This started out as a post on Facebook and then became quite long so...
Many of you have probably seen the bikini evolution video that's gone viral this week. Actually, this post is not directly about the bikini video. Truthfully, I didn't love or hate that video. I agreed with some of it and disagreed with other parts of it. What mostly inspired this blog post were several of the comments and discussions I noticed when my friends posted the video on Facebook.
I have a problem with the way people often talk about modesty and sexuality.
So when I read this article, I did love it: Men, Sex and Modesty
It's a bit long, but definitely worth the read. It makes several good points that I think are worth sharing. As far as clothing choices go, I plan to teach my daughters to dress themselves in a way that shows that they respect their bodies and love the God who created them. I believe this is between a woman and herself and her God. I do not believe in only teaching girls to be modest "because men will...." or "because men think..." or "save your male friends' poor testosterone-ridden minds from evil." That does not sit well with me.
I am not saying it's my opinion that we should all run around naked and everyone else should just have to deal with it because hey, free choice! But I am saying that some of the REASONS we frequently give for modesty are misguided. This article makes several excellent points about a HEALTHIER approach to modesty and sexuality. This made me do fist pumps in the air: "We infantilize and unnecessarily and falsely victimize men (and women) when we insist that men at best bear only partial responsibility for their feelings and any actions derived from those feelings."
There is, in fact, a way to safely live in a world full of bikinis without telling the bikinis to go away.
I think the story this author shares about his mission companion's healthy, realistic view of women is exceptional and mirrors more of what we SHOULD be teaching: "He still thought women were desirable, no different from any other heterosexual man, it was just that he didn’t experience anxiety and powerlessness according to what a woman chose to wear....He didn’t think girls could directly and irrevocably cause inappropriate thoughts, but that such thoughts were just part of becoming an adult human being, and needed to be acknowledged and managed accordingly."
BINGO. B-I-N-G-O. A-M-E-N.
I love and appreciate that the man in the story grew up in an environment where he was often exposed to women in little clothing (Hawaii), and so he adapted and learned to manage his thoughts and still view women in a healthy way. I do not plan to teach my sons to fear or shun a woman in a bikini -- I plan to teach them how to appropriately manage their natural feelings and thoughts when they inevitably encounter that situation. I don't believe in shielding children from reality -- I believe in teaching them to cope with it.
There will always be women in bikinis, billboards for strip clubs, and girls in miniskirts in the hallways at school. I don't want to raise my children to be so afraid of that "evil" that they are incapable of living in the real world and viewing the women around them, in any degree of clothing, as human beings. I want to teach them a better way -- a healthier view of sexuality and the ability to handle the ups and downs of puberty and sexuality without feeling guilty, ashamed or judgmental. I loved many of the comments I saw from people who grew up in European countries, where nudity is more culturally acceptable. They learned to deal with it in an appropriate manner because they simply had to -- it was the environment they were in, so they had to manage it. Simple as that.
And lastly, to address something else important I saw appearing in some of the comment threads...
May we all bite down (hard) on our tongues before we ever, ever, EVER imply or state that a woman "invites" or "asks for" sexual mistreatment because of the way she dresses or acts. The blame for harassment or rape lies 100% with the perpetrator and no. one. else. Viewing it any other way is incredibly damaging toward anyone who is ever the victim of a sexual crime because it induces feelings of shared blame, fear and shame. Nothing you EVER do or say "invites" or "asks for" someone else to have a sexual encounter with you against your will, and making statements like that perpetuates a rape culture that, yes, is something to be ashamed of.
And those are my thoughts on modesty. Yours?
To read more about this topic, check out my follow-up post: In Defense of Bikini-Wearing Mormons