Teaching modesty to our youth: ur doin it rong

Silvia H. Allred, second counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, had an article on modesty in the July 2009 issue of the Ensign. In the sidebar, “Teaching Modesty to Our Children,” Sister Allred wrote the following:

Girls might not recognize that the physical display they create when they dress immodestly affects boys more than it does them. Help children, especially daughters, understand that attracting someone of the opposite sex solely by physical means does not create a lasting relationship.

This hearkens back to Dallin H. Oaks’ talk on pornography during the April 2005 General Conference:

And young women, please understand that if you dress immodestly, you are magnifying this problem by becoming pornography to some of the men who see you.

Some women take offense at such statements that seem to imply that women are responsible for controlling men’s sexual urges, rather than the men themselves. They think it would behoove young men to learn early that they alone bear the burden of dealing with their raging hormones and if they’re so horny, it is their problem and they should probably get used to it. The scriptures tell us to let virtue garnish our thoughts unceasingly, and it is simply unfair to expect women to anticipate everything that might cause a man to experience virtue-garnishing FAIL. These same women also resent the implication that women are not subject to the same sexual feelings as humans of the other persuasion and wonder why young men are rarely told to pull up their pants and put on a shirt, for the love of Mike, because there might be swooning ladies present.

Some folks respond–as if it were just common sense–that sexism has nothing to do with it, but men are simply more at the mercy of visual stimuli than women are and would it really hurt to help a guy out by not wearing such revealing clothing? We’re virtue-garnishin’ here!

At this point some woman is saying, “Dude, I am every bit as subject to visual stimuli as you men are. Actually, well-toned men in tailored suits make me incredibly hot. Should we instruct our men not to wear tailored suits so I won’t be forced to wrestle with my raging hormones? Well, should we?

And some enlightened, civilized man is saying, “Look, I’m as straight as the next guy, for sure, but I’m totally capable of restraining my sexual impulses in front of a half-dressed woman–or for that matter, a fully-undressed woman–because I am civilized and enlightened. There’s no reason a girl should cover up her nubile, well-toned, God-given body for my sake.”

As it happens, it isn’t just young men who have difficulty with the virtue-garnishing. Young women do experience sexual temptation. It’s not something we like to talk about in church, but it’s true. And there are some things young men could do to alleviate that burden so many girls carry. Let us imagine for a moment, brothers and sisters, what one might say to a group of young men if one were trying to impress upon them the importance of not tempting the young women beyond that they can bear:

“Young men, you must likewise be considerate of the young women. Do not smile at them or treat them with particular kindness or affection, lest they get the idea that they are ‘special’ or–more gravely perilous–that you are in love with them. Please be aware that if you exhibit charming and thoughtful behavior while simultaneously practicing good hygiene, you could very well become ‘walking pornography.’ Under these circumstances even the best, most valiant young woman may be tempted to make sexual advances toward you.”

I know what you’re thinking. Well, first of all, I know what some of you are thinking: “Sister J, I’m as friendly and well-groomed as I can be, and the ladies still aren’t falling at my feet.” To which I say that in my hypothetical address I forgot to mention that you must also avoid being good at sports and having lots of money. If you’ve ignored absolutely all of my advice and still aren’t getting lucky, might I suggest that you open up your dating pool to include average-looking girls with limited conversation skills. My teenage self and others will thank you.

Now as for the rest of you, I still know what you’re thinking:

1) “But we want our young men to be nice to the young women. We want them to practice good hygiene. If we discourage them from doing these things, will this not lead to a very undesirable result?”

2) “But young men want the young women to make sexual advances toward them!”

To which I can only say, “EXACTLY!”

Do you imagine for one moment that any young man of the non-gay persuasion is going to listen to a description of what makes him attractive to young women and respond, “Golly gee whillickers! I had no idea my behavior was affecting the girls that way. I’d better stop washing my hair and saying funny stuff to make them giggle. And there go my plans for playing football and getting a part-time job this year. Sheesh!”

Right. So why is it, exactly, that we think telling a young woman that her manner of dress makes the boys go crazy with lust will necessarily dissuade her from wearing short skirts and tiny tops? Here’s the news flash, kids: Young women want to be sexually appealing. What they don’t want is to be sexually available to every male who happen to glance upon them. If you ask me, we should stop relying on a young woman’s better nature, that mythical part of the female soul that wouldn’t dream of arousing a young man on purpose, and instead appeal to her fear of turning on the wrong men.

“Young women, if you choose to dress immodestly, please be aware that it isn’t just that cute guy in the Priests’ quorum ogling your breasts and thighs. It’s also all the ugly ones, their pimple-faced twelve-year-old brothers, and their fat, balding forty-something-year-old fathers. That’s right. EW.”

I guarantee at least a fifty-percent increase in longer skirts and higher-necked blouses.

But nobody asked me.

Bookmark Teaching modesty to our youth: ur doin it rong

Comments

  1. I agree! It would of put me off… not that I wore low cut tops or short skirts when I was a YW!

  2. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

  3. Assuming that the people you’re talking to don’t want to do what’s right simply because it is right does not seem like a good long-term strategy. Wasn’t there discussion of this back when the prophet was counseling people against tattoos and piercings?

    Your comparison is also a bad one. First, I am aware of counsel being given to young men, not to “not display affection” but to make sure that their expressions of affection are honest, and that they do not convey the message they that love someone when they don’t. And second, conveying that message — if appropriate — is not wrong, while dressing immodestly is.

    The issue is not “Let’s teach our young women to be unattractive,” but “Let’s teach our young women to cultivate an attractive appearance and demeanor in ways that are respectful, of themselves and their bodies and the people around them.” I’d rather they knew the consequences of their behavior and decided to be respectful on purpose, than try to “trick” them into putting on clothes.

    I agree that young men need a lesson in modesty too though.

  4. Meadow Lark says:

    Punchy writing, Rebecca J. It was a trip down literal memory lane (my own memory) reading your conjectured inner workings of young people’s minds.

    I tend to agree with you on your main point. The risk is that we attract the unattractive…and the ill-intentioned.

    Here’s a twist on modesty standards for adult women/men. It’s likely corrupt, so please no one add it to your list of justifications. I think about it often, though.

    I’m married, and have come to comfortably consider it a marital duty to keep myself physically presentable and attractive to my husband. He lives in a world that includes women with cleavages, curves, high heels, and way more disposable time than I have for the gym, the hairstylist, the plastic surgeon. Somewhere along the line, I slackened my YW standards to garner his less-divided attention. My t-shirts aren’t baggy, my jeans fit (but do let me sit, bend, etc. comfortably) and I probably dress “younger” than my mid-forties years.

    Wanna’ help me justify that?

    Meadow Lark

  5. Meadow Lark says:

    And Jared makes me think again.

    I love the idea that our male-female relationships (all our relationships) can be based on honesty, not worry, not manipulation, not competition.

    There’s nothing more attractive, I think, than a bare soul.

    Wishing the world were holier,
    Meadow Lark

  6. I also feel that you do an enormous disservice to those young women who do know the consequences of dressing immodestly and choose not to.

    Wanting to be attractive — to encourage others to get to know you better and to relate to you as the person you are — and wanting to arouse others sexually are two different things. The former is all kinds of win, while the latter is fail unless you’re already married.

  7. Meadow Lark: Maybe that is the “unrealistic” idea being taught in these Church meetings and classes.

  8. I’m tacking is in the foyer this Sunday.

  9. This is an interesting approach, Rebecca. (And as always, I love your writing.) I’m probably one of the people who would fit in your simulated conversation arguing that it’s not women’s job to keep men from thinking lustful thoughts. But at the same time, I like how you’ve laid out an argument for modesty that gives women an incentive to not dress too revealingly: to avoid being ogled (or OOgled, for that matter) by guys they don’t want ogling them. I also like the idea of presenting it descriptively–“you may want to be aware that this is how many men are”–rather than as a statement of responsibility–“you’re contributing to the problem.”

    Assuming that the people you’re talking to don’t want to do what’s right simply because it is right does not seem like a good long-term strategy.

    That’s a really interesting question. I suspect that we’re better at doing what’s right when we can see the good that comes of it for us. It’s easier for me to not smoke when I see pictures of cancerous lungs, for example. I don’t think all commandments need to have a payoff like this. In fact, you could extend your argument to say that in fact it’s better to have commandments with no visible payoff just to force us to find where our motives really lie–in doing good or getting payoffs. But from a practical standpoint of having more people do more good, I think it’s a good idea to point out the incentives for doing good.

  10. Steve Evans says:

    Jared, be nice.

  11. I’m not so sure your strategy would work, RJ. Sexuality is perhaps the only means of power within reach of many YW, and power over geeks and grandpas can still be gratifying.

  12. Jared, the latter is NOT fail for a YW who otherwise feels abjectly powerless.

  13. Why not just teach the YW to be modest for THEIR sake? My theory is that with the advent of the whole, “You’ve got, flaunt it” era of showing everything corresponds with a decrease in girl’s/women’s self-esteem about their bodies.

  14. Tricky issue, I like your take on it.

    BTW, remember the good ol’ days when Mormon girls could be both modest and sexually provocative?

    http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/?p=2525

  15. There are a lot of reasons why young women (and young men) should dress modestly, and it’s a good idea to point those reasons out. It’s just unkind to assume that they wouldn’t care about the people around them, and want to dress modestly in order to show that they do.

  16. Rebecca J, that was brilliant. I loved it — the ideas *and* your writing. As a father of three daughters, I appreciate a fresh perspective on this issue. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Jared, there are lots of reasons why young women dress immodestly, and it’s a good idea to point those reasons out. It’s just unkind to expect YW to beat their impulses into submission so that the YM don’t have to do the same.

  18. You’ve convinced me: No more muffin tops for me and my house.

  19. It’s just my view, but the counsel given to young women to dress in a way that they won’t be sexually attractive to young men simply continues the subservience of women to men. I look forward to the day when we have a female prophet and she gives a counsel to the men that they need to dress in a way that doesn’t accentuate their sexuality so much, so that they don’t make all the women flush with excitement when they walk by. In Muslim cultures, women are required to wear full bodied burkas in order to hide their beauty; the rationale being that Muslim men simply cannot control their passions, and so for the men to be holy, the women must be hidden. There’s all sorts of psychological problems with this, of course, and there are, of course, many problems in those relationships that arise from the repressed sexuality.

    The best advice to give is one that trains the man to bridle his passion, so that he is in control, and releases that passion at the right times. The same for women. Telling women to dress better so the men don’t do stupid things is a weak counsel. The same for telling men to dress differently so women don’t do stupid things.

  20. This is the best post I’ve read in a long time. As the mother of two daughters (albeit very young ones), thanks for the laughs and the reality check!

  21. 18: That’s not at all what my Muslim niece tells me is the rationale for covering. Nor is that the rationale for Mormon modesty, except in frenzied political discussions about how patrioarchal religion oppresses women.

  22. Uh, I do know how to spell patriarchal …

  23. I try to explain this to my daughter using Star Trek.

    1st season of Next Generation – Counselor Troi wears micro-mini skirt uniforms. Result – nobody takes her seriously, and they never let her sit in the Captain’s chair because she can’t keep her butt covered.

    7th season of Next Generation – Counselor Troi is wearing pants. She’s now Lt. Commander Troi, has passed the exams that give her the authority to command the ship, and people finally take her seriously. Lesson learned – cover your butt and take charge.

    Deep Space Nine – Dabo girls wear outfits that leave little to the imagination. Quark takes most of their tips, and nobody takes them seriously. They have to fetch drinks, look cute, and they get almost no lines. In the final two seasons, Leeta (a cute Bajoran) finally starts covering her chest, and she becomes an integral part of the plot, marries an engineer, and gets to play baseball with the senior staff. Lesson learned – there’s nothing wrong with having a big chest, but if you keep it covered at the appropriate times, the people in charge treat you like an adult.

    Ultimate lesson – it’s not so much about what the young men think, it’s that it’s hard for people to take you seriously when you’ve got somebody’s logo stretched across your hiney.

  24. “The best advice to give is one that trains the man to bridle his passion, so that he is in control, and releases that passion at the right times. The same for women.”

    The church already does this. Advocating modest dress do exclude in any way personal self control.

    “Telling women to dress better so the men don’t do stupid things is a weak counsel. The same for telling men to dress differently so women don’t do stupid things.”

    I for one am grateful that when women dress modestly. I can keep my thoughts in control if I see an immodest dressed women, but it sure is easier if I don’t have to fight those thoughts. Maybe the church should council modest dress as a service to each other?

  25. Dressing modestly has to do with my relationship to God. (No fine twined linens, and all that.)
    Dressing appropriately has to do with my intended activity (do I wear a gown to the beach?).
    Dressing respectfully/politely has to do with how my clothes will effect the people around me (will this distract other people?).

    Dressing appropriately and respectfully are often *part* of dressing modestly, but they should not be the main considerations.

  26. Ardis,

    #20,

    What rationale does your Muslim niece tell you besides sexuality?

  27. Kevin,

    #23,

    The church already does this. Advocating modest dress do exclude in any way personal self control.

    I should have noted in my comment that the church already does this. I was just stating that this is the best advice, and it is probably not wise to tell a woman that she has to change the way she dresses specifically so that a man doesn’t get sexually aroused from looking at her.

  28. 25: Oh, it *IS* sexuality, Daniel, but not a fear that men can’t control their passions, as you suggested.

    She says that her body belongs to her and is totally under her control, and that *she* will choose to whom and where and when and under what circumstances it will be displayed. She covers by her own choice — and at least in America she is not under any compulsion from anyone or anything other than the teachings of her religion (that is, she is not compelled to cover by dictate of any male family member or the force of law).

    That seems a pretty mature way of looking at it, and I wish more of our women had that attitude. Our dress standards may vary by time and place, but that attitude seems right.

  29. Wouldn’t the best way of teaching modesty be tailored to each individual young woman? I know that I wouldn’t recommend the way I remained modest and chaste during my teen years.

  30. Michael and StarFoxy, I’m saving your comments as an Outlook reminder that will pop up in 13 years, when my daughter is old enough to learn from your wisdom.

  31. I’ve been in ten wards over the last twelve years and haven’t even seen a YW wear something that fit my personal definition of immodesty. I suppose the modest vs not is somewhat subjective anyway.

    I have, however, seen not a few RS sisters wear things tight enough that I could make out the seams on her under-roo’s from across the room. Made it difficult for a time while I served as a YW adviser.

    Our current bishop counseled the YW leader in our ward against wearing toe rings since he felt she was being immodest. Yes, you read that right, a toe ring.

    There’s a book called “Confronting Pornography” in the which it states (something to the effect of) that YM or men in general can look upon a fully, modestly clothed woman and have the same sexual arousal as if she were totally unclothed. Their brains become programmed to seek out features, etc, that will produce this. Of course, it’s in relation to porn addiction which, I think, is prevalent enough to mention in response to such a statement in the Ensign.

    It’s a slippery slope. Perhaps we should vote on and adopt a uniform for women much like the men wear (shirt, tie, slacks, etc) to church and other official activities.

    Kind of ridiculous to me.

  32. I pretty much think the approach on modesty taken by most LDS leaders on the local/institutional level is fine. I think the results are good. We recently had an LDS prom locally and it was held next door to another prom. The contrast was shocking to be blunt. My only complaint is that at YW camp they take the whole 2 piece ban a little to far.

    The YM get lectured all the time on issues related to the LOC. There is no lack of effort with the YM on modesty.

    My final point is that its the women in a ward/stake that take the initiative on modesty standards when dealing with immodest clothing and teaching for the most part. Who handles a modesty issue at a stake dance? Local female leaders. Who teaches the majority of the modesty lessons to YW? Female leaders. Frankly us male leaders want nothing to do with being the modesty police regarding YW.

  33. Ardis,

    #27,

    That sounds pretty nice, that here in America she gets to choose to wear it so that she only shares her sexuality with one who she chooses. But is that really what happens in Muslim countries?

  34. Rebecca, thanks for such a fun-spirited post. Your take is refreshing; I can’t wait to share it with my teen.

  35. Steve Evans says:

    Ardis, Daniel, moving along from issues of American vs muslim cultures. Seriously.

  36. #27 I’m assuming that your nieces wears hijab (i.e. head scarf) and not burqah/purdah (head-to-toe covering). I can see how hijab can be empowering. Burqah, not so much.

    #30 I always say this every time this discussion comes up: modesty is sexy too. In my teen years, it’s not like I suddenly stopped checking out the young women if their skirts were longer than a particular length. Granted, it was slightly more distracting if I could determine the cut and color of a girl’s underwear because of her particular outfit.

    But then, as now, the burden was on me (as a man) to behave responsibly and in accordance with Gospel principles. I’m not any less sinful for staring with improper intentions at a girl who is modestly dressed.

  37. “Young men…do not smile at them or treat them with particular kindness or affection, lest they get the idea that they are ’special….’ Please be aware that if you exhibit charming and thoughtful behavior while simultaneously practicing good hygiene, you could very well become ‘walking pornography.’”

    Luckily, this alignment of the planets very rarely happens (spoken as the mom of a nice, but slightly shy and stinky 15-yr-old boy.)

  38. Umm, I may be going out on a limb here, but I think the real core issues were missing from this discussion from the start (including the often repeated notions expressed in the original sidebar). Modesty is not about other people. Modesty is first about respect for the body that is created in both form and function similarly to God’s, and more-so the more sacred functions. Secondly modesty is about respect that I have for me. All the rest of the modesty discussion follows from those fundamentals. (Possibly third is respect for others, but if you get the first two right, this is taken care of).

    When a husband and wife are spending their “quality time” together they are not attired in a way that’s appropriate for our youth to be attired at church, but they definitely should be still acting based on those two fundamentals. In fact, they are presumably acting in a way that is focused on respect for the form and function of the more sacred aspects of their bodies in the similitude of Gods’. And they should keep that between themselves: modesty.

  39. Sorry for being upset.

  40. Kevin Barney says:

    Fun post (and I agree with others, great writing!).

    This made me think of a beer commercial. In this commercial the beer has a special property of giving the woman who drinks it xray vision. She drinks some beer, looks out the window of the cafe where she’s sitting, and there is a hot studly construction worker working out in the sun. She can see beneath his work clothes upon his rippled body. He senses that she is looking and seeing him and he responds with a nod.

    But then she looks at the next guy, and it’s an old fat guy, and she is forced to gaze upon his bare body. And he similarly senses that she is looking at him and so he gives her a show, mouths a kiss and winks at her.

    The upshot of the commercial is that the manufacturer says they no longer make the beer with xray vision. (But you can still buy the non-x-ray vision variety…)

  41. I just looked up the PDF version of Sister Allred’s article, and I love how almost all of the modesty images are of young women. The one of a young men seems to say that if a young man wears a shirt, jeans and has the FSY pamphlet, he’s mopdest.

  42. “we should stop relying on a young woman’s better nature, that mythical part of the female soul that wouldn’t dream of arousing a young man on purpose, and instead appeal to her fear of turning on the wrong men.”

    I totally agree, and I was hoping you would make that point.

  43. Sexuality is perhaps the only means of power within reach of many YW, and power over geeks and grandpas can still be gratifying.

    That’s why I said 50% increase instead of 100%!

  44. 37- “When a husband and wife are spending their “quality time” together they are not attired in a way that’s appropriate for our youth to be attired at church, but they definitely should be still acting based on those two fundamentals. In fact, they are presumably acting in a way that is focused on respect for the form and function of the more sacred aspects of their bodies in the similitude of Gods’. And they should keep that between themselves: modesty.”

    Are you serious?

  45. Sterling Fluharty says:

    Is the concluding recommendation in Rebecca J’s post based on the assumption that the vast majority of LDS women in their teens and 20s have to worry about limiting the number of men who are attracted to them?

  46. Sorry, but I see the two quotes as being worlds apart. Elder Oaks is blaming women for contributing to men’s immoral thoughts. Sister Allred seems to be pointing out something very true: Physical attraction alone doesn’t set the stage for strong relationships.

  47. I guess I don’t totally get it. Men and women are different. Men do tend to be more visual. It is a good idea for women to know this…young women as well. They should know that their behavior effects others. Of course our behavior effects other people. It’s a matter of respect to our own selves and to those around us.

    The analogy does not stand…dressing like a slut is not the same as a man treating you kindly. Arousing someone sexually (albeit misintentioned) is not the same as acting like you are attracted to a person-or just being kind.

    I like Ardhis’ niece’s take on choosing carefully who you share your body with.

    I agree a guy should try to control his thoughts no matter what a gal wears.

    Sexuality is the responsibility of both parties. The law of chastity should be more evenly taught.

  48. So, precisely where is the appropriate line for public modesty?

    It’s really easy to write about the problems with various statements, but between a burqah and nudity, where would you draw the line – or are you saying there is no way to draw a reasonable, communal line?

  49. StillConfused says:

    “Young women, if you choose to dress immodestly, please be aware that it isn’t just that cute guy in the Priests’ quorum ogling your breasts and thighs. It’s also all the ugly ones, their pimple-faced twelve-year-old brothers, and their fat, balding forty-something-year-old fathers. That’s right. EW.”

    That is enough incentive for me!!

  50. It’s regularly asserted that visual stimuli are more effective at arousing men than women, but it’s always asserted and never argued. Is it really so clearly established?

  51. I realize the article is funny, but comparing YM attracting YW by being polite and well-groomed to YW attracting YM by dressing immodestly is quite a stretch.

    Seems like the same women who complain about expectations of modesty are often the same women complaining about being objectified. I guess they just wonder why men can’t get their collective act together.

    I should be responsible for controlling my own thoughts. I should be responsible for controlling my anger when you cut me off on the freeway, too, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t been an inconsiderate jerk.

    “Sexuality is perhaps the only means of power within reach of many YW, and power over geeks and grandpas can still be gratifying”

    Yech.

    I say we’re taught modesty to be considerate and not seek power over others, not because our men can’t handle immodest women.

  52. Kevin Barney says:

    There have been studies supporting the commonplace that men are more visually oriented in their sexuality than women. See for instance here:

    http://www.innovations-report.com/html/reports/social_sciences/report-26974.html

  53. What a delightful post!

    I think that there is always good reason to dress appropriately to circumstances. That said, there seems to be something hypocritical about telling young women they should aim to marry and aim not to arouse men.

  54. Liberal Mormon says:

    #18. I agree with what you said. And i didn’t like that talk Dallin H. Oaks gave about how women should be modest in their dress but he didn’t address the men. It struck me as being sexist and demeaning.

  55. I realize the article is funny

    But not funny enough, I realize. Sorry about that, kids.

  56. Rebecca, for all that I think you are a clever writer, I don’t think this comparison you have painted holds at all. You have compared something that we are taught is wrong (immodesty) with choosing to be Christlike in behavior, which comparison in my mind risks distorting the truth.

    I wish it was easier for modesty to be accepted as a valid principle as it is taught. My opinion is that the extreme negative reactions to it are as much the problem as anything, if not the biggest problem of all. To me, these reactions often seem to miss/ignore the bigger picture of what we are taught, and how the specific counsel we hear fits into the whole.

    Our leaders simply cannot teach everything all the time. It is our job to synthesize what they teach in light of the greater whole. As such, I don’t think teaching girls that how they dress can affect boys is somehow wrong to teach, nor does it invalidate the principle of agency for the young men/men. Or the principle of modesty for males. Or the need for women to control sexual appetites. And so the big picture goes.

    Take Elder Oaks’ talk as an example, which talk (or one sentence of it) is often used to suggest that women are somehow disproportionately blamed for sexual sins/pornography/etc. But what was the subject of his talk? Pornography. Who were the people to whom he addressed most of the remarks? To men and young men. (!!) (And this because “bishops and our professional counselors are seeing an increasing number of men involved with pornography” — it’s because the REALITY is that more men than women are affected by porn. To acknowledge the fact that how women dress can feed the objectification and sexualization of women is in my mind to simply ignore reality. And to make women nothing more than powerless victims. But we aren’t powerless; the truths and teachings re: modesty help us understand that.

    And even if his whole talk focused on young women and modesty, that talk would not invalidate other talks that cover different parts of the whole. WE have to keep the whole in mind, which includes modesty and chastity for all, and also all the other principles that come together as part of the whole.

    Sometimes I think the thirst for ‘equality’ is something that drives people to think that we should expect that there will never be any differences in counsel for the different sexes. I think this expectation distorts reality and can make truth harder to discern. In this case of modesty, etc. men and women’s bodies aren’t dealt with in the same way in our culture. The problem of porn is more a male problem than a female problem, which means the objects of porn are more female than male. Females are used more often to sell products from beer to vacations. Women have more problems finding modest clothing to purchase (how often do you hear stories about young men who got together to alter their tuxes or suits for prom because they couldnt’ find a modest one anywhere?)

    There ARE differences between the sexes in what we face in the culture, so it seems reasonable that we may see some differences in the counsel given.

    In the end, in the whole, I see modesty as a principle of power, respect (for self and others), and freedom — for both sexes. I believe that it’s all too easy to fall prey to (to be ensnared by) the trends and pressures to dress for a sense of worth, for sexual power or validation, or for other forms of seductive manipulation. To remember who we really are, and respect the guidelines for dress and grooming helps us access more truth about ourselves and others, about our worth and the freedom tied to simple, good choices and simple, clean, ‘neat and comely‘ living.

  57. btw, Rebecca, my comment came before seeing your comment #55. FWIW.

  58. I am just very aware that what was considered modest for women 100 years ago and what is now considered modest by the church are vastly different. So explain. Has men’s sexuality changed in the intervening time? Is God now more tolerant of the feminine form? What happened to change the standards?

    It seems to me that what happened is that women in the past refused to abide by the strictures that kept them uncomfortable and unable to participate fully in life. I’m extremely grateful to all these women who dared flout society’s rules at that time. Their legacy to me is that I can wear pants, allowing me to do my job of engineering, which requires a good bit of climbing, crawling, etc. I can wear shorts in hot weather now, and not risk heat-exhaustion. I can do things like run and jump and swim that were forbidden to girls in ages past. I feel they did me a great service.

    So why would I turn around and revile the women today who are doing the same thing? I celebrate girls who dress in ways their grandparents think is immodest. Children simply dress differently than their grandparents. It was true for us as children and it’s true for us as grandparents too. This is a good thing, not bad. I’d 10,000 times rather live in the US with its supposedly immodest standards than in Afghanistan under the Taliban where women were beaten for showing a wrist.

    I don’t see this as a golden mean type of thing. I think it’s an unalloyed good that girls may acceptably wear clothes in which they feel comfortable and free. Sometimes society really does need to change.

    There’s no difference in the way a Taliban man feels when he sees a woman’s wrist from the way a Mormon Elder feels when he sees a woman’s bare knee or shoulder, or the way a typical American male might feel when he sees rear cleavage. I feel that history will show that attempts to ban any of the above are misguided.

    My feeling is that the way we teach modesty today in the church is simply residual sexism. Anything at all one doesn’t feel comfortable and appropriate to say to young boys is also quite suspect when said to young girls.

  59. Anything at all one doesn’t feel comfortable and appropriate to say to young boys is also quite suspect when said to young girls.

    I can think of a few very simple examples of where that could break down, even as I think most of our standards can apply to either standard (don’t wear tight, revealing, form-fitting, sloppy, or extreme clothing….)

    There’s no difference in the way a Taliban man feels when he sees a woman’s wrist from the way a Mormon Elder feels when he sees a woman’s bare knee or shoulder,

    So I want to understand here. You really see NO difference between Mormon standards and teachings and the Taliban’s approach to this?

    Everyone is certainly entitled to their opinions, but wow. These are pretty extreme statements in my view, even if you aren’t a fan of Mormon doctrine or teachings.

    I would be interested in your response to Ray’s question: “between a burqah and nudity, where would you draw the line – or are you saying there is no way to draw a reasonable, communal line?”

  60. All I see is that the Taliban’s burqah and the Mormon knee-covering shorts spring from the same exact impulse in men in power. In eternal moral terms they’re equivalent.

    “..even if you aren’t a fan of Mormon doctrine or teachings.” I just want to say that I’m very much a fan of Mormon doctrine and teachings, in general. I sustain the leadership but don’t believe they’re infallible. There’s certainly a fair amount of residual sexism in Mormon teachings, for instance. Just as the former church’s institutional racism is finally being repudiated and updated, I feel sure the sexist teachings will too at some point. I think we have a sacred responsibility to ask our church leadership to pray for more revelation in the area of women’s rights and equality.

    I converted in 2001, and I see a big difference in the way I’m treated as a woman in the secular world vs. church. The church really is lagging behind greater society in this regard. Sometimes I pray and ask why was I led to this church which is so backward on women’s issues? I’ve been a dedicated feminist all my life. Is this really where I belong? And the answer is always an unwavering yes. I’m not sure what to make of that, only I feel sure the struggle will be good for both me and for the church. I hope that doesn’t sound arrogant. I know that I’m only one voice and no doubt I have only a small part to play. I’m not sure how things will turn out, either. I just know that in this regard I’m doing as I’m supposed to do, both in holding fast to my faith in the church and in the restored gospel, and in speaking out on women’s issues. I don’t see my views as being extreme in the least. Only plain and common-sensical.

    If you feel differently, please tell me how you reconcile history with our practices today? Joseph F. Smith deeply deplored the practice of modifying the wrist-and-ankle-length garments of his day. Upon what eternal principle do we now show our calves and elbows in a brazen fashion that would make our dear beloved Joseph F. Smith faint? Why do we feel our own standards of today are any more permanent than were his?

  61. To answer the specific question about what standards I would feel good about teaching, if it were my stewardship to teach modesty to the youth of the church, I think I would say something like this.

    “Dear young men and young women. You are beloved children of Heavenly parents, with divine natures and unlimited potential. You are heirs to the kingdom. Never forget that what you do is an example to others of how people should act.

    You’ve been given bodies, precious gifts, tabernacles for your spirits. By your grooming and dress, and by how you choose to treat your bodies, you show your appreciation to Heavenly Father, and your awareness of the importance of that gift. Please always remember who you are. Remember to make choices such that your spirit soul feels edified and uplifted, never degraded or cheapened.

    When you make decisions about eating, exercising, sleeping, grooming, and overall health, keep in mind that care for your own body is one of the first and most important stewardships you’ve been given. It’s under your care, and will thrive or decline according to how you treat it. By choosing to care well for yourself you qualify yourself to be a good parent some day and care well for your spouse and children too.

    Look in the mirror before leaving home, ask yourself if your grooming and dress are appropriate to the activities you have planned for the day. Will younger siblings and friends who look up to you be seeing a good example or a poor one? By treating our bodies with respect and care, we show our self-respect and our own awareness of our worth. Respect for others is connected with respect for our own selves. Your Heavenly Father cares deeply about each of you and so he undoubtedly hopes you’ll never accept less respect from yourself or from others than you deserve.”

    This is the sort of approach I’d implement if such were in my stewardship.

  62. Kristine

    Just walk by any magazine stand (at least here in NYC) and the market will tell you which sex more readily responds to visual stimuli. Even in this greater society in which we now live, the women have a lot of catching up to do.

    As do we Mormons. It’s been years (probably not since junior high school) that I heard girls or women discussed among Mormon males the way they’re talked of among, say, a bunch of Wall Street professionals. Someone’s backward on “women’s issues” and it’s not the church.

  63. Interesting article related to this in the Deseret News today…

    http://www.deseretnews.com/blogs/1,5322,10000036,00.html

  64. Tatiana, I agree totally with the way you phrased your last comment – and it is in line exactly with a synthesis of what the Church now teaches.

    Rebecca, that’s my only concern in taking one or two sentences out of the overall message – that doing so tends to cover the overall message and make it appear that the Church is obsessing over ankles and wrists. It simply isn’t.

    Can we do better? Absolutely! Are we doing worse than the world in general – even just the professional world? Absolutely not, imo.

  65. It is important to tease out cultural modesty as opposed to real modesty. Not showing ankles smacks of cultural modesty and is restrictive to a women…obviously we have gotten rid of that concept.

    Cleavage and tight fitting clothing are immodest- pants starting mid cheek are immodest.

    We tend to stick with knee shorts-both men and women. It’s a clean line for the youth and allows for sitting without having a clear view right up the shorts. I don’t get how knee shorts are more restrictive to women than men?

    Whatever. Part of modesty/treating your body with respect does not include green jello and large amounts of ice cream IMO.

  66. @53:

    [i]#18. I agree with what you said. And i didn’t like that talk Dallin H. Oaks gave about how women should be modest in their dress but he didn’t address the men. It struck me as being sexist and demeaning.[/i]

    Really? Elder Oaks gave an entire talk about pornography but never once addressed the men during said talk?

  67. Tatiana — first off, I thought your #60 was stunning. And I agree with Ray — I think it captures the bigger picture of what we are taught, and what doctrines underlie the standards. (My thought is (and not trying to be flippant here)– your hopes are actually fulfilled in our doctrines! :) )

    To me, some of your other thoughts encapsulate a pattern I sometimes see on the ‘nacle, and in responding ‘to you’ I want to share some of my thoughts about this in general. So please read this with more generality, just using your thoughts as a springboard for mine. (In other words, I don’t want this to be about you vs. me.) (BTW, I’m moved by your faith in the answers you have received about belonging here, even as you have questions that are significant to you.)

    All I see is that the Taliban’s burqah and the Mormon knee-covering shorts spring from the same exact impulse in men in power. In eternal moral terms they’re equivalent.

    A few points: Like britt said, not showing knees and shoulders and backs and bellies is a standard for women AND men in the Church. So already the accusation about it just being about men wanting power over women to me fails at some level there in my view. Men AND women choose a standard of modesty when going to the temple. That standard really at its core is not gender-specific. (If anything, women have a little more leeway than men — e.g., cap sleeves vs. t-shirt-length sleeves….)

    Also, the women are as on board about this in the leadership as the men. The women who lead us are strong, bright, good women. Not only do they not fight these principles about modesty, but they teach them, embrace them, reinforce them, live them.

    There’s more to me: To somehow put the blame all on the men (or to compare to other regimes that immediately conjure up feelings of some of the worst of the worst in oppression and lack of value of women) to me misses the reality that *millions* of women and young young women in the Church embrace (I dare say even are at peace) with these standards — and are not pressured or manipulated or forced into them. They *choose* them. To dismiss the standards is not to suggest that perhaps the male leadership is somehow wrong, but that most of the membership — women included — is morally wrong somehow.

    Please understand — I can respect ‘your’ viewpoints (which I know some have) as your own struggles with these issues. And maybe you even feel inspired to speak out; that only you can know, and that is ultimately between you and God. And I can even accept the fact that there will always be some interplay between opinions as we move forward as a Church.

    But in the end, I will push back when absolute statements are made as though the frustrations that you and others may feel somehow reflect absolute moral and eternal truth in some way, or that somehow anyone with “common sense” will share your conclusions or agree with your assertions. You declare, for example, that our church is socially backward. I and many others disagree. So either I have no common sense (which obviously would be offensive to me and millions of others who disagree w/ you), or maybe your view of things isn’t quite as absolute as you think it is.

    Again, I can respect that you see things differently, and leave space for you to have your opinions. . But I ask for the same respect in return for me and many others who disagree.

    All of that said, though, the greatest irony to me of all, reading your #60, is that I can’t help but feel that perhaps our viewpoints really aren’t that different — we believe and hope for similar things, but I just see those things as already existing in our doctrine, and you see them as still needing to be revealed or taught.

    What that reflects more than anything to me is how personal our journeys are, how things will unfold differently to us in different ways, for lots of reasons. How we interact with and respond to prophetic teachings is ultimately part of the journey of agency. But that means that ultimately, our personal journeys are just that — personal. The only ones authorized to declare truth for others are those given authority from God by virtue of their callings. I do believe there are absolute truths to be found from what we are taught, but I think the understanding and conviction about them has to mostly unfold in the chambers of our own hearts, in the labs of our own experience. We can’t take for granted that anyone else will see things quite as we will. Or that how those answers unfold will be the same for us and others.

  68. StillConfused says:

    I watched a show called More To Love – it was an obese people version of the Bachelor. (I know, a very low point in my television viewing history.) The way some of those women dressed… it was not just immodest, it was gross. My personal style is very immodest — mainly because I am too lazy to want to have to keep checking to see if my boobs are popping out. Anyway, seeing how slutty some of those women were dressed made me think of this article.

  69. “Also, the women are as on board about this in the leadership as the men. The women who lead us are strong, bright, good women. Not only do they not fight these principles about modesty, but they teach them, embrace them, reinforce them, live them.”

    IMO, this happens because our church is patriarchal. Women who “go along” with the men are the ones who get called into leadership positions. Those of us who disagree are rarely placed in leadership positions where we could be agents of change.

    I do not assume that all women in the church agree with me, but I do believe there are ALOT that do. We just don’t get to be vocal about it unless we want a run in with our bishop or stake president.

  70. Ha ha. Loved this.

  71. just thinking says:

    My grandmother scandalized her ward as a 14 year old girl by sewing a flapper dress and then wearing it to church. Soon all the girls were showing more leg, wearing dropped waist dresses and cutting their hair. In my mother’s era all the girls wore strapless or spaghetti strap prom dresses. She grew up in SLC and was the daughter of the stake president. It seems to me that in some ways we have taken a step backward. Are shoulders really so sexy they can’t be shown. If so why is it okay for YM and YW to go swimming together, but not okay for the girls to wear a sleeveless top or dress. Do knees really make men unable to think clearly? I don’t believe modesty has as much to do with sleeves and knees as with an individuals abiltiy to see others as whole beings and not just individual parts. Maybe if we taught modesty in behavior, decorum, thought and speech we wouldn’t have to worry about knees, and shoulders. I’m not advocating that girls or boys follow the dress standards of the world, many of which are designed to arouse sexual feelings, but rather that we stop teaching that modesty is about sleeves and knee shorts.

  72. I am fascinated by the fact that I agree with both sides of this discussion to a point. If anyone cares, I wrote the following almost exactly a year ago:

    http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2008/09/expansive-view-of-chastity.html

    I think the problem arises when either extreme becomes the norm – or the focus of the discussion. I think almost everyone here really is somewhere in the middle of the practical argument – that nearly all of us agree more than we disagree.

  73. Ray, I agree!

  74. IMO, this happens because our church is patriarchal. Women who “go along” with the men are the ones who get called into leadership positions. Those of us who disagree are rarely placed in leadership positions where we could be agents of change.

    What if — just what if — some kind of drastic change just isn’t supposed to happen? imo, that possibility needs to at least be on the table, even if some don’t like it. Maybe women who support the way things are are put in simply because God calls them to keep supporting the way things are. Maybe the majority of women like the way things are because the way things are really is good.

    Just maybe. Please at least leave room for the possibility.

    On the flip side, those who are fine with how things are should not dismiss the feelings and concerns of those who struggle. We should care when those around us have concerns and questions.

    I think it’s easier for people to listen and care, though, when the frustrations aren’t assumed or asserted to be 100% revelation about what really ‘should’ be (‘if somehow the leaders were more in tune….’ is the usual tune…and that usually doesn’t go across so well, ya know?) :)

  75. m&m, I understand where you are coming from. I agree that there are alot of people who have no issue with the status quo. But I happen to believe that alot of the “guidelines” in our church are based on tradition more than actual revelation. One of our stake YW Presidents decided that denim skirts were not modest and put out the word that they were not appropriate for church. I ignored her and allowed my daughter to wear denim skirts because that was what we had. Now, apparently, some of our leaders want to ban open toed shoes. Give me a break. I really don’t think the Lord is sending down revelations about our footware.

    The frustrating thing for me is that I personally believe that modesty comes from within a person. A person could be fully clothed and be immodest in action or speech. While a person could have nothing on and still be considered modest. All these rules regarding what we should and shouldn’t wear force us to be “compelled in all things”. What good is that?

    This statement by Elder Oaks is one that really bothers me the most:

    “And young women, please understand that if you dress immodestly, you are magnifying this problem by becoming pornography to some of the men who see you.”

    Doesn’t anyone understand that no matter what a YW wears, she is going to be found attractive (even stimulating) to someone? This is like asking a rape victim, “What were you wearing?” I am sure that Elder Oaks had the best intentions, but that statement really comes across badly.

    I am not trying to argue in favor of immodesty. I am just trying to point out that modest for one person may not be modest to someone else.

  76. aspie mom,

    By saying denim skirts are not appropriate for church, that doesn’t mean they are not appropriate other places and therefore modest. Are there many places tight revealing clothing are appropriate?

    I’m not insisting God does care about our toes, but there are instances in scriptures of very detailed revelation-even related to what is worn.

    As for Elder Oaks-really? If a girl chooses to dress like a slut and it does put a thought in a guys head, does she not have ANY responsibility for that thought? Where the guy goes with it is his deal. She could be naked and it is NO excuse for rape, but she shouldn’t be all shocked and offended that he had some sexual thoughts. Surely people should be able to walk around without a constant barrage of boxer shorts and breasts assaulting their vision. I frequently have the temptation to walk up to a young man and say..you poor thing, your parents must be struggling financially and they can’t afford to even buy you pants the right size? Or ” perhaps you’ve lost weight because they can’t afford food?” or as a comic said, perhaps “you’re so tough your reputation will protect you because surely you don’t expect to run away like that!”

    I just wanna walk around with belts and oversized t-shirts to let others be able to focus on our brains and personalities instead of our insistance that they see beyond the obvious rebellion and stupidity to the brilliance below. I’m not saying there isn’t brilliance below, just saying why make people “see past” to find it.

    Of course a woman may always be stimulating to someone, but I have too many brothers to think that a low cut tight shirt is the way to assert my independence. It is ignorant to assume that the same crowd will be attracted to any random woman dressed modestly and the same random woman dressed in some tight, low cut thing. To me it is similar to the women objectifying herself by emphasizing her body, then denouncing anyone who dares to objectify her.

    Do we all want to take guys seriously in their pants hanging at their cheeks? Shall they demand the right to be taken seriously?

    Why should women get to demand the right to be seen as mature and thoughtful when their clothes say “I’m a body to look at”?

    It seems to me the general modesty standard is related to garments..I’m sure if we all insist and beg for years on end we won’t have to wear them at all..then we’ll be free of the responsibility…oh and the blessing, but then how silly of me to imply that we cannot choose our behavior AND it’s consequence.

  77. britt, are you saying that you agree that denim skirts and opened toed shoes are not appropriate for church? Because that is exactly what I am talking about. The dictation of EXACTLY what should and shouldn’t be worn goes against Joseph Smith’s words: “teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves”.

    I am a good judge of what is modest and what is not for me and for my children. I don’t need my fellow saints giving me direction. Do you honestly think I would want my own children to be objectified? But at the same time, I refuse to destroy my daughter’s self image of her beautiful, God given body by suggesting that unless she wears baggy, ultra concealing clothing, she is somehow being immodest and evoking sinful thoughts in others.

    My husband, and I am sure other men, are seriously turned on by beautiful long hair. Should I and my daughters shave our heads in order to avoid being objectified? Would that be the modest thing to do?

    Modesty is about MODERATION. If we are to be modest, maybe we should wear modest jewelry instead of huge diamond wedding rings. Maybe we should live in modest sized homes and drive modestly priced cars.

    Modesty is about not drawing attention to oneself unnecessarily. If I wore a burqah to church, I can bet you I would get noticed for all the wrong reasons. THAT would be immodest. But if some dingleberry can’t keep his eyes off my daughter because she is wearing a form fitting shirt, then the immodesty lies within him.

  78. long hair = low cut and tight huh?

    You do see a difference between generally attractive and LOOK AT MY CURVES!

    your daughter should wear tight shirts and bear not a shred of responsibility for the first thought? I’m not saying someone should keep staring, but really? no responsibility?

    modest = baggy and yucky

    gotcha

    really? There isn’t any sorta option there? none? nothing classy and beautiful? Nothing lady like? nothing? if it’s not form fitting (tight) it must be huge and baggy and burkha? really?

    I have 6 daughters..we’ve done a little bit of shopping in that direction.

    It’s not a matter of shame. A nice dress doesn’t have to be form fitting. It can be flattering without being tight.

    I believe the denim thing and open toe are silly. Are they appropriate for church-is that Sunday best? I thought I remember a letter about denim and open toe shoes…but I really may be wrong there. My point more was that just because something isn’t appropriate for a certain situation, it doesn’t mean it is in principle immodest. If your stake YW pres said it you can always pray about it and see how it applies to your family, then do that. Don’t stress about what she said.

    Modesty to me is about respect. Respect for oneself and others. Dressing in a way that the focus is your spirit-not your body. That includes dressing for the situation.

  79. britt,
    I think we agree that modesty is about respect. I said my daughter wears form fitting clothes, not tight or low cut. But she does have curves. If her shirt was baggy enough to hide the fact that she has breasts, it WOULD be baggy and sloppy.

    I think its great that you dress your daughters as you see fit. I do the same thing in my family. My issue is not with dressing modestly, which I definately approve of. I just don’t want other people telling me what is and isn’t modest. I think that you and I are probably just barely to the left and right of the center line on modesty. But, I don’t spend much time worrying about encouraging boys to pull up their pants or covering up every cleavage I come across. I am way too busy to worry about anyone but myself and my family.

    And as far as the hair goes, in many societies, a woman without her hair covered IS considered immodest.

  80. Britt- about your comment on rape. IMO, rape is not about sex- rape is about power. So using clothing as a consequence is blaming the victim. Women are raped who do wear immodest clothing. Women are raped who are wearing baggy shirts and sweat pants with tennis shoes. I think in many ways our opinions are the same on chastity issues, but IMO, rape has nothing to do with modesty or sex.

  81. One last comment: For seven years, driving home from work, I would pass through the I/S of Hollywood & Vine. There were always ‘call girls’ there. Yes, lots of hooker dress. But also, one dresses as a nurse, one in a business suit with heavy black trim glasses, and even one in a full Girl Scout uniform!
    I am sure they all made a living.

  82. Sonia, I’m a bit confused about the rape comment…I agree rape is about power.

    I thought I said a women could be standing naked in the room and a man would still have NO excuse to rape her…clothes don’t matter.

    On a different note, I do believe that if a woman dresses provocatively she shares responsibility for the first sexual thought-after that a guy can choose to take it somewhere or choose to get rid of the thought. It is never an excuse for ANY actions on his part.

    Aspie mom, on the belt and shirt thing…It should read…sometimes. It isn’t like every time I see it, but you probably guessed that.

    It’s true we probably aren’t that far apart.

  83. Let us consider carefully the lessons of the Garden of Eden. If men had been left to their own desires we would be still picking fruit from trees and sleeping on sunny banks in cool grasses the rest of the time. It was women, after all, who decided that work was necessary and that we really did need sex and children. Clearly we know that women are the deciders here. Men…will generally do what women want, particularly where the reward is sex. Look at Adam. When his eyes were opened he really got an eyefull and he gladly followed Eve into the lone and dreary world.

    In the grand scheme of things we owe to women the fact that they could choose the fathers of their children. Other primates do not necessarily have that option. Because women are the deciders, especially about sex, they have chosen good genes for their offspring and we became more intelligent, more capable of sin. Darn the women who brought sin into the world by choosing good men.

    This led to the bifurcation of the sexes. Men with the majority of desire, women with the majority of restraint (at least to my satisfaction). Women never, almost never, have to ask for sex. Men ALWAYS, or almost always, do. It is a very rare man indeed who has headaches at bed time, at least that bad. Remember what Berthold Brecht said? A man on his way to the scaffold will have time. Without this bifurcation there is no choice. If men are not almost always available then women can not choose. If women can not be discriminating then choice is meaningless. If testosterone is the true afrodesiac then men have 99% of it and women are in a position to hold out against desire to make a good choice.

    Women, on the other hand, have a vested interest in choosing their mates carefully because of the huge investment they make in bearing and raising children. This has made a lasting and indelible imprint on our collective unconscious. Women get to choose and should not be raped or coerced into a sexual relationship which is not of their choosing.

    Women get to choose, but that choice is meaningless if there are no choices available. To increase their desirability and to increase the number of choices looking sexy will do it every time. Men will just do what men do and drool and dream. If, by looking sexy, she attracts a nice man and they mate, be he old or be he young, then life has accomplished its purpose, the generations will proceed. It is only our modern age that has put great weight on the life of the mind and spirit and on the worth of the individual. We expect true love and a tight pair bond, so we think that a sexy girl will not attract a truly committed guy leaving the girl and her offspring to fend for themselves. We think of Bristol Palin. We council restraint and modesty to avoid the Bristol trap.

    A relationship based on this fundamental inequality is one of happiness. I say to all men, fall down and worship women and subjugate your sexuality to them. By struggling against your nature and fate you are going against the great plan established in the Garden of Eden: women are in control, especially of sex. (A byproduct of this is that by ceding control, your sex life will improve and you will have many children.) Pair bond! Women should treat their captives with love and mercy and lift them to a higher plane. This must be done as adults, not as selfish, whiny children seeking only their own reward. A fully conscious and adult man can be aware of his God given desire for women and graciously give this gift to her. A fully conscious woman can receive this gift with pleasure and satisfaction and love and gratitude. (The horror is in the inverse, an man trying to assert his false dominance and a woman belittling a man for his weak nature and base desires. Or a woman using a man’s weak nature and for her selfish gain.)

    Teach this to young people: women are in charge, men are sex slaves and can be led around by the ring in their noses (a euphemism). Teach women to be aware of their true power and men of their basic weakness then we can begin to make progress. It only makes sense that when women dress in a seductive way that their range of choices increses, it is a natural and unconscious knowledge. Instead of walling young women away and making them afraid of sexuality, teach women that when they make themselves into sexy objects that rather than being passive, be active. They have the choice, they are not the flower but the bee. They are the gate, the deciders, of who is worthy of them. When they put on their little bikini they are entering a ferocious battle where choice is the prize. But just remember Bristol if you loose the battle of the choice.

    Men: be grateful that your masters can be gentle and sweet and so sexy. Do not be childish and selfish. Women: do not be disdainful of male weakness, it is a gift of God to you and will keep you warm on cold nights. Together we can use this bond of love and friendship to weld us together, body, mind and spirit.

  84. Sorry, britt. I guess I do not think a rape victim should have any responsibility for the rape. Any suggestion such as she shouldn’t have dressed that way or been where she was etc… allows us as a society to say that the victim has some blame. And doing that gives some allowance and acceptance of the procedure IMO. So if you do believe rape is about power, clothing shouldn’t enter the equation at all. Again, just my opinion.

  85. Sonia…I thought I was clear…when I was talking about thoughts I was not talking about rape…I’ve said it twice now being naked would not excuse rape-clothing is not the issue, where she is, is not the issue. At. All.

    With the being partially responsible for the first thoughts..I’m talking more about the Elder Oaks quote- the whole living pornography-different subject matter, completely different situation. make sense? pornography is fixating about sex…not a power thing. I guess I don’t totally connect rape with sex-not sure if that makes sense or not ?

  86. It’s interesting how often people respond to a comment without responding to the words in it – and, just to be clear, that’s not pointed at any one person or viewpoint.

  87. I know I am late with this but this thread is BE-AWESOME (beyond awesome)!! I was rolling when I read this.
    I am a father with teens of both genders.
    I find it interesting to hear people discussing our YW as if they are walking around wearing fishnet and lace. (Really, walking pornography?) For the most part young girls dress pretty good and the ones who may be experimenting are still not out of control.
    In my experience (both personally and in working with youth) YM of our church are going to see people and things that lead to impure thoughts almost daily, in the media, at school, etc. (remember we are talking about teenage boys, a cute figure in a t-shirt could be a turn on) This summer our family spent a week at the beach and had to face the bikini nation everyday (I realize that is a little extreme, but you still have to deal with it).
    The church seems to be lacking in new material for this new generation of youth. I feel we are doing our young men a disservice by putting the guilt on YW. The church seems to think that LDS girls are the only ones young men see on a daily. However since they are not, perhaps we should teach YM responsibility in dealing with their hormones. Teach them who they are and build them up with coping skills, then support them as they go through this phase of their lives. Boys know that the YW get the “modesty lecture”. I believe it sends the wrong message. It says “if something turns me on it is not my fault it’s hers”.

  88. I feel we are doing our young men a disservice by putting the guilt on YW….perhaps we should teach YM responsibility in dealing with their hormones

    I just want to point this out again: Have you read the Elder Oaks talk where the ‘walking pornography’ quote was made? Really, we need to stop making it sound like the YM never hear anything. Really.

  89. AaronL, would you consider being my bishop, YW president, YM president, and any other calling I can think up? Cuz dude, ur kewl!!!

  90. I just want to point this out again: Elder Oaks never used the term _walking pornography_. It’s not an Oaks quote. It was made up by his critics.

  91. “I feel we are doing our young men a disservice by putting the guilt on YW. The church seems to think that LDS girls are the only ones young men see on a daily. However since they are not, perhaps we should teach YM responsibility in dealing with their hormones. Teach them who they are and build them up with coping skills, then support them as they go through this phase of their lives. Boys know that the YW get the “modesty lecture”. I believe it sends the wrong message. It says “if something turns me on it is not my fault it’s hers”.”

    Um, Aaron, I’ve been in the Church for a long time, and I simply have to say that the message in that paragraph isn’t one I’ve ever heard from the pulpit at any level.

    Let’s try to put a little perspective back into the discussion. Does anyone here really believe that YM don’t get the “modesty lecture” in some form every bit as much as the YW do? Does anyone here really think that the YM aren’t taught responsibility for their hormones? (If anything, the Church often gets criticized in the Bloggernacle for trying to teach the YM “too much control” over their hormones.) Does anyone here really think that the LDS Church teaches that YW carry all the responsibility for what YM think and do? If so, have you attended ANY General Priesthood session over the last 15 years, at least?

    **Elder Oaks’ talk used the phrase “magnifying this problem”.** To what problem was he referring? To the problem within men – that MEN have. He didn’t say women dressing immodestly “creates” a problem that wouldn’t exist otherwise; he only said that women can “magnify” an **existing** problem if they dress immodestly – and that doesn’t mean covering ankles and necks, but rather “not moderately”. He mentions NO details; he simply teaches a principle.

    How in the world does that blame women? All it says is that they can contribute to (magnify) the problem – that how they choose to dress, if taken too far toward an extreme, can have an effect on the men who see them. Is that a controversial statement?

  92. Thomas Parkin says:

    I think there is a little mistake in making this mostly about sex. I think modesty is mostly about the search for a godly dignity.

    Ray – I think the unfortunate thing about Elder Oaks statement is in the words “becoming pornography.” Of course, a person can _never become pornography_ because a person continues to be everything that they are: all dimensions and potentials, hopes, fears, etc. One of the problems with pornography, speaking as an expert, is that it stimulates us in a powerful way without in any way containing any of the human dimensions that a man or woman possesses by definition. I agree that he is sometimes deliberately misunderstood on this, but that is at least in part because his statement was, in my view, needlessly provocative. I also agree with the comments indicating that a man who is troubled by pornography will tend to see any woman, of a type he desires, through the lenses of his problem, however she is dressed. ~

  93. Thomas Parkin says:

    I mean that as a very gentle criticism of two words in Elder Oaks talk. I admire him very much. And I know they (the GAs) go out of their way to be careful in their use of language. ~

  94. Thomas Parkin says:

    I would rather say this:
    “is that it stimulates us in a powerful way without in any way containing any of the human dimensions that a man or woman possesses by definition”

    like this:
    is that it stimulates us in a powerful way while blocking access to apprehension of the human dimensions that any man or woman possesses by definition. ~

  95. Ray, yes the Pornography problem is with men. Although Elder Oaks gives three suggestions (Paraphrasing) first, acknowledge the evil. Don’t defend it or try to justify yourself. Second, seek the help of the Lord and His servants and third, do all that you can to avoid pornography. These are great suggestions but I cannot pass these onto teenage boys (or middle aged ones) and expect to get the desired results. First the addict lives in partial truths they cannot overcome by themselves. Second they are after the fact that addiction is ingrained.
    I am suggesting that the church do more training prior to the addiction. For example men, (young and old) could be taught how to deal with healthy vs. unhealthy desires. Young men could also how to explore their sexuality in a healthy way. Young men need instruction in how to proactively create healthy relationships with young ladies. Young men also need specific instruction on how to recognize and avoid behavior and thought patterns that lead to addiction. Last of all (and this biggie sizes our combo meal) give them a better support group while they repent if they get started down this trail. (All of this includes serious training for church leaders).
    Thomas, I agree and appreciate your comments. You are right women cannot literally become pornography. However they can be told they are “magnifying” the pornography problem. A couple of months ago my daughter (15) had a lesson in YW about supporting the priesthood. In this lesson she was told the best way to support the priesthood was to dress modestly so that young men would not have bad thoughts. She took this very literally and was very concerned. Another example is in church girls camp this year. The girls were not allowed to hug or sit on laps because it could lead to inappropriate thoughts about each other.
    The teaching of our youth is only partial pulpit. The majority comes from the daily and weekly interaction of teachers and leaders who have the greatest potential to help our youth have a healthy understanding of how to deal with life or inflict shame and guilt.
    A couple of thoughts: According to PC World March of 2009 Harvard researcher reveals the most avid consumers of Internet pornography. Utah: Online Porn Capital of America? http://www.pcworld.com/article/160566/utah_online_porn_capital_of_america.html
    “Utah has the highest suicide rate in the nation for young men between 14 and 21″

    http://www.redorbit.com/news/health/406208/house_passes_bill_to_develop_utah_suicide_prevention_plan/

    Could our youth be asking for a new approach to an old problem?

  96. Sorry about the ending there. You get the idea though.

  97. Thanks, AaronL. Great information. I can guess that your children will have healthy attitudes about body image, modesty and sex because of your realistic and lovng approach.

  98. “Another example is in church girls camp this year. The girls were not allowed to hug or sit on laps because it could lead to inappropriate thoughts about each other.”

    Uh…….what the…?

  99. I certainly don’t want to sound like I think I’m the Great OZ of raising teenagers. I am just a dad who bought into this free trip around the sun.

    The camp demo was by the SYWP, who made a presentation at the beginning of the week about appropriate hugging. A presentation was made about how to do the appropriate tee-pee hug, cheek to cheek keeping the hips back. Approx. 3 seconds was the approved time limit.

    It was a “WTC” moment for us when we heard about it. Our concern was that my daughter’s response was that the SYWP was inspired so there must have been some problems with the way they were hugging before that was inappropriate and could have lead to thoughts of homosexuality. My wife quickly took the opportunity to clear up the difference between appropriate non-sexual contact and what may be inappropriate.

    The girls at our house do a lot of hugging. I think it helps the kids to have appropriate non-sexual physical contact with each other (hugs, leaning while telling stories, a little pushing and shoving, etc.). This way they are used to the contact and know what a good relationship feels like. Then if something goes over the line they will be able to recognize it quickly and deal with it (hopefully).

    I still laugh thinking about people giving a serious hug demonstration with time limits. It sounds like something from “The Office”.

  100. I understand, Thomas. I really do. I have four daughters, and I’ve never said the Church addresses modestly “perfectly”. I just think the criticism often is so over-the-top as to be . . . instructive.

    Oh, and AspieMom, I generally try hard to get snippy, but all six of my children are well-adjusted, have healthy attitudes about sex and their bodies and aren’t hung up about modesty – since I’ve treated it as an internal harmony and an expression of self-worth. It’s the underlying implication that . . . never mind. I really don’t like getting snippy.

  101. Gee Ray, if I complement someone else, it doesn’t mean I have a problem with you. If I recall, the only comment I made in your direction was that I agreed with you.

    There a alot of ways that children can grow up well adjusted. I just really liked AaronL’s ideas about some things. I agreed with him in that I have not noticed a real modesty problem with the youth in our church. I also agreed with him that LDS youth interact with all kinds of people everyday.

    I am pretty sure that you are a great dad. Sorry if I wrote something that would make you think otherwise.

  102. Missed a “not” in the last paragraph of my comment. Kind of changes the message a bit. :)

    It’s cool, AspieMom. Frankly, this is one topis that bugs me a lot, since I’ve seen so much distortion and manipulation of quotes about it over the years. I was tired and not feeling well, so I acted out of character. I apologize.

  103. One “topic” – guess I should quit while I’m behind only this much.

  104. Its ok Ray, I have read enough of your posts to know that you are totally awesome. I am a real fan. Hope you feel better.

  105. Justin Perry says:

    Telling women to dress in a way that won’t make men horney doesn’t necessarily shift the responsibility to women.

    A number of TV shows and websites have been devoted to “making your child unattractive to pedophiles”. None of the people who produced these shows or websites would ever argue that children are responsible for keeping pedophiles in check.

    I would tend to side more with the opinion that telling women “not to be pornography” degrades the men, as it suggests they are unable to control their raging hormones when an immodest female enters the room.

  106. Re; #75:

    “One of our stake YW Presidents decided that denim skirts were not modest and put out the word that they were not appropriate for church.”

    To me, this is crossing the line into class warfare. I’m all for people wearing their Sunday best to church, but if their Sunday best happens to be a denim skirt because they can’t afford a $700 dress and someone tells them they’re being immodest, I have a problem with that.

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