6 Reasons We Should Stop Accusing Girls of Dressing Like Prostitutes

by | Mar 27, 2023 | Parenting Teens | 78 comments

Stop accusing girls in church of dressing like prostitutes
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When we talk about modesty, I often see commenters saying, “But she’s dressing like a ho.”

Whenever the talk comes up about how girls shouldn’t be held responsible for boys’ and men’s thoughts, inevitably someone will say, “What about all the girls coming into church dressing like street walkers?”

For instance, on Friday I posted this across social media, and, once again, I had people across different platforms accusing girls of mimicking sex workers. 

Why are we blaming 12-year-olds for men's lust?

I find this a rather interesting comment, because I have never seen an epidemic of preteen girls dressing like prostitutes in church.

I think there’s something else going on, and this really bothers me. So I’d like to set the record straight, and list 6 reasons why we need to stop accusing girls of dressing like sex workers.

And a reminder, too: If you’re looking for a guide for talking about clothing in a healthy way with your daughter, we’ve got you covered in our new book She Deserves Better! We walk you through a better way that doesn’t make these mistakes:

1. Are they dressing like prostitutes–or do you just not like the latest fashions?

Let’s just use a little logic here. When people are selling sex, and they want potential customers to know that this is their intention, they need to distinguish themselves from others around them who are not selling sex.

The way to do this is to dress on the extreme in terms of fashion. If they are wearing what most people of their generation are wearing, then it is difficult to distinguish themselves from others (obviously there are exceptions, such as escort services, but usually when the “you’re dressing like a prostitute” comes up, it’s accusing someone of dressing as someone soliciting customers on the seedy end of town).

Thus, if a girl is dressed how most girls dress today, they are not, by definition, dressing like a prostitute, no matter how much you hate what they’re wearing, or no matter how much skin you think they’re showing.

There is no objective measure of type of fashion or amount of skin that signals that one is dressing like a prostitute; there are only relative measures of dressing on the extreme end of some fashion trends.

2. Fashions can differ across generations

What might have constituted “dressing like a prostitute” in 1983 does not mean that it is “dressing like a prostitute” in 2023. Fashions change.

When older people look at young girls and think, “she’s dressing like a prostitute”, it may be true insofar as she may be dressing like what a prostitute may have looked like thirty years ago. That does not mean that she is dressing like what a prostitute would be wearing today.

To take a more mundane example, I have heard multiple sermons and commentaries from Gen X and Boomer pastors about the evils of yoga pants, and how they induce men to lust. However, most millennial and Gen Z men don’t even notice them because they grew up with them. If a Gen X man is fixated on a 13-year-old’s yoga pants, he needs to stop. The younger guys are not in the same way because this is normal.

Fashions change across generations, and so there is a tendency to look at those who are younger and think, “they are dressing so immodestly.” But it’s just that it’s not what you are used to, and projecting your own culture onto young teens is not appropriate.

It’s not like culture is getting worse and worse, either. My mother’s mini-skirts in the 1960s are way shorter than anything I or my daughters have ever worn, and don’t forget how much cleavage dressed in the 1860s and 1870s showed.

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3. Assuming intention causes shame

It is very, very unlikely that the girls that are being accused of dressing like a prostitute are actually trying to tell others, “I’m open to having sex with people, and I’m actively looking to have sex with people.” This is doubly true if the girl is 15 or under.

And yet, even when I talk about 12-year-olds, I keep hearing comments accuse her of dressing like a prostitute.

When a girl is not remotely thinking about soliciting sex, and then they are told, “I think you are trying to tell all the men around you that you want to have sex,” they’re going to be horrified and ashamed. They’re going to start to distrust all the men around them–“are you saying that the men around me are looking at me and thinking of having sex with me?” They’re not going to be able to look people in the eye because they’re going to think that all the adults around them assume that they want to have sex with all the men around them, and that is completely, utterly, and absolutely gross, disgusting, and threatening.

They’re not going to understand.

Do not ever accuse a woman of a particular intention just because of her clothing.

I find this occurs especially once girls start to develop breasts. That’s when they’re told they’re trying to attract men’s attention, when actually the last thing they want is adult men’s attention. But when an adult man sees a girl with breasts and finds her sexually attractive, he often assumes that the girl  was deliberately trying to do this (it’s called the “male gaze”, and it assumes that because a man sees a girl one way, the girl agrees with that and sees it the same way.)

4. The most likely intention is to look pretty

Usually girls are simply trying to be pretty and to fit in. That’s it. Even girls that may be dressed more extreme–they’re often dressing that way because it brings them attention that they crave. It doesn’t mean they actively want to have sex with anyone.

If you see a girl who is dressing on the extreme, recognize that this does not mean she wants to have sex with men; it’s more likely that she isn’t getting a lot of good attention, and so she wants to feel grown up (because grown ups have more control over their lives) and she wants to stand out. The answer to this girl is not to give her a modesty talk. It’s to befriend her and figure out what wounds she has in her life and try to help her.

5. We need to own our issues rather than projecting them onto a child

What we really mean by “you’re dressing like a prostitute” is “I’m uncomfortable around you dressed like that.” That’s a me-issue, not a her-issue. If she is dressed the way most girls in her generation are dressed, and if she would fit completely in with a group of peers at the mall, she is not the problem, whatever she is wearing. You simply don’t like today’s fashions. And you’re allowed to not like today’s fashions.

What you aren’t allowed to do is shame girls for wearing what is completely normal.

Tip for parents when you don’t like today’s fashions

Own it. Say to your daughter: “I know what you’re wearing is totally normal and in fashion, but I’m just not comfortable with it. This is totally a me-problem, and I know that I’m another generation, but that really makes me uncomfortable. So how about we go shopping and we find something that’s totally trendy and that looks super cool, but that won’t give me a heart attack? Can you do that as a favour to me? And I will try to keep taking deep breaths and relaxing as I watch you grow up, because you’re awesome!”

I did this with my girls, and they would roll their eyes and laugh, but they were okay with it.

I wasn’t shaming them; I was owning my own discomfort. And because we had a good relationship, it wasn’t a big deal.

For more tips on how to have these conversations with your daughter, see our book She Deserves Better.

6. Villifying prostitutes sends the wrong message

Finally, just a point of contention on the very language that I think is important. When we say, “you’re dressing like a ho”, we’re putting the blame in the wrong place. Remember that the majority of people in prostitution did not willingly choose it. They are trafficked.

If the demand for prostitution stopped tomorrow, prostitution would disappear. The problem is not the prostitutes; the problem is the customers and those who traffic the prostitutes. The evil is not in the selling of sex, but in the buying of sex. (This was one of my major critiques of Joshua Butler’s book Beautiful Union; he framed prostitution as a female sin, not a male one). Most countries now prosecute buying sex, not selling. That’s the way to stop it and that’s the way to keep people safe.

When we are talking about commercial sex work, then, can we stop painting prostitutes as the villains? They very rarely are. And it’s a good idea to get that out of our language.

Jesus was much more concerned with people’s hearts than with how they dressed.

Could we be a church that actually mimicked Jesus? That cared about the preteens and teens in our midst, rather than labelling them sex crazed fiends? That approached these teens with care, wanting to love them and help them feel accepted, rather than accusing them of trying to seduce adult men?

That would be such a safer church. And honestly–if adults can’t get behind this, then the children aren’t the problem.

She Deserves Better!

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Your daughter deserves better than what you likely grew up with in church.

What would it look like to prepare the next generation without toxic teachings about modesty, sex, or consent, and instead set her up for a big faith?

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We’ve got an exclusive Facebook group with Facebook Lives, lots of great discussion, and more! Plus you get access to the book right away so that you can write an early review.

But we need to close the doors to that Facebook group so that the discussion can grow.

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Let's stop accusing preteen girls of dressing like prostitutes

What do you think? Why do so many adults in church seem intent to accuse young teens of dressing like prostitutes? How can we change this conversation? 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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78 Comments

  1. Meredith

    “What we really mean by “you’re dressing like a prostitute” is “I’m uncomfortable around you dressed like that.” That’s a me problem, not a her problem.”

    THANK YOU!!!

    Reply
  2. Phil

    Good morning Sheila – I have been witness to men saying “She dresses like a prostitute” or “She looks like a ho”. My perspective from a man’s point of view are two observations:

    1. The man wants to have sex with the woman/girl and insulting her is his way of telling you that very fact!

    2. The man does not want to have sex with that woman/girl but “it tempts him”. Insulting her hides his fear and projects it on her.

    The insult sounds the same and only he knows the truth – but if you know the guy you could figure out if it is 1 or 2 and often both!

    As far as fashion goes there is one that I do not like. That is t-shirt or sweat-shirt and shorts that are not long enough to know she is wearing shorts. Therefore it looks like she is wearing no pants! I personally think the fashion trend just kind of happened and may even have been a result of the dress code often seen in schools. The t-shirt fits the code and so does the length of the shorts but it looks like she isn’t wearing pants and only a t-shirt which looks like a really super short “skirt”.

    We dont really have a lot of rules in our house. I prefer to tell my kids we have principles. (We do have a couple hard core rules but even those can be flexible if we talk it out).

    One day my daughter came down the steps in the t-shirt short shorts get up and I asked my daughter to please not participate in that fashion? She asked me why? Its simple! It looks like you aren’t wearing any pants? She said ok and it probably happened 3-4 times again after my request. I didn’t make her change or anything like that…I just said “wear’s your pants?”and she just took her shirt and put it in a knot on the bottom and moved on…And we laughed. Now when we see a girl or woman wearing that fashion my daughter will say “Hey look Dad she isnt wearing any pants!”

    I am just so grateful that my daughter gets it and we have the kind of relationship that we can love each other through laughter yet respect each other in the process.

    Reply
  3. Rhoda Witmer

    As someone who’s lived in a high-trafficking neighborhood, this phrase bothers me primarily for reasons related to trafficking.

    1. “Dressed like a prostitute”—so, dressed like someone who has been taught that all they are worth is being objectified? Who taught them that?

    2. Since when are the prostituted the lowest of the low? Should the shame not be directed to those who exploit them?

    3. If we had the correct understanding of prostitution as it happens today, “dressing like prostitutes” wouldn’t be the slam people think it is. How about “viewing pornography like a sex buyer”?

    4. Modesty, from a culturally collectivistic perspective, had to do with deference and honor—not so pompous that it created relational discord, but also it would have been unusual for a well-ranked individual to dress too humbly (a king in rags). One look at your clothes and others would know who you were and how to relate to you: religious leader, peasant, king, etc. Mourners who wore sackcloth and ashes were effectively laying aside other identities and asking the community to relate to them as mourners. Clothing was NOT about sexuality unless the person was announcing that they literally were a prostitute.
    Thus, modesty of appearance was primarily about modesty of portrayed social status.

    Making modesty primarily about sexuality betrays how over-sexualized church culture has become.

    I WISH people could understand that trafficking isn’t just a hot topic. It actually happens and IS HAPPENING in real time to millions of people in all countries and across all SES.

    Imagine if we stopped comparing porn to fantasy because we understood it’s not pretend—actual people are actually exploited in its production.

    People who accuse preteens of dressing like prostitutes are showing both their ignorance AND their deviance. Once you see a preteen who ACTUALLY fits that description—the sane response is something entirely unlike judgment or derision.

    Reply
    • Elizabeth LeGris

      As someone who was trafficked as a 6 year old (by really unfortunate circumstances that my adopted parents were not aware of… it’s a long story) I can definitely say that the accusations “she dresses like a prostitute” have been more then damaging to my self esteem and self worth.

      But anyone who says that to me or said that to me in the past, I will never feel safe around. It shaped the way I saw myself for years… even into my early 20’s.

      Because that message was forced on me by unhealthy people in churches, I believed that that was all I was good for. I didn’t go into prostitution, but I did sleep around because that’s all I thought I was worth… looking back, it breaks my heart that I believed that.

      It took me years to come back to Jesus, because I also believed He thought I was worthless and wanted nothing to do with me, like I had been taught. But how untrue that was! I eventually came back to him, and sought help to heal from the trauma I suffered as a child, as well as many traumatic things I went through as an young adult.

      About a year ago, I finally pushed past my fear and sought therapy and it has done wonders. The Lord has helped me gain understanding of my true worth, He has helped me heal from years worth of lies I believed about myself.

      People can heal from trauma, some just take longer to allow the Lord to help them heal.

      For example, as I said before, I was convinced that Jesus wanted nothing to do with me, because I was “too far gone” for Him to care. I was also terrified at the thought of all the awful things and memories I’d have to confront and work through, it felt like I would drown under the weight of the pain. So instead, I ran to very unsafe and many times potentially dangerous means of filling that hole in my heart… but it just made it worse.

      All this to say, I hope and pray that the unhealthy churches wake up and realize the damage they are doing to so many. I pray they are willing to drop their pride and repent and ask Jesus to give them genuine love and compassion and true respect for women. I also pray that they stop teaching toxic things to men, and actually train them up to be Godly men that understand that women are also made in Jesus’ image and they are worthy of true love AND respect, and that they treat them accordingly.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Oh, Elizabeth, I’m so sorry about your abuse! That’s just heartbreaking. Thank you for sharing your story, because it’s wonderful to hear how people can heal.

        Reply
  4. Brambonius

    So how did Jesus treat actual prostitutes? Wasn’t that just like everyone else, with basic dignity and human respect? Even in a way that was found weird and spectacular by some?

    Aren’t we supposed to emulate Jesus if we’re Christians and thus followers of Christ?

    On the other hand, wasn’t it the authoritarian religious leaders and self-righteous believers who tried to condemn everyone got another treatment from him?

    Reply
    • Sequoia

      Brambonius,
      Good point. Oof. I’m betting that won’t go over well when I say it.

      Reply
  5. Kay

    Me: “Wouldn’t modesty in the context of this verse be more about not flaunting wealth, like how we might say ‘a modest home,’ for example?”

    Little Old Chirch Lady: “Well… [awkward pause] YOUR SKINNY JEANS ARE TOO TIGHT.

    🤦🏼‍♀️

    They weren’t, for the record. They were actually too big on me. My husband just rolled his eyes when I told him what happened. “What the heck? They’re JEANS. Since when are JEANS too sexy?”

    Definitely a generational difference.

    Reply
    • Sequoia

      Kay,
      Made me laugh, thanks. 😂

      Maybe to go from skirts that generally don’t show the full curve of the butt to skinny jeans which do is the scandal? 🤷‍♀️
      Honestly I have no idea.

      My husband and I like to joke about “premarital hand-holding” or “premarital shoulder exposure” or what-have-you as horrendous scandals 😂 whenever they happen during shows or in real life couples.

      I’m sure we’ll have our time when we get older to be flabbergasted about what the kids are wearing these days.

      Reply
  6. Codec

    Interesting post. It has given me much to think about.

    For instance having read Crime and Punishment if you were to find a picture of Sonia and Raskolnikov you would probably never know from the picture alone that she was actually forced into prostitution as a result of her own father’s destructive alcoholism.

    Similarly in Japan the gyaru fashion trend is sometimes negatively associated with prostitution, but that association has more to do with people fetishing the trend and that the trend itself is based on western primarily American fashion trends and that in Japan there is an unfortunate trend in sexualizing that which is foreign. So much so that those who are half Japanese in Japan are sometimes bullied for their suspected promiscuity. It is messed up.

    Also clothing can fit different occasions in different ways. If a guy is dressed up all fancy it might be for a fancy event or it might be because he is cosplaying as Arsenè Lupin. Similarly a sling bikini is pretty normal for a beach or if you were cosplaying as horror comic character Vampirella.

    The it is a me thing is also rather striking. I like how you approached it with your daughters.

    In spite of the practice of ” thirst trapping” in most cases the women I know just want to wear clothes they like.

    Good post.

    Reply
  7. Sequoia

    Possible typo:
    Under point 2, “the younger guys are not (fixated) in the same way because they grew up with it.”

    Currently it just says “the younger guys are not in the same way…”
    Which technically works, it just took me a bit to understand that sentence.

    Reply
  8. Sequoia

    I deeply appreciate this:
    “The answer to this [immodestly dressed] girl is not to give her a modesty talk. It’s to befriend her and figure out what wounds she has in her life and try to help her.”
    Assuming that there is something different, that is, she sticks out from other girls, our first reaction should be curiosity and compassion, not condemnation.

    It might be worth noting that the girl might be dressed that way because it makes her feel confident, not even necessarily that there’s some deep wound that dressing to show herself off helps her regain control of. 🤷‍♀️

    Full admission, I was the church kid that gasped in horror when a friend wore a dress for her birthday that had a deep cleavage cut. Regardless of the fact that she was 15 or 16, barely curvy, and in the comfort of her own home for her OWN FREAKING BIRTHDAY. One of her friends has lovingly made it for her. So I know that as a teenager myself I didn’t have a good perspective on modesty.

    Reply
    • Suzanne

      Yes!! “It might be worth noting that the girl might be dressed that way because it makes her feel confident, not even necessarily that there’s some deep wound that dressing to show herself off helps her regain control of. 🤷‍♀️”

      Maybe she just likes the way she looks and feels confident in what she chose to wear. Maybe it is not something she needs “help” with, and just befriending her to try and fix or help her is not necessary.

      Reply
    • Codec

      The confidence bit is a huge part of it.

      In an earlier post I mentioned the character of Vampirella. The reason she was given that outfit was to show that women can be both beautiful and powerful.

      Makes you wonder.

      Reply
  9. Angharad

    I wonder how many of these ‘super modest’ women who are criticising young girls for being immodest realise that THEY probably would look like prostitutes to their Victorian ancestors?!! Showing ankle? Disgraceful!!! (lots of shoulder and bosom, on the other hand, was totally acceptable as long as it was during the evening – no ‘low dresses’ during the day!)

    So yes, usually we are just talking generational differences.

    And if a young girl IS truly dressing like a prostitute, our primary reaction should be concern for her, and then finding out how we can help.

    I’ve only ever come across two young girls I would say were dressing this way – the one was 8, and being dressed by her mum, who dressed the same way herself and didn’t see anything wrong with her little girl wanting to look like mother. (And if you’re getting aroused by an 8-year-old, WHATEVER she is wearing, you need serious help.)

    The other was 15. And got labelled as ‘dressing like a prostitute’ on a regular basis by ‘good’ women in the community. Who were so busy being judgemental that they didn’t realise she WAS one. 15 years old, and already so abused by her mother’s multiple boyfriends that she decided that was all she was good for.

    So seriously people, if a young girl IS dressing like a prostitute and not just like a modern girl, keep your nasty comments to yourself and get her some help before it’s too late. Because a kid who is genuinely dressing that way is ALWAYS in need of help.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that’s so heartbreaking about the 15-year-old! Yes. I don’t think we realize how many trafficking victims there are all around us.

      Reply
      • Angharad

        I still think about her. I wanted to help her at the time, but I was not much older myself (about 21) totally clueless and I had no idea what to do. But I think what she really needed was some love and support from the older people around her – the mother figures she’d never had – and they were too busy gasping in horror at the way she was dressed. If only one of them had looked past the skimpy clothing to the broken-hearted child underneath. I hope she got some help eventually.

        Reply
    • Bonnie

      Your example of the 15-yeat-old breaks my heart…my daughter, at about that age, was rebuked by an older woman about what she was wearing at church. My husband and I had agonized to each other over her choice of clothing, but had decided to put a few guidelines in place, and just show love.
      I’m so thankful we made that choice, instead of jumping on the “you dress like a ho” bandwagon! We found out when she was 18 that from ages 10 to 14, our son-in-law had exposed himself to and fondled her. Those risqué clothing choices had become what fit her image of herself.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Oh, that’s awful about your son-in-law! I’m so sorry. It sounds like you handled it so well in retrospect.

        Reply
  10. Jane Eyre

    When I was 15, I went to an awards ceremony in a sheath dress – high neckline, down to my knees, not clingy. It had two layers: a dress layer and a lace overlay. The dress part hit my knees, so it wasn’t like the lace alone made it knee length. A boy my age walked up to me (on a date) and asked me “How much do you charge per night?” I didn’t understand what he meant and he said, “You’re dressed like a prostitute.”

    I ran into the bathroom and cried my eyes out. “Mortified” doesn’t even cover it. I was ashamed for a long time.

    As a grown adult, I look back on pictures and know that my dress was completely appropriate. The issue was that I was tall, slim, and had a nice chest, and the boys probably found themselves turned on. “She’s turning me on” -> “SHE is the actor; SHE is the one CAUSING this” is likely what went through their minds.

    Grown men, please do not act like teenage boys. It hurts young women and it offends the dignity of all involved.

    Reply
    • Jane Eyre

      * on a dare, not on a date….

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that’s awful!

      And, yes, that’s often what happens–man feels turned on, therefore assumes that woman knows he is turned on and actually intended to get him turned on. The idea that she may have a completely different perspective that has absolutely nothing to do with him needs to be normalized.

      Reply
      • Jane Eyre

        “Her dress is turning me on” is not the same thing as “I am getting turned on by looking at her and am not being a good custodian of my thoughts by continuing to fixate on her body.”

        I am quite fed up with men acting like our existence is a show put on for their benefit. YOU intimidate me. YOU turn me on. YOU aren’t obeying. Have some agency, dude.

        Reply
  11. Nikki Isom

    Before leggings became a thing and a top that came below my bottom I had purchased at a outlet shopping center my mother in law and my husband both thought I looked like a whore. I had just had a baby and nothing about me looked like I was selling anything. If I was selling anything it was confidence. I just had my third! BTW I’m no longer in that family. Lived that way for 29 years. No more.

    Reply
    • Jane Eyre

      When I was pregnant, I had explicit permission from my old-school manager to come into our “one step below business formal” office in leggings.

      Reply
  12. Sarah

    “Do not ever accuse a woman of a particular intention just because of her clothing.”

    This really stuck out to me, because every time the modesty discussion comes up, both in my teenage years and now, people talk about dressing to respect yourself, which is often still code for no leggings, no crop tops, no bikinis, etc. The assumption is showing more skin=not respecting yourself.

    I wrote a blog post about how the modesty message affected me: https://scribblingsofsarah.wordpress.com/2021/08/01/modesty-from-anxiety-to-freedom/

    And while I got off lightly in comparison to so many women, I was never ever comfortable in my own body. I was always on guard against my own body, because my body parts and skin were not acceptable. I had no respect for my body, and mediocre self-esteem for a variety of reasons.

    Now I wear leggings and bought my first bikini last summer, which I am easing into wearing. I’ve never had more respect for myself and my body. I choose clothes that I feel respect my body and the situation I am wearing them for, which means wearing shorts that I don’t overheat in or a t-shirt over my swimsuit when I don’t want to slather my whole body in sunscreen or shorter skirts because skirts that swish around my lower legs drive me crazy.

    So please do not ever assume a woman or girl does not respect herself because of what you think of what she is wearing. You are looking at her outward appearance and assuming you know her heart.

    Reply
    • Meredith

      I live in Florida and was raised fundamentalist. Now I’m in my 30s and out of that, over the past couple years I’ve started wearing bikini tops and boy-short style swim bottoms. I have stretch marks from my pregnancies and my navel is caved in, but you know what? I love the way the wind, sun, and water feels on my stomach at the beach. Also when it’s time to leave, a bikini top is so much more comfortable because I can just dry my stomach off and slip a tank top on- no more shivering in the car with a wet tankini clinging to my skin!

      Reply
  13. Suzanne

    I have never taught my daughter to be modest, and I don’t intend to, she loves clothes, and the current fashions and she looks cute in what finds, she doesn’t need me or anyone telling her to cover her body. The only talk we have is, is this school appropriate, will you be cold, or not able to squat down to get to your bottom locker, or will your butt crack show with the now coming back in fashion (didn’t we learn the first time these were the worst) low rise pants, neither she nor I think pants sliding down your backside to show your crack is cute or appropriate so she gives all clothes the squat and sit test, but she does that on her own. Do I love all her clothes, no, but it’s her generations fashion not mine, and her dad likes them even less, he hates the ripped jeans and isn’t super into the crop tops, but mostly because he is having a hard time with his baby growing up and because he hates buying new but pretorn clothing, ha! She is an athlete, she swims competitively, and runs track and cross country. We see a lot of almost naked butts! The majority of girls shorts for running are tight and short, my daughter doesn’t wear them she prefers a longer looser fit because the wedgie annoys her and she doesn’t want to have to sunscreen her butt cheeks, the girl has skin like Snow White, but many of the girls do wear them and none of us think anything of it. Swimwear is tight, just the dive will send a girls suit right into thong territory and guess what not one person even blinks, rear ends being exposed at a swim meet is just what happens and if you have a larger body shape those suits cover very little and again none of the teen boys are missing events because they are so distracted, they are there to swim and compete and their dads aren’t lusting after the teen bodies either they are their to cheer on their kids and the team.

    Now I know people will say well swimsuits at the pool is different from revealing clothing at church, but the point is, if we can all just go on with our day at the pool and not be stuck lusting after bodies, objectifying them, and calling girls street walkers or worse when we see them exposed at the pool, we can also chose to not lust or objectify or judge when we see a nice figure, leggings, shorts, cleavage, thighs, or anything we have decided needs to be covered at church or anywhere else.

    People need to do a whole lot of worrying about themselves, and their hearts and not focus on who is wearing what and judging them for it, or saying they have a heart problem or no self respect because clothing doesn’t tell you any of those things.

    Reply
    • Jane Eyre

      I love this.

      Reply
  14. Jo R

    And Jesus said to the men, “When you see a woman, or even a young girl, and lust after her, be sure you berate HER for YOUR weakness of will, hardness of heart, and perversion of mind. Make sure you tell children you want to have sex with them, because that will be so very helpful in their growing up into healthy adults. Oh, and be sure to be alone with them as much as possible, and make dire threats against them so they never reveal to anyone how hand-sy you got. Of course, if you take it further than hand-sy-ness, be sure to revel in the satisfaction you get because that is absolutely the ONLY reason I created my daughters, made in my own image, so that you men could abuse them in any and every way that you can think of.”

    Reply
  15. Tory

    Sheila, you know I love you. I agree we shouldn’t objectify girls and women, and we shouldn’t normalize lust. I don’t know how prostitutes dress 🤷‍♀️ and yet. I was in church this past weekend and there was a beautiful young woman who was wearing what can be best described as a swimsuit cover-up. Stretchy, strapless, and it was very obvious that she had no bra on as her very ample assets were quite noticeable in the strapless dress. She was an adult and not a teen. I have no idea what her intentions were, whether it was to be pretty or fashionable or sexy or whatever, and I’m not judging her or anyone else. But the way she was dressed was drawing a lot of attention to herself, and it was just not appropriate to the setting. Her outfit may have been perfectly fine for the beach, but not for a house of worship. Let’s leave lust out of this for a moment— there are basic standards for clothing based on the situation. A swimsuit is not immodest at the beach, but it is immodest at the grocery store. A strappy sundress is not immodest at an outdoor concert, but it would be immodest at the office. Similarly, I see girls and women at church, even on stage on the worship team, in miniskirts so short that they are this close to a wardrobe malfunction. I don’t like comparing anyone to prostitutes any more than you do, and I don’t think women should bear the burden for men’s lust. I’m a woman and far from a prude. But surely it is possible to go too far in the other direction in the modesty discussion? If a guy came into church with his pants so low that his boxers were hanging out and a wife-beater tank, it would be equally inappropriate and distracting. Again, I’m careful to leave lust out of this because I don’t think it should matter and I don’t think it adds to the discussion.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      But Tory–what does it matter? Like seriously–what does it matter? Yes, what she was wearing was likely inappropriate. But why is it so important to tell her this? Why would it be important to tell a guy that?

      Why wouldn’t you just celebrate that they came to church, and just embrace them and get to know them? As they joined, they’d likely start to dress more to fit in. They may just honestly not know.

      Of course we can teach our kids what’s appropriate in different environments, and we go over how to do this in She Deserves Better. But why does what people wear to church bother others so much? Why not just get to know them as people and not worry about it? It’s only distracting if you’re deciding to focus on it. It’s only distracting when we give clothing that much power, and we don’t need to. I guess that’s what I would say. It just doesn’t need to be this important, and what is the upside to making people feel uncomfortable in church?

      Reply
      • Suzanne

        and I should have refreshed before posting my reply! Thank you for being the voice of reason in this. I love your response.

        Reply
      • Tory

        @sheila and Suzanne, it doesn’t matter. You’re right. I wasn’t suggesting that anyone should take people aside in church to correct their clothing. Yes, we should just choose to ignore how someone is dressed (which is what I do after the initial shock). My point was that most public places have dress codes in place. My son isn’t allowed to wear sleeveless shirts at his public school. Grocery stores require shoes and shirts for entry. My office prohibits flip flops or distressed jeans. These are basic common-sense guidelines. And I get that church should be different and should be a safe place for all. But surely there should be some minimum standards of apparel at a house of worship just like any other public place (a pool, a grocery store, a public school)? Where do we draw the line? Bikinis? I’m not being snarky. Truly. I don’t want any woman to be shamed for her clothes, ever. This isn’t about lust, this is about… situational appropriate apparel? I just think it’s possible for the pendulum to swing too far in the other direction.

        Reply
        • Suzanne

          I truly think it just does not matter what people wear to church. Churches don’t need dress codes. My kids are at a school now where they got rid of most of the dress code. No violence or cursing, or sexual comments on clothes and that’s it. Guess what the kids (teens and tweens) are managing just fine. I volunteer at the school often and no one is showing up naked or with their genitals exposed. So let the pendulum swing because it doesn’t matter what other people chose to wear, what’s inappropriate to you is not inappropriate to another person.

          Reply
        • Phil

          Hi Tory – I hope you dont mind me jumping in here from a man’s perspective. Do you know that somewhere along the way I was taught that when a woman dresses the way you described that “I am supposed to struggle?” I dont know where I was taught that. That message has caused me great struggle through out my life. I would bet if I saw what you described I would agree with your assessment. I also even agree with the “rules for appropriateness thing.” The problem here is that we are in church. So our expectations change. Do you know what church is for? SINNERS. A couple weeks ago we saw the new movie out called Jesus Revolution. The entire point of the movie was accepting a different crowd in the church. Some were even on drugs! Now let me ask you this? Would you welcome a drug addict or an alcoholic in your church? They might come in hung over but not cause a seen but everyone know’s it. Here we have a young lady that doesnt understand but wants something. That something is Jesus. So do we push her away because she is dressed inappropriately? I am most positive Jesus WOULD NOT. Instead he would welcome her and he we teach her through parables and LOVE and care and GUIDANCE. I think you have an opportunity in front of you. You should meet this woman and befriend her and show her LOVINGLY. Now here is the part you may not like. The struggle you describe about your opinion is just like my struggle. What do I do with it? I can take her image and lust with it. I could go to her and tell her she is making me want to lust.(modesty message) You think she is wrong. You could go give her a bunch of rules and tell her she is wrong. (Also modesty message – yes women spread this message too) NO – FULL STOP! Show her. SHOW HER JESUS.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Beautiful, Phil!

          • nisha

            Love this – Show them Jesus! That’s what it comes down to, every time. And judging someone’s clothing is just a way to distract ourselves from the hard work of actually doing as He tells us.
            And it’s true what you say. Once you start to follow Jesus your behaviour does start to change naturally, without others shaming you into it.

          • Elizabeth

            Thank you Phil, your response is so encouraging 😌.

        • Angharad

          Surely the difference between grocery stores, schools, offices and the church is that the church is meant to welcome everyone. Someone could be excluded from a store, school or office for not looking or being good enough. But Jesus says ‘come as you are’.

          I have seen new believers change the way they dress, not because of anything someone has said to them, but because Jesus is ‘carrying on to completion’ the work He has begun in them (and I’m not just talking ‘modesty’, but someone ditching a t-shirt because of the slogan on it, or starting to wear clean clothes instead of dirty ones because they are starting to view themselves as God’s precious child and not garbage). Maybe we should just leave it to Him to decide at what point they need to change their appearance – and how.

          If someone doesn’t yet know Jesus, then giving them a dress code could a) put them off wanting to learn more about our faith and b) make them think that if they dress right, it will make them ok before God.

          And once they do know Him – we don’t know what God is going to do with their lives. You may see the ‘too-short’ sundress, but God may be more interested in dealing with her crippling fear, or tendency to over-depend on alcohol or her bad relationship with her mother or…whatever else is the next thing in her life that the Holy Spirit is going to challenge her over. We tend to focus so much on the outward appearance – we forget that God is more interested in our hearts.

          Reply
          • Sarah R

            Pete Greig in Dirty Glory talks about witnessing to topless women on the beach in Ibiza, and his friend’s plant church in that place having women in the worship team who were still actively sex workers (bc they were poor migrants and had no other option). I get that there’s a tension, but it’s the Holy Spirit’s work to bring about heart change — we can’t. All we can do is pray and love.

      • JSG

        I’m interested in this discussion. I agree with parts of the argument on both sides, but I think I tend more to Tory’s side of the picture. I’m a betrayed wife of a porn addict, and the reality is that when someone has fed an addiction for years, something as simple as seeing a lot of a woman’s flesh, is actually really, really hard for them to not go into overdrive over. So, sure for some guys a woman in church dressed in a very revealing sundress would not be an issue, they would be seeing the person, not the flesh/body. That is healthy and guys who haven’t got addicted to porn should be able to do that. But for people who have been addicts, it’s a more complicated picture.
        Alcoholics, drug addicts, even food addicts don’t play with exposing themselves to their addiction, they tend to find cold turkey is what works best. Similarly for those who have been in a pattern of being aroused by women’s bodies sexually.
        For my husband and myself being around women who are scantily clad is dangerous (for him) and thoroughly depressing (for me, due to a lifetime of observing what sets him off again down a path of selfish obsession). Is any of that the woman’s fault for her clothing? No, I’m not remotely suggesting that at all. The fault is all his for his lifetime of choices and his entitled actions. But the reality is that if someone was wearing clothes that way to church regularly we would probably just quietly choose to go to another church. So in that sense, yes how women dress does matter. It has consequences. Even if they are never spoken of. It could mean our children uprooted from their friends ad community.
        If I was single I would 100% be among the first to go get to know the girl in the sundress, love her and enjoy her. But as a wife of a porn addict it is so much more complicated.

        Reply
    • Suzanne

      What about her outfit made it so she could not worship? Should churches now have strict dress codes and monitors by the door allowing in those who dress modestly, and sending others home to change? What is the fair solution? Do you think it’s okay for someone to pull this woman aside and say Tory and some others were very distracted by the attention you were getting, we are going to ask you to cover up because it’s not appropriate to distract others? Do you really think it matters that much, or should you learn how to focus on what you went to church for without worrying about others? I know you say you didn’t judge, but the whole message was you judged what this woman wore. Why do you care how modest others are, how does it truly effect you and your relationship with God?

      Reply
    • Angharad

      I think a more appropriate phrase than ‘immodest’ would be ‘inappropriate’. And most people realise that appropriate wear for the beach is not appropriate wear for the office. Or that what you wear chilling out at home would not be appropriate wear for a wedding.

      For those that don’t? Hopefully, they are going to learn in time what is. But I have two issues with getting het up over what folk wear in church. The first, is that while people may complain to each other about the guy in the singlet/shorts combo, they hardly ever tend to talk to him about it, whereas if a girl turns up in a miniskirt, people will be queuing up to tell her she’s dressed inappropriately. And the second is that we have no idea what that person is going through or how they are feeling. I know a couple of people who were not believers, and who left church never to attend again after having their dress criticised.

      Ok, so if you have a standard of dress for people taking part on the platform then it’s fair enough to share this with anyone taking up one of these roles – just as long as it’s applied across the board. No list of rules or uniform for the women while allowing the men to wear whatever they like. If women are expected to wear smart office dresses, then the men have to wear business suits. If the guys are allowed to wear t-shirt and shorts, then so are the girls.

      Reply
  16. Nessie

    My first response to anyone I hear saying a female is dressed like a prostitute may be, “Hmm, sounds like you have experience with prostitutes which probably makes you an extremely dangerous person!” I mean, if we are going to jump to conclusions based on one piece of input…

    In Anna and the King the ladies giggled over Anna’s hooped skirts because they thought that was how her body was shaped- in their culture at that time, dresses were fitted so her outfit was laughable/inappropriate. In the late 90s, I wore a dress that was close to Regency era for a costume party and the Christian guys were getting big eyes and made rude comments… secular guys didn’t notice.

    Seriously, Point #6… Let’s give a DEEP think to how much hurt a person has experienced to reach the point of, “My body is for sale.” How much horror and extreme abuse has been experienced to reach a point of, “I’m ok with this job and advertise myself well because it is my life.” Think about it being your daughter or niece or next door neighbor’s kid that just disappeared one day. Because it very well could be! We value pride and self-righteousness over compassion. I wonder if that comes from a place of guilt and shame for not actually doing something useful to help them (feeling we failed them), but we know we should be doing SOMEthing so we redirect blame?

    Reply
    • Laura

      I kept thinking of The King and I as well! Reading all this modesty stuff i keep remembering the scene where the king is concerned over Anna’s low cut, bare shouldered ballgown, and she points out that his ladies wear much more form-fitting and even strapless dresses. His response is about the contrast between her voluminous hoop skirts and skimpy bodice making the bare skin stand out… and *that was exactly the point of the fashion*! I find it a very apt comparison for people who get worked up about midriff tops with baggy jeans. 🙂

      Reply
    • michael

      People saying a girl is dressed like a prostitute is their opinion of what they are seeing. Both men and women lust. Many women lust for their body to be seen in a sexual manner and many men lust with their eyes by looking at them. Both men and women have greatly contributed to the great sexual vices in the society and immodest dressing is a great contributor, just as porn is also. The Bible says to dress modestly, but many Christians disregard that and give in to the secular cultures appetite to feed the lust of the flesh. ( The basic modesty standard is the thigh must be covered. The upper arms must be covered and the entire torso covered but not in tight clothing, like leggings.)

      Reply
  17. Anonymous

    My dad worked in people’s homes for years and one client was a nudist couple. Now, they wore clothes when he was there but they spoke of their time in company with other nudists and there could be dozens of them communing with no clothes on and there just was not inappropriate action. I’m sure there was something at some point in some nudist colony because humans mess up, but on the whole it was not an issue. Both husband and wife said so separately as did others in their community. They just liked the freedom of wearing no clothes and being with like-minded folk. My dad said they were some of the kindest most non-judgmental people he knew and he worked for a LOT of church folk.

    Reply
  18. K

    Per #4, about wanting to look pretty…. I think a many women/girls dress for the approval of other women/girls that they want attention from— to befriend. While a glance from a boy/ man calls for giggles and excitement, I believe we would rather receive compliments & to be noticed by other women. Not men.

    On another note, why is it okay to call someone or project onto someone a name like, “ho”, “ whore”, “slut”, etc. I don’t get that.

    Reply
  19. Nathan

    This kind of thing happens elsewhere. People are uncomfortable with their own shortcomings, but don’t want to reveal them. So instead, they loudly and forcefully denounce others. They figure that if they yell loud enough and long enough, nobody will notice their own faults. So if I immediately call out every woman or girl I see as a slut, ho, prostitute, etc., nobody will realize what I’m really thinking.

    Reply
    • Anon

      THIS. And this is not just limited to the modesty issue, either – this attitude permeates so many areas of society, it’s not funny. Yell loud enough and scream about someone else’s shortcomings so no one else will notice yours. If only they knew just how much all the yelling, name-calling, shaming, and just plain acting like a toddler EMPHASIZES their shortcomings and makes them look like even bigger fools.

      Reply
  20. Mara R

    Sheila from recent Facebook post: “Okay, I’m getting seriously tired of this.
    Whenever we ask men to stop objectifying girls, commenters pop up and say, “but girls DO need to be told not to be stumbling blocks for men and boys. GIRLS DESERVE BETTER.” And “Just STOP IT. Please.”

    I’ve been reading and thinking about this on and off for the last week. And we’ve been observing how hard people resist this and it’s been frustrating.

    It might be helpful to keep in mind that policing women is deeply embedded in most/all human culture. Men do it to women. Women do it to women. This sin of control against women is so deeply entrenched, it’s just going to take time for people to get it. It’s just going to take time for the Church to realize that this is a human construct born from the fall of man and that it doesn’t belong in the church.

    I have two points to bring up from my life that may not seem like they fit into this discussion, and they may not. But they make sense to me. And perhaps they will make sense to a few others. I’ll put them in separate comments to keep things from getting long in one comment.

    Reply
    • Mara R

      Experience number one.

      I was watching a documentary probably two decades ago on a place somewhere in Africa. In this documentary, there was a wedding for a young couple. As part of the wedding ceremony, the brides male relatives would berate her and command her to be faithful to her future husband. You couldn’t understand what they said, but you could see the body language, The men were power posturing and she was looking at the ground in a slouched, shamed-looking pose.

      And all I could think of was… “This is what men do when they demand that women submit to their husbands per New Testament Epistles,” It’s a shaming, dis-empowering, destroying thing done in order to police women and make women do what men think they should do in order to serve their culture.

      Reply
      • Mara R

        Experience number two is rather two more experiences, the second reminding me of the first.

        When I was still living at home, I had taken a shower and dried my hair with a towel and hadn’t combed it yet. I imagine my hair looked like a soggy, dark Einstein. It must of, because my mom laugh at me and said something that I don’t remember. But thinking about it later, it was a shaming, policing thing. Which was ridiculous since I wasn’t out in public or anywhere I might embarrass her. I was just between stages of grooming.

        I had completely forgotten about this until something similar happened in the YMCA locker room within the last year.
        I was moving from the dressing room to the area where there were mirrors so I could address my Einstein hair. On my way, some girl openly laughed at me and it took me back to that time when my mom did it.
        Again, I wasn’t out in public trying to be fashionable or at the very least presentable. I was between stages of grooming. And yet, someone felt compelled to laugh and be rude because policing women is sooooooooooooo engrained in the sinful human nature. It’s like it can’t be helped.

        This along with random stories you hear about unsolicited comments from complete strangers expressing their opinion concerning what women wear, how they wear it, their weight, the whole ‘ho’ thing…

        It’s going to take a lot of work to break down this idea that policing women and girls is not right, not healthy, not important, and not anybody’s business.

        Sheila, I’m sorry this fight is making you so weary.
        Just know, it’s about time, it’s needed, and it isn’t going to come easy.
        But we are with you on this.

        Reply
        • Phil

          I like your stories Mara. Thank you

          Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Thank you, Mara.

          Reply
  21. Emmy

    I’m very confused. In regards to a healthy response to what your daughter is wearing, why would you say “I’m just not comfortable with it. This is totally a me-problem, and I know that I’m another generation, but that really makes me uncomfortable. So how about we go shopping and we find something that’s totally trendy and that looks super cool, but that won’t give me a heart attack”

    If we’re not supposed to police our daughters about what to wear, and if she wants to wear something trendy, then isn’t that our problem? Why be uncomfortable if it’s just clothes? Shouldn’t we not be so focused on their bodies, which is what the modesty message is saying?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, I absolutely agree. I’m just trying to tell moms that if there is something that you are super uncomfortable with, here’s a way to handle it that doesn’t make it about boys. Because that’s what women keep asking me–but what if I just really don’t want her to wear something, and I can’t get over it? Then you make it a ME problem, not a HER problem. You own it, because it’s your issue.

      Reply
      • Emmy

        Ok… so what are healthy reasons for why a parent would be uncomfortable with the clothes? Would it be because of the context for where she wants to wear it (I.e. a bikini top to a job interview) , unflattering, not her personality, etc??

        And is it ok to oppose the clothes because you want her to see how special she is simply because she’s an image bearer of God and should keep this in mind when presenting herself to the world so as to not effect her witness?

        I’m not a parent, so I genuinely am curious. I appreciate your response!

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Context is about appropriateness. We should always be teaching kids to wear clothes appropriate for the occasion. So you get dressed up for a funeral; you wear structured bathing suits when you’re water skiing or diving; you wear structured clothes when you’re going to be getting up and down and bending over a lot (that’s true for both men and women and it’s not gendered).

          If you simply don’t like a fashion trend that your kids like, and maybe it’s because you still see things from your generation’s point of view, that’s when you can have these conversations about it being a “me thing” rather than a “you thing.” If you have to. I’m not saying that anyone has to do that; it’s just that I hear from so many parents who are really uncomfortable with today’s fashions when there’s nothing objectively wrong, and if you just feel like you have to make it an issue, that’s how you can do it in a non-shaming way.

          Reply
          • Michael

            There is not much distinction between a prostitute today and the way many girls dress. 1 Timothy 2:9-10, says ” dress modestly with decency and propriety.” This is God’s command not the command of people. And Romans 12:2 says to not conform to the world, but you certainly have conformed to the standards of the world. (Assuming you are Christian) You defend girls who look like prostitutes. A Christian working against the teachings of Christ and proud of it. Ask God for some wisdom and whether you should defend immodest dressing. If you lived during Noah’s time you would have told Noah to not shame you for joining the rest of the crowd. God drowned 99% of the people of Noah’s time, yet you are claiming that joining the crowd and doing what is normal is the way to go. I guess God told the people of Noah’s day, ” I know what you are doing is totally normal and in fashion but I will drown you anyway. It is totally a me- problem.”

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Thanks for your thoughts. I’m wondering–do you come down as hard on men who fantasize and lust? Or do you blame women for that too?

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            By the way, Michael, “decency and propriety” are cultural terms. What is considered decent in some parts of the world is very different from here. In some parts of the world cleavage is fine, but shoulders are not. In some parts of the world, boys can’t wear shorts. In some parts of the world, girls couldn’t wear pants, while in many churches they insist on them if you’re on stage rather than skirts.

            THERE IS NO UNIVERSAL MODEL OF DECENCY AND PROPRIETY.

            It is cultural. And that’s what I’m saying here. If you think it’s not cultural, then why aren’t you wearing a robe like Jesus did?

      • michael

        Sheila, for a Christian woman you promote immodest dressing at the highest level. No attempt to uphold its integrity. There are no specific guidelines for modesty however, you are encouraging the complete opposite.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          What guidelines would you have?

          Reply
  22. Jason

    A lot of teachings about modesty seem very inconsistent they’ll say don’t wear something that can cause your brother to stumble and might even imply to girls that they could be at fault . But seem to taboo certain articles of clothing more than others, for example if two girls wear the same shirt, one wears it with a short miniskirt, the other with tight form fitting pants, The girl in the miniskirt is more likely to pulled aside and given the “don’t cause your brother to stumble” lecture, even though there may be guys with a butt fetish and might be more attracted to tight form fitting pants girl. It seems also by hyping up an piece of clothing as being so bad and scandalous is adding to its sexual attractiveness and drawing guys to it more intensely. We tend to be drawn to things that are NOT goody-two shoes. Why are Harleys so popular? yeah their nice motorcycles but part of it is their “Bad Boy” image. Pitbulls are more popular than poodles.
    Rock and Roll was considered the devil’s music, still by KJV Only Fundies .
    Not saying we shouldn’t have decorum and moderation but sometimes the amount of fuss that is placed on skirts and having the taboo even a small part of underwear showing even when’s woman is just trying to sit down is adding to its erotic appeal for some guys but at the same time there guys getting more turned on by the girl in a One Piece swimsuit at a Christian summer camp or a girl in tight pants.

    Reply
    • Phil

      Hi Jason not sure I have seem you around here before. I see 👀your struggle.

      Reply
      • Jason

        What exactly do you mean by that?

        Reply
    • Nathan W

      So wait a second, Jason, you’re trying to tell me that men can lust over women no matter WHAT they’re wearing (and from testimony, apparently women can do the same with men)? Wow what a concept. Not like we’ve known this since time immemorial.

      Reply
      • Phil

        Nathan. I am building an army. Care to join me?

        Reply
  23. Ladybug

    I don’t really know which post this comment should go to, but it is something that I haven’t heard mentioned anywhere, ever, and it’s this–that a girl can be dressed completely modestly (according to the very highest standard), and still be a “taker,” a girl who is trying to attract a man’s attention to her body by the way she moves, etc. The underlying need is still the same as the girl dressing toward the extreme in order to attract attention. I understand this because I was one of those girls, and I had an unmet need, and I didn’t know how to meet it then.

    Reply
    • Megan

      Hi Ladybug, I don’t want to make assumptions about what you are intending to say here, but I think that, absolutely, a girl can be dressed perfectly “modestly” by all church standards and still be seeking male attention. And I think that this actually exemplifies the whole problem with “dressing modestly” which is that it misses the underlying problem AND it still centers female existence around what men think and feel and believe about them–which is actually where the whole problem begins.

      Regardless of how they dress, girls (emphasis on the “girl” here, meaning young, though I think this applies to women as well) can be trying to attract male attention for all the wrong reasons: because culture has told them it will make them feel whole or valuable; because they lack care and love from a father; because men abused their body and now they think that’s their identity; because the people around them told them their value was in their looks, etc.

      There are LOTS of wrong reasons to seek male attention, and we should care A LOT more about the girl who thinks they need or want male approval/attention, and WHY they feel that way, than we care about what they’re wearing. Because, as Sheila noted above, clothing perceived as “immodest” often has little to do with “promiscuity”, and lots of girls who “dress modestly” still believe they want or need male attention for the wrong reasons. We should care about healing the hurt or brokenness or emptiness that could make ANY girl, regardless of how they dress, believe that their worth and value can be defined by a man and his attention.

      p.s. This also reinforces that, creating a dichotomy between the “slutty girls who dress for male attention” and the “modest girls who don’t” makes girls believe that they will be safe from unwanted or inappropriate advances from men. We give them a false sense of security, and when it doesn’t work out, then we hand them a suitcase of shame to carry with them for the rest of their life, because clearly they were enticing the man in some way.

      Reply
      • Nisha

        ^This. If you look at what rape victims were wearing at the time of the attack, it’s pretty normal, non-attention grabbing clothing. Covering up won’t necessarily protect you, but the only thing a short skirt or whatever does is give the perpetrator a ready cop-out instead of the truth, which is that it was a power play. It’s almost never about lust but about objectifying and taking what is not yours because you can.
        I always wonder about rape stats in those Muslim countries where women have to go around with big sacks over their bodies from head to toe. I’m 100% sure there is gender based violence there too, and clothing can’t possibly be an excuse when you’re in a burqa.

        Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Very well said!

        Reply
  24. Natasha

    I would frankly love to dress like a saloon girl and most guys these days would think I was into historical reenacting or a LARPer if I was dressed as one. Thanks, now I have a Halloween costume idea.

    Reply
  25. Willow

    I was once a teen girl who dressed, not at church, in ways that even my best (female) friend would raise eyebrows at. I did it for two reasons: (1) it was the first and only time in my life that I looked good in fashionable clothes – I hit a growth spurt and lost a lot of weight in high school, and anything I picked up off the rack FIT, flatteringly, for the one and only time in my life; and (2) I was super frustrated with not a single hetero male paying one bit of attention to me, and my teenage brain looked at the sorts of girls those guys found attractive and tried to mimic them. (Little did I realize it was my confident attitude, not my appearance, that scared the guys off.)

    I always dressed very conservatively in religious settings, thanks mostly to the heavy influence of my father, who made it very clear from the time I was a little girl that church was a holy place to show respect, and that meant taking a shower, wearing your best, acting respectfully, and focusing on worshiping and communing with the Divine.

    What this post I think skirts around, though, pun intended, is that so many places of worship are a raging meat market. There’s so much pressure to find and marry within the religion that every gathering is a peacock parade of people trying to hook up. Whether they expose skin, show curves, or display expensive, well-tailored clothing is immaterial. The church I grew up in was one endless meat market; it’s all people talked about during services (what people looked like and who was sitting with whom) and it’s all people thought about. I grew up interfaith, and I’ll say this is not limited to Christians – the Jewish synagogue was exactly the same, a meat market for pairing up the singles.

    I now attend a small, community church that is focused on sharing and supporting each other’s needs, living the life of Christ, and exploring how the Spirit speaks to and through us in the Word. It’s not a meat market and it’s really refreshing. There’s no pressure to pair up singles or marry in the community. I wish we could have more of an open discussion about how the whole “unequally yoked” command ends up creating religious meat markets, which I find a huge turnoff. I want to go “be the church,” not hunt for a Tinder date. If I wanted to go to a meat market, I’d hit a dance club, religious dating app, or bar.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’ve never thought of that term before, but “religious meat market” really fits, doesn’t it?

      Reply
  26. Arielle

    Love this!! Just wanted to point out a slight error; ‘and don’t forget how much cleavage dressed in the 1860s and 1870s showed.’ Did you mean 1760s and 1770s? The 1860s/70s, Civil War/Victorian era, was quite covered, even for evening dress. Around the Revolutionary War/Georgian era is a different story. Also, ‘dressed’ should be ‘dresses.’ Again though, lots of excellent points!

    Reply

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