Guys, summer is over. Can we please stop with the posts policing women’s bodies?
I’m not sure why but after years of relative silence the issue of women’s modesty has become “a thing” this year. It seems to have started with a fashion designer who made some vintage style swimsuits. I wasn’t going to talk about it initially because it’s not important, and there are too many unimportant things for me to write about all of them. I’m not stoked about my religion being used as a tool to sell clothes but I figured it would blow over with the end of swimsuit season and we would all move on. But here we are in fall and there is a whole new crop of viral posts making the rounds.
The newest one features a mom from here in Austin who bespeckles her article with glamor shots of her shirtless sons flexing while threatening the ban hammer to any and all teenage girls on the internet who arch their back for a photo, thereby causing her poor little boys to stumble. In linking, one friend of mine challenged “C’mon men, help your sisters in Christ by being truthful about how we really work.”
Well as Taylor Mali said, if you ask for it I’ve got to give it to you.
Ladies, I’m a Christian man who struggles with lust. I want to believe that all women are created in God’s image to be loved and appreciated and cared for but that head knowledge doesn’t always reach my heart and sometimes I have a tendency to think of women not in terms of their value as individuals but in terms of their capacity to gratify me and satisfy my felt needs. This process in my head is called objectification. Turning full people with needs and wants and backstories in my imagination into objects that exist for me. That’s a problem, especially because it has a tendency to slip over into the real world and affect how I interact with women.
But let me be clear about something. Objectification isn’t an accident. It’s not like stubbing my toe. It’s an inherent and ongoing sin in my life and I’m really really good at at. So good in fact that I have no trouble objectifying you in a one piece swimsuit. The glamor shots that I am getting from these Christian modesty blogs create no fewer thoughts and feelings in me than ordinary bikini pictures do, and if you are winking at me while trying to do your best Audrey Hepburn pose it will probably do a little more.
Needless to say if stopping me your goal, and you are photographing yourself from the breasts down, with a hand reaching up your inner thigh, as if to say “this is a good swimsuit to take off”. You’ve failed completely.
The good news for you is that that’s my problem. You don’t have to feel guilty for me objectifying you, I have to feel guilty for that. And that’s true no matter what you are wearing. If you want to help me, forgive me! And pray for me.
As to the culture that says it’s on you, I feel a bit responsible for that too. Do you remember how I said objectification has a tendency to slip from my mind into the real world? Well I think it did. Somewhere along the line some men, probably in spiritual leadership like me, struggled with objectification, and it slipped into the real world and they decided that the best thing to do is cover these objects up so they could stop being such a problem for us. We decided that if only we could impose our will on you we could get our needs (for sexual purity) met more easily.
It was a dumb idea.
Now I’m not saying don’t be modest. I’m not saying you don’t know best what to wear. What I’m saying is quite the opposite. Wear what you want because you want to. Don’t let someone like me make you responsible for my sin.