modest swimwearThe Modesty Lifeguards are blowing their whistles.

In yesterday’s post I talked about the modesty message that “all women are sex goddesses.” Read that link to flow with the context of today’s assumption: Sexy is sin.

Assumption #2: Since being sexy is a sin, modesty is the solution. Modesty is the opposite of sexy.

  • Beauty is powerful.
  • Beauty leads to sin.
  • Therefore, beauty must be hidden.

That is the logical paradigm of fundamentalism.

Women under the radar of the Modesty Lifeguards have no hope.  Their status as sex goddesses automatically puts them in danger of sin. Their very person, the very gift of a body that they’ve been given, is a liability.

What does “sexy” mean? When supermodels were interviewed, they concluded sexy is “confidence.” Yeah, easy for people with all the beauty-equity our culture demands to say.  It’s like saying the secret to being a genius is confidence. That answer is not adequate. Confidence, once you have all the beauty and genius at your disposal, just makes you successful.  You have to put yourself out there. But no C+ student and no ordinary-looking citizen will ever be a genius or sexy by simply dressing up in some confidence.

Simply put, “sexy” means “sexually attractive.”  In all the counseling I’ve done with single people, this is one of the requirements I share with them in finding a spouse. If you are not sexually attracted to someone, it will be difficult to have sex. The first time a wiser, single man told me this line, I was surprised because I was a card-carrying member of the Modesty Lifeguard Patrol.  You mean “godly” people are to make sexual attraction part of the equation? You mean it’s not selfish to “want” a spouse you find sexually attractive?  I had hoped that would be so, privately. But to be so public about wanting sexual attraction was a revelation.

I re-thought my original belief that sexiness was only a private affair. To be sexy is not wrong and to be sexually attracted to someone isn’t wrong either.

Wow.

But the Modesty Lifeguards assume sexual attraction is wrong. There is only one forcefield against all the laser-like glances from the salivating monsters from Lustopolis: covering up.  Men, we have no hope either, because we are told sexual attraction equals lust, rendering us biologically wired and condemned to the dung-heap of endless masturbatory fantasies. (More on men’s lust in the next installment.)

With men on the loose, the Modesty Lifeguards place all their focus on hiding the sexual attraction of all women (not men, just women… after all, the birthplace of the modern modesty police was in a patriarchal culture where women were shamed into submission). I see an inconsistency in the Lifeguards’ criteria. Aside from hiding the “irresistible,” modesty plays another  helpful role: hiding the resistible.

Have you noticed that for many of us, more skin often translates not into more appeal, but into less appeal? In other words, for most, adding clothing adds sexual attraction.  The Modesty Lifeguards miss this one because of assumption number one (ALL women are sex goddesses). I believe “modesty” must involve more than covering-up. Modesty requires we pay attention to clothing that works with body type, activity, and occasion. To make modesty all about sex diminishes the virtue itself.

ReySwim1030_largeHere’s a bathing suit designed by Ms. Rey. Notice, it has sex appeal written all over it (wow!), though it was created to hide sex appeal. The designer even admits that “less is more” in her Q presentation. We should ask, “More what?Logically, this approach bolsters sex appeal more than the bikini Rey seems to be trying to shun! That swimwear does not reduce sex appeal.

Want to see swimwear that does diminishes sex appeal? Successful, sure, but at a cost.  If you remove femaleness from women and maleness from men, you will lose sex appeal. But that doesn’t sound like a biblical approach when God insisted we be male and female, and insisted we make these distinctions in our dress (1 Cor 11).

At least the second link is consistent with the philosophy being taught by the Modesty Lifeguards. But that’s the same philosophy taught by the extreme fundamentalists like Pensacola Christian College who take a gnostic approach to most issues, disregarding the body, beauty, pleasure, desire, art, music, story, and human flourishing. Removing the God-given beauty we each have doesn’t make us more holy, rather it makes us less human.

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were totally revealed.  After Eden, clothing becomes a metaphor of a much larger distrust between all of us. Clothing also helps us, in relationship, from judging by outward appearances alone, which humans are prone to do. Yet to be sexy isn’t the issue. Distrust is the issue.

If covering sex appeal is the driving reason for our modesty, we will always be confused. We’ll keep missing the mark of a healthy theology of clothing. We’ll send a shameful message that our bodies are not valued by God; that our bodies are incapable of revealing what God is like. We’ll begin to believe that our body is a hindrance, rather than a guide, to know God.

You cannot create a theology of something by avoiding it. We have not built a theology of clothing if we list all the clothes to avoid. Modesty talk has, unfortunately, taken the narrow road of negation. Ethics by negation is bad ethics. A theology of clothing must involve a positive description of the meaning of clothing, expressing the variety and creativity of our souls through clothing, as well as a celebration of the variety of body types we’ve been given. This goes for men and women, boys and girls.

If we think covering up is a forcefield of sex appeal, we forget that sex appeal even peaks through a full sheath. Ms. Rey’s swimwear borrows from Aubrey Hepburn’s Hollywood, which was sensual, dare I say “sexy,” in its own right.

Yet aren’t we told by the Modesty Lifeguards that Hollywood should not be our standard for clothing? Or does a fashion cease to be sexy if it’s over 50 years old? Is it only because our sensitivities have changed? Is this how we are to teach our children about robust Christian views… simply outlive the fashion with contempt and then it will become permissible?  

I cry foul. This is relativism at work.

Next: Only Men Lust

Read all six of the Wrong Assumptions:

  1. All women are sex goddesses that every man wants.
  2. Modesty is the opposite of sexy.
  3. Only Men Lust.
  4. Male Lust is the only sin that results from immodesty.
  5. Christians must do all they can to keep themselves and others from lust.
  6. If we do not keep others from sin, we are guilty of their sins too.