How Christian “Modesty Rules” Contribute to Rape Culture

teengrls

Last week I released a short video on social media, which was viewed about 40,000 times. I titled it, “What would Jesus do with booty shorts?” I shared my heart on “clothing policing” girls and women in the Church and in Christian schools. I told my own story concerning the subject, in less than three minutes.

I told the “Christian internet” that when I was 18 years old, I packed my bags and headed to Bible school down south. I was an “on-fire Christian,” who was excited to dedicate my entire life to ministry. In high school, I dressed like a normal teenage girl. Now, “normal” then is a bit different from “normal” now, but you get the point.

The dress code at my Bible school was much stricter than my Christian (minister) parent’s expectations were. I tried to obey the dress code, but it seemed like every other day, my clothing was being policed. One RA came up behind me and said, “You look adorable today, but those pants are a bit too tight, and you need to go home and change.”

This was a mixed message and I felt embarrassed; I thought my pants were fine and within dress code. I would have gotten over it, if I had not been constantly told to go home to change for an entire year! I was not trying to break the rules, but many of the rules were subjective to what residence assistants believed were “modest,” and I could not keep up with the confusing boundaries.

Looking back, I realize how much it harmed my heart to have many peers and “mentors” looking me up and down, examining my body, counting how many curves were showing, counting inches of my skin, and subliminally teaching me that Jesus was more concerned about my clothing than my heart.

That year, I lost a bit of that “fire” I had for Jesus. I was made to feel guilt and shame. I was forced to keep up with other people’s religious convictions and this stole my passion and freedom.

I was simply a teenage girl – a human being trying to discover how to balance my love for Jesus with my love for fashion and my femininity.

After I released that video, I received too many hateful comments to read. Sadly, most of these comments were coming from Christians. They called me all sorts of names, attacked me personally, and then quoted Bible verses to justify their vitriol.

I later posted this:

“I was a youth pastor to BEACH teens who lived in bikinis and short shorts. Did I police their clothing? No, I taught them about Jesus and loved them as they were.

If a young woman would have shown up in something extremely revealing, I would have taken her aside and lovingly addressed it, with extreme sensitivity and without shaming; but I am a female.

Grown men church leaders should never be policing girls’ and women’s clothing or bodies. It’s creepy and none of their business.

This is another reason we need more female pastors and church leaders.”

Many Christian men and women lost their marbles yet again, and began to hurl insults at me, and it became clear that these insults were fiery balls from the pit of hell.

We have a spiritual enemy who has used religion to silence, objectify, limit, and control God’s daughters for far too long. Darkness has an agenda to keep patriarchy going strong in the Christian Church, and has blinded many children of God.

When we disagree on what’s biblical, as Christians, we should challenge one another in love and in Christian charity.

The Written Word of God says that the world will know that we are Christians by our love for one another (John 13:35); but something deeply spiritual happens when women and men begin to buck against patriarchy, that has been bathed in sacred-sounding language, such as “Biblical Manhood,” “Biblical Womanhood,” “Modesty,” and “Biblical Gender Roles.”

Some easily forget or ignore it, but it’s right there in Genesis: Patriarchy (men ruling/taking authority over women) is the result of the fall of humankind (Genesis 3:16), and Jesus came to earth to redeem us from the consequences of the fall. Jesus took on every human “curse” and became the perfect sacrifice to set us free from all that is tied up in human sin and sickness.

But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13).

There are many Christians who are still living under the law, which is what makes them police girls’ and women’s clothing, women becoming pastors, and pretty much everything girls and women do and don’t do. These Christians are not free in Christ; they are stuck and tainted by the sin of patriarchy (and all legalism). They themselves are not redeemed by love, so it is easy for them to speak hate and quote Bible verses in the same sentence.

Policing girls’ and women’s clothing contributes to “rape culture” in the Church and in society. Within “rape culture,” people slowly shift the responsibility from the rapist to the victim. “Rape culture” asks questions like, “Well, what was the victim wearing?” or “Was the victim drunk?” These questions are not relevant. As I wrote on Facebook,

There is nothing a woman can do or not do to “ask to be raped.” I don’t care if she is drunk and running up and down the street butt naked; she is still not asking to be raped. No human “deserves” to be raped!!! #‎StandWithVictims‬ ‪#‎NoMatterWhat‬

The facts, here in the USA, are that one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives; 80% of victims know their rapist (Source). For this reason, I will continue to speak out against overly strict modesty rules in our churches and Christian schools. Modesty is subjective, and is between each woman and God. Jesus does not give girls and women any hard fast dress code and neither does the New Testament.

Any modesty suggestions that are mentioned in the New Testament are cultural and have more to do with “not showing off wealth” than “not showing off skin” (Ex:// 1 Peter 3:3, 1 Timothy 2:9). The Spirit of God will direct each Christian woman in what she will wear and what she will not wear and Spirit-filled women will come along side our girls with grace-filled, shameless guidance.

“Clothing police” and strict dress codes are not necessary and cause much more damage than good. 

For these people, who are still bound by self-righteousness and law, we must speak out. For victims, we must speak out. For the sake of Christianity’s reputation in the world, we must speak out. The message of Christ is freedom:  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:36).

Christian feminism is about releasing girls and women from inequality, captivity, and injustice, found right in our churches. We stand firmly against oppression of any woman or man on the biblical basis of gender, racial, and social equality (Galatians 3:28).

Christians and unbelievers alike will try to silence us by attacking, but we will not be silenced. Their words will sometimes sting the heart and drain our energy, but they will not kill us. Even if they do “kill” our voice for a season, we will rise again. The more they hate on us, the louder our voices will become, because we know by their fearful and hateful reactions, that we are most certainly pushing back the powers of darkness.

***

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90 Comments

  • Ugh, yes! Modesty culture is one of almost wholly unfounded moral superiority that pits the world against women and encourages judging a book by its cover. It’s not about morality- it’s about subjugating women. It has to stop. We have to let go of this archaic notion that women are inherently sinful and their bodies cause men to turn to sin.

    I wrote on this a while back, too, but from a more global/less faith-based perspective if you don’t mind me sharing: http://domesticatingmom.com/lets-talk-modesty/

    • Very well said. The other thing that this kind of culture does is also demean men. It tells men and boys that they are not able to be trusted, that they have no impulse control. I think we focus so much on the girl, we forget the boy is a part of the equation too. What message do we send when we say a girl’s clothes are “too distracting” or that our clothes make it difficult for a man to “control his urges?”

      Our expectations for men in these situations are too low and basically communicate that we do not believe them capable of rational, Christian thought.

  • I think that you make a great point in this article. I went from Christian school back to public school because of being judged so harshly. We had uniforms but because I had nail polish on, or because they thought I was “pretty” I was made to felt like I was doing something morally wrong. There was no joy of the Lord in that place. I do love my church and I still attend faithfully. But there were times where I would minister in song and then hear something about my dress. I do understand modesty and the reason for that that is not what I am saying! But I do think there are maybe some Christians that judge too harshly at times or take it too far.

    • Yes Dina! As Christians, we should not be judging each other on what we wear at all! Church should feel safe. We should have signs on the door that say, “Come as you are, wearing what you have!” 🙂

      • What about Muslim modesty rules or Orthodox Jews modesty rules. Oh wait thats right only Christians are bastards.

        • No one was called that in the blog. The writer called out a behavior. She is speaking from her own experience and as such there is no requirement to discuss things outside of that experience.

    • HAHA, we were always in trouble for our clothes, right?!?! I love that we know how each other feels! Miss you Morgie!!! Xo

  • 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

  • “Policing girls’ and women’s clothing contributes to “rape culture” in the Church and in society. ”

    Well said. Not only that but it tends to encourage women to balk at the excessive control and throw off all caution. I do think we all (men included) need to exercise some concept of modesty. We represent the effect of Christ in the world. The way we behave (with some small inclusions of how we dress) does encourage or discourage people to be willing to look toward God.

    It is terribly sad that a majority of modern churches care more about man made rules and positions of power and authority than they do yielding to God’s Spirit. We should be finding God’s presence in ourselves and the church meetings in order to bring healing and hope to everyone.

    Policing women’s attire is so far off the mark it is incredulously ridiculous.

  • You are absolutely right. Having said that I think you realize that haters are going to hate. I think it’s a waste of your time to engage with the haters just continue changing hearts one heart at a time.

    I’m sorry for the abuse you have taken from “church folks “, sadly they think they are doing a good thing probably as the Pharisees thought they were doing a good thing.

    • Yes, I think many church folks do think they are doing a good thing, like the Pharisees did. True, haters are gonna hate. It’s not easy, but I do try to tune them out. Thanks for the encouragement!

  • only one issue over the entire article. I believe you are solidly right in all except for one point and it is a common misconception caused by a lack of accurate reporting.

    I honestly believe that the 1 in 71 men will be raped is significantly low and underreported and is a lot closer to the women’s figure of 1 in 5 then either men or women want to accept. It may be more subtle and less violent but it is still there.

    • That may be true, but the source I provided for that stat seemed to be a reputable source. Either way, I will continue to research this topic in depth, as I am passionate about it! 🙂

      • I commented elsewhere that 1 in 7 men have been raped. I need to correct myself. 1 in 7 men has been a victim of violence which can but doesn’t necessarily include rape. Regardless, 1 in 71 men and 1 in 4 women being rape victims is much too high.

        That said, 1 in 16 men is a rapist. These are sobering statistics.

  • Thank you for this! There needs to be stronger voices of Christian feminism.

    For me personally, I take issue with the belief that women must be modest.

    Why modest? Why not shining, living out loud, having strong opinions, belly laughing, hip swaying, heart filled with joy, chasing your dreams and taking the lead?
    Why should any woman be judged on what she wears, if it is an expression of her personality?
    I believe a woman’s purity is measured by the size of her heart, her words, her actions, her love rather than what she wears.
    Thank you for opening the discussion <3

    • I love this, Lucy! Modesty is a heart issue, not a clothing issue!

      I love the idea of girls and women running free, chasing their dreams, without worrying too much about “offending” religious people.

  • Your post really hit home for me. I feel like this culture of modesty is strongly policed and enforced in the South. Growing up in a divided household allowed me to see both sides of the fence. For that, I am very greatful. My mother and her family were devout Christians of the Holiness faith – a denomination that focuses on modesty in all aspects of life. The one you hear the most chatter about? Women. Their lack of modesty or the sinful way they dress is a hot topic indeed.

    My father did not attend church and instead strived to be the best person he could be. He was caring, kind, and hard working. Growing up I wondered why he never went to church with my mother – by the time I was a teen I understood. I have not returned to church since the age of 10. I do not believe it is right to judge others. I have a big heart and I love everyone I meet and see all the good they can do for the world. I refuse to be bullied into thinking otherwise. It is wrong. I struggle with my decision to leave church, and hope to begin a journey for myself very soon. It is a shame that a faith can turn its children so far as to fear church. I fear it. I dread the idea of going and being judged again. God is love. I will never lose sight of that.

    • I so know how you feel. “Church people” can really burn a soul out. I am praying that you will find a community that would bring you life! We should leave church feeling rejuvenated, not beat down. Xo

  • Modesty Culture showed up in my life, although mostly from secular sources, when my boobs came in a lot later than most teenage girls. I’ve been wearing ribbed tank tops since I was 14–I’m 29, and I still wear them all summer! No one had a problem with that while I was underdeveloped. Suddenly my clothing was “slutty” because my boobs sprouted unexpectedly when I was just shy of 17. And they kept growing at an alarming rate for a few years, leading to more and more unwanted comments about my body. Trust me, based on how long it took me to even KISS a guy, and how few guys asked me out over the years, I’m pretty sure I didn’t actually cause “my Christian brothers to stumble in their walk.” (Almost direct quote from one Christian friend).

    Last year I wrote a piece on bikinis, which I cross-posted to The Huffington Post. The comments on FB and on HP were roughly divided into three groups.

    1) Men telling me I was lying and making everything up
    2) Women commiserating with me, women sharing their similar experiences
    3) Men and women calling me a harlot who didn’t care about men’s struggles with lust

    If anyone would like to read it: http://bellebrita.com/2015/04/my-bikini-modesty-culture/

    • Oh geesh. It is ridiculous that any man (or woman) believes that they have any say at all in how another human being dresses! 😉

  • Hi Jory, I thank God for your passion and courage. I pray God’s anointing and favor over everything you put your heart to. And as far as the negative push-back you regularly receive, I pray for humility and protection. And that by God’s amazing grace you can see your detractors as God sees them.

    I have an quote in my office; “Leadership is not about having a large following, it often means standing alone- being isolated, and fearful at times.” Keep standing in your true identity – who God says you are … and speaking truth in love …

    anne and i believe in you!
    Hugs from Colorado,
    tim

  • Loved reading this so much! Thank you for this! I went to a church that “policed” every single person’s clothing, male and female alike. The pastor went so far as to pull my boyfriend at the time to the side and tell him that if he can’t dress appropriately for church he shouldn’t have come! Needless to say, that was the last time we set foot in that church. On another Sunday, I wore a dress that stopped at my knees instead of my ankles and I got looked at like I was dressed like a prostitute or something! The dress wasn’t revealing, just “not long enough”. I can’t stand this nonsense of what’s modest and what’s not. Churchgoers these days think they have the right to judge anyone, especially when they come to church. For this reason, I haven’t been to church since I had my son. Yes, I’m a single mom who had him out of wedlock, and I dread what will be said to me about it. I’ve only found one church that was accepting of me and my son, but it’s an hour away from where I live, and I only used to go when I could go with friends because it was the only was I could get there. It’s a shame so many people feel unwelcome in church these days.

    • Oh Carmen, don’t even get me started on this! The local church should be the most inclusive and comfortable place in the world. People should be able to come as they are and feel loved right where they are at. We are all on our Christian journey and we are all at different places. We all struggle with something and no one is perfect! We should feel safe at church! I am praying that you find a church community closer to your home that loves & accepts you just as you are!

  • “The Spirit of God will direct each Christian woman in what she will wear and what she will not wear and Spirit-filled women will come along side our girls with grace-filled, shameless guidance.”

    Respectfully, you do realize that not every woman in the church is guided by the Holy Spirit right? And that there are a significant number of women who think they are Christian but do not have the Holy Spirit residing in their hearts?

    Your presupposition could potentially lead to more chaos in the church instead of order. God is a God of order and not chaos.

      • Brian, whether or not a woman is full of the Holy Spirit, a man should not be telling her what to wear…try putting the shoe on the other foot…do you wish others to tell you when what you are wearing conveys an immoral attitude?…especially when you do not have an immoral attitude and are just wearing what seems normal to you? Can you not imagine that others may just be applying THEIR OWN sinful thoughts to your clothing and perceiving incorrectly that you are immoral…I think of those pants men wear with the long crotches that hang down to their knees…how many men wear these without giving it a thought…bet many just wear them because they grew up with that ‘style’ as weird as it seems to me…☺

        Wouldn’t it be nice if people would just focus on getting to know others without feeling the need to CHANGE them?

    • Respectfully, you do realize that not every man in the church is guided by the Holy Spirit right? And there are a significant number of men who think they are Christian but do not have the Holy Spirit residing I their hearts?

      Your presupposition could potentially lead to more violence against women. God is a God of love and not hatred.

      Not to mock you, but I have encountered many Christians who are not filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not discriminate. I have been abused by Christians alone, but they have been female or male, pastors or non-pastors, and mostly outwardly modest.

      If men are looking over women lustfully, they should be rebuked. If a women is dressed inappropriately they should be rebuked. Neither party should be subject to the harmful belittlement of their peers but rather “gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance” as it says in 2 Timothy. Say it then leave them alone. And to avoid sexual misconduct, or the appearance of sin, a man should never instruct a women whom he is not married to on what to wear.

    • Brian, who are you to judge that “not every woman in the church is guided by the Holy Spirit?”
      Do you have special connections or unique understandings of the ways in which God’s Spirit is moving?

      Your entire comment is built on the condition that YOU know all. You express 0 humility, which makes it tough to trust your opinions.

      • Wow, um. No.

        Of course there are men who do not possess the Holy Spirit in church. This wasn’t about gender…but interesting how you choose to latch on to that. Says a lot about the heart….but I digress. Jory’s post was specifically about women so women were what was mentioned.

        If you believe that there are not men and women in the church who are playing Christian then you are deceived. The abundance of false teachers and preachers in today’s pulpit is all the evidence that one needs to determine if there are persons lacking in the Holy Spirit in the modern church.

        • Regardless whether the Holy Spirit resides in someone (I’m a deconverted Christian, so you can debate about my case all you’d like), it’s still about controlling someone else if you’re dictating what they wear.

          And dictating to other people that they need to follow YOUR definition of modesty is ridiculous. How on earth are women supposed to know the working definition of modesty for every single male who crosses their path?

          That is an unfair burden to place on someone, and it allows men to abdicate their personal responsibility for their thoughts and actions by blaming a woman’s clothing choices for men’s moral failings.

          • “How on earth are women supposed to know the working definition of modesty for every single male who crosses their path?”

            They aren’t. That is generally why there are standards of dress and/or rules of dress that organizations impose. Speaking as a Navy Chief on the backside of many years in the Navy, I can confidently say that correcting people about their dress doesn’t presuppose a sexually immoral base. There have been countless times that both men and women under my charge did not dress to the standard required, and we sent them packing back home to fix themselves. Just because I dared to correct a woman didn’t mean that I somehow wanted to exert some misogynistic tendency. The tone of this conversation hints that if a man corrects a woman that what is really in his heart is lust, and he should be rebuked. That is a broad stroke that attempts to absolve women of any responsibility for adhering to a standard.

  • Thanks for saying this, it’s especially strange having spent time in countries where seeing people with little or no clothes is not a shocker, it’s normal. Also, I know multiple of my friends who were abused when they were wearing full on stained hoodie and baggy sweatpants.

    • Oh yes, rapists are going to rape no matter what a girl or woman is wearing. We must teach boys and young men self control and the value of avoiding a “lustful eye.” This is what Christ focused on, so this is what we should focus on. Girls and women should not held responsible for other people’s lust.

  • Oh yes yes yes! We can be Praying for discernment, Speaking the truth in love. “Let our speech be always seasoned with grace, seasoned with salt….” (Col. 4:6) I want to remember that I am not the Holy Spirit.

    • Amen Martha! Instead of judging people all the time, let’s start praying for people! This seems the most biblical and Christian response. 🙂

    • Ugh, Nicol! It’s worse when sexism is bathed in “sacred sounding” religious language. There is no where in Scripture in which Jesus policed girls & women’s clothing. We must start reading the Bible in proper context and in a way that honors girls and women’s bodies (and does not sexualize them). Lots of love, sis!

  • We are apostolic/Pentecostal. Where (concerning dress), women wear skirts and dresses and have long hair and men wear nice pants or knee length shorts and have short hair.

    It absolutely irritates me beyond measure that you were treated this way. It saddens me to no end. Many people complain about the apostolic church’s position on holiness attire. Many apostolic church’s put all their eggs in the holiness attire basket. Being a Christian doesn’t mean looking a certain way. And you are so right. It is highly inappropriate for a man to approach a young woman about her clothing. Being a Christian is about loving God and loving people. I do believe in holiness standards, but I also believe in loving people and not humiliating them.

    Furthermore, I hate it that so many “Christians” spoke so hatefully to you in the name of “religion”. What on earth do they think gives them the right!?!? “Christians” can often be some of the most hateful people around. 🙁

    Love and blessings to you, Jory!

    • Thank you, Sara.

      I grew up Pentecostal and Assemblies of God. The churches/schools I went to were more a bit more “modern,” but they still had strict standards for girls and women on dress code. I don’t believe in having any dress code for girls and women in a church environment. “Come as you are. Wear what you have” should be the sign on every church’s front door. In time, the Holy Spirit will work on hearts, and most girls and women will simply choose to dress more modest as Christians. But, it should be their choice, and not done out of guilt or forced obligation.

      Lots of love, sister! 🙂

  • I don’t believe this only contributes to a ‘rape culture’ either but also a ‘domestic violence’ culture too. If it’s okay for your pastor to tell you what you can’t and cannot wear and what is and isn’t appropriate, it isn’t much for of a stretch for your husband to do the same. To control you and dictate what you can or cannot do – an emotional form of domestic violence.

    Thank you for taking a stand on something that is quite clearly a controversial topic within your community.

    • I agree. We must come to a place in which girls and women make their own choices for their own lives. If they are Christians, we should encourage them to talk to Jesus about their choices, not mere men.

  • “These Christians are not free in Christ; they are stuck and tainted by the sin of patriarchy (and all legalism). They themselves are not redeemed by love, SO IT IS EASY FOR THEM TO SPEAK HATE AND QUOTE BIBLE VERSES IN THE SAME SENTENCE.” Yes!

    …never ones to ENCOURAGE others in the faith, legalists enjoy talking down to others and putting them in their place, as they see it…driving spiritual innocents from the church because such men are CARNAL not spiritual and therefore can only look at young women as ‘sexual’ beings, no matter how they dress, whether covered head to toe or not. They do not perceive the things of the SPIRIT OF GOD because they are NATURAL men…as the Bible puts it.

    I spent the first 20 years as a Christian all wrapped up like a mummy until I came to my senses…this modesty ruling is imposed by men who have no spiritual understanding. That is why they missed your strong spiritual gift. They live on a fleshly plane, unable to perceive spiritual things, and so they turn the church into a carnal place…having no ability to join in the spiritual nature of churches.

    …you are right…it needs to end. Young SPIRITUAL girls are just that, young, INNOCENT, and free in the Lord…and I for one, despite being an older woman who knows how these men are, living outside the Spiritual realm, determined to impose the Flesh on the Spirit in the church of Christ. They simply cannot see women as spiritual beings. That is why they treat women as Satan does, giving them no liberty. Therefore I defend your right to be free, as long as you are not also living on a carnal level yourselves, and I respect your wisdom, if you are spiritual believers, to decide what that is FOR YOURSELVES under God’s guidance. It is time for more focus to be placed on the need for leaders to be chosen IN THE SPIRIT, and to realize that men who are legalists do not KNOW the Spirit. Such men have no place taking authority over others in the churches and spiritual men and women need to see that they do not permit those of fleshly nature to ‘lord it over others’ as the “princes of the Gentiles do” because Jesus commanded “it shall not be SO among you.” Sadly, it is difficult to find a church where legalism is not lording it over the people and it is difficult to find spiritual people who are willing and strong to protect the church from the carnal types of leadership.

  • As a non-believer I can’t tell you how happy it makes me that there are those within the church that recognize this and are willing to fight against this. Believe me when I tell you that you won’t find much hate from atheists on this, we’ve been fighting for Christian women on this front for some time.

    • Just something I wanted to add. You are very brave for standing up for this. As a non-believer it’s kind of expected that I would criticize the church and call it out where I see it (so I’m used to the backlash.) But to stand up to your own to try to make a change for the better, that is admirable and very brave. I wish you luck.

  • I commend you for your message, not because I happen to agree with you, but because you have substantiated and corroborated your point very well.

    Do not be dismayed or disheartened by those, women as well as men, who despite professing to be indwelt by the Spirit of God have no more understand about that profession than the vile which proceeds of their hearts from which Jesus said come all murder, false testimony, slander and such.

    The penchant for dictating to girls and women what someone has determined is modest has a close cousin. It is the penchant for DOING those right things which falsely ensure some saints not only that they are the right people of God, but they are the only people of God. These things include having a certain specific number of “elements” which identify the assembly of those saints as the right ones. It has been evident for some time that these brothers and sisters, with no thanks to those who lead, teach and preach, have starved and strangled the life of the Holy Spirit in them.

    Life? What life? It became so much easier to dole out rules and a proper inclusion of those right elements in worship.

    There was neither knowledge, understanding nor joy in these words of Jesus: He who believes in Me from his innermost shall flow rivers of living water.

    I just spoke out through an article on the murder in Orlando. I did so because I do not want my silence to be cast along with some saints (and this is quite real) who privately squeal with glee at the murder of homosexuals. I am compelled to so as well concerning the judgment of women and girls, sisters in Christ, for what they wear and never listening to what they say. I understand the use of the term rape culture as just another effort for the world to frame its understanding of the criminal behavior of rape. Like too many such phrases which the saints in Christ are just as quick to adopt and embrace it gives the impression (like the terms trinity, unitarian, etc.) that we have understanding when there is little and sometimes no understanding. It may well be true that modesty rules contribute to rape culture. It may be equally true that the term rape culture, especially by the saints in Christ, contributes to the ignorance and misunderstanding, not just of the particular sin primarily against women and to a lesser extent men, but to the deity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit who dwells the women and girls and men and boys who have been clothed with Christ.

    Peace and blessings to you, Jory.

  • Thank you. I hate that men will tell women that they must dress modestly or else men may “lust for them in their hearts” which Jesus discusses. The words of Jesus are directed to MEN to watch their hearts, not to women. Women are not responsible for men’s hearts, men are. I can’t blame other people for my sins. That is just another form of oppression.

      • Romans 14:13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.

        We have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters, not to be a stumbling block to them. It is not all about you/me.

        • Absolutely. Keep in mind, that this verse is not specifically about women’s clothing. Also the administration is from the Bible to us to consider, not for us to control one another with. Nor does it absolve us from our own sin in the face of stumbling blocks.

    • The stat I provided is correct (1 in 71 men) according to the source I provided. Please see for yourself. God bless. 🙂

  • Keep on preaching! I think we should take an offering! Anyway one thing I noticed years back is that the Evangelical church almost never addresses male modesty. In fact, that’s one thing that stuck out to me about Islamist countries whose modesty rules have the force of law: though more lax, men also have rules for modesty(one rule regulates the length of their shorts); whereas Evangelicals ignore male modesty altogether.

  • Jory,
    Thank you for keeping the “comments” option available! I recently commented on another of your blogs with something like 30 gazillion hearts. (Slight exaggeration.)

    I’m glad you’re addressing (again) this topic. I carefully thought through some corrective remarks that I made while serving as a youth pastor (yearrrrrs ago.) My hope is that I handled it with gentleness, but to be honest, I’m not sure I did. I know that I have grown in grace and wisdom since then, and I know I now handle the hearts of young girls much more tenderly.

    I think you demonstrated exactly what the problem was both in citing your experience and by making the comment, “If a young woman would have shown up in something extremely revealing, I would have taken her aside and lovingly addressed it, with extreme sensitivity and without shaming; but I am a female.”

    Within that wise and kind statement lies the problem. And we simply don’t have an easy answer for it. I’m speaking, of course, of the fact that no matter how wise or tender we are, “extremely revealing” is subjective. (Knowing you were talking about beach culture, I imagined you referred to something like a thong bikini… but I don’t honestly know. Maybe you were talking about a swimsuit that showed most of the breast or her naval.)

    I do know that the challenge is that we’re dealing with the intention of hearts here; both of the person who is wearing the clothes and the person who is observing. And honestly, we’re just not good at knowing the intention of other people’s hearts.

    Jesus– on the other hand– was (and is) great at discerning hearts. He is also great at discerning what the person He is dealing with needs from Him. When He came to Bethany after Lazarus died, He met both Martha and Mary before visiting the grave to resurrect His friend. Each woman, separately, said the exact same thing to Him: “If you had been here, my brother would not have died!” To Martha, His ever-practical favorite, He chose to give her an explanation of correct theology. Then, He chose to take action– “Take me to his grave.”

    So… what is the answer? How can we– in love– choose what to say and not to say? First and foremost, I believe, the answer will have to do with our relationship with the person. In EVERY CASE, we FIRST need to evaluate whether we’re someone who has the authority to speak into another person’s life; either by virtue of an official role (such as pastor or leader) or permission to speak into their lives– such as, we’re a close friend from whom they seek advice. NEXT, we need to know whom we’re dealing with: non-believer, a new believer, a mature believer, a wounded believer. FINALLY, once those two factors are determined, we need to seek the Holy Spirit on what should (and should NOT) be said, how it should be said and when it should be said. Bad idea: “Your shirt is too tight! You’re not protecting the eyes of your brother!” Better idea– spoken in private!:++ “This is awkward to say, but I know your heart and I think you’d want me to mention it. I noticed that from this angle, I can see a little more cleavage than you may have intended. Let me know if I can grab a safety pin or a cami for you.”

    Jory, as a former complementarianist (???)who is now navigating egalitarianism, I so appreciate your point of view and your willingness to share it. Thank you!
    Jenna

    • OOPS!!! I somehow deleted a key phrase from this:
      To Martha, His ever-practical favorite, He chose to give her an explanation of correct theology. Then, WITH TENDER-HEARTED MARY, He chose to take action– “Take me to his grave.”

  • I think I’m confused…so now it’s the Christians’ fault people are getting raped? I guess it might be interesting to poll how many rapist come from conservative Christian homes that police clothing choices or comment on clothing choices. I know the LDS has strict requirements on clothing. Does their religion have a higher percentage of rapist? I’m sorry you were body shamed, I’m not a fan of dress codes, but I have a hard time making the jump from dress codes to rapist without seeing some hard data.

    • Sadly, it doesn’t take much research to find that a great deal of sexual abuse and assault (including child sex abuse) is happening within the institutional church – very often in the very places which talk the loudest about modesty and purity. That is why there are so many blogs these days talking about it. If you are really interested in learning more, here are a few just to get you started:

      watchkeep.blogspot
      snapnetwork.org
      netgrace.org
      recoveringgrace.org
      sgmsurvivors.com

    • She is not calling christians rapists. She is saying conservative christian dress codes contribute to “rape culture” which is a mental state where people shift the blame in their heads from the rapist to the victim. Ex. “She was asking for it dressed like that”

  • Hi Jory,

    I’ve been reading your blog for awhile now. I graduated from a school in Waxahachie a few years ago and was an RA during my senior year. It was difficult to judge what followed the dress code and what did not, and whenever there was question, the dress code was altered to be more specific. There were rules about workout clothes, leisure wear, classroom wear, and what was allowed in chapel. I remember welcoming new freshmen girls into the school, and when we defined the dress code, a new girl in the dorm began to freak out because we had outlawed most of her wardrobe in under 10 minutes. Looking back, I cringe thinking of girls we sent back to change who missed out on morning worship before chapel, or girls who were given fines simply because their tank tops were 1.5 inches wide, instead of 3 inches, which was about the standard for chapel (where in the world can you find 3-inch tanks anyhow? Do they even exist?). I remember whenever our dorm pastor would bring up an update to the dress code (which 99% of the time, only applied to women) in our meetings, and cringing at the amount of nit-pickiness that defined how we were supposed to dress. It also occurred to me that most of the people making these decisions about female modesty were males, except for our one female dorm pastor. I seriously doubt leadership knew how much they were adding to the problem of sexualizing women’s bodies by defining how much shoulder skin was okay to show in chapel, or whether a centimeter or two of fabric would really keep a guy from lusting over a girl’s legs if that was the intention of his mind and heart. I loved my time at school, but it amazes me how we can support and encourage women as fellow heirs and leaders in Christ when it comes to ministry, yet have trouble seeing past her outfit.

    • Hello Olivia. I know exactly what you are talking about. As we get older, we realize how unfair these dress codes are to girls and women.

  • What about Muslim modesty rules or Orthodox Jews modesty rules. Oh wait thats right only Christians are bastards.

    • Modesty rules in Islam exist to give women the choice of what another sees. Think of the punishment Queen Vashti (Book of Esther in the Bible) received for refusing to display her beauty. Men is Islam are required to lower their gaze, not to blame a woman’s appearance for their own actions.
      However, misogyny exists in all cultures. So her points can equally be applied to other religions. I don’t think she was singling out Christians, just sharing from her personal experience.

  • I read this article and I was sad; sad because it’s annoyingly prevalent in my country [Nigeria]. You see women (and girls) turned back at the door of churches because they would “seduce” the men. It’s something I want to speak out against but I don’t know if I have the courage yet. But thank you for being a voice for women.

  • Where we would agree is it should be women who enforce dress codes and other moral issues on ourselves in the public sphere, not a primary role of men. However, this is not justification for female pastors, nor is this a patriarchal problem. In reality, when the west was patriarchal, modesty and other moral issues were enforced by women to women. It would not be chivalrous for a man back then to shame another women in public, but you would have come under the scrutiny of your peers.
    There are codes of dress in the bible and Paul gives us this information. He went further than how much skin was showing, he even told the ladies who had more money to dumb it down for the sake of those who could not afford fancy clothes. Was Paul subjective?
    The gospel is not an abstract feeling devoid of the physical world, this is romaniticism, rather it is embedded in the physical world.
    Part of our physical world is the reality of sin, and we are to be an example to the world how our faith in Christ counters sin. Part of this is the animosity between the sexes, and the gospel teaches us to reduce this animosity into harmony. The curse of the fall between the sexes is a faulty compass between the sexes. Men at times would rule women unfairly, and women would try to take this away for their own.
    We have to cooperate with each other and if that means dressing modestly on our part, then we do it out of faith and love.
    I can declare a right to leave my keys in the ignition of my car at all times and cry to the insurance company that not covering my loss for doing so is contributing to a car theft culture. This would not be owning my part, so i am morally required to bring the keys with me.
    It does matter how a women acts and behaves in public-like running around drunk and nude when it comes to a rape charge.
    In typical crime like a shooting death, the law recognizes that an unnatural death occurred is wrong. They have hard physical evidence of something wrong in itself under the law. They just have to conclude if it was an accident, self defense or a homicide.
    However, rape is much different because people having sex is not evidence of something wrong because it is a normal part of life. Since sex itself is not a crime, it all hinges on consent, and this depends on testimony and evidence that backs up this testimony. Therefore, a women running around drunk and nude will have a hard time proving her lack of consent.
    This is real life. Yet, even in cases where a woman has used the legal system as a tool of revenge against a man and is guilty of purgery. She is not charged for her actions.

  • I was very saddened reading this article. In no way should people judge others for what they wear, but the Bible has much to say about Biblical modesty and women adorning themselves with modest apparel. I dress modestly because I have a conviction from scripture, and I do not force my views on others. But when I have the freedom to teach on dress, the Bible is clear about women dressing to please God first and it was also a reflection of their husbands. I would dare say biblical modesty doesn’t promote rape culture, it’s the rapists. And Jori, I would love to see where in the Bible you get your basis for being a preacher? As genuine as your love for God is, you have no right to hold the office of a bishop.

  • Thanks for this. Although I cannot speak for all guys, I do know that the guys I associate with will agree that we all have a lot to learn. My friends and I are always sad and frustrated at our history of misguided patriarchy, abuse of power, and terrible objectification. It is always good to hear these kinds of stories and thoughts so we can continue to learn and grow. Our wives and female friends and colleagues guide us through the myriad of confusion on these subjects. I think our job is to listen, learn, support and act on what we learn as best we can, although we continue to make 1000’s of mistakes. Just so you know, some of us men are hearing all of your (women who are telling their stories) messages and trying to support you, learn from you, and grow with you into the future.

  • I think you are missing an important aspect of modesty. This was the theme of the movie “GI Jane”: It isn’t that women are weak, men are. Even in my 60’s I am immersed in all manner of visual allure that I find irritatingly distracting. I behave myself, am well trained in keeping my eyes where they belong, and would never dream of criticizing what another person wears. Yet, despite my best efforts, it remains a struggle and the feminists both in and out of the church feel free to say it’s my problem and just keep my mouth shut. I do that but I cannot feel free to have a conversation when there are issues that are “third rails”. Like so many other struggling men, I no longer feel at all comfortable or welcome around Christian feminists. I suppose there will be cheers but, not to worry, we don’t live forever.

    • I think you raise a point that people need to be more aware of. It’s not just men who need to be respectful, but both men AND women need to understand what affect their actions and dress has on the opposite gender. We all need to be mindful of how we’re affecting the other gender, and what kind of culture we’re trying to create. Why should I expect to dress and act how I want (as a woman), but then hold you (a man) to a higher standard of self-control/restraint, and expect you not to look at me or say anything? I don’t understand how women can expose their skin or dress provocatively and then get upset when someone from the other gender reacts to it… we all have a responsibility to our community to make it one in which people are viewed first and foremost in terms of their actions before God, rather than their sexuality.

  • I am a female pastor and a mother of 3 teenagers, 2 girls and a boy. I teach my children that God created them wonderful and beautiful and that their gender and/or physical appearance should never limit them from becoming who God created them to be. However, I also teach them (my son and my daughters) to be modest in their dress – not out of shame at all, but out of respect for themselves. I fear that too often girls (and boys too) are taught by our culture that they have to dress ‘sexy’ to be beautiful and that is simply not true. Modesty doesn’t have to mean baggy clothes or long skirts, but beautiful doesn’t mean ‘letting it all show’ either. To me dressing in a way that accents ones physical sexuality takes away from seeing the true beauty. I don’t disagree with what you said – and shaming or rejecting people based on some obscure standard is wrong. But teaching kids/teens to respect themselves in their dress is a God honoring, as well as self honoring, thing to do.

  • Hello, your post was quite elegantly written and very thought provoking. I have a question for you. What would your response be to women who choose to cover up and practice modesty as a way of getting closer to God? For me personally, I feel that women are so pressured to expose more and more of themselves in this society, that any woman who DOES want to cover up and not expose her skin is often given strange looks, ostracized, and ridiculed. Women put a lot of pressure on other women by setting cultural norms and ideals of beauty that involve showing more and more skin. By doing this–showing more and more–aren’t we creating a culture in which we are sexualizing ourselves and conditioning men to look at us in a sexual manner?? Just a though…

    • Anna, I believe that women are smart enough to decide what they will wear on their own. If that is very conservative clothing or more sexy clothing, that is their choice. The key word is “choice.” Women are adults, and should be able to wear whatever they want. Each Christian woman can talk to God and decide for herself what is appropriate for her. It is between her and God alone.

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