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Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Modesty Survey
A description of The Modesty Survey from their site:

The Modesty Survey was not intended to serve as a scientific measurement of what the average man thinks about modesty. In the strictest sense, it isn't a survey, but a discussion between Christian guys and girls who care about modesty. Over 200 Christian girls submitted their questions. In less than twenty days, over 1,600 Christian guys (12 and up) responded. Close to 200,000 separate pieces of data were collected, including 25,000 text responses.

I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this once you've poked around the site a bit.


While I agree that Christians should be aware of how one's manner of dress and behavior can affect others, I'm a little concerned about some of the (hopefully unintentional) negative messages about sexuality, etc I have come across in several of the institutional attempts to "teach" modesty.


posted by Lydia at 6:42 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 2/20/2007 10:04:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Funny, the girl on the website with the veil, half-face and no body looks far more seductive than the average normal girl going about her business wearing a tank top on a hot summer day. If I recall, a significant number of weddings during the "olden days" were shot-gun style as can be evidenced by comparing time intervals between marriage licenses, so I don't think style of dress is necessarily correlated with promiscuity. It is more the depth of values of people that translate into how we view others and behave toward those whom might trigger a temptation within us. I am all for talking about modesty as it relates to respect and healthy sexuality, but I am not for fear-based repression. Even in Saudi-Arabia there is a sub-culture of prostitutes, so clearly the veil thing is not a cure for wayward mindedness, and in fact mystery often incites intrigue. So let's look at the heart. We need a revolution of genuine respect, not repression. I've written a bit about this on spiritualsensuality if anyone is interested.

  • At 2/20/2007 10:06:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Sorry, that should have been, "time intervals between marriage licenses and birth certificates."

  • At 2/20/2007 11:31:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    The comments cracked me up.

    It's obviously an issue that many people are passionately aware of (he, he, he)...

    What bothers me about the survey is how easy it turns into a list of rules and makes it so that you almost can't where anything without being considered a stumbling block.

    I wear low-riding pants, but also wear shirts that meet them. If and when we go back to high waist pants the complaint will be that too much of the backside is outlined in the shape of the pants. It's one of those "can't win for loosing" situations.

    I agree with Jemila. How we value people is the key factor.

    How do we teach that to our kids? Within our churches? Any thoughts?

  • At 2/21/2007 01:54:00 PM, Blogger Doxallo

    I just can't even comment on this --- I'm positively speechless.

    well, okay -- I'll comment with my first thought - "guys need to get their minds out of the gutter"

    I'm not diminishing the fact that dressing provocatively makes it hard...I'm just saying....the list could go on and on about what might offend and people just need to be mindful and respectful.

  • At 2/21/2007 02:22:00 PM, Blogger sonja

    I read this post and noodled around on the modesty survey late last night. Then I spent some time letting it all percolate. I had to go get my tires changed this morning and while I was sitting in the waiting room watching "I Love Lucy" with my kids it suddenly hit me what I found so offensive about that whole site.

    Every single one of those comments forced the women to bear the responsibility for the men's thoughts and feelings about her sexuality. If only women would dress properly, then men would not be tempted. But that changes from man to man and woman to woman. What I found as I was reading the comments was that men did not want to be responsible for their own thought-life, they want women to bear that responsibility. They used the code words "stumbling-block" to identify this.

    I agree, in general, that we all (men and women) bear a certain level of responsibility to dress appropriately for whatever occasion we are attending. That we should be modest in our dress and not attempt to flaunt our sexuality in the faces in of our opposite gender in hopes of tempting them. However, we also bear the responsibility of engaging with our own thoughts and keeping them under control. We must never push that onto someone else. Women bear this as much as men. I found it interesting that there were no comments about muscle shirts, or ripply forearms or 6-pack abs being a "stumbling-block." This seemed to be all about women holding the key to men's sanctity by how they dress.

    fwiw ...

  • At 2/21/2007 02:31:00 PM, Blogger Lydia

    What bothers me about the survey is how easy it turns into a list of rules and makes it so that you almost can't wear anything without it being considered a stumbling block.

    This was one of the things that bothered me about it.

    Another one was how they appeared to be looking past female sexuality and desire.

    To momentarily generalize, men may tend to be more stimulated visually than women....but that doesn't mean that women never struggle with those reactions and feelings as well.

    Yet most Christians don't seem to want to talk about that side of it.

    While I think the intention of the site creators was honorable, they're still skimming the surface.

    We should be asking things like:

    How do we teach [valuing people] to our kids? Within our churches?

  • At 2/21/2007 02:36:00 PM, Blogger Lydia

    What I found as I was reading the comments was that men did not want to be responsible for their own thought-life

    Some of the men actually did address it on this section of the site: link.

    And I commend them for taking responsibility for their own thoughts and desires.

    But there's still something about this whole thing that bothers me. Not sure what it is, it just feels wrong somehow.

  • At 2/21/2007 03:14:00 PM, Blogger Doxallo

    I agree with all of you and I think I just need to let this one sit for a while......chew on it, see what comes. I did notice the comments on the site where some of the guys took some responsibility. but the mere fact that the site addresses it from only one side seems to just feed into the idea that is a woman's job to make sure a man doesn't stumble - they could have approached modesty from both sides and gone past appearances.

  • At 2/21/2007 04:31:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    I've continued to stew on this.

    I said last night that some of the comments cracked me up. I wasn't really laughing because it was funny, though. It was more that I was so aghast at the comments. That there was even a question as to whether or not cap sleeves is modest/immodest and that comments were made that cap-sleeved shirst are necessarily tied to too-tight tops was essentially surprising to me. That and comments regarding the accidental showing of a bra strap.

    I was in a group of women from my church a year ago or so and they were commenting on the dress of girls they had seen at the mall. One of them linked that type of outfit (tight jeans & short top) to the reason girls get raped.

    For me, that's a perfect example of why this feels wrong to me. In church circles (and out of them as well), there is a tendency to affirm "rugged" masculinity and a warrior-type reflection of God for men. In that, it's easy to also make assumptions that men are naturally more aggressive and physically passionate...kind of going with a gut instinct response. As a result, it becomes easier for the effected community to understand these passions and lusts of men. It then turns to the women to put a stop sign in front of her. The problem is, then, that the stop sign looks different to different men. For some, it requires a stop sign, plus a door with several layers of furniture piled up behind it.

    I believe women and men should dress appropriately. I realize "appropriate" can sound ambiguous. There was a comment or two in the survey asking the women to check what they're wearing with a father or other adults(s) they trust. Great advice for both women and men.

    Fundamentally, though, I think we need to start ephasizing the intent of the heart and holding one another accountable in our actions and heart attitude. That applies to both men and women in the area of modesty and thought-life.

  • At 2/22/2007 07:00:00 AM, Blogger wilsford

    i'm with jemila on this: the very first thing that jumped out was a sexualized photo of a woman at the top of the page.

    c'mon, we all recognize the underlying theme when we see an image of a woman playing peek-a-boo with gauze effect photo-finishing.

  • At 2/22/2007 07:16:00 AM, Blogger wilsford

    holy cow. i just went and paid more attention to the questions. how incredibly degrading. that's not a modesty survey, it's a sexual distraction survey.

    those are two entirely different concepts, but i'll have to think about how to articulate that.

    finally, as the mother of two sons, it ticks me off that there is an expectation that they interpret women in terms of sexual arousal. i'm not saying that they have trained themselves into not noticing young women. instead, they have learned that young women are real, live human beings, not objects of sexual attraction.

    sexual attraction is a natural part of life. you deal with that, not try to force an artificial change.

    *sigh, but then, the traditional church teaches that Man is biblically mandated to subdue, huh? and that means it's ok to subdue nature by controlling others rather than by confronting one's own behaviors.

  • At 2/22/2007 07:41:00 AM, Blogger sonja

    wilsford said - *sigh, but then, the traditional church teaches that Man is biblically mandated to subdue, huh? and that means it's ok to subdue nature by controlling others rather than by confronting one's own behaviors.

    That's a very key distinction there. I want to percolate on that for a while. But I think you've really hit on something.

  • At 2/22/2007 07:43:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Have you ever noticed that male church leaders (pastors, youth pastors, famous guest speakers,) almost always make a point of gesturing toward, "my beautiful wife, so and so..." It occurs to me that too many Christian relationships are built almost exclusively on the male's sexual attraction to the female, based on her physical beauty. I have never heard a reasonably conservative Christian male leader refer reverently to his wife in terms of, "my amazing wife who just discovered a gene that might help alzheimers," Or, "My amazing wife whose public speaking puts mine to shame -- you should go hear her speak at townhall on Thursday about social justice in our community." I feel that the entire value system toward women needs to shift before men and boys will be able to stop obsessing about sex and focus on women as whole people, worthy of the utmost respect.

    And likewise, when our values change toward men -- when we REALLY value their vulnerable feelings and don't secretly want them to be our superman providers all the time, then men will have more freedom to become the kind of guys who can be whole human beings and become more connective and communicative on deeper levels.

  • At 2/22/2007 08:38:00 AM, Blogger Deb

    I had heard of this site and thought I might visit it with my girls. I am very glad I did not.

    Boy, does it send the wrong message! If you are female and I lust after you because you are wearing/not wearing x/y/z it is immodest and therefore YOUR fault. (OK, that's a paraphrase!)

    I will not raise my girls to be strumpets. (I blogged about that HERE. But I will also not raise them to be cowering victims or guilt-ridden women of God!!!!!

    "Character, intelligence, and personality are more important than physical beauty."

    This is probably the first one that jumped out at me... Must be why there are no ugly cheerleaders or homecoming queens... they all have great characters, intelligence and personalities. I am tired of hearing that, mostly because while I am not first place in the ugly contest, I was never one of those drop-dead photo-shoot types in high school either. Our society is hung up on looks. And the guys who answer this survey are probably not being honest with themselves, either.

    Seeing even an inch of skin between the bottom of a girl's shirt and her pants is a stumbling block.
    Wearing pants with words across the backside is a stumbling block.

    Whatever happened to talking to a woman's FACE, not her belly or her butt?

    And whatever happened to self-discipline and working to control the mind. And hey - is there a site for women to weigh in on MEN???

    I am disgusted. Please don't make living for God a bunch of rules or we will all be wearing burkas...



  • At 2/22/2007 10:27:00 AM, Anonymous Linda

    I am avoiding going to this site because I know my blood pressure will go up and any attempts I've made at relaxing this week will be shot.

    I just finished reading the book, Reading Lolita in Tehran, the memoir of a female professor of English literature in Iran. While I certainly wouldn't want to compare American Christianity to the Islamist revolutionaries who took over Iran, there are enough attempts to legislate morality by Christians here that cause me to think that fundamentalists of any religion are cut from the same cloth, so to speak.

    If we give the power of modesty to a person or committee, where do the lines get drawn? By whose standards do we agree to dress? The most conservative so that no one stumbles? As my husband says, a woman could wear a barrel, and some guy would find a way to unbarrel her with his eyes.

    Years ago, as a much younger and very conservative woman, I found myself drawn into a situation where I told another young woman that she didn't dress modestly enough to mentor a teenage girl. (I was the leader of women's mentoring in our church.) Fortunately, the other woman stood up to me, and I learned something about my own arbitrary standards of modesty and the church's problem with power between men and women. I remember this moment with great shame. But at the same time, I remember it as the split second when the grip of fundamentalism began weakening its hold on me and the grace of God began to peak through.

    The area of dress is an area that Christians need to make sure they are not making a profession out of being the "weaker brother" and allow the grace of God to inform attitudes toward others who dress in ways that may give rise to discomfort.

  • At 2/22/2007 11:34:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    I also think boys and men receive a damaging message when they keep hearing in church about how men are so visual that they "can't help it" because they are innately "visual." They may find a woman beautiful or attractive, but viewing her as a piece of meat to be consumed is not a Christian concept; it's more a philosophy of neanderthal/evolutionary helplessness couched in Christian language. I am convinced that if they focus of Men's Breakfasts and the like shifted away from focusing primarily on the temptation of women's bodies and moved toward talking about healing patriarchy for both sexes, promoting grace in the workplace, putting family first even when it means sacrificing a promotion, and fostering economics that bless all the families of the earth, then somehow the girl in the mini skirt might be put into proper perspective. This is not to say that men should not have a safe friend or group or men with whom to share a genuine struggle with their sexuality, just that the focus of men's groups has become detrimentally myopic.

  • At 6/07/2007 07:16:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

    If "The Modesty Survey" was unpalatable, please refer to the book, "For Women Only," by Shaunti Feldhan. The chapter entitled "Keeper of the Visual Rolodex" is rather enlightening. As easy as is to make this about impingement of our personal rights (a very Western concept, btw), this is a very real issue for men. The high road of Christianity calls us to think of others before ourselves. We are also to not follow the ways of this world, but to be transformed. As cute as the current trends and styles may appeal (and I recognize that I am simply referring to modesty in how we dress), we really do need to consider the impact we have on our brothers. Our self-respect and dignity as daughters of heaven. A book by Wendy Shalit (secular Jew, I think) called, "A Return to Modesty" is also worth a read.


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