Stop Telling the YW to Be Modest for the YM

June 14, 2011 | 211 comments
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The emphasis here is on for the YM, not to be modest. In fact, most of you would consider me to be ultra-conservative in the modesty department: when I had toddler boys, I would not take them out of the house in clothing that didn’t reach the knees and cover the shoulders. So I’m plenty uptight about dressing modestly, I promise.

There are all sorts of good reasons for the YW to be modest. But being modest for the sake of the YM is not one of them.

(1) I don’t know what things are like in the Jell-O belt, but out here in the mission field, the average YM sees plenty of immodest clothing: at school, at the mall (Do kids still go to the mall? I have no idea. I’m 36.), at the library, in the express lane at HEB. I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in this entire zip code with sleeves on at this moment; the high is 100 or 101 every blessed day this week. He may even go to a ward swim activity where our faithful YW wear (modest) bathing suits. I can’t understand why this parade of flesh wouldn’t tempt him, but a YW wearing a shorts five inches above the knee would. If he’s able to survive the daily it’s-way-too-hot-for-fabric parade, it isn’t our YW (who, on average, he rarely sees anyway) who are going to push him over the edge. To suggest that our modestly-dressed YW are the only thing between our YM and wild abandon is . . . bizarre.

(2) I’m sure you’ve heard counsel to the YM along the lines of “Don’t just marry a girl because she’s pretty–you may be stuck with a shallow, or faithless, or humorless hag for all eternity” (of course, they phrase it a little more nicely). But you never hear this: “Don’t just date the pretty girls, because you’ll cause girls to obsess about their looks and possibly sin as they try to win the beauty arms race.” In other words, we always couch the counsel in terms of the costs and benefits to the boy himself–not to the girls affected by his decisions. We should do the same with the YW. Each YM or YW should be the star of their own story–not the subject of someone else’s.

(3) If all girls hear is “Be modest so you don’t tempt the YM,” they might think, “I have zero risk of tempting anyone anyway because I look like Jabba the Hut–even if I wore a bikini . . . especially in a bikini!” The fact is, I’m sorry to say, that there are some YW out there who aren’t going to turn heads no matter what they are (not) wearing. They know it. But they still need to be modest. I have to wonder if what I consider to be rampant immodesty on the part of some middle-aged LDS women is tied to the fact that they think that because they aren’t likely to tempt anyone anymore, they can (not) wear whatever they want now. Linking modesty solely to its effects on other people ignores a much broader underpinning of respect for our own bodies, regardless of how others perceive those bodies in terms of sexual attractiveness.

(4) We believe that YM will be punished for their own sins. It is a terrible theology that suggests that a YW could cause another person to sin. None of us wants to see that thinking come to fruition with a YM thinking that he ‘had no choice’ but to sexually assault a YW because she tempted him beyond what he could stand by dressing immodestly. I’m absolutely sure that no adult who has told YW to be modest for the sake of YM would be anything but horrified by that kind of thinking, but it isn’t too far of a leap for an immature, hormone-addled brain to make.

(5) Kathryn Soper has explained this far more eloquently than I will be able to, but can we stop reminding the girls of how much sexual power they hold? Their immature, hormone-addled brains hear “If I dress immodestly, I’ll have power over boys!” Combine that with their lack of institutional power and recognition (“We’d like to thank the Aaronic Priesthood for the reverent way in which they . . .”) and the extreme emphasis that we place on their marriages (and the demographic imbalance that makes those unlikely for some of them) and it’s no wonder we have problems with modesty.

I’d like to see us develop a narrative of female modesty tied to their power and individual worth, not to their impact on other people.

211 Responses to Stop Telling the YW to Be Modest for the YM

  1. dallske on June 14, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    The only one I agree with is number 5. Every other one is not legitimate in my mind.

  2. KLS on June 14, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    Julie for president.

  3. Blake on June 14, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    Julie: Have you ever noticed that men are different than women in some respects? I think those respects suggest that men might have challenges that are different for women (in general) and it might make sense to accommodate those differences.

  4. Julie M. Smith on June 14, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    Blake, with all due respect, your comment makes me want to pull my hair out.

    I have no problem at all believing that the average man is more aroused by visual stimulus than the average woman. That fact has nothing to do with this discussion, however, which concerns how we teach modesty to YW. The “do it for the boys” approach is very damaging to YW, even if it is factually true that the YM are aroused by immodest dress.

  5. dallske on June 14, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    The ‘do it for boys’ approach may not be correct, but you didn’t spell it out in your reasons very well at all.

  6. dallske on June 14, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    Also, who is behind the ‘do it for the boys’ argument anyway? I have two boys and two girls and I haven’t heard that until now, and only here in blogger world.

  7. Steve on June 14, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    The young women in my ward did a musical number a couple weeks ago.

    I was struck how incredibly frumpy they looked . . no fashionable cloths, no bright colors, nothing beyond brushed-straight hair, no make-up, etc. Nothing remotely attractive. And, these are beautiful girls.

    They could have been the children of a FLDS polygamist. Lots of pioneer-style dresses and lots and lots and lots of layering. Nothing remotely fashionable.

    In contrast, the primary girls dressed in bright colors, had their hair done up and wore interesting clothes.

    I wonder if the recent emphasis on modesty is the cause: I wonder if the message they are taking in is “Don’t look good because it might draw the wrong kind of attention.” But, what I saw was beyond being modest. It was plain dumpy.

  8. Kevin Barney on June 14, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    I agree with your perspective, Julie. But I have some questions about this discourse, that perhaps commenters might be able to offer some insight on.

    I’ve seen this idea expressed at the general level of the church a couple of times. But I’ve never seen it expressed in my local area. And I never see modesty issues among our YW. I’m not involved in YMYW, so maybe they’re hammering home about this all the time; I have no way of knowing. But my impression is that the YW just self-regulate, because they of course know that they need to dress modestly. There may be the occasional outlier, but most LDS young women don’t need to be beat over the head with a hammer to dress modestly. At least that’s my impression from the bleacher seats.

    So I’m interested in people’s experiences with this idea in their local areas. How common is this “walking pornography” type of discourse among the wards of the Church I wonder?

  9. dallske on June 14, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    As a military member who sees many wards/areas, I agree with Kevin that they self-regulate. I would say that this ‘advice’ is preaching to the choir whilst ignoring the real group that needs it: newlyweds. I don’t see a lot of single adult women, so I will leave them out, but I often see young mothers/young married women who walk the line in modesty and it bugs the crap out of me. They are looked to as examples and they don’t realize it.

  10. Petra on June 14, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    A corollary to #3 for me was that the constant emphasis on being modest for the YM only served to divide the YW and alienate me from the entire program: as a nerdy teen not overly optimistic about my exposed flesh tempting men, not only did I not think about modesty for myself very seriously, I also saw the modesty talks as yet another part of the YW program aimed only at the pretty, popular girls.

  11. Julie M. Smith on June 14, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    Kevin, I’ve heard it locally here but I have no idea how common that is in other areas.

  12. Julie M. Smith on June 14, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    Petra, that is a good–if heartbreaking–observation.

  13. Paula on June 14, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    I agree strongly with of the points in the OP. As the mother of YW and having been a leader in YW for many years, I have witnessed the modesty hammer over and over. My experience is that the majority of these modesty lessons not only reinforce abdication of responsibility for the YM, but also emphasize a dangerous notion that a young woman’s value is unduly centered in her looks and body. For the sake of both YW and YM, we need to find a more empowering way to approach modesty.

  14. Kevin Barney on June 14, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    10 Petra, yeah, what Julie said in no. 12. That comment really brings home problems with our modesty discourse that we haven’t really thought through at all.

  15. kik on June 14, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    I’ve heard the, do it for the boys many times. And though it may indeed be hard for the boys, I think everyone needs to mind their own desires.

    I’ve read online that there are many OTHER and more important reasons for modesty. I don’t know what they are (how embarrassing).

    Could you share those? I have a young daughter and want to teach her well. So far our only exchange has been like this. Daughter (age 4): If someone saw me naked it would be so embarrasing. Me: Your naked body isn’t embarrassing, just private.

  16. Bob on June 14, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    Julie,
    Maybe it’s just me. But I have been a boy or a man all my life. Girls/women who dress hot, don’t turn me on. I just put them on my ‘not my type list’.
    If you see a guy with big muscles, are you turned on? If no, you know how I about girls/women who dress hot.

  17. Howard on June 14, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    If you walk too close to the tigers you may be eaten. This assumes the tiger is an animal incapable of reason so walker beware but YM are not animals and YW are not their keepers. Dress should be appropriate for the activity and weather. Modesty can be modeled and influenced by setting an example. Is there need for more than this? If so what and why?

  18. Amanda on June 14, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    Wishing that Julie was one of my YW leaders when I was a YW…..I heard this kind of crap all the time. And I wasn’t smart enough to figure out why it just never sat that well with me. I kind of always knew that I dressed modestly for myself, and NOT for the YM, but I wasn’t able to articulate why until I was older. I would LOVE to hear modesty explained in a much more enlightened way for our YW than how I heard it.

  19. Heather on June 14, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    Nice post, Julie.

  20. DavidH on June 14, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    Amen, Julie.

  21. ZD Eve on June 14, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    Yes. I wholeheartedly agree.

    Unfortunately, we’ve drastically reduced the concept of modesty–which should apply to women and men and to much more than avoiding skimpy clothing–to getting girls to cover their shoulders. That said, there are very good reasons for YW to dress modestly that have nothing whatsoever to do with the YM. Dressing modestly is a form of self-respect. It’s about refusing to reduce oneself to one’s sexuality. Perhaps this is idiosyncratic to me, but I also think of modest dress as about comfort in one’s clothes and one’s body. Girls’ and women’s clothes should allow them to be physically active–to bend over, reach up for something, to cross their legs–without constantly tugging and pulling to get their clothes to cover them.

    I went through YW before the current modesty discourse took hold, and I heard little about it. But I vividly remember going to firesides and hearing speakers address the YM for ten minutes about going on missions, and then address the YW about our power to persuade the YM to go on missions. The issue isn’t whether missions and modesty are good. The issue is the way we send those messages along with a host of damaging other message–that the YM are more important than the YW and that the YW’s importance consists entirely in their influence upon the YM. In far too much of our discourse, YW never get to be full human beings whose lives have their own moral weight entirely independent of any influence on the YM or on their future families.

  22. Howard on June 14, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    Also, who is behind the ‘do it for the boys’ argument anyway? Elaine S. Dalton April 2011 General Conference

    Being a guardian of virtue means you will always be modest not only in your dress but also in your speech, your actions, and your use of social media. Being a guardian of virtue means you will never text words or images to young men that may cause them to lose the Spirit, lose their priesthood power, or lose their virtue.

  23. Martine on June 14, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    Who defines modesty? Are we using the church’s definition? Is that the only correct definition? Does a young woman only show respect for her body if she covers her shoulders–minimally covered with a shade by the way–and her shorts reach her knees? Neckline must be sufficiently high to not show any hint of breast tissue?

    Why is respect for the body all about covering up something God created in all its beauty?

  24. Ziff on June 14, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    I love this post, Julie. Particularly this point:

    Each YM or YW should be the star of their own story–not the subject of someone else’s.

    which I think seems like the central issue, and links nicely to the issue Eve raised about YW being told they’re important for their influence on YM more generally.

  25. A nonny on June 14, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    Also, who is behind the ‘do it for the boys’ argument anyway?

    Dallin H. Oaks:

    “Young women, please understand that if you dress immodestly, you are magnifying this problem by becoming pornography to some of the men who see you.” (“Pornography,” Ensign, May 2005, page 87)

    Spencer W. Kimball:

    Another of the many things that lead to unchastity is immodesty. Today many young women and young men are smug in their knowledge of the facts of life. They think they know all the answers. They talk about sex as freely as they talk about cars and shows and clothes. And a spirit of immodesty has developed until nothing seems to be sacred.

    One contributing factor to immodesty and a breakdown of moral values is the modern dress. I am sure that the immodest clothes that are worn by some of our young women, and their mothers, contribute directly and indirectly to the immorality of this age. Even fathers sometimes encourage it. I wonder if our young sisters realize the temptation they are flaunting before young men when they leave their bodies partly uncovered….

    I am positive that the clothes we wear can be a tremendous factor in the gradual breakdown of our love of virtue, our steadfastness in chastity (Faith Precedes the Miracle [1972], 163, 168).

    Susan W. Tanner:

    Everything about your appearance, your speech, and your demeanor should bespeak that you are a literal spirit son or daughter of Heavenly Father. If we truly understand the significance of our bodies in our Father’s plan, we will show great honor for our bodies. When you dress and act modestly, others will treat you with respect. (Make Dating Smooth Sailing New Era, October 2004, page 28)

    Strength of Youth pamphlet, page 14-15:

    Prophets of God have always counseled His children to dress modestly. The way you dress is a reflection of what you are on the inside. Your dress and grooming send messages about you to others and influence the way you and others act. When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit and can exercise a good influence on those around you.

    The Latter-day Saint Woman Manual:

    We can measure our standards of modesty by asking ourselves: How would I feel about my clothing if I knew the prophet were to visit in my home? Is my clothing a good example of what a Latter-day Saint girl or woman should wear? We should practice modesty within our own homes. Even small children should be modestly dressed and taught about modesty.

    We are responsible for the effect our dress standards have on others. Anything that causes improper thoughts or sets a bad example before others is not modest. It is especially important that we teach young girls not to wear clothes that would encourage young men to have improper thoughts. (The Latter-day Saint Woman, Part A, Gospel Principles and Doctrine, 9: Chastity and Modesty, 60

  26. Ziff on June 14, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    Thanks A nonny, for the clear evidence that we need some female GAs.

  27. A nonny on June 14, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    One more:

    David B. Haight:

    Some young men cannot go on missions because they are not worthy.

    I challenge the young women of the Church who associate with and date our young priesthood bearers to become real guardians of their morality. You can. You must. Many of you are. Please do not underestimate your role. I am aware that the total responsibility is not yours. However, on a date you can set the proper atmosphere to encourage your companion to honor the commandments of God. In fact, you have the opportunity to emphasize the Mormon ideals of womanhood in all their honor and glory. I know the Lord expects it to be so.

    You young ladies have a profound influence on young, masculine behavior. Young men wear clothes they think you like. Their hair will be cut to please you. You can control how fast they drive their cars if you want. They will dress as grubby as you like. You need not dress in the extreme fashions of the world. Are you aware that fashions and styles are promoted because someone has a product to sell? The rightness or appropriateness or effect on a youthful society does not matter as long as it sells. But the day will come when the world will follow the ways of the Church. Its influence will be as though flowing from the stars to affect the actions of men. Your influence with young men is important. You encourage Church standards and dress and conduct.

    Interviews with some prospective missionaries regretfully indicate that some actions involving young women are most disappointing. Some are even ugly and are far, far different from what is expected of you. The Savior knew so well our weaknesses. He warned: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit … is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt. 26:41.)

    Young women, lift the tenor of your association with our young men now preparing to be worthy so their bishops will be impressed to call them on missions. The young man you are with in a car or at home is needed in the Lord’s work. Hundreds, even thousands more like him are needed—prepared in the Lord’s way.

    The young men you are dating are in training for missions and hold the priesthood. Bishops have found these young men worthy. Hands have been placed upon their heads. They have received the priesthood of God. Just think. The Lord has given them authority to preach, teach, expound, exhort, baptize—a divine commission to act for and in behalf of the Lord Himself. The young man you may be with probably is a priest. He wants to be worthy to receive the higher priesthood and, if worthy, to someday have authority and keys of spiritual blessings. He is not “just another young man.” He is a very special young man. He is in training. He is going on a mission. You can be a great blessing to him. You, a young lady he admires, can help him avoid serious pitfalls.

    Young men—maturing, learning, and forming habits—have ideals and special persons they admire. You may be such a person. In a matter of months these young men will become missionaries and will be blessed so as to be able to teach investigators by the Spirit…

    …You young ladies must set the proper example. Help our young men stay morally clean that they might be worthy and spiritually prepared to serve the Lord. You young women also have a duty to serve the Lord, to honor womanhood according to the Church beliefs and not the world’s. One of your most important obligations is to be and remain clean and pure. When you are clean and pure, the young men you date will be clean and pure. If a young man makes inappropriate advances, you have a sacred obligation to say, “No. I do not do that. Please don’t ask me or try to entice me to submit to conduct that is offensive to the Lord.” …

    …Let there radiate from you young women a spirit and influence that will have the power to cause “a mighty change” (Alma 5:14) when needed in the hearts of our young men. May there come forth through your efforts generations of young men in the Church who have spiritually been born of God, who reflect his Spirit in their countenances. You possess a divine key given by the Creator to lock or unlock, destroy or bless, that can make young men become as great as they ought to be. (David B. Haight, “Young Women—Real Guardians,” Ensign, Nov 1977, 56).

  28. E on June 14, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    Amen to the OP and to ZDEve #21. You have nailed it.

  29. Polly on June 14, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    I definitely agree that being modest for someone else is not only inappropriate, but archaic. The YM aren’t living in a bubble where they never see sleeveless shirts or shorts. Their own temptations are their own. YW need to value modesty and value their own self worth for themselves and for the life that they want. PERIOD.

  30. Geoff J on June 15, 2011 at 12:08 am

    I guess my views are colored by my affinity for evolutionary psychology because much of this post seems way off base to me. I’ll give some examples:

    1. First, in many cases when women dress provocatively/immodestly it is precisely for the purpose of attracting and arousing males (aka potential sexual partners). This is a universal truth across all cultures and serves to propagate our species. So I fail to see why it is a bad idea to address this reality head on at church. If not at church then where?

    2. Julie: the average YM sees plenty of immodest clothing: at school at the mall… at the library, in the express lane

    True enough (seem my point #1). But Mormon boys often run in the Mormon crowds and hang out with Mormon girls and are taught that they should date Mormon girls. Sort of functions as a tribe for us. So the fact that non-Mormon girls use the age old practices of provocative dress to attract potential sexual mates does not mean Mormon boys are immune to the practice — especially when it is coming from potential sexual partner within their own “tribe”.

    3. But you never hear this: “Don’t just date the pretty girls, because you’ll cause girls to obsess about their looks and possibly sin as they try to win the beauty arms race.”

    Seeing what works to attract sexual partners is instinctual among humans. People don’t need to be taught this. Normally they need to be taught how to bridle and control their instincts. This is true for both sexes.

    4. “I have zero risk of tempting anyone anyway because I look like Jabba the Hut–even if I wore a bikini . . . especially in a bikini!”

    And they would be mostly right. (Harsh, I know. But you brought it up…)

    5. Linking modesty solely to its effects on other people ignores a much broader underpinning of respect for our own bodies

    I don’t even understand the claim that covering ourselves more is somehow really “out of respect for our bodies”. What is the logic behind that claim?

    6. but can we stop reminding the girls of how much sexual power they hold?

    That seems like a colossally bad idea to me. Why on earth would we bury our heads in the sand and ignore the obvious realities about our species? Our bodies are designed to crave certain things and girls do hold tremendous sexual power. Pretending otherwise makes no sense at all to me.

  31. jks on June 15, 2011 at 12:21 am

    I agree with you 90%. We should mostly be telling the YW to be modest for their own benefit.
    However, I think most teenage girls are completely clueless about what most teenage boys think and how their bodies work. We want teen girls to somewhat understand their “power” but choose not to use it. Teen girls are often very naive. I was not. I appreciated my parents being open with me and explaining about boys. Unfortunately, the church teaching seems to be less than specific so it comes out as modesty/don’t be porn kinds of statements, but I understand what they are trying to get at.
    And I would FULLY support the guilt trips telling boys to quit doing stuff that damages girls. They do have a responsibility to be respectful of those around them. Maybe we should give them a different narrative than them starring in their own story about their battle with pornography, instead help them think about people around them and how to help them.

  32. Howard on June 15, 2011 at 12:58 am

    So I fail to see why it is a bad idea to address this reality head on at church. If not at church then where? Addressing it even head on at church isn’t the problem how it is addressed is the problem. Amelia’s post does an excellent job of explaining why The Modesty Myth: Why Covering Up Just Won’t Do.

  33. Zen on June 15, 2011 at 1:10 am

    It seems if we took this “don’t do it for the YM” idea seriously, we would be saying, “Am I my Brother’s keeper”?

    I think that it is really interesting how Paul, the Apostle, says how eating meat sacrificed to idols is nothing. But, if the faith of others is harmed by him eating it, he would not eat it.

    Love it or hate it, we are all in this mortal life together, and what we do does help or harm others. Our actions do have effects and repercussions on others and pretending otherwise is irresponsible.

    For a parallel example, we can not simultaneously defend how girls dress, and complain about how media gives girls body issues. Of course they should not stress when all they see are size zeros, but some do stress. It does affect them… and the same is true of Young Women and men. No, not all men, but some, just as not all girls get body issues but some do.

  34. Starfoxy on June 15, 2011 at 1:12 am

    “I don’t even understand the claim that covering ourselves more is somehow really “out of respect for our bodies”. What is the logic behind that claim?”
    For one you seem to be thinking of modest as simply referring to how thoroughly the tracts of land are covered. Modest has a much more encompassing meaning that just coverage- it can refer to cost, color, style, etc. For example, a $30,000 dress (or tux) can never be ‘modest’ now matter how much of the body it covers.

    To answer your question, here are a few ways that modesty can be about respect for our bodies (and selves, and God) rather than just being about making other people happy.
    -We are made in the image of God. How we treat and care for our bodies will necessarily be connected to how we think of and relate to God. If God wants us to cover our bodies we owe that to Him and will be blessed accordingly- whether it makes life easier on other people or not.
    -God wears clothes (see: the first vision), therefore wearing clothes can be godlike behavior.
    -Also, given the way clothes are treated and referenced in the temple we learn that clothes can be symbols of power, and that power can be attained through proper and improper channels. Do the clothes we wear reflect our commitments to only seek out the sorts of power that God wants to give us?

  35. michelle on June 15, 2011 at 1:25 am

    I think there is a tension here and the youth need to hear both that their decisions are for them but also that we don’t live in a vacuum and our decisions can and do impact others.

    I also think it’s important to note that the YM are also told about their duty to help guard the virtue of the young women.

    e.g.,

    [Brother Beck, YM General President}”To the young men, I would say, ‘Think about that in the context of a relationship with a young woman you are watching over. You have this priesthood responsibility to watch over her when you are in her presence, to strengthen her. When you are with her, how are you strengthening and inviting her to come unto Christ?’”

    “Sister Dalton adds, “I call that being a guardian of virtue. I believe that these young men with priesthood power must be guardians of virtue. They must be virtuous themselves so that they can access that priesthood power and exercise it in purity and in holiness, and they also need to protect others’ virtue. And the young women also have to be guardians of their own virtue and guardians of the boys’.”

  36. Geoff J on June 15, 2011 at 2:14 am

    Howard #32,

    Thanks for the link. I think most talk of “our society sexualizing women” is utter nonsense. Men finding women sexually attractive has absolutely nothing to do with our society. It is universal to our species across all cultures.

  37. DMS on June 15, 2011 at 4:33 am

    I live in a college town. When spring comes around and the sorority girls bring out their short shorts I notice and every once in a while I catch myself turning my head while driving through campus. However, I don’t believe short shorts or even sun bathing beauties does anything to increase my chance of committing a sexual misdeed. It’s certainly true that revealed skin will catch a guys attention but form that point a lot of things need to happen before two people end up having sex. Exposed shoulders are way down on the list of things that can result in a future missionary loosing his worthiness.

    The reason members use the ‘do it for the boys’ argument is because it’s easy to make and easy to understand. It’s a message meant for trusting young women. I’ve found that most young adults don’t give the argument much credit for all the reasons Julie listed. Even so, many will use it when they have teenage daughters because its just so simple.

  38. stephen hardy on June 15, 2011 at 4:56 am

    Julie:

    What a wonderful and well-put post. Amen and Amen.

    Let’s all remember that the post is not arguing against modesty, but is considering the reasoning behind the modesty emphasis. Doing the right thing for the wrong reason can occasionally be destructive, and Julie is pointing out that someone may graduate from the YW program without a good understanding for the reasons for modesty other than the idea that dressing immodestly may encourage the YM to sin. When correct princples are taught, then the those principles can be applied to other areas in life. If incorrect principles are taught, then those incorrect priniciples may pop up in strange and unexpected areas. We recently saw posts here that looked at expensive shoes, or elaborate architecture as possibly immodest. Such a consideration would make no sense to someone who thought that the reason for modest dress is solely for the purpose of avoiding tempting the Priests or Elders.

    This strikes me as similar to all of those lessons about being a good Mormon because “everyone is watching you.” It encourages a shallow attitude. It removes the hard work of understanding why something is important, and thus leaves someone vulnerable to related evils because the correct behavior is not rooted in good principles but in a narcissistic drive to appear good.

  39. jeans on June 15, 2011 at 5:41 am

    Preach it sister! I could not agree more. What I especially appreciate is some constructive ideas for what to tell the YM, not just for “what not to tell the YW.” That will move the conversation forward in a positive way. Great post.

  40. john f. on June 15, 2011 at 6:17 am

    Great points Julie and ZD Eve. I want my daughters to grow up with the perspective that if they choose to dress modestly they are doing it for their own spiritual well being and out of self-respect. I think this will result in their doing so with complete self-confidence in their choices and for the right reasons — i.e. their own spiritual and physical well being.

    I definitely don’t want them to get the message that they are less than human and that their value is primarily in their sexuality and the effect their bodies have on young men, and I especially don’t want them to get the idea that it is their fault if young men make bad choices in life.

  41. Howard on June 15, 2011 at 6:32 am

    Zen it isn’t about being your Brother’s keeper when the method used to teach it damages a YW’s self image. See the link in 32.

    Starfoxy: God wears clothes (see: the first vision), therefore wearing clothes can be godlike behavior. I dunno if this idea works we’re born without clothes. Does Moroni count? “I could discover that he had no other clothing on but this robe, as it was open, so that I could see into his bosom.” Shall we have YW dress like this or shall we assume Moroni’s robe is for males only and females have a different more modest one or ware a bra with it, if so is it okay to show your bra and why wasn’t the female version modeled and where are Moroni’s garments? Is a vision a visitation?

    Geoff J you’re welcome. I completely agree men finding women sexually attractive is universal but YW are impressionable some are easily sexualized not just by society but specifically by the teachings of our church I hope you will keep an open mind and read the article to learn how.

  42. Ken on June 15, 2011 at 8:16 am

    Starfoxy: “For one you seem to be thinking of modest as simply referring to how thoroughly the tracts of land are covered.”

    You just had to go with the Monty Python reference, didn’t ya?! ;D

  43. SilverRain on June 15, 2011 at 8:27 am

    I have no problem with it being pointed out that what we women wear affects how men see us, but that can be phrased in ways that do not absolve the men of responsibility for their own behavior. Our behavior can feed a problem without being the sole cause of it.

    I also have no problem with teaching the boys that if they only try to date the gorgeous women, they are feeding into the problem of women disproportionately connecting their personal value to their looks.

    Geoff J.—“I think most talk of “our society sexualizing women” is utter nonsense. Men finding women sexually attractive has absolutely nothing to do with our society. It is universal to our species across all cultures.”
    There is a difference between finding a woman sexually attractive, and sexualizing her. Society (read men) sexualize women CONSTANTLY. Constantly. And we women are doing it, too, by buying into the crap. Haven’t you ever looked at the cover of a women’s magazine? Any random women’s mag has at least two sexualizing statements right on the cover. Even the ones that supposedly have nothing to do with beauty.

    Spend any length of time in the body of even an average woman and you’ll begin to see what it is like to live a life where you are seen as a sexual object instead of as a person.

  44. Dave on June 15, 2011 at 8:29 am

    Fine post, Julie. There certainly does seem to be something wrong with how some general and local leaders talk about or justify modesty. In the same way that the concept of addiction has, of late, expanded to become almost a necessary corollary for any LDS discussion of sin, so has the concept of modesty expanded to become almost a necessary corollary for any LDS discussion of youth or sexuality.

    Maybe the bad habits in our rhetoric flow from our focus on right behavior over right thinking. LDS discourse is remarkably tolerant of bad justifications for what are held to be proper behavior. Consider the dumb reasons justifying the priesthood ban that flourished for a century, or the dumb reasons one hears regularly elaborating or justifying this or that aspect of the Word of Wisdom (e.g., caffeine and cola drinks, or avoiding white bread). Our doctrine of modesty, like too many other LDS doctrines, is plagued by what is essentially folklore that doesn’t stand up to careful reflection because we are too willing to do the right thing for the wrong reason. We dream up a reason to justify it, then attribute that reason to God.

    We need to care more about the reasons we do the right thing. In the long run it is much more important than we generally acknowledge.

  45. Naismith on June 15, 2011 at 8:29 am

    Loved the post, but disagreed with the conclusion.

    I think that this is one of the reasons, but only one of them. Young women are a diverse crowd and it makes sense to provide a variety of different rationales. This should never be presented as the only reason or primary reason, but is certainly one of the reasons.

    I also have to say that I have great sympathy for the parents of today’s girls. I went shopping for a simple shorts outfit for a granddaughter, and it was horrifying. Everything was princessy or skanky or emblazoned with inappropriate sayings–or all at once. I ended up getting her something else.

  46. Paul on June 15, 2011 at 8:46 am

    Julie, when I served as bishop a number of years ago (twice, once in the US and once in Latin America) I regularly made the arguments you have made — especially your #4.

    #25, 27: Thanks for these references. FWIW, I found Elder Haight’s to be less of an issue than the others, because it spoke to the general influence one can have in another’s life rather than just the objectification of young women as the reason for boys’ immorality. And I was pleased to see #35 cite examples of counsel to YM to watch over YW similarly.

    I think there’s value in teaching our young people that they can support one another in their standards. But, as the OP makes clear, it’s not helpful to teach our YW that they are merely sex objects.

  47. Mary Siever on June 15, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Excellent post Julie and I too am tired of the YW being held responsible for the YM. Many comments I concur with (#43 and #46 particularly).

  48. bbell on June 15, 2011 at 8:59 am

    I frankly am happy and proud of the fact that we teach modesty in the manner in which we do it. I recall attending a LDS prom here in Dallas that shared a wall with another hall where a local high school was having prom. Our prom looked like the good decent kids that attended. The other prom looked like they were auditioning for Jersey Shore. I am glad to be raising my 5 sons in an environment that pushes modesty and chastity as an important value

    Like most popular feminist topics in the bloggernaccle I find posts like this to be out of the mainstream of Mormon thought on the topic at hand. Essentially bloggernaccle feminists pick a bone with almost any LDS practice or theology that relates to females.

    My other thought is that at the local level YW leaders are both the teachers and more importantly the zealous enforcers of modesty standards. I can’t tell you how often I have sat at stake level YMYW meetings and heard the women leaders talk about enforcing modesty. I have also seen multiple times female leaders enforce standards and they will even bring wraps and covers for girls that are considered to be dressed immodestly. Male leaders are never involved in these enforcement activities nor do we want to be. Unless the offender is male. Then it gets enforced by males. Usually its saggy pants.

    #4 is ridiculous. Oh my gosh LDS practices on modesty are leading to YM feeling entitled to rape girls? Did this seriously get posted?

  49. NateT on June 15, 2011 at 9:17 am

    I read the OP and my constant response was “Yeh, but.” Good points were made but there is more to it than Julie either lets on or realizes. Geoff J (#30) makes most of my points for me, but let me add a little more.

    Re #1 “He may even go to a ward swim activity where our faithful YW wear (modest) bathing suits. I can’t understand why this parade of flesh wouldn’t tempt him”

    Truthfully, remembering my YM days, it probably does to some degree.

    Re #2 “we always couch the counsel in terms of the costs and benefits to the boy himself–not to the girls affected by his decisions.”

    This is just wrong and your example is selective. YM do recive counsel on how his actions affect women in terms of respect for women and how to act on a date. Atleast for me it was put in those terms.

    Re #2 “Each YM or YW should be the star of their own story–not the subject of someone else’s.”

    How is explaining how our actions, intentionally or unintentionally, affect others bad? I admit, we do a very poor (or nonexistent) job of explaining sexuality, male or female, that would provide the context for some aspects of modesty, thus the “Do it for the YM” is at best clumsy. Yet we should have some idea of how our actions effect others. Would you disagree?

    Plus, most lesions on modesty in the Church I have seen have both the affects on others and the affects on self as points of discussion.

    Re #4 “It is a terrible theology that suggests that a YW could cause another person to sin.”

    But is true, the way we act may lead others to sin. I do not know how you could deny that. That sin is their responsibility, but yet bad behavior can contribute to it.

    The truth is that modesty does help YM. Learning to control or shape your sexuality in the way the Church prescribes is very hard, and that’s the truth. YW dressing modesty does make that easier, especially if your main peer group is defined by the Church. Why is telling that simple truth bad?

    Re #5 On the contrary, people need some understanding the multifaceted truth of their sexuality so they can make good, healthy choices on how to deal with it in the context of the Church. That artcile on standards night linked in the op seems to say this too.

  50. NateT on June 15, 2011 at 9:35 am

    @ #43 SilverRain “I also have no problem with teaching the boys that if they only try to date the gorgeous women, they are feeding into the problem of women disproportionately connecting their personal value to their looks.”

    As a theoretical point, would you hold YW to the same standard in dating the less popular/attractive YM?

    Also, men are responsible for their thoughts and actions if a women dresses modestly or not. Should not young women be responsible for their own self image? Would that not be more consistent with your first paragraph?

  51. Howard on June 15, 2011 at 10:13 am

    But is true, the way we act may lead others to sin. I do not know how you could deny that. Someone else cannot cause you to sin you are responsible for yourself and how you respond to their stimulus no matter what it is to argue otherwise is to assign power to them they do not have and to take power from yourself that you should have the view point is psychologically unhealthy. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression but we also believe YW will be punished for YM’s transgressions does this make any sense?

  52. giraffe on June 15, 2011 at 10:18 am

    51. It goes right along the belief that women are punished for Eve’s transgression in the temple hearken covenant.

  53. Jax on June 15, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Good Post Julie….thanks! Both sides have some good valid points, including that temptation for YM is a factor for modesty, but I agree completely that the value of modesty for modesty’s sake is what should be the primary focus. Especially as it relates to the ‘mission field’ part of the globe where our YM don’t see our YM except at church. The YM/YW in my unit are few, and ages so far apart that attraction to each other is not a major concern, but modesty HAS to be taught for their own self image/esteem and in their daily dress. Thanks for posting!

  54. Alison Moore Smith on June 15, 2011 at 11:05 am

    Hooray, Julie! I’ve been harping on this issues for YEARS – it makes me crazy. I have a whole chapter in my never-to-be-finished LDS book about it. Some great quotes, too. This was absolutely beat into my generation as a youth in Utah and in Florida, where I was a YW leader for years, I spent a great deal of time trying to disabuse the YW (and the other leaders) of the idea that girls had to be “guardians’ of the YM’s virtue. Yack!

    A couple of thoughts:

    (1) Men (young or not) are responsible for their own choices.

    (2) Women (young or not) can greatly influence men with their choices. That can be fairly acknowledged without inappropriately moving responsibility.

    (3) About 9 years ago, I blogged about this in “Modestly: More than Skin Deep.” if we’re going to teach YW how their bad choices harm YM, let’s teach YM how their bad choices harm YW – and give comparable weight and focus to those choices.

    Teach the men not to date, marry, ogle, or praise immodestly dressed women. Explicitly teach men that giving positive feedback to immodestly dressed women is SINFUL just as YW dressing that way is.

    I am willing to bet that if we actually teach our men to reward only modestly dressed YW, most of the problem will go away overnight.

    (4) The church needs to better articulate the actual, spiritual, doctrinal reasons for promoting modestly. We can remove the “so the boys don’t get aroused” argument, but what do we replace it with? “So you respect yourself” doesn’t tend to help youth understand this issue, IMO.

    (5) The Justin Bieber swirly hairdo should be considered immodest for YM and banished from all ward events.

  55. NateT on June 15, 2011 at 11:06 am

    @ 51 Did you read: “That sin is their responsibility, but yet bad behavior can contribute to it.” It was right after the part you quoted.

    I guess not.

    It is one of the reasons we encourage members to have friends that share their values, want to treat other members nicely (lest they are offended and stop coming to Church), etc.

    Taking responsibility for how your actions may affect others, while realizing that their actions are their own, is a sign of maturity, I would think.

  56. NateT on June 15, 2011 at 11:10 am

    “Teach the men not to date, marry, ogle, or praise immodestly dressed women. Explicitly teach men that giving positive feedback to immodestly dressed women is SINFUL just as YW dressing that way is.”

    Exactly. Learning this from a father through teaching and example would be perfect.

  57. Alison Moore Smith on June 15, 2011 at 11:15 am

    NateT, while I agree that learning it from a father would be perfect, IMO if we use church lessons and venues to hammer this into YW, then the YM need as much reinforcement. If we have BOTH parents AND official church sources reinforcing the same stance, it will carry more weight. Repetition helps, too.

  58. Geoff J on June 15, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Howard (#41),

    I did read the article and I think it is mostly wrong. This is because the central argument of the article is that the root problem here is:

    while women in 21st century America (and other areas of the developed world) have many more freedoms and opportunities than their predecessors had, their value is still largely determined by their sexual appeal and reproductive capacity

    To me that is saying nothing more than that the root problem is we are part of the human species. If only we weren’t human anymore we wouldn’t behave like humans! Not useful.

    Our species has survived and evolved over hundreds of thousands of years in part because of the natural human instinct she is complaining about. Males of our species instinctually seek the most physically attractive females to mate with. Females of the species instinctually seek the most desirable and resourceful males to mate with.

    Wishing we weren’t part of this species doesn’t change those instincts that have been refining in us since the dawn of man.

  59. Howard on June 15, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Nate T Sorry I did’t quote the whole thing I didn’t mean to offend. Taking responsibility for how your actions may affect others is a sign of maturity for instance we might offend but how does someone else’s bad behavior contribute to our sinning?

    Allison Moore Smith I love your comments but are we making up sins now? giving positive feedback to immodestly dressed women is SINFUL Lust is a sin but positive feedback?

  60. Geoff J on June 15, 2011 at 11:27 am

    Silverrain: Society (read men) sexualize women CONSTANTLY.

    First, society is fleeting. It is NOT the same as all men. If the problem were just with our society then other societies would not have the same issues. But this is something that is completely independent of society. It is a characteristic of our species, not our society.

    Second, I think this word “sexualize” is mostly nonsense and certainly overused. It makes sense when you talk about people dressing pre-pubescent girls up to look like post-pubescent girls I suppose. But any girl who has been through puberty and is able to procreate is as “sexualized” as she is going to get. How she dresses is simply a social cue to males about how interested she in in having sex at any given moment.

  61. Julie M. Smith on June 15, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Alison, great comment. Thank you!

  62. Howard on June 15, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Geoff J There is nothing wrong with natural human instinct I enjoy it but valuing women for their sexual appeal and reproductive capacity misses or discounts the rest of the woman thus sexualizing her and she can sexualized through either immodesty or modesty they are two sides of the same coin. If only we weren’t human anymore we wouldn’t behave like humans! As adult males we should be able to transcend these baser instincts certainly we must in polite company and certainly we are intellectually capable of understanding there is more to women than that.

  63. Geoff J on June 15, 2011 at 11:47 am

    I completely agree that we can choose to be respectful of each other Howard. And the church teaches us to do just that was well or better than any organization on earth.

    I’m not sure how that impacts directly on this discussion about the reasons given to YW why dressing modestly is a good idea though.

  64. Kris on June 15, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Give me a break – I have served with so many young women over the years so I speak from experience here, not only from my own personal experience. Young Women DO need to know that they have an influence on the boys around them and that they are also partially responsible. It’s like saying the person who convinces someone to smoke or do drugs has no responsibility for a friend’s addiction. One word for that kind of thinking – STUPID. I was told to “dress modestly to help the YM stay on the right track.” That statement made me feel that I could do more good for them by being a friend than trying to seduce them. Some of them chose differently and I can feel peace knowing that I tried to be their friend and didn’t try to be sexy for them.

    I was NOT a popular, self confident girl growing up but I still recognized that someone out there would find me attractive. I knew I was a child of God, and I knew that out there somewhere was the right guy for me. I didn’t feel the need to impress every boy who walked past me by being the prettiest or most popular, it’s that attitude in the girls that needs to change.

    Usually the non-LDS boys were the ones who showed interest in me, but I kept myself modest and held my standards. I didn’t date them, but built friendships. It kept me safe from temptation AND a couple of them joined the church eventually, served missions, and were married in the temple. If I hadn’t kept my standards, I would have done my duty to lift others, instead I would have given a bad impression of the church and they would have remembered that.

    It is not wrong to teach that Young Women can influence the Young Men, in fact, I will continue to use this statement while teaching modesty. I have seen too many times Young Men not serve missions because girls don’t want them to go, or have realized their “power” over them, but the girls CHOOSE to separate themselves from the responsibility for the YM making that decision.

    I think the REAL problem is making sure youth understand the principle of accountability, along with the real principles of modesty – individual worth and chastity. They can’t be separated. It does better to speak to girls individually, by the spirit, ask them why they would be tempted to dress immodestly, openly discuss popularity, sexuality, a desire to be loved… nobody can blame demographics or basic true statements – because the way YW dress DOES affect YM… it really does.

  65. ECS on June 15, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Geoff, I really appreciate your comments, because you tell it like it is. Women are valued primarily as sexual objects because we’re all human and, since men are the most powerful humans, it’s perfectly natural and understandable for men to value women primarily as sexual objects. Thank goodness men can now carry on and continue to act naturally and according to their basic instincts with the opposite sex.

  66. Howard on June 15, 2011 at 11:55 am

    I’m not sure respectful captures it all isn’t transcending our baser instincts part of putting off the natural man? I don’t mean set aside our sex drive or physical attraction to women I mean becoming enlightened beyond them in an autonomous way.

  67. Howard on June 15, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Kris So you liken the immodest dresser to the person who convinces someone to smoke or do drugs? Wouldn’t an aggressive prostitute fit your example better than an immodest dresser?

  68. chris on June 15, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    “But being modest for the sake of the YM is not one of them.”

    I disagree with this premise. I would agree with it if you said, But being modest -only- for the sake of the YM is not one of them.

    As it is, it’s a very good reason to do something in order to not offend, entice, be a bad example, etc. It should never be the sole reason. But I consider it a positive externality.

    We are after all talking about a gospel framework where one person is actively encouraged to take another’s burdens upon them as we follow Christ. This is not a selfish gospel, but a selfless one.

    I suppose you could just as easily say, there are a lot of reasons to sacrifice, but sacrificing for someone else’s benefit is not one of them.

  69. Geoff J on June 15, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    Well ECS, that is only partially right (#65). Women instinctually value men both as sexual objects and as resource/protection providing objects so that their babies can survive to maturity and the species can continue.

    So basically the stereotypes that women mostly want to mate with rich, virile, powerful men is based in truth just like the stereotype that men want to mate with beautiful bombshell women is based in truth.

    Humans haven’t survived this long for no reason after all.

  70. Adam Greenwood on June 15, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    I find all sorts of good reasons to encourage our youth to do things for the sake of others.

  71. SilverRain on June 15, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Nate—“As a theoretical point, W to the same standard in dating the less popular/attractive YM?”
    Yes, but I think many of them already do. I did, anyways. I find the less popular and attractive men MUCH more interesting.

    “Should not young women be responsible for their own self image? Would that not be more consistent with your first paragraph?”
    Yes, that was my point. Behavior feeding into other behavior does not mean that it is responsible for it.

    Geoff J.—“I think this word “sexualize” is mostly nonsense and certainly overused.”
    Of course you do, you don’t have to live with it.

    I’m not sure how to respond to your first paragraph, since you’re arguing against something you only imagined I said. As for the rest of your second paragraph, it is seems from what you say that sexualizing women, and by that I mean reducing women to a sexual role or objectifying them, is something that is so much a part of your paradigm it would be worthless to argue with you about it.

    And it directly impacts this discussion because YOU brought up the opinion that “sexualize” is a nonsense term. You introduced that element into the discussion, why are you criticizing its relevance now?

    There is a fine line between recognizing one’s own behavior can impact others and taking responsibility for others behavior. Denying the reality of objectification that women have to live with EVERY SINGLE DAY, whether they are attractive or not, by calling it “normal” takes responsibility away from men to police their own “natural man” instincts. We women are born into a world where we survive only by overcoming our own natural instincts, making us more likely to do so, whereas many men seem to feel they are entitled to indulge their natural desires to take what does not belong to them.

  72. john f. on June 15, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Let’s not make up any more sins. Ringfencing has gone a little too far in our community, don’t you think?

    A deeper point would be to teach YM and YW that others’ bodies are not objects meant for their gratification, no matter how they are dressed or covered. (This is opposite from Alison Smith’s suggestion of teaching YM that consorting with immodestly dressed women is sinful.) YM should be taught that women, whether LDS or not, whether “modestly” dressed or not according to suburban middle-class Mormon standards, are sentient beings with their own lives and potential entirely independent of the sexual intentions and desires of the YM, i.e. they are ends in themselves and not the means to the YMs’ ends of sexual gratification. YW should be taught the same about the YM (and about themselves, i.e. that they as YW are ends in themselves and not the means to the YMs’ ends of sexual gratification — this message might need to be made explicitly to the YW given that so far modesty discourse seems to impress upon them that they are fundamentally the opposite: they are means to a particular end, whether the YMs’ ends of sexual gratification or their leaders’ ends of trying to steer the YM toward a mission, etc.) and that the YM are responsible for their own choices and actions and are not objects for sexual manipulation based on how YW are dressed.

    All of us should be taught and learn that manner of dress is often closely associated with socio-economic standing and class.

    Perhaps if we start teaching these kinds of lessons from birth onward, we as parents, teachers and leaders in the Church will not sexualize young children’s bodies the way we do now, obsessing over a toddler’s sleeveless outfit as if that could possibly in any universe actually be “immodest”. If we as adults do not ascribe sexuality to and actively sexualize the bodies of babies and children through our modesty discourse and efforts, perhaps they will not have this conception of themselves as sexual objects as they enter teenage years?

    YW will perhaps in such a scenario not need or want to dress in outfits that show too much skin but conversely, perhaps YM will not be aroused by seeing a woman’s shoulders.

    Or maybe not. Maybe the fashion industry will have the same hold on the youth (and adults) that it has now. Elder Haight’s talk cited above made the excellent point that we should be teaching youth that someone at the head of some corporation is getting rich by manipulating them into buying and dressing in whatever is the current fashion.

  73. Perspective on June 15, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    Years ago on public transportation, an afraid young woman of college-age came and sat down right next to me and pretended to be with me. Somewhat embarrassed, she told me that she was afraid of some menacing looking men who had just got on the train and apparently I looked OK. This experience made me feel great and has contributed to the fact that I try to shave daily, dress nicely (but not flashy) and otherwise groom myself conservatively.

    While I think that our emphasis on modesty can get a little overboard at times and all people (YW and YM included) are ultimately responsible for their own actions, we should not discount the power and meaning our appearance has for other people. I know that when I was a YM, seeing a YW dressed inappropriately could start a thought process that was difficult to shake at times and this could be very discouraging. You see Julie, while it’s true your sons are exposed to much immodesty in the world, hopefully the LDS YW they date will present an ideal for them that will inspire them and that you will be happy with when you send them off on dates.

    I respect this post because I do believe that YW should practice modesty for its own sake, and even if all the YM are cads or indifferent or decide to pursue immodest girls anyway. But I believe that you are trying to summarily dismiss an important element of modesty. I also think our LDS culture has become somewhat Saudi-Arabia-ish about modesty lately and I don’t think every beauty queen in the Provo parade needs to sew weird looking sleeves on her dress. But rather than extend the battle of the sexes to the realm of YW modesty, let’s encourage it for a variety of reasons, including the fact that our appearance influences others. As Wendy Shalit pointed out in her book, “A Return to Modesty”, *both* a woman’s self confidence *and* her righteous influence increase with her modesty.

  74. Geoff J on June 15, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Silverrain,

    It sounds to me like this near-gibberish term “sexualization” is just a way of saying “disrespect”. Your definition of the term — “I mean reducing women to a sexual role or objectifying them” — is not helping either. What on earth does that even mean to reduce a person to a sexual role? Again, it sounds like a convoluted way of describing disrespect for a person and I get that concept.

    If by sexualization you mean that people have unrealistic hopes about their potential mating partners I think that is obvious. Women often unrealistically hope to mate with a rich and handsome prince (or rich, handsome, self-disciplined vampire named Edward as the case may be), and men often unrealistically hope to mate with a pinup girl. That sort of unrealistic hoping goes both ways. So if that is what you call “objectifying” the opposite sex it not unique to males or females.

    But I suppose we digress. Back to the topic of this post. Why is it that women and men haven’t historically been asked to be modest in the BYU (and other) locker rooms as they change into their sports gear? In locker rooms it historically has been acceptable to be fully naked around others. It is because modesty is indeed encouraged primarily when it comes to interacting with the opposite sex.

  75. Crick on June 15, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Re Paula: Note however that even though the YW are often told that they have this influence over the YM, they YM have never been told that its the YW’s fault. On the contrary, they are told to protect the virtue of the YW and that if anything, the greater responsibility is on their heads (Elder Holland for one has said that).

  76. Alison Moore Smith on June 15, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Howard #59:

    Allison Moore Smith I love your comments but are we making up sins now

    I don’t think so. I used the word intentionally because dressing immodestly is certainly taught to YW as sinful behavior. What is “sin” anyway? Wrongdoing, misdeed, act of evil, etc. The Gospel Principles manual says that “Satan attacks the standards of modesty.” If dressing in a way that arouses men is a wrongdoing, then taking out and fawning over the “hotties” who dress that way — and encouraging the behavior — is, too.

    BTW, the same manual says, “Our Heavenly Father wants us to keep our bodies covered so that we do not encourage improper thoughts in the minds of others.”

    For the record, in college I dated on average 4-5 times per week — with different guys. (This was part of my grocery budget plan.) I was probably the most likely of all my roommates to dress immodestly — and by far the most likely to date. Let me clarify. To date RMs at BYU.

    This fact was not lost on either me or my roommates. Dressing immodestly “worked.” And it shouldn’t have in the population I was in.

    But to be clear, I don’t blame the guys for asking me out. I’m sure they couldn’t help it. ;P

    P.S. By the time I started dating my husband, I had reformed. He saw the inner hottie.

  77. Crick on June 15, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    Well, in replying to Paula, I just had an epiphany. I female friend was telling me how glad she was to hear Elder Holland’s talk placing the bulk of moral responsibility on the YW and how mad she was about YM thinking it was all the YW’s fault. She seemed to think that Elder Holland’s remarks were some sort of change or break-through in the Church when I was left scratching my head because that is what the YM have always been taught…
    …then I just realized, none of us know what the other is being taught unless it is stated generally, and admittedly, we hear a lot of the message sabout modesty geared toward the YW (but couldn’t that be because they suffer most from societal messages promoting immodesty?). Perhaps the YW will understand it’s not “all on them” if they are made privy to what is being told the YM.

  78. Thomas Parkin on June 15, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    “Dressing immodestly “worked.””

    Sometimes I just don’t know how I miss so much of the Mormon world. In _all_ my association with Mormons, I do not recall a single time in which I saw a Mormon woman or girl dressed in a way I thought of as ‘immodest.’ Maybe I’m just not as tuned in to outer hottieness as RMs at BYU. Or maybe I was just so sight-blasted by the real thing, that I was incapable of noticing the meaningless, I mean subtle, gestures of immodesty good Mormon girls use to attract a mate. As revolting as the thought of desperate young Mormon men salivating over a half-inch of exposed shoulder is, it is still not as revolting as someone pruriently noticing that they are salivating over half an inch of exposed shoulder.

    I think these need some kind of reality check: YM and YW are biologically compelled to perpetuate the species. If it isn’t a half inch of shoulder, it will be a sly smile, or a passing shine in a glance. (And people have been just as uptight about that glance as about the nude shoulder!) You are not going to be able to create a sexuality free zone without something like a massive and grotesque science-fiction evil genius medical intervention. So, I really appreciate john f’s comment that we should be teaching our children that no one is an object for our pleasure, that they are ends in themselves, that joy in relationships can only be based on experiencing others as ends in themselves, that sexuality is never more than part of what makes another person wonderful, that there really are countless aspects of life from which we can derive various kinds of pleasure, intellectual, aesthetic, spiritual, physical, and that the goodness that they themselves want to achieve, and the wholeness they will always unknowingly yearn for, is largely a matter of becoming aware of all those manifold aspects and taking joy in them. In other words, we can demonstrate the ‘proper place’ of sexuality by ourselves living rich and full lives, rather than all the hyperventilating and hand-wringing over uncommitted sins.

  79. Thomas Parkin on June 15, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    That all gotten out, I think it is fine to gently confront actual immodesty in church settings. I think it is right, if the YM and YW are bumping and grinding at the church dance to tell them, not here, we are not going to have that distortion here.

  80. mom o' boys on June 15, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Kris (#64), I really appreciate the way you’ve worded your thoughts.

    Julie, you clearly write very well and have lots of good ideas. I just think that talking to the young women and encouraging them to dress modestly, partly in behalf of the young men, is not really a bad thing. Please have an honest discussion with your husband and/or other men you know well enough to have them open up and talk about what it is like being a guy. The sexual drive of a man/young man is most of the time a very real, powerful phenomenon. Just imagine giving that powerful drive to someone who is 15 and is struggling to make good choices and has a young woman right in front of him who is showing a fair bit of cleavage….it takes an incredible amount of will power (which they obviously can develop, but it takes time and conscientiousness) to keep his thoughts away from her breasts. Please, I am the mama of several boys, and I don’t want people to just feel like, “What the heck? Make the boys learn to control themselves.” Yes, obviously, the main accountability lies with the young men as far as where their thoughts go, but let’s go easy on them and help them.

  81. Lulubelle on June 15, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    A few random thoughts on “modesty” and YW. And I have not had that chance to read most of the comments above.

    1. I once had a missionary over for dinner who was praising BYU’s strict “modesty” policy (and I put “modesty” in quotes because who gets to arbitrarily decide that a “shoulder” or an inch above the knee is the market of modesty?) because it would help him stay faithful to his future wife. Well, guess what? In the “real” world, if you can’t control your actions, you’re in big trouble ‘cuz none of us live in a bubble. So what is this guy going to do when is co-worker is wearing a sleeveless dress or the girl next to him at the grocery store is wearing spaghetti straps and short shorts? Just asking a relatively small number of YW to dress modestly because that’ll help the YM stay on the right path is ridiculous.

    2. I find it interesting that while in Europe, I was at many beaches where women were topless. Women of ALL ages, even grandmas who appeared in their 80′s. And I didn’t see any men struggling with erections and wanting to rape anyone on site. In fact, pretty much every man I saw acted like it was the most normal thing in the world and were just carrying on as usual. When we’re told over and over and over (indoctrinated?) at a young age that shoulders and knees are sexy and taboo, we think that shoulders and knees are taboo. Maybe all this fixation on arbitrarily lines of modesty is contributing wayyyyy too much to sexualizing our young women (and at too young an age).

    3. Maybe a year ago, my daughter got her Friend magazine and was checking off a “modesty list”. Questions are: Are your shoulders covered? Do your shorts or skirts touch the top of your knees? etc. I was horrified and tossed it in the trash when she didn’t notice. I do NOT want my 9 year old daughter developing serious body issues and becoming ashamed of her body at NINE years of age (or any age for that matter).

    I believe in dressing appropriately for your size and shape and for the occassion. Swimsuits by their very nature show a lot of skin. I have no issues at all letting my daughters wear 2-piece swimsuits. Heck, I wear them too. Since when is showing tummy at a beach bad or immodest? Wearing a conservative suit for work or a job interview is appropriate, not a bikini top. And I see nothing wrong with wearing a sleeveless cocktail dress to a dinner party. My shoulders shouldn’t make anyone that hot and bothered– and if they do, there is something seriously wrong here.

  82. Lulubelle on June 15, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    Ok, I have a lot of typos in my post. Sorry :(

  83. Ray on June 15, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    “Dressing immodestly “worked.” And it shouldn’t have in the population I was in.”

    There is no “should” in the inevitable. Some things just “are” – totally independent of “should”.

    You proved that walking pornography is a real issue – even as I agree totally, completely and in all other ways 100% that girls and young women should dress modestly for their own self-esteem and not JUST for the effect on the boys and young men.

    My wife and I have taught our daughters that dressing modestly is a way of saying, “I’m not a piece of meat, and how I dress isn’t going to give you an excuse to make me into one.” My daughters don’t always cover up as much as some of their church friends, but they dress in what they consider to be a modest manner.

  84. SilverRain on June 15, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Geoff—“What on earth does that even mean to reduce a person to a sexual role?”
    Like I said, there is no point in defining it for you. You seem to not have the capacity to understand the difference between being looked upon as attractive and being looked upon as the available object of someone else’s gratification on a constant, consistent level. ATTRACTIVENESS IS IRREGARDLESS TO SEXUALIZATION. Even ugly girls are sexualized. It’s not that hard of a concept to grasp when you’ve lived it.

    And you won’t win any arguments from me about Edward. I believe that is female porn. I don’t think women are immune from sexualizing others (and increasingly prone to it), but I don’t think it is as accepted as it is with men, either. There is a vast difference between someone looking at you a certain way, and between them feeling entitled to look at you that way and even act upon their inclinations.

    “Why is it that women and men haven’t historically been asked to be modest in the BYU (and other) locker rooms as they change into their sports gear?”
    You haven’t been in the female locker rooms I’ve been in. Only in Europe has nudity been acceptable in my experience. Despite what TV portrays for male enjoyment.

  85. Marie on June 15, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    I know this is a discussion about what we’re teaching the *younger* single crowd about modesty, but this all gets funny in the older LDS single crowd when our imperfect reasoning behind modesty is exposed in our effort to convince people to “multiply and replenish already!” My older singles ward (31-45 year olds) just got the results of a confidential dating survey designed by the Ward Council to determine why (oh why) so little dating was happening within the ward. The Bishop read us selections of anonymous comments offered by those ward members taking the survey. One comment by a male member of the ward was that the sisters shouldn’t be afraid to dress in a “modestly sexy” way. The Bishop read this, laughed, and then everyone else laughed. This started quite the discussion in the ward, on- and offline, which was very much like the discussion here, but focused on the flip side: what exactly the role of good LDS women should be in dressing in such a way as to help convince comfortable, commitmentphobic long-time bachelors with waning libidos to consider their devout LDS female counterparts as potential sexual partners (i.e., how to turn up the “sexy” in their physical appearance while still being “modest”). As I understand from those who read the surveys, there were many anonymous survey comments by the men (comments that were *not* shared by the Bishop in church) about the physical unattractiveness and too-modest dress of many of the women in the ward, and that that was the reason so many of the men weren’t dating widely in the ward.

    I would be surprised if, as the LDS never-married population continues to grow rapidly in the coming years, our rhetoric about modesty (and the reasons for it) didn’t change of necessity — at least as it is presented to the whole Church in General Conference. And I agree with the OP and many who have commented before me — the bulk of the change should be focusing more on the full worth of individuals and taking ownership of our own actions and desires. Because the spiritual and intellectual caliber of the older single women in my ward is for the most part so high that any single LDS man who has been taught to value women as complete beings and to give physical attractiveness a proper priority would look around our chapel and long for the return of polygamy.

  86. Geoff J on June 15, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    Silverrain: Like I said, there is no point in defining it for you.

    I agree. Not only is there no point, there is no method of defining it because it is a nonsense term.

    The only thing that “sexualizes” people is puberty because after puberty people are able to procreate.

  87. Chris H. on June 15, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    I wish my wife WOULD sexualize me. Just saying.

  88. chris on June 15, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    Re: Lulu and your beach observation,
    I hear this often and my response is…

    You’re kidding yourself if you don’t think Europeans are obsessed with sex. They’ve just integrated that obsession into their everyday lives. From water bottle TV ads that women are masturbating, to fabric softener ads with women vigorously scrubbing their breasts in the shower, ads for soap when naked men or women diving into refreshing mountain lakes, pages devoted in every issue of the newspaper of nude women or men (but rarely) posing provocatively, etc. The irony is many Europeans think Americans obsess with sex because we are upset with sex is used so blatantly and ever increasingly as a tool.

    But it’s the Europeans who obsess over sex in a whole different way. You can be quite certain many, many European men are checking out the walking-porn on those beaches.

  89. Lulubelle on June 15, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    Our utter obsession with “modesty” is over-the-top and our belief that a shoulder or leg is “immodest” is totally nonsensical. Modesty is wearing what is appropriate for the occassion and what works for you and your body type. It also has to do with being comfortable in your own skin and confidence. An arbitrary showing of the shoulder? Can I say “trivial”?

  90. Lulubelle on June 15, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    …And just sayin’: There are millions in the world who think hair and calves are immodest. Who are we to really say “no, it’s the shoulder”?

  91. Howard on June 15, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Geoff J I think this conversation has been using sexualization as a milder and probably for many subconscious form of sexual objectification. If I understand you correctly you find sexualization synonymous with reaching puberty would you include sexual objectification in this as well?

  92. Geoff J on June 15, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    Howard,

    I think “sexual objectification” is also mostly a nonsense phrase. It seems to be a garbled way of describing simply being disrespectful to another human being.

    Only nature “sexualizes” humans. How respectfully we treat one another is another matter entirely.

  93. Chris H. on June 15, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    Howard, the problem is that Geoff has been treated as a sex object for so long…he has become desensitized to it.

  94. Geoff J on June 15, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    Lol. So true Chris. I became 100% sexualized by the age of 16 or so. I have pretty much forgotten how being less than 100% sexualized feels…

  95. Chris H. on June 15, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Geoff, I have seen your picture on Facebook (assuming that is your real picture). I am sure that many women (and some guys…maybe) have treated you as less than a person because they are just into your looks.

    I wish I had such a challenge.

  96. chris on June 15, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    “Modesty is wearing what is appropriate for the occassion and what works for you and your body type. It also has to do with being comfortable in your own skin and confidence. An arbitrary…”

    Lulu, there’s modesty as defined by the world, which included your definition and there’s modesty defined by the Lord which includes your definition in addition to those outlined by the prophets.

    The irony is that the only thing arbitrary is you deciding what is and what is not modest. It’s subject to your personal whims and preferences. That’s the definition of arbitrary. What’s not arbitrary is the Lord’s standard. Now you may not like it. You may think it’s ultimately not the most important thing in your life, and I’d agree.

    But it’s a standard that even if you take the most charitable assumption, a standard that the Lord’s servants believe the Lord wishes for us to apply to ourselves.

    Now, there are much weightier matters than a shoulder showing or not. I agree. But I’m not the one straining and getting upset by it. I’d suggest people just cover up and dress modesty according to the guidelines and get on with the more important stuff.

    I can assure you, that you are no better off spiritually if you show 2 inches here or there. You aren’t helping your neighbor, or becoming more Christlike, or showing more love to God.

    But I do have experiences for myself, that when we willfully and knowingly going against counsel from the Lord’s servants we are often going against the Spirit of the Lord and lose the priviledge of receiving further light and knowledge (no, I’m not saying one is then completely cut off from the spirit, but the amount of light available to them is decreased).

    And it’s not too difficult to dress modestly. It’s not like the church is telling people, “you must wear a potato sack to show you love Jesus”.

    Everything I’ve said does not give anyone a right to judge you. Treat you poorly. Look down on you, say mean or mocking things about you etc. Those actions are definitely worse.

    If you disagree with what I’m saying, hopefully you can help me understand how all this concern over modesty is not just a substitute for “I just want to look good with the latest fashions and trends and ‘that’ just doesn’t cut it.”

  97. Howard on June 15, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    Geoff J Considering the possible guilt response of a YW do you think it is respectful to place her in fear of causing a YM to sin simply due to how she dresses?

  98. Chris H. on June 15, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    We should do away with guilt.

  99. Howard on June 15, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    chris How do you know it’s the Lord’s standard and not GA advise and counsel?

  100. Geoff J on June 15, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    Howard,

    I have a gorgeous 14 year old daughter who is getting more attractive by the day. No, I don’t think it is all inappropriate to let her know about the ever-increasing power she has over young men. (Heaven knows she is starting to notice it.) Rather I think it would be neglectful for me not to tell her about it and insist she use her power wisely and prudently. An important part of that is choosing how she dresses wisely.

  101. Mary Siever on June 15, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    Actually what I am finding demeaning and objectifying right about now is the term “ugly girls”. Who is anyone to say anyone is ugly or beautiful especially since God made them? What a way to make girls feel good. Defined by how attractive they are or are not.

  102. Howard on June 15, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    I don’t think it inappropriate to let her know about the ever-increasing power she has over young men either Geoff.

  103. Martine on June 15, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    Lulubelle–you rock!

    Chris–98–there is no “modesty defined by the Lord” as you call it. It is MODESTY DEFINED BY THE MEN IN CHARGE AT THE TIME Until fairly recently—say 20-30 years, which I realize may be your entire lifespan but only half mine–bare shoulders on ANY FEMALE PERSON NOT ENDOWED was not considered “immodest.” no, the world has not changed that much. Just last year our Relief Society newsletter published a picture taken in the mid 60s of a 10 and 12 year old girl —still ward members today– in SLEEVELESS dresses they had made and were wearing in a stake fashion show. Their mother served on the Primary or YW general board at the time. This was perfectly fine, no one would have thought there was anything wrong with this at the time. Skirt length, yes. No pants on Sunday, yes. But bare arms? No, that’s a–relatively–new one. And, as Lulubelle said, it’s out of control.

    I remember wearing tank tops and shorts to youth conferences– no problem.

    So, no, there’s not a constant Lord’s standard of modesty.

  104. Martine on June 15, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    I meant “consistent.”

  105. Steve on June 15, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    I really think that our obsession with modesty is interpreted by young women as a directive to dress dumpy so as not attract male interest.

    And, that, is very sad.

  106. Ray on June 15, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Steve, fwiw, neither my wife (YW Pres for years and daughter of four girls) nor I have seen that in any of the YW we’ve known over the last 8 years that we’ve had girls that age.

    Doesn’t prove anything, of course, but . . .

  107. Steve on June 15, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    Ray –

    The reason I wrote that I that I’ve seen it in our own young women. I have a daughter that is a few years older.

    The girls she attended with were fashionable clothes, make-up and various hair cuts. Not all, surely, but most of the girls.

    The current crop is dressing in long dresses, lots and lots of layering, no make-up and straight hair. A couple weeks ago, when they sang, not one was reasonably fashionable (and, we have a big YW group).

    I don’t no if the modesty push is the reason but something is definitely occurring. I mentioned it to a guy it another ward and he said the same thing was happening in his ward.

  108. Tim on June 15, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    Steve,

    My MIL certainly obsesses over it at that level. Everything she ever bought or made for my wife was too big and too baggy. But I’ve got to agree with Ray–I don’t think it’s a common problem.

  109. Todd L. on June 15, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    Julie,

    I tend to agree with your overall point here, and I think it is an important one. And I haven’t read all the comments, so forgive me if my comment here is repetative.

    Modesty is, I believe, a complex and nuanced issue and it ought to be recognized as such or we risk boiling it down to a list of “rules” (no two piece swimsuits, no strapless gowns, no skirts above the knee, etc.) that our youth will reject as being “old” and out of touch with modern trends.

    So, rather than simply saying “stop telling the YW to be modest for the YM,” we need to develop a coherent explanation of modesty that is not so “don’t become porn” oriented. Whatever explanation we give, however, I don’t think it can be divorced from the fact that the way we dress sends a message. For example, it is totally modest to wear a one-piece swim suit to the beach despite that it shows copious amounts of thigh and shoulder. But, of course, showing that same amount of skin in a different context—say a dance or just attending school—would unquestionably be considered immodest. Why? I have to think that the answer is tied to the message being sent by a combination of dress and context. So, while I agree that we shouldn’t teach the YW to be modest “for the YM,” I think the youth need to be taught that at least one aspect of modesty is being cognizant of the messages we send by our clothing, whether sexual or otherwise.

  110. Ray on June 15, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    Steve, those things you mention are part of what passes as style right now – especially the straightened hair and layered clothing.

  111. John on June 15, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    Man! I’m in a YSA ward and this comes up from time to time. For the most part in our ward modesty isn’t a problem. It’s actually rather disgusting when a girl does show up at a beach party or something immodestly dressed. This is mainly because of the sixty girls in my ward, only two of them are not fat. And when someone who is trying to look like they’re staring in Baywatch, but should be staring in The Biggest Loser, tries to dress like Pam Anderson… Well, it’s not tempting for anyone…

    I wish they would teach the girls to keep their bodies strong and healthy, whether or not they blame it on the guys. Focus on the positive, exercise, eat veggies, (for several of the girls shampoo, wash, and comb your hair), wear sunscreen, and then when you have a strong and healthy body, remember that it isn’t a sex toy. You only have one body so you’d better take care of it!

  112. Chris H. on June 15, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    John, I pity whichever one ends up marrying you.

  113. John on June 15, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    Yeah… I know… Most people aren’t like me but, I say yes to eating right and living a healthy lifestyle, and no to television, junk food, and lethargic living. I’ll admit that it’s very difficult to find a woman who values the same thing. Most will say that they do, but they can tell you their favorite TV shows, actors, and movies, but can’t tell you the last time they did any kind of physical activity other than sitting and walking. They can’t tell you last time they ate any veggie other than a potato, but they can tell you all about the wonderful ice cream from Cold Stone. Maybe it takes having kids to bring about some of these changes in people…?

    As my (married) friend Becky put it: “The first step to attracting a mate is to be attractive.” I agree with her, but to me attractiveness doesn’t come from dressing like a prostitute, but from keeping yourself healthy and strong. The women who go to the gym four times a week and lift heavy weight with the each other are all attractive and they don’t need tiny skirts or bikini’s to prove it. The confidence they get from improving their strength at the gym gives them confidence in other areas of their life as well. None of them have weird eating disorders, none of them have self esteem issues (after the first year).

    Seeing their constant improvement with the encouragement of everyone around them gives them a positive self image and self esteem that you just can’t get watching the television. For those who haven’t done it, its amazing to watch someone come in and change over the course of a year. They come in dejected and feeling horrible about their bodies and themselves, but if they have the strength of will to humble themselves and perseverance to go to the gym when they’re sore or tired or not feeling well and punch trough it, then great things come to pass. They get healthy, the stop eating junk, they get stronger, they lose the fat that’s bugged them for years, and they begin enjoying their life like they’ve never done before.

    It’s sad to see so many of my friends want to get married but not willing to do what it takes to make themselves attractive, even when I know it will improve every facet of their lives. Instead, they think that it’s easy for some people and they just can do it and live in a defeated mentality. It’s sickening to listen to them talk.

    I’ve been through the modesty talks and the chastity talks and they thing they’re doing everything right. I’m saying that they need positive reinforcing encouragement to improve themselves and then the attractiveness will follow. Modesty is just one facet of attractiveness.

  114. chris on June 16, 2011 at 1:16 am

    Martine who ever said there was a constant standard? Not that there might not be according to the Lord and that he wants us to arrive at it… but you make it sound like if everything was not given at once in a single volume of rules to Father Adam then it just must be made up rules by men. We believe in continuing revelation for a reason… regardless the question has not been answered. Why is it not possible to wear something deemed as modest under the current rules and then get on with the more inportant things of life and the gospel? Is a desire to look fashionable with the latest styles really that important? Is it not possible to have a good appearance unless you dress as is currently considered immodest? Does everyone else look bad? Do we need to spend so money time money and energy worrying about dress apperances other than to find something presentable and modest according to the standard and then get on with becoming disciples of Christ? Or are you just upset the “rule” is 20 years old and not 200? (But do you really think there is no basis in scripture for modesty?)

  115. Rob Perkins on June 16, 2011 at 1:52 am

    Wow, 114 comments.

    I guess the only thing I could add is that when I see the clothing styles popular today, aside from thinking that they remind me of the 80′s, the thing that comes most strongly to my mind is how completely unfair it is for girls and young women. Boys and young men simply don’t have body image pressure exerted on them in at all the same way. Stylish youth culture insists on form-fitting and/or revealing clothes for women.

    This isn’t an observation of Church teaching practices, but rather a much wider observation of the failure of feminism, or really any philosophy of men, to equalize the developmental experiences of girls.

    Thus it seems to me that a more effective message to the girls might be to recognize the pressure coming from their peers and from the wider culture, explain what we mean, show an example, and build their self-image to a point where they don’t feel like they have to use clothing or behavior to draw attention to themselves. Unless that’s what Julie meant?

  116. john f. on June 16, 2011 at 6:14 am

    My wife and I have taught our daughters that dressing modestly is a way of saying, “I’m not a piece of meat, and how I dress isn’t going to give you an excuse to make me into one.”

    Ray, that sums it up perfectly.

  117. SilverRain on June 16, 2011 at 7:57 am

    Geoff J—My last comment on this, since I’ve defined it for you (despite the pointlessness) and you don’t seem to be getting it and I’m apparently a glutton for punishment.

    Sexualization=Sexual objectification. It is a subset of being disrespectful, not the same as being disrespectful. But more than simple disrespect it reduces a woman to a sexual object, free for the taking or commenting on. Because of the dynamics of sex and attractiveness, it is far more deeply devastating in many ways than simply being disrespected without a sexual tone. Sexualization in this connotation is not simply being sexual, like you’re trying to make it.

  118. John C. on June 16, 2011 at 8:03 am

    Geoff, I love you, brother, but you are talking utter nonsense. When stores start selling push up bras for pre-pubescents, society is sexualizing girls. Whether or not the girls are willing participants, society is sexualizing them.

    You are correct that people are hormonally driven towards sex, but there is a difference between sex with a partner and masturbation. Masturbation (with or without a partner) is all about an individual achieving climax. Masturbation requires an object, because the emphasis is on the subject. People sexualize all sorts of things in order to masturbate (household objects, feet, people, etc.). Blaming this on evolutionary biology is true in one sense (we may have an uncontrollable urge to pass on our genes), but absolutely false in another (we have some choice regarding what we do about that urge). Your body doesn’t particularly care whether or not you are engaged in masturbation or sex with a partner; you are the factor that determines what you are doing. If everything is masturbation, then that’s all on you, not your genetic imperative. Society, generally speaking, prefers masturbation to sex with a partner, because masturbation is a lot easier to mass-produce, commidify, and sell (arguably, the people who prefer masturbation to sex with a partner, also prefer it for this reason).

    If this comment makes it through any sort of filter, I will be stunned.

  119. Naismith on June 16, 2011 at 8:17 am

    About the confidence and fashion thing, a story from one of our teenage girl’s recent prom-going experience, in a situation where most girls wore strapless, many quite short, and even the “Christian” girls bared a lot of skin.

    Out daughter decided to have a medieval dress. We live in a town with a popular Renaissance Festival, so people recognized it right away and had a positive reaction. More like “cool!” or “I wish I’d thought of that!” A good friend did tease that “I think there is a piece of skin showing at the wrist!” But overall, it was so positively received, and others expressed admiration at her confidence to do her own thing. Also, she was so much more comfortable than the other girls who were constantly worried about whether things were staying in place, because it is one thing to try a dress on in a fitting room and another to actually move and dance and lean over a table in it.

    It was a good experience for her to learn some more sewing techniques. And we were able to modify the pattern to add more than an inch at the neckline:)

    It was very flattering for her particular body shape, and while the cost was more than other prom dresses we have bought, she will likely wear it to the Ren Fair every year, so will get use out of it.

  120. Wheat Woman on June 16, 2011 at 8:59 am

    As a lifelong Mormon who now resides in Dearborn, Michigan, female modesty is a topic I can never escape. At church swimming activities, my 12 year-old daughter is encouraged to wear a Mormon-modest bathing suit. But at our local pool, there are 12 year-old girls who wear Muslim-modest bathing suits that cover everything but the hands, feet, and face. It’s obvious that Mormons and Muslims both value female modesty, but it doesn’t take a genuis to figure out that the modesty standards themselves are artificial contructs.

    Why is a Mormon girl’s bare stomach immodest? Why is a Muslim girl’s bare arm immodest? Because we say so, that’s why.

    Regardless of my Mormon-modest attire, there are parts of my city where I am comsidered immodest. If my hair, arms or calves are showing, there are stores where I feel the stare of the male employees and shoppers. Are these men justified? Is my hair, my arms, or my calves the reason they can’t avert their eyes? How far are we willing to take this theory that men can’t control their thoughts? Every day, I get to see up-close the absurdity of making women invisible.

    I reject it. I won’t raise my daughter to think that her body is capable of causing a boy or man to lose self control. Most important, I have also raised my sons to KNOW that they are the masters of their thoughts and actions.

  121. SilverRain on June 16, 2011 at 9:11 am

    Mary—I used the term “ugly girls” on purpose to harshly illustrate the argument that Geoff was trying to make, that being attractive is the same as being sexualized. Even those girls not considered attractive are sexualized by the males around them. Being one, I happen to know.

  122. Bob on June 16, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Silver Rain, This is all about ‘Sexualization’__the Mormon way. Everything is done to produce pure Temple Virgins for the young men of the Church. Then when things start to heat up, you send the young men away for two years to protect the Virgins. Now, you bring the boys home, put them together as quickly as possible, in marriage/sex, and breed a master race.

  123. john f. on June 16, 2011 at 9:46 am

    re # 120, wonderful comment.

  124. Martine on June 16, 2011 at 9:54 am

    Although I have very negative feelings about the Mormon definition of modesty I totally agree that the sexualization of girls even very little girls, whether done by “the world” or the church, is wrong and very prevalent today.

    Here’s one example that has nothing to do with skin. While shopping for dress shoes for my almost 4 year old granddaughter, I was appalled to find so many are just a tiny version of women’s shoes, with an inch or inch and a half heels. I can’t think of anything worse for a little kid than having to trot along in heels. Bad for their posture–heels move your body forward–bad for running and jumping and it sexualizes them, turns them into little sexy things instead of little girls in flowery cotton dresses and flats.

  125. Martine on June 16, 2011 at 10:11 am

    Chris–sure there’s a scriptural basis for modesty. But modesty is more than inches of skin. It’s an attitude of the soul and the hear.

    Continuing revelation is where we throw every church rule that changes with the whims of leaders–it’s convenient. Bare shoulders = immodest has nothing to do with “continuing revelation” anymore than 2 sets of earrings do. My point was that the 1965 FTSOY said that bare back are not attractive for most women–not that it was immodest–it counseled against strapless gowns and spaghetti straps but never against sleeveless attire. I’m asking, “what’s changed?” What’s made a sleeveless dress or top suddenly “immodest.” It’s one thing to ask YW to not wear such attire because that’s a rule we have; it’s quite another to call it “IMMODEST” because then, the church labels all non-LDS women as well, as being immodest, something we’ve seen kids tell their neighbors the way they used to go after the smokers.
    If sleeveless=immodest then how will the church ever justify removing the sleeves from garments? It will happen, it’s a matter of time. i have very inside info–besides historical into–that only one individual opposed it last time it was suggeted–about 4 years ago. But now that sleeveless has been defined as “immodest” it will be more difficult but maybe not, the answer will be–continuous revelation!–and that will silence the masses.

    As I’ve stated before. Does anyone really think Queen Elizabeth II is immodest in her evening gowns?

    I know immodesty. I recognize it when I see it.

  126. Mary Siever on June 16, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Re #111 it would be nice if they would focus on that for the young men too…men should wash their hair and take care of proper hygiene as well. Deodorant, wash their clothes…

  127. Bob on June 16, 2011 at 10:31 am

    “I know immodesty. I recognize it when I see it”.
    So do a billion Muslims.

  128. MArtin Willey on June 16, 2011 at 11:13 am

    I don’t disagree with Julie’s general point. Modesty should be taught as a virtue in itself. It’s impact on others, while relevant, is not the primary purpose. But, I do find the efforts to impose adult standards of modest on children (pre-pubescent, primary-aged children) kind of weird. I understand raising up a child in the way they should go. But I also think teaching (explicitly or implicitly) 6- and 7- year olds that there is something sexy/scary/inapprorpriate about their still-pudgy little knees and shoulders seems like a back-handed way of sexualizing then at far too young an age.

  129. Howard on June 16, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Wheat Woman 120 Great comment great comparison well said. Regardless of my Mormon-modest attire…there are stores where I feel the stare of the male employees The more we cover the greater scarcity we create.

  130. Lulubelle on June 16, 2011 at 11:35 am

    Seriously, what is SO DANG WRONG with dressing cute and fashionable? Sheesh! Some of you people are acting like this sin is on the same level as murder or adultery. “Modern fashion” is NOT inherently “immodest” by anyone’s standards (unless you’re talking to a devout Mormon or Muslim, maybe). Some fashions can be but, seriously! I think I’m a pretty stylish girl and I pour over Style magazine and love cute clothes. I feel great when I wear them and it’s about ME, not trying to allure someone into taking me to bed and doing all kinds of naughty things with me. Skinny jeans, “the perfect black dress”, great boots or ballet flats, cute skirts and T’s, sundresses, bermuda shorts and capris, white jeans… I have some gorgeous sleeveless work dresses that hit the knees and come up to my collar bone but show my (gasp!) shoulders, yet you think this is IMMODEST?

    Please, I have to believe that God is not such a mircomanager as to DEMAND we not show a shoulder (or worse yet, an inch above the knee… oh no!). I HAVE to believe that God cares FAR MORE about the kids being kidnapped, stuffed with drugs, given guns and told to kill in wars in Darfur, than he cares about my SHOULDERS. I can’t imagine that God, who gave us our beautiful bodies, DEMANDS that we COVER it all up in order to show our love for this beautiful creation.

    I will NOT teach my daughters that a 2-piece tankini or appropriate-style bikini is ‘bad’ or that they have to stick an ugly t-shirt under and adorable and perfectly appropriate church dress in order to be “modest”. I will NOT give my kids serious body issues at the age of 10. I RESENT the church trying to do it.

  131. Stephanie on June 16, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    John, I hope the church starts teaching girls to exercise and eat veggies so maybe someday one might be worthy of marrying you.

  132. Martine on June 16, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    Bob, I don’t live in a Muslim society, I live in a western culture.

  133. Jax on June 16, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    Um…. anyone read the D&C lately?

    Doctrine and Covenants 42:40
    40 And again, thou shalt not be proud in thy heart; let all thy garments be plain, and their beauty the beauty of the work of thine own hands;

    I suggest the we live by our revelations and modesty will take care of itself. As long as men and women are trying to dress ‘fashionably’ (even if they dress modestly) then we will continue to have dress and grooming issues. In all things we should seek the celestial, not the worldly – and that includes seeking the fashionable clothing.

  134. Geoff J on June 16, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    John F (#118),

    First, I did caveat initially that dressing pre-pubescent kids up might be the only use of the silly made-up word “sexualization” that could work. (See comment #60). So I suppose society also “monsterizes” little children because we dress them up in Elmo costumes sometimes too?

    Second, you lost me with the masturbation paragraph.

  135. Geoff J on June 16, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    SilverRain (#121),

    I never said being attractive has anything to do with being “sexualized”. I repeatedly said that going through puberty is what actually sexualizes humans.

  136. Adam Greenwood on June 16, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    #120,
    what an unreflective comment. Modesty is partly socially constructed. So what? So are cuss words, courtesy, honesty, language, and a whole bunch of other things. Adults have already figured that out in high school and have moved on to other things.

  137. Rob Perkins on June 16, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    #130: “I think I’m a pretty stylish girl and I pour over Style magazine and love cute clothes. I feel great when I wear them and it’s about ME”

    The criticisms of a sinful people present in the scriptures, particularly in Isaiah or the Book of Mormon, revolve in great part around “costly apparel” and its connection with scriptural pride, that is, the elevation of oneself or one’s faction, group, tribe, whatever, in opposition to some or all others.

    Style magazine and all magazines like it are designed to collect readers’ money. Conde-Nast and its sponsors have no other purpose in mind than to attract a reader, collect some of his or her money, as much as she or he will part with, really, and move on to the next reader, guaranteed. And their survival as a business depends on telling readers which famous person is wearing what and how they can go get it too, at, perhaps, a “low” price which, considering time and materials needed to sew it and mail it, is anything but.

    Far more than any degree of nudity, that’s the trap, under certain specific, if common, circumstances, and the risk that makes it “so dang wrong”, as you put it, Lulubelle.

    However: Many, if not most, of the women in my ward, which is not a poor ward by any stretch, dress modestly and stylishly without a hint of scriptural pride that I can detect. Some are community and business leaders meeting a standard of dress required by their office. Others afford durable and attractive clothing without a worry about the cost, while simultaneously giving generously of time and talent in ways I have no skills.

    Perhaps this is yet another area where, cribbing with apologies to the Church Handbooks, Church members should simply try to not judge one another.

  138. James Numark on June 16, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    What ever happened to the idea of be modest because God asked us to be? Call it blind obedience if you will, but the simple truth is that God knows more than we do and if he is saying that we should be modest, we should be modest. Anyone who thinks that the way a woman dresses has no effect or should have no effect on a man completely misses the reasons why women dress that way to begin with, and is obviously unfamiliar with the doctrines of the natural man. immodest women and men want others to find them sexually other wise they wouldn’t put the focus on their bodies in the first place.

    To consider women void of responsibility would be equal to saying that a woman who stars in porno movies is innocent because she didn’t force the man to think that way or to watch the porn. The women have a choice to be modest or to not be modest. There is accountability for that choice.

    Another angle to consider is not so much on the sin side of things but the obedient side of things. We have been told that we are our brothers keeper so far as we are to share the gospel with one another, to be home teachers, to be shepherds. That doesn’t mean that we are guilty of their actions or choices in their fullest, but we are responsible for our efforts in influencing those around us for good. We are responsible to do our home teaching. But that doesn’t mean we are responsible if an individual decides to not come to church in spite of our home teaching efforts. The same goes for modesty. One may not be responsible if a man goes and masturbates to immodest images of women, but the women are responsible for being immodest and providing a negative influence in the first place.

  139. chris on June 16, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    James, I’ll raise your obedience that “because God said so” with one of emulation, “because God did so”.

    I think when you understand the purpose of the Gospel, and the purpose of the Atonement in our every day lives (not just something that saves us at the end) then you can recognize why we should be modest. It has something to do with trying to be like Jesus and following in his way.

    When you go off and start talking about fashions that are out there today or yesterday, you’re missing that important part. Come unto Jesus, ye heavy laden. The only way to come unto Jesus is the straight and narrow way that follows in his footsteps. Fortunately, we have the atonement to help us along the way.

    I think a focus on the Lord and not what we wear, other than to satisfy our requirement to be dressed and take care of our bodies, etc. is what is needed to properly understand modesty.

    This is most certainly not the issue of old or young me telling women and men what they need to do and think. It’s about following the Lord. Focus on dress is a distraction. To reply to this with a “here, here! now stop preaching modesty” misses the point. They’re kindly preaching modesty because it’s those who are being immodest who are so focused on their appearance and dress.

    Come unto Jesus; He’ll ever heed you,
    Though in the darkness you’ve gone astray.
    His love will find you and gently lead you
    From darkest night into day.

    Come unto Jesus; He’ll surely hear you,
    If you in meekness plead for his love.
    Oh, know you not that angels are near you
    From brightest mansions above?

  140. James Numark on June 16, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    Point well taken Chris #139. Being modest helps reduce distraction from the Savior as the focus in our lives.

  141. SilverRain on June 16, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    Geoff—Fair enough. So are you going to address my attempt to explain to you that the use of the word “sexualization” connotes being made into a purely sexual object, not being made into a sexual being as you seem to insist.

  142. Geoff J on June 16, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    SilverRain (#141),

    I’m not sure what you are looking for from me on this. You don’t need to convince me that people like the words “sexualization” and “objectification”. Heaven knows those words get thrown around all the time in these parts. I simply don’t believe those words are in any way useful in describing and comprehending the human condition. I think they are useless terms that mostly serve to obfuscate rather than clarify.

  143. SilverRain on June 16, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    Can you at least recognize that the reason you might feel that way is because YOU don’t understand what it is like to be objectified as a constant reality of your daily life?

    Because I disagree with the OP in that I think it is valuable to teach girls how they are seen by many men. Other cultures are irrelevant. What matters is the cultural more where you are and your own self-respect.

    And for you to discount the reality of that dynamic to a buzzword is a minimization tactic that also excuses men for seeing a woman as a sexual object. That is so different from simple disrespect or recognizing women as sexual beings because it denies their agency, their value as human beings.

    And to me, agency is at the core of the modesty commandment. It is a temporal and thus subjective law, but one with spiritual and eternal ramifications.

  144. Howard on June 16, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    SilverRain he doesn’t get it.

  145. Geoff B on June 16, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    So far, I find much to agree with in the OP but also in comments 138 and 139. I would agree that “being modest for the boys” is probably pretty thin gruel for most YW. “Be modest because God asks you to” and “Be modest because it shows how much you respect and honor the Savior” are much better.

  146. Howard on June 16, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    When I hear pride in connection with costly apperal I think Academy Awards.

  147. Geoff J on June 16, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    SilverRain (and Howard),

    I simply refuse to happily use the inane terms you like. Come on — “Objectified”? “Sexualize”? Those are silly words people use when they want to sound smart. So no, I don’t like to be disrespected or treated shabbily any more than anyone else does. That’s obviously what you mean when you use lame buzzwords like “objectified”.

    And men and women ARE sex objects in one sense. Men and women do indeed have sex with each other. That is not even disputable. The the issue is whether people treat each other kindly and respectfully.

    We don’t need to invent buzzwords to explain this easily understood reality.

  148. Brad on June 16, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    The fact that sexual attraction and various sexual behaviors have an evolutionary origin/explanation no more justifies treating girls/women primarily as sexual objects than it does unbridled promiscuity. It turns out that the Gospel and the Atonement are an invitation to rise above our fallen natures. It also turns out that categorically dismissing words or ideas as meaningless when doing so supports your view of the sexual universe is also a form of obfuscation.

    It’s not rocket science.

    You can encourage modest, non-provocative dress standards in a way that reinforces the primarily sexual nature of girls’ bodies as perpetual objects of a leering male gaze, or you can encourage it in a way that militates against such a view. The girls can cover their bodies because they refuse to internalize the gaze and accept the primarily sexual nature of their bodies, or because they do so in spades. You can talk about it in a way that helps them not to view their bodies primarily as the objects of hulk-like male desire, or in a way that encourages precisely such a view. The OP is calling for the former, not for dumping modest dress standards in favor of anything-goes-and-let’s-pretend-humans-aren’t-sexual-beings.

    I find the lack of sophistication and basic reading comprehension skills that would lead a person to read Julie’s post as a declaration that there are no differences between the sexes to be positively staggering.

  149. Brad on June 16, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    “Objectified”? “Sexualize”? Those are silly words people use when they want to sound smart.

    In my experience, they’re words people dismiss when they can’t wrap their heads around them…

  150. Geoff J on June 16, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    Brad,

    If your comments are directed to me you have severe reading comprehension problems.

  151. Brad on June 16, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    I’m perfectly happy letting that accusation stand alongside both our comments here, Geoff.

  152. Wheat Woman on June 16, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    “Point well taken Chris #139. Being modest helps reduce distraction from the Savior as the focus in our lives.”

    I hear variations on this theme regularly here in Dearborn. It’s the rationale for veiling Muslim girls as young as nine; it removes the distraction of female beauty so that men can control their carnal selves.

    C’mon guys. If an immodestly-clad women is such a distraction, how ’bout we fit all the dudes with blinders?

  153. Kristine on June 16, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    Geoff, it is in fact more efficient and usefully specific to say “sexualize” or “objectify” than to say something like “treat a woman with disrespect by reducing her humanity to her sexual function.” As a simple matter of English usage, these are handy words. Calling them “buzzwords” is a transparent attempt to elide an argument about the phenomena they describe.

  154. Geoff J on June 16, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    You make a decent point Kristine. Maybe I’ll ease up on attacking those words. I think I have made it clear that I don’t object to the meanings people are attaching to those words.

    My personal objection is that like other buzzwords (like, say, “synergy”) these words mean a lot more to insiders than newcomers and thus can confuse the issues at hand.

  155. Stephanie on June 16, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    To sexualize is “to make sexual”. One of the definitions of “objectify” is to “degrade to the status of a mere object”. What does p*rn do? Does it merely sexualize women, or does it degrade the status of their bodies to that of a mere object?

    Men finding women sexually attractive has absolutely nothing to do with our society. It is universal to our species across all cultures.

    There is a big difference between being sexually attracted to a woman and viewing her as an object to fulfill your own sexual desires. One is dehumanizing to the woman.

    I became 100% sexualized by the age of 16 or so. I have pretty much forgotten how being less than 100% sexualized feels…

    I have a gorgeous 14 year old daughter who is getting more attractive by the day. No, I don’t think it is all inappropriate to let her know about the ever-increasing power she has over young men. (Heaven knows she is starting to notice it.) Rather I think it would be neglectful for me not to tell her about it and insist she use her power wisely and prudently. An important part of that is choosing how she dresses wisely.

    If a teenage boy comes round your house wanting to have sex with your daughter because he sees her primary function in life to satisfy his sexual urges, is that the same thing as him “becoming 100% sexualized by the age 16″? Is there a difference between him and you?

    First, I did caveat initially that dressing pre-pubescent kids up might be the only use of the silly made-up word “sexualization” that could work.

    How about “Desperate Housewives” and similar shows that sexualize the stay-at-home mom? How about Brittany Spears and Miley Cyrus? How about cougars? Women of all walks of life are being sexualized by our culture.

  156. Stephanie on June 16, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    In fact, maybe I could sum up the OP like this: stop telling the YW to be modest for the YM because it reinforces the idea that their bodies are objects to be used for the pleasure of men.

  157. James Numark on June 16, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    Can people stop saying, “our culture is doing this” or ” our culture is doing that.” Culture doesn’t DO anything. We the people make decisions with respect to the circumstances in which we find ourselves. To blame things on culture is to seek ways to alleviate our responsibility for our actions. If you go to college, the culture is to drink and be sexually promiscuous. Just because that may be culture doesn’t mean that is the way to be.

    Richard G. Scott spoke in General Conference April 1998 and stated, “Appreciation for ethnic, cultural, or national heritage can be very wholesome and beneficial, but it can also perpetuate patterns of life that should be set aside by a devoted Latter-day Saint.” I suggest reading the talk when asking about the influence of culture by those who see it as an excuse. http://lds.org/general-conference/1998/04/removing-barriers-to-happiness?lang=eng

  158. Stephanie on June 16, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    Oh, fine. “Women of all walks of life are being sexualized by the individuals who make up our culture”. Beyond that, I think you might be underestimating the way that culture affects individual behavior, particularly that of youth. Culture defines the “norm” for a society (definition: Social norms are the behavioral expectations and cues within a society or group. This sociological term has been defined as “the rules that a group uses for appropriate and inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. These rules may be explicit or implicit.. So, in effect, what I am saying is “the cultural norm of our society is to sexualize women”.

  159. Geoff J on June 16, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    Stephanie (#155),

    First, let me reiterate that I agree with the meanings behind newish buzzwords like “sexualize”. I just don’t like to use those words. I prefer to spell out those things longhand (so to speak). As Kristine mentioned though, my preference is probably not all that efficient.

    If a teenage boy comes round your house wanting to have sex with your daughter because he sees her primary function in life to satisfy his sexual urges, is that the same thing as him “becoming 100% sexualized by the age 16??

    Yes. And I expect that 100% of them will be sexually attracted to her on a primal level. But I also know that people don’t only behave on primal levels and can have self control. Mormon boys have proven better than average at such self control.

  160. Geoff J on June 16, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    BTW — This thread has been so much fun I wrote a responding post over at my blog: http://www.newcoolthang.com/index.php/2011/06/tell-the-yw-to-be-modest-for-the-ym/2732/

  161. Wheat Woman on June 16, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    #136 Adam
    “what an unreflective comment. Modesty is partly socially constructed. So what? So are cuss words, courtesy, honesty, language, and a whole bunch of other things. Adults have already figured that out in high school and have moved on to other things.”

    Thinking adults will always question social constructs that unreasonably curtail the freedom of women or any other group of individuals.

    Many of the people posting on this thread aren’t arguing that modesty is mostly a social construct; rather, they’re making the argument that God wants us to cover up, which is an idea I reject.

  162. Stephanie on June 16, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    So are you saying that a primal characteristic of men is to sexually objectify women? (long version: to view them as objects to satisfy their own lust?) That this is the natural man?

  163. Stephanie on June 16, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    Sorry, 162 is directed to Geoff.

  164. Chris H. on June 16, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    ” If you go to college, the culture is to drink and be sexually promiscuous.”

    James, did you go to college?

  165. Geoff J on June 16, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    Yup.

  166. Geoff J on June 16, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    #165 is responding to Stephanie’s question in #162.

    Please tell me this isn’t news to you Stephanie…

  167. Stephanie on June 16, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    Hmm, Geoff. I am really grappling with that. On the one hand, it makes me want to vomit. On the other hand, I think you may be right. And then I still want to vomit. Thanks for your honesty.

  168. James Numark on June 16, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    Yes, Chris. And no I will not engage in anything further on that line of questioning.

  169. Stephanie on June 16, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    Uh, yeah. Obviously it is. I mean, I have known that men are sexually attracted to women, but the idea that they would view women as objects to satisfy themselves as the norm rather than the exception is new. It makes me sad.

  170. Stephanie on June 16, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    Geoff, I have four sons. What you are saying is that my boys are essentially hard-wired to view women as sexual objects, and we need to teach them to overcome that and view women as human beings, right? That makes my job a lot harder than I thought it was. I thought my job was just to teach them to treat girls respectfully, not that I would have to teach them to actually respect girls. I thought that was a given.

  171. Chris H. on June 16, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    It was not really a line of questioning, James. I was mocking you.

  172. Geoff J on June 16, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    Stephanie (#170),

    I think this has more to do with recognizing that we humans are indeed mammals. But just because we are mammals does not mean we don’t all choose our words, thoughts, and actions. Also, being sexually attracted to someone is not at all mutually exclusive of respecting them. I kind of get the feeling you are saying otherwise in #170. I don’t see how seeing someone as a human being is exclusive of seeing them as potential sexual partners.

  173. James Numark on June 16, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    Yeah Chris #171. Asking someone if they went to college… yeah, that is a good one.

  174. Brad Kramer on June 16, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    So, geoff, you’re really swooping in to remind us all that sexual attraction is actually biological and not a purely social or cultural construct? And you believe that people who don’t like yw being told to cover their bodies for the sakes of ym are unaware or insufficiently aware of this?

  175. Chris H. on June 16, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    My point is that your comment seems based in watching too many movies and not actual higher education. I stand corrected.

    This thread is way too serious.

    I like talks about modesty. They give me the opportunity to ask: “What would Nietzsche say about this talk?”

    I think Nietzsche and I would enjoy analyzing such talks…in the foyer…while skipping Sunday School.

  176. Geoff J on June 16, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    Brad,

    Snark FAIL.

  177. Stephanie on June 16, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    Also, being sexually attracted to someone is not at all mutually exclusive of respecting them.

    No, again, I am making the distinction between being sexually attracted to someone and viewing them as an object for your own sexual pleasure. There is a difference, right?

  178. James Numark on June 16, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    Christ #175, Modesty is only as serious as you take it to be. Rarely is it taken as serious as it should be.

  179. James Numark on June 16, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    I mean Chris, not Christ…. wow, that is a scary typo…

  180. Howard on June 16, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    Stephanie Are you asking if men can respect their sex objects?

  181. Stephanie on June 16, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    No, I am assuming men cannot respect sex objects.

  182. John on June 16, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    Mary Siever (#126) – I’d add: Learn to tuck in their shirts, get rid of the armpit stains, wear shirts that fit so that you can button the top button and not use your tie to try and hide the fact you’re neck doesn’t fit. Oh, and they need to wear socks. I’m flabbergasted when I see some of the guys come to church looking like they just got hit by the hobo train.

  183. Chris H. on June 16, 2011 at 11:53 pm

    James: I like Him and He likes me. No worries. :)

  184. Chris H. on June 16, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    John,

    Are you saying that I should stop wearing Birkenstocks to church? After all…Jesus did.

    Could we possibly be anymore bourgeoisie? Probably not.

  185. michelle on June 17, 2011 at 4:00 am

    “I don’t see how seeing someone as a human being is exclusive of seeing them as potential sexual partners.”

    So I think the buzzwords are simply about putting the ‘sexual partner’ or ‘sexual being’ facet above all else. And that sure seems to happen a lot in our culture. And women are as guilty as men in contributing to this problem, imo, even if in different ways.

    What I loved about Geoff’s post on NCT is that he used a real-life illustration to show how modesty is a way that his daughter and other Latter-day Saint girls are communicating what Ray said he tries to teach his daughters. … (except I’m going to tweak how he said it): “I’m not a piece of meat and I will not allow you to treat me as such.

    To me, the power of choice here is still the young woman’s. She’s not taking *responsibility* for others’ behavior, but it’s obviously making a difference in how the young men treat her because she is not being sexually harassed in the halls.

    To me, a modest young woman is taking control of her life, not relinquishing it.

  186. Howard on June 17, 2011 at 7:20 am

    In 118 John C says “…there is a difference between sex with a partner and masturbation” His comment is a little confusing but makes much more sense when you substitute make love for sex with a partner and self stimulation for masturbation. So if I may; there is a big difference between making love with your partner and objectifying your partner through self stimulation. Making love requires you to engage your partner on multiple human levels and implies that they are doing the same with you objectifying your partner during sex through self stimulation simply requires that your partner be present for you to use for your own gratification. This is what is implied by objectification although it may be taking place on many different levels. While this method of sex maybe natural in the eyes of evolutionary psychologists and not uncommon among some humans it puts us on par with the animal kingdom.

  187. John C. on June 17, 2011 at 7:26 am

    Geoff J,
    It was me who wrote the comment, not John F. I’ll address what you said on your post. Also, Brad’s was a Snark SUCCESS!

    Howard,
    Yeah, that’s pretty much it (just remember that “self-stimulation” can even occur with a partner).

  188. SilverRain on June 17, 2011 at 8:21 am

    “I simply refuse to happily use the inane terms you like. Come on — “Objectified”? “Sexualize”? Those are silly words people use when they want to sound smart. So no, I don’t like to be disrespected or treated shabbily any more than anyone else does. That’s obviously what you mean when you use lame buzzwords like “objectified”.”
    Actually, it’s not what I mean. You’re wrong, Geoff. I usually respect your opinions, but in this case you’re dangerously wrong.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been kindly and respectfully objectified. Ever heard of the pedestal? That is respectful objectification. Objectification is turning a being with will of their own into an object to be manipulated by others.

    Let me clarify why this is so important to me: You are demonstrating an attitude that is parallel to the attitude that minimizes the term “abuse” and discounts a woman when she uses it. The core of abuse is objectification. Without objectification, you don’t have abuse. And when you call it a buzzword, or say it is a “silly word” used by people trying to “sound smart” you are mocking the reality of every woman who has ever been seen as a piece of meat (read all of us, attractive and unattractive alike.)

    I do not deny that the terms CAN be used as buzzwords, but that doesn’t mean that they have no significant meaning when used correctly.

    BEING SEXUAL IS NOT BEING A SEX OBJECT

    You are freely and falsely swapping concepts.

    And I’m trying really hard to give you the benefit of the doubt because I generally appreciate your perspective and opinions. I don’t really think you’re a bad person, despite how your words are making you look in this moment. I just think that, like so many other people, you are ignorant in this case. From what you say in #154, it turns out you are merely launching a semantical argument.

    Well, let me tell you something. Just because those words are buzzwords to you doesn’t mean they are buzzwords to those who are living that meaning which is being attached to them. Just like “abuse”.

    And I hope you’re wrong that it is men’s natural state to sexually objectify women. I fear you’re right. But since that makes interaction with men generally worthless, I’m fighting against that belief with teeth and claws. I’m trying to believe that God wouldn’t command that His daughters marry themselves to someone with the natural (and connotatively excusable) inclination to treat her as an object. That is vile on every level. And I try my hardest to trust God more than my own observations in this matter.

  189. Howard on June 17, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Animal sex -> human sex -> intimacy with our eternal mate -> becoming one with God. Isn’t this basically where we are going Geoff or do you expect to enter the celestial kingdom still at the animal sex level?

  190. Geoff J on June 17, 2011 at 10:42 am

    SilverRain,

    I my comment #147 was jerky. I apologize about my tone there.

  191. Suleiman on June 17, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Wow, what a Freudian discussion I just found on the bloggernacle…

  192. April on June 18, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    When I was in young women’s I hated being told that I needed to be modest, chaste, good, whatever, to help young men prepare for their missions. I had little to no influence over young men–my closest friends were female, and I only occasionally was asked on dates. Speeches about how I needed to prepare for my own mission, or my own temple covenants, or my own eternal life, were much more motivational.

  193. Garnet on June 20, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    From reading this thread, I can see why depression is so rampant among Mormon women. They can’t win. If they dress plainly, they’re dumpy and frumpy and unmarriable and are the reason no one dates in older singles wards. If they dress nicely, they’re shallow and are responsible for mens’ sexual sins.

    It’s ridiculous – are men judged to this degree on their appearance? Of course not.

  194. James Numark on June 20, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Garnet #193 – You act like Mormon Women have an exclusive on depression. Men are judged constantly on their appearance. When I was a priest I had long hair. There were those in the congregation that approached the bishop and wondered if I was worthy to bless the sacrament because their assumption was that long hair = immoral behavior. Not that the hair was wrong, but it was the lifestyle that was portrayed by the hair. At the time I was shocked at why they would even act that way or even question that as if it was their job to judge me that way.

    Now that I am twice that age, I realize that the sacrament is sacred. It should be kept sacred by those who partake and by those who operate in the ordinance. I also realize that while there is probably nothing inherently wrong with long hair on a man, I was wearing long hair to bring attention to myself. To be rebellious in my own little way. And there is enough reason in the world today to consider the stereotype to have merit.

    One of these days people that complain about simple things like modesty, will learn to embrace the principle of this quote from Sterling W. Sill, “It was a very fortunate man who said that he not only obeyed God, but that he also agreed with him” (That Ye Might Have Life, 1974, p. 48).

  195. Michelle B on June 20, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    An article about what other churches are going about this issue. It seems that the LDS Church is not the only one struggling with modesty.

    http://www.sacbee.com/2011/06/20/3712686/churches-see-fashion-no-nos-especially.html#storylink=omni_popular

  196. m2theh on June 20, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    My neighbor had a notion that she needed to dress sexy in order to keep her husbands attention. Then she would complain that the creepy guy across the street would ogle her while she was tanning in her bikini on the front lawn. If you put it out there to be viewed, you can’t control who sees it.

    On another line, it’s not just the YM who might be struggling with the immodest attire of the YW. Many of the elders have to avert their eyes or think about hymns when some of the girls walk by.

    I don’t think that women should be responsible for the actions of men, but I don’t think that short shorts and skimpy tops are appropriate attire for church.

  197. Garnet on June 20, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    I’m sorry, but your one example does not negate the fact that there’s a massive emphasis placed on a woman’s appearance in both church and society as a whole. Just read the thread – women are either immodest (and now appear to deserve to gawked at by creeps – check out the comment above mine) or we’re dumpy and frumpy and completely undesirable. What are we supposed to wear? Do I have to wear a burka, lest I feel that I’m forcing the elders to have to avert their eyes? Oops, but then I’ll be seen as a plain old frump. A women will be looked down upon if she’s percieved as being pretty or if she’s not. We can’t be fat, because then we’ll be seen as lazy or unhealthy, but if thin and athletic, well, then we’ll drive the men to “bad” thoughts.

    Honestly, given the huge range of sexual preferences out there, there may be nothing a woman can do to prevent certain men from having sexual thoughts or, as it’s put, from forcing them to think of a hymn. Some men like a plain, no make-up look. Also, women with large chests really can’t do much to hide them, or should they duct tape them down to prevent men from thinking of them? Ah, maybe we ought to just wear the burkas. Except I once heard a man admit he liked those – you can just imagine what’s under there! Ack! I guess we’re just out of luck.

    Or, perhaps we should just stop acting like women are totally responsible for men’s thoughts…?

  198. James Numark on June 20, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    Garnet #197 – We have kind of already hashed that argument to death. No one is saying that the Young Women are responsible for men’s actions or thoughts per se. But they are responsible for how the live with respect to the standards that have been clearly put out by the Church with respect to modesty. PART, not even a majority, of the reasoning for this standard, is to HELP keep the thoughts of others pure. It is NOT THE REASON in and of itself. The strongest argument that I have heard so far is the idea that being modest keeps the focus off of ourselves. Christ should be the focus of our lives. Immodesty is a distraction away from that which is most important.

    Plus, your assumption back in #193 is that modest is ugly, and immodest is attractive. You act like they are mutually exclusive and therefore places the individual in an impossible situation. That is a false assumption, and an admission that you are just as shallow as you don’t want people to be. Your assumption is based on the idea that YOU find immodest clothing attractive as opposed to modest clothing that is not attractive. Perhaps the problem here is that you find immodesty attractive.

  199. Al on June 20, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Another post admonishing those stupid inarticulate Mormons who never seem to be able to get the reasons for anything they are supposed to do right. No wonder Mormon kids are such a mess. They can never figure out for themselves why they ought to do something and their parents are always giving them poor excuses for being obedient. Thank you Julie for throwing perfect light on this. I am sure that the problem is totally solved now that it has been subjected to your erudition.

  200. Garnet on June 20, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Nope, it’s not me making that assumptions and I am not the problem. Consider these quotes:

    “I wonder if the recent emphasis on modesty is the cause: I wonder if the message they are taking in is “Don’t look good because it might draw the wrong kind of attention.” But, what I saw was beyond being modest. It was plain dumpy.”

    “As I understand from those who read the surveys, there were many anonymous survey comments by the men (comments that were *not* shared by the Bishop in church) about the physical unattractiveness and too-modest dress of many of the women in the ward, and that that was the reason so many of the men weren’t dating widely in the ward.”

    See, I’m not actually calling anyone unattractive. Read the rest of the thread. Women are painted as either bad and immodest or too modest and unattractive. There are also plenty of posts blaming women for putting certain thoughts into men’s heads. I’m just glad I’m not in that single’s ward where apparently the women haven’t gotten the perfect (impossible) balance where they visually please the men without making them think of sex.

    Again, note that any woman who tries to address this is called shallow. Also, the notion that women are very much responsible for men’s thoughts was driven into my head in Young Women’s.

  201. James Numark on June 20, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    No Garnet, it was YOU who said, “They can’t win. If they dress plainly, they’re dumpy and frumpy and unmarriable and are the reason no one dates in older singles wards. If they dress nicely, they’re shallow and are responsible for mens’ sexual sins.”

    You made the assumption that women are in a no win situation. If you didn’t originate it, that doesn’t mean you didn’t perpetuate it in agreement. I feel that modesty is attractive in its own way, but that doesn’t have to be in a sexual way. Your assumption that attraction is always sexual is part of the problem with your argument. It is not always sexual, not does it have to be.

  202. Geoff-A on June 20, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    Is modesty anything to do with the Gospel (no mention in New Testament) or is it just Utah Culture attached to the Church?

    Could the problem be that in the conservative cultures, where modesty is more valued, it comes as a package with opposition to sex education, birth control, abortion, and a culture of male superiority. The taliban are even more obsessed, and their morality police find the showing of ankles an invitation to rape.

    At the opposite end of the scale, if you went to your local spar in Germany you might meet your local bishop, wife daughters and sons all completely naked. Or holidaying at a nude resort. Being members they’d dress modestly on the way home.

    How would you measure the effectiveness of modesty? Most of the previous responses assume a relationship between modesty and sex. So is the rate of teenage pregnancy lower in Utah than the rest of the wicked immodest world? As far as I can find Utah is about 30 pregnancies per thousand, USA is 39/ 1000, Canada is about 12/1000 and most wastern European countries are in single figures ie 5 or 6/1000.

    I can not find figures for muslem countries to compare.

    I think Moroni when he appeared to Joseph Smith had a robe open down the front so perhaps he wasn’t too modest.

    Is modest anything to do with the Gospel or is it just conservative Utah culture we would be better without?

  203. Chris H. on June 20, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    The Taliban…this is when I appreciate the T&S 100 comment rule.

  204. Kurt on June 24, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    I think there is a great deal of wisdom in teaching not only the varying purposes for dressing modestly, but also emphasizing that some reasons are more important than others.

    To teach our young women to dress modestly for no other reason than to prevent men from being tempted detracts from the most important purposes of modesty. At the same time, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with encouraging youth – boys and girls alike – not to dress in such a way that they become pornography, as Elder Oaks has said.

    A conscious awareness of the fact that immodesty increases the prevalence and degree of temptation demonstrates a measure of respect for one’s self and the opposite gender that can be very helpful for everyone involved, although it is admittedly not the central principle behind modesty.

  205. Cameron N. on June 25, 2011 at 12:22 am

    202 Geoff A. – those stats mean little with birth control so prevalent.

  206. Geoff-A on June 25, 2011 at 1:44 am

    Cameron,
    Thats part of the point, that along with the cultures that value modesty comes opposition to sex education and birth control.

    Unless you live in a culture of modesty I don’t see how self respect relates? Explanation?

    What can be the purpose of modesty, if its not to prevent sex and out of wedlock children. You can measure teenage pregnancy you can’t measure pre marriage sex. And the rate of teenage pregnancy for Utah is 10 times that of much of Europe. Why? Does modesty work?

    I’m not opposing modesty, I have 4 daughters, just questioning whether as a cultureal package it works.

    My main question was whether modesty is part of the gospel or just conservative culture that comes packaged with the gospel?

  207. Bob on June 25, 2011 at 8:30 am

    If the Church wishes to have a dress code__then make a dress code. Don’t keep hammering on Modesty.
    I had a boss. When he hired someone into the office, he was very clear and firm as to the dress code. But he never mentioned it again_he didn’t feel he had to.

  208. Ryan on June 25, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Another feministic, deliberate misinterpretation of the Church’s teachings as a basis for attacking the Church. This is getting really old. If your going to attach the Church, is a little creativity too much to ask?

  209. Ryan on June 25, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    “you’re”

  210. Ryan on June 25, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Is anyone honestly naive enough to believe that the way women dress has no effect on men? Isn’t it a whole lot easier to fast if you stay out of the kitchen? If you treat someone like garbage, and then they retaliate, can you honestly say that you have no responsibility for their retaliation? Let’s grow up a bit and admit that our actions can have an effect on those around us and that we should take responsibility for that.

    And please, PLEASE, stop regurgitating the straw man argument that somehow the Church’s teachings on modesty allow men to justify sexual assault. The Church has NEVER come close to teaching anything like that. It has only ever taught that we should take responsibility for our own actions, men and women alike.

  211. Julie M. Smith on June 25, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    Thanks for the comments, everyone.

WELCOME

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