The Flip Side of Modesty Culture
I’ve recently done a few posts pointing out the problems of Purity Culture. There is an important caveat, though, and I’m thankful to this post at Rage Against the Minivan for bringing it up. In short, while a man must be held responsible for his thoughts and especially his actions, a way that a woman dresses can indeed cause some confusion. A woman doesn’t cause him to sin, no, but can definitely cause some confusion. And of course it works for the genders reversed as well, but we usually talk about it in this direction. Some are disagreeing with this, saying that it still is defending the problems of purity culture. Personally I agree with the author but obviously you should consider it for yourself.
Before I unpack that some more, here’s the kind of thing in comedic form that we’re talking about:
In other words, a person goes out of their way to draw attention to their body. Somebody else notices. That person doesn’t initiate any touch, doesn’t stare or make crude faces, doesn’t make inappropriate sexual advances, just is simply caught noticing. The first person gets upset over it.
Sometimes those of us who are making strong efforts to release women from the shame of being told that everything is really their fault (and releasing men from being told we are mindless sex robots who can’t help ourselves if the right stimulus appears) do go too far. Sometimes we just put the shame back onto men:
When a woman goes after a man for noticing her deep v, that’s shaming him. Trading shame for shame is not a win for womankind, my friends. A woman can wear whatever she wants. More power to her. What she can’t do is expect men not to notice. Most men can regard her charms then move on. If she wears a micromini and claims to not want a reaction from men, I’m going to straight up call her a liar but I’m not going to call her wrong for wearing it.
Let me be clear. I am not saying wearing revealing clothing is an open invitation for men to grab you. You could wear a Frederick’s of Hollywood little bit of nothin’, walk down the middle of the street and that still wouldn’t give a man the right to touch you.
I’m not sure there are a lot of women that do this, but it definitely does exist and we should be cautious of it. The comedic clip included at the end of that blog says it well, too. He’s very clear that it is not a woman’s fault if men do anything against her consent, even if she were naked. But we can’t really blame men for that instinctive look and brief admiration of the view either (again: not staring, not objectifying, not seeking out fantasies, not touching, not saying something sexual).
Update in response to a comment on Facebook: Here’s another way to look at it. I think the real problem with modesty culture is that we demonize attraction. Attraction is not lust. It is not sinful in and of itself. Modesty culture starts with the premise that being attracted to someone other than your spouse is wrong and then argues about who to blame. My point here is that this attitude of blaming men for being attracted is coming from the exact same root as its usual manifestation of blaming women for being attractive.