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!
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.
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!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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