On Modesty: We Shouldn’t Sacrifice Teen Girls’ Well-Being for Adult Men’s Comfort

by | May 13, 2022 | Men's Corner, Parenting Teens | 101 comments

On Modesty: Stop Sacrificing teen Girls Well Being
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A basic principle in the Old Testament is actually quite a simple one: People of God don’t sacrifice children.

Read through the prophets, and you’ll hear the judgment against nations that sacrifice their kids to Molech, or make children “walk through the fire.”

Children are precious. Children must not be used to assuage adults in any way.

Children’s well-being matters.

Okay, let’s fast forward now to today, and look at the conversation around modesty.

We’ve got the first round of edits for our mother-daughter book due on May 18, and Rebecca and I are editing away. But one of the big findings in She Deserves Better (I can’t wait until it releases next year!) is that as bad as you all thought the obligation sex message was in our findings for The Great Sex Rescue, the modesty message is just as bad, if not worse.

The effects of telling a girl that she shouldn’t be a stumbling block for boys; that she owes it to the men around her to cover up–it’s truly terrible.

This hurts girls. 

It lowers self-esteem, both now and into adulthood. It reduces future marital satisfaction. It reduces future orgasm rates. It kills libido. It’s just plain bad.

Now, on Fridays I like to post some things that have been happening on social media this week, and I want to focus my update on modesty.

First, earlier this week I recorded an Instagram live where I talked about Tuesday’s post–about how it isn’t being unfair to ask men to pay attention to women’s pleasure during sex. It was actually one of my best lives–you can listen here:


In that live I made a joke about a new rule that I wanted people to adopt, and people asked me to create a graphic for it they could share. So I did!

Modesty Rule Dont Sacrifice Girls

I left this caption on it:

If a man says that all men lust, then he’s saying that HE lusts.

If he says that yoga pants cause men to stumble, he’s saying that yoga pants cause HIM to stumble.

He is saying that he has the same mindset as a predator. That doesn’t mean he is a predator; but do you want to take the chance?

  • Don’t let your teenage daughters baby-sit at his house.
  • Don’t be alone with him.
  • Warn other women about him.

Some may say: But women should take steps to not cause men to stumble. EXCEPT our surveys of almost 30,000 women now show definitively that these messages do real harm to women. They lower libido; they lower orgasm rates; they make marriage worse.

Women shouldn’t be hurt because of men’s sin.

And men? These messages hurt men too. Our surveys found they result in worse marriages for men too.

So let’s teach our sons that noticing is not the same as lusting. That seeing a beautiful woman does not mean you’ve lusted after her.

Most of the men in our survey who said they struggled with lust actually didn’t show any signs of it. They were carrying shame for NOTICING–and this needs to stop too.

Let’s teach our boys that it is possible to think a woman is pretty and still treat her as fully in the image of God.

In fact, it’s possible to think a woman ISN’T pretty and still treat her as fully in the image of God!

Let’s focus on the whole person, and not the body parts. It’s okay to notice beauty; it isn’t okay to objectify.

And when men do–let’s start seeing that as a red flag. Maybe then all of this would stop.

Yesterday was dominated by discussions about this on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Here’s just one message I received on Instagram:

I distinctly remember being 13 years old and sitting on the front row in church. I was wearing a knee length khaki skirt. During the service I put my cardigan over my legs cause I was cold. Thought nothing of it…until after the service one of the 60 something year old ministers came up to me and thanked me for covering my legs “cause it’s a distraction for the men up front”. I knew it made me feel uncomfortable to hear him say that…but of course at 13 I didn’t really know why and didn’t have the age nor experience to call that out as abusive and harmful. Every single friend I have in the church has had similar experiences. Every. Single. One.

Think about that: she’s an adult now. And she still vividly remembers this experience. She knows what colour the skirt was. She knows she was cold. She knows how she felt. 

And every single one of her friends could tell a similar story.

This is what our survey showed. These messages, when given to teen girls, do terrible, terrible harm that lasts a lifetime unless it is debunked (and please read The Great Sex Rescue to start unravelling it!)

What if you’re NOT the problem with your sex life?

What if the messages that you’ve been taught have messed things up–and what if there’s a way to escape these toxic teachings?

It’s time for a Great Sex Rescue.

Now here’s where things get bad: Many men were arguing yesterday that DESPITE the harm done to girls, they should still cover up.

Especially on Twitter, I had rather polite interactions with men who seemed like totally reasonable guys, explaining that we were supposed to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper, and men were visual and do lust, and so women and girls should dress accordingly.

When I said, “if we’re to be a sister’s keeper, and if we know this message does harm, then when does she get to matter?”, the response from several was, “that’s certainly sad, and we don’t want that to happen, but it needs to be understood how men are.”

So once again–men’s comfort matters more than women’s well-being.

Please, remember what we found.

When girls are taught this, they have:

  • lower orgasm rates
  • lower libido
  • more sexual pain
  • worse marriages
  • lower self-esteem (which leads to other negative outcomes)

Yes, the modesty message was tied to vaginismus, too.

So we’re totally okay with women having difficulty orgasming, experiencing sexual pain, having more emotional turmoil in their life, not experiencing the gift of sex to the fullest–as long as men are protected from cleavage?

And let’s remember that these messages hurt men too!

I mean, the fact that the messages hurt women should be enough, but obviously it isn’t for many. So let’s remember that teaching boys that “all men struggle with lust, it’s every man’s battle” hurts men in the long-run as well. You can see the results in our book The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex, but it led to worse sex and worse marriages for men too.

I had another man on Facebook tell me that if pastors don’t understand that noticing and lusting aren’t the same thing, we shouldn’t ostracize them for teaching on modesty wrong.

His logic was: Following my rule would just shame these pastors, and we should instead educate them.

But here’s my question:


How many more girls have to be hurt until they matter most? When does girls’ well-being get to be the focus? When do we get to care about girls?

When do we get to talk about the harm done to girls without hearing, “BUT THE MEN!”

I remember having this exact conversation with a very, very big name marriage author before The Great Sex Rescue came out. He agreed with everything in the book except our take on lust. He felt that all men DID struggle with lust, and women needed to understand that and adapt to it. And when I kept pushing him, saying that “this message actually HURTS women”, he said that was too bad, but it was the truth.

Except it’s not the truth. As we found in our surveys of men, all men do NOT struggle with lust, and about half of those who think they do appear to be struggling with noticing rather than lusting. Only about half of men actually struggle with lust. So a heck of a lot don’t, and we should stop presenting this like it’s normal.

I guess I’m just sad today because it seems that no matter how much data I share about the harm done to girls, I get so many men telling me it’s sad, but let’s remember the men….

How about we remember the 13-year-old girl in the khaki skirt trying to keep warm who was shamed by an elder and still remembers all the details a lifetime later?

Let’s stop sacrificing girls like her to Molech. Please.


I want to share another message I received yesterday about the “all men struggle with lust” message.

Just before I go, I thought this was important to mention too.

A woman who had had abusive relationships before she married a good guy wrote:

Someone gave us the every man and every woman’s battle books as a wedding gift.

I was horrified at what I was reading because, again, it was solidifying this idea that men can’t be trusted. In the toxic relationship I had been in before, some of the emotional abuse had involved negatively comparing me to other women. I was extremely sensitive to how I would never measure up and was always threatened by anyone that my husband might see and lust after. It was miserable for me and it’s been miserable for my husband.

As I read the chapter in The Great Sex Rescue about wondering if my spouse only has eyes for me, I sat and cried. Part of me feels so sad when I look back and see how these damaging messages have affected me as a person. The rest of me just feels anger that this is what the church and Christian media has been teaching. I sat down with your book and my husband last night and we read through that chapter together.

I apologized to him for how my incorrect thinking and view of him has affected him as my husband and us as a couple. As he shared his heart and experienced through the years, he got emotional too. I asked him to help me as I begin changing what I always thought was true. We are beginning to work out what that’s going to look like for us and what we want to change. It’s going to take work, but I so desperately want to be free of the ideas and beliefs that have caused so much damage.

Please, let’s stop sacrificing women and children to Molech. 


The Modesty Messages Hurt Girls

How can we make it so teen girls matter? How can we stop sacrificing girls? How do we institute my “rule”? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Kristen

    You could definitely say I was raised on the modesty message, and believe me, I still carry the baggage of it now in my late twenties, even though I’ve rejected most of that ideology. But I’ve said this before on the blog, that even though I was raised to be mindful of my clothing (make sure my shorts weren’t TOO short, show no cleavage, etc.), I remember my pastor dad telling the congregation it was possible for men to see a woman in a bikini and NOT lust. Basically, it’s one thing to notice, he said, but it’s up to the men to keep actively thinking about it (re: objectifying those women). And that’s how he raised my brother, too. So kudos to him for going against the grain in such a ultra conservative culture.

    • RNmom

      I have 2 girls early teens and I’ve always said wear what makes you feel like the beautiful girl God made you to be, we respect our bodies because they are a gift not hide them because someone else has self control problems. I think leaning more towards respecting yourself being comfortable with your body and having fun with color and accessories are far more important than modesty. I’ve always hoped my girls knew they should look in a mirror and say what does this outfit say about who I am and want to be. It’s so hard though, so hard!!

      • Ken

        Respectfully, leaving out any discussion of modesty sets up your daughter for failure. I don’t get this mentality at all. No you don’t have to be a nun but your daughters husband won’t come along because her butt is hanging out, only her next “nice guy” who wants to sleep with her and move on.

        Cleavage is clearly fine, but boobs clearly on display with thin strips of cloth cause it’s “brightly colored” is a terrible idea.

        • Meredith

          Your opinion is telling more about the state of your heart than about the mentality of men in general, Ken.

          • Ken

            Have you not heard the lyrics to the most popular songs? WAP. Rap culture in general. If you are naive enough to think our entire society isn’t designed to throw away sexuality as something that’s all about the thrill and not the deep connection within marriage The Bible and Sheila have described for years I don’t know what to tell you. Dressing loosely in any bar is portraying oneself as loose. Period. You can’t change an entire society. Girls are encouraged to be sexual as soon as possible today. It is disgusting and detrimental to a developing woman.

  2. Jonathan King


    “That’s certainly sad, and we don’t want that to happen, but it needs to be understood how valuable girls are.”

  3. Christina

    Sheila, thank you for tackling this. It’s such a 3D conversation and I appreciate your commitment to it.
    This is where I am now, and I’d love your feedback:
    Our daughter is Gr 6. She’s fabulous. Me and my husband have learned a lot of what ISN’T good as we were both raised in the purity culture and we could be your poster man and woman for how this impacts you. (legit-call me. We’d do it) But now that we have learned so much of what NOT to do, we feel lacking in what TO DO. What are we teaching her about summer clothes? What does clothes shopping look like now? Can you speak to this?

    • Meredith

      Let her wear what makes her feel good!

    • Audra

      I would suggest teaching her to wear clothes that are appropriate for the occasion. A sporty, functional bathing suit makes sense for swimming. It will likely be tight-fitting, but doesn’t need to follow the trend of show as many private parts as possible (thongs, etc.).

    • Laura

      Find clothes that fit well and feel comfortable to move around in.

    • Caridad

      I would love to hear more about this too! My 10 year old loves fashion and looking good. Sometimes her choice of outfit doesn’t seem appropriate to me but I don’t know how to explain it to her. It’s very innocent for her – clothes are just clothes- but some guidance on how to teach what’s appropriate would be helpful. (For example she likes off the shoulder tops and short skirts. She’s very sheltered and homeschooled and found these outfits when volunteering at an outreach Center that gives out free clothing)

  4. Nessie

    Teen girls matter oh so much! It is a fool who cannot- rather, will not- see this. No answers for how to make this happen right now but in the long-run, there is hope for the future. Decades passed between David’s anointing and him becoming king. So many other cases of long-awaited changes in the Bible…

    To do what I can to help change things, I’ve been discussing these things with my teen boy. Two comments he made while discussing this post:

    “We should be helping the men to change, not forcing the girls to change.”

    “If it’s wrong to notice that someone looks nice, then how can you give them a compliment?”

    I think there’s a reason we are told we must become like children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

    • Laura


      You are raising a kind hearted young man who is filled with wisdom. I agree that it is the men who need to change. After all, they are the adults and should know better. Girls are children and still learning.

      • Nessie

        Thank you! I think he’s pretty awesome, but I know I’m biased! 😉

        It’s funny… he’s on the autism spectrum and sees thing extremely “black and white”, and he simply cannot wrap his head around how these authors, pastors, etc. can think/preach/teach the way they do and still call themselves “good” christians. I totally agree with him.

    • Chris

      “If it’s wrong to notice that someone looks nice, then how can you give them a compliment?” Answer: You don’t! Since a theme here is how can we raise young boys to be better men, young boys need to hear this: You NEVER compliment a girl/woman on how she looks or what she is wearing. Ever. The only exception to this is your girlfriend/fiancé/wife. I had a coworker once who complimented the secretary on the COLOR of her dress and he got written up for it. He passed around his write up so we could all read it. Was it absurd? Yes. But it taught us all a very important lesson. Never do this. So Nessie, please teach your son to keep his compliments to himself. It can get him in big trouble, as you never know how a person will react to these things.

      • Sarah

        That’s a bit much, isn’t it Chris? You can give people compliments, just don’t be weird about it. If they choose to take an innocent compliment wrongly, as in your example, that’s on them, but let’s not be held back from being nice to people. Maybe compliment a personality trait, not a clothing item? But I admire people’s clothing all the time, male and female, and get a lot of compliments from both men and women on a colourful cardigan I like to wear. I’ve never once had a negative reaction and even if I didn’t, it wouldn’t stop me. Words of affirmation are a lovely thing.

      • Nessie

        Appreciate the concern. I hope to not scare the life out of him ever speaking to a female again though so I’m going to stick to helping him learn to speak and behave respectfully over not speaking due to fear. If I parented based on every extreme example I’ve heard, we would never go to an amusement park, never go swimming, never go to the doctor, never go anywhere that required driving, etc.
        I’ve been falsely accused of things before myself. It does hurt and it can be incredulous and ridiculous but in the end, I do my best to trust in God, and I hope to teach my kid to do the same. Thank you for the concern though.

      • Rachel Paul

        This comment is absurd! The Bible applies to boys also you know. We are commanded to build others up with our words!!

  5. Erin Leiser

    This is conversation that I have with my teenage daughter often. She will be the first to tell you that it’s not fair that girls have to wear modest one piece swimsuits to church functions, but the boys are allowed to parade their bodies in nothing but shorts. “Girls look too, Mom! And some of these guys are hot!” People like to throw out that we shouldn’t be a stumbling block, but CHILDREN SHOULD NEVER BE SEXUALIZED!!!! Should I say it again for the people in the back row??? CHILDREN SHOULD NEVER BE SEXUALIZED!!! And yet, here we are…with men who were once boys and never taught to be better.

  6. Jo R

    As long as women are not as important as men, as long as women are considered to be inferior to men, as long as all women are supposed to defer to all men, then why would expect expect younger females to be treated well by males of any age?

    And yes, these men are definitely telling on themselves and they should be called out for it: If they’re going to preach in the pulpit or in a Sunday school class that all men lust, then every woman in the room should stand up and tell the man that he just admitted to lusting. And maybe the man should be challenged to, oh, let’s say, plucking out the eye that’s causing him to lust?

    Such men should also be challenged as to their ability to lead, since a developing eleven-year-old girl is able to so affect the grown-ass man’s thought life that SHE’S the one at fault. Maybe men with so little self-control (hey, wait a minute, isn’t there something in the Bible about self-control?) aren’t actually qualified to lead, despite their possession of a penis.

    /snark /rant

    • Jo R

      (Sorry, first “expect” should be “anyone” or “we”)

  7. Bre

    I love this! I’m lucky enough to have never really gotten the modesty message growing up, even though I went to a conservative church where males and females couldn’t swim together at camp. I had issues with my body image and self confidence for years, basically until I got to college. I would literally cry and not want to leave for school because I thought I was fat and none of my clothes made me look good. When I was swimming I never just wore a swimsuit; I always had to wear a baggy shit and mens shorts over it because I was so self conscious. The first time I was okay with wearing a one piece with nothing over it was literally 4 years ago. I decided to get something cute that made me feel okay and wore it for the first time on a mission trip. My best friend and her now husband were so elated to see we in it because they’d always been concerned about me obsessively overly covering up when swimming. I don’t want to imagine what would have happened if I was getting those messages constantly on top of my body image issues, being Autistic and bullied. On the negative side I’m currently getting more modesty messages from my friends in a women ordaining denon as a grown adult. I was literally told on a weekend work trip to a farm mission project 2 weeks ago by my married friend that my v neck tshirt and falling down leggings weren’t a good choice because the boys would get hints of stuff when I bent over. I told her that it’s not like my buttcrack is sexy so the guys should just get over it. She said that It wasn’t about my butt being sexy but respecting the guys by not…I’m not sure what term she used but it was basically the stumbling Issue…she was confused when I pointed out that if my crack ain’t sexy then it shouldn’t be a temptation if guys see it for a second when I’m literally working on a farm. Maybe my clothes were a bit too loose, but that was the point. Again; farm work. And my younger, unmarried friends also thought I was being weird by thinking the guys were the ones who had to adjust their behavior. My pants literally just fall for no reason because of my body shape; I’m known for it at work. I’m quite literally the butt of jokes and the non Christian guys there have no issues treating me with respect…and I also managed to get awkward silence and looks by calling For Men Only an unhealthy book with faulty stats at the breakfast table on that work trip. Fun times😅.

    • Bre

      Oh, and when I say ‘pants falling down’ I mean they slide down and show a bit of lower back and just a hint of buttcrack…not that my pants are literally falling off…just to clarify so that no one gets any crazy ideas…it’s just a normal wardrobe malfunction that happens when you move around a lot, not anything that actually exposes anything that shouldn’t be seen

  8. Jane Eyre

    If you want the privileges of an adult, act like an adult, which means not skeeving on teenage girls.

    I’m also a fan of solving problems. If you are a young lustful man, you can do the soul searching required to fix that problem, or you can spend the next sixty years berating every woman who comes across your path.

    Who do they think made our bodies? We didn’t wake up one day and decide to be objects (word choice deliberate) of lust. God made women’s bodies. Take it up with Him if you have problems with it.

    • Jo R

      “Not skeeving on teenage girls”

      A commenter several months ago coined the word “pervangelical.” I think we need to spread this word far and wide, perhaps using it every time someone says that all men lust and women should cover up.

    • Nessie

      Jane Eyre,
      Reading your comment, it makes me wonder if maybe we need to loudly and constantly point out the blatant sin by men who lie about the girls’/women’s bodies being the problem… because they are calling bad that which God made good.
      Maybe the next time some guy complains about how a gal’s body is leading him to sin, we should ask him why he is sinning against God by calling His creation evil?

      • Srb

        I know this convo is a year old, but I gotta say this misguided modesty message aimed at girls is a natural fallout of male headship heresy where adult women who can and should—biblically—be holding their husbands and brothers in the church to a higher standard of integrity on issues of lust and sexual immorality in general, have been silenced in that regard. So they have no other recourse but to manipulate the girls into invisibility and such developmental, spiritual, and emotional harm. It is another insidious layer to such an idolatrous teaching as that men only can be in charge, but also, men may not be held to any standard of morality.

  9. Laura

    Even though I did not grow up in church, my mother taught me to dress modestly. I don’t know what her reasoning was. I just thought it was due to the era she grew up in (the 1960’s) and she was raised Catholic. When mini-skirts were all the hype of the 1960’s, my grandmother still made sure my mom’s and aunts’ dresses were no higher than 2 inches above the knee.
    When I was a teenager in the 1990’s, my mother made me put a shirt over my swimsuit when I was at a game. I had just gotten done with swimming at a water park and had shorts on. The sun was down and it was still hot out, so I did not see why I needed to put a shirt over my swimsuit. I did not have cleavage. I just thought my mom was being a prude.

    Years later, I’m in my 40’s and at Celebrate Recovery. I’m wearing a tank top that is not even low cut and one of the leaders, an elderly lady, tells me to cover up. While I’m being polite on the outside, inside I’m like thinking, “Excuse me! I am way more covered up than a lot of the women who come in wearing Daisy Duke shorts that show off their butt cheeks and wearing super-tight clothing that reveals more than what I have!” The lady was informing me that a lot of men who come to CR have lust issues and us women need to be respectful to them.

    For all the years I have been active in church (most of my adult life), I have heard the message that a lot of men struggle with lust and women need to dress modestly so the men don’t stumble. Besides, I don’t want to be ogled like some kind of sex object. Well, guess what? I grew up dressing modestly and was sexually harassed by boys in junior high and high school. I don’t think the way a girl or woman dresses influences how males behave. Men sexually harass because they want to assert power; it does NOT matter what a girl or woman wears.

    I’m really trying hard not to man-bash here, but I don’t know how to say this without sounding like it. Well, here goes: The men who preach behind the pulpit and are leaders in the church want to find a way to exert power over females so maybe they say these things such as “You women need to cover up so we men don’t stumble because we are lusting anyway.” These men probably want to have an excuse to justify their issues with lust and not have to take action themselves, so they put the responsibility on women.

    These men need to STOP sending these messages to teenage girls who are minors. The way these men act, they might as well join the FLDS church where that creepy Warren Jeffs used to rule over. Now this creep is in prison; he’s a pedophile who married 12-year-old girls. Rant over!

    • Laura

      When I told my boyfriend (now we’re just friends) about this “talk” at Celebrate Recovery, he jokingly told me that maybe I should stop wearing shorts because my legs are what he found the most attractive. He thought there was nothing wrong with my tank top and wearing it “did not cause him to stumble.”

    • Anon

      Laura, what you said about dressing modestly and still getting harassed by boys makes me think of “Beauty and the Beast.” Consider Belle’s interactions with Gaston. The whole time she’s around him, she’s wearing a modest dress with a long skirt and a high-cut blouse, and Gaston still harasses and stalks her, wanting to marry her because she’s “the most beautiful girl in town” (translation, LUSTING after her so he can possess her).

      Conversely, consider Belle’s most famous interaction with the Beast. During their iconic ballroom dance, she is wearing an off-the-shoulder ball gown that reveals a hint of cleavage. Never once does the Beast make comments about her body or force her to cover up. He treats her with nothing less than the utmost respect – not surprising, when you realize that a big aspect of the movie is a formerly spoiled brat of a man learning how to control himself and respect others.

      • Laura

        That’s a great analogy! I do remember how respectful the Beast was in that movie.

  10. Jo R

    Even if the church formulates rules like “Women must always wear X and must never wear Y,” then because, as the church teaches, all men lust, some man somewhere is going to be very turned on by X and not affected at all by Y.

    How exactly are women supposed to dress to avoid tempting that man? Or would someone, somewhere, admit that it’s THAT MAN who has a problem? Oh, sorry, what was I thinking? The MAN could never be the problem. 🙄🙄🙄

    • Bre

      This is EXACTLY it! As an avid consumer of true crime podcasts, I’ve figured out that there is a man who will literally fixate on any part of a woman you could name. For instance, I just listened to an episode about a serial killer who had an obsession with eyes ever since he was a teen and was literally called ‘the eyeball killer”…yeah, draw your own conclusions of what he did to get that name…but the point is, even if that’s an extreme example everyone is going to have different things they are attracted to. Does that mean that eyeballs or pinkies or eyebrows are now sexual and salacious if some dudebro has a fixation on them? Maybe men should not think that everything about women is meant for their consumption and gratification and be taught to chill out and treat them like whole humans and not parts?

      • Anon

        Bre, as I’m sure you’re aware from being a true crime buff, people are just objects to someone who’s:

        A – a sociopath
        B – entitled
        C – selfish
        D – any combination of the above

        Honestly, it makes me wonder just how many so-called “Christian” men would fit the above traits, given the disgusting amount of entitlement we’ve seen in response to Sheila’s research.

        • Anon

          Responding to my own comment, doesn’t it also beg the question of how these men would react if they were told they had a lot in common with, say, Ted Bundy or Dennis Rader (BTK)?

          • Laura

            That would be so funny if someone publicly and out loud compared these “pervangelicals” to serial killers. They do share some of the same traits mentioned; they just portray them differently than serial killers. Plus, like serial killers these pervangelicals are narcissists.

          • Jo R

            I have no doubt the pervangelicals are one and all “good-willed men.” 🙄🙄🙄

          • Anon

            Narcissism and an extreme sense of entitlement go hand-in-hand. In a lot of cases (such as Ted Bundy’s), sadism also fits the puzzle. It makes me wonder just how many of these pervangelicals take pleasure in the things they say and do to women. Gothard would be a prime candidate; Warren Jeffs also fits the bill. Anyone want to contribute to the list?

          • Jo R

            Emerson Eggerichs.

            Kevin Leman.

          • Mara R

            Mark Driscoll

            John MacArthur

          • Kelly

            Mark Gungor

            Gary Thimas

          • Kelly

            Thomas, I meant

          • Laura

            James Dobson

            Jim Bakker (ex-husband of Tammy Fay)

            Douglas Phillips (founder of Vision Forum)

            Owen Strachan

            Denny Burke (SBC guy)

          • JA

            James Dobson, really? I don’t remember hearing anything weird coming from him on this topic. 🙁

          • Mara R

            Doug Wilson

            Mike and Debbie Pearl

          • Anon

            Jeez, this definitely doesn’t say much about the men of modern Christianity if they’re all on the list of what makes a sadist…

          • Laura

            Lori Alexander, the Transformed Wife. I’m not sure if I’d consider her a narcissist. I have seen her videos through some Fundie snark channels on Youtube and wonder if she really believes what she preaches or she does this for satire.

          • Anon

            Let’s add David J. Stewart, founder of jesus-is-savior.com, to the list. Not only is he an absolute screwball whose website labels ANYTHING he doesn’t like as Satanic and puts forth some of the wackiest conspiracy theories on the planet, he’s a narcissist and a convicted pedophile on top of it. Yes, the same guy who rails against pedophilia on his “Christian” website and claims it exists in the “Narnia” stories (frick really??? 🙄) got caught raping a teenager. Don’t check out his website unless you have a strong stomach; he is one sick puppy.

  11. SL

    I’m playing devil’s advocate here… Yes, there’s a point to be made that it’s not a woman’s fault if she’s attractive or has a nice body. And it’s not her fault if men choose to objectify her because of it.

    However, I still think it is a woman’s job to dress in a way that respects her body, and that she chooses to dress in a way that is not ASKING to be objectified…. There’s a fine line to this subject, right? Because maybe she just has this perfect, (according to our culture) curvy body that turns heads. By both lustful men and jealous women LOL

    In this particular example, wouldn’t the woman be asking for it if she flaunts her curves by wearing skin tight clothes and low cut tops??

    • Meredith

      So you’re saying curvy women should be penalized for having the bodies God have them? That they have to be doomed to dress in baggy clothes lest they “turn heads”?! Pray, what’s wrong with turning heads? Should a woman with a beautiful face have to wear a veil? Should a handsome man wear a mask? Do you see how ridiculous your argument is?

      • Jo R

        Hey, guys! General word of warning as you go out into the world and even to—gasp!—horrors!—CHURCH!: Women have breasts! No amount of covering up with baggy clothes will make those breasts disappear, because they’ll still be there under the baggy clothes for your pervy minds to imagine.

        I’d suggest that maybe women should just get double mastectomies so men’s fragile little minds won’t be distracted or dismayed by the breasts God gave us, except that some women need such surgeries to SAVE THEIR LIVES.

      • Tom Brooks

        I don’t understand why you’re defending “skin tight clothes and low cut tops”. How about the middle ground between those and “baggy clothes”?

    • Jo R

      I guess rich people ask to get carjacked if they’re driving an expensive car or robbed if they live in an expensive neighborhood.

      I guess smart students ask to get their test answers copied.

      I guess the bullied ask to get bullied because bullies consider them deficient in some way.

    • Jo R

      So let me understand what you’re suggesting.

      Someone can do something that gives you a license to act unjustly by objectifying that person who bears the image of God? Someone can do something that gives you an excuse to sin against a fellow human being without incurring any guilt yourself?

      Why do men so often try to justify their bad, rude, and all too often actually sinful behavior by blaming someone besides themselves rather than owning and confessing that inappropriate behavior? Are men actually going to stand before Almighty God at the judgment and try to justify themselves by saying “But all those women were showing too much cleavage, or wearing shorts that were too short, or smiled at me as we both sat waiting at a stoplight, or…”?

    • Jonathan King

      Um, no. Women are never “asking for it.” There’s a reason “asking for it” is a commonly occurring phrase in rape culture: it’s rape apology, pure and simple.

  12. Angharad

    The whole ‘men shouldn’t lust but girls should still cover up’ is just a deflection anyway. Because you could be dressed in a burkha and a ‘Christian’ guy will still feel he has the right to grope you. There is no form of dress on the entire planet that will protect women from being sexually assaulted by creepy men in church. Believe me, if there was, I would have found it.

    I think the argument that ‘men shouldn’t lust BUT women still need to dress modestly’ is just designed to detract attention from the fact that men are far more likely to assault the ‘modest’ girls in church and also to shame those girls into keeping quiet because they think it’s their fault for being not quite modest enough. When everyone starts saying ‘men shouldn’t lust and DEFINITELY shouldn’t act on their lust REGARDLESS of what women are wearing’ then a) the guys won’t have anyone to blame for their behaviour and b) the girls won’t feel they are somehow responsible for their own assault.

    • Jane Eyre

      Thing I learned the hard way: many men think modest attire is a code for a woman who won’t establish boundaries and assert herself.

      • Angharad

        Yep! Growing up, I was the one in my peer group that was most modestly dressed. I was also the one who got assaulted the most. Predators are great at spotting good ‘prey’. Girls who are raised to be body-confident and to expect respect from men will call out inappropriate behaviour real fast. Girls who are raised to believe assault is always the victim’s fault for not being ‘modest’ or ‘good’ enough are more likely to keep quiet while they try and work out where they went wrong this time.

        It’s why I get so mad at the ‘men shouldn’t lust BUT girls should dress modestly’ arguments. Because I’m living proof that modesty is zero protection – in fact, if you want to be safe from assault, you’re better off making sure you’re one of the LEAST modest women in any group. (NB: I’m not arguing that women should start dressing immodestly – just pointing out that using ‘avoiding assault’ and ‘avoiding arousing men’s lust’ as reasons for modest dress is absurd!)

  13. Nathan

    When we combine these attitudes (all men lust, even noticing a woman is lusting, it’s all the woman’s fault, etc.) with the practice of never talking about sex at all, and going out of our way to keep kids in the dark about it (until their wedding day, when the Holy Spirit will magically turn women into porn stars), it causes multiple problems that each work to make the other problems worse.

    • Jo R

      Yeah, that’s every little girl’s dream: to have the Holy Spirit turn her into a church-approved porn substitute.

  14. Ken


    I have periodically read your articles and many times passed them off to my wife to read as well. I strive to be an Ephesians 5 husband and my wife is a Proverbs 31 wife. We have excellent communication and while we have some sporadic disagreements it is always resolved quickly. Without getting into too much detail for this one, your articles over the years have tweaked our marriage favorable and I am grateful for that. We have been married 13 blissful years despite external hardships, she is assuredly my other half.

    A handful of articles you have written, this one included I find way too open ended without your usual disclaimers.

    1. Men are responsible for their eyes and action, regardless of what anyone is wearing. Always.

    It surprises me to see some of the commentary from the jilted angry women who post on your pages.

    In this scenario, my wife and I are very clear with our daughter. The more skin you show the cheaper you are generally treated. No you don’t have to dress like a nun.

    Let’s not kid ourselves MANY young ladies are more apt to show butt and boobs at a younger age. It isn’t good, for them. It draws the wrong attention some of them do not want. In my college days it was pretty standard, the less clothes a woman wears at the stadium or bar the looser she is. Those women garner a lot of attention but not the right attention. Every horny male is looking for an easy woman and clothes are many times a sure fire green light.

    I really believe it is not a statement of wear what you want, but where what is appropriate and not akin to lingerie with midriff, heavy cleavage and daisy dukes.

    Without your disclaimers of balance, I believe it can set other women up for failure as well.

    • Meredith

      So you’re saying you APPROVE of treating girls/women poorly “the more skin” they are showing?
      That’s on you, not the poor girls. You’re teaching your daughter that if a male treats her poorly it’s *her* fault.

      As has been demonstrated inexhaustibly, “modesty” in clothing is CULTURAL. Topless beaches are frequent in Europe. Nobody cares. The men aren’t ogling women because they aren’t automatically taught that women are objects for their consumption.

      • Ken

        You all read what you wanted to read because I suggested daughters shouldn’t dress like a Britney Spears “toxic” video.

        The first thing I posted.

        1. Men are responsible for their eyes and action, regardless of what anyone is wearing. Always.

        There it is again. No if my daughter wears a g string only men shouldn’t treat her like meat. But I won’t be surprised as most men aren’t Christian anyway so few have a moral backbone.

        Does anyone here remember college? Does anyone at all remember the women dressed provocatively and how they were the easy prospects? How is “cute” having your butt hang out for all to see?

        There is a wide birth here of what is provocative and what isn’t based on culture. But if you think it’s a great idea for your daughter to walk around campus topless cause Europe does it, you are asking for her to be treated poorly. I never said it was right. It’s the nature of a fallen human race.

        • Angharad

          I haven’t read anywhere in Sheila’s post a recommendation that women walk around topless. If you take the trouble to read the post thoroughly you will see she is talking about something far different. For example, she quotes the incident of a 13 year old child in a knee length skirt who was told by a 60 year old man (and a church leader) that her lower legs needed to be covered as they ‘distracted’ men in church. That you can read something like that and go straight off into a rant about how women shouldn’t have their ‘boobs and butt’ hanging out is worrying…

          I don’t believe Christians (men or women) are free to wear whatever they want – if we are choosing to dress in a way that focuses attention on US, that is wrong. But what we wear or don’t wear needs to be a totally separate conversation from how men should behave toward women. Because they should be two totally separate issues.

          Each one of us is responsible for our own behaviour. Yet as soon as you say ‘Christian men shouldn’t lust BUT Christian women…’ you are putting the blame squarely back on the women.

          And your comments about ‘most men aren’t Christian anyway so few have a moral backbone’ completely misses the whole point – if you have bothered to read any of Sheila’s posts on this topic, and especially the comments on them, you will see that for most of us, our worst experiences of sexual harassment & assault have happened in church by men who claim to be Christian. And usually, while we were still children.

          You’ve more than once criticised women for being angry on this thread. You’re right. I am angry. And I’m not going to apologise for it. When church is a place where it is normal for adult males to tell children they are lusting over them, it’s right to be angry. When church is the place where Christian women feel least safe from assault, it’s right to be angry. Jesus was angry at injustice and abuse of power in the Temple. I’m pretty sure He is angry when He sees what is happening to women in His church today.

    • Angharad

      Ken, as I commented above, I was the most modestly dressed girl in my peer group growing up – I was also the one to experience most assault and inappropriate behaviour from men.

      Dress (or lack of it) has nothing to do with whether girls will be treated as ‘cheap’ or not. If covering up ensured a girl would be treated well, I would have been 100% safe.

      And I’m really not sure what you mean by your comment about ‘jilted angry women’. To be ‘jilted’ is to be suddenly abandoned by a lover – I haven’t seen anyone complaining about that. And are you suggesting that we SHOULDN’T be angry when so many women are the victims of sexual assault or abuse in church, sometimes starting when they are only children?!!! The Bible is full of examples of God’s care for the vulnerable and weak – I would suggest that it would be far more wrong if we were NOT angry at what happens to so many young girls in church.

    • Lisa M

      In other cultures some women are topless their entire lives. They are not treated poorly.

      When my husband and my sons are around a woman wearing very little fabric, they do not treat her poorly.

      I have been sexually harassed wearing baggy sweatpants and a turtleneck. I have been sexually harassed wearing jeans and long sleeve shirt with a vest on top.

      You do not know of what you speak. You are literally mansplaining right now, as if women don’t know the circumstances in which we have been sexually harassed. I’m honestly laughing at the idea of a man telling me in what circumstances I’m more likely to be sexually harassed. In my 49 years of life (and yes, it still happens even at my age) I am the one who can tell you when it is more likely to happen and when it is not. You have literally ZERO EXPERIENCE as a woman unless there’s something you’re not telling us.

      And no, I’m not a jilted woman. I’ve been married to a wonderful man for 25 years.

      Is your next post going to educate us on menstruation, childbirth, and breastfeeding? The tampons that leak the least? The menstrual pads least likely to cause a rash?

      • Ken

        You missed my first statement of

        1. Men are responsible for their eyes and action, regardless of what anyone is wearing. Always.

        It was at the top of my post for a reason. Sexual harassment should be addressed in the church. I guess without examples my limit for provocative dress is a music video extra.

        Where did tampons come in? They aren’t sexual it’s how God designed the female body to function.

        So many angry women when all I am saying is this is all true, you still shouldn’t hang out your boobs and butt.

        • Jo R

          Matthew 5:28, JSV (Jo Standard Version):

          “Everyone who looks at a woman lustfully just needs to tell her to cover up, and if she doesn’t, he shall not be held liable for his lust.”

          What’s particularly galling is that multiple women have said that they got sexually harassed wearing modest clothing, and you seem to have not read those comments or else you are simply ignoring them.

          There are some rules that are absolute: do not steal, do not commit adultery.

          There are others that are cultural or based on one’s conscience, like what constitutes appropriate clothing. The problem is that there is zero chance of ANY item of a woman’s clothing being modest in the eyes of EVERY man. As another commenter suggested, what do we do with the man who has a pinkie fetish? Are women to wear gloves year round? Or would we actually have to resort to mittens, since gloves tend to be form fitting?

          Some men have problems just realizing a woman has breasts under her shirt even if the neckline is around the base of her throat. A woman showing her ankles used to be scandalous, but some of the commenters here have gotten harrassed wearing ankle-length skirts in the twenty-first century.

          Do you see the problem? Since what’s “modest enough” is in the eye of the beholder, literally, it’s up to the beholder to keep control of his thoughts.

    • Jonathan King

      Sounds like someone needs to spend more time actually listening to the “jilted, angry women” who post here.

      • Ken

        You again didn’t read my post where the first comment was

        1. Men are responsible for their eyes and action, regardless of what anyone is wearing. Always.

        • Meredith

          You keep saying that, and if you’d stopped there in your original post, it would have been good. But then you kept going and berated girls/women whose standards don’t match yours and imply that they have only themselves to blame if they are harassed- it’s because of what they wear. And we ladies here are telling you as clearly as we can-
          IT IS NEVER ABOUT WHAT THEY WEAR. Period. Full stop. If a man harasses a woman, it is because HE IS DECIDING TO BE AN ASSHOLE. It is because he is objectifying the woman. And he can do that whether she is wearing a G-string or a burka.

          • Ashley P

            My question is what are you doing with 1 Timothy 2:9&10? The Bible clearly teaches that women should dress in modest apparel. How does this part of the Bible fit into this conversation?

            I’m not saying that any man should think he has the right to objectify any woman regardless of what she is or what she’s not wearing. It’s never ok, even if she’s completely naked.

            I think we are doing a disservice to equate modesty only with certain articles of clothing. As with all things it goes back to our heart. If we are truly allowing God to guide us in our everyday decisions will there be certain articles of clothing we won’t wear?

            Instead of telling girls what to wear and what not to wear maybe we should teach them to follow after God and His Word instead of men’s (and women’s) opinions. If a woman is following the Holy Spirit’s leading she will be modest in heart whether in a floor length dress or jogging shorts.

            I also believe that boys need to be taught to never objectify women, no matter what she’s wearing. If they are following God’s leading they will have a right heart towards their sisters in Christ.

            What concerns me about some of these comments is it seems like a lot of Christian women have no regard for a modest heart. Where does this fit in?

          • Angharad

            Ashley, of course modesty is important (and as you rightly say, it is a heart matter more than a clothing matter). And when Sheila writes a post about how important it is, I’ll comment in support of that – and I’ll also challenge anyone who says ‘it’s true that women should have modest hearts, BUT MEN …’ Because that post will be about encouraging women to have their hearts right before God, and any comments about how men should behave would be a derailment and a distraction.

            The reason we are not referring to modesty here is because this post is not about that. THIS post is about the way so many churches put the blame for men’s lust on teenage girls (i.e. children) and how that needs to stop. Commenting about how women need to be modest is irrelevant to this topic, just as commenting on how men need to take responsibility for their own lust would be irrelevant to a post about women needing to be modest.

            As long as we keep linking male lust to female modesty, we will continue to see men justifying sexual assault and harassment because they ‘couldn’t help it’, we will continue to have 60-something male church leaders feeling free to tell an underage girl that men are lusting over her and we will continue to have women and girls who are too afraid to speak up about sexual abuse because they know one of the first things they will be asked is ‘what were you wearing?’

    • C

      Ken, I was raised with modesty messages and wore a modest uniform for 12 years at school.

      I’m not sure what you mean by being treated more cheaply. Wearing modest attire doesn’t guarantee that one is treated more respectfully. It doesn’t stop a teen girl from being cat called. It doesn’t stop girls from being inappropriately groped by their classmates. It doesn’t stop them from getting crude remarks.

      Dressing modestly does not necessarily stop you from getting unwanted attention. Sometimes the men giving that unwanted attention is more about a power dynamic–maybe he is just trying to shame a woman he perceives to be buttoned up—or in some cases he thinks she is less likely to have the skills to rebuff his advances. Some men will fetishize the overly modest.

      I don’t think anyone is advocating wearing Daisy Dukes.

      I think this piece is largely a criticism of how the modesty message is delivered, especially when delivered by male pastors.

      • Anon

        Someone made an excellent point earlier in the comments about how often, the girls who dressed more modestly were more frequently targeted by a-hole guys – why? Because they believed the modest girls wouldn’t fight back against the harassment, or more likely blame themselves if something happened. Is anyone here advocating that women dress like hoochie mamas? No! Is anyone saying that dressing immodestly is a guarantee that men won’t sexually harass or assault a woman? No! The point is that no matter how a woman dresses, there are SOME men (notice I didn’t say ALL, because there truly are some good gentlemen out there who truly do respect women) who will still CHOOSE to lust after women and act like jackasses. Yes, this is a choice; “all men lust” is not a valid excuse and quite frankly spits in the face of the entire male gender.

  15. EOF

    Growing up I went to pentecostal churches and I don’t recall any shame over clothing, ever. It wasn’t until college when I started going to what I suppose would be an evangelical church (I still never know if my church fits into that category). That’s when I started getting those messages.

    One day, in college, I got the bright idea of planning an outing for the college group at church to go to a local waterslide park. Because, you know it was hot out and college kids like fun things like that. But that idea got shut down super-fast because guys and girls couldn’t be around each other in swimsuits! And at church the women were instructed to dress modestly without cleavage showing or revealing skirts or shorts.

    In fact, over the last ten years or so since the styles have been really short shorts I haven’t worn shorts at all!! (Unless I could find knee-length shorts.) I even went to a tropical climate with other church families, and I either wore pants or capris. It was crazy! (To be fair, nobody ever told me I couldn’t wear short shorts, but I had so deeply internalized the clothing rules from the previous 15 years I felt I would be shamed if I did.)

    THIS YEAR, I bought a metric ton of tiny shorts and I’m going to wear those babies everywhere I go!! I have nice legs (the one part of me I’ve never had a problem with) and I don’t care what anyone says. The shorts cover enough and they’re cute and I don’t want to be overheated for one more bloody summer!!

  16. CM

    Modesty was the #1 message I heard at my church youth group and girls guides whenever we were told “girls only” stuff.

    I was repeatedly told to cover up for church so that ” you don’t distract the priest and other men”. At first I did not fully understand…

    Growing up, as a young adult, I learned to dissociate the respect one must show towards oneself, others and God, and dressing “safely” so that men won’t lust after you.

    I remember praying on a beach while wearing a bikini. It was spontaneous and I felt great and loved. Afterwards only did I thought “oh, maybe God was offended bc I wasn’t wearing an appropriate outfit”. Then I realized God is NOT a man. I mean, Jesus is a man, but he never sinned, he never lusted after the women he saw on earth. So as God he knows how every woman looks like naked but He is NOT lusting after them.
    It may be a shoking thought. But it’s so freeing…
    The day I realized God is no creepy guy spying on is was a big step towards trusting Him.

    • Laura

      “dressing “safely” so that men won’t lust after you.”

      This is exactly how I feel I need to dress so I don’t get noticed too much, especially by creepy men. Of course, I don’t think it matters what a woman wears. If a man is going to treat her like an object, it’s not based on how she is dressed. He just wants to exert power over her. I know this all too well. When I was a teenager, I dressed modestly or over the top “safely” (in baggy clothes) so I wouldn’t be ogled by creepy teenage boys. That still did not stop them from sexually harassing me. There were girls who showed more skin and had more curves than I ever did and they never got sexually harassed.

  17. Cynthia Solorio

    I was raised in a home that revered Bill Gothard and all his poison. Im finally set free with God’s truth! A Pastor on the radio said this rule of thumb for how women can tell if their outfit is ok, and I think it is perfect: “Ask yourself: ‘If Jesus were to knock on your door to pick you up, would you fee comfortable? Or would you turn around and go change?”
    This leaves room for a woman’s conscience. What’s in our heart? No need for ridiculous clothing rules if we just ask ourselves this question.

    • Prospect

      Which is fine. Just don’t think it’s a guarantee against never been sexually harassed or assaulted.

  18. Brita

    This is such a great post! I’ve been pushing back against Modesty Culture for years now. I was a late bloomer, but when my boobs arrived, I grew a cup size every 6 months for 2 years. My style didn’t change during that time, but I did go up a size in tops. The exact same shirts I was wearing as a B-cup, I wore in a size up as a D-cup, and suddenly I received criticism about not being modest.

    A funny thing, though… During my years of experiencing sexual harassment and sexual assault by men (the most recent incident being last month), my outfit never made a difference. Men didn’t even leer at me when I sunbathed topless in France, but a man reached UNDER my long winter coat to grab my butt when we were on the metro.

    Maybe the problem isn’t women’s bodies and clothing…?

  19. Jo R

    Youth groups start talking to teen boys about the issue of lust and the allure of porn. “Don’t use porn” side by side with “You’re male, so you’re going to lust naturally. Oh, but don’t worry, you don’t have to fight to overcome it, because we’re telling the girls to cover up.” (Of course, no one is telling all other women on the planet to cover up, so boys are still going to see some women dressed provocatively, but I digress.) When these teen boys grow up and go to college, their “Christian” groups are likely to continue the same message. Their churches may do so as well.

    Girls, on the other hand, some of whom are not even old enough to be in the youth group yet, are being told by men and women in church to cover up so they’re not stumbling blocks to boys and even the aforementioned grown-ass men. It’s not said explicitly, but girls do subconsciously understand (which makes it that much more difficult to overcome later) that their developing bodies—a wholly natural process which the girls cannot stop—are dangerous and even inherently sinful. When these young girls do get in the youth group, that message of possessing a dangerous, sinful, and sin-inducing body is reinforced. When these young girls grow up and go to college, their “Christian” groups are likely to continue the same message. So will their churches.

    When a young woman thus raised married a young man thus raised, why would any rational person think that that woman is going to feel anything other than shame and fear and guilt about her body, which will greatly inhibit her (and, by direct correlation, her husband’s) sex life? Why would anyone think that the man is suddenly going to start having eyes for only his wife? Neither of them have been developing healthy mental habits and thought patterns throughout the bulk of their lives, but getting married is going to instantaneously undo all this wretched teaching?

    Boys and men get a complete pass on considering others before themselves, while girls and women not only have to carry the unbiblical burden of being taught their bodies are inherently sinful, but girls and women also have to do all the changing and adapting and considering of others. But men are inherently qualified for church leadership and women aren’t.

    Why do so many of us think all this makes any sense at all?

    • Tom Brooks

      I agree with all of what you say, Jo R. I like your comment a lot. About the church leadership thing though – why couldn’t the Bible not sound so sexist? Why couldn’t Jesus put women IN CHARGE of different churches, and demand that others did the same? He didn’t though. It seems to me, if I may be so bold, that Jesus could have wiped out the sexist future of the 2,000 years after Him if He had clearly set up a different system.

      • Jo R

        There are cultures TODAY where women do not talk to men in public, unless the men are family members. That was true in Jesus’s culture as well. Yet Jesus talked to multiple non-family-member women in public, and in fact, the longest recorded conversation He had with just one person was His conversation with the woman at the well.

        In Jesus’s culture, women were not legally allowed to testify in court. And yet after His resurrection, He commanded Mary to go to the MALE disciples to preach the resurrection, which sounds a whole lot like testifying.

        You’ll note that despite being God in human flesh, He was unable to override the free will of the religious and cultural leaders He lived among. How exactly would He have forced men of His day to treat women with equal honor and respect?

        Paul also did what he could within the confines of his culture. He praised his fellow female workers and used the same ministry titles for them as for his fellow male workers (despite the absolute fact that too many English translations do their damnedest—literally—to hide that fact).

        Changing hearts is a long, slow business in all too many cases, and it doesn’t help that the very people who in many cases need to change the most are too entrenched in their power and status to do so, and wouldn’t even recognize the fact that they need to change.

  20. Lisa M

    Frankly, men have had their way with society and theology. It’s time for them to sit down and LISTEN. They can listen and not instantly turn the focus back on to themselves. They can keep their mouths shut and listen and think about someone other than themselves.

    It’s not that men don’t matter. But men have been running the conversation and keeping themselves at the center since forever.

    • Mara R

      Read this post last Friday. And all I could think about was the first few lines of Rick Warren’s book “The Purpose Driven Life”.

      Those first few words were, “It’s not about you.”

      Men saying “that’s certainly sad, and we don’t want that to happen, but it needs to be understood how men are.” made me want to yell at them, “Why is it only allowed to be all about you!”

      I agree with you, Lisa, men have been keeping themselves at the center for far too long.

      So, I dusted off my old blog and wrote a post about it.

  21. Lael Nafziger

    Girls should absolutely not be blamed for the sin of men. Sin is sin and needs to be called out and recognized. The overall culture of sexualizing our kids WAY before they even understand the power and desire God has given them is absolutely something parents of all kids need to guard on their behalf. I disagree with letting girls wear “whatever makes them feel good” because feelings aren’t the reason we should wear what we do. We still should teach kids to honor God and not ACTIVELY seek to gain sexual attention through what we wear. Well meaning parents that allow their young girls to wear anything they want may be placing them into dangerous position in our culture. Again- I’m not against calling out the true lust as sin, but I am for protecting kids from predators and perversion.

  22. C

    I like the expression “telling on themselves”. There is a married “religious” guy who talks about modesty online. He constantly talks about women who don’t fit his definition of modesty as enticing him to look by the display of their “sexual body parts”.
    I’m fascinated that in this particular case, the dude is old enough to be someone’s grandpa, and he utterly lacks any self reflection that he is just making himself look skeevy.
    What makes me shudder is when he constantly fixates on women bending over to pick something up etc. and that he can see down their shirts with their enticing body parts. Why can’t this guy just give these poor women a break.

  23. C

    I saw that Shaunti Feldhahn recently tweeted :

    “Our husbands and sons are constantly engaged in a mental battle, seeing sights in public that were only supposed to be seen in private.”

    What sights does she mean? A woman’s legs? A hint of cleavage? A woman with an hourglass figure? A woman wearing clothing that is so oversized one can’t discern her curves at all. What does constantly mean? I rarely see a woman that I would call over the top immodest. And if I do I just go about my day. But I suppose others have a different view on what Christianity calls them to do—but it seems to be a big part of her message.

    I myself don’t believe God meant for us to go to extremes in modesty—quotes like hers don’t help.

    Funny she doesn’t mention the mention men actually seeking out the images of things they shouldn’t see through porn use.

    Why is only a fraction of the world that has this view of women—is it because they have been taught to see women as God made them as less than?

    • Jo R

      What I’d like to know is why none of these authors hammer men to be sure they meet the needs of their wives.

      Why is there this unspoken assumption that women don’t have needs, or that women’s needs don’t matter? That we’re robots, or second class, or maybe not actually fellow human beings also made in the image of God?

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I think there is just such an elevation of men over women that women truly don’t enter into the equation. I keep remembering that conversation with the big name Christian author about lust. I remember telling him, “but telling women that all men struggle with lust HURTS women. It hurts them. It does terrible things.” And he just didn’t care. Because men needed women to have sympathy and understand them.

        And this is a man that people thought wasn’t patriarchal like the rest of them.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think so, yes. That’s interesting that she put out that tweet. I still find it so hard to believe she’s doubling down despite all the outcry and all the research.

  24. Tim

    I’m thinking out loud here:

    Most people in a church (or any given community) aren’t alcoholics. But if you’ve got a community of more than a few hundred people, inevitably someone will be.

    If they have an alcoholic relapse, that’s ultimately their responsibility, but a caring church would do their best to make it easier for them if they knew. And even if they weren’t aware there was a recovering alcoholic member among them, they should at the minimum be a community which doesn’t normalise that alcohol is consumed at every social occasion, or drunk to excess when it is available. There’s a similar situation described in 1 Cor 8, excerpt below.

    Similarly, I think it’s a myth that all men struggle significantly with lust, but some men genuinely do (and of course some women too).

    So, if we accept that modesty culture as it’s been taught is harmful to both men and women, how would a church or other community adopt a recovery mindset to help those who genuinely struggle with lust triggered by seeing attractive people? What would that look like? Obviously providing/facilitating psychiatry or whatever treatment is required and ensuring that everyone else remains safe are bottom lines, but what else?

    Genuine question – I don’t have an axe to grind here, just thinking it through. I think you’ve made a strong case that the status quo in many churches is harmful, but the alternative can’t just be nothing (not that you’re advocating that), so what is it?

    “8. But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. 9. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10. For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? 11. For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. 12. And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13. Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.” (1Cor 8:8-13, NASB)

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Tim, the problem is, as you specifically said, some people will be triggered by attractive people. There will always be attractive people. Always. And they can’t change the fact that they’re beautiful.

      Just as an alcoholic has a responsibility to stay out of bars, then maybe someone who cannot be around women without lusting should stay out of church.

      The thing about alocholics is that the only victim is the alcoholic themselves. But with lust, the person who lusts is not the victim; the person who is lusted after is. So if someone cannot be in public without victimizing others, they have a responsibility to not be in public.

      • Tim

        Sorry, missed your response. You make a good point re who the victim is – that is a significant difference. Though paradoxically, most victims of a lustful person would never know about it (I’m assuming here that we’re talking about someone who struggles privately with lust and isn’t guilty of sexual harassment or worse), whereas alcoholics’ behaviour can frequently be devastating to those close to them. It’s complicated.

        Re your last comment (“So if someone cannot be in public…”), did you have sexual harassment/assault perpetrators in mind, or those who struggle privately as well?

  25. Anonymous

    Let’s not forget the girls who grow up in these environments terrified of men and who then inevitably feel disgust and fear of all men and choose to be gay or trans to avoid the shame of even being a woman. …. But let’s not forget the men.

  26. Jeremy

    I just want to start off by saying how much I appreciate this message. It is NOT up to young girls (I am the father of three little ones) to protect the eyes of men. How it is very creepy to spread the message that a little girl, young woman, or any woman should seek to protect the eyes of supposedly leaders and men of the church. I’ve also held true for a very long time that looking at a woman and noticing that she is beautiful is not lust and that the road to lust is much more sinister than just seeing an attractive body part or anything. I’ve also very much appreciated the sentiment that the path to battling lust is not just fleeing or averting your eyes, it is putting on righteousness, putting on respect and love towards these members of the opposite sex, for we all know that lust can go both ways. I have struggled with lust for many years, fell into the trap of thinking I’d never conquer it, fell into thinking I’d always struggle with it to one degree or another. Thankfully God, is much, much bigger than our sin. I also agree that we should not sacrifice women’s well being for men’s comfort, we should look at what we teach and see that it is causing a lot of, albeit unintended, harm.

    Porn is evil, for many reasons, but for one reason specifically that this blog brings up all the time, it objectifies women. Cat calling is offensive because it objectifies women. We need to certainly have more of a perspective for how women feel on a day to day basis, they are always having to be vigilant walking down the street at night or being alone in a parking garage. If men were more concerned about women’s feelings, then they certainly would be less concerned about what they were wearing and be more concerned with what we could do to make them feel more at ease. These are all great points and things I need to consider while raising my three girls. I do not want my girls to be objectified by anything, they are so much more than objects for some man’s pleasure.

    However, certain clothing is designed to objectify women in my opinion. When a man sees a naked woman that he does not care about, she will become an object to him. Pornography knows this. No porn will ever seek to give women a voice, to attempt to make the audience see them as a person who deserves compassion and respect. I see my beautiful wife naked and I see a whole woman, a mother of our children, a woman who has walked five-hundred miles and would walk five-hundred more, and a woman I desire so deeply because of who she is in my life. I don’t struggle with seeing my naked wife as an object because she is so much more. (Thank you, Sheila and crew, for contributing to me seeing her more of that way.) If a girl walks into my purview wearing yoga pants and a low cut tight tank top, this appearance to me leaves nothing to the imagination and is very close to essentially being naked. I have to stop myself and see her as a person, there is a conscious effort that has to be made. I believe that my brain is wired in a BROKEN way that when I see her, she is first and foremost an object, because I don’t know her and I don’t have the relationship with her that is necessary to automatically see her as a beautiful creation of God.

    If a girl shows up at church dressed this way and I know her a little bit, it is a little easier to not see her as an object, but walking down the street or out of context, this is what dressing immodestly does to a woman, it objectifies her in the eyes of men. I believe this might be an element that we are missing when talking about this. I didn’t read all the comments, but I can hear a lot of men already saying that you’re right, if a man lusts it’s his sin, but if a woman dresses immodestly that’s her sin.

    I believe in the end that you’re absolutely right, we need to find a way to talk about this that doesn’t shame women, but that is also recognizes that there is still an issue that the other gender genuinely has to deal with because of our society’s objectification of women.

  27. Connie

    I was just looking at the list of recommended books by Family Life Canada, since my son had them in their church for a marriage thingy. Have you seen or read the book, “Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys”? I haven’t but it looks scary, so I wondered if you had reviewed it.


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