Browsing Tag

modesty culture

Feminism

learning the words: consent

hilary in pantsuit
[trigger warning for rape, sexual assault, and victim blaming]

 “Learning the Words” is a series on the words many of us didn’t have in fundamentalism or overly conservative evangelicalism– and how we got them back. If you would like to be a part of this series, you can find my contact information at the top.

I uploaded the above picture to my facebook this time last year. I’d spotted it, I don’t remember where, thought it was one of the funniest things I’d read on the internet and decided I’d share it with my friends– many who were just going through detox from our IFB college (a place where all women were required to wear skirts).

The comments exploded. In a matter of what felt like minutes, there were huge debates raging between maybe six different sets of friends. I hadn’t exactly expected that.

What I especially didn’t expect was for almost all of my friends who commented– men and women I respect, love, and admire– to instantaneously leap into deep victim blaming territory. One of them cited the supposed popularity of mini skirts in Japan and the problems the country has with upskirt photos and sexual assault on their subways. Another quoted a political leader in the Philippines as blaming their rape epidemic on mini skirts.

At that point, I interjected. I denounced the victim blaming that was happening and made this statement:

A victim is never responsible for his or her rape. 

It seems like a simple idea, but it’s not. It wasn’t even an idea I would have been capable of articulating even a few months prior to this– because of the simple fact that I blamed myself for my rape. Because of a whole host of ideas– ideas like it’s the woman’s responsibility to set up physical boundaries, and if a man ignores those boundaries, it’s the woman’s fault, because she didn’t set those boundaries up clearly enough. After all, “a man will only go as far as a woman will let him.”

A comment I got on a post I wrote on the link between the purity culture and abusive relationships made me cry. Because my story was almost exactly the same as the one left in that comment– I’ve been there. I’ve been terrified, and confused, and lost, and not able to really understand what had happened to me and how to deal with it.

The reason why I couldn’t understand what had happened, and why I blamed myself for my rape for so long, was because I didn’t understand what consent is. For me, personally, consent is the most important, most powerful word I have now.

First, let me make this brutally clear:

Rape is non-consensual sex.
Rape is having sex with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with you.
Rape is having sex with someone who has not given you a clear and enthusiastic yes.
Rape is having sex with someone in a way that he or she does not want to.
Rape is continuing to have sex with someone when he or she has withdrawn his or her initial consent.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Consent is based on the idea that, as a person, I have the right to determine what happens to my body. It is my body, and it does not belong to anyone else. I get to decide what I do and who I do it with–always. No exceptions. Any time that any person does something to my body that I don’t want to happen, it is sexual harassment, sexual assault, or rape (and yes— this includes how someone else looks at my body. I get to decide how people look at me and what I find acceptable, and absolutely nothing I do, nothing I say, and nothing I wear changes that. Ever).

Consent means that I get to decide when I have sex, who I have sex with, and how that sex happens. If at any point during sex something happens that I don’t want, I have the right to say “stop.” If my sexual partner continues in the behavior, that is rape. Because it has moved from consensual sex to non-consensual sex, and non-consensual sex is rape. And let me make it plain so no one suffers any delusions: consent is not the absence of a “no.” Consent is saying “yes.” Consent can only be a “yes.”

When I am consenting to sex, I am only consenting to how I want to have sex. Consent is not a blanket that allows the sexual partner to do whatever the hell he or she wants without consulting the other.

It is also not exclusively my responsibility to make sure that I have communicated my consent clearly enough. It is primarily the responsibility of the initiating partner to ensure beyond all doubt that the other partner is interested– and continues to remain interested.

This means something really simple: ask. And guess what you have to ask? It’s really easy:

Do you want to have sex with me?
Is this ok?

If the answer to these questions is no, going past the “no” in any shape or form is sexual assault or rape.

Also, just to be clear– I say all of these things as a monogamous married woman. And everything I’ve said here still applies. Signing your name on your marriage license is not eternal, blanket consent to any time your husband or wife wants to have sex. Consent is an ongoing process- it happens before sex, and it needs to happen during sex, too. And just because I’ve agreed to sex before does not mean that I’m going to– or somehow obligated to– agree to sex again.

I’m not really concerned with the legal definition of rape, mostly because in many states that definition (hint: it usually includes the word “forcible”) is based on a myth. I’m also not concerned with the legal definition of consent. And no, I’m not saying that sexual partners have to ask for and gain a verbal consent every single time they have sex, especially after a relationship and trust is established. However, there are nights when I initiate sex with my husband, and if I sense anything that could remotely be a lack of desire, I ask. Usually he just looks at me like “are you kidding?!” and that’s enough for us.

However, this is where our definition of consent needs to begin.

Not in “well, she didn’t say no.”
Not in “but look at what she was wearing!”
Not in “her body language said she wanted it.”

And most definitely, it is not in “but she got wet” or “she got off on it.” Physical arousal has NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING to do with consent. At all. Period. End of story.

And for all those types who say “but stopping and asking will ruin the mood,” I say bullshit. Bullshit bullshit.

Do you know what does ruin the mood? Rape.

Feminism

the bikini and the chocolate cake

chocolate cake
[trigger warning for rape culture]

I’m going to take a break from the series, for today, because I feel that we need to sit down with a cup of coffee or tea and just chat about something. If you move in the same circles I do, you’ve probably heard about this post from Made in his Image. There’s a lot of good things being said about how destructive the modesty culture can be, so I’m not going to rehash a lot of that here. I wanted to shine some light on the biggest problem with this specific post.

I got sunburned on my ass a few weeks ago, when nothing else on me got sunburned at all. We were only at the beach for an hour, and I ended up having to spread aloe vera all over my butt for a week and sit down funny for a few days. Why did I only get sunburned on my bottom?

Because it’s the only part of me that’s never, ever, seen the light of day.

I grew up in Northwest Florida– the part of Florida known as the Emerald Coast. It is a stunningly, breathtakingly beautiful beach. We rarely ever went– only when family came to visit, usually, and those visits were sparse– because it was considered ungodly to go the beach. And if we went, I wore a t-shirt and culottes. My mother made swim-culotes out of a really light, swimsuit-type material.

Even in college, when I’d left a lot of those childhood beliefs behind, I couldn’t bring myself to wear a swimsuit to the beach. I bought an amazingly cute tankini– I still think it’s cute, even today– and it generously covered my badonk-adonk, but I still felt incredibly nervous wearing it. I ended up wearing cute-off shorts on top of it when I went to the beach with some friends, and faked being asleep when I overheard them making fun of me for that choice.

Yup. “Modesty” is a sacrifice. It’s a sacrifice I made for most of my life, and paid for my standards with humiliation and embarrassment.

But, when I went to the beach with my husband a few weeks ago, I wore a bikini for the first time. It wasn’t “skimpy,” not that it matters, and I was able to take off my cover-up without shame, without the sharp knife in my gut telling me that I was dressing as the “strange woman” from Proverbs. It was a victory for me– a small triumph over the shame and oppression I’d known for over half my life.

That’s the only thing the modesty culture does.

It hasn’t stopped a lot of men from ogling me– not even Christian men. I’ve gotten cat calls, jeers, shouts, obscene gestures, propositions, and whistles all while “modestly” dressed. I’m talking full-blown “modesty.” High-necked t-shirts, a-line and loose knee-length skirts. Sometimes I looked cute, sometimes I looked dumpy. It doesn’t matter. How I’ve been dressed has never made a difference whatsoever in how many men have treated me. I was raped while wearing a knee-length skirt and a long-sleeved, loose and flowing top that covered my collar bone. Modesty has never, in my experience, stopped a man from doing whatever he wanted to do with my body– whether it was physically manhandle it, goosing me or grabbing my vagina through my skirt in the middle of chapel, or simply objectify it.

Let me say it again: men who do not see women as human beings could not give a flying f*** how a woman is dressed. She’s a woman. She has boobs and a vagina, and that makes her public property in a world where I’ve been screamed at, cursed at, for refusing to even acknowledge a cat call from a car.

When I started dressing however I wanted, modesty be damned– when I started wearing shorts and tank tops, for example, none of that sort of behavior increased. It stayed exactly the same.

But, this article, like every other article I’ve read on modesty, emphasizes that it a woman’s obligation to help protect men from our bodies. It’s our duty to make sure that we make it possible for men to forget that we’re a woman– which is, frankly, impossible. I don’t care how loose your clothes are– if you have T&A, there’s no getting rid of it, there’s no hiding it.

So what happens?

We have articles where the author has to stubbornly insist that she’s not “insecure about her body,” and clarify that she is “independent in her swimwear choices.”

We have articles where the author compares women to an ooey-gooey chocolate cake.

And let’s look at that for a second. Rachel has this to say about her metaphor:

Now, let’s pretend that someone picked up that chocolate cake and followed us around all the time, 24/7. We can never get away from the chocolate, it’s always right there, tempting us and even smelling all ooey gooey and chocolate-y. Most of us, myself included, would find it easy to break down and eat the cake. And we would probably continue to break down and eat cake, because it would always be there. Our exercise goals would be long gone in no time.

I’m going to try to be fair here: Rachel was probably, in her head, only referencing masculine lust here. When she wrote out this dandy little metaphor, she was probably only thinking that “breaking down” didn’t mean anything besides a man thinking less-than-platonic thoughts about the woman in the bikini.

However, regardless of what I’m positive were the best of intentions, Rachel has just contributed to rape culture.

Because, in this metaphor where a woman is a chocolate cake, the woman has no choice. A woman, plain and simple, just is a chocolate cake, and the fact is that, as a woman, there’s nothing she can do to change that.* She doesn’t have a say in the matter. She’s a woman. She’s ooey-gooey and smells like heaven, and so she gets eaten. No one asks her if that would be ok. No one asks her if that’s what she wants.

Because she’s a cake.

She exists to be eaten.

*I would like to point out that gender and sexuality are a sliding scale– I’m not trying to exclude transgender people, just dealing with the essentialist and gender binary nature of the article.

*edit: I have changed some of my wording (9/6/13) based on reader response.

Feminism

black lace and thigh highs

thigh highs

I don’t remember which year it was in college, but I think it might have been my senior year, since I was sitting in the balcony for chapel, and I think that was the only year I was ever assigned a seat up there. But, it was before One of the Most Awesome Rule Changes Ever, because I was still wearing hosiery.

Before I go any further, I should probably explain that my undergrad college had a strict dress code– to “encourage professionalism,” as they explained it. Of the few dozen or so rules women had to follow, one of them was that we had to wear panty hose in the morning until chapel at 10a, then again at dinner, to church on Wednesday, and all day on Sunday or during Bible Conference. Most of the time, my skirts were long enough that I could get away with knee-highs, but, sometimes, I wanted to wear a knee-length skirt. I loathed high-waisted panty hose, so my compromise was thigh highs. It never occurred to me, however, to invest in a garter belt. Because, after all, garter belts are “lingerie” and therefore inappropriate for an unwed young woman.

On this particular morning, when I got up along with 4,500 other students to exit chapel, I realized that my thigh highs had given up the Holy Ghost and were slipping down. I did everything I could to keep them from slipping even further– I pinched my legs, wobbling up the stairs with my knees locked together. I tried to take incrementally tiny baby steps to the bathroom, horribly and powerfully and shamefully conscious of the two thousand men swarming around me– and I was on the balcony level, where the seminary classes were immediately following chapel. Men in dark suits started flocking toward me, and the closest bathroom was so far away I knew I wouldn’t make it before my stockings were visible.

When I was just a dozen steps away from a bathroom, a seminary student stopped me.

“Did you know we can all see your . . . your, uhm, underthings?”

In that moment, my embarrassment and humiliation flashed into rage. I wanted to scream, or hit him. Anything. “Yes.” I managed to grit out. I didn’t know if he was a floor-leader or not, and yelling at a floor leader could net me fifty demerits for “disrespect.”

“You need to take care of this right away. You know that by . . . well, by wearing things like those you’re encouraging men to lust after you, right?” His voice was so soft, and gentle– he was speaking the truth in love. Admonishing his sister in Christ, edifying her.

I almost sawed my tongue in half. I was so angry words just kept piling up in my throat and choking me. I merely pointed at the bathroom and kept the rage-fueled tears out of my eyes.

“Oh, oh . . . well, ok.” And he walked briskly away, confident and secure.

When I finally got to the bathroom, I didn’t even make it into a stall before I ripped the stockings off and shoved them into the trashcan. I spent the next hour, my lunch hour, sitting in that empty bathroom and crying.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

During some point in graduate school, one of my friends got engaged– and the engagement pictures appeared on facebook. They’re an extraordinarily beautiful couple– seriously, his fiancé is one of the most gorgeous women I’ve ever met. The pictures were all lovely, especially since he’d hired a photographer to take pictures of the proposal, and you could see the surprise and delight on her face when he got down on one knee.

One of the shots the photographer managed to get was her throwing herself into his arms after she’d said yes– and her arms lifted the bottom hem of her adorable dress up high enough that you could see the top of her lace-edged thigh highs.

My immediate, instantaneous, gut reaction was to frown in disapproval. Her dress was too short– if you can’t make simple gestures like hugging someone without showing off your sexy under garments to the world, you need to rethink that clothing choice.

But, there was a voice inside of me, a tiny, hushed voice I did my best to crush into silence. But it’s a beautiful picture. Intimate. And sexy. A sliver of myself I’d been taught to squash my entire life envied her and her ability to wear black-lace thigh highs. I wanted to wear something–anything–made out of black lace. And yes, I wanted to wear something with the Parisian flair she’d cultivated, and have pictures of me biting my rogue-painted lip and peeking out from under a fedora.

I clicked through to the next picture and did my best to forget all about it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Me and my husband honeymooned in Chicago. It was only a five-hour train ride from Ann Arbor, where we were married, and it was a destination that fit our pace. We like museums, and pizza, and symphonies, and Chicago has plenty. Oh, and pancakes. If you’re ever in Chicago, you must visit Wildberry Café. I swear, best pancakes I’ve ever had in my life. And that’s saying something, since my mother and grandmothers make incredible pancakes.

For one of our evenings out, we went to the original Cheesecake Factory and then went to see Les Misérables. I wore a stunningly beautiful ruched black-and-white damask print dress, knee-high slouchy suede boots, and, yes, black lace-edged thigh highs. On our walk to the restaurant, the dress rode up a little bit, and you could see the top of my thigh-highs. I looked down at one point and noticed the lace peeking out–just barely, and I stopped in the middle of a crowded sidewalk.

Burning-hot pain knifed through me, and I had to fight not to gasp out loud.

I tugged my dress back down and kept walking, trying to keep the boiling red flush out of my face. But, my dress kept riding up, and I had to keep stopping to tug it back down. After the fifth time, Handsome stopped me. “What are you doing?”

“You can see my thigh-highs!” I whisper-yelled back at him.

“So?”

I stared at him, shocked, and the crazed and panicked busyness of my thoughts blanked out. “What?” I was baffled. What does he mean, “so”?

“What does it matter? No one cares. I don’t care. You’re gorgeous, and beautiful.” And he kissed me, right in the middle of the sidewalk. I was too stunned to really kiss him back.

And suddenly, just like that, I was laughing. Because he was right– none of it mattered the least bit.

Feminism

caring for raiment and loving fashion

raiment

I don’t remember how old I was the first time I went shopping with my grandmother– I think I was about thirteen or fourteen, probably. It was around my birthday, and she decided that we needed to have a day, just the two of us. We went to the mall, and she wanted to buy me something I liked– her treat. I was ecstatic. At this point in my life, I couldn’t remember having something that wasn’t a hand-me-down from girls at church or purchased at a thrift store. To have something new was going to be amazing. And I would be shopping with my grandmother, who to this day is one of the cutest, most fashionable and stylish women I’ve ever known.

We were in one of the department stores, probably Penney’s or Sears, and in the shoe section. I remember staring at a display of juniors shoes– Mudd and the like. There was one shoe in particular–a black leather mary jane pump. And I wanted it. Oh, I wanted it bad.

But then the internal monologue started up. The thousand-and-one reasons why I couldn’t have it– shouldn’t even want it, in fact. The heel is too high– what are you trying to do? Add an inch to your stature? And why care you for raiment? It will make you vain. You’ll attract attention– a boy’s attention. You don’t deserve something that pretty. You’ll make it harder for boys not to stare at you. You’ll make the other girls mad.

My grandmother saw me staring and asked me if that shoe was what I wanted for my birthday.

Yes was trying to burst out of my mouth. I took in a deep breath and did the right thing. “No.”

She knew better than to believe me. “Why not? Don’t you think it’s cute?”

Yes! It’s the cutest shoe I’ve ever seen! It would go so perfectly with my plaid skirt! “It’s too worldly,” I said instead, trying to muster up some self-assurance. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look on my grandmother’s face– she was surprised, and a teensy bit horrified.

The rest of the day did not go much better. She kept trying to steer me toward cute, age-appropriate clothing, and I kept heading straight for the drab, matronly, sack-like garments. She wanted something bright, colorful, something flattering and stylish. I was becoming a young woman, she said, and my clothes should reflect that. And I was miserable, because I was fighting with myself the entire day. All those gorgeous clothes, the adorable shoes, and I wanted it all. They were pretty— couldn’t I, just once, have something pretty? But no, there was a carousel spinning around my head, a carousel of guilt, shame, fear of being judged, fear of causing a boy to stumble and being an adulteress in my heart, fear, shame, guilt,  fear, shame, fear.

We eventually left the mall– with a CD, I think. And I remember being in bed that night and my grandmother sharing her concerns with my parents. Couldn’t she see that I was trying to do the right thing? Why is it so hard?

The single time I ever gave in was when my mom bought me a knee-length aquamarine chiffon skirt and a sky-blue draped blouse with flutter sleeves. I will never forget the look of disappointment on the other girl’s faces, or the look of revulsion and pity on the pastor’s, or the pastor’s son telling me that being able to see my calves had caused him to stumble and fall, or my Sunday school teacher admonishing me to think about what clothes like that could make people think. I wanted to run home, tear my clothes off, and burn them.

I never wore it again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Nothing changed in the next four years, and, suddenly, I was in college– a college where matronly, sack-like garments were the norm. Not only were they the norm, anything else was against the rules. Pencil skirts, chiffon blouses, empire waists– all of it was suspect and could land you in discipline committee facing a bear-ish woman asking you why you thought it was a good idea to dress like a whore. I remember a few girls– five, rather distinctly– who I judged severely any time I saw them. They were cute– they had co-ordinated outfits, they knew tons of styling tricks for their hair, they wore cowboy boots and chambray shirts, maxi dresses with lace cardigans, and I remember quite viciously loathing them.

I never stopped to think about why my feelings were so intense– I did not know these girls. I only ever spoke to one of them, and I had mentally categorized all of them as a “slut.” They cared about their appearance so much, it was obvious that the only thing they cared about was getting a guy’s attention. If they really had a pure heart, they wouldn’t put so much thought into the clothes they were wearing, or their make-up, or their hair. They were shallow, vain, empty-headed little girls.

Or so I thought. Looking back, they were probably the only brave women in the entire college.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My senior year, my best friend Rachel* and I had a bad case of senioritis. We escaped off-campus every single chance we could, picking up Sonic and heading for downtown, to a shabby-chic hipster bar with collapsing velveteen furniture and cavernous corduroy sofas in the basement of an abandoned hospital. We went on photography adventures, or we spent entire weekends down by the pier, letting the salt wind play with our hair. Sometimes we would sneak out in the middle of the night to go to the “emergency room” and explore the beach around an old lighthouse. When it was rainy, we hid in Barnes & Noble with chocolate cheesecake and tall mochas. She would get a stack of design rags, and I would pilfer the sci-fi section. We would settle in until the last minute until we had to make a mad dash back to campus before they locked us out.

On a dark and stormy night, there was nothing new in sci-fi, so I picked up one of Rachel’s magazines and flipped through it. It was Vogue, and it was their spring fashion show issue.

I was ensnared.

The moment I touched it, I was that fourteen year old staring a pair of mary jane pumps. I wanted to reverently touch every page, revel in Burberry and Prada and Gucci and McQueen and Betsy Johnson, and I wanted to throw it away from me for the wicked thing I knew it to be. Stop it, Samantha. All this can do is cause you to covet. Why care you for raiment?

I kept looking, loving, adoring, the lovely falls of lace and silk, leather and satin, art and beauty.

You shouldn’t be doing this. It will just hurt, because you’ll never be able to touch any of this. Look at all these poor women, parading their flesh for money. They’re just another kind of prostitute.

And I kept looking, ignoring the stinging sensation of guilt that was turning my stomach into knots. For a few more weeks I kept looking, knowing it was a guilty pleasure. I tried to convince myself, again and again, it was ok just to look. I wouldn’t actually start wearing any of that. Me and my sack-like clothing were just fine.

For a month I tried to tell myself that, and then I saw a crochet-lace floor-length skirt, and I could not help myself.

I bought it, even though it was $80, and I wore it nearly every single time I could possibly justify it, and even times when I knew I couldn’t, and people would judge me because I’d worn it for four days in a row, but I didn’t care. It was beautiful, and it was the first time I had ever felt pretty.

And I learned, slowly, that there is nothing wrong, or sinful, or shameful, about beauty.

There is nothing shameful about dressing my body in a way that I know makes me look attractive. I can buy a top that flatters my shape, and yes– makes my boobs look fantastic. Instead of buying jeans that disguise my rear and are so baggy I appear shapeless, I can buy a pair of jeans because they make my ass look positively bite-worthy. I will buy shorts that show off all the sun my skin has soaked up. I will buy v-neck t-shirts because they look the best on my sloped shoulders, and cleavage be damned. And yes, that t-shirt will have writing across my boobs, and I will not give a flying frack in hell if it stretches or clings. I will buy that knock-out teal lace dress with the wide belt that skims across my thighs. And yes, I will wear a layered chiffon spaghetti-strap tank over a dark wash trouser short to any place or event I damn well feel like.

And no– I will never again ask if an piece of clothing is modest. Clothing cannot even be modest or immodest. Modesty is humility. Modesty is accepting praise with grace and kindness. Modesty is avoiding arrogance and vain deceit.

And no– I will never again ask “would a man stumble if he saw me wearing this?” I REFUSE to mentally participate in a rape culture that removes any blame from the rapist, that assumes a woman’s clothes are her consent. Clothing and what a woman wears is not her “advertising what’s not for sale.”

I love fashion. I love clothes. I love going to a new boutique and running my hands over bouclé and chiffon, picking up jewelry and watching it flash in the light. I love wandering around a shoe store, slipping my feet into scraps of lace and turning my ankle and calf in front of a mirror to admire the sloping curve I’ve worked so hard to have. I love being able to wear a practical, down-to-earth form of art. Art you can touch and wrap yourself in– art you live your life in. That’s what clothes are to me, now– not another tool for oppression and shame, but my personal freedom and ability to express my personality and beauty.

Feminism

on how wearing pants didn’t turn me into a hooker

The first time I ever bought myself a pair of jeans is a vivid memory, complete with distinct recollections of every pair of jeans I tried on (six different stores, a grand total of twenty-one jeans). You might think this is odd. How old was I, twelve?

I was twenty.

I wore pants when I was a kid, up until I was nine. I was a military brat, and it never occurred to me to think of pants as I would later come to view them– as immodest, as unfeminine, as wordly, and frankly, when hip-huggers + thongs became a popular thing when I was teenager, as slutty. Interestingly enough, when I was eight and a Sparky in AWANAS, my mother mandated that I must wear pants to the activities, since we played active, flamboyant games and she’d caught a seven-year-old boy peeking up the girls’ skirts.

But, when I was nine, we moved to northwest Florida, to a town that was roughly twenty minutes away from the Alabama border, and we started attending an Independent Fundamental, hellfire-and-brimstone-preaching Baptist Church (IFB). And there went my pants. Mom didn’t even bother to donate them to the rescue mission. She cut them up and Dad used them for rags.

So, as a sophomore in college, I hadn’t worn pants in eleven years– certainly not after I’d sprouted “child-bearing” hips and an ass when I was fourteen. However, my family had finally left the IFB church and been excommunicated and shunned, and we were doing all kinds of crazy things like going to movie theaters and exercising in public. My mother even (gasp) cut her hair. One of my best friends decided it was high time that I own a pair of jeans.

To the mall we went.

We went to JCPenney’s first, back when they were uncool, and my friend outright forbade me from buying mom-jeans. But how, I thought glumly to myself, am I going to find jeans that are modest?

She dragged me, forcibly, to Aeropostale, the sluttiest of slutty teen stores at our mall. At least, in my opinion. At the time. I had no idea that things like the Body Shop, Wet Seal, and 5-7-9 existed. The day I determined to buy a “little black dress” and I went into a Body Shop is a whole ‘nother tale.  She threw me into a changing booth with a pair of jeans and told me to put them on.

Five minutes later, I still hadn’t emerged from the changing room.

“Well?” Her tone was bordering on the impatient.

“I can’t come out!”

“Why the hell not?” (My friend had a ‘potty mouth.’ It was invigorating.)

I practically whimpered. “You can see my butt.”

She laughed. Uproariously. “I think that’s kinda the point, dearie.” (My friend also had pet names for me.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I eventually bought a size-too-large pair of boyfriend-style jeans from the GAP. Now, five years later, I’m a jeans-and-hoodie girl. I even bought skinny jeans… last year. Took me a while to catch on to the whole “pants are not the devil” idea.

What took me almost just as long to realize is that the over-emphasis on modesty is a (one of many) false-front on a huge ideological problem: that women are nothing more than sexual objects. It’s laughable to me that the IFB movement spends so much time preaching against the over-sexualization of our girls when the very same preachers are guilty of the exact same crime against “womanhood” and “femininity.” I once heard a preacher claim  that wearing any item of clothing with a zipper in the front was immodest. Bizarrely, he said that a woman placing anything in front of her ahem “maidenly parts” called a man’s attention to her hoo-ha.

Because we all know that a woman’s ankles will force a man to lust after her in his heart, after all. Men have no self-control whatsoever, no sir. They see a collarbone and tip over from all the blood in their head rushing away. Women must guard men’s minds, you see. They’re base animals, nothing more than horndogs.

Which begs an interesting question… if men are all incapable of acting responsibly, why do they spend so much time talking about vaginas in church?

Photo by Francisco Osorio