≡ Menu

Don’t Let Your Boys Get Their Skanky On

I have a long-held position on modesty. Forget enforcement. If the girls don’t get attention for dressing immodestly, they won’t do it. Case in point: the Pioneer Halloween party.

Monica, my 15-year-old daughter, attends a performing arts charter high school part-time. (We still homeschool academics.) As a member of the “leadership counsel,” I helped plan and chaperone the Halloween party — the first big after-school event for the new school. When the announcement went out, just days before the event, there was a a request for modest costumes included. Given that this is a primarily LDS community, this isn’t an uncommon request but, of course, it’s not always honored.

Now I know that Halloween has become the holiday of skank. Go to a costume shop are you’re likely to see a plethora of nasty costumes. There will be no shortage of:

  • sexy nurse
  • sexy witch
  • sexy hippy
  • sexy cowgirl
  • sexy butterfly
  • sexy referee
  • sexy maid
  • sexy angel
  • sexy blah blah blah

It’s so common that a couple of years ago an LDS woman — at a Relief Society function — asked if I was dressing up for Halloween. Upon hearing that I was not she asked, “Why not? It’s the only day you can ‘legally’ dress immodestly!”

Strawberry Shortcake Immodest CostumeI would have laughed except she wasn’t joking.

Still, when the big night came, I was happy to see that there were almost no problematic costumes. With one glaring exception: Strawberry Shortcake.

One high school girl burst onto the scene in the costume at right. And proceeded to spend the entire night very self-consciously doing the sexy dance.

And, lo and behold, a large percentage of the mostly-LDS boys gave her a huge slice of attention.

One other mom came up to me, furious. Her son was Strawberry Tart’s biggest fan and spent a great deal of the evening with her. Mom was upset that the girl would dare show up in such an outfit. “Oh! Of all the girls for him to hang out with! Why did she dress like that?”

While I didn’t disagree, I was surprised she couldn’t see how her son played into the whole situation. I responded, “Well, it worked.”

Moms, dads, clue in here. If your sons’ dates are the skanky girls dressing down, it means something. If you insist that your daughters have standards in the way they dress, your sons’ dates and girlfriends should have them, too.

And, yes, if either of my boys had been fawning all over the scantily-clad Ms. Shortcake, I would have dragged them outside by their ears and instructed them to look elsewhere for entertainment…or go home.

{ 21 comments… add one }

  • Tracy Keeney November 18, 2012, 12:14 am

    Sadly, it doesn’t surprise me that an LDS girl had the nerve to show up in such a “skanky” costume. There are always one or two that insist on pushing the envelope. But I AM surprised that there were boys who gave her “a huge hunk of attention”. What I’ve observed at dances, activities, etc, is that the girl who shows up dressed immodestly comes close to getting ignored by the boys. They are visibly uncomfortable, and the observer can very clearly see that the boys AVOID being near her.
    It always seems to me that girls “dress up” mostly to compete with other girls, not necessarily to attract the boys.
    I know the two are certainly connected– typically, the girls are competing FOR the boys attention. But the more I observe, the more I notice that when “a” girl is hanging out with the boys, she’s dressed down. Jeans or sweats, t-shirt, hair up in one of those “messy buns”- looking like she just got out of volleyball practice or something. It’s when SEVERAL girls are together, that they tend to get a diddied up. They even put on their makeup and do their hair when there are NO boys around– girls camp is the perfect example. More and more, it seems like the girls are just trying to out-do each other, and not even necessarily to get the attention of the opposite sex. Example: If that was strictly a Young Women halloween party– or if the charter school was all girls, I’ll bet that young women would STILL have worn the little “tart” outfit.

  • jennycherie November 18, 2012, 7:02 am

    “Upon hearing that I wasn’t she asked, “Why not? It’s the only day you can ‘legally’ dress immodestly!””

    Oh my. A “Mean Girls” moment in Relief Society. For those who may not have seen the movie, “Mean Girls” is about a girl who was raised in Africa (because her parents were doing some sort of research there) and then moves back to the US as a teenager. She has to learn all the social rules of high school because she hasn’t grown up in that environment. One of the big ones is that Halloween is the only time you can dress like a skank without being called a skank by the other girls. Sadly, after Halloween, one of my friend’s daughters (who moved out of our ward a year ago) posted pictures of herself in a playboy bunny costume (short shorts, bustier, choker bow-tie and bunny ears) with captions about a “Mean Girls” moment. Blech.

    I haven’t been to any of our stake dances so I don’t know yet if this has been a problem. I agree that it is equal parts responsibility – girls shouldn’t dress this way and boys shouldn’t gawk and drool when they do. I do think, when it’s a church activity (Which the party Alison referenced was not), there is also some responsibility for the adults in charge to go directly to the young woman with the modesty issue and address it directly. I notice a lot of young women on Sundays wearing tight clothes and short skirts. Since I am not a youth leader, I have no idea if they address this or not but it’s a frequent problem, even on temple trips.

    At Young Women in Excellence, the young woman who conducted (and did a fabulous job) was wearing a dress that fell several inches above her knee. Of course, I was struggling just to get my girls there and was so happy to have wrangled them into skirts before going that I let them keep their pink bandanas on, which was apparently also a no-no! (pointed out to me by the mom of the girl in the very short dress)

  • Angie Gardner November 18, 2012, 8:54 am

    Bandanas? What was the problem there? Too casual?

    I love that the mom of short skirt girl pointed out the bandanas. Mote and beam?

    Modesty is kind of a hot topic for me, as many here know. To me, it’s about self respect and little else.

    As for skanky halloween costumes, oh yeah they happen. I don’t know where endowed women got this idea that it’s okay to take your garments off for a costume party (or a formal ball, etc.) but many do it.

    P.S. I despise halloween.

  • jennycherie November 18, 2012, 2:12 pm

    Angie – I am not sure what the bandana problem was – it was new to me -but I thought maybe everyone else knew. A bandana is probably more casual than I would allow on a Sunday, but maybe I need to be cautious on Wednesdays too! She actually leaned over to me as they announced the opening prayer and said, “don’t you want your girls to take those off?” At that point, there wasn’t anything I could do without interrupting the prayer or causing a scene so I just shrugged and let it go.

  • Alison Moore Smith November 18, 2012, 2:55 pm

    Tracy, to clarify, I have no idea if the girl is LDS or not. I don’t know her and I didn’t ask.

    The behavior of the boys didn’t surprise me at all. No matter where I’ve lived or where I’ve been, guys — in general — have responded to girls who show skin. I know a few boys who are genuinely embarrassed and don’t know what to do. But the General Priesthood Session isn’t bombarded with porn talks for nothing. If almost all of our boys were REALLY embarrassed by that costume, they wouldn’t be online looking at far worse.

    I think we do a very poor job of (1) supporting the YW from the YM’s side and (2) teaching our boys what they should be looking for.

    jennycherie, I’m not sure what you meant by “a mean girls moment in Relief Society.” ??? I didn’t feel pressured by the woman who made the comment or anything like that. I just thought it was an odd LDS mom moment.

    Angie, I tend to agree that modesty is about self-respect. But if that’s the message, then we need to stop talking about how immodesty impacts the boys and double down on talking about how it impacts the girl.

    P.S. You were called down for bandanas? Really?
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Hostess: Collective Bargaining Gone WrongMy Profile

  • jennycherie November 18, 2012, 7:54 pm

    Alison – it was in reference to the movie “Mean Girls” where the teenagers who were educating a young woman who didn’t understand the social rules of high school (and ‘girl world’) taught her that Halloween was the one day you could dress like a skank and no one would call you a skank. When you mentioned the RS sister who said Halloween was “the only day you can legally dress immodestly,” it reminded me of that movie, and of the Halloween pictures I saw on facebook this year that were captioned that way.

    P.S. Really. They were pink bandanas too, so no possibility of a gang connection that I know of. ;)

  • Angie Gardner November 18, 2012, 8:10 pm

    Alison said, “But if that’s the message, then we need to stop talking about how immodesty impacts the boys and double down on talking about how it impacts the girl.”

    I could not agree more, and thankfully I have seen very little of this kind of talk in recent years in wards I’ve been in. I was just released from stake YW a year ago and we really tried to make a point about modesty being about how they feel about themselves and their bodies and not about how it might affect males.

    Having said that, I do think eliminating the personal temptation you might be giving a young man is a beneficial side effect of modesty. It’s not THE reason to be modest but it’s an added bonus.

  • jennycherie November 18, 2012, 8:15 pm

    “double down on talking about how it impacts the girl”

    This is SO important. I can remember as a teenager and young adult, I felt that my best and most attractive feature was my legs. I got all sorts of compliments (from men and women) on my legs and so I dressed to emphasize them. I had a large wardrobe that was centered around tight leggings and short skirts. It seems foolish now, but it made sense at the time and I did gets loads of attention that way. It never occurred to me (and I thought I was a feminist!) that I was objectifying myself!

  • Alison Moore Smith November 19, 2012, 12:22 am

    jennycherie, your story brings up an interesting tangent that I’ve thought about a bit over the past couple of years.

    In our culture, for good or bad, the traditional power men had was money and the traditional power women had was sex. It’s an interesting conundrum that our church ideals disallow women to use sex/sex appeal/sexiness as a tool. Men can’t use money in corrupt ways, but financially successful men are often also prominent members who are well thought of.

    It’s interesting, for example, that Larry Miller’s autobiography is touted on the Deseret Book site — even though he describes himself as a rabid workaholic who was a lousy dad and husband. I know he made lots of money, but given the cost, I’m unsure why this would be an example to promote.

    Anyway, just a tangent I’ve been thinking about.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Argumentum Ad Hominem – Logical FallacyMy Profile

  • SilverRain November 19, 2012, 10:52 am

    I think women are EXPECTED to use sex appeal as a tool, but to do it in the “modest is hottest” way. It’s like that TERRIBLE, objectifying video. “You’re beautiful, and don’t have to dress skanky,” seems like a great message until you realize that it’s still assigning a girl’s value entirely to her sex appeal and appearance, to her attractiveness to men.

    There is no doubt in my mind that to 99% of single men, my worth is entirely wrapped up in how I look, and whether or not I’ll fulfill the “wife and mother” role to their satisfaction. If only people could see that both are objectifying.

    It’s only worse after that “every woman needs to be told she’s beautiful” comment. Nope, actually I don’t. I got my fill of being told I’m beautiful by an abusive husband. Thank you very much, but I’ll take a guy who knows that real love is based in more than what I do for him.

  • Angie Gardner November 19, 2012, 11:07 am

    SilverRain, thanks for putting my thoughts into words. That statement bothered me as well and yet I couldn’t really put a finger on why. Being told I’m beautiful is nice, but it’s not a solution to real problems in a relationship, nor is it even on my list of top 10 things I’d like to be told that I “am”.

  • Alison Moore Smith November 19, 2012, 1:17 pm

    SilverRain, I’m glad you brought up the Monson (wasn’t it?) quote. My eyes kind of popped out of my head. But he is from a different generation and, coming from him, it was meant to be chivalrous.

    First, my tangent is NOT ready for prime time. It’s just one of those thoughts buzzing around my head. Second, I think you’re right that we are EXPECTED to use it, in spite of the rhetoric. But I think the expectation and the statements conflict.

    I HATE the “modest is the hottest” thing. My daughter was supposed to be in a ward fashion show with that theme a week ago in YW and, fortunately, she was sick. I said to her, “It’s still about ‘hottest,’ which is still about how sexy you are.”

    Either your body should be used to attract or it shouldn’t. I have a hard time thinking it’s bad to expose skin but OK to wear things that cover you but still call attention to how “hot” your body is.

    There’s a store a few miles away from here called “Sexy Modest.” Seriously.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Up with Walmart – Down with IdiotsMy Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith November 19, 2012, 1:27 pm

    OK, so I watched the vid. I REALLY wanted to hate it. But, heh, I didn’t. I thought it was pretty awesome. Totally awesome. And super hard to make! One shot and a chopper!

    Here’s the deal. God made men attracted to women’s bodies (generally speaking). He made them very visual (general speaking) and easy to sexually stimulate (generally speaking). It’s just true. I don’t have a problem with the fact that physical beauty exists or that it has power. I guess what I’m trying to reconcile is the idea that it DOES have power — and, in fact, is one of the few powers women inherently have in just about all cultures — and yet we are told it’s problematic.

    I don’t have any answers for those thoughts. They are just thoughts right now.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…A Sad and Tragic Day for Our Nation – A Response to Jo AshlineMy Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith November 19, 2012, 1:45 pm

    The biggest travesty of that video is when the boys clap off the beat. :)
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Up with Walmart – Down with IdiotsMy Profile

  • Oregonian November 20, 2012, 3:13 am

    this was great. i get so tired of the harping on girls to cover every inch of their bodies while the boys are pressing up against the immodest ones. dont tell me they dont like the immodest girls when we keep hearing theyre all into porn. last time i checked porn was pretty immodest.

  • SilverRain November 21, 2012, 2:56 pm

    Alison, it is true that men are attracted to women, and this isn’t per se bad. What is bad is when that attraction that MEN feel become a WOMAN’S responsibility, or her value. Once we are valued by ourselves or by others by how attractive we are to men, we become objects. Whether we are attractive or not is moot, either we are put on a pedestal, or we are ground into the mud. What women don’t realize is that the pedestal is a whisper away from the mud.

    I am not flattered when a man tells me I look beautiful, because what he is really saying is that he is having a sexual reaction. I couldn’t care less about the hormonal state of his body until I’m married to him. The fact that he is attracted to me isn’t evil, but it is utterly inappropriate to set my value on that. There are men I have hormonal reactions to, but guess what? I don’t feel the need to tell them that.

    Just imagine if young women were to make a video about how hot the boys are, how the way they rock those ties make the girls feel “overwhelmed,” how the girls “want” the boys “so desperately.” It suddenly doesn’t seem so cute or appropriate, does it? There is not ONE THING in that song that is not completely appearance/hormonal/sex based. That is fine to express between a couple who has a deeper relationship already, who already know there is more than just physical attraction there, but between teenage girls and boys?

    I know they meant well, they don’t realize the insidiousness of the message. Which is why I think those of us who DO see the problem with it gently bring it to people’s attention when possible.
    SilverRain recently posted…Commenting Policy UpdateMy Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith November 23, 2012, 12:34 pm

    What is bad is when that attraction that MEN feel become a WOMAN’S responsibility, or her value.

    Not sure I follow about “responsibility.” Can you clarify? As for value, I don’t really know that assigning value to attractiveness is “bad” in a moral sense. It can be a bummer when people value it and we don’t have it. (Speaking from experience here.) People respond positively to physical beauty, so an attractive appearance IS valuable in interaction, just as charm, persuasiveness, warmth, etc., are.

    Once we are valued by ourselves or by others by how attractive we are to men, we become objects.

    I think I would agree, but don’t think we are any more “objectified” by being valued for our physical beauty than for any other attribute or ability. If we have money, skills, character attributes, etc. that help a cause an make us more valued, it’s still about what we produce, how we make others feel, what we can contribute, etc., we are still talking about being valued for something other than, well, our souls.

    I guess I’d say that being valued for ANYTHING other than just being a child of God is objectification. Still, I can’t imagine how we would act without “objectifying” others.

    For example, when I decided to marry Sam, there were all sorts of considerations (including that I was physically attracted to him). But all of them could be seen as “objectification.” I didn’t just go out saying, “As soon as I find a child of God who agrees, I’ll marry him/her.”

    So, I suppose I don’t really object to “objectification” by the definition that it is generally used.

    Whether we are attractive or not is moot, either we are put on a pedestal, or we are ground into the mud. What women don’t realize is that the pedestal is a whisper away from the mud.

    First, I don’t think it’s any more moot than any of the other things I mentioned. What if you have lots of money, and so others seek your help for charitable causes, business startups, etc.? Then you lose your fortune. You’re now “in the mud.”

    Second, I’m not sure what you think women don’t realize. That if they are good looking they will probably either die young or lose their youthful good looks? If that’s what you mean, I think everyone knows that.

    I am not flattered when a man tells me I look beautiful, because what he is really saying is that he is having a sexual reaction.

    My dad tells me I look beautiful a lot. My husband tells my girls they look beautiful and I tell my boys they look handsome. None of it has to do with sexual attraction.

    Just imagine if young women were to make a video about how hot the boys are, how the way they rock those ties make the girls feel “overwhelmed,” how the girls “want” the boys “so desperately.” It suddenly doesn’t seem so cute or appropriate, does it?

    I wouldn’t have a problem with it. Sincerely. Unless they were grabbing body parts or doing something overtly sexual.

    When I really fell hard for Sam I did feel “overwhelmed” with “wanting” him. And, no, I’m really not just talking about popping into bed. I’m talking about the fact that I did not intend to get serious with anyone until I was 26 and had a master’s degree. I had made that clear over and over to guys who were ready to move forward. And suddenly I didn’t “want” anything more than just to have him as part of my life for the rest of my life. To be a couple apart from the rest of the world. I kept trying to talk myself out of it, but nothing changed. It was a huge change of heart and completely overwhelming.

    That’s why I don’t see the message as “insidious.” There are other readings.

    The reason Monson’s statement bothered me is that, as a prophet, he seems to be speaking to some vast ONE THING that women must have to be whole. Every woman isn’t beautiful. Not every woman needs to hear that, even if it’s true. I don’t at all mind when people notice physical beauty, but it’s not the most important thing. If he needs to make a prophetic statement about what “every woman” needs, I think it would be more along the lines of having their thoughts and opinions given respect and weight, instead of being summarily dismissed. Or something.

  • SilverRain November 26, 2012, 2:46 pm

    Not sure I follow about “responsibility.” Can you clarify?

    Yes, when women are told that they have to change normal behavior (as opposed to behavior geared to elicit a sexual reaction) in order to help men control their hormones is making them take responsibility for the reactions of others.

    As for value, I don’t really know that assigning value to attractiveness is “bad” in a moral sense.

    We’ll have to disagree on that one. If you’re not already familiar with “Beauty Redefined” you might want to check it out. The things they say pretty much sum up what I’m getting at here.

    I think I would agree, but don’t think we are any more “objectified” by being valued for our physical beauty than for any other attribute or ability…. Still, I can’t imagine how we would act without “objectifying” others.

    I agree, seeing other people primarily by the roles they fill in our lives is objectification. Obviously, we are going to consider those roles, but that shouldn’t be what we define them by. That is not what the gospel teaches us to do. Attractiveness is just one of those roles. In order to act without objectifying others, we can get our heads out of ourselves and what we want out of people, and start thinking about THEIR perspective and what THEY need/want. Quite simple, but not easy.

    Picking someone out as a possible marriage partner is a good example. Of course you have to evaluate their potential roles, because you are looking for someone to partner with. That is a far cry from saying, “hey, men, you’re worth something because you make me feel great,” end of story.

    Second, I’m not sure what you think women don’t realize.

    No, I don’t think we realize that looks don’t get us what we want. I can’t tell you how many times friends talk about how great I look and how that gets me men, like I care one bit about either of those things in that context. Looks are useless, unless you see men as objects to manipulate, and you’re happy to do it. To a point, looks are also chance, I feel no pride in how I look in comparison to others.

    My dad tells me I look beautiful a lot. My husband tells my girls they look beautiful and I tell my boys they look handsome. None of it has to do with sexual attraction.

    And if a single man told you that, you don’t think it would have any element of sexual attraction? The girls who these boys are singing to are NOT their children or their parents, they are potential eventual sexual partners. That makes it inappropriate.

    I wouldn’t have a problem with it…. That’s why I don’t see the message as “insidious.” There are other readings.

    I believe your sincerity, because I believe you don’t see the insidious message that is carried alongside the seemingly innocent one. That is a place we’ll have to disagree. Your example about your husband is to a specific person whom you were dating. Again, that is different than assigning that “wanting” to the entire body of men.

    True, there are other readings. But you can’t control how people hear a message you send, and this one is at least as likely to send the hidden message that a girl’s value is in how she looks, in whether or not she fits the appearance these boys want to jump.

    If he needs to make a prophetic statement about what “every woman” needs, I think it would be more along the lines of having their thoughts and opinions given respect and weight, instead of being summarily dismissed. Or something.

    Exactly. Wouldn’t it be nice if the boys had sung something about how a girl’s thoughts and opinions were worth considering?

    But that doesn’t sell music tracks. For a reason.
    SilverRain recently posted…Commenting Policy UpdateMy Profile

  • Geoff - A November 21, 2013, 6:34 pm

    We’ve just had a documentary type programme show on nation TV in Australia about an unofficial Mormon YSA conference in the Eastern States where it appears there were about 1000 people. The impression I got was that these were very shallow people. It all seemed to centre around which woman was sexiest, least inhibited, and had the biggest teeth. Not a good look for the Church.
    By contrast our single adults had an official conference where women were excluded from the water activities because the board shorts they wore over their one piece swim suits did not cover their knees. A group of them went to the beach, lost their board shorts, and were still the most modest women on the beach.

    I think this has got to the point where it is a way of driving out of the church all but the most obedient molly types. Keep the blood pure.

  • Grey Ghost December 27, 2013, 12:06 pm

    I am not flattered when a man tells me I look beautiful, because what he is really saying is that he is having a sexual reaction. I couldn’t care less about the hormonal state of his body until I’m married to him. The fact that he is attracted to me isn’t evil, but it is utterly inappropriate to set my value on that. There are men I have hormonal reactions to, but guess what? I don’t feel the need to tell them that.

    I think this comment may put it as finely, and concisely, as I’ve ever heard it put. Thank you, SilverRain.

    (Alison replies later that the men in her life tell her she’s beautiful all the time, and it isn’t sexual. I agree, and do the same to my wife and daughters. However, if that’s my opening gambit in conversation with a woman whom I don’t yet know, it’s a hormonal reaction. Not necessarily raging lust, but hormonal. I am reminded of what Robert Heinlein once said regarding the longer-term view: “A man doesn’t look for beauty in a woman who boosts his morale. After awhile he realizes that she IS beautiful; he just hadn’t noticed it at first.” That’s a different animal.)

    Sorry I’m coming so late to the party!
    Grey Ghost recently posted…And today in the “No Kidding” column . . .My Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith January 1, 2014, 3:00 pm

    GreyGhost, great insights and quote.

    FTR, I leave the comments open on posts because sometimes the late partiers have the best input! :)
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…70% Off Entertainment Coupon Book + Free ShippingMy Profile

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

Next post:

Previous post: