We have some teens staying at our church right now & stories about their leader have solidified some thought I’ve had lately. This man makes the girls wear t-shirts over their swimsuits if they go swimming so the boys’ thoughts stay pure. I have a couple of serious issues with this concept.

First, what message is this sending to those girls? Your body has issues & we have to make sure it stays covered. The female body in all of its photoshopped glory is so prevalent in culture, yet we can’t let young men see a real body because heaven forbid, they might get the wrong idea from seeing a girl in a one-piece swimsuit. Girls, your body is something to stay hidden. Let the boys enjoy the fake instead of the real, flaws & all. And it states that ” you (as a female) are at fault for every thought a boy has”.  What a terrible burden. No wonder we are having such issues in the society with consent and what exactly that means. (I love the tea analogy that has been circling social media lately.) Neither side is being taught the right lessons at an appropriate age.

Men have gotten the message that they are entitled to whatever they believe women are promising them. And depending on the guy, their definition of what is an invitation can be so different from what the other party’s is. Modesty is such a cultural thing. (Hold that thought. I’m coming back to it.) This is one of the problems I have with certain conservative Christians. That notion that I’m not responsible for myself. “The Devil made me do it. She tempted me.” Learn some self-control already. Decide that you either can or are going to work on your thoughts and actions, regardless of those around you. Deuteronomy talks specifically to rapes happening with no one else around. Is the woman blamed for it? No. Just the man is put to death and the assumption is made that the woman cried for help. Innocent. No question of what she did to encourage him. Why does our culture assume that women brought an assault on themselves instead of questioning the way we bring up our boys.

The internet has led to an increase of men seeing all women as objects. Let me rephrase that because objectification is nothing new. Rather, the internet has given all types of people a larger pool of subjects to objectify. We all do it. The movie star, the model, and everyday people whom we get to know on social media. And the distance through which we often interact leads to amplify certain parts of a person’s character. For example, I’m pretty quiet. I was practically non-existent on social media until I had my son, and even now, I limit what I post about him. I don’t want to live his early childhood out before he has any say on what he wants his online persona to be. I’m careful about the pictures I post and how often. I try to think about what I would have been comfortable with my parents posting about me. But someone who is an over sharer can take that route of going too far with what they choose to share to the detriment of their children’s futures. The guy who might be a little bit of a jerk suddenly becomes much more of one when he can hide behind the anonymity that can be found online. It removes our filters in way we could have predicted but didn’t think through the chance of losing that filter in real life. It amplifies us and that is starting to carry on into real life.

Now back to our notion of modesty. To me, it’s such fluid concept in society, especially Western society. Loved this post on modesty by Rachel Held Evans. I remember walking barefoot in France and being told it was shocking and immodest. Yet, no one batted an eye when I went barefoot at my wedding here in the States. Our perceptions on which body parts can show and which ones are improper is so arbitrary. We make a big deal about breastfeeding here in the US, but in other countries where breasts haven’t been sexualized, it’s not a problem. Christians should be the biggest proponents of breastfeeding yet they can often be the biggest critics. “It’s dirty.” “Cover up.” Give me a break! If we didn’t make our girls be overly “modest”, a baby eating would be seen more like the beautiful thing it truly is. And due to the internet, it’s become this battle. Do you or don’t you? And there is no winning, not matter which side you take, because it ultimately stems from problems in our society.

We will probably never know the answers, but might as well as the questions. Would porn be so prevalent if these conservative kids were allowed to see each other in appropriate settings without the “oh no” factor? Would our struggle with body image lessen if we didn’t compare ourselves to airbrushed models and weren’t condemned for showing a little skin? Would we have stronger mother and child bonds and less parents on government assistance if we encouraged breastfeeding instead of only allowing breasts to be seen as a sexual plaything vs. having multiple purposes?

Ultimately, it’s the duality that gets us.

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