Chocolate Cake Can’t Consent

Note: After I wrote this post and slated it to go up today—I frequently write posts in advance and then schedule them—I noticed that Samantha of Defeating the Dragons had just posted an awesome look at it herself. Check it out

I recently came upon a Christian blogger explaining why she doesn’t wear bikinis—using all the standard purity culture rhetoric of course—and this one paragraph really stuck out at me:

Let’s try and put ourselves in a guy’s shoes. I think we can all agree that as girls, exercise is important to us. We want to stay healthy and are often working on getting fit. We work out and stay away from carbs or sweets. We use all of our willpower to not eat the chocolate cake on the counter! Now, let’s pretend that someone picked up that chocolate cake and followed us around all the time, 24/7. We can never get away from the chocolate, it’s always right there, tempting us and even smelling all ooey gooey and chocolate-y. Most of us, myself included, would find it easy to break down and eat the cake. And we would probably continue to break down and eat cake, because it would always be there. Our exercise goals would be long gone in no time.

Taken simply, this analogy is very rapey. It seems to suggest that all men are rapists who may break down at any minute and rape some poor woman who wasn’t properly dressed. After all, chocolate cake can’t consent. It’s an inanimate object. You don’t have to get its permission before eating it—you can just take it. And in this analogy, you get so overcome by desire at the sight of it that you “break down” and devour it. But women aren’t inanimate objects. We choose with whom we want to have sex, and when. Unless he’s a rapist, a man who is around attractive women in bikinis won’t be able to jut “break down” and have sex with them. It doesn’t work like that. This analogy might make at least a little bit of sense if the author was discussing a guy being surrounded by attractive consenting women throwing themselves at him. But she’s not.

There’s an alternate interpretation, of course. It could be that the analogy isn’t supposed to be pointing at sex but rather simply at lust. The trouble is, that’s a bad comparison too. Actually eating the chocolate cake isn’t analogous to lusting after a woman—thinking about eating the chocolate cake would be. We women are not consumed when a man thinks about us sexually (or when a man actually has sex with us, for that matter). There’s something else, too. There’s no reason for chocolate cake to be paraded around a person besides trying to entice them to eat it, so the analogy suggests that women dress sexy simply to tempt men sexually, taunting them and keeping them on the brink of “breaking down.” And that’s both incorrect and an incredibly destructive way of viewing women.

The blogger goes on to say this:

Girls are walking around all the time with barely any clothes on at the beach or pool! Guys can never get a break from it, even if they’re trying to see past all the bodies to find the smiles and personalities within the girls.

Coming right after the above analogy, this is confusing. There’s nothing deeper in chocolate cake. It has no purpose whatsoever other than looking delicious and being eaten—no purpose but to pleasure the senses. Comparing women to chocolate cake right before arguing that women need to be seen as more than just sexy bodies to be consumed is just weird.

I don’t actually think the author herself was clear on whether she used the chocolate cake example to illustrate how immodestly clad women tempt men to rape or tempt men to lust. And perhaps that elision is part of the story here, part of the problem with the rhetoric of purity culture. The way the author talks about “how easy it is to break down” and eat the cake when it’s staring you in the face is problematic regardless of which way she intended it to be taken.

It’s interesting to note the ease with which the author can argue that she wants men to see women as people, and not as sex objects, while comparing women to inanimate objects and without ever mentioning the term consent. It seems to me, after all, that teaching consent is a primary way we can help ensure that men see us as people rather than sex toys. As long as they keep reading analogies about how women are chocolate cake just begging to be consumed, they’re not going to see women as fully equal individuals who are able to make their own decisions about sex. In fact, rather than seeing them as equal individuals they may even end up resenting women as cruel temptresses who just want to torture them.

And there’s also the fact that covering up doesn’t fix anything—besides adding all sorts of problems, it doesn’t even actually make men stop thinking sexual thoughts about them (remember that picture of those two men leering at a woman in a burka?). Women have breasts and vaginas and hips and curves, and it’s impossible to cover up enough to erase men’s knowledge of that. This makes a good segue into the photo of a “modest” swimsuit the author included in her post—a photo to contrast to what women look like in bikinis. Here is the photo:

The thing is, that woman is incredibly hot. Maybe it’s just my type or something, but she’s extremely sexy. And yes, men (and some women!) will feel what the author of this post would call “lust” for that woman when they see her in that swimsuit—and, for some, even when they see just the picture. And given that this is the picture the author chose to showcase good modest swimsuits, she must not realize that. And I find that highly, highly ironic.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Composer 99

    It [chocolate cake] has no purpose whatsoever other than looking delicious and being eaten—no purpose but to pleasure the senses.

    And ohmigod does it do the job…. mmm… chocolate cake…

    (Also, spot on analysis Libby Anne. Okay, back to fantasizing about eating tasty, delicious chocolate cake… mmm….)

  • Kellen

    I could really go for some chocolate cake right now.

    Funny you should mention the point about modest swimsuits not doing a damn thing to curb lust on the same day that I reached the same conclusion; I saw my first “Burquini” and all it did was remind me of the insane lady-crush I once had on the Pink Ranger.

    • Little Magpie

      I know, me too (about the chocolate cake).

      Mmm.. chocolate cake….

    • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com/ Basketcase

      Right, I’m off to make chocolate muffins. Its given me a craving too :P

  • Rilian Sharp

    This reminded me of something. I once told a friend that I was not interested in having sex, at all, with anyone, ever; and he said that would just make “guys” want to pursue me more, seeing it as a challenge. Ew.

    • The_L1985

      Ugh. It also reminds me of when I was in high school. I had some pretty serious crushes, but wasn’t sure how you’re supposed to talk to a boy you like. I asked my dad for advice because “boys just don’t notice me,” and he told me to play hard-to-get.

      So I’m supposed to play hard-to-get…with guys who barely acknowledge my existence. HTF is that supposed to work, anyway? Generally when you avoid talking to or otherwise interacting with people, they make the logical assumption that you don’t like them.

  • Kathleen

    It’s an awesome swimsuit – I’d wear it myself because I don’t feel comfortable in a bikini after having had a baby and having my body change and yes, be less fit than it used to be (I’m not sixteen anymore either and I personally feel that there is something to that whole ‘aging gracefully’ adage and string bikinis have their place on younger women). Your analysis is spot-on!

    • Kate Monster

      Yeah, that was my first thought too: I wanna buy that swimsuit! Where can I find it?

    • Lunch Meat

      I actually look better in a one-piece, because it accentuates my curves while holding in my stomach. The only way I could avoid showing off curves would be to wear a bathrobe to the beach.

  • Sarah-Sophia

    If you think about it, it’s actually the women who do the “consuming” during sex.

  • Lunch Meat

    This is actually a sort of apt comparison, but totally not in the way she’s talking about it. I like chocolate as much as anyone, but I bake frequently and can have plenty of sweets around without having more than 1, maybe 2 servings a day. I’m not obsessed with dieting, exercise or having a perfect body, so I let myself indulge every once in a while without breaking down or eating all of it, without losing control of myself. I can also hang around my sexy husband in boxer shorts all day without obsessing about him, because I’m not obsessed with purity and I let myself indulge (rather, we indulge each other). If these people would accept their bodies’ wants and needs and not focus on “sinful” things while telling themselves they can’t have it, I think they’d feel better.

    • Lunch Meat

      Also, this–”Guys can never get a break from it”–doesn’t make sense. She’s talking about bikinis, yes? Men can only “not get a break” if they’re always at the beach or pool. They choose to go there. She could be talking about the “immodest” clothes women wear “all the time,” but in that case it really does sound like women have to pretend not to have curves or bodies for the sake of men. If she’s just talking about the beach or pool, the comparison would be a dieting person who chooses to go to a party or wedding complaining that there’s chocolate cake being displayed, tempting them and smelling delicious–not someone “following them around” with cake.

      • The_L1985

        I live in southern Florida. Where the Boys Are (or at least were in the 50′s). My cousin, her husband, and her very fundamentalist brother were all in town, and she suggested going to the beach. Fundie Cousin insisted that he couldn’t do that, because he might see women in their bikinis and that would be a fate worse than death or something.

        Never mind that in August, the coeds are back home, the locals are tired of the beach, and thus the place was completely deserted. He could not go because lust.

        …If he’s seriously lusting after me when I wear a bikini, that boy has some serious problems.

    • Stev84

      It’s all part of that “If you even lust after a woman you have already committed adultery” crap. There is just no spectrum of lust. All is equally bad. And even something like appreciation is misinterpreted as “lust”.

      Sure, if men stare and ogle really obviously that’s bad, but there is nothing wrong with just noticing that someone is attractive and even having sexual thoughts about them as long as you keep it to yourself.

      And then of course they also forbid masturbation. They sexualize everything and give people no outlet.

      • Hat Stealer

        It’s really a measure of how repressed they are if they think that men go around barely being able stop themselves from raping willy nilly. Repression isn’t natural, and it leads to a state of mind where you really do contemplate doing horrible things sexually. I don’t think that the Catholic Church just happened to have the bad luck of hiring all the pedophiles to be priests- I think it was the result of decades of sexual repression coupled with the ready availability of children.

      • http://Thechurchproject.me/ Tracey

        No spectrum of lust seems like it would also have the effect of making the sin of rape *only* as bad as the sin of lusting in one’s heart. Which is messed up.

      • minuteye

        But men staring and ogling really obviously isn’t bad for the reasons that purity culture seems to think it is. It’s bad because it makes other people (particularly the object of the ogle) feel uncomfortable and distressed, but the modesty proponents seem totally okay with people feeling uncomfortable, so long as it makes them behave the way they’d like them to.

      • writegurl

        Thanks so much for writing this information. I’ve believed/felt the way you described for years but never expressed these thoughts.

  • http://www.blogger.com/home?pli=1 Coleslaw

    Women have breasts and vaginas and hips and curves, and it’s impossible to cover up enough to erase men’s knowledge of that.

    Even worse: I was participating in a thread about “where did your screen name come from” on a message board that is primarily a sports board. Nobody there has ever laid eyes on me. My name there is greengirl, from the team color of my alma mater. I had one poster tell me that my name meant that I was an attention whore who just wanted everyone to know I have a vagina.

    Okay, I think it is remotely possible that he was just making a lame attempt at a joke, because he was making nasty comments about a lot of the names (and annoying a lot of people in the process), but if it weren’t for my policy of not responding to people who say truly brainless things to me, I would have pointed out to him that over 50% of the population has a vagina, so it’s hardly a big deal.

    • Lucreza Borgia

      How do you think Christians react to my name? :D

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        With great hilarity?

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001411188910 Lucreza Borgia

        If they even recognize it in the first place, I get asked why I would choose to name myself after a “whore and a poisoner” or if I am Catholic or some other such nonsense. I actually had a woman agree with my comment and then go on to point out that she “couldn’t condone [my] screen-name.”

        Other times it’s “Filthy Lucre” or “Lucre Demon”.

      • gimpi1

        Why on earth would she thing she has to “condone” your screen-name?

        Really, it’s come to that. We now sit in judgement of screen-names. Wow. Just wow.

        As an aside, I like it, Lucreza.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        Oh, do tell!

        *interested ears*

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001411188910 Lucreza Borgia

        See below

      • The_L1985

        I wouldn’t think most Christians knew enough about the history of the RCC to recognize your screenname.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001411188910 Lucreza Borgia

        Most don’t but that doesn’t stop them from coming up with silly names.

  • XakirTatsu

    1) Women can only be cake in the imaginary world where Axe/Linx body spray attracts women like catnip. (The ads tend to be on the misogynist side but I still assume consent there.)

    2) The pictured woman, is not very curvy and has small breasts. Perhaps the Christian bloger thought that made them less “tempting.” :/

  • Kristofer Rhodes

    I believe the analogy is supposed to work like this:

    Not eating the cake is to treating women as people

    as

    Eating the cake is to treating women like sex objects.

    (Where “treating women as sex objects” shouldn’t be taken to refer to rape or molestation exclusively, but rather, thinking of them for their sexual value.)

    • Rilian Sharp

      But it’s up to the cake to make sure you don’t eat it.

      • Caila

        If only the cake would stop being so delicious and chocolatey. If it made itself of tire rubber and pine needles instead nobody would want to rape and/or eat it.

      • Alice

        Yes, darn cake! If only it looked like this: http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Make-an-Evil-Clown-Cake/

      • sceptinurse

        I would really like to unsee that now.

    • Alice

      I think that most Christians who write about modesty/purity automatically assume that the audience knows sexual abuse is not part of the lesson, since it is so rarely discussed in Christian culture (maaybe a two-second mention on a good day). Which is a big problem within itself.

      • Rosa

        except sexual abuse ends up being a part of the lesson, because people within the culture who are being abused are getting the same lesson. Communication is between the speaker and the audience, it’s not just the speaker’s intention or what they foresaw as their reception.

      • Alice

        Absolutely.

  • Lorelei

    Yeah. Put me in that swimsuit and I’d not look very ‘modest’. I wasn’t that flat at age 12. Nor at 9. And you could count my ribs then.

    Now? Heh. Give me board shorts, yes (so my thighs don’t chafe!), but I’ll be wearing two pieces and rocking it. Besides, I’m a 12 on the bottom and a 34DD… you do realize that combo is not made in the same size, eh?

    • Alexis

      I feel your pain, Lorelei! Size 14 pants and size 36E bra, with rather broad shoulders and a well-defined waist. There is no way for me to dress without people being able to see my curves. None at all. So what am I supposed to do, wear a cardboard box?

      • Lorelei

        We have the same body-type. It is impossible, and I have no love for cardboard.

        And the same taste in symbols! I have a triquetra tattooed on my ring finger. :)

      • Alexis

        Mine is getting tattooed on the back of my neck as the second part of my full-body piece. It’ll be fun!

    • The_L1985

      36-28-36. And like Sir Mix-a-Lot’s joke about the ideal woman with those measurements, I’m pretty petite. The only way to conceal my curves would be a burqa.

  • http://thisishysterical.wordpress.com/ Rebecca Morgan

    Some of the other commenters have touched on this, but one of the things that really bothers me about modesty culture is how it demonizes larger ladies. Like Lorelei said, some of us won’t look ‘modest’ even in the type of swimsuit pictured. I’m a curvy lady – I try my best to dress appropriately for work, but there’s only so many ways to downplay DD breasts. A dress that would be pretty neutral on a slimmer, smaller-chested gal would be cleavage city on me, not to mentioned the prominence of my butt/hips in anything that remotely hugs my shape. Yet it’s still my fault if I’m ‘showing too much’ and it’s still my responsibility to cover up, even if its not skin I’m showing, just the curve of my figure through my clothes. Some days I feel like the only way to completely avoid offending coworkers/supervisors would be to wear a big, shapeless sack. I can’t stop being woman-shaped unless i go to that extreme, and its pretty unjust to expect it of me just because some dudes find that distractingly attractive.

    • http://lanahobbs.wordpress.com/ lana hobbs

      People – other people – just need to get over curves already. :/

    • shortcake

      ALL OF THIS!
      I am 25, and I’m STILL dealing with the disgusting damage fallout that modesty and purity culture (through my parents and grandparents) has wrought upon my soul and self-confidence. I cannot leave my house without at least changing twice, because what I have on is “inappropriate.” There is usually nothing wrong with the majority of the clothes I wear, but because there is a lot of me, it’s going to show, and I have to try to find some way to hide it.
      It’s frustrating, tiring, and downright discouraging.

    • The_L1985

      I am pear-shaped and have a bit of a tummy. I have not been able to wear a dress since high school without looking several months pregnant. I feel your pain. :/

  • JohnH2

    There should be a moratorium on all references that compare females with food items for any reason whatsoever. No commercials showing women as fruit to promote diets, and no analogies for any purpose of women as food. Women are not food or objects so all such comparisons are inherently degrading to women and any point that is trying to get made via such an analogy is from the start fatally flawed.

    If one is not able to explain what one means without resorting to such an analogy then one really needs to rethink ones position.

    • smrnda

      Definitely! People tend to dismiss these things because they aren’t intended to be serious, but it’s really following the same rules as any other dehumanizing propaganda.

      I also wonder about the mental state and warped worldview of people who seem to need to make women/food comparisons.

      • JohnH2

        What is insane is that the claim is made that modesty is about not objectifying women, and so women are compared to objects in order to teach modesty.

      • AztecQueen2000

        Oh, dear G-d, yes! If I had a nickel for every time I saw the “diamonds vs. potatoes” analogy (diamonds are locked away, potatoes are out in the open) I would be very wealthy.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        What? I’ve never heard this analogy. Is it that diamonds are precious so they get locked away (women should be locked away so they keep their precious purity) and potatoes are out in the open for anyone to eat/fuck?

      • AztecQueen2000

        Essentially, yes. “And would you rather be a bracelet or a potato?” Considering that potatoes are living entities that supply nutrients while diamond bracelets are purely ornamental (and non-living), I would actually choose the potato.

      • smrnda

        Not to mention, you should keep potatoes out of the sun unless you want them
        turning green or growing eyes.

      • phantomreader42

        But turning green and growing extra eyes would be AWESOME!

      • ako

        Yeah, all those analogies are deeply unconvincing. Being an treated as an object doesn’t become awesome and unappealing because you’re treated as an object worth lots of money, and anyone who thinks it does betrays a depressingly narrow worldview.

      • onamission5

        Ding!
        A huge freaking ding sound just went off in my head. Years and years of immersion in purity culture, decades of attempting to extricate myself, and suddenly… whammo. Circular logic revealed.

  • aim2misbehave

    “Girls are walking around all the time with barely any clothes on at the beach or pool! Guys can never get a break from it…”

    And we can never get a break from guys walking around all the time with no shirts at all at the beach or pool, either, yet somehow nobody thinks this is a problem.

    (It reminds me of a post on Tumblr I saw the other day that said “If I took a picture of a topless woman and photoshopped man nipples over her nipples, would that be effective censorship?”)

    • Anat

      That’s because women never get attracted to anyone ever/ don’t really want sex/ aren’t visual. Or something.

      • Mogg

        Yep. I totally didn’t enjoy seeing an incredibly fit young man taking his shirt off after a run as I drove past yesterday.

      • Lunch Meat

        You probably just imagined that he was starting a load of laundry, since that’s the real turn-on for women. /sarcasm

    • Stev84

      They’ll just say “men are more visual”. Just look at the comments there. Despite there being studies that straight women can be aroused by watching both men and women.

      • http://lanahobbs.wordpress.com/ lana hobbs

        That whole men are visual stuff really messed me up when I married a non visual man. I thought something was seriously wrong with my body or his mind… But the only problem was that I was taught ‘how men are’ with no room for differences.

      • NeaDods

        That “how men are” thing makes me crazy. It assumes that I know NO other men than the one being described to me, and thus that said talker knows more about my brother, father, uncle, cousin, and all my male friends than I do.

        Uh, NO.

    • J-Rex

      My mom was trying to convince me to buy a new prom dress because the one I bought was strapless *gasp.* She was trying to get me to understand how immodest it was and asked, “Would you want your brothers to see you in that?”
      First of all: Creepy.
      Second: My brothers go around shirtless all the time and no one ever has a problem with that even though I am very attracted to other shirtless men.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001411188910 Lucreza Borgia

        Wait…was she trying to insinuate that your brothers would think less of you because of a strapless dress?

      • J-Rex

        I think it was more along the lines of how we feel uncomfortable thinking of relatives in sexual context, so she was saying the the dress was indecent enough to make them feel weird.

      • Ellie

        My mother did this to me too, if I even wanted to wear tank tops around the house. She would always say, “There are men in the house!” like it was some giant scandal. One day, I got really tired of it, so I made her sit down and explain it to me. She said my father and brothers might try something if they saw me walking around in inappropriate clothing, so I had to be more careful.

        She was not joking.

      • NeaDods

        That is really sick. Your mother essentially said that she was married to an incestuous pedophile and raised incestuous rapists… and if anything happened, it was YOUR fault! That is really, really sick.

      • Ellie

        Modesty culture at its finest.

      • sylvia_rachel

        OMG :(

      • The_L1985

        That is the most disgusting, twisted “logic” I’ve ever heard. Did you tell your mother that she was implying your family consisted of incestuous monsters who would indiscriminately have sex with you just because You Have Boobs?

      • Ellie

        Um. I guess I sort of told her that, but nicer sounding. It didn’t do any good though. That logic made sense to her, and it made sense to my sisters. It just never made much sense to me.

  • smrnda

    On the chocolate cake, seriously, we all ARE bombarded by chocolate cake
    every day. Go into a store, cafe, restaurant, gas station, anywhere,
    and you’ll find some variant of chocolate cake there. In a more or less
    urban area, I doubt anybody is really ever more than 5 minutes away from
    an encounter with a chocolate cake. Most people adjust and learn to
    filter it out.

    From my dealings with Christians, I tend to find that many view sexual morality as exclusively a matter of restraint – a contest between a sex drive and willpower, with terms like ‘avoiding stumbling-blocks’ and ‘lust’ being bantered about. It’s different from the way I’ve always thought about sexual ethics, where issues like objectification are more important. The issue isn’t men trying to restrain themselves, it’s men trying *not to see women as sexual objects.* If a man thinks of women as sexual objects when they’re in bikinis, he’s going to think of them as sexual objects when they’re in hijab. It’s an issue of perspective.

    Though on restraint, I have never really been that much into sweets, but I do like drinking beer and some hard liquors. I don’t find that I’m incapable of not guzzling down booze every second of every day, even when it’s around. There is a bottle of bourbon in my kitchen that I see every day, and only rarely am I moved to actually have some. As a note, when I briefly attended a church and did a Bible study, this seemed to really shock people – it seemed most people believed you could either not drink, or drink only very rarely, or else you’d be binging day in and day out. I mean, imagine a guy who is a lifeguard at a beach. I’m sure that after doing that job for a while, the guy’s not going to react much to women in bathing suits.

    • Scott_In_OH

      Your second paragraph is interesting, smrnda. You’re right about how Christians see it as “a contest between sex drive and willpower.”

      For what it’s worth, as a fairly liberal Christian young man, I also saw it as “trying not to see women as sexual objects.” I interpreted the “don’t lust” teaching of Christianity in what I thought was a feminist way: lusting (or, really, having any sexual thoughts) dehumanizes women. It’s not entirely wrong, but it can get pretty unhealthy pretty quickly.

      • Machintelligence

        I rather like Tom Lehrer’s take in it: A dirty mind can be a thing of joy forever.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iaHDBL7dVgs

      • Lunch Meat

        I took this in an…interesting direction when I was a Christian teenager. I couldn’t help having fantasies, but I told myself I wasn’t going to fantasize about real people. Hence the pages and pages of X-rated Harry Potter fanfiction on my old computer. (I also told myself it was okay as long as I didn’t look at pictures or watch videos.) I’m not sure if it was unhealthy–it doesn’t seem to have done any harm, and it was fairly easy to transition to fantasizing about my husband once we were at that point in our dating relationship.

      • Niemand

        IMHO, it was ok. Pictures and videos would have been fine too. From what you’ve said, I believe your experience is what is known medically and psychiatrically as “normal”. Don’t let anyone guilt you about having a sex drive and a fantasy life.

    • Machintelligence

      I think I see the point of the chocolate cake analogy, at least from a Biological/Evolutionary perspective. We are hard wired to like sweetness, because sweet things contain sugars, which are concentrated sources of energy. Chocolate cake, however is a super stimulus, with amounts of sugar never found in nature. This makes it hyper attractive.

      It has been shown (http://www.uni-regensburg.de/Fakultaeten/phil_Fak_II/Psychologie/Psy_II/beautycheck/english/figur/figur.htm for example) that male estimates of female attractiveness are based on the curves of the body, hip to waist ratio particularly. The argument could be made that clothing that emphasizes this (like the wasp waist corsets and bustles of the 19th century) or, in the case of the bikini, fails to conceal body form is a type of super stimulus.

      What puzzles me is the claim that wanting to appear attractive to the opposite sex is somehow wrong or sinful.

      I mean, imagine a guy who is a lifeguard at a beach. I’m sure that after doing that job for a while, the guy’s not going to react much to women in bathing suits.

      Acclimatization is always a possibility.

    • Alice

      Very insightful. This also illustrates one of the many reasons Christianity’s teachings on sexuality are harmful. Young people in this culture spend so much time and energy trying to squash their sex drive to death…and then they get married.

    • Gillianren

      I love your first point. When Hostess went out of business, everyone seemed to be lamenting Twinkies, but I thought more about the loss of Zingers.

    • The_L1985

      “As a note, when I briefly attended a church and did a Bible study, this
      seemed to really shock people – it seemed most people believed you
      could either not drink, or drink only very rarely, or else you’d be
      binging day in and day out.”

      Back when I lived in the Bible Belt, there seemed to be this weird idea that nobody ever stops at one drink for the evening. Like the only reason to enjoy alcohol is to get totally blitzed or something. I am 100% convinced that the attitude is way more of a problem than the alcohol itself.

      • Stev84

        It’s not just about drinking. This is the black and white mentality they have about everything. It’s all extremes and no middle ground.

        Porn is another big thing with them. As soon you watch a porn movie every now and then they consider you an addict. Hence their statistics that 60% or so of men are porn addicts.

      • smrnda

        They also seem to think it’s impossible for a man and a woman to be alone without ‘sex happening’ which makes it sound as if sex is something that requires no human agency, just a man and a woman close enough together and then ‘sex happens.’ A friend of mine went on a date with a guy who had this view. He told her he wouldn’t go up to her flat because ‘sex might happen.’ She told him she had zero intentions of having sex with him. The guy said ‘well, I trust you but not me.’ She told him that he was basically saying he’s a rapist by saying that, and that was the end of the evening for him.

        I think the mentality is mostly about control – you convince people that they’re always a step away from being totally out of control with sex, alcohol, porn, anything, and it keeps people in a state of anxiety, fearful of what can happen if they fail to adhere to whatever rules, strategies and rituals the church proscribes.

      • Rilian Sharp

        It’s like on tv, when the dad says to the daugher, “I trust you, it’s that boy I don’t trust,” they’re not meaning to say he will rape her, they’re meaning that the girl doesn’t have enough of her own personality to say no.

      • smrnda

        I’ve noted that some religions definitely discourage personality in girls and women. I also wonder if getting brainwashed to believe in ‘male headship’ can create problems for girls and women confronted by men pressuring them into sex.

      • The_L1985

        It does. A lot of girls and women in patriarchal cultures get sexually assaulted because they’re trained to always obey men–and then THEY get blamed for “defrauding a man.”

  • Beutelratti

    Can I just say one thing? My boobs would not look modest in that swimsuit. Never.

    • Gillianren

      My boyfriend tried to argue that if it was “sized to me” (because I’m an 18, which this woman clearly is not!), I still wouldn’t show that much cleavage. But he doesn’t understand women’s clothing very well. He did agree that there’s nothing to be done about my hips. Actually, my first two thoughts when I saw the pictures were “but she’s still really obviously trying to look attractive!” and “wow, it must be easier to cover your breasts when they’re smaller.” And then I did a Google image search for “burqini” to explain the concept to my boyfriend, who said, “That’s not bathing suits. That’s clothing.”

      • sylvia_rachel

        Apart from the head-covering part, those suits aren’t all that different from some that are sold for little kids (of both sexes) to reduce their sun exposure. To me, they look kind of like wetsuits with a dress on top for no apparent reason…

  • Mandy

    Bit off topic, but you know what this makes me want to do? Make a recipe for the most decadent, richest chocolate cake ever to exist. And what would I do after that? Post a description of the cake on the original blog in lavish, almost pornographic detail, from the type of cocoa powder I used to the frosting to what fruit will garnish the top. It will be a saga to salivate over, and once I’ve baited them with delicious prospects I will totally ruin the moment by shouting “So, who wants to rape this cake?! Don’t give me that look- the delicious hussy’s been asking fot it.”

    Because in serious honesty, no matter the subject, comparing a human being to an inanimate object always left a bitter taste in my mouth and makes me want to satirize such a metaphor.

    I was always a curvy girl since I hit puberty and dressed modestly despite being raised in a barely religious, open minded family. Did my self-imposed, modest dress code prevent a group of boys from harassing me in school? No, it didn’t. Did it shield me from their taunts and lewd remarks, remarks that made me terrified of going to class? No. Did it make me scared of the male sex and lump the rest of them in with a small minority who were probably too wrapped up in their own issues to bother seeing me as a person? Yes, it did. The viewpoint I developed because of them didn’t make it fair to the guys who were genuinely good people, who wanted to befriend me for me and had to work harder than the girls in my life to earn my trust. My first boyfriend had to ask me out about five times before I realized he really liked me and that it wasn’t some weird plot to break my heart just to prove to his friends that I had one to break. My mentality wasn’t fair to him, and it especially wasn’t fair to me.

    I’m still working on the self-esteem issues that came with the experience, but I am getting better- partially because of your blog and all the entries I’ve read therin that helped me to realize my own issues and think of ways to work though them in order to make myself a better person. Sorry if I’ve rambled too long, I just wanted to get alll that underlaying nastiness off my chest.

    Needless to say, whether I actually go through with the latter part of the plan in the first paragraph, I have a cake to bake. There will be Dutch processed cocoa, there will be ganache, there will be candied raspberries.

    • Christine

      Don’t bother to invent the recipe from scratch – start with the Death by Chocolate cake recipe. Ganache, chocolate mousse, mocha mousse, super-rich brownie and cocoa meringue.

      All that “modest” dressing does is signal to preditors that you are uncomfortable with yourself, and probably a good target.

    • Gillianren

      Why does everyone always think that the way to go is adulterating the chocolate with not-chocolate? No raspberries, no mocha–just chocolate should be sufficiently irresistible.

      • The_L1985

        I can’t stand Death By Chocolate cakes. If I’m expected to actually finish a slice of chocolate cake, the icing had better be some form of Not-Chocolate. (Like red velvet cake–Mmmm!)

      • Gillianren

        See, whereas I think red velvet cake is kind of gross.

      • The_L1985

        All the more for me, then. :)

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        I tend to agree. Now, a mascarpone/cream cheese icing on top of a chocolate cake, with fruit on top of that … that’s delicious.

  • Saraquill

    I have a similar bathing suit. I still got leered at, and the man’s wife still gave me the dirty look, as opposed to her husband.

  • Niemand

    In Germany and other parts of Europe, many beaches are FKK (nude). People of all ages and genders run around on them with no clothes whatsoever. Socially, it’s considered in incredibly poor taste for a man to get an erection on an FKK beach because that’s not what you’re there for. You’re there to swim and play on the sand. It’s not a private place where an erection would, if circumstances are right, be welcome.

    Why is it that men in secular Europe can be around women-and men-completely in the nude and not be worried about it, not even see it as a sexual situation, whereas men in the religious US apparently can’t even see women in a bikini without not just feeling aroused but feeling the need to rape them immediately?I guess religion just makes men weak, lustful, and so uncertain of their own attractiveness that they don’t think that anyone would ever want them and that they can only get sex by taking it forcefully.

    • Beutelratti

      Thanks for bringing up FKK. Yes, indeed, there are many beaches like that in Germany. Tbh, I haven’t seen anyone complain about them. If you don’t want to bath naked you go to another beach.
      Funnily, one phrase that often comes up when discussing this is that people like to bath “just the way god has made them”. This is often just a saying devoid of religious meaning, but it’s still ironic considering that it’s apparently ungodly to be naked. ;)

      • Divizna

        If god really wanted us to be always dressed in an unshowing way, he’d create humankind with turtleshells.

    • Stev84

      Men don’t walk around with erections on normal beaches either. Even in shorts that would be immediately visible.

  • Niemand

    The thing is, that woman is incredibly hot.

    I’m afraid I don’t agree. I can’t see anyone who wears makeup and bracelets to the beach as “hot”. She looks more concerned with her looks than with having fun on the beach and that’s about as big a turn off as you can get for me. I’d rather see someone less classically “beautiful” running in the waves and having fun without worrying about his or her looks.

    Ironically, the very things that turn me off are the reason why she is, on some level deliberately, being “chocolate cake”: She clearly spent a lot of time and effort trying to look good. Sexy even. She’s showing almost as much skin as a bikini would have and her curves aren’t exactly concealed by the fabric. That sort of fake concealment is far lewder than an honest nudity. “Modest” women tend to be obsessed with their looks and making sure that they look beautiful at all times-while at the same time pretending that they’re trying to conceal their sexiness. It’s incredibly pathological if not done in an overt, consensual manner.

  • Trollface McGee

    If the chocolate cake is constantly following us around, being all creepy, gooey and trying to get us to eat it when it knows we’re on a diet, that’s called stalking.

    But clearly, if you can’t control yourself around cake, you should just stay away from it. In other words, in for the good of men, so they don’t stumble, they need to be kept segregated from women. A man should not be allowed in the presence of unrelated women without a related female chaperone. A man shouldn’t be allowed to drive because he might drive somewhere and see women. He should be kept out of any job that might involve interacting with a woman. It’s not a barbaric restriction on personal rights, it’s just for their own protection.

  • jose

    Show me how many women rape and kill men because men go to the beach with no shirt on.

    • Alice

      Show me how many men rape (not to mention kill) women because women go to the beach with no shirt on. Rape is not caused by overwhelming sexual desire or immodest women: it’s all about power and control. Countless women have visited topless beaches without being assaulted. The majority of rape victims were wearing clothes and raped by acquaintances, not random creeps at a topless beach. Victim-blaming is repulsive and ignorant.

      • Composer 99

        Alice: not to say jose wasn’t victim-blaming (only jose can say for sure); however I parse his statement as a blistering reversal of Maura’s (the Christian blogger) attitude.

        I mean, Maura is suggesting that, essentially, men see women in bikinis/topless/whatever at the beach/pool/whatever and are immediately seized with the urge to fornicate with them (at best), which they must repress.

        It seems to me that jose is turning the tables on Maura’s statement. But I could be wrong. Care to clarify, jose?

      • jose

        My point is the problem isn’t the showing of skin, but male violence. That’s why it doesn’t happen the other way around even if we grant her premise: men show skin, nothing happens. Ergo the problem is men, not skin.

        I’m not agreeing with her, I’m making a “let’s grant the premise for the sake of the argument” type of response.

      • Alice

        Okay, I understand now.

  • http://lanahobbs.wordpress.com/ lana hobbs

    There’s been a bunch of good posts about modesty on the blogosphere, I’ll have to add this one to my linky post (autocorrect changed linky to ‘kinky’ haha!) https://lanahobbs.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/modesty-a-roundup-of-posts-and-thoughts/

  • JohnH2

    Regarding Burka’s here is a site showing some of lasts years fashions http://www.bharatmoms.com/blogs/4385/posts/189132-latest-burqa-and-abaya-designs-for-ramzan-festival?from=stay_back

    I found it via google images; the site itself is exclusive to women. If a lady could inform them that there images are index on google image they might appreciate knowing that so that they can prevent the indexing if they want to.

    • The_L1985

      Holy balls. They took a burqa–an article of clothing specifically designed to hide women’s- sexuality–and sexualized it.

      WHY.

  • Christian Vagabond

    The Made In His Image post reminds of that site that polls guys on different articles of women’s clothing and asks them to rate whether the clothing is tempting/appropriate. The results show what you’d expect: pretty much any article of clothing tempts somebody, to the point that one can easily infer that a well-covered woman might be more tempting for some guys that a woman in a bikini.

    I was also disturbed by this comment on the site. after one of the women made a post affriming the importance of modesty for both men and women, a guy replied “Wish i could get a strong, pure and healthy girl like you. Beauty!!!!!!!!!!” Ugh.

    • ako

      I read an article about street harassment in Egypt, and some of the guys interviewed were claiming that a woman was “asking for it” if her burqua wasn’t loose or modest enough. Literally wearing a burqua wasn’t enough to stop sexual harassment. At this point, everyone just needs to give up on the idea that women can control male behavior with clothing, and accept that the person responsible for controlling a man’s behavior is that particular man.

  • Ashton

    I wear bikinis not to be sexy but because they are the only way I can find a bathing suit that fits as I need a different size for my top and bottom halves. I haven’t been able to find a one piece that fits since I was about 12. When I try on one-piece suits, I find that they are either way too tight on top or they flop around on they bottom and I’ll end up showing coochie. I can’t imagine that people like this would approve of me either way.

    But then again, I already knew that. I grew up around the modesty doctrine and it’s impossible. I will be indecent to them no matter what. As Rebecca Morgan said earlier, “There’s only so many ways to downplay DD breasts.” I’d like to add that there are no ways to do this in a bathing suit. I don’t think that they realize that they are basically saying that the only moral women are petite.

    • The_L1985

      I remember being 4 when my body shape was suddenly no longer one-piece-appropriate. I was long and lanky from age 4 to age 17, when I suddenly filled out. I went from a twig to really curvy within a year, and suddenly I had to think about how to flatter my “junk in the trunk” and my large (for my height) breasts.

      Clothing manufacturers expect kids to all be chunky until age 12, when they become tall and skinny and just–stay that way. Forever. It’s ridiculous.

  • http://ripeningreason.com/ Rachel Marcy (Bix)

    I’ve been trying to articulate why this view of sex baffles me so much, and I think it’s because it elides real decision-making. The focus is placed on self-control, rather than making conscious choices and seeking consent. Self-control becomes less relevant once you’re safely wed (I guess), but then what happens? For all the talk of controlling one’s thoughts and behaviors, it certainly seems to be a system based around external constraints for when sex and sexual thoughts are and are not allowable. I don’t think it engenders real responsibility and care for oneself and other people. In that framework, sex is either an accidental loss of control (possibly assault) or morally allowable because of external factors (you’ve gone through a marriage ceremony). But what happens when you have a presumably consenting partner, and your ideas about sex are still based on self-control?

    Also, I think that swimsuit really illustrates that modesty is culturally contingent and an ever-moving standard. Covering the skin of your stomach makes you modest? I think people will still realize you have skin. These examples of modest fashion are typically predicated on a slender body, which means that women’s actual bodies are being policed as “immodest,” as if curvy women are choosing to be curvy because they want to be seen as sexy.

    You know, I spent my adolescence in ballet school, where both boys and girls wear very tight clothing, and no one ever lost control and started having sex on the studio floor. Once you get over the fact that people have bodies–that people are bodies, and that some of those bodies will be attractive to you–it’s pretty easy to engage with them as people, not objects.

    • JohnH2

      “Covering the skin of your stomach makes you modest?”

      The word “leg” used to be obscene (not too long ago) and table legs were covered (reportably) so they would be “modest”. It isn’t too hard to find articles deploring the immodesty of dresses that fail to cover ones ankles.

      • smrnda

        I recall reading about this as well, as well as people using the term ‘liens’ in place of legs since just the word legs was, apparently, way to suggestive.

    • Christine

      I wonder if some of the idea that the self-control was so crucial came out of a need to feel virtuous if you didn’t have sex before marriage. It’s not enough that you make the “right” choice, now you need to pretend that it’s a really difficult thing to do, you were constantly fighting this default action of just having sex because there was someone of the right gender* there.

      The problem is that framing “not having sex” as something that requires immense control (rather than just being a decision you make) is a fairly self-fulfilling prophecy.

      *I know that gender isn’t the right word here, but it was more clear, given how often “sex” appeared in that paragraph.

  • Lucreza Borgia

    One big glaring problem with the original analogy is that I don’t own the cake. It’s not my cake! How can I justify eating something that isn’t mine?

    • Rilian Sharp

      Communism!

    • smrnda

      Yeah, that consent part of the analogy isn’t there. You could, of course, buy the cake or you could just *make a cake yourself* and eat it. The cake isn’t going to care one way or another.

      • JohnH2

        *make a cake yourself*

        Extending the analogy to what you said just gets so many kinds of disturbing.

      • smrnda

        My intent was that we can be entitled to inanimate things in a way that we aren’t entitled to living people, but yeah, that could get ugly pretty fast.

  • sylvia_rachel

    I really like that bathing suit (turquoise and red is one of my favourite colour combinations). But it’s clearly intended to be sexy. And I’d definitely show cleavage if I wore it, even though I’m only a 34B, so where does that leave the more well-endowed person?

    I actually don’t like wearing bikinis, because I have more flab around my middle than I’d like and also a huge big vertical scar from two successive abdominal surgeries. Also, I had a bad suit-losing experience once, and I just feel safer in a one-piece with straps that cross in the back ;) But the idea that I can control the level of lust people feel by wearing more or less bathing suit is just stupid, IMO.

    Being followed around by chocolate cake that you shouldn’t eat might be a good analogy for being stalked by someone who wants to have sex with you, and keeps telling you so, but you shouldn’t have sex with each other because one or both of you is married to someone else. It’s not a good analogy for *women existing and wearing something*. Jeez.

    Actually now that I think about it even my analogy above assumes sentience and the capacity to consent on the part of the cake. So never mind. :P

  • The_L1985

    It also showcases that, other than revealing the belly, there is NO difference between that “modest” swimsuit and a bikini. There’s even a red belt in that one-piece to make it look vaguely bikini-ish.

    • Stev84

      It’s also easy to be “modest” in that thing when you have no boobs

    • Christine

      I didn’t think that was a particularly modest swimsuit either. It has all the same issues as a bikini, and it doesn’t actually provide more coverage of anything that might make you feel exposed.

      • The_L1985

        I have a C-cup, and I’d be hanging out of that swimsuit if I even tried to wear it. It’s like the blogger in question doesn’t understand that cleavage depends on breast size, not so much the clothing in question. Also that “revealing your figure” doesn’t necessarily require baring it.

  • Noelle

    Sigh. Not the point, I know, but the last time I got a sunburn that turned into suspicious-looking brown spots, prompting a visit to derm for a biopsy (thankfully benign), I was wearing a 1-piece. And had applied sunscreen, but chasing kids around a beach led me to forget to reapply. Now I pull on a shirt as soon as I’m out of the water. Modesty’s got nothing to do with it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/katherine.hompes Katherine Hompes

      Good for you being sun smart! I live in sunny Queensland, Australia, the sun cancer capital of the world- we are taught the dangers of the sun at a very early age.

  • MyOwnPerson

    Modesty is culturally relative. Most Christian men would agree that women don’t need to wear burquas to be modest, but why they demand that women have to be more modest than our cultural idea of what is modest. Poor Christian young men have been conditioned to believe that average clothing in our culture is an invitation to lust, but then told not to lust (more like, feel any sexual attraction). It’s all screwy.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    Am I just exceptionally small in comparison to most of the people here? I have decent hips, but almost no boobs (30A). I’d look awesome in that swimsuit if it was more suited to my coloring- the cut at the top accentuates the idea of boobs that I don’t really have while the pleating simulates cleavage, and the red belt draws attention to the curviness of hips and butt. It’d be way more attractive on me than skimpy bikinis that just don’t quite fit right.

  • Kevin Alexander

    (remember that picture of those two men leering at a woman in a burka?).

    I do remember that and laughed at the time. Covering up can ironically make lust worse The average woman is, well, average looking but if you cover her up then the men seeing her can imagine anything they like and sex as we all know is all in the mind.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    Oh, Cake is evil, all right! Sitting there, so delicious, and saying, “eat me. you know you want to. just one bite won’t hurt…” *drools*

    *wipes chin*

    Sorry.

    And now I want cake. :(

  • Shaenon K. Garrity

    I feel the need to repeat this every time the Christian modesty discussion comes up: policing women’s appearance and behavior so they don’t “cause” lust is the opposite of what Jesus commands. I mean, exactly the opposite.

    Jesus didn’t say, “If your eye offends you, demand that the woman you’re looking at change her appearance or else you’ll rape her.” He said, “Gouge out your own eye if you have to, because your feelings are your problem, not hers.”

    Is there some opposite Bible all these supposed Christians are reading?

  • Sophie

    The more I learn about modesty culture the more glad I am that I grew up well away from it. The idea that it is the responsibility of women to police the thoughts of men is just wrong, and that is exactly what is being asked when women are taught that they must prevent men from ‘stumbling’ by dressing modestly. I also find the idea of men being barely in control of their sexual desires to be deeply disturbing and offensive to the male gender. It seems to me that the way sexuality is taught in those circles it is setting people up to fail and many of the blog posts I have read written by those who grew up in that culture do back up that idea.

    Getting back to the blog post that started this discussion, I found it be fairly disturbing. Never mind the terrible chocolate cake analogy, many people have explained the problems with that far better than I could, but I found the tone of the post to be smug and self-righteous with all that talk of her sacrifice of not wearing the ‘cute’ bikinis she coveted. But what was worse was the comments or at least a lot of them. I found the one from a man asking for advice on how to get his girlfriend to stop wearing a bikini to be repulsive. His tone was very much that other people were looking at his toy and he didn’t like it. Many of the replies to it were just as bad. There was another from a mother of teenage boys who didn’t like her sons seeing women in bikinis and she wished that other young women were as responsible as the author of the post. My suggestion would be that she taught her sons that it’s impolite to stare at women no matter what they are wearing and that it is their responsibility to police their own sexuality not anyone else’s. But she obviously felt that everyone else should be protecting her sons from sexual thoughts or else they would be driven to assaulting one of those bikini wearers. I know that there were more comments that bothered me but I’m not going to go look for them again, it’s not good for my blood pressure!

    • writegurl

      Thanks for posting this. Imagine being raised and immersed in the culture you described. I have a lot of anger issues because I was constantly around people with this smug mindset, who held me responsible for males’ thoughts (nothing I wore met these people’s standards, btw). I had to suppress my anger all the time and couldn’t speak out (defying authority was also considered sinful). I could say so much more, but I’ll stop here.

      • Sophie

        I am sorry that you were raised in such a toxic environment and I know how hard it can be unlearn coping strategies especially anger. I hope that you are able to heal.

    • smrnda

      It seems like ‘modesty’ turns into a pissing contest with these people, where it’s important to show off how much more modest you are than everyone else…. which, kind of seems *not like modesty* to me.

      • sylvia_rachel

        Totally.

        The same phenomenon can be observed in certain Haredi (“ultra-Orthodox”) Jewish communities, where for example a mode of dress that was considered adequately modest 20 or 30 years ago is now not modest enough (one example reported by an Israeli blogger I read is that whereas it used to be considered fine for girls under 12 to wear a skirt below the knee, bare legs, and sandals in the summer, now in the same community girls as young as 2 or 3 have to wear opaque tights, and school-age girls are wearing skirts down to their ankles). In a case that was big news a couple of years ago, a woman with 12 kids started a kind of mini cult where the women took on more and more stringent standards of modesty — these are women who were already wearing long skirts and long sleeves and covering their hair, so we’re talking about wearing multiple layers, covering their faces, and not speaking at all for long stretches of time, to the point where their husbands started complaining. The whole thing kind of exploded when the woman who started it all, Bruria Keren, was accused of abusing some of her children. This may sound like Debi-style “it’s all the wives’ fault”, but actually that is not my intention at all: the doctrines of modesty for women of which Keren’s practices are a kind of reductio ad absurdum are very much created, elaborated, and policed by the men of these communities.

      • smrnda

        I’ll have to check out Bruria Keren – I’d heard of some Haredi pushing rules like this to extremes, but that sounds really, really past anything I’d heard about before.

        I think that, though modesty standards get set up by men, the system of patriarchy encourages female collaborators.

      • Sophie

        I definitely got that vibe from the author of the piece “I am much more modest than you” one-piece wearer!

  • Alice

    I’ve been thinking about this recently: is there a healthy way to teach about clothing choice? I know the majority of modesty doctrine is toxic, but clothing is a form of communication, and there are different societal expectations depending on context (job interview, workplace, funeral, fancy restaurant, beach, casual get-together, etc).

    Also, as feminists, how do we respond when our society pressures elementary-school girls and preteens to think of themselves as just a sex object? Shaming them for their clothing choices definitely isn’t the answer. Maybe the modesty culture’s obsession with clothing is too superficial. And there’s nothing wrong with teenagers and women wanting to look attractive and sexy. Dressing sexy and thinking of yourself as only a sex object are two entirely different things.

    Thoughts?

    • smrnda

      A site I like that deals with this issue is about-face.org.

      On clothing, I kind of think it’s an issue of who is in control of a person’s body image and fashion sense. Whether it’s a church or the media, it’s worth noting that people are using messages about how you look to exert control over you.

    • jose

      I don’t see the link between looking good and looking sexy. Looks more like feeding the male gaze. Boys don’t dress up to look sexy, but to look cool or badass or to resemble their idols (soccer t-shirts with famous player’s name on it). The only time boys may make an effort to look attractive for girls is when they deliberatedly want a hook up.

      You don’t want girls to consider themselves fuck targets, you break the link between cool and sexy. You stop taking men into account at all when thinking about clothing. It might help to stop saying the word “sexy” and replace it with “fucky” and see how all this supposedly liberal, enlightened discourse sounds.

      • AAAtheist

        @ Jose:

        I do see your point that women’s first concern should not be to take men into account when they dress. However, your conclusions about when boys choose to look good/look sexy are somewhat problematic.

        Assuming boys dress to look sexy only when they want to have sex with girls is heteronormative and disregards their own agency. Gay, trans-, and bi boys may very well dress to look sexy to other boys on occasion. It’s only cisgendered boys who are socialized to disregard their appearance, as if girls or women should automatically be attracted to them. A potential solution for boys who want to look sexy/attractive is the one they’re probably least likely to pursue: ask girls what they think is sexy about boys. Plus, some, if not many, straight men do want to look sexy not just because they want to have sex with women but because feeling sexy feels good in and of itself. Just the way many women might want to look sexy for themselves, other men, or other women.

        The problem with the male gaze isn’t sex, attraction, or desire: it’s sexism (“I see you = I think you’re attractive” versus “I see you = I own you”). I’m pretty sure and I will assume you mean to place the onus on men checking their privilege / correcting their problematic behavior and don’t consider women’s or men’s sexiness / attractiveness the real issue. As mentioned before: purity and rape culture blames women for sexist behavior targeted at them. Let’s not target sex itself.

      • jose

        “Assuming boys dress to look sexy only when they want to have sex with girls”

        That’s not what I said. Read more carefully.

      • Sophie

        You said “The only time boys make an effort to look attractive for girls is when they deliberately want a hook up”, how is that different from what AAAthiest said? Making oneself look attractive is very similar to making oneself look sexy, especially in the context of making oneself look attractive in order to attract someone for sex.

        Also I really object to your connotation that all women dress in a sexy way only for the benefit of men. That idea is as false as the idea that women only kiss each other to titillate the men surrounding them. I know that I and a lot of women I know enjoy dressing sexily for ourselves. Getting dressed up makes me feel good it has absolutely nothing to do what a man might think. To be honest I think often women dress themselves for other women more than they do for men.

      • JohnH2

        Given the importance that women place on fashion and the average guys knowledge of fashion then I think it is reasonably certain that women are dressing for other women more then for men.

      • smrnda

        This is definitely true for me and most women I know, just since we’re paying attention to features of the clothes most men don’t notice.

      • Sophie

        It’s not something I do, but I do know other women who focus much more on what women will think of what they wear rather than what men think. And I think often fashion is used as a way of fitting in, you are more likely to be accepted by a group of women if you are wearing similar clothes as them – a groups uniform almost. I think this is more common with teenagers but I’ve seen it in women-dominated work places too.

      • jose

        1 – The only time boys make an effort to look good for girls is when they’re looking for a hook up.
        2 – The only time boys make an effort to look good is when they want a hook up with girls.

        You two will just have to keep reading these statements till the difference comes to you. But you should just read carefully before jumping to respond to comments, especially to accuse people.

        Regarding the bit about how women dress up for themselves. They don’t use lipstick and high heels while alone at home where nobody sees them. When they’re alone they use comfy sweatpants and no makeup. So dressing up must have something to do with other people. Which is the whole problem, because public opinion is shaped by opinion makers, who are overwhelmingly male.

      • Anat

        My daughter (14) actually uses makeup and dresses up on days she doesn’t leave the house. Part of it is experimentation, another part is liking the way the clothes and the way she looks in the mirror makes her feel.

        Myself – I hardly have any ‘dressy’ clothes nor do I own any makeup. She did not get that from me.

      • Sophie

        So basically the only thing that we were getting wrong was the misassumption that you meant that the boys making themselves attractive were looking for a hook-up with girls rather than with other men? Well to be honest if that’s what you meant then you should improve your phrasing because your original statement reads like the boys are looking to hook up with women since they are making themselves attractive to them. Also AAAthiest already covered the fact that gay/bi/trans guys dress up sexily for other men. And my comment also covered that scenario.

        And the second part of your reply to me is equally ridiculous, plenty of women wear nice clothes and make-up when they are home alone, because it makes them feel good. I am disabled and housebound but right now I’m wearing a pretty skirt because it makes me feel good. I always wear what makes me feel good which means I have a wardrobe of pretty tops, skirts and dresses and I am not in any way unique. And exactly how do you know that women wear sweatpants and no make-up at home alone? You are a man so by your logic you should only see women dressed up all sexily for your benefit.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        See, this is weird for me to read, because “sexy” to me means “feeling good in my skin,” NOT “feeding the male gaze.”

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        +1. Yes. I dress for myself and feeling good about myself. Sometimes that means I want to feel sexy to myself. I don’t give a flying flip about feeding the male gaze when I do that.

      • jose

        By that meaning, it’s impossible to feel good in one’s skin without being sexy, but that’s not true, for instance nudists are pretty comfortable and the whole idea of nudism is devoid of any measure or intention of sexiness. Saying feeling good and being sexy are one and the same is kind of a stretch.

        Anyhow I’m going with standard definitions. If sexy means old baggy sweatpants for someone and $2k high heels for someone else, then dialogue is impossible and “sexy” stops being meaningful as a concept. Imo “Sexy” isn’t different from “formal”, “sport” etc. You can’t go to work in shorts and flips flops and tell the boss that’s what “formal clothing” means to you. We live in a culture, not in a void where our feelings become reality just by feeling them.

        I think you’re making a mistake by linking sexy, which is a judgment others assign to you like all social standards/traditions are, and feeling good, which is a feeling you’re able to have by yourself independently of other people. By making it about your individual self and going with a definition of sexy that only applies to you, you are missing the social implications the concept has for women as a group of people.

      • The_L1985

        That’s not what she’s saying. She’s saying that the reason women wear sexy clothes when they do is to feel good about themselves. She did NOT say that everything you wear that makes you feel good is automatically sexy. There is a difference.

        Me, I feel good in T-shirts and jeans much of the time, but that doesn’t mean I consider them sexy! Similarly, 4-inch stiletto heels are very sexy, but I can’t walk in such a high heel, so to me it’s not comfortable enough to bother wearing. I wear 2-inch heels instead.

      • The_L1985

        Exactly. Some days, I’ll wear sexy underwear that nobody else can see–because it makes me feel good to know that I’m wearing something flirty and daring, even when nobody notices. In fact, if I’m having a rough morning, I go straight for the thong underwear so I can at least feel “cute,” even if the rest of the day still stinks.

      • phantomreader42

        jose:

        Boys don’t dress up to look sexy, but to look cool or badass or to resemble their idols (soccer t-shirts with famous player’s name on it).

        But “cool” and “badass” overlap pretty strongly with “sexy” (to the extent that we’re using the term “sexy” to mean “sexually attractive to others” rather than “feeling good about and attractive to oneself”, or perhaps under either meaning). And “idols” tend to be attractive in various ways, so imitating them is borrowing their “sexiness”. The reason these things aren’t seen as attempts to be “sexy” is not because they AREN’T, but because of a bunch of problematic cultural bullshit that pins the responsibility for “sexiness” on women. The standards are different, and even where both sexes do something similar (efforts to appear attractive) it’s called by different names.

    • sylvia_rachel

      I have no helpful thoughts on this, but it’s an issue I’m struggling with too because I have an almost-11-year-old daughter who sometimes wants to buy clothing that I consider WAY INAPPROPRIATE for someone who still thinks boys are icky (and no, it doesn’t seem to be because she’s into girls — although that could of course change). I don’t think she should be dressing like a university student going clubbing, because she’s not even in junior high school. On the other hand, I don’t want her to think it’s okay for people to judge her based on her clothing choices. On the *other* hand, people are going to do that no matter what I say or don’t way, and I do think it’s important for her to be aware of that … but not in a way that puts responsibility for other people’s choices on her. Guh.

      • tsara

        A way to deal with that might be to emphasize situational appropriateness; “These aren’t school clothes, and we’re looking for school clothes now,” or “But you don’t have anywhere to wear those clothes,” might work, particularly with some compromises.

        (I dunno, but those are the sorts of things my mom used with my sister. Worth a shot?)

      • sylvia_rachel

        Yes, I definitely do say “That’s not something you can wear to school” (because school has a dress code, the relevant parts of which are no spaghetti straps, no micro-mini skirts [there's a measurement but I forget what it is], no tube tops or strapless things) when that’s appropriate. That’s a good point.

        DD is much more fashion-savvy than I am, and she knows it, so situational appropriateness is becoming tricky territory …

      • tsara

        Well, there’s always sitting her down and telling her honestly about your concerns or pointing her towards some relevant feminist reading material.
        I don’t know what level of intellectual and/or emotional maturity is required for that kind of discussion, though. I would have smiled and nodded and not listened to a word of that particular talk at that age.

    • ako

      I think one of the best ways to encourage girls to think of themselves as more than sex objects is give them lots of opportunities to do things and interact with people in ways that aren’t about sex. That’s where modesty culture goes wrong – it’s not only incredibly concered with clothes, but incredibly concerned with judging girls and women primarily by the sexiness of their clothes. They just flipped the scale.

      Girls need more situations where they can do a vareity of activities centering around interestings and accomplishments: roaming the woods in mud-spattered jeans learning about wildlife, or picking stones out of a horse’s hoof, or getting lessons on how to make their own video games, or playing basketball, learning chemistry, playing drums, anything where they get lessons about actually doing things in a context that’s not about attractivenesss and not set up so they can easily spend all of their time in perfect-looking sexy outfits. Having female mentors and role models who do cool and interesting things while dressed in a not-deliberately-sexy way is also good, because it provides examples of being cool and interesting and female in ways not tied to sexiness. Basically, more feminism.

      • sylvia_rachel

        Yes, yes, and yes.

        Going back to my endless clothing conversations with my 10yo, she’s going to sleep-away camp for the first time this year, and I’m finding myself quite often saying, in effect, “you’re not going to care that much about whether your raincoat is stylish or whether rain pants look dorky when you’re on a canoe out-trip and it’s pouring rain…”

        She’s a bit fashion-obsessed, but also and at the same time perfectly cheerful about coming home with humungous grass stains on the knees of her favourite rainbow leggings because she and her friends were playing dog-pile at recess.

    • Collin

      In the linked article, Samantha says men have consistently attacked her. Why? What would it be about a particular woman that would make presumably normal men become abnormal in her proximity?

      If a man sees a woman sexily dressed, he desires her; but if he has half a brain, he also knows he’s admiring the way she looks and that that makes his desire irrational. However, there may be other forms of nonverbal communication that can’t be reduced to a single qualium such as clothing, resulting from an unfortunate confluence of behavior that neither the portrayer nor the observer is aware is even happening.

      A good way to solve this problem might be to reverse-engineer the art of women posing for photographs.

      • tsara

        What do you mean by this:
        “A good way to solve this problem might be to reverse-engineer the art of women posing for photographs.”?

        Also, “In the linked article, Samantha says men have consistently attacked her. Why? What would it be about a particular woman that would make presumably normal men become abnormal in her proximity?”

        You are assuming that her experience is unusual. Her experience is not unusual. It is not about a ‘particular woman’.

        She also notes that there is no correlation between the style of her clothing and differences in men’s treatment of her:
        “It doesn’t stop men from ogling us– not even Christian men. I’ve gotten cat calls, jeers, shouts, obscene gestures, propositions, and whistles all while “modestly” dressed. I’m talking full-blown “modesty.” High-necked t-shirts, a-line and loose knee-length skirts. Sometimes I looked cute, sometimes I looked dumpy. It doesn’t matter. How I’ve been dressed has never made a difference whatsoever in how men have treated me. I was raped while wearing a knee-length skirt and a long-sleeved, loose and flowing top that covered my collar bone. Modesty has never, in my experience, stopped a man from doing whatever he wanted to do with my body– whether it was physically manhandle it, goosing me or grabbing my vagina through my skirt in the middle of chapel, or simply objectify it.”

        (If I’ve misunderstood you, please tell me.)

  • Abby Normal

    Late to this party but the article reminded me of a psychiatrist I used to work with. One of his go-to questions for screening for personality disorders and the like was “A woman puts a freshly-baked pie on her windowsill to cool. A man outside grabs the pie and runs away with it. Who’s fault is it?”

    If someone answered “the woman who put the pie in the window”, you knew you were dealing with a messed-up individual.

    • The_L1985

      No, no. It’s the pie’s fault for being so delicious and desirable! :P

  • http://www.facebook.com/katherine.hompes Katherine Hompes

    I went and read some of the comments- there were a few men rather offended that the author had insinuated that they had little self-control, and that circumstance is all that separates them from becoming a rapist.

    I just…. I’m not a goddamn cake! I’m a person- and even if you do run with the cake analogy- it isn’t your cake to eat!

    I really don’t get these people

    • David Kopp

      It’s offensive both ways. Women are not inanimate objects, and men aren’t slaves to their “instinct”. Or necessarily even have that instinct. It can be offensive in more than one way, it’s not a binary exclusion ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/katherine.hompes Katherine Hompes

    You know, being a rather (read, very!) busty person, I could wear a sack, and still never meet their standards for modesty. So, I guess that rape would always be my fault, according to the author?

    • onamission5

      This goes for us cheeky women, too. There is literally not a pair of pants in the world– let alone bathing suit bottoms– which do not accentuate my ass in some manner. My mom used to bemoan that she couldn’t find a pattern for one of those 1920′s style union suits because my ass has hung out of every suit I have owned since I was like nine. For a long while I wasn’t allowed to wear my suit without gym shorts over it. It was the 80′s. Everyone else was wearing string bikinis, I was wearing a home made one piece with three layers of fabric and shorts.

  • Nick Bush

    Actually, if someone followed me around trying to make me eat chocolate cake I’d think they were trying to poison me with said cake >.>

  • Pingback: The Big Swimsuit Question: A Roundup of Posts and Thoughts | H . A


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