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Snag Yourself an Eternal Mate – But Don’t Use Your Lure

Thank you so much for the generally positive and always interesting input on Sunday’s post: A Mormon Mother of Daughters Talks to a YSA Bishop About Intimacy, which was a response to an article by Larry L. Eastland. Sometimes clicking the publish button is a leap of faith. This turned out to be true in more ways than one and I’m grateful for the kindness, sharing, likes, and comments more than you know.

Snag Yourself an Eternal Mate - But Don't Use Your Lure

The response was enough to crash my servers and require an upgrade. The “upgrade” put me on servers that went down for hundreds of people for a day. We’re finally back online, hopefully better, stronger, faster.

On the YSA bishop post, Moira expressed several objections. My response became unwieldy (brevity has never been my strong suit) and warranted a discussion of its own. Here are my answers to the issues she addressed. The quotes are hers unless otherwise noted. I don’t have a lot of answers but, as usual, I have a lot of questions.

Sexy Works

First, let’s get one thing straight: Men are visual. That’s not an opinion, that’s well-proven scientific fact. Women are as well, but not to the same degree as men.

Second: WOMEN KNOW THIS. Really. There’s a reason lingerie exists, why dressing or looking “sexy” or “hot” is a thing, why we ruin our feet tottering around in stilettos, or why we wear particular styles of makeup. We use it to our advantage. It’s normal. It’s a part of the mating ritual. But for whatever reason, any time a man brings it up, there are some women that throw their arms up in outrage that any man would dare point it out. What, like it’s some kind of secret? Please.

Most people understand the “men are visual” idea. It wasn’t disputed as far as I know. In addition, I agree that women know that men get turned on by visual sexiness. (How could we not?) Even as a young woman, I rolled my eyes at all the lessons telling us again and again, “You don’t know what it does to the boys!” My thought was always, “Um, yes, we do! That’s why we do it! Hello?”

But I think there’s something Moira is missing: It works.

Women dress down, try to look sexy, show the goods, ruin their feet with stripper heels, and wiggle around tugging on their skintight pencil skirts because it is the easiest way to get the attention of men. Even Mormon men. Period.

No, that doesn’t make it right, but it makes at least as much of a statement about men as it does about women. And if women are going to be blamed for “forcing” men to get aroused, then men should get blamed for “forcing” women to skank it down just to get their attention.

Removing the Tools of the Trade

Eastland goes through some pretty strenuous mental gymnastics telling women how to be sexy without being sexy, how to be attractive without being too attractive, how to cover up at the same time you’re displaying your “wares.” As he says,

And, here rests the challenge you face when determining how to dress and how to act…

…long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to be interesting.

Do you understand the thinking here?

Men are “hard-wired” to be attracted to women. Men can’t help being aroused by women’s bodies. When men see women, they automatically think SEX! This is the way men are. There’s nothing they can do and there’s nothing you can do. You can’t use it to your advantage and you can’t compete with it, either.

LDS women have to figure out how to get guys so interested that they will forgo all those other sexy hotties on the planet and commit to settle down for eternity with us — without being such sexy hotties that we force the poor recalcitrant boys to want to “caress and posses” us.

In a nutshell, Mormon women are told to snag themselves a man for eternity — with the beauty we’re all “supposed” to have — while putting away the tools that are most effective.

Level the Playing Field

To be clear, I don’t  disagree with the counsel to be modest (as long as we can come up with a coherent way to present it), but church leaders and materials don’t do nearly as much (as Eastman’s post confirms) to get the Mormon men to be attracted to what is leftover when the sexy is put on the shelf.

If LDS women can’t righteously use the same set of tactics and tools other women in the world do to attract men, LDS men must be taught to stop valuing and rewarding those tactics and tools. In other words, LDS men need to stop admiring, fantasizing about, winking at, fawning over, making comparisons to, and asking out the women who use their bodies (and the men’s visual susceptibility) to attract them.

[Even then, there’s not an adequate quid pro quo here. Eastland acknowledges that women are mostly know for their beauty — which they can’t fully use — and men most for their “power, strength, war, dominance, intellect or virility” — against which there are no prohibitions.]

In Eastman’s case, at least, he puts an enormous emphasis on women’s beauty and how physically attractive women need to be. (Within, of course, some unknowable, magical bounds on which his own congregants can’t seek clarification without getting the hammer fist.)

If the typical male RM in a YSA ward was all after the modestly dressed females, was looking mostly for a strong testimony or scriptorian, wanted an intellectual equal, or was hankering to go out with the kindest girl in the room, those things would be much more a part of the Mormon “mating ritual.” And LDS women would be spending more time preparing for Gospel Doctrine and getting PhDs than flat-ironing their hair. (Or is it curling these days?)

Yes, church leaders do tell men not to look at porn. (Good!) But where are these priesthood lessons?

  • Don’t Date the Hottie Bodies
  • Brainy Fatty Patty Is the One for You
  • Shun the Touchy Feely Giggly Makout Girls (Shun!)
  • Cheerleader Skorts? Not On My Watch!
  • Waiting for Your Missionary Girlfriend
  • Looking On the Heart (of the Ugly Girl in Sunday School)
  • Putting Your Future Wife Through Grad School
  • Don’t Pass the Sacrament After Ogling the Bootie
  • Learning to Love the Scriptorian
  • Sleeveless Prom Dress? I’m Going Stag!

[By the way, I have an entire cause built around boycotting heels and have (as recently as six months ago) decided that I will never again bow to this ridiculous, painful fashion stupidity. But I’ll save that for another day (and another blog).]

Everyone Ogles

And if I noticed–you can bet every guy noticed.

What happened after you noticed, Moira? In your case, you jumped from noticing some partially-covered bosoms to:

  • Claiming you couldn’t help but continue to look.
  • Checking out her veins.
  • Determining her cup size.
  • Noting what percentage of her wardrobe equally bared her chest.
  • Pondering on other women who, in your opinion, expose too much. (Of course, I hope you didn’t verify your opinion with Eastland, or you’d be in trouble.)

Did every guy who “noticed” this woman’s chest make the mental catalog that you did? Did all of them think this much about it? Did you/they have to?

Straw Men and Other Erroneous Arguments

You don’t get to say that women should be able to dress to attract and then condemn men for being attracted.

I didn’t condemn men for being attracted. I condemned the idea that it’s a woman’s fault that the men are not just attracted, but also aroused, ogling, wanting to “possess and caress.”

But let’s not pretend we don’t want them to look. As a single woman I will happily admit that I DO.

Who’s pretending? I’m a married woman of 27 years and, while I’m not really into having my husband “possess” me, I think the caress is pretty darn awesome.

And Eastland wasn’t talking about a few inches of shoulder. He’s talking about low-cut dresses and shirts, and short skirts.

To quote Eastland:

…can see even a part of your breasts…
…shows a lot of your legs…
…something without sleeves…
…any movement that shows your bra…
…reveal your upper body…

So, in fact, he was talking about a few inches of shoulder.

I’m a freakishly dowdy dresser. Not that I have terrible taste, but because I just don’t like to spend money on clothes, unless I’m speaking or marrying off one of my kids. I don’t even own anything remotely immodest. Still, I have flashed my bra and garment leg more than a few times.

I now publicly apologize for enticing the entire male population of the species to possess and caress me. I take the shame.

You say men should just automatically turn off their instinct to look? Really?

No, not really. I didn’t say they should “automatically” do anything. I said they should do it in spite of their feelings to do otherwise. Isn’t that the point of learning self-mastery? We don’t have a lot of lessons reminding us to breathe or digest. We have lessons that remind us to do things we don’t do without thought and effort.

Looking away or distracting ourselves when faced with inappropriate thoughts is the very essence being responsible adults and committed disciples.

You’re utterly lying to yourself if you believe that women should have no accountability over their clothing choices or that men shouldn’t be able to cry foul when we make poor choices that affect them–especially when they’re trying to focus on things like passing the sacrament.

Moira, this comment is central to the problem in discussing this issue. I didn’t say women weren’t responsible for their own choices. I said they were not responsible for men’s choices. Unless/until we can distinguish between the two, there’s not much to discuss.

As I said, having a coherent discussion about modestly and sexuality with women must not come from the position of “to keep the dirty boys in line.” And we’re not really there yet.

They never spoke about it from the boys’ perspectives. How could they? They were mostly given by WOMEN in Young Women’s and RS. It would have been great had the guys been able to talk openly about their sexuality so that we could understand. But OH–NO. That would be “creepy.”

I’m all for both men and women talking openly about sexuality. When the doctor asked one of my newly-post-pubescent girls, “Has your mom talked to you about sex?” My daughter said, “If she’d only stop talking about it!”

I can’t speak for hawkgrrrl (the first person to use the term in the comments — it wasn’t used in the OP), but I can assure you that talking openly about sex wasn’t what I found creepy. Here are some samples, quoting Eastland, of comments that I found awkward:

So, it is little wonder that men look at you, admire you, and to one extent or another, lust after you. They—we–notice just about everything about you, including how you dress. We notice how much of you is showing on the outside.

You wear a dress cut low enough that they can see even a part of your breasts, the brethren (over there) cannot help but look.

If your dress shows a lot of your legs, we admire them.

If you wear something without sleeves, some male eyes will see any movement that shows your bra.

If you lean over and you reveal your upper body, Beast will see whatever Beauty reveals.

…men will see as an invitation to touch, to enjoy, to “lie with you” as David did when he saw Bathsheba.

What men see they want to possess. So, what you show they desire. The more you show the greater the invitation to them, as they see it, to do something they should not because the message received is that it is OK with you or you wouldn’t be dressing, or undressing, that way. Whether you intend it or not, that is the message they believe you are sending – an invitation to do much more than simply admire. An invitation to caress and possess.

I have been told that my remarks today should be like your dress: long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to be interesting.

Guys make that decision in the first 30 seconds—well, maybe not 30 seconds—but certainly not six months later.

Help him honor his Priesthood by honoring your sisterhood.

I didn’t really find the last one creepy, just bizarre.

Who Can Speak?

Eastland, as a Bishop and a man, has every right to point out the fact that is a problem. And he is undeniably correct in saying it is distracting, unfair, and that women have the power to control it to some degree.

Eastland isn’t my bishop. He has no stewardship over me. I already addressed the fact that if he had been my bishop, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable countering his positions. (That’s enormously problematic (historically as well as personally), but something I understand to be the norm.) But as a church member I have no obligation to leave harmful, erroneous information posted on a blog unchecked, just because the author used to serve as a bishop (or in any other unrelated leaderships position) somewhere.

Please note that if Eastland has the right to point out a problem “as a man,” then I have a right to point out a problem “as a woman.” If he only has the right as a Bishop [sic], then, yup, both you and I should just shut our pie holes and go home.

That said, no. Women do not have the power to control men to any degree. That is the point. They can influence, they can try to persuade, they can reason, but they can’t control.

A person who tries to entice someone else to do evil will be responsible for that behavior: trying to entice someone to do evil. When someone chooses to do evil, they will held responsible for that behavior: choosing to do evil.

It’s not some kind of fractional division of blame, like a car accident insurance payout. “The perp get 80% responsibility for the rape, but the victim gets 20% because she wore s slutty dress.”

  • If a woman tries to entice a man to be unchaste, she is 100% responsible for trying to entice a man to be unchaste.
  • If a man chooses to be unchaste, he is 100% responsible for choosing to be unchaste.

They are different sins and each has it’s own judgement.

So how about we tone down the criticism, huh? How about we show our men a little support?

I think it’s amusing when someone is judged for being judgmental or criticized for being critical. It’s all so circular! So, Moira, how about you tone down your criticism of me? How about you show our women a little support?

To be clear, I don’t expect you to stop criticizing me or judging me out of hand. But you can’t reasonably expect others to stop the very behavior you’re engaging in yourself. Right?

Conclusion

If sexy is sin, it’s sin on both sides of the issue. Men don’t get a pass because their glands overpower them and women don’t get seated with the blame for the behavior of others, just their own.

Most of all, I wish we could get beyond accusations. A final list:

  1. Disagreement about issues isn’t “evil speaking”
  2. It’s OK to disagree with men, even those who hold positions in church leadership
  3. Disagreement isn’t synonymous with vitriol, hypersensitivity, lack of testimony, etc.

 Thanks for reading this far. Would love to hear your comments, whether you agree or disagree.

{ 28 comments… add one }

  • MB November 21, 2013, 7:38 am

    It seems to me that much of the unhappiness about the teaching of modesty has its roots in the erroneous assumption that modesty = 1) not being sexy and 2) keeping covered. But there is so much more to the divine principle of modesty than how you dress. Teaching that modesty is defined by how you dress is like teaching that the structural soundness of a home is defined by where the windows and doors are placed.

    The engineering involved in creating a sound structure will influence the location of the doors and windows. But locating the doors and windows in certain locations will not, by itself, create a sound structure.

    If we are to argue, effectively, against inadequate understanding and teaching of modesty and the erroneous logical convolutions that teachers find themselves depending upon in order to support this “window location” approach, pointing out the flaws in that method is a good first step.

    And the essential second step is to create a new way of teaching that is more sound than the old.

    I’ve blogged about a new approach and would welcome further suggestions
    MB recently posted…The Principle of Modesty. Teaching Beyond the RulesMy Profile

  • David C. Moore November 21, 2013, 8:42 am

    I think with the age change for sisters serving missions to 19 will end the “waiting” for YSA returned elders. In fact I’ll go on record that this ultimately played a role in this age policy change is one of my takes. Something that’s needed to happen for years, but in the past has met heavy resistance. I think the reorganization and formality of YSA wards & stakes paved the way for this as the senior brethren took feedback from the local stake and ward priesthood leadership.

    I think the desired result will be more marriages before Young Single Adults reach their mid-20s when relationships can and often do take on an extra degree of complication to materialize.

  • Jacob November 21, 2013, 10:34 am

    I feel the same way about this post as the previous one. The point is, the bishop was addressing women only. Had he been addressing men he would have placed all the responsibility on them in the same way he did to women here. Had he been addressing both, it would have addressed responsibility on both genders. I agree with pretty much everything Moira said.

  • Emily November 21, 2013, 10:35 am

    I really appreciate that you pointed out the individual accountability here. Because women, as you say, CAN influence men, we are held responsible for the way in which we choose to influence them but THEY are responsible for the choices they make based on that influence. I don’t understand why that’s so hard for people to get sometimes. Just because you’re saying that women don’t dictate a man’s moral behaviors doesn’t mean you’re saying she isn’t held responsible for her own.

  • Angie Gardner November 21, 2013, 10:50 am

    Thanks, Alison. I liked this even more than your original piece. It seems like a no-brainer to me that women are responsible for their choices (in how they dress, act, think etc.) and men are responsible for theirs. The reason so many women dress immodestly is because it’s been rewarded. In most cases, it is NOT about comfort (I would say the sleeveless aspect is the exception to this). Stilletos, 2-piece swimsuits, short skirts are not any more comfortable (and in most cases less so) than the other options. Yet they get attention. I tell my girls to dress modestly because of how it makes them feel about themselves rather than how it might make someone else react. It might not attract as much attention but eventually will attract the right kind of attention by the right kind of guy. I do want to also say that there are some good men out there of all ages who DO seek out the modest. I have had boys tell my girls that they appreciate the way they dress. It’s naive to think that we don’t realize we are sending out a message about ourselves by the way we dress. Put out there what you want to get back, I guess.

  • Sync November 21, 2013, 11:51 am

    Angie Gardner – “I have had boys tell my girls that they appreciate the way they dress.” What do you think the boys meant by that compliment?

  • Joni November 21, 2013, 12:04 pm

    I wonder what would happen if we weren’t so culturally freaked out by the thoughts and sexual desires of males. Rather than counseling women to cover their shoulders (not an erogenous zone in U.S. culture as far as I am aware) to prevent the men from having Sexual Thoughts, which they then can’t control, why not counsel the men on how to handle these thoughts? And I don’t mean “hum a favorite hymn and think about baseball.” I mean accept it for what it is – we are sexual beings, God designed it that way.

    I truly don’t believe that it’s a sin for a man to look at a woman and think, “Wow, I would sure love to produce offspring which contains a cobination of my genetic material and hers.” I really don’t. It’s necessary for our survival as a species and, by extension, the Plan of Salvation.

    My husband was first attracted to me because I was wearing a skirt which ended several inches above my knees (hey, I was 20 and unendowed). He was sexually attracted to my shapely legs (my best feature – I am pretty average looking and never would have landed a man if I’d gone to BYU), which motivated him to come over and talk to me, which motivated us to start dating, which ended in a temple marriage. Would that have happened if I was wearing something else? I don’t know, maybe, but the point is it happened that way and *I don’t feel guilty about it* and neither does he.

    A pretty common issue in LDS marriages is problems in the bedroom – we are told “sex is bad sex is bad sex is bad” for the first 20-odd years of our life, and then we get married in the temple and it’s supposed to be like a switch has flipped. And it’s not. LDS women, in particular, struggle a LOT with this and many of us have extremely unsatisfying sex lives (and it’s supposed to be the purest expression of love between a husband and wife). And honestly? I think that is all part and parcel with the “wear cap sleeves or the boys will have DIRTY DIRTY BAD THOUGHTS” line of reasoning.

    (Sorry for the length! And all the parentheticals!)

  • Joni November 21, 2013, 12:06 pm

    I meant to add, it’s not the THOUGHTS that are bad, it’s what we DO with them that matters. We are not animals, after all. We have agency.

    And we are fooling ourselves if we think it’s only men who have a strong visual component to our sexual attraction. Ladies, how many awful movies have you sat through because a hot actor was in it? ;)

  • Angie Gardner November 21, 2013, 6:16 pm

    Sync – I can’t really apply motive or meaning, only tell you that there has been several times when especially my oldest (who is 14) has been told that she’s pretty and that they appreciate that she dresses modestly. So I guess what they mean by it is just that they notice her making the effort. While I don’t think girls are responsible for boy’s thoughts by any means, I am sure that there are many fine young men out there who appreciate a girl who makes modest choices and as a mom I’m glad they express it. P.S. This is not just random boys coming up and telling her this, this is from boys she is friends with. I’m sure there are plenty of boys who pass her by and don’t take the opportunity to get to know her. I’m sure she’s very typical of girls (LDS and not) who appreciate being valued for more than just how they look.

  • Last Lemming November 21, 2013, 9:14 pm

    If a woman tries to entice a man to be unchaste, she is 100% responsible for trying to entice a man to be unchaste.
    If a man chooses to be unchaste, he is 100% responsible for choosing to be unchaste.

    They are different sins and each has it’s own judgement.

    This is really the whole story. I suspect that Moira would agree with it. Maybe even Eastland. I fear that all the additional verbiage (not just yours) is feeding an unnecessary misunderstanding.

  • marmalaid November 21, 2013, 11:29 pm

    Spit my cocoa on the screen when reading the lesson titles. Please submit to correlation! :D

  • Alison Moore Smith November 22, 2013, 8:14 am

    MB, you always add so much to the discussion.

    I agree wholeheartedly in creating a new way to teach, I just don’t have that formed in my mind yet. I’d love to include what you, Angie, and others have pointed out as the POSITIVE reasons for modesty, not connected to the bad choices of others to create a cohesive presentation.

    Thanks mucho.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Government Healthcare – Shock and AwfulMy Profile

  • Sync November 22, 2013, 8:33 am

    AG – the reason I asked is that implied in the boys’ thanks is the tacit admission that it does help young men to control their thoughts when the girls around them dress modestly. And that, to me, has always been the message. I’ve never heard a leader, male or female, say girls/women are 100% responsible for what boys/men think or do. It’s a question of influence, not absolute power. If I woke up every day and verbally berated my wife or daughter, day in and day out, we would call that abuse. Yet, I could claim “I’m not responsible for their poor self esteem. They are responsible for their thoughts and actions. What I say shouldn’t matter.” But it does matter. It does have an influence. And that is the only point I’ve ever gotten out of efforts to encourage young women and young men to be modest. People have hijacked the basic principle and used it for their own platforms.

  • Alison Moore Smith November 22, 2013, 9:13 am

    I certainly have a better chance at catching up on the comment here, so that’s where I will start! :)

    Thanks for the responses, everyone.

    David, I have certainly seen more of a trend in girls who are only “waiting” in the sense that they are going on missions at the same time their boyfriends are. I personally know a couple dozen such cases right now, which has been rare in the past.

    Now, if they ages for both could just be the SAME. (I know, I know, “one miracle at a time.” Harumph.)

    Jacob, that’s nonsense. No matter the audience, inappropriately placed blame is inappropriately placed. The bulk of his focus was, once again, “what happens” to men when they see women. If we’re talking to women, let’s talk about the why’s for women, not men. YET AGAIN.

    [For the record, please note that I don’t remotely have a problem with single-gender audience addresses. I have a problem with false narratives.]
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Easy Bake Oven RecipesMy Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith November 22, 2013, 9:33 am

    Emily, thank you! I don’t understand why it’s a confusing issue either. At least NOW I don’t.

    I sure spent a lot of painful years feeling guilty for “making” boys (always older (way older) boys) turned on. Not that I was super popular or anything like that, but I seemed to be good at attracting much older creepers. And I knew it was because they couldn’t help it and I was doing something inappropriate. (Wearing hoop earrings, maybe?)

    Angie:

    The reason so many women dress immodestly is because it’s been rewarded.

    Amen. Amen. Amen.

    As for comfort, it’s laughable. I often get that response and, frankly, I just don’t believe it.

    Yes, I can believe that wearing a sleeveless shirt and decently covering shorts might be more comfortable than a full garment-covering outfit. I was pregnant six times in south Florida (three live births, three miscarriages). It’s brutal. Just the extra layer garments add can put you into a coma. (Yes, I did it anyway.) But no one will ever convince me that 5″ heels, bikinis, or skin-tight minis are COMFORTABLE.

    I love what you teach your girls. I would love to add that to any other sound ideas for WHY both women AND men should dress modestly. And, yes, there are men who seek out modest women! Thanks to them for practicing what we preach. :)

    Off to game club! Back later. :)
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Daily Snark: Parenting BlogsMy Profile

  • Angie Gardner November 22, 2013, 10:14 am

    Sync – I do think that girls influence boys, for better or worse. I also think that boys influence girls and moms influence kids and the cashier at the grocery store influences what kind of day I’ll have. :) Humans influence other humans all the time.

    How I think of this modesty thing is that while I don’t blame girls for the thoughts that boys have, I do think it must be a major relief for boys who are trying to be respectful of girls when a girl makes it easy for him to respect her. Not sure if that makes sense or not, but I guess I just see it as a why-make-things-harder thing. I don’t have sons, but if I did I think I would appreciate it as a mom when a girl was a good influence on my son and just made his life and his choices easier. To me it’s just nice to have a refuge and I’m proud of my daughter (and hopefully my other daughters too as they get older) for being that way with the people around her.

    Her former best friend is a “sexy” girl who always gets a lot of attention from the guys. When they started going to stake dances this girl would get asked to dance more. But over time, there has become a group of kids who have started hanging out more and these boys have been very respectful and complimentary of the girls who are trying to be modest (almost makes me wonder if this is something they are focusing on in YM but my husband tells me that’s not the case). They dance, text, have parties together, chat at mutual and seminary. The good girls are now getting more attention, at least what I would call “good” attention. Someday I suspect there will be a lot of dating amongst this group but for now I am grateful that my daughter has these boys as friends.

  • Spartacus November 22, 2013, 12:10 pm

    I’m a bishop of a YSA ward. I’ve served in this ward for nearly 10 years. I may well have counseled your children if they are away at college. Naturally, I have developed the perfect way to explain these principles in a clear, understandable, spiritually meaningful, positively motivating, faith-promoting way.
    Not.
    I hear from parents of my ward members a lot. They email me and phone me with concerns. I appreciate it. I act on their inspiration as well as my own. I welcome parents’ insights and knowledge and seek to improve as a bishop. It’s not often flashes of lightning and angelic visitations dictating what I should say. I love my ward without limit. I think about them constantly. I make a lot of little mistakes and wish I could provide perfect counsel. I live in fear of being misunderstood and pray the Lord can correct my errors so the ward member does not suffer from my limitations.

    But at least twice a year, I make a point of initiating a discussion among our sisters about this topic in Relief Society. It seems to work best when I ask the questions and allow the sisters to generate their discussion and reach their own equlibrium. And over the years, the discussion about modesty is changing, but I haven’t quite been able to quantify it. Regardless, the principles that remain constant are: 1. That girls/sisters have the ability to shape the way they are perceived by how they dress. 2. This is not Sharia: the girl is not at fault for the rape (speaking figuratively). 3. That young guys are basically idiots, but in the church are trying to be better and need all the help they can get. 4. Sisters can be more effective than many others in helping guys to improve themselves, and vice versa.

    And thanks to all of you–I find these kind of open discussions to be essential. I learn a lot from this free exchange of ideas. The anonymity removes the social fetters and we can speak openly. The constant? Every person here has a deep desire to improve life for others. I am the bishop of your children who are away at college, but I gain practical knowledge and understanding from you. We help each other.

    I’m really beginning to enjoy these internets.

  • congregant November 22, 2013, 2:44 pm

    Spartacus, it’s nice to hear from a bishop who is willing to listen to others. So many time — no offense — but there’s a LOT of arrogance. Or maybe that’s not the word, but the attitude that no one should dare challenge you when you are “the authority.”

    We’re all lay ministers within our sphere and we would ALL do well to listen to others.

  • mellorme November 22, 2013, 11:35 pm

    So many things I want to say. But, yes, we are left to try to figure out how to “entice” men without enticing them. Why ca’t men (in general) learn to look beyond the body?

  • Kathryn Dilligard November 23, 2013, 3:17 am

    Well I’m not sure about men. But I’m pretty sure women dress-up to impress other women.
    Kathryn Dilligard recently posted…The Site OwlMy Profile

  • Mike November 24, 2013, 6:18 am

    Before getting down on men for modern clothes that show a lot of skin just remember that most of the fashion industry is either made up of gay men and heterosexual women.

  • Alison Moore Smith November 24, 2013, 12:27 pm

    Joni:

    I wonder what would happen if we weren’t so culturally freaked out by the thoughts and sexual desires of males.…I mean accept it for what it is – we are sexual beings, God designed it that way.

    YES!

    Sex is awesome. Having sexual feelings is normal. But God has a particular plan for sex. It has a time and a place and when that time and place are misuse it can — because of its power to bind and create (and spread body fluid) — lead to all kinds of horrific problems.

    My response to some of your comment, Joni, ended up being another post entirely. :)

    Ladies, how many awful movies have you sat through because a hot actor was in it?

    I have to say, exactly zero. Not that I haven’t sat through awful movies — Pacific Rim was probably the worst movie of ALL TIME — but was there a hot actor in it? All I remember was HATE. And last week we saw a movie called Instructions Not Included. Holy cow there wasn’t a single likable character in the whole movie. Even the “cute” kid. Augh. Painful.

    That said, I just don’t get the celebrity attraction thing and never have, even as a tween. Why would I crush all over Donny Osmond or Leif Garret or Shaun Cassidy — some guy in Hollywood whom I will never meet — when there were so many cute boys in junior high? ;)
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  • Alison Moore Smith November 24, 2013, 12:29 pm

    Last Lemming, I have to say that I think you are 100% right. It’s simple and we (myself included) make it more complicated by all the blathering. Not that I’m going to stop blathering but…

    marmalaid, I’m not responsible! :)
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  • Alison Moore Smith November 24, 2013, 2:50 pm

    Spartacus, thanks for the great comment.

    But at least twice a year, I make a point of initiating a discussion among our sisters about this topic in Relief Society.

    Sam’s college student ward (at the Riviera Apartments in Provo) had a semi-annual chastity talk (to both genders). It was affectionately (?) called “The Truckin’ On the Alamo Talk.” I’m still not quite sure what that means.

    In any case, I’d like to address your listed principles and how, IMO, they fit with these past couple of posts:

    Girls/sisters have the ability to shape the way they are perceived by how they dress.

    Absolutely. As do boys/men. I think we all acknowledge cultural norms and how they play into perception.

    When my daughter auditions for a show, I always encourage her to dress up. Few other teens do so and it helps her stand out in being perceived as someone who is professional and takes the job seriously.

    Currently she’s rehearsing for two musicals (one in a professional theater, the other with a performing group), and in the past two weeks she shot a cover photo a magazine, did a TV commercial, and just finished recording a music video. Obviously she’s talented and awesome (ahem), but her professional appearance and demeanor help a great deal, I believe.

    But now for the facts. She is a responsible girl who is very dedicated to and serious about performing. But putting on a dress didn’t make that happen. It’s kind of, as we Mormons like to say, an outward manifestation of an inward commitment.

    What I’m hoping is that we can separate the two in our minds and make better choices.

    This is not Sharia: the girl is not at fault for the rape (speaking figuratively).

    Good.

    Young guys are basically idiots, but in the church are trying to be better and need all the help they can get.

    Do you notice the problems here?

    Young guys are idiots. YET, we give “the power of God” to idiots, knowing that they are idiots. Smart?

    Guys need all the help they can get (due to, you know, being idiots), and that help has to come from the behavior of similarly aged girls. Girls who don’t get the same idiot pass. Girls get the responsibility.

    In other words, teenage boys are idiots who can’t control themselves so…teenage girls must have the wisdom, self-discipline, and wherewithal to be responsible for them.

    Hogwash.

    Sisters can be more effective than many others in helping guys to improve themselves, and vice versa.

    Sure. But we do a heck of a lot more focusing on women helping men than the vice versa part, don’t we?
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  • Amy Lockhart November 26, 2013, 10:43 am

    “I think things with humans should be more like animals. The boys should be the ones trying to impress the girls with all their bright colors and fancy dances. Why should girls have to do all the work” – My Son (9 years old at the time)

    Amen.

    I think the social activities and opportunities we offer our youth, in general, are a large component of the issue. My comment became a post. It’s waiting Alison :)
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  • brownielox December 9, 2013, 4:37 pm

    I really agree with this post so much, and really appreciate the discussion that’s going on. Spartacus, as a newly married woman in her 20s, I want to address the points you mentioned too. I was often taught throughout my time in YW that I should be modest because it will help the boys around me. While this idea comes from a good intent (I think), I don’t think people realize the side-effects of teaching women this idea. I really loved what Alison Moore Smith said:
    “Guys need all the help they can get (due to, you know, being idiots), and that help has to come from the behavior of similarly aged girls. Girls who don’t get the same idiot pass. Girls get the responsibility.
    In other words, teenage boys are idiots who can’t control themselves so…teenage girls must have the wisdom, self-discipline, and wherewithal to be responsible for them.”

    That IS honestly a side effect of this idea of “the girls need to dress modestly to help the guys.” For me personally, hearing this idea made me feel disgusted and scared. It made me think, well how am I supposed to find a good guy then? If ALL guys apparently can’t control themselves? How am I supposed to find a young man who can help me be a better person, if all men rely on my gender to make them better? Why do they get freebies for their struggles, and I have to take their burden? As I grew older and watched friends get married, I still struggled with this idea, but in regards to intimacy in marriage. My thoughts became: How can I be intimate with someone who ‘can’t control themselves’? How can I trust to have that kind of relationship with them? Will they care about me as a person at all?’

    To sum up, this idea that I had been taught for YEARS in church, affected my ideas of the male gender in general, and my ability to really have a romantic relationship. I really had to work to overcome these feelings so I could believe that there were men out there I could trust enough to make covenants with in the temple.

    Now, I hope you see the damaging side effects the idea that “woman need to help men be better” has on a girls mind. It automatically makes men seem like they completely give into the “natural man,” that they’re so beneath us women. I KNOW that this idea is false. I have luckily had many examples in my life of valiant young men and men who have shown me that they use their agency to be righteous sons of God (one example being my husband). That they have control over their thoughts and their actions. That they can choose to be stripling warriors.

    That’s another side effect of this damaging idea (girls needing to make it easier for the men): by saying this AT ALL, you’re automatically limiting what men are capable of. You’re not expecting as much of them as you expect from the women. You’re limiting their ability to be righteous. To be valiant. What are young men gonna think when they hear that idea preached in church?? ‘I shouldn’t try that hard, apparently it’s not something I can really handle’ might be one (another might be, ‘Hey, I’m not like that! I’m trying hard to be my best self.’). As much as I’ve seen examples of righteous men in my life, I’ve also seen examples that I will call “lazy men.” Why? Because they use this idea to their advantage. They push the responsibility completely on women and then complain that ‘oh this is how I naturally am, so I can’t help it. It’s THEIR job to make things easier for me.’ They give up trying to valiant or courageous or anything at all expect completely the natural man.

    This idea really needs to STOP being taught in church. It really needs to be replaced with the idea that we ALL have agency and we ALL have potential to become just like God. How? Through the Savior! We need to rely a personal relationship with him, not on the actions of other people. I think THIS would inspire woman to dress modestly more—that they do it because of their personal relationship with the Savior. Because they want to be obedient. Because they want to prepare to wear temple garments. Not because they have to make life easier for an apparently subpar gender.

  • rj June 23, 2014, 10:05 pm

    I dont know if posting a comment so long after the blog post will bring it up to review. If so, please reply so I know someone saw it.I recently came across a funny but poignant video that address this controversial topic. The presenter is Brother Jake. He makes videos poking fun at head shaking church policies. While funny, they do bring to the open some of the contradictory messages we receive. In the link below, he address the issue of modesty. He hits on a number of the same problems Allison wrote in her blog. youtu.be/g2WrrIdUr6k

  • jennycherie June 24, 2014, 12:02 pm

    I saw your comment. That video made some good points – I need to try to speed up my brain and watch again. He speaks REALLY fast.

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