On Modesty

I hear it’s almost Spring, in parts of the world that are not New England. For young women in Mormondom, warm weather means (more) modesty lessons. When I criticize the ways that girls are instructed about modesty among Latter-day Saints, someone inevitably asks (accuses), “Well, how would you teach it, then?” My answer is simple:

I wouldn’t.

Really. Not ever.

I would never talk to girls about how they should cover their bodies. I would never use the word “appropriate.” I would never mention their clothes. I would use the word “modest” only when speaking of service and self-forgetfulness.

I would say, “we’re playing volleyball for our activity next week. You’ll want to be able to jump and stretch comfortably.”

I would say, “we’re having a dance. Don’t you love how it feels when you just forget about everything and let your body move?”
I would say, “I love high heels, but they’re not very fun for dancing.”

I would say, “let’s read what Jesus taught about judging based on appearances.”

I would say, “let’s look for images of women from the scriptures in great art.” I would ask, “what images do you have of Heavenly Mother in your mind?”

I would say, “we’re having career night soon. Let’s watch some interviews with women CEOs and university presidents. What do you notice about the way they speak and carry themselves? What makes you feel confident like that?”

I would say, “let’s read about Jane Manning James, and Emmeline Wells, and Sarah Kimball, and Tsune Ishida Nachie, and Martha Hughes Cannon, and Louie Felt, and Patty Sessions, and …” (Every week I would say something like this!)

I would say, “we’re going to girl’s camp. You’ll want to protect yourself from sunburn and bugs and splinters and sprained ankles.”

I would say, “we were in the temple doing baptisms. How did you feel? What sensations did you experience in your body? In your spirit? How did they feel connected?”

Everything in a girl’s world teaches her that her body is an object, to be dressed (or not), starved, admired (or not), flattened into images to be posted/texted/insta-ed, exercised, displayed, hidden, surgically “improved,” flaunted, given, withheld, chosen (or not), loved (or not)… by other people, especially male people. Church should be a refuge from that relentless pressure to construct the body as an object of someone else’s gaze–the place where we treat girls as whole human beings, growing to be good and wise agents of their own destiny. There are too many things they need to know that they won’t hear anywhere else; we don’t have time to talk to them about how to be a slightly different kind of object of the male gaze than Teen Vogue suggests!*

If we tell them their lives matter, and are their own, which they can choose to share with a spouse and children when they are ready, they will spend less time thinking about how to get boys to like them (not a lot less, probably, biology being what it is, but at least we will not be sacralizing makeup tutorials!). We might start by letting them see women treated as whole human beings, even if they are not attached to a man… We could even let them see women at church leading and making decisions that don’t depend on getting a man’s approval. If we give them real power, they won’t need to use their sexual power to get men to give them a little.

If we teach them who they are, they’ll figure out what goddesses wear.

*(and we ought to be really embarrassed that Teen Vogue sometimes does a better job of respecting girls’ minds than the YW curriculum)


  1. Harold hecuba says:

    I’m wondering why certain women are so bent out of shape about modesty? Modesty can help protect young women and not attract the wrong crowd.

  2. Kristine says:

    So can teaching men not to be “the wrong crowd.” I’d argue that would be assigning responsibility to the appropriate party.

    (And I’ll be deleting further comments along these lines. It’s a stupid, tired argument that it’s women’s responsibility to take care of men’s thoughts and behavior.)

  3. Harold, what a stupid comment that doesn’t warrant the pixels I’m typing.

    Kristine, as the father of a relatively newly-minted teenage girl, thank you, and I completely agree. We try to teach our kids to love themselves and to dress appropriately for the situation (and why, oh why are kids so averse to wearing gloves and hats when it’s cold outside?!?). I want my kids to love church, and don’t want to have to contradict messages they get there. And we’re lucky here that the modesty-(meaning-wear-a-lot-of-clothes)-at-all-costs message seems muted at most where we are. The be healthy, happy, and appropriate for the activity message strikes me as being of central value to our boys and girls.

  4. Matt Briggs says:

    Couldn’t agree more Kristine! Thank you for writing. The “wrong crowd” is responsible for their own thoughts and actions. Every person has agency to choose how he/she thinks and acts and we can’t shift that responsibility to another person. How can one person be responsible for another persons’ thoughts or actions? They can’t!

  5. Marvelous. The last line is killer.

  6. AMEN! I used a similar trumpet when I served in Young Women’s presidency. I could go on….
    Women, of any age are not responsible for the proper or improper thoughts of men and boys.
    Women of any age are not dependent on men to define their worth, nor their wardrobes.

  7. Among other things, I like this: “I would say, ‘let’s look for images of women from the scriptures in great art.’ ” It seems most of the women in scriptures are either “modest” icons or wicked women. Of course, there are some cross-overs and some who get miscategorized, but such art, discussion of it, and the follow up question Kristine suggests, may teach what is needed without the typical narrow use of the word “modesty.”

    At the risk of deletion, I agree that it’s a stupid, tired argument that it’s women’s responsibility to take care of men’s thoughts and behavior. That, however, is a different thing than what I thought HH was suggesting; I thought he was talking about self-protection from men and boys who are not taking care of their own thoughts and behaviors even if they are taught to do so. There will always be some of those. Maybe I read HH wrong. But if I read correctly, it might also be a stupid, tired argument that any effort toward teaching self-protection is a stupid, tired argument.

    HH’s comment reminded me also of a lunch meeting with co-counsel, and a male client. Co-counsel came BYOB (i.e. bring your own blonde (not his wife)). She wore a top that exposed approximately the top half of her bust and more cleavage than that. Co-counsel expressed some anger at the client’s obviously noticing (ogling?) his blonde’s cleavage. Client’s response: “Well, if you don’t want it looked at, don’t put it on display.”

    While that blonde may have been calculating, some adolescent girls are unaware. Some of them don’t have parents who will teach them awareness. Should our YW leaders take any responsibility to do so? I suspect it can be done without the traditional mis- or limited use of the word “modesty.” There are some great suggestions in the OP for doing so.

  8. Kristine says:

    I think girls (and boys) are generally smarter than we give them credit for. If they’re on display, they probably know what they are doing and why. If that’s the case, we clearly need to spend time teaching them better ways to get their needs met, not lecturing them about their symptomatic behavior/clothing If they’re really unintentionally wearing “immodest” clothes, the last thing we should do is make them more self-conscious. With toddlers, we know that ignoring bad behavior and modeling better is the best tactic–it’s weird that we forget that with adolescents.

    The number of things wrong with the BYOB anecdote is too great for me to begin to address. But no part of it is the woman’s fault–she is making the most of the tiny bit of power she has in a grotesquely unfair and exploitative structure built by and for men.

  9. Thank you! I truly appreciate what has been taught here. I grew up in the church learning about modesty. And I grew up with a mother who taught me to use my body to manipulate and be noticed by the boys I knew. I remember her always telling me to accentuate my booty and breasts. She didn’t like when I wore baggy clothes. I was so uncomfortable with my body till was around 16 that I couldn’t even where shorts or dresses that didn’t completely cover my legs. I remember my mother forcing me into shorts even though they made me uncomfortable, and sometimes quite short shorts. My mother taught me quite blatantly that my responsibility was to learn all about what men wanted and liked and then to replicate that to get their attention and please them. And then I went to church and learned the same things, but in a different way, that in order to find a righteous man I would be required to be and dress only one certain way. Now, as an adult, I struggle with self-image and even as WOMEN we are bombarded with modesty lessons and reminders that we are just objects to be manipulate into a man’s world. I have been striving to take my body back, understand and become more connected to it in order to build my self-image and confidence.

  10. I love this, Kristine. I love the idea of church being a refuge. As you say so well, girls get so many messages that other people are scrutinizing and valuing them based on what they wear; it would be great if we could avoid sending them the message that God is doing it too.

  11. Teen Vogue has become very feminist and “woke” as it were since the last presidential election. That magazine is so progressive and feminist I got my daughter a subscription. They of course do a better job of teaching teenage girls to respect themselves and their bodies than any conservative religion would do.

  12. Jack Hughes says:

    Well done, Kristine. This father of two daughters appreciates this message very much.
    But simply not teaching modesty may not be enough in some circles. We have generations of bad modesty rhetoric to undo. The Oaks “walking pornography” statement is on the record and still comes up in lessons. But countering those old messages is its own challenge in a culture that doesn’t believe in institutional apology (also Oaks) and holds in reverence the words of elderly white men, even when they turn out to be wrong.

  13. I’ve been attending a non-denominational Christian church for almost 4 years now. I’ve never once heard the pastor address modesty as a female problem. In fact he quoted Jesus who admonished men who looked upon women with lust to pluck out their eyes.

    Harold, start plucking.

    The one thing I love about this church is my teenager daughter is never shamed for what she wears to church or activities. She feels much more included and loved there than she ever did in Young Womens.

    The LDS church could learn from this example. Teenagers could be spending their time in a million different places so when they choose to come to church, it shouldn’t matter how they show up and what they’re wearing. More than anything during these years they need validation and unconditional love.

  14. Much as I’d like to agree and applaud, I think you’re fooling yourself. They ARE smarter than we often give credit and they will know exactly what you’re doing if you give this kind of lesson. True, if we’d do this from a young age, and persist for a decade or two until the YW leaders of the future are the young women (and men) of today, then the world might change. But for today, this would be lawbeled the “modesty” lesson and every line would be heard as a coded message, same as last year.

    It’s my cynical side on display this morning, but I would stop with “I wouldn’t.” I just think the whole topic in a church setting is hopelessly conflicted and spoiled by embedded generations of shame-based women’s-bodies-as-objects teaching.

    But maybe you’re saying never have the lesson. Never spend an hour. Just add this kind of comment in the flow of life. Make it a pervasive attitude that infuses everything we do, every activity, every lesson. I can buy that.

  15. Most comments are focused on sexual attractiveness in one way or another. Kristine’s post also notes that modesty lessons have the effect of highlighting sexual UNattractiveness as well … the consequences of which can be the destruction of personal value, social isolation, and, in LDS culture, the lifelong sense of mortal failure and eternal condemnation when that unattractiveness is seen as the chief cause of singleness in adulthood. You’ll never learn what goddesses wear when you’re never going to be a goddess … at least, according to the implications of modesty lessons.

    Tsune Ischida Nachie sighting for the win! Thank you for that, Kristine.

  16. nobody, really says:

    I’m in the South (TM), so The Modesty Lesson has become pretty simple.

    Are yer’ underbritches covered up? Can you do what you want to do without feeling out of place? Great. Let’s discuss dirty jokes and being a bully online, because that stuff will harm your soul.

    Problem is, I often have to remind the old ladies and the leadership that standing there with a disapproving stare whilst clutching ones pearls is a big part of why all but one of our youth are completely inactive. The young women are offered oversize T-shirts anytime their knees made and appearance and the young men are given a tongue-lashing if they wear a non-white dress shirt to church.

  17. I love this. Thank you Kristine!

    A lesson on modesty could also say this: another way to describe “Modesty” is Meekness, a state in which people have the confidence not to do things that are meant to draw explicit attention to themselves to stoke their own vanity. And also, such a lesson could focus on the grown-ups rather than burdening the children or teenagers with guilt about whether they are dressing “modestly”. For example, one could ask during such a lesson whether the Stake President who drives a $100,000 Range Rover to church is being modest. Is he being more or less immodest than a 10 year old girl whose shoulders are showing in her Sunday dress? Objectively, the answer is clear. Sadly, I fear it’s not the answer most Latter-day Saints would give.

  18. Kristine says:

    Ardis, yes. There’s a post about being an unattractive girl sitting through modesty/chastity lessons that is still too painful and personal for me to write, even 35 years later.

  19. what a thing to read a post about the lack of value in emphasizing modesty in ways that reduce women to how they look and think, “you know what this post needs? an anecdote in which I use an acronym reserved for food and beverages to discuss a woman, share details on how much of her body was visible, note that she was spoken about by two men as essentially property, and then comment on how SHE was the one behaving in a ‘calculating’ fashion.”

  20. Kristine says:

    Chris–I’m *definitely* saying never teach an entire lesson on modesty. This would be a terrible lesson plan! I should have been clearer.

  21. Kristine, this was great. Thanks.

  22. Kristine says:

    KLN–thanks. That was needed.

  23. Years ago Sister Beck gave a wonderfully Q&A podcast where she addressed modesty. Her answers were perfect and on point. She said she would never correct a woman for her clothing because modesty is a natural result of conversion. So focus on conversion and everything else will follow. I wanted to fist pump! Yes! And straight from our female leadership. I’ve passed that episode along to every YW leader of my acquaintance in the years since.

  24. that was repugnant I would saran wrap the man’s car were it in my capacity

  25. The underground man says:

    It is unfair to put the burden on women for controlling men’s thoughts and I certainly would not do it if I had a daughter. But young teenage boys are not going to learn how to do that if they are constantly being blasted with sexual imagery which abounds in our culture and which the church should be a refuge from. Can’t wait for this comment to be misunderstood

  26. Delete the word “But” from the beginning of the second sentence of your comment and you’re good to go! Where you get in trouble is in trying to connect the two somehow. Here’s the point: Boys, teenage boys, and young men have a responsibility to police their own thoughts, words, and actions. This is what Jesus taught, as recorded in the Gospels.

  27. The underground man says:

    Jon f how is a young man going to learn to do so when they are constantly being blasted with sexual imagery never having the time and space to develop those skills. If the church is going to be a refuge for young girls from the relentless sexualization of our culture. It should also be a refuge from the relentless titilation that young boys are exposed to It goes both ways.I was not raised Mormon so I admit my perspective is limited here I don’t have all the answers I hesitated to post on here for that reason but I felt I should try to break the liberal groupthink going on here

  28. Yes.

  29. Anyone else remember when modesty was used differently? “Buy a modest house” or “drive a modest car”?

    I find it hard to take seriously the pleas for modesty from people living in McMansions, wearing massive diamonds/pearls/Rolex, driving $100K cars, etc. They might want bodies covered up, but every other aspect of their lives says that modesty isn’t valued and that the goal of their lives (and therefore the best goal for yours) is to disregard it as much as possible. These people also tend to most often be in leadership roles.

  30. Anecdote #1
    One of the cringiest moments of my mission is when my companion insisted on teaching a teenage girl we were teaching about ‘modesty’. She was 15 and she and her mother were our investigators with baptismal dates an all that. My companion was concerned that the teenage girl, who was quite attractive, did not dress modestly enough. I told him that I thought it was a terrible idea for two white guys 19-21 year old white guys to tell a brown teenage girl how to not dress. I said we should let the YW’s leaders handle that. But he insisted and the next time we visited them he brought the spanish version of the strength of youth and proceeded to ‘lay down the law’ on modesty. It was one of the most embarrassing situations I’ve ever been in, and I’m sure it was infinitely worse for the teenager and her mother. I didn’t say a word the whole time. As I recall she was a bit put off by the experience but still ended up getting baptized along with her mother.

    Anecdote #2 (somewhat on topic)
    My mother had some sort of calling for several years that put her in charge of girls camp (this was in Utah). Despite being in charge of it, she had virtually no control over the ‘where’ and ‘what’ of girls camp. It was the same every summer, they’d go to that Mia Shalom camp, that has a and were not allowed to wear shorts, go swimming, maybe even no sandals, I’m not sure. Meanwhile the young men would always go to Lake Powell or Bear Lake to go boating, water-skiing, and that sort of stuff. It always seemed strange to me that they always seemed to give YM leader callings to the wealthy guys with boats. My mom tried for years to take the young women somewhere else to do anything else, but the stake president was adamant about going to Mia Shalom and no shorts allowed and always vetoed anything my mother tried to do. She was thought it was supremely unfair that the young men basically did whatever they wanted, while the young women had to the go the same place every year and not be allowed to wear swim-suits or shorts despite having some kind of pond and kayak activities.

    Even with no men around to inadvertently “tempt” by wearing shorts they still had to abide by BYU-Idaho esque dress standards. The whole modesty institution in the church is really stupid.

  31. Mr. Schmidt says:

    john f., do you really think that people would generally struggle that much to weight which is more immodest? it would be a great discussion that I think all wards should have.

  32. How do you handle the teenage arms race for male attention? The tendency to simply follow cultural trends modeled as “normal” on TV and film?

  33. Historical perspective: We’ve always been a little tone-deaf when it comes to modesty, whether immodesty means extravagant show of wealth or extravagant show of skin. Back in the 1870s when the Retrenchment Society (with its Young Ladies’ auxiliary) was in full swing, Brigham Young wanted the women to “retrench” — to become more frugal, more modest in dress, more thrifty in their housekeeping, to eliminate supposedly wasteful bustles and trains and trims of all kinds.

    There’s the (probably apocryphal) story of the Retrenchment ladies from Salt Lake showing up in some poverty-stricken southern Utah desert town dressed in their big city fashions with their hair in big city switches and curls, preaching retrenchment to the local sisters dressed in their shapeless, colorless sacks and their windblown unlovely hair and calloused work-worn hands. After an hour of listening to these calls to use less, spend less, be more modest in all things, one of the local ladies nudged her neighbor and asked “What do they want us to retrench on? The bread? or the water?”

  34. Several years ago I was driving my 7th grade youngest son home after school when he said “I like it when it is colder than when it is warm.” “Why?” I asked. “Because girls have to wear different clothes.”

    I agree we should not be focusing on clothes. If we want to talk about modesty at all it should be to the moms. They are largely the ones providing money for clothes or purchasing the clothes.

    I was horrified a couple of years ago when the Stake Primary Presidency decided to talk about dressing modestly during Sharing Time (ages 3-12). The leader posed this question to the kids, “ what parts of our body should be covered up with clothes?”

    Needless to say, nobody answered though I really wanted to raise my hand and say “boobs.”

  35. Kristine:
    Thank you for this. It was well put and well thought out. How I wish that our focus could be on those things that you emphasize.

  36. Billy Possum says:

    Kristine: Do you draw a distinction between teaching modesty in the institutional church (i.e., don’t do it) and teaching modesty at home? I agree that church is not even close to the appropriate place for these discussions, but I am not comfortable ceding the conversation to all the other, mostly terrible, pop influences that can shape women’s views of themselves and their bodies (though I note there are, increasing, positive mainstream influences). Social mores around dress are fluid, but they do exist, and I want my kids to choose the correct (i.e., morally defensible) ones. It’s not clear to me how they’ll do that without a good deal of guidance.

    I ask as a father of very young daughters, who doesn’t know whether to speak up, shut up, or something in between.

  37. Good grief! KLN can’t read. The anecdote did not say the woman was calculating. It said she may have been. It was made quite clear that two of the men in that anecdote were acting improperly. The point was that we cannot stop them from doing so and that it may be useful for someone to help prepare young women to deal with that.

  38. Billy: I think we can teach “modesty” not as about sleeve lengths but about appropriate attire that makes you comfortable and utilitarian for the task at hand. A “how to dress for camping in woods where there are ticks” or “how to dress for professional events” seminar is going to cover many of the same points as Mormons often like, for example, but while actually being practical and without ever injecting sex.

  39. The underground man, question?

    Do you think that young women, and women in general, are not “titillated” by sexual imagery?

  40. Ardis – I hear you. I know that girl too well. I grew up in the 80’s in a ward full of models and pageant participants (and a few winners). I could drive in my own home town and see mega images of some of those girls on billboards. This wasn’t Utah etiher. My Laurel adviser was a runway model. The YW President was a former BYU homecoming queen.

    I was not.

  41. oh dear forgive me:
    what a thing to read a post about the lack of value in emphasizing modesty in ways that reduce women to how they look and think, “you know what this post needs? an anecdote in which I use an acronym reserved for food and beverages to discuss a woman, share details on how much of her body was visible, note that she was spoken about by two men as essentially property, and then comment on how SHE *MAY HAVE BEEN* the one behaving in a ‘calculating’ fashion.”

    Referring to a man bringing a woman with him as “bring your own blonde” is inappropriate as well, since it’s unclear whether that’s something you’re aware of, dear sir. Would still love to saran wrap your vehicle sometime.

  42. Also, underground man, since you’re here to break up the “liberal group think” and want to bring up how sexualized our culture is, and these poor young men bombarded with sexual imagery and messages, and how church should be a reprieve from that then…

    Come for your president. Come for the man who said he could grab women by their genitals and get away with it. Come for the man who cheated on all of his wives, some of them with sex workers in the adult film industry. Come for the man who regularly debases women, sexualizes them, objectifies them, and demeans them. You know, the same man who is basically idolized and protected at church?

  43. KLN, You’re right. That one BYOB thing was not clear. To make it clear, that was exactly my co-counsel’s pre-lunch description of what he was doing and who she was. Again, it is not possible for us to control the behavior of those men who choose to behave that way.

  44. The more serious I become about the gospel, and the deeper my conversion gets, the less I care about what people wear. Maybe it’s not the same for everyone, but I think in most cases an obsession with the outward appearance (whether with modesty and young women or with white shirts and young men) is a symptom of shallow conversion and not taking the gospel very seriously.

  45. One of the most interesting things about no longer being a practicing Mormon is realizing that most of the women I associate with seem so much less sexualized that the Mormon women I’ve spent much of my life around. If we spend so much time tell women that all they are is sex objects (you MUST cover up your tempting body, you MUST be attractive to a man for salvation, you MUST have babies), is it any wonder they believe it?

  46. Billy Possum, probably “shut up” is your best option as a father. A father shouldn’t ever even notice that his little girl is sexy. So, to point out to her that her dress is too short is to tell her that you do not see her as a person, but you see her as a sex object. Let her mother tell her if she really needs telling. It comes across different from another female. She should always be “daddy’s little girl” to her daddy. I know you think you are protecting her from bad men, but you are not. She has a *need* to be attractive to men, and it should always be other women who teach her how to be appropriately attractive. The dad trying to control her attractiveness to other men comes across, not as protective, but as possessive.

    There is a real arms race for attracting the opposite sex in our culture and when we at church focus “modesty” on skirt length, the girls will find another way to look sexy. It will be tight clothing, or it will be extreme hair or makeup. I used to joke that I could always recognize the BYU co-eds no matter how far away from Provo we lived. They had a “look” that was just different than members of the church who did not attend BYU and it was actually sexier than those who never went to BYU. It was more of tight clothing rather than inches covered, it was more extreme hair and heavier make up.

    When we constantly lecture the YW on how they dress, we send them the message that all they are is a sex object. Hollywood type Society teaches, “dress skimpy because all you are is sex object.” So the church “counters” that by teaching “dress covered because all you are is a sex object.” How does teaching the girls that they are a shameful sex object help counter the idea that they can gain power by being a sex object? It actually reinforces the same lesson as Hollywood, only adds shaming. You men, please explain to me how that helps.

    This is what men don’t get, because they don’t get the same kind of mixed message, of “be attractive, but not too attractive.” So, let me repeat it so the men get a chance to think about it. Hollywood teaches “uncover because you are a sex object.” The church teaches, “cover because you are a sex object.” That is the same message, only one makes being a sex object good and the other makes being a sex object bad.

    To really counter the message from Hollywood, we need to teach “you are fully human.” And we need to SU about you are a sex object.

    The problem is that too many men really do tend to see women as nothing but sex objects. We need to somehow teach men that women are fully human. And I really don’t see how we can do that in a church where women are viewed as wives and mothers, as auxiliaries to men, and never as leaders, professionals, and experts in their field.

  47. Sister Beck stated that “modesty is a natural consequence to conversion”. This effect may be based more on an individual’s desire to fit in with a group than a transformation of values. The dangerous corollary to her teaching is to conclude that people who don’t dress the way I want must not be as righteous as me. At a time when one of the leading reasons for young women to leave the church is feeling negative judgement from other members, scrapping lessons that focus on outward appearance seems like a pretty good idea.

  48. Kristine, I’ve forwarded this to my ward leadership in hopes they will make some adjustments to our lessons. As always, you are fine-quilled pen in a sometimes-crude world. Thank you.

  49. Kristin Gallup says:

    My feeling about modesty is that it is a behavior, not an appearance. A body is just a body. A totally nude person can behave appropriately and modestly, while a person wearing a tent can be provocative, crude, and inappropriate. I have tried to teach both my sons and daughters to see a person based on their actions and words and not on what they are wearing. Clothing is functional and also an expression of personality- something of an art form. We don’t all have the same taste, so we are not always going to like what another person wears, but it isn’t up to me to decide what looks nice or appropriate on someone else. It is their decision entirely. It is a form of self-expression.

  50. The underground man says:

    Risa one men get sexually aroused faster than women for physiological reasons ( generally speaking) that’s a biological fact.
    two I do not support Donald trump i think he is a reactionary buffoon i voted for jill stein in the last election I am going to vote for either Bernie or Elizabeth warren next year. ( i really don’t trust anyone else) And whats this about trump being idolized and protected at church look i live on the east coast so maybe my experience is different than yours but even the most ultra conservative church members i have met will openly admit that trump is a bad man that he wasn’t there first choice. But that he is better than his opponents because at least he doesn’t despise us and our values plus he is governing like a typical republican at this point so there is only so much one can do. You can despise trump and what he stands for and still resisting liberal groupthink.

  51. Thank you Kristine, this is wonderful. Wish I had had lessons like this back when I was in YW, instead of lessons on makeup and how to be beautiful so that, someday, a man might love me (I never did get into wearing makeup, and a man has never loved me, so I guess, in a way, my YW leaders were right?). I love the work that the Kites do with Beauty Redefined – they had a blog post a couple of months back specifically discussing modesty and dress codes that I really enjoyed: https://beautyredefined.org/dress-codes-sexualizing-girls-more/

  52. The underground man says:

    Also there were a number of mormons who said they weren’t going to vote for trump after the access Hollywood tape came out

  53. I really don’t have the bandwidth to worry about whether or not I am resisting liberal groupthink. I’m not nearly as eloquent as Kristine; I can barely frame the words to express my feelings. I grew up with far too many of the bad effects of church modesty teaching and the worst of institutional women’s body-control tactics. Sorry if this sounds like liberal groupthink. It’s not, it’s mine and many other women’s lived experience and it really needs to change because it’s so toxic. (Sorry, that’s truly the best descriptor.) The OP is on target: church should be a refuge and not a toxic place, for both young women and men. When I think about what I needed most as a young woman, that would’ve prepared me better to be an adult child of God, I yearn for many and varied lessons on consent, ny consent, my autonomy, my agency. You concerned dads, and moms, who are anxiously engaged in trying to protect your young ones, the best counter I can think of for all the ways modesty-shaming harms all our youth is to teach them that they have infinite value as a person and that their consent matters, and to help them develop that.

    And as a sidebar to all the adult guys worrying on behalf of the adolescent boys’ raging libidos in a world of walking porn? It’s not any woman’s responsibility to police that. But the situation could be improved by adult men modeling appropriate maturity (women-are-people-not-objects) and thus helping the out-of-control adolescents to rein themselves in.

  54. KerBearRN says:

    OMG I love this. I was (wonderfully) raised by non-LDS parents (though I converted and was allowed to be baptized at age 8), and I think it was the best thing that could have happened to me. No modesty lessons in my house. I wore what I liked, which sometimes included (gasp!) bare shoulders or lower necklines. I was also given the courage and the tools to follow my dreams. What a gift we give girls when we teach them that THEY ARE ENOUGH.

  55. I forgot to add: I don’t care who did or didn’t vote for whoever is in office, but we have a serious problem modeling adult male maturity when we have sexual predators in high office and appointed to the Supreme Court, and all the rest of the guys in suits protecting their out-of-control privilege.

    I apologize for getting political, but I feel strongly that this is an important point.

  56. The underground man says:

    MDearest I agree with you about the onus being on men to model good behavior. But i really don’t t think things are going to get better on that point we are living in the latter days after all

  57. Underground, I don’t see that as a helpful comment and certainly no excuse for “decent” grown men silently abetting our leadership behaving badly. This is no different than early days, the only thing that will change it is grown men holding other grown men accountable for their bad behavior. In specific, expressing effective outrage at the bad behavior, or maybe for a start just pointing out the humanity of the BYOB and not assuming that it’s the norm to refer to a woman that way, even if she does display cleavage.

  58. This is great. The dudes need to keep their thoughts in check. That’s on them. No matter what. See, e.g., Jesus, Joseph, etc. Though a dad should be able to help his daughter dress in a manner that does not devalue her womanhood. Bishop? nope. Loving father? You bet.

    And I certainly agree that conversion to Christ will bring about a certain modesty that may or may not manifest itself in appearance. But note the disconnect between that seemingly mundane truth and the unyielding insistence that a woman has no responsibility for her appearance. Of course she does. Women can intentionally provoke with dress and actions. They can be evil. With just as much acumen as the men.

    But the focus? Absolutely on conversion to Christ and love. I abhor “modesty” lessons as you present them just like you.

  59. “In specific, expressing effective outrage at the bad behavior, or maybe for a start just pointing out the humanity of the BYOB and not assuming that it’s the norm to refer to a woman that way, even if she does display cleavage.” Thanks, MDearest. There is a repetitive point from men in this thread that there’s nothing to be done about bad men, when I feel like at least telling them that they’re being bad isn’t happening enough.

  60. This is a genuine question, so please don’t attack me for asking:

    On the one hand, I agree that if an individual dresses in a way that inadvertently fills another person with lust, then the “immodestly” dressed person should be free of blame.

    On the other hand (Elder Oaks’ “walking pornography” comment aside) I think most of us would agree that if someone created pornography in the literal sense, and sent it to someone with the purposeful intent of attracting/arousing the receiver, we would blame the sender of the photos for arousing the receiver, rather than (or, at least in addition to) blaming the receiver for becoming aroused.

    So my question involves the grey area in-between those two ends. What if the individual knows that the way he/she dresses is likely to cause arousal, but does not have the actual intention of doing so, what then?

  61. Lily Darais says:

    Love this. I wish modesty had been taught the way you outline when I was a young woman. I started coming to church at age 12, which is when another 12 year old first introduced me to the concept of modesty by telling me that my dress was too short. Later, in the summer, we were in a class together and she pointed out that my shorts were too short. I felt so bad, went home, threw out all of my comfortable shorts, and spent the next decade and a half harshly judging other women for their wardrobe choices. The nadir came in grad school when I mentioned a TA’s unnecessarily provocative clothing in her student review. I wish I still had contact with that TA because I have suffered massive anxiety and guilt for that review for years. I learned from that experience that the Church’s teachings on modesty did nothing to help me personally be a better disciple. The teachings and culture–along with my uncritical acceptance of these things–steered me AWAY from Christian discipleship and true love. I sincerely hope that someone high up in the Church reads this article and implements it so that others don’t have to experience the pain and shame of my personal experience.

  62. Kevin Barney says:

    Kristine, an excellent post, many thanks.

    My involvement with the youth has been limited. My only youth calling was as YMP maybe a decade ago, in which I mostly worked with the priests. I don’t recall any modesty lessons, but I wouldn’t necessarily have known what they were doing on the YW side of things.

    When I think of this topic, I immediately go to girl’s camp, as in Jimothy’s anecdote no. 2 above. That’s because that’s the one aspect of all this in which I have a small amount of indirect experience, through my wife. Years ago she would go to girls’ camp every year as a cook, and then one year she was (very nominally) in charge of the whole thing.

    I don’t think they ever did it this way, but what makes me absolutely ragey is reports of hyper cover-up standards for the young girls to be able to swim, whether in the pool or in the lake. A swimming suit on its own simply doesn’t cut it; you also have to cover the top with a t-shirt and the bottom with shorts at least knee length, and I could swear I remember once case where they were requiring full length jeans over the swimsuit.

    Do you have any idea how dangerous it is to go swimming in full length jeans, which will absorb water and get heavy and limit movement? Whoever thought that was a good idea was insane.

    And to what end? There aren’t any men around, except for the poor bishop hunkered in his pup tent 100 yards away as the requisite “chaperone.” If we’re worried about our bishops ogling our teenage girls we’ve got way bigger problems to think about. I think it’s absurd to put such stringent clothing requirements on the girls who just want to go swimming, and when we go overboard such requirements can become positively dangerous.

    Here’s an old BCC post that talks about this aspect of things in the girl’s camp context:


  63. Lily Darais says:

    Also, Pei Ru, just a thought to your good question. My personal opinion is that the priority at all times is to restrain our judgement of others. If someone wants to arouse someone with their clothing choices, that’s up to him or her and none of my business. There’s no way for me to tell what someone’s intention is by dressing the way they dress. But if the question is is it wrong for someone to dress provocatively, in my opinion is…maybe not? I mean, we are humans, and sexuality is part of who we are. If someone wants to try to express that through their clothing, I don’t really see much of a difference between that and trying to express other values through clothing. (Ultimately, I think it is very hard to express anything meaningfully through clothing anyway, but on that point I think many would disagree…). Just my opinion.

  64. KLN, again. No one here said “there’s nothing to be done about bad men.” Several have noted that we cannot control the behavior of “bad men” and that some people (even if only a few) need to be made aware that they are out there. I would like to see that as a parental role. Unfortunately, I’ve also seen a number of parental failures.
    I agree with MDearest and you that there are some things that can be done about “bad men” and should be done more often. But there is no reasonable expectation that those things, however often repeated, are going to eliminate all bad men. Maybe if you took your saran wrap to them?!

  65. “What if the individual knows that the way he/she dresses is likely to cause arousal, but does not have the actual intention of doing so, what then?”
    I think the line here is so unclear that we should simply hold the viewer accountable for not being inappropriate. What constitutes dressing in a way likely to cause arousal without intention of causing arousal? Wearing makeup? Wearing clothes that look nice, or fit well? Hell, wearing flip flops causes arousal for some people. As long as people find each other attractive and we place cultural value on looking put together for work and school, I think that the subjective experience of finding someone attractive is more on the viewer than it is on the subject.

  66. The underground man says:

    MDearest It might not be helpful but its the truth the harsh brutal truth. I think that it is absurdly idealistic to assume that men calling out other mens Bad behavior will stop said behavior from occurring. As we have seen from the call out culture that exists online it just results in flame wars and people feeling defensive and retreating into there own bubbles. It reminds me of conservatives who think just getting the evil liberals out of our government will solve all of our countries problems it won’t its more complicated than that Also if someone genuinely considers both sides to bad what is one to do?

  67. Modesty lectures are a solution in search of a problem. I live and work downtown in a very secular city. As I walk around downtown, through city walking paths and parks, and through large shopping malls I enounter thousands of women of all ages. When my own children were in High School I had many occasions to attend school sponsored events. How often do I meet women who are dressed inappropriately? Very rarely. Turns out we can trust women and girls to learn how to dress themselves without frequent lectures on modesty.

  68. JR, I’m glad you think a parental role would help in curtailing the behavior of bad men. I know a man with an incredible, strong LDS mom who once called me a b**** because I wouldn’t send him a picture of me in my underwear and told him he was a perv for asking. Parents can’t do it all.

    Also, if you were reading carefully, you would note that I argued for telling bad men off when they say crappy things, and I have no evidence that you did so despite your evidence that you have been in a situation where the bad behavior of other men was on aggressive display.

  69. Also Lily Darais, I really appreciate your thoughts and particularly the following: “But if the question is is it wrong for someone to dress provocatively, in my opinion is…maybe not? I mean, we are humans, and sexuality is part of who we are. If someone wants to try to express that through their clothing, I don’t really see much of a difference between that and trying to express other values through clothing.”

  70. The underground man says:

    To try to be constructive here the way i would teach modesty is to rely on what the scriptures say about it. Which is focused on not drawing attention to yourself and not using your clothes to raise yourself above others. I agree with most of the critique of the modesty discourse coming from the church that i see online but i do think we have think about where it comes from beyond the usual ideological cliches of “its a manifestation of the churches patriarchal system” that causes more heat than light. And ps i would teach this to both boys and girls

  71. KLN, Parents can’t do it all was precisely the point of my raising the question who might reasonably warn naive YW when their parents do not. (Yes, Kristine, many of them are not naive.)
    I did read your argument. That’s why I said I agreed with MDearest and you.
    You are entitled to exactly no evidence of anything. I have no intention of bragging about what I did (effective or not — though I think the latter), with respect to those other men behaving badly when the point was only that some men do and will continue to behave badly and their doing so is a legitimate reason for someone to teach the young (at least the naive ones) that it will happen and they should be prepared to deal with it. How YW deal with it can take a variety of forms, only one of which is how it may be encouraged, inadvertently or not, or discouraged by some forms of dress in various contexts. The question on who teaches self-protection (and what kind of self-protection) does not even imply approval of ridiculous swimming dress rules or with rejection of sleeveless tops, or shorts, or any of the other overdone “modesty” teaching, or other stupid dress standards.
    You can stop imagining enemies whenever you choose to.

  72. I keep writing and deleting a comment that says it is impossible for middle age heterosexual men to address the topic of teenage girls and clothing sensibly and in a measured (modest?) way, and we should all stand aside. But I’d be a hypocrite, so I delete.

    More and more I’m thinking there are three separate topics:
    (a) How we dress,
    (b) How we observe or look upon other people,
    (c) How we talk, signal, communicate, about intimacy and sex.
    Most importantly, these are not a spectrum. They are separate subjects. And when separated and properly addressed, there’s very little about what I would say that distinguishes between men and women, boys and girls. Pronouns, of course, but not much else.

    As a test, I view the OP as addressing my first topic only and reread it with the idea of re-purposing for a group of teenage boys. It would be easy (which I think is the mark of good work in the first place). Except a couple of lines about women at Church leading and making decisions, that are unfortunately but necessarily one-sided. And I need a substitute for high heels. Do boots dance very well?

  73. I am not imagining enemies, nor am I claiming I’m entitled to evidence. I noted the evidence that I have.

  74. Re the question about holding somebody accountable for causing another person to be aroused: being aroused is not a sin, the only sin is in the response to arousal, which is entirely within the control of the person that becomes aroused. Pornography is bad, but it’s bad because it objectifies people and reduces them to a thing to be consumed, not because it makes people aroused. Men will get aroused at anything that suggests women. If you require long skirts, ankles become sexy. Arousal is inevitable, is no sin, and is not the issue.

  75. It seems a large part of this conversation centers on the need to hold someone responsible when someone is aroused. Maybe we should address the culture around shaming people for becoming aroused and then we could see it as a normal, healthy response and not as a sin.

  76. Jason K. says:

    This is great, Kristine. Thank you!

  77. Ryan Mullen says:

    Chris, cowboy boots are great for dancing two-step and line dancing. Flip flops?

  78. Kristine says:

    JR—nothing the woman in that anecdote wore or didn’t wear caused those men’s boorish behavior. They intended to cheat on their wives and treat another woman as meat. If they hadn’t found a scantily clad woman, they might very well have harassed a woman in a suit. That happens in workplaces every. damn. day, as we have all become painfully aware. I think that’s the place where the discussion gets off track—you’re suggesting that the victim in this case has much more power than she does, and that her dress is somehow a mitigating factor. The evil in that situation is mostly the men’s abuse of their power. The men disrespect her not because she is sexy, but because she has less power and status than they do. They don’t treat their boss or a judge that way not because their boss or the judge dress differently, but because they lack power and status relative to women in those positions. So even bringing the incident up in a discussion of modesty frames it inappropriately, I think. That is (I surmise) what KLN and others are responding too.

    And because it is not an anecdote that really tells us anything at all about how we should talk to girls and young women about self-respect and humility, I’m going to shut down further discussion of that story. I hope you’ll have a chance to discuss those men’s inappropriate behavior with them or with other men, which is where that conversation belongs.

  79. No, Kristine, I suggested no such thing as her dress being a mitigating factor. I pointed out that it was one of the misbehaving men who asserted that it was. The anecdote was merely an example of inappropriate male behavior that YW should know to expect, to be prepared to handle how they choose. It’s too bad you and some others read it for something else.

  80. Kristine says:

    JR—it would have been easier to understand that point, perhaps, if you had noted that you disagreed with your co-counsel’s logic, and also if you had not been reproducing it in your further comments.

  81. Morthodox says:

    “We might start by letting them see women treated as whole human beings, even if they are not attached to a man.”
    What advocates of modesty don’t understand about women’s experience in this world is that it truly does not matter what you wear. You’re going to be objectified and diminished regardless. But then, the point wasn’t ever to make women safe and comfortable, was it?

    I have been leered while taking the garbage can to the curb while wearing sweatpants, a hoodie, with greasy hair. I have had my breasts checked out by the brother at the recommend desk at the temple. Multiple bishops have examined my legs, waist, and breasts while I was talking to them–at length–sometimes in the presence of my husband. I have been body scanned in job interviews, and of course my butt is peeped as I stand up and turn to go. None of these situations were remotely sexual, and in all of them I was dressed “modestly” and as befits a covenant keeping female member of the Church of Christ. The whole concept of modesty in dress is a massive joke. The Savior made it clear that if you’re lusting after someone, it’s on you, not them.

    Meanwhile, the counselor in our Stake Presidency regularly brags about his personal airplane, and did so at a recent stake conference, in a stake filled with people who have no cars at all, immigrants, new green card recipients, families crammed into tiny one-bedrooms, couples who share a cellphone between them, people who receive help from the Bishop’s Storehouse. Oh, and he also bragged about how his wife was mistaken for a movie star when they landed his plane at a local airport. So funny.

  82. Michael H. says:

    Thank you for this, Kristine. I wish this were the official curriculum.

  83. 1) Underground man, please spare us the tired, sexist assumption/excuse for bad behavior/not a biological fact that men are more quickly or easily aroused than women.
    And 2) There’s nothing wrong with dressing to arouse, nor is there anything wrong with becoming aroused. What IS wrong is acting inappropriately when one is aroused.

  84. +1 to Gary and Moss, who have very simply articulated that there just isn’t a problem to be solved here. Most women dress perfectly appropriately and arousal is actually a good thing that both men and women are capable of controlling.

    The actual problem here is toxic masculinity, and modesty can’t solve that problem.

  85. Say it is 105 degrees outside and you have no air conditioning and are responsible for the well being of yourself and your small children. Do you wear layers and cover up every inch of those layers? Do you insist that your children cover up as if they were also hiding a layer?

    Or do you dress for the summer heat wave? What’s more appropriate? To see a woman playing outside in shorts and a tank top with her kids who are also in tanks and shorts or to see the same woman and kids huddled up inside next to the wall mounted AC? What the men walking around in the same suit jacket and tie regardless of the weather who have, by virtue of their priesthood, a monopoly on the church thermostat.

    The world is changing. We need to adapt. Adapting is not wearing fall and winter styles and just turning the AC down to 65 degrees. There’s a moral component to the way we dress that has nothing to do with objectifying bodies or personal devotion and everything to do with using resources responsibly. It’s not just peculiar. It’s embarrassing.

    Once upon a time everyone thought it was so cool how we went to church for three hours. It was what set us apart from everyone else. But it literally drove away interested parties from joining us in worship. Our weird notions of dress is doing the same thing. It’s not a question of will it change, it’s a question of when. Peculiar is one thing, losing an entire generation of tithe payers is something else.

  86. The underground man says:

    Dot yes let’s just dismiss facts when they don’t suit our agenda I was not making excuses facts are amoral after all

  87. For those who genuinely wish to protect girls and women from unwanted sexual attention, I have some sad and unwelcome news: you can’t. As Kristine noted earlier, girls aren’t stupid. They know how to draw attention to their bodies if that is what they want to do. They also know how to hide and camouflage their bodies if that is what they want to do. What they don’t know how to do is control who pays attention to them and what kind of attention it will be, and the reason they don’t know it is because it is impossible.

    Literally every woman on earth has received unwanted sexual attention at some point or another. For the majority of women, during a certain period of their lives, it is a frequent, if not constant, problem. It happens if she’s wearing a miniskirt. It happens if she’s wearing a full length skirt. It happens if she’s wearing something that obscures her shape altogether. It happens even if she’s not attractive, even if she’s unattractive, because it has nothing to do with what sort of person she is and everything to do with the sort of person who is harassing her. Some men like to hit on women they find attractive and just do it boorishly, and some men just enjoy sexually humiliating women in general. They don’t have to be rapists, just run of the mill jerks who think they’re funny. If you’re worried about your daughter being the recipient of this unwanted attention, you should be, because I guarantee you, she will be. It may not happen until middle school, but plenty of girls have their first experience with this when they’re still single digits. It happens to literally every female person eventually, and usually multiple times throughout her life.

    So if you really want to protect your daughter, do everything in your power to build her self-worth as a human being, to help her feel confident enough to handle these inevitable humiliations she will encounter throughout her life. Teach her to be resilient.

    We’re never going to eliminate boorish men and boys, but we can teach that basic decency means treating all people respectfully, not that some people are more or less worthy of respect because of how they dress. That will help your daughters too.

  88. Thank you, Rebecca J.
    And Kristine for the original post, since I should have said that earlier.

  89. The underground man says:

    Rebecca j I agree 100%

  90. Another Roy says:

    “So my question involves the grey area in-between those two ends. What if the individual knows that the way he/she dresses is likely to cause arousal, but does not have the actual intention of doing so, what then?”

    Pei Ru, I would suggest that we not spend time trying to affix “blame” for the arousal. As a man, I notice attractive women. I notice it and move on. As a young man riddled with hormones, I was attracted to the young women in my neighborhood. It probably would not have mattered how they were dressed. This, to me, is biology.
    I feel that part of our dilemma is that we feel that every sexual thought is a sin. If noticing someone’s cleavage is a victory for Satan then the owner of that cleavage can be perceived as an agent of Satan. I believe that the solution for this is to give ourselves as men permission to notice attractive women and then move on mentally and not be creeps about it. This in turn should give women permission to dress in what is comfortable and appropriate for the activity at hand.
    My 0.02$

  91. There’s pictures of men leering at a woman in a Burqa. And, men are able to be at Nude beaches, without madly raping women there.

    There’s way too much “She must have provoked her rapist” going on in the Church. Rape is about taking advantage, to show off power. There was an art exhibit in India, displaying the clothes of those who were raped. No bikinis or really revealing clothes were there. I also have one LDS FB contact, who said she was wearing a diaper, the first time she was abused.

  92. Billy Possum says:

    Thanks, Carolyn, for your response. I agree with you, and I think the Church needs to get out of the business of giving instruction at the moral periphery and focus on the core (i.e., Christ). Practical discussions like clothing should be left to families. Many of the recent policy changes seem to be headed in this direction (e.g., 2-hour church, leaving BSA, liberalized missionary protocols).

  93. Harold hecuba says:

    Dear folks
    Let us remember that the wrong crowd doesn’t care about your rules or your feelings.

  94. Amen Kristine. And amen Rebecca J.

  95. Amen!

  96. If we really want to protect our daughters we will teach our sons not to sexualize women. But we will also teach our sons and daughters that when their body involuntarily reacts to sexual stimuli their bodies are working as nature intended. They can notice their bodies reactions and move on until it is appropriate. Our sons and daughters will grow into strong adults who can live by their values when we allow them to own and respect their sexuality instead of shaming them. Modesty lessons for young women often reinforce that their sexuality is dangerous to themselves and others. Young men judging young women for their wardrobe choices teaches men that they are entitled to judge women and sexualize their bodies.

  97. I just don’t think we’ve unraveled how women, power, purity, and sexuality work in this church. Kristine’s post should be the default, but it’s so much easier to talk about control and so much easier to expect women to do the emotional work of keeping men in line (think about all the time we talk about women nudging their husbands to do their priesthood duties). I mean we have lesson after lesson about how women are the support structure to men. We are not accustomed to thinking of women as powerful agents with sexuality who are more then their purity. And we have years and years of teachings to dismantle.

  98. The last time my daughter went to YW camp she was given a long list of what she was allowed to wear (where we live it is hot and humid in the summer) and she had to be pretty much covered from head to toe. It was ridiculous and very uncomfortable for her. She didn’t go to YW camp again after that. When my two sons went on a week-long youth YM float trip last summer, there was no mention whatsoever beforehand about how they should dress. They came back from that trip very tanned from spending the whole time shirtless. I was struck by the injustice and felt both sadness and a sense of rage for the young girls who grow up in this church.

  99. Lily Darais says:

    Amy, I totally agree. I remember after my mission being in a grocery store and seeing two women who must have belonged to some other conservative Christian denomination. They were in full length dresses and thick boots in the middle of summer. They were proselyting. I thought that if they approached me, I would immediately dismiss their message as slightly kooky because of what they were wearing. It then occurred to me that this is EXACTLY how many others must have felt when looking at me as a missionary at Temple Square, wearing mid calf skirts, four layers on top and nylons in the Utah summer heat.

  100. Rexicorn says:

    Pretty much the ONLY time our scriptures comment negatively on apparel, it’s to call out people who flaunt their money in the presence of the poor. The phrase most used in the Book of Mormon is “costly apparel,” and it’s always listed as a symptom of a sick society that’s more caught up in appearance than in actually caring for one another. So why isn’t that part of any “modesty” lesson plan I’ve ever seen? The message of our scriptures seems to be that emphasis on appearance over compassion is the true evil, but all these lessons ever did for me in YW was emphasize that my appearance was the most important thing about me. Curious.

    It’s also a major instance of the Church failing to grapple with issues of class or income inequality, despite those being major themes of both Jesus’s biblical teachings and the entire Book of Mormon.

  101. I fully support the premise of the OP. The cartoon I shared illustrates how unhelpful and ridiculous it is for us to use clothing to define modesty. To use clothing as a measuring stick to judge other’s level of modesty leads to misunderstandings and misguided hostility. It’s time to stop arguing about whether to cover or uncover the “object” and start understanding that a woman is a person, NOT an object.

    (Please ignore the logo in the corner. There are originals of this cartoon available w/o that “laugh loud” imprint and logo. I failed to notice it until I had already posted.)

  102. Rexicorn says:

    On the topic of parenting, I recall vividly the time my dad sat me down and told me that men are “visually stimulated” and that I therefore needed to wear more modest clothing. It was absolutely the most uncomfortable experience of my life. I’d had many lessons on modesty at this point. It was not new information. What was new for me was hearing my father talk about me as a sexual object. I wouldn’t have phrased it in exactly those terms, but it made me profoundly uncomfortable and represented a definite shift in my relationship with my dad. To be clear, I never thought my dad was attracted to me. But I sure knew I wasn’t his little girl anymore. And it was genuinely sad. I started getting hit on by strangers when I was about 11; I knew about sexual attention. What I needed was to be loved as a child and a daughter.

    Conversations with my mom were much better because she could speak from experience as someone who’d been in my shoes. She corrected me on dressing modestly (mostly from a commandment perspective), but also talked to me about self-esteem and body image. It was a much more productive approach.

  103. The discussion on modesty is often a heated one, I won’t jump into that conversation. What I really liked in OP were the parts discussing all the valuable things a body can do, and coming to an appreciation for the gift of the body itself. I think that’s such a wonderful notion, it would be nice to hear more of that. I’d say equally for men too, with all the focus on women’s bodies in the church and broader culture, it didn’t occur to me as a young man that my body could be just as valuable as a woman’s. Outside of sexuality I’d love it for both sexes to learn about all the many ways in which our bodies are valuable, gifts in the image of God that allow us to have joy in the physical realm as God does.

  104. I am a woman in my early 60’s so missed the modesty lectures that I assume are different from what was taught to men and women of my age.
    May I add that I grew up in a non-LDS home and was not taught appropriate dress standards at home. What I was exposed to was the standards of dress, makeup and sexual behavior shown in teen magazines and on television. I appreciated what was taught at church and wish more had been taught at a younger age because I needed it in my life. I was hungry for gospel truths. I feel that perhaps some of these lessons are meant to help women like me who do not understand the dangers of worldly values to our safety and to the caliber of men we attract. I inadvertently adopted many worldly styles, even after a temple marriage, that I now realize are associated through culture with certain standards that I would not have wanted to be associated with if I had known then what I understand now. As an example, I remember going to work in a black dress, long sleeved, high necked and covering my knees coupled with sheer black stockings and high heeled black strappy shoes. While technically modest, I realize now the look was evening dress sexy. My boss was practically salivating when he entered my office. My office mate commented on it when he left. I now know this was inappropriate work attire no matter how much of my body was covered.
    So perhaps we can teach appropriate dress and not adopting worldly values of presentation of our bodies because we realize they are our eternal souls.
    So please, do not stop teaching modesty. Teach it better. Teach our young people to value their bodies as part of their souls. Teach them to see others as whole human beings. And teach them not to share those bodies visually or physically with others outside marriage.

  105. To everyone here saying that modesty protects girls and young women: it doesn’t. When you say that it does, you are saying that any girl or woman who has been sexually harassed, catcalled, abused, assaulted, or any other kind of me too moment, deserved it. And that’s not true and it’s not of God.

    Sexual harassment, abuse, disrespect, happens to almost all women no matter what we wear.

  106. Amen. Amen. Amen.

    “Ardis, yes. There’s a post about being an unattractive girl sitting through modesty/chastity lessons that is still too painful and personal for me to write, even 35 years later.”


    The devastating damage.

    1. I am a chubby girl with acne and plain features.
    2. I understand pretty thoroughly that guys find me undesirable.
    3.But I need a guy. I want exaltation. And I also want the Motherhood In This Life.
    4. At church I hear constantly that girls and women must wear their sleeves so, and their necklines thus, and their hems at least to there. And nylons. And makeup. Beautiful female bodies are clearly powerful things is the message at church too. In fact, it sounds like my body really may be the only asset I have that matters—in any kind of a practical here-and-now sense, but let’s not forget it also matters in an eternal sense because exaltation and Motherhood In This Life is tied up in my ability to attract a man. And if my body is the overwhelmingly germane asset in that calculus, then really, it’s all I have. And so whatever else I may be, what I understand as the principal, primary thing is that I am ugly body.
    5. I diet. Too much. I obsess over my appearance endlessly. I internalize the idea that I am inherently worth less and will be lucky to get any “worthy” man interested in me. It’s not settling. It’s the economics of my chubby, plain body.

    Does this also happen in “the world”? That ought to go without saying. But the number it does on a sweet, devout girl’s head when it -also- becomes “the Lord’s way”? That’s almost unforgivable. We owe our girls more. We owe everyone more.

    (I should probably add that I have been very lucky. Because I am. I have been spared the worst of what this rhetoric does to people. In fact, for lots of reasons, I’ve been spared a lot of what it does. But it’s still plenty to handle on a good day.)

  107. GEOFF -AUS says:

    I live where less than 0.01% of the population is mormon, the women I see dress themselves without the help of religion,(except the muslim women), the rate of rape here is no higher than Utah.
    This is a story of a female professional football player who was photographed playing, it resulted in sexual comments, and was taken down, but the restored at the players request. She said she looked at the profiles of some of those who made inapropriate comments, and thinks we need to make these comments unacceptable, and expressed concern for the women in these mens lives.
    I agree with the original blog, and think this article is part of what happens next.

  108. Can a mod knock my comment out of moderation please? I vaguely remember locking horns with Mr Evans once a couple years ago and it seems my comments have been held in moderation since even though I’ve repented of my wicked ways.

  109. As a hypersensitive perfectionist guy, I internalized a message I’d heard at Church (though I don’t believe I ever had a lesson on it): “modest” clothing, for men and women, was clothing that does (or would) cover temple garments (with exceptions for athletic uniforms and swimming). This sunk in so deep, partially through worries that I may have caused arousal, that I felt I had to confess to my mission president that I’d gone shirtless sometimes (before even receiving my endowment). It took years to unravel the connection between my actions and others’ (presumed) arousal, so I will wholeheartedly agree that people should be held accountable for what they do with their own arousal, not for the actions of those who find them arousing.

    I don’t think there would anything amiss, however, telling children what others believe (mistakenly) about dress and sexuality — but merely as a precautionary measure, accompanied by pointed rejection: “This is what others say and think, but they are absolutely wrong; let’s practice what you should do and say if someone tells you that.” (The same way a parent might have to warn a precocious child after scripture reading not to use certain words at school, given that there would likely be a breakdown in communication that could get the child in trouble: ass, whoredom, harlot, circumcise…)

  110. Oh, and another thing: celibate lesbian Catholic Eve Tushnet talks about how ideas that LGBTQ people are hypersexual, in contrast to straight folks, can be hilariously off-base for a simple reason: LGBTQ folks have a lot more exposure to people to whom they might be attracted in circumstances that are pointedly de-sexualized (locker rooms, bathrooms, etc.). They learn how to manage their arousal.

    Similarly, straight guys can learn to better control their responses to arousal, and a very good start in the LDS Church would be to de-sexualize, as much as possible, church spaces, as the OP suggests.

  111. I’d like to suggest that this idea of “modesty” stems from adult women judging each other based on the lines (garments) under their clothing. For some reason we feel like we need to train our daughters from an early age to be ready for garments. I even remember articles in the friend suggesting little girls wear t-shirts under sleeveless dresses. You know, so they don’t show those shoulders.

    My mom never let us wear sleeveless tops or short shorts. I am extremely self conscious of my body now even though I have no concrete reason to be. I’ve realized these feelins stem from this idea of modesty. As I’ve worked through it, I haven’t changed the clothing I wear, but I have stopped wearing garments. I do still participate in church. Doing that, has made my clothing choices feel like, well, a choice.

  112. Underground man:

    >>>Risa one men get sexually aroused faster than women for physiological reasons ( generally speaking) that’s a biological fact.

    No, it’s not a biological fact. Cite your sources.

    But I wasn’t talking about who gets aroused quicker (nice deflection). My question is, do you believe that young women and women don’t get titillated by sexual imagery? Because it seems like don’t and you would be wrong.

    Secondly, Pew Center Research just came out with the numbers that 63% of faithful LDS men approve of trump. I don’t know which faithful LDS you’re talking about who didn’t like trump and didn’t vote for him, because the majority do like him and approve of him as president.

    So let me ask, what are you doing to break up the conservative group think in your ward?

  113. Harold hecuba.

    >>>Let us remember that the wrong crowd doesn’t care about your rules or your feelings.

    I don’t know what “wrong crowd” you’re talking about but it sounds really judgmental and not Christ-like.

  114. Modesty is a cultural issue.

    My entire father’s side of the family is Seventh-Day Adventist. To them dressing immodestly means wearing ostentatious jewelry. When I was at my family reunion in Ohio a few summers ago, all of my female, very religious, very Jesus loving, female cousins were wearing tank tops and shorts that were about mid-thigh. Very appropriate for the unrelenting heat and humidity. What they didn’t wear was earrings, necklaces, or rings because to them that is immodest.

    What was I wearing? Knee-length shorts, short sleeve shirts, and garments. I almost had heat stroke. What I was also wearing was my diamond wedding ring, earrings, and necklaces. Thankfully none of them were judging me for my jewelry the way some of you would judge them for their clothing.

    Modesty means different things to different cultures and religions and a lot of you should stop being so self-righteous in thinking you know the one true way to dress in the way God approves.

  115. Margaret Blair Young says:

    “If we teach them who they are, they’ll figure out what goddesses wear.”
    Arguably the best line ever written about this issue.

  116. The underground man says:

    Risa regarding the female arousal thing I was simplifiying a complicated issue. Most sexologists would say that it takes longer for women to be in the mood for sex than men. But of course that is different than just mere arousal i don’t know how to link to stuff or I would. And yes obviously women can be just as sexually titlated as men but in the society we are living in more sexual tiltlation is aimed at men than women precisely because women are oftentimes viewed as being asexual.
    Regarding Mormon support for trump look I live in the northeast in a blue state i go to a ysa branch where most people are ambivalent about trump at best even the one hardcore republican guy I know admits that trump was not his first choice that he frequently says and does stupid stuff. Of my branch presidents during my time here one depises him the other is very conservative but openly admits that trump is a bad man and frequently reckless and impulsive his Fox News watching wife openly despises him.I don’t know what my current branch president thinks but he is moderate politically a senior missionary that served in my branch said that he did not vote for trump after the access Hollywood tape came out. I have to imagine that’s the same across the board where I live we have a large Hispanic population here so that probably skews things somewhat. Most Mormons support trump because they are conservative Republicans and trump is governing like a typical republican if he were governing like a northeastern liberal which is what many never trump republicans feared you would probably see less support from Mormons.Considering how far to the left most Democrats are going most members of the church will continue to support trump whether they would prefer to or not.

  117. The underground man says:

    Just to make things clear yes I think most of the modesty discourse in the church is unfair stupid and creepy at least from what I have read and I do hope that things change. I was just trying to get people to think about why things have gotten to this point beyond the usual ideological cliches that maybe this is the way that that the church tries to push back against our degrading sexual culture. And yes it’s not a healthy way to do it and reinforces it in certain ways. But I am thinking i probably should have just kept my mouth shut I felt a prompting to post but maybe I misread it.

  118. Underground man, what is the liberal groupthink you’re trying to dismantle? That boys and men are responsible for their own sexual feelings? That boys and men need to learn how to treat girls and women as fully human no matter what they are wearing? What are your thoughts on the posts here describing how women and girls are treated badly by men and boys no matter what they are wearing? Do you believe us? Have you talked to any girls or women in your life about if they have ever been flashed, catcalled, sexually assaulted, talked to inappropriately by fellow students or bosses or doctors or friends? Do you tell them that men and boys haven’t had the chance to learn to be appropriate because they are constantly exposed to sexually charged images? I’m sincerely interested in your answers.

  119. The underground man says:

    Vicki the liberal groupthink is that there is no basis for the modesty discourse in the church other than sexism and misogyny. And not in trying to account for the different ways that men and women think about sex. Yes we do a bad job of it sometimes what I said about sexual titilation was in the context of Christ’s command not to lust and the teachings in the scriptures to control your thoughts. Obviously men are sexually attracted to women no matter what usually because the male sexual psyche is a dark and creepy place. And yes men are solely responsible for there actions the burden should never be placed on women to control men I said that in my original post that is unfair and I would not teach my children that. I know two women who were sexually assaulted my mom was sexually harassed back in the early 80s I would not think for a second that they were responsible. I am talking about thoughts here not action.

  120. The underground man says:

    And before somebody brings it up yes its not a sin to be aroused or attracted but it is a sin to indulge in those feelings to crave to obsess that is lust

  121. “the male sexual psyche is a dark and creepy place”
    I would respectfully suggest that this is a deeply unhelpful and largely untrue claim, the unlearning of which might help dismantle a great deal of cultural hangups around sex inside and outside of the church.

  122. Olde Skool says:

    Underground man, as the owner of a female “sexual psyche,” may I suggest that your conviction that women are not the lustful, titillatable equals of men is naïve pedestaling.

    Christ’s teaching that we should control our thoughts isn’t gendered–it’s equally challenging for everyone. Let’s follow the OP, and Christ’s teachings, in encouraging aspirations to divinity, which is challenge enough even without placing inequitable burdens based on faulty and folklorish beliefs about gender.

  123. The underground man says:

    kln Sorry i think thats what history and myth suggests to us what do you think vampires and werewolves are metaphors for what about the Oedipus myth i think freud was right about men and should not be dismissed simply because he wrong about women

  124. ah yes, the strong empirical data you were referencing earlier, like vampires, werewolves, Oedipus, and Freud.

  125. The underground man says:

    olde skool I never said christs teachings were gendered yes they apply equally. And of course i am not saying that all women and men are the same in this regard. And no i am not putting anyone on pedestals i am just suggesting that these myths about male and female sexuality have some basis in fact and are not pure social constructs after all what material is it being constructed out of I am not a postmodernist i don’t think you can reduce everything to power I am done this is a waste of time

  126. I suspect underground man would have some fascinating ideas to share about the hierarchical behavior of lobsters and its effects on serotonin, if asked.

  127. “Most sexologists would say…”

    Could you by chance give us a percentage of “sexologists” who would agree with that statement, underground man?

    “Obviously men are sexually attracted to women no matter what”

    Obviously? Are you denying the existence of gay and asexual men? Not sure what most sexologists would say about that.

    You sound young and passionate. You might want to consider slowing down and spending some time listening to the women who are kindly trying to explain things to you. I’m trying to follow their lead and be kind too, although I’m hovering between a giggle and a sigh.

  128. Without personally taking sides, here is some relevant research on the similarities and dissimilarities of desire between males and femailes: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160630-the-enduring-enigma-of-female-desire

  129. The underground man says:

    kln you would be wrong I have not read jordan peterson or listened to any of his lectures i think he is someone who needs to stay in his lane and i find his dismissive reactionary political stances to be annoying Goodness i meant most men yes i am trying to listen to women and there experiences i do that a lot Look i am sorry if i offended anyone i know this is sensitive subject probably should kept my mouth shut just wanted to offer a different perspective

  130. Once again a discussion about women and matters important to woman is thoroughly derailed into a discussion about men. Who could possibly have seen this coming?

  131. Funny how men who need to stay in their lane frequently do not agree that they are out of their lane

  132. The underground man says:

    I am sorry that I derailed this discussion it wasn’t my intent honestly. There is a reason I don’t usually get into debates with people online it just generates more heat than light which is what clearly happened here. I feel chastened mea cupa

  133. Kristine says:

    Underground man, thanks for participating. This is hard stuff, and it does often generate more heat than light, but it’s good to keep trying to talk to each other. And I think it’s better not to have the concerns of women siloed into women only discussions.

    Nevertheless, we have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all blog comment threads, when they get past 100 comments or so, (as we suppose despite the dumb lack of numbers on WordPress), they begin to manifest unrighteous grandstanding and threadjacking.

    Therefore, amen to the comments of this post!

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