Cross-posted from my blog.

Women are sexy. Confident women especially so. It is entirely understandable that men, seeing our awesome sexiness, are affected by it. Call it 'arousing lust' or 'temptation' or whatever you want, it's natural and it's not a big deal. Or at least, it shouldn't be. Throughout history though, women have been held to different standards
of dress and behavior because of the effect they have on men. Showing our wrists and ankles was once considered scandalous, for goodness sake. Even today, in some cultures women are expected to cover themselves pretty much completely in order to preserve their 'modesty'.

This concept of 'modesty' annoys me. Not only is it a huge double standard, it places the responsibility for a man's thoughts and feelings on a woman's manner of dress and behavior. Most teenage girls aren't dealing with burkas and petticoats, but your average teenager does spend most of their time worrying about how they look to other people. Girls everywhere are worried about being seen as 'slutty'. Throw some conservative or religious upbringing into the mix, and this 'modesty' concept starts to matter. So how does a modern teenager learn to dress modestly? Does she discuss it with her parents or her friends, or experienced women in her life? Of course not, she asks what teenage boys think. Who else is better qualified to tell women how they should dress? It's the boys they're trying to please, after all.

I didn't take the survey because it had closed, but I read a sociological analysis of the results. I find them annoying. According to the young men taking the survey, anything from miniskirts to wearing a purse strap across your chest is immodest. Decorative stitching on the back pockets draws too much attention to that fine, fine ass you have there. Immodesty isn't limited to how you dress, either. Walking, stretching, bending over...all of these things inspire lust or temptation within the souls of your fellow men, who really just want to see you for who you are as a Sister in Christ if you would just stop jiggling so much.

How does this make sense? Last time I checked having a penis didn't preclude you from keeping it in your pants. The Y chromosome does not make you less of a thinking human being. Though as a woman, I suppose I
have "no concept of the struggles that guys face on a daily basis" who have "to constantly be on guard against ungodly thoughts brought about by the inappropriate ways they {women} sometimes dress."

As ridiculous and insulting as this all is, it's also kind of horrible. The idea that women are responsible for the way men react to their appearance or behavior has been used to justify rape and abuse for centuries. I can't imagine it's good for the self-esteem of the girls who buy into this crap, either. It also stomps all over female
sexuality, since women can't possibly be tempted by men. Lust is a male problem. Dressing modestly is a female problem.

To which I say 'bullshit'. No heterosexual female has seen Daniel Craig without a shirt on, or Nathan Fillion in the 'Trash' episode of Firefly, without feeling tempted and a little lustful...and I will personally shoot anyone who tries to cover them up. Yummy.

Oh yeah, modesty. It's dumb. No one but you is responsible for your actions. If you really have a problem with how someone is dressed, don't look at them. It's their decision and their right to present themselves however they want, and how that makes you feel is your own problem to sort out.

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Comment by Jo Jerome on August 23, 2010 at 3:33pm
While I certainly do not say that a woman who 'dresses slutty' in the wrong place at the wrong time was thusly at fault for the rape, there are places and times when it's simply not necessary or wise to do so.

E.g.; It's wrong to break into someone's house and steal. Period. On the other hand, was it really necessary for the homeowner to leave the door open and their diamond jewelry hanging in the front window?

E.g.; it's wrong to steal money from someone. Period. But was it really necessary for the victim to have their wad of hundreds fanned out and half-sticking out of their back pocket while walking through the seedy neighborhood?

I've yet to find a way to say that without it sounding like blaming the victim.
Comment by BacteriaWrangler on August 2, 2010 at 4:26pm
I appreciate the male perspective. Improving communication between men and women in general is important, I think, and it would do a lot more to encourage equality and understanding than walking around in a tent or obsessing over pockets and purse straps ever could.
Comment by BacteriaWrangler on August 2, 2010 at 4:21pm
Ha! Schrödinger's Slut is dead. Great analogy.
Comment by David Sensei on August 2, 2010 at 2:28am
Interesting issue, BW. Here's one male's point of view.

First, I heartily agree with you that men are responsible for dealing with and controlling their own lustful responses to the female form and how its members choose to decorate it, in a way that's non-threatening and respects women's freedom to choose.

But there's a limit. Many women have made a fine art of manipulating men by appealing to them 'below the belt'. I'm sure I don't need to give examples, they occur in a vast number of social situations. An extra layer of lipstick, a revealing outfit, a provocative pout or pose depending on which particular asset is their strong suit. Sexy clothes are part of natural, instinctive flirtation.

When is a woman expressing her freedom to choose and when is she 'putting out' for pleasure or profit, or obtaining some personal gratification for the attention she receives? I don't blame men for their confusion about this. As a bona-fide, Y-chromosome-carrying member, I can confess there are a number of times I've been caught off my guard in the most benign situations.

Though women should be free to dress however they like, they should be aware of the signals they are giving out. Most of the time mature women are aware, but young girls may not be, they're the vulnerable ones. Not for nothing do their legs shoot out long and slender, their eyes widen and shine, their skins gleam, their figures bloom. Nature knew what it was doing. And it also knew what it was doing when it gave the males, no matter what age, an extremely powerful, almost insatiable urge to prevail on such nubile creatures, an urge strong enough to overcome any moral superstructure known to us. All the more to ensure our ability to reproduce and survive. Blame evolution if you like.

To complicate the problem, men will take from women whatever they can regardless of how they dress. The mindboggling range of fetishes men have will attest to that. I'm not just talking about the obvious ones like underwear, latex and rubber, high heels and the like. The nape of the neck in Edo-period Japan, the ankle in Victorian England, power suits on Wall Street, and countless others, whatever is temptingly dangled just beyond our reach is fair game, depending on the fashions of the day. It's just as dangerous for women to dress sensibly and conservatively as it is to dress provocatively, so why worry, as long as you're not walking down the street stark naked? Let the men deal with it (some men would find this a turn-off anyway. I know I would.)

My uncle put it crudely but effectively many years ago in an intimate 'father-son' type chat just as I was coming of age (my father was the 'sweep it all under the refrigerator type' - I never knew of any stirrings he had between the loins, though he must have had some because he sired six of us).

He said 'David, one thing you gotta remember, the dick has a brain of its own!' Apart from this truism, he wasn't much help in reconciling this leadership dilemma. No subjective or objective morality, religion, social obligation or peer pressure affects the co-pilot down below. It knows exactly what it wants, and doesn't want.

So exactly how should men deal with it? This is one of the key areas where Islam goes off the deep end. Eradicate the tempting sight of women entirely. Instead of plucking the eye out if it offends, simply pluck out that which 'offends the eye'. It's never worked and it never will and it's a fundamental denial of the human rights of half the species.

Men ties themselves in agonizing moral knots over this. The religious approach is akin to 'Honi soit qui mal y pense'. If I think 'evil thoughts', I am evil. Freedom from this moral myth is one of the beauties of non-theism. I can 'covet my neighbor's wife' and think impure thoughts as much as I please, and enjoy the lustful pleasures that nature intended me to.

But thoughts and actions are entirely different. I never behave in any way that might make women feel threatened or uncomfortable or compromise their dignity, and that's the difference. You wouldn't believe some of the fantasies that I've entertained, and if you did you'd probably dismiss me as a moral degenerate, but in fact, my conscience is clear, my relationships with women are wholesome and healthy and I feel as pure as the driven snow. Women trust me, and I value and honor that trust.
Comment by Jim DePaulo on August 1, 2010 at 4:23pm
Don't you want to give the cyproterone option a try?
Hummmm...... nope! I'd rather have the slut - but thanks for the offer.
Comment by Jaume on August 1, 2010 at 4:37am
Don't you want to give the cyproterone option a try?
Comment by Jim DePaulo on July 31, 2010 at 9:28pm
I know if I see a woman in a skirt that's 2 inches or more above the knee I go into a lusting rage, which drives me to rape. It's not my fault - it's biology and that slut in the short skirt fault. :>) I so miss the days when we could use a club and just haul 'em off.
Jaume, where is that cat I have to kill to get my slut?
Comment by Jaume on July 30, 2010 at 5:32pm
But it's true. There's nothing like a slut (immodesty if you prefer) without a male observer. In a sense, sluttiness is like a quantum physics property, or a collapsing wave function. And you can't be a slut as long as Schrödinger's cat is in a superposition of quantum states. Someone (a male observer) has to kill the cat to make a slut out of you.

Give me enough cyproterone to contaminate the whole drinkable water supply, and I promise I'll eradicate sluttiness from this planet for good.
Comment by Prog Rock Girl on July 30, 2010 at 3:59pm
The "women have to be modest" thing is also insulting to males by insinuating that they are uncontrollable animals who can't keep themselves from raping sexy women. And in societies where people think this, males live down to their reputations and think they are entitled.

When you talked about "getting the opinions of teenage boys" I thought maybe you would go to a teenage magazine. It went to a Christian website of course, but teen girl magazines are such a bad influence for the same reason...I think it was ym that used to have some question that they would ask random teenage boys and print their opinions. Questions like how you should flirt, what makes someone a slut, etc.
Comment by Jo Jerome on July 30, 2010 at 2:49pm
*Standing ovation*

Yeah, where is the religion that says men have to stay indoors, or be always blindfolded and accompanied by a female relative when outside, because men inherently lack the ability to keep it in their pants?

**(Disclaimer: I don't actually feel that kind of hatred towards the male species. Just agreeing with BW here that it is a no-less-rational alternative to burkas and 'lock up your daughters').



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