Friday, May 9, 2008

The Modesty Survey

This is fascinating. Over 200 Christian girls submitted questions about what guys find immodest (i.e. ways girls dress that lead them to struggle with impure thoughts), and over 1,600 Christian young men responded.

As a woman, I found the results to be interesting and surprising, e.g. that many men find it distracting when women wear purses diagonally across their chests or let their bra straps show (even accidentally), and that and that the men overwhelmingly agreed that women who choose to dress modestly do make a difference, even in our culture where immodesty is rampant.

The overview is here and the results are here. To view the results, choose a category under "Select a Category" and then click on one of the sub-categories and the results will appear below.

via A Second Generation of Homeschooling


Literacy-chic said...

You know, I appreciate modesty, but I am not on board with this kind of thing. It really makes it appear that the girl is responsible for the guy's impure thoughts. Was he really struggling, or just reveling in pieces/parts?? I see the point with the purse strap, but PLEAASE! That pretty much precludes ever riding in the car with a girl wearing a seatbelt!! I think that if guys think really hard about what might possibly turn them on--and focus on it for the entirety of a questionnaire, or a date, or a car ride, or trip to a mall--you might find that even were we all in burkas, some would still find SOMETHING to give them impure thoughts, if only from imagining what was underneath!

Jennifer F. said...

Really? I thought it was very useful. The point of the survey, as they say in the intro, is not to tell you what to do. I don't think anyone's takeaway is that we therefore should not wear purses across our chests. I think the purpose was to illuminate the sorts of things that guys struggle with, and that we can make reasonable decisions based on that.

I thought it was sweet that the girls came up with the questions to ask and the guys asked them. I like seeing the uniting of young women and young men toward the common cause of chastity -- so often these issues are really divisive. If I had been Christian as a young women I think I would have liked to know that, say, accidentally letting my bra strap show might have led some of my brothers in Christ to struggle with impure thoughts. It would have never occurred to me that something like that could be a problem, and I would have been happy to take a little extra care to see that that didn't happen.

I think another thing to consider is that in our totally emotionally disconnected society of mostly small families, many young women do not have close male relatives and therefore have a LOT of blindspots when it comes to guys.

Literacy-chic said...

It's not that I think they're trying to tell me what to do, it's just that it seems to betaking the responsibility off of the guys. I heard a young priest address a college parish in a homily in which he related his own experience with the impulse toward objectification of women and how he turned his will away from the occasion of sin by willfully thanking God for the beauty of the woman. If the girls are already trying to be decently modest (without going overboard), they will not be letting straps hang out. Other questions ("Are jeans inherently immodest?") just struck me as absurd. There's always going to be one nut who says yes! And the tenor of the responses from the 40+ year olds was disturbing. I don't like to see anyone go to far in either direction on this issue, and placing responsibility for a teenaged boy's impure thoughts on a camisole is unrealistic. I don't think the girls need to be saddled with that responsibility. Rather, they need to begin from the point of personal integrity and self-respect, and avoid making themselves into sex objects--without male input. You don't want to send the boys (especially considering some denominations promote the idea anyway) the message that their lusts are the fault of the girls, just as Adam's fall was the result of Eve's disobedience. I had a student write a paper arguing against abortion from this very perspective--demonizing women for getting themselves into such a mess. He didn't even consider that a male might have been involved at some point. Unfortunately, they learn that somewhere. I just think it's a little loaded. But then, I saw a lot of the negatives of religion before I ever became Catholic. There are some things about which I'm probably over-critical. (Really?? Noooo. Not Literacy-chic! Opinionated??) ;)

Veronica Mitchell said...

I went to an evangelical college where women's "modesty" was stressed, and it did so much damage. The implication was consistently that women had a responsibility to prevent men's sexual interest. No credit was given to a woman's intent, or her basic physical comfort, or the necessities of her activities. The feelings of the men around her were the only determining factor for whether her clothing and appearance was a "stumbling block." It was an impossible, enslaving way to live.

Melissa said...

If I'm on a diet and someone starts waving chocolate chip cookies in front of my face, teasing me with them, it is ultimately up to me to say no. But, I think it is wrong to entice someone. There is a scripture that specifically says we are not to lead others into sin. Many women don't care that their cleavage is sticking out or their skirts are short enough to see their underwear. That is wrong! We are supposed to be an encouragement to one another, not an instrument that causes others to sin! And, yes "religion" can go to the extreme with that....I'm not talking about head to toe coverings. I think we all have a basic understanding when someone walks by us dressed inappropriately and looking for attention.

P said...

Literacy-chic, I need to take an issue with a few of your comments. Since you admit to being a little opinionated, I hope you won't mind my opinion:

"'s just that it seems to betaking the responsibility off of the guys..."

"I don't think the girls need to be saddled with that responsibility."

"It really makes it appear that the girl is responsible for the guy's impure thoughts."

I disagree 180 degrees. Sorry, LC, but it *IS* the girls responsibility.

Obviously, as with the sin of wrath, sometimes a person can be angry without it being anyone else's fault but their own, but sometimes people are angry because of real injustice done to them. In which case, doesn't the person who did the injustice share in the guilt? Why should it be any different with immodesty and lust?

Yes, men have a duty to be chaste, and they also have a duty to forgive those who sin against them. But I don't go around smacking people in the face and then lecturing them about shirking their "responsibility" to turn the other cheek. Nor do I pick people's pockets at Church and then remind them about being too attached to material possessions.

Virtues like chastity and mercy exist because of the inevitability of sin in this world. But just as we can never take Our Lord's commandments of forgiveness as an excuse to ever strive for anything other than perfect justice on our own part, so we cannot take the call to chastity as an excuse for immodesty.

"Rather, they need to begin from the point of personal integrity and self-respect, and avoid making themselves into sex objects--without male input."

"Without male input"?!? Who else's input are they going to take? Unless a woman is a lesbian, how can she possibly offer any relevant information on what about a woman's body does or doesn't inspire sexual arousal?

Part of "personal integrity" is humility, and part of humility is knowing when you can't possibly know what you're talking about.

And unless you are sexually aroused by the female body, you cannot possibly have any educated opinion on what is or isn't modest. I cannot tell you how proud I was of those girls for coming out and just *asking* what caused their brothers problems. Yes, some of their questions were a little silly (like body glitter...?) but that was because they were firing in the dark.

"You don't want to send the boys ...the message that their lusts are the fault of the girls,"

Ok, we need to really define what you mean by "lusts" here, because point blank, some of boys lusts are ENTIRELY the fault of the girls, and others aren't.

So let's distinguish 4 things: sensation, feeling, thought, and act. Once again, let's take the sin of wrath as a simpler comparison.

Scenario - I walk up to a man and hit him.

Sensation - pain (note: entirely MY fault)

Feeling - anger, fear, humiliation (once again, entirely MY fault)

Thought - recognition of injustice (entirely MY fault), consideration of revenge (now, and ONLY now, do we come to anything which is not 100% solely MY moral responsibility; even still, how can anyone say I do not share in his sin if he commits it?)

Act - an interior act of hatred, or an exterior act of violence, injustice, or uncharity (obviously, here his culpability begins to take off, because ONLY NOW does he have the ability to choose whether the act takes place, the sensation, the feelings, and even the initial thoughts are beyond his control, although it is within his control to a certain extent how long the thoughts remain).

There is no difference in the interior progression in matters of lust. The sensation of pleasure, the feeling of arousal, and the initial thoughts of sex are COMPLETELY outside of the man's control, and therefore is ABSOLUTELY, ENTIRELY 100% PERCENT THE SOLE MORAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE WOMAN. I cannot stress this enough.

You can no more tell the man who sees a woman's breasts "don't be aroused" than you can the man who just got hit in the face "don't feel pain."

Now, the man can, through mental focus, dispel those initial thoughts (although they will recur again and again for hours, or days, or weeks, causing him a great deal of annoyance and stress); it is also entirely within the control of the man's will to actually consent or not to the interior act of lust. So the ultimate responsibility for his sin is his own.

Note, of course, that whether the man sins or not, the woman already has.

"Was he really struggling, or just reveling in pieces/parts??"

Out of curiosity, what if it was the latter? Isn't that even worse? I mean, if a Christian girl is around a decent Christian fellow, then she has good cause to hope that even if a disordered movement or two should arise within him, he will conquer it through grace without sin (though she should obviously never cause such a reaction on purpose).

But what about worldlings? the wicked? the fallen? the lapsed? What about all of those who won't even struggle against the illicit pleasure aroused within them, but will rather wallow in it? Does a Christian woman have no concern that she is being an occasion for others to offend God? Does she have more concern for her own comfort or convenience than of Our Lord's sorrow at sin?

"just as Adam's fall was the result of Eve's disobedience."

I hate to break it to you, but "For Adam was first formed; then Eve. And Adam was not seduced; but the woman being seduced, was in the transgression." (1 Tim 2:13-14). Yes, Adam sinned as well, but God Himself said that Adam sinned BECAUSE OF EVE (Gen 3:17).

In conclusion: let us remember a nice little portion of our catechism:

"Q: In how many ways may we either cause or share in the guilt of another sin?

A: we may either cause or share the guilt of another's sin in nine ways:

1. By counsel
2. By command
3. By consent
4. By provocation
5. By praise or flattery
6. By concealment
7. By being a partner in the sin
8. By silence
9. By defending the ill done"

Just because someone else sinned, doesn't mean that I didn't. Another's guilt does not prove my innocence.

Amanda said...

I am a teenage girl, and I would like to say that I find the Modesty Survey extremely halpful and guiding! It has helped me so much in guiding my choice of clothing, posture, etc. There were some questions that I really wanted to ask and I got exactly the answers I was looking for.
I, personally, NEED male imput! I welcome it and I look forward to hearing it.
As for responsibility, I think that it is pretty much 50/50. Sure, the guy needs to try and keep his own emotions under control, but the girl needs to help him out by not giving him reason to feel those emotions in the first place! I believe us girls have a responsibilty to help our brothers in Christ, by dressing as modestly and purely as we can.
That doesn't mean we have to wear sacks or something like that. A few of the blogs I visit have this week done a "Week in Feminine Dress" and the clothes they wore were both gorgeous AND modest.
God Bless.

lyrl said...

The problem with advocating modesty society-wide is that sexuality in dress is relative. In our culture, knee-length skirts and necklines that cover the bust are modest: because shorter skirts and lower tops are common.

In other cultures, revealing the shape of the leg (by flashing an ankle, or by wearing pants instead of an ankle-length skirt) or going without a head scarf in public are highly sexually charged actions: because they are rare.

Men become sensitized to women's sexuality when they are not exposed to women's bodies, to the point where even a woman in a burca can be an obstacle to chastity. This means we can only be modest by covering up more than our neighbors. Which is fine if not everyone wants to be modest, but becomes problematic if modesty is a guideline the entire society is supposed to follow.

P said...

"That doesn't mean we have to wear sacks or something like that."

I would strongly second this. It is not a question of modesty per se, but androgynous, ugly clothing does not incline men to have a better view of women. True feminine beauty is inspirational. To see a beautiful woman makes men want to be better men.

"The problem with advocating modesty society-wide is that sexuality in dress is relative."

Lyrl, in some ways yes, in some ways no. A few points:

1. Sexual attraction will always be based upon sex. That is men will always be attracted to femininity, women, to masculinity (barring a disordered inclination). Therefore, anything uniquely feminine will always be an object of sexual attraction in males, and therefore its display will always be objectively immodest.

2. The way the human eye works is not subjective. Camouflage doesn't work because it is currently culturally fashionable not to look at people wearing splotchy patterns, it works because it is inherently impossible for the human eye to perceive that which it cannot form a boundary of.

A few basic rules of human perception:

A. "Lines" do not exist in reality. Beginning artists draw outlines; advanced artists use color and shading to make the eye perceive the outline. The human eye uses the boundary of one color and another to extrapolate lines.

B. The human eye focuses on these lines, and will try to "trace" them to determine shape. Doing so, we naturally look for intersections. For example, look at the shape below:


What "direction" is it facing? Most people will say "to the right," because that is where the intersection is.

C. Having found intersections, we use completed polygons to sort and emphasize. If you saw a string of letters, and one of them was circled or boxed, wouldn't your eye naturally focus on that one?

Taking all of that, consider a girl wearing a miniskirt and belly shirt. Where are the lines?

1. The boundary of the skirt and leg.
2. The outsides of her legs.
3. The insides of her legs.
4. The boundary of the waistline and belly.

So what shape is formed?


Hopefully, she doesn't have quite that wide a stance, but either way, you have a box drawn around her groin with a double arrow pointing up at it. That is not subjective - that is advertisement.

By the same token, a "v-neck" is a big downward arrow pointing at a woman's chest.

Obviously, there will be cultural/individual influences also, but sometimes (im)modesty is really an objective fact.

Anonymous said...

It is very sad to me to see women defending themselves and accusing men,ex: if gals were even in burkas (God forbid)"some would still find SOMETHING to give them impure thoughts, if only from imagining what was underneath!" WHAT DOES GOD GIVE US INSTRUCTION FOR? DOES HE NOT KNOW HOW THE MINDS OF MEN WORK? His wisdom and His judgments are perfect. When He says be chaste, discreet, modest, holy, with the hidden man of the heart being our beauty, He means it! Do a word study dear girls. Look those words up in the 1828 Noah Webster dictionary. Why do supposed Christians want to get to the edge of the line? Why do they want to be like the world? They likely are not saved, as "those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh and its deeds." They are believing a false gospel of a false Jesus who allows liberty to sin; but JESUS CHRIST is the risen LORD who's liberation from slavery to sin is for those who will 'choose' to really follow Him. Loose, long, not see-through, no peek-a-boo areas, and hidden nipples. THAT is modesty. As far as the burkas? Well that is coming because of the sin in the church. Read your bible. God's judgment has always been carried out via the old babylonians. "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." So listen to the Spirit, beloved, and strive to become a holy one called out of the world - which is the meaning of the word "church".