Nuking the Modesty War, Part II: Stop Treating Men Like Pigs

This series is a response to this post about the evils of yoga pants. You can find Part I here:

Nuking the Modesty Wars, Part 1: Control Yourself, Not Women

Dear Christian Women of the Internet: STOP TREATING MEN LIKE FERAL PIGS

Seriously, even if they look at you with those big eyes that say, “it’s just so hard,” and “you don’t understand” and you feel really guilty because you don’t understand, don’t treat them like helpless lust-puppies. Don’t let them treat themselves like that. For the purposes of the internet, when your fingers get the urge to go type-typity on your keyboard to explain how HEROIC your boyfriend is for his daily battle against yoga pants, don’t instead. You’re not doing him any favors, and you’re certainly not making him look good.

When we dress in a way that has even the potential to cause a man to lust, we create an unnecessary war against his soul.

Think about that for a moment.

(Read the rest here)

Seriously, think about that for a moment.

That is some pretty messed up shizzle to say.

Hemingway famously wrote an erotically detailed passage about a woman’s hair. That’s right, ladies. Your hair has the potential to cause a man to lust. Better burn it, chop it, or cover it up, post-haste!

No? No one rushing for the scissors yet?

I get that you don’t want to tempt him. That’s admirable. That shows you care about him a great deal. Don’t suppress that instinct to protect him. It’s charitable to be conscientious of how you dress, especially if he struggles with lust…within reason. Don’t, for example, discard your pants. Don’t cover every single inch of yourself. It’s simply impossible to prevent every single situation that might arouse a man. Some men have a foot fetish. Should we really all give up our flip-flops and cover our pedicures so that no man with a foot-fetish ever stumbles again? Sometimes men get turned on by nothing in particular. A smell, maybe, that triggers a memory, or the sight of a curl falling against a girl’s neck. Do we invent an olfactory-suppressing anti-perfume? Ban curls, necks, girls?

The fact is, women’s bodies have the potential to make men lust, even the disfigured and mutilated feet of Chinese girls. All good things can potentially be turned and twisted by evil and sin. The flowy skirt you choose for Mass could be swept against your legs in a sudden gust of wind and the outline of your legs could catch a man’s eye. It could spark his desire. But the move from attraction to lust is on him.

Lust, as I understand it, is neither attraction nor desire. Lust is the entirely selfish desire to use another person’s body for your own pleasure.

“The more you cover up the more [a Christian man] will want you. Men like mystery, and when you reveal that mystery walking down the street, there is no reason for them to pursue you. They’ve already gotten their reward.”             – Mr. M

Would you like to reward passing men with a glimpse of your body?

Men who couldn’t care less about who you are?

(Read the rest here.)

What neither the author nor her boyfriend seem to understand is that if he thinks that her body is a reward for a man, that it is the sole reason she is worth “pursuing,” he is unquestionably one of those men who couldn’t care less about who she is. He’s one of those men who has bought into the lie that because he is helpless in the face of temptation, the fault must lie with the  temptress.

A woman who believes her body is a reward is a man is one who has forgotten, or who perhaps never learned, that we are more than the sum of our parts. It may be that no one has ever expected her to learn it, but she should.

Your body is not someone’s reward. It is you. Soul and body, inextricably linked. A woman’s body is not an object to be pursued. It’s also not a “stumbling block”, some kind of ever-present threat to a man’s purity of heart that must therefore be covered up.

Can you see why this is a self-defeating strategy?

Women are good and beautiful, including our sexuality. God made us that way for a reason. He also made men good and beautiful…including their sexuality. If we expect men to realize that our bodies are integral to our humanity, we must also realize that their sexuality is likewise integral to theirs. We simply cannot demand their respect if we refuse to give them ours.

Do not fall for the lie that a man cannot see the curve of a derrière without being immediately and irrevocably caught up in the throes of lascivious fantasies. Men are NOT helpless in the face of sexual stimuli. I can’t pretend to understand the effect women’s bodies have on men. I will never truly appreciate the depth of that struggle. Charity demands that we women not ignore that. But coddling a man is just as disrespectful as intentionally dressing to provoke lust.

If you hysterically try to remove all potential temptations for a man, not only in your own closet but in closets of women everywhere, on supermarket shelves, on Middle Eastern streets, you’re being just as cold and callous as women who dress seductively and enjoy the burning, unrequited passion they kindle. Both see men as little more than animals, and their own bodies as little more than objects of animalistic desire.

Our bodies are more than objects of desire, nevertheless they are objects of desire. And that is not an inherent evil. The fact that men find women’s bodies beautiful and desirable is good! The fact that women enjoy being desired is good! It is not a sin for a man to be sexually attracted to a woman. It’s not a sin for a woman to enjoy that attraction and to reciprocate it. That’s kind of how marriage happens and babies are made. The sin is when sexual attraction is divorced from virtue, when there is a desire for one part of someone without respect for the person as a whole.

Men are worthy of respect as full, complete, good human beings. It feels so stupid to type that, because it’s such an obvious thing, but I’ve seen women who hold a man in the highest of regards express resigned contempt when it comes to his sexuality. It shames me to say it, but I’ve been that woman. I’ve treated my husband like his sexuality is a pitiable but inexorable thing, instead of an integral part of the man I love.

The idea that men are sexual animals is a lie that is fed to us on all sides. Do not buy into it. Do not let him buy into it. He is so much more than that. Your responsibility as a woman is not to protect a man from every potential temptation. He is not your child. He is not your pet. He is not a helpless slave to the forces of female sexuality. He is a human being, a body and soul created by God. Your responsibility as a woman is to treat him like one.

If you coddle a man because you think he can’t control himself, he’ll believe that he can’t control himself. If you showcase your cleavage because you think men are only after one thing, he’ll believe that one thing is all you have to offer. A man’s sexual desire is not merely some biological fail-safe to ensure the survival of the race. It’s intricately tied up in who he is and how he loves. If he doesn’t develop the virtue of chastity before marriage, his desires will still be unchaste within it. He will still be tormented by lust. And you will both suffer for it.

Not even dignerriers?

I’m not saying we should all just wear yoga pants to help men develop self-control and chastity.

I’m saying that if we understand “modesty” to mean nothing more than dressing to prevent male lust, we don’t understand it at all. There is an indefinable mixture of virtue, charity, chastity, and humility that must come together in a woman’s soul to produce a true modesty.* It is not a set of rules. It can never come down to degrees of tightness or inches of flesh. There simply is no way to prevent physical attraction and desire. If we set about to eliminate lust by eliminating the cause, we can only end by eliminating ourselves. 

Men are not beasts. They are capable of attaining great virtue and resisting enormous temptation. The best way we can help them is by letting them.



*It’s indefinable for me because I don’t have it down yet.


  • Nathaniel

    Thank you. Thank you. THANK YOU.

    This one of the many reasons I am a feminist. Because feminists don’t treat me like a barely contained wild animal who can be provoked to rape and helpless paroxysms of uncontrollable lust the moment I see an exposed ankle.

    It is a ever enduring note of black humor for me that its feminists who are accused of being “man-haters.”

    • Brian Anthony

      hahaha speak for yourself.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      In my experience as a feminist, the real “man-haters” are often the ones accusing me of being one. These people are often men themselves, usually dudebros arguing vehemently against me when I dare to suggest that men are not all a bunch of lechers and rapists waiting to happen and that they have the ability, as full, complex human beings worthy of respect to see women as such also. I have a much higher opinion of men than this all-too-common guy because I expect better from them and know from experience that these expectations are reasonable and realistic. But the thing is, this guy doesn’t want more to be expected of him because he doesn’t want to expect more from himself. That might involve work! He might have to take a good, long look at the way he thinks of and treats women in his life and make some changes. Change is hard, yo! He might even have to say to one of his buddies that what he just said about that woman, or the way he treats his girlfriend is not okay. Doing the right thing when other people are too lazy or cowardly to do it is awkward, man! So he lets himself off the hook by convincing himself that he views women as things to be won or taken because that is simply his inevitable destiny as a man and that all other men are like this too because it is their very nature. Therefore, if I have a problem with men doing this, it must be because I hate men, not because he does. Because, really, these are very hateful ideas to have about half the human race.

  • tracymoschelspenst

    Thank you for taking a whole different approach than I’ve heard before. My oldest son, now 19, would agree and appreciate it. During high school he served on our diocesan youth council. One time the group was in Walmart and he chose to stand in the line without magazines even though it was longer. A girl in the group told him to come to the shorter line so they all could go faster. When he came to that line he stood there looking around like we all do and there was a magazine (you know!) and she snapped, “Don’t look at that!” He didn’t say anything, but he was ticked, insulted and deeply annoyed with her. And he knew nothing he could say would make any difference. She was convinced every man has a lust issue. They might, but they don’t all give in to it.

  • Mom2Many

    If men were all helpless to women’s bodies, what about those tribes in Africa, etc. where the women are/were so scantily clothed, bare breasted? Were the men of those tribes just consumed with lust that they followed them around trying to act on their lust? That’s never the perception I had. Just sayin’.

  • Beth Turner

    I would recommend Saint Augustine’s work on the three stages of sin: suggestion (things like curls, smells, feet, etc. that you mention about), pleasure (the sin doesn’t even start here, because arousal/pleasure can be sort of involuntary), then consent (this is actually where the sin begins). This is especially freeing to men, who are sometimes made to think that experiencing any thought or pleasure about a woman to whom they are not married is evil. It’s also freeing to women to realize that “lust” on the part of a man involves more than just seeing a woman wear something beautiful. This can all happen within one’s mind, and it’s very relevant to this topic. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!