Thursday, April 20, 2006


The Happy Feminist has a post today considering what responsibility women bear for men's lust, particularly as it affects the way they dress.* This is a topic I've gone over and over in my mind without ever coming to a satisfactory conclusion, and I'd be interested to hear what y'all think about the issue. (I surmise that Happy Feminist and I have some overlap in reader demographic, but some major distinctions there too.) So go, read what she has to say and check out the comments thread, and let me know how you might reconcile feminism and Christianity on this one.

*I'm very aware that women lust after other women, too, and that some of the problems of dress carry across gender boundaries, but I'm not quite ready to broaden the conversation just that far at this moment. Right now, I'm interested in the M-F interaction - which is at least somewhat pertinent no matter what one's sexuality, I think.


The young fogey said...

As a member of a sexual minority - a straight 'spike' - and simply as a person I think the harm principle of libertarianism works here. (Not surprising really.) One is free but one's freedom ends where another's harm begins. I'm no prude - beautiful women are a gift from God and I think the 1800s-re-enactor-like modesty movement is as soul-killing and stupid as forcing burqas on people - but as a Catholic I also believe in avoiding and not being an occasion of sin (not that I am for anybody - I've seen a mirror, LOL) and in custody of the eyes. Most of the onus is on the person having the thoughts (custody...) but the person so dressed has some responsibility as well.

The young fogey said...

P.S. I know you know this, but sexual desire isn't a sin. Lust - wanting to misuse that desire to do wrong - is.

Anyway, of course from a generally Christian POV one should mention scripture: St Paul in Romans 14 telling one not to cause scandal by one's actions, causing the weaker brethren to sin. Another example, one with a lot of clout, of 'my freedom ends where your harm begins'. Or all is lawful for us as Christians but not everything is good for us or those around us.

Tripp said...

But who are we not to be tempted? That is the question I wrestle with. Even Christ was tempted. Temptation is part of life. Temptation happens.

So, if your temptation does not cause lust but insteadt causes anger or some other harmful emotion, keep plugging away at the log in your own eye.

And, if I understand it appropriately, the scandal that Paul is speaking of actually has more to do with one's weakier brothers and sisters in Christ not being able to understand eating meat from the sacraficial altars. What was taboo is no longer...unless you aren't ready for that.

So, the fashion equivalent would then be something like "Don't dress in an exciting way. There is nothing wrong with it. I am just not ready to handle it."

Or something like that.

The young fogey said...

Of course you're right, Tripp, that one must avoid all near occasions of sin (if something makes you too angry, etc., don't watch it!), but...

I thought of this recently when discussing the apparent double standard often brought up by liberals that in the States, for example, cinematic and television violence is accepted by culture-wars conservatives but sex often isn't.

Most people - and I'll say most men because we're visually orientated in our arousal and response - are far more likely to act out if tempted by sexual stimuli (or well-done depictions of sex on the screen) than violence.

So, the fashion equivalent would then be something like "Don't dress in an exciting way. There is nothing wrong with it. I am just not ready to handle it."

I think at least in some cases that's true! And a Christian woman should consider that.

Which is why a teacher, for example, wouldn't dress for her classes, lectures or tutorials the same way as for a hot date!

Tripp said...

Okay. Let's run with this idea...I think it might be interesting.

What do yo think, Beth?

One trouble is subjectivity and dress. I know that my wife is hot in a long skirt. Yep, modesty is sexy. Oh, now what.

This is the thing about our comparison. Meat is either from the altar or it is not. You eat it or you don't. Dress is subjective...or at least moreso than meat.