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.