PODCAST: How Did Modesty Messages Affect Us Long-Term?

by | Mar 16, 2023 | Parenting Teens, Podcasts | 37 comments

How do modesty rules affect women long-term?
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How does hearing modesty messages as a teen affect you as an adult?

We’re working through another big chapter in our new book She Deserves Better today!

For She Deserves Better, we surveyed 7000+ women to learn how their experiences as teens in church affect them long-term. And one of the big things we drilled down on was modesty: In fact, we measured 4 different iterations of the modesty message.

And just like I’d say that for The Great Sex Rescue the obligation sex message was the kryptonite for women, so in this survey we found that the modesty message was the kryptonite.

We’ve talked about modesty a lot on the blog, but today Rebecca got personal about how this stuff affected her.

Listen in!

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:


Timeline of the Podcast

0:10 We’re talking about ‘the modesty message’
8:30 Rebecca’s personal experience with modesty messaging when growing up
17:00 What’s a message that could help?
27:45 Example of poor survey results leading us astray
43:55 Current example from reader
45:10 What happened when Sheila stumbled onto ‘Secret Keeper Girl’
50:00 This can only be described as pedophelia
55:45 You deserve(d) better

What makes the modesty message so bad?

We told girls that their bodies were inherently dangerous. Our bodies did things to men that men couldn’t help because that was their nature. So we had to try really hard not to be seen or noticed at all.

As Rebecca shares today, as she gets personal about how this affected her, it meant that you didn’t have a category for how you thought about your body other than, “child” or “sexy/bad”. There wasn’t a category for just enjoying having a woman’s body.

It meant that we felt that if guys checked us out, WE had done something wrong, rather than THEY had been disrespectful.

And then we look at two different resources that taught the modesty message in a terrible way–Secret Keeper Girl, which told 8-year-olds their bellies were intoxicating to grown men (and defined intoxicating as being out of control, like you’re drunk); and For Young Women Only, which based its findings that all guys are tempted all the time to picture girls naked on an extremely poor survey question. 

We’re only sharing a small part of our modesty findings for She Deserves Better, so pick up the book!

And when you preorder, you can join our launch team! You’ll get early access to the book; as well as some preorder bonuses (including one on modesty). And you can join our super fun Facebook group. All we ask is that you read the book early and write a review for us. 

Things Mentioned in the Podcast

How do modesty rules affect evangelical teen girls long-term

Did you feel like you couldn’t enjoy being a woman when you were growing up? How did the modesty message affect you? Let’s talk in the comments!


Sheila: Welcome to the Bare Marriage podcast.  I’m Sheila Wray Gregoire from baremarriage.com where we like to talk about healthy, evidence-based, biblical advice for your sex life and your marriage and now your parenting.  And I am joined today by someone who made me a parent.  My daughter, Rebecca Lindenbach.    

Rebecca: Yep.  Hello.

Sheila: And we have some important findings today about the modesty messages.     

Rebecca: Yes, we do.  And I know people are excited for this one.  

Sheila: Yes.  And when our book, The Great Sex Rescue based on our survey of 20,000 people, we found one message in particular that was really harmful to women.  The obligation sex message.  And I think if we can sum up the worst message that we found in our survey of 7,000 women for our brand new book, She Deserves Better: Raising Girls to Resist Toxic Teachings on Sex, Self, and Speaking Up, it would be the modesty messages.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  100%.  

Sheila: So our book launches April 18th.  Our launch team has launched.  Yes.  

Rebecca: Yes.  And it’s going to be so much fun.  I mean a lot of you listeners, I know, were a part of our launch team for Great Sex Rescue, and I know that it was just such a blast over there.  And I’m really excited for this one too.  

Sheila: Yes.  So we already have several hundred people.  We’re welcoming more.  So the Facebook group is up and running.  We had our first Facebook Live this week.  There is more coming.  We’ve got some preorder bonuses for you, if you preorder the book and join the team.  We’ve got some bonuses on how to talk to your school, church, Christian camp, Christian school about modesty.

Rebecca: Yeah.

Sheila: Some information on deconstruction.  Who is deconstructing?  Why they’re deconstructing?  And how you can raise your daughter to have a faith where she won’t need to deconstruct?  At least not as much.  Deconstruction can always be a good thing.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing.  

Rebecca: Yes.  No.  But it’s not always a bad thing, but it is often a painful thing.  And so it’s best to just—if you have the option to give your daughter the kind of faith where she doesn’t have to go through intense soul searching, that’s just—I highly recommend that option rather than throwing her to the wolves and be like, “Yeah.  She’ll figure it out.”

Sheila: Yeah.  Exactly.  So those are some really fun things if you preorder the book which you can do now.  We have the links in the podcast notes for this on where you can get it on Amazon.  Baker Books has it for 40% off and free shipping within the U.S.  Lots of other places you can get it and then just email us the receipt.  The email address is there.  And then you can be invited to the launch team too, and you can start reading the book now.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  So you’ll get immediate access to an eBook copy.

Sheila: Right.  So we want this podcast to share with you some behind the scenes stuff about our modesty chapter.  Some stuff that isn’t even in the book.

Rebecca: Yeah.  A lot of stuff that isn’t in the book.

Sheila: That’s right.  And just some of the thinking that we’ve done around this.  Let’s start with one of our findings.  We’re not going to share them all.  Okay.  Sorry.

Rebecca: Yes.  We’re not going to share—you do have to get the book if you want all the findings.  Yes.

Sheila: Yes.  But we do have one really powerful one to share with you.  So for this survey, because we really felt like modesty—when you ask people, “What is the main thing that hurt you in youth group,” what came up again and again and again was modesty.

Rebecca: Well, and also modesty just came up again and again and again in the resources that we were reviewing.  It’s everywhere.

Sheila: Right.  It’s everywhere.  And so we really wanted to get to the nitty gritty of it.  What is it about the modesty message that is bad?

Rebecca: So we actually measured four different aspects of the modesty message to create our modesty message findings.  We measured them from all the different reasons that girls are given for why they need to cover up, the gender differences that make it so that girls have to cover up and boys don’t, those kinds of constructs.  We measured each of them so that we could really understand not only is it just the modesty message or is it a specific part of the modesty message.

Sheila: Mm-hmm.  So here is the finding that I found really, really astonishing.  So if you believe one of the modesty messages—

Rebecca: Yep.  Any of the four that we measured.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Your chance of experiencing vaginismus as an adult, as an adult woman, increases by anywhere between 23% and 52% depending on which message you believe.  

Rebecca: Which is a big amount.  That is huge.

Sheila: That is huge.  Okay.  That is huge.  So the modesty message is highly, highly tied to vaginismus.  So we’re trying to figure out—and, again, this is something we have been talking about and hammering home on this podcast for over two years now that women in the evangelical church experience sexual pain at more than twice the rate of the general population.  We found an incidence rate of 22.6%.  And in The Great Sex Rescue, we identified the obligation sex message as being highly responsible for that.  And in this survey, we found another piece of it which is the modesty message.  Highly, highly responsible for the vaginismus rates going up.

Rebecca: Yeah.  So here’s how those four teachings break down.  Okay?  So people who believed girls who dress immodestly are worse than those who don’t had a 23% higher chance of having vaginismus when they got married.

Sheila: Yeah.  And we didn’t define what worse meant.  That was up to the people taking the survey.   

Rebecca: Yeah.  Because that’s just what we heard everywhere.  You don’t want to be a bad person.  We had that everywhere, right?  People who believe that we have to protect boys by dressing modestly were 24% more likely to experience vaginismus.  Those who believe that boys have a visual nature that girls will never understand had a 45% higher rate of vaginismus.  And those who believe that boys couldn’t help but lust after girls who are dressed like they are trying to incite it had a 52% higher rate of vaginismus.  

Sheila: Now it’s interesting.  Those latter two that are especially bad are ones that are about boys.  Boys’ nature.  How boys have a visual nature that girls can’t understand and how a boy can’t help but lust.  So they’re focused on how boys react to girls.  They’re not focused on girls’ responsibility or whether or not girls are bad or good.  They’re focused on how men react to us.  And basically, it’s like when you feel like men are a threat to you bad things happen.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  And when you feel like—if something happens to you, it’s probably because it was your fault because you wore the wrong thing, right?  

Sheila: He can’t help it.

Rebecca: Yeah.  The worst one is that teaching that if girls dress like they’re trying to incite lust—and well, they can’t blame boys for lusting after them.  That’s ridiculous.  

Sheila: Now there’s a whole lot of other things that are highly associated with the modesty message.  A whole lot of outcome variables about sexual satisfaction later, marital satisfaction later, self esteem effects.  Really, really significant findings.  You’re going to have to read the book for those.  We’re not going to give you everything on this podcast.  But we do want to zero in on this modesty message and have a bit of a conversation that we haven’t had before because we have talked about modestly a lot on this podcast.  But we realized in planning this there’s so much we haven’t said.       

Rebecca: Well, there’s just so much.  I’m going to be honest.  This is an area where you just keep digging, and you just find more dirt.  You just—it’s just bad.  

Sheila: You said something really interesting to me about—

Rebecca: Yeah.  Well, because I’m the one who great up in this, right?  You didn’t grow up with this.  

Sheila: No.  I really didn’t.

Rebecca: I mean you grew up in the 80s when the modesty message wasn’t as common in the mainstream Christianity.

Sheila: Honestly, I never heard it.  I never, ever heard it.

Rebecca: And you were in a more mainstream Christian group.  We know whenever we say things like things are more common in the 90s and 2000s than they were in the 80s in studies, you’ll say, “Well, I heard it.”  Yes.  We know.  We know that it always existed.  That’s not the question.

Sheila: Yeah.  In IFB churches and super fundamentalist churches.

Rebecca: In Southern Baptist churches.  Yep.  But the thing is that there is a difference between something being—and something existing and something being mainstream, right?  And there is many different sociological studies and different reviews that have found that these kinds of beliefs, these purity culture beliefs that girls’ bodies needed to be policed, that sex became just the—in essence, the idol of Christianity, that really didn’t become mainstream until the purity culture movement in the 90s and the early 2000s.

Sheila: Yeah.  And we actually measured that because we can see how the beliefs changed for different generations.

Rebecca: Yeah.  And we found in our survey too that a ton of people who grew up in the same era as you did not believe any of this stuff, didn’t hear it, weren’t taught it.

Sheila: Mm-hmm.  Yeah.  

Rebecca: And so I’m the one who really grew up in this.  Joanna and I both did.  And what I found growing up in the middle of the modesty message is that more than anything, for me personally, what it did was it demonized womanhood.  I remember being 14 years old and reading Brio magazine in my bed—the bedroom that we are actually sitting in right now in this room.  

Sheila: Yes.  As we are recording this.  And Brio magazine, of course, was the magazine for—

Rebecca: Focus on the Family for girls’ ages—I think they target it 12 to 16 and then Brio & Beyond was 16 to 18.  But Brio & Beyond had ended by the time that I was reading Brio.  So it’s for teen girls.  Pre teen and teen girls.  I remember reading Brio magazine, and I was reading an article by Dannah Gresh about modesty.  And one of the things they said was quick tip.  Make sure that you can pinch an inch of fabric on your jeans.  If it immediately springs back, it’s too tight, and you’re immodest, right?  And I’m looking there, and I was—I’m going to be honest.  I was a thin 14 year old.  I was not big.  

Sheila: No.  But you were curvy. 

Rebecca: But I was curvy.  I had thighs.  I’ve always been very pear shaped.  Okay?  And I’m looking at my jeans where I already struggle to find jeans that fit because my waist was so much smaller than my hip measurement.  And I’m sitting there, and I tried to pinch my jeans.  And I couldn’t do it without grabbing skin.  And I immediately thought I must be fat.  And I think that’s an experience a lot of girls had.  And we weren’t told it’s just that you are a girl who has curves, and some girls are going to have thicker thighs.  And some girls are going to have wider hips.  And that doesn’t make you immodest.  And the fact that you can’t find—I physically—because also remember, loose pants were not in style back then.  Today I could probably—I mean today I’m actually wearing jeans that I can—because that’s what’s in style today.  This is 2007, 2008, 2009.  Skinny jeans.  Low rise skinny jeans are all the rage, and you could not find loose pants.  I would have had to get my clothes professionally tailored to fit Dannah Gresh’s modesty rules because I—if I got pants that were an inch loose around my thighs, I would have had to wear suspenders to hold them up.  They would have been massive around my waist.  And I remember just sitting there as a 14 year old, and that was—and I was already going through all the normal body image issues that you have when you’re 14 and feeling uncomfortable in your skin and feeling like I’m suddenly so much bigger than I was and feeling all these weird things are happening.  And then that’s really when I started seeing myself as too big, as fat.  And if people saw pictures of me at 14, they would be shocked.  

Sheila: It’s actually making me tear up.

Rebecca: Yeah.  No.  I was convinced.  Yeah.  I don’t know how many other people had that experience.  I know a lot of people did because I know a lot of my friends and I have talked about it.  But Focus on the Family—that’s when I started to think that I was too big.  And I have—and I’m going to be honest.  I’ve never been able to be comfortable with my legs, and a lot of it comes back to that idea of but my legs are too big because I can’t be modest.  And Dannah Gresh is—the Brio magazine, Dannah Gresh—that’s what that did to me.  I really feel like for a long time that stole my ability to enjoy my femininity because what it did to me is my ideal—everyone knows—everyone who grew up in the aughts and the early 2010s—I mean for Pete’s sake.  Trigger warning quickly for anyone with eating disorder background.  But everyone knew all the quotes we were all talking about back then.  All the stuff that everyone was saying.  All the things.  Like nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.  Everyone had Pinterest boards of stick thin models, of fitness inspiration where there is no way that girl can squat anything, right?  But that’s our fitness inspiration.  We couldn’t call it skinny inspiration because then we’d have problems.  But this was so normal.  And then Brio comes along and tells us that if you can’t find clothes that hang off of you, you’re immodest.  And this is the thing is we were told that to have curves, to just not be straight up and down, means that something is wrong with us.  And then at the same time, they’re surprised why they had an eating disorder epidemic in evangelical circles.  We actually have to grapple with this.  And these are the kinds of things that I found growing up in the modesty message culture is that I wasn’t allowed to enjoy that my body was becoming a woman without feeling guilt, right?  I wasn’t allowed to enjoy the fact that hey, I have a really thin waist now and really big hips.  I look like a woman.  Now we can all be like, “Yeah.  I got that Pixar mom butt.”  Now we all joke about this stuff.  But this modesty culture told girls the same thing that the typical culture about—that was policing our bodies told us is that if you look like a woman in a way that has curves, if you look like any kind of woman other than the ones on catwalks, there is something wrong with you.

Sheila: See.  That’s so interesting because when I grew up I was allowed to be pretty.  I was—

Rebecca: Yeah.  So we were allowed to be pretty, but we were allowed to be pretty prepubescent girls.  We were allowed to look prepubescent.  Right?  We were allowed to look pretty.  We weren’t allowed to look womanly because womanly was sexy.  And sexy was sinful.  Right?  And that was the biggest mind trip for me was growing up as someone who has always been—I’ve always joked that I’m the short, stout, Scottish, washerwoman kind of thing.  I’ve always been kind of compact with wide shoulders, small waist, wide hips.  Right?  

Sheila: Yes.  You were meant to—

Rebecca: I was the wet nurse for everyone in the county.  Okay?

Sheila: Yes.  If you had lived 300 years ago, you would be the wet nurse.  Yes.

Rebecca: Exactly.  Right?  And I was raised in this Christian group where because I was not straight up and down despite being quite thin back then—despite being quite thin as a child, I still thought that my body wasn’t right because I looked more womanly.

Sheila: Yeah.  Now, of course, I never had those problems.  I was so happy when padded bras came in.  You did not get it from my side of the family.

Rebecca: No.  And we’re not saying that to look like a woman you have to be curvy/straight up and down.  But what we’re saying is the traditional—but you know what we’re talking about?  With the adjective womanly.  The curvaceous form.  Traditionally seen as the more sensual, curvy form, that was so demonized.

Sheila: Yeah.  We have so many stories from girls who were told at 11, 12, 13, “Now you need to watch what you’re wearing because of adult men looking at them.”  I mean it’s just been awful.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  And something else that I realized when I was growing up and coming out of this, right?  Is when I hit around 19 I was in university.  And I was like, “I’m like a full grown adult woman.”  And I had this moment where I realized I’m not a kid.  I’m actually a woman.  I was thinking about getting married.  I was figuring out where I might want to do a PhD some day.  Then I realized that doing a PhD would suck my soul.  And so I didn’t.  I was thinking about big, grown up things.  And I was like, “I’m a legit woman.” And then I realized I’m allowed to feel sexy.  And I said, “But I don’t want to feel sexy.”  And I realized that in my mind feeling like a woman immediately made me feel like I’m a temptress. 

Sheila: Right.

Rebecca: I’m sexual and promiscuous.  And I’m like, “Well, that’s not really it.”  And I realize that because of this modesty culture I didn’t have a category for not being a child.  I didn’t have a safe category for dressing like someone who wasn’t a child.  Because to dress in a way that made you look like an adult woman, I either had to dress like I was a mom of five teenage kids, right?  Running them back and forth to soccer practice which, frankly, I dress like now which I love.  But as a young 19, 20 year old in university, I wanted to dress like a cute, professional, young woman, and I had no way to do that without thinking of myself as sexual because there was no category for just being a woman.  You were either a teenager or you were a mom.  Right?

Sheila: Mm-hmm.  But anything else wasn’t allowed.

Rebecca: But anything else wasn’t allowed because men might find it attractive.  

Sheila: Yeah.  And so let’s just turn to that for a minute because those were the messages that we were given so much.  And what we were also told over and over and over again is that you need to watch what you wear because guys are going to look at you.  Men are going to look at you.    

Rebecca: Yep.  And I know that’s what a lot of parents are scared of.  Right?  

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  You don’t want men checking out your daughter for sure.  But I did raise two very good looking daughters.  And often when we were out in the public, I would see someone looking at you or your sister or whatever.  But honestly, so what?  I guess that’s what I—I realized later on.  If you didn’t notice and if they weren’t leering, is that really such a big deal?

Rebecca: I know.  Because we were taught growing up, so much of it was avoiding that.  Right?  Make sure boys don’t look.

Sheila: Yeah.  Make sure that you don’t incite any boy to look at you or any man to look at you.    

Rebecca: I know.  We were told warnings about how if you wear something that you think is cute for your date remember that everyone there, even the grown men, are going to be looking at you and are going to be thinking about your body.  And I guess the question that I have is like if that is the case, first of all—which it is not the case.  The majority of men are not pedophiles despite what books would have made us thought.  But if a 13-year-old girl was truly walking around and having every single person looking at her in a sexual way, don’t you think that if that affected her she would want to make it stop?  

Sheila: Yeah.     

Rebecca: We were so warned about this.  And when I look at this, I—when you take a step back and you think, “Why were they shoving this down our throats?”  If this was such a bad thing, you don’t have to tell 14 year olds not to touch hot stoves.  It’s not fun.  You don’t have to tell 14 year olds to not do things that hurt them.  And also kids are able to adjust their behavior to get what they want.  But we were told to be afraid of things that we weren’t even experiencing.

Sheila: Right.  

Rebecca: And so we could never know if we were modest enough.  

Sheila: Well, it’s like when the Sunday School teacher said to the 11 year old, “You need to watch what you wear now because the adult men are going to be looking at your chest,” right?  Why?  Why are we putting that on the 11 year old?  If the adult men are looking at her chest, that’s not on her.  And also if she doesn’t realize it—  

Rebecca: How is she harmed?    

Sheila: How is she harmed?

Rebecca: Again, that’s the thing.  Is we’re taking the—I think it was one of our patrons.  Was it one of our patrons who said all that responsibility they take off of men’s shoulders has to go somewhere?

Sheila: Mm-hmm.  

Rebecca: I think it was one of our patrons who said that.  It was amazing.  We were talking about this kind of thing.  And that’s exactly what this comes down to is that men in these churches were experiencing unbridled sexual sin issues.  They’re experiencing lust.  And so what’s the response?  We teach girls not to get in their way.  We don’t just tell girls, “You’re allowed to be a woman.  You’re allowed to grow up into a woman.  And you’re allowed to do that safely and comfortably.  And anyone who tries to make that uncomfortable or unsafe for you can get out because that’s wrong.”  We don’t say that.  What we say instead is, “Make sure that you understand that if you show even an inch too much of your leg then every single guy’s thoughts are going to get pretty raw.”  That’s ridiculous especially when—when I look at myself and the kinds of girls—my friends who were all reading Brio magazine with me, none of us were trying to dress inappropriately.  None of us had a desire to do so.  We were already dressing pretty modestly.  We were already dressing pretty appropriately.  And that’s who Brio was talking to.  That’s what a lot of these places were talking to.  And it makes no sense.

Sheila: Okay.  So I want to talk to the parents, who are listening right now.  Okay.  One of your fears might be, “But I don’t want men looking at my daughter like that.”  So if she dresses in something which—and please remember.  We are not talking about—we are talking about dressing in culturally appropriately clothing.  Okay.  We’re not talking about dressing in extreme clothing.  We’re not talking about dressing in a way that only—  

Rebecca: We’re talking that if your daughter was at the mall with five of her friends they’d all kind of look the same.

Sheila: Yes.  We’re talking about stuff that is culturally appropriate for her age group and where you live.  Okay.  So she’s walking in the mall with a bunch of her friends.  And maybe she’s even the prettiest.  And maybe as she walks by, a bunch of guys check her out.  But she’s talking to her friends, and she doesn’t notice.  So my honest question is why is that so bad?  Has that harmed her in any way, shape, or form?  What are parents scared of?  Because let’s say that they did leer at her.  Let’s say a bunch of guys leered at her openly.  Okay.  Then she’s going to learn, first of all, that I probably need to hang out in a different place.  Okay.

Rebecca: Yep.  This isn’t a safe place.

Sheila: This isn’t a safe place for me.  She may learn how to walk with more confidence so that she can stare down the guys that are looking at her that way.  But she can learn how to adjust because this is a scary culture, and I know parents are scared.  And I know that we have to help our daughters cope with this.  But your daughter can never, ever, ever stop every man from looking at her no matter what she wears.

Rebecca: No.  You really can’t.

Sheila: And that cannot be the goal.  The goal cannot be to make sure that my daughter never gets checked out by men in public.

Rebecca: Exactly.  Because I mean I’ve had a guy—I’ve had a guy when I was walking my dog go by on his bike hit my butt, and I was wearing a literal parka going past my butt, just regular jeans, and winter boots.  Was I supposed to not wear jeans?  Should I have been wearing a denim skirt?  Right?  At some point, we have to recognize that some guys are just going to be creeps, and it’s not your daughter’s responsibility.  And although it’s scary to have our kids be old enough to be in an area where they are independent, they are by themselves in this world where there are really creepy, predatory people, that’s terrifying.  We also have to recognize that realistically the majority of people—the vast majority of people who are going to look at your daughter, check her out in public, that’s going to be where it ends.  It’s very, very strange if it goes past that.

Sheila: So let’s get on to this fear thing too.  What is it that we’re scared of?  Are we scared that she’s going to get assaulted?  Okay.  So who is most likely to get assaulted?  It is not based on what you wear.  

Rebecca: No.  It’s actually not.  It’s really interesting. 

Sheila: It’s really more based on your comportment.

Rebecca: Energy.  It’s energy.  

Sheila: Your energy.  Yeah.  So the girl who is super submissive, who is super deferential, and who looks scared—  

Rebecca: Is more likely to be targeted.

Sheila: Yeah.  Than someone who might be wearing way more immodest clothing but has that you don’t mess with me energy.

Rebecca: Don’t even try.  Yeah.  And I’m going to be honest.  That was very much what I tried to do when I was at university as I was walking around at night time.  It’s like you don’t look scared.  You look like yeah.  Try it, bud.  Right?  And I think this is what we have to think about is not these gut reactions of, “But I don’t want people to look at her.”  People are going to look at her.  Doesn’t matter what she’s wearing.  Have you seen the what were you wearing exhibits, right?  It does not matter what she is wearing.  People are going to look at her.  Does that mean that we walk around naked?  No.  Right?  We do.  We walk around what’s culturally appropriate in the area.  But if you’re wearing something that’s culturally appropriate even if it’s more immodest than what previous generations would have worn, even if you’re just—you just don’t get current style as the parent, if it’s culturally appropriate, if she blends in with the crowd of peers, frankly, it’s not on her.  It’s not on her what other people do.  But the reason that we focus so much on this is because evangelicalism has taught girls and women that it is our job to make sure men don’t sin.  Right?  We hear this in the gate keeping message we measured in The Great Sex Rescue where you have to be the brakes because he’s the gas.  That idea.  We measured this in the ideas that women should have sex with their husbands to keep them from watching porn.  We see this in a lot of the messages we asked—

Sheila: Well, basically, women are sin management tools.   

Rebecca: Women are sin management.  I’ve been saying for awhile now that evangelicalism has just men into sin eaters for men, right?  So that’s what we’re supposed to do.  We’re supposed to take it all upon ourselves so that they can stay holy.  Right?  And so what does that turn into?  That turns into make sure you’re someone he doesn’t even want to look at because even if he looks he’ll start to be tempted to sin.  And it’s just disgusting.  And the weirdest thing, though, is how they measured this.  

Sheila: Yeah.  And I want to jump in too.  If you’re still feeling uncomfortable because I know a lot of parents listening are feeling uncomfortable, the really cool thing is in She Deserves Better, in our new book that is launching in April, at the end of each chapter, we have exercises that you can work through with your teenage daughter.  And we have ways to talk about how to choose clothing that is appropriate, that—and look at clothing from a biblical perspective, which is focusing on not flaunting wealth and on thinking of others and on respecting others and respecting yourself.  So we can have those conversations, but we can have them without pairing it with you—  

Rebecca: With lust.

Sheila: – are responsible for someone not sinning.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Exactly.  And can I just say the girls who, when I was growing up I thought of as immodest, the clothing wasn’t the problem.  Right?  The clothing wasn’t the problem.  They were also wearing sweat pants and sweatshirts lots of the time.  They were also wearing the same clothes that I did a lot of the time.  It’s just sometimes they wore immodest clothing.  But when you look at their backgrounds and things that were going on, fixing the clothing wouldn’t have fixed anything because the reason that they were wearing things that were genuinely shocking—and they were trying to shock.  They were trying to shock people with their clothing.  Was because they just had these deep core needs that they were trying to get met.  And so just telling them, “Well, you’re a bad person because you’re not covering up,” that doesn’t fix a core need.  That doesn’t fix the problem.  It just causes shame and guilt that’s not going to change anything, but let’s all of us feel like, “Oh, well, at least, I’m not that person.”  It’s literally that parable that Jesus talks about where it’s like, “When you pray, don’t be—don’t say, ‘Thank goodness I’m not like this tax collector,’ but instead just do it in private.”  It’s literally deal with your stuff.  Okay? Don’t make outward shows of it.  Just remember what actually matters.

Sheila: Yeah.  And so parents, if you see some of your kids’ friends and they are dressing on the extreme—like I’m not saying they’re just showing more cleavage than you would like because that might be culturally appropriate.  They might just simply have a big chest.  Okay.  I’m talking about—       

Rebecca: You also might just have different preferences.  There’s a difference with that.  

Sheila: Yeah.  But I’m talking about people who for their cultural—what’s culturally appropriate—they’re on the extreme.  And you’re listening to this and you’re thinking, “But, Sheila, some girls are dressing trying to get guys to look at them.”  And you’re right.  There are some girls.  It’s a minority.

Rebecca: I also tried to dress to get guys to look at me.  I just didn’t do it in those ways.  

Sheila: But—yeah.  But it’s a minority who are honestly trying to do that.  But if they are on that end, they don’t need modesty messages.  They need someone to come alongside them and figure out what those core needs are.  And so we’re doing this all backwards.

Rebecca: We are.

Sheila: Can I also explain—now can we jump to something else?  Which is how this modesty message got spread in totally backwards and wrong ways.

Rebecca: Oh, it’s horrible.  This is just bad.  Yeah.

Sheila: It is horrifying.  So tell—want to tell a story.  After we published Great Sex Rescue, we did talk about how some of the things shared in the book For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn were quite problematic.

Rebecca: Oh yeah.

Sheila: And we talked about some of the ways that she talked about men’s propensity towards lust.  And she took issue with us.  And she wrote a statement about how that wasn’t what she actually said.

Rebecca: Despite the fact that we had talked to hundreds of women at this point who were all like, “Oh yeah.  No.  It was For Women Only that I learned this.”  So funny.

Sheila: Exactly.  So yeah.    

Rebecca: So funny.  

Sheila: When we asked women where did you learn—where did you learn—

Rebecca: Where did you learn that all men lust?  Oh, For Women Only.  Okay.  Okay.    

Sheila: Yeah.  The majority of them said For Women Only

Rebecca: Yeah.  All men struggle with lust.  For Women Only.

Sheila: So Shaunti told us, but she doesn’t say that all men struggle with lust.  What she says is this, and she quoted something which is almost word for word from For Young Women Only.  So I’m going to read this.  What she said was this, “Even decent guys who are happily going with a girl are instinctively pulled to what to visually take in, linger on, and fantasize about all the details of an attractive girl’s body.  These images can be just as enticing whether they are live or remembered.”  

Rebecca: Yeah.  That’s so much better.

Sheila: She says this isn’t talking about the (inaudible).  So what we did is one of our modesty messages that we measured, we used her words.

Rebecca: We used her literal exact words because she kept on saying, “Well, you say that I taught this, but I didn’t teach this.”  So we’re like, “Well, you know what?  We actually need some accountability here.  Let’s actually test.  Were we wrong?  Did the way that you measured this actually help women?”  So we used her exact words.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  Not as long.  But that men—that boys have this visual nature.

Rebecca: Boys have a visual nature that girls will never understand.

Sheila: To take in.  And that was one of the most harmful modesty iterations.

Rebecca: Yeah.  It was.  Yeah.

Sheila: It was.  So yes.  But we did use her words at her request in a way.  And we did find that.  But then we went back and we looked at how she phrased the modesty message and how she asked about it in her book, For Young Women Only.  And this book—it’s an old one now.  It was published at the height of purity culture.  

Rebecca: This is what—everything that I was reading and Brio was because Shaunti wrote—yeah.  There was stuff in there all the time.

Sheila: But these messages are still heavily promoted in churches.   

Rebecca: They are. 

Sheila: They’re still there.  You’re still going to see it every time anyone talks about dress codes.  You’re still going to hear this.

Rebecca: Part of the reason that we’re talking about these books that are older too is twofold—and we talk about this in She Deserves Better—first of all, the tricky thing for us a lot of the times what your daughter is hearing is not from books in the same way.  It’s from another 17 year old on Instagram.  And quite frankly, we want to do this professionally.  We understand it’s really difficult to get called to accountability for the things that you’ve said.  And we want to make sure that we’re always doing this ethically and that we’re doing in this in a way that is aboveboard which means we only talk about our peers.  We are not going to talk about some 18-year-old college student with 1.2 million followers who is just sharing about her faith and doesn’t purport to be a teacher.  Right?

Sheila: Right.  So what we wanted to do is we wanted to look at the stuff that was written in books to help people recognize the problem so they can see it.

Rebecca: And to also understand the culture—the historical—just the foundation of this stuff.  Your Instagram influencers learned this stuff because their Sunday School teachers read things like For Young Women Only.  Their Sunday School teachers maybe grew up on Brio as well.  And so that’s why we are talking about these books even if they are not that popular anymore.  It’s because we just—we did not want to go over the cute, little 16 year olds who are not trying to be spiritual influences.  They just happen to have influence because they’re popular.  

Sheila: Right.  So let’s go in now and look at what Shaunti wrote.  So she’s explaining in her book, Keeper of the Photo Files—or in the chapter, Keeper of the Photo Files—    

Rebecca: Icky.

Sheila: – what guys are visual means.  And she says, “Three areas of this guys are visual thing surfaced that many of us really don’t get.  One, a girl dressed in any outfit that calls attention to a good figure is an eye magnet.”  And she goes on to talk about that.  “Any eye magnet is incredibly difficult to avoid.  And even if a guy forces himself not to look, he is very much aware of her presence.”  So somehow being aware of her presence is a bad thing.

Rebecca: But also being an eye magnet means the guy has to force himself not to look at you which, of course, by the way is very subjective.

Sheila: Yeah.  “Two, even when no eye magnet is present, every guy has a bunch of stored images of other great bodies that can pop into his thoughts without warning.  And three, when a guy sees or recalls a girl who is dressed to call attention to her figure, he is strongly tempted to picture her naked or even naked with him.”

Rebecca: And, again, we’re not saying—Shaunti doesn’t talk about extreme clothing.  We’re saying just drawing attention to your figure.  That can just mean—I mean, for Pete’s sake, it can mean what I’m wearing now.  I am wearing a form fitting top that then cinches at the waist.  It’s regular clothes.      

Sheila: Then she goes on to—in this chapter, to talk to girls about what guys said.  And I want to just read you a couple of the responses to her survey and the open ended question that she thought—

Rebecca: That she thought teen girls needed to know.

Sheila: She thought teen girls needed to know this.  So a guy writes, “When I know there’s a hot babe sitting near me in class, a part of my mind will constantly be aware of her.”  Now my question is, why is it important that girls listen to a guy who would girl just a hot babe?  

Rebecca: Yeah.  Exactly.

Sheila: Instead of a pretty girl or an attractive girl or someone I’m attracted to.  That is objectifying language.  

Rebecca: But also why are we being afraid that a guy might notice that you’re near him.  Why is this idea—this is the whole thing.  I grew up in this.  I grew up in thinking that if someone notices you you’ve done something wrong versus just you’re allowed to exist.

Sheila: Yeah.  And then here’s another one.  She quotes a guy saying, “I am always looking.  I’m just wired that way.  It has nothing to do with the way I feel about my girlfriend.”

Rebecca: And so then if you’re a girl who is dating a guy who is constantly looking at other girls, comparing you to them, struggles with not leering, “Oh, well, he’s just wired that way.  He really does love me.  He’s a good guy.”  No.  He’s not.

Sheila: And then what does she say directly after that?  And this is her commentary.  “Any girl dressed in a way that emphasizes a good figure becomes an eye magnet.”

Rebecca: Also that is so subtle, but let’s talk about the emphasizes a good figure because this also is a problem.  Because then there’s this idea that if guy—you’re not supposed to have guys be attracted to you.  But if guys aren’t struggling to lust after you, it must mean that you don’t have a good figure.  It must mean that you’re not as attractive.  It must mean there’s something wrong with you.  So you’re supposed to be attractive enough that guys sin over you.  But if you’re not that attractive, then there is something wrong with you.  But you’re also not supposed to have guys sin over you.  So you’re supposed to have the kind of figure that can make guys sin.  But then you’re supposed to never let anyone know that you have it.   

Sheila: Right.  Yeah.  You’ve got it.  It’s perfect.

Rebecca: Again, erasing just our bodies.

Sheila: Do we see how problematic this is?  Because she’s quoting guys that are saying things that are terrible, and she’s thinking that girls need to understand boys as opposed to saying, “No.  Boys need to start learning how to respect women.”  

Rebecca: It’s like boys are—teen boys are total horn dogs, who need to just be given a couple years to calm down.  Okay. 

Sheila: Yeah.  But also girls, you are allowed to expect the boys in your life will treat you with respect.  And in the book, she didn’t just give the guys’ opinions.  She also reveals the questions that she asked them which are really highly problematic.  

Rebecca: I’m going to be honest.  I don’t know why—I’m glad that she was very honest about this.  But it doesn’t look good.  You’ll see.  

Sheila: Okay.  Would you like to read it, or should I read it?  

Rebecca: You can read it.

Sheila: Okay.  So here is the question that she asked.  So remember.  These are teenage boys.  Okay?  “Now imagine that the same hot girl,”—and this is a follow up question to a previous one about a hot girl, who is in your class.  Okay?  “So now imagine that the same hot girl goes to the front of the class to give a report.  She is all business but is wearing clothes that accentuate her figure.  If you’re not careful, would there be a possibility that you would picture her naked either now or later?”  

Rebecca: Yeah.  Would there be a possibility?  Is there a chance?  In the infinite millions of universes that may exist according to all these physics theories.

Sheila: Now this question is terrible.  But let’s say that she had—that the answers that you could have chosen from were highly likely, somewhat likely, a little likely—   

Rebecca: Very unlikely.  Unlikely, very unlikely, absolutely no.  Yeah.

Sheila: She could have done that.  But guess what?

Rebecca: No.  Once again—and I don’t understand why Shaunti always wants to make such creative response sets.

Sheila: Yeah.  Because that’s not the proper way to do surveys.

Rebecca: It’s so bad.

Sheila: Here are the possibilities that teenage boys hearing this could choose from.  So remember the question is if you’re not careful, would there be a possibility that you would picture her naked either now or later?  “Yes.  Almost definitely.  And even this survey question risks raising images in my mind.”       

Rebecca: Oh my gosh.

Sheila: 39%.

Rebecca: It’s like I’m sorry.  One second.  Your response set should not sound like a sexy tweet or like a sexy text.  Oh, and even this message risks raising images in my mind.  It shouldn’t sound like you’re trying to sext the person taking the quiz.  

Sheila: And remember.  This is an adult woman writing a survey question for teenage boys.

Rebecca: For teenagers.

Sheila: And she’s asking you is this survey question getting you hot.

Rebecca: What we’re saying is accidentally she is engaging in that behavior by breaking down boys—the barriers and boundaries that we naturally have.  And we’re like, “I’m not going to tell some 40-year-old woman when I’m 15 years old what I think is hot versus not.  I’m not going to talk about who I think about naked.”  But then they break down those boundaries so that you start joking about it.  And this is so problematic for so many reasons.

Sheila: In so many ways.  Okay.  So 39% chose that option that almost definitely and this survey question risks raising images.  46% chose yes, possibly.  Why is one answer so long and creepy and then the next one is just possibly?  Honestly.  And the last one is no.  That would never occur to me.

Rebecca: So here’s the thing though is you’re asking people not—think about—look at all the different modifiers that are here.  Ready?  So we already know it’s a hot girl.  So we already know this is someone who he is attracted to.  She’s all business but is wearing clothes that accentuate her figure.  Right now.  Immediately.  We’re looking at this from a more pornographic standpoint.  I mean think about an erotica book about the pirates, the corset busting pirate—this is the kind of language that we’re using.  Right?  So we’re using erotic, pornographic language.  If you are not careful—modifier one—would there be a possibility—modifier two—that you would picture her naked either now or later—modification three?  And so that’s three modifiers.  That’s not did you picture her naked.  That’s not would you picture her naked.  Is there a possibility that you would picture her naked either now or later if you’re not careful?  There are three modifiers.  Anyone who is trying to be honest on a survey is going to say, “I mean yeah.  Possibly.”  Anyone is going to say either, “Yeah.  I probably would then,” or, “Yeah.  Possibly.”  15% said no.  That would never occur to me.  Congratulations.  We found 15% of guys who either weren’t sexually—who hadn’t reached sexual maturity yet or who were not straight.

Sheila: Right.  Right.    

Rebecca: There is no—this is not a good survey question.  If you were going to measure whether or not guys actually picture women naked when they’re presenting— here is how I would do it.  Okay?  You’d have four groups.  Well, no.  You’d have five groups.  You’d have one group where you were listening—okay.  I’m thinking about it.  Six groups.  Six groups.  Okay.  You have—I’m doing this—

Sheila: No one expects the Spanish Inquisition.  There are five.  No.  There are four.

Rebecca: Okay.  So I’m doing this on the fly, guys.  Okay.  So I have six groups.  Split in three based on whether or not it’s a male or a female.  Okay.  So first of all, on the male side, you’d have a dude giving a presentation who is incredibly attractive dude in a very tight fitting, button down white shirt, and really well tailored, fits him well pants.  Okay.  So really good looking.  Definitely accentuates his body.  Attractive dude.  Next group same dude in oversize baggy clothes that do nothing for his body.  Okay.  Third, male voice only.  Okay.  For the other group, we’d have women.  Same things.  You have an incredibly attractive woman in a very business appropriate but very attractive outfit.  Maybe a pencil skirt, some nylons, form fitting shirt, high heels, that kind of thing.  Second group, you’d have a woman in incredibly oversized clothing, doesn’t show her figure at all.  And then the third, woman, voice only.  So your groups would be told, “Your job is to take notes and summarize the presentation.”  We’re looking for short term memory recall.  That’s what we’re measuring.  Okay.  So that’s what they all think is happening.  The same way that when you’re in class you’re trying to measure whether or not you remember the presentation.  You’re trying to focus on presentation, right?  At the end, the response then asks, “Did you picture her naked?  Or did you picture him naked?”  And by the way, men and women take both—take all six groups.

Sheila: Right. 

Rebecca: Right.  And that’s how you’d figure out—because you wouldn’t be priming people.  You’d be saying, “Oh, well, yeah.  Okay.  So people in the person with the attractive one pictured them naked more often, but it was still only a rate of 9% or something.  Or even the voice only got a lot of people going.” You figure out other stuff there, right?  Versus saying, “Okay, guys.  Are you ready?  Picture a hot girl who is all business but is wearing clothes that accentuate her figure.”  Oh, that tight, little, hiney is showing.  That’s what we’re talking about here.  This is so different.  First of all, it’s so inappropriate.

Sheila: It’s inappropriate to phrase questions to teen boys like this.  This is not proper survey.  This is not proper research.  

Rebecca: When people talk about leading questions and priming, this is what priming—this is a prime example of priming.

Sheila: And so it was from this that she concluded that all guys are going to—

Rebecca: Picture you naked.  

Sheila: – picture you naked.

Rebecca: Yeah.  So what she did was she got guys aroused.  She had them think about arousing things.  Think about hot girls.  Think about hot girls which means boobs and butt.  Okay.  We also know from other studies that when we reduce people to body parts like a great figure instead of saying an attractive woman—okay?  A great figure.  We know that it’s more likely people will think of sex.  We’ve talked about those studies in previous podcasts and posts versus if you think of the whole person you’re less likely to think of sex.  Right?  So you’re already priming boys to think of sex first.  And then you’re asking them, is there a possibility if you’re not careful maybe now or later—you’re doing three modifiers.  There’s no way that guys are going to answer no very often.

Sheila: But this became the main way that we talked about modesty during purity culture.  Shaunti wasn’t the one who necessarily started it.  She was certainly in the midst of it writing for Brio and writing this book.  She was not the only one who did it.  And she’s not the only one who still does it.  But you can just see how this assumption is that boys are like this, and so girls need to adjust because this is just what boys are like.  As opposed to is this okay?  Can we call boys to more?  And to be fair, she does, in her book, talk about the difference between temptation and sin and how guys shouldn’t get a green light.  But you see how she has described things.

Rebecca: Well, that’s the thing.  She gives the caveats.  But her teaching directly contradicts it.  And we see this so often in churches.  We’ll say, “Now, girls, there is nothing—boys—it’s their responsibility to make sure they don’t lust.  But,”—and then there’s a big but that then directly goes against that which is, “But remember that the way you dress impacts him, and he doesn’t have a choice because it’s how God made him.”  Well, what is it?  Is it his responsibility or not?  Right?  Which one?

Sheila: Exactly.  And here is an example.  A listener sent me this just this week.  So this is a modesty handout talk that was given in her church to the young people.  I won’t say what city she is from.  But she just sent me this.  It’s an eight-page handout, goes into all this modesty stuff.  And it almost sounds word for word like what Shaunti wrote, but listen to this bit.  “So modesty is basically a personal opinion and choice?  Yes.  It most definitely is.  However, like I mentioned before, you do have to be aware of how you dress affects others.  If you are always dressing in a way that flaunts your body and makes people pay attention to you or lust after you, then you are probably not dressing in a modest way.”  

Rebecca: Yeah.  Once again makes people lust after you.  Makes people pay attention to you.

Sheila: Pay attention to you.     

Rebecca: So once again simply having a woman’s body that people find attractive is a sin. 

Sheila: And that is the message that was given over and over again is that your woman’s body is a problem.  You need to cover it up to make sure that people don’t notice it because they will be tempted to take it in.  They will be tempted to linger on it.  They will be tempted to draw the picture of what’s missing, et cetera, et cetera.  And that is what our teen girls and our women were told.  But here’s where I want to end it is that this message was not only given to teen girls and adult women.  So let me start this story.  When you were—I’m going to say 12 or 13.

Rebecca: I think I was 12.  I remember this.  I think I was 12.

Sheila: Yeah.  And Katie was 10 or 11.  

Rebecca: She was 10.  

Sheila: I decided that I wanted to be more proactive about doing devotions and spiritual stuff as a family.  And so I went up to the Christian bookstore, and I was looking for mother daughter devotionals.  And I found—there was this big display of these fun blue books with pictures of cute little girls and flowers and moms on the cover.  And it was Secret Keeper Girl by Dannah Gresh.  And I thought, “Oh, this is great.  It’s this wonderful curriculum.”  So I bought it.  Didn’t really read a lot.  I should have.  In retrospect, I really should have read more what the back cover said because it was almost entirely about your beauty and figuring out modesty and how God wants us to look.  It was just really, really kind of odd.  But nevertheless, I brought it home, and I prepared to do—there’s eight dates in it that you do with your daughter.  And it has now been rebranded.  It’s no longer Secret Keeper Girl.  They now call it Eight Great Dates for Moms and Daughters.  But it’s—    

Rebecca: It’s the same thing.

Sheila: – very similar.  They’ve changed it a little bit but not much because we have both copies.  And the first one there was—it told mom to prepare a tea party for your daughters.  Okay.  And you were supposed to get some props.

Rebecca: Yeah.

Sheila: And one of them was you were supposed to have a china teacup.  And luckily, I have 50 china tea cups that my grandmother gave me. 

Rebecca: Yeah.  They’re family heirlooms.

Sheila: So that was exciting.  I thought, “Oh, this is great.  This is a great thing to do with my kids because we can use the family heirloom.”  So I got the china teacup.  And then you were supposed to get a ceramic mug, and then you were supposed to get a Styrofoam cup.  Okay?  And you were supposed to talk to your kids about how we can present ourselves either as a china teacup or a ceramic mug or something which is disposable.  

Rebecca: No.  Trashable.  The word is trashable.

Sheila: The word is trashable.  Right.  And so are you presenting yourself as something which is precious?  And this is all about—it really revolves around how you clothe yourself and what clothing you’re wearing.  And it goes on to look at what the different things mean.  And then we’re supposed to ask our daughters, “Can you think of friends who are treating themselves like Styrofoam cups?”  

Rebecca: Yeah.  The quote is this.  “Do you ever see girls presenting themselves as trashable in any of these ways?  The ways that we dress, talk, act, or the places we’re willing to go.”  

Sheila: So literally, one of the first questions that I was supposed to ask my girls is which of your friends is the trashiest.

Rebecca: Yes.  Rank your friends in terms of least trashy to most trashy.  

Sheila: It was after I read that question that we got rid of this book, and we never did anything else.  Because at the time, there were several friends in your friend group sort of in the margins who had come from some difficult family situations who did wear crop tops and listen to Spice Girls and things like that.  

Rebecca: Which back then would have been—that would have been the trashable.  That would have gotten you a one way train to trash city.

Sheila: And I did not want you thinking that way about them because they were precious girls who needed love and who were important.  And so we did get rid of the Secret Keeper manual.  But as we were preparing to write She Deserves Better, we got it back out.  And we wanted to take a look at some of the messages that it gave because this wasn’t just a curriculum.  This was a huge event all across North America.  Secret Keeper Girl events.  It was really the premiere thing that moms and daughters did.

Rebecca: Yeah.  They had modesty fashion shows and stuff.

Sheila: Yes.  Yes.  And why don’t you read some—what it said to girls?  This is under Truth or Bare Fashion Tests.  

Rebecca: Here we are.  Mm-hmm.  So these were tests that the girls can do to make sure that their clothes are modest.  Are you ready?

Sheila: And Secret Keeper Girl, again, is directed towards 8 to 12-year-old girls.     

Rebecca: Is age 8 to 12.  Ready?  “Test.  Raise and praise.  Target question.  Am I showing too much belly?  Action.  Stand straight up and pretend you are going for it in worship and extend your arms in the air to God.  Is this exposing a lot of belly?  Bellies are very intoxicating, and we need to save that for our husband.”  So—

Sheila: Wait.  I think you need to read that again.

Rebecca: Yeah.  Okay.  “Stand straight up and pretend you are going for it in worship and extend your arms in the air to God.  Is this exposing a lot of belly?  Bellies are very intoxicating, and we need to save that for our husband.”  So your 8-year-old daughter’s belly is very intoxicating.

Sheila: And later on, she talks about what that means.  Now we just want to read to you what she meant by intoxicating because she explains this later on in her script that she gives to moms.  

Rebecca: Earlier on.  

Sheila: She explains this earlier on in a script that she gives to moms of conversations that moms can have with their daughters.

Rebecca: Okay.  So here is what the script is.  Okay?  So for moms and daughters.  “Mom: Do you remember what Dannah said our beauty has the power to do to a man?”   Remember, again, 8 to 12 year olds.  Okay.  “Daughter: Some will remember the word intoxicate, and others may need help.  Mom says, ‘That’s right.  Is a person in control when he is intoxicated?’  Daughter: Some will understand what this means, and some will need help.  Explain that it means to be out of control.  If they’ve ever been anesthetized for surgery or dental work, you may use that to give them an idea of how a person might feel out of control or you can refer to the story on the audio about drunkenness.  Be sure to remind them that they are responsible to make good choices.  But in these situations, it’s simply harder to do so.”  Again, though, being anesthetized, that’s—

Sheila: Out of control.

Rebecca: Out of control.  “Mom says, ‘Well, when a man views a woman’s body whether it’s her curves or some of her skin, he is intoxicated.’”  And then it goes on for a long time to explain what intoxication means, and the autonomous nervous system, which, again, is like there is no choice.  It just happens to him.

Sheila: Yes.  

Rebecca: And then the mom says, “Who created our bodies to have that power?  That intoxicating power.  The daughter says, ‘God.’  Mom: ‘Who created men’s bodies to respond to that power by being intoxicated?’  Daughter says, ‘God.’  Mom says, ‘So the response is God’s plan.  But did you notice that the verse Dannah shared with us said rejoice in the wife of your youth.  How many wives?’  Daughter: ‘One.’  Mom: ‘So the man is only supposed to be intoxicated by one woman.  So how many men do you think God wants you to be intoxicating to?’  Daughter: ‘One.’”  Eight year olds are being taught that they should only be intoxicating to one man.

Sheila: Because their bellies make men get out of control.  

Rebecca: Yep.  Exactly.  

Sheila: This is what was taught to our millennial generation.

Rebecca: Well, and not only that, think about how many predators convinced young girls to do things with them sexually because, “Well, I’m the one you’re going to marry.”  This kind of mentality is grooming girls to believe that your body’s job is to intoxicate men.  There is no room to simply be a woman.  There is no room—  

Sheila: Or be an 8-year-old girl.

Rebecca: Oh yeah.  Before we even get there, there is no room to simply exist as a female without being used by a man.  Girls are not allowed to grow up simply being children.  They are immediately intoxicating when they’re 8, 9, 10 years old.  And instead of growing up and then being allowed to enjoy the fact that you have a sensual woman’s body and understand that doesn’t mean that you’re sexually promiscuous.  That doesn’t mean you’re automatically a sex object.  What Dannah is telling these young girls is that men are intoxicated by your body because of what you have done to them by choosing to have your body around them and not covering up.  And covering up, by the way, doesn’t just mean wearing clothes.  It means literally having them not able to see your curves.  That’s the point.  So you are not allowed to be an 8 year old, who wears a two-piece bathing suit running around the splash pad with her friends because 8 year olds go to splash pads still.  You’re not allowed to be a 9 year old, who is just running around and her skirt flies up because she’s 9.  You’re not allowed to be a 10, 11, 12 year old, who just is still awkwardly figuring out what fits her, and she has a shirt that’s a little bit too small because she had a growth spurt because now she’s intoxicating because a little bit of her belly showed.  Right?  And then you’re definitely not allowed to be a 16 year old, who is just enjoying finally feeling grown up and a woman and wearing clothes that accentuate her figure because that is intoxicating to men.

Sheila: Yeah.  And they were 8.

Rebecca: They were 8.

Sheila: They were 8.  And they were told this.  So many of you listening, I know you were told this that you’re intoxicating.  And that if a man is out of control—literally out of control around you that it’s a problem with your body.  And my God, I’m sorry.    

Rebecca: It’s pedophilia.  It’s pedophilia.  It is genuinely pedophilia.  There is no other word for being sexually attracted to an 8 year old than pedophilia.

Sheila: And why is it that our teaching to girls has more in common with the pedophilia associations than it does with the Bible?     

Rebecca: I mean, for Pete’s sake, where else are you going to see your belly is very intoxicating told to an 8 year old.

Sheila: Yeah.  To grown men.  

Rebecca: Yeah.  From grown men.  From grown men.  Yeah.  

Sheila: Your belly is intoxicating to grown men.  Please.  And this is what we did.  This is what the church did.  And church, hear us on this.  Your daughter deserves better than this.  Even though Secret Keeper Girl isn’t sold in the same way anymore.  Even though For Young Women Only isn’t for sale in the same way anymore.  That hand out that was sent to me this week says exactly the same thing.  

Rebecca: And in the 2021 version, Eight Great Dates, girls are still taught about how the way that we dress invites men to finish the story of our bodies.  We are still telling 8 year olds that it is normal for grown men to look at their bodies as sexual.  Even today.  We may have changed some of the wording so it sounds a little prettier and little less pedophilic, but the pedophilia is still there.  And I know that that’s a harsh word.  

Sheila: No.  But it is.

Rebecca: But that is what it is.  It is pedophilia.  And we have stolen girls’ childhood by making them grow up too soon.  But then we don’t even allow them to enjoy growing up.  It’s like once a girl becomes sexually attractive to one pedophile in the congregation she is no longer allowed to just have a body.  She is a threat.

Sheila: Yeah.  And we see this in the long term consequences of these messages on women that this is one of the biggest reasons that we, in the evangelical church, have a higher rate of sexual pain because we’ve been taught that our bodies are threatening.  And so why in the world would any woman want to embrace her body?

Rebecca: Exactly.

Sheila: Because sex and everything with it is a threat.

Rebecca: Well, and also when we know that vaginismus is more likely to happen when women are unaroused and they have sex for the first time.  And then you’re married, and you’re like, “Well, he can’t help himself.  I’m lucky he’s even controlled himself this far.  I have to do it now.  It’s not fair.”  How are women supposed to be able to be told, “You’re allowed to wait.  If you don’t want to have sex on your wedding night, wait until your honeymoon.  That’s fine.”  When they’ve been told from age 8, my body is intoxicating.  And I am his now.  

Sheila: Yeah.  It’s awful.  And please, readers, please hear me on this.  We’re so passionate about this.  The chapter on modesty—it will—if it doesn’t bring you to tears, I don’t know what will.  But she deserves better than this.  You deserved better than this.    

Rebecca: And you deserve better than this now.

Sheila: Yeah.  And I was talking to someone today who said she’s reading She Deserves Better as a way to reparent herself because of the messages that she grew up with.  We cannot let the next generation grow up with this.  We need to set women free.  And so please, pick up She Deserves Better.  You can join the launch team.  We’ve got all the links on where you can order it and how you can send in your receipt so that you can join us.  We’re having a ton of fun over on Facebook.  A ton of great Facebook Lives and webinars coming.  And you get that hand out that you can give to people to show, “Hey, this is actually a healthy way to talk about modesty and not all this crap,” okay?  Because women aren’t sin management tools.  There is nothing wrong with having a woman’s body and 8-year-old bellies are not intoxicating.  And I’m amazing that in 2023 we still have to say this.  So thank you for joining us on the Bare Marriage podcast.  And we will see you again next week where we turn to what we learned about consent.  Bye-bye.  

Rebecca: Bye.  

SDB Coming Soon Desktop

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. Jason

    It seems like a lot of emphasis on modesty actually backfires . Hyping women’s and girls and body parts as being so dangerous and scandalous and making them taboo to be seen actually greatly increases the sexual tension a guy is gonna feel when he sees them. Making guys more likely to be more overwhelmed.!
    There is also the ‘Forbidden Fruit Effect where people get drawn to things you’re not supposed to do, so if women’s bodies are made taboo to even see them it make guys more intensely drawn to them.
    Yes, there does need to be decorum and moderation in a society but they need to be careful how they teach it. Also guys need to look at women as whole people

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Absolutely! Completely agree.

      • Jason

        Thanks Sheila.
        Finally read the whole transcript. I am blown away by you and your daughters insight. The teachings of Dannah Gresh and Shanti Feldhahn are truly dangerous. I remember browsing through “Secret Keeper” and being appalled by what I read and being disturbed about the part about Grandpa part. Also the part about bellies being intoxicating. She doesn’t seem to have a problem with a girl wearing a One Piece Bating suit (which shows skin and form) but showing a part of the belly is too intoxicating!
        She’s tabooing one thing because it can be “intoxicating” but OK with something else that she ought to believe can be intoxicating also. It’s kinda wierd how youth leaders will teach about “not wearing something that might cause your brother to stumble” but feel weeks later to tell girls to only bring One Piece swimsuits. Guys can get turned on by girls in One Pieces too. A guy with a butt fetish can get more turned on by a girl in one piece suit more than another girl in a bikini if he thinks the girl in one piece has a better looking butt, for example. There churches, modesty teachers seem to imply that if a girl wears a two piece that she automatically has s thousand Mill Stones around her neck but there almost no way a guy is gonna lust for a girl in a One Piece suit but if guys do then God is somehow obligated to give the One Piece girl her a divine “Get Out Of Jail Free Card” and won’t be responsible. There is so much consistency.

  2. Jane Eyre

    There was the assumption that if a man was crass to me, I caused it by being flirty or scantily dressed. No concept of “some men are just skeezy.” There were also a lot of unnecessarily sexual comments that I didn’t understand at the time and just made me feel gross. (My parents are immature.)

    That aligns with a lot of other messaging I got – how other people treated me was my fault. If men just wanted to sleep with me instead of dating me, that was my fault. If I was unhappy in a dating relationship and communicated why, and what I wanted to change, that was somehow hurtful and not a reasonable expectation. I was being “too hard on men” by expecting them to be adults.

    Reality is that we are responsible for our own emotions and reactions, and by extension, other people are responsible for themselves.

  3. Angharad

    It’s no surprise to me that the modesty message is so harmful.

    I’m late 40s now, and I think I’m over the damage. Or am I? Because apart from being taught that young girls and women were responsible for making men sin, we were also told that it didn’t matter what older women did because they were no longer attractive enough to be a problem. So do I feel more comfortable in my body now because I’ve shaken off the modesty message, or just because I feel that now I’m in the ‘safe zone’ of being old and ugly… To be honest, I’m not sure.

    I remember throughout my teens, 20s and 30s feeling desperate because however thick and baggy my tops were, I couldn’t hide the outline of my breasts. Standing in front of a mirror in floods of tears because I couldn’t find anything that hid ‘them’. Getting backache from sitting with my shoulders hunched over to try to hide ‘them’. Feeling dirty all the time just because I had ‘them’ on my body. Wishing I could have ‘them’ cut off so I didn’t have to worry about being immodest any more…

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, wow, Angharad. Isn’t that awful?

    • JB

      Ah yes, the poor posture and chronic back pain! I know that very well. Thinking that just having breasts is an invitation to be violated does not exactly make you what to stand up straight.

  4. Codec

    What you say about what someone is wearing does not justify objectification reminds me of a saying you see a lot at fan conventions and cosplay.

    “Cosplay is not consent”

    People dress for attraction but that intention is not always meant to be sexual. Sometimes folks just want to feel good in their own skin.

    The whole everyone is visual thing is weird to me as that is only part of attraction.You guys even pointed out hilariously mind you how much voice and personality matter.

    You guys try really hard to make good survey questions. Shaunti’s questions are honestly really uncomfortable.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yeah, that question was seriously uncomfortable!

  5. Jen

    I’m on the launch team for your new book. I’m am a motherless daughter and a daughter less mother. I’m reading to get freedom.

    This podcast was heartbreaking. Sheila and I are about the same age (I think you’re a year older than me). I was raised Lutheran and came to Evangelism in college.

    As I listened, I realized that I grew up believing pretty much everything you discussed. However, I grew up before purity messaging and away from Fundamentalism and the SBC. Now, I read a lot of the marriage books you’ve discussed, but I’ve suddenly realized that they didn’t teach me any of this stuff. I already new it from culture. The Christian authors just spiritualized it. So as a woman, when I read all of these horrible ideas with spiritualized language, it was simply confirming and explaining what I already knew.

    My experiences had already taught me that every boy/man lusts. My experiences had already taught me that my body is dangerous. My experiences had already taught me that I needed to get small and hide in order to be safe. Now, though, I was being taught that God made it that way AND that if I got small and hid, I was pleasing God.

    Shaunti Feldhahn is about my age. Stormie Omartian is my parents’ age. They wrote this way because that’s what they had learned in the culture, too. I’m
    not defending them. I’m calling them out.

    BIG POINT: All of the authors you’ve discussed are packaging worldly “wisdom” and selling it as the word of God. They were taught these ideas by the culture and instead of looking to the Word of God for truth, they looked to the Bible to explain the bondage they’d already been living in – to get a reason for it – instead of seeing what God really says.

    And then they sold it as truth to people trying to obey God.

    I’m speechless. I’m horrified. I’m
    terrified for them because they will stand before Jesus.

    But I’m also understanding very clearly how they got to this horrible messaging. They looked at how the world worked and simply spiritualized it. All of these terrible teachings boil down to “God made men this way.”

    So for generations men behave badly, society teaches them to behave badly, society excuses their bad behavior (“boys will be boys”), and the Christian authors come along and blame it all on God and try to give women tools to protect themselves (“cover your belly!”) when in reality all they are doing is excusing the men and blaming the women and God. Sounds just like Adam’s response in the garden.

    And everyone stays in bondage. And suffering is passed to another generation.

    I learned this garbage from the world. And the Church told me the world was right instead of teaching me what God really says and what He requires of His followers. They did not teach me my value and how to identity who is really sinning. And because of what I’d learned from the world, I, too, read the Bible and saw what these people saw. I never once considered that I WAS the oppressed or that I could assess people’s behavior and get to safety. All I learned was how to work around others’ sin.

    I’m just stunned . This is one of many life altering moments. GSR set me free on a bunch of levels. This book will, too, even though I don’t have my mother to discuss it with and I don’t have daughters to teach it to. Thank you.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, wow, Jen, this is so insightful. Thank you for commenting!

    • Anon

      THIS. 100% this. Such a beautiful comment, and I hope all the women and men here read this and take it to heart.

    • Nessie

      Jen, wow!

      “I never once considered that I WAS the oppressed”

      In almost every bible passage I’ve ever read, I have felt judgment- like I must identify with the bad person and never the one oppressed. That has made it hard to truly feel God’s love at times because I felt I was never going to be good enough. I was just going to keep on being the one in perpetual sin. I now wonder if so much of this feeling of judgment has sprung from the culture of “you are female, therefore it is your fault.” Even reading through tGSR, I have still been struggling with this feeling.

      I fully agree with the culture having taught this, too, but the authors tried to spiritualize it. I feel that.

      My mom was date-raped around age 18. She tried to train me to stick my chest out and wear shorter skirts because boys would never “notice me” if not. (She wouldn’t get real in therapy so it couldn’t help her.) Thankfully I was fairly unattractive regardless but I, like Angharad, hurt my back hunching over to hide my shape. Then I wondered how hideous I must be that no boys were attracted to me the few times I wasn’t hunched over.

      Thank you so much for giving me some deep thoughts to mull over and try to reframe! Seriously, I can’t thank you enough for sharing your insight!!

    • Anna

      Yes! All of this is so true. Such great insight! Purity culture was reactionary to the objectification of women & the justification of misogyny, packaged to look like gospel truth.

    • Laura

      “They looked at how the world worked and simply spiritualized it.”

      Exactly my experiences Jen. I was born in 1976 and graduated high school in 1995 so I graduated a few years after the church started pushing True Love Waits. But, it was not until my mid-twenties that I started reading these Christian books about dating and marriage. They sure did a number on me and confirmed those experiences I had about how guys treated me. To say, “That’s the way God made men,” just made me wonder if God really wanted men to be sex-crazed maniacs to test us women.

      I don’t have children, but I feel that She Deserves Better is helping me heal. After all, I participated in that survey nearly 2 years ago.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I’m so glad, Laura!

    • Ladybug

      This. My dad is not a Christian and always had the “boys will be boys” mindset (AND the divide that says porn is not cheating). His take on it: just don’t get pregnant. But yeah, it was the world that said, “If you are dressing like that, you are asking for trouble.” I think I learned that in public school. Where they teach you tips for not getting raped. (But didn’t teach about consent.)

  6. Jo R

    Where to begin?

    “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”

    “Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus.”

    “Have you never read, ‘You have prepared praise from the mouths of infants and nursing babies’?”

    “Whoever welcomes one child like this in my name welcomes me. But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to fall away—it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea.”

    “But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. Just kidding, fellas, by all means tell the exuberantly worshiping eight-year-old girl that her bare tummy is responsible for your pervy-perv skeezy pedophilia. By all means, make YOUR sin problem into every FEMALE’S problem. By all means, make women and girls feel bad for the bodies ***I*** gave them. You’ve been telling women and girls how to dress and behave for an awful long time now. How about you poke both eyeballs out already and thus save every female who crosses your path the soul agony that they are inherently wicked merely for LWF. As part of the current generation, you get that acronym, right? No? Then I’ll help you out: LIVING WHILE FEMALE. I came to set women free from MEN LIKE YOU, and you put them right back in prison again. You quote Paul right and left to control women. How about you follow his example and spend three years in solitude, away from ALL other people, and re-learn what you THINK you know about Me?”

  7. Annie

    I’m a bit older than Rebecca but I can identify with so much of what she said about body shape/clothing. I absolutely internalized my curves being unwanted or fat. (though looser jeans were huge in the 90s. JNCO anyone? Lol) Hiding my figure felt like the only “right” choice even though it’s not how I wanted to dress at all.

    That section on modesty/clothing and assault hits my teen self so hard. I still remember exactly what I was wearing when I was assaulted – loose jeans and an oversized hoodie – and it’s been 25 years. The amount of blame I put on myself that was the rotten fruit of these awful teachings… Thank God for therapy and untangling all this junk so I don’t pass it onto my kids.

  8. Cynthia

    A while ago, I apologized to my daughters for ever teaching them the modesty message. I hadn’t grown up with it, and it was explained to less religious people as “respecting yourself” or “being attractive, not attracting” or “encouraging people to focus on the real you”. Much later, after trying to figure out some of the mixed messages around modesty, I finally realized that the real purpose of the modesty teachings that were being pushed was to avoid having a boy or man ever think about sex. Far from encouraging respect or seeing the real person, it was actually being promoted in a way that encouraged seeing girls and women as nothing but potential sources of sexual temptation.

    That last segment about the Secret Keeper Girl was powerful, and hit me hard. Even the title – someone close to me disclosed, when she was only 8 years old, that she had been repeatedly molested by a relative. He had told her to keep it a secret, and she had, because she was a “good” girl. She finally disclosed what was happening to her friend who was a “bad” girl (at age 8, this meant that she wasn’t as polite and sometimes used some mild bad language). In reality, that friend was actually very good and got help so that the abuse ended.

  9. JB

    I know exactly what Rebecca is talking about, having been a pear-shaped girl in modesty culture! I never read Brio, but I had other influences (including a lot of the books you’re reviewing) that made it very clear to me that having curves was sexual.

    I got my first adult jeans when I was 13, I wore a size 4, and I already had a gap at the waist, and the legs were way too tight for comfort. I wear a 12 now, with a waist-to-hip ratio that prevents me from wearing some brands.

    I remember my mom telling me around that time, “you’ve got some hips!” Which she later explained to have meant “you’re becoming a young lady!” I also thought that I must be fat, and that my body was inviting creeps to leer at me. And some did, and I experienced a lot of disordered eating and body hatred. Still, at 25, I sometimes feel like my body is this burning fire that must be stifled.

    I don’t have children, but I’ve pre-ordered She Deserves Better for my inner child, and I expect it to hit me right in the heart.

    • Anna

      I am 41 & only 2 years ago I wore a shirt to church service that when I raised my hands I could tell that the tiniest bit of skin was showing & finally knowing that that was ok & continuing to worship was so healing. Thank you for writing this book, I am looking forward to using it as I parent my own precious girls. It’s an uphill battle but I hope that they will avoid most of the toxic teachings I sat under as a young woman.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      “I’ve pre-ordered She Deserves Better for my inner child.” I love that!

  10. Mara R

    That was heart-breaking, listening to the end.

    And, no, pedophilia is not too strong of a word.

    How can a book get published in the Christian world and marketed to mothers and their 8 to 12 year old daughters as modesty when it’s really grooming them for pedophiles. And the mothers couldn’t see this?

    We are to be as shrew as serpents and harmless as doves.
    But the church demands that women and girls be docile and vulnerable as baby ewes so certain men, who fancy themselves to be like David, can prey on them like wolves.

    I had no idea that book existed.
    I am so, so sorry for all those that it harmed. May God heal them all.

    I’m glad the curtain is being pulled back and Christians are confronting this abomination.

    I’ve been thinking about a concept again, recently. It’s the concept of “Sin in the Camp”.

    Men like Burk and Strachan want to make uppity women in the church their enemy calling the ‘Marxists’ or saying these women don’t know what they are talking about. And this thing with the SBC where they consider female leaders to be a great sin while at the same time covering for their buddies who have sexually abused women and children.

    Over a decade ago, I was complaining about the abuse that was going on and not being addressed and men accused me of hating God, the Bible, and the church. They didn’t understand the concept of “Sin in the Camp” or “Judgement begins with the house of the Lord.”

    We, the church, can do nothing for the world when our own house is so out of order.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Exactly, Mara!

  11. Scott

    These messages have seriously damaged or marriage. We’ve been married 11 years and haven’t had sex for over a year because sex causes my wife so much pain. Thanks to your research i now understand the likely “why”.
    She was raised in a church where modesty messages were a focus and reinforced by her parents (because that’s what they were taught to do).
    For a number of years she was having “obligation sex” without telling me that
    That’s what she was doing, but i could tell because she wasn’t engaged, disinterested, stopped wanting to relate in other ways before/after.
    I have spent years believing it was because there was something wrong with me, that my wife’s was finding sex painful because she didn’t love me. It has destroyed the trust in our marriage. She doesn’t trust me because I still desire sex in our marriage, though it’s years since i asked. I don’t trust her because our relationship isn’t a safe place to express my desires or hopes.
    Now we sleep in different rooms. I hope that you’re books help us fight our way through the damage of these evil, unbiblical teachings that were mainstream for so long.
    I am aware of at least one guy in a similar situation where the cost to was even greater.
    Please keep up your great work. You’re saving men’s lives as well as women’s.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Scott, I’m so sorry! That’s so much to untangle.

      Has she ever seen a pelvic floor physiotherapist? Or have you read through The Great Sex Rescue together?

    • Chris

      Scott, hopefully you can take some comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Many, many men are in this same situation with us. In some ways it gets easier with time. In some ways it get more difficult. But know that God sees you. And that you have your brothers praying for you.

  12. Sarah

    When I was a teenager, I absorbed all those purity culture books like a sponge. I even led a Bible study with the very same Dannah Gresh tea cup analogy, props and all. I’m still deconstructing all the lies I learned in my formative year now in my 30s. I wish I could wrap my arms around younger me and tell myself that I’m so much more than my “purity”. I’m so, so glad people like you are doing the hard work to save the future generations from these harmful messages.

  13. M

    What the h. Telling 8-12 year old girls that men can’t help but be intoxicated by their bodies is almost guaranteeing they be abused. That book just basically groomed them. That is what an abuser would say to a child, that they can’t help it because their body is so pretty. I am so flipping mad right now. I am a child s*x abuse survivor and that is sh*tty that anyone calling themselves a follower of Jesus would put that garbage on a vulnerable child. Bad enough to say that to a 16 year old, but to an 8 year old?? I am so thankful I left that community behind 5 years ago. My daughter will never be taught that her body is dangerous, and if anybody tells her otherwise, to get out of there.

    Thank you for exposing this, Sheila. I actually read very few of these books surprisingly, but the teaching was a definite undercurrent in my faith community. I stopped dead in my tracks when I heard Rebecca say she was never allowed to be a woman. I am flippin 40 years old. I still feel like a college student, and guess how old I felt when in college? Like an 8th grader. I am just starting to be able to own that I am a grown woman and I don’t have to hide my body.

    I thought the other day…we talk a lot about sexualizing young children. I wonder if a more accurate term would be pornographizing.

    Because only in pornography would an 8 year child’s old’s belly button showing be “intoxicating”.

    • Ladybug

      This. My dad is not a Christian and always had the “boys will be boys” mindset (AND the divide that says porn is not cheating). His take on it: just don’t get pregnant. But yeah, it was the world that said, “If you are dressing like that, you are asking for trouble.” I think I learned that in public school. Where they teach you tips for not getting raped. (But didn’t teach about consent.)

  14. M

    Also, Rebecca, the word “p*dophilia” is absolutely not too strong of a word to describe what Dannah has done in that book.

  15. Sharon

    Dallas Willard said that the best way for a man to avoid lust was to learn to see women as people created in the image of God and to treat them with respect.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Absolutely! Amen.

  16. Shivir

    Shaunti Feldhahn makes me sick. She really dedicated her life to propagating he myth that we men are horny beasts who can’t control themselves, and that women are “responsible” for us. I honestly wish I never encountered her work.

  17. Jonathan

    Hey Sheila & Rebecca, I have been following your podcasts for about a year and absolutely love the work you are doing. Thank you for talking more about this. When my wife first heard this from you all a year ago, she was like “YES! Purity culture was so harmful” and I was like, “What about it was harmful? I thought the message was: ‘guys be mindful of the difference of attraction and purposeful lust. And girls, don’t flaunt what you got on purpose to make him notice you in that way.’ Why is modesty all of a sudden bad?” And my wife looked at me like we had come from different planets. I absorbed a completely different experience than she, and so many others did. The way you all deal with this is so much more helpful for me to understand when my first thought is, “Wait… why are all the ladies now saying modesty is bad?!” The messages in these books and the culture teaching them IS so wrong. Thanks for helping me understand what I’ve been missing.

    As a male listening in on this conversation, the one thing I find that I am still questioning (and maybe I should just get your book!) is in reference to attractiveness (and noticing attractive people) and girls wanting to attract boys by how they look. Rebecca has mentioned several times, when discussing this topic, that when she was dating and she wanted her (now) husband to notice her, she began to change her appearance around him; dressing herself attractively knowing it would draw his attention. She was then using, for her purposes, the male visual attraction to the female form. Then, around minute 44 in this podcast, “Current example from reader” they say that the bad teaching was that girls shouldn’t flaunt their bodies. To which you immediately respond that whether a girl flaunts her body or not shouldn’t be her fault, but it’s the guy’s problem for noticing or being attracted to her flaunting what she’s got. So, it seems to me that on the one hand, you are saying it’s the guy’s problem for noticing when a girl “puts out on display” to be noticed, but on the other hand you would admit that as a girl you totally would use that to attract the guy you want, and that’s OK. Is it ok for the ladies to purposefully wear something they know the guy will take more note of, but then blame/shame him for noticing? These things seem at odds to me, and perhaps it’s just we way I am hearing it.
    I know that this is all in the context of the broader conversation of the harmful teaching that men move straight to lust after the first “attraction.” And that is harmful for both genders. But it seems like, every now and then, you are insinuating it’s ok and even fun/flirtatious for a girl to wear a low-cut shirt to be noticed more by her guy, but then shame all the other men for noticing also. And those other men are creepy, and must be lusting.

    These are probably not at odds in your mind, but it would be helpful if you would delve into that a little more, or point me to a place where you already have.
    Thanks and keep it up!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Attraction doesn’t mean flaunting your body, Jonathan. It just means taking care with your appearance. Also, men do this as well. When you’re trying to attract a date, don’t you shave? Put on nice clothes? Do your hair better than normal? This isn’t a bad thing. We’re not talking about flaunting a body. We’re talking about being attractive and normal.

      Does that make sense?


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