It seems that modesty has been the latest buzzword on the Internet lately. Social media has been in a whirlwind of “girls should cover up,” “guys should take responsibility,” and “that’s not what modesty means.” Men and women alike are coalescing into groups to support a conservative modesty model on one side, and on the other side to support more freedom for women to wear what they choose without being challenged on it. I don’t have answers for this, I do have thoughts that I’m not ready to share fully, but for now I have a question: Should it be this way?
For whatever reason, the modesty conversation almost always comes down to girls wearing bikinis instead of one piece swimsuits. First, I would argue that this is only one facet of what modesty means. Second, there’s not nearly enough talk on how guys need to be modest as well. At some point, I do want to address those issues once I’ve thought them through more, but I want this post to target what seems to be more prevalent in the conversation. That said, the first place that proponents of women being able to wear bikinis go is “Guys should be able to control their thoughts!” To an extent, this is true. But we also seem to forget that while guys do indeed need to take their thoughts captive, men and women alike were designed to be desired by the opposite sex. It seems like we ignore that piece of it and just tell guys to man up and stop blaming women, which does need to happen, but that’s not the only thing that needs to happen.
The next argument that “bikini proponents” use is something to the effect of “If you’re saying that a one piece is modest and a bikini isn’t, you’re saying that guys can’t handle seeing a woman’s stomach.”
I get that. I really do. I mean, it’s been few and far between that I’ve looked at a girl’s abs and been stunned speechless. I’ve even made the same argument playing devil’s advocate, and the sad thing is that I won the argument.
I mean, I remember a time somewhere in my early to mid-teens when seeing a girl in a two-piece swimsuit was almost awe-inspiring. I couldn’t think of the word to describe it. Beautiful seemed too ordinary, and heavenly seemed too strong a word. Now, though? Now I can go to a public pool surrounded by women in two-piece swimsuits and it barely even phase me. I mean, it would literally take a model walking by to get me to do a double-take. And that’s the problem we face.
Pick your medium: TV, advertising, movies, porn. We have been subtly, yet increasingly, desensitized to the wonder of the human form. I’m sure this desensitization happens to women concerning men, too, but I don’t have experience on that side of it, so I can’t speak for it. I suspect that somewhere in the rise of evolution being taught, the after-effects of the sexual revolution, and when feminism stopped meaning “equality” and started meaning “sameness” that we stopped really seeing the beauty and value of women as a whole, and certainly that of a woman’s body. (These would be the thoughts I’m not ready to expound on fully. Feel free to ask questions in the comments…it’ll give me a place to start researching.)
I realize that the definition of “modesty” might be different all over the world. Here’s the thing though: I don’t live there. I live in America. While I care deeply about God’s daughters who are across the globe, I can’t speak for context there, but I can here. And in America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, we are quick to defend freedoms, and quicker to oppose anyone who challenges those freedoms.
By the same token, we are slow to lay down our freedoms for the sake of Christ. If we can use “Christian liberty” to allow us freedom to do anything, we will. Some of this has merit and pushes back legalism. Some of this merely uses that as an excuse to get around dealing with the problems we face in a secularized, sexually-driven society. A society from which we so desperately want approval; making wells for ourselves that can hold no water and quench no thirst.
So, when I do get into the modesty conversation/debate with someone, it isn’t to devalue or control women. It’s not about power.
Let me say that again: it’s not about power. When the gospel or gender roles become about power, you’re doing it wrong. That goes for my tribe, Complementarians, too.
It’s about wishing I could go back and unsee everything I’ve seen that removed from me the awe-filled wonder of a woman’s body. It’s about wanting my nieces to grow up in a culture that realizes they are precious and valuable and shouldn’t be treated commonly, on display for the world to see. It’s about my cousin’s son, Hunter, praying and pleading and wishing that God would preserve for him the mystery of the female body so that when he does get married he has no desensitization toward the beauty of his wife, both internal and external. And guys, Hunter’s two. Maybe three. My concern isn’t just for my generation, it’s for the ripple affect that our decisions will cause.
Is a guy responsible for controlling his thoughts? Yes. Should he ever be put into the position of basically seeing a girl in her underwear and hardening his heart, mind, and imagination toward that image? No.