Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Modesty Culture Part 5: The Faulty Definition of "Lust"

Modesty Culture Part 5: The Faulty Definition of “Lust”

This particular post represents - more than any other so far - my own observations and ideas. While I have read a few things on the difference between attraction and lust, I haven't really seen anyone address the link between coveting and lusting. 

Let me talk a bit about words. Whether we like it or not, words have meaning. The meaning we assign to words can be the difference between life and death. Literally. I’m a lawyer. Words can mean the difference between an acquittal and a death sentence.

So, let’s talk about “lust.”

It is my opinion that the one of the most essential errors in this matter is to consider sexual desire as the same thing as “lust” as used by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount.

As should be obvious by now from reading the Rebelution survey, we have a faulty definition of lust. Basic sexual desire and arousal has now been deemed “lust.” And, for the normal young teen boy (and young teen girl, for that matter - if we are honest), the ordinary results of puberty have now been labeled “sin.”

For the child of Christian Patriarchy, “lust” means any sexual feeling or desire. (Except that felt for one's wife in marriage.)

Who can live under the idea that natural, biological urges are evil?

And then to compound it by insisting that feeling sexual arousal is the same as committing adultery or a sexual assault?

Why are we so surprised when things go badly wrong?

Really, we wonder why we continue to alienate our younger generations? We call the ordinary biological attraction to the opposite sex “sin,” and call our younger females “sluts” because young (and older) men are attracted to them and wonder why on earth we are losing our next generations.


So let’s talk about lust. Let’s really talk about lust.

For me, the conversation starts with the Ten Commandments. I firmly believe that the word used by Christ for “lust” is related to the word for “covet.” Because Christ used the Ten Commandments as the starting point for the Sermon on the Mount, I believe there is a connection here.

Let’s look at the text. Exodus 20:17 (all quotations are from the NASB unless otherwise indicated):

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

But, let’s ignore the offensive cultural baggage, and take a look at the potential analogy.

Since the “neighbor’s wife” is listed among the other chattel one must not covet, we might legitimately seek an aid to interpretation from the other items of “property” in this passage.

What does it actually mean to “covet?”
If I see my neighbor’s ox and think of some really spectacular steaks, is that coveting?

Okay, let me bring this down to a really practical level. My “neighbor” and friend A---- has a truly magnificent vacation home on the shores of Lake Tahoe. I mean magnificent. He has an industrial range that I really wish I had in my home. The lake itself is a few hundred feet away. He has a real home theater. He has the best wine cellar I have ever seen in person. I mean, A---- has it made! I love his Tahoe house! I wish I had it for my own.

But do I “covet” it? I’ll admit I like it. Whenever I am there, I do think A---- is well blessed/fortunate/etc. But do I really covet it? I am happy for him because he is a really nice, generous guy. He shares his bounty with a whole heart. (What are the chances I would actually spring for an older bottle of Silver Oak cabernet by myself? But he shared some with me because he is a generous guy.) But do I obsess about it? Not really. Deep down, I am glad that he has this place. I am glad that, of all people, he has it, and is a nice enough guy to share it.

So no, I don’t believe I “covet” my neighbor’s house.

Now let’s apply this to the “female issue.” I note that many, many young women are attractive. Um, DUH! It is perhaps the prerogative of 18-year-old women to be cute. Can we just admit this? From time to time, all of us men might notice that some young woman is highly attractive. If I were, say, young and single, I would completely entertain the thought of falling in love with one. (Come to think of it, I did once…)

But I don't obsess over a pretty woman I see. I move on, enjoy the company and affections of my wife. I don't let my attraction cause me to behave badly toward an attractive woman. 

So, apparently, “lust” or “coveting” doesn’t really mean a basic biological attraction or a simple desire (like I have for my friend’s house). To use the more outmoded version, one may admire a friend’s manservant (say, Jeeves for example) without committing the sin of coveting.

What I believe “lust” really is

I have come to the conclusion (as I hinted above) that lust is a matter of control and ownership. When you lust after a woman, you are reducing her to property. Her body exists, not for her own use, but for your own sexual gratification. (Um, hello porn, strip clubs, etc?) Her person, her desires, her own humanity, becomes unimportant compared to the luster’s own desires and need for gratification.

When I look on a woman, and reduce her to boobs and butt that make me feel good, I lust after her. When I treat her as a means of my own pleasure, rather than a human with full dignity and autonomy of her own, I am lusting after her.

There are two terms that really apply here. The first is “objectification.”

Objectification is the reduction of a person to the status of property. She becomes an object, not a subject. She exists to be acted upon, not as a person capable of her own action. (Grammar snob alert.)

Certainly not as an equal human, valued for being a fully equal person.

Here is the second one “Sexualization”, as defined by the American Psychological Association. (Sorry, I know fundamentalists consider psychology to be completely of the devil…)

There are several components to sexualization, and these set it apart from healthy sexuality. Sexualization occurs when                       
  • a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics;                           
  • a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;                           
  • a person is sexually objectified — that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or   
  • sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.   

Guess what? Our culture does this. Um, yeah. It does. The reason that young girls tend to sell their bodies as sex objects is that our culture does this. We tell the lie that women are only valued because they are “sexy.” (Or that they are devalued because they are “ugly.”) We hold out an arbitrary standard to determine sex appeal. We act as if women exist for the sexual use of men. We impose a sexual meaning on young girls. Indeed we do. This part of culture is evil, and I freely grant it!

Modesty Culture does this too!

I already noted in the last installment that Gothard blamed a molestation on the visibility of a toddler or infant's genitals. From my experience and that of others, this sexualization of children is common and taken for granted. Why else would there be such a focus on the dress of female children? Why so much discussion of what they wear when swimming? Because their bodies are already being treated as sexual. 

There is a comment on Part 4 that explains this phenomenon well: 

Once, when my child was about four, he got covered in burdocks during a walk in the woods. Very sensibly, he stripped to his underwear before going into the house. The equally little children we were with, whose parents were seriously into Doug Wilson and Co. at the time, were scandalized: "Mama, Mama, R took his clothes off." 

Children pick up on what adults do, say, and obsess about. Already, at age 4, a body was sexualized. Already at that age, there was an unhealthy focus on bodies and clothing - or the lack thereof.

Matthew 5 and Lust

Remember how I noted that Matthew 5 was one of the “proof texts” for Modesty Culture? I want to discuss that a bit. Here is the text, starting at verse 27:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’;  but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, ]than for your whole body to go into hell.”

Context is important. In this section of Christ’s sermon, he is doing a re-mix (technically speaking, a “midrash”) of the Ten Commandments, applying them to sins of the heart. Right before this, he has condemned hatred and anger as being the same as murder. Why? In my view, it is because in our anger and hate, we reduce a human being to a mere object - the object of revenge. That person ceases to exist in our minds and hearts as a person, made in the image of God, and becomes a mere thing. We have killed his or her humanity.

The same thing applies later on to adultery. Just like coveting of livestock, taken to its extreme, becomes theft; coveting a man’s wife, taken to its extreme becomes adultery – that is, the theft of that man’s property. (Using the Ancient Near East view of women, of course.)

Christ put an interesting spin on this by choosing to focus, not on the outward manifestation – the taking of another man’s property/wife, but on the heart issue that led to it.

I think this same analysis could apply to the issue of adultery. It isn’t as important that a property right was violated, but that the woman was dehumanized by being reduced to a mere object of gratification.
With our modern understanding that women are not property, this also changes the way we look at the end result of lust. No longer is the ultimate result of the sin of lust/coveting the theft of property from a man (aka adultery), but the theft of sexual agency from the woman herself, aka rape or sexual assault. I think Christ’s words themselves, when coupled with his treatment of women always as fully human and never inferior or property, could lead to this conclusion. The issue isn’t that one steals, but that one dehumanizes and fails to love.

Modesty Culture does NOT reject these values. If anything, it doubles down on them.

All we do is flip a few things.

A woman’s value comes primarily from her “purity” (virginity) and her “modesty.” That is, her ability to avoid men being sexually attracted to her. So yes, her value comes from her “sexual” behavior. (If I had a buck for every time I have read or heard “your virginity is the greatest gift you can give you your husband”...)

Her “Godliness” is determined by her adherence to an arbitrary cultural standard.

She is looked at in light of her sexual characteristics. Whether she attracts men. Not any of the other things about her. Whether she might possibly cause a man to lust.

This is objectification. It becomes even more clear with the infamous “Chocolate Cake” analogy. 

“Girls, dressing in [clothes the author doesn’t approve of] is to males like placing a delicious piece of chocolate cake in front of you. It isn’t fair that you can see and smell the cake, and not be able to eat it. It’s the same with guys that see you and want to have sex with you, but can’t, without resorting to rape.”

Chocolate cake is an object. It has no opinions or desires, and no innate value apart from its use as an object of the eater. Women are not objects.

Note that this fulfils the fourth point as well: “sexuality is inappropriately imposed on a person.” What they are doing or wearing may have nothing to do with sexuality, but that lens is imposed because the man finds it sexual. A woman out running is probably not thinking about sex. It would be safe to say she isn’t running thinking the running has anything to do with sex. She isn’t running to sexually gratify a man. She is running because she likes to and choses to. Imposing sexuality on this act because her breasts move is inappropriate sexualization. Likewise with the vast majority of what women wear. They aren’t wearing it with a sexual intention - that is imposed by those obsessed with sex.

So here is my summary:

The culture of sexualization: Women are only valuable to the degree they are able to make men lust after them.

The culture of “modesty”: Women are only valuable to the degree they are able to KEEP men from lusting after them.

Note the consistency. Women are valued because of the sexual effect they have on men. Period.

How Christian Patriarchy Doubles Down on Sexualization and Objectification

It’s not just the “modesty,” of course. Christian Patriarchy has very detailed - and very misogynist - views of women. I might start with (admitted adulterer and alleged sexual assaulter) Douglas Phillips. His “Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy” starts with the idea that men were created superior to women. That God is masculine, not feminine.  That, and I quote, “The man is also the image and glory of God in terms of authority, while the woman is the glory of man.”

It goes on, rather logically, from this premise. Woman was created to obey and serve man.

Let me repeat that again, because I believe it is the central premise in Christian Patriarchy.

Women were created to OBEY and SERVE men.

This is what Bill Gothard, Jonathan Lindvall, Douglas Phillips, the Pearls, and many more explicitly teach.

This idea applies (of course) to sex. A wife exists to sexually gratify her husband. (The obligation is most assuredly NOT reciprocal. Hello, Douglas Wilson…) 

The idea also applies to child bearing. The whole Quiverfull movement is based in significant part on the idea that a woman will be “saved” through childbearing. (Another egregious mistranslation and misinterpretation of I Timothy.)

Women are reduced (almost) to boobs and butt while they are single (women’s bodies are dangerous and need to be kept away from men). Once they are married, they get to add a vagina and a uterus to the deal. So they can bear children.

Oh, and we can’t forget that they are expected to dedicate the rest of their body to housework, cooking, and whatever else their husbands wish for them to do. Women exist to help their husbands fulfil their visions. Women are not supposed to have visions of their own.

(It goes without saying that women are not to even think of their own careers, beyond that of “mother.” Or ever take a leadership role.)

This is the teaching. I heard it, and my wife saw it lived out, up close and personal. But there is more…

Separation of the Genders

Doug Phillips took down his entire website after the scandal, so I can’t link it, but he has stressed that the genders must be kept separate in their activities, social spheres, and so forth. The point is that boys and girls do NOT mix. They are NOT to be friends. They are NOT to interact as equals. (I will discuss this as it applied personally to my wife within the Lindvall group later on.)

In fact, he promoted “covenantal” friendships between males. I’m not kidding. Since men and women cannot be equals or friends, that need must be fulfilled through other men. 

Thus, the only connection between male and female is to be sexual, within the bounds of marriage.


Between a husband and a wife, within marriage. Other than that, separate.

If you combine this with the teaching that women are to serve men, sexually and in every other way, what do you come up with?

A complete objectification of women. They exist as sexual parts for the gratification of men. They are property, to be used by men for their own purposes. (Again, I think I need a whole post for this.)

Do we really wonder why this philosophy has f-ed up our young people? Really?

This is one reason why I believe it is important to know that the roots of Modesty Culture are in Reconstructionism and Christian Patriarchy. I believe the ideas are inseparable and rooted in a consistent (if badly wrong) conception of gender and hierarchy. 

The whole system functions to prevent the development of equal relationships - and also the development of empathy. After all, if women are inferior, and their bodies are dangerous, then isn't a culture of rape the natural result?

To be fair, this objectification and sexualization isn't limited to Christians or to Christian Patriarchy.

History Itself is a Record of Sexualization and Objectification of Women

One of the dangerous things about actually reading history and the writings of the major figures in history - rather than just what has been said about them - is that a lot of embarrassing stuff comes to light. Many great men suffered from the misogyny of their times and culture, and said things which were not shocking at the time, but look outrageous to us now, after we have reaped the benefits of feminism.
Here are a few "gems":

Aristotle: (from Politics)"A proper wife should be as obedient as a slave." and "The female is a female by virtue of a certain lack of qualities - a natural defectiveness."

The Hindu Code of Manu: “Girls are supposed to be in the custody of their father when they are children, women must be under the custody of their husband when married and under the custody of her son as widows. In no circumstances is she allowed to assert herself independently.” (This predates Doug Phillips’ Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy by 1900 years. But it is pretty well word for word, isn’t it?) or this one: “Women have no divine right to perform any religious ritual, nor make vows or observe a fast. Her only duty is to obey and please her husband and she will for that reason alone be exalted in heaven.”

St. Augustine: "Any woman who acts in such a way that she cannot give birth to as many children as she is capable of, makes herself guilty of that many murders," and “I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children.”

John Knox: "Woman in her greatest perfection was made to serve and obey man, not rule and command him."

Martin Luther: "If [women] become tired or even die, that does not matter. Let them die in childbirth--that is why they are there." and this treasure too: "The word and works of God is quite clear, that women were made either to be wives or prostitutes."

Rousseau: "The education of women should always be relative to that of men. To please, to be useful to us, to make us love and esteem them, to educate us when young, to take care of us when grown up, to advise, to console us, to render our lives easy and agreeable; these are the duties of women at all times, and what they should be taught in their infancy."

There are more, of course. Many, many more, but these few show a clear pattern of objectifying women, reducing them to their reproductive parts and their service to men. This has been - and in many cases still is - the way culture thinks and speaks about women. Objectification and sexualization.

This is why it is problematic to, on the one hand, make normal desire into a sin, and on the other to ignore the real problem of making women into objects for male gratification. 

I also believe that it runs contrary to the way we see Christ respond to women. He called one a "Daughter of Abraham," placing her on equal footing with a man, a "Son of Abraham." This was shocking in that culture. Letting a woman out of the kitchen to learn at his feet was a clear indication in that culture that he was allowing her to be trained as a rabbi. He didn't objectify them. Ever.

So Why do Good People Go for this?

The hard thing about this is that many very good, decent people, have become caught up in Modesty Culture. It has become a trend and an obsession of conservative Christianity these days. These people really do mean well, for the most part. They hope that young women won’t sell their dignity and their bodies to gratify horny men.

But they miss the point that Modesty Culture is more of the same. It reduces women to objects. It sees them solely in terms of their sexual effect on men.

Why do they go for this then? Because they are freaked out about sex, from what I have observed.

Does Sexual Desire Really Come From Outside?

I really feel that many of my parents’ generation believes that if it wasn’t for the sexualization of our culture, that young folk would never actually have the desire to have sex. (They also deny that women have sexual desire. Again, a cultural thing that tells the lie that women bargain sex for love, and that men only give love in exchange for sex. Need I even say that this is bullshit?  Apparently I do. I’ll talk about this in a future post in this series.)

The idea, then, is that all the young folk would happily remain celibate through the peak of their fertility and sexual desire - if it wasn’t for those damn sluts that don’t dress right. Yep, boys would never want to have sex if girls would just cover up a bit. Or if we keep them physically separate. Or if we don’t let them date. Or let the girls go to college...

So thus, all of our sexual issues can be cured if we just isolate the boys from the girls. If they can’t see, they won’t lust, and then they won’t screw. So easy, right?

Are we really that stupid? Do we really not notice that we were created with a sex drive that leads us to want to reproduce?

This fatal mistake, the belief that sexual sin arises from women’s bodies, leads naturally and inevitably to the high incidence of sexual assault within groups with these beliefs.

Want proof? Lets look at some actual data.

The connection between Patriarchy and “Modesty Culture” and Sexual Assault

Occasionally, when I try to explain to people what it was like for my wife and me to be in cultic groups, I get the response, “That sounds like the Taliban.” Indeed it does. Vision Forum (Doug Phillips) in particular has been referred to as the Christian Taliban because of its rigid gender hierarchy and focus on the control of women.

It isn’t just the gender roles though. The reasoning behind Modesty Culture - that women’s bodies cause men to sin, and thus must be kept covered - is the same as that used by the Taliban and other fundamentalist Islamic groups. Fundamentalism - particularly gendered fundamentalism - looks largely the same, regardless of the name used for the god and the prophet. (The Hindu Code of Manu, quoted above, is closer to Phillips' teachings than anything in the Bible, a fact I found interesting.)

This also might suggest that we can look at those countries with laws enforcing dress codes for women to see how this plays out.

Where in the world are sexual assault rates the highest?

If you believe the “Modesty Culture” proponents, you would believe that they are far higher in secular cultures where women wear less clothing. After all, women’s bodies cause lust, and lust leads to uncontrolled seeking of sex.

So where are the rates the highest?

Say, France, where women go nude or topless on the beaches of the Riviera. Perhaps?

Maybe in the United States, home to Miley Cyrus and Kim Kardashian?

I already mentioned that my own experience was that there was a problem in ultra-conservative circles with assault and consent. Obviously, the plural of anecdote isn’t data, so it isn’t fair to extrapolate. Fortunately, we have a pretty large sample size to work with.

Let’s actually look at the facts.

Sexual Assault is actually highest in countries that have a patriarchal view of women.  
Countries like Egypt. Somalia. India. Iran. Yes. Many countries that force their women to cover up. Also, countries that treat women as inferior.

You can view the entire set - and links to the research itself - on 

Dress codes for women in Islamic countries
(Non-Islamic countries don’t have legally enforced dress codes as far as I can determine.)

Combined rates of Rape, Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, and Murder against women.
Notice that countries with strong feminist movements - like France and Sweden - are safer. 

“Official” rape data scaled to reflect the legal consequences of reporting a rape.

Given the risks to a woman who reports a sexual assault or a rape (hello honor killings), the “official” numbers have to be adjusted in countries where reporting a rape tends to turn out badly for the woman. Sometimes rapes are "officially" low, for the same reason that a former ruler of Iran was able to claim that there were no homosexuals in his country...

Want more?

The way the woman was dressed had NO statistical effect on whether she would be sexually assaulted or not.


Got that?

Because sexual assault (like lust) isn’t about the woman’s attire.

It is about the man’s willingness to control his own behavior and society’s willingness to condemn and punish sexual assault.

So much for the statistics. Simply put: Modesty Culture does not reduce sexual assault. There is no evidence it reduces lust. If anything, it increases bad behavior because it excuses it. 

(Men behaving badly - burqua edition)

In the next part, I will examine I Timothy 2:8-10, and make my case that this passage has been twisted to mean something it was never intended to mean - and that the intended meaning has been and is being ignored.

Modesty Culture Part 4: The Concept of "Defrauding" and Rape Culture
Modesty Culture Part 5: The Faulty Definition of "Lust" 
Modesty Culture Part 6: The Real Meaning of I Timothy 2:8-10
Modesty Culture Part 7: Maybe Christian Women Should Shop at WalMart 
Modesty Culture Part 8: Sexism and Misogyny 
Modesty Culture Part 9: Inconsistent Application of Rules   
Modesty Culture Part 10: Social Signaling  
Modesty Culture Part 11: "Others May, We Cannot" is a Lie
Modesty Culture Part 12: Amanda's Story

Note on a recent event:

One of the most interesting takes on the murders in Santa Barbara is by blogger Suzannah Paul, writing on Micah Murray's blog. Much of what the shooter, Eliot Rodger, says in his manifesto reeks of misogyny, and strongly reflects the idea that if a man is aroused, he deserves to get sex. It also is one of the clearest statements of the view of women as existing for the benefit of men as I have seen outside of the Patriarchy Movement. 

Side Note:

Women objectify men too, but sexualization isn't as common. That might be a subject of a future post.

Last minute addition:

A really great post on why people join cults. (I consider Gothardism and Vision Forum to be cults. Lindvall is a harder one, because he never attempted the control that the other groups did, although he advocated what I believe amounts to mind control of the children. So cult-like - at least if one was a child in the group.) 

Top 5 Reasons People Join Cults by Elizabeth Esther.  

One more bit:

I discovered this long after I finished the post, but it is good enough to add. An analysis of the actual Greek of this passage reveals that my interpretation is correct: the word for lust is the same as the word used for covet in the Septuagint. More about that and the way this passage is misinterpreted here.    


  1. Thanks for linking to my Manly Friendships post. Your whole modesty series so far has been awesome. It's doubly unfortunate that the idea that men and women can't be friends, is so prevalent in the secular world too. Popular media uses it as comedic fodder all the time. But like you said, none of this is limited to patriarchy.

    1. It's all too true. In many ways, the history of the world is the history of the sexualization and objectification of women (and also violence, tribalism, greed, and so on), and this nonsense "transcends" time, place, and religion.

      One of the best things about working in law and in music is that there are so many amazing women in those fields. I have many good friends in both, and sexuality just isn't a part of those friendships at all. The whole construct is just that: a construct, and it really doesn't represent reality in the professional world.

  2. your series is wonderful. thank you for taking the time to pint out with such precision and common sense what is going on with the gender and sexual politics of these extremist patriarchal "christian" groups. Sex is relentlessly magnified, obsessed over to a ridiculous extent, and blame for it assigned solely to women; managing the urges of males is supposed to be every female's duty, all while knowing nothing whatsoever about sex except that whatever it is, they aren't supposed to do it or want it. In this system females are not persons at all but utilities: they exist solely for the gratification of men and the production of more generations of the same.

    Rape and sexual assault simply do not exist within this framework because there are no victims; if a man wants to commit some sex act on, to, or with a girl, then the girl has already failed to carry out her duties correctly. There is no concern for the victims except to get them to "admit" their culpability and ask God's forgiveness. What happens to the victims isn't important; they aren't thought of as traumatized; if they suffer, well, that's great, suffering makes you closer to God. All the concern is for to perpetrator, because it is his soul that is endangered by his giving in to "temptation", and all the resources of the community react to defend and protect him, starting with shutting up the victims .

  3. You talk about the Chocolate Cake analogy. Have you heard of the Alcoholic Beverage analogy?

    It goes like this:
    If you have a friend who is a recovering alcoholic, then it would be irresponsible to offer him an alcoholic beverage. In the same way, since we know – not if – but since we know that men are visually stimulated, it is irresponsible for women to dress inappropriately. Dressing modestly would be the loving and respectful thing to do. Women do contribute to men’s ‘temptations’ and therefore must bear some responsibility in helping men control their urges.

    One party is supposedly an alcoholic beverage and the other party is supposedly a recovering alcoholic. We are expected to swallow this (pun intended).

    1. I've had that discussion with others as well, and it does kind of illustrate the icky-ness of it all.

      One logical conclusion of the analogy would be an argument for prohibition. After all, to keep the poor man from lusting, ALL women would need to dress a certain way. Everyone. Everywhere. By that analogy, then, we cannot have alcohol in existence anywhere, because the alcoholic might indeed see it and be tempted to drink. (They are visually stimulated, after all...) Thus, we must outlaw alcohol.

      Interesting case in point: I had a classmate in law school who had an alcoholic uncle, so he made it his "conviction" that he would never enter an establishment that served or sold alcohol. He was (surprise! or not) from the South, where it was easy enough to find "dry" municipalities, so this wasn't a problem. Now California, on the other hand, was impossible for him, because *every* regular grocery store here sells alcohol - as does every corner store, mini-mart, and most small ethnic groceries. He would pretty much be limited to Muslim stores for food. And Denny's for restaurants.

      Also, as you note, this analogy also assumes that if a man feels sexual feelings, the woman has offered her body to him. Rape culture again, dang it!

  4. I am now wondering: If male modesty isn't treated as big of an issue as female modesty is, does this mean that women would get more of a 'pass' if they're ogling at guys? That would be an interesting topic to talk about.

    Also, when male modesty is brought up, it's usually brought up like this:

    Like, "women should cover up because their bodies are so beautifully alluring" but "men should cover up because their bodies are icky".

    Thankfully, I grew up in a more "mainstream" American town/setting. I grew up in a Christian home, and was taught to dress modestly but it was never this HUGE topic that came up frequently. We went about our usual business. I think that what makes modesty work for me is that I made it my own. It's sooo much more than just "not making my brothers stumble". I think that modesty is best exercised starting from within, on an individual level, rather than from some external Modesty Culture.

    The maps you showed are sad. The risk of sexual assault in some places is horrifying.

    I think this is an instance where we can say, "Please, be just be normal."

    "Women are reduced (almost) to boobs and butt while they are single (women’s bodies are dangerous and need to be kept away from men). Once they are married, they get to add a vagina and a uterus to the deal. So they can bear children."

    Is this why there's a stronger expectation on women to marry younger? Because of the fertility reason?

    And in your running example, it reminded me of something one guy had posted on a forum I'm on, something along the lines of: "A man is not going to think, oh she's just going out for a run. Nope, he's probably noticing her chest bounce in that tank top." I don't want to look that post up again because it'll make me angry. He's probably projecting his perceptions onto others.

    I do think that the alcoholic beverage analogy makes sense though. If I am going to be around someone who I know is struggling deeply with lust, I will watch how I act and what I wear. But it's still my individual choice; I'm not letting people dictate my wardrobe.

  5. Thank you so much for this series! I quoted this post (and linked to a few others) in my Feminism 101 post on Modesty Culture.