Dear StoryMen: Modesty

This is my response to The Storymen podcast episode discussing Modesty, featuring Emily Maynard. Please listen to the episode for context as well as enjoyment.

Near the end of the podcast Emily made a statement that stuck out to me,”[The Current Modesty Thought] asks women to be responsible for the biological stimulation of every single individual man they may encounter in any situation.”

Yet the thing is, they aren’t. Women are not responsible for men in this way. I confess that it is easier to point the blame finger from the safety of the church walls at women in the media, in culture, or in the world. But it still all comes down to the man. It is a personal problem not a global one, meaning, it is to be dealt case by case, person by person, man by man. Yes, the world helps or hinders the situations but it is ultimately the man’s responsibility.

Currently, we are binge oriented, consuming any sexual image. As we take control of our consumption we take control of our bodies. Contrary to the “earth-suit” school of thought, we are bodies & we are responsible for what happens to them. Our bodies are not only a thing to control but they are also a temple in which we worship with. (1Cor 6:19) We cognitively choose what we worship, let that be sex, food, God, etc. Our body is no one’s responsibility except our own.

It’s not the easy fix that churches teaches, or the world for that matter. But it is the one that we are called to. Modesty is an active conversation not an archaic one. As men we should engage with it.

3 thoughts on “Dear StoryMen: Modesty

  1. Patrick! Thanks for posting this, I really enjoyed the podcast and your comments.

    I think for me the most harmful impact of these prevailing evangelical “modesty” conversations has been a correlation between my so-called modesty and my worthiness as a potential partner for a Godly man. I think when we teach a girl that she needs to be modest only to protect or please her Christian brother, it reinforces the sense that her value or worth is dependent on the approval and opinion of others, particularly Christian men. When Christian women are encouraged to cover themselves up so that they can attract or protect Godly men who will respect and appreciate them for their modesty, is it that much different from women in secular culture who dress in “sexy” clothes to attract men? When modesty becomes a commodity that we can leverage to appear more “Godly” or more “worthy” in the eyes of other Christians, we are not, as you mention, caring for our bodies as temples for worship, but rather using them as a means for earning approval both from God and man. The flip-side is that if a girl is not modest according to some set of standards that a specific community adheres to, she is seen as bad or unworthy.

    Rarely have I been encouraged to determine what modesty really means, or how it functions in the context of the gospel and sanctification, or what it looks like to approach this issue with grace as well as truth. Instead, I have so often felt encouraged to act and dress a certain way so that I can control the way men view me, react to me, and pursue me (the open letter they mention, “FYI: If You’re A Teenage Girl” is a really good example of this.) The idea that modesty and purity are tools by which I can earn the love of of a “good Christian man” has been so damaging to my self esteem relationship with God. I am still on the journey of realizing that my value and worth as a woman stems from being Christ’s beloved and no one else’s.

    p.s. I’m really glad that they mentioned rape culture because that is also a conversation that I think the evangelical community needs to engage in more, as well!

  2. I can’t speak for Emily, but you’re on the right track. Men are ultimately responsible for our own thoughts, feelings and behaviors. But much of the modesty conversation requires women to be responsible. For instance, claiming that if a woman dresses a certain way, she’s “causing men to lust”. That’s saying “Men can’t help themselves, so you have to do it for them.”

    I wonder if “modestly” is the wrong term. Maybe we should just talk about “self-control” or even better, celibacy as a whole-person sexuality. Thoughts?

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