This is sort of a round-up regarding the ongoing online conversation happening around beauty, modesty, and lust. I've selected several posts that have been written in the past year. I'm sure there have been others but these give you a distinctive flavor of the different views expressed by Christians either on their own personal blogs or Christian online publications. If I've missed some other good online posts in recent months feel free to include their links in the comments section.
I think there is such a deep need for this conversation in the Christian community. It is like a minefield to navigate through on issues of women in leadership, men and women as friends (including men and women who are married but not to each other), objectfying women in Christian community, objectifying men in Christian community, shame, women and eating disorders, male weakness, male responsibility, codependency, sexuality, non-romantic intimacy, marriage, women's self-esteem, sexual fundamentalism, and so on.
"The Christian rhetoric of modesty, rather than offering believers an alternative to the sexual objectification of women, often continues the objectification, just in a different form.
As the Christian stance typically goes, women are to cover their bodies as a mark of spiritual integrity. Too much skin is seen as a distraction that garners inappropriate attention, causes our brothers to stumble, and overshadows our character. Consequently, the female body is perceived as both a temptation and a distraction to the Christian community. The female body is beautiful, but in a dangerous way."
"This reframing fails both men and women. It fails men by insisting they can’t gaze at an attractive woman without automatically lusting for her; it denies any possibility that the average man can appreciate female beauty without desiring to possess it. If a man claims to be able to “look” without lusting, he’s too often accused of denial at best and rank dishonesty at worst. If a woman says she believes men can gaze without carnal desire, we call her foolishly naïve. A self-fulfilling prophecy is created; if men are taught they can’t separate a delight in beauty from a longing for sex, they won’t ."
"I propose that we’ve lost sight of what lust actually is. In fact, we have confused biological sexual attraction with lust and called it sin. This is one reason why shame is so rampant in Christian circles, why we hide rather than confess our reality, why we try to control rather than offer each other the open love and freedom of Christ: we have made into sin something that is not sin.
God created you to desire another person for affection, intimacy, and relationship! Being physically attracted to someone is not lust. Wanting to kiss someone is not lust. Enjoying kissing someone is not lust. Those desires can be a catalyst for lust, but in themselves, they are morally-neutral, God-created, biological and chemical reactions. Your body recognizing sexual compatibility with another person is not inherently evil.
Don’t get me wrong. Lust is serious and lust is a sin. But lust is about control, not just sex."
"But here's the problem as I see it: If, as many of the commenters suggest, men (even or perhaps especially Christian men) are sexual predators who are incapable of looking at a woman who isn't covered from head to toe without wanting to rape them (or at least mentally rape them), that is decidedly not a problem that women should feel*obligated* to or even *can* solve. Perhaps that bears repeating, and in simpler terms:
If men are skeezy pervs, that's decidedly an issue for men to address.
Shifting the blame to women just passes the buck along and enables men to continue being skeezy pervs. "Oh, I'm getting all lusty because she's wearing skinny jeans and a v-neck." No bro, you're getting all lusty because you have a distorted view of women as objects that you need to get under control."
This post was reposted at the Good Women Project.
The bottom line: If women conceal their bodies because they believe their bodies are a “stumbling block” we’ve got a problem. Modesty cannot be motivated by codepedence.I am not responsible for your lust issues. Muslims have a teaching of “averting the eyes” that even their concealed women can charge at men who feast their eyes on their bodies.
You are responsible for what you do with your eyes, your soul, your fantasies. We cannot “save’” men from stumbling by wearing “modest” clothes. We cannot appease the women who have married men addicted to porn by covering up.
The point of modest is humility, not protecting lustful men from stumbling. Concealing our bodies doesn’t lead to victory over lust, not for men, not for women. Just like removing alcohol from a house doesn’t make an alcoholic sober. It can actually make her more voracious. Blaming a woman for a man’s lust is as asinine as blaming a Vodka label for enticing the alcoholic to drink.
Doesn’t it seem backwards that the church’s message to protect men from lust comes at the cost of women’s enjoying their bodies’ beauty, of women falling prey to eating disorders, of women being afraid of making love in the light? (e.g.”Modesty made me fat“)."
"Modesty made me “fat” because it defined my relationship with my body in terms of appearance. Not action. Not gratitude. Not the joy of movement. Just appearance. It also defined my relationship with men as one of predator and prey. It was my job to hide from men so that their sex drive would lie dormant, like a sleeping wolf. But if that wolf ever awakened, it was not because it had been sleeping for a long time and its circadian rhythm kicked in, or it was just naturally hungry. It was my fault because I had done something to “bait” the wolf. Just by being visibly female, or by moving in “unladylike” ways. You cannot consider women full human beings unless you recognize that their lives do not revolve around the male sex drive. Modesty is a philosophy that dehumanizes. It incites constant fear and vigilance in one sex while excusing the other of all responsibility. It’s immoral."
The issue will be one of the issues we will delve into at Sacred Friendship Gathering's Bold Boundaries: Expanding Friendship Between Men and Women April 26-27.