Sexiness, Modesty and Daughters

I’ve written about modesty before, way back when I started this blog. And I’ve written about modesty as it relates to breastfeeding.

But as my daughter gets older, it makes me think about these things in a different light. Specifically, what do I want to teach her? What do I want her to learn by watching me?

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Sometimes we wear matching outfits (by accident, lol).

So here are some of the thoughts that have been swirling around in my head:

  1. Modesty and Shame
    I’ve read several things lately saying that when we teach young girls to “dress modestly”, we are teaching them to feel shame about their bodies.
    This article being the most recent one I have read on the topic (and there are actually some good thoughts in that article too!).
    The Mum in the article says, “Focusing on what is or isn’t OK for other people to see of our bodies, in my opinion, leads to shame. ”
    Is that true? Does talking about how we dress affecting others really lead to shame?
    I saw another story pop up on Facebook the other day about a woman who claimed to have been “body shamed” because she was asked to leave the apartment complex pool because her swimsuit might “excite the young boys”. Now, I have no comment to make about the story or the swimsuit, but what caught my attention was a comment left on Facebook where a woman said something like, “This is ridiculous. Even if she was naked, she should have been allowed to stay at the pool and it would be the responsibility of the young men to control their own thoughts.”
    And I just thought, really? You really think people should be able to walk around naked if they want, and no one else is allowed to have a problem with that?
    But that is the logical end point of the “everyone can wear what they want” argument!
    I’m always skeptical of these “modesty standards lead to body shame” arguments because I was raised with certain standards of modesty and yet I can’t remember ever feeling like my body was shameful.
    (Actually, that’s not entirely true – I remember one time when a cool boy sat next to me on the bus and I felt very ashamed of the fact that I hadn’t shaved my legs. I spent the whole (30 minute!) bus ride self-consciously hoping he wouldn’t look down at them!)
    The clear message that came from my parents (in spoken and unspoken ways) was that our bodies were beautiful and good, but certain parts of them were private. There was never any teaching about our bodies being inherently dirty or shameful. And there definitely was teaching about how certain parts should be covered appropriately.
    Feeling ashamed because someone sees your private parts is appropriate shame and is not the same thing as feeling ashamed of your private parts.
  2. Modesty for little girls
    If we make modesty all about the effect on others (not leading men to stumble in their thoughts, etc.), then it makes no sense to have any standards of modesty at all for little girls. Most men are not sexually attracted to little girls, so there would be no risk of exposed flesh or even genitals “causing someone to stumble”.
    Which then leads you to a situation where little girls can wear whatever they like, and it’s only when their body becomes more “womanly” that you start telling them to cover up. I can see how that would lead to shame. I can see how that change in standards would lead a girl to think that something bad or dirty was happening to her body.
    You can see this in cultures where they do have different standards of modesty for pre-pubescent and post-pubescent girls. The emphasis is entirely on how they appear to men, so they arrive at: little girls’ bodies are not arousing, so they don’t need to be covered but women’s bodies are arousing so they do need to be covered.
    Whereas, if we pull the focus back to questions of “what is private and needs to be covered?” and “what is appropriate to have uncovered?”, then there is no need for different standards of modesty between little girls and grown women.
    (Of course, there are some practically different standards regarding the fit and shape of clothes. But theses differences also apply between women of different shapes and sizes, so it’s not a girl body vs. woman body thing. For example, certain tops may be appropriate on someone with small breasts, but not someone with large breasts.)
    This is why we teach our daughter to dress in a way that is modest even at this young age. (Since we choose her clothes, at this point it is mostly behavioural things like “be careful not to show your undies when you sit in a skirt.”) Not because we’re worried someone will be aroused by her, but because we want her to learn how to dress appropriately in a way that respects the privacy of her body.
  3. The Desire to be Sexy
    Wanting to be sexy and have our bodies look appealing is a very natural and normal thing. I also think it is the cause of many “modesty problems”.
    I remember growing up it sometimes felt unfair that I had to wear slightly different things to my friends. A couple of times I remember being teased for always wearing t-shirt underneath single strap dresses.
    As I grew into the teenage years and girls in my school started to wear more overtly sexualised clothing, the difference between us became even more apparent. I mean, there were a few outfits I had that I would not wear if I could go back and change things, because they were pretty revealing (does anyone remember my purple slinky pants?? Mum?). But mostly, my clothes were a lot more conservative.
    Now, by the time I was a teenager – especially the late teens – Mum and Dad did much less controlling of what I could wear, and my modesty standards became my own.
    But even though I dressed according to my own convictions, it was still really hard sometimes.
    I remember wishing that I could look sexy and get as much attention (even some attention!) from the guys as other girls did. Sure, I didn’t want attention from all the guys, but I definitely wanted to look good and have others notice that I looked good.
    One thought that helped me to cope with this sense of “missing out”, was that I used to tell myself that one day I would be married and I could be as sexy as I liked and wear all the revealing clothes I wanted to for my husband. After I turned 18 and my husband and I began dating, I even began (secretly) collecting lingerie items and saving them for marriage.
    Now, as a married woman, I do get to be as sexy as I want – in the bedroom – but I still keep to my personal convictions of modesty in public.
    If I’m wearing something in public because it makes me feel sexy, then that is the wrong motivation and I probably shouldn’t wear that thing. This is where I (we) need to be really honest about our motivation.
    The desire to be sexy is natural, but it is for a certain time and a certain place – the time is after marriage and the place is anywhere private.

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So these are the things I’ve been thinking through lately regarding modesty and our daughter. I honestly think with many of these things, a lot of the teaching is subconscious and comes about by what our kids observe.
Sure, direct teaching and training is important, but ultimately what they see in our homes and marriages will form the basis of what they think is normal.
I hope our daughter learns from living in our home that God made our bodies beautiful (in all the different ways they come). I hope she will learn that some parts of our bodies are private, just for sharing with our spouse. I hope she will learn that a wife carries herself differently around her husband compared to in public.
I hope she will learn that whether she marries or not, her body was made in God’s image and for His glory, and that everything the Christian does with their body should be in pursuit of that goal.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

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15 thoughts on “Sexiness, Modesty and Daughters

  1. very well written.

    this ‘body shaming’ has become a bit ridiculous over time. it’s been made into a ‘hot topic’ to make all women feel good about everything they do all the time, and that is stupid. it’s ignoring reality and wanting to create one’s own reality to make them feel better – not biblical.

    and those pics! LOVE!!! you are all so beautiful 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “… to make all women feel good about everything they do all the time”
    Yes! I feel like a lot of things I read these days have the message “women can do whatever they want – they can do no wrong!” and it really rubs me the wrong way!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. all through the Bible we read, ‘be careful,’ … ‘take heed,’ … etc, because sin, when left un-checked, weasels out-of-control, lies thread into unrecognizable so-called truth, and we sheep are led so astray we don’t even know what’s what anymore.

    you’re a wonderful Mum!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I define shame as an overall feeling of worthlessness because you have done something wrong. Shame also has to do with what other people think of you. Guilt is an inner conviction that you did something wrong that doesn’t affect your overall self-worth as a person.

    Great quote: “As a married woman, I do get to be as sexy as I want – in the bedroom – but I still keep to my personal convictions of modesty in public.”

    Consciously or unconsciously, the man or woman who dresses immodestly often wants to be seen, to be looked at, to be admired. It is a longing to increase one’s self-worth. But it isn’t the true path to wholeness because sooner or later, everyone’s body declines, and gets old. The only lasting beauty is the beauty of character.

    I wrote a short post (550 words) titled: “Calling a Woman a Skank.” If you would like to read it, I am open to any feedback: https://christopherjohnlindsay.wordpress.com/2017/06/26/virtue-of-modesty/

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  5. Hi Chris,
    Thanks for stopping in and leaving a comment!
    Your thoughts on the different between shame and guilt is really interesting. I’m not sure I entirely agree about shame being a really negative thing that is linked to how other people think of us. For example, I might feel embarrassed (a sort of shame) if I have to go to the doctor and have my private parts examined. I’m not feeling guilt for having done something wrong, and I’m certain that this sense of embarrassment is not based in any real negative thoughts the doctor might have toward me… does that make sense? I think that is an example of healthy shame.

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  6. I love your third point. The desire to be sexy is natural but it needs to be controlled usually after marriage and only for your husband to see. My thoughts exactly 😉 Modesty is beautiful and our bodies are gods temple

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  7. “If I’m wearing something in public because it makes me feel sexy, then that is the wrong motivation and I probably shouldn’t wear that thing. This is where I (we) need to be really honest about our motivation.
    The desire to be sexy is natural, but it is for a certain time and a certain place – the time is after marriage and the place is anywhere private.”

    I think it’s more complicated than just to say if something makes you “feel sexy” when you wear it in public, then it’s morally wrong for a woman to do that. A lot of men, at least here in Texas, find women extremely “sexy” in just a white plain old t-shirt and nice fitting jeans with boots. I actually feel sexiest in things like that… this isn’t morally wrong, it’s just how one feels in clothes whether they’re comfortable or not. Even a woman’s perfumed hair is extremely sexy to men, and makes her feel sexy too. Muslims tend to ban all makeup and perfume for their women because of this. So… it sounds just a tad extreme to me. Perfume *is* sexy… it makes women **feel** sexy, and there’s nothing morally wrong about that. Wearing makeup and having your hair styled and nice – these all can and often do, make women feel “sexy.” I feel sexy with my hair long and flowing down my back – and unfortunately I think other men will also find my long hair sexy whether I want them to or not. Again, that’s why the Muslims force their women to cover their hair. Because long beautiful flowing hair IS sexy to men. There was a time when women didn’t show their length of their hair, but always wore it up or covered it due to this exact issue. So the way you’re writing about what makes a woman feel sexy, is really murky!

    Sorry it’s getting so long… just made me think a lot… while a woman can feel sexy in many different ways, it doesn’t always mean she’s acting with wrong motivations. “Sensuality” used to apply to more than just sex but all of the senses… hence why smelling perfume for men can turn them on, or invoke intense emotional/sexual memories just from a woman’s perfume scent. Yes, she wears her perfume to “feel sexy,” but it’s not in order to seduce men who aren’t her husband. It’s typically Muslim thinking where women should only do anything that can be remotely looked at as beautiful or alluring in privacy. Anything that makes her “feel sexy” is forbidden except within her home.

    I think trying to look sexy to **other men** is definitely wrong if that is a woman’s motivation, but you can’t control what men will find sexy (like the hair issue or perfume, or t-shirts and jeans in Texas lol). When Muslim women and men see normal American apparel, especially a woman with long flowing hair and makeup – they automatically believe she is dressing that way to “seduce” other men. The problem is that you can’t control what others think. My husband looks insanely “sexy” to me when he’s just in a plain black t-shirt and jean shorts. It’s nothing immodest or anything he’s doing “wrong,” it’s just how i feel when I look at him when he’s dressed that way. Many other women find police officers “sexy” in their uniforms lol. 🙂 And obviously these poor men are often NOT trying to attract strange women and look sexy *for* them. Humans are complex. My husband insists that I look “sexy” in one of my dresses that is boat-neck cut (right under the neck), black, and form-fitting but not too tight. It’s very modest to me, but he insists I look sexy and catches other men looking at me in it. It’s not the kind of dress that is trying to get attention, I mean it’s not even a bright color (funeral color here!), yet he and apparently other men unfortunately, seem to find it sexy even though it’s incredibly modest. I think oftentimes just a woman being dressed up and looking her best is very attractive (sexy) to men, and will make them look.

    Since we had our girl, I’ve been talking to my husband about if wearing two-piece swimsuits is really “ok” with him – if he thinks I’m setting an ok example for our daughter. He’s fine with it and doesn’t see them as immodest at all, there are “slutty” bikinis out there that porn stars wear he pointed out… bikinis that are cringe-worthy with how much they reveal and leave nothing to the imagination. So apparently, even two-piece swimwear can be picked apart as to whether or not it’s “modest enough!”

    But then my husband got really serious and told me flat out that if it’s that I’m worried about other men seeing me at the pool and lusting after me, he said that would happen even if I was in a one-piece because of other qualities he thought could cause that (body type, long flowing hair, face and smiling/laughing personality). He said it may be more covered, but he guaranteed it still wouldn’t prevent men from looking at me. :/ I still think a two-piece may not be the best choice since it does reveal more (is more immodest)… but his seriousness that I can’t avoid being lusted after, or prevent men from watching me swim even in a one-piece was interesting.

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  8. Hi Stephanie,
    Thanks for your comment 🙂

    ”I think it’s more complicated than just to say if something makes you “feel sexy” when you wear it in public, then it’s morally wrong for a woman to do that.”

    Yes, absolutely! As you addressed, there are many different levels of what different people find sexy.
    That is why I put the emphasis on because… if you are wearing something because it makes you feel sexy, as in, for the purpose of feeling sexy in public, then I think that is the wrong motivation.
    This is not something that can be easily defined into a blanket standard for all women (as you mentioned, the Muslims do), because it concerns our hearts and our motivations.
    I think there are many things you might happen to wear in public that make you feel sexy (like you mentioned, the long flowing hair), but the problem comes in if you are wearing that thing for the purpose of looking sexy.
    And funnily enough, I do have certain perfumes that I will only wear in the bedroom, because they do seem sexier than my every-day perfumes, lol!

    ”I think trying to look sexy to **other men** is definitely wrong if that is a woman’s motivation, but you can’t control what men will find sexy (like the hair issue or perfume, or t-shirts and jeans in Texas lol).”

    Agreed. That’s why in this article, I have tried to take the focus off “how does your clothing affect other men?” and put the focus onto questions like “what is your motivation in how you dress?” and “Are you trying to please God, or yourself, or others, with your clothing?” (Because honestly, a woman could be covering herself up completely in the name of “modesty”, but if she is doing this to please others, then that is also the wrong motivation!).

    ”My husband insists that I look “sexy” in one of my dresses that is boat-neck cut (right under the neck), black, and form-fitting but not too tight. It’s very modest to me, but he insists I look sexy and catches other men looking at me in it.”

    Yes, my husband also tends to say I look “sexy” in anything and everything that I wear, so I need to use some other measures to determine if something is modest enough 😉

    ”I think oftentimes just a woman being dressed up and looking her best is very attractive (sexy) to men, and will make them look.”

    Perhaps I just don’t understand the male psyche that well, but isn’t there a difference between sexy and attractive? Isn’t it possible for a man to look at a woman and think, “She looks very beautiful and feminine!” but not go to “I would love to have sex with her!”…?
    The definition of sexy I am using here is from Merriam-Webster, “sexually suggestive or stimulating”. But I notice that they have a second definition of “generally attractive or interesting”, but that definition is usually the one we would apply to inanimate objects, not people.

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  9. And on the swimsuit issue, I find a good rule of thumb is that I want it to be more covering than just underwear. But yes, I still wear a two-piece as it is much more convenient! I have full cover briefs and a tankini top.
    Yes, guys will still look at you, that is not your job to “prevent” them from looking at you. But if you think about it from the perspective of your own body (which also belongs to your husband in marriage), how much do you want to be letting others see? How much of that do you want to keep private?
    It is completely your decision of course, but these are the kinds of questions I find helpful, as thinking about “what will the men think…” is just so subjective!

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  10. I agree with a lot of what you say, it’s just that I know from what my husband says about other men that LOTS of men find women’s legs sexy. When I did just a quick google search a few times to find what men find “sexiest” about a woman’s body… it’s often their legs and even back showing! Which to me defeats the whole purpose of the one piece because it shows all of that. It gets ridiculous when you really look into it almost like a “no win” situation.

    Even the little briefs/shorts (I love those too 🙂 much better than bikini bottoms) are extremely short shorts in most cases and still show a lot of leg… especially for someone with ridiculously long legs :/

    But you are right about thinking what do you really want other men to see that your husband should be the only one seeing.

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  11. “Perhaps I just don’t understand the male psyche that well, but isn’t there a difference between sexy and attractive? Isn’t it possible for a man to look at a woman and think, “She looks very beautiful and feminine!” but not go to “I would love to have sex with her!”…?”

    I know… I’ve thought of that too. When you just do a quick google search to find out when they’ve polled a lot of men for their real opinions… it tends to be weird things that they find “sexy.” :/ Like I mean really dumb things that don’t apply to the modesty debate unfortunately – like hair scent, length of hair, happiness (???), a fun personality (???) Things like that actually can turn men on which is just ridiculous.

    Basically, and this is just my random early morning (sleep deprived) opinion… men are strange and all different. And I think we “sexualize” or compartmentalize their sexuality a lot more than they really do.

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  12. “Perhaps I just don’t understand the male psyche that well, but isn’t there a difference between sexy and attractive? Isn’t it possible for a man to look at a woman and think, “She looks very beautiful and feminine!” but not go to “I would love to have sex with her!”…?”

    Sorry to comment so much! Just wanted to add that I’m sure for every man it’s different. But for probably most men, yes, they can start thinking about wanting to have sex with her even if she’s just dressed attractively and modest. My husband kind of laughed when I asked him that question this morning 😦 BUT it really should be stressed that each man (probably due to his relationship or lack thereof with God) is different. So a godly man may start to have thoughts like that because it is natural for them to think about sex even with a modestly dressed woman, but shut them down completely because he feels convicted. Whereas a playboy billionaire would allow himself to entertain those thoughts even about his best friend’s wife and not feel much guilt.

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