Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Flirting, Dating, Modesty, and Sexual Assault

A flurry of interesting conversations on modesty have made the rounds recently. There seems to be an attitude that if you dress provocatively, you invite sexual advances. There is a counterargument that the way we teach women to dress modestly FOR THE PURPOSE of dissuading men to approach them inappropriately teaches women that they are on some level objects for the taking.

I'm think there is merit to both sides. Because on the one hand, it is true. If you dress in a way that, compared with the culture around you, is immodest, you will be the focus of more sexual advances. It is just as true that those men who take a woman's appearance as an open invitation are complete and utter cads.

I am a woman who has lived with a kernel of fear most of her life. NOT that I'd be raped (though that is part of it) but that I'd lead a man on, inadvertently "invite" him to take advantage of me in ANY way by the way I dress, talk, or act. No woman is completely safe from men. I believe that. I also believe that not all men are the source of danger, though I don't really know how to tell the difference.

This makes it very hard to flirt, to show I'm interested in a guy.

Which, ironically, makes me a prime target for the sort of man who has always been attracted to me: the sort that is looking for prey, not an equal partner. Because from his perspective, HE is intrigued by the hoops he has to jump through to get me. HE is willing to do whatever it takes to get his mark, even slog through my reticence. (For those of you who have seen Bachelorette, Bentley is a common type of this sort of man.)

I think that the best way to deal with both the realities and the ideal is to stop telling women to dress to help control men's thoughts, and teach them to dress modestly because in the minds of (at best) immature men, they are seen on at least one level as objects and they should want to do everything they can to command respect.

I understand that, our mortal state being what it is, otherwise righteous men might have an errant thought at times because they are attracted to a woman. But this happens regardless of dress, to my understanding. It could be anything, a flash of throat, a toss of hair, even the scent of shampoo.

So rather than telling women to stop doing what triggers those thoughts (because that would be impossible anyways,) start telling men AND women that HAVING those thoughts is natural, not evil. However, natural doesn't mean good. As mature adults, they have the ability to develop complete control over whether or not they'll turn the passing thought into action. They most certainly have the ability to control how they see the woman who excites their hormonal interest.

Just because you men have the thoughts, doesn't mean we women did anything to encourage it. And just because you men are attracted to us, doesn't mean we are attracted to you. And even if we are attracted to you, that doesn't mean you have a right to us and our bodies, EVEN IF WE ARE MARRIED TO YOU.


  1. Modesty is just a good principle on both sides. It invites not only others around you to respect appropriately, but also informs your own sense of self respect, changing in many ways your perceptions and also actions regarding self. Whatever scuzzy men are out there, and however they choose to see the precious daughters of our Heavenly Father, our passage through the world should be the same, modest.

    And yes, drifting in dress toward the immodest does make it more difficult for a lot of us guys to keep our perceptions along appropriate lines. So its especially okay to help a fella out. Modesty is grrreeeeeaaaaaat!!!

  2. I agree with this excellent post but the last phrase deserves a lot of attention certainly this is a woman's right but that creates a major dilemma for men. Non-Mormon men are in a better position to solve this by having their unmet sexual needs filled outside of marriage this double standard has successfully stood the test of time throughout the world. It is is a reasonable way to address the imbalance as are masturbation and pornography. Non-Mormons often discuss sexual needs before marriage but Mormons are supposed to be virgins or in practice at lease of low sexual experience preventing them from negotiating in good faith and coming to an informed agreement. Mormons who were previously married typically are not in a very good position to make an informed decision either because they lack experience with a variety of people to know how their interest and drive varies with different partners. So as a Mormon man my only choice is to not marry you if you are unwilling to negotiate a reasonable service agreement but even if you do I reasonably fear you will not be willing or able to fulfill it as time goes on. So what do we do about Mormon men if their wives are unwilling to tend to their needs how will they stay together as eternal partners and what will the quality of that partnership be? Having lived both inside and outside of the church I can tell you that outside is much easier in this respect.

  3. Howard, I have to say not only do I completely disagree with you, but that "unmet sexual needs" myth is what makes men worthless as marriage partners.

    If you have unmet sexual drive (NOT needs) than learn to control it. Women have unmet sexual drives, often their entire lives, PLUS they have to deal with hormone fluctuations throughout periods, pregnancy, and childbirth without using that as an excuse to be a royal B to everyone around them.

    You'll pardon me if I'm not sympathetic with men's "unmet sexual needs". Time to man up and own your own body rather than making it someone else's responsibility. And I don't think masturbation or extramarital affairs is controlling it: that's just indulging it.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. Um yeah, I'm not sympathetic to men's "unmet sexual needs" either, unless it's a two way street that is TOTALLY equal when it comes to the sexual needs of their partner.

    BTW, Sex drives are all different, and I'm not convinced that the typical belief that men want sex and women don't (or don't as often) is even true. So while you might be worried that the woman you marry needs to agree to service your sexual parts regularly enough for you, you might consider turning that finger around.

    Focus on meeting your future wife's unmet sexual needs. Female sexuality is complicated. Help her out with it. If you make her happy, I guarantee you will both benefit from it.

  6. Yes K I agree that some women have a greater drive than many men I've been in that situation including the service agreement I'm not arguing that service agreements work I'm simply calling attention to the problem through the use of hyperbole. Of course we should focus on each other's needs and desires how else can we achieve intimacy?

  7. Howard, I removed a comment you made because I can't do selective editing. I'm fairly open, but there are certain things I don't want posted on this blog. Your edited comment is:

    "SilverRain you are jumping to conclusions . . . I choose not to live in a marriage with little sex and I have the right to that choice the God given agency to make that choice just as women have a choice to not marry me."

  8. I love how so many men focus so much on what they get out of marriage, they don't think for one moment about what it means to be a good husband.

    If marriage is a sex contract, how is that any different from legalized prostitution? No self-respecting woman would agree to that.

    This viewpoint is the exact wrong way to look at marriage. No wonder I have such little hope for ever finding a man worth marrying.

    And I find most men who pretend to "focus on each other's needs and desires" are really just telling their wives what the wives should like. Most women give up and resign themselves to male-centric sex. And then we wonder why some women don't like it! I have a pretty high hormone level, and yet my (limited) experience has not been pleasant. I'm sure many women have the same conundrum.

    You're right Howard, you're probably better with yourself than with a woman. At least you can make yourself do what you want.

  9. SilverRain I'm not arguing for male-centric sex I am pointing out that psychologically healthy adult adult relationships ARE conditional accruing choices to both parties and it is to their benefit to work them out. As I stated we should focus on each others needs and desires how else can we achieve intimacy?

    Your edit and reordering diminishes my position and creditability in this thread would mind characterizing them instead? Your last sentence seems snarky and dismissive are you taking my comments personally? I hope not because I'm a fan.

  10. No, Howard, I generally enjoy your comments. I think you genuinely don't realize what your word choice means. Even phrasing sex drive as a "sexual need" pressures a woman into being an object for your gratification.

    I did not intend to edit your comment in a way that diminishes your position, but just to edit out the TMI without putting words in your mouth. If you can rephrase the portion of your point that you feel I left out without getting too explicit, please do so.

  11. SR don't we all "need" affection? Literally the answer is no but that is common usage. I will happily substitute sex drive for sexual need however it doesn't change my earlier points. Did this language pressure you into being objectified? Obviously not you exercised your choice to reject that unintended implication and this is a healthy thing to do. It is what women need to learn to do because like it or not it will take longer to change the litany of men and it brings autonomy and self esteem to women.

    Regarding my edited comment perhaps you would accept "SilverRain you are jumping to conclusions I spent many years training my body in that regard as a result I not only own it but I control it. I choose not to live in a marriage with little sex and I have the right to that choice the God given agency to make that choice just as women have a choice to not marry me." in place of the edited comment and put it back in the original position. Feel free to delete this paragraph after doing so.

  12. SR please do not address me in the Exponent thread because I cannot respond there and it leaves me misrepresented without defense. I didn't say that "a woman has an obligation to provide sex for her husband" that is either a straw man argument or a redefinition or reading into what I said and you should know it by my comments here. If you doubt it quote me in that regard. I am sorry for your painful experience but I didn't cause it nor do I condone coercion I realize that you have been traumatized by your experience but please try to read my comments without reading into them.

  13. Howard, I can't do the edits the way you ask, Blogger doesn't allow it. It is one big flaw with this blogging platform. I would if I could. I do like that rephrasing better.

    I would have you know that the therapists I went to had to work VERY hard to get me to understand that what I had been living was sexual coercion and marital rape. It wasn't until I divorced that I was able to distance myself enough from my ex's expectations that I was able to accept the reality of what I had lived through.

    "Choice" has very little meaning for someone with Stockholm Syndrome or anything like it.

  14. I am also copying the comment I made there to this thread, so others can know what I said.

    Howard, how can you not see that saying that a woman has an obligation to provide sex for her husband is the same thing as agreeing with intramarital sexual coercion . . . ie. marital rape?

    You are not being consistent, which leads me to believe that you honestly don’t understand what you are saying.

    When a person (in this case, a man, but I believe women do it too in a different way) views marriage as containing obligations, especially sexual obligations which come with immense emotional impact, he is saying that a wife owes sex. A wife who buys into that (as I did) will submit to at best uncomfortable sexual encounters and at worst encounters which are degrading, humiliating, and excruciating, because she believes it is her wifely duty.

    I am going to explain something even though it is embarrassing TMI and personal for me, because I want you (and others who read) to understand if you can.

    Until I had my first daughter (two years into the marriage) I had only two sexual encounters that were not excruciating. At first I tried to be up front and honest with him, but he would act so hurt and rejected, I didn’t know what else to do but to fake it. I remember biting the inside of my mouth so hard it bled, all the while making the sounds and doing the things he wanted me to. He liked the illusion that he was taking care of my needs, when in reality it was for him because any time I tried to express what I actually liked, he ignored me and went for what he thought I should like.

    Because I felt that I owed sex to my husband in order to be a good wife, we had it on average once per week (though he made it perfectly clear he wanted more, and I was cruel to deny him. He would research on the internet how often we should be doing it and how long it should take.) Even after I healed from birthing, when there was pain only rarely, I felt obligated to submit to some of his desires which were highly uncomfortable and embarrassing, despite having told him I didn’t want to do them anymore. I went from being an unmarried woman who had a VERY hard time controlling her sexual urges to being afraid every time he made a comment. I was even nervous to do daily tasks like picking things up off the floor, reaching up to dust, or exercising in front of him because it would spark his interest.

    I even have one later email when, after he told me he was leaving me, he complained when I began to wear t-shirts and pajama pants to bed because it didn’t fulfill his need for “emotional” connection.

    That is why I take what you say personally, and completely reject the premise that a wife OWES sex to her husband. If her husband is not willing to be considerate of his wife, to be the kind of person to whom his wife can be naturally attracted, then tough for him.

  15. "Choice" has very little meaning for someone with Stockholm Syndrome or anything like it. Excellent point SR I completely agree.

  16. This is the best post I've read on Modesty in the 'naccle as of late. We should be teaching modesty for both men and women as a sign of respect for themselves. Saying that women should dress as to not entice men is simultaneously giving them power over men sexually (therefore they are not responsible for their own sexual choices) and stripping women of any power over their own bodies.


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