Friday, December 30, 2005

Women, Men, and Modesty

When I was in college in early 1990, I didn't see too many women in public dressing provocatively, for example by bearing part of their breasts. But these days, it seems the trend to show a little more than cleavage is growing and almost seems to be the norm. I must say that if I was single, it probably wouldn't bother me as much but being that I am married, it does bother me. I have heard a variety of perspectives on the root of this behavior. I have listed them as follows:

  1. poor self image/low self esteem
  2. the person wants sex
  3. the person wants to simply attract the male of the species but may not realize or know better how their manner of dress affects the male. He may look upon the women in an objective manner. The original intent of the person dressing immodestly may not have been to attract the man in such a way.
  4. the person is lacking attention

In the book called "The Decline of Males" the author Lionel Tiger (1999) discusses the contraceptive effects of the birth control pill. He further states that the pill inhibits the natural scent of women (that is their pheromones) because they no longer go through a monthly fertile phase. Therefore, without realizing it, the woman needs another method to attract the male so she tends to dress provocatively to garner attention from the male.

These are just a few perspectives that come to mind. Looking back, I haven't really been one to dress too provocatively. My reason would have related more to the above third point. While growing up, not knowing better I occasionally would wear the tight pants and short skirts. I could never really muster the ability to deliberately show my chest to the rest of the world.

The older I became the more I realized that dressing in a provocative manner would not attract the right kind of men. It would attract men who looked at me not for me but for my body. They only wanted one thing, and that was sex. The more I grew, the more I realized and tried to respect those wondering eyes by not wearing tight clothing. If I did, I would have an inner desire to cover my bottom with a longer shirt if the pants were on the tight side, or wear a cardigan over my top if it was a little too tight. The more fashion changed, the more it was difficult for me to find a top or pants that weren't so tight as to show my form per se and that bothered me. And yet, the more I wore the tighter clothing, the more the self consciousness of my clothing being too tight faded away. Basically, I became desensitized partly because that is all what the women around me wore too.

I remember a speaker named James Stenson who spoke at a family conference who said that by dressing modestly you are forcing the man to look into your eyes and not at one's breasts or some other part of one's body. It wasn't until I got married that I began to understand more about the male perspective on women who dress provocatively. My husband helped me understand in a deeper sense what males truly can think or do when they see a women dressed immodestly. Unless a man has trained himself not to look at a woman with a lustful eye, that is with an eye of innocence or purity, he should look away.

You have heard that it was said, "You shall not commit adultery." But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Mt 5:27-28).

I believe our bodies are sacred, temples of the Holy Spirit therefore must be guarded and covered modestly in a respectful way.

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body(1 Cor 6:19-20).

By covering ourselves modestly we are reserving and keeping our sensuality as a gift for our future husband. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992) stated that:

Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate centre of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity (2521).

As a married women, I wish more women around me would choose to dress more modestly because if not, it has the potential to turn my husband's head. I know that if his head does get turned he knows how to guard his eyes because he knows and I know he only has eyes for me but it took a long time for this to sink into my being. We women can be very protective and perhaps jealous of where our husband or fiance/boyfriend looks unless they keep reassuring us that they don't look at these women in a lustful way or they purposefully divert their eyes. As a woman, we must learn to trust the latter to be true. We must also learn to respect not only our bodies by dressing modestly but respecting those around us who may be tempted into sin.

Teaching modesty to children and adolescents means awakening in them respect for the human person (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2524).

(For the sake of simplicity I made reference more towards women and modesty but it also relates to modesty in men)

A recommended read and the book by Lionel Tiger. Thank you for supporting us!


Anonymous said...

Excellent and I pray priests will resume preaching on the virtue of modesty.

Fr. Joseph

Lisa said...

Hi. This is a great blog.
I have the same way of thinking and, thankfully, I have been able to teach my children so that they think this way, too.

I've taught, and continue to teach, that it is better to be an attraction, not a distraction. That they will want the boys who will be attracted to who they are, not the boys who will be attracted to what they are wearing. My kids are normal, and all into the latest styles, but choose the nicer items over the sleezy ones.

My son, who is a freshman in high school, has also had the same teachings. I know he's got it when he makes comments like, "That's not wife material" or "Eeewww" when he sees a provacatively dressed young lady. He doesn't like girls that wear tiny bikinis and he tells his younger sisters that they should wear one piece bathing suits.

Now, he's a typical boy, too!! His sister came home from getting her hair cut and some highlights put in and he saw her and said, "Hey, your hair looks great! You'd be really fine if you just had a chest!" Ahhh, siblings.

LucilleE said...

Thank-you for your comment. It is wonderful to hear that your kids have caught on to the importance of modesty and living it. You have taught them well, good job! They are an example to those around them.

Anonymous said...

Kudos. As a much older woman past childbearing I wonder though,how modesty applies to me. Everything I read is for young women.A bit discouraging