Yesterday evening I got into a discussion with some of my female volunteers about modesty. Of course whenever there is a discussion about modesty as it pertains to teenagers its usually a conversation about the way girls dress and how boys respond to the female figure. This particular discussion came up because some of the girls had understood our policy against the girls wearing two pieces to trips and retreats as being primarily an issue of not wanting them to cause the boys to have lustful thoughts. For clarification sake I’ve maintained this particular part of our dress code in the youth ministry as being a modesty issue. It begins and ends with modesty. With that in mind here are some thoughts when it comes to the issue of modesty.
Leggings Show More Than Just Your Legs
Could someone please explain to me why we make such a big deal about short shorts and skirts on girls, but then no one seems to have a problem with all the women, particularly adult women, walking around in the very trendy tight pants? I’m not talking about skinny jeans, even though that is a modesty issue when it comes to boys (we’ll get to that in a second). I’m talking about the leggings with nothing over the top, or tshirt at best. Short shorts and skirts often do a better job of covering up and concealing the exact form of a woman’s posterior than leggings do. If you don’t think it’s an issue see if you can name one popular song in the past thirty years obsessing over a woman’s breasts, the part we make the biggest deal about, before I can name four that obsess about the female glute; Thong Song, Baby Got Back, Bootylicious, and My Humps (two of those songs and the two most recent featured female performers)
She Was Asking For It?
I’ve heard it communicated other places as being also a concern of the girls not causing the boys to stumble. Some of my female volunteers were ready to take issue with this if it was part of our concern or at least what was communicated to the young girls as the reason. I for one think there is some validity to their concern which was expressed as such, “Many girls walk away with the message that if a guy makes unwanted sexual advances or even rapes a girl it is her fault. By the way she was dressed she was asking for it.” The truth of the matter is there are plenty of women who dress appropriately and modestly who are subjected to unwanted sexual advances and sexual assualt. It’s as if to say this happened to you because you’re just that kind of person, and is that the message we really want to send to young girls?
I Am The Master of My Domain
We need to make sure boys learn and are equipped to take responsibility of their thought life. They are not helpless victims of spaghetti strapped, low v-necked cleveage bearing, leggings wearing women. Boys are going to have to learn how to train their minds to dwell on the good, the beauty, and the redemptive of God’s good world in spite of all the messages and images that seek to exploit their developing sexual virility. The tension is that the female form is naturally beautiful. A line is crossed when a female form is viewed and coveted solely for sexual pleasure and a way for a guy to justify his manhood. Training young men not to lust needs to go way beyond telling them not to lust, and think of something else. We need to teach them the proper way to think of bodies, as a temple unto the Lord designed for making God’s presence known in creation, uniquely designed to work the ground and care for all the creatures of the earth.
What Comes To Mind First
Adolescent girls need to be encouraged to take responsibility of dressing modestly in a way that doesn’t teach them to be ashamed of their body nor think of their body as solely being a catalyst to sinful lust and covetedness in others. Modesty needs to be conveyed to young women as a way of ensuring that when people think of them their body isn’t the first thing they think of. That has been the motivation behind the few instances of me asking girls in my Student Ministry to not use the pictures of themself in a bikini as their profile picture on social media sites. The reality is that young women are going to have to rely more heavily on their own creativity than what’s offered on the rack to dress fashionably modest.
In the same vain the boys need to be encouraged to practice modesty as low-rise skinny jeans have subjected many of us to the male version of cleavage (Yuck!). I hate to say it but meggings aren’t far behind. That’s male leggings for the fashion illiterate. Tank tops have made a huge comeback in young men’s fashion, and that are cut to make special emphasis on their upper body and shoulders which most girls find appealing. Boys should be held to similar standards of modesty as they too are guilty of drawing attention to their bodies in a way that their body is the first thing you think of when you think of them.
Girls Lust Too!
Many years ago while shopping with a friend I made some comment that basically amounted to boys lust but girls don’t have that problem. The friend who was with me quickly turned to me and told me, “You are so wrong. We girls lust too. Maybe not in the same way but what do you think it is we’re looking at in our girlie teen magazines? I see a guy with nice broad muscular shoulders and I imagine myself being held in his arms. Not sex just held but I’m still lusting.”
In the last couple of years we’ve seen women of all ages flock to Channing Tatum movies, including and especially the movie Magic Mike. The Team Jacob and Team Edward debate wasn’t purely a matchup of the abstract qualities of fictional characters. I’m sure there are women who watch CSI: Los Angeles and find themselves transfixed by LL Cool J’s lips the way veteran female hip-hop/rap fans have for nearly three decades.
Personally I have watched from my perch of Middle School Youth Pastor observe for ten years now the behavior and development of adolescents. One of the consistent themes I’ve observed is that it is ALWAYS the girls who start noticing the boys first. They are the first ones to awaken, for lack of a better phrase, and leave the phase of cuddies behind. Which makes total sense when you consider that they reach puberty sooner. So let’s be careful to not make lust a one sided issue and remember that girls lust too. Differently sure but that doesn’t mean that their imagination isn’t sparked by what they see. So boys and girls need to be taught to be mindful of how they present themselves, but not to the point of being made totally responsible for the response of the opposite sex. All kids need to be taught and trained to be masters of their mind and that they are not and don’t have to be helpless victims to the thoughts and emotions which are sparked by what they see.