How Modesty Teachings Hurt Men, Too

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Darcy’s blog Darcy’s Heart-Stirrings. It was originally published on June 26, 2013 and is modified for HA.

Someone posted this article today on Facebook, from a famous Christian author and blogger:

If Only She Knew ~ Thoughts On Modesty

I read this against my better judgment and honestly, I’m sitting here furious. I have said for years that boys in conservative Christian homes are conditioned to struggle with “modesty” and everyday normal things regarding female bodies. That they are programmed to see non-erotic body parts as erotic. This article is the perfect example of that. This poor boy, and every boy like him have been set up by their parents for a lifetime of failure and shame. Then they have the audacity to blame all the women in the world for their terrible parenting. I’m just so angry at this type of spiritual abuse and bondage!

Here’s how the article starts out:

“Avert your eyes, Son. His dad started saying it to him from the youngest age – when he was only a little boy. Might have been an alluring commercial while watching the ballgame. Or a billboard while driving down the highway. A pop-up on the computer screen. As parents, we had purposed to teach him purity from the beginning.  

Temptation can be found anywhere. Even in Target. Target? Yeah, I know. That’s what I thought too. Until one day we popped in to pick up some flip-flops for the summer and I remarked how he kept bumping into things. What is your problem, Son?? “I’m just looking down, Mom,” And with a nod, he indicated the ads placed strategically above us. Billboards for the lingerie department. Yikes. I’d not seen them. “

I’ve written about how modesty teachings enslave women, well this is the perfect example of how they enslave men too. The first few sentences infuriated and shocked me. They created their son’s struggles. They conditioned and brain-washed him to think there was something wrong with seeing females in clothing they didn’t approve of. That looking at a woman is somehow shameful. They did that to their son and they are patting themselves on the back for it. They didn’t teach him “purity”, they taught him shame and objectification of women.  They taught him that natural attraction is something to feel guilty about and be avoided at all costs. They should be ashamed of themselves. They have set their son up for failure, and now he is going to be under such a heavy burden his entire life for things that are not wrong. He’s going to struggle with “sins” that aren’t sins but that he’s been brainwashed to think are “impurity”. The sight of normal American women all around him is going to send him into such a frenzy of natural emotion and arousal that he’s not going to know how to function in the real world. This poor boy! I cannot imagine doing anything that unhealthy to my sons.

Oh, but it gets worse:

“It was a hot July day and we all packed up and headed out for fun and fellowship with a bunch of other believers. Picnic blankets, cold watermelon, and squirt guns. It was promising to be a great day. 

So I was surprised to see our oldest son hanging back from the festivities. He’s an outgoing guy and usually one of the first out there mixing it up. Except not this time. He stayed close to our small spot and played with his little brothers instead. What is your problem, Son?? 

He hesitated for a moment. Then answered, “Mom, I don’t know what to do. Dad’s taught me to ‘avert my eyes’, but there doesn’t seem anywhere I can turn here.”

Nowhere he can safely look. Because women in swimsuits and summer clothes are everywhere and he’s had it drilled into him from a tender young age that women in swimsuits are off-limits, tantalizing, and “impure”. This poor boy cannot even go swimming or play outside because of his parent’s brain-washing. How is this “purity”? It isn’t. It’s heaping guilt and legalism on a child’s head and causing untold confusion. This isn’t healthy. This is so very toxic. He’s just a little boy. Yet his innocence is being trampled into the ground.

My cousin Matt said this when he read this article:

“He [the boy in the story] wouldn’t have a problem with it if his parents didn’t make it a big deal. If they approached sexual attraction as a normal thing, and taught him how to control his actions, he wouldn’t have to live in fear of seeing bare skin. Now, it seems like he is afraid to even go out in public, because of all the eye snares around him. Its almost as if he – or his mother, at least – expect girls to cover up for her son’s sake, as if the world revolved around him. 

If he was in the real world, you know, the one that inhabits the spaces around his stifling mother and father, then he would find that real men really don’t worry about bare skin. Those of us who control our desires know it is not wrong to look or enjoy the sight of a beautiful woman. We also don’t expect them to serve us because we know they aren’t the temptresses this mother is insinuating that they are. 

What he needs is for the walls of his little world to come crashing down. People like his parents think they are helping him walk in victory, but it isn’t victory when you are afraid of the world around you. It isn’t victory when you demonize something God created: beauty in a woman. It trivializes His creation. It makes it seem as if women are there to set you up for failure. 

What’s wrong is not the world around him, but the world in which he lives. Open your eyes, son, look up. Nothing says you have to look at the lingerie ad, but you won’t go to hell for lingering a second longer on it. Look at it and move on. It is part of the world around you. Your urges are part of your world. Your desires are part of your world. They aren’t your whole world, as your mother seems to emphasize.” 

In essence, these parents are crippling their son. There’s no way around that. And this mother is encouraging other mothers to cripple their son and to see all women as objects of temptation.  Not to mention using emotionalism and spiritual-sounding language to urge all women to cater to her dysfunction. This is a glaring example of spiritual and psychological abuse.

I’m not going to post the rest. It’s an appeal to emotion that ends up blaming all the women in the world for this boy’s and every good boy’s “struggles”; blaming women for toxic, spiritually abusive parenting they have inflicted on their son. You can read it but be warned, it’s painful.

This is a real, serious problem, but I’ve never seen it outlined so perfectly as this post does. Making normal, non-erotic body parts erotic does a grave disservice to boys and men. And this is a wide-spread problem among conservative Christians and homeschoolers.

Here’s what my friend Katie had to say in a conversation we were having on this topic:

I believe the ultra conservative teaching many of us grew up under modesty-wise, has hurt men as well as women. Men who grow up so sheltered that they find a cap sleeve enticing and whose moms cover their eyes if a woman with cleavage walks past, never learn how to deal with normal American dress. It is no wonder they experience such trouble at a beach or a pool. Regardless of how you personally believe God would have you to dress, you have no right to control the rest of culture. Your husbands, brothers, sons, etc. will be exposed to cleavage, shorts, bikini’s, mini skirts, etc. We do boys no favors when we raise them so strictly that such normal clothing is hyper erotic to them. Instead of sheltering them we end up hyper sexualizing them. I feel sorry for guys raised that way that struggle thru normal daily life like going to the grocery store.

I hope our generation will do better than our parents at teaching our children (boys and girls alike) how to view the opposite sex. Lust is not a sin that only effects men. Women can struggle with it as well. Part of the problem is that we call sin things that are not sin thereby heaping guilt on men and women for simple biological hormonal reactions.

It is not sin to find a person attractive. It is not even sin to feel turned on by them as they walk past you. That is just a basic function of biology and hormones. It is a sin, to dwell there and savor the moment, to go back to it time and again, or continue to fantasize about that other person (ie undressing them in your mind or worse). We need to teach our children the difference between a hormonal reaction that is biological, and choosing to expand or camp in that reaction and indulge in lust. We need to practice personal responsibility in our handling of situations that are struggles for us personally, and we need to teach our children personal responsibility for their own reactions to others around them. Men and women alike need to dress in ways that do not violate their conscience, but they also need to realize that they can never control anyone but themselves and master their own thought lives.”

Fear, shame, guilt, rules, “temptation is everywhere”….a little boy whose innocence was taken by the very people supposed to protect him. And all in the name of “purity”. My heart is breaking. I may be a woman, and I experienced these lies from a woman’s perspective, but I saw what they did to the men in my life. To the boys programmed with shame. I continue to see the effects of such teachings as the boys I grew up with are now men. An entire generation of men who were raised with shame and fear, like this little boy, have grown up and their stories are enough to keep the tears flowing and the hearts breaking. I have two little boys of my own. And I cannot imagine raising them to fear the world, women, and themselves as the parents of  the boy in this story are doing. I hope they see what they are doing to their son before it is too late to undo it

(Warning: I would suggest that if the above sickens or triggers you, don’t read the comments on the post I linked. Some of them are worse by far than anything in the post and completely disgusting.)

Our Bodies, Our Selves: The Other Other Side of Modesty

Our Bodies, Our Selves: The Other Other Side of Modesty

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Last week Brett Harris wrote about “the other side of modesty.” For so long, the conservative Christian conversation about modesty and purity has appeared disturbingly and humorously lopsided. Modesty teachers exhort young women to dress in certain ways so as to not lead young men to lust, and young men are exhorted to help preserve young women’s “emotional purity.” By constructing a purely fictional binary, where men are sexual and women are emotional, modesty and purity teachings have flourished.

Then Brett came along and threw a small wrench into the binary modesty machine, saying,

If I’ve learned anything from the original Modesty Survey it’s that these discussions can be dangerous. For one thing, talking about modesty and lust in the same article can imply that immodesty causes lust, which is a destructive lie.

I commend Brett for this because it is a start. To make any causal relationship between a woman’s outfit and a man’s actions is flat-out dangerous and destructive — end of story. But I also believe that the binary modesty machine, that he just threw a wrench into, is a machine that his own hands helped construct. Brett, and his brother Alex, authored the Modesty Survey themselves 6 years ago in 2007. They were seventeen at the time, and they hoped to do something good for other young men and women, but what they did caused significant harm.

When Brett wrote his latest article for The Rebelution, he began (I hope) the process of owning that harm. Brett said,

By our silence we send the message that modesty is a female issue and lust is a male issue.

There are lots of things I don’t agree with in modesty and purity culture. There are probably lots of things I don’t agree with Brett about. But we do agree on this — that, by their silence, they did indeed miscommunicate.

This miscommunication has caused real damage. It has created so much pain for young women, so much confusion for young men, and perpetuates some of the most ugly and destructive myths that empower rape culture to thrive today.

Admitting there is a problem is the first step.

What the solution is, well, that’s where Brett and I immediately begin to disagree.

Brett’s solution is well-summarized by the following paragraph of his:

The only difference between me and the immodest girls on campus was that I had a male shape and they had a female shape. So what was going on? I felt fit and confident in my body and wanted to show it off. This is exactly what my sisters in Christ have been carefully instructed not to do. So was I doing something wrong? If I’m going to be consistent, yes I was.

Honestly, I admire intellectual consistency. So in a sense I admire that Brett is willing to immediately begin the process of applying the same standards he has long applied to women to himself.

But, really?

This paragraph of his feels unnatural because I believe it supports a completely different solution than his: realize there is absolutely nothing wrong with “feeling fit and confident in one’s body and wanting to show it off.”

Why should Brett feel guilty about working out, taking care of his body, and then being so joyful about his body that he wants to share that joy with others? He put in some hard work. He did hard things (sorry, I had to say that). Be proud of who you are and what you look like. Rejoice in that. Live your life.

If you spent years creating the Sistine Chapel, I’m pretty sure you’d want to share your artwork with the world. I don’t see any difference between human art and the human body. In fact, the similarities are striking, in my opinion. Whether you are Christian or atheist, or whatever you are, you must grant that the human body is a work of art.

What modesty and purity culture has refused to consider, what Brett cannot quite embrace, is the idea that being happy or proud about the beauty of your body, and intentionally accentuating that beauty, is totally ok.

Do you know how insecure some women can be about their bodies? Have you ever thought about the overwhelming and debilitating insecurities that plague them when bikini season rolls around? Even if purity culture was not doubling their guilt with fear tactics about men and lust and hell and salvation, women would have an abundance of worries. Am I too fat? Can you see my cellulite? Why can’t my tummy look like that celebrity? Does my bikini bottom cover the freckles on my ass?

We are so obsessed with how big or small a bikini top can be that we forget that, for so many women, they just want to enjoy their own damn bodies, thank you very much. That woman that wears a bikini, or goes to a nightclub in a mini skirt? It is thoroughly possible that she wore that just to look cute. Not to tempt guys, or get laid. Maybe she just wants to feel good about herself, to feel beautiful. **

Sorry to break it you, but: It’s not all about men, y’all.

And whether you are male or female: there is nothing wrong with being proud of your body.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to show off the body that you have.

If you keep in my mind that we live in a world that is polarized between the extremes of commercialized sexuality, slut-shaming, body-shaming, and purity culture, I think you can see that a healthy acceptance of our bodies is so desperately needed. Our bodies are our selves, in such a fundamental and core way. We do not need more people telling us to hide our bodies, to be afraid of them, or to be ashamed of them. If you are so afraid of human sexuality that you resort to one of those tactics, you are doing something very wrong.

We do not need to hide our bodies. We need to show them.

The solution to our culture’s commercialized sexuality isn’t looking the other way at the mall when you pass Victoria’s Secret. The solution to commercialized sexuality is grounding it in the reality of what bodies actually look like: celebrating our bodies how they truly appear. Celebrating the stretch marks of pregnancy. Accepting the scars of our youth. Embracing our birth marks and our moles, our fat rolls and our baldness.

This is just who we are.

We do not need to be afraid of our bodies. We need to learn to be brave.

We have one shot at this body thing, people. One shot. I do not care whether you are an atheist or a Christian or a Buddhist — you still end up with the same basic principle. Be grateful for life. Be grateful that you are here. Be grateful for the skin and bones and blood and hair that surrounds who you are and makes you you.

Both commercialized sexuality and purity culture create the same problems, the problems of anorexia, bullimia, body-shaming, fat-shaming, and so forth. It really shouldn’t be that controversial, either, to make the triangular connection between commercialized sexuality, purity culture and rape culture. The similarities are striking. Instead of being so afraid of our bodies that we end up mirroring the opposite side of commercializing bodies, we need to re-center ourselves.

We do not need to be ashamed of our bodies. We need to celebrate them.

That woman flaunting her breasts in a low-cut shirt, the one you think should feel ashamed? Maybe her mother died of breast cancer. Have you ever thought of that? Maybe her decision to look good, show cleavage, and be proud of her breasts has absolutely nothing to do with you because you are a man — maybe, in fact, she has no idea you exist, so you thinking her showing her breasts has anything to do with you is just ridiculous and self-centered. Maybe she loves her breasts, because her mom had big breasts, too. And her mom died last year, on this very day. And that woman is celebrating that she is still alive, still has beautiful breasts, because everyday she misses her mother and wishes she was still here with her.

Did you ever think about that?

I never did. Then one day, during Breast Cancer Awareness Week, I heard a friend say what breasts meant to her as a woman. It had nothing to do with men or lust or sexuality. It had everything to do with accepting her body, accepting that cancer ran in her family, and — as she put it — “enjoying the body that God gave me while I still have time.”

And you know what? Even if some woman is just proud of her breasts because her breasts look awesome, more power to her. Your body is yours, and her body is hers. ***

I am sick and tired of how neurotic we make both men and women feel over this issue.

Our bodies are our selves.

Let us love them and love each other.

*****

*****

Notes:

** A different topic that is extraordinarily relevant, but would be tangential from the central message here of loving your body, is how even our standards of beauty are male-centric. I mention a few examples throughout this post — bikinis, mini skirts, and low-cut blouses — and the fact is, those are often the standards for beauty that our society sets. An equally important aspect of fighting both the commercialization of sexuality as well as purity culture is to empower women to dress how they define beautiful, cute, or sexy, rather than dressing how men define those things. A woman can feel just as beautiful, cute, or sexy in a sun dress or a pantsuit as she would in a cocktail dress. Yet society is going to dictate which outfit to wear, thus warping our standards of beauty. In a very real sense, then, both the commercialization of sexuality and purity culture end up at the same place: telling women what they can or cannot wear, what is or is not beautiful, and all according to male standards. Society needs to learn to give that power to women — giving them the autonomy and freedom over their bodies that is rightfully theirs.

But that is a topic for a different post.

*** Part of owning your body, by the way, is to take ownership of what you do, feel, and think, and not passing any semblance of responsibility of that onto another person or person’s body. But again, that is also a topic for a different post.

The Big Swimsuit Question: A Roundup of Posts and Thoughts

bikini

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hobbs’s blog Lana Hobbs the Brave. It was originally published on May 30, 2013.

It’s summer time. Time for the big swimsuit question.

As a woman who used to swim in athletic shirts and an athletic top to ensure proper modesty, i know what the modesty teachings are. However, I don’t agree with them anymore.

I feel that modesty culture demeans and harms both men and women, promotes unhealthy thoughts, and operates based on stereotypes and misunderstandings.

I’m posting links to some posts on the subject, along with highlights, and my thoughts will follow.

There’s been this post about modesty and The Bikini Question making the rounds, and it feels very rape culturey. Defeating the Dragons explains how it promotes rape culture, as well as how futile it is for a women to try to dress in a way that certain men won’t objectify her.

But, this article, like every other article I’ve read on modesty, emphasizes that it a woman’s obligation to help protect men from our bodies. It’s our duty to make sure that we make it possible for men to forget that we’re a woman– which is, frankly, impossible. I don’t care how loose your clothes are– if you have T&A, there’s no getting rid of it, there’s no hiding it.

emily joy allison talks modesty and purity culture in her new post about How To Be a Lady:

LET’S GO AHEAD AND TIE A WOMAN’S CHARACTER DIRECTLY TO HER CLOTHING WHY DON’T WE. Yeah. That seems like a good idea. Also let’s shame women who’ve been disrespected or mistreated by men by making them think it must have been their fault somehow for wearing the “wrong” clothes and attracting the “wrong” kind of men. And to top it all off let’s pretend like Christian men do (and should) actually treat women better who “appropriately cover themselves.”

Another good post about the problems for both men and women inherent in modesty teachings: “Modesty, Body Policing, and Rape Culture: Connecting the Dots.” 

Shaney Irene has this post about Why The Modesty Survey was a Bad Idea (for the record, Shaney, I forgive you.  i’m thankful that you are writing against it now.)

In offering a platform to over 1600 guys, many of whom shouldn’t have been given it, we lent legitimacy to some very dangerous ideas.

Many guys admitted to losing respect for girls who didn’t live up to their ideas of modesty, feeling “disgusted” or “angered” by these same girls, and even going so far as to say, “…she loses her right to ask guys to stop looking at her like something to be had…you are asking to have guys stare at you.” The word “cause” in relation to guys’ lust also made a frequent appearance.

and now for my thoughts:

I feel like the biggest problem with the modesty culture is the confusion between lust and attraction. i never once have heard anyone make a distinction. It’s as though it’s a sin for a man to notice a woman is attractive.

Look, people. i’m visual. And the dude who plays Thor is attractive. I noticed. That’s not cheating on my husband. that’s not me wanting to rape the actor. That’s just me, noticing a very attractive guy is attractive. I’ve seen men that were so attractive, it makes me blush. For real. It doesn’t mean i’m lusting. I am not fantasizing. I wouldn’t ‘do’ anything with him.

But there’s nothing wrong with me or the guy, if i notice he’s attractive. If I start having sexual fantasies, that’d be objectifying and mentally unhealthy.

Here’s a big secret: women can be visual, too. I’m more visually oriented than Luke. And there are a lot of guys objectively more attractive (and by that I mean, with really ripped abs) than him. it’s okay. i still find him breathtakingly handsome and i love him more than anybody. He’s the only dude i intend to ever [expletive deleted] with. But I’m gonna notice Batman’s biceps. And it is okay. And anything beyond that is my responsibility to deal with.

The flipside of that is, if a guy sees me in a bikini and notices i’m attractive, or more likely, notices i am very curvy, there is nothing wrong with that. I am very curvy. No suit is gonna hide that.
If he ogles me – and I have been ogled while dressed modestly before and my young and frightened response was to dress rather more frumpily and blame it on my ‘accidental immodesty’ – that is all on him. It’s not my job to try my hardest to dress in such a way that people will treat me with respect; and as noted in many of the blogs above, it does not work; oglers are pretty much oglers. As far as keeping a man from sinning – him noticing I am a woman isn’t going to ‘make’ him sin.

And if a woman judges me as a slut because i’m a curvy woman in a bikini, that’s all on her too.

So much for my opinions on modesty culture in general, now for the chocolate cake analogy in the post, which many people think is wonderful. I found it a problematic analogy. It made me angry that a woman enjoying herself at the beach – happening to bare a midriff rather than not (perhaps because she can’t find a well fitting one piece or tankini, perhaps because she likes how she looks, who knows) is considered the same as following a dieter around with something tempting.

I am a person, dressing for me. It would be more like if i ate a cake at a cafe and you walked up and shoved your face into it and ate it all up, and blamed me for you stealing it, because i should be tempting you with my cake in public.

Unless I am deliberately and provocatively and obviously flirting with someone, he has no reason to think my clothing is an invitation to him. (and even then he still wouldn’t have any right to touch me without a clear verbal invitation or permission).

I am planning to go to the lake this summer, and i will be wearing my bikini. partially in protest, but mostly because it’s flattering, comfortable, stays in place better than any suit i have, and will allow my body to get some sun, and there’s really no reason for me not to, if i’m comfortable in it.

Dianna Anderson is joining the bikini club too. (For the record, i have another suit i’ll be wearing when we go to the in-laws to swim, out of courtesy to their beliefs and because i would be the only one in a bikini, and i’m not comfortable with that.)

Other posts about modesty:

• Sarah over the Moon wrote a post about modesty today too, responding to another post about modesty from a bit of a different angle than the first, but the points about the problems and inequity of translating clothing into ‘messages’ still stand. worth a read

• Here’s a post from one of my favorite bloggers, Libby Anne, about the problematic chocolate cake analogy, focusing on chocolate cake’s inability to consent, and the lack of clarity as to what the anologue to eating the cake is: attraction? Lust? Rape?

• Bookworm Beauty, “The Only Thing My Double D’s Ever Got Me Was Kicked Out of Church”

• Adipose Rex, “Women Aren’t Cake, Part 2: The Cake Is a Lie”

• Suzannah Paul, “On Objectification (Or: How People Aren’t Objects No Matter What They Wear)”

Comment section: am I missing any good posts in my links? did you read the bikini article? do you have a cute new swimsuit you’re excited to wear? i got a polka dotted tankini for everydays, and a black bikini, with full cups and gathers in the fabric, for the lake.

The Bikini and The Chocolate Cake: Samantha Field’s Thoughts

The Bikini and The Chocolate Cake: Samantha Field’s Thoughts

Samantha Field blogs at Defeating the Dragons, and she was recently featured in a Christianity Today story entitled, “Finding Faith After Spiritual Indoctrination.” This piece was originally published on her own blog, and is reprinted with her permission. Also by Samantha on HA: “We Had To Be So Much More Amazing”“The Supposed Myth of Teenaged Adolescence”, and “(Not) An Open Letter To The Pearls.”

[trigger warning for rape culture]

I feel that we need to sit down with a cup of coffee or tea and just chat about something. If you move in the same circles I do, you’ve probably heard about this post from Made in his Image. There’s a lot of good things being said about how destructive the modesty culture can be, so I’m not going to rehash a lot of that here. I wanted to shine some light on the biggest problem with this specific post.

I got sunburned on my ass a few weeks ago, when nothing else on me got sunburned at all. We were only at the beach for an hour, and I ended up having to spread aloe vera all over my butt for a week and sit down funny for a few days. Why did I only get sunburned on my bottom?

Because it’s the only part of me that’s never, ever, seen the light of day.

I grew up in Northwest Florida– the part of Florida known as the Emerald Coast. It is a stunningly, breathtakingly beautiful beach. We rarely ever went– only when family came to visit, usually, and those visits were sparse– because it was considered ungodly to go the beach. And if we went, I wore a t-shirt and culottes. My mother made swim-culotes out of a really light, swimsuit-type material.

Even in college, when I’d left a lot of those childhood beliefs behind, I couldn’t bring myself to wear a swimsuit to the beach. I bought an amazingly cute tankini– I still think it’s cute, even today– and it generously covered my badonk-adonk, but I still felt incredibly nervous wearing it. I ended up wearing cute-off shorts on top of it when I went to the beach with some friends, and faked being asleep when I overheard them making fun of me for that choice.

Yup. “Modesty” is a sacrifice. It’s a sacrifice I made for most of my life, and paid for my standards with humiliation and embarrassment.

But, when I went to the beach with my husband a few weeks ago, I wore a bikini for the first time. It wasn’t “skimpy,” not that it matters, and I was able to take off my cover-up without shame, without the sharp knife in my gut telling me that I was dressing as the “strange woman” from Proverbs. It was a victory for me– a small triumph over the shame and oppression I’d known for over half my life.

That’s the only thing the modesty culture does.

It doesn’t stop men from ogling us– not even Christian men. I’ve gotten cat calls, jeers, shouts, obscene gestures, propositions, and whistles all while “modestly” dressed. I’m talking full-blown “modesty.” High-necked t-shirts, a-line and loose knee-length skirts. Sometimes I looked cute, sometimes I looked dumpy. It doesn’t matter. How I’ve been dressed has never made a difference whatsoever in how men have treated me. I was raped while wearing a knee-length skirt and a long-sleeved, loose and flowing top that covered my collar bone. Modesty has never, in my experience, stopped a man from doing whatever he wanted to do with my body– whether it was physically manhandle it, goosing me or grabbing my vagina through my skirt in the middle of chapel, or simply objectify it.

Let me say it again: men could not give a flying f*** how a woman is dressed. She’s a woman. She has boobs and a vagina, and that makes her public property in a world where I’ve been screamed at, cursed at, for refusing to even acknowledge a cat call from a car.

When I started dressing however I wanted, modesty be damned– when I started wearing shorts and tank tops, for example, none of that sort of behavior increased. It stayed exactly the same.

But, this article, like every other article I’ve read on modesty, emphasizes that it a woman’s obligation to help protect men from our bodies. It’s our duty to make sure that we make it possible for men to forget that we’re a woman– which is, frankly, impossible. I don’t care how loose your clothes are– if you have T&A, there’s no getting rid of it, there’s no hiding it.

So what happens?

We have articles where the author has to stubbornly insist that she’s not “insecure about her body,” and clarify that she is “independent in her swimwear choices.”

We have articles where the author compares women to an ooey-gooey chocolate cake.

And let’s look at that for a second. Rachel has this to say about her metaphor:

Now, let’s pretend that someone picked up that chocolate cake and followed us around all the time, 24/7. We can never get away from the chocolate, it’s always right there, tempting us and even smelling all ooey gooey and chocolate-y. Most of us, myself included, would find it easy to break down and eat the cake. And we would probably continue to break down and eat cake, because it would always be there. Our exercise goals would be long gone in no time.

I’m going to try to be fair here: Rachel was probably, in her head, only referencing masculine lust here. When she wrote out this dandy little metaphor, she was probably only thinking that “breaking down” didn’t mean anything besides a man thinking less-than-platonic thoughts about the woman in the bikini.

However, regardless of what I’m positive were the best of intentions, Rachel has just contributed to rape culture.

Because, in this metaphor where a woman is a chocolate cake, the woman has no choice. A woman, plain and simple, just is a chocolate cake, and the fact is that, as a woman, there’s nothing she can do to change that.* She doesn’t have a say in the matter. She’s a woman. She’s ooey-gooey and smells like heaven, and so she gets eaten. No one asks her if that would be ok. No one asks her if that’s what she wants.

Because she’s a cake.

She exists to be eaten.

*I would like to point out that gender and sexuality are a sliding scale– I’m not trying to exclude transgender people, just dealing with the essentialist and gender binary nature of the article.