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