CTBHHM: Finding a “Decent” Woman

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 199—201

This week we start Debi’s chapter on being “chaste.” Remember, she’s going through the proscriptions in Titus 2: 4—5. Last week we finished her chapter on being “discreet.” Let’s get started!

Dear Mr. Pearl,

I am a 24-year-old male and looking for a wife. It is not as easy as it seems to find a decent girl. I want one who not only says she is decent, but LOOKS as though she is. A friend of mine married one of the girls of the church. She wasn’t the most chaste dresser, but he was sure that once they were married she would sober up. She says she does not feel convicted about how she dresses, and he can only push so far to change her. I avoid him since he married, because I got aroused the whole time I was around them due to the way his wife dresses. It leaves me disgusted, frustrated and angry that a stupid, silly girl can cause so much trouble. Sometimes I feel my own body betrays me, but I know I am a normal male with a normal need, and the problem lies with females dressing so godless. Talk about dishonoring a man, all the rest of the younger females in church dress as bad or worse. I had rather not get married than end up with a silly wife like her. Seeing Jacob embarrassed by his wife scares the rest of us unmarried men, because, as much as we want to get married, we sure do not want to end up being dishonored as he has been. I want a girl who has not encouraged a thousand other guys to commit sight adultery with her by how she dresses. I want a woman I can be proud to call MY OWN little hidden treasure. How could a man ever trust a woman who, before she got married, “let it all hang out” for everyone to see? I guess the big question for me is, how do we single men find chaste girls to marry, girls who are not interested in how sexy they can dress?

James G.

Debi’s response is short:

Dear James,

The Bible asks, “Who can find a virtuous woman?” The question implies, “Not an easy find.” It will be worth the search to find a chaste, virtuous girl. Until then, here is your letter advertising your concerns. I pray that the married ladies and mamas raising girls who read your letter will know and care about how you godly men are thinking. I wish I had room to print 25 more letters like this, but one will have to do.

She who has ears . . . LET her hear!

Debi

I don’t want to deal with Debi’s response, and we’re about to jump into Debi’s pages of modesty talk, so instead I want to take a moment to talk back to James G.

Dear Mr. Pearl,

I am a 24-year-old male and looking for a wife. It is not as easy as it seems to find a decent girl. I want one who not only says she is decent, but LOOKS as though she is.

Exactly what do you mean by “decent”? Do you mean, a girl who has a healthy sense of self? Do you mean, a girl who thinks of others’ needs too? Do you mean, a girl who has solid dreams and hopes for the future? Because I’m guessing not. I’m guessing all you mean by “decent” is a girl who dresses frumpy in an effort to hide her figure—a girl who never carries herself as though she is confident in who she is and how she looks. This is not cool.

And actually James, why exactly are you wanting to marry a “girl”? Most heterosexual men, especially of your age, prefer to marry what we generally call “women.” But then, I suspect that’s what you want too, so can we cut the infantilizing crap please? Unless, that is, you’d like me to call you a “boy” from here on out.

A friend of mine married one of the girls of the church. She wasn’t the most chaste dresser, but he was sure that once they were married she would sober up. She says she does not feel convicted about how she dresses, and he can only push so far to change her.

I am very curious, James, about just how your friend’s wife actually dresses. If you attend a conservative evangelical or fundamentalist church, as I suspect from the content of your letter, you’re not talking about dressing like a stripper. I suspect that what you actually mean is that your friend’s wife sometimes wears shirts without sleeves, and skirts that show her calves. She probably does not feel convicted about how she dresses because even by your church’s standards there’s nothing at all wrong with the way she dresses. The problem is not them, James, it’s you.

I avoid him since he married, because I got aroused the whole time I was around them due to the way his wife dresses. It leaves me disgusted, frustrated and angry that a stupid, silly girl can cause so much trouble.

You remember that thing I said about the problem being you, James? Yeah. The problem is you.

Let me tell you a little story. When I was in my undergrad, I had a good friend who was very evangelical. She was genuine, the real deal. I was trying to explain to my now husband, Sean, about evangelical modesty teachings, and I pointed her out across the room and used how she dressed as an example. She didn’t dress frumpy and was confident in her looks, which I knew made her different from much of what I saw growing up, but her clothing always fit my definition of “modest.” When I pointed her out, though, Sean laughed and told me that my friend was actually really hot in the outfit she was wearing. He explained that while she wasn’t showing skin and while her clothing wasn’t skin tight, her confidence in her body made her incredibly sexy. I was rather shaken.  

And so, James, I’m afraid the solution here is not your friend’s wife covering up more but rather you getting a grip on yourself. Other men are capable of hanging out with women they find themselves attracted to without feeling disgusted. In fact, most men are capable of that. And would you believe, I have friends whose husbands I find sexually attractive, and I manage to maintain those friendships without any problem at all. The way you are feeling, James, and the way you are acting—these things are not normal. May I suggest therapy? It might do you some good.

Also, that you call her a “stupid, silly girl” makes me suspect that you are merely one of Debi’s many sock puppets. That is, after all, how Debi writes throughout her book. Or perhaps you have spent too much time reading Debi’s past writing, and have picked up the phrase from her. Either way, it’s a bad phrase, and should be dropped.

Sometimes I feel my own body betrays me, but I know I am a normal male with a normal need, and the problem lies with females dressing so godless.

Oh, James. So close and yet so far! Yes, having sexual feelings and sexual attractions is normal and natural. But that’s where you should have stopped that sentence. You are blaming your lack of a healthy sexuality on women’s clothing choices. You need to go back to the drawing board, because your sexual problems lie elsewhere.

Talk about dishonoring a man, all the rest of the younger females in church dress as bad or worse. I had rather not get married than end up with a silly wife like her. Seeing Jacob embarrassed by his wife scares the rest of us unmarried men, because, as much as we want to get married, we sure do not want to end up being dishonored as he has been.

If it was so very important to Jacob that his wife dress in a certain manner, he should have talked to her about this before they got married. Marriage is about cooperation and compromise, and it is completely reasonable for Jacob to talk to his wife about something that is bothering him, but it is not reasonable for him to think he can dictate his wife’s clothing choices. And actually, James, I every much wonder whether Jacob actually feels embarrassed by his wife, or whether the problem is you, and that you are imputing that on Jacob.

Let me tell you another story, James, because I don’t think you’re aware that your ideas about women dishonoring their husbands are not universal. My husband, Sean, likes it when I look attractive, and when I dress sexy. He likes to see me confident in my appearance and in how I look, yes, but he tells me he also likes other men to know how lucky he is. I don’t know whether this outlook is widespread or necessarily healthy, but I do know that I appreciate that Sean is so pleased with my physical appearance that he likes to show me off.

I want a girl who has not encouraged a thousand other guys to commit sight adultery with her by how she dresses. I want a woman I can be proud to call MY OWN little hidden treasure.

Oh James. I’m very sorry for you that you feel that every time you think a sexual thought about a woman not your wife you are committing adultery. What a very hard life that must be! How closed up and sad! You must always feel that your are on your guard, and it seems you see every woman as a potential predator, forcing you into adultery with you by her very clothing. This is a terrible outlook on life. It is unfair to every woman out there, and it is also unfair to you. Please James, get therapy. You need it, because your ideas about sex, lust, and modesty are warping and twisting your life, sucking out your joy, destroying any chance of having a balanced or healthy sexuality, robbing you of your friends, and turning you into an altogether unlikeable person.

How could a man ever trust a woman who, before she got married, “let it all hang out” for everyone to see? I guess the big question for me is, how do we single men find chaste girls to marry, girls who are not interested in how sexy they can dress?

James G.

James, please, don’t get married. Or at least, don’t get married until you deal with your issues.

You have a very funny idea of trust, but you also fundamentally misunderstand something about women. We as women have to fight a long war to maintain any sense of a positive body image. Often times, what is actually sexy is not so much the clothing that is worn but the way that it is warn—things like confidence. I grew up with the same modesty teachings you currently espouse, and one thing they did was rob me of any chance of a positive body image. My body became something to be opposed, something to be escaped, something to be loathed. I’m afraid you may be mistaking confidence and a positive body image for dressing sexy. Remember my story about my friend and my husband? Modest clothing does not automatically remove a woman’s sexiness. Frequently, though, a woman’s lack of confidence in her own appearance reduces that sexiness. And that, quite frankly, is what I find saddest here.

Next week, patient readers, we will move on to what Debi has to say about modesty. James G.’s letter gives only a foretaste of what is to come.

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.


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