"Where's the kaboom? There was supposed to be an earth-shattering kaboom?" –Marvin Martian

Roy Baumeister once wrote that shame was one of the under-appreciated emotions in the 20th century

There’s such a thing as a lot of bad kinds of shame but in his book on violence and aggression Baumeister wrote that shame had probably the most important pre-emptive role in curbing human violence and aggression. Take away fear and shame and you may think you’re doing humanity a favor but you’re taking away the biggest emotional/social disincentives to harm people.

And didn’t even Paul write in one of the epistles not just “I don’t say this to shame you” but also “I say this to your shame”? We’ll never be able to avoid people feeling guilty and we’ll keep expecting that some people should feel guilty that won’t feel guilty.

It sounds like there’s at least some consensus here that whatever that golden mean might be nobody’s staking out precepts that would let us come close to finding it.

“Hope and redemption” doesn’t make biology stop being real. Testosterone increases sex drive, which is why teenage boys have had a well-deserved reputation for being horny for as long as humans have been observing teenage boys. You can’t pray the T away.

Here’s what we know works: Segregating the sexes. Don’t put them together when mating behavior isn’t desirable But that makes women cry because they’re “denied opportunities,” so we can’t have that, unless it’s a left-wing all-female college like Wellesley, and then we’re creating a “safe space” for women.

So we also know, again from centuries of experience, that a bit of modesty goes a long way. We know, from decades of experience that when girls are twerking their spandex-clad butts at boys, the boys don’t learn what they’re supposed to learn in school.

The obvious solution is to re-segregate education, but the obvious is a hate crime now, so we can’t do the obvious. The next most obvious thing is to tell the girls to cover their boobs and wear actual pants, but it turns out that’s a hate crime, too.

So that’s not allowed.

What is allowed is to chide the boy and tell him to stop paying attention to the girl flashing her whale tail at him. He should just learn to not look, “because we as humans are better than that.”

Of course, we all know that’s absolute nonsense, because all of us were pubescent boys once. But by golly, that’s what feels like the moral thing to say, so that’s what we’re going to say, no matter how totally disconnected from reality it may be.

How can we help the guys out without making (some of) the girls feel guilty?

Why is guilt undesirable? Back in the bad old days when men felt they ought not to engage in sexual contact with women they weren’t married to, and women felt they ought not flaunt their assets at the men they lusted after, the divorce rate was lower, and there were fewer illegitimate children.

Maybe the previous millennia of human civilization knew something about the sexes that we’ve forgotten because we’ve become enchanted with the silly idea of equality.

Why is the dichotomy false? Please show your work.

I’m not trying to be snarky here. I actually want to know how you think this is supposed to work. How can we help the guys out without making (some of) the girls feel guilty? Or do we prioritize female self-esteem and tell the males to suck it up? What does a non-guilt-inducing teaching on modesty look like? One probably exists–on this we agree–but I’m curious as to what it should consist of.

Which is more important: protecting women from shame or men from lust? Is it better for a woman to be plagued by anxiety and guilt for her dress, or for a man to be plagued by anxiety and guilt for his thoughts?

I’ll take “smells like a false dichotomy” for $200, please, Alex.

Edit: that was unnecessarily snarky. So let me add on. As a servant leader shouldn’t my intent be first to help serve others before myself?

Which is more important: protecting women from shame or men from lust? Is it better for a woman to be plagued by anxiety and guilt for her dress, or for a man to be plagued by anxiety and guilt for his thoughts?

I’m not trying to be confusing…

I’ll fully admit that I’m still a bit reactionary about things like dress / modesty codes given my fundie upbringing.

That’s what you said. I literally have about zero clue what that means. Especially since you’re a straight guy and you have daughters.

What I mean is that, having seen a teaching abused or pushed to a point of absurdity, my first reaction when the topic comes up is in the opposite direction of the abuse. When I catch a whiff of something that even smells like hyper-literalist Bible interpretation, my first reaction is to oppose it. Same sort of thing for topics like consumption of alcohol and modesty/dress codes.

I think that a lot of the current trendy evangelical progressives are pushing back so hard against their fundie upbringings that they haven’t figured out when they’re unwisely pushing back way too far. And I recognize that tendency in myself at times, so I’m trying to own it and not let it run away with me. That’s all I’m trying to say.

If we accept the testimony of many of our sisters that they have been saddled with guilt and shame about their bodies because of the dress/modesty codes that the church has endorsed

I’m not sure I accept that. And more importantly, you’re going to have to explain me what that even means.

In that case we’re clearly not reading the same things. I don’t have time to go dig up links this morning, but there have been a number of Christian women who have been sharing their stories about growing up feeling an intense sense of shame about how their bodies were shaped thanks in large part to the fact that the church’s teaching focus was mostly on how women should cover up so that men aren’t tempted. I’ve heard similar from personal friends, so it isn’t just (at least in my world) random blog crazies telling these stories.

still confused

I’ll fully admit that I’m still a bit reactionary about things like dress / modesty codes given my fundie upbringing.

That’s what you said. I literally have about zero clue what that means. Especially since you’re a straight guy and you have daughters.

If we accept the testimony of many of our sisters that they have been saddled with guilt and shame about their bodies because of the dress/modesty codes that the church has endorsed

I’m not sure I accept that. And more importantly, you’re going to have to explain me what that even means.

This conversation reminds of a very bizarre interaction a friend of mine had (many years ago) with his new bride. His wife got the Victoria Secret catalog in the mail. And she kept them. Not just the latest issue, but multiple copies neatly stacked with the other magazines. After a while, my friend got tired of the temptation and threw away all but the latest issue. When his wife discovered the missing catalogs and queried as to their location, he explained. She responded with tears and was very upset that this was any way a problem. And thus the education of a naive woman learning about the nature of male sexuality began…

 

All this straw… where are the Tin Man and the Lion?

Jaredd, I never accused you of saying biology was the only consideration. I agree that was more FP‘s point.

You basically said (and I paraphrase, forgive me) “hey, guys aren’t allowed to show their private bits, and girls aren’t allowed to show their private bits, so everything must be fair.” I proposed that the issue is more complex than that, and the original article that spawned this discussion also suggests that it’s a complex problem. Hence, I termed your reduction of the topic to be a straw man. I still believe it to be.

I’m not even sure what your point is, Chris, in total honestly. You had a fundie background. Therefore asking girls to not show cleavage or wear overly short shorts and skirts bothers you because…?

Now you’re putting words in my mouth. I haven’t said a thing about the details of what I think would be appropriate, other than to agree with Matthew that some sort of guideline is appropriate. The original article noted rules beyond “don’t show private bits”, and asked some good positive questions, including this one which dovetails nicely with a point Matthew made a few posts ago:

While gender neutral on paper, are dress code guidelines being implemented evenly? Do they take into account what’s practical, what’s comfortable, what’s affordable and what’s available at local stores?

Now I’d like to ask a positive question from the other direction. If we accept the testimony of many of our sisters that they have been saddled with guilt and shame about their bodies because of the dress/modesty codes that the church has endorsed over the years, how do we go about making changes that will help undo that shame and encourage them in their identity as real, embodied human beings, women, and our sisters while still maintaining some level of appropriate “guardrails”?

(I’ve got three daughters, guys. This isn’t a theoretical discussion for me.)

straw too

Now you’ve made a straw man out of my argument. I never said that biology is the only explanation. Although FP‘s argument was centered more around that aspect.

Boys love baseball hats. They are generally banned from wearing them. On that basis alone, I’d say boys feel the sting of dress codes as much as girls.

I’m not even sure what your point is, Chris, in total honestly. You had a fundie background. Therefore asking girls to not show cleavage or wear overly short shorts and skirts bothers you because…? I don’t know if you want to care if you call it biology or the way God made the world or something else entirely, but the simple fact remains that there just isn’t a simple analog for that in male wardrobe. Except for sagging pants, which is generally banned.

You have yet to give me a positive reason to believe that these dress codes are in some way unfair.

Obviously we aren’t privy to a lot of what has been going on, but this is how it looks to me. MD built an empire, began devastating it, and now leaves it in ruins while walking away with a too good to be true severance package.