14 users responded " How religious conservatives want their daughters to dress "

"How religious conservatives want their daughters to dress" was posted by and 14 users commented
Bob said,         
May 6 2010

“I read an interesting book, A Chicken’s Guide to Talking Turkey With Your Kids About Sex, not realizing that it had a Christian slant.”

Well, being Christian is not necessarily a bad thing.

It’s been a bit of a fad for the past few years in Catholic circles to talk about, and take courses on Pope John-Paul II’s “Theology of the Body.” If there is anything I’m convinced of, it is that the Catholic Church is dead on in her anthropology. It may be irritating for atheists to study a theology about anything, so I doubt the recommendation would be picked up, but here is it for anyone who has the curiosity.

“In any case, what did the Xian authors want, exactly? Modesty for the sake of modesty, or modesty for the sake of attracting boys?”

Perhaps both. This might be clear later.

“I’d like to know what my male readers think with regards to modest vs. skimpy clothing.”

Well, I’ve gone through this often enough to pick up a pattern in these sorts of discussions. No matter how sane the discussion starts out, there are only two types of dress code: the string bikini or the head to toe burka. There is absolutely nothing in between. Well, hopefully, I’ve staked out that impossibly slim moderate position between the two extreme positions. 😛

You’re right, Sarah. There is some female clothing which seems to be designed to get men to think of the woman (wearing said clothing) as a sex object. Sure, the woman’s body is beautiful and good. But it’s crazy not to recognize that men are visually oriented, and that men are tempted to view women as sex objects.

There’s an awful lot of reductionism about. One of the worst is one which reduces all relationships to merely sexual ones, especially male/female relationships. But I can attest to the joy felt by engaging in a person-to-person relationship with a woman without the distraction of thinking of her as a sexual object (I would hope that others have found this out too; it should not be a unique experience). There is a beauty attached to modesty, that unfortunately a lot of guys miss out on.

That’s all just a fancy way of saying, that I prefer to see a woman in a modest dress. Not just for my sake, but for her sake too (assuming that she wants a guy interested in her as a person).

Harvey said,         
May 7 2010

As a man (and an old one, at that) who has had a mother, a sister, a daughter, two wives, three mothers-in-law, and two grand daughters, I can tell you that it is entirely possible for men to have a non-sexual relationship with women. However, when that relationship is with a non-relative, age appropriate and least bit attractive female, it has turned out to be extremely difficult not to allow our inbred drive to breed with any or all available females to rear its ugly, but biologically/species survival valuable head.
Please note that all cultural/religious warnings against “immodest” dress are aimed at keeping our biological drives in check. This is, in a broader sense, due to the general cultural view that it is a bad idea to interbreed with relatives or to “force” our attentions on unwilling or otherwise inappropriate females. None of these “forbidden” acts is related to biologically negative outcomes (with the possible exception of close realtives). If our biological drive tells us that it is in the best interests of the survival of our species to produce as many offspring as possible, it is only cultural/religious (which in most cases are the same) ideas that we are “more than just animals” which constrain us from acting on those drives. Thus, it seems to me, that young women respond to their own innate drives when choosing to dress (or not) in ways which our present culture(s) tell them will bring them to the (prurient) attention of young males. If these same young women, for personal religious/cultural/ career oriented reasons wish to present themselves to the world at large in ways that will express their intellect, capabilities, and/or lack of interest in potential opportunities for reproduction any time soon, they can certainly choose to dress accordingly. I sincerely doubt that most young men (and old ones, for that matter) find “modest” dress overly attractive, so much as a message about the “availability” of the female in question. That said, I generally appreciate the situation appropriate dress of my female colleagues in the workplace (in my case hospitals, as I am a physician), if only so that they do not constitute yet another distraction from the work at hand.

Sarah said,         
May 7 2010

@Bob: First, I’ve studied quite a bit of theology. I also went to Hebrew school for 4 years, 3 days a week, 2 1/2 hrs a day. Did you do that? Maybe you went to Catholic school, which is even more of a time hog, but the point is, I know whereof I speak before I criticize.
Just for the record, I didn’t want to go to Hebrew school. It was forced on me. Just one of the niceties of religion.
Do I think being Xian is necessarily a bad thing? No… but I do see it as a red flag. I know some cool, enlightened Xians, but I suspect those are in the minority, at least in the U.S.
I’m surmising that you’re a practicing Catholic, so that adds interest to this discussion for me. It’s enlightening for me to know that you think it’s more attractive for women to dress modestly.
I agree with you one hundred percent about non-sexual friendships between men and women. Throughout my life, most of my friends have been male.

@Harvey– how did you have 2 wives and three monthers-in-law? (Scratches head)
Not being a man, I can’t say for certain, but there must be (heterosexual) men out there who have had friendships with women who are at least a little attractive with no chemistry between them. I mean, I hope. It seems unlikely that all heterosexual men would be attracted to any female non-relative who’s even a little attractive. I know I’m not a supermodel, and I’m setting myself up to be scoffed at, but there were lots of heterosexual, non-relative men who weren’t the least bit interested in me, to my dismay. Despite the fact that my dad said I was the prettiest girl in school!
Again, I’m not a man, but it would dishearten me to think that the stereotype that all men want sex all the time is true. Actually, previous relationships of mine have proved that, so there.
Still, though: do women/girls dress skimpily to attract men, when in fact modesty in dress would attract them more? Anymore, why would the book’s authors claim that, on one hand, girls shouldn’t really try to attract guys, and on the other hand, advocate modesty in dress for the very purpose of being more attractive to guys?
Like I said, if the latter was true, you think someone would’ve told Madison Avenue.
I could go on about how the world would be a very different place if men were more interested in women’s minds than their bodies, or what the world would look like if men really *were* committed to conceiving as many babies as possible (do you see men lining up at sperm banks?). That’s all stuff for another day, another tangent.
PS Do the women you work with wear scrubs, as opposed to non-uniform sexy clothes? Female doctors aside, nurses don’t seem to wear sexy uniforms anymore, probably because they didn’t want to be seen as sex objects.

Bob said,         
May 7 2010

Hey Sarah,

I’ve taken a few college level theology courses in addition to the theology I grabbed along the way as I came back into the Catholic Church. I enjoy theology, but it’s not my primary interest (philosophy is tops).

I’m guessing that we would disagree about which Christians are enlightened, but we’d probably find agreement on some Christians and their standards. The difference between the good and the bad will usually be a reflection of their particular theology.


Harvey said,         
May 8 2010

One of my original mothers-in-law died rather young and my father-in-law remarried.
My point is really that most of the apparent dichotomy between urging “modest” vs “attracting sexual interest” types of dress results from the fact that human cultural evolution is still a work in progress. Undoubtedly, modern western raised people should be intellectually able to appreciate a person’s capabilities or intellect without any gender or sexual context, but, of course, many(most?) of us either cannot or don’t often choose to do so. Much as we would like to think otherwise, we remain animals whose innate drives urge us to pay attention to species survival/sex. Although it is probably true that not every non-relative, age appropriate male you have ever interacted with was in constant rut in your direction, rest assured that all of them were, at least from time to time. Yes, many of the women I work with are dressed in scrubs, surgical gowns, nusing pants suits, etc., none of which are specifically intended to arouse prurient interest, but it continues to be difficult (even at my considerably advanced age) to constantly ignore the fact that they are female and, like it or not, at least potential sexual objects. I think it is fair to say that most men, most of the time, maintain their objectivity in interaction with some of their female colleagues only because of societal pressures to do so.

Chris said,         
May 13 2010

We’re drifting away from the subject implied by the title–how you’d want your daughter to dress. While I’m not a dad myself, I have to comment, being a guy.

What CAN you tell your daughter? They basically follow the leader (you) up to a certain age, and then come to their own decisions in their teen years, choosing whether or not to take your advice. After age 13 or so, I think a kid downgrades a parent from the role of dress code enforcer to the role of part-time fashion consultant.

I personally find attractive what the folks on Madison Avenue (and pretty much everyone else) have already figured out a long time ago. Skimpy clothing may highlight attractiveness that is already there–it doesn’t do much for a 500-pounder.

A dope who writes about modesty being attractive is simply LYING, and he or she knows it. It wouldn’t have been the first time a Christian author did so.

Sarah said,         
May 13 2010

Hi Chris,
Just another shallow man who ogles scantily clad women, eh? (Just kidding.)
Not being a parent myself, I don’t know how much power a parent has over a child’s apparel after a certain age. I bet many parents simply abandon hope on that.

Bob said,         
May 13 2010

RE: “A dope who writes about modesty being attractive is simply LYING, and he or she knows it. It wouldn’t have been the first time a Christian author did so.”

Ah! Well, that settles it then.

Mike said,         
May 15 2010

Sarah, I would personally rather drink poison than fit my daughter for a bra. My wife does all of her clothing. Not because of a sexist thing, but because I really don’t know what a 16y/o girl would want. I used to joke that if she didn’t pick out an outfit to wear quickly, I would and she would not appreciate it (due to the lack of coordinating colors, styles, etc.) In addition, most girls are very embarrassed by the thought of an adult male (even their father) having knowledge about their undergarments.

By the time a child is an adolescent, they pretty much have made their mind up as to how they want to portray themselves. I’ve never tried to force my daughters to wear anything specific, other than the most basic requirement of the situation. e.g. you can’t wear shorts and a T-shirt to someone else’s wedding. And that they act appropriately for the situation, too. Again, you don’t drink and get rowdy at someone else’s wedding, unless of course they are.

One quick side story, I worked as an elementary school substitute teacher for about 4 years. I went with my wife and daughter to a clothing store in the mall and one of my students saw me. I smiled and said “hi” and she turned 14 different colors of red and ran away. She was around 9 or 10. I asked my wife why she ran away and said that the child was embarrassed just because I was there.

Life is what it is. Most religions try (and fail miserably) to tell people how to act, dress, and think.

Sarah said,         
May 16 2010

Hi Mike, it’s nice that you’re such a considerate Dad. I wasn’t referring to any dad’s taste in bras or other girls’ clothes, really just the humiliation and awkwardness of a dad measuring his pubescent daughter for a bra. Why not give me a breast exam while you’re at it? I’m totally grossed out.
I wouldn’t have wanted my mother to do this, either, but to a lesser degree.
And did you get the gist that both my parents are embarrassing and annoying?
From what I’ve heard, even very religious Xian girls (see Kevin Roose’s book, Unlikely Disciple, for a description of Liberty University) wear skimpy clothes because they are fashionable.

Karen said,         
June 13 2010

Sarah: I’m with you concerning the bra thing. Pass the poison…:-)

As for Madison Ave., I have known girls and women who would wear anything as long as it’s in style. As a teenager, I wore modest clothing for two reasons: First, I was a modest girl. Second: If that didn’t stop me, my father sure enough would. I was also a jeans and t-shirt girl.

On that note, I witnessed first hand that boys looked at the more skimpily dressed girls than they did me. I also found out, as an adult, that the majority of men would rather marry a modest dressing woman and mess around with a woman who dresses slutty.

Double standard? Of course.

Sarah said,         
June 15 2010

@Karen- sounds like the ol’ Madonna-whore complex. It’s hard to be a woman– it seems we just can’t win!

Paul said,         
August 31 2010

This whole article really caught my attention. I’m a 38 year old male with a 5 year old daughter. I have been wondering what is going to happen as my daughter gets older and how she will dress, etc.

I want to give my .02 on a few of the thoughts.

I guess I can’t really speak for “all men” as I have been told over and over that I’m not a “typical male”. But I do know I definitely have the “typical male” thoughts… a lot. And at 38 I thought they’d be decreasing. Quite the contrary.

And as a male with those thoughts, it might go without saying that it is very hard to not look at women dressed in skimpy clothing. Even tight clothes that are NOT really “slutty”, it’s hard to avoid looking at those womenly shapes… HOWEVER being married and in love with my wife means that I am just looking and admiring what I find beautiful… and maybe between me, myself and my brain might be enjoying some sort of mild fantasy.

But I have often thought “what if I were single?” The reality for me is, that I would not necessarily be pursuing the women in the “slutty” clothes, most of the time.

I have been a musician playing in bands since I was a teenager. I have made it my living several times in my life and I am still in an original band with guys half my age. – I’ve had my share of wild times and I guess I find it more interesting to “get to know” the “t-shirt & jeans” girls. They always seem to be more beautiful and attractive women in the end.

Mind you, I am really focussed on personality in general, so the chemistry has to be there (and if it was with a girl dressed slutty than so be it), but I actually do find it more interesting when there is a bit of mystery. That is not to say that I want the burka conservative clothing or anything… but there is a middle ground.

When I see a girl dressed slutty, I do jump to the conclusion that she a) either wants a lot of attention; b) wants some action, or is slutty; c) wants to tease boys and/or start some trouble.

One last thought… I can’t see any good reason for a dad to measure his daughter’s chest for bra size… that just sounds creepy.

Sarah said,         
September 1 2010

Hi Paul,
It’s nice to hear from a dad with a young daughter. Alls I’m saying is that pre-teen girls nowadays seem under a lot of pressure to dress “sexy” in a way that didn’t exist when I was a kid. I think it cheapens sex and is bad for girls in the long run. Making kids sex objects, even if unintentionally because “that’s what all the kids wear,” is just gross and unhealthy.
I don’t like to use the word “slutty,” but for lack of a better word, there it is.
I’m not saying that as a married man I condemn you for looking at women. You’re only human, and as long as you don’t act on it, I lose no respect for you. I often comment to my fiance if I find a man attractive since I know he’s not the jealous type. Especially if I’m talking about a celebrity, who isn’t a threat since I’ll never meet Robert Sean Leonard anyway. (Oh, he’s a dish. I’d like to lick his face.)
So ultimately, women who don’t dress like “sluts” make better partners and are more attractive? That’s good to know. Women and girls feel under a lot of pressure to dress like pop stars. I could write a whole article on the cruelty of high heels:)
This is all my way of saying that I don’t condemn men as shallow or “pigs” for admiring women’s bodies, but I admire you for looking for personality and brains in a partner. I suspect not all men are as enlightened or intelligent as you. Maybe someday, I hope.
Thanks for understanding the bra measuring item.

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