Your Body is Not the Problem

Girl Hiding

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/martinaphotography/

“Those high-school girls . . . they dress so slutty,” she said and then casually chuckled and added, “It’s a battlefield for men out there.”

My entire body felt tingly and hot, as I sat quietly. I didn’t quite know why her words prompted such a strong response inside me, but I excused myself to the restroom. When I came back, the subject was changed, but I continued to mull over her words. She was on staff with a high-school ministry and was referencing the girls she tried to save, help, counsel, whatever. I didn’t say anything about her comment because it’s not my goal to go around pointing fingers, but you know what I wanted to say?

“Excuse me, ma’am. Stop it right there. Those slutty-dressing girls?

Battleground for men? What about the battle that women face—with the church and many telling us we are causing men to stumble?

What about the struggle for us to believe we are worthy of love after losing our right to choose? What about that battle?! What about all the shame that is heaped on WOMEN from the church about our bodies? Are we really in a battle over bikini’s and low-cut tops? What if we as Christians started fighting the real battle against shame? The shame that is pervasive throughout our culture—the voice that tells women they are dirty because men are stumbling over their bodies.”

Enough with the modesty talk that in my experience often leads to blaming women for men’s lust.  Sure, it’s important to dress in such a way so a man is looking at your eyes, not your breasts—BUT it’s not your responsibility to walk around worried about everyone else (Emily Maynard wrote a great article on this). If Christians or youth leaders or anyone for that matter has ever made you feel dirty because of something you wore or didn’t wear, I’m terribly sorry.

You aren’t dirty and your body is not a problem nor is it a burden. It’s a gift, a beautiful gift, one God gave you.

And if we are to love as Jesus loved, the word ‘slutty’ should not be a part of our vocabulary. Remember how Jesus responded to the woman caught in adultery? If you’re in ministry and stressed about how your girls are dressing, why not relax and remind them of their beauty? Why not tell them they are worth loving and see how it changes their need for every man in the room to notice them?

What if at the next church gathering, all the women dressed in loose-fitting turtlenecks and baggy pants—would we win the “battle”?

Would lust disappear with every v-neck tee and pair of skinny jeans? Yes, I know what a struggle lust is for men and I understand the importance of modesty. But do you what else I know? That calling women’s clothing and especially choices slutty hurts, especially when it comes from Christians who are supposed to love radically.

I had a long drive on Sunday, and thought about my own experience. I remembered the coffee shop where an older woman in the church regretfully informed me that I wouldn’t be allowed to come to the beach with the Christian group. Why? I asked, confused.

She mumbled out a few incoherent sentences and then said it would be too hard for the men, especially the married ones, to see me in a bathing suit.

I don’t even think I blinked.

I’m the girl who generally knows what to say and doesn’t shy away from confrontation. But the thing about that conversation was, her concern about me and my ‘boundaries’ with men, confirmed what I believed about myself. I was bad. I was dirty. Disheartened that I couldn’t go on the trip with all the “good Christians”, I cried on my bike ride home. How I wish I could sit down with my younger self and say, “You aren’t dirty. You aren’t bad. God made you beautiful and you have nothing to be ashamed of.”

Since I can’t go back and tell myself, I’m telling you. Your body is not a problem. You are beautiful, not dirty. You are worthy of love. You have a beautiful body to glorify God. Don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise.

Have you ever felt your body was a problem? Has anyone ever blamed you for making men stumble? Speak up! 

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Comments
103 Responses to “Your Body is Not the Problem”
  1. SheaLyn Lane says:

    Hello!

    First of all, I am sorry about what that woman/ministry did in making you not allowed to go on the trip, that, in my opinion, is hurtful and not considerate at all.

    But here are my thought on your post!
    I am definitely tracking with you on the whole idea and point you are making! I have worked with teenage girls in youth ministry, and I definitely think “slutty” is never a good word to use, it is extremely unloving and inconsiderate of feelings. And we should not be the ones responsible for men stumbling either. But I think there should be a balance, I think that in certain circumstances, girls should be constructively taught how to dress modestly but not wearing “loose-fitting turtlenecks and baggy pants” either. Girls need to know how boys think, and that by dressing modestly they are helping their friends/boyfriends not to go there.

    I say this because I have a heart for girls and for living out what God says in every part of life, even the ones they don’t think He necessarily applies to. I have been with girls from one end of the spectrum of crop tops and tiny shorts to the ones who don’t ever brush their hair, and I they all need to be taught that they are beautiful for who they are, not because of what anyone says. But in that, how should we be pursuing God with our bodies? with excellence. and what does that look like for you? taking care of your body, respecting it, and flattering it (not letting yourself go, and wearing baggy clothes, but finding your style, and clothes that fit your body well)

    I really love your posts and I am enjoying your blog!
    Thanks!
    -SheaLyn

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Hi SheaLyn,

      Thanks for commenting! I think we agree with each other for the most part (I’m all for modesty). I just think it gets tricky when modesty/clothes are focused on too heavily and girls begin to feel shame. I think a blanket “no bikinis” rule on a youth trip is fine, but it’s harmful to single women out. Don’t you think?

      Anytime I see a girl dressing immodestly or engaging in any sort of deviant behavior, I always ask, “What is really going on?” Because there is always something deeper to explain the behavior, that I believe needs to be addressed verses focusing on clothing.

      Would love to hear your thoughts!

  2. Maggie says:

    My entire life I have been overweight. Vastly overweight, and even in the past year it’s gotten a lot worse. But growing up I was always sad and angry at myself that I couldn’t wear what the other girls could wear. While other girls my age were wearing bikinis and spaghetti strap tops with short shorts I was stuck wearing normal clothes or boys clothes and shoes.

    When I tried finding my style in middle school it turned out to me more of a wanna be punk, but everything i did just looked bad and 85% of the time I wore nothing but a sweatshirt to cover the cuts from people.

    In high school I started wearing a little more of what girls my age were wearing, to the point where they made it in my size. I cut off all my hair and kept it super short pretty much all through high school, started wearing stockings (that no one could even see because whenever I wore them I wore pants), and tried my hardest to find a style. I still couldn’t wear what other girls were wearing because of how fat I was. If I wore the gym shorts with a regular T-shirt for band practice and we stretched, people would always ask me to wear other clothes or pull my shirt down even if only a little bit of my belly showed. There was a while where I did wear two pieces with boy short size bottoms and I though I looked good, but really the kinds of looks I got where ever I did wear it, was bad.

    After one last haircut for my senior year marching band season, I’ve been growing my hair (from above my ears to mid chest length in just over 3 years), I got rid of my stockings completely, and I’ve been wearing one pieces since my bike accident last year.

    I don’t particularly have a style. I don’t like the way I look. I always feel like if I don’t wear something to cover me from my shoulder to my knees I’m just an eyesore all around. I’ve always been told I have a pretty face, beautiful eyes, but unless someone is drunk on a boat in Lake Havasu during summer break, no one has complimented my body.

    I understand that I really shouldn’t take that thought too seriously, but even when I wear “cute” clothes, they compliment the clothes, not me. I have friends that always say the same thing whenever I say that I’m fat and can never really find affordable clothes that are my size that I like (because it’s true) they always say that I look like I have lost weight (which isn’t true) and look cute. (which isn’t always the case)

    My problem isn’t leading guys on with how I dress, even when I dressed “sluttier” it was so repulsive that anyone who did see couldn’t look my way for very long. My problem is is that I am physically repulsive from the neck down. And I only have myself to blame for that.

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Oh Maggie. Your comment makes me sad . . . it is so clear to me the weight of shame you feel. Gosh, I don’t even know what to say, but thank you for sharing.

      Is there a reason you are overweight? Do you feel shame about your body and continue to eat? I’m not sure if you read this post about Leslie’s journey, but she was overweight because of shame. And now she’s lost over 70 pounds! Weight loss isn’t the answer, but sometimes taking care of ourself is the first step to believing we have worth.

      Thank you for sharing. I’m very sorry for your pain.

      Can anyone relate to Maggie?

      • Danielle Michelle` says:

        Maggie, I know this is a year later but I want to say I am loving on your pain and thanking God for your struggle.

        Growing up, it is hard seeing ourselves as God sees us. However everything shows us that He is willing to lead us on the journey towards that. It was not until recently I understood that, so I often question why can’t my life and everything in it work out right? Throughout school and while I am in college, I did not have what my friends had and I was apologetic.

        I didn’t realize with what He allowed US (everyone) to see and feel in our life, is different than what anyone else has. Our story makes us a contribution to the world.

        As you ask God how he can turn this test into a testimony, you will be able to look back and see how far you have come. Celebrate it.

        Much love

  3. Tatuu says:

    I had a discussion with a friend about this vid Saturday —>http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=WtzIcz7MOkc.

    She is of the opinion that Christian women should not wear bikinis EVER! I am of the opinion that bikinis are appropriate dressing for the beach.

    I am all for modest dressing, I am not a fashionista but I try my best to dress for the occasion. Common sense tells me that there is appropriate dressing for the beach and for the market.

    Growing up I wasn’t supposed to wear trousers- well, I dealt with that when I cleared high school. Of course it was out of rebellion but the whole issue was sorted. :D My dad can no longer whip me when he sees me wearing a pair of trousers.

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Hi Tatuu! Loving your pictures on Facebook recently–you are so beautiful. Wow.

      Anyways, I hate that video, ha. I don’t understand why a man would ever talk to a room of high school women about wearing bikinis. I know that every speaker has a difference message, but really? Why when you could talk to these high school girls about so much are you focusing on what they wear on the beach? I digress…

      I’m all for modesty too, but finally learned a few years ago I didn’t need to feel shame about my body or the way I look. What is this about your dad? That’s awful. Is that something that is a part of your culture or was your dad just that way?

      • Tatuu says:

        Thank you for the compliments Ruthie! You too are very beautiful. We thank God for everything.

        About my dad..I am not sure if it’s a culture from my dads tribe or something, they believe that it is immodest for women to wear trousers and so many other things that women shouldn’t do. Thanks to modernisation, many of them have dropped the belief but others are still holding on to them. So growing up, I wasn’t allowed to wear trousers. I could get whipped. No proper reasons were given to me as to why I wasn’t supposed to. I wore dresses and long skirts up until I cleared high school then I rebelled against my parents. I started wearing trousers and shorts and my dad threatened to burn them all up and chase me away for being ‘a bad girl’. I was called names. Well, the whole struggle was tough and painful but I think I won the battle…in my parents house that is but I still CANNOT wear trousers when I go visiting my paternal grandparents.

  4. mark says:

    This is a great post! Women are God’s finest Creation. Better to focus on teaching men and boys to properly appreciate women’s beauty than to put the burden on women to try to keep men from lusting. Women don’t have the power to stop a man from lusting. Only the man, once he’s learned to see with the eyes of Christ, can do that.

  5. Sundi Jo says:

    I’d like to slap that lady in the coffee shop.

  6. Sarah says:

    A pastor once told me, in response to what kind of swimsuit I should bring to church camp, “Wear one that shows you’re a woman, but leaves no doubt that you’re a lady.” I loved that because it sounded so different to me as a high school girl from the other stuff I was hearing (like heaven forbid that a few centimeters of your midriff should show when you reach above your head), and I think I still use it as a standard today, ten years later, when I choose what to wear.

  7. Danelle says:

    Hi Ruthie,

    While I don’t believe it’s ever a good choice of words to call anyone a “slut”, “whore” or any other condescending name, I do think that we, as Christian women, have to dress in a way that honors 1) God, & 2) our husband. It wasn’t until I was married that I had my eyes opened to the true way that men think regarding how I dress. It does matter; but unbelieving women/teens don’t have the Holy Spirit’s conviction when they choose their outfit in the morning and therefore cannot be held to the same “standard” of “a woman who professes Godliness”. When I was a teen, I too wore short skirts, cleavey tops and tight jeans. It was south FL and that was the “norm”. I had a woman youth leader tell me several times that my clothes were inappropriate and could cause the boys/men to stumble. She did it in a very loving, shepherding way and because I was already a believer, I felt that conviction and knew it wasn’t honoring to God so I strived (key word…strived :)) to dress more modestly. Had I not been a Chrisitian, her words probably would have come off judgmental and unloving. I think it depends on whether the woman knows Christ and is living to honor & glorify Him. Men do fight a great battle in their minds & hearts everyday on a whole ‘nother level than us women. God created them to admire a woman’s beauty but when it’s her sexual body parts on display, the man cannot purely dwell on that as beauty, it becomes lust if entertained. My husband (for one) is very protective of how I dress and that includes swimwear. It was hard at first to adapt to tankinis and one pieces but now I feel so much more confident and “safe” knowing that I am doing everything possible to guard my body against other men’s sexual thoughts. I’m not responsible for men’s thoughts but I can do my part in dodging the path to lustful temptation in the mind. This looks different for every woman, I know. Two pieces aren’t inherently sinful, it’s the heart behind the woman wearing the two piece and what she believes about honoring God with her body. This is an important topic for young girls. You used a phrase “worthy of love” and I don’t know that I’d agree with us being worthy of anything. Love is a gift. Marriage is a gift. It takes knowing Christ to feel worthy of love and as you know, it’s only because Christ died for the unworthy to give us His worth! When we finally realize that we ARE loved by God, not because we are modest or because we are faithful to our spouse/bf/gf or any other moral act we do, we are free….and from that knowledge we should be spurred on to dress in a way that shows how much we love God. Do you agree?

    I found this helpful: https://www.reviveourhearts.com/radio/revive-our-hearts/my-brothers-keeper-1/

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Hi Danelle, I agree with you on parts of what you shared. I love how you placed Christians and non-Chrisitans in separate categories because I think you are exactly right. Many times as Christians we try to get nonChristians to comply with our worldview, moral standards, etc. when they need Christ not a moral lesson. I just think an important part of the modesty conversation is left out–that women are never at fault for a man’s lust and the fact that many women feel a great deal of shame about their bodies (I know I did).

      We are worth loving, because of Christ–not because of anything we’ve done. So I think we agree, here!

      thanks for commenting!

      • Michele says:

        I’m not sure I agree with the statement “love is a gift”? I believe love is a byproduct of Who God is. God is love. He doesn’t choose to give us the gift of love, He can’t help but love because He is the very nature of love. Do you consider a parent’s love to their child a gift, of course not. Yes, your husband is a gift and yes our salvation is a gift but is love really a gift?

        • Michael H says:

          God is Love, but Love must be a gift just as God offers Himself as a gift upon the cross, unending grace received in faith. In fact, the Greek word for grace – charis – is from whence we get the word charity, but also the word “gift” in Greek – charism. They are inextricably linked. Love by definition is a gift, as God is a gift, and is only given.

  8. Becky says:

    I recently had a conversation about bikinis and belt button rings with some friends. Most of them felt it was fine to wear bikinis to the beach, but I’m still not convinced.
    While I certainly don’t think we should be piling shame and blame onto women for causing men to stumble, I also don’t think we should be going around without any regard for their struggles as our brothers in Christ. The fact of the matter is that bikinis, cleavage, yoga pants, etc. are challenging things for our brothers to see us wearing, and I don’t think we should just tell them to “see us as God sees us.” As servants of Christ and others, I feel it is our job to take the people around us into consideration with whatever we are doing, saying, or wearing, and help out “the weaker brother”–in this case the males we spend time with.

    The other question I would ask is: why do you feel so strongly that you want to wear a bikini? These days it is easier then ever to find cute swim suits that have more coverage, yet I feel like girls still buy bikinis just because it’s what everyone else is doing. As Christians, we are not meant to just go with the flow of culture, but to live to a higher standard. Yes, we are free in Christ to dress however we want, but I think we need to consider the message our clothes are sending, not just to men, but to all the people we see.

    I think the root of the issue is that girls need to examine their heart and their motivation for whatever they are wearing–even a modest outfit can be sinful if it is worn in pride or to get attention. Our primary goal should be pointing people to Christ through everything we do, including getting dressed in the morning.

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      But it’s not a woman’s fault that a man lusts when he sees her in a bikini, yoga pants, etc. And many times Christians and youth directors make it out to be a woman’s sin, not a mans. I see many women who are afraid of beauty. We shouldn’t be afraid to be beautiful (whether this means wearing a bikini or not).

      • Aaron says:

        What do you mean by “afraid of beauty”? I have heard testimony from a former lesbian that many of the more, for lack of a better word, “butch” lesbians dress in an unattractive manner intentionally because they have been sexually abused by men in their past and don’t want men to be attracted to them, but I cannot think of other ladies I would describe as being afraid of beauty.

        • Ruthie Dean says:

          Women who have been blamed for men’s lust (as I was in the coffee-shop) can be afraid of beauty.

          Women who have been sexually abused are often afraid of beauty (statistically 1 out of 4).

          When beauty represents pain/trauma/etc., it can illicit fear. Does that make sense?

          • Aaron says:

            I think I see what you are saying. It sounds like young girls may be mistaking dressing provocatively for beauty. A woman’s beauty is so much more than physical though! It is her essence as strength is a man’s. Maybe that is the message we should be sharing with young women.

            Did you confront the lady in the coffee shop on her poor choice of words and show her the negative effect it can have on young women? I don’t doubt that there are quite a few churches in my city that are contributing to the shaming you described, but I doubt it is a common thing for your blog readers.It seems that the best course of action would be to lovingly correct and educate those displaying that sort of attitude, and if the whole church is that way then find a new church where the gospel is actually preached and demonstrated.

            I think at times your message may have been misunderstood by many readers, because honestly in some parts it did sound like you just want to wear a bikini to the beach and your message was “ladies wear whatever you want to because you aren’t responsible for men’s lusting of the eyes!” I think this was what most of the men were objecting to. I think it was a good blog though that probably generated your highest number of comments yet and some good discussion. Keep up the good work!

      • Becky says:

        Yes, and I agree with that part of your argument. What I am trying to say is that it would be rather selfish of us to say “I’m going to wear what I want, and men need to grow up and overcome their lust,” in the same way that it is selfish for men to say “women need to dress modestly so that we won’t be tempted to lust.”

        I don’t know what your heart was when writing this post, but it certainly came across to me as saying that we should be allowed to dress as we please without any consideration for other believers, which I believe is a dangerous message.

        • Ruthie Dean says:

          No my desire was to show the other side of the conversation that is almost never discussed. I never said ‘wear whatever you want.’ It’s important to know not just how men think but also to know what effect ‘modesty shaming’ has on women.

          • Becky says:

            Yes, I got that, and I definitely agree that women should not be taught to be ashamed of their bodies. I suppose I may have just read too much into what you were saying, or whatever associations I made while reading lead me down a different path than you intended. I wasn’t trying to discount what you were saying, I just wanted to share my perception of it (which seems to be different than the message you were trying to convey, so my apologies)!

            I think, too, that I have been lucky enough to have grown up in a Christian community where “modesty shaming” is not an issue, which certainly affects my perspective as well. I’ve also been spending a lot of time lately thinking about the principles presented in 1 Corinthians 8, so my default is towards the concept of limiting our own freedoms for the sake of the “weaker brother,” which I think weighed heavily in how I was reading your post.

          • Hi Ruthie,

            As you know, I’ve been a contributor and participant in the modesty discussions of late. One of the main objections I see to yours, mine, Emily Maynard’s, etc.’s posts telling the other “side” of the story is people proverbially throwing up their hands and exclaiming, “Ugh, so you’re saying just wear whatever you want! How selfish! Think about your brothers in Christ!”

            This is telling me that there is a breakdown in communication. We therefore need to more clearly address the following to stamp out that objection:

            1) Women are NEVER, EVER responsible for men’s lust. This line of thinking in any way, shape, form, or degree is harmful because it perpetuates the same beliefs and norms that undergird rape culture. (The “she was asking for it because she was wearing a mini skirt” train of thought.)

            2) Women do not dress primarily for men. Rather, women dress for fashion, for comfort, for style, for utility (e.g., yoga pants for working out), and for themselves. As many of my peers have expressed in these modesty conversations, one of the LAST things they think about when dressing is “what will my father / future husband / some random man on the street” think when he sees this? Every man is different, even if *many* (but not necessarily ALL) men are visually-oriented. People in the Christian community particularly buy into this flawed assumption for some reason. It needs to stop. Women should not be tempering every decision they make about their bodies by what men *could* think.

            3) Modesty applies to both women AND men. And it’s not just about clothes.

            4) Modesty is ultimately about one’s state of heart. In its biblical context, it refers more to humility than clothing, although clothing was often used as a way to flaunt social/economic status (not unlike today). We need to be focusing on our humility before our Heavenly Father much more than measuring tank tops with two fingers.

            Sorry for the long comment — let me know if you want to email more about this :)

            -Danielle

  9. Sam says:

    Ruthie,

    I agree with much of what you are saying here, including that young women who dress immodestly do so intentionally for the attention of the males and that indicates a deeper problem that needs to be sorted out. However, from a guy’s perspective, the overall tone of this article is too defensive. Sure, what that older woman from your church did to you was cruel and lacking in grace and mercy, and “slutty” is never appropriate verbage, but if you just substitute “immodest”, the sentiment itself is not wrong.

    As a guy, I have definitely struggled with lusting over immodestly dressed girls, but I can tell you from my life that there are plenty of young Christian ladies who dress modestly and fashionably and I greatly respected them for doing so. I knew they were beautiful AND I was able to appreciate their inner beauty as well because I wasn’t distracted by their midriff or cleavage when I was talking to them or praying with them or interacting with them in a group.

    Step 1: don’t show any cleavage, full stop. There simply is no excuse for doing so as a Christian lady.
    Step 2: don’t buy jeans from any of the popular chains, or any that you have to struggle to put on, as they are inevitably way too tight and, to me as a guy, look painted on and leave little to the imagination. And I’m not saying you have to wear Mom jeans, either!
    Step 3: avoid showing midriff, if possible.
    Step 4: do NOT “flaunt it if you got it” as popular culture tells you.
    Step 5: bikinis are unacceptable and make it nearly impossible for a guy to think about anything else.

    I fail to see how asking young ladies to dress modestly is such a big deal! Perhaps in your experience it has been poorly articulated or degenerated into shaming them, but that has not been my experience, nor should it be handled that way. You are right to call this woman out for improperly addressing this problem, but I think you swing the pendulum back too far towards immodesty.

    Women are God’s beautiful creation and men are built by God to appreciate their beauty. But aspects of their beauty are reserved for marriage and the bedroom, not to be shared with society at large.

    Now, what are the responsibilities of the guy? Well, it’s the guys’ responsibility to treat younger women as sisters in Christ, which means their posture towards them should be loving, caring and protective. When the guy has his spiritual house in order and is able to view women in this way (which is pretty rare in my experience), then no matter how the women dress, he probably isn’t going to stumble and begin to lust. I know this is true for me! Obviously there are limits to every man’s self control!

    Final point: I’ll conclude by saying that 1. Cor. 8:13 provides good guidelines for this discussion: inevitably, there are going to be men in your life that still struggle with relating to women as sisters in Christ. Ergo, dressing immodestly WILL cause those men to stumble, and so it is your responsibility to dress modestly so that your brothers in Christ do not stumble.

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Who said anything about immodesty? What makes you think I am rallying for immodesty? My article indicates nothing of the sort. Rather, I wanted to shed light on part of the “modesty discussion” that is often not mentioned because everyone is so focused on what women are doing wrong.

      Also, “bikinis are unacceptable and make it nearly impossible for a guy to think about anything else”–sounds like you are pulling an Adam and saying it’s all Eve’s fault. Really? It is always possible not to fall into sin. God promises never to tempt us beyond what we can handle. It’s your responsibility if you lust over a woman and her clothing choices are between her and God. I’m not saying bikinis are or are not ok–what I am saying is it isn’t ok for you to blame your sin on a woman. Period. That’s starting down the road towards blaming women for assault because of what they wore/didn’t wear. Exactly what I’m trying to warn against.

      • Sam says:

        Ruthie,

        Thanks for your response. I apologize if I suggested you were championing immodesty; I was not. Also, I should have stated my step 5 as something more like this:

        Step 5: Bikinis are an unacceptable choice for beach/swim wear because God calls women to dress modestly (see 1 Tim. 2:9, Titus 2:5 and others) and a bikini in most cases is the most revealing dress possible outside of total nudity (moreso than even most lingerie!).

        It really has nothing to do with the guy, but as you said, is between the girl and God. I was just stating the guy’s perspective since in your article you admitted you didn’t know the effects on us guys.

        But as I said, I agree with the main thrust of your post, which is a good look at the poor decision making by many church leaders who try to shame women into modesty. I do not agree with that on any level.

        • Steven says:

          If I may… I agree with Sam on this. I consider wearing bikinis, etc. much like being an accomplice to a crime. You are NOT fully guilty for the man’s sin, but you DO play a part in it. It is like leaving a knife on a table in plain sight with the knowledge that a murderer will be coming by seeking a murder weapon. No you are not at fault for the murderer, but you ARE an accomplice because you knew it would provide a means to him, it wasn’t done out of pure accident. You intentionally left the weapon in plain view. A woman who is educated and understands a man’s visual struggle should take the accountability and maturity on herself to avoid exposing a weaker man to this temptation. Again though, it is never the woman’s fault for a man taking advantage of the situation and lusting.

          On a slightly different train of thought, I question a lady’s reasoning for wearing bikinis and such. As this is a single focused blog, let’s discuss that train of thought. Any man…whether he be Christian or not…WILL BE attracted to a woman who dresses in an exposing manner. However, when a woman dresses in clothes that displays her femininity, but leaves much to the imagination she will be more likely to ONLY attract men who may be considered gentlemen and not just ANY man. In fact, a woman can use her dress to pick which men seek her out (so to speak). I worship with girls who prescribe to just that theory. They all dress in knee length skirts and avoid low cut necklines, sleeveless shirts, etc. yet there is NOTHING frumpy about them. In fact, they are more attractive than the average girl. When hanging out with non-Christian guy friends they have even made the comment to me “wow, those girls you go to church with actually have class. I wish my wife dressed that way. They are some of the prettiest women I’ve ever seen.” That is coming from firemen who typically are notorious for their provocative lifestyles. So my challenge to single ladies would be…what is keeping you from dressing this way to fulfill your part in ensuring are only going to attract men who see your beauty through the eyes of God and not as an object whether he be a Christian or not? Obviously, you cannot control what a man thinks, but you can hold up your side of the “bargain” so to speak.

          • Sam says:

            Steven,

            Agreed. We’ve gotten a bit off topic (per Ruthie: “shed[ding] light on part of the “modesty discussion” that is often not mentioned because everyone is so focused on what women are doing wrong”), but I, like you, tend to think of this issue partly in terms of the social consequences of our actions. In a similar vein, is it wrong for me to buy an expensive sports car and drive it to church? Perhaps, and it’s between me and God, but it WILL produce jealousy, anger, resentment and probably a few attacks on my character or calls for me to tithe more. Our actions and choices have an impact in our communities, and we should keep that in mind, whether we are choosing to wear a low cut blouse or buy a Ferrari.

            And I do think that Ruthie is right in that men are wrong to take advantage of the opportunity to stare lustfully at a woman who is scantily clad or in a bikini; but it WILL happen because men are sinful creatures. Some might be close enough in their relationship with the LORD or blessed with enough self control to avoid the temptation, but the vast majority will not be able to resist the lustful thoughts that come. So I would ADVISE or SUGGEST that women pursue modesty, but I would never try to shame them into it and I would do my best to avoid passing judgment or using words like “slutty”.

          • Mason says:

            Ruthie,

            I think there needs to be some clarification: men do no always choose to lust. Very often we just see a girl and automatically lust after her in a way we should not, like a natural reaction. It can be just for a second or it can be running through our heads all day and for days. Even when we try our very best not to keep thinking of things, they just pop in our heads before we can get them out. It can be as simple as seeing her bend over or as extreme as seeing her in a bikini. Yes, we can make a conscious decision to keep lusting after her, but that initial glance is all that it takes to get our minds racing to places where they shouldn’t be going.

            ^ “It’s your responsibility if you lust over a woman.” Yes and no. Yes if we consciously make the decision to lust after her. And no because often times we simply cannot not lust after her if she is presenting herself in a certain way. For example, if we (accidentally and randomly) see a pretty woman completely exposing herself, on lets say Bourbon Street (just a hypothetical), no guy on this planet can tell me that they wouldn’t have lustful thoughts about seeing her. Even if they turned away the instant they saw it, the image would still be there. And that image would be playing in his mind for a while. He would pray about that image, but that image would pop up. He would be thinking about Lucky Charms cereal over breakfast and that image would pop up in his head without any prompting or any leading-to thoughts. In that initial exposing-moment instant, even though the man would have whole heartedly tried to not lust after her and whole heartedly tried not see her exposing herself, he still saw her doing that. He would have done as much as he possible could to not lust after her, as much as he was responsible for. Those images, brief as though they may be, would still be running through his mind–and that is her responsibility.

            I could keep writing about how my example could be applied to what women wear (bikinis or whatever), but I trust that you woman will see where I am going with it, and I hope that you these comments from men give you a glimpse into how much of a struggle it is for us.

          • Lola says:

            Ruthie has a great article guys. You are making desperate attempts for girls to see things from your perspective. Please be kind and try to see it from a girl’s perspective.

            In reference to attracting non-Christian vs. Christian guys: I am a 28 year old woman who wore frumpy clothes as a girl and still respectively covers herself from head to toe because of the disgust I feel about my body and because I want to protect my brothers in Christ. I have had more NON-CHRISTIAN guys ask me out than Christian! 80% of the guys who have asked me out were not believers. These guys were nice, but they weren’t gentlemen. I actually recently had a non Christian not ask me out and explained that he knew that a Christian girl like me who loves the Lord should not be with a guy like him. He had class and I applaud him for being so bold for even letting me know why he chose not to ask me out! Man, that boosted my self-esteem just knowing that he found my being attractive.

            Finally and Most importantly I will quote from the Bible ” So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,[a] a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) To say that there is absolutely no way you can stop from lusting a girl is automatically throwing in the towel, you have already lost with that type of negativity. Jesus never once said that this life was going to be easy. We are ALL going to constantly have thorns thrust in our sides that will never go away. It is then that we truly see the face of God and realize we are weak, but He is so Strong! We are humans and we have to reminded of our weaknesses daily!!! Or else we will start relying on our own strength and powers to survive, and we most certainly will fail if we rely on ourselves.

            In the end, this article is not about dos and donts it’s about how women are made to feel unworthy about themselves and not beautiful. They are constantly being told (whether consciously or unconsciously) to not love their bodies. This results in a downward spiral to nowhere good. Jesus looked at the woman at the well, and what she saw in his eyes was not lust, but love and she finally understood what true beauty meant.

          • Ruthie Dean says:

            Lola, beautiful comment. Thank you for adding so poignantly to the discussion.

          • Steven says:

            Lola, I whole-heartedly agree. I did not mean to insinuate only Christian guys will ask you out if you dress a certain way. I use the term “Christian” very liberally and not loosely. By using the term “Christian” and “non-Christian” I was trying to make a categorization between men seeking a meaningful relationship out of respect for the woman’s body and those men that seek a relationship out of desire for a woman’s body. I also understand there are always going to be exceptions to this rule as well. There is a reason that girls who lead certain lifestyles will dress a certain way. It saddens me when I see a good, lady-like girl dressing the same without any understanding of what she is advertising to men who are not able to overcome the “thorn in their side.”

            Yes, this article was never intended to be a “standard of dress doctrine.” I think the men on here are not trying to tell a girl what to wear or not to wear, but expose the way a man’s mind works and why popular designers make their clothes the way they do. It is not just a woman can feel good about her body, the flip-side is the designers know what makes guys “look” in a less-than-honourable manner. There’s nothing more beautiful than a modest, Christian lady. A woman should never be ashamed of her body.

            Thank you for your thoughts and I hope you can see the points we men have tried to make. It was never my desire to put all the blame on women.

          • Steven, what you are describing is called rape culture. In case you are unfamiliar with the term, please see this post: Modesty, Body Policing and Rape Culture: Connecting the Dots.

        • Steven says:

          Danielle, if you took my post as condoning that mind set you are mistaken. If a man asks you NOT to wear something around him because it offends him is it not prudent to abide by that while around him? So if you know that your guy friends stumble to see you dressed in a certain manner as their friend you would make different clothing choices. This applies to a lot of things. I listen to country music, but some of my friends hate it. So when they are in my car we listen to something neutral that we can both enjoy. It’s called common decency. I’m not saying a girl can never wear what she wants, but it has to be exercised with discernment for who is around you and what their struggles are.

          “9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.” 1 Corinthians 8 KJV

          First account example of the above was a man I know who was addicted to coffee. He was bound to it just like an alcoholic. He finally gave it up believing he should not be dependent on any substance. Some of his friends made fun of him and would try and make him drink coffee. Is coffee sinful? No. To this man though he had struggled so much with it, he did not want to be around it. He nicely asked his friends to stop as it was a real struggle for him and so they did. They refrained from drinking coffee around him, but still did drink coffee when he wasn’t around. They did it out of respect. Is that ridiculous to me? Yeah, it is, but those friends were practicing the above scripture. It offended their brother for reasons that were silly to them, but they understood and respected his struggle. That’s all guys are asking from girls. Wear whatever you want, but understand that guys DO struggle with this. It is OUR problem not a girls, but as sister’s in Christ if you know a man in your fellowship struggles horribly, but you don’t feel wearing those clothes as wrong…at least have the moral decency to refrain from wearing those sorts of clothes when he is around if at all possible. It’s not controlling what you wear, it’s opening an understanding within yourself to realize that not everyone has reached the same spiritual level yet. I have no desire to propagate rape culture or smock wearing for girls. I believe in girls wearing clothes that flatter their natural curves that God has blessed them with. It is a Godly beauty. I just don’t agree with the mentality of “I will wear what I want, when I want, however I want because I’m me and every one else should deal with it”

          • Becky says:

            Steven, this is the exact idea I tried (somewhat unsuccessfully) to express above. Thanks for providing a better example than I was able to!

    • Kate Evelyn says:

      Sam,

      Your list of what is/isn’t acceptable is problematic in that it stems from a western worldview, and thereby is subject to change according to culture. For example, in India, a country where I’ve spent quite a bit of time, showing your midriff is perfectly acceptable and completely nonsexual. In parts of Africa, according to friends of mine who live there, a woman can literally go around topless and it is not considered sexual. In Indonesia and South America, there are tribes where people wear nothing at all, and promiscuity isn’t consuming them. I don’t think what someone wears/doesn’t wear determines how modest they are… might it be that attitude (one’s heart) is a better determiner of modesty than clothing? Clothing choices are not sinful in and of themselves, and while no person can turn off biological attraction to a person, they *do* have a choice as to whether they dwell on that attraction or not–and if they so choose, that’s lust, and that’s sin. That being said, as a woman, I tend to apply 1 Corinthians 10:23: “all things are lawful”–yes, even bikinis (on your honeymoon? why not?)–“but not all things are helpful.” Ultimately, I think every woman and man should pray and follow their own conscience on what it means to be modest. Hard and fast rules just don’t work.

      • Sam says:

        Kate,

        Thanks for your insightful comment. Most of my “rules” stem from my perspective as a guy and how I interpret Scriptural exhortations to modesty through the mind that God has given me and the worldview I have been working on developing for myself. And, I intended the list to be, as Captain Barbossa put it so eloquently, “more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules”.

        But you’re right, I did confine my comments to a western outlook on modesty. However, I think it was somewhat justified in that Ruthie also approached the topic from that angle and I don’t really know if her audience is highly international or if it’s primarily American. Besides, I have little knowledge of the cultures you have mentioned and thus feel unqualified to speak of them.

        Side note: your link to your blog is broken, you’ve got a comma instead of a period :-)

      • Ray says:

        India is a predominantly Hindu nation that shuns Christians so what they do is not relevant nor are the other countries. What is relevant is the Word of God. Jesus often asked the Pharisees and Saducess, “have you not read?” The definition of naked in the Bible is very clear. When Aaron became the first priest, they built a ramp up to the altar because he would not have to lift his legs to expose his nakedness on stairs. Wow, God wanted him, a man, covered up before HIS altar. Careful continued reading clearly indicates that exposing the thigh is naked. God did not give Eve a bikini when he had to kill some of His created animals to cover Adam and Eve up. Anyone who believes the difference between modest and immodest is two inches of material needs to read what God has to say. It does not matter what I think or say, or what they do in another country. A continued reading of God’s word will guide your hearts and minds to wear, do and say things that glorify God, not make you more attractive to yourself or others. Listen to Nancy Leigh Demoss at revive our hearts radio or Barbara Rainey at Family life today. They are women who know what God thinks is beautiful. Or Dana Gresh. Seek wise counsel

        • Ruthie Dean says:

          Hi Ray,

          Thanks for sharing your thoughts! It’s very fascinating to hear your cultural perspective. Are you a Christian? I’d love to hear about your modesty convictions based on your faith, either way, because I think our decisions are largely formed based on our culture.

  10. Danelle says:

    I agree with Becky. It’s all about the heart. Men will answer to God for their lustful thoughts and actions but women will answer to God for the careless way they dress to entice a man’s look. Ruthie, haven’t you run enough races to notice men who spot a chick running in tight lulu pants and a sports bra and they just chill behind them for half a mile or so before moving on to more eye candy? (witnessed that several times yesterday in Miami.) You can be super confident in your body and not show it off with two pieces and yoga pants.

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Two pieces and yoga pants? Who said anything about wearing that?

      The point of my article IS not that lust isn’t an issue, or women shouldn’t be careful how they dress (I’m all for modesty and think it’s important), but moreso shedding light on the battle that is rarely touched: what about women who are abused or even just scored because of the way God made them (curvy, whatever)? There are TOO many Christians/churches/men that blame women for lust when it’s never a woman’s fault. Because what I’ve seen happen too many times is the woman is sexually assaulted and she is blamed for what she wore/didn’t wear. That is what I’m trying to prevent.

    • Rubi says:

      I just had to chime in here! As someone born and raised in Miami, I have been beeped at and whistled at while walking around my neighborhood with my mom in SCRUBS. Not sure how much more modest you can get than a pair of scrubs. I never really associated scrubs with sex appeal, but the point I’m trying to make is this: It does not matter what you’re wearing (particularly in MIami!), men who want to beep, and whistle, and lust, and shame will do it whether you’re in yoga pants or in scrubs or in an ankle-length skirt. It is NOT the woman’s fault that man looked at her. She should never go home after that jog and cry over how disgusting, or dirty, or ashamed she feels because of her God-given beautiful body.

  11. Aaron says:

    I feel this particular blog needs less personal opinion and more of God’s opinion from His word. How about just reading I Timothy 2, I Corinthians 6, I Peter 3, Matthew 5 and 18, RomSearch ans 14 in context and apply the principles taught in those verses. Search your own heart and motives when deciding what to wear. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in your decisions. But stop looking for hard and set rules on what is okay to wear and what isn’t. That sounds like something the Pharisees would do! As Christians we should have an intimate personal relationship with our Father God, so let’s take advantage of that and go to Him for advice since His opinion is really what matters most!

  12. Rachel says:

    Ruthie,

    I agree with your post. I I have experienced this a lot among the christian culture. Many of the women at my church seem to be afraid of being beautiful or afraid of wearing makeup. I love beauty and I believe God loves beauty too. I think too often people can take it to the extreme. Great post!

  13. H says:

    I am confused about today’s blog post, really confused. It may be because I am a dude and cannot really understand the shame part that you addressed, but your comments further confuse me. And again, I am just a guy and cannot come from girl’s perspectives on this, but, and again, I am a guy and can offer what guys like me see in girls and how they dress. 


    From your recent response to a comment: “I just think an important part of the modesty conversation is left out–that women are never at fault for a man’s lust.” I’m having trouble seeing any grounds for that. 
Your comment, taken to the extreme, means that it is in no way the woman’s fault, ever. I just don’t see how that is true. One example: What if a woman puts on a top thinking to herself “this will make the guys think my figure/whatever is sexy.” By knowing that that top causes guys to look at her figure, would she not knowingly cause them to lust and if she knowingly causes someone to sin, is that not her fault? I in no way am one of those people who think it is always the girl’s fault. Guys will have problems lusting after a girl simply because she is beautiful (Proverbs 6:25), and no amount of modesty can cover beauty. The main problem is the guys, and I openly admit that, but I think woman are accountable to God on how they dress, and respond to men’s lust, too. So, as part of that, I don’t think it means woman are free to wear whatever they want and have a flippant attitude towards men’s lust, just because it’s going to happen anyways. I think how a woman dresses says a lot about her heart towards sin, Jesus, and her brothers’ hearts out there–to have an attitude of “well, it’s his fault anyways, I’ll just wear whatever I want,” in my mind, contradicts the mindset the Bible gives us towards how woman should dress—”what is professing godliness”—I just don’t think that is a godly perspective on the issue.

    I have a little sister who is a junior in college. She plays SEC soccer and is very fit and pretty and whatever. I’ve sat her down and explained to her before what goes through guy’s minds when they see a woman dressed in a way that reveals/accentuates the sexuality of her body. She was horrified. I talked with her like that because I love my sister more than I can say, and I also know what guys (Christian men who pray not to and the many, many men who don’t) think about her when they see her dressed in certain way, and I don’t want guys thinking that about my little sister. It is downright terrible. I also don’t think women want guys thinking that about themselves, either. I honestly think this would never even be a problem at all (for Christian women) if they could get a glimpse of what men think in their minds; they would be so surprised. 
I want my sister to be free to wear what she wants and be free to look pretty and beautiful and not have to sit there and worry ‘is this causing my brother to stumble?’ It’s awful that any girl should have to do that in the first place—this whole problem stems and starts from guys. But knowing that simply doesn’t excuse all women everywhere from being accountable for how they dress. We as men are accountable to God to “treat younger women as sisters, with absolute purity” (and older women as moms) in 1 Timothy 5. I’m just a guy saying that it is impossible for us to do that with how women sometimes dress. Trust me: impossible. And to whatever extent it is impossible for us not to lust after a woman because of how she dresses, there has to be some extent that women should help us out and be accountable to God for doing so.

    I agree, but not entirely, with the motive question: what is the motive behind wearing an article of clothing? I just think it needs to be approached carefully. Just because one’s motives may be pure in wearing a particular item of clothing, that doesn’t always justify wearing something that one honestly shouldn’t, or even wouldn’t if the motives were improper. I just don’t think it always excuses my sister-in-Christ’s role in helping us, to an extent. I like what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:3-4, and what Aaron pointed out in an above comment: “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” We are not to be our own judges on things, nor are we ultimately accountable to ourselves on things—we are accountable to God through the Holy Spirit via prayer and the openhearted submission to Scripture, and that’s it. Let that be the standard?

    –from a brother-in-Christ

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Thanks for your comment. I feel very strongly about this subject and hope to add to the conversation.

      Women are accountable to God, not to a man for the way we dress. Again, I’m not advocating for bikinis, immodesty, etc. I’m advocating for women’s bodies being respected and honored BECAUSE GOD CREATED THEM. They are not burdensome, problematic, or something that makes us as fault.

      We aren’t talking about motive here-we’re talking about the other side of the modesty conversation, that often isn’t discussed. I’m talking about victim-blaming (which happens far too often) where women are blamed or partly responsible for assault, unwanted touch, etc. because of the way they dressed, acted, “incited”, or whatever. And blaming others instead of taking responsibility for our own sin is where that road starts.

      Does that make sense? At all?

  14. Kaitlin says:

    Ruthie,

    As a high school student (who did in fact dress very modestly) I remember feeling very confused as to why the girls at church camp had to wear t-shirts or tank tops over our swimsuits (unless we wore one-pieces) while the guys had bare chests and wore low-slung swim trunks on the beach. While it may not be appropriate for all the girls to be wearing bikinis at a high school church camp, I definitely feel like a double-standard existed and that the girls were made to feel bad about their bodies. The majority of all-girls talks that I experienced in middle and high school focused on purity, and namely, dressing modestly to “not allow your brothers in Christ to stumble.” While purity is of course an extremely important topic, there are so many more things we could have discussed that address our hearts, rather than the clothes we put on our bodies. There is no point in “treating” a sin behavior without addressing the heart of the issue first.

    Obviously I’m not man, but I would venture to say that they can have lustful thoughts regardless of what a woman is wearing. Who knows, a man who appreciates a modest-dressing woman may lust after her for that!

    Thank you so so much for writing this article. I know your heart is in the right place, and I can totally empathize with the shame you have felt.

  15. Anna says:

    I really appreciate this article and I think you have a great point. I have been all of those girls in the past, the one that dresses to get male attention, the one that is trying too hard to be modest so she doesn’t make men stumble, and occasionally the one that feels too ugly to dress attractively. Even today, I got stared at (not in a good way) even as I was wearing a very ‘modest’ outfit. But I have learned that it is not my fault if I get stared at or my place to be ashamed of what I look like.

    We are as much physical beings as we are spiritual beings, and I believe we all have to learn how to live in our bodies and deal with the problems that having bodies might cause. A big one is lust, and I think it is a lie to believe that it is just something that men deal with and that women have to guard against for men. Really, I have to deal with it every day and I really mean that. But I don’t blame men for it or ask them to put shirts on at the beach because it is my own sin and my own heart.

    Younger girls need to hear these things and I am glad that you are starting a discussion about this.

  16. k says:

    Hi Ruthie, this post has brought out a lot of experiences in my life where I have been blamed for things beyond my control. At age 11 in retaliation for seeking abuse to stop, my body image, and identity was further destroyed by constant teasing about me being fat and ugly by my parents. I still almost 50 years later have trouble not believing that I am fat and ugly and paradoxically also somehow responsible for being a temptress by being too attractive . I think this is the shame you are speaking of. I was going to a church for a few years recently when every spring the minister would give time during a sermon to admonish women to dress modestly during the hot weather to come. I always felt shamed by that – I wonder what is not modest at times when I have no idea what body part would be a stumbling block to a man. Could it be my eyes, my hair, my neck, my forearms, or my ankles [I wear the church lady uniform of capri pants in the summer].
    I have left that church and I understand that it was easier for them to blame women than teach men how to deal with how God made them. I had a stalker at that church that I had to get a restraining order to protect myself- I had very little help from church leadership to influence the man to stop, because I believe they thought that it was beyond his control to deal with his feelings. I am a normal attractive woman my age who dresses in unremarkable ways and behaves very modestly. Blaming the woman for a man’s wrong behavior and wrong actions is wrong. Men leaders need to teach other men how to deal with their thoughts no matter what is in front of them. These are difficult times but conservative dress has historically and culturally has not protected women from abuse.
    Ruthie, thank you for revealing your own pain, your story-so you can help others. May Jesus continue your healing and the healing of those He is reaching through you.

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Oh Karen. This story is EXACTLY why I wrote this article. You are not alone. I’ve heard too many stories like yours. I am so sorry your church leadership did not protect you and caused you shame. “Men leaders need to teach other men how to deal with their thoughts no matter what is in front of them.” AMEN. I desire for churches and Christians to become educated on this subject and learn how to properly deal with assault.

      Thank you for sharing. Can anyone else relate to feeling shame/blame from the church?

  17. Robert Millar says:

    I think Ruthie, I hope you don’t mind but I’d like to add another male voice to this discussion.
    For the benefit of your other readers: I am 42 year old man, married for almost seven years, I work as a College Minister which has given me the opportunity of coaching young men from 33 nationalities, for the past 17 years.
    I have only one standard I set for all of the men I coach when it comes to self-control and honoring women.
    Here it is: “If the most beautiful woman you can imagine walked into church next Sunday naked and jumped on your lap and begged you to have sex with her, here is the response God and I expect you to aim for. That you are able to get her out of the room while protecting her dignity and honor, without shaming her in anyway, and ensuring you have made no judgement at all about her choices.”

    I teach this extreme example so we can dispense with discussing when it is the girl’s fault that one of my young men is sinning. In my experience this is a common deflection men use when not wanting to own their own sin.
    A lot of Scripture has been tossed around in this post. Matthew 5:28 is clear that looking at a woman with lust is sin. It offers no comment on what that woman was wearing or how she was behaving. The responsibility to control one’s own mind and eyes is clearly with the man. If and when woman want to discuss what they want to say with what they wear that is a conversation between woman. For us men the conversation is all about how we sexually objectify women and then have the audacity to blame them for that objectification!

    We men need to apologize to the women in our lives for the behavior of all the men in their lives. Ruthie and every other woman who reads this please forgive me and my fellow males for every time you felt lessened by a man seeing you as merely a sexual object. We are without excuse and can only hope for your forgiveness.

    May I suggest if you have been a man who has objectified women that you are condemned by the greatest man who ever lived. I’ll leave us all with Jesus, standard for men in all ages.

    Matthew 5: 27-28 “You know the next commandment pretty well, too: ‘Don’t go to bed with another’s spouse.’ But don’t think you’ve preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices—they also corrupt.

    Sincerely,

    Robert Millar

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Oh Robert. Thank you for your comment. I was beginning to think this discussion was hopeless and a male voice was exactly what was needed in this conversation. I love everything you said. Bless you.

      • Robert Millar says:

        Just offer me your forgiveness if you can. Blessing is more than any man deserves in this area. In fact forgiveness is more than we deserve. Hence our need for Grace and Mercy both from God and the women in our lives. As I’m a man, and a leader of men, this is as much my fault as anyone else. I truly mean it when I asked for your forgiveness. I think how we men have systemically mistreated women for generations in the Western Christian world is inexcusable. It constantly astounds me how gracious women tend to be about that fact. I know Heaven will be full of mighty women of God, I worry at times that the tiny group of mighty men of God in Heaven will be totally obscured by that great host of feminine faithful. Perhaps there is a measure of justice that women will dominate the host of faithful in heaven after living in semi-obscurity in a male dominated earth.

        Thanks for speaking with such poise and patience on a subject that you have every right to feel only Godly wrath at the unrepentant sinfulness of men.

        Keep speaking, and occasionally some of us men will have your back. :)

        • Marcus says:

          This guy can’t be for real.

          • Robert Millar says:

            I’m a real boy! Honest! What part of my response felt unreal to you?

          • Marcus says:

            Robert, On Ruthie’s Facebook entry for this article, you write:

            “I am so ashamed to be a man at times. I apologize to you and every other woman one this planet for the dire state of manhood in the 21st century. We are clearly the lesser gender.”

            Now you tell us you minister and lead college aged men?!

            I appreciate the point of this article but let’s not get carried away in how we respond.

  18. Ethan says:

    Wow, it is crazy how much Christian men wish to justify their sinfulness with Bible verses! Take the log out of your eye (or lust) and after that you’ll be able to see clearly to see the speck in your sister’s eye! Ruthie, you have advocated for what that speck actually is, and wise men should listen to your words and work at being the holy men of God they are intended to be. And thank you Robert for your words, and the link to this article.

  19. “You aren’t dirty and your body is not a problem nor is it a burden. It’s a gift, a beautiful gift, one God gave you.” Amen to this! That’s why I have a problem with all the teaching about “modesty” that the church gives girls- the underlying message is the femininity is evil and dangerous- NO! Femininity was created by God, and it’s beautiful and awesome- not something to fight against!

    I actually wrote about modesty on my blog a few days ago: The Story of Me and Modesty

  20. JEN says:

    Reading some of these comments, a few of these guys need to be taken out behind the woodshed. Lovingly, but firmly. Comments like those make the hair rise on the back of my neck because it shows the man isn’t willing to take responsibility for himself.

    I went to a Christian college where, every spring, you could count on one thing like clockwork: a guest editorial in the campus newspaper by some dude (who at least had the gumption to put his name on it) imploring women to cover up because their (coming lack of) clothing would cause brothers to stumble. As a guy, I was embarrassed. I don’t profess perfection (who can?) or to say I’ve never struggled with lust or objectification of women (I have; sorry, ladies), but it’s the wrong approach. Basically, you’ve just told the person being objectified that they are causing the guys objectify them. You haven’t addressed the sin in the man’s heart and mind; you’ve just deflected it.

    If you want to have a baseline discussion on modesty, fine. There’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself. Christians should have solid discussions on this, and all sorts of other touchy subjects, as a community of believers since we live and interact with one another in a hilariously messy conglomeration of grace-needing persons.

    Just don’t load it up by putting the responsibility on the woman to prevent the man from stumbling. The person responsible for the sin is the actor and the actor alone, not the person being acted upon. The woman should not apologize for being beautiful; God doesn’t make mistakes. The men should apologize for turning that beauty into an object and an idol.

  21. lisa says:

    Here’s something I haven’t seen in the comments, and if I skimmed over it, please forgive me.

    What is lust? Honestly? I’m hearing here that if a guy thinks a woman is sexy and maybe a little physical reaction goes on (I’m trying to be delicate here) that it’s just a horrible thing. Really? I mean, REALLY? That’s genetics people. That the assurance that the species will go on!

    I’m seeing a lot of comments about women feeling like their bodies are dirty, and I totally agree with that point. But men are taught to feel like their bodies, functioning JUST AS GOD MADE THEM TO FUNCTION are dirty too. In fact, judging by what I’m reading, you guys must want to cut off your penises sometimes if what you’re saying is true. I mean better to go into heaven without one than to . . . (you get my drift.)

    How about no shame at all? How about we teach our boys and girls that our bodies are NOT betraying them when they feel these completely biologically natural stirrings, but that they are truly part of God’s wonderful plan for healthy sexuality and having children. Lust isn’t sexual attraction, it’s the dogged pursuit of sexual fulfillment in a way that fails to see the person of desire as someone made in the image of God and only to be used for the aim of self gratification.

    We’re all going to feel these things. Fine. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. And we all must learn to take our thoughts captive and look upon others as beautiful creations loved by God, We have no reason to be ashamed that we are, after all, biological creatures fashioned the way God wants us to be fashioned.

    Ruthie, I hope I didn’t open a can of worms on you, girl!

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Yes! You are talking about the difference between lust and attraction which people so easily confuse. Sexuality IS GOOD and Christian culture often teaches us it is something to be feared, avoided, shunned, etc. I love the idea of “no shame at all”–teaching boys and girls from a young age that their bodies are not betraying them. Beautiful.

      What does everyone think? Do you agree/disagree with Lisa?

      • mark says:

        Lisa is right as is Ruthie. Attraction is good. People often mistake it for lust. I tell guys there’s a difference between not lusting and being dead! Many guys have never learned the difference and spend their lives beating themselves up for experience the attraction to women God created us to have. Better to work on learning to enjoy the gift He’s given us.

    • Greg says:

      “In fact, judging by what I’m reading, you guys must want to cut off your penises sometimes if what you’re saying is true. I mean better to go into heaven without one than to . . . (you get my drift.)”

      To be quite honest, that’s more tempting than you might think, because it is NOT fun being a guy. With testosterone being the hormone responsible for sexual desire, and a testosterone level 15 times that of women…you get the picture. I can’t speak for other guys, but there are many times when (knowing what I do now), if given the choice before birth would have gladly passed on being a guy.

      Suffice it to say there are a lot of awkward, embarassing, and ugly things about it.

  22. lisa says:

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, men are taught to feel so much shame, it isn’t any wonder some try to pass the buck and make it the woman’s duty to keep them from feeling that way. It’s human nature to do that.

  23. Ruthie, this is so beautiful! Thank you for reinforcing to each and everyone of us how perfectly and beautifully made we are.

  24. Heather says:

    Ruthie, this is great. Thanks for your bravery and honesty in sharing your heart.
    The whole lust/modesty issue also got me thinking…by putting so much emphasis on guys’ lusting and women being at fault, it kinda gives the message that girls aren’t sexual beings themselves, that we don’t have sexual desires do. And that is a huge disservice to all the girls thinking, “Well I have sexual desires, too. Does that make me weird? I thought that was a guy thing.” Just a thought.

  25. Amanda says:

    Thanks for writing this! It’s helped me solidify some ideas I’ve had. Your blog post made me realize that woman choose clothing based on the male gaze. I know some people in the comments disagree with that. I think we should definitely divorce our clothing decisions from what men might think. Can you imagine men worried about looking too sexual?

    So now for me, it’s not about modest or immodest, it’s about style and appropriateness for the venue – serving or protecting the male gaze isn’t my responsibility. And I think you were getting at this with the idea of telling teenage girls to love themselves.

    I would say that I’m not serving my weaker, lustful brother by covering up as that is just allowing him to stay weak. Since we live in a patriarchal culture where sex is used to define power, they will need us to cover up more and more.

    I will be very glad if there’s ever a point where breasts aren’t as sexual in our culture so that I or other future women can breast feed in public without feeling weird.

    I have to applaud you for how patient you are in the comments! I couldn’t read all of them because the most of the men were just pissing me off! This is one reason why I can’t have a blog – I would have banned them for not meeting feminism 101 guidelines or the golden rule.

    • Ruthie Dean says:

      Oh Amanda, thank you for your note. Your feminist 101 guideline restriction made me laugh. I’m not sure what I think about covering up allowing men to stay weak…thoughts to ponder.

      I do have this question: If Christian women don’t wear bikinis, yoga pants, or any of the other articles of clothing mentioned above–what happens when guys walk out the door of a church & see all of these things? Maybe church is a refuge from breasts/butts/tight clothing? I just don’t get why we make such a big hoopla out of modesty when guys walk out of the church building and see everything we’re afraid of?

      I’m thinking out loud. I’d love to hear from some people on this question…

      • Amanda says:

        I want to expand on what I meant by not helping men who lust easily. The Bible says we need to help keep each other from sin. The logic I typically see: Men see women uncovered and become lustful (the extent of uncoveredness is different between cultures) and so women should cover themselves to keep their brothers from sinning. This is offered as the only solution. I think that is a very superficial solution and doesn’t address the control that men have had over women for so long. It feels like I’m reinforcing patriarchal values, which to me is a greater sin.

        I haven’t read or thought about this too much but I think it’s possible that Christian men expect Christian women to be more modest than non-Christian women as a way to control them. In many denominations, women are structurally lesser and modesty rules are a part of that – other commenters have mentioned the double standard. And I think Christians try to control non-Christians – North Carolina has passed or may pass a “no-nipple” law. So much for breastfeeding in a convenient manner!

        I also want to walk back my comment that women dress for the male gaze. While that’s certainly true, I’ve thought of lots of circumstances where women would show off cleavage or wear a bikini and not think about the male gaze at all.

        At the end of your post, you ask “Have you ever felt your body was a problem?” Yes, I have! I have felt ashamed and embarrassed to breastfeed in public. Once I freed myself from other people’s expectations of modesty I became much more comfortable with my body. I really think that women need to breastfeed more in public, not covered up, so that everyone can observe that breasts aren’t just sexual and serve an important purpose.

  26. Emile says:

    Wow, this paragraph is good, my sister is analyzing such
    things, therefore I am going to convey her.

  27. Greg says:

    In defense of the women: as a guy who was addicted to pornography for more than a decade, YES, I had a big sin issue and problem with lust until God rescued me from that! But I can attest to the fact that, as the saying goes, “There isn’t any amount of clothing that will cover up a dirty mind.” I will be the first to confess that I lusted over an attractive gal in my Adult Bible Fellowship who was wearing overalls; stylish, but it covered everything. The problem was in MY heart.

    As human beings–men and women–what we find to be beautiful, attractive, and appealing can vary significantly. I found it very interesting that a fellow single guy in his 30s that I talked to a while ago has different lust “triggers” (for lack of a better term) that are in essence the exact opposite of mine; namely, women who dress provocatively he finds to be a challenge, but for me, I have to be careful to guard my heart and mind when I’m around women who dress modestly. Why? Because I value sincerity and modesty a great deal, and to me that’s very attractive and appealing. Perhaps I’m rare or weird, but I do exist, and even when I was involved in pornography, I always hated anything that came across as fake. Just being gut-level honest here.

    And I firmly challenge any assertion from a man who says he hasn’t been tempted by women dressed modestly. Men, the problem is in YOUR heart; not the beauty God blessed women with. If a woman is dressing immodestly and knows it, then she needs to know she will answer to the Lord for it. But so will we.

    My point in all this? Yes, women must check their hearts and motives, but so do men. And, BTW, more women than you think are visual too; so we guys needs to be careful what we wear! Women ARE NOT responsible in any way, shape, or form for what happens inside of a man beyond that. As men, WE are the ones that are solely responsible to dismantle and deter any thoughts leading to lust, and to respect and value women, including appreciating and admiring their beauty in appropriate ways (i.e. noticing, NOT ogling, AND not ignoring womens’ beauty–another way women have been hurt).

  28. Maureen says:

    I want to ask the guys this: do you really want to be the guy who says its because women dress immodestly that you have lustful thoughts? Do you want to go back to the beginning of time and say ‘it’s because of the woman that you sin?’.
    You quote the scripture about the weaker believer and accommodating them: do you really want to be the weaker believer? Christ exchanged His life for yours so you could be so, so much more than that. What other people do with their own will, what they choose to do with the freedom that Christ died to give them, will never be yours to dictate. You are not responsible for anyone’s walk with the Lord-the Holy Spirit has that covered.
    Sounds like I’m saying people can do whatever they want with their bodies and their clothes-and that’s exactly right. We spend too much time trying to get people do live right and do things ‘right’ and not be ‘stumbling blocks’, to do things a certain way.

    In our quest to honour God we spend more time making more rules about how to live the Christian life when that’s exactly what Christ died to take care of. As Christians we are at various stages of our faith journey-some are babies, some are a bit more mature etc-But somehow in the midst of all variation, I believe that God is meeting us right where we are. He is faithful to complete that which He started in me, and I so, so trust Him with that. I spent years buying well meaning biblical Christian books on principles, and the 10 steps on how to get this and purity, and modesty and etc. (They’re not bad, they just led me to get to know God better-and instead of using guidelines and principles etc-I knew God’s heart for ME, uniquely Me). The older I get, the closer I walk with God-the more I realise all He ever wanted was just me. Just for me to get to know Him, and to spend time with Him-to be guided by His Spirit.

    Let us not get too anxious about how long a skirt should be, or how tight the jeans should be and being right and getting it right-if we just get to know Him and trust Him, we’ll realise He is sooooooooo good at showing us how. What applies to me might not apply to the lady sitting next to me-we are unique, and God celebrates that uniqueness, because He created us. So let Him guide you into all truth about who YOU are…get to know Him and you’ll discover just how much He speaks, even unto the little, seemingly frivolous things about our lives.

  29. Clotilde says:

    Thank you.
    One think I’ve been struggling with lately is what modesty means for guys.
    On youth camp, or days away, we would be oh-so-shocked if girls took their shirts off to play some game, but the young guys do it. All the time. And no one wonders if they make the girls, who are 13, 14, 15 stumble. Simply because our bodies are and work differently, people assume that girls don’t “stumble” or at least not on the physical things. Lie.
    How hard is it to stay focused when a guy next to you plays volleyball, topless, all muscles out and on and on?
    Everytime I mention this, people scoff at me, because it’s like men cannot be subjected to things because of women. They are free, ,and boys will be boys., etc.. But it hurts to see a very unbalanced rule, that works differently depending on your gender. Guys used to tell me “But I’d only take my shirt off because I’m sweating”… To which I just say that with a bra, and a shirt on, girls are as warm if not more than they, yet, for the sake of modesty, respect, etc… keep the shirt on.
    Why not encourage guys to be helpful as well?

    (I’m not a man-hater, at all, I just really struggle over the unfairness of this topic)

    Thank you!
    Clotilde

    • Greg says:

      I suspect as men, we have underestimated the appeal of our physicality; and if we have, it’s for a couple good reasons:

      1) We all know in what ways men struggle with lust, but very, very little has ever been said about exactly _how women_ struggle with lust. Perhaps I’ve lived in a bubble, but only of late (last 10-15 years) have I ever even begun hearing that a man’s bare chest can tempt a woman; and is it only guys who are “ripped” or is it any pudgy, saggy male chest? More often than not, I’ve heard how most women roll their eyes at that or get turned off because of the man’s show-off, arrogant attitude (and most guys I’ve seen who take their shirts off are anything _but_ gym material to start with). I’ve also heard that women can be tempted by muscles, but is it just a bare arm or the arm covered in clothing? Are there other ways in which men are a stumbling block to women? What are they?

      2) The other big question that remains unanswered is: just _how many_ women struggle with visual lust? One in four? Half? There is still plenty of evidence that these numbers are a source of contention between women themselves. The assumption that no women struggle with visual lust is wrong. But so is the notion that all of them do. It matters, because until the hows and whys of women’s struggles and the numbers are clarified, it’s one opinion vs. another.

      This isn’t criticism or a negative statement about women; just an acknowledgement of a fact. Medical science still doesn’t know what arouses women–putting it bluntly, there is no “female viagra” for a reason (although obviously they’ve tried).

      I believe part of why this issue has been so hard to nail down is just that: it’s next to impossible to nail down and form a consensus as to what exactly constitutes immodesty in men and temptation for women. What’s a challenge for one woman isn’t even on the radar for another. The first time I heard of the visual lust aspect was in this post from the Good Women Project:

      http://goodwomenproject.com/sex/debunking-the-only-men-are-visual-myth

  30. Anonymous says:

    I am a Christian woman and I have struggled with lust for the last twenty years, but I never would have thought to blame the struggle on men. For me, lust has been an escape mechanism, a way to indulge in feel-good thoughts. I cried out to God in desperation many times for Him to change me; I loathed my lust-filled condition. He answered by revealing my heart: lust was a deeply misguided attempt to find fulfillment and pleasure apart from Him. Over time, I learned I had choice over what I devoted my thought life to and, like in any of my athletic endeavors, I realized my thought life required discipline. Liberation from lust – slowly but steadily, and not without many seeming setbacks – ensued. In a sermon titled “Love and Lust,” Pastor Tim Keller explores the meaning of “lust” in Matthew 5:28, where Jesus talks about lusting after a woman as being synonymous with adultery. In this context, lust means “idolatry” and points to greed. In other words, lust is an insatiable desire that sets itself up as a false god; it’s competing for our affections. I’m currently writing a paper on C.S. Lewis’s theories of pain as promulgated in The Problem of Pain. Lewis asserts that pain’s second operation is to dash the illusion that whatever we have (apart from Him) is sufficient. Essentially, because of the Fall, we as humans are prone to seek false happiness – substitutes for the fulfillment that only our Creator can bring us – and lust has certainly been a mode of false happiness in my life. Notably, Adam and Eve covered their bodies as a result of the shame they experienced from having disobeyed God, thus we can infer that the body itself is not a source of shame, but rather man’s sin as it separates him from his Creator. Sadly, this topic is often over-simplified and digresses into a battle of the sexes over dress codes. Let’s own our sin and recognize our tendencies to pursue paths of pleasure that falsely promise the type of fulfillment our hearts were truly built for.

  31. Steven says:

    I agree with many of the sentiments expressed in the comments. I understand that it is wrong for anyone to blame someone else for their shortcomings. To play devil’s advocate though, where does the line get drawn? I think it’s fair to say that the majority of women do not want to be told to have to wear some Victorian-age ensemble (which I totally understand). Now to digress for a moment, I would counter that I find a woman in traditional dress VERY attractive. There is something sexy about a woman confident enough to wear a long skirt and blouse knowing that she is still attractive without the aid of modern style. Not to say some modern fashions are not attractive as well, but as a whole the confidence and innocence portrayed by a more old fashioned wardrobe is highly attractive to me (then again I’ve been told I’m different). To get back on track, however, and to play the devil’s advocate where is the line drawn on what is acceptable and unacceptable? If we as Christians really do bear no responsibility for what our Christian brothers and sisters allow themselves to sin over, is it fair to say that we should not be against a nudist society? It’s extreme, I realize, but playing the part of devil’s advocate it’s a fair question. Where is the line? If we as a whole agree that nudity is wrong, well then where does the line start? If we TRULY do believe that our actions are not accountable for another’s then why are we against nudity? If we are willing to agree that nudity is wrong because of how immodest it is through full exposure we have drawn a line, so then is it not fair to say that everyone is in turn allowed then to have their own opinion on what constitutes modest dress (thereby drawing their own line)? If we are willing to concede that, then why does it bother us if someone else tells us what we wear is immodest? Why isn’t it a matter of smiling and meekly saying “oh, I’m sorry this clothing offends you. I was just following my conscious, but will pray that if it is immodest God will reveal that to my heart as I want to live to for Him and no one else.” In a very nice way you are 1) acknowledging their concern 2) letting them know you DO desire to be about the Father’s business and 3) (most importantly) you make it known you are aiming to please God, not them or anyone else through your dress.

    Personal account is that the church I attend believes it is wrong for men to wear shorts. When I began attending there I stopped wearing them out of courtesy. However, as time went on I studied and prayed about the scriptures the elders cited as being Biblical proof and just couldn’t come to the same conclusion as they had. Therefore, I resumed wearing them. I still refrain from choosing shorts if it is a specific church function as I believe it prudent to not “poke the bunny” needlessly. However, I have no qualms wearing shorts when appropriate when fellowshipping with church members and they accept me for it understanding that although they “condemn” the practice for themselves, I truly have yet to be led to believe the same.

    Please don’t take my comments as being aggressive or offensive. Just some thoughts to consider. If it bothers us when someone tells us what to wear or not to wear, why does it bother us? If it is a concern for their soul, that is one thing, but if it is offensive to us…that (for me) is a red flag of a source of pride or hypocrisy (depending on the situation). Some of the best advice I heard was that to differentiate a hypocrite is to confront them. An innocent person will be agast and want to know why you thought they were doing such a thing, while the hypocrite will immediately jump to defense or offensively question you. Pride is very similar.

    In summary, first determine what line is acceptable to draw (if any). If a line is acceptable to draw for a standard to prevent nudity, then be willing to accept that others have a right to draw their own line preventing them from wearing a bikini or shorts. Second, it is not our responsibility to become angered or feel judged when someone does question our integrity. If we are confident in our walk with Christ, these comments should not bother us negatively. If they do, perhaps some prayer and ernest searching will reveal the source (insecurity, pride, superiority, etc.). I don’t feel offended for myself when an atheist mocks my faith, I feel pity for them and hurt for Christ. Neither of these emotions will cause me to get depressed, guilty, or feel less as a person. The same goes for dress. I’ve never felt hurt or any other emotion when I’ve been told that shorts are immodest. I know where I stand with God.

    Have a happy Thanksgiving!

  32. Alexandria says:

    Yeah, well. Unfortunately, we also cannot be responsible for the words that come out of people’s mouths. We can only be responsible for what we choose to (or not to) say.

    I’ve never been one to wear sexy clothes because I cannot fit into them. But if I ever become so physically fit that I don’t have any fat or cellulite or stretch marks, etc. We’re talking sheer perfection, I’m pretty sure I would not wear a bikini because I just wouldn’t be comfortable it. I see a bikini and I see potential for disaster–What if the waves in the ocean when I’m swimming undo what’s holding the bikini together and I end up in my birthday suit so to speak? What if the guy I’m with at the time gets too playful and pranks me by messing with my bikini and then again I’m out for the world to see. Bikinis don’t look like they’re very secure as in they may not stay in place depending on the activity you’re doing. So that and the fact that I would feel nearly naked, I’d never wear them even if I had an amazing super fit and fabulous body. I’d rock a sexy one piece in its place! :)

    But yeah, Ruthie don’t worry about those words that got to you. I understand where you’re coming from because I care too much about what others say and think too. But it’s really not worth it. Just be you. Who was it, Gandhi who said, “BE the CHANGE you WANT to SEE in the world”? Word up! :)

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