I totally understand what you’re saying. And I don’t believe the dress makes a woman beautiful. A woman is beautiful in every moment no matter the dress or weight or amount of makeup she’s wearing. But sometimes we like to dress up and look nice, and we shouldn’t be shamed for that. But we shouldn’t let the clothes become too important, which is why I warn against vanity in the post. It is easy to slip into that as well.
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I didn’t feel as if it was harsh at all :)

      Cassi

  10. I genuinely wonder though… how will you teach your young daughters to dress? Fashion sense and tastes start from young, can we trust them to decide what’s inappropriate? It is really easy to say something but it’s way difficult to live it out.

    • I do agree to some extent with what you’re saying. But I never remember my mom, while I was growing up, shaming me out of certain clothing choices. There was actually very little talk of modesty until my younger sisters got to high school. I think it is more helpful to talk about the intention with which we wear clothes rather than the clothes themselves. Because I can’t prevent men from lusting in every situation. But I can prevent myself from wearing something because I want a man to lust after me. I think that’s the conversation I’d want to have with my daughters.
      Thank you for reading and asking questions!

      Cassi

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  13. I’m a male, and I’ve dealt with lust issues as far as I can remember. When I became a believer at 18, one of the first things I realized was that it was a problem. But I never took the attitude of “those girls are tempting me!” The problem was me. The problem was the fact that I was looking at them that way. I knew that. It never occurred to me that since they have bodies, it’s their fault. Even having barely touched the Bible, I still knew it wasn’t them that were leading me astray, but my own heart was doing so. Something good (sexuality) was turned into evil because, like everyone, my heart was full of sin. Maybe it’s specifically because I didn’t grow up in a church environment and wasn’t told what was “appropriate” or not; I didn’t have the excuse in my mind of ‘they aren’t being modest” so it never occurred to me to blame my sisters who, more than anything else, I should be protecting and not the other way around.

    Am I crazy to say that sometimes, those who are most gung-ho about proper “gender roles” (and I am a complementarian, mind you) and the woman being the meeker, “weaker vessel” (and oft-abused biblical term), suddenly forget all that when it comes to women’s dress and men’s lust? Suddenly, it’s the “weaker vessel”‘s job to protect the male who can’t see his Christian sister in yoga pants without his mind losing any semblance of godliness. But maybe that’s just me.

    Anyway, this is good stuff :)

  14. I agree that it sucks for women that modesty has been socially constructed within the church to be a woman’s problem. Its unfair and I have had many conversations with sisters that men also need to a firm understanding of modesty. I was just wondering if you could give your thoughts on Romans 14 and 1 Tim 2:9-10.

  15. I like your overall premise here, and the vast majority of your post. I would only disagree toward the end when you describe what “modesty shouldn’t be …” or what “modesty should be …” It seems this dilutes your point and the credibility of your post, because you appear to be redefining modesty to fit some definition you’ve made up in your head. Modesty is addressed biblically, as is sexuality and other related subjects, so it seems we go there for our definitions. Otherwise what would stop us from saying things like “sexuality should be about my freedom to express my desires” or “sexuality shouldn’t be about what I can’t do” or some other contrived, personalized opinion about the topic at hand?

    You said no one knows what the term modesty means anymore. I tend to agree, but we can hardly learn/apply what it means by just saying what we think it should or shouldn’t mean without some allegiance to Scripture and logic. It is these arbitrary “personal takes” on modesty that has turned the subject into something beyond and outside of Scriptural principles into a “band-aid over an artery” strategy for curbing male lust – something you accurately speak against in the article. Thank-you for a well-written and thought-provoking article.

  16. The passivity of men is destroying the modern church, and it’s also destroying God’s picture of marriage in the same way that it makes you feel objectified before you even start the day. It is not your job to put a band-aid on a bleeding artery, and I think that is a fantastic analogy. However, the fact of the matter is that American culture (not exclusively, mind you) is fueling fashion trends which are brainwashing our very idea of modesty. I think if we as a people, we as individuals, and especially we as followers of Christ align our hearts with what God feels is beautiful, then it won’t be a question of what we wear or how, but how can I be beautiful in the Lord today? How can I be like Jesus?

    The problem is that the question of “shouldn’t I be able to be my beautiful self?” is not only entitled, but misguided. Outward beauty has nothing to do with Godliness, and it’s only our culture that prescribes those values. Even in the eyes of men, you’ll find that men agree that their “favorite” outfits on women are t shirt and shorts: simple, and functional. Who are women trying to be beautiful for? Who do you want to be your beautiful self for? These are the questions that are imperative before seeking this ambiguous and fluctuating definition of “beauty”.

    Women are beautifully made, and modesty is an attitude, not an outfit. But if there is a question of “I can wear this and be happy and content and ‘free’” versus “I can choose to serve my brothers, despite that it may be a bit unfair because of gender norms in America” take a look at the Apostles when they were preaching: they deserved to be served and catered to in many ways in that culture because they were bringing the word of God, but they refused several times so that they may more clearly show the example of Jesus Christ. Consider this as well, and be blessed as you seek to understand God’s will for this facet of the Christian woman’s life.

    • I can’t speak for the author, but I want to be my “beautiful self” FOR MYSELF. I don’t see why the assumption has to be that I want to be that for anyone else.

      Also, my husband’s favorite outfits on me are not tee shirts and shorts. They’re clothing cut to flatter the outline of my body (and no, I’m not referring to my cleavage). Just like my favorite outfits on him are not shapeless, but the ones that let me see and enjoy the broadness of his shoulders, or the length and strength of his arms.

      Yes, being beautiful (and feeling beautiful) should always start with asking how my life and heart reflect the life and heart of Christ. Absolutely! But it is not wrong or indecent to want to dress His temple in a way that is personally satisfying. After all, the physical Temple was adorned in gold, gems, ivory, silk, and more! If God specified such beautiful adornments for a building, why on earth would we ever assume he wants his Bride to dress only in cotton and denim?

  17. This is an Outstanding Post,…and subject to ponder,…
    as a man,..was single til I was 37yrs old,…and working out Christianity all along,…
    I’d add to your consideration, this question…
    “Who is it that is telling you what is Beautiful ??” If it’s the media,…be careful

    I know for sure, that a woman’s eyes, tell far more about her beauty, than anything else
    and I know quite a few guys, who are also looking there first,…
    to see her self confidence, peace with who she is before God, etc.

    Just so you know,….the portrayal of all men as, “lust driven,” is also a Media Distortion of the Truth,…

    There are a lot more Good Men out there, than some would imagine,…and yes, we can tell,…
    what Inner Beauty really looks like

    Some of the Most Attractive women I’ve ever seen,…were dressed in loose fitting, comfortable clothes,…
    just cause, “a Comfortable Girl,…is a Wise Woman,…”
    not much of a stretch to realize that

    Thanks for writing about this,…

  18. This is my take on “dressing modestly”, coming from a 35 year old woman who wasn’t a Christian until adulthood, and who now has an almost pre-teen daughter that adores clothes.

    My parents weren’t practicing Christians. However, they were old-fashioned & had a strong moral base for raising us kids. In that light, we dressed modestly. Jeans, tee shirts, shorts, they all had to pass the modesty test – and by that, I mean our clothing had to cover what shouldn’t be seen in public. Namely, cleavage, buttocks, navel, lower back. They weren’t fans of bikinis, though as a teenager, I did wear one – much to their chagrine. I remember shopping for clothes one weekend with my older sister & bringing home several outfits that passed the school’s dress code. My father made me return half of the clothes, because they didn’t pass his modesty test.

    I never understood why it bothered them so much, until I got married & the world of s3x was opened up to me.

    What single Christian girls don’t get is how the male psyche works in regards to seeing the female body. As a woman married for 16 years now, I know a lot more about it, but not all there is to know. I had no idea, before my beloved & I became intimate what exactly triggers a guy’s thoughts & hormones. I dressed to look nice & proper, jeans & causual shirts, shirts, the occasional dress or skirt. Never anything that revealed my cleavage (intentionally – I now know to be aware of unintentional exposure!), & heaven forbid my pants rode down to expose my underwear. Nowdays I see even Christian women showing the “sling-shot” effect with their pants exposing thong underwear, & it turns my stomach to know these girls don’t accept responsibility for causing their Brothers in Christ to stumble. (Every single one has told me that thongs are just more comfortable, & wearing them with low rise jeans, “they’re just going to show”.)

    Girls, young ladies, please listen to what your parents won’t tell you about s3x & s3xual thoughts. I know, personally, from my husband the little things that trigger his libido… things that I would have never even given a second thought to. I once put on a new tee shirt that was just a bit tight through the chest, & it clung to me before I could stretch it out. That? He loved. If I have to readjust my underwear & the elastic snaps against my skin? He can’t resist. Just the slightest curve peeking up above a v-neck tee (not a deep v-neck – I’m talking a modest cut here) & he wants to snuggle.

    I had always thought the triggers were the Big Things. The girls who dress like prostitutes, short skirts, low cut shirts, bare middle. And yeah, of course, those things are triggers for a lot of guys. But even the little things catch their eye. I’m blessed, that my husband doesn’t have an issue with pornography & s3x. His parents raised him, diligently, to respect women & to not treat them as s3x objects. But the majority of the men I know in my life, they struggle with it. Unfortunately, some don’t so much as struggle as embrace it as “Normal”.

    Girls, parents aren’t raising their boys up right anymore. S3x is pervasive in our culture. If it feels good, do it. Even in our churches, it is rampant. You have to take some of the responsibility, to clothe yourselves in modesty, to cover what should be covered, to keep yourselves pure & to help keep the thoughts of those around you pure. No, I’m not saying you are in charge of Every Man’s libido. But you are in charge of the way you present yourself to the world. If young men aren’t being taught how to keep their thoughts pure, what is right & wrong in the world of s3xual intimacy, then we women have to be extra diligent to present ourselves in such a way that we don’t cause undue lust. (Guys are going to lust… you don’t have to make it easier for them!)

    Take your bikini, for example. This is what changed my mind about wearing bikinis. You’re walking down the beach, or hanging at the poolside, wearing your bikini. No big deal, the important parts are covered, right? So instead of being there in your bikini, let’s put you in the same spot, only this time, you’re wearing your bra & panties & hanging out for everyone to see. Do you see the similarities? Many bikinis cover less skin that your bra & panties. How comfortable would you be hanging out in your undies for all the world to see? When I realized I was wearing the equivilant of underwear in public, I was horrified. I wouldn’t want my dad or brothers to see me in my undies, much less perfect strangers. No wonder guys stumble & lust! We are showing them things that are reserved for the bedroom.

    How do I know that just a bikini causes problems? Because many of the guys in my family, who lusted & longed for women, who ogled & drooled over bikini clad females when they were teens & young men, now have daughters of their own. And each guy has said there is no way, ever, that HIS daughter will be wearing a bikini while they are under his roof. They’ve even stated, “My daughter won’t be dressed like a hoochie mama. No strapless shirts, no bare bellies.”

    Girls, why do you think these men say this? Because those cute little outfits you have no problem wearing are doing things to the guys that see you, things you can’t even imagine, & don’t want to imagine.

    I get it. It’s not fair that we have to dress modestly to “protect” them. Guys don’t have to dress modestly to protect us. God didn’t wire us that way. But girls, do you really want to think of how a guy thinks about you? Do you want to know the impure thoughts the stranger walking beside you in the mall is having about you, because “it’s not my problem that I wore” a low cut shirt, low rise jeans with your thong exposed, daisy dukes because “it’s hot outside”, a strapless top to show off your pretty shoulders, a dark bra with a thin light colored shirt because it looks cute, a short skirt because it’s in style, a bikini because “it’s just a swimsuit”.

    Forget about protecting the boys, ladies. Protect yourself from being defiled in the minds of the guys who see you. Respect yourself enough to protect your image, regardless of the fashion sense of the day. I’m not suggesting prairie dresses & bib overalls. Wear jeans that cover your whole bottom, wear shorts that cover at least half of your thigh (even workout clothes! they ride up when you exercise, & expose a lot that you don’t realize is being seen!), wear shirts that won’t allow your bosom to play peek-a-boo with the whole wide world. Be fashionable, but be modest.

    Do it for YOU, because you love & respect yourself enough that you want to save those little glimpses of yourself for your future spouse, & only your future spouse.

    Praying for all you single ladies out there.

    • Actually, many women DO have the same issues men do of controlling sexual thoughts when we look at men. I’m sure others reading this will back me up on that! We may not have the same overarching focus on it that some men do, but it is very much there. And YES – men DO have a responsibility to their female counterparts to keep that in mind. Unfortunately, most of them don’t know that, because people are so focused on female modesty that they ignore male modesty almost completely.

      Take swimwear for instance: I agree that wearing a teeny bikini is short sighted, and virtually no different from wearing underwear in public. On the other hand, how many Christian men bother to wear a swim shirt? For many women, seeing a naked male chest leads directly to sexual thoughts. But nobody talks about that. They’re too busy freaking out about cleavage (which, by the way, is next to impossible to cover if you’re bigger than a B cup, no matter how careful you are).

      I hear you. I agree that we do have some responsibility to choose clothing that is not showing off our underwear or cut to point to our sexuality. But that’s not what this author is promoting! She mentioned a bikini, and I am curious on her reasoning over why they’re okay, but other than that, she actually SAID she’s not suggesting that we dress sexually explicitly. I wonder if you might want to reread her article?

      Also, I’m not a single lady. I’ve been married to a fully sexual man for 6 years, and have a daughter, who I intend to raise to respect her own body and dignity, as well as the rights of men to walk around without being assaulted with her sexual bits. But I have no intention of raising her to believe that she is responsible for the thoughts, sins, or desires of anyone but herself.

    • Laura, this post was really good, and helpful to read! I agree with your approach that we should be protecting ourselves from being defiled in the minds of guys (even apart from ‘protecting’ them). And we should also actually care more about dressing in a way that is beautiful but non-sexually arousing than we do about simply looking beautiful or expressing ourselves. Otherwise, if we’re willing to sacrifice having a servant heart in order to achieve physical beauty, I think that is an example of vanity.

      I really try and find clothes that look good and that I like to wear. But I take a lot of joy also in dressing in a way that in sensible and just doesn’t advertise my sexuality to people. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the last year among the religious Jewish community, and they have quite traditional ideas of tznius, modest, ways of dressing. Out of respect for them I dress in the way that they need to. And I have realised that even when I am away from that community, I have begun to feel uncomfortable being around guys in the clothes I used to think were fine. It’s comfortable and beautiful, and it also opens up more space for respectful relationships, if we can think carefully about diverting attention from the part of us that men who aren’t married to us are not meant to experience.

      I’m not married so I have never been able to talk about these things with a man, or experience a positive expression of my sexuality with him. So I really appreciated reading some of the things you posted here, which I had never thought of.

      I don’t believe you misunderstood the blog post written here, which does contain many good points and nuances. But I would stand with you in thinking that it is our responsibility to be modest, intentionally, not just because ‘guys struggle’, but because of the attitude that should be able to exist when we live in friendships and community with each other. That’s not squashing our sexuality, it’s just reserving its visual expression for the place where it is designed to be meaningful… and only for that place.

    • Perhaps you could save a prayer for all us single blokes as well who decide to actively be practising celibates because God wants us to be, but struggle in a world where sex and sexual images are everywhere, and although somehow greater society frowns on women and girls showing off their bodies in provocative ways, at the same time we see these things on adverts, pop videos, sitcoms, films, billboards, magazines and newspapers. The Christian man and woman has a duty to serve God with a whole heart; inflaming the desires of people in a knowing way is not godly, whether it’s a man doing it or a woman. Dressing attractively is not the same as dressing inappropriately or provocatively. And may I add this, a man should also save his sexy hairy chest and legs(!) for his future spouse too! Those of us who have got hairy chests that is!!!

  19. Yes guys struggle with this. The tone of this post seems to be judging men because their struggle impends your personal freedom, which seems kind of selfish. I’ll validate that it is frustrating when someone elses immaturity impacts my own personal freedom. There is no mention at all of what God thinks about this “grey area”. A grey area being something in which the bible does not specifically mention. The best place to find answers about this issue is the bible Some good passages to consider when thinking about this 1 Corinthians ch. 14, 1 Corinthians 6:9-20, 8:1-13, Galatians 5:16-24, 6:1-4, 7, 8
    Ephesians 5:1-13

  20. I don’t think we realize how much cultural programming affects this issue. There are many, many cultures around the world where women do not cover their breasts because they are simply not considered sexual. If you argue for a universal modesty code because “it’s just the way men are wired”, I’m not sure how you explain those cultural differences. I definitely don’t say we should live in denial of our culture (you won’t find me going topless in public!), but I don’t think the answer is to keep accepting our culture’s extreme sexualization of the body and respond by requiring that women cover more and more. We need balance..and a lot more conversations about how the body and its parts have many other purposes besides sex!

    I think about this a lot as a new breastfeeding mom. The fact that breasts are so sexualized in Western culture is very frustrating and makes what should be the most natural thing in the world (using part of the body for its functional purpose, just like using ears for listening) embarrassing and almost shameful (no matter how well covered). No wonder breastfeeding success rates are so abysmally low in the U.S.

    A final unrelated thought…my perspective on the biblical basis for modesty changed dramatically once I realized that 1 Tim. 2:9 has a lot more to do with flaunting wealth than showing skin “…elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes…”

  21. Some very good arguments there, I do not want to be sitting in a church and right in front of me is a gal with that evening dress that gives her cleavage the attention it deserves, the girl next to me has a skirt that when she sits down I can see where her boyfriend pinched her last night and on the other side a gal has a low cut V that makes her voluptuous bust appear to be testing the breakpoint of her bra.
    Under no circumstance will I listen to the pastor. It’s true that it may be confused to objectifying women but women do not make it hard for us men to go down that road

  22. Great post. God created us and we are all beautiful in some way. Dressing attractively is the prerogative of everyone, a man or woman, and we all want to look as good as we can, not just for vanity or to attract the opposite sex but because often if we look good we feel good. If however you are dressing to specifically get attention, for no reason than to stoke up someone’s desire, then that it is a different matter, especially if you are doing it to make yourself good. That would be a little strange. In this day and age, attracting certain kinds of attention, especially sexual attention, is I would say unwise.

    Going to church is about worship, and fellowship. If a woman or man dresses smartly and appropriately, even if she or he has a t shirt and jeans, then I would think this was fine. But if someone is dressing as if they were out on the tiles in figure hugging clothes or provocative short skirts or tight shorts for men, is this really loving your fellow Christians and is it really serving God, or is it serving your own fractured ego? Usually men and women who show off their curves in a provocative manner have issues of approval from other people, and surely the Christian is seeking approval from God? Does what you wear bring shame on yourself and God? Are you doing it for honest motives? Only each person in their heart of hearts can truly answer that question.

  23. (I didn’t read the comments so sorry if something similar has been said)
    I totally agree with you.
    This has been a topic that has been on my heart for a long time. And as a pastor’s wife, mentoring young female girls in the church, it is a topic I often have to meditate on, and grasp a firm opinion on since questions come so frequently.

    I recently wrote something on my own blog about it: http://mydeepheartscore.blogspot.ca/2013/07/his-strength-is-within-you.html

    The only thing is (and I think you started concluding to this at the end of your post) that clothes are merely a symptom of this constant struggle with equality and feminism every girl, christian or not, has to battle. It isn’t about what you decide to put on in the morning, and telling a girl to cover up more, or even embrace her body more, is not going to solve the problem we face with modern feminism. It is like telling an alcoholic his problem is alcohol. It is not alcohol, the problem is what drove him to alcohol.

    Telling a girl she shouldn’t have to worry about her clothes or telling a girl she should cover over her brothers sin (which I agree is not right) is NOT the issue. It is merely a symptom of the fact that we prescribe that any of this shallowness has anything to do with WHO she is HOW God or others feel about her and WHAT she is worth.

    It is all just a lie.
    And the only way to truly become a radical feminist, fighting for the true identity of a woman, not just any woman, but YOU as a woman, is to firstly see yourself as Christ’s daughter. The rest falls into place from that point.
    You don’t see yourself as a shell that needs to be makeup and dressed up in the morning.

    You see yourself as His. As beautiful. As precious. As strong.
    And you realize that nothing you can do, no look you can prescribe, and none of your sexuality can bring you any more attention, worth or acceptance as knowing this to be true in your life.
    When you belong to the Man of Sorrows; you are strong and you are covered under grace no matter what “symptoms” anyone tries to tell you that you must change before you can be accepted by Him; you already are.
    That is the message that girls in the church need to hear.

  24. When all is said and done, the question remains is your dressing pleasing to God and does your concience condemn you when you step out, probably what one thinks is modesty has a different meaning.. my take is base it on the Bible and the question of this or that will not be an issue.

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